Review of the Canon 1DX/ Music video for Olly Knights


 

There are a lot of people who are saying that DSLRs for pro video work is dead. I have to disagree; it’s slowed down but it’s far from dead. Although I shoot 95% of my paid work on the Canon C300, the Mk3 is always with me as backup, B camera. It’s a compromise of course though. The image is not as sharp, and it doesn’t have a lot of video features that I rely on, waveform, peaking, proper sound inputs etc. The image is also different, as the sensor is so much bigger than the C300. It’s a different look. The biggest two downsides for me with the Mk3 image-wise though are the overall lack of sharpness (which can be brought back very well with the sharpen filter of premiere set to around 25-35) and the bit of mosquito noise in the blacks. That aside though, the image is wonderful.

 

I must say the 1Dx did not excite me much. It was announced SO long ago (it has taken almost 8 months to come out from that announcement) that my interest in it just faded. With newer cameras coming out with cool features like the super slow motion of the FS700, crazy specs on yet to be released cameras like the BlackMagic Design one (still hoping to get a review one!) and other cameras really interesting me like the Digital Bolex and the Ikonskop, but most of all actually having a Mk3 which on paper has the same video specs as the 1dX ,there seemed little point in it to me. It’s more expensive too. In England it’s about £2.5k more than the Mk3. So again, little interest.

 

But my good friend and often collaborator on shoots, James Miller, he of lens whacking and removing OLPF from Mk3 fame, used one from HireACamera.com and told me that is was everything he had hoped the Mk3 would have been video-wise. From that point my interest was piqued. I spoke to my friend Guy from Hire-a-camera and asked if I could borrow it for the weekend. I went out and did some comparison shots between it and my Mk3, and a few between them and the D800. Nothing much. From those shots I clearly saw more detail in the 1DX, not as sharp as the D800 still but no moire/ aliasing that the D800 suffers from. There was also something about the image I couldn’t put my finger on though, something really nice, and doing a few test shots is no way to judge a camera.

With a bit of arm twisting, I managed to hang onto the 1DX a bit longer, and it coincided with an idea I had with Olly Knights from Turin Brakes to shoot some narrative shots to add to our already filmed footage for our forthcoming documentary footage, to make a music video of his single “If not now when”. Perfect. No better way to test a camera than on a shoot.

So with minimal crew, and I mean minimal. Just me directing, shooting and Sarah Estela taking BTS photos and assisting, we rocked up to the location in Essex where Olly was with our simple plan of action and over the course of 3 hours shot all our narrative shot on the 1DX.

 

Olly Knights: If not now when from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Below is the teaser for the documentary. Shot on the C300 and FS700

Olly Knights documentary teaser from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

As you can see below, one of the biggest pain in the arse things about the DSLRs with no swivel LCD is this…to get the shot without a monitor, you have to get into stupid positions…

It was an absolute pleasure shooting with the camera. I decided to be absolutely minimal. No monitor, no EVF. Just the Miller Compass 25 ( I should have used my Solo sticks in retrospect for those really low angle shots), the camera, one spare battery, 2 cards, a Heliopan variable ND and some lenses. I also brought with me my rather extravagant Bang and Olufsen speaker for playback. I bloody love this speaker. Overpriced but packs such a great sound into a small box it’s incredible. The low end is astonishing and the volume we could get from it is scary. Why did we have playback if these were just narrative segments with no miming? All Olly’s taps and walks were in time, hence the need for playback. So far one person has spotted this on Vimeo 🙂

Actually there was one extra piece of kit I used…something new and very exciting. The brand new Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly in Black! This goes on sale really soon. It’s the same as the regular red one, just…black! Sexier than the stealth and has the crank handle. The one I used is the new mini one. 18 inches. More than enough for most 🙂

 

Despite having my own branded slider, I only use them sparingly. I think there are maybe 3 or so shots in the finished video shot on the slider. Never overuse these tools. Use them sparingly, and they become more effective!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working in a small team is such fun. Just me, Olly and Sarah bouncing ideas off of each other. We had mapped out what we wanted with a rough shot list, but we were very fluid and of course very mobile. We were lucky enough to find an old caravan in the middle of restoration on the caravan park we were filming in, and asked if we could shoot there for half an hour.  This was such a find. It looks like we had a production designer but we didn’t. We worked with what we had. Absolutely all available light. That was how we nailed it in 30 minutes. Shoot mean and lean!

I already had all the performance parts shot on the C300 for the documentary (We recorded about 5 songs this way for it) so using the 1DX for the narrative bits made sense. I had the C300 with me, but I wanted a different look for the rest. What I didn’t expect was how much I actually preferred the 1DX’s image for this type of filming to the C300. It just seems…more filmic. Hard to put my finger on what it is…I love my C300 more than any other camera I own and use it for everything, but the look of the 1DX was so organic I was just blown away. The low light performance is also better than the Mk3, very close to the C300 standards. I just wish the camera had a nice log-like mode for shooting. The same video functions are there from the Mk3…the All-I 90mb/s recording mode was what I used to shoot this and in 25p to match the doc. I shot the Prolost profile that I always shoot. Sharpness off, contrast off, saturation down 2. I did bring up the sharpness in post on the 1DX footage by around 12/13 to bring it closer to the pin sharp C300.

There is one other thing this camera has over a C300… its weather sealing with a proper L series lens is second to none. This is a camera that, if you get caught in the rain whilst filming, you don’t need to worry about. It did rain a bit. Nice not to worry about it!

The shot below with its extraordinary high dynamic range was done very simply. Locked off camera. Two exposures. Correct to capture the caravan and Olly and one to capture the sky. I just blended them together in After Effects. My first attempt at using this software properly. It worked well…although I really should go in and polish it up a bit!

This camera’s image really brought this music video to life for me, and doing this just with the 3 of us was such a joy. Yes my tripod was overkill for this, but being so small footprint wise and all working together as a team I think we produced something pretty special.

So getting back to the camera. Is it worth the extra money? Yes and no. As a stills camera, it is second to none. Video wise, the video is much better than the Mk3, it’s better than the D800. Is it that much better taking into account the price? Yes and no. The Mk3 is still great and much smaller, lighter and cheaper. I wish the Mk3 image looked as smashing as this…I really hope Canon bring out a 7D replacement and a 60D replacement with All-I and the video quality that this camera produces.

It’s funny after being so uninterested in the 1DX, the results I got from it just show that you should never just read specs. There is so much more to a camera than specs and figures. On paper, this was the same as the Mk3 for video, but in use it really is that much better. Now I am suddenly interested in the 1DC!

I have fallen back in love with a DSLR for video, shame it’s so expensive because this camera’s image is just really…unique. Twice the price of the Mk3 in the US, less than twice the price in the UK but still a lot more.

That full frame look cannot be beaten!

All post was done in CS6 and grading done with Magic Bullet Colorista II and Looks 2. 20% off with code bloom 20 at checkout!

All photos by Sarah Estella.