“Prague” shot on the Canon 1DMKIV



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I finally got my hands on a pre-production Canon 1Dmkiv this weekend. I could have had one about 3 weeks ago but it clashed when I was in the US unfortunately. So I scheduled it for this weekend and took up the offer of director Albert Hughes (of The Hughes Brothers) to come visit him in Prague. A great place to test out the new camera and it’s almost legendary low light capabilities.

Albert Hughes
Albert taken on the iphone using the Hipstamatic camera app

Albert wrote to me mid last year after seeing my work online and we have been in touch ever since, through his making of “The Book Of Eli” which he shot on RED. This gave him the taste for  digital filmmaking and he bought a 5DmkII and a 7D. I almost met him in person in LA but it didn’t happen due to crazy schedules. Albert lives in Prague and it’s only a 2 hour flight from London for me.

So I took the 1DmkIV with me, 2 spare batteries, lots of cards, my new Manfrotto tripod 055XPROB with 701 HDV head as i wanted something even more lightweight than my usual Miller DS20 and something that worked directly with the Glidetrack as it doesn’t have bowl. A pain for levelling but great for the glidetrack. This is the same Glidetrack Shooter SD that I used at Lucasfilm for my short film there. I also took a tonne of lenses. 16-35mm f2.8 L, 24m F1.4 L, 24mm f3.5 TS L, 35mm F1.4 L, 50mm F1.2 L, 85 F1.2 L, 70-200mm F2.8L. Some Singh-Ray and Fader ND Variable ND filters, my Zacuto rig and some warm clothes.

Prague was COLD. Last time I was this cold was probably when I filmed in Siberia!

I didn’t do any day filming. I just wanted to do everything at night.

I started off by meeting Daniel Bird, who cut my Greenpeace commercial, I hadn’t met him yet so it was a great to chance to thank him for the great job he did on it. He lives in Prague too.

We did some filming around the river (that’s Daniel on the bench in the film), around the Charles Bridge, which unfortunately had loads of scaffolding on it so was not looking at it’s best as you can see! Then Rick McCallum who I had just spent a week with at Skywalker Ranch, met us on the bridge after just flying in, jet lagged of course! Another Prague resident!

Rick and Daniel
Rick and Daniel on the Charles Bridge

Rick stayed with us for a bit before going back into the warm and to get some sleep, Daniel went off to do some work for Greenpeace, so I carried on and walked to the main square to do some more filming.

I was out until about 11pm, when my nuts officially fell off due to frostbite!

We went out again the next day, myself, Rick, Daniel and Albert. It was even colder. Rick had his 7D, Miller DS20 and some lenses. I had the same gear as before. We did some nice high shots and some timelapse from up there (which I didn’t use!). Oh and Rick….I need your footage for the edit! You forgot to give it to me!

Rick with my Panasonic GF1 and Zacuto Z-Finder

Should have covered my ear

1DmkiV on the Glidetrack and Manfrotto

Rick and I stuck with the cold the longest and we did some nice stuff in the main square, including the money shot…Rick eating a massive hot dog. Love that shot. I was about to pack up and go when Rick went home but I just didn’t feel like I had nailed it, there wasn’t enough. There was something missing…so I started doing some timelapse shots using the stills mode and the cheap ebay intervalometer from China that I had with me. I even did one with me static in the middle of frame for something different. Boy did I get some looks! Then the magic happened. It started snowing beautiful lush snow flakes. Into 720 50p mode I went and got some lovely shots of the snow coming down to slow mo in post using cinema tools (tutorial under er…tutorials!).

Thank god for legendary 1DmkiV weatherproofing!

So that was the filming….how did I like the 1DmkiV? This is based on the pre-production model…

Very much…first off, it’s a beast. Rugged, just how a camera should be, more and more cameras these days like the EX1 etc are just not that robust. This is the first camera I had used in years that I didn’t worry about. The 7D has great weatherproofing, the 5DmkII is not bad either. But the build of this camera is superb.

As I said, built like a tank. I like these batteries a lot more than the piddly little ones you get with the 5dmkii and 7D. These last a good 2-3 hours of shooting. I didn’t use the dual slot with the SDHC slot, but nice to have.

The light sensitivity is great. You can shoot pretty clean at 3200, but i did notice a fair bit of noise at 6400, especially with any lenses which were either stopped down to F2.8 or F2.8 max. You could really see the noise in the blacks…I had a pretty neutral picture profile and tried HTP, but didn’t make any difference. So really I was trying not to shoot over 3200. This is great as I find the 7D a bit noisy at 1600 at times and the 5DmkII too noisy at 3200. So a nice big step up. Noise is fine for actuality, but when you want something clean I want to avoid it.

There are no concessions to video users on the outside of this camera. Those lovely dedicated buttons for video on the 7D are not here. Although all the frame rates from the 7D are here, 24p, 25p, 30p, 50p, 60p. The proper variants of these too! This is primarily a stills cameras, especially for sports and news snappers. The video is there and is great but it doesn’t wear it colours on the outside.

The crop is an odd one. I.3x.APS-H. I understand why but for video it’s a bit of a pain. With the L/ EF series glass with have nice full frame lenses and we can get some great wide angle shots with them. I love my 16-35mm lens. Gorgeous, trouble is on here it’s only 20.8mm at the wide end and there are no specific APS-H lenses out there so you are limited to full frame glass and that crop factor. APS-C lenses are a big no-no on this camera. You will get a massive vignette if you use them as they are designed for cameras with a smaller sensor.

For me that’s the biggest downer to the camera. The inability to use and REALLY wide glass. A full frame 1DSMKiV would be very welcome!

Get past the change in layout of the buttons (or lack of them), the extra weight and you will be rewarded with a very powerful filmmaking tool. Giving you the ability to shoot in places you wouldn’t have been able to before. Don’t forget though that most of what you are paying for is for incredible stills performance. If you aren’t interested in that you are paying a hefty premium for this camera as it’s twice the price of the 5DmkII.

Do I want one? Of course! For the low light sensitivity alone and of course the tank like build quality. Perfect for me. Shame I don’t have $5000 lying around!

I only had the camera 48 hours and my goal was to make a film. I didn’t get a chance to do low light comparison tests, rolling shutter tests, moire tests, aliasing test. Simply no time. Hopefully someone with the camera for longer than me can do this. All i managed to do was make one pretty Christmas film!

On a quick side not. My previous advice of rendering down your timelapses in Quicktime Pro 7 to full HD is a bad idea. Save as whole because if you render them down you can often end up with some nasty banding. You may end up with a huge 5K file but at least you don’t get banding!

The film is in black and white. It just fitted the best, also the lighting in Prague is a nightmare, horrendous orange lights mixed in with more normal lighting. Luckily the black and white just fitted. Please don’t ask to see the colour version. This is how I want my film to look.

Music is from one of my favourite films “the Hudsucker Proxy” by the Coen Brothers, underrated. The original music is called Spartatcus by Aram Khachaturian and was adapted by the great Carter Burwell. It took me most of the day to figure out the best music for this…went through about 6 tracks and edits until I came up with this.

Shot in 24p. Edited in FCP 7 in Pro Res LT. Graded with Magic Bullet Looks. 20% off at checkout with code Bloom20

[vimeo 8324034 747 420]