Canon 1D IV Promo Explained + Filming Tips

Hello DOP Blog readers.

Hope you are all good and have been busy shooting some cool projects.  I  have just been cleared to talk about a whole bunch of promos I did for a sports channel.  There was about 25 in total, but I won’t bore you with them all, instead I have selected a hand full to critique and discuss over the coming weeks.

Depending on the individual budget of the promo they were either shot on the RED, Canon 5D MK II or 1D IV.   There is so much chat about HDSLR cameras on Twitter and generally among fellow film makers at the moment it’s really quite mental…

‘Full Time’ is the title of this promo.  It was for a football show that critiques matches at full time (hence the clever title)…

Before I mention anything else take a look and guess which camera it was shot on…

Ok so what do you think?

To be honest it’s quite a tough ask, especially when stuff gets compressed so much for the Internet it does make it hard to judge…  Take a guess though…

Well if you said a Canon you would be correct and if you noticed some shots were in slow-mo – like the whistle, you would be right in saying the 1D IV.
Ok, ok Dr Holmes if you read the title of the post you could have easily guessed too… 95% was shot on the 1D with one cheeky shot slipped in on the RED – which one?  The final one of the presenter, which was for no other reason than it was the camera we were shooting on (for another promo) when the Presenter was available.

Pimped up Canon 1D IV

I chose the 1D over the 5D MK II solely because of the slow-mo function.
Like the 7D it can shoot 1280 x 720 at both 59.94, 50 fps and 50fps – so your thinking why didn’t you use the 7D?   After reading up on the 1D, I was informed it was more sensitive in low light than the 7D and hence would have reduced noise in the blacks, plus it’s much more sturdy in it’s build.  People laugh and joke about HDSLR cameras being like a toy and to be fair the 7D does feel a little more like one than the rest…  It’s not as well built and does over heat now and then, but considering the price tag and that it essentially has the same movie recording capability as the 1D IV it’s an amazing piece of imaging technology (imaging technology – I like that!).

Surprisingly enough, the 1D IV (like the 7D) does not have a full frame sensor which considering it is the highest price in the Canon range is a little bit of a shock!  Having a cropped sensor essentially means that lenses sizes are not their true focal length, but a little tighter and the depth of field is not as shallow.

To ensure the depth of field was as shallow as possible I used a set of Zeiss compact primes, which are a great lens choice for HDSLR use, specifically as they are built for pro video use.  They are very fast and give a solid strong image and have decent colour representation and contrast and even with a cropped sensor like the 1D IV you can still get a very shallow depth of field.

Ok, enough about the technical now – I’m boring myself.  What about HOW the promo was shot…….

Nizar who was the Director on almost all of the promos and an incredibly talented and inspirational fella, wanted all the shots moving to have a continuous flow and bring energy to the piece. Almost all the shots were physically tracking, apart from the opening where a digital zoom (in post) was used.   I still find it funny seeing a small HDSLR camera on a dolly with a huge crew behind…

Check how well the camera holds up in low light, you can see this on the slightly abstract shot of the balloons flying up into the sky, also how well it holds detail as you can see strong detail on the Astro turf as the camera tracks around the stretcher so that’s a big plus for the little fella!

I used the Camera in 50fps in some shots and you can see this in the ‘winner’s shield’ shot. It holds the exposure of the sun incredibly well considering it was at least 16 stops brighter (which is a lot) proving the camera has decent latitude especially for something so cheap – even though the 1D IV is the most expensive HDSLR camera in the Canon range it’s still only about $4,643.00 and for a HD camera that is amazing! Oh yer it also shoots pretty good stills too…

Canon 1D IV

Ok so we mentioned the camera’s pretty cool – where does it start to fall down?  What did you notice?

1) On the score board shot.  Take a look at the number 1.  There is a slight flicker on it when the camera is moving.  Essentially, this is down to the score board being out of sync with the camera.  You have probably seen on the news when a computer monitor is flicking or pulsing in the background, well this is pretty much the same thing.  With a traditional HD camera like Sony 900R or even the RED you can compensate for this with the Clear Scan function – however HDSLR’s don’t have this function (yet) so the only way to try and fix this is by adjusting the shutter speed – which if there are people in shot is not ideal (unless you want to capture high speed action).  If you increase the shutter too high people will develop a staccato like movement.  On this occasion I could not get rid of the blur, I tried the shutter at all different settings and this was the lesser evil…  At least the sky looks bold and the colour holds very well!

2) Take a look at the scene in the corridor, what do you notice?  Other than the shadow of the interviewer and interviewee on the wall a la Hitchcock!   Well, to give the idea of an interview we used a real photographers flash. With HDSLR cameras, big pulses of light like a flash are represented as a hard block of light.  This is down to the APS-H sized CMOS sensor and the way it processes info.

What Tips would I give when using the 1D IV:

1) Pimp it up as much as you can. By this I mean fix it onto a decent tripod, use a Z-Finder Pro, hand held grip and get a follow focus.  Regardless of which lens you are using a follow focus is essential to get accurate focus pulls.  It’s near impossible to have accurate control directly off the lens barrel. I would recommend getting your gear from Zacuto – they have everything you need to pimp out your HDSLR. The Z-Finder Pro is essential for HDSLR shooting and is the one bit of kit I would tell all HDSLR shooters to use. I have asked for the Zacuto Follow Focus for Christmas, a HDSLR shooters dream!
I would also recommend my favourite camera store, B&H online Store for everything imaginable!

2) Get hold of some Neutral Density (ND) filters. You need these to cut down the light as no HDSLR camera (currently) has internal ND.  If you want to reduce the depth of field and get a more filmic look which is what these cameras have become famous for you need to open the iris to a wider aperture i.e. F2.8 whilst keeping your shutter to double your frame rate (for regular action) i.e. 1/50 or 1/60

You can either spend money and go for the professional filming approach using a Matte Box and individual filters or cheapily and simply use screw on filters.  A great one is a Fader ND, which changes the degree of ND as you turn it. Quite amazing – just be careful not to use it inbetween stops otherwise you can get a green or purple tint…

3) People always go on about avoiding too much movement, becuase of the dreaded ‘jello’ effect.  Which is down to HDSLR cameras having a CMOS sensor rather than a Global sensor.  As this promo demonstrates  you can track and move the camera. Just don’t throw it around like a nut job…

4) Double check focus.  You can use the + button on the camera to zoom in before recording to double check focus.  I would always recommend doing this, if you are operating from the small LCD screen focus then this can be quite difficult to judge.  Having a Z-Finder and/ or a HDMI Monitor makes judging focus much more precise and easy.  YOU CAN NOT CORRECT FOCUS IN POST!

5) Don’t over expose images. Although the 1D IV has quite good latitude, like any digital format if the image is over expsosed it is not recorded and can never be pulled back… Remember digital is all 0’s and 1’s (what ever that means…).  Use the Vetro Scope to help you see what’s under and over. Heavily under exposed footage is no good either… If you pull up the blacks they will be very noisy/ grainy and broken up…

6) It’s what you shoot, how you frame and light which is the most important regardless of which camera you use.

PS: Never ever use AUTO!

On the promo the final shot is on RED and cuts in seamlessly with the 1D IV footage.  Sadly, that’s not to say the 1D IV is as good as the RED… Remember RED can record in 4K (4.5K ) RAW which gives you masses of info that can be manipulated and graded to a great degree much more like film – (ok, ok I know Film is still the King!)

With HDSLR’s they currently record in H.264 which is decent, but you can not do as much with it in post.  Still they certainly have their purposes and I am enjoying the new revolution!  It’s giving so many more people the ability to go out and and make something!  I own a 5D MK II and would definitly consider getting the 1D IV – if I had a rich aunt or something I would ask for one for Christmas…

As it is Christmas there is a Christmas Special on my How to Become a Cameraman books.
Titles Include: How to Become a Cameraman, How to Light for Film & TV, Filming on Location & How to Beat the Competition.

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PS. Anyone got any tips for shooting with the 1D?
PPS. Let me know about your experience using the 1D and how it compares to other HDSLR Cameras – Leave your comments below.
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