Tag Archives: canon

Canon’s doubtful move with the C300

Nobody can deny the fact that Canon has totally changed the game of digital filmmaking forever. Since the introduction of their 5D MKII in 2008 and the whole set of HDSLRs that followed, Canon has allowed anyone with 2 000$ in their pockets to have access to a quality of image highly comparable to cameras that were worth several tens of thousands of dollars not even 5 years ago. The 5D MKII became one of the best-selling cameras in the world and Canon have completely dominated the indie filmmaker market from this day.

3 years have passed since, and even if these cameras are great tools, they have flaws. Consumer feedback has been pouring all over the Internet since the arrival of the 5D, and while Canon have adressed some issues, they still have a lot of work to do to make its line of HDSLRs perfect. The rolling shutter is a pain in the ass for any fan of shooting handheld, the h264 compression drives editors nuts and the audio input options are horrible. And those are just a few of the problems filmmakers face everyday while working with these cameras.

Last Thursday, November 3rd, Canon and RED both held press conferences to announce their new camera models. Rumours were all over the place as to what Canon was releasing, while there was more certainty towards RED, who were announcing their much anticipated and budget-friendly RED Scarlet.

Canon presented its new camera, the C300, a digital S35 camera, priced at around 20 000$. Big mistake. I’m sure the C300 will be a good camera, but that’s not the point. The problem is that Canon just let down the consumer bracket that put them back on the map in the video domain. Since they released the GL2 in 2002 (I think), they had been out of the game for videographers. Sony and Panasonic dominated the market, and suddenly, the 5D changed all that. Now tell me why, Canon, would you leave the consumers that crafted your rebirth with flawed tools and try to create a camera for TV-size productions ? The price tag isn’t everything in business. Even if Gucci sells 700-dollar pants, GAP still has 3 times their revenues by selling good old 20-dollar jeans.

On top of that, on paper, the RED Scarlet will outperform the C300, for a lesser price (maybe equal once you buy all the required equipment). And in terms of consumer confidence, I guess people with 20k to spend on a camera are most likely to go towards RED, who have been the leader in high-end digital cinema since 2007, while Canon has pretty much never developed a Hollywood-level camera.

I’m looking forward to try both these cameras and see how they compare, but I’m also anxious to see the financial winner of this c300 vs. Scarlet battle.

I think Canon already lost.


IF3 Photoshoot

I was recently hired by Felix Rioux from IF3 (International Freeski Film Festival) to shoot their new teaser for the 5th edition of the festival, on which I will do another blog post later, because the vid is not yet finished, even less launched.

For an ex-ski-movie producer like me, this was a nice experience, because it involved shooting with some of the top names in freeskiing right now. I had the chance to shoot with skiing’s most decorated athlete, Tanner Hall, Sean Pettit, Henrik Harlaut and Paul Bergeron, who actually used to be in my movies back in the days.

At the same time, my mandate was also to snap a few pictures of the riders wearing the new Snooz Bandanas they’re putting out this year. Since this was a complement to the video shoot, we had very little time and means to do this photoshoot, so we really had to improvise with what was available around. Fortunately, there were some nice abstract paintings in the house where the riders were staying, so I was able to take them down and use them as backdrops.

I had no flash setup available, so I had to manage the ambient light that was inconstant at the end of the day.

I tried shooting with my Zeiss 50mm f1.7, but the small size of the backdrops was a pain for the lens’ focal length. I had to resort to my Canon 85mm f1.8, by far the lens I’m the least experienced with, because it’s a very hard lens to shoot video with, and that is clearly what I do the most with my T2i. I had a hard time handling the very sensible focus, even at f5.0. When I looked at the shots on my computer, many of the pics I thought were the best were finally a bit out of focus, but I was able to get a couple of very good ones.

Here are the 4 best:

Tanner Hall

Sean Pettit

Paul Bergeron

Henrik Harlaut

Plenty Humanwear Lookbook 2011

Back in November, I produced a teaser for Plenty Humanwear’s spring/summer line, called The Natural Path. Oriented towards environmental consciousness, the collection presents various pieces on which the designs focus on nature, and that was exactly the mood that was set for the teaser.

So, when it was time to officially launch the collection, Greg, the company’s founder, and I sat down and established somewhat of a complex plan to produce between 8 to 10 clips, each presenting one of the collection’s pieces through rather abstract, eco-imagery. Everything was going good, except for the time factor. Him being busy with sales and design, me being buried under dozens of projects at the office, we came to the conclusion that we had to find an alternative plan to release a video sooner than later, since spring was almost already over.

Luckily, we benefited from Greg’s birthday party, which was scheduled to be a camping weekend in a nearby National park, where all his friends/associates/models would be, in a perfect natural setup to fit the focus of the collection. I then took my shooting arsenal and met up with the crew for an afternoon of casual shooting.

Fortunately, the lighting was great. The sun was out along with a couple of clouds to put some contrast in the scenery, so I quickly decided to make the most out of it and find the angles that would render the best flares and shadows. I brought my good old Zeiss Planar 50mm 1.7, my lens that has the ability to create some of the most bizarre and interesting flares and light bursts, and after seeing how it reacted with the light in the forest, I decided to shoot mostly with that. While I was shooting video, two of my friends, Tony Verge and Phil Dionne were also shooting pictures for the Plenty website, and we managed to produce an incredibly high amount of quality imagery in a ridiculously short time-span.

Later on, when capturing the footage, I knew I had material to make something pretty cool for this new web advertisement. As much as I usually think that the T2i/DSLR footage in general looks cheap when looked at stock, this footage really looked stunning right out of the camera. It was contrasted, warm and it just exhaled summer.

Original footage

Graded footage

Once the editing was done, I tried a couple of looks in color grading, to finally go for the kind of vintage look I used also in the November teaser. As usual, it is unnoticeable because of the Vimeo compression, but the graded footage has a very neat grain that accentuates the look of it when you look at the uncompressed footage.

Apple ProRes 4444 footage

Vimeo h264 compression

The video is now embedded in Plenty’s website, surrounded by a mosaic of Tony and Phil’s best pictures they snapped during the weekend. The Natural Path collection is available in several shops in Quebec and also online, so check it out.

Here are some behind the scenes pics:

Myself rocking the shoulder pad…

…and looking at the results.

Coming back from a blinding flare attack.

Rocking the cowboy look.

Savana Advertisement

Back in March, a good friend of mine who’s studying in management ask me if I wanted to help him with the promotional video for the faculty’s upcoming fashion show, called Savana. Since I hadn’t produced anything fashion-related since the Perigny advertisement back in 2007, of course I told him I was really interested in helping him. Of course, the fact that this meant an entire night of shooting with hot girls in bathing suits helped facilitate my decision.

The problem was that the schedule was incredibly tight, and that the budget was pretty much non-existant. But at the same time, this adds a challenge that I rarely face in my everyday job: to produce a professional-quality video with absolutely no means.

The organization staff was able to unlock a small budget for me to rent some gear, so I took the small Fresnel kit we have at the office, some reflectors, and rented a Kino Diva and a smoke machine. We shot with my friend’s Canon 7D and used my Sigma 30mm 1.4 for the entire shoot. So as you can see, our means were really limited.

Often, when you ask your friends to play in a commercial, the quality of the “acting” goes with the price your paying, which is zero. I have to say though that this time, all the models (who were all students in the management faculty) did an amazing job. It can be uncomfortable to pose in a bathing suit in front of a stranger (me) with a big camera setup that tells you to act sensually, but everyone was really open to what I was asking and they acted really professionally, which made the production a lot easier than I thought. On top of that, we had an incredibly talented make-up artist on set that helped make the models look amazing.

What I think was the most challenging was the shooting environment. The people at Izba Spa were kind enough to let us shoot freely in their establishment, which looks truly amazing. But, the space was very limited. I had to shoot 13 models, mostly separately, in a place that had maybe three or four different rooms that were proper to shoot in. I had to be very creative in the way I was using each spot, since I was going to use each of them more than once, and I didn’t want the video to look like it had been shot all in the same room. The smoke machine really helped me to cover some of those environments. What also puzzled me was the lighting, because the rooms were so small that I couldn’t fit as much lighting as I wanted to. I had to bounce the light in very weird and bizarre angles to be able to achieve the looks I wanted. It worked well for most of the shots, but overall, I think the models’ eyes are not lit enough, something I may have been able to correct if I had more space.

The editing was quite difficult too, because of the fast-paced music I was using, and the very little footage I shot. Fortunately, I shot a lot of those models completely out of focus, to have a mysterious introduction, and that enabled me to re-use the in-focus shots later in the video.

But what I enjoyed the most in this video was color-grading it. The fact that the backgrounds were mostly greyish allowed me to have full control on the models’ skin tones and clothes. I actually used a technique I had never tried before in Apple’s Color, and that is numerically grading shots using the Red/Green/Blue Lift and Gain. It helped me achieve a look that’s different from what I usually do. I will be posting a video making-of later this week explaining how I did it.

In the end, I think I managed pretty well to produce a good-looking advertisement with such little means, so I guess this is mission accomplished for me.

Here are some photos of the shooting, snapped by my friend Sam Chenard.

Swix.tv Introduction

A couple weeks ago I released a little behind the scenes video of an opening title sequence I did for Swix.tv, without however showing off the final result. Well, now that Swix.tv has been launched, there’s no more secret to be kept, so here it is.

When finishing the video, the client and I came to the decision to change the soundtrack, to maybe better suit the intro to the targeted audience, because the intro is definitely not what you usually see in the freeskiing domain. I thought it’d be fun then to show you guys the original version. So here it is, my “Director’s Cut” of the Swix.tv intro.


Plenty Humanwear – The Natural Path

Two years ago, when I first heard that Greg Desjardins was starting a new clothing brand, I have to be honest with everyone, I told myself “not another guy who thinks he can just start printing t-shirts and become a clothing brand”.

Only after speaking with him for hours about his project did I understand that Plenty Humanwear was really going to be something else. I had never seen such devotion, perfectionism and attention to detail in someone starting a project. The idea behind the project, the branding, the prints, the designs…everything seemed so professional that one could hardly guess this was an emerging brand held by (at that time) only one guy with the help of a few people. Of course, this hard-working attitude eventually sparked a lot of interest in me, and I felt like I wanted to be part of the project.

At the end of this summer, we were having diner at a friend’s house, and I decided to offer Greg my help if he needed anything video-related for Plenty. A few weeks later, he called me back and we had our first meeting with his new associate and long-time friend, Pierre-Nicolas Lessard. Honestly, after that first meeting, I felt kind of insecure. The guys really had a very defined idea about the video they wanted to produce as a teaser for their upcoming Summer 2011 collection, called The Natural Path. They wanted to do a first-person abstract short film demonstrating the contrasts between the urban scenery and natural landscapes. Let’s face it, I tend to have a more corporate style, even in my personal projects, and I tend to have a very photographic style, where the camera doesn’t move much and the framing is 50% of the shot’s quality.

I was about to embark on a project filmed entirely with a Glidecam and a Canon T2i, without any actors except the main character’s point of view, which was actually me featuring Pierre-Nic’s arms. As insecure as I felt, I was also really looking forward to this challenge that would make me step out of my comfort zone.

We shot the film over 4 days, in non-summer-like weather, which was our biggest challenge. The leaves were already starting to change color and the sky was always cloudy. We had to make sure every shot could be portrayed as a middle-of-July image, to really fit the 2011 Summer collection. We managed to do pretty good in that domain, and with a bit of color grading we were able to get warmer tones that the original images didn’t provide us.

The editing had its challenges too. Going from city to nature back and forth without losing the viewer’s attention was hard, and each transition and flash had to be thought through. And after that, the color grading between the incredibly different sceneries was a tedious job too. We had to make sure every shot felt like it belonged in the same “universe” even if they were filmed in totally different locations, different times of the day, and also simply, on different days.

In the end, I think the feel of the video is exactly what the Plenty guys were looking for, and for my part, I think I succeed the challenge that was set for me !

**You can see behind the scenes photos and an article at: http://www.plenty-humanwear.com/summer-2011-video-making-of/

The Bokeh Experiment

In the past few years, I’ve embarked on a quest to obtain shallow depth of field in my video projects. For me, shallow depth of field was synonym to quality, an unobtainable style in the years I was shooting with a good old Panasonic DVX100a. In 2008, while studying in Montreal and working with my friend Charles-Etienne Pascal, I realized I wasn’t the only one involved in this journey. CE decided to manually create shallow depth of field in our short film “Face à Face“, rotoscoping each and every frame of the 10-minute long movie, to recreate the effect of out-of-focus backgrounds, something that could not be achieved with the Sony HVR-V1U we were using for the film. The result was still amazing indeed (check out the making-of), but it lacked something, and I couldn’t figure out what back then.

In the first year I started to work with Nova Film, the company acquired a Letus35 Extreme adapter, which allowed us to attach Canon FD lenses to our HVX-200. I almost orgasmed when I first saw the 1080p image with super shallow depth of field. The quest seemed achieved for me, finally. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. While now being able to produce the images I envisioned for close to 3 years, I had no knowledge whatsoever of lenses and aperture, which is key when your thing is shallow depth of field.

The next year, the first Canon 5D MKII videos started emerging, and boy did I get served with depth of field. Every single shot in every video was a close-up of something with almost everything out of focus. While watching those videos, it finally struck me. The sharp circles created by out-of-focus lights, the ocean of dots created by leaves, the massive reflections on chrome and metal… Every material and texture had its own unique kind of blur. Later on, Phil Têtu, a fellow worker at Nova Film who has more knowledge about lenses than an encyclopedia, pronounced the word that finally gave a name to the endless blurry-background descriptions I was using: Bokeh. The answer to all my questions.

Bokeh became almost an obsession for me in the last months. Now that I have a fair knowledge of lenses, and that I’ve tested quite a few, I’m always looking for the best out-of-focus background to put my subject in front of, the best texture that will render the most amazing circles, hexagons or octagons behind my subject.

Three weeks ago, I acquired an old Zeiss 50mm 1.7, from the man himself, Phil Têtu, and I decided to go out and take a few shots to see what this new baby could do. I came back with many disappointing shots, a few good pictures, and one that amazed me, this one.

I was really struck by this picture. To be honest, I almost didn’t look through the lens while taking this picture, so that’s why it surprised me. And of course, the blur, the circles, the light and the rainbow flare were the first things that caught my attention, not the few little flower tips that were in focus. And it inspired me to do some more. I then realized something: why do I need a subject when all I’m looking for is that perfect abstract shape that an out of focus background gives me ? Why can’t the background become the foreground ? And that is exactly the new challenge I’ve embarked on today and for the coming weeks, and maybe months.

For now, this will be simply called The Bokeh Experiment, because, let’s face it, that is what it is. It’s probably been done before, and frankly, I don’t care. In the end, I’d like to come up with a series with a more original name of 10 to 15 pictures composed of nothing (or close to) but out-of-focus rendered shapes. I will start out with my personal lenses, and maybe rent/borrow some to achieve results that my personal gear can’t produce. If you have any suggestions of lens I should try out, please, PLEASE post them in the comments below. For the first time since I made my last ski-movie, I’m looking forward to the first snow, because sunlight reflecting on snow crystals is one of the most simple yet amazing things that light can create.

So here it is, the first picture of the set. I don’t know yet if it will make the final cut, but I feel like it’s a good start.