DSLR Cinema Videos

This page provides a list of videos discussed in DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Large Sensor Video (Focal Press, 2013).

All block quotes from the book (some editing for clarification).


The one that started it all!

When Laforet first saw the results of the 5D Mark II on-screen, he knew this was different from any type of video he had previously examined. “I was literally stunned a number of times,” he mused. “I could not believe my eyes. It’s one of the best still cameras out in the world. But between the size of the sensor and the lens choice and the way it captures light it’s absolutely stunning.” In short, it looked like it was shot on fi lm. After Laforet put Reverie online (Canon liked it), it received over 2 million views in a week, and Laforet’s life changed overnight. The day after the upload, he received three different fi lm project offers within a day. Independent fi lmmakers, video journalists, and students saw the results and many dumped their video cameras and started shooting their projects on DSLRs. Canon’s 5D Mark II—when utilizing the proper settings and lighting conditions—started to be utilized as a cinema camera. (p. xiv-xv.)


Bloom arrived with his equipment and shot around the countryside of Skywalker Ranch. He converted the fi les to Apple ProRes overnight and cut together a rough edit by morning. The big guys wanted to see it projected on a 40-foot screen. That was the true test. Bloom knew the work looked good on his computer screen. And his stuff looked good on the Web — but on a cinema screen? That was the true test. (p. xxi-xxii.)

The Last 3 Minutes is covered in Chapter 12, see below.

The HDSLR cinema movement forced video camera companies to change how they approach their camera designs. In order to stay in the game — the demand for DSLR video was that big—they designed and released large sensor video cameras with interchangeable lenses. Initial cameras included the Sony FS-100 and Panasonic AF-100, with some bloggers announcing them as “DSLR killers.” Not so fast. The DSLR killed the prosumer video camera market and they evolved in order to stay in the game. And they’ve got game. Steve Lawes, the DP for the British television series, Sherlock, shot Convergence on a Sony PMWF3 (~$14,000 body), and as can be seen in the film the color rendition and shallow depth of fi eld looks like it was shot on a DSLR. (p. xxiii.)


Chapter 1:
Reverie (p. 7-8) is covered in the Introduction, see above.
The Last 3 Minutes (p. 9-12) is covered in Chapter 12, see below.

Philip Bloom’s Salton Sea Beach, shows how subtly he slowly pushes in on a shot using the Kessler Crane Pocket Dolly Traveler, which allows for Hollywood-type dolly/track camera movements both laterally and in and out. (Note the change in the sides of the shot—the 2 × 4 in the bottom screen left is no longer visible above.) The slow push-in offers poetic power around its smooth rhythmic beat. Push-in shot from 1:31. Film shot on a Canon Rebel T2i with a variety of lenses. Color grading with Magic Bullet software. (p. 16).

If the Pocket Dolly Traveler adds a rhythmic beat like a line of poetry, Ken Yiu’s use of Tiffen’s Steadicam Merlin presents a song. He achieved amazingly smooth handheld shots in Wedding Highlights with a Panasonic Lumix GH1 with kit lens. (p. 16)


Philip Bloom, in Cherry Blossom Girl, utilized a variety of lenses, as well as Zacuto’s Tactical Shooter around the streets of Chicago. Unlike the Merlin, where we see how Ken Yiu engaged smooth handheld movement while walking, Bloom stands still, allowing for a slight bobbing movement of the camera as the Tactical Shooter is braced against his body. He’s in full control of his 5D Mark II camera. (p. 20-21; Ch. 2: 34-35).


Chapter 2:
Convergence (p. 24-25, 27-28, 35), see Introduction, above.

Steve Lawes utilizes a soft three-quarter frontal key light while utilizing a shallow depth of field using a Sony PMW-F3 Super 35 mm HD video camera in Convergence , directed by Martin Scanlan. In addition a hard light source is utilized as a three-quarter rear “kicker”, the harsh light providing tonal contrast to the shot, due to the stark brightness opposed to the soft quality key coming from the left front.


San Francisco’s People. Canon 5DmkII 24p from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

In Philip Bloom’s San Francisco’s People, he utilizes practicals from street lamps to light his subject. (p. 26.)


16 Teeth: Cumbria’s Last Traditional Rakemakers (p. 26), see Ch. 9, below.

In Rii Schroer’s 16 Teeth, we see how Schroer utilizes side lighting to highlight the features of her subject. Side lighting brings out texture because it reinforces shadows, as we can see with the man’s wrinkles (on-axis light will lesson shadows). Fill light refl ects back onto the man’s screen-right face to help ease out the shadows (light from a window). Backlighting provides a sense of depth to the frame.


Reverie (p. 28-29, 36). See Introduction, above.

In the opening sequence to Laforet’s Reverie , we can see how he crafted a night look for this scene. Soft light (with a blue gel to color the scene) from above left lights the actor’s face, while one from the front hits his feet. The light is tightly controlled, minimizing spill, so as to enhance the shadows in the space. The lack of a backlight also helps accent the darkness and provides the night-time feel.


The Last 3 Minutes (p. 33), see Ch. 12, below.

During the sunset scene in The Last 3 Minutes, Shane Hurlbut, ASC, dialed in his color temperature at 4700 degrees K.


Cherry Blossom Girl (p. 34-35), see Ch. 1, above.

In Bloom’s Cherry Blossom Girl, we see how he utilized the position of the sun to light the same subject in two different ways. In the first shot of the girl, we see the woman lit from the side with soft-quality lighting, reflected sunlight causing fill light on her right side. In the second shot, Bloom places the woman so she’s lit by a high key sun from ¾ back, acting as a hard rim light, which causes a glow around her hair and shoulders. The sunlight reflects back onto her face, acting as a soft fill.


Chapter 3:
Reverie (p. 41, 60), see Introduction, above.

We could re-create Laforet’s interior night shot using the zone system by quantifying the tonal range of black-gray-white. To accent the darkness, Laforet lets the blacks fall off, revealing little to no detail in much of the setup (0–1). We can begin to see details in the 2–3 range, while 4 and 5 allow us to clearly see the patterns on the pillow, the texture of the t-shirt, the man’s arm and hand, as well as the table. Zone 6 is typically the value of Caucasian skin tones, and, save for the soft focus on his feet, we would clearly see the detail. The screen-right side of his face is shadowed, and we lose detail here, whereas the screen-left side of his face reveals details in the skin tone, edging on being a bit bright (7). The blue’s brightness (tint and shade) changes depending on the tonal values; it’s really dark in the background (where the 3 is), and a bit brighter in the zone 5 areas, to being really light in zone 6.


The Last 3 Minutes (p. 50), see Ch. 12, below.

A shot from The Last 3 Minutes reveals the potential narrow depth of field with the Canon 5D Mark II.


Saiko’s side by side comparison of the Canon 5D Mark II and III at ISO 12800. The Mark II’s image contains a lot of green noise. Although noise still can be seen in the Mark III image, it is significantly less. Saika. (p. 53.)


Chapter 4:

In the original view of the Grand Canyon using Technicolor’s CineStyle, the image is flat, washed out, and grey. CineStyle requires that you dig out the color and exposure information in postproduction. After post (as seen in the film), the Grand Canyon is revealed with bold colors and a large dynamic range (notice the details captured in the snow). (p. 74)


The Last 3 Minutes (p. 77), see Ch. 12, below.

The picture style for The Last 3 Minutes was shot in modifi ed neutral with a −4 on Contrast and −2 on Saturation.


Chapter 5:

By keeping the camera close to the subject (2.5’ 3’) at Occupy Wall Street in New York City, I was able to record decent audio with a Sennheiser ME62/K6 attached to a 5D Mark II with a shockmount and a XLR to minijack step down cable. Lens: Zeiss Contax 50 mm f/1.4. The open aperture provided a nice shallow depth of field for the interview shots, which allows for the audience to focus on what the subject is saying, while the wider lens was used for deep focus scenic shots. (p. 100.)

Chapter 6:
Video no longer available.

Cinematographer Khalid Mohtaseb utilizes Magic Bullet Looks to color-grade his film projects, including Haiti Earthquake Aftermath Montage. As referenced in the book the before imageis on the left, while the postgrading process is on the right (as seen in the film). (p. 129.)

NAU Marketing video, before effects applied to video. (p. 130-135.)
Chapter 7:

Winan’s Uncle Jack “started with the idea of a character forced to stay on his phone through ridiculous circumstances and yet try to make it seem like every- thing was fine,” the writer-director explains. “From there I asked the question, ‘Who’s the last person he should want to be on the phone with?’ I liked the contrast of a clearly shady guy talking very genuinely and sweetly to a little kid. That quickly led to him translating his current situation into a bedtime story.” (p. 144)


Chapter 8:

Out of all the shorts shot on a HDSLR that I’ve seen online, Casulo is one of the strongest examples of video expressing the film look. Indeed, in 2010, the film earned the top cinematography award from the Brazilian equivalent of the American Society of Cinematographers: Associação Brasileira de Cinematografia. Casulo, reverberating with surreal echoes of David Lynch, tells the story about the complexities of obsession and death as a daughter spies on her mother who becomes obsessed by a male neighbor and a girl he is with. Although the narrative involves intricate levels of visual information and very little dialog, what stands out in the film is how the director and cinematographer captured those images and put them through a heavy postproduction process to shape a strong cinematic quality to the work (which was transferred to 35 mm film). The film was written and directed by Bernardo Uzeda, with cinematography by Guga Millet, and produced by Isadora Sachett. The project was shot on a Canon 5D Mark II in April 2009. (p. 163-164.)


Chapter 9:

After getting to know their subjects and getting them relaxed for filming, “We decided that we should start with the sit-down interview first,” Schroer says, “as it gave us a framework for the story and a guide to focus on certain visuals over the day.” As they talked during the interview, Schroer says she “made mental notes of things that I found interesting for close-up shots, although a lot of them did not make it into the final edit, due to the time-constraints of the piece.” After the interview, she took a series of stills, portrait pictures. Then they just “let them go on with their jobs, following them around. The 5D Mark II allowed us to keep it small and intimate during the shoot.” (p. 181.)


Chapter 10:

Despite the fact they didn’t get long lenses for the initial plan of shooting a race, Bloom felt it worked in his favor by covering the backdrop of the races so that they could focus on the people setting up the event, the ones working in the stables. “That is the kind of thing I do anyway,” Bloom explains. “We had the horses in there as background and that worked so much better. I was really happier with it.” (p. 191.)

A promotional featuring Ishan Tankha from “Voices of Change” directed by Lucy Campbell-Jackson and shot by Philip Bloom on a Canon 5D Mark II. Note Bloom’s oblique composition capturing the depth in the shot. (p. 188.)


Chapter 11:

The Chrysalis was conceived as a short fi ction project to prove the cinematic capabilities of the Canon 7D. Neil Smith, the owner of Hdi RAWworks and the producer of this fi lm (as well as producer on A Day at the Races profi led in Chapter 10), says that both projects “demonstrated that HDSLRs when combined with professional grade cinema lenses—from the high-end Cookes to the less-expensive Zeiss ZE primes—are capable of a wide range of visual storytelling.” Smith calls the project a shooting exercise, to push the capabilities of the Canon 7D. “We sent the fi lm-crew out into Death Valley with a single African American actor and a standard 7D fi tted with Zeiss ZE primes,” Smith says. “The crew fi lmed in the glaring sun of the desert for three days and then combined the footage with a very clever visual effect shot of a large spinning glass orb to produce an illusion of some magical transformation taking place out in the wilderness.” (p. 198.)


Chapter 12:

The story of The Last 3 Minutes revolves around a weary 68-year-old office janitor who dies from a heart attack. His life passes before his eyes, and he lives through memories, both regrets and celebrations, starting from when his wife left him and then going back in time to when he was born. Typically, when there’s a story about someone’s life fl ashing before his eyes, Hurlbut explains, “It’s always the perfect light and it’s always at sunset. And that’s awesome, but we wanted to take this very mundane man” and show his “absolutely dead existence.” But beneath this surface, there are “many layers behind his life, and those layers are extraordinary,” revealing choices made, good and bad, that led to the present moment. (p. 212.)


Chapter 13:

Documentary filmmakers engage in the practice of finding the heart of characters and interpreting them through the lenses of their cameras. So for the cave system, “It was up to us to see the beauty and, yes, sometimes the creepiness of objects in the cave and interpret it through our lens,” Lancaster explains. A person going on a tour will notice some details—the interpreter guide will make sure of that. However, photographers, cinematographers, and filmmakers are trained to see what others don’t see—the individuality of the filmmaker will be attracted to different shot sizes, angles, light and shadow, depth of field, and movement based on how they feel about what they see. Their lens will shape the audience’s experience. Timpanogos cave proved a challenge in fi nding these characteristics. (p. 234.)


Chapter 14:

Like an Aesop’s fable, Charles’ fi lm engages universal themes, but doesn’t really examine a particular “hero’s journey” of a character, but rather utilizes tropes and metaphors, as well as visual cues—such as the portrait of a fly family — to tap into the human connection (see Figure 14.1 ). At the same time, he doesn’t take the film “itself too seriously, but it also lends itself to this type of puppetry.” There’s a certain amount of fun watching the movie. (p. 243.)


Chapter 16:

Thomas Bangalter’s poetic promotional for the clothing company, Co. Shot on the Ikonoskop A-Cam dII. It reveals a wide range of latitude in a desert landscape, with exposure on the face as well as on a blue sky and detail in white clouds. But for $9,000 it’s still in the same price range of higher end cinema cameras.(p. 271.)

Elle Schneider’s One Small Step, a short film shot on an early pre-production model of the Digital Bolex D16, a 16 mm camera that shoots in RAW. (p. 272.)

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