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Technische Daten

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Taking flight: Shooting ‘The SWISS’ with the EOS C300 Mark II

Taking flight: Shooting ‘The SWISS’ with the EOS C300 Mark II

© LAUSCHSICHT

March 2016

Kevin Blanc and his company LAUSCHSICHT specialise in telling authentic business stories, and that requires a special kind of camera. CPN writer James Morris discovers how the EOS C300 Mark II digital cinema camera allowed them to expose the real everyday lives of “The people behind SWISS.”

In the contemporary media-saturated world, snappy visuals are not enough to cement the value of a brand any more. Companies need to project a deeper experience of its values to its customers. LAUSCHSICHT, founded by Kevin Blanc, creates a new kind of brand experience content, and for the SWISS site he wanted to take things further and get right inside the lives of airline employees, to show exactly what gives the company its special flavour. This needed a special kind of camera, and the C300 Mark II was the perfect fit.

“We have created over 20 stories for the World of SWISS platform,” explains Blanc. “It's a new way of corporate storytelling, combining an interesting narrative with a production standard that fits the brand.” Blanc saw a disparity between slick corporate messaging and the more authentic, richer stories told by journalists, which however were usually not produced to the same standards of visual quality. “We wanted to try to produce content that is interesting but at the same time communicates the brand values. The key thing is that these stories are real and authentic, not fake. The production style is more a documentary, to show reality at its best.”

© LAUSCHSICHT

Please click on the image above to view filmmaker Kevin Blanc’s short film about using the EOS C300 Mark II on a recent Swiss International Air Lines commercial.

This is where the C300 Mark II came in. “We received the camera on a Thursday and by Monday we were shooting!” The shoot itself lasted one month, with 20 actual days of filming, producing about 20 hours of footage. The main reason for choosing the C300 Mark II was for its 4K abilities in a small body. “The way we like to shoot is in a very compact setup, in an agile way of working. We waited for a 4K camera for quite some time. We didn't want to buy any other system because we couldn't let go of the colour science behind Canon: the way it handles skin tones and the way highlights are handled, the overall warmth of the image.”

Blanc was an early user of DSLRs to shoot video. “Together with a friend, we had the first 5D Mark II in Switzerland. I was working for Swiss TV. We got the camera, went out for a weekend, came back and had a presentation at the channel, where we said this was going to change everything, because you can have a movie image out of a 3000-Franc camera. From that point on I was shooting with a DSLR. We used cameras from other manufacturers, but this compact DSLR form factor was very appealing all the way through. The C300 Mark II is the next logical step. It still feels like a DSLR but is a proper digital cinema camera. You don't have the fuss of a DSLR. You don't need a complete set of accessories to make it work.”

Working with Canon Log2

One of the newly introduced features with the C300 Mark II is Canon Log2, and Blanc made extensive use of this for his film. “We had to get used to the new Canon Log2, because it works in a different way to Canon Log,” he explains. “On the display, whilst you’re shooting, you tend to think you have infinite information at the low end. Some make the mistake of underexposing, and some think that the image is noisy. But I was really impressed with how extensively highlights were recorded. We overexposed by one stop at least. We shot some footage against the sun, and everything was there except the sun itself.”

© Lauschsicht © Lauschsicht
© LAUSCHSICHT

Please use the slider in the image above to compare ungraded footage with graded footage, shot with the EOS C300 Mark II using Canon Log2.

This was Blanc’s first experience with the C300, despite his long experience with Canon. “We shot for about two years with the EOS 5D Mark III in RAW, and that's why we didn't move to the original C300, because it wouldn't give us an extra in image quality. We wanted 10-bit and 4K, so the Mark II finally fit the bill. Canon Log2 is made for this camera, and you still have the original Log, so if you are shooting with a first-generation C300 as well, or have LUTs designed for it, you can use that. But if you want the maximum dynamic range you have to use Canon Log2. We didn't compare the two. We tested Canon Log2, we analysed it, and it was clear that it was working. So we just went with it.”

However, some thought is required when using Log2. “You have to be careful with dark areas. It's a must to shoot with a 709 LUT on the viewfinder, because it is tricky to see the lows, although the highlights are easy to see. If you take black as zero, and clipping as 100, in Canon Log2, clipping is just before 90, and pitch black is 10. This is important to realise when you look at the waveform.” Another essential ingredient was the 10-bit internal recording. “This is a must-have if you use Log2,” Blanc argues. “Because it's so flat, combining Log 2 with 8-bit would tear footage apart in grading. But the amount of information we were able to extract from footage because of the 10-bit colour was very impressive.”

Lenses and accessories

The C300 Mark II Blanc was using was the EF mount variant, and he had a full range of Canon lenses at his disposal, from 11mm to 600mm. “Everything wide was shot with the EF11-24mm, which is amazing. And all the close-ups with people were with the EF70-200mm. Most shots were with these and the EF24-70mm. We had a 2x Extender for the 600mm, too, and you literally can't tell what you are shooting with the naked eye, it's too far away.”

The selection of EF rather than PL mount lenses was for practical reasons. “We extensively used a gimbal on this production – the ACR Beast – and this required an EF mount because it's so compact. Essentially, with the C300 Mark II, you just have the camera. Internal recording, ND filters, and EF mount are all built in. The only thing you need to add is a display. Adding a follow-focus system to a gimbal adds so much weight, which would ruin the portability. But one of the most amazing features of the C300 Mark II is the autofocus. With the dual-pixel system it's incredible. So follow focus isn’t essential.”

© Lauschsicht
© LAUSCHSICHT

Behind the scenes with Kevin Blanc and his team, as they film with the EOS C300 Mark II digital cinema camera.

In fact, LAUSCHSICHT has made an art form out of travelling light, with kit that is as compact as possible. “The whole crew was just five people, including SWISS's project manager,” enthuses Blanc “The way we work is – I think – not the way many other production companies work. We have remote screens for everybody. Alain (Renold - Blanc’s business partner at LAUSCHSICHT) does camera and directing, but he has his own screen and we are in constant discussion. We use the Paralinx Arrow Plus wireless system. Our setup is completely mobile. Everything has batteries, such as the Area 48 LED lights, and we have smaller LED lights as well. Everything is stored in bags with wheels, so with four people you can carry a 4K camera setup, six LED lights with stands, sound equipment, a gimbal, a motion controlled slider, a small crane, and a tripod.”

This is very much a “verité” way of working, but in advanced digital form. “In these kinds of projects you are trying to capture what's there in the best possible way,” continues Blanc. “You can’t ask them to change the colour of all the tables in shot!” Illumination could be very varied, too, and the camera kit needed to cope with that. “We had the full range of lighting to deal with, from the middle of the night, shooting a dark runway and lights at high ISO, to the cockpit in bright sunlight. We went to 6,400 ISO, in one of the first shots in the film, such as where the plane is landing. But we also had office lights in the ceiling to contend with. Sometimes we had to remove or turn them off. We had mixed lighting to contend with as well, so had to decide whether to adjust to the warmer or colder light. However, we tried to be very careful with the white balance, and stay as close as possible to ISO 800 when we could.”

Post production: 10-bit in 4K

Amazingly, the whole video was edited in 4K, without proxies. “We would come back, have a look at the proxy files with a LUT applied, skip through them to be sure, and we could also use these as a backup. These proxies were in LongGOP MXF at around 20Mbits/sec. But the main footage we edited was using the 410Mbit/sec internal codec in H.264 10-bit with a MXF wrapper. We imported 4K into Adobe Premiere Pro CC and edited there with Canon Log2, keeping an adjustment layer with LUT available just for checking. There was a huge amount of production required and round-tripping into After Effects.”

A lot of honing was required to get the 20 hours of footage they shot to the desired length for the final story. “We were looking at 35 departments to create mini stories, and ended up with 15 minutes. Then we compressed that to 5.5 minutes. We even went below four minutes, but that killed the story. We would have had to take out whole departments.”

© Lauschsicht
© LAUSCHSICHT

The EOS C300 Mark II was mounted onto a slider for smooth tracks across various surfaces ranging from office to aircraft.

Once editing was complete, they conformed the timeline in Premiere, made an export with Log2 still applied in 4K as QuickTime ProRes 4444, and took this into Da Vinci Resolve with an EDL for all the cuts to guide sections for grading. But all the transitions were already perfectly rendered. “We didn't re-link to the original footage in Resolve, but used a conformed movie,” explains Blanc. “We had so many adjustments – re-frames, speed ramps, and sections worked on frame by frame. Remapping footage is a nasty beast, and we wanted to avoid that!” The final film was output at 720p in 6Mbit for the World of SWISS site as a MP4, although the final presentation remained in 4K.“We carefully de-noised everything in software, though. We tested the de-noise on camera, but this made it harder to remove in post production. So we left it as is and adjusted later on. The problem is outputting on the Web. When you encode to H.264, it loses quality, even with little noisy footage, because it can't find the fine details.”

Overall, Blanc was thoroughly impressed with the C300 Mark II’s performance. “From its first day it was a brilliant team player. It just worked. We never had any delay, or any trouble or any situation because of the camera. It sort of blends in. If you see the red dot you know it's recording. It feels really safe. In our setup, this is very good to have. I guess that's what Canon is all about. Once they release it, it just works.”

Kevin Blanc’s technical kitbag

Camera:
EOS C300 Mark II (EF mount)

Lenses:
EF11-24mm f/4L USM
EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM
EF35mm f/1.4L II USM
EF50mm f/1.2L USM
EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
EF85mm f/1.2L II USM
EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM
EF600mm f/4L IS II USM
EF2x III Extender

Accessories:
ACR ‘The Beast’ gimbal
Paralinx Arrow Plus wireless monitors
Area 48 LED lights

Biografie: Kevin Blanc

Kevin Blanc

Kevin Blanc comes from a computer scientist background, but wanted to take these skills in a creative direction. So when he came to London from Switzerland to learn English, his host family introduced him to Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication, where he enrolled in the Moving Image Design course. After graduating in 2006 – and a little beforehand – he worked for Swiss TV. Then, in 2009, he founded LAUSCHSICHT and two years later colleague Alain Renold joined, who also studied Moving Image Design at Ravensbourne. LAUSCHSICHT has won numerous ADC and Promax awards, including Gold, 12 Best of Swiss Web awards, and was shortlisted for Cannes Cyber Lions. Alongside SWISS, clients include Zurich Insurance Group, Volkswagen, UBS, Swisscom, MSN and ASUS.



Schaukasten

Showing the C300 Mark II’s versatility as a 4K filmmaking tool, it can be used for handheld filming thanks to intuitive DSLR-style handling characteristics.