Love is Now, the first Australian feature film to be shot on DSLR cameras, is about to hit the cinemas early December and Lexy Savvides of CNET’s Sydney office interviewed cinematographer Anthony Jennings about how he did it.
Shooting a feature film on a DSLR may be old news in Hollywood after DPs like Shane Hurlbut helped blaze that particular trail with Act of Valor but it seems that it is news this side of the Pacific, in Australia.
Before Act of Valor came 2009’s DSLR feature film breakthrough Searching for Sonny but this too seems to have passed some of our local industry pundits by. Ah well. Blame it on our slow Internet speeds.
Given what industry insiders tell me about the anti-DSLR bias in the nation’s film schools, and one in particular, I should not be so surprised. Those of us with our eyes on them thar interwebs have known about the revolution in moviemaking and quality television production since at least 2010 when the Canon EOS 5D Mark II was used to shoot an entire season finale of House.
And another more interesting development in consumer camera moviemaking, from my point of view, was when Shane Carruth shot Upstream Color on a hacked Panasonic GH2 equipped with Voigtlaender stills lenses.
CNET Senior Associate Editor Lexy Savvides has not missed a trick though in her article shot by Anthony Jennings on a Nikon D810 DSLR. She has garnered some useful advice for others starting out in shooting with DSLRs.
“You don't need too many,” Mr Jennings tells her and then goes on to detail why his ‘workhorse set’ consists of a fast 50mm, a 16mm prime or 16-35mm zoom and a 70-200mm zoom lens. Halve those numbers if you are shooting on a Micro Four Thirds camera like the Panasonic Lumix GH4 or Blackmagic's Pocket Cinema Camera and you have a good approximation of their 35mm-to-MFT equivalents.
Jennings also had something interesting to say about analog film stocks relevant in these days of rampant film nostalgia:
A lot of cinematographers, especially me, preferred the older stocks because you would see less. So you could define what people were looking at, you could let the shadows drop out. …
Then he compared the D810’s tonal range to that of Kodak 200 ISO film stock, saying that the Nikon DSLR camera has “that really beautiful drop-off and an interesting grain that I haven't seen before.”
Jennings also made a related observation about using picture profiles if you don’t have the time to grade your footage:
A lot of people complain that dSLR footage is too crushed and contrasty, but again I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. If that's the look you're going for then you already have those tools in the camera.
That is, if short dynamic ranges are unavoidable whether you are shooting film or digital, then embrace that limitation and make it work for you, not against you.
The current slow but sure expansion of sensor dynamic ranges is a wonderful thing to see but there is plenty that can be done in using the play of light and deep shadow to express your vision and underscore the emotions you need to induce in your audience.
Speaking of slow but sure, now that Anthony Jennings has broken the ice on Australian feature films shooting on DSLRs, perhaps we will see more of the same some day?
Shoot a movie on dSLR? This Australian film shows how it's done
“The decision to use these cameras on Love Is Now was easy. “We did talk about using maybe an Alexa or a Red camera, but it kind of made sense [to use dSLRs] because we were going to be having to move quickly and going to a lot of locations,” he said.”
Anyone who has played around with shooting video on a dSLR knows that the image straight out of camera can be quite contrasty, thanks to the default picture profiles. “With the D810, it has a very flat picture profile so it let us shoot a lot of things in a lot of variance of light,” said Jennings.
“We could shoot a lot more contrast without losing our highlights and our shadows. I didn't tweak [the picture profile] because we had a very short pre-production, so I didn't get too many chances to do testing. We got the D810 that was released a week before we started filming, so we were under the gun to get hold of one.”
Jennings said that the configuration he chose was almost emulating the effect from an older movie camera. “Partly because the dynamic range on this camera is very good, but with film they kept upgrading film all the time so you could see more and more and more.”
“A lot of cinematographers, especially me, preferred the older stocks because you would see less. So you could define what people were looking at, you could let the shadows drop out. With the D810, it was almost giving me like the old Kodak 200 ASA stock, it had that really beautiful drop-off and an interesting grain that I haven't seen before on dSLRs.”
Read full article at CNET “Shoot a movie on dSLR? This Australian film shows how it's done”
Love Is Now Official Trailer
Via Youtube Description:
Love is Now is the intriguing yet mysterious drama chronicling a summer of love for experienced photographer Audrey (Van Der Boom) and aspiring snapper Dean (Farren). Propelled by new love and Audrey’s free spirit, the couple embarks on a formative country adventure following the NSW Harvest Trail where they discover significantly more than they ever expected along the way.
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(cover photo credit: snap from the video)