Canon C500 4K Short Film 'ALEX' Puts the Camera Through Its Paces
Aside from the short film Man & Beast shot by Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, there hasn’t been much footage showing off what the already shipping Canon C500 is capable of. Since it has the same sensor and identical internal recording, footage shot right on the cards within the camera should be similar, if not identical to that of the Canon C300. What most people (including me) really want to see, however, is more footage that has been recorded externally using the superior RAW output of the C500. That’s exactly what DP Nino Leitner has done with a new short film, ALEX. Click through to check it out.
Here are a few tidbits he gave from his blog post about the camera. It was shot mostly at 850 ISO (with the exception of a couple shots) and then converted from RAW to DPX using Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and color graded using Nucoda:
The Automatic mode of the C500 fan does not seem to care whether the camera is currently recording or not. It simply spins up when the camera gets too hot, and that seems to happen easily and quickly even at room temperature. We had several takes in which the fan started spinning half way through the take, making it hard for our sound recordist, so we had to reshoot takes because of that…
The C500 features a “Lens Exchange” button, which, when pressed, puts the camera in a kind of standby mode which makes it safe to swap lenses. After you put on the new lens, you press the button again and it’s back up immediately. You still have to think about pressing that damn button before you take off the lens, but at least it makes the whole process a little faster (although the C300 & C500 are extremely fast to boot up anyway)…
For the grade we went to Matthias Tomasi, a professional colorist working at a big post production house in Vienna, and he graded the film using the Nucoda suite. For the first time, we saw the 4K material in its full glory on proper monitors and we were astonished. Even without any grading, and still looked at in 1080p, the image was clearly superior over the internal MXF files from the camera.
Nino and the team shot on the Gemini 4K recorder to uncompressed RAW. At the time of shooting this was the least expensive and most readily available recorder capable of handling the massive RAW files coming from the Canon C500. This is going to change relatively soon with the release of the AJA Ki Pro Quad, but for now, there aren’t too many options to shoot 4K on a budget with this camera (though at 1TB per hour of RAW footage, it’s going to be difficult to shoot on a budget in 4K with this camera anyway). They also were able to use the new Canon Cinema primes, and they did a little bit of a comparison to Zeiss lenses which they also had on the shoot (a simple Zeiss/Canon comparison of one focal length will be online soon.)
In a welcome change to most camera tests, I was actually watching for the story — instead of for the look of the camera — after a couple minutes. This is the way ideally all camera tests would be done (at least in part), but normally money and circumstance don’t allow for anything extensive like this. I think the look of these cameras is becoming less and less important the more information we have to work with. So many films are shot with post in mind now that much of the look is made up in color grading, so the actual camera itself is less important — especially if you’re getting a RAW file. Of course, there are certainly differences between each camera system, but those differences are far less drastic than the comparisons of 8-bit 4:2:0 footage from DSLRs.
I may not think the price is very competitive in terms of the competition, but there is no question this camera can deliver a great image. Regardless of where Canon prices anything though, they tend to fly off shelves and are consistently out of stock at rental houses, so I don’t really expect the C500 to be much different. What is interesting to me is that there are a lot of quirks and issues that RED was also dealing with when they first introduced the EPIC. It’s clear that if you’re shooting in 4K, you need serious cooling, and no small camera is going to escape this. The workflow is also foreign to most people, as opposed to the very mature RED codec which is now native to the major editing platforms. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to compressed and uncompressed RAW, but I think 1 Terabyte per hour is going to keep a lot of people from using the 4K mode on every project — just specific ones.
While they weren’t able to get the 120fps mode working, this is either firmware related or it has to do with the way the files themselves are recorded. I don’t think this will be a big deal, but it’s just another issue that most new cameras deal with as the firmware matures and the third party support gets better around the camera.
Nino has written an extensive post about using the C500, and it’s really a must-read for anyone who is interested in learning more about shooting with the camera or working with the footage. In addition to some RAW still frames that he has posted, he will also be uploading a 4K file and posting the film to YouTube in 4K.
What do you guys think about the footage? What about the workflow involved to actually get working with these files? How about the file sizes, would 1TB an hour be a deal-breaker on most projects, or are you already dealing with this kind of data on a daily basis?