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January 25, 2014

Famed DP Rodrigo Prieto Reveals Why 'Color is King' in this Promo for the Canon C500

Prieto C500 WideThe Canon C500 is one of those cameras that hasn't been readily adopted by the film industry, at least not to the extent of ARRI and RED products. Sure, it played a very small role in the production of Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, and Shane Hurlbut chose it as his A-Cam on Need For Speed, but for the most part, it doesn't get much love in the narrative filmmaking world. However, world-class cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto ASC, AMC, (The Wolf of Wall Street, Argo) recently lensed a short film called Human Voice on the high-end Canon camera, and offered his take on why it was the right choice for this project, and how specifically it was set up for this film.

Before watching this video, it should be noted that it is technically a piece of advertising for Canon. However, it contains not only some stunning cinematography, but some extremely logical and practical insight from one of the most well-respected cinematographers in the industry.

Here's a nifty graphic which details exactly how Prieto and his 1st AC decided to build the C500 specifically for shooting Human Voice:

And here are a few fun production stills from Jon Fauer, which can be seen in their entirety in this slideshow on Film & Digital Times:

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this production, at least for me, is that more and more, cinematographers are stepping up and saying that resolution is the least of their concerns when it comes to digital cinema technology (sorry, Jim). Instead they're focused on the color depth of these cameras and treating the individual sensors as they would a traditional film stock, an analogy and ideology that Shane Hurlbut has been espousing for years. For this short, Prieto chose to shoot 2K RAW with the C500, despite the fact that it's 4K RAW capable, due to the fact that his testing revealed that the color depth and latitude were slightly higher in 2K.

That's certainly not to say that 4K doesn't have its place, because the digital effects industry is fairly reliant on resolution in order to do its thing. However, it seems safe to say that resolution isn't as powerful of a storytelling tool as color is, and cinematographers, whose job it is to tell stories visually, are choosing the tools that allow them to be the most expressive with color, which often aren't the tools with the highest resolution. It's an interesting debate, and I'm sure that we'll here quite a bit more about it in the coming years.

Be sure to head on over to Canon's Cinema EOS site to see more about Prieto's C500 rig for this short, and for more fascinating behind-the-scenes photos from this stunning short film, head on over to this post at Jon Fauer's Film & Digital Times.

What do you guys think about Prieto's C500 rig and the fact that he chose to shoot 2K for better color rendition? Is color a more powerful storytelling tool than resolution, and should we choose our cameras based on that assumption? Let's hear those thoughts down in the comments!

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77 Comments

Quite fascinating. I'm currently doing a very similar buildout for a C500 kit and the same issue of going from a purely tripod mounted mode to handheld is absolutely key. Wonderful insight into the camera within the context of the story as well. I chose to go with 2 C500 kits (might be 2 PL, still deciding) because of a lot of the flexibility in terms of accessories and being able to go up to 4k if say a client demanded it.

Imagery in this project is absolutely gorgeous though. I'm definitely going to be looking at a softfx filter kit to add to my arsenal. Did something similar a couple years ago with my 5D and loved the results

January 25, 2014

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wow, and now i am wondering if i should buy a Sony RX10 or pay my rent!

January 25, 2014

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Nelson

Seems like Canon had no influence in the short at all. Jim(Red) is all about resolution but you have to hand it to his team and him that the Dragon is pretty much the best digital camera when it comes to post manipulation in the market as of right now. I mean have you messed with the R3D files. The dynamic range in the C100,300,500 is lagging 5 years. Everytime I worked on a set with the Canon line, it always looks like video which could be a good thing for other projects but not movies.

January 25, 2014

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Nick

Maybe, but in some ways Red is hanging on Canon's coat-tails, because it was bizarre how Red aggressively tied their Scarlet announcement to the back of a Canon product announcement, and saying "We like to bring Bazookas to knife fights". Also, taking Sony to court and seeking to have the F5/55 cameras physically crushed at ports didn't look very good either (Sony responding by effectively raising the middle finger to Red).

January 25, 2014

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Saied

The C500 in 2K 12 bit like in the film we are talking about is close to 13 stops. The most popular camera today is Alexa at 14 stops. Its 3 times the size and 3 times the price. Not sure if that translates to 5 years behind .

January 25, 2014

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tim

BMCC is also 12-bit and 13 stops EV though, and we all know the price.. :)

January 25, 2014

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Tiedtke

it may have 12 bit in 2k but it is only 10 bit in 4k which i feel is stupid considering that a small black magic and canon hacked 5d can camera can do 10 /12 bit respectively internally

Id rather spend my money on a fs700 with odessy that can do 2k 12bit raw at 240fps and 10bit 4k at 60fps and still is cheaper than c500

January 26, 2014

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JAYE

The dragon is nice but it is not the best camera in terms of dynamic range, yes it may say alot on paper but in the real world it may be the 3rd or 4th best camera in terms of dynamic range.

The best camera systems on dynamic range alone are as follows in my opinion ( not by resolution)

1. Sony f65 ( damn near better than film at times)
2. Arri alexa
3. Sony f35 / panavision Genesis ( yes it is oudated and only 1080p, but still as of today have color gamut and dynamic range in some ways better than alexa).
4. Red dragon
5. Black Magic Cinema camera / Sony f55/sony f5 ( all cut seamlessly with each other, i would give edge to f55 because of low light

January 26, 2014

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JAYE

Is there a page somewhere showing color depth and latitude of cinema cameras? I know there's dxomark for still cameras (with the Nikon D800E the top dog now), would be good to have the same for cinema cameras and compare between Blackmagic, C300, Red, Sony F55, ARRI etc.

January 25, 2014

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Kodak should learn from Canon's marketing division

January 25, 2014

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Nick

A lot of companies could learn from Canon's marketing..... like Panasonic.

January 25, 2014

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Gene

The only thing Canon is doing right is marketing.

January 25, 2014

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Nick

Their cinema marketing aint "all of that" people are not rushing out to get a c500 , the c300 works because it is ultimately the best doc camera in terms of workflow, but it can be better in my opinion.

Most of cannons endorserments are paid paylo who throw the cameras in their mix just to please canon .

January 26, 2014

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JAYE

You're rationalizing the choice of 4K as an artistic choice, when, if I'm understanding the video, was a purely technical choice. They said the expanded color depth wasn't available at 4K, so the decision seemed pretty straightforward.

January 25, 2014

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Ian

Would that not be an artistic choice made for technical reasons, then?
Presumably, the reason one would want greater color depth is for the expanded artistic control it yields during shooting and editing. So, I'd reason it could be categorized as both an artistic and technical decision, though one made to provide more artistic control.

January 25, 2014

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Mr Blah

Yeah, it's an artistic choice because he wanted the color and dynamic range. Because to him, those were more important to make the movie look the way he wanted. Not technical, really.

January 27, 2014

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Muh

Yes Ian, the impression was that if 4K had 12 bit he would have chosen it.

January 25, 2014

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Gene

That is a huge rig...

January 25, 2014

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Darryl

That is a standard rig...

January 25, 2014

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Lee

Standard features maybe, but that's a pretty bulky setup, especially when you consider that the Codex recorder isn't even on board. Lots of air in that setup. We really need to find a solution to the spider nest of cables that cameras rigs are turning in to these days.

I always felt that one of the big strengths of the 500 was how compact it is. That sort of went out the window with this setup.

In any case it's nice to see Mrs Loren on screen on screen, again.

January 26, 2014

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Darryl

Welcome to the big leagues....

January 26, 2014

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Lee

That's cute, Lee. I'm going to date myself here, but when I got in to this business, a Mitchell still was a viable camera and in case you're not familiar with what that is, a full blown BNC makes that 500 rig look like a Handycam.

January 27, 2014

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Darryl

What great skin tones. Absolutely gorgeous.

January 25, 2014

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gordon

Resolution is overrated. Nobody is gonna call you a good cinematographer when you lens your actress at 8k and you can see very imperfection of her face.

January 25, 2014

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Mikey

Yeah, when they shoot 4K they're going to diffuse the hell out of the picture. Regular HD is not kind to some actors right now.

January 27, 2014

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Muh

Skin rendiition can be affected in much more sophisticated ways than simply reducing acquisition resolution, and these ways include of course just good, flattering lighting.. Remember also, that reducing resolution is always easy (just blur by needed amount) while increasing resolution is another matter, and is mostly impossible.

January 31, 2014

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Robert Ruffo

It's a period piece. Creatively 4K would not fit. The C500 is a 4K 10 bit camera in 2K it is a 12 bit camera.The additional bit depth also gives you more information in the bottom end as well as much more in the skin tones. It makes the question when do we consider bit depth and latitude over resolution.

January 25, 2014

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tim

I'd choose dynamic range over resolution anyday. ^^

January 25, 2014

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Tiedtke

Does anyone find the blackmagic's color science in raw, too yellow? All the footages I see on vimeo/youtube are just very yellow and very desaturatedly drab looking.

January 25, 2014

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VinceGortho

Nothing is wrong with blackmagic color science, it is no different than red epics, 5d hacked raw, red scarlet etc.

Most of what is shot with black magic can be brought back in post aslong as you use ND filters to cut down on ir pollution.

January 26, 2014

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JAYE

Yep, it is too yellow. Different sensors and calibrations create different output. But if you know how to color grade your footage you can get very similar results.

January 26, 2014

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Martin

and the blues are out of whack too on the Black Magic (this is the most prelevant of the weird colors in the clips).. I fear they tried to imitate Vision 3 but ended up with that abomination of color science.

January 28, 2014

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Peter

"one of the big strengths of the 500 was how compact it is. That sort of went out the window with this setup."

What are you going to do? Sound wants to add a receiver to record to the camera. Sound demands a Lock-It box, especially you are using more then one camera. The AC needs either or both a Remote Follow Focus and a CineTape for accurate follow focusing. Some jobs require wireless video transmitting. The camera manufacturers don't give one enough power ports so one must add a splitter box. One needs to hot swap batteries, so that requires a shark fin or a secondary power in. As the Dp and/or camera operator one has to be sensitive to others needs. You don't want the producer asking you why the two cameras weren't in sync ...

January 26, 2014

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Mako Koiwai

I hear what you are saying, that's why I said the setup was standard in the sense that it meets all of the requirements of production. But at the same time I think we have to be objective here and acknowledge that in general things have gotten a little out of hand in terms of cable salad and rigs that end up looking like they were designed by Skynet. There has to be a better way of doing this.

January 26, 2014

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Darryl

It may be doable IF one company either did all the accessories or incorporated the features into the camera itself. Alexa, obviously, has the internal recording, rendering the external unit superfluous. I guess one could also build the ultrasound/laser focusing system into it (or wait until the Phase Detect or "Multiple Focus Scan*" are perfected). Battery could also be internal, as it is on DSLR's, although it'd have to be easily swappable also. Monitor and/or EVF can be made into a HMD a la Google Glass or Oculus Rift. The zoom motor can be controlled within the lens itself, as it is on DSLR's. Of course, most of the above would make the camera itself heavier and, unlike F55/65, C500 is something more suited for mobile rather than studio work.
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As to Canon, the "color" is their current mojo to the same extent as resolution is Red's calling card. One will emphasize its own strengths and minimize its perceived disadvantages as a rule.
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* "Multiple Focus Scan" is not a trade name, AFAIK, just quick ad-lib on my part. Qualcomm is actually marketing its latest Snapgragon processors as capable of this feature, where several subjects can be in focus despite being on different depth planes. In other words, it will focus automatically several times per frame, much like cameras do the multiple exposure bracketing for a higher dynamic range. Currently, it's marketed to consumer rather than pros, however.

January 26, 2014

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DLD

I think the C500 has a unique look, and a very pleasing one. Its definitely a good choice for certain projects.
I agree with @Darryl though, that rig isn't the nicest I've ever seen.

January 26, 2014

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marklondon

One more thing - those Canon cine lenses are the freaking bomb.
I used them on a recent job and was blown away. They aren't Master Primes maybe, but they are WAAAY above CP2s. They give you great color rendition, especially in the reds/oranges.

January 26, 2014

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marklondon

canon spends all their money on marketing and none of it on making a decent camera

January 26, 2014

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john jeffries

No sir, I don't like it. If I compare the colors to Alexa, the Canon has a strong-case of juandice and horrible skin-tones. Also it looks horrible with any light. that it's not in range of 5000 - 6000 K .

January 26, 2014

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Peter

How are you the only person that notices how terrible this image looks? The DP did a great job, CLEARLY, but the actual image coming from this camera is awful. Everyone, even in the interview, looks sick and on the verge of transforming into a corpse or an alien.

Canon does marketing well, even an amazing DP can't escape the unsavory base image.

January 26, 2014

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Kholi

How do I notice? I've grew up with film and and with an obsession with lighting and colors + I've successfuly transfered to digital age thanks to Alexa (partly also due to Red One and F35 ). I woudln't want a C500 on my set.

January 27, 2014

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Peter

Canon white papers - lenses, sharpness, color.
http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2012/cinemaeos_white_p...
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IMO, there ought to be a major upgrade for their C-line soon. A camcorder, rather than a DSLR, shaped unit capable of 4K 12 bit 60p recording should be quite doable for under $25K these days. Panasonic might release their Varicam by NAB. Others will also join that sub-$30K 4K group.

January 26, 2014

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DLD

The issue is having a recorder such as a Codex which retails at over $15,000, and even to rent it isn't cheap, and you end up spending just as much as an EPIC which has 5k internal raw and about 13 stops of range, or an Alexa which shoots a great pro res 12 bit codec. There are alternatives though like the Aja Pro Quad but it only records 10-bit and takes away that awesome color space Rodrigo was getting from the 2k raw 12-bit files. All comes down to budget and the type of project.

January 26, 2014

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The Convergent Design Odyssey 7(Q) would also be a good choice and you save some space since it's a OLED monitor / recorder combo. And it costs a fraction of the Codex unit.

January 26, 2014

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Darryl

Arri Amira is supposed to be in the same price range as this camera and you don't have to kit it out to use it properly. As much as I like Canon, I've been using since forever, C500 was obsolete before it launched. I bet Rodrigo used it only because Canon gave them a great offer, either by sponsoring them or by giving them gear to use for free. C300 makes sense because it's a documentary camera, but c500 is a product that I could never understand. I used it and I didn't like it. Sure the image is nice but the camera itself has an identity crisis. It's definitely not the best that Canon could do at the moment it came out. The impression is that Alexa is built by engineers whereas C500 by marketing executives. I love Canon but I'm disappointed by their recent products...

January 26, 2014

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Jeff G

This whole thing about right camera for the job is bullshit to me. It's just what any artist prefers their production to look like.
If the camera had 12bit color in 4k they would of shot it that way. There are plenty of 12bit cameras on the market now. If this was a blackmagic promo, there would still be people saying; "that was the right camera for that job. look at it. They chose correctly."
Lets say if Canon were a motion picture production company. Would they opt for a Red or Alexa or Sony camera to shoot their movies? Or would coincidently, the C series always be the right camera for their jobs?

January 26, 2014

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VinceGortho

Probably true in a lot of cases, but I think there is ultimately something in the notion of the "right camera for the job" for a person who is genuinely qualified or experienced at a high level eg Shane Hurlbut tests to identify the right camera for a job.
http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2013/11/red-epic-vs-canon-c500/

January 26, 2014

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Saied

It just seems like brand loyalty when a camera maxes out in bit color depth. Unless you need an 8 bit/ 10bit look.

January 27, 2014

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VinceGortho

Not that it matters, but they mention the Anton Bauer battery in their graphic but not the (black gaff taped) RED Brick that powers the TV Logic monitor shown in the video.

As for the right tool for the job, Martin Scorsese shot Hugo on the Alexa because, if I recall correctly, it looked good to him and he couldn't tell the difference between it and film. I don't have a link to that info (I think it was in a BTS video) but it's probably easy to find on the web. Many Alexa fans heralded that as a triumphant moment and a testament to its image making prowess. Fair enough.

For The Wolf of Wall Street (shot by Rodrigo Prieto), they did comparisons between various digital cameras and film once again and Marty kept choosing film as the better looking image and Alexa didn't make the cut this time around. It doesn't make Alexa any less of a camera, just not the appropriate one for that story.

Link: http://bit.ly/1fglf8L

January 26, 2014

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Brian

strange (fake posts) tests like these are not helping red owners..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=jJpLgdD7r3c

January 26, 2014

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DIO

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