Shooting with the C700: Oscar-Winning Cinematographer Discusses Canon's New Cinema Camera
At a Canon event, Russell Carpenter discussed the advantages of shooting with the C700.
The Canon C700, dressed in a black magnesium shell and a compliment of Canon accessories, took center stage at the SVA Theater last night for the East coast premiere of The Calling, one of the first short films shot with the Canon cinema camera. In attendance at this Canon EOS USA and B&H Photo Video-sponsored event were the cinematographer of the film, Russell Carpenter, ASC (Titanic, Ant-Man) and director/camera operator, Tyler Stableford. They shared their experience with the C700 while shooting at high altitude in the Colorado Rockies.
Below are some takeaways from the event, including the camera's excellent dynamic range, how it compares to other 4K-capable cameras, advice on a career in cinematography, and more.
What’s the most important thing to know about being a cinematographer today?
Russell Carpenter: Try to be the artist that you know you are. You have to have a thick skin and be willing to receive rejections. You also have to be great at balancing four hats on a production set: the artist, the politician, the technician, and the manager.
What’s your philosophy on success in this business?
Carpenter: At some point in your career as a cinematographer, you’ll find what your calling is and you have to keep that flame burning. During the interim between those opportunities, try to hone your skills so you can be that much more prepared for your next shoot. Finally, don’t let your ambition outpace your aspirations. We all can get caught up in the comparison game when we see the work of our peers, but always have faith in your abilities and vision as an artist.
What are your thoughts on creating a beautiful scene with texture, like in The Calling?
Carpenter: I always say in preproduction that if you want a beautiful movie, choose a beautiful location. That said, Tyler knew this location very well and planned our shoot day to maximize the landscape in order to challenge the camera's dynamic range and workability.
"The biggest takeaway from shooting with the C700 at high altitude during mid-day light was the incredible 15-stops of latitude and range the camera sensor sees."
How has the transition from film to digital been?
Carpenter: The only thing I truly love about shooting digitally more than film is that I sleep better at night because I can rest assured that the shot was in focus. But in general, with each production, it’s about choosing the right tool for the job. I’m very comfortable at shooting digitally. Film has an amazing dynamic range, texture, and warmth.
Did you notice a difference in noise level or performance when shooting the C700 in 4K vs. 2K?
Carpenter: I was very impressed with the camera’s performance at both resolutions.The camera’s 2K 12-bit was a nice codec to record in if I had to get more footage onto the cards. There was a 2x punch-in crop when we shot at 240fps.
What are your thoughts on the camera?
Carpenter: I’m most excited about the latitude of this camera and the way viewing HDR images is going to change the way we’ll shoot. I was amazed at the amount of pure information retained in the high and low end of the exposure. Bringing out one or two stops within the shadows was possible in scenes where I thought we were going to experience an increase noise level. I was very impressed in our DIT session. I was blown away by the detail I found within the shadows of this camera, so much so that I thought the C700 could be rated at 1600 ASA instead of its native 800. My confidence in the performance of the camera was solidified knowing we could light a scene with minimal sources.
I look for how the camera renders the human face, and the Canon color science enables you to shoot very film-like, actor-friendly, digital origination. I see this camera working well on feature films and cutting with the current lineup of other feature film cameras.
"This would be my camera of choice for shooting a theatrical documentary. I think this it’s the fastest camera out there."
Also, this would be my camera of choice for shooting a theatrical documentary. I think this it’s the fastest camera out there. Choosing a camera that is friendly to not only the cinematographer, but also to your 1st AC will help get you through the day with ease, and especially in a run-and-gun situation. We enjoyed the layout of the camera and functionality on set.
I’m not one who wants to rush into higher resolution cameras, but if your footage has to originate as 4K for a platform like Netflix, I see this camera having a leg up on the competition. Shooting this camera at 4K required capable glass, and my favorite lens was the Canon 30-300. I look for lenses that have beautiful fall off, but are tack sharp where they need to be.
How was it to operate the C700?
Tyler Stableford: The camera is all magnesium, and I found it lighter than many other cameras available. On some of the handheld shots while hanging off the cliff, we used a Cooke 12mm prime and experienced some vignetting, which we took out by a slightly punching in. With the Codex recorder mounted to the back of the camera, I found it very nicely balanced.
What are your thoughts on the camera and the experience of shooting The Calling?
Stableford: The biggest takeaway from shooting with the C700 at high altitude during mid-day light was the incredible 15-stops of latitude and range the camera sensor sees. Like other productions I’ve worked on for outdoor campaigns, our fast-paced shooting schedule demanded we shoot throughout the day. We were able to hold every detail of the exposure, from the sky to the shadows, and we couldn’t believe the waveform monitor.
It’s always helpful to have an easy method of checking my waveform on set as a single operator. The OLED viewfinder’s simple functionality enabled me to check my exposure and be confident it was captured properly when I was operating on my own. The size and layout of larger cameras, like this one, makes navigating the camera options easier. I received 30 minutes of training on the camera before we picked it up and shot. The navigation and of the menus was very straightforward and weight distribution felt great.
What excites me the most is the high dynamic range. My pleasure is not increased with jumps in resolution, but the fact that I can see details in the areas of the frame that wouldn’t have been possible digitally a few years ago. That’s what moves me.