In a career that has spanned features, television, music videos, and commercials, Nancy Schreiber, ASC has a tremendous array of experience that hasn't prevented her from continuing to keep up with the latest waves in technology. We had a chance to talk to Schrieber recently about her experiences doing a test film of the new Canon C700FF while working with acclaimed music video director Nigel Dick. Belowediteditied highlights from our conversation.
No Film School: How much time did you get to test with the camera before you shot?
Nancy Schreiber: Less than a day, actually, as the two prototype bodies arrived the day before our shoot from Japan. Our first AC, Gunnar Mortensen , added the necessary accessories and I was able to test two stand-ins, with different skin tone and hair. The prep was on a Friday at Keslow Camera, and the shoot was on Saturday and Sunday. It never rains in Los Angeles but, of course, it happened to on that particular Saturday, and so our shoot got pushed to Sunday and Monday
I had no additional time to test, however, as rental houses aren't generally open on weekends. I hoped that everything would go smoothly with the prototype cameras, as we did not have a lot of time to deal with the of the idiosyncrasies of the C 700FFs. What I was able to test were the lenses (from several manufacturers), both anamorphic and spherical, which would cover the full sensor.
NFS: You were doing this really beautiful blue under key lighting for most of the face work. I was wondering if you found the FF had sort of wider latitude, or if you could work your faces into the shadow a little more than you would have via the rest of the Canon line?
Schreiber: I think this is definitely the best cinema camera that Canon has come out with. I was interested in really testing the latitude and pushing it to an extreme. Yes, the faces were under in exposure purposely, but the two Xenon lights I used were insanely bright, creating those backlit shafts of light. I felt that this camera really did hold better than the Canons EOS cameras that came out previously.
I believe this is the first entry for Canon that MAY have a chance at getting into the motion picture and narrative television world. The C300 MK 2 is a beloved camera in the documentary world. However, motion picture professionals currently working in film and television could come to choose this camera due to its low cost .if they're on a limited budget, they should definitely test this camera, especially when 4K delivery is mandated or desired.
NFS: Did you find yourself working differently with shadow and depth-of-field, by going up to the full frame and sensor, or was it not that dramatic?
Schreiber: We had the double whammy outside of working with the anamorphics, so a good first AC was vital to keep everything sharp. We had two great focus pullers, Gunnar Mortensen and Greg Benitz. Nigel had an extremely tight shot-list, and so we didn't have time for rehearsals, yet we never had focus buzzes. That's no easy feat while working with anamorphic and full frame.
NFS: What were you monitoring on set? Did you have Canon's monitors with you?
Schreiber: We did. I had never used the Canon 4K monitors before, so that was great. I don't think it has to be the Canon monitor, though, as this camera is Canon playing well with others. DPs use many different kinds of lenses, and I was able to use lenses from five different manufacturers on this shoot, which was a tremendous convenience. That's very forward-thinking from Canon. Canon was smart to provide us with PL mounts on our C700FF bodies.
Additionally, the camera is very ergonomic compared to the 300 series which was not comfortable for my body. There are tall people that use it and they cradle it in their arms, by their waist. For me, the C700FF is very comfortable, sitting nicely on my shoulder, and it's pretty lightweight.
NFS : Even with all of that extra weight due to the power, you still felt like it was a lightweight, comfortable thing to keep on your shoulder.
Schreiber: It really was and without the need for additional accessories to make it fit perfectly for me. I had a really bright OLED viewfinder, and I prefer how balanced it is to shoot off my shoulder. The C300 and C500 were never comfortable for me, and I missed that integrated viewfinder. I prefer cameras that mimic my Aaton 16 MM camera, where even the ad had a cat sitting on the operator's shoulder, and the C700FF reminded me of that comfort.
NFS: Obviously, the C700FF is lighter than the Alexa LF. Would you ever consider something like this as a C camera on an LF job where you're A and B might be LF, but then for handheld and steady, you go with a C700 ?
Schreiber: Maybe. It's too early to tell. I'd have to take it through its paces again and use it for more than two days. It was definitely easy to rig for handheld, Steadicam, and then to switch back to Studio mode.
NFS: I was looking at some of the motorcycle shots again. I noticed that there are a number of motorcycles against pillars, and I saw a little rolling shutter and wondered if that was a deliberate decision, to do the action stuff that's so hard for full-frame cameras to pull off?
Schreiber: I'm always surprised when camera manufacturers want to do action in a camera test. Canon Japan said, "Let's do the motorcycles and boxing." A number of manufacturers have done the same thing. One reason to test new cameras looking is to study the shot, and with action, it's difficult to do that. However, it was important to look for rolling shutter “jello” issues , strobing issues, and characteristics such as noise.
I really wanted to work with Nigel Dick. I shot a lot of music videos back in the day, and he was certainly well known. When I heard he was directing, I said fantastic, and he came up with the story that was important to not just have beautiful people in it. I was happy to have real people, who really box, although we did have stunt motorcycle drivers. I had two fabulous operators, Dave Chaimedes SOC at the boxing gym and Rick Griffith, SOC, outside with the motorcycles.
I was happy with how the piece turned out even though I had to shoot with the sun overhead instead of only getting to shoot at dawn or late afternoon at dusk. I wanted to test flare on the various lenses and, because I had to shoot at high noon, I ‘cheated” an HMI just outside the frame shooting at the lens, and the flare looked believable and lovely. I wanted to see how the glass was performing, not just from Canon but from a broad spectrum of makes.
In addition to the C700FF, Schrieber used the following lenses on the shoot:
- Angenieux Anamorphic Zoom 30-72mm, 44-440mm, 56-152mm
- Zeiss 28-80mm
- Leica Thalia 24mm, 70mm, 120mm, 180mm
- Hawk-V Anarmophic Prime 50mm, 60mm, 80mm, 100mm, 135mm, 250mm