DPP Home Gear Cameras Indian Gangster: From Bollywood To Hollywood

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

DSLRs For Feature Films

From Bollywood To Hollywood: Director Snehal Patel and cinematographer Rodney Charters, ASC, take advantage of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II’s small form factor and monster-sized sensor to create the epic short film Indian Gangster

This Article Features Photo Zoom

According to Patel, the small size of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II enabled the crew to set up a suction-cup car mount in less than 10 minutes.
As the two talked shop about cameras, Charters suggested they shoot the project with the 5D Mark II. Although Patel was originally planning on shooting with RED cameras, he thought the camera’s small form factor might benefit the production in terms of speed, since the shoot was only scheduled for two days. The director and DP took a day aside before the shoot to film a test in which they shot Patel’s lead actress. Both were very impressed with the results. “We flattened out the image and played with the color in post to see what kind of latitude we were getting,” explains Patel. “I was amazed because I had just produced a short film two months ago on a RED camera, and I was looking at the image side-by-side, and for the size and cost of this camera, it really is approaching the kind of quality you’re getting out of the RED. You might not get the color space, but the kind of look it’s given me for a $2,500 body and the fact that it can hook up with practically any lens out there is amazing.”

For the production, Patel and Charters had two 5D Mark IIs on set. They outfitted their A-camera with a Panavision 10:1 zoom lens, which also had a 1.4 adapter in order to achieve a higher level of shallow depth of field. For their B-camera, they used a variety of Panavision prime lenses, as well as Canon tilt-shift lenses for the car work. When not working on a tripod, they were shooting handheld using the Redrock Micro eyeSpy rig with a follow-focus device attached.

Working handheld or on a tripod, getting proper focus is a major obstacle for many filmmakers working with the 5D Mark II’s full-frame image sensor, which is closer to the size of 65mm motion-picture film. Because Patel and Charters were predominantly using Panavision zoom and prime lenses rather than DSLR lenses, it made the job of focus pulling a little easier. With cinema lenses, the extra-large lens barrel spins nearly 360 degrees, which makes it possible for a focus puller to hit critical marks within inches rather than feet. Similar to a film shoot, they also employed a first and second AC on each camera like a professional movie production.

Lighting-wise, the production carried a relatively small lighting package, mostly consisting of Kino Flos and small HMIs to punch through windows. Patel says that with very minimal lighting, Charters was able to create an amazing look for the film. Although the 5D’s large sensor gave them the ability to shoot in a lot of available light, Patel feels that if you’re seeking a look with rich colors, you still have to light accordingly. He also stressed how elements like filters, costumes, art direction, etc., can enrich the photography.

The small form factor of the 5D Mark II helped Patel’s direction of his actors since the small camera enabled his DP to move in close when he wanted a more intimate feel. Also, the setup time for his car mount couldn’t have been done with any other camera. “This mount just slapped on the hood of the car—just two suction cups,” says Patel. “The beauty of having such a simple tool is that you can just put it anywhere. You can use this for your A-camera with the big lens, but you can take that lens off, put a small lens on it, slap it on the car and you have a car mount within 10 minutes. Come on, what’s better than that?

“It was also good for the talent because the energy we built up for that first run in the car is still going in the second run, which keeps the talent on their toes and excited. Remember we had a lot of material to cover in two days, so the fact that the actors were able to deliver so consistently had a lot to do with how quickly we were able to set up and be ready for the next shot.”


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