Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz

I Shoot Stunt People

Folks following me on Twitter know that while I didn’t preorder a Canon 5D Mark II (actually in stock now on Amazon, both kit and body only), I got to borrow one for a couple of weeks. My generous benefactor was none other than Vincent Laforet, whom I met when he gave a presentation at Industrial Light & Magic a few weeks back. The camera is back in his hands now as he prepares for his surf film.

Rather than rush off to the nearest subway station (well, maybe in addition to running off to the nearest subway station), I decided to contact a local group of filmmakers and performers called The Stunt People. We collaborated on a one-day shoot that involved stunts, fight choreography, and a lot of fun despite the nasty weather.

The images in this post are stills from the shoot, featuring a hasty, “one-light” color correction using Magic Bullet Colorista.

The camera itself offered few surprises. The control is maddening, and the form-factor is annoying for handheld work. I tricked it out with a stripped-down configuration of the Redrock Micro DSLR kit, and the follow-focus was a lifesaver—don’t leave home without it. I did not encumber myself with an LCD monitor, instead relying on the camera’s built-in LCD. The live view zoom function is fine for checking focus before a roll, but not during, and the fixed position orientation of the screen is punishing for creative camera angles.

But the images are pretty—as long as not much moves. There is noticeable rolling shutter artifacting. The low-light capability is stunning (all the images you see here were shot with available light), although working in low light means that the damned 30 fps frame rate is compounded by a creamy 1/30 shutter. The result, as I’ve described before, is that the stutter and incompleteness of film’s cadence is missing, resulting in an motion characteristic that is all verisimilitude and no cinema.

With 24p and manual exposure control this camera would be of use. Without those adjustments, it’s a tantalizing but ultimately frustrating curiosity to the DV Rebel. The best thing about it is what it portends for the very near future.

When the short is cut, colored and mixed I’ll post it here, probably sometime in January. In the meantime check out some of the clips on the Stunt People site—they have some mad skills!

Reader Comments (18)

Very cool, Senor Stu. Cant wait to see the final product.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Looking forward to seeing the cut, 30fps and all.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteramericanvirus

Hi Stu,
not sure if you've seen" REL="nofollow">this, probably you have. It shows how to control some aspects of the camera in manual, AE/Tv/ISO, using a trick that involves fooling the camera that the lens is not electronic or something.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEugenia

I have indeed, and Tyler is very generous to have created such a resource. But those hacks and tricks don't address what I want in exposure control, which is to be able to shoot wide-open with a 1/60 shutter, and use on-the-lens ND and ISO as the exposure control. I did use the lens-twist trick occasionally, but I was shooting with an f/4 lens, so keeping it wide-open was not much of an issue in my lighting conditions.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStu

I've found that the camera seems to prefer to use a shutter speed that is 1/focal length. I've had some success tricking it into 1/60 by using a zoom lens:" REL="nofollow">Controlling 5D Mark II shutter speed

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

If you do the lens-twist and have enough light you can get 1/60. If you don't have enough light for ISO 100 and 1/60, you're stuck with 1/30 no matter how you wave the rubber chicken. What I want is wide open stop, 1/60 shutter, and variable ISO, and no hack provides that.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStu

nice one...
do you have any plans for a 24p "look" in post? if so how're you gonna do it?

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjdiamond

It seems I can't type this here enough: There is no good way of converting 30p footage to 24p, and even if you succeed on a simple shot using optical flow techniques, you can't get rid of the 360º shutter look.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStu

I've definitely had the camera claim it is going to use 1/60 at f/2.8 and 1600 ISO, and then I locked the exposure there. But I'm a stills guy, so I can't really tell from looking at the video if it is actually at 1/60 vs. 1/30.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Andrew, if you can reliably reproduce this, you have the hack I need. I've never seen that combo.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStu

Stu, it seems to happen pretty reliably if I use the zoom lens trick. If you want I can upload a sample clip so you can see if it's really shooting at 1/60. I don't have the bandwidth to post if for everyone to download, but you can email me at "info -at- andrewyip -dot- com".

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

What makes the camera unusable for me is exaggerated rolling shutter, resolution and codec issues.

I've played around with some of the original files from which the Reviere video was edited and they showed an effective resolution a bit over 1280X720, ideal for Vimeo, but clearly poor for a filmout.

The biggest problem, tho', is the codec. To make the image sexy, the camera crushes the blacks and the codec makes a bad job by compressing it. If you just pull up the levels you get some humongous macroblocks. That makes even the mildest color correction impossible.

December 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterenredado

Well said enredado, I agree completely.

December 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStu

Wow Stu, It seems your opinion of this camera has changed greatly. So are you just totally unimpressed with it now? Is it indeed just a $3500 Vimeo camera?

December 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Well, the camera has stirred up things quite a bit, making even the people at RED nervous and forcing them to present their new line as soon as possible.

I believe this already is quite an achievement.

What's becoming clear is that top notch image acquisition will be available for everyone very soon just as postproduction tools already have.

It's an interesting time, where true talent will obviously have its chance.

December 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterenredado

Craig, I don't think my opinion has changed much at all. I am strongly ambivalent about this camera, and spending time with it in my hands has increased both my positive and negative reactions. But a 30p camera with no manual control has never been nor will ever be acceptable to me for filmmaking—about this I have always been quite clear, even in the DV Rebel's Guide.

December 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStu

Hey Stu! It was awesome working with you, and that footage looks amazing. We owe that to you, my man. If I shot with that thing I still would've managed to make it look like Hi-8 footage. Can't wait to work together again!

December 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEric Jacobus

What lenses di you use for this short ?

April 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFanto
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