Slugline

Simple, elegant screenwriting.

Needables
  • 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)
    Panasonic
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM
  • 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
Monday
Oct192009

NOCTURNE and the Canon 1D Mark IV

See It Bigger on SmugMug (full 1080p!) HERE.

 

Two weeks ago Vincent Laforet emailed me with a cryptic request to join him in shooting a follow-up to his short film Reverie, the short that started the avalanche of excitement over DSLRs that oh-by-the-way happen to shoot video. I was flattered, but found myself thinking “Does the world need another Reverie?” What I didn’t know was that Vincent had just had his mind blown by a new prototype camera that Canon had sent him, and his mind was racing with ideas for how to put it to work.

I met up with him in LA and saw the camera. Yes, the world needed to see what thing thing could do.

The camera was, of course, the Canon 1D Mark IV. It’s the first of Canon’s professional 1D line to feature HD video recording. The Mark IV joins the I-get-tired-just-typing-the-numbers crazy-high ISO club, maxing out at a ridiculous 102,400. This insane low-light capability extends to video recording as well. The 1D Mark IV is an HD camera that can see more in low light than your eye can, recording usable video at up to ISO 6400.

On our Friday night location scout I took a break from giggling like a dork every time I pointed the camera down a dark street only to discover a supernova of illumination on the LCD, and asked the burning questions: Sensor? 1.3 crop. Aliasing? Still present. Autofocus? Not while recording.

So the Mark IV is an evolutionary step in the HDDSLR race. It doesn’t tick too many things off my wish list. Where it is revolutionary is in its low-light performance. And it has by far the least rolling-shutter shear of any DSLR I’ve ever held.

To hold it in your hand, you’d never know the 1D Mark IV has video. The body is exactly the same as that of its predecessor. After the 7D’s barrage of new buttons, including dedicated video start-stop, the Mark IV is a spare and spartan affair. My theory is that Canon doesn’t want to risk tripping up the muscle memory of its pro customers, many of whom still take this whole “photography” thing fairly seriously.

(For my part, owning a 5D Mark II and a 7D, operating the Mark IV pushed me into the schitzo zone. Now no matter which Canon HDDSLR I pick up I fumble with the controls and press the wrong thing.)

Two Nights, No Lights

Me hand-holding with a Zeiss prime (having donated my shoes to actor Mark Smith for the loading dock sequence), GripTrix driver Aaron Hummel, and Vincent with his ATM Gyro rig

Our mission was simple: We’d shoot for two nights in downtown LA, with whatever gear we could swing and no permits, and only with available light. We “lit” our scenes though careful location scouting and blocking. We shot in locations that were so dark that we could barely see. In fact, on our second night, a “real” film shoot moved in next to us under the 6th Street bridge, and they brought with them a massive truck with a crane-mounted stadium light array of nine HMIs to shoot the area we’d just left.

So let me say this clearly: This camera alleviates concerns over quantities of light. It’s still up to you to supply—or find—the quality of light.

Here are some random notes:

  • It’s one thing to shoot a film in two nights, but its another thing entirely to post it in a week. Editor Benjamin Nussbaum at Pictures in a Row is a total rock star. He took our hectic collection of footage and made it sing. If you need your shit cut good, go to Pictures in a Row. Seriously.
  • I was all WTF? about the 1.3 crop, But Vincent reminded me that in the pro line, the 1D model has always been APS-H and the 1Ds series is full-frame. Still, we wound up fiddling with prime lens choices more than we might with a more familiar sensor size.
  • The reduced size of the sensor is considered in the stills world to be a worthwhile compromise in the name of faster frame rates. The equivalency in HD video might be sensor read-out times, because the rolling-shutter nastiness was so minimal that we did not shy away from Bourne-cam, whip-pans, and scrolling backgrounds.
  • Speaking as someone who owns a 5D Mark II and a 7D, it’s that last point that makes me most envious of the Mark IV. Seeing in the dark is cool, but not worrying about Jello-cam is even better.
  • Vincent and I collaborated with a third co-director, David Nelson. Sharing directing duties is hard, but if you put real effort into the collaboration it can be very rewarding.
  • We did color correct and lightly denoise the shots. When Reverie first hit, it was important to see “what the camera can do,” but now I think we’ve all matured a bit and are interested in how a new camera fits into a reasonable post pipeline.
  • You can color correct a three-minute short in one night using After Effects and Colorista. Sunrises are pretty.

The inevitable question: Should you buy the Mark IV? It’s gonna be expensive, and the APS-H sensor feels like a rest-stop on the way to a 1Ds Mark IV with full frame (and possiby a million other things we want, according to rather optimistic rumors). I’m happy with my 7D, and hold out hope for a firmware update for my 5D Mark II (UPDATE: Holy shit!). I’ll hold off on buying a Mark IV.

Until the next time I feel like making a movie in the dark.

Be sure to read Vincent’s post here. Like I have to tell you that.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Anyone who is into photography probably noticed the new Canon 1D Mark IV was released and here's a pretty awesome...

Reader Comments (57)

Who wants to buy my 7D? :)

Does anyone know how much the Mark IV will cost? This absolutely looks like the best DSLR for filmmaking on the market.

Amazing little short, btw. Much better than Reverie ;)

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSean Duran

Amazing work Stu.

This has your signature look all over it, ie looks like a $ million, made on a dime.

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJordan Lloyd

Yes, That short definitely has the Maschwitz feel... but I am still kinda reeling from being blindsided by this one..... NO LIGHTING.... holy crap..... This saves tens of thousands of $$$$$ and opens up some crazy possibilities for shootong a "film" where no one except the actors know there is a film a happening. It makes me think that we will start seeing NO PHOTOGRAPHY of ANY KIND signs everywhere next year. It's not a RED killer... because RED now whows up with trucks and LIGHTS, and a whole bunch of people. This thing can sit around the neck of a guy wearing a hawaiian short, who every now and then yells.. "Stop!" into a walkie talkie, while seemingly taking pictures. :)

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Good stuff Stu! Nice work. Mike Seymor just reported a 5D mk2 24p firmware in the works on twitter also. Good night!

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJon Carr

Holy hot damn. I've dreamed of making natural low light videos since I started shooting. This is the light that inspires me. When you say usable at 6400, how do you mean? Whats the point at which noise is not visible? Jannard has said the MX is 800, so how do you think it will compare, better or worse?
BTW, htats pretty dope you were working on the next reverio. No wonder the silence...

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSage Pictures

Looks like you won't have to hold out too much longer for that 5D MKII firmware update. M. Seymour with some good news: http://www.fxguide.com/qt/1661/new-5dmii-1d-news-from-canon

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJesse

Sage, I mean much of NOCTURNE was shot at ISO 6400. In other words, Madge, you're soaking in it.

Thanks for the kind words guys, I share the compliments equally among my two co-director's, Vincent and David.

October 19, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

I should say the video, without lighting, was quite stunning. That image quality in that light is exactly what I've dreamed of.

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSage P

Unbelievable. After spending the day lighting for an ASA of 250 for a RED shoot, I am overwhelmed by the possibility of this. What an amazing tool for telling stories, I can't wait to get my hands on one. That is some serious Palmolive Stu.

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEric Escobar

The trend continues to unfold. However, having intriguing content is still what carries my attention. This was much more interesting to watch than most of the Vdslr concept films. There was a story.

-gl

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Loch

thank you for this technical report, Stu.

Did you experience overheating issues during your shooting?

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob

ah Stu, this was fantastic. congratulations on getting to play with such and amazing new toy. i've downloaded the 720p file from smugmug and watched it over and over on my 40" TV. far more riveting than the camera demo which was reverie (or the bad cologne commercial as vincent likes to call it).

it looked gritty and filmic and i could totally watch an entire feature made on it this camera WITHOUT thinking constantly about what camera filmed it... which i think we'd all agree, is kinda the point.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjohn

... and on the day I take receipt of my new 7D!
(thinks of the cost savings... thinks of the cost savings...)

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdevilbond

Oh, what's with the Nacht sign? Surely that's a comp... the location couldn't have been THAT perfect!?

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdevilbond

What is the data rate of the videos shot by this camera? And are they IPP again?

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwunderkid

You and Laforet doing this together already got me excited, but seeing the footage and the cams attributes just about made my head explode with all possibilities opening up. Finally I can make movies using only available light in my favourite (dark) places, as I've been doing for a long time with my photography!

Amazing stuff and kudos for you work on this! (I noticed the sign, as 'Nacht' is als dutch for 'night', cool touch)...

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRonald Vonk

Just amazing stuff, my 1 hour old 7D is looking kinda old already. The color work in this short made me think of a bunch of blockbusters recently; transformers, Pelham 123 and a few others. Truly inspirational stuff, thank you!

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Awatere

Looks like 'Collateral' should have looked like

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Mitchell

Wow I love the lack of rolling shutter issues - and a compelling film too.

It doesn't do 60fps at 720? Was the one slow-mo shot done in post?

Apparently the RRP is $5000 USD

Great work. I'm excited!

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStu Mannion

very nice work Stu

I recently buy your magic bullet suite for AE and trying to learn how to archieve this results, one question btw: there is a masking/separate zone coloring in nocturne? or a general adjustement for all frame?

thx in advance.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlvaro

Now, I am curious.

In your update, are you saying that it was the incredible sensitivity of this camera that allowed you to shoot to always shoot with 180 degree shutter? If so, then this shoot would not be possible with the 5D? Perhaps the $5k is easier to justify then.

-gl

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Loch

Stu, amazing work! There are no barriers to making films anymore, the studios will fall.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterneal

Not exactly no-budget filmmaking looking at the credits (Plaster City for DSLR footage!!). It's amazing how quickly the whole DV Rebel thing gets swallowed up by the more Hollywood concept. Amazing camera and some very nice footage, but it looks like it was directed by three people and all those additional resources didn't make a better short.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLouis Cabeza

I’d love to know a little more about that improved rolling shutter vs. the 7D, EX1/3 and Red One.

Stu, how would you rank them? Based on your shots in this piece, it looks like the 1D has pretty much got the rolling shutter licked. It’s so slight.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Papola

Amazing short, that guy is one agile hawk!

Did you use Mojo at all on this short or just colorista?

Great editing also!

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJames Benet

Did you guys get a chance to try the video out on the camera? Does it operate like the 7D where HDMI goes to lower res during recording?

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTom Frisch

Aliasing problems have put me off the whole DSLR video thing, but I only saw a few points where it might have been a problem in Nocturne. Did you fix stuff, or is that pretty much as-is? I just told a spot director not to bother with these cameras because the aliasing was stinky-poo, but now I'm wondering if I shouldn't have. TIA,

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim Sassoon

Hey Tim, the aliasing issue is alive and well unfortunately. Little to no improvement there on our prototype cameras. Watch for it on Luke's shirt in the opening push-in (this was after rejecting another shirt that would have caused moiré problems with almost any digital camera). Eagle-eyed folks at reduser have spotted a 2-frame shot in the montage that has very nasty aliasing and color artifacts. I didn't have time to try to fix either shot, not that it would be trivial even with plenty of time.

But I think the key point here is your reaction — it seems you didn't notice our aliasing issues, and you have a keen eye for these things. It's not that difficult to work around the problems while shooting, since you have so much control of DOF and motion blur.

Is it a real issue? Yes. Is it a dealbreaker? Not for me. Not until I make "Zebras Doing Headstands: The Movie" anyway.

October 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

James, we used Colorista. Color grading sodium vapor lighting is hard, so I needed the full toolkit.

Alvaro, I did use a few AE masks and Colorista Power Masks to isolate corrections, but not that many. I just didn't have time to do much more than a primary grade.

October 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

Very nice work the three of you did here...

What did you do against the noise in the picture : "We did color correct and lightly denoise the shots."

Can you tell us how?
That be awesome! Or at least show us which way to go....

Max

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMax Heidenfelder

The 1DMKIV looks like pure sex. I saw Nocturne late late last night when I was at the bottom a huge creative rut. Watching it instantly inspired me to grab my 5DMKII and shoot some video. & with the new firmware update, I'm golden. I'll leave the 1DMKIV in the hands of the uber pros for now, at least until my credit card recovers from buying the 5DMKII!

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Bettany

did you shoot slowmo at 1080 60p???
or you just upscaled a 720 60p footage to 1080?

thank you!

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndr

Slow mo was shot at 1280x720 60p (1/125 shutter), slowed down to 23.976 using Cinema Tools and scaled up to 1920x1080 in Final Cut Pro.

October 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

Impressive!
Can you tell a bit more about your post workflow with this footage? How was it ingested, file format etc and how then sent to AE, as native straight from camera files or other codec?

Thanks,
Ted

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergriffisart

Having had a wrestling match recently with Sodium lighting and coming off second best I would like to suggest this for a future masterclass topic.

Congratulations on the film.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Howe

Great job on the film, but how come all of the videos promoting Canon DSLRs take place at night? Reverie, Dublin People, that one at the Filipino Circus, and now Nocturne. I want to see some daylight shots, plus the freshly captured video footage before correction.

Do Canon DSLRs have the same weakness as video cameras? Namely, the blacks look great because they crush everything to black below a certain luminance range, hiding noise. If that's the case, I'm a little less impressed. Any chance we can see the original footage?

Either way, this is all very exciting nonetheless. And the movie is really terrific, congratulations on that.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTony

There comes a point with light sensitivity where it's affect on cinema are suddenly significant. When we can shoot on any city street at night with no lights... Well we can suddenly shoot a 'no budget' feature (with the necessary night scenes) that can compete aesthetically with Hollywood product. Although most of the other expenses of making a film (talent, catering, insurance etc) haven't got cheeper it does allow a certain type of film (the lone genius/madmen labour of love) to be beautiful where it couldn't be before. Like the introduction of light-weight cameras spurred the French New Wave this will have implications.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStu Mannion

Thanks, Stu - I'm forwarding your comments on aliasing to the director, he can make up his own mind. I saw it a little bit, but I only looked at the show once through, so I wasn't deconstructing 2-frame edits.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim Sassoon

Aw!! I loved this! It was beautifully done. I was about to show it to my friend but found out I couldn't. Let's hope it comes back up soon!

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFel

Stu,

Girl with purse shots the continuity of skin tone is missing. Is it purposeful?

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterG.Balaji

You can still see the film here:

http://www.photographybay.com/2009/10/20/vincet-laforet-nocturne-shot-with-canon-1d-mark-iv/

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill D

Wha? French New Wave and labor of love/lone genius?? They were all making a living at what they were doing, funding up front. Godard worked for one of the major studios prior to shooting his first films, I can't remember which one right now, working in promotion I believe. Truffaut married his way to money for filmmaking, these folks were all very driven. How do these false ideals get created? As a result we have alot of people making films that will never be seen with their own money supporting huge companies promoted through equipment porn on blogs. lol.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLouis Cabeza

Sorry guys I'm going to rant here and this is directed more at the response's rather than at Stu or the blog directly! I think it's great.
This is exactly like buying a car, Canon or any manufacturer will never never give everything you want on one camera, NEVER. It just does not make financial sense for them. We have all become enamored with the machine that goes ping. We have all become addicts and slaves to this. I'm seeing posts about trading in the 7D for a camera most likely 4X the expense. I'm really fucking sick of all you fucker's complaining about what something does not have instead of going out and making a watchable project with a story at it's heart. There is so much shit to swim through theses days getting to the nectar HAS NEARLY BECOME IMPOSSIBLE. We live in a time where its never been easier to make an independent project but its the most difficult time to actually sell your project and make a living in this business. The democratization of this business has become all style over substance.
Look it's never been the medium its always been the talent behind it that drives good projects. Stop feeding into these manufacturers hands. Go out and make good projects, learn to tell a story shoot with my first sony or pixelvision, but please lets not be enamored with the technology that plays directly into the manufactures hands and our wallets.

Cheers

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Wexler

Stu did you guys get to see if the HDMI output will do 1080p during recording? This thing hooked up to an AJA Ki Pro would be awesome. Going around the H.264 and right to ProRes 422. Yum.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

Hi Drew, no clean HD out on the 1D Mark IV. Same situation as the 7D basically.

October 21, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

Nice one Wexler. The latest crop of technology has merely lowered the signal to noise ratio of storytelling in general. People buy a camera and are suddenly directors and cinematographers. As a result, those titles are becoming meaningless. Can Canon come out with a metacognition firmware upgrade to their customers' brains to make them see that what they are shooting is ultimately crap?

This post is not, of course, directed at the three of you reading this who are actually good. You needn't be offended. I am actually a fan of your work. The rest of you though, please, practice in your basement and stop flooding youtube and vimeo with meaningless crap in the hopes that some movie producer will hire you to direct the next CITIZEN KANE.

They made great movies back in the teens and twenties before all this future techno-junk came out.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermattmerk

What I really like is the street sign "NACHT" that means night in German.. did you know that?

Stu: Again the question, what did you do in post do get rid of the noise? I have totally no idea how to do that.

Max

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMax Heidenfelder

Mattmerk and David, it seems to be a lost cause, equipment porn is a disease. There are now so many RED's out there that producers are trying to get the operator for free with the rental. Where is the return on your investment there? Who wants to compete in a world where being a cinematographer is defined as being the person who bought the camera? As long as you are willing to work for free to pay off your equipment.

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLouis Cabeza

Your review on the 1D MK IV seems just about what I was thinking exactly. I too have a 5D and 7D. when I first started using the 5D, I could no longer use my 1D MKII or my 1Ds MKII. They felt like such dinosaurs, so I am intrigued to why Canon would continue to put out such a bulky outdated camera design. I'll give this one a complete miss. I don't feel like I'm missing anything at all. I have what I need with the 5D MKII and the 7D.

Sean

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSean Davey

Who says we can't tell a good story AND be in awe of technical advancements?

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBlake
Member Account Required
You must have a free and harmless member account in order to post comments. Log in to your account to enable posting. I don't use your information for anything, I just want you to be who you are.
« You can put the boom box down now — 24p on your 5D | Main | PSYOPS Announced »