Editor’s Impressions – Low Light Shootout

Ben Joss is an experienced editor who was kind enough to step into the breech and cut the low light shoot footage together into something watchable. Ben and director Kate Dennis worked over a day and a half and put an edit together of the material.

Starting with the 1D footage they then tried to replicate the edit with all the other material. We decided to prioritise the story for each camera over strict shot matching, but by and large the same shots are there in the same order. The edits are between 2:10 and 2:30.

I wasn’t able to actually be there for the edit, but I asked Ben to go though his thoughts about each camera.

As he notes, he was watching the material on an AVID and he was working with ungraded rushes. I thought it was worth posting his initial impressions even though they must be read within the context of how they have been presented.

” Ill go through my thoughts on each format for you….My disclaimer to all this is that I am dealing with compressed avid media with an un-calibrated monitor. I would love to come to the online/grade to make a hi-res comparison.

My list is worst to best..

1d –
Was the most “domestic” looking of all the formats. Crushed blacks and Crushed highlights. The optics of the lens also seemed cheaper..
The motion of the camera looked small, when hand held this camera comes across like a handy cam. The result being that on the longer lenses, and close ups, the jerkiness of the movement often meant that cutting down the line was awkward because of the “handycam” motion. The hand heldness never felt fluid.

Imported into the Avid fine…. as with all file based formats it would require good media management pipelines to be established between editorial and the DI facility.

The Avid we were using was kinda old and slow. So I don’t think I will comment on time taken to encode media. With a faster machine, external render pipeline (Clipster, Render-Farms), and new AVID features like AMA,  such issues are fast becoming a non issue.  Again, after the online we will have a better understanding about how these formats translated to the final stages of post.

16mm
Grainy as hell, apparently will be better after 2k scans. Also focus was a BIG issue with this camera. More so than any other. Also, the greater depth of field meant the focus pulls were not as dramatic. It was the only camera format that distinctively different look to the other formats. The other formats all do a pretty good job and simulating 35mm optics. This could be a positive for some productions !

Digitised into the Avid fine. Being a continuous roll had to break it down to efficiently work with it. Nothing new there !

F3
Looked the most like Video out of all the formats. returned the bleakest colour palette out of all the formats, but i suspect it will grade up nicely, (As opposed to the 1d that wont be so accommodating)
There were also Aliasing/Moire issues which I was surprised with. This added to the video look.
Motion was good, very sharp images. Would be good to see this camera recorded onto SR rather than the XDCAM files. See if it still looks like video. (I’m guessing it would)

Couldn’t get it into the AVID without multiple transcode paths so I cut it in Final Cut pro which worked fine. I you like Final cut that is.

RED
After a well known long transcode, the media looked good. Came back darker than the other formats, but that would appear to be an issue with the transcode, not the format.

The camera moved very fluidly, a very soft feel to the motion of the images. Also focus was a bit of an issue with this camera??  It will be better to compare all these higher end cameras after the online.

ALEXA
Looked great, very sharp, nice fluid motion and optically very similar to 35mm.
I worked with the 444 ProRes Quicktime, which imported Ok into the Avid, (about 2 hours). And a quick and dodgy AVID grade made the images really pop out.
Again the motion was very similar to the RED. Nice and Fluid with that “PING” of sharpness you would expect from 35mm.

35mm
What can I say !! 35rocks.
Not as sarp as the digital formats but that makes it much more forgiving.
Though as Kate mentioned you could really feel every bump and footstep through the camera. Maybe because it is wholly mechanical or maybe it can capture every frame exactly as it apperas.. Dont know but you could certainly see each footstep on the final image.
It will be great to look for the shadow details in the 2k scans.

Editorially easy to deal with, we’ve been doin it for about 100years ! ”

About johnbrawley

Director Of Photography striving to create compelling images
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