Producer Patrick Greaves and DoP Ricky Patel captured a live music performance for a 4K HDR output with cinematic flare and minimal lighting on the new EOS C200
The majority of short films showing musicians at work are essentially a fantasy because in most music videos, the musicians are miming to playback. The Mahogany Sessions stand in stark contrast to this: their intent is to create a cinematic presentation of real, live performance, photographed in a style that complements the reality of the situation while keeping the image dramatic and interesting.
Producer Patrick Greaves and Director of Photography Ricky Patel are regular collaborators on the sessions. Each session is a single-take performance piece that Greaves describes as “capturing something real and organic. The sessions give us an opportunity to showcase the best emerging and established talent by pairing visuals with amazing live performances.” For a session with London-based musician Alfa Mist, Greaves and Patel chose the Canon EOS C200 for its combination of an excellent, high-dynamic-range sensor, on-board RAW recording, and compact form factor. Greaves continues, “we can use it with a variety of rigs including stabilised rigs such as Movi Pro. The C200 lends itself to being used in a variety of ways; being adaptable to any environment we need it to be in.”
THE C200 LENDS ITSELF TO BEING USED IN A VARIETY OF WAYS; BEING ADAPTABLE TO ANY ENVIROMENT WE NEED IT TO BE IN.
The production was photographed on September 8, 2017, on location at the Normansfield Theatre, a period venue at the Langdon Down Centre in Teddington. Greaves describes the venue in glowing terms, referring to both its visual and acoustic splendour. “It’s a pristine restored original Victorian theatre. It’s that enriching sound, it’s got a strong tone to it and we felt the location was perfectly paired to bring out the colours in both the visual and the music.” Given these goals, and with the track’s long duration in mind, Greaves realised early that it would be important to “use a camera that’s as small and feature-packed as possible.”
Keen to showcase both the musicians and the historic details of the venue, Patel's task was to light the space so that the gimbal-mounted C200 could roam almost the entire venue without any stands or cabling appearing in shot. “This was quite a unique session,” he begins. “It was one of our longest sessions, and we wanted to go to every corner.” Making this possible required careful positioning of the musicians and precise marks for the camera, although the amount of lighting was necessarily limited by the need to keep the venue clear of equipment.
With this in mind, Patel specified a helium-filled balloon light for overhead fill, and otherwise used just a single Skypanel. “It was literally that helium light and a Skypanel giving some fill on the drummer - and a lot of fiddling with the blinds to get something we were all happy with.” He also used haze, pursuing a look that will be familiar to regular viewers of Mahogany's work, and made full use of the frosted glass in the venue's windows. This further controlled the brightness of the outside world where the contrast between daylight interiors and exteriors is notoriously hard to keep in check.
Patel is quick to compliment the C200 on its handling of such a high-contrast scene. “I was really, really surprised with the look of the picture, I didn’t expect it out of the camera… there’s so much information, the latitude seems great.” He continues, “it seemed much further away from other cameras, a lot softer. With other cameras you’ve got to take it down in the grade, [but] you’ve got a much more neutral image.” Patel chose to record the production using the C200’s space-efficient Cinema RAW Light format, which permits the camera to make very high quality on-board recordings and avoids the need for bulky external recorders. While Pro Res recording is possible with a third-party recorder and a good option, Patel felt that he “wanted to see what the camera could do with the new internal RAW format.”
continues Greaves, referring to the constantly advancing need to create deliverables with ever higher resolution and dynamic range. “We were able to record RAW in the camera, which makes a huge difference; you’re not having to chuck on another external recorder. You have the amazing sensor in the C200 and you’re getting that high-end cinema look from a small form camera.” Greaves, too, is keen to note the camera’s excellent highlight handling. “It gives us a great scope to pick out all the detail and the contrast… it has fifteen stops of dynamic range, so there was no adjustment for the windows whatsoever.”
Having used other cameras in the range, cinematographer Patel felt at home. “It all worked pretty easily. Usability is key and I knew where everything was because I’m very familiar with the C300.” Differences between the C300 and C200 include the side, rather than rear mounting of the CFast media slots, making them more accessible when the C200 is mounted on a gimbal. Patel’s experience on the Alfa Mist session provoked other thoughts, too: “I also do a lot of documentary,” he says. “I think the C200 would be great to have on the road. You don’t need V-locks and another rucksack… just stick the small batteries in your rucksack and they last quite a while.”
Producer Greaves sums up with a nod to the C200’s flexibility. “From a producer’s point of view the main thing is its versatility. It’s cost efficient, and worked with our existing post setup without causing any issues. It enables us to level up the image quality, we’re instantly shooting in 4K RAW and everything’s contained within a single unit. For us it’s a perfect upgrade from the C300, a great progression from existing Canon models. From my point of view it’s good that they released this camera.”
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