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City Rain

Filming rain in London. 
Night city rain always provides a photogenic mix of water and light, where every surface turns into either mirror or lens. Shooting at 50fps and 100fps helped to bring some 'weight' to the fall of the rain. Defocused headlights, store front reflections and silhouettes... all movement seen through a mist of tiny liquid lenses.

The large Epic sensor at 5K mixed with close focusing primes at F1.4 lent a more abstract look to the piece.

Red Epic, 5K, Nikkor AIS 85mm F1.4 and 35mm F1.4.

Red Epic Dragon 2.39:1

Shooting Elders for Serkan Nihat, a film set around the rituals and storytelling of a traditional family meal. 
Although an intimate dialogue piece, the decision was made to shoot with a 2.39:1 frame. This as we were looking for obscured imagery, moments seen past  foregrounds and the over-lapping of relationships that the wide-screen frame can be so effective for. 

Screengrabs: Epic Dragon, Angenieux Optimo 45-120mm T2.8, 
2.39:1 aspect ratio.

Although the original purpose of the widescreen frame was to capture sweeping panoramic landscapes, its impact on tight shots is possibly more acute. Here the 'weighting' of a frame can feel more hightened than traditional aspect ratios. Within so linear a canvas, a subject placed hard on the edges will substantially affect the perceived balance of the frame. Off-centred framing becomes far less casual than say with 1.85:1. The resulting spatial 'discord' can be used to strong narrative effect. 

Shooting on spherical zooms (Angenieux 45-120 on the A camera and 30-80 on the B camera) left us able to keep some of the spontaneity in the dialogue. The formal qualities of the 2.39:1 frame aside, we wanted to keep a sense of naturalism that I think spherical glass delivers. Anamorphic glass would arguably have been too artificial a look for the piece, its artefacts too glamorous, too 'Hollywood.'  



Filming heat in a Heatwave. 
As if the ambient heat is not enough, we introduce multiple burners and flame bars.
Heat itself is not visible to the camera, just its effects on the air and light. We read as 'hot' the flares of the sun, the movement of heat haze that a flame bar induces on a longer lens or the shift in colour temperature towards the 'warmer' end of the spectrum. Even the red sand of our location contributes to the look of Heat.

“I can feel the heat closing in . . .” 

William Burroughs, The Naked Lunch 

Waiting in Wales

Waiting for wind in Wales.
Tricky stuff to film, wind, in that you can't see it. 
Only its effects are visible, its trace in the movement of sand, clouds or sails. These best captured in either slow-motion, or time- lapse.

Staying in Burry Port, the small Welsh bay where Amelia Earhart landed in 1928 to complete her trans-Atlantic flight. 
In the local hotel where she spent the night, I found this photograph. I love this image. The plane, the clothes, her posture, her assured expression.

"How lovely your country is. The stillness and the silence brings back again the almost awesome feeling which came to me as, hour after hour, we pushed forward through the thick clouds and fog. It was as if we were alone in the world. To think that 48 hours ago I was in America and now I am in Wales!"

Amelia Earhart 1928


The last time I filmed in Egypt was on the eve of the "Arab Spring". Now returning 4 years later the political landscape has changed radically. A transition in stark contrast to the singular, unchanging ancient landscape that the country is so famous for.

The literally 'awe' inspiring Karnak temple in Luxor is dedicated to the sun god Amon Ra. It is oriented so as to transmit the rising sun of the winter solstice through the temple. This architectural consideration of light extends through all of the art work, where the relief work is modelled through finely sculpted shadows... 'painting with light' on a monumental scale. 
The structure is still as imposing as it was intented to be, designed to house the completeness of power that was once identified with the Pharoahs person. This is art and achitecture as a monumental narrative of Power...and its enormous presence is a joy to film.

We moved on via Cairo to Alexandria to float above the underwater city of Heraclion, now 7 miles off-shore, which once housed an even grander pharaonic landscape. 

Heat, sand and salt water constantly conspired to kill the gear. 
As ever with these light and heat levels the Hot Mirror ND's worked overtime. On a typical day I utilised both a Schneider Truepol and a 1.2 HMND, reducing the 800 ISO down to a more workeable 25 ISO... whilst the hot mirror blocked the 'heat' from polluting the sensor with 5 stops worth of infra red light.


River Monsters Season 6

Great to see Season 6 of River Monsters has been such a hit with US audiences... setting new network records... ITV next!

Great memories of shooting 'Jungle Terminator' and 'Body Snatcher' with Jeremy in Peru, Brazil, Bolivia and Guyana. 

Diane Arbus

'The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.'
Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus 'Child With Toy Hand Grenade In Central Park' 1962

UK Skies

Shooting clouds, fields, lakes and skies across Devon and the Lake District.
I sometimes forget just how striking the British landscape is!

Red Epic with Angenieux zoom set, Helicopters, Drones and a spot of the Canon 150-600 to soak it all up. 

I find increasingly, given the extended latitude of cameras like the Epic MX, that I no longer make use of Graduated Filters for sky, once the mainstay of any landscape shooting. This tendency will only increase with the enormous latitude offered by the Dragon sensor.

C300 blues

I recently watched two of the films that swept last years Cannes. 'Blue is the Warmest Color' and 'Blue Ruin.' 

Both were fantastic independent films with inspired performances and scripts. 
Adele Exarchopoulos's extraordinary performance was particularly mesmerising!
And although I liked the differing photographic style of both, I did find that I was taken out of the experience of both by something about the quality of the image that I saw projected. 

I discovered afterward that both films had been shot on canon's C300 camera. Great films and great photography slightly compromised by the camera perhaps? Of course great films can be shot on any quality of imaging device. The granular, super contrasy Festen ( shot on consumer High 8 video) is still one of my favourite films.

I have just completed work on a docu-drama in the States which was locked into using the C300 and thought it might be an opportunity for me to test the camera. 

I had initially pushed to shoot on my go to 'documentary' lenses... The short Angenieux DP lenses (16-42 and 30-80). But this was deemed way to expensive. Understandable perhaps as these lenses cost around 3 times the price of the camera. 

To shoot documentary on a budget with this camera, I learnt, typically means to shoot on Canons L series zooms. 16-35mm F2.8, 24-70mm F2.8, 70-200mm F2.8

And I hated these lenses. 
Soft until 5.6, ugly flares, no focus hold across the Zoom ( but then few stills zooms do) awkward focus action, ugly Bokeh, darkening as you zoom, and no iris so a menu wheel to click the camera jarringly through in-motion 1/3 stop exposure increments.
The difference between these 3 zooms and the cinevised Nikkor primes I occasionally utilised (135mm f2, 85mm 1.4, 35mm 1.4) was enormous.

With the primes I was briefly back in the world of precision optics. 
But then you do really need zooms for documentary work!

Ergonomically the camera is not bad, the rotating pistol grip is easy to use, the focus tools work well, all of the industry inputs and outputs are present. Its low light performance is stellar. I was quite comfortable with the cameras performance at 1600 ISO.

After 2 weeks of shooting I would have to say that I remain disappointed by the camera. It's main attraction might be its price, delivering S-35mm motion imaging for under 10k.
But it's the picture that I can't get away from. It seems that try as you might you can't get enough picture into a 50MB, 8 bit parcel... There's just not enough data there. Even in its latitude extending Cinema Log mode it seems unable to hold an extended highlight range. At its worst the picture looks like granulated plastic with metallic highlights, frequent banding and compression artefacts. 

Perhaps I have been spoilt with more robust imaging choices and at this price point I'm sure it's an attractive ready to roll tool. But since an EOS mounted Red Scarlet would be a similar financial prospect I'm unsure why it's enjoyed its popularity. Perhaps its the simplicity of its workflow? Which of course is price in another language. 

Despite my slight discomfort with the lenses and the look... I always love shooting in the States. It's a landscape steeped in the iconic history of imagery I've grown up with in the movies. I worked with a fantastic team and in truth everyone loved the images that were produced on the camera.

(these courtesy of my iphone)

I will have to maintain a lonely distaste for its 'look'.


16oz studio