Today we had our first shoot for the Tiger documentary with Alan Rabinowitz. The day proved to be very useful for us, not only in gathering important preliminary content for the film before we ship out, but also to put the camera system through its paces in a working day. It was incredibly valuable to take the camera out of the testing stages and into a true doc shooting reality.
We started in the morning shooting with Alan outside in the snow, a stark contrast to the world we will soon inhabit in India. It proved very useful to see how the camera holds up to the contrast of snow against a blue sky, broken up by dark, barren trees. Needless to say, the images are beautiful in this kind of situation.
We then moved inside to shoot an interview with Alan. Shooting in CanonRAW in conjunction with the camera’s native ISO 850 sensor proved to be invaluable. While shooting in a controlled environment here, this will surely be even more useful once we’re in India.
For the interview, Tom used Canon’s new 30-300mm cinema lens in EF mount. This lens is beautiful and sharp. And for its range, it’s not nearly as unwieldy as its other cine lens counterparts.
Unfortunately, once the interview began, we ran into a major issue with the camera. Since the C500 is nothing more than a computer processing large amounts of hi-res data, the camera gets hot very quickly. Unlike other cameras that control the fan’s speed based on whether or not you are rolling, the C500 has two fan settings: “On” or “Automatic.” When set to “On,” the fan always runs. In “Automatic,” the fan will kick on once the internal temperature reaches 77 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of if you are rolling or not. Needless to say, this came all too quickly. Within the first 10 minutes of rolling, the fan was on. And it was loud. It became so problematic, that we had to stop the interview and find a make-shift solution.
Since the fan draws in air from the outside to circulate through the processor, you can’t dampen the sound with a blimp, because this will just block the air intake and cause the camera to overheat more quickly. We found some ice packs in Alan’s freezer and taped them to the camera. Unfortunately, these warmed up so fast that it didn’t even give the camera enough time to cool down. In the end, we suffered through the sound of the fan, but this is something I will have to figure out before we leave.
After the interview, I broke the camera down from its studio configuration and configured it for handheld shooting with Canon’s EF 17-55mm. We moved out to Alan’s cabin that doubles as his office and gym. It was here that we first got to see how the camera functions in a verite environment.
Amazingly, the camera is very comfortable to shoot with. The weight is balanced well for both shoulder shooting and low, underslung handheld holding. There were only two things that we found needed augmentation to make the camera work well in this configuration.
When shooting with the Codex, there is an obvious difference in the record times with the internal CF cards for reference dailies, to a Codex mag recording 4K Uncompressed. On a 32GB CF card in the camera, you get 82 min. at 1920×1080. On a 512GB Codex mag, you only get 27 min at 4096×2160. Since the Codex is attached to the back of the camera, you can’t see how much time you have remaining when the camera is on your shoulder. This resulted in a loss of some material when the Codex ran out, because the C500 still showed you were recording to the CF card. I will work with Abel on developing a way to see the record status of the Codex without having to look backwards at the Codex every few minutes.
The other issue we found is how and where the Canon handgrip connects to the C500. Since the C300′s native handgrip port is replaced with the 3G-SDI ports for the 4K output on the C500, Canon added a grip port to the side of the camera. Unfortunately, when using Zacuto’s Grip Relocator, the cable juts out from the body at the precise point your hand wants to grab for the rod-mounted grip. Within the first few minutes, the plug was broken, rendering the handgrip near-useless. I will have to see if there is a way to replace the plug with a right-angle adapter, making the connection more streamlined and less accident-proned.
All in all, the day was a success. Yes, we found problems, but this was partly the purpose of the shoot. Better to discover these problems now with time to build workarounds than out in the field with no options. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on our solutions!