This week has been all about playing with and learning about my new camera. It is fair to say that by the time it was delivered I had watched almost every review and video about it on YouTube. There were people talking about what it is good and bad at, people talking about how to get the most out of it but what I enjoyed the most was short videos showing cinematic footage they had shot on it. These gave me a really good idea of what it is capable of and what I aspire to eventually be shooting. The good news is that it came in enough time for me to go out, shoot something and edit it together before writing this post. Here it is…
Firstly I would like to thank Hol for being my model. This is a role she was given and not something she volunteered for but has never complained. It was shot on a little walk we like to do to a local airfield with no attempt at story but just for me to release a little bit of excitement and finally play with the camera. Story is something I would like to get to at some point but goal number one is to learn to capture cinematic images.
For a first play I am actually quite pleased with the results. I haven’t managed to match colours across shots, get everything in focus or even exposure very well in a lot of cases but non the less there are a few shots I think I did quite a good job of. The image from this sensor has a very filmic look to it on its own so I am glad that I don’t feel like I have completely ruined it all together.
I learned a lot about the camera straight away on this shoot. A few key points are:
- The battery life is bad, and I mean really bad. This was noted before I bought it but it still surprised me. I'm talking only 20 minutes on a fully charged battery.
- I decided to shoot raw cinema DNG video which uses a lot of space on memory cards. Again, I knew that in theory but was again surprised when I only managed 18 minutes on a 64GB SD card.
- This camera loves to be exposed to the right. It has a Super 16 sized sensor and because of this isn’t very good in low light. So, whenever possible you should expose on the brighter side to get as much light and shadow detail into the image. Shooting in raw this can always be brought back down in the edit if needed.
After the shoot I then had to bring it in to edit. This is where I managed to really look at what I had shot. I would say it was a mixed bag, some shots I was really pleased with and others I wondered why I had wasted my time. Overall though, I was quite pleased. There is one thing I could tell straight away and that is that this camera sensors makes one really nice image. I have always heard people talk about how certain sensors have a filmic look about them but having never shot film (beyond a point and shoot as a child) I didn’t really understand. What I can say is that I now feel as though I understand a little bit better. This image is beautiful!
I decided on Davinci Resolve as my editor as I have quite a lot of experience with it in the past. It is also M1 Mac optimised which I will probably need with the data rates of this footage. I signed up for a trail of Epidemic Sound, picked a song and started editing to it.
During the edit I learned even more. Mostly about what I had done wrong during the shoot. Firstly, although this camera does love to be exposed to the right I think some of the time I took that a bit too literally and over exposed, losing details and overall image saturation. I also learned an important lesson about ND filters (for those who don't know they are like variable strength sun glasses for your camera lens), and have since learned that this is a common thing. I was using a variable ND filter and pretty much all of them have some strange characteristics at the far end of their capabilities. I took quite a lot of shots pointing towards the sun, this meant that I was often using the variable ND at the darkest it can be. Looking at the footage there are quite a few shots with some really strong and odd shaped vignetting in the corners. I did manage to pull some of it back in the edit but was definitely not ideal.
There are a couple of other things I would like to note. Again, learned from me doing things wrong:
- I am not in love with the colours after the final grade. They are not terrible but in certain shots the skin tones seem off and in general they are not always very real to life or at the very least where I would like them from a creative standpoint. The footage starts off very grey straight out of camera (log) and I need to work on pulling the correct colours out of it.
- This camera has no in body image stabilisation. This means that handheld shots can sometimes be a bit shaky. Using a lens with image stabilisation can help, and I did, but only to a certain extent. With some more modern cameras you can walk with the camera and the combination of lens and body image stabilisation is like using the camera on a gimbal or tripod. This is not something I can do with this one and instead will have to accept a certain level of shake when shooting handheld and/or rely on a bit of extra stabilisation in the edit.
- Quite a lot of my shots ended up being out of focus. This camera, again unlike a lot of more modern cameras, doesn't have any usable auto focus so everything will have to be manual focus. The lens I have also has an electronic focus ring meaning there is very little room for gaining muscle memory with it to master focusing with it. In general I will just have to spend a lot of time getting the practise in.
After this first week I would say I am really keen to get back into film making but this time actually spend time focussing (get it? 😉) on the areas I am most interested in. I had a great time putting together this little video and I am excited for what is to come. It will probably be very slow progress to start with but as long as I am enjoying it I am excited to have a creative outlet again.
My plan for next week is to run a few tests. Rather than shoot and edit a full video piece together I want to get to know how the camera works in certain situations with certain settings. Also how best to colour grade the footage in the edit. It will probably end up along the lines of a lot of garden shots...