Late last year I wrote an article entitled “Why I Sold My RED and Downgraded to a C100.” The article, as you can imagine, was met with a bit of hostility. In short, Filmmakers and Red-users couldn’t seem to understand how I could give up the cinematic image capabilities of my RED Scarlet and settle for an entry level Canon Cinema camera. On the other hand, the article was praised by other filmmakers in similar situations that had learned that less can often mean more. Of course, no one can be right with this argument. RED cameras will continue to produce some of the most stunning footage on earth, while budget cameras will continue to be mistaken for RED footage.
In the end, it’s about choosing what is right for you, which I did.
I did a quick A/B test between the RED Scarlet and C100 before I sold the RED:
This test is far from scientific, but gives a good basic comparison between the two cameras. The biggest “downgrade” I made by selling my RED was losing the smooth highlight roll off and subtle sharpness.
To put this more simply, my Canon C100 looks understandably more “digital” than my RED did.
A bit of in-camera sharpening and contrast can be expected when working with most modern cameras. I’ve found that this can be a strength for the majority of promotional videos I create. Often I am on tight deadlines and the look that comes straight out of the camera needs very little color grading before I send it off to my clients.
When possible, I prefer choose to shoot with less of a “pre-baked” contrasty look. This ultimately gives me more control over the final look of my image. Up until recently, I would achieve this by shooting with a flat picture profile. DSLR users will most likely know of this as "Neutral" or "Cinestyle."
When working on my latest music video for the artist Transit, I knew that I wanted my C100 too look less “digital” while still retaining what I loved about the camera. I have a bit of love/hate relationship with the performance of the flat picture profiles and decided to try something new. Here are a couple of tools I used to make my C100 look less “digital”:
After reading Shane Hurlbut’s blog on Tiffen Filters I decided to buy the Black Pro Mist ¼. The version I bought was a 77mm filter that screwed directly onto my existing Canon lenses. The Black Pro Mist provided me with less contrast and smoother roll-off for my highlights.
It also subtly softened my image without reducing the inherent sharpness.
Unfortunately, we received the filter a couple of days late (after shooting our performance footage). It's easy to see the difference between the scenes.
(With the Tiffen Black Pro Mist 1/4)
The most noticeable characteristic of the Black Pro Mist is the soft bloom of the highlights. Check out Shane’s full post on lens diffusion to see what is possible with similar filters.
I’ve been using FilmConvert for the better part of a year now and recently upgraded to the much-improved FilmConvert 2. This third party plug-in works within your video editing program and replicates classic film stock. The most impressive part of this plug-in is that it takes into account what camera you shot the footage with and produces a custom look based on that camera. The results can be tweaked with a built in colour correction section featuring more traditional tools like curves, levels and hue etc.
It’s important to point out that these tools are only the beginning to creating a truly “cinematic” image. Beautiful cinematic videos aren’t solely created with filters and plug-ins alone. Rather, these visuals are the culmination of casting, lighting, set design, camera movement and so much more.
Best of luck with your filmmaking guys. As always, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below or via Twitter.