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C100 Test | Behind the Scenes Commercial Photography with @Talking Food

Talking Food Behind the Scenes

This week we teamed up with Laura Prouty from the @TalkingFood Instagram account to create some original shots for her work. As a coincidence we also had been given a C100 to test for the week from a local camera rental house here in St. Louis. Big thanks to Ray from Schillers for letting us test out the equipment. We had a blast.

C100 Review

As our studio contemplates the many complexities of offering commercial video that delivers the same quality at which we produce still images, we spent much of Spring and early Summer researching the Canon and Red systems; weighing the benefits of both. Until the new offerings by Canon to purchase their Cinema lenses, we planned on not investing in motion camera’s besides a few 5D MK III’s. Our studio, like many video houses, planned on renting different systems based on job needs. That was, until we realized we could capture 8Bit RAW video for under $7,000 on the C100. 

RAW Video 

It all boiled down to a little device called the Atomos Ninja 2, a way to capture RAW video through the C100 bypassing the less than desirable AVCHD MPEG 2 codec that shoots to an SD card which is native to the C100. With the $700 external recorder form Atomos, we are able to capture RAW video in Pro Res 4:2:2 color space as opposed to the native 4:2:0 color space. This allows for much more dynamic range (about 12 stops at 850 ISO), and for more elasticity in pushing the tones in color grading. This convenient little device allows you to have a camera that is essentially better than the C300, which shoots to the Canon XF codec (4:2:2 sampling) in a MXF wrapper. We won’t go into great detail on Codecs here, but the Pro Res codec through the HDMI out to an SSD is better for what we are doing and arguably a much better Codec overall. On a side note, all of the Canon Cinema cameras have the Super 35mm cropped sensor, which is a step back from the nice full frame capabilities of the 5D MK III. This really isn’t a big deal, especially for what we do because we are in tight on subjects more than wide. With a kit of the 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 100mm we are really working with a kit of 31 mm, 45 mm , 65mm, 110, and 130, respectively, compared to the full frame 5D line due to the 1.3X crop factor.

The Art of Visual Storytelling

What really helped make our decision was the recent workshop we attended by DP Alex Buono called “The Art of Visual Storytelling.” We got to experience the technical workflow used by Alex with these lines of cameras for Saturday Night Live and his other live action films. We would definitely recommend checking this workshop out to get a better sense of the entire workflow behind his crew, plus some additional tips for storytelling through motion. We even had a chance to play with the new Mōvi handheld gimbal with a Canon C100 mounted to it. This really blew us away. The $15,000 device is going to change the quality of video that is accessible to all very drastically. I’m sure you’ve seen the Vincent Laforet video and review of this device but playing with this was way different. I was running around the room holding the camera while Rob pulled focus on the subject through wireless control and monitoring. Then Rob got to run around the room while I controlled the tilt and pan with a remote control and someone else pulled focus. A 3 person crew and a little creativity could completely replace $75,000 worth of grip gear. I was really blown away the smooth movement seen through the wireless Marshall monitor setup and follow focus. We can’t wait to start using this on shoots.

FPS

The C100 is still quite limiting in this arena. Not because it doesn’t do 4K, but because it still can only record at 24 fps. Even if it did 60 fps, that wouldn’t be enough, nor does the C300. In order to get 120 fps to capture things like beer pours, splashes, and crunchy battered chicken fingers flying through the air colliding together in mid flight, you need the C500 which is $25,000 alone. Knowing that, our decision was made; we would invest in the C100 and accessories and rent the C500 for jobs requiring slow motion of 120 fps. This way we have essentially invested less than $17,000 for an entire set of 5 Prime L series lenses, and external recorder, a marshall monitor, a cage, a follow focus, and a camera. Not bad considering other systems would equate to around 4-5 times the cost and require quite a more cumbersome workflow and camera crew. Plus, with the right creative and color grading, you probably couldn’t tell the difference in quality between final products of each camera (although we have limited experience color grading RED footage). So we get to have a RAW video workflow 24/7 and all the accessories ready for the C500 when we need it.

Low Light

Another impressive quality is the low light capabilities of this camera. I’m not talking about cranking up the ISO either. The above BTS video was shot on the 50 mm and 85 mm Cine Lenses at 5.6-8 with a native ISO of 850, which is quite spectacular. On top of that we closed every window in the studio creating a very dark environment. I could barely see what I was doing and we had a nice bright feed of our scene through the  monitor. I had to pump the ISO on the 5D MK III to at least 2500 (native 160) at 4.0 to get a similar exposure, and even then I was blowing out the small highlights in the skylights and modeling lights, not to mention a very different noise level.

Conclusion

The C100 is not a complete solution for every job, nor is any camera. It’s lightweight, compact, shoots pretty amazing RAW video for the price, and keeps the production budget down while maximizing an easy workflow. Plus we have the camera 24/7 to use it for everything, not just on productions where we need to rent gear. It's ideal for a lot of various scenarios including a run and gun type documentary, commercial studio work, lifestyle video, great for weddings, BTS video, and a number of food/beverage/products studio shoots using a lot of light. We are really excited to get our feet wet in this arena and explore more of what this camera can do.

What do you guys think?