Sunday, June 20, 2010

Claude Kongs is the director of the new Luxembourg Air rescue promo Video. I asked him to share his thoughts on HDSLR' s;

Why did you chose the HDSLR approach for your latest movie project, where do you see it's strengths and weaknesses and what is it's position in the actual film industry?

To shoot the LAR movie I was looking for a camera system that would best fulfill my needs. I wanted a small, inexpensive and flexible system as the costs had to be kept low, we were to have a pretty small crew and the shooting wasn't supposed to take more than two days.

At the same time I wanted high production value aka sexy shots. The camera needed to have very good low light capabilities (as most of the shooting was to be done during the night to get a more dramatic look and to give us the possibility to do our own lighting and just reveal what we wanted).
I also wanted to be able to play with the depth of field to have a more cinematic look and enable us to focus just on what we wanted to show.
On top of that I wanted to do a slow motion scene for the running crew which could have been done in the post but of course the best is to shoot it at higher frame rate (that's why we had the Canon 7D in).
A couple of years ago it would have been pretty much impossible to have this all in a low budget HD production. Luckily the HD-SLR revolution is at full speed nowadays and combined with the right tools it can be a very strong combination!
But even the top-notch Canon 5D mark II and 7D which we used for the shooting still had some major downsides:
1. The rolling shutter problems (wobbly image) which can make the image look weird and make it untrackable . This wasn't really an issue in this production as we used the cameras in stabilized setups on a dolly, jib, tripod or glide cam ... but it can be a complete no-go if you are doing let's say a subjective view Cloverfield-type of a movie.
2. Secondly, there is the well known moire/aliasing problem which can be problematic with high detailed pattern in the picture but we had almost no trouble with this one.
3. Last but not least there is the compression issue. We are dealing with a 4:2:0 image format embedded in a highly compressed H264 codec. Depending on the complexity of the scene (many details with high contrasts are problematic) this can be an issue to a smaller or larger extent.
The HD-SLRs are very well known for their superb image quality when it comes to the typical portrait shots with out-of-focus background. In every day situations the limitations are much more visible. If you have to strongly grade this kind of footage in the post production you will sooner or later end up with compression artefacts and banding. Although we were shooting in a "flat" picture style it can sometimes be necessary to shoot right away the look you are after so that you don't have to modify the fragile image too much in post.

To put it in a nutshell, you can today achieve stunning results with HD-SLR cameras used on scenes playing out their advantages. On a normal movie, although, you will have all kinds of shots and unless you plan them carefully and use all the right equipment, you will for sure run into problems. So, the HD-SLRs are in my opinion just another tool in your toolbox but I am absolutely sure that rather sooner than later the teething problems of this new technology will be surmounted and that the recent success of these cameras will be unstoppable! It gives us, filmmakers, the possibility to produce high production value shots even on small productions and I am very grateful for this. Personally I am really looking forward to the next generation of HD-SLR cams!

Check out his blog at

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