This post is one part showing client work and one part technical nerdiness, so bear with me..
Late last year we were hired to shoot a handful of commercial spots and still images for Colorado Technical University. When we were approached by the production company in September, we were given a very specific concept of creative/art direction for the project. The client needed a series of close-up video clips and photographs of CTU students reacting in an subtle emotional way to be showcased in an ad utilizing dramatic lighting, to be slowed down by ultimately using a high camera frame rate. In the process of bidding for the job, we chose to shoot a test video tightly fitting the creative brief to show our capabilities in both cinematography and overall character direction.
In the initial test video, we shot the clip on a Canon 5D Mark II at a rather high ISO using only the modeling lamp from an Alienbee 1600, modified with a beauty dish and 30 degree grid. One of the reasons we choose this set-up was that we could easily use the same camera and lighting to transition to shooting high-resolution stills. The test was great and truth be told, it helped solidify ourselves for the job. But the problem we encountered was two-fold; the 5D Mark II has limitations with slow-motion at full resolution and the lighting/modifier we used during the test was questionable at best since we needed to shoot at such an high ISO. Below is a frame grab from the test video:
In order to deliver to our client the best possible quality video at maximum resolution to reach all forms of potential media output and have the unlimited option to slow the video down beyond the reach of an HDSLR, we all came to the ultimate decision that we would look to the Red Epic camera to deliver the final product. The lingering consideration was shooting still images in the same composition and lighting as the corresponding video. One add-on option to shooting with the Red camera was the ability to shoot 4K and 5K raw video and being able to pull a frame grab at a high enough resolution to translate well into print. This was brave, new territory for us as we never used the Red camera before. With two weeks of research and getting our hands on the camera for trials, we felt that we could accomplish everything needed with the decision to use the Red.
Granted we shot the spots using 4K RAW video, I also shot “safe” stills for the print campaign using the Canon 1Dx. Having pulled frame grabs from the Red camera, I can say this: The files are a tad softer than a still image and need a little more TLC to get them as sharp as a .CR2 file. The need to have your subjects move slowly is key. Anything “action-oriented” from the frame grabs may be hit or miss. The Red camera comes bundled with a RAW plugin for Photoshop and from my experiences playing with it so far, it has way more flexibility and color correction generosity than Adobe Camera RAW.. but it’s finicky since you’re essentially grabbing a video still.
I can say that with this specific and rather limited use, we were excited to use “constant” lighting to achieve stellar photographs. Using only a single 500-watt Lowel Rifa-lite EX 55 softbox as our light source, we were able to get some amazing results. As a note, we also clamped a Paul C. Buff 30 degree grid spot onto a C-stand over the top of the Lowel softbox to achieve nearly the same result as our test video.
(Below: An iPhone shot using the Lowel softbox in the same relative position as we shot our talent for the production.)
Below are the commercial spots, with the corresponding stills we shot for the print campaign. As I rarely have the opportunity to shoot still images with constant lighting, I took the RAW files and edited them down to my specific style of post-production. For comparison purposes I have also included an edited 4K video Red RAW file below. Have a peek!
(Below: Canon RAW file)
(Below: Red Epic 4K RAW file. 4096 x 2160px)
Client: Colorado Technical University
Creative Director: Mark Wiegard
Production Company: Daily Planet
Producers: Scott Marvel & Shanead Mueller
Director/Photographer: David E. Jackson
Cinematographer: Adam Koepke
Line Producer: Trevor Nackers
And for those wondering… Nobody “buys” a Red Epic camera. Well, at least not me. You buy a house. Or a 2014 Jaguar XF. They cost roughly the same. We rented..