The director’s fantasy epic “The Last Airbender” is in theaters. M. Night Shyamalan will now takes questions for TIME readers.
John Hess reviews the Canon EOS 1D mkIV – the latest offering of Canon’s flagship 1D camera.
The HD-DSLR camera revolution is about 2 years old now and there’s still a considerable amount of controversy in certain circles surrounding their use. Basically it boils down to two camps – one group of filmmakers who never had access to great equipment who all of a sudden have in their hand a camera that can mimic the look of film. And the other camp is a group of filmmakers who’ve had the access to that great equipment and now have to deal with this new toy. For the first group, the shortcomings of HD-DSLR cameras are the price of entry for great video, the latter, they’re just one more reason to dislike the current “fad”
Well since much hyped season finale of House being shot on Canon 5d cameras – it’s pretty clear that these cameras are here to stay – at least until camera companies come out with something better. And they will…
Which brings us to the Canon EOS 1D mkIV - many thanks to B&H Photo for sending over an evaluation version of the camera. The Canon 1D is Canon’s flagship DSLR camera, the 4th generation adds the “HD video” that we’ve been talking about.
Being that this is FilmmakerIQ – we are going to focus almost exclusively on the video aspect of the camera. That’s not to say that this camera doesn’t take some extraordinary photos – it does. Coupled with a fast 10 frames per second burst, this camera is an excellent choice for sports and nature photography.
Photo credits by Paul Seeber (first two) and John Hess (final)
But what really drew my interest when I saw a pre-production model at NAB last April was the low light performance of the 1D. I pointed the camera at a dark shadow and by pumping up the ISO (a measurement of the gain on the sensor – the higher the ISO value, the more light sensitive the sensor is but you’ll have more color noise), I could make that black turn white on screen.
So just how low does it go?
So the first thing I did with the 1D was to pit it up against my 5d MkII (which I purchased about 2 months ago) in a low light cage match to the death!
Here’s the full length comparison:
I first set out to shoot in my garage but I found out that the light creeping in through the cracks of the door were actually too much. I moved into the downstairs bathroom which had total darkness where I began to search for smaller and smaller devices that could be used to light a subject. Yes a Cell phone and a Match could do the trick. Both the 5d and the 1d were capable of handling low light – but the 1D just took it further. Even the faint glow of a black screen on the 5d was visible if held a few inches away from the subject.
Now it’s really important to pause here and make one clarification. The 1d is not night vision – it will not see where there is no light. It’s not magic. You still need light. The revolution is now anything that emits light – can now become a light.
A Real World Test
To put the camera through some more real world paces, I put the 1d to use on a short experimental film titled, “Pitch Black”. It’s a story about a woman, temporarily blinded in a car accident who is attacked by a psychotic killer and ultimately ends in mortal kombat in the basement – a typical Saturday night at my house.
So instead of me telling you what this camera can do, I’m just going to show you some untreated footage from the camera – For the look of the final movie I generally desaturated the footage to create a more moody tone. This will generally reduce the amount of color noise that seeps into the picture at high ISO values – that’s why Philip Blooms 1d Study of Prague looked so amazing – it was in Black and White!
Here’s a sneak peak I’ve put together (this does mix some footage from the 1d with footage from our secondary Canon 5d mkII camera)
The 1d in standard lighting
All of the following images are straight grabs from the video. These grabs have not been treated for color and are uploaded in the original 1920×1080 size. The only additional compression was converting the images to JPEG.
We starting off with some of the day scenes and we were able to get a very natural look using only the sunlight through the windows. This enabled the production to move very quickly without having to reposition lights. That’s because there was only one – the sun and it repositions itself automatically so you do have to move to keep it where you want it.
The 1d on a “Set”
Now Moving to a “well lit” set type environment – in this shed set (which was a real shed) we utilized 4 small lights: one Dedolight 150w as a key, two 250w Lowel Pro-Lights (filling the back and one on the talent) and a 500w Lowel Omni all dimmed to well under the 1150 total watt capability. All the lights had either CTB (daylight filter blue) or a dichroic filter (to simulate daylight).
Here’s an even smaller “lit” scene. This time with a Dedolight 150w alone and a piece of foam board as a bounce card.
So far so good. But the fun really happens at night.
The 1d Afterhours
This entry way shot was done with a Dedolight 150w with a CTB (daylight filter) gel projecting a window pattern (using the Dedolight Projector) with another Lowel Pro-Light (250w) with dichroic filter bounced off the ceiling providing some fill.
Here we are at the the accident – this was lit with a 2k fresnel light about 15 feet away and car headlights. The 1d was in the driver seat of a car about 10 feet from the subject. We used a hose spraying water on the windshield to simulate rain.
The 1d in the bathroom
Now let’s get in the shower
This first shot is through the cantilever windows. This was shot with a single Dedolight 150w with CTB (daylight filter) as back light. Take a look at our lead actor’s pupils – this something you don’t see in films too often. It is THAT dark.
Here is a still from the actual shower – this was lit entirely with a single NIGHT LIGHT about 5 feet away the shower glass. That’s it in terms of light… Noise wise, it’s starting to creep in, but the nature of the production (and the configuration of the bathroom which had full mirrors on all four walls) would have made it impossible to add any more light (we would have been dealing with hundreds of reflections). In this case, the Canon 1D mkIV made the impossible shot possible.
Now we’re at the heroine’s bedside – this is that Dedolight 150w with CTB (daylight filter) outside the window creating that moon glow key. There’s a Lowel Pro-Light (250w) aimed at the ceiling to get a little bit of fill. And that light that’s filling the actress’s face – her Blackberry!
Steady as she goes
Luckily the Director of Photography Paul Seeber is an accomplished Steadicam Operator – so we rigged up the 1d and dreamed up flying maneuver.
This steadicam shot although it appears dark had to be lit with quite a few lights (at least compared to the other scenes) – a couple of 500w Lowel Omnis outside the windows (with CTB of course) to provide some moon glow- the Dedolight 150w projecting the window pattern at the entry way. and the Lowel Pro-Light (250w) for the fill. All lights were at full capacity. Every other light (including the light outside the door) was there as part of the house.
The reason we had to pump more light in than usual was we wanted to stop down the camera to provide a larger depth of field – when working on steadicam without a remote focus puller it’s impossible to keep things in focus if the dof is too shallow so you want to widen that up to get more room to work. Still the set was dark to eye, and if it weren’t for the 1d’s lowlight prowess, this wouldn’t have been possible.
What’s Black and White, but Red all over?
For the final shot of the movie we find ourselves in the basement. This is an extreme lighting challenge – there was only one Lowel Pro-Light (250w) positioned next to the water heater about 10 feet away from the subject with a red gel on it. In the first image, the placement of the light would be on screen right about 5 feet behind the stairs.
On the second image – the light on the lead actor’s face is generated by an iPhone on a standard screen (no flashlight app needed).
For a bounce, we used a white styrofoam mannequin head – it just happened to be at hand.
I show you this footage because it’s frankly amazing what you can do with a simple light kit and some creativity. You could shoot a movie with only practicals and get great footage – although a few professional lights make the job easier.
In a Nutshell…
The Canon 1d is the top of the line HD-DSLR camera in terms of video on the market today. I don’t think I need to show you any more footage to prove to you that it takes a beautiful image. That said it still comes with all the problems that still plague HD-DSLRs
- Lack of a good sound input – you’ll either record sound separately (like we did on Pitch Black) or invest in a preamp designed for these cameras.
- Rolling shutter effects (although less prominant than on a camera like the 5d) You’re going to see vertical lines get slanted when you do whip pans and fast objects will appear to have a jello effect. This is not as noticeable when shoot in 720 60p mode.
- You can’t view through the viewfinder and an external monitor. It’s one or the other.
- Line skipping, which is how the camera creates an HD image out of it’s much larger than HD sensor, can cause strange artifacts on objects with tight patterns.
But the Canon 1d does bring some advances to the HD-DSLR table.
- The body weight and configuration actually makes the camera very easy to hand held shots with.
- The HDMI now outputs 1080p signal while recording.
- There is now a 1280×720 60p recording mode which we just talked about – useful for fast action.
- The 1.3x crop factor will help get a bit more from the lens – although that can be a detriment if you want to maximize your wide angle lenses.
Compared to the 5d mkii, the Canon 1d mkIV does just about everything better. The image is clearer and crisper and the low light performance is better.
If you’re looking to buy the 1d the question is going to boil down to the dollars. At almost twice the cost of the 5d – are those improvements really worth the extra cash? If you shoot a lot of sports where you need to be able to fire off 10 photos a second and then shoot video – then the answer is clear. If your working in the film environment where you can control lighting to an extent – it’s hard question to answer. Yes the 1d is a superior camera to the 5d in just about every respect… but the extra cost over the 5d could go into accessories which you’ll need – not to mention better glass.
The lines between film and video are blurring fast my friends, if it isn’t almost totally gone – As technology marches forward, it’s going to more about what you put in front of the camera than the camera itself. But then again, it’s always been like that.
You can purchase the items featured in this review from our trusted sponsor B&H Video. We don’t recommend B&H because they our are sponsor, they are our sponsor because they are the only store we would ever recommend.
Items from the review:
- Canon EOS 1D mkIV (Camera Reviewed)
- Canon 5d Mkii
- Canon 1.4 35mm lens
- Dedolight (150w)
- Dedolight Projector
- Lowel Pro-Light (250w)
- Lowel Omni Light (500w)
- Dichroic filter
- 2k fresnel light
You may also want to check out these Accessories:
- 8GB Extreme CompactFlash Memory Card
- DXA-5DA DSLR Cameras Passive Dual XLR Mic Adapter
- Redrock Micro DSLR Cinema Bundle (matte box and follow focus)
ONN’s Terrorism Expert Omar Al-Farouq explains how Al-Qaeda’s love for the beloved teen vampire series prevented the death of thousands.
In this video DIY tutorial BFX shows you how to make a super effective and compact camera slider! This awesome filmmaking tool attaches to the top of any tripod and lets you get super smooth professional looking shots!
Film producer Ted Hope discusses what it means to be a filmmaker in today’s ever-evolving digital world. In part one, he focuses on the current paradigm shift toward self distribution and fan-base aggregation, citing Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 True Fans” model.
In part two he talks about a much needed collaboration between filmmakers and web savvy content creators.
VIA: Hope for Film
Photographer/Director Chase Jarvis shares his bombproof workflow and backup for every image he shoots, stills and video alike. This in-depth look includes all the steps from capture to archive and gives you a method to ensure that you’ll never lose a single image.
Organizing the Business of the Film Company
By Jon M. Garon
Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, PC
For many independent filmmakers, the LLC is the best choice for forming a film production company. It can be taxed as either a corporation or a partnership, and its operating agreement is more flexible than corporate bylaws for structuring the film company’s operations, but it limits personal liability as effectively as a corporation. Another advantage of the LLC and partnership forms is the ability to allocate gain, loss, deductions, and credits to participants in a way that maximizes their value to investors.
Nonetheless, a different structure may be preferred, depending on the particular makeup of filmmakers and investors. For films heavily financed by outside investors, the traditional corporate form may be best. Some investors may be reluctant to participate in an LLC, a relatively new business form, and may prefer the more traditional corporate structure. An S corporation combines this familiarity with the tax benefits of a partnership.
C corporations may serve the interests of the investors most effectively. The filmmaker can issue multiple classes of stock and draft different shareholders’ agreements to achieve the same results as with an LLC’s operating agreement. The company will lose the tax advantages of a partnership, but for some investors they will have little value, particularly if the investors are more interested in the long-term growth of their investments than in deducting short-term losses. Corporations are strongly favored for investments such as technology firms that have the possibility of expanding into the public markets. While going public is not a significant possibility for most film companies, the structure may further encourage investors.
Limited partnerships are well suited to individual filmmakers who need to raise capital but want to retain sole operational control over most aspects of the film company. The limited partners participate by contributing the necessary capital for the business, but they do not interfere with its operations. The filmmaker is not protected by limited liability, but since it only shields the filmmaker from liability as an officer or director of the business, and most risk of tort liability will arise from activities in which the filmmaker is personally involved, that protection would be of little value.
If an individual filmmaker is not seeking investment financing, there may not be any benefit to forming a corporation, an LLC, or a limited partnership. Not only is the value of limited liability negligible, but most debt will come from personal loans or unsecured personal credit cards, and the financial risk associated with these obligations will not be changed by using a formal business structure. If the filmmaker is a guerrilla artist, or if she is shooting a short project with a small cast and crew, then she may be best advised to remain a sole proprietor.
On the other hand, if the size of the project increases or if investors are brought in, it is very important that the filmmaker switch to a formal business entity. The worst choice is to ignore the problem and have the law treat the project as a general partnership. The decision to switch need not be made immediately. Tax laws allow the sole proprietor to exchange the business for the assets of a new entity without paying a tax penalty.2 But from the outset of the film project, the filmmaker should have the business management in mind, and she should work with a lawyer and accountant as early as possible so that the necessary business entity can be created when the filmmaker is ready.
The Nested-LLC Model for Continuity and Protection
Many filmmakers hope to launch an ongoing film company with the creation of their first film. At the same time, they need to keep the investments of each film project separate in order to ensure that the profits from each film are distributed to the investors of the particular project. To accomplish both goals, a popular structure calls for the creation of two limited liability companies, one to serve as the ongoing film business and the other to serve as the fundraising vehicle for the particular project.
1. The Umbrella Company Organized for Multiple Projects
The umbrella company is formed as an LLC owned and operated by the production team. The team may be organized in many different ways: it may consist of a group of producers; a team of writer, director, and producer; a director and actors; or any other possible combination. This company generally has only limited financial needs, and any investors are investing in the overall success of the business, not a particular project. The structure provides for limited liability for all participants and the taxation benefits of a partnership.
The umbrella LLC then serves as the sole manager of a second LLC formed to finance, develop, and distribute a particular motion picture. The investors in the movie are members of the second LLC. This maximizes the control that the filmmakers have over the project while allowing the relationship among the filmmaking team to be carefully crafted to reflect the rights and interests of each of its members.
In the operating agreement of the umbrella LLC, each member of the filmmaking team will negotiate the appropriate arrangement for compensation, responsibility, and control. If the team is composed solely of producers, the arrangements may be very similar for each member of the team. If the team is organized more like a rock band, with a writer, director, actor, and producer each contributing different talents and financial resources, the operating agreement can be drafted to reflect those differences. In addition, these terms may be modified without having to be ratified by the film’s investors, since they are members of the other LLC, not this one.
The umbrella company is only necessary when a team of people are working together to create the movie, but given the highly collaborative nature of filmmaking, these projects have a much greater chance of success than projects attempted by a single filmmaker.
2. The Subsidiary Company Organized as an Investment Vehicle for the Film
The terms of the film project LLC should establish that the company’s activities are limited to the particular motion picture. The company is managed by the umbrella LLC, so the operating agreement should be very clear regarding the authority of the manager—the managing company must have sufficient latitude to make the movie and clear direction regarding its authority to operate, and the role of the investor-members should generally be limited. This does not mean that the filmmakers are not obliged to update investors regarding finances, production, or distribution plans.
Most film investment companies are organized to make a single motion picture. But if the filmmakers know they are making a tent pole project— involving, for instance, a film, sequels, and video game tie-ins—the operating agreement can indicate that the manager has authority to retain earnings to invest in these additional projects. Such authority should be very clearly specified.
It is also important that the investment LLC’s operating agreement grant the filmmakers latitude to be involved in other projects while making the film. In the film industry, filmmakers typically work on multiple projects simultaneously, but this creates a situation in which these projects may be competing for investor dollars, time, and attention, or even film festival admission. To ensure that the investors are fully aware of this reality, the operating agreement should specify that the services of the umbrella LLC and its members are provided on a nonexclusive basis.
Finally, the operating agreement should set forth all the structures for recoupment of investments and profit participation, as well as the fees paid to the umbrella LLC for the management of the film project. While the operating agreement does not take the place of financial disclosure documentation, the two documents will closely resemble each other in many regards. This should allow the attorney to draft the two documents together, saving time and money. And since the operating agreement works as a blueprint for the operations of the company, it should also make it easier for the filmmakers to meet their obligations to their investors.
Technically, the managers of the umbrella LLC have no direct relation to the investors in the film project LLC, but the parties should not rely on this legal fiction; each filmmaker should treat his duties to the investors as if he were a personal manager of the film project LLC. The two-LLC structure is not likely to immunize the filmmakers from their ethical and fiduciary obligations, described in chapter 3, and should not be used for that purpose.
Additional Details for Forming the LLC
The required filings—the Articles of Organization—are often one-page fill-in-the-blank forms that must be submitted, along with a tax payment, to the secretary of state in the state in which the film company will be located. While simple to fill out, the Articles of Organization provide no information about how the business should be run. So in addition to this certificate, a film company LLC should have a written, signed operating agreement that serves as the articles and bylaws of the organization.
The operating agreement establishes the rules for managing and operating the business. Many of its provisions are common to every LLC, and these provisions will be found in virtually every form book. They establish the name and place of business of the LLC, regulate the admission and removal of participants, and provide for maintenance of capital accounts, terminations, and transfers of interest. Nonetheless, there are a few additional issues of particular concern for the filmmaker.
In many states, the operating agreement may simply indicate that the manager—the filmmaker—has sole management authority, that there will be no meetings, and that the profits and losses will be shared in a specified manner between the manager and the other members of the LLC. Investors in the film company, however, may not wish to give such unbridled discretion to the filmmaker, particularly over the raising of capital or other financial decisions. One of the primary benefits of the LLC is the opportunity to shape the business entity to reflect the nature of the investors’ interests and the filmmaker’s needs. Because the filmmaker needs to encourage investment in the film—a very risky investment—the filmmaker should provide operational protections for the investor as a way of encouraging investment and demonstrating responsibility regarding the enterprise.
The greatest drawback to the limited liability company is that the business and investment community has had limited experience with this organizational structure. Investors may be more willing to purchase shares of a corporation than to invest in an LLC, because they are used to financing businesses that use the more traditional form.
A second risk flows from the need to draft an operating agreement for each LLC. As with a corporation, standardized LLC operating agreements found in form books may not be appropriate for independent filmmakers. Each company will have its own investment strategies, distribution plans, and expectations regarding sequels and other projects, and these specifics should be reflected in the operating agreement. Some productions, for example, will restrict the movement of additional capital into the LLC to protect the original investors. (More often, however, film investors are not concerned about the size of other parties’ investments, as long as all the funds raised are used exclusively to make the film.)
The LLC has become a favorite vehicle for small business planners because it gives the owners maximum flexibility regarding the structuring of control and financing while reducing not only liability but also tax obligations. The owners of the LLC have the option to be treated as a partnership for tax purposes. In 1997, the Internal Revenue Service adopted rules that allow the LLC to elect whether to be taxed as a C corporation or as a partnership. By default, LLC entities are taxed as partnerships.
This is part of a series of book excerpts from Independent Filmmaking, The Law & Business Guide for Financing, Shooting & Distributing Independent & Digital Films designed as an introduction to the many legal issues involved in the filmmaking process.