I recently had the great privilage of being the director of photography and assistant director on a major video production. I wish I could tell you all about it, but it’s forbidden. You know, strict secrecy… very hush-hush. But I can tell you about the technical stuff (and half the fun is playing with the toys).
I selected the camera package, and ended up doing a shoot out that I’d long wanted to do, and the results really surprised me. Because of the fast schedule (we didn’t want to keep the talent waiting around) I had two complete camera packages. One was a Sony CineAlta EX1 with a Letus Ultimate and a full set of Zeiss T* primes. The other was a Sony CineAlta EX3 with a Fujinon 2/3 adapter and a full set of Zeiss DigiPrime lenses. (I love the DigiPrime sales line: Imagine a set of prime lenses so precise, they redefine the concept of High Definition.) But hey, at a cost of $135,000 or so, they’d better be good.
Before I get to my findings, let me tell you about the crew…
The producer/director was the uber-prepared excellence maven, Erik Ticen from NY. I’ve had the good fortune of working with Erik in the past, creating some of the very best tv done by a purely local church. The lighting director was the incomparable Richard Brown from LA. I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Richard lighting (and relighting) the new HD set for Breakthrough. He has forgotten more about lighting than most LDs will ever learn. Richard had a great support team of gaffers, grips and electrics… they did full turnarounds in lightening speed. I had two great camera assistants – Brad Porter and Daniel Smith, recent grads from the media program at Cornerstone University (yep, that’s where my beautiful and talented wife, Kat, is a professor). You really need to check out their award-winning student film, “Checkers“. Plus we had several great PAs on the shoot. Oh yeah, and good craft services. Thank you one and all. Now, back to the cameras.
The EX3 is a better camera, not that much better than the EX1, but better. Philip Bloom has both of these cameras, and he does amazing stuff with them tied to the Letus Ultimate with his Nikon and Zeiss lenses (with considerable help from Magic Bullet Looks) so with my crew and location, I was pretty sure I’d get images at least as nice as he shoots. And I did. The stuff shot with the EX1/Letus Ultimate/Zeiss T* combo – especially the 85mm lens – was superb. The EX3 with the DigiPrimes was also very nice. I love the lenses. The focus and T stop index marks were spot on. The superwide 5mm lens was amazing. But, putting both cameras side by side and comparing the shots – I’d pick the Letus/T* combo. The $135,000 package of DigiPrimes was very sweet, but didn’t have the beautiful short depth of field I got with the Letus.
But I bet on a 2/3″ camera they’d be amazing. Maybe I’ll try that next time.
Oh, and before you ask, “no – I can’t post the shots”. It wouldn’t be very secretive of me, and I want to be hired again… and again.