During the production of of the feature film Shifting Gears I had the challenge of shooting numerous sequences involving dirt track racing. The film was a modestly budgeted family comedy set in the world of dirt track racing. In a way, I had to approach the project as if it were two movies in one. For the comedy and drama portions of the film, we shot on the Canon C500. For the sequences involving racing, I elected to bring a variety of cameras on board with the idea of using each of them for their strengths in the desire to create a heart pounding, energetic, thrill ride. Coverage was key given our tight schedule and fining the right camera for each setup was a challenge to say the least. By the end of the film, we had utilized the Canon C500, Red Dragon, Red Scarlett, Blackmagic 2.5K Cinema Camera, Sony F65, Sony F7 and even a few Go Pro Hero 4’s as crash cams for good measure.
For many reasons, including the fact that the production company behind the project had a Canon C500 in house, the Canon C500 was the camera of choice for 80% of the filming. We utilized the Odyssey 7Q+ as an external 4K recorder that recorded 4K Canon Raw files and served as the operators monitor. All in all, the workflow was simple for the most part even though the external recorder definitely added to the bulkiness of our A camera package.
The Blackmagic 2.5K Cinema Camera was used primarily as a B Camera for car mounts and some gimbal shots that required us to have multiple cameras in play at the same time. It was the perfect camera for placing in inconspicuous spots throughout the racing sequences. It also served as a crash cam for a couple of shots that I wanted have a higher quality image than that provided by the Go Pro Hero 4’s. To be honest, for the price point of the Blackmagic 2.5K Cinema Camera, its is a killer deal with a great image. For the right project, I wouldn’t hesitate to lens a small feature on one of these bad boys if the budget was super tight.
I brought in the Red Dragon for our main race week shoot with the idea of putting in front and center with its over-crank/under-crank abilities. Also, I wanted to shoot a number of shots at 6K resolution to allow for post manipulation including cropping and reframing including the possibility of adding a hand-held feel to a couple of shots. As always, the Red Dragon was a workhorse and the footage really shined.
The Red Scarlett was used primarily as our aerial camera for our drone work (executed by Vidmuze Aerial Cinema) throughout the making of the film. As the low cost little sister to the Dragon, it performs great and makes for a fantastic B Camera to its big brother.
The Sony F65 was brought in with the intent to give it a more “Broadcast” aesthetic that would be intercut throughout the racing sequences. It is a beast of a camera but the end results looked great. The footage will work nicely once it is intercut into the sequences.
As for the Sony F7, I deployed it into the audience of a live race event to capture footage that was less polished and had the tone of a documentarian style from the perspective of the audience. It’s smaller profile and simple design allowed for the operator to easily sneak into the stands and grab shots of the audience with out gaining much attention. It was the perfect camera for the job.
What about matching cameras?
One of the major challenges of using so many camera systems on one film is the inherent nature of each system having its own aesthetic look. To combat this, I created a variety of 3D LUT’s that were applied to the footage by my DIT, Pete Lutz. Each time we encountered a new lighting setup or look, we would work in-between takes to create a new 3D LUT to be applied to the footage. The workflow was simple and by creating a library of LUT’s for the film, we have a solid starting point for creating the final look of the film once the edit is complete.
However, that doesn’t completely eliminate the fact that with so many camera systems in play, there will always be a certain amount of “look” that is specific to each camera and matching cameras completely is near impossible. Early on in preproduction as we worked on shot listing and envisioning the film, Director Jason Winn and I decided to to give the racing sequence a very intense, energetic vibe that allowed for fast pace cutting and visual blueprint that included multiple looks from shot to shot. That decision early on is what enabled us to use the right camera for the right shot without sacrificing the final look of the film.
Shifting Gears was a challenge. Shooting on this many different cameras was a challenge. Lensing a show with the scope of a major feature on a budget a fraction of the size was a challenge. In the end though, planning was the key to making it all work and allowing each of the camera systems to bring its best qualities to the table was a smart move on our part. I’m excited to see the film come together over the next few months and to see how the plan comes together on screen.