CODEX + CANON COLLABORATION
As Canon developed the Canon Cinema EOS C700 camera, they naturally turned to Codex. The leading manufacturer of recording technology, media and workflow for digital cinematography. Over the course of 2017, Codex worked closely with Canon as they rolled out the C700, including collaborating on the first short film to be shot with it – The Calling.
Directed by Canon Explorer of Light Tyler Stableford and shot by cinematographer Russell Carpenter ASC (Titanic, Charlie’s Angels, Ant-Man), The Calling profiles three people pursuing their dreams in Western Colorado and paired Tyler and Russell up for the first time. It was filmed around Tyler’s hometown – Carbondale, Colorado - over a few days in October 2016. We recently had the chance to catch up Tyler and Russell and find out more about their collaboration on this project.
Tyler, tell us about working with Russell? When did you first get together with him to start planning the shoot?
I really adored working with Russell. He is a dear-hearted man, with such a detailed eye for lighting, framing and motion. We connected two weeks prior to shooting The Calling for the director’s scout. I hadn’t met him before; he was relatively quiet during our scout, taking all the information in, listening attentively. That quietness transformed to spirited action during our tech scout just prior to the shoot, with a great series of inspirations and plans that he developed from all of our research. It was really fun to witness!
When Canon first approached you about this project, did you immediately have an idea of what you wanted to shoot?
Our producer Steve Tobenkin called and invited me to partner with him on the pitch for this film; and really the idea for the film was entirely his — he suggested we feature the real life characters of a cowboy, a distiller and a rock climber here in my hometown of Carbondale, Colorado. He had worked on a project with me here a couple of years ago, and loved the people and scenery of western Colorado. We discussed other possible characters, anything that might be cinematic and show craftsmanship, and we landed right back with his original ideas, as these really seemed to be the best fits. From there, I began writing the script, and Steve and I edited it and condensed it to its final iteration.
Were you aware of Codex before this project?
I feel silly admitting that I was not aware of Codex before this project. But boy was I impressed with both the technology and the people who stand behind Codex! In truth, the Codex crew were always the smartest people in the room during our shoot. We were working with two production sample C700 cameras, really the only two cameras in the U.S. at the time, with no user manuals — so much of what Codex was helping us with was honing in on the potential looks, and really pushing and testing the imaging capabilities of the C700. All of which we found to be very impressive with the 12-bit RAW recording!
How about you Russell? What was your experience with Codex prior to shooting The Calling?
I’d had uneven experiences before shooting with other companies providing digital RAW recorders, mainly because the recorders were not attached directly to the camera body and connections between the camera and the recorder were not robust enough for feature films to facilitate uninterrupted recording with no “drop outs”. This was frustrating, but it was heartening that Codex addressed these problems with the camera manufacturers and developed a completely dependable system, whether the recorder was onboard or separate. I first realised this on Ant-Man for Marvel Studios when I used ALEXA XT cameras with Codex recording inside.
How involved were you with the workflow Tyler? Did you view dailies in the production van?
As director I was not intimately involved with the digital workflow, as I simply didn’t have the time during the long shoot days to spend more than a few minutes at a time in the workflow van. That said, I certainly kept a close eye as often as I could, providing input wherever it was helpful — but really Russell oversaw the workflow with Brian Gaffney and Chris Chrisenbery from Codex.
Russell, what is your approach to dailies? Do you grade your dailies or just use LUTs?
I tend to use just one or two LUTs and create my imagery around those. As in the film days, I find that if the dailies are being graded each day for me, I may get a bit lost or not see when I’m getting into trouble with my exposures. So I keep it simple!
And do you use a DIT on-set? Tell us about your relationship with your DIT? What do you rely on him/her for?
In a feature situation, I converse with the DIT all the time, as we’ve worked out LUTs in pre-production and he or she knows the intended look of the film very well. We are always discussing the shadows and highlights and the colour balance, determining what we might want to let go of in the exposure extremes and what we will want to make sure we retain. However, there are often situations on action films where my operators are going “free range”... I really like the idea that when operating the C700, the operator can use the "in eyepiece" waveform monitor to immediately switch between the chosen LUT and Canon Log to make critical exposure decisions.
How important is a solid workflow to you when you’re choosing a camera? Or is it all about the image?
For me, it’s all about the image - but having a rock-solid workflow is critical to achieving that end. With the advent of digital cinematography, so many people have been working so hard to develop methodologies that ensure the artistry of everyone participating endures from capture to presentation. It’s so important that the different components of image capture co-ordinate well together… and it’s good to see that Canon and Codex have worked together to make that happen.
“…IT WAS HEARTENING THAT CODEX ADDRESSED THESE PROBLEMS WITH THE CAMERA MANUFACTURERS AND DEVELOPED A COMPLETELY DEPENDABLE SYSTEM, WHETHER THE RECORDER WAS ONBOARD OR SEPARATE”
What were your thoughts when you saw the images on the big screen at SHED?
I was very happy with the Canon C700/Codex combination because of the way subtle nuance was rendered in the faces of the people we photographed. I still think the most important thing any camera can do is see the subtleties in the “facial landscape”.
Tyler, do you have plans to use the C700 again?
Yes! I am working on a potential short film featuring ski patrollers doing avalanche control work at 12,000 feet, where the latitude of the C700 will be a real boon in the challenging natural light. I am also eager to use it for upcoming TV commercial work - so much of my outdoor cinematography involves heavily backlight scenes at sunrise and sunset, with fast-moving setups and relatively small lighting kits; in these situations, having the latitude of the C700 with Codex RAW recording is a huge asset for both holding the highlight and shadow information, as well as bringing up subtle shadow details in the color grade when needed. This can really save us lighting time on set.
And Russell, why should someone choose to shoot with the C700, given all the camera choices available today?
I think the most immediate reason to shoot with the C700 is that it’s a 4K camera in a very production friendly package that when paired with the Codex recorder, provides a 15 stop latitude, great color space, in a very robust system that provides feature quality imagery in a combat-tough camera package.
Now watch the final piece...
Images courtesy their respective owners.
Read more about the Codex + Canon relationship