Canon C300 Handles the Heat, Humidity During Feature Film Shoot

Equatorial heat and humidity, sporadic electrical service, and a modest budget were just a few of the challenges that director Josef Wladyka and writer/DP Alan Blanco faced while filming their feature Manos Sucias (Dirty Hands) among the impoverished fishing villages of Colombia’s Pacific coast. They also filmed in the jungle and aboard small boats in rough seas, all while needing to keep a low profile in a dangerous region. Wladyka and Blanco met all of these challenges with the help of compact EOS C300 Cinema cameras and professional lenses from Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions.

Filmed completely on location, Manos Sucias is a drama depicting the perils of two fishermen coerced into towing an underwater narco-torpedo up the Pacific coast of Colombia.

“The Canon EOS C300 Cinema camera was a great fit for this project,” Blanco said. “It gave us fabulous, robust imagery and it fits into a backpack. Many digital cinematography cameras are like computers with cameras attached to them. You have to boot them up, and in the two minutes it would have taken us to do that we could have lost the shot. The EOS C300 is a camera first and foremost, and that’s what we love about it. We were in very unpredictable places, but I could turn the EOS C300 camera on and be ready to roll.”

With bodies weighing just over three pounds, the two Canon EOS C300 Cinema cameras – and an assortment of Canon CN-E Series Cinema prime lenses and Canon EF-Series zoom lenses – enabled Wladyka, Blanco, and their small crew to carry their own gear, maintaining a highly mobile and naturalistic hand-held production style. Far from any rental house or other support services, they say that larger cameras might not only have bogged them down, but could have been disastrous while shooting in stilted houses built on pilings over Buenaventura harbor. “Heavy equipment could have fallen right through the floor and into the bay,” Blanco explained.

“The Canon EOS C300 Cinema camera was a Godsend for us in those locations,” Wladyka elaborated. “It is very ergonomic, with a small body that let me place it in different parts of a moving taxi-van, or alongside a moving boat, or in a cramped jungle area. It doesn’t have a large profile that prevented me from being able to handle it the way I wanted to, which helped maintain a lot of the energy and claustrophobia we were going for in certain scenes.”

The Canon EOS C300 Cinema camera is equipped with the Emmy Award winning high-sensitivity Canon Super 35mm CMOS sensor, outstanding Canon DIGIC DV III image processor, and a 50 Mbps 4:2:2 MPEG-2 codec for superb cinematic picture quality. The EOS C300 Cinema camera is engineered to deliver full 1920 x 1080 HD and provides a selectable ISO range up to 20,000 for outstanding low-light performance.

“The Canon EOS C300 Cinema camera’s image definitely gave us a lot of play room in post to fix and accentuate things and maintain a really strong cinema look,” Blanco confirmed, noting that he recorded all footage in Canon Log Gamma. This setting captures the full exposure latitude that the camera’s Super 35mm CMOS sensor is capable of delivering for film-style dynamic range between shadows and highlights, which is essential for achieving cinematic subtleties in post-production color grading.

“Canon Log gave us a lot of great latitude, color, and saturation while also maintaining a very small media size,” Blanco said. “We could shoot all day on CF cards that fit in your pocket and not have to immediately download to hard drives in places that didn’t have reliable electricity. We were able to wait until we got back to home base to download the cards because the files themselves were not huge, yet they made an image that was really strong.”

“Shooting on the camera’s CF cards was a great experience,” Wladyka elaborated. “It made it easier and quicker to shoot. Our entire cast was basically from the Buenaventura area, and I wanted to capture as much ‘life in front of the camera’ as possible, so we were rolling all the time. Recording to CF cards let us do a lot of takes, a lot of improvising. I could keep the camera rolling and didn’t need to call ‘Cut!’ That kind of technique was perfect for this kind of film.”

“The Canon EOS C300 is definitely a moviemaking camera, made for shooting motion footage,” he stated. “Despite all the logistical challenges, I was never willing to sacrifice a big-screen, cinematic look, and the Canon EOS C300 camera was perfect to meet all our requirements.”

Designed with input from the worldwide motion picture community, the Canon EOS C300 Cinema camera is engineered to integrate features that serve the unique requirements of filmmakers. Examples include 15 customizable control buttons and a removable four-inch 1.23 megapixel LCD monitor that rotates 135 degrees left/right or 270 degrees down and is mountable directly on the camera body or to a removable top-handle.

“Being able to change the location of the camera’s LCD monitor to pretty much accommodate all various shooting positions was very convenient,” Blanco stated. “I was also very glad to have everything I wanted where and when I needed it at the touch of a button. That included a magnify button to allow me to check my critical focus during a take. I could change the customizable buttons quickly if I needed to hold the camera in some special way to shoot off my shoulder, or my hip, or while hanging off of a boat. I think some of the other digital cinematography cameras just would not have worked for us. It would have been ridiculous if I had to go through touch-screen menus to try to change a camera feature when it’s humid and sweaty and there’s saltwater everywhere.”

Also crucial to the Manos Sucias production style was the low-light capabilities of the Canon EOS C300 Cinema camera, Blanco noted. “A large lighting department needs a big crew, which wouldn’t have worked for our stealthy filmmaking style,” he said. “We also needed to shoot interiors to show the home life of our characters, but many of those places didn’t have dependable electricity, so movie lights would have been dangerous. Being able to use natural lighting with our Canon EOS C300 Cinema cameras and Canon lenses definitely helped us shoot what we wanted while also staying safe.”

Blanco noted how the low-light advantages of the Canon EOS C300 Cinema camera also enabled him to capture the unique quality of equatorial sunlight at specific times of the day. “Blue hour – when the light is starting to fill the sky but just before there is direct sun – is gorgeous,” he explained. “The EOS C300 cameras and our Canon lenses are so fast we were able to get really beautiful blue hour images as the main characters were shoving off in the morning to tow their torpedo, and when they were putting up for the night, building camp.”

“Our two mounted LED light panels, follow-focus, external monitor, and other accessories all had their own power needs and drained our external batteries. The Canon EOS C300 Cinema camera, however, was basically powered all day by four Canon batteries – and that was with the higher shooting ratio we were going for with improv to capture performances. When it came to batteries, it was never the camera that slowed us down.”

Lenses used to shoot Manos Sucias included three Canon Cinema prime lenses (the CN-E24mm T1.5 LF, CN-E50mm T1.3 LF, and the CN-E85mm T1.3 LF) and four Canon EF-series zoom lenses (the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM).