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EMS June Bike Night

Essential Motorcycle Services hosted another wonderful bike night. Bike Night reminds us once again that motorcycling is much less about motorcycles and riding and much more about socializing and making new friends. Which is a similar approach we take at Picture and Color Media, while doing something totally different which is filmmaking. We really love the social aspect of making films. Getting to see, capture and share people’s happiness and emotions is extremely gratifying to us as storytellers and even something as simple as a bunch of motorcycle riders getting together to chat over a BBQ can be a great opportunity to tell an emotionally engaging story that captures the ‘feel’ of the event, rather than exhaustively capturing all of the little specifics. We are always most concerned about feel in the story more than anything else, from the smallest of stories to the largest ones. Feelings and emotions connect with our audience in way that shooting actions alone do not.

This is a very quick edit highlighting the evening. Shot on the Canon 5D Mark III with the 24-70 2.8L exclusively and supported by the Steadicam Merlin arm/vest combined with my favorite stabilizer, the CMR Blackbird.

Birthday Girl

If I’m not working on a Picture and Color Media project, I seldom bring the professional camera out. However, there are certain situations where the difference in having it is literally night and day. This casual photo shoot at my friend’s birthday dinner is one of them!

The 5D Mark III’s amazing low light capability combined with the Canon 50mm 1.2L made quick work of this dimly lit situation. The actual lighting conditions were far, far darker than what you see here. Most of these were shot between F1.2 and F2.0 with the ISO often bumping the upper range of 12,800. The Mark III remains unfazed and the noise takes on a very fine grain even at these extended ISO settings with no sign of blotchiness. This is the technology we have today!

This lesson goes back to our philosophy of always having a deep understanding of our equipment, their strengths and weaknesses and always choosing the right tool for the job. Having a nice camera does not make you creative — just like having a paintbrush does not make you a painter — but having the right tool and the right photographer who can leverage it to produce his artistic vision can make all the difference in the world.

This is what we provide here at Picture and Color Media. We bring the best equipment, but also the knowledge, creativity and confidence to use them effectively in any situation.

Creative Possibilities with 50mm F1.2

One of the things that I always like to emphasize is that lens selection is an extremely important decision for any given scene and knowing how to leverage your lenses to support your artistic vision makes all the difference in the final look and feel of your scene. It’s right up there with having the right camera for the shoot… lenses are that important! It is our job at Picture and Color Media to know our lenses intimately and know how they can help us shape a story.

One of my favorite — and most important — lenses is the Canon 50mm F1.2L. And one of the questions I get asked most frequently about this lens is ‘why’?

After all, Canon produces no less than 3 seemingly identical 50mm focal length prime lenses in their current lineup and this F1.2L version happens to be the biggest and most expensive. They start with the small but flimsy 50mm 1.8 ($120), followed by its bigger and better built brother the 50mm 1.4 ($399) and ending with the big and impressive 50mm 1.2L I use here ($1,619).

So why pay over 13x the price difference when the basic 1.8 does the job and is still a very decent lens?

The short answer is that the F1.2 goes the widest and is the sharpest and most usable wide open.

Especially on a full frame camera, this opens up creative possibilities not inherent to its slower siblings. The depth of field is exceedingly shallow, thin as a sliver in fact. This forces you to focus better and really mean business about what you are trying to say with your picture. As a story teller you are given MORE creative control by being able to pull your subject further out from your frame (if that is what you so desire).

50mm is also a very interesting focal length in terms of perspective. It is not for landscapes or wide shots, or for ordinary shots of ordinary things. It is for getting close and personal from a short distance. It’s about getting close to your subjects and being in the moment with their actions and emotions. And at F1.2, this turns even ordinary actions into extraordinary ones.

And unlike shooting shallow with an 85mm or longer focal length, the 50 does not compress the background into meaningless oblivion. Even at F1.2, you often get distinguishable background which establishes the picture’s context. This again contributes to its usefulness as a storytelling tool! This is why we love it!

Here are a few such shots of ordinary actions, made much less ordinary by use of the Canon 50mm 1.2L lens.

Portrait Film: Eric Hung, Motorcycle Racer

Eric is my friend and one of the most interesting people I know. I love making films about interesting people!

For some time we’ve discussed producing a portrait film for him detailing his racing experience on mini motorcycle.

I wanted to shoot something personal and intimate, focusing in on the person behind the sport. I wanted to take a snapshot of his routine and get a glimpse into his obsession. What drives him to wrestle this tiny motorcycle around this giant racetrack, lap after lap, season after season?

My original intention was to have him speak on camera. Unfortunately, Eric is quite shy and I could not convince him. I hate being on camera almost as much as he does, but in the end I had no choice. I really wanted his portrait film to be driven by dialogue and as he was a man of few words, I had to get behind my own lens. I hated it, but this is how badly I wanted to tell his story!

The interview you see is not perfect, but this was the best I could manage after approximately four takes! Between the camera, separate audio, positioning and the set, there are enough things to worry about in an interview shoot. When you’re both the cinematographer as well as the subject, this challenge doubles. Thankfully Roy assisted me.

The 5D Mark III shone once again. There is no Mark II footage anywhere, I used only one camera and two lenses: 50 1.2L and the 24-70 2.8L. I’ve also started to edit purely in the all-i encoded footage straight off the camera and this has expedited my workflow tremendously. There is no more need to transcode to ProRes prior to editing in FCP! What a change!

The action shots at the end turned out extremely well. I used the jib once again and I find that it is a much better tool for action work over just a tripod and fluid head. There is a lot more weight hence a lot of extra inertia to damp movements and this produces much smoother start/stops as well as transitions. The lifting and lowering action of the crane also contributes to a much more sensational production value. I’ve already had several comments that this looked like MotoGP! The rest of the footage was all stabilized by monopod.

Additionally, the Zacuto Z finder all but saved me. Without it, the LCD was all but invisible under the bright sun. I actually even used it on those fast panning shots on the jib. I stuck my eye in the viewfinder and shuffled around with the crane.

This was also a good test for rolling shutter on the Mark III. If you watch the action pans, you can indeed see some rolling shutter artifacts. They have also not improved tremendously over the Mark II. However, if this footage is any indication, I really don’t consider this an issue. I think rolling shutter complaints tend to be exaggerated and rarely do they affect actual footage. I mean, I was moving the camera pretty fast here to keep up with the bikes!


Roy is a fourth year Finance student at the Sauder School of Business in the University of British Columbia.

This year he participated in the NAIOP commercial real estate competition and his team not only made it into the finals, but also brought home the gold for UBC.

I spoke with him shortly after his competition and we talked at length about the many late nights he spent on campus with his team to meet deadlines and the many sacrifices he had to make in the weeks leading up to the competition. This is the promo length interview. The extended edition with much more content is embedded below.

Roy’s enthusiasm for commercial real estate was apparent in everything he did. This is a young man passionate about his work.

He is also an exceptional speaker. This entire interview was completed in one near perfect take. He is — without exaggeration — one of the best interviewees I’ve ever worked with.

On the tech side I had the 5D Mark III as my main camera mounted to the Canon 50mm 1.2L lens. It gave me a chance to test out the new audio capabilities of the Mark III starting with the headphone jack. It works brilliantly and finally being able to monitor audio as well as adjust it silently during recoding is a such a joy. I had a Rode Video Mic plugged into the camera that provided very usable audio, if a little bit boxy sounding. The main audio was provided separately with my Tascam DR-40 recorder. This is the track you hear in the final film. It is excellent.

B Camera was provided by my Mark II mounted on a jib. Picture profiles were matched as well as white balance. Out of the camera, both footage looked very similar and entirely interchangeable. However, I did run into several problems in post. For starters, the EOS plugin for Final Cut Pro does not recognize mkIII footage so the Log & Transfer feature was unavailable. I tried to transcode to ProRes via Compressor but the transcoded footage turned out with a severe color shift to magenta. This most likely has to do with the mkIII’s switch to Rec 709 and the different color space.

I did get the transcode right when I used 5D to RGB app to transcode instead of Compressor. With the 709 Matrix selected and the full 16-235 range, I got identical output compared to my original files.

However, things did not end there. After my several hour edit, I happily exported to H264 for web using my normal routine (x264 encoder) and the output had shifted colors again. I have yet to find a proper solution. I will do some testing with editing the files directly off the camera. Since the MkIII now uses an All-I codec, those files should be easier for my iMac to handle.

A huge thank you to Faye Tong for operating my B Camera so expertly. I especially love the shot at the end.

Here is the much longer extended edition of the film, with more details for audiences interested in the NAIOP competition: