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Moving Portraits

An intimate filmic portrait of Henry Holland seen

Article From Canon Professional Network published February 2014. For a new series of moving portraits looking under the skin of some of the fashion industries most famous and influential people, photographer and filmmaker Clive Booth, turned to the Canon Cinema EOS C500. For the first film in the series, focusing on fashion designer Henry Holland, he was looking to take advantage of the C500’s 4K shooting capabilities, and a whole lot more. Booth tells CPN reporter James Morris about his long-standing relationship with Canon EOS, and how the C500 has enabled shooting capabilities that weren’t possible before.


“My relationship with Canon goes back some time,” explains Booth.” In 2006, I was recognized for my work by legendary fashion photographer and founder of SHOWstudio Nick Knight, when he saw pictures I had taken with a Canon EOS 5D and 85mm prime lens, of a party held by Moet & Chandon. He subsequently commissioned me to shoot at London Fashion Week. I went on to shoot for big brands like L’Oreal, MAC Cosmetics and Louis Vuitton. In 2008 Canon loaned me a pre-production Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and in collaboration with fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic, I used it to film a fashion show at the Victoria & Albert Museum. One of the first DSLR films shot in the U.K.” This became a recurring theme that Booth has been dipping in and out of ever since. “I was shooting in low light, which I suppose is a kind of signature style of mine,” continues Booth. “Back then stills cameras only shot stills and the models didn’t even know I was shooting video;. But once the clients saw the end results, they all wanted moving pictures and before I knew it, I was making commercials and short films!” Booth had made adventure films before turning to fashion photography. For example, in the nineties he shot several films including a documentary set over two months, in the High Arctic living on a Glacier amongst Polar bears, as well as climbing and filming on the Eiger in Switzerland for BBC’s Blue Peter. So this was as much a return as it was a new area for him.


“Nick Knight and I discussed it, and thought, why don’t we shoot moving portraits of influential and famous people within the fashion industry and then make the entire creative and technical process available to the SHOWstudio audience online”


The Henry Holland project came out of Booth’s continued involvement with SHOWstudio, Nick Knight’s award winning fashion website that consistently pushes the boundaries of communicating fashion online. “The idea of the moving portrait was there in 2010, after I shot a series of moving portraits of Don McCullin for Intel,” explains Booth. “Nick Knight and I discussed it, and thought, why don’t we shoot moving portraits of influential and famous people within the fashion industry and then make the entire creative and technical process available to the SHOWstudio audience online. From the initial interviews, ideas, sketches, notes and film treatments, through to lighting plans, equipment lists and pre/post production workflow.” Last year Canon invited me to collaborate with fashion designer Henry Holland, shooting his A/W2013 look book on a 5D MK III and simultaneously making my first 4K film on several C500’s. I quickly realised he would make an excellent first subject for a moving portrait. He’s dynamic, energetic, charismatic and successful, very engaging and above all an interesting character. As a brand ‘House of Holland’ is hugely successful, but this portrait was to be more about him as a person. The portraits are not necessarily about what the sitter does, but more about them as individuals. So the idea of the film was to get under his skin; who is Henry Holland? What motivates and what drives him.


Booth and project development partner Neal Bryant from SHOWstudio put together a 70-point questionnaire, and then interviewed Henry Holland at Angel Studios in London. “Sound is so often neglected in filmmaking and I was eager that in this project it would have equal kudos,” argues Booth. “We recorded a whopping 11 Gigabytes of wav files with multiple boom and shotgun mics. We also filmed Henry being interviewed in 4K some of which was used in the final film as well as being edited into a separate film for SHOWstudio. Originally, we thought about having the portrait revolve around Henry’s influences. But after talking to him, I decided to take pertinent or interesting answers from the interview and turn them into little cameos. For example, he talked about meeting the Queen, so I created a whole sequence of Henry waving a giant union jack, which was later cut to its own musical score. I took the answers and wrote a film treatment, then used the treatment along with a shooting list to make the film.” For Booth, preparation is absolutely paramount. “It took a huge amount of preparation to achieve everything in a single day shoot,” he explains. Achieving all the different visual looks Booth wanted, required a significant amount of planning. “We had to choreograph the shoot, to illustrate the different elements,” he explains “I wanted to open the film with an embryonic Henry. To achieve this we used a 12 foot diameter, motorized turntable usually used at the motor show. A very expensive piece of kit, had it covered in black velvet, then lit and rotated Henry with a single light at floor level. In the final film, we use mixes and dissolves to show transitions in both scale and time. Then because he travels a lot, I added an airline seat in another part of the studio. Interestingly, Henry hates the sound of couples kissing and cuddling on the tube, so we used mannequins, set up in yet another part of the studio, to illustrate fictitious passengers. We produced it with enough kit to light everything at the same time and moved from set to set. This approach of not having to keep breaking down and building new sets, enabled us to meet my hugely ambitious shot list.”


Additional cameras, the grip equipment and the lights were supplied by Pixipixel. “We shot with tungsten lights,” adds Booth. “One of the great things about working with the C300 and C500 is that the starting point, the optimum configuration, is 850 ISO, so immediately you’ve got a camera that is very sensitive in low light. In fact, one of the things I’ve had to get to used to since using c300 and c500 is just how sensitive they are to light. We used 100W Dedo’s, as well as 650W, 1k, 2K and 5K for lighting the background. We diffused through silks and at times the built in ND filters were very useful” The shoot required a lot of camera kit, too. “On the day we had four C500s, three EF mount and one PL, and three Codex, Onboard S recorders plus the Codex Vault with an 8TB RAID drive. We had a data acquisition person from Codex to help manage the work flow.” Although Booth had both types of mount at his disposal, his preference was for the EF C500s. “Although I love the Cinema EOS lenses, I generally bring up to 15 EF stills lenses of my own. I like the capability of throwing a favourite EF lens on when and if I need it to fill a gap in the focal lengths of the Cinema EOS lenses. On the day of the shoot we used only Cinema EOS lenses. My favourites were the Cinema CN-E14.5-60mm T2.5 L S for low angle wide shots and then the superb CN-E85mm T1.3 L F, CN-E50mm T1.3 L F, and CN-E24 T1.5 L F primes for mid and tight portraits.”


“I’m a big fan of Canon lenses,” adds Booth. “Prior to shooting with moving imagery, I built a career around the EF85mm f/1.2L II USM, so it’s a natural progression to work with Cinema EOS. The lenses are incredibly robust and reliable, beautifully smooth to work with. There’s a progressive aperture curve, rather than clicky. And of course you can get that beautiful Bokeh, as they are such fast lenses.” The natural progression from still photography was a key attraction of the C500. “As a photographer I like the fact I’ve got a camera in my hand. I use continuous light, and I can run and gun. With film, the equipment starts to grow. For example matte boxes and microphones start being attached. Then it has to go on a tripod. One of the things I learnt early, and this may sound obvious because its easy to overlook when you are used to shooting stills, is that with film, you have the option to move the camera as well as the subject. There’s also a difference shooting for the Web rather than cinema. A short piece can have lots of movement. Shooting for the big screen or longer viewing times doesn’t necessarily follow. I wanted to be able to do both – static, but also hand held, dolly and jib shots.”


The C500 proved supremely capable at meeting these needs. “In the flag sequence, we were using the 14.5mm lens very low, so the flag is almost brushing the camera. There was dynamism as it moved away and then close to the lens. The use of a dolly and track gives the film a cinematic feel. I love Kubrick’s slow tracking shots and his approach to film has been a big influence on me. In particular his film Barry Lyndon; one of the best films nobody’s ever heard of! With those setups you can have a matte box and follow focus on the C500. But at other times I wanted to hold the camera in my hand, so stripped it down to camera and lens, with just the BNC cables to the Codex recorder and an external monitor. Then it was like working with a stills camera. And actually, not a lot heavier than working with a 1DX. There was a lovely feel to it. Very nice, very simple to work with. Working off the built in monitor with the crew watching on from the additional OLED on set.” The C500’s other main strength is of course its ability to shoot in 4K, which had more benefits than just the quality of the footage for moving image usage. “With the C500 and Codex recorder you can pull usable hi-res stills from every frame, depending on light, shutter speed, and the amount of motion you want,” argues Booth. “Each frame from a codex recorder is a 12.5Mbyte RMF (Raw Media File), whether it be 23.98, 24, 25, 30, or 60 frames per second, and 4K resolution. You can export a TIFF or DPX, and you get a 34Mbyte 10-bit file. Ping that into 16-bit Photoshop and you get a 50Mbyte file. I’ve been making prints from 4K captures up to A1 in size. If you shoot C500 video in 4K, you can pull a still that is totally usable for all forms of online and most forms of print advertising. That’s a huge advantage.”


Despite being shot in 4K, Henry Holland’s postproduction has proven unproblematic. Footage was recorded onto the Codex Onboard S units, which were located on a central work surface and connected to the C500s via BNC cables. The data was collected on solid-state disks. The data management team periodically transferred these to the Codex Vault, which stores it on its 8TB RAID and then archives to LTO-5 tape drives. 4 Terabytes of 4K footage was transcoded to ProRes 4:4:4 for editing offline with Booths long time editor Tristram Edwards in Adobe Premiere Pro. The Edit Decision List (EDL) and XML files from the offline edit were sent to Codex, who then took the sections indicated by the EDL from the full 4K Raw files and sent these for grading, at Booths usual Postproduction house, Nice Biscuits on Da Vinci Resolve for later conform, final online FX and post using Autodesk Flame Premium.


“In the future, we will be editing 4K straight away from Premiere,” suggests Booth. “It’s going to become a lot easier. But grading on a Grade 1 monitor is very important, as I can be certain of the final look and feel for colour, tone and contrast. You are often looking at footage on non-4K monitors, and have to zoom and look around the frame, never getting the true, full picture and Canon is one of the first manufacturers to now produce a full 4K grade 1 reference monitor which makes the future of 4K hugely exciting” Grading was particularly important because Booth always shoots in Canon Log. “I just want the camera to capture the data in the cleanest way possible. I don’t want or need to put a profile in the camera. Canon Log terrifies clients, because it looks flat and milky until you grade it although it is possible to shoot Canon log and view with a profile if necessary. Wherever possible I like to shoot everything in camera and this film was no different, leaving very few visual effects in post.” Sound wasn’t an important part of the shoot at Park Royal Studios, as this had already been recorded during the interview at Angel Studios. “We did record backstage sound on set, but didn’t use it in the finished film,” adds Booth. “We used Henry’s voice-over instead.” Music has been written specifically for the film by Stu Sibley, a long time associate of SHOWstudio and dubbed by sound engineer Tim Lofts at Scramble studios. “The music was critical to the impact of the finished film and having it written specially by Stu was one of the most exciting parts of this particular project for me and I’d encourage everyone to put on their headphones to get the full benefit!”. Booth wants to give a special mention to Henry Holland’s contribution to his profile. “Henry gave an incredible performance on both days,” he enthuses. “The film wouldn’t be what it is without his openness, honesty and energy. Directing someone to dance in front of a whole crew is asking a lot. He was also running for an hour, so we could get real beads of sweat (not sprayed on) for effect. The piece finishes with the sound of Henry’s heartbeat, as sweat pours down his face!”


If Henry Holland was the eponymous star of the show, the Canon Cinema EOS C500 was the unsung hero behind the scenes. “The size and weight are an obvious advantage,” argues Booth. “But also the punch it packs within that: 4K @10-bit, [email protected], frame rates up to 60fps at full 4K, great lenses, great optics, the look you get from the camera. The other big advantage is the reliability. You can take it for granted. I’ve never, ever had a camera break down. Nor a Codex recorder, for that matter. They just go and go. When I’ve worked on documentaries I’ve found the battery life is amazing too. There are other comparable cameras that have many more issues in these areas. It’s a small camera that packs a big, big punch, and just keeps going.You come from photography and you want to hold a camera in your hand,” Booth continues. “But you can also configure it as a big movie camera. For this project I was drawn to the resolution in 4K and It’s really exciting that you can shoot at this with a camera that you can hold in the palm of your hand. For Henry Holland, I aimed as high as I could, and couldn’t aim any higher. This is a 4K film with cinema quality picture and sound. The finished film will be about 350GB for a 7-minute film in DPX format, so that’s a lot of data. Last year I was asked to work on a film project, and they wanted me to use another manufacturer’s camera,” adds Booth. “I said no! For me, in terms of what I do, Canon is the only brand in the world that offers me a product to fit every category of my creative workflow: stills cameras, film cameras, lenses, large format printers and even archival papers. And it offers these to me as “best-in-class” in each case. The Cinema EOS C500, fast, compact, Cinema EOS optics, 4K, frame rates at up to 60fps, and faster below 4K. You can shoot a movie, a documentary or you can shoot a teaser or commercial and you can pull out a high resolution still frame with enough resolution to print from. I can’t think of a product that can compete with it. Canon is the only brand I know that ticks every box for my creative output.”