Capturing natural magic in 8K with Red EPIC-W
Shooting high resolution video to extract useable frames has become a handy and relatively common technique in live sports and feature film visual effects but Banana Split Productions has made ingenious use of it in order to capture the natural magic of a child’s performance.
The boutique commercials agency and production company is among the first to make use of the Red EPIC-W with HELIUM sensor for a TV spot and is arguably the first anywhere outside Hollywood to record 8K against green screen.
The creative brief for Hasbro toy brand My Little Pony depicts two young children at home enjoying a colouring book and letting their imaginations roam free as the My Little Pony world magically appears all around them.
Normally this would have been filmed over a couple of days, including one in a full green screen studio, but in order to the meet the tight turnaround date, Banana Split producer Anne-Maria Wilson and director Ian Sciacaluga decided to film it all on location in just a single day, arranging for a green screen to be set up in the basement of a suburban house in South London.
What may have been a risky decision for such a high profile project was nullified by the choice of acquisition source.
“When you are working with child performers not only are you limited by the time allowed with them but you never really know where the best moments of their performance will be,” explains director of photography Jonathan Beech. “Often the most naturalistic and magic moments are in the wides rather than the close ups. Shooting at the highest resolution possible with the safety net of being able to reframe in the edit was the essential luxury the EPIC-W enabled.”
There are other cameras with 8K sensors but what made the Red model particularly attractive to the team was its ability to output Avid files. The camera can also be switched to output Apple ProRes but an Avid format suited Banana Splits’ post production route. Files could be converted onboard the camera from Red Raw and seamlessly transferred to the edit making significant time savings.
The camera is able to simultaneously record 8K Red Raw and 4K Avid files speeding up render time by being in a edit-ready format and allowing the director the option of going back to the 8K source to extract those ‘one time only’ magic moments.
Despite having used Reds before, Beech made sure to run extensive tests with the new camera at VMI.
“We wanted to know how the menus and codecs worked, how the camera functioned under different circumstances and what we could and couldn’t do with it,” he explains. “There can be the odd gremlin in firmware with new cameras so we were just double and triple checking. We spent a whole day at VMI and the technicians there gave us all the knowledge they had which put us in good stead.”
As it turned out, the camera performed brilliantly with no technical issues at all.
A set of Zeiss Master Primes was chosen to complement the sharpness of the 8K image.
“At the end of the day you can always make a picture softer in post but you can’t really make it sharper,” Beech says. “As soon as I put the Prime lens on and looked at the picture I realised I was looking at a filmic image. The camera’s different grading options gives you more latitude at the top end of the curve for more detail in whites or blacks. Although we didn’t need to use the full dynamic range of the camera in this instance, it’s exciting to realise just how much flexibility in terms of grading options the EPIC-W offers. It seems limitless.”
The spot is being edited in house at Banana Split and airs on February 22.
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