Camera kits

Sigma Cine Primes and Canon C700 capture the post-apocalypse 

Sigma Cine Primes and Canon C700 capture the post-apocalypse 

To survive in a world destroyed by global warming a family needs to make a heartbreaking decision which could split them apart forever. This is the dystopian vision of writer-director Gagan Singh whose short film Famished is being prepared for entry into film festivals worldwide.

Singh made the film with cinematographer Erick Alcaraz as part of their graduate degree in Practical Filmmaking at the Met Film School located at Ealing Studios.

It’s their second collaboration following Serbor, a relationship drama with a witchcraft twist.

For the post-apocalyptic world of Famished, the filmmakers wanted as naturalistic a look as possible. They shot for four days on location rural Hertfordshire, away from urban life, and used as much natural light as possible. That included sole use of candle light for night time scenes.

“We had to get the sense of the space our characters are trapped in, which is a cabin in the woods, and tried to use as less light as possible to suggest an isolated world where all normal systems no longer work,” explains Alcaraz. “Consequently, I needed a very fast lens but one which would be open enough to achieve depth. Once we’d established the setting, I could frame mainly on the actor’s faces since the fate of this family is primarily told through dialogue.

“I went to VMI thinking we needed Zeiss Master Primes or Cookes but when I got talking to Barry [Bassett] he suggested trying a brand new set of Sigma T1.5 Cine Primes with Canon 30-105 Cine Zoom and pairing them with the latest 4K Canon C700 camcorder which had also just arrived.”  The Sigma T1.5 Cine Primes with the Sigma Cine Cine zooms are among the latest optics available from VMI. They are available in native PL or Canon EF mounts and are also engineered for 4K with very high resolution, high contrast – perfect for the project’s 4K low light recording.

I found the look of the Sigmas amazing to be honest. The lens is quite fast, the aperture opens all the way to F1.5 and has a very quick response focus-wise. The lens is not very heavy which is quite helpful bearing in mind the weight of the camera plus all the extra accessories and this enabled us to achieve a faster production schedule which is so important when you are working on a tight budget. Also, the curvature of the lens gives a very nice contrast to the image helping to enhance the colours and shaping the faces beautifully.  So, working with candlelight was the best decision I could've take. I will definitely use them again.

Alcarez felt the Canon C700 performed fairly well in low light. “I think this camera is on the same range as the Alexa. You need to give them both an extra push in the darkest areas in order to get the best of the camera,” he says. “The camera needs to get levels of information in order to not crunch the blacks.”

When it comes to the camera’s ergonomics, Alcarez found a perfect fit for the job. “The viewfinder is one of the best ones I've ever worked with. It’s so sharp and comfortable for the eye, as well giving you full access to the menu of the camera without needing to change your position while shooting. The camera is a bit heavy over time but not as much as the ALEXA Classic is in comparison. Also, the shoulder mount that the camera has rigged is a lifesaver. Very comfortable to use with a great grip to it.”

The finished film will be around 11-12 minutes, suitable for film festival entry. Alcarez is also in charge of postproduction, editing in Premiere and grading using Resolve.

The Met’s BA in Practical Filmmaking course prepares the next generation of smart screen creatives.  It builds creative and technical skills essential to succeed in today’s film and TV industries with professional tutors and high-calibre guest speakers who teach the fundamentals of storytelling, production and screen business skills.

The course makes a virtue of real-life experience where aspiring filmmakers can build an attractive portfolio and put their knowledge into practice by working with external companies and creating projects for industry clients.

“Every time over the past year when I’ve needed equipment I’ve gone to VMI not only because they have an amazing catalogue of camera gear but because the experience is not just about renting kit,” informs Alcarez. “Barry and the other guys are always there to give advice. They take the time to listen to what I need and will make suggestions instead of trying to make the lease bigger. It’s that care and attention which I value.”

Famished will not only help Singh and Alcarez complete their degree but they hope to use it as a calling card for a higher budget feature length production.

VMI wish them the very greatest success.

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