A cinematic makeover with Blackmagic Design


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With the announcement of Blackmagic Cinema Camera at NAB 2012, Mark Linnhoff, a France based cinematographer, began to see the future of filmmaking in a new light. “Finally, an affordable acquisition tool that doesn’t compromise on image quality,” he recalled.
When I got the camera, I carried out some tests with a series of Carl Zeiss ZF.2 and Nikkor AI-S lenses. The image quality was stunning,” said Linnhoff. “I was so impressed with how sharp the image was, the level of detail in both the shadows and the highlights and the great colors and skin tones. Truly cinematic.”
Linnhoff had for sometime wanted to shoot a narrative music video. Armed with his Blackmagic Cinema Camera EF, he approached 22 year old dubstep producer and friend, Broad Rush, about a possible collaboration. After some discussion, the pair settled on the idea of Linnhoff producing and directing a music video for “Don’t Stop.”
Greater Latitude and Control
It took several weeks from the initial concept to find a suitable location [the baths of Soultzbach] and to assemble the cast. Conditions during the two day shoot couldn’t have been better according to Linnhoff. “It was cold, wet and cloudy during the shoot. Perfect weather really for creating the oppressive atmosphere I wanted. It even helped to get the actors in the right mood,” he revealed.
The narrative tells the story of a young man trying in vain to escape from his insane family. “I wanted to create a feeling of insanity and imprisonment, devoid of any life,” said Linnhoff. “To achieve that, I required the story, its characters and the location to all work as one.”
According to Linnhoff, when rigging Blackmagic Cinema Camera, there are plenty of options available using third party accessories. “I chose to use the Bebob shoulder rig. Lens wise we filmed using a mixture of Carl Zeiss CP.2, Tokina and Nikkor AI-S lenses, while a TV Logic Monitor was used for scopes.”
The music video was shot in RAW allowing Linnhoff to fully exploit the camera’s 13 stops of dynamic range. “Blackmagic Cinema Camera is an amazing tool, much more precise and flexible than DSLRs I've worked with in the past thanks to its high dynamic range, high bit depth and RAW shooting capabilities. The latter makes a big difference during post, as you have so much more control and latitude,” he said.
According to Linnhoff, some parts of “Don't Stop” had been written down and fixed in advance. However, he willingly improvised on many of the sequences, as it added more expression to the storyline. Linnhoff knew that the technical possibilities of Blackmagic’s Cinema Camera and the tools in post, including DaVinci Resolve color correction , are well suited to this particular way of working.
Situated in a valley and surrounded by high trees, the light was constantly diffuse and soft. Because of that, we didn’t need much in the way of artificial lighting, just some reflectors indoors, several Fresnels and a Kino Flo. The makeup artist also did a great job of adding fine details to the characters’ faces. I knew shooting RAW would allow more precise adjustments during the grade in Resolve, such as scars and circles around the eyes,” he said.
Creativity Knows No Boundaries
Prior to beginning the shoot, Linnhoff spent some time considering the grading process. Before the arrival of his camera, Linnhoff spent several weeks familiarizing himself with DaVinci Resolve Lite using online video tutorials. This, according to Linnhoff, is an important step for anyone not familiar with a RAW workflow.
Knowing what was possible through Resolve allowed Linnhoff to make certain judgement calls during the shoot, in particular, around the lighting of specific scenes. The second scene was especially difficult to light well he revealed, particularly the girl who stood in front of a mirror. Short on time and lacking space for setting up lights, Linnhoff underexposed the shot knowing he could correct it in Resolve.
We had a dolly moving back with a strong counter light coming from the window. We were in a rush and decided to get her a bit underexposed. I could easily heighten the exposition of the girl’s area by tracking her and adding a matte. When the boy crossed her in the foreground, I simply added a mask to cancel the correction on the girl’s area,” he said.
During the grade, Linnhoff made fine adjustments by setting his exposure, contrast and RGB balance. “I didn't add much saturation to the original look, and my goal was to track and showcase my characters using mattes and adding sharpness to some specific details, including facial details. I could easily desaturate some colors in specific areas,” he said.
I'm still impressed to see how well the tracking feature works in Resolve, even for fast movements. I find the software very complete and intuitive. To get the full Resolve license with the camera is great.
Owning a tool like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera pushes me to go further and be more creative,” explained Linnhoff. “The freedom and independence I now have means my creativity knows no boundaries.”

Tags: iss078 | blackmagic cinema camera | case study | mark linnhoff | carl zeiss | cp.2 | tonika | tv logic monitor | bebob shoulder rig | shooting | broad rush | music video | shoot | dont stop | filming | on set | Mark Linnhoff
Contributing Author Mark Linnhoff

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