Saul Gittens is Head of Training and Development at Procam. He runs the extensive training programme for Procam’s camera assistants and operators and works as Director of Photography on a wide range of television and commercials shoots. He studied and worked as an illustrator before moving into TV. He joined Procam at the beginning of this year. Here, he explains which cameras he shoots with and why.
As a Director of Photography, I tend to use higher-end cameras. Much of the driving force for which camera I use tends to be down to a combination of budget and logistics.
I’ve worked on all the series of Dynamo: Magician Impossible so far. We started series one on Sony PDW-F800s then by the third series we moved to Canon C300s (pictured right) to get a more filmic look. We wanted a shallow depth of field and the look you get from a large sensor. The challenge of using the camera for things like sleight of hand card tricks is you have to do a fair amount of lens changes. So we had to adapt the way we worked to accommodate this.
A huge benefit of the C300 is it can be broken down, so it’s easy to travel with. You can also strip it down and use it on a car mount, for example, so it’s very adaptable. There’s no way we could do something like that with an 800.
The C300 also has a pretty good dynamic range. A few years ago, I shot an arts programme that involved filming interviews in a car park at night. There was no lighting so I cranked the C300 up to 12,800 ISO – obviously it looked a bit grainy, but in a pleasing way. It brought out a filmic look as opposed to the unpleasant ‘noise’ typically associated with gain.
I film a lot of commercials on the Sony F55 and shoot most of these in 4K. I employ a top focus puller, which enables me to concentrate on the composition. I recently shot a spot with the F55 and Cooke S4/i lenses for a male grooming product and it gave a really beautiful picture. The sensor and frame size makes it possible to do what the big boys do in film. The F55 also regularly goes out to do beauty shots on broadcast jobs that are using a camera such as the 800.
Then there’s the Alexa. With prime lenses it gives you a complete toolbox, as opposed to a little Swiss army knife. I love the Alexa, principally because of its ease of use. It gives filmmakers back a camera that looks like a film camera, and it’s the model of choice for a lot of drama producers.
I’m using the 800 on my next big project. It ticks a lot of boxes for multi-camera productions, when you’re running around with seven or eight cameras. The DIT job can be absolutely horrific on these kind of shoots and the discs the 800 uses are much easier to manage than multiple cards, which can be a logistical nightmare.
The Sony PMW-500 is also a good choice, especially for corporate work. If you’re shooting single camera there’s not much in it between the 500 and 800. If you know your craft you can get great results with 2/3” lens models. We’re still in a REC709 world and they are perfect for this.
I’m really looking forward to using the new Alexa Mini and am excited about the whole new generation of cameras coming through. The way cameras have evolved is going to a more filmic discipline again. Focus pullers are in high demand once more. There’s a lot of interest in shooting high frame rates and it’s a bit of a fad at the moment. The Sony FS7 is really popular and is already a big favourite for scripted reality. And the XAVC codec, which it shares with the F55, has opened up the options to use it as a B camera to the F55. Cameras are like cars. People choose cars they grow up with and did their driving test in and stick with them. And I think that’s true of me and why I like Sony cameras so much.
Jake Bickerton, Special Projects Editor, Televisual