DP, Tim Arasheben gives us an inside look at what it's like to shot with Canon's 50-1000mm lens on set on the short film, “Connections." Learn the pros and cons of the lens, along with info about the short and what projects Arasheben has set for the future.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about "Connections" and where the idea for the short film came from?
A: “Connections” is a short film about 10 people, 5 stories, and 1 city…..Los Angeles. The individual characters intersect through the story and the city plays a character as well, acting as a forum where each scene plays out. The idea stemmed from character driven films from the 1970’s American Cinema (specifically “THE LONG GOODBYE” 1973 by R. Altman), also multi-character / multi-layered films like “MAGNOLIA” 1999 by P.T. Anderson.
Q: Why did you choose to use the Canon 50-1000mm lens? How was your experience with it?
A: We chose the Canon CINE-SERVO 50-1000mm T5.0-8.9 lens based on the unprecedented zoom range. The ability to cover the real estate between 50mm and 1000mm gave us the opportunity to create a stage for the actors to perform from very far distances while maintaining conventional coverage I.E. – close-ups, over-the-shoulder, medium, and master shots all in one take. Every shot in the film was a “one-r” where the lens would utilize the entire range from 50mm to 1000mm, or vice-versa, depending on the performance and location. Our experience with the lens was very good, because the lens gives great versatility while maintaining a very high optical standard. In fact, a zoom lens traditionally has some hindrances like heavy breathing and lack of accurate tracking, but with the Canon CINE-SERVO 50-1000mm T5.0-8.9 lens, it was just the contrary. Whiling prepping at Panavision Hollywood, the lens techs put this thing through its paces, and we’re very surprised at how well it tracked with minimal breathing --we were all very impressed by the technical performance!
Q: What pros and cons did you notice from using the Canon 50-1000mm lens?
A: The Canon CINE-SERVO 50-1000mm T5.0-8.9 is inherently sharp and contrasty, which can be a little difficult to deal with on large locations that don’t allow for huge light fill instruments that help control contrast. We avoided the urge to use any filtration for softening, because the Canon EOS C500 with C-LOG gave us the opportunity to offset that contrast from the image sensor. We produced this film in 2.40:1 Super Anamorphic format, so we had to have a lens that would track perfectly, and we got exactly that from the Canon CINE-SERVO 50-1000mm T5.0-8.9! Admittedly, I usually prefer glass that is more forgiving in the highlights and complimentary to the texture of the actors’ faces. For this reason I mostly opt to use Panavision “C” and “E” series Anamorphics, Panavision Primo spherical lenses, or the Vintage Panavision Leica “R” lenses for a more flattering and rounded look, but the Canon CINE-SERVO 50-1000mm T5.0-8.9, proved to be a great all-around tool. Also, a very surprising and welcomed element of the Canon CINE-SERVO 50-1000mm T5.0-8.9 lens was the bokeh. The bokeh was natural and rounded, which is difficult to find in a sharp zoom lens, especially stopped down around T8.0. The 11 blade iris was extremely pleasing to the eye!
Q: What other equipment did you use to get the look you wanted for the short film?
A: The two most important factors when it comes to gear is of course the lens and the camera, in that order for me. We shot the entire project (Principal, 2ND Unit, and Title Sequence) with the Canon CINE-SERVO 50-1000mm T5.0-8.9 lens. The camera was the Canon EOS C500 in 4K mode with an Odyssey 7Q+ recorder. The main challenge of using so many elements that are inherently modular is the camera rig, and that’s where the Cinoflex Camera System played a big part. The Cinoflex type35X gave us the ability to have all the power, video distribution, and camera accessories boiled down to a streamlined and professional manner. The Cinoflex gives the Camera Assistant, Camera Operator, and D.P. the opportunity to maintain all the factors and elements of a traditional camera (I.E. Panavision Millennium XL – Panavision Gold2) while using the newest camera technology and essential parts. Other vital and crucial tools we used include the PRESTON FIZ3 remote focus and zoom system, TV LOGIC 5.5 HD Full Pixel Monitor, ODYSSEY7Q+ 4K Canon RAW Recorder, Panavision Panahead, Oconnor 2575 Fluidhead, Cinoflex Mitchell Mount Stabilizer, Teradek Bolt Wireless HD Video System, Panavision 6X6 Clip-on Mattebox, and Switronix 98H OB Batteries.
Q: Can you share any challenges you came across while filming the short?
A: There are so many challenges, it’s truly a miracle any project ever gets made. For us specifically, we had so many logistical and practical challenges, including 40 practical shooting locations in Downtown Los Angeles and 10 different cast members. Because the film was made to look like to stories and characters were unfolding right in front of the viewers’ eyes for the first time ever, we had to be very cognizant of the camera placement and spatial relationship to the performance. The staging and blocking was a big challenge, because every scene is shot as one take with no cuts. This required exact blocking, timing, and staging that would allow the actors to fall into their own specific coverage during the shot. The lens helped with the fluid movement in the zoom, and the compression helped in making the actors cheat to camera more natural. This meant that the camera and crew would sometimes be on the roof of a skyscraper, while the actors were walking down an avenue 5 blocks away. Other times, the camera would be on a fire escape and the cast would be performing inside a loft half a mile away. Communication, scouting, and rehearsal were absolute key factors in pulling off a project like this. At the end of the day, we “put all the pages in the camera,” meaning we accomplished the day’s task. Any success for this project belongs exclusively to the awesome cast and crew. The cast was patient and attentive, which translates equally to the look of the film. And the crew was beyond good, especially the focus puller (Sherri Miranda), who was sweating 100% of the shoot. The focus and lens compensation was so important that the entire shot was dependent on Sherri. Without her impressive skill and tenacity for focus, we would have had nothing!!!!
Q: Do you have any more short films on the horizon?
A: Yes, we’re working on a few projects currently. Mostly taking actors we’ve worked with previously and writing projects exactly for them, while shooting visual styles with different formats and specific lenses. We just shot the last project ever to be filmed at the Rivera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. It is a heist-type film, utilizing the entire casino and all the wonderful production design that was just sitting there. Our next project is written specifically for Kimberly Cozzens (the lead in Connections), it’s a type of spy/action/thriller that revolves around a singular woman, who plays both sides, and has a totally different look in every scene.