In an increasingly visual age, high-quality images are a vitally important element of brand promotion. So when luxury river yacht company Woods’ Silver Fleet commissioned a promotional film for its flagship, Silver Sturgeon, they wanted to create something special.
“Woods’ wanted us to separate the Silver Sturgeon from being just another tourist boat and to articulate an upmarket experience,” says the films’ producer and director James Bennett, of content marketing agency Televisual Creative.
“To achieve that aim, we wanted the film to have a cinematic, dream-like quality that captured the essence of being on board the river yacht, rather than a more obvious personality-driven corporate marketing piece, and we didn’t want copious shots of smiley people accepting drinks and taking selfies.”
To meet the requirements of the brief, the only way to go was to shoot in 4K. To capture HDR shots both in bright daylight and at night, the team turned to the Canon EOS C700, with its 15 stops of dynamic range. “We chose to shoot Codex RAW for the widest possible colour space ahead of an ACES workflow,” adds Bennett. “I was keen to see how the C700 would manage a P3 cinematic image for an HDR deliverable. The resulting 50p aerial sequences are particularly beautiful.”
In assembling his creative team, Bennett brought on board the highly experienced Director of Photography Brett Danton, who had already made several films with the C700 since its launch in late 2016. The shoot took place over three days, during day and night, shooting from the river and separately from a helicopter. The First Unit comprised award-winning cinematographer Steve Lawes, whose credits include the BBC’s critically acclaimed Sherlock, Silent Witness, and Death Comes to Pemberley, with First AC Ben Margitich; on the helicopter was specialist aerial cameraman Jim Swanson. The camera had to handle a number of different environments and set-ups as well as a wide variety of lighting conditions.
“I hadn’t previously used the camera at night,” says Danton, “so before the shoot we ran some low-light tests deep in a forest, working to the equivalent of around ISO 12,800 at up to 50fps. After that, we knew it was pretty damn good at night.”
Before the shoot we ran some low-light tests deep in a forest. After that, we knew it was pretty damn good at night.
Danton describes the camera as a “solid, robust piece of gear,” and says that combining it in one unit with the integrated Codex RAW Recorder makes handling easier. Its multiple recording options, seamless workflow and usability are all significant plus points, while he believes it also has one of the best viewfinders currently available. You can look through that viewfinder and see a true representation of what you're filming, he says. “You don’t feel separated from the image. The clarity is amazing.”
The resulting films, one a “day” and the other a “night” version, deliver stunning HDR images of the Silver Sturgeon gliding along the Thames, past iconic London landmarks such as Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye. These landmarks are an essential part of the films’ journey, while the boat is shown as having grandeur of its own. Aerial shots are seamlessly mixed with detailed, atmospheric interiors that evoke the passengers’ luxurious on-board dining experience.
The airborne sequences were filmed with aerial specialists Helicopter Film Services. The Canon CN-E 30-300mm cine-zoom was mounted to the C700 within a Shotover K1 rig attached to the nose of the helicopter, which provided all the necessary focal range. Shooting at 4K DCI 50p during the “golden hour” resulted in some truly stunning images.
“Shooting urban panoramas at this time is the acid test of a camera’s HDR capabilities,” says Bennett. “You have dark shadows mixed with spectacular highlights, while you also have complex detail and nuance in the sky and on the river.”
For Bennett, the development of the C700, with its myriad image-enhancing features, demonstrates that digital cinema cameras are really starting to come of age. “In the early years, most of them promised quite a lot, but in reality the pictures they produced didn’t have a particularly strong, organic look,” he says. “Older digital images were flatter, lacked nuance and didn’t have the vividness of motion picture film. Now we’re at a point where cameras are capturing more filmic images and we’re moving towards a space where we’re looking at pictures with a 35mm film quality.”
To handle the vast amount of detail being captured and the resulting huge files, the C700’s RAW output is recorded uncompressed to Codex’s one- and two-terabyte Capture Drives. The footage is then stored, processed, transcoded and managed using the Codex Vault XL system. The Codex RAW Recorder is the key to reaching the camera’s full potential: it enables 4K recording at up to 120fps. This gives a wide colour gamut and the best possible resolution, while also allowing a greater freedom to push and pull the images in post-production for optimum results.
Bennett says that over the last few years, clients have been reducing what they're prepared to spend on video production to support their marketing programmes. However, with the arrival of cameras such as the C700, it’s become easier and less costly to shoot top-quality video. As a result, he believes the demand for 4K HDR videography is likely to increase. “I personally believe HDR is something that should be embraced at the high end of the brand marketing community,” he says.
“Brands benefit from their association with higher production values, so HDR represents a new opportunity for the savvy corporate production company. Digital cinema cameras such as the C700 are going to move production values forward, enabling teams using the camera to put clear water between themselves and everyone else.”
Watch the two videos shot on the C700 below, Day and Night.