New video for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

Here’s an informative little cancer video project my crew and I just delivered to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, a client that’s been keeping us very busy this summer. We’ll be doing a lot more videos of this kind for SCCA over the next few months, uncovering powerful human stories about these innovative healthcare providers and the patients they serve.

How it was lit

I typically start to light a scene by deciding which light to take away. In this case,  the lab was grossly over illuminated (for filmmaking purposes) with ugly overhead fluorescents. I wanted to separate the doctor from the background, through both luminosity and color. So I turned off half the overheads, the half behind the subject, and left the half in front of him on. Then, by setting my Sony FS5’s color temp to 3200K, I was able to create a nice blue wash in the background from light leaking through the closed windows. That created nice color separation. But his face was now too dark. I fixed that by filling  strongly with my LiteGear LiteMat2 placed camera left, through 1/2 grid cloth. Next, I gave a little blue kick to his shoulder with my lovely new Dedolight DLED7 through Hampshire frost. Then I just set the aperture on my Zeiss 50mm with Speedbooster to f/2.0, and boom! Done.


B-roll was all shot very quickly, handheld with Zeiss primes and a 100mm Canon macro for the tight stuff. When I got to cutting the piece, I was reminded why my Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens is usually my go-go b-roll lens: because it is image stabilized! My FS5 is so ergonomically awesome, that I find myself shooting handheld more than ever. But when doing so, a lens with IS really is nice to smooth things out. Nevertheless, I sure do love that full-frame look of those Speedboostered Zeiss primes.

Sidebar: I am taking another look at Canon’s 24-70 f/4 IS lens, not because of its optics, but because of its image stabilization. In theory, with a Speedbooster it should look virtually identical to and be just as fast as my Canon EF 17-55 f/2.8, only with much better handholding because of it’s 4-stop hybrid IS. Will be experimenting with that combo on my Sony FS5 on an upcoming shoot and look forward to sharing the results.

Thoughts on 4K

I’m finally coming around to shooting my interviews in 4K. It really is nice to have the option to punch in for a tight shot pulled from a medium shot. But the drawback is focus. Focus is really, REALLY important to nail when shooting 4K. And on both the FS5’s LCD and my SmallHD 502 monitor, it’s harder to gauge focus in 4K, because the image looks a little smudged compared to HD. So it really does require careful monitoring during a shoot, especially when you do what I do, which is shoot damn near wide open all the time to visually separate the subject from their background.

I’ve shot with both the internally recorded 4K and with external recorders, and I gotta say, for the type of work I’m using it for (well lit interviews), the drawbacks of external recording outweigh the benefits of internal. Smaller file size counts for a LOT.

Many thanks to my crew – producer Sara Finkelstein, camera assistant Kollin O’Dannel (who took one for the team when he nearly fainted as the doctor described a surgery), and intern Alexandra Watkins who rolled sound.

4 thoughts on “New video for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

  1. Bob Krist

    Dan: If you’re shooting this on your FS5, why not look into the Sony Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 APSC lens…it’s tiny, has image stabilization and mine at least is sharp. It’s the equivalent of a 24-105 in full frame land.

    1. Dan McComb Post author

      Hi Bob,
      I find that shooting f/4 on Super35 just doesn’t get me the look I want. The Canon 24-70 f/4 with Speedbooster gives me the equivalent look of full-frame f/4, which is acceptable to me. Also, Canon’s hybrid image stabilization is pretty special. Finally, most of the Sony glass I’ve tried uses a servo to drive the focus (twisting the focus barrel doesn’t manually rotate the optic, but instead fires a motor to drive that). I prefer the manual throw of Canon glass.

  2. Mike Folden

    Finally someone who talks about the focusing in 4k being so soft! I’ve been struggling to feel confident with shooting 4k because of this. Is the LCD just too low resolution to produce a sharp image when in 4k? Does it look sharp in post or does the focus on the screen match the file on the computer screen? I still haven’t done testing and realize I’m way behind on that but just trying to see what folks are saying about this issue. I ended up using focus peaking on a recent shoot to justify where the focus actually was. For me, this has been the only drawback of this camera so far. I love it otherwise and find myself shooting with it handheld vs using my trusty shoulder rig more and more which is so liberating!

    1. Dan McComb Post author

      Hi Mike,
      Agree about the amazing ergonomics on this camera – the ability to go handheld is a game changer for my work. Re: the 4K focusing, it’s not that it’s actually soft in the image, it’s how the image is displayed to the monitor. There’s some interpolation from 4K to the HD display that most monitors are using (including the built-in LCD on the camera) and an artifact of this is the apparent softness, which makes it harder to pull focus. I use the SmallHD 502 and 702 monitors and they have a zoom-in feature that let’s me zoom in to 2x or 5x to check the focus, and that helps a lot.


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