Andrew Fried (Chef’s Table) and DP Bryant Fisher (Hamilton’s America), lead the crew of “From Dock to Dish”, first film shot in 4K on Canon’s brand new EOS C200. Here are their thoughts about the camera.
When a new camera reaches the market, there are, as usual, many different opinions about the product, from the faithful followers of a brand to the naysayers, many times, unfortunately, associated with other brands. There are also trolls, a new species of being that the Internet created and online forums and anonymity foster. There are, too the opinions of those who use the product. Like Andrew Fried, known for things as Chef’s Table and Bryant Fisher, from Hamilton’s America. I opted to as them how they felt after using the camera.
The documentary is the first film shot on the brand new EOS C200. Fried — one of the filmmakers behind Chef’s Table — brings you “From Dock to Dish,” which follows a mackerel’s journey from the ocean floor to the restaurant door, tracking the many people, places, and atmospheres that flavor a culinary masterpiece.
Besides the documentary itself, there is a second video online that goes behind the scenes and gives viewers an idea about the creation of the documentary. Watch as the filmmakers discuss the making of the film from production through post, as well as speak to the many features of the EOS C200, including the ability to record 4K internally using Canon’s proprietary Cinema RAW Light, optimized for HDR.
Notwithstanding the fact that the video Behind the Scenes of From Dock to Dish it’s an 8-minute documentary covering the whole process, I wanted to know some more about the whole process, so I asked both Andrew Fried and Bryant Fisher if they would reply to some questions. I could as well have asked other members of the crew, like those responsible for color grading, their opinion, but that would have made this a very long text, and anyway you already have some of their thoughts in the video.
There is a marketing aspect to the videos, no need to explain that. But I believe the answers given by both professionals may help those interested into knowing how the EOS C200 works in the real world to get a clearer idea of what the camera is capable of. Here are the replies from both Andrew Fried (AF) and Bryant Fisher (BF) to the questions I posed. Some of the questions were only answered by Bryant Fisher, the DP, as they pertain to his work.
ProVideo Coalition – Was this the right camera to shoot the whole project or did you have to adapt? Was there any moment you thought… “I wish I had that other camera to do this”
Bryant Fisher – We knew we were going into some challenging situations. In the early morning we had very little to no light. Then we were out on a boat in the middle of the day with the sun at its peak. We were under fluorescent lighting in the market then, a mixture of sources in the restaurant. The camera held its own quite well in each of these scenarios. It had a very low noise floor, even in high ISO’s and retained fantastic color information. Having used Canon’s Cinema line in the past I knew I could go into this with a certain level of trust. I didn’t feel I needed to adapt ever. I was simply able to shoot. The only adapting we had to do was when we were at prep. These bodies were still pretty fresh with only the RAW Light enabled. The design of the body is slightly different than other cameras so we had to design outfits for the various configurations. Still, it didn’t hold us back and we were able to yield a very nice image in the end.
Andrew Fried – Bryant (our DP) and I really loved working with this camera. In some ways we crafted our creative approach around the tools that we knew we would be working with, so we never found ourselves in a situation where we were wishing we had different tools to be working with. In fact, there were times when we discussed how great the camera was performing for us, how flexible it was and actually how challenging it might have been for us had we had a different camera in the field.
PVC – In terms of lighting for shooting with the C200, did you have to compromise, or was the camera able to give results in different conditions?
BF – The nature of this shoot didn’t call for very much lighting. Especially when we were out on the boat or at the market. We didn’t do anything to boost the image outside of what the camera saw naturally. If we were in a dark situation I went up in ISO to maybe 1600 or 2000 and didn’t think twice. The camera has a strong dynamic range and so I knew going in I wouldn’t have to worry too much about exposure being far out of reach. As long as I protected my highlights the rest of the image fell into place and even then I didn’t feel like I was compromising.
AF – We were really pleased with how the camera performed in low light. Because of how ambitious our schedule was, there was not a lot of opportunity to light even the interior locations. Sometimes as a Director I can be a little too ambitious and put my DP in a position where I am asking him or her to do too much without enough time or resources to make it look beautiful as we want it to look. Because of the nature of this project and the fact that we really wanted to push the camera to its limits, Bryant and I tried some things that he would have otherwise been able to talk me out of. The camera really performed well and it was fun to have that kind of freedom to fail while we were shooting.
PVC – Did you use the new Cinema RAW Light? Does it work? Does it bring enough benefits to justify creating another format? Does it bring advantages, both at capture and afterwards?
BF – The bodies Canon provided had only the RAW Light enabled. It definitely works and you can see the difference. What’s nice about having a format like RAW Light is that you’re not getting a compressed image in post. It’s not uncompressed but it’s hefty, very clean and carries a lot of data so you push it around later. The big benefit to this is better color accuracy and less chance for artifacts. In post you can use Canons software to change things like color temperature, color space and even gamma. We were in environments where detail was important to our story. Fish scales, water, skin tone under various lighting, fire and colorful food. These are sometimes challenging things to capture even when you can light and control the scene. We had little control and that didn’t hold us back during production.
PVC – How easy – or difficult – was it to edit and grade afterwards? Does it take longer? When Canon introduces XF-AVC will you simply drop Cinema RAW Light?
BF – This may be more of a question for our DIT, editor and colorist. I wasn’t very involved in post. Our DIT, Rohan Chitraker and Calvin Reibman, processed the footage using Canons software to prores4444 files. Plugins with the major NLE’s are due out so you can process the RAW Light natively.
As for XF-AVC vs RAW Light, each provide different benefits for certain situations. I will certainly shoot RAW Light whenever possible to get the best I can get but having both as an option is great. You can’t have enough tools in your arsenal.
PVC – Is there something you learned through doing this project with this camera?
BF – The biggest thing I took away from this is how I see Canon looking ahead. This is version one of a new format and new camera body. For the first time you have the option to shoot a raw format internally at a relatively inexpensive price. That’s exciting for the future and worth checking out especially for indie filmmakers.
AF – We really leaned into the HDR capabilities of the camera for this shoot. It is a new feature of the C 200 and we wanted to really feature it in moments of the film. With that mission in mind, it opened up a whole wave of creativity for me in terms of just how appealing different intensities and temperatures of light can be to the eye. I tend to be a more character driven story teller. For me the story is what connects to the viewer in the most emotional way. Watching the final piece with an audience at Cine Gear and hearing their response to how everything looked in HDR helps me understand how those visual elements can build an even greater emotional connection for the audience.
PVC – What was your favorite shot from the whole documentary?
BF – I have a few favorites. I love the shot of the light powering up on the boat that in turn lights our scene. I love the wide shot on top of the boat looking back at our father and son team. The water seems so serene. The shot approaching the delivery van is exciting to see as we found that last minute and it looks great in the natural light. I’m also a fan of the wide master shot of our chef. You have the fire in the background and chef right next to it. It speaks to the abilities of the camera range and color.
AF – I know this isn’t the fanciest shot from a camera perspective, but there’s a moment in the beginning of the film when the father and son are getting ready to head off on their fishing boat. Bryant is so good at finding moments that other DPs might not even pay attention to. Anyway, there is a moment when the son helps his dad secure his shoulder strap. It is so honest and so real, it actually makes me tear up a bit when I see it. The stuff with Tim Hollingsworth with him cutting ingredients from his garden outside Otium is also a favorite moment of mine. Both things that never appeared in any of our shot lists or creative briefs before we started shooting.
PVC – Who is this camera for? Is it a versatile tool or one for very specific jobs?
BF – I think Canon is best left to answer who the camera is for. For anyone who has used the original C300 or the C100, this camera will feel very familiar. There are some cases where users will only need the 4:2:0 8 bit codec on the low end but then have the option for a powerful RAW Light format when you need it.
AF – I think this camera can be a great tool for people who are trying to balance a high level premium look, while still maintaining a level of flexibility that you may need in a more doc type of environment in the field. It will be great for people who want a beautiful image without the need for a huge camera footprint.
PVC – Is the C200 more of a B roll camera in a big production or can it be used for anything you throw at it?
BF – You can treat this camera however you like. It would be great companion to something like a C700 but also stand well on its own as an A camera. It all depends on what you need for the job.
AF – I wouldn’t limit the C200 to Broll at all. It would be a much more useful tool for me than that.
PVC – What would you change if you could decide the next Cinema camera from Canon after this one?
BF – Canon is doing some very interesting things with their new cameras. I’d love to see them embrace anamorphic as an acquisition to give filmmakers even more tools to work within their ecosystem. I’d also love to see RAW Light enabled across the whole Cinema lineup. That would give filmmakers a huge advantage to using their cameras.
PVC– Is the C200 a camera you’re going to use in the future?
BF – I can definitely see myself using the C200 in the future. If a particular job calls for something needing that form factor and something like the RAW Light format then I will have it on set. It’s a versatile camera and shows a lot about where Canon is putting their focus.
AF – I will definitely look for opportunities to use this camera moving forward.