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Canon C300 Mark II test shoot: The behind-the-scenes story

Friday, September 11, 2015 11:15 AM

The Canon EOS C300 Mark II is due to hit the streets, so we thought we'd celebrate by telling the story of our test shoot with the camera, filmed in late July. Over the next few days, we'll post a series of C300 Mark II blogs giving some insight into the C300 Mark II test shoot and what we learned about the camera. In the first of the series, WTS production specialist and freelance cameraman Patrick van Weeren explains how he set up the shoot to really put the C300 Mark II through its paces.

But first of all, if you haven't seen the final video, here it is:

C300 Mark II test shoot: Annie Rew Shaw performs War Paint

We recommend viewing this video at 2160p.


A live music performance in a room full of detail and contrasts of shadows and bright light, even down to the black and white of the piano keys – our shoot was certainly an exacting test of the capabilities of the new Canon EOS C300 Mark II, made all the riskier by the fact I had got my hands on the camera just 24 hours earlier.

C300 Mark II boasts 4K filming, slow motion, high dynamic range, ISO values up to 102,400

Canon EOS C300 Mark II 4k camera

The Mark II’s instantly familiar form factor belied the array of new features packed into its slightly larger and heavier body.

The major changes from the original C300 are hidden below the surface – 4K and 2K filming in 10-bit and, in some formats, 12-bit 4:4:4; new CFAST 2.0 memory cards, with write speeds around five times faster than CF; and an SD card slot for HD proxies at up to 35Mb/s.

The long-coveted slow motion mode, up to120fps in HD (30fps in 4K), has finally arrived. The Mark II boasts an expanded, 15-stop dynamic range, wider colour space and low-light shooting at ISO values up to 102,400.

There is a new XF-AVC codec to handle all the extra data – though for those who want more control in post, the RAW output works with any off-board recorders that are compatible with the C500. 

Choosing the right location to test the C300 Mark II

Canon C300 Mark II test shoot location: the Stanley Library at Girton College, University of Cambridge

The location for our test shoot was the 130-year-old Stanley Library at Girton College, Cambridge University. Not just a beautiful and historic room to capture on film, it allowed us to test the C300 Mark II in a challenging environment. Shadowy shelves stuffed with books and bright stained-glass windows are highly demanding for any camera!

For our talent, we enlisted London-based singer-songwriter Annie Rew Shaw to perform her song War Paint. We managed to film everything we wanted in a single day, shooting 13 takes carefully timed between the chimes of a carriage clock!

I wanted to really push the dynamic range, and to see how the new codec – one of the major developments in the camera – coped with capturing detail. We recorded everything internally in the XF-AVC codec, including 24-bit audio via the camera’s two XLR inputs (there is also an unbalanced 3.5mm channel and an on-board ‘scratch’ mic).

On-board 24-bit audio

Our audio set-up was simple – just two AKG C414 condenser microphones, one for the vocalist and one for the piano. With 24-bit on-board recording available, we decided against a pre-amp and plugged the mics directly into the C300 Mark II’s two XLR inputs, so that it would be a true test of its capabilities.

What you hear in the video was all done using the camera, albeit with some post-production mixing of the audio tracks. 

Minimal lighting for C300 Mark II dynamic range test

We used minimal lighting for the Canon C300 Mark II test shoot,to evaluate the camera's high dynamic range

We lit the scene using a 1.2kW Arri Fresnel HMI outside the window – not because it was too dark but merely for continuity, given we were shooting from 10am until 6pm. A KinoFlo Tegra 4Bank was used as a fill light. That was it! 

Usually I would consider a larger lighting set-up, but this was a dynamic range test so I trusted the C300 Mark II could handle it – and it didn’t let me down. In post we found we actually had stops left over as far as the exterior windows were concerned – but it felt more natural to keep a little brightness, rather than to show every last detail.

Check out the rest of the series of these C300 Mark II blogs!

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