Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Picture © HD Magazine

Excerpts from HD Magazine

DP Tim Palmer “Going in to the meeting for this drama I knew it was very low budget , it was BBC4 so they wouldn’t have any money for anything but at the same time it was a period film and they would want to have a very sumptuous look to it. Having had experience of the 5D and having been a stills photographer in my early days I knew that the camera could deliver better than cinema quality pictures better than a cheap broadcast video camera.

Obviously the BBC were very unwilling to sign off on something like that because it wasn’t on their approved list and initially they were saying that for an HD programme they could only support 25% of the programme shot on a non ‘so called’ HD camera.

We shot a lot of tests which looked wonderful but the engineers at the BBC were saying that there was aliasing and moiré patterns that would make them fail the use of the camera for HD broadcast.

The head of technology at the BBC, Ian Potts, who was very supportive in our early days saying ‘You have these technical issues that would fail our broadcast tests but it’s very interesting what you’re doing and please do some more tests because we’d love to see what you do’. After seeing the four day’s worth of rushes he was so completely smitten with it and said it was some of the best material they’d ever had, ‘finish the film on it’. It went from nought to 60 in half a second.”

Avoid fast pans over vertical objects but in practice when you’re filming actors and actors are moving around and you’re following their faces you don’t notice it really. There might be a bit of skewing on a lamp post on the edge of frame. If you’re watching a good story and it’s looking good you don’t think about it.”

HDW : I love the intro to this story “I knew it was very low budget” no surprise there then that BBC 4 decided to allow Tim to use his 5DMk11. It’s a joke these cameras are not fit for purpose and low to no budget BBC dramas are being shot with sub standard equipment. The BBC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this.

The Sony 750 plus 35mm adapter and a hired box of prime lenses is the BBCs preferred way of producing period drama, I was involved myself only last December with the BBC and DP Graham Smith used the 750, 35mm adapter and prime lenses.

Don’t get me wrong the 750 plus accessories is cumbersome to say the least but it’s the correct way as for now to produce shallow depth of field FilmLike pictures for the BBC.

It’s all dictated by budget or should I say lack of budget…IF THEY DON’T HAVE THE MONEY THEN DON’T COMPROMISE THE PRODUCTION. Cheap skate productions are not part of the BBCs remit and I for one are alarmed that BBC NO BUDGET 4 is allowed to get away with this decision.

Can I point BBC NO BUDGET 4 to IBC less that 12 days away and to Panasonic debuting the AG-AF101 FilmLike 4/3″ camcorder…THIS IS AT LEAST FIT FOR PURPOSE AND WILL DO EVERYTHING THE 5DMk11 CAN DO EXCEPT BETTER !

It’s all about working for next to nothing these days so production values suffer time and time again…this one camcorder from Panasonic will at least start to address the balance and bring back some sense to this HDSLR madness.

It does not matter how much meccano you put in front of an HDSLR they are fraught with serious problems which over the last 15 months or so have NOT been addressed by Canon or Nikon…WHY…because they refuse to compromise the number one feature of this camera and that is to take photographs…I rest my case.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

5 thoughts on “BBC4 uses a Canon 5DMk11 on a very low budget drama.

  1. I agree with you Philip, this is an unfortunate precedent when we are so close to potentially better solutions. The HD mag headline is especially misleading, as this is NOT a blanket OK for the 5D. Oh well.

  2. Don’t I know it the HDSLR crusaders jump on this type of news and flag it up as “5D2 can now make BBC films” when it’s a DP who should have known better but chanced his arm and got away with it.

  3. I’ve just finished a documentary P&S 35mm adaptor and primes as well as 5Dmk11 and 7D footage. Everyone much prefers the Canon footage -as do I.
    Stop getting your knickers in a twist – these are great tools when used properly. I’ve cut them with 35mm film on car shoots . They’re great for rigs and car interiors when there’s little space.
    I’ve used them when the A camera is a RED and everyone much prefers the way they make skin look.
    Loosen up and wake up. The writing’s on the wall.

  4. Not convincing Paul, now we have the Panasonic AG-AF101 you will see a rapid decline in the use of sub standard DSLRs in the professional video industry. Hey I have filmed with my own Canon 5D2 and like the look of the pictures but it’s so un-practical as a professional video tool and remember Canon PRO Photographic do not make these cameras for video…they make them for photography.
    I was at IBC last week and there was little to no interest in RED…the writings on the wall for Canon, Nikon and RED.

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