Q1. When did you start filming video professionally. Fabian “Professionally I started around 2004, mainly doing music videos.”
Q2. What was your first camcorder you worked with. Fabian “The first camcorder I used was for my first short back in Germany, I think it was a Sony something or other, it was in 98, with video zooms. nothing like it is today and I had a couple of super 8 cameras that I was playing around with.”
Q3. Were you given a choice of cameras to shoot Sherlock. Fabian “Yes, the DoP should always have a say in what camera to use. the Alexa is the only choice for me right now and everybody else liked it so thats what we went with.”
Q4. Were you familiar with the Alexa before shooting Sherlock. Fabian “I shot some tests and a music video with it before but nothing long, not a 4 month shoot.”
Q5. What frame rate was it filmed in e.g.. 1080 25p etc. Fabian “We shot sherlock on 4:2:2 HQ, 25fps, and also did a lot os slow motion, mainly 50 or 60 fps. We also used a Phantom to shoot the high speed sequences, up to 400fps”
Q6. What prime lenses did you use the most when filming Sherlock. Fabian “My main set was the Cooks S4’s we also used the superspeeds a bit, and a set of uncoated lenses for all the flairs. I also used fishing wire behind the back element of the Cooks to give them a horizontal flare for certain scenes.”
Q7. Did you use the Alexa hand held at any time, if so how comfortable was it. Fabian “A lot of sherlock was shot handheld. the alexa is a very well balanced camera so handheld is very comfortable and straight forward”
Q8. Did you use your own focus puller and lighting man if so who were they. Fabian “On dramas we always have focus pullers, the Depth of field is so small, you need it and its a very tricky job. I had my usual focus puller Jamie Philips, without him I couldn’t have done it, he is a great focus puller and a pleasure to work with, and also my usual gaffer Jon Best with our usual sparks.”
Q10. Whats your own thoughts on the Alexa as a camera. Fabian “The Alexa is the best HD camera around right now, apart from the speed and the way it deals with high and low lights, its also very well designed, easy to use, practical, great for hand held, well balanced etc.”
Q11. How did it perform in low light and what gain did you use in lower lighting situations. Fabian “There is no gain as such but film speeds. the camera performs very well in low light, keeping the noise levels clean and I pushed the camera on a lot of occasions to 1600 iso, normally shooting on 800 iso.”
Q12. If given a choice would you choose another camera to film Sherlock? i.e.. Sony F65, Sony F3, Canon C300 or a RED camera. Fabian “Right now the Alexa would be my only choice, there are other good cameras but I like the Alexa best for all the above reasons. The medium is developing very fast right now though so you never know what might happen next.”
So there you are a fascinating incite from Fabian Wagner the DP behind the recent episodes of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
My thanks to Fabian for taking the time to reply and to BBC/Hartswood and Colin Hutton the set photographer who kindly sent me some background photographs.