How a creative team shot a feature on the Panasonic GH5 and Atomos Ninja Inferno!
Nevertheless, shooting a feature film on a shoe-string budget can be a real challenge. But at least these days we have some pretty capable cameras and equipment that does not cost an arm and a leg.
Likewise, the History Channel’s docu-drama ‘Born for the Sabre’ was shot on a budget on the Panasonic GH5 and Atomos Ninja Inferno recorders.
Krzysztof Sieniawski and his awesome team of stunt co-ordinators-turned-filmmakers decided to “put the money on the screen” when it came to utilising their barebones budget for their first feature.
Atomos Ninja Inferno + Panasonic GH5
Atomos has started a new web series hosted by Rodney Charters, ASC (DP of ‘24’, Dallas, Magnum P.I. and others), the first episode of which you can see below. There, you can learn just how Krzysztof and his team were able to shoot a period drama on a budget of around $120K.
In the episode below, the team discusses how they utiliized the power of the Atomos Ninja Inferno, Panasonic GH5 and a couple of old Nikkor lenses with anamorphic adapters.
Most importantly thought, they recorded the V-Log L footage from the GH5 to ProRes 422, giving them plenty of room to work with in post-production. In addition, this format also gave them the image quality they needed for broadcast.
Check out Episode 1 below:
So, why did they end up using the Panasonic GH5 cameras you may ask? Well, the actually owned them, and had tested them extensively prior, to get the best quality from them.
10bit 4K output via HDMI to Atomos
A key decision was to record the 10-bit 4K output from the cameras’ HDMI ports with the Atomos Ninja Inferno and Shogun Inferno.
“And it was a game-changer for this production,” says Sieniawski. “Because of that big 7″ screen, we could actually see what we were capturing and get the focus accurately.”
The production didn’t have a dedicated director’s monitor. So using the Atomos units also made it possible to quickly playback takes and judge performances on set. Also, this was especially useful for the fast-paced stunt scenes.
The built-in AtomOS tools helped the camera team judge exposure as well as framing. Footage from the GH5s was usually exposed by one stop higher than normal (Rec.709). So as to maximize shadow detail, and the waveform tool on the Atomos Ninja and Shogun Infernos. Thus, it gave the operators confidence in their exposures, despite not using a LUT on-set.
Modified Kowa Projection lenses
They decided to shoot on anamorphic lenses prior to starting principal photography, although Sieniawski notes:
“It was absolutely not affordable for us to even rent anamorphic cinema lenses.”
The DP decided to modify two Kowa videoscope projection lenses to fit old manual Nikkor AI-S 50mm and 85mm f1.4 lenses. They used a single-focus adapter, controlled by a wireless Tilta Nucleus system.
Furthermore, it was used to make pulling focus possible during intense fight scenes.
In addition, the camera team made extensive use of the Atomos’s peaking tool to maintain sharpness at all times.
Recorded in Apple ProRes in V-Log L
The production’s decision to record in ProRes using a Log image had another benefit. After finishing and delivering a regular SDR version of the film, an HDR version of the film’s trailer was also commissioned.
Therefore, by shooting in Log the filmmakers now have the option to also grade for HDR. Thus they have a backup if they need to deliver an HDR version in the future.
Most importantly though, because the final output was 24 frames per second, the choice of frame rate helped the film creatively.
“In many cases we used that 60p just to slow down some scenes and to give it a bit more space, to tell a better story.”
Learn more about the production and behind the scenes by checking the Atomos Youtube channel here.