Native 24p GH1 Short Film – Shadowplay Part II

Fullscreen it (button is working properly now) and good speakers / headphones recommended – as ever sound track is as part of this as the visuals!

Ever since the start of the industrial revolution there has been factory slaves, surviving but not living. I used to live in a flat in Manchester city centre next to the site of the first cotton mill, and a park which acted as a burial ground for the workers! Lovely now but back in the day Karl Marx visited the factories and it was the terrible drudgery and conditions which lead him to begin communism! So it’s a strange coincidence that communism in China hasn’t helped free ‘the workers’ now they’ve embraced their own industrial revolution. Whether it’s the cotton mills in Manchester 100 years ago, or the Foxconn factory in China in 2010 workers have always been enslaved.

But these days slavery has an element of stealth and it’s managed to creep into all corners of our lives, to control us from the inside. This is what my Shadowplay series is about.

Money, necessities, pleasure and relationships are all tied to careers and jobs. These are the most powerful motivators we have, so is it any wonder that capitalism has come to control our every move? Young people leave their homes, in flight to the big cities – they have a dream, an ambition. But does that mean the people who are left behind don’t have a dream?

These are my ideas behind this video and I try to give it a certain feeling and mood through my cinematography.

There are no actors in the video. I wanted to encourage the feeling that each person was just part of the scenery, another fully paid-up member of civilisation. Nothing is staged.

There is a real mix of footage here –

All done on the Panasonic GH1 over a couple of nights 2 months apart with mostly the radioactive Canon FD 35mm F2 SSC, and some of the timelapse footage is 720p on a very slow shutter, sometimes as slow as 1/5 which gives a huge boost in low light and allows ISO to drop significantly for a smoother image.

The native 24p 1080p shots make up the other 50% of the video. The custom firmware with slightly higher bit-rate and native 24p does seem to have a subtle increase in image quality (although this is only the first footage I’ve done with it, not a scientific test).

A further improvement has come with avoiding H.264 completely as a finishing format. I transcoded the H.246 based AVCHD directly to Prores LT in Final Cut Pro’s Log & Transfer (no need to go through Voltaic this time). Not the highest quality Prores – but what made the difference was XDCAM EX as the finishing format. I love this codec. It gives a punchier and slightly higher colour saturation than H.264 but with significantly less banding and macro-blocking even versus the highest compression quality setting for H.264 in Final Cut Pro.

It’s just so much cleaner. You still get a slight fizzing noise which isn’t so noticeable in Prores, but gentle gradients of shade and plain areas with subtle shades of black and white are rendered so much cleaner by XDCAM.

Vimeo accepts XDCAM as an upload format, and the end result is noticeably different to H.264.

Look at the banding on the street light halos in the H246 footage on the right versus the XDCAM version to the left. I also prefer the colour and contrast of XDCAM. It embeds a different colour profile to Prores and H.264. Is this Mac dependant? Not sure, but the colour profile appears to be a Sony one on the XDCAM files which would make sense.

I have the Zeiss Flektogon 35MM F2.4 for a cool-moody look, but I actually prefer the Canon FD 35 overall. It is a real character. If my lens collection is a family, this is my favoured child. The personality is writ large in everything it does. The bokeh, lens flare and contrasty tones. The warm colours and slight yellowing due to radioactive decay makes it perfect for black & white stuff too. Just all round nice feel. Love it.

The 35mm FD is the widest I can go on my 2x Isco anamorphic lens, so I have mated the two together and will be shooting footage on that soon. When it stops raining – it’s monsoon season in Taiwan this month!

I’ve been in Taiwan for about 6 months and I love the Asian culture. It’s opened up my Mancunian mind. Asia, having known poverty much more recently than Manchester and the North of England, and with much of China still IN poverty, the Asian work ethic is incredibly powerful. The workforce is motivated and the will is there to make that leap to Western living standards. But what they have over us, is that their societies are more orderly and religion, families are stronger. In part this is what helps to make places like Taipei such a great place to live. I feel safe here, much safer than British cities and there are more family run businesses per square mile as there are anywhere else in the whole world. But with Asian countries in general being more traditional and with longer working hours this is also what gives the West an edge with our culture and chaos.

The good natured work ethic in Asia is also what makes the tragedies at Foxconn in China all the more unbearable. It shows that a better balance between work and free time is needed in Asia. They have mature powerhouse economies now. Hopefully future generations will live more comfortably with more free time and so will be able to produce more films and art.

Right now it’s clear to me that for some people this industrious work ethic is too much weight to carry. They’re trapped by the force of carrying an Asian Tiger on their back. Some are not benefiting – they’re being sacrificed and eaten alive.