Shot on 5DmkII, 7D, 550D (+ RED ONE, Sony EX3)
Hangman Studios’ James Tonkin likes a challenge – such as using eight Canon EOS DSLR cameras to film a two-hour live concert DVD for the band Archive. Here, he tells Robert Hull about last-minute venue changes, the stress of multi-tasking, and how Canon’s DSLRs captured the epic, cinematic sweep of a band in full flow.
Tonkin reveals: “I’ve always adhered to trying to create a very filmic look, so when the Canon EOS 5D Mark II appeared it was a ‘light bulb moment’ for me. I was working on an album campaign for Robbie Williams and showed his management some EOS 5D Mark II footage and said, ‘look at this it’s stunning’. For the rest of that year  I filmed everything for him with an EOS 5D Mark II; a 20-minute companion DVD for his [Williams’] album, a podcast series and various ‘Making Of…’ projects. I also remember thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be great to shoot a live gig with these cameras?’.”
Not having issued a live DVD, the band and its management were keen to create something, but it was by no means a formality – or even that Tonkin would be given the role of creating it. However, his enthusiasm and persistence were to pay dividends. He explains: “I took my EOS 7D, three lenses and a Zacuto Z-Finder out to Paris, where Archive were headlining a festival. When they saw the DSLR stuff next to the conventional video footage it was a night-and-day difference, and I believe it secured me the job.”
Undeterred, Tonkin and his team prepared to record the two-hour-plus show. A Red One camera was used for the main wide shots, while a Sony EX3 was employed as a crane camera. Tonkin was resigned to using the Sony EX3 instead of Canon EOS DSLRs: “because it was on a five-metre crane, so would be too unwieldy to bring down every 12 minutes to press record again.” Eight EOS DSLRs were used to capture the band: three EOS 5D Mark II models, three EOS 7Ds and two EOS 550Ds. It was a mixture that worked and one you sense Tonkin is immensely pleased about as, for him, the cameras represent the closest look to film that's available at their price point.
Problem solving & planning
“For me the fascination is the picture style, the look – everything else I’ll work around,” says Tonkin. It’s a mission statement in keeping with the reality of shooting High Definition video on a DSLR. Solutions were required to cope with battery-power issues, cameras overheating and short-ish record times but with responses such as: “Yes, given everything, I would do it all again with DSLRs; 100%,” you know that Tonkin found a productive workaround for most of the problems.
Archive 'Live in Athens' DVD shoot.
James Tonkin & Hangman Studios
Badminton Theatre, Athens, Greece
3x EOS 5D Mark ll
3x EOS 7D
2x EOS 550D
EF-S17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
2x EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM
4x EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Marshall 7" monitors
SmallHD DP6 monitor
Arri Follow focus
Redrock eyeSpy shoulder kit
Anton Bauer batteries
Egripment Focus dollies
Mac computer hardware
Final Cut Studio 3
Tangent Wave control panel
Visit Canon to read the entire story behind this fascinating shooting.