Cinematographer Theo Van de Sande, ASC, brought the Panasonic VariCam 35 4K camera out of the lab and onto the set last year, when he shot the pilot for the Amazon Studios show Salem Rogers, starring Leslie Bibb (pictured, top) and Rachel Dratch and directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls). Cult film buffs recognize van de Sande for his first American film, the end-of-the-world thriller Miracle Mile, but he's better known for his work on mainstream Hollywood films like Wayne's World, Cruel Intentions, and Grown Ups.
Panasonic's chief VariCam engineer Takahiro Mitsui, cinematographer Theo Van de Sande, ASC, and Light Iron CEO Michael Cioni
Van de Sande expected to shoot Salem Rogers with an ARRI Alexa, but Amazon insisted that footage be captured in native 4K. After seeing Panasonic camera engineer Takahiro Mitsui and Light Iron CEO Michael Cioni demo the VariCam 35 at the ASC Clubhouse, he decided to get his hands on one of the earliest units for the upcoming shoot.
He had successfully used Panasonic cameras before, on documentary projects, but he calls the VariCam 35's ability to shoot at ISO 5000 with surprisingly low noise levels "a game changer." Van de Sande shot at that high ISO in a variety of conditions, including a day interior in a bookstore (see clip, above) and some night exteriors in Vancouver.
A low-light shot captured at ISO 5000 for the Amazon Studios pilot for Salem Rogers.
In an interview with Jon Fauer, ASC, in Fauer's Film and Digital Times, Van de Sande cited one scene captured at Venice Beach after dark (pictured, above) that he said was lit with existing fixtures on the shop buildings in the background, a single unit positioned some 100 yards out of frame, and the headlights from the production's camera track illuminating the bottoms of the palm trees. The foreground was illuminated with two battery powered LEDs, one tungsten and one daylight, Van de Sande told Fauer.
Another low-light shot, this time from the CBS pilot for Evil Men.
Van de Sande followed up the Salem Rogers shoot with a pilot for CBS, Evil Men, that he also shot with the VariCam 35. "It was more difficult … to persuade a major TV network like CBS to work with a completely new camera," Van de Sande said in an excerpt from a discussion of the VariCam 35 posted at his website, "but after I explained my experiences, supported by [director] Gary Fleder, and how much it could work for us economically but also to give the pilot big scope by night, they agreed."
More images from both shows are online at Van de Sande's website.
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