"Departure Date:" Doug Chamberlain Records Romance at 35,000 Feet
Director of photography Doug Chamberlain redefined the term “in-flight movie” by shooting “Departure Date,” a 24-minute short feature written and directed by Kat Coiro, aboard Virgin America commercial flights.
Chamberlain selected Canon EOS C300 digital cinema cameras for the project, explaining, “The C300 has all of those things that people love about the Canon EOS 5D, including the compact size, but it also has the things that independent filmmakers truly need, including proper audio inputs, improved image quality and dynamic range, real HD-SDI out, zebras and the ability to zoom in and check your focus while shooting.”
Working single-camera for most of the assignment, Chamberlain preferred to mount his EOS C300 on a monopod equipped with a Kenyon Labs KS-8 gyro stabilizer. “The monopod not only stabilized the pitch and roll but gave me a really small footprint to work with,” he says. “The gyro stabilized the yaw, and the whole setup really helped me maintain a consistent look, even when flying through pockets of rough air.”
Chamberlain built his own low-profile “soft boxes” using LiteGear VHO Hybrid LiteRibbons on dimmers and attached them to the ceiling with pre-cut Velcro, running them on battery packs. “I never had any issues with needing more light,” Chamberlain notes. “I rated the C300 camera at ISO 850, and for the most part I was shooting at f/2.8 or f/4. The C300 gave me plenty of low-light sensitivity to work with, which meant I didn’t have to run the LEDs at full power, which would have left me short on batteries at the end of the long flights.”
Chamberlain found that the C300 provided features well suited to his needs. Among these were the camera’s removable 4-inch, 1.23-megapixel LCD monitor/control panel, which rotates 135° left/right or 270° down and can be mounted on the camera body or on the removable handle unit.
“The image looked great on that little flip-up LCD monitor, and it’s really a necessity to be able to reconfigure it in any direction these days,” Chamberlain says. “I liked how the Canon LCD monitor interacted with the camera, and having the controls right on top in case I needed to get into anything quickly made sense to me. I was able to confidently determine my exposure from the LCD monitor, and I used the zebras to help me know when I was losing highlight information.”
Another feature of the Canon EOS C300 Chamberlain utilized was the Cinema Locked Mode, which enables Canon Log Gamma, a recording format designed for creative postproduction color grading processes. “With the C300’s Cinema Locked Mode, it was nice to be able to set it and free my mind from the technical details and still be confident that I was getting as much information as possible for the final color correction,” he says. “As a cinematographer, I don’t want to be bogged down on set with things that are better left for post. I like knowing that the camera is simply capturing as much information as it can about the image, leaving me to concentrate on the creative aspects of lighting, blocking, camera angles, exposure and storytelling.
“The C300 gave me the freedom to work creatively with the director,” Chamberlain concludes, “and that kind of freedom is a lot of fun.”