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“Human Voice”: Recording a Range of Emotion with Canon’s C500

Throughout her career Sophia Loren had always hoped to play the desperate woman at the center of Jean Cocteau’s play La voix humaine (The Human Voice). Anna Magnani’s devastating performance in the 1948 Roberto Rossellini adaptation, L’amore, had been a factor in Loren’s decision to become an actor. It was finally Edoardo Ponti (Loren’s son with famed producer Carlo Ponti) who managed to realize her ambition; he directed Loren in the 25-minute Italian-language film “Human Voice,” which screened this year at the Tribeca Film Festival.

A scene from “Human Voice”

The film was shot almost entirely on an apartment set in a soundstage in Rome, but the elements—Cocteau’s play, Ponti’s direction, Loren’s performance, and cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC—all come together to bring the short piece an epic quality.

Ponti approached executives at Canon about using EOS C500s for the project. The director had previously used Canon’s EOS 5D Mk II on a series of promotional films for W Hotels and EOS C300 camera for his rock climbing love triangle short “Il turno di notte lo fanno le stele” (“The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars”).

In prepping “Human Voice,” the director and Prieto checked out the C500’s various recording options (all to Codex Onboard S drives). The camera offers two top-tier options: 4K at 10-bit color depth and 2K at 12-bit. “Rodrigo is extremely meticulous,” says Ponti, adding that preproduction “was almost like an academic seminar. We did extensive tests and we both agreed that the 2K option was preferable.”

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC, with Canon EOS C500 camera

Both significantly preferred the increased dynamic range and subtle tonal detail in the imagery captured at 2K/12-bit than at the higher resolution and lower color depth. “I think a lot of people are beginning to realize that more resolution doesn’t necessarily add more meaning to a picture,” Ponti says.

Prieto relit the meticulously appointed apartment set several times to indicate the time that elapses during the series of phone calls in which Loren’s character argues, cajoles and begs her unseen lover to reconsider their breakup.

The cinematographer worked with prebuilt LUTs from Hollywood post house EFILM (final color was done there by Yvan Lucas) to further enhance the look he created through lighting. He worked primarily with three LUTs designed for the C500: one to enhance the imagery’s color and warmth, one to slightly desaturate the night feel, and a third, neutral one for the exterior flashbacks shot in the vicinities of Naples and Rome.

The story, Ponti notes, “takes place over the span of four hours. It starts in the golden light of hope and ‘maybe I can get this guy back,’ and goes to blue when doubt starts to creep in, and finally to darkness. Rodrigo did a beautiful job. We all felt the lighting scheme as we shot.”  

Human Voice: Behind the Scenes from Canon Pro on Vimeo.