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‘The Watsons Go to Birmingham’ Comes Into Focus with Canon

Set in 1963, The Watsons Go to Birmingham depicts a fictional family’s road trip as it intersects with a true-life bombing during the turbulent civil rights era. Cinematographer James Chressanthis, ASC, used two Canon EOS C300 cameras and Canon’s EF series lenses to help with some of the film’s challenging production requirements.

Cinematographer James Chressanthis, ASC. Photo by Robert Arnold.

“The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM image-stabilized lens was our workhorse,” Chressanthis explains. “Stabilization was critical for nearly all the handheld camera work. The 1949 Plymouth [we used] didn’t have the greatest suspension, so the image stabilization on the EF 24-70mm zoom was a real plus for shooting inside the car. By using that lens on the EOS C300 camera, I was able to do handheld shots without a mount or a special head, and I had the mobility to do little camera moves inside the car. We also used that lens to shoot a scene inside a very small bathroom as two of the Watson children are having a heart-to-heart talk. The image stabilization on the EF 24-70mm zoom let us shoot handheld very close to the actors.”

Chressanthis put a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM ultra-wide zoom on a C300 camera inside a Gates underwater housing to shoot a sequence in which the older Watson boy saves his younger brother from drowning. Chressanthis hand-held a second C300 camera outfitted with an EF 24-70mm zoom lens above the water to film this action sequence, which was also captured on shore by a third camera.