Thoughts on “House” Finale

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I have to admit that on a technical level (and overall) the Season Finale of House was STUNNING.    I had to pinch myself a few times and I have to admit that the question: “Was this REALLY shot w/ the Canon 5D MKII” did run through my mind more than once.  The full episode will be available on Fox’s site in 7 days for those who missed it, or of course on iTunes.

Three things stood out:

1. The lens sharpness was phenomenal.  Why?   The lighting.   Sure we all caught some glimpses of people/faces falling out of focus at times – something all 5D MKII and HDDSLR operators are well acquainted with…  I’m sure this could be remedied with many of the newer 3rd party lens options out there today.  I am told this episode was shot with Canon EF Lenses – including the 24~70mm 2.8 and 70~200mm 2.8 – lenses that are particularly difficult to set focus marks with, as they were never really intended to be used as cinema lenses.

2. The image quality was phenomenal.   No noise.  No artifacting whatsoever.  No blocking up of shadows.  Why?  In my opinion:  The lighting.

3. The Lighting throughout was phenomenal.   Basically – it was lit in a very similar way if not identical way to the high standard that House has been filmed in the past.  DP Gale Tatersall understood something that I have formulated over the past 2 years with the Canon 5D MKII:   While the camera does produce incredible results in low light – you still need to light for it carefully – and often, you’ll end up lighting it in very similar ways to how you would light for just about any camera out there.   The difference is that you may need 1-2 stops less overall in lighting at times.

So yes,  you may need less light,  BUT – the quality of the light and the time and care you invest in it won’t change if you want to get the results Gale got with this season finale.   The point is: this season finale would probably have looked good on any camera out there – it just so happens that Gale proved that when you give the Canon 5D MKII good material – it can play with many of the big boys out there.

To date, my conclusion is that the Canon 5D MKII and HDDSLRS in general offer an incredible entry into filmmaking for a wide variety of individuals that would otherwise never have access to similar tools that would allow them to obtain the “professional film” look.   The economic barrier that has been around for so long (in terms of the incredibly high cost of cinema equipment) is being chipped away in part – due to the low cost of these camera bodies.

For productions – the lightweight nature, small size of the camera body, and full frame sensor offers great advantages – in that the camera is smaller, lighter and much more nimble – not to mention cheaper.  It also will offer up new technical challenges that cannot be ignored – and a Director/DP that is aware of how to overcome them will become an incredibly important asset to any production.      This new technology offers almost any production out there the choice of shooting multiple cameras simultaneously – and to work a little faster (though not magically, at lightning speed – as some people would wish!) both due to it’s low light performance, and lighter weight.    In low light, and at night – this camera simply sings.    However – good lighting, great crews, the time it takes to put together a great production – won’t go away anytime soon.     And if anything – that’s what this episode proved to me:  Gale has incredible talent, and was surrounded by an incredibly talented team of professionals – and they produced incredible work as a result – in some ways the Canon 5D MKII was simply along for the ride – and definitely rose to the occasion.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t compliment the director Greg Yaitanes and the screenplay writers for what was an extremely strong screenplay and great direction.  Besides being a technical triumph of sorts – this was also one of my favorite House episodes to date.  Once again:  the content was there and it was very well told.

Lastly – I did mention in the last post that the production cost more and took longer to shoot than normal.  Clearly – the Canon 5D MKII was very likely NOT the cause… the production value on this episode was HUGE – relative to a standard episode:  large cast of extras, destruction, and mayhem after a crane collapse into a building.