"The city of London, shrouded in a Dickensian blanket of smog, as light winds, Sahara dust, and dirty air from the continent conspire to produce air pollution levels right at the top of the chart." - Sky News
Shot on the Blackmagic Production Camera in 4k, at 400 ASA, with a Canon 28mm f2.8 lens at f5.6, at 7:30am on 31 March 2014. Graded with an Ilford Delta 400 film LUT from FilmConvert. (More on that below.)
After a slew of rather ugly low-light, ISO, and noise comparisons between the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and the newer 4k Production camera, I was anxious to publish some footage from the Production camera that played to it's strengths. I took the opportunity of a misty morning in London to get some decent 4k shots.
This was shot at the onset of Britain's week of smog - although to be clear, the images do not show smog - or in fact, mist - but fog. Fog is basically clouds at ground level. Fog is defined by visibility that is less than one kilometre; mist is lighter, with greater visibility. Not being able to see across the park means it's fog - but mist is a nicer, more positively photographic word - and it also refers to a previous video with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in the mist, although I guess that was fog too :-)
The smog that has been plaguing the UK is much less visible, but I wanted to give some context to the time and the place because it situates it more concretely in a wider experience and makes it more memorable and resonant. I took the idea of using a news sample from an earlier family doc, when we were on holiday on the Isle of Wight during the riots of 2011. And over the past few weeks we have been reconsidering everything in the context of insane London house prices, business-as-usual politics, business-as-usual education for our little ones, and the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which suggests that business-as-usual is suicide. Nothing like a toddler to sharpen up the empathy and long range thinking.
Music by johnny_ripper
I was also influenced by FKY's, The Sea Also Rises, which is one of the most beautiful and moving videos I've seen in some time.
Also, please note the new addition to our neighbourhood: a shiny new CCTV Xmas tree outside the park gates, ostensibly to protect us from the totalitarian levels of surveillance we enjoy from the NSA/GCHQ, who record every aspect of our formerly private lives, finally penetrating inside our homes via digital communications. For me at least, our whole lives are packed into this little film.
The black and white grade is very strange for me as I'd normally be the person arguing on aesthetic grounds for colour. I've literally never created a black and white image before. However, the fog had already taken most of the colour out of the images, and with the increased resolution, it felt like it needed a more reductive approach. The Production Camera is also a more contrasty camera than I'm used to, although the Ilford D400 was the least contrasty of black and white LUTs, as I recall. There is zero grain because it would detract from the fog and get slammed in compression. I normally shoot with a 2.4:1 crop, which is etched in marker on my cameras, as it's more compositionally elegant and mathematically pure.
Registered Vimeo users can download the original file in 4k, as Vimeo doesn't display 4k yet. I think I got away with a pretty low data rate for the H.264 file at a mere 40Mbps. While I calculate 22Mbps is ideal, I over-compressed by a wide margin as Vimeo would be re-compressing the file. Still, 40Mbps seems low compared to data rates other people are using for 4k video.
Read more on the smog.