InCinematographer - Issue 1 - June 2017 - 50
www.incinematographer.com | Issue 1 | June 2017
Canon Takes to the Surf
Cinematographer Sebastian Slayter discusses an experimental project
and the cinematic equipment chosen to achieve a creative vision...
irector Chris Gentile and Cinematographer
Sebastian Slayter had a unique and ambitious
vision to create a feature film blending the world's
most jaw-dropping surfing locations, talented
professional surfers and provocative music.
Since the 1940s, surf films have showcased
the adventures of surfers travelling the world
searching for legendary waves. In his latest film,
Self Discovery for Social Survival, Slayter wanted to
capture that spirit, as well as exploring the role of
music in surf filmmaking from a totally new angle.
Slayter and his team decided the film would span
three stunning locations, Iceland, Mexico and the
Maldives, and feature surf-obsessed musicians
from each destination. They would write the film's
soundtrack based on their experiences joining the
professional surfers hitting the waves. After each
surf, the musicians recorded their tracks so the trip's
influence was fresh and unique. When the final edit
of the film airs later this year, it will intercut visuals
of the music studio recording sessions with surfing,
culture and environment.
In order to achieve this challenging creative vision
of capturing surfers riding perfect waves, using the
right equipment was crucial. The cameras needed to
be both robust and reliable because of the varying
weather conditions they would be exposed to. They
would be out in freezing cold temperatures, or
extreme heat, for several hours at a time and would
need to shoot in bright sunlight, meaning dynamic
range (DR) was vital in capturing great footage in the
available light. What's more, surfing is an extremely
fast-paced sport so the cameras needed to be
intuitive, so they could be brought into play quickly,
and also possess accurate and reliable auto focus to
ensure nothing was missed.
Based on these criteria, a Canon EOS C700 and
EOS C300 Mark II were chosen as the A camera and
B camera for the Maldives leg of the production.
The team also opted for Canon lenses for the entire
shoot because they offered high-quality glass and the
excellent level of performance needed to capture the
great footage the film required.
Slayter and his team chose the EF mount variant of
the C700 that features Dual Pixel CMOS Auto Focus
(AF) technology; a formidable tool in action, taking
AF to new heights.
in the Maldives
"It was just me and the B camera operator that
were shooting and we had no assistant to pull focus
for us," says Slayter. "Many times we'd set up in
these unpredictable environments, not certain of
what our surfers or musicians were going to do. At
these times the AF capability of the C700 saved me
- I was blown away by it. I'd be fully zoomed in with
these guys zipping along waves and the image was
tack sharp the entire time."
Alongside excellent performance, the C700's
innovative construction appealed. While still a fullsize cinema camera, it is also versatile enough to
allow for both traditional studio style and handheld
configurations. The inherent modular design of
the C700 meant that Slayter and the team could
customize the camera's form for different cases.
It also has an intuitive six button layout, to provide
quick access to camera functions that are often used,
such as slow and fast motion, ISO and shutter.
"The operating system is phenomenal and the
cameras are so easy to use," says Slayter. "I can turn
the C700 on, hit record and it's going to perform
all day. That provides tremendous peace of mind
on a project where you have to be primed to shoot
a huge wave very quickly. Whatever the conditions,
my job is to ensure that the images are of the best
possible quality, which made the C700 an obvious
choice given its outstanding DR. I knew that my
highlights wouldn't blow out or that I wouldn't have
any problems with shadow. Post-production coloring
is extremely important in the digital age."
The C700 is certainly a digital standard bearer
featuring a truly impressive 0.7-inch OLED Electronic
Viewfinder (EVF-V70) that packs Full HD 1920x1080
viewing, surround view, view assist and false color.
A view assist feature also enables the EVF-V70 to
provide a view close to the ST 2084 standard to help
with HDR on-set monitoring.
"The new EVF on the C700 is really useful," says
Slayter. "The resolution and the color reproduction
is amazing. We filmed in bright sunshine and it was
really hard to see the on-board monitors. With the
EVF I could keep my eye against it and it was a huge
help in judging exposure and ensuring the camera
was running smoothly."
Speaking of smooth-running, Self Discovery for
Social Survival is now in post-production and will
premier in the US this winter. Slayter and the team
are also planning to launch an accompanying
photobook and roadshow in which the musicians will
play the tracks live to screenings of the film.
"Canon equipment played a big role in getting us
to this point," says Slayter. "I've several projects
coming up this year and my experience on this film
means I'll definitely bring Canon equipment along to
Is a New York and London-based cinematographer
and DoP who trained at New York University.
His credits include Anchorman 2, The Best Man
Holiday, Master of None and Wormwood on Netflix,
High Maintenance for HBO and Daredevil Season 1,
As a DoP, Slayter has shot the US Olympic sailing
team in Rio and completed a commercial campaign
for Blundstone Boots. He also has a feature film in