Canon HDSLRs used on the set of TNT’s Memphis Beat

The revolution of movies, television shows and commercial production using Canon HDSLR cameras continue. Every day we find out about more and more shows that use the Canon EOS 5D Mark II (reviews) or the Canon EOS 7D (reviews) for part or all of the production.

Editor’s note: This is a follow on story to our earlier announcement of TNT’s Memphis Beat (IMDB) using Canon HDSLRs in this story “TV industry embracing Canon HDSLRs“. planet5D friend Barry Anderson went on the set of the TNT show and filed this report.

John Peters with a Canon HDSLR on the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

A new series Memphis Beat launched this summer on TNT and we got wind that they were using the Canon HDSLRs on the show.

We reached out and talked to John Peters (director of photography) (IMDB) about how they were using the 5D2 on the set. He graciously invited me down to the set for a few days to see for myself first hand.

Before I arrived on set, I spoke briefly with Mr. Peters and the only thing I knew was he was the operator of the 5D2 on set. I had no idea how much or for what type of coverage they were using the cameras for. When I first arrived on set it was business as usual. The show shoots with 2 Sony 900R’s as the primary cameras.

Sony 900r on the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

Turns out John is the only operator of the 5D2 on set. As is the beauty of the HDSLR platform- the entire camera C and Camera D package is in one small case.

Canon EOS 7D in a case on the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

John had 2 Canon zooms (the 70-200 IS and the 24-70), a set of Nikon AIS lenses (that were de-clicked and geared by Duclos Lenses and 2 Canon HDSLR cameras (the 5D2 and the 7D).

Open case – photo by Barry Anderson

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II was the C camera on the shoot and the main camera that John was operating.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II on the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

The primary use of the Canon 5D2 was to help get extra coverage for the episode and being able to grab extra shots while laying on the floor, riding the dolly or just getting an extra angle

HDSLR riding the dolly on the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

HDSLR getting the extra angle – photo by Barry Anderson

Toward the end of the first day there was a scene that took place in a small bathroom at the Roosevelt Hotel. The production called for about 10-12 people, both Sony 900R’s and the actors to all be in the bathroom at once. Let me remind you this was not a set but a real hotel bathroom and it was tight. John, by using the 5D2, was able to add a 3rd camera angle (low from the floor) and an above the head shot (with the 7D mounted on the ceiling) to get all the coverage they needed in the limited space and time they had.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II on the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

Canon EOS 7D on the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

So just in the first day I saw first hand the 5D2 and 7D help get extra coverage shots, critical inserts, tight shots not otherwise possible and bonus shots that were John was able to pick up another setup during setup or tear down of a scene. John would talk with the director, John Fortenberry (IMDB) and just use the LCD screen on the camera to check the shots while the rest of the crew setup or moved to the next location.

Checking images on the LCD on the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

The second day they were shooting at an old abandoned warehouse. Another team had been setting up the previous day so when the crew arrived it wasn’t long before shooting began. I was told the first day I was on set was the big 5D2 day and there wasn’t much scheduled for the day. That was immediately not the case as the 5D2 was already out and ready to work.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II on the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

As a matter of fact the 5D2 was used the entire day for even more reasons than the first day. The first shot was set up and John pulled out a tall ladder and quickly climbed to the top. Because of the small form and portability of the camera John was able to get a great angle for the establishing shot for the scene (which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible or would have taken a ton more time to set up and tear down).

John Peters on a quick setup with a ladder – photo by Barry Anderson

After a couple of takes John yelled over to me to follow him and ran to the other side of the warehouse and we climbed up into this little room that was literally rotting out. The room was dirty and gritty and John was able to get another great angle with a lot of visual appeal that the production would have never had time to get with their schedule.

John Peters with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II on the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

Again after a few takes we ran to another side of the warehouse and John climbed another set of old stairs and was able to get even more great coverage for the scene.

John Peters getting an extra shot – photo by Barry Anderson

Mind you this is just not possible with any other camera. It was like John was a ninja running around the set getting unbelievable coverage in no time at all.

The last part of the day is where I was most impressed. The main cameras were set up to cover a set of cars entering the warehouse, the main actors ducked behind an old car and a set of cars with some bad guys waiting. The entire warehouse was covered from all angles. After all the main cameras

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were set John and I ran to the middle of the warehouse and found a small pillar to hide behind. It was John, myself and one other team member that were able to set up in the middle of the warehouse behind this small pillar (just enough for us not to be seen) and again were able to get additional coverage that no other camera would have been able to get without being seen by all the other cameras.

John Peters doing some low angle shooting – photo by Barry Anderson

Unfortunately, I had to leave before they finished the day but when I left the 5D was still in action. I don’t think this will be an uncommon way to work in the near future as having an HDSLR camera on set allows for some additional coverage and some shots that just can’t be attained any other way.

The episode I was on set for was Don’t Be So Cruel. You can buy it for $2.99 on iTunes. Watch the episode and pay attention to the scene when Jason Lee enters the hotel, the scene in the bathroom with the tile and the warehouse scene. See if you can pick out the 5D shots.

Special thanks to John Peters (DP), John Fortenberry (Dir), Joshua Harto (Producer) and the rest of the Memphis Beat team for letting me tag around for a couple days and share their workflow with the planet5D folks.

That's a wrap on the planet5D visit to the set of Memphis Beat – photo by Barry Anderson

(Photo credit: by Barry Anderson)