T.Stops Blog

"A Verse Before Dying" Working with the AF100

The Trailer for the film and how we got here….

This pastweek i have been fortunate enough to be among the first people in the world to use the AF100 under a professional environment, shooting director Stephen Mick’s period short film, “A Verse Before Dying”.

Panasonic USA lent us 2 AG-AF100 bodies.  I had one setup for tripod, and dolley use, and the other was set up for Stedicam/Jib use.

Our list of equipment panned out as follows:
Camera Department:
2x AF100 camera bodies.
1 full set of Zeiss Compact Primes Series 1,  18mm T3.5, 21mm T2.8, 25mm T2.1, 28mm T2.1, 35mm T2.0, 50mm T1.5, 85mm T1.5
1 set of Duclos modified Zeiss ZF lenses. 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm
Nikon 50-300 F4.5 AIS
Lumix 14-140 OIS
Lumix 20mm F1.7
Voightlander 85mm F1.1

Camera Support:
Stedicam Archer system
Kessler CineSlider
Kessler Kpod and Herculese Head 2.0
Sachtler V20 and Sachtler sticks.
Bartek Wireless Follow Focus
Shoot35 Cinefocus Follow Focus
Chroziel MB450-01 mattebox
Redrock Mattebox

Small HD dp6 monitor.
Panasonic BTLH80 7″ Monitor.
NanoFlash Recorder

3ton Grip truck
4k HMI
several 1.2k HMI’s
and a simple tungsten package
600 AMP generator.

The AF100 with CP1’s, Shoot35 Cinefocus , NanoFlash Recorder and Zacuto System. Photo by Matt Gettermeir

There was no shortage of equipment, lenses, lights, crew or camera support.  Essentially we removed every obstacle that can get in the way of a camera system performing to its maximum, to see what the camera is actually like.  The truth is, the camera system was never an obstacle.  The AF100, is so seem less a camera system that it simply steps out of your way.  You never “Feel” the camera.  IE, you don’t find yourself making adjustments to the shot to make up for the short comings of  what was until now, a series of hacks, and makeshift work arounds to get the desired image.  I was able to spend all my time and energy on the shot, the lights and the camera movement.  I remember working with the 5D mkII, or the HVX200 and 35mm adpater systems,  there was always an obstacle.  Whether it was the constant back focus checking on the ground glass, or struggling to make sure the sot is in focus with a 5D, or the avoiding of moire inducing scenes, the low effective sensitivity of the adapter solutions, and the loss in resolution and image quality.

Lets start at the exposure and lighting dynamics:
The camera is a great performer @ ISO 400, or 0dB gain.  You can easily go as high as 800 with no significant increase in noise or grain.   Whats interesting was that i found that i rarely went above ISO 320.  Even indoors, at night, i found that ISO 320 was far more than enough to get an excellent exposure.  The camera retains, with careful massaging of the scene file, exceptional latitude. I did not have a rear lit chart to actually test for myself, but producer and Panasonic expert Barry Green, a friend of mine, tested it and assures me the AF100 holds 10.5 stops.   Thats incredible, and it certainly felt like it.

Lets look into some of the lighting setups i built for “AVerse Before Dying” and explore how the camera stood up to the paces i put it through.

The theory behind the lighting was that in the mid nineteenth century there were hardly any man made sources of light, other than candles, and fire.   This means that even daylight interiors are motivated by the sun.  I designed a lighting plan that performed what i call “Sunlight +”.  This is not a real term, just some thing i made up. It means using the natural light available to you, and assisting it with HMI’s and relfectors to do what you need.

Starting at the Saloon Scene, lets examine how Sunlight + lighting scheme was worked out.

Starting off, the sun was naturally pouring in through a majority of the set for most of the day.  The doors and windows on the south side of the set, created a base fill light that gave the room a flat wash, that gave us an exposure @ ISO200 and a T2.8 on the CP1’s.  I wanted to shoot at a T4 to give me the option to have the depth of field look its most cinematic.  The mattebox had a 1/4 Black Promist Filter, which cuts a quarter stop.  Lets examine the lighting plan.

The first setup was for the “actor” at the round table facing the window. The equipment used was a double net, a mirror board, and a 1.2k HMI for this segment of the scene.   I flagged off the sun with a double net,  from the window, to make sure the light that hits the actor is what i want, not what the sun forced upon me. Now that i cut down the sun, i had to create my own sun.  This is where the 1.2K HMI, and the mirror borad come in.  I raised the mirror board up, and had the 1.2k HMI on the ground on a super stand, looking straight up, and the Mirror borad bounced the beam of light, softening it, back into the window of the saloon, and lighting the actor.  Here is the corresponding frame grab to see the effects.

Photo by Barry Green

Now lets examine the Next Setup, the Reversal on the bartender as pictured here:

As you can see from the diagram, this is Sunlight+ as it is intended, as natural as possible.  The lighting you see here is about 50% natural, and 50% assisted.  The Sun is beaming a hard, bright patch of light on the floor of the bar near the door.  Since the daylight look is what i’m going for i placed a white bead board reflector on the ground to catch that light and throw it up on to the actor.   I then took the 4K HMI, and skinned it with a 1/2 Straw filter to mimic the ambient light reflecting in the doors and windows off of the huge amount of straw that was just out side the door.  This 4k added some shape and  definition to the wall and the actors face.
This is the view outside of the door of the saloon.

It is important to keep in mind the color of reflected lights.   The tint if the straw, needs to be compensated for when using pure color units in conjunction with the natural lighting.  In addition i placed a 1.2k Unit pointed at the ceiling above the actor the add some fill light for the shadow side of his face.

The combination of these two lighting setups are visible here in the wide shot.  They together create a natural, yet motivated lighting setup that we staged our actors in.


Once the lighting has been set to the appropriate levels for exposure, the time comes for adjustments.  Using the waveform on the AF100, i had the gaffer Marcel Rodriguez adjust the lighting setup to make sure we hit the IRE levels necessary to take advantage of all the AF100 could capture.  I had him walking the lights, reflectors and netting elements of the set to the degree of 1/10ths of a stop to ensure that we used all 110IRE the camera could record.  The image may have looked a bit flat, but its ready for the color grading session we had planned for it.

Camera Support:
Once we had the lighting setup, it came time to turn on the camera and get it telling the story.  I used one of my favorite tools of all time, the Kessler CineSlider, Kpod and Hercules Head 2.0…  I used it to add some subtle movement to many of the shots in this film.   The beauty is that the AF100 fully loaded is still so light that there is no perceivable flex in the slider dolley setup at all.  This makes for smooth repeatable moves that have that “expensive” rock solid look.

Photos Courtesy of Matt Gottshalk.

This is all for now…  I will continue this break down once i get the other lighting breakdowns down on paper.

enjoy, feel free to ask as many questions as you like.

For more Behind the scenes please visit DVXuser.com’s Behind the Scenes Thread!


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13 years ago

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13 years ago

Great explanation, thank you for taking the time to write it!

It’s great to see how everything comes together piece by piece and the care that has to go into lighting things to look natural while still controlling what we want the public to look at.

13 years ago

Awesome work Mr. Civan. I love seeing what goes into lighting setups. Great explanations and motivations. Grown much as a DP you have.

13 years ago

Great post, great looking project

13 years ago

Can you give more info on the Voightlander 85mm f1.1 ? I am familiar with their 25mm f0.95, and I know they make a 50mm f1.1 for Leica m mount which could be used with the Panasonic – is this the lens you are referring to ?

13 years ago

Yes, you are correct, its the 50mm F1.1. I will correct the blog.

Its a great lens, sharp wide open, and very small and light.