Cinematographer David Darby Utilizes Panasonic VariCam 35 4K Camera for Major Chrysler, Chick-fil-A Spots

Award-winnning cinematographer David Darby, ASC, celebrated for his national and international commercial work, recently shot projects for major advertisers Chrysler Mopar and Chick-fil-A with the VariCam 35 4K camera/recorder. The Los Angeles-based DP said that, with these commercials, he was working with different production companies who each stipulated shooting at a minimum of UHD (3840×2160) resolution.

David Darby, ASC, Shoots Automotive, Retail Food Commercials with Panasonic VariCam 35 4K Camera/Recorders

David Darby, ASC, Shoots Automotive, Retail Food Commercials with Panasonic VariCam 35 4K Camera/Recorders

“Both of these spots were CG-intensive and, in both cases, the production team emphatically did not want to up-rez,” says Darby. “Having had prior hands-on experience with the VariCam 35, I recommended using the Panasonic 4K camera. The production companies got the resolution they required, and I got the fine-grained film look I was after.”

Darby described the shoot for Chrysler Mopar (the service and parts division of the automotive giant) as having many inherent challenges. “The spot has tons of visual FX and many CG elements, to the extent that we virtually eliminated 75% of the set, and worked with the automobile, actors and props on a very small stage.”

“We shot UHD, and it was the prettiest digital image I’ve seen thus far shot at 3200° Kelvin,” he continues. “We lit the car and people to look fabulous and, when I first saw the images out of the VariCam 35 using tungsten lamps, my reaction was that the flesh tones were absolutely gorgeous, and very ‘creamy.’”

Darby said that the Chick-fil-A spot emulates the look of a TV camera with tele-photo lens covering a baseball game, with similar results of “the look, feel and integrity of the material being as fine-grained as it could be in case certain takes had to be blown later up within the frame–but still looking much better than just video.”

“The VariCam 35 is just a beautiful machine, and I’m pushing to use it whenever I can,” Darby says. “I’m especially eager to utilize the ISO 5000 extreme low-light feature, which I think has the potential of making ‘magic hour’ last another 15 minutes (referring to the beautiful light before daybreak and right after the sun has gone down).”

“Budgets have been cut so drastically, with what used to be a 12-14 hour work day now routinely limited to 10 hours, that the ability to get those extra minutes of ‘magic’ coverage is a terrific advantage of the camera,” he adds.

“The VariCam 35 has a lovely filmic quality,” Darby notes. “You achieve 4K/UHD resolution without sacrificing any of the pleasures of the viewing experience–you get high resolution with no ultra-sharp video feel. It’s as if the camera is impervious to the resolution, in terms of cinematic results: it’s a really sweet machine.”

Panasonic’s VariCam 35 is a tool for high-end filmmaking, commercials, and episodic production as well as live 4K events. The camera provides quality image handling in multiple formats ranging from pristine 4K RAW to more practical AVC codecs for 4K, UHD, 2K, HD and HD ProRes capture. The VariCam 35 features dual native ISOs of 800 and 5000, allowing DPs to realize high-end image quality in extremely low light situations; the ability to record three simultaneous video formats (4K + 2K + Proxy, or UHD + HD + Proxy); an optional high-speed 4K uncompressed RAW recorder (CODEX) that will capture uncompressed 4K VariCam RAW (V-RAW) at up to 120fps; internal AVC-Intra 4K / 2K / HD recording to 120fps; support for an ACES workflow for full fidelity mastering of original source material; and in-camera Color-Grading via CDLs / 3D LUTs.

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