Apart from better sound quality, masks and overall film production, there was a notable improvement in video camera technology (not only device improvement, but also improvement in taking shots). We gladly use the advantages of digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) with interchangeable lens for our shooting. The quality of the shootings is far better than the quality of Metren Incident shooting. We interviewed Radek (Flash) Bělina, our head cameraman, about this technological progress and other aspects of working with the camera.

Studio preparations: greenscreen, equipment, lights...

Why did you decide to shoot the footage using DLSR and not by using commonly used camcorder?

The main reason and the biggest advantage of DLSR is the size of its sensor. The sensor is several times larger when comparing it with ordinary camera and that yields many advantages. It allows a better depth of field control and it allows to shoot a blurred background used in films.
This way we have better expressional methods we can use in the film (focus on speaking actors or important parts of image etc) compared to using commonly used camcorder.

Radek (Flash) Bělina behind the camera The larger digital sensor of DLSR gives us one more advantage. That is incomparably higher quality of image output while shooting in low light. This allows for shooting in relatively accessible lighting while keeping a low ISO in order to get almost noise-free footage. For the more technically oriented: we shoot the whole project using ISO 100 or ISO 200. Last but not least, it is important that we can use high-quality interchangeable objective lens.
Shot preparations: one camera set to shoot the whole scene; the other from up close

Which equipment do you use, specifically?

We are shooting using equipment made by Canon, specifically Canon 550D and Canon 600D and three objective lenses with image stabilization: 17-55/2.8 IS, 24-105/4L IS, and 70-200/4L IS. In film-making, it is essential to use objective lens with constant aperture in the whole zoom range, ensuring that it is not necessary to manually change the aperture during shooting takes with different focal points, thus changing the depth of field between the two.

The advantage of using sensors of size APS-C compared to "Full Frame" is that its dimensions are very similar to the movie format Super 35, which is commonly used for shooting movies. The price of cameras which plays an important role as well is several times lower with APS-C cameras.


Camera dolly on rails with carpet below to smooth out the movement.

Both cameras contain the “unofficial” firmware Magic Lantern, which is great for any cameraman shooting using the Canon DLSRs. It allows not only for more in-depth options and higher output footage quality, but also for easier operation.


Each “camcorder” has a Rode VideoMic external microphone attached to it. The mic records reference audio later used for synchronization with high-quality, separately recorded audio. For details, see the audio section of the interview.

Canon 600D with interchangeable lens

What video format do you shoot in? What will be the final video resolution?

We shoot the footage in a resolution called Full HD (1920x1080) non-interlaced and with standard film frequency 24 frames per second. Well, more precisely, 23.976p intended for videos and blu-ray disks. We’re still debating whether to produce the final film in Full HD quality or just HD (720p). Lowering resolution allows for use of the original footage in a more creative way during post-production, changing the frame, or adding minor image movements, even if the take was static. Rendering both 2D and 3D input speeds up as well and we can settle for PCs with lower performance. Right now we mostly use PCs with quad-core processors Intel i7 or i5, 16GB of RAM and SSDs.

 Checking the take: Flash, Korálek, and Denerog.

I have watched a projection of the “greenscreen” footage for the crew and thought that the image was fine, but somewhat indistinct and slightly blurry?

Since the video goes through post-production, it is best not to rely on the camera’s (camcorder’s) automated correction and sharpening algorithms. This way we can record much more original image data through the sensor chip in much greater dynamic range with better image details. Then, during post-production, the crew makes colour corrections, noise reduction, and sharpening, with far greater quality than the camera’s own capabilities.
The famous cameraman Philip Bloom and also other cameramen recommend on their websites reducing both sharpening and saturation.

Camera placement and greenscreen shot lighting.

You listed only the pros of DLSR shooting so far. Are there any cons at all?

Of course, DLSR shooting does not only have advantages. However, most of the disadvantages are negligible considering amateur or pseudo-professional production.

 Some shots require adequate distance One of the most significant cons is control ergonomics. DLSR, as it is, will never be as stable or pleasant to use, as a professional film camera. That is why it is necessary, especially when shooting with a camera on the move, to employ as many stabilizing elements as possible, such as the use of a tripod, quality shoulder pad, camera crane or camera dolly. We used all those methods and we made our own camera dolly and camera crane. Optic stabilization of lens helps considerably. That is why I recommend using it for filming. Thanks to it even shooting while holding camera in hand one can achieve relatively good results.
A camera crane in the forest.


How do you, as a cameraman, prepare for shooting?

Now that is a very interesting part of shooting. Firstly, there are preparations before the shooting weekend itself. And secondly, since I am not the only cameraman, but rather the head cameraman, I have to plan ahead to determine who is to operate which camera and which part of the shot, at least roughly.


Margh during exterior action scenes shooting. During the greenscreen filming, while not acting myself, I could operate both cameras (A and B) at once. In more complex shots, especially in exterior shots, I had the aid of Margh and two professional film-makers: Korálek and Denerog. Help was particularly handy when shooting at Vodafone, since I was fighting off some kind of a “virus infection” at that time. An actual one! :-)
Extraterrestrial conference scene in an actual interior. The preparations consist above all of checking and cleaning the memory cards. We also always formatted those before the shooting, so that we could use a higher bit rate, better suitable for the following post-production (green screen keying, colour correction). We record on SDHC and SDXC memory cards with capacity 32GB and 64GB. We have managed to overheat two cards during the shooting so much that they physically fell apart. And we are talking about high-quality branded memory cards.
Filming crew outdoors.

It is necessary to have objective lens, lighting and batteries charged and ready, which, if underestimated, could hold a lot of people up. And finally everything has to be packed into the car, then carried through the building, where we shot (several floors, with only limited use of an elevator.) It all seems pretty simple, but it would have been an enormous drag, if not for the whole crew’s help.

 Multitasking with cameras.

It was also important to prepare a camera log. At the beginning we thoroughly noted quite a lot of parameters. However, after a few practice sessions, particularly thanks to Magic Lantern “unofficial” firmware, we only logged information important to the clapper board - naming the files after scenes and takes.


Annie and Margh, checking the scene through the camera/camcorder’s viewfinder.

During each of the weekend shootings  we recorded about 100-140GB of footage.The amount of data depended on the number of failed attempts and on the time we spend on preparing the scene and on the time we spend on actual shooting. After the last filmed scene, the film has about 1,5TB of raw data and we use about 400GB out of the 1.5TB for editing.
 Camera and clapper board ready, action!

What is the difference, from the cameraman’s point of view, between shooting indoor and outdoor?

It might sound a bit strange but the main difference is in logistics and external influences. Indoors one can prepare everything, electric power for lights and for recording audio is easily accessible.

Shooting even during rain and harvester sound (in the background).

On the other hand outdoor, we were shooting mostly in Prague in different spots of Sarka Valley, and there you always have to figure out how to transfer all the heavy equipment (camera crane, tripods, props etc.) and  see if you will have enough power for camera and sound. Therefore, we tried to park our cars as close to the shooting site as possible, because we had to run to them  pretty often to recharge our batteries. For that we used special rechargers connected to 12V car batteries. Plus we had to think about the camera dolly which weighed roughly 50 kilos plus several metres of plastic rails. Realistically we were able to carry them about 20 – 30 metres from the cars, not one or more kilometres, which was generally the distance between our parked cars and the shooting site.

 Filling the shadows with reflected light thanks to reflectors and their patient bearers.

We solved the light problem by using reflective plates and by trying to cover shades by reflections of natural sunlight. It was not possible to solve that otherwise as this would mean bringing a gasoline or oil generator (which we would have to borrow) to produce energy and consequently because of its noise record all dialogues and background noise  separately and use postsynchronization in studio afterwards.

We were able to make moving shots from interesting angles by means of a camera on a crane jib.

There was quite enough external disturbences during our shooting in exteriors. From time to time, big planes were flying over the Sarka Valley, or a dog was barking, but the biggest problem was people “staring” at us. Although we politely asked them to be quiet it was hopeless.

Some shouts as: „Look, they’re making a movie here!“ and other ”intelligent” statements might still be faintly heard in the background but viewers should not hear them. On the contrary when we were shooting indoors, a group of pavers decided to improve the pavement during a shooting weekend by using a 200-kilo hammer right at the building where we were shooting. Although buildings in this old quarter of Prague are pretty old, the whole building started to tremble and the loud hammer pounding reverberated through the walls. We ran out, partly with our make-up and masks on and asked politely the workmen how long they would continue. They probably got frightened a bit, and told us they should have their equipment loaded already and they were gone in 10 minutes.

Shooting with the help of camera dolly - rough terrain showed up as a ‘slight’ difficulty.

Which scene or shooting day do you remember as the most strenuous as cameraman?

The moment when a memory card we used for recording disintegrated due to heat and the files with almost a whole day of shooting got damaged. We were able to recover the files during the night and then the next day Margh manually renamed each of them during pauses in shooting and when needed connected them into the right sequences.


Shooting in futuristic looking café - lots of equipment and enthusiasts on one spot.

Among the more enjoyable shootings I would name the one in Vodafone café. Such high concentration of people and equipment and their close cooperation, all concentrating on achieving a good looking result is in my opinion quite considerable performance for an amateur fan film. In a real environment compared to greenscreen we can use much more from classical shooting techniquea as well as the camera crane and dolly.

A bit of fun behind the camera.

Any funny story from behind the camera?

We had plenty of funny moments when people stumbled in their dialogues or realised a possible double meaning in a sentence or interaction. However the cameraman must try to continue shooting and cannot laugh loud so that he does not ruin the shot himself. In our case it was often the actors who were laughing, which meant we had to take the shot again anyway.

Picky Romulans

You can look forward to seeing some funny moments in the bonuses. We had a few funny ideas directly during the shooting session, such as important question - what colour of toilet paper do Romulans prefer?


It is not only actors but also the camera which moves during the shooting, whenever sensible and possible.We used also lights designated for billboards and specially built lights (homemade Kino-flo).


Camera on crane and a reflector for shooting outside in the shade.Shooting is a busy place, especially in the middle of a conference scene. 



Translated to English by S'Tsung & Praotec Trekkie

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