29 Dec 2016

Top 10 Stories from 2016 #4: This is how good Canon’s low light camera is

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Prof. Lucie Green presenting to camera in the dark Prof. Lucie Green presenting to camera in the dark BBC

Our countdown reaches number 4, and if you wanted an illustration of exactly how good Canon’s 4 million ISO ME2OF-SH camera is, this still from the BBC’s Stargazing Live was recorded in a muddy, dark field and broadcast live in January 2016.

The Complete Top 10 (based on page views)

1. Nvidia's GTX 1080 Is this the end of Mac-based video production?

2. Five things a Colorist would like to say to a DP

3. Is something dramatic about to happen with Final Cut Pro X?

4. This is how good Canon’s low light camera is

5. Apple could dominate the entire NLE space with the next Final Cut Pro

6. Is Lytro's new 755MP, 300fps cinema camera the biggest leap in video tech ever?

7. Sony's new PXW-Z150: the camera you should always take with you?

8. RED launches not one, but two 8K cameras

9. Sony FS5 Review: How good is Sony's latest large sensor camera?

10. Surprise new Super 8 camera from Kodak


Stargazing Live, which is broadcast live from the illustrious Jodrell Bank radio telescope in Cheshire in the UK, has become a bit of an institution in recent years with its mix of space stories and astronomy features. One aspect of it has always been a bit of a problem for the production team though: how to depict people in a field looking at the stars with telescopes (which needs low light) on TV (which typically needs lots).

The solution over the years has, of course, been using specialist low light cameras, and viewers have become very used to seeing their noisy black and white images on the screens.

This series though, the team has started using the Canon ME2OF-SH and the results, as you can see above, are remarkable, with colours clearly visible in a remarkably noise-free picture. This was shot live, in a muddy, dark field, with low cloud cover and no moon. It probably wasn’t pitch black, some very subdued lighting tends to be used by the production team so that people don’t start tripping over cables and all the other ephemera that comes alongside a major OB, but it wasn’t lit in anything that you could call the conventional sense.

The result was that the practical astronomy sequences really stood out. And in a programme that regularly features live footage from the ISS, that isn't easy.

Tune in to watch it in action again today and tomorrow night, 21.00 BBC2, and you never know, they might even have some clear skies over the next few days. The show is also available, with the usual geographic restrictions, via the iPlayer here

Andy Stout

Andy has spent over two decades writing about all aspects of the broadcast and film industries for a variety of high-profile industry publications on both sides of the Atlantic. During that time the industry has moved from 4:3 SD to 16:9 SD to HD and now on to 4K HDR. He's getting kind of curious to see where it goes next.

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