After more than a year of using the Canon C100, I finally had a shoot which required slow motion. The hardworking GoPro3+ and Canon XF100 normally do a fantastic job, but for this shoot I really wanted a shallow depth cine look, so they simply weren't an option. It turns out the original C100 can produce slow motion video and the results are not only acceptable, but very usable. This definitely takes some shine off of the new mark two's biggest selling point - 1080P50.
I first heard about the slow motion trick from Philip Bloom's intial review of the camera although I quickly dismissed it on paper to be 1080/2 = 540 = Widescreen SD. Interestingly enough, the C100 and C300 were also dismissed on announcement by many due to the perceived low quality 25mb/s AVCHD (C100) and 50mb/s MPEG2 (C300) codecs.
The hack itself is stupidly simple and owes its success to the strangely implemented but relatively robust AVCHD codec. The original Advanced Video Coding High Definition standard lacks a native progressive mode, instead wrapping 25P inside a 1080-50i stream using PSF, (Progressive Segmented Frame) to be compatible with the h.264 Blu-Ray spec. Most players with a USB input will even play AVCHD files when copied to a USB drive straight out of the camera, which makes reviewing rushes on the couch a legitimate option.
The basic recipe:
Set the camera to shoot 50i at 1/100th shutter to obey the 180 degree rule as you would on any camera. There will be a slight increase in light, so you may need to drop down half a stop. Then simply shoot your slowmo shots as required but do make sure to switch the camera back to 25P,1/50th once complete. That's basically it until...
Until you get back to the edit suite and can't exactly remember which clips were slowmo and which clips were normal speed. If you're a Creative Clouder, you'll be used to interpreting all your clips as progressive, as they aren't recognised properly in Premiere Pro. For slow motion, we skip this step, so if you have slowmo clips scattered across a card, put the card back in the camera, and switch the camera over to playback mode. At the bottom of the playback screen, the metadata shows if a clip is 50i or 25P (24P, 59.94i etc.), make a note of all the clip numbers that show 50i and then once back in Premiere, highlight them and make them a different color. Then select all the normal speed clips and apply the progressive interpretation.
Next up, do a sort on the clips by 'field order' and drag all the progressive clips into a 1080 25p timeline. Grab all the remaining (new color) clips and put them at the end of the timeline, change their speed to 50%. Now, all of a sudden you've converted those horrible interlaced looking 'tapey' clips into beautiful, elegant, 1080P slow motion.
Below is a short clip from the shoot. I really wanted to highlight the young footballer's skill and the awe of the kids he was mentoring. We had very limited time with the kids, so I knew that slow motion would effectively give me double the amount of footage and give the client some extra bang for their buck... So it's not so much a case of a new camera feeling, but definitely a more camera feeling, a tool that I will continue to use where appropriate on future jobs.