LUMIX

GH7: Filmmaker Ben Staley Dives into an ARRI LogC3 workflow for “The Cookie Jar”

GH7: Filmmaker Ben Staley Dives into an ARRI LogC3 workflow for “The Cookie Jar”

Ben Staley, a multifaceted filmmaker primarily working in documentary and unscripted adventure series takes pride in telling interesting and unique stories. His work covers various programs including Discovery Channel, Netflix, and National Geographic, along with numerous branded projects and feature documentaries. Beyond his professional filmmaking work, Staley also indulges in photography during his travels and projects, integrating it into his storytelling.

Much of Staley's artistic influences are rooted in his Alaskan upbringing, where books and the occasional cinema visit fueled his imagination. Some of his literary influences include Edgar Rice Burroughs' “John Carter of Mars" and Stephen King's fantastical novels. His cinematic taste was formed by icons like Spielberg and Lucas, and later by directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson and Wong Kar Wai.

With the LUMIX GH7, director Ben Staley captured an ARRI LogC3 workflow with the GH7 and ARRI ALEXA Mini LF.

While shooting in remote northern Canada for a History Channel series in early 2011, Staley discovered LUMIX cameras after acquiring the newly released GH2. Light and compact, the camera was ideal for his global travels, and he captured countless photos and videos from Siberia to Southeast Asia.

Staley has always appreciated the reliability and portability of LUMIX cameras, noting that they are perfectly suited for his challenging work environments. He highlights that "the best camera is the one that's with you," and for Staley, that's usually been a LUMIX. “I traditionally work in rough and tumble, hostile environments,” he explained. ”I've always been able to rely on LUMIX cameras and have been able to take them anywhere. I'm typically very hard on gear, and as much damage as I've done to them, I've never destroyed a LUMIX camera completely. It has always been there and ready to work.”

For an outdoor moving sequence, Staley mounted the GH7 on a SUPER73 Electric Motorbike rigged by Tilta.

Staley recently completed production on "Cookie Jar," a short film with stylized fight sequences and vivid neon colors. He worked alongside cinematographer Joseph Seif, employing the ARRI ALEXA Mini LF as his A-camera and incorporating additional footage from the LUMIX GH7. "Joe is a top-tier commercial DP and honestly one of the most talented and creative people I know,” revealed Staley. “I've been hoping for a project to come along where I could collaborate with him. Although I'm a cinematographer in my own right, I didn't want to be tasked with both directing and DP-ing this project. I just wanted someone really talented, who had attention to detail, a keen sense of visuals, and just a good eye for aesthetics."

The film blends professional Steadicam footage from the ALEXA Mini LF with energetic handheld shots from the GH7. Staley also utilized specialty rigs for the GH7 to create engaging POV and chase scenes, shooting 360-degrees on a stage lit with Nanlite PavoTubes. “I wanted to create an engaging, short film that's reminiscent of a contemporary ‘Charlie's Angels’ or ‘John Wick’,” he explained. “It features a high degree of danger, framed within a Secret Agent narrative, yet it includes a hint of comedy. Most crucially, it showcases intense action that allows us to place the GH7 at the heart of the action, testing its capabilities and durability.” 

Staley gives direction to "The Cookie Jar" Steadicam operator Rowan Byers with an ARRI ALEXA Mini LF.

One notable feature of the GH7 is its implementation of ARRI LogC3, a logarithmic encoding curve employed by ARRI digital cameras that enhances the dynamic range and detail captured by the camera’s sensor. Instead of shooting with the ALEXA Mini LF and GH7 side-by-side for each shot, Staley opted to use the GH7 for scenarios where quick and safe capture could be applied, such as hand-to-hand combat scenes.

“"The GH7 essentially becomes just another paintbrush, giving you creative options,” explained Staley. “We mounted the GH7 to our stunt performers, using a Tilta Hermit POV Support System. We achieved a very cool POV view for much of the fighting. I also operated the GH7 handheld in the midst of this very choreographed, very hard-hitting stunt combat scene. I was able to move the camera around very quickly, positioning it exactly where I wanted for each hit in the fight. The GH7 has an incredible image and I’m capturing high dynamic range.”

Staley employed a Tilta Hermit POV Support System to capture dynamic action shots with the GH7.

The GH7 was also used for sequences where he didn't want to put his performers or the ALEXA Mini LF in harm’s way. For one sequence, Staley had one of his actresses/stunt performers kick the GH7 right out of his hands, creating a dynamic POV shot. “We had a Steadicam operator moving the [ALEXA Mini LF] around, but he just wasn't able to move that fast,' explained Staley. 'If he or the camera gets hit during the fight, it can hurt the stunt performer because the cinema camera is much bigger.”

For handheld fight sequences, Staley effectively utilized the Laowa 6mm f/2 Zero-D MFT lens to capture dynamic action shots. For moving bike scenes, he employed a prototype 16mm f/1.0 Laowa lens, which, according to Staley, offered an exceptionally shallow depth of field with a wide angle of view. "There's a lot of different lens options for Micro Four Thirds and you can adapt almost anything to them," Staley remarked, "but these native Micro Four Thirds mount cine lenses are absolutely amazing.”

Staley captured 5.7K (5728x3024, 17:9) Apple ProRes 422 (1.0Gbps) files at 23.98 fps in ARRI LogC3 to SanDisk CFExpress cards. Working entirely in ProRes, Staley avoided the need for proxy files in Final Cut Pro X and applied a LogC3 to Rec. 709 viewing LUT in his timeline. As of this writing, "Cookie Jar" is in the grading process by colorist Greg White.

“It's pretty amazing to have such a small camera that will shoot in LogC3,” concluded Staley, “and also one that shoots ProRes and ProRes Raw internally. I think this is a game changing camera and it certainly opened my mind to what is possible now. There will be other filmmakers out there that are going to do incredible things with this camera, and I honestly can't wait to see it.”

For more information on Ben Staley, visit https://www.benstaley.com/.

For more information on LUMIX cameras, please visit https://shop.panasonic.com/pages/lumix.

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