High-end DSLRs have already made inroads into the world of professional cinematography, but the new animated movie “The Pirates” was actually shot using only Canon 1D Mark III’s — 50 of them to be exact. The movie, made by Oscar-winning British animation house Aardman (the same people that brought us Wallace and Gromit), is the first full-length feature film the studio has ever shot using only DSLRs.
In an interview with TechRadar, technical director Tom Barnes discussed many of the challenges involved in switching to DSLR’s, and why they specifically chose the 1D Mark III. Some of the more fascinating revelations to come from the interview included the fact that Aardman had to alter still photo lenses to fit their more cinematic needs. Cine lenses, Barnes explained, have large glass elements mounted very far back, making them incompatible with the flip-up reflex mirror in DSLR’s.
As for why the 1D Mark III was chosen, it seems reliability and a smaller sensor were the main requirements. They needed to produce adequate depth of field to make 8in tall characters appear life sized, which made them shy away from full-frame alternatives. The Canon sensors also proved extremely consistent, allowing them to swap out cameras or shoot with multiple units at once and come out with identical shots.
Ultimately, the 50 Canons that took the over 1 million stills that comprise the movie are now in a drawer, resting after years of grueling work. They probably won’t be used for another project — not just because they’re outdated, but because of the sheer amount of strain the cameras came under — but when you consider the fact that some of these cameras stayed on live view for two years straight, it’s incredible they’re still running at all.