ARTICLE

Netflix approved: Canon EOS Cinema cameras

With the Canon EOS C300 Mark III and the Canon EOS C70 added to the list of Netflix approved cameras, we speak to DoP Patrick Smith about filming original productions for the global content platform.
DoP Patrick Smith with a Canon EOS C500 Mark II cinema camera.

Director of photography (DoP) Patrick Smith has shot three productions for Netflix with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, including an upcoming scientific four-parter following the world's leading surgeons. © Patrick Smith

Netflix has added the Canon EOS C300 Mark III and the Canon EOS C70 to its list of approved cameras, enabling documentary and drama filmmakers to use Canon's highly capable full-frame Cinema EOS System bodies as their primary cameras for Netflix Originals productions. The two filmmaking powerhouses, which share the same DGO sensor technology, join the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, which gained Netflix approval shortly after its release.

The streaming and production giant has stringent quality control standards, which are much higher than many other broadcasters. Approved cameras must have been used for at least 90% of the final cut's runtime – although there can be more flexibility when it comes to non-fiction.

"We're part of the Netflix Post Technology Alliance, so we're committed to making sure products we make in the future are going to be compatible with Netflix's technical and delivery specifications," explains Paul Atkinson, Pro Video Product Specialist at Canon Europe. "Netflix advises us of its requirements and then Canon, along with the other manufacturers, strives to produce products that meet them."

But what exactly are the camera requirements for Netflix Originals? Here, Paul explores why the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, Canon EOS C300 Mark III and Canon EOS C70 made the cut, while DoP Patrick Smith, whose credits include Tell Me Who I Am (2019) and Captive (2016), explains why these are the cameras he's been using to shoot a variety of Netflix documentary projects.
DoP Patrick Smith with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II on a body-mounted rig in a hospital corridor.

"We used the Canon EOS C500 Mark II mounted to a gimbal to follow our subjects through the hospital," explains Patrick. "Most of the time I was working handheld, but this setup was used for some of the more stylised shots." © Patrick Smith

Producer Alberto Allica in hospital scrubs behind a Canon EOS C500 Mark II cinema camera.

Alberto Allica, the producer on the surgeon documentary for Netflix Originals. "It was an HDR grade production," explains Patrick. "I sent some Canon EOS C500 Mark II tests to the post-production house. They said, if shot well and carefully, they could create high-quality HDR images from 4:2:2 10-bit XF-AVC footage." © Patrick Smith

Demanding capture requirements

The minimum technical specification for a Netflix approved camera is a true 4K UHD sensor, a benchmark the Canon EOS C500 Mark II more than meets thanks to its Canon-developed 5.9K full-frame CMOS sensor, while both the Canon EOS C300 Mark III and the Canon EOS C70 can shoot Full 4K up to an impressive 120P. However, there are a host of other capture and camera requirements.

Netflix is one of the leading providers of High Dynamic Range (HDR) content, so the ability to deliver an appropriate file for post-production in HDR is important. Thanks to the ground-breaking Super 35mm DGO sensor, the Canon EOS C300 Mark III and EOS C70 have a dynamic range of 16+ stops, while the full-frame EOS C500 Mark II is 15+ stops. The EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III also have the option of recording in either Cinema RAW Light or Canon's XF-AVC format, producing footage that can be successfully put through an HDR workflow, be that in PQ or HLG.
"Canon Log 2 with Cinema Gamut and Neutral Colour Matrix delivers the absolute best when it comes to capturing dynamic range and colour," says Paul. "The Cinema Gamut that we use actually exceeds ACES colour space [an industry standard for managing colour]. It's basically recording pretty much the full colour capture capability of the sensor."

Other capture requirements specified by Netflix include a minimum data rate of 240Mbps at 23.98fps and a minimum of 16-bit Linear or 10-bit Log processing. The Canon EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III both hit 810Mbps when shooting XF-AVC, while the EOS C70 delivers 410Mbps. Shooting in Cinema RAW Light, the EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III can achieve 2.1Gbps and 1Gbps respectively at full-resolution 25p, and both also offer 10-bit or 12-bit Log, depending on whether you're shooting at 25p or 50p.

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"We already have a range of cameras approved for Netflix Originals, including the Canon EOS C300 Mark II, EOS C700 and EOS C700 FF," says Paul. Netflix Originals shot on these cameras include the Academy Award-winning documentary Icarus (2019), feature film Our Souls at Night (2017), and Emmy-nominated series Grace and Frankie (2015).

"This gives filmmakers an entire Canon solution, allowing them to combine different cameras while maintaining a consistent image quality. With the Canon EOS C500 Mark II and the Canon EOS C700 FF, you're able to have a full-frame A-cam and B-cam producing material that can be very easily matched in post. Both cameras use the same sensor, and share the same basic colour gamut, log setting and colour matrix. They shoot slightly different RAW formats, but it's even easier to match the footage if you set both cameras to 810Mbps and XF-AVC."
Filmmaker Jolade Olusanya using the vari-angle touchscreen on the Canon EOS C70.

The Canon EOS C70 has a smaller, more DSLR-like design and is the most compact and lightweight camera in the Cinema EOS range.

A range of Canon cinema cameras on tripods, with the EOS C70 in the foreground.

In the Cinema EOS range, the Canon EOS C70 is a new generation camera with Canon's groundbreaking RF Mount, as well as featuring a 4K Super 35mm DGO sensor.

A BBC Studios first for Netflix

Patrick has shot numerous productions for Netflix with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II including The Surgeon's Cut, a documentary following the world's leading surgeons. The scientific four-parter, BBC Studios' first commission for the prodigious streaming service, required a camera that would deliver high-quality images in a high-pressure environment.

"My episode was about a brain surgeon, so we were filming awake craniotomies – an extraordinary thing to witness," explains Patrick. "The Canon EOS C500 Mark II offered so many brilliant advantages over some of the other available cameras: the full-frame sensor, its compact size, its compatibility with a range of smaller lenses and the Image Stabilization (IS).
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"We were asked not to use tripods while filming the surgery, but the in-built IS meant I could keep my distance – from the surgeon and the patient – and hold the frame with complete stability."

Patrick shoots about 50% of his footage handheld and likes to introduce subtle movement. "I often rock slightly from left to right. This gives the image a fluidity – and also stops my body from seizing up! I was really pleased to find that the electronic IS wasn't too aggressive – it allowed me to keep some lateral movement in the frame but lose some of that high-frequency vibration."
A Canon EOS C300 Mark III on a gimbal, resting on the wing of an aircraft.

The DGO Super 35mm 4K CMOS sensor and improved 16+ stops of dynamic range are just two of the key features filmmakers will find in the Canon EOS C300 Mark III.

Patrick Smith runs on a grassy field with a Canon EOS C70 held low to the ground on a handheld gimbal, filming a boy running with a football.

The Canon EOS C70 benefits from multiple technologies that were introduced in the Canon EOS C300 Mark III, including the innovative 4K Super 35mm DGO sensor.

An adaptable filming companion

The light weight of the camera and its compact, modular format proved advantageous when following medical staff around the hospital. "I needed to be able to keep up in those dynamic, fast-moving, reactive environments and the Canon EOS C500 Mark II was the right tool to have," he says.

"I love the modularity of the camera. I'm constantly changing the setup, either for the application or as the way I work evolves. I often need a range of additions: wireless video link, follow-focus control, matte box, onboard monitor, radio mic support and sound equipment. You find different ways to power them, different ways to balance them – and that's part of the enjoyment of filming with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II and the EOS C300 Mark III."

On this particular project, Patrick mainly used Canon's EF Cinema Prime lenses, but the Canon EOS C500 Mark II's support for the interchangeable lens mount meant he could also switch from EF to PL and use Canon's Sumire Prime lenses. His standard kitbag is made up of four lenses: a Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM, a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM), a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM and a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM.

"The lenses are amazing – light, small and sharp," he says. "I've been using them for 10 years now, so focusing manually is instinctive. They're short throw, so pulling focus from infinity to 1.5m is only 10 degrees or so, whereas on a film lens that would be a much larger rotation. With film lenses I need a follow focus system or assistance to get it right, but with the stills lenses I can rack focus very quickly myself, just as accurately."
A filmmaker changing the lens on a Canon EOS C500 Mark II cinema camera.

The Canon EOS C500 Mark II provides support for optional interchangeable EF or PL lens mounts, so as well as the huge range of Canon EF prime lenses, you can also use Canon's full-frame Sumire Prime lenses.

Using primes rather than zooms helps maintain the visual palette. "I wanted to keep things looking as filmic as I could on the full-frame chip," says Patrick. "I'm now shooting nearly everything for Netflix in 2.35:1, which is such a cinematic aspect ratio. You have to ask permission to shoot anything wider than 2:1, but if you can justify it, they'll go with it.

"Being able to apply a customised aspect marker on the image is one of the camera's most useful features. It makes a massive difference when you're shooting in this Netflix world, where 2:1 as a minimum aspect ratio is something you really want to be able to see rather than just guess."

Perfect A/B camera setup

With the EOS C300 Mark III now added to his kit and approved by Netflix, Patrick has the perfect multi-camera setup, using a combination of the EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III for much of his work. "It's the perfect setup because they both shoot the same codec. They shoot to the same colour science. They have the same form factor. Everything just works really seamlessly across both of them," he says. "I can just stop and swap to suit the individual camera's strength. With the EOS C500 Mark II, I tend use on the wider frame because it's got a larger chip, delivering a narrow depth of field for that particular type of shot. The EOS C300 Mark III, I tend to use for close-up shots, while being able to shoot at 120p in 4K is extremely useful. The two cameras complement each other beautifully."

With the news that the EOS C70 is also now Netflix approved, Patrick believes it will be of great use to him when working on documentary film productions. "The small form factor and versatility of the EOS C70 makes it an ideal second camera for high-end documentary work," he says. "Whether it's rigged to cars, being run around on a gimbal or even as an extra angle on an interview, it has a real place on my core kit list."

Written by Marcus Hawkins


Patrick Smith's kitbag

Key kit for pro filmmaking

DoP Patrick Smith with a Canon EOS C500 Mark II cinema camera.

Cameras

Canon EOS C70

A breakthrough RF Mount Cinema EOS System camera featuring Canon's 4K Super 35mm DGO sensor. With 4K 120P Slow Motion, High Dynamic Range and Dual Pixel CMOS AF in a compact body, it takes the RF System into a brand-new era.

Canon EOS C500 Mark II

A new generation Cinema EOS System camera with a 5.9K full-frame CMOS sensor in a compact body. "You don't have to think about where things are on this camera, they're where you'd expect them to be, and the buttons on the side are also so well assignable that you can customise it to your heart's desire."

Canon EOS C300 Mark III

The versatile EOS C300 Mark III incorporates Canon’s 4K Super 35mm DGO sensor, with 4K 120P Slow motion, High Dynamic Range and Dual Pixel CMOS AF into the same body as the EOS C500 Mark II. "It's the perfect companion for the EOS C500 Mark II: same codec, same card, same colour science," says Patrick.

Lenses

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

The successor to the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM lens that Patrick uses. A professional grade wide-angle lens with a natural perspective, an f/1.4 aperture and low light capabilities.

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