In the Spotlight with Canon – Featuring Alex Chan

August 3rd, 2023 Jump to Comment Section
In the Spotlight with Canon – Featuring Alex Chan

CineD is always searching for a way to connect creators and manufacturers – and, of course, to help filmmakers show their work. This is why we teamed up with Canon to show our filmmaking community work that has been done with Canon cameras. If you use a Canon camera and are interested in getting your work featured, click here to learn more. For our next “In the Spotlight” article, please meet freelance filmmaker, Alex Chan. “In the Spotlight” is proudly sponsored by Canon.

Alex is a filmmaker hailing from the small town of Whitehorse, Yukon. His passion for storytelling began by filming his friends on snowboards, skateboards, and mountain bikes. Eager to turn his passion into a profession, he set out for Vancouver, British Columbia, to pursue a career as a director of photography. This led him to work with notable clients (SIGMA Canada, Travel Yukon), and musicians (Dear Rouge, Lights, Hotel Mira), as well as on award-winning documentaries (SHIFT, Banff People’s Choice Award).

Name: Alex Chan

Currently based in: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Language(s) spoken: English, Cantonese

Occupation: Director of Photography

Content Genre: Music Video

Gear: Canon C300 Mark III / Re-Housed Canon V35 lenses

Q: How did you get started in our industry?

A: I began snowboarding in high school when my sister introduced me to a snowboard crew called ‘Isenseven.’ Inspired by their videos, I started filming snowboarding with my friends. I was being pressured by my parents to find a post-secondary education at the time, and I told them I wanted to go to film school. They were so mad they didn’t talk to me for 2 weeks, but they finally agreed to pay for film school after some convincing from my sister.

Q: What are some of the projects you are currently working on?

A: It’s been very slow so far in 2023, but I have a few projects I’m really excited about in the near future: a mockumentary based on a real event in Dawson City, Yukon, with a “Mad Max but with snowmobiles” theme, a puppet show series, and hopefully my first feature film for which we recently applied for funding. Fingers crossed.

Q: What types of productions do you mostly shoot? 

A: Lately, I have been primarily involved in shooting documentaries and music videos, and I’m starting to get my foot in the door with commercials and fiction.

Q: What is your dream assignment/job in our industry and what are you really passionate about? 

A: The dream would be to shoot a feature as well as bigger budget music videos with new artists I haven’t worked with, as well as the artists I currently work with.

DP Alex Chan on set
DP Alex Chan on set with the Canon EOS C300 Mark III

Q: In the work that you are presenting to us, now that it is done, what would you have done differently throughout the production? 

A: Definitely, as an artist, you’ll always find things to improve on. For this one, we had a lot of issues with the RS2 gimbal since we were overloading it with the Canon V35 lenses, and focus. We had to opt out and shoot it in slow motion with an easy rig for the prom scenes. I would’ve put some minor changes to the way I lit some scenes but overall I’m pretty happy with everything. Bribing a friend with a pack of beers to 1st AC for me would’ve been amazing. My friend Cass was bouncing between assisting the camera and BTS which made things pretty stressful. Another day of shooting would’ve been amazing; we shot this with a small crew in 2.5 days and had a total of 6 hours of sleep since we had such a small budget. Overall I’m really happy with how it turned out, especially with such a small but passionate crew. It was an insane experience but so fulfilling and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Q: What current camera and lenses do you use? 

A: We shot this project on Canon EOS C300 Mark III and Re-Housed Canon V35 lenses. We used a variation of strengths depending on the scene. The scenes where they were together used a 1/4 Promist and a 1/8 Promist filter for when they snapped back into reality and were trying to find each other.

Working with the Canon EOS 300 Mark III: The Canon EOS C300 Mark III is such a powerful but underrated camera. I feel like others always overlook this camera when considering their options. However, in reality, this camera has amazing color science, great menus to navigate, and internal ND filters that make it really quick and easy to use. This is particularly important on low-budget projects when you’re always crunched for time. I always see people’s surprise when I tell them what camera I used, as this camera is more popular in the documentary world. I also love how you can easily swap the EF mount to a PL mount. I personally dislike using adapters. Now if only SmallHD came out with a Canon control license…

On set with the Canon EOS 300 Mark III
On set with the Canon EOS 300 Mark III. Image credit: Cass Oneil

Q: You chose to shoot your project with the  Canon EOS C300 Mark III camera. Did you impose any limitations on yourself, like not shooting with a tripod? 

A: For this one we decided to do it all with movement and no tripod.

What’s your favorite lighting equipment, and why did you choose that kit over other solutions? 

A: I love using Aputure lights. Their equipment is simple to use and their light storm series is really versatile with the Bowens mount accessories. 2x 4×4′ Ultrabounces and 2x 4×4′ flops are really handy. You can use them as stand-alone 4x4s or you can combine them into an 8×8′ bounce or negative.

Q: Do you use drones/gimbals in your productions? If so, what is the most effective way you’ve found to deploy them? 

A: I had a phase like everyone else where my camera lived on a gimbal for most of my shoots, but now I rarely use a gimbal. I try to use gimbals when the smooth movements are motivated by the scene. I use my drones a lot in documentaries but less in narrative unless there’s a very specific shot.

Q: What editing systems do you use and are you satisfied working with it?

A: I usually hand over my footage to an editor or the director. But I use Adobe Premiere Pro when I need to edit something myself, and Davinci for coloring when I don’t have a colorist.

On set with the Canon EOS 300 Mark III
On set with the Canon EOS 300 Mark III. Image credit: Cass Oneil

Q: How much of your work do you shoot in “flat picture profile”, and what is your preferred way of color correcting? 

A: I use Canon Log 2 when I have a colorist and Canon Log 3 when I don’t have a colorist and if there’s a faster turnaround. I used to color a lot of my projects, but now I always try to get a colorist. No matter how much time you put in, you won’t ever get it to the point of a full-time colorist.

Q: How frequently do you travel and do you have any tips when it comes to packing your gear?

A: I travel back and forth at least 3 times a year to my hometown of Whitehorse, Yukon. A big tip is to print off official guidelines and limitations for flying with batteries. There will be times when the flight agents challenge you with battery guidelines when they have it all wrong. If you’re traveling with v locks or gold mounts, keep them in your jacket when you’re checking in and weigh your carry-on if you’re over the limit. It’s a little cheat I learned since the airline I fly with has limitations on the carry-on weight.

Find out more about Alex’s work by heading to his Website, or Instagram page.

Music video directors Lindsey Blane and artist @Xanaofficial_, Photos credit: Cass Oneil

Full disclosure: This “In The Spotlight” series of interviews is sponsored by Canon.

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