HBO CAS 2023
Amsterdam, 2023-06-21 - Ties Versteegh NSC
For a decade, HBO has been organizing independent and intense stress tests for digital and analog film cameras to share with their directors of photography during the pre-production of upcoming shows.
For the first time, HBO showcased the CAS DCP at Camerimage. Last Wednesday, the NSC (Netherlands Society of Cinematographers) had the honour of watching the Camera Assessment Series at the Dutch Film Academy, thanks to Mick van Rossum NSC and Miga Bär. The competition in this test included the ARRI ALEXA Mini, Black Magic URSA Mini Pro 12K, Kodak 5219, Red V-Raptor VV, Sony VENICE 2, and the ARRI ALEXA 35. All these cameras were tested at their native ISO through the ACES pipeline without any correction, other than what was necessary to show the test results. Zeiss Supreme Primes were the selected lenses for all the cameras.
The 100-minute film started with a skin tone test. The scenes showed different people with all different skin tones in different lighting settings. We could see the characteristics of the sensor/film of all the different cameras. Then we moved to the color and pattern test. How do cameras pick up colours, and can we see moiré or other artefacts?
There was a test in a dollhouse, inspired by the wonderfull Wes Anderson decors. It became very clear what the main differences were between the cameras. Some excelled in the highlights and some in the lowlights. Overall the test showed that all cameras are now extremely flexible and that the differences (even if these are important differences) are at the edge of the capacity of the cameras,
In the next event, the camera entered a house in which every room was lit with a different type of light: LED, Black Light, Fluorescent, Neon, Television, red, blue, and green gelled heads, daylight, and even underwater daylight. This test was interesting. Can the camera hold the strong gelled blues, and what is the interpretation of the colours coming from all these sources? Is the color still visible in the white area of the spectrum? In another smart test, the crew showed us the dynamic range, starting with an actor coming from pitch black and checking the surroundings with one foot candlelight, then fusing several bombs to open the vault. When the actor walked into an exterior night environment, the camera moved from a minus 8 exposure up to plus 10, ending in a long shot in which -8 till +10 was "visible." The ultimate test for shadows was the full moon test. Are these cameras ready to shoot with available light nowadays? And what happens to the whites when an exposed house comes into frame? This test at the end made it clear that the digital cinema cameras have now all entered the territory of the A7S.
The great thing about this test is that HBO expressly stays away from giving an opinion about the different cameras, they remain as objective as possible and that gives room for everyone to have their own viewing experience and opinion. A perfect tool to be able to make your artistic choices based on technique.
Afterwards, the NSC organized a get-together at Café Waterlooplein 77 to have a nice chat with associate and full members about this topic. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal taste and this event clearly inspired me to choose the camera for my next feature film.