Beyond the line: pushing the boundaries of adventure sports filmmaking with the EOS R5 C

Discover how DoP Keith Ladzinski used Canon's smallest Cinema EOS camera to explore new creative opportunities for capturing action.
A mountain bike with rider is upside down, travelling through the air above a rocky desert landscape.

The mountains of Utah provided the perfect backdrop for DoP Keith Ladzinski on an action shoot with the EOS R5 C – but the terrain wasn't without its challenges. "For some of the shots, I had to traverse steep hillsides, where you really don't want a misstep," he explains. "You don't want a lot of gear in those instances, so I really leaned on the camera's size and weight advantage. To be fair, the Canon EOS C70 and EOS C300 aren't that big, but they can't shoot 45MP stills." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 C with a Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 92mm, 1/640 sec, f/7.1 and ISO1000. © Keith Ladzinski

When DoP Keith Ladzinski set out on a shoot in the US state of Utah with the EOS camera that's ready for anything, there was one thing he wasn't prepared for: the cold. "That's the difficulty with location shooting, obviously you are at the mercy of nature," he acknowledges. "Once you were in the shade, there was probably a 30° difference, and it limited our shoot time during the days."

Keith lives for adventure, though. One of Canon USA's Explorers of Light, he is a contributing photographer at National Geographic and an Emmy-nominated director, and his brand-rich client list includes Red Bull, Discovery, The North Face and National Geographic TV.

Demonstrating the versatility of the 8K full-frame Canon EOS R5 C, Crossing the Invisible Line, a short film by Keith's production house, Triage Creative, focuses on adventure sports in two cinematic locations: mountain biking in Utah and paragliding on the coast of California. The film tested the EOS R5 C's speed and agility and showcased its 4K 120p slow-motion and crisp 8K 60p Cinema RAW Light capabilities.

While it would have been simple to cut together a series of action-packed set-pieces, Keith felt it was important to have a strong narrative: "I wanted to do something that brought the ideas behind sports and also the art of photography and video all into one," he says.

"Having shot action sports for so many years, I know there are certain rhythms that you see with athletes that we as camera people have as well. So the idea of peak action, whether you're doing sport or capturing it, or the subtleties of camera gear prep and fixing the lines of a paraglider or tuning up a bike – there are different things that both activity and capture sort of share."

A technician wearing white gloves cleans the sensor of a Canon camera.

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Building up the smallest Cinema EOS camera

With its lightweight and robust design, fast frame rates and reliable Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the EOS R5 C is perfect for action and adventure filmmaking. Keith initially set out to 'stress test' the smallest Cinema EOS camera in a number of builds and situations. "I really wanted to see how it handled long roll times, for example, and to treat it like a dedicated cinema camera by building it out and putting the big boys' toys onto it," he says.

"We did some builds where we put it on a larger handheld 3-axis camera gimbal with a monitor and FIZ (Focus, Iris, Zoom) system, so that I could utilise Canon's Cine lenses and try pulling focus as a one-man cinematography team.

"But then I also wanted to shoot it small and light, stripped down with just a single RF lens so that it could be handheld and really mobile. This approach was especially important when shooting up in the air with the paragliders. In that situation, you really don't want to be doing a whole load of lens changes."

A paraglider with red sail is midair above an arid landscape with a bright sun just above the horizon in the background.

The EOS R5 C's 5-axis Electronic IS (EIS) works in a coordinated way with supported IS lenses for enhanced stability, something Keith relied on when shooting from a paraglider. "The flight isn't always smooth, you're still having to bank quite a bit and sometimes you hit a thermal [bubbles of rising air] and get jolted upwards," he says. "I'm not paying attention to what's going on because I'm looking through the camera, and in those cases I relied on the camera and lens stabilisation." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 C with a Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 35mm, 1/1250 sec, f/6.3 and ISO800. © Keith Ladzinski

Versatile RF mount

Keith's day-to-day kitbag includes a Canon EOS R5 and EOS R3, along with the Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM, Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM, Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM and Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lenses. For this shoot though, he had access to a full range of RF lenses and Canon EF mount Cine lenses.

"I shot with a CN-E135mm T2.2 L F quite a bit," explains Keith. "I love its look and feel. Pulling focus could be a challenge with the mountain biking though, because it happens so quickly.

"Some of the things the athletes were doing for us, they could only do once or twice. That always brings in a little bit more pressure to make sure that you're getting a sharp shot every time. There's nothing worse than being the weak link on a shoot, especially if you've got people who are doing things that are considerably dangerous if it all goes wrong."

For some of the more demanding mountain biking sequences, Keith switched to the RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM in order to benefit from the EOS R5 C's advanced subject tracking autofocus. "There were shots where they'd just drop in and be coming more or less straight at me," he recalls. "Compression focus in those situations can be a challenge, so I wanted to see how the focus tracking performed. Thankfully, it was great, just as it is on the EOS R5."

A mountain bike and rider are high in the air jumping between rocks against a rugged landscape and bright blue sky.

Keith and his team spent three days shooting mountain biking in the rugged landscape around Virgin, Utah, and another three days filming paragliding in Santa Barbara, California. "We needed conditions for mountain biking to not be too hot because we were shooting in the desert," he explains. "Paragliding was probably the hardest to shoot though, because the winds were not what we were hoping they would be – although I don't think we had one day that was a complete down day." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 C with a Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 15mm, 1/4000 sec, f/4.5 and ISO500. © Keith Ladzinski

A paraglider with white sail is caught across a twilight sky, the sun just below the horizon.

The EOS R5 C includes professional-level Cinema EOS camera functions such as Waveform Monitor, False Colour and Timecode. "Something I really liked is that when you switch over to video mode, the menu systems mirror the Cinema EOS line," Keith enthuses. "I'm familiar with that ecosystem, so digging through those menus was really quick." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 C with a Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 15mm, 1/1250 sec, f/5 and ISO2500. © Keith Ladzinski

Flying the EOS R5 C on an FPV drone

Another opportunity that the EOS R5 C's size and weight advantage opened up was the ability to mount the camera on an FPV (first person view) drone. "We were using the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM pancake lens, and the whole kit was so light," enthuses Keith. "Being able to fly at these crazy speeds and actually chase things in a more intimate way than with a standard drone opened up so many incredible possibilities."

Shooting 8K Cinema RAW Light from the air gave Keith the flexibility to crop and stabilise clips in post-production before outputting in 4K.

"The FPV has its own independent camera that the operator uses to fly the drone, but the optic is different to the one that you're filming with. So there were a few times where we'd have a really nice shot, but the subject was a little more pushed down in a corner than we would have liked. In those cases, we were able to crop in and appropriately frame it in post."

To capture 8K 60p on the EOS R5 C requires an external power source, but this was easy to resolve with the FPV. "We were just tapping into the power source in the drone through the LiPos [Lithium Polymer batteries] that are already built in there," Keith explains, "which meant we didn't even need that additional battery. So for FPV people, I think this is going to be a really great tool."

A man sat on the edge of a boat filming with a Canon EOS R5 C camera.

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Super slow-mo

To create the velvet-smooth slow-motion sequences of the mountain bikers, Keith switched to 4K 120p. He says, "When they were going on the bigger tabletop or hip jumps [jumping and turning] and getting pushed quite high, they were actually moving relatively slowly. But when they were setting up and bombing down the run, or turning onto a banked corner really hard and throwing up the dirt, that's when 120p was a great frame rate to work with."

The EOS R5 C clocks up rapid speeds in 45MP photo mode too, delivering continuous bursts at up to 20fps with the electronic shutter engaged. Keith took advantage of this on the shoot, as well as switching to the 12fps mechanical shutter when lighting up his stars with six strobe lights.

Beautifully compact

"If I need to go in light on a shoot, I know that I can now work in a hybrid space and still use two very high-quality files," says Keith. "That, to me, is the dream, because in the past I'd have to carry multiple setups with me to accommodate whatever the delivery is. So the EOS R5 C is a big stride in terms of me purging a lot of my weight.

Looking to the future, Keith concludes: "A lot of the places I work in are pretty remote, where you're responsible for backpacking in quite a bit of your own gear. As someone who uses a camera for a living, the last thing you want to be doing is carting around a ton of stuff, so this thing is going to be fantastic."

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