Cow Cop hanging up his spurs

Posted by ryanjackson on Mar 6, 2015 in video |

Cow Cop hanging up his spurs from Ryan Jackson on Vimeo.

RCMP livestock investigator Cpl. David Heaslip is retiring after 45 years, making him the longest serving member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. March 6, 2015. Video by Ryan Jackson, Edmonton Journal

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Journal reporter Jana Pruden and I got to spend a day with Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. David Heaslip who was retiring in a few days.
Basically his job was to investigate all issues around livestock in northern Alberta such as cattle theft and fraud.  He was the perfect man for the job. We felt like we were hanging out with a modern cowboy. Aside from the cool job he was also the longest serving member of the RCMP after more than 45 years.
This was a great story but unfortunately we didn’t find out about Heaslip until it was his last week on the job.  There was only one afternoon that would work for us to follow him so the pressure was on.
Here's Cpl. David Heaslip being interviewed by Jana Pruden in the A&W restaurant in Westlock, Alberta on March 6, 2015. It was filled with old farmers having morning coffee.

Here’s Cpl. David Heaslip being interviewed by Jana Pruden in the A&W restaurant in Westlock, Alberta on March 6, 2015. It was filled with old farmers having morning coffee.

For this story I decided to use my Canon XF300 video camera. I usually avoid using traditional “video cameras” as I prefer the quality of DSLR video over the small 1/3” sensor of the XF300.
For this story though, I only had once chance to capture him I knew I would have to keep the camera running the whole time to catch any great moments or sound bites. Normal video cameras are great for that because they have image stabilized zoom lenses, autofocus and way better ergonomics than a DSLR.
I still wanted to have as much of a cinematic look as possible so to combat the “video look” of the XF300 so I setup the camera with a very flat, low contrast, cine colour profile and planned on grading the footage afterwards to get the look I wanted.
The biggest exposure consideration when filming anything is to preserve your highlights. Blown out highlights (over exposed whites) are the quickest way to make you videos look amateur.
This is a lot of the reason why people who shot on film for years hated digital cameras. Digital sensors could’t handle highlights as well which would affect skin tones, colour and the overall look of the finished product.
Film cameras and higher-end digital cinema cameras can handle highlights far better than small video cameras and DSLRs. If you know what you are doing you can fake it with a digital camera, but you have to be very careful with your exposure.
Back to the XF300. I wanted this video story to have a 2.35:1 aspect ratio similar to many Hollywood movies.
This was simply a personal choice. Some people hate the super wide format. Everyone is different.
I set my viewfinder to have a 2.35:1 mask (white bars that help you frame your subject) so that I would compose my images for the narrow widescreen format.
The “proper” way to shoot super widescreen format is actually to use an anamorphic lens which actually captures a narrower wide angle field of view and delivers a completely different look than just cropping the image.
These lenses were originally made for tanks to that soldiers could see more terrain when looking through a periscope. They were later used by Hollywood so that movie theatres could offer movies that had a completely different look than the squarish 4:3 programs on TV.
Since I don’t have an anamorphic lens I just cropped my video from 16:9 to 2.35:1 in Final Cut Pro X.  It is really important that you mask your viewfinder when you want to shoot in 2.35:1 aspect ratio or you will cut things out of your frame that you want.  If your camera doesn’t allow you to add bars then putting tape over the LCD screen helps too.
Here is a picture of the viewfinder on my XF300. Notice the horizontal white bars to help frame the image 2.35:1. I also have a piece of tape reminding me that I’m composing 2.25:1 and to keep my highlights below 90%.

Here is a picture of the viewfinder on my XF300. Notice the horizontal white bars to help frame the image 2.35:1. I also have a piece of tape reminding me that I’m composing 2.25:1 and to keep my highlights below 90%.

I wish we could have spent more time with Heaslip but news reporting is all about doing the best you can with the time you have.
When I got back to the office I edited the video in Final Cut Pro X and used the great plugin FilmConvert to grade (colour) the video in black and white.
Check out the finished video at the top of this post.

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