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Netflix adds EOS C500 Mark II to its approved camera list

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 as-yet-unnamed science four-parter following the world's leading surgeons.
© Patrick Smith

Netflix has added the Canon EOS C500 Mark II to its list of approved cameras, enabling documentary and drama filmmakers to use the affordable full-frame Cinema EOS System body as the primary camera for Netflix Originals productions.

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 made the cut, and DoP Patrick Smith, whose credits include Tell Me Who I Am (2019) and Captive (2016), explains why it's the camera he's been using to shoot his upcoming Netflix documentary.

DoP Patrick Smith with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II on a handheld 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. 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. With a dynamic range of 15+ stops using Canon Log 2, and the option of recording in either Cinema RAW Light or Canon's XF-AVC format, the Canon EOS C500 Mark II captures footage that can be successfully put through such a workflow, be that in PQ or HLG.

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"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 hits 810Mbps (XF-AVC) and 2.1 Gbps (Cinema RAW Light) at full-resolution 25p and offers 10-bit or 12-bit Log, depending on whether you're shooting at 25p or 50p.

"We already have a range of cameras approved for Netflix Originals, including the Canon EOS C300 Mark II, Canon EOS C700, Canon EOS C700 FF and now the Canon EOS C500 Mark II," 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."

A Canon EOS C500 Mark II.
A long-time Canon user, Patrick felt instantly at home with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II. "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."
Filmmaker Bryan Fogel lies on a laboratory bed attached to a respirator.

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High pressure shooting environment

Patrick has shot three productions for Netflix with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, including an as-yet-untitled documentary following the world's leading surgeons. The science four-parter 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).

"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 C500 Mark II.
The Canon EOS C500 Mark II's modular design lends itself to a wide range of setups – from stripped down and handheld for documentary run and gun…
A Canon EOS C500 Mark II set up for filming in an auto shop in front of a red car.
…to a fully-fledged but relatively small cinematic shooting tool. Patrick used a Canon EOS C500 Mark II on a recent project combining both his passions: filmmaking and cars. © Patrick Smith

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."

On this particular project, Patrick mainly used Canon's EF 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.

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 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.

"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."

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."

Kirjutanud Marcus Hawkins


• Netflix has announced that the Canon EOS C300 Mark III has also now been added to its list of approved cameras.

Patrick Smith's kitbag

Key kit for pro filmmaking

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

Cameras

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 successor to the Canon EOS C300 Mark II that Patrick uses as his B-cam is a versatile 4K Super 35mm Cinema EOS System camera. "I will soon be moving to the Canon EOS C300 Mark III," he says. "It's the perfect companion for the EOS C500 Mark II: same codec, same card, same colour science."

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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