WorkPrint — November 2021

IN THIS ISSUE

Feature: Rose in the Valley
by Evan Bower

Tech Corner: Why Does Sensor Size Matter?
by Abner Collette

Screen Memories
with Barrett Hooper

The Shot List
Calls, Grants, Opportunities

FEATURE

ROSE IN THE VALLEY
FILMMAKER PREPS LOVE LETTER TO NOVA SCOTIA’S NATIVE BEES

by EVAN BOWER


Rose Schoonhoven can’t really be sure when the need to film is going to strike. Sometimes it’s planned months in advance after meticulous location tracking, other times it emerges impromptu when she happens upon a patch of particularly striking lupins.

“When I was driving one day, I saw these lupins that were just gorgeous … I drove 45 minutes just to go to that spot again and get shots,” she said. “It’s quite time consuming, but I’m lucky that bumblebees rarely sting.”

Since she was 12 years old, bees have been the enduring interest of Rose’s life. Now, in Wild Bumblebees—her forthcoming documentary short produced through AFCOOP’s One New Day program—she’s tracking the lives of Nova Scotia’s native bees at a crucial moment, with their remaining population in steep decline.

“I think, for me, my interest in bees is in the passion of trying to save them,” said Rose. “David Attenborough has said, you know, all the species he showcased at the start of his career basically became endangered, at-risk, or disappeared. That really resonated with me when I heard that during quarantine.”

Rose began observing Nova Scotia’s bees back when she was in middle school for a science fair project, performing a bee count in her backyard “very much at the beginning of the bee crisis.” She was following in the footsteps of her Opa, who was a beekeeper in the Annapolis Valley years before.

“Unfortunately he never got to know that I fell in love with bees as well,” she said, “and that it runs in the family.”

Filmmaking was her other early love. She remembers buying her first camcorder when she was six at New Minas’ Video World after a publicly broadcasted moment of inspiration.

“As the story goes, I was watching Mr. Dressup, and I was just fascinated by the way he could tell stories and use a lot of different art forms and multimedia on his show,” she said. “And I just pointed at the screen and was like, ‘I’m going to do that.’”

At age 15 she was a semifinalist in the 2015 ViewFinders Atlantic Film Competition and won the Nourish Food and Film Challenge and Golden Tine Award at Devour! The Food Film Fest, where her short Bees of the Valley premiered the following year. In 2019, she went to Ryerson film school in Toronto and shot a doc about urban beekeeping.

For Wild Bumblebees, she’ll head to the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens and the Tangled Garden in Wolfville for footage. She also plans to do some filming on her family’s land. Her mom is an avid gardener and a handy resource when the need arises to track down a species of bee by its preferred flower.

Filming insects can be tedious work—Rose calls it a “waiting game” and says bringing a folding chair and good book along with her gear is a necessity. But working outside also has its benefits, a simplicity that makes the long days of shooting possible for her to handle alone.

“Because I’m mostly shooting in full sunlight, I don’t have to worry too much about lighting set-ups, and I’m doing most of my sound in post,” she said. “I’m going to be using a lab mic on flowers and building the sound out from there.”

No matter how long she watches, Rose never tires of studying bees and the “complexity of their world.” She hopes sharing what she sees can encourage others it’s a world worth saving.

“I don’t want my projects with bees to become a time capsule of what was,” she said. “I want them to inspire others to take action.”

You can follow along with Rose’s production at @WildBeesCollective on Instagram.


WHY DOES SENSOR SIZE MATTER?

Sensor size is arguably the most important specification when examining the overall quality of a digital camera. The surface area of a camera sensor is full of light-sensitive spots called photosites (also widely referred to as ‘pixels’). Photosites record the information that is seen by the lens of the camera. This means that bigger is generally better. The larger your sensor is, the bigger your photosites, and the more light and detail they can capture will result in a better-quality image.

Look at digital videography’s analogue ancestor for a comparison. In analogue filmmaking, the “sensor size” is essentially the size of the film stock you are using—8mm, 16mm, or 35mm. The quality of the image increases as the size of the film stock increases. This is due to the surface area of the film stock. Because of this, 35mm film is usually used for Hollywood movies, and 8mm (or Super 8) is used for home movies. The same holds true in the digital realm; a full frame sensor (36mm x 24mm, comparable to 35mm in analogue) will produce a better quality image than a cell-phone sensor (7mm x 6mm, give or take depending on the model). One could also compare the photosites on digital sensors to the silver halide particles on the surface of film stock (if one were looking for a healthy debate with an analogue pal).

But when discussing sensors, we can’t consider sensor size alone. For example, sensor size and megapixels are closely linked and very codependent factors concerning image quality. One million pixels makes up a single megapixel. So if you have 12 megapixels, that equals 12 million pixels (or photosites) on your camera sensor. With a full-frame sensor, your photosites will be larger and capable of capturing more light and detail. If you had the same 12 megapixels on a smaller sensor, the photosites would be smaller and capable of capturing less light and detail.

If you compared these sensors/megapixel counts in low-light conditions, you would quickly find that the larger sensor, with more surface area and larger photosites, would create a better-quality image with less noise. Even though they have the same amount of pixels, the larger sensor will win out in terms of quality and noise reduction—which means more dynamic range in bigger sensors.

Another issue when talking about sensor sizes is the crop factor. If a sensor is smaller than full frame, it is a cropped sensor. A crop factor of x2, as found in micro 4/3 cameras like the Panasonic GH5, would consequently turn a 50mm lens into what we would equate with a 100mm lens on a full-frame camera. The image will be cropped in closer than it would be compared with full frame.

Cropped sensors also affect your lensing. There are full-frame lenses and cropped lenses, with full-frame lenses being the bigger and more expensive kind. If you put a full-frame lens on a cropped-sensor camera, it will probably work fine, and just do it’s normal cropping. Conversely, if you put a cropped-sensor lens onto a full-frame camera, it either won’t work, or it will work but with a dark vignette around your image. This can be bypassed in certain cases, but it’s really less than ideal.

Depth of field is also shallower with a bigger sensor. This creates that blurry cinematic background that we all love to gawk at. A smaller sensor will have a deeper depth of field, meaning you would have to use a very wide lens or create much more distance between the camera and the subject to achieve that same blurry bokeh background.

Believe it or not, there can be advantages to a smaller sensor size, including size, weight, cost, and portability. As long as you have plenty of light and a decent megapixel count, you can achieve some really great results with a cropped sensor. A crop factor could also potentially come in handy if you are doing nature videography, or if you want to get closer to your subject without physically moving in closer to them.

Getting the most out of your sensor size really depends on multiple factors, not just the sensor size itself. The age of the camera would also be a factor if you compared two full-frame cameras of different ages. All things equal, the newer full-frame camera would surely outperform the older one due to improvements to internal components like the processor and the design of the sensor. Not to mention the massive impact lenses have on image quality. All this to say, there is much to consider when choosing a camera based on the specs and your needs, so it’s good to examine all factors involved. But, yes—bigger is still better, as long as you have the cheddar.

Happy shooting!

Do you have a tech question that needs answering? Ask Abner! 

Send your questions to: abner@afcoop.ca


SCREEN MEMORIES


with BARRETT HOOPER

Remember that year we spent watching films in solitude? Every month, we’re asking AFCOOP members and staff to share a few memorable discoveries that have come across their screens.

 

Let me preface this with an explanation for my choices. As I prepare to—at long, long, long last—make my first short film, I find myself in these agoraphobic times watching the debut features of many of my favourite directors. They set a high bar and provide incredible inspiration.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (United States, 1966, dir. Mike Nichols)
Reading Mark Harris’ biography Mike Nichols: A Life inspired me to revisit this searing drama that marked Broadway wunderkind Nichols’ feature debut. Based on the Edward Albee play, it stars real-life sparring partners Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the midst of a gin-soaked marital meltdown. The rage and rawness stunned me when I first saw Woolf in my university days; 25 years later and quarantined at home with my wife and too much booze for the past year, I definitely have a much greater appreciation for the subtleties simmering beneath the volatility. Woolf is a textbook example of how to bring a stage play to the silver screen, allowing the actors to tear into the meaty dialogue (and each other) with ruthless precision, while adding just enough—a minor character here, a camera flourish there—to elevate it to cinematic greatness (it’s one of only two films to be nominated for an Academy Award in every eligible category). Available on YouTube and Amazon Prime.

Shallow Grave (United Kingdom, 1994, dir. Danny Boyle)
Shallow Grave has one of those great “What if…?” premises: What if your mysterious new flatmate drops dead, leaving behind a suitcase full of money? If you’re Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox, you draw straws to see who chops up the body while stashing the cash under the floorboards. Hitchcock would’ve been envious, although it’s another brash Brit, Danny Boyle, who brings this darkly comic crime film to the screen. Boyle’s next film was Trainspotting just two years later, and you can already see the director he would become in this tightly plotted little gem. I love movies that are confined to just one or two locations, which is kind of what life has been like for the last year, as the claustrophobia can ratchet up the tension. It also forces a filmmaker to plot and plan and be creative, and few are as creative as Boyle.

Last Night (Canada, 1998, dir. Don McKellar)
One of my favourite movies, Canadian or otherwise, this pitch-black dramedy about killing time before the end of the world gained a particularly bittersweet resonance and startling poignancy during a recent rewatch. Something about facing our own End of Days, perhaps. Written and directed by McKellar, who also stars alongside Sandra Oh and Callum Keith Rennie, it was inspired by the then-looming—now-laughable—Y2K catastrophe. Unlike apocalypse-themed blockbusters like Deep Impact (another favourite), Last Night is a quiet, character-driven ensemble piece focusing on a handful of ordinary people living ordinary lives and how they choose to spend their final hours on earth. Hard to imagine a more dramatic inciting incident than discovering the world is about to end, yet the cause of the apocalypse is never explained and you could excise that from the equation entirely and it would still be utterly engrossing. Available on Crave and Amazon Prime.

Barrett Hooper (he/him) is a former film critic and journalist who finally realized he wanted to see what it was like on the other side of the camera. He is currently prepping his first short as part of AFCOOP’s FILM 1 program and is already planning his second and third.

Want to contribute? Send your SCREEN MEMORIES to evan@afcoop.ca