Wooden Niccolls: Recreating A Scene From Collateral With the Fuji X-H1

  By Jordan Drake

When we started the TCSTV YouTube channel 8 years ago, I had no idea that one of the major perks of the job would become working alongside artists I hugely respect. Despite having made only three episodes so far, our Wooden Niccolls series has become my favourite types of projects to work on. It allows Chris and I to combine our mutual love of movies with a great camera test while working with incredible industry professionals. Last year we shot a scene from Goodfellas with Nick Thomas, which was a ton of fun, but we’ve taken it to a whole new level with him again this year thanks to amazing work from not only the Calgary filmmaking scene, but international support from Company 3, Method Studios, and Fujinon.

After hearing that we would receive a Fujifilm X-H1 before launch, Nick, Chris and I debated endlessly which scene to do. There are so many amazing movies we wanted to pay tribute to, but logistics also played a part. Apocalypse Now was not going to be doable in an Alberta winter. We settled on Collateral not only because it’s a great example of the rare action movie for grownups, but for its place as early example of digital cameras being used on big budget productions. Amusingly, it was only once we were well into pre-production that we learned the jazz club scene was actually shot on film! Our biggest hurdle was finding a location, but fortunately our first choice, The Untitled Champagne Lounge was graciously made available to us for a day. A huge perk of shooting there is that we could call it ‘location scouting’ when Nick, Noah Fallis and I went there for drinks.

The Fuji X-H1 struck all of as a very interesting camera. Nick and I love the image processing of Fujis, and I was surprised how much I liked the footage I captured shooting the X-T2 in Japan for our Fuji X-T20 and GFX field tests. However, the lack of a stabilized sensor was a huge drawback, and I’ve gotten used to working with the amazing new 3.6 million dot EVFs of the Panasonic GH5 and Sony A7R III. The X-H1 offers both of those features, alongside internal log recording (yes!) and the brand new Eterna motion picture film simulation. Nick was looking at grabbing a Fuji camera for stills, so the ability to have compelling video features in the same package made the X-H1 a much more intriguing option.

As far as the crew, we were amazed at the group of people willing to dedicate their time to helping us out. Noah Fallis not only brought his great eye for lighting, but a van full of killer lights and grip gear.  Previous TCSTV guests Ryan HK and Kaitlyn Kerr got our set up and running incredibly quickly, and Kaitlyn did double duty by also portraying the waitress. Ron Osiowy is a man we’ve been wanting to work with for a long time, and he did an outstanding job recording our audio even when the ancient heating system started to rumble. Noah Leach, Nick’s Assistant Camera set up a rig for the X-H1 incredibly quickly, and did a great job with the ‘soft sticks’ that Chris demands when anyone slates near him. Finally, Levi Holwell knocked the BTS video out of the park, doing a great job of capturing the feel of the set, and many shots of Noah Fallis offering snacks!

Shooting the short was only the start of the process. Nick edited the scene as faithful to the original as possible, and then passed the cut off to 6 Degrees Studios for the sound mix, and Company 3 for the grade. I really appreciate Tyler Roth allowing Nick to record their conversation. We got some nice insights from him regarding the X-H1 image, but I found it fascinating to listen to the entire conversation while finessing the look of the scene. To finish the scene off, we had some VFX (a first for TCSTV) done by Method Studios in Chicago, who added some bullet holes to my well-lit forehead. After receiving the final footage at how professional the results were, but it makes sense given the number of gifted pros involved in this production!

The X-H1 is an important step for Fuji. As more and more working photographers are required to capture photos and video on a shoot, hybrid cameras like the X-H1 will become more and more necessary. For projects that require a quick turnaround, the lovely Eterna profile will give you a lovely image that requires minimal work in post. This was just our first project with the X-H1, we’ll be putting together our full review shortly. Stay tuned!