6 Big Budget Movies With Scenes Shot on the Canon 5D MK II

The world of cinema is a cruel and expensive one.  When budgeting a shooting kit for a film, you can easily run past the $100,000 mark, with a set of cine primes often reaching around $80k alone.  Thanks to recent developments in DSLR technology, you can now shoot full HD video, and in some cases, even bypass the regular codecs and output RAW footage, while using lenses designed to give you shallow depth of a field and a whole host of other creative optical solutions.  When the Canon 5D MK II hit store shelves, boasting a full frame 35mm sensor (larger than the size of a 35mm cinema film frame) and offering full HD video, it was instantly snapped up by independent film makers who used the system to shoot everything from commercials, to events, music videos, to weddings.  Then it went deeper than that — in a few rare cases, the 5D II was ushered into the glamorous world of Hollywood, used to make full length, big budget, feature films.  Here are 6 films you may not have known were shot on the Mark II:

Black Swan | 2010 | USA | dir. Darren Aronofsky | cin. Matthew Libatique

Aronofsky’s loose adaptation of the Japanese animated film Perfect Blue was made with the assistance of the Canon 5D MK II as well as 1D Mark IV and the 7D.  Cinematographer Matthew Libatique described using the Canon DSLR’s in American Cinematographer magazine: “We used a Canon 7D or a 1D Mark IV for all the subway scenes; I could just carry a 7D and shoot on the subway all day with a very small crew.  I did some tests with my wife beforehand to figure out my ASA, my stop, and how I was going to deal with the focus.  I didn’t use any rigs with it because I wasn’t trying to shoot in the traditional way."  He also later mentions, "I shot all of that rehearsal footage with the Canon 5D Mark II, which gave me references for the shots we wanted to make.  I also figured out a lot of the mirror shots during prep, because we were rehearsing in a room with a three-sided mirror.”

127 Hours | 2010 | USA, UK | dir. Danny Boyle | cin. Enrique Chediak, Anthony Don Mantle

Danny Boyle’s account of Aron Ralston’s story of getting trapped in a deep crevice with a boulder pinning his hand, for 127 hours.  The film involved cramped shooting locations where digital cameras became the go to systems for getting the required shots.  One of the camera technicians for 127 Hours was Michael Mansouri of HD Camera Rentals who remarked “We also shot with Canons, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II as well as my favorite camera, the 1D Mark IV” and remarked at a weird shooting technique where the cinematographers in “still mode at 10 frame bursts and in post he would double it to 20 frames.  The effect is interesting and will look really cool.”

Drive | 2011 | USA | dir. Nicholas Winding Refn | cin. Newton Thomas Sigel

Although the majority of the film was shot on the Arri Alexa, this film (the lowest budgeted one in our list) also employed the use of the 5D MK II.  I was unable to find out which shots in particular used the camera, but my bet would be certain shots from the inside of the car, and other b-cam related work.

Iron Man 2 | 2010 | USA | dir. John Favreau | Matthew Libatique

Black Swan cinematographer Matthew Libatique returns for this installment where the use of Canon 5D MK II cameras was considered necessary for getting angles for action sequences that other cameras wouldn’t be able to handle.  Speaking with Canon, Libatique remarked: “We mounted the Canon cameras on all four sides of the vehicle to get background plates for Tony Stark driving on the race track,” adding “There is no other camera that can really get into some of the tight spots that the Canon 5D Mark II can, and with the ease that it can.” Continuing his glowing review of the camera, Libatique praised the ease of use the system brought to the production: “With the Canon cameras we were able to easily change lenses and make quick decisions.  The setup time was ten times faster than with a film camera, and we could mount the 5d Mark II cameras in all sorts of places."  In regards to lenses he mentioned "I’m a big fan of Canon Lensing, and I like the focusing and depth of field that it creates — or lack of it, in some cases.  It just feels more cinematic.  The correlation of the 5D Mark II, and its chip size, and the Canon lenses all keep things in a sort of ‘35mm language’ for me." 

In addition to the kind words for the underdog camera, Libatique closed with two quotes every independent film maker has wanted to hear: "We did our exposure tests and the image quality exceeded my expectations for cutting into a 35mm sequence…” and in regards to the scene where the 5D was mainly used: “It’s probably the most impressive shot in that sequence, and it was captured by a 5D Mark II camera."  Glowing praise, indeed.

The Avengers | 2012 | USA | dir. Joss Whedon | cin. Seamus McGarvey

Arguably one of the biggest and most successful films ever made, The Avengers employed the use of five Canon 5D Mark II bodies and two 7D’s in order to capture high intensity action footage that could be intercut with the 35mm and digital cinematography cameras used.  Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey spoke to Canon about the use of the cameras and remarked "The 5D Mark II and the 7D digital SLR cameras produce excellent, cinema-worthy images.  They are great for shooting additional angles that give film editors more options for creating powerfully immersive and kaleidoscopic views of action scenes.”

Mad Max: Fury Road | 2013 | Australia | dir. George Miller | cin. John Seale

The long awaited next installment of the Mad Max franchise is currently being filmed in Australia with Tom Hardy taking the reigns of the once famous Mel Gibson roll.  Although the film is currently in production, and production policy is to stay mum in regards to shooting details, we do know that at least four Canon EOS 5D Mark II cameras have been set aside for use during principle photography.  The film will be released in late 2013 so we can see how the cameras held up.