Nikon’s D800 Gets Down and Dirty for Dexter


Staff member
Apr 26, 2008
Pretty interesting read.

Nikon’s D800 Gets Down and Dirty for Dexter
Camera Operator Eric Fletcher Explains Why He and New Season 7 DP Jeffrey Jur Find the HD-SLR So Versatile on Set

Fletcher says Nikon's first 1080p camera, the D4, sparked his interest in the line. "I'm a fan of Nikkor glass in general and wanted to get the D4 on set. Last April, Nikon ended up sending us two of the new D800s because they felt that its additional features would help us out. And boy, did they."

Nikon also sent "a ton of glass," including 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 72-100mm, 35-50mm and 85 Prime lenses. Fletcher added his personal 14-24mm lens and a borrowed manual-focus lens kit of older Nikkors to the mix. "I'll be using those in the final season in 2013, mainly because autofocus lenses aren't super-friendly for the assistants to work with, but also because the Nikkor glass lasts forever." The camera operator then scouted ARRI's latest Pro DSLR rigs at NAB and ended up four weeks later with a "freshly cut" full cage, follow-focus matte box, handles, braces, rods and quick-release plates, "basically everything I needed before my show started shooting."

For its type, size and price, the D800's exceptional color depth, dynamic range and very low noise at high ISOs (all of which I witnessed firsthand during a recent test run of the camera) are well suited to an edgy show like Dexter that shifts relentlessly from the full-sun, high-contrast Miami streets to dimly lit, cave-like interiors. A series of tests at Panavision last spring showed the Dexter creators just how well the camera could keep pace with the Alexa, convincing them to make the D800 the show's primary second-unit camera.

"We used the Alexa as a baseline and had the D800 recording to an outboard recorder uncompressed and to an internal memory card at H.264 compressed," says Fletcher. "We also tested a Canon C300 with a Cooke lens on it—a $40,000 setup—running alongside the $4,000 Nikon D800 setup. The Canon footage had what you might call an over-smooth look to it. But the D800 uncompressed footage blew us away."

When they looked at D800 footage alongside the ARRI baseline at Technicolor, he says, "we really couldn't see much difference. But our jaws really hit the floor when we brought up the compressed D800 footage. Right then the decision was made with the post supervisor Megan Walsh that if we shoot with this camera, there is no need to shoot uncompressed. That means the file size goes from 4GB to 600 MB. That's just the factory setup, too."

Complete article here: Nikon’s D800 Gets Down and Dirty for Dexter | Studio Daily

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