With so many cameras capable of a stunning hybrid performance these days, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is definitely one to look at as cinematographer Byron Wijayawardena recently discovered.
We live in interesting times, and just as photographers have felt the urge to look beyond their boundaries to explore what the moving image might offer them, so too are their cameras becoming all-rounders, capable of shooting video footage that’s well up to professional standards alongside stunning stills.
Over the past few years Olympus has been getting in on the act, delivering cameras such as the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with its excellent filmmaking facility alongside outstanding stills functionality. More recently the OM-D E-M1 Mark II has moved things on again, offering 4K recording at 24p and UHD at 30, 25 and 24fps, a built-in headphone socket, 5-axis image stabilisation and digital stabilisation, clean HDMI output via a Micro HDMI connection and Sync start/stop. In short, it’s a powerful all-rounder, worthy of consideration by those who want to produce video for their clients at the same time as shooting stills.
London-based Byron Wijayawardena’s association with Olympus dates back to the age of 14, when he first developed an interest in the visual arts on the back of borrowing his father’s treasured OM-2n. Not long after that he acquired his first Super 8 camera and began his lifelong love affair with visual storytelling.
“I’ve been making movies of one form or another since I was young”
Starting off on 8mm film, then 16mm then to tape-based cameras and then finally to digital cameras. For the last 15 years, however, I’ve been hidden away working within internal creative, product marketing and marketing teams at Apple and BlackMagic Design, where I learned a lot. In that time I was very fortunate to work with professionals in the production and post-production industries from all over the world, from filmmakers through to cinematographers, editors and colourists.
“For the last two years I’ve been a fully-fledged freelance cinematographer, editor, colourist and educator. I guess you could say I am a creative director for hire, and I love everything about the filmmaking process, from start to finish. I believe all parts of this are connected and that you need to learn as much as possible. You can never afford to stop this process either, since everything is constantly changing.”
Byron now runs the high-end Hangman boutique production and post-production studio, which works on a wide range of freelance filmmaking projects from music to corporate to commercial. When not taking on high profile commissions with his talented team he’s teaching on BA and MA courses at London universities and looking to pass his knowledge on to the next generation of filmmakers.
Working with Olympus:
Given his filmmaking experience Byron has worked with numerous cameras over the years, but his interest was piqued not just from his long-term relationship with Olympus but with the enthusiastic reception the OM-D E-M1 Mark II received from the filmmaking business in general. He was equally taken with the diminutive size of this mirrorless camera, which is a fraction of the size of some of its DSLR filmmaking rivals.
“I often need to travel light while still achieving high-quality stable images,” he says, “without the need for all the extra equipment that you seem to have to carry around with you. Quite simply, working with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II did away with all of this, and I found it liberating. On top of this, filmmaking is all about movement, and having a small and lightweight camera and lenses means you can be nimble and get cinematic movement handheld. With the aid of the camera’s built-in stabilising system you can make great looking content without being tied to a tripod.”
“Image stabilisation is incredible and it really does take the shake out of footage”
The first film Byron produced with the camera was shot in autumn in a local park, and he determined to look for as much natural colour as possible, to shoot everything handheld and to edit and colour grade it all in a single day.
“The idea of the 24-hour challenge was to test out the workflow and it all worked out very well,” he says. “I shoot the best format within the context of the job and, on this occasion, worked throughout in 4K to give myself the highest possible quality and the opportunity to crop in at the editing stage. Overall I was very impressed by the quality of the 4K footage, which I shot in the flat log profile and colour graded in post.”
“The camera was perfectly set up for hand-holding, which gave me a huge amount of flexibility. Image stabilisation is incredible and it really does take the shake out of the footage, while using a lens such as the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro zoom – effectively a 24-200mm since this is an APS-sensored camera – makes things better still, since this is designed to work with the powerful 5-axis IS via Sync IS. So you have the camera’s IS, the digital IS and the IS of the lens, giving you a triple hit of image stabilisation, and you can capture clear stable footage without the need for a tripod or gimbal especially at 60fps if you’re looking to shoot some poetic slow motion.”
The line-up of Olympus lenses that can partner the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is extensive, and among Byron’s favourites for filmmaking, alongside the 12-100mm, are the 7–14mm f/2.8, used for cinematic wide shots; the 17mm and 25mm f/1.2s, both delivering great prime quality and ultimate depth-of-field control; and the 12-40mm f/2.8, which features a consistent maximum aperture throughout its range.
“As a filmmaker I usually prefer to set manual focus,” says Byron, “but the AF on the camera is lightning fast and comes into its own should I be undertaking something like a slider shot, where I need to be working with two hands.”
Looking ahead Byron can see his filmmaking relationship with Olympus continuing to grow, and he’s excited about the potential the system is delivering. “I am literally just getting started,” he says. “I have a whole list of films that I’m looking to make this year, ranging from mini-documentaries through to customer profile videos, travel pieces and fashion videos, and the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is going to be crucial to all of this. I’m excited about the possibilities and looking forward to a long and productive relationship!”