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Tilt-shift lenses get sushi moving in short film

Sushi is the star of an imaginative new short film that celebrates its enduring appeal, as well as demonstrating the creative application of Canon’s tilt-shift lenses in moving image as opposed to stills.

A delicacy enjoyed by gourmands all over the world, sushi is the star of an imaginative new short film that celebrates its enduring appeal, as well as demonstrating the creative application of Canon’s tilt-shift lenses in moving image. TS-E x SUSHI, a stylish film made by Canon, is a delectable feast for the eyes, featuring platefuls of colourful sushi being enjoyed by sharply dressed Japanese gents. You can check it out below, as well as a revealing behind the scenes short.

The idea behind the film – shot in a kaiten-zushi (a fast-food restaurant serving sushi on a conveyor belt) – was to showcase the tilt-shift capabilities of Canon’s TS-E lenses in a fun and playful way, the creatives behind it explain: “We wanted to show that these lenses, considered by many to be used exclusively for still images, are just as effective in the world of movies,” says the director. “We brainstormed subjects that would help viewers easily understand the idea of ‘tilt’ and ‘shift’. Featuring a kaiten-zushi was just one idea, but we all thought it was comical, interesting, and impactful, so we went with it.”

The draw of the shoot

The biggest draw of shooting in a kaiten-zushi was to capture different types of movement – from plates of sushi whizzing along a rotating conveyor belt to soy sauce being poured, customers lifting plates, and sushi being made by hand. Little touches such as the inclusion of a shot featuring a row of traditional Japanese yunomi tea cups helped to make the film even more authentic. “We combined various types of movement with unique TS-E lens effects, such as plane of focus and perspective control,” says the director. “After deciding what kind of motion we wanted to shoot, we developed an initial storyboard before going to the restaurant to test out our ideas and adjust the creative approach.”

Camera operators manually adjust the tilt and shift functions of the TS-E lens, on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, that’s being used to film businessmen eating sushi in a kaiten-zushi.
One of the biggest challenges was ensuring that the timing of the moving subjects and shooting angle were perfectly aligned, which was no easy task given that they were operating the tilt and shift functions manually.

It took a 16-strong crew to make the film, and a lot of time went into planning the shoot and rehearsing the shots. One of the biggest challenges was ensuring that the timing of the moving subjects and shooting angle were perfectly aligned, which was no easy task given that they were operating the tilt and shift functions manually. The team used three high-end macro lenses – a TS-E 50mm f/2.8L MACRO, TS-E 90mm f/2.8L MACRO, and TS-E 135mm f/4L MACRO – with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera, which was carefully positioned at various points around the restaurant. “It was necessary to change the camera position many times. For example, we set up at the edge of the rotating conveyor belt or positioned it so the shooting angle gave a bird's-eye view,” explains the director, adding that using a jib allowed them to shoot efficiently.

Sushi moves along the conveyor belt in a Japanese kaiten-zushi.
“We made sure viewers didn’t get bored by using a high frame rate filming technique to add rhythm, taking advantage of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV’s HD 60fps capability,” says the director.

Other challenges included coping with, and adapting to, space restrictions. “We had limited space inside the restaurant to shoot in,” says the director. “If we’d been in a studio we would have had more freedom to arrange the camera and lighting equipment. Instead, we had to shoot from a narrow aisle or a seat, [which meant cramming in] all of the equipment and crew. Due to the limited space, we decided the focal length after we’d agreed the shooting position.” But despite the lack of room, the team managed to employ the lenses’ tilt and shift functions to great effect, altering the angle of view when needed to make the finished video come alive.

Sushi dishes in the foreground and distance move in and out of focus, as the plane of focus is adjusted.
“We combined various types of movement with unique TS-E lens effects, such as plane of focus and perspective control,” says the director.

Captivating the audience

It was crucial that the film be as lively as possible and retain viewers’ attention throughout, stress the creatives, who say they thought long and hard about how to construct the video in a way that would clearly convey the high performance of TS-E lenses, but also be fun to watch.

They mention one standout scene featuring a stack of plates through which they demonstrate the shift effect of the lenses in an innovative, compelling way. “We went to the restaurant several times and arranged plates in their conference room, repeatedly testing [our idea for the shot]. In the end, we fixed the perspective of the shift effect of our chosen lenses.”

To keep viewers engaged, we used a high frame rate movie shooting technique to add rhythm.

The team also used speed ramping to vary the pace and make the film look slick and stylish. “Since a rotating sushi conveyor belt is constantly moving, it could get monotonous so, to keep viewers engaged, we used a high frame rate filming technique to add rhythm, taking advantage of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV’s HD 60fps capability,” says the director.” In one particularly memorable sequence at the end of the film, Canon’s tilt-shift lenses take a starring role when they appear on plates as though they are sushi, whizzing along the conveyor belt before being seen in slow motion.

Four identically-dressed Japanese businessmen sit at a conveyor belt in a kaiten-zushi.
The biggest draw of shooting in a kaiten-zushi was the opportunity to capture different types of movement – from plates of sushi whizzing along a rotating conveyor belt to soy sauce being poured, customers lifting plates, and sushi being made by hand.

“The main thing we wanted to do was to create a movie in which the tilt-shift effect appears gradually, making it easy for the viewer to see,” concludes the director. “As well as utilising shallow depth of field and showing the lenses’ tilt effect, we have created a beautiful film.”

Written by Gemma Padley


To find out more about Canon’s tilt-shift lenses, visit the product page.

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