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The stylistic secrets behind the streamers’ biggest hits

Ryan Kamata, product manager at Canon Europe, discusses why streaming services need to deliver the best quality content for their viewers

Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown, Brits have been watching a third (38%) more TV, with a quarter claiming they are increasingly viewing content via streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Now TV and the recently launched Disney Plus.

Across the world, streaming services have been champions in keeping us entertained. Binge-worthy content like, Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness and the BBC’s Normal People have driven lots of social media chatter. While both series are different in style, they have captured the attention of a worldwide audience. How? With their gripping plots, camera techniques and high production standards. 

Today, viewers not only want to watch shows with a great plot, they want to be moved by a high-quality immersive experience. With cinema doors in some countries currently closed , viewers are craving cinematic content from the comfort of their own homes and expecting this from streaming services. 

It is clear the most talked about shows right now are those that tick the immersive box for viewers and keep them clicking “continue watching.”

The importance of quality

Whilst the significance of a great plot should never be underestimated, the style and quality of the production is what captivates viewers. In the first week alone, the original Netflix film Bird Box, broke records at the end of 2018 when the streamer announced over 45 million users had watched it globally – demonstrating the power a great plot and high-quality 4K production has over viewing figures. 

2019’s Oscar-winning Best Documentary Feature, Free Solo, available on Disney Plus is a great example of how documentary films can also gain global recognition. Free Solo was shot for the most part on the Canon EOS C300 Mark II. Not only does it capture content in stunning 4K, but its lightweight and easy-to-use physical features meant that director and producer, Jimmy Chin, was able to attach the camera to a gimbal on the edge of El Capitan mountain’s 3,000-foot cliffs and still capture the breath-taking views. The combination of Jimmy’s gripping story, and the incredible content captured on camera, left viewers feeling like they were with the climbers in California’s Yosemite National Park.

The rise of 4K looking towards 8K 

One way services like Netflix stay on top of quality demands is with initiatives like its Netflix Post Technology Alliance – which launched late 2018. The program brings together industry leaders and manufacturers to innovate production workflows and support creativity globally. Four Canon EOS cameras were selected for the program, chosen by filmmakers behind many Netflix Originals, including the Academy Award-winning documentary Icarus, feature film Our Souls at Night, and Emmy-nominated series Grace and Frankie. 

With 4K growing momentum across the industry, it’s essential streaming services also look to what’s around the corner – and that’s 8K. Canon will soon be launching the highly anticipated and 8K capable hybrid mirrorless camera – the EOS R5. While the camera may not be the lead camera on a series filming set, it is an ideal partner camera for high end productions featuring qualities seen in competitor cinema cameras many times its price point. Other recently announced Canon products, including the full cinema lens range and versatile Canon EOS C300 Mark III, meet the 4K requirements that not only benefits production, but also brings the full capability of 4K and 8K lenses to life. The EOS C300 Mark III’s newly developed imaging system offers exceptionally clean low light image quality as well as superb HDR acquisition capabilities – such technology brings out details in the shadows and highlights giving viewers an enhanced experience.

A canon camera was used in the production of Netflix’s The Last Dance
Shooting styles creating compelling content 

As well as telling a great story with high-quality filming kit, different shooting styles are needed throughout a production to evoke an emotional response from viewers and help them connect with subjects and the subject’s world.

Since the launch of its cinema line-up, Canon has been committed to addressing the demands on cinematographers and providing solutions – with an ever-expanding range. Whatever the style, location or production limitations, its versatility in creating a camera or lens for every shooting scenario is what upholds the production’s quality. Canon’s 60-year expertise in optical excellence is shown in its product range which enables cinematographers around the world to choose the right tools for the production and be confident in their performance and accuracy, resulting in stunningly high-quality content.

All of Canon’s cinema lenses are engineered to provide the same look and feel – resulting in content with a subtle and warm colour tone. So, whether cinematographers are using Canon’s Cine Zoom and Prime lenses in one scene, a Cine-Servo lens on a shoulder-mount in another, a Compact-Servos on a hand-held jib arms in the another or any of the most recently released Sumire Prime lenses in another scene – they can be sure the quality and appearance of the shots will be consistent. Our line-up is as diverse as the filmmaking industry – supporting all genres, shooting situations and styles, supporting demand for versatile equipment. 

Mix it up

In addition to great plot, quality-shot content and various shots, using mixed media is a great way of creating immersive content – especially documentaries. The Last Dance is a 10-part ‘untold’ documentary series, offering a closer look at the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty in 1997-98, and the success of basketballer Michael Jordan. The series uses mixed media effectively showing a combination of rare VHS footage of Michael in his teens and recently shot cinematic-style interview footage of his fellow teammates and family – giving viewers a well-rounded and in-depth story.

The pandemic has not only seen viewers watching more, but they expect more, and its important streaming services keep up. A great plot will reel them in, but the key to success is making sure the content is immersive. By serving shows that are shot with top kit and that offer dynamic production styles, streaming services can do just that!