Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shooting with the RED is EPIC

So I got to spend 3 days with the new RED Epic-X last week. Really nice. Some quick notes:
  • I like the touch screen menu adjustments. Although, we got the side grip the day before the shoot and I must say that it lays out a lot like a Canon system when you start accessing the menus that way.

  • We are using mostly zooms on this shoot for moving fast. The RED 18-50, RED 50-150 and the Tokina 11-17 PL. We have the full set of RED primes with us but have decided to lean on the zooms. A lot of the work is being done from my Porta-Jib Explorer camera support system. We are using both the JIB and the slider configurations so the zooms are coming in handy.

  • Playback is still forthcoming so we are treating this like a film shoot. If the client wants to review a shot they go over to the DIT station and look at it there. (usually after the card has gone in for offloading). It will be great when it is put in a future build.

  • The media management seems pretty straight forward. Very much like an EX workflow. We are getting the MacBook Pros to play back at 1/8 resolution in REDCINE-X with out much problem. No real color adjustments are being made on the set - We just check to see when there is a problem that we will be able to remove it in post.

What a great camera package for digital cinema. I'm looking forward to the next time I get to shoot with this camera.

Until next time, good shooting.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Exit the ScarLETUS - Enter the Scarlet-X !!!


I was at the Technology Expo in Burbank today, visiting the Canon booth, waiting to hear the good news about their new $6K HD camera like everyone else. They had no news. The Paramount team hadn't called yet. At 3:30pm I started getting phone calls about the Canon presentation at Paramount: The camera is cool, great form factor, very sharp.... then the price came out -- $20,000 freakin' dollars!!!

Hop over to RED. The stage is set. Every one is hoping for a Hail Mary and RED delivers!!! A gigantic round for their bazooka. Dead hit! 4K Super 35 for under $10K Yippee Cy Ya M... F....

Sorry. I'll reel in the enthusiasm a little. I've just been waiting for this camera for soooooo long. I got a fast track lesson on the EPIC yesterday. I'll be shooting with it next week. I was very impressed. I had relegated myself to the idea that the Scarlet could possibly fill a gap for me until the EPIC-S/Scarlet S35 eventually came on the scene. As in my ScarLETUS blog I was even planning a way to make the fixed 8x lens concept work for the mean time with my 35mm LETUS adapter. Well I don't have to worry about that anymore =)

I'll just say that my EX3, 5D and F3 were filling in the gaps and if I were to buy another camera it would need to really stand out. EPIC not withstanding, (out of my price range) the EPIC-S was going to be the only contender for that position but had reportedly gotten pushed to the back of the line - SOOOOO glad that RED brought it out as the Scarlet-X.

Great job RED!!! Now I can look forward to the Digital Future with hope =)

Until next time, good shooting. (Go RED!!!)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Zeiss ZF.2 lenses with the DuClos Cine-Mod on the F3

Well we had the chance to spend some quality time a Duclos Lenses last week and try out the new Zeiss ZF.2 lenses with our F3. These lenses all had the Dulcos Cine-Mod: aperture de-clicked, solid focus gear added and an 80mm front ring put on. These were fantastic.

Matthew Duclos took us through the 5 lens kit they are now offering - what a cool deal. They also have these available for rental as kits configured with 5 or 9 lenses. The typical group consists of a 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm (macro) and an 85mm. You can also get an 18mm, 25mm or the 100mm (macro).

Zeiss makes a great lens and the Cine-Mod just adds to the experience. A very robust a solid feel with the added features of the focus ring and the common 80mm front. The rotation of the barrel is 270 degrees to 360 degrees in some cases - very nice. To that, very little breathing.

The images from these lenses are very sharp and clear. I did not see any contrast ratios that were out of range or false sharpness. CRI seemed right in there with our Sony PL primes. We did a comparison between the 50mm PL prime and the 50mm ƒ2.0 Zeiss and focal length was identical (within an inch at 10 feet side to side) and the Zeiss was a little faster. (I'll post some frame grabs soon)

Over all I think these lenses are a great addition to any camera package and deserve a closer look.

Until next time, good shooting

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5 for the Mac

Well it's a whole new world... FCP is, well, X'd... Like many others I've been clinging to my FCP 7 but with the announcement of Apple shutting down any future support or development for Color and many of the short comings of FCP X I am looking to other NLE possabilities.

After looking into many options I decided I wanted to find a "bundled" package similar to Final Cut Studio - Enter Adobe's Production Premium Bundle: Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator and the list goes on and on. I had been waffling because I didn't want to spend the $1500 full street price and just then Adobe dropped the crossover price to $850 - Yeah!!! So I downloaded the 30 day free trial. (If you do this, make the time to give it a real good try. I was put off the first afternoon because I didn't give it enough time to set in to my way of thinking.) I can officially say that after 3 weeks of testing and learning I have made leap and bought the bundle.

The cool things for me are round tripping with After Effects, Photoshop and Audition. Also the importability with many different CODECs and formats. I just dropped a bunch of footage from my EX3 in after choosing the right sequence settings and there it was in realtime - pretty nice.

I'm using mine on an older MacPro (2006) tower 2.66 Quad Core with a Black Magic Design Intensity Pro video output card. I just upgraded the driver to 8.2.1 and it seems to work fine. I'm going to upgrade the CPU soon and add an NVIDIA FX4800 GPU card to activate the Mercury Engine features of the package. I hope to have more info on that soon. For the mean time I am putting it up against my FCP 7 package and working through the similarities and differences. So far so good.

Until next time, good shooting or editing

Sony PMW-F3 and Non PL Lenses

OK. So we have the 3 SONY primes 35, 50 and 85mm T3'ish -- very nice. Also we have the RED 18-50 T3 PL zoom - handy. When they were offering the pair, 18-50 and 50-150 from Optimo, it was a great range and deal... But now it's a different pricing structure... So we have steered ourselves down the NIKON road for a little while =)

Ken and eBay are your friends. We went through Ken's sight and double checked our lenses for reviews, tips and tricks and finally general pricing considerations. We decided on covering a range from 28mm to 200mm with a 28-70 ƒ2.8 ED and a 80-200 ƒ2.8 ED. Really rugged, well built and clean.

The 80-200 came in a week ago and we were able to take it to Duclos Lenses in Conoga Park last week. REALLY nice guys Paul and Matthew. Boy do they know their stuff. As it turned out they were doing a run of Cinemods on 80-200 Nikkor lenses that week and just added our parts to the run. We dropped off the lens in the morning and went to lunch and it was done by the time we got back an hour later. Awesome!!!

To add to our collection we also got the 28-70 this week. We'll test it out on a commercial shoot this coming week. We'll have it modded probably later this week or next. The mod is great - they remove the "click-stops" in the aperture ring and add a focus gear. If you like they will upgrade to front flange to 80mm for consistency.

The look seems very nice from these lenses. Bokeh is pretty smooth. Don't see that much vignetting in the way we use the lenses. All in all I think a good decision.

While we were at Duclos we checked out their 11-16 lens - very cool. Again - rugged!! Worked really well with the F3. Gives you a great wide look. They are so popular for the RED and EPIC and F3 that there is a fair sized waiting list - well worth the wait and the money.

More to follow as we put the lenses through some real world testing...

Until next time, good shooting

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Enter the ScarLETUS

No, this is not the next installment of the Godfather and it’s not the newest alternative music on SiriusXM. I think it’s the next step in the quest for a great camera package. The RED Scarlet meets LETUS shallow depth of field adapters at a price that runs in the pack with an FS-100 and AF-100. Lets look at the possibilities…

  1. According to Ted Schilowitz from RED the Scarlet is supposed to ring in at around $6000 – not too bad.It will have (every thing is subject to change =) 3K < 2K, 120fps, SSD, HDRx, 28mm to 240mm @ ƒ2.4 fixed lens, RED raw and other goodies.All of these features are terrific and highly sought after by shooters in all categories.The only hitch(s) - everyone seems to be hung up on the fact this camera has a 2/3” senor and a fixed lens.

  2. Philip Bloom first introduced us to the adapter craze with the SONY EX1 and LETUS Extreme. Also P+S Technik and RedRock Micro have been doing adapters for a while. With the LETUS, it has the image “right side up”, looses only a ½ stop of light and was packed into an elegant little enclosure that simply screwed onto your camera lens – no tools required. These adapters made “Film Look” cinematography/videography attainable at a reasonable price point. Add to this cameras that were now shooting in the 400 to 800 ISO range and you were almost all the way home.

  3. Now lets combine the two. It’s very similar to working with the Sony EX1 or Panasonic HVX200. The Scarlet (according to the forums) has a 77mm filter thread.The ISO can go up to 12,000.The form factor is smaller than the EX1 or HVX200. And it’s Cool!!!

So, the run down:
  • Small light weight camera 2K resolution
    so I can scale during post for HD delivery
  • HDRx for those office window I just can’t GEL
  • RED raw - no baked in look
  • SSD storage for in-expensive client hand offs
  • Cool 120fps rate
  • Full Frame image plane to maximize my current lens kit
  • DoF on par with my 5Dmk2
  • 10 bit Pro connection options
  • Great transitional entre into RED cameras and workflow

I’ll be honest, if I could afford an Epic and my current client list warranted it I would go for it but it doesn’t and I can’t. I’m holding out hope for the Epic-S but wanted to start looking at alternatives. I’m coming from a predominately Sony infrastructure and will have to do some work with myself and my clients to introduce the RED workflow as seamlessly as possible. We (my clients and I) love the look of DSLRs and the ease of the EX3 and F3 but I still need the additional things the Scarlet and Epic offer to move my camera work to the next level. Since I have the LETUS Extreme already and love it, I’m willing to try a “ScarLETUS” configuration to get there =)

I would love to hear thoughts from other DPs, RED users, camera operators and film makers. Please comment =)

Until next time, good shooting

Friday, June 24, 2011

Oops... I might have been wrong... FCPX??

OK, so I might have been a little off in my speculation about Apple buying Adobe - or not - just backwards. What if instead of Apple trying to buy Adobe, Apple is thinking about selling it's Pro Application Division? I didn't come up with this - it's been rumored on the web about Apple maybe wanting to sell it's Pro App division. This would make sense then about the current state of FCPX.

Lets just suppose Adobe were the intended buyer... FCP and Premier Pro are almost even on the playing field - you can't have a company with two stellar editing platforms - one needs to be elevated and the other brought down a few pegs. Does Adobe have a prosumer editing package anymore? So now there would be iMovie Pro for the consumer / prosumer and Premier Pro for the full time editor. Audition to replace STP and After Effects for Motion. Color could stay around as a stand alone grading tool and compressor would / could get absorbed by Adobe Media Encoder. All at 64 bit.

At least this would make more sense than the idea that Apple just didn't follow though on the re-development of Final Cut at this stage. The re-design took a long time and they had input from industry professionals. There has to be another reason... Then again this is just all speculation. However, I am taking another look at Premier Pro CS 5.5... Could be fun.

Just another thought

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Apple...Brain Fart??? FCP X ???

OK. So I have to ask the same question that every other editor is asking - WTF???

A quote from a director friend of mine:

It looks like the Amiga Toaster Flyer mated with iMovie and gave birth to Vegas Prosumer."

Not to be rude - Apple has always been a mile ahead of the rest of the world and maybe it is so this time as well... but, really. At first blush FCPX seems a little FCP'd Up. Too harsh... Sorry, I'll tone it down.

So, like everyone else, I have seen the footage from the "SuperMeet" at NAB and the speculation sites and finally the pieces starting to float up on the web by new owners. I have to say it looks very attractive at first but then you start to look at the list of missing features... These are things that everyday editors use - regularly... I just read another report of how Apple is working hard to add these features back into the next update -- but I would ask, why weren't they in there in the first place?

As I said a minute ago, Apple is always ahead of the curve. So once the missing features get added back in this could be a pretty stomping app -- but it looks a lot like "iMovie on steroids" right now.

Lets keep our fingers crossed =) Go Apple

---------------ADD ON--------------------

OK, so I have to ask... Is Apple planning to buy Adobe?

I've spent all morning reading various posts about a definite migration from FCP to either AVID or Premiere CS5.5. It started to dawn on me that one possible reason Apple would gut FCP so badly and call it "professional" is to create a stampead to another NLE -- Premiere, their closest competitor. With a very similar history in development and timeline it would make since. When Premiere left MAC it was still clunky. Now after it's return and apparent growth spurt it seems to be the new "BIG kid on the block". I'm wondering if Apple realized it would take far too long to re-invent FCP 64bit from the ground up as a professional application and that it made more since to stake a claim in another company... So, Apple creates "iMovie Pro", calls it FCPX for a legacy tie in. Then buys Adobe later in the year. Adopts CS5.5 as the new FCP studio collection. Adds Color and Sound Track Pro / Logic into the collection to round out the total production environment and poof... SMOKE for under $3000 bucks...

Just a thought...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

CineGear-Los Angeles 2011

Went to the 2011 CineGear Expo yesterday - Wow!!! Lots and lots of cool new stuff. Got there about 4:30 and stayed until almost closing. We were able to just stroll and take our time - very nice. We were joined by Mark Schweickart from Porta-Jib later in the day and got to get an equipment manufacturer's point of view of the show. Informative.

Equipment highlights:

Sound Devices PIX 220 and 240 HD recorders
I just found out about these little guys last week at the AbleCine F3 workshop. I've been wating for someone to wrap everything into one chassis that didn't cost $10,000. Yeah!!! the folks at Sound Devices did it. The PIX 220 and 240 are digital HD field recorders with HDMI and HD/SDI inputs and outputs. The 220 is the HDMI only version ringing in around $1800 while the 240 has both HDMI and HD/SDI along with TC IN/OUT and other cool features and zips in at just under $2600 - street. Your footage can be recorded to CF cards or SSD drives. The unit is mountable with a 1/4-20 hole on the back and the new mounts should include three 1/4-20's on the bottom. The SSD drive uses an accessory caddy that mounts to the drive and allows the drive to then be used directly for offloading to your computer via USB 3.0, Firewire 800 or eSata. The drives are formatted by the recorder in UDF so it will work on both MAC and PC straight away - Very Cool. Should be arriving later this summer - can't wait!!!

JVC 4K camcorder
Just got the teaser on this one a day before the show. Didn't know what to expect. It was...cute. The camera is still in the prototype phase. Much like Canon's "Hair Dryer" display, JVC had a working model there posed as a small camcorder poised atop a little black box. There were 4 HDMI cables coming out of the black box going over to a 60" flat panel TV. The picture was clean. There were images of people, architecture, and general B-roll. Sharp. The rep said they plan the use 4 SD cards to record the image streams and then it will be put back together in post. Interesting.

AbleCine showing their B4 to PL adapter
This was kind of cool. They had an F3 with a Canon EFP lens on it. The MSRP is about $5500. Not bad if you still have a broadcast 2/3" lens laying around. I wonder if it works with the FS-100?

Hurlbut Visuals booth
Shane Hurlbut had a booth right at the entrance of the event. It goes with his new camera rentals department. He was showing all of his different HDSLR configurations. I spent some time talking to one of his shooters at the booth about their findings over time with the 5D's and 7D's.

Steadicam - Scout
The company I do a lot of work with is selling their Hollywood Lite/ Varizoom Aviator stabilizer system and I thought I would check out the new solutions in case we want to replace it in the future. I tried the Glidecam X22 last year and wanted to try an actual STEADICAM this year. I tried the Scout - $7000 - 5 to 18 pounds. Very nice. Light weight. Simple to setup. Easy to control.

Redrock Micro
Always great stuff to see. I checked out the new FF Blue and the Wireless FF solution the microRemote with the iPhone interface. It's really coming along. I got to drive the wireless system for a bit and it was nice. Brian Valente said that they just added a torque feature to help adjust the system's feel and response from lens to lens.

Light Iron Live Playback in an iPad
This is a very interesting company. They were showing their on-set production and post tools. The one tool that caught my eye was a derivitive of the Teradek wireless monitoring system. Using the Teradek hardware Light Iron mapped a real nice interactive GUI over the playback software to help on-set decisions and footage review. It's called LIVE PLAY. You can add comments and notes as needed on a clip by clip basis. These then populate through the server for all the viewers who are connected to see. Handy if the DP catches something and puts the note in before a lot of time is spent by the rest of the production group on a big discussion. All the notes and other meta data can then be compiled for the edit and final production notes. Pretty awesome...

Well that's my quick over view of the things I liked at CineGear Expo this year. I like this show because if I can't make it to NAB, most of the exhibitors I want to see are here and I don't need a hotel or 3 days to see the show =)

Until next time, good shooting

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Porta-Jib Explorer

I have been following the Porta-Jib product lines for a few years now and am constantly impressed with each new creative tool they come up with. Most of my work revolves around talking head and product shoots. And usually are steeped in a long shot list with a short time frame. Creativity is generally the first casualty of the shooting day. With the Explorer system, I’m finding I can “buy back” some creativity / inspiration without much cost to the day.

I recently used the Explorer on a car review for Kelly Blue Book and was extremely pleased. The director said “Sure. Bring it along. But I don’t want to be slowed down or have to sacrifice shots while you are fiddling with adjustments.” I’m happy to report we finished 15 minutes early and had at least 5 extra shots in the can. He loved it!!! We never came off the system. We did both JIB shots and then worked the heck out of the TROLLEY / SLIDER config.

I’ve used the system with everything from a SONY Z7 to a SONY F3. (And that includes my 5Dmk2 and EX3). The Explorer system seems right at home in any environment. I see this system as a fantastically versatile opportunity to recapture some of the excitement and creativity we all enjoyed when we were first starting out.

Thanks Mark and Scott. Great Job!!!

Check out my video review - Trey's Gear Review: Porta-Jib Explorer

Until next time, good shooting =)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Which Camera - more thoughts... F3??

When I attend the sneak peak of the F3 here on the west coast in November I thought it was a terrific camera - but more than what most of us regular working cameramen would be able to use day to day (at the then 16,000 price tag). I had been using a LETUS adapter on my EX3 for about 2 years and was still having trouble talking many of my regular producers into using it ( daily cost not withstanding). They either didn't see the benefits or felt it would impact the shooting schedule to severely. Then enter the 5D... Everybody wanted "Shallow DoF" !!!!

Now the stage is set... Canon follows with the 7D, Panasonic releases the AF-100, RED is up with the Scarlet and the Epic-S, Canon is rumored to show a new interchangeable lens HD video camera.... That all being said I started looking at all these contenders and re-evaluated the F3 - and here's the skinny:

The every day camera in these new days of DoF minded clients with fast, card based work flows that can have multiple finishing strategies will need to have the ability to convert from a super shallow film style camera to a grab and go ENG rig in less than 5 minutes and still fit into my truck with only a few cases =) I went back and looked at all the cameras again and it came down to the Sony F3 or maybe what Canon comes out with. But Canon's offering would need to be significant as the entrenched Sony Picture Profiles are so available now and requested that it's important to have a "Matchable" camera. Also, with many people now finishing HD you can no longer do the "shoot wide and scale in post" trick so I am often setting 2 matched cameras and getting my wide and tight at the same time (when eye line is not going to be an issue). So all that being said, for right now, it looks like the F3 is the best all around bet - especially if you have an EX1 or EX3. They can be matched pretty well using the EX as the wide and the F3 getting the glory tight shots. Both will use the same Picture Profile just fine.

Now to the specifics =) The camera is real pretty. Almost no noise (unless you try really hard) Operates just like an EX. Work flow is just like an EX. My EX cards and batteries fit. My rods and FF and mattebox fit. I'm using a Hawk-Woods power distro for my for my bricks to work with it - real nice ad on. We haven't got the $3300 upgrade yet but are considering it. Birger Engineering will have an adapter ready in the summer (rumor has it) with full control for my EOS lenses and wireless FF features ta boot =) We are looking at the Atomos Samurai SSD/Monitor system for the near future and the Convergent Design Gemini or Cinedeck if needed later to provide our 4:4:4 10bit solution.

Operation: A little on the heavy side... not too bad, just pipey. Good on battery life. Fairly smart layout - 10 assignable buttons. 1/4-20's everywhere ( 3 on the handle, 4 on the body and probably some I haven't found yet) The prime lenses work very nicely. I am waiting to use my EOS "L" series zooms =) I will probably look into the Zeiss ZF.2 lens kit with an MTF Nikon to E-mount adapter for my camera. The one I reviewed is using the Sony primes and a RED 18-50mm zoom. Depends on your needs...

And finally... I have used it on some corporate work: interviews ( I'm hoping to post some frame grabs when I get cleared to do so) b-roll and static shots. My take away is this... Great camera for interviews, staged shots, controllable b-roll situations, product and EFX shots. Right now, with the current non-servo zoom lens selection, it's not going to be that great for "Run & Gun", candids or pop zoom fashion type work or ballroom cams. I will keep my EX3 for that for now and see what Sony is planning for their servo lenses in 2012. The F3 is the only camera ready to zoom with the rocker in place and a plan for it.

Hope you all can boil this down and extract some good info that applies to your independent needs. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

IR filters for the Sony EX cameras

Defining the problem
If you have used the Sony EX1 or EX3 in a setting with black or gray fabrics you may have seen a magenta shift in the picture. One little catch with the new Exmore sensors is they have a big sensitivity toward the Infra Red (IR) spectrum. We did a bit of testing here and found a good workaround with some screw-on IR filters.

As you can see in the pictures the uncorrected shirts have pretty a good magenta shift. The set is lit with one Diva 400 at 3200k. We found in interview settings under either 3200k or 5600k the shift still happens. We talked to a few filter manufacturers and narrowed it down to Tiffen and Schneider. Both had nice offerings for IR filters. Tiffen has their series call Hot Mirrors and Schneider suggests the 77E IR cut (486). We found that the 77E (486) worked the best on both our EX1's and then the EX3's. So far we have not noticed a need for the IR filters on our Sony F3. Yay =) Originally the 486 was sold as the best filter for the RED and the Hot Mirrors were the best for the EX cameras but as we tested the opposite was true and that's why we went with the 77E (486) for our cameras.

Care and Handeling
At first we were putting the filters on when we saw the problem and then removing them after the shoot as they are almost $300 each... After a while we realized the potential to damage the filter when adding or removing it was greater than just replacing our UV filters with the IR filters permanently.

Playing well with others
The filters seem to work well in conjunction with other filters and 4x4s in line. We have had no problems using the IR filters and screwing our Polarizers on in front of the IR.

Best of luck with your filters and lens kits.

Until next time, good shooting.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Which camera ? Which camera ?? WHICH CAMERA!!! ???

OK, so as NAB 2011 draws near... This seems to be the year that everything is going to change -- Or at least in the worlds of broadcast and cinematography...

There are so many things I hope to get out of NAB this year. Will Canon come out with their new HD FF35 camera? What's up with the 5Dmk3? Will RED deliver the Scarlet and the EPIC-S? Will Sony have all the specs out for the FS100 and some units to play with? Where is Birger Engineering in their development on a EF to E-mount adapter for Canon lenses on the Sony PMW-F3? Ninja or Samurai? NanoFlash or AJA Ki Pro Mini?... House payment or GEAR!!!! (wait. I think I've gone too far =)

So here's what's been going through my head for the last several weeks:

What's the best camera for the work I do and can it last me for the next 5 years? (5 years??) What it needs to have:
  • 10bit HD-SDI and/or HDMI 4:2:2 uncompressed output - Clean
  • Card based recording system that is or can be adapted to SDHC form factor cards
  • APS-C or larger sensor - S35 or FF35
  • XLR audio and proper controls with LINE and MIC input level choices
  • Timecode IN (and out)
  • Good headphone monitoring
  • Oh yeah... interchangeable lenses =)
Things that would be nice:
  • ENG / EFP Servo ZOOM lens
  • ND stages
  • Picture profiles and the ability to store them and load to other cameras
  • Edit ready format to drop right into my NLE and grading
  • Composite video output for fast attaching to Steadicams and the like
  • SSD storage options
Of course this list could go on for days. But lets look at the top contenders for under $20K
...And yes I did rate them according to their estimated MSRP =) All of the cameras should be able to be configured sub 20K but you can accessorize them to your heart's content.

I have widdled it down like this for me:
  • I have an EX3, a LETUS extreme, a 5Dmk2 with nice lens kit and accessories.
  • I use a 17" JVC HD-SDI monitor for my clients on-set.
  • I use a Marshall 7" HD-SDI monitor on the camera for me.
  • Shallow DoF is starting to become more prevalent with my clients and their projects.
  • Most are editing on Final Cut Pro (FCP) but are not willing to spend a lot of time converting or syncing.
  • Apple is going to SDHC slots and cards
UPDATE: Apple is releasing FCP-X WOO HOOOO!!! To use this year's catch phrase "Game Changer"!!! If all works as it should the new ingest (or lack of need to) path for FCP will help with a lot of these concerns. DSLRs up to the RED will supposedly work - straight in - Yeah!!!

For a brief moment I thought I had it figured out... Nope. I'm leaning towards the Sony offerings but ... I don't know. If the economy picks up a little more and the projects start coming in on a regular basis again, I think I am heavily considering the Sony F3. The S-Log feature and the familiarity is just a really good thing. WIth my EX3 as a second unit I can get away with a lot on 2 camera stacked shots that will be finishing in HD. And I have a few colleagues that have or are considering the F3 so there would be a pool of F3's to dip into if needed.

The other factor that is starting to creep into the equation is the deliverables. Great tools like the Cinedeck, Convergent Design's Gemini 4:4:4, AJA KI Pro and KI Pro Mini and the offerings from Atomos - Ninja and Samurai. These all allow us to extent the life of our current cameras and bring new tricks to our future projects.

Check back soon. I will have a whole new spin on this - I'm sure =)

Until next time, good shooting,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

F3 Day(s)-Day 2

OK. So we decided to do some more testing with the F3 before we started shooting for realliezzz. We had a bit of a camera party / geek fest at my house and grouped my EX3, 5Dmk2, my buddy's 7D's and the F3. It was quite a mess =) We also added the Steadicam into the mix to see which cameras would fit and stay balanced.

First off we wanted to compare the F3 and the 7D since they are almost the same in sensor size. The FoV was very close. A 35mm lens on the 7D was just about the same as the F3 with the Sony 35mm prime attached. The F3 of course was more sensitive over all but the 7D held up pretty well in overall image. Of course you can't really do apples to apples as you have all the monitoring options you would ever want on the F3 and are kind of limited to putting together an HDMI array with splitters and Black Magic Designs converter boxes for the 7D.

Comparing the F3 to my EX3, the functionality was really almost the same. The F3 felt a lot like running my EX3 (with out a zoom rocker...). The menus and adjustments all worked similarly. The audio was the same work flow. And there are a ton of shortcut buttons on the F3...

I have a Hawk-Woods V-mount power plate I use with my 5D rig and found I can make that work with the F3 just fine. It allows me use a V-mount brick to power all sorts of goodies on the rig (it has 5 D-Tap outs). So, one D-Tap to 4-pin cable and I'm all set. I have an IDX adapter for my EX3 and use the same V-mount bricks on it. I like the B4B bricks, they have a nice long life and are pretty ruggedly built. I adapted my JVC - 17" HD monitor to use the same bricks as well. Basically everything that needs battery power in my rigs now run off the V-mount batts.

With the Steadicam, all of the cameras worked. I had to strip the F3 down quite a bit - no matte box, no follow focus - but it work =) This Steadicam is set for 5 to 20 lbs. We came in at about 16 lbs all rigged. The EX3 and the Canons worked very nicely on the Steadicam. I almost had to ad a little weight to the lighter configurations to balance out...

Well that's about it for now. I'll have more to report after a couple of real shooting days with the F3. I'm looking forward to a potential project we have coming up where there will be a mix of EX3's and F3's on location - I want to see how well they play together on the same set.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sony PMW-F3 and Corporate Video or: how I took the primes and learned to love the zoom

At least our first outing with the F3 didn't bomb... The following is a quick recap of our experiences with the F3 during a typical corporate interview project.

Quite a bit different from the gorgeous sunrise / sunset, stage footage that seems to be popping up all over the web showing off the fantastic capabilities of the new F3; a straight ahead corporate shoot has a unique set of challenges and potential pitfalls. Granted you are not hiking into the back areas of Yellow Stone or running a 30 person set with all the trimmings - but you are usually tied to certain time constraints and have some limited space and lighting control. All that being said I think we can read into this post with the right mind set =)

The F3 operates a lot like it's EX brethren. Most of the same menu functions and settings apply. For instance, the audio knobs are in a different place and I had to remind myself to stop looking the the "Internal / External" mic switch. It's back to old-school plug in the mics you want to use. We were running with one wireless for the day and decided to send the feed to both channels 1 & 2 and keep channel 2 at -6dB as a safety. Same as an EX1 or 3 to set up. I put the Sennheiser EW100 at 0dB AF output and ran the transmitter at -20dB sensitivity. At the end of the day I wish I would have run the transmitter at -30dB - our last interview had a booming voice at times and I got a little close on channel 1 to the red...

OK, a little more about this title (aside from the obvious Dr. Strangelove homage). We had our full set of Sony primes: 35mm, 50mm and 85mm with us but I wanted to run with the RED 18-50 all day. I felt the zoom would keep us moving fast and on schedule. The crop factor on the F3 is almost identical to the 7D (see my F3 Days-Day 2 post) so the 18-50 was more like a 28-80mm focal length. We decided to buy the RED as it does talk to the F3 through the cook contacts and is fairly reasonable in price -- all things considered -- for a PL zoom. It looks quite nice. Outdoors we use it at a ƒ2.8/4 split with both NDs kicked in. When we moved inside we ran WFO at ƒ2.8 and adjusted our key to match. Interestingly a little soft... I had to use the "Expand Focus" a lot to nail the eyes. I had the peaking set and was getting good readings but when you looked at the feed on my JVC 17" HD monitor it "just looked soft". In retrospect I think WFO is not the best choice for this (or any) lens... I should have run a little closer to 4 and played my 1/3 - 2/3 ratio a little more to shallow the DoF. We got a nice look though =)

Another thing we noticed, from a mechanical stand point, is our matte box from our EX3's is just a bit small for the shade on the RED 18-50 to fit through... saw a little vignetting. We made the decision to just push through the vignetting at 20mm - it was real close - no biggy. I'm talking to the manufacturer about a backmount flange replacement to solve this. Just the kind of things you find as you are going through... The matte box opening is 100mm and the shade is 114... Oops - my bad.

I set up the camera with the RedRock rails and support base. The sliding plate makes balancing a breeze. I have these plates and receivers on all my cameras and tripods. Sachtler plate $85 - Manfrotto 357 plate system $49, additional plates $27 -- Duh =) This system works great with our matte box and RedRock v2 follow focus. We put an ARRI focus ring on the EX3's. It's nice all the PL lenses have the proper .8 focus rings/gears built in.

The HUD in the monitor is very informative just like the EX1 and 3. I use the dual zebras and peaking a lot. The histogram is handy depending on wardrobe. Audio levels metering is so nice after spending time this year working with my 5D+Zoom - I can see the levels through the picture and never have to look away at the Zoom. As I said, the RED lens talks to the camera so the aperture, zoom and focus distance displays all work - Cool.

Coming into the home stretch... Using the F3 with the 17" HD client monitor was great - both for composition and focus watch dogs... The hardest thing about transitioning from the EX1's and 3's and other ENG cameras to the shallow DoF rigs is the tendency to still just "wing it". You can do that with an ENG rig in running and gunning mode but with a 5D or F3 or any of the shallow DoF cameras it's a challenge. I often have to "retrain" the producers I am working with to not just say "grab the camera and lets go... Oh by the way, I need this shot to be really shallow and sexy" - while we run along side a person moving through a back-lit office setting... It's back to basics: good blocking + good rehearsal = good focus.

Well, thanks for checking out another TD Blog. Looking forward to the next time,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sony PMW-F3 Day(s)

Well, it arrived... No, not mine... But still very cool =)

One of the companies I work with received their new F3 last Friday so we made a day of it. John Denlinger, Blackstone Media Group, Irvine, CA got one of the first F3's being shipped. We did some menu tests and lens tests - he got the Sony Primes with the F3. - We also did some ambient lighting test - Wow. The camera worked very well. We added the Marvelsfilm picture profile settings to one of the open profiles. (we used the EX3 settings as they were very close to the F3 profile layout and there isn't a dedicated F3 version yet) With the Marvel profile you loose about a 1.5 stops -but it's very worth it for the latitude you gain - at least until the new firmware update comes out.

Then this week we were lucky enough to catch up with Brad Hagen and Alan Thornton at Video Resources in Orange County to try out their set of RED Primes and Zooms. Good news -- the lenses and camera talk!!! We used the Type C lens protocol in the F3 and got full iris info and then on the zooms the focal lengths were translated into the familiar Sony 00 to 99 Zoom measurement.

The look of the image bokeh and fall off is about equal to that of a Canon 7d. The image clarity is outstanding. For the most part, I think this camera, when the ENG style zoom lenses arrive will have a very strong foothold in the professional and corporate markets. The use of PL zooms makes setting your shots as fast as working with an EX3 or other ENG / EFP camera. The benefits of the F3 over the EX3 in sensitivity, lensing and ultimately output formats is definitely clear. Now we just have to wait for Birger Engineering to catch up to the F3 for using Canon EF lenses =)

Until next time,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Covering Corporate Events ENG Style - Q&A Answers

Hi Everyone,

I really enjoyed working with Marcelo from this morning for the Covering Corporate Events ENG Style webinar. It was a lot of fun and I hope you all found something of use from the presentation. You all sent in a great bunch of questions. So many in fact that I couldn't get through them all during the show. I asked Marcelo if I could post the rest of the answers on my blog and he was kind enough to agree. So here we go... =)

Can you say a bit more about the green canceling/blue canceling gels on the backlights for chroma key setups?

The rules I use are Magenta gel for a green screen setup and Yellow or Straw gel for blue screen. If you look on a color wheel these are the almost exact opposites for the screen colors. It will help give you cleaner edges around your subjects and through their hair.

How practical is it to use DSLRs for live events?

To capture little clips of the event and quick interviews - very nice. To try and get the long form meetings I'd stick with a more traditional camera shooting cards or tapes.

What about live stream?
Live streaming is great. If you can get a clean "HARD WIRED" connection to the internet with a speed of at least 500kps to handle your upstream and confidence return you should be fine. You will want to use a "mirroring company" to re-broadcast your feed to the world. I would suggest a company like Playstream or Ustream.

Prefer LCD, or EVF? LCD lets me capture footage, but still be "present" at event and aware of surroundings...
I use both. I agree, the EVF is a little more confining at times but is great out doors. In the general sessions and in room settings I use the LCD. It's a little easier on the eyes and once I have the framing and focus it's kind of an auto pilot follow and go tool.

Explain why not to reuse tapes.

In the old BetaCam days when the tapes were $30 to $40 each and a lot more robust it made since to use them multiple times. But with MiniDV and HDV tapes being sooooo thin and subject to transport stress I try and run them through the camera and deck as few times as possible. Also the efficacy of the tape to retain the signal starts to fade with every re-use. You will most likely have drop outs by the second use. It just became not practical to risk a $4k or $5k show on re-used $3.00 tape =)

At $800-900 the SxS cards are a bit steep. Any alternatives?
Try the Hoodman RAW SxSxSDHD adapter and RAW SDHC cards. A real nice alternative. Also a good work around to the new MacBookPro SD slots

Which has the quicker turnaround time? Either to go with tape based cameras plus its tape ingestion after the event, or a file based camera with SxS card conversion after the event?

I found the card based system to be a faster solution in the long run. Also, depending on your NLE, new plug-ins are coming out soon that will allow you to drop the native footage right in with no conversion. Stay tuned for that =)

How do you handle heat dissipation on the 5Dii?

I have not run into an overheating situation with my 5Dmk2 yet... I stop the 'LIVE VIEW" as often as possible and usually do takes not lasting more than about 6 to 7 minutes. If I know the project parameters will be more demanding I'll bring out the EX3 or other long form camera for the job. For long form shallow DoF projects I use a Letus 35 Extreme on my EX3 with Nikon primes.

Remote trigger switch for the DSLR cameras (for the video, not shutter)? Any suggestions?
I use the Canon TC-80N3 time laps/shutter release - a tad spendy for your needs . You can probably find a cheaper solution from Dot Line or another manufacturer =)

When shooting with the 5D Mark II, it cannot output an HD signal when in record mode - it can then only output an SD signal. How do you get around this for dealing with critical focus, considering the LCD screen on the back is disabled (with the HDMI output connector engaged)?

That is a good one!!! =) I think we are all waiting for a viable realtime solution. I think it's going to come in the form of a new camera - either Canon's or RED or Sony. As far as dealing with the current 5Dmk2 I work shallow DoF shots in only in controlled settings like interviews with people seated in chairs. If I am running and gunning I don't open more than a F5.6. Also I use a
Marshall monitor with peaking - not the total answer but very helpful.

What was that model number for the wireless mics again?

Sennheiser Evolution G3 100 Series A great kit for the price.

What was that $600 shotgun mic brand again that compares with a Schoeps?
Audio Technica AT4073a. Although I just noticed they have discontinued this model... I think they have replaced it with the Audio Technica BP 4073. I would welcome your feedback =)

Please identify that cable to control impedance when using the Zoom.
Sescom LN2MIC-ZMH4-MON 3.5mm Line to Mic with 25dB Attenuator for Zoom H4N with Headphone Monitoring Jack. Just heard about this one.

How much lighting do you take for "man on the street" type of interview?
I usually take an on-camera light and have a bounce reflector in my backpack. If I know I'm going to need a little more, I'll take a Lowel DP light with a sheet of diffusion, CTB and blue prime. Also a 25' AC cable. These should all fit in the backpack nicely.

I have experienced that my 7D stops recording after i.e. 15 minutes (with a 16 GB card in with still a lot of free space). Anyone experienced that?
That has to do with the format Canon uses with the CF cards - FAT32. It has a 4GIG limit to the file sizes and that in turn translates into about 12 minutes (on a 5Dmk2) or about 15 minutes on a 7D. There are many ideas as to why this format was chosen - I think only Canon knows for sure.

How do you handle pricing and payments? 50% up front?
Yes. I do 50% up front. I try and make the numbers work so the 50% covers all my "hard" costs for the show. Then I'm only waiting for the balance to cover me. To that end, I occasionally offer a discount on the balance if they pay right away.

Slating interviews? Do you? For syncing sound in DSLR footage?
I do my slating of info by shooting their badge at the beginning of the interview. For sync I use Plural Eyes from Singular Software in post to line up the camera sound and the external recorder's tracks. If you don't have Plural Eyes a good hand clap once both the DSLR and sound are "rolling" usually works great. Lastly, If you are on a job were they interviewees don't wear badges, you can use an iPad or iPhone to slate with apps like iSlate or other such apps

Any favorite settings for setting up your DSLR camera? What about your EX3?
I like the Marvels Film settings for both EX3 and the 5Dmk2. I also like the 5D/7D settings from Crooked Path Films.

What settings do you start with on the xlr plug-on that you showed? -20db???
If I am using it with a handheld mic or shotgun mic I usually work around -20. This gives me plenty of gain makeup room at the receiver end. If I am running LINE level into it I will set it at -50 and ask the sound person providing the feed to send me a test level to make sure I'm still in bounds on the built-in meter while I take a listen in the headphones.

What video camera/HDSLR and audio capture gear would you recommend to get the best footage in these situations?
This is a very broad question =) Here is one combo I like but there are so many:
Camera: Canon 5Dmk2 or Sony EX3
Sound: ZOOM H4n

How do you handle 16x9 production and 4x3 screens?
Turn on your 4:3 markers and work inside those for the 4:3 finish.

How do you assess the capability of on-site video staff to assist with getting footage 'to air'?
Take some test footage from your editor to them early on and have them run it on their system so you can look at it on the screens. This confirms they can run you footage and gives you an idea of what it will look like on the screens.

Do you use DSLR's ENG style?
Some times. As you saw in the photos I can rig it out pretty big. That being said, I like to keep my DSLR in the Body/Lens only config and use it in tight places or low light situations.

Assuming using available light, how do you best deal with white balance? In camera or in post?
I try and white balance in each new setting. If I'm running back and forth indoor and out door, I'll set 2 presets and switch between those for the shoot. As for color balancing in post, I judge the shot and do a fast clean up if necessary. I don't really get into "Grading" for the on-site editing.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

5DmkII All Grown Up

So since my last entry for the 5D I have added a few new goodies to the rig... As you can see (kind of) I have the whole enchalada mounted in an cage (love it) which makes grabbing this camera and using it a dream. The cage is made by Easom and this particular version is called the Halo. It provides 2 ribs for connecting the upper and lower sections and I have them staggered here. Their other model called the Solo has only 1 rib - an equally nice cage. Also I found a great D-Tap power distribution company: Hawk-Woods in the UK. They sell a kit that allows you to use you V-mount batteries with DSLRs by way of voltage regulating the power with the adapter that goes into your camera where the battery fits. Now I power my camera, monitor and any other goodies from a single B4B V-mount battery. This is a mid sized battery 6Ah/90Wh and lasts about 2 to 3 hours each.

To go with the "all growed up" look I added my RedRock follow focus and CA Vision matte box. I had to go up to 18" rods to make everything fit and balance out but it all sits there nicely now. I put a small Pony clamp on the back of the cage handle and slid both of my Sennheiser wireless receivers on there for a tight cable package. I used XLR splitters to feed the mic's outputs to both the ZOOM and the 5D at moc level. There is an XLR to stereo mini adapter cable in there going into the 5D itself.

Rounding out the system I have a Zoom H4n mounted to another part of the cage and my Marshall monitor is being held on my a Manfrotto mid sized articulating arm. It all fits... and comes in at about 16.2 Lbs.... ouch =) I have another Noga arm on order that should drop a pound or two off the total weight of the package. I'll keep you posted.

This new and not new site is terrific!!! They offer really helpful tips and tricks on digital film making, media managing and all sorts of other great tools for aspiring movie makers. So, I'm a little biased... they have asked me to do a segment on corporate events and how to cover them ENG style.

This company is a part of which has been around for some time. Great work on bring info to the masses. This particular webinar that I am doing will focus on the steps used to do a successful coverage of a corporate event or retreat. We will talk about planing the shooting days out. Shooting for the edit. Camera choices and media management techniques. It should be helpful for viewer of all skill levels =)

The Webinar will be live February 17th from 10am to 11:30am PST and the be available for download starting the next day. There will be a small price for the download version but you will get a lot of extras that won't be in the initial live airing. To listen and view check out for all the latest info.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time,