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,