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,