Current Happenings – July 2, 2012

Today I filmed some quick person-on-the-street type shots for an upcoming Obama related video series. The plan was to match footage that was shot in New York City a couple of weeks ago (I couldn’t attend because of a location scout). I really haven’t shot much video on my 5DMK3, or really on any DSLR ever since the FS100 came into the picture. But surprisingly, it went relatively smooth considering we had audio gear die on us.

The following are screenshots right out of the raw file from the camera.

It was supposed to be a very simple shoot: Handheld 5D, an external recorder, some quick lines, and then we’re out. What ended up happening is that our Tascam DR-100 (which I find to be a very reliable machine) went dead on us. That’s no fault of the Tascam’s, but because whoever borrowed it from the company beforehand (both XLR’s were completely kaput). At the last second, when all seemed to be lost, I thought, “Well, there’s on option I know of, we can go line-in.”

I started shooting on DSLRs (for video) during the wonderful age of AGC (auto gain control). There was no ‘line-in’ without cumbersome setups (Beachtek comes to mind), so everyone grabbed an H4n and created some complicated post workflows. With the 5DMK3, you don’t get the best audio in the world, but for quick shoots like the one I did today, it works perfectly. Line in (XLR to 3.5mm), monitoring out (3.5mm to headphones), and the ability to visually monitor levels and manipulate gain while recording. Anyway, it was my first time using audio in with the 5D, and it was a piece of cake. I’ll probably use this feature more in the future for low budget short films and commercials.

Current Happenings – June 13, 2012

So, a lot is going on right now. Location scouting for the feature I’ll be cinematographer on in July-August, Wander My Friends, went well last weekend. I’ve purchased some new gear for the shoot—the SmallHD DP4 monitor and Viewfinder, as well as the Redrock MicroMatteBox. Both pieces of gear (as well as the 4×5.6″ filters) have finally came in, and I’ll get a mini-review going soon.

Here’s my monitor set up for the feature: Onboard LCD that I’ll probably close for shooting, DP4 EVF set up for my primary shooting set up, and a larger (and cheaper) Lilliput monitor for the gaffer and others to check the frame before filming (and the producer/director to check out during filming).

The Redrock MicroMatteBox is for 1) Quicker setups (swivel feature for changing lenses but keeping my ND in the filter slots should save a lot of time and stress, especially with our tiny crew), 2) our small set ups might limit our grip work, so flagging off the sun on camera will become my primary defense, and 3) because it looks awesome!

And as you can see, there’s an ND filter in it (Naro Density). I never thought I’d say it, but I feel like my camera kit is finally complete.

I intend to upkeep a production log for the shoot, to give others insight into using the FS100 and other lower-end indie gear that I’ve got. Hopefully it’ll shed some light for those also looking to achieve a similar set up.

In the post-production world, the documentary I’m working on “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” is locking in the next couple of weeks, and after the DP gig I’ll come back to Florentine Films as a Sound Assistant. I also intend on finally publishing a lot of tutorials I’ve been writing, I just want to make sure everything is perfect so I don’t add to the lot of disinformation out there on the internet. Anyway, very exciting times!

KUA Live Shoot Highlight Reel

I don’t think I’ve had a day off from working for at least two weeks…anyway, this is what I shot yesterday. We did some interviews as well, but I’m really happy with how fantastic our props were. I love shooting lowlight scenes, and the FS100 really held up well (with a couple ƒ1.4 lenses, too).

This is for a documentary on a prep school’s 200th anniversary. This is a highlight reel of some live footage to be used for the 19th century scenes. Everything was shot on the FS100 under extreme lowlight conditions, with no color correction (raw files from the camera).

Last Haul Trailer

The Trailer

Here’s a trailer for Last Haul, a short sci-fi film I shot a while ago. My girlfriend and go-to editor Meagan Frappiea cut it together yesterday, and I did a quick color correction in DaVinci Resolve (lite). Adam Wilkins made the awesome title (I ran it through After Effects to give depth to the slow push in). Music by Mr.Trent Reznor.

We’re finally finishing this weekend (audio mixing and ‘onlining’ with my color corrections from DaVinci), so we should have the whole film available soon. It’s very exciting to see this project finally come together—it’s a script my friends wrote, and I’m very proud of all the hard work that went in to it.

Working With DaVinci

It turns out that going from FCP to DaVinci and back again is really, really simple! You export an XML from FCP7 (or FCPX), import that into DaVinci and add the correct footage to the media pool. Then after all the corrections, you render out the media (and put it on your FCP system). To get an updated XML, you simply click on the ‘conform’ tab in DaVinci, then hit the export button to output an FCP XML. Importing back into FCP was as easy as “File -> Import XML” (I think? Not 100% on the menu system—we’re all Avid in this house, unfortunately). Anyway, there are much better tutorials out there, I just wanted to speak about the simplicity of working with DaVinci, which is just such a powerful and free application (lite, of course).

Blackmagic sure is making strides in the production world these days (all their I/O, DaVinci, and of course the very popular Blackmagic Cinema Camera). I’m not sure if this is their marketing plan, but because I’m familiar with the free version of DaVinci, any high-end work I ever get (my dream) where the project would require a 2K or 4K color corrected output, I absolutely would purchase the full version of DaVinci Resolve (for $1000, which is a bargain).

Roger Deakins Forum

I don’t know how it’s taken me this long to find out about it, but Roger Deakins has a forum online where he answers questions about his techniques used and other very helpful advice for aspiring filmmakers/cinematographers. Is it possible to love this guy anymore than I already do? I don’t think so.

 

Check it out: DeakinsOnline.com

Interview with Geoff Ward

The interview with Geoff Ward that I shot last week (about Daisy Suckley) went pretty well. Ken Burns led the interview, and I somehow managed to light, run sound, and control two cameras all by my lonesome (I definitely wouldn’t recommend it). It was quick (about 30 minutes), but Geoff squeezed some great info into that half-hour. The piece will be edited soon, and distributed with The Roosevelts DVD/Bluray set as a special feature. It may also serve as a filler piece on PBS (that’s unknown at this time).

Shot on the Sony FS100, Rokinon 35mm ƒ1.4

Shot on the Canon 5D Mark 3, Canon 70-200mm ƒ2.8 IS II

The close up shot is from the Canon 5DMK3, with the Canon 70-200mm ƒ2.8 IS II. I don’t know off hand what that particular focal length is (I was hanging around the 130-200mm mark for the most part). The wide is shot with the Sony FS100, with a Rokinon 35mm ƒ1.4 lens on it. I did some slight correcting to ballpark the two shots for editing purposes.

Free 3GB Upgrade For Your Dropbox Account

The title sounds spammy, but trust me, it’s not. In a move to strike at Google’s GDrive news, Dropbox is giving anyone using their camera upload utility a free, permanent 500MB upgrade to an account. Then if you continue to upload using their utility, you can get up to 3GB of additional storage for free on your account.

To have this work out, you need to:

  1. Download the latest Mac or Windows Dropbox software (unless you’re using an Android phone for the upload, then you’re all set).
  2. Plug your camera into your computer and let Dropbox do its magic.

I bring my camera to work, so I just rolled 3 gigs worth of video (you could take a bunch of raw photos in bursts, but I wouldn’t waste a shutter count on this) then popped the card into my MacBook Pro. The Dropbox software noticed it immediately, and began pulling it into the Dropbox folder on my system. Now to wait for 3GB to upload on this slow connection…

I use Dropbox as an easy sharing utility for clients and friends (who don’t have the time to understand how an FTP works). What I like best about Dropbox is sending media. I had to show a scene to our head editor last month, who was in Santa Fe. I exported from Avid, compressed the file a bit, then dropped it in my Dropbox folder. After it was done, I right-clicked, copied the link, and then emailed it. The best part is that the file could be viewed right in the browser…very helpful for getting data to folks that might not understand computers too well.

About That Blackmagic Cinema Camera…

NAB has come and gone, but there’s still so much to discuss. Without a doubt, the biggest surprise event was Blackmagic’s Cinema Camera. Obviously I haven’t been able to give this thing a test run, but I’ve had some time to digest all the information given about it, and the following is what I’ve concluded.

I think this camera is best described as being one step forward, two steps back. First of all, the specs that I’m sure everyone is aware of by now certainly do have an immediate appeal. But upon further un-hyping, the true cost of the camera starts to take the shine out of that buzz word, “raw.” Here’s an internet-friendly breakdown:

Why It’s Remarkable [The Good]

Raw! – Finally, the thing everyone has been waiting for! We can finally rid ourselves of those compression-based confines imposed by H.264 and AVCHD! Yes, it’s pretty cool to have 12-bit raw video finally, but at a cost (as I point out later)

DaVinci Resolve (full) – Great for noise reduction and finishing above 1080P…but other than that, DaVinci Resolve Lite will do the job for most of us out there. Why did they make their amazing color correction software free? And with unlimited nodes? I have no idea what their angle is, but I’ll buy (or download for free) into it! Bundling Resolve with this camera was a good marketing move (I’ve seen too many people say, “It’s basically $1000 off!”).

SSD Recorder – Well, I have no idea what else you’d record to with these specs…but I suppose it’s nice that they integrated this (I’m looking at you, FS700, and you’re “4K-Output-Someday” promises).

Metadata Entry – Being able to add comments to a clip while in the field is pretty great. I’m not sure how practical it is (depending on how good the touchscreen is, and if anyone would actually do this), but it’s still neat to have available.

The Price – This is the reason the camera is causing so much hype—3 grand for all those specs? Pretty fantastic.

Limitations [The Bad]

Built-in battery – This I just don’t understand. It takes 2 hours to charge, and runs for 90 minutes. That’s the weakest point for this camera…I can’t imagine this going over well in a professional setting. Of course in a professional setting you’ll need some sort of power supply adapter for bigger batteries. Unless you already have this, that $3K price tag becomes a little bigger.

No HDMI – It feels weird to write this as a complaint, because anyone that has used HDMI output knows how awful it is. But right now, HDMI is associated with the DSLR-price point ($1000-$3000), and is expected. Anyone with HDMI EVFs or Field Monitors/Recorders will have to pay up for a convertor. More gear to buy!

Super16 Sensor – Beautiful images can come from any sensor size, but a lot of shooters (myself included) have become very happy with the super35 format. Not only that, but Canon lenses (EF especially) will be constricted, even though Blackmagic has provided an EOS mount on the camera (and ZF). The crop from an APS-C sensor becomes considerable, and if you’re used to working with a full frame, this will be like using all telephoto, all the time.

Built Like a DSLR – DSLRs are okay to be built like DSLRs because they ARE DSLRs. This thing is just a camera (or a Cinema Camera). I get that they’re going for familiarity, but wow, ergonomics are a huge issue with DSLR video shooters. I’m sure it has to do with cost, but really, a better design could have been made (and their add-ons do not look like an improvement).

Touch Screen – I know this is probably being sold as a feature, but it’s nothing I’m looking forward to using. My FS100 has a touch screen…and I never use it in the field. When you’re in a  hurry, you want tactile feedback, not to mention weather restrictions. I can’t say for sure, but I would imagine that a touchscreen would be much more difficult to use than actual buttons.

Your Computer – Both processing power and hard drive space will be set to their maximum when dealing with raw footage…and come on, that’s why people are excited about this camera in the first place! I suppose it can’t be “bad” if it’s inherent, but I think a lot of folks are going to overlook this for the shininess of “raw.”

And The Other [The Ugly]

The Handles – I’ve seen a lot of bad camera rigs that have come out in the past few years, but these handle bars are definitely some of the worst.


Similarity– This camera is an awful lot like the Digital Bolex. So much so that it makes me wonder if this is a The Prestige vs The Illusionist scenario (or A Bug’s Life vs Antz, if that analogy better suits you).

Mac-centric – This isn’t bad for me…and probably not for a lot of us out there. But there are some PC users, and they will be burned by the Thunderbolt port, or the HFS+ formatting.

 

To conclude: I really don’t have much to conclude…until I can see it in person. Above are my concerns and praise, but we’ll have to wait and see how it plays in real life. In the meantime, here are some of the best write-ups I’ve seen so far speculating about the Blackmagic Cinema Camera:

Frank Glencairn describes “Why they got it right, but so wrong.”

NoFilmSchool.com describes the real world cost of this camera.

Busy, But NAB is Here

Lots of excitement about some new releases at NAB (I’m looking at you, surprise Black Magic camera!). Unfortunately I’ve been too busy to write about them (well, fortunate for me).

I’ll be blabbing about all the new gear soon, but as a quick update, I wanted to praise 5DtoRGB for making my FS100 look so good! I’ll definitely be purchasing the full version soon (once this interview I’m shooting today is finished) to properly transcode my FS100 and 5DMK3 footage.

Here’s a still (with a basic s-curve) from the footage. That’s me trying to check audio levels and lighting by myself…not so easy.

 

Pre-NAB 2012 Whirlwind of Announcements

Before the big NAB exhibits begin (April 16th-19th), companies usually push press releases out for PR hype. They do it so effectively on us tech geeks, I sometimes wonder what the main event is for. Anyway, it’s obvious from today’s round-up of new releases that NAB is very nigh.

Canon drops some 4K Bombs (and Delays Others)

NAB 2012 is about 5 days away and we’re already seeing some huge product unveilings. Camera blogs all over the internet are abuzz with the new hardware (that we all pretty much saw coming). To sum it up: Two new 4K cameras, new 4K cinema lenses for those cameras, and some official delays on the 1DX and the new 24-70mm 2.8 II.

The New EOS-1DC

This is the big news that the HDSLR community was waiting for—a 4K enabled video DSLR. The issue here is the price point: $15,000. That puts this camera in a really strange position. While it will be fullframe, it’ll also cost far more than say the newly announced FS700.

Features include: 4K 24fps recording at 4:2:2 (to CF cards, as Motion JPEG), Clean HDMI out, and Canon Log Gamma (to match those C300/C500 cameras). It’s a fullframe camera, but it looks like it crops to APS-H for the 4K recording. Only being able to record at 24fps at the 4K resolution is an interesting (albeit understandable) constraint. But it’s really the price that makes me think twice about this camera.

Some folks seem to feel pretty negatively towards that $15,000 price tag. Canon assures that while it’s much like the EOS-1DX, they’ve got some changes on the hardware that allow it to do 4K magic. I believe them, but I just don’t know what bracket this camera is meant for (maybe B/C/etc cams on big film productions?).

At any rate, I’m completely happy with my 5DMK3 purchase, but I can’t wait to start shooting in 4K sometime in the next few years.

The C500

This is Canon’s cinema camera. When they announced the C300, the release literature was clouded with a strange air of “this is just our first step.” That and the outdated codec made it painfully obvious that Canon was due for a big 4K upgrade soon…and here it is!

Engaget has the official press release attached to their coverage of the C500 announcement (why is it so hard to find this stuff on Canon’s website?). So what’s the big feature? Probably that the new Super35mm sensor that actually records a 4K file (unlike the C300), and also this new “EOS Raw” codec that Canon is dangling over our heads, which is 10-bit uncompressed, from 1fps up to 60fps (and 120fps at 10-bit YbYrCb 4:2:2)! What’s also nice is the 12-bit RGB 4:4:4 signal during 2K output.

Rumored price is $25,000 $30,000 (MSRP straight from Canon, says Engadget), which I think is going directly after the Alexa/Epic crowd. Not only is the price great compared to its competitors, it’ll also record to CF cards, making the system even more affordable (CF cards cost a fraction of SSDs). That codec must be doing some really high processing work in order to achieve this, though I’m assuming we’ll need some really beefy CF cards to actually get a 4K recording. It turns out that the C500 will only OUTPUT 4K, not record. This really boggles my mind…Canon’s release notes seem purposefully confusing (go figure).

In an obvious move, just like the C300, the C500 will have both EF and PL versions (to match those nice new lenses!). The only physical difference seems to be that the C500 doesn’t have that strange adjustable handle.

New 4K Lenses

Wow, Canon is getting really serious about cinema. As Cinescopophilia wrote, They just announced two new 4K-cinema-ready zooms (wide 15.5-47mm T2.8 and telephoto 30-105mm T2.8, both in PL and EF mounts). These new lenses look great, but their isn’t much more to say about them until people actually get a hands-on session.

Delays of the EOS-1DX and The New 24-70mm 2.8

So now that the excitement is out of the way, here’s the other thing about Canon: They’re officially announcing delays on the 1DX (delayed until June) and the new 24-70mm 2.8 II (delayed until July).

And Don’t Forget The Other Guys…

Canon has a lot to say, but there are some other great products being unveiled as well. We’ve got…

The 4K Recorder and Player (for Production and Post-Production)

Keisoku-Giken’s new 4K recorder and player, the UDR-N50, was announced today. Cinescopophilia has an article about this new device…I’m sure we’ll see more of these roll out in the future (to make use of all these new 4K outputs), but for now, it seems to be the first of it’s kind.

Adobe is Getting Real Serious with CS6

Last but not least is Adobe’s announcement of Premiere Pro CS6, which looks like they’ve implemented all the features we’ve expected (SpeedGrade, that awesome dialog syncing software, etc). There are way too many features to go over for Premiere Pro CS6…that’ll be for another post.

REVIEW: Kata DB-455 DPS Camera Bag

After a few days of use, I can confidently say that the Kata DB-455 DPS camera bag lives up to my expectations.

PROS

  1. I appreciate that Kata-yellow lining that I see in their products—something about it just seems more professional. Finding stuff in a bright-yellow-lined bag is a lot easier than one with a black or dark-fabric lining.
  2. The removable camera compartment is really great. Sturdy handle, plenty of room (my 5DMK3 with the 24-105mm lens fits just fine), and plenty of padding.
  3. Having the computer and camera icons printed on their respective compartments is pretty cool.
  4. Each side of the bag has an external bottle compartment, which I found to be the final “this is perfect for me” feature.
  5. The shoulder strap is sturdy, and the padding is very comfortable.
  6. The business card holder is a nice touch (albeit a little loose).

CONS

  1. The bottom clips are covered by fabric, which can make clipping the bag shut a little awkward.
  2. Also, there’s a messenger bag flap as well as a zipper flap to protect the contents. That may be a selling point, or extra hassle for some (kind of a hassle to me).
  3. My old bag had an easy-access compartment so you could access your laptop without opening the main compartment…that’s one feature I would have like to see on this bag.
  4. The handle on the bag is awkwardly placed and thin. That’s another thing I would have liked to be more robust.
  5. I’ve heard folks complain that the plastic hooks on the strap break easily (so far they seem fine to me).

I think this bag is best suited for anyone that needs to pack light, but include a laptop, DSLR, and some small accessories. For me, it’s a perfect commuting bag, and the only bag I’ve seen to incorporate the DSRL/Laptop combo effectively (and it was on sale!).

So, a bag is a bag, but it can make all the difference. This is my second Kata gear bag, and I think I’m officially a convert.

 

Source: http://www.kata-bags.com/digital-bag-for-camera-lapto-personal-day-to-day-gear

Prolost: Canon 5DMK3 Picture Profiles

Prolost: Canon 5DMK3 Picture Profiles—Great article about shooting video on the 5DMK3, and what profiles to use. Side by side photos (well…dissolve by dissolve) are really helpful. Stu Maschwitz is a real class act—he writes honestly and earnestly in his posts, and he knows so much about cameras and post-production visuals. He’s a co-founder of The Orphanage, and if you don’t know what that is, you should. I strongly suggest following his blog.