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:

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.” 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.

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.

Canon 5DMK3 Thoughts: Resolution

I had to pause color correcting the seemingly endless amounts of photos I took at PAX East this year to make this post, because I’m just too excited to let it go. I’ve had my Canon 5DMK3 for about two weeks now, and the short story is, I absolutely love it. My plans are a longer video review, but for now here’s a quick thought.

One aspect of this camera that I’ve been blown away by is the resolution. The level of detail produced by this big 22MB sensor is astounding. Here’s a quick example:

1:1 – Here’s the photo fit to the frame

1:2 – Pushing in some more, we can see everything remains pretty sharp, and the text becomes more legible.

2:1 – Now we’re really pushing the boundaries of the resolution, but it’s pretty remarkable that any of that text is legible.

This photo was shot in a less-than-optimal setting, so I’d imagine the detail would be finer in better light. I find myself analyzing lots of shots for tiny detail, just to see the freak show that is this cameras resolution detail. It makes for very liberal crops, and I’m assuming some really nice prints (once I get the funds, this will be my next test).

Anyway, back to corrections—PAX was a blast!

Kata DSLR+Laptop Bag on Sale

I definitely check way too much, but it finally paid off (well, yes and no—their motto “How to go broke saving money” is entirely too accurate). Today I found the holy grail: A product I’ve been looking for, one sale, with free shipping.

This Kata bag is everything I’ve been looking for in a messenger/carry-on type bag. A laptop compartment, a DSLR compartment (bonus points for being removable!), and a mess of other features. It’s on sale today for $30 with free shipping from Adorama. They’re good folks with great customer support, so jump on the deal while you can. I already own a big Kata video bag (more like a chest), and really appreciate their well thought-out designs.

I’ll get a review up as soon as this bad boy arrives!


Filemaker 12 Announced

FileMaker 12 was released today! What’s new? Well, not a whole lot. The previous update to version 11 included some huge new features relevant to usability (Quick Find, Snapshot links, Charts, and more). FileMaker Pro 11 is fantastic! So what could they add that’s new? After checking the press release, I think Filemaker, Inc. is probably asking the same thing.

It only takes a quick glance at the “What’s New” page to realize that this update isn’t much more than design fixes, accompanied by the hard-sell on their mobile product. Speaking of their new features page, I noticed the word “design” was mentioned three times (30% of the updates), along with the blatantly-written-by-a-marketing-team term, “eye-catching.”

The new updates, from the press release:

Eye-catching layout themes – Apply one of 40 stunning new themes to instantly change the look of your database.

More design layout tools – Use new gradients, image slicing, and alignment guides to get the design precision you need.

Re-designed Starter Solutions – Manage projects, content, resources, estimates and much more with all-new, professionally designed solutions.

Enhanced container fields – Drag and drop files into your database, render images faster, and securely store and manage data externally.

Quick Charts – Create and modify charts in a snap with the new integrated set-up window.

iOS design and development tools – Get design tools, themes, scripts and calculation functions to specifically help you quickly build apps for iPad and iPhone.

Window styles – Format a window as a modal dialog or floating “palette-type” window.

Insert from URL – Download content from a URL via scripting.

Execute SQL calculation function – Perform SQL queries against your FileMaker solution.

ESS relinking – Repoint your ESS connection to a different SQL database for development and testing needs.

Although the update seems underwhelming, the changes and “features” they’ve included are very welcome. I think “Window styles” will be most helpful for the databases I create, where “New Window” and a layout change are poor attempts at creating faux-dialog boxes. But I’m also happy to see that they’re trying anything to make their layout-design element something more than hair-tearingly bad. The “image slicing” tool looks very useful for designing automatically-expanding graphics. “Drag and Drop” will be nice to have natively, but third-party companies like Troi have had plugins that do the same thing for quite a while.

The biggest news for this upgrade really has nothing to do with FileMaker Pro at all. Filemaker, Inc. is offering their mobile client FileMaker Go 12 for free (iOS devices only). The old mobile application (Filemaker Go 11) is still available for purchase (and hasn’t been discounted). What I find strange is that both iOS versions—one for the iPad, the other for iPhones/iPods—are still separate. If they’re free, why not combine them into one universal application? It seems like this is just a stunt to push their mobile application. I wouldn’t be surprised if the future iterations switch back to a pay model.

It’s also good to note that while they’ve made the application 64-bit, FileMaker Pro 12 will only open databases created from version 12—old databases need to be converted. It’s not a huge issue, but if you have a situation where it isn’t possible for every client to upgrade, you’ll have to pass on version 12.

To conclude: I find FileMaker Pro to be incredibly useful. I find the new upgrade to look slick. I find no reason to upgrade from FileMaker Pro 11. I also found no word on any improvements made on their FileMaker Pro Advanced software, although it has been upgraded to version 12, and there is this strangely lacking features matrix. Their server software also seems to have an equally underwhelming update.

I’ll give this a more thorough review once I’m able to test out version 12

This is unrelated, but has anyone noticed how much the website is an exact clone of back in the early 2000s? Right down to the chiclet menu items and the rotating news banner. Oh well, I guess they know their audience (oh and Apple does own them…almost forgot about that).

Source: Filemaker press release

5DMK3 Support in Lightroom! And has been a while…

I’ve been pouting ever since I got my new camera that Lightroom 4 didn’t support it yet…well I feel dumb. They’ve had the update out for a week now! Much thanks to Christina Bernales for pointing this out. Can’t wait to finally go back to my non-convoluted workflow…Seriously, Canon’s software is a piece of junk—at least 1/4 of my ‘batch processes’ left me with corrupt files.


Canon Announces EOS 60Da for Astrophotography

I love that Canon does this kind of thing (niche photography markets). They did a similar modification of current hardware a couple of years ago with the Canon 7D Studio version, and with the previous Astrophotography Canon, the 20Da (way back in 2005!). They’re including an AC-Adapter and RA-E3 Remote Controller Adapter (which is necessary for using an intervalometer like Canon’s TC-80N3, though I highly recommend Shuttleboss’ cheaper alternative).

The Canon 60D was announced August of 2010, so the tech certainly isn’t new. I bought my refurb 60D body for about $800 back in October, and the prices have only gone down further, but these accessories that come bundled seem to level out the $1500 price tag. I’m not an Astrophotographer myself, but I like seeing niche cameras. I own the 60D and think it’s a fantastic low-end DSLR (the swivel screen is definitely may favorite feature).

The real change however, is in the sensor’s filter. From the press release:

The improved infrared-blocking filter is a modification suited specifically toward astronomy enthusiasts to achieve a hydrogen-alpha light sensitivity that is approximately three times higher than that of a normal Canon DSLR camera. This produces a 20-percent higher transmittance of Hydrogen Alpha line, or Hα wavelength, allowing astronomers to capture crisp, clear images of reddish, diffuse nebulae.

For a better visual representation, Canon’s official site has some side by side examples, as well as more information. I think the examples are pretty striking—obviously that filter helps out quite a bit!