Posted on

In The Showroom: PMW-F3, Ki-Pro Mini, Zeiss CP.2 & More!

I love the smell of fresh styrofoam and cardboard.  Especially since that’s all I’ve been smelling for the last 4 days as I open up a new PMW-F3, KiPro Mini, Pan. AF-100, Marshall HDMI 5″ monitor, Zeiss ZF.2’s (18, 28, 35, 50, 85mm), Zeiss CP.2 (28, 35mm). Not so bad. Pair these diesel items with some custom Zacuto rigs, which I’ve been building lately (and which are the equivalent of grown-up legos) and you’ve got a set-up made specifically for you.  These items are so new and so popular that they’re challenging enough to use successfully without being overrated.  We’ve been sending AF-100’s and F3’s out to high-end freelancers, art schools, film schools, and pro feature film production sets.  They fit in anywhere if you can take advantage of the features that they offer.  Rule has recently become a Zeiss dealer and we’re pairing the latest Zeiss lenses with many of our cameras along with the Canon lensing and optional stock lensing from both Sony and Panasonic.  I just recently used an 18mm ZF.2 with the 60D last weekend up in Maine, but that’s a blog post for another time! Some questions have recently come up about lensing options for these cameras, specifically the F3 and AF-100, and, luckily, we’ll have some answers at this Wednesday’s 3/2 Learning Lab when Birger Engineering visits with their new Canon 4/3 to EF adapter which will be out in April.    As the Spring goes on, you’ll see lots of new announcements pending NAB.  I’ve included some pictures below of the F3 with the Mini Ki-Pro and CP.2.  Enjoy! Also, stay tuned — Mike Sutton is taking the F3 out with a Zeiss CP.2 this weekend, and I’m sure you’ll see a blog post from him sometime soon! Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales Representative

Sony PMW-F3
Zeiss CP.2
Sony PMW-F3 with AJA Mini Ki-Pro & Zeiss CP.2

Posted on

Production Outfitters: New Swag!

Productions Outfitters just received some new swag! Now available — sleek black hats and custom printed Wiha tool kits.

The hats are classic baseball caps modeled by our own Bryan Alford…

The tool kits are an AC’s dream, with 30 different wrenches and screwdrivers, conveniently packed in a small Velcro kit.

We also carry a variety of other grip and camera pouches that easily strap onto your belt for easy accessibility!

Stop by and check it out!

Nick Giannino, Production Outfitters Store

Posted on

Shooting with the Arri Alexa

I had the privilege of shooting with the Arri Alexa this past weekend for an upcoming web series that I am producing with some former Rule Boston Camera interns, entitled “Welcome to the World.” We were lucky enough to get the Alexa for the weekend and we were able to see what this new camera can really do. For those of you who don’t know, the Alexa is already receiving quite the hype. Martin Scorsese is shooting his next feature with it and Roger Deakins has been recently discussing his affinity towards the camera–and they’re not alone. The Alexa achieves about 13.5 stops of latitude (in LogC), is natively rated to ISO800 and is insanely easy to use. While it does not sport the 4K resolution that the RED does, its image clarity and post workflow are just some of the advantages to using Arri’s new flagship product. This was my first large-scale digital production. I come from a Super16 background, and almost all of my larger projects have been shot on Arri 16mm film cameras. I obviously have shot digital before (Canon DSLR’s, primarily, with some experience with the RED One), but never on this scale. We went into the project thinking it would be just something to do for fun, but it became a serious production with a sizable crew and an apartment packed with extras. I’m convinced that as much as I love shooting film, we could not have accomplished what we did (15-page script in 2.5 days!) with anything but digital—and more importantly, without the Alexa. This is a bold statement, I know, but I will explain. One of Arri’s primary competitors to the Alexa, it seems, is the RED One. The RED is a cheaper option (for the body only, at least), and offers 4K resolution, not just 2K/1080p.  However, in my opinion, the complications that arise from shooting such high resolution far outweigh the benefits. In my subjective opinion, the RED certainly looks nice, but has a tendency to look “too real” or electronically sharpened. This is a side effect that I think many digital cameras suffer from, one that has long been an arguing point for the superiority of film. The Alexa, on the other hand, shoots a very clear image, but it doesn’t look overly sharp or introduce any artifacts. The Alexa paired with a set of Cooke S4 primes, like we had, yields an astounding picture, but in my opinion, doesn’t look hyper-real. There is still texture in the image and it’s not unnaturally clean. We chose not to shoot LogC (I’m no professional colorist!), which provides an even greater dynamic range and more flexibility in post. We shot Rec709 and still got amazing images straight out of the camera. The Alexa was also instrumental in our production because of its ease of use both physically and in software (ever seen the menu system on the RED??). We had several shots that required challenging camera moves, and almost everything was handheld. Sure, the camera is heavy compared to a Sony EX3 or even the new F3, but it’s lighter than a fully-built RED rig and is certainly more ergonomic. Having a large, accessible handle on top, built-in shoulder pad and rod support and an all-in-one body design made our handheld shots extremely easy. While the modular design of the RED affords it a considerable amount of flexibility, it can become dauntingly large for handheld shots, especially. We had one particularly challenging shot that started upside down, pointed into a trash can. It then spun around and up onto the DP’s shoulder, where he then walked backward to reveal the room we were in. We stripped the camera to its bare essentials—the body, lens and rods both for a handgrip and to support a Bartech remote follow focus. We had one person holding a Panasonic BT-LH900 so we could remove the viewfinder, another person spotting the DP and another wrangling power and HD-SDI so we could eliminate the onboard battery and so I could pull focus from another monitor in the adjacent room. Even if we stripped the RED down, I believe it would still have more difficult to successfully accomplish the shot with that camera. Since this was a still a relatively small shoot and I will be editing the project, I was also in charge of media management on set. It could not have been easier. The Alexa records to Apple ProRes on Sony SxS media, so loading your footage is as easy as popping the card into an external reader, or in my case, my MacBook Pro’s ExpressCard slot (NOTE: My laptop is 2 years old and NOT the unibody design, so I still have the card slot on the 15” model. The new 15” unibody design does NOT include ExpressCard, but the 17” does). Once the card was in, we could instantly watch the footage directly from the Mac OS X Finder or QuickTime. I went the easy route and made disk images of each card using the Disk Utility application that comes pre-loaded on every Mac. Just for safety/ease, I also just dragged-and-dropped the individual .mov files onto my external RAID 1 drive (ideally, we would have used something like ShotPut Pro to copy the data). As with any large digital production, I would highly recommend having a dedicated Digital Imaging Technician on set to handle media and all additional imaging needs. But in our case, since we could not get a proper DIT and because the Alexa was so easy to use, we were willing to take the risk of not having a DIT. This is not something you could reasonably do when dealing with 4K footage out of the RED. And now that we’re in post-production, I can either load those files directly into Final Cut for editing, or even use Avid Media Access to edit the ProRes footage natively in Avid Media Composer 5. Easy as pie. Now let me be clear: while I’m comparing the RED and the Alexa, they are both very different products with different markets in mind. If you need to shoot RAW and get 4K imaging, the RED will obviously be the way to go. It’s also a slightly more cost-effective solution for some situations. But if you want something that you can get beautiful images with right off the bat in a lightweight, ergonomic package with a streamlined post-production workflow, then you should absolutely consider the Arri Alexa. It’s a wonderful piece of hardware and as far as I’m concerned, my new favorite camera. Peter Brunet, Engineering Technician

Posted on

The Phantom Flex High-Speed Digital Camera

The Phantom Flex is the latest in HD high-speed image capturing from manufacturer Vision Research. I have been spending some time testing the Flex over the past two weeks and I am very impressed. With a 1000 ISO, the sensitivity this camera allows is far superior to its predecessor the Phantom HD Gold (ISO 320) which is a superb camera in its own right. This kind of sensitivity proves beneficial in high-speed image capturing. With it’s capability to capture over 2500fps at 1920×1080, or over 5000fps at 1280×720, you quickly see why Flex is the most sensitive high-speed camera on the market today.

The Phantom Flex
Another fine feature of the Flex is its internal capping shutter. This makes black balancing much easier to do during production with the press of a button on the side of the camera. Because of high operating temperatures, the sensor needs to be regularly black balanced to stabilize the signal levels. With this in mind, the camera also has an optional HQ mode. HQ mode eliminates the need to manually black balance as it does it automatically within each captured frame. Although HQ reduces the maximum frame rate capture speeds by approximately one half than standard mode, it makes for quicker shooting in the field as well as increases the signal to noise ratio in the image. An improperly black balanced camera will ruin your shot and that is not an option when you often have one short opportunity to capture it. Flex has two recording operation modes to choose from:  Loop mode or Run/Stop mode. In Loop mode the Flex uses an internal buffer that stores each take. The duration of the recorded action respectively decreases as the frame rate increases. So you may only have 2 seconds of capture time to film that exploding water balloon, or 4 seconds to film that acrobat in midair. (Check out RBC client Tom Guilmette’s recent blog and Flex footage for a creative example at http://www.tomguilmette.com/archives/1986 ) The clip in the buffer can then be trimmed and saved to the on-board CineMag, which is a 128G, 256G, or 512G flash mag mounted to the camera.
Mounting the CineMag onto the Flex
Run/Stop mode allows you to record direct to the CineMag while avoiding the short time allowed in the buffer. This may be a better choice when the action is longer or continuous. The caveat here is that the maximum frame rate is much lower. Maximum frame rate direct to CineMag is 361fps at 1920×1080. But the bonus is recording for longer periods of time. The operator can start and stop recording like a regular camera until the CineMag is full. The CineMag files are downloaded via Phantom software on a PC, either while still on the camera or on a Vision Research CineStation. The files on the CineMag are RAW files with the .cine extension. These are very large files that take a considerable amount of time to download to external hard drives to deliver to post. These files can be opened with software like Glue Tools , or Iridas. Glue Tools opens the files in a QuickTime wrapper and allows you to edit and view them in Final Cut Pro or other QT based applications for editing, grading and coloring. A different approach to saving the Phantom footage is using a video workflow method, by capturing the video playback directly from the Flex or CineStation onto a recordable device.
CineStation
Both have dual link HD-SDI outputs for high quality recording. Popular choices for this may include the CineDeck Extreme(4:2:2, 4:4:4), Convergent Design’s NanoFlash recorder(4:2:2), AJA KiPro(4:2:2)  or KiPro Mini(4:2:2) or direct to a CPU via a video card(4:2:2, 4:4:4). The Flex also has auto-scaling which allows shooting over-sampled resolution of 2560×1440(16:9) and scaling the SDI output to 1920×1080. Over-sampling gives us a better quality image (no artifacts) and greater dynamic range.
Two HD-SDI outputs can be set to dual link 4:4:4 for high-quality image capture
Rule Boston Camera’s Flex comes standard with a PL mount allowing the use of our entire inventory of 35mm motion picture camera lenses. Super 16 lenses can also be used when operating the Flex at 1280×720. RBC has 128G and 256G CineMags available for rental with the Flex. Be prepared for long download times when saving the .cine files from flash mags. Flex Max Frame Rates in LOOP mode: 2560×1440 – SQ: 1617fps , HQ: 802fps 1920×1080 – SQ: 2564fps , HQ: 1267fps Flex Max Frame Rates in R/S mode: 2560×1440 – SQ: 217fps , HQ: 217fps 1920×1080 – SQ: 361fps , HQ: 361fps CineMag Recording Time: 2560×1440 – 128G = 20 minutes@24fps 256G = 40 minutes@24fps 1920×1080-  128G = 33 minutes@24fps 256G = 67 minutes@24fps Download Time via 1G Ethernet /PC : 128G = 1.75 hours 256G = 3.5 hours The quality of the images Flex creates combined with the super slow motion truly make for stunning cinematography. Often described as “jaw dropping”. Dave Kudrowitz, Senior Engineer

Posted on

In the Showroom: Sony EX1R & EX3 Savings!

With the recent influx of large sensor cameras with detachable lenses like Sony’s PMW-F3 and Panasonic’s AF-100, many people are wondering what the future holds for their PMW-EX1R or PMW-EX3 — both of which are only a few years old and still going strong.  Sony made adjustments around the new trend by offering a $300 rebate on the EX1R and a $500 rebate on the EX3 with great leasing options.  This isn’t meant to dwindle the EX inventory, however, and it’s not because the EX series is going out of style, but it’s meant to highlight the fact that both are still phenomenal cameras with great features.  In our Sales Showroom, we’ve seen lots of EX sales activity, and this special rebate offer from Sony is a great opportunity for savings. You won’t see a comparable camera like this from Sony anytime soon. Here’s a quick overview of some capabilities of the EX1R/EX3: 1/2″ sensor 1080p 24p HD-SDI 8-pin remote connection 2/3″ Lens Capability (EX3 Only) 2 XLR inputs Interchangeable Lens System (EX3 only) Dual SxS Express Card Slot 1/33 – 1/2000 shutter speed range Stop by the Showroom for more details. Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales Representative

Posted on

The Alexa – Out of the Box and Into It’s First Local Feature!

Our very own Alexa was the star of a film shooting locally, in New Bedford, MA, this Winter.  “Fairhaven” is a comic drama that tells the story of three childhood friends reuniting in their home town of Fairhaven, MA.  Written and Directed by Tom O’Brien who fell in love with the Massachusetts seaport town and was inspired to set the project there.  The film is being shot by DP Peter Simonite and features stars such as Mad Men’s, Rich Sommer, Six Feet Under’s, Chris Messina and Deadwood’s Sarah Paulson.
We missed our Alexa dearly and we were eager to hear what our friends at Fairhaven thought of the camera.  General Manager Brian Malcolm and myself ventured down to Westport, MA to meet the cast and crew on location at Lee’s Market for some grocery store interior shots.  On the way, Brian spotted 4 Red-Tailed Hawks and one male Cardinal.  I tried to play the bird game too but my bird-like findings turned out to be trash bags trapped in branches or bushels of leaves.  (You’ve won this round, Malcolm!)
When we arrived on the set, we were warmly welcomed by an excited cast and crew.  Everyone raved about the Alexa with its superior image quality and high sensitivity in low light.  The Alexa is rated at ISO 800 but we learned that they were able to get exposures of up to 1600 ISO.  Phrases like “This camera will change the industry forever” and ” I never want to work with another camera again” were echoing around us as the crew testified to the camera’s cinematic abilities and ease-of-use.
We really enjoyed watching the Fairhaven team in action, and we’re looking forward to the film’s release!
For more information about the Fairhaven movie visit their website at www.fairhaventhemovie.com.
For more information on the Alexa, call or email answers@rule.com.
Nick Giannino, Rental Agent
Posted on

Sony F3’s @ Rule Boston Camera next week !

The highly anticipated Sony F3 is making its way to Rule next week.  We will have the F3 available in our rental department as well as in our showroom.  If you have not put down a deposit on the camera you will want to reserve one asap.   We anticipate the camera will be sold out and become one of the most popular cameras for 2011 due to its familiar workflow, lensing options, sensor size, and form factor.  Myself and the sales team will be available for demos on the showroom camera (please call in advance to book an appointment) with various lenses and accessories. Soon we will have Zeiss CP.2 lenses (several sets on order) on hand in rentals and sales to test with the camera. We will also have the MTF services Nikon mount and Zeiss ZF.2 lenses as well very soon. Come check out the camera everyone is talking about. Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974