December 8, 2014

An Introduction to the Sony PXW-FS7

Filed under: New Gear, Technology, What's New — rbcblog @ 1:41 pm

As with all my blog posts, I’m happy to introduce you to yet another camera that’s being called “The Next Big Thing!” I’ve talked at length about the Panasonic GH4, the Sony a7s, and other it cameras that seemed to stir up buzz this past year. 2014 was a great year for new technology to find its way to lower price point cameras, and the culmination of that may be the new Sony FS7.

The FS7 was touted as being designed by Sony from “listening,” and I can’t argue with that. Professionals have been asking for an ergonomic, easy to use, high frame rate, 4K camera with built-in ND filters and all the bells and whistles one would come to expect from a professional camera. A large chip, easily adaptable mount – and a high quality internal codec. This list seems long and perhaps unattainable for a sub $10K camera, but all of those features have been delivered and met in the FS7.

First and foremost, some specs. The Sony FS7 has a s35 sized sensor, that seems to be almost identical to that of the Sony F5. In my book, this may be the best selling point of the camera. With this sensor, the FS7 is able to not only record UHD 4k to 2 different flavors of XAVC, but it can also shoot up to 180fps in HD. For low light, the sensor has a base ISO of 2000 – with some built-in ND filters to help you out. Standard XLR inputs, and even a nice arri style rosette for the very comfortable and easy to use side handle. This camera will most be compared to the wildly successful Canon C300 – but truth be told, the FS7’s got it beat in features. SLOG3 is available, as well as the highly gradable and precise Cine EI mode. This camera fits in line much closer to the F55 and F5 than it’s namesake, the FS700.

Unlike the FS700, the FS7 does not have a 3G SDI output on its standard body. Instead, a rear add-on unit is required to pass RAW out to something like the Odyssey 7Q. While this is sort of a bummer, the rear RAW unit also provides the ability to record ProRes directly to the cards internally – though XAVC is a very high bitrate codec itself.

After using the FS7 for a few weeks, all I can really say is that it more or less works as advertised. All the promises Sony made are delivered, and the camera works great. It’s comfortable, but could stand to use an additional shoulder pad to add some comfort. The battery times are very long, and the buttons on the camera are familiar and easy to find. The big credit most users gave to the Canon C300 was it’s ease of use, and good image. The FS7 meets that, and goes beyond. High frame rates are going to be the next big camera battleground in the next 5 years, and Canon’s 60FPS at 720p isn’t holding a candle to the FS7’s 60FPS at 4k, or 180FPS in HD.

I’ve run into a few small issues when adapting Canon lenses with the metabones speed boosters and smart adapters – but they are usable. Metabones released a firmware update for the speed booster ultra that seems to have helped it out – though operation still seems sluggish. These are nitpicking details, however.

If you’re curious about image quality, you can find plenty of beautiful examples all over the net as the camera is finding it’s way to shooters. And keep in mind, the image quality will be near identical to the Sony F5!

Here’s a really great video from vimeo user Joe Simon Films showcasing some of the FS7 abilities.

https://vimeo.com/112027631

And here is a beautiful spot shot on the F5 from vimeo user Overseasfilms.com – pretty amazing that this image can now be captured by a camera that costs around 8 grand!

https://vimeo.com/85711136

Check out this review from Anticipate Media: http://vimeo.com/anticipatemedia/review/113330848/9d76c28504.

We have the FS7 here at Rule to buy or rent, so be sure to come check it out.

-Alex Enman, Engineer, enman@rule.com


Dotted Line

November 10, 2014

Kino Flo Celeb 200 & Celeb 400 LEDs

Filed under: New Gear, Technology, What's New — rbcblog @ 5:41 pm

Kino Flo introduced its first LED light, the Celeb 200, in September 2012, followed by the Celeb 400 in April 2014.  Rule Boston Camera proudly welcomes these two new lights to our inventory!  We love Kino Flo’s products for their light, robust housing, ease of use, and cool, silent, consistent operation.  Kino Flo has incorporated the quality and convenience we have come to expect into their new LED line, and once again dazzled us with beautifully soft, even light and reliable design.

The Celebs differ from their fluorescent cousins by offering even more convenience – no external ballast, no head or harness cables, and no bulbs!  One provided AC cable is all you need to brighten up the set (these lights are also capable of running off 24V DC power).  The built-in ballast controls power as well as Kelvin temperature and dimming, while an LED display reads its current values.  The single panel of LEDs has a range of 2700 Kelvin to 5500 Kelvin.  There are five preset Kelvin temperatures (2700, 3200, 4000, 5000, 5500) that correspond to colored buttons on the ballast, or you can save your preferred temperatures to these buttons.  Temperature can be precisely dialed in by turning the knob on the right of the ballast.  Change the temperature by values of 100 degrees, or press the knob for fine values – depending on what end of the Kelvin spectrum you are in, the temperature increases by 10, 15, or 25 degrees.  There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the differences in increments, but there are plenty of options along the spectrum to choose from.  To dim the light, from a range of 0 to 100, simply press the Kelvin/Dim button and turn the knob.  Dimming can be changed from coarse (values of 4) to fine (values of 0.4) by pressing in the knob.  The Lock/Reset button will prevent your settings from accidentally being changed, or factory reset the Kelvin temperature presets.

The Celeb provides mounting flexibility – both the 200 and 400 come with the center ball mount we all know and love, giving the light a full 360-degree range of motion.  The 200 has a baby receiver, while the 400 has a baby receiver inside a junior pin.  Rule has a wide selection of C-stands and combo stands to choose from.  Both fixtures have molded corners with holes to mount the light with rope, and two handles on the back for safety chains and easy transport.

The Celebs come with a gel frame and 90 degree honeycomb eggcrate louver.  Both mount to the fixture with spring-loaded clamps in the molded corners.  I’ve found the spring-loaded mount to be especially convenient.  The fluorescent lights have Velcro mounts that clasp into the eggcrate and often break.  The spring-loaded mount is easier, quicker, and more secure.

The Celebs are an energy, cost, and time efficient light appropriate for all of your lighting needs.  Both Celebs boast flicker free operation and consistent color temperature while dimming.  The 200 draws 1 amp, while producing more lumens than a 750W fixture.  The 400 draws 1.8 amps, while producing more lumens than a 1K fixture.   Kino Flo’s fluorescents feature cool operation, but these LED fixtures emit practically no heat!  This means you can pick it up and adjust it without gloves, you don’t need to worry about burning your gels, and you can place it right into the flight case after striking it off.

Stop by or call us at Rule to add these versatile lights to your arsenal!

Celeb 200 Specs:

24” x 14” x 5”

14 pounds

Metal alloy body

Baby receiver

95 CRI

Draws 1 amp

DMX capability

Celeb 400 Specs:

45” x 14” x 5”

26 pounds

Metal alloy body

Baby receiver in junior pin

95 CRI

Draws 1.8 amps

DMX capability

-Grace Deacon, QC Tech, deacon@rule.com


Dotted Line

September 9, 2014

The Sony a7s: Full Frame, Low Light Monster

Filed under: Inside Rule, Learning Lab Series, New Gear, Technology — rbcblog @ 9:16 am

Once again, here we are with me talking about a new small camera that everyone in the indie shooting world seems to be going bananas over! Similarly to when the GH4 launched (of which you can read my latest blog post by clicking here) — there has been an extreme amount of chatter about this new Sony camera. Is it worth the hype?

Upon launch, it was touted as the end-all-be-all of DSLR cameras (yes, I know it’s not technically a DSLR!), and a direct competitor to Panasonic’s GH4. Both cameras are mirrorless, seem to have more than a few nods to video users, and come in at a fairly affordable price point. After those features, however, the similarities stop. The two cameras are very different animals — both with their own strange strengths and weaknesses.

Family Tree
The a7s succeeds two other cameras in the Sony lineup that, at a glance, seem the same. The a7, and a7r. The design of these cameras comes from almost a rangefinder idea — a small, street photographers secret weapon. And for stills, no one was going to argue the quality. I’m sure even Fuji was taking notice. When it came to video, however, the quality and feature set wasn’t anything to write home about. While the a7r matched that of the 5dIII in most instances, Canon had already bundled up the market years ago. The a7s, though, has built upon this small form factor and has pushed the video feature set to its ends. It continues with the full-frame-sized sensor, but in this case it seems to be an entirely new chip.

Low Light
While I’m not in love with the form factor of this tiny camera (I’ve got big, dumb hands), the image quality is staggering. Particularly, with its low-light capabilities. The color and detail data it is able to pull from near total darkness at ISO’s of 20,000 and even 50,000 is unlike any camera I’ve ever seen, in any market or price range. This isn’t just a low-light camera, it’s a night-vision camera. Take a look at this great test from James Miller — that blue sky you see is actually a night sky. Those green bushes? Dark splotches to the human eye.

SLOG 2 & Grading
Now, we aren’t all nature photographers who need to see into the dead of night all the time — so upon getting the camera in my hands, my first tests were tried and true charts. I was overjoyed to see SLOG 2 and S-Gammut profiles included in the kit. This camera is cheaper than a 5dIII, but it’s now including a log profile that was at one time a paid upgrade to the F3 camera?! Count me in! I set up my chart, brought my middle grey down to 35%, and threw on my SLOG2 luts. You know, the ones I’ve been using for the past 4 years! And wouldn’t you know, it looked… terrible.

What?! What happened? Why were my shadows so grainy and noisy? I thought this was a low-light monster! I couldn’t understand it. After some more research and testing, I figured it out.

SLOG 2 on the a7s rates the native ISO of the sensor at 3200 ISO – as opposed to say 2000 on the fs700 and f5, or 1250 on the f55. As this is a different sensor, it is handling its color science differently. I found that it is so light sensitive, the sensor prefers to be fed LOTS of light – to the point of seemingly over-exposing the image. I found that middle grey likes to live around 75%, rather than 35%. As the camera only provides zebras and a meter internally for exposure help, it’s perhaps easiest to set your zebra level to 95% or 100%, and ride the high end until right before clipping. Bringing the color and gamma down works like a charm, and in no time I had the chart performance I had expected:

So perhaps this isn’t the same old same old SLOG 2 I had assumed – but once I figured out the optimal settings, I was very impressed. The dynamic range on this camera is very high, around 14 actual usable stops. That gets into high-end cinema camera territory.

4K Recording & XAVC-S
The last major feature of the a7s is the 4K external recording option. Now, first off, the a7s is using a brand new “consumer” version of the very popular XAVC codec. Internally, this high bitrate and smart compression is very malleable, especially for being at its base an h.264 MP4 file. It sports a very fiddly micro-HDMI port through which it will send 4K, 4:2:2 uncompressed video. The only thing headed to market soon that will handle this in a portable way will be the new Atomos Shogun – delivery date is still TBA.

I find time and time again that users can get hung up on external recording solutions. One should always push their internal codecs as far as they can to see where the line in the sand is going to be drawn, and I find XAVC-S and SLOG 2 to be a 1-2 punch when it comes to color grading. Here is a very pretty video from vimeo user Florian Knab — check out how even the 120fps 720p looks great in a web delivery situation.

Final Thoughts
With SLOG 2, XAVC-S, a full-frame sensor, frightening low-light sensitivity, and an easily adaptable E-Mount – I think the a7s is a great addition to the indie market. I wish it were able to record 4K internally and high-speed above 60fps at 1080 like its mirrorless GH4 counterpart – but even without these features, it’s a pretty fantastic little camera. If you’d like to learn a bit more about the a7s, my post workflow, and other ways to get the most out of it, be sure to check out my Learning Lab here at Rule Boston Camera on 9/24 at 10am.  If you can’t make it in person, you’ll find it on our Learning Lab Vimeo Channel afterwards.

-Alex Enman, Engineer, enman@rule.com


Dotted Line

August 28, 2014

The Panasonic GH4: An Analysis (Part 2 of 2)

Filed under: DSLR, Learning Lab Series, New Gear, Technology, Updates, What's New — rbcblog @ 3:06 pm

In my last post, I talked all about the versatility of the GH4, and how it can bring some pro features to a semi-pro audience — as well as some pro features to some budget-conscious professionals! In this piece, I’ll be talking a little bit more about some of the higher-end applications of the GH4, as well as its partner in crime – the YAGH interface. (Catchy name, right?)

The YAGH interface unit, or “the bottom thing” as most folks around here are calling it, adds some really fantastic usability to the system. Firstly, it provides HD-SDI connectivity. To my knowledge, there is no other DSLR on the market that currently sports HD-SDI, unless you get into Blackmagic Cinema Camera territory (Yes, I realize the GH4 isn’t technically a DSLR, nor are the BMCCs – but work with me here). This is a big deal. Not only do we get HD-SDI, but we are given 4 HD-SDI ports. The photo above shows how when paired with something like an AJA Ki Pro Quad, we can record 10bit 422 HQ Prores 4K footage. That’s some serious codec right there. The quad also mounts nicely to the rear on rods, allowing for easy powering with an Anton Bauer d-tap. Add a top handle, and I could see someone shooting with this for very long periods for indie cinema, documentary, or commercial applications.

In addition to HD-SDI, we are also given 2 XLR inputs and a full-sized HDMI output – still capable of outputting 4K 10bit. With the added XLR, HD-DI, and 4pin DC power – this is all of a sudden a real, professional camera.

There are, however, some drawbacks to this unit. First and foremost, most people will be surprised to find out that once the YAGH unit is installed, all your power must come from an external source. For the setup, I like to hang a Wooden Camera Anton Bauer gold mount rod unit to the rear, pulling off the d-tap and into the 4pin XLR. This isn’t that bad, but it’s to be noted. All those nice new Panasonic badged batteries you got for the camera? Yeah, those aren’t gonna work with the YAGH.

The only other real problem I’ve found with the YAGH unit is simply misinformation. One DOES NOT NEED the YAGH unit to output 4K via HDMI into something like an Atomos Shogun. What the YAGH does give you is a full-sized HDMI, proper HD-SDI connections, XLR, audio levels on nice easy-to-see LEDS, and a way to power the camera with a big Anton Bauer battery. Professional users will see these things not as detriments, but as huge improvements. Users who require a slimmer profile, and easier rig, will find themselves opting out of the YAGH unit. Each situation will require some foresight into exactly what you will need – but Panasonic has given us the choice, and that’s saying a lot more than any other camera in this market.

Now, with all that being said – this brings me to the next situation people are speaking at length about: External recording with the GH4. While the option to output such high spec codecs is phenomenal, one must again consider their application in what you’re really shooting. In my personal tests, I’ve found the native 4K 100Mbps internal recording to be nothing short of amazing. It hits that beautiful sweet spot between compression and high bit rates — it gives just enough to allow for some flexibility in color grades, but compresses enough to give you 40 minutes of 4K video per 32GB card. I was getting around half an hour per 64GB card recording prores on my Blackmagic Pocket Cam. There’s really something to be said about smart compression. There has always been the cry for uncompressed, but not nearly a loud enough cry for BETTER compression.

This video, shot by vimeo user Emeric, displays just how pretty this camera can be! He lists the lenses as very common Panasonic and Olympus glass, recorded internally and graded in film convert. Take a look and see if you’d be kicking yourself for not recording to a Shogun! (I wouldn’t.)

Lastly, I want to quickly touch on one more aspect of the camera that I believe needs to be spoken about a bit more. The versatility of the MFT mount. The small flange distance allows us to adapt this mount to most anything — though an optimal Canon EF adapter is still slightly difficult. With the introduction of speed boosters, we are seeing some really amazing things happen. Nikon mount Zeiss glass being adapted and reduced, gaining a stop with no optical quality loss. It’s very exciting! Our GH4 has gone out the door a handful of times loaded up with Zeiss Superspeeds and even some Cooke Glass. I feel that in a rental situation, this camera is allowing people the budgetary option of scaling back the camera body, perhaps down from a 1DC or c300, and scaling up that savings into some absolutely exceptional glass. Here’s a photo of the GH4 fitted with the new Leica Summicron-C 35mm. These lenses are smaller than Cookes, and fit very nicely onto the Hotrod MFT to PL adapter.

The instance of lower-cost cameras introducing professional codec options and video features, like peaking, zebra, HD-SDI, xlr, etc., are allowing low-budget shooters to experiment with something that will surely improve your image — the glass in front of the sensor. It is in this that I find the GH4 to be a big deal, giving you options for a high-end studio shoot with an Optimo zoom, feeding a director’s monitor; or in your backpack with a pancake lens, for quick shooting while on vacation.

The GH4, as well as the YAGH unit, Hotrod PL adapter, and a whole host of lenses are all here at Rule Boston Camera for rental – and we also offer the GH4 and YAGH for purchase, if you’re so inclined. Happy shooting!

-Alex Enman, Engineer, enman@rule.com


Dotted Line

August 7, 2014

Up Close with Canon’s New Line of Cine Primes & Zooms

Filed under: Industry News, New Gear, Technology, Updates, What's New — rbcblog @ 3:19 pm

In July, Nick Giannino from our sales dept and myself were kindly invited down to Canon HQ in Long Island for an educational seminar. The aim was to talk about Canon’s new line of Cine primes and zooms. About half the seminar was conducted by Mitch Gross, formerly of Abel in New York. He asked what makes a great cinema lens as opposed to a great still lens? Good question – how about long focus pull range; large, glow-in-the-dark focus markings; 11 iris blades to produce subtle bokeh; warm skin tone glass; and ability to handle flares.  All these factors have been built into both the Cine EF-mount primes and the PL-mount zooms.

Nick and Andrew at Camp Canon

The second half of the seminar was conducted by Suny Behar. He conducts a week-long camera test every year for HBO. What camera test, you ask? Well, HBO is the only network that does this: they spend a week with six different cameras, from a Black Magic 4K to a Phantom Flex 4K, shooting footage under a variety of different lighting situations. This footage is then shown to HBO show runners and DPs who are in the process of making camera decisions for upcoming shows.  This year all the lenses used on all these camera tests were from the EF and PL-mount Canon Cine line. The lenses were chosen over Cookes, Optimos, Zeiss, etc.  HBO was very impressed. In fact, so impressed was David Franco, a DP on Game Of Thrones, he went out and bought the entire Canon Cine line. I heard he paid with golden blood-soaked coins.

Lastly, Canon also showed off the new Cine 17-120mm ENG-style large-sensor zoom lens which will be shipping in September. The lens is designed to be a Cabrio-killer with a larger zoom range, better ergonomics and a price point $15K cheaper than the Fuji Cabrio 19-90mm.

Lots of low-interest rate options are available for the C300, C500 and lens packages so ask Sales for details. We also have most of the Canon Cine line available in rentals so please call us for availability and pricing.

Thanks for reading!

- Andrew Barlow, Rental Coordinator, barlow@rule.com



Dotted Line

July 16, 2014

The Concept of Ease in Filmmaking

Filed under: Homegrown, Inside Rule, Intern Perspective, New Gear, Tried & True — rbcblog @ 3:19 pm

In the place I am now, having recently graduated, looking/hoping/begging for work, and getting this internship and blog to learn from and play with, I feel privileged and prepared to go ahead and share a very quick reflection on a concept that I, and I’m sure countless others, have faithfully explored, willingly embraced, and so readily attempted to reject: ease. What follows are just some thoughts and ruminations, from an RBC intern, on the concept of ease in filmmaking.

As I think and I ruminate, I am inspired by one of the coolest pieces of equipment I’ve been introduced to at Rule, the Kessler CineDrive: an amazing genius robot helper for all your pans, tilts, slides and more. Coming from a class of filmmakers rightfully obsessed with finding unique, professional, and visually stunning ways to capture the simplest and most complex of modern moments, the possibilities here, the ease with which we can achieve them, and the overall potential that the CineDrive represents are enormous!

I’ve also been inspired by another one of the coolest pieces of equipment I’ve been presented with at Rule, the Arri 416 HS Plus 16mm film camera. It’s beautiful. I’ve gotten to experiment with 16mm film just one other very brief time in my life, and because of cameras like this, it sucks to think that the slowly dying “film” in “film school” could soon breathe it’s last breath. I’m very thankful that there are places that still have the resources to teach about film and encourage it to be used.  I don’t mean to say that shooting on film is at the other end of a spectrum, or that it’s necessarily hard, but it is kind of painstaking!  It’s also really different from what I and my generation has gotten used to.

On shoots that I’ve been on and helped with, I always find myself wishing things could be a little easier, move faster, or become magically convenient. Hopefully, I’m not alone in this, but then I look at the crazy cardboard/tape/black wrap/diffusion thing in front of me and realize that ease is awesome, but so is hard work. The experience that has made me seriously crave the endless touch-ups and touchiest set-ups of each and every film set has been this internship. Knowing and learning about the tools to achieve ease, perfection — or dare I say both — has proven invaluable, making me that much more passionate about making movies. It’s also been really wonderful to be exposed to an evolution of filmmaking though RBC, because when I’m around people whose job it is to know the ins and outs of decades of equipment, it becomes fascinating to compare a modern marvel like the CineDrive, if it could be representative of the ease a filmmaker might, deep down, die for, to something like a 16mm film camera, if it could be representative of the perpetual fragility and exhaustion of filmmaking, as well as the amazing reward that results.

Cat Haag, Summer 2014 Intern, intern@rule.com


Dotted Line

July 11, 2014

The Kessler CineDrive: A Robot with A Mind of Its Own?

Filed under: Learning Lab Series, New Gear, Technology, What's New — rbcblog @ 10:57 am

Actually it’s a little more complicated than that. The CineDrive is a multi-axis motion control system that lets you pan, tilt, slide, zoom and even focus your camera. This piece of gear brings a whole new meaning to the word MOTION for your film or project.

With one look at the CineDrive, the first thing that will come to mind is “WOW, with so many moving parts and connections, I’ll never be able to learn all this”.  Actually, the CineDrive is only as complicated as you make it — from a simple sliding and panning motion to a whole 6-hour time lapse that includes the zoom function — it’s really all about the type of shot you hope to achieve.

With shot options including live-action, time-lapse and stop-motion, any of these settings will help your project come to life via motion.  How?  The CineDrive runs off software called kOS which can be controlled through an IPAD, PC or MAC.  This software communicates with the CineDrive’s main system called “The Brain”.  The Brain produces its own WIFI just like the GoPro.  You can connect the IPAD app wirelessly to the system, or if you don’t have WIFI, the Brain has an Ethernet port for a direct connection from your laptop.

In order for the motor to work, the Brain is connected to motor control boxes (MCB), with each box designated with a different function including zoom, focus or slide. The pan/tilt functions are part of the main system so there are no extra boxes for pan/tilt. It also comes with a couple of different motors — one for the slide, one for the zoom function (for your lens), and another for focus. With all these options, there are endless possibilities for creating various shot movements.

When first testing the CineDrive with the IPAD app, I found out it does not work well with the first generation IPADs, so you’ll want to make sure your IPAD or operating system is up-to-date.  The kOS app is frequently updated because it’s still considered pretty new.

The weight limit is around 15 pounds! That’s actually a lot if you think about it since you won’t need a monitor on the camera with the CineDrive staying in one spot. For one of my tests with the CineDrive, I used the TS3Cine high-speed camera, and the ports were a little difficult to attach a monitor while also getting the SD card in and out.

When people see the CineDrive they also think they need a slider, but (good news!), the CineDrive comes with a 100mm bowl mount that fits on tripod legs e.g., the Video 18 or Video 20.

When using the CineDrive with a camera like the 5D Mark III or 7D, you can create a time-lapse with photos in the kOS software, giving you the ability to set the number of photos you want to take within a certain amount of time. For example, say you want to take 1000 photos in 2 hours with a set frame rate.  All you need is a simple cable connection to make it happen!

The Kessler CineDrive is great for filmmakers who enjoy the more technical aspect of shooting.  While a good amount of preparation goes into the set-up, you have a good number of options and flexibility.   RSVP: events@rule.com for my upcoming Learning Lab with the CineDrive on Wednesday, July 23rd from 10am-12n.  If you can’t make it in person, you can watch it later on our vimeo channel at https://vimeo.com/channels/rulelearninglabseries.

–Scott Pierce, QC, pierce@rule.com


Dotted Line

June 19, 2014

The Quest for Knowledge (aka Summer Intern Highlights so far)

Filed under: Homegrown, Inside Rule, Intern Perspective — rbcblog @ 2:45 pm

It’s hard to think of something specific I’d like to say about the intern program at Rule. This is because I’ve gotten to do, see, and learn about tons of stuff in the really short time I’ve been here. I’m getting my hands on equipment I would, otherwise, have had to wait ages just to lay a finger on. I’m learning from some really promising and accomplished individuals about the scenes in Boston and New England, and getting to know names and faces. I’m navigating the streets of downtown with kits and cams in the back of the van, on our way to Boston film and videomaking offices I never even knew existed; and when we get there, people are really excited to see us.

While it’s difficult to abstain from geeking out over being in the same vicinity as ARRI Alexa’s, Cooke lenses and all the amazing stuff that goes with them, I think I’ll say one of my favorite things about the internship so far is interacting with the folks who use this stuff, and seeing what everyone’s renting. One guy rented a bunch of lights and when I asked him how everything worked out, he gave me details about his set and his weekend shoot. It made my day!

As an intern, I’m a little sponge – offer even the smallest amount of info or knowledge, and it’ll be well absorbed for future use. It’s one thing to soak in all the theories and reviews and instructional videos, but as a growing gear nerd, it makes all the difference to hold the stuff, figure it out and see how it works.  And as someone anxious to absorb, it’s really cool to invite all the rental drop-offers to tell me how their shoots went. I want to know what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, and I feel really encouraged as an intern to get them to tell me just a little bit about it.

In the shop the other day, I got to learn about a Steadicam Zephyr which was gear-nerd-monumental because it’s a vital piece of equipment to filmmaking (especially now that I’m much more ready to operate my own one day).  And of course it’s just plain cool.

Interns Mike and Cat with QC's Kevin Bueschen

I’m really looking forward to continuing the quest for knowledge, and to sharing more and more stuff that I learn about – the Panasonics, the REDs, the MoVI– you name it. To me, though, every piece of equipment I touch at Rule is awesome and important, from the Sachtler to the Kino to the Steadicam, because eventually it’ll all come together to make something really inspiring for the sponges like me!

Cat Haag, Summer 2014 Intern, intern@rule.com


Dotted Line

May 30, 2014

The Panasonic GH4: An Analysis (Part 1 of 2)

DSLR enthusiasts and 4K adopters alike have all been talking nonstop about the new Panasonic GH4; the tiny camera that can do 4K internally, high speeds up to 96fps, and some very high bit rates. Panasonic has taken the queues from its users who have in the past hacked and modded the GH series cameras to suit their needs. The GH4 does everything they’ve asked for, and Panasonic has come out strong with a very interesting 4K camera – but how does it perform in the real world?

Size
The GH4 is small. Real small. As you can see in the photo above, even with some rigging it maintains a small profile. Compared to the Canon 5D Mark III at around 2lbs, the GH4 squeaks in at a svelte 1.2lbs. The additional YAGH bottom unit will add a bit of heft to the camera, but at the end of the day it is one of the smaller DSLR’s out there. This can be a good or bad thing, all depending on your situation. For me, the flip out screen and small form factor are fantastic for run and gun situations, specifically in crowded areas or in public. It’s small and lightweight, but packs a punch with its recording quality. The small size will lend itself nicely to stabilizers of all types – including the new Movi M5 (available to buy or rent here at Rule!).

Imager and Recording

The GH4 is another camera in a long line of Micro Four Thirds (MFT) size sensors. MFT is an interesting sensor size. Compared to the Full Frame Canon DSLRs, the crop factor can be intimidating (2.1x, thereabouts). Those of us familiar with shooting with the Blackmagic Cinema Cameras won’t be too surprised, but it can be a shock to some. When using S35 glass, like our beautiful Zeiss Super Speeds, the crop shrinks down to a manageable 1.4x – making the field of view on a 50mm look more like the field of view of a 70mm. Something shooters of the C100, C300 and other APS-C canon cameras will be very familiar with.

Aside from the crop, the image produced by the GH4 is impressive. It’s no low-light monster like the Canon 1DC – I don’t find ISO values higher than 1600 usable without heavy noise reduction and post work, compared to the 10,000 ISO on the 1DC that I’ve filmed with comfortably in the past. I find the standard ISO 800 values to be pleasing, but find that the shadows can still present some blocky looking noise artifacts. This can usually be graded out easily, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t a 1DC, and you’re going to have to take care when shooting dim scenes.

The GH4 does not have an official “Log” setting, as the 1DC does – but I find one can get very close when using the Cinelike D profile. I’ve altered my settings slightly to present a slightly more flat and dynamic range friendly profile. By lowering the in camera noise reduction, sharpening, and saturation, I find you can squeeze a bit more information into the recording. I also use the master pedestal setting to raise the blacks up (+15 in camera menu). I find this to be very near to a proper log setting. In DaVinci Resolve, using the Arri Alexa LUTs shows just how close it can be – though you should bump the saturation down a bit more before applying.

Below is a very quick test I did here at the Rule office. Shot in very bright mid-day sunlight, I tried to see how well the camera would capture detail and dynamic range. You can see it holds up well. The camera loves daylight, far more than tungsten. Though the 4K is only recorded at a variable bitrate, maxing at 100Mbps, it seems to handle detail and movement well. It is able to capture the bright blue sky, as well as plenty of shadow detail. It’s not RAW, like the Blackmagic counterparts, but you can record around 80 minutes of 4K video on a 64GB card – compared to the Blackmagic Pocket Camera that can give you around 20-30 minutes of Prores, or 15 or so minutes of RAW 1080p. Puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it?

Click here for “Panasonic GH4: First Tests” on Vimeo.

The GH4 is also capable of outputting a 10bit 4:2:2 signal via HDMI. This disables the internal recording, but allows for very high quality Prores recordings with the Odyssey 7Q. While it can be a bit of a runaround getting from Micro-HDMI to Mini-HDMI, the image quality is striking. The Odyssey 7Q’s monitor is also a miracle when shooting, and a welcomed respite from using the small 3” flip out LCD screen.

The added focus peaking, zebra, and histogram functions also make shooting life easier. The GH4 does internally offer peaking, zebra, and histogram – but none perform quite as nicely as that of the 7Q.

Stay tuned for a follow up blog post with some more footage and examples, as well as the GH4 Learning Lab I’ll be presenting June 25th here at Rule Boston Camera!

Alex Enman, Engineer, enman@rule.com


Dotted Line

May 9, 2014

Production LEDs in a New Light with Zylight’s F8

UPDATE ON 5/12/14:  Since my original post below, I’ve learned that the F8’s bellows are actually made from silicone which should last significantly longer than rubber and that a redesigned yoke was already shown at NAB.  Zylight’s on the ball!

We’ve all heard about the merits of LED lighting (low power draw, low heat, no bulb changing, etc.), but for the reality of production work, there were always major trade-offs. The throw of an LED light was useless unless you were right up on the talent, their color rendition was poor and their tell-tale multi-shadows were garbage.  LEDs were rightly relegated to being just an easy fill option or kick light.  Even their flicker free qualities were limited by their low output which is not what you need for high frame rate shooting.  Despite a larger power draw and the heat, you were always better off using tungsten or HMI. Zylight’s F8, though, finally spoils us.

This is a focusable fresnel LED fixture (70° flood and 16° spot) that is lightweight, can be powered for over an hour with a standard camera battery, and has the equivalent throw of a traditional 650w tungsten head. I had to break out a light meter to see the proof in lux for myself.  Not to be overlooked is the distinct, single shadow you get from this instrument. You can order the F8 as 5600K or 3200K.

Admittedly, the F8 is a little pricey at $2,400.00 but remember that tungsten replacement bulbs aren’t cheap and neither is your electric bill if you have a studio.  The fact that you can just slap a dionic on the back and you’re good to go anywhere is amazing.  Save yourself from that heavy sack pack of stingers and dimmers.  I appreciate the retracting bellows design that squeezes this unit down to just a few inches thick.  The bellows are rubber, though, so there is the concern of hardening and cracks over time.  The yoke definitely needs a redesign.  Rosettes are for tripods and handles, not lights.  Having two separate rosette mounts to deal with every time you need to make adjustments is annoying.  Flicker free dimming from 0-100% from a small knob in the back or through DMX is a nice feature.  Zylight is very proud of their “Zylink” wireless control control capability but in practice, I could take or leave that feature.  I noticed a USB 3.0 port behind the fresnel lens so who knows what else is to come through firmware.  All things considered, the F8 is already a staple in our lighting inventory here at Rule and once you try it, you’ll be asking for it again and again.

- Jason Potz, Engineering, j.potz@rule.com


Dotted Line

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