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Summer 2010 Intern Video Project

The internship video project challenges our interns to creatively incorporate Rule Boston Camera into a short film or video. Each time, our interns rise to the challenge and create some memorable works of art. Check out the animated lights, origami, and yellow-obsessed car dwellers in the latest round of intern generated content. Lights from Rule Boston Camera on Vimeo. Cranes from Rule Boston Camera on Vimeo. Matt Jung, Quality Control/ Logistics Manager

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New Test Post

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Taking Advantage of Crop Factor

Should I get a Canon 5D MKII, 7D, or 1Ds MKIV ?  This is a question I am often asked when someone is looking to buy or rent an HDSLR.  There are several trains of thought that seem to be the main focus from one camera to another, and usually the conversation boils down to a low light and sensor size issue.  Yes, the 5D MKII has a significantly larger sensor over the 7D, and it does have better low light capability as a result, but there are other factors to be considered.  The focus of this specific blog entry is to address the factor of crop with the 7D and 1Ds MKIV, and how this can be seen as a positive rather than a negative.  I say this because I often hear people complain about using full frame lenses and the focal length multiplier as though this is a bad thing.   With regard to wide angle — yes, it greatly reduces your focal length options.  On the telephoto end, however, is where this can be a huge advantage. Before I go any further I will explain crop factor (I have seen several people try to explain it so I will keep it as simple as possible): When you use full frame lenses on non-full frame cameras (7D APS-C and 1Ds MKIV APS-H for example), the image appears bigger (magnified) because the field of view is smaller giving the lens a focal length multiplier.   If you are shooting sports or nature subjects on stills or HD, you will want to leverage the focal multiplier of 1.6x of the 7D and the 1.3x of the 1Ds MKIV.  The benefits are — you do not require a telephoto adapter or 2x or 1.5x extender.  The reasons for avoiding both are due to loss of 1 – 2 stops of light and the possible introduction of aberrations (chromatic and otherwise), flaring, trapping dust between optics, weight, etc.  You can always add a 2x extender onto a crop camera to get even tighter on your subject if applicable. Here is a brief breakdown of some common telephoto focal lengths when coupling a full frame lens with a 7D: 85mm = 136mm,  100mm = 160mm, 135mm = 216mm, 200mm = 320mm, 400mm = 640mm, 600mm = 960mm & 800mm = 1280mm Now if you apply a 2x extender like the Canon 2x EF Extender II your 960mm (600mm) will become a 1920mm (with a loss of 2 f stops ). There are factors to consider when using these new-found focal multipliers.  First thing to remember is that your foreground / background relationship does not change.  The lens properties remain the same unlike if you switched to a different lens. Second, you want to ensure that when using long lenses like the 100mm and above that you have some form of image stabilization built into the lens or a sturdy support system.  I managed to use the Canon 600mm this weekend on loan and threw it on my 7D for a 960mm equivalent focal length.  To use a multiplier like this requires you to either trigger the camera via remote or hold your breath while shooting as any bump, wind, etc. on the lens amplifies.  I had to use a heavy-duty video tripod with the release plate mounted to the lens foot to get anything useful on video.  This, of course, was an extreme field of view and not typical with focal lengths under 300mm. A large benefit for crop factor is for use with macro video and stills.  I shoot a lot of macro HD video of everything from insects, reptiles, textiles,  products, etc.  Macro functionality even with the focal multiplier is retained — which is important.  This can be handy when dealing with subject matter that may dangerous (shooting scorpions), or jumpy (see frog below), or when you just need more detail or a closer view without losing any stops of light.

Green Frog with 160mm equivalent field of view. (JPEG still pulled from HD Video shot on 7D w/ 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS  @ f2.8 shutter 50, ISO 320 *scaled down from 1080)

If you are going to focus shooting HD video of  nature or sports, you should  take a look at the Canon 7D and Canon 1Ds MKIV as alternatives to the 5D.  The crop factor will save you the weight of lugging around a 400mm or 600mm lens, plus it will save money (long lenses are expensive), and it will keep you more inconspicuous when needed.

Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974

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Expendables for Students at Production Outfitters!

As the school year approaches, the Production Outfitters store here at Rule Boston Camera is gearing up for the influx of new and returning students! With a wide inventory of expendables such as light meters, American Cinematographer Manuals, and many different technical books on Video, Audio, and Film, students will receive a discount on all light meters with a special discount on autographed copies of David E. Elkins, book, “The Camera Assistant’s Manual” during his Learning Lab “Nuts & Bolts of the AC Position” held on Wednesday, August 25th from 10am to 12n. Visit the Production Outfitters store for all the essential items a student needs to round out their film classes! Gen Andrews, Production Outfitters Store

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Cartoni Lambda the Perfect SFX and Zero Gravity Head

I have worked with numerous tripods and heads over the past 18+ years, using the worst-to-the-best tripod heads. Some of my favorites are the O’Connor 1030, the Sachtler 7+7, Cartoni 120EX, Ronford Fluid 7 (a bit old school), Weaver Steadman 2 axis, and the Cartoni Lambda.  Most DPs and camera operators choose a tripod and head they are familiar with because of past experience, word-of-mouth or brand loyalty. What do you do when your brand (Sachtler, O’Connor, etc.) doesn’t offer a solution for a specific type of shot? You need to look at complimentary gear or other solid foundations — enter the Cartoni Lambda nodal mount head. There are several nodal mount 2 and 3 axis heads currently in the rental world but none that have the versatility and the adjustment capacity of the Lambda. I think it hasn’t yet taken off due to the lack of education on how and why you would need a nodal head to begin with. The size and weight (46lbs) of the head can also be intimidating if you don’t know how it works. Many people assume it’s only for large film cameras like the Arri 535 or BL4s, etc., but this is not the case. You can use the Lambda head for two different, but similar situations. The first one is if you want a head for instantaneous moves using the mass of the head and camera weight, but on a zero gravity basis. This can be achieved by mounting the camera on the head by balancing the camera’s weight evenly on the horizontal and vertical axis of the head. Because the head is under slung and features numerous adjustments, you can also nodal-mount the camera on the horizontal and vertical axis of the camera’s sensor or film gate and use counter weights if needed for perfect balance. This is the reason why this head is great for SFX work, and it’s the main reason you’ll want to look at this head as an option for your next project. Why would you want to mount the camera on its nodal axis points? The main reason is that with traditional pan-and-tilt tripod heads, you cannot pivot on the horizontal or vertical axis of the cameras sensor or gate. You can achieve horizontal axis centering but only with an additional side-to-side camera adjustment plate. Vertical axis centering on the focal plane is impossible when tilting with a standard head as the camera sits on top of the head’s pivot point and therefore cannot be aligned. To get vertical axis centering on the camera sensor (or film gate), a nodal head or 2 or 3 axis head is required as its pivot point (axis point) can be aligned with the camera’s gate or sensor plane.  Its can do this because the camera mounting plate sits below the pivot point.

What does pivoting on horizontal and vertical axis’ do? It allows for parallax free imaging, meaning you can remove foreground-to-background shifting that occurs with traditional heads. This is important when you need to isolate and lock up your foreground / background relationship. For any shots requiring forced perspective, a nodal mount head is required. If you look at a movie like Elf or Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, these were shot primarily with nodal mount heads. Mind you, for those types of shots, when you have something in the background and in the foreground that appear to be the same distance apart, you would also require either a split field diopter or a large depth of field. Outside of that, however, the Lambda allows for these types of pan-and-tilt shots where traditionally these shots have to be locked off. Using a nodal mount head also allows for focus retention when using a shallow depth of field as the distance on the sensor or the film gate does not change on pan and tilt. There is no shifting or movement (as with a traditional tilt on a standard head) to throw your focus off with regard to distance; and with sensors on cameras getting larger and shallow depth-of-field being popular, this head will allow for greater accuracy with even conventional use. A great aspect of the Cartoni Lambda head is that you can effortlessly tilt 360 degrees even with large cameras like the Arri BL4s including a large lens and 1000′ mag.  You cannot do this on the Ronford F7, and it’s much easier to set-up the Lambda than a Weaver, for example.  The Lambda features a small hand crank that allows for a large amount of overall vertical adjustment and a smaller crank for nodal vertical axis centering, all with indexing. This is built on solid dovetail plates unlike other nodal heads that use tubing. The head will also accommodate wide cameras or simply allow your 1st AC or video assist the necessary tech access to both sides of the camera with a fair amount of room on the right side to make adjustments. This is achieved by unlocking the sliding dovetail and extending the head horizontally. Again–all indexed. Once you have the camera centered and the head counter-weighted, you can achieve zero gravity panning and tilting. If the camera being used has a smaller-than-the-minimal adjustment allowance on the head, a camera riser or mounting block is required to match head pivot axis with the camera’s gate/sensor vertical axis. You will want to drop drag for both panning and tilting to zero for any camera lighter than 10lbs.

The Cartoni Lambda is built like a tank and can accommodate cameras weighing up to 88lbs. The head weighs in at 46lbs, but don’t let that dictate your camera choice. Because its a zero gravity head, there is no minimum camera weight. This isn’t exactly true as the camera either has to weigh equal to or more than the Cartoni’s multi-adjustable tilt/pan handle. I put several cameras on the head — an Arri BL4S (approx 45lbs with 20-100 and 1000′ mag), an SR2.5 Evolution (approx 18lbs with 50mm prime and 400′ mag), a Sony PMW-350 (approx 15lbs with 16x lens and dionic 90 battery), and lastly a Canon 7D (approx 5lbs with 24-70mm, battery grip, and batteries) — all of which exhibited the same effortless panning and tilting. The Lambda features several adjustments of drag on both pan and tilt which even the heaviest of cameras will stay where it is placed (as long as it was balanced properly when centered and counterbalanced). Overall, I would say that the Cartoni Lambda (which is very popular in Europe and on the West Coast) should be seriously considered when looking at a head to rent for your next project. The fact is — the Lambda is pretty much the standard nodal head out west. If you are shooting any type of special effects or force perspective — the head is a must. It should also be considered if you just want to be able to have unrestricted tilting that you cannot get from a traditional head. It’s heavy, but it’s well worth it. I shot with it for 6 hours of testing and it was completely effortless — tracking subjects regardless of how fast they were moving. There is a 3rd axis option with this head for adding roll or dutch, which we currently do not carry, but if you absolutely need a 3 axis nodal head, you’ll want to look at our Weaver Steadman with 3rd Axis option. We will be featuring the Cartoni Lambda in a future Learning Lab. Mention that you read this blog entry and get 10% off your rental of the Cartoni Lambda head. Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974

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Nikon To Enter The Fray With New Video DSLRs?

According to the various rumor sites, Nikon might be close to announcing a new video DSLR camera (D3100) in about a week, with another to follow in mid-september (D95).  While there is a multitude of speculation as to what will come out in press releases before Photokina from Canon and Nikon, we should digest our rumors slowly, and with several grains of hopeful salt. Adam Van Voorhis, Equipment Technician

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Convergent Design NanoFlash

There are multiple field recorders currently on the market with several that stand out from the crowd. The NanoFlash holds a unique position in this area as it is smaller than most units and is completely solid state with no moving components. The NanoFlash is a huge step up from Convergent Design’s first model, the FlashXDR, with regard to size, ease-of-use and flexibility. I think of the Nano as a bug-free version of the XDR, a sort of evolution of the product that was much needed. I want to preface the fact that the NanoFlash is a 100% improvement over the XDR. Not only is the NanoFlash (as it’s named) small, but it’s packed with features that exceed most field recorders. I have used the NanoFlash numerous times on Steadicam shoots as an on-board recorder and back-up for the camera; and it’s always been rock solid — never failing me in terms of functionality or expectations. Eventually I started requesting it on commercial jobs strictly as a secondary (and in some cases as a primary) solid-state back-up recorder.

I recommend the NanoFlash for any camera that has an HD/SD-SDI output or HDMI output as a fail-safe or as a way to rejuvenate life into a tape-based camera that has a great block and sensor. In most cases you can achieve higher quality than the codec in the camera itself (example Sony PMW-EX3 or EX1). Both the EX1R and the EX3 are 35Mbps solid state cameras which are already of a fairly high quality to begin with due to their 1/2″ sensors. They do a pretty decent job with green-screening for example but when coupled with the NanoFlash at 100Mbps the keys are significantly better and require less feathering and tweaking of the image. There is a visible difference between footage shot onto the SxS card versus the NanoFlash. Many field users use the Nanoflash as the primary recorder and the SxS cards as a back-up due to the bump up in quality of the recording. Outside of cameras that have lower bit rates, the NanoFlash also helps retain the value of your higher-quality, tape-based cameras and keep up with current tapeless work flows. Another prime use of the Nanoflash is for POV camera heads like the Iconix HD-RH1 and Toshiba IK-HD1 that do not have a recorder built-in. Because the NanoFlash has a Hirose 4-Pin power connector there is a host of powering options from Hirose, Anton Bauer P-Tap, XLR4 Pin, etc.

Highlights that stand out immediately are the selectable bit rates that vary from 18 to 280Mbps and 4:2:2 sampling. 100Mbps is of course the perfect balance of bit rate and storage availability. Footage can be recording in Quicktime, MXF, or MPG (Sony MPEG2 Codec) formats which work with the majority of NLEs out there including Avid Media Composer and Apple Final Cut Studio. The unit records to compact flash cards which are off the shelf items these days, which is a huge benefit since they are readily available in most cities and towns. You can use two Compact Flash cards in the NanoFlash, but right now you can only record to one card at a time. This will be changed in a future firmware update which, of course, will then allow for you to hand-off a copy to your editor and then vault or archive the second copy. The other benefit over a built-in hard drive is that you can bring a pile of CF cards with you and continue to shoot without the need to dump the media. All-day shoots are possible as the card spans to the next slot allowing you to swap out the card not being used. Hot-swapping is a feature that is going to be added in a future firmware upgrade. The NanoFlash has an on-board LCD display that features recording format, input format, time code, card capacity, battery voltage and audio levels. Both the HD/SD-SDI and HDMI feature loop-thru and can be used as a playback recorder when hooked up to a monitor in the field or studio. The unit features several methods of Timecode input like Embedded via HD/SD-SDI, LTC in, internal record run and Time-of-Day. I should mention audio — the unit features a 3.5mm mini jack which in most cases will not be used if you are using embedded audio. This feature is handy, however, if you want to feed from a field mixer instead of using the on-board camera audio. When recording to 720 and 1090i the NanoFlash has limited capture frame rates but when recording 1080P or 1080PSF most common rates are covered like 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97 and 30. I should mention there is a NanoFlash 3D which is comprised of two synchronized units for stereoscopic recording and playback. The NanoFlash 3D features a combiner function to mix left and right frames to either side-by-side, top and bottom or line-by-line onto one HD-SDI cable. If you are looking for a handy field recorder that will increase the quality of your work for under $3200 you should seriously consider the NanoFlash. The company offers 24/7 support, and in my own experience with the unit, I have never had an issue with the product. Convergent Design has issued numerous free firmware updates over the past year, each adding significant functionality to the product. As a cinematographer, Steadicam operator and editor the benefits of the unit are strong for its price point. For Steadicam, in particular, there really isn’t anything that comes close in regard to size and versatility. I can see hundreds of other applications for the unit like helmet cams for skydiving, covert applications in law enforcement / military use, etc. Wrapping up, if you have space constraints like shooting in a car or a jet, helmet cam, Steadicam, etc., the NanoFlash is a great choice for you. If you are using a lower-end codec or your camera has an HD/SD-SDI spigot or HDMI output the NanoFlash can allow for higher-quality work. If you simply need a simultaneous copy of what you are shooting or just do not have a way to record your footage, the NanoFlash could be the right choice for you. Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974