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Sony FS100 Camera (NXCAM Super 35)

I got a look at the new Sony Super 35mm FS100 camera recently, and I was relatively impressed- especially when the lights were turned off and the gain was tuned slightly to reveal a fresh crisp picture, with skin tones and blacks intact. Granted, this was with a Sony E-Alpha mount and Zeiss 85mm lens with a 1.4 F-stop, but still…  It was music to my eyes.  With a price range of $5,800 list for body only, it’s not made to be the F3, but could easily serve as a B-camera.  Actually, the gain level is better than the F3. I’ll keep this short and sweet so that hopefully your questions are answered quickly: Inputs: Comp/RCA video (L, R) USB out (2) XLR, one on the back of the camera, one on the right side AVCHD, 28mbps remote LANC clean HDMI out w/ LCD setting in menu “turned on” 1080/60i/24p 720/60i Does not have: ND Filters iLINK Timecode Out 720/24p Special Features: Tripod screw inputs on both the bottom and side of the camera Ability to use the FMU128 hardrive (List $800) for 10 Hours nonstop footage LCD screen on TOP center of the camera, 180-degree turn angle Optional Viewfinder (same hardware as EX3) Expanded Focus button Auto Iris (with E-mount lens lens) Peaking Interesting — included hot shoe mounted mic holder, looks like a handle, fairly sturdy, I wouldn’t use it as a handle if I had a choice… which I do. You’ll likely see 3rd party handles start coming to market pretty soon. And finally: Adapters: Currently Available: NOVAFLEX- E-Nikon F MTF                E-Canon FD MTF                E-PL MTF                E-Nikon G (manual iris control on adapter) SONY              E-Alpha 16×9                 E- PL On their way: Birger Eng.    E-Canon EF Hotrod            E-PL These are expected around the time that the camera starts shipping June-July however nothing is set in stone (4) Sony E-mount lenses coming out this year, (3) more coming out next year The stock lens that comes with it is an F/3.5 Stop fully zoomed in. Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales Representative brooks@rule.com

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Apple Predictions for NAB 2011

We all give Apple credit for keeping the lid on information regarding new products or even new announcements. So since I don’t have any direct knowledge to NOT pass along I thought I would do what everyone likes to do – guess! I suspect that Apple may offer a new paradigm for media collection, assembly, and dispersion. I don’t know if all of us will like it but I suspect that Apple is about to make media social. I also wonder if Thunderbolt will electrocute the need for larger workhorse desktop computers or if Apple does still enjoy being in the traditional “heavy iron” computer business.  My hope is that a Mac Pro ergonomic redesign is in the works that will become the next must have Media Manipulator. Native camera formats will trivially exist outside the sphere of QuickTime and I suspect that H.264, AVCHD and many others will just play and edit with the right computer and graphics cards. We will continue to discuss the emotion and feel of anything new that Apple brings us.  Bits and bytes are part of the equation but if Apple continues to value and respect the creation community (which I suspect they do) I hope to see some real tactile interfaces that leverage the other consumer technologies such as the iPad and iPhone. Finally, I  predict that many of these predictions will be predictably preposterous unless they are perfectly punctilious. Tom Talbot

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Anticipating another big year at NAB 2011

It is always nice to have an annual event that allows manufacturers to step up and focus their energy on bringing new and innovative products to light.  It is also great that so many of us – the users and evangelists of these products – get to participate in this process.  NAB is an opportunity for all of us to offer opinions and insights relative to our own spheres of expertise and influence.  I have seen over the years that we do impact in a positive way how this collective system adapts and changes. The devastation in Japan has such sad human consequences that I hope that we don’t get too selfish and just talk about how hard tape is to get or how to capitalize on “market fluctuations”. At the same time I must be on the lookout for ways to overcome the impending media drought which we have not yet seen truly strike us. I am enthused about new releases from Adobe and Avid and I expect Apple rumors and facts to preoccupy much of our time. Storage continues to be an important part of what we do and I hope to meet up with many innovators that have figured out how to make the digital asset laundrymat a cool place to hang out. It is becoming more important for all of us to not put off safekeeping of our growing file-based camera originals along with all of the iterations for the edit process and for delivery.  I sometimes feel like Chicken Little warning of impending doom if you don’t invest in smart and safe storage.  If we undervalue how to access and restore valuable content along with intelligent searching and tagging we will someday learn the hard way that the current way was often too risky and shortsighted. I would like to say that I am interested in seeing the latest in 3D (including recent announcements by GoPro 3D and Cineform) but I can’t say that I will be preoccupied with it. Not all production markets are demanding 3D and I think New England has been hesitant to jump in – although we at Rule are well prepared to assist and deliver 3D solutions for anyone interested! As always, much of NAB is meeting with people and I hope to meet many new faces along with good friends that reemerge year after year. By the way, here’s a hint – Be on the lookout for some exciting new announcements from Rule that may take some by surprise! Hope to see you on the show floor! Tom Talbot

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Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival 2011

It’s my favorite season again- Film Fest Time! Rule Boston Camera supports a number of film festivals in New England, one of them being the Martha’s Vineyard Film Fest, which was held from last Thursday to this past Sunday and was in one word — AWESOME.  It was extremely well organized and the most enjoyable one I’ve been to yet.  I was privileged to watch (3) films during my stay – “How to Die in Oregon”, addressing Doctor-assisted suicide, “I Am” by Director Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty) exploring the world’s greatest minds with deep questions and personal revelations, and “We Still Live Here,” about the Wampanoag Indian’s reviving their ancient language and making it a part of everyday life after over 100 years of silence.  Most films had Q&A afterward, which, to me, is one of the props of the FF’s — being able to hear insight on editing, shooting challenges, etc.  It was fun to see lots of people with Rule Boston Camera hats walking around, and much thanks to Molly Purves, who made my stay (and everyone else’s) comfortable and easy.  Free (good) catered food with the movies, so if you are thinking of going to this fest in the future, you are literally looking at a $16 ferry ticket, hotel and movie tickets. A fairly cheap weekend, if you ask me and well-worth the trip.  Next year should be interesting, as Martha’s Vineyard has expressed a desire to build a facility strictly for films.  Personally, I hope they keep the 12 couches in back of whatever they build because that may be the greatest decision to date. If you want to look at more, follow me on Twitter @michelle_brooks and @ruleboscam and see my opinion of the films this weekend. Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales Representative

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Arri ALEXA 3.0 Software Update

Exciting news here at RBC is that Arri, keeping with their promise of delivering updates for ALEXA, have recently released version 3.0 which now allows video playback of the clips from the SxS media cards, audio recording via the 5 pin XLR stereo input and embedded in the HD-SDI outputs, and max 3200 ASA. Push the PLAY soft button on the camera side, and scroll through the clips to select one. Push the knob and your viewing your footage on all outputs. A future update will allow audio to play back as well, but for now this is another step in the right direction from Arri. With ALEXA’s multiple output and record options, 3.0 has made it easier to independently select each output/record path gamma setting. For example; record LogC to SxS cards while outputting Rec709 from HD-SDI outputs. All easily accessible from the lcd without going into the menu hierarchy. The Rec709 color processing has also been improved from last version. If you do choose to record LogC to SxS , Arri has made available a LUT generator (Look Up Table) on their website for downloading LUT’s and applying them to footage in post. The viewfinder has an optional Smooth mode which reduces flicker in the viewfinder at 30fps and under. A much more pleasant viewing experience but this will not be the same as all other outputs which will still have motion flicker in respect to frame rates. False Color Check can be activated in the viewfinder and/or the monitor output path. False Color Check is an exposure level guide using different colors to relay different exposure levels in your picture. This is helpful as it’s the only exposure guide in the camera. Where traditional video and HD cameras have Zebra settings or spot meters, ALEXA is based on setting an ASA and measuring for that sensitivity. A more traditional film method.

False Color Map (From ALEXA manual 3.0)
Metadata can be set via the lcd which includes production info like director, cinematographer, location, and user info that could include scene names,etc. The data is saved with the ProRes files making it available post. Single Frame Grab is a nice function that will store the current frame in the Rec Out path to the cameras SD card as 1920×1080 Jpeg, Tiff, or Dpx files. Thanks to Arri for keeping the updates coming and ALEXA evolving. The camera will continue to produce exceptional images with amazing latitude into the future. Dave Kudrowitz Senior Engineer

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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

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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

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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