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Azden

The Azden brand goes along with Rode and Sennheiser, but they seem to have filled a gap that has been left open for awhile by the mainstream brands.  Juiced Link and Beachtek have both produced small sound mixers, that leave some to be desired, but Azden has housed their own in a more sophisticated, small box that operates in the same fashion, but gives the user more control over their levels, as well as includes a jack for headphones in addition to the dual XLR inputs, and the L and R channel level controls. Azden also covers a FMX 42/42a 4-channel portable mixer, which offers 4 XLR inputs and 2 XLR outputs plus a mini plug output, adjustable input level monitor level, and adds a 10-pin  and mini plug camera return. These sound mixers run from $400 for the smaller dual channel mixer to $840 for the larger 4 channel mixers. Another unique product is the Azden dual receiver/transmitter kit. Running at $750, this price is highly competitive with buying two Azden or Sennheiser kits at around $599 each.  This dual receiver allows you to mic two people and run separate channels into one receiver, rather than using two receivers and two transmitters. Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales – brooks@rule.com

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Sachtler ACE/FSB4 Quick Comparison

Many people question the wisdom of buying an ACE over a Sachtler FSB4, so I thought I would hopefully put some of those questions to rest. The Sachtler line is well known for their FSB4 and FSB6 tripods, which are the go-to tripods for smaller and standard camcorders.  These tripods fit cameras anywhere from the Canon XF-105 to the PMW EX3. FSB4 holds 8.8 lbs, weighs 10.7 lbs, and also has 5 steps of counter balance and 3 grades of drag but also contains a spring loaded counter balance, which the ACE has, but as far as the actual “fluid drag system” the ACE has its own patented name for its fluid drag, which does not allow for a technical comparison between it and the Sachtler FSB4, because there are no numbers to compare or info on how the heads are made exactly, that is Sachtler patented information. The Ace, which was introduced last year, also holds 8.8 lbs, weighs 9.7 lbs., and its price point of $535 makes getting a professional tripod more do-able for those on a budget.  It features 5 steps of counter balance and 3 grades of drag. The biggest difference between the two? The ACE’s head is made of plastic (glass fiber composite) , while the Sachtler FSB4 is aluminum.  They are similar in weight, hold capacity, height, and style.  You’ll feel the drag function more smoothly in the FSB4 than the ACE. The latest update is that the ACE now is being offered with carbon fiber legs, in telescopic proportions.  That mean 10.2″ min height, no spreader, and only 5.1 lbs. for the legs.  These legs will also be available for tripods such as the FSB 4.  The Carbon Fiber version will run somewhere around the price of the aluminum Sachtler, which is $899. Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales – brooks@rule.com

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CANON U.S.A. ADDS TWO NEW CAMERAS TO THE CINEMA EOS SYSTEM: THE EOS C500 4K DIGITAL CINEMA CAMERA AND THE EOS C100 DIGITAL VIDEO CAMERA

Two New Camera Models Fill Out a Well-Rounded Cinema EOS Line-up with High-End 4K and Entry-Level HD Camera Solutions Canon issued a press release this morning. The full text of the press release can be found here. Here is a quick bullet list of highlights from the release: Canon EOS C500 4K Digital Cinema Camera Estimated list price of $30,000. Available October 2012 C500 is Canon’s high-end professional 4K (4096 x 2160-pixel) cinema camera capable of originating uncompressed RAW output for external recording C500 and C500 PL cameras output 4K resolution to external recorders as a 10-bit uncompressed RAW data stream as well as output quad full-HD (3840 x 2160), 2K (2048 x 1080), full HD (1920 x 1080), and other imaging options. When shooting in 2K, the C500 and C500 PL cameras employ a 12-bit RGB 4:4:4 signal format from one to 60 frames-per-second (fps) For high-speed shooting and slow motion capture the cameras can be set to a 10-bit YCrCb 4:2:2 mode, and can output 4K or 2K video up to 120 fps. Simultaneously record a 50 Mbps Full HD video file in-camera to the user’s choice of one or two CF cards. Canon EOS C100 Digital Video Camera Estimated list price of $7,999. Available November 2012 Compact, affordable entry-level model delivering full 1920×1080 HD video AVCHD codec -24Mbps in full HD 1920 x 1080 and 4:2:0 color space Records to dual SD cards EF mount ONLY 85% of the size of the EOS C300 Super 35mm 16:9 CMOS ISO range of from 320 to 20,000 includes a push auto iris function, one-shot auto focus (or full manual focus and exposure control), a multi-angle 3.5-inch LCD control panel, a high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF), built-in ND filters, dual XLR inputs, locking HDMI output. We look forward to talking in more detail about these two new cameras and will no doubt be featuring a future Learning Lab as soon as demo units become available. Tom Talbot Director of Technology

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Canon Cinema with SNL’s Alex Buono

Those who braved the spontaneous monsoon and made their way to the Yawkey Theater at WGBH in Boston on Wednesday, August 1st, were treated to an inspiring, funny and informative discussion with Alex Buono, the Director of Photography for Saturday Night Live’s Film Unit. The event was sponsored by FRONTLINE, Rule Boston Camera and Canon, and guests were wined and dined and encouraged to see, touch and shoot with the new C300 camera, which has been unbelievably popular since its release earlier this year. Buono uses the C300 in addition to several other Canon cameras for his work, including the 5D Mark II, 7D and the XF305. He shared some of his experiences on set and delved into how and why Canon’s cameras allow him to accomplish things he never could before in less time than ever, plus dropped tips and tricks throughout his presentation for people looking to get into DSLR or cine-style shooting. Naturally, I can’t cover everything here, but I’ll highlight some of the most interesting tidbits.

Buono started shooting for the SNL Film Unit back in 1999, when they were still shooting on film. That was a challenge, he said, because their typical shooting schedule goes like this: the writers deliver the script on Wednesday, they prep on Thursday, shoot on Friday and edit and air the final product on Saturday. Those turnaround times were brutal with film, but with new tapeless workflows, especially with the MXF MPEG-2 format the C300 shoots, they don’t have to bog themselves down with film processing or telecine, or even the painful rendering times that other video workflows might require. Canon’s cameras made it onto Saturday Night Live’s broadcasts in 2009, when Buono used the then-new 5D Mark II to shoot the opening sequence for the show. It was a bold step and a big undertaking, but he was impressed by the unprecedented light sensitivity, the ability to shoot in tiny spaces with a much smaller crew, and of course, the picture quality and shallow depth of field that he had struggled to achieve since leaving his film cameras on the shelf years before. After the success of that shoot, they adopted DSLRs into their workflow and have now added the C300 to their arsenal, which is Buono’s favorite tool yet. I was excited to see how Buono uses these cameras in his work every week and some of the additional equipment he has been particularly fond of. He spoke highly of a number of third-party accessories, including the “Target Shooter” and “The Event,” which are two different shoulder rigs from Zacuto and Red Rock Micro, respectively. He also never leaves home without his Zacuto Z-Finder Pro. Buono also showed off some seriously useful smartphone apps he relies on for location shooting, like Sunseeker and Helios for tracking movement of the sun. Most impressively, he showed us how to do “virtual location scouting” with Google Earth. Using their 3D building models and the time of day feature, he could track the movement of the sun throughout the day, plan out all of his framing, plus get contact information for buildings he wanted access to—all within the Google Earth application. Buono spent a good portion of his presentation talking about the technical specifications of the C300, but emphasized an important point (and my favorite tip from the evening): filmmaking is not a science project. In an industry where it’s easy to get caught up in numbers, feature lists and marketing jargon, it’s important to remember that these cameras are filmmaking tools that help us achieve our visions as storytellers. And the introduction of more affordable equipment and the resulting leveling of the playing field has allowed people to focus less on how much money and effort it takes to get a good picture and more on the things that really matter—good writing and good performances. That being said, he went into a detailed discussion about how the C300 captures and records color information, how capturing two green channels on the sensor dramatically improves low-light capability and how the form factor has significantly improved their flexibility while shooting, both with shoulder/handheld setups and in Steadicam applications. He also emphasized how great it is to be able to shoot a scene with Andy Samberg in the middle of Times Square without swarms of tourists taking any notice at all. Shooting incognito is a luxury few crews with SNL’s level of exposure enjoy. I was also pleased to hear him talk about the importance of color grading with tools like Apple Color, Final Cut Pro, Tiffen DFX or Magic Bullet. He also emphasized how critical good sound is, and recommended that everybody use a decent microphone (like the Rode Stereo VideoMic Pro) and record to something other than a DSLR—be it in-camera on the C300 or with external recorder (like the Zoom H4N). Shooting at 24 frames per second instead of 30 or 60 and using a 180-degree shutter (1/50th of a second on a DSLR) was also his recommendation as the single most important (and probably easiest) step for achieving a cinematic look with your video. There was plenty more that Alex Buono had to say about his experiences shooting commercial parodies, skits and other videos for SNL, as well as his impressions of the new Canon C300, but there was simply too much great information to cover here. He’s been traveling all around the country giving these kinds of presentations, so if you’re lucky, he may be making his way to a city near you and you can hear more about what he has to say. You can also follow him on Twitter at @alexbuono or go to alexbuonoreel.com to see more of his work. Peter Brunet, Engineering Technician, brunet@rule.com

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The Ultra-Flexible SYMPLA System from Manfrotto

Manfrotto recently released the Sympla rig, which they call the “system moving platform.”  The name is quite fitting considering how many different variations of this rig are available.  Let’s go over the separate pieces, which include: HDSLR Clamp-On Remote Control: There are two versions of this — one with iris, shutter, ISO and focus point control, and the other with just focus point control.  The first one mentioned attaches with a Manfrotto rosette to the side of a Manfrotto Tripod and acts as a 2nd arm to the tripod, putting together a studio setup environment for the camera. Sympla Variable Plate: This is a fancy name for a Manfrotto baseplate which is actually similar to any Manfrotto quick release on the market that uses a 501 tipod plate.  It will fit most Manfrotto video and photo tripod heads, making the mount interchangeable. Sympla Shoulder Pad: This actually is not padded, but many people think it is very comfortable despite that fact.  It leans on the shoulder and allows a weight to hook on the back with a 3/8″ screw. Sympla Adjustable Handles: These are not 15mm rod mounted. They are handles custom to the Sympla rig, so you won’t be able to move or interchange them with handles on any of your other rigs.  They go straight down and the angle is adjustable at the very top of the handle. Sympla Flexible Mattebox: This mattebox is perhaps the coolest of it’s kind and the coolest on the market!  It is called a universal mattebox, but it is universal in more ways than one. It has 4 “lengths” — lengths equaling from the camera on out.  This mattebox is made of a thick flexible rubber, which holds shape when you bend it and adjusts to the way the light falls without changing your entire setup.  The mattebox pushes in to become smaller or pulls out to become longer.  It does include step down rigs and what is called Nuns Knickers, or a Shade to go between the camera and the step down ring to ensure that no light gets in. Fig Rig: The Fig Rig is a steering wheel that goes around the camera.  The lens sits through the steering wheel to balance the weight, and the shoulder pad is turned upside down to lean against you instead of going over you. Lens Support: Lens support is a sloped piece that sits under the lens to support it.  This is actually a nice way of doing it, as you don’t have to screw anything in. That being said, it’s a nice way to focus your DSLR while it’s attached to a rig, or think of it as another way of putting a tripod in a studio-like setup.  The focus is accurate and not painfully slow.   I would recommend this if you’re looking to operate a little differently than what you are used to with more flexibility — especially when you are shoulder mounted. –Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales, brooks@rule.com

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Shooting with the Ringlite Mini: Siiiick!

I was about to shoot a music video for a friend who is in a local Boston rock band called Nervous. We threw ideas around for a while, but we ended up with a pretty simple concept of a girl bumming around her house and eventually going on a bike ride. Not very complex, but who cares, it’s a music video! Our friend Marianne who would play the girl, had recently gotten into a bike accident. She had a busted up hand with a brace on it, and her eyeball had a few broken blood vessels in it. I felt these physical attributes would make the content weirder, and so I decided to accentuate them. For the opening shot, which is a close up of Marianne’s face, we used the Litepanels Ringlite Mini to make her eyes look even more bizarre. Specs of red in the white of her eye, and a ring of white in the pupil. It looked mad cool. I would even go as far as to say it looked dope.

The original intent of using the Ringlite was to gain a certain effect for all of the interior apartment scenes. I wanted it to look a bit like “Grey Gardens” and a bit like Fiona Apple’s video for “Criminal”. Both of these pieces use some type of camera mounted light. “Grey Gardens” being a doc with many dimly lit interiors, does it for necessity.

Grey Gardens

“Criminal”employs a drastic spotlight effect in interior spaces as a stylistic choice.

Criminal Music Video.
I wanted to meet in the middle between these two looks. I had the Ringlite mounted for every interior shot. Obviously it didn’t end up being the prettiest footage in the world, but that wasn’t the point of doing it. It gave the desired effect. As the camera moves in the wide shots, you can see the light fall off around all edges of the frame. As Marianne moves through the frame, her body  gets darker and lighter depending on her distance from the camera. Her skin even blows out a bit in the times where she briefly gets very close to the camera. I made her do many tasks around the house like wash dishes,make coffee, play video games, answer the phone, and change sweaters a number of times. All things that are somewhat dexterous, and that would accentuate the inconvenience of the hand brace. All of my close ups I did almost too close. When I would have normally used a 65 or an 85, instead I used a 135. I was changing lenses frequently, but the Ringlite wasn’t much of a hassle. It slides on and off with the greatest of ease. I had a pretty minimal setup with a Sony F3, set of Zeiss Superspeeds and the Ringlite. I had a couple other lights that I used sparingly. So I used the Ringlite for two totally different purposes and they both worked out splendidly. It’s easy to mount, very lightweight, and has a ton of adjustability and light level control. It’s siiiiiick. -Sam Smith, QC Technician, smith@rule.com

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Bags named Petrol

A question I get a LOT working at Rule is, “How do you guys choose your bags?”  The answer is: carefully.  When a new line or an interesting item comes on the market, we either take it is as a demo, or we stock it and try it out.  If it’s good, we order more.  If it’s bad, we never order it again. With bags, a lot of us here shoot.  We have our preferences.  We also rely a lot on our client’s referrals for what they use and are happy with.  I’m focusing this blog on Petrol because it’s not a new line of bags, but they’ve made several new developments feature-wise that I appreciate, that other companies have not yet adapted. The first nice thing, is the inclusion of a line of LED lights on the inside of the bag.  Night shoots, especially in the fall go after 5PM a lot of the time.  Packing up is often done in the dark, even if shooting isn’t.  Being able to open up your bag and see where things go without holding a flashlight in the other hand is an immediate bonus. The other is that Petrol makes really nice lighting bags.  They’re not cheap.  But if you’re looking for a bag that is SIMPLE, with wheels, and not overdone, Petrol makes a good one similar to the size of the Arri 3-piece light kit, except in soft-case, hard-foam form.   They also make a C-Stand bag, which comes in handy because, let’s admit it, C-stands are usually tossed in the van or truck un-cased, and they are awkward to carry around while trying to carry other equipment. An interesting addition to the Petrol line is the Cambio bag.  Prognosis is still out on this. Petrol is trying to be creative by putting a pull-out tripod on a bag, excluding the need for a tripod.  This is something that might seem dinky at first, but if you’re traveling up a mountain and now need a tripod and you’ve got one, this might seem like the best idea ever.  In everyday situations though, it’s always better to plan out your shots AND your equipment. A customer favorite is the Deca-Lightweight Audio Bag and the Deca Eargonizer.  These are well-designed sound recorder bags.  I pair everyone who is using more than just a sound recorder with one of these bags.  For example, if you are using a pair of wireless lavs with a sound recorder or mixer, this bag just makes sense. It’s organized with clear material in the right places and balanced with pockets for EVERYTHING so that you’re not fumbling around trying to separate wires and cords. That is a quick summation! In another few weeks, we will be stocking the Petrol PC104, the PC302, the Decashell Cam Backpack and the PM805.  The Decashell Cam Backpack is of specific interest, as it looks like a normal day backpack, yet holds a lot of gear.  It is mostly black with only small labels, so it will not draw attention to the equipment if you are going overseas!  Also feel free to email rulesales@rule.com, or any of our sales reps for more information. Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales, brooks@rule.com

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Tripod FAQs

The Manfrotto 701HDV, MVT502AM Tripod System with Carrying Bag is an LW tripod system kit for camcorders or DSLRs up to 8.8 lb. This System combines the 701HDV Pro Fluid Head with the new MVT502AM tripod.

This system is the smallest folding length of any Manfrotto to date.

Specs:

  • closed length: 29.53 in
  • maximum height: 61.42 in
  • minimum height: 27.76 in
  • load capacity: 8.82 lbs
  • weight: 8.38 lbs

The 504HD, 546BK has an aluminum crown head with a built-in 75mm bowl. The tripod’s telescopic mid-level spreader holds the tripod together and its sturdy feet connect to the legs without any problem.

Specs:

  • Maximum Height: 65.94 in
  • Minimum Height: 17.32 in
  • Load Capacity: 19.84 lbs
  • Weight: 13.89 lbs

Sachtler-Ace: Well, what’s different about the Sachtler Ace? It’s the only tripod with its own webpage (www.sachtler-ace.com) and includes a thrilling demo reel with the tagline “You only get one shot so make it count.”  Sachtler broke the $500 price mark range with a tripod that was ergonomical as well as affordable for the student, independent filmmaker, etc.

It includes a 5+0 counterbalance, 90-75 degree tilt range, 8.8 payload range.

Specs:

  • Weights: 10 lbs.
  • Height min: 22.4”
  • Height max: 68.1”
  • Transport Length: 34.3”

Now, I’m going to list the main comments, questions, and concerns that I get all the time from customers about tripods.

  1. I need a light tripod.  I can’t carry a heavy one. Now, I am 5’2″ and weigh under 100 lbs.  I get it.  But, the fact is that while you don’t want to break yourself, if your camera needs a heavier tripod, you’ve got to figure out a way to manage it. For example, you might get a tripod bag with wheels (Kata makes a great one) or bring another person along to carry it.  Do not fail in this area to get a tripod made for a 5D when you have a heavier camera or a lighter camera loaded up with accessories.
  2. What is the tripod that folds up the smallest? Most tripods do not fold up smaller than 34” long.  That’s the norm. Now, folding up length is different than standing minimum height.  But to answer the question, as far as I know, the one that folds up the smallest for travel is the Manfrotto 701, 502MVK at 29.9” long. 
  3. What is the difference between the FSB4 and the Sachtler Ace? Two main differences. Made of different materials at different parts. Different heads.  The FSB4 Head is the FSB4, the Ace is the ACE head.  These are made of different materials.  The FSB Head is made of aluminum, whereas the ACE head is made of aluminum and the silver bar in the middle is well-machined plastic.  The arm is shorter on the ACE than the FSB4. Ace has 3 grades of drag, FSB4 has 5. This affects the “fluid” feeling.  FSB4 has leak-proof fluid damping and a 10-step counterbalance system. ACE works at -30 where FSB4 works at -40 degrees.  ACE weighs 8.7 lbs, FSB4 weighs 9.7.  Spreader on the FSB4 is sturdier than on the ACE.
  4. I want thick legs.  Can I get thick sturdier legs with my head? Rule of thumb, the thicker legs that you see on Sachtler Video 18 heads, etc. normally fit with 100mm ball heads, which are definitely more expensive than 75mm heads, ranging more in the 2K-10K and up range.  Some manufacturers like Manfrotto make the 546BK legs, which are slightly thicker, and are generally wider than Sachtler legs that go with 75mm bowl heads. But if you want the thick, heavy legs, you need to go up to 100mm bowl, because the legs must also balance with the head to really control pan/tilt correctly with your camera. 
  5. Can I get a 75mm to 100mm bowl adapter? Yes.  Manfrotto, Sachtler, and Vinten all make 75 to 100mm bowl adapters. Except the way they are worded, only Kessler really has it right in their name for it because you are in fact going down in size, from 100mm to 75mm.  You cannot make the bowl bigger, from 75mm to 100mm because a 100mm adapter does not fit in a 75mm hole.  Plus, a 100mm head on 75mm legs wouldn’t make sense because it wouldn’t be supported or balanced.  These adapters range in $32 for Manfrotto to $154 for Sachtler.
  6. Can I use a photo tripod with my camera to make my camera go sideways? If you want.  But don’t take your hand off it because it’s going down to the ground if your camera is over 6 lbs!

Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales

brooks@rule.com

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What to do with the handle on the FS100 when it turns out that its not really a “handle”?

I was shooting recently with the FS100UK with the kit 18-200 lens, a Litepanel mini plus, a Sennheiser wireless receiver, and a Shotgun microphone in a poorly lit ‘”run & gun scenario”. The stock “handle” was not up to the task of supporting all of these accessories and required quite a few black hair elastics just to keep things from bouncing around. When I got back and reviewed the condition of our FS-100 handles in rentals, I said, ‘There has to be some better way of handling this’. With locking screws stripped and parts on back order from Sony, a simple repair was not the best solution. Enter Caleb Crosby of Shot Grip with his Wood & Aluminum handles for the FS100. (http://shootingmachine.net/) I immediately took a liking to the handles, and worked quickly to outfit our rental cameras with this accessory (featured in our showroom). Why worry about the plastic breaking again when we could replace it with something that provided a better end-user experience, more functionality, and more mounting options — not to mention a pretty sweet look too! We took advantage of Shot Grip’s stub clamps to re-mount the stock microphone, and a few others stub clamps for lighting accessories and a wireless transmitter. The package was complete! Caleb came by recently and we chatted about development of a new product he unveiled at NAB. Caleb will be getting us some more handles from craftsmen in a shop just north of us in Maine. I’m so grateful for such an easy and elegant solution to this problem. Adam Van Voorhis, Equipment Manager adamvanvoorhis@rule.com

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New Firmware Upgrade for Sony HXR-NX70U

The Sony HXR-NX70U, released last June 2011 has a new firmware upgrade now available to end-users that offers:

• Selectable zoom speed for the rocker zoom

• Dual recording  (simultaneous recording) to both internal memory and SDHC card

• Additional frame rates of 1920×1080/30p and 1280×720/60p

• Expanded focus and histogram button are now assignable buttons.

• An added menu feature, “Last Scene Review” for playback on the camera.

• Face Detection Box on the video output can now be controlled by the Display On/Off button.

• The Display On/Off overlay the zebra and histogram display on the video output.

You can access the firmware upgrade here:

http://pro.sony.com/bbsc/ssr/micro-nxcamsite/resource.downloads.bbsccms-assets-micro-nxcam-downloads-nxcamfirmwareupgrades

This upgrade is currently offered for free on the Sony website as a download when their camera is hooked up via USB, but if the user does not wish to upgrade via download, they can send the camera into Sony for a technician fee to have the upgrade done at Sony’s service facility, which for New England is located in Teaneck, New Jersey.

If you wish to do this, you can contact the Sony Support Center at 800-833-6817 Mon-Fri, 8:00 am – 8:00 pm. ET, excluding Holidays.

These are your options for Sony Service via Sony:

Sony Service Center

Sony Electronics Inc.

123 W.Tryon Ave.

Teaneck, NJ 07666

Phone: 201-833-5300

E-mail: TeaneckService@am.sony.com

Sony Service Center

Sony Electronics Inc.
2706 Media Center Dr.

Ste.13
LosAngeles, CA 90065

Phone:323-352-5000

E-mail: LAService@am.sony.com

The Sony HXR-NX70U was announced a year ago in April 2011, and literally made a splash at last year’s NAB in Las Vegas when Sony had it sit in a shower to demonstrate it’s unique water-resistant design.  The “chiihuahua” camera is another in Sony’s Prosumer NXCAM line, all of which record onto SDHC cards with an AVCHD codec, and carry a list price range of $2K-6K, including the well-known HXR-NX5U, HXR-MC50U, and soon-to-be released palm-sized HXR-NX30U, which features a built in projector, will list for $2,500 and will be available June 2012.

Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales

brooks@rule.com