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, email@example.com
Up Close with Canon’s New Line of Cine Primes & Zooms
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. 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, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Concept of Ease in Filmmaking
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, email@example.com
The Kessler CineDrive: A Robot with A Mind of Its Own?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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, email@example.com
The Quest for Knowledge (aka Summer Intern Highlights so far)
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. 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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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.
– Jason Potz, Engineering, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ever-Evolving F55 and F5
The F55 and F5 are really something. Just when you think you know them, there’s another update! For over a year now, the F55 and F5 have been steadily making their way on a pre-planned firmware path that continuously adds to what these cameras can do. No other camera has gestated outside of the factory as long as these have. Version 3.0 was going to finish the cameras but then 4.0 was announced and the cameras just keep giving! The number of codecs (XAVC, MPEG50, SR, RAW and now ProRes and DNxHD!), frame rates (up to 180 internal and 240 on R5), and mount options (PL, F, B4, EF, etc.) make the F55 and F5 the most versatile cameras on the market. It’s that flexibility, however, that can make them a little tricky to learn at first. Version 3.0 has been out for a little while so we’ve had some time to suss it out. We invite you to another F55/F5 demo in our Showroom on Wednesday, March 26th at 12PM to learn more. 3.0 Stand-Out Features: Apply, route, and record a variety of LUTs, e.g., shoot RAW and simultaneously record S-log with or without a LUT baked in on SxS. You can even use Sony’s free software, Raw Viewer, to create your own 1D LUTs to load into the camera. 2K Center Scan mode is not to be overlooked. Normally, you’re always using the full Super 35 4K CMOS sensor regardless of what resolution you want to shoot. Windowing in on the sensor, though, allows the ability to use Super 16mm lenses which offers more choices for look, cost, and weight. This is a great feature that got a lot of people’s attention. The new color space option, S-Gamut3/S-Log3 offers a more filmic curve that allows more detail in shadows and the application of standard LUTS, not necessarily made by Sony. S-log 2 allows more information in the highlights, i.e., you can overexpose slightly with 2 and underexpose slightly with 3.
Live Keying with the Sony AWS-750 Anycast Touch
When the new Sony Anycast Touch live switcher showed up here at Rule, no one really knew what to make of it. The knee-jerk reaction to the dual touch screen, Star Trek looking switcher, was a wave of mild curiosity – followed closely by the inevitable “Where are all the buttons!?” See, in the world of live events, switchers usually have switches — physical buttons, knobs, and other touchy-feely things to give the user some satisfying real-world feedback when using the equipment. The new Anycast Touch, as one could assume from its namesake, looks more like an iPad than a switcher – and after you accept the new form factor, it’s awesome. In this post, I won’t be going into every nut and bolt on the Anycast Touch. Instead, I’ll be focusing on one advanced ability — live keying. If you’d like to know more about the overall basic operation, my tips and tricks, and a more in-depth outline of advanced workflows, RSVP to email@example.com for my Learning Lab here at Rule on March 26th. We’ll be going over a handful of real-world switching situations to acclimate both seasoned vets and users who are new to live event production. In the past, doing live chroma key work has always been a daunting task. Lighting your green or blue screen evenly was absolutely essential to getting a good, passable key – and to a large extent, this is still true today. The Anycast Touch is very forgiving, though. It deals with hot spots and wrinkles fairly well, though spill is something one should always be mindful of. A good rule of thumb is to simply get your talent as far away from that colored backdrop as possible for your framing. The Sony Anycast Touch is unlike any other switcher when it comes to live keys (or anything else, really). The interface for keying will look familiar to any users who have used chroma keying features in any popular NLE. While it isn’t as populated with intricate refining features like Adobe’s UltraKey or Keylight, it’s surprisingly powerful. Sony gives us 3 main sections in the Chroma Key settings: 1) Chromakey, 2) Crop, and 3) Size/Position. I won’t spend too much time on the last 2, as they’re fairly self-explanatory. In the main panel, though, we have some interesting choices. The “Auto” mode is very robust, and often gets it pretty close. When in auto mode, we are given a small white box on our main display to move around (I prefer using a mouse and keyboard when using the Touch, as it makes dragging this box around much easier than using your finger). I find that selecting the darker spots of your green/blue screen produce the best results — though lighting your screen evenly is always recommended. Even so, I’ve gotten some remarkable results from wrinkled and uneven lighting — there is enough forgiveness here for users of all levels to give it a shot. Color Cancel is a great addition by Sony — it is your basic “spill suppression.” Instead of adding magenta to green, though, it simply finds any leftover areas of the sampled color and desaturates them. This is fantastic for tough keys with fairer skin and lighter hair. I wish there were ways to adjust the amount of hue and luma for the key’s selection, but, even without it, it seems to work very intuitively. Sometimes, if your talent is wearing darker clothing, this can present itself as a fine grey outline. Fiddling with the manual gain and density adjustments is usually enough to get it passable. Disable Colors will help you select as to whether you want to composite your title graphics, or have them overlay as normal. Not much to worry about here – basic rule of thumb is to leave it be unless your titles are behaving strangely. My recommended workflow for keying is to use auto mode to get you in the ballpark – if you’ve lit your screen fairly well, you often won’t need to mess with anything else. If you’re finding issue, switching to manual will save the auto settings, then adjusting the Clip slider is usually enough to get you the rest of the way there. Here’s a photo of the test we set up: I tried to emulate a portable, lower budget situation for users who would be on location, streaming live to the web or to internal monitors. We used a collapsible Chroma Key flex-fill, clamped to a few C-Stands. For lighting, I threw up some Litepanels 1×1’s, with full diffusion and ¼ CTO to keep the greens looking green. For our single key light, I used the Litepanels Ringlite Mini. A small LED light would be a great addition to this set up for some fill light, but I tried to keep things simple. Our camera? Your standard Canon 5D mkIII with a 24-70mm, stopped down to f4. Here’s a still from this setup, with our own Jenn Jennings reading the weather! You can see that even with a very basic set up, you can get a pretty convincing chroma key up and running without too much fuss. Green screen live can be a great tool for corporate productions, broadcast situations, and webcasts. It can also be a great way to easily get a visually interesting interview background when space and budget is limited. In addition to the traditional chroma key situations, one can also use chromakey for using animated titles. The Anycast Touch, at the end of the day, is still a switcher, and switchers are always going to be limited in certain ways. With the Touch, we are unable to import animated graphics into the internal SSD for use in the titling section. Even when exported with an alpha channel, the Touch can’t process it. By using chromakey, however, we are able to circumvent this limitation. We can use the internal media player and chromakey effect to knock out the background, and use live animated graphics. In this way, your graphics are really limited only by your graphic designer’s talents! Here’s a video sample using a gaudy animated lower third I threw together in After Effects. Exported as a simple MP4, I used a highly saturated green as the background. The Touch removes it perfectly on the auto setting, and we’re able to use animations to really raise production value. The added text has been created and faded on using the Anycast Touch title interface. Perfect for sports when you need to throw back to instant replay, probably having two opposing team’s helmets smash into one another and explode. Or maybe a robot doing jumping jacks. You get the idea. The one drawback to this workflow is that Sony only allows you to have a single media player for internal video at a time — so by using it up on the animation, we can no longer put an internal video behind it at the same time internally. Not the end of the world, or even a common situation, but definitely food for thought. So there you have it. Not so bad, right? With just a flex-fill green screen, a couple lights and a DSLR, you can add tons of production value to both small and large scale productions. I’ll be covering a whole lot more in my Learning Lab on March 26th, so be sure to RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org to get the nitty-gritty details on this cool new product. -Alex Enman, Engineer, email@example.com
Get Your MoVI Moving: Part 2
That moment when the olive green Cinema Oxide case was placed by my desk will never be forgotten. What could be in there? Will this be life changing? What does all this mean? Long story short, by opening that case my life has changed drastically. I find myself thinking as a parent does for their child. However, my child’s name is a bit out of the norm. MoVI M10 has a nice ring, don’t you think? Like any relationship, there are highs and lows. The M10 and I have shared all of these moments from the early headaches at the shop to the winter sunset walks along the Charles River. As our relationship has grown over the past few months, I have learned to appreciate MoVI for what it can do for the entire production community. It is a true game-changer that provides new opportunities and ease. I have mentioned how easy the unit is to use, but I want you to take that with a grain of salt. There is a lot of time and effort that one needs to invest in order to initially understand how the M10 works and functions. It’s not as simple as taking it out of the box and starting to shoot right away. There are a few steps to remember in order to get optimal operation from the M10. Before any balancing starts to happen, you always want to make sure that your camera is completely built up. Have your lens, follow focus, transmitter, cables, etc., all squared away. Even the weight of the lens cap will make a difference. Once the M10 is powered on, you want to refrain from adding or subtracting any weight. Adding and subtracting weight will throw the balance off, thus resulting in the motors working harder than necessary. Once the camera is set, it’s time to start the balancing procedures. Pan, Tilt, and Roll will be your favorite three words after spending some time with the M10. These are the three axes that the M10 works upon. Your balancing will be done in conjunction with these motors and functions. At this point your camera is attached to the sled, and you are making fine adjustments to get your perfect balance. When you first start balancing the M10, you’ll want to channel all of your patience and take deep breaths. Sometimes the littlest adjustments will make all of the difference in a negative or positive way. Once you have spent enough time with the balancing process, it will start to become natural. Soon enough, you will have no problem swapping from a built-up Epic to a Blackmagic Pocket Camera. Well, what are you waiting for? Now is the time to experience the M10 and introduce it as part of your next production. Just remember to take the time and learn the ways of the MoVI before you get on set. This extra prep time will save you from a headache and a frustrated Director. Now Is The Time for The MoVI M10! -Dylan Law, QC Tech, firstname.lastname@example.org JOIN RBC’S MIKE SUTTON AND DYLAN LAW FOR AN INTRO TO THE MOVI M10 LEARNING LAB ON WED., 2/26 FROM 10AM-12N. RSVP: EVENTS@RULE.COM.
Get Your MoVI Moving: Part 1
The buzz of excitement around the MoVI M10 by Freefly Systems is something for the record books. Every website is featuring articles on the M10, and test footage is being posted daily. I haven’t seen anything like it since the RED One was launched at NAB back in 2007. This three-axis brushless gimbal system really is a game changer in my opinion. After working with the unit for some time, I have gotten over the “hype” and started to realize the practicality of the unit and how it may start to change the way we think of putting a project together.
Dolly Track, Operators, Jibs, Cranes, and much more won’t be a thing of the past, but, if one is working on a budget, there is a solution now that will help to cut down on all of these costs. Sure, it may cost a nice chunk of change to buy, but renting the M10 is a great option. Less bodies and gear on set has never been a bad thing. One MoVI Operator, One Focus Puller, One Remote Control Operator and a Director sounds like a great production day. It’s that simple, and you can create a look that would take days of pre-production and hours of assembly on set to achieve. When you go to playback that first shot, trust me, you will be blown away at what you just captured in such a minimal manner. After seeing what was possible with the M10, it was time to push it to the limits. Why not run with it at full speed and see what happens? Well, what happened was a shot that was so unbelievably smooth, I had to watch it three times! The footage was so much better than I expected. Then we received the Ninja Star Adapter. At that point, I hadn’t heard much about what this would open up in terms of shooting with the MoVI. Boom!!! I grabbed the Porta-Jib and attached the MoVI to the Jib in an under-slung fashion, and it was time to rock. The results were hands-down the most responsive Remote Head I have ever worked with. Oh, and just to remind you all…it was Smoooooth!! The ten-pound load capacity that the M10 offers may scare one away at first. Fear not, you can achieve a very high level of production while using the unit for your project. Are you looking to work with the RED Epic? Consider it a done deal and with accessories. Let’s use a Wireless Follow Focus System with that Zeiss Superspeed, and, of course, you want to transmit to a Wireless Monitor as well. All of these high-level production needs are possible with just a bit of tinkering and patience. Oh, you say that you work with the Canon 5D MIII, Black Magic Cinema Camera, FS700, Canon C300, or C100? Not a problem in the least bit. All of these cameras will pair just perfectly with the MoVI M10, and the footage will be oh so smooooth!!!! -Dylan Law, QC Tech, email@example.com JOIN RBC’S MIKE SUTTON AND DYLAN LAW FOR AN INTRO TO THE MOVI M10 LEARNING LAB ON WED., 2/26 FROM 10AM-12N. RSVP: EVENTS@RULE.COM.
And then the camera moves left…
How often when storyboarding your next project, do you plot in a camera move? I mean a major one, not just a tilt up or pan left. I know that in my own projects, it’s been a long time since I planned for a large move. Without an entire G&E department to support my projects or the budget for a Steadicam operator, I just want to keep everything as easy for myself as possible. But I also know that by skipping this, I’m wasting a big part of the beauty of motion pictures. Now that I’m interning at Rule, I’ve had the chance to see a few options for camera moves that might be within reach for my own projects. In less than a month, I’ve seen jibs and a Steadicam rig, as well as two options that I think could really work for my next project… the Easy Jib by Grip Control and a Doorway Dolly. The first, the Easy Jib (as you may know if you’ve ever seen it before) is basically a large slider. This is the perfect tool for getting roughly a five foot move into your project. It’s long, but not very heavy, and doesn’t have a ton of add-ons, so you can easily get it into a third floor walk-up. You can put it on a table or a counter or on two stands or even on the floor for a nice low angle. It’s also easy to operate with only one person. Just a gentle hand to guide the glider and the other can pan or rack focus. The only real cons are the limited size and the fact that you really need an external monitor. It’s not easy to follow an eyepiece with this dolly. The other dolly, the Doorway Dolly, is another great option, albeit a much bigger, less easily transported one. But there’s no need to wrangle a bunch of track with this dolly. It has four reasonably quiet rubber tires and can hold a standard size tripod. As you can guess, though, you need at least two people to pull off any camera moves with this dolly. One person to drive and one person along for the ride to operate the camera. Additionally, I found that the steering, while relatively easy, is not an exact science. Without tracks to guarantee an exact mark, you could end up just to left or right of where you wanted to be. This could make for a focusing nightmare if you’re working in low-light, wide-open aperture situations. Overall, I like both of these options. Both get the camera moving around the room without a cumbersome track system and without much added to your gear list. They might seem slightly unromantic compared to other options that are out there, but sometimes all you need is a little utility to get the job done well! Happy filming! – Rachel Wiederhoeft, Fall 2013 Intern
General Audio Kits
When working on a films, I’ve noticed that sound is typically the thing I’m least worried about. This isn’t because it is an easy, insignificant part of filmmaking, because it’s the exact opposite. Sound is a very important part of a film, and does just as hard of a job of telling a story and evoking feeling as story, acting, and cinematography. That is why I’ve come to acclimate myself with the various equipment used for recording sound. The first, and most important instrument in sound production is the Sound Device 702 recorder. This piece of equipment has two sound channels, XLR and BNC outputs, records to compact flash cards, and has easily navigable menus. On top of all this, it is made of a sturdy (albeit heavy) material that will prevent simple destruction or damages. The 702 recorder works well with the Sound Devices 302 mixer. Along with the recorder, the mixer is an extremely compact, portable, and ergonomic device. Its three channels are easily monitored and adjusted, requiring little time to learn. As for devices for gathering sound, I have found that there are numerous options. Obviously there is the array of dynamic and condenser microphones (cardioids, hyper-cardioids, omni-directional microphones, and so on). The latter are the typical “shotgun” microphones that are mounted on top of cameras, or found at the end of boom poles. They are the go-to microphones for filmmaking. For scenarios in which condenser microphones aren’t practical – such as for wide shots when boom poles risk being seen and camera microphones are too far for authentic sound – then there is a wireless alternative: lavalier microphones. Rather than looking for a ficus to hide a condenser microphone in, a lavalier microphone is wireless, and can be mounted and hidden on the actors and acquire usable sound. When I say usable sound, I mean sound that doesn’t quite come to par with condensers, but considering the situation, they get the job done. Many times filmmakers will gawk at the idea of using lavalier microphones because of a lav’s potentially inferior quality (especially when you have cats in the scene – they’ll play with the little bobbing microphone like a ball of yarn). However, the day will come when your boom pole will catch fire, and all you’ll have left are these bad boys. On the subject of wireless sound devices, there is an astoundingly useful tool for filmmakers to use behind the camera: the HME 800 or HME PRO 850. These are kits with 5 headsets with built-in microphones that are used like walkie-talkies (however, with many more batteries required). This intercom kit is so practical that its uses are near limitless. On set crew can communicate swiftly without running around; assistant directors can let a set know what the afternoon schedule looks like; and in a case where a shot requires multiple cameras with operators, a director of photography can give each one of them commands without any issues. The HME 800, and the HME PRO 850, are both quite intuitive devices and require very little time to learn and grow accustomed with. Even though they aren’t used for the creative part of filmmaking, “in front of the camera,” they are priceless assets for effective and efficient management on a set. This amalgamation of sound devices each has their own strengths and weaknesses. The benefit with having each of these items on your film set provides you with options, and options create flexibility, and flexibility leads to efficiency. -Kyle Huemme, Fall 2013 Intern, Curry College
Falloff Rates and Dimmer Accuracy
Built-in Dimmers are oh-so-convenient. If a cloud screws up the relation of an artificial fill or you just want less heat on the side of her face, bliss is just a twist away. But how useful are these built-in dimmers in creating dramatic changes in exposure? Are the dimmers really calibrated to be useful to a precise cinematographer? I tested three popular lights to compare which lights had the most useful dimmer system: the 1×1 Lightpanel (LED), the Kinoflo Diva (daylight fluorescent), and the Bron Kobold 400 Watt All-Weather System (HMI). The criterion for a “useful dimmer” included a consistent fall-off rate in exposure (f-stop) as the light is dimmed (proportionally) and accurate visual measurement markings around the knob corresponding to the change in brightness measured. If I’ve turned the knob halfway but the light hasn’t cut down at all, I’m not happy.
If you glance briefly at the graphs (but don’t scrutinize them too much) you’ll see the LED easily wins for best dimmer system. Its results form the closest semblance of a linear graph. Even more surprisingly, I found that the incremental knob markings accurately cut the light between a ½ or full stop all the way to the 25 mark. Second place goes to the Kinoflo Diva. It got off to a rocky start, but eventually started dimming noticeably. However, I quickly realized that the dimmer markings were more of a nice yellow design and not meant to be accurate in the least. The arbitrariness of the Kinoflo Diva, regardless of marked change near the end, make it useful for quick, sizable adjustments, but it is not nearly as precise and nuanced as the LED. Furthermore, it can turn from 4 bulbs to 2 bulbs, which probably mirrors its dimmer in its restrictedness. So what’s the point of the dimmer? The HMI finished last—and who could blame him? HMIs already rock and have nothing to prove (this one is even waterproof) but if it’s not going to dim in any noticeable way, don’t waste our time with a dimmer system. Perhaps this is due to a poorly executed experiment (I’m a film major, take it easy), or maybe the HMI takes longer to warm up to its dimmer settings. But those last minute touches can’t freeze a shoot for five minutes as the HMI gets its act together. Clearly, then, the HMI has arbitrary markings on its ballast and isn’t too concerned with dimming itself. But it is still the brightest. We’ll give it a point for that. Here’s the data if you really really really like dimming/mood lighting/being picky about exposure/like turning knobs. KINOFLO Diva (fluorescent) Full = f/8 2 clicks dimmed= f/8 4 clicks dimmed = f/8 6 clicks dimmed= f/8 7 clicks dimmed= f/5.6 8 clicks dimmed= f /2.8-4 split 9 clicks dimmed = f/2 all the way down (but not off)= f/1.4 Bron Kobold 400 Watt All-Weather System (HMI) Full= f/8-11 split 1 click= f/8 and ¼ 2 clicks= f/8 3 clicks= f/8 4 clicks= ¼ under f/8 5 clicks = f/5.6-8 split 6 clicks = f/5.6-8 split off= underexposed. 1×1 Lightpanel (LED) 100%= f/8 90%= f/ 5.6-8 split 80%= ¼ under f/5.6 75%= f/4 65%= f/2.8-4 split 50%= f/2-2.8 split 35% = f/2 25%= underexposed 15%= underexposed off= underexposed -Bryan Sih, Fall 2013 Intern, Boston University
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.