Once again, here we are with me talking about a new small camera that everyone in the indie shooting world seems to be going bananas over! Similarly to when the GH4 launched (of which you can read my latest blog post by clicking here) — there has been an extreme amount of chatter about this new Sony camera. Is it worth the hype? Upon launch, it was touted as the end-all-be-all of DSLR cameras (yes, I know it’s not technically a DSLR!), and a direct competitor to Panasonic’s GH4. Both cameras are mirrorless, seem to have more than a few nods to video users, and come in at a fairly affordable price point. After those features, however, the similarities stop. The two cameras are very different animals — both with their own strange strengths and weaknesses. Family Tree The a7s succeeds two other cameras in the Sony lineup that, at a glance, seem the same. The a7, and a7r. The design of these cameras comes from almost a rangefinder idea — a small, street photographers secret weapon. And for stills, no one was going to argue the quality. I’m sure even Fuji was taking notice. When it came to video, however, the quality and feature set wasn’t anything to write home about. While the a7r matched that of the 5dIII in most instances, Canon had already bundled up the market years ago. The a7s, though, has built upon this small form factor and has pushed the video feature set to its ends. It continues with the full-frame-sized sensor, but in this case it seems to be an entirely new chip. Low Light While I’m not in love with the form factor of this tiny camera (I’ve got big, dumb hands), the image quality is staggering. Particularly, with its low-light capabilities. The color and detail data it is able to pull from near total darkness at ISO’s of 20,000 and even 50,000 is unlike any camera I’ve ever seen, in any market or price range. This isn’t just a low-light camera, it’s a night-vision camera. Take a look at this great test from James Miller — that blue sky you see is actually a night sky. Those green bushes? Dark splotches to the human eye. SLOG 2 & Grading Now, we aren’t all nature photographers who need to see into the dead of night all the time — so upon getting the camera in my hands, my first tests were tried and true charts. I was overjoyed to see SLOG 2 and S-Gammut profiles included in the kit. This camera is cheaper than a 5dIII, but it’s now including a log profile that was at one time a paid upgrade to the F3 camera?! Count me in! I set up my chart, brought my middle grey down to 35%, and threw on my SLOG2 luts. You know, the ones I’ve been using for the past 4 years! And wouldn’t you know, it looked… terrible. What?! What happened? Why were my shadows so grainy and noisy? I thought this was a low-light monster! I couldn’t understand it. After some more research and testing, I figured it out. SLOG 2 on the a7s rates the native ISO of the sensor at 3200 ISO – as opposed to say 2000 on the fs700 and f5, or 1250 on the f55. As this is a different sensor, it is handling its color science differently. I found that it is so light sensitive, the sensor prefers to be fed LOTS of light – to the point of seemingly over-exposing the image. I found that middle grey likes to live around 75%, rather than 35%. As the camera only provides zebras and a meter internally for exposure help, it’s perhaps easiest to set your zebra level to 95% or 100%, and ride the high end until right before clipping. Bringing the color and gamma down works like a charm, and in no time I had the chart performance I had expected: So perhaps this isn’t the same old same old SLOG 2 I had assumed – but once I figured out the optimal settings, I was very impressed. The dynamic range on this camera is very high, around 14 actual usable stops. That gets into high-end cinema camera territory. 4K Recording & XAVC-S The last major feature of the a7s is the 4K external recording option. Now, first off, the a7s is using a brand new “consumer” version of the very popular XAVC codec. Internally, this high bitrate and smart compression is very malleable, especially for being at its base an h.264 MP4 file. It sports a very fiddly micro-HDMI port through which it will send 4K, 4:2:2 uncompressed video. The only thing headed to market soon that will handle this in a portable way will be the new Atomos Shogun – delivery date is still TBA. I find time and time again that users can get hung up on external recording solutions. One should always push their internal codecs as far as they can to see where the line in the sand is going to be drawn, and I find XAVC-S and SLOG 2 to be a 1-2 punch when it comes to color grading. Here is a very pretty video from vimeo user Florian Knab — check out how even the 120fps 720p looks great in a web delivery situation. Final Thoughts With SLOG 2, XAVC-S, a full-frame sensor, frightening low-light sensitivity, and an easily adaptable E-Mount – I think the a7s is a great addition to the indie market. I wish it were able to record 4K internally and high-speed above 60fps at 1080 like its mirrorless GH4 counterpart – but even without these features, it’s a pretty fantastic little camera. If you’d like to learn a bit more about the a7s, my post workflow, and other ways to get the most out of it, be sure to check out my Learning Lab here at Rule Boston Camera on 9/24 at 10am. If you can’t make it in person, you’ll find it on our Learning Lab Vimeo Channel afterwards. -Alex Enman, Engineer, email@example.com
The Panasonic GH4: An Analysis (Part 2 of 2)
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com for my upcoming Learning Lab with the CineDrive on Wednesday, July 23rd from 10am-12n. If you can’t make it in person, you can watch it later on our vimeo channel at https://vimeo.com/channels/rulelearninglabseries. –Scott Pierce, QC, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com to get the nitty-gritty details on this cool new product. -Alex Enman, Engineer, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, 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.
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, 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.
New Lampless Projectors from Panasonic!
We had an opportunity to see one of the new Panasonic products – the recently-released PT-DZ470 projector. Jan Crittenden Livingston brought it to Rule before this Wednesday’s 5/8/13 Learning Lab, which was a recap of Panasonic’s featured products at this year’s NAB conference. The projector is very bright (3500 lumen) and shows material very quickly (no warm up time). It is not at all hot, has a very handy manual lens shift (joystick like), and it can be mounted horizontally or vertically. One of it’s main features is the fact that it does not use a lamp. As a result, it has a very long and trouble-free user time which is estimated to be 20,000 hours. It looks like there is no maintenance, and, with its very good, quality picture, it seems to be a really exceptional product — especially if its promised longevity is true! Zbigniew Twarog, Chief Eng. email@example.com
Sony F5 & F55 Learning Lab & Pub Night
The very well-received introduction to the new Sony cameras took place at Rule with a double header Learning Lab (a.m.) and Pub Night (p.m.). We had a good-sized crowd who applauded the new cameras modular build, ergonomics of design and “plug & play” functionality (camera recognizes any connected component and takes control over it). The cameras should be available in 2-3 weeks from now. Zbigniew Twarog, Chief Engineer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Developing High-Speed with the TS3Cine
It’s not breaking news that we have been waiting for a viable model of the much-lauded TS3cine to walk in our door. For the past 18 months, we have been working closely with the engineers at Fastec Imaging to develop an affordable, portable, DSLR-esque, high-speed camera. The wish list for the camera has been daunting: a stand-alone camera that will go anywhere and provide 720 HD resolution up to 720 fps, internal processing and storage capability, EF and PL mounts, a large high-resolution color LCD viewfinder while being lightweight and portable, and, finally, with the no-nonsense feel of a DSLR. The TS3 has been a challenge in the making, and we have been along for the ride (virtually on the edge of our seats) waiting for the first unit to arrive. Matt Kearney at Fastec arrives today with the camera (with fmount). We’ll post some photos later today and updates as they develop. In the meantime, join us for Wednesday’s, January 11th Learning Lab at 10am. Tom Talbot will have the TS3Cine prototype and provide an overview of the camera’s capabilities. Brian Malcolm, General Manager, email@example.com
Sony PMW-F3: Back to Back Events
Yesterday, we here at Rule Boston Camera were graced with the presence of Sony’s new Super35-style HD camera, the PMW-F3. We hosted our own event about the camera as part of our weekly Learning Lab Series, and then the New England chapter of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) held their own meeting about the camera and its technology here in the evening. Sony was kind enough to bring a prototype of the F3 as well as an SXRD 4K projector to show off their new tech. Each event had its own personal flair, but both offered interesting insights into Sony’s new large-sensor offering. I recommend reading Mike Sutton’s blog post for a more complete and more technical feature description, but I’ll highlight some of the important parts that were featured during Wednesday’s presentations. The morning Learning Lab event was led by Sony’s Peter Crithary, who took us through the functions of the camera and showed us some truly breathtaking short-form pieces shot by people at USC and Stargate Films. Right off the bat, I have to say the footage looks beautiful. Even with 35Mbit/sec XDCAM EX internal recording, the images hold up well to color grading and compositing. When the camera is attached to an external recording device, though, like an AJA KiPro, Convergent Design’s NanoFlash, or Sony’s own HDCAM SR deck, the imager on this thing really shines. No noise, great depth of field, impressive dynamic range—it has it all. Don’t forget that your lenses can make all the difference in the world! And with the appropriate adaptors, the F3 can use a variety of prime or zoom lenses that are large enough to cover the super35 imager. Peter’s presentation gave us a ton of information on what the camera can do and how it can be applied to the typical, or sometimes not-so-typical, workflow. Not only does it make pretty pictures, it also gives you functionality to boot. For the absolute highest-possible recording quality, he recommended recording to the internal SxS slots for an off-line version, while simultaneously taking advantage of the 4:4:4 Dual-Link SDI output (with a firmware upgrade, available soon) to an HDCAM SR deck for your on-line edit. Both versions will be in perfect sync and the workflow is totally seamless. You can also take advantage of the additional SD/HD switchable SDI port to run an on-set monitor for your client without the need for headache-inducing distribution amplifiers. You can even apply the Look Up Table (LUT) settings you plan to use in post-production color grading in the camera itself, allowing the DP and the client to see it in its (almost) final form—without affecting your 4:4:4 master. Amazing! This is far more than many people will actually take advantage of, but the scalability here is definitely notable. He also highlighted features like 3D Link, where you can connect two F3’s and with one cable, can control both simultaneously for perfectly-synced 3D shooting. Check out Peter’s Learning Lab session in its entirety on vimeo: http://vimeo.com/channels/rulelearninglabseries. While Peter’s presentation was a little more practical, aimed at the average user, Hugo Gaggioni took the reigns at the evening’s SMPTE event and spoke more on the technology behind the F3. He took us all the way back to the 70’s and 80’s when CCD imagers were first developed and discussed the transition to new CMOS technologies up to and including future 4K sensors along with the new Super35mm chip in the F3 itself. While not necessarily for the layman, his presentation was packed with fascinating information on how we got to be where we are now—and how the new chips coming out of Sony’s new manufacturing plant are changing the way we shoot HD, 3D and 4K. The people in attendance even got a sneak peek at some of the new technology Sony will be unveiling this year—very exciting stuff! The Sony F3 often seems to come up in conversations about the Panasonic AF100 and Canon’s line of DSLR’s. While the size of the sensor on each of these suggests they are all in the same class, this is hardly the case. Each one is designed to fit a certain set of needs and a certain budget. The F3 is in a slightly different price range than the offerings from Canon and Panasonic, but again, the functionality and feature set far outstrip its competition. On the flip side, however, at $16,000 list price, it is much cheaper than both the Red One and Arri Alexa, another set of cameras the F3 is bound to be compared to. What you must do is really evaluate the needs of your shoot and decide which of these cameras best suits your demands and budget. We were assured that the camera is on schedule to ship in February. We’re all excited about what this camera can do, and I hope you are, too! Peter Brunet, Engineering Technician
The New Sony PMW-F3
Sony’s most anticipated camera is finally just around the corner with delivery expected mid-February. The F3 is a dream camera for most in that it offers a large sensor like DSLR’s but with the feature sets and ergonomics of a professional HD camera. The F3 features a Super 35mm-sized sensor and a PL mount adapter. On the surface, the camera appears to be no more than an EX1R with a large sensor, but, under the covers, it’s actually so much more. Its numerous features will mean more to some than others, but, it’s fair to say that Sony has a winner on its hands for both entry level shooters all the way up to seasoned professionals. Beyond the sensor’s increased low-light capability is a huge increase in noise reduction and the forethought of keeping the flange depth (in relation to the sensor) accurate and in-tune for use with most professional motion 35mm Cine Lenses. Great features like over crank and under crank are present (1fps-60fps), and the camera features the same amazing 3.5″ viewfinder as the EX1R. Even with this great viewfinder, it’s advisable to use an on-board monitor since the depth of field is shallower than the EX series and focus will be much more critical. A good monitor with focus assist is key if not pulling tape on each shot. Photo: F3 camera body with PL mount adapter. I noticed online via various forums, blogs, etc., a lot of confusion about the mount on the F3. The F3 features a removable PL mount but the camera has its own F3 mount as well. Many people have asked why there is a zoom rocker on a camera that comes with a PL mount. The zoom control is specifically for the F3 mount on the body which, in the near future, will be able to control S35mm F3 mount zoom lenses which Sony has plans to bring to market in the near future. These zooms are the 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 (manual focus and zoom), 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 (auto), and the 17-50mm f/2.8 (auto). These lenses are not due until the end of 2011 and price is TBD. This is still very encouraging and something that cannot currently be found in the DSLR arena. S35mm zoom lenses, even in a new F3 mount, are a solution that opens up the use of smaller crews and less external components (microforce, etc.). Sony has the ability to make lenses like this due to their acquisition of Konica / Minolta. Outside of the F3 mount the camera comes with a PL mount. It’s not a dummy mount in that it has the ability to transmit Arri Lens Data and Cooke/i data to the camera body. These data pins are located in the 12 and 3 o’clock positions inside the PL mount. This metadata is passed onto the SxS cards during recording so you have the ability in post to review lens information (think Canon EXIF data with Aperture but with motion pictures). Sony also has an F3K bundle which features three of its own PL lenses (35mm, 50mm & 85mm) all f/2.0 with 95mm filter diameters. I think this is a very clever choice to have a bundle with these primes because they are fast, consistent and can be purchased for a lot less than most PL mount cine glass. Canon and Nikon users are not left out as Nikon (G and DX will all work) and Canon FD lens adapter to F3 mount are available from MTF Services. Birger Engineering also has plans to release a Canon EF mount with full protocol control. I think most users will be looking at Zeiss CP.2 PL lenses as an affordable solution for owning, and lens renters will be looking at Cooke S4, Arri and Zeiss PL mount lenses to take full advantage of the amazing sensor on the camera. Photo: F3 with PL mount. Notice the data pins at the 12 and 3 position in the mount. The Sony F3 uses SxS cards just like the rest of the Sony PMW series of cameras. The camera records MPEG-2 Long GOP which is also used by the rest of the XDCAM HD cameras in Sony’s professional line. The bit rate is selectable between the 35 Mb/s @ 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720 in HQ mode or 1440 x 1080 if using 25 Mb/s SP mode at all the standard frame rates we are accustomed to with Sony’s CineAlta line of cameras (1fps – 60fps). This was smart on Sony’s part as it allows you to inter-cut with other Sony professional cameras in the line if needed. The camera features two SxS slots which can hold up to two 64GB SxS-1A cards for a total of 200 minutes of continuous recording time without having to offload (well beyond DSLR capabilities) A great feature of the F3, which also has some lack of clarity on the web, is its ability to output Dual Link 3G SDI 10bit 4:2:2 and RBG. This is an optional feature available in April via a software unlock (price TBD), and it will allow you to use several different recording options like a CineDeck, HDCAM SRW5500/2, Codex, Astro HR-7502, S.Two, direct to AJA Kona 3G (ideally with CineForm DDR), etc. You can also use a NanoFlash or a KiPro Mini if you just want to bypass the SxS or as a secondary or primary (with SxS as a backup). With 3D being popular in the past few years, Sony has wisely added a 3D system link option that will allow you to lock-up timecode, genlock and other controls with a single cable — simplifying the process. This is really smart because it allows you to use simple side-by-side 3D rigs without the need for external devices, etc. 3D focus, zoom, iris can all be done with a Preston HU3 and 2 x MDR-2 units with 6 motors via 3D tweak in the Preston hand unit. When Sony puts out their own S35 Zoom lens with built in servos this process will be even easier as you can use a Varizoom and other simple electronic controls for FI+Z. It’s also important in that the F3 has an 8pin remote terminal so you can use standard remote units like the RMB150 controller. I mention this with 3D as it is possible to use one remote to control two cameras with an 8pin adapter cable. The 3D link option will be available in April and price is TBD. Overall, the Sony F3 is destined to become one of the most talked about and popular cameras of 2011. With the Panasonic AF100 and the Sony F3, it is safe to say a shift to large sensor cameras by manufacturers is a priority. Sony and Panasonic have been paying attention and both reacted with two quality products that directly address a number of features and requests that we have all had with DSLRs. Ergonomics, proper audio (XLR connections with monitoring), proper waveform/vector, recording length, codecs, etc., have all been addressed affordably. The camera comes with a PL adapter, Stereo Mic, Windscreen, IR remote, Shoulder strap (not sure why), manual, CD-ROM with drivers and digital manual and warranty. The F3K comes with the same supplied accessories with the addition of the PL lens kit featuring a 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses. The camera does not come with batteries or a charger. Luckily, it uses the Sony BP series of batteries so if you already have an EX1 or EX3, you’ll be all set. These batteries and charger will be sold and rented at Rule along with the Sony PMW-F3 camera. We’ll be hosting a Learning Lab for the F3 on Wed, Jan 19th 2011 at Rule Boston Camera. Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974
Arri Alexa Workshop
Just came from today’s Learning Lab on the new Arri Alexa camera and I’m practically salivating!The presentation was done by Arri technical sales representative Guenter Noesner who wowed us with the elegant design and seemingly perfect mechanics of the much anticipated Alexa.I was most impressed with how modular and adaptable the camera is. Arri designed the camera to grow and adapt with time and the changing technological trends. The Alexa currently records to Sony SXS cards but can be updated to stay current with the fastest recording media. The robust metal shell of the camera is separated into plates that can be replaced or upgraded. You break a BNC connector on set? No worries! The BNC connectors can be switched out and repaired right on location!The Alexa boots up in no time and has a customized ventilation system that keeps the camera quiet while recording. If the camera starts to get loud over time the fan can be replaced easily without having to send the whole unit out for repair. The Alexa menu system is intuitive and easy to navigate. I toggled through the camera changing ASA, Shutter, Frame rates – all by the touch of a button or the turn of a dial.If you haven’t had a chance to play around with the Alexa visit the Arri website and check out the Alexa simulator, it’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the camera menu – http://www.arridigital.com/technical/simulatorCan’t wait to see all the amazing footage our clients will be shooting with the new Alexa. Don’t wait another day to get out their and get shooting!Evelyn Seijido, Rental Agent