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The Forum Launches Today

In the last couple of weeks, the System Integration Team has been putting together the final pieces for the launch of the Harvard School of Public Health’s FORUM series.  The AV and lighting are now in place in the room that will be used BOTH as a conference room and production studio.   The production studio portion of the room is hosting its first event today, which will be (both) recorded and streamed live for a worldwide audience on the inter-web. The topic is: The Impact of the 2010 Elections on U.S. Healthcare Reform: Presented by The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health in Collaboration with ReutersTime: 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST.  Watch at: Ian Tosh, Director of Engineering Services

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System Integration at Harvard is Up & Running

In mid-October, the System Integration Team installed the Panasonic 103″ monitor in the 10th floor conference room (which looks really great).  The monitor was hoisted by a crane up 10 floors through a window and then was stored in a closet while the construction part of the project was finished. Like everything in this installation, the monitor will serve two separate masters.  In the conference room it will take the place of a typical projector and be used to show presentations and video conference calls.  When the room is used in production mode, the monitor will serve as an adjustable background.  Any of the sources in the room can be fed to the monitor through an HDSDI router.  It might “host” a still for one of the Forum presentations or you might see a moving background from the Final Cut Pro laptop system — really, it could be anything! In a typical conference room set-up, we would have created this scenario with a rear projection screen.  In this case, there was no room behind the screen for a rear projection system, but the necessity to show it on camera, perhaps under lights, made it necessary to use this monitor. The monitor is a great showpiece for the room, and as they say “It really ties the room together.” Earlier last month, we received and installed the camera lifts that are now holding the 4 installed cameras in the ceiling.  I have to give credit where credit is due.  These lifts came from a company called Display Devices, and they were a pleasure to work with.  They customized the lifts per our specifications, and they delivered them on time. The builders and carpenters who installed them did a great job compensating for the weight of the cameras and tying everything into the ceiling in a way that looks great and works well! Now the cool part… What these lifts do is allow the camera to mount flush with the ceiling in the “up” position in order to keep them out of the way when the room is used as a conference room — yet they can still be used as a video conference camera.  In the “down” position, they arrive at about eye level so that they can be used in production mode without the high angle at which these cameras tend to me mounted. These lifts have the cameras inverted, but the same lifts can be used with the cameras mounted inside the box allowing them to completely disappear from the room until they are needed.  Very cool.  I’m  looking forward to working with these lifts again on future projects. Ian Tosh, Director of Engineering Services

Monitor Installation at Harvard
Putting the Monitor in Place
The Monitor in Place

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Recent Steadicam Workshop with Zephyr & Scout

At the recent Columbus Day Weekend Steadicam Workshop with Peter Abraham, I was intrigued by a couple of things.  First off, the people that I spent those two days with were AWESOME.  You literally walk away feeling like you are best friends (check out the photos at Next to that, I got to use the new Steadicam Scout for the first time, which will be the replacement for the Flyer eventually.  The Scout is the first one in the country to be used in the workshop, so it was great getting a firsthand look at it, and seeing the differences and changes that so many people are going to want if they decide to update their Steadicam.  First off, instead of only having the ability to rig weights at both ends of the monitor, there is a screw-in spot in the middle, behind the monitor.  This gives you some added weight, and works well to balance out the 24 lb. capacity if you go up that high on top.  You can also slide the monitor backwards and forwards, which also works to balance out the weight.  Speaking of the monitor, it’s a new model, one not seen yet, and for being standard definition as well as glare proof, I was really pleased with the image and would buy it that way easily. Many people have asked me my preference- Scout or Zephyr.  Well, after using both, they are different tools.  The Zephyr is definitely a bit heavier, but also is a nice feel, and a bit more robust if you’re using something like the Sony PMW-320, which is what we had on it.  The Scout is a nice middle range.  Heavier than the Pilot, lighter than the Zephyr.  The Pilot vest is also being redone, and there is a kit available to update yours if you want to.  The current Pilot vest is mostly Velcro and if you’ve ever tried to get it off while shooting- well don’t.  It’s like popping the packaging bubbles that your camera comes wrapped in.  Loud. The new kit gives you clips, etc., to make it a little more like the Zephyr and Scout vests. And last, here are some tips from Peter Abraham himself (who by the way, shot Notorious B.I.G.’s first music video, and if you haven’t appreciated slight differences in Steadicam operators’ work, you will after watching this video). Sand- Get a can of air and spray the Steadicam every so often to blow off the gimbal.  You won’t be getting sand out easily if you let it build up.  If you’re walking on sand and don’t want to kill your ankles, get metal screening from Home Depot or Lowes, and lay it down on the sand for support. Shooting with DSLR- get a thin foam sheet from any fabric store, cut a small rectangle and screw in the camera to the Steadicam plate through that.  You won’t wear down the bottom of the camera, or scratch your Steadicam plate, and it won’t move around on you or come loose. Self Adhesive Velcro- This stuff is magic.  Keep your ends on your vest tied down with it, use it to attach a water cover, keep a roll with you at all times. Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales Representative

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A Unique Dual-Purpose Integration: Mobile & Fixed

The most recent integration project started with a phone call from a local producer who planned to build a portable HD control room for Harvard’s School of Public Health. As initially conceived, this would involve a switching flypack that would move between 2 separate spaces in one building and provide all the control gear to turn a conference room or large performance space into a remote camera production studio.  We were familiar with the construction of a portable flypack and the installation of remote cameras but putting these functions together presented some interesting challenges.  For example, where was the line between the portable and the installed equipment?  How do we connect the 2 systems so they’ll work well together and separate easily?  These questions made the project unique, and we were definitely up for the challenge. Once we started working on the portable production aspect, the architects who were overhauling the conference room suggested we design and build the audio/visual portion in that space.  Consistency was the main objective.  By building the mobile flypack first, once in the conference room, it had to work in tandem with the audio visual components (e.g., teleconference, boundary microphones, resident computers, a VERY large display, etc.) in this more permanent space. It was the right way to handle this type of design, and as we moved through this particular phase, we became increasingly aware of the relationship between both aspects of the project. Overall, whether the production equipment is mobile or in the control room, the objective was to produce the highest quality HD material for both live streaming over the web and broadcast feeds to a variety of news outlets.  Because both systems would overlap in some of their hardware, it meant that much of the equipment in the conference room would conform to very high specifications.  For example, it’s not common to use a high-end HDSDI signal to feed a teleconferencing system.  It’s also not common to use Lite Panels (production lighting) on the speaker in a conference room setting.  The dual purpose for this space made the high-end choices budgetarily necessary. After wrapping up the design phase, and then preassembling and testing the gear in our shop, construction is finished and we’re now moving the gear on site in order to have the entire room tested and ready for production early next month. At this particular point in the project, it strikes me that despite all the overlap within these 2 co-existing systems (and no matter what the final purpose of the room) — video is still video and audio is still audio! Ian Tosh, Director of Engineering Services

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Ki Pro v2.0 Installed

We just installed the Ki Pro v2.0 upgrade yesterday on all the Ki Pros in our Rental inventory.  Here is what to expect… Ki Pro version 2.0 New Features The following features are implemented with version 2.0 firmware: • 8 channel embedded audio support-choose between 2 channels or 8 channels of audio via embedded SDI • Multi-unit Gang recording via the Web UI-use the web UI and ethernet connections to Ki Pro units on a common network to start and stop recordings • Custom Clip Naming-allows users to define their own naming convention using the front panel UI or the web UI • RS-422 support-allows interaction with some serial control devices and some non-linear editors Note: AJA has specifically tested with JL Cooper and FutureVideo 9-pin serial controllers. Other controllers may also be used, but may have not yet been tested by AJA. AJA has specifically tested 9-pin serial control with Apple Final Cut Pro’s Log and Capture and Edit to Tape for RS-422 compatibility. Other non-linear editors, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Autodesk Smoke and Sony Vegas, do not yet fully support ingest/output control via RS-422 when used with Ki Pro. Future firmware updates to Ki Pro will continue to add support for additional non-linear editors when controlling Ki Pro via RS-422. The following features are not implemented with this firmware release, but are planned for future firmware releases: • ExpressCard/34 media support • LANC and Lens Tap control of the device • Use of FireWire 400 port for timecode data • Use of FireWire 800 port for connecting Ki Pro to host computer as “media reader” Zbigniew Twarog, Chief Engineer

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Taking Advantage of Crop Factor

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

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

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

Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974

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Cartoni Lambda the Perfect SFX and Zero Gravity Head

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

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

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

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Nikon To Enter The Fray With New Video DSLRs?

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

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Convergent Design NanoFlash

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

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

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

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Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens review

I have owned the 100mm Macro IS for approximately a month now and have used it mostly for nature video and still work. Although this lens is labeled and intended for Macro work it is a fully functional 100mm lens for telephoto use as well. The lens features Canon’s new Hybrid image stabilization which provides 4stops of stabilization correction which allows for hand held work were normally only a tripod would do. The lens is an L series but unlike most is made of a durable black plastic instead of a metal body. Do not let this fool you as the lens is very durable and I think it might be used on future lenses because of its weight, thermal properties, and for cost. The lens still features a weather sealed ring to mate up with your 5DMKII, 1DMKIV, or 7D. Another great feature of this lens is that it has life-size close-up capabilities, something that would require the life-size adapter in the past with other macro lenses. The fast 2.8 aperture is great for documentary work and in the field where bringing in additional light may not be an option. The aperture features 9 blades in a circular pattern that provides a consistent bokeh. The lens features a three position focus limiter to allow for quick AF if you are not in manual mode. Reducing the range of focus that the lens has to hunt for makes the USM work within a split second to achieve subject focus, which can save your shot. I sometimes find myself using this feature and once I am within range switching over to manual focus. A great feature of this macro lens is adding the 2x extender which then gives you 200mm but retains the minimum focus distance. I used this last weekend to shoot macro footage of a Praying Mantis eating an aphid for a project I am working on. I knew I needed to be within 8 inches of the subject to achieve the framing I wanted but the 2x extender made it happen without sacrifice. Because the lens is fast at 2.8 the lose of a stop was still well within the perimeters of the light that was available. For video use the 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is well matched in color and consistency to the typical lenses used. I found it matched nicely with the 16-35, 24-70, 70-200. Some post correction was required when inter-cutting with the 85mm 1.2, and the 600mm but overall it was minimal. This is a still taken with the 100mm f/2.8L Maco IS USM lens at Lake Fairlee Vermont dusk, wide open 2.8 ISO 200 from a deck approx 100meters from the waters edge. Using the lens as a telephoto instead of a macro. 1″ Tree Frog taken with same lens but using it as a Macro instead of telephoto mode. Overall I think if you require a macro lens the 100mm f/2.8L IS USM is the route to go over the 50, 60, 65 and the 180. Canon only has two L series macros, the 100mm and the 180mm, but the 180mm is f/3.5, does not feature IS, requires a tripod and is much heavier than the 100mm. It is a great lens to have in your kit and I recommend you test one out when you have the chance as I have found myself using the lens as my standard 100mm tele for non-macro use. Michael Sutton Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974

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Grandpa Rule sees the Future

There is a lot of family lore about my grandfather, John T Rule II, who was an author and Professor of Mathematics at MIT and Dean of Students between 1956 and 1961. He was good friends with Dr. Edwin Land (the founder of Polaroid) and in fact, together during World War II they invented the first 3D bomb-sighting mechanism which greatly improved the Allies’ reconnaissance and bombing efficacy. And this is the really interesting part: Earlier, in 1939, Grandpa and Dr. Land had collaborated on the very first commercial use of polarized 3D when they created the “In Tune With Tomorrow” film for the Chrysler Pavilion at the 1939 Worlds Fair (mentioned here as the no. 9 milestone in 3D Movie history). So as I was researching this subject, I stumbled across this piece that he wrote for the October 1953 edition of the Atlantic, actually posted on the Internet! In it, he discusses the then current state of the nascent 3D industry, decrying it’s tendency towards sensationalistic gimmickry, and cautioning that badly done 3D would negatively impact the box office. He advises that 3D done artistically and in service to the creative goals of the Director will create an experience unmatchable by home televisions, thus stopping the theater industry’s steady drop in customers. Wow. People say that the more things change, the more they stay the same…it’s hard to believe that he wrote this 57 years ago. My favorite part of this article is at the end where he proposes that feature films should be released first on TV with Pay-per-view before going to theaters! He’s talking about Pay-per-view in 1953! It boggles the mind. John Rule

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Waiting for Alexa

As a rental house, we have supplied the lineage of ARRI cameras for close to 30 years.  The transition from film to digital cinema has introduced many players into the camera production game, but for the most part ARRI has been in the digital shadows with the limited mainstream success of their D-20 and D-21 cameras.  The Alexa is the first ARRI Digital Camera that holds great promise for a wide range of cinematographers and a variety of productions.  Our Rental Department is  very excited about the release of this new camera system, and we anticipate the camera quickly becoming the first choice for commercial as well as feature productions.  Its compact design, light-weight and well-conceived accessories along with its affordable price will serve to make it a versatile tool right out of the box. The Alexa is the ideal camera for both the rental house and the shooter because it takes all of the same lenses and accessories which former ARRI cameras used.  The Super 35mm chip size will afford a level of DOF and Field of View familiar to cinematographers.  The Alexa offers multiple options for recording images.  Commercial productions will be attracted to the camera’s ability to record Quicktime/ProRes files to two onboard SxS cards for an easy post workflow.  The Camera also has the ability to record ARRIRAW files to a third party solid-state recorder which will be an attractive option for features demanding the full potential of the 35mm sensor. We will be receiving our first two cameras hopefully as early as this August (yes, next month!).   We’ll quickly offer them to the rental market and host a session in the Learning Lab to detail the production potential of the camera. Brian Malcolm, General Manager

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13 High-Speed Phantom Cameras Used at 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa…

Eight Vision Research Phantom v640 and five Phantom HD cameras are currently being used in South Africa to shoot the 2010 World Cup Soccer Tournament.  I watched a few games already, and noticed that the slow motion was used very frequently — and not just for replays of the latest goals, shots or fouls, but also to show the audience dancing, singing and enjoying the show.  I  specifically liked the close-up shots of the athletes’ faces in slow motion with muscles rippling under the skin, showing all the effort and emotion and delivering quite a new visual quality… Zbigniew Twarog, Chief Engineer

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Phantom HD Gold at Rule…

…the first high-speed HD camera arrived at Rule yesterday.  With up to 1000 frames and 2K resolution, it’s quite easy to use, especially with laptop and controlling software (although more difficult with on camera controls).  It requires some learning! This camera has firmware v.661.  It is controlled by v.687 of Phantom Camera Control (PCC) software (on laptop) now. The newer software is available – v.689, but we have to make sure, that it works properly. There have been some issues reported.  We’ll keep you posted! Zbigniew Twarog, Chief Engineer

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Hummingbirds with the Canon 5D Mark II

I had brought my Canon 5D MKII along this memorial day weekend in anticipation of taking some set stills, but found myself on a small nature shoot. The subject was two hummingbirds who were hanging around a feeder that was put out. I put a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L series lens on my camera and had hoped to at least get a few out of focus pictures of these very fast birds. Instead I decided to put the 5DMKII into video mode and the shutter speed at 4000 making the appropriate adjustments to aperture and ISO settings. I waited frozen for a few minutes and then one flew up to the feeder and then banked off into the sky within seconds. I decided to throw the lens into macro mode and go even closer, knowing they would be back for the sugar water to fuel the pace at which they were flying. Within 4″ of the lens the female flew into frame and decided to stay a while completely ignoring me (frozen still with camera). She stayed for over 60 seconds and flew out of frame making for the perfect shot. I had never thought of using the 5DMKII for nature work (video) in the past and this experience made me rethink a few things. I had shot nature footage before with long lenses on my Aaton XTR cameras, and the Arri SR2, etc but it was always a lengthy process and required a lot of gear to make it happen. I had also shot stock footage of turtles, frogs, cranes, and other water animals with XL2’s, SDX900’s, etc but it too wasn’t the same as this experience. Being able to stealthily whip out the 5DMKII and within seconds start shooting hardly seemed like work. Getting to the shutter speed, ISO, F-Stop, and Depth of Field preview all took seconds to accomplish. I highly recommend a follow focus and basic support, as the camera is front heavy with most lenses and hand-holding can become very fatiguing fast (especially the the heavy lens, battery grip, and other accessories). Outside of that setups were a breeze and really allowed for a lot of freedom to rapidly adjust settings. In the future I would definitely bring a Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens and maybe the 185mm f/3.5L Macro USM which would have yielded much better results. A tripod or mono pod couldn’t have hurt either. 😉 Mike Sutton Senior Account Manager Rule Boston Camera 617-227-2200 x 206