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Apple Predictions for NAB 2011

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

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Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival 2011

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

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Arri ALEXA 3.0 Software Update

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

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

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In The Showroom: PMW-F3, Ki-Pro Mini, Zeiss CP.2 & More!

I love the smell of fresh styrofoam and cardboard.  Especially since that’s all I’ve been smelling for the last 4 days as I open up a new PMW-F3, KiPro Mini, Pan. AF-100, Marshall HDMI 5″ monitor, Zeiss ZF.2’s (18, 28, 35, 50, 85mm), Zeiss CP.2 (28, 35mm). Not so bad. Pair these diesel items with some custom Zacuto rigs, which I’ve been building lately (and which are the equivalent of grown-up legos) and you’ve got a set-up made specifically for you.  These items are so new and so popular that they’re challenging enough to use successfully without being overrated.  We’ve been sending AF-100’s and F3’s out to high-end freelancers, art schools, film schools, and pro feature film production sets.  They fit in anywhere if you can take advantage of the features that they offer.  Rule has recently become a Zeiss dealer and we’re pairing the latest Zeiss lenses with many of our cameras along with the Canon lensing and optional stock lensing from both Sony and Panasonic.  I just recently used an 18mm ZF.2 with the 60D last weekend up in Maine, but that’s a blog post for another time! Some questions have recently come up about lensing options for these cameras, specifically the F3 and AF-100, and, luckily, we’ll have some answers at this Wednesday’s 3/2 Learning Lab when Birger Engineering visits with their new Canon 4/3 to EF adapter which will be out in April.    As the Spring goes on, you’ll see lots of new announcements pending NAB.  I’ve included some pictures below of the F3 with the Mini Ki-Pro and CP.2.  Enjoy! Also, stay tuned — Mike Sutton is taking the F3 out with a Zeiss CP.2 this weekend, and I’m sure you’ll see a blog post from him sometime soon! Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales Representative

Sony PMW-F3
Zeiss CP.2
Sony PMW-F3 with AJA Mini Ki-Pro & Zeiss CP.2

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Production Outfitters: New Swag!

Productions Outfitters just received some new swag! Now available — sleek black hats and custom printed Wiha tool kits.

The hats are classic baseball caps modeled by our own Bryan Alford…

The tool kits are an AC’s dream, with 30 different wrenches and screwdrivers, conveniently packed in a small Velcro kit.

We also carry a variety of other grip and camera pouches that easily strap onto your belt for easy accessibility!

Stop by and check it out!

Nick Giannino, Production Outfitters Store

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The Phantom Flex High-Speed Digital Camera

The Phantom Flex is the latest in HD high-speed image capturing from manufacturer Vision Research. I have been spending some time testing the Flex over the past two weeks and I am very impressed. With a 1000 ISO, the sensitivity this camera allows is far superior to its predecessor the Phantom HD Gold (ISO 320) which is a superb camera in its own right. This kind of sensitivity proves beneficial in high-speed image capturing. With it’s capability to capture over 2500fps at 1920×1080, or over 5000fps at 1280×720, you quickly see why Flex is the most sensitive high-speed camera on the market today.

The Phantom Flex
Another fine feature of the Flex is its internal capping shutter. This makes black balancing much easier to do during production with the press of a button on the side of the camera. Because of high operating temperatures, the sensor needs to be regularly black balanced to stabilize the signal levels. With this in mind, the camera also has an optional HQ mode. HQ mode eliminates the need to manually black balance as it does it automatically within each captured frame. Although HQ reduces the maximum frame rate capture speeds by approximately one half than standard mode, it makes for quicker shooting in the field as well as increases the signal to noise ratio in the image. An improperly black balanced camera will ruin your shot and that is not an option when you often have one short opportunity to capture it. Flex has two recording operation modes to choose from:  Loop mode or Run/Stop mode. In Loop mode the Flex uses an internal buffer that stores each take. The duration of the recorded action respectively decreases as the frame rate increases. So you may only have 2 seconds of capture time to film that exploding water balloon, or 4 seconds to film that acrobat in midair. (Check out RBC client Tom Guilmette’s recent blog and Flex footage for a creative example at http://www.tomguilmette.com/archives/1986 ) The clip in the buffer can then be trimmed and saved to the on-board CineMag, which is a 128G, 256G, or 512G flash mag mounted to the camera.
Mounting the CineMag onto the Flex
Run/Stop mode allows you to record direct to the CineMag while avoiding the short time allowed in the buffer. This may be a better choice when the action is longer or continuous. The caveat here is that the maximum frame rate is much lower. Maximum frame rate direct to CineMag is 361fps at 1920×1080. But the bonus is recording for longer periods of time. The operator can start and stop recording like a regular camera until the CineMag is full. The CineMag files are downloaded via Phantom software on a PC, either while still on the camera or on a Vision Research CineStation. The files on the CineMag are RAW files with the .cine extension. These are very large files that take a considerable amount of time to download to external hard drives to deliver to post. These files can be opened with software like Glue Tools , or Iridas. Glue Tools opens the files in a QuickTime wrapper and allows you to edit and view them in Final Cut Pro or other QT based applications for editing, grading and coloring. A different approach to saving the Phantom footage is using a video workflow method, by capturing the video playback directly from the Flex or CineStation onto a recordable device.
CineStation
Both have dual link HD-SDI outputs for high quality recording. Popular choices for this may include the CineDeck Extreme(4:2:2, 4:4:4), Convergent Design’s NanoFlash recorder(4:2:2), AJA KiPro(4:2:2)  or KiPro Mini(4:2:2) or direct to a CPU via a video card(4:2:2, 4:4:4). The Flex also has auto-scaling which allows shooting over-sampled resolution of 2560×1440(16:9) and scaling the SDI output to 1920×1080. Over-sampling gives us a better quality image (no artifacts) and greater dynamic range.
Two HD-SDI outputs can be set to dual link 4:4:4 for high-quality image capture
Rule Boston Camera’s Flex comes standard with a PL mount allowing the use of our entire inventory of 35mm motion picture camera lenses. Super 16 lenses can also be used when operating the Flex at 1280×720. RBC has 128G and 256G CineMags available for rental with the Flex. Be prepared for long download times when saving the .cine files from flash mags. Flex Max Frame Rates in LOOP mode: 2560×1440 – SQ: 1617fps , HQ: 802fps 1920×1080 – SQ: 2564fps , HQ: 1267fps Flex Max Frame Rates in R/S mode: 2560×1440 – SQ: 217fps , HQ: 217fps 1920×1080 – SQ: 361fps , HQ: 361fps CineMag Recording Time: 2560×1440 – 128G = 20 minutes@24fps 256G = 40 minutes@24fps 1920×1080-  128G = 33 minutes@24fps 256G = 67 minutes@24fps Download Time via 1G Ethernet /PC : 128G = 1.75 hours 256G = 3.5 hours The quality of the images Flex creates combined with the super slow motion truly make for stunning cinematography. Often described as “jaw dropping”. Dave Kudrowitz, Senior Engineer

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Sony F3’s @ Rule Boston Camera next week !

The highly anticipated Sony F3 is making its way to Rule next week.  We will have the F3 available in our rental department as well as in our showroom.  If you have not put down a deposit on the camera you will want to reserve one asap.   We anticipate the camera will be sold out and become one of the most popular cameras for 2011 due to its familiar workflow, lensing options, sensor size, and form factor.  Myself and the sales team will be available for demos on the showroom camera (please call in advance to book an appointment) with various lenses and accessories. Soon we will have Zeiss CP.2 lenses (several sets on order) on hand in rentals and sales to test with the camera. We will also have the MTF services Nikon mount and Zeiss ZF.2 lenses as well very soon. Come check out the camera everyone is talking about. Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974

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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