Another year, another smash by Black Magic. I didn’t make it out to NAB to see the dazzling new offerings in broadcast and cinema products but with the live feeds and daily video posts it is not necessary. So there are more cameras coming out. Ok, but who was really asking for new cameras? These days we are working with smaller cameras at high resolutions. The market just gets a little more crowded and eventually there will be fewer cameras if resolution and compression stabilize. Most likely the startups like Digital Bolex will suffer the same fate as DALSA. Not enough reserves to make it through the next technical or manufacturing hiccup or the camera is too expensive for the market it was created for. But it could also be the makers with deep pockets that decide to back away. RED stopped making lenses after a short period, leaving it those that do it best.
Anyway, I was hoping to see more innovation (and lower prices) in cameras that acquire slow motion at 240FPS and above. Some cameras have pushed close as a standard feature or add-on (Arri Amira), but the Sony FS-700 still remains the best deal for short bursts of slow motion and very capable 1080 video work. With 4K add-on for that camera you are getting close to the price of a RED Scarlet, but with more features including better audio. On the upside of the the new cameras is the realization that they should still be operator friendly and shoulder mounted. The modular box is cool, but by the time you add all your third party accessories you have doubled the price of the camera.
On the horizon we have the GoPro Hero 4 being talked about with 120FPS at 1080 and 4K up to 30. Also the GH4 is shipping so there are plenty of new toys to try out. Do we really need them? Nope, but does a child with a room full of toys still enjoy a visit to the toy store? YES!
NAB is just around the corner. There will be new tools and gadgets for sure. It is fun to speculate what will be the big trend. I’m not basing my predictions on anything too scientific, just what I have been seeing in my work, students’ work and others throughout the industry. Last year was all about 4K, with the Black Magic camera that I guessed they would make before it was announced. (it just started shipping last month I think). This year will be all about High Speed cameras. We’ve seen some of this with the basically boring Sony FS-700. A work horse video camera with a 4K upgrade path. The on-board recording is AVCHD but you can send an uncompressed signal out through SDI. What makes this thing cool is the ability to shoot a burst recording at high speed, what they call S&Q (slow and quick). It will do 120FPS, 240FPS, 480 and 960. Using some fancy math and at the expense of quality you can get all of those frame rates at 1080. The 120 and 240 look great, but 480 and 960 are really just for screwing around.
Ok, so this wasn’t intended to be a review of the FS-700, but it shows the path and trend we are on. People want slo-mo video in their projects. The Go Pro can do 120 at 720. The new GH4 has a burst up to 96 I believe. There was mention of a mirror-less camera from another manufacturer that had 240 and higher at reduced resolutions. Arri’s new Amira will do 200FPS with the purchase of the key$$$ to unlock it. My prediction is that we will see a lot of cameras with a 120fps capable rate and at least one under $5K that will do 240fps well.
In the mean time here is a clip from the FS-700 at 240FPS.
set-up test: Jami and Adam from little tree films on Vimeo.
Now that we are fully entrenched in a 16X9 world, (Don’t tell the broadcasters in the smaller markets) we have embraced the trend in widescreen images for everything. Anamorphics and 2.35 crop is reaching high popularity. From Panavision and Zeiss creating perfect optics to the recently announced Letus Anamorphic adaptor for the GoPro it is everywhere. I think it is great. As trends go, this is one that does not bother me (like 3D).
Now that I have a GoPro, I have to have one of these. The coolest thing is that they took the Superview feature on the GoPro that I really didn’t understand and made it useful. In Superview the camera records the full 4:3 sensor and stretches it to 16X9 1080. Ok, so in Superview your images will be more distorted at the edges but you get a bigger frame. With the 1.33 anamorphic adaptor it records that 4:3 image squeezed and stretches it out to 16X9 1080. No post processing required. You can also record in regular 16X9 and post stretch the image to achieve 2.35:1 images.
I’ll post a sample here as soon as I get mine.
So our latest camera purchase is not a Black Magic pocket or a preorder on a digital Bolex, though that is pretty tempting. I finally caved and joined the ranks of the GoPro legion. I’ve used these a couple of times for point of view camera. Strapped to a bike it gives a cool perspective. Of course extreme sports people are the primary customers. Anyway, the justification was that we could use the camera(s) in places that we can’t get angles with traditional cameras. Little Tree Films does lifestyle work, so weddings and other life events are the projects we work on. With these types of shoots coverage is very important and there are no second takes. What I like about this little camera is that it is so small an unobtrusive that you can put it anywhere. The capability to shoot 1080 at 60 fps or even 120 fps at 720 is appealing too. The ultra wide everything in focus is the downside, but every system has a tradeoff. I’ve seen people come up with adaptors to add c-mount lens to the front of the GoPro to allow focus and aperture control. I really don’t think these people understand the purpose of a GoPro. It reminds me of a time about 8 years ago when P+S Technik and RedRockMicro were adding these crazy adaptors to DV and HD cameras.
In addition to the GoPro and the many different mounting options we also picked up the Steadicam Curve. A small stabilizer designed specifically for the GoPro. It is a new item, so it hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m looking forward to handing it off to Finn to see what he comes up with.