So we just finished up a mini doc about my perspective on film. The catalyst for the project was to create a 2 minute doc about something you are passionate about to win a Sony FS7. It turned out really well. Please check it out.
As someone that started off loading mags and pulling focus on film cameras I’ve always hated pulling my own focus. It just doesn’t seem right. With today’s style of shooting whether on a RED, a DSLR or some other camera I find myself adjusting on the fly to a small monitor or EVF. I try and teach my students the ways of the focus puller but they never quite get it. That and the monitor is right there, they can just look at it and use peaking or some other digital tool to tell them it is in focus. Not really focus pulling, but it does the job.
So after a couple of frustrating follow focuses I’ve found one that works really well with DSLR style shooting. The Edelkrone Focus One had peaked my interest when it came out, but I couldn’t pull the trigger. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks. It is nice and smooth and has solid feel. The best part was that it fits on the rails, and doesn’t protrude too far down so I can use it with a sliding baseplate.
EDIT: The only difficulty I have found is trying to get this thing wedged between camera and mattebox when using short primes like zeiss standard speeds. My old RedRock micro couldn’t do this either. ARRI wins.
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!
It is not often you get to chat about Cinematography with other Cinematographers in a public forum. Today I had the opportunity to discuss with my fellow Cinematographers the state of things in the MSPIFF forum. There was a packed tent with folks that were industry veterans and film students. We talked about the number of options today with electronic motion picture cameras. Too many? We talked about tools of the trade and 3 out of the 4 really missed pulling out the meter and really only Greg Winter said he still does use a meter regularly.
We talked some about lens quality and the overall shortage of quality lenses acknowledging that more lenses are being produced than ever before. Of course the discussion led to presentation and all of us agreed that digital projection is not there. Inconsistent, inaccurate, poor quality. All were hopeful that the quality would improve, perhaps. There was some discussion about the effect of not having a shutter on the electronic projection as a possible change to how we view films subconsciously.
Along with tools, we talked about how some of the lighting tools have changed, but others have not been replaced (18K).
We also had some discussion about other formats like 3D and interactive. Across the board 3D was viewed as a gimmick but Bo Hakala and Greg Winter had some interesting ideas on pushing the interactive nature of storytelling.
One question from the audience was on practical vs digital effects. Kevin Horn and I said we would prefer to film practical effects in camera and Greg and Bo brought up the idea of shooting digital effects with enhancement from the practical. Really blending the two.
Two hours went by really fast and I’m sure we could have kept chatting for at least another two.
2014 is here. What does that mean? Flying cars? no. Teleportation? no. Replicator? no, maybe 2014 is not the Star Trek future I had wished for, but there are some things to look forward to.
Cameras – The last few years has seen new cameras coming to market faster than ever. 2014 will be no different, or maybe it will be better. Arriflex or ARRI has the documentary bred Amira coming out some time after NAB. I haven’t been this excited about a camera since the SR3 came out when I was in college. The Alexa has proven that there is more to a camera than the size of the sensor.
Speaking of sensor size, the RED Dragon sensor will be exciting when it arrives in all of our cameras.
The Digital Bolex promises to be an indy darling for sure. Looking forward to getting my hands on one.
Black Magic Design has shaken up NAB the last two years, but have yet to deliver the 4K camera they promised. It is sure to attract the student, independents and some other productions, but if it is anything like the BMCC it still has to fight the ergonomics and other limitations.
Lighting – Who needs lighting when you have a RED Dragon sensor? LED lighting has begun to explode with many manufacturers entering the scene. We have adopted the AAdyntech lights this last year. Mole Richardson also brought updates to the classic Baby, Tweenie and Junior line with High CRI led instruments. This year there will be more compact sources packing high output and better CRI readings.
Monitors – How we watch the films we make pales in comparison to the resolution of these cameras. On set the monitor may be HD or near HD in pixel count, but the display of color and gamma needs varies widely. In the edit room these monitors get better but the calibration of the monitor is still something of a sorcerers conjuring leading to graded images the vary from venue to venue. Then of course is the monitor in your living room. Mine is still a Plasma 720. At least we stopped talking about 3D.
Here’s hoping the 2014 is an exciting year filled with cool new gear and lots of opportunities to use the gear we have.
So the camera has been out for a year, but this was our first outing with the small box with a lens mount.
I can say that I was more impressed with the camera than I thought I would be. Why is that? As many have noted the camera has many shortcomings but comes in at a price tag that may have you overlooking them. The recording and file types of the camera are amazing at any price. Recording straight to ProRes will cost you at least another grand coming off your Sony/Canon/Nikon and you have to attach that gizmo to your rig. The BMCC does it in camera. If you want raw, you can record to Cinema DNG files. Be prepared to spend some time with Resolve or some other workflow to get your RAW footage into your NLE.
It was really easy to use and intuitive. An inexpensive camera should not be complicated. Some of the features like focus assist were very useful. We used the Canon EF model with a variety of lenses. The Tokina 11-16 worked great as did the Rokinon Cine primes. One of the Canon EF lens had trouble with the iris control. It worked fine on a DSLR, just couldn’t communicate with the BMCC.
The shortcomings have been well documented and some are just compromises of an inexpensive motion picture camera. Not every camera can or should do everything. If it does it should cost more than $2K. The first thing my students asked was how fast does it shoot? 60 fps? nope. You got 24 or 30. Okay, I can still make a movie with that. Card format and clip editing in camera. nope. You have to connect your SSD card to a computer to format it and manage any clips. The battery is internal. What? By the time we had the shot set up and dolly shot rehearsed the battery was flashing 25%. More cable wrangling or a third party solution to power. Can I plug a mic in? Sure with an adaptor to 1/4″ plugs. But I don’t hear any sound. That’s because there is no Phantom power and we have a 416 p48 plugged in. I’m sure there were other minor issues but none that stand out.
If you are aware of the compromises you can use this camera to make some great images. If you were expecting a RED EPIC for $2K you will be disappointed.
Alright, I’m the film guy. I just had a thought about how new film stocks would come out every couple of years. The manufacturer would tout how amazing and improved the stock is and how it was simply better in every way than the previous 200T or whatever. Then every article in American Cinematographer would talk about shooting the older stock, because the cinematographer knew how it would look through post, because they need time to acquaint themselves with the new stock. Even years after a stock had been discontinued you might hear someone say, wow I really miss ’93, the color palette was amazing. So my point in this post is that digital cameras are flying at us with unprecedented speed and we see even more tests on vimeo or forums but I don’t see that we are comfortable with what is right now like we were with film. This post will be out of date in a month. Whatever camera I mention will have a new update, new model or be completely antiquated in a month.
Right now I’m using a Canon 5DmkIII. I also use a RED ONE MX and RED Scarlet from school. And I have a Panasonic HVX in the closet that comes out to play on long format productions. These are good for now, but there is something better. Dragon, Alexa, Black Magic, Sony. They all have cameras that are better, smaller, faster out right now. The point I’m trying to make is will my 5D or Scarlet be the films stock that is no longer manufactured? Or is the new Dragon sensor really a better film stock than that old 93 ever was and I just need to move on? Will it be good enough to not compare to film at all?
Here’s another clip from Epic Dragon tests.
Really gorgeous stuff. I look forward to trying it out later this year?
Check it out for yourself-
Here’s a post from AbelCine about the relative size of sensors of today’s cameras.
Have a look.
Check out this tool for figuring out what your field of view will be for all the different flavors of cameras.