Sunday, February 28, 2010

5Dmk2 Update Near??

The Canon rumours site is carrying a piece about possible specs for the new 5Dmk2 software upgrade. It's a bit sketchy as it's supposed to be from a presentation in Poland...but you never might be legit.

As you can see, there's 24p, 25p and 30p, but no 720p. Nice that there's 48kHz sound now and also 64 steps for the audio level.

Dan Chung has been busy testing out the 550D and shot this really nice piece at 1080p 25fps.

Canon 550D / T2i production video - Zhongguancun gadget city from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

To my eyes, it looks great. Incredible definition and really nice handling of colour and movement. Can't wait to get a 550D and try it out for myself.

Philip Bloom  has been busy testing out the 550D too.  In this piece he compares it to the 7D side by side. He admits it's not a particularly scientific test as the settings aren't matched exactly and the lighting conditions weren't identical each time...but it's a good indication of how similar they are.

Unscientific T2i tests shots includes timelapse. from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Zeiss Primes for Canon DSLRs...

Everyone finds the endless focus rings on Canon lenses a pain. Pulling focus is a bit of a nightmare...especially if you're used to a proper lens with end stops.  Zeiss have long been known to make some amazing lenses, especially for film-makers...and DoPs like Phil Bloom have used PL mounts to get them on their DSLRs with some stunning results. Well, now Zeiss are making it a whole lot easier. This May they are launching a set of primes made specifically for the Canon DSLR range with EF mounts.  They are basically a modified version of their compact prime range.


They have the option to be converted to PL mount, so if you progress to a different system in the future, you can still use your Zeiss primes. Good news when you're spending the kind of money these cost. (approx 3x the cost of Canon's best EF-mount primes)

Here's the official press release:

Dear Cine & Video Colleagues,
This is a preannouncement of a new cine lens from Carl Zeiss that will be formally launched at the NAB show in April 2010. The information below is preliminary and subject to minor changes prior to the launch. In response to the high level of interest in using DSLR’s for filmmaking, Carl Zeiss has modified its Compact Prime lenses for use with EF-mount cameras.
These new lenses feature a bayonet mount for a direct fit to the EF-mount and do not require any modification of the camera or use of intermediate optics. Since the optics are based on the awarding winning ZEISS SLR lenses, they cover a full 24×36 image format without vignetting. In addition, the lenses feature an interchangeable mount system that can be changed to a PL mount at any point in the future. This design allows the filmmaker to graduate to any number of existing or future cine cameras and still utilize the same set of lenses.
The level of versatility, image quality and value is unprecedented for cine style lenses and brings a professional caliber tool to a wide range of filmmakers. ZEISS Compact Prime II
lenses will be available in both EF and PL mount versions
interchangeable mount system allows for easy upgrade

cine style ergonomics

manual focus with well damped resistance

barrel dimensions are identical and lenses feature internal focusing

each lens weighs between 2.0 – 2.2 pounds

support bracket is included for additional lens stability

300 degree focus rotation

14-blade aperture

geared for standard follow-focus

calibrated focus scales

8 focal lengths available from18mm – 85mm

estimated list price for a set of 6 lenses is under $20K. Lenses will also be sold in a Custom 3 Lens Set or individually.

shipping May 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

BVE Expo 2010 at Earl's Court


Yesterday i went to the BVE in London.  I've been to many expos over the years but this was my first one dedicated to Film & Video production since i got involved in the business a couple of years ago.

All the usual suspects were there. Panasonic had a great stand where you could try out their camera range on the arranged Thunderbirds memorabilia set up in front of all the cameras. I had a play with the HMC151 and also the HPX171. I'm a big fan of Panasonic and i love the small form factor of the 151, but i was a bit disappointed with the small LCD display... i wish they had re-designed that side of the camera... it's almost indistinguishable from the DVX100.

Sony had a similar stand with some breakdancers in the middle and all their cameras around the outside for you to play with. All the cameras were hooked up to HD monitors mounted up high at least if you couldn't get a go on could see what kind of results people were getting with them. I had a long play with the new NXcam. It's a solidly build camera and I really liked the feel of it. I ended up having quite a chat with a Sony sales guy about it. He was very eager to explain it's strengths and very quick to put down the Panny HMC151...i didn't even mention it.. he just said it was an inferior camera in every way. I then mentioned that i was about to buy a Canon 550D. He corrected me and said 'Don't you mean 5D mk2?'.. so i told him that there was a new cam on the scene for less than a grand.. He looked a bit sick and then told me that he'd used a 5D and it was terrible. He said Phil Bloom only made it look good cos he only shot faces and soft scenery shots...but if you tried to shoot anything with straight edges, the picture totally falls apart. I told him i thought DSLRs were good for what they were good for and it was still wise to have a 'run of the mill' camera... i was trying to cheer him up. I don't think it worked.  haha.

Anyway, i headed over to Canon and there was the new 1/3" chip, 4:2:2 MPEG2 cam sitting in a glass case...  I was a bit surprised at it's size...bigger than i thought. It looks pretty sturdy and the lens is bigger in diameter than i was expecting.  I guess it's pretty similar looking to the HDV cams they've got in their arsenal already...only a bit...chunkier? Will be interesting to see one in action soon...



Sorry for reflections all over the pics... it was housed in glass and it's the best my HTC Hero could do in the circumstances. Not a whole lot different from the pics i found of it last month, but it's looks like it's going to be a well spec'ed  camera and possibly the ideal partner to a Canon DSLR for when you need to avoid the issues like rolling shutter and the 12m shooting limitation.

Other notable stands i saw include the Hague stand. We all know Hague do some great grip stuff at very reasonable prices, but their stand was mobbed every time i walked past it. Their jibs and camera mounts were very popular.  I love that they produce gear film-makers need at prices we can afford.

The F-Stop Academy stand had some nice DSLR rigs on show from Zacuto... playing with Zacuto stuff in the flesh shows why it costs so much... it really is well built. 

There was a hell of a lot of LED lights on display all over the place. LightPanels were in use on lots of stands and it's easy to see why... they really work and there's no heat coming from them! I did think that some of the bigger LED lights looked awfully blue though... i guess it's just in comparison to tungsten, but it all looked a bit cold to me.  
Lots of stands were using new gear (from other manufacturers) to lure the punters in. There was untold numbers of Canon DSLRs mounted in lovely rigs... but generally they were there to show off matteboxes, rails, lights, tripods or something related. There was also quite a lot of RED 1's around.  What did strike me though was the amount of interest in the DSLRs compared to the bigger cams that were on display. The Arri stand with it's new digital cams and traditional 35mm cams were pretty quite whenever i walked past...

I got a chance to sit in on some seminars. First, i went to the 'Production Show's' Production Theatre for the 'DoP's guide to choosing the right camera for your film'. It was run by two DoP' of which was French, the other was an American. They took questions from the audience and talked about the issues of shooting on RED, DSLR and also film. It was a bit 'all over the place' but i picked up some interesting tips. Both of the DoPs in question had shot with the 5D mk2 and both loved it.

Next i went to the DSLR workshop with the F-Stop Academy's Drew Gardener and Den Lennie. This was the one Phil Bloom was supposed to do before he got the call to go back to Skywalker ranch...bless him, he even sent a video apology to the crowd. Anyway, we saw some of their DSLR work and got a good talk on how similar DSLR video work is to still photography...and although i didn't learn too much, it was a good seminar and it was very very popular...standing room only. 

So, all in all an interesting first BVE. There was a definite air of there being a few too many people not happy about the arrival of DSLRs...mainly the big camera manufacturers and also some film-makers. I overheard a BBC guy telling his colleagues that DSLRs were a joke and they'd never use them at the BBC...   I can't help thinking he'll eat his words sooner or later.

BVE report coming soon...

I went to the BVE Expo yesterday... some great stuff there and some interesting seminars. Full report soon...

Monday, February 15, 2010

AudioMedia publish feature on making of Shoot The DJ.

Last week i did an interview with Stephen Bennett from AudioMedia and the resulting article is in this month's issue which has just come out.
It's great to have support like this from the production based press... i know i always love reading about other indie productions and i hope other film -makers will enjoy reading our article.

Click the image to see the full sized version...

We're heading down to the Broadcast Video Expo tomorrow at Earl's Court. Hopefully we'll see some of you there.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Canon EOS 550D... video overview and some footage.

Here's a video overview of the 550D from

And here's some footage... looks a bit soft in places and there's some artifacts on the fence near the swimming pool...but that's just as likely to be a trait of the YouTube compression/conversion.

Still no definitive date for when we're going to be able to buy it in the UK. I've heard the end of Feb and also not until April.. we'll have to wait and see.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Canon EOS 550D Rebel T2i - An Indie Film-Makers dream...

Canon are on a roll... as if the 5D MkII and the 7D weren't cheap enough for making stunning movies on, now they've gone and undercut their own prices with the new 550D. Ok, it's a slimmed down 7D... it's not as well built (plastic not magnesium-alloy) and it's got no weather-proofing..and maybe the AF system isn't quite as good...but for film-makers , it's a dream come true. Full 1920 x 1080 25p!!! It's still got the same HDMI out, still got the adjustable shutter speed, aperture and ISO an still uses an 18MP APS-C size CMOS chip.


For a UK street price of about £900 you get the cam with a 18-55mm kit lens and for around £1100 you get the cam with a 18-135mm kit lens. For around £1200 you get the dual kit which includes the 18-55mm and a 18-250mm zoom.
The Specs:
  • 18 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • DIGIC 4 processor with ISO 100-6400 (Expansion to 12800)
  • Continuous shooting at 3.7fps
  • Full HD movie recording with manual control and selectable frame rates
  • 7.7cm (3.0”) 3:2 Clear View LCD with 1,040k dots
  • iFCL metering System with 63-zone Dual-layer Metering Sensor
  • Quick Control screen to change shooting settings
  • Exposure compensation +/-5 stops (although viewfinder scale is still +/-2 stops)
  • Select maximum value for Auto ISO
  • External Microphone socket
  • Movie crop function
  • Eye-Fi connected functions compatibility
This has got to be a massive moment for indie film-makers... you really can buy a camera that will give you gorgeous images, captured with a sensor far bigger than you'd ever get with a pro-sumer HD camera for less than a grand.  Amazing. I want

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What's really killing Cinema in the UK?

Back in the 80's it was easy. If you wanted to see a film on a big screen with good sound you had to go to the cinema. They had us in the palm of their hands. Even with the video rental market...cinema was too tough to top. VHS copies didn't look or sound great on the ropey TVs we had in homes back then...and it took months or even years for new titles to come out on video after the cinematic release. But that's all changed. In the last few years, sales of big plasma, LCD and now LED TVs have gone through the roof. Almost everyone is buying home-cinema style TVs and often fitting their living rooms with surround sound systems too. Not only do we have DVD, but we now have BluRay too... a massive increase in quality, especially vital for large screen viewing....and new titles can be in the shops within weeks of the cinema release.

Back at the cinema things aren't so good these days. The ticket prices are sky high...roughly £5 per adult minimum..often £7 or more. Then there's the food. If you want to budget for 2 adults to see a film, eat some popcorn and have a drink'd better take £25 minimum...and that's before we've thought about getting there and back.  Then you've got the cinema itself to deal with. Kids with mobile phones, uncomfortable seats and no one pauses the film when you need the loo.

So, you can stay a film on DVD or BluRay...(which you can pick up for less than £10 a lot of the time) in the comfort of your own home....or you can pay more than double that and get fleeced for some popcorn and flat coke.

Can anyone see a pattern forming here? When cheap booze was introduced via the supermarkets and then the smoking ban come into force...people stopped going to the pub midweek. Why pay double the price for your drinks to sit in what is basically someone else's living room instead of staying in your own? Ok, there's the social aspect of it..but with everyone busy chatting on Facebook and Twitter who needs physical social interaction? A massive portion of the population spends it's weekday evenings on the laptop at home with a drink in hand...TV on in the background.

The Film Business is struggling. The industry big players would have us believe that it's illegal downloading that's killing cinema. All the indie distributors and production companies that got snapped up by the big studios in the 90s are disappearing. The only movies getting made now are either the mega-budget blockbusters or the micro-budget indies. The middle ground has been swallowed up by a wave of fear perpetuated by the big studios. They think there's no mileage in releasing films that can't guarantee a huge opening weekend because they really can't afford to fail at the moment. That's why we're stuck in franchise limbo. Action movies based on comics will come thick and fast...anything with a megastar lead will get green lit...but films with soul, films that break the mould or showcase new talent will struggle to find investment from studios or distributors. It's not file sharing that's killing the movie business, it's the movies and the cinema chains.

Luckily, not everyone is prepared to take this lying down. The digital age has allowed film-makers to make their visions a reality with much less cash than a studio production would need. DIY film-makers have inherited an section of the industry left under-catered for by the tradition system. With online based fund raising campaigns and clever marketing, the DIY film-makers can take up the slack left by the industry and get a foot in the door. Self-Distribution is the name of the game... bypassing the middleman and selling directly to the audience... via physical forms (DVD, BluRay), via the web (streaming and downloads) and also via viewer requested screenings. Trailblazers like Arin Crumley with his 'Open Indie' ( project are the future. Expect to see lots of similar style projects popping up because it's good for everyone. The film-makers get to make good films that they want to make and the audiences get to see films they want to see without someone in the middle taking money from both sides.

So what's the film industry doing to stop the decline in cinema audiences and try to halt the 'pirates' of the DVD world. How are they going to get us into the cinema even though we've got home cinemas?
3D... the saviour of the film industry.  How many of you are waiting for Avatar to come out on DVD or BluRay before you see it? Not many i bet...   I personally don't think it's going to work in the long term. I've seen plenty of 3D movies and admittedly, these days they do look great, but it's a fad. I don't want to watch the next 'Trainspotting' or 'Shawshank' in 3D thanks very much. I'm sure we'll see some great action movies in 3D for the next couple of  years...but then it'll die down to the rarity it's always been. As for 3D TVs in the home... i can't see it taking off.  Until they find a way of getting rid of the need to wear glasses, i don't want one...and even then, i'm not that bothered.

So, if you want to help cinema and stop this industry from dying, it's not about bums on seats at your nearest's about finding the indie film near you and supporting it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More Canon News... another new cam for 2010?

It's not been long since we saw the first glimpse of the new Canon AVCHD prosumer cam but today Canon have put out a press release which announces plans for a new camera featuring a full HD codec based on MPEG-2 (4:2:2). It also says it's going to be able to record at 50mbps using MXF[2] format files.

I'm no expert on video compression codecs, but that sounds too fat to fit onto SD cards which is what the prototype cam we saw last month appears to use. So this could be a completely different camera....

The Press Release:

New Canon MPEG-2 Codec chosen for file-based professional video camcorder promises compatibility with industry-standard editing & processing software

London, February 2, 2010 - Canon Inc. today announces the adoption of an MPEG-2 Full HD (4:2:2) file-based recording codec for a new professional video camcorder currently under development. The Canon MPEG-2 codec will enable high-quality imaging and audio performance with up to 50 Mbps data recording and twice the colour data of HDV[1] profile formats. File-based recording helps video operations realise greater efficiencies during post-production processing, making it an ideal format for many industry applications such as news gathering, documentary filmmaking and event videography.


      MPEG-2 Full HD compression and 4:2:2 colour sampling
      The adoption of MPEG-2 Full HD (MPEG-2 4:2:2 HP@HL compliant) compression enables the recording of 1,920 x 1,080-pixel full high-definition video. Additionally, compared with the 4:2:0 profile format used in HDV and other standards, 4:2:2 colour sampling offers twice the volume of colour data, providing double the level of colour resolution.

      Maximum 50 Mbps data recording
      With approximately twice the total data volume of HDV, the codec supports higher resolution and increased colour data to enable the recording of high-quality video.

      Industry-standard MXF[2] file format
      MXF (Material eXchange Format) is a widely supported open source file format for the recording of video, audio and metadata, developed to suit the latest editing systems used by broadcasters.

Canon partners with major editing and processing software
With the adoption of the MPEG-2 Full HD (4:2:2) file-based recording codec, Canon is working in cooperation with Adobe Systems Incorporated, Apple Inc., Avid Technology, Inc. and Grass Valley to ensure compatibility with major editing and processing software programs widely used within the video imaging industry. Additionally, at future industry events Canon intends to demonstrate the overall video-production workflow, from initial video capture to clip-trimming and final editing.  Video clips stored in a file-based recording system and industry-standard software applications will be used.

[1] HDV is a standard for the recording and playback of high definition (1,440 x 1,080 pixels) video and audio on DV-format cassette tapes

[2] A format for professional digital video and audio media defined by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE)

EDIT>   So, it's not a different to camera to the one i mentioned in an earlier's that camera. 1/3" sensor, 50mbps 4:2:2 colourspace in a prosumer formfactor. (Not the dodgy mock-up you see above)

MacVideo have the scoop: