Saturday, April 24, 2010

DVD Studio Pro nightmares...and mpeg2 woes..

I've spent the last few weeks working on the DVD for our 'Shoot The DJ' movie. I spent days making the background images in photoshop, hours crafting the menu system so that it flows and looks great...and literally weeks trying different compressor settings for compressing the 20GB film file down to a 4.8GB mpeg2 to fit on the dual layer DVD. (along with various other bits like out-takes and trailers)

I have run into several issues. Firstly, compressing to mpeg2 is depressing. It takes a nice looking master and makes it look pants. I've tried CBR, VBR, Apple Compressor, FFmpeg and even paid for a Sonic SD-2000 professional encode.. but, it always looks like we shot the film on mobile phone by the time it's finished.

What i have learned is this: If any of your source footage is not up to scratch, it will totally suck by the time mpeg2 has got hold of it. So, if you've got a dodgy bit of footage in your film...maybe a little too dark and starting to show the signs of noise in the blacks...even just a little bit...compressing to mpeg2 will destroy it. We had a scene which was under-exposed when it was shot. The original footage looked a bit dodgy, but we decided it was probably ok. We were wrong.

All the daylight or nicely lit shots look ok. Not amazing..but certainly ok and most people won't see any issue at all with them, but the noise in the picture on the dark scenes is definitely distracting to the viewer.

Anyway, once i'd accepted that picture quality was just something we had to learn by and move on, i came up against another major issue... DVD Studio Pro 4. I had completed my DVD building and was in the process of setting the 'break point' for the dual layer. I placed the marker at an appropriate place in the film, ticked 'break point' and un-ticked 'chapter' and then in the main DVD menu section, i selected the right break point from the drop down list. I then burned a test DVD. The test didn't work too well. The encode looked rough and the break point wasn't as good as it could be. The menus also were a bit erratic.

So... i changed the mpeg2 movie file for a new version and then re-set all the chapter markers and set my break point marker. But...this time, i couldn't change it in the drop down menu. It would only let me select the previous marker or 'automatic'. All the other markers were in the drop down menu, but none of them would stay selected. So..i tried to delete the track which the marker was set within.... it wouldn't delete. I tried deleting it from the graphical view, from the connections tab...nowhere would let me delete it. Then i tried removing all the connections to it..from all the menus and the other files in the DVD. Still, it would not let me delete it.

It turns out, that the mpeg2 file that i had the break point set within had some kind of corruption in the file. I had to re-encode the file and start again. Now, with all the work on the DVD menu and other assests, i  didn't want to start from scratch...but if i tried to re-use the same file, it wouldn't let me delete the old i found a way out.

I highlighted each section in the graphical view and then exported it using file/export/item description.

Then, i started a new project and imported the item descriptions for all the various bits and hey presto...i was back on track...and all the connections were still working. But... the nasty offending file was long gone. All i had to do now was create my DDP files and burn them to DVDRs. Easy...

From now on i'm looking at new delivery methods...from well shot HD...never skanky SD's too much stress!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sneaky pics of Panasonic AG-AF100

Thanks to HotRod Cameras for these pics from NAB. Apparently there's a PL mount adapter just out of shot too...

If Sony and Canon have these kinda cams on the way too, it's going to be an exciting time for film-makers.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sony Show a Glimpse of a Large Sensor Cam for 2011

Sony - New Small Prototype Digital Cinema Camera - NAB 2010 - Playback from camera department on Vimeo.
Sony unveiled a new prototype for a small digital cinema camera at their NAB 2010 press conference. The camera is scheduled to be released at next year's NAB.

Sony's Twitter feed leaked this pic out earlier from NAB in Vegas. It's their take on the large sensor 'shallow depth of field' type camera to rival the DSLRs. There's not much detail or specs, so it's mostly speculation, but that's a 65mm prime on the front and it looks like a flip-out LCD screen and all the trimmings you'd expect from a video camera as opposed to a DSLR. It will use SXS cards and has a full 35mm sensor...great news.  Slated for a 2011 release, this sector of the market is really hotting up. I'm sure the RED Scarlett is going to be great, but the age it's taken to get to market is going to really hurt their sales if Sony and Panasonic have similar rigs coming up... and that's without Canon showing their hand yet.

However you look at it, it's great news for film-makers. Let's just hope we can use a wide range of lenses on these new cams and that they keep the prices sensible.

Park Life - New 550D (T2i) Test Shoot

Park Life from Sean J Vincent on Vimeo.

Sunday afternoon at the park with the kids. Canon 550D (T2i), the 18-55mm stock lens and my 50mm Zeiss Pentacon Prime.

All handheld.. and a little over-exposed in places.. Not bad for a little test shoot with no tripod or ND filters though...

Panasonic AG-AF100 4/3" HD Camcorder



* Premier AVCCAM Video Camera Combines 4/3” Sensor with Superior Video Quality, Professional Audio Inputs, Variable Frame Rates, SDXC Card Technology *

LAS VEGAS, NV (April 11, 2010) – Panasonic Solutions Company today announced a game-changing AVCCAM HD camcorder, the AG-AF100, the first professional micro 4/3-inch video camcorder optimized for high-definition video recording. Scheduled to ship by the end of 2010, the AG-AF100 will set a new benchmark for digital cinematography.

Targeted at the video and film production communities, the AF100 delivers the shallow depth of field and wider field of view of a large imager, with the flexibility and cost advantages of use with a growing line of professional quality, industry standard micro 4/3-inch lenses, filters, and adapters. The full 1080 and 720 production camera offers superior video handling, native 1080/24p recording, variable frame rates, professional audio capabilities, and compatibility with SDHC and SDXC media.

The design of the AF100’s micro 4/3-inch sensor affords depth of field and field of view similar to that of 35mm movie cameras in a less expensive camera body. Equipped with an interchangeable lens mount, the AF100 can utilize an array of low-cost, widely-available still camera lenses as well as film-style lenses with fixed focal lengths and primes.

“Designed in consultation with the filmmaking community, the AF100 eclipses the video performance of other cameras in this price range,” said Joe Facchini, Vice President of Sales & Product Management, Media & Production Services, Panasonic Solutions Company. “Ideal for film schools and independent filmmakers, this affordable, digital cinematography camera employs an advanced professional AVC/ H.264 Hi Profile AVCHD codec compatible with a wide range of editing tools and affordable players.”

The AF100 incorporates a 4/3-inch, 16:9 MOS imager. The camcorder records 1080/60i, 50i, 30p, 25p and 24p (native) and 720/60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p (native) in AVCHD’s highest-quality PH mode (maximum 24Mbps). Ready for global production standards, the camcorder is 60Hz and 50Hz switchable.

The AF100 maximizes the potential of its high-resolution imager with built-in ND filtering and dramatically reduced video aliasing. Standard professional interfaces include HD-SDI out, HDMI, time code recording, built-in stereo microphone and USB 2.0. The AF100 features two XLR inputs with +48V Phantom Power capability, 48-kHz/16-bit two-channel digital audio recording and supports LPCM/Dolby-AC3.

This newest Panasonic AVCCAM camcorder is the first to enjoy the benefits of advanced SDXC media card compatibility in addition to existing SDHC card support. (SDXC is the newest SD memory card specification that supports memory capacities above 32GB up to 2TB). With two SD slots, the AF100 can record up to 12 hours on two 64GB SDXC cards in PH mode

The AG-AF100 will be available by the end of 2010. Panasonic will support the AF100 with a three-year limited warranty (one year plus two extra years upon registration).

This is fantastic... it's what DSLR users have been hoping for... but, the bit rate isn't as high as we'd like and it's 4/3, not APS-C or Full frame.  But, if Panasonic can do can Canon. Looks like the tail end of 2010 could see some interesting developments.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

New AVID DSLR news..and more.

Just heard that MC5 from AVID now supports H.264 .MOV files right on the timeline. Full edit capabilities without transcoding or wrapping. Very nice. Good news.

While i'm here, i just spent the day shooting some footage with my 550D and have noticed an interesting issue. I used the screen on the back of the camera to check exposure and focus before shooting and each time i was happy with the shot before i hit the 'record' button. But... a lot of the shots are over-exposed. Now i have heard that the camera has a tendency to over-expose, but i'd not had it happen before. The only thing i can think of is that it was sunny today and i was shooting outside. Maybe the screen wasn't telling me the truth..maybe the sun glare was affecting it more than i thought. Either way, it's not a huge issue... i'll try some outside shots in the sun again soon with the external monitor and a shade and see how i get on.

I'm just cutting together the footage now, so i'll post it soon.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Phil Bloom's 'Pacific'

Philip's become known as real DSLR evangelist lately, and with all his work with Zacuto and stunning films shot on the Canon DSLRs, it's easy to see why. But, he's not anti ENG style cameras.. as this new film shows. Shot with the new Panasonic HPX371 which is the replacement for the HPX301, this film shows that Phil doesn't need his vast array of DSLR lenses to make a stunning film. Enjoy..

"Pacific": Panasonic HPX 370/371 from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Canon XF305 & XF300

 After much speculation and some sneak previews of the mock-up, we finally get to see the new XF range of cams from Canon. Maybe not quite what some people were hoping for.. but, some seriously good features. The L-Series lens looks like it might be very impressive and the tech spec is very nice... 4:2:2, 50Mbps, Variable frame rates....and CF card storage. The XF300 is a slightly slimmed down version of the loses the SDI output, the timecode and the Genlock... no biggy for lots of you just shooting with the one camera.

Canon have obviously been listening to us, because not only do we get a decent data rate and 4:2:2, but the focus ring and zoom ring both have end stops... a good move.

The options for recording modes are:

1920x1080/50i, 1920x1080/25p, 1280x720/50p, or 1280x720/25p

The retail price of the XF305 is going to be $7999.... so the XF300 will be a bit less and we'll probably get stitched up in the UK and have to pay way over the £6k mark.. but you never know.

Here's the official blurb on the XF305:

The XF305, one of Canon’s first file-based professional camcorders, combines an MPEG-2, 50Mbps, 4:2:2 codec with a Canon L-series lens, 3 Full HD CMOS sensors and studio connectivity for superb HD video stored on CF card.


* MPEG-2 MXF recording to CF cards at up to 50Mbps (4:2:2)
* Comprehensive NLE support
* 18x wide angle Canon L-series lens
* 3 x 1/3 type Full HD Canon CMOS sensors
* HD-SDI, Timecode, Genlock
* 10.1 cm LCD (1.23M dots); 1.3 cm (1.55M dots) EVF
* Variable frame rates

Set your own standard: professional, file-based Full HD

Capture high quality HD to CF cards
The XF305 records MPEG-2 MXF (Media eXchange Format) files – up to 1920 x 1080 Full HD at 50Mbps (4:2:2) – to CompactFlash (CF) memory cards. CF media is inexpensive and widely available: dual card slots allow filming to continue without interruption.

Flexible editing
Integrating seamlessly with existing workflows, movies shot on the XF305 are captured as industry-standard MXF files compatible with all major editing packages.

18x wide-angle lens
Drawing on Canon’s broadcast lens expertise – and informed by the feedback of professionals – the lightweight 18x L-series HD Video Lens delivers superb optical quality. Unique Ultra-Low Dispersion (Hi-UD) elements are used to prevent chromatic aberration. Separate rings offer independent control of Focus, Zoom and Iris (F1.6) – with full manual control available, end stops are provided for the focus and zoom rings.

3x Full HD CMOS
Full HD at 1920 x 1080 resolution is captured via three 1/3 type 2.07 Megapixel Full HD CMOS sensors – designed and manufactured by Canon in-house. High speed scanning minimises the effects of a rolling shutter.

10.1 cm LCD and 1.3 cm EVF
The 10.1 cm (4”) LCD screen can be positioned either side of the camera. Offering superior resolution (1.2M dots), the Focus Assist tool helps achieve sharp images. A built-in Waveform Monitor (WFM) helps verify exposure and other shooting parameters. Alternatively, a 1.3 cm (0.52”) Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) is available.

Variable frame rate
A wide range of frame rates is available, from 12 to 50 fps. This gives cameramen the freedom to alter the capture rate for additional creative flexibility.

Professional jackpack and independent audio
HD-SDI output is the industry standard, outputting uncompressed Full HD with embedded audio and Timecode. Genlock In and Timecode In/Out allow the XF305 to be used in a multi-camera shoot. Audio can be captured via twin XLR inputs and also with the front-mounted stereo microphone.

Custom pictures
Twenty-six Custom Picture options can be adjusted to achieve the perfect look. These can be stored in-camera – via SD card - and settings can even be transferred between camcorders.

CPS support *
Canon’s exclusive CPS Video Support offers a priority repair service, guaranteeing quick turnaround.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Canon 550D (T2i) Low light test & DoF Test

This is an excerpt from a short called 'The Radio' which we shot recently.

Canon 550D Low Light Footage (Take from 'The Radio' -short) from Sean J Vincent on Vimeo.

Shot with Pentacon Zeiss 50mm prime at F1.8. ISO 1600.

No lighting apart from the street lights.

Canon 550D (T2i) DoF Test from Sean J Vincent on Vimeo.

Just the cat on Luke's lap. Shot with a Pentax-M 50mm prime at F2. ISO 400. Just the ambient light that was in the room.

Canon 550D (T2i)- converting old camera lenses...

So i've been using the 550 for a little while now and have got a little collection of lenses together mostly from eBay and a really cool little market stall i've discovered. Thanks to the availability of adapters that allow you to use any make of 35mm lens on your Canon, you have an amazing scope for using some great lenses. So far i have bought:

A 50mm Pentacon Zeiss prime. - Stunning low light performance. It goes down to F1.8.

A 50mm Pentax-M prime. Similar to the Pentacon, but with a softer look. Goes down to F2.

A 28mm Sigma prime. This is nice and wide, even with the aps-c sensor and it also is the right size thread for me to attach my wide angle convertor. This gives me a really wide angle shot.

A Chinon 35 - 80mm Zoom with Macro. A basic zoom lens, but really nice build quality and good optics.

A Miranda 70 - 210mm Zoom with Macro. A pretty long zoom. Again, great build quality and a lovely image from this 1980's lens.

Finally, there's the stock lens... an 18-55mm autofocus with IS zoom lens. Not bad... works pretty well but dreadful plastic build quality.

There's a few things you need to do to some of the lenses to make them work with the Canon DSLRs without harming them. Some of my lenses are Pentax K-fit. The adapter was £3 from eBay, but you need to remove the pin and pin guard that stick out of the back of the lens or it will hit the sensor when you try to attach it. To do this, you just need to remove the backplate, then use a pair of wire snippers to cut the pin off as close to the bottom as you can.

 The guards are either metal or plastic. The plastic ones can be filed off using dremmel, but the metal ones sometimes need cutting off with a dremmel cutting disc or something similar.


You can also remove the ball-bearing that makes the iris ring click if you want. It makes it more like a cinema lens and gives you some more flexibility to adjust the iris while shooting. Remember to remove the spring that pushes the ball-bearing against the iris ring or it'll come out at some point and the iris ring will then make a grinding noise.

 Sometimes there's a ring too which connects the iris control to the camera. You can often just remove this. REMEMBER THOUGH - There's no using these lenses on the cameras they were designed for once you have butchered them!!

It takes a little while, but when you're finished you have a some really nice lenses which will out perform a lot of the lenses you can buy in the shops now. The only difference is that they will only work in a completely manual mode.... but for filming, that's what we want!

As well as lens butchery, i've also been playing with my new mattebox. I ended up getting the Pro-Aim one from India. I've heard various views on them...not all good, but for the £230 odd quid it cost, it's really nice. It came with 2 rotating filter trays, a full french flag and side-flags set up and various mounting options. I've been out shooting with it and it's pretty tough... maybe not upto the standard of the redrock or cinevate, but definitely on par with many other better brands. At the end of the day, it's a bit of plastic to hold filters and keep the sun out of your lens... it's a stitch up that they cost what they do.

The follow-focus, Lilliput monitor and mounting arm, glidetrack and other toys are coming soon...