Thursday, April 26, 2012

BMD Cinema Camera and the Atomos Ninja 2...

Sorry i've been so quiet over the last few weeks. I've been on a 2 weeks UK tour with Howard Jones and since i got back i've been working on 'The Addicted' almost non-stop. It's been hard to find time to write.

So, NAB looks like it was a pretty exciting event this year. Lots of new cameras... Sony's new FS700, Canon's C500 and the totally unexpected BlackMagic Design Cinema Camera. I think it's safe to say that indie filmmakers have never had it so good.

Atomos Ninja 2

Hot off the success of the Ninja and Samurai Pro Res recorders, Atomos have released the Ninja 2. Featuring a brighter and higher resolution screen (800x480) with a 170 degree viewing angle and a new HDMI out as well as the existing HDMI input. This means you can link through, or use it purely as playback device. How cool would it be to rock up to a screening with your Ninja, plug it in and watch your movie without the need for laptops, decent playback software etc. It also means you can watch your footage back on-set on a nice big monitor to make sure you got the shot. No more squinting at small screens for important rushes checking. It's also got SmartLog to allow you to tag good takes and make post production quicker.

There's also the additions the original Ninja got in the recent firmware update...peaking, zebras, scope crop marks, blue only and false colour etc.  The Ninja 2 is the same price as before, $995.00.

BlackMagic Design Cinema Camera
I don't think anyone saw this coming. A camera with a 2.5K sensor that shoots 12bit  RAW, Pro Res and DNxHD with 13 stops of dynamic range... with proper HD-SDi out, Thunderbolt, SSD, a big 5 inch touchscreen for entering metadata and free copies of Da Vinci Resolve and UltraScope. It's got a mount that supports EF and ZF lenses and an internal battery. The internal battery has put some people off, but it's also got an external power input, so it's no problem really. Other slight issues are the senor size (it's roughly 16mm rather than the super 35mm of the C300 and FS100/700) there's an approximate 2x crop factor on your lenses and you won't get the super shallow depth of field shots... and it might not perform so well in low light... but, with 13 stops.. and12bit raw, it will turn in some very film-like footage.

But... the bit that has shocked everyone and has probably had all the major camera manufacturers running back to their drawing boards is the price.... $2995.00.   Yep... under $3k.  I can't wait to try one out.

Official Specs:

  • High resolution 2.5K sensor allows improved anti aliasing and reframing shots.
  • Super wide 13 stops of dynamic range allows capture of increased details for feature film look.
  • Built in SSD allows high bandwidth recording of RAW video and long duration compressed video.
  • Open file formats compatible with popular NLE software such as CinemaDNG 12 bit RAW, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD. No custom file formats.
  • Includes no custom connections. Standard jack mic/line audio in, BNC 3 Gb/s SDI out, headphone, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology, LANC remote control and standard DC 12-30V power connection.
  • Capacitive touch screen LCD for camera settings and slate metadata entry.
  • Compatible with extremely high quality Canon EF and Zeiss ZF lenses.
  • Supports 2.5K and 1080HD resolution capture in 24, 25, 29.97 and 30 fps.
  • Thunderbolt connection allows direct camera capture via included Media Express software and supports live waveform monitoring via the included Blackmagic UltraScope software.
  • Includes a full copy of DaVinci Resolve 9.0 color grading software.

  • News
    We're nearing completion of my latest feature 'The Addicted'. The first trailer is out there... there's 2 more trailers to come in the next few weeks and we're frantically working on the ADR, the music and the Foley. Cannes is just a few weeks away and we can't wait to preview it to the people we're meeting there.

    The next Video Production Blog is taking shape... it's a really good one featuring the rest of the production team this time...  it'll be out soon.

    I've also just done an editing job for EADS Astrium, the space people... and it might make the Channel 4 news tonight... so that's quite cool. Keep an eye out for it.

    Right... i've got a film to finish..


    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Sony FS700... wow.

    So here it is...  Andrew Reid from EOSHD was right... Sony have just announced the FS700, a new model in the Sony Large Sensor range. 

    It takes what the FS100 had and ups it's specs to a 4K sensor which for now will only shoot 1080p, but a 4K RAW 3G-SDI firmware upgrade is promised.  (what are we going to capture that to??)

    The best news for me? 10bit 4:2:2. Result. That's all i've been waiting for. No more 8bit banding.
    EDIT>> Hmmm...turns out it's still 8bit padded to 10bit...  shame. But the SDI output should give us 12bit 4K at some point...which is interesting, although highly likely to be a pretty expensive bit of hardware to capture it.

    As you can see, there's an ND wheel at last... so all those ENG guys can stop whinging. There's also a re-designed handle that looks a bit better than the FS100 one.

    Biggest news for out-of-the-box-niceness.... has to be the slow-mo capabilities. 

    240fps for 8 seconds in Full HD
    120fps for 16 seconds in Full HD
    960fps up to approx 19 seconds in a burst (1920×216 line skipped readout, interpolated in camera to 1920×1080)
    1480fps up to approx 9 seconds in a burst (1920×432 line skipped readout, interpolated in camera to 1920×1080)

    That's reason enough to buy it for me.  And how much is this thing going to be? Well, in the US it's apparently going to be under $10k. So expect $9999.99... which will probably mean £9k over here in the UK.

    EDIT>>>  Looks like £6500 according to Den Lennie... let's hope so. That's a shit-load of camera for not a lot of outlay. Nice job Sony.    #ooopscanon

    From Sony:

    The camcorder delivers Full-HD quality images at 120 and 240 frames per second in an 8 or 16 seconds burst mode respectively. The NEX-FS700’s high sensitivity and low noise shooting capability makes super slow motion shooting more convenient without additional equipment. 480 fps and 960 fps rates at reduced resolution are available for faster frame rate recording.

    The NEX-FS700 camcorder uses a new 4K “Exmor” Super 35 CMOS sensor (total 11.6 million pixels). This high-speed readout chip is optimised for motion picture shooting, giving high sensitivity, low noise and minimal aliasing.

    The NXCAM’s E-Mount flexibility is designed to accept virtually all SLR and DSLR 35mm lenses, with the use of simple, inexpensive adapters without optical degradation. FS series owners can make use of their existing lenses and add more lenses without being forced on a brand or mount. Users can capture high-quality still images with the NEX-FS700. The camcorder also includes face detection and auto focus to help ensure the subject is always kept in focus.

    NEX-FS700 operators can take advantage of the camcorder’s built-in ND filters, with a newly designed wheel that rotates across the sensor like a turret. The wheel includes positions for Clear, 1/4 (2 Stop), 1/16 (4 Stop), and 1/64 (6 Stop).

    The camcorder is 60/50Hz switchable to give people the freedom of working in any geographic region without being restricted to only PAL or NTSC recording. The NEX-FS700’s 3GHD-SDI and HDMI connectors can output Full-HD 50p and 60p, in addition to standard HD 60i, 24p, 25p or 30p frame rates with embedded time code and audio. 3G HD-SDI can output native 23.98, 25, 29.97 progressive signals; users can choose to output PsF over the 3G HD-SDI. Thanks to flexibility of the digital ports virtually any external recorder can be connected.

    Users can save up to 99 camcorder profile settings on a memory card and can copy the same setting to multiple units. Compatible media includes MS and SD memory cards and Sony’s HXR-FMU128 flash memory unit that attaches to the camcorder. The NEX-FS700 features include a robust detachable top handle, secured by a pair of screws (a cold shoe, plus two sets of 1/4 and 3/8 inch holes) that allow heavy accessories to be mounted. The handle is attached with a rosette mount.

    A key element of the handle is an “active grip” that features four buttons for commonly used functions – expanded focus, auto iris, still capture and Recording Start/Stop – so users can easily operate the camcorder while holding it. Function buttons are also enlarged to make operating easy, even while wearing gloves. The camcorder’s enhanced durable design also includes anchor points for compatibility with third party accessories.

    Sony is planning a future firmware upgrade that will enable the NEX-FS700 to output 4K bit-stream data over 3G HD-SDI when used with an optional Sony 4K recorder.

    The NEX-FS700 is planned to be available in June 2012.

    5D Mk3 and the ongoing camera wars.

    A few weeks ago, Canon launched the 5D mk3, the successor to the camera that started the DSLR revolution, the 5D Mk2. Every film making blog probably covered the launch, but to be honest i didn't see the point of getting involved. I haven't tested one and i don't think i will.
    Getting my Canon 550D back in 2010 helped me develop my shooting skills and i still enjoy shooting with it, but since i got the Sony FS100, i rarely use the DSLR for anything serious. I'm not saying the 550D is not up to it, it is, but as we all know, DSLRs are more of a faff to shoot with than a dedicated video camera.

    I think this feeling has finally spread throughout the industry. I wouldn't ever say you can't shoot with a DSLR, but i think they have taken their rightful place as another tool for the film-maker rather than a replacement for a video or film camera. Back when it was the only cost effective way to get that 35mm optics look with the shallow depth of field etc, then we needed to rely on them, but now i only use mine when i need the small form factor or i need to be inconspicuous.

    As for the 5D Mk3...  it's had mixed reviews with regard to it's video capabilities. A lot of people aren't hugely impressed with the lack of sharpness of the picture. Even Phil Bloom advocates sharpening the picture in post to make the most of it.  For the the kind of money the 5D Mk3 costs, i don't want to be messing with the sharpness in post. The addition of an SDHC slot as well as the CF slot is handy, as is the extending of the shooting time to about 30mins, but it's still not the camera some people hoped it would be.

    Canon finally added a headphone socket, and i'm sure people will be glad of it, but it looks like they really worked hard to protect the market which is being very kind to their C300 at the moment.... they could have made the 5D3 awesome for video, but why would they do that?

    I think the forthcoming 'C' series  EOS DSLR which is supposed to be aimed at the video market and is possibly going to be 4k could be a lot more interesting. Like before, as long as it gives the film maker something they can't get without spending a lot more money, the DSLR form factor won't hold it back. I'm guessing the 4k will be compromised by a lack of HD-SDI output as well as a codec that will not get the best from it, not to mention it won't be real 4k... just 4x 1080p... but if they get the price right and we can use it to get true 1080, it will be a really useful tool to have.

    Whatever happens at NAB, you can sure that all these new wonder-cams will have a shorter shelf life than ever before as we keep ploughing through this ridiculous, but fun time of rapid tech expansion.

    Remember this though... a good Director is a story teller, not a technician..  the camera is always less important than the story.