Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Canon C100 Mk2

I'm not going to go into detail... there's more than enough on news sites out there, but Canon's new version of the C100 has to be the best bet if you don't need 4K, but you have a collection of EOS lenses.  Nice ergonomics, 50/60 fps slow mo, and a much better screen and viewfinder. The C100 always struck me as the best bargain of the EOS range, especially when you team it up with an Atomos Ninja Blade.. it'll give you the same results as the C300.  The Mk2 version has added internal recording of MP4 files at 35MBps too, so it's usable for some stuff as it stands. The extended iso range is interesting -  i wonder how it's low light performance will be affected?
  • 8.3MP Super 35mm CMOS sensor
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Face Detection AF
  • Dual Format AVCHD/MP4 recording up to 1080/60p
  • Built in Wi-Fi and remote control options - ipad control possibly?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Failing on the way to winning...

I'm the first to admit that i'm learning as i go along. I have no training in film whatsoever. I made my first ever music promo about 10 years ago and then didn't pick up a camera again until 2007 when i decided very randomly to make a feature. With no experience and quite a lot of arrogance, i made a micro-budget feature. Bizarrely it got distribution after being available for free on YouTube for a year. It really was utterly awful... bad camerawork, bad lighting, woeful dialogue and and some truly laughable plot holes and acting...(mostly by me)  But... i learnt a lot.

At this stage, i started shooting more music promos and shorts. I realised i needed much more experience behind the camera and also operating the camera! Slowly, i started getting to grips with it.

Then, slightly foolishly, i made another feature. I thought i'd learnt enough to give it another go. But, i was too relaxed in my approach. The camerawork was better, but still not up to par. The editing was better, but still not right...the same goes for the script and the dodgy plot. But, again - i learnt so much.

Now, i could (and some say, should) have released this under a pseudonym, but i'm not scared to show my self-taught efforts... even if the reviews are sometimes painful to read.  I have no excuses for the sub-par end products. No one cares that i didn't spend much money or have an experienced crew, and why should they? I just need to be better.

The funny bit of all this to me is that i'm i'm a very experienced professional sound engineer who travels the world doing world class live mixes for some huge music artists... without blowing my own arse-trumpet - i'm really good at it...  i've been mixing professionally for nearly 25 years.  I see people trying to teach themselves my job and it's funny sometimes... some people just aren't cut out for it.  Am i one of those people, but in the film directing arena? Shiiiiit.... i hope not.

Since then, i've shot upwards of 14 music promos, several corporate promos and another feature...

Why another feature? Because it's the only way to learn. To learn screen writing, to learn direction, to learn good casting, to learn better camera work and editing....  all the music promos in the world don't teach you how to helm a feature. It's brutal. It's unforgiving and it's the only way i can progress.  I've seen features by some very experienced TV promo directors and they suck... it's not easy, no matter how much experience you have.

Is this one better? Yes. It's a quantum leap ahead of anything else i have done. Why? Because i honed it down to the necessary. I kept it simple, i kept it small and i cast people that genuinely 'pop' on camera....people who made me realise how much of directing is casting. It's fantastic to see my screenplay come to life and not want to hide behind my fingers while i'm watching it back.

What's next? Well... i've been busy on the post for 7 CASES most of this year. I'm proud of it and i think it's given me the confidence to ramp things up for my next feature.  Will the next one be perfect? Let's hope so! But in all honesty, it might take a while longer before BAFTA come knocking... i might never completely suss this game out... but i'm going to keep trying and if i can improve each time, you never know.  Like i've always said... just keep going. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Camera choices in 2014 - That eternal question - Which camera to buy?

It's that time again when i'm starting to look at the current camera market and decide what to shoot my next feature on.  As a lot of you know, i work pretty much independently with finance from private investors so it's good for everyone involved if i keep the costs low.  Budget isn't my only consideration though... I shoot a wide range of projects from shorts to features and music promos and sometimes i'm working alone, so i don't want anything that i could only use with a crew... it's important i can operate on my own if i need to.  Then there's the whole issue of owning a camera rather than just renting per project. I do too many little projects that only make financial sense if i don't have to factor in hire costs and the logistics involved with that. I already have a good selection of glass and grip equipment, so not owning a camera doesn't make much sense at this stage.

The next consideration is resolution and dynamic range. 4K shooting for an HD edit makes a lot of sense for me at the moment, and the dynamic range of some of the new cameras is probably more important than that.

So, with the array of new choices, my shortlist has come down to this:

The Lumix GH4 coupled with the Atomos Shogun. - Small, neat and very capable - and cheap.

The Sony A7S coupled with the Atomos Shogun. Again, small, neat, capable and stunning low light performance - slightly hampered by some severe rolling shutter issues.

The BMD URSA. The footage looks stunning, but the weight and size of it puts me off. Great price though. Concerns over the fixed pattern noise seen on the Production Camera too...

The Sony FS7 - This looks amazing, but i'd still partner it with the Shogun to get the convenient workflow and 4K Pro Res capability. Amazing for the money, but still £8K.

The Sony FS700 - Still a beast of a camera with great slow-mo and coupled with the Shogun, a really capable 4K option.

Ultimately, i'll be swayed quite a lot by whichever one feels best. It's mad to decide on a camera on specs alone... there's no substitute for actually playing with one, holding it and using it and seeing how it actually works for you in the real world.

What cameras have i owned up until now? The list isn't huge, but it goes something like this:

Sony DSR200  -This was good at the time.
Sony VX1000  - Very similar to the DSR200...small size made it useful for in-car shooting.
JVC GY-DV500 - A huge beast of a camera. I had the Fujinon asymmetrical zoom lens which was great.
Panasonic AG-DVX100 - A major step up from the previous cams... proper 24p and cine-look profiles.
Canon 550D - my first DSLR and first step in to HD. A great camera. I still use it.
Contour Roam 3 - Great form factor, but not a great performer. Didn't last long.
Go Pro Hero 3 - The defacto action cam. I still use it a lot and will buy the Hero 4 asap.
Sony NEX-FS100 - My current camera. Stunning low-light performance and a great workhorse.

Along the way i also used The Canon XL1S, The Sony Z1 and the EX1,  the 5D Mk2, the Lumix GH2 and more recently, the RED Epic and Canon C300...but i never owned these cameras.

At the end of the day, a camera is just a tool.... i'll get the one that does the best job for the least money and try not to get too carried away with specs.  As i've said before, no one ever asks what a good film was shot on - it really doesn't matter.

Right now we're spoilt. There's a huge array of really excellent cameras and recorders and there's really no excuse to not get out there and shoot something.

One thing i do know though, whichever camera i end up getting next, i'll be sticking with the Atomos way of working. I love my Ninja and Samurai Blades... they make shooting so much more convenient. So, an Atomos Shogun is the future for me...and i think it will be the same for a lot of people moving up to 4K shooting.