Which Camera – more thoughts… F3??

When I attend the sneak peak of the F3 here on the west coast in November I thought it was a terrific camera – but more than what most of us regular working cameramen would be able to use day to day (at the then 16,000 price tag). I had been using a LETUS adapter on my EX3 for about 2 years and was still having trouble talking many of my regular producers into using it ( daily cost not withstanding). They either didn’t see the benefits or felt it would impact the shooting schedule to severely. Then enter the 5D… Everybody wanted “Shallow DoF” !!!!

Now the stage is set… Canon follows with the 7D, Panasonic releases the AF-100, RED is up with the Scarlet and the Epic-S, Canon is rumored to show a new interchangeable lens HD video camera…. That all being said I started looking at all these contenders and re-evaluated the F3 – and here’s the skinny:

The every day camera in these new days of DoF minded clients with fast, card based work flows that can have multiple finishing strategies will need to have the ability to convert from a super shallow film style camera to a grab and go ENG rig in less than 5 minutes and still fit into my truck with only a few cases =) I went back and looked at all the cameras again and it came down to the Sony F3 or maybe what Canon comes out with. But Canon’s offering would need to be significant as the entrenched Sony Picture Profiles are so available now and requested that it’s important to have a “Matchable” camera. Also, with many people now finishing HD you can no longer do the “shoot wide and scale in post” trick so I am often setting 2 matched cameras and getting my wide and tight at the same time (when eye line is not going to be an issue). So all that being said, for right now, it looks like the F3 is the best all around bet – especially if you have an EX1 or EX3. They can be matched pretty well using the EX as the wide and the F3 getting the glory tight shots. Both will use the same Picture Profile just fine.

Now to the specifics =) The camera is real pretty. Almost no noise (unless you try really hard) Operates just like an EX. Work flow is just like an EX. My EX cards and batteries fit. My rods and FF and mattebox fit. I’m using a Hawk-Woods power distro for my for my bricks to work with it – real nice ad on. We haven’t got the $3300 upgrade yet but are considering it. Birger Engineering will have an adapter ready in the summer (rumor has it) with full control for my EOS lenses and wireless FF features ta boot =) We are looking at the Atomos Samurai SSD/Monitor system for the near future and the Convergent Design Gemini or Cinedeck if needed later to provide our 4:4:4 10bit solution.

Operation: A little on the heavy side… not too bad, just pipey. Good on battery life. Fairly smart layout – 10 assignable buttons. 1/4-20’s everywhere ( 3 on the handle, 4 on the body and probably some I haven’t found yet) The prime lenses work very nicely. I am waiting to use my EOS “L” series zooms =) I will probably look into the Zeiss ZF.2 lens kit with an MTF Nikon to E-mount adapter for my camera. The one I reviewed is using the Sony primes and a RED 18-50mm zoom. Depends on your needs…

And finally… I have used it on some corporate work: interviews ( I’m hoping to post some frame grabs when I get cleared to do so) b-roll and static shots. My take away is this… Great camera for interviews, staged shots, controllable b-roll situations, product and EFX shots. Right now, with the current non-servo zoom lens selection, it’s not going to be that great for “Run & Gun”, candids or pop zoom fashion type work or ballroom cams. I will keep my EX3 for that for now and see what Sony is planning for their servo lenses in 2012. The F3 is the only camera ready to zoom with the rocker in place and a plan for it.

Hope you all can boil this down and extract some good info that applies to your independent needs. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Which camera ? Which camera ?? WHICH CAMERA!!! ???

OK, so as NAB 2011 draws near… This seems to be the year that everything is going to change — Or at least in the worlds of broadcast and cinematography…

There are so many things I hope to get out of NAB this year. Will Canon come out with their new HD FF35 camera? What’s up with the 5Dmk3? Will RED deliver the Scarlet and the EPIC-S? Will Sony have all the specs out for the FS100 and some units to play with? Where is Birger Engineering in their development on a EF to E-mount adapter for Canon lenses on the Sony PMW-F3? Ninja or Samurai? NanoFlash or AJA Ki Pro Mini?… House payment or GEAR!!!! (wait. I think I’ve gone too far =)

So here’s what’s been going through my head for the last several weeks:

What’s the best camera for the work I do and can it last me for the next 5 years? (5 years??) What it needs to have:

  • 10bit HD-SDI and/or HDMI 4:2:2 uncompressed output – Clean
  • Card based recording system that is or can be adapted to SDHC form factor cards
  • APS-C or larger sensor – S35 or FF35
  • XLR audio and proper controls with LINE and MIC input level choices
  • Timecode IN (and out)
  • Good headphone monitoring
  • Oh yeah… interchangeable lenses =)
Things that would be nice:
  • ENG / EFP Servo ZOOM lens
  • ND stages
  • Picture profiles and the ability to store them and load to other cameras
  • Edit ready format to drop right into my NLE and grading
  • Composite video output for fast attaching to Steadicams and the like
  • SSD storage options
Of course this list could go on for days. But lets look at the top contenders for under $20K
…And yes I did rate them according to their estimated MSRP =) All of the cameras should be able to be configured sub 20K but you can accessorize them to your heart’s content.

I have widdled it down like this for me:

  • I have an EX3, a LETUS extreme, a 5Dmk2 with nice lens kit and accessories.
  • I use a 17″ JVC HD-SDI monitor for my clients on-set.
  • I use a Marshall 7″ HD-SDI monitor on the camera for me.
  • Shallow DoF is starting to become more prevalent with my clients and their projects.
  • Most are editing on Final Cut Pro (FCP) but are not willing to spend a lot of time converting or syncing.
  • Apple is going to SDHC slots and cards
UPDATE: Apple is releasing FCP-X WOO HOOOO!!! To use this year’s catch phrase “Game Changer”!!! If all works as it should the new ingest (or lack of need to) path for FCP will help with a lot of these concerns. DSLRs up to the RED will supposedly work – straight in – Yeah!!!

For a brief moment I thought I had it figured out… Nope. I’m leaning towards the Sony offerings but … I don’t know. If the economy picks up a little more and the projects start coming in on a regular basis again, I think I am heavily considering the Sony F3. The S-Log feature and the familiarity is just a really good thing. WIth my EX3 as a second unit I can get away with a lot on 2 camera stacked shots that will be finishing in HD. And I have a few colleagues that have or are considering the F3 so there would be a pool of F3’s to dip into if needed.

The other factor that is starting to creep into the equation is the deliverables. Great tools like the Cinedeck, Convergent Design’s Gemini 4:4:4, AJA KI Pro and KI Pro Mini and the offerings from Atomos – Ninja and Samurai. These all allow us to extent the life of our current cameras and bring new tricks to our future projects.

Check back soon. I will have a whole new spin on this – I’m sure =)

Until next time, good shooting,


F3 Day(s)-Day 2

OK. So we decided to do some more testing with the F3 before we started shooting for realliezzz. We had a bit of a camera party / geek fest at my house and grouped my EX3, 5Dmk2, my buddy’s 7D’s and the F3. It was quite a mess =) We also added the Steadicam into the mix to see which cameras would fit and stay balanced.

First off we wanted to compare the F3 and the 7D since they are almost the same in sensor size. The FoV was very close. A 35mm lens on the 7D was just about the same as the F3 with the Sony 35mm prime attached. The F3 of course was more sensitive over all but the 7D held up pretty well in overall image. Of course you can’t really do apples to apples as you have all the monitoring options you would ever want on the F3 and are kind of limited to putting together an HDMI array with splitters and Black Magic Designs converter boxes for the 7D.

Comparing the F3 to my EX3, the functionality was really almost the same. The F3 felt a lot like running my EX3 (with out a zoom rocker…). The menus and adjustments all worked similarly. The audio was the same work flow. And there are a ton of shortcut buttons on the F3…

I have a Hawk-Woods V-mount power plate I use with my 5D rig and found I can make that work with the F3 just fine. It allows me use a V-mount brick to power all sorts of goodies on the rig (it has 5 D-Tap outs). So, one D-Tap to 4-pin cable and I’m all set. I have an IDX adapter for my EX3 and use the same V-mount bricks on it. I like the B4B bricks, they have a nice long life and are pretty ruggedly built. I adapted my JVC – 17″ HD monitor to use the same bricks as well. Basically everything that needs battery power in my rigs now run off the V-mount batts.

With the Steadicam, all of the cameras worked. I had to strip the F3 down quite a bit – no matte box, no follow focus – but it work =) This Steadicam is set for 5 to 20 lbs. We came in at about 16 lbs all rigged. The EX3 and the Canons worked very nicely on the Steadicam. I almost had to ad a little weight to the lighter configurations to balance out…

Well that’s about it for now. I’ll have more to report after a couple of real shooting days with the F3. I’m looking forward to a potential project we have coming up where there will be a mix of EX3’s and F3’s on location – I want to see how well they play together on the same set.


Sony PMW-F3 Day(s)

Well, it arrived… No, not mine… But still very cool =)

One of the companies I work with received their new F3 last Friday so we made a day of it. John Denlinger, Blackstone Media Group, Irvine, CA got one of the first F3’s being shipped. We did some menu tests and lens tests – he got the Sony Primes with the F3. – We also did some ambient lighting test – Wow. The camera worked very well. We added the Marvelsfilm picture profile settings to one of the open profiles. (we used the EX3 settings as they were very close to the F3 profile layout and there isn’t a dedicated F3 version yet) With the Marvel profile you loose about a 1.5 stops -but it’s very worth it for the latitude you gain – at least until the new firmware update comes out.

Then this week we were lucky enough to catch up with Brad Hagen and Alan Thornton at Video Resources in Orange County to try out their set of RED Primes and Zooms. Good news — the lenses and camera talk!!! We used the Type C lens protocol in the F3 and got full iris info and then on the zooms the focal lengths were translated into the familiar Sony 00 to 99 Zoom measurement.

The look of the image bokeh and fall off is about equal to that of a Canon 7d. The image clarity is outstanding. For the most part, I think this camera, when the ENG style zoom lenses arrive will have a very strong foothold in the professional and corporate markets. The use of PL zooms makes setting your shots as fast as working with an EX3 or other ENG / EFP camera. The benefits of the F3 over the EX3 in sensitivity, lensing and ultimately output formats is definitely clear. Now we just have to wait for Birger Engineering to catch up to the F3 for using Canon EF lenses =)

Until next time,


Covering Corporate Events ENG Style – Q&A Answers

Hi Everyone,

I really enjoyed working with Marcelo from Filmmakingwebinars.com this morning for the Covering Corporate Events ENG Style webinar. It was a lot of fun and I hope you all found something of use from the presentation. You all sent in a great bunch of questions. So many in fact that I couldn’t get through them all during the show. I asked Marcelo if I could post the rest of the answers on my blog and he was kind enough to agree. So here we go… =)

Can you say a bit more about the green canceling/blue canceling gels on the backlights for chroma key setups?
The rules I use are Magenta gel for a green screen setup and Yellow or Straw gel for blue screen. If you look on a color wheel these are the almost exact opposites for the screen colors. It will help give you cleaner edges around your subjects and through their hair.

How practical is it to use DSLRs for live events?

To capture little clips of the event and quick interviews – very nice. To try and get the long form meetings I’d stick with a more traditional camera shooting cards or tapes.

What about live stream?
Live streaming is great. If you can get a clean “HARD WIRED” connection to the internet with a speed of at least 500kps to handle your upstream and confidence return you should be fine. You will want to use a “mirroring company” to re-broadcast your feed to the world. I would suggest a company like Playstream or Ustream.

Prefer LCD, or EVF? LCD lets me capture footage, but still be “present” at event and aware of surroundings…
I use both. I agree, the EVF is a little more confining at times but is great out doors. In the general sessions and in room settings I use the LCD. It’s a little easier on the eyes and once I have the framing and focus it’s kind of an auto pilot follow and go tool.

Explain why not to reuse tapes.
In the old BetaCam days when the tapes were $30 to $40 each and a lot more robust it made since to use them multiple times. But with MiniDV and HDV tapes being sooooo thin and subject to transport stress I try and run them through the camera and deck as few times as possible. Also the efficacy of the tape to retain the signal starts to fade with every re-use. You will most likely have drop outs by the second use. It just became not practical to risk a $4k or $5k show on re-used $3.00 tape =)

At $800-900 the SxS cards are a bit steep. Any alternatives?
Try the Hoodman RAW SxSxSDHD adapter and RAW SDHC cards. A real nice alternative. Also a good work around to the new MacBookPro SD slots

Which has the quicker turnaround time? Either to go with tape based cameras plus its tape ingestion after the event, or a file based camera with SxS card conversion after the event?
I found the card based system to be a faster solution in the long run. Also, depending on your NLE, new plug-ins are coming out soon that will allow you to drop the native footage right in with no conversion. Stay tuned for that =)

How do you handle heat dissipation on the 5Dii?
I have not run into an overheating situation with my 5Dmk2 yet… I stop the ‘LIVE VIEW” as often as possible and usually do takes not lasting more than about 6 to 7 minutes. If I know the project parameters will be more demanding I’ll bring out the EX3 or other long form camera for the job. For long form shallow DoF projects I use a Letus 35 Extreme on my EX3 with Nikon primes.

Remote trigger switch for the DSLR cameras (for the video, not shutter)? Any suggestions?
I use the Canon TC-80N3 time laps/shutter release – a tad spendy for your needs . You can probably find a cheaper solution from Dot Line or another manufacturer =)

When shooting with the 5D Mark II, it cannot output an HD signal when in record mode – it can then only output an SD signal. How do you get around this for dealing with critical focus, considering the LCD screen on the back is disabled (with the HDMI output connector engaged)?
That is a good one!!! =) I think we are all waiting for a viable realtime solution. I think it’s going to come in the form of a new camera – either Canon’s or RED or Sony. As far as dealing with the current 5Dmk2 I work shallow DoF shots in only in controlled settings like interviews with people seated in chairs. If I am running and gunning I don’t open more than a F5.6. Also I use a
Marshall monitor with peaking – not the total answer but very helpful.

What was that model number for the wireless mics again?
Sennheiser Evolution G3 100 Series A great kit for the price.

What was that $600 shotgun mic brand again that compares with a Schoeps?
Audio Technica AT4073a. Although I just noticed they have discontinued this model… I think they have replaced it with the Audio Technica BP 4073. I would welcome your feedback =)

Please identify that cable to control impedance when using the Zoom.
Sescom LN2MIC-ZMH4-MON 3.5mm Line to Mic with 25dB Attenuator for Zoom H4N with Headphone Monitoring Jack. Just heard about this one.

How much lighting do you take for “man on the street” type of interview?
I usually take an on-camera light and have a bounce reflector in my backpack. If I know I’m going to need a little more, I’ll take a Lowel DP light with a sheet of diffusion, CTB and blue prime. Also a 25′ AC cable. These should all fit in the backpack nicely.

I have experienced that my 7D stops recording after i.e. 15 minutes (with a 16 GB card in with still a lot of free space). Anyone experienced that?
That has to do with the format Canon uses with the CF cards – FAT32. It has a 4GIG limit to the file sizes and that in turn translates into about 12 minutes (on a 5Dmk2) or about 15 minutes on a 7D. There are many ideas as to why this format was chosen – I think only Canon knows for sure.

How do you handle pricing and payments? 50% up front?
Yes. I do 50% up front. I try and make the numbers work so the 50% covers all my “hard” costs for the show. Then I’m only waiting for the balance to cover me. To that end, I occasionally offer a discount on the balance if they pay right away.

Slating interviews? Do you? For syncing sound in DSLR footage?
I do my slating of info by shooting their badge at the beginning of the interview. For sync I use Plural Eyes from Singular Software in post to line up the camera sound and the external recorder’s tracks. If you don’t have Plural Eyes a good hand clap once both the DSLR and sound are “rolling” usually works great. Lastly, If you are on a job were they interviewees don’t wear badges, you can use an iPad or iPhone to slate with apps like iSlate or other such apps

Any favorite settings for setting up your DSLR camera? What about your EX3?
I like the Marvels Film settings for both EX3 and the 5Dmk2. I also like the 5D/7D settings from Crooked Path Films.

What settings do you start with on the xlr plug-on that you showed? -20db???
If I am using it with a handheld mic or shotgun mic I usually work around -20. This gives me plenty of gain makeup room at the receiver end. If I am running LINE level into it I will set it at -50 and ask the sound person providing the feed to send me a test level to make sure I’m still in bounds on the built-in meter while I take a listen in the headphones.

What video camera/HDSLR and audio capture gear would you recommend to get the best footage in these situations?
This is a very broad question =) Here is one combo I like but there are so many:
Camera: Canon 5Dmk2 or Sony EX3
Sound: ZOOM H4n

How do you handle 16×9 production and 4×3 screens?
Turn on your 4:3 markers and work inside those for the 4:3 finish.

How do you assess the capability of on-site video staff to assist with getting footage ‘to air’?
Take some test footage from your editor to them early on and have them run it on their system so you can look at it on the screens. This confirms they can run you footage and gives you an idea of what it will look like on the screens.

Do you use DSLR’s ENG style?
Some times. As you saw in the photos I can rig it out pretty big. That being said, I like to keep my DSLR in the Body/Lens only config and use it in tight places or low light situations.

Assuming using available light, how do you best deal with white balance? In camera or in post?
I try and white balance in each new setting. If I’m running back and forth indoor and out door, I’ll set 2 presets and switch between those for the shoot. As for color balancing in post, I judge the shot and do a fast clean up if necessary. I don’t really get into “Grading” for the on-site editing.

Canon 60D – first impressions

Just got the new Canon 60D camera this week as a second camera and back up to my 5Dmk2. I’ve only had a few minutes to play around with the menus and do my basic setups for my style of DSLR video work. Seems really straight forward. Easy to move around in and match most of my 5D settings. The audio is manual or auto just like the 5D ( Yeah!!! ) and has the same menu settings and adjustments.

The 60D uses SD cards as apposed to CF cards – that was a little bit of a surprise. But I use Hoodman RAW cards with their adapters on my EX3 as a backup kit for the SxS cards – so I just grabbed one of those and was good to go. They are Class 6+.

With both the 24-70 2.8 and the 70-200 2.8 lenses the 60D did a great job of focus and control. FAST autowinding. Wow. I had to turn that off… I hit a test run on the shutter release and fired off like 30 shots.

The pop out LCD panel is a real nice feature. I almost feel I don’t have to put my Marshall on top to use the camera… We’ll see…

Well that’s it for now. I’ll have more to report once I’ve used it on a set and gotten the “in the trenches” feel for the camera =)


Creatashpere 2010

This year’s show was the best yet. There were many new vendors to show their wares and new, up to date exhibits. LOTS MORE 3D !!!! Great to see all the support this new technology is getting.

Things that really got my attention were the Genus / Manfrotto booth, the GlideCam booth, the Da Vince Resolve software and the Panasonic AF100 exhibit – very cool. Also we checked out Able Cine, O’Conner and Samy’s.

The lectures were very good – we attended the DSLR intensive given by Bruce Dorn: iDC Photo Video. Great talk. Good Q&A.

Looking forward to next year’s events.


5Dm2 as a still camera

I have been having the best time just using my 5Dm2 for stills. I’ve shot Nikons for over 10 years and really like them for their ease of use and general sharpness. I was mostly using medium-fi glass and Nikon’s basic SB28 flash.

Enter the 5D. I put it all in one lens – the Canon L series 24-70 2.8. Very sharp. I bought the 430 mid-pro flash – again, very nice. Now even if I’m just doing a quick snapshot at a party the images come out great. The product stuff I’ve been shooting for my wife looks terrific. Shallow DoF!!! I love the ISO up to 3200 (let alone 6400) and still holding a good image.

Basically it’s just a great camera. I thought I would only use it for HD video… Nope. It’s becoming one of my new favorite tools =)


CineGear Expo

Wow!!! What a show!!

I wasn’t able to get to NAB this year and had to live vicariously through all the videos from the floor. Great coverage but still not like being there asking all the questions…

Then came CineGear!!! Yeah!!! All of the booths I was most interested in seeing at NAB were at CineGear. I started in the two large sound stages and then made my way out into the backlot – there was literally something cool on every corner.

Some of the things I liked:
Redrock Micro
Tons of lighting – LED, Tungsten, Florescent, Panel, specialty, Etc…
CineToys / GearNex
All the 3D stuff
Pretty Much everything…

If you get a chance next year – Check It Out!!!


PSA shot with the 5DmkII

Here’s the scoop on my first real outing with the Canon 5DmkII. My friends in the Sam Morrison Band are playing a fund raiser to help support the cure for Diabetes. It’s a Harley ride called Rip’s B.A.D. Ride (Bikers Against Diabetes) held in Irvine each year. This year it’s on Sunday June 13th at Oak Canyon Park. The band felt that attendance needed a little push this year and asked if I would help them with a “quicky” PSA talking about the ride and American Diabetes Association’s cause — I said sure.
The plan was to shoot kind of generic as they would be doing more from the road on their own. This is only one in a series of events they are playing this season and they want to do a video for each. I went with a background rag and some soft pattern light. I used a Diva 400 “lollipopped” over the lens and a pair of Lowel ViP pro-lights from the corners of the background stands as back lights. I am the “King of Flat” after all =) The pattern was a Mole “Teenie Weenie” shooting though a pattern cut out of some bead board from Michael’s Art Supply. We went 3200K on everything to make it look really warm and friendly.

For the camera I set it at ƒ2.8 @ 1/30th 1080/30p. ISO was at 500 to give me some apeture fiddle room in case someone got squirmy. I put my Canon L 24-70mm ƒ2.8 zoom lens on as the catchall range for interviews. I used my Marshall V-LCD70XP on a Manfrotto arm as a local monitor – peaking really helps with the focus while recording and the false color filter is great for exposure tracking.

For audio I used my Shure FP33 field mixer to feed both the 5D and a Zoom H2. I put a Sennheiser EW100 lav mic on each speaker and panned them on to their own channels. Later in post I decided to go with the H2 recording although the tracks from the 5D were not bad… =)

To finish I used Streamclip to convert the footage (into XDCAM EX 1080/30p) for FCP 7. I started to run the final edit though Color 1.5.1 and then decided in the interest of time to just do a little touch up with the 3-way color corrector in Final Cut. I put the Broadcast Safe filter on at the end just to hedge my bets. Again, we wanted this to be real warm and friendly so it has an extra orangey feel to it =)

Over all I’m pleased with the final product. (We basically did it in a morning.) The 5D worked well and it was a good opportunity for me to get a real project under my belt with it. I want to explore some of the other ProRes settings for FCP and Streamclip. I think that’s going to be the final quality point. Audio was easy to sync up (short form). Now I just need to configure the kit into a couple of cases and an easy cable layout…

Please check out the PSA – Click Here

I’ll keep the updates coming. Happy Memorial Day!!!