Category Archives: Tech Talk

Apple’s Final Cut Pro X as a Platform

I ran across this interesting post by Alex Gollner about Apple’s new patents, and how Final Cut Pro X could develop into a platform of its own. This is a good read. Sharing clips with collaborators and holding window-based chat sessions to discuss changes? Sign me up. Seems a lot easier than shipping hard drives back and forth…

Shooting Soccer with the Panasonic AF100 and a Fujinon 10×4.8 ENG lens

I’ve been dialing in my ENG-ized AF100 for some time now. Recently, I added a Varavon lens support to relieve some tension from the not-so-robust Micro 4/3 mount. The Varavon works really well, and I especially like that it has a rubber strap that holds the lens down onto the post suport. This not only provides negative-G stability, but also prevents the lens from torquing the mount when I’m using the ENG hand grip.

Darren Abate shooting with a Panasonic AF100 and Fujinon ENG lens at a San Antonio Scorpions soccer game
I’ve found my new Superhero pose. Thanks to Tony Morano for the pic of me shooting the Scorpions game on July 4th.

On July 4th, I was hired by the San Antonio Scorpions professional soccer team to shoot some b-roll before and during their game against FC Edmonton. I thought this would be the perfect chance to try out the new rig. I wanted to make it as light as possible, so I elected to remove the Anton Bauer plate and battery, which powers the lens’ servo zoom, and just roll using manual zoom instead. The total package consisted of AF100 body, Fujinon 10×4.8 Super-wide ENG lens, rails, Atomos Samurai, and a Cineroid Metal HD-SDI EVF.

The client wanted 720/30p for web and broadcast use. I set the Samurai to record ProRes422 LT and it looked great. A lot of people overlook LT but it’s superb when you want to save space and you’re not going to be doing heavy color moves in post. Even though it’s “LT” it’s still a heck of a lot better than AVCHD. I recently switched to Intel X25 SSDs in the Samurai, and I couldn’t be happier with them. Fast and tough. That’s all I can ask for. I was using a Corsair SSD, and after three RMAs from failed drives, the switch to Intel was needed.

Here is a two-minute reel of raw clips from Wednesday night. These are ungraded, straight from the camera:

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

Comparison: Panasonic AF100, Sony F3, ARRI Alexa, RED, EX1/3

I ran across this old blog post at ProVideoCoalition.com that features a fairly comprehensive comparison of the resolving powers of the Panasonic AF100 and the Sony PMW-F3, among other cameras such as the Sony EX3 and EX1, the ARRI Alexa and the RED Mysterium. It’s a pretty interesting and tech-heavy read.

http://provideocoalition.com/index.php/awilt/story/ag-af100_and_pmw-f3_on_the_charts/P0/

My AF100 ENG Kit is Shaping Up

I’ve been modifying my Panasonic AF100 to work with ENG lenses, and it’s finally taking shape. The only thing I have left to install is a Y-cable that will power the lens as well as connect to the camera’s LANC port in order to activate REC start/stop from the lens. Abel Cine makes such a cable, but it’s 260.00, which is considerably more than I was hoping to pay. However, I don’t think anyone else is making it, so it looks like I’m going to have to fork over the cash to them.

Panasonic AF100 ENG Kit with Fujinon 10x4.8 Super-wide lens, Cineroid Metal EVF, and Atomos Samurai recorder
Panasonic AF100 ENG Kit with Fujinon 10x4.8 Super-wide lens, Cineroid Metal EVF, and Atomos Samurai recorder. Anton Bauer battery powers the ENG lens' servo zoom.

The latest addition to the kit is a Cineroid Metal HD-SDI electronic viewfinder, mounted on a NOGA articulated arm. The Cineroid arrived a couple of days ago from B&H and it really makes all the difference regarding usability of this rig in the field. Prior to getting the Cineroid, I pretty much had to mount the camera on a tripod to shoot anything. Moving the entire rig back on my shoulder and using the EVF makes all the difference, obviously. When I mounted the Cineroid, I moved the Atomos Samurai recorder from the front-left rail to the right-rear since I no longer needed to use it as a monitor when shooting. In its new position, it can serve as a secondary monitor for the director, and also provides some needed counter weight to the right side of the rig, since the EVF made everything shift left a bit. The Samurai is very reliable, and the battery life averages ten hours on a full charge, so I’m not too worried about not being able to see it while shooting hand-held footage. I know that if the camera is rolling, the Samurai is rolling. It tucks in nicely next to the Anton Bauer battery. You may recognize the AJA accessory plate and rail mount that the battery is bolted to; it used to hold my AJA Ki Pro Mini, which I ditched in favor of the Samurai. BTW, if anyone wants one, I’m selling a Ki Pro Mini…

Panasonic AF100 ENG Kit with Fujinon 10x4.8 Super-wide lens, Cineroid Metal EVF, and Atomos Samurai recorder. Anton Bauer battery powers the ENG lens' servo zoom.
Panasonic AF100 ENG Kit with Fujinon 10x4.8 Super-wide lens, Cineroid Metal EVF, and Atomos Samurai recorder. Anton Bauer battery powers the ENG lens' servo zoom.

To mount the ENG style Fujinon lens, I ordered an adapter from eBay user ciecio7. I highly recommend his adapters, as they seem to be very well built. In fact, this B4-M4/3 adapter is the highest quality I’ve yet seen from any of the adapters I’ve ordered for my AF100; I wish I’d found him earlier. Ciecio7 offers two flavors of this adapter; one with and one without the tripod collar. I ordered the one WITH the tripod collar, as I knew I was going to have to fashion some sort of lens support, since the camera’s lens mount is only rated at four pounds. Otherwise, it’s a sure bet I’d rip the mount right out the first time I used it in the field. I initially feared that it was going to be costly to get a really good lens support that would secure the lens in all directions so I could use the ENG grip, but as it turned out, the threaded 3/8″ hole in the mount adapter’s tripod collar (it also has a 1/4-20 hole) aligned perfectly with a threaded 3/8″ hole in the Redrock Micro M2 baseplate, so all I had to do was get a threaded stud from Home Depot and hacksaw it to 2.75″. That was $1.75 well-spent.

AF100 ENG lens support stud mounted under Fujinon 10x4.8 SD lens
Home Depot Special: AF100 support stud mounted under Fujinon 10x4.8 SD ENG lens

I really, really love having a proper ENG lens to use on the AF100. It really takes this camera from being quirky and odd to being a serious camera for pro video work. When Panasonic released the AF100, I was elated at the thought of what was basically a large-format HPX170 (although without my beloved P2 media), but then I was immediately puzzled when they kept demo-ing the camera with those horrible, slow, M4/3 stills lenses. What?! No servo lens? Unbelievable. So, for a long time, I used my Canon EF 16-35/2.8 L zoom with the Redrock Micro Live Lens adapter as my go-to run and gun lens, and it worked great. Not much reach, but it had the wide-to-medium area covered fairly well, and it was just fast enough to use in low light. It sucked not having a servo zoom though. With this ENG setup, now I have the best of both worlds. Granted, with all of the kit, it makes the AF100 about the same size as my HPX2000, but it’s still lighter.

So, what about image quality? ENG lenses are designed to be used on three-chip cameras, which means the glass projects onto a prism that separates the image into red, green and blue paths. There are two methods of adapting your ENG lens to a Micro 4/3 camera: the “cheap” way, which is to use a lens with a built-in 2X extender that will double the size of the image circle to cover M4/3, or the “proper” way, which is to use Abel Cine’s HDX2 adapter, which not only doubles the size of the image circle but also optically corrects for the three-chip projection so you don’t get color fringing in your highlights. Considering that, it seems to be a no-brainer on which method you would choose, until you consider cost. I got my B4-M43 adapter from ciecio7 for 240.00. That’s the entire cost of the “cheap” method. The “proper’ method is going to belt you for $5500.00 for the relay lens plus the cost of a PL adapter, because – btw – the HDX2 relay lens only comes in PL mount. SO, including the cost of PL/rails support for your AF100, we’re looking at a total cost of $7000.00 to be “proper” if you go with the HotRod-esque option. Ciecio7 also makes a PL-M43 adapter if you already have rails that would work, like I did.

I figured from the start that I was just going to put up with a little color fringing in my highlights. But then, I had a pleasant surprise. The Fujinon 10×4.8* is a really high quality piece of glass, and also considering that it’s so wide, fringing is very minimal. In fact, I don’t notice it at all unless my highlights are totally blown out, and even then, not all the time. In short, the picture looks pretty damned good. I’m sure the “proper” method is better, but I’m not positive that it’s $7000-better. Note that if you use the cheap method, your ENG lens MUST have a built-in 2X extender. With the HDX2, your lens does not need an extender, as the HDX2 doubles the size of the lens’ image circle.

Screen Grab: Fujinon 10x4.8 SD ENG lens on Panasonic AF100 recorded ProRes422 to Atomos Samurai
Post-grade Screen Grab: Fujinon 10x4.8 SD ENG lens on Panasonic AF100 recorded ProRes422 to Atomos Samurai.Click through to see a 100% crop.
Screen Grab: Fujinon 10x4.8 SD ENG lens on Panasonic AF100 recorded ProRes422 (HQ) to Atomos Samurai
Post-grade Screen Grab: Fujinon 10x4.8 SD ENG lens on Panasonic AF100 recorded ProRes422 (HQ) to Atomos Samurai.Click through to see a 100% crop.

* A note about the Fujinon 10×4.8 ENG SD lens: Some variants of it have a 1.7X extender and NOT a 2X extender. These will NOT WORK. You must have a 2X extender to expand the image circle to 22mm in order to cover the Micro 4/3 sensor.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera at NAB Show 2012 – Blackmagic Design

While roaming the NAB Show floor with my Panasonic AF100, I stopped to interview Dan May of Blackmagic Design, who talks about their new Blackmagic Cinema Camera (Canon EF mount only), which can record in RAW at a resolution of up to 2.5K. It is the first camera I’ve seen to feature a Thunderbolt out port for recording in highest resolution. This tells me that we can expect a lot more Thunderbolt accessories from Blackmagic in the near future. Personally, I find it unfortunate that Blackmagic has chosen to release the camera in EF mount only. I would think that Micro 4/3 would have been a much better choice considering it is a much more versatile mount. What do you think?

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

New Announcements from Atomos at NAB Show 2012

I had the chance to interview Atomos CEO Jeromy Young at NAB, and he told us some very cool news about some upcoming products and updates, including the new Ninja 2 and the AtomOS 3.0 update, which will be released on April 30, free for Ninja 2 and Samurai users. Original Ninja customers will not be able to apply the upgrade (I’m betting due to hardware limitations), but Jeromy says that an economical upgrade path will be provided for original Ninja customers. Check out the video below!

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

New Tech: The EPSON Moverio BT-100 Wearable Display

EPSON Moverio BT-100
EPSON Moverio BT-100 Wearable Display

Color me sold on the new EPSON Moverio BT-100 wearable display. The Android-powered see-thru spectacles feature an ergonomic WiFi-enabled remote, are 3D-ready, and project an image in front of the wearer’s eyes that simulate an 80-inch display being viewed from five meters. And at a price of 699.00, they are actually affordable, especially considering the cost of an 80-inch display.

After laying eyes on the new specs, my first two questions were: Can I play WoW on them, and can I hook them up as a monitor to my Panasonic AF100 camera. Because, let’s face it, shooting run and gun video with the BT-100 would be incredible, even with the increased probability of injury-by-open-manhole. However, from what I can see so far, the BT-100 does not have an HDMI port, so I’m probably going to end up disappointed… So, no deal for me.

Just One Reason Why I Love Zeiss Glass

I love lenses. I mean, I really love lenses. If I had not already invested twenty years in a professional photo and video career, and building a client base to support such a foolish endeavor, then I would love to have been a lens tech or an optical designer instead. The act of holding and using fine glass brings sincere joy to me. And this video from Carl Zeiss is a fantastic illustration of just one of the many reasons why Zeiss has been my Objektiv of choice for so many years. Such passion for quality of design means that I have more power to exercise my own passion for image excellence. I’m very-much looking forward to visiting the Zeiss booth at NAB in two weeks!

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

Atomos Samurai Review: Unboxing

Atomos Samurai Shipping Box
Unboxing the Atomos Samurai

My Atomos Samurai arrived yesterday, and after trekking to AllTex Electronics to pick up an SSD drive, I finally had a chance to try out the little recorder that I’ve had my eye on since I first saw it behind glass at NAB in 2010. The only SSD that AllTex had in stock that was fast enough, and not insanely expensive, was the 90GB Corsair Force SATA 3. It was not on the Atomos approved list of drives, but I figured with a peak write rate of around 500MB/sec it was plenty fast to record ProRes422 (HQ), which puts data down at around 220MB/sec, give-or-take. It was strange, though, that there was absolutely no information in the Corsair tech specs at the store about the drive’s sustained write rate. I decided to take a gamble on it, and sure enough, it seems to work just fine. After recording a single fifty-five-minute take in ProRes422 (HQ), I didn’t get a single glitch from the drive.

Atomos Samurai Case and Contents
Samurai case contents (clockwise from top-left): Samurai recorder; regional power plug adapters; SSD caddies (2); SSD Dock; Dual Battery Charger; Batteries (2)

First Impression:
If I had to choose one word to summarize my unboxing experience of the Atomos Samurai, it would be, “impressive.” The unit comes in its own custom hard case, similar to a Pelican, with custom foam inserts and an included shoulder strap. In this case is everything you need to get started using your Samurai, including the recorder, SSD dock, batteries (2), charger, USB cable, USB bus power cable for the dock, and a FW800 cable. An especially-appreciated inclusion were two (2) BNC to Mini BNC adapter cables for your camera’s SDI feed, so that’s one less thing you would have to order separately, as you would with other recorders on the market. In fact, the ONLY two things you have to supply separately of what is in the Samurai’s case is the SDI cable that leads from your camera, and the hard drives to record to.

Atomos Samurai Field Recorder
Detail of the Atomos Samurai unit
Atomos Samurai I/O ports
Atomos Samurai I/O (from left): HD/SDI in/out (record loop-thru/Playback); LANC Control; Stereo in/out/headphone

Immediately after opening the case, it was obvious how nice the build quality is. The Samurai unit and the dock are both very well put-together, and I immediately fell in love with the fact that the dock is bus-powered; you don’t have to plug it into shore power, and this is so incredibly handy for field work. I was also impressed with how well the SSD fit snugly into the drive caddy. Tolerances through the system seem to be engineered very precisely; seams are nice and even, components fit together tightly, and the drive caddy fits into the Samurai with a nice snug click that inspires confidence.

Atomos Samurai Included Accessories
(clockwise from left) USB cable; power adapter for battery charger; regional power plug adapters; SDI-MiniSDI adapter cables
Atomos Samurai Included Cables
FireWire 800 cable (upper left) and USB power cable

There were some other features about the package that I thought were just plain cool right out of the gate. The battery charger not only has two slots for batteries, but it also charges those two batteries simultaneously, which most dual chargers do not do. Also, Atomos has included four different standards of plug adapters for the charger, so if you’re traveling, you don’t have to worry about powering your Samurai… Just the rest of your gear, which likely did not include this amenity at time of purchase. Yet another nice touch.

I didn’t think I was going to have anything to shoot that first night after getting the Samurai, but as luck would have it, my friend, comedian Jay Whitecotton called, and had something to shoot. We’re working on a documentary together, and it turned out that night was opportune to shoot something. I recorded a single take that was fifty-five minutes long in Apple ProRes422 (HQ). The file size was about 60GB. At the end of the night, the power meter on the Samurai showed that I had used less than 1/4 of one battery. Good power consumption? Check.

Next: Using the Samurai

NAB Confirmed

Panasonic AF100 at the Panasonic booth at NAB 2011.
Panasonic AF100 at the Panasonic booth at NAB 2011.

It’s confirmed! The AF100Central crew is going to NAB again this year. We’re looking forward to conducting some good product reviews and interviews from the show floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Last year, we had a couple of great impromptu interviews with Jan Crittenden of Panasonic, and Matthew Duclos of Duclos Lenses, who showed us his prototype of the Duclos 70-200 T3 zoom. I ran into him by chance at the Angenieux booth, when I spotted the beautiful Zeiss 21mm Distagon on his Nikon. This year, we’re going to have a lot more content, all filmed on the AF100, of course. 🙂 It is my intent to get a lot more content from the Panasonic booth. Jan was very gracious and extremely helpful last year, and I hope she will be open to conducting another interview. I can’t stress how cool she is in person; Panasonic is lucky to have her as a representative.

So now is your chance to let us know what you all would like to see us report on from NAB 2012. Reply in the comments below and tell us who you’d like us to interview, and what products you would like to see showcased! Remember, everyone who is anyone in the video/cinema industry will be at NAB, so now is your chance to place your order for custom-tailored information!