Category Archives: Gear

Digital Bolex D16 First Cinema DNG Frame

Graded frame from the Digital Bolex D16 Camera.
Graded frame from the Digital Bolex D16 Camera.

On July 8, Joe Rubinstein & Elle Schneider, creators of the Digital Bolex, posted the first Cinema DNG files from the camera on their blog, so people could have a look at the current state of the image. I’ve been pretty slammed with work lately, so I was only just tonight able to take a few minutes to download the files and look at them myself. I chose my favorite frame and brought it into Resolve to play with a couple of grades, and this is what I came up with after a couple minutes’ worth fidgeting (click on the image to view full-size).

The top frame is the raw Cinema DNG file as it was opened in Photoshop. The second frame was graded in Resolve for a natural-looking warm tone, and the third was graded in Resolve for some scary-movie extreme cool tones, obviously. I was impressed with how little noise I saw in the image, and also how well it handled sharpening in Resolve. I put a pretty serious sharpen on it just to see how much it could take, and the edge integrity stayed superior. It was a very smooth image indeed, and it could also take a really heavy grade without breaking up. Skin tones adjusted well, and overall, the image looked very organic; I love that about the D16. Since it makes use of a CCD imager instead of CMOS, the image has a more natural, organic, film-like quality to it. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these cameras to really put it to the test. I have a ton of old 16mm glass waiting for new life in my gear cabinet.

Solving my eSATA > Thunderbolt Problems Once & For All

Promise Pegasus R6 RAID Array
Promise Pegasus R6

The time has come to lay my money down. On storage, that is. Real storage, not home-made hodge-podge RAID arrays that I’ve built myself throughout the years, just to save some money. Yes, it’s saved me a lot of money, but now that my current workstation has only Thunderbolt and no internal eSATA support (obviously it’s an iMac), the time has come to invest in a proper Thunderbolt RAID system.

At first I had been using an old Drobo 4-bay enclosure as my storage array, but of course that wasn’t fast enough to edit video. It was just used as an archive. Then I started making RAIDs out of various inexpensive external enclosures, until now. Currently, I am using two Vantec HX4R 4-bay enclosures with 8TB each on board, configured as RAID10. The HX4R is an eSATA device, but since the iMac doesn’t have eSATA ports, I had to hook them up through a LaCie eSATA>Thunderbolt hub.

The LaCie hub is a bit of a mixed blessing. On one hand, it is super-fast and works very well, when it works. For the most part, it’s fine, but it has a tendency to cause drives to unmount spontaneously. Of course, this is no good when you’re trying to work. To its credit, it never did it when the unit was under heavy use; only when it was mostly idle. But still, it’s not good for drives to be spontaneously ejected, of course. Lately, it’s been causing problems with one of my RAIDs, in the form of corrupted directories. It spent the last 48-hrs refusing to mount correctly, so I figured it is time for a change.

Tomorrow I will put my money down for a new Promise Pegasus R6 RAID array loaded with six 3TB drives. When searching for Thunderbolt RAIDs, the Pegasus kept coming up tops and the specs are good, so I figured it is worth a gamble. It’s expensive, but if it holds it end of the bargain, it will save me that much more money in wasted time. I will write a review of the Pegasus R6 after I’ve had some time with it.

Digital Bolex D16 Update: Joe & Elle at the SAFILM San Antonio Film Festival

Digital Bolex creators Joe Rubinstein and Elle Schneider were in attendance at the SAFILM San Antonio Film Festival (June 2013) so local filmmakers could get a glimpse of the new Digital Bolex D16 Super-16 digital cinema camera. Joe and Elle talked about new developments and upcoming accessories and lenses for the D16. BTW I’m sorry about the rather intrusive background music in the vide; that was the PA at the Palladium IMAX Theater.

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

Fun With The New Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 X-Mount Lens and a Fuji X-E1

I’ve been having a lot of fun with the new Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 X-mount lens. Up until now, I hadn’t had an autofocus lens for my Fuji X-E1. I didn’t buy the 35/1.4 Fuji lens for it, instead I opted for the body only and a host of X-mount adapters so I could use all of my old Leica LTM and M-mount lenses on it. That worked out pretty well, considering the X-E1 has a high-resolution EVF, twice as dense as the EVF in the X-Pro 1 body. Focusing manually using an X-E1 is a lot easier. I’ve also just learned that coming in July, Fuji is releasing a firmware update that will give the X-E1 and X-Pro1 EVF peaking, which will make MF so much easier; it’s something that X series owners have been screaming for since the cameras launched. I’m really happy that Fuji listened to us and finally delivered. I love the X-mount cameras, and this makes them that much more usable.

I took delivery of the Zeiss Touit 32/1.8 last week, and immediately took it with me to shoot another charreada. I got some great results, just screwing around in the dust. But I really saw the little Touit shine yesterday when I was shooting new photos for the band Phonolux, who needed some quick shots for their new EP before one of the band members left town for a month. It was a short-notice shoot, and the set was in their garage. And all we had for light were Home Depot clamp lights and a couple of small Arris. It was a very shallow set, and I had to be fairly close to my subjects, so it was nice to use a shorter lens with a more forgivable depth-of-field. I burned some frames on one of my FX Nikon bodies as well, but the X-E1’s APS-C sensor and shorter lens combination just work better for this particular shoot. Plus, the Zeiss lens is inherently sharper, and has more pop than much of the Nikon glass I have, with the exception of the 70-200/2.8 VR II, which is simply one of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever encountered, if not the sharpest.

Phonolux Band Photo
Phonolux Company Portrait

As you can see, I had to be pretty close to them to get the shot, so being able to use the shorter 32mm lens worked out well, since I also had to shoot at f/2.8 due to the light being so low. At 32mm f/2.8, at a shooting distance of about ten feet, I was still able to squeeze them all into a focal plane that allowed everyone to be sharp while still putting a little separation between the band members and the background.

Phonolux Band Photo
Phonolux Company Portrait

 

Detail from the Phonolux photo shoot set showcasing the sharpness of the Zeiss Touit 32/1.8 (Fuji X-Mount)
Detail from the Phonolux photo shoot set. I think this image really illustrates the stellar qualities of the little Touit lens. Sharpness and contrast are tops, and overall, the image rendered is nice and smooth, even at a higher ISO rating. 1/60 f/2.8 ISO 800

 

Atomos Samurai Saves The Day (Again)

Yet another reason why the Atomos Samurai is one of the best things to hit the video market since DVCProHD: If you have an all-day video job, you don’t have to worry about media, and you don’t have to use tape. A cheap 750GB 2.5″ HDD means I can bypass in-camera compression and record from uncompressed HD-SDI for up to 15-hrs straight in 720/30p if I need to. Hooray for cheap media!

Atomos Samurai saving the day on an all-day shoot for Google at ISTE
Atomos Samurai saving the day on an all-day shoot for Google at ISTE

My First Image from the Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 Fuji X-mount Lens

I took delivery of my new Zeiss Touit 32/1.8 lens this morning from B&H. I couldn’t wait past the weekend so I had it overnighted, for when I’m impulse-buying photo gear, I have no patience. If I make a snap-decision, I want snap-delivery. I like to keep my gratification instant. The little Touit lens is well-built; very solid, as one would expect from Zeiss. And also, as I would expect from Zeiss, even their presentation oozed precision:

Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 Lens for Fuji X-Mount
Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 Lens for Fuji X-Mount

I immediately mounted the Touit onto my X-E1 and ran around looking for something to make a picture of, and finally settled on making a picture of J. as she was having streaks put in her hair by Kim. I have a couple of shoots lined up for this weekend, so I will be sure to put the lens to the test then, but for now, I have to say that I’m already in love with the Zeiss Touit 32. It’s as sharp as you expect a Zeiss to be, and smooth as butter. The AF works well, and is plenty fast enough for my tastes, and I’m used to shooting with Nikon D3 bodies. I’ll see if I can get a few more photos when we go out to dinner with some friends later this evening. Until then, here’s one pic:

Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 Lens for Fuji X-Mount
Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 lens sample image, shot with Fuji X-E1.

Going Back to Cali. I Mean, “Film”.

Aaton 16mm Camera
Aaton 16mm Camera

Some of you may think I’m crazy, and others may understand this, but I decided this week to let go of some of my digital arsenal. What does that mean? It means I traded one of my digital cinema cameras for an Aaton 16mm camera kit. I’m going to make a partial migration back to film. I’m simply tired of trying to find a digital camera that doesn’t disappoint in certain areas, whether it’s excessive shadow noise, blown highlights, moire, muddy color, poor resolution, ugly skin tones, etc. (and yes, two of those are aimed at RED). Digital is cheaper for small productions, especially for indie filmmakers, but there is still a huge argument for film, especially if shooting commercially.

I’m going to start small, with shorts and music videos, and never for free. Film is, after all, expensive, so it will be reserved only for clients who have the budget to use it. Why bother with it? Because people do still appreciate the look of film, and like it or not, it still holds some powerful cards over digital in many ways. For me personally, I’m using film again to take advantage of better highlight and shadow detail, finer color rendition, and for a greatly simplified post process. The money that I spend up front (charged thru to clients) will save me tons of time on the back end.

Also, one of my pet peeves on set is the relaxed and simply lazy attitude many people have adopted since digital became mainstream. It’s true, at least in my experience. When you can hear the money circulating through the camera, people tend to pay more attention to what they’re doing, that’s certain. I’m looking forward to getting back to that old school discipline. 🙂

NAB 2013 Show Highlight Reel No. 2

I decided that since there was so much cool stuff to see at NAB, the best way to get the most coverage is to make highlight reels of my favorite items. So that’s what I’m doing. Here is the second highlight reel, featuring products like the Freefly MoVI camera stabilizer, the Atomos Connect HD-SDI to HDMI converter, the Redrock Micro One Man Crew motorized parabolic slider, the Schneider TS-PC 50mm f/2.8 lens, the MTF Effect Canon EF lens controller, and a shark. Check it out!

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

Sound Devices Adds 12-bit 4:4:4 Apple ProRes4444 support to Pix 240 & Pix 240i SSD Recorders

Sound Devices Pix 240i digital field recorder
Sound Devices Pix 240i

Sound Devices has added the ability to record 12-bit 4:4:4 over 3G-SDI (4:4:4 RGB/YCbCr) to its Pix 240 digital field recorder, laying down information at 330Mb/sec. Who can take advantage of this? If you’re shooting with a Canon C500, Sony F3, F5, F55, or Arri Alexa, you can. Also, some of the big Panasonic Varicams, as well as others. Let’s face it, if you have a 4:4:4 camera, you know it.

The upgrade is available to all current Pix 240 and Pix 240i customers free of charge (nice). From the Sound Devices press release:

SOUND DEVICES HIGHLIGHTS NEW 4:4:4 FEATURE FOR PIX 240 AND 240i AT THE 2013 NAB SHOW
Video Recorders Can Now Record 12-Bit, 4:4:4 Content to Apple ProRes 4444
LAS VEGAS, APRIL 4, 2013 — For attendees in search of the latest 4:4:4 recording solutions, Sound Devices showcases its latest upgrade to PIX 240 and PIX 240i Production Video Recorders at the 2013 NAB Show (Booth C2849). This new major update, available for all PIX customers free of charge, offers Apple ProRes 4444 recording from video sources over 3G-SDI (4:4:4 RGB or YCbCr). Recording 4:4:4 offers productions superior color precision for applications in chroma-keying, color-grading and multi-generational editing.
 
PIX 240 and 240i users now have the ability to record into Apple ProRes 4444, which offers impressive quality with 4:4:4 sources and workflows involving alpha channel transparency. With its 12-bit, 4:4:4 capability, the PIX 240 and 240i can record 330-Mbps Apple ProRes 4444 files that are perceptually indistinguishable from the original source material. Popular cameras with 4:4:4 capable outputs include the ARRI ALEXA, Canon C500 and Sony F3.
 
“Sound Devices is pleased to feature this latest firmware update at NAB, as we know this is an important feature to many of our users and we foresee this capability being a hot topic at this year’s show,” says Paul Isaacs, Technical Development Manager, Sound Devices. “Bringing Apple ProRes 4444 recording over 3G-SDI to the PIX 240 and 240i offers additional color accuracy available in a 4:4:4 environment—reinforcing the PIX recorder as a master-grade production recorder suitable for the most demanding production applications.”
 
Additional features available in this latest v3.0 firmware update include time-code and recording status displays on the SDI and HDMI outputs, up to 500 ms of audio delay to compensate for multi-device picture delay, and selectable 4:4:4 or 4:2:2 video output independent from the source material.
 
Users can connect PIX 240 and 240i to cameras with HD-SDI, 3G-SDI, or HDMI and record directly to QuickTime using a range of different Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHD codecs, including Apple ProRes 4444. Since PIX recorders use ProRes and DNxHD, files recorded in the field can be used directly in post production, making for simpler, faster workflows.
 
The PIX 240i’s high-performance five-inch, IPS-based LCD display is an accurate field monitor, providing users with immediate confirmation of framing, exposure, focus,  audio metering and setup menu selections. It offers excellent color accuracy and contrast, great off-axis visibility and accurate motion tracking.
 
The built-in hardware scaler and frame rate converter allows PIX to output and record material at different resolutions and frame rates than supported by the camera. Conversion between HD and SD, with and without anamorphic conversion, is available.
 
The audio circuitry of the PIX recorders is based on Sound Devices’ award-winning 7-Series digital audio recorders. The low-noise (-128 dBu EIN), high-headroom, high-bandwidth inputs are mic/line switchable and include limiters, high-pass filters and phantom power.
 
The HDMI-only PIX 220 and PIX 220i video recorders also gain new features available in the new version 3.0 update, including Apple ProRes 4444 recording, time-code and recording status displays on HDMI outputs, and up to 500 ms of audio delay to compensate for multi-device picture delay.
 
Sound Devices, LLC designs and manufactures portable audio mixers, digital audio recorders, and digital video recorders and related equipment for feature film, episodic television, documentary, news-gathering, and acoustical test and measurement applications. The fourteen-year old company designs and manufactures from their Reedsburg, Wisconsin headquarters with additional offices in Madison, WI and Highland Park, IL. For more information, visit the Sound Devices website, www.sounddevices.com.

2013 NAB Show Highlight Reel No.1

Cooke 40mm T2.3 2X Anamorphic Prime Lens
Cooke 40mm T2.3 2X Anamorphic Prime Lens

I’ve decided that since there is so much cool new stuff to see at NAB, the best way to get the most bang for my buck on coverage is to make highlight reels of my favorite attractions. So that’s what I’m doing. Here is the first highlight reel, featuring products like the Blackmagic 4K Production Camera, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, the Atomos Samurai Blade ProRes & DNxHD field recorder, and the new Cooke 2X Anamorphic Prime Lens.

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

The next highlight reel will feature the Digital Bolex, the new MoVI camera stabilizer, and more! I’m heading down to the show floor as soon as I finish typing this coming exclamation point!