Tag Archives: filmmaking

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.

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. 🙂

Photos From Set

Cinematographer, Josh, on set with the AF100 and Atomos Samurai.
Cinematographer, Josh, on set with the AF100 and Atomos Samurai.

I love to support local filmmakers, especially students and those just starting out on their independent film careers. Last night, Branden, a friend and local film student, needed some help with a camera yesterday to finish shooting some scenes for his current film project, so I brought over my Samurai and AF100 for he and his crew to use. While I was there, I snapped a few pics for fun.

Mandy B. in makeup.
Mandy B. in makeup, ready for a scene with Branden.

The very talented Lawrence Mercado (http://notbotfx.com) was on hand to make up the lead actress to look like she’d been abused, and I must say Lawrence outdid himself. What an amazing job! The best part of the story is that she had to walk into a Walmart after the shoot, looking like that, because she needed to get makeup remover. Unfortunately, none of us had a GoPro to stick on her for that so we could record people’s reactions!

 

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 – Interview with Digital Bolex Creator Joe Rubinstein – Part 2

Digital Bolex S16 Cinema Camera - cinematography
Digital Bolex S16 Cinema Camera

On my first day at NAB 2013, I ran into Digital Bolex creator Joe Rubinstein, who was kind enough to tell me about the new cinema camera that every cinematographer is dying to get their hands on. Joe was really nice, and I really enjoyed talking with him about his camera; it was obvious that he is just as passionate about the Digital Bolex, and what it means to cinematographers, as are the camera nerds who are waiting for it to ship.

In part 2 of the interview, Joe talks about the software the comes with the Digital Bolex, as well as the workflow for the 2K Cinema DNG files it writes to CF cards.

In case you haven’t heard about the Digital Bolex, it’s a Kickstarter-funded Super 16 cinema camera that shoots in RAW Cinema DNG format. Since it features a smaller 16mm size imager (CCD too, which means NO rolling shutter), it can make use of a myriad of older 16mm and C-mount lenses that have largely fallen into disuse since the rise in popularity of DSLR’s and other larger-chip digital cameras. Check out part 2 of my interview with Joe Rubinstein below.

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

2013 NAB Show – Interview With Digital Bolex Creator Joe Rubinstein – Part 1

Digital Bolex S16 Cinema Camera - cinematography
Digital Bolex S16 Cinema Camera

On my first day at NAB 2013, I ran into Digital Bolex creator Joe Rubinstein, who was kind enough to tell me about the new cinema camera that every cinematographer is dying to get their hands on. Joe was really nice, and I really enjoyed talking with him about his camera; it was obvious that he is just as passionate about the Digital Bolex, and what it means to cinematographers, as are the camera nerds who are waiting for it to ship.

In part 1 of the interview, Joe talks about the camera body and lens options that will be available for it, including the custom Digital Bolex prime lenses that were designed in a partnership with Kish Optics.

In case you haven’t heard about the Digital Bolex, it’s a Kickstarter-funded Super 16 cinema camera that shoots in RAW Cinema DNG format. Since it features a smaller 16mm size imager (CCD too, which means NO rolling shutter), it can make use of a myriad of older 16mm and C-mount lenses that have largely fallen into disuse since the rise in popularity of DSLR’s and other larger-chip digital cameras. Check out part 1 of my interview with Joe Rubinstein below.

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

Cooke Kinic 1″ f/1.5 lens (coated version) on Panasonic AF100 Camera

Cooke Kinic lens on Panasonic AF100 video camera
Cooke Kinic 1″ f/1.5 (coated version) mounted to my Panasonic AF100 video camera.

So, I did something cool today. I took an old Cooke Kinic 1″ (25mm) f/1.5 lens made by Taylor Taylor & Hobson c. 1950, and mounted it to my Panasonic AF100 video camera. The Kinic is known as the king of the vertigo lenses, as it produces some amazing swirly bokeh around the outside of the frame. Some call it nausea-inducing, and I can see their point. I’m not sure if TTH meant to do this or not, but considering that Cooke lenses are known for their exceptional quality all the way back to the 19th century, I’d like to think they did.

Taylor Hobson Cooke Kinic 1" f/1.5 lens mounted on my Panasonic AF100 AVCHD video camera
A closer view of the coated front element of the Taylor Hobson Cooke Kinic 1″ f/1.5 lens (c. 1950) mounted on my Panasonic AF100 video camera

The Kinic was originally made for 16mm movie cameras like the Eyemo and Filmo models. If anyone knows of sample footage from these cameras where the Kinic was used, please let me know; I’d like to see what the image looks like. Personally, I think the Kinic is fabulous for special effects shots like dream sequences, flashbacks, etc. I certainly wouldn’t use it for everyday footage, since the AF100’s imager is much larger than the 16mm frame that the Kinic was originally intended for, where the ultra-swirly outer edges of the picture would not be visible. // Below is some footage I shot in my front yard. This is not raw footage; it has been graded using DaVinci Resolve 9. Check it out:

Sebastian Wiegaertner Posts DNG frame from BlackMagic Cinema Camera

Frame from a BlackMagic Cinema Camera by cinematographer Sebastian Wiegärtner.
Frame from a BlackMagic Cinema Camera by cinematographer Sebastian Wiegärtner, processed and color-corrected in Adobe Camera RAW by myself.

German cinematographer Sebastian Wiegärtner has posted a link to download a DNG frame from a BlackMagic Cinema Camera. Follow this link to get it. I downloaded the file and opened it in Adobe Camera Raw to play with it, and I have to say that I’m really impressed with the clarity, sharpness, and — most of all — the clean, clean, shadow detail. That alone is making me reconsider waiting to get the BlackMagic Cinema Camera. If I can have a camera with shadows that clean, I may make and exception to my “don’t buy new releases” rule. I still don’t like the fact that it’s Canon EOS mount only, though. I still think that was a mistake. It’s true that the Canon EF mount is the most popular right now, but with Nikon, Panasonic, Sony, and others now fully committed to the cinema game, I think Micro 4/3 would have been a better choice in order to keep all the lens options open.

On Set: “Champion” starring Lance Henriksen, Dora Madison Burge, and Cody Linley

Setting up a shot on the set of "Champion."
Yours truly setting up a shot on the set of “Champion.”

As some of you may already know, I started working on a new feature film called “Champion,” as Dir. of Photography/Cinematographer. It stars Dora Madison Burge (Friday Night Lights), Cody Linley (Hannah Montana), and… wait for it… Lance Henriksen (every awesome movie, ever). I’ll cut to the chase: I’m approaching 40, and had no idea who Dora or Cody were before they signed up for this film (but it turns out they’re awesome).  But Lance Henriksen?! How effing sweet is it that I get to have one of my all-time favorite actors in front of my lens? I never would have thought I’d get this opportunity. Strap in, because I’m going to gush about this for a while.

Bring me the hat of Lance Henriksen
Let’s start the bad-assery here: Me wearing Lance’s hat. Well… his prop hat. It counts.

Like many people who are about my age, I first saw Lance in James Cameron’s “The Terminator” and again in “Aliens” in 1986, as the android synthetic human called Bishop. We all know how bad-ass the knife scene in that film was, and so far, everyone on set has been able to keep their cool and not ask him to do it. No-one wants to be “that guy.” He really did do it, BTW, and he said that Bill Paxton didn’t know about it beforehand; Paxton’s surprised expression while Lance was stabbing the knife between his fingers was authentic.

Since “Aliens,” Lance has been one of my favorites. His roles are always just so cool. But what I really love about working with him is the fact that Lance Henriksen the man is simply a dream to work with. He’s incredibly nice, laid-back, professional, and his experience really adds to the production. All of us on the crew of “Champion” will be better filmmakers after working with him. During breaks on set, Lance can often be found “holding court” as the crew gathers around him to hear his stories.

AF100 cameras and Samurai recorders get tuned up on the set of "Champion".
AF100 cameras and Samurai recorders get tuned up on the set of “Champion”.

Now, on to the tech: We’re shooting “Champion” on two Panasonic AF100 cameras capturing footage to Atomos Samurai recorders. Day One was a test of our patience, however, when one of our Samurais kept spontaneously turning itself off. After a firmware update failed to fix the problem, it was determined by the Atomos LA office that it was a faulty unit. They overnighted a new one to us the next day. I call that some pretty sweet customer service. Since then, both units have been flawless. Using the Samurai in the field is a dream. I wish they had brighter screens, though.

Both of our Samurais are running AtomOS 3, which adds some awesome and much-needed features to the unit, including peaking, zebras, false color, and the ability to not only mark clip ins and outs during playback, but also export XML so you can then open your rough cut in Final Cut Pro. Talk about a time saver: you can do your rough edit in the car on the way back from the set! I still wish the screen on the Samurai was brighter, but I can live with it, since I’m using my Cineroid most of the time anyway.

Since our MacBook Pros do not have eSATA ports, one piece of new technology that has made life easier on set is the new LaCie Thunderbolt to eSATA hub, which makes things flow much faster and allows us to save a lot of money in the storage budget. Footage can be backed up on multiple eSATA drives by our dailies editor without wasting any time. Before, we had to use USB 2.0 or FireWire docks, which was excruciating, considering we’re shooting about 100GB of ProRes footage per day. Yay for Thunderbolt. I just wish the Thunderbolt architecture would mature faster with third party suppliers. There aren’t many Thunderbolt products out there, which really confuses me, considering how fast it is.