Tag Archives: tech

Day Four of Arose The Coward

Last weekend was full of intense shooting for “Arose The Coward” using the Panasonic AF100, of course. Sunday was a particularly long day. Since I started using the AJA Ki Pro Mini, there has been an ongoing problem with it; every so often, it would freak out and delete clips, or spontaneously rename them. I FINALLY figured out why it has been doing this, and corrected the problem.

I thought of the solution while I was driving to set on Sunday. I was thinking about what could possibly cause these issues, and it hit me. When I bought my Fuji X100 stills camera, there was a known issue regarding downloading images from the camera to an iPad. When the SD card was reinserted into the camera, it would cause the X100 to freak out and become unresponsive for about thirty seconds. This was due to the fact that Apple iOS was saving hidden files to the SD card when it was inserted into the iPad’s card reader. This is not a new issue; Mac OS has always saved hidden files to media that is mounted onto the system. However, the Fuji didn’t know what to make of them, and this caused problems.

Habitually, when I’ve used the Ki Pro Mini on set, instead of reformatting the card in the unit, I would simply delete the files and then empty the trash on my Macbook Pro, because it was a lot faster. It dawned on me this weekend that that was probably what was causing the Ki Pro Mini to freak out; hidden files left on the CF cards by Mac OS.

So, I made it a point to always reformat the card in the Ki Pro Mini after dumping clips, and sure enough, the problem hasn’t resurfaced. Yay me.

Here are some shots from last weekend’s shoot:

AF100 on the set of Arose The Coward
Arose The Coward director Buddy Calvo checks playback in the viewfinder of the Panasonic AF100.
Panasonic AF100 on the set of Arose The Coward starring Anthony Guajardo of Walking Dead
The Panasonic AF100 rigged to a hostess tray to capture lead actor Anthony Guajardo (of The Walking Dead) during an outdoor walking scene.
Rigging the Panasonic AF100 onto the hostess tray
First AC Kevin rigs the Panasonic AF100 onto the hostess tray to capture lead actor Anthony Guajardo (of Walking Dead) during an outdoor scene.

Dialing in the AF100

After using the Panasonic AF100 on a few productions now, I’m finally getting mine dialed in to where it is comfortable to use in a cinematic environment.

20120117-202117.jpg

With the addition of the AJA rod mounting plate on my Ki Pro Mini, the rig finally feels stable enough to use in daily work. Before, the recorder was affixed to a Noga arm and simply rested on the rods. Now, it is securely fixed to them, and the Anton Bauer Hytron 140 battery is now secured to the second accessory plate on the Ki Pro Mini, and not zip-tied to the rods like before (hey, you gotta do what you gotta do on set sometimes…).

I’ll get a chance to try the rig out again this weekend when we continue filming for “Arose The Coward.”

More production stills to follow…

The New Canon EOS C300 is Pretty Sweet. But…

In my professional life, I’m primarily a stills shooter. I shoot a lot of editorial and press work for folks like the Associated Press, Getty Images, newspapers, and the like. I also shoot a lot of commercial stills work, for PR firms, agencies, etc. I shoot with Canon DSLRs (and my old Canon F-1N) exclusively, except when I’m using one of my Leica rangefinders. So, I know how badass Canon’s cameras are. For video cameras, however, I’ve always preferred Panasonics. I like their design philosophy and the professional quality of their cameras.

I was excited to try the video capabilities of the EOS 5D Mark II when it was announced, and indeed, as soon as mine arrived after they had begun shipping, I shot a feature length film on it. I was pleased with the results (especially with my Zeiss ZE primes. Wow!), save the moiré and rolling shutter problems, and once Canon updated the firmware to allow for 24p and manual audio level control, it was even better. As soon as I saw how the 5D2 was changing the face of indie filmmaking – and let’s face it, the camera was a real game-changer – I immediately predicted that Canon would capitalize on the serendipitous success of their camera and design a professional camcorder body with a large imager that would provide the best of both worlds. Right away, I knew it was coming.

I did not predict, however, that Panasonic would beat them to the punch with the AF100, followed by Sony with the F3. I wasn’t really surprised, though, because it is in Canon’s nature to wait until the other players have shown their cards and then release something awesome that raises the bar again, which brings me to the subject of the new Canon EOS C300 cinema camera.

Canon EOS C300 cinema camera
Canon EOS C300 cinema camera

Admittedly, I have not yet extensively investigated the specs of the C300. I know that it outputs a 1080 HD picture and that it uses an 8MP S35-sized chip. I also know that it shoots 4:2:2 onto CF cards at a 50Mb/s data rate (I would have expected 100Mb/s). What I don’t know, however, is why it costs US $20,000. It seems to me that instead of dropping that kind of coin on a C300, my money would be better-spent buying a Sony F3, which can record 4:4:4 out to a dual-link HD-SDI recorder. Even with the S-LOG upgrade, the F3 costs less than the C300.

Obviously – hopefully – I’m missing something, and there are actually some good reasons why the Canon C300 is more expensive than a Sony F3. Is there a reader out there who has investigated the C300 thoroughly, and can shed some light on this subject?

BlackMagic Design Hyperdeck Shuttle – First Impression

 blackmagic design hyperdeck shuttle
Hyperdeck Shuttle
My partner in crime, Ed Lozano of LCTV Inc. ordered a Hyperdeck Shuttle from Markertek a few months back, and it finally arrived yesterday. I’ve been very curious about this new, exciting, and attractively-priced external HDMI/SDI recorder from BlackMagic Design, so I met him at his place for the unboximg.

The first thing we noticed was that the device was larger than we thought it was going to be. Scale is difficult to gauge from the product photos, and I guess my subconscious was expecting it to be smaller (I have to stretch my hand to palm the thing). It isn’t too big, mind you, it’s just bigger than I was expecting.

The second thing we noticed was that it looked like it was incomplete. The gray insert that cradles the SSD drive was missing. After double-checking the box and styrofoam inserts, we discovered that yes, it was indeed left out… I’m not quite sure how the thing could leave the factory without its drive caddy, but that’s what happened. To their credit, BMD was cool and offered to send Ed an advance replacement. Obviously, we couldn’t test it, so there’s my first impression; it’s bigger than I thought, and it was incomplete. More later, when the replacement arrives.

OH, one impoortant thing… The SDI ports on the Hyperdeck Shuttle are not the standard BNC connectors. They are the mini DIN connectors, so you will need to buy an adapter cable (I think it’s the Mini DIN 1.0/2.3 cable) in order to record via SDI from your camera. The cable is NOT included in the box.

The second important thing is that the Hyperdeck Shuttle does NOT record automatically from time code detection; you MUST hit RECORD on the device in order to start recording. Booo. BMD said that there may be a firmware update in the future that would add time code detection, but they guy on the phone wasn’t sure about that. More on the topic when I hear about it…

For that reason alone, I wouldn’t buy a Hyperdeck Shuttle yet. But, once BMD adds TC detection, my tune will likely change. At US $345.00, it will be just too cheap to pass up.

First Day with the Ki Pro Mini on my AF100

I took delivery of my AJA Ki Pro Mini yesterday (I lucked out and found one at Adorama – they had two at the time, but I suspect the other one is already gone), and after ferreting out two CF cards that are fast enough to handle the ProRess422 (HQ) stream that the Mini will drop onto them, I took it to set this evening to shoot another scene for the “Piracy” trailer.

But before I did that, I made sure to do a couple of comparison tests with footage that was captured to the camera’s SD card. Below is a combined screen cap of the scopes in Final Cut Pro of frames that were recorded simultaneously.

The top image is if a frame that was recorded to the camera’s SD card via the AVCHD codec, than transcoded to Apple ProRes422 (HQ) with the FCP log and capture function. The bottom image is of a frame that was recorded to the AJA Ki Pro Mini from the camera’s HD-SDI port, and converted on the fly to ProRes422 (HQ) by the mini. Visually both clips were very similar, with the slight nod going of course to the HD-SDI frame. However, the real advantage to the native ProRes recording comes in post.

Both clips were dropped into the same FCP timeline and had the same [very] basic color correction filter applied to them. Note the difference in the histograms between the two after the color move was applied. The frame that was recorded with the Ki Pro Mini held together nicely, while the AVCHD frame broke apart immediately. Imagine how much worse it would be with larger color moves applied to it.

AJA Ki Pro Mini and Panasonic AVCHD post color data comparison
AVCHD>ProRes422 (HQ) on the top, and HD-SDI>ProRes422 (HQ) on the bottom, with the same simple color filter applied to each.

The AJA Ki Pro Mini is really easy to use on set. It automatically detects timecode in your SDI signal and starts recording when you hit the button on the camera. By my estimation, a 32GB card gets you about 20 minutes of storage. Not bad.

It’s also smaller than I thought it was going to be. It actually fits on the rails quite nicely behind the camera. One thing that I do find unsettling about it, though, is that it gets quite hot. That’s understandable, considering the amount of work it’s doing, converting uncompressed video to ProRes422 in real time. That takes a lot of horsepower. Still, though, when you pull the cards out of it, they can be very hot indeed. Not sure if that affects the life of the card or not.

 

AJA Ki Pro Mini with Panasonic AF100 video camera
AJA Ki Pro Mini with Panasonic AF100 video camera

 

AJA Ki Pro Mini with Panasonic AF100 video camera
AJA Ki Pro Mini with Panasonic AF100 video camera

 

Frame Grab from the feature length motion picture, "Piracy," currently in production
Frame Grab from the feature length motion picture, "Piracy," currently in production

Look for more Ki Pro Mini updates to come…

Marshall Monitor Workaround: Thwarted.

Marshall 7 inch hd monitor
My beloved Marshall monitor, now obsolete?

A few years ago, I bought a used Marshall 7″ HD monitor for use with my various video cameras, mostly a Canon XL-H1, and then a Panasonic HVX200. I love it. It is awesome. However, the problem is that it only has component-in for HD display; no HDMI or HD-SDI, so now, I can’t use it natively on my AF100. As an experiment, I ordered a little HDMI to Component converter box off of eBay, just to see if it would work to salvage some more usable life out of this nice and very expensive monitor of mine.

The converter arrived today, and right away I hooked it up to the AF100 and Marshall monitor to see if it would work. I got a picture for a split second, and then it went to blue-screen. No matter what, I can’t get a constant picture with it. I’m assuming that’s because the converter only outputs 1080p, and the monitor probably wants 1080i or 720p. But I’m not sure why it would show a picture for a brief time though. I’m not a video engineer…

Does anyone have a workaround for this issue? I would love to NOT have to sell my Marshall just to get another one with HDMI. Any ideas, or am I just SOL?

An Inexpensive Cine Zoom for the AF100?

A few months before getting my AF100, I started testing various C-Mount lenses on my GF1, because I knew that [economical] modern cine-style zoom lens options on a Micro 4/3 video camera were going to be somewhat rare. An old TV-C lens can be had really cheap, and I thought that there might be one or two 1″ lenses that wouldn’t vignette too much on the 4/3″ sensor.

Canon TV-16 25-100mm f/1.8 Zoom Lens
Canon TV-16 25-100mm f/1.8 Zoom Lens

I started with a 16-160 f/1.6 Tokina CCTV zoom, which is a tank of a lens. I was really praying that it would work, because I would love to have a 10X f/1.6 lens to play with. I also picked up a Fujinon TV zoom and a Canon TV-16 zoom. As I suspected, the Tokina and Fujinon lenses vignetted very badly, but the Canon actually wasn’t too bad. It vignettes, but I can see how that in some shooting situations, it could be usable. In the mid zoom range, the black edge comes inside of the frame in the corners, but it isn’t as pronounced in the wide and tele positions. It’s there, but it doesn’t punch you in the face; it’s more of a gentle slap. Either way, it still stings a bit. I will post some real-world clips from it soon.

I think that if I could enlarge the image circle 1.4X, the problem would be corrected. I could handle losing the stop of light, but that would mean it would become a 70-280mm (FF 35 equiv). I don’t really want a zoom that long on the wide end. I may have to relegate the Canon to being a special occasion lens.

I’ve seen mods to mount a B4 2/3″ servo lens onto the AF100. That seems a sound option, especially if you get one of the lenses that has the built-in teleconverter because it solves your image circle problem right off the bat. 2/3″ lenses are wider, which allows more general use after magnification.

Another solution is Abel CineTech’s HDX2 adapter, which is an optical B4 to PL adapter that enlarges the lens image circle from 11mm to 22mm (soaking up two stops of light in the process), and also corrects the 3xCCD optics to project for a single sensor. But, at MSRP US$5500.00, it’s hardly the economical option for low-budget users. On the other hand, if it allows a $15,000.00 servo lens to become usable on larger format cameras, I can easily see how it can earn its keep in a production environment.

So, my search continues. If anyone knows of a C-Mount lens that will actually cover a 4/3″ sensor, please let me know!

AF100 v1.15 Firmware Update Problem for Mac Users

Panasonic AF100 blog
Treat me right, baby.

Mac users, there is a potential problem you should be aware of before you attempt to update your AF100’s firmware to v1.15. It took me a few minutes to figure out why my camera would not read the file from the SD card (I kept getting a Check Card message, even though I knew I had copied the files onto the SD card correctly), but finally it dawned on me that the hidden files that OSX puts on media were most likely messing with the camera.

My solution was to reformat the SD card using the camera, and then pop it into my Netbook that is running Jolicloud OS. I downloaded the firmware update file from Panasonic on this machine, and then copied it to the SD card, following Panasonic’s instructions. This time, the update worked flawlessly. So be aware, you might have to use a Windows or other machine to update your camera this first time. I heard that Panasonic fixed the problem with this firmware update though, so it should likely not be a problem in the future.

AF100 Firmware Update to Ver 1.15 Now Available

Panasonic AF100 users, there is a firmware update available for your camera (to ver 1.15). In my opinion, the most important update is this: When you are using the camera in VFR (variable frame rate) mode, now there will be an icon in your viewfinder that tells you that audio is NOT being recorded. In case you weren’t aware, before the update, your audio meters would function as normal, even though your camera was not recording audio in VFR mode. This is a VERY important fix, because even if you are recording at the standard frame rate for your scene file when in VFR mode, the camera will still not record audio, UNLIKE the HPX170, which WOULD record audio when you put it back to your scene file’s frame rate after over or undercranking it. With the AF100, you actually have to go into the menu and turn off VFR mode in the scene file.

Here is a list of the update features:

1. The color of the picture in the LCD display has been improved.

2. During VFR recording, an icon which tells “No audio is recorded” has
been added in View finder and LCD display. There is no change for the
functionality of the camera.

3. Capability for handling the invisible file made by Mac has been added.
The firmware update for the items below has been made possible by using
Mac.
– Camera body of AG-AF100 series firmware update
– Lens firmware update by using AG-AF100 series

Click here to download the firmware update from Panasonic. Be sure to read the update instructions carefully!