If you’re looking for some information on scene files for the Panasonic AF100, here is a cool page at Abel CineTech that tells you how to achieve several different looks with your camera. Filmmakers should check out the RANGE scene file.
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:
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.
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.
Look for more Ki Pro Mini updates to come…
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.
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!
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
– 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!
Like many people, I’ve drooled over the Panasonic AF100 since it was first announced several months ago. Working as a DP on indie films for about seven years now, I’ve struggled with finding that perfect camera system to satisfy the desires of the discerning no-budget filmmaker while delivering a satisfying image. At first, I used 3CCD cameras like the venerable Panasonic DVX100 and Sony Z1U mounted to a Redrock Micro M2 adapter in order to achieve the “cinematic” look, but I never found much satisfaction in that. Lacking a better alternative I begrudgingly continued on with it until the day Canon announced the EOS 5D Mark II, which was an immediate game-changer in the world of indie cinema, as we all know.
By profession, I am a stills photographer/photojournalist, as that is how I make most of my money. Cinematography has always been a paying hobby for me. So, when Canon announced the 5D2, it was easy for me to justify getting one. Oh, what the heck, I’ll use it for movies too…
At first, I loved the 5D2 for filmmaking because I was drunk on the joy of that shallow depth-of-field, and I didn’t pay much attention to anything else. Then, about halfway through the first feature I shot with it, I started to get really annoyed with trying to use the DSLR form factor in the field, and the primitive audio controls were killing me slowly. The firmware update to allow manual video and audio level control was superb, but it did nothing to satisfy the other problems of trying to film with a DSLR.
After we wrapped principal photography on the first feature, the editors got down to business, and they kept telling me how awesome it looked. Indeed, it did look great, especially when compared to my old footage from the 1/3″ cameras. However, after I received the locked FCP file from editors and began my process of color grading the piece, I noticed a lot of quirks and anomalies in the footage that are now well-known to DSLR filmmakers (we shot our film very early after the 5D2 was released. To this day, as far as I know, ours was the first feature film to be shot on DSLR. Seriously, we started filming a couple days after the 5D2 started shipping. I was waiting for it.). There were a lot of problems with moire, and there was a lot of noise in shadow areas, etc. Plus, since the camera records straight to H.264, it was really easy for the footage to look dirty, especially in low light situations, even though I was shooting with my f/1.4 Zeiss primes most of the time. They helped with sharpness and contrast, but good glass can only do so much when you’re recording to such a compressed codec.
When I started shooting the second feature, I wasn’t thrilled about using DSLRs again, but they were still the best choice. The next film was shot on my 5D2 and a 7D. Once again, I was also the colorist, and when I started work, I was horrified to see how different the footage from each camera was, even though the color settings and white balance were unified in each scene. I had to do some major work to get them to match up, all the while seeing the same old problems that irked me on the first film.
By the time that film wrapped, the Panasonic AF100 had been announced, and I vowed that I would never shoot another feature on a DSLR, unless it was being utilized as a B-cam. I launched a grand scheme to get an AF100 as soon as they were available. The grand scheme, of course, was to sell as much of my surplus camera gear as I could by the time its December 27th ship date rolled around. As it happened, last week I got stupidly lucky and found a used AF100 on eBay, of all places. The owner had bought it for personal use, and decided it was too complicated, so he put it up for auction. I saved about $800.00 and got a week-old camera. Score.
And now, I am completely in love with my AF100. I’ve found my new A-cam. When looking for online places to share the AF100 love though, I was disappointed to find that there just aren’t that many sites yet. So, I made this one, dedicated to the AF100 and indie filmmaking in general. Please enjoy the content – I promise there will be more very soon.