Tag Archives: ProRes

First Impressions of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC)

Canon 18X HD ENG lens on Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
Canon 18X HD glass on the BMPCC makes a very nice picture, even though the doubler is engaged. I’ve since removed the lens control module, which may have been a huge mistake.

Thanks to a super fast eBay seller, my BMPCC got here in a flash, and I was able to start tinkering with it today. The first thing I did was make an utterly ridiculous contraption out of it by mounting the BMPCC to my Canon 18X HD ENG lens, then Instagramming photos of it to all my camera nerd friends. Then I took it out into the yard and starting shooting clips of my trees and other junk (by the time UPS got here, the light was already fading, so there wasn’t time for anything else). The other accessories I have on order are still in transit, so I wasn’t able to build the real kit, so I simply sandwiched my ciecio7 B4/M43 adapter between the lens and camera, and stuck it on a tripod.

Actually, I tried two ENG lenses on the BMPCC today. One was a Fujinon SD 10X Super-wide, which looked like complete garbage on the Blackmagic’s sensor. Completely discouraging. The HD Canon lens however, looked absolutely gorgeous. It was sharp! Not only is the lens of a very high quality, but the sensor in the BMPCC is the sharpest of any video camera I’ve ever owned or used. I’ve read that it resolves 1000 TV lines, and after seeing my test footage, I certainly believe it. The picture is wonderfully-detailed, and the dynamic range is indeed all it’s cracked up to be. I haven’t seen much evidence of moire or chromatic aberration, but I also haven’t shot any brick buildings yet. I’ll test that tomorrow. The rolling shutter is evident, however, but it didn’t look like it was any worse than what you would see with a 5D Mark III or D800. The sharpness and dynamic range of the BMPCC more than makes up for the rolling shutter. I can shoot around it.

A. Brick, shot with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Light grade applied.
A. Brick, shot with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Light grade applied. Note the sharpness and detail of the Canon HD 18X ENG lens, a lens that was designed for 3-CCD 2/3″ cameras!

So, about that dynamic range… I shot a clip of a white brick in my yard, which had the evening sun shining directly on it. Most of the rest of the scene was in dark shade. The BMPCC held detail in the highlights of the brick and also in the darkest of shadow areas, with room to spare. I was really impressed by this. Any non-RAW DSLR would have blown the brick right out.

So, let’s briefly go over what we all know already: The build quality is very good; The screen is very dim in sunlight — get an EVF; the battery is dead before you know it; unless all your pockets are filled with juiced batts, turn the camera off as soon as you stop your roll, if you have the time; you can’t format the SD card in-camera (I’m still trying to figure out why this is the case, and it simply defies all logic – format all your cards for the day as ExFAT before you leave the studio).

I never planned on trying to keep my BMPCC rig small just because the camera itself is. I wanted the Blackmagic Pocket Camera for two reasons: 1). The 13 stops of dynamic range, and 2). The Super-16 sized sensor. I have a lot of legacy glass that can take advantage of that sensor, and as I’ve shown already, it has breathed new life into a VERY expensive B4 HD lens that had been sitting around on a shelf until today (since discovering that my big Panny HD cam has a big fat dead pixel right in the center of the picture).

Since my rig is not required to maintain its dainty curb weight, I’ve already negated a couple of the BMPCC’s shortcomings with some additional gear. Instead of rolling to SD cards, I will be rolling to my Atomos Samurai via the Atomos Connect HDMI/SDI converter. I’ve ordered a pair of Ikan tilta wooden grips with LANC S/S button, which should trigger the Samurai directly. The lack of audio meters in the camera should be taken care of by simply using the new and improved – thanks to the recently-released AtomOS 4.2 – audio meters in the Samurai, which are much more accurate now, and can also be set to display horozontally. BTW, you can now manually dial in audio delay in the Samurai, whereas before it could only be done with Ninja2. The weak battery life will be dealt with via a 1.5-meter D-Tap 12V cable, running from a Beillen 95WH battery either mounted to the rails or held in my pocket. The dim screen will be remedied via my Cineroid Metal EVF, which will make use of the second HD-SDI output of the Atomos Connect converter. All this will be mounted to the View Factor Contineo BMPC cage basic kit.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain that the BMPCC is missing a lot of options and that the menu is very, very basic in what you can do with the camera. This is absolutely true. However, it’s one of the things I like about the camera. I’m drawn to the fact that I only have to worry about a couple of settings before I can concentrate on shooting. I actually felt a sense of relief when I realized I didn’t have to worry about the mental checklist of technicalities that normally must be dealt with before shooting. The BMPCC is EASY to use; which leaves more time and energy for concentrating on composition.

I’ve also heard complaints about the relatively few increments for ºK options when choosing color temp. True, you can’t do a custom white balance in the BMPCC like you can with a DSLR, but considering how good the white balance of the BMPCC looks, that has yet to bother me. Even under the flourescent lights in my kitchen, the picture looked very good. The tonality of the picture is really nice. Also, considering that the BMPCC is very much a camera that is designed to shoot for the grade, this isn’t as big of a deal to me as it seems to be with others; each clip is going to be timed to hell and back anyway; the occasional off-color cast won’t bother me, especially when the camera gains the ability to shoot in RAW.

I think that’s about it for now. I will post some footage in the next day or two, after I’ve had a chance to shoot some more material.

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!

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

New AF100 Production: Arose The Coward with Machina Cinema

Last weekend saw the start of my latest project with Machina Cinema, a short entitled “Arose The Coward,” which is being filmed on my Panasonic AF100. I’ve recently made some upgrades to my system, and I’ve been looking forward to putting them into service. I switched out the Kipon Canon EF to M43 mount for the new Redrock Micro LiveLens mount adapter that allows electronic interface with the Canon lens aperture. It’s pretty cool, although it doesn’t work with all the EF lenses. Not sure why. It works great with the lens I need it for most, though, which is the 16-35/2.8 L. It also works with my 70-200/2.8L IS, and my 300/2.8 L IS. However, it does not work with my 24/1.4L, which is a serious bummer, as that’s my go-to low-light lens.

For the start of production, I outfitted the AF100 with a Ki Pro Mini ProRes422 recorder, which I’ve tacked a Hytron 140 battery onto for field work. A fully charged 140 will power the Ki Pro Mini for at least 5-6 hours… pretty handy on set.

Below are some photos from the first day on set. Friend Kevin Sloan recently acquired a Steadicam Provid and was looking forward to trying it out on set. As luck woud have it, the entire first day called for Steadicam.

Panasonic AF100 and Steadicam on set
Kevin and Scott set up the AF100 on the Steadicam
Balancing the AF100 on the Steadicam
Balancing the AF100 on the Steadicam

 

Panasonic AF100 on Steadicam
Panasonic AF100 equipped with AJA Ki Pro Mini, Canon 16-35/2.8L, Redrock Micro EF-M43 adapter, remote follow focus, and Redrock Micro matte box.

 

Panasonic AF100 on the set of "Arose The Coward"
Panasonic AF100 on the set of "Arose The Coward" starring Anthony Guajardo and Viviana Chavez from the hit TV program "The Walking Dead".

 

Yours truly setting up a shot on set.
Yours truly setting up a shot on set.

 

Setting up a shot with the AF100
Setting up a shot with the AF100

 

Setting up a shot with the AF100
Setting up a shot with the AF100