youtube channel for steve oakley
Facebook logo for steve oakley

Friday, June 29, 2012

Jay Holden : ISO, EI, ASA and You: Understanding and Interpreting ISO Ratings

Jay is one of those writer's I really respect because he's always (99%) right on techincal subjects he writes about. Thats the kind of writing I like. So here is one on ISO, EI and ASA. Don't dismiss this as a 101 level article. While it starts that way, it does get into some good stuff on how to evaluate your own camera. Worth checking out .

The Full article is here


Coming Up

I've mentioned a couple of product reviews. They are all close to being done. The problem ? I keep jumping back and forth between them and never seem to get ONE of them done. Its not just writing, taking product pix but also putting together supporting material like a video samples I shot in Hawaii last week with this lens. I was also expecting to get a lens to add to my vintage lens shoot out, but it never happened. This of course had me put it on hold waiting... so its just been a series of events like that.  However, that said I am committing to finishing one review for release next week including all its sample material. Its *that* close to being done ! Have a great weekend everyone, and a safe fun Canada Day and 4th of July next week !

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sony To Invest Nearly $1B Into HDR CMOS Chip Fab

Sony is going to invest into Stacked CMOS imaging fabrication. Stacked CMOS allows for on chip HDR imaging with vertical pixels. While Sony is aiming for consumer products there can be no doubt that this will also make it  into pro products. If this technology adds another 2-3 stops of dynamic range to electronic imaging film's last hold out is gone. If they can add 4-5 stops of range film has been exceeded and getting to the point of what our own eyes can do. Interesting times !

New Beta coming of Source Filmmaker

I don't do 3D. Its an entire series of careers unto itself and I know better. That said this is worth a look because it shows something completely new - using a 3D game engine to create 3D animated movies. Even editing happens live in the app which had formely been an internal tool only. Its got 7 years of development now and looks pretty nice. The question is how long before you get asked to do mocap or shoot green screen live performers mixing into something like this... maybe sooner than you think.

Monday, June 25, 2012

AF100 Anyone ?

So last week I spent a good part of my time shooting with a AF100. First time. Impressions ? Yawn. More shallow DoF than a 2/3" video cam, but no where near a S35 / APS-C never mind full frame dslr. I had a Nikon 14-28 2.8 on the camera pretty much most of the time except for some interviews. Focus was easy - infinity, 10ft, 5ft, 2.5ft. It was pretty easy even wide open to zone focus just like back in the day when I did this wtih 2 1/4 roll fim @ F8. Now that could have shallow DoF ! The AF100  was far more video camera like than 35mm like by a margin. Of course easy focus isn't a bad thing when you are moving fast shooting news / doc type content.

What I will say is it is sharper than my 60D for sure... but its also not the same look either. Backgrounds tended to be sharper, and overall the image was sharper with out any moire or aliasing.

Given how cheap AF100's are on the used market, one could be easy to pick one up as a B cam to a dslr / S35 size camera.

Having onboard audio was nice too - XLR's to take my mixer feed ! Built in ND was really nice since I didn't need to have a matte box rig just to slap some ND in front of the lens so I wasn't at F11 all day. Gain  was good, dedicated WB button was good.  Outside that was ISO 200 with a quick bump up to 800 ro 1250.  The VF LCD was crap, the external LCD was only slightly better. All the time I was just going crazy for a 5X zoom button for critical focus check... but alas I it was my worry  for nothing because this is far more like a regular video camera than 35mm camera. With peaking turned on, its pretty easy to see if you're in or out. 

Dynamic range is ok and in line with other cameras out there. Shooting it next to a HPX500 and 60D is was making images that were in line. Color also was a reasonable match to the other cameras as well.

Way cool feature : Waveform and vectorscope. While a vector scope wasn't much for me, flipping on the waveform monitor was very useful. It took all guessing out of wondering if you where getting good exposure and should be something all cameras do going forwards.

The nice thing about this camera is that it uses SD card rather than the very expensice P2 cards. In fact it looks like Panasonic did some last minute redesign of the camera from P2 to SD cards. 2 32G SD cards are plenty of shooting time. The good stuff said, it does use a MXF style folder structure to make your life miserable. Its stupid and the camera should just make self contained QT spec MOV's like canon cameras and many consumer cameras do. 

Overall nice camera, good starter camera, not bad for news / eng... but its not a APS-C / Super35 look any means. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Survived The Week

Another shot I took during my shoot this week in Pearl Harbor. One of the vets looking out from the church on Naval base there. 

Being gone for a long exciting intense week, I"ve been slow with posts, but I have a few tasty things in the works. I spent a lot of the week shooting with a Rokion 14mm 2.8 on my 60D, along with a AF100 using a Nikkor 14-24 2.8 and even a HPX500.

Let me get thru the weekend and get some stuff done and I'll be back to the usual posts.

Below is Jeff from Ch2 Green Bay getting all Samurai with my boom pole !

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

5D Mk3 and 60D firmware updates

UPDATE : when I check the links and ran thru selecting stuff, I got a broken link to the mac DMG file... for now.

Canon released a minor firmware update for the 60D today V1.1.1. AVAILABLE HERE

It provided the following bug fixes

  • Fixes a phenomenon where the camera’s serial number that is displayed in the shooting information of the image does not display the correct serial number.
  • Corrects errors in the Greek, Italian, and Portuguese menu screens.

There is also a 5Dmk3 firmware update with various fixes and new lens support 


  • Supports the single focal length EF40mm f/2.8 STM lens that is to be released at the end of June, 2012.
  • Fixes a phenomenon in which an image may become underexposed when using the Auto Lighting Optimizer for continuous Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) shooting.
  • Fixes a phenomenon in which the backlight of the LCD monitor may not turn off depending on the camera settings and timing.
  • Fixes a phenomenon in which the camera’s power may not turn on when a super-telephoto lens*1) is mounted to the camera with an extender*2).
    • - EF 300mm F2.8L IS II USM / EF 400mm F2.8L IS II USM
    • - Extender EF 1.4X III / Extender EF 2X III
  • Corrects mistakes in the Dutch, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, and Swedish menu screens

5Dmk3 Firmware Update AVAILABLE HERE


Getting The Shot

Sometimes you do what you have to in order to get a great shot. In this case I was grabbing a shot of the bus carrying 19 WW2 vets to the airport on the start of their trip to Pearl Harbor. I'm shooting with a AF100 with Nikon 14-24 lens mounted. Yes the camera is secured to me, and I'm secure to the vehicle.  Safety first, always when doing something like this. I got several really great wide and close shots that where steady. It was fun to do to say the least.

Coming up are a couple of product reviews and a lot more about the shoot I just did. Just got home today and I need to time to warm up the keyboard and write it all up ! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Extraordinary Week

I've been on location production for the last several days in Hawaii. Its been an amazing trip and shoot. I'll let the pix speak for themselves, and get something typed upped soon. Nothing but long days and nites !

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sennheiser HD280 Headphones Review


Sennheiser HD 280 Headphones 

Headphones, especially ones for field production really aren't glamor items the way high end mics are. In fact its one place I see people often going with whatever is cheapest rather than what is good. Good headphones are very basic and essential tool for monitoring your recording where it counts most - at the initial recording. 
Perhaps the most common headphones I see out there are the Sony 7506's folding headphones. They are certainly very common for good reason: decent sound, reasonable price, they fold up small and the other guys and gals all seem to be using them. They are something of a standard. However I think the "everybody uses them" think more than the rest is why they are so common. Personally having used them, I can't say I'm thrilled with them. Why ? well for starters they are always falling off your head. That one thing alone drives me crazy because try booming on the run and all of a sudden your 'phones are hanging over your shoulder in the middle of a shot. Then there is the fact they have pretty poor isolation which means cranking the volume up. This is very bad for your ears, and when working close to your subject there can be bleed or feedback.
Enter the Sennheiser HD 280's for about the same price, give or take literally a couple dollars.
What I Like About Them
They Stay On Your Head. Go ahead, run with them on and they stay put until you take them off. Look up, down, around and they are still on. If you wear a hat with a brim, they'll also still stay on. This is a huge advantage over many other sets of 'phones in the market. I've even split worn them. That means putting just one side on your ear, the other on the side of your head. This way you can also slip on a set of intercoms too at the same time. This is very valuable when doing live TV shots in the field and you need to hear the truck, the director and your own sound all at once.
The other major advantage of these headphones is their isolation The HD 280's are a closed style design. They offer 32db of isolation blocking out external sound. This lets you monitor with lower levels which is better for your ears. It also helps a lot in deciding if background noise is really intruding too much into your good sound or not. Lower monitoring levels is a very good thing that you should not underestimate, especially if you do sound as a part of your income.

Sound Quality

The overall sound quality is very good with specs of 8hz-25khz, although no graph is supplied. However, thats still way more than good enough for normal dialog and music recording. They tend to be reasonably neutral sounding with minimal sound coloring. This is good because you want headphones that tell you the truth about what you are getting.

Real World Use

In everyday use, I find they are very honest about what I am getting. They are detailed and don't color the sound in any significant way. This means I'll usually hear even really small stuff in them that you'll not normally notice in the edit room even with decent speakers. Its always better to hear everything and be able to decide if it matters rather than not. You eventually learn to know what matters and what doesn't.  The improved isolation is a part of this experience. By reducing external noise you get a much better sense about what you are getting without having to over crank the volume to hear that. Saving your ears is a big deal, especially if audio is a part of your normal income making.

I have one pair that lives in my audio bag full time. They store into my Petrol Pegz-1's front compartment and then route to either my FP33 mixer or DR-680 recorder. I swap out the mixer or recorder depending on the job. I've been using one pair now for several years. They have worked literally in falling snow, rain and hot summer sun without a problem. Thats what you expect. Even with several years of use, they have very minimal signs of wear. 

If you do managed to shred up the ear pads, they are replaceable.
The HD 280's have a 1/8" ( 3.5mm ) jack as its native connector. Included in the box is a screw on adapter to get you to 1/4" if you need it. This is the same 1/4" screw on adapter that is used on Sony's. If I have any complaint, its going to be that the connector is a straight connection rather than a 90 degree one. I know most headphones come this way and its not great because it makes them much more easy to break. For these headphones and just about any I highly recommend putting a 90 deg adapter on them. There are even 1/8 to 1/4" adapters if you look around a bit. Generally speaking if you find them online they are pretty cheap so getting 2 or 3 is often a good idea to have a spare or for your other headphones you may have around. 
I'm doing audio for national networks ( live feeds and ENG ) and there are no excuses or second chances. You get it right or you don't work again for them. In this kind of high stakes environment you tools have to work correctly every time. A quality set of headphones has to be a sound person's most important tool after their mic and mixer. For once its nice not to go broke for quality gear that performs. Its certainly easy to spend a lot more for pro level headphones, but the HD 280's are real performers that work day in day out and won't break the bank. Its nice to have reliable quality gear at a very reasonable price. 

Near Non-Update Of Mac Pro Towers By Apple Today : UPDATED

Today's WWDC announcements of iOS was amazing. The new laptops are very cool including the new Retina Display Mac Book Pro 15.4".

Wait, where is the 17" ? Nope, nadda, zilch. I actually edit video on my laptop, and do graphics and do web and do stuff that NEEDS a 17" screen. 15" is too small for my work and really if there was a 19" model I'd buy it. According to numbers around the web the 17" model doesn't sell very well when you compare it to the 15" models. Of course the people who are buying 17" models, the top of the line model are doing the serious work. Yes you can try to edit on a 15" screen but its no joy.

Then there is the near non-update of the towers. Its the same case and mobo as the previous models. There has been a minor speed increase but this machine is still using an 18month old CPU. By anyone's standards thats REALLY old. There is no thunderbolt connectors, no USB 3.0 on the machine. They didn't even make a half assed attempt by adding in a custom PCIe card with those options, not even as Build To Order. 

If you look through the store at the options, no nVidia GPU's. I mean that is completely unacceptable to be pushing off a cheap 2 year old ATI / AMD card as the only BTO option. Even the iMacs have new AMD GPU's and a couple of options with them. 

Apple is slowly killing off its high end market through attrition. They are not going to come out and say it, but they are. Just look at FCP X. Now its perfectly possible that Apple does beef up the iMac with a nVidia GPU as an option ( as they have stated ) and a 6core i7 comes along too as an option. For a lot of casual to midlevel editors and editing jobs that's more than good enough. For those of use who need dual or more GPU's and PCIe based cards for external RAIDS, Fiber, Video I/O, ect its pretty painfully obvious apple doesn't value us as customers. I think its more like they are gently telling us to look elsewhere. 

The quadcore upgraded to 6 core base machine is $3k. You can easily build a i7 6core for half of that and have a lot more RAM, more drive space and a better base video card like an nVidia 580 that screams with Adobe's latest CS6 offerings. 

As some one who has made a good part of their living using Macs starting with a 9500 PPC 120mhz with Media100 setup, I've been one of those customers most business die for. I'm loyal, I'm invested in the platform, I have multiple devices and I'm will to spend for high end machines. The reality is that Mac towers just don't have ANY bang for the buck like they once used to. If you price your product out of the market you eventually kill it off. I'm sure Autodesk that has put a lot of resources into Smoke on Mac including the latest major overhaul is just plain pissed. They too need big iron for best performance as do apps like DaVinci Resolve, SpeedGrade, Premiere Pro and After Effects amongst others.

As I've said, an iMac is ok for middle of the road work but not for demanding high end work. I have an iMac quadcore just for the record. I use it all the time for stuff like dumping SD cards, syncing sound, rough cutting, Photoshop, ect. For finishing though its all being moved to the Mac Tower I have with dual GPU's to get through what needs doing with speed. Now the iMac 4 core is, just on the CPU as fast as my older 8core but it lacks everything from dual GPU's to fast internal storage. I have 5 SATA drives in the tower. I bought bare drives and plugged them in and it was simple. If I wanted to do that with the iMac I'd first have to upgrade to a model with TB ports, then buy an external case for the drives. Thats a LOT more expensive.

The reality is I'm going to keep my 8 core tower working as long as I can. If the next rev of iMacs proves fast enough, I may consider them but in reality I may have to take a much more serious look at the PC side and its ultra crappy Win7 or 8 OS. 


Apple MAY of leaked some info via David Pogue that new iMacs and Mac Pro's won't happen until 2013. Source : Seems to me that apple will more than likely update iMacs for oct - nov time frame for holiday buying season. Mac Pro's probably won't see anything until after then because its not exactly a holiday gift item for most users.

Given the near 100% negative reaction, apple may suddenly find motivation to do better. We'll see what kind of damage control they do over the next few days.

DaVinci Series All On One Page

This week I got around to gathering up all the DaVinci Resolve Series Videos onto one page for quick and easy reference. They are here and in the menu's above under software.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Canon Makes Some Moves, Do We Care ?

Word is there is V2.0 firmware for the 7D. Thats nice. What does it mean ? well it probably means there is no 7D replacement on the horizon. This is the Mk II update. Nice improvements mainly for stills, manual audio levels for video ( uh, YAAA ! ). 

Then there is the t4i. Again its nice. Thats it. No word on any improvements in : 1 video moire and aliasing, 2 Native ISO's vs the tXi's 100/200/400 ect series that are noticeably more noisy than the native ones. So it does autofocus in video mode... um, I don't care thats not something I'll use very much if ever. Facial tracking with AF. Ok, cool, but I won't use it. 2 new lenses, one a slow useless zoom, the other a pancake style 40mm 2.8 for video AF. if you look at pix of the 40mm its just too small. You can't fit a gear onto it, and its a pokey slow 2.8. Common.. at least F2.0 ! I guess  you'll only AF with this lens... right. I'd like to love this lens, and this camera, but its pretty under whelming for the moment. If video quality is good, thats another story.

So we are really missing the news that counts, that matters to the huge number of people who would consider upgrading. Until either Canon says something, or we see some video from the t4i, sit and wait.

Canon, please give us something exciting that we can afford, or at least isn't grossly overpriced for what it does.


Friday, June 08, 2012

SpeedGrade CS6.0.1 Is Live Today

A huge number of bug fixes went into this release. Read about everything here on Adobe's blog. Update via the built in updater. One note : no 3rd party video output support yet. I guess building the Transmit API and code into SG is a big project.

New Rokinon CINE 8mm f3.8 Lens Shipping


Shipping now is the new cine style Rokinon 8mm F3.8. The iris is decliked, both focus and iris have gearing on them and the markings are sidways for more traditional operation.

180 Deg view with APS-C sensors means you had better watch your feet aren't in the shot ! Very much the GoPro look finally for large sensor cameras. Yes they have had a "normal" version. I find this pretty exciting because it hopefully it hints at Rokinon doing this across the other lenses in the line.

Rokinon 8mm Ultra Wide Angle f/3.5 Fisheye Lens for Canon EF Mount

Rokinon 8mm Ultra Wide Angle f/3.5 Fisheye Lens for Nikon w/Focus Confirm Chip

sponsor links do provide this site with a small commission... so we always appreciate it if you use them :) !


Thursday, June 07, 2012

New Interview & Stands Ups Reel

Finally got this done ! of course the hard part is getting new shots as you work, and wanting to swap them in which means taking something out... An endless delema with the world's worst critical. Comments welcome... but be polite :) !

LitePanels Patent Lawsuit Update



On a more serious note today, the LitePanels patent ( trolling ) suit is making its way through the system. This post is being re-posted from NextWaveDV with their permission


As many of you know, we reported on the Litepanels and their attempt to block the import of LEDs for video and photo back in August. A handful of companies have decided to fight Litepanels rather than give up the rights to sell LED lighting. The legal battle has been a slow uphill battle for them but it looks like things are making some headway. That said, I was contacted by one of the lawyers representing the companies battling Litepanels. This lawyer informed me of some crucial evidence they need to help nullify Litepanels patent claims.

As you may be aware, we’ve been in the “discovery” phase of the investigation since last August. “Discovery” means that the two opponents (i.e. the “Complainant” Litepanels on one side and the “Respondents” whom we represent on the other side) quiz each other about facts relating to the investigation. Each side is duty-bound by law to provide any relevant documents in their possession for the other side to examine, but only under the very strict condition that each side must scrupulously protect the secrecy of any confidential business information that the other side discloses. This process is where most of the “detective work” on an ITC investigation takes place.

But at a certain point, the “discovery” process runs its course and it becomes necessary to do some outside “sleuthing”. That’s where you and the rest of the cinematography community can really help out, as I’ll explain below.

U.S. federal patent law contains a provision called a “prior use statutory bar”, which just means that if an application for a patent covering a certain invention is not filed within one year after an embodiment of the invention is first offered for sale or otherwise disclosed to the public, then that invention is deemed to have been dedicated to the public and cannot be patented. The corollary is that any patent issued for such a previously-disclosed invention can subsequently be ruled invalid if the prior public disclosure is brought to the attention of the relevant authorities (either a court or the US patent office).

So what we are endeavoring to do now is gather information that will lead to a smoking gun – a verifiable instance of white LEDs being commercially used for illumination of subjects in photography or cinematography prior to the “critical date”. In this case, the application for the first Litepanels patent was filed on September 9, 2001, so any public use prior to September 9, 2001 will be potentially lethal to the patents that Litepanels is asserting against us.

You may also be aware that the hearing in this investigation (ITC Inv. No. 337-TA-804) is scheduled to take place in the middle of June. So at the same time that we are scurrying to gather as much evidence from the community as we can, we are also busily preparing our trial briefs and exhibits.

Contact if you can help

If you have any records of LED purchases prior to the above dates, contact them directly to help with the case. You can also help by spreading the word.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Shooting Vertical Video ? These guys think its a bad idea

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

$70 iPhone Remote

Um.... $70 to use your iPhone as a dslr remote ? I mean really its got a hardware bit to be sure, but for $12-$20  you can get a real remote on ebay. I guess if you really really want to use your iphone and be cool, maybe. For the rest of us, ebay is the place.

My Job This Week

My day this week.

Monday, June 04, 2012

This Week - WORK !

This is work ! Bad politics mean lots of work as the mud flies this week here in WI. Stay tuned.

Also planned is a new product review at the end of the week if things stay on track.