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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DataColor Spyder3Elite Has Software Update To V4.0.7

DataColor as made a minor update to the software for its Spyder3 series products. When you download be sure to download the version for your model as the software is model specific. I'm also curious if anyone has tried the the Spyder4 and if its actually any better than the 3. Speak up !

UPDATE 1 : so far calibration on the laptop looks better and seems to actively be working. Before with 4.0.5 it seemed to have problems actually being applied.

UPDATE 2 : calibrating 2 different screens attached to my main edit system seemed better... sort of. The damned ASUS P248 10bit panel is still a bit red, the samsung I added a bit dark. Interesting note, seems like the now have the room light detector turned off as a default now. YA! because who works in a black room with no windows where 130nit is bright ? no one. Please give me flamethrower mode brightness :)

This release address the following

Spyder3Elite 4.0.7 Macintosh

What's Fixed in 4.0.7

issue on OS X 10.8 with multiple monitors of differing gamuts
particularly with wide-gamut monitors this may result in improper plot of monitor gamut
What's Fixed in 4.0.5

OS X 10.7 compatibility
all installers require authentication (i.e. user must enter username and password to install software). This fixes permission errors during installation that occur on some systems.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Adobe Sneak Peaks Wildly Improved Rototool

Sometimes things change in big unexpected ways. If you do roto, this changes your world. If you do keying, this changes your world. If you ever though about roto but where scared, you have a new world ! Really this tool amounts to one of the visual nirvana's of what you hear form clients... " can't you just cut this out and change the background ? it can't be that hard, can it ?" Click in the image to see the demo and be prepared. Of course over the next 2 weeks I'm sure more amazing stuff will start to be seen as the NAB hype machine gets into full gear.

Monday, March 25, 2013

DeClicking a Nikon Iris Ring.. and other stuff

I've done my share of DIY projects. I've even done this one on canon FD and Topcon glass. The Nikon is simple because it doesn't involve fun stuff like figuring out a much more complicated iris control ring, lens mount and re-wiring a spring or two in the mechanism to make it work. The spring rewiring happens because the lens has automatic vs stop down mode and in the mods I've done it also remored a pin that some adapters may use to force the lens into manual mode.  I'll also note that this lens came apart pretty easily. I'm simply amazed at how much they torque these little screws in at the factory. Even still it looks like a fun project. Additionally some lenses use a small ball bearing between 2 rings with notches to do the same thing, remove the ball bearing and you are good to go.

I've otherwise been insanely busy with work and getting ready for NAB which looks to be like what it was about 1999 for attendance. 

Meanwhile if you remember last NAB I had a prototype ErgoCine Aaton Shoulder Cat mount. It was a huge conversation starter at NAB, had a lot of fun with it. Well a year of progress has seen it become even more refined. Check it out -


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Um, Thats Nice Canon, Where's The 70D ?


Ok the SL1 is cool... maybe. Its a true DSLR in the smallest body ever and a step up from a mirrorless camera. Same old 18MP sensor. Yawn. If the average DSLR body wasn't small enough, well here you go. It has a market for students, and those who want a real DSLR body in the smallest size. However sticking a nice big fast lens on front like a 14mm 2.8 or 35 1.4 might prove to be another experience, as in you just don't have enough grip on the body to be comfortable with this for extended shooting. However for doing party pix with a slower lens its just fine.


A minorly upgraded t4i becomes the t5i. Cool. I had a t3i for a while and upgraded to the 60D as soon as it came out. 

Video quality ? have the aliasing and moire problems been fixed ? Silence... probably not much. I'm very open to being proven wrong... PLEASE !

So where is the 70D ? that 7D and 60D replacement in between body ? with fixed video quality ? and reasonable price ? We're waiting !

Monday, March 18, 2013

Its monday, no tues...

Yes its just been that way the last few weeks. No complaints. Mostly getting ready for NAB and a desert shoot right after its done. I plan to spend a week roaming around without too much of a schedule in southern Utah and northern AZ. Its a trip I've been owing to myself since, well, I was a kid. 

I expect NAB to be pretty good this year for annoucements. Some I know about but can't say :) ! other's I await pleasant surprise for.  Of course I expect the usual round of new cameras including the rumors of being able to touch and maybe even buy a 70D if that happens. I'll get to my NAB predictions soon.

Meanwhile maybe one of the biggest things at last years NAB was the BMD camera. Its had a bit of a rough start because of manufacturing issues ( can you say RED ? ) but its now seeming to get some real traction. This episode of Sesame Street was shot on the camera. In many repsect the somewhat bigger than 2/3" smaller than M4/3 seems like a great match for TV production. With SDI out and audio in you are good. The smaller ship makes for more DoF and more forgiving focus than larger sensors do. Perfect for fast moving news or productions where very shallow DoF is not a critical factor and might even be a negative. Here is the offical press release. Sounds like a pretty tasty camera for this sort of production.

Blackmagic Design announced today that directors Josh and Jason Diamond of the Diamond Brothers shot Sesame Workshop’s, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, "Can You Tell-y Me How to Get to a Billion?" and "Counting the 'You's in YouTube" videos with Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Josh and Jason Diamond worked with DP Timur Civan on the four day shoot, and NYC based freelance colorist, Juan Salvo, used Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve to color the project.

"Shooting ProRes was a plus in that we were trying to find the best ISO to f-stop ratio. All the characters have fur and fringe, and there’s much more fine detail," said Josh. "Being able to try a couple shots in various settings then pop the SSD out and quickly pull some keys in After Effects directly from the SSD was a huge time saver. We were able to compare and contrast while setting up so we weren’t fighting with it in post. There was no secondary processing or transcoding to go through."

Spending sometimes as little as 40 minutes at a location, the team had little time to set up before they were shooting, breaking down, loading out and moving to the next location.

"We weren’t able to scout any locations ahead of time, so we showed up with a small lighting package and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. The camera is small, light and doesn’t need a lot of accessories, and we were able to leave it rigged so it could be powered up and shooting in seconds," said Josh. "Having 13 stops of dynamic range gave us the flexibility to say 'there’s a lot of nice natural light, so let’s throw up one Kino for fill and shoot.' Also shooting in Log allowed us to protect our highlights much easier."

With a Rec 709 image on the camera’s built in display, the team viewed a Log image on a secondary SDI monitor and benefitted from being able to use both images to determine if the shot looked good or needed adjustment without having to waste time setting up a large producer’s monitor in tight spaces.

"We were able to roll in, take five seconds to look around, figure out who and where we were going to shoot and go. We even filmed at a school with three and four year olds who weren’t going to sit patiently for long," said Josh. "The Blackmagic Cinema Camera’s versatility, ergonomics and efficiency were key to our workflow for this shoot."

"I was able to hand hold the Blackmagic Cinema Camera for almost six hours without a break, which enabled us to stay on schedule, get extra takes and move between the numerous locations with minimal crew. The camera was critical to the speed we required," said Timur Civan, DP. "The Blackmagic Cinema Camera gave us the most image quality per pound of any camera out there, and we were able to deliver image quality on par with cameras costing three times as much, but at half the size weight and complexity. It has a great run and gun form factor with a big cinematic look."

Shot in ProResHQ, the footage was edited by Sesame Workshop and then sent to Juan for color grading. Since the footage was shot in Log, Juan ensured the contrast, exposure and saturation were appropriate for each distinct setting, and Resolve's Log grading tools allowed him to dial in exposure and contrast as desired.

"The latitude and tonality of the footage were excellent, and Resolve’s robust Log grading and agile secondaries made it a breeze to work with," said Juan. "In almost every shot, I used secondaries, qualifiers, Power Windows and custom curves to get the footage looking just right. And having all those functions available at the push of a button from my control surface made it a cinch in a time sensitive environment. Resolve allowed me to render out review versions and final deliverables in real time."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jupiter-9 85mm F2 Review


There are some lenses of legend in this world and the Jupiter 9 is one of them. It fortunately doesn't come with a huge price tag with careful shopping, often between $100 to $150 depending on condition. They are also apparently still being made new ( at least new as of 2007 ) for not much more, around $200 to $240. It seems that ebay is probably the best place to find them right now. New may mean made in the last 2-4 years.
Legend ?
Why is this lens one of legend ? because of its 15 blade iris that makes a perfect circle even stopped down. You will never see hexagons or octagons from this lens. It also renders a very nice bokeh when focused close. Early versions of this lens seemed to create swirly bokeh but the one I have doesn't. My lens seems in this respect more modern and perhaps more well behaved.
First some background. This lens is basically a copy of a Zeiss Sonnar 85mm f/2 lens from pre WWII. There are at least 5 versions of the Jupitar 9 starting with the oldest silver ones made in the 50's and 60's thru the black version that appeared around 1980. Part of this is due to the fact that they were built in 3 different factories over the years with the optical formula being kept the same. However the mechanics changed and the exact glass formulations used changed. This is evidenced in how different versions produce different color reproduction when compared side by side. 
The Quick Incomplete History of this Lens
Black MC Jupiter-9, M42. Made in 2000+ in Lytarkino
Black Jupiter-9 M42 Made in the 80's - The one I have dates to 1986. I has a smooth focus barrel and preset iris. 
Black Jupiter-9, M39 Made in 1960's in Lytarkino. This one may have the knuckled focusing ring which was common of lenses of that era. It may be referred to as "type 1". There are versions made for rangefinder cameras that you probably don't want as they may lack an aperture stop down ring. The camera is supposed to do this instead through the lens mount.
Silver ( Aluminum ) Jupiter-9, M39  Made in 1965 in Lytarkino
Silver ( aluminum ) Jupiter-9, M42 Pre 1980's
There is also a Kiev mount version, Leica ( LTM ) and possibly a Nikon mount version out there in the older versions.
 With new versions of this lens it may indeed come with a M42 to EF or Nikon mount from the factory.  The factory website show the specs on this lens  however it doesn't appear that this lens is currently in production. I suspect they probably do batches of this lens every so often once stock is gone.
I realize a great deal of this is vague, but finding authoritative information on these lenses is hard. This is do in part because of their long history and so many versions.
The Differences ?
The general consensus out there is : 
MC ( MultiCoat ) version: strong soft focus effect at f/2 with halos around bright objects. Very sharp at f/2.8. Flares in contrasty light, but less than both SC versions.
Black Body: no soft focus wide open. Sharp at f/2. Very sharp at f/2.8. This lens is very prone to flare in contrasty light. 
Silver: no soft focus effect; reasonably soft wide open; rather sharp at f/2.8. It's very similar to the black version; might be copy variation or prior service history that made this lens softer than the black M39 version. 
Production of the black and silver ones seems to of perhaps overlapped.
Another note : the older silver ones  may have backwards focus throw compared to normal canon / cine / video lenses. The black one I have has normal throw, but in buying one you need to be careful as I have seen ones that focus backwards.
The quality of these lenses can vary a LOT from the original manufacturing to simply how the lens lived out its life : was it well cared for or not. When shopping for a lens be aware that many Russian lens sellers will say a lens is in good condition when its not. Really look at the pictures carefully because some of the older lenses are in pretty bad shape. Pass on them and get a better one. Be prepared that you may not get a good version and  will need to deal with that.
Being made in 3 different factories over the course of 60 years there are lots of variations out there. If you don't like one copy try another or three if you must. 
My Jupiter 9 Cicra 1986
My experience with my lens is that it does have that diffused glow wide open. It seems sometimes prone to flare that can be ugly. Its not the sharpest lens wide open by any means and there in lies its magic. By being soft wide open and having a diffuse glow its a great portrait lens. For moving pictures its the lens you use in an image piece where you are looking for a more emotional or glamorous  look. This lens has its uses for stylized softer looks. Stopped down it does improve… well at least some versions do. Mine still looks a bit glowing stopped down. 
This glow also tends to reduce low in contrast. Thats good thing for expanding dynamic range of your camera. It can tame some high contrast lighting with less or no supplemental lighting  even if its just a fill card. At times you can produce some very artistic almost painting like images with this lens that are simply amazing. Here is an example of flat light + lens diffusion + ice on trees.
The iris is marked on the front of the lens rather than on the lens "top" facing the user when mounted on the camera. There is a preset iris ring which actually has the numbers on it. Actually stopping the lens down requires turning another very slender ring right above it, closer to the lens mount. The activation ring is really skinny and hard to feel when shooting and you more often wind up grabbing the preset ring instead. That said, the activation ring does provide stepless iris changes which is great, if you can actually grab it. I have to say I do hate the iris stops being marked on the front of the lens too. I makes handling tricky.
Focus it smooth and pretty accurate. I had no problem handling it with gloves on outside in the cold. However, you might find some copies of this lens are a bit stiff for follow focus use and may want to use a small gear on the focus drive. Be aware that some versions of this lens focus the wrong way, while others focus the standard cine way. Be careful when buying one and look at the pictures of it carefully. 
Image Samples
So, what does this lens look like ? here is a series of matched shots at 3 iris settings to get an idea, along with some other samples. 
So what can I say except very tasty here ?  Certainly this lens can make interesting "modern" images. Of note - the strobing from the canon sensor. Unlike film which would of made a continuos blur, the camera seems to be reading the sensor 5 times in this exposure of maybe 1/4 sec and combining them. Not the most organic look, not much you can change about that. I've had this result regardless of lens. 
Bokeh ?
Again just a pure sample of wide open bokeh thats quite nice. Stopping down those rings stlll stay round which is something that puts this lens in its own class regardless of price.
click for fill size image
So where is that famed look ? take a look at how wide open this lens makes a diffused look. Once you stop it down... quite a  bit it gets sharp.
click for fill size image
Yet you can still get some very nice shots. This is NOT a lens for when you need a super clean image unless you can stop down to F8 or so. Please keep in mind that MY copy may not be anything like yours. A silver lens may be sharper but have more circular bokeh while a version made 20 years later may do something else. Also expect that not all sellers in the RU are rating these lenses as well as they should. So look at pix carefully.
Here is another street shot that I liked... sharpness is there as well as the look.
Click For full size image
Here is a shot that came from 1080 video, but shows the lens more wide open and its more diffused look.
This lens like to flare. Often its organic and lively, sometimes it just completely washes out the image. In the image below it looks like reasonably normal contrast. In the original image the black level was more like medium gray. Either way I thought this image showed off some interesting flare this lens can produce
click for fill size image
Should You Get One ?
If you are looking for a clean look wide open, this is not your lens. Even stopped down a bit its still got some diffusion. On the other hand if you are looking for very pleasing people images that are soft and glowing you may really like this lens. It can certainly take the digital edge off. As always, know what you want to get in an image when picking gear. I still plan to add a Rokinon Cine 85mm 1.5 to my collection sometime soon as a complement to this lens. Instead of viewing some gear as either or decisions, sometimes both is better !

Monday, March 11, 2013

Its A New Week, Some Lessons in Show Business

I've working a lot, out of town traveling. This week I'm finally finishing up a new lens review, I'll be taking a look at some recent computer upgrades, and who knows what else. That said, it all takes money. That means as much as it is fun to make moving images, you have to TCB too. In this video, a well know director with major hollywood credits talks about swimming with the sharks. Dealing with the leaches of this business and the unskilled opportunists looking for a check. Big egos are also in the mix.

I've dealt with them too and its never pleasant. Perhaps the most important thing is to realize who you are dealing with quickly. Once you know they are cheats, you can decide to deal with them or not, or deal very very carefully with them. Most of that means getting paid up front rather than doing the work. Then waiting hoping to get paid. Then hoping you can find an address to serve them papers when you finally have to sue them if it gets to that. I've been there a few times. I've paid out crew and rentals on large jobs, then waited months to get paid. Well at least I did. Now I'm wiser ( I hope ) and when dealing with questionable types ask for deposits up front with progress payments first before anything gets done. Having a good contract helps too. However, its probably best to let the bad players go.... unless your only choice is to deal with them to get the project you want to do. When they are a gatekeeper its always a tricky game to play and really who needs it. 

The flipside is I've had lots of great clients over the years too. Handshake deals, checks on time, problems were small and always worked out with honest direct conversation. Thats always best way of doing things and maybe why hollywood isn't the place you want to be. Given that there are so many ways of getting distribution now, your need to deal with hollywood is smaller. No you might not make $100M with your film, but you might make $1M or even $100K and walk away happy to do another.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Its Been A Long Week - for work and news

I'd like to have a picture from this week's job but can't... NDA / trade secrets. Well it was interesting just the same and I got to work with some great people that...well, never mind, they weren't here ! I guess of most interest was I had 3 GoPro's running at once for a couple of set ups and they worked great.

Meanwhile I've been watching the weeks postings from around the web. Maybe the most bizarre is the GoPro3 mod that takes said unit and mounts it into a new housing that can take C mount lenses. That all sounds cool until you look at what these guys did, going completely and totally overboard and making it a rental item only. Pointless, who cares. Really do I want to RENT a GoPro with C mount lens and remote follow focus ? No. Get real. I can appreciate the crazy work that went in to this... but really if you can't sell it for a couple hundred bucks who cares. Reality is I'll just use a dslr of some flavor instead... or a normal GoPro for the job. Lets stop and think about this... for $3k I can have  BMD cinema camera with somewhat bigger than 16mm sensor with EF or M4/3 mount and 2.5K. Real deal here. Instead take a 1/4" chip camera, take out the guts, make an aluminin housing for it, remount all the connectors, give it a C mount... and the make it cost more ? for less ? Wait there is more... you can have an LCD on the back AND wireless focus control for that rack focus from 5" to infinity shot... even though DoF is pretty much forever at  1 to 2 ft. anyway with a wide angle lense and nearly as much with something a bit longer.

So this earned a special nomination into the "stupid DSLR stuff" catagory this week taking its place next to the $64 1/8->XLR cable last featured.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Editing Video On Your iPad

Its an interesting interface that seems well thought out. Probably not my choice for everyday work, but for hacking together a few things fast, for building a timeline filled with trimmed selects and other basic work its probably fine. Its also $24.99 on sale if you want to try it. 

Meanwhile I do have things I'm trying to get done... but work has been intense the last few weeks so I'm doing my best !