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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sarah Jones

You know I harp about safety a lot. I've posted about some stupid ass things I've seen. Then there is the loss of 27 year old Sarah on the Greg Allman bio pic on the first day of shooting. By all bits it seems the producers knew of the risks but didn't take them as seriously as they should of. Multiple levels of human failure. They didn't have clearance from CSX to be on the tracks, they didn't set up spotters on their own with radios. Violations of saftey they prove to be criminal. Maybe the producers get man slaughter charges and do time in jail.

Who cares, that will not bring her back. Even on smaller productions I've seen some really stupid ass stuff done. STOP ! really think here. You may get lucky once, but luck is not how we live. We live by doing things safely, by using our brains. Not by taking stupid chances. So next time a PA becomes grip does something dangerous, instruct them on the right way to do it. Next time they do the same, simply fire them. There is only one way to deal with people who don't take production safety serisouly, get rid of them. Having people who don't observe safe work procedures will only make for problems in the end and NOT speed production. I've worked on a few industrial safety videos over the last few years and learned a few things. Look twice, think twice, steel toes,  hard hats, spotters, sand bags, grounding. Things it LIVE by.

I have personally seen a couple of close calls where serious harm could of happened but didn't. Safety isn't a joke, is a way of staying alive. Its unspeakable that this young woman lost her life because they were simply stealing a shot thinking they were safe without really being so.

New Ninja Blade

Well sometimes it happens. You buy a piece of gear and a month later a new model comes out. I got the ninja2 about 2 months ago. Today its replacement with the things that had tempted me towards the Samurai but when I priced that option out it simply got too expensive. The Blade is basically the ninja2 upgrade to a samauri - 1280X720 IPS monitor, waveform, HMDI I/O and a reasonable price at $995. The ninja2 is still cheaper but this model makes for sense for a pro shooter. Of course don't forget a few more items - storage like 256gb SSD ( or spinning disc ), extra batteries, swivel end HDMI cables, magic arm, and make sure the get the version that includes a case or you'll need one of those. Another words there is another couple hundred in extra bits to make it shootable. Not the end of the world by any means, just knowing going in. Also a far cry from the price of a HDcam deck of 10 years ago or so. In fact that VTR had a couple option boards that weren't this cheap... you want 24fps playback ? thats an extra board that ran about $5K if I remember. We live in good times.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Green Screen Shoot

Some days in the office are better than others ! Did my green screen tests today. Had a great model & costume for once. Now for seeing how the results work out and which fabric works better.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Got Green ?

Where have I been the last week or so ? well getting ready for two very in depth reviews on LED light CRI and green screens.  

Got green screen ? Yes we all do from time to time. Does the green make a difference ? You may have one of those cheap fold out green screens from china and it might work ok. I have a real Matthews screen that you've seen in a few BTS shots I've posted lately. I've used it any number of times and its been ok. Its the classic green. Once quite a while ago I used a "digital" and it was a diaster to use. made keying very hard because it was too bright. Maybe user error, you're supposed to light it to a lower level. Had also gotten footage from another shoot using it, also major problems. Never used it again.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I get into the chat with Jeff Foster on facebook. He says this digital that you see above is the real deal, will make life better, ect. Ok, you know me, prove it ! A week later Composite Components has sent me an 8X8 and some small paint sample to use in this test. They went well above and beyond what I was expecting - a couple 1X1 peices of painted foamcore and maybe a scrap of fabric. Ok, its here, I have a studio setup and a great looking model instead of me for you to look at ! That all happens end of this week, then I get to put it all together. So I'll be testing this fabric ( and paint ) against the Matthews, and some generic material. Just fair warning : Composite Components has an Academy for their work in green screens and they are used in hollywood a lot so I have some expectations that it will perform. I do know I have to light it darker than the foreground which will be an old habit to break where you generally used the same light levels. Old dog learns new tricks !

Monday, February 10, 2014

Black Magic Design Finally Ships Super35 4K Production Camera and Drops Price

BMD is now shipping the 4K production camera. Congrats to them on finally getting it out the door. As a thank you to those who waited and didn't get too grumbly, they also shaved $1k of the price making MSRP of $2995 ! 

12 Stops of dynamic range, CineDNG RAW, ProRes HQ 4K, uses off the shelf SSD's that slot right into the camera, 240gb = 36min of 4K record time. The camera's 4K is UHD @ 3840 x 2160 rather than 4096 but at this point those 256 pixels probably don't matter that much. EF lens mount is great too. Built in ThunderBolt port is a huge time saver for dumping media off the camera if you don't have the cash to pick up one of the BMD TB drive docks.

A bit hidden in the specs but the camera does support formatting the SSD's as HFS+ or ExtFAT. Nice to have native mac disc format support.

Sound like we have a winner here ! Of course NAB is not far off so its good they got this going. 

Of course I had very much wanted one of these cameras a while back for a couple of projects including the short I shot last fall. Instead I got a C100 instead. I don't regret it except for the price. I think this will put some real price pressure on canon to reduce the C100 to keep it competitive, or perhaps a new 4K C200 in the same price range. I highly suspect this is what we'll see at this NAB, but probably with a crippled codec like AVChd. AVChd isn't bad for basic shooting, but it does fall down with high detiail. BMD on the other hand gives you ProRes 4K or RAW options that really preserve everything the camera can give you. Interesting the BMD 4K camera has 12 stops of DR as do the canons. I guess the other place canon can up their game is improving DR with either better readout from the sensor they have, or an improved sensor. 

Certainly the other player to feel pain from the camera will be RED. While I might feel some pain with the C100 purchase, I'm certainly not feeling the pain of a Scarlette or EPIC purchase. That has to hurt, I'm sure the RED fan boys are simply saying one thing, their camera has more DR. Thats true, thats useful. However, once you get into 12 stops of range, a lot of things change with lighting. You just don't need as much to fight extreme contrast ratios. So while 15+ stops is great with RED, 12 will so cover you for so many things. Certainly better than dslr DR thats 9 or 10. 2 stops makes a difference, one maybe not so much. 

It 'll also be interesting to look at low light performance. I'd expect the more expensive cameras will do better, but again, at what price point ? If the BMD camera can get the job done, and I suspect for many many people looking to escape from a dslr this is going to be their choice. Certainly a better option than a 1Dc.

Who's getting one ?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Film Is Near Dead, My Post Censored

So a website named after a farm animal censored my post. That's nothing new there, just horribly lame and pathetic. They have a big post about film's last gasps of life, to which I basically posted, WHO CARES ! Given that the post was written by some one who clearly could not differentiate between appreciating a great medium and realizing its time had past and needed to move on, no surprise almost. Really I've had some negative comments here or on YouTube and was tempted to kill them, but I left them. I'll take some heat if you don't agree with me or have an intelligent argument I might not agree with. I'm a big kid :) !

However this other site was just gushing over how if it wasn't shot on film they couldn't emotionally connect to it as well as something shot on "video". I nearly barfed on that one. Clearly they haven't seen my short film A Great Life to make the comment you can't connect as well to something shot on ... ! Ok digital cinema camera ! get over it for just once. Of course the person making that post worked at ... AHEM... a film lab in LA. Any self interest  in keeping dead medium alive here ? any ?

Its not like I haven't shot 35mm16mm and Super 8. It was cool, it was the best we had 10 or 20 years ago. It lasted 100+ years because it was good, but its been surpassed. Get over it already. I'm sorry if some way of life has been a bit lost, and some jobs lost. What about the jobs gained elsewhere ? What about all the people like me who are making amazing images and its not costing them $500 for 11 minutes worth of images ? That $500 you collected ? oh wait, could there be a motive here ? Nah ! No way you'd be interested in taking $500+ per 11 minutes of material shot times an entire industry. 

Even worse was that I also directly called out FotoKem ( written up in the article ), the great LA lab for having sent green dark dubs of major hollywood features for 2 years. I was doing work in a place cutting spots for those features. Oh yes we and some others complained, but it took 2 YEARS before some one finally figured out that a Beta SP deck there had a bad input board. One VTR that all our dubs came from. Magically the next set of tapes looked good. We lived for 2 years with a color correction to compensate their problem out... but wait, they said there was not problem. No way there was a problem. It has to be your on your end !  Its just the shear arrogance of the LA film crowd and all of those eating at the film trough that bother me. If it weren't for them the dslr revolution might of been a slow quite whimper rather than the huge bang that it was. RED never would of gotten the attention and product sales they did.

Of course this article and its responses just went off to the typical film circle jerk that often happens. Crazy claims of 4K and 8K resolution on 35 film. Really ?  shoot ISO 100, perfect exposure, F5.6, perfect processing and MAYBE you can pull 4K from a 35mm negative. Reality - about 2K or so resolution on ISO 250T  with decent glass and everything else went ok. What about using an older lens wide open... 4K ? no way. Then go to ISO 500 or  800 which is used a lot and you have maybe 2K of actual resolution under normal shooting circumstances. Sure you can capture it at 4K or more, but you are just making nice samples of the grain that's there. Once you leave the ivory tower for the real world what you get is quite different than perfect tests of resolution charts where the camera doesn't move, focus is perfect, iris is ideal, ect.... meanwhile for what a couple rolls of 35mm + processing + HD transfer would cost I have a digital cinema camera that makes better pictures shooting to SSD. The entire film chain of camera neg, cut neg, interpositives master copies and finally release copies kills a lot of the resolution. Now we have camera digital file, NLE ( maybe vfx touched ) files, graded files, DCP file playing in your local cinema or TV. So much of the losses with film are just gone.

Look, film is cool, but the continued exaggerated claims of its greatness have just worn on me. This is especially true when you get to dynamic range. As much as things have gone forwards with film, so have digital sensors and formats to record those images and edit them. Every time you hear a digital sensor added another stop of lattitude, so did film... maybe. At this point once you are into 12+ stops of dynamic range it just doesn't matter so much. Ok, so your digital format can do 14 stops. GREAT ! instead of using HMI's to balance daylight exterior to interior light ratios I can use fill cards, some LED lights or small HMI's that plug into the wall rather than ones that need a gennie + cables + crew to work it all. Its exactly that sort of thing I took advanatage of when I shot my short film a few months ago. The 12 stops of DR and high ISO's of the canon cinema cameras gave me a huge burst of freedom to not need  big lights and big crew to work them. Instead we did that indie dream of small crew, minimal gear, amazing results. In fact we didn't kill ourselves with moving tons of gear, balancing power loads and all the fun things of shooting... film.

 Sadly I'll never run another roll of 16 or 35mm thru a camera, and happily I don't have to worry about it either. I've kept many of the good habits of shooting film like controlled thought out takes into the digital age. Lets face it, at edit time I don't need 5 hrs of takes for a 20 sec spot. What I do need will probably be found in 15-30 mins of thought out, controlled, well done takes... just like the film daze.

Your thoughts ?

Sunday, February 02, 2014

JVC Intros New HM790 Camera With Live Broadcast Streaming

NAB is still a couple months out but JVC is first with a new camera announcement. Its the HM790u with a street price of $10k availble for pre order, delivery end of march. Sure that's a ways up from the original HD100 that I had. I had it tweaked out with my own custom settings and made lots of money with. Clients loved the look I got from the camera. In fact the HD100 I had made great pix that I'm still using shots from today including use for international clients.

This new camera has integrated AB battery mount, Mpeg2 and h.264 recording options up to 50m/bits, SDI and HDMI out, dual SD media cards, IS lens, XLR's, SDI INPUT, 1080 60P !, 20X optical zoom, genlock, TC I/O, and network IP, ect. Another words everything you'd want for a news shooting camera - all the right connectors. Sounds like a great camera. The camera you want when a 30lbs HPX camera is simply way too heavy to bang around while shooting news day in, night out. Yes it has 1/3" 1920X1080 CCD's if you needed to know which is fine. Price is a bit high but if it fits your needs, has all the options with nothing else to add, might be a good buy. I've certainly seen a lot of local stations using JVC cameras.


So what REALLY cool about this camera ? Live HD Broadcast Streaming via 4G / LTE ! The ProHD Broadcaster is expected to cost between $2k-$3k and require a JVC Broadcast Streaming Service subscription of $200-$300 per month. Very cheap even for a small station to do live shots. This is also the possible end of those streaming back packs that had gotten popular. That said, while using this to cover events in crowded areas it may not be so reliable, or have too much bandwidth throttling due to congestion. If you have ever tried to use data at a major sporting event you know its often useless. However for just about any other time it may be just fine for getting a live shot out, or feeding shots you just got back to the studio. Pretty amazing. Official word is :

JVC said it will offer its new ProHD Broadcaster, built around technology from IP-streaming specialist Zixi, based in Waltham, MA, as a physical server or a cloud-based service. The Broadcaster will receive live HD video from JVC cameras with the built-in Zixi engine, which enables real-time streaming via 4G / LTE when connected to a Verizon USB modem along with recording to on-board memory cards. The Broadcaster can receive simultaneous streams from multiple cameras, which can be switched and broadcast live. That makes it an affordable but reliable option for live coverage from multiple shooters, the company said.