NextoDI to show new NVS25B Storage Bridge at IBC.

Nexto_Nsb-25_EuNextoDI will be showing their new NVS-25 storage bridge at IBC. This is the next step in their range of portable backup devices for solid state media. The current devices like the NVS2825 are brilliant for backing up media such as SxS or P2 cards. But as 4K becomes common and file sizes increase there is a growing need for fast, simple to use devices that can backup large files to high capacity hard drives and SSD’s. The new NVX25 is modular in design and can take adapters for most media types including SxS, XQD, P2, Red, AXS etc.

The device has two internal drives and a 3rd drive can be connected to it by USB 3. It can make up to 3 copies (1 to each drive) at the same time extremely quickly. It will CRC check your copies and produce a log of what has been copied. There is a 5″ screen to control the unit as well as for viewing playback of your backed up media. It even has an HDMI port to connect it to a larger monitor.

Finally an affordable way to securely backup large 4K files and raw on location without needing a computer. Very exciting!

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Sony A7s or AX100, perhaps the PXW-X70?

Schneider Xenon 50mm FF lens on the Sony A7s

Schneider Xenon 50mm FF lens on the Sony A7s

As an owner of both the A7s and AX100 and as someone that has shot with the PXW-X70, if I had to choose one which would it be? That’s tough because although they really are very different cameras they both have strengths that are nice to have. The A7s produces a prettier picture and can be used run and gun, with limitations. I use the kit 28-70mm f3.5-f5.6 and it works well, good auto focus, smooth aperture changes etc. BUT and it is a very big BUT you need a really good set of ND’s or a strong ND fader to use it outdoors due to the extreme sensitivity. Add to that the minimal 3x zoom and it’s pretty restrictive as to what you can shoot without switching lenses and fiddling around. Sure you can add something like the new Tamron 16-300mm f3.5-f6.3 but the autofocus tends to hunt a lot more, manual focus is fiddly and you still need to mess around with ND’s. I think you need to be a fairly competent cameraman and need to be very careful over lens choices etc to use the A7s for run and gun successfully. Plus don’t forget the cost of all the extra lenses, filters etc adds up and makes the kit bulkier.

The new Sony PXW-X70 XDCAM camcorder, the pro version of the AX100.

The new Sony PXW-X70 XDCAM camcorder, the pro version of the AX100.

The AX100 (or PXW-X70) on the other hand really is a grab and go camera. Easy to use, great zoom range, built in ND’s. It’s quick and easy to use and may get you shots that you will miss with the A7s. But the pictures are not as pretty, primarily they lack the dynamic range of the A7s. But they are very easy to use, so well suited to those that are full auto shooters or rely heavily on auto functions to keep life simple. The X70 has much better ergonomics than the AX100 but is a bit more expensive. Both are very compact packages and as you don’t need to buy extra lenses or filters work out substantially cheaper than an A7s kit with a set of lenses to cover the same focal lengths at reasonable apertures.

Anyway, if I had to give up one of mine (A7s or AX100), for me it would be the AX100 that would go. I would be prepared to sacrifice the ease of use of the AX100 for the better images from the A7s. But I normally shoot manually anyway. I’m used to swapping lenses, working with ND filters etc. If you not used to shooting manually then the AX100 may be the better choice. Great images are of course important, but the best camera to own is a camera you will use. It’s all very well having fancy pictures and the ability to swap lenses etc. But if fiddling around means you don’t use it very often, then there is no point in having it. You would be better off with a camera that you will be comfortable with, that you will use regularly.

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Don’t Confuse a DIT with a Data Wrangler or Runner.

Bit of a rant here as one of the roles I perform on some shoots is that of DIT or Digital Imaging Technician.

What does a good DIT do? Well lots of things. One of the key roles of the DIT is to work with both the camera department and post production to ensure that the shoots proposed workflow will work. Some DIT’s may even oversee some parts of the post process, ensuring the footage is correctly handled all the way through the production chain. On set the DIT may be responsible for camera setup including any paint settings, gamma curve and gamut choices. The DIT will work with the DP to create LUT’s for use in the camera, on set as well as in post production. Then the DIT may (but often not) be responsible for gathering the media and rushes from the camera and copying it or backing it up. Next the DIT will look at the footage checking for issues, not just file corruption but any other technical aspects that may trip up post production, possibly apply a first pass grade on set so that the production team can get an idea of how the footage will end up looking.

A good DIT will have a sound technical knowledge of the way a video camera works, how to set it up, how to best handle the footage plus how to ensure the footage passes through the post production chain. It is not an easy role as a good DIT can make or break a production.

But often the term DIT is used to refer to a person tasked with copying footage from the camera. This role is more normally referred to as “Data Wrangler”. A good Data Wrangler will manage the backup of the rushes from the camera. All backups will have their data integrity checked and log sheets with checksums and details of the contents of the files will be produced. As footage is passed from the shoot to post the data wrangler should keep a log of who has received what and track all copies of the footage. Sometimes a Data Wrangler will also perform some roles similar to a DIT such as producing footage with a first pass grade applied or viewing copies of footage. The role of the Data Wrangler is extremely important. But a Data Wrangler will not normally be asked to produce LUT’s, setup a camera or oversea any part of the post production process.

Finally the term DIT gets most abused when it is used to refer to a runner or other production assistant who is simply tasked with copying the footage from the camera to a hard drive or other backup. Sadly this incredibly important job is often given to the least skilled or cheapest person on the set. It’s often perceived as an easy job that anyone can do. But it really needs to be done with great care, lots of checks followed by lots more checks because a mistake at this stage could put the entire production at risk. Checksums should be used, log sheets made and you want to use a reliable person that won’t be distracted and will treat this highly responsible role with the respect it deserves. Not use some spotty faced kid that spends his time on facebook waiting for the copies to finish when he could be playing back and checking clips for problems.

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So, if I can hack an F5 for 4K, can I also get the F55’s color gamut?

So, we have seen that it is possible to trick an F5 into thinking its an F55 by altering an all file from the F5 and adding some F55 4K settings. This enables 4K internal recording and 4K output over HDMI on the F5. Internal 4K is one of the key differences between the lower cost F5 and the much more expensive F55. Another major difference is that the F55 has a global shutter so no CMOS image skew or other rolling shutter artefacts and the F55 has a larger colour gamut allowing better colour rendition and capture.

A question that has been asked is: Well if we can get 4K, can we also enable the larger colour gamut? One thing we do know is that the sensor used in the F55 is different to the sensor in the F5 as the sensor is replaced if you upgrade your F5 to an F55.

A cameras gamut is determined more by the sensors colour filters than the recording gamut. The recording gamut is like a bucket, the sensor a scoop. If the scoop isn’t big enough you won’t fill the bucket.

The color filters on the F55 are very different to those in the F5, so the F55 can capture a much greater gamut than the F5.

If you think about it, if you hold a red gel up infront of your eyes you will only see an extremely narrow colour gamut, just a single narrow part of the red spectrum. Imagine if you have a red, green and blue filter, you will now see a bit of red, a bit of green and a bit of blue. But you might only see a very narrow part of the full blue spectrum or a very narrow part of red or of green, you won’t see the full spectrum or a large gamut, just narrow slithers of it. The trick is to make filters that are wide enough and with the righ charcteristics to pass all of the R, G and B spectrum but sharply cut off unwanted colors, infra-red or UV at the exactly the right point. This is very hard to do. So the quality and accuracy of the color filters determines both the gamut and the precision of the colors that the camera can capture.

In practice it can be hard to see this difference as none of the monitors available today can show the full gamut that the F55 can capture so you can’t directly see it. But it does make a difference in post as the F55 is able to separate subtle hues more accurately and capture an extended tonal range, for example very subtle differences in skin tones that may be lost on a camera with poorer filters. This means when grading you are able to draw more tonal information out of the image when you transform the color space in to Rec 709 or DCI-P3 and it results in a more natural looking image.

The F5’s sensor gamut is probably somewhere around the size of DCI P3, maybe a bit bigger, but it’s clearly not as big as the F55’s. In addition the colour precision is not as great so some subtle tones are lost. It’s not a massive difference and the F5 does a great job. It’s not something that can be changed with software, it’s all down to the sensor hardware. The F5 just can’t fill the S-Gamut recording bucket so by using S-Gamut your wasting a lot of data. By using a smaller recording gamut like S-Gamut3.cine you can more effectively fill the bucket and make better use of the data available to you.

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Listen Up, XDCAM USERS!

Hi Guys and Gals.

So, IBC is just a few days away. I’m packing my bags, ready to go and I’m really rather excited. I’m under NDA so can’t reveal anything and maybe even writing this post will get me in trouble.

Unless you have completely had your head in the sand (or have been working hard) you will have probably seen the leaked picture of a new XAVC badged camcorder that has become known as the FS700 MK2 by many. You might also have seen a teaser video from Sony featuring several well known DP’s and bloggers talking about a new camera, if you haven’t click here. It doesn’t tell you much, but talks about what some people would like in a new camera, with the tag line “Be first to discover true freedom of expression”. So I don’t think I’m revealing any secrets by saying that it looks like there will be a major camera launch at IBC and it’s one that’s going to rock the boat a bit (well quite a LOT actually).

In recent months we have seen Sony release a new line of PXW XDCAM cameras that have Sony’s new and really very good XAVC codec. Yes, it’s a little confusing but these are still XDCAM cameras…. XDCAM meaning digital recording on to SxS or Optical Disc. So far we have seen the diminutive PXW-X70, the mid range 1/3″ PXW-X160 and X180 as well as the update to the PMW-300 to add XAVC. So IBC will be a great time to see the full range of XAVC cameras and I’m sure we can expect more news about XDCAM and XAVC in general.

There has also been a lot of commotion around the “hack” that allows owners of the PMW-F5 to get internal 4K recording. So far Sony have only responded to this with a brief “we do not approve and it may invalidate your warranty” type statement. I’m hoping we will get clarification from Sony over what they will do about this in future firmware updates. Will they leave it (doubtful), block it (likely) or just give F5 owners a 4K upgrade path (the BIG unknown) other than getting the entire camera upgraded to an F55. Again I’m sure we will get lots of news on the development of the PMW-F5 and F55 cameras.

I’ll be there at the show helping out on the Sony booth (no, I am NOT a Sony employee. I just get asked to work the booth to share my practical experience with the cameras). So I won’t get a lot of time to reveal all the secrets when they are announced here on the blog, but if you keep an eye on my twitter feed ( @stormguy ) I’ll try to tweet the news as fast as I can. The Sony press event is on Friday morning (12th Sept) so you can expect to see a flood of very exciting news immediately after that.

 

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From Script to Screen. SEVA Fest 2014 film makers festival, South East Virginia.

I’m really please to be involved with the Mid-Atlantic Conference for film professionals which will be held in SouthEast VirginiA. . I’ll be running workshops along side Bruce Logan, the man that shot the blowing up the Death Star in the original Star Wars movie, was a cameraman on Tron, Batman Forever and many other films. Bruce, as well as bing a very talented DP is also a script writer, producer, director and colourist. Actor and Director Michael Copon, known for his roles in Power Ranges and Scorpion King – Rise of a Warrior  will  also being running sessions during the course of the 3 day event.

SEVA  is open to anyone with a desire to network with other film professionals, discover new talent, and to better learn the creative technologies, techniques, and tools of the industry.

The inaugural SEVA Fest will be held at the Chesapeake Conference Center from October 17 through October 19. It will feature workshops and panel discussions hosted by Bruce Logan, Alister Chapman, and Michael Copon with the emphasis of storytelling using today’s modern technology. It will also feature a short film competition, to be held at the Roper Theater in Norfolk.

Workshops will include: Script to Screen with Bruce Logan, Painting and setting up digital cameras, by me. Acting and Producing with Michael Copon. There will be lots to learn, a great chance to meet some amazing people and hopefully a lot of fun.

There’s student and early bird pricing so jump on over to the  SEVA website for full details: http://www.sevafest.com/

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The RIGHT way to get good timecode sync with multiple cameras.

So, you have a multi camera shoot and you want to have the timecode in perfect sync between all of the cameras. For a start lets assume we are talking about pro cameras that actually have timecode in and out, because without a way to connect an external timecode source, getting truly accurate TC sync is all but impossible. The other thing you need if you want REAL timecode sync is genlock (or an Arri Alexa with an Ambient Lockit box).

The most common way used to get timecode sync across multiple cameras is to simply connect a timecode source to the timecode in of the cameras. This can be done with cables or wirelessly. This is a method I’ve used many times and it works….. kind of. Actually this is NOT the best way to get good timecode sync, but it’s probably the most commonly used method. It is especially problematic when you have very long takes, say shooting a rock concert without stopping between songs.

Here’s the problem.

When you hit record on the camera the timecode MUST increment by 1 frame every time you record a new frame, regardless of what the timecode on the TC in is doing. Every frame MUST have a unique TC number. So, if the cameras sync clock is running a tiny bit faster or slower than the TC clock of the external source, the cameras TC will slowly drift out of sync with the external TC until you stop recording at which time the cameras TC will re-sync with the external TC. On long takes this may result in a loss of sync between the external TC and the TC generated by the camera. Often this isn’t more than a few frames, but on a music shoot or where you have sync sound, being a few frames out can be a real pain.

Timecode will not synchronise a camera, it will not pull the cameras frame rate into sync with the external TC clock. Unless it is an Arri Alexa and you are using an Ambient Lockit box as Ambient can pull the Alexa’s clock into sync via a special “Tune” pin. The only thing that will alter the cameras actual frame or sync rate is genlock. So if you want the cameras to truly stay in sync you must genlock them to a common sync source.

Now I know that very often this is not possible, especially with remote or mobile cameras. That’s why companies such as Ambient include a sync output that you can connect to the cameras genlock in on their wireless TC boxes, so you can genlock the camera to bring it in to true sync with the external clock as well as feeding it sync TC.

If your working with a single camera and a sound recordist, rather than having the soundie feed TC to the camera, the more accurate way is to use the camera as the TC source and send the TC to the sound recorder. The sound recorder doesn’t have a frame rate as such so the TC does not need to be in sync with the sound recorder in the same way as it should be in sync with the cameras actual frame rate. A sound recorder can have time periods shorter or longer than a frame, a video camera cannot. By sending the TC from the camera to the sound recorder you will eliminate sync drift between the TC and the actual video frame count during longer takes.

I know this is not how it’s done in practice. In most cases TC is sent to the camera and in most cases genlock isn’t used. Probably because this is the easiest way to do things. Most of the time, if the takes are shorter than 10 minutes or so, you won’t see any issues. But if you really want accurate TC over long takes you need to do it properly and either genlock the cameras or use the camera as the TC source on a single camera shoot.

 

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Hack to get internal 4K on the Sony PMW-F5 CAUTION THERE MAY BE ISSUES!!!!

STOP PRESS: It’s been found that this modification is also changing the exposure and dynamic range! See bottom of post.

Well, Paul Ream over at http://extrashot.co.uk/ has worked out how to make the F5 record 4K internally. It’s actually pretty straight forward. The camera can save a file called an “All File” on an SD card to memorise the way it’s set up. By mdifying this file you can trick the F5 to go into 4K or UHD frame size instead of the usual HD or 2K. First you have to modify line 15o of an existing All File (they are simple text files) where the frame rate and frame size are saved using a text editor, putting in the frame size you want. Then delete line 1 where the files MD5 checksum is stored. Save the file. Next determine the checksum of the file, then add the new checksum to line 1 and finally save the file to the SD card and read it in to the camera. By loading this modified (hacked???) all file in to the camera you can enable 4K and UHD recording to the SxS cards.

It’s certainly created a stir. Many F55 owners think they have been short changed because of this hack and of course most F5 are very happy. It will be interesting to see if any other F55 features can be unlocked on the F5 such as 4K output or 4K playback. Right now the hack is a little limited as you can’t even playback files to see if they are OK. Full details over on Extrashot in the latest podcast…. if you can grind your way through the bit on shoes and iphones without nodding off first.

UPDATE: So, now a few people have tried this, there have been a couple of reports of the dynamic range of image clipping and some other issues. I’ve had a quick look on an F5 (not mine, I’m travelling) and there is most definitely something odd going on as the pictures are darker and clip earlier in 4K XAVC compared to HD and 2K. I need to test this further to see what’s going on, but it’s not quite as perfect as perhaps hoped.

What we know: The hack tricks the camera into behaving like a PMW-F55. We know the F5 and F55 have different sensors with very different behaviour, different colour filters and different sensitivity, so the processing must be different for these two cameras.

My very quick test, shooting the same scene in 4K and in normal HD XAVC shows the 4K to be darker. Others are reporting that the 4K clips appear to over-exposure more readily than the HD.

SPECULATION: If the hack is doing more than just turning on 4K recording, if it is making the camera use the F55’s processing, then there will be a miss-match between the sensor and the processing and this might cause issues with dynamic range, gain and colour.

As soon as I get a chance (should be tomorrow) I will do some more involved testing to see exactly what is going on.

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Samyang launches 50mm Cine Lens

New Samyang 50mm T1.5 vDSLR lens.

New Samyang 50mm T1.5 vDSLR lens.

At long last Samyang have filled the gap in their vDSLR lens line up! It was crazy not to have a 50mm lens. Finally they are launching a 50mm T1.5 lens with pitch gears etc. This lens will be available next month (September) so not too long to wait. It’s full frame so should work great with the A7s as well as all your Super35 and APS-C cameras.

Hop over to the Samyang web site for sample images and further information. I have one on pre-order as as soon as I can I will check it out.

 

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Sony Launches New PXW-X500 XDCAM Shoulder Mount CCD camcorder with XAVC

New Sony PXW-X500 camcorder.

New Sony PXW-X500 camcorder.

Today Sony launched a couple of the new cameras. The MC2500E a very low cost, fairly basic shoulder mount AVCHD camcorder with a single 1/4″ CMOS sensor and a new full size, shoulder mount XDCAM camcorder the PXW-X500.

This is basically a replacement for the PMW-500 with the added benefit of the XAVC and SStP codecs. Like the PMW-500 and PDW-850 this is one of the few cameras to still use CCD sensors, so no flash bands or skew, making it a great news gathering workhorse. It has some new features not found on the PMW-500 including upto 120fps S&Q motion (looks like this is an option) and GPS. It looks like this possibly has the same very good sensors as the PMW-500 but with new signal processing and improved noise reduction. More details can be found on the Sony web site.

So really that just leaves the PMW-200 without XAVC. It can’t be long before we see a PMW-200 replacement with XAVC.

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