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PMW-F3 Base and Lens Mount

As promised here is a picture of the base of an F3. It is the same size tripod mount as on the EX1R, plus an additional off-set 1/4 hole towards the rear of the base (which is flat).

2010_1122AB-1024x764-300x223 PMW-F3 Base and Lens Mount
PMW-F3 Base

Below is a picture of the lens mount with the PL adapter removed. I was surprised to find that this appears to be the same mount as the EX3 except with the electrical contacts in a different position and a small pin in that locates with a cutout in the top lens mount flange. It looks to me as though an Adaptimax or MTF EX3 to Nikon adapter would go directly on the F3 with just a small slot cut in the top flange of the adapter to clear the extra mounting pin.

2010_1122AC-300x224 PMW-F3 Base and Lens Mount
PMW-F3 "F" Mount lens mount.
2010_1122AF-1024x764-300x223 PMW-F3 Base and Lens Mount
PMW-F3 PL mount adapter rear flange
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Nexto DI NVS2525 Dual Drive Backup Device.

NVS2525-300x224 Nexto DI NVS2525 Dual Drive Backup Device.
Nexto DI NVS2525 Dual Drive Backup Device.

Those clever Korean’s at Nexto DI have been at it again. At first glance this might appear to be one of the original NVS2500 backup devices, which in itself is a very clever device that in my mind no self respecting solid state shooter should be without. However this is actually the new NVS2525 and Larry (hello Larry) from Nexto gave me a quick demo of it’s new features.
The main external change is the removal of the CF and SD cards slots from the top. These have been replaced with a dedicated slot for P2 cards. As before SxS cards slot in to an express card slot in the side of the unit. For SD, CF, MS and all those other sticks that you might one day use, an adapter is supplied that slides in to the express card slot. This has improved the speed of offload for these cards and now CF cards can be backed up almost as fast as SxS cards. Once again the backup speed is impressive, 80MB/s, yes Mega Bytes! In Larry’s demo he offloaded 2Gb of SxS data in 27 seconds, very impressive. But it doesn’t end there. The Nexto uses a hard drive internally for storage. I’ve had my 2500 for about a year now and I have dropped it, banged it around, taken it to the arctic and storm chasing. Despite this it has been 100% reliable. However despite the built in crash protection, gravity sensor, sector checking and all the other safety features, it is at the end of the day a single hard drive. So what Nexto have added is the ability to write to an external drive. The NVS2500 can also write to an external drive, but the difference is that the NVS2525 can write to it’s internal drive as well as an external drive…… in parallel. So backing up your valuable data takes exactly the same amount of time as before.. 27 seconds for 2Gb, but now you have two copies on two drives.

NVS2525-2-300x224 Nexto DI NVS2525 Dual Drive Backup Device.
Side View of the NVS2525 plus drive.

This is what a lot of production companies have been waiting for. Safe, secure, backups with full verification on to two separate drives without the need for a laptop or any other bulky gear. You can use most bus powered 2.5? esata drives for the external backup drive. Nexto supply a nice looking wallet style case that holds both the NVS2525 and the external drive.
While I was talking to Larry I also spotted a Nexto DI box with red rubber buffers. This one it turns out has been developed specifically for backing up SxS cards from the Arri Alexa. The other little box in my pictures is an external battery pack for the Nexto DI devices. It has a little LED battery meter and looks really nice. Perhaps Larry could give us some more info?

Sony Cinemon XDCAM Workflow Accelerator


I first saw this at NAB earlier in the year, but it wasn’t available then, it is now. Basically it allows you to import and work with native MXF, MP4, IMX and even Proxy files files in FCP. When you install the Cinemon plugin you no longer have to re-warp your MXF’s to .MOV’s so import is greatly simplified and it makes sharing projects across platforms much simpler. In the US it will be known as Cinemon and in the rest of the world XDCAM Workflow Accelerator. Sadly it’s not free, but if you do a lot of work with XDCAM material and FCP it’s probably worth having. USA link

PMW-F3 Raw Footage.

Hi all. Grabed a few clips today with the PMW-F3. You can download the raw BPAV file by clicking here. half a dozen clips, each only a few seconds long, shot at 24p. 170Mb download.

As well as the video clips I have also pulled of a few full resolution frame grabs. Click on the images to see the full frame version.

Girl1-300x168 PMW-F3 Raw Footage.
PMW-F3 Girl frame grab
F3-Grab4-300x168 PMW-F3 Raw Footage.
PMW-F3 leaves frame grab
F3-Grab5-300x168 PMW-F3 Raw Footage.
PMW-F3 Owl frame grab

Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.

Hi all. This is a quick day one report from Interbee in Tokyo. Sony today revealed the often rumoured “other” 35mm camera to feature in their product line up that will be sold along side the already announced PMW-F3 (more on that later). This new camera from Sony’s Shinagawa factory, which at the moment has no name or product number is part of the NXCAM product line, so it will almost certainly record Sony’s version of AVCHD to SD cards and memory sticks. The camera is of a fully modular design with a 35mm sensor housed in a square sensor module that has a flip out LCD panel on the left side. There are separate hand grip and microphone modules so you can put the camera together in a configuration to suit your needs. In the rear of the camera module there is a very large recess which looks too big to be just a battery compartment to me. Perhaps there will be a removable media storage device in this area. The lens mount appears to be the same mount as used on Sony’s NEX range of cameras. The prototype was in a plastic tiffany case so no chance of a real close look.

sony-35mm-1-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
Sony Low Cost 35mm Camera at Interbee
sony-35mm-3-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
The business end of the 35mm NXCAM

This new camera will be a direct competitor to the Panasonic AF100/AF101 which is being well received by those that have had a chance to play with one. It’s obviously a slightly different approach to the Panasonic with it’s modular design so it will be interesting to see how it performs in the real world. I have no details about the sensor being used, but my guess would be that it is an adapted DSLR/NEX sensor with a new optical low pass filter tailored to video as opposed to stills. One thing to note is that like the Panasonic it appears that this camera will be able to shoot 1920x1080P at up to 60fps.

PMW-F3… So we saw this getting announced a week ago and many details have already been given. I pressed the engineers for more information about the sensor, but they are keeping very tight lipped. All they would say is that it has been developed specifically for this camera and as a result has some very big pixels which is why the sensitivity is so high and the gain so low.

PMW-F3-11-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
PMW-F3 at Interbee

The native sensitivity (0db gain) is ISO 800 with normal gammas and hypergammas and ISO 1600 when using S-log, that’s pretty impressive. There are two PMW-F3?s on display here at Interbee along with a set of the new PL mount lenses that will be available with the cameras. The PL mount lenses are very impressive to look at, they look like big Ziess primes with chunky lens barrels and big fat control rings. The three lenses all look the same, only the writing on the side tells you which is which. There are 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses in the kit and the F3 with any one of these on the front certainly looks the part. The camera body is about the same length as an EX3 body, but is quite wide and overall the camera looks a fair bit bigger than an EX3, but it doesn’t weigh much more. The biggest surprise with the PL mount lenses is the weight. These are not heavy lenses, in fact they are really light. There is a lot of plastic used in their construction. I have mixed views on this. The lightness of the lens helps prevent the F3 from being front heavy, so you can use it handheld without it trying to tip forwards under the weight of the lens. On the other hand when you pick up a Zeiss prime it feels like a high quality piece of kit and these new low cost PL’s just don’t have that feel.

F3-85mm-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
Low Cost 85mm PL mount lens.

Of course you do have to consider that there is  a huge price difference between a Zeiss PL prime and these lenses, so it’s not fair to expect them to be the same and a heavy Zeisss (or Cooke) lens on the front of the F3 would make it all but impossible to use handheld. While looking at the front end of the camera I had a good look at the lens adaptor. The F3 has it’s own proprietary lens mount, the F3 mount. In front of this, as standard, is fitted an F3 to PL mount adapter. The adapter is easily removed and is about 25 to 30 mm deep. This means that the flange back from the F3 mount to the sensor is short enough for adaptors for Nikon and Canon DSLR lenses to be used. As yet no one has such adapters but I image there will be a race to produce them as soon as the camera hits the streets.

Of course you can have all the bells and whistles in the world on a camera, but the important thing is the image quality. On the Sony booth they had a mixture of pre recorded footage plus the two demo cameras that are connected to nice big HD monitors for you to see the results first hand. Once again the images have amazed me. There is simply no obvious noise visible in the footage. Shoot with the standard gammas or hypergammas and the noise figure is 63db. Take my word for it…. you can’t see the grain in the pictures. Colours are beautiful and well balanced, the images of autumn (fall) leaves that Sony have shot look incredible as do the live pictures on the camera stand. In addition the images have a very nice organic look showing very high resolution but without any obvious edge enhancement or electronic artefacts.

PMW-F3-2-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
PMW-F3 on the camera set.

I think that once again we are seeing a game changing camera in the Sony XDCAM EX stable. While I am quite sure that the Panasonic AF100 (AF101) will do very well as it appears to be a very competent camera the F3 takes you up to another level. This is a true movie making tool at a price that is very attractive. I can see many programmes that would have traditionally been shot with HDCAM or DVCPRO-HD being shot with one of these. It is a great shame that the internal recording is only 4:2:0, 35Mb/s, while a good codec capable of great things, it just isn’t going to do justice to the beautiful images this camera produces. 50Mb/s 4:2:2 would have been sooo much better. Then this camera would probably have been accepted for broadcast production straight out of the box, but as it stands your really going to want to record on to something else like a NanoFlash or KiPro. Another entrant in the small recorder arena that may be suitable is the new and much talked about “Ninja” ProRes recorder.

Atamos-Ninja-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
Atamos Ninja ProRes recorder.

Still only in it’s prototype stage, although production promised soon, this small device acts as both a monitor and ProRes recorder. It comes with an empty caddy to take a 2.5? laptop type SATA drive. This could be a really cheap hard drive or a more expensive SSD. Frankly I would not want to trust valuable rushes to a hard drive, so for me the only option would be the SSD. It looks like a very attractive device especially when you consider the $1000 USD price tag. We shall see. Having experienced getting stuff from design through to production the one thing I’ve learnt is that it’s very hard to go from the drawing board to full scale production and even harder to meet your target price point.

rig-interbee-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
Atamos Ninja ProRes recorder.

Talking of which, for the first time we are showing the Genus Hurricane Rig on the Manfrotto stand. The Hurricane Rig is my light weight, easy to use, low cost 3D rig. I have been working frantically with Genus to get the rig into production over the last few months (hence the lack of posts) and we are very close now. In fact we have started a run of 15 rigs which will be going out to customers early next month. Manfrotto will be distributing the rig around the world. The price has crept up a bit and is now $7995 USD. But for that we are now including a fold flat mirror box which makes the rig incredibly easy to pack up and take on your travels. Also being shown here is the new optional lower stiffener and tripod mount that tilts the tripod head forwards through 30 degrees so that the front heavy nature of the rig can be offset against the counterbalance springs in the tripod head. There are several other small changes to the rig including a new stiffer mirror tray, stronger mirror frame with mirror locks and improved left camera pivot.

fold-flat-mirror-box-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
Fold Flat Mirror Box

So lots to see here at Interbee. Tomorrow I will be getting some hands on time with the F3 and doing a video report. I have my SxS cards ready to try to shoot some footage with it and share it here with you all, so please check back soon. These are exciting times. Once I finish writing this I’m placing an order for an F3. I can’t wait to really start putting it through it’s paces and playing with the different picture profiles and scene files. I have a big shoot in Norway at the end of Jan and I’d love to try and get an F3 for that, but they might not be shipping by then. Later in the year I will buy a second F3 so I can pair them up and use the 3D link function for stereoscopic production.

More to follow tomorrow………

S-Log or Hypergamma with the PMW-F3

The new Sony PMW-F3 can record using normal standard gammas and hypergammas, which compress highlights and increase the dynamic range to 460% and S-Log which is, as it’s name suggests an “S” shaped logarithmic gamma curve that compresses both highlights and lowlights giving upto 800% dynamic range. However the noise figures given by Sony are very different for S-Log and Hypergammas.

It will be interesting to see what the ramifications of the F3?s, 63db noise figure using standard gammas and hypergammas, vs the 57db nf using S-Log.

S-Log on the F3 will give you almost an extra stop of dynamic range but doubles the amount of noise. In most grading situations noise is the defining factor as to how far you can push the image in post. With normal gammas, at 57db the noise level is at the point where 10 bit recording brings little advantage as the noise is still around the minimum sample size. But S-Log is different as the distribution of data across the gamma curve is not linear, you must have 10bit recording for S-Log to work correctly. With the standard gammas at 63db there will be a definite advantage to recording 10bit.

The noise behaviour suggests that the true zero point noise level for the F3 is 57db, but that for “normal” use, due to the sensors very large dynamic range I suspect that Sony have chosen to reduced the gain by 6db, thus reducing both the noise and dynamic range. In effect the camera is operating with -6db gain switched in as default. However the sensor is sensitive enough to still give excellent low light performance despite the reduced gain and has more than enough dynamic range to still give the 11 stops that can be recorded with Hypergammas. This points to excellent low light performance as with +6db of gain switched in (with standard or hypergammas) your still going to have a 57db noise figure and at +9db gain it should have about the same amount of noise as an EX1 at 0db! Ah.. the delight of big pixels.

Sony F3 35mm Camera, PMW-F3

PMW-F3-Image-81-300x235 Sony F3 35mm Camera, PMW-F3
PMW-F3

This was on show at IBC, but no details were available. Today Sony issued a press release with in depth information about this new 35mm camera. It’s a little disappointing that it only records at 35Mb/s 4:2:0 internally (just like an EX), but encouraging that there will be a dual link HDSDi option do full 4:4:4 external recording will be possible (hmmm thinks NanoFlash at 180Mb/s). The pictures I saw from it at IBC looked amazing and reading the specs I note that the noise figure is 63db which is astounding. An EX3 is 54db and PMW-350 is 59db,  so the F3 has around 40% less noise than a PMW-350 and around 70% less noise than an EX1 or EX3. For me picture noise is crucial as the noise in an image will limit what you can do in post. Another important note is that when you use S-Log gamma curves you get 800% Dynamic range (PMW-350/PMW-500 maximum is 640%) or around 12 stops. The numbers are remarkable close to those for the F35. The price is very attractive at 14,500 Euros List for the body only, so expect a street price of around £11k to £12k.

The camera has a special Sony lens mount but is supplied with a PL mount adapter. A range of low cost PL mount lenses will also be available and as most of us used to working with TV broadcast cameras these lens kits will be a good option as to buy a set of PL mount primes is a major investment. PMW-F3K with three lenses (35, 50, 85mm F2.0) – Euros 20,700. At NAB next year Sony will also show dedicated zoom lenses for the F3.

In addition there will be a ’3D link” option for stereoscopic applications. Will it sell? Well I’m sure it will, but there will be some stiff competition from Red with Epic at 4K and Panasonic with the much cheaper AF100.

I hope to get some hands on time with one at Interbee in Japan next week and then on the Sony Roadshow event in Oslo on the 23rd of November. I’ll keep you posted!

Shooting 3D with 2 Cameras and Synchronisation (Camera Rigs)

It is important to understand that no matter how much you slip and slide the clips from you cameras in the edit suite timeline to bring them into sync, if the images captured by the two cameras sensors are not in sync, you may have some big problems. Even if you press the record buttons on the cameras at exactly the same moment, they may not be running in sync. In the edit suite you can only adjust the sync by whole frames while the cameras may be running half a frame out and this can be impossible to correct in post production.
Remember that from the moment you turn a camera on it is capturing frames. When you press the record button the recording doesn’t start instantly, but at the start of the next full frame, so the synchronisation of the camera is dependant on when the camera was turned on and how long it takes to start working, not when you press the record button….. Unless you have Genlock, which overrides the cameras own internal clock and matches it to an external reference signal, forcing the camera to run in sync with the sync source which can be the second camera or a sync generator.
It is possible to shoot 3D with non-sync cameras, but any motion in the scene, or camera movement such as a pan may lead to strange stereoscopic effects including distortion of the 3D space, un wanted depth changes and moving objects appearing to float in front or behind where they should really be.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t use a non sync camera, just that it is less than ideal and it’s use will limit the kinds of shots you are able to do.
If you don’t have genlock a further option is to use a pair of Canon or Sony camcorders with LANC control. It is possible to get special LANC controllers such as LANC Shepherd or the controllers I have listed below:
http://www.berezin.com/3d/Lanc/index.html
http://dsc.ijs.si/3dlancmaster/
http://www.colorcode3d.dk/group.asp?group=42
These work with most camcorders that have a LANC port or AV/R port and provide good sync for periods of up to around 15 minutes at a time. To reset the sync the cameras must be powered off and back on. They work by synchronising the start up of both cameras and then measuring the sync error. The sync won’t be perfect, but it will be good enough for most 3D applications. However as there will always be slight variations in the master oscillators in the cameras, over time the sync will start to drift apart. The controller will tell you how far apart the sync is and when it becomes excessive you will need to re start the cameras to bring them back into sync, typically you get between 10 minutes and 20 minutes of useful synchronisation.

Post IBC Update – Sony 3D – Nano3D to do Anaglyph!

Well IBC was extremely busy for me, producing daily video blogs for Sony in both 2D and 3D. I didn’t really get a lot of time to see the rest of the show, but I did get a chance to look at a few things. Almost every stand had some mention of 3D. 3D was everywhere. JVC had a nice new mid size S3D production monitor, Canon were showing off their new XF series cameras, the XF100, XF105, XF300 and XF305. It’s a pretty impressive line up! Tim Dashwood was showing a demo video he shot with an Arri Alexa on a couple of stands including Zeiss and Matrox and I have to say it was a fantastic demonstration  of the cameras dynamic range as the studio doors were opened up revealing perfectly exposed exteriors. Tim also has some very cool new software in the pipelines that uses the Matrox boxes to record and analyse 3D.

On the Sony stand the most interesting things for me were the prototype 3D camera and the prototype 35mm camera. There was a lot of secrecy around the 35mm camera and no details were being given except to expect it early next year. The unit on display (in a box) looked to me to have a PL mount of some sort. There were lots of bits of black tape covering various apertures, one of which appeared to be a slot about the right size for a couple of SxS cards. The 3D camera looked like a PMW-500 with a 3D lens. It had 4 SxS slots and a large convergence control knob on the side. The I/A looked to be less than 65mm, maybe 50 to 60mm.

Nano3D: One of the reccuring issues for 3D producers is feild monitoring. While there are plenty of options in the 24? and larger arena, at the moment the Transvideo HD 3D monitors are the only viable option IMHO. Convergent Design have addressed this issue and are adding Anaglyph out to the Nano3D in a soon to be released firmware update. This means that you will be able to use any existing HDSDI equipped monitor like the lovely Sony OLED PVM-740 or other cheaper monitors to check your 3D in the field.

Micro 4/3, Super 35, DSLR and the impact on traditional Pro Camcorders.

Micro 4/3, Super 35, DSLR and the impact on traditional Pro Camcorders.

I was asked by one of this blogs readers about my thoughts on this. It’s certainly a subject that I have spent a lot of time thinking about. Traditionally broadcast and television professionals have used large and bulky cameras that use 3 sensors arranged around a prism to capture the 3 primary colours. The 3 chip design gives excellent colour reproduction, full resolution images of the very highest quality. It’s not however without it’s problems. First its expensive matching 3 sensors and accurately placing them on a high precision prism made from very exotic glass. That prism also introduces image artefacts that have to be dealt with by careful electronic processing. The lenses that have to work with these thick prisms also require very careful design.
Single sensor colour cameras are not something new. I had a couple of old tube cameras that produced colour pictures from a single tube. Until recently, single chip designs were always regarded as inferior to multi-chip designs. However the rise of digital stills photography forced manufacturers to really improve the technologies used to generate a colour image from a single sensor. Sony’s F35 camera used to shoot movies and high end productions is a single chip design with a special RGB pixel matrix. The most common method used is by a single sensor is a bayer mask which places a colour filter array in front of the individual pixels on the sensor. Bayer sensors now rival 3 chip designs in most respects. There is still some leakage of colours between adjacent pixels and the colour separation is not as precise as with a prism, but in most applications these issues are extremely hard to spot and the stills pictures coming from DSLR’s speak for themselves.
A couple of years ago Canon really shook things up by adding video capabilities to some of their DSLR’s. Even now (at the time of writing at least) these are far from perfect as they are at the end of the day high resolution stills cameras so there are some serious compromises to the way video is done. But the Canons do show what can be done with a low cost single chip camera using interchangeable lenses. The shallow depth of field offered by the large near 35mm size sensors (video cams are normally 2/3?, 1/2? or smaller) can be very pleasing and the lack of a prism makes it easier to use a wide range of lenses. So far I have not seen a DSLR or other stills camera with video that I would swap for a current pro 3 chip camera, but I can see the appeal and the possible benefits. Indeed I have used a Canon DSLR on a couple of shoots as a B camera to get very shallow DoF footage.
Sony’s new NEX-VG10 consumer camcorder was launched a couple of weeks ago. It has the shape and ergonomics of a camcorder but with the sensor and lenses of a 4/3? stills camera. I liked it a lot, but there is no zoom rocker and for day to day pro use it’s not what I’m looking for. Panasonic and Sony both have professional large sensor cameras in the pipelines and it’s these that could really shake things up.
While shallow DoF is often desirable in narrative work, for TV news and fast action its not so desirable. When you are shooting the unexpected or something thats moving about a lot you need to have some leeway in focus. So for many applications a big sensor is not suitable. I dread to think what TV news would look like if it was all shot with DSLR’s!
Having said that a good video camera using a big sensor would be a nice piece of kit to have for those projects where controlling the DoF is beneficial.
What I am hoping is that someone will be clever enough to bring out a camera with a 35mm (or thereabouts) sized sensor that has enough resolution to allow it to be used with DSLR (or 4/3) stills camera lenses but also be windowed down and provided with an adapter to take 2/3? broadcast lenses without adding a focal length increase. This means that the sensor needs to be around 8 to 10 Mega Pixels so that when windowed down use just the center 2/3? and it still has around 3 million active pixels to give 1920×1080 resolution (you need more pixels than resolution with a bayer mask). This creates a problem though when you use the full sensor as the readout of the sensor will have to be very clever to avoid the aliasing issues that plague the current DSLR’s as you will have too much resolution when you use the full sensor. Maybe it will come with lens adapters that will have to incorporate optical low pass filters to give the correct response for each type of lens.
A camera like this would, if designed right dramatically change the industry. It would have a considerable impact on the sales of traditional pro video cameras as one camera could be used for everything from movie production to TV news. By using a single sensor (possibly a DSLR sensor) the cost of the camera should be lower than a 3 chip design. If it has a 10 MP sensor then it could also be made 3D capable through the use of a 3D lens like the 4/3? ones announced by Panasonic. These are exciting time we live in. I think the revolution is just around the corner. Having said all of this, I think it’s also fair to point out while you and I are clearly interested in the cutting edge (or bleeding edge) there are an awful lot of producers and production companies that are not, preferring traditional, tried and tested methods. It takes them years to change and adapt, just look at how long tape is hanging on! So the days of the full size 2/3? camera are not over yet, but those of us that like to ride the latest technology wave have great things to look forward to.

Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.