Category Archives: Everything Else

Time To Buy A New Camera – But What To Do With The Old One?

So, you have decided to take the plunge and invest in a new camera. You’ve been shooting with your old camera for a couple of years or more and it’s served you well. But when you try to trade it in or sell it you find it’s really not worth a great deal. Maybe only a small fraction of what you paid for it. What do you do?

For a start a dealer won’t give you a great deal on an older camera that’s been superseded by a newer model, unless there is some kind of very special trade in deal (even then you may be able to negotiate a better discounted price from the dealer and then sell the old camera separately). I’m assuming you are buying the new one because it’s better than the old one. Dealers don’t want large numbers of older cameras sitting on shelves unless they can afford to carry the risk of them not selling. Some dealers might be willing to try to sell it for you on a commission basis and that might be one way to go. But if you can sell it privately, you’ll typically get a bit more money for it than a trade in.

Whatever you do it’s time to put your business head on, rather than allowing any emotional attachment to a camera (that may well have served you well) to influence your decision making. In a years time it’s likely the old camera will be worth even less.

Ask yourself the following question: Will  keeping the camera earn me more additional profit than the money I will get from selling it, even if it is an uncomfortably low price? If the answer is no, then sell it now while it’s still worth something and don’t hang around, get rid of it while you can.

Don’t just hang on to it because you can’t bear to sell it for such a low price. This isn’t a child or loved one, it’s a tool and there is no point in having a tool that’s not going to be used, or might get used once in the next year, cluttering up your office. I’ve often made the mistake of hanging on to a much loved camera to use as a backup or B camera and never actually used it. Instead it’s sat on a shelf for a couple of years gathering dust until it eventually it gets discarded (it might impact your equipment insurance, it still needs to be insured as an insurance company can sometimes refuse to pay out if something happens and you are found to be under insured).

Remember, to be useful a B camera will also typically needs it’s own tripod, batteries and all the other support kit the main camera needs. So hanging on to a second camera may mean having to also hang on to a lot of other kit as well.

But if you are confident it will make you that extra money then keep it.

Another consideration is what could you do with the the money you can get for it? Would it allow you to invest in some new lenses to go with your new camera? Perhaps a better tripod, new lights, stuff you would use day-in day-out rather than once in a blue moon. It’s much better to have you hard earned cash working for you on a regular basis than hanging on to something  “just in case”. In those once in a blue moon, just in case scenarios there are places called rental houses. And if the project that needs that once in a blue moon second camera isn’t going to pay to hire one, then why are you providing it? You are running a business not a charity aren’t you? A bit dramatic perhaps and there will always be exceptions to the rule. But that is the way you should be thinking.

If the old camera has been good for you, the emotional attachment often leads to hanging on to a piece of kit that really should be moved on to make way for new tools that will help you grow the business. If you do keep it, instead of it hanging out on a shelf, do consider hiring it out. It’s less damaging to your business if a spare or backup camera gets stolen or damaged on a rental than your main camera, so this could be a toe in the water of a sideline rental business. But do explore you insurance restrictions and limitations, plus consider whether you want strangers turning up at your home or place of business to pick up kit at all sorts of hours.

I’m definitely not saying you have to sell your older camera, just try to take any emotional attachment out of the decision and figure out what’s best for the business.

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Hot Pixels and White Dots From My New Camcorder (FX9 and many others).

So you have just taken delivery of a brand new PXW-FX9. Turned it on and plugged it in to a 4K TV or monitor – and shock horror there are little bright dots in the image – hot pixels.

First of all, don’t be alarmed, this is not unusual, in fact I’d actually be surprised if there weren’t any, especially if the camera has travelled in any airfreight.

Video sensors have millions of pixels and they are prone to disturbance from cosmic rays. It’s not unusual for some to become out of spec. So all modern cameras incorporate various methods of recalibrating or re-mapping those pesky problem pixels. On the Sony professional cameras this is called APR. Owners of the Sony F5, F55, Venice and FX9 will see a “Perform APR” message every couple of weeks as this is a function that needs to be performed regularly to ensure you don’t get any problems.

You should always run the APR function after flying with the camera, especially on routes over the poles as cosmic rays are greater in these areas. Also if you intend to shoot at high gain levels it is worth performing an APR run before the shoot.

If your camera doesn’t have a dedicated APR function, typically found in the maintenance section of the the camera menu system, then often the black balance function will have a very similar effect. On some Sony cameras repeatedly performing a black balance will active the APR function.

If there are a lot of problem pixels then it can take several runs of the APR routine to sort them all out. But don’t worry, it is normal and it is expected. All cameras suffer from it. Even if you have 1000 dead pixels that’s still only a teeny tiny fraction of the 19 million pixels on the sensor.

APR just takes 30 seconds or so to complete. It’s also good practice to black balance at the beginning of each day to help minimise fixed pattern noise and set the cameras black level correctly. Just remember to ensure there is a cap on the lens or camera body to exclude all outside light when you do it!

SEE ALSO: http://www.xdcam-user.com/2011/02/are-cosmic-rays-damaging-my-camera-and-flash-memory/

Why Can’t I Get Third Party BP-U Batteries any more?

In the last month or so it has become increasingly hard to find dealers or stores with 3rd party BP-U style batteries in stock.

After a lot of digging around and talking to dealers and battery manufacturers it became apparent that Sony were asking the manufacturers of BP-U style batteries to stop making and selling them or face legal action. The reason given being that the batteries impinge on Sony’s Intellectual Property rights.

Why Is This Happening Now?

It appears that the reason for this clamp down is because it was discovered that the design of some of these 3rd party batteries was such that the battery could be inserted into the camera in a way that instead of power flowing through the power pins to the camera, power was flowing through the data pins. This will burn out the circuit boards in the camera and the camera will no longer work.

Users of these damaged cameras, unaware that the problem was caused by the battery were sending them back to Sony for repair under warranty. I can imagine that many arguments would have then followed over who was to pay for these potentially very expensive repairs or camera replacements.

So it appears that to prevent further issues Sony is trying to stop potentially damaging batteries from being manufactured and sold.

This is good and bad. Of course no one wants to use a battery that could result in the need to replace a very expensive camera with a new one (and if you were not aware it was the battery you could also damage the replacement camera). But many of us, myself included, have been using 3rd party batteries so that we can have a D-Tap power connection on the battery to power other devices such as monitors.

Only Option – BP-U60T?

Sony don’t produce batteries with D-Tap outlets. They do make a battery with a hirose connector (BP-U60T), but that’s not what we really want and compared to the 3rd party batteries it’s very expensive and the capacity isn’t all that high.

BP-U60T Why Can't I Get Third Party BP-U Batteries any more?
Sony BP-U60T with 4 pin hirose DC out.

So where do we go from here?

If you are going to continue to use 3rd party batteries, do be very careful about how you insert them and be warned that there is the potential for serious trouble. I don’t know how widespread the problem is.

We can hope perhaps that maybe Sony will either start to produce batteries with a D-Tap of their own. Or perhaps they can work with a range of chosen 3rd party battery manufacturers to find a way to produce safe batteries with D-Tap outputs under licence.

Beware multiple power supplies!!

From time to time someone will pop up on a forum or user group with tales of fried SDI boards, dead monitors or dead audio devices. Often the reason for the death of these units seems obscure. One day it all works fine, the next time the monitor is plugged in it stops working.

A common cause of these types of issue is the use of individual power supplies for each device. Most modern power supplies use a technology called “switch mode”. Most “wall wart” power supplies are switch mode. Computers use switch mode power supplies, they are probably the most common type of power supply in use today.

The problem with these power supplies is that the voltage they produce is not tied to a common earth or ground connection. A 12 volt power supply may have an output voltage that measures 12 volts across it’s positive and negative terminals, which is great. But the negative terminal might be many volts above “ground”. Used singly this is not normally a problem but if you use a couple of different power supplies with negative terminals floating at different voltages, if you connect them together current will flow from one to the other as the establish a common base voltage.

As an example if you have a monitor powered by one power supply and a camera powered by another, when you connect the monitor to the camera current may flow down the SDI or HDMI cable from one power supply to the other causing damage to the chips that process the SDI/HDMI signals.

Even if there is no damage this current can lead to audio hum or other electrical noise.

How can you prevent this?

First use only high quality power supplies. Wherever possible try to run everything off a single power supply. Powering the camera from a high capacity power supply and then feeding any connected accessories via D-Tap or Hirose outputs on the camera is good practice. Also powering everything by batteries helps. If you must use separate power supplies then connect everything together before connecting anything to the mains and before turning anything on. This should ensure that any current runs through the shield and ground paths in the cables rather than possibly travelling down the delicate signal part of a connection as you connect things together.

AMPAS snub Cinematography and Editing at the Oscars.

I don’t normally get involved in stuff like this, but this has me quite angry. While an Oscar will still be awarded for Cinematography as well as Editing the presentations will take place during a commercial break (the same for Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling).

Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of every movie. If we go back to the very beginnings of Cinema it was all about the Cinematography. The word Cinema is a shortened form of the word Cinematography which means to write or record movement. There were often no actors, no special effects, no sound, just moving images images. perhaps a shot of a train or people in a street. Since then Cinematography has continued to advance both artistically and technically. At the same time Editing has become as important as the script writing. The Cinematography and editing determine the mood, look, pace, style of the film.

As Guillermo del Torro has commented: “Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of our craft, they are not inherited from a theatrical tradition or literary tradition, they are cinema itself”. I completely agree, so the presentations for Cinematography and Editing deserve the same coverage and respect as every other category. Cinematographers and editors are often overlooked by film goers, they rarely make the mainstream headlines in the same way that leading actors do. So really it is only fair that AMPAS should try to address this and give both the credit and coverage deserved by those men and women that make cinema possible.

Sony Venice to get 4K 120fps in Version 4.

Coming just a few days after the release of the Venice version 3 firmware, Sony have just released details of the next major Venice update which is planned to be released in June of this year. Last year when Sony started talking about HFR (high frame rates) for Venice it was expected that 4K would reach at least 96fps. However it has now been confirmed that the version 4 update will include the option to purchase an HFR licence that will allow you to shoot in 4K at up to 120fps.

It is worth noting however that 120fps will only be available when shooting 2.39:1. When shooting 17:9 the limit will be 110fps, still better than the originally promised 96fps. As well as 4K HFR you will also be able to shoot at 60fps in 6K 3:2 and 75fps 4K 3:2 ideal for use with 2x Anamorphic lenses.

The full press release is below:

Basingstoke, UK, 31st January 2019: Sony will be upgrading the capabilities of its next-generation motion picture camera system, VENICE, by introducing High Frame Rate (HFR) shooting, advanced remote-control functionalities and Cooke/i3 and Zeiss extended metadata support, as part of its latest firmware update. Following the recent release of VENICE’s firmware Version 3.0 and the upcoming launch of its Extension System (CBK-3610XS), which was developed in collaboration with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and is currently being used to shoot the AVATAR sequels, the latest upgrade will offer filmmakers even greater creative freedom, flexibility and choice.

The new optional High Frame Rate license allows VENICE to shoot at speeds of up to 120fps at 4K 2.39:1, and 60fps at 6K 3:2 as well as up to 110fps at 4K 17:9 and 75fps at 4K 4:3 with anamorphic lenses. The new additional frame rates are particularly well-suited for drama, movie and commercial productions in 4K and 6K, as well as productions at 50/60p in 6K and VR productions using large viewing angle of 6K 3:2 in 60p. All High Frame Rates support X-OCN recording including X-OCN XT* implemented from Ver.3.0 and High Frame Rate up to 60fps support XAVC 4K and ProRes recording.

“At Sony, we pride ourselves on working closely with our customers and partners to create solutions that enable modern filmmakers to bring their vision to reality just the way they intend to. In fact, High Frame Rate shooting was a feature that was frequently requested by our customers. We listened to their feedback and are excited to now offer this feature to all new and existing VENICE users,” explained Sebastian Leske, Product Marketing Manager, Cinematography, Sony Professional Solutions Europe. “Last year at Cine Gear Expo, we announced that Version 4.0 will include 120fps in 2K. However, we are excited to announce today that, as a result of the hard work of our engineering team, Version 4.0 will now include 120fps in 4K. With firmware Version 4.0, our state-of-the-art VENICE will become even more powerful, fortifying its position as the go-to solution for cinematographers who want to create stunning imagery and capture emotion in every frame.”

Additionally, Version 4.0 of the VENICE firmware will introduce:

·       700 Protocol – A control protocol developed by Sony to connect VENICE to a remote-control unit (RM-B750 or RM-B170) and a RCP-1500 series remote control panel, giving filmmakers greater flexibility in bringing their visions to life. Further expanding on the camera’s existing remote-control capabilities, the VENICE now offers paint control, iris control, recording start/stop, clip control, and more. The upgraded remote-control function also adds new workflows to extend VENICE’s use in multi-camera and live production settings, such as live concerts and fashion shows.

·        Support for Cooke’s /i third generation metadata Technology, /i3 and ZEISS eXtended Data technology (based on Cooke /i Technology) – Extended lens metadata can now be embedded straight into a RAW/X-OCN/XAVC file and HD-SDI output without the need for additional metadata equipment. The new function allows distortion and shading caused by supported lenses to be easily rectified, significantly reducing post-production costs.

Further features include an extended Mask+Line setting in the Frame line set-up, selectable functions for the assignable buttons of the DVF-EL200 viewfinder and pure Progressive HD-SDI output in 25p and 29p.

Both the free upgrade to firmware Version 4.0 and the optional HFR licence will be available in June 2019.

To learn more about VENICE, please join Sony at BSC Expo 2019 in Battersea Evolution, Battersea, London at stand 545 or visit pro.sony/en_GB/products/digital-cinema-cameras/venice.

*Excluding 6K 3:2 50p/60p

Adobe still can’t get XAVC levels right!

I’m often asked at the various workshops I run why I don’t grade in Adobe Premiere. Here’s why – they can’t even get basic import levels right.

Below are two screen grabs. The first is from Adobe Premiere CC 2019 and shows an ungraded, as shot, HLG clip. Shot with a Sony Z280 (love that little camera). Note how the clip appears over grossly exposed with a nuclear looking sky and clipped snow, it doesn’t look nice. Also note that the waveform suggest the clips peak levels exceed 110%. Now I know for a fact that if you shoot HLG with any Sony camera white will never exceed 100%.

Adobe-HLG1c-1024x626 Adobe still can't get XAVC levels right!
Incorrect levels with an XAVC clip in Adobe Premier. Click on the image to view a larger version.

The second screen grab is from DaVinci Resolve and it shows the same clip. Note how in Resolve that although bright the clip certainly doesn’t look over exposed as it does in Premiere. Note also how the levels show by the waveform now no longer exceeds code value 869 (100% white is 940).  These are the correct and expected levels, this is how the clip is supposed to look. Not the utter nonsense that Adobe creates.

resolve-hlg1b-1024x626 Adobe still can't get XAVC levels right!
Same XAVC clip in Resolve and now the levels are correct. Click on the image to view a larger version.

Why can’t Adobe get this right. This problem has existed for ages and it really screws up your footage. If you are using S-Log and you try to add a LUT then things get even worse as the LUT expects the correct levels, not these totally incorrect levels.

Take the SDI or raw out from the camera and record a ProRes file on something like a Shogun while recording XAVC internally and the two files look totally different in Premiere but they look the same in Resolve. Come on Adobe – you should be doing better than this.

If they can’t even bring clips in at the correct levels, what hope is there of being able to get a decent grading output? I can make the XAVC clips look OK in Premiere but I have to bring the levels down to do this. I shouldn’t have to. I exposed it right when I shot it so I expect it to look right in my edit software.

Philips Extreme Earth Episode 2 now on YouTube.

This is a part of a much larger project I have been working on recently for Philips. The Philips “Extreme Earth” project. The idea being to show of some of the latest technologies in their HDR Ambilight TV’s.

Last year we started the project up in Norway filming the Northern Lights. This year we travelled to Nevada and Arizona to shoot the second set of films under the “Canyon” headline, then we spent another couple of weeks travelling all over the Midwest shooting what will be the 3rd set of films under the headline “Storm”. We are now looking ahead to next year with several ideas being looked at from Volcanoes to Rain Forests.

For the Norway and Canyon shoots competitions were run ahead of the shoots in various consumer technology magazines . The winners getting to come on our adventures, stay in nice hotels and take part in various activities such has horse riding.

The main Canyon film was shot by myself on a Sony Venice using Sigma FF Primes as well as an Angenieux EZ zoom. The 1000fps Super Slow motion by Dustin Farrell on a Phantom Flex. I shot some additional 4K 120fps footage on an FS5 on a gimbal recording ProRes raw to a Shogun (horse riding and some tracking shots). The interviews and behind the scenes footage was shot by the projects director Leigh Emmerson of Persistence of Vision Productions (POV) using an A7sII, but there is a fair bit of FS5 (ProRes Raw) footage that I shot in there too.

The main film was produced at 60fps in HDR (I did the grade and encoding) and will be shown at the IFA trade show next month. The other films are all SDR.
Here is the HDR main video. To view this correctly ensure your HDR TV or HDR monitor is set to HDR10 (ST2084 gamma with Rec2020 colour).

Here is the “Making Off” video.

Here’s a video of the Canyon launch event:

Duran Duran’s A Diamond In The Mind – A look back at a great project.

Tonight the BBC are running a series of programmes about legendary 80’s pop band Duran Duran. At the same time Sky television in the UK have made one of my the projects I am most proud to have been involved in available for free, in HD,  and on demand – A Diamond In The Mind. In 2011 I was involved in the planning and filming of  this Duran Duran concert. Originally conceived a s a lowish cost production to be shot in at a small venue in Berlin, the shoot was full of challenges, not least of which was the cancellation of the Berlin concert just hours before it’s start when the lead singer Simon LeBon suffered damaged vocal chords.

We were right in the middle of building up the cameras at the Berlin concert hall when the news came through.

IMG_0606-e1530304118804-765x1024 Duran Duran's A Diamond In The Mind - A look back at a great project.
PMW-F3’s being prepped in Berlin for the concert that never happened

With the cancellation of the Berlin gig the whole scope of the project changed as the next opportunity to shoot would be at one of the huge arena events in the UK. In 1984 Duran Duran produced a film called “Arena”. This was a truly epic concert video that covered several legs of their sold out arena and stadium tour of 1983. While we were never going to replicate this on our much more modest budget, it certainly gave us something to aim for.

The idea was to film the concert with what was at the time ground breaking large sensor video cameras to achieve a film like look. Duran Duran are famous for their videos so we were following in some pretty big footsteps. The majority of the cameras were Sony PMW-F3’s with a custom picture profile that I developed specifically for the shoot. Other cameras included (if I remember right) a couple of FS100’s, some GoPro’s on stage and right at the very back of the Venue there was a Red One shooting a big 4K wide shot.

I got the opportunity to test the camera settings the week before the shoot at a concert at the O2 arena. After that there was just a single concert to film, so we had to get everything just right.

IMG_1020-1024x765 Duran Duran's A Diamond In The Mind - A look back at a great project.The day of the gig was a typical dark and gloomy winters day in Manchester. Inside the vast Manchester arena we were busy fitting lenses to camera. Sorting out cue sheets, organising talkback links and all those other things needed for a multi camera concert shoot.

IMG_1025-1024x765 Duran Duran's A Diamond In The Mind - A look back at a great project.
Angenieux 24-290 T2.8 lenses on Sony PMW-F3’s at the MEN Manchester.

We had some very exotic lenses, several Angenieux 24-290 T2.8’s. At my camera position I was using a 40x ENG lens with one of the 2/3″ to super35mm adapters I had designed. The focal length of this lens was the equivalent of 1000mm at f4. The depth of field was paper thin!

IMG_1042-1024x765 Duran Duran's A Diamond In The Mind - A look back at a great project.
Getting ready to shoot Duran Duran with a 1000mm zoom lens!

The concert started and the filming went ahead. It seem to all be over very quickly, all that preparation, all those tests for just 2 hours of filming. And then the shoot was over.

Post production took quite a while as band member Nick Rhodes chose to add a lot of his own elements to the edit. Each track in the film has a slightly different look, but it was all worth it. The end result was the feature length film “A Diamond In The Mind”.  It’s a project that was amazing to work on, with an amazing crew put together by Hangman Films. Today, 7 years later I still think it looks pretty damn good. I’d love to go back to the rushes and produce an HDR version!

As well as being on Sky TV in the UK you can also find the film on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0iN4xn6afI