Chroma Key Shoot with PDW-700

Just got back from my first PDW 700 green screen shoot. We were in a tiny room and it was a hot day, so it was certainly warm! Everything went well although I have to say that I am really struggling with the CRT viewfinder. I have become so used to a full colour viewfinder on the EX3 that it really is horrid going back to a monchrome viewfinder. I shall be playing with the footage on Monday so I’ll let you know how well it keys then.


BBC Hints at XDCAM EX approval for broadcast HD production.

The BBC’s Danielle Nagler’s keynote speech at the HD Masters strongly hinted at the BBC accepting the use of the Sony EX1 and EX3 for mainstream HD broadcast production. I’ve always said that the EX cameras are remarkable cameras and this just backs up my assertion that the EX is good enough for broadcast. Danielle showed footage of an EX cut with a HDCAM camera commenting that “what this small camera can deliver is a breakthrough, allowing us to consider the migration of a much, much wider range of BBC programming than has previously been possible.”

You can read the full transcript here:

XDCAM EX Cinegammas

I have been doing a lot of research into the best gammas to use on the EX’s for different lighting situations. The cinegammas are designed for shooting footage that will be graded, the images they produce are not entirely natural looking, however they do maximise dynamic range by compressing highlights and at the same time allocating a large part of the recorded signal range to mid tones and shadow detail. This is why shadows can look washed out or milky. However this also gives you more to play with in the grade.

Cinegamma 1 is tailored for shooting bright scenes or scenes where there will be large areas of highlights. CG1 is tailored for maximum highlight handling with lower shadow dynamic range compared to CG3 and CG4.?Cinegamma 2 is essentially the same as CG1, except the overall level is reduced making it broadcast safe at 0db. Cinegammas 1,3 and 4 all record up to 109% at 0db and 104% at -3db.?Cinegamma 3 has strong highlight compression but the compression starts later than CG1 so it’s not as compressed as CG1. Midtones and shadows are stretched more than CG1. This gives more dynamic range to mid tones and shadows compared to CG1 at the expense of some highlight handling.?Cinegamma 4 is similar to CG3 but with the mid tones lifted still further so that it gives a brighter looking picture overall.

My preference is to use CG1 for outdoor, brightly lit scenes or scenes where highlight handling is critical. Then I use CG3 for indoor and scenes on dull days where extreme highlight handling is less critical, but shadow detail becomes more important. What I have also found is that when shooting interviews the cinegammas work best when they are slightly under exposed compared to standard gammas and then graded in post. If using cinegammas I tend to expose skin tones at around 60%.

Cinegamma 1 on the EX is the same as Hypergamma HG4 on the PDW-700, F900R etc and cineegamma 2 is the same as Hypergamma HG2. With CG1/HG4 : 460% D-range is compressed to 109%.

Setting BOTH zebras on an XDCAM EX, very confusing!

If you set zebra 1 to 60 and then set zebra 2 to 90, then go back to zebra 1 you will find that the displayed value of zebra 1 will now be 90, however provided you don’t make any changes to zebra 1 if you go down to BOTH zebra 1 will work at 60 and zebra 2 at 90.

The thing is that going back to Zebra 1 (or zebra 2) and make any changes you select selects Zebra 1 (or 2) only, ie a single zebra and in doing so sets the level to the last level set. It’s only by going to BOTH that you enable both zebras together.

So to set two indendent zebras first set zebra 1 to your required level, then set zebra 2 to your required level, final scroll down to both and select. Now you zebras will be working at the independent levels you set, even though this may not appear to be the case in the menu.

It’s not the most logical way to lay out the menu as it does not show you both settings together at any point, hence the understandable confusion, but you will find that both zebras will work at the independent levels you set.

Convergent Design Nano Flash Workflows

With Convergent expecting to start shipping Nano Flash HDSDi recorders at the end of the month I thought I would start looking at workflows. I already have Calibrated Q’s MXF importer for FCP and this works just fine, recognising the MXF files and allowing you to see thumbnails in Finder and then import the clips directly in to FCP. In addition Imagine Products ShotPut pro will automatically back up Compact Flash cards with NanoFlash files. As the device uses Sony’s XDCAM HD codec (but at 25mbps, 50mbps, 100mbs and higher) FCP is able to read the files. If you shoot at 100Mbps with the NanoFlash or Flash XDR then converting the files from 100Mbps to 50Mbps to export back to a Sony Professional Disc is very fast indeed taking only seconds to convert a 30 second clip.

ShotPut, ProxyMill and Primera

I’m a bit slow on this one but it is a really excellent workflow. You use Imagine Products ShotPut Pro to backup your SxS cards (highly recommended) and then add a Primera BluRay burner to you system. Shotput will then write you files to the BluRay disc, extracting the metadata and printing that data on the face of the disc! What a neat workflow. Add in ProxyMill and you can create Proxies with burnt in timecode to hand off to your clients for logging or offline editing. I’m hoping to get a Primera system to evaluate. As soon as I do I’ll let you know.

So with Calibrated Q’s pluging allowing the use of MP4?s in FCP, Imagine Products making Proxies and auto backups of those MP4?s to BluRay or whatever the EX and SxS workflow is really, really making a lot of sense.

All types of XDCAM

All types of XDCAM

We were filming 9 replica first world war aircraft doing mock dog fights. The weather was near perfect. We had a couple of Sony PDW-700?s, 2x PMW-EX3?s and a couple of Sony’s mini-cams, the HXR-MC1P. It was a great day and we came away very pleased with the results, but we also came away with a smug feeling that with the camera kits that we now have (Me and DoP Dave Crute) that we could produce a programme about just about anything at top, no compromise quality. Ever since I picked up the prototype PDW-700 at IBC 2 years ago I new it was going to be a good camera. I am a big believer that when something looks and feels right then it generally is. The 700 is no exception to this. The balance is perfect, it sits on your shoulder like it belongs there. The camera controls are all where you would expect and the HDVF20 viewfinder is clear and sharp. One thing I would say is that having used the EX3 with its supurb colour viewfinder for some time it was a bit of a shock to go back to a black and white VF. Dave has a colour VF on his 700 and it is much nicer to use than the mono VF. We didn’t spend a lot of time setting up the paint settings on the 700?s yet the pictures they produced were superb. Back in the edit suite it was all but impossible to see the difference between the EX3 and 700, both cameras produce incredible, clear, sharp pictures. It has to be said that the EX3 represents incredible value for money and for some jobs the EX3 will be the better camera to have. Especially when portability is important such as on my current trip. On the flip side I do love the disc based workflow where you never have to delete your master clips as you do with the EX’s solid state workflow. The HXR-MC1P’s also produced amazing results and we have some really nice air to air shots of the dog fights. One shot was spoilt by a bug hitting the lens of the camera as the aircraft took off, but in terms of visual quality these little cameras are way better than anything that I have used before. These are for me exciting times. I have the tools available to produce top quality programmes. The whole workflow is smooth and easy. I can shoot, edit and output from my office at the bottom of my garden programmes to be proud of efficiently and quickly, without fuss or hassle. It’s taken a while to get here but file based workflows and NLE editing have finally come of age.