Video

Shooting 4K Anamorphic and V-Log with Panasonic’s GH4. Ten Valuable Lessons.

UPDATED: I just added two video tutorials: one comparing “Panasonic’s V-Log L vs. Cinelike D” and the second one “Conforming 4K Anamorphic Footage in Adobe Premiere Pro.” 

Anamorphic is enjoying a huge comeback. The reasons to go this route vary from project to project, but generally it’s the desire to achieve a different look and use as many pixels from the sensors as possible. Panasonic’s Firmware Update v.2.2 (available here) enables an Anamorphic (4:3) Mode capable of recording video in 3328 x 2496 pixel (equivalent to approx. 8.3-megapixel) resolution at a frame rate of either 23.98, 24, 25 or 29.97 fps. With an anamorphic lens such as 2x Lomo lenses (see below) we now can capture and un-squeeze a 3356×2496 image in post-production. To make things even better, 4:2:2 / 10 bit HDMI output is also available.

Just like in 2013 when we had the opportunity to field test a GH3 in the Middle East and last year when we shot with one of only three prototypes world-wide of the GH4,  for the past couple of weeks I had the privilege to work with director Davis Northern, DP and tech wizard Sean Davis and many other talented people on one of the very first GH4 Anamorphic AND V-Log L projects, shot exclusively for Panasonic North America and produced by The Digital Distillery.


Panasonic 4K Anamorphic and V-Log L – Official Video from The Digital Distillery Inc. on Vimeo.

The project was exciting and very challenging, as working with hardware prototypes and beta versions of software or firmware always is. We had a lot of moving pieces and an extremely tight deadline, but I’m proud of the final results and very satisfied with the lessons learned. This article covers some of the most significant ones, and it is written from my very own personal perspective. As always, I try my best to be as objective and brand agnostic as possible. The lessons aren’t in any specific order and some links will take you to articles with additional information . Please consider using our links to help support our very time consuming articles and tutorials.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Shooting Anamorphic

It can definitely be achieved by a very small crew on a small budget. We mostly shot with a crew of three, with very limited gear and time. I’ve always assumed you needed a 2-ton truck and a crew of 30 to pull this off. Clearly, this was not the case for us.

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2. Lenses

In terms of lenses, we opted to keep a “low profile” while keeping our options open. In other words, we rented a set of vintage anamorphic Lomo lenses (35, 50, and 75mm) and tested an SLR Magic as well as a Letus AnamorphX 1.8X Pro Adapter and a  Veydra Mini Prime

A. Lomo:

The lenses are huge and heavy. Lomo 50mm + 75mm with case = 25lbs. Lomo 35mm with case = 35lbs with each case weighting about 30lbs. Not ideal for the “guerilla” approach we needed for this project. They definitely have a unique look, but are very hard to focus, especially when using a very flat profile. We rented the set for $500/day or about $1,700 for a week including tax. Not cheap by any means but definitely worth the investment in terms of time and quality.

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If I were to shoot this project again (or on upcoming anamorphic projects) I probably would test the Cooke Anamorphic/i Lenses (25, 32, 40, 50, 75, 100, and 135mm with a 2x squeeze). Unfortunately these lenses cost about $30,000 each, and the rental rate is about $500 per lens, per day.

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B. SLR Magic:

We had access to a very nice selection of Panasonic glass that we wanted to use with an SLR Magic adapter. The first challenge was that the front diameter on all the lenses has to be below 62mm in order to use the step down rings. The second limitation was (for the Panasonic lenses) that anything wider than 28mm would vignette. We could have used the Panasonic 12-35mm lens, at 28mm or longer (kind of pointless), but for some odd reason with the SLR Magic adapter it vignetted all the way even at 35mm. The Panasonic 35-100mm didn’t vignette at 35mm. Go figure. The next usable lens on our Panasonic arsenal was the beautiful 42.5mm Noticron f/1.2, but we needed a step DOWN ring (from 67mm to 62mm) that wasn’t included with the kit. The last option was the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens, which worked well but focusing was a MAJOR issue (not Panasonic’s fault). I found the SLR Magic system very finicky and unreliable and unfortunately I can’t recommend using it.

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C. Letus Anamorphx:

The Letus Adapter worked much better than SLR Magic but it was also cumbersome. A matte box is pretty much required and there was an issue with one of our widest lenses. The lesson here is, if you are shooting anamorphic, use the real thing.

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3. Storage

There’s some heavy math involved when shooting Anamorphic. An anamorphic lens produces roughly a 2X horizontal squeeze of the image onto film. Traditional anamorphic lenses were designed to work on a 4:3 standard. The anamorphic footage captured with the GH4 on the Atomos Shogun is 3840×2160, so not technically 4K but pretty close. Shooting internally (to an SD card) the footage is 3328×2496, so greater vertical resolution than the 4K standard, but not full 4K horizontal resolution. To keep things in perspective, the 4K footage out of the GH4 4096×2160.

As you would expect, the files are huge. Shooting ProRes 422 you need about 4GB per minute of footage. Two cameras: 8GB, after only one backup you are at 16GB per minute. So somewhere around 20GB per minute is a pretty safe storage estimate for a two-camera setup. As always, we trusted all our very valuable assets to G-Tech Hard Drives.

Regarding Solid State Drives, Atomos has a great chart with all the supported drives for the Shogun and other devices. Make sure you triple check the chart before investing in one.

One SECOND of footage takes about 50MB so even if you are shooting into seemingly endless Solid State Drives, being smart about when to start rolling and when to stop can save a lot of storage.

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4. HDMI

As we were shooting, Atomos was literally finishing writing the Shogun’s firmware update (available in May or June as a free download) will enable a number of awesome features:

  • Anamorphic de-squeeze for Panasonic GH4 and standard lenses
  • RAW recording to ProRes, DNxHR and Cinema DNG for compatible RAW formats
  • Expanded RAW compatibility to include Sony FS series, Canon, Arri and AJA
  • 3D LUTs on HDMI/SDI output
  • Cinema 4K DCI support
  • Uncompressed V210 support
  • Genlock

We had to use a Small HD Pro7 (to de-squeeze) and the Shogun (to record in 4K). The setup seems pretty obvious after a lot of trials but it wasn’t at first. Here’s the executive summary that will hopefully save you some time and stress:

1. Micro HDMI to Standard HDMI cable from the GH4’s HDMI OUT to the Atomos Shogun HDMI IN
2. Standard HDMI to Standard HDMI cable from the Atomos Shogun HDMI OUT to the Small HD HDMI IN
3. In the Shogun, the 4K downconvert option should be OFF while connecting the Small HD and turned ON when everything is properly connected.
Our Small HD had a nasty tendency to constantly lose signal for no apparent reason, so step #3 had to be repeated many times throughout each shoot.

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5. Premiere Pro CC 2014 Workflow

To be totally honest, I was shocked by how easy it was to conform the footage in post. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Import the footage the way you normally do.
2. Select the anamorphic clips.
3. Go to clip > Modify > Interpret Footage
4. Under “Pixel Aspect Ratio” select “Conform To” and “Anamorphic 2:1 (2.0).
5. Create a “new sequence from clip” and start cutting.
6. Done and done. Wow!


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Here are some screen grabs from the camera’s LCD:

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6. Focus

Focus is super, extra, hyper critical, especially when shooting with a very flat profile like the one we used. Unfortunately we couldn’t trust the SmallHD and had to rely 100% on the Shogun at a 1:2 zoom.


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7. Accessories

• A sun hood for your external monitor is absolutely essential (if given the option get the black version).
• Obviously you will need lens adapters if you are planning to use the SLR Magic or Letus AnamorphX options.
• Make sure you get plenty of batteries, The small battery that comes with the Shogun lasts about 30 min only and we got about one hour of recording time with TWO Canon batteries on the Small HD. Instead of buying tons of batteries I’m a big fan of renting them (more here). The same goes for additional Solid State Drives.

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8. Bonus lessons:

• Shooting anamorphic takes a lot practice and fine-tuning. I’d recommend scheduling at least a full day to test all the gear before a shoot.
• If we keep a small footprint and move fast, we can get a lot done.
• The “shoot without lens” on the GH4 must be turned on in order to work with the Anamorphic lenses.
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And…..here are two more videos (not anamorphic) shot with the Panasonic GH4. Check them out and let me know if you have any questions or comments via Twitter (@EA_Photo)


Video

Upgrading from HD to 4K. Worth it?

There are currently 2.7 billion active smartphones in the world. An estimated 800 million were added this year alone. By 2020, Ericsson predicts there will be at least 6.1 billion smartphone subscriptions globally. What’s the big deal? Well, this means 38% of the world’s population has the ability to shoot digital video and stills.

That is not very good news for us as content providers.

The way I see it is that we need to diversify our professional skills, learn as much as we can, learn how to edit, how to grade, how to record better sound, and how to tell more engaging stories. In an ever-changing marketplace, the more you know the safer you are.

Smartphones aren’t the only problem though. The average price of professional editing software went down from $1,300 to $299 in the past 10 years, and this is an average that includes high-end apps like Avid ($1,300) and excellent software applications like Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, which “Lite” version is completely free.

The cost of a cinema-quality camera tumbled from $200,000 in 2001 to $1,000 today.
Photography and film students with current DSLRs have way more resolution and features than any $200,000 camera from 10 years ago. This is incredible!

Before I started shooting 4K I didn’t really know what all the fuss was about. Then I put this chart together. For some of you this might be pretty obvious, but it can’t hurt to check it out.

 

Is upgrading from full HD to 4K worth it? You would think this would be one of the main questions I encounter, but last year at NAB I was absolutely shocked to find out that many companies, mostly broadcast stations, are still shooting SD and that they are now considering making the jump straight into 4K. That’s a pretty big jump, but for some of them it can make a lot of sense.

Should you do it? It depends. Think 35mm digital cameras vs. medium format digital backs. Phase One vs. Canon or Hasselblad vs. Nikon. Most advantages and disadvantages regarding sensor sizes, file sizes, shooting speeds, portability, and especially storage and post-production challenges apply. Except for price. For $2,500 we can now capture 4K RAW or almost literally in the dark. For $1,300 we can record HD slow-mo or 4K internally. And for $500 we can shoot 4K anywhere.

These systems are so inexpensive that they sometimes become a double-edged sword. Their sizes and prices transform them into accessible toys. And that’s where the problems start. Higher resolution often demands new workflow requirements. In RAW form, a 2.5-hour movie shot in 4K at 24fps contains 216,000 frames. The resulting file is approximately 5.6 terabytes of data. That’s ONE camera, BEFORE back ups. But who really shoots that way? Well, David Fincher shot 500 hours of 6K RAW with multiple RED Dragon cameras for his latest movie “Gone Girl.” The end result was 315 terabytes of footage. Crazy? It depends, for normal people with normal budgets, yes. But Fincher was dealing with a time crunch and had to release many actors as fast as possible, so they shot many scenes in loose medium shots and zoomed in and reframed them in post when needed.

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I don’t believe 4K UHD is another fancy trend or marketing gimmick to make us spend our hard earned dollars on something that will become obsolete before the year’s end (3D anyone?). I truly see 4K UHD as a natural transition, or evolutionary step, in screen resolution. In 2015 I expect to see many more new models of 4K UHD TV sets than new models of 1080p HD TVs.

This doesn’t mean everything is safe and sound and all the potential issues have been ironed out. For example, a recurrent question I get at all my presentations is “what’s the best way to distribute 4K?” and the answer is far from perfect, as we currently have very limited options.

Let’s take Blu-Ray for example. A Blu-Ray disc can fit 25 GB per layer. A 2K film takes 50 GB, so that technology is currently maxed out. The good news is that as of last September, the Blu-Ray Association announced it would support 4K video at 60 fps, High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), and 10-bit color depth. According to this association, the new generation of 4K Blu-Ray disks will have a data rate of at least 50 Mbit/s and may include support for 66/100 GB discs. Awesome!

4K UHD Blu-ray players are being developed in conjunction with the UHD alliance, comprising manufacturers such as Samsung and Panasonic, as well as movie-industry players such as Technicolor, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Brothers. The alliance is not only responsible for establishing standards with regards to specs like 10-bit color and High Dynamic Range (HDR), but also for pushing content creation forward and managing distribution.

The huge appeal of HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) is that it essentially doubles the data compression ratio while keeping the same level of video quality and it can support 8K UHD with resolutions up to 8192×4320. I want to think that 8K is extremely far off in the future, and that it will be a very long time before we need such resolutions. But, I (sadly) still remember when a 100MB zip drive seemed impossibly huge and we debated if putting all your assets on a 1GB Microdrive was practical or even irresponsible.

As we all know, both the iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus support HEVC/H.265 for FaceTime. Recently, Microsoft confirmed that Windows 10 will support HEVC out of the box, and DivX developers announced that DivX265 version 1.4.21 has added support for the Main 10 profile of HEVC and the Rec. 2020 color space. Online streaming might also seem like a great solution, but not yet. Netflix recommends a minimum download speed of 5MB for 720p, 7MB for a 1080p and 12MB for 3D movies and a whooping 25MB for 4K.

What’s wrong with this picture? I have a dedicated “business” internet plan. The fastest, and obviously most expensive plan I can get in my area. My download speed is less than 17 MBps, not nearly enough for Ultra HD quality, so broadband speeds will need to increase and prices will have to come down if the interested parties really want 4K to be widely accepted by movie buffs, sports fans, and especially gamers.

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A nice advantage of 4K UHD TV sets is that they are backwards compatible, which means that they will work fine with your existing DVD and Blu-Ray players, as well as satellite and cable boxes. They can also “upscale” HD content and display it as best as possible. This past summer some of the FIFA World Cup games were broadcast in 4K. I watched a couple and it was a surreal experience. From certain angles, like shots from the sidelines, it felt almost like physically being in the stadium. The most popular VOD providers like Netflix and Amazon, major cable companies like Comcast and DirectTV, Hollywood studios, YouTube, and even local TV news station are starting to deliver 4K content, so hopefully other services will follow suit. What’s next? Streaming 4K media from a smartphone to an HDTV.

We increasingly have access to very powerful and generally cheaper tools. But tools are just that. When to choose one over another and, most importantly, why it should be chosen are the real questions. Here’s something interesting; Ophthalmologists generally agree that the higher the resolution of your monitor, the better it is for your eyes. Why? Because (according to them) the text looks sharper, and at a certain point, the pixels are so small your brain can’t tell it’s not looking at real stuff. Exciting or sad. Up to you.

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Cool Links on 4K:

4K Camera Workflows- Raw, Video, Proxy

4K and Beyond

Nearly 50% of Video Professionals in UK Never Saw 4K

Netflix to Begin Charging More for 4K Streaming

How 4K Benefits Videographers and Photographers

What 4K means for post production

What Is 4K Video? A Guide to the Rising Industry Standard

The Pros and Cons of Shooting News Footage in 4K

4K Monitors Under $850

The Wall Street Journal goes 4K video with the GH4

4k RAW on Blackmagic URSA

The Pros and Cons of Shooting News Footage in 4K

4K GoPro HERO4

BBC Tests Shooting at 600fps in 4K

Video

The eternal quest for “the best” digital camera.

I often receive emails asking for advice about “the best lens” or “the best camera” or even “the best laptop.” I believe it is simply impossible to determine a “best” of anything as there are too many random factors such as experience, budget, expected lifetime of the product, intended use, availability of accessories (like lenses or batteries), and even tech support in certain areas. That’s not even considering more subjective factors like personal preference, sense of loyalty to certain brands (or dislike for others), and even the size or weight of such tools. Interestingly, we are currently experiencing one of those “what’s the best” dilemmas ourselves, and not a minor one by any means; we are reconsidering our standard camera package for 2015–16.

Renting vs. Owning:

For many reasons, I believe renting is one of the best options for most people. When all you have is a hammer, the solution to every problem requires a hammer. That’s a very limiting factor to your creativity and a disservice to clients. Sometimes you can get the job done with a Swiss Army Knife like MacGyver, sometimes you need a nice toolbox, and sometimes the best approach is to have a professional plumber do the job.

Another huge reason to rent is to keep overhead as low as possible. Unless you are shooting several times a week with the same system, having something that is guaranteed to quickly decrease in value simply collecting dust in a drawer isn’t the best financial move. Unfortunately, renting is not an easy or affordable option in many small cities.

Lenses:

In terms of lenses I own a nice selection (from 8mm all the way to 200mm) of mostly Canon L glass, some Sigma ART lenses (with Canon mounts), as well as a couple of Panasonic Lumix lenses. I also have one Metabones Speedbooster adapter (Canon EOS to MFT).

Accessories:

We own a set of LED lights and basic accessories that I use frequently and will last a long time like monopods, tripods and a few camera movement tools. I also own a complete audio kit simply because we use it quite often. Audio tools tend to be fragile, and we have a very specific preference for brands and settings. Ultimately, because sound is such an important element of any video project, completely trusting it gives me an additional peace of mind. But I digress. The point of this article is not audio equipment, but cameras.

Cameras:

We own a Panasonic Lumix GH4 bodies and still have a couple of GH3 bodies. They have served me extremely well on hybrid assignments. I am very happy with the quality of the footage and always having the option to shoot 4K, HD, built-in slow-motion, and time lapses with the same camera and media. For video-only productions we usually rent Canon C100 Mark II or C300 Mark II bodies, which I also like very much.

The Challenge:

Several upcoming projects will require a more “complete” camera package, and we seem to have enough projects in the pipeline that it might make sense to own instead of rent, not only financially, but to save time picking up/returning and to be certain that the tool we plan on having in pre-production is the same tool we use on location weeks or months later. So, what’s the best cinema camera (for us) right now?

Technically speaking, we will need a main camera (Cam A) that ideally shoots 4K and has all the standard bells and whistles like XLR ports, HDMI, a good viewfinder, variable frame rates, peaking, ND filters, etc. Great low-light performance is key. For several projects we’ll need to shoot high-quality behind the scenes footage, so we will need a second camera (Cam B) that is either the same or very close to the quality of Cam A.

To make the riddle even more interesting, some of these projects will be “hybrid” projects that require on-location, mostly unplanned, and available light shooting with a very small crew (two or three people max). So the gear package needs to deliver great stills, great footage, and be easily operated by one person, which means light and compact.

Possible Solutions:

I will only discuss the main components of the package, so additional batteries, cables, memory cards won’t be included in the total price.

1. Canon
The first and obvious move would be to buy a couple of Canon C100 Mark II bodies. We already know and like the system, and own the lenses, so there’s no need for adapters. Unfortunately the C100 Mark II does not offer 4K, it is good but not great in low-light performance, it is small but not super light or compact, and it does not shoot stills, so I’ll need to get a Canon EOS 5D Mark III or at the very least a Canon EOS 70D. I’ll get the cinema features I need on only one of the systems.

1x Canon C100 Mark II = $5,500 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Canon EOS 70D = $900 (AmazonAdorama)
Total = $6,400

Canon-C100MII_timg

2. Sony
The second option would be to get a Sony FS7 AND a Sony a7S as a B Cam (and also for stills and BTS). The first one seems to be the new cool kid on the block, with raving fans and over the top reviews. It seems portable enough for a cinema camera and matches most of our technical requirements (I still need to test the low-light performance). Its little sister, the a7S shares the same outstanding reviews, it is clearly number one in low-light performance and it can even capture 4K to an external recorder. The catch, and this is a big one, is the cost. The FS7 goes for $8,000 and the a7S goes for $2,500. In order to use my existing lenses I’ll need two Metabones Speedbooster adapters (Canon EOS to NEX) at $650 each, but I will not have AF capabilities when shooting stills, which is a major issue. Also, in order to fully use the a7S as the B Camera we probably would need an Atomos Shogun adding a lot to the budget.

1x Sony FS7 $8,000 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Sony a7S $2,500 (Amazon • Adorama)
2x Metabones adapter (Canon EOS to NEX) $800 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Atomos Shogun $2,000 (Amazon • Adorama)
Total = 13,300

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3. Panasonic
A third, and more affordable option would be to get a second Panasonic Lumix GH4 body and keep them as A Cam and B Cam (4K, HD, and stills) and something like the Panasonic HC-X1000 as a C Cam for BTS. I am still missing the “standard bells and whistles” I mentioned above, and I still have to test the X1000’s performance under low-light. Getting the YAGH (“brick”) wouldn’t make much sense in terms of money, size, weight, and additional power sources.

1x Panasonic Lumix GH4 $1,500 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Metabones Speedbooster adapter (Canon EOS to MFT) $600 (Adorama)
1x Panasonic HC-X1000 Camcorder $3,200 (Amazon • Adorama)
Total: $5,300

HCX1000_timg

4. Blackmagic
We briefly considered Blackmagic systems but found too many cons to even add them here. Another topic for another day.

Conclusions:

Honestly, there aren’t any. Not yet, anyway. We are still trying to figure out what to do. The Panasonic Package (#3) is the cheapest and easiest as we would have a very small learning curve (with the HC-X-1000) but low-light performance remains to be seen (and it is good but not great on the GH4). The price is great but we would only have the cinema features we need in one of the three cameras.

The Canon Package (#1) is right in the middle, but we would lack 4K, slow motion, a codec over 50mb/s, and only one of the two cameras offers the bells and whistles we are looking for.

Sony (#2) seems to offer the best solution, but costs twice as much as Option #1 and $8,000 more than Option #3. We would lack autofocus for stills, only one camera will have the cinema features, and the FS7 could require a significant learning curve.

An alternative, suggested by an experienced filmmaker, would be to keep using our GH3 with the Panasonic lenses as our stills camera ($0), use the GH4 with our Metabones and Canon and Sigma glass as Camera B, and simply buy one Sony FS7 ($8,000) and a second Metabones (Canon EOS to NEX) adapter $400 for a total investment of $8,400. Altogether we would get AF for stills, 4K, slow-mo, no need for new lenses, but only OK low-light performance, and only ONE system with XLR ports, ND filters, etc. I am also seriously concerned with the additional time (and expense) in post to make everything look somewhat close.

Money and lenses are obviously very important considerations, but there are many other things that have to be factored into camera choices like post workflows (software and hardware), internal codecs, etc. Color science is something else we tend to overlook, and we shouldn’t, as certain camera choices will multiply the amount of time you need to spend in post to get them to look like what you’re used to.

So, clearly, there isn’t a “perfect” camera that will meet all our requirements. So the best approach is to consider what we have (budget, lenses, software, hardware, accessories, etc.) what we need, and what we are willing to sacrifice. So, what is “the best” camera package for us, giving our existing gear, ideal requirements and upcoming needs? Now I need YOUR help to figure this one out.

UPDATE 01: Since I wrote the first draft for this article I’ve been hearing highly reliable complains about the FS7 working with lens adapters and Canon lenses. That pretty much kills the Sony package option for us.

UPDATE 02: There are strong rumors that Panasonic will be announcing an updated version of the AG-AF100 at NAB, which apparently would include 4K. That could be a great solution for our full blown cinema camera.

UPDATE 03: Another strong rumor is that Canon will replace/update the 3-year old 5D Mark III with a 4K version. Kinda cool, but it still doesn’t solve our “bells and whistles” camera dilemma.

UPDATE 04: For the past 3-4 weeks I’ve been using the Atomos Shogun (Amazon • Adorama) and I must admit I’m VERY impressed. This gadget not only provides an exquisite 1920 x 1080 ultra sharp (and fairly accurate) image, but it’s main purpose is being a 4K (or HD) recorder via Solid State Drives. The best price/quality I’ve found are these 240GB Sandisk for $146 with a 10-YEAR warranty. Not bad at all.

Something I didn’t consider when getting the Shogun is that now I have XLR options, making the GH4 a much more powerful beast. The provided batteries only last about 30 minutes of recording time. I got this off-brand ultra cheap ($36) set of 2 batteries with chargers and so far they have performed perfectly. To keep in perspective, a single Sony battery costs $199….

m_Shogun

UPDATE 05: The Varavon cage for the GH4/GH3 works perfectly with a Metabones Speedbooster. This set up and the Atomos Shogun are making me rethink my camera strategy. Now I can have a very comfortable grip, add a shotgun for run and gun or a monitor/recorder with XLR mics on sticks. Hmmmm this is getting REALLY interesting!

Varavon

More to come.

Video

The most popular cameras at Sundance.

Indiewire published recently the list of cameras used by the filmmakers included in the 2015 Sundance Festival.

The article matched each camera with the film, which was awesome. But I was also curious to see a chart that showed more precisely how many cameras where used and how often. So, I dropped the list from Indiewire into Excel and created this chart.

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A total of 23 cameras were used in 2014 to shoot 84 movies. In 2015 almost twice the amount of cameras (44) were used to shoot 97 movies. My guess in this discrepancy is that a) Not enough filmmakers in 2014 provided enough or complete information on their cameras or b) the filmmakers in 2015 felt the need to use different cameras on the same movie.

I also wanted to compare the cameras used at the 2014 Festival, so I also created this second chart, again using Indiewire as my sole resource. From the article, it is hard sometimes to tell exactly which camera was used. For example, one of the filmmakers said, “We used Super 35mm with some Red Epic, and a little super 16mm. There is also one Canon 5D shot in the picture.” Which Super 35? And obviously it had to be a Canon 5D Mark II or Mark III as the first version didn’t shoot video. In those cases I only added the Red Epic to the tally.

023-Sundance-Image-002_blgpst

How can this information become useful? To me it’s simply curiosity, as I believe a great storyteller can be as effective with an iPhone as with any high-end $50K camera. Give ME an Alexa and a million dollars and I still wouldn’t be able to shoot a single frame better than Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki or Roger Deakins.

The camera is just a tool, but these charts could be used as a reference by film programs trying to determine where to spend their camera budgets this year. Or perhaps a film student wanting to work as a DIT or as an AC [insert link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_crew ] can look at these charts and determine, “well, I better get REALLY comfortable with the Arri Alexa and Red Epic in order to get some high-end jobs.” The charts can also be used by filmmakers planning to upgrade their gear.

023-Sundance-Image-003_blgpst

What I find most interesting about this data is how consistently some of the cameras are used, such as the Arri Alexa, and how one of my go-to cameras, the Canon EOS C100, was used only twice last year and wasn’t used at all on any of the 2015 movies. Another interesting takeaway is how much more diverse the cameras used for Sundance are compared to the cameras used on Oscar nominated movies, where the Arri Alexa also rules, RED and Blackmagic have been absent, and we don’t see a VHS or an iPhone. Or, at least not yet, I should say..

Video

Cinematic Composition for Video Productions on Lynda.com

Composition is one of the least understood yet most important aspects of video. Like good storytelling, in order to achieve good video composition you have to make every detail count and keep the audience engaged in your story. In this course, we break down effective cinematic composition, to show how to create different compositional effects using a variety of techniques. Beginning with basics such as shot size, depth of field, and the rule of thirds, we show how to establish a scene, play with perspective and movement, and incorporate some of the most common shot types, including close-ups and group shots. Once you’ve learned the rules, see how to break them, using warped perspectives and intentionally confusing sequences, before exploring technical considerations such as lenses and lighting.

Topics included on this course:

  • The basics of composition
  • Exploring the rule of thirds
  • Comparing balanced and unbalanced compositions
  • Understanding the importance of using establishing shots
  • Working with point of view
  • Modifying the height of the camera
  • Understanding the lines of a scene
  • Creating depth
  • Incorporating unusual or unexpected angles
  • Knowing when to break the rules
  • Using viewfinder apps

The complete course is currently available on Lynda.com.  If you aren’t a Lynda.com subscriber, feel free to use my link for 10 days of unlimited access.

Here are some of the many examples on this course:

EduardoAngelCinematicComposition_BarnScene_01EduardoAngelCinematicComposition_BarnScene_02EduardoAngelCinematicComposition_ShotTypes_01EduardoAngelCinematicComposition_ShotTypes_02EduardoAngelCinematicComposition_SubjectiveObjective

 

Video

DP Review issues Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Final Review.

DP Review releases final conclusions on the Panasonic GH4. I agree 100% with them.

  • The DMC-GH4 sets a new bar in terms of the video capability available in a camera that a significant number of people can afford.
  • In a professional setting the GH4 is unusual in being compatible with an interface unit (the DMW-YAGH aka “The Brick”) that adds industry-standard 3G-SDI and XLR connectors.
  • The GH4’s image quality is very solid, producing nice JPEG images and usefully flexible Raw files. The color and tonality of its images seem improved over previous generations of camera. In video mode the camera is equally solid.
  • Despite the increased competition, the GH4 remains the king of accessible stills/movie hybrids.
  • A remarkably capable all-in-one package that lets you capture good quality footage and excellent stills from a sensibly-sized standalone camera.
  • The GH4’s video quality and well implemented touchscreen control system give it the edge over less expensive cameras, such as the a6000, while its price and ability to capture 4K internally will give it broader appeal than the Sony a7S.
  • What makes the GH4 so strong is its balance of capability, size and price. Its ability to slot into a professional setup, via the optional interface unit can only help expand this appeal.
  • Low light performance is solid if not exceptional – so you’ll need to think about lighting and bright lenses for low light shooting – but in many situations the GH4 produces good footage with a little subject/background distinction.
  • If you’re only interested in stills then it’s not quite such a compelling proposition – the competition is fierce at this price point. However, if you have any inclination towards moving images, there’s not a camera that offers nearly as much capability and support as the GH4 does, for anywhere near the price.

The complete review is available here.

I hope you’ll take a moment to check out these additional links:

And here are some samples clips:

Everything in Slow Motion was shot at FHD 96 fps. Everything else was shot at 4K (3840×2160). We used the Cine-D Profile. The only “grading” done was the B&W preset on Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

Disclaimer:

I’m extremely proud of the 100% free content we provide and I hope you enjoy it as well. Thank you all for your support, encouragement and constructive criticisms – I appreciate each and every one of them.

I only promote products, services, and companies that I use and trust, and that in my opinion deliver great value to our industry. If you are purchasing something, please consider using my affiliate links to help support this site. Thank you in advance.

 

 

 

Video

7 things we discovered after shooting 4K with the GH4. You won’t like #4.

The invitation from Panasonic USA to perform a field test arrived quite suddenly, with multiple commitments for Fashion Week already in place, and with nasty weather that didn’t really allow access to tried and true locations. Great!

It is very important to mention that the camera we tested was a preproduction model running firmware v0.3. As it is always the case with preproduction models, as well as some early production models, many features were disabled or not working as expected. We also wanted to test if our current workflow, which we generally use with Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera and Canon products—ranging from the 60D to the 5D Mark III to the C300 and even some 1DCs—would work at the same or needed adaptations for the GH4.

1. Comparisons
Instead of a side-by-side comparison between the GH4 and other brands, Sean Davis and I were more interested in exploring the new features of the GH4, compared to the GH3 and a hacked version of the GH2 that we have used in the past. Obviously, shooting 4K was at the top of the list.

www.eduardoangel.com GH4 field test central park_001www.eduardoangel.com Cinevate_01

2. Look and Feel
The GH4 is the exact same size as the GH3. Not only that, unlike other camera manufacturers that feel inspired to sell new batteries and chargers with every new camera, we were pleased to see that the GH4 shares the same exact DMW-BLF19 battery (here’s a much better deal). In other words, all your GH3 “power rigging accessories” will continue to work. Great news for Panasonic users and rental houses. An important difference (and a small hiccup in our field test) is that the GH4 uses Micro HDMI, and not the GH3’s Mini HDMI.

Before you ask, the answer is no. We did not have the Lumix DMC-YAGH Interface Unit (aka The Brick) with us.

www.eduardoangel.com GH4 field test grand central _001

3. The 4K Footage
As you can see from the image below, the GH4’s 100 Mbps is broadcast 4K or Quad HD (3840 x 2160), not DCI compliant 4K cinema spec (4096×2160), but the camera is capable of recording DCI compliant 4K at 200Mbps. This article explains what DCI is.

www.eduardoangel.com GH4-4K-File-Size_web

Just for fun, I created this side-by-side file size comparison between the cameras I use most often.

www.eduardoangel.com GH4 File-Sizes-compared_web

Everything in Slow Motion was shot at FHD 96 fps. Everything else was shot at 4K (3840×2160). We used the Cine-D Profile. The only “grading” done was the B&W preset on Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

4. Storage
Regarding memory cards, we were ALSO testing a pre-production version of a SanDisk. The GH4 didn’t like the SanDisk 95mbs SDXC that we always use with our Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera. To spice things up a bit more, we had to use a beta SDHC II 280mbs 32GB card provided by SanDisk. I hope that once the camera ships, it will take “standard” SD cards, but they won’t come cheap.

Shooting 4K @100mb/s 30p on a 64GB card will give you about 29 minutes of shooting time. So we are looking at three to four cards per shoot at $150 each. All things considered, I’d get Panasonic 64 GB microP2 cards. If you have a better suggestion please send me a tweet.
This extra budget consideration of $450-$600 doesn’t even include hard drives for storage and backups. Definitively a G-RAID 4TB Dual Thunderbolt drive is the way to go.

5. High ISO
Per multiple requests via Twitter, we shot the same exact cityscape in Central Park with the GH3 and the GH4.

The exposure settings were identical:
• Manual Exposure
• The beautiful Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f2.8 Lens
• f/2.8
• 1/30th
• 1600 ISO
• WB at 5500K


Lumix12-35mm lens

The only difference was that the GH3 was recording at its highest video resolution 1920×1080 at 72mb/s ALL-I 24fps while the GH4 was recording at 4K at 100mb/s IPB 30fps. Note: This was the ONLY video setting working on our prerelease GH4. Other settings were available but the camera was not able to record.

Here are some tests:



6. Workflow
The workflow we tested was intentionally kept as plain and simple as possible. The idea was to mimic a “normal” setup for an “average” shooter.

1. Download the SD card directly to a G-RAID 4TB Dual Thunderbolt External Drive connected to a 27-inch mid-2011 iMac.

www.eduardoangel.com About This Macwww.eduardoangel.com GH4 4K footage on iMac 2011_001

2. Open the MOV directly into Adobe Premiere Pro CC v7.2.1 without transcoding to ProRes or doing anything special to the files. This is exactly why I switched from Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro a few years ago. Another feature I love on Premiere is the ability to change the playback resolution. In a few words, with high-resolution footage, you can set playback resolution to a lower value.

www.eduardoangel.com-Adobe-Premiere-Pro-Settings-for-4K_web

3. Start editing

7. Other Observations:
• The GH4 comes with two options for focusing magnification: Full frame and PIP which I find much more applicable for video. Even though PIP was not working while shooting video on our pre-production model, I’m sure it will be there when the camera ships.
• The peaking feature was working perfectly. A wonderful addition to our tips and tricks arsenal.

www.eduardoangel.com GH4 Peaking_001
• The camera didn’t have, and won’t have, built-in ND filters. I was really hoping this would be an improvement over the GH3, but we will need to keep using our variable ND filters.
• There’s a lot to like about this system and I am confident Panasonic will add enough improvements to the firmware to make your shooting experience even better.

www.eduardoangel.com GH4 field test grand central2 _001www.eduardoangel.com GH4 field test tenba_001www.eduardoangel.com Rode Mic

 

Related Posts

I Just Got a Panasonic GH4 – Now What? Hard Drives.

I Just Got a Panasonic GH4 – Now What? Batteries.

I Just Got a Panasonic GH4 – Now What? Memory Cards.

 

Video

There are two kinds of movie directors.

 
According to Woody Allen there are two kinds of directors: “the ones who have it, and the ones who don’t.”

It is well-known that there are two more kinds of movie directors: the ones who write their own material like Tarantino, and the ones who adapt, like Alfred Hitchcock, or Steven Spielberg. (more…)

Video

DSLR Video Shooter Interview; Panasonic GH3, Post NAB gadgets, backup solutions and more.

 
Update 20130706: Amazon just posted a crazy deal: $1,049 for the GH3. Not sure how long it will last but if you have been considering this camera, go grab it now!
 

interview with DSLR Video Shooter, Caleb Pike

Recently, we sat down for an interview with our friend Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter, a blog dedicated to videographers and cinematographers that use HDSLR video for quality storytelling. It was great to chat about NAB 2013, upcoming events, gear he have been using or testing like the Panasonic Lumix GH3, and share other useful digital workflow solutions. (more…)

Video

Post-NAB 2013 wrap-up.

 
Our Digital Technology Resource is a monthly conversation about news, trends, and events for photographers and filmmakers. On our upcoming issue we highlight the most relevant products and trends we witnessed at NAB, including:

• Edelkrone SliderPLUS
• Redrock Micro One Man Crew
• Blackmagic Pocket and 4K Production Cameras
• Atomos Ninja 2
• Convergent Design Odyssey 7
• Tascam DR-60D and Samson Zoom H6
G-Tech Evolution Series.
• Adobe Lightroom 5 and Premiere Pro “6.5”
• Imagine Products ShotPut Pro

It is never too late to sign up. Do it now!

Did you miss a previous issue? Don’t worry, be happy. Here are the links:
January 2013 Issue
February 2013 Issue
March 2013 Issue

NAB Show 2013 Highlights

Video

NAB 2013 is here. Ghost Town goes wild with DSLR Shooters.

 
This coming weekend I’ll be working with Jem Schofield and a very talented crew on a unique DSLR Video Field Workshop in Nelson, Nevada. The event, hosted at an awesome Ghost Town and surrounded by incredible landscapes, focuses on the craft of filmmaking, camera movement and lighting controls.

Attendees will have four production stations to shoot:

• Tripod, Slider & Dolly Station (with actors)
We will learn how to properly balance a tripod system, operate a camera on a slider and how to use a proper dolly system (including being a dolly grip).

• Rigs Station (with actors)
How and when to use handheld and shoulder mounted rigs from a number of manufacturers to get different looks in camera. Students will focus on tracking shot and other set ups while filming live actors.

• Jib Station
Learn how to operate small to medium sized jib systems, to get “money” shots of the town for establishing shots, reveals, etc.

• Filters & Exterior Light Station
Controlling natural light for exterior shots using a selection of filters, reflectors and silks is paramount.

We’ll have great equipment from sponsors such as Genus, Ikan, Indie Dolly, Induro, Kessler, Lastolite, Manfrotto, Marshall, Nice Industries, Redrock Micro, Tiffen and Zacuto.

Check the video below, and I hope to see you there!

Registration includes round-trip transportation from Las Vegas Convention Center to Nelson Nevada Ghost Town, lunch and on-site instruction.

Video

Shooting with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3. Field report and impressions.

The friendly waiter at the Turkish restaurant in Sohar, Oman, saw the camera on the table and asked “Nikon? Canon? Which one is better?” To which I replied, “actually, this is the Panasonic GH3.” He stared at me, his expression turned from excited to perplexed to confused to annoyed within seconds. After an uncomfortable silence he finally asked, “Are you ready to order?”

EduardoAngel_Panasonic_Lumix_DMC_GH3_SampleImages _001

That was pretty much my reaction when, a few weeks ago, just two days before I started teaching a “Digital Cinema for Photographers” event in Dubai, I found out that Panasonic, a major sponsor of the event, REALLY wanted me and my students to use a couple of GH3s and several lenses in my hands-on workshop.

Panasonic is one of the largest consumer electronics companies, and the GH3 is the third generation of their very successful Micro Fourth Thirds DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) system. For a while I have been aware of the low-budget-filmmaking community’s devotion to the hacked DMC-GH2 and its ALL-I codec. I saw the DMC-GH3 at Photokina last year, but I had never before shot a single frame with a Panasonic camera. The bodies that I was given were running Firmware v0.5. Add to this a nine-hour time zone difference and jet lag, and you can begin to imagine my pain.

While I’ll be using some geeky terms, this is not an in-depth technical review, nor a scientific analysis of the GH3. You can dig into tech specs and MTF charts somewhere else. My goal is simply to share my honest and independent impressions, go over the things I liked and didn’t like, and communicate my wish list for future features. I want to emphasize that all the conclusions in this article are subjective and strictly based on my own personal experience.

“I have to warn you, I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work.”
-Keanu Reeves in “Speed”

I have to respectfully disagree with Keanu on this one. Much to my surprise, the camera was much more intuitive than Sony’s NEX system, and several video features got my full attention right away.

FEATURES
• Full HD 1920×1080 60p/50p (NTSC/PAL) with 30p/25p/24p options.
• Ultra-high bit rate video recorded at 72 Mbps (ALL-I) or 50 Mbps (IPB).
• Capable of recording continuously for an unlimited time for NTSC and 29 min 59 sec for PAL.
• Native support for MOV (h.264), MP4, and AVCHD formats.
• Time Code support in the MOV and AVCHD formats.
• Extremely fast and accurate contrast-detection Autofocus.
• A 3.5mm mic input AND a headphone jack AND the option to manually adjust the sound recording levels via touchscreen controls.
• Full-time AF, AF Tracking, and Face Recognition AF are available for VIDEO. The Touch AF mimics rack focusing.

THE WORKSHOP STORY
Not having enough time to field test the Panasonic systems before the Workshop, I shot dummy clips in my hotel room and made sure that the footage would work in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. The test went surprisingly smoothly. I then set both GH3 cameras to the same video settings: MOV at 1920×1080, 24p, 72 Mbps ALL-I, Standard Photo Style, White Balance at 5500K, got ND filters for all the lenses, extra batteries, and a few Class 10 SD cards. And then I prayed.

GH3_1-1

SD 16GB class10

You must use a Class 10 SDHC card when recording Ultra-high bit rate video at 72 Mbps (ALL-I).

Note: It’s extremely important to point out that full HD on this camera requires memory cards with the fastest speed available. My “older” memory cards didn’t work, giving me only four seconds of recording time.

VIDEO
We spent the first day of my three-day Digital Cinema Workshop  covering all the technical similarities and differences between stills and video. On the second day, we planned a location shoot with a Capoeira team and spent a couple hours shooting in the afternoon. On the third and last day we covered the different hardware and software requirements for post production and spent three hours editing the footage. I am especially proud of the short clip my students put together in such a limited amount of time and with newly acquired knowledge (and using brand new gear!).

Capoeira in Dubai. Student Project. from Eduardo Angel on Vimeo.

We could obviously use a few more days sweetening the audio, fine tuning transitions, and grading, but for a two-hour shoot and a three-hour edit, I believe this is a good example of what can be accomplished with great teamwork, interesting subjects, and the GH3’s many customizable options.

SAMPLE CLIPS
Below you will see a few additional sample clips, all shot as H.264, 1920 x 1080, 23.976 72Mbps ALL-I, using the GH3’s “Standard” profile (Contrats = 0, Sharpness = 0,  Saturation = 0, Noise Reduction = 0). The Exposure and White Balance were set manually. The lens was the Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm F2.8 set on AF Tracking mode, which worked very well most of the time. Despite the lens having “environmental sealing,” as you can see the fine desert’s sand inevitably found its way to the sensor. I put the clips together on Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, and have NOT done any grading nor sharpening. These short clips are intended to show you what the GH3 is capable of, not to tell a specific story.

SOMETHING INTERESTING
So, mission accomplished, right? Not so fast. A couple of days later, as I was wrapping up my day, a friend asked “Are you busy? I wanna show you something interesting.” With only the GH3, the 12-35mm 2.8 lens, a 4GB card and a low battery I jumped into his car. The “something interesting” happened to be access to the Royal Suite at the 7-star Hotel Burj Al Arab—a notoriously difficult area to access. With limited amount of storage space and battery life I managed to capture a few keepers.

EduardoAngel_Panasonic_Lumix_DMC_GH3_SampleImages _008

The 7-star Burj Al Arab hotel resembles a giant sail rising over the Gulf, with changing colors visible for miles at night.

EduardoAngel_Panasonic_Lumix_DMC_GH3_SampleImages _002

The very next morning (on my “day off”), I headed out to meet an old friend for brunch at the Atlantis. Should you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, I strongly recommend that you pay the Atlantis a visit. As we enjoyed the seemingly endless food, my friend received a call to drive to Abu Dhabi right away to pick someone up and then drive back to Dubai. Would I like to come? Guess what I had hanging on my shoulder? This time I had a full battery and a 16GB card, but nothing else to shoot the magnificent mosque and the impossibly opulent Emirates Palace. Once again, the GH3 did a fantastic job.

EduardoAngel_Panasonic_Lumix_DMC_GH3_SampleImages _003

A nice view from a 25th floor overlooking the magnificent Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

MORE FEATURES
These are some of the GH3’s features that are not obvious to the naked eye, but are interesting once you are aware of them:

• A magnesium alloy camera body that Panasonic describes as “splash proof and dust proof.”
• The Panasonic RAW files (RW2) work fine in Adobe Lightroom [add link to LR workshop] but the most current version (4.3 as of this writing) is needed. Unfortunately there are no Panasonic lens profiles available as of this writing.
• All the video formats worked seamlessly on Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Even the video recorded at 72 Mbps was easy to preview and edit on a two-year old MacBook Pro (with 8GB of RAM and an external 7200 RPM Hard Drive as a Scratch Disk).
• HDMI monitor output can be sent with or without information overlays.
• I had a DMW-MS2 Stereo Shotgun Mic with me, but was happy to learn that the camera’s built-in internal microphones provide stereo audio.
• The GH3’s sensor has a 4:3 aspect ratio.
• Built-in Time Lapse, and HDR but unfortunately it works only for JPGs not RAW.
• Five physical function buttons, and two touch-screen function buttons, all customizable with close to 40 options to choose from.
• Virtually all the key shooting controls are within the right hand’s reach. This frees up the left hand to hold the camera or focus manually.
• Excellent battery life, lasting a full day under normal operation. For extended video sessions I’d consider getting the DMW-BGGH3 Battery Grip.
• Apparently (I have not tested this) the GH3 is also capable of real-time image output to the LVF or the rear monitor AND to an external monitor via HDMI.

GH3_shotgun

DMW-MS2 Stereo Shotgun Mic

LENSES
I shot extensively (more than 2,000 images in 18 days) with the Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm F2.8. The lens is tiny. And fast. And awesome. It has the equivalent focal length to a 24-70mm F2.8 on a 35mm system but it is a fraction of the size and weight. As you already know, this is a very good start when dealing with packing issues.

12-35mm lens

Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm F2.8

In terms of depth of field, the lens behaves like a 16-45mm F3.5 lens on an APS-C sensor, or a 24-70mm F5.6 lens on a Full Frame sensor. It is hard to get used to this, especially when shooting another system simultaneously, but it is not a disadvantage per se.

Click to keep reading (more…)

Video

What to bring and how to pack when shooting overseas.

UPDATED January 20, 2015
For a limited time, Tenba is offering a 10% off ANY item on their website using the Code: EduardoAngel

I have always been fascinated with bags and how photographers pack their gear. I remember reading the equipment lists of National Geographic photographers when I was younger. I used to wonder how they moved around the world with so much stuff.

Those times, as you might have noticed, are over. Nowadays, we need to deal with increasingly tighter airline safety, weight, and size regulations.

We have covered the “essential” video gear on previous posts. However, when it comes to deciding what to bring on a trip as carry on, what to check, and what to leave behind, the theory becomes much more interesting.

I tend to start with the personal stuff. Medicines, pain killers, toiletries, travel documents, etc. Some of these items are not easily replaceable; some are, but it would be inconvenient to forget them (think passport, credit cards, or headphones).

Disclaimer: The images below are taken with my phone, simply to illustrate this article. They are not intended to be fine art masterpieces of any kind. And yes, the “background” is my bed.

PackingforDubai_0001

Personal Stuff.

This is my “rolling studio” when shooting on location in New York. Add a fluid head tripod, monopod, three hot lights, umbrellas, cables and light stands.  It is a lot, but two people can easily carry everything even on public transportation.

Click to keep reading (more…)

Video

Schindler’s List Cut by Cut: Part 3.

 
After taking a deep look (check the first and second part of this post) into a famous and very important sequence from the film Schindler’s List, we begin to understand not only the relationship between Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) and Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), but also the cinema ingeniousness of Steven Spielberg (director), Janusz Kaminiski (director of photography) and Michael Kahn (editor).

Here’s a poster we created that sums up all the cuts in the sequence altogether.
 
Cut by Cut Analysis Poster

And here’s the complete sequence.
 

For those of you missed our Schindler’s List cut by cut analysis, here are Part 1 and Part 2.

Are there any other sequences that you would like us to review or break down cut by cut?  Let us know by giving your thoughts and feedback in the dialog box below and we might just make it a future post!

Video

Schindler’s List Cut by Cut: Part 2.

 
Last week, we analyzed one of the most important scene’s from Schindler’s List and the amazing editing work by Michael Kahn. We suggest you read Schindler’s List Cut by Cut: Part 1 first.

Great editing can only be accomplished if there is great footage to begin with. Look closely at Kaminski’s compositions; whether handheld or locked down he constantly plays with all the corners of the frame, showing dynamic blocking and camera movement to work in conjunction with the pace set by Kahn’s editing. This is what making a good picture is all about.

Michael Kahn’s editing is just phenomenal. His transitions are abrupt, but we never lose sight of the story. Let’s continue dissecting Schindler’s and Stern’s dialog while they create THE list of “essential” people.

Cut 15 Two-shot: Stern and Schindler trying to remember a name.

Cut 15

Cut 16 Typing a name.

Cut 16

Cut 17 Low-angle close shot of Stern trying to recall a name.  Schindler seconding him off screen.

Cut 17

Cut 18 Typing a name.

Cut 18

 

Click here to continue reading  (more…)

Video

Schindler’s List Cut by Cut: Part 1

 
Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, tells the story of a German businessman who devises a plan to save over a thousand Polish Jews from annihilation by the Nazis.  The picture’s narrative, acting, music and emotional impact are all outstanding. For obvious reasons, one of our favorite aspects of this movie is the beautifully composed and lit black-and-white cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. But the editing…..wow! Michael Kahn who happens to be the most-nominated editor in Academy Awards history (eight nominations) received the the Best Editing top recognition for this movie (and also for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Saving Private Ryan).

Throughout Schindler’s List, the story is pieced together with the use of “parallel editing“, or “cross-cutting”, a cinematic convention in which “two or more concurrent scenes are interwoven with each other.” Kahn and Spielberg successfully illuminate the hardships of the Jews and the opposing comfort and optimism of Schindler and the Nazis in Poland through this convention.

Why this blog post? In 2012 the Cinema Editor Magazine published a great article where the author dissected, cut-by-cut, one of the most important scenes of “Schindler’s List.” Last week we rented the DVD, went back to the article, and created screen grabs of each of the cuts in order to better understand Kahn’s editing. There are so many cuts (28) that we will split this post in two. We wanted to post the entire sequence but due to copyright issues, we can’t.

Schindler (Liam Neeson) and Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) falsify documents and create a list of names to ensure that as many people as possible are deemed “essential” by the Nazi bureaucracy.

Cut 1 Extreme close-up of typewriter keys pounding out three names:  as the screenplay puts it, “the letters the size of buildings, the sound as loud as gunshots.”

Cut 1

Cut 2 Medium shot of Stern typing; camera tracks with Schindler pacing past him, reciting the names of Poldek Pfefferberg, his close crony among the Jews, and Poldek’s wife, Mila.

Cut 2

Cut 3 Extreme close-up: “Pfefferberg” being typed.

Cut 3

Cut 4 Medium shot: Schindler giving another name. Pan right to include Stern at typewriter.

Cut 4

Cut 5 Extreme close-up of the name “Stagel” being typed.

Cut 5

Click to keep read­ing (more…)

Photography

Visual Serendipity. The Silence of the Lambs.

 
VisualSerendipity_0055

To create the physical world of The Silence of the Lambs (1991), production designer Kristi Zea drew on descriptions in the book by Thomas Harris on which the film was based.  She was also inspired by a variety of images, including paintings by Francis Bacon, newspaper and magazine clippings, and historical photographs.

Video

The Sounds of Aronofsky.

 
The sounds of Darren Aronofsky, including fantastic movies like  Black Swan (2010), Requiem for a Dream (2000), Pi (1998), and The Fountain (2006). Simply brilliant.

best movies by Darren Aronofsky.

Video

And this is why photographers need to learn video right now.

 
Last week I attended the Silver & Ink event at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I was invited to see the graduate students’ work, teach a video class, speak at a “business of photography” panel discussion, review undergraduate and graduate portfolios, discuss technology trends with faculty, exchange my views about the future of photography with career advisors, and attend a stunning art opening. Among the many questions I received, there were two particular questions that were asked many times over—and I could sense a mix of fear and excitement in those who asked these questions.

Question #1: As a photographer, why should I learn video?

The answer is really simple: access to more future opportunities. According to careerinfonet.org there is a better than average annual growth in job openings for photographers, yet video editors, as well as audio and video technicians make significantly more money—either through an hourly wage (freelance) or yearly salary (part- and full-time employment).

I compared national averages with New York state averages, and the results are pretty clear.

average salary for photographers in New York

average salary for audio technicians in New Yorkaverage salary for video editors in New York

In New York, video editors can make from $35,000 to $102,000 per year. Photographers make from $18,000 up to $81,000. As you can see, salaries for audio and video equipment technicians fall right in between the salaries of photographers and video editors

I personally know very few photographers at the high-end of the spectrum, but I know of several video editors who make a lot more than $100K.

What about employment growth?

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Video

Canon EOS 5D Mk III, 5D3, 5D Mark III has arrived.

 
Ok. Let’s start from the beginning: We are looking at a 22.3 Megapixels, Full Frame (36 x 24mm) CMOS sensor system, powered by a DIGIC 5+ processor. Check this article if you want to fully understand the differences between the DIGIC 4 processor on the 5D Mark II, and the new DIGIC 5+ on the 5D Mark III.

canon 5D M3

EOS system - view from the top

Some of the highlighted features include:
• Dual card slots (1 SD/SDHC/SDXC and 1 CF). Sorry, no XQD on this one. What is awesome about the dual cards is that you can a) record the same data to both cards, or b) record different file sizes or types to each card, or c) automatically switch to the second card when the first card is full. That’s great when shooting long interviews, or concerts, for example.
• HDR with +/- 3 stops
• Improvement in noise reduction by 2 stops
• Multiple exposure mode
• 63 zone dual metering system
• +/- 5 stops (the 5D Mark II has only 3 stops)
• iFCL metering system with a 63-zone dual-layer sensor
• File Formats: AVI, RAW, JPEG, H.264, MOV, MPEG-4
• Full HD video recording: 1080/30p, 24p, 25p; 720/60p, 50p; 480/60p, 50p

All the typical features are here: Minimum Shutter Speed (30 sec), Maximum Shutter Speed (1/8000 sec), 100% coverage viewfinder, etc, etc, etc. As expected, durability on the Magnesium Alloy chassis has been improved including a 150,000-cycles shutter, and water and dust additional resistance.
 
These are the specs that REALLY got my attention:
• It is now possible to check two images side-by-side for sharpness, exposure, etc at different aspect ratios (1:1, 4:3, 16:9) with the new “Comparative Playback” function.
• There’s a Q button that will process RAW to JPG on camera.
• The new camera shares the same exact 61-point High Density Reticular AF system found in the EOS 1D-X (for half the price).
• There’s an iPod-like button to make changes in the movie mode without adding noise to the clips. Smart!

Canon EOS system
• The 5D Mark III uses the same batteries (LP-E6) as the 7D and 60D.
• The ISO war keeps getting better. The Mark III offers ISO 100-25600 (expandable up to ISO 102,400) for stills, and 100-12800 (up to ISO 25,600) for video. Wow! Now we really could use an iPad as a Key Light!
 
Here’s an interesting set of high-res JPEGs samples shot at ISO 50 to 102,800. The test was performed under low level halogen lights, which are perhaps the most challenging to digital sensors and noise reduction systems.

Video Features.
There are several serious improvements on this front:
•There are a couple of new video Modes: “Silent and Low Vibration,” but I don’t recall seeing them on the prototype I tested.
• The video resolution is Full HD (1920×1080), and the video format is the same H.264, which I personally love because it runs natively on Adobe Premiere Pro and Lightroom 4, and plays extremely well with online sharing platforms like Vimeo and YouTube.
• The recording buffer has been extended from 12 minutes to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. The 4GB limit is finally over.
• Following Nikon’s D800 improvement, we now have a 3.5mm head­phone jack for live audio mon­i­tor­ing and a Wind Filter. Other ports include USB 2, HDMI, Mic Input, and Wireless.

HDMI port on Canon EOS 5D Mark III
• The LCD screen is virtually the same 3.2″ 1.04 million as the Nikon’s D800. With a screen this size photographers are out of excuses for not using Histograms the way they should.
• There’s a built-in info menu while shooting video, which comes super handy to quickly check important settings like White Balance, Resolution, ISO, Picture Style, etc.

Regarding audio, the changes are pretty exciting:

“The camera includes manual audio level control with 64 levels, adjustable both before and during movie recording. There is also an automatic audio level setting, or sound recording can be turned off entirely. A wind filter is also included. Sound can be recorded either through the internal monaural microphone or via an optional external microphone through the stereo mic input.”

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Tarantino’s Trunk Shot.

 
Quentin Tarantino’s movies are full of homages and historical references, as well as some personal visual trademarks like his now classic “trunk” shot. Enjoy.

Video

Using an iPad as a Key Light.

 
Rodney Charters, Drew Gardner and Lan Bui playing with the new Canon EOS C300 camera. To test the camera’s 20,000 ISO capability, they shot a low-light scene using an iPad for the key light and an iPhone for the fill light. This is way too cool.

Test Technical Notes:
Camera: Canon C300
ISO: 20,000
Lens: Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L lens
Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter: 1/25th (360 degree)
Canon Log Gamma

Video

Exclusive Canon Cinema EOS screening.

 
On January 26, Canon will be hosting “an exclusive Cinema EOS Event” in Chicago. They will present a series of short movies shot with the brand new, game changing EOS C300 camera, as well as “Behind the Scenes” interviews with the directors and crew members. Canon’s amazing technical staff will be available to answer all your geeky questions.

There will be two screenings (morning and afternoon), and registration is required. Please share your experience with us if you attend.

Canon Cinema EOS Private Screening

Video

Adobe Lightroom 4 HDSLR video support explained.

 
UPDATE March 6, 2012. The full version of Lightroom 4 is available now and Adobe cut the price in half: The full version (which used to cost $299) will now be $149. The upgrade version will only cost $79. The beta version (which was downloaded more than 250,000 times) will expire on March 31, 2012.

My birthday was yesterday, and the present arrived this morning. Lightroom 4.0 (public beta) FULL VERSION is now available as a free download from Adobe’s website.

Important things to consider:

• You do not need a serial number and the beta version will not update your current Lightroom 3 (or earlier) catalog.
• The public beta comes in three flavors: Mac (OS X v10.6.8 Snow Leopard) or v10.7 Lion), Windows 32-bit, and Windows 64-bit. Make sure you download the correct version. Each compressed download is about 400MB.
• File support for Lightroom 4 beta, is exactly the same as in Lightroom 3.6 and Camera Raw 6.6.
• The public beta will expire on March 31, 2012, when the final Version 4 becomes available.
Adobe Lightroom 4 Video Support

Here are the new features, organized from super awesome to awesome:

• HDSLR video support (full details below)
• Soft proofing (found under the Develop Module, not the Print Module as one would expect)
• Photo book layout
• Email directly from Lightroom (works with Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL)
• Publish videos directly to Facebook or Flickr
• Geo location (via GPS metadata) with the Map Module
• Enhanced DNG workflows
• Adobe Revel (Carousel) export workflow
• Additional local adjustments including Noise Reduction and White Balance
• Powerful new Shadow and Highlight controls
• Simplified basic adjustments

Adobe Lightroom 4 Soft Proofing

 

Video

Regarding Video Support this is what Adobe has to say:

“Lightroom 3 added the ability to import, manage and tag video files but as the popularity of video capture increases it’s important to provide a single, robust workflow solution that can support all of your imaging needs regardless if they’re still images or video captures. Lightroom 4 adds native playback for a wide variety of formats from mobile phones to high end DSLRs.”

Here’s what I have to say: In version 3, we were able to import video files along with our still images, but to see the clips Lightroom needed to access Quicktime. Now we can play the files inside of LR. Also, by using similar shortcuts from well established NLE (non linear editing) software applications like Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro, now we can set In and Out points directly in Lightroom. Shift+I (In) and Shift+O (Out).

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Video

5 free mobile Vimeo Apps to edit HD Video.

 
I recently got a Tablet to more efficiently maintain this blog by using the very good WordPress app, among other apps for photography and digital cinema.

Today my life got a free upgrade with Vimeo’s new apps for iPad, Android, Kindle Fire and Windows Phone. I have been waiting for almost a year since the iPhone app was released, but it was worth the wait. Now I’ll be able to upload, manage and watch my videos right from my phone (highly unlikely since the battery sucks), and Tablet.

HD Editing on Android

The Android app requires Android version 2.3 (Gingerbread) or later. Some of the features include:

Upload raw or edited footage in HD or SD
• Pause/Resume videos and uploads
• Replace existing videos
• Edit tags, titles, credits, descriptions and privacy info
• Share on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress, email or SMS
• Add your clips to Groups, Channels and Albums
• Download your Vimeo videos to your Camera roll
• Watch videos from the Vimeo Inbox and Watch Later queue
• Stats on daily plays, likes and comments

Slow Motion apps for cinematographers

According to Vimeo, 15% of its traffic now comes from mobile devices. 18% of this blog’s visits are from mobile devices and 30% of those devices are iPhones.

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How much is Slow-Mo worth? Twixtor vs. Adobe Premiere Pro.

 

Tues­days Tutorials.

We recently purchased a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM lens, and tested it by shooting stills and video at a skate park in Manhattan. We liked some of the footage we got, and decided to quickly play with some slow motion effects in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.

One of our friends at Abel Cine suggested that we look into Twixtor, and we did. Here are the side-by-side videos, so you can judge the quality by yourself.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5

RE:Vision Twixtor

The video was shot with a Canon EOS 7D, at 1270×720 and 60fps. The shutter was anywhere between 1/125th and 1/500th of a second. All the clips were slowed down to 20%. We feel that Premiere Pro did a decent job, but Twixtor definitively is the way to go. Unfortunately, the standard version is $330, and the Pro version is $600. Is anyone using another preset for slow motion with a similar (or better) quality?

Video

What makes a good picture?

 
“Probably the only reason I would advise someone to attend film school today is because it is an opportunity to discover all kinds of films that you will never be able to see in theaters.” Bernardo Bertolucci. 

What makes a good picture? Actually, it is not that hard to define what a good photograph is. We start with basic elements of photography like exposure, composition, and texture, then we add interesting subjects, and then we add good lighting, which is essential. That’s it! If we understand the basic elements of photography, find interesting subjects, and have good lighting we can make good pictures.

Elements of a good photograph

Now, what makes a good movie? This one is a bit trickier. A good movie has all the elements that define a good picture, but now we need to add good stories, and on top of that we absolutely and definitively need to have good sound.

basic elements of a good movie

In essence, the biggest difference between shooting stills and motion is that with stills we are freezing moments, we are going for that perfect instant in time. In motion, we have many sequences of frames, and we need to keep them connected with dialog, composition, camera movement, color, and obviously, a great story.