Philip Bloom http://philipbloom.net Filmmaker, DP, Director Wed, 23 Apr 2014 22:28:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Confluence: documentary I shot on 5DmkII and 7D now available on Vimeo to watch for free! http://philipbloom.net/2014/04/23/confluenceitunes/ http://philipbloom.net/2014/04/23/confluenceitunes/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 08:29:51 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=17574
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EDIT 23rd April 2014

Great to see this available for free and therefore a wider audience. It’s been a while since I saw this. It just reminds me how damn good the 7D and 5Dmk2 can be especially  when graded so beautifully here! I wouldn’t consider using these cameras now if this project was commissioned today of course as I have moved on from those two cameras…still no 7Dmk2 yet! I would most likely use a C300 or perhaps a 1DC if 4K was considered for posterity sake. The F55? Too big and intimidating for a project like this perhaps where these people hadn’t been on camera before? The most important thing is to shoot with a camera that ticks as many of these 3 boxes as possible:

Shoots great images

Great internal audio

Doesn’t get in the way of your storytelling and makes your life nice and easy

You have one or have access to one to use! :)

Please sit back and take in this compelling documentary. I am very proud of it. Great to see it again after all this time.

You have access to using one! 

Confluence from Morris Hill Pictures on Vimeo.

www.facebook.com/confluencedoc

Directed by
Jennifer Anderson
Vernon Lott

Cinematography by
Philip Bloom

Produced by
Diana Anderson
Gina Lott
Kenneth Merrill Sr.

Original Music by
Peter Broderick

Film Editing by
Christian Kinnard

Sound Recordist
Steven Bechtold

Additional Photography
Preston Kanak
Mark McKnight

Color Grading
SpyPost

Colorist
Chris Martin

Audio Post-Production by
Jason Devore

Available now on iTunes
itunes.apple.com/us/movie/confluence/id469764569

Amazon Instant Video
amazon.com/Confluence/dp/B007K5FV8E

DVDs at www.confluencethemovie.com

Back in the summer of 2010 I shot a documentary in Lewiston, Idaho for directors Vernon Lott & Jennifer Anderson. Influenced by the style I shot “A day at the races,” in they hired me to DP their movie.

From the blurb

“The Lewiston / Clarkston valley has a rich history. It is here, at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, where Lewis and Clark camped on their westward journey over two hundred years ago. Residents boast that the valley is the gateway to Hells Canyon, that Lewiston was Idaho’s first capital. However, the valley also has a much darker past, one that many know about, but few publicly acknowledge. From 1979 to 1982, five people disappeared. Only three of the bodies have ever been found. All share one suspect.”

Don’t mount your pocket dolly to your head like I did!!

It’s an intense and very moving documentary. My sometime assistant Preston Kanak was my assistant for this (the first time we met) and also did some pick ups for it after I left. Further pick ups were done by Mark McKnight. Sound was beautifully recorded by Steven Bechtold and the masterful editing was done by Christian Kinnaird.

Having Christian at the location made things so much easier for us. We would shoot an interview and he would ingest the footage and make a shot list of things we needed to shoot based upon what was said by the interviewee. A really efficient way to shoot a documentary under a tight time constraint.

The music by Peter Broderick, available too on iTunes, is haunting. Check out the video below the trailer for more of it.

This was the first feature documentary I had shot fully on the Canons, it came just after the Red Tails shoot at the absolute height of DSLR mania.

Were they the right cameras for the job? Absolutely. There was nothing else on the market that came close in our budget. A hugely cinematic look with a small footprint, something that also required very subtle lighting which is key when shooting docs. Would I shoot with them for a similar project today? Probably not. With a C300, F3 and FS100 in my arsenal, it would make more sense to use one of them. The 12 minute recording issue was a major pain, as was the dual system recording. It just would be easier without them, and my current cameras all have better image handling than DSLRs, so it would make sense to use them today. But if that is all you had? Absolutely. As you can see from the trailer and the film, the image is gorgeous. If shot well and coloured well, DSLR footage bats way over its average.

I had a very simple system for getting past the 12 minute issue. As the director’s questions were not needed for use in the film, at the 6 minute mark I waited for the interviewee to finish their current answer. That gave me 6 minutes for them to finish before it cut out. For 99% of the time, these was enough time for that to happen so I could simply press STOP START on the camera and start another clip. The sound was not stopped but kept recording the whole way. Nice and neat. Pluraleyes then came in and auto synced the whole lot!

 

 

CONFLUENCE Official Trailer from Morris Hill Pictures on Vimeo.

Peter Broderick – Old Time (Official Music Video) from Erased Tapes on Vimeo.

Helicopter 5DmkII FCP smoothcam test from Philip Bloom extras on Vimeo.

Shot with a Canon 5DmkII and a 24-105mm IS resting on a pillow!

Smoothcam test done with it.

DVDs for sale at confluencethemovie.com

Credits

Directed by
Jennifer Anderson
Vernon Lott

Cinematography by
Philip Bloom

Produced by
Diana Anderson …. executive producer
Jennifer Anderson …. producer
Gina Lott …. executive producer
Vernon Lott …. producer
Kenneth Merrill Sr. …. executive producer

Original Music by
Peter Broderick

Film Editing by
Christian Kinnard

Sound Recordist
Steven Bechtold

Additional Photography
Preston Kanak
Mark McKnight

Audio Post-Production by
Jason Devore

Trailer Edited by
Alan Canant

 

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1 of 3 posts dedicated to the art of aerial filming!! Part 1: Flying and shooting with the Phantom 2 and Vision 2+ http://philipbloom.net/2014/04/19/phantompost1/ http://philipbloom.net/2014/04/19/phantompost1/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 00:47:10 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=31563 heliguy-2

 

 PLEASE READ MY ETHICS STATEMENT HERE 

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Phantom 2 with ZenMuse 2 axis gimbal and GoPro Hero 3+

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Phantom Vision 2+

Phantom 2 with GoPro and ZenMuse

Phantom 2 with GoPro and ZenMuse

Phantom 2 with GoPro and ZenMuse

Phantom 2 with GoPro and ZenMuse

Many of you know, I have been messing with the Phantom Quadcopters for a couple of months. I haven’t posted any footage until now, as I have been practicing and practicing and practicing etc… It seems easy to start with, take off, move around, zip off here and there…but it’s really not. To get good stuff takes a lot of time, and of course there are many other factors to consider too. Basically the law and safety. So there is a lot to cover in one post so I have deeded to do three! Part 1: A look at the Phantom Vision 2+ compared to the Phantom 2 with GoPro and ZenMuse and my first edit.  Part 2: The joy of flying but legal and safety aspects you HAVE to know. Part 3: Full video review of the DJI Phantom 2 with GoPro and Phantom Vision 2+ This is Part 1, sharing my first edit and some thoughts about the new Vision 2+ in comparison to the previous model and the GoPro based version. These isn’t a full review. That comes in Part 3. Just some initial words to get started.640x100

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Phantom Vision 2+

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Phantom Vision 2+

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Phantom Vision 2+

The first time I ever flew a DJI Phantom was in February, and that was the non-gimbal-based Phantom Vision 2. It’s a great quad to learn with due to its integrated camera and video feed onto an iPhone or Android phone (plus it doesn’t have a fragile gimbal for those guaranteed frequent crashes… more on that later) Perfect for grasping the basics. I needed it. After all, it may look easy and your first flight might make you think that, but it’s not. It’s got a learning curve indeed. Especially if you don’t want to just take off and fly fast aimlessly. The intricate shots are where the skill comes, as does knowing its limitations. Until this trip to the USA for NAB, I had only flown about 3 times due to living under the Heathrow flightpath! In the USA I flew every day for 2 weeks. It was only after this constant flying that I started to get some skills. The Vision 2 system, with or without the gimbal, is just superb, down to the way you use your smart phone as a monitor through their app and wifi to the Phantom. It has a terrific image, up to 640×360 at 30fps, of what you are seeing and the wi-fi range truly is excellent. It’s only when I really push it that the signal breaks up. There is a strong wifi repeater on the radio control which makes the long range possible. The display also shows all the telemetary you need. Height, speed, battery life etc. All essential to know. dji-phantom-2-vision-plus-6 The most important thing, of course, if you are flying to shoot, is to see what your composition is. Flying blind is pretty pointless when shooting. Just flying for fun? Sure? But if you are filming you MUST see what your camera is pointing at!  You may have a massive wide angle on some cameras like this and the GoPro, but that is not composition! There is so much to learn here. It’s difficult to know where to start….It’s a totally new skill set for me. I am nowhere near good yet. I need the controls to be second nature. The effective reversing of them when facing different ways stills screws with my head, the same way switching between Canon and Nikon glass does with its opposing focus direction! Initially when the original Phantom came out and a GoPro was mounted on it, the jello of the image made shooting with it pointless. That was when the first brushless gimbal for it came out. Essentially the same types of gimbals we are seeing on the Movi and all its clones. After all, Movi started out as an aerial octocopter!! The first gimbals…and the one I have for my Phantom 2 with GoPro are 2 axis. The handheld stabilisers are 3 axis for a reason. You need 3 as a minimum. You can get away with 2 axis just, but you tend to end up having to stabilise a lot of your shots in post which is annoying when that’s the point of the gimbals in the first place! The new 3-axis gimbal of the Vision 2+ is thankfully excellent and solves most of these problems.  It works beautifully, and I assume will perform in a very similar way to the the new 3 axis ZenMuse gimbal for the GoPro Hero 3. When you use the H3-2D (which is the GoPro Hero 3/3+ 2 axis gimbal) you really can see a difference. That 3rd axis stops the side to side wobbling. The difference really is night and day better. When working with the Vision 2+ 3 axis gimbal footage, I rarely need to do any post stabilisation, but with the 2 axis one I often do, especially if there is any wind up there! There is a 3 axis ZenMuse gimbal for the GoPro just released. I haven’t got it or seen it, but I know from shooting with the 3 axis gimbal of the Vision 2+ it’s an essential upgrade for me. The camera is the same camera as the standard Vision 2 which doesn’t have the gimbal. It’s OK. The stills are very good. The video isn’t so good, especially when you compare it to the GoPro 3. In fact, the GoPro Hero 3+ 2.7K mode is so bloody good that it makes it a shame to shoot with anything else. Also the non + version of the Vision 2 just has rubber gromits to avoid vibrations. The footage you get is just really jerky. You must have a gimbal for shooting video.carbon_ad_728x250-670x230-2 Having a very good quality “first person view” of what the camera sees on your iPhone or Android PLUS all the telemetry info you need makes this system a dream to use. You can of course get FPV for the GoPro system, but it’s all 3rd party bits, apart from the telemetry part, which is made by DJI and is analogue. Compared to the neat system of the Vision, it feels incredibly clunky.

GoPro ZenMuse  FPV set up

GoPro ZenMuse FPV set up

10245307_10152383528374365_5275876760430327631_n The gimbals are essential for video, but they are fragile, especially the one on the Vision 2+. The Phantom 2 is pretty robust. I have crashed a fair few times in my learning curve of flying. I have never flown RC helicopters before or anything similar. The Phantom itself seems to take a fair few crashes with ease. The gimbal, as I said, is quite fragile and an impact can cause it to malfunction. The ZenMuse gimbal seems to be a bit more robust, although I have still managed to break one of those! In fact, if you are learning, I would almost recommend the non plus Vision 2 Phantom. You won’t get smooth video, but the stills are great and it’s very robust compared to the gimbal. That is what I bought first to learn with. Made total sense then, and I still recommend it even though you will be itching to upgrade to a gimbal quite quickly. Learn to walk first…well fly! :)

Phantom 2 with ZenMuse 2 axis gimbal and GoPro hero 3+

Phantom 2 with ZenMuse 2 axis gimbal and GoPro hero 3+

I am putting up two edits here. My main one is called “The Phantom and the desert” which was shot entirely with the Vision 2+, most of it in Arizona with some earlier shots from Nevada.  The 2nd edit, “Redrock Rookie” is a collection of my USA Phantom 2/ ZenMuse/ GoPro Hero 3+ footage. You will really see a difference in the image quality from the two cameras. The GoPro stuff was shot at 2.7K in 25p and is so damn detailed. A really terrific image. The Vision 2+ edit is shot at 1080p 25p “soft” setting and it really is quite soft. It shoots up to 30p in 1080p. 60p is available in 720p. All the modes are soft. There is in-camera sharpening available, AVOID IT!!  I had to do a lot of work on the “soft setting” footage to try to bring it to life. I still haven’t quite succeeded, but it’s still way better than the in-camera sharpening modes of standard and high. They are very harsh and unnatural video like.  I have done a lot of post sharpening on this footage. Some works better than others. You have more control in post than letting the camera do it!

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Phantom Vision 2+

Warp stabilise in Premiere was used on most of the “Redrock Rookie” piece due to the 2 axis gimbal, but with “Phantom in the desert” I used it on just 3 shots due to high wind. Most of the time it simply wasn’t needed. The 3 axis gimbal, as mentioned earlier, does wonders. Wind is bloody scary. Even with GPS mode on (which I turn off for intricate moves to avoid the corrections it keeps doing) it can move away from you quite fast if the wind catches it, plus also be very careful of battery life. If it gets too low it won’t be able to climb and that can be a problem! Bring it back at 30% to be extra cautious. Battery life is around 25 minutes. I also ran the “Phantom in the desert” through After Effects to remove most of the barrel distortion. The effect is called “Optics compensation” and I set it to reverse and the Field Of View to around 50-70 depending on the shot. It’s very impressive indeed!

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You can see from the images how much work I have done. If you click each one, it is linked to the original image. The in-camera stuff is on the left and the optics corrected, sharpened, filmconvert grade and 2.35:1 matte is on the right. FilmConvert (discount code below) did wonders in hiding the flaws in the Vision 2+ recorded video.

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PB_promoBanner_670x67_V02 The bit rate of the the recorded MP4 is also a huge problem. It’s around 12 MB/s in the 1080p mode. That’s half of AVCHD, way short of the GoPro Hero 3+ in 2.7K mode which is around 43 MB/s. If DJI could put a better camera in, it doesn’t have to be as high quality as the top end mode of the Hero 3+ (although that would be nice!), something that could give me a highly detailed 1080p image with a higher bitrate, then I would be much happier. The Vision 2+ is such a great system, it really is, but it breaks my heart! The camera just lets it down badly. Replace that with something “GoPro 3″ quality, and DJI will have an all in one stunning product! I long for the ease and simplicity of the Vision 2+ system, but with the image of my GoPro Hero 3+!! As it stands, if you want the better image (and who doesn’t) then the non-vision 2 with zenmuse and GoPro Hero 3+is the better option, even if you do have the pain in the arse of all the bits for the FPV 3rd party system! If you are learning though, I recommend take all of that stuff off…just fly the Phantom on its own. Learn the controls, let it become instinctive!! Seriously, this is the most fun I have had shooting in years. Just be careful though, this is NOT a toy. Common sense and read up on the law and restrictions for your country. Flying a Phantom or any RC device is at your own risk. PLEASE ALSO GET PUBLIC INDEMNITY INSURANCE!!! That’s it for now. Remember the full review will be up soon-ish (I just need to cut it) and goes into WAY more depth and post 2 is about the incredibly important legal and safety aspects. Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 01.25.59

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Photo taken by the Vision 2+ stills camera

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Cameras! Recorders! Phantoms! Live Critics! Free talks! Come say hello and bring me strong coffee!! It’s NAB 2014! http://philipbloom.net/2014/04/07/nab2014/ http://philipbloom.net/2014/04/07/nab2014/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 08:21:11 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=31508

 

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Conversations from the 35th floor from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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This is my 7th year at NAB. All consecutive. I came close to not coming this year as I did at IBC last year as it’s good to take a break from these things. NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters show, is a place where friends and colleagues from all over the world congregate. It’s the catching up with people that really brings me back each year.

That being said the show is always good to see and this year it’s look pretty interesting. In 2012 and 2013 it was Blackmagic Design who stole the shows with the camera announcements, whether they will be announcing more cameras tomorrow I don’t know. I hope not. Why? Because they have 3 cameras out there already and all of them are flawed in basic operation. This needs to be rectified urgently and top of that the Blackmagic 4K has image issues. Again, needs to be fixed. So hopefully tomorrow they will make a big announcement that you will be able to format your cards in the camera and delete clips! :)

Edit: James Miller

Well Blackmagic didn’t launch a camera this year at NAB, they launched 2! a monster, the Blackmagic 4k URSA with an interchangeable sensor module for 4k S35 using EF or PL mounts and a broadcast sized sensor module using the (B4) Mount. The 2nd camera being a standalone studio camera unit using a 12.48mm x 7.02mm sensor in 4k and Full HD with an MFT mount.

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The Blackmagic URSA 4k S35

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The Blackmagic Studio Camera

 

The URSA is one chunky camera. Looking like something Tony Stark invented and coming in at 16.53lbs.

The specs look very similar to the 4k Production Camera but as the sensor has room to cool they allow the camera to record at 60fps in 1080 mode. Something that the 4k Production camera cannot do. It also has 2 x analog XLRs that are switchable between mic and line levels together with the all important Phantom power support.

What is missing from this camera is a lack of an SSD drive, instead Blackmagic have opted for the new 2.0 compact flash cards (CFast 2.0).

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Amazingly its sports a flip out 1920×1200 10” screen and 2 800×480 5” touch screens. Its a beast.

 

 

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upgradeable

The Blackmagic 4k URSA with an interchangeable sensor module for 4k S35 using EF or PL mounts and a broadcast sized sensor module using the (B4) Mount. Interestingly they also have a HDMI 4K input module to act as a standalone recorder.

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Prices at a very well positioned $5,995 for the EF version and $6,495 for the PL version. Shipping is slated for July. The Studio camera comes in at $1,995 for the HD version and $2,995 for the 4k version.

The Studio camera is described as the world’s first 12G-SDI broadcast camera for live Ultra HD production with 10” viewfinder, 12G- SDI, MFT lens mount, support for up to 2160p60, 4 hour battery, talkback, tally and more.

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We also have the Cion by AJA Video Systems. A 4K 60P and 120fps in HD at a marked cost of $8995.

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Cion 4k camera by AJA Video Systems

The Cion records in ProRes & AJA RAW. The CION can record at 4K (4096×2160), UltraHD (3840×2160), 2K (2048×1080) and HD (1920×1080). 2K and HD are hardware scaled from the full 4K sensor. Frame rates up to 50 and 60p at full 4K resolution. Very nice looking camera too.

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Atomos have also added the tiny Ninja Star to their list of very capable recorders. The Atomos Pocket Sized $250 3.5oz HDMI 10bit Apple ProRes Recorder uses an internal battery and Gen 1 CFast media. What a handy little product.

Atomos Ninja Star NAB 2014 (Embargo 9am PDT 7th April 2014)

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So what do we know is actually happening? Well Sony announced their A7S camera just over four months since the A7 and A7R started shipping. Although this is a VERY different camera. I bought the A7R at the end of November whilst over in Hong Kong for Digital Rev. I was very impressed with a huge amount from the camera, especially it’s EVF, build & size. The stills (many of the stills at the bottom of this post are from the A7R with Sigma 35mm F1.4 lens) especially were incredible with it’s massive 36MP sensor (essentially the same one as in the Nikon D800).

The video was good but not great. Line skipping causing issues. The thing is with the camera it’s almost an 8k sensor, brining that down to HD was always gong to be a struggle. Bringing it down to 4K? Now that is easier and normal yields exceptional results when done in 4K sensors to HD. Just look at the C100 and C300 from Canon.

The A7S is different in many ways to the other 2 despite looking the same on the same on the outside inside it’s got quite a few massive differences.

  • INSANELY ISO sensitivity setting from 50 to 409600 and unprecedented dynamic range
  • Full frame 4K (UHD: 3840 x 2160) via Micro HDMI video output
  • 120 FPS at 720P in AVC-HD mode.
  • XAVC S Full HD recording at 50Mbps, time code and optional XLR audio inputs from the same unit used on the other Sony stills cameras.
  • Full frame version of E-mount like the other A7 cameras meaning strong compatibility with other lenses as there are so few FE Sony lenses (FE is the full frame version of E mount lenses) For example the Canon Metabones V3 lives on my A7R.

The insanely high ISO setting is interesting. It’s two stops higher than the already insanely high FS700 ISO 10,000. Quite what that actually looks like will be interesting but what’s key is that low megapixel count, 1/3 of the A7R. Your stills from the camera will be much smaller that the A7R but because it has way less MPs that is partly why the low light performance, I am told i, is so damn incredible. Less megapixels = larger photosites which absorb light better. All those small photosites with super high MP count suffer in comparison.

Is this enough for stills these days…I would say yes, depending on what your photography needs are, what I will say is it will mean a lot more work will need to be done optically and composition wise by the photographer as it will be much harder to rely on cropping with so many less megapixels than modern DSLRs have now.

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Internally it can record XAVC-s, the prosumer version of the superb XAVC which is inside my F55.  I recently bought the new Sony Action Camera thingy. it’s cool and also has that same codec. It’s pretty solid indeed. The key feature here though is that out of the MICRO HDMI it outputs 4K, well 4K ultra HD of 3840 x 2160 (same as the Blackmagic 4K) compared to the 4K that the 1DC, C500, DS700, F55, F5, Red Epic, Red One etc capture. It’s not a big deal though. After all how many of us have shot 2K for HD?  Micro HDMI though? What a shitty connection that is, excuse my language, but it is! Judicious use of  ”blu-tack” will be needed to surround your Micro HDMI plug to protect it and it’s socket. That is until someone like LockPort bring out the HDMI protectors like their excellent ones for Canon and Nikon DSLRS. 

A 4K UHD 3840 x 2160 native sensor is about 8 Megapixels. For HD? A quarter of that at around 2MP. That has always been the problem with HD DSLRs is the high MP count has means a lot of pixel binning because there was no way Canon were going to bring out a 2 MP 5D mk4 to give us proper HD!

Anyway tomorrow (Monday)  I will be in-depth with the camera as I meet the designers of the it so I can ask all the questions I want. I just hope they will give me one to shoot with. I am super keen to try this out. It’s just a real shame there is no internal 4K recording…now that would be mind-blowing . That means the camera with a sensor half the size of this, the Panny GH4 stills has the edge on 4K recording over it due to it’s ability to record internally. With a Metabones speed booster (still no EF mount) you can make that sensor give you a field of view not far off S35/ APS-C. I have attempted to borrow a GH4 to review with absolutely no luck whatsoever. It may well come down to having to buy the camera to review it. Now that’s crazy. It won’t happen here as I have been told I will get one to play with like I did with the other A7 cameras.

Price wise not sure. Around $2500 has been mentioned…you can see my review of the A7 and A7R below these two promotional videos from Sony.

The Sony mirrorless camera review…within a review…within a review…. from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

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Now 4K out of the micro HDMI (I am summing this is HDMI 2.0) is cool but what can record it? I don’t even know if my superb convergent design Odyssey 7Q will…after all it’s not raw and they have no ProRes HQ 4K recording in it yet.

Enter Atomos with the  Shogun! A 4K full HD screened powerhouse of a recorder.

Their current “Blade” series of recorders have been exceptional, Now they are going even further, 4k over HDMI recorder including 12G SDI and a 1920×1200 7” IPS screen thats full of waveforms, tri-level focus peaking and vectorscopes to name a few.

Having a 7” 1920×1200 is going to be critical for achieving focus at 4k resolutions. That’s exactly the same resolution as the gorgeous Nexus 7 tablet screen.

With the A7S & the Shogun Atomos this could be a potentially killer combination with the Sony A7S.  I haven’t seen the device yet. Tomorrow. I can’t wait though! I believe it’s priced at around $2000.

Atomos Shogun NAB 2014 (Embargo 9am PDT 7th April 2014)

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Atomos Shogun and Sony A7S at NAB 2014

carbon_ad_728x250-670x230-2Speaking of Atomos that brings me onto the first mention of one of my appearances, talk thingies. At the Atomos stand at 3PM on Tuesday. The topic is “Why external recorders will bring you wealth, success, awards, great sex & of course perfect happiness”. Actually that is a lie. The real topic is the much more mundane  ”Buying the latest camera won’t make you better…key steps to improving your skill and getting the work you want”. It’s free, lasts 30 minutes I hope to see you there!

Every day at 1PM (apart from Thursday) I will be at the Teradek studio doing a special 3 date comeback tour of the much missed “Critics” with my co-host…the I can’t believe he’s not dead because he must be like 80 or something, Steve Weiss!!

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We will be showing 2 short films from Vimeo per half hour episode and then reviewing them. The usual thing will happen. Weiss will be all harsh and frank…until the camera is on and that truth disappears. Jeez Weiss. What I said in season one where I called him a word that rhymes with “Wussy” is still true today as it was 5 years ago when we did our 1st episode. 5 years? He was old then…he must be like “Weekend at Bernies” now?! Surely!

Come along to the studio and watch outside if you are at NAB otherwise for those who aren’t in Vegas you an watch it live here: www.NABLiveShow.com

HERE IS THE 1ST EPISODE FROM DAY ONE OF NAB 2014 (and now episode 2!). RECORDED LIVE! DON’T MISS THEM LIVE TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY AT 1PM US PACIFIC TIME!

NAB 2014: Philip Bloom & Steve Weiss present: Critics from Teradek on Vimeo.

Philip Bloom & Steve Weiss present: CRITICS – Day 2 from Teradek on Vimeo.

I will also be on a show at 330pm on Monday with Dan Chung talking 4K. Same address as above!

Teradek NAB Live Show 2014 English

 

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On Tuesday at 430PM I will be at the Miller stand for the drawing of the lucky winner of their raffle for an Miller LP ’54 Classic tripod to commemorate 60 years of tripod manufacturing!  You can buy tickets for the draw which is in aid of the NAB Education Foundation.

You have until 330pm (US Pacific Time) to enter via this link. I have entered myself. Would it wrong if I drew out my own name?

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The winner will be announced (by me) on Tuesday, April 8 at 4:30 p.m. PST at Miller Camera Support’s NAB Show booth, C9520.

Then on Wednesday at 230PM I will be back at the Miller stand to do my “Do you ACTUALLY need 4K talk” It’s an hour long, free and there will be a Q&A afterwards.

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Last but not least a quick mention of another product that was launched on Sunday, DJI’s Phantom Vision 2+. I have been getting into the old quadcopter fun for a couple of months now and have only lost one so far…impressive! Lots of crashes though. It’s been a blast so far.

Their new model is the same camera as the Vision 2 but with a built in 3 axis gimbal. I have actually had this to play with for the past week or so. I have been flying it every day in the Vegas outskirts for my video review of it and the GoPro 3 based Zen Muse gimbal one. The review hasn’t been edited yet, it’s all shot though. It will be up this week and with it an excellent post from professional aerial video chap Simon Beer about the joy and caution of this “craze” that is just getting bigger and bigger!

Here are some photos I have taken of the Vision 2+, I have footage to come from both for my review.  Very quickly, it’s an incredibly neat system and the first person view with the app on the smartphone with telemetry is exceptional. It’s not as good as a GoPro Hero3+ that I use on my own Phantom 2. Nowhere near as good. In 2.7K mode that GoPro is incredible, but for am in all one solution that is truly simple. This can’t be bear and compared to the non gimbal Phantom 2 Vision? Night and day…well certainly for video. The stills from it are DNG raw 8MP files. Really excellent quality. There are a couple of selfies in the photos below!

Anyway it’s 1 am. The show starts in 8 hours. I need to sleep! If you are NAB come to one of those talks, or the Teradek booth, otherwise I will be around and most likely at the Kessler Booth playing with my Slider :)

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Selfie with the Phantom 2 Vision+

Selfie with the Phantom 2 Vision+

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Phantom 2 Vision+ with Eric Kessler

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Phantom 2 with GoPro and ZenMuse

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Review of the updated for the Sony FS700 Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q …is it any good? http://philipbloom.net/2014/04/04/7q/ http://philipbloom.net/2014/04/04/7q/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 19:42:57 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=31372 SHOT ON THE CONVERGENT DESIGN 7Q IN 4K & 2K RAW ON PRE-PRODUCTION FIRMWARE

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Four Corners: Postcard from Miami Beach from Philip Bloom: Four Corners on Vimeo.

Please read my ethics statement here

Convergent Design loaned me a 7Q to test out with no promise of a review, as I always say. I generally have to say no to gear to review, due to time constraints. With proper work, it’s hard to find time to get round to it. Unless it is something I could use on a proper shoot as opposed to testing for testing’s sake.

I didn’t have a shooting gig in Miami, but it was a documentary workshop and I had free time before it and after it.

The Sony FS700 is an interesting camera. The bigger brother of Sony’s first affordable S35 camcorder, the FS100. It was better as it had a 4K sensor, so it could be upgraded to pump out a 4k and 2K raw via an external recorder in the future. This also meant continuous up to 240fps high speed 2K raw instead of the 8 seconds AVCHD.

It’s still as un-ergonomic and unfriendly as the FS100, but with those added features plus ND, it was certainly a better camera. More money of course!

The firmware update came late last summer. A paid upgrade of around 250 euros, and to make it work you needed the Sony R5 raw module from the F5 and F55 plus the HXR-IRF5 interface unit then a V-Lock to power it all. As you can see below, we had a bazooka on our hands. With the costs of the AXS media (512gb for 1 hour of 4K) the costs mounted up to close to around $10K not including power! That’s a hell of an outlay to get 4K raw. Luckily, I had the R5 and media because of my Sony F55 so I just needed the interface, which was around $2k.

Now the results were pretty good. The 4K looked terrific and although 512gb for 1 hour is a lot, it’s a lot less than the Cinema DNG raw we are seeing at the moment. It’s compressed raw, but it seems lossless. It’s just the size of it!

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When I did a job in Italy, I took the rig to Tuscany to try it out. In the end, I simply couldn’t cope with a camera that long, so I removed the raw 4K set-up. Put a strap on it and wore it like a good old external recorder of old! It worked fine this way. Not ideal of course.

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Convergent Design (CD)  have been making external recorders for quite a few years now. I had their Nanoflash for my EX1 back in the day but hadn’t tried any of their other ones since. I simply hate external recorders. Something to go wrong, and often cumbersome, like the above set up. As long as you can record internally too, I was OK with them, but some cameras like the Nikon D800 wouldn’t. I couldn’t risk that.

The reason why we generally use them is simple. Internal codecs, for the most part, suck. The FS700 uses the 8-bit AVCHD code. 24mb/s 4:2:0. Way under broadcast spec. Fine for web but has a tendency not to like being pushed in post. Many of these cameras, this one included, have uncompressed clean output. Most are still 8 bit, and to be honest that’s the most important reason to go external if you camera can output it and records 8-bit internally.

8 bits have 256 shades of each binary colour for each channel, the Red Green Blue. Together that makes 16,777,216. That’s a fair few colours. This is not a problem if we viewed the footage on an 8 bit display but modern displays are 10 bit. 10 bit is 1024 shades of each binary colour that makes 1.07 billion, That is massive. Now when we view 8 bit footage on 10 bit displays the footage simply can’t cope. Especially with close gradients. Like skies, dark areas. Hence we get banding. The display needs all those variations in shade and they don’t exist. Watch 8 bit on 8 bit displays and it can cope.

The FS100 and FS700 are 8 bit output, as are the DSLRS, as are the C100, 1DC and C300. Few cameras are 10 bit or more. The F3, F5 and F55 from Sony are. When it comes to the latter two, they can also record 10 bit internally. The F55 can do 10 bit 4:2:2 4K internally.

So back onto the 7Q. What makes this special is simply it’s a terrific OLED monitor. It’s unfortunately not full HD, it just over 720P at 1280×800. It’s fine. The size is 7.7″. The FS700 screen is atrocious. You need a monitor or EVF anyway. That is the advantage of the 7Q. We already need a monitor and with this we have a great monitor AND it’s an external recorder.

Initially we were told the FS700 would only do 4K raw through the Sony system. But CD have been working with Sony (and Apple) to get approval. With Apple they were after ProRes HQ. With a firmware update last month, we got both. Not ProRes HQ unfortunately for 4K, just HD. 4K is raw only, and it’s the unwieldy uncompressed Cinema DNG. Well, it can also do DPX for HD, 2K and 4K, but those are even huger files.

So yes, the 7Q is a way better solution for 4K on the FS700 than the Sony system with some caveats. Look at the size difference. Below you can see what I mean.

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A much smaller and more practical rig with the 7Q

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Above is a picture of the media. Both the 7Q and R5 use proprietary media. Both expensive.

512gb SD for the 7Q

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512gb for the Sony system

512gb for the Sony system

Now that is a fairly sizeable amount of money and difference. The thing is, it comes down to how much data you can get on each. Remember one is compressed raw the other isn’t. Personally I see zero difference in quality. Some may argue, pixel peepers perhaps. I don’t know anyone who believes that though, who shoots with the Sony system.

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4K 24/25/30p on the AXS system is just over 1 hours for 512GB

4K 50p/ 60p on the AXS system is just over 30 minutes for 512gb

For 2K quadruple that

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4K 24/25/30p on the 7Q is 24 minutes per 512GB card. 

4k 50p/60p on the 7Q is 12 minutes per 512GB. This needs to be raided. So 2 256GB cards or two 512GB cards (that will give you 24 minutes)

For 2K quadruple that.

Of course ProRes HQ is a tiny compared to that. We don’t have the 4K yet. To give you a guide, the Blackmagic 4K records ProRes HQ and is roughly 480GB for an hour at the 24/25/and 30p. Still a lot but much better than 24 minutes. Still massive though. 120GB for HD ProRes HQ.

These are important factors to add up….as in, the cost adds up. Normally I have around 4-5 hours of media on me for an average shoot. More, if I shoot interviews. Offloading during the day is close to impossible on all but my bigger shoots. So for that on the 7Q, I need around 10 cards of 512GB…that’s a cost of $9600 at today’s prices. Naturally this rules out the camera for documentary work for me when interviews are needed. My F55 with the XAVC internal 10 bit 4:2:2 codec. On a single SxS Pro+ 128GB memory card, the PMW-F55 records up to 50 minutes in 4K/24P or approx. 20 minutes in 4K/60P.Each 128GB card is $1800. That’s around $7000 still…SxS Pro+ cards are overpriced. That’s the same price as the raw AXS cards which hold slightly more (around 10-15 minutes) for the same price and it’s raw. Problem is also the cost of storage and the time to deal with raw. 4K XAVC flies in my MacPro  in Premiere CC and doesn’t bloat my hard drives.

So one last comparison for 5 hours of media on each. Ironically, the compressed codec that isn’t raw costs the most but that’s down to the extortionate price of the SXS Pro+ cards. I am told expect a big drop in price in these. Too late for me. I have 6 cards.

SONY R5 AXS 2.5Tb 5 cards = $9000

7Q SSD(proprietary) 6.6TB 13 cards = $10335

F55 4K XAVC SXS Pro+ 768GB 6 cards  $10800

Now that is eye-opening. Unless I got my calculations wrong. Please tell me if I have. Each G-Tech 8GB Thunderbolt Drive is around $800.  I back up to, or used to, 3 drives. Now it’s more like 1 for the raw and 2 for the ProRes HQ exports. I simple can’t afford or have the space for such a stupid amount of drives. The F55 4K XAVC suddenly starts to be cheaper when you take future hard drive purchases into account.

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That’s the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 shooting 4K simultaneously. Fun to compare!

One of the best features of the 7Q is that it’s not limited to the FS700 like the Sony system is (with the IRF5 module as the R5 works on the F5 and F55). With the FS700 and the 7Q you need to buy a license to run the firmware. It’s currently $795.  It will also, with purchase of a license, let you record Canon raw with the C500 and Arri Raw. You can also rent these licenses if you are just using one of the cameras for a project.

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The build quality of the 7Q is terrific. The power consumption is pretty good too. I use Sony F series NPF batteries. I can’t remember exactly how long I am getting, but it’s around a couple of hours roughly.

The Sony FS700 with its new firmware V3 (and the FS700R) we get S-Log 2. This gives us a greater dynamic range and more options in post. We also get an upped native ISO to 2000. I do find the S-Log a bit noisy even at its native, but you have to have to shoot S-Log 2 for the 7Q to take the raw. Not the case with the R5. Although raw is raw and you have the ability to change the ISO in post. It’s a shame it’s noisy. The 2K raw super slow motion is even worse and always has been internally too when shooting slow motion. Plus the 2K aliases whereas the 4K doesn’t. I recommend overexposing S-Log by about 1.5 stops, especially in raw. Try it out. It’s cleaner.

The F5 and F55 have a similar issue, but nowhere near as bad as this. Sony in fact have a pop in 2K OLPF to alleviate this on those cameras. Not on the FS700 though. It’s expensive. It should be free. If the camera has this issue and this is the fix it should come with. In my opinion!

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200 drinks per second. FS700 2K HFR raw with the 7Q test from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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There is one more killer feature from the 7Q, and this for me is the biggy. Remember the 7Q outputs 8 bit in HD for ProRes HQ on the Odyssey or any other device like the Atomos Samurai. A real shame it’s not 10 bit. Now if you set the FS700 to output raw which is 12 bit out of the SDI, and the 7Q to the Raw to ProRes HQ, the image is simply incredible. Quite possibly the most amazing HD image I have seen. Interestingly, I haven’t tested this yet. My new business partner, James Miller, who I have just set up a new production house with and has the Blackmagic like I do, says the internal HD is incredibly. Nothing like the very average 4K. I need to test this!

So the ProRes HQ is just stunning, and it’s true 10 bit as it’s come from a 12 bit source NOT an 8 bit source. Also the downsampling to HD is so much better as you can see from the detail shots than what the Sony FS700 does internally. The difference is huge for both. Remember it can only do this as it can output a 4K 12 bit signal.

Here is a comparison video and then some frames to show you what I mean. A massive improvement in detail and the specular highlights that plague the FS line are clearly gone, as you can see on the squirrel light filament. The crops in the frames are 300%, by the way, for the HD shots, and 150% for the 4K to match.

One thing to note there is a slight change in gamma when doing this. CD have assured me this will be fixed shortly. Currently it’s a small price to pay for such a great image.

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Sony FS700/ Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q “real world” resolution/ detail tests from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

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So there we go. The 7Q is a stunning piece of kit. So much better than the R5 system from Sony. After all, even with the R5, you need a monitor! There are those issues I have mentioned. Basically, the massive file sizes for 4K…we need ProRes 4K ASAP…we don’t actually need HQ really. 422 is fine and much smaller. Still 10bit 4:2:2. Plus of course, the cost of media. Because we need so much of it, the costs add up to a huge amount. All the similar systems do too…it’s just with the additional file sizes the sting is more painful.

I am sure prices will fall, and with the 4K ProRes (not imminent by the way) the system will be more affordable. The key thing is that this recorder is not limited to one camera. This is pretty much future proof until we need 8K! Plus it’s a damn fine monitor, we all the features a great monitor should have. Scopes, peaking, zoom, LUTs and more!

The FS700 with the 7Q is now a great camera. It won’t replace my F55…that is an incredible camera. But it’s damn fine indeed…especially if you already have one. This device with the camera makes it terrific.

This is a great device. I love it. Now I just need to save up for those SSDs…

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Trying out the Canon C100 Autofocus…does it actually work? Can autofocus in video ever truly work? http://philipbloom.net/2014/03/28/c100autofocus/ http://philipbloom.net/2014/03/28/c100autofocus/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 01:43:05 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=31404 Please read my ethics statement here

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I don’t believe in autofocus for video. It can’t work. I doubt it will ever work in the way I would want it to work. 

That’s a bold statement to open this post with. Let me explain. For my entire 25 year career it’s been manual focus all the way for a reason. Manual focus works, well, it works as well as the person pulling focus, and 99.9% of the time that is me. My brain knows what I want to be in focus within my frame. My brain knows when to keep something in focus and something out, no matter what the composition. My brain knows exactly when I want to pull between certain things at a certain speed, changing speed, perhaps even going back. The options are infinite…simply down to what I see travelling down the optic nerve to the cerebral cortex where the decisions are made triggering impulses that travel down my spinal cord through the motor neurons for the appropriate muscles and releasing a chemical which then causes my muscles to react in a way that hopefully keeps my shots in focus…see EASY!!! :) Not much for a camera to replicate then?!

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OK…auto focus in stills cameras…it works, right? Why? Because you move the camera to get what you want to be in focus, half press the shutter, then adjust the composition and fully press down to fire the shot. You simply cannot do this in video. Fine for stills, where you temporarily re-frame before locking in the composition, but for video you are rolling the whole time. Sure, on some cameras you can do this before you hit record, but once you are rolling, that focus is in your hands. You can’t then keep moving the frame back and forth to select your focus. This is one shot auto focus, each time you press the button to get focus a new point is found and held. This is no good for video. Video needs to be continuous auto focus.

Getting focus correct is even more critical than nailing exposure. After all, with the raft of raw camera, incorrect exposure can be fixed, to a point. Out of focus shots? Well we aren’t quite at the point of cameras having the Lytro technology in them yet…one day. Out of focus of course is unfixable…now in focus? Yep, that can be made out of focus in post!

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Explaining exactly how the different auto focus systems work is very complicated. I have tried to simplify it in laymen’s terms, but it’s well worth reading the countless articles online which explain much better than I do below how they work!! After all, I was not that knowledgable about it until I had to find out about it!

Pretty much all video, and many stills cameras, use autofocus via the contrast method, picking a single point in the frame. Generally a small part in the centre. This is a passive method. The sensor is searching for the maximum intensity difference between adjacent pixels. When stuff is blurred/out of focus the contrast is minimal, as it all blends into one. When the shot is in focus the contrast intensifies. This is when the sensor thinks it is in focus. That’s why, when you try to get autofocus lock on some clouds in the sky, it will struggle because the contrast is so soft. You need something hard at infinity to grab it then reframe. The single biggest issue with contrast autofocus is that it won’t know it’s in focus until it’s gone past the correct focus point, realizes that it’s getting blurrier, and comes back again. It’s always checking…just to be sure! The dreaded “hunting focus”! :)

Autofocus for DSLR stills is more complicated, as almost all use phase detection which is faster and more accurate. It’s also done via multiple points, not a single point like in stills.  Roughly putting it, they use a mirror which splits the light differently so it can quickly and accurately measure differences to get focus. Phase detection autofocus (almost always) needs a mirror though. When you shoot live view with these DSLRS for stills, naturally the mirror flips up and you are just using the plain old contrast method, which is slow.  That’s why I am sure anyone who has taken a photo with a DSLR “properly” and then in live view mode can attest to the huge difference in speed. 

You don’t actually have to have a mirror to get fast auto focus though. Sony for example have been at the forefront of hybrid autofocus technology using contrast &  phase detection with their Alpha line of DSLRS for some time, and now with their mirrorless stills cameras they are surpassing what mirrored cameras could do. It’s still phase detection like mirrors, but replicated on the sensor itself with dual pixels, adding in contrast too for the best of both worlds. In fact the soon-to-come-out Sony Alpha A6000 is stupidly fast with a speed of 0.06 seconds to nail that focus and 11 frames a second capture! It’s all super high-tech, and if you really want to learn more, I am sure a bit of searching can yield a white paper for you to read!

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The one other main type of focus is called active auto focus. It’s something done externally by the camera to help it get the focus. Sound waves have been used in the past. Nowadays many compact cameras (and in low light) DSLRS emit a light beam, mostly infra-red, to know what is in focus.

Naturally, active is not used in video as a light shining on something is not conducive to a great shot! That is why contrast has been the one used for video.

Auto focus is not at all new in video cameras. I think my first video camera, an old Sony Video 8 Handycam from 1987 had it…every single consumer video camera I have owned pretty much has had some sort of auto focus in it. I have always turned it off!

The only one I have had relative success with is facial tracking continuous autofocus.. I first came across it on the Panasonic GH1 with the excellent big range kit lens. In fact the first thing I put out with the GH1 was shot almost entirely with auto focus. That was almost exactly five years ago! It recognises a face, puts a square round it and keeps following it…you could even tell it to just follow that one particular face. It sort of worked, but I think cameras just think we all look alike :)

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Of course, keeping focus in small-sensor camcorders is a lot easier due to a much deeper depth of field, and that combined with standard definition let you get away with a lot. But with larger sensor cameras like 2/3″ broadcast ones and then with High Def,  your mistakes were easier to see.

Now so many of us are shooting on big sensor cameras, Super 35mm and full frame, keeping moving shots in focus has become a nightmare. Static shots? Fine. It’s that movement that kills us, plus all those lovely DSLRs that changed everything didn’t help us at all with their lack of focus peaking….oh and of course now there is the move to 4K? This really does separate  the men from the boys..and yes I am often reduced to being a boy on some occasions. You simply have to stop right down and/ or use EVFs or monitors with peaking.

Another massive contributing factor is that most of us are still using still lenses for video. The majority of these have rather short focus throws, which means it can sometimes be incredibly hard/ impossible to follow a moving object/ person accurately when the movement on the barrel is sometimes so miniscule.

How many of you own F1.4 lenses? Shoot wide open a lot? Gave up on moving objects and stopped down? Of course you did…well you should have done!

I consider myself to be pretty good at keeping stuff in focus manually, even quite wide open, but that is only due to a lot of practice. I screw up a fair amount of times still. It’s just too bloody hard on some shots! Human error is the most common reason for me doing another take, not an issue with the equipment.


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So FINALLY this brings us to the C100 auto focus upgrade. Something I read about and dismissed about as fast as I read it. After all, I had the 70D and that has the dual pixel CMOS auto focus tech in it, and I had never been inclined to use it. I just really had no interest in it. I don’t like video auto focus. So even though I am an owner of a C100 (and C300) I moved on. It was only when Canon USA contacted me in late November about it did I put it back on my radar.

They wanted to hire me to test it out for them in a number of scenarios. I made it very clear straight away about my dislike for auto focus in video, I actually think they considered my opinion a benefit for this job! They wanted me to try it in different configurations and see how well it worked and then tell them on camera what I thought…

That’s caused two problems for me. Firstly if I agreed to being interviewed about it, what would happen if I didn’t like it? I would only be 100% truthful. Would they really want that from me? Secondly I didn’t want this to then become a paid endorsement of something I had never used, had no interest in using, and had no plans on getting. Ethically it was not good.

I asked if I could try it out first on my camera before deciding anything. With it being so new, that was not possible. There was at the time I think 1 maybe 2 cameras in the US late December/ January with the firmware. So they were going to send me a camera with it to try out to see what I thought. Unfortunately it didn’t happen. Due to my schedule and CES (where the camera was) getting the camera proved impossible. They knew of my strong ethical concerns about this and were very respectful of them thankfully.

This is what we agreed: I would be in the Miami right at the end of January for 10 days for a job anyway and on the day after I got in from London, they would give me the camera and let me test it out fully…whilst filming me. Afterwards they would interview me, warts and all, about exactly what I thought. I warned them it might not be pretty! If I hated it passionately I am pretty certain they would not be using me in their video! :)

For me there are two types of shooting where if it worked, autofocus could be very useful. Firstly where you couldn’t touch the lens…steadicam/ glidecam/ movi type devices. Secondly, wide open shallow depth of field, where human error isn’t too likely to get good results.

So there we go. I was going to shoot on the gorgeous Movi (a piece of gear I have had for a few months and have gotten quite good at, but mostly have to use in single operator mode which is very limiting due to focus issues. You really need a focus puller!) , some hand held wide open shots and some tripod shots.

Big thanks to MU2 Productions for the hire of the Movi. I couldn’t bring mine due to too much luggage already!

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I had a 1st AC with Juan Castaneda but instead of pulling focus he operated the tilt of the Movi!

Shooting with Movi and Small HD DP7 Pro monitor

You will understand more once you watch the video below but one of the biggest issues for me was the limitation of the auto focus area just being that small square in the middle. Never in every shot are you going to want your focus to be dead centre. The key to getting good results with the continuous autofocus, is clever use of the focus lock button, which I programmed onto function 7 in the photo below. I demonstrate it in the C100 autofocus video below.

The problem I had, though, was I wished I could have used it during the Movi shooting. I simply needed the ability to press the button. What is needed is a Zacuto Grip Relocater. You unscrew the side handle, run their extension cable to the grip holder which would be on one of the handle bars of the Movi and you would be sorted! 

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Pressing focus lock on the side grip really is key to success here.

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So what do I think? Am I a convert? Well you see the results in the video below that Canon USA put together. That there is a video at all says a lot!! I went from skeptical to marginally impressed, to frustrated, to very impressed…at times.

It is definitely a tool for your arsenal. Something you may never use or something you may use all the time. Depends on your style of shooting. It’s not cheap. It’s $500 in the USA (via this link) 400 euros or £340 (plus VAT). You may complain (and I hear you) that it’s a lot of money for a firmware upgrade, for something that was already in the cameras, but it is more than just new firmware. The sensor is re-calibrated to make sure the phase detection is working accurately. They had put the technology in there when the camera was made, and at that point were not sure if or when they would actually be able to make it work well enough to enable it. Hence the camera has to go back in to be made 100% accurate.

The other good news is the C300 will be able to get the same upgrade in May with the C500 next I expect. Don’t expect my beloved 1DC to get the same treatment, as it has a different sensor to the other C cameras which all share the exact same sensor. Shame…it really needs it, as it has no focus peaking…there is a point! If you can’t give me autofocus on my 1DC can I have focus peaking please? :)

The C100 is an excellent budget S35 video camera. It has so much going for it. A wonderful image, nice form factor, great LCD, amazing low light. It’s not perfect, but it is $5000. For a Super 35mm HD video camera, that’s pretty damn good. You can see my review of the camera at the bottom of the post…it was done last year before the autofocus of course.

Am I a convert? I would say yes…I am impressed enough to be booking my C100 in when I get back from NAB and also my C300 in May. How much will I use it? No idea. I think on the Movi I will use it a fair amount actually. That’s why it’s a shame it won’t be on my Movi camera of choice, 1DC. At least my C300 will have it, and this feature with the Zacuto grip relocator could be the answer to my one man 3 axis brushless gimbal problems!!

Just in this iteration I really wish we could move the area to be measured ourselves, and also change the reaction speed of the autofocus. Fast works well, slow also works well at times!

Going back to my opening paragraph about I don’t believe it will ever work the way I want it to, why is that? It simply cannot read my mind. That is what autofocus needs to do, to understand what I want in the frame to be in focus etc…Once we have that bluetooth implant for the cerebral cortex available, we will have the best of both worlds! Mind reading autofocus with mechanical precision…then again will my mind deliberately make the autofocus no longer work as well? Perhaps it will be trying to replicate the (flawed) human touch…in which case we are back to square one…

STOP DOWN! :)

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Dual Pixel AF on the EOS C100 Digital Video Camera from Canon Pro on Vimeo.

The better late than never review of the Canon C100 from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

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EDIT: WITH NEW VIDEO! An initial review of the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K + Downloadable native footage http://philipbloom.net/2014/03/21/an-initial-look-at-the-blackmagic-production-camera-4k/ http://philipbloom.net/2014/03/21/an-initial-look-at-the-blackmagic-production-camera-4k/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 18:26:30 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=31225  

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ETHICS: I have never been paid for a camera review by the manufacturer. It is impossible to remain impartial if you do. Independence is also key, for the same reasons. I have no deals with any camera company. I have worked for many on the odd job, but that is all. For me a camera is simply a tool, and who makes that tool doesn’t matter. I don’t care what badge is on it – as long as it’s good I am happy. I will continue to remain true to my ethics as long as I do any sort of camera review or offer any sort of opinion. Please remember anything I ever say is opinion and NOT fact. Never buy a camera based upon one person’s opinion. Try before you buy, if you can.

For more on my ethics and details about my website sponsors and affiliate whose banners and products appear on this site and why I have them then please click here
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EDIT 21st March:

Last week I shot with the camera for the first time properly outside in Northern Ireland at the Giant’s Causeway. An epic location and a challange for the camera. The first trip there was MISERABLE weather, pouring with rain, dark. Not much fun The camera is not weatherproof so cover it up!

I used the V-Lock battery system to keep it powered as it truly is hungry beyond belief. The glass was simply 3 zooms. The Sigma 18-35 F1.8, Tamron 24-70 F2.8, Canon 70-200 F4 IS.  Also used were the Light Craft Workshop excellent Rapid ND Variable ND filters. Tripod was the Really Right Stuff one with the news FH-350 head. I made the mistake on this trip of just using the back screen. NEVER AGAIN! So difficult to see what was going on

When I went back for the last 10 minutes of light at sunset (I was working on another job so I couldn’t get there earlier) I had my Small HD DP-7 PRO OLED. A world of difference.

I did a few shots at ISO 800 on both days. To be honest it was pointless. Really ugly noise. I also did find that verticle pattern others have mentioned plus a real odditiy, a weird cross hatch pattern came up on one shot when I pushed it really hard in post. Not seen it on anything else though.

Photos courtesy of Mervyn McKay

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The edit was fine, upsetting though to see all that noise. This camera needs light so much. I know they said “it’s not a low light camera”…now if a manufacturer says that you know that is the case and it really is. Once the sun went down even my Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 couldn’t cope.

I like what I got, when it wasn’t noisy but this experience with the camera was very dissapointing. I had to do A LOT of work in post to bring it to life. Was more than I have had to do on other Blackmagic cameras or any other camera…

After the video is the original post…

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Four Thousand Giants from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

 

I am currently slaving away at the epic Digital Bolex review edit (EDIT: NOW DONE AND UP ON THIS SITE), and it’s getting there. I just have way too much stuff, so trying to trim it back. It will be up as soon as I am 100% happy with it. I need a break from it occasionally. Yesterday my parents came up for lunch and I took advantage of that and shot with my new Blackmagic Production Camera 4K for the first time. I ordered it like many others did back in April, minutes after it was announced at NAB, and it’s taken a while hasn’t it!?

This was the first time I had shot anything with it really, due to numerous edits I am trying to get out during a nice extended period at home. All the edits are going a lot faster with my new MacPro (I will have a post about it and about traveling with soon!). Even though Premiere CC isn’t optimised for it yet, there is a definite speed increase for sure!! FCPX really flies, but for now I am very happy with CC…let’s not make this post about NLEs eh?

We already know from excellent reviews (like the 3 parts at Cinema 5D) about some of its issues. I haven’t shot enough to agree or disagree with the points made.

This is a very brief look, but I will review the camera. I like to spend time getting to know the camera and shooting with it in many situations before forming opinions. For now, this is what I have noticed.

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Frame grab of dad on the 24-70 Canon

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Frame grab of dad on the 85mm F1.2 Canon

Not truly 4k, which is 4096×2160. This is “Ultra HD” 3840 x 2160. Nothing wrong with that. Same as calling HD 2K. It isn’t. But UHD isn’t a sexy name really, is it?

Global shutter. I am not showing it off in the footage I am showing here, but I have looked at it, and the lack of skew & jello is wonderful! Nice to see, in an affordable camera.

The image detail certainly is impressive from what I have shot so far. I haven’t checked to see if there is any moire at all. 

Dynamic range is quoted as 12 stops. I have no reason to doubt that from what I have seen. 

ProRes HQ is a wonderful format. So nice to have it internally recorded here. No raw yet. That will come, but ProRes HQ is really more than enough for almost everything. Super easy to work with and incredibly grade-able when shot in “film mode”.

Yes, it’s not a sensitive camera. A lot worse than the original cinema cameras and the pocket camera, and let’s not even compare it to cameras like the C100 or FS100. I am not sure what the native ISO is, but I shot mostly at 400 for the piece below and for the stuff at F1.2 I used ISO 200, which is the lowest it goes. The highest it goes is only 800. Everything I have shot was lit with my two Gekko LED lights. The camera looks great when lit. I have yet to shoot in low-light or bright outside light.

Power consumption is shockingly high. The internal battery, which lasts around 90 minutes of standby time on the original cinema camera, lasts around 20 minutes or so on this one! I used a Zacuto V-Lock adaptor with D-Tap adaptor and my Sony V-Lock battery to keep her going. I filmed for about an hour, and the battery was around 50% full. You have to get a battery solution for this camera even more than you need to for the others. Blackmagic HAVE to sort out their power consumption on their cameras. There is absolutely no need for them to be as hungry as this. If my F55 can last more than twice as long as this camera, then something isn’t right! 

All the same issues as the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera I got almost 18 months ago. No clip deletion, no formatting of cards, no audio meters, pre-amps from hell, terrible form factor (it’s the exact same body as the 1st camera), screen is the same and is a wonderful mirror but that is all, no XLR inputs (just quarter inch jacks) and of course no phantom power, SDI-only, no HDMI. You have to get a rig for this camera. 

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The excellent Alphatron EVF

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So that’s it for now. I really like the image and the fact that it has global shutter, and ProRes HQ is wonderful. It’s also incredibly cheap, not counting the stuff you have to buy for it (it also comes with the full version of Davinci Resolve!)

It has some great things going for it and some massive pain in the arse things too, especially that sensitivity. I know it’s easier to just put a new sensor in a the same stuff you already have, but to make no improvements at all is bewildering, especially as this was announced as coming out in the Summer and here we are in March with very few actually shipped.

I really do hope they don’t announce any more cameras at NAB and concentrate on their current user base. They have to fix the issues with their 3 cameras so they work as every video camera should. To see this brand new camera that is damn good in so many ways let down instantly by the very same issues I complained about in September 2013 is really disappointing. Then bring out something killer that is made up of lessons learnt from what they have released so far.

The review will come as soon as I can and when it’s ready. It’s almost pointless really as this has the same problems I have already mentioned now in 3 reviews, with the pros being mentioned above!

Shoot info:

Canon 85mm F1.2 L  Great for those super shallow DOF shots

Canon 100mm L F2.8  Wonderful Macro lens

Canon 24-70mm F2.8 II L Damn fine sharp zoom. Amazing but expensive.

Really Right Stuff FH-350 head Interesting and impressive new fluid head. Will talk about this more once I have used it properly

Small HD DP7-PRO Monitor STUNNING monitor. INCREDIBLY OLED display. Now I just need the hi-brite one!

Zacuto Z-Drive and Tornado Follow Focus  Two cracking things and damn affordable for what they do. Essential on this piece for those pin point focus pulls. The Tornado is for handheld shooting and is terrific and innovate.

Zacuto half cage, baseplate, rods and v-lock adaptor  Essential kit for the Blackmagic Camera

Sony V-Lock battery

Gekko K7 LED Light  Lovely little back light

Gekko Karesslite 100 series Bi-Colour 3200K-5600K Blendable LED soft light  Small LED soft light for the key. Excellent

Edited in Premiere CC from film mode ProRes HQ, post sharpened by 19%

Graded with Red Giant’s Colorista II 10% off with code bloom10 click banner below

and FilmConvert Fujichrome Astia 100 film stock, desaturated and with crushed shadows. 10% off with code bloom at gopb.co/filmconvert

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Smoking sucks. Need help quitting then go to http://quit.org.uk

Hypocrisy then featuring smoking in this? Yes. My dad smokes cigars occasionally, his only vice, and after appearing in a number of my reviews smoking one of his bad boys, especially the one that B&H have used on their monitors in their store for about 3 years now, he asked if I wanted to test another camera out one da, ,he said he would be keen…he liked the super slow motion FS700 one the best!

So this is my first footage of the camera. I haven’t had a chance to test much of it out at all. So when dad came up for lunch, I got it all set up.

My dad may look as hard a nails in this but trust me, he is as soft as a blancmange that has been left out in the sun! :)

Thanks dad, love you loads. x

You can download most of the shots used in here after the video via WeTransfer, basically as many as I could get into 10GB. They aren’t even the full shots just the bits I used with 200 frames of handles either side. They are for personal use only and cannot be used commercially. Full credits are required within the video and accompanying text info to both myself and my dad Arnie Bloom plus my website www,philipbloom.net

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Romeo No.3: Blackmagic Production Camera 4K from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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The below files are for personal use only and cannot be used commercially. Full credits are required within the video and accompanying text info to both myself and my dad Arnie Bloom plus my website www,philipbloom.net

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The new Really Right Stuff FH-350 Fluid head

The new Really Right Stuff FH-350 Fluid head

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Review of the Zacuto C300/ C500/ Blackmagic Pocket Camera Z-Finder PLUS get yourself a nice C-Cup for your C100! http://philipbloom.net/2014/03/19/zfindersandcups/ http://philipbloom.net/2014/03/19/zfindersandcups/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 20:55:50 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=31196 zacuto-banner-2

Zacuto are affiliates of this website, any purchases through the links help keep the site running and help fund things like those epic camera reviews I make! Please read my ethics statement here.

This post reviews the C300/ c500 Z-Finder from Zacuto plus the new handle system as well as the Blackmagic Pocket Camera Z-Finder and also looks at the Kickstarter project C-Cup for the C100.

Zacuto C300/C500 Z-Finder system review

When Zacuto brought out the first Z-Finder for the 5DmkII almost 5 years ago, suddenly we had a hope in hell of getting our shots in focus. Since then they have refined it, brought out the cheaper junior, and of course added their EVF for it. I still use the Z-Finder Pro on the back screen of my Canon 1DC all the time. It’s an essential piece of kit that I cannot recommend enough.

The original Z-Finder on the left with the 2.5x and 3x Pro plus the Junior

The original Z-Finder on the left with the 2.5x and 3x Pro plus the Junior

The 7D with the original Z-Finder

The 7D with the original Z-Finder

The 5D with the Z-Finder Pro

The 5D with the Z-Finder Pro

Many people have, like myself, largely moved onto large sensor video cameras, and we have been stuck with substandard resolution electronic view finders. So for many cameras like the FS100, FS700 and others, we have been using 3rd party EVFs like Zacuto’s one. Way better than the built-in ones.

The C300, though, has an “OK” EVF. Not brilliant, but usable, and you can just about get accurate focus with it. It is at the back of the camera though, so it doesn’t work for a lot of people’s configurations. I often use it when handheld without a rig, which I like to do quite often, as rigs to be totally frank are a pain in the arse. They are, for the most part, a necessary evil. With most large sensor camcorders not being shoulder mounted, we simply have to get rigs for a lot of handheld work.

The camera has an odd design. The LCD and XLR module sits on top of the camera, either straight into the cold shoe or onto the handle’s cold shoe. By which point, it gets quite high. The screen though is really rather good, with an impressive resolution of 1280×960. Compare that to the Zacuto EVF’s 800×480 and you can understand why it’s always been such a shame they never brought out a Z-Finder Loup for that screen. It would be incredible!

Deity thought the screen should be used like this and brought out the terrific Mira around a year ago. Pricey at around $695 plus shipping, but incredibly well made and with terrific optics. With this mounted on the C300 screen, I suddenly had an incredible EVF. The best I have ever used.

It had a couple of issues that bugged me. The mounting clip meant you could close the screen properly, and when mounted with the handle which is for handheld use, it rubbed ever so slightly on the body…other than that it is excellent.

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Zacuto have  recently announced their new Z-Finder the C300 and C500 (They already have a special one for the C100 as that screen is a different size) IT’S ABOUT TIME!! They are little bit late to the party, although the party only had one guest and that was Deity!

Quite why it’s taken 2 years to come out is beyond me. This camera has become one of the most popular cameras out there by far. It’s used everywhere, and once you have used their new Z-Finder and new handle system, you will have wished, like me, that they had brought it out back when the camera came out…mind you, the handle system wouldn’t have been like what they have released, as their designs have changed quite a lot in the past 12 months or so. Much more daring and innovative!

Replacing the existing handle set-up is a smart move. It was actually the biggest issue with the Mira really, that rubbing on the body. There are different options for this from them.

There is a handle with an additional cold shoe on it and one without, also in a light or dark wood. You can also get the mounting kit which lets you position the Z-Finder where you want it to be, within reason. Zacuto stuff is great, as it’s all so modular. You can add or take away bits to make it work exactly how you want it. You aren’t limited to how they have designed it. For example, their main set up for handheld is for their excellent “RECOIL RIG” but of course many people don’t have this or maybe want to shoot without a rig. With some fiddling, I was able to get it set up just right for that.

The way the Z-Finder goes on the screen is way better than the Mira’s. It has a very clever sleeve that you slide over the screen. When you want to pack the camera away, just pull the sleeve off. It also is hinged, so when you want to just look at the screen and not use the Z-Finder, it’s very simple!

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The built in the EVF and the lovely wooden handle

 

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DSC01731 You can get the screen/ Z-finder into so many different positions. Very adaptable.

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The included monitor lock clip. This is simple but actually really important to make sure that screen stays rigid.

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The Z-Finder looks like an over-sized DSLR Z-Finder. It has a similar magnification factor to the C100′s, one of 1.8x. The Mira is 3X and to be honest a bit too much. 1.8x is just right to see all the image.

It includes 4 interchangeable anti-fog glass diopters, 0, +1, +2, and +3, plus the red dial gives you fine tuning. It’s very well made and solid like the DSLR one. It’s plastic unlike the Mira which is, as they call it “high tech metal alloy”. In the below video from Zacuto, Steve says it’s like 3 or 4 times heavier. It’s not. Despite one being plastic and one metal, they are surprising similar in weight. If you don’t count the sleeve of the Z-Finder, it absolutely is lighter but you have to. I weighed them both to see. As you can see below (despite only saving photos of different measurement formats), they aren’t that different. The Z-Finder is about 13% lighter than the Mira.

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That’s 396 grams in metric!!

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…or 16 ounces

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Optically, I really couldn’t see much difference at all. Both are superb. The Zacuto one has a better mounting system with the sleeve, is a bit lighter, and is 30% cheaper than the Mira. If you have a Mira, it’s pointless buying the Z-Finder, apart from that nice add on by Zacuto to make the screen rigid when you push your eye up against it. But the handle and mounting arm are essential purchases for existing Mira owners as it gets past that rubbing of the camera issue that I hate!

As I will finally be getting my C300 back from Canon after a lengthy repair and hefty bill, it will be great to use the Z-Finder with it. Yes, I will most likely choose the Z-Finder over the Mira simply because its mounting system is better. The Mira looks nicer to be honest, but that’s a minor consideration!

To order any of these go to the Zacuto C300 C500 accessories page on their store by clicking here

Check out Steve and Jens’ presentation video below…

Zacuto Z-Finder and Mounts for the Canon C300 and C500 from Zacuto on Vimeo.

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Blackmagic Pocket camera Z-Finder review

I have used the original one with their frame for the 1DX / 1DC. It’s a bit too small, as you can’t see the whole screen, but better than nothing. Zacuto have made a wider one designed specifically for this camera. Not much to say really, other than it works great. Is damn cheap at $165 and really is a must buy. It fits perfectly, has the perfect magnification and is super light.

The only downside is actually the screen of the camera itself. It has a weird texture going on, a bit like watercolour paper when magnified.

It’s totally redesigned, this Z-Finder. Based on the junior to keep it really light it has drop in diopters like the C300 one, but no wheel. You get 4 diopters included with it, 0, +1, +2, and +3.

As the screen isn’t touch screen, unlike the bigger Blackmagics, there is no problem with accessing controls, as they are all buttons on the camera. So as Rodney Charters, ASC says below. It’s essential for handheld shooting. For rigs? I would look at an EVF really, but for simple handheld shooting this is perfect.

You can order it by clicking the banner below or here. 

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First Look at the Zacuto Blackmagic Pocket Camera Z-Finder from Zacuto on Vimeo.

Last but not least is a little Kickstarter project run by a C100 owner for C100 owners…the C-CUP!!

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The eye cup of the EVF is practically non existent!

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One of the compromises made to make the C100 cheaper than the C300 was giving it a much worse viewfinder. The C300 one, as mentioned above, isn’t brilliant but it’s usable. The C100 one, though, is terrible. Part of the issue is actually the eye cup. The angle, position, and lack of adjustability make it close to useless.

C100 shooter Andrew Miller from Texas wanted to use it, and as nobody else was making what he needed, he has decided to simply use Kickstarer to help make a product he needs. He is not planning on becoming a camera accessory manufacturer. This is simply a one-off. A Kickstarter for a very niche market…but it’s already been funded, so there we go! $40 gets you a WAY more practical eye cup replacement. 269 people as of writing have backed it, with only 3 days to go you had better  get in there now if you want one!! Click the banner below to go the Kickstarter page.

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I have not actually tried it so I am going on faith here, but I have backed it and look forward to getting one myself!

If you want a REALLY good EVF then the Zacuto C100 one is fantastic. It’s what I use as you can see below. But of course it’s more than $40, it’s $365 as it includes a mounting frame and a special Z-Finder Pro, not a Jr and sticky frame like the Blackmagic one. 

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Andrew Miller wanted a C-Cup!!

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The C-Cup

 

 

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My Rode Reel film competition! AMAZING prizes…great competition! http://philipbloom.net/2014/03/14/rodereel/ http://philipbloom.net/2014/03/14/rodereel/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 21:55:02 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=31293 Rode Microphones are great friends of mine since before we did our first workshop together about 4 years ago (or was it 5?)

We developed a relationship after I started using their Video Mic, and it’s just grown and grown. I am now one of their sponsored shooters, which would never have happened if I didn’t use their gear first and recommend it!

This is a really EPIC competition, something that should get you fired up to get out there, with the added bonus of all these crazy prizes to win!

Don’t wait too long to enter, certainly not until the deadline, as public voting which forms one of the categories is open NOW. Plus there is a bonus prize: if you enter before the 1st of April you get a copy of Pluraleyes free!

If you do wait until May 31st when entries close, you would have little chance in the public vote category due to being two months behind on some entries! It won’t affect the judges category though, which I am part of.

That being said, don’t cut corners and rush it, take your time and make it good!!!

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ALL THE INFO BELOW FROM RODE!!

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Win a share of more than $70,000 in the “My RØDE Reel” International Short Film Contest

RØDE is excited to announce the ‘My RØDE Reel’ international short film competition, conceived to nurture emerging, independent filmmakers and give them the opportunity to share in more than US$70,000 in prizes.

Running from March until June, the aim of the ‘My RØDE Reel’ contest is to encourage filmmakers from all walks of life to get out in the field, creating films and continually improve their craft.
Entrants to ‘My RØDE Reel’ are required to create a short film of five minutes or less, as well as a behind-the-scenes reel that features a RØDE microphone being used during the production of the film. RØDE has provided an entry pack that steps through the process, as well as templates for scripting, storyboarding and more, available now by registering at www.myrodereel.com.

There are three main prizes of filmmaking gear available to win — a judge’s prize for the short film, a judge’s prize for the behind-the-scenes reel, and a publicly voted prize for the short film. Additional category prizes are available for Best Sound Design, Best Soundtrack and more.
The total prize pool is valued at more than US$70,000 and includes BlackMagic and GoPro cameras, Carl Zeiss lenses, Miller tripods, RedRock Micro rigs, SmallHD and Teradek monitoring equipment, Kessler sliders and jibs, ThinkTank Photo bags, Event studio monitors, G-Technology storage, TetherTools accessories, software from Adobe and RedGiant, licensing credit from The Music Bed, and of course plenty of RØDE microphones. A full list of the prize packs is available at www.myrodereel.com.

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RØDE has brought together a respected judging panel for ‘My RØDE Reel’ that includes such inspirational filmmakers as Philip Bloom, FIlmRiot host Ryan Connolly and Devin Graham, best known from his high-adrenalin YouTube channel Devin SuperTramp.

“Film competitions are fantastic ways to encourage people to push their creativity in ways they don’t normally.” commented Philip Bloom. “The My RØDE Reel competition will not only do that with its high profile, but help the filmmakers with terrific exposure! I can’t wait to see what people come up with!”

“If getting your work seen by industry pros like Philip Bloom and having the chance to win some of these amazing prizes doesn’t get you off the couch, I don’t know what will!” added Ryan Connolly.

Devin Graham was equally excited to be involved: “This contest gives filmmakers an amazing opportunity to grow, learn from each other, and win some amazing prizes that will take them to the next level.”

To help aspiring filmmakers with their entries, RØDE has produced an educational series of tips & tricks videos. Hosted by Ryan Connolly and Olivia Speranza, the course guides viewers through the filmmaking process from pre-production through to shooting and on to post-production and distribution.

 

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Video review of the Digital Bolex D-16 http://philipbloom.net/2014/03/07/d16/ http://philipbloom.net/2014/03/07/d16/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 04:26:44 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=30870 My Bolex collection, including bottom right, my Digital Bolex

My Bolex collection with the Digital Bolex D16 bottom right

ETHICS STATEMENT

LIKE ALL MY CAMERA REVIEWS, THIS IS TOTALLY INDEPENDENT.
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO BE PAID BY A MANUFACTURER AND REMAIN UNBIASED.

I AM NOW FRIENDS WITH JOE FROM DIGITAL BOLEX, BUT HE KNOWS THAT
I HAVE TO BE 100% HONEST ABOUT THE CAMERA, AND HE RESPECTS THAT.

THESE ARE ENTIRELY SELF FUNDED.
MY OPINIONS ARE ENTIRELY MY OWN AND SHOULD BE TREATED AS SUCH.
NEVER BASE A PURCHASE ON ONE PERSON’S OPINION.
ESPECIALLY MINE!

PLEASE TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!!

ANY DONATIONS FOR THESE SELF FUNDED REVIEWS VIA
VIMEO TIP JAR ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED & HELP FUND FUTURE REVIEWS.
FOR MORE ON MY ETHICS & WEBSITE AFFILIATES LIKE THE MUSIC BED, ZACUTO & FILM CONVERT THEN
PLEASE VISIT GOPB.CO/ETHICS

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Well it’s finally done. It took a while, but it was worth taking my time so I could really get to know the camera.

It has been great fun shooting with this camera for the past two months, and I loved the images I have captured with it, many examples of which you can see in the review.

There isn’t much to write about as it’s all said in the video review. Hopefully I cover most things. The camera is available to buy (on back order) here.  Any more questions please write in the comments section below.

Music is courtesy of The Music Bed GoPb.co/musicbed apart from the one track used in the “Rain City” piece, which is of the same name by Turin Brakes. All tracks are listed when they come on in the video at the bottom of the screen.

Video is colour corrected with Magic Bullet Colorista II. All Bolex footage has gone through either DaVinci Resolve or Pomfort’s Lightpost which comes with the camera. Davinci doesn’t want to connect the .wav with the clips right now, which is a pain. Lightpost has no problem with that, but has a lot less parameters, though it’s quicker.

Final grading was done with FilmConvert and various settings. Discount codes for various Magic Bullet Products including Colorista II, their excellent suites and Filmconvert area available. Details on the two banners below. Click through to go to them.

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Below is the short piece I made in Miami called “Ocean on Fire”. The “Timefest” edit within the review is not currently made as a standalone. If people want that, it’s easy enough to do!

Thanks for you patience, as you know it’s all done in my “spare time” whatever that is!! Any purchases through the various affiliates on my website and via the TIP JAR on the actual Vimeo page are greatly appreciated, no matter how small. It all goes to help fund future reviews. This one after all took about, when added up, around 3 solid weeks of work! Thanks!

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I exported this as ProRes Proxy with a resulting file of 10gb! Well it is 42 minutes long. Thankfully Vimeo Pro lets me upload this stupid size file, and with 1TB of annual storage I will be fine! Phew! 

Review shot on the Sony F55 in 4K for reframability. All the shots of me are one single shot on the GL-Optics 18-35mm F1.8 at around F5.6. No reframing was done optically. All shot by myself!

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Review of the Digital Bolex D16 from Philip Bloom Reviews and Tutorials on Vimeo.

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Ocean on fire shot on Digital Bolex D16 from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Switronix battery add on for the Digital Bolex

Switronix battery add on for the Digital Bolex

 

ORIGINAL POST FROM 21ST JANUARY 2014

With my absolutely EPIC Sony A7r, A7, RX10 video review all done it’s time to move onto the next one! The Digital Bolex D-16. The review is mostly shot, I just need to do a few more bits then edit it. I have shot loads of footage and that will be in the review video.

On tbe 1st of January I decided to quickly cut together some footage I shot in the absolutely MISERABLE pouring rain of London’s South Bank. Lenses used were the C mount Fujinon 25mm F0.85 and the Computar 12mm F1.4. Mostly shot at ISO 100 with a few shots at ISO 400 for those really really dark bits. God, it was truly miserable today!

Wet and miserable filming in the pouring rain on London's South Bank

Wet and miserable filming in the pouring rain on London’s South Bank

I really like the stuff I got today. Looks quite lovely, more or less everything until now has been indoors. The only downside I can see is the old pink highlights issue that I have seen on far too many cameras like REDs, Blackmagic, 5D3 raw…these get fixed with firmware quite quickly, normally. Best advice, hold those highlights to avoid this!

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I wanted to share with you the whole lot, all the cinema DNGs…well that wasn’t going to happen. FAR TOO BIG! Instead, I have taken the shots I have used in the edit and given you ProRes HQ versions, colour corrected very simply in Davinci Resolve with the flat look of Blackmagic Film. The shots given are longer than the ones I used in my edit below.  There are also some still DNG frames from most of the shots and one whole Cinema DNG shot to play with. If you do use any of these, then please credit me and my website PhilipBloom.Net. These shots are strictly for personal use only. This is a very large download of 8.15b so you are warned!

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Rain City: Initial shooting with the Digital Bolex D-16 from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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Now…onto the camera. I backed the Digital Bolex on Kickstarter back on March 13th last year. It was a very nerve-wracking thing to do. Despite the legendary name of Bolex attached to it, itself not exactly doing much these days, this was a camera being made by people with no apparent experience in making cameras. It was also a fair amount of money to put down, around $3000, especially with Kickstarter’s scary way of operating in that you give all the money straight away and HOPE a product one day turns up with no comeback if they don’t.

Why was this of interest to me? Super 16mm is a lovely format to shoot with. With a much deeper depth of field than S35, it has its pros and cons. The pros being it’s a hell of a lot easier to keep stuff in focus! I had shot a little with the lovely but very quirky Ikonoskop, it produced lovely images, but at around 10,000 Euros it wasn’t cheap. This camera however was cheaper, it had the Bolex name, would shoot raw and looked lovely and retro design wise, it looked like a Bolex.

It helped that I spoke to Joe and Elle from Digital Bolex for my post  to put them the questions that I needed to the answers to. The answers helped a lot so I backed it. I was worried still, as me backing it meant others followed…that’s a lot of responsibility.

It has felt a lot longer than just over 18 months waiting for the camera, as so much has happened in the camera world.  In that time I have met Joe and Elle a couple of times and spoken to Joe on email many times. But, as I’m sure you are all aware, we now have a very cheap Super 16mm raw camera on the market and two slightly larger sensor versions from Blackmagic. Massive competition for Digital Bolex and very importantly…you could get them more or less immediately (Pocket Camera is still in short supply) which made me, and I am sure many other patient backers, worry about out investment. 21 months later a very valid question to ask is “do we REALLY need a Super 16mm video camera anyway? Don’t we all love Super 35mm and larger?” An important question, and one I will ask myself a lot in my video review.

Now we all know the BMD cameras are far from perfect, but they are damn cheap. So why is the Digital Bolex still of interest? To be frank that is totally subjective. If we just go by the camera with the closest specs and more importantly the same S16mm sized sensor (the BMD Pocket Camera) as comparison, it doesn’t fare so well in some areas, but does much better in others.

This is not a full review, I will do that as soon as possible. This is just my initial thoughts….so please take them as that, as my thoughts always change over time once I shoot more with a camera. So far my experience with the D-16 has been very limited.

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BEAUTIFUL packing!

BEAUTIFUL packaging!

What the Super 16mm Digital Bolex has over the Super 16mm BMD Pocket Camera from my initial observations

Global Shutter so no skewing.

Proper audio with 2 balanced XLRs with Phantom Power.

Internal SSD of up to 512gb and two CF slots for offloading to. Very fast offload with USB built-in and camera can be switched off when doing this, as drives simply operate like any USB 3 external drive.

Absolutely no moire or aliasing that I have seen. Zero, zlich.

A very filmic image, more so than the BMD Pocket Camera. It really has a proper S16mm look to it, not just a S16mm sized sensor.

Audio meters! Audio Pots!

60FPS at 720p and 90FPS at 480p, as well as the up to 30p in full 2K.

The ability to format in-camera, but not delete clips yet.

Accurate time remaining on media and battery life indicators. The Pocket camera does not tell you how much space you have left on your card. It just stops recording when it has run out.

Surprisingly, a really nice form factor. Especially with the grip, it’s a lovely handheld camera. You actually hold the trigger to keep rolling and release to stop…like a Bolex film camera. Of course, the grip comes off and it can go on a tripod.

C-mount built-in means there are LOTS of, currently, cheap lenses to grab. More lens mounts will come, which will replace the front of the camera, most importantly MFT as hopefully we will be able to use the Metabones Pocket Camera Speedbooster.

No mini or micro HDMI nonsense here. Full, fat, full size HDMI connector for clean out to use with an external recorder, or more likely, like me, a Zacuto EVF as the screen is utter pants and doesn’t tilt enough up anyway. With a side cold shoe, it’s actually really easy to mount the Zacuto EVF, and hand-held is a piece of cake. You don’t actually need a rig with this camera unless you go down the heavier lens route or mount external batteries.

With the Zacuto Z-Finder

With the Zacuto Z-Finder

 

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With the Sigma 18-35 F1.8 Nikon mount...heavy!

With the Sigma 18-35 F1.8 Nikon mount…heavy!

 

With one of my vintage lenses.

With one of my vintage lenses.

What the Super 16mm BMD Pocket Camera has over the Super 16mm Digital Bolex from my initial observations

Better sensitivity…the Pocket Camera is rated as 800, the Bolex I believe is around 200-300. It cannot currently go higher than 400, but this will change to 800 with imminent new firmware. I don’t like to use the Pocket Camera over 800, as it gets too noisy. Neither are low-light cameras, but the Pocket Camera fairs better here.

ProRes internal recording OR Cinema DNG. This makes a difference for quick working. ProRes HQ is a wonderful format, and most of the time shooting raw is not needed, due to the increase in workflow time and the much higher cost in capturing media and storage media due to the massive files that raw creates.

Playback of clips. This is coming in firmware to the Bolex but is not ready as of yet. No Playback. Although when I first got my Epic, I had about 6 months of no playback! There is still no ability to format the cards though!

The active MFT mount is great with all the choice of glass and many adaptors out there, PLUS the wonderful Metabones Pocket Camera Speed Booster.

Removable battery (although you need a lot of them), Bolex has internal that lasts around 3-4 hours.

Recording onto SDHC media, whilst the cards that work are hugely expensive, it is more convenient that currently only being able to record onto the internal SSD.

Much cheaper…without the accessories.

It’s a lot smaller…and a lot lighter!!

The screen on the Pocket Camera sucks…it’s still WAY better than the absolutely awful one on the Bolex…lets just use that for menus only!

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So which is better? They are VERY different. Let’s just wait until my review where I will do some direct comparisons. So far though, I really enjoying shooting with it. It just feels lovely in the hand and makes me feel like I am using one of my old film cameras. After all, the whole point of this camera according to Joe is to make a true digital Super 16mm film camera. Have they succeeded? I will find out soon…after all, I have MANY Bolex film cameras, so I know them very well! But also as I mentioned before…do we really need this camera? Is it simply a hark back to a past that we don’t actually need anymore? Or is it a brave and maybe even successful attempt to make a true digital film camera?

My Bolex collection, including bottom right, my Digital Bolex

My Bolex collection, including bottom right, my Digital Bolex

One thing I feel that they are trying to do, and are doing a pretty good job so far, is the revitalisation of a legendary brand. Bolex was ubiquitous when it came to shooting 8mm and 16mm film. Of course, they will always be known as that and never as THE video camera, an impossible task with the market we have now. Digital Bolex are aiming at a certain niche, they are aiming at an almost boutique market really, where this camera becomes not just a very effective too for certain tastes and needs, but an object of desire. Something to be seen to own. I could be wrong, but with the just-arrived leather case for the camera, this cements if even more for me. If their primary goal was practicality, this bag wouldn’t be a beautifully crafted hand stitched tan leather “man-bag-esque” product, it would be a LowePro!

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Review of the New Atomos Ninja Blade and Samurai Blade http://philipbloom.net/2014/02/24/blade/ http://philipbloom.net/2014/02/24/blade/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 09:00:52 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=31045  

 

 

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Updated for the New Atomos Ninja Blade, review by James Miller: Scroll down for the Atomos Samurai Blade review.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying out the new Atomos Ninja Blade. If you’re going to BVE Expo (www.bvexpo.com) over the next few days, come and see the Ninja Blade and the full range of Atomos products at the Atomos stand (G32). For more about Atomos visit  www.atomos.com.

Atomos Ninja Blade

Atomos Ninja Blade

 

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For me a Canon 1DC user, I have been using the Atomos Samurai Blade, a fine product that caters for SDI users and, if you use the Atomos Connect HDMI to SDI, HDMI users are catered to as well. Great to have the option of connecting to a video village via cable as I have done with the Samurai Blade.

Now that Atomos have updated the Ninja in line with the Samurai, this will be a much simpler solution for me when I don’t need the added support of SDI. And even if I did, I could use the battery-sized Atomos Connect SDI to HDMI.

What the Ninja Blade gives you is a super bright new screen that is viewable in more extreme angles. Gone is the 800×400 4×3 screen and in its replacement, a stunning 1280 x 720 16:9 SuperAtom IPS touchscreen (325ppi) 179-degree viewing angle and 400nit brightness. Focus peaking and other colour information such as false colour and zebras are still there but are joined by the indispensable waveforms, guides and colour tools.

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Noted from the press release “Every screen is calibrated to SMPTE Rec 709 colour space and a D65 white point with 100% gamut from factory. On-the-fly screen calibration is built into every Ninja Blade, so you are always accurate in any shooting environment”.

To me the Ninja Blade screen is notably brighter than the Samurai Blade, and this has really helped filming in bright daylight and snow. But this might just be down to screen calibration. On paper, the Atomos Ninja Blade and Samurai are identical display wise.

Before I used the Atomos recorders, I did expect the units to be heavy and weigh down the camera. But every time I pick them up, I remember how light and small the units are. Especially when running from SSD drives, the on-camera weight is not a problem. It’s not made of plastic, built to save weight, but from aircraft grade aluminium. And with no internal fan to annoy your sound recordist, it’s silent to use. (when using SSD drives of course).

Battery usage is very good too, with just using the supplied small Sony NP. I normally use 2 small Sony NP batteries and a medium size battery for a general shoot day.PB_promoBanner_670x67_V02
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The software is pretty much the same as the Samurai. You won’t have as many audio channels, but this should not be a problem. It’s great that you can offset the audio to picture latency when coming from such cameras as the 1DC, where no audio follows HDMI and you have to rely on an external input. I can vouch that these inputs and recording levels work very well and use this set up with a sound man regularly.

A must-have addition is the sun shade. It attaches via thumb screws to top and bottom that still allow you to mount an attachment. I would like to see a larger version of this sun hood, but it’s still very usable as is.

Atomos will now supply Canon and Nikon battery clip-over adapters if you need a solution other than the Sony NP batteries, very helpful in a pinch.

Although Atomos are on the right track, what I can hope for from future software updates is a pixel / pixel 100% native area punch in. This would really help when shooting shallow dof, especially so with 4k internal HD on the Ninja. Peaking when looking at a wide overall scene is never going to be that accurate, when you’re trying to pick out a nose or an eye in focus. What I have done when recording just to the ninja (bypassing the internal card) is just used the 1DC punch in for a second without the need to stop rolling. Seems lazy but is actually very handy sometimes. I’d also like to see false sharpness added when peaking is sometimes not efficient possible.

Really, unless you need SDI out of the box and don’t want to use the tiny Atomos Connect to signal convert, this would be the unit to go for over the Blade Samurai.

Atomos Connect SDI to HDMI

Atomos Connect SDI to HDMI

It’s a great step up from the Atomos Ninja or Ninja 2, and SDI can be added later when you need it. It makes a perfect match for many DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras, and the Canon C100 with its HDMI-only out. Bypassing its internal codec for nice easy-to-edit Prores HQ.

We all love the fantasy of shooting 4k or higher, but really unless you have the backend to support this, you have to think whether you really need it quite yet. And having recently been shooting with the Blackmagic 4k Production camera, I have to say SSD disk space is soon eaten up. 3240Gb 36mins on Prores HQ. It’s great to shoot in 4k, but having the ability to have quick-turnaround HD files when paired up with the Nija Blade using the Atomos Connect is a great feature. It might seem pointless having two similar size screens, but even if you use the Ninja Blade for waveforms and colour aids, it would be a great help on the Blackmagic.

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Price information taken from the press release.

The Atomos Ninja Blade is now shipping for 995 USD, 749 EUR and 595 GBP List Price (excluding tax and delivery) and will be available through the Atomos Worldwide reseller network. See www.atomos.com for more details.

For reference, the Atomos Samurai Blade list price is 849 GBP & Atomos Connect signal converters are 199 GBP.

 

Samurai Blade Review Below posted  Jan 27, 2014:

I wish we didn’t need to have external recorders. There…I said it. They are a necessary evil. I would rather be able to record internally to the quality I need without having to resort to external devices but the reality is most cameras don’t record in a high enough quality. Thankfully then, they  do exist. I have been using them since my first one which was the rather big Aja KiPro. I still have a few including the Sound Devices Pix240 and the Atomos Ninja and Samurai (soon to be joined by the Convergent Design 7Q)

Atomos have made a name for themselves with budget recorders, the Samurai Blade is by far the best recorder they have made. It’s wonderful. I use it with my C100 when I need a better codec. My good friend and fellow shooter James Miller uses it with his 1DC and has kindly written this excellent review of the Blade which he bought a couple of months ago. 

GUEST POST BY JAMES MILLER

I’ve been using the Atomos Samurai ‘Blade’ hooked up to the Canon 1DC now for a couple of months. I purchased the Blade as I’ve been shooting lots of long interviews and B-Roll shots for a series of corporate films.

Atomos Samurai Blade

Atomos Samurai Blade

I have the option of recording to the camera and to also to the Blade. For some recent interviews I recorded just to the Blade. This way the interviews can go on for a couple of hours without worrying about swapping cards on the camera. I do stop recording between questions, for safety and for ease of edit. I have never had a problem doing this, so far!! I have had a couple of occasions where the 1DC has locked up, and the only way to stop it was to pull the battery. If you do this, the last clip will be unusable, but the clip from the Blade will be fine, just not 4k etc.

Atomos Samurai Blade with Zacuto mounting options.

Atomos Samurai Blade with Zacuto mounting options & some mints :)

I used the Atomos Ninja and Samurai numerous times before, but up until the Blade I was never happy using one of them as a monitoring solution. After a brief encounter with a Blade, I knew Atomos finally produced a unit that doubles as a monitor.

Brighton Kiss -
This was also filmed on the stunning Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 ZF.2, courtesy of Guy Thatcher.

I use the Canon 1DC for about 80% of my work and mostly film in 4k. Not because I really need 4k, I just want 1080 at a decent resolution. Of course, the 1DC has only HDMI out and the Samurai Blade has only SDI in and out. For this bridge, I first used the Black Magic Rugged HDMI to SDI converter but found it was hard to mount without using tape, and the battery would only last 2hrs. Also the TC Record trigger did not pass through the 1DC to the Blade using the Black Magic unit.

Luckily with the help of CVP I ordered the Atomos ‘Connect’ HDMI to SDI. It’s a handy unit that mounts onto the Battery plate of the Blade allowing you to piggy back the standard battery. This will, in turn, charge the ‘Connect’ and act as a pass through powering the Blade.

Atomos 'Connect'

Atomos ‘Connect’

 

Atomos Connect, Shown with SDI and HDMI input on the top.

Atomos Connect, Shown with SDI and HDMI input on the top.

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Be careful when ordering, as it’s easy to order the SDI to HDMI instead of the HDMI to SDI as they look identical. It’s a must-purchase, if you intend to use the record trigger from the Canon 1DC to the Atomos Blade.

At last the Atomos Blade has full size SDI connections and not the mini males from the original Samurai. You will also have the option of using an additional SDI monitor or two if needed, as the Blade has pass-through and the Atomos ‘Connect’ has two SDI ‘outs’.

Atomos Samurai Blade, Directors Monitor

Atomos Samurai Blade, Directors Monitor

Mounting options are just like an external small monitor. For handheld, go for a small good quality ball/hot shoe mount, like the Manfrotto 492LCD Micro Ball Head. Don’t be tempted to use cheap ones like I once did, resulting in the Blade dropping from the camera. If you’re going to be on sticks this is fine, but for panning shots or a slider look at other options to get a lower centre of gravity. Zacuto have many options for this. See pic. Leaving it on the top, especially with rolling shutter issues on the 1DC, will induce wobble.

Atomos Blade with Ball mount on the Hot Shoe.

Atomos Blade with Ball mount on the Hot Shoe. (Note the beautiful Zeiss Otus)

 

Atomos Blade showing Zacuto mounting options.

Atomos Blade showing Zacuto mounting options.

The beauty of using the 1DC is the fact that, whilst in 4k mode, the image out of HDMI is amazing in resolution. Much more so than in S35 or Full Frame mode. Coupled with the Blade, you can capture detail not seen from HD on the Canons. The Blade now has waveforms and peaking (focus assist). The waveforms operate really well and are available in 3 position sizes & intensity, very handy to use full screen when in bright light.

Atomos Blade full screen waveform display.

Atomos Blade full screen waveform display.

 

Atomos Blade small picture in picture waveform display.

Atomos Blade small picture in picture waveform display.

I also have the ability to capture my 4k clips in-camera at the same time as recording Prores HQ to SSD drive on the Blade. You don’t have to use 2.5” SSD to capture, but I dropped my Blade as it slipped from the camera and apart from a dent, the data was fine. Couldn’t say I would have been confident to continue using the Blade that day if I were using standard spinning 2.5” HDD.

It’s not all plain sailing using the Canon 1DC and the Atomos Blade, because when in 4k mode the HDMI is locked at 4k Aspect and on a 1080 recording you will get black bars top and bottom. If you need to enlarge back up, it’s 7% to loose the bars, but even so it still holds more detail than S35 mode. This is down to the way the Canon handles the feed and nothing to do with the Atomos. I wish that the 1DC would have a HDMI recording only option that could fill frame but in the same quality as when in 4k mode.

One thing to bare in mind is that if recording interviews using external sound into the Blade, for reference or as a master (Audio is not supported over HDMI on Canon 1DC), the sync will be off by a few frames. Luckily if you do clapper tests before your shoot, you have the option to shift sync + or -. This is very handy and will save headaches later in shifting audio layers.

You will find, if using audio only as a scratch track, that Plural Eyes only likes audio from the Blade on Channels 1&2. So if you are not using chan 1 & 2, switch off unused tracks as these will hamper your efforts to sync in Plural Eye or FCPX. You can amend the QT file one by one like I had to, but it’s painful if you have more than 50 clips.

As a recent firmware user update, we now can monitor in Rec709/ Log or adjust to suit. I find Log from the Canon is slightly different from what gets recorded to 4k internal but in a good way.

Rec. 709 Screen Adjustments and C-Log

Rec. 709 Screen Adjustments and C-Log

Here is another sample using the Blade. In Brighton again for a change :)

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The results of recording other than in 4k mode on the 1DC to me are not worth the effort. Unless you need Prores to edit from or deliver. Then of course the Atomos Blade will be a big time saver. If you need the best quality any DSLR can deliver via clean HDMI, whether the Nikon D800 or the Canon 5Dmk3, then you really should be using an external recorder and the Atomos Blade will do that and a host of other monitoring functions to aid your shoot and edit and grade.

Atomos Samurai Blade on set.

Atomos Samurai Blade on set.

I can use the Blade on a standard day shoot with just 2 small Sony NP batteries and a Medium one. It’s best to switch battery supply to the slot not using a HDMI converter if that’s what you’re using. That way a slimline small NP battery can piggyback without swapping.

Atomos Samurai Blade on set. Batteries and Sound.

Atomos Samurai Blade on set. Batteries and Sound.

What I would like to see from the Blade is the ability to have a 1:1 punch in that you could hopefully scroll around as a picture-in-picture. That and a small set of preset buttons on the case not the touch screen that can control a set of tasks. I find when shooting I turn the camera off or out of live view, and this will revert the Blade to its normal menu display, loosing your peaking and waveforms. I would also like to see more brightness from the screen, to me it’s just a little bit under. The addition of user changeable guides would also be nice or even standard ones like 2:35.

Atomos Samurai Blade guides

Atomos Samurai Blade guides

All in all a great product.

Atomos Samurai Blade on screen adjustments

Atomos Samurai Blade on screen adjustments

 

Written by James Miller.

Product pictures courtesy of Atomos.

BTS pictures with thanks to Luke Miller.

Thanks to Guy Thatcher for use of Zacuto gear and Canon Cine lenses. www.hireacamera.com

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