FreshDV

Stu Maschwitz shows us Red Giant’s new tool called Bulletproof, and we get an update from Digital Rebellion.

NAB 2013 – Red Giant Bulletproof and Digital Rebellion from FreshDV on Vimeo.

Vince LaForet gives us a rundown on the MōVI M10 from Freefly Systems, a handheld camera stabilizer with a silent gyro and gimbal system that does amazing things to remove camera shake. And then, we got our hands on Movi, to deliver the world’s first side-by-side shootout with a C300 handheld. Watch that below!

NAB 2013 – FreeFly Movi M10 camera stabilizer from FreshDV on Vimeo.

Here’s the shootout, thanks to CJ Jordan. As you can see, it’s very very scientific. Watch below!

NAB 2013 – Adobe Part 2

FreshDV post-production host Scott Simmons dropped by Blackmagic to get the scoop on the DaVinci Resolve 10 and Scopes updates. Watch below.

NAB 2013 – Davinci Resolve and Scopes from FreshDV on Vimeo.

We’re on the ground in Las Vegas this week, bringing you extensive coverage of the National Association of Broadcasters Expo. Here’s how to stay ahead of it all…

* Watch here at FreshDV as we post videos individually, or track our playlist here.
* Watch in our channel on Vimeo, www.vimeo.com/channels/nab13
* Watch at our partner nofilmschool, where they will be posting our videos along with their excellent content.

All next week, the FreshDV crew will be bringing you daily video coverage from NAB 2013. We’ve got multiple crews working the show, and our coverage will be hosted by post-production guru Scott Simmons, audio pro Jameson Herndon, director Kendal Miller, and myself DP Matt Jeppsen.

There’s a lot of news from the National Association of Broadcasters Expo, and we are going to cut through the noise to find the information in each field that matters. FreshDV will be bringing you not only the news, but more importantly how it affects you.

Our coverage would not be possible without the support of Kessler Crane, Zeiss, and RØDE. We use their tools every day in our regular production work, and we’re proud to be associated with these quality brands.

Stay tuned.

This is Part II of my three part series on Zeiss/Contax lenses for video.

In my Part I article, I discussed cost and feasability considerations in regards to these lenses, and offered a few tips on how to shop for a set of your own Zeiss Contax lenses. In this Part II article, I’ll discuss resolution charts and my notes on how the lenses perform at various apertures. I’ll also discuss about the handling and aesthetic reasons why I chose to build my lens set around Contax.

My forthcoming Part III article will delve a little more into the look of a Zeiss/Contax lens, the aesthetic it lends to the image. I will include a few examples of bokeh and flare characteristics at certain apertures. Onward…

Resolution Performance
Here is a ZIP file of full-quality PNG framegrabs of a DSC Labs resolution chart, that show the performance of these Zeiss/Contax lenses on a Canon C300 camera. For comparison, I have included resolution frames of the Canon 85/1.8 and 50/1.4.

Some observations on resolution performance:
* Wide open at f/2.8, the 21mm is nearly as sharp in the corners as it is in the center. It carries this peformance all the way up through f/5.6. It’s clear why this 21mm lens has a good reputation for sharpness…sharp wide lenses are hard to find. For comparison, look at how the 28mm corners are obviously more soft than the center of the chart, at f/2.8. On the 28mm this improves as you stop down the lens to f/4.0, and looks significantly better by the time you reach f/5.6. This is typical behavior for any lens…wide open tends to be least sharp, and the middle of the aperture range tends to offer the best performance. And the 28mm is no exception.

* The 50mm looks quite sharp edge to edge, even at f/2.0 and surprisingly quite good when wide open at f/1.4. At 2.0 it’s nearly as sharp as f/2.8, but you can see the contrast drop a bit (don’t forget that contrast contributes to how sharp an image appears). F/2.8 is more contrasty. f/1.4 seems to drop contrast a bit more across the entire image, but it nearly holds the same sharpness as f/2.0.

* Wide open at f/1.4, the 85mm shows sharpness falloff in the corners, and edge to edge has lowered contrast. It doesn’t appear to be as sharp wide open as the 50mm. Corner sharpness gradually improves as you would expect as you stop the lens down to f/5.6, but even at that stop the corners are not as crisp as the center of the image.

* The 135mm at f/5.6 appears almost as sharp at the edges as it does in the center. Corner sharpness fades a bit, but doesn’t really drop off as the aperture is opened, until around f/2.8. Not at all surprisingly, contrast at f/2.8 is lowered, vs f/5.6.

* I have just recently purchased the Zeiss/Contax 100mm f/2.0, as well as the 35mm f/1.4. I do not yet have those lenses converted, so I unfortunately don’t have data for this writeup. However, from what I hear, both should perform very well. In fact, the 100/2.0 may be one of the best optical performers in the Contax line. I’m very keen to put them both in to use as soon as possible.

Physical Performance & Considerations
I have modified my Contax lenses with the Duclos Cine-Mod, but I’ve shot with them bone stock and Cine-modded. So I’ll be talking about both versions in this section.

Contax lenses are really well-built, with all metal construction, and a weighty, solid feel. They have a textured exterior that is very easy to grip. The iris is fully manual, and has click-stops at every full aperture stop. The focus is also fully manual, and rotates roughly 180-degrees on most of the lenses. This long focus rotation is really helpful for focus pullers, because you can actually make marks that aren’t millimeters away from each other. On a Canon stills lens, for instance, the distance between close focus and infinity might only be an inch on the lens barrel. That makes focus marks very difficult to mark and hit…being off just a hair on the lens barrel might mean that you are a foot or more off in terms of depth of field. Even stock Contax lenses solve this issue by providing a nice long focus pull. It’s not as long of a focus pull as your average cine lens…one thing that you’ll often see on a cine lens is that the first few feet of focus movement are a very long distance apart on the lens barrel. Contax lenses don’t offer that much travel, but they are a good compromise for an affordable stills lens.

If you simply want to add a basic focus gear to a stock Contax lens, I recommend the Wide Open Camera lens gears…they are cheap, and the universal multi-size works very well on these lenses. Just make sure that you position the zip tie bump on the opposite side of the lens from where you’d normally mount your follow focus. There are other models out there that don’t have a bump and can be used 360-degrees…Cinevate is one manufacturer that offers a 360-degree usable gear. I chose to have my Contax lenses cine-modded to add a (semi) permanent lens gear. This is a solid hard plastic gear that is locked tightly to the lens and gives you a standard cine pitch (.08) gear for your follow focus. It also is nice to grab when running lightweight without a follow focus.

Most of these lenses have very limited or no forward travel when you are racking focus. The 21mm and 28mm have no travel. The 50mm has very limited forward travel. I’d recommend using the lenses with a mattebox that either clips/threads right onto the lens itself, or has a rubber donut or mount that can give a few millimeters in either direction. In my experience, the lenses that have some forward travel are not a concern with your average mattebox, so long as there is a little play in the mattebox. And of course it’s not a concern at all for clip-on matteboxes. If I just need ND filters and the occasional grad, something like the Formatt Hitech filter tray is a nice pairing.

Another thing to be aware of when building your camera, is the difference in length for the various lenses. You’ll want to make sure that there is enough rods in front to accomodate the longer lenses (and your mattebox, if you are using one), as well as make sure that your follow focus can be positioned to accomodate each lens. Something that I’ve found helpful with the short lenses like the 50mm and the 28mm, is a follow focus with a gear that can be placed on either side of the gearbox. If the base of your camera protrudes forward (like the C300), or your baseplate is forward of the lens mount, you might need to position the follow focus gear on the rear side of the gearbox, so that it can reach over that protrusion to the lens gear. One follow focus that I shot with recently was the Genus Bravo system, and it allows you to swap the gear to either side of the gearbox in seconds, and without tools. It’s a lovely low-profile follow focus option for lenses like these.

Declicking the aperture is highly recommended for cine purposes…being able to smoothly ramp up and down the scale is hugely useful when setting exposure. Also, the ability to set half stops and smaller increments simplifies things. On a stock Contax lens, you can carefully set the aperture between two stops to get a half-stop, but it’s not going to stay there if you bump it. For personal shoots, it’s an option. I wouldn’t recommend depending on that for a client shoot. One evening I was feeling adventurous, and opened up my 50mm to took out the ball-bearing to de-click it. This made the iris click-less, but the aperture was loose and had no friction at all. I wouldn’t recommend doing the de-click yourself, unless you know how to add the right kind of lens grease to provide that “stiction” feel. I had Duclos de-click my lenses, and love the feel of the iris now. It’s smooth, it has friction, and I have unlimited control over the exposure range now. Highly recommend you do the de-click.

With the stock Contax mount, you can use a simple adapter to get them onto your camera system. Cameras like the FS100, FS700, and NEX-5/7 have good options…there are a number of Contax-to-NEX mount adapters that mount to the Sony e-mount, and then you simply put the Contax lenses on that. Easy. For Canon DSLRs, the C300, or RED Canon mount, you can put adapter rings on the lenses, if you aren’t interested in modding them like I did for the Canon mount. The adapter rings that I’ve used mount onto the Contax mount, and then the lens (with attached adapter) can be used directly on a Canon mount camera. This is fine for small, low key shoots where you aren’t using a follow focus. But I’d strongly recommend against using them on a camera setup where you’ll be using a follow focus…there is a risk that when you torque the lens, it could pop off the clip, or rotate. This is an annoyance, and potentially risky for the lens. It’s not good for a professional application, in my opinion. So, after shooting with the stock lenses and adapters for a short while, I decided that I really wanted a permanent Canon mount on the lenses. Leitax offers a mount replacement, which I’m told can be installed by a careful user. I chose to have my Leitax mount swaps done by Duclos while they were also getting cine-modded. Now that they have a permanent Canon mount, they go directly onto any mechanical Canon mount, no fuss and no adapters.

As part of my cine-mod, I had common front elements put on my lenses. So they all now have a standard 80mm exterior (which goes directly into many matteboxes), and 77mm interior filter threads (which is a very common thread size). This makes it very easy to change lenses when shooting with a mattebox, and avoids using step rings. If you want to do a DIY version of this, you can buy the appropriate step rings for each lens and build them up to the size you want. There is also a company called Cordvision that makes common step ring kits for Contax lenses, these are relatively cheap and a good way to accomplish this if you aren’t interested in doing the Duclos Cine-mod. In any case, I would recommend a common front element, it greatly simplifies things when shooting in the field. Simple is better…it means that you don’t have to reconfigure your rig every time you change a lens.

Filter Thread Table
The size of the front element/filter threads of Contax lenses vary based on the lens. Here’s a list of filter thread sizes that fit these prime lenses. Some Contax lenses are not listed because I don’t have that info or I’m not certain of the filter spec:

18/4.0 – 67mm
21/2.8 – 82mm
25/2.8 – 55mm
28/2.0 – 55mm
28/2.8 – 55mm
35/1.4 – 67mm
35/2.8 – 55mm
45/2.8 – 55mm
50/1.4 – 55mm
50/1.7 – 55mm
85/1.4 – 67mm
85/2.8 – 55mm
100/2.0 – 67mm
100/2.8 – 67mm
135/2.8 – 55mm
135/2.0 – 72mm
180/2.8 – 72mm
300/4.0 – 82mm

Next up, in Part III of this review I’ll discuss the flare characteristics and image aesthetic of these lenses. Stay tuned.

There are a number of tools that I bring in my gear kit for almost every shoot. One of these is the Formatt Hitech Modular Holder. This is a screw-on filter tray for 4×4 filters, and I use it most often with Formatt’s lightweight resin filters.

This is a great combo for lightweight cameras that lack built-in Neutral Density filters…cameras like DSLRs and the Sony FS100 come to mind. It allows me to clip on a filter tray and resin ND that weigh just a few ounces. And with several stages in the tray, I can stack NDs, or add grad filters to hold a bright skyline. I like the resin filters, as they weigh less than glass filters, as well as being thinner and less fragile when dropped. In my opinion, Formatt offers the perfect filter solution for shooters on the go. Here’s a Gear in 60 Seconds video that shows the system…watch the video and check out pictures below.

Gear in 60 Seconds – Formatt Hitech 100mm Filter Holder from FreshDV on Vimeo.

A few notes that I didn’t cover in the short video above…
* I show it with a 77mm adapter; with the right ring it will work with any lens front thread from 49-100mm.
* The filter tray is available in an aluminum version (I’d probably still choose the plastic model…very sturdy).
* This tray can work with 4×4 glass filters as well as the lightweight resin variety I show it with.
* The tray can also accept 4×5.65 and 4×6 filters in their vertical orientation.
* Stage extensions can be added with longer screws from Formatt.

Below are a few pictures I’ve taken in the field of the system in use on various cameras. One of my favorite documentary shooting setups is this Formatt tray on the end of a Canon 24-105mm lens mounted on a DSLR. With an LCD loupe, you can easily run-n-gun both photos and short video clips, without the need for even a monopod…the loupe provides stability, and the IS lens soaks up any remaining small vibrations. You can see this setup in the middle image on the first row below. Another quick note…on the picture below of the C300, it’s being used with an ND grad for a sunset shot (the C300 has built-in NDs).

This is a Tenba Discovery Daypack. Tenba sent me this backpack early last summer, and I instantly put it to use in my work.

I have flown and traveled with it on every domestic and international work trip taken since then. I take it on local overnight trips. I use it to carry a small stills kit for photo assignment day trips. It’s been everywhere with me since last summer…I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve traveled with this bag. And I love it.

Here it is sitting under an airplane seat. In this picture, it contains the following gear:

15″ Macbook Pro, power cable
(2) USB bus-powered hard drives
CF/SD card reader
Canon 5D Mark III
(4) Canon batteries, charger
Media wallet, (4) CF cards, (4) SD cards
Intervalometer/DSLR trigger
Contax 21mm, 135mm lenses
Canon 50mm, 85mm, 24-105mm lenses
Rode Stereo VideoMic
Formatt Hi-Tech filter tray, (3) resin filters
Spare quick-release plate, spare screws
Misc audio cables
Chapstick, ibuprofen, eye drops
(2) LED Flashlights
(6) AA batteries
Pen, Sharpie, stylus
iPhone charger
External iPhone battery
Tenba rain cover
Esquire magazine

The backpack is not overloaded, and fits fully and comfortably under the seat in front of me. This fact is critical…it means that it qualifies as a “personal item” and doesn’t count towards my carryon allowance. I have another carryon in the overhead compartment, containing a second camera package and accessories. This is how I flew internationally today, and was able to carry on two complete camera packages. Additionally, there are still a few inches of cubic space in the top compartment of the backpack, as well as a free side elastic pocket. I could easily carry an additional DSLR body or zoom lens.

Is this the perfect backpack? I can’t say if it’s perfect for you…but right now, it suits me. Have I mentioned that I love this thing?

The following article on the basics of how to begin color grading 12-bit RAW Blackmagic Cinema Camera footage with DaVinci Resolve, is a guest post contributed by Denver Riddle of Color Grading Central

Introduction

We are living in extraordinary times! First came the surprise announcement in 2010 that DaVinci Resolve, a color grading system (once costing as much as my house) would be ported to the Mac operating system and reduced to a revolutionary sub $1K price point!

If that wasn’t enough, then came the shocking news at this year’s NAB that Blackmagic Design had entered the digital acquisition market, and would be producing the Blackmagic Digital Cinema Camera capable of capturing RAW 12-bit images with 13 stops of latitude!

With a camera capable of capturing RAW cinemaDNG files and a color grading system capable of processing and editing RAW cinemaDNG files, Blackmagic Design has created the ultimate pairing! This is also compounded by the fact that when you purchase the camera you get the full license of DaVinci Resolve and Ultrascope ALL under a $3,000 pricepoint!!! Revolutionary? Indeed!

Grading RAW cinemaDNG files

So let’s take a closer look at color grading RAW images from this camera with DaVinci Resolve. On Blackmagic’s new forum you can go and download five RAW cinemaDNG files from John Brawley’s latest project “Afterglow” with the BMC.

Once downloaded:

  1. Launch DaVinci Resolve
  2. In the Media page locate and import the cinemaDNG files into the Media Pool
  3. Then go to the Color Page

That’s it! We’re ready to begin grading RAW.

The beauty of RAW is the fact that we can access the native uncorrected data coming off the sensor. To access these RAW settings we’ll click the Camera RAW Editor button (looks like a camera) and from here we have a variety of options on how the data is decoded.

We can decode using the CinemaDNG Default, the Camera Metadata (how it looked when it was shot), by Project (global setting set in project settings) or by Clip.

When selecting “Clip” we can make changes (options greyed out it other modes) and interpret the RAW data in a variety of different ways. So let’s do that!

We can specify the White Balance using a variety of presets from daylight to tungsten or set it manually on custom.

We can specify the Color Space to work in and/or deliver to. If the project will be delivered to HD broadcast or web then we’ll pick Rec.709. If the project will be screened (projected) then we’ll choose P3 for the Digital Cinema Initiative.

And under Gamma we can pick the appropriate gamma curve, Rec709 for HD delivery, 2.6 for digital cinema projection, etc.

Over on the right we have the Clip Decoder Settings where we can make adjustments in Clip mode.

If custom has been selected under white balance we can precisely dial in the Color Temp in Kelvins.

For convenience and as a reference we can readily see the Project, Camera and Default settings in the columns on the right.

The Tint control allows us to fine tune the color temperature by giving us a green and magenta adjustment. Moving it to the left adjusts the color temperature towards green and moving it the right adjusts it towards magenta.

The Exposure control is the genesis to achieving 13 stops of latitude with this camera. Pulling down on the exposure can bring back detail that appears to be blown out or clipped in the highlights. Vice versa if we have an underexposed image we can rescue details in the shadows by pulling up on the exposure.

Once RAW editing is complete now it’s time to let imagination and creativity run wild now that we have film like image to work from.

In this example I’ve added contrast and a subtle a bleach bypass look. I’ve also used Power Windows to add focus to the face and eyes.

Wrap-up

If you’d like to learn more about DaVinci and the Blackmagic Camera you can view my tutorials on my DaVinci Resolve tutorials page. Here is also a demo of the new DaVinci Resolve:

Happy RAW grading,
Denver Riddle
Color Grading Central

Do You Have Spec Obsessive Disorder?

This is a guest post by Evan Luzi, a camera assistant and editor of The Black and Blue.

Filmmaking has always been an art uniquely tied to the technology that enables it.

This operates on several levels: innovations expand possibilities like sound or color, camera advancements make them more affordable and democratize the process, and — on the most basic level — without a camera, we cannot make films.

But lately I’ve felt this balance between art and technology is lopsided towards new gear.

Maybe it’s the massive influx of new cameras recently. Or maybe it’s that I’ve been spending too much time in the blogosphere echo chamber. Or maybe it’s just an evolution of filmmaking culture.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear there are some filmmakers who suffer from Spec Obsessive Disorder.

So, what is Spec Obsessive Disorder (SOD)?

It’s a term coined by David Pogue, a tech writer for the New York Times, who wrote a column about the nature of smartphone buyers to burden themselves by thinking too much about specs. And though he was referring to smartphones, his points stand pretty well within the context of digital cinema cameras:

I’ll keep reporting the most important specs in my reviews, because techies care about such things. But to me, the questions should not be, “How much memory is in this tablet? How many nits of brightness does that phone’s screen put out? What graphics processor is in that laptop? How much milliamp-hours does that phone’s battery pack?”

Instead, the questions should be, “How fast is it? How good does it look? Can you read it in sunlight? Does the battery last? How long does the battery last?”

And even those are secondary questions. The bigger ones are, “Is it a good value? Is the design excellent? Should you buy it?”

Imagine if the spec-obsessed adopted this line of questioning. Instead of “How much resolution does it have?” they would ask “Is it enough resolution?”

(A small, but notable alternative with a completely different answer.)

Diving further, as Pogue suggests, they might ask “Do I enjoy watching it? How does the image make me feel? Did it make me feel warm? Cold? Estranged? Fuzzy?”

Then they could apply those emotions to the context of their project.

Then weight the importance of those images to their project against the cost of the camera to obtain them.

For cinematographers and directors, skills that enable you to light, to compose, and to translate the ethos of a story into the visual medium of film are far more useful than the ability to dive into the minutae of sensor size. For producers, your ability to go beyond specs and learn more about the tone of the project, the budget of a project, and the practicality of a camera in the reality of a production is paramount.

Pro Lost’s Stu Maschwitz hit on this point precisely in a post about camera tests when he said, “Are camera tests useless? Not at all. I’m grateful that so many people want to do them. It frees me up to grab a camera that I think is going to be pretty much right for the job, and get busy.”

One of the worst symptoms of Spec Obsessive Disorder is always looking at small differences between cameras while ignoring the large differences. In the case of Stu, the small differences might be resolution, sensor size, and compression algorithms, but the most important difference — and the one he acted on — is what camera is available, right now?

Is there a perfect camera for a job? Sometimes, but rarely. It’s much more likely that several cameras will be more than great for your project.

And though specs will serve their purpose in helping you choose out of that lineup, it’s also important to remember filmmaking is still an art. When you ask “What’s the sensor size?” be sure to consider how that does or doesn’t matter to your film.

Because the number one sign of someone suffering from Spec Obsessive Disorder is they care only about the technology of a camera; thinking that somehow all that power will translate into artistic potency.

Spec Obsessive Disorder may not be fatal to you, but it certainly can be for your films.

Evan Luzi is a camera assistant and the editor of The Black and Blue, a site full of practical filmmaking tips for below-the-line crew. Evan recently asked Why Are We So Obsessed with Camera Specs? and found the best medicine for spec obsessive disorder is to become a fan of movies, not cameras. You can also follow Evan on Twitter (@evanluzi).