Daniel Haggett

London based Lighting Cameraman / DoP

Recent Work

How to shoot B-roll or GVs

Here is a question I received last week.

"I can follow action really well.  But when it comes to framing objects for b roll, and framing interviews, I need a lot of training to get the shots I love to use in an edit.  I am determined to get better though.

In the edit suite, I can easily pick the best framed shot.  But when I look through the viewfinder, I don't really know where to go.  What do I look for, what's my "go to" basics when framing shots."

This is slightly tricky to answer.  I've been shooting for a long time, so when I compose a shot, it is not an intellectual exercise.  I don't think about the rule of thirds or where to position the subject, I just set the camera up instinctively and film the scene in the best way I can.

However, this doesn't help anybody, or answer the question very well.  It is also a question I remember asking when I first started working in television, so I'll do my best to come up with a few tips for shooting B-Roll or GVs.

  1. Firstly, remember you are putting the 3D world in to 2D.  It is therefore going to look very flat, unless you can add some depth.  You can add depth by shooting objects in the foreground very close to the camera with the background far away.  This will give the impression of depth.
  2. When following action, the tendancy is to put the subject in the middle of the screen.  Generally it's worth avoiding this with B roll.  Try putting the subject off centre to one side.
  3. Try to to show what you are filming in a new light.  If you are shooting a monument, viewers have probably seen it hundreds of time before.  Try to capture it at a different angle, in different light, with something else in the frame.  All of these things will stop the shot looking like the standard postcard image.
  4. Keep in mind the reason for shooting the image.  What does the editor or director want to say with this shot?  Maybe they want to show the time of year, perhaps having snow in the foreground, or a tree with no leaves will help tell their story.

Finally, get inspiration from great photographers and cinemaphotographers. This could be anyone you like really, but to get you started, here are a few people I like.

 

The shot above is from Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant, Birdman).  A lot of his shots tend to be quite low contrast.  I love his work, he always manages to get his own original look into the pictures.  I find it hard to describe why i like it, so I'll just leave his instagram name and you can look him up for yourself. @chivexp

The above shot is from Reed Morano.  Her shots are usually really low key, dark moody affairs.  She is incredibly talented and well worth a follow @reedmorano.

It's also worth looking at a few photographers you like.  Recently, I have been enjoying the work of Alan Schaller

Alan Schaller typically shoots really high contrast scenes.  He tends to make use of shapes and shadows in a really effective way.  You can follow him at @alan_schaller

These are just some people that I like, but you may not.  There are lots of people out there who are shooting great stuff, just pick a few people you like and see if you can get some inspiration from it.

And remember that quote "Good artists copy, great artists steal"

How to colour match different cameras Canon, Sony and Arri

These days, programmes are put together with footage from an ever growing number of different cameras, and then someone has to struggle to make the cameras look similar in post.

So how can we make life easier in the edit, so the poor colourist and editors aren't wasting hours colour matching cameras, when they could be spending that time making the edit look great?

There are  a few different ways:

1) Choose a REC 709 profile in each cameara

2) Download AbleCine's camera match profile. 

3) Shoot LOG

By far the best way of doing this is by shooting LOG profile on each camera. Sony S Log, Canon Clog or Arri LogC, REDgamma.

You would think, since all these cameras have a 709 colour profile, that you could just use that and be done with it.  The problem is, each manufacturer works very hard at creating their own "look" or colour science.  If you get a camera and point it at a colour chart, and then put that through a vectoscope, you will see that the colours and the overall tone varries widely.  This is not just between camera manufacturers, but even between camera models.

On a multi cam shoot, I put an Arri Amira, 2 x Canon C300 mkii and a Canon C300 into a monitor and flicked through them on the 709 profile.  They didn't look close enough to use without grading.  

If you want to see proof of this, just check the video below.  Here I show how different the Canon C300 and Canon C300mkii vary on different proflies.  (I'd only recommend watching this if you are a total camera geek, skim through, you'll get the idea.)

The next option would be to download the AbleCine set of profiles for each camera you are using.  AbleCine have files for most cameras on the market: Sony, F5, F55, Arri Alexa, Amira, Canon C300, Sony AS7 etc etc.   Able cine have several different profiles, which vary depending on whether you are working in a studio environment, low light, or outdoors.  If you are working in a relatively controlled environment (say an indoor interview) you could download the same ABNORM profile for all the different cameras.

The AbleCine profiles aren't bad, but they aren't perfect.  I've used the ABNORM profile and tried to match an Arri Amira with a Canon C300 mkii.  You'd get away with having these two shots in the same programme, but I wouldn't want to do it if you were filming the same interview with both cameas on the same subject.

The best solution, by far, is to shoot in LOG, using as wide a colour spectrum as possible, and then shoot a chart, such as the One shot from DSC Labs or the X-rite chart.  These charts are recognised by most grading systems, such as baselite, Davinci resolve etc.  The grading software then creates a matching LUT for you.  The cameras are then matched automatically.

The great thing about these charts is, the grading sytems understand exactly what colour you are trying to replicate and can match the cameras accordingly.  Even if your editor doesn't have an editing system that recognises these charts, at least he or she will have something to go on.  By looking at a vectorscope they'll be able to see whether one camera is more red or yellow than the other and adjust accordingly, rather than trying to do it by eye and just guess.

The video below (created by Michael Garber not me)  shows how this is done in post.  

In conclusion, I'd say you can get away with using the first two methods (using REC709 or better yet one of Ablecine's profiles), if you aren't using one of the cameras as a B camera, shooting an interview.  If you are cutting backwards and forwards between 2 shot size on the same subject, you will notice a difference.  The only way to get around that is to use the same camera, or use one of the charts.

B4 lenses on Super 35mm cameras

B4 lenses that were made to work with 2/3 inch chip cameras like Sony's DigiBeta, XDCAM etc had an amazing range, but can you use them on a large senson super 35mm camera?

In short, the answer to this is usually yes, but with some limitations.  

B&H stock b4 to Canon adapters as well as various B4 to Sony adapters

 

Firstly, let's look at why you might want to do this.

A 70-200mm lens gives you a zoom range of roughly 3 x

Canon B4 lenses will do well over 20x.  For example the HJ22 will give you something like 30mm to 672mm (so 22 x) and then you have a doubler included on this lens to get you to 1462mm.

As well as having a huge range, B4 lenses also have a servo, for smooth zooms, large focus throws and are parfocal through the range and have external iris control.  In other words: they are made for TV.

Considering all this, you might think, why not just buy an old HJ22 or HJ17 and leave it on a S35 chip camera, like a Sony FS7, F5, F55 or Canon C300 and leave it there.

The issue here is that with such a massive zoom range comes a cost: you are shooting through a whole load of glass and this has an effect on the quality of the image.  If you want to shoot an interview at say 70mm, your shot will obviously look much much better through a 70mm prime lens, or a 70-200mm zoom than it would though a B4 broadcast lens.  

This drop in picture quality from a B4 mount lens manifests itself in several different ways: chromatic aberration, loss of sharpness especially at the edges of lens, flaring and a loss of contrast.

Another big difference between cine lenses and stills lenses versus a B4 video lens is the depth of field.  Although a Canon HJ22 might say f1.8 on the iris, it will not give you the same effect as shooting a 50mm prime at f1.8.  The reason for this is that crop factor: a large 4 times.  Even wide open at 1.8 there is still a pretty big depth of field on a B4 lens.

There are instances when you absolutely need a huge range zoom and this is when converters B4 to PL, EOS, etc are useful.  You could of course just use a large cine lens, but the costs will be pretty huge.   I have used Arri Aluras several times where range is needed, but they have no where near the range of a B4 mount lens, and a pretty pricey.  The Arri Alura 18-80 T2.6 costs upwards of 20k to buy and several hundred a day to rent.  If you want a bigger range, the costs go even higher.

So with that in mind, let's take a look at the cheaper option.  B4 mount lenses have been around for years, they aren't quite obsolete just yet, as they have lots of uses in sports and news etc, but you can still pick up used ones pretty cheaply.

So how do we make a lens built for a small chip camera work on a large chip camera? There is a pretty big difference in the chip size of a 2/3 inch camera and a super 35 sensor.  you can find out more about crop factors here.   

In the image below I have layered various sensor sizes over each other so you can see the relative difference.  If you are looking at this full size (on a desktop computer or ipad) then the images of 4x bigger than actual life size.

In order for a large Super 35mm camera sensor to work on the smaller coverage offered by a B4 lens you need to zoom in, this can be done digitally, if you have a 4k sensor, or you can use optics i.e use the doubler glass on the zoom lens.

Thankfully, most cameras have a centre scan mode, this includes Sony FS7, Sony F5 F55 and Canon C300mkii

The next thing to consider, is whether there is enough room for the B4 mount to connect in front of the camera sensor, without hitting something.  In the case of the DSLR, there may not be enough room as it could hit the mirror.  If you have a mirror less camera, then it is more likely that a converter will work.  Cameras like Sony's As7 range or Panasonic's Gh5 GH4 etc are more likely to work.

Until recently the Canon C300 mkii had no audio when in centre crop mode (as presumably centre crop was only designed with slow mo in mind).  Luckily a newfirmware update has solved that issue, so you can no use centre crop mode and shoot at normal speed with audio.  

 

So where can you get the adapters?

Adapters vary depending on the camera they are for, but often they cost well over $1000 so they might be worth renting if you don't see yourself using them much.

MTF are the main adapter makers for this type of lens, although I recently discovered German manufacturer G IB/E optics HDx35 adapter, which my rental company highly recommend.  IB/E optics HDx35 convert B4 to PL mount, it looks like a good product, but I haven't tried it first hand. 

MTF I have used several times and can be bought at the links below.

B&H stock b4 to Canon adapters

as well as various B4 to Sony adapters

Below Dan Chung from Newshooter.com shows the MTF adapter on the Canon C300 mkii

 

Matching Canon C300 with C300mkii

I going to cover two things here.  Firstly, how to get the Canon C300 and the C300mkii to roughly match when filming, and secondly how to get them to match exactly in the grade.

There are several different options when it comes to matching the Canon C300 with the mkii.  Here are a few of them:

  1. Use a REC709 profile.  The advantage of this is that, if there are other cameras on set, they will also be able to use a 709 profile as most cameras have it. (On the original C300 profile 3 is 709)
  2. Use Ablecine's profile.  AbleCine have have made a number of scene files for many different cameras, Arri Amira, Sony Fs7, F5 etc.  
  3. Shoot LOG.  Canon Log on the original C300 has a corresponding LOG on the mkii

The video below shows all three of these option and there is also a shot which shows the LOG footage with the added LUT.

As you will see in the video none of these work as a perfect solution in their own right, each will need tweaking in the grade.  This is hardly suprising, if it was easy to exactly match one camera to another,  a camera manufacturer would bring out a cheap camera and match the profile exactly to the Arri Alexa, and everyone would buy that.

Incidentally the oringal EOS profile would probably match up quite well between the 2 cameras (simply as it has the most acurate colour rendition).  However, I decided not to use this as I have always found the EOS pofile to be too heavily saturated, the reds also pop like crazy.  

In conclusion, I would favour the LOG profile here.  Although it doesn't match exactly, it looks reasonably close and with a small amount of grading could be improved upon.  Also, by shooting LOG you give the colourist or editor a bit more info to work with.

In my video I simply added the LOG to 709 profile, just to show how the cameras match up before grading.  However, with the One Shot chart you can create specific LUTS which will match each camera.

Grading systems like Resolve and Baselight can match the cameras by selecting the chart from the menu.  I am using the One Shot chart from DSC Labs, which Art Adams came up with.  You can buy these from DSC Labs direct, or from the usual places -B&H etc.   The video below is by Michael Garber and shows how Resolve matches cameras using the One Shot Chart.

 

To buy the chart from B&H use the link Front Box One Shot Plus ("AcuFlect" Glossy Finish)

How to expose LOG footage correctly

I have been asked a few times, how to expose LOG footage correctly or "how do I get perfect skin tones when using LOG."  Since more and more footage is being shot with various LOG gammas I thought I'd go a little deeper into the subject.

With older cameras everyone shot with a standard non gamma profile, where what you see is what you get.  Skin tones were generally placed around 70 percent on a waveform, and to be safe, you'd stop down a fraction to protect your highlights. With LOG gammas everything changed.

Cameras can now record more and more stops of dynamic range, but at present the finished product hasn't changed, i.e. television sets still only show around 6-9 stops of dynamic range.  The metaphore often used for this situation is a bucket.  Your camera is a large 15 stop bucket which needs to pour its footage into a much smaller REC 709 bucket TV.

So firstly why use a LOG at all if that extra dynamic range can't be used?  The answer is really about choice.  Protecting the highlights and shooting all of this range in contrast means an editor can keep that information in the grade to create a better finished picture.  They can apply a LUT in post which will map the LOG footage to a 709 curve.  Highlights, such as a bright sky can be brought down to create a better picuture.

A cameras maximum dynamic range will only be availble when recording in LOG.  To give you an example from my camera (Canon C300 mkii), it will record 14-15 stops of DR on LOG2, 13.5 stop of DR on LOG or LOG3 and 11.5 in BT709.  So wherever possible I shoot with a LOG curve to give the maximum I can give to the editor.  Sony cameras shoot S log, but the curves are essentially doing the same thing.

So how do we expose LOG correctly?

There are a few things you hear all the time on this subject, and these are also three things I'd recommend doing:

1) Expose to the right (meaning to the right of the histogram i.e slight over exposure).

2) Use an 18 percent grey card

3) Send a normal REC 709 curve to the monitor/eye peice and expose that as you normally would

 

Three diferent methods, so which one is right?  

Essentially they all are.

Lets work through these points in reverse order.

3) Send a REC 709 LUT to the monitor/eye peice

A LUT or look up table can be used to give an aproximation of what the footage will look like after a grade.  You are still recording in LOG but you can look at a more saturated and colourful image for shooting purposes.  It's important to note that you are just overlaying a LUT not applying it, so this is an aproximation of what the footage will look like in post. The reason I bring this up is I have noticed different monitors, eyepeices and LCDs treat this LOG footage with a LUT slightly differently.  Sometimes one colour might look slightly odd or different, but it doesn't matter as all the information is recorded correctly in the LOG footage.

This works well in my opinion and it is quick and easy.  Many monitors and eye peices have their own 709 curves, or you can apply them from the camera.  It's worth testing it out to see if it works well for you.  There are lots of ways to test this out, but just expose something using the 709 curve and then flick back to the LOG and you'll be able to see what is happening.

Typically the LOG footage will look under exposed by a couple stops, as it is retaining extra highlights.  You could throw in a grey card to the scene as well so you can get a reading of middle grey.

To make this clearer, here is how the above might work.  You apply a 709 LUT.  You frame up a persons face.  You expose that face as you think looks correct. (You could even set the wave form to respond to the LUT footage instead of the LOG)  The skin tones will be sitting at about 70 on a waveform monitor that is looking at the LUT.  You keep the same exposure and remove the LUT.  The wavform reading will drop from around 70 to between 32-38 depending on how your cameras LOG works.

There are other advantages to using a 709 LUT for your monitor.  The added contrast helps massively with focus.  LOG footage tends to all look a bit grey and wishy washy, adding a LUT will give saturation and this helps (my eyes at least) see what is in focus, somehow the image clicks in and bites when its in focus.

I like to show LUT images certainly to clients and even directors.  Some directors are tech savy and happy to look at LOG footage, but for the most part a LUT image is the way to go.

2) Use an 18 percent grey card.

Most LOG curves put middle grey around 32 to 38 %   If you want to know exactly, look up the white paper on your particular camera.  For the C300 mkii LOG3 and LOG set middle grey at 38% and LOG2 is at 32%  Sony's S logs are usually pretty low around 32%  If you aren't sure, just try it out.  You could set the monitor to 709, expose a grey card by eye to what you think it should look like, then flick on the LOG curve and waveform and see where it sits.  Chances are that grey will sit somewhere around that 32-38 level.

This is also very useful for nailing correct skin tones.  Slightly tanned caucasion skin is going to sit at 18 percent grey.  You can use your judgement to get your subject exposed correctly.  You can allow a very pale skinned person's skin to sit higher than this on a wave form and very dark skin to sit slightly below this level. 

1) Expose to the right.

Okay, so from the two points above we know we are going to be essentially underexposing our LOG footage as compared to REC 709.  However, "expose to the right" means over expose!  So how does this work?

Colourists find it easy to pull down highlights than to lift stuff from the shadows.  The reason for this is that under exposed LOG footage often gets grainy or noisy when you try to lift in post.

So why should we expose to the right?

This comes down to how the camera deals with information.  From middle grey up to maximum white, cameras have large amounts of room to store data.  A cameras sensor has a certain number of steps per channel and will distribute these steps favouring the top end of the scale. It therefore makes sense to use this section of the scale to record our most critical peices of information - hence "expose to the right"

So the we need to use our judgement with the term "expose to the right."  If we have a dark scene with no highlights and a face is our subject, we can afford to expose to the right, as we won't lose any highlights and we will be setting our exposure where the camera records lots of data.  If there are many highlights we need to preserve, then we should set our exposure accordingly.

 

A quick word on ISO and correct exposure.

 

The image above is from the Canon website, which has several white papers on the their cameras and is well worth a look.

As you can see from the image above base ISO for the Canon C300 mk ii is 800.  Interestingly as the ISO is lowered the number of stops available over middle grey are also lowered.  With this in mind, it would make sense to lower exposure using NDs in bright situations, rather than simply lowering the ISO.

It's also worth pointing out that LOG curves don't usually work well in low light.  This makes sense when you think about it.  LOG is very good at preserving highlights when you have a scene with high contrast.  However, in a low light scene you have very low contrast, so it makes sense not to use a LOG curve in this situation.  LOG2 in particular starts to look noisy when you push it above its base sensitivity.

I would advocate turning off LOG altogether when shooting in low light, but I know many have reported good results when shooting the original LOG1 in low light.

 

 

 

Canon C300 mkii Log Log2 or Log3 which is best?

With the latest firmware, Canon have made slight alterations to LOG2 and the have added LOG3, so which is the best LOG to use?

Canon C300 mkii LOG curves

Shooting with a LOG curve is becoming more and more common as editors get more used to applying LUTS.  I often used to shoot with a picture profile that took very little grading for fast turn around shows, but these days almost everyone seems happy to receive LOG footage, but which LOG curve to choose?  

From now on I'll be switching from LOG2 to LOG3, here is why.

If you are looking solely for high dynamic range, then LOG2 is the curve for you.  For high contrast bright outdoor scenes the LOG 2 curve works really well.  I always shoot the LOG2 Cine Gamut preset if using this LOG, as the Cine Gamut gives the greatest colour spectrum for grading.  Although it is tougher to grade from scratch, dropping the appropriate LUT on gets the editor most of the way there.

However, there are issues with LOG2, and I wouldn't recommend it for all shooting situations.  

Before LOG 3 was available I shot a series of interviews against a dark grey background.  I noticed that these dark areas had a fair bit of noise in them once the LUT was applied.  This is something that Canon have rectified with the latest firmware upgrade and LOG2 is now less noisy in the shaddows.

I recently saw some of my LOG2 footage being graded in a soho facilities house by a top colourist. His comments were that:

1) His favourite footage to grade was always from the Ari Alexa.

2) He often found Canon footage to have some grain in the shaddowed areas

3) He advised always exposing to the right, as it is a lot easier for him to bring down exposure, than to bump it up.

No suprises there I guess, however, I was still concerned about the grain/noise in the shaddows.

Incidentally, the footage was shot at native 800 ISO, so I wasn't expecting much noise at all. When I looked at the footage on my IMAC it looked pretty clean.  However, Imacs are consumer products aimed at making everthing look as nice as possible.  This is not true of 4k monitors in grading suits, these are correctly calibrated and can highlight any issues with noise.

I decided to do a few basic tests to see what happens with the noise on the different LOG curves.  I set a grey card up lit with an even light from a kino flo and put a white card and black next to it as a reference.  The camera was set to native 800 ISO and I tried out various exposures.

Grey was placed at 39 % for LOG2 and 32.5 % for LOG 3 (Incidentally exposure did not need to be altered in order to achieve this shift in values)

The LOG footage itself looked pretty clean on all LOG curves, but applying a LUT caused a bit of grain in the shaddows.  I had expected this, as the LUT is essentially bringing up the levels by a couple of stops.

With the LUT applied and at 2 stops and more under exposed, there was some noise when using the LOG2 curve, but the LOG 3 curve looked less noisy.

For many situations I would prefer to trade the extra stop of dynamic rage gained by using LOG2 for the cleaner shaddow areas that LOG3 provides.

The original Canon LOG is still available and is probably closer to LOG3 than LOG2.  I would now really only use LOG1 to match the original marki C300.

 

 

 

 

Zacuto Gratical Eye and Recoil Review

Here is my video review of the Zacuto recoil rig and their new EVF, the Gratical Eye.  There are more details and pictures below.

The first camera I used professionally was Sony's Betacam SP.  It was well balanced, it sat perfectly on the shoulder, you could zoom in a shoot things far away without wobbling.  Over the years, camera image quality improved, while camera ergonomics went backwards.

After a few years we all found ourselves buying boxes for cameras.  Being able to produce near cinema quality images is nice, but not if your rig is wobbling around on your shoulder and you can't see if the shot is in focus.

This is where Zacuto have stepped in and created something that really works.

Zacuto Recoil Gratical Eye C300 mkii

The recoil rig itself is pretty versatile.  It has a really long plate and can be used with most cameras out there.  Here, I am using it on the Canon C300 mark ii, but it fits nicely on to the Sony Fs7, F5/55 etc.

The Canon C300 range has always been a bit odd ergonomically, at least to my mind.  It is a really top heavy camera, and all of the inputs you would expect to be at the back, like the audio XLRs, are at the front.  Zacuto have managed to sort this out by relocating the LCD module and pushing the Canon side grip forwards.

The recoil rig works much better than I thought it would.  The unit really fits snuggly into the shoulder and makes on the shoulder shooting so much easier.  With my old rig, I would tend not to shoot with lenses longer than 50mm.  Now I put on longer lenses and feel a lot more comfortable.

The quality of the engineering and workmanship on this thing is amazing.  Everything is built to last.  Nothing at all is plastic.  

Zacuto Gratical Eye

The Gratical Eye itself is awesome.  I love how small this thing is.  Zacuto have taken away a few of the extra ports you get with the Gratical HD, to give a much more stripped down model.  The Gratical Eye is powered externally from a D-tap into a lemo connector, and the image comes from an SDI cable, and that is it.  It makes the viewfinder much smaller, and to my mind much better. 

As with all Zacuto EVFs, it comes with an absolute tonne of features, including, LUTS, false colour, peaking, scopes.  The scopes can even be switched between monitoring the LOG footage and the LUT.

The quality of the image is really good.  There have been a few shots, where looking at the LCD monitor I have thought details were being lost in the highlights, and then looked into the Gratical Eye and seen what is really going on, and have been pleased to see detail is still there.

Overall I would say this is a very high quality piece of gear that I can imagine owning for years and even swapping onto new rigs in the future when my current camera becomes obsolete.  Although it certainly isn't cheap, the Gratical Eye is a bargin when you consider the price of a dedidicated EVF from many of the major camera manufacturors.  The beauty of the Gratical Eye being that you can use it on any camera you choose.  As for the recoil rig, you get what you pay for here, its solidly built and will last years.

 

NB Ethics statement:  If you buy a product from the Zacuto product links above, I receive a small commission. My review of products on my site is based on what I think.  If I thought this product was bad, I would say so.  

 

 

Rodney Charters and Dan Chung at CVP Fitzrovia

I have been following Rodney Charters on Twitter for years so when I heard he was speaking with Dan Chung from www.newsshooter.com at CVP in Fitzrovia I went along.

Rodney Charters is known for shooting 24 with Keifer Sutherland and more recently Dallas and the US version of Shameless.

Rodney took as through his shooting career with a slide show of giant camera rigs, huge technocranes, green screens the size of apartment blocks and studio sets with vast numbers of people.  

Rodney Charters was born in NZ and moved to London as a young man.  He worked as a photographer before going into documentary film making and then feature film work in Hollywood.  Interestingly, he still shoots documentary and has a great love for it.

So what can we learn from a succesful Holywood DP?  His discription of shots that could be achieved with a technocrane were interesting, but its not something many of us can request on our next project. 

While some DPs might refuse to work in certain conditions, or refuse to use certain lenses and lights they believe to be inferior Rodney Charters seems to want to give all sorts of things a go.  He seemed so enthusiastic, like a young kid that just got his first job in TV (he was born in 1948).

He talked about his excitement when he first saw the image put out by the Canon 5dmarkii and had a slide comparing it side by side with a shot from a movie he was working on when the camera came out.

In lighting, while many people out there shun LED lights and freak out about there CRI rating, Rodey Charters is straight in there trying out all sorts of lighting options.  Not all of these lighting choices were expensive either, infact many of them were incredibly cheap.  He explained how he once lit an entire scene with sodium lights bought from a hardware store.  He realised there was so much practical sodium lighting in the scene that he was better off adding to it with more sodium lights, than trying to get rid of it.

He also comes across as a huge fan of useful gadgets.  He had an amazing little light in his pocket called an Aladin.  It was tiny, but was dimable and even colour controlled from tungsten to daylight.  This thing is so small it can be held or gaffer taped into place and gives a little kick of illumination.

There were other gadgets he had pictures of: an LED string of lights, which looked like a row of bullets.  These things could be uncoiled and stuffed into car interiors or taped anywhere you like to give a little lift.  These are the kind of thing you can pick up for pennys on ebay or amazon.

He also had an oversized looking iphone6s strung around his neck (so big it couldn't fit in his pocket).  He used it on set all of the time to look up shots and photos he had be sent.  Thousands of photos were constantly with him for quick reference.

I could have stayed all night listening to Mr Charters talk, and such was his enthusiasm he had to be dragged from the room, as he stood around chatting with us and asking what we were working on.

If there was one thing I took from this talk, it would be to stay inventive.  As you career progresses and technolgy changes you have to move with it, embrace it and get the best you can from it.  Rodney Charters is certainly someone who is doing exactly that.

Thanks to CVP in Fitzrovia for hosting this event and to Dan Chung at Newsshooter for organising it all and for Rodney Charters for being so generous sharing his time and knowledge.

New Monitor from Small HD

I don't often get excited when a new bit of kit is released, which is probably for the best, as I'd live my life like some kind of gibbering idiot, since a new peice of kit seems to be released each week these days.

However, I'll admit I was pretty impressed when I saw Small HD has released a new series of monitors.  Small HD have been busy releasing great little monitoring units for years, but these were always on-camera-monitors, and nothing over 7 inches.

The latest series of monitors start at 17 inches, and there is also 24" and 32" model.

The price structure looks like this

17" 2999 USD

24" 3499 USD

32" 7999 USD

"So what", you might be thinking, "there are loads of monitors out there at this size", and you'd be right, there are.  The big difference with other monitors is that you can't drive over them in a truck or throw them through plate glasss windows. Well, you can, but I doubt they would work afterwards.  

They look really nicely designed with good mounting options and also don't look overly heavy as they are very slim.

It's good to see a company like Small HD moving into this space.  Even the 17 inch model would be slightly large for my purposes on lots of jobs.  I travel a lot and ideally would like a director monitor that is as rugged as this one, but slightly smaller.  After all, the monitor is the one peice of kit I put in the hands of directors, and let's face it, you almost expect them to be dragged down a set of stairs by a BNC.  I hope this is just the start for Small HD and that there will be other products like this in the pipeline.  

 

 

 

 

 

Canon C300 mark ii Custom Picture Profiles and settings

The settings of the Canon C300 mark2 Custom Picture have changed a fair bit from the original C300.

There are 3 settings which can be adjusted:

  • Gamma
  • Colour Space
  • Colour Matrix

There are 8 Gamma settings,  4 colour space settings, 5 colour matrix settings (6 if you include off).  

These can all be used in combination with each other, giving the user a huge choice of picture profiles.

In order to use these settings you must first switch the preset to "off".

Alternatively you can just go for one of the 7 presets.  

Firstly here are the presets.

  • Canon Log2: Cine Gamut
  • Canon Log2: BT2020
  • Canon Log2: DCI-P3
  • Canon Log2: BT.709
  • Canon Log
  • BT2020
  • BT.709
  • Off

 With the presets switched to off, you can now access the 3 settings yourself and use them in any combination:

Gamma  Colour Space  Colour Matrix 
 Canon Log 2  Cinema Gamut  Neutral
 Canon Log  BT.2020 Gamut  Production Camera 
 Wide DR  DCI-P3 Gamut  Cinema EOS Original
 EOS Standard  BT.709 Gamut  Video
 Normal 1 (Standard)    EOS Standard 
 Normal 2 (x4.0)    Off 
 Normal 3 (BT.709)    
 Normal 4 (x5.0)    

Since any of these can be used together, there are hundreds of different combinations.

The first video that is well worth looking at is from Roger Price. Here each of the 8 Presets are run through (including off).  This is followed by Gamma and Colour Space both being set to BT.709, while each of the colour matrices are changed.

Again, the video below is not mine, it was made by Barry Goyette and shows the look of the different Colour Matrices on skin tones.  The images have had a LUT applied in post.  As you can see, the Gamma and Colour Space doesn't change (they are always Canon LOG 2 and BT.2020 Gamut.)

Although the EOS standard Matrix and the EOS original Matrix probably give you more accurate colour rendition, I can't help but prefer the less vivid look of the Neutral look.  I also quite like the "production camera" matrix, which designed to fit in with the colour profile of the Arri Alexa.

This doesn't come as a big surprise to me as the original C300 produces colours much more accurately using the EOS matrix.  I discovered this when filming works of art that needed to be graded very accurately to look as they should.  I guess accurate colours are not always the most beautiful, particularly with Canon when they work so hard to produce great looking skin tones.

 

As far as a good look for the C300 mark ii that comes straight out of the camera, I still have some more experimenting to do.  I'll keep updating this page as I go.  So far I have used and liked the BT2020 preset.  It looks pretty good as is, and with a small amount of grading it can really look nice.

 

 

 

 

Canon C300 markii footage and review

I recently bought the Canon C300 markii and thought I'd share some of the footage and some first impressions here.

Although the markii has the same form factor as the original C300, it immediately feels a lot more solid.  The camera itself is slightly larger and built from stronger material.  The first big difference is the handle.  This is so much sturdier than the original.  Rather than having one small screw to fix the top handle, there is now a much more robust solution.  The handle is fixed with two thick screws to a plate, which is then fixed with three further screws to the camera.  On the whole this is great.  It means you can now pick up the camra with confidence, no matter how big your lens or other accessories.  The only downside to this is that it does take a while to remove the handle as there are now five allen key screws to remove.  Still, a small price to pay.

The cables running from the LCD to the camera can now be fully removed, which is a major improvement.  Also, one cable is for audio and the other video.  This is another big advantage for gimbal users, as you can now mount the LCD monitor with just one cable fairly efficiently.

The big change with mark ii really comes when you start looking at the images coming out of the camera.  I already liked the image I was getting from the C300 but the markii really impressed me.

The dynamic range is something that immediately jumps out at you.  One of the first things I shot with this camera was inside a dimily lit cafe and the sun was absolutely blasting through the windows.  The camera handled it so well.  I used Log2 Cine gamut, which gives a slightly flatter image than the orignial Canon Log.  I know pretty much nothing about colour grading, so I simply slapped the appropriate LUT on.  I thought the LUT was a bit intense and made everything a touch to contrasty.  I then backed off with the LUT to 50 percent and left it at that.  There is a lot more that can be done to grade the image, but I just wanted to put this up as is, so you can see what comes out of the camera.  The shots using Clog 2 are at the begining part of the video above.

The shot below is a jpeg screen grab from an ungraded shot, using BT2020.

The next thing, which I just couldn't believe was the low light ability.  I was tentaively going higher and higher with the ISO expecting to see grain and digital noise and it just didn't happen.  I was shooting with the camera on a Ronin, so I didn't want to shoot with the lens wide open.  In order to have half a chance of getting anything in focus, I decided to stop down and use the ISO.  To further complicate things I was shooting half speed at 50p and 120 shutter (we were in the USA, hence 120 rather than 100).  

The shot above was taken at night a couple of hours after sun set.  The only light illuminating the face here is from an iphone.  

The lens flares are deliberate.  I was using my Leica 35mm lens which flares like crazy if you don't use the hood or matte box.  I personally love it, so use it as an effect.

The shot above was taken just after sunset. Again there is no lighting here.  Despite the lack of light, I really like the natural look of the image, it could certainly benefit from a grade, but I am pleased with this as a starting point.  This is an image straight out of the camera with no LUT applied.  For all the night time shots I didn't use LOG but shot with the BT2020 profile.  This gives a decent amount of dynamic range and requires less work in post.

One of the feature I was keen to try out was the face tracking and focus.  Since all of these shots were taken on the Ronin, I wanted to see if auto focus or assisted focus was possible.  I found that, to my surprise, the face tracking and focus worked pretty well, with a few caveats.

The face tracking does work and the focus is smooth enough to use.  However, it really functions best in decent light conditions.   In daylight, or if you are lighting your subject well, the face tracking quickly picks out a person and tracks them.  However, in these dark street scenes, where the director did not want any lighting, the face tracking struggles to see the face.

Another issue is that the auto focus does not work at all in slow mo.  I found the best way round this was to shoot in 50p and then conform this to 25p in the edit, which gives you your half speed, but keeps the audio and the auto focus features.

A funtion that I really like was focus assist.  If you are using a Canon lens, the camera is able to tell you whether to pull fowards or back to acheive focus.  This was amazingly useful, particualarly when the camera was on the ronin.  Even if you are using peaking, it's really tough to see what is in focus when you are running around with the ronin, but the focus assist really made it easy.

Often I would set the focus at a distance I wanted to be from the subject, and then turned on focus markers.  Depending on whether the two triangles are above or or below the single triangle, lets you know which way to pull (or move).  On the left shot the focus is set towards infinity and the focus is behind the flowers.  In the shot on the right the focus is set too close and the focus is infront of the flowers.

This was particualarly helpful on the Ronin, and I would just move the rig closer to or further away from the subject.

It is also very useful in an interview situation if you are shooting at a wide aperture and your subject is moving backwards and forwards a bit.  It is nice to have control of the focus yourself so you can decide if you want to pull focus or not.

The only thing I didn't like about the focus was that the digital zoom in now doesn't work once the camera is in record mode.  This seems like a step backwards to me.  This will apparently be fixed in the next firmware update.  For now, I just need to learn to trust the focus guide - so far they have been amazingly accurate. 

Canon C300 markii Vs Panasonic Varicam LT

When the Panasonic Varicam 35 was launched, I was quite interested, but when the smaller Varicam LT was recently launched I was much more interested.
 
The Varicam LT is priced very closely to the C300 mark ii and so I looked closely at both of these cameras before buying one of them.
 
I am obviously not the only person who has had this dilema.  I recently got an email from one of the blogs readers called Migel.  Here is letter below.:

 
"I really enjoy your blog. It's not too cinema centered like other blogs in our business. And I feel loads of the equipment and situations that you describe are similar to the ones I run into in a daily basis. 
 
I'm contacting you to ask your opinion about two cameras. I do mostly news and documentary, and sometimes corporate and branded video. I already own a bunch of cameras like the c300, the PXW-X200 and some DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. I'm really happy with the C300 but want something that gives me even more picture quality and framerate options. 
 
I'm undecided between the C300 mk II and the Varicam LT. Both of them have similar prices in their ready to shoot configurations (around 20,000 USD). 
 
 

CAMERA

GRIP

MEDIA 256gb

BATTERIES

CHARGER

V PLATE

2 CARD READER

VIEWFINDER

 

TOTAL

CANON

16000

 -

1600

1000

500

100

 -

 

19200

PANASONIC

13000

1077

2300

900

1000

150

1000

2000

 

21427

 
I think both are similar in low light, colour and DR.
 
The Varicam LT looks really nice. Has more framerate options than the Mk II. Shoulder mounted. And can change PL/EF mount if I ever need. 
 
The MK II has that amazing AF. It's smaller, so more flexible to use it in different gimbals. Easy to match with my current C300 for two camera interviews or shoots."

 
As you can see from the table above, pricing of the two cameras ends up being pretty much the same.  The Varicam looks cheaper initially, but once you add a view finder and a few accessories, the price works out the same.
 
I have always liked the look Panasonic produce with the vari cam, even going all the way back to the tape versions of this camera.  They were definitely more interesting that those from Sony at that time.
 
Panasonic have also had a history of producing cameras that shoot lots of different frame rates, so it is no surprise that this camera beats the C300 mkii when it comes to slow mo.  Slow motion has never been Canon's strong point.
 
The Panasonic also looks like it would work better for on the shoulder work, where as the Canon would be better for mounting to a gimbal such as a Ronin.
 
So which one to choose?
 
This is a really tough decision.  In the end I went for the Canon C300 mkii.  
 
There are a few reason for this.  Firstly, I own a Ronin and I can use the Markii on this.  Secondly, I  have a C300 which I could use a 2nd camera. Thirdly, some production companies I know were very keen on the camera and since these people pay my bills, I am happy to consider their camera choices.
 
I know the BBC Natural History Unit always loved the Vari Cam, so if you shoot this kind of footage no doubt the Panasonic would win over. 
 
Without these slight nudges in the direction of the markii, I could well have bought the Vari Cam LT.
 
 

Does the C300 mark ii work on the Ronin M

Many people will already own a Ronin or Ronin M, and before using the new C300 mark ii, you might wonder if it will fit on the Ronin.

The short answer is: yes.

Canon has made the C300 mark ii slighly bigger and slightly heavier.  This isn't enough for the average user to worry about, but with gimbals, it makes all the difference.  

The other issue with the markii is the change from a removable eye peice to a fixed one.  CANON! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!  Really, I mean I never use this stupid eyepeice and I'd rather it wasn't on the camera at all, but it is.

All of this moaning aside, the camera fits on both the Ronin and the Ronin M.  With the larger Ronin you can buy arms from Cinemilled to extend the range of set ups and lenses you can use.

With the Ronin M, there is less space, so the range of movement you get from the camera is much more limited.  I found that if I used the heavier Canon batteries, to put some more weight at the back of the camera, I could put on a light lens, and easily balance the camera.  If you look at the shot of my C300ii on the Ronin M below, you can see how much space there is.  Not a lot.  This means that you are limited to how low down and how high up you can  tilt.  This isnt ideal, but it is just about work able.

However, there is a way to improve this.

By putting more weight at the back of the camera, you can slide the whole camera further forward, giving you more space to pan up and down.  

Cinemilled have made  the Dove Tail Pro.  This base plate is slightly larger than the standard issue from DJI and it is covered with tapped holes which you can screw weights on, to better balance the camera. 

I bought the plate and 2 of the larger weights.  This significantly increases the range of tilt I can get, when the C300 mkii is on the Ronin M.

Obviously the lens on the camera needs to be pretty light.  Here I am using the Tokina 11-16mm.  Most of the Canon EOS primes would work and also lenses like the the Canon 17-40mm would work very well, being so light.

If you wanted to put anything heavier on the front (such as a cine prime) you would be better off with the full size Ronin or the new Ronin MX.

However, if you already have the Ronin M, and are looking to increase the range of camera set ups it can take, this is a good solution.

You can buy the parts direct from Cinemilled or go to a re seller like B&H

Ethics:  I have no affiliation whatsoever with Cinemilled and paid full price for these parts.

What's it like working as a cameraman

A reader of the blog wrote to me with a few questions about working as a cameraman.  I thought I would publish my answers here.
 
1) What is the most difficult part of your job? 
 
This  is easy to answer.  It's the freelance juggling act.  Jobs flow in, all of them will be "pencil bookings," unconfirmed jobs.  Many of these jobs will overlap, some projects will be better than others.  The hard part is choosing the best jobs for your career, and the jobs you think are most likely to actually happen.  All of this has to be done without offending Producers and without messing up their schedules.
 
2) Whats more important, a creative mind or technical knowledge ?
 
On the whole, Producers and Directors are looking for a balance of both of these skills.  On a larger project you may have an Assistant or a Gaffer and you can rely on these people for technical camera knowledge and lighting respectively.  However, on a smaller project you will need to be technically savvy.  Often people will look to you for technical knowledge, Researchers, Assistant Producers and even Directors are all now starting to self-shoot. They will often come to the DoP for help and technical advice.
 
Also,  sometimes you could be shooting miles from anywhere with no tech support and no rental facilities.  If you run into technical difficulties of any description, having someone that can step in and help will always be a plus to a Director. 
 
3) How long do you spend on planning and preparation before going on set?
 
This one varies massively, depending on the job.  Some jobs I might get a phone call the night before, I turn up on the shoot with almost no idea of what to expect.   At the other end of the spectrum a Director might call me with an idea, or a potential shoot.  Initial conversations might be about budget, equipment, logistics, or what can be achieved in the time available.  This might go on for months, then one day the shoot happens several months after the initial conversation.  
 
Reading this, you might think this is a lot of prep and forethought for a job that might not happen, and you'd be right.  However, Directors are often in need of this support.  Of course, they might have a Production Manager who can find out whether you can travel around Africa with a jib, or how much it costs to rent a certain bit of kit etc.  The reason a Director might rely on a Cameraman for this kind of research is that you may already have experienced theses situations before.  Years of travelling around filming things gives you experience and knowledge that can't always be looked up on the internet.  It is this first hand knowledge is often vital in the early planning stages of a shoot.
 
 
4) How far does your degree take you when applying for jobs? 
 
When getting work as a cameraman, it is your experience that counts, not your academic achievement.  However, entry level positions such as Runners or Junior Researchers are always oversubscribed, so any advantage you might have over others is a good thing.  Languages are often useful, as is specialist knowledge.  If a programme is being made about Machu Picchu and you studied Spanish and Ancient History at University, then you are more likely to get hired than the next person.
 
The connections you make at university might also be useful.  If a director is looking for an Assistant Camera Operator and you happened to go to university with them, you will stand more of a chance than others.  
 
This might sound unfair, and it is, but in film and TV the old adage about "it's not what you know, it's who you know" is very true.  Think of if this way: the industry is based around trust.  People are agreeing to pay for your skills, before you have proved your worth.  For this to work, they need to trust you are good at what you do.  People tend to trust people they know, or their colleagues know, over strangers.
 

Red Raven Review

RED will soon be releasing the Red Raven, priced at the lower end of the range, is it worth considering?

REDs typically have pluses and minuses for the type of work I do.  

Pluses:

  • Amazing slow mo speeds
  • Very high resolution
  • A great camera for commercial work

Minuses:

  • Ergonomics.  REDs are not usually aimed at the run and gun shooter.
  • Work flow.  Television work flow often isn't ready for 5k RAW.

 

On the list of minuses you could usually add price, but this isn't the case with the Raven.  The camera will retail at 6000 USD for the brain, or 10k for a basic kit.  

The first and most interesting thing about this camera is the slow mo rates.  At HD the camera will shoot 120fps at 4.5k!! At HD it will do 240fps.  

The other good thing about this camera is that you can trust it will have a good image.  The sensor is the same as (or at least based on) the more expensive Dragon camera.  

Below is some Red Raven footage

Due to the modular nature of REDs they work really well on drones and brushless gimbals.  At a guess I would say the Raven would fit pretty nicely on the Ronin m or Movi M5.  It also has basic auto focus, which might be helpful for a solo operator with a gimbal or steadi cam.

Another really good feature is that it can shoot Apple Pro Res at 4:2:2.  The good thing about this is, you could shoot 4.6 RAW for high end corporates and commercials, and shoot 4:2:2 Pro Res for quick turn around TV shows.

Before you rush out and buy one, here are some of the minuses from my point of view:

1) No internal ND.  This is a really hassle for me.  I don't always want to have a matte box on, and I don't always want to be carrying round a set of ND filters.

2) Audio.  There are no XLR ports as standard.  Of course this can be solved, but then it's more cash.

3) Media.  Red media cards are not cheap.  It's only a small thing, but all these extras add up.  The beauty with most other types of media cards is the more common they become, the cheaper they get. Just look at how the price of CF and SD cards have dropped over the last 3 years. 

If you are looking for a camera that looks great, will shoot amazing slow mo and will fit on your Ronin, this could be a good one for you.  If you can live with the lack of internal ND you'll have an amazing camera at a pretty reasonable price.

The Danish Girl from Danny Cohen

It is rare that you see a film as beautifully shot as The Danish Girl.  I recently watched this at the cinema.  I felt like if I paused the film at any point and printed off that screen shot, I could hang it on my wall.  The whole thing is just unbelievably beautiful.

 

The tailer flashes through the shots so quickly you hardly get a chance to take them in, put you get the general feel for it.

The film was shot by Danny Cohen, who also shot The Kings Speach and This is England.  It was filmed with the Epic Red Dragon using Arri Master Primes.  The Master Primes are super fast at T1.3  There are huge sections of the film that are shot with this tiny depth of field.  Beautiful portraiture with eyes pin sharp and nose and ears in smooth out of focus bokeh.

The film is also full of amazing composition.  Great shots making use of reflections or shooting through objects to give soft focus framing to the images.

The colours in general are fantastic.  The rooms are often painted with bold but mutted colours that low light that is so often present in the European north.

Will the Canon C300ii and C100ii fit on the Ronin M?

With a bit of fiddling about, you can get the C300 to mount on the Ronin-M pretty easily.  

To do this you need to remove the eyepiece.  The issue with both the Canon C300 markii and the C100 markii, is the eye piece cannot be removed.  This will severely limit the range of motion, as the eye piece will hit the back of the Ronin when you tilt up.

The interesting thing about the Canon C300 mark ii is that is has good face recognition focusing, this pared with the Ronin m gimbal should make for an awesome and effective piece of kit.  The only issue is, will it fit?

 

The very heavy F55 on a Ronin M

 

I have been keeping an eye on Cinemilled, as they constantly build things to add more cameras onto the Ronin and Ronin M.  They recently posted this picture with a Sony F55 mounted to a Roniin M.  If you have used an F55, you will know it is very heavy and pretty long.  With this in mind, I am pretty much certain a C300 markii will fit on a Ronin M with the right Cinemilled part.  The picture above came with an annoucement, saying Cinemilled have just made a new part to enable larger heavier cameras to be mounted to the Ronin M.

Here is the quote from their instagram feed:

Sony F55 on a Ronin-M perfectly balanced? How? you say? Only possible with cinemilled innovations! In a few days discover how to unlock more camera build possibilities from your Ronin-M....and Ronin !! Coming soon, stay tuned! We're busy!

 

 

The C100 markii on a Ronin M

Even with the older tilt extension arms from Cinemilled it should be possible.  Here is a C100 mark ii mounted to a Ronin M.  If you look at the tilt arms at the bottom, you can see there is loads more room to lower the camera.  This will mean that even with the eye peice attached to the camera, it will clear the back of the Ronin, to give you full manoeuvrability. 

More details on Cinemilled can be found here.

Panasonic VariCam 35 LT Review

Another day, another camera is released.

 

The VariCam LT is a stripped down version of the VariCam 35.  It is smaller and lighter in size than the oringinal super 35mm chip camera, and sells for a lower price.

The LT uses the same 4K chip as the original but the camera body is significantly smaller.  

Panasonic's Vari Cam have been around for years, I have used them on various documentaries right back to the days of recording to tape.   The BBCs Natural History Unit were always big fans of this camera, maninly as it offered many different slow motion rates.  After years of filming various animals the Natural History guys had discovered that certain animals looked better when filmed at specific speeds, not just super slow mo.

In the past I have found Sony's colours always to be a bit TV/Video ish but Panasonic often had slightly more filmic tones.  

With this history in top notch factual broadcast you would hope the VariCam LT has decent ergonomics.  This camera has only just been anounced, but from the pictures, it looks pretty good; the kind of camera you would actually want on your shoulder.

 

Here are the main specs:

  • Same Super 35mm 4K chips as Varicam 35
  • 14 + stop of dynamic range according to Panasonic
  • Multiple recording options. 4K,2k,HD and ProRes
  • Up to 240fps - However all slow motion is in crop mode
  • EF or PL Mount
  • Proxy files can be recorded onto and SD card.

US price for the body only looks to be around 18k, with the eye piece a further 6k and 1.5k for the shoulder pad.  So 25,500 USD for the LT puts it a good deal more expensive than the 16,000 dollar C300 Mark ii but less than the Arri Amira.

A short shot on the LT below (at ISO 5,000)

 

The camera certainly looks like it has better ergonomics than the C300 with a shoulder pad and a proper eye peice, the mic is also much better placed.  However, the Sony F5 has very similar specs at a much better price.

So will this camera sell?  I don't think it will sell bucket loads, there are two many more cheaply priced options.  However, there will be a market for this camera.  It looks like a robust and well made little thing, that would probably do very well in a rugged documentary setting.  

 

 

Video cameras 2016

There are so many different cameras coming onto the market at the moment, I thought now would be a good time for a brief overview of what is out there.  Here is what you get for your money.

 

Make Model

Price USD

4K Slow mo   Colour
Sony  A7Sii   3,000  120@HD 4:2:0 
Sony FS5   5,600 Y  240@HD 4:2:2
Sony  FS7   8,000  180@HD 4:2:2
Sony F5  16,500 Y **  180@HD 4:4:4 
Sony F55  29,000   180@HD 4:4:4 
Canon C100ii  5,000 N  60@HD 4:2:0
Canon  C300ii  16,000  120@HD*  4:4:4 
Black magic Ursamini 4.6 5,000 Y 160@HD 4:4:4
Panasonic VariCam 35 LT 18,000 Y 240@HD* 4:4:4
Panasonic VariCam 35 55,000 Y 120@4K 4:4:4 
Arri 

Amira

40,000 N 200@HD 4:4:4
Red

Raven

10,000 Y 240@HD* Raw
Red  Scarlet dragon  26,000  150@HD  Raw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Crop sensor

**With upgrade

It wasn't that many years ago when there was really only one choice if you worked in TV, you bought a Beta SP camera and that was that.  These days the camera options out there are mind blowing.

This table only represents a small fraction of what is out there.  I have hardly touched on the options from RED.  This is because, firstly the article would go on forever as there are so many options, and secondly, because most of the RED specs go way beyond the specs set out in this table (as do the prices).

Sony have historically been pretty much alone in this market.  Canon then made a suprise entry with the 5D markii, eventually following it up with the Cinema EOS range.  The Canon C300 was a massive hit for Canon and so Sony have struck back.  

If you look at the C100 markii and then compare it to the Sony FS5, the price is pretty similar, but the Sony blows Canon out of the water on the specs.

The next model up, you look at the C300 Mark ii and the Sony FS7 is half the price, but has better slow motion.  The C300 ii does have a nice look straight out of the box in my opinion, but again the Sony is half the price.  

New to the market is the Ursa mini 4.6K.  This isn't even availble to buy yet, but in the specs for price war, its looking pretty strong. Aimed right at that mid range where vast numbers of cameras are sold, it looks like a steal at just 5,000 USD.

RED produce a lot of cameras that are well above this mid range price.  The brains themselves aren't too bad in terms of price, but the cost really starts to add up when you tack on the accessories to make it into a fully functioning camera.  The new Raven however goes for just 6,000 USD for the brain.  I put 10k in the table above as that is the basic packag to get you up and running.

Arri have also brought out the Alexa mini and the Amira, although still expensive, the prices are lower than the Alexa.  The offerings from both Arri and RED will certainly tempt camera buyers in the mid range to pay a bit more to get top end pictures.

So what to choose?

At the top end 30k + will get you a Sony F55, An Arri Amira (or an Alexa Mini) or A good setup with many options for RED.

At the mid range 16k will get you a C300ii or RED Raven or a Sony F5.

Below that price there are a massive range of cameras, many of which have specs that out perform cameras in the 16 k bracket.

In the end it comes down more to functionality and usability than specs.  If you need to mount the camera on your shoulder and access all the necessary buttons quickly then ergonomics are going to be more important than just specs.

The other issue is production work flow.  If you need to get your camera onto lots of jobs where there is a production workflow already in place, then this needs to be considered.  As you go up the price range, cameras will spit out whatever codec you ask them to.  This is where spending more money on a more versatile camera could save you money in the long run.

 

 

Inspiring camera operators and directors of photography

Working as cameraman, we are often alone in our craft, in the sense there is usually only one of us on the shoot.  There is rarely another shooter there to bounce ideas off, or learn something different from.

One of the site's readers, Oli Cohen, remarked that he found it hard to find a mentor working as a DoP.  With this in mind I thought I'd write down a few places where I have found peices of inspiration.  

I'll open up a comments section below and you can add your ideas too, but in the meantime just email the site at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Hopefully we can get a bit of a list going.  This could be any place you find inspiration for your filming style, whether that be people you follow on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, websites you go to, books that you read or films that you watch.

Here are a few places I use to start us off.

Instagram

@ericsteelberg ASC

Eric Steelberg shot Juno and Up in the Air.  His Instagram feed is full of interesting shots taken on and off set.

@rpstam

rpstam is Rodrigo Prieto who shot The Wolf of Wall Street

@chivexp

Chivexp is Emmanuel Lubezki.  Recently he has been posting lots of stills from the movie Reverant.  He also shot Birdman, Gravity, The Tree of Life, Children of Men and Y Tu Mama Tambien.

@behindthescenes10

This is a fun one to follow.  There are some amazing on set shots on this account from all kinds of movies.  If you want to see Jack Nicholson goofing around on the set of The Shining with Stanley Kubrick, this is a place to get it.

@eduardgrau

Edu Grau shot A Single Man for Tom for when he was 27.  Yeah 27, makes you feel slightly sick doens't it.  Anyway, he is good to follow and often post slightly odd, stark, but beautiful shots.

@rdhardy

Rob Hardy BSC British Cinematographer who shot Ex Machina.  This feed has some fantastic looking shots that all have a certain specific style to them.

@reedmorano

Really beautiful shots on Reed Morano's feed.  She is the only woman on this very male dominated list, in what I guess is a very male dominated profession. 

@papa2

Phedon Papamichael shot the superbly charming and beautiful film Nebraska.  

 

@Rogerdeakins

 

Roger Deakins doesn't need much of an introduction.  He has worked with The Cohen Brothers, Sam Mendes.. He shot Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Fargo, Oh Brother Where art thou, The Big Lebowski, to name just a few.

 

Websites

Here are a few DPs who put out lots of interesting and useful information on their own personal websites

Roger Deakins 

www.rogerdeakins.com

The world's favourite DP Roger Deakins has his own site where is unbelievably helpful and friendly offering advice and help to those who comment.  I am not going to list his credit, you know what he shot.

Shane Hurlbut

www.hurlbutvisuals.com

Shane Hurlbut is often setting up some crazy test to see whether one lens is better than the other.  He puts a huge amount of work into these and is good about sharing his information and communicating with his readers.

This list could go on and on, but I think I'll leave it there and ask you about where you find inspiration or mentors.

Still in need of inspiration?  Check out the film below of DoPs on the craft of Cinamatography.

Filming with an iPhone

This is a site for people who make a career from filming professionally, so why is there are post about an iphone on here?  You might be thinking this, but stay with me here.

The video below, caught my attention, but not because it was shot on an iPhone, but because the shot works, and I can't think of many other cameras that would achevie this specific look.

 

You could swing a go pro around in the same fashion and it would probably work, but this video was shot at 240fps, and so it had to be an iPhone.  Of course there are plenty of cameras that shoot 240fps, but you can't swing them around your head, well you can, but it isn't a good idea.

Being inventive like this is what get's your shots and films noticed.  Years ago, before stabilised gimbals were available, I shot a short promo for Nike in Brazil.  We filmed a scene with a DSLR rigged to a golf buggy.  The DSLR was cradled in some very thick elastic to help with stability.  We shot at 60fps and had a footballer dribble the ball towards the moving cart down the football field.  

Everyone that saw the promo would always ask "how did you get that shot?"  Back then it would normally only have been possible with a steadi-cam, which we didn't have the time for.  

This iphone video, is much more inventive that just using some elastic, the guy has actually made a sling in which the iPhone fits.  

I guess the thing for us all to take away and learn from this is to be inventive.  Doing things in a different way to everyone else, even for just one shot, really makes the audience sit up and take note.  

I have seen skiing shots taken from GoPros  on sticks looking down on the skier,  I have seen Gopros mounted on every part of the body, I have seen drone shots of skiers, but I have never before seen a camera rotating around the skier whilst he moves downhill.

The views on this video will be ridiculously high within days, and yet it was achevied with minimal budget, but just a lot of inventiveness.

 

How much should you spend on a good prime lens

Lenses vary hugely in price, so what do you get for your money?

Let's take a look at a few 50mm lenses.  50mm probably the most commonly used lenses, manufacturers sell large numbers of them, and every manufacturer makes a 50mm, so it is easy to compare them.
 
This is by no means a complete list of all 50mm lenses, but just illustrates the price difference.
 
 

 Lens                

Price in Dollars

Stills 

 

 Canon 1.8   

125 

 Canon 1.4

349 
 Zeiss 1.4 725
 Canon 1.2 1349
Cinema   
 Ziess CP2 1.5

4500 

 Canon CNE 1.3 4950 

 Cooke s4 mini 2.8   

7300

 Arri Master Prime

21000
 
As you go up the price range two things change, the housing that the lens is in and the optical quality of the glass.  
 
The Canon 1.8 is so cheap, it isn't fair to criticise the lens, for what you pay it is a bargain.  However, the housing is light weight and plastic, the focus ring is so small that it is very tough to use.  This lens is really designed solely for photographers using auto focus.  I have seen people using these lenses for video, but I would only advise it if you are on a really tight budget.
 
The Canon 1.4 has a better focus ring and is easier to use manually.  The housing is slightly better than the 1.8
 
The Canon 1.2 is an L series lens, so the housing is weather sealed and a bit tougher.  Through the canon EF range, the more you pay the faster the lens becomes.
 
If using a lens for video, I would choose the Zeiss 1.4 over the Canon 1.2.  Zeiss make a good solid metal housing for their lenses.  The focus throw on the Zeiss is also larger than on the Canon lenses, which makes manual focusing much easier.  Zeiss lenses also hard stop at infinity.  Canon EOS lenses are designed with auto focus in mind, the focus ring will circle around forever, pushing a touch past infinity and then you have to bring it back. With the Zeiss lens, if you just roll it all the way and infinity is where the focus barrel stops, altogether much better when you are filming.  Leica is another lens similar to Zeiss in this aspect, and also similar in terms of cost and build quality.  The image of the Leica and Zeiss do vary, but which you prefer is down to individual taste.
 
The Arri Master Prime
 
 
The next set of lenses are a big step up both in price and the quality of the housing.  Zeiss Compact Primes have been around for  a while and in a similar price bracket are the new Canon CNE range.  One of the things you get at this price range is uniformity.  All of the lenses in these sets are roughly the same length and barrel size.  This means changing lenses is quicker, as there is no need to adjust matte boxes or moose bars as you may have to with stills lenses, which all tend to vary in size.  Another big change is that the iris control is alway on the lens itself, this is obviously a massive plus when shooting.   The distance marks on the lens are accurate and the lenses can be easily used by a focus puller.  (Stills lenses are really tricky in this regard as you can roll the focus around indefinitely and loose all of your focus marks.)
 
So how much should you spend on your lens if looking at the housing and mechanics alone?  This really depends on what type of work you do now, or see yourself doing in the future.  If you think you'll be on a film or commercial set then spending the extra to get the dedicated lenses could be a good idea.
 
If you are a solo operator and don't see yourself using a focus puller very often, the decision is a bit more difficult.  Having a big focus throw and an external iris wheel are very nice, but they aren't essential, and you also have to deal with the added weight.  
 
So what about the quality of the glass and the image you get from the lens?  At the lower end of the cinema lens range, the quality of the glass is very similar to the optics used on the top end still lenses.  For example the Zeiss CP2 are close to the Zeiss ZE and ZF stills glass, and the Canon CNE range is similar to the L series EOS lenses.  There are however a few differences.  You tend to get much more dramatic lens flare on the cinema lenses, simply because the lens is that much bigger on the front end.  I have also noticed the Canon CNE lenses create very round out of focus highlights, whereas the still lenses have an octagonal shape to them, and that is due to the larger number of iris blades on the cine primes.  It is said that the better quality glass is cherry picked for the cine lenses and that these lenses are also given better coatings.
 
 
There are also clear differences between manufacturers and the type of image the glass produces.  Generally speaking, the more you pay the less the lens breathes, contrast also tends to be better and the way the lens deals with highlights improves.  I have noticed reds really pop out on Canon lenses, whereas Zeiss have a slightly colder, clinical look to them, which I quite like.  Leica tend to produce a beautiful buttery smoothness in the out of focus bokeh, which I am also a fan of. 
With lenses you need to pay a huge amount of extra cash, to get a small increase in the quality of the image.  Another thing to note here is that in many situations that extra money won't show.  If the lens is stopped down and the lighting is very controlled, there often isn't much to choose between two lenses, even though they maybe hundreds of dollars apart.  However, open those lenses up and film in some more unusual lighting conditions and the more expensive lens with likely start to shine.
 
The video below, as unscientific as it is, shows how the 125 dollar Canon compares to the 20k Arri Master Prime.
 
Before you rush out and buy a Canon 1.8f, remember that this video doesn't really show much of the Master Prime.  Go and watch The Danish Girl at the Cinema, which was shot on Master Primes, it looks unbelivable.  Much of it looks like it was shot wide open at T1.3.  It's also worth noting that Fstop and Tstop measurements are not the same. F stop is relative to the size of the lens, Tstop is not. So the T stop in most cases will be much faster than the Fstop equivalent.
 
Another thing to say here is, I have only once seen what I have shot projecting on to a cinema screen, but it's a humbling experience.  Every details is really visible when you are looking at a giant screen.  I suspect if you were to watch this lens test at your local cinema, instead of on your iPad, you would start notice a few more details.
 
Unlike cameras, lenses don't seem to loose much value over time, so it makes sense to spend a bit more money on lenses if you can afford to.  If you are shooting with a small crew and always pull focus for yourself you can probably get away with stills lenses.  If you can afford to do so, it is well worth getting something at the top of this range, from Leica or Zeiss who make stills lenses with metal housings, large focus throws and in some cases external irises.  If you can't afford this, then go for something like the Canon 1.4f or similar.
 
The video below is from Shane Hurlbut's crew and it compares Canon L, Leica R and Zeiss CP2s
 
 
There is also a really in depth lens comparison here, which looks at Ziess CP2s, Ziess Super Speeds, Canon CN-E and Leica Sumilux Cs amoung others.
 
In the cine lens range it really depends on the work you are getting and your ability to get your lenses onto a job.  If you buy a set of Zeiss lenses and then a director says they really want to shoot with Cooke, you'll end up having to rent.  If you really love the look of a certain lens and can persuade any director that they are absolutely the best lenses for the job, then the investment could well pay off.
 
Don't be put off by pixel peepers and geeks on forums. Buy the lenses that you can afford and which have the look that you like.  A lot of it is subjective anyway, some like the  Leica look, others hate it, some like ziess, some don't.  Few lenses are perfect and you are always going to get a certain amount of breathing, distortion and other flaws (unless Master Primes are in your budget).
 
 Buying a set of primes could easily cost as much as your camera, but on the plus side they will certainly out live it by many many years.
 
 
 
 
 
 

What is the best prime lens size for shooting video

Finding your focal length / Shooting with primes.
 
I love to shoot on prime lenses, in many ways I think of it as a luxury.  Certain jobs will force me to use zoom lenses, due to the nature of the filming, or time constraints, but whenever I get the chance, I'll always switch back to a prime.  They look nicer, they are faster and they give your pictures that extra bit of punch.
 
So which focal length is best? When it comes to prime lenses we would all like to own a giant set with every possible lens.  Even if you do have the cash to buy a vast number of lenses, transporting them around isn't always practical, so inevitably we have to make some decisions and find a few favourites. 
 
24mm
 
 
A lens around 24mm (manufacturers vary their sizes around this size) is great for those wider, story telling shots.  People often wonder which lens is closest to what the human eye sees.  This is a tricky thing to discern as the human eye isn't much like a camera lens, the eye sees just a small part of detail in focus and the brain fills in the rest of the detail.  That said, 24mm on a super 35 crop is fairly close in terms of magnification to what the human eye sees. Instead of zooming in, you just have to walk  closer to your subject.  Shooting wide hand held means any wobble is less visible, so it is very useful if you have a lot of tricky fast action to follow.
 
35mm
 
I am a big fan of the 35mm lens on a Super 35mm chip camera.   This focal length is pretty close to a 50mm on a full frame camera such as a 5d 1d etc or original 35mm film.  It is well documented that Henri Cartier-Bresson spent his entire career shooting on a 50mm (on film, so close to 35mm on a super 35 sensor).  He felt that with wider lenses you always have something in the scene that you didn't want.  I can see the logic in that.  When you shoot with a wider lens you can often get a general scene, tightening up to 35mm forces you to make a decision, forces you to create a composition.  This is what I enjoy about the 35mm, it is wide enough to capture general street scenes, but tight enough to force you to make a composition choice, rather than just pointing and shooting.
 
 
50mm
 
 
I absolutely love 50mm lenses on super 35 chip cameras.  It is probably my favourite lens for a huge variety of reasons.  Firstly, 50mm lenses tend to be the cheapest and fastest of all prime lenses in any set, they are great value for money.  The next thing is, it is long enough to give you a really nice out of focus bokeh.  Wider lenses just can't compete here.  50mm is also about as long as I like to go when shooting hand held video.  I might occasionally push in further on a zoom for a small amount of time, but I know I can hold 50mm and get rock solid shots.   I also like 50mm for the composition size, it forces you to look at the frame and ask, "what's of interest."  If you are following actuality you can get up close and get really nice detail of hands filling the frame or full face shots.  You could argue you could do the same with a 35mm, but you'd have to be dangerously close, and if you are filming actuality it is safer to keep you distance.  People typically don't want a camera right up in their face either.
 
70mm
 
Longer lenses such as 70 and beyond are nice to use on a tripod.  I wouldn't go longer than 50mm on most grip gear (jibs, sliders, track or a gimbal stabiliser).  I usually find 50mm a touch to wide for an interview, unless you want an unusually wide shot, which can be really nice, but you need to be in a nice location with a decent background for this to work.  70mm will really give you a nice out of focus bokeh when opened up and tends to give great portraiture, without being so close as to make interviewees feel uncomfortable.  
 
Long lenses beyond 70mm
 
Once you get into the longer lens range, I find that prime lenses don't offer that much more that zooms.  Rather than buying several long primes, you may well be better off with a single zoom.   Something like a 135mm wide open might give you spectacular shots, but it's worth thinking about how often you will use it, versus something more versatile like a zoom that is a stop or two slower.

 

Canon Cine primes CN-E review

I recently did a shoot with a full set of Canon's Cine primes.   This is not going to be an in depth lens comparison, but rather a few thoughts after using these lenses for a one day shoot.  The first thing to say is that these are reasonably priced, especially when bought in a set, rather than individually.  The set of 6 lenses I used was bought for £12k.

Canon Cine prime 35mm

My first worry with these lenses is that they would just be re housed Canon EOS L series Primes.  I was impressed straight away with my first shot.  I took the camera outside and the lens flare was beautiful.  The sun caught the lens and sent a row of perfectly round colour spots across the lens.  This is something you just don't get on a smaller stills lens.  

Obviously having lenses housed in a tough metal construction that is designed for film use is a massive plus.  I won't go into it too much as this is pretty obvious, but having an infinity at a hard stop at the end of the lens, manual iris control and a decent 300 degree focus throw are all very useful features when shooting video.  Also, if you have a focus puller, proper distance marks on both sides of the lens is a big help.

The next thing that jumped out to me was the out of focus bokeh.  Lights that would normally have an octagonal stop sign look were perfectly round.  This is due to the fact the lenses have 11 iris blades.  Below are a couple of low res pulls from the shoot, in each case the background lights are round.

Canon Cine prime example shot 50mm

Canon CN-E prime example shot 50mm

Canon CN-E prime Cine EOS lens

Each of the above shots were from the Canon CN-E 50mm.  The interview vox pop shot was not wide open, more like T2.0  The final shot is of somone looking at a cinema screen and was pretty much wide open.

In general the lenses were great to work with: not too heavy and really smooth iris and focus control.

The full 6 lens set look like this:

14mm T3.1

24mm T1.5

35mm T1.5

50mm T1.3

85mm T1.3

135mm T2.2

I absolutely loved the 50mm.  Even wide open it seemed so sharp.  I have a Canon EF 1.4f, which is a great lens, but I normally keep it stopped down to around 2.0f, 1.8f at a push, but with the Cine primes I regularly opened them right up and was really happy that the image didn't turn to mush.  Through the view finder the focal plane looked tack sharp.

Canon cine prime lens set  

B&H are currently selling this set of 6 for $24k.  

Basic shooting tips for Sony F55 / F5

In the past I have used the Sony F55 for a day or two, but having just spent a week with it on a shoot, I thought I'd write a few notes on my experience.  This might help you out if you have a shoot coming up on the F5 or F55 and want a few basic tips and tricks.  (Users more familiar with the F55 will be better of looking a Alister Chapman's blog where the camera is covered in incredible detail.)

 

Shooting with the Sony F55 in the Saudi Arabian desert.

Sony F55 in the desert

In order to get the best out of the camera and use the full 14 stops of DR available I shot with the S-Log 3 cine-ei mode.  This image is VERY flat.  Productions might steer away from super flat images if they are worried about time in the grade.  That said, there are plenty of LUTs available now that will bring your footage in to line pretty quickly.  To my mind if you are going to the effort of shooting on a high end camera, it is probably worth while using it to its full capabilities.  There is of course the option to apply a LUT to the output, but I was confident the editor was very experienced and would be able to get the best out of the image.

Slog3 and REC 709 to monitor

The first thing to say about using S-log3 in Cine-ei mode is that your white balance can now only be selected by the presets and you can't manually dial in the exact temperature (but then you shouldn't need to shooting Slog).  Changing ISO will not effect the image the camera records and it will continue to record at native ISO.  The only problem with this is I found very hard to focus, especially in low light conditions.  The easy solution to this was put a REC 709 LUT through the viewfinder.  (Canon C300 users will be used to doing a similar thing when using Clog together with "view assist".)  I found myself switching the 709 LUT on and off in the viewfinder occasionally so that I could check that the actual S-log footage looked as expected.  Another option would be to attach a small monitor to the camera and feed the slog output to it.

NB On the side panel of the F55 you can switch viewfinder MLUT on and off after selecting the "Camera" button.

I liked shooting with the REC709 in the viewfinder for monitor exposure and focusing, but found it a bit annoying that this feature couldn't be used when shooting high frame rates.  Once in HFR mode I was back to looking at a flat washed out image.  A solution to this is to assign the view finder "high contrast" mode to the side of the camera.  This helped with the focusing, but for low light shooting I found it actually made the situation worse.  Adding contrast meant even more of the picture was darker and focus was difficult.  Having the feature assigned to the side of the camera meant I could flick it on and off depending on the lighting conditions and this helped a lot.

On a side note, it did make me think, if I was going to buy the F5 or F55 I would definitely check out Zacuto's gratical evf to see if was better or worse than the Sony OLED viewfinder.

High frame rate shooting

Shooting with the F55 in down town Riyadh, with plenty of lights to cause strobing.

Sony F55 downtown Riyadh

One place where the F55 really excels is it's high frame rate shooting.  I loved using this.  When you first try to switch the camera to a high frame rate using the buttons on the side of the camera, it will only go up as far as 60fps.  In order to access anything faster, you need to go into the menu and select HFR mode and switch it to from "off" to "Full Scan"  or "Centre Scan" if you want to crop the sensor.  In this mode you can only go as low as 66fps, so if you want to go back to a lower frame rate (such as 50fps or 60fps) you need to go back into the menu and switch the HFR mode back to "off".

The great thing about the F55 is that it is just so flexible here.  I was shooting for a 25 fps production, but was shooting in a 110 60HZ country, so immediately you have the issue of flickering lights.  However, the F55 is so versitile it is really easy to get around.  One option is to match up the FPS with the local country's electricity.  For 60HZ countries slow mo rates of 60fps and 120fps are going to offer less flicker.  Using these rates, it is easiest to switch the camera to shutter degrees, let the camera sit at 180 degrees and then you don't have to touch the shutter when shifting between slow and fast frame rates.  

If however you can't shoot at multiples of 60 and you need to shoot at say 50fps to give you half speed for a 25p project, then I find it easier to switch the shutter to fractions rather than angles (my maths is terrible and it would take me too long to work out the angle needed).  With fractions selected for your shutter you can then just add the multiple of 60 here.  So if you were shooting 50 frames for 25p you would normally shoot at 1/100 shutter but being that the electrical system is 60 HZ you will get less flicker at 1/120.  

Whether you are using your shutter at angles or speed it you can scrol down to "continuous" and dial in the exact number needed.  This is invaluble and allows you to adjust the number until the flickering disappears. 

Round up

Over all I found the F55 good to work with.  It has a serious heft to it, especially as I was shooting with Canon's 17-120 PL mount, which is a bit of a beast.  I found it pretty comfortable for handheld work, using the Arri rig and the basic shoulder pad that comes with the camera.  The menu system is fairly large, as with all Sony cameras, so it is worth having a long look around it before shooting as there is a  lot that is very useful in there.  Assigning buttons to the outside to quickly access what you need is also a big help.

 

 

 

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