Sunday, December 22, 2013

Poor Man's Movie Studio

I had my cameras setup for a test and it occurred to me that I had cobbled together a decent little "studio". My trusty Dolica ST-650 tripod (on the right) needs to be replaced with a second Ravelli AVTP Professional and I need some $65 300 LED lights instead of my little $30 70 LED Rechargeables - but I have a couple of high quality 1080p cameras with decent resolution sitting on tripods or on the shelf (the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and the GH3); a decent mic and recorder (a used Audio Technica AT835b and a TASCAM DR-40); and decent camera support (the Dolica notwithstanding).

Both cameras have great codecs and good depth of field control and it is relatively easy to color match their output, but I guess I have the same challenge that many amateurs have - lots of equipment, but not enough time set aside to actually make a movie.

No more excuses, it's time to take these cameras out and actually shoot something!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Blackmagic Production Camera 4K vs RED ONE MX - Fight's On!

We've been waiting for this for a long time. The first images from the Blackmagic Production Camera, announced in April 2013 at NAB, are finally here! Yesterday, Blackmagic CEO, Grant Petty, posted a 10GB downloadable sample that he shot personally (if you want to see it and experiment with how it performs in the grade, you can download it here).

This was a very cool thing for him to do, but the community of interest for this camera continued to clamor for images shot by a "real DP".

Well today, we have those images - and the backstory is almost as interesting as the video itself.

Turns out that Captain Hook (of Captain Hook LUT fame) took his test BMPC out on a music video shoot as the "B" cam to a RED MX.

The director liked the early images so much that the BMPC was promoted to the "A" cam:

This camera essentially delivers Hollywood quality 4K motion pictures at an "amateur movie" price of $3995 - which is less than a 1080p Canon 5D Mark III with the 24-70 lens, $1500 less than an 8 bit 1080p Canon C100, $8000 less than a non-RAW capable 4K Canon 1DC, $13,000 less than the 10 bit 1080p Canon C300 and $23,000 (!) less than Canon's 4K C500.

RED and Sony prices for equivalently equipped 4K cinema cameras are also at or above $10K.  The new 2K Arri Amira is $20K.

My guess is that Blackmagic will be able to sell as many Production Cameras as the factory can crank out.  I also predict that we will start to see downward price adjustments from Canon and Sony - and perhaps even RED and Arri.

This may be bad news for the large camera companies, but it is a terrific Christmas gift to photographers and moviemakers everywhere - even those who will never buy a Blackmagic camera.

As always, if anything here has helped you to make a buying decision, please use the links embedded above or the display ads below to order.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Open Box Sony RX10 - $937 from Adorama!

You can save about $360 off the street price of a new RX10 at Amazon if you buy an open box camera for $937 from Adorama.

This is a great deal for one of the hottest still/video cameras on the market this Christmas season.

These are brand new cameras with a 1 year Sony warranty  - I don't think they'll last long at this price!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Full Frame Prices Headed Down? Nikon D800 Marked Down to $2570!

The USA model Nikon D800 (with the full manufacturer's warranty) is on sale at Ryther Camera via eBay for just $2569.99 - $226.96 less than today's sale price at Amazon and Adorama!

If the D800 is on your Christmas list this year, this is a great deal for a capable still/video camera.  To refresh your memory, here's Sandro's promo film for this camera from last year:

The 5D Mark III is on sale too - as low as $2749 at Amazon.

This could simply be pre-Christmas camera discounting - or perhaps the $2298 street price of the new 36.3MP Sony A7r mirrorless is putting pressure on flagship full frame DSLR prices?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shootout: Panasonic GH3 Quicktime vs Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera ProRes

Here's a short side-by-side handheld comparison of the two cameras shot on Waikiki beach a couple of months ago. This was my first attempt at color grading, but I did my best to match Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera ProRes Film Log to the Panasonic GH3's Quicktime "Vivid" color setting using Sony Vegas Platinum 12 for color correction (since my computer won't download Resolve - grrr).

The first shot in each sequence is with the GH3.  Lenses are the Olympus 11-22mm f/2.8-3.5 for 4/3 (with the Panasonic MA1 adapter) and the Panasonic 14-140mm f/4.0-5.8 OIS (for the shot of the boat only).

I matched the focal lengths of the two cameras by zooming in a little more with the GH3. I used an Opteka 77mm Variable ND to control my aperture (sadly, this filter is discontinued - I now recommend the $14 BestDealUSA Fader ND).

Both cameras were set to record at 1080/30p. No sharpening in this version.

Bottom line - both cameras are keepers for different reasons. As an all-in-one still/video camera, I would take the GH3 over any of its current hybrid competitors.

The Canon 5D Mark III is heavy, expensive, has a fixed LCD and, as with all DSLRs, has no video viewfinder - while the fixed lens, limited codec options and 30 minute clip length limit on the Sony RX10 are too confining (at least for me).

As for the Pocket Cam - it is a cinema camera, not a hybrid camera, so still/video shooters are back to carrying two cameras.  Not optimum. And its other limitations are well known (see the Bloom and Dugdale reviews, among others) - but I'm willing to put up with these challenges because there isn't anything else in this price range with the amount of flexibility this camera provides in post.

I could have colored these images however I liked, and not lost any discernible detail. The camera records an amazing amount of information on a little SD card. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it. Pushing the 50mbps GH3 image around the way I manipulated the 233mbps from the BMPCC would have washed out the highlights and brought visible noise out in the shadows.  There is also a lot of room for sharpening the image in post.

That said, all the dynamic range in the world won't help if the images are unwatchable. You see a lot of horribly shaky video from this camera, and Panasonic OIS doesn't seem to help. Personally, I would never try to handhold the Pocket Cinema Camera without strapping some kind of grip or handle on it. But that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune on a rig or a stabilizer. With an inexpensive pistol grip and a poor man's loupe, the BMPCC can be handheld pretty steadily.

If you are a narrative, experimental, music video, enthusiast or doc shooter who wants more control over the "look" of your images in post and are wiling to put some time in to get it, the Pocket Cinema Camera is for you.

If all of this post-processing stuff bores you and you don't need RAW - but you do want multiple high bit rate codecs and the flexibility of changing lenses to get your favorite "bokeh" - you should get a GH3.

If all you want to do is pull the camera out of the bag, shoot, and get great camera-processed images - buy the RX10.

Note: I have an RX10 reserved for rental from borrowlenses on December 28th.  Over that weekend, I will compare it to GH3 AVCHD and Quicktime and BMPCC ProRes (with the rush of the holidays, I haven't had the time to deal with RAW yet - looks like it's going to mean buying a new computer - doh!).

It will probably take me a few weeks, but I will post the results as soon as I can.  Please follow me here, on G+, on YouTube and on Vimeo so you don't miss it.

As always, even if you don't need a camera right now, please shop with our other sponsors, Adorama, Amazon, BorrowLenses, CoolLCD, DigitalRev, uBid, Vimeo, the the Warner Brothers Shop and others whose display ads you see in the margins.  It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these blog posts coming.  Thanks so much!