Friday, January 31, 2014

In LA? Arri Amira Available for Preview!

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Arri is previewing a prototype Amira at their offices in Burbank this week.  I'd call ahead to check on the camera's availability first, though (818-841-7070).

If you do stop by, please post a comment to the blog to tell us what you thought!

P.S. - sadly, it looks like the camera will be $40K rather than $30K when it is introduced in April - which will push it closer to $2000 a week for rental.  But, as I said in the earlier post, it will save you at least that much in time and money in post-production.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Arri Amira - Canon C500 Killer?


When I was in film school in the 1970s, I read magazines such as American Cinematographer, AFI's American Film and Filmmaker.  I spent hours poring over articles with pictures of Arri 16 and 35mm cameras on set with my heroes - Stanley Kubrick, John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese and others.

John Cassavetes with Arri 16ST

I remember looking at pictures of the fabulous Arri 16 and 35BL shoulder mounted cameras and thinking - "These are the perfect cameras for independent filmmakers.  Pick one up, load it with film and just go out and shoot.  Maybe, someday, I'll rent one of these, put it up on my shoulder, go out on the street and shoot my movie..."

Kubrick on the set of A Clockwork Orange with Arri IIc

But, then reality would set in.  Even after buying expensive film stock, shooting guerrilla on the street and convincing your friends to act in your movie for free, there were still huge processing and duplication costs and let's not get into editing and coloring.

Martin Scorsese with Arri 35BL

Fast forward 40 years.  A few days ago, Arri turned all that on its head when they announced the European prices for the new, shoulder-mounter, 2K 200fps Arri Amira ProRes camera  - prices aimed squarely at cameras such as the Canon Cinema EOS C500.

AMIRA Showreel from ARRI Channel on Vimeo.

At €25,980, the Amira is likely to come in right around $30,000 when its price is announced in the States. This was the list price for the C500 - until its recent markdown to $19,999 (perhaps Canon knows something?)

Independent filmmakers and DSLR shooters stepping up to the next level have so far gravitated toward the Cinema EOS cameras because they overcame many of the challenges presented by DSLRs - but these "cinema" cameras still require a shoulder rig and an external viewfinder for handheld shooting.

And, if you want the Amira's ability to shoot ProRes straight to the camera, you have to put up with Blackmagic Production Camera's lack of XLR inputs, ND filters and overall poor design (offset somewhat, but not completely, by its amazingly low price).

Or, if you want high speed frame rates comparable to the Amira's 200fps slow motion, you have to buy a Sony FS700 - with its ridiculous top mounted LCD/viewfinder.

Straight out of the box, none of these are handheld, self-contained cinema cameras, by any stretch of the imagination.

As Andrew Reid over at eoshd says in his thoughtful piece on the Amira, "[Canon Cinema EOS]...ergonomics have garnered praise only because the competition has been even worse."

That said, the shoulder mount is very cool, but what has me really excited about this camera is the 2K, 14-stop dynamic range, ProRes output to a CF card.  Straight from a 14-stop DR camera to an inexpensive card reader and into any NLE.  Heck, even my little laptop can handle that.

I have had a tiny taste of what that means for easy, high quality workflow with my little Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.  One of the best things about this $995 marvel is its ProRes 422 output to a relatively inexpensive, fast SDXC card.  Many people started out clamoring for RAW with this camera, and ended up, as I have, shooting primarily to ProRes.  It's just that easy.

For me, this workflow advantage is just as important as the camera's ergonomic superiority and wide dynamic range.  Shooters won't need to go to post-production houses to edit and color their high quality images - they won't even need to buy expensive SSDs or computers capable of processing RAW.

Forty years ago, post-production costs were the barrier that kept many people from making the movies they wanted to make.  This camera breaks that barrier down, in a big way, and may save enough time and money in post to be worth the ~$1500 a week it will cost to rent it (based on the C500 rental price at Borrowlenses).

For me, this is more important than either 4K or internally recorder lossless RAW, and makes this camera revolutionary.

Without buying a shoulder rig, follow focus, SSDs, an external EVF or loupe, an external recorder, screw-on NDs, or the time and expense of complex post-production workflow, filmmakers can, as the Arri tagline says, just "pick up and shoot".

So this morning, for the first time in a few decades, I found myself looking at pictures of a new Arri shoulder mounted camera, and thinking - "maybe..."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Panasonic Social Media Campaign

Panasonic pokes a little fun at the big lens crowd with a new social media campaign called, "Why DSLR?"

The first shot in the campaign is a short video called, "Why are DSLR lenses so big?"

I think Freud had part of the answer.

Fuji X-T1 - Proof That Fuji Still Doesn't Care About Video

Fujifilm X-T1 - #1 Selling Compact System Camera at Amazon as of 28 January 2014

Like a lot of people, I was looking forward to the release of the new $1299 (body only) Fuji X-T1 today. Perhaps naively, I thought Fuji might use this opportunity to get serious about hybrid still/video cameras - until I saw the specs.

Yes, it records at 1080/60p - something just about every still/video camera manufacturer except Canon and Olympus have figured out how to do - but only 14 minutes of continuous video? And a 2.5mm mic jack? You've got to be kidding me.

This is marching backwards. Canon ditched the 12 minute limit two years ago. And Panasonic finally got rid of the 2.5mm jack with the GH3 last year.

I can't tell from the specs, but I doubt they'll have a decent video bit rate, audio metering or manual audio gain control.  Sadly, this looks like another video fail from Fuji.

I'm a big fan of the X-Trans sensor for still photography and anyone who has been waiting for a weathersealed DSLR-styled" X-Trans still camera should definitely buy the X-T1 - but it is clear that video continues to be an afterthought for Fuji, so, unless the video image quality turns out to be phenomenal, I won't be interested in buying, renting or recommending this camera for video.

Can't wait for the 200mbps 4K Panasonic GH4K announcement on February 7th (hat tip to 4/3 rumors for the date)!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

4K Blackmagic Production Camera Workflow Demo!


In what may be a good sign for those who have pre-ordered the Blackmagic Production Camera - here is one of the first sightings "in the wild' since NAB last year!

According to, on January 16th, at the Society of Television Engineers meeting in Burbank, California, workflow specialists LumaForge teamed with Blackmagic Design to demonstrate an "inexpensive" (by broadcast standards) 4K workflow.

Pictured above is the $3995 Production Camera connected, via Thunderbolt, to the new drum-shaped Macbook Pro (starting at $2994)  and a $1999 Seiki 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD TV with a $945 Blackmagic Design UltraStudio 4K Breakout Box.

Blackmagic is really working hard to shake things up in the world of high-end, high resolution image acquisition and processing.  For broadcasters, $10,000 for 4K acquisition, processing, delivery and consumption is a game changer.  It means a significantly lower cost of production and more money on the bottom line.  For indie filmmakers, this means a much lower cost of entry to projection-quaiity 4K theatrical production.

For the rest of us, it means there are going to be a lot of used 1080p "cinema" cameras on the market soon. Used C100 or F3, anyone?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

UK Dealer: 4K Blackmagic Production Camera Shipping This Month!

3D Broadcast Sales at Pinewood Studios in the UK claim that the long-awaited 4K for $4K Blackmagic Production Camera will start shipping in January 2014.  After Blackmagic CEO Grant Petty's "shipping this quarter [Q4 2013]" quote a few weeks ago, let's hope this isn't another false alarm.

Hopefully, CVP in the UK and stateside dealers such as B&H and Adorama will get their cameras in soon and start filling customer pre-orders.

I am really looking forward to seeing what this camera can do once it's out in the marketplace and in the hands of the thousands of creatives who couldn't afford a 4K Super 35 camera until now.

Remember when $4000 was an exciting price for a large-sensor interchangeable lens 1080p Panasonic AF100?  Seems like a very long time ago.

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.

And even if you're not in the market for a cinema camera right now, please support our 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!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Panasonic GH4K Less Than $2000 - Big Trouble for $4000 Blackmagic Production Camera?

Courtesy HD Warrior

Two primary sources that I trust, Endgadget and Giulio Sciorio at Small Camera Big Picture are reporting from CES that, a day after Sony introduced the $1998 4k FDR-AX100 camcorder, Panasonic is about to roll out a 4K resolution GH4K camera that looks a lot like the GH3 - for less than $2000.  Endgadget says:
"The company's keeping most of the hardware's specs close to its collective vest, but a representative was able to divulge a few details. UHD content can be recorded at 200 Mbps, and output in a full live feed via a mini-HDMI port (thanks to ALL-I Intra mode) to display on a computer or record to a hard drive. Of course, the Micro-Four Thirds shooter can save footage straight to an SDXC card -- a UHS Class 3 prototype variant tuned for such a task was on display -- though space will run out fairly quickly.
There's no word how many megapixels the cam totes, but it will be able to simultaneously snap photos while recording video. More details are set to arrive with the camera's official release in late February, when it'll arrive with a price tag of $2,000 or less" (!)
This is an absolutely revolutionary price for an interchangeable lens 4K camera.  Cinemas around the word still project at 2K (and are only slowly upgrading to 4K).  When you can get one of these for less than $2000, the decision whether to buy a $4000 Blackmagic Production Camera becomes that much more difficult.

And why would anyone ever shoot for theatrical projection at 1080p (1.9K)?

I do wish that Panasonic would introduce a 4K Super 35 camera at some point.  Perhaps as a long overdue upgrade to the venerable AF100.

It looks like 2014 is going to be another very interesting year.