Wednesday, April 30, 2014

First 4K Narrative Short Shot with the Panasonic GH4!

Panasonic Australia posts the first official narrative video shot with the new Panasonic GH4. Shot in 4K, but, sadly, rendered down to 720P for YouTube. Hope they post a downloadable version to Vimeo soon!

...and here's the behind-the-scenes:

Can't wait to get my hands on this camera! If this post has helped you to make a buying decision, please click on one of the links above or the display ad below. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help keep these blog posts coming. Thanks!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Selling my Pocket Cinema Camera for a GH4 - Why?

I still love my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. I have found ways to overcome its handling limitations (with an inexpensive LCD shade, a loupe and a pistol grip).

I have learned to combine its expanded image and peaking features for razor sharp manual focus, its small form factor is convenient and visually appealing, I absolutely love 10-bit ProRes and, now that the GH3 is back over $1000, the BMPCC is the only sub-$1000 camera with a headphone jack. So, why am I selling it to buy a Panasonic GH4?

Because the BMPCC is the last camera I pick up when I leave the house. On the other hand, I take the GH3, with its 'inferior' 8-bit codecs, everywhere I go. It turns out that I need to be able to shoot a high quality still photo every once in a while - and an iPhone just doesn't cut it for me. So, I guess I chose the right title for this blog. I am a hybrid still/video camera shooter, still looking for the "revolutionary" camera that can do it all. Is the GH4 that camera? Hopefully, we'll see in a few weeks.

If you're looking for a 12-bit RAW cinema camera for $899 and you're in in the SF Bay Area, click on one of the pictures above or this link to see my Craigslist post. If you prefer a new BMPCC, GH3 or GH4, please click on one of the links above or the display ads below. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help keep these posts coming. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Videographer's Dream Camera"

The reviews are starting to come in for the Panasonic GH4 - Luminous Landscape, ephotozine and others have had a chance to review the v1.0 version of the camera with production firmware.  ephotozine goes so far as to call it a "videographer's dream camera."

I have to agree - just about every challenge with the GH cameras that shooters have kvetched about for the past five years (except the lack of a built-in ND filter - ugh) has been addressed - and Panasonic quadrupled the resolution of the camera while they were at it.

At $1698 , this camera is a steal.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Making "Big Hollywood" Production Values More Accessible - Exclusive Interview with Eric Kessler

The place for the cool people to hang out at NAB this year was clearly the well-stocked bar between the Zacuto and Kessler booths.

The biggest crowds I saw at the show were at GoPro - the most ostentatious displays were at Sony, Canon, Blackmagic and RED - and the Vegas showgirls were at the booths of companies I'd never heard of (which is why the showgirls were there) - but if you wanted to see Philip Bloom holding forth or see Steve Weiss showing a shoulder rig to Vincent Lafloret or meet Eric Kessler, this was the place to be.

I didn't get a chance to meet Phil or Steve or Vincent, but Eric Kessler took a few minutes with HCR to describe some of their latest products and talk a little about Kessler's mission.

I was really impressed by what I saw at the Kessler booth.  I've been saving up for a slider and thought about settling for one of the low-end models.  But my conversation with Eric convinced me that it would be better to wait a little longer and buy something that will last a lifetime.

If you're in the market for a high quality slider, jib or camera support system - and anything here has helped you to make a decision to buy Kessler products, please visit the Kessler Crane Storefront on Amazon or click on one of the display ads below. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help keep posts like this coming.  Thanks!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Product from NAB - Affordable Multi-Axis Stabilizers from Big Balance

So I see a gentleman in Flava Flav-style white framed sunglasses racing around the show floor in a motorized wheelchair, followed by another guy "flying" a very small handheld gimbal. Okay, so my interest is piqued.

I start following these two to see where they're going. Turns out they're headed back to the booth for Big Balance Technology - an exciting new player in the multi-axis gimbal market.

With the introduction of the $15K MoVI 10, the $5K MoVI 5 and the $1.8K Defy last year - plus the proliferation of brushless gimbals we're starting to see on 'copters (such as the Zenmuse Z15), there are lots of gimbals at NAB this year. For years, I've dreamt of smooth, gimbaled Hollywood-style motion from a 2 or 3-azis stabilizer, but I hadn't planned to stop by any of the gimbal manufacturers' booths this week, because there was no way I could afford a powered stabilizer - or so I thought.

Enter Big Balance. A new Hong Kong company with a presence in the US and Europe. They saw the opportunity to bring multi-axis gimbal technology down from the high-end to smartphones, action cams, small and large interchangeable lens cameras - and this year they're at NAB, planning to ship their products in June. Prices start at an unbelievable $220 for their "Gazelle" 2-axis smartphone stabilizer.

Here's my interview with Larry Reich from Big Balance with a demo of the $995 Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera on a $750(!) Big Balance Gorilla stabilizer. I was so impressed,I forgot to pay attention to holding focus on Larry:

For smartphone and action cam filmmakers, this is a no-brainer. They should buy the Husky and the Mustang as soon as they are available.

For compact cam and DSLR/DSLM filmmakers, it's a little more money - but still worth it - especially for BMPCC owners (like me) who are frustrated by how hard it is to hold the camera steady.

If you have been on the fence about buying the BMPCC because you have been concerned about image stabilization - it may be time to pull the trigger.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bear on the loose - no, it's not the Russians, it's the Blackmagic Ursa!

This morning at NAB, while I was still enroute, Blackmagic dropped their latest bombshell. Two new cameras, the Studio Camera and the Ursa, for the pro TV and cinema markets. Hard to believe that the Ursa is $6495 for the PL mount version and $5995 for the EF mount version. Global shutter, Super 35 sensor, 12 stops of DR, a built-in 10' monitor, and dual CFast RAW or ProRes recording.

Unlike some other bloggers, I am not upset that they didn't fix their existing cameras first. Disruptive companies disrupt. That's what they do. I have a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera - it is an imperfect camera, yes - but for the image quality it produces, it is still a great value for the money.

That said, unfortunately for Sony, the specs on this camera sound a lot like the specs on the $29,000 F55.

Between the A7s' externally recorded 4K and the Ursa, it has already been a bad week for Sony - and it's only Monday.

I am waiting to see the price for the HDMI Ursa - the DSLR/DSLM "dock" that will turn cameras like the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7s into cinema production cameras.

If you want to get on the waiting list for the Ursa (and knowing Blackmagic, you want to get on the list early, because it is likely to be a long wait), please click on the links above or the display ad below. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help keep updates like this one coming. Thanks!

Final Rig Configuration for NAB 2014

The last piece of my "Frankenrig" arrived on Saturday - so here's the final configuration I'll be using for interviews and B roll on the show floor at NAB.

Instead of a static picture, as in my first post on "Frank", I shot a short video to point out all the pieces/parts - and try out my new Audio Technica AT8004L handheld mic (on sale for $89 plus shipping right now at Adorama).

This setup is for shoulder-mounted work and not really for mounting on a tripod, due to oscillation. But the ability to mount it on the tripod will still be convenient for interviews (and for giving my shoulder a rest).

And, given that it's NAB, there will probably be plenty of people with huge cameras and tripods walking around - so I won't look too strange.

If you have a mirrorless camera with an EVF, and you'd like to build your own in-line rifle style rig, the parts list is in the display ads below - or you can go directly to the video and order from the links in the "About" section.

Hope to see you at NAB!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sony Announces 4K Full Frame A7s - How Does It Stack Up Against the Panasonic GH4?

Sony unveils the A7s - a full frame, interchangeable lens 4K video camera

This is a big turnaround for Sony. A couple of months ago, in an article entitled, "Sony: Consumers aren't quite ready for 4K recording", Sony executives were quoted as saying, "Some competitors have already introduced 4K recording models so it is a point of differentiation that we don’t have at the moment but we see the need for it."

But with the firestorm of interest around the new Panasonic GH4 (and Sony's own FDR-AX100 4K camcorder), Sony seems to have changed its tune. At the end of today's press event at NAB 2014, Sony unveiled a new full-frame, interchangable lens camera based on the A7 - the A7s (high level specs on the slide below):

The headline number is clearly the ISO. In fact, the "s" in A7s stands for "sensitivity".  It is clear that Sony is going to make the case that low light shooters should buy this camera instead of the GH4.

But the rest of the specs aren't really competitive.  An optional XLR input doesn't match an optional quad 4K HD-SDI output. The A7s' slow motion will be a relatively lo-res 720/120p against the GH4's full HD 1080/96p.  The A7s' XAVX-S 50Mbps will certainly look nice, but if it is 8-bit 4:2:0, it won't grade as well as the GH4's 100Mbps 10-bit 4:2:2 HDMI output.  As for shooting LOG, the GH4's CineLike D will at least give S-Log2 a run for its money.

The elephant in the room, however, is price.  How much will this camera cost?  If, like the A7r,  it is a few hundred dollars over $2000 - I don't think they'll sell a lot of them.  If, however, it is closer to the price of the A7, the GH4 may have a fight on its hands.  Of course, that will kill A7 sales and create a lot of angry A7 owners.  It will be interesting to see what Sony does.

Really looking forward to getting to Vegas tomorrow!

EDIT: Just saw that DJ over at DSLRFilmNoob is reporting that the A7s cannot record 4K internally and that the price will be $2500.  If true, I don't think they're going to sell a lot of these cameras.

EDIT 2: The press release seems to confirm that the camera records 3840x2160 to an external recorder and 1080p to the internal card.  For cinema shooters who want DCI compatible 4096x2160 and prefer to record internally, this is a non-starter.  It looks like the GH4 is the winner on resolution, internal 4K recording and price.

EDIT 3:   Here's the first video shot with the A7s.  Compressed for YouTube and not downloadable:

 EDIT 4: Andrew Reid at EOSHD is reporting that Atomos has announced the Atomos Shogun external recorder for the A7s.  It will be "less than $2000" and will record the A7s' 8-bit 4K output as 10-bit ProRes.  So you'll need to add a ~$2000 recorder to the A7s' estimated $2500 price to get 10-bit 4K (transcoded from 8-bit).  That's a lot of money for a transcode.

If you've been waiting to see what Sony would do before deciding to pre-order your GH4, and this post has helped you make a decision, please pre-order through one of the links above or the display ads below. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these updates coming. Thanks!

A Reminder of What Has Sony (and Canon) Worried - Adorama Reviews the Panasonic GH4!

Panasonic DMC-GH4 with DMW-YAGH Pro Audio-Video Interface - $3298
Click Here or on the Photo to Order 

While we wait for Sony NAB 2014 Press Event (less than an hour away as I write this), here's a reminder of why Sony is (may be) in such a rush to introduce a 4K interchangeable lens mirrorless camera - the enthusiastic reception that the 4K $1698 Panasonic GH4 is getting.

Adorama TV has just released another positive GH4 review - with example scenes from different shooting scenarios - to include recording to an Aja Ki Pro Quad (with the usual caveat that you can't tell a lot from YouTube compressed video).

And there's a lot more on the DMW-YAGH audio video interface (which the reviewer calls a "breakout box") and on the camera's ergonomics when it is combines with the YAGH and an external recorder.

Here's the video:

This is a great reminder of the high bar that Sony will have to clear if they want to compete with the GH4. With any luck, I can get my hands on both cameras at NAB and tell you all about it.

Please subscribe to the blog to stay up to date on the latest from NAB next week - and support our sponsors - they keep us up and running and make our NAB coverage possible.  Thanks!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

World's First Full Frame 4K Camera? Watch Sony NAB Announcement Live!

Sunday Night, April 6th, at 2PM Pacific, 5PM Eastern and 10PM London time, Sony will hold its annual NAB Press Event. The rumor sites are pretty much all reporting that the company will announce an "A7s" 4K full frame video/still camera.

Full frame is nice, but we'll have to see whether the new camera's codec and connectivity measure up to the GH4's.

Sadly, I don't get to Vegas until Monday night, but Sony will live stream the event - so we can all watch it right here on HCR!

EDIT: Okay, okay - it's the world's second full frame 4K camera (after the very expensive Canon 1D C). That said, it is likely to be the world's first full frame 4K camera that many people can afford.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Slashcam 4K Shootout - Panasonic GH4 vs Sony AX100 vs Blackmagic Production Camera!


German review site Slashcam has done the first side-by-side of the first generation of <$3000 4K cameras, the Panasonic GH4, the Sony AX100, and the Blackmagic Production Camera.

Although the clips suffer from YouTube compression and questionable color choices in the grade, there are a couple of things that are clear. First, the GH4's 50ns shutter readout is almost as good as a global shutter. I had to freeze the frame to see skew/rolling shutter in the "whip pan" at 0:32. It wasn't distracting at all as I watched the motion video - unlike previous generation CMOS cameras.

Second, there is a lot to be said for the AX100's resolution, baked-in color rendition and power zoom. If you don't plan to color grade and don't need the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, this is a terrific little Handycam.

Here's the video:

Without access to the original files, this comparison is suggestive, but not definitive. That said, the accompanying review provides more insight. Here's another link to the full review. The translation is a little rough, but, thanks to Google Translate, I can't complain about the price.

These are all great cameras for their specific purposes. If you want cinema standard 4096x2160, internal recording to SD cards instead of SSDs, interchangeable lenses, a great viewfinder and in-camera color control in addition to gradeability - get the $1698 GH4 .

If all you need is UHD, but you want a Super 35 sensor, RAW (eventually) and no rolling shutter - get the $2995 Blackmagic Production Camera - but be prepared to buy external batteries and an external monitor or loupe (at the very least).

If you just want to pick up a camera and shoot stunning UHD without the hassle of color grading or changing lenses - get the $1998 AX100 - but be prepared for skew/rolling shutter if you pan too quickly.

If you know what you're getting into, you can't really go wrong with any of these cameras.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My GH3 Rig for NAB

I finally broke down and bought a set of rails. I'll be doing some one-man band interviews and B-roll with my GH3, Sigma 18-50mm constant f/2.8 lens, Audio Technica AT835b mic and Hosa MIT-156 XLR to 3.5mm transformer adapter at NAB next week, and since I'll be putting a new F&V R-300 LED Ring Light in front of the camera, I needed a set of rails.

The least expensive option I could find was a set of $21 40cm/16-Inch rods with end caps, a $30 camera mounting plate, a $30 quick release, a $23 RainbowImaging pistol grip, a $7.50 Pixel remote cable for Panasonic cameras and a $35 convertible shoulder pad/shotgun rest.

Please subscribe to the blog to catch my updates from NAB next week - and I'll definitely let you know how the new rig works out!