Friday, August 29, 2014

The best 4K camera deal is now even better - $500 off list price for the Blackmagic Production Camera!

Just yesterday, we posted a link to a $100 off deal on the 4K Production Camera. Well, the folks at Blackmagic Design have one-upped the discounters and, for a limited time, are offering the BMPC for $2495 at Amazon and Adorama.

$2495 is the bundle price at Adorama - you can get it either with:
Given how quickly the Pocket Cinema Camera disappeared from stock during its $500 off sale a few weeks ago, if you've been considering the Production Camera, you may want to pull the trigger on this deal soon!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Here's how to get clean low light footage from the Panasonic GH4

I have heard from several video shooters who are concerned about buying or renting the Panasonic GH4 because they have heard that it has less than stellar performance above ISO 800.

To address this concern, Sohail over at Borrowlenses (one of our terrific sponsors) has posted a great blog entry on shooting with the GH4 at night.

He makes the interesting point that low light and high ISO are not necessarily the same thing - and that with fast enough lenses, shooters can produce great footage with the GH4 for night exteriors.

As an example, here's some 4K footage he shot with the GH4 at San Francisco's Fishermans' Wharf using the Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 and a Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 (with Speed Booster). Cleanest shots are between ISO 200 and 400 :

As Sohail says - shooting with superfast lenses doesn't give the GH4 the incredible light-gathering capability of the A7s - but it does give shooters the ability to deliver clean low-light footage at reasonable ISOs.

And for budget-conscious shooters, the additional benefit is that a $1698 Panasonic GH4 with a $799 Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 Nikon mount lens is about the same price as a $2498 body-only Sony A7s.

Yes, you'll need a $429 Nikon G to MFT Speed Booster, but that's less than the cost of a decent lens for the Sony.

If you need a camera that can essentially see in the dark, the A7s is the better choice - but if you want internal 4K recording and you occasionally shoot in low light, the GH4 will do a terrific job.

If you've found this helpful, please shop through the links above or the display ads in the margins. It won't cost you anything extra and it will help keep these posts coming. Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Best 4K Camera Deal - $100 off list price for a new Blackmagic Production Camera

Here's a great deal on a Super 35mm camera with a global shutter that doesn't need a paid firmware upgrade (e.g., Arri Amira) or a hack (e.g., Sony F5) to record 4K - the Blackmagic Production Camera.

With the addition of RAW recording, histogram, audio meters, and time-to-go in the last few (free) updates, this camera has come into its own. You can get one right now from Top-Rated 100% eBay seller AMG Studios in Ohio for just $2895 - $100 below list.

Only a couple are left at this price, so if you want one, you may want to pull the trigger now (and, if they're sold out, you can still get one by clicking on one of our sponsors' display ads below).  Thanks for helping to keep the posts coming.

Paul Ream's Sony F5 4K hack is real - Sony F55 owners not happy

Sony F5 owners just got an early Christmas present. Paul Ream's latest podcast describes exactly how he unlocked 4K recording on the heretofore 2K Sony F5 (discussion of Sony business ethics starts at 11:30 - legal caveats and technical discussion start at 17:15).

For those who need to see the procedure in writing, Paul has spelled it out:

Following on from our fourth podcast, this is the page where we’ve written the 4K4F5 guide down. It goes like this:
  • Save a 2K XAVC ‘All Files’ setting to a blank SD card.
  • Pop the SD card into your computer.
  • Go to the Private/Sony/PRO/CAMERA/PMWF5 directory.
  • Open the 001.ALL file with a plain text editor.
  • Delete the whole of the first line (32 digit checksum)
  • Change line 150 to one of the settings listed below.
  • Save the file as 001.ALL (Plain text)
  • Generate a new md5 checksum for the file.
  • Open the file in your text editor again and add the new checksum as a new first line.
  • Save and pop the SD card in your F5.
  • Enjoy your new settings which can then be copied in camera to taste.
Your choice of new line 150′s are:
  • 4K at 23.98 enter: 150=4096,2160,1001,24000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,6
  • 4K at 24 enter: 150=4096,2160,1,24,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,6
  • 4K at 25 enter: 150=4096,2160,1,25,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,5
  • 4K at 29.97 enter: 150=4096,2160,1001,30000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,4
  • 4K at 50 enter: 150=4096,2160,1,50,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,3
  • 4K at 59.94 enter: 150=4096,2160,1001,60000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,3
  • QFHD at 23.98 enter: 150=3840,2160,1001,24000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,6
  • QFHD at 24 enter: 150=3840,2160,1,24,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,6
  • QFHD at 25 enter: 150=3840,2160,1,25,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,5
  • QFHD at 29.97 enter: 150=3840,2160,1001,30000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,6>/li>
  • QFHD at 50 enter: 150=3840,2160,1,50,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,3
  • QFHD at 59.94 enter: 150=3840,2160,1001,60000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,3
To generate an md5 checksum on a mac you can simply use terminal. Just type “md5 001.ALL” when you’re in the same directory as the file. Finally paste the 32digit code back into the first line in the file.

Not sure how to do this on Windows but there are web sites that will generate an md5 file code just by dropping it on a page!

Alternatively, here’s all my ‘ALL file’ settings as an example. They were generated on my camera with firmware 4.11. These can be saved to an SD card and used directly in your camera. Once loaded you can change any other menu settings and save them to your own camera cards as normal.


It is very interesting to see the shock and outrage over this discovery on Philip Bloom's Facebook page among the F55 crowd, though.

Camera companies make business decisions that disadvantage consumers all the time - at both consumer and pro ends of the market. I don't know why people continue to be surprised by this.

That said, if you've been thinking about getting the F5, but have been holding out for 4K, now may be the time to pick one up from existing stock from retailers (they are still $16,490 at Adorama). Sony will probably close this loophole in units that are yet to ship from the factory.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Finally - Metabones releases the Canon EF to micro 4/3 Speed Booster - Andrew Reid at EOSHD has one!

The adapter that so many Canon shooters have longed for has finally arrived. A powered Speed Booster from Metabones that adapts Canon EF (but not EF-S) lenses to micro 4/3 cameras such as the Panasonic GH4 - with full aperture control and image stabilization. I can't wait to get my hands on one - but until then, I'll have to live vicariously through Andrew's hands on experience with it.

That said, everyone is happy about this except Canon. My theory was that they were paying Metabones to delay the release of this adapter to keep Canon shooters from switching to the GH4 (that's a joke, for all of my literally minded readers). Seriously, though, I'll bet a lot of used Canon DSLRs go up on eBay in the next few days.

Arri hops on the 4K bandwagon with an upcoming firmware upgrade for the Amira

Following close on the heels of yesterday's news on the Sony F5 4K hack, Arriflex has issued a press release announcing an official "4K" UHD upgrade for the 2K Arri Amira (full text below). Of course, since this is Arri, the upgrade will not be free (how much it will cost is yet to be determined).

Interestingly, the release notes that the upgrade is in response to "user feedback". In other words, Amira shooters probably wondered why far less expensive cameras from Blackmagic and Panasonic recorded at higher resolution than their $40,000 cameras. It is also interesting to note that the Amira gets the upgrade and the Alexa does not.

Here's the full text of the release:

(August 26th 2014, Munich) – A new software upgrade for ARRI’s documentary-style AMIRA camera will allow it to record ProRes UHD files, answering the 4K requirements of some productions. The upgrade is expected to be available for purchase at the online ARRI License Shop by the end of 2014.
While widespread adoption of 4K or UHD for broadcast is still a long way off, an increasing number of content owners are becoming concerned that they ought to safeguard the longevity of their programs by ensuring that they will be suitable for UHD transmission, should that become a standard in the future. 
For those productions that do need to generate UHD deliverables, AMIRA will now offer the ability to record all ProRes codecs in Ultra High Definition 3840 x 2160 resolution directly onto the in-camera CFast 2.0 cards, at up to 60 fps. This feature, activated through an affordable software license (and a sensor calibration for existing AMIRAs), comes in response to feedback from AMIRA customers, some of whom have been quizzed about 4K deliverables by clients. It is made possible by the camera’s exceptional image quality, its processing power, and its reprogrammable system architecture.
Whether a production is pursuing a UHD workflow all the way through to distribution, or simply wishes to archive in UHD in order to future-proof itself against industry developments, AMIRA now offers an easy solution that requires no additional processes in postproduction.
The ALEXA/AMIRA sensor has repeatedly proved its ability to deliver outstanding image quality for the 4K or even IMAX theatrical releases of high-end feature films such as Gravity, Maleficent and Iron Man 3. This proves that the ALEXA and AMIRA camera systems are already future-proof and more than suitable for the next generation of distribution formats.
For major feature films, an up-sample to 4K can be carried out after visual effects and other postproduction tasks have been completed at 2K resolution. For certain fast-paced AMIRA productions, however, there may not be the time or resources for such processes in post, which is why a 4K or UHD output direct from the camera has been requested.
AMIRA’s UHD output utilizes the same efficient 1.2x up-sample filter that allows ALEXA’s Open Gate mode to optimize the camera’s image performance for 4K distribution, as well as the same best-in-class sensor pixels. The up-sample to UHD happens in camera, and in real time.
Outputting UHD broadens the distribution options for the superior image quality that has helped make AMIRA, and ALEXA, such a success. The wide, 14+-stop dynamic range remains unaltered, as does the accurate colorimetry, natural skin tones, and organic look and feel. By making that high-quality image data coming out of the sensor compatible with higher spatial resolution formats, the UHD upgrade answers the concerns of certain regions and productions about a 4K future, allowing AMIRA to be used on any project, no matter what deliverables are required.
Markus Duerr, ARRI’s Product Manager for the AMIRA system, says, “Feedback about AMIRA from all over the world has been overwhelmingly positive and it is clear that the camera is already a great success, being used on an amazing variety of challenging productions. Already acclaimed for its phenomenal image quality, ease of use and versatility, the new ProRes UHD output will take these benefits even further, adding value for customers in areas like China, where 4K is a major focus of industry attention.”
Wildlife cinematographer Rolf Steinmann, who was nominated for an Emmy Award this year in recognition of his work with ALEXA on the BBC’s Wild Arabia series, is currently using his AMIRA on a movie for Disney Nature. He comments, "For cameramen like me who own their gear, the UHD upgrade is a great way to stay future-proof. From now on when there's pressure from the production side to deliver UHD, I can continue to work with AMIRA and won't have to compromise on image quality or on the camera's robustness and reliability." 
About ARRI:
With headquarters located in Munich, Germany, Arnold and Richter Cine Technik (A&R) was founded in 1917 and is the world's largest manufacturer and distributor of motion picture camera, digital intermediate (DI) and lighting equipment. The ARRI Group comprises a global network of subsidiaries and partners that covers every facet of the film industry, including worldwide camera, grip and lighting equipment rental through ARRI Rental; turnkey lighting solutions through the ARRI System Group; lab services, postproduction and visual effects through ARRI Film & TV; and film distribution through ARRI Worldsales. Manufactured products include the ALEXA camera system and AMIRA documentary-style camera; Master Anamorphic lenses; L-Series LED and M-Series HMI lights; Pro Camera Accessories; and ARRISCAN archive technologies. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized ARRI’s engineers and their technical contributions with 18 Scientific and Engineering Awards.

In my view, this is just the beginning of the wave of 4K/UHD announcements and press releases we will see in the coming year. Manufacturers from Arri to Canon to Sony will introduce new 4K cameras and upgrade older models. If a camera doesn't record 4K, it will lose a lot of its market appeal. As a result, shooters will start unloading old 1080p and 2K cameras at bargain basement prices. It will be the story of the transition from SD to HD all over again.

This will be great news for entry-level amateur shooters who are looking to buy a 1080p camera in the next few months - but pros and high-end amateurs interested in delivering higher resolution to their clients and audiences may want to seriously consider upgrading - especially since there are reasonably priced cameras with 4K/UHD internal recording from Blackmagic and Panasonic already on the market.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Limited Time Sale - $300 off Panasonic GH3 - and $50 off the G6 with 14-42mm kit lens

The two best still/video cameras below $1000, the Panasonic GH3 and Panasonic G6, are now an even better deal.  For the next couple of weeks (while supplies last), the GH3 (body only) is marked down $300 to $797.99 - while the G6 with the kit lens is marked down about $50 to $697.99.

If you've been waiting for one or both of these cameras to come down in price, you may want to push your cart through before the price goes back up!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cinoflex turns the Sony A7s into a cinema camera for a Chevy commercial test

On August 12th, Cinoflex introduced the new type-SA7s Camera System on their Facebook page. Priced at $2495, and designed for a $2498 camera, this rig plugs the Sony's amazing full-frame low light sensor into a standard cinema camera form factor for under $5000.  Straight from Cinoflex, here's the design philosophy behind the type-A7s (from the Sony Alpha Rumors comments section):

"...a camera needs to be balanced well-fore to aft, needs to have a mass with low center of gravity, needs to have mounting options for the camera department, needs to have one central power source for all items, needs to adhere to the Panavision and Arriflex standard of spacing and heights, and...very important, needs to adhere to the tradition and fashion that camera operators, camera assistants, and camera technicians have been accustom[ed] to in the last 40 or so years. The Cinoflex was designed from the ground up, to emulate and respect the traditional form of the best film cameras, form [sic] the ARRI 435 to the PANAVISION Millennium XL."

Even adding in the $1995 price of the upcoming Atomos Shogun for 4K recording, the total price of this setup would be less than the price of the $8995 Aja Cion.  And, of course, it would be a lot less than a RED Epic or Arri Alexa.

For commercial or indie shoots where light and budget are at a premium, this might be a good solution.

That said, it's still about $1000 more than the upcoming $5995 Blackmagic URSA EF, with its global shutter and built-in HD-SDI outputs.

Now - if they'd only build one for the GH4....(are you listening, Cinoflex?)

Choices, choices - it's a great time to be a filmmaker!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blackmagic update 1.9.3 adds histogram, audio meter, time-to-go - huge usability improvement for BMPCC & BMCC!

Finally, over two years after the introduction of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera at NAB 2012 - and over a year after the introduction of the Pocket Cinema Camera in April 2013 - Blackmagic Design adds basic camera features to the amazing images produced by these cameras. As a business strategy, this makes sense. Early adopters have been willing to guess at audio levels and how much time they had left to shoot, while producing stunning RAW and ProRes images. And revenue generated by sales to early buyers has provided Blackmagic with the time and resources required to fix the cameras' firmware.

Speaking as an early adopter, this has been more than a little frustrating - but now that these basic omissions have been remedied, it will be difficult to stay peeved.

That said, these cameras are still battery hogs - and the BMCC's black sun issue has not been resolved - but Blackmagic owners are a lot happier today than they were yesterday.

Here are the new features provided by the update:

What's new in Blackmagic Camera Utility 1.9.3 
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 
Add histogram, time remaining and audio level indicators.
Use Up and Down to reveal and hide the meters while Left and Right will adjust the aperture of your active MFT lens. 
Fixed bug where in-camera playback may sometimes drop frames.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera
Add histogram, time remaining and audio level indicators.

Now that my Pocket Cinema Camera is now almost as usable as a real camera - perhaps I'll use it more :)

If usability challenges have kept you from buying a BMCC or BMPCC, now may be the time to jump in. They are still the only straight out-of-the-box RAW video cameras below $2000.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

First "4K"/60p footage from the Blackmagic Ursa!

Today, Pro cinematographer and Blackmagic tester John Brawley posted the first UHD/60p footage we've seen from the Ursa PL on his blog. I saw this camera at NAB and it is physically gorgeous - with a huge, bright screen, sound meters you can see from across the room and lots of proper SDI outputs. And from the looks of John's footage, the image quality doesn't disappoint, even at ISO 400 with a T3.7 lens:

At $5995 for the EF mount version and $6495 for PL mount, this camera seems to address many of the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K's limitations (with the exception of the "black sun" problem) at a price point that significantly undercuts 4K cameras from RED, Sony and Canon that cost a lot more.

If Blackmagic were to add DCI standard 12-bit 4K (4096x2160) 4:4:4 RAW to this camera (instead of UHD), and fix the darned black sun, they'd sell a whole lot more of them in Hollywood. Maybe at next year's NAB.