Vocas 430 Mattebox

We recently bought the new Vocas 430 Mattebox announced at NAB this year.  It replaced one of our old Chrosziel Clip-on mattebox.

We wanted to be able to use 4×5.65 as well as 5×5 filters and even a few older 4×4 filter we have laying around.  We also wanted the option to stack up to 3 filters. As we shoot both broadcast as well as “big sensor” stuff we also wanted use be able to use with and without rods (as a clip-on)   The 430 looked like a goood choice will lots of different options.

First impression is that it is really well built.  It feels like it will last for tough production work in the field. I like all the knobs and different latches.

# 1 is the knob that releases the 3rd filter in the hood.
# 2  and #3 is the screws that tighten the filter trays

One of the first things I also notice is that the filter trays sit solidly in place without having to tighten the screws.  This is a big improvement over other “boxes” I’ve used, where unless you tighten the tray it falls right through.  This may of course change after wear-and-tear, but so far after about 10 days use they sit solidly in place; a big plus! I’d still tighten the screws but it nice that it stays in there before you do… 🙂

Filter frames 4×4, 4×5.65, 5×5 5.65×5.65 are available

Another smart feature is the “internal eyebrows”.  They’ll serve to flag out high angle/low angle  lights even if you don’t have the french flag attached. They are easily adjusted with a red  knob on the side.

Internal “eyebrows”

The box has 2 stages (1 rotatable) and an additional slot in the frame for an extra  4×5.65 filter.  This additional filter snaps into place with a little spring loaded tab.  This is a nice feature that gives you that sometimes needed 3rd filter.  The 2 slots allow for 4×4, 4×5.65 and 5.65×5.65, 5×5 filter trays, most trays are combination one fitting ie 4×4 and 4×5.65.  I would have liked to option to possibly add a 4th filter in the rear by adding a 3rd filter stage.

3rd filter in the hood. Circled is the little spring loaded knob that keeps the filter in place

There are a lot of different optional add-ons to this box.  Attachment points for side flags and a top flag. Lots of different step down rings, using either as a clip-on or with rails. I’ve only used it as a clip-on so far but we also purchased the swing away bracket for use with our Sony F3 or other cinema cameras. The swing away has a height adjustment bracket with is handy, I wish they would have made the adjustment span bigger for even greater vertical movement.

Swing away bracket with vertical heigh adjustment

The different step down rings lets you clip this on to a variety of broadcast and cinema glass.  According to Vocas website you can go as wide as the Canon HJ14 (4,3mm broadcast lens or equivalent of 10.6mm on Super35) using 2  4×5.65 trays or 1 4×4 tray. If you use a 5×5 you can rotate that. Pretty wide… 🙂
You can also get the adjustable cuff which you tighten around the lens to stop light from entering. The mattebox clamps tightly with the little snap closure on the left side of the box.  I must say I really like these snap closures.

a buckle that tightens the step-down rings

Negatives…?  Not really so far.  Perhaps that the filter in the hood in held in place by 2 small “lips” on on side and the spring tab on the other.  Time will tell how secure this 3rd filter is seated, but my initial feeling is good.

I’ve been so busy lately with broadcast stuff I haven’t had the time to mount this on our Sony F3. I’ll get to it at some point and post some images.
I think you should definitely check this out if you’re looking for a 3 filter mattebox!


Usual disclaimer: Writing this review on my own behalf, we paid full price for our Mattebox. Below are a few pictures of the first-time-go-around.

 

Me at work at Venice Film Festival for Viasat Film

For more info visit Vocas website.

New mattebox – Vocas

Today we got our new mattebox. We chose to go with the new Vocas 430, announced at NAB this year. It has 2 filter trays and one filter slot in the “box” . This is my first Vocas box coming from Chrosziel.

I will try to add a post on this mattebox in the coming week after I’ve had a chance to work with it a bit.
First impression is great though.

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Alphatron EVF – Review

Today we got our own copy of the Alphatron EVF. Very excited as we’ve been waiting for a good viewfinder for our Sony F3.  Other viewfinders I’ve seen in the last 2 years (in the $1000 range),  have in my opinion had one thing in common: they’ve bee very hard to judge focus on.  This EVF from Alphtron seems to be a change in that regard. It has a hires diplay, 960×640 and is crisp to look at.  Not to compare to a black n’ white pro viewfinder, but its getting closer.  I must say this though. I don’t understand why no one makes a proper SDI converter allowing for a ProVF such as the Sony 20A. I do not want, nor do I need a color viewfinder. I have an external monitor for when I need to judge critical color, something I’ll never get  anyway from a 4inch display.  But in the meantime this is what’s available and this might be the best VF to come out yet, in my opinion.  The panel in this VF is made by TV Logic which in itself should add confidence to potential buyers.

 

 

Where do I start.  Mounting is important.  For now we’ll use a small magic arm to attach the VF to out Berkey cheese plate. I think it mounts easily and sits pretty sturdy.  If you are one to keep changing the angle of  the VF as you shoot there might be a better mounting option:  The downside to the magic arm it when you tilt the unit up you release the screw and you need to turn the knob to tighten again. Tilting down is not a problem. I am sure there are solutions for this out or ready to come out.  There are 3 screw-in attachment points, 1 underneath, 1 on top and 1 on the right side of the unit. Attachment point are sturdy and in metal.  The power button is located on the top of the unit, please make sure to turn it off when not in use.

 

On the front end on the VF is a cover that houses the battery plate.  It will accept L and NP batteries.  This is a great option if you don’t have power available from the camera, let’s say for HDSLR use. The unit comes with a power cable with a D-tap connector on the end and the mini XLR on the other.  Having the power input angled down is not ideal, and I hope there is an angled power connector out there.
Underneath the battery plate is the I/O of the unit. To the left 2 BNC connectors SD/HDSDI in/out with loop through.  On the right is the HMDI in and out (loop through also). There is a meny option to convert HMDI in to SDI which could prove to be a really cool feature if you come from a HDMI source and want to shoot to a monitor a distance away.  Saves a AJA/BMD converter box. Nice!

Battery plate and SDI and HMDI i/o
BOTTOM VIEW:  Loupe release and power in as well as firmware port and calibration port

 

VF with the loupe popped open

The Alphatron EVF has 7 meny pages all accessable from the left side of the unit.  Also on that side are the 4 “f-buttons” for easy access operation of your favorite meny functions.

Meny access on the left side

The meny tree looks like this:

Picture: Setting for Brightneess, contrast, Aperture (sharpness), Scan mode (over, 0, user), Apect ratio, 3 G format, DSLR settings, and Rotary lock.
Color:  Here you can choose between presets of 3200K, 5600K, 6500K, 9300K as well as 3 user settings allowing you to customize your colors.
Marker: Setting for all frame markers, 16:9, 4:3, 4:3 on air, 15:9, 14:9, 13:9, 1.85, 2.35, 1.85 &4:3 as well as USER setting. Choice of marker color, and width. Safety area and center marker.
Error Check: False color, Setting for Zebra (1 zebra) with Y zone adjust from 0-100% as well as range error.
Audio: Level meter (16 channels, Lv meter display (pair or group), Lev Met Ref (18dB or 20dB), Lev Met size, peak decay time.
Display & Set: System default, Back light, Int pattern (color+pluge and gray 5-100%), Time code (LTC, VITC, OFF),
System: RS-232 port (Upgrade or Calibration) and HMDI to SDI (on-off)

In the eye piece there is a leaf-shutter that lets you shut out the sun from getting in while your eye is not up against.  I don’t know if this panel is especially sensitive to sun but it is a smart feature.

Leaf shutter

Good vs Bad

Good:
*  Timecode.  The Alphatron reads the timecode from the HDSDI stream and displays it in the viewfinder.  Very useful and this will tell you in your are rolling or not (taken that you are in REC-RUN TC mode)
*  You can set the VF in a Black n’ white mode and have a red (green or blue) focus assist line light up around all things in focus. Smart and easy to see without distracting colors. I think this is the way I’ll use this viewfinder most of the time as the color accuracy in the display is what it is.
*  The 4 easily accessible  “f-buttons” that you can customize to fit your needs. Very handy
*  User defined markers to let you set up your own marker in the VF.
*  Flip up feature to use the small screen without loupe.
*  False color feature is something I like alot on the 5inch TvLogic and is a nice feature on here.
*  Pixel-to-pixel.  Nice feature and standard now in most VF’s I guess.

Negative stuff:
*  I wish there was a histogram or  small WFM in the view finder.  Yes there are other options to set exposure but a small histogram is the VF would have been nice. Why choose not to include that, I know its available in other VFs??  Firmware upgrade???
*  Auto shut off.  Not that the viewfinder will chew up you battery over lunch but it would have been nice to have an auto-shut-off feature after for example 3 minutes of no sdi signal.  Firmware upgrade???
*  Why have 16 channels of audio monitoring in the VF. Isn’t 4 enough just to see that audio is actually being recorded. There is nothing moving on non-used channels but I want my VF as clean as possible…:)  Firmware upgrade??
*  The zebra pattern sets off the focus assist feature.  If for example you’d set your zebra at lets say 65% pretty much the whole frame would shown “as in focus” if you’re outdoors. If you use the zebra feature constantly it get annoying to see the zebra pattern “light up”.
*  Don’t know if I’d really call it negative but it is a little big big and bulky. I understand why it needs to be, but at the same time wish it was a little bit smaller. (we’re never happy are we… 😉  )

example of where zebra sets of focus assist “color edge”

 

To sum it up I think this is a great viewfinder for the money.  It is sharp and with the focus assist feature I see it as a really useful tool.  I wish there was the histogram but zebra will work especially if you’re used to ENG style cameras. Finding a good way to mount it onto the camera will be important if you need to change the position of the VF often.  I’ll be glad to get rid of the 5inch with blackwrap as our viewfinder… 🙂

Disclaimer:  No one asked me to write this post, I don’t have any ties… etc  etc. We payed retail price for the EVF

Gemini Raw

Convergent design has done it again. Today they officially released the “Gemini Raw” an external recorder recording onto SSD drives. With the Nano and Gemini 444 they now add support for 4K Raw acquisition with live preview and playback.
The 4 camera recording will allow 4 streams of HD-SDI simultaneously recording DNxHD onto the Gemini RAW.
It also features 4 camera recording, quad split playback, stereo 3D, uncompressed 444 and 120fps support in 2K.
DNxHD recently added to the Gemini 444 is if course also included in the Raw version. Convergent Design has also “future proofed” this recorder allowing for both RAW/uncompressed and DNxHD220 recording at the same time!!
Talk about data flow! 🙂
Price is still TBD but this looks like the recorder to get for high end work.

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ProViewfinder kit part2

Ok so this will be a fairly short post. There must have been some misunderstanding along the way because the ProVFM kit from AbelCine will ONLY work with an NTSC setting in the camera if you intend to use the HDVF-20a. We shoot mainly 25p and a little 50i video. The unit is being shipped back to AbelCine for a full refund.

PRO VFM unit

A couple of quick thoughts though.

1. Such a nice unit, really well engineered, sleek, and easy to attach/install. In less than 2 minutes the unit was attached to the Berkey plate. Screws and Allen Wrench included in the kit.

2. I would have liked to see and HD-SDI input with a loop through to take advantage of the HD signal output through the camera. It now uses the VIDEO out to send a signal to the VF. NTSC only except with HDVFC35W.

3. It would have been a nice accessory cable to be able to tap power from the remote port of the camera (should be possible considering the VF only pulls 4W), thereby freeing up a power tap outlet.

Power cables running from "driver unit" to D-tap

I am so sorry to see this unit go back it is the one accessory that would have made a big difference I think. Hopefully Abel Cine Tech will make a PAL compatible version down the line.

Disclaimer: We payed full price for this unit. Abel Cine Tech have been most helpful in the return process including paying for international shipping costs.

Pix240

So we’ve had the Pix240 for a few months now and I thought I’d post a few thoughts on it.

As we all know cameras like the Sony F3 have amazing sensors and output a stunning picture but the codec written to the internal media is less desirable for high end work. Enter an external recorder. There are many on the market like the Aja KiProMini, Atomos Ninja, Convergent Design Gemini and a few others.

They all have some features that set them apart but all of them have one thing in common, taking the great picture that leaves the sensor and capturing it to a better/higher quality format than what’s being recorded in the camera.

The Pix240 is made by Sound devices, most well know perhaps for their top of the line audio gear. Well they’ve moved on to video as well, a very well executed move in my opinion. This Pix records in industry standard Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHD. Input/output options are a SDI/HDSDI/HDMI as well as Analog XLR and AES3 digital audio. Timecode and Genlock are also available. On the side there is also a headphone jack with the option of choosing which channels to monitor.

One of the first things you think of is the big display on the front. To be honest it is not a very good display to judge either focus or color but it still serves an important purpose. To have the full on-screen-display (OSD) of the User Interface (UI) is simply outstanding. To see able to see all the audio channels, codec, frame rate, disk space, recording, etc is really reassuring in a stressful situation. The recorder triggers to start recording with the TC in the HD-SDI stream or you can simply hit REC.

Also being able to scroll through your clip list and quickly review a take is very handy. Of course you could watch it on board monitor (which you’ll still need to see focus and color) but having the display in the unit makes it easier. You can quickly toggle the OSD on and off.

Great On Screen Display

This is really well built recorder made in a metal/carbon fiber chassis.

Scroll wheel and meny buttons

The buttons on the front are all small and recessed in the frame but easy to operate. On the side there is a push enabled scroll wheel which controls the meny, again, very easy to use. The UI and the meny system in divided up into 7 categories and with the display and all many options in plain text, you can’t go wrong in your setup .

The bigger buttons on the front are lit up and you have the option of choosing how brightly the’ll shine. You can easily see what button is active, even in full daylight. Great!

All data is written to the on board Compact Flash card or an SSD drive. The option of using an SSD drive directly in the unit is one aspects I like most. We bought a bunch of SSD drives and labeled them up. 120GB a piece gives us roughly 90 min of footage in ProRes HQ /25p. SSD are a lot cheaper than CF cards and also really fast to offload.
Built into the SSD “sled” is both USB3 and FW800 which helps if you need to offload in the field. We actually bought an extra just to use as an offload dock.

SSD "caddy"
CF card slot

The Pix records in a variety of resolutions and bit rates and wraps the files as .MOV in either Apple ProRes or DNxHD depending on your editing platform. It will also Up/Down/Cross convert your video to suit your needs, also very handy.

Underneath and on the side of the unit are all the I/O ports. Easy access and pretty self explanatory :=)

We power our both camera/on-board monitor and Pix240 off a single big brick V-lock battery which works great. See our V-lock plate We had a special cable made to pull power for the pix from the remote port on the camera but this overloaded the system and shut everything down. You can also power the pix through the Sony battery plates on the back of the unit.

One of the most frequent questions I get is if the unit is too big? It is bigger and a little heavier than other recorders but I don’t think it’s a problem. I think the display and the SSD option outweigh everything else.

Side and top view of Pix240 on Sony F3


So. Overall I am very happy with our choice. I’ve used it on both small one interview shoots, as well as multi day drama shoots and it suits my needs perfectly. It now sits on our XDCam 700 or F3 for basically all our shoots.
If ProRes or DNxHD is your choice of media you should take a serious look at this recorder before deciding what to buy.
Next step would be the Gemini for 444… 😉

Disclaimer: I have gotten no compensation from either above mentioned companies to write this post. We payed full retail price for our Pix240. I have used both the AjaKiPro mini as well as the Pix240 in production.

Cineroid LED light- First Look

At NAB as IBC last year these lights were announced and now its time to have a look.  I am looking for a nice small fill light for a car interior and thought the Cineroid LED a try.

I went over to our dealer and borrowed one of their lights. It is a small battery powered LED light made up of 96 small flat LED lights. The kit comes with 2 “fronts”, light grills, one tungsten (3000K) and one daylight (5000K) as well as charger, battery and battery plate. The “light fronts” snaps on and off with 1 release on each side of the light. There is no glass or protective cover over the LEDs but the construction seems solid enough, and only time will tell if they stand up to regular field use.

The light is made of a hard plastic and feels like a pretty solid build. The buttons on the back, both On/Off  as well as the for switch controlling the fan, are recessed and fairly protected against damage.  The fan has an option of running automatically or manually. In manual mode it has 5 different speeds. At the higher settings it could cause audio issues in a really quiet room. Since I’ve not spent any time shooting with this light yet I can’t say how much the fan is needed to cool the unit. The back of the detachable LED also work as a heat sink which hopefully reduces the need for the fan. You can set the manual setting to 0 and effectively turning the fan off. In case of overheating the display will warn.

One minus is the power connecter which sticks out on the side and is a regular consumer connector. I don’t understand why every manufacturer making these lights insist on NOT using a more robust power connector. I really doubt it would affect the price that much and I think people would gladly pay and extra $20 for a connector that will actually last during regular field use. It is not as flimsy as other lights I’ve seen but one improvement for the next version would be to incorporate the power connector in the battery plate, attaching between the plate and the light. This would eliminate the need for the external cable.

On top of the light there is a rotary wheel which controls the dimming in 30 different steps. This is also a possible weak point in case the light would take a hit. The level of dimming is shown on the little LCD display on the back of the light.

 

 

SO how does the light actually light?

Positive first: A powerful little light.  What I really like about the output is the spread. At a distance of 2m (6,5ft) the spread is 3m (10ft) and with a difference of only 2/3 of a stop between the sides and the middle. So no more of the flashlight look that is a dead give away of an onboard light. This is Great. Output is roughly 12fc at 2 m giving a f2,8/800iso/180degree shutter/25fps.

If you want to narrow the throw there is a detachable grill that snaps on with 4 magnets holding it in place. This of course also cuts the output of the light.

The negative. As with most LED lights there is a problem with multiple shadows especially when lighting something close up, so also here.

This shows up mostly on a flat bright surface and it almost not noticeable on a face as you can see below.

You can reduce this greatly by putting some diffusion (Lee 216 in picture below) over it which softens the shadows enough not to show.

Conclusion. Before I actually published this post I popped over to Scandinavian Photo and bought one of these lights. I think it is a nice little light to use as fill or for a car interior for example. The dimming feature is nice but one thing I miss is the ability to dial in different color temperatures.  I will post back what I think once I’ve actually used it in production a few times. Then I’ll really know what’s what especially when it comes to color and such… 🙂

Disclaimer: I Borrowed the light for the testing and bought one to keep. I have received no compensation in writing this article and all opinions are my own.

New sound gear.

Today we got our new sound gear delivered from Scandinavian Photo in Malmö. We’ve bought the Sony Digital wireless system with a DWR-S01 receiver and 2 DWT-B01 transmitters which offers great features and allows us to use 2 channels of wireless audio in the slot of the XDCam PDW-700.

 

Other than being an all digital system with 24-bit/48-kHz digital audio it has some really great option such as being able to control power/sleep, attenuation, lo-cut and RF out directly from the receiver. The system boost a dynamic range of 106 dB, a frequency response of 20 Hz to 22 kHz, and an excellent system latency of 3.6 ms. You can even encrypt the audio if you wish.

So a pretty cool system. We expect great things from this system and I’ll post back in a few months to update on what I think.
We already have 2 diversity systems from Sony (WRR-860) and if these new ones are half as good as the old ones, we are in for a treat. 🙂
My view on wireless systems (as well as most gear) is that you get what you pay for. We own another 4 less expensive systems and there is absolutely no comparison.

p.s. This is the only system which will allow for 2 channels in the slot of the XDCam 700/800. Sony has shut all other manufactures out of the second channel in the slot…  d.s.