PMW-200 Focus issue part 2

Ok So for the last week I have been trying to write a review on the PMW200. The image quality is really great but something else got in the way of finishing the write up. I thought it was a faulty unit but have now confirmed this on 2 different cameras.

The cameras I’ve tested are 2 brand new production models on loan from our dealer Scandinavian Photo. Upon hearing that I had focus concerns on the first camera they gave me another one to see if this was an isolated problem. It does not appear to be.
Before I go on, a small disclaimer. I have spent very little time with mid sized camcorders ala EX1, DVX100 etc etc. Therefore this focus issue of lenses not being parfocal might be a know issue with these “permanent-hardmount-lensed” cameras. If so I can only share my concerns from my point of view. I am grateful for any feedback you may have.

What happens is this. If you zoom all the way in, set your focus everything is fine. But if you zoom out a little, perhaps to re frame, you loose focus, but some of the peaking remains on screen. You can see what happens really clearly if you are in “expanded focus” but its easily missed in full display, especially if you are outdoors. If you correct your new wider frame then in case you decide to zoom back in you are out of focus again. The drift doesn’t seem to be constant but changing along the zoom range. Its sort of like a drifting back-focus.

Everything set to manual focus, focus ring pulled back to full manual. “Anti-shake”/”steadishot” makes no difference if its on or off. Again, confirmed this on 2 different cameras at f1.9 or f2.8 hard to see at f4 gone at f5.6- Video above is shot wide open, no shutter. Not a scientific test by any means but still a clear issue.

Hopefully this is just a firmware fix for Sony, to keep this little baby in play. It does put out a remarkably good image for the price tag. I am working on a review and will hopefully post shortly.

https://vimeo.com/51213511

Below is what it looks like from the camera LCD.

Sony PMW-200 first look

Yesterday I finally got to lay my hands on the new Sony PMW-200 Xdcam camera recently announced. It is a 50Mbit/s MpegHD422 camera with a 1/2 inch sensor.
I will do a complete post with pictures and more details, hopefully this weekend, but here is a sneak peak…

Image quality is really remarkable for a camera in this price range. We did a quick setup. Black cloth, a few objects, some skin tone and one 600w open face tungsten light. Same gamma settings, HG3, and we white balanced in key light.

On this shot I had, together with a Senior DaVinci Colorist / VFX Supervisor, a hard time to tell the difference between a PDW700 with a Canon HJ22 (a $65 000 setup) and the PMW200 ($8 000).
I had heard it was good looking camera but this more than I expected.
This is of course one setup shot at f5.6 at our office. Other situations may show different thing, more testing will tell. ūüôā

The camera has a few things I am not thrilled about but we’ll leave this for the complete post. Check back!

Here is a screen grab converted to Jpg for display. Will post uncompressed pics with later post.

20121004-192227.jpg

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… ūüôā

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… ūüôā
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.

More video from Canon – C100

Canon keeps putting out new cameras like there was no tomorrow.  Today they released the new C100, a little brother to the C500 due to come out this fall.

The C100 will feature ¬†a full HD 1920 x 1080¬†Super 35mm 8.3 Megapixel Bayer-filtered CMOS sensor, and record to 2 SD cards at 24Mbit/s in 4:2:0. ¬†But…. it will also allow for an uncompressed signal to be passed out through the HDMI port with included timecode embedded. ¬†ISO will range between 320-20 000 and supported frame rates include 24p/25p/30p as well as 50/60i. ¬†Canon LOG gamma will also be included.

The camera will have 2 XLR inputs to easily deal with professional audio and will support 16-bit Linear PCM audio at 48 kHz capture.

It will be really interesting to see some test footage from this camera. Sharpness is always nice but more importantly what Dynamic Range is has and how it handles high lights and shadows. ¬†You can make most cameras look good nowadays but how much extra lighting and post will it take, and how much will that cost in the end…

If you own EF glass this could be a really interesting camera at it’s target price of under $8 000. ¬† If I make to IBC this year I hope to perhaps get a sneak peak.

For full details see the Canon Press release.

 

More disk space on your Macbook Pro??

Ever feel like you need more internal hard drive space in your Macbook Pro? I dump so much video, test footage and other media onto my internal drive, the 750GB drive doesn’t fulfill my needs any more.

My other question. How often do you use your DVD drive in your laptop. I seriously can’t remember the last time I did, I think it was about 4 months ago.

So the solution I chose was to install a second hard drive in my Macbook Pro. It’s called MCE Optibay Hard drive option. It replaces the internal DVD drive with a hard drive of your choice, spinner or SSD. The DVD drive is then installed into the included external case and hooks up to your computer via USB.

All of a sudden I have another 750 wonderful gigs at my disposal. At a $175 plus the drive it is more than getting an external drive but the convenience is worth the cost I think.

My first question was about battery usage. I was told by the tech who installed it that the battery consumption will only increase a little. This sounds a bit odd but time will tell…

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… ūüėČ ¬†)

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… ūüôā

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

ATEM TV Studio – Blackmagic Design

We’ve been asked to quote a mobile studio setup for a client of ours. ¬†Final delivery will be in SD and delivered via Fiber or Satellite. ¬†It’s a 2 cameras setup and there is the desire to switch these 2 on location. ¬†There is not the budget and/or in some cases space to bring in a triax setup/mini OB-van. ¬†We needed a small portable/ flight pack solution. ¬†Before I start I’ll say this. ¬†There are sooooo many options and ways to do this, this is just one and perhaps not even the best. ¬†It is the first initial test. ¬†To each his own… ūüôā

I immediately thought on the ATEM Television studio from Black Magic Design. All 10 bit digital video ¬†It is a hardware switcher capable of being controlled by ¬†a laptop with User Interface (UI) software. It doesn’t look like much but has a lot of horse power ¬†built into this 1 rack unit wide chassis.
The ATEM has 4 HDMI camera inputs as well as 4 HDSDI/SDSDI inputs. There is a USB2 output delivering a H264 PGM stream ready for delivery.  It has multi view output via both HMDI and SDI as well as 2 SDI PGM outputs. There is also an HDMI PGM output.  REF in and AES in is also available.  The RJ45 connector allows for switcher control over a network.  It also has downstream and upstream keyers and great options for expansion as your needs may call for it.

Our setup would look like this. ¬†2 cameras, 1 host and 2 guests, 3 wireless audio, 1 IFB to the host, delivery ¬†of Program (PGM) feed via SDI. ¬†All the audio would go through an analog mixer and would have to be embedded as the final SDI feed would need to have PGM audio on channel 1 and 2. ¬†As this was a first inital test we settled for 2 channels audio and left out the IFB. ¬†We’d use 2 Sony PDW-700 XDCam cameras, easy enough to paint/match with results close enough for that particular situation.

As you can see we opted to use a 24 inch LCD display for our multi viewer.  Something we could pick up at any local electronics store and then leave when the job was done.  Also we have a 7 inch TV-Logic monitor as a final PGM view.  To the right of that we have our Sound Devices PIX240 which serves as our embedder in this case.  You could of course use a dedicated embedder but we own the PIX240 and it also features this nice display for checking settings, audio meter and video inputs which is very handy.  I like to have a visual check of the status.  Also there is the option of recording the PGM directly on the PIX

So both cameras run via SDI into the ATEM and are switched through the software UI.  The ATEM  PGM output SDI is fed into the PIX240.  The Audio from the mixer is also fed into the PIX240 via analog XLR and after an audio delay is set the SDI out of the Pix will be our finished delivery PGM.

Embedding the audio in the Pix240

First I must say this.  It was a very easy setup.  Download and install BMD software and as soon as the ATEM is connected to the network the UI starts up.  It immediately recognizse the cameras and since we only have 2 cameras to worry about, switching is done through the space bar.  Very very easy.

A couple of thoughts. In SD the Pix240 doesn’t add a 16:9 flag and the footage leaves the SDI as 16:9 anamorphic. ¬†This won’t be a problem doing HD and is not really a problem in SD either other than seeing a Squeezed 4:3 image in the PIX. ¬†On the PGM monitor it reads it correctly as 16:9. ¬†I also tested in HD and no problems.

Note the squeezed 4:3 image in the Pix240 and the correctly read 16:9 image in the PGM out MONITOR

 

I also would have liked to remove and customize the mixer button panel a bit more but all the options were greyed out for some reason. I am not sure if this was user error or something else, I’ll check on this.
In the software package there was a SDK package but since I don’t do code I hope there is an easier way to customize a few different Multi view screen setups for different purposes.

At $1000 this is a lot of bang for your buck. ¬†I’d consider this simply for the realtime H264 encoder, but I see this as a great option for a small 2-4 camera studio (churches, schools etc). ¬†The downside is matching cameras, although using high end ENG cameras this is less of a problem considering the matrix/paint options available. ¬†The ATEM unit is so small that building it into a travel case with a monitor for example would be an easy job. ¬†More testing will show if this is the right way to go but it looks promising. ¬† ¬†For more info and complete specs visit: Blackmagic Design.

Disclamer: No connection to BlackMagic Design other that a previous customer.  We did Not test the H264 output, nor did we test all the Key (both upstream and downstream) functions.

 

FS700 vs F3 talking head

Today I shot a “talking head” comparison between the Sony NEX-FS700 and the Sony F3. ¬†My interest is to see if the the FS700 will be a good B-cam for our F3 shoots, especially color/contrast wise.

First inital reaction is Yes. ¬†Footage looks very good and looks easy enough to match to the F3. ¬†All footage shot to a¬†PIX240¬†in Prores 422HQ. ¬†Both cameras are white balanced in the Key light. ¬†Both read 3000K, but there is a distinct difference in the red wall. ¬†Both cameras are shot in STANDARD out-of-the-box-setting. One camera comes very close to the actual color of the wall and that is…… the FS700. ¬†The F3 has quite a bit more yellow in there. ¬†Skin tones are more alike than the wall. ¬† Shot on a Nikon 85mm, 1,4G lens ¬†wide open using the Novoflex adapter. (The F3 might be at F1.8 since its a tad faster). ¬†NOTE the the Novoflex adapter DOES NOT lock into the camera like for example Metabones does. ¬†If you turn the lens too hard the adapter will come loose. It also does not allow for exact F-stops readings since the iris ring has a very short and unmarked throw.

Setup. 1 Key, neg fill, back light, and 3 lights on the back wall.

 

New side-by-side of FS700 and F3 without blockiness. Uncompressed Tiffs below.

 

Uncompressed  Ungraded TIFF files from Prores 422 HQ file. FS700

 

Uncompressed Ungraded TIFF files from Prores 422 HQ file. Sony F3

 

We also shot using Cinegammas and S-log (for the F3) and I’ll try and do a more complete comparison in the next couple of weeks.

One thing to watch out for. ¬†Display information is passed out through the SDI port by default is seems, so watch out as ALL your information including Zebra, TC etc will be recorded onto your external recorder. ¬†We had a monitor on the loop through AFTER our Pix240 and saw this, but if you use a AJA KiPro mini for example and don’t use an on-board monitor you could end up recording an image with all your OSD info… ¬† I am sure there is an option to turn all CHAR OFF on SDI output, I didn’t play with this though.

 

Disclaimer: Another comparison for my own interest. No connection to Sony other than being a long time customer.

FS700 test footage

Here are a few shots from my first test with the Sony NEX FS-700. I borrowed the camera from our local dealer (Scandinavian Photo, Malm√∂) and went down to the local skate park. Spent about 20 min there asking a few kids to participate. No external monitor, no meter, exposing from what I saw on the camera screen helped out by zebra. To be honest , without a sun shade or proper monitor, I was just happy to be able to frame using the camera monitor. ūüôā

Footage shot at 200 fps¬†using the MetaBones adaptor and a 16-35mm Canon L lens. The camera delivers full raster 1920×1080 HD at 200 fps.
Cine Gamma 1 was set in camera. There is clipping in a few places but I think it holds highlights pretty well considering slight over exposure here and there.

8 bit AVCHD at 4:2:0, and those .MTS files is a terrible in camera codec I think, would have loved to see the XDCam EX but I understand the competing product lines.  It does seem to hold up fairly well considering the compressed codec chosen in camera, especially highlights.  It is confirmed by a few users that its possible to take an uncompressed stream of the slow motion footage, which will certainly be a welcome option for high(er) end work.
Footage was transcoded (Prores) and editing in Final Cut. No grading or color correction of any kind. Compressed to 10Mbit/s H264 and uploaded to Vimeo.

I always think its hard to judge test footage on Vimeo or Youtube. ¬†Compression is always in the middle. ¬†In this case the footage is shot in 8 bit AVCHD 420, transcoded to 10 bit Prores, editied, Compressed to 10Mbit/s H264 and then uploaded to Vimeo where its, yet again, compressed to Vimeo Format… ¬†So take it for what it is, slow motion images. ūüôā

 

Sony FS700 SLOWMO TEST UnGraded from Marcus Skogstrom on Vimeo.