Aug 2012

Sony FS100

This is some interesting footage.


Unfortunately, it reminds me somewhat of the first Zacuto Shootout, where they set up a really difficult-to-image scene so you could see where the cameras/codecs broke.  It doesn't tell you a whole lot more than that.  In this situation, they both look pretty bad - except that you can see that RAW has a lot more latitude than the other codecs (no surprise there).  

Based on this and other footage I've seen from the FS100, I would want to record to an external recorder.  I still haven't seen anything really great from it even though it has a big sensor.  But it seems like people are always posting torture tests or bad grades, and we're supposed to figure out what the cameras can do from that?  That was what was so interesting about the recent Shootout, where they let people who work with the various cameras every day do what is necessary to make it look good.  And they pretty much ALL looked good.  

So it seems to me the biggest factors when buying a camera now are:  What's it REALLY going to cost you to do the workflow the camera sets you up for, and does the camera have the functionality you need for working with it all day to do the type of shooting you do?

I would not want to give up all the standard, pro-camera type controls you get on a unit from one of the major manufacturers for the promise of potentially better images.  Functionality is a big deal.  As an example, a (former Oprah) guy that works for me on occasion, who does a lot of run-n-gun is bummed that all these cool cameras coming out are not standard broadcast-shoulder-mount style cameras.  He just can't see having to put together some sort of rig just to be able to use it on his shoulder - and then he probably couldn't one-hand it!

Most of the new cameras are intended for cinema-style shooting.  They are large-sensors to compete with DSLRs.  That's why it's nice to see stuff like the PMW-200.  Though it's not like the Sonys of the world have stopped making old-school cameras.  It's that the technology in the new cameras is not immediately showing up in a familiar form.


Blackmagic Cinema Camera & Resolve

You can download some footage from the Camera, and grade it with free Resolve


  • Blackmagic and John Brawley Release RAW Cinema Camera Files for Download

I looked at the stuff and downloaded one of the clips into (my free copy of) Resolve*. The file has a lot of latitude, which is good.  It sort of affirmed my initial feeling about the camera, though.  It is definitely a high-value unit considering all you get with it - BUT:

• it has a small sensor compared to most stuff these days - it has a cheaper look than some.  Though, that needs to be taken with a grain of salt given the results of the Shootout.  Depends what you do with it.
• the lens used in these shots costs $4k (plus matte box, plus, etc.)
• to really take advantage of much of the unit's capabilities, you would need MANY thousands of dollars worth of hardware and software - unless you already own it.  One of the big things with DSLR-video popularity is that still photographers with thousands invested in lenses, but who would never spend thousands on a video camera, could now be 'HD videographers' by upgrading their still camera body, which they would do anyway.

* If you want to find out for free how complex and how much of a potential pain in the ass REAL color grading is, download Resolve and set it up.  If you get that far, grade some stuff in it (if you import from FCP, etc. - make sure you have no effects on your clips and all the clips are in one video track).

It is a massively powerful program, exciting and awesome, no doubt about it.  But for most practical purposes, it's too much work (takes too much time, as did Color).  Also really works best with a bunch of high-end computer and controller hardware.


Zacuto Shootout Revenge 2012 and Baselight

Really proves that it's not about the gear - it’s what you do with it.

Been wondering when they would finish this one.  What a stunner, eh?!  It's not the meat, it's the motion - so to speak : )

Seems like the big deal is shooting something that looks good in reality - if you start there, you're halfway home - almost any camera can image it - and the capability of grading now is amazing.  Though to be fair, you would have to have another shootout between the full Baselight system they used and other grading alternatives.  Baselight recently came out with a plugin for FCP7. (!)  I was very excited about that idea until I started to realize that I could live without FCP7.

I watched the Part 1 camera comparisons twice, and had very different notes the second time around.  After seeing the "answers" it became clear that the major deal was, "did the DP light it in a way you like, and did the camera guys shoot it well for that camera, and THEN did they make choices in post that you like".  I thought it was telling that Sony took total control of the F65 footage, yet it wasn't in everybody's top group.

Baselight is a major grading program and the full systems with all the control hardware are very expensive.  But they recently came out with a plugin for FCP7 - I think it's around $1,000 (a fraction of their former cheapest product).  Software only, and it works from WITHIN FCP like any other plugin.  So this was very exciting to a lot of folks to have the capability of Baselight integrated into FCP.  But they didn't come out with it until after FCPX arrived, so they seemed behind the times.

I would only recommend it if you had a real need for doing extensive grading.  I used Apple Color a few times and it was a pain in that you have to export from FCP to it (without effects), grade, then re-import and render.  Clunky.  Baselight would have the advantage of working inside FCP.  But you can do everything most projects need with FCP's color correctors and/or additional plugins.

FCPX's color correction takes some getting used to (though FAR easier than learning Baselight or Color) and is very powerful - great keyer, easy inside/outside color and shape mattes, etc.  I think what FCPX is working toward is a single integrated program that does everything most people need in one piece of software - as opposed to the former model of having a bunch of separate programs that more or less "talk" to each other.

The second program of the Shootout shows some of the stuff people chose to do in post.  Sony sent their own team to shoot with the F65, and they did all of the post themselves, unlike the rest of the group.  I think they were the ONLY ones who did not alter or add to the lgihting setup, though.

I think generally you could say that the higher end cameras and their teams went for looks that showed the fact that the cameras handle a broader range of color and contrast (the lighting range was 14 stops) and as a result look generally somewhat less contrasty and saturated than the others.  Most people are probably attracted to a more contrasty and saturated look - one that "pops", as long as it can still give you some nice skin tones and color rendition.

One of the problems with trying to guess which is which was the fact that they allowed additional lighting and grading - so, for example, while you might assume a "lesser" camera would be unable to show both detail in the woman on the right standing in shadow as well as having the window not blown out - many made adjustments to the window in post.

One of the shockers was how many chose the $800 Panasonic GH2 still camera.  It was one of my choices, too, though I'm not sure how much it had to do with being the second one shown.  The first one, the F3, seemed soft looking in comparison, which caused me to guess that the GH2 was a higher resolution camera.  I thought it might be the Alexa on the first viewing - it seemed to have LOTS of "information" in the image.

I think peoples' guesses and likes would be changed by the order they were shown in.  My top three ended up being the Panasonic, the 7D and the F65 (after watching them through twice).  I could not tell for sure which was the iPhone, though there are telltale signs.  I was surprised that the F3 wasn't in my top 3, but again, if you did the same lighting and post stuff to it as the ones you liked, I'm sure it would look fabulous.