Here is the thing, we started off with a nice chunky Beta SP/Digi Beta/DSR or whatever that sat comfortably on our shoulders. It was perfectly balanced, had a useable eyepeice and it came like that straight out of the box. Then we suddenly realised DSLRs produced fantastic images and since then we have been fiddling around with ever stranger rigs to make some weired box of a beast sit on our shoulder.
In this group of weired boxy cameras I include Canon C100/C300, Sony A7s, Blackmagic Design, RED, Sony FS7 etc etc, the list goes on and on. Decent rigs typically cost quite a bit, there is nothing worse than working with some cheap half-arsed piece of junk, so you end up spending money. The problem with this is, these days you might only keep your camera a few years, before you need to upgrade, and then that really expensive rig you bought is now useless.
My second big gripe with most rigs is that they mount the camera too high on the shoulder. Older cameras were build with a curve where your shoulder would go. Newer cameras have flat bases, mount these on a rig and they are too high: they are both unstable as they are top heavy and the LCD or view-finder is then above your eye. It might only be an inch too high, but if your head has to look an inch or two up all day long, you will have one big pain in your neck at the end of a day.
At last it seems Zacuto have developed a great product that works on an absolutely massive variety of rigs, and will almost certaintly work with whatever freakish-shaped-box-of-a-camera that comes out in the future. (By the way I have absolutely no connection with Zacuto whatsoever).
This just makes lots of sense. There are three things here: 1) You aren't mounting directly over the rods. This means you bring the camera slightly lower to the shoulder. 2) The area you can slide the camera backwards and forwards is massive. This is so useful, both to balance the camera on your shoulder, and even to find decent balance on a tripod. 3) Finally, this can be used on almost any camera out there. It isn't the cheapest bit of kit, so if I am investing in it, I want it to work on subsequent cameras.
Another feature I quite like is that it can be fixed to a normal base plate, these have been around for years because they work well and hold the camera to the tripod properly.
There is a whole lot from Zacuto that can be added on to this. There is the grip relocator for C300/100 users and there is also the Gratical evf. The Gratical looks like an awesome bit of kit. Best of all it can be mounted wherever you need it, so you aren't straining your neck.
The Gratical EVF isn't a cheap bit of kit, but then if you buy an OLED eyepiece from Sony for your F5/55 that isn't cheap either. The difference being that you can move your Gratical EVF onto any camera you are shooting and it will still work. Not so with proprietry viewfinders.
If you do a lot of shoulder work I'd say this rig is well worth a look. I am not going to bang on about the features and specs, if you are interested check it out at Zacuto.
Three and half years ago I asked the same question: should I buy the new Canon C300? At that time the market was a very different place, many people were still shooting on DSLRs and the C300 solved many of the problems inherent in shooting video with a stills camera. The C300 mark ii enters a market awash with cameras that shoot 4k and high frame rates.
There are plenty of options out there. For those on a small budget, cameras like the Panasonic GH4 and Sony's A7s both shoot 4k and have good low light abilitiy. Blackmagic Design have entered the market and are supplying low cost 4k options like the URSA. If you need internal ND filters and the ability to plug in XLR cables you can pay a touch more and get the Sony FS7 that has incredible specs for the price: 4k and 180fps at 1080p for $8000! Move up the price range and there is the sturdier, PL mount, Sony F5/55 and plenty of options from RED.
At $16,000 (US price) the C300 mark ii is not a cheap option. When the camera was first announced many, myself included, were disapointed with the slow motion options. People are used to seeing iphones cranking out super slow motion and expected more from at $16K camera. The mark ii manages only 100fps PAL 120fps NTSC at 1080p using a senor crop. Using a crop to achieve slow motion can be annoying on a shoot. Not only do you have to set the camera to record slow motion, you also then have to change lenses or reposition as you will now be too far zoomed in on the shot you had.
Sony has gone some way to improve camera ergonomics. The F5/55 sit comfortably on the shoulder, and even the cheaper FS7 isn't bad at all with a dedicated eye peice and removable hand grip.
Having said this, up until now, all we have had to look at is stats, numbers on paper. The pictures the camera produces is really what matters. The people who pay my bills might occasionally require slow motion, but above all else I need to supply them with fantastic looking pictures. A couple of films were recently released that peaked my interest.
There was a lot I liked here. The dynamic range is obviously pretty impressive. Lots of shots straight into the sun and the camera really holds on to the detail in shadows. The skin tones looked great and I liked the colour and tones generally, especially inside the house.
If the first video got me mildly interested, this next one started to draw me in a bit.
It's the shots inside the Japanese house where the woman inside looks like she hasn't even been lit. Of course this is a video produced by Canon marketing and for all I know there could be a massive poly board bouncing some very subtle fill back on the actors face, but it doesn't look that way. Again the tones are stunning, soft natural and not at all vivid or video ish.
Although most of the footage looks like it was shot on a slightly overcast day, you can clearly see the sun is smashing through in this shot. The trees have shadows amongst them and shadows are being cast on the roof of the building opposite around the chimney. Yet, despite all this sunlight we aren't loosing too much detail in the trees and the actor's face is still look good in a dark, un lit room.
The next video that is well worth a look at is this one that shows of the Canon's auto focus function. Auto focus has always been something I associate with home video cameras from the 19080s, but this video might change that.
I had thought auto focus for video a horrible idea: motors constantly hunting for the focus point, rapidly shifting in and out of focus. This looks very different though. When the model turns away from the camera the face following software stops, and then picks her back up when she completes her turn. (this happens 1 minute in). The auto focus system doesn't freak out and focus on the pony tail or the back wall, it just sits and waits to pick the models face back up like a camera operator would. The face against the mirror trick is also very impressive (around 1:25). At first I thought I wouldn't have much use for a full auto focus system, but what about if the camera is mounted on a stabilised gimbal, or maybe on a jib? It could be a very useful function, if it works as well as this video suggests.
I am also interested in the dual pixel focus guide.(1:45) The amount of times directors have wanted a ridiculously difficult pull focus, where a presenter is walking towards camera whilst delivering their lines. The safe thing to do is stop down, but so often directors want to shoot wide open, not realising just how hard that pull will be when you are operating by yourself. Having an indicator that says whether you are focusing too far or to close from the subject could be very useful. Again, it is hard to say how this would work in a real life situation, but it is only a few months until the camera is out and reviews will start coming in.
Here is the full video without all the camera info
If you want to see the focus being tested out by someone other than the camera manufacturers, check Dan Chung at Newshooter.com The video is below and the full article can be found here.
I like the fact that focusing speed can be selected, and you can manually choose which person to focus on when there are two people in shot.
So what else has changed with the updated C300? I have covered this a bit in a previous article comparing the C300 mark ii to Sony's FS7 and F5, so I'll keep it brief.
1) The top handle has been improved. A single screw thread has been replaced by a much more solid offering.
2) All camera buttons now illuminate and make less noise when you push them.
3) A basic mic has been added so you can shoot without the LCD.
4) A new additional unit can be attached that take in audio, but without the LCD screen
5) The monitor cables are no longer hard wired
6) The whole camera is in a stronger diecast housing.
7) Extra ND added (8 and 10 stops)
8) 2k and 4k in camera
9) 4 channels of audio at 24 bit (previously 2 at 16bit)
10) 15 stops dynamic range
11) 120fps Slow mo (crop) at HD.
12) High ISO at 102400 Canon are saying the camera has great low light ability, and it that is almost certainly going to be true.
13) Built in "looks" to better match the C300 with other cameras such as Alexa, Sony F55 etc.
14) Records higher bit rate to faster cards to stop rolling shutter.
If you haven't seen it, the guys from Zacuto give a really good all round chat about what has changed with a representative from Canon. It's 25 mins long, but worth a look if the camera is on your radar.
So, to come back to my original question: is this camera is worth buying or not? I know there are going to be hoards of camera owners pulling their hair out here saying WHAT! $16K for a camera that under performs cameras that can be bought for half the price!! I know where they are coming from, it seems a little highly priced to me too. There are pluses the C300 mark2 will have against it rivals. In the broadcast world it has a fantastic reputation, massive amounts of TV has been shot on the C300. They have also proved themselves as absloutely rock solid. I have used mine solidly for three and a half years, I have lugged it all over the world and it hasn't given me any problems. This may not be true of RED or Blackmagic Design, but it is almost certainly the case with Sony's cameras as well, which I have also owned in the past.
My next comparison would be to Sony's F5, which shoots nice pictures, can be easily upgraded to shoot 4k. Despite being over 2 years old the F5 is still ahead of the C300 mark ii shooting 180fps. This is a hugely popular camera, particularly in the world of sports TV where high frame rates are often needed.
As a personal preference, I like the look so far of the C300 mark ii over the Sony F5, however, I prefer Sony's ergonomics and the way the F5/55 sits on your shoulder. The auto focus thing may be a gimic, but I'd certainly be keen to try it out, so far my impression has been that it looks pretty good. At very least the auto focus will be useful for gimbal and jib operating. The F5 is a bit more versatile when it comes to lenses. Being able to chuck a PL lens on when needed, and then switch over to an EOS lens with an adapter is another big plus for the F5.
The fact that a lot is currently shot on the C300, could push me towards the mark ii. If a documentary already has material shot by shooting APs on a C300, they may want their main camera to be the mark ii. The post production process is fairly well geared to the C300, but then that is also true of the Sony cameras as well.
In part my camera buying decisions are dictated by the desires of directors. To an extent I will persuade a director to shoot on a certain camera, but often people come to me and say "we really want to shoot on x" If people start to lean toward the C300 mark ii, I can well see myself buying one, for now I think I'll wait and see how the camera is received when it comes out in September.
Stabilized brushless gimbals have been out for a while now, if you aren't aware of them, the video below was shot entirely on a gimbal by DJI.
I have shot on Freefly's MoVI M10 and like it but finally decided to buy the Ronin M when it was released a few weeks back. Here is why.
Weight. When you are holding a camera and gimbal out in front of you for any length of time, every ounce matters. DJI have halfed the weight of the original Ronin with the Ronin M. The rig is made from a mix of carbon and magnesium and weighs only 2.3kg or 5lb.
Set up time. With practice the rig can be set up and ready to go in just 5 minutes. The iphone app is simple and quick to use so changing lenses and adjusting settings takes just seconds.
Size. The Ronin M is small enough to be easily transported around, but large enough to take the Canon C300 or the Red Epic. If time is an issue, there is alwasy the option to keep a DSLR constantly rigged to it, and use it as a 2nd camera. Everything packs down to one small pelicase for easy transport when flying.
The new Ronin M is half the weight of the original Ronin, it is designed specifically for smaller cameras, but the motors are strong enough to take fairly heavy set ups. My first question when this came out was "Will the Canon c300 work with the Dji Ronin M." Happily the answer is yes, so I immediately bought one.
As you can see, there is plenty of room around the sides of the camera, once you have removed the handle grip and the eyepiece (there is a locking screw on them underside of viewfinder).
With light prime lenses you can get full range of movement with the Ronin M. However, once you add heavier zoom lenses the camera becomes front heavy and you have to shift the baseplate back. This limits your tilt range somewhat, as the top of the camera the hits the back of the Ronin. This isnt a huge issue on some lenses as the angle you can get is still pretty steep.
This is the Tokina 11-16mm on maximum tilt up. It can tilt all the way down, but the back of the eyepiece area just touches the back of the Ronin M at this angle. Obviously, the heavier the lens the further you need to shift the camera plate back and the smaller the angle will be when you tilt up.
This is the 17-55mm, which is a pretty heavy image stabilized lens. This is at the maximum up tilt angle and the back of the camera is touching the Ronin at this point.
Lots of people own the 16-35mm, which I don't have, but to give you an idea the 16-35mm mark2 Canon weighs 640g (the mark 1 is slightly lighter), the 17-55mm weighs 645g so the angle will be pretty similar.
If you want to use heavier lenses and keep the full tilt range there is a solution from Cinemilled. Cinemilled have made tilt extension arms so you can lower the camera further, allowing you to tilt all the way up. There is already a thread on the bottom of the Ronin M tilt arms, so the Cinemilled arms will just screw straight in.
Audio options with the C300 on a Ronin gimbal.
The next issue to deal with on the C300 when pairing it up with the Ronin M is audio. There are a couple of options here. Firstly there is an audio input minijack just above the grip handle. You can't control the level of this to my knowledge, so you are going to end up with auto levels, good only as a guide track, but at least you will have something to synch to the sound recordist's audio. UPDATE - You can control the levels of the mini jack input inside the menu under audio. When you plug your radio mic receiver or any other mic using a mini jack cable, the auido options turn from grey to white on the camera menu and you can now set the audio levels.
A radio mic is pretty easy to mount on the cross bar with a hot shoe mount. I run a small mini jack to mini jack from my radio mic to the mic input on the camera.
The second option is to mount the C300 LCD unit to the cross bar. This does limit your range of movement somewhat and the motors will have to work a bit harder as they are swinging two thick cables around.
At present, the monitor mounting bracket from DJI (above) isn't availble in the UK. I have one on order from CVP, but orders seem backed up. There are a couple of mounting screw holes as you can see in the picture above. They are the normal 1/4" and 3/8" so you can attach a monitor directly to it, or via a Noga arm, ball mount or simliar so you can move the monitor about. I'll probably mount my TV logic 5.6 via a noga arm here, as it is a light monitor. There is a similar DJI mount out for the original Ronin, but it is slightly larger, as the Ronin has a wider bar. Again, Cinemilled have a shim for this if you want to use the original Ronin monitor mount. I also have also ordered a very thin BNC to allow the unit to move freely.
In the meantime I have ordered this 3rd party solution from Amazon:SMALLRIG Clamp Mount V2 w/ Ball Head Cold Shoe Mount and CoolClamp. This is wide enough to fit on to the Ronin M bar and also has a cold shoe, so I could mount the C300 LCD if needed. The cold shoe screws into a ball head on a 1/4 inch mount so I can remove the cold shoe and screw directly into a monitor instead. There are lots of other mounting options from Small Rig on Amazon.
After hours of playing around with various configurations I mounted the C300 LCD on the cross bar of the Ronin M with the Small Rig clamp.
This worked well enough, except the LCD cables are only just long enough, limiting your camera tilt moves somewhat. (they are just long enough to pan left and right.)
You could also use a magic arm, I played around with my Noga arm and got the LCD to just about work, like this.
The trick to making this work is getting the cables as close as possible to the camera. The best configuration I worked out was to put the LCD further back. Every milimeter helps here as the cables are not quite long enough.
On the whole I think I will stick to using my 5.6 TV logic monitor with an extra thin BNC cable. I don't like the idea of using the LCD as I think it will only be a matter of time before the cables get damaged using them in this way. For the occasional situation where you don't have a sound recordist and audio is essential, this would work, but for more extreme moves and better control, the seperate monitor is definitely the best solution. Below you can see my TV logic 5.6 mounted to the Ronin with a portabrace cover to provide a sun shade.
Also worthwhile, I have put on a thin BNC cable to keep the weight down and improve manoeuvrability. It is also worth having a right angle bnc connector to keep the cables in the right place.
Another good thing about pairing the C300 with the Ronin M is the fact that the hand grip can be relocated. Since you have to take the hand grip off anyway, it makes sense to mount it onto the Ronin M and that way you will have record on and off control and iris or ISO control. To do this you will need a grip relocatator from Zacutto together with a clamp like the one above and a screw in spud from Redrock or Zacuto make a "zud". The Spud or zud serves to connect the zacuto 15mm rod clamp to the 3party clamp. For more info on how to do this check out Cinema 5d
Lots more to come with the Ronin M. I'll be posting something about the settings and hopefully get some video footage up before too long.
I recently went on a shoot where one the cameramen had an Easyrig he was using with his XDCAM camera. My first thought was, can you use an easyrig with a Gimbal, such as the Movi, Ronin, Helix etc?
The weight of a camera a lens and a gimbal lifted out infront of your body means that you can only really hold the rig and operate for a few minutes at a time until your back and biceps begin to burn. The Easyrig would take this weight and sit it on the hips, making carrying a gibmbal very easy. One issue with this idea is that the overhead arm of the Easyrig is designed to sit a camera on your shoulder, not out infront of your body. An interesting solution to this is the Serene from Flowcine.
The amazing thing about this device is that, not only does it hold the rig out infront of your body for gimbal use, but it also has a shock absorber system. All gimbal systems are stabilized on three axis, meaning that the up and down bounce created by the operator walking along, is up to you to control. The Serene arm would take this bounce out. I was curious to know if this would work as a set up, until I saw it in operation on twitter from
Here you can see the gimbal is the Helix with an easyrig and the Flowcine Serene. This looks to me like the ideal set up for using with gimbals on shoots when you need to hold the rig for long periods.
Further reading: Gimbal comparison, Ronin M
Lately, I have been obsessing about Gimbal stabilisers. I first used a Movi M10 shortly after it came out and instantly loved it. I was amazed by the results I could get, despite having no previous experience of gimbals or stedicams. I thought about buying a Movi at that time, but couldn't quite justify the cost, as I wasn't sure I could easily make my money back on it. Fast forward a year and the prices have come down massively. Dji are a large Chinese company that have a history of making drones and when they released the Ronin, Movi had to drop their prices to remain competative. New to the market is the Helix from Letus, another contender with a name that many in video will already know. There are plenty of other brands out there at even cheaper prices, but at the top end of the market, I would say these three are the ones to go for.
Freefly systems MoVI was the first to the party, so I'll start here. Advantages: The MoVI has several advantages, firstly, it has been around the longest and is tried and tested. Many facilities companies have been hiring these things out day after day and they seem tough and able to stand up to the rigours of filming. They are also light. Every ounce matters when you start holding your camera and rig with your arms stretched out. If you have never shot on a giro stabiliser take a 7.5kg weight a walk around holding it out infront of you, your arms will start to burn pretty quick. Freefly Systems are also based out of the USA with lots of distributors in other countries, so getting repairs, spare parts etc should be painless. Disadvantages: The first has to be price, despite a big price drop, the MoVI still comes in around $8k for the M10. The company no doubt has pretty serious R and D costs to recoup. The only slight quible I would have with the MoVI over other gimbals, is the fact that several attachments need to be tightend with an allen key against the carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is naturally smooth and slippery, so it probably needs to be tightend this way, rather than with a simple catch. The DJI Ronin on the other hand is alluminium and has quick release catches and screw tighteners, making it quicker to set up.
The DJI Ronin caused a bit of a stir when it was released, with prices well below what was expected. Advantages: The first thing to say here is price. The Ronin is an amazing deal. For $2500 you get the rig, a hard peli style case with lazer cut inserts, and they even throw in a remote controller for 2 person operation. Another great feature is the quick release clips that allow for a quick set up. I have spoken to several owner operators who say that after much practice they have got the set up time down to just 5 minutes. This is a big deal for me as I would envisage using something like a Ronin for just a few shots on a shoot, rather than operating on it for hours like you might a stedicam.
Another great feature that the Ronin has is the three operation modes: briefcase under slung and upright.
The upright mode means the camera is sitting above, rather than below the cross bar. The good thing about this extra height is that it brings the camera closer to the eye line. If you are filming a walk and talk, you don't always wanting to be pointing up at someones face, not the most flattering angle. It is also useful for over the shoulder type shots, where you need the camera to be at head height or above.
Briefcase mode allows the unit to be held low to the ground with one hand.
Underslung is the usual gimbal operation mode.
DJI are a large Chinese company that are very familiar to people interested in drones. I guess this can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you view it. With good resellers in each company you should be able to get spare parts, however, I can say in the UK right now there is a 2 week waiting list to buy the product. The other issue with Chinese companies is you are never too sure about customer service, but again local resellers should help. Disadvantages: Before I say it, you probably what I am going to say: weight. The Ronin weighs in at 9.26lb or 4.2kg, this heavier than the other two gimbals here. This is due to the motors being larger, as they are designed to carry heavier cameras, and the fact the rig is aluminium, rather than carbon fiber. This doesn't sound like much, but to give you an idea, by the time you add a monitor a stripped down C300 (no lcd, side grip, eyepeice) you are looking at 7.5kg or 16.5lbs. Chuck on a RED Epic and your weight will go up a fraction. That is a big deal to hold out in front of your body or above your head. Anything over a few minutes is really going to be a challenge. You can always add an easyrig to take the weight, but then your costs and setup time are escallating.
A very interesting addition to this line up is the Helix from Letus. Letus are a US company that are very camera focused (rather than drone focused like DJI). The have been producing all kinds of camera equipment and you are probably familiar with them already. Price wise they sit in between the two above, at $3975 Advantages: I havent actually used one of these as they haven't been out long, but I think they look pretty promising. The weight is definitely a plus being 7.25lbs or 3.3kg. The next advantage over both the other gimbals is that you can put it down on the ground. This is great for small crews, where you want to stop and rest your burning biceps without having to run back to wherever you left the cradel. Also, since Letus is a company that makes camera gear, there are loads of clever add ons, like quick release plates, cables etc etc. Disadvantages: The main one here for me is time. At the time of writing (May 2015) these things haven't been out long at all, I have never seen one, none of the usual UK outlets sell them and there is very little demo footage availble online to see if they are any good. You can of course order one online from their website, and I am imagine they are probably pretty good, but it is a risk with so little info about them.
It is worth noting in each case I have gone for the large model that works with cameras such as the Canon C100/C300/C500, RED EPIC etc. All of the manufacturers have smaller versions, The Movi M5 the Helix junior and the DJI M. So if you are operating a DSLR you could go with the cheaper, lighter alternative. Interestingly, I have heard that a C300 fully stripped down will just work on the Ronin M, but I haven't personally tested it, so proceed with caution.
Update: The C300 does fit on the Ronin M. More info on setting up the Ronin M together with the Canon C300 here.
So which one to go for: If I were a rental company, or wanted to make a name for myself as a dedicated gimbal operator, I would get a Movi. As an occasional gimbal user in a rush to get new kit, I'd get a Ronin, or if I had time to wait and see how the product is received I'd get the Helix.
Further reading: The DJI Ronin M Easyrig, gimbal, Serene set up.
Canon have had a very good run with the C300 and now Sony are hitting back with both the FS7 and F5. Canon recently dropped the price of the original C300, bringing it closer to the FS7 and yesterday announced the C300 mark ii. So how do the cameras stack up in the battle for the mid range?
Firstly, the C300 mark ii has only just been announced and won't be available until September 2015 and the price could theoretically change by then, but this is how it stands now.
| Internal specs
|| Canon C300 mii
|| 180 @ 1080
|| 120 @ 2k
|| 120 @2k
|| 14 stops
|| 15 stops
|| 14 stops
||XAVC 10 bit
||XF AVC 10 bit
|| XAVC 10 bit
Comparing cameras is a tricky thing. The easy part of it is compairing the specs, like "top trumps" for cameras, even this, however, has its issues. Numbers such as those released for dynamic range may not be true or exact. Subsequent test after cameras are released are often different from those advertised by manufacturers. Above all else, one camera may often look a whole lot better than another camera, but the numbers may not reflect this at all. The next point is about individual tastes. Some people happen to love the super clean look of say a RED camera, whilst other prefer the more natural look of an Alexa. It may also be job specific. Clean colours may work better on a certain commercial, whereas more filmic tones might be better for a documentary. The next point to be made is that when a camera hasn't even been released it gets really difficult. The videos released from a manufacturer could have been very heavily graded. These days, with enough work one camera can be graded to look very different from the image that it originally spat out. With that it mind you could think: I'll just buy any camera I feel like buying and someone can sort it out in post. However, as we all know, masses of programmes and items we shoot are not sent to a proper grading suite, or in some cases graded at all, therefore we need to buy something that looks good out of the box. With all of this in mind let's take a look at how the C300 markii stacks up against the Sonys.
When you look at the specs and the pricing of the C300 mark ii against the Sony F5 it makes sense (despite the F5 now being over 2 years old), it's when you compare it to the FS7 that things get confusing (as the FS7 is very cheaply priced and has amazing spcecs).
To begin with let's look at the F5 and the C300 mark ii, as they go for a similar price. There are certain advantages the F5 and C300 mark ii cameras have against each other. The F5 is slightly more user friendly when it comes to ergonomics, with a proper dedicated eye piece it can be mounted on the shoulder more efficiently (although you do pay extra for the eye piece.) The slow motion capabilities are way better with the F5. The F5 is FZ mount camera, it comes with a PL adapter or you can remove this and add an adapter and shoot EOS lenses. This makes the F5 more verstile as there are more lens options here. The Canon C300 mark ii is purchased as an EOS mount, if you want PL you need to get it attached by Canon. The F5 also has the advantage of a bolt on external recorder, which ups the cameras specs, particularly the slow motion, and you can now upgrade the camera to 4k, at a cost (or hack). With regards to price, as it stands now, the F5 will end up costing you a bit more. You need to pay for the view finder (which is optional on the C300 as you could choose to make do with the LCD. The F5 uses V lock batteries which are a little more pricey, although good quality, last for years and can be used for other purposes such as powering other cameras, LED lights etc. The Sony F5 uses S by S cards, whereas the C300 mark ii uses Cfast cards. My guess is that the CFast cards will drop in price more quickly as people start to buy in quantity. All of that said your full set up will end up marginly more expensive on the F5.
So what advantage does the C300 mark ii have? Firstly an extra stop of dynamic range, 15 stops is claimed by Canon. The next big point here is the focusing system. I was incredibly sceptical when I first heard about this, and thought it sounded like a gimic, certainly not the kind of thing I would want to use. However, the more I have seen this in use on videos and so on, the more I have been impressed. I like the idea of the DAF system, where the camera tells you whether to pull focus closer or further from the camera, and I have also been suprised at how good the face tracking is. If you can put this camera on a jib or gimbal and the auto focus actually works, it will be a very impressive add on. However, as yet we just have test videos to go on. More of this here.
So what about the FS7? The FS7 is insainly cheap for the stats it has. In terms of bang for your buck I don't think there is a better camera out there. The specs aren't a milion miles from those that Sony's F55 has for a fraction of the cost. When compared to larger cameras, it does feel a little plasticy, that said, it has a similar interface to many bigger Sony cameras, with many of switches at buttons in the right place, where a cameraman would actually want them. The fact that it is an E mount, might put some people off, to others it may be a plus. Personally I would feel a lot more comfortable putting a larger lens on an F5 or even a C300 markii than I would with this camera. It just doesn't feel that solid. That said it cost a hell of a lot less, so you have to expect some sacrifice.
So the specs are unbelievable, but what about the image? The camera has been selling well and is being used in all kinds of productions. On a personal note I find the look slightly video ish. Nothing out there has really blown me away, despite the amazing specs. I do prefer the look that the C300 markii puts out. On a general note, I often find Sony's cameras to have a vivid saturated look, going right back to the DigiBeta days; Canon by contrast has a slightly more muted filmic look. However, this is somewhat unfair as all I have seen of the C300 mark ii has been produced for marketing purposes, where as Vimeo and Youtube is full of videos put up by FS7 users, which probably doesn't show the camera in the greatest light.
I have mentioned this video in a previous article, but if you haven't seen it, it compares the C300 to the FS7. The one worrying thing is the purple fringing issue here on the FS7. You can clearly see it if you look at where the trees meet the blue of the sky. Hopefully this is just a minor problem and will be fixed in a software update.
If you are interested in buying the FS7, it is well worth reading the whole article at The Delivery Men.
With the FS7 out with great specs and an affordable price tag Canon had to respond with something, so what have they done to improve the C300? A good improvement in the C300 mark ii is the removable cables connecting the LCD module to the camera. The number of C300 rental cameras I have seen with broken cables that have been replace by Canon is unreal. Crazy when you think the camera has to be sent off to Canon, loosing the owner shooting days. (In the picture the Japanese says "Monitor Unit" - (this is the first time my limited Japanese has ever been useful on my blog)
There is also the improvement of the top handle: the weak one screw has been upgraded with a top helmet, which screws to the top of the camera, and then a couple of hex screws attach the handle. The handle also has a few monting screws and options, which could prove useful. (Mounting a top light is always a bit tricky with the C300 and this could be easier with the mark ii).
Again, something that I'd be interested to try is the pixel comparison focus assist. Rather than having some kind of auto focus, which everyone would hate, Canon have come up with a system that tells you on the monitor if a certain area is in focus or not. If this sounds a bit like peaking, it isn't. Apparently, this is a very acurate system which will tell the user which way to focus ie. whether the lens needs to be focused further or closer to be in correct focus. This is covered in more detail in Should I buy the new C300 mark ii?
Another small but very useful improvement with the mark 2 is the addition of a small internal microphone. When you remove the LCD from the C300 mark 1, you remove all audio, so if you are mounting the camera on a Movi for example you don't have a guide track for synching in post - this is total pain for the editor. (The way round this is to plug an external mic into the mini jack once the grip handle has been removed - still not ideal though) The video below gives a good look around the new Mark ii.
Update: As the release date of the C300 mark ii nears, more videos have come out that show the picture quality and how the focus assist and auto focus funtions work. The first mark ii video was "Trick Shot", I wasn't that impressed when I saw this. I am not sure if the camera was to blame, or not. Following videos have been more impressive. This is really worth checking out here, in a much more in depth review.
Will the masses of C300 owners upgrade to the mark ii, or switch over to Sony? How will Sony respond? They may decide to include 4k with the F5 and therefore dent mark ii sales (although this may dent their own F55 sales). The value to the C300 is now pretty low with the recent price drops, so it would be a fairly big chunk to invest in the upgrade to mark ii. The way camera technology is changing, everyone is looking to upgrade and the question becomes when you are going to make the next purchase, rather than if.
Canon started with great colour rendition and have worked to improve it with the mark ii, so the question will be: does the camera produce better pictures than Sony's cameras? Having slow motion is a nice feature, but it isn't something that is used everyday by most shooters. There is also the question of demand. Although as camera operators we can nudge production towards one particular camera, often a programme will already have a set camera they want to use. The fact that a huge amount of TV is already shot on C300, will no doubt mean many people will want to shoot on the mark ii. The F55 is also very popular out there, but has a very different price point.
If you own a production company specialising in corporate work, it is probably a no brainer. For the price of the C300 mark ii you can almost buy two FS7s. I find it hard to believe many clients will be unhappy with the "look" the camera produces, and if they are, you can work on the colours in post. If you are a DP, or self shooter, it is a trickier proposition. You hand your images over to production and they judge you on this.
In the end I'll base my decision mainly on the look coming straight out the camera. I am not that into the ergonomics of the mark ii or the FS7 but I know I can deal with it. I also know any of the three cameras in the right conditions, and with nice lighting, will grade up pretty well, however, I want camera that will put out a great image that the director will be happy with ungraded. For fast turn around shoots this is essential. Once the camera is released there will no doubt be many side by side comparision videos. I think I'll wait until then before spending any cash.
A cheaper option than the mark 2 is the original Canon C300, compared here to the FS7 .
And a more in depth look at the mark ii here.
I have been working as a freelancer for years and have always been paid, that said it is worth taking a few precautions.
As a freelance cameraman there are a few things you can do to ensure you get paid. There are preventative measures you can take to ensure you are working for the right people, but if things go wrong and clients refuse to pay, there are also tactics that could help you get the money you are owed.
Most people will tell you to make sure you have a contract with your employer, however, in the world of TV, this is pretty unrealistic. If you are working a contract over a few months you may get a contract, but for most short term jobs an email or phone call might be all you get. This being said there is plenty you can do to protect yourself.
If your job offer is just a telephone call, getting it in writing is a good idea. Even if you just email them back to confirm the rate, the hours, the number of days etc, you will have a contract of sorts and proof you have been employed to do a job.
If you don't know the company, do a little research. Do they have a habit of not paying people? Are they easy to contact? Do they have a physical address? All of things will help you access the company when you need to get paid. If it is a big contract you could even ask around and find out what other freelancers say. I would always be more cautious of working for an individual, as companies tend to be easier to contact when it comes to getting paid.
If you aren't sure about the company, ask for payment up front, or maybe ask for half of the fee and the other half on completion. When I am asked to work for a company based abroad, I always ask for the fees up front, the reason being it is much harder to take these companies to court or even contact them if they decide not to pay. I find companies are happy to pay up front as they understand the risk involved.
Be clear about your payment terms and stick to them. I give 30 days as this is standard in the uk. After that date I will remind the client. I always remain friendly and professional as I understand companies may struggle with cash flow, or may have simply forgotten the payment. I usually want these companies to employee me again, so it doesn't make much sense for me to send Joe Pesci around to their accounts department with a baseball bat.
What happens if you do the work, but don't get paid?
Firstly, it is worth being persistent. Find the right accounts contact and email them. If you still haven't receieved the money after your payment term, gently remind them. If you still don't receive anything it is worth calling to clear things up, just to make sure they haven't lost the invoice or paid it into the wrong account. Although 30 days in the standard payment term, some companies may regularly wait two or even three months before they pay freelancers to aid their cash flow. Although this is frustrating there isn't much you can do about it, other than email them reminders.
What if they refuse to pay you? If you still don't get paid, then you may want to lean on them a little harder, this is a last resort as it will certainly destroy your working relationship. The footage you shoot is your intelectual property, which you are selling to your emplyeer. If they don't pay you, then that property is still yours. This is a point you could easily make to the broadcaster or brand or whoever the end client is for this material. Obviously this is going to cause a major headache to whoever employed you and they may find it prefereable to just pay you what you are owed.
What if this still doesn't work? It is worth remembering that governments want business transactions to run smoothly and for individuals and companies to get paid. Whatever country you live in, there is probably some sort of system that can help if you aren't getting paid as a freelancer. In the UK there is the Small Claims Court which deals with small amounts of money owed (under 10,000 UKP). Although this sounds like a lot of trouble, especially if the amount of money you are claiming is really small, you may not need a solicitor or even have to go to court. Just registering the claim online means that a court date is set and a letter is sent to the person or company who owes you money. The letter alone could be enough for your client to pay up, as they may not want to go to court.
For a several years I have been keen to try out the Lighting Course at the National Film and Television School. Most of what I film is factual programming, so working in a purely film and drama context on a week's lighting course was something that has always appealed to me.
I picked the NFTS as it has a reputation as being one of the best film schools in the world, the list of alumni is pretty incredible and includes the likes of Roger Deakins.
(Above lighting for pack shots)
The course is limited to 8 people at a time, although this means it is heavily oversubscribed and places go quickly, once you are on the course you get plenty of hands on time with the kit.
The tutor was Derek Suter BSC. One of the first things he said was, he didn't want to talk too much and instead prefered us to learn by using the equipment. For me this was perfect, I didn't really fancy a week looking at a white board discussing theory. The course is sponsored by Panavision and Panalux, so the first thing we did was unload a delivery from them, a truck full of lighting equipment.
(Below setting up for daytime external shoot)
Over the week we shot: pack shots, daytime studio scenes, night time studio scenes, daytime scenes outdoors and nightime scenes outdoors. The group was split into two, so you have four people per group, each person taking it in turns to be the DP, focus puller, operator or assistant. There is also a highly experienced team around you. We had a fantastic Gaffer, a really experienced Camera Assistant a Spark and Grip. You end up learning just as much from each of these people, as each one of them is an expert in their own specific field. On several days there were also two actors and a sound recordist. Having the actors and sound really helped bring things to life.
(Below the Alexa with a beautiful Cooke 18-100 T3)
The cameras are always cabled up to a large monitor, so at any point you can go and check your work. Sometimes both groups work on the same scene, so you can flick between the two monitors and see how each one is set up and being operated.
At the end of the week you get to see your footage in the cinema. I have never seen anything I have shot blown up that big, so it is an experience in itself. You realise why attention to detail is so important in the film world. Using a certain filter softens skin tones suddenly serves its purpose when you see an actors face projected 5ft wide.
(Below, one of the actors gets ready for a take in the studio)
Apart from learning to light, you also pick up a lot of film making techniques. Being a lighting cameraman I have always pulled focus for myself looking at the monitor. Pulling focus for someone else, I learned to make measurements and feel the pace of the action and look at the distance marks, rather than looking at the monitor. It felt odd at first, but once I gave up looking at the monitor and relied on the marks everything fell into place.
The following scene is shot with a 10k coming in through the blinds and a 1k inside the room pointing away from the actors bouncing off the wall.
This next scene has a 5k coming through the blinds with very little internal light to give a dark moody feel.
Each of these scenes is ungraded (shot at LogC 444 with a REC709 LUT added in post).
For more information on the short courses on offer from the NFTS check out their website.
Acurate colour rendition verse a beautiful look.
I recently worked on a programme filming famous paintings. Colour reproduction in these works of art was obviously very important. With a normal scene an editor or colourist can change the picture and grade the scene how he or she likes, with a work of art there is a very clear right way and a wrong way, and what is more, the editor might not have a reference image of how the picture should look. You might think this would be easy, surely a camera will acurately reproduce colours, but this simply isn't true. Cameras have a certain "look" or feel to them, this is done by the way in which they interpret colour. This is true of all colours but it is particularly noticable with green. If you point your camera at a colour chart like a colour du monde and turn on your vector scope, you will notice some colours are more acurately reproduced than others.
If you point your camera at various sections of the chart it will quickly become obvious which sections of the chart refer to which sections on the vector scope. Regardless of which CP profile your camera is set to I bet the colours running across the top row and down the right side of the chart come in fairly acurately and the colours down the lower left corner of the chart do not. If you flick through the various picture profiles on your camera you will see how the vectorscope changes. The most dramatic change will be from the CINEMA Clog profile, giving a very flat reponse.
Remember when reading a vector scope it is important to look at the vectors the colours are on, and not just whether the colours sit inside the box or not.
Lets take the colour red for example. Red is located top left on the vector scope. In the image above the red is sitting exactly correct in the box. If the response from the camera was slightly left or right of the box the hue of the colour would be different: slightly more yellow if it was left and slightly more magenta if it was right.
Being further or nearer the centre mark represents chroma. Typically any gamma curve desinged to hold highlights is going to move those marks closer to the centre, however, the colour hues might still be correct i.e. on the right vector.
It is important to note that on the C300 when you change your picture profile you are changing both the gamma curve and the colour matrix. These have the same names "normal 1" "EOS standard" "Cinema" etc, however, you don't have to use the two in conjunction. You could easily choose the Colour matrix of "Normal 4" but have the "Cine 2" gamma. The gamma of course protects the highlights and deals with luminance rather than effecting the colour.
Before this gets too technical, here is a real world example. A director and I noticed that on the painting we were filming the green was wildly different in the monitor, but the other colours we pretty accurate. I quickly spun through a few picture profiles on the camera and strangely the one which gave the most acurate green was "EOS Standard." However, I don't like filming with EOS Standard as I find the colours pop out way too much: red goes insane jumping off the picture and highlights blow out really easy. I then remembered the matrix setting. I dialed the matrix setting to "EOS Standard" and then I set the gamma curve to "Cine 2" as this preserved the highlights without creating an overly flat image.
This was just a quick fix on the job, but it seemed to do the trick. It got me thinking though, what happens when you need very acurate colour, not just a pretty picture? What if grass fills lots of your screen or you a doing a commercial involving limes, do you want to send mustard coloured grass or blueish limes to the edit? I am picking up green specifically here as I am aware that green is the colour that cameras often treat unusually, not just C300s. Cameras on the whole are designed to shoot acurate skin tones, as far as other colours and hues go, cameras are on the whole aiming to create a beautiful over all look rather than acurately reproduce each colour.
I later had a play around with the various colour matrix too see which produced the most acurate results. I used the SMPTE colour chart below as I found this a bit simpler to read.
This backed up thoughts I'd had before about the EOS matrix. The green colour does get a bit more acurate, and the chroma on the red does jump up. Of all the profiles I had loaded up on my camera the one which looked the most acurate on the vector scope was from Ablecine. (There is a link to download this on a previous blog I wrote about gamma curves on the C300.)
Having descovered this, I am not now going to shoot everything I do on the Ablecine profile. Getting beautiful pictures isn't about simply recreating colours exactly. However, there are times when you look though the monitor and feel that you aren't getting the image you want. Going through the colour matrix settings and then selecting a gamma curve afterwards seems like it could be a good fix. You can of course alter the values of all of these colours to produce your own matrix settings, however, this isn't something I'd like to do without a dedicated vector scope and I am happy just to download a few profiles from trusted sources.
I have worked on a few projects lately that rely heavily on negative space. It seems odd to be employing the same shooting technique on completely unrelated projects, but I guess this is something of a trend at the moment. I thought I'd outline two of the projects here. The first is a branded video, and the second is a promo/advert both of the projects employ a technique of double exposure to make them work.
This image is a good example of double exposure (with the tree element there are actually three images at play)
This next image is a frame of one of my images (just an ungraded shot)
Here the workers face is used as a canvas, but you could just as well shoot this wider to make the head smaller, and then use the negative space as a canvas if you prefered. This isn't a green screen shoot, the worker is in his normal work environment, but his head is easy to cut out as it is heavily differentiated from the background. This differentiation can come from either using a tiny depth of field and seperate the background, or extreme lighting to create contrast.
In this shot we got most of the light using what was already available. The lift and the area just outside is brightly lit and so contrast well with the darker walls. All we had to do was light the worker as he came out of the lift and we have an image that can be used for double exposure. Here it is the framing that works, shooting this tight would mean you only have a lit area with no contrast, the wider shot gives us darkness.
In the above examples contrast is used to pull out a feature of the picture and seperate it from the background. However, you can also use a small amount of contrast, especially if there is a large area of darkness onto which you can comp your second image. In the next image the negative space takes up most of the screen. Here I stopped the camera down heavily and used a shaft of bright light to give to illuminte the model's face. This is for a different project, but the basic concept is similar.
There are other shots from this sequence with even smaller amounts of light, where literally only one eye is lit. Sometimes I had the model stand by the window into the blazing sun and stopped down, to throw the background into total darkness, and sometimes I shot in a blacked out room and just used a tiny shaft of light from a dedo to highlight a small area.
Before starting this project the Director and I found images we liked from videos that we thought looked beautiful or had an interesting textural quality and that we knew would lend themsleves to the double exposure treatment.
This is a shot that I love from director Eliot Rauch's film Remember. Here the light drifts down the actors body with the camera. Eliot Rauch is the guy who came up with that incredible film "Last Minutes with Oden", if you aren't familear with it, it is definitely worth checking out. It's a film that came out back when many of us where getting into shooting with DSLRs and it let me know what was possible.
Another image here is worth something that just works well, it looks visually interesting and you automatically have that high contrast with no lighting needed. These shots are useful as they are so quick to shoot, it can get you out of a whole when you are pushed for time.
Here is another shot which again just relies on natural light. This one is from a short called Gravity. The framing and contrast here would give you something to use for double exposure without having lots of complicated keying work to do in post.
To sum up, here is a quick list of stuff that I think works and stuff that doesn't.
1) High contrast.
2) Shallow depth of field with close foreground and distant background.
3) Objects that are large and fill most of the screen.
4) Objects that are very small and use only a small amount of the screen with a uniform background.
5) Unusal framing where our intest is drawn to edges of the screen.
1) Busy scenes with too much going on.
2) Even lighting
Finally, the title sequence to The True Detective. A peice that without doubt drives the trend along.
Of late there have been so many new 4k cameras coming to the market, I thought it was time for a quick round up of what is about.
|Black Magic PC
||60fps (120fps externally)
|| 60fps at 1080
|| 12 stops
|Panason Vari Cam 35
||120fps at 4k
Of course, resolution and frame rates are only a tiny peice of the story. Usability, the actual dynamic range, colour handling, funtionality, from things like view-finders, shoulder mounts inputs outputs etc etc, will all effect whether a camera is worthwhile buying and not the sort of thing you can work out from a press release.
The Blackmagic Ursa does look like it goes along way towards becoming what camera operators would actually need and want from a camera. The design is not disimilar to older ENG cameras: with audio outputs where they should be (at the back of the camera) a decent top handle and it also looks fairly well balanced. It is also a camera that can be upgraded later by the user, and even the chip itself can be replaced later down the line if something more advanced is made available.
If you are interested in shooting lots of slow motion, the Red Epic is interesting as can shoot 120fps at 4k and can shoot up to 300fps on a sliding scale with resolution dropping down from 4k. This is amazing when you consider how much people were paying for phantom shoots only a few years back.
As far as ergonomics and usability go the Sony F55 is definitely up at the top. Sony have been making ENG cameras for years, and the F55 is a nice block of a camera to stick on your shoulder and it has a proper view finder in the right place.
Although I don't imagine many productions demanding 4k anytime soon, having the ability to shoot slow motion is always going to be a pull for directors, especially when it is in camera.
For me a massive question about any of these cameras would be reliablitily. If you are shooting in New York, London or another big city and your AJA Cion stops working, you might be able to get another quickly from a rental house, or you might be able to get it fixed quickly. I do so many shoots in far off places, I need to know, beyond a shaddow of a doubt that the camera is 100 percent reliable, or if there is an issue there is somewhere I can find get the issue resolved.
Although there is no exact price on the Panasonic yet, they have been rivals of Sony for years, with earlier versions of the varicam and we can expect the price to be pretty close to that of the F55. The word on the internet seems to be the price will be "under 60k USD" Although that is pretty obvious, since the F55 is way under that.
Many people will probably be wondering whether the price of the Epic/Panasonic Vari 35/Sony F55 will drop as a result of these new cheaper alternatives. It is hard to say, but personally, I don't think so. The prices are so different they are really separate markets. A DoP thinking of buying a new F55 might be easily persuaded to buy the Panasonic instead if the price is better, but I dont imagine the same is true of the cheaper 4k cameras. Apart from anything else, owning a camera most production managers have never heard of means you'd have to do a lot of explaining and persuading to get it on a job. So who will buy the new New BM Ursa or Aja Cion? I can see independent fim makers buying these, or small production companies buying them as their in house cameras. Having said that, what about the 1DC? Desptie the 1DC dropping its original price down to 10k, it is still 10,000 US dollars for a stills camera. The blackmagic Ursa is a fair bit cheaper and on paper looks like a much more usable film camera. If Canon still want to pitch the 1DC to independant film makers they may have to further reduce their prices.
One thing is for sure, cameras shapes and sizes are merging back towards what we first had with ENG cameras like the Beta SP, DigiBeta etc. All of these new offering look very similar. Manufacturers have obviously seen how all us operators have been struggling along for the past few years, with odd shaped boxes on our shoulders and a whole load of 3rd party periferals attached to the camera. Most of these new cameras seem to have lept forward in ergonoimics as well as technology.
4K Cameras: Should I care