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Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

Needables
  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz
Wednesday
Oct222008

It's Happening


Let’s get something straight. The video from the Nikon D90 and the Canon 5D MkII is not of good quality. It’s over compressed, over-processed, over-sharpened, and lacks professional control. It skews and shears and shuts off in the middle of a take. It sucks.

So why are we so excited by it?

Because the video from these DSLRs stimulates us emotionally. It’s contrasty, with sexy depth of field. It looks like cinema, if you don’t look to close. Guess who doesn’t look too close. Everyone.

Not to mention the thrill of portability, incognito shooting, and of an infinite assortment and renewable supply of state-of-the-art lenses that serve both our motion and still habits. It all adds up to a thrilling sensation, even if we know deep down that these cameras aren’t quite ready for us yet.

What the D90 and 5D2 have done is show us that it’s no longer OK for video camera manufacturers, whether they be Sony or Canon or RED, to make a video camera that doesn’t excite us emotionally. Buttons and features and resolution charts just had their ass handed to them by sex appeal.

There’s nothing new about this of course. We’ve been trading image fidelity for sex appeal for years now, using 24p modes, on-camera filters, Magic Bullet, and 35mm lens adapters. Especially those lens adapters. We suffer all kinds of pains in our filmmaking asses to cut our cameras’ resolution and light gathering capabilities substantially. All because in cinema, less is so much more.

So it stands to reason that the number one manufacturer of 35mm lens adapters is the first to start taking these video DSLRs seriously.

On August 29th I wrote: Mark my words, you will see rail-mounted D90s with follow-focus rigs and outboard HD displays. On September 27th I played around with some spare Redrock Micro parts in an attempt to imagine what such a rig might look like. Zacuto soon followed with mock-ups of their own. But Redrock Micro is doing more than just mocking up: tomorrow they will announce a new, shipping product, a cinematizing kit for DSLRs with video.

I love Redrock. They make great, affordable rigs with the DV Rebel in mind. The Redrock bundles for video DSLRs are being showcased at Photo Plus in New York, tomorrow through the 25th, in the Canon and Zeiss booths. They ship November 1.

Since Redrock is taking video DSLRs seriously, maybe it’s time the camera manufacturers do too. It’s great that these images are so exciting, but they do need to grow up if we’re to use them for our films.

Reader Comments (28)

It won't take long at all for them to work a lot of us 'video' guys suggestions into their cameras. I'm left wondering how the big camera manufacturers are sleeping these nights? It's either great because they think that everyone and their brother will want to have one, or badly because they'll loose a 100k camera sale to a 3k still camera from another division in their own company.

October 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

i'm not sleeping either, cause i am excited about what's coming

October 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteragwah

I think you nailed the essence of the digital cinema debate in your intro, Stu. Somewhere in the pursuit of a perfect sanitized image, we forgot how much we liked imperfections. Starving filmmakers do themselves a disservice when they worry too much about chromatic aberration, rolling shutters, and bayer patterns. In practice, it seems like more filmmakers are spending time actually degrading their image artistically. Grindhouse took this to the extreme, but you can even look to Cloverfield, where JJ & Co. went to great lengths to make a Viper seem like a handheld consumer HD cam.

I'm always surprised how much response I get to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJyKbBpjfJU" REL="nofollow">this video I made from footage I shot in Tokyo in 2004, on a Sony T1 still camera that maxed out at 640x480. It was also mangled by YouTube's early compression algorithms. And yet audience feedback seems to suggest that no one cares.

October 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergeoff gresh

Wow, great post. It really is an exciting time.

October 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmericanvirus

I know this isn't on topic, but I am very interested to know what you think about Apple removing firewire from their Macbook line, leaving it only in the more costly Macbook Pros.

October 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersemicolon

I don't know about this. It's all very interesting, and it certainly delivers a different and more filmic look. But I can't help but feel like it's an intermediate step; like we've made a leap, but we haven't yet hit the ground.

We're taking all of these pieces of technology and hacking them together, making something awesome, but unwieldy. Red Rock's gear makes that less of an issue, obviously, but at what cost?

I guess my question is, what's the next rebel leap? We haven't seen a big change in low-cost digital video cameras since the introduction of 24p. Sure, they've added resolution and made the image cleaner, but there still isn't an affordable camera that, out of the box, can take 35mm lenses and let you DOF your heart out. It really isn't that hard or expensive to do, seeing as people DIY them constantly and companies like Red Rock capitalize on the demand. Why doesn't a camera company just build the thing? Even Red isn't doing it with Scarlet; it comes with a fixed lens.

Still, this is cool, and a good piece to add to the arsenal until that time that a camera manufacturer actually gets up and does, affordably, what they should have done a while ago.

October 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Co.

For me, this is NLE all over again. Print all over again. The technology becomes very available and we see a lot of not-so good work done and some mind-bending work. There will still be a place for Arri and F900s but for different reasons than we look at them now.

What this doesn't change is the fact that you still need an idea to shoot. When Laser printers and layout software first arrived, there were a lot of bad newsletters sent out. The fact is, and the rebel guide proves this, there is nothing holding anyone back from making a beautiful movie right now...other than the will and the idea.

-gl
georgeloch.com

October 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergl

The writing is on the wall. Everyone can see the revolution is coming. I just wish it would hurry up and get here! I want my low cost large sensor high-def cam, and I want it now! :-)

October 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Even Red isn't doing it with Scarlet; it comes with a fixed lens.

Where do you know that from? The Specs of the Scarlet are released early november...

October 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGPSchnyder

no audio though! is there a kit that incorperates XLR or something?

October 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBenjamin

"portability, incognito shooting"

Point taken, although with this new contraotion incognito shooting is probably no longer an option

:-)

October 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShadowMaker SdR

It's exciting to see 3rd party vendors responding to the needs of the filmmakers. Now we need the camera makers to step up and fix some of the limitations on their cameras. It CAN happen. When we purchased a Sony EX1 last year, one its best features was the built-in HD-SDI output. I could shoot uncompressed 1920x1080 10-bit 4:2:2 footage straight to our D5 deck and the quality was amazing. But, there was one BIG limitation. The output had to be either 1080i or 720p (no 1080p/24). So, I had to always remove the pulldown to get back 24fps for post. I speculated that this was a stupid software limitation to prevent the EX1 from taking sales away from Sony's high-end CINEALTA cameras. Well, Sony just release a firmware upgrade for the EX1, and guess what it adds ... 1080/24PsF out of the HD-SDI port! I suppose camera manufacturers DO occasionally listen to their customers. And hopefully Canon and Nikon are listening too.

October 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterprosckes

This is such an exciting time. Who would have thought 60i DV ten years ago would have seemed like the dark ages today?

October 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCall Box

Where do you know that from? The Specs of the Scarlet are released early november...

Good point; up to the point that Jim said they were rewriting the book on Scarlet, it was going to be fixed lens. I hope they prove my comment wrong.

October 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Co.

My hopes are with you david co. :-)

October 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGPSchnyder

Can anyone confirm if you can record a signal with a blackmagic intensity card on the d90? I'm looking at shooting something on it and the avi compression is a deal breaker - I'd love to strip out a signal before it gets to the destructive record section. Better again if anyone had a link to footage from this it'd be fantastic!

October 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjoconnell.ie

Can anyone confirm if you can record a signal with a blackmagic intensity card on the d90?

From what I've heard (maybe someone can back me up on this), the HDMI on the d90 basically mirrors the LCD, so you'd be capturing the info readouts as well as the image. I don't own a d90 yet, so I'm not sure if those readouts can be turned off. If they can't, it seems like the kind of thing that could be fixed pretty easily with a firmware update.

October 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergeoff gresh

I agree with Geoff, in fact almost a 100%. Starving filmmakers REALLY DO worry too much about chromatic aberration, rolling shutters, and bayer patterns. Well, maybe not the rolling shutters, but anyway, since I'm not exactly a filmmaker but I'm more interested in DV Rebel-styled music videos with that low-bud film look. I think that if Canon would add 24fps and 25fps via Firmware update to the MKII, it would make a pretty killer cam for indie music-video production.

And Stu, maybe it's time for another of them "urge the manufacturers" posts of yours, this time RED. We know nothing about the Scarlet redesign so far, but if they'd design it similar to the MKII (read - WITH a lens mount) but with a better shutter and a better codec (even 25mbit AVCHD would be enough), maybe with variable frame rate, and keep it in the sub-3000$ range, they'd have a winner. And I do mean it, because I'd order 5 pieces immediately, for live music video production. I'd love to know what you think about it.

October 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterarminb

When you say the quality is not good, what is the comparison? Red or a dvx100 with a dof adapter?

I coming to a point where I really need a hd to deliver to clients (despite the fact that I am poor as beans)... I'd really hate to go with a hv20 considering most of the same hassles exist as far as shooting and manual control.

I do a lot of vfx related work but I'm thinking about eating the $1000 for the d90, keeping the pans slow and building a shrine for syntheyes till a real solution comes out.

Kust as a side note, it would be great to have a section on this site to have a user rated and adjusted rig buyers guide where each of the main new wave cams (d90, red, 5d etc) has the ideal tripod/dolly/matte box etc matched to the best value considering the cost of the camera and its particular eccentricities (will an extremely lightweight dslr need a very nice tripod?).

Past the cam, I am pretty lost.

October 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCasey James Basichis

And Stu, maybe it's time for another of them "urge the manufacturers" posts of yours, this time RED.

I don't think this will work with RED, as they always do their thing. And let's face the facts, till now the R1 is doing great, so I see no need to worry there right now.

October 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGPSchnyder

Hi Stu,

There's new 5D Canon Mark II footage posted on Vimeo here:

http://www.vimeo.com/2053280

I think it rivals, and in places even surpasses Vincent Laforet's "Reverie." I'm not an expert, so I'd love to get your opinion and the opinion of other cinematographers here.

October 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

Thanks Greg, that video earned a post of its own.

October 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStu

This is the kind of camera future i dreamt about all through my days as a focus puller. I imagined EXACTLY THIS RIG as i put a small directors viewfinder on a matte box and rods, now im blown away now its a reality. I love this simpler, lighter and more mobile future.

You should be able to make anything look fantastic with rigs like this, the right framing, lens choice and low dof are all you need. You don't need a huge lighting truck parked outside, just choose the right lens and framing for the location and the light you have.

Who gives a rats about flares, C.A. or even some compression.

I love film but bring this on.

Jas

October 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWingrove

"It looks like cinema, if you don't look to close. Guess who doesn't look too close. Everyone."

This is probably the single best comment I've seen posted about these cameras yet. And then you follow up with:

"It all adds up to a thrilling sensation, even if we know deep down that these cameras aren't quite ready for us yet."

I get the constant harping for 24p on the message boards and comment threads - it's part of our job as users of this equipment to push the manufacturers to improve the equipment. But the lack of 24p in no way means the cameras aren't ready for us, or that they aren't a significant improvement over our existing equipment.

When the perfect camera becomes available we can all dump whatever we've been using and rush out to buy it. Until that point we should use the tools that let us put the best image on screen. By best I don't mean the one that has the greatest dynamic range, resolution, color rendition, etc - I mean the one that makes the audience sit up and take notice of your film. These cameras do that.

I will gladly trade the 24p of my XHA1 for the ability to shoot in natural light and have it render more detail than the eye can see with little or no noise. Will it look like video because it's shot at 30p/360? Sure - to those who look too close. But you have to ask who you're making films for - fellow posters on internet forums, or everyone else who doesn't know or care about the difference between 24p & 30p, yet looks at the footage from these cameras and goes "wow!'.

I've shown 'reverie' to a lot of people, both with and without video experience, and not one of them have watched it and said "too bad it looks like video" - in fact the general reaction is amazement at how much better it looks than most video they see. That makes me pretty confident that the rest of the audience will be fine with it - which to me means the camera is absolutely ready for us.

Any way you look at it, it's far, far better to be making films with the 5DmkII than it is to be talking about the films you would make if you had the perfect camera.

October 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEvan Donn

Let's get something straight. The video from the Nikon D90 and the Canon 5D MkII is not of good quality. It's over compressed, over-processed, over-sharpened, and lacks professional control. It skews and shears and shuts off in the middle of a take. It sucks.

Amazing.

You (professional film maker, director, visual effects supervisor and who knows what else) critizise 2500$ DSLRs!!!

Here's a guy who owns a visual effects company and he complains about DSLR video quality!

Absolutely amazing.

October 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterose

Here's a guy who owns a visual effects company and he complains about DSLR video quality!

Did you even read the paragraph that follows said criticism? He's just pointing out the Cons to the very large Pro: despite these failings, it looks SWEET.

It is you, sir, that is amazing, for posting such a thoughtless comment.

- d.m.c.

October 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Co.

It is you, sir, that is amazing, for posting such a thoughtless comment.

You are absolutely right.
It's now obvious for me that I have made a HUGE misinterpretation and I'm very sorry about that. I truly feel like an idiot.

My sincere apologies

October 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterose

Stu

You are so right it made my cry-
all this endless talk about technical specs misses the point...

The HOLY GRAIL is the camera that, for whatever technical reasons, creates a look that allows an audience to enter a world, suspend disbelief and be hypnotized by the movie.

The CANON 5D Mark 2 is indeed that Holy Grail I have waited 21 years for since I made my first video.

When I get it in December, I am making a feature, for myself, and to prove that this is the revolution all indy filmmakers have been waiting for.

Thanks, Stu.

T Patrick Murray
HIGH DEFINITION FILMS, LLC

TPatrickMurray@gmail.com
www.TheLastGame.com

November 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTPatrick
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