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Tools

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

Entries in Cameras (151)

Tuesday
Jul092013

Canon 70D

Canon has announced the Canon 70D, availble for pre-order at Amazon and B&H for $1,199.

On one hand, this camera, with its flip-out LCD, new sensor technology that allows better live-view autofocus, and built-in WiFi, seems to be the heir apparent to the APSC HDSLR throne.

On the other hand, it’s hard not to feel that Canon is updating their DSLR line as slowly as they feel they can get away with.

I like what Mike and Jason had to say on the RC podcast #132—essentially, one has to hope that we’re nearing the end of hoping for accidental improvements to the video capabilities of low-cost stills cameras.

The Canon 70D looks to be the best camera you can buy for DSLR video, and yet it’s impossible to get to excited about it.

Monday
Jul082013

Digital Bolex Sample Raw Frames

Canon 50mm Corrected

Elle and Joe have posted the first raw sample frames from the Digital Bolex.

On Wednesday we eagerly waited in the conference room as Mike had the guys put some final firmware updates on the camera. They brought it in, the sides were taken off, but the display was on. This was the first time we could hold the camera and see the display live. It was an amazing experience. This thing we had been dreaming about was finally working in our hands.

Read more here and download the samples for yourself. If I read the post correctly, these were not captured at 24fps, but they are raw frames from the production sensor.

Congrats guys. Like you say, these images aren’t perfect (there’s a bit of a grid pattern in the Elitar frame, for example), but holy crap, you made a camera.

Here are the three sample DNG frames at both the Lightroom 5 default settings (remember, there’s no such thing as “straight out of the camera” with raw) and color graded by me using Lightroom 5. Click to see the full-res images.

Canon 50mm Lightroom 5 DefaultsElitar Lightroom 5 DefaultsElitar CorrectedPizar Lightroom 5 DefaultsPizar Corrected

Wednesday
May152013

Space Monkeys, Raw Video, and Giving Us All You've Got

The team at Magic Lantern have managed to hack the Canon 5D Mark III to record 14-bit raw 1080p video at 24 frames per second. The results are stunning—the highest-quality video we’ve seen from a DSLR yet, comparing favorably to images from cameras costing much more.

This is a big deal. But maybe not as big a deal as some have made it out to be. Like Ham, the chimpanzee that was launched into space on a Mercury rocket, the Magic Lantern raw hack is less notable for its discrete accomplishment than for what it portends.

How it Works

I was skeptical about the announcement of raw video at 1080p. This wasn’t a sensor crop, this was a full-frame image, somehow downsampled to 1920x1080—yet still being touted as “raw.”

The answer came back from Magic Lantern themselves:

Put this way, it makes sense—and matches what Magic Lantern said in their original post:

Key ingredients:

  • canon has an internal buffer that contains the RAW data

Of course. Canon sparsely samples the sensor (the popular theory is that they skip lines and bin rows) to create their own 1080p bayer image, which they rapidly debayer to create 1080p video frames. It looks like Magic Lantern have found a way to grab this raw buffer and save it directly to the CF card.

Whatever magic Canon worked to eliminate the moiré in the 5D Mark III’s video now benefits Magic Lantern users as well. And whatever downsides there are to this sparse sampling will also affect the raw hack.

What it Takes

Right now, the hack requires quite a bit of work to get up and running, and even more work to derive useable results.

But those usable results are compelling. There are tremendous opportunities afforded by the raw video hack over the compressed H.264 recordings the camera natively makes.

  • Post-processing debayering can be much better than the hasty in-camera processing. The much-lamented softness of 5D Mark III video is improved noticeably by handling the debayering (including noise reduction) after the fact. Although I can’t help but wonder if we’d get even better results from a demosaicing algorithm tuned to the specifics of the 5D’s subsampling pattern.
  • The 14-bit raw frames contain a great deal of dynamic range that 8-bit, heavily compressed video does not.
  • No compression.

But there’s a price to pay for recording 14-bit uncompressed raw. It requires crazy-fast CF cards, and you’ll only get 15 minutes of video on that 128 GB card, according to Cinema 5D, who graciously posted their workflow and samples, “after struggling for a day” to get it all working.

What it Means

Even once the setup process is streamlined, and the raw-to-DNG conversion process is streamlined (or eliminated), uncompressed raw video is probably not the best option for most DSLR shooters. Better would be something like ProRes or DNxHD—but that would require high-quality debayering in the camera, which would seem to require more processing power than the 5D Mark III has to offer. More processing means more heat, which means a very different camera design than an SLR. It’s easy to see why digital cinema cameras start to get expensive.

The 5D Mark III raw hack is cool. It’s important. It’s something we’ll use, and like, and get good results from. But as exciting as it is today, it’s even more significant for what it means for the future of low-cost digital cinema cameras.

Mr. Ham risked his furry life to prove that a primate could flip switches in space. Three months later, a human being took the same trip. By proving that raw video is possible from the 5D Mark III, Magic Lantern have joined the forces pushing the industry in an important new direction.

Five years ago I wrote that large-sensor video had shown “that it’s no longer OK for manufacturers to make a video camera that doesn’t excite us emotionally.” Since the industry did such a good job of heeding that advice, my new mandate for the future is this:

It’s no longer OK for cameras not to give us everything they’ve got.

What I love about the new generation of cameras, such as those from Blackmagic, Red, and even GoPro, is that they all give you everything they’ve got. They’ll give you the highest image quality they can, in the smallest package possible. They’ll compress images as much or as little as you want. They’ll max out their resolution at the expense of frame rate, or vise versa—whichever you like. And they’ll pack their best dynamic range into any format they can record.

Compared to this, Canon and Sony’s digital cinema product lines seem cruelly restricted at every tier. The result was palpable at NAB. As I said on stage at the SuperMeet, the show seemed to belong to camera upstarts. To cameras from small booths. From the Phantom Flex4K with its Super35 4K at 1,000 fps, to the Digital Bolex, the exciting cameras at every price point were the ones not charging by the button, feature, or codec, but simply giving you all they could do.

What Magic Lantern have done is show camera makers that if they won’t give us all they’ve got, we’ll just take it anyway. The smart manufacturers will try to beat us there out of the box.

Wednesday
Apr102013

BulletProof Unveiled

BulletProof is a new app from Red Giant that fills a huge gap in the DSLR shooter’s workflow. You’ve shot this great footage—now what do you do with it?

Large productions with high-end digital cinema cameras tend to be supported by a full DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) cart with customized software and hardware. But where was the DIT tool for indies? Red Giant saw an opportunity to bolster the workflow of one of the most common types of shoot—the DSLR-based, small-but-capable indie crew. So about 18 months ago, we sat in Sean Safreed’s dining room in San Francisco and started sketching ideas for BulletProof.

The Other Half of Your Camera

If you’re a cinematographer hired to create gorgeous images, you have a tough choice to make about how “flat” to shoot your footage. Flatter is better (log is best) for color grading, but your client might not understand why all their footage looks like it got a milk bath. And even if they do, who’s to say that they’ll color correct it anything like what you had in mind? Or maybe, to your horror, they’ll just fall in love with the “flat look,” since that’s what they’ve been looking at in the edit.

Or you could bake in a look into your shots in-camera. The client may love the dailies, but they also may be disappointed with the lack of flexibility you’ve given them down the line.

Now that we have an abundance of cameras that shoot a broad dynamic range, flat or log image, shooters need a way to not only review color-correct dailies on set, but also to begin the creative process of color correction—if only to “set a look” that conveys the cinematographer’s intent.

When I shoot stills or video, I’m already thinking about what kind of color grading I’m going to add later. Lensing the imagery only feels like the first half of the image-making process. That’s why we’re saying BulletProof is the other half of your camera—it’s a safe place to offload, catalog, and prep your footage for the edit. You can add keywords, markers, and other metadata—including Colorista primary color correction and a variety of industry-standard LUTs.

If you’re an indie filmmaker working on a small scale, you still have all the needs of a large production when it comes to managing your precious footage. You need a checksumed, redundant archiving process. You need to check your shots on set. And you might not have a dedicated script supervisor to take notes, so you need a way to mark your good takes, your crummy ones, and even key moments within a take—whether it’s you cutting the footage, or someone else.

BulletProof allows you to add markers and even in/out points to clips. This metadata is included in the clips your export, so your editor sees your Circle Takes, Rejects, and Notes right in their NLE, effortlessly.

Maybe the coolest feature is BulletProof’s Playlists. You can add shots to a playlist and they’ll play back in sequence, respecting the In and Out Points you’ve added to each clip. This makes it fast and easy to create a mini-cut on set, so you can check continuity and move on to the next setup with the confidence that you’ve got your coverage.

Like Red Giant’s Grinder before it, you can easily export all kinds of variations on your footage. You might create H.264 web-friendly movies with color correction and timecode window burn for web review, color-corrected ProRes files for offline edit, and uncorrected ProRes HQ movies for the online. All of this is driven by presets that you customize.

These are all wonderful features, but my favorite feature is that BulletProof is simple to use. I wanted to design something that would be intuitive and easy for a busy and distracted director to use on their own, yet powerful enough for a dedicated DIT to be a hero for their director or DP. The left-to-right “panoramic UI” makes it abundantly clear where your footage is coming from, where it’s going to, and what’s happening in between.

I’m really excited about BulletProof. I know it’s going to change how I shoot, and make my communication with my editors even better. But I know that we can’t do it alone. However much I might shoot, there are those of you out there who shoot more, and under more pressing conditions. So we’re launching BulletProof in a new way for Red Giant—as a free public beta. You can sign up now and help us shape BulletProof into the shooter’s companion app that you’ve always wanted. This summer, the app will ship for $199—a price designed to make BulletProof an easy choice for shooters at every level.

Photo by @donaldberube. Note the tea.

One Froggy Evening

Last night I got to show BulletProof to over 1,000 people at the 13th annual SuperMeet. The crowd was very supportive even though I had almost completely lost my voice! I felt privileged to be representing the hard work of the amazing team at Red Giant who have been bringing BulletProof to life. If you’re at the show and you’ve come by the booth you’ll immediately understand why I love working with this company.

If you’d live to see more great NAB news, including Sean and I talking about BulletProof, check out fxguide’s amazing show coverage. You’ll find Mike Seymour interviewing us at about the 01:26:45 mark in Part 1.