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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

Entries in Canon (42)

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.

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
Aug222012

Blackmagic Cinema Camera

The NAB 2012 announcement of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (which folks are thankfully calling simply “the BMC”) from Blackmagic Design, the company that makes delightful video doohickies and acquired industry giants Da Vinci and Teranex, revealed a few interesting things:

  • We are living in the “Chinese curse” age of cameras.
  • In other words, disruption is the new norm. I’m not sure if there’s a static “game” to “change” anymore. So maybe we could all agree to stop saying that?
  • Prolost is not a “camera blog.”

The so-called Chinese Curse goes “May you live in interesting times,” which certainly describes the landscape of digital cinema offerings available today. Apparently, we self-sufficient film folk now constitute a market worth serving directly. Where once we bent ill-suited cameras to our cinematic purposes (first all-in-one camcorders with tiny sensors and abusive automation, then DSLRs with near-accidental video functionality), now we can’t go a month without another “revolutionary” filmmaking camera competing to offer us something amazing at a previously unimaginably low price.

The question is, will these purpose-built offerings, such as the Kickstarter success Digital Bolex, the Sony FS–700, the 4K-ish Canon 1D C, and the KineRAW-S35 cure the DV Rebel of the urge to repurpose consumer cameras for their filmmaking efforts?

Blackmagic has seemingly (nearly) hit the “3k for 3k” target that many hoped Red would deliver, at a Micro–4/3-ish sensor size wandering between the 2/3” sensor many associated with the notion of a 3K raw camera and the increasingly ubiquitous and affordable Super 35mm size. If that seems like a decent deal, it’s worth noting that every BMC ships with full licenses of Resolve and UltraScope.

I was pretty busy when this camera was announced, but that’s not the only reason I refrained from comment at the time. I’ve gotten a bit weary of writing about unreleased cameras. Red has taught me to comb my writing for phrases like “the camera will have” and replace them with “the camera is said to feature,” and pretty soon I feel like I’m writing about nothing. But late last night, cinematographer John Brawley posted five test shots from a “production model” of the BMC to a brand-new Blackmagic forum. Brawley encouraged us to download the Cinema DNG sequences ourselves and have a play—so I did.

I love big-sensor digital cinema. I love shallow depth-of field. I’m fond of pointing out that sex appeal trumps tech specs every time. The interesting thing about the footage from this not-quite-cinema-sized sensor is that it is sexy. Not because of fetishistically shallow depth-of-field (although Brawley handily demonstrated that focus control is eminently possible with the BMC and some nice glass), but because it’s raw. I graded these shots in Lightroom 4. They came in looking a touch overexposed. I easily recovered the highlights and pushed these shots all over the place, but they never broke. After years of shooting with Canon HDSLRs to massively-compressed codecs, the rich neg offered by this little camera was beyond refreshing.

It’s easy to imagine that Blackmagic chose the smaller sensor to keep the price of the BMC down. It’s easy to get caught up thinking that maybe next, they’ll release a true Super 35 version of this rig. Or that the KineRAW at $6K might be worth the extra cost over the BMC.

But the challenge that befalls camera manufacturers is not to build the “perfect” digital cinema camera. It’s to capture the hearts and minds—and wallets—of filmmakers as much, or even more, as the wrong camera for the job keeps doing.

I think the Blackmagic Cinema Camera might just do that.

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera is available for pre-order now from B&H.

Sunday
Jul222012

Canon EOS M

I’m pre-ordering this one. I always like to have a nice, little camera, and I figure I’ve got until October to change my mind.

  • APS-C 18.0 Megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Touch screen (looks like the same UI as the Rebel T4i/650D)
  • In fact, it’s basically a T4i at half the weight and half the thickness, thanks to the lack of a mirrorbox
  • 1080p 24/25/30 with continuous autofocus
  • 720p 50/60
  • Works with EF lenses (with adapter that will be included with the body-only kit)
  • Ships with an EF-M 22mm ƒ2.0 pancake lens
  • The STM lens is said to be smooth and silent when focusing, specifically for video
  • $799, ships in October