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Needables
  • 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 RED (52)

Thursday
Sep022010

Ha ha very funny Canon now get back to work

Image courtesy of Philip Bloom. Click through for his actual coverage of the show.

Canon Expo kicked off with a bang as the venerable imaging giant stunned crowds with its working prototype 4K camera! Is this the future of digital cinema?

Ug. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

There’s so much wrong with this prototype “concept camera” (as Philip kindly points out below, it’s important to understand that this is not a camera Canon plans on bringing to market) that I hardly know where to begin. It’s an atrocity of aesthetics and ergonomics. It has a fixed, not-very-special 20x zoom lens. The sensor is only 2/3”. It shoots 60fps. Nothing about this camera reflects any awareness of what digital cinematographers want. It’s as if Canon brass lifted the internet ban on the engineer’s dungeon just long enough for them to visit to RED’s web site, and then shut it down again after they’d read as far as “4K.”

Of course, this isn’t a camera, or even a plan for a camera. It’s a statement by Canon. They meant to say “We get it. We know what’s important.” What they actually said is “Ooh, bigger numbers!” I expect this kind of technology dick-swinging from Sony, but not from Canon.

What’s most troubling about this non-camera is that Canon made it at all. Anyone invested in Canon’s gear should be pissed at Canon for squandering their time and resources building this toy. I look at this thing and see my parents returning from Vegas with a sheepish expression on their faces, saying “Remember your college fund?”

Canon, please stop building fake “4K” video cameras when you can’t even make an SLR that shoots actual 1080p HD.

We’ve discussed the very real aliasing/moiré issue with Canon’s HDSLRs. It is both a real problem and a somewhat workable limitation that many happily accept. What is not in dispute is that these are symptoms of a poorly-sampled, low-resolution image. Readers of this site know that I am not a spatial resolution fetishist, but even I am painfully aware that my 5D and 7D footage is lacking detail.

Canon makes it incredibly easy to demonstrate this, since the 5D Mark II that makes such fuzzy pseudo-HD video also makes ridiculously high-fidelity stills. The frames below are a 1:1 frame grab from a 5D video, and the same scene shot as a still and then scaled down to 1920x1080. I did the scaling in Lightroom, using no Develop or Output Sharpening.

Click for full-sizeClick for full-sizeFeel free to download the full-res originals and compare yourself, or look at the 1:1 comparisons below:

Port of Oakland? Or #### ## #######?Chain-link fence? Or a dirty piece of glass?The difference is staggering. And remember, I don’t even care all that much about spatial resolution. What I do know is this: a sharp 1920x1080 camera can make an image with more detail than most female movie stars are comfortable with for close-ups. So for today we can dispense with a discussion about the merits of mastering at 4K. Canon is nowhere near that conversation with their HDSLRs. They’re still falling way short of HD.

To be clear: What you are seeing above is two different ways that the same camera made a 1920x1080 image. One image was hastily yanked off a sensor (skipping entire rows of pixels) and then compressed to H.264 in realtime; the other was captured as raw 5.6K bayer data, decoded slowly to RGB by an engine optimized for quality, then downsampled to HD using every 5.6K pixel to build a 1920x1080 image with as much detail as appropriate for a true HD image.

Does the latter sound unfeasible for “real” video work? Well it shouldn’t — it’s what we do with our RED One cameras now.

The RED One is more than just a “4K camera.” It’s a 4K sensor, some very clever software, an even more clever compressed raw codec, and then more clever software. Not to mention a decent form factor, decent colorimetry, smart proxy workflows for editorial, and viewfinders that actually help you expose and focus. It’s a full-fledged 4K ecosystem.

And look how painful it was for RED to get all that working.

Canon, you have none of that stuff, you have no idea how to make it, and you don’t even know that you don’t know this.

So stop dicking around with your fake 4K toys and start making cameras we can use. That we want to use.

Build a full-frame DSLR that shoots high-quality HD video at a variety of frame rates and the world is yours.

I’m terrified that you won’t though — because then you’d have to put it on a pedestal at a trade show and say “Look, we finally built a camera that actually does what we claim our current cameras do.”

So much more fun to say “Hey look, 4K!”

“We so get it.”

Sunday
Apr122009

Happy Birthday Red Centre

The 30th episode of RED Centre marks its one year anniversary, occasion enough to point out that it is one of my very favorite podcasts, despite my not owning a Red. Mike Seymour, of fxguide and fxphd, and director/shooter Jason Wingrove consistently turn out snappy, entertaining and thoughtful episodes. They follow my rule of great podcasting: rather than imagine what they think an audience might want to hear, they simply have conversations about things that interest them. In other words, they make the show they would want to listen to. When Jason and Mike think out loud, we all learn together. And their interviews are not journalism as much as they are opportunities to eavesdrop on the bleeding edge of digital cinema.

Someone asked me recently why I'm not more of a fan of RED, which was a surprising enough question that I want to clarify something here: I am a fan of RED. There are now 35 posts on this blog tagged with RED. By comparison, there are 31 tagged with photography. Yes, many of those RED posts are critical, but understand this: if I take the time to post critical essays about something, that means I like it. If I'm not interested I won't waste the keystrokes or your time.

I like the RED One camera—what it represents, and what it has the potential to be. I like it so much that I desperately want it and RED's future cameras to be as great as I see that they so easily could be. This is why I encourage RED to develop industry-friendly standardized workflows, to be honest about their dynamic range claims and provide a way of shooting that acknowledges the requirements of film delivery, and to keep their priorities on the filmmaker when designing new products.

I am also cautious about getting swept up in the excitement that RED is so masterful at generating, and I encourage you to be as well. I am lucky enough to get to share my tempered excitement and thoughts directly with Jim Jannard himself. I can't get anyone at Canon to return my calls or emails (not even when I post in Japanese) despite owning a closet full of their gear.

RED is great enough and frustrating enough that it needs a great podcast to help us sort it all out. Fortunately for all of us, we have exactly that. Thanks for a great year Mike and Jason—here's to many more.

Subscribe to RED Centre in iTunes.

Browse all RED Centre Episodes (including the couple that I've been on, 17 and 22).

Follow Mike and Jason on twitter.

Thursday
Mar052009

Meanwhile, at RED Ranch


Man, it's like watching supermodels mudwrestle for the chance to give you a backrub.

It's nice to know there's a RED employee who looks almost exactly like me—that will help when I try to sneak into their shop.

Tuesday
Mar032009

Panasonic GH1


As promised, Panasonic today announced the video-equipped successor to the DMC-G1, their Micro Four Thirds not-an-SLR that conspicuously lacked video. Called the DMC-GH1, it was the talk of Twitter today.

And deservedly so. As promised, it's all the juicy photography things the G1 was and more, plus HD video from a company with a terrific track record in that area that spans the high end to the proletariat. Panasonic, after all, brought 24p to the masses with the DVX100. Like Canon, they have long made terrific stills and video gear. Unlike Canon, it seems that Panasonic allows those divisions to talk to each other.

The GH1 is the first stills camera with video that reflects true attention to the video part. Remember that Panasonic not only brought us 24p DV, they also brought us HD on the desktop (even the laptop!) with their compressed-just-the-right-amount-for-today DVCPROHD format. Panasonic knows video, and that knowledge is reflected in the GH1. Its AVCHD formats are readily supported by the major video editing packages, and the press release proudly touts "a Creative Movie mode, which lets the user set the shutter speed and aperture manually to make even more impressive movies."

Manual settings. Finally, somebody swallowed the Obvious Pill.

Further evidence that Panasonic is a video company that makes a stills camera that shoots video: You can record until your card fills up. Autofocus works—the right way (smooth not fast). There's a flip-out LCD for shooting things other than your identical twin. There's a whole button just for shooting video. At any time. And it's red.

So a company well known for pioneering filmmaker-friendly camcorders and killer stills gear finally put the chocolate and the peanut butter into the awesomizer and hit frappé. What's to complain about?

Thanks for asking. First, as I said, Panasonic knows video. I don't even like to use the term video. When I first held my DVX100, I saw it as the first accessible Digital Cinema camera, not a video camera. Video is tapes and signals and pluge (pluge?) and vertical blanking. Digital cinema is pixels and fricking movies.

Panasonic's focus on capital-V video is evident in the GH1's 24p recording method. It encodes the true 1080p24 off the sensor into a 1080i60 stream, via 3:2 pulldown. That means it's recording redundant (bandwidth-wasting) information to the video file. It falls to you to remove the pulldown in post, adding numerous headaches and necessitating careful attention to avoid recompression.

AVCHD supports 1080p24—in fact, Panasonic's own HMC150 records it. Why did Panasonic force 3:2 pulldown (which is to 24p as stone tablets are to the Kindle 2) on the GH1? Maybe they were desperate to have something about their HD cameras be better than this little game changer. More on that in a bit.

Because while we're in the one-step-forward, two-steps-back department, we also have to talk about the lens. The GH1 comes with a kit lens that, like most kit lenses, goes the Microsoft route of doing everything poorly rather than doing one thing well. The LUMIX G VARIO HD 14-140mm/F4.0-5.8 ASPH./MEGA O.I.S. lens (yes, seriously) is mandatory with the GH1, and follows the kit lens mandate of being slow-as-heck in order to be lightweight, affordable, and provide a broad range of focal lengths.

Presumably we film folk are interested in the GH1 because of its big-ass sensor and the shallow depth of field that it portends. So how stoked are we going to be shooting at between f/4 and f/5.8? Not. So we'll be buying more cute little lenses and swapping them often. One step forward, two steps back.

It's funny how the badass little LX3 shows up its big brother in a few key ways. The LX3 shoots lightly-compressed 24p movies that are actually 24p. And its tiny little lens is f/2.0 at the wide end.

So the GH1 isn't perfect. What's to be excited about then?

Everything. Especially this:


The Micro Four Thirds sensor is almost as big as that of the RED One. It's nearly Super35 in size. It dwarfs the nearest prosumer video camera sensor size.

There is a camera coming this summer that has a sensor nearly as big as the RED one's, takes interchangeable lenses, and fits in the palm of your hand. It has full manual control, state-of-the art automatic features (not just face detection, face recognition), and shoots both 24p and 60p.

And it will cost less than $2,000 (rumored) with a lens.

Panasonic has the kintamas to make a stills camera that would make one think twice about buying a much more expensive HD video camera. From Panasonic.

And that is why I love them.

Remember the original (now dead) Scarlet? It's here in a couple of months, cheaper by a third, and has a bigger chip and swappable glass. If you don't mind a little compression.

Now we just gotta see some footage (uhm, I mean real footage, not this). Panasonic, if you're using those dual Venus Engine HD image processors to make that video right (downsampling rather than line-skipping or pixel-binning), you may just have made the ultimate camera for the DOF-obsessed Rebel.

Let the Subway Shorts commence!

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