I won’t be updating this blog page any further. For all my camera information, tips, tricks and news please follow this link to XDCAM-USER.COM where you will find the latest version of my blog.
This is my personal web site with information about me. In the future I will be adding information about projects that I am working on here, but the camera reviews, tutorials, news and other similar information will remain on XDCAM-USER.
So, we have seen that it is possible to trick an F5 into thinking its an F55 by altering an all file from the F5 and adding some F55 4K settings. This enables 4K internal recording and 4K output over HDMI on the F5. Internal 4K is one of the key differences between the lower cost F5 and the much more expensive F55. Another major difference is that the F55 has a global shutter so no CMOS image skew or other rolling shutter artefacts and the F55 has a larger colour gamut allowing better colour rendition and capture.
A question that has been asked is: Well if we can get 4K, can we also enable the larger colour gamut? One thing we do know is that the sensor used in the F55 is different to the sensor in the F5 as the sensor is replaced if you upgrade your F5 to an F55.
A cameras gamut is determined more by the sensors colour filters than the recording gamut. The recording gamut is like a bucket, the sensor a scoop. If the scoop isn’t big enough you won’t fill the bucket.
The color filters on the F55 are very different to those in the F5, so the F55 can capture a much greater gamut than the F5.
If you think about it, if you hold a red gel up infront of your eyes you will only see an extremely narrow colour gamut, just a single narrow part of the red spectrum. Imagine if you have a red, green and blue filter, you will now see a bit of red, a bit of green and a bit of blue. But you might only see a very narrow part of the full blue spectrum or a very narrow part of red or of green, you won’t see the full spectrum or a large gamut, just narrow slithers of it. The trick is to make filters that are wide enough and with the righ charcteristics to pass all of the R, G and B spectrum but sharply cut off unwanted colors, infra-red or UV at the exactly the right point. This is very hard to do. So the quality and accuracy of the color filters determines both the gamut and the precision of the colors that the camera can capture.
In practice it can be hard to see this difference as none of the monitors available today can show the full gamut that the F55 can capture so you can’t directly see it. But it does make a difference in post as the F55 is able to separate subtle hues more accurately and capture an extended tonal range, for example very subtle differences in skin tones that may be lost on a camera with poorer filters. This means when grading you are able to draw more tonal information out of the image when you transform the color space in to Rec 709 or DCI-P3 and it results in a more natural looking image.
The F5’s sensor gamut is probably somewhere around the size of DCI P3, maybe a bit bigger, but it’s clearly not as big as the F55’s. In addition the colour precision is not as great so some subtle tones are lost. It’s not a massive difference and the F5 does a great job. It’s not something that can be changed with software, it’s all down to the sensor hardware. The F5 just can’t fill the S-Gamut recording bucket so by using S-Gamut your wasting a lot of data. By using a smaller recording gamut like S-Gamut3.cine you can more effectively fill the bucket and make better use of the data available to you.
So, IBC is just a few days away. I’m packing my bags, ready to go and I’m really rather excited. I’m under NDA so can’t reveal anything and maybe even writing this post will get me in trouble.
Unless you have completely had your head in the sand (or have been working hard) you will have probably seen the leaked picture of a new XAVC badged camcorder that has become known as the FS700 MK2 by many. You might also have seen a teaser video from Sony featuring several well known DP’s and bloggers talking about a new camera, if you haven’t click here. It doesn’t tell you much, but talks about what some people would like in a new camera, with the tag line “Be first to discover true freedom of expression”. So I don’t think I’m revealing any secrets by saying that it looks like there will be a major camera launch at IBC and it’s one that’s going to rock the boat a bit (well quite a LOT actually).
In recent months we have seen Sony release a new line of PXW XDCAM cameras that have Sony’s new and really very good XAVC codec. Yes, it’s a little confusing but these are still XDCAM cameras…. XDCAM meaning digital recording on to SxS or Optical Disc. So far we have seen the diminutive PXW-X70, the mid range 1/3″ PXW-X160 and X180 as well as the update to the PMW-300 to add XAVC. So IBC will be a great time to see the full range of XAVC cameras and I’m sure we can expect more news about XDCAM and XAVC in general.
There has also been a lot of commotion around the “hack” that allows owners of the PMW-F5 to get internal 4K recording. So far Sony have only responded to this with a brief “we do not approve and it may invalidate your warranty” type statement. I’m hoping we will get clarification from Sony over what they will do about this in future firmware updates. Will they leave it (doubtful), block it (likely) or just give F5 owners a 4K upgrade path (the BIG unknown) other than getting the entire camera upgraded to an F55. Again I’m sure we will get lots of news on the development of the PMW-F5 and F55 cameras.
I’ll be there at the show helping out on the Sony booth (no, I am NOT a Sony employee. I just get asked to work the booth to share my practical experience with the cameras). So I won’t get a lot of time to reveal all the secrets when they are announced here on the blog, but if you keep an eye on my twitter feed ( @stormguy ) I’ll try to tweet the news as fast as I can. The Sony press event is on Friday morning (12th Sept) so you can expect to see a flood of very exciting news immediately after that.
I’m really please to be involved with the Mid-Atlantic Conference for film professionals which will be held in SouthEast VirginiA. . I’ll be running workshops along side Bruce Logan, the man that shot the blowing up the Death Star in the original Star Wars movie, was a cameraman on Tron, Batman Forever and many other films. Bruce, as well as bing a very talented DP is also a script writer, producer, director and colourist. Actor and Director Michael Copon, known for his roles in Power Ranges and Scorpion King – Rise of a Warrior will also being running sessions during the course of the 3 day event.
SEVA is open to anyone with a desire to network with other film professionals, discover new talent, and to better learn the creative technologies, techniques, and tools of the industry.
The inaugural SEVA Fest will be held at the Chesapeake Conference Center from October 17 through October 19. It will feature workshops and panel discussions hosted by Bruce Logan, Alister Chapman, and Michael Copon with the emphasis of storytelling using today’s modern technology. It will also feature a short film competition, to be held at the Roper Theater in Norfolk.
Workshops will include: Script to Screen with Bruce Logan, Painting and setting up digital cameras, by me. Acting and Producing with Michael Copon. There will be lots to learn, a great chance to meet some amazing people and hopefully a lot of fun.
So, you have a multi camera shoot and you want to have the timecode in perfect sync between all of the cameras. For a start lets assume we are talking about pro cameras that actually have timecode in and out, because without a way to connect an external timecode source, getting truly accurate TC sync is all but impossible. The other thing you need if you want REAL timecode sync is genlock (or an Arri Alexa with an Ambient Lockit box).
The most common way used to get timecode sync across multiple cameras is to simply connect a timecode source to the timecode in of the cameras. This can be done with cables or wirelessly. This is a method I’ve used many times and it works….. kind of. Actually this is NOT the best way to get good timecode sync, but it’s probably the most commonly used method. It is especially problematic when you have very long takes, say shooting a rock concert without stopping between songs.
Here’s the problem.
When you hit record on the camera the timecode MUST increment by 1 frame every time you record a new frame, regardless of what the timecode on the TC in is doing. Every frame MUST have a unique TC number. So, if the cameras sync clock is running a tiny bit faster or slower than the TC clock of the external source, the cameras TC will slowly drift out of sync with the external TC until you stop recording at which time the cameras TC will re-sync with the external TC. On long takes this may result in a loss of sync between the external TC and the TC generated by the camera. Often this isn’t more than a few frames, but on a music shoot or where you have sync sound, being a few frames out can be a real pain.
Timecode will not synchronise a camera, it will not pull the cameras frame rate into sync with the external TC clock. Unless it is an Arri Alexa and you are using an Ambient Lockit box as Ambient can pull the Alexa’s clock into sync via a special “Tune” pin. The only thing that will alter the cameras actual frame or sync rate is genlock. So if you want the cameras to truly stay in sync you must genlock them to a common sync source.
Now I know that very often this is not possible, especially with remote or mobile cameras. That’s why companies such as Ambient include a sync output that you can connect to the cameras genlock in on their wireless TC boxes, so you can genlock the camera to bring it in to true sync with the external clock as well as feeding it sync TC.
If your working with a single camera and a sound recordist, rather than having the soundie feed TC to the camera, the more accurate way is to use the camera as the TC source and send the TC to the sound recorder. The sound recorder doesn’t have a frame rate as such so the TC does not need to be in sync with the sound recorder in the same way as it should be in sync with the cameras actual frame rate. A sound recorder can have time periods shorter or longer than a frame, a video camera cannot. By sending the TC from the camera to the sound recorder you will eliminate sync drift between the TC and the actual video frame count during longer takes.
I know this is not how it’s done in practice. In most cases TC is sent to the camera and in most cases genlock isn’t used. Probably because this is the easiest way to do things. Most of the time, if the takes are shorter than 10 minutes or so, you won’t see any issues. But if you really want accurate TC over long takes you need to do it properly and either genlock the cameras or use the camera as the TC source on a single camera shoot.
STOP PRESS: It’s been found that this modification is also changing the exposure and dynamic range! See bottom of post.
Well, Paul Ream over at http://extrashot.co.uk/ has worked out how to make the F5 record 4K internally. It’s actually pretty straight forward. The camera can save a file called an “All File” on an SD card to memorise the way it’s set up. By mdifying this file you can trick the F5 to go into 4K or UHD frame size instead of the usual HD or 2K. First you have to modify line 15o of an existing All File (they are simple text files) where the frame rate and frame size are saved using a text editor, putting in the frame size you want. Then delete line 1 where the files MD5 checksum is stored. Save the file. Next determine the checksum of the file, then add the new checksum to line 1 and finally save the file to the SD card and read it in to the camera. By loading this modified (hacked???) all file in to the camera you can enable 4K and UHD recording to the SxS cards.
It’s certainly created a stir. Many F55 owners think they have been short changed because of this hack and of course most F5 are very happy. It will be interesting to see if any other F55 features can be unlocked on the F5 such as 4K output or 4K playback. Right now the hack is a little limited as you can’t even playback files to see if they are OK. Full details over on Extrashot in the latest podcast…. if you can grind your way through the bit on shoes and iphones without nodding off first.
UPDATE: So, now a few people have tried this, there have been a couple of reports of the dynamic range of image clipping and some other issues. I’ve had a quick look on an F5 (not mine, I’m travelling) and there is most definitely something odd going on as the pictures are darker and clip earlier in 4K XAVC compared to HD and 2K. I need to test this further to see what’s going on, but it’s not quite as perfect as perhaps hoped.
What we know: The hack tricks the camera into behaving like a PMW-F55. We know the F5 and F55 have different sensors with very different behaviour, different colour filters and different sensitivity, so the processing must be different for these two cameras.
My very quick test, shooting the same scene in 4K and in normal HD XAVC shows the 4K to be darker. Others are reporting that the 4K clips appear to over-exposure more readily than the HD.
SPECULATION: If the hack is doing more than just turning on 4K recording, if it is making the camera use the F55’s processing, then there will be a miss-match between the sensor and the processing and this might cause issues with dynamic range, gain and colour.
As soon as I get a chance (should be tomorrow) I will do some more involved testing to see exactly what is going on.
At long last Samyang have filled the gap in their vDSLR lens line up! It was crazy not to have a 50mm lens. Finally they are launching a 50mm T1.5 lens with pitch gears etc. This lens will be available next month (September) so not too long to wait. It’s full frame so should work great with the A7s as well as all your Super35 and APS-C cameras.
Hop over to the Samyang web site for sample images and further information. I have one on pre-order as as soon as I can I will check it out.
Today Sony launched a couple of the new cameras. The MC2500E a very low cost, fairly basic shoulder mount AVCHD camcorder with a single 1/4″ CMOS sensor and a new full size, shoulder mount XDCAM camcorder the PXW-X500.
This is basically a replacement for the PMW-500 with the added benefit of the XAVC and SStP codecs. Like the PMW-500 and PDW-850 this is one of the few cameras to still use CCD sensors, so no flash bands or skew, making it a great news gathering workhorse. It has some new features not found on the PMW-500 including upto 120fps S&Q motion (looks like this is an option) and GPS. It looks like this possibly has the same very good sensors as the PMW-500 but with new signal processing and improved noise reduction. More details can be found on the Sony web site.
So really that just leaves the PMW-200 without XAVC. It can’t be long before we see a PMW-200 replacement with XAVC.
When you think of cine lenses then there are several brands that immediately come to mind. Zeiss, Arri, Cooke and Angenieux are probably the most familiar names but there are many others too. One brand I have been looking at more and more recently is Schneider.
Schneider Kreuznach have been making lenses since 1913. Based in Kreuznach in Germany they have long been know for their innovative designs and they won an Oscar in 2001 for Technical Achievement for their Super-Cinelux motion picture lenses.
A few years ago I met one of their lens engineers at NAB. I don’t think I have ever met a man as passionate about a lens design before or since. Every Schneider lens that I have ever used has been brilliant. They always seem to have near zero breathing, are always extremely solidly built and produce great images. So when I got a call from Manfrotto, the UK distributor to see if I would like a chance to play with some of the new Xenon FF (Full Frame) lenses I grabbed the opportunity.
The Xenon FF lenses are cine style lenses available with either Canon, Nikon or PL mounts. The mounts can be changed should you need to switch mounts at a later date. They are priced to directly compete with the Zeiss compact primes. At the moment there are only 3 lenses available, a 35mm, 50mm and 75mm, all are T2.1. In the near future there will also be a 25mm and 100mm T2.1 as well as an 18mm T2.4 Yum Yum! I’d love to have one of those for my Northern Lights or Storm Chasing expeditions. They are all the same size, have a 100mm front diameter, all have a 95mm lens thread. This means that swapping lenses during a shoot is straight forward as you don’t have to change Matte Box donuts or re-position the follow focus if you’re using one. Being Full Frame lenses and rated for 4K these should be a great match with the Sony A7s.
I got to play with a 35mm and 50mm with EF mount and decided to try them on my full frame A7s shooting in HD as well as taking a few still photos (which are the equivalent to 4.5K) on a cloudy and rainy day.
Straight out of the box you cannot help but be impressed by the build quality. These are substantial lenses, weighing in at around 1.25kg each with the EF mount. I could not find any plastic on these lenses, they look built to last.
The focus scale is large and easy to read, each lens being individually calibrated. Focus travel is a full 300 degrees. Even as you get to the far end of the focus ring the distances are still nicely spaced. From 9ft(3m) to infinity is around 100 degrees. Compare that to most DSLR lenses where the same focus range might be compressed into just 5 or 10 degrees and you can see that precise focus is much easier. Although sometimes a very large focus travel can make focus pulls a little harder simply because or the large distance the focus ring has to be turned. But I’ll take a big focus throw lens over small throw any day.
The lenses have 14 curved iris blades giving a very round aperture even when stopped right down. I love peering into these lenses at the aperture blades as they are a work of art (but really hard to take a photo of). You can also see in the photo that the coatings of the lens are a distinct orange colour.
In practice the lenses did not disappoint. It did seem a bit odd to have such a large and heavy lens on the diminutive A7s, but as image quality starts with the lens a good lens can make all the difference. I shot at various apertures from wide open at T2.1 down to about T8 and didn’t notice any significant change in resolution across the range (I took photos as well as video to check the lens performance).
The lenses do tend to flare a little bit, the 35mm more than the 50mm, but I thought the flares were quite pleasing, others may disagree. Take a look at the video to get an idea of what they are like. There was a bit more flare at T2.1 compared to T2.8 or T4 on both lenses.
I did some big focus pulls to see how much breathing there was and as with all the Schneider lenses I’ve used breathing was very minimal. There is some breathing, these are not like the Cine-Xenars which have virtually zero breathing, but the breathing really is small.
Another test shot was to shoot some tree branches silhouetted against the sky to check for CA and colour fringing. Basically I can’t see any. Maybe right out in the very corners of the frame there is the tiniest bit of CA, but you really have to hunt for it.
Colour wise there is no obvious colour shift, if anything perhaps very, very slightly warm. As expected the lenses are very sharp and crisp, from corner to corner, but not excessively so. I found that the images contained a lot of detail but had a pleasing roundness too them that I really like. I shot a chrome shopping basket and the reflections of the bright chrome look really nice. I think this is a combination of a little bit of flare without excessive sharpness. I think it’s a very nice natural look. This can be one of the benefits of a video lens over a stills lens. Stills lenses must be incredibly sharp to work with 24 or 36 mega pixel sensors. Sometimes this results is a super sharp image that lacks character. Arguably if you start with a very sharp image you can always soften it a bit in post, but sometimes it’s nice to start off with a more rounded image. Look at how popular Cooke lenses are, they are well known for their rounded rather than super sharp images.
As expected from a 14 blade iris the bokeh is very creamy and smooth. Both near and far out of focus areas look very good indeed. Out of focus edges are smooth and don’t show any obvious double edges or other distortions.
Take a look at the video for a better idea of the lens flares and the overall image quality. I really like the look you get from these lenses and wouldn’t mind a set of them for myself. I feel they have a lot in common with Cooke lenses, but at a much more affordable price. I hope to test them further in the near future and to a wider variety of scenes. I suspect they will be very good on skin tones and faces.
Sony are putting together an XDCAM demo reel to show on the Sony booth at IBC. They are looking for examples of great XDCAM footage to include in the reel. The footage should be inspirational, exciting, dramatic, romantic, happy, pretty, colourful. Basically anything eye catching or with a “Wow” factor.
Here is what Sony are asking for:
· 3-5 second emotional clips (the more clips the merrier).
· Tone is emotional (fun, dangerous, could be sad but not too tragic), action, extreme – music on final project will be fast paced, action.
· No political symbols/figures, no blood, no dead people.
· It has to have been shot on a Sony XDCAM camera (and specify which one).
· These clips should be rights free, these clips will be posted on the various Sony digital channels and might be shown at Sony-run presentations – but they will not be distributed to anyone outside of Sony.
· The clips can either be in MP4 or just a link for submission, and then if we choose to use your footage we’ll come back to you and ask for a higher quality format.
If your footage is chosen to feature in the video you will be eligible to win one of 30 Action Cams up for grabs on a first come first serve basis! (Please note that your footage may still be used after the 30 action cams have been given away. By submitting your footage you will be agreeing to these T&Cs).
As IBC is coming up very fast there is some urgency to get this footage. If you have anything that you wish to submit please send a link to the clip to:
REPLACE (DOT) with . and (AT) with @
Cinematographer and film maker Alister Chapman's Personal Blog Blog