Tag Archives: video

It’s Not a DSLR, It’s Not a Camcorder, It’s Black Magic!

Black Magic Cinema Camera

I’ve been shooting with the Black Magic Cinema Camera for the last month and what follows are my first impressions. In part one of this series on the Black Magic Cinema Camera, I will explain why this camera is different than DSLRs or even pro camcorders

Everybody knows that the Black Magic Cinema Camera was a revolutionary product when it was unveiled at the 2012 NAB show. Why then do they try to compare it to any other camera, and especially the Canon 5DMK2 DSLR? Continue reading

Holy S…ony, The New NEX-VG10 Fires First

Sony NEX-VG10Nobody expects the Sony inquisition! In a surprise announcement, last week Sony unveiled it’s APS-C sensor based interchangable lens camcorder. It’s no surprise that Sony would be working on such a product, knowing that Panasonic is planning on releasing the HF100 on December first. What is surprising is that Sony demoed a working NEX-VG10 London this week and and that it will be available in September (and pre-order today at Sony Style stores) for about $2000!
Why is this camera impressive? First, is that it uses the same APS sensor as the Sony NEX still cameras and that it can use the same “E-mount” and A-Mount” (with an adapter) lenses as it’s DSLRs. It will ship with the E18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS as it’s kit lens. Secondly, is that it shoots 1920 x 1080i @ 24Mbps. Sony is still stuck on interlaced video (Why? WHY?!) but at least you can shoot on SD cards and you’re not stuck with memory sticks. But the most impressive thing is the shipping date and the price. I can’t wait to see what the other manufactures are going to do to follow Sony’s act.
You can check out Sony’s VG10- showcase video on Vimeo and check out the specs on DP Review.

Why the (hacked) Panasonic GH1 is a better video camera than the Canon5DMk2

If you are a Canon 5Dmk2 fanboy you may want to shut your eyes. The lowly Panasonic GH1 just got supercharged with a firmware hack that makes a great HDSLR video camera even better. Here is my list of things that make the GH1 a better video camera than the 5D. First let’s take a look at the 800-pound gorilla in the room, The Canon has a full frame 35mm sensor, therefore, there is no crop factor when using 35mm lenses. Canon’s full size sensor is 4 times the size of the 4/3rds sensor in the GH1, which also means that the Canon must compress 4 time the data for the same bandwidth, all thing being equal (which they are not.) Supposedly the 5D is writing data at 35Mbs, compared to the (stock) 17Mbs of the GH1, which means that it’s still throwing away half again as much data as the GH1 (4 time the sensor and only twice as much data as the GH1).

GH1 Camera rig

My GH1 Camera Rig

But the GH1 has a secret, with the Ptools firmware hack from Tester13, the GH1 can shoot true 1080P 24fps with no pulldown at 50Mbs. And since both cameras use h.264 compression, with the software hack, the GH1 is compressing the data from its sensor far less.

But there’s more, the GH1 hack also enables the 1080P mode using MJPEG compression at 100Mbs for short shots. While this setting is kind of like using nitrous and it’s really pushing the limits of the camera, it is a real boon if you want to get the highest quality video possible. The advantage that motion JPEG has over h.264 is that it only uses spatial compression instead of the temporal and spatial compression of h.264. This means prettier pictures. His holiness, Phillip Bloom posted a great blog post on what the firmware hack brings to the GH1 which you can read on his blog.
I’ll admit that image quality is close enough between these two cameras that the 5D might win if that were the only issue. But the GH1 is a far more usable camera than the 5D, First off, for shooting video you can’t beat the fold out LCD screen on the GH1. It’s just better than the Live View screen on the 5D, period, even with a Z-finder. Second, the GH1 has continuous auto focus when using the kit lens. With 5D in live mode, you are stuck with whatever focus you had when you started recording. Thirdly, even un-hacked the GH1 can shoot 30fps 1/2 speed slow motion. You just shoot at 60fps 720p and play back the footage at 30fps, no frame blending or doubling, just plain good old fashioned over-cranking.
Okay, Let’s talk about glass. The 5D still uses an optical viewfinder, which means it has a pentaprism and a mirror, which it must flip up to take video, which, of course, makes the optical viewfinder unusable. This arrangement also means that the Canon has a deep flange distance. the flange is the measurement from the back of the lens to the surface of the sensor. Traditional film and video lenses have a short flange distance and don’t work well with 35mm SLR bodies. The GH1 has no optical viewfinder and therefore has a very short flange distance, which means it can use practically any 35mm SLR, video or film lens that someone is willing to make a adapter for. There is even a PL mount adapter that cost as much as the GH1, so that you can use cine lenses that cost 100 times as much the GH1. I use all my old Canon FD SLR lens as well as some Minolta, Olympus, and16mm film lenses and even cheap CCTV lens with my GH1.
Finally, let’s take a look at the form factor. The 5D is big and relatively heavy DSLR. Great if you’re trying to impress other photographers or the bridesmaids at a wedding shoot, not so good if you’re actually trying to shoot steady handheld video. The GH1 is lighter, smaller, more balanced and just plain easier to handle.
I won’t argue that the Canon 5DMK2 is a great still camera, and better than the GH1. But when it comes to real world video shooting and video quality, 5D, you’ve been served!

The Ten Best Bargains for No-Budget Filmmakers

  1. The Lumix GH1 $1500
    Lumix the Red, Scarlet slayer

    Lumix the Red, Scarlet slayer

    Okay okay, I know $1500 is a lot of scratch, but hear me out as to why you should use this camera to shoot your next no-budget indie film. Sure, being a DSLR Hybrid, it’s not as versatile and as easy to use as a camcorder especially for “Run and Gun” shooting (see the HF S1000 below), but for film style shooting this thing is the cat’s pajamas.
    First off there is no need to get a DOF lens adaptor to give you shots that narrow depth of field and nice bokeh in the background. This camera’s Leica G Vario HD 14-140mm F4.0-5.8 lens kit lens is a really nice 10x zoom, but the real story is because of the micro 4/3 lens mount and it’s narrow flange depth you can adapt just about any 35mm, 35mm cine, 16mm cine or 2/3 inch video lens to the thing.
    A couple other positives is that it uses SDHC cards to record AVCHD video. that you can drop strait into your editing workflow or use VoltaicHD 24p software to import full HD 24p. Also unlike the Nikon D90 and the Canon Rebel T1i this camera allows you full manual control over exposure and it even has a external stereo mic input.
    I know some of you are waiting on a Scarlet. and yes, the Scarlet does have variable frame rates and XLR inputs,and yes it may be worth it to wait in line and spend twice as much money on a Red 2/3″ Scarlet, but remember that the GH1’s sensor is bigger than even the Red One’s. Oh, and it actually comes in red.

  2. Canon VIXIA HFS100 HD Flash Memory Camcorder ~$900 street price
    For a couple of years now the low budget camcorder of choice was the Canon HV series ( the HV-20 HV-30 and the HV-40) so why the S100? It has all the features of the HV-40 and It shoots full 1920X 1080P at 24Mbs on SDHC cards and is under a thousand bucks on the street. ’nuff said.
  3. The Manfrotto/Bogen 701HDV,547BK Video Tripod System Kit $300 from B&H
    If your camera rig is less than 8.8 pounds then this is the tripod and fluid head you need. The 701 is buttery smooth for light camcorders and DSLRs and these two stage aluminum legs are super-solid for the price. If your rig is haevier then throw down an extra $60 for the Manfrotto 501 head that is comfortable up to 13 lbs.
  4. Audio Technica ATR-55 Condenser Shotgun Microphone $50 street price
    Sure you could spend over $500 on a Sennheiser ME-88 shotgun mic (if you had a budget) but for improving basic camcorder mics you can’t beat this package. You get a nice sounding shotgun condenser mic with a mini and 1/4″ connector and a hotshoe mount plus a boom or stand mount for the price of a smooze lunch.
  5. the Cavision Rs1580D-SPE Shoulder mount rail system $200 from B&H
    Nothing sexes up your camera rig like a rail system,and when you need to take the camera handheld having a dual-handle shoulder mount system will save your film as well as your back. The Cavision set-up wins by a hair over the $269 indiRAILSpro XVsm from Indiefocus.com because of it’s adjustable shoulder pad and extra $70 in your pocket.
  6. JAG35pro DOF Adapter $300
    If you have a small sensor camcorder, that wide depth of field is a dead giveaway that you shooting no budget video.. You want teenie-weenie depth of field to give you those luscious soft focus backgrounds for that big budget film look.
    There are tons of DOF adators and plans for DOF adaptors out there, but Jehu Garcia cut through all the BS and went and produced the best bragain 35mm DOF adaptor out there. You can spend 4 times as much on a Letus, but you won’t be getting any better video for your money. You can get the JAG35 Pro Frig-rig and a frig-rig rail system for under $600 and forget item #5.
  7. DFocus follow focus $100
    David Aldrich broke the price barrier on follow focus systems. If you are using 35mm lenses on a JAG35 or manual focus lenses on a DSLR rig, the DFocus system will give you repeatable control over those trick narrow focus shots.
  8. Budget Matte Box $189
    Most of the time matte boxes on camcorder rigs are just set dressing. Screw-on filters and a black cardboard french flag are all you really need. But if you do ever need to use 4X4 Filters or actually pull an in-camera matte and look sexy doing it, you need a matte box I think spending over $350 for a matte box without filters is ridiculous, that’s why I recommend this $189 beauty from ImageWest.tv.
  9. Low budget fluorescent Soft lights $399
    Again, the nod goes to ImageWest for a set of large cool softlights. These babies give you that wrap-around light that make starlets look sultry and (ahem older ) actors look, well, like well-lit actors. Being flourescent they are a bazillion times cooler and energy efficient than halogens. And they will last at least until LED lights become affordable for us mortals.
  10. Manfrotto /Bogen Modo Steady 585 Camera Support $100

    modosteady
    Okay everybody knows Stedicam Merlins are WAAAY overpriced and I probably should have used this slot to hype my homebuilt “Jaybilizer 3000” but even I can’t match the features and price of the Modo Steady 585. This thing is a do-everthing Sham-wow with Ferrari styling. I’m surprised everybody doesn’t have one of these. It’s a shoulder brace, mini-tripod, and a Merlin type stabilizer that folds up like a swiss army knife and is so cute it will have hotties signing model releases in nothing flat.
    Let’s just keep this a secret and I’ll give you a price-break on the Jaybilizer 3000 (which will handle a heavier camera than the Modo, BTW)

    The Jaybilizer3000 - Taking orders soon!

    The Jaybilizer3000 - Taking orders soon!

How To Build a DIY Steadycam Camera Stabilizer Under $50




How To Build a DIY Steadycam Camera Stabilizer Under $50 from Jay Shaffer on Vimeo.
How to build the JayCam MkII Merlin-type camera stabilizer. Jay Shaffer demonstrates how to use inexpensive parts to build an versatile stabilizer for camcorders like the Canon HV30.

JayCam MK2 updated

I added a couple things to my DIY camera stabilizer.

Detail of the inexpensive Tripod head mounted on the camera stabilizer

Detail of the inexpensive Tripod head mounted on the camera stabilizer

First, I figured out how to mount a cheap tripod head as a camera mount. This gives me a much more precise control of the cameras front to back balance and it also significantly raises the center of gravity of the rig. Secondly, because of the raised center of gravity, I now have to use counter weights on the bottom of the arm. This gives me a little more control of the rig’s roll characteristics. I also optimized the weights for the Canon HV-30 so it takes a lot less time to balance out the rig now.
Overall the design is evolving and improving and as I practice a bit more my shooting technique is improving. I would like to get a more experienced Stedicam operator to take it out for a spin.

Wing nut holds four fender washers as a counterweight

Wing nut holds four fender washers as a counterweight

$50 DIY “Merlin-style SteadiCam” Camera Stabilizer

JayayCam mk2

JayayCam mk2

This is my attempt at a DIY Camera Stabilizer. I call it the JayCam MK II. It is a Merlin-like design that utilizes a gimbal. The entire rig cost less than $50 and with a few more tweaks and some practice you won’t be able to tell the footage from stuff shot with much more expensive gear.


$50 DIY “Merlin-style SteadiCam” Camera Stabilizer from Jay Shaffer on Vimeo.