Pixel counts and reality

I wish that the Foveon sensor was available for moving images.

Unlike CFA Bayer pattern sensors it gives you a full RGB signal, if the sensor is 4K * 2K you get a full 4* 2K in all the layers RG&B unlike Bayer pattern sensors where you get 2K * 2K of G and 2K * 1K of R&B.

The marketing games that are played with Bayer pattern sensors are quite amazing.

Yeah yeah you can calculate the missing information from what is around it but that’s the bloody point! you calculate it, it’s not real!

Monitoring on set

When I shot film we had video assist on set and everyone, well nearly everyone, knew it wasn’t going to look like that.

There was a problem when we went from Mono video assist to colour, clients would then query the colour of their product. They had never worried about it when we had mono video assist, they trusted the cinematographer but now we had colour that trust was undermined.

With HD video cameras what you saw was very much what you got and people started to rely on the monitors, lot’s of people decided they had the right and the skills to “help” the cinematographer.

I may not have liked this too much but they were commenting about a “real” picture. Probably in less than ideal monitoring conditions on a less than ideal monitor but…

The we got digital cameras that recorded RAW images, images that needed processing to see what was actually there. The HD video output of these cameras is a guide, but a guide only.

Of course people continued to make decisions based on the output of the camera monitoring systems, something that was now pretty much video assist again.

They would attach waveforms to the output and make exposure and colour decisions based on that and what they saw on a monitor.

This of course ignored the simple fact that what they were monitoring had very little relationship to what they were recording, hey! we’re back to colour video assist with film!

Just try thinking for a second, if a RAW image needs rendering to be able to use it in post and if that render is in less than real time on a powerful computing system just WTF do you think the tiny amount of processing in a camera is going to give you the same result.

Please, engage your brains for just a second.

Close-up close-up close-up

I’ve just watched what would otherwise have been a great documentary about Roy Lichtenstein but unfortunately the only time we actually saw a full view of any of his images were the 4 or 5 in the end credits.

I don’t blame Anna Boyle, no relation, the Cinematographer, it’s the director who makes the decisions.

I know what a bloody dot looks like, I’d love to have seen how they were used to create a complete image.

Nearly every BBC documentary I see now is ruined by one of two things, either the obsessive use of the close-up with no establishing shots. Or the excessive use of footage of the presenter. I want to see the subject not some nonentity talking about it.

A recent series on Royal palaces could have been wonderful, the information that the programmes contained was fascinating but all we saw were shots of Fiona Bruce, her feet, her ears, her hair, her silhouette, wide shots, close-ups, walking shots, sitting shots, apparently she was in some kind of palaces, you’d never have guessed.

Bad Framing

Why is it that some TV shows seem to think that anything other than an ECU is wrong?

A recent food programme was made unwatchable by the continuous use of extreme close ups.

Whilst big close ups may have made sense in an age of 7″ CRT’s now with 32″ almost a small set and 50″ common some of the framing we see now is positively painful.

I really don’t want to see a presenter cropped at the eyebrows and chin, they’re far bigger than real life with this framing and as for the CU’s following food details…

Pull back! I want to see what they’re doing.

A lot of potentially very enjoyable programs are being ruined by extreme close ups of moving objects that the operators are incapable of following or holding in focus.

Maybe if they used trained operators instead of some trainee straight from college who has a great understanding of the theory of TV & film but F’all real knowledge of the mechanics…

Making images is what I do!

I think we, cinematographers, have lost track of what we do.

I got interested in making images, not the technology.

I got a Brownie 127 when I was 8 and fell in love with the process of making images and the effect that those images could have on people.

As I moved from stills to film to video back to film I never thought about the technical specs of the format I was using.

Oh I was aware of the dynamic range that it could cope with and how it reacted to different colours and could I push or pull it and so on but I never thought “Hmm, must consider the LPM response of this film and what’s the MTF of it”

I looked at the pictures and decided good or bad.

Far too many people in our business now sell their ability to use a tool and not their ability to make images that will move you.

They devalue what we do and also allow some manufacturers to confuse people about their kit, to get people to make judgements on numbers and not on pictures.

Lets get back to looking at and talking about images.

But most of all lets just get out there and make great images.

Canon C300

I want to start this by letting you all know that Canon USA paid for my flights and Hotel in LA and Canon UK paid for my flights and Hotel in Berlin.

That’s just in case anyone wants to accuse me of having been bought.

I can be bought, I’ve published the price several times and nobody comes up with it, just so you know, for $3,000,000 I will say nice things about any piece of shit.

Under that and you get what you get…

There has been a lot of discussion as to whether Canon have missed the mark, both on cost and performance, with the C300.

I wanted to go to the European launch so that I could see the material shot on the camera projected on a large screen again, I got that plus a film shot in France in a very different way to the US films, much more err “European”
I loved it.

The European launch was very different to the LA one and in a lot of ways was better, certainly better at connecting with the people who were likely to buy or use it.

A nicely theatrical reveal of the kit, the walls of the theatre we were watching the film in pulled back to show a number of different areas to play with the kit. There were areas with DSC charts and you could see the effect of the different gammas and colour settings and resolution charts, there was a severe low light set which clearly demonstrated how low the noise level of the camera was. It was much easier to get your hands on kit and play with it.

Quantel had a Pablo with the rushes from the films loaded and I was able to try some grading to see what happened when I pushed things, the images didn’t fall apart.

The point was made that in the EU we make 50% more films per year than the US does. We also make a lot more TV series. The reason for this is it’s as if in the US Texans only made films and TV series for Texas. Of course because of this we have to work with much smaller budgets.

Bearing the smaller budgets in mind and how much everyone likes the look of Canon stills cameras the C300 is going to be huge here.

Unlike the Sony F3 it produces recordings onboard that meet the broadcasters requirements, using the F3 means you have to use an external recorder as well. I’ll mention Scarlet here as well because once you add V/F and everything else you need to shoot it’s about the same price.

Of course a huge advantage of the Canon is that, as the Alexa has shown, a camera that produces edit ready material that doesn’t need processing is a winner.

The Canon uses bog standard CF cards, not esoteric SxS cards or very expensive SSD’s just the cards that you can buy from automats in airports!

The range of EF lenses is amazing and once you stop to think for a second you realise that the WiFi control of Iris and Focus can easily be built on to provide us with proper remote controls for a fraction of the price of current kit.

Oh and of course the pictures look stunning, I really don’t want to talk numbers, I got into this business to make pictures, I didn’t talk numbers when I shot film, I didn’t talk numbers when I shot video, it’s only since people started to use numbers as a marketing game that they have become important.

Get back to your roots as image makers and look at the pictures.

This camera is going to be huge.

And when they bring out a full 10 bit 4:4:4 4K, and they will, a lot of companies are going to look very sick indeed.

An obsession with numbers

I plead guilty…

It’s disease I suffered from at one time, or maybe I suffered from it when it was needed.

It isn’t now.

People don’t look at pictures anymore, they just look at numbers, is it 4K? what’s the compression ratio?

Who gives a flying fuck!

Do you stand in front of a Seurat and say “hmm, not a very high pixel count there”


Or how about this…

That Rembrandt, just couldn’t get any dynamic range into his shots, just look how solid the shadows are!