Category Archives: Cameras

NAB 2014

It’s really sad that the obsession with numbers that was started as a marketing tool by one camera company has swept over the entire camera market.

Now, all anyone wants to know is has it got a big number, not what are the pictures like.

I guess that it’s easier for non camera oriented people to grasp the idea that a big number is better but it isn’t!

Just look at the NHK 8K demos, very sharp but no dynamic range and garish colour, it was like television from 40 years ago.

We have to get back to looking at pictures and not worrying about numbers.

This is why Dolby Vision is so important, it’s about better pictures and that’s all.

Testing Cameras

You can’t win here.
It doesn’t matter how independent you make your test, how many independent people are present someone will always say that you’ve rigged it or cheated.
The test I published in 2002 comparing Fuji, Kodak F900 and Viper were criticised by Kodak because their images were soft, yeah and they were the ones who scanned them soft!
It didn’t matter anyway as the tests were about Dynamic Range not resolution.
As I test more and more and more I know what to expect and I’m rarely surprised anymore.

http://www.cinematography.net/edited-pages/camera-match.html

My latest tests, these are half of a 800/3200 comparison of these cameras and are in that page to show differences between the colour of the cameras.

There are a lot of tests available in CML and in most cases RAW files are there as well.

Accurate pictures or not?

I see and hear comments all the time about accurate colour and gamma reproduction and I always find myself wondering why.

My job isn’t to make accurate pictures, its to make pictures that effect an audience.

They may be pretty, they may be brutal but the last thing they will be is accurate!

The pictures will reflect the story I am trying to tell or the product that I am trying to sell, they will have nothing to do with reality or accuracy.

I don’t want an accurate camera, just as I never wanted an accurate film stock, I want a camera that is malleable, that can produce images that can be changes in any way that I like.

I’ve had problems in the past because the curves I use to de-log images aren’t accurate, well of course they’re not! I never intended them to be.

Single sensor have problems due to the nature of the sensor cameras

These all, I repeat all have problems with colour and aliasing and moire due to the nature of the sensor.

There are ways to reduce these problems but nobody has yet avoided them all.

The sensor design is fundamentally at fault, it’s a pattern of RGB sensors with holes between the different colours.

These holes cause colour errors, someone has to guess what colour was in the hole, yeah I know they say they use sophisticated algorithms but that’s just a smart way of saying guesses.

The holes cause aliasing and moire which the manufacturers reduce with OLPF filters, optical low pass sound a lot better than diffusion doesn’t it?

Oh yeah, that’s what they’re doing, reducing the resolution to reduce the errors. Brilliant!

Just what I want, a camera with faulty colour and a diffused image…

Standards

I haven’t been here for a while and I will rectify that…

This post is about standards or the total lack of them or the understanding of them.

There’s just been a thread on CML about log and rec709, I have been horrified at the stupidity shown there and the fundamental lack of understanding.

Standards are standards, they’re not something you cherry pick bits you like out of and ignore the rest!

ITU Rec 709 is a specification, a standard, for HD television, as such it specifies colour space and gamma amongst other things.

Yes I include gamma, it’s specified at 2.22, not just any figure you feel like using because it makes your pictures look better!

Anything else is a personal monitoring setting and not rec709 so why do people insist on calling everything that isn’t rec709 rec709? could it be that their knowledge isn’t quite what they’d like you to think it is? or are they just dumb?

Then we get to log which is a fixed amount of data per stop of exposure change, easy really! Cineon is 90 bits per stop in a 10 bit environment, Alexa logc is 80 bits per stop.

If its not a fixed amount per stop its not log, its a different gamma!

Testing cameras

You can’t win here.
It doesn’t matter how independent you make your test, how many independent people are present someone will always say that you’ve rigged it or cheated.
The test I published in 2002 comparing Fuji, Kodak F900 and Viper were criticised by Kodak because their images were soft, yeah and they were the ones who scanned them soft!
It didn’t matter anyway as the tests were about Dynamic Range not resolution.
As I test more and more and more I know what to expect and I’m rarely surprised anymore.

http://www.cinematography.net/edited-pages/camera-match.html

My latest tests, these are half of a 800/3200 comparison of these cameras and are in that page to show differences between the colour of the cameras.

Age of the average

We are on a terrible period of bland mediocrity

People playing safe so they don’t upset anyone

The incompetent are afraid to hire the competent for fear of being exposed, far better to hire someone mediocre

What has happened to my business? Have we turned into a camera department of scared little mice ?

Tall poppy syndrome rules

The bland leading the bland

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.

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…

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.