Remember to go to C300 USER for up to date info on your camera

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For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Filming Sherlock with DP Fabian Wagner

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Q1. When did you start filming video professionally.

Professionally I started around 2004, mainly doing music videos.

Q2. What was your first camcorder you worked with.

The first camcorder I used was for my first short back in Germany, I think it was a Sony something or other, it was in 98, with video zooms. nothing like it is today and I had a couple of super 8 cameras that I was playing around with.

Q3. Were you given a choice of cameras to shoot Sherlock.

Yes, the DoP should always have a say in what camera to use. the Alexa is the only choice for me right now and everybody else liked it so thats what we went with.

Q4. Were you familiar with the Alexa before shooting Sherlock.

I shot some tests and a music video with it before but nothing long, not a 4 month shoot.

Q5. What frame rate was it filmed in e.g.. 1080 25p etc.

We shot sherlock on 4:2:2 HQ, 25fps, and also did a lot os slow motion, mainly 50 or 60 fps. We also used a Phantom to shoot the high speed sequences, up to 400fps

Q6. What prime lenses did you use the most when filming Sherlock.

My main set was the Cooks S4’s we also used the superspeeds a bit, and a set of uncoated lenses for all the flairs. I also used fishing wire behind the back element of the Cooks to give them a horizontal flare for certain scenes.

Q7. Did you use the Alexa hand held at any time, if so how comfortable was it.

A lot of sherlock was shot handheld. the alexa is a very well balanced camera so handheld is very comfortable and straight forward

Q8. Did you use your own focus puller and lighting man if so who were they.

On dramas we always have focus pullers, the Depth of field is so small, you need it and its a very tricky job. I had my usual focus puller Jamie Philips, without him I couldn’t have done it, he is a great focus puller and a pleasure to work with, and also my usual gaffer Jon Best with our usual sparks.

Q9. What did you record onto… SxS or external recorder.

We recorded Sherlock in 4:2:2 HQ on SxS cards. its a quick and easy way of filming, almost like changing a mag on a film camera.

Q10. Whats your own thoughts on the Alexa as a camera.

The Alexa is the best HD camera around right now, apart from the speed and the way it deals with high and low lights, its also very well designed, easy to use, practical, great for hand held, well balanced etc.

Q11. How did it perform in low light and what gain did you use in lower lighting situations.

There is no gain as such but film speeds. the camera performs very well in low light, keeping the noise levels clean and I pushed the camera on a lot of occasions to 1600 iso, normally shooting on 800 iso.

Q12. If given a choice would you choose another camera to film
Sherlock? i.e.. Sony F65, Sony F3, Canon C300 or a RED camera.

Right now the Alexa would be my only choice, there are other good cameras but I like the Alexa best for all the above reasons. The medium is developing very fast right now though so you never know what might happen next.

Q13. How long did the last episode take to shoot from frame one to the cemetery scene with Benedict.

I can’t remember exactely but I think we had around 26 days per episode.

So there you are a fascinating inside from Fabian Wagner the DP behind the recent episodes of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

My thanks to Fabian for taking the time to reply and to BBC/Hartswood and Colin Hutton the set photographer who kindly sent me some background photographs.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Nigel Cliff from Holdan came to show me the Panasonic AG-HPX250

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Another camcorder arrived today, the Panasonic AG-HPX250 along with Nigel Cliff from Holdan. Nigel and I go back a long way, he is a genuinely nice person and always has a smile on his face.

The AG-HPX250 is Panasonic’s flagship hand held P2 camera…

  • Progressive-compatible U.L.T. (Ultra Luminance Technology) image sensor (1/3-type 2.2-megapixel 3MOS sensor)
  • 22x Zoom Lens with Wide Coverage from Wide-Angle to Telephoto
  • Full P2HD Image Quality with AVC-Intra Codec Recording
  • High-End Operation with Multi-Camera Synchronizing and VFR Recording
  • 4-position (clear, 1/4 ND, 1/16 ND, 1/64 ND) optical neutral density filter wheel

As usual the picture quality was exceptional, we had the camera in AVC INTRA 100 at 1920 x 1080 50i, Nigel told me that the 250 is now BBC HD approved.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Canon C300 Initial Findings

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Love the camera so far, my CB-200 Kata bag takes the camera with Matte box less the handle and the monitor section. There is a space at the front of the Matte box to take the monitor section and the handle will slip into one of two pockets on the bag itself. I will have a look at BVE for a bag that may take the camera without taking off the handle.

For the life of me I could not find out how to adjust the ISO unlike a conventional camcorder the C300 does not have a gain switch so in order for you to add gain to your picture you need to press the function button and by using the wee rubber joystick which is just above the words CANCEL you navigate to the ISO in the LCD then simply move the joystick up and down to select your ISO. You do have the option to assign the ISO to the select knob but that disables the IRIS which is a tad stupid.

Out of curiosity I sat the C300 next to my Sony FS100 and switched both cameras to 18dBs and to my utter surprise the FS100 was no worse than the C300 finally proving that Sony are using the same Super 35mm sensor as the F3.

Appart from the sensor the two cameras are poles apart which is why I am happy to buy into the Canon rather than stay with the Sony.

Initial recordings on the C300 are stunning to say the least, the one small feature I would have liked on the C300 would be some kind of built in mic but then thats a small niggle.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

A new look at AVID and my Canon C300 arrives !

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What a day… firstly at 10am this morning I was in the HUB which is a very media savvy building just across from BBC Scotland, there I was introduced to AVID’s latest editing software Media Composer 6, this was an interesting seminar produced by CVP, Glasgow.

George Fox from CVP took us through a slide show giving us the updated information of everything Composer 6 is capable of. During the morning Deepraj Sandhar, AVID Application Specialist walked us through “Artist Colour” a colour grading desk.

We broke for tea and coffee at around 11.30am where a lot of networking got done, Colin and Danny from CVP were also on hand for advice. The morning was attended by 29 people all in the media business.

My question was “Why should I spend a further £2000 on an AVID system” the reply was “Because AVID has a future” that was an obvious dig at Apple and to be quite honest quite rightly so, FCP-10 ver 10.0.03 came out yesterday with the promised multicam addition and broadcast monitoring output though all the 3rd party developers are still playing catch up. My own Matrox MX02 MAX have not even bothered to mention the new update on their web site let alone have drivers for 10.0.03.

AVID is good but if like me you are Mac driven then the one major flaw with Composer 6 comes after the edit…you can’t produce a DVD on your Mac it has to be a PC and that one hurdle stops me in my tracks from even considering AVID as a serious contender in my search for a new Mac based edit system.

Lastly when I got home my new baby had been delivered the Canon C300 and after some playing and tinkering I saw the pictures…STUNNING. My thanks to John Preston for providing me with one of the first Canon C300s in Scotland and yes I am buying it before you ask…I now have the luxury of ND filters, Canon lenses that focus clockwise, 4:2:2 and 50MB/s recording and pictures to die for.

I will be producing one of the first “user” reviews all next week and hopefully have it edited before I go down to BVE in London.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Portable Voice Over Booth from Editors Keys £204

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I saw this cool voice over booth on my latest edition of my IOV magazine digital edition and was reviewed by Kevin Cook in fact hears what Kevin had to say about it…


There’s not a lot to dislike about the Vocal Booth Pro actually.
The only thing I can really suggest as an improvement are slightly thicker foam feet on the desktop legs. This would help with isolation – especially with people like me who tend to inadvertently tap on the desk as they speak. Another tiny criticism is that when in desktop configuration the whole thing is a little front heavy and can topple forward – especially if the booth flaps are out fully and the mic is sitting forward on its mounting arm. Two more feet or simply moving the current feet fixing points to the outer edge of the flaps would solve this.


The plus points are plentiful and have already been covered I think – but just to stress the things that impressed me the most are its simplicity, portability, build quality, ease of use and the quality of the final recordings it creates. You can’t really want for any more than that can you? 

Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. 

I have been looking for an affordable VO booth for years and after reading Kevin’s article of the Editors Keys version I had to buy one. There is no doubt it gives a richness to your voice overs as it helps deadin the acoustic reflections I was getting in my edit suite.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

A new web site for Canon C300 Users run by HD Warrior

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The link to my new Canon C300 web site is under useful links at the right hand side of the page under C300 USER or

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

How does the MTF Nikon adapter work ?

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Every so often I get an email asking me about adapters and what lenses to buy, one chap wrote to me recently and although he had Nikon glass did not seem to realise the significance of the lever on the MTF Nikon adapter. Please note MTF produce various Nikon adapters this is a generic tutorial and is using a Nikon to Sony E mount adapter. As far as I am aware Mike of MTF Services does not supply instructions with his adapters it is therefore assumed that you know how to use them.

We are all sitting at different levels of technical knowledge and it seemed to me a good idea to expose the MTF Nikon adapter and how it works just in case you are to frightened to ask. Its not obvious to a non technical person exactly how the Nikon lens operates with the adapter and if the lever with the blue nob is tightened you may not think to unloosen it.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Review of the Canon XF100 v Sony’s NX70 (Updated with new NR number 2)

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Finally I get a chance to asses the Canon XF100 since I have just bought one. The camcorder has a lot of features packed into its small body and non more so than full broadcast CBR 50MB/s 4:2:2 (CBR=Constant bit rate), this wee chap is a lot bigger in features than at first glance.

Before we go any further the Canon out of the box is far to noisy but you can improve you pictures 100% by following my instructions below…


UPDATE : Having thought about this setting I had a look at some real life footage and setting it to 4 makes for a fair bit of NR added which is fine for still but not so good for live action so my updated setting would be setting the noise reduction to number 2. Note the different contrast and white balances can be ignored if anything it helps to exaggerate the noise problem. You can experiment yourself but in Automatic mode the camera adds a fair bit of noise.

Lets start with the lens this is one feature that left the NX70 standing, although sharing a similar 10x optical zoom the Canon is far superior starting at f1.8 at the wide end and f2.8 at the tight, this lens lets in a ton of light compared to the NX70 which goes from f1.8 wide but f3.4 on the tight end and that makes such a difference when you need that extra light at the tight end. In order to get the same exposure as the Canon I had to put the gain up to 6dBs.

Chromatic aberration is something that has not hindered any of my filming with both my NX70s but it does seem to be a problem for some shooters so here is a test I have done with this problem in mind.

Chroma fringing is part of a low cost lens I am afraid but it only happens on the outer most part of both lenses, at under £3000 per camera this has to be expected, I could do the same test with expensive Nikon glass and the results would be the similar, but its not the problem some people seem to think it is.

Zoom rocker, if you are an NX70 owner like me you will cringe at the word zoom rocker, due to the waterproofing the NX70 was fitted with a component that affected its variability giving us a fast zoom, this has been addressed and Sony will update that feature in March 2012 with a firmware update. The Canon has no such problems and even has extra menu features allowing you to get smooth starts and finishes through its very smooth variable zoom range.

The HDMI on the Canon is full size but is badly placed just under the hand grip while the NX70 has a mini HDMI socket which is more fiddly to use on a shoot if you want to use an external monitor. The viewfinder on the Canon is far to small unlike the NX70s viewfinder which is very usable in those bright sunny days.

The audio switches are far better laid out on the Canon, simple to understand with the audio pots on the top of the camera. Both cameras have professional XLR inputs but the Canon has a more robust handle and a 1/4″ screw allowing you to attach a small magic arm if needed.


Without labouring on the subject both cameras delivered very high quality footage and although the NX70 does not have the luxury of 50MB/s 4:2:2 it does have 1080 50p. The one thing that does stick out is the Canons lens having f 2.8 at the tight end of the zoom does give you far brighter pictures in low light while the NX70 is having to use 6dBs of gain to even compete.

You have to dig deep in the Canon web site to find this CF card compatibility chart.

Ergonomically the Canon is in my opinion better laid out with both gain and shutter buttons on the outside of the camera and one of my gripes with the touch screen as used in the NX70 is how grubby it gets after a days shoot.

The Canon is more expensive to run using CF cards against the NX70s SDHC cards, that said you do have 2 card slots on the Canon which you can set to record to both, that is a great feature for archiving purposes, the NX70 has only one card slot and as yet has no way of recording to card and internal memory simultaneously but will be added in a FW update in March 2012.

The Canon does have syncro scan something I have missed as both the NX70 and the FS100 do not have this feature and the Wave Form Monitor (WFM) feature on the Canon is great for exposing your shots allowing you to see if your whites are clipping.

As usual both cameras will not match as they have their own colour profiles as I have a fairly large documentary coming up about diabetes I have decided to go down the Canon route with a C300 on order from H Preston Media, the XF100 will be a good cutaway camera and be less imposing for some shots and hopefully match the C300 better than keeping my Sony cameras.

The NX70 does give a great account of itself when you consider its up against 50MB/s and the superior 4:2:2, once you eradicate the inherent noise given off by having the noise reduction switch set to automatic the Canon excels with a very solid, punchy picture, the Sony produces a more natural red with the Canon producing a more pleasing skin tone. The external gain and shutter on the Canon does it for me as the NX70 can be a bit of a pain having to access many of the cameras functions via the touch screen.

I have enjoyed my two NX70s but time to move on lets hope I get the same pleasure from the Canon XF100 six months from now !

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Will the NX70 compare with the Canon XF100 @ 4:2:2, 50MB/s

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Finally and not a day too soon I have my hands on the Canon XF100, build quality is very good in fact having a permanently attached handle does give me more confidence that my audio is not going to fail me some time in the future, more about that in my review.

Why the 100 and not the 105, having lived with the FS100 with HDMI you learn to live without SDI, I was not prepared to add a further £300 onto the price of a camcorder just to get one SDI, timecode and genlock socket that I would never use especially when the 100 and 105 are the same apart from those 3 connectors, I only wish all other manufacturers thought the same.

“The first thing that strikes you about the two cameras is the lens itself”…just a wee teaser for my review coming soon.


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