Exposure Room just got better

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“Well, we’ve finally done it! We’ve given ExposureRoom a brand new look and navigation system. The whole effort has been a grueling yet extremely satisfying 4 month affair. I hope most if not everyone will love the outcome of this effort.

Many of you write in on a daily basis to tell us how much you love the way the site looks and functions. Yet there are some who find the site cluttered and difficult to navigate. So we had to take a deep dive into trying to understand the reasons for this. The whole process of re-designing the site and navigation system started last August by way of a discussion we had in the forums and private emails. We then went back and digested every single suggestion and/or complaint about readability, navigation, clutter and general intuitiveness of the site.

Not only did we digest what ExposureRoom members had to say but (more importantly, probably) we listened to site visitors as well. Some are pretty vocal and speak their mind while others ask a “how to” question. We listened to all of them. Once we had this huge list, we had to digest it into a more systematic beast. That process took a couple of months

After that, we went to the drawing board. The primary group that participated in the initial rounds consisted of designers, engineers, support, marketing and business. Each department was a stakeholder in this process and each had valuable input to give to the design and engineering teams that addressed the concerns from members and visitors and also future direction of ExposureRoom.

Once we felt the needs and concerns of all stakeholders were addressed in the preliminary design phase, the design and engineering teams went to work. That process took 2 months. Everyone here has worked their butts off and for me it was especially nice to see the bonding between the (seemingly) disparate teams. Once the design was finalized the engineering team has their work cut out for them. Of course, even in engineering we have design and so back to the drawing board it was. This time taking the “requirements” and designing the backend system to accommodate the visual design and navigation and future extensibility of the system and site.

I’d like to take a moment to thank our members for being vocal and voicing their opinions and concerns, without which we’d not have ventured down such a bold path. I’d like to thank the visitors who have taken the time to give us a piece of their mind and finally the XR team for putting in a tremendous effort, working towards a common goal and exceeding my expectations by a long shot.

This was a complete overhaul and not just a tweak here and there. The new navigation system should allow you to go from one end of the site to the other in a single click. Not only that, you may actually discover areas of the site you didn’t know existed!”

Shiv Kumar (XR)

HDW : Poor Shiv some of the XR crew do not like the new look and the new navigation, personally I think it’s far better and it’s just a matter of getting used to the new navigation tools.

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Your HD footage looks lighter than it should ?

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Over the last 6 months I have read various posts about people having “lighter” footage after using Apple’s Compressor. This happened to a friend of mine recently…he was sending a self contained HD file out of Compressor and hey presto it was a lot lighter than it should be.

Strange…everything he was doing was the same but for one important difference…HD footage. He had only ever compressed SD DV footage up until this week.

Knowing the type of man he is Norrie set out to discover why this was…the solution !

If you are using FCP with HD footage and you come across the same problem “lighter” footage you must do the following…

Send your footage from FCP as a reference file NOT as a self contained file, it seems that compressor gets upset with certain self contained HD footage which lifts the Gamma causing the footage to look lighter than it should.

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The HDSLR debate for professional use

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Excerpts from Alister Chapmans update on his Canon 550

“OK, so it’s defiantly not just me doing something wrong. When in focus the T2i/550D aliases (as do all the current Canon DSLR’s). This is a grab from Philip Blooms latest Canon short. For once this is a daylight piece and as I expected it exhibits a lot of aliasing. The grab is actually taken from the thumbnail on his exposure room page. I’m really pleased to see this as it shows that aliasing is a problem for the experts too. You start to appreciate why so many of the Canon shorts are shot at night, with millimeter deep DoF… it’s to stay clear of having stuff in focus that will alias. there are filters from Caprock that are supposed to help, but you need a different filter for each focal length and aperture that you use, they also soften the picture somewhat.

If you want my opinion, then it has to be that the Canon’s are close, but still a mile away. The aliasing issue is a biggie. Sort it out and the skew, jello and overheating can be worked around, but if you have to worry about simply having a piece of wood in focus and whether it’s going to exhibit rainbows of colour or whether cobble stones will twitter and change colour (At 00.35 and this is from Canon) then it will limit what you can do. There is quite a lot of aliasing in Phil’s new daytime clip, basically anytime anything is steady, has texture and is in focus, it aliases. I’ve been shot down in flames on other forums for saying that this is a problem, but if even the experts can’t deal with it then what hope does everyone else have? I would love to have the option of shooting with the shallow DoF that the Canon’s offer, but not at the expense of having to avoid any kind of texture. Perhaps Red and Scarlet will be better, perhaps Canon will sort it out, or perhaps not, as the cameras are clearly selling like hot cakes, even with the issues. If they do fix it then the camera will almost certainly be for video only.”


HDW : Alister Chapman is an authority when it comes to technical issues involving video, it’s a shame he never came to the HDSLR table sooner. I am no way near as technical as Alister but have enough professional expertise to realise HDSLRs are not yet built for purpose. They are a compromise but as Alister has found out they are seriously compromised when using them for filming.

We never get to see true HD on the web once again it’s a compromise which is why a lot of these “pretty pictures to music” are passing by with glaring technical faults because we just don’t notice such faults on a 640 x 320 screen. Saying that a lot of HDSLR filmakers are either oblivious to the problem or are willing to put up with warts and all to get the SDoF.

Can I suggest the watching punter would not be aware of such issues but then do we need to see a further drop in standards as television today in the UK is swamped with poorly produced DV footage.

Are HDSLRs suitable for professional use…not YET in my opinion, the BBC, SKY, National Geographic channel etc will not accept footage from them…that’s got to ring alarm bells if you are hoping to use them professionally. I was reminded by Sean that the BBC have indeed used a Canon 5D2 to film a 30sec title sequence during Snooker last year but that was a trial period and have since been banned…or so they say !

Many of you will disagree with this statement telling me that you have taken the plunge well good luck to you, personally I would not compromise my professionalism let alone my client for a simple film effect such as a shallow depth of field. First generation HDSLRs are a fudge…video take’s second priority so you can’t expect “professional results” with equipment that is mainly built for taking digital photographs. Alister has confirmed this with his investigations though to be fair to him he is also looking into a solution to the problem.

Can I just add that Alister Chapman nor myself are NOT anti HDSLR, Alister is coming from a bedrock of technical expertise and is only pointing out why some of these HD pictures are unacceptable for broadcast and I come from a more practical hands on professional point of view.  My father has a good expression “Cheap s dear” you can’t expect a full broadcast HD experience from a camera that costs £2000 or less, you get what you pay for which is why broadcasters are still using 35mm adapters clamped onto £15K upwards camcorders with Arri prime lenses.

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Canon release the FCP Log and Transfer plug-in for Canon HDSLRs

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Introducing EOS Movie Plugin-E1 for Final Cut Pro

The Rise of EOS HD Video:
Apple Inc’s Final Cut Studio™ software for non-linear editing (NLE) has become a dominant choice among enthusiasts and dedicated professionals alike. This professional Apple software application is well known for its smooth performance and editing speed, both invaluable assets for editing software.
The recent explosion of digital SLRs with video capability has turned many traditional videographers and photographers toward cameras such as the EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 7D, and the newly-introduced EOS-1D Mark IV to create stunning high definition footage at a very afforable price. The large imaging sensors of these cameras, comparable to or even larger than 35mm motion picture film, are a key reason for the peerless HD images they produce, offering ‘filmic’ control over depth of field, as well as extremely sharp detail, clarity, and low-light performance — all of which can exceed that of high-end professional video cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars.
Another reason for the impressive video image quality of Canon’s EOS digital SLRs is their use of the sophisticated H.264/MPEG-4 compression method for recording video files to the camera’s memory card. This is an ideal file type for video capture in an SLR camera, delivering relatively compact file sizes with image quality noticably superior to alternate video compressions (such as Motion JPEG).
However, the H.264 compression format requires that files be transcoded into a format better suited to editing, effects, and color grading; this would usually be Apple ProRes. The transcoding to ProRes can be a fairly time- and processor-heavy intermediary step that pays off later with superior speed once the post production process begins. That’s where EOS Movie Plugin-E1 comes in: It doesn’t eliminate the need for transcoding, but it includes several improvements in functionality and interface, making the experience of editing EOS HD Video footage with Final Cut Pro as fast and seamless as possible.

Link here … http://www.usa.canon.com/dlc/controller?act=GetArticleAct&articleID=3249

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Sony NX-5 User Video Review this week

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I have had a busy two weeks filming and I am glad to have had this time to evaluate the Sony NX-5, I will also give you an update on the Sony PMW-350 as a write up. My initial encounter with the NX-5 has been very positive.

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Canon rush out Firmware 2.0.4 for 5D Mk11

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Canon pull Firmware v2.0.3 due to sound issues

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What a mess…it took over 6 months to produce and due to lack of testers I assume…Canon have had to suspend the new 5D2 firmware because of sound issues. I don’t know what they are but I will update you as soon as I know.

Canon respond…
Recently we have discovered a malfunction that occurs with Firmware Version 2.0.3, in which the manual recording levels for C1/C2/C3 are changed and the camera becomes unable to record audio if the power is turned off (or if Auto power off takes effect) after registering “Sound Recording: Manual” in the camera user settings.
We apologize very sincerely for the inconvenience, but we are going to stop making this firmware available for download. For customers who have already updated to the new firmware, when using the camera with the mode dial set to C1/C2/C3, please either set the sound recording settings to Auto.
We are currently preparing firmware that will correct this malfunction. As soon as those preparations have been completed, we will let you know on this Web site. In the meantime, we apologize for the inconvenience this represents, but please wait until the fixed firmware is ready.

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Canon post new 2.0.3 firmware early (5D Mk11)

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Get your firmware here…  http://web.canon.jp/imaging/eosd/firm-e/eos5dmk2/firmware.html

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Alister Chapman dips his toe in the murky HD DSLR water !

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As you may have seen from my earlier post I became the owner of the new Canon T2i (or 550D as it’s known in the UK) at the weekend. Clearly before using any camera in anger it’s important to see what it can and can’t do. I will say that I am not a Canon DSLR expert. I have been following the fuss and much admire some of the work done with these cameras by Phil Bloom, but frankly after playing with the Canon over the weekend I have to say I’m disappointed. Yes you can achieve shallow depth of field very easily and you do get a filmic look to the pictures, but look at the footage on a big monitor and it just looks soft. At first I wondered if this was the lens I was using, so I tried a couple of others including a nice Tamron 28mm prime. I tried different apertures, shutter speeds etc, but every clip I’ve taken looks soft. In isolation, on scenes with low detail this isn’t immediately apparent, but anything with lots of fine detail looks soft. Some of this is aliasing, look at the roof of the house in the T2i image, it appears to have diagonal roof tiles, this is a pretty typical aliasing artifact. I shot some closer shots of the buildings and the brickwork aliased like crazy.

Flowers, EX1 on left, T2i on the right.
Looking at the flowers picture you can see that the EX1 has picked up more of the subtle texture, or at least it has recorded more of the texture. I’m sure some of the Canon’s softness is due to compression artifacts. The other thing that I found is that it is tending to crush blacks a bit. I have played around with the picture styles and you can reduce this a bit, but there is very little detail in deep blacks, which would IMHO make grading tricky. The one good thing I did find was that it is very noise free at 200 and 400 asa, it’s also useable up to 800 asa or at a push 1600asa, so it would make a good camera for very low key scenes, provided you use a good fast lens. Looking at the Canon pictures there was something pleasing about the deep, almost crushed blacks. I think this helps contribute to the Canon DSLR “look” so I quickly threw together a new picture profile for the EX1/3 and PMW-350, but I’m afraid that the details of that will be the subject of another post, as I have work that I must do first! The EX images in the frame grabs were shot with this picture profile. As we all know the ergonomics of the video DSLR’s is pretty poor for video. It’s tricky to hold and you have to use an add on Loupe to make the LCD useable as a viewfinder. You can’t zoom mid shot and without peaking or zebras adjusting exposure and focus accurately is difficult. I was hoping to be able to use the 550D as a B camera for those situations where I need a small, discreet camera, but having seen the pictures, so far, for me it will be reserved for holidays and shooting where you not supposed to video and for shoots where supper shallow DoF is essential. I have to say I’m really disappointed, I wanted this camera to be so much better, I knew it would suffer from aliasing, but I wasn’t expecting the soft pictures, I guess some will say that the softness adds to the filmic look, but I’d much rather do that with some nice pro-mists or filtration in post production rather than starting out with soft pictures. Perhaps I’ve done something wrong? If I have please add a comment!

UPDATE: I was so convinced that I must be doing something wrong that I shot some more clips, this time with less harsh lighting. No, change however, the T2i is still soft and the new clips show just how big a problem aliasing is. You have to consider that the coloured moire patterns are recorded like that, no amount of grading will get rid of it. A small amount of diffusion on the camera should help, but then your going to have to work out how much to soften and diffuse each shot to make sure your not making the pictures even softer than they already are.

The aliasing issues on the Canons are well documented and well known. Yes you can reduce it’s effects by keeping the DoF shallow so that your backgrounds are always out of focus, but that restricts you to only shooting low detail objects such as faces and even then you need you make sure the person isn’t wearing a clothes with a fine pattern and that they don’t smile because you see lots of jaggies on their teeth. So this means you need some diffusion or softening in front of the lens.
One of the key reasons that the pictures from the Canons looks soft is due to aliasing. The high frequency harmonics generated by the aliasing on edges are softening the pictures and you can see this by rotating the camera and watching the picture soften and sharpen as the angles of edges change.
As for my lenses, no it’s not them softening the pictures. I can use them on the same camera to take beautiful pin sharp photographs. Switch the camera to video mode and I’m sorry but compared to a true 1080p camera it’s soft, more comparable to a 720p camera. In addition if my lenses were not sharp I would not get aliasing.
If you look on Vimeo at Phil Blooms latest clips take a look at the timelapse video “sky” that he did in Dubai. Look at the quality of that video, look at the gorgeous subtle textures in the sky and buildings, then compare it with one of his faces videos, they look soft by comparison. The difference: The timelapse video was shot by taking stills, where the camera is using the full resolution of the sensor, in video mode the Canon’s are discarding most of the sensors pixels to get the resolution down and the read rate up.
I’m sorry but until the aliasing is brought under control the Canon’s IMHO are not ready for prime time use. Sure you can make good looking web clips, but you can do that with many, many other cameras. The ONLY thing the Canons bring to the table is shallow DoF. In just about every other aspect they are lacking. Lower resolution, lower dynamic range, heat issues, limited clip duration, no audio control, no timecode, dreadful ergonomics for video.
Next time you watch a movie look at the DoF. It’s almost never taken to the ridiculous, un-natural extremes that has become the latest craze. Yes shallow DoF can be a useful tool for focusing attention on a particular subject, or to give separation between the subject and background, but consider what super shallow DoF will look like projected on a cinema screen or big screen TV as opposed to a small web video.

HDW : Strange…but if I had reported some of Alisters findings I would have been shot down in flames but it’s good to know other more technically astute video professionals have the same views on HD SLRs as me and if you follow Alisters blog as I do you will be interested to read that the BBC, Sky, Nat Geo, Discovery etc have barred their use. If you would like to read Alan Roberts assesment for the BBC then click here…


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“City of Lakes” Trailer concept film produced on Canon 5D/7D

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In September I traveled to Uaaipur, India to shoot a concept wedding film with a few of my great filmmaking friends. Kevin Shahinian wrote and directed this movie, it was an amazing experience that I will never forget! This is only the beginning of collaboration filmmaking, and I can’t wait to see where this takes weddings.

There are so many ways to tell a story…

And so much a marriage symbolizes. So many questions it tends to raise: What is love? What is faith? It was our hope to explore these themes in a far more dramatically engaging way than we felt possible in a traditional documentary… Perhaps there is more within this story then meets the eye.

In the fall of 2009, Melissa & Samir embarked on an incredible journey to Udaipur, India, to fulfill a lifelong dream of having their wedding in the country of their ancestry. This transcendent place, affectionately called the “CITY OF LAKES,” located in the breathtaking region of Rajasthan, would be the setting for their extravagant, three-day marriage celebration, and the backdrop of our unprecedented film production – shot entirely on-location. We believe this to be the first ever live event/scripted concept production ‘hybrid’ film produced on this scale.

We hope you enjoy the trailer for “CITY OF LAKES” and look forward to sharing the film with you soon.   by Kevin Shahinian

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