MicroGaffer what a brilliant idea

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I was filming in Ibrox football stadium last week and as you can see from the picture below there were a lot of camera sound cables strewn across the floor, Rangers like most big football clubs supply a line level feed from two microphones on the desk. In order to keep my kit to a minimum ie. 4 bags,I forgot to re-pack my trusty roll of Gaff tape.

MicroGaffer is the perfect companion for all my bags then at least I will have one usable not so heavy roll of tape with me. The size of the tape is very convenient as I usually tear off smaller strips from the bigger 2″ roll.

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

Prime lenses on the AG AF101

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This is the latest picture of the Panasonic AG AF101 FilmLike camcorder. This looks the part and is how many of you will using the AF101…with Prime Lenses. The Prime lens marketplace must be buzzing with DPs ordering 35, 50,85mm lenses.

Alister Chapman says “PL mount lenses were developed by Arriflex for use with movie cameras, so PL mount lenses are an obvious choice. You used to be able to pick up older PL mount lenses quite cheaply, but when RED came along most of these got snapped up, so now PL mount lenses tend to be expensive. If you want top quality then Zeiss or Cooke lenses are the obvious choice. If your budget won’t stretch that far there are a number of 35mm SLR lenses that have been converted to PL mount.

PL  mount lenses often have witness marks for focus. This are factory engraved markings, individual to that lens for exact focus distances. They also often feature T stops instead of F stops for aperture. An F stop is the ratio of the iris opening to the focal length of the lens and gives the theoretical  amount of light that will pass through the lens if it was 100% efficient. A T stop on the other hand is the actual amount of light passing through the lens taking into account aperture size and transmission losses through the lens. A prime lens with an f1.4 aperture may only be a T2 lens after loss through the glass elements is taken into account. A multi element zoom lens will have higher losses, so a f2.8 lens may have a T stop of T4. However it is the iris size and thus the f stop that determines the Depth of Field.”

To read his fascinating story on Prime lenses… http://www.xdcam-user.com/?p=1204

Not all lenses are the same although Canon and Nikon produce at least 3 qualities of lens the best in Canon’s case being their “L” glass. You get better optics in “L” glass, optics to stop light loss, aberrations, vignetting and light versus optical quality. On a simple lens you will find that it will be slightly soft till you stop down to f5.6-f8 by that time your light is overtaken by grain if you are filming in a room with subdued lighting.

This is where the “L” glass comes in, I usually choose Canon “L” glass that is f2.8 all the way through which means that no matter where your zoom is 70mm or 200mm you can shoot at f2.8 and get sharp pictures. This is not true of lesser lenses in the Canon range where they start at possibly f3.5 and stop down to f6.3 loosing you a fair amount of light by the time you are at 200mm.

So in my opinion it’s prudent to always afford the best glass possible if you buy a DSLR like a Canon then as in this case you can use the same “L” glass on your AF101 using a Canon adaptor available Dec-Jan 2011.

Is there a major difference between Prime and “L” glass…in my books you always strive for the best but at around £8,000 per Prime lens it’s a bit prohibitive but remember you can always hire your Prime lenses and if I were a rental company I would be stocking up on PL glass as I think there is going to be an explosion of DPs renting PL glass.

Back to my question is there much difference, personally you have to to back in time to realise that for big 35mm productions you had one choice…PL glass after all it was made for the cinema in mind. OK so that was many years ago and if you wanted the best… PL was the answer. Today we have far superior optics both in PL glass and 35mm glass but for many of us the choice will be micro 4/3″ or 35mm glass due to constraints in budget and having the glass already.

As I said in the previous blog I do a lot of head and shoulder interviews so the shallow depth of field will be an absolute winner for me as demonstrated above.

Lenses are as important as the camera itself so aim high when choosing your glass for your AF101 wether you rent or buy, PL or 35mm, make sure you do not compromise your clients shoot with cheap glass.

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

Are you sitting on the shallow depth of field fence

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When it comes to choosing one of the new cinematic camcorders it’s a hard choice, depending on your finances. On the one hand we have the Sony F3 Super 35mm sensor and on the other hand we have the Panasonic AF101 micro 4/3″ sensor.

The choice is not as simple as it may first appear, the Sony certainly has the better sensor and at 63dB a fairly noiseless sensor so why would you choose the Panasonic ?

Firstly the Panasonic is three times cheaper than the Sony so if budget is your driving force there is no competition. Secondly the Panasonic has a far better choice of lens adaptors from PL, Nikon and Canon in fact speaking to Mike Tapa only today he tells me that he has had a run on his PL to micro 4/3″ adaptor.

I met up with Mike recently on my way down to London and he told me that the Panasonic AF101 has brought a great amount of interest in his micro 4/3″ adaptors, from dealers worldwide to individuals making sure they have the correct adaptor in place when they purchase the AF101. Strangely he has had more interest in PL mounts than Nikon which surprises me as the Prime Lens route is a dear one, it also tells me that DPs are taking this camera seriously.

The Sony F3 gives you two mounts effectively, a PL mount and if you take this off the camera you are left with a new “F” mount which is a natts whisker short of a standard EX mount except with the electrical contacts in a different position and a small pin that locates with a cutout in the top lens mount flange.

Both cameras suffer from bad viewfinders though the Sony is a tad better than the Panasonic, it’s my biggest bug bear with these camcorders I can’t understand why Sony & Panasonic put such bad viewfinders on a shallow depth of field camera when focusing is far more critical than with a conventional camcorder. Future cameras in my opinion should offer you Hi-Rez viewfinders even if it’s an optional extra.

Both cameras offer similar features from 1080 50i to 720 50p and 25/24p, the Sony records at 35Mbs while the Panasonic is 24Mbs both have HD SDI out giving you 4:2:2 and the F3  having a dual link HD SDI option that with an upgrade will give you 1080 50p 4:4:4 into an external recorder.

Two DPs I know are committing to the Sony F3, Alister Chapman and Paul Joy. Alister has just finished an initial review of the camcorder…

Alister  “This is NOT as big as the frame of a full frame 35mm DSLR (Canon 5D) or 35mm SLR camera. It is closer to an APS-C sensor in size. This is important, because if you want to use PL mount lenses designed for super 35mm film you need this size of sensor, any bigger and you would get a fall off in performance at the edges and possibly some vignetting. Why do you want such a big sensor? Well the larger the sensor, the shallower the depth of field for any given field of view. In 2D film making it is traditional to use the difference in focus between background and foreground to give a scene a sense of depth, this is part of the “filmic” look that many video makers aspire to.

A further advantage of this low light performance is that you can use very low levels of gain or amplification to get a decent picture. Consider a stereo sound system or even an ipod. Pause the music and turn the sound up high… what do you hear? Hiss!  The hiss is the electrical noise generated in the system, the higher the gain or volume, the greater the noise. It’s exactly the same with video cameras. If you have a camera with a sensitive sensor you don’t need to have lot’s of gain (volume) to produce a bright picture and once again this is evident in the F3′s beautiful images which have extremely low levels of noise and grain. At 0db it’s all but impossible to see any noise in the pictures from the PMW-F3. Even switching the gain all the way up to +18db the image is still remarkably clean and I would, for the very first time be happy to use an F3 with +18db gain for a paying production, if needed.”

To read Alisters conclusions go to…http://www.xdcam-user.com/?page_id=1182

As well as myself I also know of many more DPs committing to the Panasonic AF101 so whats the draw ? Well I can only come at it from my own point of view, I run a small production company and we do a lot of interviews which are partly spoiled by drab backgrounds, there is a limit to creative lighting and even with a 2/3″ camera you can’t exclude some backgrounds as the room is often to small. In a lot of medical interviews you have to work with what you are given, consultants time is like gold dust.

This is where the AF101 comes in the shallow depth of field will give me the shots I have been craving for over the last few years, 35mm adaptors were far to cumbersome and by the time you add the prime lens took up far too much room so why did I not revert to the Canon 5D2…simple…little to no control over focus, if you interview a doctor and get it wrong you may not be allowed a second chance and it erodes your reputation.

I take on board that the AF101 may not be as good as the Sony F3 but I have invested in a Sony PMW-350 only last year which is a cracking camcorder and I am not about to throw that up in the air nor can I afford the asking price of the F3. At £4000 the Panasonic is affordable and leaves me plenty of change for batteries, lenses and adaptors. I own some sexy Canon “L” glass and look forward to using it on my AF101 in fact a company in the USA is bringing out a fantastic adaptor early next year that will blow your socks off…I kid you not. The Canon adaptor alone is worth owning the Panasonic AF101.

So that’s my take on the AF101 if money and the price of PL glass was not an option I would plum for the F3 but each to their own, one thing that’s clear is that there is a market for both filmlike camcorders and the professionals like me who never took to the HDSLR are being given a bite of the shallow depth of field cherry with cameras that have all the functionality of what we are used to and the added bonus of minus the pitfalls of the HDSLR.

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

Rick Young interview with HD Warrior in London

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This is Rick Young from MacVideo who also attended the Sony F3 press launch and during the day caught up with me for an interview.

Click here  http://www.macvideo.tv/camera-technology/interviews/index.cfm?articleId=3249788

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

Major commitment for the new Panasonic AG-AF101 from H Preston Media

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Just today it has been confirmed that H Preston Media have ordered 120 Panasonic AG-AF101 camcorders showing full commitment to the new cinematic camera.

John Preston said “We are so committed to this new camcorder as we feel it has the potential to rock the video market to it’s core. Usually when Sony or Panasonic announce a new camcorder we get cameramen looking to update but this time we have been inundated not only with pre-orders but companies from Europe looking to buy the new AF101 camera.

“Our technical and working DP Philip Johnston has been put in charge of all orders and is sourcing all the accessories from around the globe to make sure we have all the adaptors in place.”

“Mike Tapa from MTF is stepping up production of his Nikon to micro 4/3″ adaptor along with his PL to micro 4/3” plate that will cater for at least 60% of the marketplace and a company in the USA who are producing an amazing Canon adaptor that will not only pull focus but will allow wirefree aperture as well.

“We are making sure we also have spare batteries in stock as this will be an essential purchase beyond the camcorder itself and we can place a special order for PL lenses or Micro 4/3″ Panasonic or Olympus lenses as needed.”

“On Tuesday the 7th of December we have an open day at our Hampton show room in London and we shall be showing off the new Panasonic AF101 from 4-7pm, we will also have an MTF Nikon to Micro 4/3” adaptor if you want to see your Nikon glass on the 101, full details at www.videokit.co.uk.”

HDW…As you all know I work part time for John and we are working very hard behind the scenes to make sure everyone who orders an AF101 gets the usual gold star service you have come to expect from H Preston Media.

I will be getting to know the camcorder as soon as it arrives from Japan and be updating my blog to pass on any hints and tips to you all. I have a Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 Micro 4/3″ lens arriving today that I purchased with the AF101 in mind, it’s not cheap at £695 but the quality of the optics are stunning. My friend Philip Bloom told me about this lens when I met up with him last week in London as he said “It’s a must have lens”.

Voightlander is made by the same company that produce the glass for Leica and if you look at the pictures below you can see just how sharp this lens is.

Philip Bloom has produced this tasty video using the new Voightlander 25mm f0.95 lens on the Panasonic GH2…fantastic.

A little test film of my adorable mum cooking lunch for the three of us.

Shot on a GH2 in 24p “Cinema Mode” using one single lens. The wonderful Voigtlander 25mm F.95. This lens and this camera are soul mates!

Graded with Magic Bullet Looks. 20% off at checkout with code: bloom20

Read more on my blog with a full review coming soon: http://philipbloom.net/2010/11/21/gh2

Music Cotton Candy by Rio Jeno

Big thanks to mum for her patience whilst I shot this!

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

Kuwait places a ban on DSLRs in public (Not True)

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KUWAIT: After the ban three ministries placed on photography, most Kuwaiti youth are a bit confused about what to do with their cameras if they can’t use them in public and why such laws were implemented in the first place. The Ministry of Information, Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Finance recently came to the conclusion that photography should be used for journalism purposes only. This has resulted in the ban of Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLRs) in public, on the streets and in malls
What most Kuwaiti photographers have come to wonder is how such a decision could be reached by authorities, especially considering that digital cameras and cell phone cameras have the same abilities. What most people think of photography as a hobby has become a bit misguided due to the fact that the country has so little exposure to art. While using a DSLR, passersby may wonder if the camera is being used for the wrong reasons.

Mohammed Al-Eisa, who picked up photography as a hobby more than 10 years ago, said that he has decided to take photos of animals or still life due to the fact that these subjects don’t mind having their picture taken and don’t make a scene. “I started facing problems the very first day I bought my camera,” Mohammed added.

What often happens is that a big black camera tends to worry people. Taking a picture of a stranger would seem like much less of an issue if you were using a more discreet camera or even a cell phone. Mariam Al-Fodiry said that she has faced similar problems with her hobby and that being a girl doesn’t help at all. She said that in some cases it makes the problem even worse. “Switching to abstract and landscape photography was one the options I considered after getting into enough trouble,” Mariam said.

Majed Al-Saqer said that sometimes people stop him while he is in his car with his camera, as if he were planning to kill someone with it. He said that he isn’t sure what the real problem is, whether it is people taking photos of each other or the size of the camera.

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

Filming for Sports News TV

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Sometimes I get the odd interesting job and to many football fans this job doesn’t come any better, filming pre match press conferences at Ibrox stadium in Glasgow then after match interviews tonight after watching the match itself (Rangers v Manchester Utd.)

That’s me filming at the Rangers training ground which is about 7 miles from the stadium, I am using my trusty Sony PMW-350 camcorder recording onto SxS cards at 750p 35Mbs. I prefer to film 750p as it gives me good action shots and it great for web content.

Once we got back to the stadium it was filming the opposition and Sir Alex Ferguson, seen here in the file and transfer window of Final Cut Pro 7. I have FCP loaded onto my MacBook Pro for this very occasion where TV companies need footage roughly edited and sent to a FTP somewhere in the world.

I use the SxS card reader rather than the camera, I am not a fan of using cameras for playback or connecting them to computers. The job was done and my final task was to make an .MP4 SD copy to send to a server.

My trusty Elgato Turbo .264 HD was on hand to produce that final down convert from 750p to SD 720 x 576 PAL. My boss was gobsmacked at how little time the Elgato took to convert the footage to SD as he also uses an EX1, needless to say he took note of the .264 converter.

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

New iOS 4.2.1 for iPhone, iPad, iTouch software is causing major problems

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You have been warned, yesterday I installed iOS 4.2.1 into my iPad and caused FOUR hours worth of grief …DO NOT UPDATE TO iOS 4.2.1.

Apple have had a massive amount of complaints with people updating to what was 4.2 then became 4.2.1 so within a matter of hours Apple had changed the update themselves but I am not recommending you do so as it is clearly very buggy.

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

Camera ident side plate “Simple ideas from HD Warrior”

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Freelancers like myself do not care to stick labels onto our camcorders as they have a better secondhand value if they look pristine. If you have not bought a camcorder for a while you will not have noticed the amount of easy smear plastic thats making it’s way into the market place. Sony use a strange plastic on the PMW-350 that smears very easily, you can wipe it clean at the end of a shoot but I am no fan of this type of plastic coating.

Most camcorders have a vacant space on the “tape/memory slot” side of the camera, I cannot imaging trying to scrape off a sticky ident label after a year in fact I have no doubt that it would damage the plastic.

My solution is simple…as always this is an idea waiting to happen, a side plate that is made of the same material as the camera body that you choose to screw on if you plan to use an ident label ie. BBC NEWS, SKY NEWS etc. How easy would it be for Sony, Panasonic, JVC to supply such a plate in the camera box that you could choose to use or not use depending on your type of work.

The screw holes on the camera body would be produced as part of the production line so all you have to do is screw your plate on and your away…how simple is that idea and it looks more professional.

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

“There has never been a better time for shallow depth of field camcorders.”

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OK so this is a photoshop mock up but I warn Sony and Panasonic now…Canon will have no qualms in producing such a camera in the near future as they have already done so in the past with the XF305 !

The market is crying out for a shallow depth of field camcorder with 1080 50p, 4:2:2, 50Mbs, Super 35mm sensor, Canon and PL adaptor, this would rock the market to it’s foundations. The first manufacturer to come up with such a feature rich, spec camcorder at a competitive price will take the market by storm.

Canon have in my opinion sat back and let their photographic brothers take all the credit with various DSLRs but I think the XF305 was a glimpse of Canon’s future thinking. Unlike their competitors Canon have nothing to loose by bringing out a FilmLike camcorder like the XF-S35 all they will do is greatly enhance their profits and once again bring out a camcorder fit for BBC approval.

So far Sony and Panasonic want us to “buy into the future” in other words buy the lesser spec today and upgrade in the future, this madness has been going on for years and it will take an outsider once again to bring all the manufacturers to their senses.

RED Digital cinema are the only company who are ahead of the game with the RED ONE and the “buy and bolt” attitude, buy a simple working modular system then add a higher rez viewfinder, flash drive etc. when you can afford them. That philosophy makes a lot of sense, get the camera sold then earn out of the bolt on accessories.

We now have a market with the imminent Panasonic AF101 coming out during December at around the £4000 mark and I have to say with a lot of interested parties waiting to buy one…the Sony F3, launched only two weeks ago arriving during January 2011 at around the £12,000 body only and during the summer we should see the Sony NXCAM FilmLike camcorder for around the £5000 mark.

There has never been a better time for shallow depth of field camcorders the market is becoming awash with them. I still think Canon or JVC will pounce into the limelight with a killer camera…remember it only takes one to upset the apple cart and my money is on Canon.

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

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