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HD and UHD ( 2K+ ) Digital Cinema
Various topics: HD, UHD (2K / 4K) Digital Cinema acquisition to distribution.


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Old March 2nd, 2011, 05:06 PM   #1
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Need Advice for Project

My company has just been hired to work on a large project for the next 6 months to a year. Right now I'm in the planning/budget stages and looking into gear that will be needed for advertising which includes photo and video.

Given the nature of the product and marketing strategy, the client wants to do a series of mini documentaries that will involve doing multiple shoots consistently. Because of this, it may be more practical to buy the gear instead of renting it. I already own an XHA1 but the nature of the project demands higher quality, which is full HD or 2k capable device with a full sensor.

This project does have a large budget, but not unlimited, and resources are being directed in many areas including the development of the client's product. I am trying to find the best solution for HD-2k video that is (I'm guessing here) in between a high-end prosumer like the Canon XH series, and below RED. Red would be ideal but with a $20k price tag plus accessories and lenses, I don't think it will fit in the budget. I wouldn't mind having one with the new Mysterium sensor though :)

Besides video, I will also need to to handle stills for certain ads. I would prefer a separate DSLR for this that I can tether to a laptop of hacked iPad for easy review, but would like to hear any suggestions if there are now digital video cameras that are capable of taking fantastic stills on par with some of the high end Canon and Nikon DSLR. In any case, these cameras need to take great images at full HD or higher, with full sensors, and allow for lens changing. Direct to disk recording is preferred.

Ideally if I can manage to handle the video and photo gear for @ or under $20,000 I can probably swing it.

thanks and look forward to your suggestions.
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Old March 2nd, 2011, 10:51 PM   #2
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Re: Need Advice for Project

One suggestion:
SI-2K mini for 2K RAW/Cineform workflow, tethered via Ethernet to a Laptop.
Canon T2i or T3i Rebel for back up video and stills. You could even use an entry level Nikon or Canon DSLR for great stills only.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 12:38 AM   #3
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Re: Need Advice for Project

thanks sareesh.

I checked out the SI-2k. quality is pretty damn good. The only thing I'm not too keen on is the fact that it favors PC over Mac and my pipeline is all mac-based. I'd prefer to use something that can record direct to Mac without having to boot into windows, or something that comes with it's own drives where I can just dump the video files onto my Mac Pro workstation and get to work.

I think the T model canons are too weak in the sensor for the work I'm doing. They are not as bad as those 4/3 sensors but still not great.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 09:14 AM   #4
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Re: Need Advice for Project

A few suggestions:

1- Get a Ki Pro or Ki Pro Mini for your XHA1. That will give you full raster 1920x1080 recording to ProRes. Very Mac friendly.

2- A bit of an oddball camera, the Ikonoskop A-cam D II: A-cam dII - The camera loves you | A-cam dII | Products | Ikonoskop

3- More mainstream, the new Panny A100 or Sony F3, maybe paired with a Ki.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 03:06 PM   #5
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Re: Need Advice for Project

I would def. go with the AF100 with a Ki.

Full raster HD with 4:2:2 color sampling, near 35mm DOF, easily the most mac friendly workflow you'll find, and best of all, with the Ki connected you can actually record to the Ki and your SD cards at the same time (the SD cards will record to a lower bitrate, but there is a LOT of good to be said about having a durable automatic backup for all footage, especially in documentary work)


EDIT

Are you certain you want near 35mm depth of field? Frankly, in field documentary work where you really can't "start again from 1" all the time its important to get critical focus. Unless you REALLY REALLY trust your focus-pulling abilities and have FAST glass on your camera you might be well served to just use your Canon XLH1 with the Firestore/Ki/NanoFlash attached to it. 35mm dof is pretty, but I don't know if a client would be too happy about having a key moment in his footage out of focus.

You'd still get full-raster HD, but with a MUCH more forgivng depth of field. AAAAAND you'd make more money becuase you can charge a rental fee for the use of your camera :)
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 03:42 PM   #6
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Re: Need Advice for Project

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Originally Posted by Arnie Schlissel View Post
A few suggestions:

Get a Ki Pro or Ki Pro Mini for your XHA1. That will give you full raster 1920x1080 recording to ProRes. Very Mac friendly.
Those cant work with the XHA1 as it does not have SDI or HDMI out.

If you are used to the XHA1 then the new Canon XF series might be a good transition. While they are not in the same league as SI-2K and RED they have been approved for broadcast under certain circumstances.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 04:47 PM   #7
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Re: Need Advice for Project

The AF-100, lenses (ki pro mini possibly) and a 7D/5D/GH2 would be pretty sweet and could be done for $20,000. You could even share lenses with the still cams depending on lens choices/needs.

That being said the Sony F3 would be killer and worth a hard look. Would probably push the budget a bit though. After doing some testing with the F3 vs the AF100 I'm just liking the F3 better. The AF100 is amazing for the money but the F3 is just kind of awesome period. An F3 with some Canons would be a pretty sweet set up.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 08:40 PM   #8
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Re: Need Advice for Project

Darren.


The SI2K firmware version DVR1.1.681 which most owners may still have installed, gives you a choice of .avi file for PC and .mov file for Macs. The only hitch for both is that you need the Cineform Neo software plug-in which can be had as a free player or is available to buy as a plug-in if you want to edit the native CFHD camera files in the same codec.

The firmware version DVR2.0 now offers only the Mac .mov file workflows, still cineform encoded and still requiring the free player or the software.

There is an owner-operator in Holland who has a SI2K with all accessories, now prepared to accept reasonable offers.

There was also one offered used on P+S TECHNIK | Professional Cine Equipment Manufacture | WEISSCAM Digital Highspeed Camera System | WEISSCAM HS-2 in their pre-owned section.

They may remain outside of your budget.

The Sony PMW-EX family of cameras may still be worth examining. Prosumer camera-recorders including the digital SLRs use compression to enable a lot of a video info to be jammed into a small recording space. Something has to give and dynamic range is inferior to what you get from the SI2K, Alexa, RED, Kinor, A-cam, etc.. This leaves you fewer options for grading your images in post.

Whatever you buy in, you have to be able to comfortably live with it. Depending on how many you have on your crew, if any, anything other than the form of a bare Sony EX, or Canon XH, may be too much to conveniently manage unless you are already very familiar and comfortable with it and not having to learn its quirks along the way.

Unless you are subbing out the assembly-edit task, you need to factor in the cost of an editing system for 2K work. A system which gnaws away quite contentedly on HDV or XDCAM may dummy spit when you ask it to deal with 2K footage.

Please heed the wisdom of others more qualified and comptent to comment than I.

Last edited by Bob Hart; March 3rd, 2011 at 09:02 PM. Reason: error
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Old March 6th, 2011, 01:44 AM   #9
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Re: Need Advice for Project

Hi Guys

thanks for the replies. For some reason I only was alerted of the first post so just reading these now.

One thing I don't like about the prosumer cams is the 4:2:2. I would prefer something uncompressed.

Given the scale of this project now, we may be able to break the $20k barrier without fuss as the video seems to be very important to them, and will be done consistently. They really like the idea.

What I think might be a good approach to this is to maybe rent 4 of these cams for a weekend (I can get 1-day rates in NYC if I grab on a Friday and return Monday) and we can put these things through the gauntlet. Maybe take 2 digital video cameras, and 2 still cameras that can shoot video at full frame, show the client how they perform, and let them see the difference in quality... the final decision being left up to them.

Burk
I checked out the PMW-F3 site. What can I say... beautiful images. Even compressed on the web it looked very clear, slow-mo stuff was fantastic and it looked great in natural light which 50-60% if the footage I shoot will be docu-style inside and outside with cutaways to interviews that are lit. For $16k, it's pretty stunning.

So with the F3 I could get an adaptor and use L series lenses, or did you mean using the F3 for the video, and then a canon for the stills? Just want to clarify as we have so many options these days. I'm not opposed to getting PL mount and some pre-owned film lenses, like 3 primes and a zoom.

I am curious if there are rolling shutter problems with the camera because it has a CMOS sensor. Any thoughts on this? We may have some shots that are panning, both tripod and handheld.

Bob
I agree that the range with those cameras is far superior, and I think it may be worth the extra money for one that isn't too crazy. However, I have seen some amazing things shot on still cams, top of the line canon and nikon, so I am not opposed to those, and am leaning to those for the stills anyway. The video cameras do seem to give much higher frame rates for slow motion which is ideal.

I already edit HD/2k footage on my system. I have an 8-core Mac Pro with 32GB of RAM and get realtime playback of full HD/2k in final cut pro and also tried out samples from RED in their viewer for mac and I got realtime. For this project I would probably snag one of the newer 12-core machines just for the extra boost, and maybe get an SSD to keep the footage on. I don't ever remember seeing hardware that could speed up FCP, Shake or Nuke for that matter, like back when media 100 made cards for after effects, and I would prefer doing some type of hardware acceleration as opposed to getting a media 100 or smoke/flame system. I use NVidia cards in my mac and can always put one of the new beasts in it if that would help.

When it comes to lenses, I would probably would opt to buy them separately regardless of the body and I'm not opposed to buying used lenses if they are in good condition.

I guess where I'm at now, it's more about just giving these people realistic numbers and options, and then doing test shoots to compare what each camera can do. If they see that the quality of RED with mysterium chip is far superior, I think they will understand and opt to go with it (or similar cam like PMW-f3 which is cheaper, if we try one of those out). Hell, we may even be surprised and find one of the high-end still cams does what we need but I doubt it.

Rick
I see your point, but my approach to things starts with art. Even if the XH_A1 is more "forgiving" as you put it, even the best quality shots I've seen done with it just lack compared to the higher-end cams. The fact that you can't change the glass and need a serious adaptor (yes, I own a letus) says something about it as well. It's very good for the price, but just not in the same league.

And I'm not concerned about rental fees because my role(s) in this project is going to make me a heap of money in any case. I would forego any small change I could pocket for rental fees for quality, especially the artist in me ;)

-----

And the rest of you thanks for the input. I think I covered all your responses in here. thanks for taking the time everyone. Please feel free to share any follow up thoughts, ideas, etc.

D
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Old March 6th, 2011, 01:55 AM   #10
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Re: Need Advice for Project

just saw that the PMW is a PL mount :)
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Old March 6th, 2011, 02:29 AM   #11
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Re: Need Advice for Project

well either way, after viewing a bunch of stuff it also seems to lack in some areas under scrutiny. Especially the 4:2:0 which I assume there could be a workaround to go to an external device. DOF did look pretty good and it's nice having tons of outputs on a cam.

The RED still seems to catch my eye over others for some reason. I also found some post on another site that you can shoot simultaneous streams with a single RED camera with different F-Stops which is pretty insane if I followed it correctly. Talk about having options in post. theoretically you could combine the different streams making a perfectly balanced shot with a little bit of roto work.

Just curious if you guys had to make a choice, would you opt for one of the older RED cams with the upgraded MysteriumX chip, or would you hold out for something like the Epic-X or Epic-S (I'm still trying to find info on the big differences between them). Also curious when the big shops have their fill and we will be able to get our hands on them.
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Old March 6th, 2011, 01:23 PM   #12
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Re: Need Advice for Project

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Originally Posted by Darren D'Agostino View Post
Just curious if you guys had to make a choice, would you opt for one of the older RED cams with the upgraded MysteriumX chip, or would you hold out for something like the Epic-X or Epic-S (I'm still trying to find info on the big differences between them). Also curious when the big shops have their fill and we will be able to get our hands on them.
I would never wait for anything from Red. They have bent over backwards to give themselves a reputation for hype and vaporware. Nothing has ever shipped according to their overly optimistic schedules, nor has any actual shipping camera (Well, they really only have one camera that they actually can ship you) actually resembled it's early description.

IOW, if you want to wait for Red, expect to wait a very long time for a product that may only vaguely resemble what you thought it would.

To be fair, the Red makes pretty pictures and many of it's owners love it, but the workflow can be difficult for those not accustomed to it.
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Old March 13th, 2011, 09:55 AM   #13
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Re: Need Advice for Project

I forgot to mention, the Silcon Imaging website has some Cineform RAW files available for download.


They can be found here :-

Silicon Imaging


Scroll down the list of files until you find the Cineform RAW files towards the bottom of the list. You will need to download the Neo trial software. You get 10 days, after which you have to buy.

Those Cineform RAW files have been uploaded a while so they are likely to be .avi files. Look at the readme files that accompany them. You would need to convert the clip in Neo to .mov files if the are .avi. If you do the conversion on a PC the function within Neo is called HDLink. You find the conversion utility appears as a smaller tiled menu system within your larger computer screen.

There is a button called preferences. That takes you to another tile which gives you conversion options.


How it all works on a Mac, I do not know. Some people who have requested me to record to .mov files on my SI2K have edited in FCP but gone for the ProResHD option after downloading the free Cineform Neo player. I think they also have been using the professional flavour of FCP. Apparently there is a lower spec version. - Again I know very little about FCP.

If you want some .mov samples and cannot get them from closer to home, email me from dvinfo.net and I can send some takes from one of my projects which were inadvertantly recorded to Cineform .mov files. I had to convert them back to .avi to edit them myself on a PC.

Cineform .avi and .mov files are apparently basically the same except for the "wrapper" to suit Windows or Mac applications.


There is a SI2K shooter in Toronto Canada who uses the SI2K "Mini" head - laptop computer option. I think you can find them at www.framediscreet.com. There is a SI2K owner-operator, Alex Raskin, closer to you in NY, who has experience with the full SI-P+S camera-recorder, Mini-to-laptop, and a compact PC recorder he built himself. He is not accessable via email from here so maybe wants to maintain some security on the web.

Given that you would be in effect going into competition against him by buying in the equipment instead of hiring him and his kit, it might be a bit unfair to expect him to pass on some trade secrets won from hard work. However that is his call so he might yet chime in here with some advice.

Laptops may be a little more difficult to set up but seem to be the preferred option for the serious players in movie production.

Last edited by Bob Hart; March 13th, 2011 at 10:40 AM. Reason: error
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Old March 24th, 2011, 05:51 PM   #14
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Re: Need Advice for Project

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Originally Posted by Darren D'Agostino View Post
Just curious if you guys had to make a choice, would you opt for one of the older RED cams with the upgraded MysteriumX chip, or would you hold out for something like the Epic-X or Epic-S (I'm still trying to find info on the big differences between them). Also curious when the big shops have their fill and we will be able to get our hands on them.
Of the cameras currently available remotely in your price range RED ONE MX offers the greatest quality in production and post, but ergonomically it's digital cinema design choices make it a more time consuming set up for documentary type work for those who aren't familiar with it. I'd argue post workflow is not be necessity harder than other post workflows anymore. Having worked with DV, HDV, DigiBeta, DVCPRO-HD, Canon H.264, AVCHD, XDCAM-HD, Direct Prores Capture and R3D file capture in my job - if you have the hard drive space and the computing power of the latest systems then they all have foibles I could do without - Most other cameras are at the ingest phase or at the grading stage which causes headaches in getting the best quality as the workflows are destructive.

With R3D you have the opportunity to process the footage for a grade AND also go, non destructively, back to the original R3D's if you need, or work off proxies etc. If you know what you want the workflow isn't any more problematic than other workflows - especially when I think about dealing with dropped frames on tapes or XDCAM Transfer workflows not being compatible across NLE's etc.

Basically, if 6 years ago you would have desired to shoot the project on film for aesthetic reasons, once you ignore the budget, then shooting on RED One gives you most of the same advantages as film, with some of the same workflow realities both on set and in post.

If 6 years ago you would have shot the project on video based on budget and being comfortable with that workflow, then shooting on say, the Sony F3 will be much like working on video with a different choice of lenses.

It's about the skill set of the team who are working with the cameras - plenty of documentaries have been shot on film, plenty of documentaries have been shot on video - traditionally though there was a greater delineation between the crews that would shoot one style over the other. These days there isn't as large a gap in terms of some of the aesthetic differences. You CAN get 35mm sensors on digital cinema cameras, you CAN get 35mm sensors on video cameras, and you CAN get 35mm film - after that it's just like comparing very very different film stocks and different lens mounts.

And any DOP approaching a project with the choice of different lens mounts and different stocks 6 years ago would have done tests. I suggest you talk to some rental/sales companies and do the same.
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