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Old July 17th, 2008, 09:37 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
With a 35mm adaptor, things become much more complicated in terms of focus. At the point at which you have enough depth to carry you through a typical Steadicam shot, you might as well just shoot the particular shot without the adaptor and not worry about it (I have done just this and the results were fine).
Charles,

Maybe you could help me answer this question. Today I was asked to do some Steadicam work for another Columbia graduate student film, and it seems like this project would be great for my reel. The problem is that the rest of this student film is using the EX1 with a 35mm lens adapter. The producer and director didn't mind losing the shallow DOF for the steadicam shots, but they raised the question of visual continuity with and without the lens adapter.

Other than DOF, does the lens adapter significantly change the look of the shot?

For a low budget project or student film using the HVX or EX1, would it look OK to switch the lens adapter in and out for different shots?

Are there some specific camera settings that might help compensate so the look is similar?

Thanks, Dave.
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Old July 18th, 2008, 12:47 AM   #17
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Hi Dave:

It's a valid question. There's no doubt that the 35mm adaptors add a certain "something" to the image (or possibly subtract it, in terms of sharpness). However when I was shooting a lot with the Mini35 I had a few experiences where it was necessary to pull the adaptor, for instance when we were losing the light on a dusk exterior. I didn't find it to be an issue in the finished project. However this was shot on DV--it may be more noticeable in HD, I'm not sure. The most logical thing to do would be to shoot a test under various conditions (high-contrast exterior, lit interior, night exterior etc) both with and without the adaptor and duplicating everything else as much as possible, in terms of exposure and field of view, and compare the two. If they can be graded in post to match adequately, this would answer the question.

If the Steadicam scenes exist on their own and are not intercut extensively with conventional footage shot on the adaptor, it will most certainly not be a problem in my opinion.
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Old July 18th, 2008, 06:19 AM   #18
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For a side by side comparison of EX1's with and without a Letus, take a look at Phil Bloom's video here: Phil Bloom - Letus Extreme Guide on ExposureRoom.

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Old July 18th, 2008, 12:15 PM   #19
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OK, but there's nothing new there outside of showing the difference in depth of field. I showed similar examples (right down to the foliage shots) in the demo of the HD100 with Mini35 I did 3 years ago, hosted right here.

What I'm talking about in terms of tests is a controlled, specific look at how the adaptor affects standard parameters; for this you would want to shoot resolution, grayscale and Macbeth charts. I would also shoot a test subject sitting in front of black and white panels, plus a setup with high contrast (perhaps a light bulb in the shot) to examine how the adaptor affects highlights, flaring and shadow detail.

Because you would want to keep the variables down, it would make sense to use a fairly wide lens for the tests so that depth of field is kept to a maximum. Again, the point of the tests would be to examine the optical effects of the adaptor on the image to determine what would be required to properly match footage shot with and without it. It's essentially a given that some softening will result; could this be duplicated in post, say, or would it be better to use a diffusion filter in front of the lens.
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Old July 18th, 2008, 09:14 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
Because you would want to keep the variables down, it would make sense to use a fairly wide lens for the tests so that depth of field is kept to a maximum. Again, the point of the tests would be to examine the optical effects of the adapter on the image to determine what would be required to properly match footage shot with and without it. It's essentially a given that some softening will result; could this be duplicated in post, say, or would it be better to use a diffusion filter in front of the lens.
Hi Charles,

Yes, this type of test would really help. Also, since we know the 35mm lens adapter will make the image a little darker, it would be good to have the test adjust for that as well. Colors often look very different when the brightness level changes.

I think lens adapters will become the dominating issue for Steadicam HVX and EX1 users over the next 5-10 years.

The advantages of using a lens adapter on sticks is obvious. For a relatively low cost, a lens adapter overcomes the last obvious difference between film and video cameras. The limited DOF with a lens adapter allows the director or DP to really focus the viewers attention on a particular subject.

But for Steadicam shots, the movement of the camera tends to keep the viewer focused on the subject, so a limited DOF doesn't seem as necessary. This thought has been echoed by a number of different student and low budget film makers, so it's not just mine.

In addition, using a lens adapter on a Steadicam causes many issues:

1) The camera + lens adapter + matte box ends up begin really long (around 2 feet) so moving around in tight spots (e.g. narrow stairs or hallways) becomes a lot more difficult.

2) Limited DOF generally requires a dedicated focus puller AC, and a good wireless follow focus system, both of which are not common to productions that use the HVX or EX1.

3) The weight of the lens adapter requires a bigger rig than the Steadicam Pilot, which essentially doubles the price of the Steadicam. Since most people aren't prepared to spend more for a Steadicam than a camera, this makes the knockoff brands a lot more appealing than a real Steadicam.

So, if there was a test that shows that shots with and without a lens adapter can work well together in the same project, this would be really helpful to low-end Steadicam users. With this in mind, I would think Steadicam and Tiffen would welcome such a test...
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Old July 18th, 2008, 10:52 PM   #21
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Steadi systems and the EX1

Okay ladies and gentlemen. I have a question. Someone take me through this as if I was a six year old. Okay?

So much hubub and difficulty presented by the lack of a wireless follow focus system for this EX1. There are much more complicated and much more expensive equipment
controlled remotely. We can even put an unmanned machine in space and tell it how to fix itself remotely. Don't tell me we can't make a remote control unit for the EX1.

Someone please explain to me what the big deal is on this? I would think a Panaflex camera or Arriflex camera would be much more complicated to remote control. Yet, this happens all the time.

Why can't someone make a unit to plug into the camera lens control and the ilink on the EX1 and tap into the video and transmit a signal for fifty feet or so to a control unit with a picture of what the camera sees. Let the person with the remote focus the thing, and the operator keep the subject in frame, and let's get on with it. Right?

What's the hurdle that keeps this unit from a remote that is effective? Explain this to me like I am a six year old. Please.

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Old July 18th, 2008, 11:35 PM   #22
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David, there are more than a few issues to overcome with follow focuses. Basically, a more complex/expensive/large on the same level of complexity to control as your EX1. I'm seeming to remember reading that there is no electronic focus port on the camera (unlike some cameras with LANC, which can control focus, or some of the newer Panasonics with their own control systems). So, what you need to do to control focus remotely is put a motor on the outside of the lens, just like any other camera.

Getting a motor that can properly control a lens with the finesse and power needed is tough, and getting one which can actively know its position is tougher still (but necessary, so that you won't end up with an uncalibrated system by the end of the day!). Then, the hand unit has to be able to control the motors precisely, has to have strong wireless that won't break up, and has to be rugged enough for set use. All in all, pretty complicated.

On the video side, you're probably going to want HD for precise focusing, and the picture quality is reasonably important in this case. Plus, you need very low latency on the video, so that by the time you make your focus move, the shot's not already blown. The wireless design for something along those lines is complicated, and having the picture not break up with a moving transmitter and receiver is a challenge!

Now, neither issue is impossible. There are several focus systems out there (and it looks like ViewFactor's new one may come in significantly under the prices of its competitors), and the new IDX wireless system delivers low-latency HD video. But, the cost is very high, because the amount of consumers are very low. Take all of the people who are shooting video with professional enough cameras to have proper focus controls on the lens, then take the subset of them who would actually find use for a remote follow focus, then take the amount of them who are willing to dedicate a person on the crew to using one, et cetera. When you get down to it, you can't really count on a ton of sales to offset a low price, with the amount of equipment in the device, and the R&D needed. It's the same thing that happens with stabilizers - when you look at a Steadicam Flyer, it costs more than a lot of the cameras you can fly on it, but then again, they're not selling them in the same numbers as those cameras!

There are some people who seem to be taking on the challenge of making remote focuses at low prices, or remote video at low prices, and more power to them. Stabilizers have come down in price over the years too. But, right now, the solutions just aren't there.
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Old July 19th, 2008, 01:13 PM   #23
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Good response Tom, that covers it well.

Just to clarify, we have been talking about two different things in this thread; focusing the EX1 itself remotely, and focusing the taking lens of a 35mm adaptor attached to an EX1 remotely. As far as having the camera on a stabilizer is concerned, the first instance is a relative non-issue as most shots can be achieved by the set-and-forget method of focusing. The second instance, working with an adaptor is much more complicated as one has actually now entered an arena that has to play by the same rules as Arri and Panavision equipment, those being the rules of physics and optics which thus dictate the degree of sophistication that remote lens controls must achieve. A 50mm lens set at T2 will have the same depth of field characteristic whether it is a Nikon on a Letus, or a Primo on a Panaflex, and thus will require the same accuracy to deliver critical focus. Currently the least expensive wireless system (transmitter, receiver and motor) that is good enough to achieve this is the Bartech at around $5K. The comparable View Factor setup is slated to cost around $900.

The HD transmitter that Tom refers to will cost around $6K (and add 1.5 lbs to your camera payload). And for what it is able to deliver, that is an astounding price point compared to its predecessors.
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Old July 19th, 2008, 01:57 PM   #24
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View Factor is much better on the price. Six grand isn't reasonable if one is not a rental house;in my mind. What is the actual cost for materials and labor to assemble these things. Seems over inflated to me. But seeing how I've let my electronics education slip I suppose I have little choice. Right, gentlemen?

I understand that there are number representations for the amount of zoom (expressed in a percentage.) This, I assume, has a digital value for the camera? Seems this kind of data could be manipulated to achieve precise focus. you could do it cheaply via cell phone if nothing else. Yes?

All of your help is sincerly appreciated, D-
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Old July 19th, 2008, 02:44 PM   #25
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Six grand isn't reasonable if one is not a rental house;in my mind. What is the actual cost for materials and labor to assemble these things. Seems over inflated to me.
There is a little lecture that gets doled out on a regular basis here at DVI, which is that for any given product that one can purchase, simply breaking it down into the cost of materials and labor does not take into account the R&D, prototyping, testing, distribution, promotion, customer service or other related expenses. The people who make this sort of equipment generally do not get rich on it, but they can't be faulted for trying to make a living for the amount of time and energy they have invested in it.

If you were to watch an experienced focus puller's hand on the knob (whether wireless or mechanical) on a 35mm shoot, you would see a lot of fast, minute corrections. If he is off in his timing or judgement, the result is a buzz in the shot. If the equipment in use does not respond accurately or immediately, any issue will be further compounded. Let's put it this way--even with all of the accumulated years of experience and advances in autofocus for video cameras, is there any current camera out there that you would explicitly trust in that mode for critical work? And that's in the 1/3" arena--there's a very good reason why you don't see autofocus in larger format cameras.
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Old July 19th, 2008, 04:19 PM   #26
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Point taken, Mr Papert. But, surely you would agree that with the potential of major studio returns on a successful project that there are tendancies to sock it to the industry. Yes?

I am all for feeding the family and capitolism and free enterprise. Profits keep the doors open.

Yet, it would be good to have a lower level solution to give we with small or no budgets to be able to get decent production values and be able to have something simple like picture in focus. A smooth moving shot. Basics. There is always a chance to move into a higher end model with a higher end price. More profit from the higher performer. That is fair if one has a choice. Agreed?

One more minor point. Don't you make more having an advanced mousetrap, with a smaller profit, at a lower price point which provides for wider sales and higher volume of units moving out the door. With Sigma Six or some other QA in place, of coarse. I was really just saying that with the advances in technology that it should be cheaper to achieve the same quality so that the prices would come down with the betterment of the technology. Isn't that what technology is intended to do?

Yet, I do understand what you are trying to say, Mr Papert. I do happen to have a BA in Business Management and Administration. Not to brag, mind you, but I mentioned it to let you know I have some sensitivity to business and pricing that maximizes sales, etc. Okay?

Thanks again for the help with this.....Do you know exactly how a follow focus system (we're talking the best one now) "works?" Any website you know of that will tell me exactly how one of these things work?

D-
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Old July 19th, 2008, 06:32 PM   #27
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Don't you make more having an advanced mousetrap, with a smaller profit, at a lower price point which provides for wider sales and higher volume of units moving out the door.
If it's a small niche market to begin with (such as this one is), then the answer is no, definitely not. What you're describing is the Sam Walton school of economics, which applies only to very large markets that can reliably and consistently sustain a wider and higher volume of sales. That system works fine for Wal-Mart, but not for Hollywood nor the wedding video scene. It doesn't apply to this particular industry, not by a long shot.

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Do you know exactly how a follow focus system (we're talking the best one now) "works?"
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Follow_focus for a description. The one that's "best" is the one that has the most experienced, talented and skilled human operator running it.
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Old July 19th, 2008, 06:40 PM   #28
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Here the Preston Cinema Systems site:
http://www.prestoncinema.com/index.html

This is one of the systems used in the "real" movies. You can check the price list, but I think you'll start at about $15,000 and go up.

The Bartech is the bargain system that can give professionally acceptable results:
http://webpages.charter.net/bartech/focus.html
Actually, if you just want focus, I think you can get a Bartec for under $4,000. You can call him and discuss your needs. There are different options, different motors, etc. that affect the price. In any case, each system is individually hand built.

The way it works is that it's just a gear wheel attached to the lens, just like any cabled lens controller. But instead of being controlled by a cable, there's a motor that gets a signal from a a remote control unit.

If you are controlling focus, iris and zoom, you've got 3 gear wheels with motors attached to the lens.

Obviously, the motors are battery powered.

The mechanism has to be extremely precise because a distance change to the actor of a couple of inches will require a focus adjustment.

Since this is operated by someone with a high level of skill of has hundreds of hours of practice, someone who must be paid, $5,000 doesn't seem out of line.
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Old July 19th, 2008, 07:41 PM   #29
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Thanks, Gentlemen.
I suppose that three gears instead of one directly mounted on the motor is for mechanical advantage for the heavier lenses as well as the "stiffer" lenses. Correct?

I guess ya'll would laugh if I suggested a set of remote and servos from, say, Futaba? In case you are not clicking with the name, Futaba, they make high-end controllers for R/C airplanes, helicopters, and a few select model autos. Now, are these precise enough for follow focus? Good question. Two or three hundred dollars and a 15mm bracket and a gear to mesh with the lens on the EX1 might be worth at least a try. Or would it? Anyone try this yet on any camera?

Of coarse, being the cinefile that I am I would love the best and not worry what things cost as much as what results they bring, but I am not there yet. Must be nice to be in the studio system.

There is a camera system that works on a remote head that uses a radio transmitter that is worn like a mic unit. When someone walks around it causes the camera to follow the movement of the transmitter so that an operator is not necessary. I wonder if this type of technology could be employed to help the camera focus according to the whereabouts of a transmitter on the subject's person. Think this is possible? I really don't remember the name of this product as it's been a while since I saw a brochure for it some years ago. But, does anyone think this could work?

Does anyone rent the follow focus units by themselves for student projects. It would be expensive for a student to buy insurance for a follow focus unit by itself. I would think the rental houses would only allow a unit for their own cameras. Anyone?

It's great to have access to the opinions of those experienced in the industry. I suppose the best thing to do is to limit the movements or at least a change in distance from the camera to the subjects for any "steadi" related shots. The jib shots are going to be a challenge, but that is a different thread altogether.
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Old July 19th, 2008, 07:45 PM   #30
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I agree with David Hodge, that there certainly could be a better system out there. After all, cheap WiFi systems use OFDM wireless technology that is generations beyond Bartec.

But Charles Papert addresses the real issue here. Any product has to be profitable or it won't exist. For a remote focus pulling system, the number of units sold will be low, so any quality product will not be cheap.

Which brings me back to my original point: Today the HVX and EX1 are used in many low-budget, student, and indie projects. With these two cameras, a lens adapter makes a lot of sense on a tripod, dolly, or jib. But on a Steadicam, a lens adapter has lots of issues. So it's probably better to shoot the Steadicam shots without a lens adapter for these types of projects.

So the question still stands. If you are working with an HVX or EX1, and you are using a lens adapter on sticks, would a Steadicam shot without a lens adapter work with this project?
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