OK, here’s a two parter – went to the DGA Digital Day (that’s the Directors Guild of America to you) and it was basically in two parts – sit down presentations, and a vendor area to wander. Here’s my notes from the vendor area, after the jump. EDIT – and I put my notes from the camera vendor demo footage in here too – seemed a better place for it.
FROM THE FOOTAGE DEMO
(The DGA has AWESOME screening rooms, so it was great to have a first class presentation setup to see what was going on.)
Then I walked over into the screening room where they were showing demo footage. Apparently, only Panasonic, Red, and Panavision got the memo, because that was all I saw. Wherefore art thou, D21? Where are you, Sony EX3, F23, and F35?
Panasonic stuff – consistent color palette across the product line, but still has a very video-y look to almost all that they showed. NICE video, but still video looking.
Next up was Panavision’s Genesis, which they showed from a TON of shows. Interesting to see how flexible the camera was – a lot of different looks, some more video feeling (think Adam Sandler movies), some I’d seen in theaters and had no ideas were shot digitally – like Deja Vu, which totally convinced as “I’m watching a movie” and not thinking about the look being digital or film. Not sure if intentional or not, but Panavision is very comfortable showing a lot of heavily treated footage – comfort in the medium.
Red had a lot of cinematic looking footage, but not as much so heavily treated in their demo reel – perhaps since a younger company still proving their mettle in the market? But their reel looked good, and very cinematic, whereas Panavision was MOVIE looking. Many clips of recognizable actors, but not so much heavy treatment. Good looking reel, though.
Phantom HD – the Phantom is the recognized leader in high speed digital photography, for good reason – you can get 1000 fps at HD resolution and it looks damn good. The downside – it is a Bayer pattern camera, so fine white detail, for instance, can get very crinkly looking color fringing if your material is things like fine water droplets of fine high contrast detail edges. Some goofball we talked to at a prior company where I worked wanted to shoot an entire feature film with it – noooooooo!!!!!!!!!! It is really a specialty camera. While you COULD shoot 24p, you wouldn’t want to – too many impracticalities. But for specialty high speed shots (I’d be curious to see how Phantom vs Red at 2K @ 120fps looked, for instance), I’d say it is THE camera to get.
D21 wasn’t in demo footage, nor was F35
FROM THE VENDOR DEMO AREA
first up, met Sean from Abel Cinetech, he’s their digital camera expert guy, they were showing off the Phantom HD, shooting 2048×720 resolution at 1557 or so frames per second, popping baloons full of water – awesome. One of the cool features of Phantom is that since it records to solid state, you can be ALWAYS rolling, and just decide which prior X seconds to hold onto – so you trigger the event, THEN push the “record” buton – how’s that for funky? In this context, record means “save the last X seconds” of footage. You record onto a solid state brick, that brick gets downloaded via a CineStation gadget (I THINK around $20K) that will either stream the data (in .cine file format) over GigE (soon 10GigE, but not quite yet) or play out the HD-SDI taps on the CineStation.
Here’s the PhantomHD with a Cinemag on top – the solid state memory you’re recording your looping footage onto:
here’s the Cinestation offloading module:
Next up was Panasonic, which had their 3700 series camera – I’d heard of it, that it was a nice camera, hadn’t paid much attention. Didn’t realize that beyond the AVC Intra, it is 4:4:4 capable – the new S.two solid state recorder can dock onto the back, or go to a full size S.two or Codex or Codex portable – nice. Excellent dynamic range and the FilmRec mode now records to 600% instead of just 500% like the 3000 due to cleaner A/D converters. Typical (good) color palette for Panasonic, nice camera. Now that Final Cut Pro 7 supports AVC Intra natively (10 bit, full raster), it is a good solution for a lot of productions. Also, camera lists for $60K, but they are taking trade-ins for non-P2 cameras to drop the price to $30K – don’t know all the rules for the trade-in, but damn, that is an attractive offer.
Saw Michael Bravin at the Band Pro booth right before they started tearing down, he showed me their F35 with the S.two Obi-1 – it is a SMALL, solid state recorder that can clip onto the back of the camera and is notably smaller than the SRW-1 HDCAM SR recorders. $45K (or was it $40K?) for the recorder, the solid state bricks are about $10K apiece and can hold 30 minutes of 1080p24 10 bit 4:4:4 as DPX files – nice! Records 30 minutes vs SR tapes 50 minutes. Put into a loader station to back up and offload – pretty slick. He said Rufus over at The Camera House (parent company of Digital Film Company where I worked last year) has 10 of them, 6 are on a TV show recording to Arri D21 cameras. But the Obi-1 can sit quite nicely thank you on the back of an F35, which Michael said, and everything I hear agrees with this, THE camera to beat in terms of full frame (35mm sized sensor), 10 bit 4:4:4 output, and AWESOME dynamic range. The funny red rendering (red street stoplights rendered as orange) from the F23 has been addressed, and in general it just rocks – but it is PRICEY – everything you need on the camera minus a battery and lens is about $250K for an F35 (body, control panel, SRW-1, etc.). Awesome camera, awe inspiring price.
Speaking of Arri, got caught up with them – The Camera House, Clairemont Camera both locally have D21s available, Fletcher in Chicago does, and others have them. The good news about D21 – a LOVELY image, optical viewfinder with lookaround, lovely motion rendering because of the mechanical shutter (electronically variable/controllable), and can record to the S.two Obi-1 as either RAW or RGB. RAW records less time since it is roughly 2800 some-odd by 2100 some-odd pixels instead of 1920×1080. Oh yeah – the D21 is also 4:3 aspect ratio sensor, so you can use anamorphic glass as expected on it. NICE. The downside? It rates as an ISO/ASA 200 camera, which means it is HUNGRY for light, even moreso than the Red One. Chatted with one of the engineers I’d worked with at DFC last year a bit, they’ve clearly been busy. Arri is 1-30fps RAW and RGB, 1-60 fps 4:2:2.
That is the Arri D21 with an S.two Obi-1 mounted on the back (that lighter grey box)
Scuttlebutt/unconfirmed hearsay on the show floor – somebody shooting with it went overbudget on their lighting department by MORE than the cost of the camera rental for a shoot, if I a.) overheard that correctly and b.) if that is factually true. I don’t know if it is, but that does sound plausible.
Nebtek (nebtek.com) has a small (7ish inch?) LCD that is 1000 nits bright – viewable in direct daylight (I tested this, walking over and holding it up to light through window) – most impressive. Called the Solar 7 HD (so I’m thinking my guess on screen size might be right). He had it on a wireless HD rig, size of a smaller professional shooting battery, walking around with it his hand. Michael Bravin from Band Pro said he’d have an even smaller HD wireless rig soon that was better (the receiver part of it to get the signal wirelessly). Here ’tis:
Red was their with some cameras, I chatted with Sean Ruggieri (sp? hope is right, apologies if not) about latest improvements – build 20 improves the color rendering and low light blue channel noise, the new software with the new color matrix lets you actually reprocess old footage from prior builds and reduces the noise – so I need to reprocess some of my Build 8 Spain footage and see if it looks notably better. Red RAM is shipping, and is 128 rather than 64 GB and the price dropped from $5500 to $4500. They took a lot longer to ship than hoped for, but twice as big for $1000 less ain’t bad. They are also shipping the Red Drives with 640 GB of capacity instead 320 – roll it alllllll day long. The 16GB CF cards also are faster than the 8s – if they don’t match the drives’ performance, it is damn close – so less of a concern worrying about max frame rates depending on the media you’re shooting – now it is a concern about just the frame resolution, aspect ratio, and codec used – still too much to keep in my head! So I use the handy ISee4K iPhone app to help.
I just recently worked with Gorilla Pro software for production planning, and was struck by the lack of scalability – two users max, and only if they are doing separate tasks. Appropriate for smaller productions, but not for big ones. scenechronize (throw .com on the end of that) is for Big Time productions. They are web based, lots of people can simultaneously work on it, the controls are more granular, and they are doing big time TV shows on it/with it. Since they are web based, they are subscription based on a very secure web server.
Slam FX had a piece of software that simulated destruction for 3D stuff – give it a model, assign, physical properties, throw a car/rock/rocket/body/monster at it, and it handles the physical destruction simulation. Pretty impressive. They have an engineering grade solution already that is $20K/yr subscription with $5K/yr updates (ridiculous), but working on a $2500-$3500 entertainment industry version. You can bring in (for instance) your Maya model, get the simulation right, then bring it back into Maya to render in your normal pipeline – sweet. slamfx.com
I did not see Codex at this show, but I know Toby is working overseas on a BIG production right now. Curious to know how that portable is going – I heard a big commercial couldn’t get ahold of one last fall – so at least at that time they were constrained.
S.two vs. Codex – I haven’t worked with them daily like I did last year, here’s my thoughts:
S.two – had been on the market longer, but hardware was longer in the tooth. Software was TWITCHY, and had to be baby-sat for capturing offline material. Good LUT solutions. Interfaces were dated, but were being worked on. Stuff was pretty robust in the field, but the older units needed maintenance eventually. Biggest concern – slow response time to implement new features. But the Obi-1 is all over the place today – they’ve clarly been hammering on it. Solid state reliability in a small, relatively affordable ($40-$45K) recorder is good. 10 of them rentable locally at The Camera House, but six on a TV show at the moment.
Codex, on the other hand, is way slicker – last year when I worked with both, Codex was very much Mac to S.two’s DOS (yes – not Windows, DOS). Slick interface, virtual file system meant the files could be accessed as DPX instantly, even cropped or at fractional resolutions. Live conversion to a variety of codecs, like DNxHD. Avid 14:1 could be converted on the fly as fast as you could copy it off (this all on the big box, a two person chunky lift – a RAID and a full size computer in a road case). But you could record 4 cameras into it 4:2:2, or two 4:4:4. Then there was the portable – MUCH smaller, 4:1 JPEG2000 on a tiny disc pack, way slick. No live conversion in the portable, but yes once it was docked into the appropriate station. Codex was very quick to respond to address software issues, their software was slicker, and it just felt more like The Future.
Now – Obi-1 is solid state, smaller and lighter – advantage. New docking solution – haven’t seen it yet, but sounds much improved. Codex is hard drive based, but offers more functionality for post. What is best? Depends on your needs, I guess. But interesting to see these two duke it out.
OK, that’ all my personal opinion based on what I know.
Grass Valley was there with their Infinity cameras, but I didn’t even slow down to look – not interested.
Apple was there with Final Cut Studio and I overheard discussion of Final Cut Server, which now supports the new Prores codecs (a given) including the Proxy one for editing. Faster searches, image sequence support for DPX (compressor supports it now), etc.
There were some other booths I never got back to.
3Di was there with their dimensionalization stuff – making 2D into 3D. They had an autostereoscopic display that you had to be in the sweet spot to see the 3D part of it – very much people Kneeling At The Altar of Technology – since sweet spot was about 6-10 feet straight out in front of the monitor mounted on a table. Notes on autostereoscopic displays:
1.) AWESOME that you need NO GLASSES to view this 3D….but lame that you have to be in the exact sweet spot – too far back and it just looks 2D
2.) OUCH. I don’t know if it was the display itself, or just the 3D implementation. The 3D on this, as well as the demo in the theater, caused eyestrain promptly. I’ve seen several 3D movies and not had this problem. Hmm. 3Di, this footage, the display? Dunno.
3.) autostereoscopic displays, if they can work out the sweet spot issue, are THE way to do 3D I’d think – we aren’t going to all wear glasses to see this stuff on a long term basis
OK, that’s all I can remember seeing.