High ISO-C200-EVA-URSA-MP

In this test I set the C200 & EVA to ISO 2500 and the Ursa mini pro to 1600 (its highest ISO)

I then took the rushes into Resolve in ACES cct and adjusted offset and black level only to match them.

It’s interesting how good both the EVA, noted for its high ISO capabilities, and the C200 are when pushed. Unfortunately the Ursa can’t keep up in this comparison.

C200-EVA-UrsaMP I’m going to duck and cover now

This has proved to be a much harder evaluation than I expected.

Normally it’s a very straightforward assessment of clear and defined responses. Where do they clip? What colours distort? How does the colour change with exposure? How much noise at various underexposure levels and so on.

This time it’s purely personal, how do they feel? How easy are they to use? How robust are they?

I was going to do this as a 3 stage evaluations, I’ve already posted the technical shoot material and I had intended to post general material that I’d shot but whats the point? There’s a ton of this kind of stuff on the web. So…

My overall impression of the images is that they’re all very good but there are caveats.

I’m going to split the results into categories.

1  Record formats

Canon C200 records in C-RAW Lite which is a variable compression ratio RAW codes of between 3:1 and 5:. It varies the compression ratio based on content and motion.
Canon provide software to translate this RAW material into various formats if you can’t work with the C-RAW. The range of output formats and options is good, ProRes 444, DPX 10 & 16 bit and EXR, colour gamut of Cinema, 2020, P3 & BT.709, Gamma of CLog2, Clog3, BT.709, Wide, DCI.
This is a little odd as the only gamma available in the ACES IDT is CLog3 and surely that’s a case for CLog2 if there ever was one!

EVA records in, at best, H264 150 Mbps, this is not a professional level codec as far as I’m concerned, this is a format that belongs in HDSLR’s and “prosumer” kit. They are promising 400 Mbps and RAW but when?
This is a killer for me. Right now this camera is out of the running because of this.

Ursa MP records in RAW to CDNG in uncompressed 3:1 & 4:1 compression as well as all formats of  ProRes from  4444 XQ downwards. CDNG works really well in Resolve but can be a little harder to get the best out of in some other software.

The winner in this category is marginally the Ursa MP but it’s only a hair ahead of the C200, the EVA has fallen and is struggling to get up here.

2 Overall feel and build

There are major differences here and they will probably have a major effect on which camera you prefer.
They split into 2 categories, traditional and well, I’m not sure what to call it 🙂

The Ursa MP fits into the traditional category, kitted out with the shoulder mount and the V/F it feels and operates pretty much as any docco camera that I’ve used in the last 40 years. There is a clear line from 16mm to Betacam to HDCam to Varicam to Amira. If you are used to using a camera like this then the UMP will feel “right” everything is where it should be and it all just falls into place.
It’s built like a brick shithouse and will take a huge amount of abuse and just keep on going.
The biggest downside is weight,  (camera departments seems to be filling up with wimps at the moment ) and battery life. Having said that it’s lighter than the other cameras I’ve mentioned in the lineage and it’s less power hungry. It’s only in comparison with the mini generation that it feels heavy and power hungry.
I also found the Cfast slots a bit difficult to get cards into correctly.

The C200 and the EVA are very similar on first impression but as you spend time with them you start to find the differences.
They’re very small differences, the Canon is a little heavier but it feels more substantial, the doors over the card slots are more robust, the V/F is better mounted (more about all the V/F’s later) it’s all very small stuff but I think the Canon feels overall a more expensive camera and it is, about $100 more 🙂

3 Autofocus

Well there’s a clear winner here, the C200 is way better than either of the others both of which tend to hunt. I tested with new lenses and also with 12 year old lenses.

4 Built in V/F & menus

The UrsaMP is the winner for display here it has a larger and clearer display and a wonderful menu structure that is really clear and simple to use. However, the range of movement is very limited and obstructs the dial you need to use to adjust iris. It doesn’t fold out past 90 degrees from the camera body and this can make it awkward to see the screen and the on-body controls you are trying to alter.
The EVA is in a better position than the Ursa but the mount is not as solid as it needs to be and also has the 90 degree limitation. The supplied V/F hood was collapsing when I got it and I had to remove it. It would have been a good addition if it had worked.
There are 2 menu structures, one accessed by pressing the menu button which takes you to a what I can only describe as a traditional Sony type menu, I hate it. Pressing home turns the entire V/F into an Alexa like menu which is a joy to use even though the touchscreen is a tad reluctant to respond at times.
The C200 is in the same position as the EVA but is much more rigid, it also fold 180 degrees to go flat to the camera body. It’s much easier to adjust things on a tripod with the screen at about 120 degrees.
Menu display buttons and the joystick for adjusting everything is on the V/F and it takes a bit of getting used to. There’s also a function button and joystick at the back of the camera that controls the main settings that you’re likely to need.

The C200 is a clear loser in the menu competition.

5 Workflow

The C200 works fine in Resolve and Prelight as does the EVA, the Ursa MP is a little limited in Prelight but that’s an issue between BMD and Filmlight…
I had no problems working with any of the cameras other than needing to go through an extra software stage if I wanted to use the Canon in CLog2!! However, that software stage also gave me the option of going straight to 16 bit EXR and I love that.
I’m sure that there are data wimps out there who will complain about raw from both the C200 and Ursa MP, grow a pair!

6 Conclusions

In the end it comes down to what kind of camera do you want?

If you want a traditional workhorse that produces great images and will integrate into a conventional workflow easily and that has TC, genlock etc then the clear winner is the Ursa Mini Pro.

If you want a lighter camera for drone work or observational type documentaries and all kinds of lighter more personal work then the C200 edges ahead of the EVA. The clear differential here is recording capability and autofocus.
If you want to shoot observational quick moving type jobs then good AF is essential.
There are issues with the C200, no T/C and no Genlock limits what it can be used for but that’s probably just a market segment thing from Canon. Also why no CLog2 from monitoring out?

There’s also the question of lens mounts,  The Ursa MP is user interchangeable and takes just about anything, the obvious main choices being EF & PL, the C200 can be changed  from EF to PL at a Canon service centre. The EVA is EF only.

So, you pays your money and you take your choices…

I use ACES because I don’t trust post…

OK, a provocative title for my first post of the year.
It was incomplete and should have said…I use ACES because I don’t trust post guys I don’t know. Just like I don’t trust gaffers, operators, grips, AC’s who I don’t know.

I’ve been experimenting a lot over the last few weeks/months with generating LUT’s that are meant to help the shoot, not to dominate post or impose a “look” onto the final film but to give a level of control and predictability to images onset.

The thing is that “technical LUT’s” do a great job in the hands of people I know and trust but more and more we are having to work with people and workflows that we don’t know and trust and when things go wrong it’s inevitably the fault of the person not in the room.

This is where ACES comes in to play, it gives us a fixed, international , independent reference. Just take the rushes and apply the Image Transform (IDT) and the Output Transform (ODT) and we can see what we shot without any outside help or interference. If with a standard IDT and ODT the image looks OK then the rushes are OK and anything wrong is further down the chain.

That’s it, well for the Cinematographer anyway, there are other advantages for producers but this is a cinematography rant!

Now the problem with this is that we don’t have an ACES onset workflow established, Oh there are all kinds of ways that with DIT’s and shedloads of money we can do anything but I want something very very simple.
What we need are very simple LUT’s to use onset (via LUT boxes or wireless links that will accept LUT’s or via monitors that accept LUT’s) that will show us on a standard 709 onset monitor what the image will look like after going through the ACES post pipeline.

Thanks to Prelight from Filmlight this is now easy to do. I’ve generated LUT’s for Alexa, Canon, Panasonic & Sony cameras that integrate the ACES pipeline and can be used during a shoot in a very simple way. I’ve also generated for Alexa and Canon LUT’s that incorporate the ACES pipeline with a reduction in contrast to 0.85 because that’s how I like to see my rushes!

I’ve generated these LUT’s from both captured footage and live camera input. In the latter case it’s possible to add a “look” to the output as well.
I’m testing these with the NSC at the moment and we’ll be going live with all of this on the 24th of January and after that I may well post some of these LUT’s to the CML website. That is after they have been tested and torn apart by a lot of Cinematographers and DIT’s!!

C200-EVA-UrsaMP-First files for evaluation

OK, I’ll be doing this evaluation in stages.

  1. This post which includes links to RAW or Highest quality possible QT files from each camera of resolution and various colour charts.
    All cameras are in the same position with the same lens and lit with a Fill-Lite 200
    All cameras were auto white balanced on the Abel-Cine resolution chart. Focus was first on auto and then checked manually on a Convergent Design Odyssey with focus assist activated. I was also feeding the images to an Eizo CG318 4K monitor.
  2. I’ll post location footage shot with the cameras in various situations these will be web compressed at 4K
  3. I’ll post my unvarnished opinions of the cameras and whether I’d use them and if so what for!

The test files are here bear in mind that they’re camera originals and therefore very large files.

 

The Force is with Dolby Cinema!

Wow! just Wow!
I went to see Star Wars the Last Jedi yesterday at the Dolby Cinema in Hilversum and even if the film had been complete crap, it wasn’t, I’d have been blown away anyway.

This is what going to movies should be. A totally black theatre, no extraneous light of any kind, brilliant sound, totally brilliant images from a dual laser projection system.

If more movie theatres were like this attendances would be rocketing up. I normally go to the Imax in Den Haag to get the best possible viewing experience. The Den Haag Imax is a 20 minute tram trip right to the door of the theatre from home and the Vue Dolby Cinema in Hilversum is a tram and 3 trains away taking around an hour and three quarters. It’s worth the journey.

What’s the film like, actually it’s pretty good. You just have to ignore the obviously cute marketing characters and if you can do that then it’s by far the best Star Wars film since the original 3.

It captures the excitement and thrill of the original, how much of that was the overall experience is another matter 🙂

The force is with Dolby!

Even better being the Netherlands, instead of the audience having huge containers of sugary soda and popcorn the guys next to me had beers, bought in the main theatre concession area. I love it!

Stop whingeing about kit! it’s your fault

One of the joys of IBC and shows like it is eavesdropping on conversations by accident.
This year I heard a lot of people whingeing about kit, about how it didn’t give them the look they wanted, about how cameras disappointed them or software didn’t miraculously make their images great. Lighting hadn’t given them the look they wanted or camera movement, track, crane, drone, whatever, hadn’t done what they wanted.

I wanted to scream at them “learn your fucking job!”

It’s so easy to blame kit but the reality is that it’s all, and I mean ALL, pretty bloody good. Oh there are some tools that have issues but they’re not major image killing issues. There’s kit I don’t like the feel of and kit I don’t like the marketing of but thats different. I may not like that kit but I can’t deny that it does its job pretty well.

So why are people having problems getting the images they want?

They aren’t learning their job! They expect it all to just happen without having to put the time in to learn how to do it properly.

It takes time to learn to make great motion picture images, it takes time to learn about lighting, it takes time to learn about lenses, it takes time to learn about post, it takes time to learn the language of images

There is no Google translate for image making. You have to do it the hard way.

10,000 hours to become competent, not good or great, just competent.

Learn the job and stop complaining about kit, it’s you not the kit that produces the bad images.

Lower priced professional cameras are bloody good!

This is a preliminary comment on cameras at about $6K-$7.5K

This is purely personal and is on no way meant to be objective, unlike the CML evaluations which have no personality involved and are purely objective.

I’ve had the Ursa Mini-Pro the longest and have only shot the CML evaluations with the C200, I’m waiting for a Panasonic EVA. I rejected the FS7 during the evaluations because I hated the way it felt and its menus. I did say that this was not objective!

The more I look at the images from the UMP & C200 the more impressed I am. I’m shooting both RAW and with a small amount of compression, in the case of the UMP 3:1 and the Canon is variable between 3:1 to 5:1 depending on the subject/action.

I really like them both and the EVA is going to have a fight on its hands to be better, or even as good!

I wouldn’t hesitate to use either of these cameras for professional work. The images from both are great, the C200 has slightly better colour, the greens & yellows are purer and to me more accurate but it’s not a big thing and easily adjustable in Resolve.

The style of working with them is very different, the UMP is fitted with the shoulder mount and the V/F. It’s quite heavy in todays terms and light compared to what I’m used to 🙂
To get it to function comfortably on my shoulder I’ve had to move the top handle as far forward as I can and the shoulder mount as far back as it’ll go, but then I’m a pretty big bloke. It balances well with a V Lock battery on the back and a small lens on the front.
The battery life is good but not nearly as good as the C200.
This camera works really well used in the way that I’ve used cameras for the last 45 years or so. It’s a progression from the 16mm cameras to Betacam’s and the F900 and Varicam 2700 to Amira. It feels like a “real” camera and functions like one as well. Anyone used to using a camera like these will feel right at home.

The C200 is much lighter and is really best used with the touch screen V/F and held in one hand. It’s a very different way of working from “traditional” cameras but it can work really well. With IS in lenses and AF facial tracking you have a whole new world to explore. I’ll post more about this in a month when I have had a chance to shoot in more practical situations. Initial reaction is that battery life is outstanding and the camera feels very light.

In terms of dynamic range they both start to get a bit noisy for me at 2 stops under and clearly hold highlights at 3.5 stops over with the C200 having a slight edge in the highlights and the UMP a slight edge in the shadows.
They also both feel solid and professional with the UMP feeling like a solid brick shithouse, in the best possible taste! This is a camera that will take a hammering.

They both work well in preset colour mode and load into Resolve with the standard IDT’s and no correction resulting in good images, as usual I’d suggest reducing the contrast setting to around .85.

My only complaint about the UMP so far is that the extension handle is too short but as it uses a standard rosette I just replaced it with one of the extensions from my ET Mantis shoulder mount and its now perfect.

I’m testing with various AF stills lenses and the C200 is noticeably quicker to focus, the UMP has a tendency to hunt with older lenses.

I’m struggling to find anything bad to say about either of them.

A complete comparison with images and illustrations of the UMP, C200 & EVA will follow.

Autofocus to IMAX!

I wrote a while back about shooting an entire movie with autofocus..

Autofocus for an entire movie

On Saturday I saw the results projected and not just projected but on an IMAX screen!
This film was never intended to be seen this size, we knew we were shooting for TV screens.
I was sitting in the front row, not by choice but I had to be there so that I could quickly take part in the Q&A afterwards.

So, did it work?
Well yes, no more soft shots than any other movie I’ve seen on the large screen recently. In other words not a lot at all.

The entire movie was shot either with autofocus and face recognition or controlled via a tablet with simple finger presses.
We learned how to quickly switch between modes while we were shooting and also what we could do during a shot.
The one thing we thought was missing that would have helped a lot was a couple of preset positions that we could load as escape positions. Preset so that if the face recognition lost track during a fast move towards camera we had emergency goto’s in the most important positions. Happily Canon have now added this facility.

I said at the time that I probably wouldn’t do a movie like this again, having looked at the results on an IMAX screen I now think that this is the future.
At present you are limited in your choice of lenses and camera.  Canon are moving in this direction faster than others. I can see how they could, if they wanted, interface the /i info from say Cookes to the cameras internal software and an external focus motor and so enable this for any lenses with /i.

As we move to bigger and bigger sensors we need to look very closely at this kind of technology.
There are other solutions out there but they are all expensive and somewhat complicated.
This was very very simple, even a cinematographer could operate it!

TV pictures way too dark

This is just a plain out and out rant.

I’m finding more and more that I have to wait until night to be able to even try and watch some series. They are shot so dark that unless the ambient light is lower that it would be in a grading suite the whole thing turns into a radio show.

I think that there are a couple of issues at play here, first people, and that’s DP’s as well as directors, not understanding that an image doesn’t actually have to be dark to convey a feeling of darkness. In fact judicious use of bright area makes other parts look darker.
The other issue is highlights that are too bright, or areas of a shot that are too bright and that not only make dark areas look darker but also draw your attention away from the main interest of the scene.

I think, and I’m stressing that this is a personal opinion, that there is a huge amount of outright incompetence out there at the moment. People who really don’t understand how to use images to tell a story. People who should not be in charge of a camera.

Yes I do have a home with white walls and light grey floors and white seating and lots of windows but even at night with curtains drawn the image is too dark to see WTF is happening on screen.
Once we get HDR I’m going to have to paint the walls black change the floor and the furnishings, black the windows out totally and wear a burka to make sure that no light kicks back off my white face!

Guys, use a domestic set to check your grading and turn the f’ing lights up when you do, go out and watch it on a TV not a monitor in reception.

Ah, that feels better!

Oh and finally, I do have all the kit to set my screens up properly but I find more and more that I can’t use the “correct” setting on my home TV, I have to use a mode like Vivid! to see anything.

Get a grip!

2017 Camera Evaluations-what would I use?

I keep getting asked what my conclusions are after these evaluations.
Well, I uploaded the EXR’s so that you could make your own decisions. However, I do have preferences.
These are the high end cameras from each manufacturer, there are 2 from Sony because they seem confused 🙂
These were from the original RAW files converted to EXR ACES linear AP0 in the manufacturers own software. They were then loaded into Prelight in a Rec-709 BT-1886 calibrated environment and the exposure that was closest to “correct” was chosen. As you can see the cameras exposures vary a little from the manufacturers recommendations.
I then adjusted the colour to give a neutral result on the vector-scope.

No alterations were made to exposure, contrast or saturation.

The chosen frames were then exported in sRGB jpeg form. They are HD res.

So, which is best?
I prefer the colour from the Alexa and the F65, I think the Helium changes colour most with exposure changes. The thing is that they’re not major differences and far more likely to have an impact is ease of use.
In this case I prefer the Alexa, Varicam Pure and C-700.

Once again, the original EXR’s are at:-

http://www.cinematography.net/EXR-EVALS.html

The biggest shocks are in the lower cost cameras, they’re bloody good! I’m doing a long term review of the BMD Mini-Pro at the moment and am waiting for the Panasonic EVA before doing a comparison of the lower cost cameras. I have already rejected one camera in tis category because I hated the way it felt and it’s lack of ease of use.