Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Large Sensor Cameras For Docos

Published : 23rd October 2011

I've been playing around with the F3 with the hope of using it for an upcoming documentary. I must admit I've been really struggling to get it to work as a solid reliable bit of hardware, especially for hand held. The kit consisted of a Zeiss LWZ 15.5-45 zoom, Zacuto EVF, F3 adaptor plate from Griptech in Sydney and recording to Nanoflash mounted on a Zacuto V lock plate counter weighting out the back. The lens was beautiful but lacked the focal length to get in for fast close ups on the run. I've ordered the Abel Cine HDx35 adaptor for use with my HD zooms. Keeping in mind the 2 1/2 stop loss (though my lenses are still 1 stop faster than most 35mm zooms) it's a bit of a compromise but still worth it, especially for longer focal lengths.

The EVF really helped for off the shoulder hand held but I still had real problems. The image is an improvement but still not great. The HDMI cable kept getting bumped and the image would drop out mid shot. Far from ideal! Also the process of adjusting the angle of the viewfinder was a bit slow. When you're capturing observational material quickly, these are the sort of compromises that mean the difference of losing valuable moments. The adaptor plate from Griptech was great, allowing the camera to snap on to the Sony quick release with rods front and back for support/mounting/counterweight while allowing low form factor, shoulder mount and quick tripod to hand held conversion.

Having migrated from an Aaton LTR to Sony HDW 750P and grown used to the reliability and form factor of both for documentary work, I've really struggled trying to get the F3 to do the same job. I love the pictures, but at what cost? Would love to use the Alexa but so far too costly and concerned about weight for hand held. Also used the 7D for a docco shoot recently and absolutely hated it.

I've found the discussion about the reliability of 2/3 cameras and hybrid large sensor cameras really interesting. My conclusion is that you can't beat the reliability of a well built 2/3 camera/lens combination for reliability and speed. Used thoughtfully, maintaining shallow DOF where possible, it's hard to beat.

However I'll still persist to come up with a better rig for a large sensor docco camera, especially as I have an upcoming cinema release docco. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Peter Coleman ACS
Sydney, Australia


>>The HDMI cable kept getting bumped and the image would drop out mid shot. Far from ideal!

Get a monitor and/or recorder with a BNC HD-SDI input.

Professional connectors lock. Prosumer and toy connectors like HDMI do not,
and are unsuitable for the type of work you're doing, as you have observed.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
Hollywood, California


Bob,

I believe Pete is complaining of using either the Zacuto ZFinder or the Cineroid EVF, neither of which comes with an SDI option at this point.

I believe all these "evf" solutions are HDMI only at the moment. Both Cineroid and Zacuto are working on bringing an HDSDI solution to the market, but until it comes this is all we have.


HDMI is the bane of my existence.

Daniel Colmenares
(818) 552-4590 Work


In may I shot a docu-series pilot "Kings of Kustom", with my F3 and I rented the first Cineroid EVF with HDMI and aside from major cable issues I felt comfortable with the monitor and features. Cineroid just released the new Metal SDI EVF, I picked one up yesterday from the rep here in Los Angeles. $1299, now I'm waiting on Illya Friedman to finish his Hot Rod Rig to properly mount the EVF. I like the idea of working with a large sensor camera and IMHO they will service the Documentary world best.

Michael Palmer
DP
Los Angeles


>> I've been playing around with the F3 with the hope of using it for an upcoming documentary. I

>> must admit I've been really struggling to get it to work as a solid reliable bit of hardware,

>> especially for hand held.
>> Also used the 7D for a docco shoot recently and absolutely hated it.

I'm in the middle of shooting a series of short documentary pieces in the gulf coast region, and brought along an F3 and a 7D (along with a GoPro and underwater housing for the 7D). I brought a Zacuto EVF for the F3; I would hate to shoot without it, and have not had any problems with it, perhaps because of the swivel HDMI cable I’m using

(http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882021171)


I use a z-finder with whatever camera I’m shooting with. I’m using an MTF adapter and using Nikon glass on the F3, and have a few Canon lenses on the 7D.

After two weeks of shooting (mainly handheld by design) with both cameras I have to admit that I like using the 7D better, mainly because I’ve got lenses with image stabilization, it’s very light and
steady and I like how it handles clipping better (unavoidable in a lot of situations in this production, as were shooting outdoors with available light only). I can also stick the 7D on a steadicam Merlin
easily. If I had OIS glass on the F3 I might feel differently, but for now I’m shooting most b-roll that’s not audio critical (were using a lot of music on the finished pieces) on the 7D, and shoot interviews on the F3.

I would love a Nikon to F3 adapter that allowed me to power the OIS onNikon glass...

-Fernando Ortega
Videographic Films
Washington DC, (currently in New Orleans)
vgfilms.com


>> an F3 and a 7D... I like using the 7D better... I like how it handles clipping better

That surprises me; I haven't been a fan of clipping on the Canons still cams. I gotta ask: have you tried Cine gammas on the F3? Standard gammas are unremarkable in highlight handling, but Cine gammas are very nice indeed, much nicer than Canon still cams in clipping performance IMO.

Adam Wilt
technical services
Meets The Eye LLC
San Carlos CA USA


>> That surprises me; I haven't been a fan of clipping on the Canons still cams. I gotta ask: have you >> tried Cine gammas on the F3?

I have: I’ve used both cine1 and AB_HILIT (derived from cine1 from Abel cine) to protect highlights as much as possible, but still found that (to my eye, not going from charts or anything remotely scientific) any clipping in the F3 was harsher than on the 7D (using the neutral picture style). How much "harsher" is tough to quantify, not too much, but enough that I started to notice the difference.


Some colours in particular seem to really want to bloom out of control when overexposed, including skin tones, greens and yellows... perhaps I’ve not set my camera up properly? I’m open to suggestions on how to minimize the nuclear look.

Fernando Ortega
Videographic Films
Washington DC, (currently in New Orleans)


>> Some colours in particular seem to really want to bloom out of control when overexposed [on the >> F3 in cine1], including skin tones, greens and yellows...

OK, I'll keep my fat mouth shut until I can test this on an F3. I've been using Cine gammas on EX1s and EX3s and I had assumed that their behaviour--colours desaturate smoothly as clipping is approached--carried across to the F3 as well.

What I have found on the EX1/EX3 is that standard gammas' knees that fail on saturated colours, so that as a saturated area (like a bright blue sky) nears clipping, the knee suddenly cuts out and the colour clips in a nasty way, veering towards a saturated primary (R/G/B) or secondary (C/M/Y) before blowing out to white. That sounds like what you're seeing (?) so maybe this artifact has migrated into the cine gammas on the F3... but I won't speculate further until I get a chance to test it myself.

Adam Wilt / technical services,

Meets The Eye LLC / San Carlos CA USA


The trick to controlling highlights on the F3 seems to be the same as in the EX1/EX3: set gamma to a positive number, usually +20 or less, until the highlight looks nice. This works with Cine4, which is the only curve I ever use. Haven't tried it on the others.

On a waveform I noticed the following on a recent shoot:

Negative numbers in the gamma field pull middle gray up toward clip, compressing highlights but in a very nasty, bad and electronic way.

Positive numbers in the gamma field pull highlights down without moving middle gray, pulling them below the clipping point--and, if you're not careful, WAY below the clipping point. You can max your highlights out at 80 or 90 units if you aren't careful.

I typically set zebras for highlights, and if I see something that's clipped I'll go into Picture Profiles > Settings > Gamma and dial the gamma setting up until the zebras disappear.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area
showreel -> www.artadams.net
trade writing -> art.provideocoalition.com


If you want clean, desaturated colours as you approach clip point, shoot in S-Log. With the F3 in any standard LUT, the colour saturation will slightly increase as you approach clip. This is part of the classic "Sony look" that (simplifying here) Japanese broadcasters tend to love and cine people such as ourselves dislike.

Interestingly enough, the early version of the Alexa's Rec709 LUT did this saturating, but then was changed to a desaturating as clip approached. We actually had one client who was used to Sony cameras send his brand new camera in for repair because it didn't look like his other cameras.

He's since come to see that as an attribute.

Mitch Gross
Applications Specialist
AbelCine NY


Mitch Gross writes:

<< the early version of the Alexa's Rec709 LUT did this saturating, but then was changed to a desaturating as clip approached. We actually had one client who was used to Sony cameras send his brand new camera in for repair because it didn't look like his other cameras.
He's since come to see that as an attribute. >>

Well, it's an attribute one way or the other, isn't it?

Dan "ducking and running" Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA