Author: Studio B Team

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28 Aug Sony F5 Hacked, Can Shoot 4k Internally

The Sony PMW-F5 has just been hacked to shoot internal 4k XAVC video. This is big news, of course, because one of the biggest differences between the F5 and the more expensive (almost twice as much!) F55 was the ability to shoot 4k internally, without needing to purchase a separate AXS-R5 4k recorder. There has always been speculation that the F5 was capable of internal 4k, and this new discovery proves both that it’s capable, and that Sony has intentionally disabled the functionality of the F5. See cinematographer Paul Ream’s short Vine video below to see the 4k resolution readout on the F5 screen.

Ream, who discovered the hack, goes on to explain the process of hacking the camera on the ExtraShot podcast here. Start listening around 19 minutes to jump straight to his explanation, which is remarkable in that he does not change the firmware nor tweak the physical hardware of the camera in any way. Instead, he merely edits the camera settings via a text editor on his computer.

Of course, we’ll need to wait and see if others can replicate his results, as well as wait for Sony’s response. The company may choose to not respond at all, much like Canon and the Magic Lantern firmware hacks on their DSLRs, but the debate will continue about the ethics of artificially limiting a camera’s capabilities only to sell more higher-end models and accessories. Futhermore, if there’s enough backlash over this discovery, Sony may choose to update the F5 firmware to allow internal 4k, essentially making the F55 obsolete (at least for the price) and alienating F55 owners who’ve already made the purchase. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out.

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14 Jul Coming Soon to Studio B– the DJI Ronin

The DJI Ronin 3-Axis stabilized handheld gimbal system is coming to Studio B! With tool-free adjustment, lightning quick set-up time, and the ability to fly nearly any camera up to 16 pounds, this brand new gadget makes it easy to get the shots you’ve dreamed of. Check out the video above to see some of the Ronin’s features and capabilities, and watch our blog and Facebook page for an update when it’s ready for rentals this August.

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20 Jun New Item in Rentals: Kessler Philip Bloom Motorized Pocket Dolly

We just picked up the Kessler Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly with motorized add-on here at Studio B Films. Rentals Intern Chris set it up for a test run with a Canon 5D to get some behind the scenes timelapses and dolly moves around the office– starting with our vfx team hard at work and moving into the studio as we set up for a shoot.

Check out the results of that shoot for Castlight Enterprise here.

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22 May Crew Services Gig: Tesla Music Video Shoot

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(above) Studio B grip Enrique Escudero wrangles cables for DP Mike Epple in front of the band Tesla.

Here at Studio B Films, we’re often asked to provide extra crew members to help out on clients’ shoots. Whether it’s just a single videographer or a full crew with jobs ranging from steadicam op to stylist to DP, we hire the best in the bay and coordinate everything on our end.

At the beginning of the month, director Kevin J Custer called in about an upcoming shoot he had with the band Tesla. With Tesla’s new album on the way, he needed to rent a full production package of equipment, five crew members, and find the perfect location for their new music video– all within a week. We locked down the best talent (DP, gaffer, grip, PA, and hair/makeup), prepped all of the gear they would need for the shoot in a production van, and after some searching, were able to secure a corner of the American Steel Studios warehouse in Oakland for a day.

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(above) Director Kevin J Custer observes the scene on one of our Panasonic 17″ monitors.

(below) DP Mike Epple flies one of our Canon C300’s on a Dana Dolly.

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(below) Mike and the C300 on a Porta-Jib Traveller, framed in the background by a 6×6′ silk and frame.

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Check out BAM Magazine’s article here about the band and their music video shoot, including more pictures from the production.

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15 Apr My Trip to NAB 2014

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I had the privilege of attending the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show in Las Vegas last week. It was my first experience at this particular trade show and I was blown away by the sheer size of it. The convention center has over 3,000,000 square feet of space, and you could spend multiple days in just one of the halls and not get to everything. So I moved quickly while doing my best to take in as much as possible within one day– no easy feat.

The central hall held most of the acquisition and production booths, i.e. hundreds of companies and organizations touting thousands of new products aimed at audio/video production, recording, and display. I barely made it through all of the central hall, caught one glimpse of the north hall, and then saved only about an hour for the south hall at the end of the day.

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First Impressions:

Usually, people want to hear about the best new thing at NAB, but I don’t think there’s a single product that I would award as the most exciting or original. To me it seemed that it was a year of expanding and competition. For example, I couldn’t keep track of the number of different 3-axis gimbals I saw, akin to the Movi Freefly, or new quadcopter designs for that matter, a la the DJI Phantom. Both technologies are a year or two established, but now several other companies are seeing the demand and jumping on the bandwagon. Sure there are cheap knockoffs, but the overall quality I saw kept me encouraged that this competition is great for the independent filmmaker. There may not have been as many unique ideas this year at NAB, but the useful ones are continuing to be improved upon and made more affordable.

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Besides the various camera rigs, the other winners in sheer quantity were LED lighting and hard plastic equipment cases. Running a rental business means that I’m far more interested in proper equipment storage and transport than most, so I had to check out every case solution I could. And to be honest, though each company claims that their unique plastic blend is more durable or their latches more user friendly, it’s hard to pick out many differences. The one that caught my eye was a little booth called Jason Cases. Jason makes custom pelican-style cases+inserts for different equipment packages like a Red Epic (seen below), Canon C300, or Movi Freefly. They are extremely functional, sleek, and a rentals manager’s dream.

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Cinema Cameras:

Most of the buzz at NAB this year was directed towards the new cinema cameras. It seems like every other company is jumping in the ring to compete with their own take on 4k (BlackMagic, AJA, JVC, Sony, Panasonic, among others). And although many looked sharp, it’s so hard to say which will succeed and which will fail to find their niche. Many weren’t fully operational at NAB, others sat in glass cases rather than out on the floor for demonstrations, and the rest you still can’t accurately judge without taking the footage home with you to test the workflow and compare on a big screen.

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BlackMagic impressed with a new 4k and new studio camera (seen below) with 10″ iPad-like screens.

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The Arri Amira (below) was one of the more promising new cinema cameras, despite the lack of 4k resolution. I’ve been hearing about this one but finally got a chance to put it on my shoulder and give it a whirl. With the Arri pedigree, Alexa sensor, ProRes recording, and a smaller run-and-gun body, I think the Amira will do pretty well. It was a little heavier than I expected, partly due to the Fujinon lens, but it felt nice on my shoulder and the Arri shoulder mount and top handle are widely customizable. The interface is designed for simplicity with quick toggles and easy to reach programmable buttons, and I was thoroughly impressed with the 1280×1024 viewfinder with separate flip-out screen. The only drawbacks, like I’ve said before, seem to be the high price and perhaps the 2k resolution.

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On the other end of the spectrum, the new AJA Cion (above) left me underwhelmed. Perhaps the jump from creating digital recorders to 4k cinema cameras is nothing to take lightly. This camera seemed to be rushed through production, with an ugly, oversimplified design and half-baked features. The left side of the camera (below) is woefully half-blank, with audio levels stuck randomly in the middle of the empty panel where there would be room for far more controls. It also wasn’t even ready for NAB, as I learned when I went to correct the white balance. Half the menu didn’t even work, and the tech told me that they were still working on that functionality before the release date. Unfortunately they’ll have to make major improvements before then to change my mind on the Cion.

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Products I Liked:

Among the other products that impressed me were the EZ Slider Dolly (below) from EZFX. It’s like a Dana Dolly but extremely customizable and with vertical sliding options (video here).

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PAGlink batteries, for their stackable form factor:

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Newtek (above) put on a pretty good show demonstrating their Tricaster video switchers, and they had to because Livestream’s (below) new switcher, similar to the Tricaster 460, impressed me as well.

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4k LED backdrops (above) and little mini-arc motorized sliders (below).

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Sony all-in-one field reporter bundle (above) and the new Kino Flo Celeb 400q (rear controls seen below).

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More Photos from the Floor:

At the GoPro booth (above). If only they gave away this car with their camera-a-day giveaways…

DP Philip Bloom (below) uses tripods for everything, even laptop stands. I need to work on that 4-buttons-undone look.

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Blackmagic (above) had a popular booth and a ton of buzz going around the show about their new cameras. I didn’t get a chance to try out the new 4k model, though it looks promising.

In a break from the show floor, I attended a session covering Feature Filmmaking in the Age of YouTube (below).

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Giant green cyclorama (above), and the smoothest (and goofiest-looking) steadicam rig out there, built into a segway (below).

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Atomos (above) was definitely one of the more popular booths, partly due to their newest digital recorders (not pictured): the Shogun 4k and Ninja Star.

Most companies selling cameras had little scenes set up to test out their cameras, fully lit with actors and everything. Sony (below) and Canon especially went all out, with the two largest exhibits in the hall and multiple scenes to test with their wide selections of cinema, broadcast, and prosumer cameras.

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Overall, it was a whirlwind of a day. I grabbed more pamphlets and business cards than I know what to do with, only because there was no way I was going to remember all of the great products and people I met. It definitely lived up to the hype as the event for filmmakers around the world, and I’d recommend everyone check out NAB one year if you get a chance. Just try to give yourself more than one day to take in everything, and then hey, if it’s not all that you hoped, there’s far worse places to be stuck than Las Vegas.

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01 Apr Blackmagic Production Camera 4k vs Red Epic

Motionctrl.de recently posted a comparison video between the Blackmagic Production Camera 4k and the Red Epic, shot it in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s not quite a fair comparison, as we’re looking at a $3k camera body vs a $40k body, but it’s nice to see them side by side to get a glimpse at the capabilities of each camera. Check out the video below.

It’s always hard to compare cameras from a few short clips via web-compressed video, but I think it’s clear that the Epic footage looks noticeably better than the BMPC 4k. There’s a distinct gap in the dynamic range, and the Epic comes much closer to the cinema look that everyone’s striving for with their digital footage these days. There’s also the problem of highlight clipping on the Blackmagic, seen at 1:10 (the little purple dot over the sun). This is something that Blackmagic can hopefully fix with a firmware update soon, though it hasn’t happened yet.

Nevertheless, I would say that the BMPC 4k still holds its own against a much more expensive camera body. It’s not an equal comparison to begin with, and the filmmakers note this in the description: “This test is by no means scientific or should prove which camera is better or whatever! The intention was to check, if these cameras will work together as an A and B-Cam setup.” Unfortunately for comparison’s sake, it appears that the filmmakers used different lenses on each camera (noticeable in the lens flaring), and this isn’t even RAW footage from the BMPC- only ProRes. Despite the shortcomings of the comparison, however, the footage from the BMPC 4k still looks great for the price, and could definitely work as a b-cam under tighter budgets.

For the best image quality, renting a camera package like the Red Epic is still the way to go. But while the Epic remains one of the high standards for digital cinema, it’s exciting as an independent filmmaker to see better and better images from increasingly cheaper cameras.

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12 Mar Professional Video right from your pocket!

We utilize a lot of big guns over here at the Studio for our productions. The F5, Epic and C300 are our workhorses and they serve us well but what about the little phones in our pockets?

Like many of you (I hope), I’m a fan of the practical and cost-effective. While I still catch myself sometimes thinking about making purchases that I have practically no need for,  I never forget that I’ve got such incredible tools at my disposal already. More than enough to tell a story: something heartfelt, a piece that other people can relate to.

Exponential improvements in tech is making film making readily accesible to the average consumer/ film maker. Like the recent “1.24.14” video by Apple shot completely on iphones.

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The 5s with its slow motion capabilities  as well as its built in video stabilization add a lot of production value in such a small form factor that it can’t be ignored.

Check out this stabilization test I ran with a 5D Mkiii + 50mm 1.2 and my Iphone 5S mounted together on a Manfrotto Rig:

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You can see the results speak for themselves: As suspected, the 5D’s image quality and color range far surpasses that of the Iphone but the small phone camera makes up for it immensely in a way more viewer friendly fashion. (By that I mean less motion sickness and more down with the sickness) Jokes aside, this may not seem like a lot but if you break it down by cost, the MKiii stands at a price point unreachable for many as it goes for around 3.3k right now. Body only. That means you’re missing a lens, memory card, assorted other accouterments that you need to start shooting.

The iphone 5s on the other hand comes in at around 700$ without a contract and is able to shoot video right out of the box @ 1080p and has a slew of apps to edit and “insta” filter it to oblivion . As one anonymous vimeo commenter stated: “theoretically you could take a video from shooting to editing all on your phone”. Not to mention the 5S’ most discerning feature: the abilty to shoot @ 120 fps in 720p.

You can see with a bit of color grading and maybe a little bit more planning before shooting, one can achieve quite cinematic results. Now the average Joe can shoot all the action sports, b-roll, behind the scenes he wants, the possible uses are endless. As mentioned earlier, the slew of apps and now even the release of an anamorphic lens for the iphone, continue to solidify the pocket phone as a viable tool in the film maker’s arsenal.

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28 Feb Certified Tricaster Operator in the House

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Our Rentals Manager Dan Williams just became a Certified Operator for the Tricaster Professional Line this week. He joins just three others in the SF Bay Area on Newtek’s list of certified operators, and is the only one currently certified in the Pro Line (models 410/460/860/8000v2). Dan is available to hire with our Tricaster 460 rental for your next live multi-cam recording or webcast.

The benefits of hiring Certified Operators include:
  • Certified Operators have the competencies you need to get the job done
  • Certified Operators take an exam created by NewTek that is specifically designed to test operational knowledge
  • Produce live events with confidence, knowing you’ve got a quality production team at your disposal

Call the Studio B Rentals department today (510-848-6026) to rent the Tricaster 460, book a certified operator, and lock down all the crew and gear you might need for your next shoot.

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04 Feb Arri Amira Camera Price Announced

Arri Amira

The specs and design of the new Arri Amira camera have intrigued us since its announcement last year, but the lingering question on the back of everyone’s mind has been what the starting price will be. Last week Arri announced the base price point for the Alexa’s ENG-Style little sister, which will ship at different tiers of pricing for your choice of configurations.

The most basic version of the Amira camera body with a viewfinder will be $40,000. This features Rec709 ProRes 422 HD recording up to 100fps. Above that, the middle level configuration will include LogC, ProRes 422 HQ to 200fps, in-camera grading, and a few more extra features. Lastly the high-end version features 2k resolution at ProRes 4444 and custom 3D LUT controls. The lens mount, battery plate, and shoulder pad will be customizable for each option.

The mid-level camera is priced at $45,000 and the highest option is set for $51,500. And perhaps needless to say, these price points only cover the basic essentials, so expect to pay more for other necessary accessories like media, lenses, audio, and camera rigs.

When the Amira was first announced, many questioned the lack of 4k recording capabilities. While 4k would help future-proof the camera, the argument against it was that the Amira has a niche purpose as a run-and-gun ENG-style camera, for documentary or news video rather than for cinema. This and its touted 14+ stops of dynamic range, low-light capabilities, and the pedigree that comes from the Alexa’s success helped to change most critic’s minds. The hope, then, was that the Amira would be a bit cheaper and more affordable to independent videographers.

It’s too early to know if the $40-50k price range is too high or not, but I think it’s safe to say it is well out of most people’s budgets. Most of the popular digital cinema cameras being used today come in well below that, price-wise, but then again Arri has proved with its previous digital camera models that studios will pay the high price for quality. A breakdown of which cameras were shot on in Oscar-nominated films this year proves that the Alexa is quite popular in Hollywood, though that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Expected shipping date for the Arri Amira will be after March 2014. It remains to be seen if it will be a popular camera purchase, but there’s no doubt it will be a hot rental item later this year.

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18 Jan CES 2014: Larger Resolution, Smaller Packages

If there’s one thing to gather from the video products announced at the Consumer Electronics Show last week, it’s that “4k” is more than just a passing fad. All of the major electronics companies seem to be jumping on the bandwagon, with 4k televisions, projectors, and cameras.

For example, among several other companies’ 4k TV announcements, Samsung unveiled 105″ and 85″ bendable 4k TVs, while Sony showed off their new 4k Ultra Short Throw Projector.

Samsung Bendable 4k TV Sony 4k Ultra Short Throw Projector

Both look like really sleek solutions to one of the main problems with 4k footage: the inability to view it at full-rez on your current TV or computer screen. Now, finally, the monitoring options are catching up to 4k cameras like the Red Epic or Sony F5, (though with 8k cameras already in production, it looks like the resolution arms race won’t stop there).

And while camera resolution keeps getting bigger, the size of the cameras themselves keeps shrinking. One of Sony’s big announcements at CES was the FDR-AX100, a handheld consumer 4k camcorder.

Sony FDR-AX100

Although this seems like it could be more of a gimmick to sell cameras based on the “4k” buzzword, the technology is there to where we can get very high quality images from such a small package.

The wild popularity of the GoPro line of cameras speaks to this. With such a small form factor and a high quality image (4k even, at low framerates), the GoPros allow for completely unique perspectives in filmmaking– such as affordable aerial cinematography with the DJI Phantom quadcopter.

DJI Phantom Quadcopter

This year at CES we saw new GoPro accessories like the robotic camera operator Jigabot AIMe and the Steadicam Curve, proving that the range of applications for these tiny cameras is getting wider every day.

 Steadicam Curve

If these trends continue we’ll have cinema-quality 20k footage coming from a pinhole camera within a couple years, but for the time being we’ll gladly stick with 4k, as the sheer volume of recorded data is putting enough stress already on the Studio B servers.

Get with the trends and rent a 4k digital cinema camera or GoPro today!

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