Author: Studio B Team

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09 Sep Safety First!

Archiving Your Tapeless Media!

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There is no doubt that we have entered into the second generation of Digital Cinema. Not only have cameras gotten cheaper, smaller and better in quality, they have left behind the very thing that gave video its start – TAPE!

From consumer handycams to EX3’s to RED to Alexas, most of our cameras are shooting to some sort of solid-state digital media.

So now what?

With all this technology and ease, comes a little bit of fragility. It is almost certain that in the last few years – as this card or drive-based technology has become more readily available – you have lost footage. Either through an accidental erasing of a drive or the failure of an external hard drive, you have lost something. And at that moment you said,” I wish I had a TAPE!!”

But then you re-shoot, come to your senses and realize that tapeless shooting is just too easy and smooth to turn your back on. It’s just so simple to shoot to a card, ingest it and edit. Think back to tape ingests- long hours of mindless logging, eaten tapes, expensive decks and endless tape formats. Now, it’s all right there and ready to go.

All this is great, but, indeed, the question still arises, WHERE IS MY HARD COPY? Without the safety of a tape on your shelf, what do you have? A fragile hard drive perhaps or an Xsan or RAID, if your lucky. The question always pops up: What is the best workflow and archiving method?

I always suggest a full and complete workflow, which we adhere to at Studio B.
This tried and true archiving method goes something like this: No matter if it’s a small EX1 shoot, a P2 Varicam shoot or a RED shoot, we always archive the drive directly. We always, copy over the “raw” drive first. We then use that new “folderized”, RAW drive as our master and release the P2 Card or Red Drive back into use on production.

From that “folder master” we then create the QuickTime files in Final Cut. However, in doing this, we set the Capture Scratch to a separate drive. Thus, we have an archived master and a work print on the QuickTime side. Our footage exists in two places- SAFE!

This way, if your QuickTimes ever did become corrupt or lost, you would have your master drive on hand and can recreate them. This is a pretty safe system, and to be exceptionally safe, we often back up production drives to a separate RAID, in effect creating a back up of the back up.

Once the edit is all said and done, we have adopted an LTO (Linear Tape Open) system for final archiving. This is a linear system that simply spools all your data onto 400, 800 and now 1200 gig tapes. It’s just a stream of ones and zeros of your entire project, that if the need ever arose in the future, could be brought back online and everything will be there. The LTO will contain your archive, your source material, and your project files- EVERYTHING. And they last up to 75 years without degrading.

Some people out there have taken on Blu-Ray Data DVDs as their preferred method of archiving. We found that Blu-Ray was slightly more expensive and still a bit too fragile in the end. Blu-Ray is potentially faster than recovering from LTO, but in the end we decided to err on the side of caution and cost-effectiveness with LTO.

We are now offering this service for projects being produced in the Bay. If you have a large project, that has been shot, edited and mastered 100% digitally, we can create an LTO tape for you so you can breathe easy. Give us a call and we’ll help get organized on drives and prepare for LTO archiving.

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23 Jul Broadcasting Live from Your Backpack with the Tricaster TCDX300: Studio B Films now offers multicamera HD webcasting

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New toy! One of our latest additions is the Tricaster TCDX300 and we were psyched last April when we had the chance to try it out on our fellow nerds at the Twitter Chirp Conference. This amazing little black box is small but mighty: it has the power of network-style TV broadcasting, jammed in its 20lb body – so light in can fit in your backpack. It’s completely self- contained and we were able to live cut a three-camera shoot of Twitter’s live event.


These portable tricasters are really revolutionizing the capacity of independent production companies to offer a higher caliber of live capture at conferences, concerts, sports events and just about any other live video multi-camera event. At the Chirp Conference it was readily apparent how much viewers rely on webcasting – even though they were at the actual event, the entire audience had our webcast running on their laptops and were watching online for a better view.


Check out the surrealist photo below taken by our Rental Manager, Josef Shafer – those are all the laptops, tablets and handheld devices broadcasting our video.

Chirp Conference

Take a look at this clip and see the TCDX300 in action…



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17 May Say Hello to KiPro, say Goodbye to Digitizing!

Say good bye to digitizing! Meet the KiPro from Aja:

Aja KiPro

Aja KiPro

Awww! Breath a sigh of relief- finally, no more agonizing hours of digitizing! With the new KiPro you are ready to edit as soon as your wrap. No more tapes! Isn’t this what you and your clients have been wanting for years? Yeah it is!
For a long time here at Studio B, as I am sure is true with your team, it was always a time-suck and a money-waster to digitize footage after a shoot. Not only was it a pain to dedicate an edit suite and an editor to the digitizing process, it was always tough to justify invoicing your client for this time, they will always question that cost. And this is not to mention the cost of and the ware and tare on a VTR. Bottom line is, digitizing was the last thing you wanted to do after a shoot.
All that has gone away now!
This thing is amazing. It is just what we all had been calling for, for years now, and yet again, Aja has heard these calls and made a great device. They always seem to nail it over at Aja, and this new “box” from them is no exception.
The KiPro, if you don’t know, is a small “on board” recording device that will record any signal in Apple’s ProRes codec. You can hit this box with anything from a composite signal from an older prosumer camera to an HD-SDI signal out of your new Varicam and it will record it to a small drive that you can edit from directly!
It’s like magic!
Not only will it eliminate digitizing and wasted time, it will breathe new life into your old tape based cameras and effectively bring it up a notch to the level of card based cameras.
Because the KiPro records at ProRes (HQ) which is pretty standard these days for creating your Final Cut Pro projects, it will match up all your footage so you don’t have too. In other words, no more converting different formats or codecs, it’s just good to go.
For example, here at Studio B, we have a new Varicam 3700, which shoots to P2 cards. When we ingest the footage from these cards, we “log and transfer” them into ProRes HQ quicktime files. But then we are often shooting B-roll or second camera with our older HDX-900, also from Panasonic. With this tape based DVCPRO camera, we used to not only digitize these tapes, we would need to convert them to ProRes as well. This would slow our edit down by hours, if not days. But now, we use the KiPro, along side the HDX-900, record straight to ProRes and now it’s even faster than the Varicam.
The other beautiful thing about using the KiPro is that you are tapping the output, which is typically wired to the sensor, not the VTR of a camera. What this means is that, because the BNC or Component output of a camera is NOT compressed, that you are getting a HIGHER quality image. Generally speaking the compression ratio is quite high on older tape cameras, and then you also compress slightly on the ingest as well. This will bring the quality of your next project way up.
If you have a project that simply has a small turn around time – perhaps, your client wants to fly away with the digitized footage, this will make it a breeze. All you would need to do, is set the KiPro’s drive to transfer footage to a second hard drive, while you wrap your cables and your client walks away with the footage…And at a super high quality nonetheless.
This device is also a great value. For a relatively cheap rental, you can continue to use your slightly older camera, but bring it up to the level of the latest generation of card based cameras. It is a great addition to any production, no matter the size of the crew or budget. And, just think about how much you’ll save on tape stock.

I was sold on this thing when it was still just a glimmer in some engineer’s eye. And seeing it in action I am absolutely in love with it. The interface is straight forward, the work flow is very simple and integrating it is a breeze- JUST ONE CABLE!
Come see this thing in action for yourself, come on by the Studio or give me a call for your next rental! RENT THIS TODAY!

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19 Feb Oh 5D, why do I love you so?

Oh 5D, why do I love you so? You are not a video camera and you have terrible audio… But damn baby, your pictures look good.

Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 5D Mark II

This may be a little late in the game to be swooning over the Canon 5D Mark II; but after the hype, after the buzz, we here at Studio B, finally bought one of these things last fall. Now, after a few months of shooting both stills and video with it, we have a lot of love and praise and just a few small criticisms.

Just pulling this thing out of the box and playing with it, we immediately saw what great images it can create. We also realized at a fraction of the cost of other cameras, this camera produces similar picture quality. The images, even with a stock zoom lens, are sharp, crisp and have a beautiful depth of field. This is the strongest “case” for these cameras. The shallow focus and the resolution are striking. They give the 35mm adapters a run for their money. In it’s compact, lightweight shell, this camera, effectively produces the same images as an EX1 with a Letus adapter. Of course you are not getting the audio, the gamma options and the clean workflow, but as in every camera, despite it’s functionality, the important part is the image. It’s all about getting the best quality picture for the best value and that is what the Canon 5D offers. At the end of the day, the images are stunning.
There are some basic criticisms I have about these cameras. However, if your budget is small, but the quality needs to be high, these are reasonable issues to work around.
My main issue with the 5D is the audio set up; there is only a single mini input and the metering is always on auto. Indeed, you can plug in a mic or a mixer, but every adjustment your sound guy makes, is moot, as the camera will override it. This makes recording to a stand-alone unit almost a necessity. And with that, you get into sync issues and slating issues. However, you can nonetheless get decent sound or at least a scratch track onto your memory card, so all is not lost.

The other big issue for me is the interface of this camera. Since it is a still camera, it speaks to you in ‘still photography’ terms. It is this basic language and menu structure that I don’t like. If you are coming to this camera as a veteran of video, you will be confused about where and how to change things. Where as you normally pick up a new camera and know exactly how to operate it within a couple minutes of playing around, the 5D will have you scratching your head and reading the manual. The menus are basic and the physical button pushing is slightly annoying. Again, this is a small price to pay for such high quality images.

If you couple this camera with a small jib or some kind of shoulder rig, your production quality sky rockets. You can get such high quality dynamic shots from this camera on a Zacuto rig or a dolly move, always maintaining that much desired shallow focus.

We offer the Port-a-Jib traveler here at Studio B and I have seen clients come back with shots from the 5D on the jib that look like a million bucks. The compact size and light weight design of this camera can get you into corners and tight spots, or do narrow pushes and tracking shots that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to physically achieve. You cannot argue that the 5D gives you incredible range and versatility; the possibilities are endless.
If you haven’t gotten to play around with one of these 5D’s yet, you should come down to Studio B and check it out. We can talk all about it; the functions, the pitfalls, the bright side and the work flow. If you couple this camera with some of our other small budget choices, like the port a jib traveler you can raise your production value easily. Or throw this on a Zacuto hand held rig and get some rock solid hand held shots that will make people think you had a steady cam and double the money.
I still am a bit skeptical of HDSLR’s in general, as they are NOT video cameras, with all the ins and outs and buttons and menu options. But these things will change over time and our two worlds of video and photography will continue to merge their technology. And soon enough these cameras will be neck and neck with traditional video cameras much in the same way digital photography has all but phased out 35mm film. All I can say is, they have some perfect applications right now, and if they fix the interface and the audio, these things will be unstoppable.

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04 Dec John Mayer in ProRes 4444 with the Panasonic HPX-3700 (P2 Varicam)

We recently got to do a shoot with Adobe for John Mayer’s latest music video. Since it was to be a greenscreen shoot and placed into a pretty high-profile piece we decided to pull out all the stops. The timing worked out pretty well because it coincided with Apple releasing the nee ProRes 4444 codec which would allow us to do a 444 capture on the fly and then key directly in After Effects without super-heavy files. So, we lugged our 8-core Mac Pro with the Kona3 card down to LA and installed two 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda drives (RAID 0 for throughput) into the mac. We needed the Kona3 because we wanted to pipe the super-clean dual link image from our brand new Panasonic HPX-3700 (P2) camera. We decided on the Varicam over the RED ONE because there were some pretty great reactions to it during the ASC Camera Test that was conducted in LA. Then to help insure that we’d get a crystal clear image, we put some Digi-Prime glass in front of the full-raster 1920 X 1080 imager of the Panasonic Varicam. Also, since this was an Adobe gig, we bypassed Final Cut Pro altogether and used the Kona VTR Xchange utility to capture to ProRes 4444 and then could drop the files directly into After effects to do our test keys.

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Here’s the dual-link interface from the Kona 3 control panel.

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Doing an on-set test-key on the footage with imagery from the boards.

In the end, the footage was some of the cleanest we’ve seen. Even with the heavy shadowing from the dummy green furniture that we placed on set, the key came out great (with some rotoscoping here and there). All in all, it was a very smooth process combining the Panasonic HPX-3700 with the Kona 3 and the new Apple ProRes 444 codec. Bring on the next one!

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10 Aug High Noon for High Def

If you haven’t heard about this event, you should check out this video, and stayed tuned for the exciting results…

This event, the Camera Assessment Series, “the shoot out”, was a chance for the ASC and it’s members, and really all of us in the industry,  to put various, next generation HD cameras side by side, to see what all of these flavors of HD/4K have to offer.  This is the first, truly industry sponsored chance to see the advantages and disadvantages of these cameras and thier post production work flow.

We here at Studio B are anxiously awaiting the results of this test, as two cameras in our inventory were part of this test- The RED ONE and the new Panasonic VARICAM 3700.

I have a good feeling that the 3700 and the RED ONE, both, will stand up next to these other high end cameras.  I believe that these two cameras have something to offer our filmmaking community and industry, besides smaller budgets.  I think these cameras look great and are relatively easy to use, both in the field and in the edit room, especially in comparison to some of these other cameras.  The 3700 can shoot- stand alone- untethered from any external recording device and then the P2 workflow is slick these days.  The Red is very similar, perhaps a bit more difficult to navigate and manipulate, but also eleminates a lot of the combursome set ups of cameras, like the Viper or the D21.

At any rate, all of these cameras have their strong points and thier applications.  They all have the project that is right for them.

We, here at Studio B, are simply pleased to offer at least two of these HIGH END cameras when you shoot with us, or if you are needing that next level rental! Stay tuned for the results of this test and more comments as Studio B gets deeper into this realm of next gen’ HD…

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11 Jun The Letus Ultimate, is the ULTIMATE!

A few months back Studio B was one of the first places to get the new Letus Ultimate, 35mm DOF Adapter. I think we have serial number 21 –it was fresh out of the oven! And let me tell you, this thing IS fresh! It is the 35mm adapter we have been waiting for. It gives you crisp images, it’s super easy to build out and is extremely user friendly.

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Here at Studio B, we tried other brands as well. Between hefty price tags and annoying build-outs, other adapters were often more trouble then they were worth. And as a rental item, the other brands were a mess to deal with. There were too many parts, too many adjustments; my shooters and clients were always calling back with questions and problems.

Finally, engineer, Hein Le, at Letus has nailed it with the design of the Ultimate – it lives up to its name. Of course, all the basic elements are included: it flips the image, it has spinning glass and it delivers images with great depth of field. But what sets the Ultimate apart is its precision engineering and subtle extras that save you so much time and headaches. The adapter has an actual back focus ring, the achromat lens is ground wide so it won’t vignette on wider lenses of new cameras, it has a digital read out for accurately adjusting the spinning glass to shutter speeds and the rail system is straight forward and requires only a 1 size Allen Wrench!

Here at Studio B, I have sent out the Ultimate on an EX1 and the results are simply stunning. I am not going to go as far to say it looks like RED footage or F-35. But for this price point, it makes incredible images.   From my most green young shooter to my most vetran DP’s, they are all reporting that this Letus in indeed the ULTIMATE!

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27 Apr Thoughts on the new P2 Varicam (Panasonic AJ-HPX3700)

We have the new Panasonic Varicam and it rules!   Really, this is the ULTIMATE digital cinema camera…

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Almost seven years after the debut of the original groundbreaking Varicam, Panasonic has released a new, and much improved, Varicam – the 3700.  It includes all of the features of the original with the addition of P2 card recording, a new imager and paired with a new 10-bit “Master Quality” codec (AVC-INTRA), this camera is what we’ve all been waiting for.

I have always been a big fan of the old Varicam – it shoots great images.  It always had the most “filmic” look of any “digi-cinema” HD camera without the digital noise of video.  Back in the day, the Varicam made me believe in HD, when I was just starting out in the biz.
We can talk about image quality for days on end and make comparisons to other cameras but, really, do I have to?  Can’t we just agree F-900 looks great, RED looks great and this camera stands up to or stands above these other cameras.

So, to sidestepping comparisons, I want to talk about the other benefits of the 3700, namely the workflow.  It’s the workflow that truly makes me love this camera.  I always hated digitizing tapes; it just took so long and could give you major troubles and headaches – tapes get eaten, aborted ingests because of time code breaks or tapes ingested at the wrong frame rate.  And to make it worse, digitizing required an expensive VTR machine.  Now you can turn this footage around fast, with an inexpensive card reader and three clicks of the mouse.  In Final Cut Pro, which we use here at Studio B, all you need to do is slide your shot cards into the card reader, open up Log and Transfer, choose the clips you want to import – and then hit the button. Walk away for an hour or so, and all of your clips will be sitting in FCP as QuickTime files, ready to edit.

People are often worried about tapeless formats. They worry about archiving and losing footage or just running out of space on a shoot.  All of these are legitimate concerns and can stand for some improvement and streamlining, for sure. But the benefits of tapeless far outweigh these concerns for me.

Just like any tapeless camera, every time you start and stop recording on the 3700, a new clip is created.  So, you have this non-linear recording going on, with each clip treated to its own name and place on the card.  This gives you the option, in the field or when first beginning post-production, to make choices.  You can delete clips or whole strings of clips. It is a good way to stay organized and save a lot of time for you or your editor when pulling selects.  Right there in FCP’s Log and Transfer or in Panasonic’s clip browser you can view clips, rename clips, erase clips or add notes.  If you have a long format shoot or simply a shoot with a lot of takes, you can easily ditch the bad takes.

Many people also are hesitant to go tapeless while shooting documentary work or perhaps while covering a live event.  With this Varicam, you need not worry.  There are five P2 slots, if you fill them with 32gb cards (or soon 64gb 128gb cards) you have hours and hours of time before you need to off load.  But if you really think you’re going to run out of space, the good news is the cards are hot-swappable, so you can trade out shot cards with empty ones without losing a frame.

If you are shooting green screen, this camera is ideal.  The resolution and virtually lossless recording will give you great keys or composite shots. Here at Studio B, we do a great deal of green screen work and since receiving our Varicam 3700 about two months ago, we have done a lot of green screen shoots with it.  When we have brought it back to key and color correct, it has been a breeze, it’s so crisp, there isn’t a lot of clean up to do.

This camera isn’t for every project or for every budget.  But it is THE camera to use for any high-end work or when you want its great ‘film look.’  I recommend it to anyone who has shot with the HDX900 or Sony’s F-900. With Panasonic’s legendary film-like gamma options, “film rec” mode, coupled with a new imager, this camera is sure to uphold the legendary status of the original Varicam.

Make the switch, GO TAPELESS!

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17 Apr EX1 vs. HVX, so what’s the big deal?

Lately, a lot of people have been calling and asking me about the differences between the Sony EX1 and the Panasonic HVX. What are the advantages and disadvantages of these two cameras? What benefits do I get from Sony vs. Panasonic?

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This is what I tell ‘em:

It’s certainly not a comparison of apples and apples, but it’s not quite apples and oranges either. The cameras are as similar as they are different. To begin, the Panasonic doesn’t have a great imager, but it records at a high rate (100mb/sec) and has a trusted codec, DVCPRO HD, that’s “known” and used across the industry. The Sony has an amazing Fujinon lens and a fantastic 1080 imager, and although it uses a different logarithm to get to it’s record rate, it is ultimately recording at a lower rate than the Panasonic (35mb/sec). So, the Panasonic records a mediocre image at a high rate and the Sony records a great image at a more crushed rate.

So, where does that leave us? Are they the same? No. No, they are not the same…

Panasonic has been around, P2 has been around, DVCPRO HD has been around. It’s tried and trusted. DVCPRO HD has become, at the very least, the 720p standard and it has a clear foothold in the industry. Many networks and stations work in DVCPRO or DVCPRO HD; and all NLE’s support DVCPRO HD. So, there are general compatibility advantages while working in this format.

On the flip side XDCAM HD, Sony’s codec, is new and there isn’t the broad based support, yet, across the industry.However, Final Cut Pro has full support, along with Avid – you can make XDCAM become whatever format you need for delivery.

Panasonic’s P2 card system started this whole tapeless thing off, and Sony took a long time to catch up, but now they have done it right. The workflow for the EX1 has been nicely streamlined to work with new Macbook Pros and Final Cut directly. If you don’t have a Macbook Pro, you can use a slick card reader on any machine. Panasonic’s workflow is a bit “clunky” still, but works nicely in Final Cut Pro or Avids, just the same.

When deciding between the two cameras, the most important consideration is your project.Your camera selection depends on your comfort level with workflow, your preferences and your familiarity with certain brands.If you worked a lot with the old DVX-100, or other Panasonic cameras, the HVX will be easy to operate and navigate.If you are familiar with Sony gear, then the EX1 is a breeze to use.It’s a matter of preference and familiarity.

At this point, Sony’s EX1 is certainly giving Panasonic’s HVX a run for its money. But I would hesitate to disregard the HVX just yet. If you’re delivering to ABC, ESPN or Disney, the native DVCPRO HD is a great choice, as they operate on 720p and/or DVCPRO HD.

In terms of image quality – again, it is a matter of trading one thing for another.To my eye, and many others agree, that the color sampling of HVX is better.On the HVX, the colors out of the box are more vivid and easy to manipulate.However, with the imager’s resolution being less and a stock lens, the sharpness is reduced on the HVX.

This is where the EX1 comes in. This camera is super crisp and more sensitive to light overall. With its amazing Fujinon lens and its CMOS sensor, it is much sharper than the HVX. But the colors don’t pop quite the same. You can manually get in there on an EX1 and change a lot of this color, changing the matrix and white shading, etc. But for a ProSumer camera it’s not as straight forward, you need to know a bit more about broadcast and about video imaging in general.

Overall, I think both of these cameras have their place and have their purpose.There is an application that is appropriate for both cameras, for sure.The EX1’s workflow is sleek, but manipulating the camera is not as straight forward. The HVX is older and more established, and is a bit more user friendly, but its work flow is not as clean.

This decision is up to you as a camera operator. You have all types of factors – your general preference, the budget, the computer gear and workflow you have available, and your desired final deliverable. I think a general rule is: the EX1 is for those operators familiar to larger broadcast cameras like the F-900 or Digibeta, that need to take it down a notch; while the HVX is for those who are used to shooting with DVX or HDV and need to step it up a notch.

All of these things determine what is right. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, right now. Talk to me in a year or two and I may have a stronger opinion one way or another. For now, give a call and we’ll have a chat about your project and figure out which is best for you.

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