May 30, 2011

First independent Red Epic-M in UK

The Gear Factory, the kit hire division of The Post Factory Group, has received what it claims is the first Red Epic-M in the UK (outside of Panavision and Red Europe) and although the camera is still in development, it sees great potential for high-end use.

“This is the handmade version of the Epic which Red are issuing in limited numbers to people with a history of working with them”, said its CTO, James Milner-Smyth. “We were very early in on the original Red cameras so we were head of the line again on the new ones”.

5K 120fps

A key feature of the camera is its ability to shoot 5K Redcode raw images at up to 120 frames per second. At lower resolutions it should eventually run even higher.

“Our clients have always loved the slo-mo features of the original Red camera, but it came at the price of using a smaller portion of the sensor and so a lower resolution. 5k slo-mo is fantastically detailed and keeps its sharpness and the ability to punch in when downconverting to HD,” he said.

“Not all features are enabled yet, and the firmware is still in development so we will be cautious about what projects these cameras will work on for now.” Its first projects have been luxury brand shoots for clients such as Burberry and French champagne label AMB.

Solid state storage

It records to solid-state drives (SSDs). “Spinning disk hard drives allowed for hours of filming on the Red One but could be problematic in situations where there was loud noise or vibration. CF memory cards were far more reliable, but with smaller record lengths. The SSDs are a huge improvement and allow higher capacity with reliable recording and faster offloading.”


The Epic-M is significantly smaller than the Red One making it easier to integrate into lighter 3D rigs. It is already being used for the 3D movies: The Amazing Spiderman and The Hobbit, the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, which Peter Jackson is shooting in New Zealand. James Cameron, who is preparing for Avatar 2, has apparently ordered 50 Epic-M cameras. Its size also makes it more suitable for use on a Steadicam.

High Dynamic Range

Another improvement on the original Red is a high-dynamic-range mode (HDRx) that captures images at different exposures. These can be selectively re-combined in post to show more in the shadows while protecting details in highlights. “We are doing our own testing now to see how best to use this and how well the merging can be done. But at first sight it looks useful for tricky shooting situations where the cinematographer does not have as much control over the lighting as they’d like.”


To cope with the Epic-M, it has had to upgrade the data handling of its post division, as 96fps at 5K full frame resolution means "we have been seeing clients shooting around 2TB of data on a typical day. So, offload systems, drives, networks - everything needs to be as fast as possible. But we are far better off for finishing tools than we were three years ago. Already DaVinci Resolve, our grading system of choice has been updated to support the Epic footage and with Red Rocket cards we have real-time playback and grading from raw images. This is really the best workflow for Red material.”

The Post Factory is a London-based post-production company specialising in Digital Cinema workflows and has supported features such as The Social Network. Its Gear Factory division hires out Digital Cinema camera equipment and has supplied such films such as The Social Network and Pirates of the Caribbean 4.

By David Fox

May 24, 2011

Decode to launch new 3D Mirror Rigs

London-based 3D specialist Decode will launch two new high-end 3D mirror rigs next week at Cine Gear Expo 2011 in Paramount Studios, Los Angeles (2nd-5th June).

D-Rex will be a large 3D rig for full size cameras such as the Arri Alexa, a fully loaded Red Epic, or other large broadcast cameras. It is the first UK designed and built rig for these cameras.

D-Raptor will be a smaller rig for cameras such as the Sony EX3, Sony PMW-F3 or similar camcorders.

“We’ve developed these rigs over the last 15 months. We wanted to be able to provide a large number of rigs into our fleet - rigs that would be easily convertible between active and passive, and most importantly would not flex, an issue we experienced with all other rigs at the time we started. In addition, I wanted to keep the rental cost down to an affordable level," explained Decode MD, film and TV director, Samuel Martin.

Both rigs will be capable of manual or automatic operation, with "easily implemented integration" with CMotion or Preston for wireless rig control.

They will be fully adjustable in all axes of alignment, boasting an innovative design that means the rig "is always ready to adjust, and yet always locked solid. Alignment won't shift during small changes, making it extremely accurate. The solid, robust build means it's possible to do a full 180º tilt with no noticeable image shift."

The structure built around the mirror box means that all accessories added to one of the rigs should be close to the centre of gravity, for better balance. The mirror will also be easy to remove for cleaning and transportation.

As the cameras face inwards, all buttons should be easily accessible by the operator, while all tilt, roll and height adjustments are accessible from one position, to avoid conflicting with the operator during line-ups.

The rigs will be sold in standard configuration as passive rigs, with the option to include Preston or CMotion wireless interaxial and convergence controls within a matter of seconds.

The prototype rigs have already been used to shoot a feature film: (Street Dance Choreographer: The Journey - for release later in 2011), commercials for Aston Martin, Pantene shampoo and Playboy 3D, and extreme sports coverage for Discovery.

The rigs are expected to be available in June.

By David Fox

May 23, 2011

P+S Technik to launch PS-Cam X35

At the upcoming Cine Gear Expo (June 2-5), P+S Technik will unveil its new 35Digital all-purpose camera, the PS-Cam X35, which it claims will be "a robust and reliable workhorse expected to blaze new trails in the digital camera field," writes David Fox.

P+S has said little about the camera, merely releasing a photograph and putting up a teaser website. However, a preliminary pdf spec sheet that was saved by Google's cache states that the PS-Cam X35 "will combine benefits of sync-sound and higher speed rates into one flexible and robust all-purpose digital camera."

Apparently it will be able to deliver speed rates between 1-450 frames per second, with dual 3G HD-SDI output, although standard speed will be 24-60fps.

It will have an HD (1920x1080) Super35mm-sized CMOS sensor, with 10-bit uncompressed 4:2:2 or optional 4:4:4 RGB recording, and will be able to be used with a wide variety of lenses (using P+S Technik's IMS lens mounts).

It is designed to be flexible, with the ability to adapt to many different mounting options and take a wide range of accessories.

It's impossible to tell whether the PS-Cam X35 will be priced to compete with Sony's PMW-F3, with which it shares some characteristics, or the Arri Alexa (another obvious rival), although its high-speed abilities would indicate the latter (although Red's Epic will also have similar abilities).

P+S Technik will also show the first public screening of footage from the PS-Cam X35 at the Expo, which it says will showcase "the camera’s dynamic versatility".

By David Fox

IMS lens-mount adapter for Sony F3

P+S Technik has announced a new lens mount adapter for the Sony PMW-F3 that will allow the camcorder to be used with a wide variety of still photo lenses.

The IMS camera mount, the PS-IMS-F3, will work with "virtually every 35mm lens" including Nikon, Leica and Canon mount lenses.

There will be eight different lens mounts available, which are claimed to be easy to swap. They are: Professional F-mount, Nikon F mount, Canon EF mount, Canon FD mount, Leica R mount, Leica M mount, Panavision mount, and BNCR mount.

The PS-IMS-F3 consists of an intermediate flange and your choice of the eight mounting rings. However, you have to replace the original PL mount with the PS-IMS-F3 intermediate flange. There’s no need for any modification of the F3 or its FZ mount. The F3’s back focus adjustment function should allow easy installation and adjustment without any shimming.

By David Fox

May 22, 2011

Steadicam Smoothee steadies iPhone

Steadicam is the company that made possible all those smooth, flowing shots you see in movies or captured by the fittest people in the stadium for most of those cameras used to run the touchline for sports coverage. Now, if you shoot video on an iPhone or other mobile, you can also use Steadicam technology with the new Steadicam Smoothee.

We wrote about it back in February 2010, after seeing a demonstration of the prototype version at BVE (and we shot the video below with and about it, with the help of Robin Thwaites, International Director of Sales, Tiffen/Steadicam). It was expected to arrive a little more quickly than it has, but it is now available in the UK and throughout Europe (prices seem to range from about £130-170).

It will allow you to capture video or still images without the shakes you normally see when you take hand-held video on something as small and light as an iPhone (usually, the smaller and lighter something is the more likely it is to suffer from camera shake).

The Smoothee is pretty small itself (at 20.3x36.8x6.4cm) and is designed initially to be used with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and Flip Mino HD. More mounts for similar devices are in the pipeline.

You can instantly swap the camera mounts between the Smoothee and any tripod thanks to its patented quick-release removable mount, which can also double as a tabletop stand.

May 21, 2011

Lexar USB 3 CF + SD card reader

The new Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader should significantly speed up file transfer times for anyone shooting on Compact Flash or SD cards compared to existing USB 2.0 readers – provided you have a USB 3.0 connection on your computer.

Given the overheads of the USB protocol, and the speed limitations of the memory cards themselves, users should perhaps see a tripling in real world performance – which will increase as new, faster cards are released.

The reader contains both CF and SD card slots, and can read from both at once (and be used to copy from one to the other). It should cost less than $50/£30 when it starts shipping next month.

We've done a longer post on this, on our Canon XF Notebook blog (including how to access this extra speed if you have a Mac, which doesn't have a USB 3.0 port).

May 18, 2011

Chrosziel supports Sony FS100 + F3

Chrosziel has announced new lightweight support accessories for two of the latest Sony camcorders, the NEX-FS100 and PMW-F3.

The layout of the LightWeightSupport (LWS) 401-429 (pictured top) for the Sony NEX-FS100 ensures that a follow focus can be added to all relevant lenses. The platform has been adjusted to the camera base and allows the camera to move as far as possible to the front edge of the supporting rods.

Alternatively, Chrosziel will offer an HD (Heavy Duty) version, as is the case for all single-chip cameras featuring a PL lens mount. The LWS 401-429HD will be equipped with a double tube guide and 440mm tubes with 15mm diameter.

It has also introduced an improved HD version lightweight support for Sony‘s PMW-F3 camcorder, the LWS 401-415HD. Its platform now stretches out as far as the camera base, making use of all points of support the camera body offers as well as the third thread in the back of the camera bottom.

All HD versions offer sufficient space for handles, shoulder pads and external viewfinders (as in the picture above), and cost €450 each. The regular LWS 401-429 and LWS 401-415 cost €290. The items will be released between July and September.

By David Fox

May 16, 2011

Litepanels H2 light goes the distance

Litepanels' new higher-output LED panel can illuminate subjects that are up to about 7.6 metres (25 feet) away.

The lightweight H2 Hi-Output LED lights can provide HD-friendly daylight using an array of 72 single Watt 5600K colour temperature LEDs that are focused to a 10° angle.

A 100W H2 fixture apparently provides light output equivalent to a 1.000W legacy lighting fixture, and as LED lights generate little heat, the need for power-hungry air conditioning is reduced.

The H2 has the same dimming capabilities as other Litepanels fixtures as well as dimming from 100 % to 0 with no noticeable colour change. Dimming is provided via a knob located on the fixture itself, or from a DMX dimmer board. H2 fixtures have an integrated yoke and gimbal system for easy hanging in the grid or positioning on a light stand.

By David Fox

May 13, 2011

Audio: Paying the Digital Dividend

The re-allocation of frequencies for wireless audio in the UK and elsewhere in Europe could have hidden consequences for events and outside broadcast companies.

With the switchover from analogue to digital transmission, the EU and national regulators are keen to sell off spectrum to mobile operators.

However, this Digital Dividend will partly be paid for by the loss of frequencies for wireless microphone and talkback systems needed for outside broadcasts and other production use. I talked to some of the companies affected and my full article for the May issue of TVB Europe magazine is now online…

[Pictured is Paul Murray, head of audio, Presteigne Charter]

By David Fox

May 10, 2011

Sphinx-cam takes JVC to new heights

WWProd, an Alpe d'Huez-based production company specialising in extreme sports, particularly skiing, has bought JVC GY-HM100 ProHD camcorders for use in its Sphinx-cam miniature helicopter systems.

To capture aerial shots, Lionel Géhin, WWProd's founder, designed a remote controlled multi-rotor machine for filming in-flight. The compact Sphinx-cam Pro XL6 and XL8 machines can carry 2.5kg and 4.5 kg of equipment respectively.

After the Sphinx-cam passed vigorous tests, the company had to find a camera suitable for aerial use, and eventually decided that the lightweight form factor and CCD sensors of the HM100 met its requirements and worked well on the Sphinx-cam.

"We encountered the phenomenon of image distortion during fast movements related to rolling shutter CMOS sensors in camcorders. The GY-HM100 cameras, which use CCDs, remained free of these defects,” explained Géhin.

“As the GY-HM100 has detachable handles, we can reduce the camera’s weight which enables us to reduce the burden of the Sphinx to carry two cameras at the same time. This provides us with the option to shoot the front and the rear and also in 3D.”

The Sphinx-cam Pro XL6 and XL8 have also received interest from other filmmakers, production companies and architects, as it can provide very smooth, controllable movement from a small platform at low-cost.

On WWProd's Vimeo page ( there are demonstrations of the Sphinx-cam systems with a Canon DSLR, a GoPro 3D rig (anaglyph glasses required) and the JVC (late in the video below). The DSLR sequences show the problems Géhin described with the rolling shutter effects from its CMOS sensor - even in normal flight there is a lot of unsettling skew and ripple.

SphynX-Cam XL6 from SphinX-Cam on Vimeo.

By David Fox

May 09, 2011

America’s Cup takes TV on-board

America’s Cup yachting will get a lot more close-up coverage starting with this year's preliminary races, thanks to the fitting of 40 HD cameras on competing yachts. 

As it progresses, there promises to be at least 80 on-board HD cameras and up to 200 microphones in place for the Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup in 2013.

Coverage will also include what the organisers, the America’s Cup Event Authority, are calling "a breakthrough in sports broadcasting – augmented reality from a helicopter." It is claimed that this will be the first time live graphic insertions have been done from a moving platform. Thanks to GPS, the systems will be able to track each yacht to 2cm accuracy, and show exactly which boat is in the lead – something that isn't always easy to discern in yachting, especially for fleet races.

“Extreme sport lovers will flock to this new America’s Cup because of the broadcast,” said ACEA Chairman, Richard Worth. “From heart-pounding manoeuvres at breakneck speeds to capsizes that result in two-story falls for the athletes, viewers will not just see the action, they will feel like they are right in it.”

UK OB specialists, SIS Live will design, supply, fit and maintain the cameras plus a 5.1 surround sound audio mix, and the wireless links needed to carry the signals from each yacht to shore.

The new-look race will use powerful, one-design AC45 catamarans for the initial races, starting in August in Portugal to early 2012, which can travel at up to 35mph (about 56kph). Then the ten teams will design and build their own AC72 catamarans for the Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup in 2013.

Each AC45 is likely to be fitted with at least four remote-controlled cameras, based on Sony modules with a 10x zoom lens. These will be fitted in waterproofed IP67 standard submersible housings (built into the design of the boat so that they don't get in the way) and cabled back to a central hub. Two video feeds will be routed from an onboard mixer, controlled via internet protocol, back to shore with embedded sound.

Five of the crew on each yacht will have radio microphones and belt packs, and there will also be various other microphones mounted around the boat for the surround sound mix. SIS intends to design its own 5.1 microphones for the races to cope with the salt water.

The RF camera links will be supplied by Gigawave, using diversity receivers and MPEG-4 encoding. Links will be fitted to helicopters, chase boats, mark boats and commentator boats, as well as the competing yachts.

The AC72s are likely to have at least five movable and three fixed cameras and double the number of microphones, with radio mics carried by as many as ten sailors. As each AC72 is going to be custom designed for each team, SIS will have to work with the teams to build the cameras into the yachts.

The America’s Cup World Series begins this summer and includes 16 regattas around the world; plus the Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup Challengers Series (July 13 – September 1, 2013), and America’s Cup Match (September 7 – 22, 2013) which will both take place in San Francisco.

By David Fox

Vinten unveils 3D Wedge adapter

Vinten has devised a new 3D wedge adapter for its OB and studio heads, which balances rigs that cannot be mounted to a conventional head in a balanced position.

It is designed to facilitate the proper balancing of under/through beamsplitter 3D rigs and allows more clearance for the under-slung camera, which increases the amount of downward tilt available.

The adapter offsets the head’s level position by a few degrees so the balance mechanism produces a back-torque when the camera is level. This enables the centre of gravity of the payload to be forward of the tilt axis.

It is flexible and cost effective, as it integrates seamlessly with Vinten’s full range of heads. For outside broadcast customers that need to have dual-purpose equipment, the adapters allow the option of shooting in 2D and 3D without compromise, removing the need to replace any existing heads.

At NAB it was shown with a Vector 950 system set up with a Stereotec mid-size beam splitter rig. The 950 is Vinten's highest capacity fluid head and can handle the many possible camera system configurations for shooting in S3D. It balances heavy payloads and high centres of gravity with ease, and allows the user to maintain fingertip control over the entire tilt range.

“All of our adapters are designed to help improve the versatility and usability of Vinten’s products and this set up demonstrates how the new wedge adapter can help users to deliver 3D performance without compromising creativity. The wedge adapter is a significant addition to our extensive range of accessories, it is able to perfectly balance the often heavy payloads used in 3D broadcast and proves that Vinten is 3D ready," said Peter Harman, Vinten’s product manager.

New Vector 75 head

The cost effective Vector 75 is suitable for both studio and OB use, can carry a payload of up to 75kg, and should start to ship in June.

Its design is based on the widely used Vector 70, but with greater carrying capacity (5kg more), and stronger, more durable components. It has the same LF drag control that helped make its predecessor an industry standard - an infinitely adjustable lubricated friction system, allowing for fine adjustment of drag levels as well as whip pan at any level of drag.

The Vector 75 also includes Vinten’s infinitely adjustable Perfect Balance, which is easily adjustable, with no time-consuming cam changes, and provides up to ±60° perfectly balanced tilt range. Other features include: illuminated levelling bubble; and a T bar slide plate positioner for controlled fore and aft camera adjustment.

Related post: Heads up on new Vinten Vector 75

By David Fox

HDR with 20 stops of latitude

Researchers at the University of Warwick have been working on a High Dynamic Range video camera that creates imagery more representative of real world lighting.

If you include the eye's ability to quickly adapt to changing lighting conditions (automatically adjust its ISO rating in camera terms), we could be said to have a human dynamic range between light and dark of about 20 or 21 stops (although we can apparently only see about 6 or 7 at any given time). Cameras generally have a dynamic range of about 10 stops (up to 15 for the Arri Alexa or as much as 18 in HDRx mode on the Red Epic - pictured above).

The Warwick prototype camera (seen here recording thoracic surgery) can cope with 20 stops. As each stop represents a halving or doubling of light, this is impressive. Of course, recording this and then being able to display it are two different things, so they have also developed a new compression algorithm and a new HDR display (without the display it is still useful to have the dynamic range, but you just have to then adjust the exposure and contrast in post).

For the full story, read my article for TVB Europe magazine, including an interview with professor Alan Chalmers, head of the Visualisation Research group, at the university's WMG International Digital Laboratory (pictured top with the camera and display).

By David Fox