illuma·blogspot·com

Sunday, August 24, 2014

••◊ Tips for Outdoor Lighting, part 2: Reading a Light Meter

This week's entry falls into the category of "great-big-DUH!"  I was shooting the outdoor lighting tutorial last week and facing a few production delays while I figured out the difference between the light meter reading and the five to seven stops of ND filtering I was using to control exposure in mid-afternoon sunshine.  While flipping through the Sekonic manual later that day looking for a solution I found that the "Cine" version of my meter allows you to program in .3-.9 ND's.  I would have expected this to be programmed into my meter as well given the price, but it really doesn't matter.  Only three stops of ND?...Completely useless in Southern California sunshine.  Just look at the meter reading below.  This was taken at about 4pm and it's still reading f/64-ish at ISO 800!  My lenses max out at f/22 and nobody runs in that range anyway because of diffraction.

The other kicker to this is that cameras like the C100 have their full highlight range starting at ISO 850.  The FS-700 is typically ISO 640 with Cine-gamma 4 or ISO 500 with Cine-gamma 3.  Using less than these ISO's can sometimes not be possible or actually hurt your highlight range.  So the only good answer is to use neutral density filters (ND filters) to control the harsh sunlight.


One simple method I thought of the next day is to simply use an ISO level which corresponds to the amount of ND you've applied.  I didn't even know that my meter could read at ISO 3, but sure enough it does.  So for instance if you have a camera like the Canon C100 and want to run at ISO 800 (I'll talk about ISO 850 a bit later), then you can apply the following table.

ISO                        ND                         Stops
------------------------------------------------------
800                        0                             0
400                        .3                            -1
200                        .6                           -2
100                        .9                           -3
50                          1.2                         -4
25                          1.5                         -5
12                          1.8                         -6
6                            2.1                         -7
3                            2.4                         -8

So for instance if we have the camera set to ISO 800 and the meter reads f/64 as the above pictures shows, then I scroll the ISO setting down to ISO 3 and it reads f/4, I know I need 8 stops of ND to get down to a more typical cinema aperture.  Likewise, if I just go ahead and install 7 stops of ND I can scroll my meter's ISO setting down to ISO 6 and take proper readings, which should read in the neighborhood of f/5.6 in this example.  This is much simpler and quicker than figuring out the ND calculation in my head, which can be a real mental challenge when you're trying to write, direct, produce, shoot, and otherwise run a production.  Shortcuts that help the production work faster are always welcome.


Now for the pesky ISO 850 setting that Canon provides as the "optimal" sensitivity...That's only about 0.1 stop more sensitive than ISO 800.  So for practical purposes you can just use the ISO 800 reading or subtract 0.1 stop from the meter reading if you feel you have a very accurate reading.  Sure enough, if you look Canon's charts in the article I linked to above you'll find that there's only 0.1 stop of difference in highlight retention between ISO 800 and ISO 850.

Hope this helps some folks.  I certainly need to do some work on understanding how to properly do meter readings in different situations.  That's a whole advanced DP topic unto itself.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

••◊ Tips for Outdoor Lighting

Yesterday I filmed a short tutorial on outdoor lighting techniques at Video Gear.  Enjoy.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

••◊ Pictures from the 2014 San Marcos Criterium

I wanted to post some highlights from this last weekend's San Marcos Criterium put on by my cycling club, Ranchos Cycling.  As with a lot of events, taking pictures of the same bicycle race year after year can get a bit long in the tooth.  There's only so many leader formations, solo breakaways, or Dutch angles of people on bicycles I want to capture.  This year I mostly concentrated on people I know in the races and uploaded plenty of pictures to my Flickr account ( also linked to in the left pane of my blog ) for friends to enjoy.  Welcome to the wonderful world of rip-your-legs-off road racing.











At this point Roger was making a solo breakaway from the pack...off the back. As he was coming up the climb I told him to at least look good if he was going to drop out.  Like a serious artist photographer I decreed, "A little more attitude.  There you go.  I want more of that.  Just one more,"  hoping his wife, who was standing a few feet away, wouldn't start throwing water bottles at me.  She's a former hardcore racer chick.


Last, but not least, is a photo sequence I took of an race rules illegal beer feed station someone tried to improvise along the course.  We were on a college campus, so you might expect this from some frat boys.  In this case I think they were just mountain bikers - not a large difference if you've ever been to a mountain bike race.


As usual, the photos are free for non-commercial use.  Contact me for licensing if you want to use them for commercial media.  Until next year...keep hammering.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

••◊ Kodak Film Lives!

I was intrigued by postings at a number of websites today about the deal struck between Hollywood studios and Kodak.  The deal is basically that Kodak will continue to make movie film as long as the studios guarantee to purchase a certain yearly amount.  Fuji exited this business in March 2013, so that leaves Kodak as the last film business.  In the ASC magazine I receive every month at least one article talks about a project shot on film which just completed before the film developing service the project was using shut down.  Then there's the matter of the cameras.  Arri stopped production of film cameras years ago knowing that the future was digital.  What happens when those Hollywood cameras run out of spare parts.  Will Hollywood studios cut another deal with Arri to continue production of spare parts?  How about film processing?  With most film processing houses already gone will Hollywood studios partner and fund a common processing facility somewhere in West Hollywood?  Then there's film schools.  How will those schools continue to teach about using film when all those cameras and the film stock are precious and in short supply?  That means the newest generation of "filmmakers" will be as educated in using film as audio engineering students are with cutting acetate on an LP.

The estimate is that Kodak's film business went from a staggering 12.4 billion feet per year in 2006 to a measly 449 million feet per year.  Typically a roll of film negative is about 400 ft, just as an FYI.  Pretty much all theaters have converted to digital projection, thank goodness.  As you can probably guess the vast majority of those linear feet were positive film projection reels which are not required anymore thanks to DCP and digital projection.  I will never miss the jumpy frames nor the squiggly lines up in the corner when switching between reels...or the really old reel that should have been retired years ago with dust and scratches along with bad soundtracks!

The initiative to save film was lead by Chris Nolan (+Wally Pfister, ASC), Quentin Tarantino (+Robert Richardson, ASC), and JJ Abrams (+Dan Mindel, ASC).  I've never shot with film, so I can't pretend to be some type of expert in this field.  What I do understand is digital capture.  So is this just a matter of people holding on to what they know?  Does it really matter to shoot on film when just about every film goes through a digital intermediate now days?  If we can make digital look "digital" or "filmic" in post, doesn't that give the content producers more freedom?

Some other items in my understanding are that films like Skyfall (Arri Alexa camera), Zero Dark Thirty (Arri Alexa), and The Social Network (Red One camera) were all shot on digital cameras.  Was the experience really compromised by the capture medium?  I loved the look of all those films.  It seems to me that there's more to movie making than the look of film.  To me, and my non-ASC cinematographer opinion, a movie is about storytelling.  It's about how the camera moves, the camera placement, lighting, shot composition, actor blocking, production design, and that certain believability that makes you think a 50-something male actor can still attract a 20-something female actor (OK maybe that was a little over the top, but it happens too often in Hollywood movies not to recognize it - Tom Cruise, anyone?)

I was thinking about this subject earlier this week and reminded myself that I am not a filmmaker.  There is no film.  I'm a storyteller.  I try to tell stories with my work in cinematography.  My goal is to help the director create believability and draw the audience in, not create "footage" - for which there is no such thing anymore, practically speaking.

I was at an ASC open house earlier this year and one ASC member made the point that "digital is as bad as it will ever be, and it's pretty darn good."  I agree.  It's not about the capture medium.  It's about great storytelling.  Just like when records transitioned to CD's it didn't change who created great music or what was considered great music.  It's about compelling content.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

••◊ Tips for Lighting a Green Screen

I went into Video Gear last weekend and recorded a short tutorial on how to light a green screen.  You can check it out at this link.  Sorry I've been one short on blog entries this month.  Inspiration and energy have been hard to come by lately.  I need a reboot.

Monday, July 21, 2014

••◊ 2014 Screenings of the 48 Hour Film Project, San Diego

This last week was the annual screenings of the 48 hour film projects in the Gaslamp downtown, or as some may call it - The running of the "mumblecore".  It's not that all the films represent the ideals of mumblecore, just most of them.  Bad audio, lack of color correction and/or white balance, crack addict shaky camera moves, and an astigmatic sense of where to set focus dominate the films.  But hey, what did I accomplish that weekend aside from a teleprompter tutorial video?  The point is that the teams put in their best effort and did it - and most people have fun.  When you do see those films best described as little gems, they truly stand out and shine.

I was speaking with my co-worker Kevin about his involvement and it turned out that he joined a team with multiple people I knew.  Specifically Peter, shown in the first photo below sandwiched in between Box-man and the woman with some serious looking femme-guns.  Kevin and Peter were working with Joe from Preposterous Films, as well as a few other people I knew on the team.  On Friday they randomly drew the genre dark comedy, which is one of the few comedy genres I can get into.  The film "U Pack It" centered around a self packing and shipping business, ala "The Office."  Somehow Kevin went into the project as a grip and ended up being a key actor!  That's film making. 

Below are some picture from the evening.

 
 
 




It was a dead heat between U Pack It and another film Good Ol' Chap (a silent film in the style of Charlie Chaplin) in my opinion.  None of the other films were even a distant second.  Good Ol' Chap ended up winning the audience choice award in the end.  Still, the Preposterous Film team laid the ground for a seriously excellent web series.  Great job guys.

Friday, July 11, 2014

••◊ Choosing The Right Camera

Warning: This is yet another epic post.  Not quite on the order of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but at least somewhat parallel by the standards I've established for blog entry length.  ...and no, this isn't a pun on the Red Epic camera name.  Last night I gave a talk for the San Diego Filmmakers group on choosing the right camera and discussed three distinct price points: a ~$500 Canon T5i DSLR, a ~$5000 Canon C100 video camera, and a ~$50,000 Red Epic with the new Dragon sensor.  What I'm going to attempt to do is transcribe the talk from memory, even though I'm still in a bit of a tired daze from a late night.  I'll divide the fifteen subjects into major headers so you can skip to the section you want to spend more time on.


1. Codec

The Canon T5i, as with it's predecessors, has an 8-bit H.264/AVC codec that records at approximately 44Mb/s.  The color subsampling is 4:2:0, or in more plain terms it subsamples color information by four.  The codec was developed for Internet streaming and broadcast and was meant as a delivery format, rather than a capture format.  However when Canon first developed the 5D mark II with video for CNN they meant for still photographers to capture little clips where quality wasn't the first priority.  Little did they know how a video feature would sell their cameras.  In general H.264 isn't the most robust format for capture.  A few things you should be aware of is that the file size is limited to 4GB, so every 12 minutes the camera creates a new file and you have to paste them together in post.  Recording time is also limited to 29 minutes and 59 seconds in order to skirt the EU tax on video cameras.  So this camera isn't the best option for live event coverage.

The C100 captures video with an 8-bit H.264/AVC codec at 24Mb/s and also subsamples color according to 4:2:0.  This codec is more commonly marketed as AVCHD and was previously featured in "soccer mom" consumer video cameras as an extremely compressed, easy to store format.  Again, this codec wasn't really meant to be for professional capture, but Canon had to differentiate this camera from the C300 so they dumbed down the codec from MPEG-2 50Mb/s 4:2:2 to AVCHD.  In many cases this codec works just fine for live events, weddings, corporate interviews...etc, but probably isn't the best (by far!) for heavy duty color grading and visual effects.  I'll talk about improving the capture codec later in this entry.  What this camera immediately does above and beyond the T5i is that it doesn't limit the recording time.  Since there are two card slots you can Ping-Pong SD between cards all day - great for covering live events!

The Red Epic uses an advanced 16-bit wavelet compression format called Redcode.  The capture format is NOT uncompressed as some people believe, but it is raw since the sensor data is not manipulated by an image pipeline.  Each of the four color planes from the Bayer pattern on the CMOS sensor are captured as separate layers.  The most typical data compression ratio is 5:1, meaning that the data comes in at nearly 1.5Gb/s (6k, 23.976p).  If you use their most uncompressed format, 3:1, the data rate is nearly 2.5Gb/s (6k, 23.976p).  That's 100 times the C100 data rate!  So if you rent this camera, remember to buy extra hard drives.  I've had a producer/director insist that we shoot on the Epic because he declared his love for everything Red, then call me up a few weeks later to tell me that the post production on 5k footage was killing him!  The data rate is even higher with the new 6k Dragon sensor!


2.  Recording Media

I'm going to quickly risk dating this article by mentioning memory prices, but I'll do so anyway.  The T5i uses standard SD cards.  The most common size I see in production right now is 32GB.  The prices from a few days ago indicate that the price of a card is approximately $35.  So the investment isn't large to get a few cards.  A 32GB card should last you approximately 90 minutes of recording time.

Likewise, the C100 uses SD cards and I typically roll with two of these cards.  Each card should last approximately 170 minutes of recording time.  The C100 can also mirror the two available card slots, so you may want to carry duplicates and use two cards at a time if you're worried about having a card go down in the middle of a shoot.

The Red Epic uses rather expensive Redmags, which are basically fancy customized SSD's.  The most common size in use is 256GB according to my owner/operator friend.  Each of these 256GB cards is $2450 today and you also need a custom Redmag card reader ($200).  Each 256GB card lasts approximately 20 minutes at 6k resolution and 5:1 compression.  So call your stock broker and order Western Digital/Seagate stock before purchasing this camera so you at least get some benefit from buying all those hard drives to store footage.  Remember, you'll need multiple Redmags!


3.  Rolling Shutter



 
I'm sure you didn't skip ahead to the text before watching the video, right?

As you see in the video the T5i has approximately the same rolling shutter skew along the fence as the C100 does.  Considering they are a similar generation of sensors from Canon this isn't too surprising.  However I initially thought the T5i would be worse.  That was proven wrong through multiple whip pans along the fence.

The Epic Dragon was better than the C100 through multiple whip pans along the fence.  This wasn't so surprising given that the Epic cameras are used in a lot of action sports videos and action movies.  If you want to completely eliminate rolling shutter Red offers the Motion Mount for $3900, which is essentially a fancy electronically controllable variable ND filter built into a PL mount.  The T5i and C100 images fall apart due to rolling shutter with things like fan blades (i.e. an airplane or helicopter), or a shot looking out the side window of a car, or light ballasts that flicker (LED, fluorescent).  The Motion Mount fixes that, but at the cost of about one stop of light according to the Red rep.

In my previous comparison I used a 5D mark II and the C100.  Notice the stark difference in rolling shutter performance?  That's probably the effect of using a 7 year old sensor as compared to a modern one.




4. Audio I/O

I've suffered a long time with the audio capabilities on my 5D mark II, so I came into this comparison with a natural bias.  The Canon DSLR cameras aren't known for their stellar audio capabilities, but given their origins it was never necessary.  People have tried to force it to work with all types of Rode and Sennheiser hot shoe microphones and battery grip XLR inputs from folks like Beachtek.  In the end most of us have given up and just bought an external recorder like the Zoom H4N and synchronized audio in post.  The T5i is a similar situation.  It has a single 1/8" microphone input for audio capture.  These are generally noisy microphone preamps (reminder: it's a stills camera!)  There is no headphone jack for monitoring audio and no level meters in live view, but that's OK because there's no way to adjust audio levels once you're in live view anyway!  However they did implement manual levels and unlike the 5D mark II you can remove the wind high pass filter.  Still, if you're thinking about recording audio in camera, I would advise not to.  One additional problem with the in-camera audio capture is that Canon typically has the audio 2-3 frames out of sync.  On my 5D mark II it's two frames out of sync.  On my friend's 5D mark III he was showing the audio 3 frames out of sync.  So don't blindly trust Plural Eyes or Premiere to sync external audio to your camera audio.  Do it via clap slate.

The C100 has great audio capture capabilities.  There are two proper XLR inputs in the top handle with low noise preamps.  I've been quite pleased with their performance when using them with a MKH416 shotgun mic.  Oh...and they supply +48v for all those professional microphones.  The audio levels can be adjusted through two knobs at the top of the handle, just as you would expect from any professional video camera.  The 1/8" headphone jack is at the back of the camera and I've come to trust it with regard to monitoring in camera audio capture. ...and the audio is in sync in the camera and immediately ready for post production.  This is a much better situation than the T5i for fast turn around.

On a typical film set audio is captured separately by the audio team to high quality recorders.  It generally isn't captured in camera.  However, the Epic "brain" does capture two channels of audio using 1/8" inputs at the front of the camera body.  You even have the ability to enable +48v phantom power for microphones that require it.  Believe it or not, there's also a headphone jack at the rear of the camera body.  So while you *can* capture audio in the camera, it's generally not done for anything more than a scratch track on a film set.  Notice that the camera does *not* have XLR inputs.  If you want XLR inputs there are a few options.  First, you can purchase XLR to 1/8" adapter cables from Red for $45 each - Note that these are not wired like a standard tip-ring-sleeve connector and this is just a dangling cable.  The better option is the A-box from Wooden Camera for $190 that has a mountable box with two XLR inputs and two 1/8" cables that go to the camera.  If you're really serious about audio capture in camera then Red makes the professional I/O module with four channels of XLR input at a price of $3750.  Keep in mind that the Epic camera is a "cinema" camera and is meant for a film production environment.  In camera audio recording is not a priority for a cinema camera.  If you need live audio captured to camera without aquiring accessories, then a video camera like the C100 is probably a better choice.


5.  Dynamic Range




Typically the Canon DSLR cameras get 8.5-9 stops while using the "neutral" or "faithful" picture styles.  In this camera test I set the contrast all the way down to -4 and turned on highlight tone priority (+1 stop in highlights) to be more fair to the capabilities of the camera.  This, in theory, gives us about one additional stop in the highlights.  So we should have about 5 stops above and 5 stops below neutral gray.  Notice how the picture looks washed out in the mid tones and highlights?  Even though the scene isn't completely taxing the dynamic range, in order to come close to the C100 the tone curve has to be incredibly flat.  Notice how the fence and garage door have lost their detail in the highlights?  The truck cabin isn't too far off from the C100 in this case, but as we'll see in a low light example later on the shadow performance doesn't match the C100.

I used the Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) gamma curve for the C100 to capture all 12-stops at ISO 800.  At this ISO we should have about 5 stops in the highlights (same as T5i) and 7 stops in the shadows (almost the same as the Epic).  However, notice how the garage door still has detail on the insets?  ...how the fence still has detail and contrast?  The numbers can be deceiving as compared to real world performance.

The Red Epic footage is shown as it appears in raw format, showing all 16-stops.  Notice how the truck console is now completely visible and mid-gray?  How the garage door is a darker shade of off-white?  Despite how the footage looks now, this lack of contrast is a very good thing.  The raw codec is 16-bits, which means we have a wide, *WIDE* capability to adjust exposure and set our contrast the way it looks best in post production.  That's a *very* powerful enabler for post.  Once you capture an image with the C100 or T5i you have little to no headroom to make adjustments to exposure.  With the Red...no problem.  That's the power of a professional cinema camera combined with raw capture.


6.  Low Light Performance



In my experience the Canon DSLR's have fixed pattern noise starting around ISO 640 and even lower once the sensor heats up.  A stills camera is typically designed to have a native ISO of 100.  After all, you typically use it with flashes indoors or for outdoor photography.  In the video above I set the camera to the "neutral" picture style and left all other picture setting at default.  Notice how the shadows are crushed, but the image is still noisy with macro-blocking?  Yes, some of the new generation higher end DSLR's are definitely "better."

The C100, and for that matter the whole Canon 'C' series, are known for their excellent low light performance.  Notice how the noise is reduced, yet the camera sees into the shadows?  You can even see some of the residual sky light.  The detail in the cars at the left is still there.  The native ISO on this camera is 640.  I know a lot of people get that confused with the "base ISO" for C-log, which is ISO 850.  If you read the documentation you'll see that ISO 850 is really +2.5dB of gain.  What I've heard from other users is that they feel comfortable pushing this camera to ISO 4000 to ISO 5000 when required, which is a HUGE advantage for documentary work.  I read about one documentary crew who were filming transplant patients being flown in from Africa to the USA in the middle of the night and all they had was passing street lights to light up passengers inside a bus.  They went with a fast lens and ISO 10,000.  It was grainy for sure, but they got the shot and it wasn't objectionable for the story.  In fact, you can push all the way to ISO 20,000 if the lighting is non-existant.  There's even a special ISO 80,000 mode, but it's not really useful for more than video surveillance.  So if you want an industry leader in low light performance you might want to consider this camera.

What was surprising is that the Red Epic with the Dragon sensor actually did very poor in the low light test.  This was unexpected given that Red says that ISO 2000 on the 6k Dragon sensor is equivalent to ISO 800 on the 5k M-X sensor.  The factory default on this camera is ISO 800 and most people seem to rate the sensor between ISO 400 and ISO 800 for good performance.  Owner operators typically recommend to stay below ISO 3200, but that's scene dependent.  Keep in mind that you need to treat the Red camera like film stock.  There is no analog gain built into the camera.  It has one native ISO setting and any changes away from that native ISO is a digital push or a digital pull - sort of like developing film stock with a an ASA rating.  The light sensitivity is fixed.  What you do with it in production or post is your decision.

The main take-away here is that the most expensive camera isn't always the best tool for what you need to accomplish.


7.  Moire and Aliasing



This has been the Achilles Heel of DSLR video since the introduction of the 5D mark II.  The lower priced Canon DSLRs read out every 2nd or 3rd line of the sensor (a.k.a. "line skipping") which causes nasty aliasing issues in video mode.  I didn't have the T5i when I recorded this video so I used my 5D mark II, however the artifacts should be sufficiently similar between the two cameras since they share the same root cause.  Notice how the jacket is nearly psychedelic with the DSLR?  If you're doing a corporate shoot are you really going to ask the CEO to go home and change clothes because "your jacket is totally freaking my camera out, man!"  Good luck getting hired again.  I've also noticed that nature scenes with bushes and trees look terrible when this artifact occurs.  Brick walls tend to cause this image defect to bloom.  There are camera specific filters you can buy from companies like Mosaic Engineering, but you need to make sure your camera battery is OK so the mirror doesn't come crashing down onto the filter when the battery dies!

In comparison, the C100 is clean and high enough resolution that you see the detail on the sports jacket.  Perfect.

I didn't show the Red Epic because it doesn't suffer from this issue.  There was nothing to show really.


8.  Battery Life

In this test we used the stock battery for the T5i and C100 and recorded until the battery died.  The T5i got an excellent time of 99 minutes off the tiny LP-E8 battery while recording. 

The C100 lasted a mere 69 minutes on the stock BP-950 battery, which is nearly four times the size/weight of the T5i stock battery.  However, the C100 also offers a DC power input, so if you're doing event videography or have the camera locked down somewhere that offers power you're good to run all day.  One thing I have to mention here is that the C100 camera was configured with an ME-66 shotgun mic for which the C100 was supplying phantom power.  This is more typical of a real world configuration, whereas the T5i will typically be configured with an external audio recorder that doesn't drain the camera battery.

For the Epic Dragon I asked my owner/operator friend for his experience.  He has the Bebop 90W-Hr battery brick ($400/ea), which lasts him 60-90 minutes, depending on the camera configuration.  One nice feature is that if you have the Red side handle you can install a Redvolt battery ($195/ea), which is about the same size as the C100 battery.  That battery lasts up to 15 minutes.  So if the main battery pack dies, the camera will stay powered through the Redvolt while you change battery bricks.  That's what needs to happen on a professional film set.  The camera shouldn't ever go down.  Waiting for a dead camera costs the production time and money.  Keep in mind that the Epic body doesn't come with a battery mount.  You need to purchase a battery mount (+$725) as well as a professional charger for the particular batteries you use.


9.  ND Filters

The T5i obviously doesn't come with internal ND filters.  It's a stills camera.  Still cameras control exposure by shortening or lengthening the shutter speed.  This isn't good for video, which typically wants to maintain a 180-degree shutter angle (1/(2*frame rate)).  Most owners I know use a variable ND filter screwed onto the front of the lens to control exposure.  Unfortunately most of the affordable ones have a green tint to them since their made out of cheap plate glass.  The version I have from Light Craft Workshop certainly has a green tint I've battled many times.  These variable ND filters are also polarizers, so they remove specular reflections whether you want them to or not.  You can obviously purchase separate screw-on ND filters or a matte box and filter set, but that will cost you many times the camera!  If you need a grad filter as well, then there's the issue of how to stack the variable ND and grad filter.  I've made it work, but it's not the most efficient workflow.  Obviously adjusting the variable ND filter after it's mounted and the white balance is set is a much quicker way to work than using a matte box.

The C100 has a typical videographer set of ND filters built into the sensor cavity at 2, 4, and 6-stops of attenuation that are placed in and out with a click wheel.  This allows you to shoot with the camera in most light situations outdoors just utilizing the built in ND filters.  When I've traveled with the C100 I usually take an additional 1-stop ND, a 2-stop ND grad, and a polarizer.  That configuration has covered all the situations in which I shoot.  Plus having the ND filters internal to the sensor cavity means that you don't need to worry about flaring reflections, as is typical with a glass filter placed external to the lens.


The Red Epic doesn't contain any ND filtering.  On a professional film set it is assumed that the camera will be configured with a matte box ($2500-$5000) and a set of Schneider or Tiffen filters ($2100+).  Also keep in mind that the Epic sensor requires an IR mirror when shooting with more than 3 stops of ND.  In contrast, the Canon C-series seems to do OK with IR rejection up to 5-6 stops of ND.  If you don't use an IR filter with the Epic the blacks will be contaminated with a magenta color that is better to remove in production than in post.  So it's not quite as fast to change ND on the Epic as on the C100 or even the T5i, but the matte box configuration is standard practice for just about any professional movie set and most cinema cameras.  You do have the additional burden of watching for reflections between the matte box filter and lens.  Most professional DP's and directors know to do so.


10. Sensor Cooling

All DSLR video-capable cameras I've used have minimal heat sinking, so the sensors tend to greatly heat up in 10 minutes and require about 20-30 minutes to cool back down after turning off the power.  Keep in mind that the hotter a CMOS sensor gets, the noisier the image.  I typically turn off live view between takes to not only conserve the limited battery, but also to try to keep the sensor just a bit cooler.  Generally this works fine in most situations.  In my experience using the camera at ISO 640 you can actually see a difference in noise between the first shot and later shots after the camera has gotten hot.  I've also seen demos where someone took a 5D mark II out in freezing weather and shot respectably noise free footage at ISO 3200 on the 5D mark II!



The C100 and Epic both employ both active and passive cooling, so the sensor performs uniformly throughout your shoot day.  If you're on a film set or recording a live event you don't ever want your camera to perform poorly just because it's been running for 10 minutes or more!  That would be an absolute deal breaker for professional film sets.  Even with the Arri Alexa a good third of the camera is just the power hungry Peltier cooler for the sensor!  Cameras on these sets are expected to continuously feed a video signal to the set monitors, so they have keep running even between takes.


11.  Resolution and Frame Rate

The T5i offers 1080p, 720p, and 480p resolutions.  The 1080p resolution runs at the typical 24 and 30fps, while 720p runs at a maximum of 60fps.  One thing you should be aware of is that the Canon DSLRs that line skip effectively have a lower resolution than you are recording.  In my experience with 5D mark II footage the "real" resolution of 1080p is much closer to 720p.  In fact I find that the video looks considerably better downscaled to 720p.  I haven't used footage from the 5D mark III, which doesn't line skip, so I'm not sure how it stacks up in comparison.

The C100 oversamples HD by 2x with its Ultra-HD (3840x2160) sensor and doesn't really have to scale down the sensor like DSLR's do.  The effect is that footage is razor sharp out of the camera.  In fact, it's the sharpest HD I've every seen outside of a Red camera being scaled from 4k down to HD.  The C100 only shoots at 24 and 30fps, so no over cranking unless you want to de-interlace 60i (who shoots in interlace anymore?)  If you're doing a web video that requires over cranked footage, you may be better off with a DSLR or an FS-700, depending on your specific requirements.

The Red Epic with the Dragon sensor has an industry leading resolution of 6144 x 3160 (wow!).  As we saw before, you give up a bit of low light performance, but still...  When you shoot at lower resolutions the camera actually crops the sensor rather than scaling the whole sensors  So for instance if you're shoot at 4k the crop might be closer to super-35.  If you shoot at 2k the sensor crop might be closer to super-16.  At 2k resolution you can shoot up to 300fps!  At 6k you're limited to an (sarcastic here) "oh so pathetic" 100fps.  So as a versatile camera the Red Epic provides a lot of high quality resolution and frame rate options.  Most users I know are shooting in the larger resolutions and they cropping/re-framing in post to get the exact shot they want.  Some people are also shooting interviews and instead of hiring two cameras they just crop in to get the tighter shot in one take.  Cheating?  Not if the producer can't tell the difference.


12.  In-Camera Paint Controls

Each of these cameras take a different approach to providing control over the picture.  The controls are often referred to as "paint controls" by camera technicians.

While the T5i offers a minimal set of picture controls in camera (hue, sharpness, contrast, saturation), there is a very powerful paint control that comes with the product CD called the Canon Picture Style Editor.  This editor allows you to adjust individual colors for hue and saturation, as well as make adjustments to the gamma curve.  Once those adjustments are made you save the picture style (a .PF3 file) and upload it to your camera using the EOS Utility software.  Now when you go into the picture style controls on the camera body and choose one of the custom picture styles the color adjustments from the Picture Style Editor software will be there.  Now all your video footage will reflect this change as well, so be careful.  You can easily break the picture by making extreme adjustments.  The look you created in the picture style editor will be burned into your footage and may limit your post production options.  In the example below I increased the saturation on the guitar top, turned the lights in the background from red to pink, adjusted the gamma curve to be more contrast-y, and changed the color of his shirt (see photo).



The C100, being a videographer camera, takes a different approach.  It assumes that any image adjustments you want to do will need to be done quickly and on set.  So the camera has extensive paint controls including a selection of gamma curves with adjustment for the high/medium/low sections, color matrix presets, a custom color matrix adjustment (i.e. R-G, G-R...etc), advanced controls over sharpness, saturation, hue...etc.  In general, this camera's philosophy is that you will need to make the adjustments quickly on a job and not have to rely on external software like the T5i.  Again, the look you create will be baked into the footage so make your adjustments carefully.  Once you have a look you like you can save the look to one of eight built in presets as well as save the look out to the SD card.

The Red Epic is a whole other beast entirely.  It always records in raw, so any looks that you apply to the video output (yes, just the HDMI and SDI outputs) is metadata for post production.  You don't actually make adjustments to what is recorded onto the Redmag.  One way to create a look, almost like I just shows with the T5i, is to use Red's Redcine-X software and make adjustments to the picture.  You'll need to create a folder on the Redmag SSD with a "Looks" directory and save the look out to the SSD.  The next time the SSD is inserted into the Epic you can use the menu to select the look and the camera will output the raw footage with the same look that was created in the Redcine-X software.  It's sort of funny how alike the T5i and Epic paint control processes are.  The big difference is that the Red look is just metadata.  It doesn't get baked into the footage.  It's mainly there as a reference for post production and to make the producer happy on set.




13.  Video Connectivity

As with the entire Canon DSLR line, the T5i has a mini-HDMI connection for HD output.  There's a composite output, but who uses composite video anymore?  The mini-HDMI connectors are best known for breaking off on set when someone accidently moves their hand near this fragile mini-HDMI connector and the cable and/or camera connector breaks.  There are quite a few companies that sell HDMI cable shrouds that bolt onto the camera and protect the HDMI cable just to solve this problem. On the low end DSLR's the video goes through the compressor before going out the HDMI port, so the highest quality recording you can get comes from the internal H.264 recording.  One issue that commonly occurs on the lower end of the Canon DSLRs is that they output standard definition video while recording - which means you can't judge focus!

The C100 has a full sized HDMI connector.  It's definitely an improvement over mini-HDMI, but not as robust as an SDI BNC connector, as in the C300 and C500.  Once definite advantage is that this HDMI output offers uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 video output.  That's twice as much color information as the internal recording and it doesn't have any of the AVCHD compression artifacts.  When combined with the Atomos Ninja recorder you can record directly to high quality Prores and have a signal that is much more robust for post production in my experience.  Green screen keying works better when recording with an external recorder.  You *can* make it work (I have in certain circumstances), but it's a bit more difficult and not quite as high of quality of a key.  There's one trick here:  The C100 HDMI output is 60i (yuck).  So if you do record to an external recorder the external recorder needs to perform a 3:2 or 2:2 pull down to record at 24p or 30p respectively.  A nice feature is that you can magnify your view 1:1 with the ultra-HD sensor while recording, which means you can maintain critical focus while recording.

The Red Dragon has 1080p or 720p output through both an HDMI connector and HD-SDI BNC connector.  The camera has a built in LUT for viewing the video in a more "producer acceptable" way or you can view the raw video, which completely lacks contrast and saturation and makes producers panic.  The video outputs are meant to feed a video village and on set monitors.  For an additional $7,000 (available this fall) you can add a 4k broadcast module that will let you feed the set monitors with 4k (Ultra-HD really) video through 4 SDI connections at up to 60p and without audio.


14.  Image Analysis Tools

The image analysis tools on the T5i are very minimal, as with any of the DSLR cameras including the 1DC.  The camera has a simple brightness or RGB histogram to tell you when you're clipping on either end of the exposure range.

The C100 is designed more as a videographer camera in the sense that it has an extensive set of image analysis tools built into the camera.  This camera assumes that you'll need to make real time critical adjustments to nail exposure and focus on set.  As you would expect there is the usual brightness and RGB histogram; same as the T5i.  The C100 also includes a peaking filter so you can know when you're in focus.  There are the usual video camera zebras to know if your exposure is out of range in real time, as well as luma and RGB IRE graphs.  One feature I like to use for green screen work is the luma graph since this immediately tells me if I have the green screen evenly lit to the correct IRE level without ever having to pull out a light meter.  It's a very efficient way to work.

The Red Epic has a good set of on camera images analysis tools as well, which include a histogram, clip meter, clip level bar, false colors, zebras, and peaking.  As you can tell, these tools are mainly aimed at making sure that the entire dynamic range of the scene is captured with the current exposure settings.  Exact adjustments to exposure are done in post production.  With 6k resolution the peaking filter as well as the ability to punch in 1:1 on the display are critical for maintaining focus.  On a lot of professional sets it's assumed that the camera will be feeding a "video village" so the DIT may have more image analysis tools set up at their station.  As long as the camera isn't clipped in white or black and the image is in focus the picture is good to go.


15.  White Balance

All three of these cameras offer presets such as "daylight", "tungsten", "fluorescent", "Kelvin"...etc.  So what I want to discuss is what makes these cameras different.

In order to do a custom white balance on the T5i you need to take a photo *in raw format* of a white card, enter the menu system, select the custom white balance preset, then scroll down to the custom white balance option, choose the raw photo of the white card, then exit the menu and check that the white balance looks right.

With the C100 you put up a white card in front of the lens and press the white balance button on the side of the camera.  As long as your white balance is set to one of the A or B presets then the white balance should immediately take and you're done.  Easy, yes?  That's the power of having a camera designed for video work.  It's much faster and more efficient.

On the Red Epic the white balance camera setting is just metadata that travels along with the Redcode footage.  The camera has a native white balance of around 5000K, but that really doesn't matter.  The white balance you set in the camera is just to make the set monitors look good for producers and doesn't affect what is actually being recorded.  White balancing is something your DI colorist does in post production.  Usually Red operators carry a Red Cambook ($565) chart from DSC Labs to assist the DI colorist and get a few frames of the card during the first recording of the scene.


I want to leave you with two closing thoughts now that your head is full of camera information...

When in doubt, rent!  There is no perfect camera that does everything.

The most important thing isn't the camera, it's being a good storyteller.  Producers will find the equipment you need if you're a great storyteller.  Cameras will change rapidly.  Storytelling isn't a skill that will ever be obsolete.  Not next year; not the year after.