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Monday, April 26, 2010

••◊ Pentax K-7...Green with envy?

Admittedly, I've been neglecting this blog for the last couple weeks while I feverishly finished up projects and travelled. Since I don't have any firm photo or film projects going on right now I'm delving into the technical side of things with at least some good results.

Yesterday Clarence came by and we did some photo tests with his Pentax K-7. Pentax did some crazy stuff with their video mode. In addition to the usual 720p resolution they included a "high def" mode with a resolution of 1536x1024 pixels - what the...? Of course the HDV camp deals with anamorphic 1440x1080, but at least one of the dimensions aligns with 1080p. Pentax will learn some day. They probably bolted on this mode at the last minute.

Of course, this being a technical test day I pulled out the white balance card and Gretag Macbeth Color Checker cards. Clarence white balanced his camera and started to shoot video. We got this...

Whoa momma! Now I've seen slight color issues, but this shouldn't happen on any modern camera. At first we thought - oh, maybe it's the lens because the lens has a slight greenish tint when viewed at an angle. So Clarence changed from a Pentax to Tokina lens. Nope, still there.

Clarence finally figured it out after we started to see focus screen vertical streaks in the video. Unlike the Canon cameras, the Pentax cameras don't fold up the internal viewfinder mirror in live view to block light from entering the viewfinder. Light from the viewfinder was corrupting the white balance and video image. The no-cost solution? ...Thumb over the view finder. What we then got was this.

Much, much better. So long story short, don't assume that all video DSLRs work the same. Now we just have to work on our color accuracy. Pentax seems to have very high contrast in their "natural" setting. That will be the subject of my next post.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

••◊ What is a Bgirl?

Between the trials of headaches, sleeping, excreting wildly imaginative colors of mucus, and otherwise just feeling ill this last weekend I managed to finish up another short documentary. This one is plainly titled "What is a Bgirl?" The idea came up when I was having a late lunch with my former high school classmate Amy in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles late last summer. She runs a dance company call Antics Performance and refers to herself as a Bgirl. My first inclination upon hearing this was to think about b-movies, however there's absolutely no relation.

A Bgirl, also known as a "break girl," refers to the New York dance style commonly known as break dancing (it's technically supposed to be called b-boying). For those less than 30 years old, this was a dance style that hit critical mass in the early eighties - you know, back when hip-hop was referred to as rap music and MTV was in a basement somewhere in New York with JJ, Nina, Mark, Alan, and Martha. Then again, maybe you don't know.

We shot the documentary in one long day in Amy's loft near downtown LA. She invited over some of her favorite girls from the cypher (dance circle). They included "Asia-One," "Chronic," "L-boogie," and "Peppa (the Hot Steppa)." One thing you quickly learn is that Bgirls are no cream puff types from male chauvinistic hip hop music videos. These "girls" are built and you don't mess with them. However, there's no need to mess with them. Bgirl-ing is about extended families and relationships as much as dance.

We shot the video using my Canon 5D mark II and Clarence's Pentax K-7. We needed a b-cam and in the absence of another 5D I asked him to try his K-7. I had the a-cam shots, so I figured there was no loss in giving it a go. A couple things about the K-7 in video mode...It has nasty rolling shutter artifacts, so don't move the camera or the picture will shake like a bowl of jelly. It only records in 1280x720 30fps which, as Canon took some time to learn, needs to be upgraded. The codec they use is also heavily compressed, so the picture quality was only good for cut-aways. I can't recommend mixing these two cameras unless you have to.

The shoot also gave me a chance to try out my new audio work flow, talked about in the previous post. The only issue I had in post was that L-boogie was a low talker, so even though I boosted up the gain on the lavs her audio was noticeably more noisy than others. Other than that, it worked like a charm and I recorded excellent audio straight to camera. I also used Amy's Rode video mic which worked well enough for ambient low quality recordings.

So...the film...yeah that...Click on the picture below to be taken to the Bgirl short film.

Click Here to View The Video Titled: What is a Bgirl?

These girls kick serious boo-tay, don't you think?