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Sunday, February 24, 2013

••◊ Revolution Cinema Rentals Open House

Yesterday I braved the Los Angeles county traffic to make it all the way up to San Fernando, specifically to Revolution Cinema Rentals' open house.

These gear porn-fests are somewhat amusing from my standpoint.  Living in San Diego, most of this gear is non-existent within an 80 mile radius.  If you just stop and truly listen to the conversation you'll hear religion about bit depths, codecs, sensors...etc., but does it really matter?  I used to think so, and least more than I do now.  Yes, OK, it does matter to a certain extent.  Sometimes you have to impress your clients with claimed knowledge of baffling technology that they will never understand just because that's what will get you the job.

Every DP finds their technology-driven religion.  Some espouse film at infinite length (Oh god, make it stop!  Uncle!  Uncle!).  Some demand Sony F65 stereo rigs because (sarcastically) who shoots 2D anymore(?) and it just looks impressive to the director if the camera is the size of a Fiat 500.  Some love the "look" of the Red or Arri cameras, even though the raw files can be made to pretty much look like one another.

More and more people come up to me to ask what type of camera they should buy.  I have no clue, but I can offer two pieces of consistently good advice.  First, buy the camera you can immediately figure out how to use without reading the user manual.  That's how I ended up with a Canon 40D instead of a Nikon D300.  I still can't figure out the Nikon controls.  Second, think about what you're expecting the camera to do for YOU specifically and buy the one that best fits YOUR needs.  This also relates to economic needs.  For instance, I don't NEED a Sony F65 to shoot a local car commercial, but it sure would give my ego a much needed boost right about now.

I also wouldn't want a director to come to me with their iPhone and expect Citizen Kane just because they saw a really cool video on Vimeo or Youtube.  - steam spewing out of my ears and my head doing continuous Poltergeist style 360-degree rotations.  Although, I'll admit to using a GoPro from time to time just because of the form factor.  It was the right tool to use for that job.

Gaining familiarity with the hardware shown during the RCR event is just good to have as knowledge in your back pocket to impress clients.  However the real reason to go to these events is to network and get a feel for what's really happening in the industry.  That's far more important than in-depth knowledge of the latest log-curve.  You work with whom you want to work with.  The trick is finding those good/reliable people you want to go into battle with.

That said, here's a listing of random pictures from the event. 


Oh, and the SmallHD DP7 OLED monitor completely blew me away.  I want one.  Please excuse the drool droplet marks over that last picture.

Monday, February 18, 2013

••◊ Overview of the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition

The model didn't materialize for my Video Gear lighting tests today, so instead I did a review of the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition (thanks to Clarence for letting me borrow his shiny new hardware). 

Check it out over at the Video Gear blog.

Friday, February 15, 2013

••◊ Weekend adventure summary

Mom came into town this last weekend, which meant I was playing Southern California tour guide.  The theme for this trip quickly became related to the skies, space, and flight.  I'm not sure why, but sometimes things just work out a certain way.  Our first stop was high on top of Palomar Mountain at the Cal Tech observatory.  The pictures you're seeing below are of their premier Hale 200" telescope.  Visitors are freely allowed in the building up into a glass enclosed viewing room.  You'll have to forgive the window reflections since I didn't have a drape to cover the camera and glass.  There are actually three telescopes on site.  The 18" telescope was used to map the entire northern sky in the first half of the 1900's.  Talk about eye strain!  There is also a 36" telescope on site that is still used. 

Back in the day before CCD sensors and remote computer control astronomers would have to sit in the top carriage of the telescope and view the skies at night.  It gets cold up there.  Their solution for frost bite was to use a 24V powered flight suit to keep themselves from freezing.  Again, sorry about the picture quality.  These were taken in front of reflective glass. 

Also, the telescope is kept at average night time temperature all the time, more than likely to avoid mechanical expansion and contraction in the system.  So the viewing room was very, very cold.  Hopefully they have solar, otherwise their AC bill would be astronomical (pun intended)!

After visiting the observatory we headed back down to Mother's, which is a vegan restaurant perched at 5000'. My mom, being a vegetarian was excited to try out this long time favorite of the local sport bikers, hikers, and tourists.  The restaurant was **supposed** to be open Thurs-Sun, however after a second look I found a sign on the window that simply said "Closed Thursday February 7th."  Of all days...  My mom has waited years to go there and they close on the ONE day we're there.  After lunch at Dudley's and avoiding the massive temptation of the Julian Pie Company we headed home.

The next day we braved the vicious Los Angeles traffic to venture up to the California Science Center to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour.  What an inspirational thing to see this tribute to the pioneering spirit of America.  The science center was filled with little munchkins running around and their teachers doing their best impression of a cat herder.  However when you FINALLY found the entrance to the Endeavour building (it took a while) things suddenly became a lot quieter.  Maybe it was the building acoustics.  Maybe it was just people in awe...or a combination of the two.

The blue pedestals you see in the second photography below are actually earthquake rollers.  If an earthquake does happen the Space Shuttle will simply roll from side to side until it comes to a natural stop.

My mom, being raised in a traditional German way, liked the orderliness of individually labelled ceramic underbelly tiles.  Every single one has a part number.


Yadda, yadda, yadda...we did some other stuff in between. Then on Sunday we visited the La Jolla Glider Port.  I figured this was a good place to wrap up a vacation.  It's a calming experience - i.e. the anti Los Angeles.  You hear the ocean and not much more, with the occasional exception of a whistle when a glider is coming in for a landing and doesn't want to tackle any earth-bound folks. 

At one point the wind died, so the gliders had to land on the beach below.  Let me tell you, it's a hell of a climb back up to the glider port on treacherous stairs.  I was winded by the top and I do aerobic exercise all the time!

One thing you need to be aware of while going to the glider port is that the beach below is "naturalist" tolerant.  In the far distance of the first photo below there is actually a naturalist walking toward me.  Not to worry, he's just a blur.  Have to keep my blog safe for work.

Hopefully I'll have more technical stuff after this weekend. I'm going into Video Gear to do more lighting tests. Hopefully we come back with some good stuff to share.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

••◊ Review of the Sony FS-700

I spent all of last weekend with the Sony FS-700 camera on loan from Video Gear in San Diego.  Being their blogger, I also recorded a couple short videos and wrote up a bit on my (short) experiences with the camera.  Overall, it's not a bad camera, it's just that the camera falls a bit short of my personal expectations.  In the price bracket around the FS-700 (~$8k) I expect to have four times the quality of a Canon DSLR and the codec on the FS-700 really limits the camera to about DSLR quality - minus the annoying aliasing...most of the time.  The FS-700 might kick some serious boo-tay once the 4k upgrade is available, depending on the price of the recorder options.

You can read about my experiences here and here.  Also, here are two short videos I created as examples of the output from the camera.