The Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder is the best affordable EVF I know. Since I first tried it at NAB with the new Blackmagic URSA Mini I’m thinking about how to make it work with other cameras. I figured it out and here is my guide how to use it with any camera like the Sony A7S, GH4, C300, FS7 and others. Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder with 1080p OLED screen Note that the URSA Viewfinder was specifically designed for the Blackmagic URSA and Blackmagic URSA Mini cameras. Use this guide at your own risk. We only share what we found and what worked for us. I already discussed all the advantages of the Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder in the video. So here’s the list of accessories that I used to make it work. Of course you can use other combinations and parts as per your needs, but here are the essential points: Essential Points The URSA Viewfinder needs an SDI source. So if your camera outputs SDI you’re probably already half way there. if it doesn’t, you will need an hdmi to SDI converter. The Viewfinder only works with a 1080 progressive signal. Most converters that I tried like this one or this one will NOT work, because they output an interlaced signal with the Sony a7S tested. You will need some way to power the URSA Viewfinder with a 12V female 4-pin XLR. Making it Work on a Camera like the Sony a7S The way I converted the hdmi signal from the Sony a7S to 1080p was to use an Atomos Shogun’s internal 4K –> 1080p downscaling. This way I could record 4K from a Sony a7S while at the same time using the Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder. Of course you can do a setup without the Shogun, but you will have to find a way to get a progressive signal via SDI. I’m waiting for this converter right now to see if it can provide the proper 1080p signal and will update this article very soon. The advantage of using the Shogun (or Odyssey 7Q+) is also the additional preview image whenever the rig is not on the shoulder, or for assistants. I think the way I finally mounted it on top of the Viewfinder is just the most convenient possibility and it seems it is never in the way. The Shogun will start recording through the a7S rec-trigger function, so no need to touch it at all. Furthermore it will enhance the URSA Viewfinder with all the software features included in the Shogun and I get the best of both worlds. Parts needed Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder Powering Lanparte VBP-02 V-Mount Plate – Of course other multi-power battery plates will also work. For my mod you should make sure you get an adaptor cable to power the Shogun. The Lanparte already comes with this cable. Lanparte 4-Pin Female XLR Adaptor – Converts a 12v miniplug (v-mount plate) to 4-pin XLR. You could also get a 12V D-Tap to 4-Pin XLR cable instead. Dummy Battery for Sony a7 cameras – This connects to the red-tip adapter cable which is included in the Lanparte VBP-02 package. This is why the dummy battery needs a male plug at the end. V-Mount Battery – This is the cheapest one I found, maybe not the best. It can be charged with the Lanparte plate which includes an AC adaptor. I have no idea how long it lasts, but I hope someone will do the math on 95WH and tell us in the comments. Conversion & 4K recording Atomos Shogun (Barebones) – This also works (tested) with an Odyssey 7Q+ Good affordable SSD – if you want to record stuff. Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable – to connect the a7S to the Shogun. SDI is connected directly from the URSA Viewfinder to the Shogun. If you need a longer cable get an SDI extension (not needed for my mod). Rigging Varavon a7S Cage – You need a good way to mount the Viewfinder. Of all the cages we tested, this was the one that provided the right threads. If you want to make it work with a different cage you have to experiment. Cold Shoe with 3/8″ screw + Cold Shoe Mount OR 1/4″ to 3/8″ Adapter – This mounts on top of the Viewfinder to give you a cold shoe space there OR a 1/4″ screw. I did the cold shoe version. Mini Ball Head – goes on the 1/4″ to mount the Shogun on top. Cable Ties – to arrange the cables. 1/4-20″ 1-inch (25mm) screws – Two of those screws will attach the Viewfinder to the cage. large nylon washers for 1/4″ screws – Get some nylon washers so that the Viewfinder sits nicely and the Viewfinder isn’t damaged. Get an allen-key for those as well. Handheld Rig (optional) I use and like this, but of course you can use any handheld rig solution. Vocas 15mm Rail Support – includes rails that are 8.4″ Vocas Shoulder Pad Underneath Vocas Handles I usually use the longer 13″ rails on my rigs. Other Small (HDMI) Cameras Panasonic GH4 If you want to do this with a Panasonic GH4 you might want to use the Dummy Battery for Panasonic GH3 & GH4 instead of the Sony one. If you use the DMW-YAGH you will need both the 12V D-Tap to 4-Pin XLR and Lanparte 4-Pin Female XLR cable and of course also an SDI cable to feed the Atomos Shogun. With the SDI you will of course not need the hdmi cable. Also you’d use a lower rail support than the 15mm one recommended above. Canon For Canon cameras that use the LP-E6 batteries you’ll need the Dummy Battery for Canon to make it all run from one V-mount battery. This one is for cameras like the 550D, 600D, 650D,… Also you’d use a mini HDMI cable, not the micro which you use for the a7 & GH4 cameras. Other Cameras I will write about using the Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder on the Canon C100 / C300 / C500 & C300 mark II in the following days. We will of course try this on more cameras, but looks like it’s gonna work on most if you follow the rules pointed out earlier. If you figure out on which cameras it works or doesn’t and which accessories are needed please share it in the comments. The Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder costs $1495 and is shipping now.Read more
We talked to Canon about their new 4 Million ISO camera, which goes by the melodious name of ME20F-SH, here at IBC 2015 in Amsterdam. It’s the first time the camera is being shown in real life. It has a very compact cubic form factor, which makes it very versatile for all sorts of applications, and it can be fully controlled remotely. It’s only 1080p with a Full Frame 35mm sensor, but at 19 microns, the pixels are very large, which makes them very light sensitive. The camera can shoot at up to 4,560,000 ISO and is definitely targeted at very specialist applications like nighttime wildlife shooting – which also justifies the price point of roughly $30K. It doesn’t have external recording but outputs via SDI and HDMI, 4:2:2 8-bit. Canon also says that it’s only available for a very select range of customers. It’s an unfair comparison because it’s targeted at a very different audience, but the Sony A7s (and the newly announced A7sII) cameras are about three stops less light sensitive. The footage that popped up on the Canon Japan website from the ME20F-SH shows a range of applications. Unfortunately it’s heavily compressed and therefore there is compression interference, but it still it looks clean until around 50,000 ISO as far as we can tell. However, this camera is something for wildlife filmmakers. From a personal perspective as a wildlife filmmaker, I once filmed Ethiopian hedgehogs in Qatar. Our main focus was to capture the moment the hedgehog gives birth, something that no one has ever been able to do, due to hedgehogs being prone to disturbance and causing infanticide after birth. The project took over 3 months, as we had to build a burrow out of fibre glass, specially designed to fit a camera and placed the burrow underground. We used fibre optical lights that ran into the burrow to light it up enough for the camera to see something. Over 3 months, we increased the light-level from complete darkness to a very little light-level, in order to habituate the hedgehog to its home. If we had the Canon Me20F-SH and its amazing low-light capabilities, we could have cut this time by at least a third if not more, not only saving us the amount of time to monitor the hedgehog’s behaviour, but also cutting production costs significantly.Read more
Gunther Machu works for a large engineering corporation and travels the world for business. On his trips, he has started shooting video for pleasure with amazing results that have brought him a lot of fans on his Vimeo account, not only from enthusiast filmmakers but also from professionals. He always uses the smallest kit possible – the Panasonic GH2 and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera are usually his main work horses. In this guest post, he shares his experiences with the GoPro HERO4 which he tested on his ski vacation last week, using the newly announced firmware update for higher slow motion capabilities (report here). (nl) General When I bought my first GoPro Hero 3 black edition in February 2013, I was quite fascinated how capable such a small camera can be. Using the right video modes (e.g. 2.7K 24p, 1080p60 or 720p120 in narrow mode) it delivered moiré and aliasing free, high bitrate images. Especially the Protune mode provided a flat color profile which can be tweaked quite heavily without falling apart. Hence, I was not too excited when the GoPro 3+ came to the market. It had too little to offer vs. the Hero 3. This changed with the announcement of the GoPro Hero 4 about a year ago. What really pushed me over the fence was the announcement of a firmware update to be released in February 2015 which included new video modes like 2.7K 60p or 720p240! Hence, I bought a Hero 4 Black Edition one week ago for my ski vacation, hoping for the release of the latest firmware just in time. GoPro Hero 4 vs. 3 Black Edition Things I immediately noticed The Protune flat color profile on the Hero 4 now looks very neutral – the Hero 3 sometimes had an ugly, yellowish overcast which I found difficult to remove in post The highlight roll – off now looks much nicer, the Hero 3 always had a very harsh, digital looking transition All the video modes have vastly increased in effective resolution – first and foremost the 4K modes, but also the high framerate 2.7K modes. On the Hero 3 it was barely possible to tell the 2.7K images apart from the 1080p ones, no matter which field of view was used. Now on the Hero 4 it is possible to limit the maximum ISO the camera uses Also, the Hero 4 now offers EV compensation (ranging from +2 to -2) However, the dynamic range has not improved unfortunately The lens seems to be the same on both, at least the typical GoPro fisheye and field of view is very similar The GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition video modes Having installed the latest firmware 2.0 from February 4th, I was eager to test the new video modes, 2.7K 60p and 720p240. 2.7K p60 should be super useful to apply optical correction in post for the fisheye lens (e.g. with the GoPro Studio software or Adobe After Effects (in the effects tab use ‘distort’ à ‘optical compensation’ then tick ‘reverse lens correction’ and FOV values of about 70). Also, additional image stabilization in post (like warp stabilizer in Premiere Pro) further zooms into the image hence any resolution overhead is highly welcome! Well, what I found is the above statement only holds true for certain modes: Superview Pah, not for me – squeezed and distorted à looks like wrong aspect ratio 80’s TV Field of view “wide” 4K all frame rates super detailed and very nice – but the data rate (~64mbit/s) is on the limit and compression artifacts appear if there is a lot of movement – only use for locked down shots or stabilized drone shots 2.7K 24, 25, 30, 50, 60 modes are disappointing – absolutely NO difference to the corresponding 1080p modes! This situation changes very positively once the 2.7K modes are used in the “medium” field of view settings. It seems that the Hero 4 cannot cope with the additional data reading the full sensor in “wide” mode. A fact which I unfortunately noticed only after having shot the enclosed test video. See the screenshots from a 1080 timeline below, zoomed to 140% (click to enlarge) 1080p 24, 25, 30, 50, 60 modes are all very detailed and nice, no compression artifacts 1080p120 mode has a lot of aliasing – use with caution 720p modes are all fine, with the exception of the 720p120 mode – aliasing Field of view “medium” Whoa, everything changes with the “medium” field of view. This is where the 2.7K modes shine and really provide the extra resolution they are promising. Also, the bitrate of ~65mbits/s seems enough even when a lot of motion is present in the images – no compression artifacts are visible to my eyes. “Medium” FOV for 2.7K means obviously 1:1 sensor subsampling – clean, moiré and aliasing free images which are much more detailed than the 1080p modes! “Medium” field of view for 2.7K is less wide than “medium” for 1080p which makes a 1:1 comparison between these two modes impossible, but here are 140% zoomed in frame grabs from a 1080 timeline for both resolutions (click to enlarge): Notice the wider field of view of the 1080p60 “Medium” mode. Field of view “Narrow” the 1080 modes as well as the 720 modes seem to be 1:1 subsampled from the sensor (windowing), hence they are detailed (exception 720p240) and aliasing free 1080p120 fantastic slow motion, detailed, no aliasing – my choice! 720p240 is only available in narrow FOV, sounds amazing! However I found it disappointing. It shows compression artefacts, is very soft – not for me. It really looks like a standard definition image (screengrab from a 1080 timeline, click to enlarge): Conclusion The new GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition with the latest firmware 2.0 is an amazing upgrade from the Hero 3 black I bought 2 years ago. I will only use those modes on the Hero 4: 4K for slow moving, locked down or drone shots 2.7K “Medium” field of view all frame rates for action shots – for twice the resolution of the 1080p modes, giving me still a decent 1080 image after de-fisheyeing and image stabilization in post 1080p120 “Narrow” field of view for slow motion shots This video I shot partly with the old, partly with the new firmware (it arrived in the middle of my ski vacation), using mostly 2.7K and 1080p120 in Protune flat and sharpness dialed down as far as possible in cam. One advantage of the high (automatic) shutter speeds having zero motion blur in direct sunlight is that you can further slow down the shots with optical flow algorithms (available e.g. in the GoPro Studio software, or After Effects (timewarp) or Twixtor). I used this effect a few times in the test video. As mentioned above I only learned after the fact that the “wide” 2.7K shots do not provide any advantage over the 1080p modes – hence the action shots appear soft. Lesson learned, you should always test before you shoot! Also, I really liked the “Night Timelapse” functionality of the Hero 4 – you can set the shutter & the interval (in my case 20s shutter and 30s interval). The battery of my Hero 4 survived more than 1,5 hours at -10°C for the night timelapse shown at the end, which I find quite amazing! Also, no need to worry if it starts to snow or rain during the timelapse – the camera sits safely in its waterproof housing. Most of the shots were de-fisheyed with After Effects, and image stabilized with warp stabilizer. Vimeo does not take 50p clips, that’s why I rendered everything in 25p – believe me, in 50p the action looks way better! My wish list for a future Hero X: Better optically corrected lens – I hate the fisheye … Higher bitrate for the 4K modes Bigger dynamic range – its probably around 8 – 9 stops today And of course, higher frame rates are always welcome!Read more
Watch previous episodes of ON THE COUCH & ON THE GO by clicking here! Visit our Vimeo and YouTube playlists, and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! Here’s episode 11 of ON THE COUCH, and it’s one of my all-time favorite episodes, in which I was happy to talk to Lan and Vu Bui, the “cinematography brothers” who recently finished shooting a feature film called “20 Feet Below – The Darkness Descending”, as well as director Jan Woletz and producer / VFX man Christof Dertschei, the people behind the upcoming web series “Wienerland”, which we already reported about in detail in this recent post. That’s one lively 50 minute discussion and it shouldn’t be missed by any of our viewers. Vu and Lan Bui talking about the pitfalls of crowd funding & 4K shooting Here’s the gist of the content: • Is 4K a waste of time and money or not? Some very diverging opinions and experiences about shooting on 4K are discussed – Jan and Christof highlight how shooting in 4K on the 1DC with director of photography (and cinema5D partner) Johnnie Behiri saved their butts because they ran out of time but were able to crop into the wide shots to still get those “close ups” that were needed. Lan and Vu argue how much effort needs to be added to post production when dealing with 4K, despite the fact that virtually no clients demands 4K finishing in this day and age. • Crowd funding for indie productions The greatest part of the discussion is about how to fund films via crowd funding. Vu and Lan Bui have a lot of experience with crowd funding because of the feature film “20 Feet Below” and other projects, while Jan Woletz and Christof Dertschei are on the brink of starting their Kickstarter campaign for Wienerland. They talk about how important it is to build an audience before you actually start the campaign, about budgeting for production as well as the perks that are given out – which eat up a big part of the crowd funding revenue if done right. Also, we talked about how important it is to be fair to your audience and team members when asking the public for money, because very often filmmakers only think about the cost of the gear that needs to be used, while they “forget” to actually pay their cast & crew. Lan and Vu talk about the importance of having a “bigger name” no their cast list – like in their case Danny Trejo. Jan Woletz said to that casting choice, “Danny Trejo’s face is the best reason to shoot in 4K,” and I have to say he might be right :) This is an incredibly engaging discussion and I recommend it to anyone who is interesting in finance any kinds of projects via crowd funding, there is so much to learn from all these guys! Jan Woletz & Christof Dertschei, the director & producer behind “Wienerland” Huge thanks especially to Katharina Dietl for her work on that show, we had serious audio problems and she worked tirelessly on fixing these to get this show finally out (and she also did the live edit and camera, assisted by Chloe Mae). For all ON THE COUCH episodes so far, click here:Read more
Wireless on-set video monitors, sometimes referred to as “Watchman”, are often seen on film sets with the director or other staff members who need to see what the camera sees at any time during the shoot. If you’ve got an indie production you might be in the business to rent these things from time to time and you might know they are expensive. Read on to see the DIY instruction:Read more
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