by Nino Leitner | 20th February 2016
Production Insights is a new irregular cinema5D series, highlighting actual paid productions on which modern camera and production gear was used. We are talking about real-world issue-solving on real-world sets with real-world clients. As a director of photography, there aren’t many chances in the TV world to help shape an entirely new program and start something from scratch. All too often, we have to pick up where others left off, or reiterate the same style or concept repeatedly. TV is hardly a medium of innovation these days, at least in the field of news and reporting. Narrative fiction is a whole different story altogether. Around eighteen months ago, private TV channel ATV asked me to come aboard a new politics talk show concept in Austria. The show, “Klartext”, roughly translates as “frankly spoken” and is the brainchild of presenter Martin Thür. Martin and director Christoph Woska wanted to try something different and innovative. Most politics talk shows on TV, whether at home in Austria or abroad, are shot in the same studio location time and again. They are often roundtable formats, meaning you have a bunch of people with massively different viewpoints on any given matter sitting at one table. All too often resulting in a blur of blabber for the viewers at home, as a moderator tries to prevent their guests from talking over each other. As we all know, it’s impossible to understand a word said on TV if people talk over each other. It’s annoying to watch and a major cause of frustration whilst watching political debates on TV. Here’s one episode from season 2, dealing with jihadists in Europe. Unfortunately the video quality on the ATV website isn’t great, so I embedded one of the individual interviews from Klartext YouTube channel (just not the full episodes). And apologies, the series is in German only: Martin wanted to switch to a one-to-one format, shot on location – each interview in a different setting, often having three people interviewed in individual locations per twenty-five-minute show. This gives the show a unique touch, as the location can change so that it is related to the interviewee and or interview topic. In fact, Klartext has built constant change of scenery into its format, which fundamentally influences the scope of any given interview. Martin specifically approached me because of my experience with larger format interchangeable lens cameras and my focus on delivering a higher end “film look” to the projects that I handle. Their typical TV cameras are the classical broadcast ENG shoulder cameras, which we all know deliver the typical “newsy look”. Of course, this is something I never specialized in or was particularly interested in shooting. Now, realizing a concept like this in a tight TV type budget and under time pressure for a weekly half-hour show wasn’t an easy task. Usually, we have to shoot at least two interviews in one shooting day – sometimes far apart geographically – which makes planning the shoot hard for the production people. Occasionally, the show must be edited and go on air on the same day. This happens quite regularly if there is an election date imminent, like in recent shows for the Vienna election, with the lead candidates for each party. 4 Cameras, 3 different types, external recorders for DNxHD Due to the tight budget and shooting days that are “all over the place”, I had to go with camera setups that would be available on short notice. They also had to be replaced relatively easily, if other jobs coincided with Klartext shoots where one of my cameras was needed, for example. In total there are usually four cameras, three of them manned (with the exception of “special” episodes with more or fewer cameras, which I’ll speak more about below). The two close-ups (of the interviewed politician and of presenter Martin Thür) are shot with a Sony FS7 and a Canon C300. There is a “moving” Sony A7s (either on a dolly, a small jib arm, or a Freefly MoVi M5, depending on the location and requirements of each individual interview), and a second unmanned A7s that shoots a static fall-back wide shot. Why all these different cameras? As mentioned above, a very practical reason: because I own them and have them available at most times. Using multiple cameras also allows us to find a rental at short notice, rather than having to look for one specific model. Unfortunately, all of the cameras need to record 1080 50i, as this is a technical requirement of the TV channel ATV for their own productions. I would prefer to shoot in 25p simply to get rid of the “newsy” movement that 50i injects into the production, but it’s currently not possible and we have to live with it. Because of the fast turn-around that is required for the show (the show sometimes airs on the night of the shooting day) and the fact that we can’t shoot “direct to tape” because the interviews are shortened in the edit, we have to deliver in the editing format DNxHD straight from the cameras in order for the editor to ingest all the footage straight into AVID after we wrap. Shooting a special episode in Athens, Greece, following their near-collapse of their economy in summer 2015. For this, we are using various external Atomos recorders, among them the Shogun and Ninja Assassin, which can also serve as small preview monitors. We label all of the SSDs with camera names, so the editor knows right away which camera is which when transferring the footage. All the cameras still record internally for backup, and the two main cameras get fed the two audio tracks from the audio recordist’s mixer into their two XLR ports simultaneously. This is another way of having a backup of the audio recording, in case there is a problem on one of the cameras. External recorders never come without problems. If I had a choice, I would not use them. The problems lie not so much with the recorders themselves, but with the unreliability of HDMI wires and connectors. HDMI is terrible and was never intended as a professional standard, yet cameras like the Sony a7S and many others only have HDMI as a video output – and even HDMI micro. If you think that normal HDMI is bad, HDMI micro truly is the devil. The connectors get loose or break easily and you absolutely NEED to find a way to make the connector more reliable. This is one of the biggest reasons to use a camera cage (click here to read our extensive Sony a7S cage review or here the new Sony a7S II cage review) or something similar. My preferred solution is the LOCKCIRCLE LockPort a7M2 Kit, which transforms micro HDMI into a proper HDMI port, which is much more reliable. For me, this is an absolute must-have for any user of Sony a7 series cameras (and many other small cameras, such as the GH4 which come with the dreadful micro HDMI connector). The LOCKCIRCLE Lockport a7M2 Kit on a Kessler Crane Pocket Jib Traveler …. the only way to make an external recorder / preview monitor work with Micro HDMI Unfortunately, the Lockport device is incompatible with most cages except for the LOCKCIRCLE Birdcage. It’s a very basic but useful cage which gives you mounting options for things like external recorders. Convergent Design recently started shipping their Apollo 4-channel video recorder (you’ll find our news post explaining the device here), which is a variety of their popular Odyssey 7Q+ recorder (which we have reviewed here). A paid upgrade is available to get the Apollo functionality. I’m looking into switching the production to using the Apollo recorder to record all four video sources simultaneously into one device, instead of four Atomos recorders. However, we first have to wait for the DNxHD update to be released for the Apollo, plus convert one of the two HDMI signals from the two a7S cameras to SDI, because the Apollo only comes with one HDMI-in (and four SDI-in). I will review the Convergent Design Apollo as soon as possible on one of our shoots for season 4 of Klartext. Matching cameras This definitely is an odd mix of two different cameras, but we have figured out a way to make it work – it admittedly took a while and on some episodes we didn’t manage a 100% even look that we were happy with after. There was a lot of trial and error in the beginning. It’s understandable, though, as you don’t always get everything right first-time on fast turnaround TV content. Matching different camera brands and models … hard to do, but not impossible. We have wrapped season 3 of the show in November, where we have used a camera color settings and color grading workflow which are feasible for the fast turnaround that the show requires, with virtually no time for color grading in post-production. Together with a colorist, we ran a series of color tests on each camera and figured out picture profiles for each camera model that would make them look as close as possible, using DaVinci Resolve and Avid Media Composer. For the fine-tuning, our colorist created LUT presets that could be easily applied to the Avid editing workflow at the channel headquarters where they are editing the show. Inside a conference room in the Austrian Parliament Lighting In most cases, our lighting setup needs to be as simple as it is effective. We generally shoot daylight (5600K) in 95% of all locations. My gaffer, Bernhard Rieber, uses different sizes of HMI’s with chimeras in front for the two crossed-out key lights, and most of the time we go for a slightly harder HMI as a kicker. Of course, lighting is the one area where I often wish we had more time for refinement, however, this is exactly where the circumstances and turnaround time of a TV shoot simply do not allow us to “go as crazy” as on a corporate, commercial or narrative shoot. Style Together with director Christoph Woska, we decided from the beginning that in addition the “special film look” that we figured out, we wanted to create a high production value with the limited resources we have available. We consciously decided to “see the set” every now and then. We didn’t want to pretend that there was nothing going on behind the scenes of these interviews, quite the contrary – being a news-type report program, we want the audience to be aware of the artificial environment that is created – simply by putting cameras up and choosing angles and perspectives carefully. That is a departure from a film-type look that is immediately associated with narrative fiction because of our viewing habits. While we wanted the film look, the film feeling of “fakeness” wasn’t the intention, which is why we are grounding the audience in reality by showing them the surroundings of the set. Special episodes – in Part 2: In part two of this post, I will write about some special episodes that required specific setups to the production and camera setups. Specifically, I will write about an episode in which we accompanied Syrian refugees across the Serbian-Hungarian border, with XLR audio transmitters recording straight into two Sony a7S cameras. The challenge was to stay undercover and embedded with the refugees without attracting too much attention to us. A series of other special episodes were the candidates for the Vienna elections in late 2015, shot with even 5 cameras, one of them a C300 on a large crane, plus utilizing a large TableConnect multitouch device for Martin to present the candidates with facts during the discussion. Another special episode includes the Paris Attacks episode, recorded only days after the terrible terror attacks in Paris in late 2015. On short notice we managed to organize a local team to man the additional cameras. More about all that (including embedded episodes) in the next part of this series.Read more
by Nino Leitner | 4th January 2016
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016 in Las Vegas, Livestream just announced a new type of product called “Movi” (which probably won’t please our friends from Freefly who have established their brand MøVi for their gimbal stabilizers). Livestream Movi is a kind of pseudo-multicam camera, which creates the illusion of having multiple cameras cover a music concert or any other event by utilizing smart software. It’s definitely not a high-end professional product, but it comes in at a rather low price point of only $399, and only $199 during its introductory period as a pre-order. Almost a no-brainer for the functionality it promises to have, cheaper than a GoPro. Of course it is in fact only one viewpoint, but its UHD (3840 x 2160 pixel) resolution allows the software to choose different parts of the image it’s recording and generate “fake” perspectives automatically. Initially there’s only an iOS app that offers you to edit on-the-fly, also automatically detecting faces and “other points of interest”. You can do pseudo-pans and pseudo-zooms, all using your fingertips on the touchscreen. Despite the fact that it’s a product by Livestream, the video doesn’t need to be streamed live if you don’t want it to be, it can also be recorded and be published or further post-processed later. Movi has a built-in battery that lasts around one hour, but with their additional “Movi Boost” you can get another 10 hours of battery life, and the accessory also adds Ethernet and LTE connectivity (they sell them in a set with a stand and some other gimmicks calling this “Movi Pro”). Personal impression and thoughts This is definitely a product worth looking at in my opinion, but of course it can never replace a real multi-camera setup, particularly not a manned one. Also, you really only have one viewpoint, but for some small things and private recordings of events, this might just be enough. This is the first time that I see that 4K / UHD resolution is used effectively for an added value in a product, and it’s not just increasing delivery resolution for the sake of it, while most people only have 1080p displays and TVs. However, I would love to see the software that they have developed available to be used with other, more professional cameras. The size and price of the Movi camera makes me think that this must have a GoPro-ish look, meaning that it will be relatively wide angle (they also say it should be set up closer to the action that usual multi-cam setups) and also particularly bad in low light. I also have no clue how it will behave in changing lighting conditions, which is something to consider during concert shoots. Other professional 4K cameras would offer a large sensor look, interchangeable lenses (and thereby further expanding the use of the auto-detecting software) and last but not least much higher low light sensitivity. via TechCrunchRead more
by Tim Fok | 29th October 2015
Convergent Design has announced an interesting new recorder that offers a very compact solution to multicam recording workflows. The Apollo takes the same form factor as the popular Odyssey 7Q and 7Q+, offering up to 4 channels of recording from 4 separate sources, with a final 5th channel as a multicam TX or quad recording. This will condense a lot of multicam users hardware. The Apollo is a switcher, ISO and TX recorder; it has the ability to record up to 4 ISO (isolated camera) channels, switch between the 4 as well as recording to a final channel TX (transmission record) or a quad-split reference view. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for the Odyssey 7Q/7Q+ recorder, the Apollo uses a similar 7.7″ OLED touchscreen display, dual proprietary SSDs and a host of camcorder battery plates as well as an AC adaptor; all these features contribute to keeping the form factor small and compact. Here’s from the Convergent Design press release, bold highlights by me: “Field producers can take it on location, record from any four HD cameras, view a quad-split playback on the way home and drop all four cameras in perfect sync into a single timeline to dive immediately into an edit. Reality programs shot in cramped cars with tiny cameras can slip Apollo in the glove box or under a seat. A concert performance can be captured by recording four camera ISOs along with recording a Line Cut that can also be sent to a large live display at the venue. Live-streamed events can be covered with four-camera switching without having to bring in a large flypack. Apollo can also be used as a secondary recorder/monitor; using our battery & wireless video receiver bracket makes for a great handheld Director’s Monitor. And Apollo’s advanced built-in Image Analysis tools can be used to match the cameras during setup. Apollo addresses many modern multicamera field production needs in a single 1” thick device.” Good new for Odyssey 7Q/7Q+ owners also, around the same time of release you’ll be able to pay for an upgrade that will enable you 7Q/7Q+ recorders to have the same multicam features of the Apollo. Doing a lot of work in Live Events in the past I can see great use of the Convergent Design Apollo in multicam scenarios. It maybe considered one of those nervy steps where you’re putting all your faith in one piece of hardware (ISO, TX and switcher). However you usually always have in-camera recording too that can serve as your backup; the Apollo has a feature enabled where it will keep recording other channels even if one drops out. Post work time can be reduced. Not only will you be supplied with a ProRes TX recording but also a multicam sequence synced and ready for editing can be supplied via an XML EDL file. I question its use as a functional mixer; cutting critically between shots is never ideal as a touchscreen interface. Not a lot of information is in the press release discussing this feature, however a second quarter 2016 update brings a “Remote keyboard control pad” which I hope is a form of hardware that links to the Apollo to offer physical buttons for mixing. Speaking of future updates, the Apollo will be 4K enabled up to 2 channels of recording early next year, as well Avid DNxHD support and Cascade Interconnect, linking up to 3 Apollos for 12 channel HD/6 channel 4K workflows. Specifications for the Convergent Design Apollo Recording HD video recording, up to four signals simultaneously 1080p24 / 1080p30 / 1080i60 / 720p60 (60hz territories) 1080p25 / 1080i50/720p50 (50hz territories) Apple ProRes HQ/422/LT Record four HD signals and one quad-split view Record four HD signals and one live switch Up to four SDI inputs or three SDI & one HDMI Embedded audio or analog input Loss of any signal does not interrupt recording of other channels Apollo Media Manager App outputs four separate files or one master multi-camera QuickTime for simplified post Dual SSDs allow spanning (long record time) or mirroring (simultaneous backup) 3.5 hours recording time at highest quality [2TB of 4x HD signals & live switch, 1080p30, Apple ProRes 422(HQ); 8.5 hours in Apple ProRes 422(LT)] Switching/Monitoring No Genlock required Touchscreen interface Monitor outputs for switched or quad view Two SDI outputs, one HDMI output Preset or Custom Monitoring LUTs Image Analysis tools: False Color, Focus Assist, Histogram, Pixel Zoom, Spot Meter, Vectorscope, Waveform, and Zebra 7.7” OLED panel for true blacks and accurate colors Other 7.9”x6.1”x1” / 20×15.5×2.5 cm 1.2lbs. / 560g Under 20w power draw, 6.5-34v with battery mounts available Two 2.5” SSD slots (Convergent Design SSDs or qualified 3rd party models) Magnesium case / Gorilla Glass cover / stick-on/peel-off screen protector No fans or vents The Convergent Design Apollo should start shipping December this year. The manufacturer’s list price is $3995, which includes an SSD to USB3 adapter, 5-pack of SSD mounting handles and a universal AC power supply. Owners of the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q and 7Q+ will be able to purchase an Apollo Option for their devices as an upgrade for $1795.Read more
We only send updates about our most relevant articles. No spam, guaranteed! And if you don't like our newsletter, you can unsubscribe with a single click. Read our full opt-out policy here.