Mr Magic Carpet Ride's Blog

Digital Cinema/HD Video/Commercial Video Production

Blackmagic Cinema Camera February 17, 2014

Well…version one at least.  I’d like to save anyone who stumbles upon my little blog some time if you are curious about what it is like to work with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5k.  I will give a very brief review below.

 

First, I really like it.  I thought I would hate it when it was first announced.  I laughed at the crop factor (2.4 I think) and I assumed there must be some terrible compression method or something that was making the camera so cheap upon its release.  I thought the body style was really just stupid and that the internal battery was a joke.  But after spending quite a bit of time shooting my low budget projects on a 5D MKII, I have come to realize that it is, in fact, the 5D that is a nightmare to work with and yields really awful footage.  5D changed the video world forever in a really good way but it’s compression to the images alone is reason enough to desperately seek out another camera for low to mid budget projects.  Not to mention the complete lack of pro audio and that awful 12 minute recording limit…yikes.  But…it’s full frame and is great to have as a stills camera.

 

On to the BMCC (Black Magic Cinema Camera):

 

It’s light and it is built very well.  I don’t do many run and gun kind of shoots these days, so if I am going hand-held for a bit it is a choice and not a necessity.  It is surely awkward to hold but I have found a position that I like to shoot with it (using EF lenses) and I don’t mind it.  The touch screen is very responsive and the rubber buttons feel well-made and protected from the elements.

 

The screen is great for framing and basic focusing and is a nice jump in size for the DSLR shooters of the world.  My biggest problem with this particular workflow in regards to the screen is that one cannot affect exposure, shutter, ASA, or other options without entering into a menu which completely blocks the image on the screen.  In the rare case the camera operator is going commando out in the field this can really be an issue.

 

Onto the most important part, the image quality.  We’ve all been spoiled by 4k, 5k, and 6k RAW images in the RED Scarlet and Epic, so to me it is close to disappointing when I take footage home that was shot in 2k and view it blown up.  Of course, the 2k DSLR cameras still work great when you have the luxury of giving them tons of light and shooting anywhere beneath 500ISO, but it’s still just a less-detailed image as compared to 4k and beyond, even if your final output is 2k or lower.

 

Lately I’ve really enjoyed shooting on the Scarlet but for budget reasons have been renting a Canon C100 rig which outputs to a Ninja II capture device.  The final ProRes images are really clean in regards to the compression method and look really great even in full screen on my 27″ iMac monitor or 40″ flat-screen.  However, with base prices close to $15k and $8k respectively, neither of these cameras make good financial sense for me to purchase.  I got burned a few years ago when I spent close to $16k on two Sony EX cameras and learned that the only reason I will buy a camera is if I feel it will be relevant for several years and it is not financially difficult for me to see a strong return on my investment.

 

The BMCC not only creates an image that is really beautiful but I wouldn’t worry very much about spending $2k for a camera that is currently a giant step up from my 5D.  The footage at any setting, RAW 2.5k, ProRes, and…well I haven’t shot DNxHD yet…is really sharp and has a beautiful compression footprint.  I haven’t shot anything at ASA 1600 yet, but even if it’s noisy, the 200, 400, and 800 ASA settings are reason enough for me to feel confident in what I can produce for my clients.  I think one of the other things that is a breath of fresh air is the global shutter; I’m so thankful to not see the terrible moirè or rolling shutter issues that are so horrible in many DSLR cameras.

 

The 2.5k is really detailed and seems to have a natural log-styled curve in the footage which makes it really easy to grade…especially in the full version of DaVinci Resolve which comes with it!  Crazy.  However, so far I’ve had bad luck with DaVinci as the Cuda driver configuration in the latest version of Resolve demand pretty powerful GPUs and I need to figure out how I can work around this on my 2011 iMac with 1GB of VRAM and 32GB of RAM.  No big deal, just an evening on Google should fix the hiccups there.

 

The RAW footage is huge and very similar to the Canon 1DC in regards to its post-production qualities.  For example, I did a shoot with the 1DC at 4K and saw first-hand how impossible it is to edit the motion JPEG footage in 4K.  It’s almost surely required to either convert to ProRes or make some other proxies to be able to work normally.  The BMCC is no different; the DNG RAW workflow feels just as terrible as motion JPEG and I see no other option other than to create proxies or do a primary grade in RAW and then export to ProRes422 for editing.  But…like I said, for $2k I’m happy to find a way to work around that.

 

Obviously it would be great to have XLR connectivity and good ergonomics and a normal crop-factor, but for $2k this camera is a great option for folks that know how to shoot and need good footage but can’t afford the big boys!

 

I am beyond excited for the 4K version and am most certain that will be the next camera I purchase.  Super 35 sensor, 4K, updated UI, 6G-SDI out, $3k?!?!  I predict that the 4K model will change the mid-level film industry even more than the 5D did when it was introduced.  Of course I would love a Scarlet, Arri, Epic, C500, or any of the other beasts out there, but I can rent them at such low rates now that I am happy to not have a 20 year loan and only incur camera costs when I’m already making money.  I miss being able to over-crank and shoot in fun aspect ratios, but I’m really excited to be able to accept creative projects with very little budget and give them images back that can stand up with confidence next to any of the cameras I’ve mention above.

 

What’s the short of it?  If I had an extra $2k lying around at this moment I would gladly buy even the 2.5k model of the BMCC to keep around as a backup or second camera.  I have no doubt that I’ll be focusing on getting the 4k version when it’s ready to ship and I’ll finally use my 5D for what it is, a still camera.

 

Cheers.

-Andy

 

Multi-Cam Editing with a Sony EX1 or EX3 and 5DMK II December 21, 2011

Filed under: HD Video,Random Thoughts — mrmagiccarpetride @ 6:59 am

Hello world.  I recently had a problem getting Final Cut 7 to play nicely with my Sony PMW-EX3 and Canon 5D Mark II in a multi-cam format.  When trying to create a multi-clip FCP gives the user a message that the codecs are different and therefor both sources cannot be used in a single multi-clip.  After much searching and testing I have decided that the best solution unfortunately involves a free, third-party software program called, “MPEG Streamclip”.  Streamclip is very useful in that it can convert many different file types to many different file types.  Although FCP can do this with no problems via the export options, it is not time effective to ingest 5D footage onto the local hard drive, import into FCP via Log and Transfer and then back out via the Export dialog box just to be able to edit normally.  (I have found it much better to convert the 5D footage to the XDCAM EX codec instead of converting the EX footage to a ProRes 422 as the file sizes are absurd and there is still a gamma shift problem)  My solution is listed below…

 

1.  Copy the exact file structure from the 5D card to the desired place on your hard drive.

Example tree should read:  5DCAM/”DCIM”  “MISC” (both of the previous words in quotes are two separate folders as one will see in the native card structure)/100EOS5D/”MVI_0001.MOV”  “MVI_0001.THM” (Again…multiple files in this folder)

2.  Open MPEG Streamclip (Just google it to find and download the free program) and go to “File”, “Open Files” and select as many of the .MOV files from your hard drive that you need to convert for a multi-clip.

3.  Go to “File”, “Export to Quicktime”

4.  At the top of the dialog box where it says, “Compression” choose one of the XDCAM EX compression methods that fit with how your footage was shot.

Example:  I shot at 1920 x 1080 at 24 frames per second so I will choose, “XDCAM EX 1080p24 (35Mb/s VBR)” since this also matches the settings of the EX footage.

5.  Make sure your frame rate in Streamclip on the lower right area is set to 23.98 if you shot at 24fps in your session

6.  Click “Make Movie” and select your target destination

 

The following will explain how to get the footage into FCP

1.  After using Log and Transfer for your EX footage, simply select “Import” under the “File” menu and browse to your new media.

2.  Double click your EX clip so it opens in the Source window.

3.  Go to a point you would like to use as a sync point, stop playback and hit the letter “I” for “In-Point”  Repeat this exact process with your 5D clip.

4.  Select both your 5D and EX clip in the Project area where your clips are listed, right click and select, “Make Multi-Clip”.

5.  Select for the clips to be synced using In-Points and you now have a multi-clip.

Editing in Multi-Cam Mode

1.  Drag the new multi-clip into the main timeline.

2.  In the main timeline, click the “RT” button to the upper left of the video tracks.  Make sure that “Multi-clip Playback” is checked.

3.  In the source window, look for the button with two playback heads and an “X” between them.  It is located at the top of the window directly in the center.  Click this button and choose, “Open”.  This will sync the source and canvas windows.

4.  Double click your multi-clip in the main timeline; this should open both camera views in the source window.

5.  Click anywhere in the main timeline and hit the space bar.  You should now see both videos in the source window playing and available for you to click on the angle you want.

6.  When you’re done you should highlight everything in the main timeline, right click and select, “Collapse Multi-Clip”.  Don’t worry, you can easily turn it back on to continue multi-cam editing; this will just save on RAM.

 

I’ve left a lot out about the workflow of multi-cam editing, but you can easily find out more from search engines.  If you can’t find anything, drop me a line and I’ll do my best to help you out.  Who ever thought 5Ds and EX3s could play nice in FCP7.  Now if Apple would only hurry up and fix the silly new Final Cut X by adding multi-cam and native playback of various compression methods we could all be happy.

I’m going to bed.

 

 

A Solution to Back-Focusing Problems With the Sony PMW-EX3 February 14, 2011

Filed under: HD Video — mrmagiccarpetride @ 12:08 am

Hello shooters!  I recently was heartbroken after reviewing footage from a recent concert I shot with my EX3 where I realized that my footage was soft when I zoomed out for wide shots.  This was particularly confusing because I was using full manual focus with no auto assist focus on and the subject was very sharp when zoomed in all the way.  I had never had a problem like this before with any camera and had never heard of back focusing.  After doing some research I found out that it is not necessary to do any updates to the firmware to resolve the problem as many forums were saying.  Steps to correct the problem are below…

1.  Set your camera to 1080i60 even if you don’t normally shoot this way, it will make the adjustments more accurate.

2.  Print out the located below “Back Focusing Chart” and resize so that it fits on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white paper.

3.  Tape the paper to a well lit wall as level as possible.

4.  Set up a tripod about ten feet (three meters) from the chart with the camera at the same height as the chart.

5.  Make sure your zoom is set to servo and not manual.  (Located on the bottom of the camera)  Zoom all the way into the chart so that it takes up the entire frame on the viewfinder.

6.  Set the camera to full auto focus using the focusing ring and the switch on the side of the lens.

7.  Go to the “Lens” menu in the main menu when your camera is in camera mode.

8.  Select “Auto FB Adjust” and the camera should begin automatically calibrating itself.

9.  If the test fails you might need to double check that you are shooting in a well-lit environment.

10.  Your camera’s back focusing problems are now history!

This helped me and I hope it helps you too.  You can also find several other back focusing charts by searching in Google, I just included this one here to save you folks some time.  Please feel free to comment or contact me with any questions.

Happy shooting!

Back Focus Calibration Chart

Mr. Magic Carpet Ride Productions Back Focusing Chart

 

Mr. Magic Carpet Ride Productions Featured Company on Sony’s Website August 4, 2010

Filed under: HD Video,News,Random Thoughts — mrmagiccarpetride @ 6:26 pm

We we’re honored to receive a phone call in May of 2010 from a representative from Sony informed us that two of our films would be featured on their professional HD camera microsite.  Sony did a fantastic job with the artistic layout and all of the functionality of the multi-page micro site they created for us.  But don’t take my word for it…check out the site by clicking here.

Visit our company’s website by visiting www.mrmagicproductions.com.  Thanks!

 

New Documentary for the Bradetich Foundation 2010 Bass Competition June 28, 2010

Filed under: HD Video — mrmagiccarpetride @ 3:23 am

We are very proud to announce that filming has wrapped on our newest documentary featuring some of the world’s best double bass players.  We collected five days worth of footage including musicians arriving at the airport from half-way across the world, extensive interviews, backstage footage, full performances, and the final award ceremony for the feature.  Stay in touch to see the trailer and keep your eyes and ears out for mentions of the competition and the film on PBS and the BBC just to name a few!

Players went through a grueling week long process in the competition to ultimately shoot for the 1st prize of $10,000 and several featured concerts all over the world; the winner finds out that they currently have a featured show at Carnegie Hall in New York City!  Everyone we spoke with and filmed was absolutely amazing and we were honored to be such a big part of an amazing event.

Keep checking our website for news about the release…or subscribe to our blog!

 

Final Cut 7 is the only way to go. March 20, 2010

Well, I was an Adobe Premiere fan for years and thought it was the best thing in the world when it was released for Apple computers; I was wrong!  After finally realizing how many literal hours I had wasted either waiting for timelines to render, trying to solve the nature of a software bug, or dealing with consumer-friendly setting options I came to the painful conclusion that it was time to teach myself how to work more efficiently in Final Cut Pro 7.

First of all, the most important difference I have seen so far is that Final Cut gives an advanced editor much more detailed options when setting up a session.  For example, choosing the codec method in the timeline and color space are even options from step one.  Furthermore, the program runs much more smoothly than its competitor, virtually eliminating the need to render 90% of the types of cuts I’m doing.  For example, the color correction filters (which seem to work in a much more precise manner than Premiere CS4) can be used on uncompressed 1920 x 1080 XDCAM EX footage shot at 35mbs without any need to render in order to view the results in real-time playback; this saves hours of editing time!  Actually, I had become painfully accustom  to editing first and color correcting last in Premiere to use time more efficiently.

Additionally, Final Cut 7 has the ability to work with up to nine separate camera views that are switchable in real-time!  Our recent Snarky Puppy DVD release was edited with Premiere CS4 and was a daily embarrassment for me as a had to explain to my client why the video was so sticky during multi-cam mode in Premiere.  Final Cut was able to handle the exact same footage in a real-time situation with no problems with motion in the playback.  However, I was worried when working in the “Four Up” (four angles at once in the viewer) when a slight rolling-shift from green to red could be seen while editing in multi-cam mode.  The problem was not sent to the final cut, no pun intended there, but was scary at first.  Oddly enough, when in two-up or 9-up viewing mode the problem went away.  Nonetheless, motion is incredibly important when deciding where to place exact cuts, so it wasn’t a big deal.

All in all, it was incredibly exhausting to waste an entire weekend and part of a week to relearn new short-cuts, basic functions (I couldn’t even figure out how to automate audio fades for a while!), and to simply get used to a new workflow (took me an hour or so to fully understand how to get XDCAM EX footage into FCP 7!), but I’ll never look back.  Programs that weren’t designed to work on Macs are much too unstable when you have people relying on you to create a film quickly and professionally.  Not only does my Apple Care extend into FCP 7, but my 17″ MacBook Pro is obviously much happier with this new direction as well.

For more information about our company visit www.mrmagicproductions.com.  Thanks!

 

Full Length Music Documentary Almost Done! February 22, 2010

Well, our first full-length documentary on the wonderfully amazing band, “Snarky Puppy” is starting to wrap up; woo hoo!  The band recorded live at Dockside Studio in Maurice, LA in November of 2009 in front of 75 or so of their closest fans, friends, and crew.  We were happy to be along for the two days of tracking while the 17 piece band recorded some of the most amazing music in the world.  The release is coming out on Rope-a-Dope Records online and will be available through their website and various stores around the world.  We will make sure and post as soon as there is more information on the actual release scheduled in March of 2010.  Congrats guys!