Pro Video Partners with Portlands Indie Cinema Academy

Local Northwest filmmakers Ryan Walters and Tim Park have started a new website aimed at sharing their 20+ years of filmmaking experience. You may have seen some of Ryan’s own blog work reposted on popular video industry websites such as No Film and Creative Planet. Now the duo is bringing you Indie Cinema .

Indie Cinema Academy delivers in depth camera & lighting training for anyone who desires a cinematic look for their projects. Ryan & Tim share the tricks of the trade that they’ve accumulated in their work on feature films, national commercials, and corporate videos. They have designed the curriculum to ensure that the training is applicable & accessible to all levels of production.

Indie Cinema Academy’s website contains a deep array of lessons and articles that take the form of video features or text instructions. Some of this content is completely free to the general public. To take your education further a minimal fee is requested of ether $119 or $149 (depending on what features you want) for 12 months of access.

Professional Video is a huge believer in the idea that  education is key to bringing creativity to its full potential. We know that by properly educating a customer on a piece of equipment the customer can then make the right gear-buying decision for themselves. And that is applicable on high-end equipment and entry level. Because of this belief in education we have partnered with Indie Cinema Academy to help spread the knowledge base a little further. Take a look at what Indie Cinema Academy had to offer. Sign up today and take your knowledge to the next level.

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What Gear Do Documentary Filmmakers Use?

The PBS documentary show POV recently conducted a survey of filmmakers regarding the equipment they use. The survey was conducted in September of 147 filmmakers. There are a few things to consider. Most of these documentaries would have been put into production in 2011 or 2012 with only some of them being shot in 2013. Digital cinema cameras like the Sony FS700, F5, and Canon C100 weren’t on the market when most of these were shot. Even the C300 would have only been on the market a short while and at a higher price point. It will be very interesting to see how these numbers shift over the next 12-18 moths. Here are some key points:

Cameras: Most popular single camera: Canon EOS C300, however if you combine 5DmkII and 5DmkIII then that becomes the most popular camera by a large margin.

Specialty Camera: nearly 1/3 of docs used a Canon consumer camcorder to get “discreet” footage.

Lenses: Since most people shot with Canon cameras most people used Canon lenses. However i thought it was interesting that the most common 3rd party option was Zeiss. At Professional Video we often preach the advantage of Zeiss all mechanical lenses.

Editing: Over 75% of editors used some form of Final Cut Pro, ether 7 or 10, in their post. Over 90% of post was done on a Mac.

Support: My personal favorite tripod, the Sachtler FSB8 with the carbon sticks, was also one of the most frequently used documentary tripods.

Buy or Rent: Nearly 85% of documentary filmmakers purchased their primary camera. A documentary can often mean many many hours of production at unusual schedules. Owning might have advantages when compared with commercial or narrative filmmaking.

View the whole thing here. Post by Eric C. Petrie

POV Survey

Another Take on the Future of 4K Content

Movie and television producers are beginning to shoot more shows in 4K, helping to grow the stock of ultra-HD content that could help spur the market for the latest and greatest television technology.

At a panel session entitled “4K: Path to Ultra-HD,” Sony Professional Solutions of America president Alec Shapiro said that TV shows like The Blacklist, The Michael J. Fox Show and movies like the Tom Cruise space drama Oblivion were all shot in 4K and more importantly archived in the technology. By archiving content in 4K, it makes it available for syndication, which could also help spur its acceptance. “Syndication is where a lot of the money is made,” Shapiro said on the panel.

While 4K has obvious advantages – its clear sound and sharp images put HD to shame – it has some that are less obvious. At the panel session, moderated by Multichannel News technology editor Jeff Baumgartner, The Weather Channel Network president David Clark said the technology’s ability to allow shooting video from a greater distance from the subject is especially valuable in filming dangerous weather events like tornadoes.

But high prices for sets and a dearth of content have stymied widespread deployment of 4K, but the panelists likened it to the learning curve for HD sets and technology. The panelists, however, chafed at any comparisons of the technology to a recent “latest and greatest” technology, 3-D TV.

The panelists were also skeptical that Netflix’s recent announcement that it would launch a 4K product in the future would serve as a catalyst for cable, satellite and telco operators to accelerate their adoption of the technology.

Clark guessed that if an over-the-top provider could provide a better TV experience than a cable or satellite operator with 4K, it would create some concern on the part of those distributors, which in the past have prided themselves on the superior quality of their service. Shapiro, however, was unmoved. “It’s just another distribution vehicle,” Shapiro said of Netflix.


Canon C300 & Cine Lens Indie Film Testimonial

The movie’s budget was ultra-low, the shooting schedule just 21 days, and the “studio” mostly the mean streets and cramped tenements of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Add a first-time director/screenwriter who is also portraying the film’s main character, and it was clear that making “Straight Outta Tompkins” presented multiple challenges. Nevertheless, director Zephyr Benson and DP Brandon Roots shot the film by combining diligent effort, expert collaborators, and the image quality, high mobility, and superb low-light performance of an EOS C300 cinema camera (and cinema prime and zoom lenses) from Canon, U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions. A gritty, cautionary tale of a young drug dealer, “Straight Outta Tompkins” is 21-year-old Benson’s debut feature and yet another example of the ongoing democratization in filmmaking made possible by affordable, high-performance digital cameras such as the EOS C300.

“Not so long ago, it would have been nearly impossible to make a movie of this quality, so quickly, as an ultra-low budget feature,” Benson noted. “With the Canon EOS C300 camera, however, my vision became a reality. I think that any filmmaker with a powerful enough desire to tell a story can now just get out there and do it.” Benson speaks from an informed viewpoint. The son of accomplished director, screenwriter, actor, and educator Robby Benson, Zephyr was introduced to filmmaking early on by accompanying his father to film sets and sitting-in on his lectures at various universities and film schools. Chief among the lessons he learned was that moviemaking is hard work.

“A lot of challenges can be thrown at you every day,” Zephyr confided. “Many young filmmakers don’t realize this at first. You can spend hours just setting-up one shot so it looks right and then everything can suddenly go wrong. Then you’ve got to brainstorm and figure out how to make it right, which is the challenge of filmmaking and one of the reasons why I love it. I learned more than I had ever learned in my entire life during the pre-production and filming of this movie. And throughout it all, it was great to look over to my DP and realize that the one thing we didn’t have to worry about was our camera.”

“I don’t think we would have been able to make this movie without the Canon EOS C300 camera,” agreed DP Brandon Roots. “From the very beginning we knew that we wanted to shoot the film handheld, so the lightweight body of the EOS C300 camera was quite important, especially since it was on my shoulder most of the time. We also knew we would be working in really tight interior locations, so mobility would be vital. The compact design of the EOS C300 camera and the Canon lenses we used enabled us to be quite agile, which made all the difference in our ability to shoot where we wanted to.”

With a camera body weighing just over 3 lbs., the Canon EOS C300 camera is equipped with a high-sensitivity Canon Super 35mm CMOS sensor, outstanding Canon DIGIC DV III image processor, and a 50 Mbps 4:2:2 MPEG-2 codec for superb cinematic picture quality. The EOS C300 cinema camera is engineered to deliver full 1920 x 1080 HD and provides a selectable ISO range up to 20,000 for outstanding low-light performance.

“Our budget dictated minimal lighting, but the Canon EOS C300 camera has amazing low-light performance,” Roots informed “A large part of the film takes place at night on city streets, and we used available light. We filmed in interior locations as well. We routinely shot up to 3200 ISO, which on some other cameras would have resulted in a lot of noise and an undesirable image, but not with the EOS C300 camera. The low-light performance of the EOS C300 camera also saved us from needing an electrical generator for extra lights. We were able to power the few lights we needed off the available power at locations or the outlets in the apartments we used.”

Zephyr Benson recalled a particular instance in which the low-light performance of the Canon EOS C300 cinema camera moved him to describe it as “the most incredible thing” he’d ever seen. “One night we were shooting on a fire escape, looking down a poorly lit street that, to the naked eye, was barely visible beyond about 30 yards,” he recalled. “Brandon turned on the Canon EOS C300 camera and everything instantly looked illuminated and cinematic. It looked as if we had spent hours lighting the entire block. That was so important for this film because our ultra-low budget gave us hardly any time for lighting set-ups.”

“There was virtually no lighting on that street at all, it was very dark and dim,” added co-executive producer David Rudd. “Brandon turned to us and said ‘I can’t believe what I can see through this camera.’ The Canon EOS C300 camera really digs down into the dark areas of light. It loves the low end of the spectrum. On another occasion we lit a small interior location just by bouncing the glow of a Mini Maglite® off the ceiling. We didn’t have the time, budget, or manpower to do anywhere near the lighting you would normally do for a film of this kind, so the Canon EOS C300 camera was extremely beneficial to our project, as were the fast Canon cinema prime lenses we used.”

Straight Outta Tompkins was photographed principally with the Canon CN-E24mm T1.5 LF, CN-E50mm T1.3 LF, and CN-E85mm T1.33 LF cinema prime lenses. DP Brandon Roots also used the Canon CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6 L SP cinema zoom lens and the CN-E30-105mm T2.8 L SP compact cinema zoom lens. “The Canon cinema prime lenses are fast and lightweight, and because we were shooting hand-held they gave us great flexibility for shooting in low light,” Roots explained. “More often than not we were living on the primes.”

“We used the Canon cinema zoom lenses more for daytime exterior street scenes,” Roots continued. “They gave us the greatest flexibility by enabling us to adjust our framing and move quickly from one set-up to another. We were shooting guerilla-style and the zooms were incredibly versatile in those situations. We used the larger Canon CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6 L SP cinema zoom lens a lot more than I expected we would. We were ‘running-and-gunning’ the whole time, and the flexibility that zoom gave us when we didn’t have enough time to do a lens change was very helpful and allowed us to move more quickly. The Canon CN-E30-105mm T2.8 L SP compact cinema zoom lens was the longest lens we had, so we used it whenever we needed to get really tight on a shot. There were a number of times where it allowed us to get incredibly close to capture dramatic moments as they happened.”

Developed for contemporary 4K, 2K, and HD production standards, all of the Canon cinema lenses provide outstanding and consistent optical quality, as well as uniform gear positions, rotation angles, and 136mm front diameters for compatibility with matte boxes and other third-party accessories. The lenses also feature highly visible engraved focus scales for convenient operation, motion-picture style mechanical/tactile operation, and an 11-blade aperture diaphragm for creative background blurring.

Roots described the Canon cinema prime and zoom lenses as “incredibly sharp even when we were shooting wide open” He added: “I love how true these lenses were to the images that we were shooting. I’ve seen other lenses that make the image soft or apply some kind of ‘look’ to the scene. Canon cinema prime and zoom lenses don’t do that. They are incredibly accurate, sharp, and clean. What we saw was what we got.”

“I’m a photographer, and I adore the look of the images produced using Canon lenses, which is beautifully warm without being overly saturated,” added co-executive producer Robby Benson. “The Canon cinema prime lenses are remarkably fast and crisp. They allowed us to shoot things at night, which – for an independent film – is a blessing. We actually saw things through these cinema lenses – on the monitor – with better low-light perception than our eyes were capable of.”

The Canon EOS C300 cinema camera records to two CF (Compact Flash) cards through dual slots with a choice of serial or parallel (for backup) recording, providing up to 80 minutes of recording time on each 32GB card. “The dual CF card slots are a smart design,” said Roots. “We didn’t have to worry about filling up a card and losing a shot.”

Roots and Robby Benson also noted the advantages of the camera’s SMPTE time code capability. “It helped us immensely in post with synching up all of the sound and picture.” Robby Benson noted: “Even if you shoot a ton of footage, if you play by the rules and know what you’re doing in post, the EOS C300 camera time code feature enables you to find anything you’ve shot.”

Straight Outta Tompkins was filmed in the EOS C300 cinema camera’s Canon Log gamma setting, which helps ensure capture of the full exposure latitude that the camera’s Super 35mm CMOS sensor is capable of. Canon Log gamma image data provides the film-style dynamic range between shadows and highlights that is essential for achieving cinematic subtleties in post-production color grading. “It’s spectacular the latitude that the image gave us and how much detail we had in shadows and highlights,” Roots reported. “It was also great to know right from the beginning that we would be able to do a really fine color grade later on during post.”

“When we went to the post house to do a test on our material, Randy Coonfield, colorist from Shapeshifter Post, was amazed with the Canon EOS C300 camera and Canon lenses,” recalled Robby Benson. “We were giving the film more blues and grit, and we had the latitude to take it to places no other project I’ve ever worked on could go. The blacks got blacker; not muddy – no noise, just rich – and the colors were so defined, with exquisite clarity. When we needed more illumination – again, no noise – Coonfield turned to me and David and just said, ‘It’s the camera…it’s the camera and the lenses. Remarkable.’”

Above and beyond its role as the camera that enabled the ultra-low budget Straight Outta Tompkins to get made with high-end cinematic quality in a short space of time, all four filmmakers had special praise for the impact that the Canon EOS C300 cinema camera is having on independent production in general.

“The Canon EOS C300 – as well as Canon’s entire line of EOS cameras – has democratized filmmaking,” Roots stated. “It is amazing to see this footage projected on a big screen. The audience doesn’t know what format we shot it on, nor should it matter to them. It just looks great.”

“Democratized moviemaking – storytelling – is probably the most exciting thing that could ever happen,” Robby Benson emphasized. “Now young filmmakers, older filmmakers, and anyone can tell their story. Of course, you first have to be a good storyteller. That’s always true, regardless of budget. The Canon EOS C300 is a dream camera for low-budget filmmakers. It, and Canon’s cinema prime and zoom lenses, are fully cinematic. I’m a believer in this equipment.”

“What it really boils down to is that Canon is showing the way of the future of filmmaking,” Rudd added. “Nowadays you’ve got to maintain quality while budgets keep dwindling away. You also need a camera that records all the picture information you need. The EOS C300 camera does all of this and more. It makes it possible to tell your stories so they look good. There’s a lot of projects that can be done now because of this camera.”

“The Canon EOS C300 cinema camera makes it possible to make your movie on an ultra-low budget,” Zephyr Benson concluded. “Now aspiring moviemakers can just go and do it. I can’t thank Canon enough for this.”


What is the Future of 4K Broadcast?

SMPTE’s recent symposium on UltraHD (4K TV) had experts weighing in with some hard-hitting facts about adoption of the new format. Said ESPN’s Bryan Burns, ““I know what it took to get ESPN to high definition and somewhat to 3D. My take is 4K will be the next 1080p. How many services are transmitted to your home in 1080p? None. That’s how it will be with 1080p. 4K will be a lot of television sets sold… but that doesn’t mean there’ll be a wholesale changeover in program services.” Read the rest here. Post by Eric C. Petrie


What the Heck is the Difference Between 4K, RAW, and Uncompressed

In the video industry there are a lot of buzz words. These days no two words are bigger the raw and fourkay, or more commonly RAW and 4K. Another word that garnishes a lot of attention is uncompressed. I can’t begin to tell you how many conversations I’ve had with customers, smart people that have been in the industry for a long time, where the customer inevitably says something like “will this camera record uncompressed 4K RAW?”. Or how ’bout the “I shot my project in RAW ProRes.” Lets go beyond the buzzwords and gain some understanding together.

The first and most important piece of information that must be understood is that these are three seperate terms that have absolutly nothing to do with each other. Commonly they go hand in hand and are often seen with each other. This leads to the perception that they are linked. In fact you can have each of these term completely on its own. You can have RAW video that is nether 4K nor uncompressed. You can have uncompressed video that insnt RAW. You can have 4K video that is compressed.

Alright, now that we’ve got that important little bit out of the way lets talk about what each of these things mean. Lets start with the easiest, 4K. 4K is just a resolution. How many pixels high by how many pixels wide is the image. With standard def we had 640×480 and 720×480. With HD we have 1280×720 and 1920×1080. There is 2K, which is 2048×1080. Finally there is 4K. With SD there was a recording resolution and a display resolution. Most DV cameras recorded 720×480 even though SD displays were 640×480. That mostly went a way with HD, we shot 1920×1080 for delivery in 1920×1080. Then 2k came along and we shoot 2048×1080 for delivery in 1920×1080. Now with 4K there is also an acquisition resolution of 4096×2160 and the display resolution of 3840×2160. The consumer term for the display resolution is UltraHD. UltraHD is 4K for monitors. Most 4K cameras give you the option to shoot in ether 4096×2160 or 3840×2160. Thats what 4K means. 4K is exactly 4x the resolution of 2K. That means the files are exactly twice as big.

Now lets talk about the other super hot buzzword, RAW. First of all, even though i’ve been typing it RAW its actually raw. I’m only typing it that way because most of the world has began to recognize it being displayed that way. We can thank RED camera for that originally but now Sony and Canon and everyone else writes it that way. It’s not an acronym. It doesn’t stand for anything. Still photograhpers have been working in RAW for the last decade. Its become so commonplace in photography and computers have become powerful enough that most people who shoot with a DSLR, pro or amature, are shooting RAW. If you’ve ever edited a RAW photo compared to a JPEG you know why. Its amazing how working with the raw camera data gives you virtually unlimited ability to tweak the image with out degradation. Lets talk about what RAW is and then a little bit about why you would ever want RAW video. Imaging sensors are analog. They run on light. Then subprocess in the sensor converts the analog light information into digital ones and zeroes. This is part of the reason all sensor are not created equal. After the sensor creates the ones and zeroes what do you have? Nothing. You still don’t have an image. Think about the relationship between your eye and your brain. Your eye doesn’t “see” and image, its a sophisticated light hole. Your brain “sees” the image. If you’re brain puts the light together wrong then things like dyslexia can occur. Similarly when the binary comes off the sensor its not a picture, its binary. When we shoot RAW, still or video, we take that raw binary and we capture it to a memory card. Then we use a piece of software on our computers to reassemble the bianary into an image. The benifits of this is that nothing is locked in. There is no white balance, there is no noise cancelation, there is no black point or white point, there is no color tone, there is no sharpness or skin detail level. All of these permaters are assmbled by the software on the computer. Thats why you want good RAW processign software. The result is you have footage that is completly adjustable. A lot of RAW files feature 16-bit 4:4:4:4 color, thats right, four 4s. The post production applications are limitless.

So if RAW is so fantastic why wouldn’t i want it? Well it not the cost of the camera. Thank to Blackmagic we can get RAW cameras for $995. So why don’t i shoot everything video in RAW? First, those files are huge. RAW will cost you 1TB per hour. Thats a lot of flash memory cards, SSD, and RAIDS that you need in the field and in the edit lab just to store the footage. Do you remember when i said that non of the image peramiters were set in RAW files? Who do you think is going to set those? You could let a computer do it for you but that kinda defeats the purpose of captureing RAW. That means a human being has to color grad every single shot. I don’t mean color correct, i mean color grade. Multiple passes dialing in every setting of every shot. Thats a lot of man hours and takes skill. Lastly the computer needed to process all this is immense. I’ve tried to edit a single RAW frame on my 2012 dual-core MacBook and the whole computer came to a halt. So if you’ve got the time and money to quaduple your post production RAW might be the right solution for you. There is a reason a lot of Hollywood movies are shot in RAW but network TV show are usually not.

Lastly we have uncompressed. Uncompressed is a relativly simple term. That means that the zeroes and ones that the image sensor creates have been moved down the pipe to the image processors. At that point all the image peramiters are assigned, white balance, dynamic range, etc. But in the last step of being processed the data, which has now been made into a viewable image via the internal proccessor, is spit out of the SDI or HDMI port instead of compressed into a codec. Codecs throw out data in order to create a compressed image. Formats like ProRes and DNxHD are mastering level codecs that are virtually lossless. XDCam422, MXF, or AVC-Intra are codecs that are more compressed but still retain “broadcast” ready standards. H.264, AVCHD, XDCamHD, and HDV are formats that compress the video to a level where they look good as long as you don’t do much post processing or much more compression. Uncompressed video means the image parameters are already set but there is no compression scheme applied. Now you can have “compressed” RAW. This is a little tricky but cameras like the new Blackmagic Production 4K camera use Adobe CinemaDNG wrapping on the RAW data. This throws out some of those zeroes and ones we’ve been discussing. But the data doesn’t go through any kind of image processing so its still doesn’t have set image parameters. You still have all the same flexibility as RAW, albeit with a few less zeroes and ones to play with.Well i hope that somebody finds this information useful. Post by Eric C. Petrie


OMPA Classic only 5 Days Away, Now Featuring More 4k

Professional Video is sponsoring this years OMPA Classic fund raising event.  We will be bringing key manufacture Canon. They are co-sponsoring the fund raiser as well as demonstrating the industries leading technologies. We will have 4k production with Canon EOS C500 cameras, 4k acquisition featuring AJA Ki-Pro Quad, and 4k display with a 50″ 4k television. If you havn’t registered yet get to it. Click here for registry.


Professional Video Brings Canon to OMPA Classic

The OMPA Classic is a premier social event for Oregon media professionals.  Featuring croquet, golf, awards party with auctions, raffle, over 200 of Oregon’s media pros will be in attendance.  Professional Video has brought very special guest Canon to this years event.  There will also be music by Curtis Salgado.  The event is July 12th.  Sign up and participate.  Come see the latest Canon technology.  Come talk with a charming Professional Video consultant.  Come play some golf.  Click here for more info.  Post by Eric C. Petrie

Instagram Adds Video, How it Could Effect Video Pros

Instagram added support for sharing 15-second video clips yesterday, and the feature has been available in the App Store and Google Play for a few days now. Instagram has 130,000 million users. Enough videos were uploaded within the first eight hours of release that it would take you a year to watch them all. “At peak, Instagram users uploaded 40 hours of video per minute. The climactic moment came Thursday night as the Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs during the NBA Finals,” according to CNET. That’s a lot of video.

When it comes to us video pros we need to realize that there’s a reason clips are 15 seconds long. Instagram seemingly chose to go with a length that’s more than double Vine’s six seconds for a specific reason: ads. Video ads have already been in the works for Facebook, which owns Instagram, and 15 seconds is the exact format that a lot of big advertisers use for TV already.

An Instagram with 15-second videos is right in the sweet spot for Facebook: It’s mobile, it’s video, and at that length, it means that advertisers can drop in their short television spots without even modifying them. This is an important but overlooked feature of online video ads, when compared to other kinds like banner and search: the ability to re-use the same creative on which advertisers have already spent so much money. That’s an extremely appealing advantage to ad buyers.  Post By Eric C. Petrie