Hands on with the new Canon C300 Mark II

Newsshooter NAB 2015: Canon C300 Mark II First Look from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

Canon were displaying their new C300 Mark II at NAB in Las Vegas. Today we finally got to see the camera in the flesh. My initial impressions overall were very positive. Any user of the original camera will instantly at home with the mark II. Even though the camera is slightly heavier it can still work easily on the shoulder if you use it with the Zacuto Recoil system that Canon were showing the camera rigged with.

Canon today confirmed that the camera will indeed control most aspects of the EOS CN 17-120mm servo zoom lens.

The camera features an all-new 9.84 megapixel Super35 size CMOS sensor (8.85 megapixels is used when 4096 x 2160 shooting resolution and 8.29 megapixels when shooting 3840 x 2160 or 1920 x 1080 resolution). The camera has a claimed 15 stops of dynamic range – greater than the original C300 and also besting the Sony FS7 on paper. When combined with the new Dual Digic DV5 processor it allows 4K capture internally in 4:2:2 at 10-bit depth. The camera can also record 2K or HD resolution at 120fps. Sensor read speed is said to be twice as fast as the original C300. This should lessen the rolling shutter skew effects to the point where most viewers would never notice.

The image is said to be better than the already excellent original, which many shooters love. Canon Log2 replaces the original Canon Log and is in essence a flatter version that allows for more information to be retained in highlights and lowlights. Canon’s WideDR, as found on the C100 mkII, also makes an appearance on the camera – great for shooters who want an image that retains some highlight and shadow detail, while still being usable with minimal grading.

Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder review – the good, the bad and the 4K

Article By technical editor Matt Allark – Link

The Atomos Shogun was one of the most anticipated video products of 2014. The 4K external recorder was announced at the NAB show way back in April. Units finally started to ship just before Christmas and it has been a long and patient wait for customers to get their hands on one.

The Atomos Shogun with Sony a7S and Movcam cage

I have had a production unit on loan from Atomos for almost a week and had the chance to really put it through its paces. Over that time I have run various tests, shown the unit to some well respected cinematographers and been able to gain an overall opinion about the Shogun. I have also interviewed Atomos CEO Jeromy Young to get his responses on what I and other users thought could be improved.

The image quality when shooting 4K with the Sony a7S
As soon as I got the Shogun I shot and posted a piece in 4K with the Sony a7S at Pearl Beach , north of Sydney. In full frame mode there is a little more noise in the images compared to what you get in HD but that is to be expected. I discovered after examining the recorded footage is that there is inherently more noise when you record 4K in the cameras APS-C crop mode. This has nothing to do with the Shogun – it is just recording the output of the camera’s HDMI. It is certainly something to be aware of though if you plan on shooting in low light conditions in 4K.

I would recommend trying to avoid shooting in the APS-C crop mode and stick to the full frame mode if you have suitable lenses. When you record 4K in APS-C mode the camera isn’t using the full sensor so it has to upscale the image to 4K. I think it holds up reasonably well at lower ISOs but as you go into the higher ISO values noise is much more apparent. Below are some high ISO tests comparing how the camera looks in 4K full frame and APS-C mode, as well as in the same modes downsampled to 1080 HD for comparison. Downloading of the files is recommended as Vimeo’s compression masks the differences.

I also did several tests to compare the resolution of images in 4K and HD, in both full frame and APS-C modes. As expected the 4K image is a lot more detailed than the HD. This is quite evident when I cropping in on the image 200%.

Interestingly putting a 4K image onto a HD timeline and exporting it as 1080 provides a lot more detail and sharpness than the same image recorded natively in HD. For people wanting to shoot 4K but deliver in HD this is good news. I see a lot of users of the Shogun going the route of acquiring in 4K, but delivering in HD. The Shogun and a7S will deliver good results.

Using the Shogun

The Shogun is quite straight forward to use and has an intuitive interface. Anyone who has previously used a Atomos Samurai or Ninja Blade recorder will be instantly familiar with most features. Setting the Shogun up with the Sony a7S was as easy as connecting the HDMI cable, enabling the 4K HDMI setting on the camera and turning on the unit. The Shogun automatically detects the 4K signal from the camera and you are all set to shoot. The only thing left to do is select what flavour of ProRes you want to record in. I really like the ability to choose between ProRes LT, 422 or 422 HQ. In 422HQ with a 480GB SSD you can record around 1hour and 20min of 4K footage. For a lot of users ProRes 422 will be more than enough. One thing to note when you use the HDMI out with the a7S is that you cannot record internally on the camera at the same time as recording to the Shogun.

The touchscreen interface is easy to use and all the familiar features like peaking, zebras, false colour etc. are there. Nice new include the 1:1 and 2:1 pixel zoom for focus check – that enables you to drag your finger around in a small box to zoom in and check sharpness anywhere on the screen. This is important as it is very critical to get exact focus when shooting 4K. I won’t go into details about the menu system as we previously covered it here.

For now you can’t play back your images on the recorder itself – although this is promised in a firmware update imminently. Once you have finished recording you take out the SSD or HDD and hook it up to your computer with the supplied dock. You are then ready to view or edit your files straight away. The beauty of ProRes recordings is that they are universally accepted and easily read by almost any modern computer and video editing package.

Build Quality

Judging build quality is always difficult. Just because something feels solid or flimsy doesn’t necessarily mean it is built to last. You need to take into account what is the product designed to do and will it work in that environment without breaking. The Shogun does feel a little less solid than previous Samurai and Ninja Blade. It doesn’t have the same metal frame encasing the recorder. Atomos have obviously chosen the plastic they use to keep weight and heat down, and maybe manufacturing costs too. How the unit would hold up if you dropped it is something I’m not going to test deliberately, but I doubt it would fare well.

The screen is made out of a Gorilla glass type material but it is not the latest type and will shatter if you drop it. That said you wouldn’t drop a lens or a camera and expect it to fare well – equally expect the same with the Shogun. Mounted on a camera or gimbal etc. I don’t see too many problems with the build quality and it is similar in construction to many camera top monitors that people use every day. If you are really worried about knocks and drops then I’m sure it won’t be long before accessory makers will have light weight cages to encase the Shogun.

What concerns me more are the HDMI inputs. There is no HDMI port protection on the recorder and the HDMI connector sticks straight out of the side of the Shogun. This is a potential problem as cables are usually the things that get caught if your moving through tight spaces. I would have preferred to see the HDMI ports placed on the back of the unit, or at very least a right angle HDMI cable included. As far as weather sealing goes, there really isn’t any. I would not recommend using the Shogun in the rain or snow without a protective cover. The big heat vents located on the unit are completely exposed so any type of liquid that gets in there is going to cause problems. Obviously covering the vents with a rain shield may also cause heat issues – I’m not sure what I would do in wet tropical conditions. Just how robust and reliable the Shogun proves over time we will have to wait and see.

The Screen

The Shogun screen if very impressive but highly reflective

The Shogun screen if very impressive but highly reflective

The screen is one of the Shoguns strengths. With a full 1920×1080 display it has nice colour reproduction and produces a pleasing image. It is quite bright but don’t expect to be able to use it in bright/sunny conditions outdoors without a hood. It is very reflective so when you look at it from certain angles it can be hard to see. If getting a Shogun I think I would add a matte screen protector like the type you can buy for your iPad. You will also need to carry a cleaning cloth around as the touch screen operation means you will be constantly wiping your finger print smudges off the screen. There is an Atomos sun hood coming and you can find out more information by listening to the interview with CEO Jeromy Young in this post.

Size And Weight

Despite the 7″ screen the Shogun doesn’t feel to big when used in combination with the a7S or GH4. Atomos have done a good job of keeping the unit as compact and light weight as possible. This is very important if your going to be using it on small rigs or cameras. I mounted the Shogun on top of my Movcam a7S rig and even hand holding the camera, the added weight of the Shogun never made it feel like the camera operation was impeded by having the unit attached.

Battery Life

The decision for Atomos to go with one battery instead of the original 2 that we saw at NAB was purely to cut down weight and try and streamline the unit. Unfortunately the battery life is pretty poor using the standard batteries. Using an included battery the Shogun will only last between 30 to 40minutes. Thankfully Atomos do give you other power options – an included dummy battery with a D-tap and an auxiliary power jack allow you to power it externally. You could also use the Atomos power bar that will fit below or above the Shogun. My concern here is that if you want to cut the weight of the Shogun down by only having one battery it sort of defeats the purpose of having to use another power source mounted to your rig instead. This is fine if you are using larger cameras but if your using it with small cameras like the a7S or GH4 most users won’t want to run a separate power source. Another solution will be to use larger Sony NPF type batteries like those used in the FS700 and 100 – but these again add weight and bulk to the rear of the recorder.

The other thing I would like to see changed is the battery indicator. The Shogun battery indicator goes from green to red and then flashing red. You get very little warning and then the Shogun just turns itself off. I am not a fan of battery indicators that don’t show you the exact time or percentage remaining. Jeromy Young’s response to the battery issue is also in the interview I did with him later in this article.


The added lemo connector which combines 2 XLR audio inputs and 2 XLR outputs is a great concept provides a good selection of audio recording options. Phantom power is available to power you microphone and headphone monitoring is provided too.

The XLR audio connections are via a Lemo breakout cable

The XLR audio connections are via a Lemo breakout cable

On the downside once you connect two XLRs cables to the connector you end up with a lot of cable weight dangling in the air. Just like the HDMI cable, it sticks straight out on the side of the unit and because of its weight it does tend to pull the Shogun slightly to one side. I’m being very picky here but again it is something where the design could be improved.

The audio level display is clear and accurate

The audio level display is clear and accurate

Another thing I found quite strange is that when you have two channels of audio going into the Shogun you cannot adjust the level of each individual channel. Any adjustment you make alters both channels – somewhat useless if you have two different audio sources with different output levels such as an XLR top mic and a wireless pack. I have brought this up with Atomos and they are going to look into it.

Included Accessories

You can’t say Atomos doesn’t give you value for money. Included with the Shogun are a lot of accessories. Again we have covered them here so I won’t go into too much detail. All the accessories are great and the HPRC case is a nice touch, but the biggest thing missing for me was the sun hood. Apart from the SmallHD DP7 and Transvideo high brightness monitors, I find it very difficult to use most screens outdoors in sunny conditions. The Shogun is no different. Why manufacturers don’t just give you one of these in the box is a mystery to me as they are essential.

What other professionals thought

Jason Wingrove using the Shogun on his Nebula 4000 Lite stabiliser

Jason Wingrove using the Shogun on his Nebula 4000 Lite stabiliser

We got three respected cinematographers to use the Shogun on a real world shoot. Jason Wingrove, Peter Barta, and Clinton Harn came along pre dawn to one of the rock pools in Sydney. Here we had a chance to use the use the Shogun on the a7S and also try it out in combination with the Nebula4000 Lite 3-Axis brushless gimbal. Jason Wingrove has modified the Nebula so it looks more like a traditional gimbal and can take a monitor. The Shogun easily mounted onto the Nebula and Jason was impressed with just how easy it was to use. He liked the ability of being able to press the record button directly on the Shogun and not have to fiddle around and try and find the fiddly record button on the a7S.

The Shogun mounted easily to Jason’s custom Nebula 4000 Lite brushless gimbal setup

The Shogun mounted easily to Jason’s custom Nebula 4000 Lite brushless gimbal setup

The Shogun looks to be a good option if your using a gimbal or other stabilising device – especially as you are likely to need an external monitor anyway. What Jason, Peter and Clinton all thought could be improved was the way the focus peaking works. Shooting in S-Log, wide open with low contrast lenses it was very hard to get any sort of peaking visible, making it difficult to focus. We could have used the pixel zoom but then you need to go into a menu and this isn’t always practical – especially on a gimbal. They unanimously said the intensity of peaking needs to be able to be adjusted.

All the guys also commented that they thought the HDMI connector should of been mounted on the back and not on the side of the unit. All of them were equally puzzled as to why the Shogun used a lemo connector for the audio, but not for the power. They also were as unimpressed as me by the battery life. Jason thought it was strange that when the unit ran out of battery and a recording was interrupted, upon powering the unit back up you get a “A broken file has been detected. Do you want to recover it?” message appearing on screen. He made the point that there were no circumstances where you wouldn’t want the video file recovered and this should be done automatically. Personally I didn’t mind that warning – at least I know it has happened.

Despite making some criticisms all three cinematographers were impressed by the Shogun. They liked the screen, the recording options and the size. All of them commented that it was pretty amazing how far technology has come and that you could now record 4K over HDMI from a very small camera setup.

Clinton, Peter and Jason at the rock pool.

Clinton, Peter and Jason at the rock pool.


I can only judge the Shogun from my short time using it. So far this is my assessment.

The Shogun gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It’s easy to use and takes cameras like the GH4 and a7S to another level. It has a nice screen, great recording capabilities, a lot of included accessories and an intuitive operating system. I didn’t encounter any problems with anything I recorded and even when the unit ran out of battery and shut down while i was recording, I never lost a file. The use of off the shelf media is always going to be a small gamble. There will always be defective hard drives that get to market. If Atomos used expensive proprietary media then people would complain about the cost. Atomos know their what their customers want and so have avoided using expensive proprietary media. The cost outweighs the small risk of a defective drive.

There are things that i think could be improved such as the battery life, HDMI placement and a few small things that should be in the operating system. We are still waiting for the 3D LUT capability and playback. Sadly, like most devices that come out these days, firmware seems to be an on going process. As a Sony F55 owner I’m well aware of how long it can take to perfect the firmware.

Atomos CEO Jeromy Young agreed to talk to me about all the issues that our review bought up. You can listen to that interview below as he responds to users feedback:

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Overall the Shogun ticks a lot of boxes and I think most users will be very happy with it. At the end of the day the Shogun delivers what it promises – 4K recording on a budget, a great screen and easy to use interface. We did do some tests with the GH4 and the results were equally impressive. The Shogun can be used with just about any camera out there on the market to record either HD or 4K depending on what your camera can output. The versatility the Shogun is that you can use it not only a recorder, but a very good monitor too.

Atomos have always provided free firmware and I am sure future firmware will help improve the unit over time – they did the same with the Ninja and Samurai models. Atomos has always been a company that tries to learn from their mistakes so it will be interesting to see what improvements can be made after they receive customer feedback. Being able to record 4K over HDMI is an incredible feature and something up till now was extremely hard to do out in the field. The Shogun has a lot to live up to as the hype surrounding its announcement was huge. How it performs over time in users hands is something we will have to wait to see.

Does Cinema EOS mark the end of high spec Canon DSLR video?

Pictured above: Samsung NX1 4K mirrorless camera
Article by Andrew Reid and was originally published on eoshd.com

If Canon announced that they were withdrawing from the enthusiast stills camera market, you’d be surprised. It’s a pretty big market. But withdraw from the enthusiast video market they almost certainly have at the moment, whether they meant to do or not.

Whilst we ponder Canon’s deeply uninspired 2014 in terms of technological innovation, consider this theory – Canon entered the enthusiast DSLR video market by accident and now they have pulled out of it by accident.

Whether they like it or not, Canon DSLRs are no longer 1st, 2nd, 3rd or even 4th best performing enthusiast options for video. Nikon, Sony, Panasonic and Samsung are all significantly ahead, and if we count Blackmagic (they’re actually more pro than enthusiast) Canon are down to 6th. Just 2 years ago they were 1st. What happened?

Canon’s newest cameras for enthusiasts are the 70D, 7D Mark II and 5D Mark III. The market lies below $3000. Unlike casual consumers, enthusiasts have a high knowledge of the products and are more willing to invest in lenses (not just stick with the kit zoom). Lenses is where the really big margins are for Canon in their business. Make no mistake, Canon needs enthusiasts. Pros were initially using enthusiast cameras like the 5D Mark II for video until Canon moved them into the Cinema EOS range, probably at an even higher margin than their lenses. In dong so, Canon made a huge mistake.

They chose not progress their video feature-set or image quality enough on their enthusiast DSLRs and it is seriously harming their reputation, which unsurprisingly, is based around image quality ranking 1st not 6th. Perception is everything in todays world.

Nor did Canon have a camera in the Cinema EOS range priced to fill the gap. The C100 Mark II starts at $5500 which is as much as a 1D X – firmly pro territory as far as affordability for enthusiasts goes.

Judging from the 7D Mark II which arguably overall puts video quality back by 2 years to before the 5D Mark III because it has roughly the same spec but a smaller, noisier sensor, Canon still don’t seem to be moving forwards. The likelihood of a 5D Mark IV coming along soon with 4K is zero. Why? Because in my opinion Canon have no interest in convergence. At the height of the buzz around DSLR video and stills convergence in 2010, Canon looked to cut their sponsorship budget and one of the first things they did was to pull sponsorship from a London based convergence event for filmmakers. Canon want to sell you two cameras, a stills camera and a video camera. On the video cameras they have chosen to aim higher up the market because they make more margin. Game over for the other stuff.

The 5D Mark III

The 5D Mark III

Canon’s competitors haven’t always got things right but in 2014 they have had Canon on their knees in terms of video specs. Canon’s best DSLR for video is the 1D C priced $12,000. This is in fact a lightly modified 1D X which leaves the factory in small quantities. Panasonic and Samsung offer all-round video capabilities better than the 1D C for $1500, a difference of over $10,000. Sony have the A7S with Atomos Shogun which produces a better overall image from a much larger recording area on the sensor. Under the 1D C Canon don’t have a single 4K interchangeable lens camera. As of 2014 even JVC and Samsung have one! Let me make this clear – Canon have been beaten to the critically important sub-$10k 4K video market by JVC. Soon they will be beaten to the market by a Kickstarter open source project (Axiom) with a budget the size a single Canon manager’s yearly salary.

What’s going on?

It could be that Canon’s market feedback and sales suggests enthusiasts are contented with video quality on their 7D or 5D Mark III, but how long can that contentedness last in the face of such high video specs from rival systems? The acceleration of 4K TVs into the home driven by dramatically lowering prices suggests consumers will start to notice the difference in other ways too.

Already Canon have run the risk of a large scale systems switch, which in turn risks a key part of their business spiralling downwards: the sales of EF lenses. Recent releases such as the Canon EF 35mm F2.0 IS had a $300 price drop just months after launch, which tells you a lot. It is purely by luck that Canon’s lenses happen to adapt to Sony and Panasonic cameras so most users have been able to carry on investing in Canon glass even though they no longer use Canon bodies.

Comparison picture from Dave Dougdale’s Learning DSLR Video. Dave sold his 5D Mark III when the GH4 came out.

Comparison picture from Dave Dougdale’s Learning DSLR Video. Dave sold his 5D Mark III when the GH4 came out.

In terms of resolution on their enthusiast and semi-pro DSLRs Canon have settled around the 720p mark in reality – although labelling it 1080p the real resolution delivered is significantly lower. In the 5D Mark III the image comes off the sensor beautifully, we know this from shooting raw video with Magic Lantern. What are Canon doing to the image to hurt it so badly with the DIGIC processor?

For stills the picture isn’t much brighter. Canon’s reluctance to add credence to an expanding mirrorless market with a high end mirrorless camera of their own has meant that increasingly they have been unable harvest sales from new technology. The better this technology gets, in particular the EVF (as on the Fuji X-T1) the more defunct Canon’s DSLRs get. If Canon are reluctant to compete against their own highly successful and established EF lens range by introducing a new one for mirrorless cameras, I simply don’t understand why Canon have not just made an EF mount mirrorless camera with EVF in the mould of the 7D Mark II like Samsung have done with the NX1. Clearly their market research is telling them that customers prefer optical viewfinders but again, in the face of such high mirrorless specs from rival products, how long can the status-quo continue?

What I find astonishing about this is the lack of real discussion about it. Very rarely have I seen an interview where Canon have adequately answered our concerns over this. At no time have I been asked for my feedback on DSLR video despite EOSHD being one of the biggest resources for DSLR video on the internet. Sony and Panasonic talk to me. Canon remain silent. And from my humble point of view, if this isn’t a sign of a complete lack of interest in the DSLR video market… I don’t know what is.

Article by Andrew Reid and was originally published on eoshd.com

Panasonic GH4 vs Sony A7s Review – 4K vs ISO

Two brand new video cameras with different strengths going head to head is always a ton of fun. Not quite as fun as having to make the decision of which one of these cameras to purchase. We all know by now that nothing beats the A7s in low light and the 4k in camera shooting of the GH4 definitely has it’s advantages. So which one of these cameras should take its place in your camera bag, let’s find out.

You also might take a look at the Sony A7s vs. the Canon 5D mark III

On these cameras, both are geared towards videography and thus both come equipped with all the standard features one would expect such as manual audio control, focus peaking, zebras, and a ton of other more advanced options. The GH4 is able to shoot 1080p at up to 96fps while the A7s is limited to a more normal 60fps at 1080p or 120fps at 720p. The GH4 is also able to shoot 4k internally while the A7s can only use this via HDMI output with a recorder that is not yet available, costs $2000, and is bulky enough to make handheld recording at 4k not a great option. This is a huge win for the GH4 as 4k is the future for a format standard, but also has many applications now allowing for cropping or framing in post as well as digital stabilization without any loss of quality. Both may offer the same level of control but the GH4 feels a bit more logical with its layout and actually offers more custom buttons than the Sony. I’m also a fan of the touch screen LCD as it allows me to change all my settings without making any noise or risk of moving the camera. The LCD also adjusts to every level on the GH4 and makes it easier to use for filming yourself or filming from the side. I find this extremely useful and I’m a big fan of this ability. Now while both cameras offer Wi-Fi, the Sony app only allows for start stop of video recording while the GH4 basically gives you access to all the controls you would have on the camera and even the ability to focus and shift focus points from a remote location. This makes it much better for use as a b camera or on a dolly where it may not be easy to reach the camera controls.

Of course the Panasonic GH4 does have a much smaller sensor which imposes some limitations with dynamic range, a larger depth of field, and worse low light abilities, though there are some advantages to smaller sensors that start to even things out. For example, while the GH4 is not immune to rolling shutter or the jelly effect, it is definitely less pronounced and easier to manage than the Sony. However, in low light the GH4 starts to show limitations at 1600 iso with some noise present, and is limited to 6400 ISO while the A7s looked great up to 25000 ISO with the ability to go even higher if needed. However I did find the GH4 4k files cleaned up nicely with some noise reduction but that will add steps to your workflow. Either way, 6400 is the highest you can go in the GH4 while the Sony A7s is just getting started. Now, while the Panasonic offers great quality f2.8 zooms as well as 1.4 prime lenses, the Sony is limited to f4 for its native zoom lenses on only has 1 wide prime lens at f1.8. This meant it was easy to shoot with wider apertures on the Panasonic allowing me to shoot at lower ISO while achieving the same exposure. The smaller sensor also allows for more area in focus and I find it easy to shoot all day long at f2.8 and wider on the GH4 while on full frame cameras like my 5D3 I was stopping down to at least f4 to get the depth of field I was looking for. The small sensor on the GH4 also allows you to use a metabones speed booster which we will go over in another video but it essentially turned this Sigma lens into a 29mm-57mm f1.2 zoom lens after factoring in the 2.3x crop factor (exposure equivalence). Try shooting that wide on your A7s! So yes the GH4 loses the ISO battle, especially at 1600iso and above, but that is only half the story.

Shooting with these two cameras is actually quite interesting. While the controls and operation on the A7s felt clunky, the GH4 felt much better and I have been using the A7 and A7s much longer than the GH4. Also, before I had these cameras, I figured I would use them both at 1080p and the 4K would be a nice option for the future. Quite the opposite, the 4k recording has become part of my normal workflow allowing for sharp looking 1080p footage when down converted and the ability to crop and stabilize my footage in post. This is huge for me and it makes it tough to go back to normal 1080p. So while the A7s is comparable to the GH4 at 1080p in many ways, being able to shoot 4k made it a game changer for my current workflow, even though I have no plans on outputting 4k footage, nor do I own a 4k TV or monitor. 4k Files even played back on my laptop which was something I was expecting to have issues with. Both of these cameras also offer a profile for better grading with the S-log2 on the A7s and Cinelike D or V on the GH4. The S-log2 is definitely a more empty profile with more room for grading, but I found it to be almost too empty and the fact that you can only use it at 3200 ISO and up made it less usable in practical cases compared to the more natural Cinelike D on the Gh4. If you love grading, I’m sure you will love the S-log2 profile, but at 3200 ISO, I’m just not sure how often you will be using it but you might want to stock up on ND filters.

Both of these cameras have redefined my view of what video should look like in cameras of this price range. They have both stomped on my Canon 5D3 and Canon 70D so hard that it will be nearly impossible to pick them up again for video shooting. As a result, you really can’t go wrong with either of these cameras though the more time I spent with them, I definitely started showing a preference and For me, the GH4 kept coming out on top. For one, the 4k ability turned into a feature I could use every day rather than something that I thought was mostly for future proofing. Also, most of my footage is shot below 1600ISO and the f2.8 zoom and 1.4 prime, and even a 1.2 zoom lens with the metabones adapter for the Panasonic made it easier to shoot at lower ISOs while my F4 Sony zoom lens had me shooting at higher ISOs. Shure, the high ISO shots looked great on the A7s, but the smaller, lighter, cheaper, and still amazing quality lenses from Panasonic took some of wind out of the Sony’s sail… And for only $1700, there is another reason to go with the Panasonic, and use the extra cash for a nice wide aperture lens. Sure I wish the GH4 looked great at 6400ISO and the Sony is still king of the low light hill. But with all its advantages, great price, and overall fit and finish, because remember, this is Panasonics 4th generation of this camera, The GH4 is now likely the video camera that I am likely going to use from here on out.

Article from Learning Cameras – LearningCameras.com

Canon Collaborations: The Crew of VICE on HBO and their Go-To Gear

VICE on HBO takes you deep into the world’s biggest political and cultural clashes. To capture the hair-raising stories you see on screen, VICE Media’s Director of Photography Jake Burghart and Segment DP Jerry Ricciotti are no strangers to shooting in extreme conditions — and need reliable gear to keep up with their immersive documentary shooting style. Find out why Jake and Jerry turn to the Canon EOS C300, XF105, XF305, and 5D Mark III to get the job done and learn how they configure their cameras while shooting in hostile environments.


Interview by News Shooter features editor Mat Gallagher:
Cameraman Jerry Ricciotti and DP Jake Burghart travel the globe to film some of the biggest conflicts, most hostile environments and most hair-raising scenes for the HBO series Vice. I spoke to them about Vice’s style, shooting in extreme conditions and the team’s camera of choice, the Canon C300.

Where are you at the moment?
Jerry Ricciotti: We’re in Benghazi, Libya right now; we’ve been in Libya for six days. We came to Benghazi pretty last minute, two days ago, so, this is our second night or third night here I think. It’s been fun. We’ve been doing a story for Vice.com and maybe for the HBO show. It was a little exciting getting over here and not knowing – with all the clashes and all the police and military – what we would see, but we’ve largely been pretty safe, so it’s been good.

Jake and Brendan taking cover in the streets of Cairo, shooting handheld with a 70-200mm
Photo: Jerry Ricciotti

Tell me a little bit about Vice, my impression is that it’s an extreme documentary?
JR: Vice is a little ambiguous because the production company that creates the show is named Vice, but also it’s a magazine and media entity itself. So Vice, on HBO, is the name of the show and yeah, I think [extreme documentary] would be a fair assessment of it; it’s a news magazine show, focusing on a younger demographic, telling stories that are a little bit different, stories that might not get covered on the nightly news and, certainly for Americans, [it’s] something that we don’t see in many of our news outlets.

Jerry with all the gear, three C300s, two XF305s, two XF105s, three 5D MK3s and all the stuff to make them work.
Photo: Jake Burghart

What cameras do you shoot on?
JR: Primarily the Canon C300, and we always go out with a Canon 5D. We first started working with the XF305 and the C300 but it didn’t seem to be a great fit – It wasn’t as good a complement as we hoped, so we started using the 5D. The image from the XF305 matched nicely, it was just the size. Having the full frame and interchangeable lens options of the 5D made it a better second camera. We also always go out with a Canon XF105 and GoPros.

Why did you choose the C300?
Jake Burghart: We got the cameras pretty early on. I shot the Sebastian Tellier video for ‘Russian Attractions’ on the C300 and shot the underwater scenes on a 5D MkIII. I thought the two worked well together and would make a great pair for us in the field.

The C300 almost chose us. There really isn’t another camera in its class. The AF100, FS100, even the F3, none of these cameras can actually meet broadcast standards without using an external recorder. Shoulder-mount ENG cams are basically dinosaurs and just an aesthetic I’ve never been interested in. Then, if you look the other way, Alexa is obviously out of our budget, but even still, that thing would have broken our backs in the field. Same with an Epic, and I can’t imagine being all filthy and covered in mud trying to access a touch screen menu to close down my iris a stop. The Red Scarlet has the same problems. Touch screen is not something I’m ready to deal with. When you add in storage and battery life, you just can’t beat a C300 for what we’re doing. I love shooting on an Epic in a more controlled environment – the picture, the latitude, all amazing – but for doc shooting I can get 300 minutes of accurate, to the minute, battery life out of a single Canon battery that I can wrap my fist around. With two 64GB CF Cards, I can shoot for over 300 minutes straight. I rarely shoot more than that in a day, which means I don’t wrangle cards till the end of every day. That completely eliminates a job in the field, making our crew that much smaller. I’d love to see another super 35mm sensor camera meet those storage and battery specs while shooting at 1080 at 50MB/s in a log gamma. It would be great to have options but even if Sony steps up their FS100 to meet that, they can’t compete with the native glass that comes with Canon. Using Canon zoom lenses on the C300 means iris control is on your handgrip, and my focal distance and focal length are on the screen. I’m changing shots and exposure without taking my eye off the screen or my hand off the grip.

Jake shooting morning time-lapses in the Sahara with a C300 for the Mauritania piece.
Photo: Jerry Ricciotti

Have you pushed these cameras to their limits?
JR: We didn’t really know the durability of it, so we figured out what it can and can’t do from the nature of our shoots, which are in some pretty extreme terrain – a lot of outdoor work, hiking, on boats, all that sort of transit stuff. What is typical in production [in general], we do with a smaller team and, for me, a much faster pace and much further out.

JB: We shot with the camera hanging out of helicopters in the freezing Russian winter and spent days in the Sahara during the middle of the summer. We suction-mounted it to trucks in West Africa, hung it out of boats in the Maldives, ran it nonstop on way too many 18-hour days in 90 percent humidity, covered the thing in oil, sand, and grime, mounting extra parts anywhere that would take them. The camera stands up to just about anything.

Jerry walking through a village on the Nigerian delta
Photo: Jake Burghart

I take it most of your shooting is handheld, run-and-gun style shooting?
JR: Yeah, it has to be, handheld, exactly, run-and-gun. You’re waking up with the camera in the morning and you don’t put it down until the night. We have to eat with it. So having a solid shoulder rig and nothing too big is kind of important. We don’t really bring sliders or glide cams with us on too many shoots. We have done, but it depends on the situation. Mostly it’s just a shoulder rig, all day.

What would you say are the C300’s strengths and weaknesses?
JR: Strengths – definitely its ability to push ISO and the image quality when the gain does come into effect; it’s kind of a pleasant look. Even two years ago with the AF100 I wouldn’t have even thought of not using an on-board light. I’m always finding myself dealing with natural light so, for us, the advantage of that is huge. Basically being able to see in the dark.

I like how easily it can be broken down to almost a camcorder size. When you strip down to just shoot out of the viewfinder, it’s a nicely balanced camera at its smallest. Then of course it’s really upgradable, too. We end up adding a lot of things for shoots, so, ergonomically and just practically, having all the buttons and the menu options available, for me, is just great. The weather proofing of it is great, too. I’ve been really happy being able to take it [into all sorts of environments].

JB: Outside of the size – storage, battery and glass strengths that I’ve already pointed out. The low light capabilities are off the charts. We shot in existing light on the Niger Delta one night. All we had was a moon, the gas flares in the distance, and one red LED. The scene looks amazing and you would have killed it by lighting it. So many times I don’t have to break a scene to add light. I can just crank the ISO and know it’s still going to look good.

The camera needs to be able to do 60fps at 1080. I know it’s possible. Even if you had to go down to 35MB/s it would be better than having to do 720. Even if it did 48fps I’d be happy. I know it’s possible, Canon is just holding out.

The mounting point on the LCD is weak. It gets loose and can’t be tightened. That’s the biggest drawback. If you try to put a shotgun mic on the supplied shock mount, it will definitely loosen that LCD mount point, and you’ll have a hard time keeping your horizon straight using the LCD. Also the handle only has one contact point, which I don’t like. I’ve swapped out to a Movcam handle with four points of contact. I hate that you can’t separate the XLRs and the LCD. We always need XLRs, we don’t always need an LCD. I’d love to see an artificial horizon in the LCD like on most of Canon’s DSLRs.

The hardest part about rigging the camera has been a working EVF. The one on the camera is pretty much useless. The LCD is great, but there is no good solution for a loupe. The (Dietygear) Mira is maybe the only one, and while it’s really nice it’s too heavy for that weak LCD mount point. It doesn’t flip up easily either. If you use a third-party EVF like the Kinotehnik or Alphatron, you still need the LCD to keep the XLRs, and now you don’t have your waveform monitor (which I think is a must when shooting log). You also don’t have the easy push button magnification on your grip. Sony has been good about making their own loupes and putting them in good spots, I’d like to see Canon follow suit.

Jerry sporting his riot gear in Cairo
Photo: Jake Burghart

JR: Yeah, the monitor situation has been the one thing that’s been a constant, sort of, game I play before I go out on a shoot. In bright light you really kind of need one, the LCD just barely gets by and so I bought a Kinotehnik EVF, which I was really happy with on the 5D but moving on to the C300, it’s just okay. I’m not completely happy with it. The HDMI out is a major issue, I get nervous it’s going to break – luckily it hasn’t, knock on wood – and then the AA batteries die pretty often. It’s nice to have an extra cartridge when they do, but they die so, I bought the Deitygear Mira, and I don’t like it. It’s so big that it backs up against the underside when you have the LCD flipped open and down, sort of the typical way you have it on a shoulder rig. It jams right into the back of the XLR inputs, so I returned that, and I didn’t even bring one on this shoot. I’ve just been using the cameras EVF, and I’ve actually found that turning up the backlight setting on the LCD made a big difference shooting in daylight. With that, peaking and toggling with the magnification I’ve been able to make pretty accurate exposures and I’ve been able to keep everything focused without too much trouble. But I’m still searching for [a good EVF], that’s definitely the thing that I still can’t figure out.

What other gear are you using?
JR: Typically the Litepanel Micro is the only light we bring with us. We use all Canon lenses on the cameras. Our equipment manager Jaime Chew started calling them the ‘three wise men’: 24-70mm f2.8, 16-35mm, and the 24-105mm. I also bring a 70-200mm f2.8 and I have a doubler for that, which I find myself not using that often.

JB: I have a personal set of Zeiss Distagon primes that I use for interviews, and really low light. But the 16-35mm is my go-to lens. For sound we use Lectrosonic lavs, Sennheiser shotguns, and when we have a sound guy we do a Sound Devices eight track. We like to run a lot of wires and keep booming to a minimum. Nothing blows intimacy like a boom in your face. We light interviews back home but in the field keep it pretty minimal. The Litepanels are for a worst-case scenario, but they generally look pretty terrible.

I’d love to see a working bus-powered four-slot Thunderbolt CF reader. We had a Sonnet version that was fast, but it had too many connections, was too fickle, and too fragile. Now we just use several USB3.0 readers at once.

Do you think 4k would be an advantage to your shooting? Is there any talk of moving to 4k, or is it just not necessary until the networks ask for it?
JB: Right now I can’t see any reason for us to use 4K; too much processing and space. It would make the cameras too bulky, and just bring up too many problems. I really can’t see any of the benefits outweighing that stuff for a long time.

Jake’s current C300 handheld rig, with a Movcam top handle.
The Zacuto recoil lite puts the camera right on his shoulder for better weight distribution. The extended follow focus sits out past the LCD screen, which has the Diety, Miro Loupe. On the front is the custom handgrip offset made by Abel Cinetech. His shotgun is mounted off to the side, so the camera doesn’t get too tall. Photo by Jake Burghart

What is the shoulder rig that you use?
JB: We try to keep moving, stay off the tripod as much as possible. Everyone has their own shoulder rigs, I like to keep mine light and tight. It’s combo of Zacuto, Movcam, and some custom stuff.

JR: I have a Redrock micro cage, with just the rails, and an offset grip that sits on the rails. That’s basically it for me. Like I said, just having to be so minimal with it, I put my lavs on the back of the rails on Velcro, behind the battery. Sometimes, depending on my setup, if I’m using the EVF, I’ll actually put the LCD and the XLR back there also, which is as much of a counter weight as I’d ever need. Jake’s is even more minimal. I used to use a Zucato shoulder pad also, but having seen him go without it, I decided to get tough and go without it too and just put the rails on my shoulder all day. I’ve got a nice little knuckle in my collarbone through that but it does help with weight.

Give me an example of some of the situations you’ve been in with the cameras that really pushed them to their limits?
JR: We went up the Niger River delta in Nigeria a couple of months ago, to do a story about oil pirates. These guys continue to break into Shell Oil’s pipelines across the delta where they live. They’ll take the oil out of the pipelines and build these large, basically like moonshine distils, where they refine oil themselves. We weren’t sure if we’d have power there so we brought three to four days’ worth of batteries and cards, and camped up there to go out and find these guys. And we did. We found them in the middle of the night, so we shot with a small light panel and a shoulder rig on a Panga Boat as we sped along the river, doing pieces to camera the entire way as we looked for the indication of oil pirates, which are big plumes of smoke flaring from their oil stills.

All the time we shot on the 85mm f/1.2, which sometimes we’ll bring if we know we’re going to be in low light situations a lot. Shooting on an 85mm at f/1.2 on a moving boat is a not the easiest thing to do but the footage came out great, it’s really steady and the audio sounds good on a Lav, and the shotgun with fuzzy did a really good job picking up the host’s audio.

Once we got there, we had to walk in a foot of sludge, which is basically a combination of mud and oil that had been discarded by the guys on a daily basis. They’ll refine gallons and gallons of oil but a lot of that gets discarded around them, so they’re throwing this oil out all over the place. You’re standing in big knee high rubber boots and as the oil is being refined it’s generating a lot of smoke. It’s really a dangerous environment because that smoke can catch fire and the whole place can go up in flames. Of course, you’d like to have a tripod but you can’t, so you find yourself kind of balancing with one hand out trying to keep your balance and the other hand shooting as you move across a pretty explosive terrain. And the whole time monitoring audio and pulling focus, so I was really happy with the camera. I don’t think it would have been a situation that a camcorder would have really shined in. You didn’t need a heavy rig on your shoulder and you didn’t have to look through it all the time. The precision focusing and the low light capabilities meant it was the perfect camera for the job.

That was a pretty built up rig but before that we were in Egypt in protests. We were pretty lucky to get right to the front line of the protests, which turned pretty violent with the cops shooting rubber bullets at kids and them throwing molotovs back, and tear gas. You’re wearing a gas mask, looking through an LCD. Actually what I had done is, I’d shot two different riots in Egypt, one time I had an LCD, a follow focus and a shoulder rig, and the second time I just had the 24-105mm, looking through the eye piece. Physically you just want a camcorder, something pretty low profile that can zoom far and has pretty good image stabilisation. I was really proud of the stuff that we shot. I felt like I was still shooting something beautiful, like snapshots of action, so that was kinda nice.

Do you find when the C300 is broken down it can work to your advantage in that it doesn’t look too imposing?
JR: Yeah, we did some hostile environment training and the big thing he showed was silhouettes. You don’t think about it until you’re in a place like Benghazi but when you have a large camera on a shoulder rig it looks like an RPG. A smaller camcorder-type camera isn’t as imposing in touchy situations. I’m actually really happy with how small it gets. Especially if you have a small lens on it, like an 85mm or something. It’s pretty low profile. I’ll bring a Rode mic too, just a little DSLR one that works on the C300 as well.

Jake and Shane on a very unstable rooftop in India
Photo: Brendan Fitzgerald

Can you say what you’ve got coming up in the future?
JB: Season two is getting started pretty much now.

JR: I’m going straight from Libya to Hawaii. I have a couple of other Middle Eastern shoots. We’ll definitely spend a lot of time in Asia, covering more civil unrest, and you can probably assume we’ll see Egypt and Turkey again.

VICE launched in 1994 as a punk magazine, and has expanded into a multimedia network, including Vice.com; an international network of digital channels; a television and feature film production studio; a magazine; a record label; and a book-publishing division.

Posted on July 23rd, 2013 by Mat Gallagher

Inside NAB 2013: Through the Lens of a Filmmaker/Educator

Last week Las Vegas hosted the annual NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Trade Show. I hadn’t been in the last few years and went to see the latest gadgets and take the pulse of the video/film industry, at least as represented by manufacturers. It’s funny these days that even with our video-on-demand cultural shift that an event created by broadcasters remains relevant, but it very much does. In fact, you can divide the shows vendors into many categories – but for me there were only two – those relevant to indie filmmakers and those that were not. Huge shiny booths touting the latest bit-rate storage management system for live broadcast were passed over in order to spend more time at Canon’s showcase of DSLR & 4K cameras.

Before I get into my rundown of film toys, I have to talk for a moment about Dolby 3D. You mean 3D sound? It is Dolby after all. No, not sound, 3D picture and WITHOUT glasses. It is a collaboration with James Cameron’s company and on the TV the footage looked very close to the 3D you see in the movie theater. It didn’t have quite the same level of depth, but it looked great. What looked really AMAZING was the 3D on a retina display laptop. To experience that level of 3D on a computer screen without glasses was incredible. I want one!

Besides 3D, 4K was star of the show, mostly in the capturing of it. Lots of low cost cameras (more on that later) and some cool 4K screenings of footage (the one at the Canon booth was a standout for me). As someone who has shot a lot of RED 4K footage, it’s a beautiful format, but a pain in the butt to deal with in post. Takes up gobs of storage, is slow to down-res, and the workflow is challenging. Cheaper tools to shoot 4K are great, but the workflow learning curve on projects longer than a minute is steep. And of course, who can see it in 4K? The future of easy, cheap 4K capture is now, but easy workflow, like what we have for regular HD footage, is still coming.

CANON – Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a Canon camera fan. I love the look of the footage and the 60D I bought for myself last year has re-energized me as a filmmaker. It reminds me of the joy I got when shooting 16mm B&W reversal film on a Bolex. Canon’s latest set of cameras is truly kick-ass. The 5D Mark iii is great and for the money a fantastic all around camera. I was drooling over the new 1D-C, a DSLR camera that shoots stills and 4K for twelve grand. And then there is the “C” line – C100, C300 & C500. I saw some beautiful 4K footage from the C500 and some vibrant slo-mo capabilities at 2K.

GoPro – VERY hip and sexy display with lots of energy and prize giveaways. There was free beer too, but you can imagine the line for it. When GoPro had it’s drawing for free stuff, half of the convention floor was at their booth. The clips on their monitors were the highlight, including one in the back showing 2.7K 3D footage that looked awesome. That and the fact that their top-of-the-line camera is $400 and can shoot 4K at 15fps – WTF? One of these should be in every cinematographers tool box.

One strangely wonderful and utterly Teutonic piece of gear was the modified GoPro camera shown at the small P&S Technik booth. It is called the Novo camera and boasted a c-mount to attached cine lenses and cracked firmware with aperture adjustment. Sorry kids, I asked and it’s only for rental from Radient Images in L.A.

Buried amidst the post-production crowd and facing each other like two pugilists were Black Magic and RED. Black Magic would love to be the new RED, and they certainly had production issues like RED for the release of their first camera. I’m a Black Magic skeptic (never shot with one) but their booth was impressive. They have two new cameras, a 4K version of their “old” camera and a small cinema camera in a point-and-shoot package that I can’t see the purpose for. They did have one of these pocket-size cameras rigged with an amazing cinema lens costing 25 times the price of the camera. If you can afford the lens, why shoot on what looks like a toy – cool sensor or not? And my own personal advice for those of you who have been waiting 6 months for your 1st generation Black Magic and are finally receiving it – SELL IT IMMEDIATELY! With the new 4K model coming (that costs only one grand more and doesn’t have the same extreme cropped sensor issues), your new toy will be a boat anchor in a few months.

RED’s booth was just okay in my opinion. They had a “clean room” with people assembling cameras, but so what. And they did have their new camera with the Dragon sensor that shoots 6K, but I didn’t see a demo. This constant desire to create cameras that shoot higher and higher resolutions made a lot sense a few years ago. when we were all chasing the quality of film. But now that we’ve reached that goal with sensor size, pixels and stops of latitude – enough already. Cheaper 4K – yes. 6K – not now! It’s like dropping a ferrari engine into the chassis of a Toyota Camry. Most of us struggle with 4K workflow on a budget. What the heck are we gonna do with 6K? What we really need are cheaper high quality lenses – it’s all about the glass, right! Start working on that RED and you’ve got my full attention.

The last time I was at NAB, Apple had a gi-normous booth, now they were only a memory. And Adobe is more than happy to fill in their shoes. Their booth was gigantic and the people working it wonderfully friendly. I’m a Final Cut Pro guy and have been since it first appeared. I love FCP 7, it does everything I need it to do, and if I were’t the President of a film school, I would stick with it. However, it’s important for educators and middle-aged filmmakers to stay au-currant and I’m gonna re-learn Adobe Premier. I’d used it a decade before and hated it, but now seems the time to forget the past and give it a chance. Also, their whole cloud-based software program is awesome. I love the idea of just paying a small monthly fee and always having the latest version of the software. And with their “team” packages, you can get common cloud storage space to share edits, etc. How cool is that! I signed up for a trial version that day.

As I wrap up, there are a few more gadgets I want to highlight. The new Phantom quad-copter by DJI was super-slick. Priced right and ready to mount your GoPro Black Series, you’ve got aerial cinematography on a budget. Mathews had an awesome slider called the FloatCam DC  with a counter-weight that made it so smooth – like butter! And you could mount it vertically, turn it into a jib and add a computer controlled motor. It’s on my wish list. And another old-school manufacturer, Mole-Richardson, had a kit where you could retro fit their fresnel studio lights (tweenie, baby & junior) to LED for half the price of a new LED light. Very retro-cool. It’s like dropping a new Chevy LS7 engine into your 1963 split-window Corvette. (I know another car analogy – I like cars, okay). A “sleeper” with the good looks of old and the technology of today.  And a quick shout-out to Kessler for having awesome looking portable sliders and one of the best brochures at the show.

Jeremiah Birnbaum is a filmmaker and the President/Co-Founder of the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking. He has been working in the entertainment industry for 24 years and has no other professional skills except his wickedly dry sense of humor.

Filmmaking Drone Takes Flight

Faculty and students of SF School of Digital Filmmaking trained, tested and flew one of the latest tools in aerial cinematography – the DJI S800 hexacopter, a remote-controlled “drone” capable of carrying a 10lb camera package. Combined with the Zenmuse gimbel mounting a Sony NEX-7, the drone, nicknamed Pheonix, is an incredibly useful machine for capturing aerial HD footage.

Documentary Program student, Carol Berman, purchased Phoenix for her documentary work-in-progress on the tunnel at Devil’s Slide, and is donating Phoenix to the film school for use by students and faculty.

Says Carol, “I can’t imagine a better way to capture the beauty of the San Mateo coast side that was saved by 50 years of hard work by environmental activists, culminating in the opening of the People’s Tunnel at Devil’s Slide. I think it is such a powerful tool to use that I would feel guilty letting it sit in my garage until the next time I had an opportunity to use it for filming. I’m excited about providing other members of this filmmaking community access to Phoenix!”

“It was such a blast to fly,” said Jeremiah Birnbaum, SFSDF’s President. “I was a serious RC buff as a kid, and this is an amazing tool. I can’t wait to start shooting with it.”

Check back for future posts when we have updates and more footage from our film school drone.

Bay Area filmmaking: Dog-&-Pony Show

Bay Area filmmaking

A couple weeks ago, San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking Director of Marketing Christopher F. Smith embarked on an adventure in the East Bay Area. ‘Twas no ordinary journey, however. It was an Easy Bay Area filmmaking excursion put together by the good people at Propville Directory. Well known as the Bay Area’s leading resource for filmmaking and other visual arts, the group also organizes fun and educational “field trips” to many of the area’s media centers. Called the Dog & Pony Show, this rolling gaggle of creatives eat, drink and be merry while visiting some of the most interesting and compelling Bay Area filmmaking, video, photography shops in town.

What is a Dog & Pony Show?

The Propville Directory’s Dog & Pony™ Shows are educational & networking events designed to bring the local production community together to learn new tricks, share ideas and network with other production professionals. Because the production markets (film, photography, theater and event) often need the same resources, we find that a room full of creative people bring all sorts of new elements to the table. Everyone has something unique to offer, from a service, to a viewpoint, to another connection. Dog & Pony™ Shows are held all over the Bay Area, from Bay Area Sound Stages (San Rafael) to Rough House Post (Presidio), with panelists and presentations on topics like HD Workflow, Self Marketing, Any Budget Sound Design and Copyright Protocols.

Smith spent the day with the Show and had this to report.


Bay Area filmmakingI emerged from the Berkeley BART stop and wandered over to the Berkeley Rep where the Show was to start. We gathered around our transportation for the day, the super-cool Teacher Bus, and then crossed to the street to our first stop: Berkeley Rep Theatre. We learned a bit about costuming and wardrobe tips-n-tricks and then we piled back in the bus and rolled out to our next destination, The Saul Zaentz Film Center. In transit, we heard a bit from hair/make-up artist Elizabeth Fox and nibbled on some awesome pound cake. At the Film Center we got to speak with the smart folks at Color Flow and Berkeley Sound Design and watch some slick reels.

Then we popped back in the bus and drove to downtown Oakland where we had a wonderful, hand-made lunch in the park from the positively vivacious Eva D. from Secret Kitchen. We all mingled and chatted about big projects and other fun, creative stuff before making our way over to KTOP. Big Zig Camera Rentals told us a few things about their operation and we toured the KTOP studios.

Finally, we took a spin through the legendary Alameda thrift shop/prop house, Pauline’s, and piled in the bus for our return trip.

Bay Area filmmaking

Propville’s Chief Instigator Teri Cundall addresses the bus

The entire experience was shot by Sean Donnelly of Corduroy Media and filmed by Scott Stender and Jon Felix of Mill Valley’s Digit. Photographer Meigan Canfield shot for Propville.

Teri and Propville are such a great resource for all things Bay Area filmmaking. While they do have a comprehensive list of Bay Area resources, they go much further by engaging friends and members on a personal level. They are building the crucial community ties that make this area such a creative wonderland. Anyone can print a list but it takes real passion and energy to build and maintain a viable artistic community. I’m super-glad I got to tag along!


Learn more about Propville or sign up for the next Dog & Pony Show!

FilmSchoolSF students shoot promo for Noir City Film Festival

This week we were able to catch up with one of our alumni from the July 5-Week Filmmaking Workshop. Filmmaker Keith Azoubel is already out there shooting good stuff and moving forward with his career based on skills he learned here at SFSDF. Keith is a big fan of film noir and he was recently chosen to shoot a promo for the upcoming film noir film festival here in San Francisco, NOIR CITY.

How did you get the gig?

After I did my short film “The Goodnight Motel” for the SFSDF 5-week program last summer. I showed my short on a film noir message board just to get feedback and such. I got a message from film noir historian Eddie Muller who really liked the way my short film was shot and lit and wanted to know if I like to shoot the promo for his annual film festival, Noir City. Of course, I took the gig since I love film noir and I’ve always wanted to shoot in a bar. Eddie planned to have the promo done for last year’s film festival but had some problems getting it done. He already had a one page script and an actress ready to go, it was just up to me to get a crew together, equipment, draw out a storyboard and write out a shot list.

Challenges faced in shooting/casting/editing?

Casting wasn’t a problem since Eddie Muller already had the leading lady and himself to play, we added a role for a bartender a week before shooting. As for shooting, we try to keep it simple, of course I would’ve liked to have different angles and such but we wanted to get it done within 3 to 4 hours, which we did. It was just a matter of getting it done quickly but having as much as I wanted. I’m pretty happy the way it came out. Eddie had a friend edit the trailer, they had some problems getting it transfered onto his computer but figured it out so it all came together.

How did SFSDF help you?

Well for starters, the short film I did there last summer helped me get the gig. I was able to use the skills I learned at the school to make the best looking promo I can. I met people there who I worked really well with who I was able to have be my crew again for the trailer. I was able to use the school’s equipment, too.

Is this your first big opportunity?

I would say so, the fact that Eddie Muller is a known film historian who’s written a few books on film noir and knows a few celebrities such as Sean Penn and crime writer James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia). So to have him give me this opportunity is big for me. Also the trailer is going to be shown at the Castro Theater in front of over a thousand people is really great. To think something I directed is going to be shown to that many people is an amazing thought. The trailer was recently mentioned in the SFGate and lives on the homepage of the Noir City website.

What other projects do you have in the works?

At the moment I’m writing some short films, some for the SFSDF 1-Year Digital Filmmaking program and afterwards shorts I want to write and direct to get in film festivals.

Full cast/crew list

Alycia Tumlin – The Woman
Bill Arney – The Bartender
Eddie Muller – The Man

Keith Azoubel (5-Week Filmmaking Workshop)- Director
Brandon Hamilton  – (Class 3, 1-Year Digital Filmmaking Program)- Director of Photography
Judy Zimbelman (Class 10, 1-Year Digital Filmmaking Program) – Assistant Director
Bill Ulleseit (Class 10 1-Year Digital Filmmaking Program) – Lighting
Ian D. Thomas – Sound
Scott Koué – Boom Mic

Filmed at Tosca Cafe.