A Really Useful App/lication

An eagle-eyed colleague noticed that one of the data values in Ben Dair’s 4K infographic was incorrect. Ben immediately checked and produced a new version which is now correct on this site. What is highlighted by this is how easy it is, even for vastly experienced people, to generate an error in what are really quite complex calculations. For any Data Manager, DIT or Assistant Editor (or the people that are having to cover their roles) this can be a disaster.

Fortunately there are tools out there that, if up-to-date are (and there are some paid for apps that lag behind), a god-send. One of the best is the AJA Datacalc. Indeed, here is the screen grab that was sent to illustrate the mistake in the original infographic.

AJA DataCalc-4K

The app is free and is available for iOS, osX and Windows. Sadly not for Android though.

4K – everything you need to know

Lots of buzz about 4K / UltraHD and a growing demand to shoot in 4K. Is this something that film-makers should be taking seriously? Before we can begin to answer that we really need to know exactly what it is, how it differs from HD, what benefits it offers and what are the implications for the entire production pipeline.

This excellent infographic, produced by friend Ben Dair and originally posted on his website, BenDair.co.uk, covers everything from resolution to consumer devices.

SCRATCH Play – The Must Have Tool for anyone working with images

In a pre-IBC announcement, Assimilate unveiled a new free media player, Scratch Play.

Primary Grading with SCRATCH Play

Primary Grading with SCRATCH Play

The free player runs on OS X and Windows computers, plus Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets, and is of use to anybody who handles images, still or moving. For the Pros, it supports RAW footage, MXF, DPX, OpenEXR, and ProRes files. One of the biggest issues for anybody working in post is having a player that can handle anything, without having to spend thousands in order to do so. Scratch Play also supports QuickTime, WMV and MP4, which not only makes it that tool but, also, a must-have as a prosumer/consumer media player.

Anyone familiar with VFX, CG and Editorial workflows will know, having the ability to check a shot on any workstation has long been high on the “we really need this” list but, until now at least, this has either had to be expensive software or RAM players, or a combination of both. So being able to double-click on an R3D or ArriRAW file to play or scrub through it, or quickly play back a DPX render or an animation you’ve just finished at your desk, in context, with proper colour, is really a big deal.

“We use SCRATCH Play to pull stills directly from the RED RAW files, and to be able to move through footage fast without having to stand at the DIT station. To have the Surface Pro to pull up a still, or moving footage, to match to the shot we’re doing currently is huge.

The Surface Pro is great because it’s a full PC, but it’s portable. I have SCRATCH running on it, I have Media Composer running on it – those are all things I can’t do on an iPad.”

Diamond Brothers

As part of yesterday’s Microsoft launch of the Surface pro 2, they showed SCRATCH Play running on the Surface, playing back and adjusting primary colour of uncompressed RED Dragon 6K in real-time. Phenomenal!

Microsoft unveil Surface Pro 2 using SCRATCH Play

Microsoft unveil Surface Pro 2 using SCRATCH Play

SCRATCH Lab is one of the most commonly used systems in VFX conform and review and as on-set and near-set DataLabs. One of the reasons for its popularity is its ability to play back all those different filetypes, in context, but also to organise and compare looks using the unique Assimilate interface, the CONstruct. The free SCRATCH Play has that and also the ability to manipulate the primary colour characteristics of a file and save them as ASC CDLs, LUTs or as JPEG stills. Those kind of tools will make it very popular with DPs and DITs wanting to experiment with looks without having to take up a DataLab to do so, and even commercials stills photographers could utilise the versioning and organising.

As Jeff Edson, Assimilate CEO states: “The inclusion of Scratch’s CONstruct timeline, where sequences are organized, versioned, staged and assembled into tracks, makes this player a no-brainer for DPs and DITs who want to export CDLs or LUTs without pausing their cart transcodes already in progress. The CONstruct handles any and all combos of formats, resolutions and color spaces, including Rec. 2020 and 4K Ultra HD color space, and lets users define their output resolution, switch between versions, and compare and manage their media at any point during a production.”

Where NAB tends to be the show about announcements, and IBC where we get to see them in reality, Assimilate have rolled this into one, with the announcement and immediate availability. SCRATCH Play is available for download from their website now for free. Once downloaded once can apparently pay $5 to remove the ads but the functionality is not hampered in the free version.

SCRATCH Play can be downloaded for free from here

Trouble and Strife at The OSCARS

GreenMany of you will have noticed a proliferation of green Facebook profile images. Why have so many profile pictures gone green? It represents the green screen that so many movies are now shot on, prior to the hard work and dedication of thousands of visual effects artists bringing the movie to life. Sadly, the working conditions and pay for vfx artists has been drilled to the floor as have the profit margins of the vfx companies with the result that Rhythm & Hues, the company that delivered the bulk of the effects for Life of Pi and brought Richard Parker to life, filed for bankruptcy as the movie itself passed the billion dollar mark in global ticket sales.

Whilst the Hollywood production companies and studios walk away with profits, artists who dedicate their lives to their craft get short changed on salary, over-time and eventually job security. What has happened to Rhythm & Hues, Digital Domain, Asylum FX, Cinesite Hollywood and Cafe FX is looming for Pixomondo, Electronic Arts and Disney Interactive, to name but a few.

At this year’s OSCAR award ceremony members of the VFX community demonstrated outside the Dolby Theatre, whilst inside, Bill Westenhofer had his mic muted as he picked up the gong for best VFX on behalf of the now bankrupt Rhythm and Hues. He was given less time on stage than the gurning goons of the Avengers cast that led-up to the award announcement and to add insult to injury he was then played-off to the Jaws theme music. Meanwhile, some have taken umbrage that neither of the other two main OSCAR winners for Life of Pi, Director and Cinematographer mentioned the work of the VFX artists.

Ang Lee likes his recognition; How Life of Pi looked before and after VFX; A Protestor outside the OSCARS

Ang Lee likes his recognition; How Life of Pi looked before and after VFX; A Protestor outside the OSCARS

Should Ang Lee and Claudio Miranda be vilified for not recognising the work of the VFX artists in Life of Pi? Certainly, given the circumstances and the demonstrators Miranda had passed on his way into the building, it would have been a nice show of recognition, if not solidarity, had he done so. But *should* he have done? Do VFX and post folk go out of their way to thank the DoPs for making their lives easier by shooting high quality green screen and sumptuous plates? Not generally.

Lee is another matter. For a film so reliant on VFX work and therefore for Lee to be so much in the debt of the artists to realise his vision, he really *should* have thanked them, even without going so far as to highlight their plight. It was disingenuous and downright ignorant not to do so. But worse, he has actually come out and said that VFX should be cheaper! Life of Pi was my favourite movie of last year but as I think of the many VFX Artists, of which I once numbered, around the world who now work in sweatshop conditions, of the very people who created Life of Pi, laid off, unemployed and owed weeks of pay it now simply leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

Miguel Ferros

Jitter on new Blackmagic Cinema Camera

I have been editing a short which reminds me on a daily basis why I really have reservations about DSLRs.

Every pan or crane move suffers from jitter and I have been limited in my choice of performance by focus issues brought about by the limited Depth of Field. Having said that, they ARE liberating and, handled appropriately, can give great results.

I always look at this way: ok, so as a film-maker there are some tools in my creative palette I am going to have to avoid if I use a DSLR but with little or no budget what is the alternative? I’d rather have some shots than no shots! So I put my reservations aside and hope that the director or DoP will either know the limitations or will talk with me before they shoot.

Moving on, today I saw this test shot from the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera posted on Vimeo. What the….! I would not expect this amount of jitter from a camera that is supposed to be a DSLR killer. This is why it’s so important to test before buying (or renting). I would love to hear any other experiences of the Blackmagic camera?

See The Light!

There are many great apps available to help the film-maker. Particular favourites of mine are KataData, Cam Report and Action Log. I came across another new tool today and it looks very interesting indeed, particularly for cinematographers or vfx supers dealing with greenscreen shooting. The App in question is Adam Wilt’s Cine Meter for iOS.

 

Adam Wilt's Cine Meter

Adam Wilt’s Cine Meter

For those that aren’t aware, Adam knows his stuff and the fact that this app is his makes it immediately interesting. It comes with a light meter, waveform and false-colour picture (I’m English so today it is colour) and it allows you to calibrate Cine Meter to match other meters to a tenth of a stop, and take readings using matrix or spot metering. Impressive.

 

Spot Meter Mode

Spot Meter Mode

The Light Meter is absolute, in that it uses the devices camera, but the picture, false-color picture, and waveform monitor displays are only relative as they show scene brightness values relative to other levels in the scene and the exposure setting of the device has an impact on this. Nevertheless, definitely a useful reference tool, just don’t directly compare light meter readings with waveform or false-color levels.

Adam includes a useful How To, Tips and Tricks section on his website as well as a FAQ and at only $4.99 it definitely looks like a tool worth experimenting with.

Neil Oseman at Hay Festival of British Film

Hay Film School is pleased to present a shorts session with local filmmaker Neil Oseman on Saturday 22nd September, as part of the Hay Festival of British Film.

In the session, which will take place at Booth’s Bookshop Cinema at 3.30pm, Neil will show clips from his forthcoming short, Stop/Eject and discuss his experiences of using crowd-funding to finance his project.

Neil Oseman

Neil has been making films since he was fifteen. Now at 31 he has made two features, DP’d four others, shot and edited countless shorts, directed Benedict Cumberbatch on 35mm and been dubbed “The Spielberg of Hereford” by The Guardian. Neil says

“Second only to my love of filmmaking is my passion for sharing how I make them and what I learn from the process”

and this session is a must see for anyone interested in the art of filmmaking and the realities of independent film production in the UK.

 

 

Neil’s Biography

Neil directed his first feature-length film at the age of fifteen and won his first paying directing job at just nineteen.  At 21 he completed his first professional feature, The Beacon.  Over the next three years he co-wrote, directed, produced, photographed and edited Soul Searcher, which The Guardian described as “a fantasy action movie in the grand style”.  In spite of its microbudget, the ambitious film includes over 250 effects shots, martial arts and a chase between a ’73 Ford Mustang and an express train to Hell, and was shot entirely at night.  Press reviews called it “ground breaking” and “a remarkable achievement”, and Neil was named a winner of the Channel 4 Ideas Factory’s Creative Class in 2005.

Neil Oseman will talk about his experience of independent film production in the UK and show clips from his latest short Stop/Eject

His short film credits include The Picnic, TractionCow Trek and Possibilities and,  as a DoP he has six feature films to his name, including two shot in New York.

Neil is currently developing his third feature film as writer-director, The Dark Side of the Earth, having recently shot a 35mm pilot for the project starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Atonement) and Kate Burdette (The Duchess).  More information can be found at www.darksideoftheearth.com

On Set Data Management with the EOS C300

I recently had a chance to see the Canon EOS C300 go through it’s paces alongside a Red Epic. This took place on the HD Cinematography course held at Newport, with Viv Mainwaring as DoP.

Hopefully we will get some sample shots uploaded but I can say that from a quick look at the rushes the C300 looked amazing for a video camera but didn’t match the Epic in terms of colour reporoduction or dynamic range, but then would you expect it to?

With the correct tools, the data management side was very straightforward, and I thought this article from Canon might be of interest.

 

 

CanonCanon Digital Learning Center
Jem Schofield
Jem Schofield

Jem Schofield is the founder of theC47, an online and offline resource focused on the craft of video production and filmmaking. He is a producer, author and educator & the director of The Filmmaker’s Intensive, an annual two week program that focuses on narrative filmmaking.

 

On Set Data Management with the EOS C300

November 02, 2011

Working with Canon’s XF Codec in Production

With the release of the EOS C300, producers, filmmakers and cinematographers now have a compact Super 35mm based digital cinema camera that can capture high definition film-like images to Compact Flash (CF) Cards using Canon’s MPEG-2 4:2:2 50Mbps XF Codec. This codec was first introduced in Canon’s XF series of professional HD Camcorders and is saved in the Material eXchange Format (MXF), which is compatible with all major non-linear editing (NLE), software.

This article will focus on the benefits of using Canon’s 50Mbps 4:2:2 Constant Bit Rate (CBR), XF Codec and how you can work effectively with the codec using the EOS C300’s CF card based system in production environments. While the EOS C300 is capable of recording at lower bit rates and resolutions, this article is about getting the most out of your camera when recording directly to the widely available, cost-effective and production proven media, CF cards.

Canon’s XF Codec, Sound Format & MXF

The 50mbps, 4:2:2 codec used in the EOS C300 is based on the MPEG-2 Long GOP standard that has been adopted and used in many production and post-production workflows and environments. The codec’s 4:2:2 color sampling is superior to 4:2:0 color sampling and allows for much greater flexibility in post-production when color correcting, grading and compositing footage. Sound is captured to the EOS C300 using uncompressed, Linear PCM audio.

As footage is being recorded to the EOS C300’s CF cards, it is wrapped using the internationally standardized Material eXchange Format (MXF). The MXF container allows video, audio and important metadata to be wrapped into a single file and is used in both standard NLE workflows and with high-end network systems that are used by production studios and networks. As a standard solution, this format saves time and money over proprietary workflows. This helps make both the production and post-production process run smoothly.

Production Considerations

Whether on set or on location, integrity of your data is crucial. All of the money spent on a production is ultimately sitting on solid-state media (CF Cards). Without a good game plan you are risking the loss of an entire card’s worth or up to an entire day’s worth of footage.

It is important to not only think about how your data is going to be handled on set or on location, but also who is going to handle it. Today, that job is generally handled by a Digital Imaging Technician (DIT). Occasionally, it might be handled by a data wrangler or an assistant editor. In either case, there needs to be one person who is responsible for the successful recording and backing up of data.

Inserting and Initializing CF Cards

The EOS C300 records to readily available CF cards (see compatibility chart at the end of this article), and there are two card slots in the camera.

As with any camera system, the first steps to recording are to insert and then initialize the cards. Before doing so, make sure you turn the EOS C300’s power dial to the “CAMERA” position.

  1. Open the CF card slot cover.
  2. Insert a CF card with the label facing up, all the way into the slot.
  3. Close the CF card slot cover. Don’t force the cover closed. It should close easily as long as the card is inserted properly.
  4. In the EOS C300’s Menu system, access Other Functions > Initialize Media CF A or Initialize CF B > Cancel / OK.
  5. Select [OK] and then press SET to initialize your card. When the confirmation message appears, press SET again.
  6. Repeat the process again for the other CF card/s (if applicable).

Note: While it is possible to initialize cards in one slot while another card is recording, it is generally a better practice to initialize (format), all of the cards that will be used in a day’s shoot before actually recording. That would mean that if you were anticipating using six cards for a camera in a day, you should initialize and label all of those cards before shooting begins.

Bit Rate, Resolution and Frame Rate

Once your cards are initialized, the camera needs to be set up so that it records in the bit rate, resolution (frame size), and the frame rate that you want for your particular project. You also do this in the Other Functions menu.

  1. To set the bit rate and resolution in the EOS C300’s Menu system, access Other Functions > Bit Rate/Resolution and set the desired bit rate & resolution (generally 50 Mbps 1920 x 1080). Once chosen, press SET.
  2. To choose the frame rate, access Other Functions > Frame Rate and choose your desired frame rate. If you are trying to achieve a film look, you should generally choose 24P (which runs at 23.98). There is also a True 24P option of you are shooting footage that needs to match projects that have been shot on other cameras (mainly film), that record at a true 24fps, but this option is usually reserved for very specific workflows and scenarios.
Recording Modes

You are now ready to record to the EOS C300’s CF Cards. There are two main types of recording that you will generally use when shooting. The first is relay recording (the default mode in the camera), and the second is double-slot recording.

Note: You must insert two CF cards if you want to use either the Relay Recording or the Double Slot Recording modes of the camera.

Relay Recording

Relay recording supports spanning which means that as long as there are two cards in the camera, the recording will be relayed to the other card when one card is full. This mode of recording is ideal for documentary shoots, reality television and any project where long continuous recording times may be necessary. Two 32GB CF cards will let you record over 2 and a half hours of 4:2:2 footage at 50 Mbps.

When using relay recording, the CF Card slots are hot-swappable. This means that you can remove a full card in one slot and replace it with a fresh one while the other slot is recording to another card. Once that card is full, the EOS C300 switch over and will continue recording to the fresh card. You can then swap the full card out with a fresh one to effectively give you continuous recording for as long as you like. Recording is possible from card A to card B or from card B to card A.

Notes: 1) Relay recording can’t be used during slow motion shooting with a bit rate setting of 50 Mbps. 2) A function to set relay recording ON or OFF is provided in the EOS C300’s menu.

Double-Slot Recording

When integrity of data is absolutely crucial and there’s no room for second takes, double-slot recording will simultaneously record the same data to both CF cards. This will create an instant back-up of what has been shot and is a best practice workflow on shoots where shorter record times are generally used and the costs of production are high.

To turn on double-slot recording access Other Functions > Double Slot Rec > On / Off. Once chosen, press SET.

In a double-slot recording scenario, the duplicate media can be immediately sent offsite for archiving or to be ingested and organized as part of the post-production process. Additionally, one card could be used to process dailies while the other is used to start post. As the cost of CF cards is low in comparison to some other proprietary media types, this is a viable workflow on many shoots.

It is not a requirement that the two cards being used in double-slot recording be the same storage capacity. If two cards of varying capacity are used during double-slot recording, recording time will simply be limited to the size of the smaller card.

Notes: 1) Double-slot recording can’t be used together with relay or slow & fast motion recording. If double-slot recording and slow & fast motion recording are selected together, slow & fast motion will take precedence. 2) If the memory of one card is filled up before the memory of the other card is used up, the operation of recording onto both cards is stopped.

Clip Titles

It should be noted that when the EOS C300 record clips it assigns a 6-character clip name consisting of a 2-letter prefix and 4 numerals (for example, “AA0001”). The numerals of the clip name increase every time a new clip is recorded.

You can set the initial clip name in advance by using the Other Function > Clips menus. This will allow you to assign clip names whose metadata matches the job being produced.

  1. Other Functions > Clips > Title Prefix > AA-ZZ + 00-99
  2. Other Functions > Clips > Number Setting > Set (4-digit numeral)/Reset

Note: You cannot change a clip’s name after it’s been recorded. The video file (stream) in a clip will be split approximately every 2 GB for clips with long recording times.

Transferring & Backing Up Data

Before re-inserting a recorded CF card back into the EOS C300, it is extremely important that the data has been ingested and backed up to at least two separate locations. Ideally you wouldn’t record onto a card more than once in a production day, but that is oftentimes unavoidable.

If you must re-record to a CF card during production, make sure that the recorded footage has been imported into your NLE and backed up properly. Refer to the user manual for more information on recommended post-production workflows.

CF Card Run Time Table

The following chart shows typical recording durations for CF cards, at different EOS C300 quality settings.

Card capacity 50Mb/s (CBR) 35Mb/s (VBR) 25Mb/s (CBR)
8 GB 20 min. 25 min. 40 min.
16 GB 40 min. 55 min. 80 min.
32 GB 80 min. 110 min. 155 min.
64 GB 160 min. 225 min. 310 min.
128GB 320 min. 445 min. 625 min.
CF Card Compatibility Table

The following chart shows EOS C300 compatible CF Cards.

Manufacturer Product name Capacity Model number Nominal Speed
SanDisk* ExtremePro 64GB SDCFXP-064G-J91 x600 (90MB/s)
32GB SDCFXP-032G-J91
16GB SDCFXP-016G-J91
Extreme 32GB SDCFX-032G-J61 x400 (60MB/s)
16GB SDCFX-016G-J61
8GB SDCFX-008G-J61
Hagiwara
SYS-COM*
Z III 8GB HPC-CF8GZ3U5 x300 (45MB/s)
4GB HPC-CF4GZ3U5
Lexar* Professional x300 16GB LCF16GBERBJP300 x300 (45MB/s)
8GB LCF8GBERBJP300
4GB LCF4GBERBJP300
Professional x600 16GB LCF16GBCRBJP600 x600 (90MB/s)
8GB LCF8GBCRBJP600
Delkin Devices** CombatFlash 32GB DDCFCOMBAT-32GB x625 (91MB/s)
16GB DDCFCOMBAT-16GB
8GB DDCFCOMBAT-8GB
Transcend** 600x CompactFlash Card 32GB TS32GCF600 x600 (90MB/s)
16GB TS16GCF600

Canon makes no representations or warranties with respect to any third party accessory or product mentioned herein.

*Fully operational in all modes.
**These cards compatible EXCEPT for slow motion recording

This chart was accurate at the time of publishing this article (Nov. 2011).

Summary

The Canon EOS C300 is an affordable and innovative digital cinema camera. By utilizing a tried and true codec that captures images at a 50 Mbps bit rate and 4:2:2 color sampling to industry standard CF cards, you will have greater flexibility in post-production to create the look you want.

By creating best practices on set, you will ensure that the data that you capture will be intact and ready for post. Create a standard workflow and you will be well on your way to capturing the images you imagine.

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

http://learn.usa.canon.com

Canon’s MPEG-2 4:2:2 50Mbps XF Codec

Canon’s MPEG-2 4:2:2 50Mbps XF Codec

Canon’s MPEG-2 4:2:2 50Mbps XF Codec is based on the MPEG-2 Long GOP standard that has been adopted and used in many production and post-production workflows

CF media card based recording

CF media card based recording

Insert the CF cards with the label facing up

Two CF media card slots

Two CF media card slots

The C300 camera has two CF media card slots

The EOS C300’s power dial

The EOS C300’s power dial

Turn the EOS C300’s power dial to the “CAMERA” position before inserting and initializing the CF media cards

Initializing CF media

Initializing CF media

To prepare the CF media for recording use the EOS C300’s Menu system, access Other Functions > Initialize Media CF A or Initialize CF B > Cancel / OK.

Completing the CF media initialization

Completing the CF media initialization

To complete the initialization process Select [OK] and then press SET

Setting Bit rate via the Menu

Setting Bit rate via the Menu

To set the bit rate and resolution in the EOS C300’s Menu system, access Other Functions > Bit Rate/Resolution

Choose your frame rate

Choose your frame rate

To set the frame rate, access Other Functions > Frame Rate and choose your desired frame rate. If you are trying to achieve a film look, you should generally choose 24P

Relay Recording option

Relay Recording option

Relay recording supports spanning which means that as long as there are two cards in the camera, the recording will be relayed to the other card when one card is full, an ideal mode of recording for documentary shoots

Double Slot Recording

Double Slot Recording

When integrity of data is absolutely crucial use double-slot recording. To turn on double-slot recording access Other Functions > Double Slot Rec > On / Off. Once chosen, press SET. Double-slot recording will simultaneously record the same data to both CF cards.

Clip Titles

Clip Titles

The clips recorded with the EOS C300 are assigned a 6-character clip name consisting of a 2-letter prefix and 4 numerals (for example, “AA0001”). Use the Other Function > Clips menus to set prefix and numbering.

Clip Titles:alph prefix

Clip Titles:alph prefix

Use the Other Function > Clips menus to set prefix and numbering: Other Functions > Clips > Title Prefix > AA-ZZ + 00-99

Setting clip sequential numbering

Setting clip sequential numbering

Use the Other Function > Clips menus to set the file numbering: Other Functions > Clips > Number Setting > Set (4-digit numeral)/Reset

Digital Lab On-Set

Those  who attended the Make a Short Film course at Hay on Film will have seen a little of how an onset Lab works, and how important it is for a digital production.

Of course, for us, the SCRATCH Lab system we had really came into its own because we were shooting with three different cameras (Arri Alexa, Red Epic, Sony F3). We were able to bring the various recording media back to the SCRATCH Lab and offload it all quickly and do a quick visual QC before recycling the cards.

Here is a video that shows some of the other kind of work that a Lab system can carry out within a full digital workflow.