ON STAND K4 MEET DVUSER

ON STAND K4 MEET DVUSER
THE MAGAZINE FOR DIGITAL HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO PRODUCTION & NON-LINEAR EDITING
Is s u e 1 5 • J a n u a ry 2 0 11 • w w w.dvuser.co.uk • £3.50
Cover story. Sony PMW-350
Full review on page 9
MEET DVUSER
ON STAND K4
How to Light & Shoot Interviews. Tutorial on page 37
Panasonic’s Revolutionary AG-AF101 Solid-State
HD Film-Like Camcorder. Full review on page 21
NEWS • REVIEWS • FEATURES • ARTICLES • TUTORIALS • TECHNIQUES • TIPS • COMPETITIONS
Opening Scene
CONTENTS
NEWS
4. Sony enters the film-like HD camcorder
market with two superb camcorders.
REVIEWS
6. Rotolight review
8. Sony PMW-350 review
18. Lite n’ Go review
22. Panasonic AG-AF101 review
34. Vinten Vision Blue tripod review
46. Manfrotto 504HD tripod review
TUTORIALS
37. How to light & shoot interviews
REGULAR ITEMS
48. HD Camcorders Buyer’s Guide (new)
50. Advertisements
H
ello DVuser subscribers and welcome to issue
15; our Broadcast Video Expo 2011 Show special
edition. Don’t forget BVE is coming up at Earls Court
2 for three days on 15th 16th and 17th of February; you can
register for free entry at www.bvexpo.co.uk. In fact this edition
is special for another reason. DVuser magazine and the
website has recently undergone some major new changes.
As many of you know, back in January 2008 I fell ill with
a serious illness that took me some time to recover from
and because of this DVuser went somewhat on the backboiler temporarily. Although I was still managing to put out
the magazine, the content of the site was not getting the
full attention it deserved with only the PDF download of the
magazine going online and the occasional new review/article
/news piece etc. However, now I’m recovered and we have
some new people on-board, so it is our goal to put the DVuser
website and magazine right back on top, where it was three years ago; where it belongs.
As you know, DVuser is aimed squarely at the semi-professional and professional HD video
market for the likes of independent video production companies, independent video producers,
lighting cameraman/women, editors, filmmakers, music video producers, wedding videographers,
as well as those who are trying to carve out a professional living in the world of HD video.
Since we have redesigned and rebuilt the site with a new look and the all-new DVuser i-Net
channel the hits are now back where they where in 2007; we are right on track.
We have just finished overhauling the magazine and website with some major new improvements
including the colour scheme of the site and magazine, which is now an all-new red, white and
black theme, along with some snazzy new graphics, both static and animated, with lots of other
modifications and updates also. We have brought the back-end (the engine and coding) right upto-date with a brand new dynamic database driven SQL management system along with the very
latest PHP code, all ready for the future.
Don’t forget to visit www.dvuser.co.uk as new articles/reviews/tutorials/stories etc are going up
regularly. Also, check out the new DVuser HD i-Net Channel; on the MISC channel for example
there are some new HD Camcorder Buyers Guides presented by yours truly.
The Camcorder InfoBase and the Lighting InfoBase have also been brought right up-to-date. So,
spread the word that DVuser is going from strength-to-strength!!!
On another note, our sister production company, Generic Pool Productions is in the final stages
of editing two brand new training DVDs, one on Panasonic’s amazing new AG-AF101 film-like
camcorder entitled “Shooting on the Panasonic AG-AF101”, and another on Interview Lighting
Techniques entitled “Lighting & Shooting Interviews for TV & Video”. Both these DVDs will be on
sale on the DVuser stand (K4) at BVE in February. They will also be available to buy online via the
DVuser website at the end of February. Visit www.dvuser.co.uk and click on TRAINING DVD’s at
the top of the page for more details and secure online ordering.
This issue of DVuser is packed with some superb reviews and a great lighting tutorial on page
37. Panasonic’s all new and very much talked about AG-AF101 film-like camcorder is reviewed
on page 22. This is one of the most eagerly anticipated camcorders of the past 20 years; it’s
what independent filmmakers have been waiting for since the DVX100b. The AG-AF101 is truly
revolutionary and it is going to be a huge hit.
Nigel Cooper Founder/Editor DVuser magazine
DVuser product review star ratings – how we star up our reviews.
1 star = poor, pitiful, appalling, atrocious, inexcusable - 2 stars = mediocre, second-rate, just average
3 stars = good, decent, fine, does job - 4 stars = above average, great, excellent, highly recommended
5 stars = outstanding, exceptional, sheer brilliance, perfection, pure genius
Cover photo by Louise Wessman
©2008-2011 DVuser. All rights reserved. No part of this
publication may be copied, reproduced, or transmitted in
any form or by means of electronic, mechanical, photocopy,
recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission
of the publishers. While every care has been taken in
the compilation of this publication, we cannot accept
responsibility for any publishing errors or inaccuracies,
or for any other loss, direct or consequential arising in
connection with any information contained within this
publication. The views herein are not necessarily those
of the publishers. Acceptance of advertisements does not
imply recommendation by the publisher.
Our final ratings are based on a combination of: build quality - durability - ruggedness - features
controls - functionality - usability - cost of ownership i.e. tapes/media cards/servicing costs etc.
Editor: Nigel Cooper - [email protected]
Sub Editor: Louise Wessman - [email protected]
Contributors: Simon Wyndham, Nigel Cooper.
Published by: DVuser UK. Tel: 01480 213229
Advertising: 01480 213229 or 020 7193 1955 Subscribe: www.dvuser.co.uk/magazine.php
w w w. d v u s e r. c o . u k
The independent magazine for independent HD video producers & filmmakers
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 3
SONY’S ALL-NEW PMW-F3 FILM-LIKE HD CAMCORDER
S
ony announces their all-new PMW-F3 film-like HD solid-state camcorder. The F3 has an
all-new Super 35mm CMOS sensor giving exactly the same depth-of-field characteristics
and field-of-view as Hollywood film cameras. According to Sony the F3 is aimed at the
mid to high end digital cinematographers market i.e. those currently shooting on the likes
of a RED ONE.
Sony are saying that an external recorder such as the AJA Ki Pro Mini, or the
nanoFlash should be attached via the F3’s HD/SDI output. The F3 has an HD-SDI
dual-link output for external recording (4:2:2 1080 50/59.94P as standard; and RGB
1080 23.98/25/29.97PsF as an option). In the instance of the F3 Sony are saying
the built in 35Mbps SxS solid-state recording should be seen as an off-line
recording medium for high end cinematographers.
Although the F3 has a PL-mount for the lenses, this mount is
removable, which reveals Sony’s all-new S3 mount, which has
been specially developed for this camera. At NAB 2011 Sony will
be announcing a special zoom lens to go with the F3, one which will
not have a zoom rocker switch on it, instead it will work off the zoom
rocker switch that is built into the F3’s body.
Designed for television, commercials, music promos and budget features,
the new camcorder
is offered at a price point that will bring Super 35mm shooting within reach of a wider audience.
The new PMW-F3 camcorder is based on Sony’s XDCAM EX workflow (codec is MPEG-2 Long GOP 4:2:0
8bit, 35 Mbps), and uses Sony’s SxS™ ExpressCard-based recording media format. Its Super 35mm CMOS
imager delivers shallow depth of field, with high sensitivity and low noise levels (ISO 800, F11; and S/N ratio of 63dB in
1920x1080/59.94i
mode), as well as wide dynamic range.
Additionally, “S-LOG” and “Hyper Gamma” can be selected. This can allow users to take full advantage of the CMOS imager’s wide dynamic range,
giving them the ability to tailor their images during post-production in the same way they would in a film based workflow. Recording formats include
1920x1080, 1440x1080, and 1280x720 at 23.98/25/29.97p, 50/59.94i and, in DVCAM mode, 25/29.97PsF and 50/59.94i. Filmmakers can also take
advantage of overcranking and undercranking from 1 to 30 fps at 1920x1080 (17 to 30 fps in dual-link mode) and 1 to 60 fps at 1280x720 (17 to 60
fps in dual-link mode). Two configurations of the PMW-F3 are available (PMW-F3L body only and PMW-F3K with PL lens kit).
For more details and full technical specs visit: www.sony.co.uk/biz
SONY ANOUNCE NXCAM AVCHD FILM-LIKE HD CAMCORDER
S
ony have announced their new NXCAM film-like
camcorder, which is also a Super-35mm CMOS sensor
camcorder, only very compact and less than half the
price of the PMW-F3 above.
The new NXCAM 35mm camcorder will be available to buy in
the UK in the summer of 2011 for £5,295 plus vat.
The camera is of an E-Mount lens design, which is Sony’s
Alpha lens mount that they use on their stills photographic
cameras. The E-mount interchangeable lens system is identical
to Sony’s NEX-5 and NEX-VG10. These E-mount lenses will
be compatible with this new NXCAM model camcorder. It will
also be possible to mount many other lenses via third party
lens adaptors.
Sony are hoping to have a pre-production working unit on show
at the BVE (Broadcast Video Expo) show in February 2011.
Although specs of the Sony model are vague at the current time, I suspect it will record to SD/HC cards and Sony Memory Sticks and will record with
the AVCHD codec, just like the current NX5 NXCAM model. This camcorder will be Sony’s second in the NXCAM line-up.
It is of a modular design with a flip-out LCD screen and separate handgrip and microphone modules that will allow you to put the camera together in
any configuration to suit your requirements.
This new NXCAM model will have a Super-35mm sensor, which is EXACTLY the same S35 EXMOR sensor that it’s big brother the F3 has; cool!
Sony say that this new sensor will have extraordinary performance in terms of picture quality and sensitivity, and will be able to create a beautifully
defocused (Bokeh) image, that will be ideal for artistic story-telling in motion pictures.
The recording options will include 1080/50p, 1080/60p, 1080/25p, 1080/24pin the MPEG4-AVCH264 recording codec.
For more details and full technical specs visit: www.sony.co.uk/biz
4 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
T
here’s nothing I find duller than a discussion about types of
lighting kit and what type of softbox to get etc. Especially when
a lot of the time those same people see fit to pretty much
use every light at their disposal in every shot, thereby creating what
amounts to the “Neighbours look”.
Yes, it seems that many people seem to be obsessed with fill light.
The word “shape” doesn’t appear to mean anything to those who are
obsessed about their lights. Too often people forget
that it is what
you don’t have or do
that makes things interesting.
One of the best people I know for lighting generally tends to use
the least number of lights that he can get away with. His intention is
to create contrasts of light and dark to make the composition look
interesting; as opposed to putting a full frontal soft light in front of a
person, plus some fill to either side, and a nice big flood light for the
6 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
background
just because
that 2k cost a
lot of money.
Yes,
amazingly enough the idea of having interesting lighting also applies to
shooting interviews. I have to say I don’t really like fill light. I’ll use it to
bring out detail, but not to make it stand out, unless it is actually useful
to the composition. Fill light in my mind is supposed to be subtle and not
as it is often used, as a whopping great big soft light
all on its own with a gnat’s hair of a
stop difference between it and the
key light!
Of course we can’t always be in a
position to create nice lighting. One
situation that us lighting cameramen
find ourselves in, and dread, is the idea
of going around a dingy conference hall
getting vox pop style shots of people.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, it is
time to use one of those horrible
top mounted video light things. For
me, using a camera-mounted light is
something I try to avoid if at all possible.
Many different solutions have come
and gone to help avoid the inevitable
rabbit in the headlights look that most
video lights create. Most of them involve
accidentally poking someone’s eye out
with the mini barn doors as the light hangs
out to the side on a bracket.
But now we have another solution; the
Rotolight. A handy little system that slips
onto the wind jammer of your on board mic.
So what’s different about the Rotolight?
Well, it is a soft light for a start. It uses
lots of little LED’s that are balanced to 6900k
in their native form. What is good is that
because it mounts onto the microphone it
is automatically offset slightly to one side so
there is a chance of some shape making it
into the picture.
The construction of the Rotolight is very
solid. The main body is made from a very
tough matte plastic. Then there is a transparent
protective cover that slides onto the front of
that. This cover also holds the many filters that are provided with the
light.
And that is one of the clever things about the Rotolight. When the
filters are not in use they are carried within the light itself. To access
them (and the batteries) you rotate the housing and pull it apart.
REVIEW µµµ
Inside
you will find ND filters, CT orange, CT
blue, of different grades, along with diffusion. There is also an add-on
filter pack that can be obtained. Handily there is also a chart contained
inside that tells you exactly which combination of filters produces which
temperature correction, or light stop down.
The Rotolight is also very power efficient. It is powered by three AA
sized batteries, and they pretty much last forever.
So, how does it perform? Well, being powered by LED’s there isn’t a
massive amount of throw on it, and such lights are not full spectrum so
skin tones are not a strong point. However at the sorts of distances that
you will be working at the throw won’t be much of a problem since the
main design objective is to be able to light people’s faces pleasingly.
As a soft light the Rotolight does achieve this much better than a lot
of other camera-mounted light systems. The flexibility and speed in
which different colour temperatures can be dialed in is very convenient.
You don’t have to carry around filters separately or have them clipped in
ugly fashion to the front of the light.
All in all the Rotolight is very well thought out, and certainly for the
price it is an absolute steal. My only gripe is that it could do with a tad
more oomph, especially when a diffuser is used in conjunction with
colour correction. It is also finicky about the type of windjammer it will fit
over. It won’t fit over every Rycote, but it will go over the standard style
mic cover that came with your camera and, if it doesn’t fit your Rycote,
Rotolight offers a versatile hotshoe/stand mount as an option.
I would seriously take a look at this light first if you are looking for a
camera mounted light. Rotolight is available from a number of leading
video and digital imaging stockists around the country - full details can
be found on Rotolight’s website at: www.rotolight.com
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 7
CALUMET
PRO
VIDEO
the choice of the professionals
Canon XF300
MPEG-2 Full HD
Professional Camcorder
Canon’s new XF300 MPEG-2 camcorder is Canon’s first file-based
professional camcorders and records to popular and inexpensive
CompactFlash (CF) cards already widely available in the market.
Format
MPEG-2
Lens
18x4.1mm
•
•
•
•
•
MPEG-2 MXF recording to CF cards at up to 50Mbps (4:2:2)
Comprehensive NLE support
18x wide angle Canon L-series lens
3 x 1/3 type Full HD Canon CMOS sensors
10.1 cm LCD (1.23M dots);
1.3 cm (1.55M dots) EVF
• Variable frame rates
321-034D
£5199.99
Calumet Video Fluid Head
and Video Tripod Legs
Genus Camera Shoulder
Mount & Follow Focus system
The Calumet Video Fluid Head features independent tilt
and pan drag control, a built-in counter-balance
system, quick-release plate, built-in spirit level,
camcorder alignment pin, and a pan bar that can be
mounted for left- or right-hand operation.
The Genus GCSMK for using a DSLR in video mode, features
comfortable non-slip handles and is adjustable to suit
different DSLR’s and camcorders.
Used with the Genus GSFOCDSLR
follow focus system, this
combination gives support, comfort
and focus reliability.
CK9075
£159.99
The Calumet Video Tripod Legs feature a compact
design, 3-section leg adjustments, a mid-level
spreader, and secure leg locks. With a maximum
height of 1.3M, it weighs just 2.4kg. and it has
a load-rated capacity of 10.9kg.
CK9167
£129.99
Save
£40
Head & Tripod kit
£249
CK9075CK9167
Normally
£289.98*
993-888A
* when bought separately
£1499.00
(camera and matte box not included)
Swit S-1070C
HDMI Monitor
Calumet Bravo 300w
Tungsten light
Swit’s 7 inch HDMI location monitor is
lightweight and portable with a highresolution LCD monitor.
The S-1070C accepts 1 HDMI,
1 Composite Video and 1 Stereo audio
input as well as 1 composite
video loop through output.
The monitor can be powered by
different battery options including
Canon, Sony and Panasonic.
This portable, lightweight, focusing quartz
halogen lighting unit is ideal for a wide
variety of video and photographic
applications. It provides smooth,
continuous beam angle adjustments,
for an efficient light source that’s easy
to work with, variable focus from flood to
spot, fully adjustable tilting bracket, durable
lightweight construction, and includes
safety glass.
Sony NPF Mount
CF0120KIT
994-999x
£459.99
£129.00
Kit includes: Calumet Bravo 300w head, 4 Leaf Barndoors, Spare 300w Lamp.
All prices include Vat at 17.5%. Prices correct at time of going to press (December 2010). From 4th January 2011 VAT increases to 20%. E&OE.
ProVideo sales now also
available in our Belfast,
Edinburgh and
Manchester stores
0207 380 1144 option 4
Email [email protected]
Order online www.calumetphoto.co.uk
Visit us 93-103 Drummond Street, London NW1 2HJ
Telephone
Sony PMW-350K – The Best “Complete Package”
HD Camcorder in the World!
N
ew camcorders are coming out all the time, but they are
usually all much-of-a-muchness; same-old-same-old etc,
but every now and then, something comes along that
is just different somehow, but different for all the right reasons,
something that is really well thought out, something that has all of
that extra special “Je ne sais quoi”. Well Sony’s PMW-350 is that
camcorder. It’s really grabbed my attention and I absolutely love
this camera for loads of reasons.
The Sony PMW-350K – why this is simply the ultimate camcorder
in the world to own right now. Sure, it’s not the best camera in the
world; that would be something like the Sony F35 costing £145,000
plus VAT. The PMW-350K on the other hand costs just £15,850 inc
VAT, but I personally think it is the camera to own, it is the ultimate
package; everything it stands for is simply amazing. What you get
with a PMW-350K is fantastic picture quality, the ‘fastest’ solidstate workflow on the planet, 2/3rd-inch broadcast sensors and
interchangeable lenses, shoulder mount, fanless, lightweight, low
power consumption and a ton of other great features. For me, this
is my dream camcorder, it is the camcorder I lust after right now,
it ticks almost every box for me. It is sexy as hell, it is quite simply
the best camcorder in its class; absolutely nothing else out there
can touch it right now. If I could only own/use one camcorder right
now, this would be it.
There are two options for the Sony PMW-350: the PMW-350L,
which is the body only, or the PMW-350K, which comes with a
specially built Fujinon16x zoom lens with AF (auto focus) mode;
more on this later. The prices are £14,095 (inc VAT) for the 350L
and £15,805 (inc VAT) for the 350K. The model I’m reviewing here
is the PMW-350K with the included Fujinon lens.
The PM part of the model name stands for Professional Media,
unlike the PDW range, which stands for Professional Disc. The
PMW-350K is a solid-state only camcorder that records to Sony’s
professional SxS media cards, as well as SD/HC and Sony Memory
Sticks with the use of Sony’s adaptors. I’ll be covering this in more
detail later on.
PMW-350K comes bundled with the following:
16x Fujinon auto-focus zoom lens
Lens hood
Stereo microphone
Windscreen
Shoulder strap
Operating Manual
XDCAM EX Clip Browsing software
SxS device driver software
Flange focal length adjustment test chart
As the PMW-350K takes V-lock batteries, you’ll also have to budget
for these. Decent brands such as IDX or Hawkwoods will set you
Photo: Karen Howard
back
around £1,400 for two
decent size batteries and a double charger/mains supply
complete with cables. You will also need SxS solid-state recording
media and/or SD/HC cards or Sony Memory Sticks with an adaptor.
Sony has plenty of options here. They have the professional SBP
range, and the budget SBS range of SxS cards. At the current time
prices are: SBP-32 (32BG) £585 inc VAT, SBP-16 (16GB) £365 inc
VAT, SBS-32G1 (32GB) £435 inc VAT. The primary difference is
that the SBP range should last you a lifetime with an almost infinite
amount of re-writes. The SBS range are said to have the capability
of approximately 5000 re-writes; that’s 20 years if you use the card
and re-write to it 5 days a week.
But don’t despair; if Sony’s SxS cards are a bit on the pricy side
for you, Sony has another superb option. They make the MEADSD01 adaptor and the MEAD-MS01. These are tiny adaptors that
from the outside look identical to an SxS card, only they allow you
to use either SD/HC cards (SD01) or Sony MS cards (MS01).
The MEAD-SD01 (for SD/HC cards) adaptor is the same shape
as SxS memory cards so it will fit within the media slots on XDCAM
EX camcorders, with no protrusions, allowing the media cover to be
in place during shooting. The adaptor can accept one high speed
SD Card that simply slots inside. Simply plug your SD/HC card into
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 9
Photo: Louise Wessman
the end of the adaptor, then pop the adaptor into the camcorder as
if it were an SxS card; voila. These adaptors cost £75 each. There
is one tiny drawback though, When using the adaptors, you cannot
use the camcorder’s Overcrank/Undercrank feature, for this you
will need an SxS card, but you could just buy a small 8GB SxS
card for those times when you need to shoot a slow-motion shot.
Sony Professional recommends only the latest Class-10 SD/HC
cards. Using 8, 16, or 32-GB media. Approximately 35, 70, or 140
minutes of recording can be achieved. As I’ve already mentioned,
it is not recommended to utilise the Slow Motion recording function
due to speed limitations of SD/HC Card media. The nature of the
adaptor and SD card media combined could also mean slightly
less reliability than Sony’s SxS media as there are extra contacts
in the equation.
For the MEAD-MS01 Sony Professional recommends only the
Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX Series - specifically the
MS-HX8G (8-GB), MS-HX16G (16-GB), and MS-HX32G
(32-GB).
The PXU-MS240 240GB HDD back up unit for SxS media
is fully compatible with the MEAD-SD01 adaptor once a
firmware upgrade has been applied; if it hasn’t already.
Simply slot the adaptor with SD Card into the PXU-MS240
unit to record content onto the MS240’s hard drive.
An SxS (or SD/HC or MS) card reader will also be
required to allow you to get your footage from the cards into
your edit system. You can use the camcorder of course,
but who wants a large shoulder mounted camcorder
sitting on their desktop? Besides, the camcorder might
need to be out shooting another job. Sony do their own
SxS card reader (SMAC-US10) that cost around £250
inc VAT. SD and MS card readers cost peanuts on the
web, around £5 each for a budget one or about £15
for a reputable (reliable) brand such as Transcend
or Sandisk; personally, I use Transcend SD/HC card
readers as they are totally reliable on my Mac system.
10 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
THE COMPLETE PACKAGE
You see, it’s all about the ‘complete package’ with the PMW-350K
and everything it stands for. There is no other camcorder in the
world quite like it; nothing else offers the complete package that
makes up the PMW-350K in quite the same way. Some have tiny
handycam portability, some have cinematic image quality, some
have interchangeable lenses, some don’t, some are solid-state,
and some are not. The PMW-350K ticks almost every box for me
and my kind of work, and I suspect it could for you too.
So what is so great about the PMW-350K? It has everything.
It is a full-size shoulder mounted ENG-style camcorder with
interchangeable 2/3rd inch lenses. It has 3 x CMOS 2/3rd inch
sensors. It records to the fastest solid-state format on the planet;
SxS as well as regular SD/HC and Sony Memory sticks. The power
consumption is just 18 watts, and that’s with the LCD viewfinder,
lens in auto mode and during recording! A 90-Watt
hour battery
Photo: Karen Howard
REVIEW µµµ
days. Overall, I got to really test the PMW-350 to its fullest; and I
was hugely impressed.
WHO IS THE PMW-350K FOR?
All photos: Nigel Cooper
will last 4 or 5 hours so you will only need two batteries for an
entire day’s shoot. No need to lug stacks of batteries with you
when travelling. This superb low power consumption is due to lack
of motors spinning discs, or driving tape.
The PMW-350 is also fanless, which means totally silent
operation. And most importantly, the picture quality is absolutely
amazing. During my time with the PMW-350 I found the picture
quality to be better than the EX1 and EX3, but I expected this
because of the larger 2/3rd sensors (EX1/3 have ½ inch sensors).
The images are clean, noise-free with a really decent amount of
dynamic range and punchy colours that are typical of Sony. The
PMW-350 has incredibly low noise when shooting in low light
conditions. The noise levels on the PMW-350 are far superior to
the EX3, which I would expect. The Exmor Full HD CMOS 2/3rdinch sensors are just superb, and on top of this the PMW-350 has
a sensitivity of F12, this is 1-stop better than Sony’s PDW-700.
I spent a week using the PMW-350 in varying shooting conditions.
The PMW-350 makes an ideal ENG camera as it is true broadcast
quality making it ideal for ENG work and factual and learning.
Independent Lighting Cameramen will just love this camera, so
too will independent video production companies and corporate
video producers.
The speedy SxS workflow will cut a third off the entire production
time, how? When shooting on solid-state such as SxS, during the
shoot, simply delete bad takes as you go along. This is done by
simply setting up an assign button to ‘delete last clip’. If your talent
screws up his/her lines, or your CEO that you are interviewing
makes a mistake, simply hit the stop button, then press the ‘last
clip delete’ button. This only takes a second during the shoot, then
when you get back to the edit suite you don’t have to bother with
all that tediously long log-and-capture process of marking in/out
points all day. You don’t have to worry about finding all the good
clips on your card and deleting all the bad ones, as you have been
deleting the bad takes as you go along. So, simply drag-and-drop
every clip on the card into your edit suite and you know that they
are all good and ready to go. As SxS card technology uses the
modern Serial interface (P2 uses the older and slower parallel
interface) the import time is blisteringly fast. This faster Serial
interface ExpressCard technology improves the data transfer
speed by using higher performance serial data interfaces rather
than parallel buses.
Corporate video producers will be able to turn jobs around a lot
quicker because of this beautifully fast workflow.
FEATURES
I filmed trains at Nene Valley Railway in Peterborough, gliders
taking off and landing and in flight at the Cambridge Gliding Club
and some challenging footage of water skiers that I filmed in Milton
Keynes. Throughout the week the sun and lighting conditions varied
from bright midday sun to late afternoon warm hues and overcast
The PMW-350 is packed with just about every feature, input/output
you are ever likely to need. It has two SxS card slots that are
hot-swappable, a HD/SDI & HDMI output offering 4:2:2 colour
space with an uncompressed signal, four channels of audio with
four separate audio controls, 2 x professional balanced audio
XLR inputs on the rear and a single stereo input on the front for
the on-board mic, so it is very easy to get four channels of audio
into the camcorder, a superb codec with a maximum bitrate of
35Mbps variable, a HDMI output so you can attach budget HDMI
TV monitors, and that’s just for starters.
Other outputs include Timecode in, Timecode out, Genlock
in, Video out, all in standard BNC socket-type, and HDMI out.
There’s also a Firewire out, HD/SDI out, remote, 5-pin audio out
and a headphone socket. There are the usual Assign buttons that
can be custom assigned in the menus. Gain, Output and White
balance switches are right on the side of the camera laid out in the
traditional manner. On the front of the camera is the White/Black
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 11
µµµ REVIEW
balance switch and the Shutter button and Mic level dial.
Other cool functions include a time-lapse feature; great for
those typical time-lapse shots such as a daffodil coming out in
summer, and also a Picture Cache Record function from 2 to 15
seconds. When the Picture Cache function is turned on and set to
a pre-selected time of between 1 and 15 seconds, it allows you to
have the camcorder in standby, then when you press record, the
preceding 15 seconds (if 15 seconds is what you set) is put at the
head of the clip. Very useful for when you don’t know exactly when
the event will be happening; filming lightening for example.
The PMW-350 has an Overcrank/Undercrank option also. It can
shoot up to 30fps in 1920x1080 mode, or up to 60fps in 1280x720
mode. As well as a Timelapse option, the PMW-350 also features
Sony’s famous Slow Shutter (SLS) function that allows exposures
of up to 64-frames. With the SLS feature you can shoot in very
low light conditions with zero noise, but there must be minimal
movement in the shot, or it can be used to create some rather artsy
and ghostly visual effects; I love it.
The camcorder has a similar range of Scene File settings to
Sony’s PDW-700 and F900R models. Hypergammas and MultiMatrix functions can be found and all scene files and various
camera set-ups can also be saved onto an SxS card to be recalled
in the future. The superb Hypergammas have been designed
and written to give you the maximum possible dynamic range
by compressing the highlights and lifting the darker areas, while
leaving the mid-range pretty much as is, which will retain normal
looking skin tones. It’s worth noting that certain scene files require
post-production grading or they can look a little flat; hypergammas
fall into this category. Setting up the ‘look’ you like will be very
easy; there are a multitude of menu settings for all the usual
gammas, knee etc. The latitude of the PMW-350 is a trifle under
11 tops, which is excellent.
Out of the box, the PMW-350 produced images that (in my opinion)
are a little too sharp, so I dialled back the Detail Level in the menus
to -18 and I found this gave me a smoother more cinematic ‘look’.
Sony have a reputation for having the details setting too high out
of the box and Sony’s Zero detail level is actually not zero at all, it
has detail dialled in; I suspect about -10 to -15 would actually be a
true zero setting. At -18 the images are smooth and cinematic, but
still incredibly sharp, just not in a nasty processed way with that
horrible black outlining to edges. The resolution of this camera
has to be seen to be believed. I’ve seen footage shot on Sony’s
F900R on a large screen, and the PMW-350 looks to me to have
similar aliasing and resolution characteristics to the F900R, which
cost a hell of a lot more money. The PMW-350 is simply incredible
considering its low cost.
You can up the picture quality even more by attaching a NanoFlash.
The PMW-350’s codec is 35Mbps variable in 4:2:0 colour space,
which produces cracking results. However, if you want to shoot for
14 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
All photos: Nigel Cooper
T V /
Broadcast, you will
need to increase the PMW-350’s picture quality and the way
to do this is by attaching a NanoFlash made by Convergent Design
(cost around £2,695), this will allow you to record at 100Mb/s in
4:2:2 colour space via the uncompressed HD/SDI output. The
image quality increase is definitely noticeable and they are among
the very best HD images I have ever seen in my life; they are quite
simply STUNNING! Working this way with the PMW-350 meets the
BBC’s requirements for HD broadcast and my guess is it would
also be approved by Discovery HD.
The 2/3rd inch CMOS sensors are just superb, but is there
any picture skew? After filming trains coming and going from
the platforms at Nene Valley railway in Peterborough, as well as
panning shots of gliders taking off and landing at the Cambridge
Gliding Club and water skiers doing jumps in Milton Keynes, there
was no noticeable skew. However, doing a fast whip-pan across
the gliding clubs wind sock pole I could induce a little skew, but it
had to be analysed frame-by-frame in Final Cut Pro before it could
be seen; under normal viewing it is virtually impossible to see. It is
better than the EX1/3 in my opinion and as good as I’ve seen from
any CMOS sensored camcorder.
The viewfinder is the same as that found on the Sony EX1; a 3.5inch LCD HD screen, which is about the best on the market. Sony
have simply taken the EX1’s superb LCD screen and made it into a
superb viewfinder. With my eye up to viewfinder of the PMW-350, it
is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It is beautifully clear; you can see
so much detail. There is no need to set it to monochrome; that would
be a waste of time in my opinion as it is so high-definition as it is in
colour. It is so easy to set white balance using the viewfinder, and
exposure
is a breeze to set. I always
set zebras to 95%, some cameramen use 75%, but I don’t like
to have an eye full of zebras, so I use 95. Even without the aid of
zebras, achieving perfect exposure is about as easy as I’ve ever
experienced. The viewfinders colour peaking function makes it
even easier to see what is in focus and what is not. The quality of it
is just superb; it’s like looking straight into a decent colour monitor.
It is a very pleasing viewfinder to use that is easy on the eye and it
doesn’t give you fatigue like other viewfinders. Once you get used
to using this brilliant large colour viewfinder you won’t ever want
to go back to using black and white CRT viewfinders. However,
the PMW-350 has viewfinder connectors for this new type, and
the old DXF-type; so you have the choice. But there’s more, if you
are a one-man video journalist, this viewfinder has a few other
tricks up it’s sleeve, you can open it up from the side, so if you are
standing next to the camera interviewing somebody, you can look
at the LCD screen directly from the side also. If you flip up the front
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 15
µµµ REVIEW
magnified viewfinder part, you are in fact looking at a mirror, which
shows you the LCD screen which is side-on inside the hooded
viewfinder. Finally, you can flip the image left/right/upside-down;
great for when using 35mm adaptors. The viewfinder has the usual
Peaking, Contrast and Brightness, plus a Mirror switch, Display,
Zebra and Tally switches.
The PMW-350 has virtually every recording option you will ever
need. It records in both HD and SD (SD with optional CBK-DV01
dongle upgrade). SD records DVCAM AVI files, HD is MPEG-2 in
an MP4 wrapper.
In HD you have a choice of 1920x1080 (of native full-raster
sensors) at 50i, 60i, 30p, 25p, 24p. 1440x1080 at 50i, 60i, 50p,
30p, 25p, 24p. 1280x720 at 50i, 60i, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p. All these
in HQ 35Mbps VBR mode, or SP 25Mbps CBR mode. Standard
Definition DVCAM recording requires the optional CBK-DV01
installed, then you can also record at 720x576 and 720x480 in 50i,
60i, 30p, 25p modes.
As for the lens that comes with the K (kit) version, you’d be mad
not to buy the kit version as the quality of the lens is so good there
is no reason not to. Besides, the kit version is only about £1,500
more than the body alone. And in my opinion the kit lens quality
suggests a price closer to that of a lens costing £8,000.
The kit lens is a Fujinon 16x8 specially designed lens just for
the PMW-350. It has auto or manual focus by sliding the focus ring
forwards or backwards, just like the EX1/3 models. The iris ring is
servo just like other professional 2/3rd inch lenses, it is precise
just as you would expect. The auto-focus on this lens is ok, but
not brilliant. For everyday AF work it will be fine, but I tried filming
gliders taking off and landing at the Cambridge Gliding Club and
it did hunt around a little too much for my liking with evident lag;
however, I never use auto focus anyway so it would not bother me
too much, I simply tried it out for review purposes for those who
will be using it. It always baffles me why camcorder AF technology
is just so slow/lagging and why it hunts so much compared to stills
photography lenses. Nikon and Canon AF lenses on stills cameras
are in focus in around 1/125th of a second and you can easily track
birds in flight, skiers coming down mountains etc with ease; why
can’t our video camcorders and AF lenses work this way?
Because this lens focuses ‘internally’ there is no ‘breathing’.
With traditional ENG 2/3rd inch broadcast lenses, when you turn
the focus barrel, the lens appears to zoom in or out very slightly,
this is known as ‘breathing’, but with this specially designed for the
PMW-350 Fujinon lens there is no breathing whatsoever as you
focus! The lens also features CA (Chromatic Aberration) correction
that works perfectly with the PMW-350. CA removes all those
horrible blue and purple coloured edges that we often get in high
contrast areas with non CA correction lenses.
Although the lens is a specially designed AF lens for the PMW350, I’m glad to see that it has a proper hand grip with rocker
switch along with a switch for Manual/Auto Iris and a Push Auto
Iris button, plus it also has an Assign button, which I assigned as
Preview Last Clip; set to entire clip as opposed to the other 3, or
10 second options.
However, this Fujinon lens can’t be used on other 2/3rd-inch
broadcast camcorders as it has no manual ‘flange back’ adjuster,
instead it’s done electronically, so this really is a dedicated lens for
the Sony PMW-350; and what a superb piece of glass it is. I totally
love the image quality that this lens produces, with no ‘breathing’
and no CA and a cracking sharp image, I just love it. From what I
could see there are no soft-spots on this lens and the lens even
performed really well right into the corners too; regardless of the
focal length or aperture; very surprising at the price. This lens
beats a lot of other 2/3rd inch broadcast lenses costing six times
the price. I don’t often use the word ‘stunning’ when reviewing
16 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
products, but this lens is truly a stunning lens, I totally love it.
Anyone buying the PMW-350 can also fit existing B4-mount 2/3rd
inch lenses straight to it.
The PMW-350 balances beautifully on the shoulder and it
balanced to perfection on my Libec RS-450 tripod; the two are
a marriage made in heaven. It is very lightweight, yet it is pretty
tough in build quality, though not as tough as older DigiBeta
models. Sony have managed to make a really great workhorse
camcorder here that should find its way into rental houses without
any problem.
The workflow of the PMW-350 is just faster than Sony’s optical
disc XDCAM camcorders such as the PDW-700. I personally
owned and used a PDW-350 for around 3 years. In comparison,
the PMW-350 is slicker, quicker and just easier to use all round.
The optical disc system of the PDW series is just slow and clunky
in comparison and although the PDW series are tapeless, they are
just not as fast and slick as the SxS solid-state workflow.
Sony’s PMW-350 has really grabbed my attention; big time. It is
a serious piece of kit for serious video production work and the
image quality it produces is simply stunning at this price point. Its
images really do suggest that of a camcorder costing double the
price. It’s got everything, the kit version has a stunning lens, it has
a superb colour viewfinder, it’s lightweight and it draws hardly any
power at all and above all, it uses Sony’s super fast SxS solidstate workflow.
The PMW-350 with a NanoFlash is a serious HD force to be
reckoned with. The images produced by it are simply stunning.
I totally love the PMW-350 and it is the camera I’d love to own
for my corporate work, SIV work and more serious TV/Broadcast
work as/when it comes around. I can’t recommend the PMW-350
enough so I’m going to give it 5 out of 5 stars. I do believe this is
only the second time in DVuser history that I’ve given any piece of
equipment 5 out of 5. For the record, the other item given 5 out of
5 was Libec’s RS-450 tripod, which is perfect for the PMW-350.
their own stabilisation
systems. They still had
to be careful about patent
ecent followers of my blog will know that I recently bought myself
infringements, and as
a Glidecam X-22 stabilisation system and have embarked on a
a result most, if not all,
journey to acquire the skills of camera stabiliser operation.
stabilisation
systems
For those who are not familiar with the story of camera stabilisers, it
available right up to today
all began when Garrett Brown devised a system in the 70’s that later
base their arms upon the
became known as Steadicam™. Indeed Steadicam™ is a trademarked
older Steadicam™ 3A
name, and not as some people think a generic term. Hence the ™.
style.
In fact so all encompassing is the ™ aspect of Steadicam™ that woe
This is slightly limiting,
betide anyone who tried to make a similar system in the 70’s, 80’s or early
but some manufacturers
90’s, since the patents, rightly, were defended with broad aplomb. Not
such as Pro GPI have
even Panavision could escape when they tried to copy the Steadicam™
their design down to a
system with their own Panaglide™.
fine art, and in fact are
Eventually some of the patents ran out, leaving third party
often preferred over the Tiffen models by many top end operators.
manufacturers free to create
A positive result is that the door has opened for many different
manufacturers to compete at the low to mid end of the market, opening up
camera stabilisation to people who don’t happen to have a few hundred
thousand floating around freely in their bank account.
Recently Nigel Cooper™ from DV User Magazine™ asked myself™ to
take a look at the new Easy Steady Lite’n Go Free system.
Made in Italy™ the Easy Steady system
is brand new to
the scene, and
has caused some
interest on forums
such as Charles
Kings excellent HBS
Forum. It has recently
been selected for
distribution in the
UK by IDX, famous
for their battery
systems.
The Easy Steady
system is modular,
and currently comes
in three models, with
a Pro Series version
to
be
released
shortly. Each of
the three current
systems have totally
interchangeable
parts, and so the low
end model can be
easily upgraded to
the top one at a low
cost.
Key to this
All photos: Tristan Bawn
upgradability is the
ability to change the
arm springs in the field. This
Easy Steady Lite’n Go Free stabilisation system
R
18 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
is a useful feature to have, since for very light loads it is a very quick and
easy thing to swap heavyweight springs for lighter capacity ones.
The Lite’n Go kits come with everything you will need to start operating
(apart from skill - Sorry you’ll have to work to attain that!) Everything
right down to a rock solid bright orange Storm Case is supplied. So you
are even ready to transport the rig wherever you need to without fear of
damaging it.
and flight case. So a big plus to Easy Steady in that regard.
My first impressions of the Lite’n Go Free, the top model in the current
range, were very positive.
THE ARM
The arm is surprisingly small and light, especially compared to my
X-22. In fact I think Robert Holland from IDX was rather surprised at
the difference when I showed him. The Lite’n Go Free arm is rated
up to 8.5kg. So it will cope with cameras such as the Sony EX3 with
accessories, and broadcast style cameras in stripped down form.
The arm is typically Italian, with a definite sense of style with its
angled weight cutting holes and smooth rounded spring housings.
This is the same country that gave the world Pininfarina, so looks
were never going to be an issue with this rig.
The springs in the arm are interchangeable in the field. I managed
to change a set of springs in just over ten minutes. Most of this
time was spent undoing the tension screw, which was initially set
to full. The actual job of swapping the springs out is very fast.
Notably for this price range, the Lite’n Go arm features an
industry standard style socket block arrangement. Theoretically
this should mean that it would work on any standard Steadicam™
or equivalent vest, such as the Glidecam Gold or Baer Bel. In
practice this might not be the case, since different tolerances
between manufacturers can have quite an effect.
In reality it would be unlikely that you would be using an Easy
Steady arm on a Tiffen or Baer Bel etc. But the flip side of the
coin is that this socket block and arm post arrangement should
mean that you could perform a gradual upgrade to the system
by using, for example, a Steadicam™ arm or equivalent. Don’t
hold me to that though, it is only a theory.
THE SLED
This is in contrast to a system like
the Glidecam X-22 which requires separate purchase of a docking stand
The sled is very interesting for this price range. While it is not
24v capable, it does have three XLR power taps and one
male mini 12v DC output on the junction box at the top of
the sled. So there is ample connectivity there for attaching
motorised focus and zoom controls etc.
At the bottom of the sled there are two 12v XLR outputs and one mini
12v DC output, once again allowing for additional devices such as down
converter boxes, or recording systems.
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 19
Bear in mind that I was using the heaviest capacity springs. There are two
sets of springs available in heavy and light, but you can use both a heavy
and light spring in the same arm to adjust for cameras that sit between
the 4.5Kg / 8.5Kg range.
The monitor is a little hard to see in bright light. There is an optional
hood available for it, although the monitor itself is only rated at 300 NITs,
which isn’t really powerful enough.
CONCLUSION
This is possibly the most inexpensive rig on the market with that
number of power taps; in fact it is the only one in its price range that
does. The internal wiring is HD capable, but the supplied monitor is only
NTSC/PAL via composite. So for other types of display you will need to
seek out an after market model. This may be desirable anyway since the
standard monitor is only rated at 300 NITs, making brightness an issue
in daylight.
Nothing too much should be read into this however. Most, if not all
people modify their commercial rigs in some manner, and for this price it
would be unreasonable to expect a top quality monitor.
The monitor and battery positions can be adjusted fore and aft by way
of the 15mm rod mountings. Further weight distribution adjustment can
be made by rotating the orientation of the batteries. My only gripe with
the adjustment system, and this applies across the whole rig, is that none
of the adjustments are tools free. Each one requires the use of an allen
wrench.
This isn’t a deal breaker, and it should be easy to replace the allen
bolts with quick release equivalents. But it would be nice to have tools
free out of the box.
USING THE RIG
Because this is an Italian made rig, and due to the fact that Nigel wasn’t
willing to send me to Rome or Sicily to try it out, I decided to do the next
closest thing in the UK. I went along to the Roman Baths in Bath. The
custodians there very kindly granted permission for me to do this, and
I must extend my thanks to them. The Roman Bath buildings are not
only an amazing backdrop, but they offer a lot of chances for parallax
movement and perspective.
In use the gimbal is extremely smooth and frictionless. I did notice
a tendency for the rig to tilt to one side during dynamic balancing, so it
may be that it needed calibrating. This is quite often the case on some
gimbals, even on Steadicam™ from what one Pilot owner recently told
me, and shouldn’t be seen as a defect.
The arm is very smooth in operation, and is silent. It is a little on the
springy side and does move a fair bit during quick movement such as
running. At the end of movement the arm does continue to spring up and
down a bit, but damps down very quickly.
While this is not ideal, the light weight of the Lite’n Go arm means
that it doesn’t transfer into the shot like the first generation version of the
Glidecam X-22. You may still have to be careful during running though.
The small size of the arm means that it is very nimble to manoeuvre
within tight spaces such as inside a house or moving through doorways.
Furthermore the two arm sections are placed at such an angle during use
that they never knock up against the elbow joint. This can be a problem
on other rigs causing vibration in the image.
While movement of the arm is very smooth it does require much more
force than I am comfortable with to boom to the extreme ends of height.
At the highest position I found I was pretty much holding the full weight
of the sled. At the lowest position a lot of force is needed to keep the rig
in place.
20 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
The Easy Steady Lite’n Go stabilisation rig is a solidly built budget
system. The arm isn’t on par with models such as the Steadicam™ Flyer
LE (not many are), but as a system it works well. You won’t be flying a
Red on one, but if you use lighter weight cameras the Easy Steady is
pretty versatile with its multiple power tap options for accessories.
This is the ideal rig for someone who is utilising it for their own purposes,
such as corporate video or weddings, and needs a fairly versatile system
that won’t break the bank. See: www.idx-europe.co.uk for more details.
Simon’s EX3 rig on Easy Steady
Panasonic AG-AF101 – get set for the revolution!
P
lease note that this review is based on a pre-production Panasonic
AG-AF101, that was only 75% finished. I make reference to this
on occasion throughout this review.
After spending four days shooting with this camera, I’ve decided that the
Panasonic AG-AF101 film-like HD camcorder is absolutely, unequivocally
the all-new independent low-budget filmmaker’s weapon of choice; it’s
the camcorder filmmakers have been waiting on for 20 years. In fact
it’s the camcorder we’ve ALL been waiting for; read on and I’ll explain
why everyone including independent filmmakers, video production
companies, music video producers,
Photo: Joanna Eagle
corporate video producers, wedding
videographers and freelance lighting cameraman, can benefit from using
this amazing new film-like HD camcorder from Panasonic.
For years now independent low-budget filmmakers have been forced
to shoot their movies on VHS, Hi8, MiniDV, DVCAM, HDV and the like,
with a few favourites such as Panasonic’s own DVX100b because of its
25p progressive shooting mode. However, all these camcorders have
one thing in common, tiny little sensors, which made achieving narrow
depth of field next door to impossible, crippling any attempt at getting
artistic shots; until now! Enter Panasonic’s all-new AG-AF101 film-like
HD camcorder.
Panasonic’s AG-AF101 is revolutionary, is the first ever portable HD
camcorder in the world to feature a large film-size sensor, so for the first
time in digital history filmmakers, video producers and lighting cameraman
alike can now achieve a shallow depth of field, throwing that background
out of focus.
22 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
But what about the Canon EOS 5D MK2 DSLR? I hear you shout. As
Samuel L Jackson said in the movie Pulp Fiction “well, allow me to retort!”
Please read the following three paragraphs.
WHY DSLR’s ARE NO GOOD FOR VIDEO
Many of you will know that I am one of the few people in the world of
video who has not had anything good to say about the so-called Digital
SLR revolution for HD video. I’ve used and tried some of them, including
Canon’s EOS 5D MK2, and for video, it is next door to useless. It would
appear that the world jumped on the
5D MK2 for video for one reason and
one reason only; shallow depth-of-field;
that’s it.
Although not strictly a digital video
format, digital SLRs have made serious
in-roads into the world of video since
the launch of the EOS 5D MK2 in 2008.
However, there are no DSLRs currently
on the market that can produce the
quality of video that could be considered
for any serious applications. Due to the
‘line-skipping’ down-converting methods of
cameras like Canon’s EOS 5D MK2 where
the method of
downscaling
to
get
a
HD
video
picture
size
of 1920x1080
is achieved by
simply deleting
(skipping) lines
on the large
sensor. This, and other limitations such as
a lack of decent low-pass video filtering,
means that DSLRs like the 5D MK2
suffer from chronic aliasing, compression
artifacts, bayer-type patterning, stepping
and other retarded picture degrading
phenomena. However, for soft rounded
objects such as people’s faces, with hard
backgrounds thrown way out-of-focus by
use of narrow depth-of-field, and little (or
preferably no) movement in the picture, it
is possible to achieve some interestingly
artsy results. Hopefully, in the future, DSLR
manufacturers will strive to fix the serious
Photo: Nigel Cooper
Panasonic AG-AF101 on the Vinten Vision Blue
tripod: a marriage made in heaven.
gremlins that the current first crop of DSLRs are riddled with. But even
if they do, we will still be stuck with a tiny impossible to use form-factor
digital SLR that is designed to be gripped in the palm of one’s hand to
enable taking of stills pictures, as for video work; forget it, even if you
spend thousands of pounds more on clumsy rail systems and ridiculous
add-ons and other expensive, unrealistic and unusual paraphernalia,
DSLRs are simply useless for serious HD video work.
Photo: Nigel Cooper
The world has gone shallow depth-of-field mad, everyone wants to
throw that background right out of focus, in fact, people want to throw it
so far out of focus that it positively knocks it back in time a few hundred
years to a time before that background was even there. We all know that
throwing the background out of focus will make the main subject stand
out, there is more definition between subject and background. Using a
shallow depth-of-field can also yield some very artsy shots. But more
importantly, controlling the depth-of-field allows you to work cinematically
by directing the viewer’s eye with clever use of depth-of-field. A camcorder
with a large sensor also makes pull-focus shots more obvious and easier
to achieve. We have wanted a camcorder that can do this for 20 years
or so, but because there was no such camcorder (unless you can afford
to hire a Panavision 35mm film camera), we have been forced to use
camcorders with tiny sensors, or more recently and worse still, DSLRS;
until now that is!
ENTER THE PANASONIC AG-AF101
Enter Panasonic’s all-new AG-AF101 film-like digital camcorder. The AGAF101 is a serious digital SLR killer. It is a PROPER HD camcorder. The
big deal (and this is a very big deal) is that the AG-AF101 uses a full size
35mm MOS sensor, well almost 35mm size. It is in fact a 4/3” sensor,
which is virtually the same size as a 35mm Hollywood film camera. Unlike
Digital SLRs, Panasonic have put all the right technology into the AGAF101camcorder to utilize this large sensor and the amazing shallow
depth-of-field that can be achieved from it by using correct optical lowpass video filtering and proper downscaling technology, eliminating any
aliasing and other nasty gremlins that DSLRs are riddled with.
The result - a proper HD video camcorder that works like a proper video
camcorder with all the usual camcorder features like white-balance, zebra
stripes, cine-gamma settings, time code recording, balanced XLR inputs
with Phantom Power, 48-kHz/16-bit two-channel audio recording, HD-SDI
out, HDMI out, headphone out for monitoring your audio, a Built in optical
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 23
µµµ REVIEW
crank at full 1920x1080p up to 60 fps, timelapse, the list is endless; and all for £4,295
plus vat; it is expected that the AG-AF101
will ship with a budget lens, this remains
to be seen. What is there not to like; this
camcorder is totally freaking awesome. Oh,
and the picture quality, well that certainly
has the ‘wow’ factor too!
OPENING THE BOXES
Photo: Darren Lallonde
N D
(natural density) filter
wheel with 2, 4 and 6 stop so you don’t have to mess around
dropping ND filters into a matte box anymore. You can shoot in bright
conditions and use these ND filters to get the lens open for depth of field
control with no need to change the shutter speed. You also have all the
other usual video socketry and features, but on top of all that, you can
achieve very shallow depth-of-field because of the large sensor. If you
haven’t figured it out yet, the Panasonic AG-AF101 takes interchangeable
lenses, in fact just about any interchangeable lens. Simply buy the adaptor
you require and stick on your Canon EOS EF-S series lens, your Nikon
AIS lens, your Olympus lens, your PL-mount lens, 35mm prime lenses;
pretty much anything you like. Then go on out there and shoot proper
HD video with none of the digital SLR gremlins or form-factor issues, but
with all of the depth-of-field control you require, be it shallow or deep.
That’s right; remember you don’t always have to open up that aperture
to F1.4 to get a shallow depth-of-field of just a few inches. Sometimes
(just like in Hollywood movies) the shot might require a deeper depth-offield with much more of a shot in focus. You can still shoot regular video
with a reasonable amount of depth-of-field by shooting at F8 or F16 for
example; you don’t always want or need to throw everything out of focus,
but at least we now have the choice; for the first time in the history of
digital HD camcorders.
The nice people at Panasonic UK were kind enough to send me one
of two preproduction prototypes of the all-new AG-AF101 HD camcorder.
I’ve spent four solid days shooting with this camera seeing what it is
capable of.
To say I’m impressed by the AG-AF101 would be a gross understatement;
the AG-AF101 is quite simply one of the best HD camcorders I’ve seen
in many years. Everything this camcorder stands for is incredible; it is
totally revolutionary, the large sensor, the HD viewfinder and LCD screen,
uncompressed audio recording, interchangeable lenses, solid-state
recording to low-cost SD/HC and SD/XC media, over-crank and under24 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
I eagerly unpacked the two boxes that
arrived from Panasonic UK. One contained
the AG-AF101 camcorder itself, while the
other contained two lenses, an Olympus
lens and a Panasonic lens, a lens adapter,
batteries, charger, and various leads etc.
My first impressions of the camcorder
body itself were very good, it felt tough
enough and all the switches, dials and
controls are logically laid out, easy to
get to and chunky enough to be able to
operate while wearing gloves. I instantly
fell in love with the oversized handle
on top and the chunky handgrip to
the side, both of which are removable
via two large screws, allowing you
to strip the camera down to a small
body size. Once the two handles
have been removed they reveal hot
shoes underneath, which not only aid
in holding the handle and side grip in
place, but you can also add accessories to them.
The HD viewfinder is also reassuringly large and chunky, making
for easier viewing. To the side of the viewfinder at the top are the two
balanced audio XLR inputs with LINE/MIC select switches. The only other
functions on the right side of the camcorder are a START/STOP record
button and a USER-3 button. On the other side of the viewfinder you’ll
find the MENU button, another START/STOP record button, controls for
AUDIO volume monitoring and playback controls for when you want to
preview the thumbnail video clips.
On the other side of the camcorder is a fold-out HD LCD screen,
again, with a reassuringly solid feel to it. Located behind the LCD screen
are buttons for: BARS, ZEBRA, OIS (optical image stabilizer), EVF DTL
(electronic viewfinder detail), WFM (waveform monitor), COUNTER, TC
SET, and audio controls for CH1 SEL, CH2 SEL, INPUT 1 and INPUT
2. Below the LCD screen you’ll find the usual controls for PUSH AUTOFOCUS, a FUNCTION mini joystick, USER 1, DISP/MODE CHECK,
POWER ON/OFF, CAMERA/MEDIA MODE, IRIS with a dial wheel,
GAIN, WHITE BALANCE, USER 2, AUDIO CH1 and CH2 level wheels.
Around the back of the camera is where the removable battery is
housed, just above this you’ll find two slots for SD/HC or SD/XC solidstate cards with a neat cover. To the left of the battery is a SLOT SELECT
button, a DIAL SELECT button and a SHUTR/F.RATE dial allowing you
to change the frame-rate, shutter speed for over/undercrank right on the
camera without having to dig around in the menus; nice one Panasonic.
To the right side of the battery are inputs/outputs for AV OUT, USB 2.0,
HDMI, INDEX, CAMERA REMOTE, HEADPHONES, HD/SDI.
On the front of the camera just below the lens you will find a button
for setting the white balance, and just above this there is a button for
releasing the lens, and above this an ND filter wheel with four strengths.
Just above the ND wheel on top of the camera is a very ingenious feature
indeed; independent filmmakers who employ a focus puller will love this.
At first glance it looks like a metal hook to attach a camcorder strap, but no,
it is in fact a hook for focus pullers to attach their tape measures to; this is
µµµ ARTICLE
REVIEW
Photo: Nigel Cooper
further
indicated by the small ‘sensor
is here’ icon next to it.
In the second box there were two lenses, one Olympus F2.8 zoom
lens with an adaptor and one Panasonic Lumix zoom lens, which needed
no adaptor as the AG-AF101 has the same 4/3rd micro lens mount. So
with battery charged, camcorder and two lenses in hand, and obligatory
tripod, it was time to go out and put the AG-AF101 to the test.
IN USE
Using the AG-AF101 was an absolute
pleasure. Although I spent four days
shooting in various locations with this
camera, I instantly felt at one with it.
Although the camera is brand-new and
it was the first time I picked one up,
it somehow felt familiar; kind of like a
long lost brother. All the knobs, levers,
and dials are all logically laid out, easily
identified with commonly used video
terms in bold white lettering next to
the dials. They were also surprisingly
chunky with all the switches having
a reassuring and positive feel to
them; up to a point they can even be
operated with gloves on. Handholding
the camera using the side grip is
somewhat tiresome due to the physical
dimensions and weight; though this is
no more awkward than other similar
size/weight camcorders from other
makers. However, with heavier and
26 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
longer
lenses it would become very
front-heavy. For lower shots, holding the camera by the top handle is
much easier, with a nice balance and feel to it. However, I would imagine
this camera would spend most of its time mounted on a tripod. Balancing
the camera on the Vinton Vision Blue tripod required the tripod plate to be
mounted towards the front of the camera, with the camera then set quite
far back in the tripod head; this was due to the heavy glass lens I had
mounted on the front, but perfect balance was still easily achievable.
The foldout LCD screen is a relatively standard affair, giving good
visibility outdoors in bright light. The 3.45-inch LCD screen has very good
definition with vibrant colours making it easy for setting white balance and
Photo: Nigel Cooper
2 x card slots for SD/HC cards
REVIEW µµµ
Photo: Nigel Cooper
other basic colour adjustments. The foldout HD LCD screen also displays
a very cool waveform monitor for exposure tools with the usual two levels
of zebras, coloured peaking focus assist with red/blue outline, and if
that isn’t enough, there is also a spot meter, and a vector-scope. This
makes achieving perfect focus and exposure a breeze. The waveform
and vectorscopes are absolutely fantastic, this makes judging exposure
so much easier; and it still has zebras too. The 1,1cm (0,45”) viewfinder
was not that great, but it is still in the pre-production stage and it will
be considerably improved by the time it is released in December; it will
certainly come in useful for those days when the sun is just too bright to
clearly view the LCD screen.
The AG-AF101 has a whole string of very cool tricks up its sleeve,
many of which have never been seen before on a digital HD camcorder.
One such feature is the automatic focus tracking. The AG-AF101 can
automatically track somebody’s face and constantly adjust the focus
on them as that person moves around the scene or moves towards the
camera. This is achieved by setting the camera to recognize the subject’s
face using the small joystick on the side of the camera (or should I say
thumb-pad-stick as it is quite small), then shifting the small spot meter box
on the LCD screen and positioning it over the subject’s face; once set,
simply hit the record button and step back in amazement as the camera
tracks focus on the person’s face as they walk towards the camera. Of
course it goes without saying that you have to have an autofocus lens for
this feature to work. I never got to test the Facial tracking system as that
is part of the 25% that is missing, so too is white balance so I was stuck
with auto-white-trace.
While I’m on the subject of focus, focus pullers or DoPs who hire them
will totally love the AG-AF101 for many reasons, but one such reason is
the nifty little hook that Panasonic have positioned on top of the camera
for focus-pullers to attach their tape measures to; this focus-puller’s hook
has a ‘sensor here’ icon next to it, confirming this is what it is for.
Independent filmmakers will also love the fact that this camera has
under-crank and over-crank, and unlike pretty much every other
camcorder out there, the AG-AF101 does over-crank (slow-motion) in full
1920x1080p from 12fps up to 60fps in NTSC or 50fps in PAL, with most
other camcorders out there the resolution drops to 720p. From what I can
gather this is a first! I could record 1080p 25p at 50FPS or 60FPS in 24p
mode! Wonderful, no more limited to 720p mode here!
The AG-AF101 also has a time-lapse function, however it can only
record single frames at preset intervals as opposed to multiple frames.
For me personally this doesn’t create a problem, as when I shoot timelapse I only ever record single frames at preset intervals anyway as I’ve
never found a use for recording several frames together at predefined
intervals.
I particularly like the SHUTTER/FRAME-RATE wheel on the back of
the camera, this allows you to change your shutter speed and frame rate,
and other functions, right there on the camera using the dial and the DIAL
SELECT button, as opposed to having to dig around in the menus.
If that’s not enough, the AG-AF101 also has a pre-record cache
function of 3-seconds. This means that when this function is turned on,
the camera is always recording a 3-second loop, then when you press
the record button (either by hand or using the included remote control)
the AF101 will put the 3-seconds preceding the moment you pressed the
record button at the head of the clip that is being recorded post pressing
the record button; how cool is that!
Overall, I found using the Panasonic AG-AF101 very easy, I felt at
home with this camera straight away. Is comfortable in the hand,
especially using the large handle on top, and all the buttons, knobs, and
dials are logically laid out and feel good to the touch. All the various inputs
and outputs on the back of the camera are easily accessible and clearly
marked.
The Natural Density filter wheel on the front of the camera is a necessity
HD/SDI output for bolting external recorder too
Photo: Nigel Cooper
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 27
electronics; all of which add up to a superb 1920x1080 HD
image that is free of aliasing, artifacts and other gremlins.
During the four days I had the AG-AF101, I shot numerous
objects including buildings, swarms on a pond, landscapes
and foliage, cars, and various mid-shots and close-up shots
of general objects indoors, all of which I shot both locked-off
on a tripod, as well as moving shots with a combination of
pans and tilts. I also filmed the obligatory Chroma Du Monde
Cam Align res-chart. Although Panasonic UK made it clear
to me that the camera I had was in fact a preproduction
unit and it was not 100% complete i.e. there are still a few
tweaks to be made. I told Panasonic UK that I would not
publish my technical findings from the Chroma Du Monde
CamAlign res-chart. However, the results are so good I’m
going to share them with you now.
Playback controls when in Thumbnail Mode
For reference, Panasonic’s own HMC151 produces
600 lines resolution with moderate signs of aliasing.
Sony’s EX1 produces 800 lines with breakup showing in the
considering
1000 lines area with very little visible aliasing. Sony’s NX5 produces 800
the
large
sensor
and
lines with breakup showing in the 1000 lines area with obvious signs of
interchangeable lenses. That ND filter wheel is a big help when it
aliasing. Panasonic’s 301 produces 600 lines with breakup showing in
comes to controlling depth-of-field i.e. if you want a shallow depth-of-field
the 800 lines area with no visible signs of aliasing. JVC’s 700 produces
with a wide aperture, you can prevent overexposure by dialling in one of
600 lines with breakup showing in the 800 lines area with obvious signs
the four ND filters on the wheel.
The menus are logically written and it is easy to navigate around them of aliasing. Canon’s EOS 5D MK2 DSLR produces a very retarded 600
to find the various options and settings. There are a multitude of settings and 800 line area, with a nightmare of rainbow moiré at 1000 lines with
Photo: Nigel Cooper
for adjusting picture parameters, including Panasonic’s famous Cine-like
gamma curves. In the menu is where you assign various functions to
the assign buttons on the camcorder body. Setting the recording quality,
format and all the usual zebra, pre-set white balance and the many other
options are self-explanatory.
But there is another really
cool menu option that digital
filmmakers from a celluloid
background will absolutely
love. In the menu you can
switch from VIDEO CAM
mode to FILM CAM mode. In
VIDEO CAM mode your gain
is viewed in the usual db
i.e. 16db gain, and shutter
speeds are laid out in the
usual 1/50th for example.
But switch over into FILM
CAM mode and the entire
menu system turns to film,
so your shutter speed is
now displayed in degrees
and your gain is now
displayed in ISO i.e. 200
ISO for example; how
cool is that. Another advantage of this is in FILM
CAM mode you can set the shutter to 180 degrees, which will give you
perfect film motion, and even if you change the frame rate, the shutter
remains at 180 degrees regardless; nice!
IMAGE QUALITY
The AG-AF101 has a beautiful large 4/3rd MOS sensor that is virtually
the same size as a 35mm film camera; this should mean the picture
quality produced by it should be absolutely breathtaking, however, we’ve
all seen the images produced by the Canon EOS 5D MK2 complete with
aliasing, artifacts, and other gremlins due to its nasty line skipping and
other hideous attempts at downscaling to a 1920x1080 HD image. But
the Panasonic does no such thing, instead the AG-AF101 implements
the correct optical low-pass video filtering that eliminates alienating,
as well as proper built-in software implementation and other hardware
28 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
so much aliasing it is difficult to even see that there is a resolution chart
there at all; it is hideous. Now for the good bit. Panasonic’s all-new AGAF101 film-like HD camcorder with it’s 4/3rd MOS sensor produced 800
lines of resolution with a little breakup in the 1000 line area with little signs
of aliasing and absolutely zero rainbow moiré effects. Considering this is
a pre-production prototype that is still being worked on, this is quite
incredible for a HD camcorder
of this price range
with
such a large
2 x Balanced XLR audio sockets
sensor. If Panasonic
are still tweaking
and working on
the AG-AF101 I
can’t wait to see the
improvements as I’m
totally blown away
with these results as
the camcorder stands
in its current state. It is
also worth noting that
these results varied
considerably depending
on whether I had the
Panasonic Lumix zoom,
Photo: Nigel Cooper
or the Olympus zoom,
and at
which aperture and focal
range; neither of these lenses are what I would call high quality. I know
for a fact that better quality prime lenses could resolve 1000 lines of clear
resolution and improve other areas also.
In the real world, all the footage I shot indoors and outdoors looked very
vibrant with punchy colours, yet very smooth and film-like images with
beautiful tonal ranges with a huge dynamic range of about 10 stops.
It’s possible to totally customize the picture with Panasonic’s famous
Cine-like gamma curves. There are various pre-sets that you can chose,
and once chosen, you can dig into the menu and tweak and customize
them even further as you see fit.
For those interested in the AG-AF101’s low-light capabilities, I shot some
stuff with the ISO (gain) cranked right up to 3200. The ISO ranges from 200
to 3200. Footage shot at 3200 ISO looked incredible with hardly any noise at
Photo: Nigel Cooper
a l l .
Panasonic UK told me that the 3200
setting was in fact 2000 as it is a pre-production unit; 3200 will be working
on the final product. When in FILM CAM mode, the gain switch on the
camera switches to have LOW GAIN ISO200, MID GAIN ISO800 and
HIGH GAIN ISO3200. This would be 0db, 8db, 32db of gain in VIDEO
CAM mode; these settings can be customised to different ISO/db
values.
Another thing worth noting is that the AG-AF101 has a ‘black & white’
shooting mode. If you shoot in this mode the picture quality is increased as
all that data that has been saved from the colour channels is pushed into
the black & white. The codec doesn’t have to work or be so aggressive as
there is no colour for it to churn through. So if you are shooting an artsy
black & white movie, or intend to do some post-production sepia toning
work, shoot in the AG-AF101’s black & white mode to get even better
picture quality.
AUDIO
The AG-AF101 just gets better and better. Instead of using the nasty
348Mbps compressed-to-hell audio codec that HDV uses, the AG-AF101
uses uncompressed linear PCM 16-bit audio, which is the same quality
as DAT (digital audio tape) and CD. Independent filmmakers will love this
as their sound recordists can now go straight into the camera via their
monitoring mixer, instead of to a separate DAT machine, which leads to
tiresome syncing up issues in post-production. Being something of an
audiophile myself, I put audio quality higher than the video images, so the
AG-AF101 with it’s uncompressed audio gets a massive thumbs up from
me. The great thing about the Linear PCM uncompressed 16-bit audio
is that it does not interfere with the quality of the video when it is set to
AVCHD 24Mbps variable maximum data-rate. The PCM audio has it’s
own track, thus it is separate to the video.
INPUTS/OUTPUTS
The AG-AF101 has all the inputs and outputs you are ever likely to need
on a camcorder like this. Apart from the usual A/V in/outs, twin balanced
XLR inputs, headphone input, lanc remote input, USB 2 socket, the AGAF101 has two other outputs that will get you very excited. One of which
is a HDMI output, this is superb as it means you can pop out and buy a
low-cost HDMI monitor (or TV) of any size you want (personally a nice 18inch is good) and use it for monitoring. No longer do you have to spend
a £995 on a tiny little 7-inch Marshall or Teletest. Instead, think big, and
spend £150 on an 18-inch LCD HDMI TV from Argos. Your Director can
now view your production from the touchline on a big monitor. Or you
could even buy an 8-inch or so and mount it on the handle of the AGAF101 and use the camera TV pedestal style.
The next big deal is the HD/SDI BNC-socket output. If you are one
of those cameramen/women who are constantly ‘pixel-peeping’ screen
grabs from your footage in Photoshop and wondering how you can
improve the image quality slightly over the standard AVCHD codec, well
30 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
now you can. Simply attach an external recording device like the
NanoFlash (£2,700) or an AJA Ki Pro Mini (£2,000) and plug it into
the HD/SDI output on the AG-AF101 and record at a superior 50
or 100Mbps codec in 4:2:2 colour space. Or use Panasonic’s own
AG-HPG20 and record AVC-Intra. For your information, you can
record out of the HD-SDI, HDMI digital outputs simultaneously. The
SDI outputs 1080/60i, 1080/50i, 1080/30p, 1080//24p, 1080/25p,
720/60p, 720/50p and even 1080/24pSF (Segmented Frame).
Although the HD/SDI only outputs 8-bit, who cares. You can
only see the difference between 8-bit and 10-bit if you put your
production through several (3 or more) ‘digital washes’ i.e.
transcode into a different codec during import, then transcode
again, then again before authoring to DVD. Most of us will simply
import and keep the same codec from camcorder-to-computer,
then the only digital wash we will do is when we down-convert to
standard-definition and MPEG for DVD; that’s it. So 8-bit is just fine
for me thank you. If you are a very serious filmmaker you might
want to invest in an AJA Ki Pro Mini or a NanoFlash as it will improve the
image over the standard AVCHD codec used when recording to SD/HC
cards in-camera. Most people won’t see much difference between the
AG-AF101’s built in superb AVCHD codec when compared to recording
to a better codec via an add-on recorder, especially if you only do 1
digital wash with minimal post-production grading. AVCHD falls down
when it comes to colour grading and pushing and pulling the picture all
over the place. For me, good quality glass on the front and good lighting
and camerawork are much more important than trying to faff around fine
tuning a mediocre picture shot under mediocre lighting conditions by a
mediocre cameraman; and it’s usually these guys who spend all day
pixel-peeping; professionals don’t concern themselves too much.
THE SENSOR - IT’S BIG!
The sensor in the Panasonic AG-AF101 is a very big deal; in fact the sensor
is what this camcorder is all about. There is a massive 4/3rd inch MOS
sensor inside the AG-AF101, and it is this massive sensor that will allow
you to control your depth-of-field like never before. It’s four times bigger
than a 2/3rd inch sensor. Independent low-budget filmmakers will know
what I’m talking about here. In the past filmmakers have had to suffer the
tiny little 1/4th, 1/3rd, ½ and 2/3rd imagers of yesterday’s camcorders such
as High-8, Mini-DV, DVCAM, HDV and the like. Achieving depth-of-field
can be done with a little thought on the larger 2/3rd inch cameras, such
as DigiBeta, but
Large 4/3rd sensor
it was next door
to impossible to
achieve a shallow
depth-of-field
with Mini-DV and
HDV. With the
latter, pretty much
everything from 3
metres to infinity
was sharper than
Johnny
Depp;
well, maybe not
quite that sharp,
but
sharp.
A
few years ago
Canon
started
the
shallow
depth-of-field
revolution
with
their
infamous
EOS 5D MK2
digital SLR. This
essentially stills
Photo: Nigel Cooper
REVIEW µµµ
Photo: Nigel Cooper
(MOS), there is no ‘skew’ (jelly wobble effect/rolling shutter) as it scans
the chip incredibly fast. I tried really hard to get the AG-AF101 to skew
with various pans, both fast and slow and I found it virtually impossible
to get it to skew. Although there is still flash-banding (all CMOS sensors
suffer from this no matter who makes them), as usual, it can be fixed in
post. But if you are a filmmaker, you will be in control of that anyway so it
doesn’t really matter; simply don’t allow anyone to fire off a flash-gun on
set. Wedding guys will have to fix those frames in post, no big deal.
LENSES & LENS OPTIONS
Scroll wheel for controlling aperture
camera, had a last minute thought HD video recording capability, which
means with that massive 35mm sensor, video makers could achieve a
shallow depth-of-field if they liked; and they liked. But, the image quality
was/is absolutely hideous, full of aliasing, artifacts and other retarded
gremlins due to the line-skipping
technology
(and a bloody crude technology
it is too) and lack of optical video
low-pass filtering. Did I mention the
unusable ‘form factor’ of DSLRs
yet? Hmmm. Hardly shoulder-mount
camcorders are they. But now,
thanks to Panasonic’s amazing
AG-AF101 HD ‘CAMCORDER!!!’
the days of DSLRs are well and
truly over as the AG-AF101 is not
riddled with those DSLR gremlins.
The AG-AF101 has proper optical
low-pass video filtering and decent
down-conversion software and
electronics, all of which do the
massive 4/3rd inch sensor total
and beautifully glorious HD video
justice. But don’t worry; if you
were one of those who bought
a Canon EOS 5D MK2, you can
still use it as it does take a lovely
stills photograph.
From the footage I shot I
found the Panasonic MOS sensor
(CMOS technology basically, as apposed to CCD) performed incredibly
with no visible artifacts, rainbow moiré or stepping. The images were very
clean and film-like in quality. On pans, both gentle and vigorous there
was minimal ‘jelly wobble’ off the MOS sensor, nothing worth mentioning
anyway and no worse than anything produced by Sony with CMOS
sensors. Unfortunately any MOS/CMOS sensor suffers from jelly-wobble;
it is just a case of how much or how little. This baby inside the AG-AF101
is as minimal as I have seen and about as good as you will get. I don’t
hear people complaining about Sony’s superb EX1R and EX3 so I don’t
expect anyone to complain in the Panasonic Pub either. I’m not sure
what the heat situation is from this MOS sensor, but the AG-AF101 is
so quiet I don’t even know if it has a fan inside; I couldn’t hear anything
anyway. Either way, the technology inside the AG-AF101 is incredibly
innovative and state-of-the-art. This large 4/3rd MOS sensor is what
gives us this new depth-of-field control and a field of view reminiscent to
that of a 35mm film camera like those used to shoot Hollywood movies
i.e. Panavision.
Some people think that the 4/3rd imager in the AG-AF101 is exactly the
same imager as the one in Panasonic’s stills camera the GH1, fact is, it is
not; it is a bran new sensor. Although the AG-AF101 uses a CMOS sensor
If you don’t know by now, the Panasonic AG-AF101 has a 4/3rd Bayonet
Micro Mount for interchangeable lenses. This is a digital photographic stills
camera standard lens mount established by Panasonic and Olympus. This
4/3rd mount is the same one found on digital SLR stills cameras such as
Panasonic’s own Lumix models. This means that you can attach virtually
any lens to the AG-AF101 you like. Chose from any of Panasonic’s Lumix
4/3rd mount lenses; they just bayonet right on. Or if you have a stack
of Nikon AIS or Canon FD lenses from the 1980s, just buy an adaptor
(literally a mechanical adaptor with no optics so no loss in quality) and
use those. Or any modern digital SLR auto-focus lens from Nikon,
Photo: Joanna Eagle
Leica, Olympus, Pentax or Canon and buy
the appropriate adapter and away you go. Canon EOS users with a
bunch of EOS EF-S lenses will be happy as you can buy an adaptor that
retains all electronics from the lens, the aperture is controlled using the
scroll wheel just to the bottom/front of the AG-AF101’s body, and get this,
Hook for focus-pullers to hook their tape measures to
Photo: Nigel Cooper
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 31
µµµ REVIEW
the focal length and
aperture appear on
the AG-AF101’s foldout LCD screen and
in the viewfinder; how
cool is that for knowing
where you stand.
35mm filmmakers
will
be
glad
to
know that you can
also
fit
C-mount
Cinema lenses and
Professional PL mount
lenses
and
other
35mm primes to the
AG-AF101; again, with
the use of an optic-free
adapter. So as you can
see, the world is your
oyster when it comes
to lenses and the AGAF101. Just imagine
the possibilities. Sure,
independent feature
filmmakers will love the
depth-of-field control,
Photo: Joanna Eagle
but so can everybody
else. Corporate video
producers can simply attach a 1980’s Nikon AIS 105mm F2.8 and film
that interview of the CEO at their desk and achieve beautiful portrait-style
footage with that background thrown nicely out of focus.
There is no doubt that to take full advantage of the super shallow
depth-of-field that the AG-AF101 has to offer, you will have to buy some
fast prime lenses or a very fast zoom, as regular zooms along the lines
of a 70-210 F4.5 won’t give you a shallower depth-of-field over a regular
2/3rd inch sensor camcorder. Something along the lines of a 105mm F2.5
prime or a 50mm F1.4 prime would be much better. The Canon EF-S or
Nikon AF 70-210 F2.8 will be great as they are F2.8 throughout the focal
range i.e. fast at 70mm and still F2.8 at 210mm also; these latter two
lenses cost just under £1,000 each, but remember the crop factor so the
focal length will become 140-420mm.
If you use stills photographic lens that have full auto-focus, you will
have full auto-focus and auto-iris when using them on the AG-AF101; all
auto features are retained as the adaptors and the AG-AF101 have all the
recognized electronic contacts.
One issue I found with photographic lenses in auto-aperture mode is
that the on-board microphone picks up the mechanical/electronic noise
made by the aperture as it opens up and closes down. Unlike professional
video lenses, photographic lenses open up and stop down in half-stop
or one-stop increments so there is a definitive click between each stop.
Because of this you can hear the iris continuously clicking in auto-iris
mode. This could be a problem if you are using the built in microphone,
or an on-camera microphone. Personally I rarely if ever use auto iris so
it would not be an issue for me, or others who work in manual iris mode
all the time.
The AG-AF101 also does face detection auto-focus; the camera will
track somebody’s face as they walk towards the camera, maintaining and
automatically pulling focus at all times.
The 4/3rd sensor size means that 35mm lens are a bit on the telephoto
size; with a 2x crop from a full frame 35mm sensor. So a regular 50mm
lens will give you a field of view of 100mm. On the other hand if you
are a wildlife videographer, that 300mm F2.8 will become a 600mm
lens. For regular wide work, simply buy a standard 4/3rd lens like one of
Panasonic’s Lumix lenses for example.
32 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
SOLID-STATE RECORDING
The Panasonic AG-AF101 is a solid-state HD camcorder, recording to
solid-state memory cards. On the back of the camcorder are two card
slots for SD/HC or the newer SD/XC cards. SD/HC cards are available
in capacities up to 32GB, which currently cost around £50. 16GB cost
around £30.
The recording capacity of the AG-AF101 in full 1920x1080 HD resolution
at the highest recording quality mode (PH mode) of 24Mbps variable is 90
minutes onto a single 16GB SD/HC card, or 3 hours onto a single 32GB
SD/HC card. So you can achieve 6 hours of continuous recording with
two 32GB SD/HC cards in the camcorder (they are also hot-swappable).
The latest SD/XC cards are available in 32GB and 64GB, with1TB
and 2TB (terabyte) becoming available in the future. A 64GB SD/XC card
currently costs around £195 for a Sandisk Ultra, on which you can record
6 hours, that’s 12 hours continuous onto two 64GB SD/XC cards. As for
the 2TB cards that will become available; I’ll let you do the math, but I
suspect if you have two 2TB (that’s 2000GB in total) SD/XC cards in the
AG-AF101 you will be able to lock your camcorder off on a tripod, point
it at a suitable subject, then hit the record button and hop on a plane to
Bayreuth to enjoy Wagner’s Ring Cycle, fly back and still have time to
spare to read Gone With The Wind out of the 94 hours recording time
that you would have. For all you wedding videographers, you need never
worry about those boring best man speeches running over 60 minutes
of tape again.
RECORDING FORMATS
Here is the low-down on the recording formats that the AG-AF101
supports:
1080/50i, 1080/25p, 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 1080/24p, 720/50p, 720/25p,
720/60p, 720/30p, 720//24p
AVCHD recording options: PH (21 Mbps - Max. 24Mbps), HA (17Mbps),
HE (6Mbps), HA, HE only for 1080/60i and 1080/50i
Be aware that you can only shoot one format on any one card. If you
switch between say 50 and 59.97 Htz, you will need to use one card for
50 and another card for 59.97.
END WRAP
The Panasonic AG-AF101 is quite simply revolutionary. It is unequivocally
and without a doubt the new and first kid on the block with such incredible
capabilities at such an incredibly low price. It is the HD camcorder that
independent filmmakers, as well as every other video producer and
lighting cameraman has been waiting on for 20 odd years or so. At £4,295
plus vat, what is there not to like. The AG-AF101 takes all goodness of
DSLRs i.e. depth-of-field and light sensitivity, but gets rid of all the bad
stuff such as aliasing, rainbow moiré and other workflow issues, and all
encapsulated in a perfectly formed professional video camcorder.
There is nothing like the Panaasonic AG-AF101; it is a brand new
concept. Those who have got used to shooting HD video on DSLRs
and having to piece together clumsy workarounds, been forced to use a
Zacuto Z-finder because DSLRs don’t have a viewfinder need not worry
anymore as the AG-AF101 has a HD viewfinder built in, as well as a
fold-out HD LCD screen. Or if you had to use a separate sound recorder
because you could not get good audio from your EOS 5D MK2, worry no
more as the AG-AF101 has two built in professional balanced XLR inputs
with uncompressed Linear PCM 16-bit audio.
The Panasonic AG-AF101 is the most promising camcorder to arrive
in over twenty years. It is very exciting times for cinema shooters and
independent filmmakers.
In a nutshell the Panasonic AG-AF101 is a professional HD video
camcorder just like many others such as Panasonic’s own HPX171 or
Sony’s EX1R, but the AG-AF101 now gives us that last missing piece
of the jigsaw; total depth-of-field control combined with interchangeable
lenses, with that cinematic look that we have all been waiting for.
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B e c a u s e
i t
m a t t e r s .
V
inten recently announced their all-new tripod; the Vision Blue.
This new tripod is aimed squarely at the semi-professional type
camcorder such as the Sony EX1R, Canon XL series, Panasonic
HPX-171 and their newer film-like camcorder the AG-AF101 (pictured on
Vision Blue below), as well as maxed out DSLRs such as the Canon EOS
5D MK2 maxed out with rails, LCD, microphone and lord knows what
else. Overall, the Vision Blue is a state-of-the-art modern tripod designed
to balance modern camcorders.
The Vision Blue head is a very neat, black looking affair in Vinten’s
usual design style. On the right side of the head is Vinten’s famous fluid
drag wheel for tilt, on the left there is the lock-off brake levers for tilt and
pan and at the back there is the fluid drag wheel for pan, and above
this Vinten’s superb Perfect Balance dial. On the top/right is a lever for
tightening the plate and on the top/left is a safety release button, which
prevents the camcorder accidentally sliding off the tripod if you forget to
tighten up the locking lever.
The Vision Blue also has a spirit-level bubble with a button located just
above the pan drag dial that can be pressed to illuminate the spirit-level
button when shooting in low-light environments; the illuminating light is a
very bright futuristic looking blue; given the name of the tripod this makes
perfect sense.
The cost of the Vision
Blue is as follows:
Nigel Cooper sets up the Blue’s Perfect
Balance system; and boy is it perfect!
Head - £500 plus vat
or System - £750 plus
vat. The system can
be bought as either a
mid-level version or a
floor spreader version,
both systems cost the
same and they both
come with a Vinten
padded tripod case.
The Vision Blue
system comes with
two-stage legs and
is
not
currently
available as a singlestage system; to my
dismay. In use I
found the two-stage
legs had a small
amount of torsional
rigidity issues with
audible creaking on Photo: Darren Lallonde
the bottom joints.
However, I am somewhat physically
abusive with my testing and in this instance I grabbed the bowl of the
tripod and twisted it really hard. In practice, under regular video shooting
conditions this would never happen; even with the drag controls set to
maximum with strong fast pans and tilts. I’m disappointed that the Vision
34 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
Blue is not available as a single-stage tripod. For some strange reason,
lighting cameramen and videographers seem to be conditioned to buying
2-stage legs; why? In reality single-stage legs are better. Sure, they are
4 inches longer when folded up; big deal. And you might lose 4 inches
in maximum
height when
extended; big
deal again.
But think of
the benefits,
single-stage
legs
are
lighter, stiffer
and you can
carry it more
easily as you
can get your
hand between
the tubing of
the legs; also,
you only have 3
locking levers to
adjust, instead
of 6. I suspect
people just think
that
2-stage,
being more than
“1”
must
be
better? Not so,
it’s the other way
around. Come on Vinten, let’s have a single-stage leg version; it can’t
be that difficult to use some single-stage sticks from the Vision 6. I will
point out that the system kit Vinten loaned me was the floor spreader
version. Personally I don’t like floor spreaders for two very good reasons.
Photo: Nigel Cooper
Vision Blue, drag control for pan, with balance dial above
REVIEW µµµ
I found the leg locking levers somewhat
stiff to operate. In the cold it is even harder to
twist them into the locked or unlocked position.
I know Vinten’s superb Pozi-Loc system will
guarantee that the legs will never slip down,
but I do wish they could be a little less stiff to
operate.
The Vinten Vision Blue should last many
years, is a very robust, incredibly well built and
it is based around the technology of the longrunning Vision 6 model. In fact, the Vision Blue
head is basically a Vision 6 head, only painted
black with a Vision Blue badge and a new
improved spring that allows for balancing lower
payload camcorders. As I’m already a big fan
of the Vision 6 and 8, this is a good thing as far
as I’m concerned.
The actual weight of the Vision Blue is 2.4
kg / 5.3 lb and it’s camcorder capacity Range
is 2.1 to 5.0 kg / 4.6 to 11.0 lbs, which should
balance most semi-professional camcorders along the lines of the Sony
EX1R and Panasonic’s AG-AF101.
Levelling the bowl is smooth, easy and precise. I’m very pleased to
see that Vinten have retained the small hook just below the bowl. It still
amazes me how many cameramen I speak to don’t actually realise that
this hook is to aid with keeping the tripod and camcorder steady. On
very windy days for example when the tripod and camera could wobble
around a little in the strong winds, simply fill a strong carrier bag with
stones found in the location of your shoot and hang it off this hook, this
will prevent the tripod from moving in strong winds.
I’m very pleased to see that Vinten have not gone mad with the price
of the Vision Blue either, they have kept the price very low indeed at
First, I feel that a floor spreader doesn’t add extra brace and structure to
the legs at the mid point. A mid-level spreader adds extra strength in this
area. The second reason I don’t favour floor spreaders is simply because
I don’t like getting down on my hands and knees in the dirt to adjust them;
why bother when you can just reach to the midpoint of the tripod to the
same thing.
The Vision Blue head is built to Vinten’s legendary very high standards.
Balancing a Sony EX1 and Panasonic’s AG-AF101 camcorder was
a breeze. Both these camcorders balanced perfectly, allowing you
to remove your hand off the pan-bar with the camera in any given tilt
position and as if by magic it remains there. With the EX1, I had to turn
the balance dial two full turns to achieve perfect balance, there were four
more complete turns to spare, so much heavier camcorders can still be
accommodated, and as I had to go two complete Vision Blue, drag control for tilt
turns with the EX1, I would imagine that slightly
lighter camcorders such as the Sony NX5 would
balance perfectly with just one complete turn.
The Panasonic AF-AG101 fitted with a large
Panasonic battery and a pretty hefty Olympus
Zuiko Digital ED 14-35 f2.0 SWD lens required
the same two complete turns of the balance
dial to achieve perfect balance. However, I did
notice a strange phenomenon with the balance
dial and I suspect it is something to do with
the internal spring. When the balance dial is
turned six complete revolutions to its maximum
strength, the tilt is reduced by about 60% only
allowing the camcorder to be tilted down by
about 30-degrees from the normal horizontal
position, whereas on just two turns with the EX1
and AF101, the camcorder can be tilted down
to virtually a straight vertical line. This was a
little disappointing and will prevent certain shots
being allowed that require anything more than
this tilt limit up or down when using the balance
Photo: Nigel Cooper
dial on full with heavier camcorders; EX1 and
AG-AF101 type camcorders won’t have this
£750. Considering the Vision 6 (which the Blue is based on) cost £1800,
issue as they are light enough to retain the full tilt range.
this makes the Vision Blue incredibly good value for money. There is no
The fluid drag controls for both pan and tilt are silky smooth and very
doubt about it that the Vinten vision blue is a full-on professional tripod
easy to adjust. However, I was somewhat surprised to find that with
at consumer prices.
the drag controls set to minimum there is still a very obvious degree of
drag in the system; I would have liked to have seen an absolute zero
I really like the Vinten Vision Blue and I recommend it very highly. It’s an
setting for drag, where there is no drag fluid influencing the pan/tilt at all, I
excellent balance of quality/price and it should last many years.
occasionally need this. However, it won’t bother most cameramen.
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 35
No Compromise
True Vinten technology helps you
to work without compromise for
exceptional results.
Vision blue, the new Vinten tripod
system for lightweight cameras.
Go now to www.vinten.com/blue
A
s Lighting Cameramen, we all have to use lights, and I would
estimate that approximately 95% of what we usually have to light
is people; what’s more, this is typically in an interview situation
with the interviewee looking off camera.
So this tutorial is going to address two things, the best type of lights
to use and how best to set them up to light somebody in an interview
situation.
LIGHTING EQUIPMENT
There are of course many makes and models of lights and there is an
infinite amount of accessories to go with them. What I’ve done for you
here is to take all the hard work out of choosing a decent lighting kit by
choosing one for you. The following kit is my personal favourite right now
and it is my every day bread-and-butter money-making kit that never lets
me down.
It’s important to buy and own lighting equipment that is well built,
compact, lightweight and overall, reliable; the latter is of paramount
importance. Also, a good quality lighting kit will last you a lifetime; chances
are you will still be using it twenty years from now; so a good investment
now will save you a lot of money and headache in the future. If you buy
cheap now, you will only be replacing it 3 years down the line, probably
for another cheap lighting kit, the story continues down the years, and if it
is cheap it won’t be built that well and won’t be quite so reliable.
The kit I personally use and recommend is of the highest build quality,
it’s incredibly tough and it’s ultra reliable and the quality of light this kit
omits is beautifully soft, yet very controllable. The kit I’m using for this
tutorial is high quality professional gear, but it doesn’t cost the earth.
The kit I use, and the one I’m using here is typical of an Interview Lighting
Kit, and is as follows:
Key Light = Starlite with 1000w tungsten lamp and a medium SilverDome
softbox with in-line dimmer.
Fill Light = Dedolight DLH1X150S with 150w tungsten lamp and a
Dedoflex mini softbox with in-line dimmer.
Back Light = Dedolight DLH4 with barn doors with in-line dimmer.
Background Light = Dedolight DLH4 with gobo projector lens and gobo
with in-line dimmer.
ABOUT THE PHOTOFLEX STARLITE
The Starlite is a continuous tungsten softlight system. The beauty of this
system is that it takes a very robust 1000w bulb and places it in the optical
center of a softbox; this
has a large advantage
over the standard
method of placing a
softbox over the front
of a hard-light in that
the efficiency is much
higher and the quality
of light is better due to
better light distribution
on the front face of the
softbox. The Starlite
produces
a
soft
even light that wraps
around your subject
beautifully. This is
the most efficient
method for creating
soft-light – there
are a number of
products that also
create
soft-light
this way, but what
Photo: Louise Wessman
makes the Starlite
special is the build
quality of the fixture which is a very tough aluminum heat
sink that extends lamp life by heat management; it also pulls heat away
from the front of the softbox (where your subject is sitting). It is also very
good value and should provide years of high quality results. The Softbox
that comes with the Starlite in the kit form is incredibly well made. The
linear bulb is much tougher than standard 240v bulbs – this means it
does not blow when you accidently knock it over or kick the stand. The
bulbs are also economical.
ABOUT DEDOLIGHTS
Invented by the German DoP Dedo Weigert in the 1990’s, the Dedolight is
without doubt the most versatile and controllable hard light on the market
today. It normally runs off mains but can also run off any 12v battery
such as a car cigarette
lighter socket. Don’t
let its small size fool
you; this light will be
the first one out of
your car every time.
With a spot to flood
ratio of 1:20 (the next
best technology is 1:6)
a 150 watt Dedolight
produces the same
light output of a 500
watt fresnel on flood. On spot it has an incredible throw of over a 100 feet;
all the light remains in the beam, which is great for lighting very specific
areas from a distance; like a speech or wedding ceremony. These unique
lights have a very clean field with no hot spots or holes, even when you
go from flood to spot. And with the great barn door control, it is easy to
shape and flag the light. The Dedolight also has a projector attachment
system (and many other accessories) that uses gobos to throw many
different focusable effects such as background patterns, venetian blinds,
sunlight through trees etc. All of this comes at a price, but the Dedolight
is very economical to run once bought, has excellent bulb life and when
they do eventually go, they only cost £3.50 each to replace. Because of
this, the Dedolight will pay for itself over a few short years.
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 37
µµµ TUTORIAL
In January 2006 Dedo Weigert designed a brand new Dedo ‘Soft Light’.
There are a few options available with the new soft light, but the most
popular model is the DLH1X150 Tungsten Soft Light, which is designed to
fit inside the small softbox designed specially for it; you can also remove
the front baffle diffuser from the softbox to get a harder light source with
more spread as well as being able to buy an ‘Egg Crate’ to attach to the
front of the softbox to make the soft light more directional. The new soft
lights are available in 150, 300 and 1000-watt power outputs and start
from £375 including softbox and inline dimmer switch. If you are buying
for the long-term (unlike cameras, lights have a long working life) you
could do a lot worse than invest in a kit of Dedolights. Lights with an
in-line dimmer start at £350 per unit. Once you own them you will never
want anything else!
Setting everything up
before the model arrives
HARD LIGHT vs SOFT LIGHT
The quality of light produced by either a natural or artificial light source is
often categorized as Hard or Soft light. When Lighting Cameramen refer
to hard light and soft light, they mean just that. One omits light from a point
source and produces hard shadows (like the sun) the Dedolight is a very
good example of a hard-light. This type of instrument with good optics will
also offer a lot of control; this is very useful for adding interest to a scene
when used carefully. The other emits a soft light this is defined by the size
of the source in relation to the subject, for example a soft source on a
face is at least as wide as the subject’s shoulders. This allows the light to
wrap around the face when placed around 3’ of the subject. Soft light will
provide modelling and pleasing shades, which graduate from light to dark
smoothly. The use of both sources is essential to come anywhere near
an image that has any filmic quality and the real issue in mastering them
is in controlling the light i.e. Barndoors, Softbox, Grids etc.
HARD LIGHT
An unobscured sun or an undiffused tungsten light (such as a Dedolight) for
example are both hard light sources. These types of hard lighting sources
reveal shape and texture and create the overall modeling for your subject.
Hard light gives the picture definition and vigor, and is essential to create
a three-dimensional illusion. Hard Light refers to a point source of light,
such as the sun or a single open-faced tungsten light, which produces
hard shadows. The best point sources are also very controllable, with
the use of barn doors and/or projection attachments for example. Hard
light can be used in many ways as it has a long throw, however, it does
create dense and high
Starlite with SilverDome softbox
contrast
shadows that need to be watched as they
can produce very unflattering results. Hard-light creates sharp edged
shadows. To fix this the contrast must be controlled by the fill-light. Hard
light is eminently necessary and desirable for some shooting situations,
especially when you want to simulate intense sunlight or the crisp light of
the moon. However, hard light has to be used carefully. Strong modeling
and dramatic shadows will give your images a dynamic appeal but, if it is
used badly or inappropriately, hard light can produce crude modeling and
coarse tonal contrasts. For most of today’s high definition (HD) shooting
situations, many Lighting Cameramen like to use at least some level of
diffusion to give a feeling of natural lighting. Even a light frost sheet of
diffusion material attached to the barn doors of a tungsten light will help
create a more natural lighting effect. The Dedolight DLH5 that I’m using in
this tutorial is without doubt the most versatile and controllable hard light
on the market today.
SOFT LIGHT
Photo: Louise Wessman
38 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
Most modern lighting is a subtle blend of hard and soft light. Although
most key light sources were usually hard in the past and you always
had to control their shadows and tonal contrast by introducing a certain
amount of soft ‘fill light’, these days in a modern HD (high definition)
world, the use of a soft key light is generally preferred. Soft Light refers to
a light source that has a large surface area in relation to the subject, so
that the light ‘wraps’ around the subject. In the past, lighting cameramen
would achieved this effect by bouncing light off ceilings and walls, but this
is now largely considered to be a very crude way of achieving soft light,
as it is very uncontrollable and can end up producing very flat images.
More common ways to create controllable soft light is to use softboxes;
these are black fabric boxes with white diffusion material across the front,
which converts the hard light source into a soft light source.
Softboxes can be used with fresnels and open-faced tungsten lights.
However, they do turn the light source into a more inefficient one. The
advantage of softboxes is that they produce a lovely soft light source and
TUTORIAL µµµ
they pack away efficiently. However, setting them up and packing them
away can be time consuming, especially when they have been on a hot
tungsten light for a few hours as the ring and other metal parts will be
very hot and you will have to wait for them to cool down first. All soft lights
can benefit from the use of grids (also known as egg crates). These grids
enable the soft light to be controlled so that the spread of light is confined
to the subject and does not spill all over the set.
3-POINT LIGHTING TECHNIQUE
There are many ways that lighting cameramen light people in interview
situations; there is more than one way to skin a cat as the saying goes.
Out of all the artistic and creative ways to light a person, for me, there is
only one that truly works that will give professional results time after time;
and that’s the ‘3-point lighting system’.
The 3-point lighting method consists of a key-light, a fill-light and a backlight. Of course you can add more lights to this basic configuration, and I
often do. The modern consensus for 3-point lighting in a HD world is to go
‘soft’. So the key-light is usually soft, so too is the fill-light. The back-light
is usually hard; though a bit of soft diffusion can be added. Adding a fourth
‘background-light is something I usually always do, this is typically a hard
light source with a gobo or cookie projecting pattern onto the background.
It’s this 3-point lighting set up that I’m going to demonstrate in this tutorial
on how to light somebody in an interview situation.
THE LOCATION
If you are a corporate video producer, you won’t always have the choice
or any say in the actual room/location for the interview, so you’ll have to
make the best of what is on offer. Once at the location, take a few minutes
to take a look around the room before you unload any of your equipment.
What you want to do is look for the most suitable corner to set up your
talent, a corner that will make a nice backdrop to your subject. You don’t
want anything too distracting or cluttered so use your artistic judgement
here. Don’t be afraid to move furniture around and/or move distracting
objects from the background. Putting in a little effort at this stage will yield
much better results. But be sure to leave the room exactly as you found
it; we don’t want lighting cameramen getting a bad reputation for being
messy people who don’t clean up after themselves. Whatever the size of
the room, be it big or small. I recommend shooting from corner-to-corner
i.e. set the subject to be interviewed up in one corner of the room, and have
Compact and tough Photoflex
lighting case on wheels
y o u r
camcorder in the opposite corner.
This way, you are getting the maximum length out of the room, which
will allow you more control over depth-of-field. Also, shooting somebody
square on to a flat wall looks plain dull, but shooting against a corner wall
that is plain white is almost as dull also, so find a backdrop that has a
complimentary colour and preferably a non-distracting pattern, or use a
Dedolight DLH4 with projection lens with a gobo and coloured gel to add
interest like I am in this tutorial. If the room at the location is small, you
can also consider shooting through doorways to get even more distance
from camera to subject; this is a technique I often find myself using in
cramped environments.
SUBJECT PLACEMENT
The idea is to place a chair approximately 1/3rd away from the corner, this
leaves 2/3rds space between the subject and your camcorder. Place your
camcorder as far back into the opposite corner as it will go, leaving you
room to stand behind it of course. Just to re-cap - if the room is 30 feet
from corner-to-corner, place your interview on a chair approximately 10
feet away from the corner, with your camcorder on its tripod approximately
20 feet away in the opposite corner, give or take 2 or 3 feet for you to
have space to move around the tripod.
Your subject should be seated on a non-swivelling chair; otherwise they
will almost certainly swivel side-to-side, with nerves, or just because they
can. Either way, on camera this looks very distracting. The chair should
also have a low back, and not one where you can see the back of the
chair coming up over the shoulders of the subject.
Standard 3-point lighting set up.
Lights from left to right:
Background light with projection lens and gobo.
Fill light with mini soft box.
Back light (against back wall).
Key light with soft box.
Photo: Nigel Cooper
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 39
TUTORIAL µµµ
With the subject seated 1/3rd away from the back corner, and your
camcorder backed up as far as it will go in the other corner you will be in
the perfect position to control the depth-of-field in a way that will allow you
to throw the background out of focus slightly. Throwing the background
out of focus will send the viewer’s eye to the person being interviewed, it
will also give depth and dimension to the shot.
I would recommend opening up the camcorder’s iris all the way, then
stop it down just ½ to 1 ½ stops, then control the exposure with the
camcorder’s built-in ND (natural density) filters, or with the in-line dimmers
of the actual lights. Using the latter will affect the colour temperature, so
be sure to do a fresh white-balance once all the lights are set up and their
output has been adjusted accordingly.
for newsreaders that are addressing the viewer/camera directly. In most
interview situations this won’t be the case, instead the interviewee will be
looking slightly off camera to either a real, or imaginary interviewer. You
should pan the camera left or right (depending on which way your subject
is looking) so that there is extra room for the subject to ‘look’ into (see
fig.1). Pan the camera around until your subject has approximately two
thirds of looking room and one-third space behind them as per fig.1.
Don’t cut your subject off at natural joints such as elbows, wrists, waist,
knees, neck etc. This looks freaky and displeasing to the viewer’s eye.
Instead, cut your subject off just below the tie-not area and/or across
the forehead for a close-up shot, or between the shoulder and elbow, or
between the elbow and wrist etc.
SETTING UP
KEY-LIGHT
Although the 3-point lighting set up will look very similar, no matter who
physically sets them up, there are many ways of actually arriving at the
final stage. How you get there will essentially be down to you, but some
ways will yield a better final result. The order in which I personally go about
setting up the lights is one that works for me and it gives me excellent
results; you might chose some kind of variation on my methods.
This tutorial is going to assume that the room is relatively dark i.e. all
blinds and curtains have been closed. Darkening the room as much as
possible will help you control the lights, and it will also prevent having
mixed light sources of daylight and tungsten. Of course it is possible to
use a colour correction ND gel on the windows, but this is only usually
done if an open window is to be in shot for artistic and visual reasons. It
is also time-consuming to gel windows.
Once my camcorder is in place and composed nicely on the interviewee,
I usually start by setting up the key-light as it establishes light levels. The
key-light is the most important light here; it is the light that is going to be
doing the main job, hence key, of illuminating the subject. The key-light
should be a soft light source; this is more flattering on your subject. The
Photoflex Starlite with SilverDome softbox
HEAD ROOM & COMPOSITION
It’s important to compose your shot properly. Your subject must look
natural and pleasing to the viewer, and poor composition can make the
overall image look unpleasing, strangely uncomfortable and just plain
unnatural. Here are a few tips when composing the shot and seating/
positioning your interviewee.
Don’t leave too much headroom; in fact it is preferable to actually ‘cut
in’ to the subjects head slightly, rather than leave too much headroom
(see fig.1 below). This is a mistake amateurs always make. Too much
headroom will send the viewer’s eye to this open/vacant space above the
subject’s head. I often see this with outdoor shots and I always expect
an airplane to fly across the sky; as if the cameraman has composed
the shot in anticipation of this, so I’m busy looking for airplanes and not
light I use is a Starlite and it’s very unique. It has a very long elongated
bulb and its housing acts as a heat sink to dispel heat. Like the DLH4, the
Starlite is really tough and should last a lifetime. The Starlite is housed
Footage: Nigel Cooper
inside a medium heatproof soft-box to make it a soft light
source. The key-light is positioned in front of the subject on
Fig.1
the opposite axis to the back-light behind the subject. The keylight should be mounted on a stand approximately 6 or 8 feet
high coming down at a 45% angle at the subject, however, the
fill-light can also work well coming from below the eye-line to
fill in the shadows under the chin and eye-line; this will make
your subject look younger as it irons out wrinkles. Your subject
should be seated so that the seat is actually pointing towards
the key-light, which is about 30% off axis to the camcorder,
the subject then turns his/her head slightly away from the keylight and towards the interviewer who is sitting between the
Model Rebecca lit with standard
camcorder and the key-light. This will allow you to angle the
3-point lighting technique and
key-light to illuminate the left side of the subject’s face. Use
background gobo projection
the zebra (face) settings on your camcorder to expose for this
illuminated side of the face. With your camcorder’s iris virtually
listening/watching the subject. When setting up and composing
all the way open (half to 2 stops down from fully open), adjust
the shot for an interviewee, try and put their ‘eye-line’ about one third
the light output using the Starlite’s in-line dimmer to achieve perfect
from the top of the screen (this is called using the rule-of-thirds; see fig.1
exposure on the illuminated side of the subject’s face. It is worth noting
above) While I’m on the subject of the rule-of-thirds, don’t forget to leave
that sometimes a hard key-light would look better depending on the
‘looking room’ for your subject. By this I mean don’t position your subject subject matter. Interviewing hard man Vinnie Jones on a tough subject
directly in the middle of the screen. The only exception to this rule is such as the movie Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels would probably
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 41
µµµ TUTORIAL
is what is going to give a nice rim of light to the hair and shoulders of the
subject from behind; this will help separate them from the background,
adding depth and dimension to the shot.
The light I always use for the back-light, which is the one I’m using here,
is a Dedolight DLH4. This is a really unique light. It’s totally rock solid and
FILL-LIGHT
bombproof and it’s very compact (about the size of a cricket ball). But the
Once the key-light is in place and set, we now come to the fill-light. The fill light
unique thing about the Dedolight DLH4 is that it has an in-built focusable
is a soft light source and it is here to gently fill in the shadows on the darker
lens, which means you can point the light exactly where
side of the subject’s face that have been created by the key-light. The fillyou want it, making it very easy to control with zero lightlight
spill. This unique lens system also means that the 150w
Dedolight DLH1X150S with
Dedoflex mini softbox for fill-light
bulb housed inside, throws out an equivalent of about
500 watts. This is due to the light source being magnified
through the aspherical lens. Unlike regular tungsten
lights such as old-fashioned Redheads, the bulbs in the
Dedolight won’t blow or explode if they are accidently
knocked. You can literally knock the stand over and
have the light come crashing to the floor and the bulb
continues to push out light as if nothing happened. The
DLH4 is also splash and up to a point, waterproof. I
wouldn’t recommend going scuba-diving with one, but
if you are filming in say a bathroom set and a light
stand gets accidently knocked over and the DLH4 ends
up submerged in the water, it continues to work and it
won’t electrocute anyone who might be in the bathtub.
I start by placing the DLH4 on the opposite axis to
the key-light, about 4 feet above the subject’s head
All photos: Nigel Cooper
coming down at about 45%. With the blinds and
curtains closed, switch off the key-light and fill-light for a moment; if you
I use is a Dedolight
have the key and fill-lights switched on at this time, judging the amount of
DLH1X150S, which is a very compact and rugged light that is housed
rim/hair light will be much harder. Use your judgement as to how much rim/
inside a compact light-box, making it a soft light source. Position the fillhair light you dial in using the in-line dimmer. Too much will look like one
light on the opposite side to the key-light at the same height as the keyof those 1980’s big hair glamour girl shots with a total halo of light around
light (approximately 6 to 7 feet high) so it is coming down at a 45% angle
the head and shoulders, too little won’t give enough separation from the
towards the subject. With the camcorder correctly exposed for the keybackground. See fig.1 to see how much rim/hair light I personally like.
light, adjust the fill-light’s output by slowly bringing up the light using the
This light source is a hard light source, but you can clip some diffusion gel
inline dimmer until it gently fills in the shadows created by the key-light.
As a rule of thumb, the fill-light should be about 1 or 2 stops less in light onto the barn doors if you wish. Use the DLH4’s barn doors to flag down
the light and control it directly onto the back of the head and shoulders of
output than the key-light as a rough rule of thumb, this will retain
look better with Mr Jones lit with a hard light as we don’t want him to look
like a glamorous Hollywood actress now do we. Think about the subject,
then decide whether to use hard or soft light.
‘modelling’ on the subject, giving dimension and depth to the shot.
However, be creative and go for whatever looks good to you with
regard to the key and fill light ratio; less or more contrast will be
required depending on the type of interview being shot. If both key
and fill lights were set to the same power output the subject would
look ‘flat’ with a severe lack of ‘modelling’ and dimensionality so
go easy on the output of the fill light or it will simply take the
shape and modelling out of the subject. Remember, TV screens
are flat, so as Lighting Cameramen it is our job to create the
illusion of a 3-dimensional world so the viewer gets a sense of
dimension and realism in the picture. It’s worth noting that if you
use a dimmer, the colour temperature of the light is going to
change i.e. get warmer as you dim. If your fill light is dimmed to
attain a nice contrast ratio to the key-light it could be that you
are working in a mixed colour balance situation. I’ve found that
taking a white balance reading off a white (or warm) card with
light falling on it from both the key and warmer fill gives decent
enough results. However, if you want to be a perfectionist you
can either use ND gels to dim down the fill-light, or drop the filllight output down using a dimmer then use a colour correction
gel on it to bring it back up the same colour temperature as
the key-light.
BACK-LIGHT
The back-light should not to be confused with the background-light, which
lights the background behind the subject. The back-light is placed behind
the subject opposite to where the key-light will be placed. The back-light
42 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
Dedolight DLH4 with included barn doors
for the back-light to highlight hair and put
a rim of light around the shoulders
your subject, preventing
any spill onto the rest of the set. This light can be left as a hard light, or
you can add diffusion gel to the barn doors, or you can even experiment
with coloured gels for a different look.
TUTORIAL µµµ
BACKGROUND-LIGHT
The fourth and final light that I use is the background-light. This light
is designed to shine light onto the background to complete the shot by
adding that final touch of added dimension and depth that will really
make the subject ‘pop’ out of the scene. The background light can be
used to simply splash some plain light onto the background, or it can
be shone through a ‘cookie’ pattern to throw a random pattern onto the
background, or you can fit a projection lens onto it, in which you can
Dedolight DLH4 with DP1
projection lens attachment
used for background light
the projected background image slightly out of focus will achieve the best
results when trying to create depth and dimension. How much you throw
the image out of focus will be down to your creative and artistic style. If
you are using a home-made or shop-bought cookie, the methods are
identical, only with less precision of course as you won’t have the control
over focusing and aim that the projection lens and gobo gives. You can
also experiment with coloured gels on the background-light. You can cut
out small circular pieces of gel and put them in the same slot as the gobo.
Splashing colour onto the background can change the ‘feel’ of the shot.
A corporate shoot might want a very serious official kind of look, which
could mean adding a little blue to the background. Whereas a warmer
orange gel on the background will make your CEO appear more friendly
in his/her warmer environment. Remember to white balance to the keylight only with your subject holding the white-card tilted slightly towards
the key-light. To be safe, turn the back-light and background lights off
if they have coloured gels in them during the white-balance setting up
process. The light output of the background light should be dimmed down
so it does not distract the viewers attention away from the interviewee;
experiment.
WARM CARDS
Depending on the ‘look’ you want, you can try white-balancing to a
Warm Card. Warm cards are just like a regular white-balance card, only
they have a very light blue colour to them. So when you use a warm
card to white balance too, it tricks the camera’s system and gives your
overall image a slightly warmer ‘look’. I personally always use warm
cards when white balancing with digital formats, why? Digital formats by
nature always have a slightly cold/cool/bluish ‘look’ to them when white
balanced to a reference white card. This often makes people have cold
skin tones that are unnatural. Using warm cards will bring that colour
back into their faces. Warm cards come in different strengths from half,
one, two, three. I generally use half or one as I like a little bit of warmth,
but not too much. Using a number 2 will generally give you that very
warm Saturday morning TV show look. The warm cards I use are made
by Vortex Media.
place a small metal ‘gobo’ (a disc with
a pattern cut out of it) that will allow you to project the gobo’s pattern
onto the wall/background behind your subject. The difference between a
cookie and a gobo is quite simple. The cookie is simply a piece of thick
card (about 2x2 or 3x3 feet) with some random pattern that has been
cut out of it with an art knife, the cookie is fixed on a stand and placed
directly in front of the background light and positioned so that its cut out
patterns shadows are cast directly onto the background. The closer the
cookie is positioned to the background light, the more out-of-focus it will
be cast onto the background, the further away you position the gobo Warm cards used to achieve warmer skin
from the background light, the sharper it’s pattern will appear on the tones and remove that horrible blue/cold look
that digital formats often give by default
background.
The projection lens with a gobo is much easier and a lot more
accurate to work with, although it costs more, it provides lots of
variation more easily. Cookies (or Stencils as they are often called)
you can make yourself for a few pounds, whereas the projection
lens costs a few hundred pounds. The background light I use is a
Dedolight DLH4, then I attach a Dedo projection lens, which is about
8 inches long. This projection lens has a focusable lens inside and
behind this there is a slot in which small metal gobo discs can be
placed. The discs are very thin and about 3 inches in diameter. They
are available in a multitude of pre-designed patterns, you can even
have your own patterns custom made, including company logos etc.
With the lens attached to the background-light and the gobo in place
it’s simply a case of positioning the background light out of shot and
in a position that will allow you to project the gobo’s pattern onto the
background behind the subject. Experiment with angles here. If you
have a venetian blind gobo pattern, you might want to position the
background-light at a similar height to that of an actual window and
have it shine across the background wall at a slight angle so the
venetian blind effect shadows are at an angle that mimics that of a real
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window with blind. Then use the lens to focus or de-focus the projected
image. Personally I always throw the projected image out of focus to DVuser & Generic Pool Productions have just finished filming and
the point that you can make out the pattern, but not so it is clear and producing a brand new training DVD entitled “How to Light & Shoot
sharp; the latter is the equivalent of having a very deep depth-of-field Interviews”. Everything that is in this written tutorial can be seen in action
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with the background in sharp focus; something I don’t want. Throwing
information, or to buy the DVD, email us at: [email protected]
Cont ...
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 43
µµµ TUTORIAL
Sequence of shots showing the difference as various lights are added. Clips 2, 3, 4, 5 show each light being added. Shot 1
shows the back-light highlighting the hair and putting a nice rim of light around the shoulders to give more separation from the
background. Shots 6 and 7 show the effects of using different coloured gels in the projection lens on the background light.
1
Back-light only
5
Key-light, Fill-light,
Back-light &
Background-light
Fig.2
All photos: Nigel Cooper
2
Key-light only
6
As above, but with blue
gel on background-light
to change mood
3
Key-light & Fill-light
7
As above, but with orange
gel on background-light to
change mood
4
Key-light, Fill-light
& Back-light
you will always achieve high quality and professional looking results. But
feel free to experiment with your lighting; be creative and enjoy.
All the equipment I use personally and used in this tutorial is listed below
with UK shops where it can all be purchased.
KEY-LIGHT - Starlite with 1000w tungsten lamp and a medium
SilverDome softbox with an in-line dimmer.
FILL-LIGHT - Dedolight DLH1X150S with 150w tungsten lamp and a
Dedoflex mini softbox with an in-line dimmer.
FILL-LIGHT (option 2) - Photoflex reflector on stand.
BACK-LIGHT - Dedolight DLH4 with barn doors with an in-line dimmer.
BACKGROUND-LIGHT - Dedolight DLH4 with gobo projector lens and
venetian blind gobo with an in-line dimmer.
WARM CARDS - Vortex Media
END WRAP
There are many variations on this basic 3-point lighting set up, but if you
follow these basic ground rules that I’ve laid out here in this tutorial, then
44 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
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For further details about these lights and their technical specifications
visit the UK’s sole distributor website: www.cirrolite.co.uk
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©2011 JVC Professional Europe Ltd. All trademarks are the properties of their respective owners.
I
must admit, when I first saw pictures of the Manfrotto 504HD tripod,
I thought the head looked really impressive, futuristic and sleek. At
£650 for a kit including head, legs and bag, I just had to take a look.
Manfrotto are pushing the 504HD
as the latest tripod designed
Photo (self portrait): Nigel Cooper
specifically for the latest compact
HD camcorders and DSLRs with
matching video accessories.
They claim that the 504HD with
its ergonomic and technical
characteristics make it the ideal
system to support the new wave
of lightweight and compact HD
camcorders and DSLRs. The
Manfrotto brochure has lots of
bold claims about ‘technical
evolution’ and ‘innovation’ etc.
The 504HD is supposed to be
a bridge technology between
photography and videography.
Manfrotto UK agreed to
send me a loan unit for a few
weeks to try out. I was very
excited and could not wait
to see this new tripod. Upon
taking delivery of the 504HD
and opening the box, my
first impressions of how
the tripod physically looked
were very good; it looked incredibly
high-tech and space-age with its sleek black metal with red trimmings.
However, after actually playing around with the tripod for an hour or
so, my initial excitement wilted somewhat; and things continued to go
downhill from there.
The camcorder I used for this review was a Canon XF305; according
to Manfrotto, the 504HD is designed for this type of modern HD
camcorder.
Erecting the 504HD tripod is a trifle too clumsy for me, the mid-level
spreader doesn’t quite know how to behave itself during this process; it
simply plays up and gets all upset. I too got upset back and actually had
to give one of the legs a gentle kick with my right foot while my hands tried
504HD head locking plate lever won’t fully turn to hold the other two
and lock as Canon XF305 hand grip gets in way legs apart. The way
I see it, as lighting
cameramen
we
have enough to
think about with
composition
and
lighting for example.
Equipment
that
causes us extra
Photo: Nigel Cooper
stress does not
46 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
help create a calm working environment in which we can get on and
concentrate on the job in hand. I was immediately put in a mildly bad
mood because of this and had to make a cup of tea before moving on.
I attached the tripod plate to the
CanonXF305’s base at its centre-ofgravity point; then slid the camcorder with attached plate onto the tripod
head and went to tighten up the plate locking lever on the right side of the
head; this is where I ran into the 504HD’s first design flaw. The locking
lever is too close to the top plate and with the Canon XF305 you cannot
tighten it as the lever hits the handgrip of the camcorder preventing it
turning. However, with brute force I scraped it along the handgrip and got
it to tighten. My guess is if you own a Canon XF305 you won’t want to
scrape chunks of plastic out of the handgrip of your expensive camcorder
like I did. So no sales to Canon XF owners then. Whatever camcorder
you own, I’d check to see if this is an issue for you before buying. Sony’s
EX1 might have a similar problem as its grip is also low down on the
body.
BALANCE
Next came the delicate art of balancing the Canon XF305 on the 504HD’s
head. The 504HD has just three pre-set settings for balance, plus a zero
setting with no spring tension at all. I turned off all drag control settings
for tilt and forgetting the zero setting, I chose balance position 1. This was
too weak for the XF305, the camcorder just dropped forward/backward.
Position 2 was a better choice and after a few tweaks of moving the plate
REVIEW µµµ
forward about 3mm I was able to get the XF305 to balance reasonably
well. Position 3 was too stiff and forced the XF305 upwards towards its
horizontal position with too much spring tension. So position 2 it was.
Now it was time to dial in some drag to give the balance a little more
help. Any drag setting for the tilt that is less than 6 (setting is continuous
from 0 to 9) and the XF305 slowly creeps forward or backward when
tilted just slightly up or down; hence it does not balance properly. This
is typical with non-continuous balance systems. The only way to get
camcorders to balance perfectly with these pre-set step systems is to
have a big bag of pound coins (about £100 worth) and keep taping
them to various parts of the camcorder and/or tripod head, until
perfect balance is achieved. An easier way is to go and buy a Vinten
Vision Blue, or a Libec RS-250 (or RS-350 depending on camera
weight), both of which have a continuous balancing system that work
to perfection; and they cost the same.
So, with 7 dialled in for both pan and tilt drag settings the balance
was kind of working, but there were still issues. When I slowly tilted
up or down just past the horizontal point and then stopped and let
go of the pan handle, there was a noticeable amount of ‘creep’ as the
head comes back up/down on itself by a millimetre or so; not much, but
enough to potentially ruin a shot; especially when zoomed in where this
flaw is magnified enormously. All in all, the balance system was something
of a let down compared to the offerings from Vinten and Libec.
PAN & TILT
Right off the bat I was annoyed with the location of the tilt drag control
wheel. It is inside the centre of the head directly underneath the tripod
plate. The only way one can adjust this is by having your fingers from
your left hand poking in from the front and the fingers from your right hand
poking in from the back; together in harmony you can push left with one
set of fingers and push right with the other until the wheel is in the position
you want. With the tilt locked off, the panning system set to drag number
7 it felt quite smooth when panning and was ok considering the price of
the head. However, there is a tiny amount of ‘drift-back’ on the head.
Drift-back is when you slowly pan, then when you stop and let go of the
pan handle, the head drifts back slightly as it settles in the drag fluid. On
wide this will hardly be noticeable, but when zoomed in, the phenomena
is magnified and panning shots could be ruined.
I then locked off the pan via the pan lock-off lever and concentrated on
the tilt. With a tilt setting of 7, I immediately noticed ‘dead spots’ in the tilt
mechanism; this could be trapped air bubbles in the fluid or something
else; either way it feels odd and does nothing to aid in achieving
professional looking moves. Manfrotto claim in their brochure that this
new ‘variable friction’ system is a new technology. I found the system to be
a bit vague and as you try and perform a smooth tilt from slightly forward
then tilting through to horizontal and then skywards I could feel the friction
system getting lighter, then stiffer, then lighter throughout the move. This
new variable friction system will yet again potentially ruin more shots.
Because the pan is fluid and the tilt is variable friction/fluid, attempting
to carry out a moderate to fast dutch-tilt from top right to bottom left for
example causes the head to ‘step’ its way down/across the shot yielding
unprofessional and strange looking shots.
After spending an afternoon shooting various shots with the Canon
XF305, I’d pretty much given up on trying to achieve a decent shot on this
tripod; however, the brakes for pan and tilt work superbly so locked-off
shots should be just fine.
There is an illuminated spirit-level bubble for levelling the head. Simply
press a little button and the light comes on and stays on for about 10
seconds or so. Levelling the head is by way of an elongated stem that
sticks down from underneath the head. This is ok, and most people won’t
have a problem with it, but I’m just used to having something that is
easier to grip when making the levelling adjustments; I don’t know why
Manfrotto don’t just do what every other tripod manufacturer does in this
department.
Photo: Nigel Cooper
LEGS
The legs my loan unit came with were the 546B 2-stage.
When fully extended there is way too much ‘twist’ in them. They are not
stiff enough and with the drag settings for pan cranked up, the legs twist
slightly during the pan, so when you reach the end of the pan you have
not only the head creeping back as it settles in the fluid, but the legs snap
back as they settle also. There is a carbon leg system available, I suspect
it would be a better, but good sticks from any other manufacturer won’t
compensate for the other issues with the 504HD head.
CONCLUSION
Its fancy looks and red touches are not enough. I don’t want something
that just looks good; it’s got to work. There is no doubt that the 504HD
looks very futuristic and amazing, but the functionality doesn’t match.
If the 504HD was a car it would be a DeLorean; it looks great, but is
just plain unreliable and doesn’t cut the mustard. Bang and Olufsen Hi-Fi
looks great too, but as any audiophile will tell you, it just
doesn’t sound
Photo: Nigel Cooper
that good. The 504HD looks great on
exhibition floors on display, which is where it should stay; it has no place
in the field on a real production. Even at this price (£650 for the kit of head,
legs, bag) the 504HD is very disappointing. There are far superior tripods
out there that actually get the job done. Libec’s RS250, 350 and 450
are amazing with continuous balancing systems that are superb. Vinten’s
brand new Vision Blue has also been designed specifically for this same
market of modern HD camcorders and fully loaded DSLRs, it too has
Vinten’s famouse and superb Perfect Balance system that is continuous.
The Vinten Vision Blue and Libec RS-350 are about the same price as
the Manfrotto 504HD and are both better by a country mile.
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 47
* Up-sampled from 1280x720
CAMCORDER
CODEC
SENSOR SIZE CCD Res REC Res
MEDIA
TYPE
LENS
CANON HF11
AVCHD
1xCMOS
1/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
SD/HC Cards
Palmcorder
Fixed
CANON XH-A1
HDV
3xCCD
1/3
1440x1080
1440x1080
HDV Tape
Hand-Held
Fixed
CANON XH-G1
HDV
3xCCD
1/3
1440x1080
1440x1080
HDV Tape
Hand-Held
Fixed
CANON XL-H1
HDV
3xCCD
1/3
1440x1080
1440x1080
HDV Tape
Semi-Shoulder
Interchangable
CANON XL-H1A / S
HDV
3xCCD
1/3
1440x1080
1440x1080
HDV Tape
Semi-Shoulder
Interchangable
GRASS VALLEY INFINITY
JPEG 2000
3xCMOS
2/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
REV PRO & CF
Shoulder
Interchangable
JVC GY-HD110 / 111
HDV
3xCCD
1/3
1280x720
1280x720
HDV Tape
Shoulder
Interchangable
JVC GY-HD 200 / 201
HDV
3xCCD
1/3
1280x720
1280x720
HDV Tape
Shoulder
Interchangable
JVC GY-HD 251
HDV
3xCCD
1/3
1280x720
1280x720
HDV Tape
Shoulder
Interchangable
JVC GY-HM700
QuickTime
3xCCD
1/3
1280x720
1920x1080*
SD/HC Cards
Shoulder
Interchangable
PANASONIC HDC-SD100
AVCHD
3xMOS
1/6
1440x1080
1440x1080
SD/HC Cards
Palmcorder
Fixed
PANASONIC AG-HMC171
AVCHD
3xCCD
1/3
960x540
1920x1080•
SD/HC Cards
Shoulder
Fixed
PANASONIC AG-HMC151
AVCHD
3xCCD
1/3
960x540
1920x1080•
SD/HC Cards
Hand-Held
Fixed
PANASONIC AG-AF101
AVCHD
1xCMOS
4/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
SD/HC SD/XC
Hand-Held
Interchangable
PANASONICAG-HVX201
DVCPRO HD
3xCCD
2/3
960x540
1920x1080*
P2 Cards
Hand-Held
Fixed
PANASONIC HPX500
DVCPRO HD
3xCCD
2/3
960x540
1920x1080*
P2 Cards
Shoulder
Interchangable
PANASONIC HPX301E
DVCPRO HD
3xCCD
1/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
P2 Cards
Shoulder
Interchangable
PANASONIC AJ-HDX900
DVCPRO HD
3xCCD
2/3
1280x720
1280x720
DVCPRO Tape
Shoulder
Interchangable
PANASONIC AJ-HPX2100
DVCPRO HD
3xCCD
2/3
1280x720
1920x1080*
P2 Cards
Shoulder
Interchangable
PANASONIC AJ-HPX2700
DVCPRO HD
3xCCD
2/3
1280x720
1920x1080*
P2 Cards
Shoulder
Interchangable
PANASONIC AJ HPX3000
DVCPRO HD
3xCCD
2/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
P2 Cards
Shoulder
Interchangable
SONY HVR-A1
HDV
1xCMOS
1/3
960x1080
1440x1080
HDV Tape
Palmcorder
Fixed
SONY HVR-V1
HDV
3xCMOS
1/3
960x1080
1440x1080
HDV Tape
Hand-Held
Fixed
SONY HVR-S270
HDV
3xCMOS
1/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
HDV Tape
Shoulder
Interchangable
SONY HVR-Z5
HDV
3xCMOS
1/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
HDV Tape
Hand-Held
Fixed
SONY HVR-Z7
HDV
3xCMOS
1/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
HDV Tape
Hand-Held
Interchangable
SONY HXR-NX5E
AVCHD
3xCMOS
1/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
SD/HC, MS Pro
Hand-Held
Fixed
SONY (PROTOTYPE)
AVCHD
1xCMOS
35mm 1920x1080
1920x1080
SD/HC, MS Pro
Hand-Held
Interchangable
SONY PMW-EX1
XDCAM EX
3xCMOS
1/2
1920x1080
1920x1080
SxS Pro Cards
Hand-Held
Fixed
SONY PMW-EX3
XDCAM EX
3xCMOS
1/2
1920x1080
1920x1080
SxS Pro Cards
Semi-Shoulder
Interchangable
SONY PMW-350K
XDCAM EX
3x CMOS
2/3
1920X1080
1920X1080
SxS Pro Cards
Shoulder
Interchangable
SONY PDW F335
XDCAM HD
3xCCD
1/2
1440x1080
1440x1080
Professional Disc
Shoulder
Interchangable
SONY PDW F355
XDCAM HD
3xCCD
1/2
1440x1080
1440x1080
Professional Disc
Shoulder
Interchangable
SONY PDW 700
XDCAM HD422
3xCCD
2/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
Professional Disc
Shoulder
Interchangable
SONY PDW F800
XDCAM HD422
3xCCD
2/3
1920x1080
1920x1080
Professional Disc
Shoulder
Interchangable
SONY PMW-F3
XDCAM EX
1xCMOS
35mm 1920x1080
1920x1080
SxS Pro Cards
Hand-Held
Interchangable
SONY HDW-650P
HDCAM
3xCCD
2/3
1920x1080
1440x1080
HDCAM Tape
Shoulder
Interchangable
SONY HDW-790P
HDCAM
3xCCD
2/3
1920x1080
1440x1080
HDCAM Tape
Shoulder
Interchangable
SONY HDW-F900R
HDCAM
3xCCD
2/3
1920x1080
1440x1080
HDCAM Tape
Shoulder
Interchangable
48 • January 2011 • DVuser Magazine • www.dvuser.co.uk
Note: The prices below are including vat and are street prices i.e. the price that known UK professional video
retailers would sell them for. These prices were obtained via the usual UK shops (regular advertisers in DVuser),
however, prices can change on a regular basis so be sure to call your regular dealer for a firm price.
Thank you, Nigel Cooper - Founder/Editor DVuser magazine.
FEATURES / COMMENTS
PRICE
WEBSITE
1920x1080 Full HD (24Mbps), Dual Flash Memory – 32Gb internal plus memory card
£695
www.canon.co.uk
1080i, Custom presets, Cine gamma, XLR audio outputs
£2,400
www.canon.co.uk
1080i, HD/SDI output, Custom presets, Cine gamma, XLR audio outputs
£4,500
www.canon.co.uk
1080i, 50i/25f, HD/SDI output, Genlock input, Timecode I/O, XLR audio outputs
£5,400
www.canon.co.uk
1080i, 50i/25f, HD/SDI output, Genlock input, Timecode I/O, XLR audio outputs
£4,200 - £5,200
www.canon.co.uk
720/60p - 1080/60i, records to REV PRO media & CF cards
£19,000
www.thomsongrassvalley.com
720/24p, 720/25p, 720/30p, XLR audio outputs
£3,800 - £3,995
www.jvcpro.co.uk
720/24p, 720/25p, 720/30p, 720/50p, 720/60p, XLR audio outputs
£4,350 - £4,550
www.jvcpro.co.uk
720/24p, 720/25p, 720/30p, 720/50p, 720/60p, XLR audio outputs
£6,150
www.jvcpro.co.uk
35Mbps QuickTime recording in full 1920x1080 to SD/HC cards
£4,600 (body only)
www.jvcpro.co.uk
AVCHD recording to SD/HC cards, 6/9/13Mbps, Leica Dicomar Lens
£650
www.panasonic.co.uk
AVCHD budget shoulder type, Leica lens, XLR audio outputs
£1,200
www.panasonic-broadcast.com
AVCHD semi-pro hand-held, solid-state AVCHD replacement for DVX100b
£2,800
www.panasonic-broadcast.com
Large 4/3rd sensor film-like HD solid state camcorder, AVCHD, SD/HC & SD/XC cards
£4,295
www.panasonic-broadcast.com
1080i/720p, Leica Dicomar wide-angle lens, DV to tape or HD to P2 card
£3,350
www.panasonic-broadcast.com
50/60 Hz selectable, variable frame-rate function, P2 only
£9,500
www.panasonic-broadcast.com
10-bit, 4:2:2, 2.2MP Imagers, 3-MOS, AVC-Intra 100 & AVC-Intra 50
£9,800
www.panasonic-broadcast.com
1080/50i, 25p, 1080/60i, 24p, 30p, 720/60p, 24p, 30p, 720/50p
£13,500 (body only)
www.panasonic-broadcast.com
1080i/50, 720/50p, records to P2 only
£26,000 (body only)
www.panasonic-broadcast.com
2/3rd-inch native HD resolution, 1080 & 720 with 4:2:2 10-bit sampling in AVC-Intra 100
£25,500 (body only)
www.panasonic-broadcast.com
Native 1080p HD recording to AVC-Intra with 4:2:2 10-bit sampling in AVC-Intra 100
£32,500 (body only)
www.panasonic-broadcast.com
Single 3 mega-pixel chip, Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens with 10x zoon, Cine mode
£1,700
www.sonybiz.net
1080/50i with 1080/25p progressive shooting mode, Carl Zeiss lens
£2,700
www.sonybiz.net
Budget shoulder-mount camcorder with Z7 type interchangable lenses
£6,200
www.sonybiz.net
Replacement for the Z1, new G-lens, better chips and more up-to-date technology
£3,300
www.sonybiz.net
1080i/50, 1080/25p, DVCAM SD mode, Zeiss lens, Audio XLR inputs
£4,100
www.sonybiz.net
Solid-state Z5, AVCHD, Memory Stick Pro, semi-pro hand-held, variable framerate, 1080p
£3,300
www.sonybiz.net
Compact solid-state full 35mm motion picture CMOS sensor with interchangable lenses
£4,995
www.sonybiz.net
1080i/50, 1080/25p, 720/50p, 35Mbps variable frame-rate, timelapse, pre-record, Cine gamma
£4,700
www.sonybiz.net
1080i/50, 1080/25p, 720/50p, 35Mbps frame-rate dial, interchangable EX-mount lenses
£6,300
www.sonybiz.net
Professional shoulder-mount version of EX3, 2/3rd inch, 1080/25p, 35Mbps, lens included
£12,500
www.sonybiz.net
1080/50i, 1080/25p, 18/25/35Mbps rates, records to 23GB or 50GB dual-layer Optical Discs
£9,500 (body only)
www.sonybiz.net
1080/50i, 1080/25p, 18/25/35Mbps rates, 23GB or 50GB XDC AM discs, HD/SDI output
£16,500 (body only)
www.sonybiz.net
1080/50i, 1080/25p, 720/25p, 4:2:2 sampling, 2/3rd-inch, 14-bit AD records to 23GB or 50GB
£21,500 (body only)
www.sonybiz.net
1080/50i, 1080/25/24p, 720/25p, 4:2:2 sampling, 2/3rd-inch PowerHAD, 14-bit AD
£29,500 (body only)
www.sonybiz.net
Sony’s first film-like camcorder with 35mm CMOS sensor and interchangable PL lenses
£12,900 (body only)
www.sonybiz.net
1080/50i, 1080/25PsF, 14-bit A/D converter, Power HAD FX CCDs
£27,500 (body only)
www.sonybiz.net
1080/50i, 1080/25p, 12-bit AD, picture cache, upgrade to the HDW 750 range
£28,500 (body only)
www.sonybiz.net
1080/50i, 1080/25p, 12-bit AD, Gamma curves, frame-rates up to 30p, replacement for F900
£36,500 (body only)
www.sonybiz.net
www.dvuser.co.uk • DVuser Magazine • January 2011 • 49
Focus on the bigger picture
HDV, XDCAM EX, NXCAM,
AVCHD & XF MPEG2 CAMERAS
and ACCESSORIES
HIRE NATIONWIDE
FULL RANGE OF EQUIPMENT FROM CANON, SONY, PANASONIC,
VINTEN, DATAVIDEO, GENUS, MANFROTTO, KESSLER AND OTHER
LEADING MANUFACTURERS
INSURANCE OPTION AVAILABLE ON ALL
EQUIPMENT - NO DEPOSIT REQUIRED
“Fantastic service—don’t know how it could be improved upon”
Nationwide delivery and pick up from sixty five depots
Packages available • All equipment insured in transit
Delivery by 12pm day before hire • Collection day after
Optional same day delivery
www.hireacamera.com
01435 873028
“UNLEASH YOUR
TRUE
POTENTIAL”
The all new dedicated keyboards for
Apple Final Cut and Adobe Photoshop
with Premiere, Edius and Vegas coming soon
compatible with:
PC
+
£89.99 at launch.
Pre-order yours for just £69.99.
Visit: www.editorskeys.com
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