Battle of the cameras
November 3, 2011 10:59 PM   Subscribe

With digital cinema on the rise, and DSLR video shooting becoming increasingly popular for low-budget and independent film making, expectations were high for Canon's big announcement at Paramount Studios today. And Canon delivered, the C300 is a DSLR-like camera that uses Canon or PL mount lenses (two different models), with no autofocus, S35mm sensor size, full HD to a 50Mbps 10-bit 4:2:2 stream, shipping in January 2012 for $20,000. They also announced a new range of high-resolution affordable zoom and prime lenses for cinema use, and, as an extra bonus, they announced they were developing a similar camera that could record 4k video for release at some time in the future. It all looked like a big win for Canon... But, a few hours later, the always controversial and disruptive Red Digital Cinema, makers of the ubiquitous Red One and the relatively new 5K, 120fps EPIC, announced the EPIC's little sister, based on the same sensor, the Scarlet, a camera that also uses Canon or PL mount lenses, with an interchangeable lens mount, autofocus on Canon lenses, S35mm sensor size, 4k video (with HDR option) and 5k stills to a 400Mbps 16-bit compressed raw stream, shipping December 1st for $9,750 for the body (under $14,000 for a full, ready to shoot kit with media, card reader and 5" touchscreen, minus the lenses).
posted by Joakim Ziegler (58 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
In fact, Canon's FAQ states the C300 actually records 8-bit, not 10-bit.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:10 PM on November 3, 2011

Now we just need consumer 4k monitors.
posted by delmoi at 11:13 PM on November 3, 2011

I'm a long-time Canon shooter but I would opt for the Red if I were in the market for such a thing. Love Canon optics, though.
posted by bz at 11:16 PM on November 3, 2011

Just get 4 1080p monitors and squint really hard along the borders.
posted by kmz at 11:16 PM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Cameras... for the 1%.

True enough. About 1% of everyone who owns a camera would have the inclination to spend the money, learn and effectively use cameras like those.
posted by Silverdragonanon at 11:28 PM on November 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Not too many 1%ers who use cameras at these levels. These are for the struggling filmmakers to rent at rates that might just be possible for them to manage.
posted by bz at 11:29 PM on November 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Cameras... for the 1%.

I'm no expert but...
Aren't these camera systems actually transforming the film industry and making independent projects much easier to finance? This equipment isn't intended to be used for home videos.
posted by quosimosaur at 11:31 PM on November 3, 2011 [18 favorites]

b1tr0t: "Cameras... for the 1%"

1% of the general population, perhaps. The fact is that this is a hugely democratizing development. Over the last few years, the cost of equipment suitable for high-quality (cinema-quality) image recording has dropped at least an order of magnitude, probably two if you count the price of post processes, etc.

If you can't afford to buy a Scarlet, rental houses will probably be able to rent this for just a few hundred dollars a day for feature-length projects.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:31 PM on November 3, 2011 [9 favorites]

While the boxes were expected, I was more interested in the Cine-lenses that Canon announced today.

CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6 L S: For EF mounts, available January 2012, $45,000
CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6 L SP: For PL mounts, available January 2012, $45,000
CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L S: For EF mounts, available March 2012, $47,000
CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L SP: For PL mounts, available March 2012, $47,000
CN-E24mm T1.5 L F: For EF mounts, available July 2012, $6,800
CN-E50mm T1.3 L F: For EF mounts, available July 2012, $6,800
CN-E85mm T1.3 L F: For EF mounts, available August 2012, $6,800

posted by jade east at 11:41 PM on November 3, 2011

What makes a lens a cine-lens? Why wouldn't they be just as useful for a regular SLR?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:47 PM on November 3, 2011

jade east: "While the boxes were expected, I was more interested in the Cine-lenses that Canon announced today.

Yeah, those are quite interesting. The EF primes are also reasonably cheap if they're suitable for cine use (little to no breathing when pulling focus), but Red already have the PL mount Red Pro Primes that are somewhat cheaper. The zooms actually seem kind of expensive, Angenieux Optimos are cheaper than that, and the Red zoom are much cheaper. Of course, none of those are EF mount.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:48 PM on November 3, 2011

Joe in Australia: "What makes a lens a cine-lens? Why wouldn't they be just as useful for a regular SLR"

They are just as useful for a regular SLR, but an SLR lens isn't necessarily as useful for cinematography. The key issue is breathing, the effect where the focal length of the lens changes when you change focus. This obviously doesn't matter in stills, but can be distracting in motion. Also, DSLR lenses usually have very short focus ring travel, which makes it hard to precisely change focus during a shot.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:50 PM on November 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

The first time I saw a Red camera in the wild I was strongly considering committing actual Grand Theft. It was just sitting there waiting for me. Some no-assed production crew was shooting what must have been a seriously lame music video in MacArthur Park in LA involving a preppy looking boy band suspended in the trees on harnesses.

(It was a seriously sloppy, chaotic looking shoot. Dangerously sloppy. No location security or experienced riggers or grips from what I could see. It was annoying/dangerous because they had heavy hardware and hot lights rigged overhead hanging from f'ing trees in a public space where crackheads and homeless people were milling about or sleeping on the grass, plus the general public just walking right through their shoot.)

I remember just walking down the street and trying to ignore the shoot, and then I saw that camera all rigged up nice and pretty on a rack with a couple of battery packs, a screen and viewfinder and a big hunk tasty looking of prime glass. I stopped in my tracks, then stood there staring at it and drooling for a good few minutes and inching closer and closer until someone finally noticed me staring at it like I was going to fuck it right then and there.

A young kid nervously moved the camera back into the truck, away from where it was standing right at the edge of the sidewalk. Good choice, kid. You're actually probably lucky the local population didn't realize that you had about 30k worth of chips and glass sitting there in a highly portable package, or else you'd have had a zombie scene to star in.

Anyway. The Red cameras are still by and large much better machines. They're incredible... I mean, at least on paper. Can't say I've ever shot so much as a sunset with one. But the whole concept of massive amounts of modularity, any frame, any grip or position, many kinds of controls and otherwise isolating the self-obsoleting digital camera body from the rest of the reusable hardware is genius.

But there's one very large way Canon (and others like Nikon) can beat the pants off of Red and that's in sheer volume and output. As in you might actually be able to buy (or rent) a Canon off the shelf instead of waiting for Red to actually produce large quantities of cameras.

I don't know what the waiting list is like at the moment to either rent or buy a Red camera and accessories to make a complete camera, but I bet it's still not pretty. Every damn filmmaker in the world wants a Red because it's cheaper to buy your own rig complete with a few lenses than it is to rent some Panavision lenses and a Panaflex body - not to mention the film processing costs - plus you can shoot anywhere and not get tailed by Panavision spooks trying to protect their precious rented lenses.

So hopefully this'll light a fire under their asses over at Red. Their cameras are awesome, but rapidly becoming dated. In the long run they'll probably lose out huge market share to companies like Canon that know how to make hundreds of thousands of cameras instead of having techno-loompas carve them individually out of blocks of unobtanium, but I can see them holding a technological edge for some time to come.
posted by loquacious at 11:55 PM on November 3, 2011 [15 favorites]

Meh. I was following the dual announcements today, and have participated in anticipatory discussions about these for the past month or so.

It was supposed to be a "historic" announcement. At best, it was mildly interesting in the same way any new cameras are interesting. What would have been historic is delivering this in a different price bracket. The C300 is anywhere between $16K-$20K. Pfft. This is aimed at the same market that the F3 is. But we've already had a much more exciting $4K-$5K AF100 and FS100, and even that's not where the revolution is. The real revolution, since the original DVX100, has been the DSLR revolution, with the 5D, 7D, GH2 etc. - that's where the energy is. If you have $20K to drop, you have bank - enough bank so you can go directly to an Alexa. Whom is the C300 addressing? The folks who already have plenty of options, and to them, the C300 is just another one. What I was hoping for from Canon was something that would take the promise of the DSLR and step it up another level, all the while keeping the price the same (generally below $2K), or even lower - now that would make history. Or at the very least I was hoping that Canon would keep in the budget range of the AF100/FS100 but deliver more - much more - camera for the $ than the AF100/FS100, but as is, they're not playing in the same market at all. If you already have the F3, are you going to sell it and spring for the C300? And if you have the AF100/FS100, are you in a position to throw down 3-4 times as much for the C300 and what is so compelling about that compared to what you already have with the AF100/FS100? Historic? Please. As is, it's a big meh from me and the people I've spoken to about this.
posted by VikingSword at 12:11 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was also hoping for something along the lines of the original plan for the Scarlet, which was "3k for $3k" with a 2/3" sensor and a fixed 8x zoom lens. According to what I'm hearing, there were fatal problems with the lens that made that not possible, but I think there's still a market for that. S35mm size sensors are great for movie work, but 2/3" or S16mm size is really, really handy for documentary use. You can of course window the new Scarlet sensor down to 3k, which will get you basically that in terms of DOF, but you'll still be paying for a lot of sensor you won't use.

In general, though, I agree that the C300 is pretty uninteresting. The Scarlet, on the other hand, is interesting, it's far higher quality than any camera in its price range, and is aimed directly at the F3, the C300, and even the Arri Alexa, to an extent.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:27 AM on November 4, 2011

Cameras... for the 1%

Oookay, I think it's about time the dismissive snort of "1%" got dismissed as the moronic threadshit it has turned into.

While the boxes were expected, I was more interested in the Cine-lenses that Canon announced today.

Interesting to see so many for EF mounts - for the "my 5D II is my Red, thanks all the same" crowd, I assume.
posted by rodgerd at 12:31 AM on November 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Joe in Australia (and film nerds following along at home): Besides "breathing" as linked above by Joakim Ziegler - click through to the Follow Focus article.

Depth of Field and Depth of Focus which also help explain more about tolerances and lens quality as related to cine use.

Cine is drastically different and more complicated than still photography. Because film is "animated" - it's much easier for even the layman, audience or viewer to notice aberrations in things like aperture, depth of field, changing shallow or deep focus, etc - things you'd never notice in a still photograph or print at all because it's just one carefully composed and printed frame - as opposed to 24 frames per second for an hour or two at a time.

All of these complicated factors that you normally also find in still photography become even more difficult when you're dealing with cine. If you change your aperture on the fly while shooting cine suddenly your depth of field changes - except you've now just recorded that massive light value change and depth of field change to some very expensive film - and the entire frame suddenly just got darker or lighter, or your subject fell out of focus.

Directors of Photography have small teams of assistant photographers that pull focus for them. Sometimes/often that involves actually measuring distances from the camera focal plane to the subject and doing math based on light readings, film ISO speeds, gate/shutter speeds, shutter angles and more. During the shoot these assistants (or the DP themselves) will rack/pull focus using cue marks written right on the focus wheel that's attached to the actual lens focus ring by way of gears. You know, those Hollywood shots where the camera will snap focus on the face of a close subject, then back to a farther away subject? Someone is manually doing that by pulling focus while the film is rolling.

This is also the reason why actors use cue marks on the floor, to make sure their big weird looking head is in the right place for the pre-computed focus stops. When you see outtakes or "making of" clips, watch for that part where an actor looks at their feet, shuffles a bit and takes a breath. They're usually making sure that little t-square of tape on the ground is lined up precisely between their feet right at the tip of their toes.

Cine lenses also have to be much more rigid and less wobbly than still cameras. On a still camera you lock focus then you open the shutter, even if it's on an autofocus camera. The lens stops focusing before you release the shutter. Nothing in the lens mechanics or optics is moving when the shutter is open and the film/sensor is exposed. Ideally.

On a cine camera focus is traveling while the shutter is rotating, all while film is constantly being pulled through the gate in sync with the shutter.

Cine cameras and lenses have to be machined to extremely close tolerances to produce professional quality film. Simply inserting a thin sheet of colored filter gel between your lens and body can introduce a large depth of focus error - a mere fraction of a MM - while a still camera will suck it right up and you can easily compensate for it with focus or aperture changes. (Not that you normally put gels between lens and body in a still camera, but just making a point.)

Even the glass in a cine lens has to be much more precisely ground. If you have spherical aberrations or distortions in the glass, the entire exposure will "wobble" as you pull focus - which isn't the same as "breathing" technically. Chromatic distortion will be exaggerated and much easier to notice as it swings from, say, the top left of the screen to the bottom right as the glass is turned, or as the depth of field and focus changes as the glass moves very slightly back and forth even without rotating in the lens body.

You can see these errors if go back and look at old film newsreels shot with handheld film cameras or in old movies, especially B movies shot with cheaper glass and cameras. Suddenly one side of the frame has a blue tint and the other is slightly red, or they'll change sides depending on the focus. That's chromatic distortion - color distortion due to prismatic effects in the lens breaking white incoherent light into fragments of rainbows.

Like in still film, good lenses with lots of elements like a prime zoom have lots and lots of reflective surfaces inside. It takes a lot of engineering to reduce those internal reflections and reduce lens flares, both in the shape/design of the optics and in anti-reflective coatings. Lens designers try to design lenses so their reflections "bounce out" into light baffles or traps built into the inside of the lens body - these are open spaces - beveled rings, really - inside the body covered in black anti-reflective paint or flocking used to capture stray reflections.

And the more times it takes to turn the focus ring to throw it from one end of the focus to the other, you have more fine adjustment. If you need faster or slower pulling/racking you gear up or down with a follow focus attachment, but you want it to have as many turns as possible on the actual focus ring.

This is also why a lot of cinematographers, rental houses and studios have/had their own machinists or machining departments, to be able to make their own accessories. Really good cinematographers and directors invent hardware to do new or unusual things with film. See: motion control cameras for example and what used to be Industrial Light and Magic, or the invention of the Steadicam. Same goes for tracking dollies and boom shots. Someone, somewhere invented each of those techniques and used it for the first time in a particular movie.

Also, you shoot differently with cine lenses and cameras. The markings on the focus rings are positioned differently so you can see what you're doing while standing behind or above or to the side of a hulking cine camera body, it's film pack, sync or power cables, camera mount and other rigging.

Anyway. Point being is that if you try to shoot professional 70mm grade cinematography with even a good DSLR body capable of video combined with a servo-drive autofocus lens, you'll be able to see the autofocus racking back and forth minutely as it tries to keep up with the action and movement.

And this is why cinematographers can't really use AF even today. It's just not fast enough for film use, and you can't auto-focus on thin air to set up a shot where someone or something is going to enter or pass through the frame.

And just like in professional still photography, using autofocus is usually not optimal for best results. Even the really good multi-zone AF systems used by pro DSLRs aren't really enough for fine art work or portraiture. It's fine for action, sports or photojournalism where you don't usually have time to carefully compose your depth of focus, but I've yet to meet a good AF system that knows you're actually trying to focus halfway down someones eyelashes or something, or you're trying to get the very fine hairs on their cheek to blur and glow in backlight.

Doing that very same thing with a cine camera is generally an order of magnitude more difficult.

Oh, and one more reason. Cine shooting is a lot of heavy work. The equipment needs to be much more durable and bulletproof. It generally suffers a lot more abuse and rough handling than a still camera. Pro cine cameras and lenses get thrown around on boom arms, strapped to cars, used near fire, smoke and explosions, sandstorms, boats, volanoes, frickin' sharks and lasers. Sure, still cameras get beat up a lot, too, but working cine cameras tend to get beat up a lot more.

Studios and cinematographers are willing to pay hundreds of thousands and millions to buy or rent sturdy, bulletproof lenses because it's a lot cheaper to spend a lot of money on lenses than it is to send your million dollar a day talent and film crew home on a paid day off just because your one lens broke.

This is why when you see film shoots there's usually at least one (or many more) huge panel vans or trucks (that aren't RVs or comfort/craft trailers) parked nearby packed to the rafters with about three of literally everything they need. Extra lenses, camera bodies, batteries, film cans, grips, mounts, lights, stands, spare bolts, spare cables, soldering and repair tools, etc. And gaffer tape by the case. Just in case.

If that location shoot is costing several thousand dollars an hour or much more - and everyone is ready to go including your often quirky/fussy talent and/or the lighting and weather - you really don't want to wait an hour for someone to run to Radio Shack for a soldering iron or something. You want to pull that lens and immediately replace it with an identical and identically calibrated model.

Oh, hey, there's another reason why pro cine lenses are so damn expensive. They're calibrated, or able to be calibrated to very exacting physical and optical values so that your true Depth of Focus is hopefully still known. Ideally. You don't get that with pro-sumer or consumerstill camera optics. Quality and calibration may vary wildly in still film lenses from unit to unit even in the same production run - because it doesn't really matter if your AF (and AE) will more or less automatically compensate for it.

It's kind of like using matched speakers or microphones in audio. When you rent or buy a package of lenses and bodies from a reputable supplier they're all usually closely calibrated to each other so you can replace a malfunctioning lens or body immediately with something that's close enough to identical that it won't be an issue, so the film stock that was shot through two different (but identical) lenses doesn't change too much, so you can edit and splice together and it doesn't look like, well, Manos: The Hands of Fate.

And since I also like talking about subjective aesthetics and I know enough about good still cameras to compare them to my limited exposure to cine lenses and cameras.

You know how when you pick up a really nice still camera lens, and you can feel that weight and balance? The focus, zoom or aperture rings feel alive. They slide and move with just the right amount of "stiction" and friction, like a good pen on paper. Easy to move fast or slow or change speeds - expressive. You can pick up an unmounted lens and peer into its glassy pool of light and dark, rack the f-stop ring and look at the blades, look at the glass and locking rings, the blackness of the interior coating, a lack of dust or spotting - and fit and finish and all that good stuff.

You can get a pretty good eye for how good of a lens it will be based on how much light comes through even to your naked eye, without the camera body. How it's neither blue nor red nor green, just clear like a glass of water. Maybe it's how much the glass glows. Like diamonds or jewels.

Really good cine glass is like that but more. Industrial, no, military grade. They have to use really fast/bright lenses so it's usually really good glass, with much larger primary lenses and different kinds of heavy compound lenses. They're much heavier and bulkier, generally speaking.

It feels like a delicate but terrible jeweled weapon in your hand. Space/nuclear age or something, like it belongs in orbit. That balance of durable and utilitarian but very refined and artistic is really kind of creepy. Cine lens and camera engineers are known weirdosand characters. The entire mechanical history of film is really sort of technologically bizarre and bespoke, with lots of closely guarded secrets. (See Panavision)

Thankfully that's changing, opening the door for more weirdos and lowering the admission price.
posted by loquacious at 2:04 AM on November 4, 2011 [166 favorites]

Loquacious: A satisfyingly detailed comment, thanks for sharing.
posted by the cydonian at 2:33 AM on November 4, 2011

Flagged for awesome, loquacious.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:04 AM on November 4, 2011

I may have gotten some things wrong, but that should be mostly right in plain English.
posted by loquacious at 3:12 AM on November 4, 2011

loquacious, I'll sign up for whatever course you're giving.
posted by tuckshopdilettante at 3:33 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yup, flagged as awesome, favorited, and bookmarked. Where's the sign-up sheet?
posted by likeso at 3:39 AM on November 4, 2011

Cameras... for the 1%.

Considering that renting a Panavision or Arri camera and lens kit for a production will run you well into 4-figures per-day, this Canon kit isn't so bad.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:04 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Point being is that if you try to shoot professional 70mm grade cinematography with even a good DSLR body capable of video combined with a servo-drive autofocus lens, you'll be able to see the autofocus racking back and forth minutely as it tries to keep up with the action and movement.

Thank god they all have that switch that says "AF / MF"
posted by ShutterBun at 4:29 AM on November 4, 2011

loquacious, I'll sign up for whatever course you're giving.

Heh, people keep telling me that. Maybe I need to start a blog or a subscription-based web seminar series or something. "Loq explains random fields of technology he doesn't fully understand himself using plain language and excessive swearing."

I honestly don't really know that much about filmmaking, but I seem to grasp it pretty well - but I promise you there are a few bits I got wrong in the above comment. There are people right here in this thread that actually work in the industry. I just read too much wikipedia and watch too much old ephemeral video on youtube.
posted by loquacious at 4:31 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cameras... for the 1%.

Considering that renting a Panavision or Arri camera and lens kit for a production will run you well into 4-figures per-day, this Canon kit isn't so bad.

So, cameras for the .001% is more likely, then. (unless there are a LOT more professional film producers here than I thought)

Loquacious had some great info on what makes cine lenses different / expensive, but I think to the average reader it's perhaps about as useful as knowing why Learjets are better than propeller planes for corporate travel.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:33 AM on November 4, 2011

Bear in mind, the RED Scarlet is priced in the same range as popular medium format cameras - well within the range of almost any working videographer. In a couple of years, when these hit the secondary market, they'll be affordable for students and avid amateurs... provided RED doesn't just make a model at that price point. I wouldn't put it past them.

This is some awesome stuff.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:38 AM on November 4, 2011

Thank god they all have that switch that says "AF / MF"

Modern servo-drive AF still camera lenses often don't have a direct focus ring. When you turn the "ring" in MF mode it's just an electronic sensor feeding data to the autofocus servo. You can see it "step" on some lenses in the viewfinder if the servo drive is coarse enough.

It's also really annoying if you're used to true manual focus lenses because it's not quite fine enough. It feels like slack in the focus mechanism. You can have your fingertips on the seam between the focus ring and lens body feeling the minute adjustments you're making (or normally would be making on a purely MF lens), but the focus isn't responding until you nudge it just enough.

I'm not saying it's not "good enough" to experiment on making videos/film with a video capable DSLR - people should shoot with whatever they have - but when you're talking about the general concept of a big ticket feature film, they get really particular about how finely you can focus, and how reproducible that focus is. It is (or was) essential to maintaining a consistent tone, look and feel across all the different rolls of footage so it all edits together seamlessly and cleanly.

This is probably slightly less important now that digital film is taking over, since you can process, match and color tweak the hell out of footage in post in ways you couldn't do on film prints and optical effects even if you could afford the gazillion miles of film transfers and reprints - much less the problems of grain degradation when reprinting/processing optically.
posted by loquacious at 4:42 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shutterbun, these aren't toys. They're tools used by professionals. Landscapers pay more for a skid steer loaders.

Amateurs and hobbyists are fine with DSLRs.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:44 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

If Sony can ever ship the NEX-7 (now apparently delayed to March no thanks to the floods) that will be the go-to camera for the students, mark my words. I want one so bad I can taste blood. Tiny, high bitrate codec at 1080P, full manual control during filming, peaking, and you can strap real glass on the front of it. $1300.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:45 AM on November 4, 2011

Shutterbun, these aren't toys. They're tools used by professionals.

Not sure what I might have said to suggest I didn't grasp that fact.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:47 AM on November 4, 2011

Modern servo-drive AF still camera lenses often don't have a direct focus ring. When you turn the "ring" in MF mode it's just an electronic sensor feeding data to the autofocus servo. You can see it "step" on some lenses in the viewfinder if the servo drive is coarse enough.

Yeeeuck. I know what you mean, but I'd assumed those had gone the way of the Dodo by now.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:51 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hacked GF-1, GH-1, and GH-2 still seem pretty revolutionary to me. Especially for the price - if you're happy with 720p you can pick up a used GF-1 for $600, and hack it to 60M bitrates.
posted by anthill at 5:17 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeeeuck. I know what you mean, but I'd assumed those had gone the way of the Dodo by now.

Well, mostly they have and we're rapidly approaching holographic tinfoil stickers for your Hi-Fi vibration-isolated phase-conditioned CD player territory - but you really don't want still-photo style AF and AE (or god forbid aperture priority) on a cine lens. People just don't normally shoot films like that.

That's also changing with these newfangled video DSLRs and new shooting styles. Most people don't care if it's a private Lear Jet or a 737, and most people who pay to watch films like Michael Bay's Transformers probably wouldn't even notice massive, glaring aperture changes in the middle of a continuous shot, since it seems like there's no such thing as a long shot anymore since everything is digitally composited and edited into a three hour long stream of explosions and 2 second jump cuts.

And, well, you just can fix it in post digitally.

Most of what we're discussing really applies to "Academy" films. The old way of doing things. They spent a lot of time and energy working on those optics and the dozens and dozens of schemes of shooting and projecting film and making it really crisp, clear and high definition. How to squeeze the most "realism" out of a single 35mm frame by going anamorphic and widescreen and all that, not to mention stuff like IMAX which is still a massive amount of visual resolution even in the digital age.

Also you can get around film permit fees in lots of places by using a DSLR even though you're shooting motion video, but I wonder how long that's going to last.
posted by loquacious at 5:20 AM on November 4, 2011

I gained a lot of respect for the Red when I saw how it allowed Neveldine/Taylor to actually hold a camera and get intimate with the action in Gamer1. In one of the behind the scenes shots, one of them is on rollerblades and the other is pushing him as they move through a battle scene. The final shot had a terrific, chaotic feel that was still intimate because it stayed on the actor the whole time.

I like any camera that may help bring back the medium-budget, slightly-off-kilter action film (compared to the current gap between "YouTube clip" and "Bay Splosionfest") as well as give indies the polish a lot of them want but haven't been able to attain. Canon's new cameras look to do exactly that.

1A movie I like. Yes, I know you don't.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:35 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Great summary of lens, tnx loquacious. Beyond the glass however, there are many other factors that affect the quality of digital image acquisition, especially as compared to shooting 35mm for film and television. Here is a crazy good three part web series called "The Great Camera Shoot Out" that does a rigorous comparison between the following cameras: ARRI Alexa, Sony F35, Sony PMW-F3, Weiscam HS-2, Cannon 5D Mk II, Cannon 7D, Cannon 1D MK IV, Nikon D7000, Phantom Flex, Panasonic AF-100, Red One MX (Epic wasn't available when they did this) and an ARRI 435 shooting Kodak 5313 and 5219 35mm film. As you'll see, the DSLRs come out last in almost every test as much for their electronics as their lenses. Very interested to see how this new Cannon stacks up.
posted by Dean358 at 5:52 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

to the average reader it's perhaps about as useful as

Yeah, I always apply a strict utilitarian analysis of my time spent browsing the Internet! What are the opportunity costs in reading this comment? Hmm... Yeah, I'll miss a few minutes of Jizz Soaked Nuns III, but it just might be worth it.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:02 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Metafilter: techno-loompas carve them individually out of blocks of unobtanium
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:12 AM on November 4, 2011

Metafilter: Yeah, I'll miss a few minutes of Jizz Soaked Nuns III, but it just might be worth it.
posted by kmz at 6:15 AM on November 4, 2011

It seems like RED has won this round, but does the Canon have any significant advantages?
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:05 AM on November 4, 2011

"Loq explains random fields of technology he doesn't fully understand himself using plain language and excessive swearing."

Hey, if Robert McKee would do that, maybe I'd have some idea what the fuck he's talking about.
posted by Naberius at 7:30 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I should probably be embarrassed to admit this, but as somebody who shoots with both a RED One and a tricked-out Panasonic GH2, I've been using the GH2 quite a bit more lately, like a lot a lot more. It's just so much more flexible. While the difference between the footage is noticeable, it's not twenty plus thousand dollars worth of noticeable.
It just feels like, even with super high-end cameras, the future is in a compact body, huge sensor, and maximum customization. I'm not sure we'll still have big ole shoulder mounted monsters in ten years, it just won't be necessary.
posted by tricolourfree at 7:49 AM on November 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's interesting seeing the interplay between having all the features and professional construction and durability possible in a motion picture camera, butted up against the practical needs of people who just need a light, flexible camera that will shoot footage which will cut into the finished product. We all know that DSLRs and DSLR-like cameras have significant weaknesses when compared with dedicated digital cinema cameras, but in the real world, features get shot with DSLRs, in whole or in part, and the projects still look terrific.

Increased flexibility with regard to sensor size choice is also interesting. Now that there are a variety of credible choices with a variety of sensor sizes, and now that there are fewer films being seen in theaters, it becomes in part a stylistic choice whether to shoot RED or on the Canon C300 on a hacked GH* or on a 7D or on a 5DMk2, to say nothing of other, possibly obsolete technology which people may prefer for their own reasons.

If only there were more reliable, more profitable avenues of funding and distribution for independent film.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:16 AM on November 4, 2011

> Now we just need consumer 4k monitors

And 4K projectors at the movie theater.

It was 13 years ago, but I remember reading about digital internegatives then read (and listened) about the cost of 2K vs. 4K printing back to film. The printing was so expensive that instead of printing distribution copies directly, they'd print some masters and do optical prints of those. By that point, you were well below your 4K or 2K original resolution.

I started looking for it & yeah, most theater exhibition isn't better than (well mastered) Blu-Ray on a good TV. Digital projection started at only 1280x1024 (which wasn't wide enough so they used blasted anamorphic projection lenses for widescreen) with TI DLP for the Phantom Menace. While there are 4K projectors now, "IMAX" 3D is only 2K (x2). I recently had a friend complain of "screen door" at a movie that wasn't even billed as digital projection.

On the gripping hand, if Radio Free Albemuth was distributed digitally, it might be able to play in as many theaters as Beats, Rhymes & Life did.

I know you want to shoot better footage than the final print for latitude in editing and effects, but I expect that "4K" will become a consumer term like HD has and used as a carrot to get home video viewers back into theaters. Don't buy it.
posted by morganw at 8:31 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am so pissed at Evans and Sutherland for dropping their laser 4K projector but I am guessing it cost too much to make just for the military, and there was probably hella speckling (a critical issue with pure laser projection).
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:39 AM on November 4, 2011

Wow, loquacious. Great comments. Thanks.

I'm definitely more toward the stills arena of visuals than cine, but if RED can deliver a cine camera with a large enough sensor that produces sufficient stills quality (eg. comparable with Medium Format Digital Backs such as Phase One's IQ180/Leaf's Aptus II 12R)...then so long as the price point comes in somewhere near the 2008 "announcement" it'll be rather compelling. $45-60k would be really quite compelling.

It'll truly remain to be seen how the footage from these just-announced cameras turns out, when it's actually in end-users' hands. The prices aren't too exorbitant, but RED does seem to have an edge in the current comparison, upcoming reviews and feedback pending.
posted by Neuffy at 10:29 AM on November 4, 2011

It seems like RED has won this round, but does the Canon have any significant advantages?

Looking at the C300's official site, its main selling points seem to be the form factor and ergonomics - it's basically the size of a (medium format) DSLR and weighs only 6 lbs with the grip, monitor and handle, while the Scarlet is 5 lbs body only. And it definitely looks a lot more ergonomical.
posted by daniel_charms at 10:56 AM on November 4, 2011

seanmpuckett: "I am so pissed at Evans and Sutherland for dropping their laser 4K projector but I am guessing it cost too much to make just for the military, and there was probably hella speckling (a critical issue with pure laser projection)"

That's funny, Red is doing a 4k laser projector. It's apparently finished enough that they're doing closed demos, most people seem to think it's going to come out next year. Two models, apparently, one home/smaller screen, and one for cinemas.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:05 AM on November 4, 2011

The speckle problem happens with monochromatic coherent laser light; if RED has beat speckle, they are probably using some other approach. There's a lot of patents in this space, and a lot of almost-made-it-to-market products. Lack of a cost effective direct green semiconductor laser has been a significant hindrance.... I'm not an expert in this realm, though, just a keen observer.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:04 PM on November 4, 2011

Laser projection seems to fall into two categories.

One is direct scanning projection, where three lasers scan the screen similar to a how a CRT works. This is subject to speckle, but is really attractive for a bunch of other reasons, such as potential contrast, resolution, color gamut, power efficiency, and low cost.

The other is using a laser lamphouse, which seems to be what Barco and others are doing. They're basically using a (set of) laser(s) to replace a normal projection lamp, and then bouncing that light off of a LCoS or DLP chip (or three) to create the image. This will be more along the lines of other LCoS/DLP projectors in terms of price, contrast ratio, and resolution, but the advantages would be higher power efficiency, very wide color gamut, and potentially really, really bright projectors.

As usual, no one knows what Red is doing exactly, other than that it's 4k, uses lasers somehow, is very high quality according to some people who have seen a demo, and that it'll come in two models. And, knowing Red, prices will at least not be any higher than those of the competitors.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:55 PM on November 4, 2011

It should be noted, Peter Jackson is using Red Epic cameras (48 of them in pairs) shoot The Hobbit in 3D. (He's also using the 3ality 3D process to film it, which was used to excellent effect in the concert film U23D.)

You can see a video blog post about his process (and see a room full of Red Epics), and if you have red/blue 3D glasses, you can even peek at a bit of concept art which is being hand-drawn in 3D by two artists working next to each other.
posted by hippybear at 3:19 PM on November 4, 2011

Adding to the confusion: don't 4K and 2K refer to columns, while 1080 is rows?

That implies all these 2K intermediates that ultimately go to theaters have barely more resolution than a Blu-ray.
posted by Monochrome at 3:34 PM on November 4, 2011

That implies all these 2K intermediates that ultimately go to theaters have barely more resolution than a Blu-ray.

Well, sort-of.

Blu-ray apparently has a maximum resolution of 1920x1080, but it's stored in either MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 format, which are lossy. I'd assume that the 2K (2048x1556) versions are truly full information stream formats which aren't lossy and provide a greater amount of information per moment than any compressed blu-ray source.
posted by hippybear at 4:01 PM on November 4, 2011

Given the current state of cinema, it becomes an interesting question: who is all of this new technology for? The theater-going public? They've been watching feature films at Blu-Ray resolutions for years without complaint.

The home video market (where most films will end up being seen) currently peaks at Blu-Ray, although digital delivery services such as YouTube are debuting 4k resolutions now & in the near future, but is this a true "breakthrough" or just another case of "using math to sell a product"? (i.e. the videogame "Bit Wars" of the early '90s)

A few years ago, there were scores of surveys being bandied around stating that the average home viewer had a hard time telling the difference between a 720p and a 1080p image at home. Are filmmakers now going to tell them that they need a 4K projector at home in order to fully appreciate a film? Will the next step be to determine the maximum resolving power of the human eye and develop the "retina projector" similar to the iPhone 4 display?

I'm a pretty big camera geek, but I'm still kinda wondering what the story is here, with regard to this FPP, beyond highlighting some industry elbow-shoving and maybe some good news to mid-level movie producers.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:02 AM on November 5, 2011

> I honestly don't really know that much about filmmaking

Loquacious, if that's just your 'amateur enthusiast' take on the subject, you must be pretty mind-blowing on the topics you claim to actually know something about. Let me know when that webinar is up and running.

In fact, to all the commenters: this has been a helluva interesting and informative thread. Thank you.
posted by tuckshopdilettante at 5:10 AM on November 6, 2011

I'm a pretty big camera geek, but I'm still kinda wondering what the story is here, with regard to this FPP, beyond highlighting some industry elbow-shoving and maybe some good news to mid-level movie producers.

I think it's a story of the changing function of digital cameras, of two different strategies of responding to the DSLR video revolution. Canon, whose 5D Mark II camera basically first made "cinematic looks" affordable to indies and amateurs, seems to have recognized the shortcomings of a stills camera adapted to making video and is now touting a "DSLR without the shortcomings of a DSLR at not that much more than the price of a DSLR". RED has responded with the same thing they've been doing, except (I presume) smaller in size, with a few less features and at a lower price. Both are emphasizing completely different qualities, something that most people, who are only focusing on megapixel and framerate numbers, seem to have missed: RED, with their higher specs and lossless recording, seems to have banked on superior picture quality and versatility through modularity, while Canon has focused on production speed, size and ergonomics at the cost of picture quality. Neither product is really revolutionary in itself, but both signal a demand for more affordable "cinematic" cameras, which will not only make low-budget filmmakers happier but also affect the way we see the world through films by changing the way these films look.
posted by daniel_charms at 8:12 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that the Red's are pretty, but they crash a lot and they're ridiculously easy to rent in LA.
posted by effugas at 1:04 PM on November 6, 2011

Thanks, daniel_charms, that's exactly the kind of explanation I was looking for.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:29 PM on November 7, 2011

« Older Occupy, eh?   |   Journey ends Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments