Frame.io is now a widely used media collaboration platform and the company claim to have gained more than 50,000 members in just six months. Version 1.1 has just been released and adds more than 100 new features and improvements. The Final Cut Pro Companion app has also been updated. Key features of the web app version 1.1 are:
• New Private Team Files & Folders – Hallelujah. You can now set files and folders to be invisible from collaborators.
• New Collaborator Permissions – You can now restrict collaborators from downloading, sharing, or inviting other collaborators.
• New Project Sharing – When project sharing is turned on, anyone with the link can join. It’s a great way to invite large groups of collaborators without having to invite them individually.
• New Real Time Upload Status – Now all participants of a project can see upload progress in real time which can eliminate lots of confusion.
• Expanded keyboard shortcuts – You can now use the arrow keys to navigate through thumbnails, Spacebar to Quicklook, Esc to exit, Enter key to enter the player, and Esc key again to exit the player.
The Final Cut Pro Companion app 1.1 gain the following:
• Added support for queuing.
• Drag and Drop upload from the desktop.
• Acts as standalone uploader with or without FCP-X.
• Custom export locations allow access to rendered FCPX Media.
• Convert FCPX markers into timestamped Frame.io comments.
• Added options to choose marker types when exporting only clips with markers.
• New reduced bandwidth option.
And while ‘Saving Private Damon’ might not be quite the right look for your next project, there’s also a tutorial on getting started with LUTs in your workflow, which is bound to be useful if you haven’t yet read our technical editor’s epic post on the subject.
SmallHD Gives Away Color Grades that Recreate Looks from Seven Iconic Films and Teaches You Exactly How to Use Them.
Cary, North Carolina: August 19, 2015 — SmallHD, known for groundbreaking, compact, Full HD on-camera monitors announces that they are giving away a free set of color grades that recreate the unique look of seven different iconic films, and are also publishing multiple video tutorials explaining how to get the most out of these looks during both production and post production—all 100% free of charge.
“Color grading will soon be critical to every shooter’s workflow,” says Wes Phillips, CEO. “We’re giving away this free pack of looks and color grading educational material to provide a fun entry point into the world of working with 3D LUTs.”
Provided in a small downloadable .zip file, the color grades come in the form of 3D LUT files (3D “lookup tables”) originally designed in DaVinci Resolve. Visually iconic films such as Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix, and Moonrise Kingdom are among the seven free color grades.
Designed to help teach filmmakers who are not yet versed in the use of color grades, the tutorial video outlines the capabilities and advantages of applying LUTs or “looks” to footage during actual shoots. The tutorial is tailored for developing new looks on the popular free DaVinci Resolve color grading software. The video tutorials and 3D LUTs download are both available on the Community section of SmallHD’s website http://www.smallhd.com/community/movie-looks-download
Filmmakers have long known that recording flat or LOG video, with its low contrast image, offers great advantages to the post-production process by preserving as much data as possible. However, viewing this flat video can make it tricky to gauge color and exposure, and can make critical focus difficult. Further, looking at raw images can also be disconcerting for an on-site client, where the filmmakers have to constantly explain what the imagery “will look like in post.”
The solution is applying 3D LUTs to the video shown in the on-set monitor, without altering the footage recorded from the camera itself. 3D LUTs are pre-defined profiles applied to the monitoring of a camera to give a representation of a corrected image or an image with a specific gamma curve. Creating a custom LUT is a step further. It can be an on-set tool providing a representation of the final desired image.
SmallHD offers seven different 3D LUTs, each emulating the look of a popular motion picture. As a starting point, a shooter or DIT readying for a specific location can apply one of these looks to test footage from the location using the DaVinci color grading software. That look can then be modified so the test footage has just the look desired when it is out of post-production. SmallHD clearly explains the process, step by step.
Displaying the on-set video with the look applied is made simple with SmallHD’s newest firmware upgrade to its 500 Series five-inch Full HD monitors. The firmware upgrade enables the monitor’s output to carry the LUT information to other monitors on-set. This feature will be resident in future monitors developed by SmallHD and likely other manufacturers will follow suit.
Camera and accessories, packed and ready to fly… or are they?
Airlines are currently reducing the weight and size limits for carry-on bags, which could spell trouble if you’re expecting to be able to take camera gear into the cabin on a flight rather than trust it to the tender mercies of the baggage handlers.
The use of drones in public spaces has become a contentious issue in many countries. Lawmakers worried about public safety issues are increasingly legislating against flying in or near populated areas. In the UK, for example, it is illegal to fly commercially in populated areas without special clearances, a drone that meets the correct specifications and certification. Even then, you can’t fly close to the public.
In an attempt to allay fears of drones flying out of the control of their operators and crashing into people or property, some drone operators have been tethering their craft to the ground. This prevents flyaways and gives people around it a clear visual indication of the drone’s presence. It also makes it easier for the operator to clear people out of a safety zone around him or her, with the tether as its radius.
At the NAB show earlier this year we saw the Fotokite, a professional tethered solution that was designed for broadcasters and commercial operators. It had several intelligent features that made launching and flying the device safer and much easier. This version cost several thousand Euros and has been used by news organisations like the BBC.
Today, Perspective Robotics AG have launched an Indiegogo campaign to sell a consumer version of the Fotokite, priced at just $349 US. The Fotokite Phi uses much of the technology from the professional version but at a much lower price point.
The Fotokite Phi can be used indoors
The Fotokite Phi is designed to fit easily into backpacks or suitcases and weighs a mere 12 ounces. Despite the low weight it can carry a GoPro 3, 3+ or 4 camera. There is a 26 foot leash included and this signals to bystanders that the drone is in operation. Power is from a swappable internal battery that will give up to 15 minutes flight time and can be charged via USB.
The company say that the design has already received special exemptions to be flown near crowds in Switzerland and France. They are seeking similar exemptions from the FAA in the US.
Unlike more professional tethered drones the Fotokite Phi does not provide power along the tether cable, but at the price this is hardly surprising.
The drone packs into a tube for transport
There is no brushless gimbal, although the company says it has a vibration stabilisation system (similar to the one used in this sledding video). They say this is primarily to save weight, but whether this will be good enough for professional productions remains to be seen.
Once launched, the drone can be directed in two ways. The first is by holding down the button of the “smart leash” and moving your wrist. The second is via an Android app. The firm says an iOS version may be possible in future, though it’s not promising.
You can control the Phi’s movements using simple hand gestures
I can see this Fotokite Phi becoming a standard piece of news gathering kit for budget-minded news shooters and documentary makers, provided that the drone gets the appropriate exemptions for use. We will be following the progress of this one closely.
As the first shipments of the new Freefly ALTA are beginning to reach users, Brooklyn Aerials have created a short film that shows off the drone’s potential. The ALTA can carry cameras like the RED Epic or ARRI Alexa MINI mounted on the top side of the craft, instead of the usual underslung position. This allows for upwards looking shots at angles that were previously unattainable.
Drew English, Michael Marantz and Tim Sessler shot “Nostalgia” in New York State and Western Massachusetts with a pre-production ALTA and a RED Epic Dragon monochrome camera. A Movi M15 gimbal was attached to the ALTA and the lenses were old Leica R (19, 24, 50, 135mm) with a B+W Deep BW IR and 720nm IR filters.
According to Brooklyn Aerials, “The goal of this project was to experiment with new ways to capture images with a “drone”. Every shot needed to feel different than what we were used to seeing being done with drones these days. As a result, high altitude, wide-angle shots had been banned from the concept before we even started shooting.” For more information on the shoot you can head over to brooklynaerials.com
About the Freefly ALTA: The Freefly ALTA is a professional drone that can take payloads up to 15 pounds (6.8kg) enabling it to carry cameras such as the RED Dragon, Sony F55, and ALEXA Mini. The ALTA has been designed so you can unpack, set it up and be ready to shoot in under five minutes. According to Freefly it is easy to fly, powerful, rigid, adaptable, reliable, and optimized for large payloads. The ALTA retails for $8495US.
Longtime Newsshooter contributor Clinton Harn has just posted a review of the S1 Shark Slider from iFootage. The S1 Shark is one of a new generation of sliders that uses twin carbon fibre rods for reduced weight. The Chinese made slider also features a flywheel and belt system for smoother moves. Clinton has been using the slider for several months not on jobs and seems to be happy with the results. In the video he runs through the main features of the slider and explains what he likes about it.
The S1 Shark to be very compact and light weight. All excess weight has been trimmed off the design, making it easy to carry around in its custom carry case. The company claim that the carbon fibre they uses has eight layers which enhances the stability of the track and makes it less susceptible to warping in the long term. The slider can be deployed from the carry case – it can simply be placed on the ground using the built-in leg supports, or attached to a tripod or light stands.
The problem with most conventional sliders are that they are fixed length, which either means they are either quite short, or so long that they don’t fit into a suitcase when travelling. One incredibly useful feature of the S1 Shark is the ability to extend the length of their slider by attaching extra carbon fiber rods and exchanging the rubber drive belt for a longer one (these are optional extras that can be bought separately of as part of a kit). Adding an extra extension kit to the basic S1 Shark will make it to 1200cm long. Add yet another extension and you get a massive 1800cm of slide range. Extending the rods is however a little fiddly as you have to change the drive belt each time you add a section. Also the stability of the slider does diminish as the length increases and I would recommend sturdy tripods or stands to brace the slider as the length increases. Even so it does allow for a lot of flexibility for such a lightweight and compact system If you travel regularly and need the sort of slide distances the S1 Shark offers, then it is certainly worth a look.
The S1 Shark is certainly an interesting option for the shooter on the go. It faces stiff competition from the likes of the Varavon, Konova, the Cinevate Duzi, and the ever popular Kessler range. One thing that the iFootage does have in its favour is the price. You can purchase the slider directly from their online store on Amazon. The bundle kit is available for $700US and the standard version is $630US.
Most factual shooters can only dream of using anamorphic lenses for their productions. The distinctive distorted bokeh and streaky lens flares are usually the domain of the movies and high end TV drama. Historically these lenses were designed to squeeze the image to allow cinematographers to shoot widescreen films, using regular aspect ratio 35mm film cameras. The films shot this way are then shown using anamorphic projection lenses so that they display in the correct widescreen aspect ratio on the cine screen. Byproducts of the process were the optical distortions and flares that we now think of as the anamorphic look. In the digital age it is actually these imperfections that have many DPs wanting to shoot anamorphic.
Anamorphic cine lenses from Panavision, Hawk, Cooke, Zeiss, Lomo and Kowa can cost tens of thousands of dollars and in some cases you can’t buy the one you want even if you have the money. Most of these lenses squeeze the image 2x, which creates the cine standard 2.39:1 aspect ratio image from a 4 perf 35mm film (Wikipedia has a good explanation of this here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anamorphic_format ). To get the 2.39:1 aspect in the digital world you can either 2x squeeze the image (using your editing software) from a 4:3 sensor camera like some ARRI Alexa models and Panasonic’s GH4 (and then very slightly crop it), or take a regular 16:9 aspect sensor image and squeeze it 2x, then crop in at the sides. The advantage of shooting with a 4:3 sensor with existing 2x lenses is that more of the image circle of the lens is used vertically at any given focal length.
If you do shoot with a 16×9 sensor you can simply leave the image uncropped, which results in the ultra-letterbox image that you see at the top of this page (more on this later). Alternatively you can crop the image at both sides provided you have enough sharpness and resolution. Below is the same video seen at the start of this article, but cropped to the 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
A few years ago, shooters looking for affordable alternatives started taking vintage anamorphic convertors – many designed for projection purposes – and adapting them to fit onto the front of regular lenses. They usually stretch the image 1.5x or 2x. These can work quite nicely but are becoming increasingly scarce and most of the cheaper ones don’t render a particularly good image. In addition, the add-on lens design requires both the main lens and the anamorphic adapter to be separately focused (with the exception of the clever ISCO lenses) and this can be impractical for real world shooting.
Vintage Anamorphic lenses like this ISCO have become sought after
Third-party makers SLR Magic and Letus have stepped in to offer modern day counterparts, but until now all of these have had the same problem of requiring the operator to focus the main lens and the anamorphic adapter separately. They have also been limited to squeeze ratios of less than 2x, the previous SLR magic adapter being just 1.33x. So why not stick with 1.33x or 1.5x? Even though 2x is harder to achieve, it’s desirable to many shooters because it looks more “anamorphic” – the increased distortion of the bokeh is exactly what they want.
Another issue with anamorphic lenses is that they have limited close-focusing capabilities. With some add-on lenses the closest focus is several metres away. The solution to this is to add close-up diopter lenses that can reduce the minimum focus, but take time to attach.
The latest combination of equipment from SLR Magic aims to provide an affordable and easily manageable alternative for people who don’t have access to anamorphic cine lenses. There are two key parts – the 2x Anamorphot anamorphic adapter and the brand new Rangefinder variable diopter. The Rangefinder name refers to the idea that it is a measuring instrument. Distance can be measured by looking at the markings on the lens.
The Anamorphot is a substantial hunk of glass, but manageable. Looking down the barrel you will see the blue/purple coatings which create the anamorphic flares. It has a 62mm filter thread at its rear that allows you to mount it to your main lens, and a 77mm thread at the front for attaching filters. Step rings can be used if you have a lens with smaller diameter front threads. The Anamorphot is then paired with the main lens of your choice – although this must meet the right criteria. The front element of the lens should be no larger than about 50mm in diameter, and I found that when using a Super35 16×9 crop sensor the focal length needs to be around 50mm. If you are using a full frame sensor then I would recommend trying lenses from 70mm upwards. Because the adapter is not built to fit specific stills lenses a perfect match is hard to attain. SLR Magic have signalled that in the future they will make their own complete Anamorphic solution with matched lens and adapter.
The Anamorphot has the distinctive oval shape optics and purple/blue reflections.
With stills lenses SLR Magic recommend that you set the lens no wider than about f4 to keep the image usable – although you can go faster if you like the dreamy look. In testing, I paired it with an old Leica R 60mm f2.8 macro and also a Minolta 58mm f1.2.
When you look at the front of an anamorphic lens the elements look oval and not round. The adapter needs to be attached and carefully aligned with the main lens. If it is slightly off axis then vertical lines will appear to be skewed and generally this looks bad. To make sure this is done correctly you can follow the instructions in this video from SLR Magic:
The Rangefinder variable diopter on the Anamorphot
Like other Anamorphic adapters the Anamorphot can be focused from near to far and can be used in a dual focus arrangement. What transforms it into a more usable setup is the Rangefinder.
The Rangefinder is a focusable diopter lens that is attached to the front of the anamorphic lens and provides a single focus ring for the whole setup. It comes in two versions and the more expensive cine version is required for the Anamorphot.
To use it you set both the main lens and Anamorphot adapter at infinity, and then focus normally using just the Rangefinder. You can also focus down to around 3ft 6” without the need for additional diopter filters. This is genius.
The focus ring has a rotation of 240 degrees and is cine-geared for use with follow and remote focus. This is ideal if you are shooting with a remote focus system or follow focus, but makes it hard to focus with a hand on the lens (in common with most cine lenses). It took me several turns to get from one end to the other. It is nice and smooth, though, and has witness markings to make a focus puller’s life easier. The Rangefinder has a special locking thread system that allows the adaptor to be rotated so the marks are visible and lined up where you want them.
The front of the Rangefinder rotates, which is bad news if you planned to use a variable ND filter or clip-on matte box. The front of the Rangefinder also extends when you focus closer – making it hard to use with rail-mounted matte boxes. The simplest filter solution is to use a camera with built-in ND filters. If you don’t, then you need to screw 82mm filters into the Rangefinder’s front thread. 82mm is not the most common filter size so the extra cost of ND filters will have to be factored in if you need them to work in daylight with your camera. SLR Magic tell me that they are working on an affordable set of 82mm ND filters that will be of high quality.
The Rangefinder can also work with vintage Anamorphics like this Sankor 2x
The Rangefinder isn’t restricted to working with the 2x Anamorphot. It can work with many other vintage anamorphic adapters. EOSHD.com has tested the Rangefinder with a vintage Kowa 2x anamorphic and reported good results. There will be cheaper versions with 72mm, 58mm, or 52mm thread sizes for $299 US, but without the witness markings.
It can also work on stills lenses without an anamorphic adapter. Used this way it can provide cine geared focussing for many stills lenses of 35mm or longer (in full-frame). The stills lens is set to infinity and all focusing is done with the Rangefinder. When paired with Nikon lenses it has the benefit of correcting the focus direction too. This is potentially a great way to make stills lenses more usable, although there will be some trade off in resolution, distortion and flare. We aim to test this in the future. Andrew Chan of SLR Magic explains this use in the video below:
The combination of Rangefinder, Anamorphot and main lens is pretty cumbersome. I would recommend using a lens support system and rails to keep everything secure. Despite its quirks, what you end up with is a long but usable lens arrangement that, when set up properly, handles much like a proper anamorphic cinema lens. But what are the results like and what is it like to work with?
To find out I paired it with my Sony a7R II and headed out into the streets of London.
My friend James Tonkin trying out the Anamorphot/Rangefinder combination
The first thing you learn when shooting anamorphic lenses is that getting your verticals straight is critical. Even the slightest amount of lean can look very odd unless you want to achieve a ‘starship about to go into warp’ effect (see the video below). After trying handheld shooting for a day I rapidly came to the conclusion that using a solid tripod like my Sachtler Video18P was a much better idea. Taking time to make sure each shot was 100% levelled was important.
I decided I would shoot my test with the a7R II in S35 mode, aiming for a super-letterboxed 3.56:1 final aspect. I knew that this could be cropped in post to a more conventional 2.39:1 later. With a Minolta 58mm f1.2 lens set around f4 had lovely bokeh but were pretty soft as you can see in this video which I shot with my friend James Tonkin of Hangman Studios:
After trying various other lenses I decided that the Leica 60mm macro set at between f4.5 and F5.6 was a better bet for the look I was after – I prefer a sharper image, although on the down side this means the anamorphic distortion is less obvious. With the Leica, the image stays reasonably sharp towards the edges of the frame.
To attach the lens to the Anamorphot, all I needed was a 55-62mm step ring. The next step is to check that infinity is set correctly. First set the Anamorphot at infinity, point the camera at a point on the horizon, then focus the main lens so it is in sharp focus. Most of the time this will mean the main lens is simply set to infinity, but in the case of my Leica it was actually a bit closer than that. When this is done the witness markings should be accurately set for focus pulling if that is the way you work.
The Leica 60mm with Anamorphot both set to infinity.
To keep the whole setup together and secure I put camera and lens onto my Zacuto VCT baseplate and used a Zacuto lens support which straps down the lens, preventing unintended movement. I then attached an Atomos Shogun 4K recorder to allow me to monitor the image and record it in Prores 4:2:2. The Shogun had the ability to display anamorphic aspect ratios added in a recent firmware update and this makes everything much easier to compose (like other smaller cameras the a7R II can’t display anamorphic footage squeezed on its built-in EVF and monitor). If you are looking to output at 2.39:1 from a 2x with a 16:9 sensor then you will still need to add some extra markings with tape on the display. Also, focus magnification on the Shogun seems to be disabled when in anamorphic mode, so I ended up relying on the a7R II’s built-in display magnifier for focus checking.
Filming in London’s Chinatown with the Atoms Shogun and Zacuto VCT setup
It is worth mentioning that critical focusing with the a7R II in the viewfinder or rear screen isn’t as clear as it should be. For some reason, when magnified, the image preview is a bit soft, even though the recorded image is sharp. If you are shooting S-Log 2 then the lack of contrast makes this doubly difficult. When working with anamorphics, this makes things very tricky. (note: You can record video while the camera is in photo mode and this gives a sharper magnification function. The downside is that there seems to be a gamma shift when recording is triggered making exposure hard to judge prior to recording).
I was extremely impressed with the low light footage from the combination. The camera performed very well and the anamorphic flares that the Rangefinder/Anamorphot combination produces are very attractive. I did add flares to a couple of the shots by shining my iPhone’s torch at the lens from just out of shot – I might have overdone it, but this was for fun after all.
The 3.56:1 footage at the start of this article was edited in Premiere and given a quick grade using FilmConvert. Below is an ungraded version:
On the downside, the Anamorphot adapter doesn’t allow you to go very wide. For establishing shots and general views you really need a wider lens; something like a 30mm would be ideal for the a7R II. Hopefully there will be larger and wider 2x Anamorphic adapters or lenses in the future at a reasonable price.
So, would I actually use this set-up for one of my productions? Frankly, I have never seen a DSLR or compact system camera produce a result so filmic, so if a client were up for it I would definitely be prepared to give it a go. It would have to be the right kind of shoot, though; one where I can control most of what goes on and that mainly uses tripods or sliders. Even though the Anamorphot/Rangefinder combination is a huge step forward in usability, it is still best suited to a crew environment where there is someone else to worry about focus and talent that can hit the right marks at the right moment.
Not being able to go wider than about 50mm (on Super35) is another issue. The obvious solution is to shoot those shots normally on a wide angle and then simply crop them, hoping that for the time they are on screen no one will notice. Close focus is limited for practically all anamorphic lenses. This limits their usability but with a planned shoot this is something you can work around.
Handheld shooting can be done, but be prepared for a high percentage failure rate – getting the camera dead level and nailing focus is hard. Having to rotate the focus ring 240 degrees to go from close focus to infinity is just too much to cope with. For most faster-paced documentary stuff it isn’t really practical.
Still, this is a great fun bit of kit, and one that can bring some serious production value to your footage if you put in the effort. If you can sell the look to your clients, go for it.
These days it seems that brushless gimbals are everywhere. They are being used on productions big and small, and not just for handheld work. The stabilising power of the gimbals like the DJI Ronin, MoVI or Letus Helix can be used to control and stabilise the camera when mounted just about anywhere. One obvious place to mount a brushless gimbal is on the hood of your vehicle, and Rigwheels have just made that a whole lot easier.
The Rigmount XL in ‘hostess tray’ mode for the side of your vehicle
The new RigMount XL is an oversized platform that magnetically attaches to your vehicle, or any suitable surface, to form a solid connection. The gimbal is then attached to the RigMount XL via an adapter plate. The increased weight of the camera plus gimbal, and its raised centre of gravity, require some seriously strong magnets. Thankfully the Rigmout XL magnets provides 400 pounds of pulling force as standard and more can be added for up to a total of 1000 pounds pulling force. This means that regular road speeds shouldn’t be an issue for the mount, but wind resistance can out course become an issue for the gimbals themsleves. Rigwheels say that with smooth roads you can expect good results at normal driving speeds.
The Rigmount XL can also be mounted in a low mode
If a car has a lot of curves and contours the magnets can be swapped out for the company’s A-Cup suction cups which more easily conform to curved surfaces.
Rigwheels have been testing predominantly with Movi and Ronin, which make up a large percentage of the professional market. They will offer adapter plates for gimbal mounting that are specific to different models. These are not included in the kits. RigWheels will have a Ronin-M plate available next month for $99 and a Movi plate soon thereafter. Third party mounting plates should also work.
The RigMount XL with vacuum cup option
The magnetic version of the RigMount XL starts at $425, with the top model with 12 magnets and eight suction cups priced at $750. For full details visit the Rigwheels website.
This from Rigwheels:
“Brushless gimbals have quickly become a regular part of day to day production for many of us. Over the last couple years we have received countless inquiries about mounting gimbals with our RigMount X products so we’ve tailored these new larger configurations for exactly that. Mounting a gimbal involves more weight as well as raising the center of gravity of the rig. This requires a mounting platform with a wider stance which RigMount XL delivers. The standard magnetic setup provides up to 400 pounds of pulling force and additional magnets can be added for up to 1000 pounds of pulling force. Several suction options are also available. Systems will begin shipping early September with with a few tweaks to the parts which are in production now.”