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Zacuto Z-finder for Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera now available for pre-order

By site editor Dan Chung:

First Look at the Zacuto Blackmagic Pocket Camera Z-Finder from Zacuto on Vimeo.

Zacuto have opened up pre-orders for their latest product, the Z-finder for Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera. I have personally been waiting for this product for a while now since first seeing a prototype at the IBC show in Amsterdam. I know there are alternative loupes around for the BMPCC now but I have always preferred to use a Zacuto finder if possible thanks to the excellent optics and the clip-on mount system.

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The original Z-finder is a poor fit on the Pocket Cinema Camera because of its larger 3.5 inch screen. The new Z-finder covers it perfectly and yet remains lightweight enough to be attached with an adhesive frame. Also new is an add-on diopter system with 4 diopters, 0, +1, +2, and +3. This allows users to correct for their vision without adding weight and bulk.

The new diopters (including the 0 diopter) have anti-fog coatings which Zacuto claim are guaranteed not to fog even with extreme humidity changes.

It can be pre-ordered here for $150 US.

Disclosure: Newsshooter is an affiliate partner of Zacuto

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Posted on December 23rd, 2013 by Dan Chung | Category: Blackmagic design, DSLR video news | Permalink | Comments (0)

IBC 2013 Teradek replay: Talking audio with Clinton Harn and Zacuto’s Steve Weiss

By site editor Dan Chung:

IBC 2013 – News Shooter discusses Today’s Audio with Steve Weiss and Clinton Ham from Teradek on Vimeo.

In this replay of our Teradek live show at IBC our technical editor Matt Allard and I talk about how to get better audio with our fellow contributor Clinton Harn and Zacuto’s Steve Weiss. Many shooters don’t seem to prioritise audio in their productions and Clinton and Steve want to remedy that.

I’m also guilty of not paying enough attention to audio here on the blog, so look out for more sound related posts and gadgets in the future.

If you want a good primer on audio for real world production then a good place to start is by watching Clinton’s sound series on the Zacuto website.

An Introduction to Sound Series with Clinton Harn from Zacuto on Vimeo.

Zacuto Sound Series – Location Sound Car Interior Audio Samples Pt 2 from Zacuto on Vimeo.

It was not without irony that I found myself discussing sound on an IBC show floor stage that had poor audio (and some robotic cameras that for seemed to have a mind of their own during this show). Hopefully we can work with Teradek’s hard working production team to remedy this the next time we do a live show.

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Posted on September 20th, 2013 by Dan Chung | Category: Audio | Permalink | Comments (0)

IBC 2013: Zacuto quick release tripod plate system

By site editor Dan Chung:

IBC 2013: Zacuto quick release tripod plate from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

Newsshooter.com site editor Dan Chung talks to Zacuto about their new quick release tripod plate that integrates with their Recoil system.

Shot by Clinton Harn.

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Posted on September 15th, 2013 by Dan Chung | Category: Camera support systems, Tripods and monopods | Permalink | Comments (0)

IBC 2013: Zacuto Z-drive, EVF mount and cage complete the Recoil system

By technical editor Matt Allard:

IBC 2013: Zacuto Z-drive, EVF mount and cage complete Recoil system from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

Zacuto were showing some refinements to their Recoil shoulder mount systems at IBC this week. We had seen the prototypes at NAB in April, but now most of the system is actually shipping. I think adding controls to both hands when using a grip relocator with the new Z-drive and Tornado combination is one of the best ways to handhold cameras like the Canon C100 and C300.

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Posted on September 15th, 2013 by Matthew Allard | Category: Camera support systems | Permalink | Comments (0)

Video: Duy Linh Tu demonstrates his Canon 5D mkIII documentary shooting setup

By site editor Dan Chung:

Large sensor camcorders like the Canon C300, Canon C100 and Sony FS700 have become very popular amongst documentary filmmakers in recent months, but DSLR still remains the number one choice of many. Some shooters continue to use DSLR simply because they feel it makes financial sense – their cameras were paid off and the clients they work for aren’t demanding a better image quality at this point in time, so why change? I know several shooters who continue to use their trusty 5Ds in preference to the newer offerings because they prefer the look of the images and the size and weight of the camera. One of those is Newsshooter contributor Duy Linh Tu of Columbia J-school. He’s the first to admit that DSLRs aren’t designed to be run-and-gun cameras but has overcome many of issues with a fairly simple setup. He’s put together the excellent video below detailing his documentary setup with the 5D mkIII.

Canon 5D Mark III Video Rig from Duy Linh Tu on Vimeo.

Below is the list of the gear Duy used in the video:

Canon EOS 5D mkIII Digital Camera Kit with Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM AF Lens

Sound Devices MixPre-D Compact Field Mixer

Sound Devices XL-CAM Camera Mount Bracket for MixPre-D

Sound Devices XL3 Mini Male to TA3-F Connector Cable is a 12″ Link from a Sound Devices MixPre/MP-2 Tape Output to a 442/302 Series Mix Input

Hosa Technology Stereo Mini Angled Male to Stereo Angled Mini Male Cable – 8

Redrock Micro DSLR Baseplate

Redrock Micro DSLR Mini Tripod Platform

Redrock Micro microMount 3-Pack (w/out Spuds)

Redrock Micro microSpud (3x)

Redrock Micro 8-011-0004 15mm Carbon Fiber Rod (9″, Pair)

Redrock Micro 8-011-0006 15mm Carbon Fiber Rod (4″, Pair)

Zacuto EVF Pro (3.2″)

Zacuto Z-ZCM Zicro Mini

Rode NTG-3 Precision RF-Biased Shotgun Microphone

Pearstone DUSM-1 Universal Shock Mount for Camera Shoes and Boompoles

Like Duy I have large sensor cameras at my disposal. I can choose to shoot Canon C300 or Sony F3 for any assignment I want, but even so I recently purchased a Canon 1D C for documentary work. For me there is still an allure to shooting DSLR video, it is somehow more intimate when shooting with a DSLR. While other cameras are technically better I feel that most of the time the image recorded on the 1 DC is somehow closer to the one I wanted when I shot it. I still love the C300 and its the best all round camera for my daily work, but I find myself reaching for my DSLR more and more.

If you want to know more about Duy and his work you can follow his tumblr here.

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Posted on July 11th, 2013 by Dan Chung | Category: Camera support systems, Canon EOS 5D MkIII, documentary | Permalink | Comments (3)

Broadcast Asia 2013: Zacuto FS700 grip relocator

By technical editor Matt Allard:

Broadcast Asia 2013: Zacuto Sony FS700 grip relocator from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

Zacuto have been very busy lately making bits for all the latest cameras, many of which were on show at the Cathay Photo booth at Broadcast Asia 2013. They now offer grip relocators for Sony FS700 and FS100 camcorder, as well as the Canon C100/C300/C500. These move the manufacturer’s original handgrip from the side of the camera to a more comfortable position on your rig. We’ve previously seen the Canon version but the Sony FS700 one is a little cooler. It allows servo zoom control with the grip’s rocker when you use Sony’s 18-200 servo zoom lens. In this configuration the FS700 is probably the closest you can get to a large sensor ENG camera without laying out serious cash for something like the Fujinon Cabrio zoom lens.

Video shot and edited by Clinton Harn.

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Posted on June 24th, 2013 by Matthew Allard | Category: Camera support systems | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Sony FS700 = A perfect documentary tool?

Guest post by Sam Price-Waldman:

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Here’s a picture of my final configuration, before heading out into the field

I was in Ethiopia recently, as cinematographer for Talkingstick Pictures on a documentary about the transformation of Ethiopia’s agriculture system. Over the course of two weeks, I found myself shooting in a crowded marketplace in Addis Ababa, shooting oxen plowing through large dirt fields, and living with a small family in the countryside.

For this project, I chose to use the Sony FS700, a camera that features a super-35mm size sensor, built-in NDs, super slow motion, and wide dynamic range. The downsides of the camera are well documented: boxy ergonomics and ‘video-like’ image quality, especially when compared to the Canon C300. I’m writing this in hope that it might help future cinematographers considering the FS700 for documentary work.

Documentary Reel 2012 from Sam Price-Waldman on Vimeo.

Ultimately, what steered me to the FS700 over the C100/C300 was the ability to use the Metabones Speed Booster, an adapter for Canon EF lenses that gives an extra stop of light and the effective field of view of a Canon 5D (not the Super35 crop factor, as with the C300). For documentary hand-held work, I prefer to shoot with the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS lens, a beautifully sharp, smooth lens, with macro and image stabilisation. With the crop factor of the C300, the wide end is still quite constraining, and difficult for on-the-fly scenes but, with the Speed Booster, I was able to get the full 24mm field of view and the brightness of a f/2.8 aperture.

Once the camera was decided on, I was left with two main obstacles for shooting: focusing, and hand-held work. For focus assistance, I decided to use the SmallHD DP6 monitor. For hand-held shooting, I decided to give Borrowlenses’ FS100/FS700/F3 Zacuto system a try. I must give a big thank you to both SmallHD and Borrowlenses.com, who were both extremely supportive of the project, and allowed me to review the gear.

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Shooting in the field

Handheld rig
The Zacuto rig I used is very solidly constructed. I decided to use it without the included counterweight, as I felt it was adding unnecessary bulk. I removed the handgrip arms and replaced them with a Zacuto FS700 grip relocator, which I had to buy separately. The grip relocator comes with a 12in LANC extension cable, which I didn’t find necessary. The rig also includes the Zacuto EVF, which I decided not to use. I wanted to make my set up as minimal as possible, and the EVF just isn’t big enough to use as a monitor. It also has an annoying half-second delay over HDMI with the FS700.

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Monitor
The SmallHD DP6 is a beautiful monitor with both HDMI and SDI input, a 1280×800 display with peaking, FocusAssist+, and false colour on the ready. It also has an optional battery plate for Canon LP-E6 batteries and a sun hood for shooting in daylight.

I chose the DP6 over other similar monitors, as it was a relatively small size, but large enough to focus with, and I’d heard great things about the focus peaking.

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In action
On a tripod, the FS700 is brilliant. The dynamic range of this camera is fantastic, and the images are sharp, with accurate colours. I really can’t compare to the C300 until I’ve done hands-on tests, but I can say that I was really happy with the images. The AVCHD codec also holds up surprisingly well for colour grading, and just playing around with a few shots, I was happy with how much detail I could pull from shadows and highlights.

Handheld, the FS700 isn’t quite as wonderful. The rig is solid and well-built, and has lots of great options for moving pieces around. In preparing the camera/rig, I did my best to make it as minimal and balanced as possible, and I think I got very close to the ideal configuration. I was able to have my left hand on the focus/zoom and my right hand on the grip. There were times when I got along great with it, filming in tight, dimly lit interiors, where I could make smooth movements and think about what I was shooting. The rig went easily on and off the tripod, and wasn’t too heavy.

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At the end of the day though, I still found it a bit unwieldy for long periods of shooting. In a couple situations, filming in crowded marketplaces, I found myself having to whip around quickly in the bright sun, having to readjust the monitor on the fly, while balancing everything on my shoulder. Nevertheless, it was certainly usable, and much, much better than using the camera without a rig. When handholding the FS700 without a rig, you’re forced to brace it against your body in an outward position, as the onboard LCD is awkwardly positioned on top.

In many ways, I would have preferred a smaller and more compact rig. If I had to pinpoint one area that could be improved, it would be the positioning of the shoulder pad, which just felt too far away from the camera, vertically. Next time I’d love to try out the FS700 Zacuto Shooter Kit on Zacuto’s website, which seems to place the shoulder pad closer and comes with the grip locator.

I absolutely loved using the SmallHD DP6 monitor. The focus peaking made focusing easy all the time. Whereas focus peaking generally means colour dots on in-focus areas of the image, SmallHD’s peaking boosts contrast and highlights edges of in-focus areas. I was worried it would be too subtle to focus correctly but I had almost no issues in the field. For situations where I was working with a really tight depth of field in a quickly moving situation (ie, subject moving toward camera at 200mm), I was able to put the monitor into FocusAssist+ Mode and pull focus much easier.

The two buttons on top can be easily used to toggle FocusAssist+ and False Colour, which is extremely helpful for quickly judging exposure.

It’s not a perfect monitor – the scroll wheel can be finicky, colours aren’t terribly accurate, even after tweaks, and the sun hood seems too large. However, it’s still a great choice – reasonably priced, and highly recommended.

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Conclusion
The Sony FS700 and Speed Booster are a fantastic combination. Having an extra stop of light and the dynamic range/sharpness of the FS700 provide for a really versatile setup and beautiful images. The low-light abilities of the camera are fantastic, and with the Speed Booster, I could shoot f/2.0 and f/2.8 on my zoom lenses, and rarely had to boost the ISO from its native 640. The slow motion (in a burst mode up to 240fps at 1080p) provides for great creative options that the C100 and C300 can’t touch (C100 has no slow-motion, and C300 is only 60fps at 720p.)

I was using my 5D Mk III as a B-camera, and the relative differences in dynamic range, detail, and usability were huge. Shooting on the FS700 is really just a joy, and I’m very happy with how the footage looks.

The stills from the shoot I think illustrate the camera’s dynamic range and image quality. These were shot with Cine 4 Gamma, and only slight contrast adjustments applied.

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Screengrab

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Screengrab

The Speed Booster proved reliable until the last day of the shoot, where it started to have a few glitches when changing aperture. Fortunately, it wasn’t a huge issue at that point, but worth noting. I also brought a Metabones Smart Adapter II as a backup adapter. The Smart Adapter II has the same features of the Speed Booster – electronic aperture control, image stabilisation support, etc – but keeps the native crop factor. I only used it when I wanted to utilise the crop factor and go super-telephoto.

By the end I was shooting almost entirely on tripod, slider, and jib, avoiding handheld. Handheld was certainly possible with the FS700, but not ideal. After a couple weeks of solid shooting, I still didn’t feel like the FS700 was an extension of my body, as it always felt a bit unwieldy. Some of the other rigs out there are definitely worth a shot, however. Next time, I hope to try to Zacuto FS700 Shooter Kit or MovCam rig.

Compared to the C100/C300, it’s still a slightly bigger camera and not as easy to run-and-gun with, but with the Speed Booster, it has huge advantages in the slow motion and field of view departments, and certainly worth considering if this fits your shooting style and types of projects. For me, the FS700 was a pleasure to use.

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Sam Price-Waldman is a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer. From Ghanaian gold mines to the canopy of a redwood forest, Sam Price-Waldman believes in the power of a well-told story to stir conversation and create lasting change in the world. His films have shown on PBS stations and top film festivals around the world. Sam currently works as a freelance producer, shooter, and storyteller around the USA.

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Posted on June 5th, 2013 by Sam Price-Waldman | Category: documentary, Sony FS700 | Permalink | Comments (7)

The best of NAB 2013: Our round up of the show

Reported by Mat Gallagher and Dan Chung:

The Newsshooter.com team at work

The Newsshooter.com team at work

I’ve had a couple of weeks now to think about this year’s NAB show. It brought some truly stand out products that combined simplicity with technical awesomeness, which was good to see this after many years of over complex, not quite right designs.

Kessler is one company that I love because of their elegantly designed sliders and their new Pocket Jib Traveller is no exception (see video). The unit has been painstakingly designed to not only pack to as small a size as possible but it also has been made lightweight, thanks to the drilled sections in the body. Something no one else has even considered.

G-tech’s drive system is storage made simple. Their latest devices (see video) are highly proficient field drives, the larger of which uses a raid system for speed, and plugs into a base unit once you’re back in the office for super quick transfer speeds.

Rigs wise, it was nice to see Zacuto’s Recoil looking much improved (see video) and I love the ergonomics of their new shoulder pad. The restyled Tornado follow focus was also great. There was innovation from Movcam (see video), and Matt Allard was particularly impressed with their F55 rig. Top marks also go to Redrockmicro (see video) for their lovely little Gopro cage.

The highly anticipated Dietygear Mira loupe, shown to us by DP Sebastien Devaud (see video), is not cheap but really transforms the C300 screen into a high quality EVF. Teradek’s new wireless product line, meanwhile, includes the Bolt wireless SDI transmitters (see video) which have some really interesting options.

Away from large sensor devices, we have the Canon XA20 and XA25 (see video). Finally compact camcorders are getting the specs that they should have – amazing stabilisation, XLR jack packs, 20x lenses and SDI. It will be interesting to see how good these little cams are against the Sony NX30

Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera gets my top award for the show (see video). It’s a fantastic looking camera that most of us here are already pre-ordering. The one big question though is, can they deliver? Will they be able to ship sufficient quantities at launch? We will see in July.

Airbox inflatable soft boxes are such a good idea. Why did no one do this before now? These have been around for ages for strobes but with a cooler LED sources, they make perfect sense and combined with the latest, most powerful LED panels, like the Cineroid LM400 (see video), the results are very good.

Steadicam’s Solo was a big hit at the show (see video). The combination Steadicam and monopod still has the legendary construction, balance and smooth operation of the bigger Steadicam – it can be used on its own or with an Arm and vest. I can see it finding a home with many news shooters wanting something that packs in a suitcase. While the Movi was getting a lot of attention, I think it could actually be the Solo that finds its way into more real world shooters bags. The Solo is a fraction of the cost of Movi yet able to get 90% of the moving shots you might want to get.

On the lens front there were lots of new high end offerings – mostly anamorphic – beyond the reach of the average shooter. For the news and documentary shooter though, there was one interesting high end bit of info: Canon has a 35mm servo Zoom lens in development. No more info yet but let’s hope it is more affordable than the excellent but pricey Fujinons.

Zeiss NEX lenses

Zeiss NEX lenses

Perhaps more relevant were the newest Zeiss offerings in DSLR and NEX lenses. Working samples of both the new NEX range and their ultimate 55mm f1.4 were shown at the show. The 12mm f/2.8 and 32mm f/1.8 NEX lenses have working AF with cameras like the FS700 and FS100. The 12mm looks like a great option for solo Steadicam work. Even though it is primarily a stills lens the new 55mm f1.4 has a very cinematic feel; the focus is beautifully smooth and the sharpness is outstanding.

Convergent Design’s Odyssey 7 and 7Q are stand-out monitors and recorders (see video), with a great range of ‘a la carte’ options for users. The Odyssey 7Q is great news for Sony FS700 owners, too, as it is fully compatible with its 2K and 4K (compressed) formats.

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DJI Innovations Phantom copter gimbal mount

DJI Innovations latest Phantom copter (see video) mounts a GoPro in a gimbal unit that stabilises the camera and also allows tilt control from the remote. This system can even be added to older Phantom models and really transforms the copter.

Freefly’s Movi rig is truly incredible (see video) and is undoubtedly one of this year’s highlights. You have to wonder if it will have the same kind of success as the Steadicam. For now though, costing around $15k, it is probably out of the news shooters reach.

NAB 2013: News Shooter Wrap-up with Vincent LaForet from Teradek on Vimeo.

Dan Chung, Vincent LaForet and Matt Allard wrap up this year’s NAB show live from the Teradek booth.

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Posted on April 29th, 2013 by Mat Gallagher | Category: Blackmagic design, Camera support systems, Canon C300, GoPro, Jibs and Cranes, LED lights, Lenses, Monitors, Steadicam | Permalink | Comments (2)

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