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DJI Ronin

My first test of the Ronin and I am impressed!

With the addition of an Easyrig I was up and running in SmoothTrack mode in minutes, delivering a fairly intricate unrehearsed follow shot on a 16mm lens (this at 6KHD, so fairly wide).

I found it a very intuitive to use... still need to get used to its visual signature and 'quirks.'
Always exciting to expand the vocabulary of camera movement tools out there. Its the 'handover' potential of this system that is particularly exciting.

Next challenge will be the addition of a trimmed down mattebox and remote focus unit... whilst not maxing-out the gimbal's motors!

And for the more studious, a fascinating analysis from the 'Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience' of camera movement and cognition... where smooth Steadicam-like motion comes out on top:

Wild Weather

A year in the making, taking me from -50 to +50 and back again.


Phantom 4K

Shooting with a Phantom 4K camera at Sunbeam studios. 
925 fps at 4096 x 2304.
The resolution aside, its the 'look' and latitude of the new sensor thats so striking. We were shooting at 800 ISO and the picture looked very clean, with a shadow detail and a highlight roll-off unlike earlier Phantom incarnations.

The piece required two distinct visual approaches. 
For the second of these we used a Red Epic Dragon shooting at 6K.
The glass for both cameras was UltraPrimes but the filtration differed, diffusion filtering for the Phantom and Streak filters for the Epic.
I found all but the lightest grade of the Streaks too heavy- handed... but a touch of this gave us the aggressive horizontal flares we were after.

The lighting required the usual high speed volume, provided by large flicker free daylight sources.
This was augmented with hard in-shot flares and DMX controlled shutter dimmers.

Great team work from the 16oz crew, gaffer Martin Smith, Jason at LoveHighSpeed and the assured creative hand of director Michael Lindsay.

Brendan McGinty


Flare Test

Looking at prime lens flare signatures for an upcoming spherical shoot.

I tested the Zeiss/Arri Ultraprimes, The Luma Tech Illuminas and a set of cinevised Nikkor AIS lenses.
I shot wide open against black to show the flare characteristic at its most extreme. 
All shots are with a Red Epic MX sensor at 4KHD (so S35 sensor scale) 
The camera was set to 6000 kelvin with the Flare provided by a Dedo DLed4 and the Key light a Cineo Maverick (5600K).
There is motion blur on the flare shots as these are screengrabs off 25fps camera moves.
Thanks to AC Dan DiMartino for stand-in duties.

UltraPrimes 32mm and 85mm, both at T1.9

The UltraPrimes held the most contrast whist providing a distinctive 'ordered' series of red and green orbs... predominantly leaning to red.

Illumina S35 mk2, 35mm and 85mm both at T1.3

The Illuminas provided by far the heaviest flare with more smoking and streaking than the other sets. Multiple large signature orbs leaning more towards green.

Cinevised Nikkor AIS 35mm and 85mm both at F1.4

The Nikkors sat somewhere between the other two sets. Less contrast than the UPs, less streak than the Illuminas. Large orbs mixing red and green.

Will probably go with the Illuminas on this job.


Zambian Heat

Punishing heat in North Luangwa. 
We measured 58 degrees C in the sun, but as this would be a world record I suspect we were wrong. 
Very, very hot.
The landscape was scorched, the Mwaleshi river evaporating more each day and all electronic gear was left struggling at these temperatures. 

Whist the Red Epic soldiered on, the fans would run noticeably higher. DSLR's shut down, monitor fans were screaming, a hard disk recorder and a laptop shut down. The best approach in these conditions is shooting dawn and dusk in the low flaring warm light. And then hiding from the harsh relentless overhead heat of the day. Sun umbrellas are your only defence at midday.

A distinctive hard light burnt throughout the shoot, as the water sources became dramatic battle grounds for survival.

The performance of the Selex Merlin TI thermal camera at night was impressive, this utilised by our two Natural History teams. The only one of its type in the world, it looks like a prototype, but delivers breathtaking monochromatic night scenes. Heat patterns and fine textures were made apparent in trees, grass, water and sky. The detail and subtlety of its thermal image are unlike any I have seen. Its not destined for any sync-shooting though as the fans raged audibly in order to cool its sensor to sub zero operating temperatures.

Great Lakes on the Sony F55

Shooting in Canada on the Great Lakes. Beautiful remote waterways, untouched islands and big sky.

The camera package was a Sony F55, shooting 4K in its Raw mode at a base rate of 59.94P. 
For glass I utilised 3 new PL zooms for the first time. The Fuji Cabrio 19-90mm T2.9, the Fuji Cabrio 85-300mm T2.9 and the Canon 15.5-47mm T2.8. 
Whilst providing an interesting focal range the 85-300 proved quite difficult to focus, its accelerated throw more reminiscent of a stills lens than a cinema lens. This I found a bit debilitating on a long lens, where subtle focus following is usually the order of the day.

The two wider choices were far more versatile. I can see why the Cabrio 19-90 has proved so popular as this extended focal range is great for fast doc style work. The 19mm doesnt quite get you there on a S-35 sensor however... so I lived a lot on the Canon 15.5-47. 
Swapping between these zooms regularly made me realise how big a part is played by 'muscle memory' in operating, as the differing focus throws and gear orientation from Fuji to Canon was distracting. 

Both of these lenses offer slightly extended focal ranges over many of the zooms out there, and both seem to resolve well. But I must admit to having been spoilt by the Angenieux zooms that I so regularly use. The flair quality, the 'bokeh' and the general 'look' of both the Canon and the Fuji I found diminished by comparison.
But good workhorse documentary focal ranges. 

A great shoot with a great team, travelling as fast and light as this package would take us.
Here with some more 'verite' grip choices:

The data challenges of shooting 4K Raw on the F55 were fairly sustantial. Sony's Uncompressed Raw is very data hungry! 26 minutes of record time on a 512G card. We shot an average of 5Tb a day...and over 100Tb across 3 weeks of shooting. This necessitated a back up to LTO and a DIT- heavy approach. 6 laptops, 4 LTO decks and tireless work by the fantastic team doing this.
But its not a solution particularly suited to a documentary workflow. I would say this enormous data flow combined with the 3 second delay in recording when shooting Raw(yes that was 3 seconds!) makes this the wrong choice for anything other than a drama style shoot... and this with a robust data team.

As a cost effective HD solution the F55 is interesting. Its low light performance is great and the ability to change mounts from PL to EF at speed is a plus (although I do worry about 'play' in the Sony PL mount.) I did find the 960x540 viewfinder tricky for focus, this with all of the peaking tools active.


As a 4K solution I would definitely look elsewhere.
That the camera delivers less than 4K after debayering with this truckload of data makes the Red Epic significantly preferable for 4K shooting. Throw in some slowmotion (none available on the Sony at 59.94P 4K Raw) instant recording (rather than 3 seconds later) pre roll if you need it and 6K resolution and the Dragon is a 'no brainer' all day long!



After desaturating colour for much of my career, its great to occasionally embrace its vibrancy.

  Ungraded Epic Dragon screengrabs.

The extended colour depth of the Epic Dragon sensor proved essential for this piece. The camera's skin tone rendition, given this much disruptive colour, was remarkable.

The 'look' was achieved with a mixture of heavily gelled Cineo TruColor remote phosphurs, strong Blacklight, the magic of 16oz Studios...and the genius of director Michael Lindsay.

City Rain

Filming rain in London. 
Night city rain always provides a photogenic mix of water and light, where every surface turns into either mirror or lens. Shooting at 50fps and 100fps helped to bring some 'weight' to the fall of the rain. Defocused headlights, store front reflections and silhouettes... all movement seen through a mist of tiny liquid lenses.

The large Epic sensor at 5K mixed with close focusing primes at F1.4 lent a more abstract look to the piece.

Red Epic, 5K, Nikkor AIS 85mm F1.4 and 35mm F1.4.

Red Epic Dragon 2.39:1

Shooting Elders for Serkan Nihat, a film set around the rituals and storytelling of a traditional family meal. 
Although an intimate dialogue piece, the decision was made to shoot with a 2.39:1 frame. This as we were looking for obscured imagery, moments seen past  foregrounds and the over-lapping of relationships that the wide-screen frame can be so effective for. 

Screengrabs: Epic Dragon, Angenieux Optimo 45-120mm T2.8, 
2.39:1 aspect ratio.

Although the original purpose of the widescreen frame was to capture sweeping panoramic landscapes, its impact on tight shots is possibly more acute. Here the 'weighting' of a frame can feel more hightened than traditional aspect ratios. Within so linear a canvas, a subject placed hard on the edges will substantially affect the perceived balance of the frame. Off-centred framing becomes far less casual than say with 1.85:1. The resulting spatial 'discord' can be used to strong narrative effect. 

Shooting on spherical zooms (Angenieux 45-120 on the A camera and 30-80 on the B camera) left us able to keep some of the spontaneity in the dialogue. The formal qualities of the 2.39:1 frame aside, we wanted to keep a sense of naturalism that I think spherical glass delivers. Anamorphic glass would arguably have been too artificial a look for the piece, its artefacts too glamorous, too 'Hollywood.'  



Filming heat in a Heatwave. 
As if the ambient heat is not enough, we introduce multiple burners and flame bars.
Heat itself is not visible to the camera, just its effects on the air and light. We read as 'hot' the flares of the sun, the movement of heat haze that a flame bar induces on a longer lens or the shift in colour temperature towards the 'warmer' end of the spectrum. Even the red sand of our location contributes to the look of Heat.

“I can feel the heat closing in . . .” 

William Burroughs, The Naked Lunch