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Initial choice of cameras and lens selection for short films (6 replies and 9 comments)

Mitch roth
3 months ago
Mitch roth 3 months ago

as a starting phase to learn ,from scratch ,which cameras and lens are best when I know that I can shoot best short films if I try. Thanks roger.

Roger Deakins
3 months ago
Roger Deakins 3 months ago

The camera I use is probably more expensive to rent than you might want so I will leave his question for others.

Mitch roth
3 months ago

May be u can satisfy by ur most initial choice when u have started ur career..thanks roger. Gratitude

Keegan
3 months ago
Keegan 3 months ago

The Sony a6300 or a6500 is a good place to start. They're the only consumer cameras that I'm aware of that have a Log feature (Sony S-Log), which will give you increased latitude over a typical consumer camera, while also enabling you to begin playing around with LUTs. 

They're nice little cameras to learn on. 

Wouter
3 months ago

nope don't waste your time on those. Unless you get a 4K external recorder to read out the whole sensor. But that kinda defeats the low price entry point....

Mitch roth
3 months ago

Then wouter whts ur choice.

Wouter
3 months ago
Wouter 3 months ago

I won't list a camera because frankly, as long as the manufacturer allows you to
a) record every actual pixel,
b) at least in 10bit 4:2:2 with a visually lossless codec, 
c) has a low noise floor and
d) shares their recording tonal mapping/curves/math with the public, 
you can get images out of it that are visually, hardly distinguishable from the most expensive cameras out there. 

Rule one: super 35 lenses go on super 35 sensors. Don't mix different formats without optical correction unless you don't mind a soft image. 

Rule two: shoot in a "pseudo linear" format. like s-log, log c, whatever.. 

Rule three: design your display transfer curve very carefully.. DON'T MESS UP THE MATH! This is EVERYTHING! Use this tool. Or use Aces if your camera is supported by it. Most everything else is crap and marketing BS. 
https://cameramanben.github.io/LUTCalc/LUTCalc/index.html»

Rule four: use good quality noise reduction tools (Neat Video) if you push the digital negative to get a film-like highlight response & range. 

That's it.

Honestly.. a blackmagic pocket prores 422 bmd log and some old super 16 Zeiss primes.. a well designed transfer curve (use the tool I linked, BMD log is supported) and high quality noise reduction.. very few systems would beat that in price vs. quality.

That's about a 3K investment if you get one main 16mm vintage zeiss lens, the body, some memory cards, noise reduction software and some other little stuff like proper ND filters. 

Why does it look so good? 

Because the sensor is small and records 2K (HD) and every actual pixel of it. The noise floor is pretty decent, especially if you push the negative a bit further and remove the chroma noise and perhaps some of the luma noise.

The color is pretty decent on-spec IF you do the transfer from BMDfilm to .709 gamut correctly.. that is.. 

Apply these principles to any digital camera and you're good. 

 

 

Wouter
3 months ago

damn it.. I did list a camera :/

but if you're serious about, do yourself a favor and actually take the time to understand these principles and why I list them. 

Or work on your networking skills and land a job with an alexa and you're set. That's another way to do it. 

Wouter
3 months ago
Wouter 3 months ago

Oh you're in luck, I found some stills from the old pocket shoot + vintage 16mm zeiss from years ago. Please note that back then I didn't even understand what I was doing, the transfer is completely messed up, so the colors are not "correct" but look at the edges of the pixels: smoooooth en yet sharp. 

none of that artifact bullshit.. you see it? And this camera "only" shoots HD... again: the secret: full sensor readout... 

https://flic.kr/p/TKwZoU»

Wouter
3 months ago

And that was shot wide open... exactly the same principle with the Alexa Open Gate mode. Ask Roger. 

Apart from that: when you're learning, all you need is one good lens, suitable for both a good close up AND a wide shot. Something in the range of 35mm (full frame) is my personal favorite. 

Converted to the pocket crop factor this would be: 35mm/3.02 = about 11mm.. 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/12-mm-1-2-T-1-3-Zeiss-Distagon-S16-Lens-w-Arri-Bayonet-mount-arriflex-/162478097628»

that's my two cents

there's also the option of considering a focal adapter.. speed booster. These will reduce the crop factor from 3.02 to either 2.14 or 1.93.. close enough to the crop factor 2 of the MFT standard.. 
In order to get sharp images you would have to get a real MFT lens.. and they are a bit rare I think.. or at least I personally don't know that much about them. 

You could also get the most expensive speedbooster and get the crop factor down to 1.75x which is close to 1.4 / 1.5 (super 35mm) will will allow you to mount super 35 lenses on to it.. however.. I'm not entirely sure how sharp this would be.. you'd have to test it. 

Another option is to go for a used FS700 or a bigger blackmagic camera.. but you would have to record 4K which will in most cases point you towards external 4K recorders to get that full sensor readout.. and then it becomes more expensive.. 

i'm gonna stick to my first advice.. the super 16 way with the bmpcc is by far the best quality for the best price... speedboosters are not made for focus pulling.. it's do-able but it's much nicer to have a sturdy ring-locked PL-mount and no extra glass / other crap between the lens and the sensor... unless it's an electronic ND fitler system 😀 

dmullenasc
3 months ago
dmullenasc 3 months ago

I learned by shooting Super-8 film for almost a decade... the quality of the camera is less of an issue than learning how to make movies through composition, lens choice, movement, exposure, lighting so as long as a camera allows you enough manual control over exposure, allows you a choice in lenses, etc. then you can learn to make movies.  Later when you have more money for better cameras and post, things are only going to get easier in some ways in terms of getting a good-looking image.

Wouter
3 months ago

I agree. However, I do think it is an invaluable skill for a cinematographer in the digital age to know and understand how digital imaging systems work. Same as back in the day cinematographers learned how a film works by shooting stills and develop them themselves.

The same principle apply, now, to digital systems as well. The techniques are just slightly different although the general principles are still -pretty much- the same as far as I can tell.

dmullenasc
3 months ago

Sure, I agree but you can learn to work with digital cameras without necessarily starting out with something that can record 10-bit 4:2:2 data with low compression -- that's really nice to have quality-wise but it's not a prerequisite to learning the principles of a digital camera. If all someone can afford is a Canon Rebel DSLR, then they are going to learn a lot by shooting on it and figuring out how to get good images, when they move up to a better camera, then they will appreciate what makes it better, why 10-bit is better than 8-bit, etc.

Wouter
3 months ago

but yeah that's kinda the point.. you can get the pocket pocket for the same price as a 'professional' DSLR... I'd argue even less!

DSLR's are no video cameras.. sure some of them (with external recorders) and limited pixel count (like sony a6000 - it 'only' has a 4K sensor) can give you some decent moving images but yeah.. a used pocket is like 500 dollars.. add a 500 dollar super 16 cine lens to it and you'll get much better quality than if you would spend even 2-3 times as much on a 5D or whatever and some modern stills glass..

What I'm trying to say is: knowledge about the technical aspect of imaging is important... cutting down costs for yourself results in knowing how to cut costs later on real productions.. when someone else's money is being used. This is a big part of the job.. it's not the most fun I agree but it is important nevertheless.. in the end it's a very ... and I really don't like saying it. economic/money thing... especially for young people right now. 

Keegan
3 months ago
Keegan 3 months ago

If Roger or David wanted an a6500 image to cut seamlessly into an otherwise Alexa production, no-one would be the wiser. It's a 4K camera with 14 stops of dynamic range and a Super 35mm sensor. Sure it's 4:2:0 and 8-bit, which keeps it comfortably away from being ideal for a properly sized shoot, but it's good enough for the no budget brigade to learn on, and good enough that one can make it look like a more expensive system than it is if they know how to light and grade properly. 

The Sony a6300/a6500 both have a sensor size virtually identical to the Alexa XT. A 40mm lens on an a6500 will have the same perspective as a 40mm lens on an Alexa. For me at least, as someone who originally learned on a smaller sensor, re-educating myself with the Super 35 format was hugely beneficial. I can actually have a conversation with other professionals about focal lengths and their perspective now, whereas I couldn't when I was first learning. The Sony's are certainly consumer products, but they're a solid starting point given that their only restriction compared to 35mm or the Alexa is their color space, which can't be said for something like the Blackmagic Pocket. 

But like David said, it doesn't really matter. These are all the petty aspects of filmmaking. Shoot with your camera phone if you must. The important things will be learned just the same. 

Wouter
3 months ago

I assure you, you're wrong 🙂

I really don't mean to be offensive or anything; but I would urge you to consider all the points I brought to the table again.. try them out for yourself, test & compare.

I wouldn't take the time to write it all out if I wasn't really sure.

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