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35mm adapter...worth the $$?


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#1 Rob.m.Neilson

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 08:29 PM

So Im shooting an ultra low budget short in June on my friends HVX and Im wondering if renting the PS Technic or M2 Redrock is really worth the extra cash.

As is I can do the short for three grand since I wont need insurance for everything that Im renting...BUT...if I get the adapter and lenses with insurance its going to cost me two grand extra easy!

Luckily I wont have to pay any interest on my credit card for another 10 months or so but do you think it will really make a huge difference?

Im assuming that whatever format I shoot it on wont matter if Im telling a good story, but Im torn between paying off the extra few grand or shooting another low budget short in the fall.
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#2 Michael Figge

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 08:41 PM

If it's a shallower DoF you're looking for, the HVX looks great when you shoot wide open on the long end of the lens. OR you can move your subject closer to the camera and shoot on a wider focal length.

My personal experience has attested to the fact that 35mm adapters give a great look, but $2,000 on an ultra low budget can go a lot further in production design than on lens choice. Content is almost always more important than aesthetic.

My inkling is that the audience of any ultra low budget won't care if you used a 35mm adapter. They will care if a prop or effect looks cheesy. Heck, if you spend $2,000 on a cast, you might just get some camera-worthy performances. (Although there is no absolute correlation between a paid cast and a strong performance, actors tend to perform better when they don't have to worry about how they will pay the bills!)

My $0.02. Anyone else?
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 09:52 PM

I shot a bunch of stuff a few weeks ago on a JVC GY-HD251 with a mini35. It's a good thing that it was a test shoot, and it'll probably never be seen in HD, because we had some fairly major grain and softness issues. I suspect we simply didn't give it the care and attention it deserved, and we certainly didn't test the rather extreme camera settings I was using in concert with the groundglass adaptor.

While I've seen some great results with them, I'm cautious about these devices now, and I would encourage you to do some extremely careful quality-control and setup tests in controlled conditions with a high grade reference monitor.

Phil
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 10:59 PM

Anyone seen this test of a 35mm adaptor on an HVX200?


Just reminds me of the importance of a focus-puller if you're going to start shooting wide-open in 35mm...

It's pretty, but it's also rather soft, almost questionably so. For small screen stuff, it would be fine but I would want to test it for any large screen presentation.
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#5 Rob.m.Neilson

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 11:14 PM

I might talk myself out of using this for several reasons:

-I'm going to direct and dp and I will likely tend to use alot of wide shots (since ive just finished most of my storyboards) Why use the 35mm to just stick wide lens on it.

-I can put that money towards feeding the crew and getting some better props and locations

-we will be shooting in several low light exteriors

-Im going to direct/DP as well as pull focus most of the time


Now if I can only find someone in NYC who will rent me a huge 70's clunker caddy for a week!

Thanks for all of your input.
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#6 Matt Workman

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 11:18 PM

Here comes my 2cents.

If you have the budget for a 35mm adapter think twice.

- You are going to lose at least 2 - 3 stops of light. Assuming you have the fastest lenses.
- Then you need to rent more lights. Which means more money and more crew. And a generator for anyting over 2k.
- An adapter is always harder to deal with, you will need an AC to keep it in check and pull focus. Even the mini35 screws up.
- If you have several locations in one day, you better have a truck and carts because you just added about 5 more cases to your kit with lenses, adapter, monitor, accessories, batteries, etc.
- Finally if you shoot half of your film successfully and properly exposed and your adapter dies, IT CAN HAPPEN. Then you are in quite a mess.

I shoot with the HVX/M2 all the time and the look is great. However if you are short money, crew, lights, time, you are better off shooting with the stock lens.

Also where are you located and renting from? I can get a decked out HVX/M2 package for less than $200 /day without production insurance. There are a lot of owner operators who rent or will AC with their package.

Good luck,

Matt
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#7 Michael Nash

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 11:46 PM

It's not so much the focus pulling with the taking lens, but the camera focus on the spinning ground glass that's usually at issue with these things. Without an HD monitor to re-check focus on the groundglass with EVERY setup (it drifts), you have no way of knowing if you've got the focus you really need for HD. The camera's onboard LCD simply doesn't cut it most of the time.

The thing I notice about that Youtube clip is that there are only maybe two shots that make aesthetically pleasing use of 35mm depth of field. All the stairwell stuff could have looked the same or better with the stock lens.

I did a music video with the HVX/M2/Zeiss superspeed setup and it gave us the look we needed, but not without problems or compromise. The Redrock M2 is so finicky and cumbersome I've come to the conclusion that I will only use it again if I REALLY need the visual quality of shallow depth of field for expressive purposes. This is doubly true for wide lens shots -- you don't gain any image improvement when everything's in focus anyway. You actually make things look worse with softened resolution and uneven sharpness across the image area (the corners go a little soft). And still with the other compromises (light loss, possible image shake & pulsing highlights, etc. -- all of which I encountered).

So I would say if the shots or aesthetic of your short film really cry out for shallow depth of field, then go for it. It's a great look if you do it right. But if your film can rely on more straightforward storytelling techniques and otherwise well-executed production, you don't always need to have the background be super-soft. And as noted, the HVX is capable of producing shallower depth of field when done right.

Which leads me to my other conclusion about these adapters (on 1/3" cameras): By the time you spend the $$ and go through all the necessary support stuff (handheld brackets, extra lighting, etc.), you often could have used a 2/3" chip camera like the Varicam or even the SDX-900 and gotten better results with less hassle. Anyone who's familiar with 2/3" video or 16mm knows how to make the most of that depth of field, and can produce compelling movies with it. I couldn't help but think of this when watching Zodiac the other night.

Incidentally, I should be doing some tests with both the Varicam and F-900R with the Pro35 adapter and Cooke S4's this week. I'm especially interested in comparing it to HD zooms.
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#8 Adam Paul

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 10:57 AM

It's not so much the focus pulling with the taking lens, but the camera focus on the spinning ground glass that's usually at issue with these things. Without an HD monitor to re-check focus on the groundglass with EVERY setup (it drifts), you have no way of knowing if you've got the focus you really need for HD.


I can see back focus being a problem when using the Mini35 with the HVX200. But when used with the JVC HD100 or Canon XL2 and XL-H1, as the mini35 has a dedicated relay lens for these cameras back focus is not a problem. The relay lens has a screw to lock the focus down. Once you adjust it in the beginning of the day you just tight the screw and back focus is safe.
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#9 Michael Nash

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 06:08 PM

I can see back focus being a problem when using the Mini35 with the HVX200. But when used with the JVC HD100 or Canon XL2 and XL-H1, as the mini35 has a dedicated relay lens for these cameras back focus is not a problem. The relay lens has a screw to lock the focus down. Once you adjust it in the beginning of the day you just tight the screw and back focus is safe.


Yes, that's true of the Mini35 on those cameras, and also true of the Pro35 on 2/3" cameras. It's one reason why the P+S Technik costs more than the M2.

The Redrock M2 however needs to use the camera's stock lens, with all cameras. And in the case of the HVX and DVX (regardless which brand adapter), nothing can prevent the focus from drifting since the camera's focus is not mechanically linked to the focus ring.
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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 07:10 PM

We had issues exactly consistent with back-focus problems. And this was on a JVC HD251, which is supposed to be more or less immune from that problem - certainly there's not much adjustment beyond just doing up the lens mount. I am very concerned that the additional mountings that screw into the camera's conventional 1/4" tripod thread may also put undue stress on the assembly, leading to optical alignment problems.

And the graininess is very odd. Camera settings were very low contrast, but still, the 251 images I've posted here before didn't show it. Certainly we have a minority of shots which are convincing 720p images, and some which are a strange, soft, grainy mess. I have no real idea what's going on.

Within the limits of having the sharpness almost completely turned off on the camera, there's nothing much wrong with this other than a bit of grain:

Posted Image

But what the bloody hell is going on here:

Posted Image

I mean, when it works, it's great. But I want to spend a very careful day prepping before I use it again.

Phil
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 07:33 PM

Wasn't that the white hallway you were looking for advice on how to light? Looks great! I'm guessing HMI's through the windows spotted down on the carpet in that wide shot.
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#12 Michael Nash

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 07:44 PM

I see you got that location and worked out a way to light it...

I'm not sure what problem you're talking about it image #2, at least from these stills. Is it that it's a bit soft?

Of course if you're seeing grain then at least you know your back focus is sharp. Did you try different groundglass oscillation speeds to see what looked best at 24P?
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 07:49 PM

When I used the P&S Technik Pro-35 adaptor, I had some shots that were more washed-out than others, sort of like an UltraCon filter reacting to ambient light in the scene. Had to be corrected in post.
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#14 Adam Paul

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 09:00 PM

Yes, that's true of the Mini35 on those cameras, and also true of the Pro35 on 2/3" cameras. It's one reason why the P+S Technik costs more than the M2.

The Redrock M2 however needs to use the camera's stock lens, with all cameras. And in the case of the HVX and DVX (regardless which brand adapter), nothing can prevent the focus from drifting since the camera's focus is not mechanically linked to the focus ring.


Yeah, the M2 has a lot of shortcomings.
Redrock actually advises to tape the focus ring down. :D
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#15 Adam Paul

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 09:11 PM

We had issues exactly consistent with back-focus problems. And this was on a JVC HD251, which is supposed to be more or less immune from that problem - certainly there's not much adjustment beyond just doing up the lens mount. I am very concerned that the additional mountings that screw into the camera's conventional 1/4" tripod thread may also put undue stress on the assembly, leading to optical alignment problems.

And the graininess is very odd. Camera settings were very low contrast, but still, the 251 images I've posted here before didn't show it. Certainly we have a minority of shots which are convincing 720p images, and some which are a strange, soft, grainy mess. I have no real idea what's going on.

Within the limits of having the sharpness almost completely turned off on the camera, there's nothing much wrong with this other than a bit of grain:

Posted Image

But what the bloody hell is going on here:

Posted Image


I mean, when it works, it's great. But I want to spend a very careful day prepping before I use it again.

Phil


Phil, are you talking about the Mini35 or M2? The Mini35 for the HD251 has the relay, which the focus ring can be locked down. Once I lock it never drifts out of focus. It's actually pretty solid once you tight that screw up.
About the second shot, it may seem like an obvious thing, but are you sure the ground glass was ON? I get grain like this when I forget to turn the adapter ON, which quite frankly happens more often than I would like, especially in the beginning of the day.
By the way, IMO I don?t think the Mini35 base plate and mounting puts any stress on the camera mount. It fits pretty well. I?m mean, it?s that easy to mess the optical alignment? Or are you talking long term here?
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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 09:53 PM

Hi,

> Is it that it's a bit soft?

Well yes. I mean, it's supposed to be hi def, for crying out loud. That's barely SD. Luckily it'll lose a lot of that grain when most people see it - on DVD or the net - but yikes, that hardly holds out a lot of hope for me shooting the whole programme (this was one scene) and calling it an HD production!

Yes, I'm sure the groundglass was on. My AC, the ever-dependable Anna Carrington, was red hot on that point. We may have forgotten once or twice, I guess, but I haven't seen any takes with obviously static grain, and there's way more problem shots than could believably be accounted for by that issue.

Some of it's sunlight, some of it's two 6K HMIs. Those windows are odd in that they look out onto a roof well, so below head height they're frosted, and at the top they're clear, hence the odd effect on the floor. I don't mind it, though really for what it's supposed to be (an RAF officers' mess) it should really be clear.

It's not really what I was going for - I wanted a slightly more pronounced smokiness with visible beams of light, which was just about achievable, but hell to maintain without someone permanently assigned to smoke levels.

I know it's one of those self-absorbed things people do, but I look at that stuff and really have no idea whether it's any good or not, notwithstanding the technical problems we're discussing. I would never try to do that job on a "real" show, certainly. I suppose the natural window light is occasionally nice on Catherine's face.

But I'd be horribly horribly depressed if I'd shot this for an actual production, though. I definitely need to get to the bottom of those sharpness problems.

Posted Image

Phil
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#17 Chris Nuzzaco

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 10:07 PM

I've shot with the M2, and let me say this much, TWEEK IT! The M2 never comes tack calibrated. You literally need to adjust the ground glass in order to get your lens focus marks to line up right, AND you need to set your HVX f/stop to something around 2.8 if you want better focus. Also, look into the SGPRO Rev.2 its supposed to be one of the better adapters out there performance wise, and its really quite cheap...
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#18 Walter Graff

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 01:55 AM

I'd say you don't need the adapter to make what you are looking to accomplish.
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#19 Michael Nash

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 03:10 AM

But I'd be horribly horribly depressed if I'd shot this for an actual production, though. I definitely need to get to the bottom of those sharpness problems.


What exactly did you expect? It's a 720 line camera, with the detail off, focusing on a moving (i.e. blurring) groundglass. If you want it sharp, don't use an adapter and use some mild detail enhancement (or post sharpening). It's not going to look like 35mm film, or an F-900 or Varicam image through HD glass.
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#20 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 05:06 AM

Well, I guess I was hoping for a slightly more varicam-level result from it. It's got full 1280x720 chips, after all, and I was recording it without compression.

Still, maybe I didn't screw up so badly after all!

Phil
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