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HDX900 w/ Pro35 & SuperSpeeds vs. Digiprimes


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#1 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 10:23 AM

Alright, I know there's some similar threads, but I'd like some opinions.

Shooting a 30min program for some major U.S. markets. Going to be HD and SD broadcast.

I've got an HDX900 and the option for $775 a day to get the Pro35 and a set of (5) Zeiss SuperSpeeds. For $1000 a day I can skip the adapter and go for a set of (5) Digiprimes.

I know the digiprimes are going to save some resolution as well as keeping the rig smaller. This could play a factor as there will be jib shots and a little steadicam.

Production is going to run the gamut from dark interiors to full sun exteriors. I'm roughly expecting it to go a week to 10 days. We do have a healthy budget for this thing.

To further confuse, I can get a set of (8) digiprimes for $1200.

Love to know what you guys would do.
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#2 John Ealer

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 10:28 AM

IMHO, I'd take the set of (8) digiprimes and shoot the whole thing wide open - a 1.6 or 1.9 depending on the prime. Saves all the hassle of the rig and the oscillating ground glass and the light loss.

J
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 03:08 PM

Alright, I know there's some similar threads, but I'd like some opinions.


Well then I guess you already know my take on the whole adapter situation, so I'll skip the same rant. Instead, let's look at it another way -- what do you want the show to look like?

Do you really need extremely shallow depth of field for the entire show? Is that look integral to the telling of the story?

Do you really want extremely shallow depth of field during the jib and steadicam shots, where the lens is typically wide anyway, and focus pulling done remotely? Can the look of the rest of the show tolerate a lot of focus buzzes?

If you were shooting this on 35mm, would you shoot the entire show at a T1.3, or would you feel comfortable shooting at T5.6?

If you were shooting this on 35mm (for a video finish), would you choose Zeiss Superspeeds wide open with an Ultracon 3 filter? Or would you choose better glass shot "clean" for the best image quality?

If you were shooting this on Super 16 (for a video finish)-- lower resolution than 35mm -- would you shoot Superspeeds with an Ultracon 3 filter? Or again would you choose the best glass shot "clean" for the sharpest image quality?

If you were shooting this on Super 16, would you be comfortable with the depth of field that format offers, or would you be wanting to use a spinning groundglass adapter and 35mm lenses?

Now, let's look at what's happening with the video camera:

f/1.6 on a 2/3" lens system has a depth of field roughly equivalent to f/5.6 in 35mm (depending on format size and CoC). If that's a reasonable depth of field for your shoot, you don't need an adapter. By the same token, if you shoot the Superspeeds at T4-T5.6, then you're really not gaining much depth of field advantage over straight 2/3" optics. If you want shallower depth of field for the bulk of your film, ask yourself how often it would be practical to back up the camera a bit and use a longer lens. If that prospect doesn't seem good, then you might be better off with an adapter.

The HDX's 720x1280 chips deliver a look that has a super 16-ish quality in terms of resolution. I know that's subjective and there are ways to tweak the image, but my point is that a 720 camera doesn't have the same sharpness as a true 1080 camera or 35mm film. If you would apply stricter standards of image integrity to Super 16 photography than 35mm, then you might want to take a similar approach to 720 HD over 1080 HD or 35mm. Film only comes out as crisp and sharp as the glass you put in front of it, and the same goes for HD.

But if there's something particular about the look of wide-open Zeiss superspeeds through an adapter that serves your production -- and that you just can't get any other way -- then the adapter is the way to go.

I'm curious though, Chad -- and I mean no offense, I'm just trying to understand -- what led you to consider a 35mm adapter for a 2/3" HD shoot? Were there images you've seen, or something you've heard or read about these adapters that made you feel it would produce better results than HD glass? Have you seen a lot of 2/3" HD material that you didn't like because it had too much depth of field? Have you seen a lot of Super 16 material that you didn't like because it had too much depth of field?
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#4 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 04:24 PM

Do you teach Nash? You have a Franklinesque approach.

I've used the digiprimes recently and had good results with them shooting wide open as far as getting enough shallow focus for my liking. They are obviously great lenses, but the more expensive option. The savings over a 10 day show would pay for a Fisher 11 on set all of those days. Trying to be budget conscious.

The last time I used the Pro35 was a couple of years ago on the SDX900 with Cooke S4's and even with that being SD, I could see the softness. I also remember it being a cumbersome setup.

I get where you're going with it and I'm leaning the same direction. I just want to have enough reasons to justify the cost to the producer.
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#5 Michael Nash

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 05:14 PM

Do you teach Nash? You have a Franklinesque approach.


I'm not sure what that means. :P My Dad is a retired art professor, so I'm sure I've picked it up...

Digiprimes aren't the only good HD glass, although they are particularly stunning. You can get pretty nice results from Fujinon zooms and primes too. Shop around a little and you might be able to get the look you need at a price that's already in the budget.
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