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My first experience with the Sony EX1


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#1 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 01:32 PM

A few weekends ago I had my first experience with the new Sony EX1 camera shooting a music video, it was quite a traumatic experience though that wasn't entirely the fault of the camera...

Firstly, when prepping the camera I immediately fell in love with many of its features, finally having focal length and focus distance marking on a prosumer camera felt wonderful - I also found the depth of field nicely reasonable and the zoom had a good range (much better than the stock lens that goes with the JVC), however it didn't take long to realise the design of the camera is somewhat insane - the shutter controls and white balance button are all hidden underneath the lens where they can barely be accessed when the camera is mounted on a tripod. Also the phono, a/v out etc sockets are all placed ridiculously close to the hand grip making it very difficult to actually plug things in without a struggle.

Then when it actually comes to going though the menu, selecting things like white balance settings, shutter length, the camera becomes more challenging. All the picture settings are in a completely separate menu which I only found after reading the manual for 45minutes (something i've never previously had to do).

Unlike the JVC HDV camera, this is not something you can simply shoot with after 5 minutes of adjustments.

Then I experienced the cameras first bug, it wouldn't allow me to further adjust any manual settings, there was nothing I could do (the manual certainly had no suggestions) and I had to completely reset the camera. Meaning I had to redo all my picture and format settings from zero, again!


The shoot day was a disaster - though it was mostly not the fault of the camera, the music video was to be set in an old-converted church that was now a 1950's style dance hall/disco and was to show a character (in period) flirting and looking after the guests while the band plays (and sort of perves after her). When we arrived at the bar that morning, the manager had done a runner disappearing with the keys, the burglar alarm codes, leaving one of his staff (who was being paid by the production to open the venue) in the lurch and he wasn't answering any of his telephones! The really sad thing was that because of the size of the venue I had hired quite a lot of lights, many of which never left their boxes.

Subsequently we had to improvise - one of the band member's mother's house was nearby (which was almost 1970's in style) , and I came up with idea of showing the lead character not as a seductress but as a lonely woman who wakes up in an empty house, gets her self ready to go out, but doesn't and simply dances alone though the house (like Mike Leigh's Naked) and show the band like ghosts playing round the house, out of her gaze.

Then the actress didn't turn up.... Then I discovered there was no toilet paper in the toilet...

Back to the camera, when we got going I was actually amazed at the quality of the images it was producing, and seeing them on the location CRT monitor was particularly good for the band as it gave them faith in it after all the disasters. The image quality (though mostly it was under low-contrast conditions) felt much in league with Sony's professional HD cameras and the depth of field with the new size of chip was very practical, providing I shot wide open I could have a selective focus but didn't feel to critical in tricky moments.

Bizarrely the DOF of the new chip size reminded me of Super 8 DOF, I don't know how logical that is, but it can certainly be deep and acceptably-shallow when needed.

Shooting with camera really was not to difficult once all the settings were selected, it did do a very terrifying thing of locking the back focus out, and making wides completely out of focus every now and again. Eventually we learned to reengage the zoom-servo and turn the camera on and off again which seemed to clear the problem.

We didn't have any problems transferring the files onto a laptop when the disks were full, but each of the two took 28minutes so that wasn't a problem anyway. It did do this quirky thing of a weird flashing when playing back a file, which would almost certainly induce an epileptic fit if a sufferer was to view the monitor at the time. It was lovely however to be able to quickly review footage without the fear of accidently recording over something!


Here are some stills, the whole piece was shot using a clip on matte box (which unfortunately vignetted at lower focal lengths) with a 1/4 black-pro-mist for the entire piece and sometimes with an extra 1/2 black-pro-mist for vanity shots.

Because at the speed at which we had to work at, we used natural light as our main source light and used artificial only when necessary fill was needed (then we used a Diva 400 and 3 Dedolights) - the bigger lights stayed firmly in their boxes.

The still are perhaps not what I would have chosen to show you (the director sent me to you) and of course don't show you that most of the music video consisted of tracking shots using a Londmandsy spider dolly with flex track.

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#2 monday sunnlinn

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 06:59 AM

you can control the shutter, gain, temperature, picture profile, shutter type, and even the slow/quick motion framerate(when in that mode) right on the lcd screen with the jog wheel on the back of the camera. press it once and then turn it to choose which function you want to control. press it again once the function you want to control is highlighted and use the wheel to change your settings. it helps to read the manual before the shoot when you aren't stressed for time instead of the middle of a bad day...turning off the auto features helps also. the only time i use those is if i'm in some sort of ENG environment, which admittedly this camera's rolling shutter issue makes extremely unlikely.
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#3 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 12:24 PM

it helps to read the manual before the shoot when you aren't stressed for time instead of the middle of a bad day


Maybe I didn't make it clear in my account of the experience, but the prep, as always, where I set up the camera and read the manual from cover to cover was performed on a day previous to the shoot, that was where I notice most of the camera's problems.

Yes I did read the camera manual but I was trying to put accross, its rarely necessary to read a manual so extensively as I did with this one when familiar with so many different other cameras.

you can control the shutter, gain, temperature, picture profile, shutter type, and even the slow/quick motion framerate(when in that mode) right on the lcd screen with the jog wheel on the back of the camera.


Actually, to turn the shutter on you need to use the switch hidden on the under side of the camera. If you want to perform a manual white-balance you need to use the white-balance button in the same vicinty. As far as I am aware the camera doesn't have the ability of setting the temperature figure manualy through the menu, as you would with a proffesional ENG camera. The picture setting are actually accesed through a seperate manual.

Nothing is terribly bad or absent of a camera of that level, but nothing is particularly obvious or logical.


...turning off the auto features helps also. the only time i use those is if i'm in some sort of ENG environment, which admittedly this camera's rolling shutter issue makes extremely unlikely.


Though I am sure you didn't intend to be partonising here, I think its pretty obvious in my account that I didn't shoot in any auto features or was unable to get to grips with the jog wheel on the menu.
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#4 Stephen Williams

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 02:06 PM

. As far as I am aware the camera doesn't have the ability of setting the temperature figure manualy through the menu, as you would with a proffesional ENG camera. The picture setting are actually accesed through a seperate manual.


Hi Andy,

You can adjust the preset setting.

Stephen
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#5 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 02:59 PM

Hi Andy,

You can adjust the preset setting.

Stephen


As in you can scroll the Kelvin figure up or down manualy?
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#6 Mark Williams

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 03:24 PM

As in you can scroll the Kelvin figure up or down manualy?

You can when in picture profiles and really why on earth wouldnt you be?
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#7 Stephen Williams

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 03:50 PM

As in you can scroll the Kelvin figure up or down manualy?


Hi Andy,

Yes, I noticed that function on Friday and made a note to manually white balance!

Stephen
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#8 herminio cordido

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 05:09 AM

Hey Andy,
i am very sorry you have to experience this traumatic experience on a shoot.
but if you are not prepared to handle a new camera, or just don't know where the butons are because you wanted to "run through the manual" (not saying that i read one page of it) , please don't post crap.
There is people coming to this forum for info, so your title "My first experience with the sony ex" should be "how to handle a new cam?"
Seriously.
there are ways to control ALL of your "lack of control" issues very easily on the camera, so ALL your problems with te camera are nonesense to the real world.

regards,
Herminio Cordido
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#9 monday sunnlinn

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 10:49 AM

Andy, in no way do i mean to be patronizing. i was posting not just for you but for anyone who comes here to read and learn from other's experience(i thank everyone i have gained a little bit of wisdom from) .

i guess i did misread your post. i usually go through all the forums on my iphone before even getting out of bed in the morning(that thing has made me so lazy). i guess the impression i got was that you were rushed and had a bunch of things blow up in your face that day, which is the worst timing for having to use new gear.

i actually own this camera, and i find the degree of flexibility and programmability to actually be a real joy. sony is usually a little different in how the design their prosumer type stuff, and this is a fairly complex camera even compared to the Z1U or the V1U. so for those considering it, i'd say it's best not to have all of 24 hours to get to know it before a big shoot. especially if you are coming from panasonic or JVC experience. even more so if you've never dealt with solid state.

as for the auto mode comment. when a producer slapped a V1U into my hands at a shoot and said "we roll in 10 minutes" i never actually figured out how to get the gain off auto mode until the plane ride back home when i actually had a chance to read the manual(and even the manual could be a little more clear on the various amounts of auto and what is affected by each setting. sony's are a lot more complex than panasonic or JVC in that respect.

...and you can turn the shutter off on the lcd screen menu, without ever touching the button on the front of the camera.
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#10 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 12:54 PM

I don't like the EX1 for different reasons. Yesterday I was trying to do a ghetto DYI film transfer with it and I couldn't get it to synchro scan with the projector no matter what I did. After a few hours of pouring over the manual and trying ALL of the shutter/ ECS settings on the camera and the projector itself I gave up, switched to an HVX 200 AND a DVX 100 and was able to get stellar results right away on both.

While I know this is not a standard shooting situation, I just can't believe that for a camera with so much degree of control through menu settings, such an easy to overcome problem could have been impossible to resolve. The more I use the EX1, the more I like the HVX200, despite the HVX's obvious shortcomings (1/3" imager, crappy lcd screen, fewer image setting controls, etc), but I was never a fan of the long GOP MPEG2 compression format, I actually loath it . . .

I am sure the next generation HVX will smoke the EX1 in every regard, as usual. (No, I am not trying to pick a fight with you Sony fans out there, just my humble opinion!)

I am actually willing to bet the next HVX-like model will go to AVC Intra codec with bigger imager and the works to smoke Sony out of the water with its still perplexing choice of HDV. (32-25 mbps inter frame compression on HDV vs. 100 mbps intra frame compression on DVCPRO HD??????).
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#11 monday sunnlinn

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 01:55 PM

i here ya Saul, i hated that codec too, but this incarnation has run smooth in FCP(to my amazement and joy). my only dissapointment is the colorspace. which makes keying with this camera far less viable, even with the extra luminance detail that the larger chip gives you.

i've never tried DIY telecine, but i would imagine it's the rolling shutter that's giving you the problem, it's also bad for strobes and fast horizontal movement, which is why i plan on still getting an HVX, do you have any actual facts on when there latest version is coming out? that i'd like to see...
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#12 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 02:10 PM

i here ya Saul, i hated that codec too, but this incarnation has run smooth in FCP(to my amazement and joy). my only dissapointment is the colorspace. which makes keying with this camera far less viable, even with the extra luminance detail that the larger chip gives you.

i've never tried DIY telecine, but i would imagine it's the rolling shutter that's giving you the problem, it's also bad for strobes and fast horizontal movement, which is why i plan on still getting an HVX, do you have any actual facts on when there latest version is coming out? that i'd like to see...


Yeah, it was the rolling shutter, but I simply couldn't get it fixed, which was really dissapoining since it is so easily done on Panasonic cameras. While I have noticed this incarnation of HDV is better than earlier ones, I sill have issues with the long GOP scheme, specially when shaking the camera, as in running with it, which is no problem on anything non MPEG-2 compression based.

I don't have any info on new HVX models, only wild speculations as to what Panasonic will do to up the ante. Which is ultimately good for us consumers, except for having to buy a new camera every year or so!! :blink:

I use higher end Sony cameras and I like them, but HDV/ XDCam just baffles me . . .
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#13 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 12:47 PM

Andy, in no way do i mean to be patronizing. i was posting not just for you but for anyone who comes here to read and learn from other's experience(i thank everyone i have gained a little bit of wisdom from) .


Monday, my original post was written in haste, and in retrospect I wished I had left out details of how badly the shoot progressed (most of which had nothing to do with the camera) but for me it was a real case of succededing (in some respect) over adversity as we were very happy with much of the material we produced. And admitedly I thought it was quite funny and entertaining, however it seemed to have distracted my points about how great the camera was, and how at times I found the design of the camera a little fustrating - which may explain Hermino's bizzare little rant.

The impression I'm getting is this is very much a camera thats better to own than rent, as you said its level of flexibility is excellent, however it does require a great deal of familiarity with its menus and quirks. A motion control operator once said to me about a Milo rig, 'bugs in the software aren't a problem, providing you know when they occur and how you get around them' and I think the same occurs with this camera. I was told by the rental company that they had encountered the pre-mentioned back-focus problem with their other EX1s so something like that could be a generic design fault, however providing you know how to get around the problem (which we quickly learned) its not a big issue.

If one is in a hurry, which I wasn't (I had an evening, a full day of prep and about 2 hours in the morning while we tried to get hold of the bar owner) then perhaps its much better to grab a JVC, Canon or Sony HDV camera or even Panasonic P2 than the EX1 which as already said produces great images (in my opinion) but seems rather demanding in terms of operator intelligence.

Now I would consider my self a fairly intelligent person and despite all the time I spent with the camera I didn't for some reason work out that you can scroll the Kelvin preset up or down or can manually white balance through the menu, it could be a slightly illogical layout in the menu, but also I was planning to white balance off a variety of colour reference cards anyway and I like to use a white balance button(who doesn't!).

I guess if you're aquanted with it my complaints can seem illogical, its like loading Aaton magazines, what could be simpler when you've done it a hundred times but if you're only used to Arri magazines then it can be!

please don't post crap.
There is people coming to this forum for info, so your title "My first experience with the sony ex" should be "how to handle a new cam?"
Seriously.
there are ways to control ALL of your "lack of control" issues very easily on the camera, so ALL your problems with te camera are nonesense to the real world.


Hermino,
Not only is your post offensive, unhelpful, its completly hipocritical to the point its actually extremly humourous. I am unaware I experienced any 'lack of control issues' as you name it, my complaints were about the cameras poor physical layout, a re-ocuring back-focus problem and a bug which wouldn't allow me to further program the camera, which required us to reset it to factory settings during the prep. I certainly didn't have any problems controling gain, apperture, colour temperature, picture settings or any other aspects typical of any digital video camera and the problems i did encounter were part of genuine experience which I did infact experience.

Though my experience wasn't a typical 'First experience' it happened and personally was actually quite entertaining (in retrospect!)
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#14 monday sunnlinn

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 12:51 PM

Hey Andy, what's the work around to the backfocus issue? i haven't had that happen yet, but i wouldn't mind being prepared in case it does...thanks!

and it does look like you triumphed over adversity.
it's satisfying after the fact, but not so much when in the middle of it...
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#15 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 11:57 AM

Hey Andy, what's the work around to the backfocus issue? i haven't had that happen yet, but i wouldn't mind being prepared in case it does...thanks!


If you haven't experienced it yet with the camera you own, I doubt you will encounter it - its probably only on certain batches or whatever.

Essentially it happens when you're zoomed in close and manually zoom out quickly, then suddenly everthing is out of focus. The way we solved it was by re-engaging the auto zoom servo and then switching the camera off and on again, that seemed to do the trick.


One great thing about the camera I fogot to remember is that when racking focus, lens breathing is barely noticable.
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#16 monday sunnlinn

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 05:49 PM

i see, good to know, thanks!
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#17 Andrew Rawson

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 07:07 PM

Hi Guys
Thinking about purchasing either the EX1 or EX3 and in doing so I am browsing these forums to get an idea of how people like them and what the issues are. I notice there is reference to the rolling shutter a few times, what is that all about?
Thanks
Andy
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#18 Andrew Rawson

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Posted 05 October 2008 - 12:20 AM

After doing more research I found the answer myself. The CMOS scanning from top to bottom.
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