Jump to content




Photo

Upcoming (and Ongoing) Prevalence of 4k Cameras


  • Please log in to reply
19 replies to this topic

#1 Robin Raskol

Robin Raskol

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 8 posts
  • Student
  • East Coast

Posted 18 July 2015 - 03:59 PM

So I was wondering, what are your guys opinions on the following subject:

 

With the upcoming prevalence of affordable 4k Cameras (and the ones already on the market such as the A7S, BMCC4k, GH4, GoPro Black), what is stopping these cameras from being used more often in serious feature film production? I know they're already being used here and there of course, but when you look at which cameras are PREDOMINANTLY being used to this day in feature films that make it to serious festivals like Sundance, Cannes, Venice, SXSW, etc, you almost completely only see the Arri Alexa or variations of the RED camera seeing use as main cameras. 

 

I'm wondering, technically speaking, with these other 4k Cameras that I mentioned (and ones hitting the market shortly), what inhibits them from being used more commonly considering their VERY SIGNIFICANTLY lower cost? What is preventing more aspiring DP's and Director's of this generation to say hey why don't we make a feature for like $20k with all this available and affordable 4k Equipment? Technically speaking, is there something that is so lacking in these cameras when compared to the Alexa or RED? 

 

 


  • 0




#2 Tyler Purcell

Tyler Purcell
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2350 posts
  • Other
  • Los Angeles

Posted 18 July 2015 - 05:03 PM

Well, in my opinion, it all comes down to a cinematographers comfort level with new technology and support for that technology. There is A LOT of support for the Arri camera's, in all their various renditions. Plus, they're really good looking cameras, which adds comfort to the whole process. Most cinematographers are hired guns and they will work with whatever they're most familiar with first. Some people shoot Red, other's shoot Alexa and everyone else shoots film. Plus, the Alexa and Red workflows are pretty easy/simple to deal with. Everyone from the DIT's to the editors, know how it works.

I do think the Blackmagic Ursa Mini will be used when it comes out, but the other cameras? I don't think they're even close at this point. Smaller films? Sure… bit hollywood films? It's gonna be a while.
  • 1

#3 Robin Raskol

Robin Raskol

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 8 posts
  • Student
  • East Coast

Posted 18 July 2015 - 05:29 PM

Well, in my opinion, it all comes down to a cinematographers comfort level with new technology and support for that technology. There is A LOT of support for the Arri camera's, in all their various renditions. Plus, they're really good looking cameras, which adds comfort to the whole process. Most cinematographers are hired guns and they will work with whatever they're most familiar with first. Some people shoot Red, other's shoot Alexa and everyone else shoots film. Plus, the Alexa and Red workflows are pretty easy/simple to deal with. Everyone from the DIT's to the editors, know how it works.

I do think the Blackmagic Ursa Mini will be used when it comes out, but the other cameras? I don't think they're even close at this point. Smaller films? Sure… bit hollywood films? It's gonna be a while.

 

 

 

That's the thing I'm wondering though. Why aren't those other cams up to snuff, so to speak? From a technical standpoint. I know you mention the support and ease of use for the Alexa/RED, but what is it about cameras like the Sony A7S (w/ Shogun output for 4k) or GH4 that prevents them from seeing more professional use? 


  • 0

#4 Satsuki Murashige

Satsuki Murashige
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3081 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 18 July 2015 - 06:52 PM

I think these cameras are being used more frequently than you realize, though mostly for specialty rigs such as car mounts, gimbals, aerials, crash cams, etc. Anyway, on a $20k feature you likely won't have budget for anything better unless you are getting the camera package for free.

The most important thing for low budget features that are tightly scheduled and have name talent is a camera system that is reliable with minimal downtime in often physically challenging situations (variable weather, temperature, humidity, lack of external power, poor reception of radio signals for wireless monitoring and focus, etc). For example, I'm day playing on $1m indie feature shooting with 2x F55s in XAVC 4K, and we have had rain, humid interior pool locations, windy seaside locations, locations where we have had to be low profile without truck or cart support, and sometimes up to 4 company moves a day.

Luckily it's a pretty small lens package though we also have to carry a Movi for A Camera. Sometimes we have have to quickly switch to Canon EF lenses for extreme telephoto shots, which is very easy on the F55s. Otherwise, it's 2 cameras on almost every setup. And we have to move very, very fast. So having a camera system that doesn't generate a massive amount of data and has low power consumption helps a lot.

We often have to move video village and make very long BNC runs (no VTR on this show, so camera dept handles monitoring). We also had an SDI board fry on our B Camera the first week, but luckily one of the four SDI outputs still worked, so we could keep shooting (many other camera systems only have 1 or 2 video outputs). We have a lot of d-tap accessories and have had to replace the fuse on a few of our v-lock plates.

We only carry 2 block batteries total, plus 4 v-locks for each camera and power has never been an issue. We also occasionally use the v-locks on the wireless handheld director's monitor, the 2x 21" Flanders monitors at the village, and the Movi controller. The standard Panavised Epic or Alexa package would be at least double that power requirement. The F55s let us hot swap and always plug-into the blocks via XLR4 while on sticks and dolly which is awesome and reduces v-lock usage considerably. We've only had the blocks die on set when they didn't get properly charged overnight.

Having 14 stops of dynamic range with custom viewing LUTs in-camera as well as good low-light performance means the DP has more confidence in the image and can light faster with smaller units and less grip. And minimal data means our DIT spends most of his time on set with us instead of on the truck, helping wrangle the village, do cable runs, and support the DP. And wrap out for him goes very quickly, which is great when we are working 14 hour days and need to shuttle together in pass vans back to crew parking at the end of the night. Sound can simply throw a tiny Lockit box on each camera and have perfect timecode sync every day, which is very important for the editors since we are tail-slating a lot of shots to make the actors more comfortable (it is an ensemble comedy).

So in that environment, throwing in a camera system that causes more downtime on set and lacks simple things like timecode inputs and multiple SDI outputs would be detrimental to the schedule and prevent us from making our days. Ultimately, it ends up being much more expensive to punt whole scenes and owe more shooting days with the actors on the back end of the schedule than it is to go into overtime.
  • 1

#5 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 4743 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 18 July 2015 - 06:54 PM

Usually there is a technical requirement that a camera have to meet, which is demanded by broadcasters. This is due to the requirement for a robust codec that can withstand the demands of post production and the transmission chain. What looks good at the beginning may not look so good at the end. Cameras also get selected because they're reliable, the look their sensor gives, the dynamic range etc.

 

On feature films and TV dramas there is the demand for the expensive talent to look good and the cost of the camera is a lot less than these guys cost, The camera cost is low percentage of the over all production budget on any feature film unless it's more or less a freebie. Production companies don't buy cameras they rent them, so the cost isn't usually a factor. These other cameras tend to get used for specialized shots, where they met the requirements for getting a particular shot.


  • 1

#6 Robin Raskol

Robin Raskol

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 8 posts
  • Student
  • East Coast

Posted 18 July 2015 - 07:12 PM

Very insightful responses guys, thanks so much! 


  • 0

#7 Robin R Probyn

Robin R Probyn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1033 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Tokyo

Posted 19 July 2015 - 04:18 AM

But I think it is an advantage that low budget stuff can be shot say on a F5..14 stop DR in XAVC I 4K Slog or RAW with the recorder .. with primes or even the Cabrio/ Canon CN7 zoom.. than an EX3 or non gradable and pain in the arse DSLR camera,s..   or to allow more budget to grade/schedule/art dept.. than spend on Alexa/F65 etc gear costs..

 

But definitely Alexa has a pretty strong hold on the high end market.. as has been said.. if its known its safe.. I don't think that will change anytime soon.. but a lot better gear available for the lower budget stuff.. 


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 19 July 2015 - 04:19 AM.

  • 0

#8 Satsuki Murashige

Satsuki Murashige
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3081 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 19 July 2015 - 01:34 PM

Yeah, to me the F5 is really the sweet spot between the high-end and low-end cameras. You get all the dynamic range, RAW, 4K, over-undercranking abilities, very good TC/audio options, 4x SDI outputs with custom LUTs, internal NDs, decent EVF options, quick interchangeable and robust mounts, comfortable hand-held form factor, and easy to use interface of cameras like the Alexa and Epic. But it's less than $400/day to rent. Not sure the Alexa Classic is 3x as good at $1200/day. I'm quite partial to the F65 image but for run and gun shooting it would not be my first choice.
  • 0

#9 Satsuki Murashige

Satsuki Murashige
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3081 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 19 July 2015 - 01:47 PM

Btw, the A7s is unique and and amazing in its own way. Just worked on a one day job shooting a live presentation for a very big company where we used 3x Red Dragons with Low-Light OLPFs. We were supposed to have A and B cameras at the back of the auditorium shooting the stage and C cam shooting audience reactions. The director brought his A7s and Shogun as an extra 4K camera. Well, we shot a test with the stage lighting and the audience reaction shots were silhouettes. So we swapped out the A7s as the audience camera, cranked the ISO, and voila - a usable image. The Dragon ended up as a third angle on the stage. It was pretty funny to see the A7s on an OConnor 2575 tripod head...
  • 0

#10 AJ Young

AJ Young
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 33 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 19 July 2015 - 04:05 PM

Most of the higher end films do a considerable amount of testing before they shoot. Budget is always a consideration, even at that level, but those cinematographers are trying to find the camera that best suits the needs of the story, post-production, and eventually production.

 

The Alexa is the most common choice on higher end films mostly because it fits specific needs for those projects. However, the Alexa isn't the end all best camera. Hurlburt shot Need for Speed on C500's; Libatique shot Black Swan on 16mm! It all boils down to testing and finding the right camera for the right project.


  • 0

#11 Robin R Probyn

Robin R Probyn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1033 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Tokyo

Posted 19 July 2015 - 07:10 PM

Hurt Locker was shot 16mm Aaton. which belonged to the DP .. the only film to win Best Film Oscar shot on 16mm I believe .. obviously as a choice for look and mobility .. 

DP,s that operate probably have more say whats on their shoulder.. 

 

 

RE the rental costs of F5 and Alexa..  around my neck of the woods the Alexa is a lot more expensive than the F5.. I couldn't believe the difference..   I was told because the Alexa is a "movie" classified camera and F5 is documentary .. presumably knowing they can get a lot money out of "movie" prod co,s than doc,s.. which is true Im sure.. but really the difference,provided the lenses are the same.. is not very far apart.. in fact F5 is a 4K sensor and Alexa isn't .. of course you can debate it till the cows come home.. but end of the day spec wise not really miles apart.. except you could put an arri on the end of a chain and demolish a house.. 


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 19 July 2015 - 07:19 PM.

  • 0

#12 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 6767 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 19 July 2015 - 07:21 PM

You'd think we get some sway when we op; often we don't-- or at least I rarely do. Sometimes we get told what we'll be using, and often we are told because of x or y marketing (though to be honest, the reliability factor and the familiarity factors are huge. Arri works a lot because Arris have worked. Only very recently have you, I think, really stated to see Red's taking hold. It remains to be seen if the Dragon continues on from the Epic. It might, but again people get skittish around new camera systems. Time costs a lot more than a rental rate. 


  • 0

#13 Michael LaVoie

Michael LaVoie
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 603 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 20 July 2015 - 07:22 PM

You'd also think that filmmakers with budgets that don't support a higher end camera rental would consider a lesser expensive but comparable alternative.  Nope.  There's an "impression" factor which is that if they shoot on something higher end, their film will somehow seem more legitimate to those working on it.   You see it in crew ads.  "Hey come join our crew for meals and a credit. But we're shooting on an Alexa! or a Dragon!"   Haha.  No sense of how ridiculous that actually comes off.


  • 0

#14 Rakesh Malik

Rakesh Malik
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 84 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Seattle, WA

Posted 20 July 2015 - 09:17 PM

That's surprisingly common. I see it in a lot of self-promotions from camera dongles also; rather than showing reels, they show their gear. They're really just renting their cameras to people who think that a higher end camera will magically improve their production value, and just coming along for the ride under the guise of being the DoP and providing a free camera rental.


  • 0

#15 Albion Hockney

Albion Hockney
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 411 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • LA

Posted 21 July 2015 - 03:19 PM

I think the answer to this is pretty simple. The original post seems to confuse 4k resolution with image quality. There are a lot of factors that go into a camera making good images from a technical stand point and most camera don't deliver despite 4k resolution or high latitude claims.

 

The Alexa especially makes really great organic images, the RED does a good job too. Every other camera on the market is coming behind those two. Even the higher end c500, Sony F55, etc (although those cameras have been used to great effect as well and I'm sure some people will argue that the F55 or C500 are as good as the RED...but that aside! ). The lower end cameras like Sony A7s, Blackmagic, etc are not quiet able to deliver the color fidelity, tonal range, etc of the higher end cameras.

 

IE even in this digital age you pay for what you get and there is a reason beside the market that the Alexa costs 50K + and a Sony a7s is 3K.

 

the gap is getting smaller and smaller, but it still matters.


  • 0

#16 Rakesh Malik

Rakesh Malik
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 84 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Seattle, WA

Posted 21 July 2015 - 03:56 PM

Nowadays dynamic range is the "magic bullet" of choice, since 4K is old news now ;)


  • 0

#17 Robin Raskol

Robin Raskol

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 8 posts
  • Student
  • East Coast

Posted 21 July 2015 - 03:58 PM

I just wanted to thank you all so much for your amazing and multifaceted replies! This has been so educational/helpful to me (and I'm sure others as well!)


  • 0

#18 Larry DeGala

Larry DeGala
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 41 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • North Wales

Posted 08 August 2015 - 06:31 PM

I believe one of the Jason Statham "Crank" movies had every HD camera possible, from Handycam to DSLR and what have you. If they could stick a C-mount on a kitchen sink, they'd use that as well.

If it's befitting of the style of story-telling, I guess the general rule was use it and let the audience decide.  And the rest is sequel history.


  • 0

#19 Charles Papert

Charles Papert
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 34 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 08 August 2015 - 07:15 PM

I own an A7S, which I bought to replace my 5DMKII as a stills and motion camera. I've shot 95% of my last four years on Alexa. The A7S has only been used on set to do capture stills and couple of very simple and specialized video clips (recreating cel phone video for a burn-in for instance).

 

The reason I haven't turned the A7S into a shooting machine the way I did with the Canons five years ago was because I just don't have the time and inclination to research all the parts: what is the best cage, breakout boxes, lens mounts, external monitors, monitor arms, blah blah blah. It's a lot of effort. Totally understandable if this is all one can afford in which case it may be a great solution (although I think it quickly starts to add up to resemble the cheaper camera bodies that are built to shoot motion).

 

Even once rigged properly, DSLR's are notorious for slow to navigate controls and menu systems. The side of the Alexa (and the lookaround area of the onscreen image) tell you at a glance all the most essentially settings: ISO, color temp, green/magenta shift, shutter angle, run time etc. and any of the above are quickly changed.

 

All of that has to do with speed and comfort on fast-moving sets where every minute counts. But image quality is what lasts and it is true that the gap between the high end and entry level cameras continues to close. At the point at which a "renegade" camera manufacturer creates a product that can go head to head with the Alexa in the ways I consider important and at a fraction of the cost, sure, I'll be interested.


  • 0

#20 Larry DeGala

Larry DeGala
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 41 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • North Wales

Posted 08 August 2015 - 07:27 PM

I had the opportunity to rig an A7s for a 2-day gig.


  • 0


Glidecam

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineTape

Aerial Filmworks

Willys Widgets

rebotnix Technologies

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineLab

Ritter Battery

Visual Products

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Zylight

Technodolly

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

Pro 8mm

The Slider

Aerial Filmworks

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

Zylight

CineTape

Abel Cine

Ritter Battery

CineLab

Visual Products

The Slider

Glidecam

Willys Widgets

Pro 8mm

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Technodolly

Broadcast Solutions Inc