Reading The Tea Leaves

Curved At CineGear this year, I had a short discussion with Matthew Duclos of Duclos Lenses.  We both sort of agreed that the push to full frame cinema cameras was in some respects more about selling new sets of gear and lenses rather than any argument about quality.  We also sort of laughed about the extra burden placed on the poor focus pullers of the world with full frame depth of field!  You only need to look at the Super 35mm RED Weapon 8K Helium camera to know that the move isn’t required to achieve more surface area for photon gathering, or more resolution.  It’s very good in low light, and though RED has been pushing 4K for a decade now, it’s only recently that studios are finishing their films in 4K, so an 8K originating format should last us for a good long while.  You can make an argument about the art side of the equation and that there is a certain look that comes from shooting at 65mm or larger, and it’s a very valid argument, but I’d like to focus on the technical need aspects.  I argued to Matthew that curved sensors were going to lead to a revolution in lens design.  He wasn’t convinced.

90% of people upgrade their only camera every two years when they get a new phone.  Phone cameras have decimated the point & shoot market, leaving the higher end market as the only place where manufacturers can eek out a profit.  As I argued here, I feel that the manufacturer with the best technology (Sony) is going to win the bulk of the higher end market.  It will take a while to overcome the inertia of tradition and bias, but eventually, it will happen.  But what about the very high end: the medium format world?  Here, higher resolution has been the main incentive coaxing photographers to upgrade.  Like the DSLR market though, even that is reaching a point of diminishing returns.  The medium format world is a little different in that there are complete cameras, but there are also imaging backs that detach from the camera and lens assembly.  Sony has entered this world supplying what is arguably the best current sensor technology to Phase One.  But you know that they want to bring their own complete product to the fore.  How to differentiate themselves?  As with their A9 camera, by bringing technology to bear that no one else can: a curved sensor and line of lenses designed for it.  When all the light is being focused at the same distance, lenses should get smaller, vignetting issues and corner sharpness should improve, and since the photons have a “straight shot” at each sensor bucket, I would imagine light gathering ability and colour performance will improve.  And what type of sensor can best take advantage of these benefits?  Larger sensors.  Sony announced at NAB that a cinema camera with a full frame sensor is coming.  Will it too have a curved sensor and special lenses?  Will rental houses buy the camera if they have to buy yet another set of lenses after just equipping themselves for “flat sensor” full frame cameras?


After hammering Nikon in my A9 article above about how they don’t have the technological chops to compete with Sony, there’s the possibility that they are about to make their great step in modernization by finally unveiling a serious mirrorless camera….with a full frame curved sensor.  Is Nikon about to abandon their legacy users in one great leap forward?  Maybe.  Again, a curved sensor would require all new lenses, meaning money for a struggling company.  Was I wrong in saying Nikon can’t keep up?  Maybe.  Did they design the rumoured sensor?  I don’t know, maybe they are sourcing it from another manufacturer.  Who?  Could it be……Sony?  A lot of conjecture with no actual facts, but interesting times ahead.

When George Lucas went digital for the prequels, he said something to the effect of, “Film is at the apex of its development, it will never get significantly better than it is now.  Digital will only get better.”  Prescient.  Pretty hard to make a cinema camera that uses curved film!  Having said that, “The Force Awakens” was shot on film.  Remember the art side of the equation?

How Flat is Flat . . . and why should we care?

The folks at Lindsey Optics design some interesting macro attachment lenses as well as filters.  They have a new Zygo Phase Shift Interferometer.  Say what?  It’s a device that helps to ensure that their filters are as flat as possible.  Dwight Lindsey explains that any kind of curve in your filter essentially turns it into a lens and modifies the light traveling through it in ways that aren’t desirable.  Give it a read.

Source: How Flat is Flat . . . and why should we care? – Lindsey Optics

RED’s Latest Tease

RED has forever changed the digital cinema market, so any time they launch a new product it’s news.  Having said that, they have a history of teasing and not following through.  I don’t know what to think of this latest offering.  Seems expensive for what it currently does.  It’s pretty amusing to read the comments on  Quite a few along the lines of “I’m not really sure what I just bought for $1600 but I love it!”  Plus they are already limiting expectations of how many they can produce.  Jarred Land himself calls their latest attempt at supplying a low cost camera in large numbers (the Raven) a “Clusterf-ck” and they stopped taking orders because they can’t keep up.  Doesn’t seem like they are scaled up to head into the consumer electronics world.  Time will tell.

Source: Red Hydrogen: Worlds first Holographic media player and mobile phone – Newsshooter

AVID Makes Its Play

UPDATE: Pro Video Coalition has a getting started demo.

If you’re editing a movie with thousands of elements, then AVID is your NLE.  If you’re in a multi-user environment networked to huge central storage, than AVID is your editor.  But if you’re just looking for something to smash Youtube videos together, FCP X, Premiere Pro or Davinci Resolve is your editor.  That means that there are thousands of people who have no idea how to edit in AVID (or are even familiar with what AVID is).  And eventually, that means that no one uses AVID, and even though it’s arguably the best NLE out there, AVID fades away.  AVID is very aware of of their declining share, and with the release of their free Media Composer First, this is their fight song.  I wish them luck.  They’ve been an institution since the start of NLEs, and it would be a shame if they went away.

A “Deep Dive” at AbelCine in Los Angeles

As part of KOAT’s original content series, I stopped into AbelCine in Los Angeles to have a look at their cinema sales and rental operation.  The always enthusiastic Andy Shipsides sat down for a talk about surviving in a service industry, and their possible future moves.

Christie projectors don’t come cheap, and I was pretty impressed that they offer their clients a calibrated viewing theatre, both for dailies and training purposes.  Abel has an idea about how things should be done, and if that means they have to design their own gear to meet that standard, then that’s what they do.  Hope you enjoy!

Cinefade Blows Them Away


One of the booth videos I featured at CineGear was from a company called CineFade (no relation  🙂 ) They are using mainly existing technology in a novel new way.  Their system allows you to modify depth of field, without changing focus or exposure.  Say what?  They have synced a FIZ unit to change aperture value (affecting DOF) while counteracting the respective change in exposure by simultaneously adding or subtracting neutral density value.  They do this by making a variable ND filter out of two polarizers.  The iris and the ND are mapped to each other over the length of the variability so there is no “stepping” or anything to give the change away.

Sony is doing the same thing on their FS5 and FS7ll cameras, but this is the first system I’ve seen that does it for any camera/lens combination and is designed for cinema use.  Remember the first time you saw a Dolly Zoom?  (There’s actually a pretty good one in Guardians of The Galaxy 2 when Peter realizes -SPOILERS- that Ego killed his Mother).  The effect on DOPs that are seeing the process for the first time is pretty profound.  Oliver from Cinefade put together a little film of their reactions at CineGear.  Fun to watch, and nothing makes you “get it” like watching the effect happen in real time.  Fair warning: strong language if that’s not your thing.

Check it out by clicking here.

A Full Frame Prime Lens Comparison

At NAB this year, I was one of the few people to give a new Taiwanese lens company any press.  The name of their company is Bokkeh.  I wasn’t sure at that time if they were rehoused lenses or not.   Vincent Huang from Bokkeh assures me these are an all new lens design.

They recently made me aware of a full frame blind lens test they posted to 4K Youtube.  No word if they’ll let us know which is which eventually, but one assumes yes, or what was the point, right?.  If you’re living in a full frame world, it might be fun to have a look and decide which of the seven different lenses you like.