Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Nikon D300 Review

From Ken Rockwell's site, a review of the Nikon D300. Looks like a significant improvement to already great D200.

If you decide to buy a D300, please click through to the vendor from Rockwell's site, as a way to support this excellent website.

Why Your Camera Doesn't Matter

Ken Rockwell on Why Your Camera Doesn't Matter.

"Why is it that with over 60 years of improvements in cameras, lens sharpness and film grain, resolution and dynamic range that no one has been able to equal what Ansel Adams did back in the 1940s?..."

Short answer? The artist's eye, craft, skill and intuition matters much more than the technical implements used to capture an image.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Very busy--no time to post

Very busy working on the camera book. No time to post.

Am struggling with The Office Situation. My home office is unavailable right now, and I am trying to rent a temporary spot. I have previously written in rented rooms, empty sheds, vacation houses, libraries and coffee shops.

Like many writers, I am most productive when working away from home. I'm so easily distracted and have a very bad record of being productive at home. When I'm at home, I always seem to stop writing to do something important... like fix the dripping faucet, walk the dog, do the budget, stack firewood, or visit the kitchen for a snack.

It always surprises me how hard it is to find a reasonably priced room for a 2-3 month rental while I finish a book. As soon as the landlord hears the word "writer" the deal seems to go south. Despite the fact that I have cash in hand, and am ready to pay in advance.

Have had this happen several times now. I think people get fearful, and start worrying about what you are doing, *exactly.* (Sitting there all day looking at a computer? Got to be something weird about that.)

One landlord even made a point of walking in on me unexpectedly and looking over my shoulder to see what I was doing. Maybe this is an artifact of living in a semi-rural area. I don't understand it.

Phil Bloom's equipment list for XDCAM EX1

Phil Bloom posted this list of equipment on DVinfo.net.

Phil is an amazing cinematographer. His footage with the XDCAM EX1 is stunning.

I have been asked for my set up details so here they are!


These are my main lenses.

16mm Zenitar f2.8
18mm Signma f1.8
28mm Nikon F2
35 Nikon F1.4
50mm Zeiss f1.4 and Zeiss Macro T2 and Nikon 50mm F1.4
85mm Zeiss f1.4
105 Nikon f2 DC
135 Vivitar f2.3
180 Nikon F2.8
I also have one Sigma zoom which I think is 28-70mm f2.8
Two f2.8 swing tilt lenses. One 50mm, one 85mm

I use the Letus support bracket on a set up mish mash rods that I am still perfecting.

The most solid I have come across are the Cinevate camera base and rod support. I actually use the carbon fibre rods from Cavision. Cavision supports are pretty good and very customisable. I did use my old Redrock one for a bit but it is SOOO heavy.

I used a Marshall 7" monitor when I need external focusing. Helpful but no longer essential with my ex1 and it's amazing LCD screen. But it is still easier to focus using an external monitor. The resolution on the screen can by a 100 billion pixels but it's still small and size is everything!

I sometimes use my redrock follow focus but this is quite rare. I am a fast worker. Constantly changing tools, constantly changing lenses and having a follow focus slows me down. What i do have is the gears on most of my lenses. It helps me to rack focus so much easier.

My tripod is a Miller DS20 solo. i CANNOT rave about this enough. It is a super tripod. It is lightweight but solid. It can go as low as my low boy manfrotto tripod and very high. it has a superb head that can take the weight of a fully laden down 35mm ex1 combo and monitor. It is also super smooth.

I have a few different radio mics. 2 Sennheiser evolution lavalier but not sure of the model number. They are affordable and good quality. I also have recently bought audio technica's dual receiver lavalier system which is great for my larger cameras as it powers off of the 12v camera output. The receiver is a little big for the smaller cameras but it works so well.

I have a wally dolly which is for me the best dolly I have used for the price. So smooth. easy to set up, doesn't need perfect surfaces and is cheap. Oh and it doesn't need a grip!

My main light is a rifa 55 500w soft box with a 45 degree egg crate diffuser. A superb soft key light and it goes everwhere with me. I also have 2 dedo 150 lights which I use for backlights etc. I have a projector and gobos for them. I have redheads and otherlights but rarely use them. I often try to make use of as much natural light as possible. For example if you look at my Anorexia section most of the interviews in parts 1-3 are with available light.

I have three matteboxes. I cheap Indian one which is fine. A cavision one, which keeps falling apart and a lovely Chrosziel one that lives on my DSR 450. I recommend buying the best you can afford as I didn't to start with and just bought cheap. They fell apart quickly. I have formatt and Tiffen 4x4 filters.

I think that's the bulk of my daily kit and set up.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reviewing the bound galleys

Just got the "bound galleys" for the production book. A bound galley is a low resolution copy of the actual book, with the final cover. The spine and back page are blank white paper.

The cover design is gorgeous and the text has a wonderful typographic layout.

It's really cool to get a cardboard box from UPS and find actual books inside which have my name on the cover.

I spent five days reviewing the bound galleys, making final tweaks to words here and there, and correcting a couple typos. I thought the bound galleys were for review, but what bound galleys *really* are is the FINAL book.

The bound galleys come out when everything has been set into print, and the only question for the writer is "Do we push the print button and crank out 20,000 copies?"

Fortunately, the publisher is willing to go back and incorporate my tweaks. Next time I write a book, I will spend a lot more time on the UNBOUND galleys, so all I have to do is just nod "yes" or "no" to the BOUND galleys.



Very busy last couple weeks. Little chance to post blog entries.

Have been indexing the production book. Professional indexers quoted us $2,000 to index the whole thing, and I wish we'd taken them up on it. I find indexing a tedious, difficult job and one best left to people who have a gift for it.

The whole trick of indexing seems to be to keep the reader in mind, and constantly ask "what would be useful to someone looking for information: about framing the idea, interviewing an expert, or signing with a distributor, or any other topic...

My main challenge right now is eliminating redundant index entries, and referring the reader only to the specific and most useful page(s).

Very time consuming. But at least I get to sit in front of a fireplace, with a good cup of coffee at my side, as I work on the laptop.

progressive forever

I will never willingly shoot an interlaced frame again.

After watching a movie on a 46 inch LCD in 1080i, and then in 720p, it's clear to me that progressive is the *only* way to shoot anything. High resolution is an aesthetic imperative, as much as good sound. The 1080i image felt 'blurry' and 'fuzzy' compared to the progressive image.

For a low-budget independent filmmaker, I think this means that the only thing to be shooting is 1080p. If you want your films to be around in 5 years, shooting anything less than 1080p is self-destructive. Given a choice, consumers are going to prefer higher resolution. (How many VHS tapes have you watched lately?)

Hollywood knows this, and according to one expert I talked to, the big boyz are already experimenting with shooting 4k (and higher) progressive at 48 frames per second. Their data rates are into the terabytes. (Have to find details on this.)

All this boils down to Sony's new HDCAM EX for low and no-budget filmmakers like me. $7K and you get 1080p 60 frames, recorded to solid state memory. (I got a chance to put my hands on the EX at DV Expo last week researching Digital Video Secrets, and the camera's really slick.)