Monthly Archives: May 2012

Sweet Shot of the Week #4: “Headlights”

May 22, 2012
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Alexa dynamic range test with headlights

Arri Alexa Dynamic Range Test – “Headlights” There’s a bunch of things I love about this shot, things that hightlight the Alexa’s strengths. First, there is no light on the faces of the people walking towards camera except the ambient bounce coming off the buildings behind me. But their faces are relatively clear. Shadow detail, check. When the headlight comes into view, you can clearly see every LED in the Audi fixture. Highlight detail? Check. You can also see every mote of dust swirling through the air. Yes, that’s the stuff we breathe in Beijing. The driver and passenger in the car are illuminated only by whatever light is coming off the dashboard. It almost looks like there’s a couple of MiniFlo’s tucked in there, but there’s not. As the Audi turns, the white paneling on the door shows the clear reflection of the people walking away. Lots of detail in those bright areas. Using the Alexa means exposing scenes in a new way. Things I’m not crazy about:...

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Sweet Shot of the Week #3: “Candles”

May 16, 2012
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Arri Alexa Low Light Test – “Four Candles” Arri ALEXA Camera Settings: ISO 400 25 fps 180 degree shutter ProRes 4:4:4 4600 degrees Kelvin The lighting equipment for this shot consisted of: One match Four candles One SmallSun LED flashlight. The flashlight was, if anything, too bright on the table.

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Sweet Shot of the Week #2: “Vitamin C”

May 16, 2012
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Arri Alexa 120fps Test – “Vitamin C Nuke” The glass beaker is the glass from a French Press coffee maker. It’s sitting on top of an upturned silver salad bowl, just to get lots of light bouncing up from underneath. It took about two hours to get the tablet of vitamin C to land where I wanted in front of the lens. The depth of field in this extreme macro situation is a fraction of a millimeter. There are two panes of smaller glass in the water to make a sort of transparent channel for the tablet – after you know this you can just make out their bottom edges in the picture. I went through a lot of vitamin c before coming up with this method of guiding the falling tablet into the focal plane; the tablets just kept hydroplaning around the bottom of the beaker and nothing was in focus. So the glass sandwich in the water sort of forces the tablet to stay put. This was...

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Sweet Shot of the Week #1: “Ignition”

May 14, 2012
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Alexa slow motion match strike

Arri Alexa 120fps Test – “Ignition” Camera Settings 120 fps ProRes 4:2:2 Red ProPrime T=1.9 (fake macro setting) 3200K The above test was recorded at 120fps, ProRes 4:2:2, with an Arri Alexa and a 50mm ProPrime. I have a cool trick how to make a regular lens behave like a macro, without using diopters. Hint: you need a clamp-on mattebox on a set of rails. In this case, my MMB-1 on the 15mm lightweight rails.

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Alexei’s Dream Camera

May 5, 2012
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the Arri Alexa seen beside the JVC falcon for comparative size.

I’m totally beyond excited – I’m the proud new owner of an Arri Alexa! I look forward to offering this excellent tool to my clients. This all started back in 2006 when I was on retainer with JVC as a “consultant.” I was an owner/operator of the then-exciting GY-HD101, the new generation of HDV cameras. Did a lot of shooting with that camera, a lot of which I’m quite proud of. At the time, Panavision and Sony had just come out with the Genesis (i.e. F35), Arri had the D20, Phantom had one high-speed camera, Dalsa was still making noise, and the RED 1 was still vaporware. It seemed obvious that Digital Cinema was around the corner. I gave a presentation to the head of sales China and the head engineer of JVC camera global, in which I proposed that JVC jump into the fray. I went ahead and designed a camera. Of course, not being an engineer, I couldn’t say exactly how the electronics would function, but I had some...

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Inseparable, starring Kevin Spacey

May 5, 2012
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Inseparable, starring Kevin Spacey

I just watched the preview of a friend’s film (Inseparable, with Kevin Spacey, written and directed by Dayyan Eng) for which I did a day of 2nd unit shooting. By turns hilarious and foreboding, alternately cheeky and crushingly serious, a mash of genres that only Dayyan could pull off. The story always manages to go just where you think it won’t. If you’re tired of the same-old-same-old, it’s a must-see when it comes to a theater near you. Great performances from Kevin Spacey, Daniel Wu and Gong BeiBi. From a directing standpoint, some fantastic visual ideas and visual puns throughout. Congratulations, Dayyan! The movie was DI’d in 2k (scanned from 3-perf S35) and it looked fantastic projected on the big screen. There are a few Red-MX shots in there but they honestly looked different. I don’t think most audience members would see it, but they did have that video feeling to them compared to the stuff shot on Super 35. And gotta love those Cooke lenses, man.

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Alexa Announces 2k Pro-Res

May 5, 2012
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Alexa Announces 2k Pro-Res

Joy! If you want to shoot spherical 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 this is just what the doctor ordered. Having shot widescreen fairly extensively on the Red-MX, I can say that 2k ProRes in this format is PLENTY in terms of resolution, and I’m glad that Arri has finally made the ProRes recording match the resolution of the ArriRAW options. In Q3 (soon): ProRes 2K provides a high quality 2048 x 1152 ProRes file that is ideal for feature film productions; it will initially only be available for Regular Speed (0.75 to 60 fps). In Q4: (late this year) For those who own a High Speed license, ProRes 2K recording will be possible from 60 to 120 fps. I couldn’t be happier. Full details are of course on Arri’s website.

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