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Guest Post: Low Light Run n’ Gun Fun

Okay, I’ll begin how I’ll end this post:

D16? I’m sold.

I’ve had the camera since April, yet I’ve only shot trivialities (mostly low light): fruit on a table; a buddy drinking a beer; my cats – lots of cat shots; my toddler wreaking havoc pretty much anywhere there’s space to discover, assess, and rip apart in a hummingbird’s blink; and my wife’s vociferous proteststo put down the camera  and block the lil’ demon’s pathway of destruction:

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Pictured: lil demon (200 ISO Switar 10mm F2.0 @7:15pm Daylight Balance)

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Pictured: lil’ demon planning total annihilation (Tungsten balance, 200 ISO, Cosmicar 12mm F2.8 @7:30pm)

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Something for the lil’ demon to break – but lowlight never looked to sweet! (Daylight balanced, 200 ISO, Canon FD 50mm F2.8 @ 7:45pm)

Recently, the  D16 had an opportunity to earn its keep (and the money I forked over for her) for the band Sin City (www.TheSinCItyLP.com) . Below are 2 versions of the promo video:

short intro version:

Introducing… Sin City from Robert Cuadra on Vimeo.

Longer version for Miss Sacramento Pageant:

Sin City Promo for the Miss Sacramento County Pageant from Robert Cuadra on Vimeo.

It’s not the foremost representation of the D16’s capabilities,  but considering the circumstances of this shoot, I was HIGHLY impressed with the D16.This was run n’ gun shoot. You know that old nano-budget love story:

  • Get called on a Friday
  • Deadline is the day after shoot – whu?
  • Ideas emailed as well as possible locations (no permits, just shoot and hide)
  • Location availability collapse
  • Ideas change.

Finally, a rehearsal studio was acquired day of shoot,  but for 2 hours; the policy for shooting a video was, well, we didn’t ask. Less then 2 hours – out! There was a problem though. We thought all the rehearsal studio lights would be working:

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(Like this piece of Shangri-LA above. If you know this location…. shhhhhh.)

An anvil dropped –  SURPRISE! None of them worked.

I was sweating, I mean “used car salesman” kinda sweating. I pulled out my Panasonic Gh4 with my Voigtlander 17.5mm F0.95 lens (my low light backup), and jacked the camera to 1600 ISO… however, before I pressed “click” on my GH4,  something reared me back to the D16.  Call it Celestial Intervention, or plain bullheadedness since I just spent a ton of bones on a camera that’s collecting dust,  whatever it was, glad I switched to the D16.   Due to the low light situation, I shot the promos at 400 ISO, Tungsten color mode, WIDE open (F1.8 on my Switar 10mm and F0.95-1.2 on my Angenieux 25mm), and monitored with a SmallHD DP4. Since the only lights we had were a 40-watt ECO bulb, my IPAD, and multicolored LED lights (half of them were broken), another anvil dropped. Mixed temperature lighting shelling you at all sides? Not a dream situation. I felt defeated. Then, the “edit” happened.

I cut the promo in Premiere (RAW DNG’s), exported an XML to  grade in Davinci Resolve (RAW all the way, baby!),  Cineform Filmscan codec ouput (on a PC, so no Pores), and back to Premiere for delivery.  Since it was a  lowlight (yep, stating it again),  I had to boost the mids and highlights quite a bit, which made it very very grainy. I used Neat Video OFX plugin within Resolve – and it cleaned up beautifully!  It almost looks like I had a 3 light set-up. I do feel I crushed the blacks a bit much,  a tad too much saturation, and I probably could have boosted the mids a bit more and added some sharpening, but the turnaround was so quick, I had to grade without experimenting.  Examples below:

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D16 RAW in Rec.709 colorspace. Dark and depression is kicking in.

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BDFILM in Davinici Resolve. Still Dark, and the Band will never use me again.

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Colorgrade with noise from boosting the Mids and Highlights – LET THERE BE LIGHT!

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Neat Video Plugin cleans ‘er up real good.

When I saw this image, the sun popped over the horizon for me. I was relieved. Also, I recorded sound via D16 too, really clean sound; however some sound had to be ADR due to lines flubbed (you can tell the differences, but we did our best). Biggest lessons here?

  • Bring lights.
  • D16 isn’t a low light camera, but  within reason, she performs beautifully
  • No DSLR can touch D16 color tonalities
  • Don’t faint over what you see in the Monitor
  • D16 forum and community ROCKS!
  • Neat video Plugin is your friend.
  • Trust RAW, RAW is your friend.

After this experience, I promise you, there will be many, many, more adventures with this tiny Sherman-tank-of-a-camera.

Okay, I’ll end how I began this post:

D16? I’m sold.

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Guest Post: Normalizing the D16 Color Space

We’re going to do a number of blog posts on the topic of integrating D16 footage into your post workflow to break in the “Help Desk” coming soon to our website, which you can find above the navigation bar.

Our first post is an in depth look at grading CinemaDNG files from the Digital Bolex to avoid some of the color space issues users have encountered. The post, based on a paper, called “Grading beautiful film-like skin tones and images with the Digital Bolex D16 using proper color grading techniques,” is authored by our forum users Kurt Lancaster, James Fleming, and Eddie Barton. Continue reading “Guest Post: Normalizing the D16 Color Space” »

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Kish/Bolex Lens Comparison and M43 Tests

Since we announced our fixed aperture Kish/Bolex lenses two years ago, many people have had questions. Are they hard to light for? Are they really usable in different lighting environments? How do these lenses really hold up against the expensive professional lenses already on the market?

We visited Hot Rod Cameras to find out.

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On Friday No Film School published an article about the Kish/Bolex lenses that included a the above teaser image for today’s post. The graphic is a comparison chart featuring eight shots, each taken under the same lighting setup and with the same F stop. Three shots were taken with each of our three Kish/Bolex Series 1 Primes, three were taken with expensive cinema primes from major manufacturers, and two were taken with a popular DSLR zoom lens at multiple focal lengths.

All of the lenses were set to F4 and the cameras set equidistant at fixed positions to the subject. The lighting was checked with a light meter and consistent through the test.

Since performing these tests two week ago, we’ve shown the teaser graphic to a number of professionals at rental houses and who work on set in the camera department. The question was simple: point out which lenses are ours and which lenses are the “professional” usual suspects. Or put another way, can you actually tell which lens costs $400 and which one costs $4,000?

Everyone we talked to was unable to pick out the Kish/Bolex lenses. Were you able to? Check out the key below and find out. Continue reading “Kish/Bolex Lens Comparison and M43 Tests” »

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Women Cinematographers Grant Opens Applications!

Helen_Taft&May_AllisonAs we announced on our monthly Ustream 2 weeks ago, we are super excited to begin accepting submissions for our Digital Bolex Grant for Women Cinematographers, presented by Hive Lighting today. Specifically, applications open at 11:59PM PST.

Premiere-level sponsor Hot Rod Cameras will host also an informational session and kickoff party at their location in Hollywood in early October, so keep an eye on this post for announcement of that date.

The response I got to my initial post about the grant was overwhelming (in a good way!) I expected to get a handful of emails, and instead wound up with hundreds and hundreds of inquiries, which just strengthens my belief that there are a TON of women out there who want to get into this field but don’t have the resources to break in. Continue reading “Women Cinematographers Grant Opens Applications!” »

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Kish/Bolex Lenses on Sale Today

Those of you who have followed our progress since Kickstarter know that as soon as our campaign ended, we surveyed all of our backers to ask what accessories they were most interested in, and overwhelmingly the winner was lenses.

After 2 years in development, our Digital Bolex/Kish Optics Series 1 Primes are now available to order through our online store.

IMG_0073 Continue reading “Kish/Bolex Lenses on Sale Today” »