On Friday morning, Team Bolex was waiting with bated breath for a special delivery from Canada. The package had landed in Memphis at 1:43 am, and when I got up around 8am FedEx’s website said it had arrived at the warehouse, less than 2 miles from my house. Around 1:30 someone knocked on the door, and it was here. After a month of waiting, our first working camera had arrived in Los Angeles.
The camera wasn’t the newest model–the engineers in Toronto need all the newest parts for development–but it was the same camera we shot still tests on in July, updated with the latest firmware. Firmware which was written for the newer boards, so Mike wasn’t sure how it would run on the old parts. This would be an experiment. For the first time the camera was on its own, thousands of miles away from its engineers. Mike said we were going to break it. It was our job to break it.
Over the weekend Elle was planning to try out a new process for some of her personal artwork, and I wanted to shoot her working as our official release footage. So I did some tests Friday night, and when I looked at the transcoded stills, I was surprised to see a ghosting effect we hadn’t encountered before. I realized it was because the FFD was off. The updates to the sensor block were throwing off the balance of the old C mount on this particular camera. I decided if I was going to try and shoot the next morning I was going to have to change the camera over to PL mount prototype, even though it didn’t quite fit the newest body. The PL lenses would be more flexible.
We started shooting on Saturday around noon with a pretty basic setup: Kino, slider, Switronix battery, Zacuto follow focus, Small HD EVF, tripod, and laptop for dumping footage. This camera ran a little hot, as Mike said it would, but that didn’t seem to be causing any problems. We shot for a number of hours on Saturday and Sunday, and stitched together a little vignette for you guys to download and grade.
The footage is 10GB, so it will take a while to download.
We also had a friend come and shoot some BTS footage, so you can see our set up.
We did eventually run into a huge firmware bug, and at least 3 different minor errors that we called Canada about in a panic and that the engineers hadn’t seen before, so I guess we did our jobs, even if it meant the camera had to return to Canada on Monday morning for more updates. I was a little bummed out–not because I was worried about the project, but because for the first time in years I had in my possession a camera that got me excited about shooting again. A camera that would let me use the lenses I love, and whose footage made me smile instead of frown with disappointment. And I had to give it back already.
This weekend, after watching our footage on the camera monitor and later on the computer, I truly understood one of the big reasons uncompressed raw is important to me. It’s because the D16 (and all uncompressed raw cameras) is pixel democratic, meaning it doesn’t hold any one pixel as any more or less important than any other pixel. When looking at DSLR footage it is very clear that out of focus areas, large color blocks, and soft gradations are less important than the detailed areas. Their algorithms literally compress those areas more. As if to say, we know you aren’t looking at the out of focus background. But sometimes the out of focus bit is the most beautiful, the most precious.
The D16 thinks all of your pixels are important. And there is something beautiful about that.
Can’t wait to see what you guys do with the footage.
Thank you all, Joe, Elle, and the Digital Bolex Team