Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Can't we all just be friends?

     So in the spirit of the holidays....

I'm a Mac guy.  I loved FCP, and FCP 7 was just my favorite.  It had everything I needed.
When I heard Apple was going to upgrade it to fully utilize the multi threaded, multi
core Macs, I couldn't wait.  Then came FCP X.  Nothing against it, I was just 
expecting something more like.....well like every other professional editor EVER, 
that's all!  So now I'm in this strange place.  I use FCP 7 a lot still.  I also DO have
FCP X and slowly struggle to learn to use it.  But another editor has also found it's
way onto my system.  Adobe Premiere Pro CS 6.  Really if you are going to get
After Effects and Photoshop anyways.....might as well buy the whole suite.  And
guess what?  Premiere Pro CS 6 is kind of like what I thought 'FCP 8' would be like.
It's not perfect, and there are some annoyances but to me, it's easier to learn than
FCP X as you aren't 'relearning' everything.  You can even bring over the FCP 7 
keyboard shortcuts which is really nice.

OK, so I also shoot a lot with my FS100.  Memory cards are pretty cheap ($33 or so for
a class 10 32 gig SDHC card at Walmart) but I'm not going to archive most of my stuff on
cards, because.....lets face it, I do fairly low budget stuff.  So I have come up with my own
archive system which I will fully describe in another post.  But, it involves transferring 
the video off the cards.  Now if you leave the file and folder system intact, you can 
just load the folder into Premiere Pro CS 6.  But you can't view the video anywhere
but in Premiere Pro!  So if you wanted to just take a look through some folders and
'scan' the video real quick.....you are kind of SOL on a Mac, as the .MTS files are
kind of like the mean kid at school that wouldn't play nice.  Quicktime has no
idea what to do with the .MTS files.  Enter Clipwrap.  It will 'rewrap' these .MTS
files into a nice .mov file.  No transcoding or image degradation, just wraps the
video in a .mov wrapper so you can view them nicely in Quicktime.....which
can be nice if you want to scan through the folders quickly.  However, I found
ANOTHER problem.  These new .MOV files, will work with Quicktime, but
now Quicktime is it's 'bestest friend forever' and Premiere Pro is the one being 
left out!  The files will 'sorta kinda' work in Premiere Pro CS 6, but OMG they are
more sluggish than me at 6am on a Monday!  I'm not running a top of the line system, 
but I have a hyperthreaded Quad Core with 16 gigs of Ram and a CUDA enabled 
Quadro FX4800 video card, so asking for realtime playback of a single video track 
with no effects on it didn't seem too much to ask did it?  Silly kids, I just
needed to figure out how to get them to ALL be friends together!
And of course, being such a BRILLIANT* dude, I figured out the solution.  You see, 
the way I understand it, Quicktime uses old 32 bit code.  Premiere Pro CS 6 doesn't
really like crotchety old guys that  'lived when there were stagecoaches....or dinosaurs'.
So I tried something.  After I 'rewrapped' the clips with ClipWrap to a .mov file,
I changed their extension to .mpg.  Guess what?  Now they hum right along in Premiere
Pro CS 6!  And you can still view them in Quicktime.  Not sure WHY this works, but
you might give it a try if you have a similar problem with ClipWrapped .MOV's 
bogging down CS6.  Now my last problem, was that I had folders and folders of
archived video files with a .mov extension.  Man it was going to take forever
to go through and rename them all to .mpg.  You can only do ONE at a time, and 
it asks you each time if you are SURE you want to change the extension....it's
like it's advising you to cut the red wire and not the blue one!  Seriously, it's not
like I'm going to blow UP something! **
So I made up a  little action in Automator to batch rename EVERY file in a folder from
.mov to .mpg.  It takes less than a second to change 500 or 1000 video files
from .mov to .mpg.  And it's available, free, to all subscribers of my blog 
right here.

All you do, is open the script, then click on the 'Run' button in the upper
right hand corner.  Open the folder full of .mov files.  Click on the top
one, then hit shift and click on the bottom one (or select 'all')  Once you
have all the .mov files selected, click on choose.  POOF!  Now all
your ClipWrap .mov files have been converted to .mpg files that will
play nice with both Premiere Pro AND Quicktime!  Why can't we all
just get along?  I guess maybe now we can......until I find the next strange
problem with my system......

Any questions, let me know!

* Luck may have had a bit to do with it but you didn't hear that from me....

** I mean I don't THINK I'm going to blow anything up by changing some file extensions
from .mov to .mpg.  On second thought, DON'T PRESS THAT BUTTON!
(Just kidding...........you hope........)

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions
Digital Cinema | Websites | Consulting | Multimedia

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Metabones EF to NEX firmware....

My FS100 can't speak Canon.  But it has a very good translator.  The Metabones EF to NEX
adapter.  This is a pretty popular and well known lens adapter which allows you to use Canon 
mount lenses on the FS100/700 as well as other NEX cameras like the VG10/20 and the NEX 5/7
and so on.  The first version had a square 'hole' which apparently allowed for some very minor
'clipping' of bokeh at F stops around 1.4.  Metabones updated the adapter with the 'Mark II' version
which apparently solved this problem.  This is the version I bought.  However, after buying it,
I some strange behavior.  Everything worked PERFECTLY with my Tamron 17-50 2.8.
Iris control, zoom bar meter, focus distance display.....everything.  However, on my 
Sigma 50-15- 2.8, about half the time everything worked great.  The other half of the
time, NOTHING worked.  Not even iris.  So you had to attach and detach the lens from
the mount, and/or the adapter from the camera several times, and finally it would start
working again.  Curious, I brought the camera into a local lens shot and tested several
Sigma lenses.  NONE of them would work at all!  So I wrote a email to Metabones.
They told me that many Sigma lenses had a 'bug' and that I needed the latest firmware
on my adapter and asked me which version of firmware I had.  I had read that only
NEX still cameras could display the firmware version of the Metabones, but apparently,
this is NOT the case.  The FS100 can as well, as long as you have updated the FS100
firmware to version II.  Here is how you do it:
Menu > Others > Version Display
If you still are unsure, take a look at the pictures below.

In my case, my lens/mount adapter had version 10.  Metabones advised me to return it to them,
which I did.  They updated it at no cost and sent it back, fairly quickly it took about a week to
get back to me in Alaska which is honestly faster than I get most things.  After getting it back,
I checked again and now had version 15 installed.  But there were a couple quirky things.
First, the zoom position bar and focus display in feet no longer worked with ANY of my
lenses.  However, the iris worked perfectly on ANY lens, and the IS worked with lenses that
have IS.  Also, the fit of the adapter to the Canon lenses seems MUCH tighter.  I think the 
Metabones is a little bit of a 'work in progress' as they have to deal with all kinds of third party
lens manufacturers and make them 'talk' to the adapter.  I am giving them VERY high marks on
customer service as they always respond quickly to emails and have went the extra mile to make
sure I am getting the functions I need from their adapter.  It seems like their adapter keeps getting
better and better and while it is annoying to have to send off for firmware updates, it seems like
every firmware update makes it a better adapter.  So check your firmware, because you can
actually do it on a FS100!

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions
Digital Cinema | Websites | Consulting | Multimedia

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sigma 50-150 F2.8 lens

I was never a DSLR guy.  There, I said it.  I totally and completely skipped the DSLR video craze. 
Shooting video with a still camera?  I was probably the only person in the modern world who didn't
shoot on a DSLR and stayed with video cameras.   I'm kind of glad I waited for big sensor proper video cameras, I'm not a professional stills shooter, I don't understand DSLR's like I do video cameras.  But now I have some catching up to do in regards to lenses.  You see, most lenses that you will be using on the large sensor video cameras, are still lenses (unless you reside in the big budget world and can afford PL mount lenses, and the Epic, and the Alexa, in which case, I HATE you! :-)  The problems with still lenses for video are many, short focus throws, jerky zooms, varifocal instead of parfocal and more.  But in the process of my research, I heard a few interesting tidbits about a certain lens.  Now these legends were referring to the older Sigma 50-150 F2.8.  It has been discontinued in favor of the newer  Sigma 50-150 which is much bigger and heavier (more on that later).  The legend goes, that this is the lens that Red 'rehoused' to make their 50-150 Red Pro Zoom.  I have no idea if this is true.  But after seeing pictures of it online, I thought it might be nice to have as a 'mid telephoto' for my FS 100.  It seemed pretty small and compact for a telephoto lens.  This can be nice when you don't want to 'build up' your camera with rails and a lens support.  Of course, if the lens is big and heavy, you NEED to build it up, as you don't want to put to much stress on the little E-mount on the FS100.  Most telephoto zooms are big and heavy.  This is one of the only ones that is a F2.8 and reaches out to 150mm and stays relatively small.  Alas, they are not easy to find nowdays, I looked all over eBay and in the used section of most lens stores around the country.  Finally, I got lucky and saw a '9+' condition one come up for sale at B&H for $570.  

Now, many of you probably realize, this lens
does NOT come in a Sony E-mount.  You
can get it in either a Nikon mount, a Sony A-mount, or a Canon EF mount, and then get 
a Novoflex adapter (for Nikon mount), a Sony LA EA1 or LA EA2 for Sony E to A mount 
adapter, or a Metabones Canon EF mount to E-mount adapter.  Each of these offers some
advantages and disadvantages as well as
different price points, and I will be talking
about and reviewing these adapters in another post.  But for now, lets just say that the Sony
LA EA2 adapter will give you autofocus ability (which is an advantage for Sony A mount lenses) and the Metabones will give you image
stabilization (which is an advantage for Canon EF mount lenses).  That's kind of the summary of it.  Unfortunately, this lens does NOT have built in IS, so you can't get image stabilization (more on that later).  But the one B&H had was a Canon EF mount, and as I own the Metabones adapter, I knew that I would at least get iris control, so I quickly bought it.  
So lets go through the pros and cons of the lens.
First, the cons.  The biggest thing to me, is
that it has no image stabilization.  When you have it zoomed in to 150mm, it is going to shake, unless you are on a tripod.  On the kit lens, I can be at 200mm and be rock steady with Sony's active IS.  Now the new version of the Sigma 50-150 DOES have IS, BUT it is as big and heavy as a 70-200.  So I am guessing that you have to give up the IS to get the smaller and lighter lens.  This is a shame, because with the small, light lens, it is just begging for you to go handheld, but you can't without getting some wobbles.
And it is long enough to cause the camera to be a little front heavy.  But really, that's it. That's because this is positively one of the BEST stills lens that you can buy for a motion picture camera.
No joke.  If you find one, buy it and send me a $5 donation for pointing you in the right direction.
Seriously, show me the money......better yet, really send it to me.  No, I'm serious, put that money
in the mail!  This lens is what you want a cinema lens to be.  Well built, and sturdy.  Very nicely
dampened focus and zoom rings, if you are careful, you can actually pull off a live zoom with this thing!  That's right, now all us big sensor guys can go back to indiscriminately zooming like we
used to with the zoom rocker on the little chip cameras!  In all seriousness, it is nice to be able to
zoom in veerrryyy sllllooooowwwwlllyyy during an interview sometimes.  And with this lens,
you can do it.  The focus throw is perfect.  I absolutely HATE still lenses in which you go from
focused at 6 inches to infinity in 2 centimeters of focus throw.  Talk about STUPID.  Yeah, I
know there are reasons for it in the still world.  But guess what, I'm not a still photog, so I'm
gonna complain all I want!  But this lens has the perfect amount of focus throw.  When zooming,
the lens does not extend at all.  That's right, all you matte box users rejoice, this lens is perfect for
you!  And it's parfocal too!  Or as close as a still lens can get.  Crash zoom in, get your focus, and
zoom back out, just like you used to with your shoulder mount video cameras!  And the
image?  It's just gorgeous!  Which is to be expected I guess as still cameras are resolving 16,
24, and even 32 megapixels nowdays while HD video is basically 2.  It's clean, sharp, plenty
of contrast, and the bokeh is just beautiful.  If all still lenses were like this one, the 'cinema'
lens makers would be in trouble.  If you'd like a look at some work I've done with
this lens, watch the following video.  This video has a quick look at the lens, and some
random cuts of video (but it's actual video I've done for paying clients, NOT test video.)
There are some interviews for a documentary, and some b-roll of a house fire that I
used to produce a commercial for the local fire department, just raw, ungraded and
unedited video.  Take a look here:

Also, if you would like to see it, the completed commercial I made with that fire footage is here:

So in conclusion, I'd say that the older Sigma 50-150 is a great lens for anyone
with a large sensor camera.

Mechanics (longer focus throw, smooth focus and zoom, no extension when zooming.)
Good images
Constant F2.8

No image stabilization means it is mostly a tripod lens
A little front heavy

In Canon mount it works great on the FS100 and FS700
with metabones adapter and would work great on the Canon C100 and C300.  On the
AF100, you'd probably want a Nikon mount, which you can also use on the Sony
cameras, it's just then you use the Novoflex adapter which doesn't let you know
which Fstop you are at, although it DOES let you control iris...you just don't know
where you are.  Anyways, in my opinion it's probably a better lens for motion pictures
than it is for stills, with stills most people are probably going to jump on the bigger,
heavier 70-200 lenses.

Gabe Strong