by Ben Sheriff Issue 96 - December 2014
Yesterday TV-BAY - Kit Plus came to East London\'s Brick Lane showcasing a roadshow packed with great seminars and kit to whet our appetites in advance of BVE in February. It was no great surprise that, for the DPs and camera operators at least the star of the event was the Sony PXW-FS7. Sony\'s latest large chip offering has been called by some the \'Canon C300 beater\' and I have no doubt that as more of them come on stream and production managers and producers start to see the results they will be persuaded to move away from the trusty old C300.
The ergonomics of Sony\'s camera certainly beat that of the C300 but it will be interesting to see how Canon responds in the coming months. It is hard to really make a full analysis of the system until the full frame servo zoom lens (SEL-28135G 28-135mm) from Sony is released later in the year as well as the XDCA-FS7 that will expand the possibilities for 12-Bit RAW output (with a third party recorder), genlock, timecode and V Mount power. That aside with a Canon 24-70mm lens and the Metabones Speed Booster adapter it produced a stunning looking image when viewed on a monitor.
The viewfinder is okay but seems to me to be a compromise given as it lands somewhere between \'viewfinder\' and \'LCD monitor\' being, as it is, switchable between the two. The loupe is pretty poor and seems to come straight off the FS700. Having said this using a higher spec EVF will be straightforward. The menu system and all the buttons seem to be exactly where you would want them and where you expect on a Sony and the build quality seems pretty good (except for the viewfinder which seems plasticy). Whilst people are getting excited by the price point I would highlight that by the time you add the Sony XDCA-FS7 and a recorder such as the Atomos Shogun 4K to enable RAW recording and (early 2015) Pro Res internally on the XQD cards, you are going to end up spending over ten thousand pounds - a fair amount of money. But that said, the ability to shoot with existing Canon lenses and the slow and quick motion potential of this camera in various formats are going to make it extremely popular. I for one am looking forward to shooting some content with it.
I have yet to have had the opportunity to get up close and personal with a Blackmagic Ursa and so I jumped at the chance by the Blackmagic Design demo vehicle - which is one tricked out van! After checking out the ATEM switchers and control units inside the van (and admiring their lovely LED lighting system and bespoke MacPro mount), I spent a good twenty minutes with a couple of other operators frowning and generally looking bemused but intrigued at the same time at the Ursa. I have always used Blackmagic Design gear in my edit suit and I find the kit to be fairy durable - so I want to like their cameras as well. What I think is most exciting about Blackmagic Design and AJA diversifying into the world of production as well as post is that this Digital Fluidity will push other manufacturers to think differently about development. Post companies certainly come at camera development from a completely fresh angle. Post-production companies understand one thing well and that is what kinds of images editors, graders, compositors and other post-production engineers like to work with. Understanding how they value log colour spaces and more pixels surely in turn means that they will innovate some camera technology that is capable of delivering \'better\' images or should I say images that are \'better suited to post-production\'.
Ergonomically the Ursa is a complete disaster - it\'s an absolute brick, it is heavy and only destined for the tripod - if the massive 10\" flip out LCD screen was detachable then it might be a start to making it more user friendly, but the image looks impressive. I can see this camera having most potential in the education sector. When I was teaching digital media I would loved to have had a camera like this - you can get three groups of individuals around it and they can all press buttons, enter meta data and control the camera at the same time. The low price point and the camera\'s multi-functionality make it desirable for educational purposes. This is still early days for Blackmagic Design\'s journey into acquisition technology let alone 4K and in my experience Blackmagic Design not only have a habit of shaking things up through pricing strategy and design (the clue is in the name right?) but they also listen to their customers and we will almost certainly be seeing future offerings that improve on the Ursa in current form. Think how Red have changed since their flagship Red One camera - modular is the future and Blackmagic will surely continue to develop and refine their unique stance on 4K imaging. It\'s not a camera I will be rushing to get the opportunity to go shoot on, but it is certainly food for thought and perhaps a good kick up the proverbial for the traditional manufacturers.
I am a lover of great lighting and great tools for lighting and so I made sure I had a front row seat for Jonathan Harrison\'s presentation entitled \'Glossy Lighting for 4K\'. Jonathan went further with the intro by stating that the setup he was going to demonstrate was in fact 8K ready, but what does this mean in real terms? Sensitivity to light improves as resolutions increase and thus we need to adjust our lighting accordingly; we no longer need high output lights in order to expose the image correctly. So with this in mind I firmly believe that lights are a better investment than cameras. I have always assumed the stance that with great lighting \'less is more\', in terms of the amount of fixtures used and the light sources mixed. Jonathan used a Panaura 5\' above the subject (I think with an 800w tungsten lamp) as the key light and it worked to great effect \'wrapping\' the subject which was a key thrust of his presentation. Most light sources in the setup were softened to aid this \'wrapping\' and he did add in other lights for effect but the main 3 point setup used the Panaura as key, the Celeb 200 as underslung front fill, and a 20 watt DL2 providing a cool backlight on the subjects hair. Not inexpensive fixtures but they certainly provided a \'glossy\' look with the FS7 and a slick image in 2K on both the display and broadcast monitors. A really interesting an informative presentation, although I wished we were able to actually see what the camera image looked like in 4K - as with any new technology we want to adopt it right away but integration takes a little longer. Well done TV Bay - Kit Plus for putting together a great day, see you at BVE.