What cameras have you been shooting with lately? Genesis? F23? What are your thoughts compared to your recent RED experiences?
I am almost done shooting a TV series for three months on the Genesis after shooting for three months on the RED.
They both have some strengths and weaknesses.
Genesis' main strength, to me, is that it is truly 500 ASA and tungsten-balanced, which makes shooting low-light tungsten scenes and night exteriors -- and getting a low-noise image -- easier for me than RED's optimal 320 ASA daylight-balance.
The image is very sharp despite being limited to HD recording. In some ways, it's a bit too sharp, I sometimes feel that they could have gone with a heavier OPLF because I seem to run into more aliasing issues than I did with the RED. So the Genesis image seems edgy-sharp instead of the smooth, rounded look of the RED.
The size and weight of the Genesis is generally not a problem, but since we do a lot of handheld on this show, the operators would be happier using the RED camera, and certainly my assistants preferred the size & weight of our RED cameras.
The Genesis has been generally bug-free, though not totally, and I have had no problems with the HDCAM-SR tape recordings. The image quality is very consistent.
One thing I preferred about the RED workflow was getting 4K frame grabs every night from my data wrangler. I tried using a Leader waveform to grab frames from the Genesis but it was a pain in the a--- because the menu screens would also be grabbed, and I had to remember to turn off the LUT before I grabbed the frame, etc. I gave up on doing it after a day.
Also, using a LUT box has been a little more awkward than having the camera output a Rec 709 monitor image. I can watch the Genesis image with the proper LUT for viewing in my DIT tent on an HD monitor, but all the set monitors get a washed-out RAW image (well, LOG image technically) because there aren't enough inputs and outputs on the Panavision GDP box to use one LUT box for two cameras and multiple set monitors. And we can only afford the one box.
Dynamic range seems similar, if anything, the Genesis may seem to have a slight edge over RED in terms of range, but not by much.
Tape recording, as I said, has been pretty hassle-free and standardized. We only have to change tapes after 50 minutes of footage.
I have to say that the Genesis is a very well-designed camera in terms of image quality and consistency. And very solidly built.
I haven't shot any direct comparisons though. I've been getting good results with both the Genesis and the RED camera, that's about all I can really say.
Hi David. I was wondering if you might have missed my slider question above? :-)
Thanks David for your insight.
I guess the only thing that dramatically separates the two are the rental rates. My last bid from Panavision was eye popping. The RED's seem to be a very good option in terms of rental rates (similar to S16 packages). However, once you add premium glass to the order (like S4s or Ultra Primes) the RED package gets up there (but still nowhere near what Panavision is charging).
I've seen 2nd Unit DP's take a 4' slider out on location to do tiny moves on establishing shots and inserts, which adds some production value without a dolly.
Do you test the lenses that you use? What do you test for? What charts do you use? I was thinking of picking up the Century Precision Optics Field Focus Chart w/ Seimans Star so I can test the sharpness of any lenses that I buy. I was wondering if you used this or something else and what else I should know. I'm going to be using still lenses on my red, but I also thought it would be applicable to both still and cine lenses.
Most of the rental houses have a big resolution chart that my AC's use for lens testing -- I actually haven't had to test lenses myself too often, unless I'm curious about something.
Siemens Star is more for doing back-focus adjustments. Usually resolution tests of lenses involve line charts.
Regarding the Genesis...
That mirrors my experience too. Pretty nice camera. I think the Red viewfinder is head and shoulders above the Genesis, though. And battery management is even more crucial than with Red... ;)
Agree that the image is more "enhanced-sharp" than Red. Do you find you're using a slightly heavier diffusion to bake in a kinder look?
Workflow and procedure questions...
In lieu of another GDP, could production get an HD-SDI router or DA?
I can't imagine everyone having to look at the log image day after day...
Which waveform? The Leader LV5330 has a USB interface so you can use a jump drive for the image clips. I also think there is a nice full-screen view without too much data displayed.
When you guys go handheld, do you put the SR deck back at the DIT station? Just curious. Camera gets a lot lighter but also crazy front-heavy, which I think is worse than heavy.
I have a rather abstract question to ask. I thought your opinion would be valuable because I know you have a lot of experience shooting on digital formats.
What are your thoughts on the trend towards trying to make video look like film? Do you think we might ever, or should ever, try to appreciate video as a unique look, quite separate from film, and treat it accordingly?
A few of my thoughts on the subject to flesh the question out: I consider my own experience to be typical of many out there who have become involved in filmmaking in the past ten years. Naturally I started out shooting projects on small digital video handicams. As I've progressed my budgets and technical resources have expanded, yet for the most part I still shoot on digital formats. However I always go to great lengths, from pre through to post, to ensure the final product looks like it originated on film.
One night as I was channel surfing on cable I happened upon the film The Quiet, which I now understand you shot. I distinctly remember that about half an hour into watching it I realised it had originated on video, I guess it must've been the motion characteristics or a particular crispness, it's always hard to say exactly. But I was quite impressed with how filmic it looked, it was far superior in my opinion to many other (bigger budget) features shot on video.
I should also point out that like many other people I always prefer the 'filmic' look to that of video. The motion blur in Apocalypto irritated me and, because I found it distracting, took away from my enjoyment of the story. I hate that really sharp look common to high def, and I hate hate hate the way video 'tries' to render skin tones.
People will predictably say things like 'film is more naturalistic,' or 'film is softer and therefore more blah blah blah' etc. etc.; they'll try to come up with reasons for why film is somehow inherently better than video. But if I'm completely honest with myself, I don't think it's a valid exercise. Deep down I think I probably prefer the look of film because that has been the standard I've grown up with. In other words, if in fact electronic photography had somehow been invented and become the standard over a hundred years ago, and chemical photography had emerged as a rival only recently, and all my favourite films growing up had originated on video, I'd probably prefer that.
A few caveats: now, of course, the filmic aesthetic is more accepted, not only in the industry but also with consumers, yet video is far more competitive for smaller budgets. Hence, there is always going to be a need to make video look like film. I'm also sure that, as a Director of Photography, 99 times out of 100 you're going to have the Director say to you 'we're shooting digital, but I want it to look like film...'
All of these issues in mind, I will rephrase my original question, which is more abstract and philosophical than practical: Do you ever think there might be some value in trying to treat video as a unique, individual aesthetic, different from that of film, and perhaps, just as certain film 'looks' suit certain material, maybe a special 'video look' could benefit other material?
Perhaps the only example I can think of is Dion Beebe's work on Collateral, in which you start to sense that he has actually exploited the inherent characteristics of video to create a distinct look, rather than just trying to substitute it for film.
Of course this has other implications, such as lighting in a completely different way to conventional practice. It also has implications for things like location and set design, art department, costume etc. etc. because all of these factors are relevant to how video renders an image versus film. I'm talking about treating electronic photography completely separate to chemical photography.
As someone with extensive experience in both, I would love to hear your thoughts.
One last caveat: I think for the purpose of this discussion, RED should not be included in the 'video' category. I think by virtue of the fact that it records RAW data, has a sensor equivalent to 35mm and more filmic motion blur characteristics, puts it in a bit of a grey area and for the sake of clarity should sideline it from these discussions.
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