Reservoir Cats & The KineRAW S35

After I got back from doing a short in Ireland, last September, the Kinefinity KineRAW S35, I ordered back in May of 2013, arrived on my doorstep.

I was interested in this camera because:

  • I was looking for an S35 format camera;

  • That captures CinemaDNG;

  • The Kinefinity cameras also record compressed CineForm raw as a bonus (I love CineForm raw);

  • That has all the ins and outs like a cinema camera and that feels like a camera;

  • Dan Hudgins worked on the colour profiles of this camera.

I appreciate of course the reasonable price tag of the kit and it sooths my appetite for lesser known, almost underground, cinematic cameras - you know what I mean.

Without much testing the camera we almost immediately put it to work by using it on a remake of a Reservoir Dogs scene for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the film festival here in Ghent.

Click the CC button to have subtitles in English.

The camera performed without any mentionable issue and was really straight forward to use. We captured this in CineForm raw.

If you’re interested in this camera, I urge you to follow @SasquatchMovie - twitterfeed of UK production company THESEFOURWALLS (@T4WPs) - about the feature comedy they are currently filming on the S35 in the Lake District.

And you can of course rent it from RawCinemaShop.

 

A Singing Blade - interview with Tenzin Phuntsog

Tenzing Phuntsog is a filmmaker and artist, living in New York City. He runs a production company called Plateaux and Tibet Film Archive, a small film collection.

His new short ‘A Singing Blade’, commissioned by the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC, will be screened on Wednesday February 26, 2014.


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What is your background? What brought you to filmmaking?

Tenzin Phuntsog: 

My education in film began very early on. I worked for a major studio for several years where I prepared footage for in-house editors. At the same time, I started studying visual effects and media art. I learned the software and code that made image manipulation over time possible.

Looking at the image making process at this level gave me a new appreciation for the natural. Ironically, when you work this closely with software, which is essentially allowing you to simulate or alter reality, you begin to look at things differently.

This cyclic realization was very important for me. A moment of clarity, like a Brunelleschi painting. 

What’s the story behind A Singing Blade? When did you decide to make it and why?

Tenzin Phuntsog:

I directed, filmed and edited ‘A Singing Blade’ commissioned by the Rubin Museum of Art in New York with the support of the Lucius & Eva Eastman Fund. The museum approached me to make an original piece and I kindly accepted the invitation. Shooting happened last fall, but the idea and the concept came years before. Without giving too much away, my inspiration came from an esoteric ritual that I had personally experienced a few years ago which left a very strong impression on me. The basic description we have in the press and website also gives a good general synopsis. 


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"A SINGING BLADE, a fictional short written and directed by Tenzin Phuntsog, takes its inspiration from Black Yamari, a thangka in the Rubin Museum’s collection. Recalling her childhood memories, a young Tibetan woman living in New York, displaced, questions if all is lost. Realizing that beauty is fleeting, she attempts to find solace in poetry, ancient texts, and art."  — Rubin Museum of Art

Why did you use the Ikonoskop A-Cam dII?

Tenzin Phuntsog:

The interests which I mentioned before: time and perspective - the Ikonoskop allows me to capture my own sense of time with honesty and beauty. The sensitivity to light, microtonal frequencies, colors, skin, and resolution are impeccable. It gives me the sensitivity and breadth I was looking for. I have intercut restored archival film scanned at 4K with the Ikonoskop image and they are complimentary, the cuts between are not jarring.

This is my main camera. It is suited for the films I want to make, and can be adapted to any shooting scenario.

The Ikonoskop feels like a film camera. You have to be fully present. Direction and intent has to be clear. Each shot has meaning.

 


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What will be your next project?

Tenzin Phuntsog:

My next film is entitled, “Ritual of Resistance” which is going to be feature-length portrait film spanning three generations of Tibetan exiles, each with unique stories. My intent is to expand the upon the concept of “resistance” looking beyond the conventional definition, looking more closely at the philosophical, psychological and internal aspects. 

A Singing Blade

Director, Cinematographer, Editor: Tenzin Phuntsog. Producer: Joy Dietrich. Starring actress & singer: Yeshe Gyaltag. Original Score by Brian Chase.

A Singing Blade is the Rubin Museum’s first film commission, which was made possible by the support of the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund.

http://www.rmanyc.org/events/load/2527

Chansons de Charlotte

I recently color graded a short called Chansons de Charlotte, directed by Brian Windelinckx. 

He describes it as:

A musical comedy about a girl stuck in a rut - A love letter to the geniuses of the French New Wave (Godard, Truffaut, Varda & Demy) and Christophe Honoré’s revival of the genre.

Charlotte spends the night with her ex-boyfriend, philanderer Kristof, while having an affair with her French lit professor Frederik. The resulting chaos might interfere with a life-altering event for Charlotte.

And I absolutely love the film and loved working on it. It’s a musical and I love it. I love it. And … it’s a musical …
Errrr … not really my cup of tea normally (I don’t like tea by the way). 
But this little film is right up my alley and it makes me long for it to continue into a feature. 

Brian has just graduated from the KASK film school here in Ghent and this was his graduation project. Five out of ten graduation projects from this year’s bachelor students were filmed on the Ikonoskop A-Cam dII.

I’ve started keeping a list of films and documentaries that have been filmed on the dII and it’s getting quite long.

Why haven’t we seen more of these films online? Mainly because the filmmakers making them did not intend them for Vimeo or YouTube.

Most of them have entered or are entering the festival circuit and do not want much to be shown on the internet. It’s a bit frustrating if you want to show how good a camera is, but I can understand their point of view.

I was assuming that people had found their way by now around color correction and grading difficulties of the CinemaDNG post workflow for the dII.

But recent e-mails, conversations and topics on the Ikonoskop forum suggest the contrary.
And I can understand this, as Ikonoskop on their part have in my opinion not invested enough time and effort in getting the post workflow as smooth as possible.

So here’s how I color grade dII footage 80% of the time:

  1. I use the ACES color space with the CinemaDNG IDT but I don’t set an ODT. Any rec709 setting in Resolve seems to react to the Ikonoskop CinemaDNG like the work of a colorist gone mad. It’s like you only have 7 stops of latitude and the red channel is oversaturated by a 100%.
  2. Not setting an ODT results into a very dark image, but this is normal as it’s in linear gamma. 
  3. I use the custom curves to make a gamma curve that I’m satisfied with (basically just taking the centre of the luminance diagonal and pulling it up, so you get a balanced “C-shape” curve, will get you into a nice starting point).
  4. Or you can use this LUT as a starting point (use it as an input LUT in your project settings).

You might get the impression that Adobe Camera Raw (Photoshop, After Effects) does a better job at debayering the Ikonoskop CinemaDNG.

I just would like you to know that Adobe applies by default sharpening and noise reduction in Camera Raw (look at the 3rd tab of Camera Raw). So if you’re comparing decoders for quality, make sure you’re sending them into battle with the equal weaponry.

Stills taken from Chansons de Charlotte.

Real Value

Please check out this Kickstarter Project by Jesse Borkowski. It’s for funding a documentary about small businesses creating sustainable value and social change by giving equal weight to people, planet and profit. With two weeks to go, it’s 25% funded and needs our help.

It’s filmed on the Ikonoskop A-Cam dII. Jesse Borkowski is a valued member of the Ikonoskop community and especially known for his great tutorials on post workflows. 

Find his YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/jesseborkowski

And see an example of his work on the dII:

"Bird" by Gulley - Official Music Video - Directed by Jesse Borkowski from Jesse Borkowski on Vimeo.

Shoulder Rigs

I’ve been trying out different shoulder rig configurations the last couple of months.

We’ve filmed 3 episodes of an item in a daily human interest show on national television with the Ikonoskop.

Why did we use the Ikonoskop for something that needs a very fast workflow? Well, the cameraman wanted to have some extra practice on the Ikonoskop because we’ll be working as a camera team on a short in Ireland in September and frankly because we love a challenge. I’ll write more about this challenge in a later post.

The network’s prerequisites were: only hand-held, no zooming. As this was filmed during a very busy rental season, I had to really puzzle to get all the gear together, so I tried different combinations.

The first rig I bought for the Ikonoskop was from Lanparte. I don’t own it anymore because I’ve sold it to a customer who bought a Panchromatic, used the rig and loved and wanted it straight away. 
Lanparte stuff has great build quality for a budget friendly price. I used it in combination with the ARRI MBP-1 Adapter Plate and the MBP-1 Baseplate, but you could use as well with the Vocas Adapter Plate on the original Lanparte baseplate.

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This was my configuration:

  1. Double Handle Rig with Follow Focus DHR-01
  2. Top Handle TH-01
  3. C-Shape Support CA-01
  4. ARRI MBP-01 Ikonoskop Adapter Plate
  5. ARRI MBP-01 Base Plate 

In September at IBC I held the Vocas rig configuration for the dII, for the first time, and immediately loved it for its great balance. And I love the aesthetics of it as wel (I’m a sucker for anything that comes with brown leather handles).
It’s basically the “Vocas Handheld Kit Pro for midsize cameras” (Item code: 0255-3600) you want for the Ikonoskop with their custom Ikonoskop dII Adapter Plate. In my opinion a shoulder rig always needs a top handle (Topside Handgrip for 15mm rails - item code: 0350-0400). 

You don’t need the offset bracket for shoulder support that’s included in the kit, as the viewfinder sticks out on the left of the camera and not centrally on the back of the camera.

One thing I’ve learned though is that if you use a Vocas MB-430 Matte Box with this rig in a rail mounted set-up (i.s.o. clip-on) you’re better of with the Rail Support DSLR (Item code: 0350-300). You’ll need it to rise the plate high enough to get the lens perfectly centered in the Matte Box.

Vocas only has one type of follow focus. And I like it a lot, although some might find the knob too small and it is adviced not to use them on very big lenses.

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 So my ideal configuration is this:

  1. Ikonoskop dII Adapter Plate
  2. Rail Support DSLR
  3. Shoulder support for 15mm rails
  4. Weight attachment plate
  5. Weight 1kg for shoulder support
  6. Handgrip kit, with two handgrips
  7. MFC-1 Follow Focus
  8. Drive Gear M0,8x46
  9. MB-430 Matte Box
  10. 15mm LW swing away bracket for MB-430
  11. Flexible adapter ring for MB-430
  12. Topside Handgrip for 15mm rails

I also tried an Edelkrone rig, but not my cup of tea and impossible to get a good balance with the Ikonoskop, because of that top handle that starts at the back. In the picture below you see me rigging the cam and looking quite unhappy with it ;-)

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And last but definitely not least a new additon to our collection of rigs: Wooden Camera.

I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks, but am absolutely loving it. It’s the ideal rig solution for the lone shooter that travels light. Superb build quality, lightweight (so not for everyone) and very compact. So for the travelling cameraman this set-up is the best price/quality solution you’ll find.

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My ideal combination:

  1. The Quick Kit for Ikonoskop: includes Quick Base (Ikonoskop), Top Plate Kit, NATO Handle Kit and the A-Box for Ikonoskop (XLR break-out box).
  2. The Cruiser: a shoulder rig. Of course I took the one with brown leather handles, but it’s also available with black leather and rubber handles.

The Top Plate gets a bit in the way of the top scroll wheel on the camera. For me personally this is not an issue, because I don’t use the top scroll wheel. But if it bothers you, just know that you don’t need the top plate to connect the NATO handle to the camera as you can do this directly.

It’s ideal to use in combination with a CineBags Backpack and I’m sure you can transform the Cruiser into a crossbow so you won’t get hungry on your next nature documentary.

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Autism

Time to catch up on my writing, only like 6 months behind :-)

In November 2012 we were commissioned by Autisme Centraal to do an informational film for their annual symposium (+1K attendants) on autism.

I’ve written about it before in this post: http://blog.rawcinemashop.be/post/37579425948/talking-heads-with-canon-8-64-zoom-vocas-rig

Now, filming talking heads is not really my style. But we only had 1 day to do 6 interviews. It seemed appropriate.

The film is about people who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, giving tips to people in the medical, psychological, educational and professional field on 6 topics: Diagnostics, Education, Social Care & Psychiatrics, Profession, Housing, Scientific Research.

The interviews were filmed with the Canon 8-64. For the thematical imagery Zeiss Distagons and Linos MeVis-C lenses were used.

At the time I was into watching 70’s documentaries. Yeah, I get these weird fascinations from time to time. 
In my opinion, it shows in this film.

Although it wasn’t to be released on internet, the subjects in the film gave their approval to Autisme Centraal right after the 1st test screening. They were very happy with the film and their portrayal.

So here it is, in Flemish (Dutch), without subtitles. So if you don’t understand Dutch, don’t worry, it’s only 38 minutes long.

 

Aiming for the highlights

I sometimes need a nudge from a reader or Ikonoskop owner/user to get me out of my writer’s block.
I’ve seen some confusion and I have been getting some questions about the on-board histogram.

And I’ve also experienced some people who seem to think that shooting in raw means you don’t have to think about exposure. Well, let me assure you, the importance of exposure is as important as it has ever been.

Ikonoskop has always had this link on their site to an Adobe PDF about raw capture, linear gamma and exposure. This document is a very interesting read and if you take the time to let it sink in, you’ll notice that the on-board histogram makes a lot of sense. I consider it as my primary tool for setting exposure.

I’ve noticed that not everyone knows how to read a histogram.

  1. Shadows to the left, highlights to the right;
  2. Overexposure does not mean that there’s a read out that touches the upper horizontal line, but rather the vertical line at the right (the right wall of the histogram). It’s not a waveform.

What I aim for is to have the highlights as close as possible to the right wall of the histogram, but without touching it, so without overexposing.

The example below shows you what I try to avoid. In the bottom right corner you see the graph touching the right wall. In this situation I would lower exposure. Just enough to keep it from touching that right side.
I’m sorry for the poor quality of this image (it’s a hug blow-up), but I don’t have the gear to be able to shoot something better through the dII viewfinder (if someone can, please do and send me an image).
And remember, you can only see this histogram through the viewfinder.

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This does NOT mean:

  1. That it’s OK or better to underexpose;
  2. That if the situation demands it, it’s not OK to overexpose some highlights. 

As you can see, the histogram has almost no read-out in the middle, because the scene has pratically no color. But if you would overexpose a colorful scene by more than 2 stops, you’ll start noticing the same kind of histogram, where color information is getting lost. the graph will become flatter in the middle and the end result, will look like … well … not pretty.

Although I’m still amazed, every day, by how much information in the shadows the dII captures, too much underexposure will lead to blocking and banding of the shadows (if you want to crank ‘m up in post).

If you want to capture a scene that holds more than 11 stops of dynamic range you’ll have to decide what to drop, shadows or highlights. And this, to me,  is where the false color function comes in. I’ll look at which highlights get pink and decide if it’s OK that they’ll be completely white in the resulting image and I try to figure out if there’s a risk of causing aliasing on the edges of the highlights. 

The on-board histogram is in my opinion an essential tool. It’s just a shame that it can only be consulted through the viewfinder. And it’s a pity that it’s in this half transparent white, ‘cause in very bright conditions, where reading overexposure is crucial, it’s quite painful to figure out how far you can go on the highlight end of the histogram. I don’t mind an overlay, but it should be opaque and preferrably not white. And I would be thrilled if somehow in the near future, there would be a way to get it out of the viewfinder and into some other monitoring solution.

I always welcome comments, in fact, they make it more interesting to keep writing. So please, feel free to participate.