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.

Talking Heads with Canon 8-64 zoom, Vocas rig & Alphatron viewfinder

A couple of weeks ago we used the dII on a shoot that looked up front a bit a-typical for an 80MB/s kind of camera. Six interviews, somewhere between 15-30 minutes an interview, to be intercut.

Ideal opportunity to test out some new stuff:

  1. Canon 8-64mm S16 Zoom
  2. Vocas Rig
  3. Alphatron HD-SDI viewfinder
  4. Recording audio on-board of the dII

The Canon 8-64mm S16 Zoom is a marvelous lens, that has been used extensively for documentaries and independent feature films. It’s a very robust lens, very sharp,  widest aperture 2.4, but it’s quite big (as big and heavy as the camera). From widest to closest zoom, it loses a bit of its focus.

To use a zoom like that, hand-held, you need a decent rig. At the Ikonoskop booth at IBC, I was able to test several rigs and set-ups for the dII. My favourite, by far, is the one from Vocas. Very light, compact, sturdy and high-quality (the leather handles are sublime). And I especially like the MFC-1 Follow Focus. It’s so compact and the gear wheel being underneath the lens is actually very clever and makes it work with all kinds of lenses no matter what mount (before the MFC-1, I used a Lanparte Follow Focus, big and heavy, but impossible to use in combination with, for instance, Zeiss Distagons mkI with 80mm fronts and the IMS-PL mount - it was just too clunky).
In the picture the shoulder pad and weight were only used for balance. Normally the shoulder pad has to be mounted a lot closer to the camera.

The DP in the picture is rather tall. To go easy on his back and because peeping down the built-in viewfinder all day can get quite hard on your right eye (using your left eye on the dII viewfinder is impossible, or you’d have to chop off your right cheek bone or something), we decided on using the all new Alphatron HD-SDI viewfinder (EVF-035W-3G).
This is such a nice combination with the Ikonoskop. Nice resolution, with false colour and focus assist. Worked all day on a single Sony battery (you can use the same type as on the Ikonoskop). 

For the first time now, we recorded the audio on the Ikonoskop instead of a recorder like the Sound Devices 702T. Not a single issue there. The audio was stripped from the DNG’s using Ikonoskop’s Audio Tool and automatically synced with the footage in Resolve.

And yes. This job was conformed and graded with Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 9. What happened to CineForm and SpeedGrade you might ask. I’ll come back to this.

The future of one Panchromatic

Last July, the guys at Ikonoskop asked me if I’d be interested in becoming a distributor for Ikonoskop in the BeNeLux region. I thought long and hard about this and finally accepted. 

You probably already noticed that I’m quite passionate about the camera and the company that’s making it. And I’ve been a supporter right from the start of this blog, otherwise I wouldn’t have called it “My Ikonoskop A-cam dII” (there’s actually alot of context in that title :-). But I’m really not much of a salesman.
I do like helping people understand the camera as much as possible and show them how to get the best results, though. And that’s what I plan on continuing to do. If along the way some of you get convinced that this is the camera for you, I’ll be glad to help you get one.

So that’s why you now find a link to a sales page on this blog. There are no surprises regarding offer or prices, although I do offer an interesting expansion pack if you decide to buy a Start Kit.

Anyway. I’ve sold by now a first camera to a most enjoyable Swiss filmmaker, Mr. Gilles Vuissoz. Gilles has been renting my Ikonoskop during a period of almost half a year now and like many others has fallen in love with the sheer simplicity of its design and usability. Gilles actually just perfectly fits the profile of the type of filmmaker this camera was made for, because he has spent most of his filming career as a DoP on 16mm.

But what’s really amazing about this first sale, is that it concerns a Panchromatic.
Gilles has been filming for many years now for a Swiss association called Plans Fixes. They have been making portraits of famous people from the Swiss cultural world on black and white 16mm film, since 1977. 

And now, after 35 years, they have decided to go digital and have chosen the Ikonoskop A-cam dII Panchromatic as the ideal camera to continue building their wonderful collection of black and white memories of great minds.  

I wish Gilles and his Panchro a wonderful collaboration that hopefully lasts another 35 years.

Mount

When I pre-ordered back in 2008 I didn’t have alot of lenses lying about (I still don’t), so I had to think about which mount I wanted on the dII. At the time Ikonoskop offered a PL-mount, C-mount and IMS-mount. There was even mention of a Leica-M-mount in the beginning.

The IMS-mount didn’t exactly ring a bell and there was no mention of the price tag on all of its adapters, so at the time I thought it wise to decide on one of the more known mounts. Considering my requirement for an inobtrusive light-weight camera and my knack for experimentation I settled upon the C-mount.

C-mount is a small mount with a thread of 25.4mm (1 inch) diameter and 32 threads per inch. Its flange focal distance is 17.5mm. You’ll find lenses with a C-mount mostly for use with 16mm film, for industrial use (Machine Vision) and for closed-circuit TV systems. That means a wide range of old movie lenses, high precision industrial glass and cheap CCTV zooms.

Some people say it’s too delicate a mount if you regularly and quickly need to change lenses, that the threads wear to easily. I suppose that depends on the quality of the material that was used to fabricate the mount and the nature of the person changing the lenses. For myself, I don’t really anticipate many problems.
The first thing I tried upon receiving the camera was mount it with a C-mount to Nikon F-mount adapter (that I bought a couple of years ago on eBay), to take some shots with a Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm (see footage below). Completely stretched out the lens is as long as the camera and it weighs almost as much. But the mount didn’t feel that delicate. But I wouldn’t advice using these modern digital DSLR lenses (as the Nikkor mentioned above) if you want to control your aperture ;-)

But what if I suddenly would like to work with PL-lenses?
I must admit that if I had to make that choice today I’d probably go for the IMS-mount with a C- and PL-adapter. Not that I can’t make that choice in the future. I can already use a C-to-PL adapter or I have the option to let Ikonoskop switch the front of the camera from C-mount to IMS-mount and this at a reasonable cost.

Fortunately new buyers don’t have to take that decision anymore, Ikonoskop seems to have done it for you. If you buy the dII today, it apparently comes with the IMS-mount (unconfirmed if you can still choose other mounts). But you still need to choose an adapter ;-) 

Which one? 

Why an A-cam dII?

Within a week after visiting the Ikonoskop website for the first time in September 2008, I decided that this was/is the camera for me and pre-ordered it. I didn’t know at the time that it would take another three years until it’s delivery, but that’s another story.

But how did I know? What was I looking for?

  1. I do not care for the resolution war that was and is still raging. I believe in 1080p as I still believe in 16mm. 
  2. What I’ll make with this camera will almost always be viewed on television screens and monitors. But still, when transferred to film, I believe RAW 1080p is up to the task in most theaters.
  3. I want an inobtrusive light-weight camera, that I can mount with all sorts of lenses. It has to be ergonomic and robust.
  4. But most of all. I want some timelessness (blasphemy in this digital age) regarding the format of my footage. Sourcefiles that are not hindered by changes in encoders and decoders and that do not suffer from any kind of lossiness due to compression (and in the mean time can be rendered to all kinds of compressed formats untill, one day we won’t need any compression anymore).
    In short: I want digital negatives!

I’ve found this in Ikonoskop and their A-cam dII. Are you a believer?

Poster for Eraserhead