Category Archives: Cameras

Review: The GoPro Karma drone

By Brady Betzel

It seems like every week there is a remarkable update to drone technology or the introduction of a completely new drone. From DJI, GoPro, Yuneec or even Parrot, there are a lot of drones to choose from.

I’ve reviewed the DJI Phantom 4 drone and it was awesome. There were a few issues I had with the Phantom 4, like wanting a higher data rate for the footage and a smaller form factor — DJI answered both of those requests with the DJI Mavic Pro and their more recent small drone Spark. So what would GoPro’s Karma drone offer that DJI could not? To be honest, I wasn’t sure GoPro could rise up to DJI’s level. But the GoPro Karma is actually pretty different from the DJI Phantom.

Last year, GoPro sent me up to Squaw Valley in Northern California for the unveiling of the GoPro Hero 5 and Karma Drone. I’ve written about the Hero 5 line of cameras on this site and I still think the Hero 5 is a top-notch camera. If you follow tech news you probably saw that GoPro had to recall the first version of the Karma Drone due to the power from the battery disconnecting mid-flight. So that wasn’t good, but GoPro found a solution by adding a latch to the battery compartment to keep it in place. So here I am with the new and improved GoPro Karma Drone.

The GoPro Karma drone can be purchased in a few different configurations: $1,099 for the entire package, including the Hero 5 Black camera, Karma grip and Karma drone; $799 for the Karma grip and Karma drone (no camera); and $599 for the Flight Kit, which includes just the drone (you have to supply the Karma grip and camera). You can buy it here. If you have a Hero 4 you can purchase that camera harness for $29.99.

Unpacking the Box
When you buy the complete Karma with Hero 5 Black kit, you get the drone itself, a slick carrying case that doubles as a backpack, a charger, a battery, all-in-one-controller (no need for a phone), Karma grip and Hero 5 Black Edition. When I opened the box I immediately charged the batteries on each component: the camera, the Karma grip, controller and the Karma drone battery. It’s a lot of things to charge so make sure you have enough outlets. The charger that comes with the kit will charge a battery as well as a USB-C connected device, like the Karma drone controller or the Hero 5 Black Edition itself.

My advice is to let everything charge overnight if you can contain yourself. If you can’t, then let everything charge for an hour or so. You should at least be able to get a few minutes of flight time. If nothing else get that Karma controller plugged in and run through the built-in Flight Simulator and Learn to Fly apps; they will at least get you comfortable with the Karma and how it operates.

You do not need the Karma drone powered on like you do with the DJI Phantom to access the flight simulator, so you can pretty much start practicing immediately. After you master the flight simulator, do some research and check your local drone laws. One day you might have to register your drone, or you might not. It’s a constantly changing landscape of drone laws right now and you don’t want to get into trouble or accidentally hurt someone, so checking out the FAA website is a good place to start your research.

After you have your entire GoPro package charged, insert the Karma drone battery completely into the drone body, insert just the stabilizer from the Karma grip into the drone body and lock it into place (you can pack the Karma battery grip for later), spin the propellers on and tighten with the supplied tool, unfold the landing gear and legs, press the power button on the drone, and press the power button on the remote — now you will be flying. One of the first things I noticed when putting the Karma Drone together was that I definitely liked the way the Phantom 4’s propellers connected to the drone more than the way the Karma’s attached.

Before leaving the ground, I got into the routine of setting my Hero 5 video settings before I launched (when I remembered). Personally, I think the video settings sweet spot on the Hero 5 Black Edition is at a resolution of 2.7K and running at a frame rate of 60fps to allow for smooth slow motion when editing (slow-motion drone footage when done right seems to always make people say “wow”). In terms of the ProTune, I set the appropriate white balance and knocked down EV compensation to -1 when the sun is out or clouds are bright. Knocking the EV down helps to retain the details in bright white colors. Think of it like built-in sunglasses (or digital ND filters). And 2.7K, 60fps seems to be a pretty happy medium in terms of quality vs. storage space on the Hero 5.

Keep in mind that the data rate of your video will stay between 50Mb/s and 60Mb/s no matter what resolution you use on the Hero 5. Logically, that means that 4K will stretch that data rate out, leaving you with a bigger image but technically less detail. Hopefully, GoPro will ramp up their data rates and check out another codec like the H.265 or maybe a new Cineform codec in their next release; everyone would really appreciate the extra image detail and color. And while I’m at it suggesting things, I wouldn’t mind seeing some 10-bit 4:2:2 recording — know that is wishful thinking.

Like most drones, the Karma batteries didn’t last all day. They were lasting between 18 to 24 minutes, depending on wind conditions. The heavier the wind gusts the more your Karma will try and compensate to stay straight, which will drain your batteries fast. Mine started to get between 13 to 14 minutes with medium wind gusts. A second battery is definitely worth it.

The Remote
Arguably my favorite part of the Karma drone, besides the actual drone, is the remote. The screen could be a little brighter outside but it looks good: it is a touchscreen, and it is very comfortable to hold. I never really liked the way the DJI Phantom remote felt, but the GoPro Karma remote feels awesome. In my opinion, the GoPro Karma drone remote is the best drone remote I’ve used. Besides controlling the settings of your GoPro camera from the remote, you can run the flight simulator and access any maps you have downloaded as well as the automatic flight settings.

You get four auto shot paths: Dronie, Cable Cam, Reveal and Orbit. Dronie starts off either close to the operator and flies up and out, or the reverse. Cable Cam has you set two points and will fly between those points. Reveal starts with the camera pointed down and slowly pans up to reveal the horizon. Orbit will circle an object you pre-determine. With all of these paths, you set the start and end points as well as speed and distance they travel. Once you tell these auto shot paths to begin you can control other parts of the drone easier, such as camera movement and orientation, as well as speed. They are awesome to play with and make great opening or closing shots for a movie.

When you are running out of battery, the Karma will automatically return to home base where you took off. This is something you need to keep in mind when flying because the GoPro Karma does not have collision avoidance, and if you simply hit return to home or it does it on its own, it could fly straight into power lines or something like a tree… and that will not go well. But when you are ready to fly back to your home base or on top of your Karma carrying case, which makes a great launch pad, you can hit “Return to You” or “Return to Launch.” If you’ve walked away and you want your Karma to come to where the remote is “Return to You” is what you want to hit. Again, this is when you need to be aware of what obstacles are in the Karma’s path.

On one of my outings I was going hiking about a half mile away from where I live in the hills of Simi Valley, California. It was a few months back when the hills were lush green from the recent rain, but it was warm. I had the Karma backpack on and was walking up a narrow path for about 15 minutes as I was chanting, “Please no snakes, please no snakes” in my head. Well, low and behold, Mr. Snake popped his head out from the side of the trail and said hi. It was probably a rattlesnake that wasn’t mad as we have tons of those in the hills around Ventura County. Nonetheless, I got out of there without any footage. If I had my wits about me I probably could have got a decent shot with the Karma Grip…nope. Let’s be real. I was out of there faster than the Flash.

I did discover that if you leave your Hero 5 in the Karma stabilizer while plugged into the drone or the Karma Grip, it will drain your Hero 5 battery. So take it out while it’s in storage. I really don’t have much to criticize in the Karma drone, but my wish list would include proximity sensors for collision avoidance, a higher data rate for the Hero line of cameras, which may come in their next release of the Fusion camera, and possibly a smaller form factor.

Summing Up
In the end, you won’t really get the idea of how fun drones are to fly until you get your hands on one. Drone filmmaking is not easy; it takes time to get beautiful shots. Think about it, there are camera people who make a good living off getting great shots. So don’t beat yourself up if it takes a few times to get the hang of just being comfortable flying a drone around while trying to keep everyone and everything safe.

However, once you get past the initial paranoia when flying a drone, you can get some unique shots that you may never have thought were possible. In my opinion, the GoPro Karma is the easiest and overall best drone to use. While it may not have all of the collision avoidance that the Phantom or Mavic have, it has an ease of use that is unrivaled.

The controller is so easy. My wife, who doesn’t really care about drones and would rather sew, was able to pick it up and fly within 20 minutes. This definitely wasn’t possible on the Phantom. In addition, being able to pull out the Karma stabilizer and attach it to the Karma grip within minutes is a game changer for someone running around the beach or hiking in the mountains.

If you are already a fan of the GoPro products, the Karma drone and grip are definite items to add to your shopping cart. GoPro even sent me the Karma Grip extension cable to play with. You can use it to stash the grip handle away from the stabilizer and then use a chest mount, or even the mount on the strap of the GoPro Seeker backpack, bringing stabilization everywhere.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Canon targets HDR with EOS C200, C200B cinema cameras

Canon has grown its Cinema EOS line of pro cinema cameras with the EOS C200 and EOS C200B. These new offerings target filmmakers and TV productions. They offer two 4K video formats — Canon’s new Cinema RAW Light and MP4 — and are optimized for those interested in shooting HDR video.

Alongside a newly developed dual Digic DV6 image processing system, Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system and improved operability for pros, these new cameras are built for capturing 4K video across a variety of production applications.

Based on feedback from Cinema EOS users, these new offerings will be available in two configurations, while retaining the same core technologies within. The Canon EOS C200 is a production-ready solution that can be used right out of the box, accompanied by an LCD monitor, LCD attachment, camera grip and handle unit. The camera also features a 1.77 million-dot OLED electronic view finder (EVF). For users who need more versatility and the ability to craft custom setups tailored to their subject or environment, the C200B offers cinematographers the same camera without these accessories and the EVF to optimize shooting using a gimbal, drone or a variety of other configurations.

Canon’s Peter Marr was at Cine Gear demo-ing the new cameras.

New Features
Both cameras feature the same 8.85MP CMOS sensor that combines with a newly developed dual Digic DV6 image processing system to help process high-resolution image data and record video from full HD (1920×1080) and 2K (2048×1080) to 4K UHD (3840×2160) and 4K DCI (4096×2160). A core staple of the third-generation Cinema EOS system, this new processing platform offers wide-ranging expressive capabilities and improved operation when capturing high-quality HDR video.

The combination of the sensor and a newly developed processing system also allows for the support for two new 4K file formats designed to help optimize workflow and make 4K and HDR recording more accessible to filmmakers. Cinema RAW Light, available in 4K 60p/50p at 10-bit and 30p/25p/24p at 12-bit, allows users to record data internally to a CFast card by cutting data size to about one-third to one-fifth of a Cinema RAW file, without losing grading flexibility. Due to the reduced file size, users will appreciate rich dynamic range and easier post processing without sacrificing true 4K quality. Alongside recording to a CFast card, proxy data (MP4) can also be simultaneously recorded to an SD card for use in offline editing.

Additionally, filmmakers will also be able to export 4K in MP4 format on SD media cards at 60/50/30/25/24P at 8-bit. Support for UHD recording allows for use in cinema and broadcasting applications or scenarios where long recording times are needed while still maintaining top image quality. The digital cinema cameras also offer slow-motion full-HD recording support at up to 120fps.

The Canon EOS C200and Canon EOS C200B feature Innovative Focus Control that helps assist with 4K shooting that demands precise focusing, whether from single or remote operation. According to Canon, its Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology helps to expand the distance of the subject area to enable faster focus during 4K video recording. This also allows for highly accurate continuous AF and face detection AF when using EF lenses. For 4K video opportunities that call for precise focus accuracy that can’t be checked on an HD monitor, users can also take advantage of the LCD Monitor LM-V1 (supplied with the EOS C200 camera), which provides intuitive touch focusing support to help filmmakers achieve sophisticated focusing even as a single operator.

In addition to these features, the cameras offer:
• Oversampling HD processing: enhances sensitivity and helps minimize noise
• Wide DR Gamma: helps reduce overexposure by retaining continuity with a gamma curve
• ISO 100-102400 and 54db gain: high quality in both low sensitivity and low-light environments
• In-camera ND filter: internal ND unit allows cleaning of glass for easier maintenance
• ACESproxy support: delivers standardized color space in images, helping to improve efficiency
• Two SD card and one CFast card slots for internal recording
• Improved grip and Cinema-EOS-system-compatible attachment method
• Support for Canon Cine-Servo and EF cinema lenses

Editing and grading of the Cinema RAW Light video format will be supported in Blackmagic Resolve. Editing will also be possible in Avid Media Composer, using a Canon RAW plugin for Avid Media Access. This format can also be processed using the Canon application, Cinema RAW Development.

Also, Premiere Pro CC of Adobe will support this format until the end of 2017. Editing will also be possible in Final Cut Pro X from Apple, using the Canon RAW Plugin for Final Cut Pro X after the second half of this year.

The Canon EOS C200 and EOS C200B are scheduled to be available in August for estimated retail prices of $7,499 and $5,999, respectively. The EOS C200 comes equipped with additional accessories including the LM-V1 LCD monitor, LA-V1 LCD attachment, GR-V1 camera grip and HDU-2 handle unit. Available in September, these accessories will also be sold separately.

Dell 6.15

At Cine Gear, Panasonic shows 5.7K Super 35mm cinema camera

During Cine Gear this past weekend, Panasonic previewed the AU-EVA1, a new 5.7K cinema camera positioned between the Panasonic Lumix GH5 4K mirrorless camera and the VariCam LT 4K cinema camera. Compact and lightweight, the AU-EVA1 is made for handheld shooting, but is also suited for documentaries, commercials and music videos.

“For cinema-style acquisition, we realized there was a space between the GH5 and the VariCam LT,” said Panasonic cinema product manager Mitch Gross. “With its compact size and new 5.7K sensor, the EVA1 fills that gap for a variety of filmmaking applications.”

The EVA1 contains a newly designed 5.7K Super 35mm-sized sensor for capturing true cinematic images. By starting at a higher native resolution, the 5.7K sensor yields a higher resolving image when down sampled to 4K, UHD, 2K and even 720p. The increased color information results in a finer, more accurate finished image.

One of the key features of the VariCam 35, VariCam LT and VariCam Pure is dual native ISO. Using a process that allows the sensor to be read in a fundamentally different way, Dual Native ISO extracts more information from the sensor without degrading the image. This results in a camera that can switch from a standard sensitivity to a high sensitivity without an increase in noise or other artifacts.

On the VariCams, dual native ISO has allowed cinematographers to use less light on set, saving time and money, as well as allowing for a great variety of artistic choices. The EVA1 will include dual native ISO, but the camera is currently being tested to determine final ISO specifications.

The ability to capture accurate colors and rich skin tones is a must for any filmmaker. Like the VariCam lineup of cinema cameras, the EVA1 contains V-Log/V-Gamut capture to deliver high dynamic range and broad colors. V-Log has log curve characteristics that are reminiscent of negative film and V-Gamut delivers a color space even larger than film. The EVA1 will also import the colorimetry of the VariCam line.

Weighing only 2.65 pounds (body only) with a compact form factor (6.69” x 5.31” x 5.23”) and a removable hand-grip, the EVA1 can be used for efficient handheld shooting and can also be mounted on a drone, gimbal rig or jib arm for complex yet smooth camera moves. There will also be numerous mounting points and Panasonic is currently working with top accessory makers to allow further customization with the EVA1.

Also suited for indie filmmakers, the EVA1 records to lower-cost SD cards. The camera can record in several formats and compression rates and offers up to 10-bit 4:2:2, even in 4K. For high-speed capture, the EVA1 offers 2K up to 240fps. In terms of bitrates, you can record up to 400Mbps for robust recording. A complete breakdown of recording formats will be available at the time of the EVA1’s release this fall.

In terms of lenses, the camera uses a native EF-mount, allowing shooters access to the broad EF lens ecosystem, including dozens of cinema-style prime and zoom lenses from numerous manufacturers. Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) is employed to compensate for camera shake and blurring, which will help smooth out handheld or shoulder-mount shots on documentary or run-and-gun projects. Behind the lens mount, an integrated ND filter wheel in 2, 4 and 6 stops allows for precise exposure control. The EVA1 also allows the IR Cut filter to be swung out of the path to the sensor at the push of a button. Photographic effects and night vision imagery are possible with this control over infrared.

The EVA1 offers dual balanced XLR audio inputs and 4K-capable video outputs in both HDMI and SDI. In a future firmware upgrade, the EVA1 will offer 5.7K RAW output to third-party recorders.

The EVA1 will ship for just under $8,000 (body only).

 


Imagine Products intros PrimeTranscoder

Imagine Products, creator of software utilities for backing up, viewing, sharing, transcoding and archiving video assets, has released PrimeTranscoder, a video transcoding app for Mac users. PrimeTranscoder offers GPU acceleration and a simple interface.

PrimeTranscoder is a transcoding application that allows users to convert multiple files to different formats at once. It recognizes and converts more than 20 different HD, 4K and RAW camera formats, including Arri, Blackmagic, Canon, GoPro, Panasonic, Red, Sony and more. While that’s happening, it can also create editable or sharable files. By doing all those things simultaneously, the company says, PrimeTranscoder makes for a more efficient workflow.

PrimeTranscoder’s user interface — which Imagine Products has designed to look more like its other applications, such as PreRoll Post for LTFS archiving and ShotPut Pro for offloading — is simple to use and offers both standard and user-defined presets. PrimeTranscoder includes standard presets for ProRes 4444, H.264, PreRoll Post, ProRes 422, iPhone, and iPad. Users simply select the preset, drop the media into Prime, and hit start.

Meanwhile, users can define and save their own preset features, such as watermarking, color correction and burnt-in timecode, along with features for merging clips. It’s also possible to include audio in transcodes regardless of the source. Users can create watch folders with automatic transcoding ability, which makes it possible to offload camera cards via ShotPut Pro, transcode the files, and send them to the editor in one seamless workflow — all while Prime creates informational logs of output activities.

PrimeTranscoder is especially helpful for creating sharable H.264 clips with customers or creating edit-ready ProRes 4444 and ProRes 422 files for an editing system. The PreRoll Post preset makes it easy to create proxies in preparation for LTFS archiving to LTO tapes. PrimeTranscoder can also communicate with, and be used by, external applications.

PrimeTranscoder is available for immediate download. The cost is $699.

 


Review: Blackmagic’s Ursa Mini 4.6K camera

By David Hurd

I have already tested two of Blackmagic’s cameras, and I found both of them to be a great value for the money. This left me with great expectations for the Ursa Mini 4.6K camera.

The Ursa Mini 4.6K feels like a very solid, well-built camera. I spent 15 years on broadcast sports trucks, and this camera has that rock-solid feel to it, and for only a fraction of the price.

This camera has had some software updates since it was first released. The magenta cast issues with the sensor, which required additional color correction in the first run of cameras is gone, and everything looks great in the camera that I’ve been testing. Even without a global shutter, the rolling shutter on the camera looks great compared to DSLRs and delivers a usable shutter and smooth motion when I tweaked it in FCPX.

David with the Ursa Mini.

I used the flip-out screen outdoors in fairly bright sunlight in a park with some tree cover, and it worked fine for framing and focus. Since you need the screen to control the camera settings, you might want to consider a sun hood if you are in extremely bright locations. This will make the screen non-collapsible, but you really do need to see what you’re doing.

Blackmagic sent me the Ursa Mini 4.6K, EVF (Electric View Finder), along with the follow focus and shoulder pad kits. I used my set of Rokinon prime lenses and my Petroff matte box, rods and follow focus. The Ursa Mini 4.6K, with its solid magnesium body, is manageable for even us older guys. I like the weight and the feel of the camera without the matte box and follow focus for extended hand-held shoots. If I’m using a tripod or a slider, it’s nice to have a matte box and follow focus.

There’s really a lot of stuff going on with this little camera. The shoulder mount works better on tripods with small camera plates. My Miller plate digs into my shoulder a bit, but it’s easy to fix by simply unscrewing my tripod plate while doing handheld.

The rotatable side handle is really nicely done, and it’s easy to adjust it to fit your body. If you’re used to making your own rig, with parts hanging everywhere, the side handle and shoulder pad will give you a welcome feeling of tight control. It also has iris control and LANC control for stop/start.

On the backside of the LCD screen there are several handy controls. In addition to Record, Iris, Focus, and Playback controls, there are two programmable function buttons. These come in very handy and are easy to reach when the LCD screen is closed and you’re using the viewfinder.

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the Ursa Mini 4.6K is a compact wonder. It’s small, yet easy to adjust for comfortable viewing. The HD display not only looks great but has a zoom and programmable function buttons on the top the unit, which come in very handy. I like to use the zoom and the peak buttons to check focus with my left hand, while my right hand is on the handle grip. It’s really easy to do without looking.

With my old BMD MFT Cinema camera, a T1.5 Rokinon lens and a Meta-bones speed adapter, I could practically shoot in the dark at 1600 ISO. The Ursa Mini 4.6K is not a great low-light camera; its native 800 ISO can be pushed to 1600 without too much noise in the image, but it really likes stop or two of light.

The Ursa Mini 4.6K has two XLR inputs mounted directly behind the handle on the top of the camera. These two channels of audio can use the onboard mics for scratch audio, or you can plug a microphone into the XLRs.

The nice thing about this camera is that it has phantom power to power your shotgun mics. I recorded a violin performance outdoors with a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic plugged right into the camera. I used a blimp and dead cat to control the wind noise, and ended up with amazing audio. This camera has the best audio of any BMD camera that I’ve tested.

The controls for the audio levels are under the LCD monitor panel, which makes it kind of hard to adjust when you’re using the viewfinder and the LCD panel is closed, but since the menu, power buttons and media slots are under there as well, you get used to it.

Media Cards
So let’s talk a bit about media. Since my other two Blackmagic cameras use SSD media, I have a HighPoint Rocketstor 5212 Thunderbolt drive dock already installed on my Mac.

After doing some research, I decided to use the 256GB Lexar 3500x CFast cards and their Workflow CR2 Thunderbolt/USB3.0 CFast card reader. They are very reliable cards with a good reputation, which is everything when you’re talking data storage. The upside to these cards is that they are located safely inside the camera and are very small in size. The downside is how often you would have to change them when shooting full-blown 4.6K footage.

I shoot a lot of 4K ProRes HQ footage, which doesn’t create too large of a file; one 256GB card will record about 26 minutes of footage. If you have a DIT on set, it’s no problem, but if you’re a one-man band, you will need a bunch of cards. I’m sure the cards will continue to come down in price over time, making them more attractive cost wise.

There is another solution however, and it’s called the Atoch C2S. It mounts on a short arm and has two slots for SSDs. It has two short cables, which plug into your two CFast slots, and a power cable, which plugs into the base of your battery mount at the back of your camera.

Summing Up
The Ursa Mini 4.6K is as solid as a rock, and it really feels like a serious camera. There is a lot of information available on the LCD monitor, and the touchscreen feature let’s you change settings via touch rather than scrolling through a menu. It’s an outstanding value for the money.


David Hurd is a 40-year industry veteran. He owns David Hurd Productions in Tampa, Florida.


Sony’s offerings at NAB

By Daniel Rodriguez

Sony has always been a company that prioritizes and implements the requests of the customer. They are constantly innovation throughout all aspects of production — from initial capture to display. At NAB 2017, Sony’s goal was to further expand benchmarks the company has made in the past few months.

To reflect its focus as a company, Sony’s NAB booth was focused on four areas: image capture, media solutions, IP Live and HDR (High Dynamic Range). Sony’s focus was to demonstrate its ability to anticipate for future demands in capture and distribution while introducing firmware updates to many of their existing products to complement these future demands.

Cameras
Since Sony provides customers and clients with a path from capture to delivery, it’s natural to start with what’s new for imaging. Having already tackled the prosumer market with its introduction of the a7sii, a7rii, FS5 and FS7ii, and firmly established its presence in the cinema camera line with the Sony F5, F55 and F65, it’s natural that Sony’s immediate steps weren’t to follow up on these models so soon, but rather introduce models that fit more specific needs and situations.

The newest Sony camera introduced at NAB was the UMC-S3CA. Sporting the extremely popular sensor from the a7sii, the UMC-S3CA is a 4K interchangeable lens E mount camera that is much smaller than its sensor sibling. Its Genlock ability allows any user to monitor, operate and sync many at a time, something extremely promising for emerging media like VR and 360 video. It boasts an incredible ISO range from 100-409,600 and recording internal 4K UHD recording at 23.98p, 25fps and 29.97p in 100Mbps and 60Mbps modes. The size of this particularly small camera is promising for those who love the a7sii but want to employ it in more specific cases, such as crash cams, drones, cranes and sliders.

To complement its current camera line, Sony has released an updated version of their electronic viewfinder DVF-EL100 —the DVF-EL200 (pictured)— which also boasts a full 1920x1080p resolution image and is about twice as bright as the previous model. Much like updated versions of Sony’s cameras, this monitor’s ergonomics are attributed to the vast input from users of the previous model, something that the company prides itself on. (Our main image show the F55 with the DVF-EL200 viewfinder.)

Just because Sony is introducing new products doesn’t mean that it has forgotten about older products, especially those that are part of its camera lines. Prosumer models, like the Sony PXW-Z150 and Sony PXW-FS5, to professional cinema cameras, such as the Sony PMW-F5 and PMW-F55, are all receiving firmware updates coming in July 2017.

The most notable firmware update of the Z150 will be its ability to capture images in HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) to support easier HDR capture and workflow. The FS5 will also receive the ability to capture in HLG, in addition to the ability to change the native ISO from 2000 to 3200 when shooting in SLog2 or SLog3 and 120fps capabilities at 1080p full HD. While many consider the F65 to be Sony’s flagship camera, some consider the F55 to be the more industry friendly of Sony’s cinema camera line, and Sony backs that up by increasing it’s high frame rate capture in a new firmware update. This new firmware update will allow the F55 to record in 72, 75, 90, 96 and 100fps in 4K RAW and in the company’s new compressed Extended Original Camera Negative (X-OCN) format.

X-OCN
Sony’s new X-OCN codec continues to be a highlight of the company’s developments as it boasts an incredible 16-bit bit-depth despite it being compressed, and it’s virtually indistinguishable from Sony’s own RAW format. Due to its compression, it boasts file sizes that are equivalent to 50 percent less than 2K 4:3 Arriraw and 4K ProRes 4444 XQ and 30 percent less than F55 RAW. It’s considered the most optimal and suitable format for HDR content capturing. With cameras like the F5, F55 and its smaller alternatives, like the FS7 and FS7II allowing RAW recording, Sony is offering a nearly indistinguishable alternative to cut down on storage space as well as allow more recording time on set.

Speed and Storage
As Sony continues to increase its support for HDR and larger resolutions like 8K, it’s easy to consider the emergence of X-OCN as an introduction of what to expect from Sony in the future.

Despite the introduction of X-OCN being the company’s answer to large file sizes from shooting RAW, Sony still maintain a firm understanding of the need for storage and the read/write speeds that come with such innovations. As part of such innovations, Sony has introduced the AXS-AR1 AXS memory and SXS Thunderbolt card reader. Using a Thunderbolt 2 connector, which can be daisy-chained since the reader has two inputs, the reader has a theoretical transfer speed of approximately 9.6Gbps, or 1200MBps. Supporting SxS and Sony’s new AXS cards, if one were to download an hour’s worth of true 4K footage at 24fps, shot in X-OCN, it would only take about 2.5 minutes to complete the transfer.

To complement these leaps in storage space and read/write speeds, Sony’s Optical Disc Archive Generation 2 is designed as an optic disc-based storage media with expandable robotic libraries called PetaSites, which through the use of 3.3TB Optical Disc Archive Cartridges guarantee a staggering 100-year shelf life. Unlike LTOs, which are generally only used a handful of times for storing and retrieving, Sony’s optical discs can be quickly and randomly accessed as needed.

HDR
HDR continues to gain traction in the world of broadcast and cinema. From capture to monitoring, the introduction of HDR has spurred many companies to implement new ways to create, monitor, display and distribute HDR content. As mentioned earlier, Sony is implementing firmware updates in many of its cameras to allow internal HLG, or Instant HDR, capture without the need for color grading, as well as compressed X-OCN RAW recording to allow more complex HDR grading to be possible without the massive amounts of data that uncompressed RAW takes up.

HDR gamma displays can now be monitored on screens like the Sony FS5’s, as well as higher-end displays such as their BVM E171, BVM X300/2 and PVM X550.

IP Live
What stood out about Sony’s mission with HDR is to further implement its use in realtime, non-fiction content, and broadcasts like sporting events through IP Live. The goal is to offer instantaneous conversions to not only output media in 4K HDR and SDR but also offer full HD HDR and SDR at the same time. With its SR Live System Sony hopes to implement updates in their camera lines with HLG to provide instant HDR which can be processed through its HDRC-4000 converters. As the company’s business model has stated Sony’s goal is to offer full support throughout the production process, which has led to the introduction of XDCAM Air, which will be an ENG-based cloud service that addresses the growing need for speed to air. XDCAM Air will launch in June 2017.

Managing Files
To round out its production through delivery goals, Sony continues with Media Backbone Navigator X, which is designed to be an online content storage and management solution to ease the work between capture and delivery. It accepts nearly any file type and allows multiple users to easily search for keywords and even phrases spoken in videos while being able to stream in realtime speeds.

Media Backbone Navigator X is designed for productions that create an environment of constant back and forth and will eliminate any excessive deliberation when figuring out storage and distribution of materials.

Sony’s goal at NAB wasn’t to shock or awe but rather to build on an established foundation for current and new clients and customers who are readying for an ever-changing production environment. For Sony, this year’s NAB could be considered preparation for the “upcoming storm” as firmware updates roll out more support for promising formats like HDR.


Daniel Rodriquez is a New York-based cinematographer, photographer and director. Follow him on Instragram: https://www.instagram.com/realdanrodriguez.


JVC GY-LS300CH camera offering 4K 4:2:2 recording, 60p output

JVC has announced version 4.0 of the firmware for its GY-LS300CH 4KCAM Super 35 handheld camcorder. The new firmware increases color resolution to 4:2:2 (8-bit) for 4K recording at 24/25/30p onboard to SDXC media cards. In addition, the IP remote function now allows remote control and image viewing in 4K. When using 4K 4:2:2 recording mode, the video output from the HDMI/SDI terminals is HD.

The GY-LS300CH also now has the ability to output Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) video at 60/50p via its HDMI 2.0b port. Through JVC’s partnership with Atomos, the GY-LS300CH integrates with the new Ninja Inferno and Shogun Inferno monitor recorders, triggering recording from the camera’s start/stop operation. Plus, when the camera is set to J-Log1 gamma recording mode, the Atomos units will record the HDR footage and display it on their integrated, 7-inch monitors.

“The upgrades included in our Version 4.0 firmware provide performance enhancements for high raster recording and IP remote capability in 4K, adding even more content creation flexibility to the GY-LS300CH,” says Craig Yanagi, product marketing manager at JVC. “Seamless integration with the new Ninja Inferno will help deliver 60p to our customers and allow them to produce outstanding footage for a variety of 4K and UHD productions.”

Designed for cinematographers, documentarians and broadcast production departments, the GY-LS300CH features JVC’s 4K Super 35 CMOS sensor and a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lens mount. With its “Variable Scan Mapping” technology, the GY-LS300CH adjusts the sensor to provide native support for MFT, PL, EF and other lenses, which connect to the camera via third-party adapters. Other features include Prime Zoom, which allows shooters using fixed-focal (prime) lenses to zoom in and out without loss of resolution or depth, and a built-in HD streaming engine with Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connectivity for live HD transmission directly to hardware decoders as well as JVCVideocloud, Facebook Live and other CDNs.

The Version 4.0 firmware upgrade is free of charge for all current GY-LS300CH owners and will be available in late May.


Sony intros extended-life SSDs for 4K or higher-bitrate recording 

Sony is expanding its media lineup with the introduction of two new G Series professional solid-state drives in 960GB (SV-GS96) and 480GB (SV-GS48) capacities. Sony says that these SSDs were designed to meet the growing need for external video recording devices docked to camcorders or high-performance DSLRs.

The new SSDs are an option for respective video recorders, offering videographers stable high-speed capabilities, a sense of security and lower cost of ownership due to their longer life. Using Sony’s Error Correction Code technology, the 960GB G Series SSD achieves up to 2400TBW (Terabytes Written), while the 460GB drive can reach 1200TBW, resulting in less frequent replacement and increased ROI. 2400TBW translates to about 10 years of use for the SV-GS96, if data is fully written to the drive an average of five times per week.

According to Sony, the drives are also designed for ultra-fast, stable data writing. Sony G Series SSDs feature built-in technology preventing sudden speed decreases, while ensuring stable recording of high-bitrate 4K video without frame dropping. For example, used with an Atomos Shogun Inferno, G Series SSDs are able to record video at 4K 60p (ProRes 422 HQ) mode stably.

When paired with the necessary connection cables, the new G Series drives can be effortlessly removed from a recorder and connected to a computer for file downloading, making editing easier and faster with read speeds up to 550MB/s.

G Series SSDs also offer data protection technology that keeps content secure and intact, even if a sudden power failure occurs. To add to the drive’s stability, it features a durable connector which withstands extreme repeated insertion and removal up to 3,000 times — or six times more tolerance than standard SATA connectors — even in harsh conditions.

Sony’s SSD G Series is expected to be available May 2017 at the suggested retail prices of $539 for SV-GS96 and $287 for SV-GS48.


DP John Kelleran shoots Hotel Impossible

Director of photography John Kelleran shot season eight of the Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible, a reality show in which struggling hotels receive an extensive makeover by veteran hotel operator and hospitality expert Anthony Melchiorri and team.

Kelleran, who has more than two decades experience shooting reality/documentary projects, called on Panasonic VariCam LT 4K cinema camcorders for this series.

eWorking for New York production company Atlas Media, Kelleran shot a dozen Hotel Impossible hour-long episodes in locations that include Palm Springs, Fire Island, Capes May, Cape Hatteras, Sandusky, Ohio, and Albany, New York. The production, which began last April and wrapped in December 2016, spent five days in each location.

Kelleran liked the VariCam LT’s dual native ISOs of 800/5000. “I tested ISO5000 by shooting in my own basement at night, and had my son illuminated only by a lighter and whatever light was coming through the small basement window, one foot candle at best. The footage showed spectacular light on the boy.”

Kelleran regularly deployed ISO5000 on each episode. “The crux of the show is chasing out problems in dark corners and corridors, which we were able to do like never before. The LT’s extreme low light handling allowed us to work in dark rooms with only motivated light sources like lamps and windows, and absolutely keep the honesty of the narrative.”

Atlas Media is handling the edit, using Avid Media Composer. “We gave post such a solid image that they had to spend very little time or money on color correction, but could rather devote resources to graphics, sound design and more,” concludes Kelleran.

Review: GoPro’s Karma Grip and Quik Key

By Brady Betzel

There has been a flood of GoPro-compatible accessories introduced over the last several years, with few having as much impact as handheld stabilizers. Stabilizers have revolutionized videography (more specifically GoPro videography) and they are becoming extremely compact and very reasonably priced.

A while ago, I reviewed a GoPro Hero 3- and 4-compatible handheld stabilizer from Polaroid, which was good but had a few kinks to work out, like a somewhat clumsy way of mounting your camera.

Over the last year, GoPro has ventured into the drone market with the Karma Drone where it unfortunately fell out of grace — it was recalled because of a battery latch issue — but has recently returned to the market.

When I first got my hands on the Karma Drone (the initial release), I immediately saw the benefit of buying GoPro’s drone. Along with the GoPro Karma Drone came the Karma Grip, a handheld stabilizer for the newly released Hero 5 action camera. It is really mind blowing to be flying a drone one minute and seconds later remove the Karma Grip from the Karma Drone and then be creating beautifully smooth shots. Handheld stabilizers like the GoPro Karma Grip have really helped shooters to create more cinematically styled footage at a relatively low cost.

When GoPro sent me the Karma Grip to borrow for a few weeks, I was really excited. I received the Karma Grip between the time they recalled the Karma Drone and when they subsequently re-released it. In addition to the Karma Grip they sent me the Quik Key, a mobile microSD card reader.

In this review I’m going to share my experience with the Karma Grip as well as touch on the Quik Key and why it’s a phenomenal accessory if you want to quickly upload photos from your GoPro action cam.

Jumping In
When testing the Karma Grip I used my GoPro Hero 5 Black Edition, which is important to note because the Hero 5 has a different case build than previous GoPro models. You’ll need to purchase a different harness if you have a Hero 4. Nonetheless, I love the Hero 5. While the Hero 4 and Hero 5 have similar camera sensors, they have some major differences. First, the Hero 5 has some really sweet voice control. I’m not a huge Siri user, so I was initially skeptical when GoPro tried to sell me on the voice control. To my surprise I love it, especially when paired with the Remo waterproof voice-activated remote. To not be a total GoPro fanboy, I will avoid reviewing the Remo for now but it’s something that I really love.

The Hero 5 has a built-in waterproof housing (unlike previous versions that needed a separate waterproof housing), voice activation, easy-to-use touch screen menu system and many other features. What I’m getting at is that the Karma Grip comes out of the box to fit the Hero 5, but you can purchase the Hero 4 Harness for an additional $29.99. The Session mount will be released later in the summer.

What makes the GoPro Karma Grip different from other handheld stabilizers, in my opinion, is its build quality, ease of use and GoPro-focused mounting options. Immediately when opening the Karma Grip box you get four key components: the removable grip handle ($99.99), mounting ring ($29.99) and stabilizer ($249.99) with the Hero 5 harness attached ($29.99). In addition, it all comes in a form-fitted case. The case is sturdy but kind of reminds me of a trombone case; it does the job but is a little unwieldy. When you buy the Karma Grip as a set it retails for $299.99, which is a little pricey, but in my opinion completely worth it — especially if you plan to buy the Karma drone because you can purchase the drone separately.

If you know you are going to buy the Karma Drone, you should probably just go ahead and buy the whole drone package now ($1099.99 Karma Drone with the Grip and Hero 5, $799.99 Karma Drone with the Grip). If you decide you want the Karma Drone you can purchase the Flight Kit for the Karma Grip for $599. For those counting at home that comes to $899 if you purchase the Grip and the Karma Drone separately, so it’s definitely a better deal to buy it all at once if you can.

Once I opened the form-fitted Karma Grip case, I plugged the USB-C charging cable into the base of the Karma Grip handle. I kind of wish the cable plugged in somewhere other than the base, since I like to rest stabilizers on their base, but not really a big deal if you have your case around. I set the Karma Grip to charge overnight, but the manual writes it will take six hours on a standard 1A charger, and one hour and 50 minutes if you use the “Supercharger” — immediately I was like what the hell is this Supercharger and why don’t I have one? They are $49.99 and can be found here.

So the next day I tried using the Karma Grip in conjunction with a suction cup mount inside of my car on my ride home from work. I wanted to see how the Karma Grip would work when mounted to a windshield (inside my car) to film a driving timelapse. To attach the Karma Grip you have to put a separate mounting ring between the handle and the stabilizer. Like a typical bonehead, I didn’t read the manual, so I tried mounting the ring with the GoPro mount. It took me a few tries to get it on right, but once it is on it actually feels very sturdy.

From there you have to do a typical GoPro mount connecting dance to get everything situated. You can check out my results here.

Admittedly, I probably should have locked the view of the Karma Grip to keep it focused straight forward, but I didn’t. It worked okay, but I definitely would need way more time to perfect this. However, if you can lock in your Karma Grip to something like the side of a train or airplane, your shooting options will become way smoother.

On the Move
Next I wanted to test running around with the Karma Grip. Once you lock your Hero 5 into the harness on the Karma Grip it’s as simple as powering on your Grip and hitting record. You can flip over the Grip to record a ground level view very easily. Flipping the Karma Grip over to a ground level view was the easiest transition on a handheld stabilizer I have ever experienced. Usually you have to either tell the stabilizer that you want to film ground level or you have to do a certain motion to not make the stabilizer flip out. The Karma Grip is incredibly easy to use; it lets you film smoothly with minimal effort.

To go a little further into testing I made a makeshift mount using a pipe and a 2×4 I had lying around. I screwed some sticky GoPro mounts to the 2×4 for mounting. In the end, I wanted to put my Hero 4 mounted alongside my Hero 5 mounted on the Karma Grip to demonstrate just how stable the Karma Grip makes your footage. You can check it out here. After a few hours of using the Karma Grip, I really felt like I had many more options when filming. I saw a staircase and knew I could run up it without my steps being reflected in my video recording; it really opens your creative brain.

One thing I wish was more easily accessible was a mount for an external microphone. In my video, I separated the audio on the left from the GoPro Hero 4 not mounted in the Karma Grip and the Hero 5 mounted in the Karma Grip. I did this so I could hear the difference. Once in the Karma Grip, the Hero 5’s audio becomes pretty muted. I know that GoPros aren’t necessarily supposed to be used with external mics, but with the GoPro’s audio not being high level all the time I sometimes use an external mic mounted on something like the iOgrapher Go or even the Karma Grip. If the Karma Grip could somehow mount a microphone along with possibly integrating a ¼-inch jack instead of having to buy a $49.99 converter I would be very happy.

Quik Key
The Quik Key is a great addition to the GoPro accessory line and is available for Lightning Port for the iOS ($29.99), Micro-USB ($19.99) and even USB-C ($19.99). It works directly with the GoPro Capture app on your mobile device to transfer photos and videos without having to hook up your GoPro or microSD card to your computer. Based on support documents, it seems like Android phones are more compatible with formats and resolutions, but since I have an iPhone the iOS version is what I am dealing with. You can get the specific iPhone resolution compatibility chart here. It’s interesting to note that ProTune footage is specifically not compatible with iOS.

The Quik Key is great for my dad adventures (or dad-ventures!) to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, hikes, baseball games, etc. If for some odd reason one of my sons takes a nap, I can transfer some videos or images to my phone and upload them to the web while on the run. The Quik Key comes with a carabiner-style clip to hang on, but it’s definitely small enough to keep in your pocket with the Remo remote. I love the Remo for the same dad-ventures with the kids; you can use the button as a shutter release and also change shooting modes from video to photos by just saying “GoPro Photo Mode.”

Summing Up
In the end, while GoPro is digging their way out of the Karma Drone battery latch caper, I continue to love their gear. The GoPro Hero 5 is my favorite camera they’ve made to date and it’s easy to take along since you no longer need an external housing to keep it waterproof. All of the GoPro accessories like the Karma Grip, Hero 5, Hero 5 Session, mounts, three-way mount and practically anything else fit perfectly in my favorite GoPro bag, The Seeker. It’s an incredible bag that even comes with room enough for your CamelBak water bladder.

The Karma Grip is smooth and super easy to use, it works flawlessly with the Hero 5 and coming soon in spring of 2017 is the Karma Grip extension cable. The extension cable allows you to put your Grip handle out of sight and mount the stabilizer inconspicuously, something I bet a lot of television shows will like to use, opening the GoPro creativity door a little more.

I really love GoPro products. Even if there are other options out there, I always know that for the most part the GoPro product line is made of high-quality accessories and cameras that everyone from moms and dads to professional broadcasters rely on. I can even give my GoPro to my sons to run around with and get muddy without a care in the world allowing them to capture the world from their own point of view. The GoPro product line including the Karma Grip is full of awesome gear that I can’t recommend enough.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.