T.Stops Blog

Pre Production on the FIRST short film to be shot with the AF100

So sorry for the gap in posting everyone! However if you look below you will see why…. Yes thats a Panasonic AF100!!!!!  in my Living room!!!! with no supervision!!!!!!

I am involved with a special first short film project using the Panasonic Af100 camera.  I am starting pre production today, and I will be posting information as i get it.  check back as often as you like!

The film will be shot in Texas, however i will be performing a full camera test w/ Schneider Optics Cine Xenar Lenses on Monday in New York.  Thats when the juicy information will come out…. 🙂
First impressions:

Its light. Real light.  It has lots of thoughtful convenient features, for example, a 3/8 and 1/4 screw thread on the bottom of camera.  Simple, but necessary and sorely needed.  Already hooked it up to my 26″ Panasonic BTLH2600Wp prodution monitor, with a Duclos Converted Zeiss 21mm ZF lens…  All i have to say is WOW. This camera is sharp, organic looking, and has great dynamic range.

Definitely more coming!

Some images from the testing phase:

UPDATE: 11/27/10

Worked with the camera today running some tests in daylight. I’m finding the scene file that work best for narrative film-making.  This camera reminds me very much of an HVX200, in that a properly tuned scene file really brings the sensor to life.  Its an approximation of what i always used on my HVX200 (visit my website www.timurcivan.com to watch my reels some of it is HVX200), my magic scene file as it were. I’m currently not at liberty to get into specifics, or post footage.  This will come in a short time, but i will say this, The detail coring function works a lot better this go around….

The camera’s 1080p slomotion capability is astounding.  1080 @ 60p looks BEAUTIFUL!  Sharp, and without having to drop resolution to 720p it seems.  This is only a good thing.

One thing that is certain from this point on, the name of the game is going to be glass… the better the lens, the more stunning the image.  I used a couple different grades of glass in testing, and the difference is clear as day.  Good glass makes the difference here.  The camera is sharp enough where it matters.

( ask anything in the comments, i will respond! thanks for reading.)

Going out with the camera again tomorrow, but this time night exteriors and tungsten testing.

New Update Coming as soon as i get the ok from appropriate channels!!

Found out something very interesting… im re writing my review to reflect the new insight… its only GOOD!

UPDATE: 12/1/2010

Having spent the weekend with the AF100 i have a few thoughts.


The Af100 is actually going to change the way i work in this industry. It will change it in the same way that the HVX200 upon its release changed the way we all worked. You get, 35mm depth of field, beautiful, sharp, high dynamic range 1080/24P, long record times on cheap media, a stable codec, IT workflow, an SDI/HDMI out, a load of mounting points and a modular body that can be as big or small as you will ever need. For the first time you can deliver the 35mm look, with almost no compromises. Its all there!!!!! I no longer have to compromise “light weight and small” vs “easy sound solution and exposure tools” or “real SDI monitoring” vs ” Non stanadard HDMI to SDI”. Hell, the black magic sdi/hdmi converter doesn’t even work with all monitors! Thats not really a work around is it?


I can now offer to a client all the look they want, with all the tools i need, at a price that makes it EASY to own. Plus it does some things that NO other prosumer HD camera does, 1080 60p recorded to AVChd.


Lets talk about the image first, a lot of folks are waiting with baited breath about how it looks, skew, rolling shutter, sensitivity, color, resolution, etc… Much like any other Panasonic camera you get a healthy dose of color, mojo and “feel”. I referenced the HVX200 so lets start a comparison there. The HVX200 in 1080p was sharp… not blindingly sharp, but it resolved enough detial to look beautiful. The AF is different. It resolves a lot more detail, but when you tune the scenefile, it never looks over sharpened, it takes on a organic, natural looking image. Some of the other test footage has looked a bit over sharpened, but this is easily correctable by doing some scenefile tweaking. I was not able to secure a full res chart for this testing period so i cant give you lines of resolution, but thats not what i am looking for anyhow. I’m here to learn how this camera exposes, and behaves in preparation for a film. The AF has a pretty standard exposure curve for digital acquisition. Protect you highlights. The nice wide dynamic range of the camera in combination with a controlled lighting scheme really lends itself to some film like images. The AF100 has some of the DSLR super bright, smooth look, while at the same time retaining the realistic and natural colors of a varicam or HPX3000. Its unique, and great. Whats even better was that i had a revelation last night. The AF100 when i first received it was putting out some nice images. After some testing i rated the camera at a 320ISO as 400 ISO and up started to get grain creeping in. This wasn’t necessarily disappointing, as i usually shoot my 5D at 320 ISO to get a super clean image and use able sensitivity. The AF was almost as good. Not amazing but almost as good, The image at lower ISO’s was clean sharp and had decent color. I figured it would be tough to beat a full frame chip for low light performance anyway… THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED. It turns out the custom white balance button has what seems to be 2 steps. The first step is white balance, the second, “black balance”. I normally black balance a camera every time i change anything or turn it on, gamma, frame rate, etc…. When I first got the AF100 i tried to execute a black balance but I didn’t press the button enough it seems. I assumed the camera had no black balance function, so i operated as if it were calibrated. Black balancing the AF100 made it perform the way i expected it to. I now am re rating the AF100 very conservatively at a 640 ISO clean camera. 800 ISO looks spotless, but just to be safe, i will be working with it at a 640ISO under tungsten lighting setups. That is more sensitive than vision3 kodak film, and quickly approaching REDmx, Alexa, and 5D territory.


Image quality aside, the reason why the AF100 is a great camera is this; Ergonomics, convenience, Form Factor and Compatibility. I am an avid fan of the Canon 5D. I think it is an incredible camera for the price and image. I mean really, it just about puts top end performance in the palm of your hand for the cost of a weekend trip to Vegas. However much like a trip to Vegas, by the time you’ve spent 2 or three days with with a 5D shooting video you have a headache and you wound up spending a lot more than you thought you would to get the desired result…. SO! what does this mean for the AF100. The truth of the matter is this; The AF100 is so easy to shoot with! I forgot how much i missed scene files, XLR audio, focus assist, SDI HD monitoring, built in Waveforms, and being able to do it all without a complicated Zacuto setup. I did the math, my 5D package w/ monitor and zacuto setup, costs more than the Af100. Its too bright outdoors and i want to shoot at a F4.0? ND4 On. problem over. I have Canon FD lenses? No problem. I have PL glass? No problem… i need to switch between them, takes literally 2 seconds. No problem. This camera and the m4/3 mount make it possible.


Out of all this convenince, the most important part it in my opinion is the scenefile. Much like the HVX200, HPX170, HPX300, HMC150, the scenefiles are deep and intricate. I was able to dial in a scenefile that i will be using to shoot the film. I found the perfect balance between, deep blacks, high dynamic range, low noise, organic skin tone and accurate color ready for a grade.


One area that needs addressing is the field of view debate. To be perfectly honest, you dont feel the crop factor quite so much. Its quite similar to 35mm 3perf field of view. Which is quite standard. In 90% of film making you are sticking with three of four lenses anyway, the widest of which is a 25mm. Setting the Lumix 14-140 i was supplied with to 18mm, a standard Cine wide, the field of view resembled very much that of a 18mm on any number of 35mm sized sensor camera. You only really feel the difference when you go from full frame DSLR to the AF100. 7D users wont really notice it quite as much. This is coming from practical experince that ive been having over the last few days. I have never felt like i was “missing” a wide angle lens. The other positive by product of this is that the depth of field looks very cinematic, natural, and i guess you can say appropriate. Again this is dependent on the glass you are using. Great glass, yields great results. Cheap crappy glass… cheap crappy image.


The AF100 Wobble/Skew performance is excellent, almost the performance of a REDmx. The rolling shutter artifacts are greatly minimized. I had a shot with flashing police lights that i could not see flash banding in. This is VERY exciting. I will test it with strobe lights tonight.


Aliasing performance is great. It resolves fine patterened detial the same way any dedicated CCD or CMOS video camera would. Infact, its relieving to not have to worry about what the subject is going to wear, and whether there will be aliasing in their eyebrows, their hair, or clothing. Alising is one of those things that once you see it in the footage you cant unsee it. Its there with you forever, and you will be able to spot it a mile away. This is my relationship with my 5D. All i see is aliasing everywhere. Over all its a great image, but it does not hold up on a big screen. I recently shot a commercial, that was playing in AMC theaters. One insert shot was on 5dMKII intercut with REDMX. While the color and tone matched, the subjects striped shirt, eyebrows and beard werw an aliasing mess, and on a 80′ screen its just awful to see the talents face constantly jittering. The solution to this problem is a godsend.


In conclusion for this segment of my experinces with the AF100, i am impressed. Panasonic did good. Real good. I cant wait to get this thing on set tomorrow!

This test was to see where i could break the cameras image.  High ISO, Sodium Vapor mixed with blue neon lighting.  A cocktail for a horrid mess.  Problem is, the AF handles it REALLY well…..  this is why I’m wowed. This is about as challenging a lighting situation you can imagine.  This isn’t about aesthetics. This is about seeing the camera break, then being surprised when it didn’t.

Below is some additional footage, shot straight from the camera as it came from the factory.  This purpose of this test was to see how the camera handles over exposure, back lighting and a preliminary test of slow motion capabilities.

 12/2/2010
Myself and all the gear has arrived in Texas. Kessler Crane has graciously supplied us with a Hercules Head 2.0 and Kpod heavy duty tripod system for my Cine slider and Kessler Crane.  The equipment is secure, stable and now capable of complex camera moves…. Wayne Kinney from Shoot35 has also supplied the production with his CineFocus r2 follow focus.  I will be writing up a review and list of all the gear once we get it all organized, and checked out tommorow.

AF100 on a Kessler CineSlider, with a Shoot35 CineFocus, Chroziel Mattebox and Duclos modified Zeiss Primes.

UPDATE 12/2/10

Did some location scouting, and here is where we will be shooting this puppy….

UPDATE: 12/3/2010

Just wrapped day one, and i have to say the footage is looking incredible.  I have been working with some of the most talented and dedicated crew anyone can ask for.  I rest a lot of the powerful images the AF100 captured today on the remarkable crew of the production: “A Verse Before Dying” by Stephen Mick.

First and fore most let me shout out my camera and grip/electric crew.

1stAC: Taylor Rudd
Gaffer: Marcel Rodriguez
Key Grip: Brandon Boggs
Bestboy: Matt Gottshalk
Super Awesome Grip: Louis Moncivias

These guys have pulled together some lighting work that has been the subtlest, most natural, and accurate to my vision i have ever had.  I thank them for physically creating the look of this film, and for adding so much to its visual impact.

Working with the AF100 is a such a damn joy.  The Compact Primes we are using are razor sharp, consistent, and thankfully proper PL lenses.

Here is a list of all the great gear that i am fortunate enough to work with.
Camera Department:
2x Panasonic AF100’s, 1 Prototype, and 1 production run camera.
Zeiss Compact Primes
Kessler Crane Special thanks to Kessler for supplying us with all the necessary components to create a killer look.
Kessler Cine Slider
Shoot 35 CineFocus Special thanks to Shoot 35.com for supporting the shoot by loaning us a CineFocus
Small HD DP1 Monitor
The Nano Flash Digital Recorder
RedRock Microsystems Matte box
Chroziel Mattebox
Zacuto Rail System.

Lighting Department:
4k HMI
2x 1.2k HMI
Basic Mole Richardson tungsten package
600 amp Diesel generator

In short we have lots of great toys…

enjoy the photos….

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24 Comments on "Pre Production on the FIRST short film to be shot with the AF100"

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Look forward to this! Please post some short “straight from the camera” AVCHD files so we can get an idea of what we’ll be dealing with in post!

Ahh..you must be testing the Schneider’s at Abel. Can’t wait to hear you impression on these lenses. I’m looking at them for the AF100 myself.

Yea, im buying a full set of Schneiders, and have acess to a set of CP1’s. Definitly looking forward to testing them.

Please feel free to post further observations and opinions about this camera as you see them! Looking forward to seeing your results.

Where in Texas…let me know if you need a hand!?

A lot of people will be wanting to use their Nikon primes from their adapters. Please tell us how they compare.

“The detail coring function works a lot better this go around….” So in saying this, are you saying Panasonic have addressed some of the hyper edge-sharpening we were seeing in previous footage samples? Or have you simply addressed it by adjusting the settings in the menu? My concern in looking at samples from this camera on my plasma in full HD, was not that it’s too soft, but rather much too detail enhanced in its appearance, especially edges. Also, color rendition in the HVX was quite smooth and filmic in Cine-D. Are you saying you’ve achieved something similar now? Thanks… Read more »

@wbrock001

we will be shooting in west texas somewhere out in the wilds….

@Green Sign Media
I have not had a chance to compare with actual Nikon lenses, only Zeiss Zf’s and Lumix lenses that came with the teting unit.

@Brant
I have had the luxury of a somewhat more complete unit, and functioning scenefile settings. When you set the camera up properly, its image is quite sharp, but not edge enhanced. I have been monitoring off of my Panasonic BTLH2600Wp 26″ Production monitor.

I find i use CinelikeV alot. I will be testing Cine D tomorrow.

Timur, Can you tell me what intervals are available in the timelapse mode, and what is the longest shutter speed available during timelapse?

Shutter speed is similar to the HVX200. You can set it to 355 degrees i believe, at what ever frame rate you choose in the VFR menu. essentially you shutter can be your frame rate. 12fps becomes 1/12 of a second etc….

Ok cool, What i was wondering is can you do 1/2 second shutter at say 1 frame per second? is that possible in the timelapse mode? or is the shutter speed limited to quicker speeds.

I’m not sure, the camera is limited to a minimum of 12fps in variable mode.

Perhaps there is a dedicated timelapse function that I have not come across yet. I’m looking into it.

Which PL adapter are you using sir?

Thanks

I’m not sure yet. Ive been using Nikon mount for the last few days. i will of coure tell that information when i get it.

Timur thank you so much for this in-depth review!

Your welcome! there is alot more coming!

Looking very forward to meeting and working with you. Thanks for all the camera write-ups!

Brandon

Great stuff, Timur. When will we see some footie? Is it really “as filmlike” as the HVX in terms of image? So far most of the shots looked good, but had a bit of “video-look”. It is hard to explain, but we all still wait for this mojo that we all want to have. An image that is crisp, but still “soft” if you know what I mean.

Good luck with your shoot

Alban

Timur: Shutter angle, shutter speed and frame rate are related, but certainly not the same. Shutter speed is equal to twice the frame rate. The standard 24 fps = a shutter speed of 1/48. This is why people say it’s best to shoot at 1/50 with this camera to match the “cinema” look. Shutter angle is completely different, it drastically affects the look of your footage based on whether “splinters” or big wide chunks of light hit the sensor. As for time lapse, why would you want to time lapse in HD? With the AF-100’s little brother (GH1, GH2), you… Read more »

Haha, i know what shutter angle is. I’ve shot 35mm…

I shoot the AF in FilmCam mode, which gives me the “shutter speed” in degrees of shutter angle. So frame rate is directly matched to your shutter angle. No need to guess. Its exact, just like a 35mm film camera over or under cranking. I keep it at 180 to get the most natural motion rendition. Exposure time whether in fractions(1/48), or angle (180degrees) function in the same way.

Timur, thanks for posting the footage, impressive low light performance. What I’ve seen a lot of, and it shows up again in this clip you’ve posted, is edge noise along the contour of skin edge to background. (Front of face on profile shot) I think it gets enhanced (worsned) with compression, but it was probably there to begin with. Looks like excessive edge enhancement that may be contributing to people getting the “video” vibe from the footage. I’ve seen only one test, in Japan, where detail was down to -7, that didn’t exhibit this, and it looked more film-like as… Read more »

And edge noise is probably not the best description. It’s sort of dark hallowing. In this clip, along his nose, lips, chin. That’s that video look I think people talk about. But…this is still very impressive stuff. Would love to know the lens you used here. It’s nice.

The native file has no such artifact, and i dont really see the artifact youre talking about on the Vimeo file.

The Detail is dialied down to -7. Ive never shot the DVX, HVX, EX1 or 5D with any edge enhancement whatsoever.

Updates! 😀

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