T.Stops Blog

The Big Changes.

I’m back!  I’ve taken a 3 month hiatus from blogging simply because I was so incredibly busy this spring.  This past NAB was a game changer for me, I met with some wonderful individuals, and struck up new contacts that have helped Tstop Cinema LLC grow leaps and bounds in the matter of a few short weeks.  Great new projects, friends and even new equipment!

First point, remember when i said “The Red Scarlet is a gateway drug?“?  Well, I was not kidding.  I am pleased to say I now officially own a RED Epic M camera!  I’m not only thrilled with the Epic in the gear lust sense… I’m thrilled that my business, my work, and my company are doing well enough to warrant such an investment.  I recently shot some incredibly fun projects, and in this post im going to talk about the Epic, why I made the jump, and the work that it has helped me create in the last few months.

Essentially, I bought a used full Epic M Package, meaning its the Camera Body, 4x 128gig SSD’s, 5″ Touch screen, 4x Redvolts, BOMB EVF, PL Titanium Mount and the Canon Titanium mount.

This is the camera in its most current state taken in prep for a shoot yesterday, please pardon the cell phone photos.

I had many of the accessories I needed left over from my Scarlet, since the bodies are identical, the parts all fit together with ease.  I use pretty much exclusively Wooden Camera support gear. I am using the WC Top Plate, Easy Riser with 15mm Rod clamps, Side Cheese,  Quick back with Cheese back adapter and their Anton Bauer power plate.   I mount the EVF using the RED Spinner and the Red Top Mount.  The top mount is actually quite awesome, and my EVF and LCD permanently live on it.  

Much for the same reasons I bought the Scarlet to begin with, I have been shooting lots of projects on RED lately.  Lately, solely on the Epic, as in the past I worked almost exclusively with the R1MX.  The Epic is gaining steam with productions now that some key features were unlocked in the last few months, specifically in camera playback.    In addition, in the latest builds, the cameras stability has increased dramatically.  I now trust it fully.


I have shot so far this spring/summer 3 Sony spots, 1 Nike spot, a TV pilot for Michael Bay, A very popular Music Video Featuring Cookie Monster and the intro to the new “Saturday Night at the Apollo”… all on Epic.  When you work with a camera 7+ times in a matter of a few weeks, its time to take the next step. Most of these projects are still in post so i dont have too many finished products to show, but i do have some behind the scenes available.

First i want to talk about the biggest project amongst these, the Sony Spots.

I was hired by Josh and Jason Diamond, to DP a series of three big budget E3 Trailers for the games Sports Champions 2 and Sound Shapes.  This was one of the biggest shoots I have done to date, and  had all the tools i needed at my disposal.  Master Primes, a huge truck filled to the brim with lights, a proper 1000 amp generator, and the fantastic Stedicam operator Saade Mustafa on the amazing AR Rig.  The AR is essentially a hybrid between a Jib, Stedicam, and tango head.  This shoot was quite fun, it involved 4 different locations, Day interior, Night interior, Day exterior and finally and series of shots on a NYC bus.  You can see the Sports Champions 2 spot here, the other, for Sound Shapes is still in post:

For this spot, the lighting plan is as follows:

The two couches are the in the middle of the room, and the people, represented by the squiggles on the L shapes rectangles….. ( hey im a DP not a draftsman)

I made a rear 3/4 Key out of a 6k Silver bullet HMI with 1/4 CTO to give the sense of warm afternoon light.  The fill is delivered by a 4k Arri Light pushing through a large glass door and bouncing off the wall behind the camera ( roughly where the arrow head of the 4K direction indicator is)  The 800w Joker provided a rear rim light, and the Flathead 80 was there to provide additional fill as the sun fell and we needed to continue to maintain the high key look the Client wanted.  Gaffer Fletcher Wolfe and Key Grip Bill Amenta both were invaluable and excellent additions to the crew. The value in shooting with bigger units is that they just provide a better light quality, its not necessarily about exposure.  We had a lot of ND in the matte-box to control exposure.

We shot with Arri Master Primes at a constant framerate of 60FPS for a 30FPS finish, with a 225 degree shutter giving us the flexibility to have a 50% slow motion at any given moment, while maintaining a natural motion rendition.  The few moments of True slow motion, mainly the skiing effect, were shot at 90FPS.

My DIT Tom Wong set the looks onset with Scratch Labs, and the final color grade actually used his LUTs, and what you see is exactly his work.

Spot #2 – Sound Shapes:

Only Two days after shooting the Sports Champions 2 Spot, we immediately began photography on the Sound Shapes Spot.  This is a level based game in wich the user creates a level out of objects that represet a preset library of sounds.  In essence its like a playable version of Logic, Cubase, or Abelton.  Essentially a sort of Midi player, with a WYSYWIG interface in the form of a game.

This spot had a slicker, more science fiction, gritty feel.  We retained the Master primes, and all the crew and equipment from the Sports Champions 2 shoot.  However, in this case, Saade, our stedicam operator, really got to flex his muscles and do some very interesting things with his AR rig.  This spot isn’t finished yet so unfortunately i dont have anything other than BTS stills.  Enjoy!

Sound Shapes Pt 2: Jim Guthrie

Immediately after finishing this spot, we did a small viral spot with Jim Guthrie, musician whos work was used in the development of the Sound Shapes game.  This was simple shoot, in Toronto, documentary style, on Epic.  The small size and light weight of the epic make for a very easy operating experience when shooting documentary.  In addition the flexibility of RAW makes the small mistakes that happen in doc shooting easily fixable.


Sesame Street: Cookie Monster Sings “Share it Maybe”

Again joining forces with the Diamond Brothers, we tackled what was the most fun experince i’ve had on set so far!  We got to work with the one and only Cookie Monster!

We made a spoof music video covering Carly Rae Jeppsen’s “Call Me Maybe”  a mega hit this summer.  So naturally, the usual media outlets all did their take on the song, specifically when Carly Rae was a guest on the Jimmy Fallon Show.  In place of a live performance on his show, Jimmy and Carly, instead shot an impromptu Music Video.  It went viral on Youtube almost immediatly.  Cookie Monster felt he needed to contribute.  Thus i bring you:

Again Shot on Epic with a cooke 18-100 Zoom, we all had a great time working on this. Surprisingly it has eclipsed the Jimmy Fallon video with nearly 8 million hits in about 2 weeks.


The Secret Project:

This is an Untitled TV Pilot from Executive Producer Michael Bay.   Somewhat out of the blue, Director Vincent Laforet asked me to shoot this for him.  How do you say no!?  This being my first trip to LA, and my first big league shoot, I must admit I was nervous.  Working with Vincent, whose work i immensely respect, was fantastic.  The Production was big, and unfortunately i cant speak too much about it.  I can show some BTS stills.

Again Shot on two Epics, with a combination of my Cooke iPanchros, Arri Alura Zooms, and Vincent’s full set of Canon EF lenses, we had an opportunity to create some very interesting looks. My Crew was fantastic, Gaffer Brice Bradley, and Key Grip Jason McCann were simply an awesome team.  My First AC for this project,  Ryan Patrick O’Hara , a long time friend and fellow Cooke lens enthusiast, did the impossible, and pulled focus non stop all day for 7 days, on a stedicam at a wide open aperture while keeping every shot tack sharp! These are just the cell phone photos i had time to snap.  You can see on the Stedicam setups you can see a proto type Axis1 Follow Focus from Hocus Products.  This is ONE AWESOME piece of kit. More reliable than the Bartech we replaced, longer range, more accurate and gentler on the lenses.  The Bartech actually damaged one of my iPanchros during a calibration. The Axis1 actually has an automatic tension detector that stops the motor when it reaches the end of the lens’ travel.  Its simply awesome.  I will be doing a proper review of the unit very soon.

Brice Bradley positioning the Maxi-Brute



After shooting this dizzying amount of work in a short amount of time, all on the same camera system, i felt the market was there.  I made the move.

The reason i like the Epic over the Scarlet is this.  The Epic never tells you “no”.  Its a constant stream of “Yes”.  Want to shoot 5k? Ok. Want to shoot 5k @ 120 FPS? OK. Want to shoot 60P with HDRX? OK.  Want to shoot 300 FPS? Sure…. Want to shoot 400 FPS? No problem……

It felt like the first time I went on set with my HVX200 back 5 years ago.  Anything I needed it was able to do.  Under crank, Over crank, HD, SD, variable resolutions, variable compressions, IT workflow AND Tape, etc…. it was everything all in one.  The Epic is very similar to this.  I have yet to have a client max the capability of the Epic.  I like being able to provide my clients with exactly what ever they desire photographically.

The usual benefits of RAW, 5K, and the RED system have been discussed at length by myself and many others, but the benefits of the high resolution, modular system are real.

If i need a big studio set up, i can build it.  If i need a tiny, quick run and gun camera i have it.  I am also not limited to one lens system either.

The image quality alone is a big factor, and this sensor really shows the perfection, and imperfection in a lens.

Since I was 14 years old, I have been amassing a collection of vintage, unique and “broken” lenses that have a particular defect, that lends a look to the image.  I used them on my Canon AE1 Program, then later on my SG Pro 35mm adapter, on my 5D, F3, Scarlet and now my Epic.

In order clockwise starting from the upper right:

1: 135mm Telisar F4.5 – Has the most bizzare halo, which when flaring turns into a ghostly bright spot in the middle.

2: 58mm Helios 44-2 F2.0 – My shining little star. Perfect portrait length, with a stunning vignette, softness while maintaining enough of the good resolution, and the most beautiful yet bizzarre bokeh i’ve found to date. Looks like a Dream.

3: Soligor 2x M42 Tele extender, amplifies the flaws in each of the lenses, while turning each lens into 2. The medium wides become tele, and the tele lenses become super Tele. 

4:Asahi Super Takumar “Yellow Glass” 28mm F3.5. This lens is the famous radioactive Super Tak. Its elements are yellow, however it doesn’t seem to turn the image yellow. It is sharp and has a very slight barrel distortion wich makes it feel wider than it is. Very interesting looking with architecture. The best part……the flares are ACID yellow, HUGE, Pentagonal, but without a major loss in contrast. This is one of my favorite lenses ever. 

5: Rikkenon 50mm F2.8 – This odd little lens has a ghostly low contrast veiling flare. Wide open, It seems to diffuse the light in the lens, which makes it feel like there is a net behind the lens, or a heavy promist filter in play. Stop down to a F5.6 and it cleans up nicely. 

6:Asahi Super Takumar “Yellow Glass” 50mm F2.0 – Another of my favorites. Not as Flare happy as the 28mm, but is VERY sharp, but still has a certain intangible beautiful quality to it.

7: Zenitar MNP-24M 35mm F2.0 – I dont know much about this lens, but its an old Zenitar. It has classis 1970’s feel, the lens is very classically bad. Soft corners, veiling flare, and hazy look wide open. 

8: Sankyo Koki “Tokyo Kumara” 105mm F3.5 – This lens is quite cool, scary sharp, relatively neutral, but has 16 oddly shaped iris blades, so its bokeh resembles a mix between the Cooke S4/iPanchro flower, and the Panavision Buzzsaw bokeh from 25 years ago on the old Primos. I like this lens as it behaves well in the traditional sense, but has that weird bokeh…. always a reminder….

9: Zenitar Jupiter-9 85mm F2.0 – This is another rather interesting lens. Its optical qualities are just bizzare, neither sharp nor consistent, what it lacks in perfection it makes up for in character. Extremely contrasty, it stands out from the crowd because unlike most old lenses, it has a VERY deep and rich contrast and color rendition, so it appears very sharp at first glance, but it has some of the oddest donut shaped bokeh, and out of focus image rendition. Its bohek looks almost in focus…. like it was artificially done in post, with a instagram “donut” gimmick.

This flexibility, being able to go from antique lenses, to modern PL, to electronic image stabilized EF lenses, on top of the frame rates, compression and RAW capability of the camera makes the epic simply amazing.


Thanks for reading this Novel.

In the next post I am going to go a bit further into detail on the Epic workflow, but more specifically how to make it a painless and fun process.

Until next time!

If you have any Questions feel free to ask in the comments section, or hit me up on twitter!! 

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11 years ago

Back in the early 70s when I shot a Pentax Spotmatic, I bought a used no-name 2X teleconverter for $5. With my father’s 135/3.5 Super Takumar, it took the most amazing train shots — the headlights created these many-pointed stars are beautiful flare. None of my Nikon gear can do that. (grin)

But the weirdest thing I got recently is a 1969-era Sigma 12mm f8 Fish-eye. You can get them cheap on eBay — http://dr-phil-physics.dreamwidth.org/381368.html

Dr. Phil

11 years ago

Wow, truly awesome stuff!!

11 years ago
Reply to  Samuel Hurtado

thanks Samuel!!!

11 years ago

All RED Everything 🙂 Awesome write up man!

11 years ago
Reply to  VigilanteHD

Thanks tony!

very inspiring blog..I hadn’t checked in in a year.. wow, you have turned a corner, congrats.

11 years ago

Thank you Paul!

11 years ago

Great write up Timur! So that’s what you’ve been up to 🙂 congrats!

11 years ago
Reply to  Jon Sands

Yea dude, i’ve been a busy bee! and it isnt slowing down….

11 years ago

Ohhhh I got mentioned! 🙂

11 years ago

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[…] other day I came across one of his long blog post entitled “The Big Changes” where he talks about loads of things happening in his professional life. Towards the end he […]

[…] Timur Civan is a wonderful DP who has an extensive knowledge of lenses and tools for creating stunning images. […]

10 years ago


Thanks for that!