T.Stops Blog

A Verse Before Dying, Final Product. The first short film from the Panasonic AF100

After a month of work and testing, the fruits of all our labor is done!  Incredibly quickly i’d like to add….

Now you can enjoy the whole film, and see a lot of the lighting setups that i made for the various scenes.  Lets examine the cabin sequence.

A majority of this scene is actually shot at magic hour, but to combat the loss of light, we were prepared to augment the lighting.    I used a 4k HMI, and a 1.2k HMI with 1/2 stop straw gel to give it the warmth of sunset.  A chocolate filter will do as well.    I placed the 4k outside the door way to provide the main key light, and i placed the 1.2k HMI out side the window, impacting a white bounce card off screen to provide some fill, and give the sense of ambient light.  There is also a third HMI, outside the slats of the window thats visible in the darkness of the other room in the wide shot.

Its a simple lighting set up, to give the sense of sunset.

I think it worked out quite well.

"A Verse Before Dying" Working with the AF100

The Trailer for the film and how we got here….

This pastweek i have been fortunate enough to be among the first people in the world to use the AF100 under a professional environment, shooting director Stephen Mick’s period short film, “A Verse Before Dying”.

Panasonic USA lent us 2 AG-AF100 bodies.  I had one setup for tripod, and dolley use, and the other was set up for Stedicam/Jib use.

Our list of equipment panned out as follows:
Camera Department:
2x AF100 camera bodies.
1 full set of Zeiss Compact Primes Series 1,  18mm T3.5, 21mm T2.8, 25mm T2.1, 28mm T2.1, 35mm T2.0, 50mm T1.5, 85mm T1.5
1 set of Duclos modified Zeiss ZF lenses. 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm
Nikon 50-300 F4.5 AIS
Lumix 14-140 OIS
Lumix 20mm F1.7
Voightlander 85mm F1.1

Camera Support:
Stedicam Archer system
Kessler CineSlider
Kessler Kpod and Herculese Head 2.0
Sachtler V20 and Sachtler sticks.
Bartek Wireless Follow Focus
Shoot35 Cinefocus Follow Focus
Chroziel MB450-01 mattebox
Redrock Mattebox

Small HD dp6 monitor.
Panasonic BTLH80 7″ Monitor.
NanoFlash Recorder

3ton Grip truck
4k HMI
several 1.2k HMI’s
and a simple tungsten package
600 AMP generator.

The AF100 with CP1’s, Shoot35 Cinefocus , NanoFlash Recorder and Zacuto System. Photo by Matt Gettermeir

There was no shortage of equipment, lenses, lights, crew or camera support.  Essentially we removed every obstacle that can get in the way of a camera system performing to its maximum, to see what the camera is actually like.  The truth is, the camera system was never an obstacle.  The AF100, is so seem less a camera system that it simply steps out of your way.  You never “Feel” the camera.  IE, you don’t find yourself making adjustments to the shot to make up for the short comings of  what was until now, a series of hacks, and makeshift work arounds to get the desired image.  I was able to spend all my time and energy on the shot, the lights and the camera movement.  I remember working with the 5D mkII, or the HVX200 and 35mm adpater systems,  there was always an obstacle.  Whether it was the constant back focus checking on the ground glass, or struggling to make sure the sot is in focus with a 5D, or the avoiding of moire inducing scenes, the low effective sensitivity of the adapter solutions, and the loss in resolution and image quality.

Lets start at the exposure and lighting dynamics:
The camera is a great performer @ ISO 400, or 0dB gain.  You can easily go as high as 800 with no significant increase in noise or grain.   Whats interesting was that i found that i rarely went above ISO 320.  Even indoors, at night, i found that ISO 320 was far more than enough to get an excellent exposure.  The camera retains, with careful massaging of the scene file, exceptional latitude. I did not have a rear lit chart to actually test for myself, but producer and Panasonic expert Barry Green, a friend of mine, tested it and assures me the AF100 holds 10.5 stops.   Thats incredible, and it certainly felt like it.

Lets look into some of the lighting setups i built for “AVerse Before Dying” and explore how the camera stood up to the paces i put it through.

The theory behind the lighting was that in the mid nineteenth century there were hardly any man made sources of light, other than candles, and fire.   This means that even daylight interiors are motivated by the sun.  I designed a lighting plan that performed what i call “Sunlight +”.  This is not a real term, just some thing i made up. It means using the natural light available to you, and assisting it with HMI’s and relfectors to do what you need.

Starting at the Saloon Scene, lets examine how Sunlight + lighting scheme was worked out.

Starting off, the sun was naturally pouring in through a majority of the set for most of the day.  The doors and windows on the south side of the set, created a base fill light that gave the room a flat wash, that gave us an exposure @ ISO200 and a T2.8 on the CP1’s.  I wanted to shoot at a T4 to give me the option to have the depth of field look its most cinematic.  The mattebox had a 1/4 Black Promist Filter, which cuts a quarter stop.  Lets examine the lighting plan.

The first setup was for the “actor” at the round table facing the window. The equipment used was a double net, a mirror board, and a 1.2k HMI for this segment of the scene.   I flagged off the sun with a double net,  from the window, to make sure the light that hits the actor is what i want, not what the sun forced upon me. Now that i cut down the sun, i had to create my own sun.  This is where the 1.2K HMI, and the mirror borad come in.  I raised the mirror board up, and had the 1.2k HMI on the ground on a super stand, looking straight up, and the Mirror borad bounced the beam of light, softening it, back into the window of the saloon, and lighting the actor.  Here is the corresponding frame grab to see the effects.

Photo by Barry Green

Now lets examine the Next Setup, the Reversal on the bartender as pictured here:

As you can see from the diagram, this is Sunlight+ as it is intended, as natural as possible.  The lighting you see here is about 50% natural, and 50% assisted.  The Sun is beaming a hard, bright patch of light on the floor of the bar near the door.  Since the daylight look is what i’m going for i placed a white bead board reflector on the ground to catch that light and throw it up on to the actor.   I then took the 4K HMI, and skinned it with a 1/2 Straw filter to mimic the ambient light reflecting in the doors and windows off of the huge amount of straw that was just out side the door.  This 4k added some shape and  definition to the wall and the actors face.
This is the view outside of the door of the saloon.

It is important to keep in mind the color of reflected lights.   The tint if the straw, needs to be compensated for when using pure color units in conjunction with the natural lighting.  In addition i placed a 1.2k Unit pointed at the ceiling above the actor the add some fill light for the shadow side of his face.

The combination of these two lighting setups are visible here in the wide shot.  They together create a natural, yet motivated lighting setup that we staged our actors in.


Once the lighting has been set to the appropriate levels for exposure, the time comes for adjustments.  Using the waveform on the AF100, i had the gaffer Marcel Rodriguez adjust the lighting setup to make sure we hit the IRE levels necessary to take advantage of all the AF100 could capture.  I had him walking the lights, reflectors and netting elements of the set to the degree of 1/10ths of a stop to ensure that we used all 110IRE the camera could record.  The image may have looked a bit flat, but its ready for the color grading session we had planned for it.

Camera Support:
Once we had the lighting setup, it came time to turn on the camera and get it telling the story.  I used one of my favorite tools of all time, the Kessler CineSlider, Kpod and Hercules Head 2.0…  I used it to add some subtle movement to many of the shots in this film.   The beauty is that the AF100 fully loaded is still so light that there is no perceivable flex in the slider dolley setup at all.  This makes for smooth repeatable moves that have that “expensive” rock solid look.

Photos Courtesy of Matt Gottshalk.

This is all for now…  I will continue this break down once i get the other lighting breakdowns down on paper.

enjoy, feel free to ask as many questions as you like.

For more Behind the scenes please visit DVXuser.com’s Behind the Scenes Thread!


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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.

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….