Posts tagged 5d Mk ii

Blackmagic Cinema Camera: Can It Run with the Big Boys?

My latest article on Creative COW:

Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media takes another insight into Blackmagic Design’s new Cinema Camera to see where this camera could further excel in. With the camera sporting 13 stops of dynamic range through a 12-bit RAW data structure, there’s one aspect of production where it truly might be able to hang with the “big boys.”

You may have read my other article here on Creative COW, “Is the New Blackmagic Cinema Camera the HDSLR Killer?” That article was a direct comparison between the Cinema Camera and HDSLR cameras in general. But what if we went a step further? What if we compared the Cinema Camera to the likes of the ARRI Alexa, the Sony F65, and the RED Epic? Have I completely lost mind by comparing the Cinema Camera with the likes of “the big boys”? Making such a comparison is a very tall order to ask, but is it entirely out of the question? Let’s find out…

To read the FULL article, head over to and check it out!

First Look: VAF-5D2 Optical Anti-Aliasing Filter

It’s not very often a product comes to market that seems like it’s nothing short of magic. At first glance, the VAF-5D2 Optical Anti-Aliasing Filter by Mosaic Engineering is such a product. I was skeptical at first with this $385 product, but after reading some positive feedback from Philip Bloom at its initial prototype stage, I knew this product was for real.

It took longer than expected to arrive here at out facility (ordered back in August, and arrived here mid-November), but the wait was worth it. After some initial A/B testing with and without the filter, I’m thrilled with the results. The science behind this device is amazing, and it works, and it works extremely well.

Looking around the facility, I tried to find something I could shoot right away to really put this filter to the test. After going through all the rooms in the facility, I stumbled on something that was perfect: an Ampeg bass amp cabinet. The interwoven silver mesh covering of the cabinet creates all the aliasing, moiré and rainbow effects you could ever hate. The aliasing is so bad in fact that it causes the Canon encoder to pulsate on the aliasing portions. Without the VAF-5D2 filter, such footage would be completely useless. With the filter, it’s as clean as a whistle. I’m still shocked at how well this filter works, especially since looking at the filter with the naked eye doesn’t reveal any optical characteristics that make the filter work (it just looks like a clean, clear piece of glass).

I shot the footage handheld to further amplify the aliasing problems with the native 5D Mk II. I also pushed the camera in and out so that the focal plane (where aliasing is most present) would also be more noticeable. The first comparison was shot at an angle so that the focal plane was most obvious (causing DOF blur behind and in front of the focal plane). The second comparison is flat against the amp cabinet so that the focal plane covers the entire face, causing an aliasing nightmare, again pushing in and out to see how the aliasing reacts.

I used our Canon 50mm f/1.2L at f/2 to keep the lens sharp. I also shot at 160 ISO for least sensor noise, and 1/50th shutter speed to replicate what we normally shoot at.

Viewing at full 1080 HD resolution (the is important to really see the comparisons), you can easily see the difference in quality. With the VAF-5D2 installed, the image is completely clean of any aliasing or moiré effects. It’s like having a new camera by Canon! Converting this test footage to ProRes and outputting to our HD monitors (CRT and LED) REALLY shows off the hideousness of the aliasing without the filter installed, and the clarity of the footage with the filter installed. Just amazing.

Installation and removal of the VAF-5D2 is quick and easy. They give you a little puller tool to remove it from the sensor housing area.

The VAF-5D2 does have some drawbacks (crazy, I know). For one, your focus distance changes slightly, which wont be a big deal for many, including myself. Some wider lenses, 24mm and below may causing some vignetting or softness at the corners. I found that I did get some slight vignetting at the corners with my 24mm f/1.4L II, and my 16-35mm f/2.8L II between 16-24mm. Our 35mm f/1.4L seemed fine, as well as anything at higher lengths. Personally, the vignetting is minimal and I’d rather fix that in post (very easy) with no aliasing and moiré than the other way around. Also, if you take still photos with your 5D Mk II, you need to remove the VAF-5D2 for optimal still photo quality (only takes a few seconds to remove it).

Okay, well, so much for a short “first look” review. I love this new filter so much that I guess I went into full review mode. At any rate, the sooner you order your VAF-5D2, the better as it took mine almost three months to get here. But again, well worth the wait. For a three-year-old camera, I feel like I have a new camera again. I can’t recommend the VAF-5D2 enough.

Check out the comparison video we shot here on Vimeo:


All product still photos on this blog post from Mosaic Engineering’s website:


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Behind the scenes on the set of Ravelco

Directory, David Valentin, and Director of Photography, Marco Solorio getting ready for a take.

On April 29th, 2011, we ventured out to Menlo Park, California to shoot three commercials in one day. Yep, three. In one day. Craziness indeed. But to make a long blog short, the footage looked great in the end, and the client was pleased with how it was looking. We were going for the cinematic look-and-feel and we’re pleased we accomplished that.

A big thanks goes out to Ravelco for the opportunity to shoot these commercials for them. If you don’t know who they are, go check them out. Over 4-million anti-theft units installed, and they’ve never had a vehicle stolen! Best automotive anti-theft device on the market, bar none.

Looking at the shot at the video village: Suzette Mariel, Dan Juenemann, Carlos Lopez and Scott Garriott.

The Operation
Ravelco called on about eight production companies to bid on the project. As it got widdled down, it was between OneRiver Media and another company. In the end, OneRiver Media ultimately won the bid for the entire project, for both production and post-production.

The production crew was comprised of six people; David Valentin, director. Marco Solorio, director of photography. Carlos Lopez, lighting director. Suzette Mariel, production management and MUA. Dan Juenemann, grip. Scott Garriott, PA. Anne Marie Ross, behind-the-scenes photographer.

The cast included four actors; Phaedra Starr, Alex Alensandro Garcia, Jennifer Welch, and Carl Miller.

Marco Solorio seting up the 5D Mk II "cine rig"

The Camera
Because we wanted to go for a cinematic look, I decided to use our Canon 5D Mk II as a base, coupled with our large selection of Canon L primes. Interestingly, we ended up only using four different lenses for the entire day; 35mm f/1.4L II, 50mm f/1.2L (used for most of the production), 85mm f/1.2L II, and the 135mm f/2L.


Because we’re shooting at 1080p24, I always kept the shutter speed at 1/50, the closest setting the 5D Mk II gives us to the optimum 1/48 filmic shutter speed.

Centered is the 5D Mk II "cine rig" with the 3-ton rig truck behind it.

For the majority of shots, we shot wide open at the lenses’ fastest speed, giving that narrow depth-of-field we were gunning for. Anywhere from f/1.2 to f/2, tops, but we usually stayed around f/1.2 and f/1.4. We weren’t noticing any softness or chromatic aberration (sometimes encountered when shooting wide open) in the types of shots we were shooting, so we kept it wide open most of the time.

To help with exposure control coming into the camera, I used a combination of Panavision-sized 4×5.650” ND filters at the front of the Hyson Films 4-stage mattebox and a Singh Ray Veri-N-Duo that has both variable ND filtration and a circular polarizer. I used the variable ND portion to dial in just the right amount of exposure, and I used the circular polarizer portion to dial in just the right amount anti-reflection on the car while also making the sky richer. The Singh Ray Vari-N-Duo is one of my secret weapons that I absolutely love using. It’s one of those indispensable tools I cannot live without.

HD-SDI driving our TVLogic LVM-071w and video village from the 5D Mk II.

With all the exposure settings in place, we were able to dial in white balance. We shot a chip chart at times to ensure everything would be consistent in post-production.

For video monitoring, we sent the HDMI output to our Blackmagic Design HDMI to SDI mini converter (mounted to the 5D rig), which drove both our TVLogic LVM-071W (also mounted to the 5D rig), as well as a fifty-foot HD-SDI feed to video village which housed a Samsung 24-inch LED display, driven by an AJA HDP mini converter that also de-embedded the audio that drove a 4-channel distribution headphone output.

Setting up the wireless lav receivers that are mounted to the "cine rig"

I decided that dual-system sound was going to be best for this type of shoot, mostly because I wanted to record four dedicated audio tracks. I’m actually comfortable shooting directly into the 5D Mk II at this point, thanks to the last major firmware update that allows for controlled audio input at uncompressed 16-bit, 48kHz rates, coupled with our Juiced Link JL-CX231 as a phantom-powered mic pre. But because I wanted to record four dedicated audio tracks, recording directly into the 5D Mk II would be impossible, so our Zoom H4N was used and worked out perfectly.

The above setup now seen through the 5D Mk II.

The nice bonus too is that since the Zoom H4N is the recording device, we can monitor all four audio channels with headphones while we record. My only gripe about these small recording devices is that none of them offer timecode in or timecode out with a dedicated port. But it’s not a deal-breaker and the device really works well otherwise.





A sample from our storyboard as used for the production

The Scenes
Everything was storyboarded out prior to the shoot so we clearly knew what we had to shoot, how it had to be shot and how many angles. Director David Valentin roughed up the “chicken scratch” version, and I then took that, added a little more detail to make it a clear and concise storyboard that we could follow along on set. I used a combination of Newtek Lightwave 3D and Poser 3D to create the storyboards. It’s a nice combination that allows me to create 3D models or modify existing 3D models in Lightwave, while using Poser to articulate the 3D actors.

The day was split into three portions, each portion covering the commercial we had to produce. The morning portion was an exterior scene that was outside in a neighborhood driveway. The afternoon portion was another exterior scene for a backyard barbecue setup. The last production of the day was indoors in a master bedroom for a at nighttime setup.

One of my favorite lit shots of the day, as done by light director, Carlos Lopez. Marco Solorio on camera. Alex Alensandro Garcia getting ready for his action cue.

As expected, the two exterior productions required more lighting control than the interior bedroom scene. Carlos Lopez was our lighting director and really pulled some magic tricks.  We were losing the available light on the afternoon backyard barbecue scene, but Carlos was able to extend the “golden hour” sun until the last shot was needed.

The day was long but the footage turned out beautiful. Everyone did an excellent job on set. We’re looking forward to post-production; the editorial stage, sound effects and mixing, color-timing and grading.

Stay tuned, as we’ll post links to the finished commercials as they’re released for broadcast.

EDIT: Here is one of the finished commercials, uploaded to our Facebook page:


Additional photos from the shoot:

Our Canon 5D Mk II in "cine rig" configuration

Dan Juenemann ready to call a take

Timecode slates always make it easier... and sexier.

Scott Garriott manning the 3-ton rig truck

Marco Solorio adjusting the Hyson Films 4-stage matte box after a lens swap

Turning on the two receivers for wireless lav mics

Adjusting the boom mic for the driveway scene

Setting up for an ECU shot of the Ravelco device on the keychain. Director, David Valentin on left and actress, Phaedra Starr on right

Reverse angle of ECU setup

Director, David Valentin (left) going over lines and storyboard with actors Alex Alensandro Garcia and Carl Miller

Makeup artist, Suzette Mariel touching up Alex Alensandro Garcia

Getting ready to shoot a take in the backyard scene

Getting an ECU shot of the Ravelco device in actor Carl Miller's hand

Director, David Valentin looking over the 'boards while DP, Marco Solorio shoots a chip chart for reference

Ravelco client, Rich Biscevic (far left) looks on as we finish the final shots of the second commercial.

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