My Camera Hierarchy of Needs

April 23rd, 2014

I didn’t know blogs could collect dust, but there was a relatively thick layer waiting for me today.

On Monday I was describing to a friend what’s most important in a camera for me and I managed to piece together a hierarchy of needs.  This is where I ended up, top being the most important.

Price <$3.5K- RED, ARRI, the big Sonys, BM URSA, AJA CION out
Interchangeable lenses - GoPro, iPhone out
Sensor size >Micro4/3 - Panasonic out, BMCC, BMSC, BMPCC out
EF mount compatible - Sony, Nikon etc out
Expandable (has ports for monitor, audio etc)
Overheating a non-issue
Rolling Shutter - Canon out, including the T2i and T3i I currently own
Dynamic Range (clean noisefloor) <ISO 800
RAW
Dynamic Range (clipping) >11 stops
Barebones monitoring (audio, histogram, zebras)
Resolution >1080p
Frame Rate >30- BMPC out
Standard industry media (SSDs, SD, CF)
Large >3″ standard monitor
Low aliasing and moiré / no line-skipping
External power
Weight
Weatherproof
Waterproof
Modular System

 

You’ll see actual image clarity as normally defined is down in the lower half as I’m satisfied with what I’m currently getting with the Canon 7D sensor (found in my T2i and T3i) at effective 1.5K/11 stops—for $600 total I have two cameras that can produce entry-level content for the silver screen.  You can see that RAW is more important to me than dynamic range or resolution because going from H.264 to RAW adds effective dynamic range and resolution to begin with—more actual dynamic range and resolution is just a bonus below that (Using Magic Lantern to shoot RAW on my T2i/T3i, although enormously limited in clip length, looks incredible when compared to H.264 on the same camera). Above all of that is Rolling Shutter, which as a VFX guy is a massive, uncorrectable flaw that even turns me off to the RED cameras (unless you have the cool new electonic shutter thing, which is a higher price which is where it falls in the first place).  Also I consider the lack of a low noise-floor to be a greater threat to image quality than low resolution or lack of RAW, especially as an indie filmmaker where I don’t have the time or resources to be setting up lights on most occasions.  At the very top you see the things that contribute most to the ever sought-after “film look”, interchangeable lenses and larger sensor size.

Under this, the RED cameras get cut off immediately, of course my first choice of camera if money were no object… would be the James Webb Space Telescope.  The lack of interchangeable lenses makes a GoPro into a toy, the sensor size shaves off the otherwise stellar camera to be found in the Panasonic GH4, and then Rolling Shutter is the biggest bottleneck making for a very short list of eligible cameras, which the Blackmagic Production Camera survives and makes it down farther than anything else I’ve seen.  Shame it doesn’t have high frame rates or it’d practically make it to the bottom.  If I were to invest at this level as a two-camera company I would probably cut out one of the other things above that in order to have one other camera that can go to higher frame rates as long as it could more or less match the BMPC visually (allowing for Rolling Shutter, for example).  I’d like to know if anything makes it further down or comparably far down.  I’ve seen Sony making some desirable things lately but they’re stuck with their own line of lenses which would nullify my investment in the Canon EF infrastructure (all $800 of it, oh yeah.  No L-series red ring bling over here, no sir).

 

Here is the Blackmagic Production Camera in action and frankly it’s stunning.  The daylight footage is sublime, the low light image is technically impressive. (The same sensor is found in the $6K USRA)

 


 

So that’s me, but as far as I can tell, this is what the market is focusing on, which is kind of upside down from what I’m looking for in a camera…

The Consumer Hierarchy (aka the selling points listed on the box):

 

Price <$1K! - pretty much everything worth looking at is out of the running right here
You can take pictures AND video (the one camera you’ll ever need)!  (kind of an assumption these days, but if it wasn’t there it’d kill it)
UltraHD Resolution! (because megapixels, K and p values aren’t sexy marketing terms!)- Canon Rebels, many other DSLRs out on video mode. iPhone, Sony QX100 out
Slo Mo!
Light & Portable!
Big Screen! – GoPro out
Long Battery Life!*
Removable media! (SD cards!)
Waterproof!
Interchangeable lenses (but why would you want that when you can have 100x Digital Zoom?)!
H.264 is good!  We’ll call it AVCHD instead and make it a selling point! Remember Super Long Play on VHS tapes, it allowed you to record MORE SHOWS on one tape!  That’s a good thing!**
WiFi and Bluetooth!  Why?  We’re not sure but it sure sounds cool!
Smaller sensor size?  Of course!  It fits in your pocket!
3D!!!!!!!!!***
Dynamic what?  You lost me.  Eww that looks drab, I want VIBRANT COLORS (and a wrinkle filter!)

* Relative to what?  The last one we made of course!
** Can we really define ‘good’ though if “reality” is the sum of our perceptions generated by a chemical soup? Who are you to judge, maaaan?
*** May rearrange neurons in the brains of developing children

 

I can forgive much of what is going on up above because it led to the creation of the Sony QX100, which as far as I can see is a great idea.  I think the iPhone 5s on its own has a STELLAR camera on its own (1080p60?  yes thank you) and for $500, the Sony QX100 is a great add-on in a mirror-less world for getting some semi-serious photography in.  As the axiom goes, the best camera in the world is the one you have with you—and with that, the iPhone kills it (even if I’m still rocking a dumbphone).  GoPro continues its matchbox-sized miracles and I greedily await the day that they will enter the Interchangeable lens market whether it’s DSLR or mirrorless and put everyone to shame.  If the new GoPro 4 can really crunch 1080p120 or 4K@24/30fps—imagine the power they could fit in a DSLR-sized box 4-6 times the mass/volume of a GoPro.  4K@120fps for $2000 anyone?  Heck, tack on the acceptable increases in price for a big display, market scarcity, sensor R&D to kill rolling shutter and to add dynamic range… I think any professional would buy that for the slim $3500 that the Blackmagic Production Camera is going for, as long as they could mentally rearrange what the word “GoPro” has meant for the last several years.

Oh hey, right on time.


If I missed any stellar cameras that get relatively far down my hierarchy or the consumer hierarchy of needs, head over to the About Me page and send me an email.  The amazing Panasonic GH4 at half the price of the BMPC could become that ‘second camera’ I was referring to with its 4K@24fps and 1080p@60-96fps, but only after after getting it to accept EF lenses by boring out a new mount or using an adapter, and having a SSD/HDMI recorder tacked on the bottom for RAW capability, which might start getting really expensive to keep 4K.

Here’s an example though, while it is a bit soft, you can see in the trees and the ferris wheel that line skipping seems to not be a terrible issue, until you see the brick pattern at 02:17:

 

When I first started writing this, I didn’t expect it to become satire on the consumer world, but it did.  It also started as an email to a friend.  Now it’s a post for my anemic, neglected blog.  Hope to be back, maybe before next NAB.  I have two films sitting on my Hard Drive waiting to be edited, and a lot of projects waiting patiently for my attention.

Final Cut Pro X

July 5th, 2011

Some people out there, knowing I’m an Apple user/Final Cut editor for 8 years among other things, might be interested in what I think about Final Cut Pro X.

Summary:  I don’t know enough languages to string together a proper insult to counter the slap in the face that this software gave me.

I wouldn’t have been so shocked if it was called iMovie Advanced or Final Cut Express.  But Pro?  PRO?  What we have here is an iMovie for iMovie editors who want to get slightly more serious about things.  The only people who will be making a living off FCP X’s features are vloggers in the YouTube Partners program.  Phillip DeFranco even said FCPX is just about the best thing ever—so proof positive that FCP X is a load of crap.

If you read FCPX’s official FAQ, practically every answer they give is ‘you can do that with another program’, ‘here’s a 5 step process that used to be one step’, or ‘that feature is coming’.

Some good quotes so far:

#thecrankycutter “[It's] as if Apple said,”FCP has become a broadcast industry standard. How can we keep that from ever happening again?”

“I can’t think of an Apple product launch which has spun more wildly out of control than this one. Apple did not just blow this launch, they went out of their way to alienate their key customer base.”

Jim Jannard- “Apple can fix this situation very easily… all they have to do is communicate what they are going to do with this app. If they don’t, many will jump ship. Once they do, it will be hard to get them back. I am the ultimate Apple fan. But this app signals a big change in philosophy. It doesn’t have to be that way… but somebody better say something pretty quickly.”

And probably be favorite, which can’t be summed up in any better way:

“Final Cut Pro X is an abortion.”

 

It’s really not worth it for me to dissect FCPX and point out the many, many missing features (my most missed are capture from video devices [my intensity card], tracks, and my most important: the Media Manager.)  FCPX isn’t about what it’s missing.  FCPX is a fundamental change in the target audience and therefore the editing philosophy.  A former Apple developer watched the same thing happen to his baby, Shake, just a little while ago.  Apple got the people hooked on their HARDWARE using software bait.  When Shake was discontinued (And yes, I still mourn the death of Shake-and simultaneously Color is taking the same route), Nuke for Mac was conveniently waiting- at 10 times the price.  (lo and behold—Adobe and Avid are both doing half-off switcher sales to fill Apple’s pro power vacuum).  They don’t care if Ron Brinkmann’s estimated 10,000 ‘pro’ editors go mass exodus to Adobe and Avid, as Ron said—the consumer market for the amateur editors of the YouTube generation is an order of magnitude more profitable than catering to the small, often very picky professional market.

‘And back then the same questions were being asked as now – “Doesn’t Apple care about the high-end professional market?”

In a word, no.  Not really.’

This may sound sappy considering the obvious VALVe-obsession I maintain (the uncontainable outflowing of that obsession being Outside Aperture), but Apple could really learn things from VALVe as a business.  Sure, VALVe didn’t recently pass Microsoft in quarterly earnings etc like Apple—VALVe doesn’t make $1000+ computers.   But VALVe consistently outputs quality stuff and listens to their fans, even if it takes a while to do.  In short, Apple fanboys might be a particularly rabid species, but will likely cower at any real confrontation—but VALVe fans will kill for their company.  VALVe’s been training us to kill for a decade now by never failing us, and according to some Senators, by creating wanton murder simulators.

So, yeah, you could say I await my moment of schadenfreude if Apple says sorry, and my moment of glee if Apple re-institutes features we were all expecting them to have kept in the first place (considering they first demoed it at  NAB 2011′s FCPUG Super Meet), but I’m not holding my breath.  Maybe it’s time for me to learn Premiere, despite how much I despise Adobe through After Effects alone.  (Did I mention my first editing jobs were on Premiere 6.0?)

In the mean time, I’m seriously considering making a return request and getting my $300 back, but my 1-star App Store review has been filed along with a few paragraphs of hate.

If you would like to surf my wave of FCPX hatred, head down to the PG forums for epic rant time.

Petition here

(7,249 signatures as of this post.  Using crude guesstimate math, at the old Final Cut Studio price that’s $7 million in lost revenue that repeats on every release.)

I don\’t have a title for this

FCPX bugs

 

There is light at the end of this tunnel though, if you’re a massive optimist:

#jefferyharrell In five years, we may say the best thing Apple ever did for commercial post was to f*** us all right in the eye.

Outside Aperture FAQ

May 31st, 2011

Been getting emails and YouTube comments with some reasonable questions.  You might want to check my General FAQ first for camera/software related stuff.

In regard to breaking Portal story canon:  Outside Aperture was first written before the story of Portal 1 was retconned with the Party Associate dragging you back into the facility.  In the first ending, Chell blacks out on the asphalt of Aperture Laboratories’ parking lot, her future (and pulse) completely unknown.  Also of course, this happened before anything Portal 2.  Unfortunately I was not able to finish the film before Portal 2′s release.

We took the route of her waking up, and finding an apartment on the Aperture Laboratories campus, which would still have power in 200X due to Aperture’s significant nuclear power plants.  As for it being stocked with food—I’d expect that everyday life at Aperture kind of froze on the Bring Your Daughter To Work Day massacre.  (where did Ratmann get his beans?)

Also brought up was that Chell’s apartment needed to be coated in moon dust, a la Portal 2′s conversion gel.  The games in the past, and Portal 2 itself show us this is not true.  In Portal 1 during the ‘Escape’ levels and before that in the Rattman dens, you could portal over any way as long as it was flat.  Exceptional rust and dirt didn’t prevent portal placement.  Also note in Portal 2 that the oldest test chambers had portal-able surfaces constructed before the moon landing.

In regard to the Portal timeline’s crossover with the Combine Invasion of Half-Life, a small homage to this (a Citadel out the window, combine soldiers running by outside) was originally included in early iterations of the script, but it turned out to be so obscure and on uncertain ground canonically that we omitted it.

As for her cyborg leg attachments, they fell off after defeating GLaDOS according to the Portal 2: Rat Lab comic.  Also, no Long Fall Boots.  This is assuming Portal 2 never happened.

The mural that Chell draws in the end was written before any knowledge of Doug Ratmann.  It was commonly assumed back then that the murals were made by Chell herself, having been restored from GLaDOS’s backup multiple times to do the same tests again.

 

Email me questions!  More to be posted as things come up.

 

 

Done.

May 30th, 2011

Man, 2 days before June.  Never thought it would have taken this long, but it was worth it.

Outside Aperture gets released today.  I’m uploading as I type.

 

New stuff to come.

Portal 2

April 25th, 2011

Of course, I picked it up (both 360 and PC/Mac versions) at midnight, was somehow able to sleep, go to work,  and played it that day.  According to my recordings, I finished single player in about 5h 30m.  I played the cooperative mode with fellow Portal genius Ho7sauce (GT insideout1986) and finished that in 4h 20m over XBL.  Hopefully a small disclaimer regarding the fact that the Outside Aperture storyline is based on Portal 1 pre-March 2010 update will keep your classic “x, y, and z happen in Portal 2!” comments from piling up in the YouTube comments.

I’ve loaned out my copy of Portal 2.  I still have it on my Mac/PC but can’t take any more time with any distractions.  VFX beckon.

 

GameStop

April 18th, 2011

So I’ve got Portal 2 preordered at GameStop. The dudes there have been pretty good to me over the years, so I decide to lend them the Portal Gun prop that I made to GameStop to have on display for the midnight release tonight. The pinnacle of nerd-dom, sitting on their front counter. Their response?

 

A. SQUEEEE THAT’S COOL WE’D LOVE TO HAVE IT AT OUR STORE

B. Sorry we’re corporately owned and we can’t do anything fun ever that might imply a minute chance of the possibility that a risk might take place.

 

If you answered B, you are correct. THANK YOU predatory legal system, for indiscriminately ruining America’s fun.

 

EFcom Launch

April 10th, 2011

WordPress is all hooked up thanks to my web wizard Van, I swear sometimes he had changes done before I even finished typing my suggestions to him over IM.  The Gallery and stuff awaits my own pass with new photos and of course, the release of Outside Aperture. Hope to talk soon!