Tag Archives: video

4k Video – Many, Many “Decisive Moments”

One overarching benefit of digital technology is the ability to recreate work with complete fidelity – in other words new works are exactly the same as the original. This benefit, coupled with the merging and warping of imagery is changing still photography. Several important developments are already here, and other are innovations are not far behind.

1. Stills from video. Panasonic has just announced their LUMIX FZ1000 camera, available late this month. It’s a long zoom camera (28-400mm equivalent) with 4K video capabilities for $900. According to Thomas Curley, Business Development Manager for LUMIX Professional Services, Panasonic North America, “The most amazing thing about it is that you can shoot a video clip (in 4K) then ‘in camera’ select a frame for the video and save it as a 8 megapixel Jpg that is suitable for printing. Nothing like this has existed until now and it is going to change how we take pictures.”

Tom is on to something here. I think that this is the first of many video/still cameras to come. With the LZ1000 you can preview the video frames on the LCD panel and then select the frame(s) that you want to convert to 8 megapixel still(s). Check out this video of what the camera can do. WIFI is also available on this camera to transmit your photographs immediately onto the web via a smart phone or an iPad.

Think three years out. The LZ1000 has a 20.1 megapixel sensor. Will they or other camera manufacturers find a way to wrangle out a 15 megapixel still or even higher res image? Bet on it.

2. HDR video. High Dynamic Range is a fancy term for combining several frames of a subject that have huge differences in exposure. The result is an image that pushes the dynamic range (specular highlights to deep shadows) of the subject toward the middle so that nothing is blown out or unreadable in the shadow area. Many still cameras now have this feature where a “burst” of frames are taken at a variety of exposures. In camera, or in post processing the images are merged together.

In video, this is difficult, as the dang thing keeps taking moving frames at 30 fps (frames per second). Now Red cameras and Magic Lantern software have come up with ways to double the frames at 60 fps with different exposures and then merge them in post production.

3. Auto focus for video. Rule of thumb: do not turn on auto focus on a DSLR when shooting video or the viewer may have an extended bout of sea sickness as the camera is constantly refocusing. Videographers have always been able to mask slight out of focus frames with motion and sound. But what happens when you pull an 8 megapixel still from the video? The resultant still can’t handle sharpness issues.

Now Andra and several other software manufacturers offer follow-focus for DSLR video. They run the application through an iPad and are able to make “focus pulls” on the fly with accuracy.

4. Helicopters and drones. Small, unmanned helicopters have been a staple for feature films and TV productions for 10 years. They are expensive, but can be programmed with GPS to fly the exact same flight again and again.

CopterStudios, a California-based company, uses a “pilot” for the remote controlled helicopter; a camera operator, who uses an IR remote control to adjust camera functions; and a set coordinator, who works with the director or producer to plan the shots.

The director or producer can watch the video in real time on a monitor on the set. SD video is transmitted from the JVC camera via a live video microwave downlink to a directional patch antenna, which feeds the reference monitor on set.
See their stunning demo video.

OK, so helicopters are pricey, but enter the drones. Drones DJI announced that it is working on an update of its S1000 Octocopter, a pro-level drone capable of carrying pro cameras such as a Canon 5D Mark III. That model should be ready in a few months and is expected to cost thousands of dollars, but may be very appealing to professional photographers and videographers.

At the present time, drones are banned from many National Parks and the Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) forbids commercial use. Under congressional order, the FAA must open national airspace to commercial and civilian drones by the end of 2015. The agency is in the process of determining the regulations for a drone license.


Grand Prismatic

Grand Prismatic Geyser

Reuters reported that a tourist seeking to take pictures of Yellowstone National Park crashed a camera-equipped drone into its largest hot spring, on Saturday, August 2. It was not clear if the drone that crashed into Grand Prismatic Spring damaged the prized geothermal feature when it sank into its depths, and officials were still trying to decide whether to remove it.

“What we have to determine is whether the presence of this radio-controlled recreational aircraft poses a threat to that unique resource,” park spokesman Al Nash said of the Grand Prismatic, the third-largest hot spring in the world and a top attraction for the roughly 3 million visitors who flock to Yellowstone each year.

The park is puzzling over how to find the drone and extract it without damaging the hot spring, which is 370 feet in diameter, more than 121 feet deep and known for its brilliant colors caused by bacteria and minerals in the water.

OK, so what does this mean for the still photographer?

First, not many people will be shooting still photographs – not even the professionals. If a client wants stills, why wouldn’t you shoot video where you can pick out the frame where the eyes are not closed, the action is at it’s height and the exposure and focus are right on? In addition, why would a client want to hire both a still photographer and a videographer?

So it is not “goodbye still photography”, but it will be “goodbye still photographer”, as we move to a video-centric world. Art photographers may still want to use still cameras, much the same as many of them today want to still use film. I have to make a living, and what is described above is, in my estimation, what will transpire in the near future. Get ready.

Florida Kite Boarding

Off the east coast of Florida, near Pompano, there is an area of the beach designated for kite boarders. On a windy day, the kiters are out in force, ripping through the waves at 20 knots per hour or more, and then lifting off the surface of the water to heights of 25 feet plus.

Kite surfing became popular right after the new millennium and has replaced traditional boardsailing (windsurfing) because of its versatility, i.e. not having to deal with a mast and boom. The secret is in the kite. Nominally a parabolic wing, it is inflated with air, so that if it hits the water it won’t sink. There are lines to deal with, but the harness helps keep them from tangling.

The board is approximately three feet long and is not unlike a snowboard — the rider is similarly locked in with stationary boots. Skegs on the bottom of the board help give it forward motion, but the kiter uses the edges of the board “carving” the water to change direction. The kiter can also pull up out of the water to jump waves, do 360’s, etc.

The colorful sails and acrobatic kiters make for great pictures, but it is difficult to show their impressive speed. One way is to “pan” with the rider and blur the water, another is to show jumps and tricks in sequential images, but the best way is with video.

5D Kiteboard Clip  My main camera, a Canon 5D shoots 1080p HD video, but without several pieces of additional video specific gear (like neutral density filters, a follow-focus knob, an audio recorder, a larger monitor and shoulder frame), it is difficult to create high quality imagery. Click on the link to the video I took of kite boarders with the 5D. Note in my video that the kite boarder goes in and out of focus because I was viewing the video on the small LCD screen on the back of the camera. Also as I had no tripod, the wind became a factor.

As part of this trip, I attended the Miami Short Film Festival (tag line: It’s Miami, it has to be shorts.) Because more and more of my assignments require both video and stills, I was anxious to see a demo of the new Canon EOS C300 video camera. It was announced in Hollywood in November 4 and will be available in January. It was a treat to see it, touch it and ask the questions that needed to be asked.

My take is that the camera will be a tool of choice for the serious videographer. It has several drawbacks, namely no headset for the operator, the Canon codex (another one that has to be supported), the incoming audio is connected through the handle on top of the camera and although detachable, you would rarely want to, as the camera itself has no mike capabilities.

But weighing a little over three pounds, capture at 50 Mb/sec and a top end of 20,000 ISO (not a misprint), it has to be reckoned with. The price is rumored to be $20K, and if that is true, it will be a rental unit for many of us. A $10K-12K price point would have Canon selling many more units. They did stress that this was the first camera in a line of cine cameras for the company, so stay tuned.