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F35: First impressions


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#1 Charles Papert

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 11:30 PM

Hi gang.

I've been working with the F35 this week on a pilot. We are using the first few bodies to come into Clairmont so this may or may not be the first show to use the cameras full-time, don't know and don't really care but some people like to keep score of these things. I do know that it wasn't easy to convince the studio to go with an "unproven" camera.

Steadicam-wise, it's pretty nice. Certainly reminiscent of a Genesis in shape, I feel like it's a touch lighter but I'm not sure. We are using the Sony fiber system which is nicely integrated into the back of the camera via clip-on module. The SRW decks are sequestered at engineering; we control run/stop on the camera and the DIT can check playback (which is as I think it should be). Denny Clairmont tells me that Sony is working on a flash drive, no release date set but it should be quite small.

This show is largely handheld and we only have two bodies so to speed up the conversion and to help back-weight the camera, I have the Preston mounted full-time on the back of the camera where it lives for all modes. The supplied power cable for studio mode has a splitter that powers a standard Arri-style 3 pin lemo breakout box for AKS, the camera itself is not really set up to distribute power as apparently that would be an "issue". When we go Steadicam mode, I use a cable that Clairmont made for me to power the breakout box directly from the spare camera port on the junction box. This way we can keep the Preston and Modulus power cables intact, again to speed up conversion.

The power connector is the same as the Genesis, so if you have one of those cables (either straight or Y), it will work here just fine. The run connector is 3 pin ARRI RS standard. The camera has a built-in downconverter for those old-school green screeners like me, just plug into the "test out" BNC port. Or there are two HD-SDI ports so you don't have to loop through your HD monitor if you have one.

The top handle is threaded with 1/4 and 3/8 tapped holes so you can mount a low mode plate to it directly. It's a bit high-profile; if I had a dedicated camera on a show I would remove the accessory mounting rack on top of the camera and ask for a low-profile port cap mount which would drop the plate a good four inches (doesn't exist yet)! There's always "poor-man's low mode" but with two separate video villages on this show, I can't see everyone craning their heads nor us turning over any monitors so I would just suffer through a high mounting point for low mode if and when it comes up for the time being.

The camera is pretty short in length but wide like the Genesis, and thus the tendency to be squirrely is mostly offset. I think it flies just fine, probably between a 435 and LT in weight. I am flying two motors full time and often three (as seen in the pictures) thanks to the Optimo 15-40 and the possibility of zooming, plus the always-on iris motor with handset at the DIT tent. Those wondering why I am using two DM1's: we have two DM2's on the handheld setup as that is what we live on most of the time, and again to keep the conversion quick, I keep my other motors on the rig which happen to both be DM1's.

So OK, not too bad for Steadicam. However, as I said we are predominantly handheld and here we divebomb into the poop. Sony has supplied a viewfinder that uses an integrated LCD panel that can be flipped out once the viewing optic is removed, not a bad idea but the electronics are mounted to the right of the eyepiece which uses a mirror to turn the image 90 degrees. In other words, it's like an overgrown version of a standard ENG viewfinder (what a surprise). This means that one's placement options are severely limited for handheld especially if you are a right eye viewer; you have to bring the whole assembly away from the body to be able to mount it fore or aft (for handheld or studio work) which is inconvenient. Plus the body is quite front-heavy since there is no rear weight like a mag, but trying to get the viewfinder pushed forward to get the camera balanced is a bit of a trick. There are no mini-rod mounts on the front of the camera so if you want to use the handgrips, you have to use a baseplate and dovetail which raises the camera off your shoulder and forces you to have to look up into the viewfinder which is tough on your neck. I have taken to working without the eyecup, positioning the LCD way forward above the eyebrow and operating heads-up with both eyes; the image is somewhat far away but I can see framing fine, and besides who can judge critical focus in an LCD viewfinder.

We are also using the Easyrig to help distribute the weight; I've managed to get it balance at the camera's CG by extending the mount point in front of the handle (thanks to a repurposing of part of Brant's VLS bracket, seen screwed into the handle in the pictures) so the camera hangs level. The Easyrig is saving our shoulders but getting it on and off is enough of a nuisance that you end up leaving it mounted longer, which adds up by the end of the day. We are in the "keep it rolling, let's go off script on this one" mode of comedy so it's not unusual to be wearing the cameras for 20 minute stretches...

So the conclusion is that the camera is promising, the images I've seen so far are lovely and the kinks will get worked out eventually via rental house mods and Sony updates. As we have seen with all HD cameras, it takes a good year to make these things appropriately user-friendly. But for Steadicam at least, it works pretty nicely out of the box and with the eventual flash recorder coupled with an HD transmitter, cable-free shooting is not far away.

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#2 Charles Papert

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 11:32 PM

Close up view of left side of camera:

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#3 Charles Papert

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 11:33 PM

Right side of camera.

If I can find time I'll have a pic taken of the handheld setup so you can all have a good laugh.

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#4 David Shawl SOC

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 04:22 AM

How is the power draw from the camera and the runtimes you're getting with your Dionics?
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#5 JobScholtze

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 06:27 AM

Somehow it always scares me to put a modulus at the camera like that. I had to many problems in the past. In my case it was interference with the tapedeck at the back. Anyway, this camera shape looks like its steadicam friendly. I always hate long bodys. Thx for the pics
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#6 Charles Papert

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 08:14 AM

David:

Run time seems to be similar or better than the Genesis, which is to say it's fairly power hungry compared to a 2/3" camera. I'm doing maybe one or two Steadicam shots every couple of days, so it's hard to say for sure. The Dionics handle it fine. If we had the SRW deck on board, I'm sure it would be a whole different story as that alone draws 5+ amps.

Job:

Yes, the Modulus can be dicey with onboard decks. Since we have the deck remoted and the signal is being monitored by the DIT we'd know if there was any interference issues and so far so good. If necessary we could always remote the Modulus back to the DIT tent, which would likely give a more stable signal as it wouldn't be moving during a take, which is what I intend to do once I start using an HD transmitter (not needed on this job). The Modulus is on both cameras full-time in all modes for the director to use a handheld monitor and I believe the sound mixer.
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#7 JamieSilverstein

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 06:58 PM

Using the F23 on my pilot and did a long walk and talk with the deck and two IDS batteries on......... It kicked my ass! It was like flying a 535 again.
Yeah the view finder is pretty offensive. You'd think that Sony would think about the operators using the camera.......
I just finished a movie with the Red. NOW that is a camera to fly. A Red battery and a flash drive on the back and it is solid and steady. I think that's the wave......
Just my 2ยข
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#8 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 05:51 PM

Jeff Cree stopped by a local rental house today to give us a "Class" on the F35. I took lots of photos and learned more that i ever would need to know.

i asked Jeff about a low mode plate, he says there is one (he had one but i didn't see it). you lose the accessory box and it attaches there, leveled and all.

you can flip the image if you need to do a quick low mode shot in a pinch but it will not be mirrored left<->right ... only right side up.

the reason they dont want you using lots of power off the taps is that there are fusible links inside and if they trip, thats a couple hours downtime to replace. the fuses live on the BOTTOM of the camera. they didnt use resettable fuses because the resettable's will lose their current rating over time...

the camera is a DITs dream! you can paint certain things in the scene different colors without affecting the overall scene.. kinda like using power windows in post. you can change every matrix, knee, shoulder, toe... all via the remote panel or on camera.

there's a Cine mode that locks out certain pages so its used as a film camera

or custom mode which opens up all the pages and bells and whistles you can use to manipulate the images...

very cool camera at 240 thousand... :-)

few random photos.....


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#9 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 05:53 PM

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#10 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 05:54 PM

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#11 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 05:55 PM

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#12 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 05:57 PM

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#13 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 05:58 PM

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#14 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 05:59 PM

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#15 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 06:08 PM

when playing back you can split screen the playback material with the scene from the imager, do a wipe of the two signals, the playback footage can be wire frame superimposed over the scene coming from the imager, it has Ethernet so you can WIRELESSLY control the camera via WIFI (he did it on Speed Racer) but there is some delay--point there is it can be done. you can assign the camera or cameras on the LAN different IP addresses..... and on and on and on......
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