Red Giant just released the newest version of their awesome color grading software, Magic Bullet Looks II. Naturally I nabbed it up right away, and have been color grading the short western “Courage” with it. So far me likey… but with newer redesigns comes some bugs. But first, let’s go over what’s new:
A redesigned interface that’s very similar to the last version, just a bit more slick looking and easier to use.
More scope options.
64 new and updated presets. (I don’t use presets, but many do)
Added video out preview for an interactive single frame preview. (Or at least this feature was attempted, see the “bugs” below)
6 new tools, including some of the stuff you find in Colorista II and something called “Cosmo”…which smooths skintones for beauty shots. (Works very well!)
Newer redesigns of software can certainly comes with problems, but don’t worry, Red Giant didn’t pull a Final Cut Pro disaster with this release. Despite some of the bugs below the software is a leap from the previous version, and with the workarounds I outline below, you’ll be able to navigate around the issues. Some of these issues are open tickets in Red Giant’s support queue, and naturally I will update the list below with any fixes or explanations as they come in from Red Giant.
NOTE: I use Magic Bullet Looks as a plugin for Adobe Premiere CS5.5 almost exclusively. These issues may not be a problem with other NLEs or computers.
Video Out: This does not work for me on the plugin nor the stand alone program. In “preferences” there is a drop-down area where you should be able to select what monitor you want to throw your interactive preview frame…but sadly there are no options in the drop-down. Neither the online help materials nor tech support themselves have yet to explain this, and I’m not sure if it’s only compatible with certain cards like AJA and such since nobody seems to know as of right now.
Single Frame Creation: When you apply the MBL effect to a clip in the timeline, you must click on “EDIT” to open the interface and begin working on the grade. When you do so, MBL “grabs” a still of the frame you are paused on in the timeline and displays it for previewing your work as you apply the tools. But here’s the glitch: about 50% of the time when I click “edit,” MBL grabs some other frame, and usually not even a frame in the clip I am working on. I have to keep deleting the effect and re-applying it to the clip until it works.
Premiere Auto-Save Freeze: If you’re like me, you have Premiere set to autosave your project every few minutes. That has saved me from unfortunate loss of work several times. But if you have the MBL interface open when Premiere initiates an autosave, Premiere will freeze with the “save” dialogue open and you’ll have no choice but to force close the application. Best to turn off autosave while coloring and remember to hit ctrl-s every now and then.
Upgrading From Previous MBL: I found out the hard way that you should uninstall the previous version of MBL before installing 2.0. Not only uninstall via add/remove programs, but go into your plugin folders and delete the MBL plugins. Here’s the path to find them: C:\Program Files\Adobe\Common\Plug-ins Once these are deleted, you can install 2.0. If you don’t do this, a duplicate plugin will still exist in Premiere and it seems the software will get confused as to which version of MBL your effects are referring to. So, if you add MBL 2.0 to a clip and then close the program and reopen, Premiere seems to “point” the effect to the OLD version and not apply the effect correctly.
I’m sure Red Giant will fix these problems, and until then, I am still glad to use the software now that know the workarounds to the bugs.
As a DSLR user and author of the Online Guide to 5dMkII Cinematography, I’ve been waiting for video camera companies to adopt the large sensor and interchangeable lens into a fully functional cinema camera based on the overwhelming popularity of DSLRs. I went to NAB and spent hours researching the large sensor cameras. The things I was looking for are in a camera: 1) The detail, resolution, and “look” as good or better than a 5dMkII, 2) Can it match or outperform the 5d’s low light capability? 3) Can I shoot in a flatter profile to maximize grading? 4) Does it record to a decent codec and/or offer uncompressed output? 4) is it under my kit camera limit of $10k? (Anything more and I will rent, not buy)
That leaves the Panasonic AF100 and the brand new Sony FS100 as my options. I walked up to the Panasonic booth first and checked out the AF100. It has some nice features…but failed on 1 and 2 immediately. I was astonished how noisy this camera is AND how easily the highlights clipped. Looks a little soft and reminded me of the uprezzed look that my HVX200 had. I moved onto the Sony booth.
The Wow Factor…
After attending the Sony F3/FS100 seminar by Doug Jensen of Vortex Media and talking with him in depth at the FS100 display…I came to realize that this camera was something special, and I was at “confidence high” in terms of finding my next camera. It passed all my tests, and also gave me a few WOW moments. Here’s what’s awesome about the FS100:
Low Light Capability. At NAB they have brightly lit “sets” with all their camera offerings pointed at it. Doug turned the camera around and pointed it at areas of the Sony booth that I would say represented near candlelight exposure. This camera not only resolved these areas set to +32db gain (16,000 ISO equivalent), but with remarkably low noise. If that wasn’t wow enough…I noted how great the little noise looked. It looked grainy and organic…not patterned and videoey.
The Sensor. Canon DSLRs are famous for having a very cinematic look. I don’t want to get a camera that looks like video…I want to retain this filmic look. The FS100′s sensor is the exact same sensor as in the $14k Sony Cinealta F3. It is an advanced sensor made for cinematic uses. The FS100 not only had better resolution than the 5d, it seemed to retain the colors and contrast falloff that I want in a camera.
Overcranking. It’s surprising to me that this camera has features that the F3 does not. One of them that made my eyes widen was the ability to overcrank to 60 frames per second at FULL 1080P. Most cameras drop to 720p (like the F3) or revert to interlaced frames to be able to do this.
Uncompressed 4:4:4 HDMI Output. That’s right. This camera does what no other camera on the market does, full uncompressed 4:4:4 colorspace via the HDMI output. As of the date of this post…there is not currently an HDMI recorder that can record 4:4:4 (only 4:2:2). But I’m sure that will change within a couple months. This camera does NOT have HDSDI outputs.
Small Form Factor. The camera does not look like a video camera. That’s a good thing. It is setup as a prosumer cinema camera. It comes with top and side mounted handles and has the ablity to take on rod systems with follow focus and mattebox. BUT…all that stuff can be stripped off (including the supplied handles) turning it into the size of two 7d’s stuck together.
Setting Up the Camera…
So I pre-bought the camera to ensure I got it immediately after release. Couldn’t be happier. Here are some tips to make it easier to setup your FS100.
I did many tests on various settings in the picture profiles. I used scopes to determine latitude and adjusted the knee and black levels to optimize for post color grading. I also based these off this PDF file that explains all the settings and what exactly they do to the gamma curve. (Granted it’s for another NEX camera…but it’s a great guide nonetheless as I’m sure Sony hasn’t made any alterations to these settings for the FS100) This video from Abel Cine is also very useful:
Black Level: +8
Black Gamma: Middle, +7
Knee: Manual, 85%, 0 slope
Color Mode: Cinematone 1
Color Level: 0
Color Phase: 0
Color Depth: All 0
NOTE: This profile is not intended for a “look” right out of the camera, but rather the best latitude for post grading optimization.
The FS100 uses Sony’s E Mount which has an extremely short flange distance (18mm from sensor to back element of the lens), the E Mount is well suited for adaption to just about ANY other lens. There are many “dumb” adapters available that do not allow for lens iris control via the camera. Many Canon DSLR users want to be able to control their EF lenses, however only “dumb” adapters exist for this combination until Birger releases their EOS adapter. Lenses like the Canon FD series will make a comeback because they can be used with the appropriate adapter, there are many available on sites like Ebay, and they are reasonably priced because of their near obsolescence. PL lenses can be used with this adapter from Hot Rod.
NOTE: With a dumb adapter you need to be sure the corresponding lens has full manual capability. For example, the iris on my 17-35mm Canon is NOT manual, therefore if I use it on the FS100, the iris is locked open with no way to close it. My Leica R-series lenses are perfect, as they have full manual control.
The manual recommends a Class 10 card or better. I ordered 4 eight gig cards here and so far they’ve been great. I don’t recommend using the proprietary Sony Memory Sticks. I also got one of these cases to keep them safe and sound. Warning: There are reports that SANDISK brand sd cards will create a small beep on recorded audio in one-second intervals.
The camera comes with one Sony NP-770. These batteries are great because compared to a DSLR, they last more than a few hours. If you don’t want to spend a ton of dough, you can get this generic brand that work just fine. You can also get larger capacity versions that last alot longer. BEWARE the knock-offs from Ebay, alot of the L series Sony generic brands from here have had a history of being faulty.
Sony changed up the typical handycam shape and made this into a box. Literally. There is a detachable handgrip that comes with the camera that you fix onto the right side, but I always hated velcro straps on cameras and never use them anyway…so mine is detached and in a box somewhere. Sony instead designed this as a modular camera…made for the typical rod-system support. This is the way to go with this camera. Rods, follow focus, mattebox, and handles at the very least. The modular film-camera ideology Sony seems to be pushing this camera toward is also evident in the numerous 1/4″ female screws all over the place. This is awesome for additional monitors and other accessories. They also left out a popular video-camera feature, internal ND filters, which is also what is lacking in a higher end cinema camera like a RED or Alexa. They are pushing this as a digital cinema camera, not a video camera.
There isn’t a traditional viewfinder, instead a loupe attached to the LCD screen located at the top. A separate monitor is still recommended as it’s impossible to use this if the camera is higher than the operator. But otherwise the monitor is awesome…and it’s touchscreen too.
Oh my oh my there are a TON of accessories you can get for this camera, made available in plethora thanks to the the DSLR revolution. Rod systems, follow focuses, matteboxes, monitors, etc. etc. They certainly aren’t hard to find. I recommend at the very least, the rod support, follow focus, handlegrips, and mattebox. Because of the 500 minumim ISO that the camera shoots in, you’ll need Neutral Density filters otherwise you WILL NOT be able to take advantage of shallow depth of field in bright sunshine. I got 1.8 and 0.9 filters…which is a great start. (The rule is, divide this number by 0.3 and you’ll get the number of stops it will drop the exposure)
I recommend Zacuto brand stuff for the most part. Seems to be the best quality and they have a lifetime guarantee on their stuff. Redrock makes good stuff too…and their mattebox is the best around without spending a small fortune. Cheaper places like Cine City (India) make this stuff too but it’s pretty flimsy. I’ve purchased stuff from them before and some stuff is pretty solid while others is a waste of money. Your mileage may vary. There’s a bunch more places, just do your research and you’ll find what works best for your budget.
Media Files / Codec
AVCHD was created by Sony and Panasonic based of the popular H.264 codec. The codec is a more efficient way of encoding than, say, a Canon DSLR…and is therefore better for video use. The files are much smaller than a Canon file and the encoding writes more information. The codec definitely holds up better in post production. We are limited in the amount we can push contrast in post with an 8-bit codec such as this, but it can handle grading fantastically. Smooth gradients, low noise (also thanks to the sensor), less artifacting, and maintains sharpness. I’ve used XDcam and DVCpro for several years and I’m actually impressed with AVCHD.
One thing to note, however, is that post work with this codec is very graphics intensive. Your system is going to work HARD to edit and especially color these files. If you don’t have a fast system and end up having some trouble with these files, you may be better off converting to Cineform (for PC users) or Quicktime (MAC). Of course if you use Final Cut Pro 7 and below, you transcode to a different codec right from the start, so you’re all set. Premiere CS5 users: The AVCHD codec may have some stuttering occur if your resolution is set to anything LESS than full. Seems contrary to what you might think, but full resolution playback solves the problem. If you upgrade to CS5.5, however, they made improvements in the way the software handles AVCHD so you’ll be in the clear.
ISO / Color Temp
If you want to set the white balance like any other video camera, you can certainly do this. But the camera also has a color temperature adjustment if you prefer to do it this way. The camera does not have an ISO setting, but rather a GAIN setting. If you are like me and prefer to go off ISO, here’s a simple conversion list:
Gain db Level
I am ABSOLUTELY IMPRESSED with this camera’s ability to shoot at the crazy level of 16000 ISO (+30db). Though anything above 4000 ISO seems to be a little too noisy, the fact that I can even go that high is unbelievable. Another thing about the noise from someone who’s used to the Canon DSLR’s weird grid-patterned noise, is that the FS100′s noise looks decent, almost like grain. If I had to see a little bit of noise it’s wouldn’t really bug me all that much like the Canons did.
As a DSLR user, I’m glad to have this back. I’m used to using dual sound and then using Dual Eyes to sync in post, but it’s nice to have this option back. The FS100 does NOT have an internal mic, you need to plug in the XLR mic that came with the camera or one of your own. When you DO use a dual system with the FS100, I recommend you still take advantage of having XLR inputs and send an audio feed from your sound engineer/boom op to the input on the camera. No need to level it and all that as Dual Eyes just uses it as a reference to sync with the REAL sound recorded by your pro on set. Dual Eyes is a MUST if you’re using a sync sound system.
The FS100 sends out a 4:4:4 or 4:2:2 8-bit video signal out the HDMI. This allows for uncompressed capture of the video. There is alot of debate going around whether it’s really much of a difference recording uncompressed versus to the compressed AVCHD codec. I personally think that if you don’t plan on grading or keying very much then recording to AVCHD is perfectly fine. As soon as you start grading and keying the material, uncompressed will likely not result in the unwanted enhancement of compression artifacts that may pop up. In my tests the AVCHD codec actually holds up nicely in post grading…surprisingly so. Your mileage may vary. Currently there aren’t any HDMI recorders capable of recording 4:4:4, but here’s some recorders that you may be interested in that record 4:2:2.
Atomos Ninja: Accepts HDMI and records to Apple ProRes. A 4.3″ touch screen, simple user interface, and is powered by the same Sony “L” batteries as the FS100. $1000
Ki Pro Mini:Accepts HD-SDI and HDMI inputs and records in Apple ProRes. $2000
As always, questions/comments are welcome! If you have any useful information that you would like to contribute to this guide, please comment. This guide will continue to grow as more accessories, online literature, improvements, and testing becomes available. Thanks for reading!
Shot (of course) in an authentic western town in the heart of Texas. This story chronicles the ironic twist of heart that some go through to rove the courage within…even if against all odds. Starring Bob Fanucchi and Zach Rose, this film also features Texas country music stars like Stephanie Urbina Jones, Guy Forsyth, and John Inmon. Look for the premiere of the film around late summertime.
DREAM RIVER FILMS presents a WILLIAM BOOTH film
BOB FANUCCHI ZACK YOUNG STEPHANIE URBINA JONES GUY FORSYTH
JOHN Inmon Florin Sanchez Doug McKellar DENNIS O’NEILL Jodie Moore
Lance Eakright Earl Browning III Bridgette McGuire Barry Nichols
executive producer BOB FANUCCHI produced by WILLIAM BOOTH and LIBBY MITCHELL
sound engineer ROBERT EMBRY boom operator SCOTT ROSS gaffer BENJAMIN TUBB
edited by RICHARD ALLEN CROOK asst camera DAVID JETER production assistant ADRIAN MITCHELL
makeup CHELSEA LEE assistant director DAVID READ written by DAVID READ and WILLIAM BOOTH
This will be a great chance to see the film. Keep in mind that itzon.tv acts like a TV channel, where you have to watch the film at it’s scheduled time. For more info about the film, please visit the official website. And a big pre-thanks for watching!!
It is a great honor for us at Crooked Path Films to join the ranks of many other talented filmmakers to win our first Telly Award. Our film, ”Transforming Mobile Devices,” was chosen to be among the other prestigious award winners in the 32nd Annual Telly Awards to receive the award.
The film was created for Texas Instruments to announce their new OMAP 5 platform which allows for stunning advances in what we know as mobile technology. Texas Instruments asked Crooked Path Films to create a “look into the not-so-distant future” to show people what mobile devices will be doing with this revolutionary new processor.
The film was to be cinematic in nature and be able to be projected on Texas Instruments’ proprietary 4k “video wall” at worldwide technology conventions and expos. TI wanted a little bit of “The Minority Report” mixed in with characters that we could all relate to…with a dash of energy to drive the piece forward. I had a fantastic time directing and editing this, but a huge thanks goes out to our cast and crew; an awesome group of people that I would love nothing more than to work with again.
Here’s the video:
About the Telly Awards:
Founded in 1978, the Telly Awards is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions, and web commercials, videos and films. The Telly Awards annually showcases the best work of the most respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators, and corporate video departments in the world. The Telly Awards is a widely known and highly respected national and international competition and receives over 11,000 entries annually from all 50 states and many foreign countries.
Kevin Smith, probably best known as “Silent Bob,” and filmmaker/radio host interviewed director Jim Blumetti and star Gabrielle Blumetti this past Monday about our film “The Key.” The broadcast took place on Smith’s podcast/internet radio show site Smodcast. Please listen in here:
I was lucky enough to be Cinematographer/Editor on this. What a fantastic experience working on this beautiful film! Jim and I are slated to work on another short film set to shoot this summer. Can’t wait!
When I was at NAB…the highlight of the convention was looking at my next possible camera. (And dinner at AquaKnox in the Venetian…but I’ll save that for another blog post) What I found out is that I am crazy about the new FS100 and was glad to see something that (finally!) came out that has the following points which are most important to me for my next kit camera:
Exceeds the image quality of the 5dMkII, in terms of dynamic range, resolution, and low-light. (The AF100 does not exceed the 5d in any of these points…took me 45 seconds at NAB to see this)
Was relatively affordable compared to DSLRs. (The F3 is 13-18k…whoa)
Was small like a DSLR. (No other camera is small!)
Returned features to a camera that I have had to work-around in the past 1.5 years while using my 5dMkII.
I also couldn’t tell much difference between the FS100 and F3 while playing with them at NAB, shooting their mock location set and playing with the settings…which even further solidified my FS100 crush. But I still wondered…why is the F3 about 3 times the cost of the FS100? I mean the images are similar…they use the exact same imaging sensor…why would anyone want to shell out the additional $$ for the F3 for cryin out loud? Even the preview I saw of the Zacuto Shootout (to be released in June) didn’t answer that or have comparisons for me as the FS100 wasn’t around when they shot this.
Well, Philip Bloom released a comparison video shoot that FINALLY shows these cameras in a REAL WORLD comparison. No charts and graphs, thank God. I mean, if I went off charts and graphs only, I would have dropped my 5d off a high cliff somewhere in the Nevada desert. So here’s the video:
I had a little trouble comparing the footage because they’re so far apart in the timeline and it was hard to scroll the Vimeo player back and forth to switch from one cam to another. So I’ve taken the liberty of taking screenshots of the comparisons of all four cameras for you to download and compare yourselves. Keep in mind these are grabs from the 720p video as Philip didn’t create it in a 1080p project. I don’t really know why…but I still think you can tell the differences quite well.
So you wanna hear my take? Too bad…here it is anyway!
It is clear the SONY F3 has a superior image. Finally a video comparison that shows what 15k can buy. It is NOT just like the FS100. The detail is much clearer, and the dynamic range seems optimized and very…dare I say…filmic. Check out the camera’s zoomed in shot under the bridge. You can see the detail in the waves…the other cameras show not detail whatsoever. The dynamic range is impressive…barely blows out any highlights while maintaining shadow detail. This is also the only camera the offers an S-LOG option for maximum latitude in post for color grading. The only problem is price. For this camera, PL lenses,
The SONY FS100 seems to be the best bank for your buck. Clearly has more detail than the 5dMkII, can maintain shadow detail and not blow out highlights better than the AF100, and just has a nice sharp image without having that video-ey fake sharpness look.
The 5dMkII has fantastic dynamic range but sadly lacking in detail. I know Philip shoots with sharpness all the way down…which to me seems to blur the image and mess with the compression. I found in my tests that a setting of 2 is the camera’s sweet spot. But I STILL don’t think it would look as sharp at the FS100 and F3. This camera however will remain in my kit. I still think it has alot to offer…mainly because it’s so stinkin’ cheap and (oh yeah) it happens to take some of the best still pictures on the planet. The main downside of this camera to me is the codec. Even the new Technicolor profile can’t get past this major caveat. The compressed codec does not allow for alot of pushing in terms of color grading in post.
The AF100 doesn’t quite measure up to any of these other cameras as far as the 4 points I listed above, except for maybe price. First, I don’t really understand why they created something called a micro 4/3 sensor. Why they didn’t just go for APS-C like a 7d or F3 or FS100 or something that’s been around for decade like Super 35mm is beyond me. This created too much focal distance for each lens and also minimizes depth of field. This also throws dynamic range out the window…as you can see in the footage the AF100 blows out highlights in every shot. The camera also seems to have some detail…but it looks artificial and video-ey like Panasonic took their soft/fuzzy HVX200 look and added sharpening to it. This camera just doesn’t work for me.
So there you have it. It looks like the FS100, the best value for the camera, will be a part of my arsenal this summer, with my trusty 5dMkII in hand as a “B” cam and also stills cam. I usually get my hands on these cameras before I purchase, and I’ll be able to do an informal 5d vs. FS100 shootout.
I’ve had a chance to test out the new Technicolor CineStyle in depth and wanted to share my final thoughts. Overall this THE best attempt to create a LOG-C curve (or “Flat” profile). The folks at Technicolor mentioned at NAB that this profile was created to best suit THEIR post color grading workflow…which is the best in the world. For the rest of us…there just isn’t getting past that dang highly compressed 8bit H264 codec. The compression just cannot handle any sort of grading that pushes the image too far from the recorded or “baked in” image. Like a Picasso hidden underneath a finger painting…the Technicolor CineStyle is a dream curve trapped within a codec that just doesn’t do it justice.
Here is my initial test I did Friday Night:
Overall thoughts and recommendations:
Neutral, Contrast Added in Post
It seems there is a gamma shift upwards with the Cinestyle. Brings up shadow detail but at slight expense of the highlights. I find I have to ignore scopes and light meters and drop down exposure a stop to get the best out of this profile (and to match it to the other stock profiles). You shouldn’t have to do this, because what you are gaining in gamma you are losing in exposure…which is a bad trade off.
There is definately more shadow detail. For those who don’t crush blacks in post then that’s great. For me, I usually crush blacks in post and keep (or sometimes lower) highlights. The CineStyle is too far away from crushed blacks…so when it’s crushed in post, the noise and artifacts are enhanced. I would have liked to see more highlight detail in this picture style instead. This profile makes images more prone to clipping.
If you find you are having to radically adjust grading in post to get your desired look, then the less the
Cinestyle, Contrast Added in Post
compressed 8bit codec can handle it. That’s a great rule of thumb. This isn’t a RAW codec that can be pushed all over the place. The pictures on the right show obvious breakdowns in adding contrast to flattened images. It is best to use a picture style that is closest to your final look but with some headroom to play with. The areas you’ll see this breakdown is in smooth gradients like the sky or a wall, so extra caution is suggested in these circumstances. For the old film guys…treat this like reversal film stock and try to get it close in camera.
To leave on a positive note…midtones and skintones look fantastic. Better than most other profiles out there, in my opinion.
I realize it doesn’t have the Technicolor name on it…but I still recommend using my Crooked Path Flat 3.0 because it doesn’t lend itself to a codec breakdown in post. But as always…your mileage may vary…so please go out and try the picture styles for yourself.
Here’s a quick test I did with the new profile, comparing to stock profiles and “super flat” profiles and how it all holds up to color grading. You can get the profile here: https://www.technicolorcinestyle.com/
Just a note, I’ll be doing a three part video tutorial on color grading that starts with shooting for post and optimizing workflow for color. Will be out this summer!
I know there are a lot of questions about the Technicolor Picture Profile for Canon cameras, and I got a good explanation today at the Canon/Technicolor booth.
The Technicolor Cine Style is a profile created by Technicolor to gain the most latitude for post grading. The picture style is uploaded into the any Canon DSLR via the Canon EOS software just like any other profile.
Many of us have used the Picture Style Editor to create a flat style, such as myself with my Crooked Path Flat. Doing this actually adds a “curve on a curve” and does so within the severe limitations of the Canon Picture Style Editor. We have seen the harsh falloffs of highlights and the weird muddy effect on faces/skin tones that these flat profiles create. But we also see the benefits of color grading on On flat styles too.
The Technicolor style is a very special edit of the native H264 gamma to a LOG color space rather than the standard REC709. What does this mean? Will it be a great improvement for color grading versus the flat picture styles created with Picture Style Editor? Great question! It still records to H264, so the 8bit 4:2:0 compression is what you will still be coloring. There WILL be limitations, but overall this is pretty exciting to me. Ill do some testing comparing to my Crooked Path Flat and the neutral profile and post results.
The Technicolor picture style is completely FREE and available April 30th from this page: www.technicolor.com/CineStyle