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Viewfinder on old tape varicam...

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Freya Black
Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 8, 2012 at 9:40:14 am

I have an old tape varicam and I'm trying to get it up and running.
I've just tried powering it up from an old 12v battery belt. It seems happy to power up although it warns that the battery is low which is probably as the battery belt is on its last legs.

Anyway the viewfinder doesn't seem to come on. I wondered if there is a button to turn the viewfinder on or if I need to have a cassette in there or if it's maybe staying off because the power is too low.

Also I'm not planning to use the varicam with tapes but with an outboard recorder, but will I need to have a tape in there in order for the varicam to work? I wouldn't have thought so, as I'm sure I saw someone who had modified the varicam to remove the tape transport altogether so it would appear not but I am just keeping an eye open for any potential issues I might run into.

Any tips or suggestions welcome as I'm new to the whole varicam thing!

Thankyou! :)

love

Freya


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Freya Black
Re: Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 8, 2012 at 11:54:44 am

Great News, it was just the low power from the battery belt, as I reconnected the battery belt and the viewfinder came on for a few seconds, so things are looking good! :)

love

Freya


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Bruce Greene
Re: Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 21, 2012 at 7:29:38 pm

I just shot a feature with a tape based varicam and kipro mini. Let me know if you have any questions about the camera :)

Varicam/Steadicam Owner
Los Angeles, CA
http://www.brucealangreene.com


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john sharaf
Re: Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 21, 2012 at 7:43:51 pm

Jeez Bruce, you're still milking that old Varicam or yours! I can't believe it but I still have a few requests a year for mine, but I get real nervous about whether the head's going to clog. My main client who used it though recently changed to the PDW800's, because they wre more available for regional shoots.

Obviously KiPro or Nano is a great way to extend the life of that camera, which still makes as good a picture as can be done in 2/3"

I have to say though that I'm much more inspired when I use the F3, Alexa or F65's, especially if the project is going to a big screen. The large format look is definitely the vogue and I don't believe that 2/3" for important projects will last much longer. I'd gladly sell my two remaining tape based Varicams for any reasonable offer. I even gave one to a friend who needed a camera for a long term project!

Regards,

JS



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Bruce Greene
Re: Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 21, 2012 at 8:53:26 pm

Hi John,

I just use the Varicam for small projects. It's not worth much money now, so it's more useful for when there's no budget or, really need for an Alexa...

It does look really good on a theatrical screen. The 720p doesn't really make much difference for the most part I think because there's so much motion blur (at 24fps) in almost every frame, pixel count is not as noticeable as in still photography. I compared a blu-ray from a film I shot with a Red camera to a blu-ray from the Varicam. Hard to tell the difference in resolution on a 65in plasma. Color is way better from the Varicam. DOF is more pleasing on the Red.

Sure on the Red we shot 4k, but mastered to 2k for theatrical, and down converted to 1080 for HD. By that point, 4k is pretty irrelevant. That render from 2k to HD really cuts the resolution a bit.

Sorry that I don't have need for another dinosaur... The ki-pro works very well as long as one never lets it loose power while booted up!

Varicam/Steadicam Owner
Los Angeles, CA
http://www.brucealangreene.com


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Freya Black
Re: Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 22, 2012 at 3:07:38 pm

That's great that you shot a new feature with the camera Bruce! I hope there will be a trailer for it. :)

To be honest with you Bruce, I often look at your trailers for the movies you shot and I think "I'd like my footage to look somewhat like that!". I've obviously seen loads of varicam footage but I have always especially liked the things I have seen on your site, so if you have any tips on settings and workflow it would be gratefully received!

I don't think I'm going to be able to run to a KiPro mini anytime soon so I may well have to make do with an Atomos Samurai or Hyperdeck Shuttle which I'm not looking forward to. Do you think if I shoot 24p I could just do a 3:2 pulldown to get rid of the extra frames?

For now the camera is doing a stirling job of sitting on my shelf where I see it every morning and it gives me a positive start to the day!

I love the tape varicam look and the only camera I think comes really close to touching it, is the Alexa. Maybe the somewhat forgotten Sony F35 too.

Sadly other people just see the word 720p and aren't interested.

Really looking forward to the day I can shoot with it proper! ;)

love

Freya


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Bruce Greene
Re: Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 22, 2012 at 4:49:45 pm

Hi Freya,

I don't think that there is a piece of software that will remove the pulldown from the Samurai. Be aware, the Samurai is kind of buggy too. I wouldn't want to depend on it. We used one as a "backup", because it was free. We couldn't figure out how to remove the pulldown though.

I think someone can write a routine in Nuke to remove the pulldown. The trick is identifying the proper frame to start with. The flags are not recorded to ProRes etc. Just to DVCproHD. Hence the ki-pro mini, which reads the flags.

There's also a convergent design "Nano Flash" recorder that will record the 24p from the Varicam. In fact, I think it will record any fame rate you set. It just wont play it back from the unit unless you record in a standard broadcast format. You'll need to put the card in a computer to check your footage. This might be a good choice.

It took me one feature to really figure out this camera. It has a very complicated menu for real video engineers. I think this has led to a lot of bad footage by cinematographers. I attended a workshop, and some of the instructors gave some pretty bad advice. It didn't help that the Panasonic sales force didn't really "get" this camera either.

Here's my advice: Turn off the "user matrix". Turn off "color correction" Set the camera to "filmrec" mode. Set the "dynamic level" to 200%, unless the scene is too contrasty, then increase the "dynmaic level" up to 500% as needed. Set master detail to -4 (assuming all other detail settings are as factory set. There are a bunch of them) To be safe, you can turn detail off, but you'll want to add it back in post. Just a tiny bit goes a long way here.

And, when shooting, don't use the orange filters in the filter wheel. Always set the color filter to "B" or "Clear". Avoid "A" as it's a star filter effect.

Set the white balance in the camera menu to "daylight" or "Tungsten" as needed. Set the white balance to "preset" on the side of the camera. Yes, you can do a custom white balance for unusual situations too.

Before this, return the camera to factory settings, in case someone has really screwed it up. And find a copy of "Goodman's guide to the Varicam". You'll need it, for sure!

Lastly, shoot your movie, color correct it and up-res to 1080 and everyone will ask: "Did you shoot on Red?"

Varicam/Steadicam Owner
Los Angeles, CA
http://www.brucealangreene.com


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Freya Black
Re: Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 22, 2012 at 5:07:06 pm

I'm not convinced the kipro can read the flags either as I suspect they may not be actually output over the SDI!!! After all the SDI won't be outputting DVCProHD exactly but its own thing! I heard that the Kipro actually detects which frames are identical and removes them, so I guess in theory it should be able to work with all the varicam frame rates. Sadly the cheaper recorders can't do this for the most part. Nano flash excepted perhaps.

The big problem with the varicam is the workflow. :(

love

Freya


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Bruce Greene
Re: Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 22, 2012 at 5:22:31 pm

The KiPro mini only works with 23.98, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.97 from the Varicam. The AJA IO/HD works with and reads all the frame rates. Maybe even the full sized KiPro as well.

I'm pretty sure it reads the time code to set the correct frames. The AJA IO/HD must read the flags as it works at all frame rates. Getting timecode from the camera does have something to do with it though as this is required for proper capture from the Varicam with both devices.

I don't think the KiPro detects identical frames. What if your shot starts locked off, then pans? Ooops!? The Samurai tries to do this, but it doesn't work with 720p to detect pull down...

Varicam/Steadicam Owner
Los Angeles, CA
http://www.brucealangreene.com


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Freya Black
Re: Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 22, 2012 at 5:39:15 pm

You could well be right that it uses the timecode in some way...

I think if you locked off your tripod and recorded, that the frames would still not be mathematically identical because there will still be changes in the flow of air from frame to frame etc and micro-changes in light. Having said that, maybe you could get in trouble if you footage starts with the lens cap on!

It could be that it does something to detect the overall pulldown by looking at where duplicate frames occur overall.

I wish I knew how it was doing it, I only heard that rumour and it has the ring of truth about it but I've never been able to find out more.

Heres something else to make you think. I wonder if you could have removed the pulldown from your samurai footage by connecting the sdi output from the samurai to the input of the kiProMini and recording it? Probably a bit pointless unless you had a shot you really needed on the samurai but an interesting idea all the same!

love

Freya


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Bruce Greene
Re: Viewfinder on old tape varicam...
on Dec 22, 2012 at 5:53:36 pm

You are so clever. Never thought of that! That would do it, but I suspect, it wouldn't work unless the Samurai records the 24fps time code over the 60fps clip. Unless....the KiPro mini looks for duplicate frames.

BTW, For detection, the Samurai manual suggests waving your hand in front of the lens :)

Varicam/Steadicam Owner
Los Angeles, CA
http://www.brucealangreene.com


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Freya Black
Panasonic are a bit strange...
on Dec 22, 2012 at 5:15:05 pm

Everybody seems to have had a strange experience with Panasonic. I had a friend who was interested in the varicam way back and was shocked that the sales people didn't really have any footage of significance that they were able to show him.

I was recently at a large trade show and was wondering if the Panasonic people were actually there but then later on discovered that apparently they had spent the entire show hiding from people behind a large partition.

It's a shame as in the past they have made such incredible products but they seem intent on undermining themselves. So strange!

Love the fact there is a star effect on the filter wheel! Will have to try that some time! £50,000 camera and it even has a built in star filter! lol!

Freya


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Freya Black
Resetting to factory defaults
on Dec 22, 2012 at 5:21:20 pm

Thanks so much for the tips on the varicam settings! Will definitely use them as my starting point! :)

Can you tell me how to reset the camera to factory settings? Is that easy to do?

I'd kinda rather they asked if I shot it on the Alexa to be honest but I know what you mean.

love

Freya


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Bruce Greene
Re: Resetting to factory defaults
on Dec 22, 2012 at 5:43:30 pm

I don't remember how to revert to the factory settings. It's a very complicated camera! You'll really need "Goodman's Guide" to help you out.

And there's more than one or two menus in this camera also. There's the "video" menu, the "film" menu, the "VTR" menu...

Also, I would turn off "flare compensation" if you have a decent lens.

The biggest challenge, might be "shading" or adjusting the response of the camera to provide an evenly exposed frame. This should be set by a technician without a lens on the camera. If there are any lens files stored in memory, you may want to delete them. If you shade the camera using a lens and an evenly lit white card, the shading will correct THAT LENS at THAT FOCAL LENGTH and F STOP only. Not very useful for a zoom lens with a lot of light fall off at wide apertures that changes as you zoom.

It is possible to screw up the shading at the deepest level of the menu. I hope the "factory reset" will fix this as well. Now you know where the DIT's came from, and why so many didn't really understand what they were doing in the old days! Video engineers understood this stuff, but just couldn't understand why you didn't want the project to look like a football game broadcast.

Varicam/Steadicam Owner
Los Angeles, CA
http://www.brucealangreene.com


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