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Prime Versus Zoom

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Daniel Gold
Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 6, 2011 at 7:52:15 pm

I will be shooting a short doc in India less than 2 weeks from now.
I will be renting the new Sony PMW-F3L. I am trying to pick the best combination of lenses to rent within my budget.

The subject is a school for kids living in poverty. Ill be shooting indoors and out, and @ the homes of a few very poor families in Bangalore.

It will be a mixture of handheld and sticks but dont know what percentage of either. Natural light as much as possible. I'll have three battery operable light panels.

I am used to getting coverage quickly on docs using an HD zoom lens on a HDX900 but on this I want to use Primes as much as possible.

I want to bring a zoom lens in the event the primes are making it too difficult to get the verite coverage i need.

At the moment my budget allows for the following: An Angenieux Optimo DP 30-80 T2.8 and a set of Arri/Zeiss T2.1 primes.

I cant afford the faster lenses (unless I rent one or two instead of a set) and the longer zooms are ergonomically and economically beyond what I want to deal with.

My question is about the observable differences between, for example, an Arri/Zeiss 32mm T2.1 prime lens versus shooting at 32mm on the angenieux Optimo 30-80mm T2.8

Neither lens is fast and one is clearly slower than the other, but beyond that, from the standpoint of the optics, can anyone describe the visible quality difference of the same subject shot at the same focal length on the prime versus the zoom?

on the small screen.....on the big screen?

Thanks in advance

Daniel Gold


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john sharaf
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 6, 2011 at 8:03:40 pm

Daniel,

The new F3 is a terrific camera (I have two already) but hand holding it is still an issue, as third party supports systems are not yet in the market. I've seen a Vocas unit that's pretty good, but I suspect you'll be at the mercy of what the rental company has.

I mostly use my Zeiss 15.5-45 LWZ with this camera, and I highly recommend it, both for its quality and light weight (4.4 lbs). I would suggest you use this as your primary lens and supplement it with a 50, 85, 100 and (possibly) 135 or longer prime lens set that you can use for your interviews and other more telephoto tripod shots, and also when you need a faster lens.

As I say, the camera is terrific and makes a beautiful film like picture, and with two 64Gb cards you'll be able to shoot all day (500 minutes!). It does white balance a little green so I suggest you set the R-Offset (in the Picture Profile) to +3 (on both A & B AWB positions) and also roll out the detail a little, to -15 to minimize the the video look. Outside the Cine 2 is the most aggressive setting to crush the highlights.

Have fun!

JS



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Daniel Gold
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 6, 2011 at 11:16:19 pm

Thanks John
im also considering using the cineroid viewfinder - have you used that? i tested it and was impressed

id love to use the zeiss zoom but i dont know if i can locate one in time

have you heard anything about the angenieux optimo zooms? - they have a 15-40 that might be close to the zeiss

im also considering the nano flash to improve upon the 8 bit 4:2:0 35MBPS that the F3 offers so that i could bump it up to 10 bit 4:2:2 100MBPS - that way id have the SXS cards as temporary back up and the nano CF cards as the "master" footage

any thoughts on that?

Daniel

Daniel Gold


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Robin Probyn
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 7, 2011 at 3:53:53 am

nano is also 8 bit,but you,ll be able to bump up the Mbps thats for sure.. nano is a good bit of gear and very small and light.. I can see them being used alot on this Camera and the pana version..



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Todd Terry
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 7, 2011 at 5:57:01 am

Yes, there will be differences in your primes and zooms. What the differences are?... can't really say. It will just bear some testing as all lenses are different.

Zooms, as a general rule, will not be quite as sharp and a bit less contrasty than primes. But as I said, all lenses are different. The biggest difference, I'm betting, will come from differences in color temperature. Primes are usually used in a "matched" set... all lenses from the same batch, and they will have exactly the same characteristics and coatings. They should all look the same. Others, whether they be primes not of the set, or zooms, will obviously not be matched and may (probably will) look different. I almost always shoot superspeed primes only, but I do have a zoom (a pretty slow one) that I use on rare occasions. Due to its different coatings, it is much warmer than the matched primes. Much. It's also a bit less contrasty. None of these characteristics are real problems though. The difference is not so great that they footage can't be "re-matched" in post... although (when I remember to do so) I usually turn the color balance down on the camera by a couple of hundred degrees when using that zoom.

I wouldn't sweat the speed of those lenses too much, unless you are planning to shoot some "Barry Lyndon" interiors by candlelight. They're not superspeeds by any stretch, but T2.1 is still reasonably fast. And actually T2.8 is definitely in the "decently fast" range as far as zooms go... unless you want to go zooming with something like a Cooke superspeed zoom... but there you're talking about a lens that costs more than your camera, all your other lenses, and possibly your car... all put together.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob Cole
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 9, 2011 at 3:23:59 am

[john sharaf] " Outside the Cine 2 is the most aggressive setting to crush the highlights."

John, could you please explain what you mean, and why you would want to do that. I've only heard of crushing the highlights being a bad thing.

I was about to post a question about deliberately using blown-out windows for interior interviews. I like the look of big blocks of pure white in the composition, but I've been leery of going over the 100-ish IRE limit. Am I behind the times, with that concern?

Bob C


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john sharaf
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 9, 2011 at 4:20:45 am

Bob,

The Cine Gamma settings in the EX1/3 and F3 cameras mimic the HyperGamma settings ion the Sony Broadcast cameras. They make a gamma curve more like film than video with extended toe and shoulder. with the highlights it's like an aggressive knee curve that crushes the whites down so you hold more detail before it's clipped off (white clip).

As far as using pure blocks of white (like a white backing or cyc) it's more common to put that value at 80ire. A window about the same. You want to be careful about making too large a portion of the frame a 100% video as it can distort the transmission and/or audio.

JS



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Bob Cole
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 10, 2011 at 1:55:48 am

Thanks John. I'll be exploring those settings.

[john sharaf] "As far as using pure blocks of white (like a white backing or cyc) it's more common to put that value at 80ire. A window about the same."

Two more questions arise from your comments:

1. I appreciate what you are saying about the possible distorting effect of too much area at or above 100ire. Is there any way to know whether you have given too much of the frame over to 100ire? I've been working by seat-of-the-pants, trying to make sure that not "too much" of the frame is 100ire -- but how much is too much, and is there a way to make sure that I'm not using "too much"? If I play back the video in the camera (usually the EX1R in my case now), and the audio is clean, am I safe?

2. When you say that "it's more common to put that value at 80ire", do you mean that there is an option to do that electronically, or are you talking about putting up large rolls of ND?

I've actually been pretty bold about using white, in large part because it hasn't yet resulted in a catastrophe (and because I edit most of my footage, I can use the "broadcast safe" filter in Final Cut Pro). I try to use doors and windows in the background, esp. if they are architecturally interesting. But I'd like to know how to "do white" more safely.

Thanks so much for your help with this.

Bob C


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Richard Herd
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 11, 2011 at 4:36:08 pm

[Bob Cole] "resulted in a catastrophe"

Odds are it will never happen, (and of course catastrophe is overstatement). Here's where it will happen.

I shot and edited for a hotel, which had an internal broadcast channel, so guests could watch what's happening in local restaurants, bars, etc. You've seen these before.

Well the facilities department who set up the system did not clamp the IRE at 100, so any broadcast over IRE 100, any white space at all that peaked resulted in a very poor picture. Massive amounts of lines and distortion through the screen and also distorted video. The reason is pretty simple. You are sending more "electricity" through the cable than it can handle. Much like audio distortion when you turn it up too loud.

This is not an issue for web because it's a different delivery system altogether.

This is not an issue for cable broadcast because the cable stations will clamp it before it airs.


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Todd Terry
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 11, 2011 at 5:16:30 pm

You can also clamp too-high levels in post, of course. I shoot overblown windows (for effect) all the time, and just make it "legal" later. I don't worry about that too much at the shoot phase if that's the look I need and want.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob Cole
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 13, 2011 at 2:21:27 am

[john sharaf] "As far as using pure blocks of white (like a white backing or cyc) it's more common to put that value at 80ire. A window about the same. You want to be careful about making too large a portion of the frame a 100% video as it can distort the transmission and/or audio."

That reminds me of a shoot against a roll of white paper. I brought a waveform monitor to the shoot because I was so concerned about distortion. The producer kept saying "Whiter!" She was looking at the picture monitor, I was looking at the waveform monitor. I was thinking "Maybe this should've been shot greenscreen so we could make it white -- safely -- in post."


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Todd Terry
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 13, 2011 at 2:47:04 am

Haha... that\'s one of those instances where you wait until she goes to grab a cup of coffee and reach over and crank up the brightness and contrast on the client monitor. :)

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Richard Herd
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 15, 2011 at 3:59:46 pm

The smoke filter and smoker filter plug-in.

Client says, "It's just not quite right," and waves their hands in the air because they don't have any technical language.

I say, "Oh, let me try the smoke filter." And I run through a bunch of menus really fast, too fast to follow.

Client says, "Good job."

(The smoke filter works in-camera and in-editing!)


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Bob Cole
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 15, 2011 at 5:13:07 pm

Closely related to the "undo" edit, where you agree that the sequence isn't quite right, make three random changes, hit the undo button three times, and suddenly, it's perfect.

Not that I would ever do that.


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Todd Terry
Re: Prime Versus Zoom
on Mar 15, 2011 at 5:27:20 pm

I would never do that either, Bob... at least not more than twice daily.

We have one particular commercial client, who after seeing my edit, or take selection, or effect, or some such visual decision, always gives us the "Hmmm... instead, what if you tried....?" which leads to three or four different attempts at something different. After which he invariably goes back to my first edit, with a "Yeah, you were right." Invariably. Never once has one of the "What if you tried...?" stuck.

On the downside to him, his edits sessions take about three times as long as they would if we were just left alone to cut it solo.

On the upside to us, his invoice ends up being about three times as much.

For exactly the same results... right down to the frame.


Some people just have to put their hands on things, no matter if they are qualified to do so or not. A million years ago when I worked in broadcast television, we would purposely build in a "mistake" or an obviously needed aesthetic change into a production because the general manager was never satisfied until he had made his one "suggestion" after seeing the otherwise-finished project. "Just change so-and-so and it'll be great." Unbeknownst to him, his "suggestion" probably had already been made on the real master he hadn't seen. :)

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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