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XL-H1 w/ P+S mini35 Adapter

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Trey Gregory
XL-H1 w/ P+S mini35 Adapter
on Jul 21, 2008 at 3:36:06 pm

Greetings all-
Next month I am working on a project for a client using our XL-H1. We will be renting a mini35 adapter and a set of primes for the shoot.
This will be my first time using this P+S's image converter, I've read nothing but GOOD things about it, which makes me a little suspicious.
Has anyone encountered any issues with the H1 and the mini35 adapter?
I'd love to get any advice, tips, or tricks that you all might have about using that adapter w/ the XL-H1.

Also posted in the cinematography forums.

Thanks!


Trey Gregory
ECG Productions - Atlanta
HD Production and Post
http://www.ecgprod.com


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Todd Terry
Re: XL-H1 w/ P+S mini35 Adapter
on Jul 21, 2008 at 4:49:08 pm

Hi Trey....

I'm one of those people who have nothing but good things to say. You're right to be suspicious, but the good things you hear are all true.

I have used this exact setup (400 Series P+S Technik and Canon XLH1) for more than two years now and shoot with it every day, and I have been absolutely nothing but happy. In fact, we used to shoot a lot of 35mm film, but I have not even had the film cameras out of the cases since we started using this setup.

I have absolutely no issues to speak of with the setup. You say you are renting lenses, get superspeeds if you can as the Mini35 (like all lens converters) eats up a little bit of light, and you will appreciate having the extra stop or two for interiors.

Also, get a good follow focus unit (they should be available wherever you rent your lenses). I highly recommend one of the higher-end units, such as an Arri or Chroisel. The inexpensive "Fisher Price" follow focus units usually have too much "slop" (backlash) for real easy use. They work, but are harder to use. If you are also renting a matte box, you will thank yourself later if you get a swing-away, which will make lens-changing a lot easier.

The most obvious piece of advice is to make sure the rental place gets you the right unit. Since P+S Technik makes units that mate with a variety of cameras, you'll be sure to want the one that has the Canon XL connecting lens (and battery). Also, there are several front lens mounts available, I'm assuming you'll want to make sure you get the PL mount.

Get the unit in plenty of time before your shoot, if you can... you will probably want to make a few camera adjustments with the cine primes. My own primes look VERY different compared to the stock Canon video zoom, so I have made different presets (adjusting gamma, knee, stretch, saturation, all that good stuff) specifically for use with the cine lenses. It's also a good idea to set up a Siemens star chart and adjust the unit's backfocus to make sure it's perfect (it's the tiny ring in front of the converter's exposure ring, you loosen it with a tiny allen wrench to adjust).

Let us know how it works out, I'm betting you will be a happy camper...



T2

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






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Todd Terry
Re: XL-H1 w/ P+S mini35 Adapter
on Jul 23, 2008 at 7:27:04 pm

Hey again Trey...

I did think of one "issue" that I've had with the Mini35, but it's so minor (or rather, solved) that I didn't remember it at first.

In our particular case, because we use a big brick on the back to power the camera, it is very backheavy... even with a big heavy lens, matte box, follow focus, it is just very unbalanced because the tripod mount on the bottom of the Mini35 is so far forward.

We combatted that by fashioning another aluminum plate that goes on the bottom of the unit, with threaded 3/8" tripod-attachment holes more toward the rear. Now it stays in perfect balance. I also cut a rubber caster in half and screwed it to the rear of the plate to help "lock it in" between the rear rods....



One other little mod I did... is to make a "Y" split in the power cable from the Anton Bauer goldmount... and attached the other end to another Canon camera power connector. This way the single battery powers both the camera and the Mini35. It's not real pretty, but very convenient and I never have to worry about changing the little batteries. I put velcro on the power adapter and on the back of the goldmount holder, so in the rare instances that I take the body out of the Mini35 to use with the stock lens, I can just stick the "extra" power connector up on it so it doesn't dangle to get it out of the way.



Hope your shoot goes well,


T2

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






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Trey Gregory
Re: XL-H1 w/ P+S mini35 Adapter
on Jul 23, 2008 at 8:13:02 pm

Todd-
Thanks so much for the comprehensive responses. Your setup looks awesome!
I can't wait to get my hands on the mini35 adapter. I've even downloaded and printed out the user manual in anticipation and have read it front to back.
I'm actually going to the rental house on Monday with my camera to check everything and make sure they have all the proper adapters to hook it up to our H1. Planning to get a little hands-on time with it before picking it up for the shoot.
We do have a Petcroff follow focus that we use with our standard Canon lens, and a whip to go with it. Have you used one of those? Think it will do the trick? If not, they are fairly inexpensive to rent.

Also, thanks for the head's up on the balancing issue. We have a full set of rails from Zacuto, I am hoping that I can use those to get the weight distribution just right.

I do have 2 more questions for you. Is the 'back focus' something you need to check once before you start shooting, or do you need to check it any time you change out the lens you are using? Is it difficult to set this using the stock canon viewfinder in the field? Or would you recommend always doing it on an HD field monitor?

Thanks again!

Trey Gregory
ECG Productions - Atlanta
HD Production and Post
http://www.ecgprod.com


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Todd Terry
Re: XL-H1 w/ P+S mini35 Adapter
on Jul 23, 2008 at 8:59:15 pm

No worries, glad to help....

[Trey Gregory] "Is the 'back focus' something you need to check once before you start shooting, or do you need to check it any time you change out the lens you are using?"

Once should be enough. I used to check it pretty frequently, only to find that it had never drifted out of backfocus at all, even with zillions of lens changes (and occasionally taking the body off, although not often). After a while I began to realize that the backfocus was never drifting at all, so I became more lax about checking it. Now, I check it maybe once a month. Once I got it right on the money, it has never needed adjustment.

[Trey Gregory] "Is it difficult to set this using the stock canon viewfinder in the field?"

It's not difficult... but rather darn near impossible. Your stock viewfinder will be more or less useless for backfocus adjustment. Set up a test chart in a good controlled environment, focus precisely via distance and the witness marks on the lens, then adjust the backfocus using (if possible) a 1080 monitor... and preferably with HD-SDI or at minimum component out of the camera. If you don't have a Seimen's chart shoot me an email off list and I will send you a file that you can print out and use.

On another note, you will also find the viewfinder to be only slightly more useful for focusing. With medium-to-longer lenses (say 50mm or longer) if you shoot wide open your DoF is going to be super shallow... I've had it as shallow as one inch at close distances, so focus is going to be critical. That viewfinder (like most) is so low-res that it is extremely poor for eyeball focusing. The magnification and peaking features help some, but the best focusing is going to come from the old fashioned "Hollywood" way... a tape measure. On the left side ("port side") of the Mini35 you will see a white line and a silver knob. The white line is the "film plane" (well, it would be that if there were film), and the knob is a hook for the tape measure. Be sure you measure from the subject to the FILM PLANE, not to the front of the lens. When my subject is a human actor (the case most of the time), I measure from the film plane to their eyeballs. If eyes are sharp, then everything else is ok... but if some other parts of a scene are razor sharp yet eyeballs look soft, the whole thing looks soft.

Because tape measures are sometimes clunky to use, I also carry with me a Stanley "Fat Max" laser tape ('bout 100 bucks at Home Depot, Lowes, etc.). I use that for the majority of my focusing... I just hold it at the film plane and hit the subject with it (if the subject is an actor, though, I tell them to close their eyes).

As before, you will thank yourself if you get the weight distribution right... although I've never tried to use the P+S with another set of rails, since the Mini35 has standard 15mm/60mm rods built right into it.

I've never used that follow focus... as long as it doesn't have any slop in the gearbox, it should be ok (even widly expensive Arris still have about 1° backlash).

Hope that helps....


T2

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






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Trey Gregory
Re: XL-H1 w/ P+S mini35 Adapter
on Jul 28, 2008 at 7:01:18 pm

T2-
Thanks again for all the great advice! I went to the rental house this morning with our camera, and got to use the mini35 adapter and run some tests with the different lenses they have. I couldn't be happier! The mini35 setup was a little daunting at first, but it's pretty easy to get the hang of once you've seen it done. Luckily our follow-focus fits perfectly, and our mattebox will fit (with some slight rigging on our end).
I decided to go with super speeds like you recommended, we're renting 5 Zeiss Super Speeds: 18mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm. Got to test out the 85mm and the 18mm today and was really excited by the look of the image.
The only thing that I couldn't really get my head around was the wheel to control the oscillating movement. I tweaked it a little and was unable to see much of a difference. Granted, the shot was pretty bland, not a lot of movement or action...What does the speed control on the adapter do? What does the oscillation do?
Thanks again!

Trey Gregory
ECG Productions - Atlanta
HD Production and Post
http://www.ecgprod.com


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Todd Terry
Re: XL-H1 w/ P+S mini35 Adapter
on Jul 28, 2008 at 7:44:47 pm

Hi Trey...

I thought you'd be happy. Nice piece of gear, huh? You'll like the benefit of the superspeeds, too.

As for the oscillation...

The little wheel controls the speed at which the groundglass oscillates. This is one of the differences in P+S Technik and some of the other units... some of the others don't have a variable speed, or just "high" and "low," whereas the Mini35 is continuously variable. In fact, earlier models of the Mini35 I believe only had two speeds, but the current one (the 400 series, which is what I have and I believe is probably the one you rented) does.

Sometimes under some circumstances the grain on the groundglass will become visible. This is due to the particular shutter speed that you are using happening to "sync up" somewhat with the oscillation speed. If you are using HMI or flo lights this can also happen, as the lights sort of get "in phase" with the oscillation speed. You would then use the little thumb wheel to adjust the speed so that the grain disappears.

In all honesty, it's something you probably won't have to worry about... I think I've had to adjust mine to wipe out the grain maybe once or twice in more than two years of almost daily shooting. I just keep it cranked up to the max (at "8") and usually don't have to give it another thought. But if you are shooting under unusual lighting conditions, OR for some reason are shooting with a faster than "normal" shutter (faster than 1/48th if you are shooting 24p), then it might be something you want to look at. If you play with it while shooting a big neutral-colored background (just shoot a bounce card or a white or light-colored wall) and you may be able to see the effects of adjustment a little better.

Just like focusing and backfocusing, this is something you can not depend on the viewfinder to see. You will need the camera hooked up to a good (preferably 1080) monitor to see if there is any visible grain, and if so whether you can "adjust it out."

And of course you know this, but be sure to connect the little LANC cable, so that the unit will start and stop whenever you pull trigger on the camera. If the unit isn't running the grain is very definitely visible... so you will want to make sure it is always on during a take. I've never heard of it happening with a Mini35, but I know of several users of other brands of DoF converters that simply forgot to turn it on before a take... it's so easy to forget because it is not something you normally have to remember to do.


T2

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






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Trey Gregory
Re: XL-H1 w/ P+S mini35 Adapter
on Oct 13, 2008 at 5:35:52 pm

Wanted to follow up on this conversation with some pictures from our shoot.

First of all, the shoot went fantastic! The client was happy and the final product came out GREAT!

The mini35 adapter is an great tool. Having that shallow DoF really makes the shots pop.

A few things you warned me about that I experienced:

1. You were right about the monitors, we rented an 8 inch HD monitor for the shoot, it was good enough, but we definitely could have used a monitor twice that size to REALLY see the picture, and properly check the focus.

2. The Digital tape measure was a life saver!!!! Thanks for that tip! We brought along "The Cinematographers Handbook" which had all the DoF charts that we needed.

3. Lighting lighting lighting - lighting with film lenses is a whole different ball-game. It took a little getting used to, but we got the hang of it after getting the 1st shot in the can.

Here is a small sampling of what we shot.



Our "High School Students" in the hallway of Statesboro High School



More of our "Students" passing notes in class



The main character of the Alumni spot takes a break from eating donuts to answer the phone.




Thanks again for all your tips, they really made things run smoothly for us!

Cheers!



Trey Gregory
ECG Productions - Atlanta
HD Production and Post
http://www.ecgprod.com


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Todd Terry
Re: XL-H1 w/ P+S mini35 Adapter
on Oct 13, 2008 at 5:56:39 pm

Hey Trey....

Glad it worked. Bet you are a Mini35 convert now, huh? I love mine more and more every day.

One thing of note for future use... since the time when you first started this thread I've had a chance to check out the follow focus unit from RedrockMicro. I wrote an article on DoF adapters that should be in an upcoming issue of the COW mag and Brian at Redrock sent me one of their FF units to test drive.

In a word, it's GREAT. Very well made, and rock solid. Not a bit of backlash in it... something that you would normally only expect from units costing several several times as much. It works great with the Mini35. My only complaint about it is that the "well" inside the handwheel is very deep, and ergo I was unable to use the speedcranks that I already have...they weren't long enough to connect down into the socket. Other than that though it's a total peach.

Another thing to note is the small HD monitors. Many of them say they are HD, but really aren't. If you look at the technical specs, many only display about 480 lines or so. They will take an HD signal, but not display it fully. You definitely have to be careful, and focus by tape measure when you can.

Thanks for the update!



T2

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






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