Sony F3 User Report The wise ones know that it’s not the machinery but “how you use it” that counts. Having a bigger sensor than your mates is not a guarantee of a better picture, is also true. For one man’s views on the best way to use the Sony F3, accompanied by Chris Barr from DVT, I went to Cloud South Films to see Tom Burstyn, director / cinematographer. Ed: Tom, we’re here because you’ve made a purchase from DVT recently of an F3. Are you happy? Tom: Yes, I love the camera; I think it’s great. Having said that, I think all these cameras are disposable. I think they’re good until the next generation comes along. I change my camera every other generation, before it loses too much value and the next new one makes a difference in the quality. Ed: What were you using before the F3? Tom: I had an EX1 before that, and before that I had a Z1. Ed: What made you go for the F3, because obviously this is quite a different format camera? Tom: The sensor size. My career, for the better part of my last 40 years, has been in film; it’s 35mm, so I have a much better sense of the perspective of the 35mm lens than those tiny little half inch and third inch chips where everything’s in focus and everything’s a wide angle. Ed: Is that always a bad thing? Tom: No, not a bad thing … look, for Citizen Kane, Gregg Toland, one of the greatest cinematographers of all time, spent vast amounts of time and money lighting sets so he could shoot at f16 and all we have to do now to accomplish that is use a little teeny camera in the dark. But it’s the modern aesthetic also – everybody’s used to shallow depth of field and close-ups that are done with a longer lens so that everything’s nice and fuzzy around the background. Ed: So for you, that move from the EX1 and the Z1 – what are essentially video cameras, now you’ve gone to a cinematographic camera. So it is a big change isn’t it, there is a big difference?
Tom and Chris with the F3.
Tom: Well the big difference in the HD formats for me is lens perspective. I think the first project I did on an HD camera was one of the first Sony 900s, that big amazing four foot camera. Now there’s an incredibly clumsy device. I complained to Sony and they said that they needed to get the camera out fast, so they just put the guts of whatever HD technology they were developing into a news camera; and whatever it was sat on your shoulder and had the tape deck on it, and then you put a cinezoom on the front of it. Trust me, you cannot go through a doorway sideways on a dolly. Ed: But surely there’s a big workflow difference between a video camera and a cinematographic camera? Tom: I’ll preface my answer by explaining that I wear two hats. My day job, or what I’ve been doing for the last 40 years, is as a director of photography on feature films and television dramas and in that field I’ve always used 35mm cameras and recently large format HD cameras. The F900 was a two-thirds inch and so was the Viper, so that’s like 16mm, and recently the RED and the Alexa and
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the EPIC and those cameras for my dramatic work. But I also work as a director / cinematographer on documentaries and in that world, the cameras with the smaller chip make my life much easier. Also, being a cameraman, I have an aesthetic that I am a slave to, so look is very important even with a small chip camera when there is too much depth of field and you can’t do selective focus and almost every shot is a wide shot. The telephoto end of an EX1 is about 50 or 60mm, it’s about a 300mm lens … a 300mm lens field size, but not the perspective of a 300mm lens. Ed: When you’re comparing it to a 35mm sensor? Tom: That’s right. So now with that I actually have to admit that I’m a little bit nervous shooting documentaries with the F3 because on docos I don’t use an assistant, I keep the crew tiny, just my wife and I, and focus is very difficult because the camera is so sharp and I don’t use a lot of light. So if I’m shooting at 2 or 2.8, the focus is very difficult to master, especially if it’s handheld and you’re moving and they’re moving. Ed: In summary, the large sensor cameras have much depth of field so it’s actually much harder to maintain it, especially if your talent’s moving. You said before we started this interview that sometimes you hire a remote focus device? Tom: When I’m using a remote focus device, it’s exclusively on a dramatic project, in which case we have more time, are more organised, and there’s a focus puller and a dolly or, if I’m doing handheld, everything is marked out and the focus puller can actually take marks and do his proper job. I use vintage still camera glass – mostly Nikon and old Canon lenses so he can not only take his marks and do a proper job of it, but he can expand the limited barrel turn on a still camera lens … he can expand that into a whole 360 degree turn on his remote focus device. It gives him a better chance of getting it in focus, especially at 0.95.
in the film stock that you could use, but now it’s the glass that makes the difference? Tom: Yes, I think so. I think the glass is the last bastion of mood that we have in this otherwise technically unforgiving world. The camera sensors are all blindingly sharp. Now we’re going into the world of 4K cameras and I think that either equals or just surpasses film and you have to mitigate that somehow. Either you get a very sharp piece of glass at great expense and then you put a diffusion filter in front of it, or my choice is to use this old glass that was made before computer designs and when lenses were still manufactured by human beings and they were hand polished and assembled by people. Even still camera lenses were assembled by hand. They have lovely qualities; they have personalities. That Canon lens I showed you has a great feeling to it. I mean if you put it on a projector at wide open at .95, it’s a horrible thing … it’s not in focus; it’s a little soft in the upper left corner, but actually it has a signature and it has some character and some balls to it. So in the world of HD, its flaws are transformed into qualities. I’m repurposing a set of old Super Baltar lenses from the early 60s next. Ed: I sense an enthusiast here, but I guess being a business person you must temper that enthusiasm for getting that mood into your movies with the reality of, when somebody wants a documentary, they want it by next Tuesday, and you’ve got to use the right equipment for that? Tom: I make my documentaries in a dramatic style and I make my dramatic films in a documentary style. I think that, yes, you’re absolutely right – in a documentary you need to be efficient and ready for anything. The zoom lens makes sense here. Ed: So some of the features of the F3 might be a little bit slow in the workflow? Tom: Yes, especially in the moment. Processing the work at the end of the day is one thing: after a long day of shooting, in your hotel room, downloading cards is a bit of a pain in the ass, but in the field when you’re grabbing something, it needs to be in focus … focus is my big fear. I hate “out of focus”. Even with those old lenses I want them to be as “in focus” as they can be and I want there to be a difference between what’s at the plane of focus and what’s not … I don’t want the plane of focus to be on your ear, I want it to be on your
I’m a big fan of old glass and the other great thing about the F3 is that, because the mount is so close to the sensor, you can use almost any lens made and adapt it to the camera. P+S Technik or MTF make an adapter for most lenses. I have my favourite Canon 50mm 0.95, a real “one-off” lens only made for a couple of years and the mount is very proprietary, so Panavision kindly made a custom one for me. I think the distance from the mount to the sensor needed to be 17mm, a PL mount is much deeper. So just by accident, I’m sure Sony didn’t devise it like that, but by accident, you can remove the basic mount and there’s a big fat bayonet there that you can make something for. So I’m very happy with that – and in fact it’s one of the reasons I’m looking at all the new cameras out there and thinking I won’t change until something … like the new Canon that’s just come out, the C300. What ever possessed them to make their camera 8-bit? Ed: Oh well there’s another story in that I’m Shooting breakfast scene in ‘Insatiable Moon’. Tom sitting on a turntable in a hole cut sure. But really, in the days into the breakfast table so he can be inside the scene watching everyone's interaction of film, there were variations with the food and one another.
more on page 6
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eye, and that’s where the DSLRs have so much trouble, the big ones, the 5D which I’ve worked with a lot. Ed:
Oh you mean the Canon 5D?
Tom: The Canon 5D. It is bloody sharp and I can’t focus it – nobody can focus it. Nobody. At wide open, maybe if you had a monitor and you were really looking carefully, but you can’t do it on the fly; you can’t do it in a practical field situation. Well, you could get lucky, or you could have a feel for it, but you’re not going to knock it on the head every time. Ed: Well that’s just another one to put on the list I guess, but enough of my prejudices. This leads us onto one of the shows that you’re well known for and that’s the dramatic series Underbelly shown on TV3. Now I understand there was a bit of controversy over the use of the recording media in this? Tom: Well there was only a bit of controversy. A lot of Underbelly was handheld; it was a very fast turnaround bit of television and I needed to move quickly and I got frustrated with the “rats nest” of wires that we had from camera to battery to recorder to monitor – you know, there’s a whole bunch of stuff on the camera. It made it very messy. The cables are very easily dislodged; some of the cables are little tiny LEMO plugs that don’t lock in properly, they can pop them out by accident. The Ki Pro Mini was also very power hungry, and I think we had mistakenly chosen the wrong cards for it. So we would drop frames or it wouldn’t record, or we had some problem, so I tore the thing out and we just recorded straight to the camera. Ed:
This happened on day one?
Tom: This happened on day one or two, right at the beginning of the show. We had done quite rigorous tests comparing Ki Pro Mini – it was an 8-bit recorder right? – with the Nano Flash and that great big thing, the Cinedeck. I come from a mechanical background of photochemistry and clockwork cameras and now I’m in this world of touchscreens, electronics and computers, I’m never quite comfortable with them. I looked at that Cinedeck and there were 8 million choices of how you wanted to record your picture. You know what I want? I want high, medium, low quality. I want the option of medium / low but I’m always going to record on high. In the field I want to collect all the information I can get; I don’t want Rec. 709 or a gamma curve. As my good buddy, chief colourist at Technicolor Canada explained to me – he said “look at your camera. Your camera costs $100-200,000. It’s this big; and look at my post production suite. It’s the size of a house, it cost millions of dollars. Which device do you think has the finest control?” Aha, sold, I understood right away, and since then all I do is record raw or as close to raw as I can. I consider the other half of the camera to be in the post production suite. For me, that’s the only way to do it; that’s the way to make video look like … I don’t want to say “look like film” because it doesn’t look like film; that’s the way to give video an emotion. Ed: But in this case, you sacrificed that higher quality recording for …? Tom: So we had done these tests, and the difference between the SXS cards and all those other mediums that we’d recorded to was minimal. What the higher quality files did provide was a cushion – if I screwed up, I had got some latitude up my sleeve. I could grab a
little more out of the highlight or a little more out of the shadow or get a little more colour space to work with. Ed:
But the basic recording was virtually identical?
Tom: It was for HD television broadcast. If I was doing my job setting exposure and lighting properly, then within those parameters, the differences were negligible. So I decided, “okay I’m going to be a professional, do a proper job and we’ll go with the cards on the camera.” It lightened the load considerably. The physical size of the camera was reduced using onboard batteries instead of the big Anton Bauer batteries and then the baseplate with the rods and all that stuff. So if we’re doing a handheld scene, we can strip the camera right down and it’s tiny, it’s beautiful; I can handhold it, I can hold it at arm’s length, I can do little moves with it – you know, pull it towards my body, or drop it down, or raise it up. Ed: Okay, so the controversy was you were using the SXS cards at 420 and 35 megabit per second and this was outside the original brief of the production, but …? Tom: The commissioners were happy with the output of the Sony F3 and the truth is, once all that stuff goes
Tom in his EX1 days.
through a professional post production workflow and the cinematographer’s done a proper job, you can’t tell the difference. I wonder whether you can get a proper technician to study the image and find a signature of what camera that came from. Ed: So in reality, having a higher level of recording with an offboard recorder just does give you some more latitude if you do need to change something in post?
Tom: Yes, it would be lovely to have a camera that size with a 422 native recording. Ed: But I guess the test is that, if you had to do the same sort of production again with a lot of handheld, you would …? Tom: The best compromise I’ve found for low budget production, is running a tether, a cable, from the camera to a proper big computer off there somewhere. We can record a 422 or a 444 image with the S-Log and I don’t have that additional weight and that nest of wire on my camera. Ed: But otherwise you’d be happy to use the SXS cards? Tom: Yes, I’m happy to use them. But, like everybody else, I’m always looking for something better, and for me, the only shortcoming that camera has is that it can’t record natively a proper 444 or 422 file to the card. Now you have that Blackmagic Hyper Shuttle – a iny device that does one thing. It records a RAW file. Here’s a small device that’s self-powered, light and simple to operate. With most of the other devices I’ve seen, you turn the camera on and then turn the recorder on. That’s an issue for post ifyou’re going to use the onboard recording as backup, because the master and backup shots are two different lengths and have two different opening timecodes. Editorial doesn’t like that, we’re doubling their work. Here you have a little tiny device that is slaved to the “On / Off” switch of the camera. I was raised with a strict discipline for exposing motion picture film. There were many variables and you couldn’t see your result until it was too late. So we film cameramen were very careful about our exposure; the labs were careful about their process; and there was a rigorous discipline applied to the work. So now, with the advent of all these new cameras, these affordable and very high quality cameras, it’s become the great democratisation of cinema; but the downside of that is that anybody can pick up a camera without the benefit of my experience and make a shitty picture. So for me, it’s been an easy and a pleasureable move into the world of HD because I apply my film discipline … when I use my discipline I don’t have to think, I can just work from the gut. I can see with my eye, I know this is too hot, that’s too dark, this is going to work. I notice that other young people getting a camera for the first time, people with no experience, not understanding the basics of exposure and optics and let’s not even talk about composition, but the mechanical basics of exposing an image, have a difficult time. For me, coming from the old school world, HD is easy-peasy and it allows me great flexibility.
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Ed: But if you come from a video world and you go into a large sensor, short depth of field camera, you are more likely to have some problems? Tom: A bit of a learning curve I guess. But that’s why I like to work with an imaging technician. The thing that would be easy for the video guy is the thing that I have trouble with – the different codecs and recording devices and the file management and all that stuff. I like the security of having a guy there who can guarantee that all my stuff is safe and it’s well dealt with at the end of the day. Ed:
Archiving you mean?
Tom: Archiving, that’s the next thing. We don’t care anymore. The show’s good for 1 or 2 seasons and then they’re going to sell it on; they’ve got a tape, nobody cares about archiving. Gone With The Wind would be lost if it was recorded on HD. I just threw out six cardboard boxes of U-Matic cassettes and two inch tape and all this stuff that nobody has the players for anymore and when I did I find a guy with a U-Matic player, it turned out all my cassettes had jammed up and that it became a forensic operation to capture all the work that was on there. A piece of film lasts for a long time; a cassette – I don’t know how long that lasts for.
Chris, was it a hard sale?
Chris: Tom required a solution and the right solution was the F3. He had made his mind up as to his camera of choice, so it was more about making sure that he got everything else around it in terms of accessories and getting it in time for him to actually start using it. We ended up giving him our demo unit and he used that for testing and then once his camera came in, he went away and did his thing. Ed: I guess it’s heart-warming to see a product that you’ve sold being used in such a good way? Chris: I like seeing what people do with the tools that we supply. I like knowing and finding out what people are doing and then just matching up the right tool for the right job. Ed: And you’ve got plenty of things planned for 2012 to excite your customers? Chris: We have lots of exciting products available and look forward to telling everyone about them. Ed: Oh that’s Stuart’s job though isn’t it? Chris: Very much so, so if I get on his case …
Tom: A bunch of “On’s” and “Off’s” and a little tiny bit of plastic – I have no idea.
Ed: I think everyone should get on Stuart’s case and call him as often as possible, because he likes phone calls from customers, especially grumpy ones. Chris: Oh he’ll sell ice to an Eskimo mate! He’s a fantastic salesman and … Ed: But he’s a really nice guy?
And now the man responsible for selling Tom this F3 that he’s actually very happy about is Chris Barr from DVT.
And a solid state media card?
Chris: He’s a really nice guy – he’s got the “gift of the gab” as they say.
I think we’ll stop it there.
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Media Predictions The place you go for all those tricky format transfers and any duplication need is where I went to gaze into the crystal ball foretelling the media future of our industry. The facility is Next Technology and the resident gypsy with the “second sight” is Olivier Wardecki. Ed: Olivier, I’ve decided that it’s time to “pick your brains” again. You’ve got your finger on the pulse of things duplication and things archiving because you’re doing them every day. The archiving issue is the big one for most people – has it been solved? Olivier: It’s coming along, it’s a work in progress. Things are getting better but I think there’s two directions There are some big suppliers who are going to handle data only, and I’m talking about big companies like Hewlett Packard or other companies like this, with massive servers built to stand up to natural disasters like earthquakes. Ed:
So this is a “cloud type” operation?
Olivier: Yes, and in fact I think in the future, video will be stored like that. Ed: So you’ll pay a fee per year to store so many terabyte and that’s it? Olivier: Yes, that’s the future I think. It will replace drives and LTO tapes. Ed: I’ve heard quite a few people saying LTO tape is the way to go for permanent storage? Olivier: The data will be fine on the LTO tapes but you will need to have an LTO deck in a good state to be able to read the data and I don’t know how many LTOs are going to be around in 20 years. Ed:
So it could be like D1?
Similar – very similar actually.
What about Blu-ray disc?
Olivier: I don’t think it’s really the best way of storing things. You can use them for a small amount of data, but they’re like DVDs. Ed: Because the longevity of a Blu-ray disc is very long, especially if you put it in some sort of case? Olivier: Yes, but it’s not big enough. On an LTO today, you can put 1.5 terabyte uncompressed. A Bluray is a lot smaller and files are getting really big. An uncompressed QuickTime HD for a 90 minute programme is about 800 gigabyte. Where do you put that? Ed:
It’s a lot of discs.
Ed: Are you starting to get people coming in with removable hard drives that they’ve stored material on years ago and they’re finding that they’re not spinning up? Olivier: It does happen. Sometimes you can hear the heads clicking away and generally that’s a sign not much will happen. You can always go to a specialised forensic place where they will retrieve the data at a very high cost. I had a client last year who had a problem with a drive. It cost him $6,000. That’s a lot of money. Ed: So people are still not realising that a drive sitting on a shelf is not a permanent means of storage; it’s got
Olivier with just some of the technology at Next.
to be moving, it’s got to be in a network system and have some sort of redundancy? Olivier: Yes. It’s like a car – if you leave it for 10 years in a garage, even if the car is new, it will not start after 10 years. It needs to be used to stay in a good state. Ed: Well that’s very clear. So really you see the longterm solution being a cloud? Olivier: Yes, more and more people talk about this system and it seems to work. And also data is moved from place to place automatically so it doesn’t sit in the same drives all the time. Ed: So are there any hubs – I mean for the person who might have a programme they want to that is 800 gigabyte, it’s a long time sitting on broadband from somewhere in Auckland to get it somewhere. Are there any hubs that do this?
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Olivier: I really don’t know. Today, there is no real solution like this in New Zealand I think. The internet is too slow, especially if the files have to be sent overseas. The transmission of data is too slow here in New Zealand. Ed:
Oh dear, it’s not a very positive outlook Olivier?
Olivier: It will get better in the future as new cable will increase the transfer capacity. Ed: Okay, that’s probably upset quite a few people … now shall we upset some more and talk about DVDs and Blu-rays. What about release formats? Now that the codecs for YouTube presentation have improved dramatically, a number of people are actually delivering programmes as H.264 files on YouTube. Is this sort of
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impacting the number of outputting DVDs and Blu-rays?
Olivier: Oh certainly. I don’t know exactly how much, but it certainly does especially for “work in progress”. A file uploaded is the way to go and is used by a lot of people. But it doesn’t have to be YouTube, it can be used for other places like Vimeo. That’s actually often used in the cinema world. Ed: So Vimeo is in competition with YouTube? Olivier: Not really, it’s more a place where you actually put non-public data. You have an account with them, upload your work in progress or your final movie and you give a code to whoever you want to have access to it, and they can play it or download it. It’s up to you to decide in fact. Ed: Are the quality levels the same as YouTube or are they higher? Olivier: There is not much difference. The quality is linked to the speed of your connection. If you have high speed internet it will look very good. You can also watch it on the latest TV sets. New TVs have an ethernet port and you can actually directly link to websites with video content. You don’t need a computer anymore. Ed: So are you seeing your business moving more in that direction; changing codecs for clients coming in with a tape, disc or a hard drive with files on it and you converting it to something that is to be used in a different way?
Olivier: Yes, I think so; I cannot be 100% sure, but I think internet linked to a TV set is going to allow people to watch TV in a new way. Ed: So it’s the best of both worlds; it’s not TV on your computer, but it’s actually computer files on your TV? Olivier: Absolutely, yes and streaming files directly to your TV. It works quite well in Europe now. I was in France for Christmas and I saw it there. It works very well in HD. But there are some changes to come – like if 3D doesn’t take off. Ed: What … you don’t think 3D’s going to take off Olivier?
Olivier: Yes, we do more and more of this. Actually, last year we bought a big machine called the “StreamZ HD” full options. It’s a machine that can digitise and convert almost anything into anything. It is quite expensive, but it’s extremely efficient. We also do broadcast quality conversions of HD NTSC files to HD PAL files and vice versa. Ed: But the actual printing and duplicating of DVDs continues? Olivier: Yes it continues. It’s a media that’s actually still used quite a lot, it’s surprising sometimes. It’s used a lot for advertising and promotions, but not so much for commercial release DVD’s. You just need to look at the ratio of Blu-rays to DVDs in the shops now. Ed: But not a great burst in the level of Blu-ray required? Olivier: No. Commercial Blu-rays are mastered only in limited numbers in New Zealand. But you actually see more and more international Blu-ray movies in the retail shops today … Ed: Even though the price of blank discs has come down considerably? Olivier: Yes the blanks are cheaper but still it has not made a great change. I think files are going to take over in a certain way. Ed: So a lot of it will be on the Internet as opposed to people having solid state devices carrying around files on those devices? Page 16
Olivier: No it doesn’t seem to be … actually, while I was in Paris, Canal Plus, which is a major player in Europe, put on hold their 3D channel. Just stopped it. That means what it means. Ed: But, still talking about your business, what are some of the things that are going to be happening in 2012? Olivier: This year, we are now equipped to do what we call DCP files. They are special files destined for cinema servers. Ed: Oh, okay, so if you’re making something for Hoytes Sylvia Park to show? Olivier: That’s right. Most cinemas are now playing film from files because 35mm is nearly finished. Everything now goes onto DCP files and these DCP files play in a specific player ( it’s called a server ) made by two major brands in the world. We make these unencrypted files for a very reasonable price now. Ed:
Olivier and Kate.
So come to Olivier for the best price.
Olivier: Yes, as always – and for the highest quality also! One thing we are going to see, sadly, is the 35mm reel disappearing. It’s a shame that we are not going to see the nice look of 35mm anymore.
Ed: Well that’s a topic of emotional debate Olivier, whether 35mm film is “nice”? Olivier: I think it adds something. There’s a certain romanticism about it. Ed: Oui, oui – very French. I’ll bet you like steam NZVN trains and horse riding too.
New News Sets at TVNZ “Ho hum” you may think, but you’d be wrong. This is not just a better look, but a better workflow. To explain, I spoke with Paul Patrick, the daily programmes editor, and Norman Sievewright, senior studio director for News and Current Affairs. We’re talking about workflow, but not workflow in the sense of programme making; this is workflow in a set; how, in the best possible way, you arrange a set that is being used most of the day and in a variety of programmes. Ed: What was the drive for this Paul? Paul P: There were a couple of things we wanted to do: firstly, we wanted to have all our programmes in Paul Patrick and Norman Sievewright bringing you their version of the News. Suite Four and secondly, to take some cost out of the business in terms of the Paul P: I think it’s about 11 hours of programming process of getting sets in and out. if you include Good Morning. That level is commonly called “sweating the asset”. Ed: So what programmes are we talking about? Paul P: All of the daily News and Current Affairs programmes. So that’s everything from Breakfast in the morning to Tonight late at night, Q & A, Sunday – all of the stable of News and Current Affairs, plus this year, TVNZ is bringing Good Morning to Auckland and we wanted to use a part of Suite Four for a portion of the programme that Good Morning offers. Ed: So how many hours in a weekday are we looking at here?
Ed: And this is just for TV One? Paul P: TVNZ 7 and One, yes. Ed: set?
That’s a lot of people coming and going from one
Norman: It’s one studio rather than one set, so we have a number of presenting positions within the space. There are two very definite hard set areas, but we have lots of options around those as well. Ed:
And your mission in all this is that you’ve got to make the vision a reality? Norman: It’s my charge, yes, it’s my life’s work. It’s my life’s desire to make Paul Patrick happy! Paul P: And he does on a regular basis. No … the brief on this and what’s being done so brilliantly is that we wanted to create a set that was going to be flexible for our presenters and for our programmes; to give essentially the chance to future-proof Suite Four. We’ve got now the basis that will allow us to tweak a set over the years, but hopefully won’t have to result in a massive changeup again. We’ve now got the capacity to grow in that space and bring in more programmes if we needed to because there’s always somewhere for them to work from.
It’s a very “clean” set. Page 21
Ed: There’s more hours in the day?
Norman: There’s more hours in the day, we can fill them, yes. Paul P: The possibility exists of putting some of the other stable of programmes that News and Current Affairs look after, which is Maori and Pacific programmes in Suite Four as well. Ed: So you haven’t gone the American way, the full virtual set? Paul P: There’s always a cost element associated with that. A virtual set is very expensive and actually, I prefer the look that we have. Ed: Oh I’m very pleased and I’m sure many of our readers will be very pleased that you’re not going the full virtual American set way. Some of them are exceptionally tacky? Paul P: Yes but, if you look at the BBC, their virtual set is awe-inspiring in its complexity and what they’re able to do. With our screens, we’ve got a very crisp and a very good look that I think is going to serve TVNZ for a number of years and we’ve added some nice big plasmas that allow us to get rid of some of the ugly visuals that we’ve had over the last few years. For example, when we threw to reporters, we’ve had people caught in the crosshair of the screens. We haven’t got that now and it looks smart. Ed: So you’ve sort of gone partial virtual – you’re not using only hard sets, you have gone some way towards virtual backgrounds; for example, more use of a chroma key?
Norman: There’s no more use of chroma key than we had in the old set. What we’ve done with this set, is we’ve given ourselves the ability to make changes through a bigger area. We’re using more screens; we’ve reused some of the screens that came out of the old suite and we’ve purchased new ones as well. So we’ve just increased the amount of wall space for screens, without going virtual, because I think we all feel that that’s kind of a very cold and precise presentation. Having real pieces of furniture is much more friendly, warmer and cleaner for us. Ed:
And you haven’t gone for the stand up look?
Paul P: Well there are stand up positions and we do use them. In Breakfast we’re using Nadine ChalmersRoss in a stand up position which we haven’t used before. There is a position there that has a relatability back to whatever part of the set you want to use. So the whole editorial drive was to create a sense that you can see everyone that you want to in one shot. The hard set is smaller, so we can see the Weather and News presenters in the same shot; you can see Sport and News in a much closer environment, so it feels warmer, more relatable. Norman: It’s very early days of all of this technology and for the new sets as well, as we build the programmes, because we haven’t done anything yet with any of the Current Affairs or non-daily shows. So our plan is that next week we start looking at those shows and they will definitely expand our use of the suite for sure.
Ed: And Nadine’s chroma key is a work in progress – as an avid Breakfast watcher I have to pose this question, I’m sorry? Paul P: Everything is a work in progress, so what you’re looking at today is probably not what any of the programmes are going to look like in July. You know we’ll be fine tuning it all the way through, but what I’ve been impressed with is that I think that, even in the three days we’ve been live, the little tweaks that we’ve made have made some pretty impressive changes to the on air look. I think it is a remarkable piece of television, that set. I love it. Ed:
set. The physical set for Breakfast would be rolled out and the Close Up set would come in. And then, on the other side of the studio, fixed permanently, was the set for our News programmes; Midday, One News at 6 and Tonight were all fronted from that position. With this new design, we’ve still got the hard and the soft sets,
Let’s go and have a look, shall we?
We’re now in Studio Four and we are joined by Paul Hedges, Productions Services Manager, who is trying not to say anything ... but that’s not an option. Ed: We’ve just finished the midday News and Paul, well it’s all in one room? Paul H: Yes, that was the purpose of what we were trying to do; just use the one room space more effectively, so we’ve opened up the room by pushing the set design out into the corners of the studio. In the past, we had one side of the studio given over to Breakfast in the morning and Close Up in the evening and every day there was a daily change of
Paul Hedges on the comfy sofa. more on page 26
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so the News presentation is done from one static set, but the graphics and the screen displays behind it are significantly bigger than we’ve had in the past. We also have a very sophisticated control system so we can change the look and feel of all of the shows very quickly – lighting changes and the configuration of the screen displays can be changed very quickly. Different shows can have their individual look without having to move sets in or out. On the other side of the studio we’ve got the couch set. This is where Breakfast will be fronted and then we “hot seat” into Good Morning when the show resumes in February. Again, we’re using a plasma screen wall display behind, that can be configured with one picture inside it, or the wall can be split into different sections with different images displayed. The technology that we’ve deployed for this means that changes can happen instantly, so preconfigured setups can be created and designed and then, at a mouse click, implemented. One show can finish, another show can start and the transformation can happen virtually instantly. Lighting changes and graphics changes are all very, very quick now. Ed: What’s the soft side of it? You say this is sort of the “hard” side, is the soft side just the change out of the screens, or are there some other bits you can adjust? Norman: We refer to the soft set as being the couch set, so it’s more the interview time on Breakfast and Good Morning so that’s a “soft” set versus the “hard” News desk set.
Ed: Okay, but are there any other bits that you have to physically change out here? Norman: There are no physical changes at all now. The one thing we’ll do for Fair Go is we’ll have one piece of furniture brought in for that, but apart from that, there are no changes. Ed:
A guillotine? Think of the ratings!
Norman: The gallows will be in, yes. As we’ve been saying all along, the whole idea with the new set was to be able to ring the changes instantly through use of light and graphics and screens. So the brief has been very well fulfilled by the design team and executed by the technical people who have pulled it all together in record time, and with a minimum of stress, which has been very good. Ed:
There’s not a lot of hair left?
Norman: There wasn’t a lot to start with! We had to move everything that we had been doing previously in this studio into the studio next door, Studio Three, prior to Christmas, and work out of there for about five weeks, and then get ourselves back into here over the last weekend. So it’s been military precision to get us to this state. Ed: Now with your hard set, with your News set here for example, you could obviously change what’s on the desk screen and the colour of the strip? Norman: Yes, that’s right. We can go to any colour we like on the strip and again, the screens behind, and also the coloured light boxes behind can be changed out with ( as Paul says ) “the click of a mouse”. more on page 29
Film is not Dead! One of the books I brought back from IBC was a journal by the IET which is the Institution of Engineering and Technology and it’s entitled “The Best of IET and IBC”. Now you can actually get this whole journal by Googling <ISSN 2041-5923> and you can download the whole booklet or magazine which is about 2½ megabite. Within this there’s a lot of very high level information, but one of the topics there took my fancy, and that is “Applications of Data Storage on Cinematographic Film for Long-term Preservation of Digital Productions.” Now basically, they’re saying here that with all the digital information originating from today’s film productions and I guess all sorts of other productions, there’s a challenge for digital long-term archiving. In the past, you used film negatives, but these days the digital storage media have a relatively limited lifetime and require migration – in other words, recopying of the data within certain time intervals; and they’re saying a major disadvantage of this approach is a permanent need of financial resources for such digital archives. On the other hand, many film materials exhibit an excellent long-term stability and therefore are excellently suited for long-term archiving applications. So, yes, perhaps there is a use for film giving us that long-term storage and, of course, there are lots of simple pieces of equipment out there that are able to read film and so it’s not a terribly expensive technology. My advice is read the article, which is on page 41 of NZVN this booklet. Page 27
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But you can’t change the colour of the sofa?
Norman: No. I think in time it will change itself, but anyway … and the same for this screen down on the desk in the soft set area, we can change that out as well. The intention now – we haven’t lit this area, but that’s another position over there that we’re going to be using for stand up – over here in front of that 103 inch plasma – and that will give us some more options which we haven’t had yet. Ed: I guess that’s it – lighting – with one studio and all these sets, you’ve got to be very careful with your lighting, so you don’t get spill? Paul H: Yes that’s correct. Nigel Windsor has designed the new lighting look and he’s used a mix of incandescent and fluorescent lighting in here. The lighting plan has been very carefully designed, carefully rigged and carefully pointed. And with the control system he can change things out quite quickly to create a new and unique look for different shows. But, yes, identifying the area that’s to be lit and then managing the spill-over between one show and another, and the colour changes from one show to another, has all been carefully designed and managed.
your viewing public doesn’t like what they see, they’ll let you know and as long as you make some changes or acknowledge it, that’s good relations with your viewing public? Norman: It is, and it makes good commercial sense as well when we want to retain our position as the preeminent News organisation in New Zealand. So we do adapt. Ed: We’ll keep an eye on that and give you a score later in the year. Norman:
Not too far into the year I hope.
We happened upon another member of the team, electrician Lyall Sullivan.
Ed: So are there lessons here for anybody else who might be setting up a set? Paul H: I think understand what it is that you’re trying to achieve, be very clearly focused on your outcomes, and then have a very good project team involved. We’re lucky that we’ve got a great team of people involved here who have got good experience, excellent skills and they understood the brief right from the outset. There was great communication all the way through and people got in and played their roles really well. Ed: Well where can you go from here. you’ve got it right now …?
I mean if
Norman: We’ve got it right now for the next 4 or 5 years absolutely, but technology will change. TVNZ has always been willing to adapt to technological change and embrace it, and so there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do that again in 4 or 5 years and, again, it is going to get tired in that time. Even though it’s brand spanking new and looking gorgeous, it is going to deteriorate and I think from a commercial perspective, TVNZ would want us to adapt and change as the years go by. There will be commercial imperatives involved then as well. Ed: And also, you must get feedback from the public. For example, the News desk background in Breakfast when I first saw it, I thought “What”? Norman:
You thought “what” – what?
Ed: Well there was this funny little blue strip at the top. I sort of figured out the sunrise, you know the Japanese battle flag in the background for the lower part, but then there was this blue strip at the top and I was just wondering is this still a work in progress? Please tell me? Norman: Everything that you see currently is a work in progress, yes. Over the weeks and months and years … Ed:
So you’ll receive letters?
Norman: We will receive letters and texts and many phone calls, yes. Without going into it in too much detail, this has been “rehearsing on air” and I don’t know that you should print that. Ed: But you see I believe that’s important, because you are providing a service to your viewing public and if
Lyall with some of the special lighting.
Ed: Lyall you’re responsible for lighting in there so I’ve been told? Lyall: Yes, I’m the electrician.
Ed: But you’re more than that … you must have designed the way the lights are arranged in the different parts of the set? Lyall: Yes, we’ve worked with a supplier to provide the best solution and it had to be an adaptable solution to suit all the shows that we need to produce from the studio. So we’ve opted for a Philips Color Kinetics system and it works well. Ed: That’s the software sort of in control of all the lighting that’s in there? Lyall: There’s hardware and software, yes. Norman: That’s for the LED effects lights in the studio, not the main overhead lights. Ed: Do you also control the main overhead lights as well?
Lyall: That’s right. It’s no longer “smoke and mirrors”, it’s “smoke and TV screens”. We also asked for some input from the Sound department; here’s what Senior Soundman John Prinsloo said about the new set up: John: We’re using more radio mics and earpieces which gives us much greater flexibility for the presenters to utilise the various areas. We mounted the gear in an events rack, so it’s easy to see battery and signal levels at a glance. The earpieces have a pan between programme sound and director talkback so the presenters can customise their own mix to their personal preferences. This gives us the ability to hotseat between Breakfast and Good Morning on the same area of the set. The radios are also duplicated in Studio Five where the other aspects of Good Morning production will be done. Lyall: Not directly, no, the system’s just focused on the set lighting. There’s another separate system which controls the overhead stuff. Ed: But obviously you have to balance what you’re doing on the set with what the overhead lights are doing? Lyall: Yes, we all work together to produce the best result on camera. That’s what it’s all about. Ed: So are you where the buck stops over the chroma key? Lyall: No, nothing to do with me! responsibility. Ed:
I’ll deny all
I’m going to find someone.
Lyall: When we were building this set we were balancing everything visually to the eye. But of course, once you put a camera in front of that and start looking at it on camera, everything changes. All of a sudden a red will become a pink and a white will become blue and all that, so the actual colours used quite differ from what you see on TV. Ed: Because that’s it, you’re mixing LED, incandescent I guess and some fluoro in there too? Lyall: Yes and then however the camera works as well. That all changes it. Ed:
I guess that’s why they have you on here?
This allows the presenters to move between the two studios without the need to re-mic and re-earpiece. They also stay on the same talkback key for the convenience of the director. The set is now fixed, meaning no derig and rerig twice a day that we used to do when the Breakfast set gat swapped out for Close Up. This should give us extended life on the equipment and reduce maintenance downtime. The set is always in place now, meaning we can walk into the studio and do any one of several shows just with the flick of a switch, depending on the look/style required. Because the set is permanent ( not moving in and out twice a day ), the cabling has all been done very tidily and discretely. The presentation areas of the sets no longer face each other meaning better acoustics ( not as "live" as previous sets ). The sound is now projected into the cyc/wall where it is absorbed. This results in an improved low frequency sound, flatter eq's and a richer viewing experience. We are using PZMs as backup mics on the two main desks and they are sounding really good. The bigger models ( PZM 30 I think ) are sensitive enough to cover a wider area. They also have a nice rich sound. I must conclude by adding that the chroma key for Jim doing the ‘Weather’ that night and for Nadine on NZVN ‘Breakfast’ was much, much better!
Precious Product If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in conducting interviews related to this business, it is that everyone has a story that consists of many similarities – it’s just that they combine them in a unique way. Ilya Ruppeldt from Golem Productions in Auckland is no exception. Ed: Now Ilya, Ruppeldt is a German name, but you’re not actually from Germany? Ilya: No, I’m from Czechoslovakia, but I was born in India and I am now a Kiwi citizen. Ed: As I was driving over, I was a bit concerned that I’d actually interviewed you before, but then I suddenly remembered I was here for another reason. Do you remember? Ilya: From time to time, I buy discs from your music library, Music2Hues. Ed:
Oh, that’s nice – and are they any good?
Ilya: Yes, they are excellent. Of course, there are sometimes complaints from clients because they are expecting a different kind of music, but when I tell them about the cost involved they are much happier. I have to say that I like the way Music2Hues serves the music rights because, in other cases, you can buy the music rights for a limited time or something like that. The problem for us producers is that we can’t control how the video is later used by the clients, so this gives me peace of mind that I am not doing anything against copyright law. Ed: Yes, better safe than sorry. Now your main business is production, you have corporate clients, but you also dabble in documentaries? Ilya: My philosophy is simple: I am telling stories by using visual images and it doesn’t matter if the story is a 15 second TV commercial or a one hour documentary, because the story-telling template is always the same. That means you have the plot, explanation, culmination and conclusion in your story, and it’s just the way you use your visual grammar and editing skills to assemble the story and to tell the client’s message. But there is one additional element: Idea. This can change our craft into art. I did a lot of TV commercials, music videos, corporate videos. In my opinion, it requires similar craftsmanship. In terms of revenue, 80% is coming from corporate production for Internet and smartphones, and the rest is coming from my own productions which I produce by using my resources. I sell such programmes through the Internet and my agent. Ed: Now you’ve Czechoslovakia?
Ilya: Yes, I was working in the same jobs as here: producer / director of documentaries, as well as TV commercials. Also, for about four years I was president of the Film Association there. That means that I was elected by my peers from the film industry to be a representative of them, which was not a paid function but it was an honour of sorts because it meant that about 1,000 people from the industry had trust in you. I was also, in Czechoslovak TV, Head of the Documentary and Education Department. We developed and produced about 400 hours of documentaries and educational programmes. Maybe I will have a comeback there. They want me to manage the entire state TV for five years. We will see. Ed: So you’ve come from a very big pond into the little pond that is New Zealand and really, I guess, you would have had to have started again?
Ilya is happy with his 305.
Ilya: In some ways yes, but you know when you come to a new country at the age of 38, you already have experience. You are not naive and you expect you know something. You already have working skills and some background which, with your life skills makes it easier. On the other hand, at that age, you can’t change your accent, so you do have to start again in some ways; and also, you have to establish your reputation again. Ed: Now let’s get onto the subject of cameras because, although you are probably not unique, there’s not many people who have had as many cameras as you. I know in recent times you’ve had a number of Sonys, but at the moment you’ve got a Canon. What camera did you start with? Ilya: My first camera here in New Zealand was a Canon XL1, and I have to say that it was the best camera I ever had. Of course it was not high definition, so I had to switch to another camera. After a while, I came back to Canon and I bought an XL H1. After the H1 I bought an EX3 and now I have an XF305 and I am also using a Canon 5D photo camera for filming – mostly commercials. Ed: And you’ve been happy with the progression or, as you say, that very first one, the XL1 was the best? Ilya: Yes, it was very practical as I think it was designed by filmmakers, which means that the technicians understood the needs of a professional cameraperson. As a professional, you tend not to use so many options they offer to you because you use them later in postproduction. In general, a pro camera person needs manual iris, shutter speed and focus. For the rest, it is better to use external filters, etc. So, to me, from the operational point of view, the XL1 was the
best camera, and second to that was the XL H1. Otherwise I am quite happy with the XF305 and I was happy with the EX3 as well. I went back to Canon and I am having moiré pattern issues with it, but it is not my camera’s problem only, all Canon products do this. It’s a moiré pattern in things like venetian blinds or very fine lines on a client’s shirt and so on – so if anyone knows of a “fix” for that with this particular camera, let us know, send us an email.
happens with the tape … you have damage let’s say on 10 seconds, but you still can use 59 minutes. With the solid state things can be a bit worse. Otherwise, of course, it’s much more practical; it’s faster. I was warned that combining, let’s say, footage from Sony X3 and Canon and other solid state cameras can make problems with compatibility in the editing line, but I have never experienced that. I currently work with CS5.5 and I have never experienced any problems.
Ed: Now one of the key reasons that you wanted to get the Canon XF305 was?
Ed: Do you think that the cost of getting into this business now is too little?
Ilya: I am recording more and more using a green background and because the XF305 has 422 compression which is giving much better results with a green background, I went for that. There was, of course, an option to buy some additional gear which would make the compression of EX3 also 422, but I prefer to have everything compact, so not to have an external device, but internal which is the thing with the XF305. I have to say that keying is much better now.
Ilya: You can have two quite different views. The first one is that it’s great that everybody can afford to buy such gear. But there might be a problem that some people also believe they have the skills to work with such gear, when they actually don’t understand the craft particularly well. Maybe they can do it up to some level, but they really don’t often have the right skills to do it properly. I am experiencing this not only with competition, but mostly with clients when they just call me and they want me to edit their footage they filmed by themselves with a single CCD camera for example. Single CCD is not the main issue. The problem is that when they are filming, they are not filming it with the knowledge of how it will be edited and it’s often impossible to edit what they give me. I remember one client coming to me with terrible footage of his yacht, and he also brought a film about the ship QM II he recorded on a tape from the Discovery Channel, and he told me that he wanted the footage of his yacht to be edited so that it would look like the Discovery Channel film. I never take such jobs. Ed: Now we want to look at your editing setup here and I was intrigued when I saw it. You’ve just got one large screen and I see that you’re an Adobe user. Just tell us why you’ve set yourself up this way? Ilya: I started with Premiere 4.2 … Ed:
Ilya: Well I think that was good enough at the time and, realistically, the new versions of editing software offer you maybe more special effects, but usually you use just 5 or 6 classical film effects like fades or dissolves, and if I really need some special effect it is better to buy Boris software than to use Adobe software. But, in general terms, I would say that 4.2 was good enough for editing. You upgrade mostly because of change of formats and codecs.
Caption could be “Is there a warm and dry place where I can put this Prime Minister?”
And this is recording onto what sort of cards?
Ilya: This is to SanDisk Extreme CF cards. For HD recording, you need to have Extreme or Fast data recording cards. Ed: What about the transition from tape to solid state? You’ve obviously gone from the Z1, which was a tape-based camera, to solid state with the EX3 and then a different version of solid state with the Canon? Ilya: Firstly, I am similar to you ... I preferred tapes … Ed:
Oh, so did I … wasn’t that a dog?
I think it’s an “old dog” thing Ilya.
Ilya: No, recording on tapes has one advantage – you keep them. You keep them because you never use the same tape twice, so I have all my old footage on tapes, till 2007 or 2008 – which gives you some peace of mind in case you need to come back to the footage. The other thing is that I’m not quite sure about the longevity of these solid state cards, because I read also quite scary things about them on the Internet. I haven’t experienced anything bad till now, so from my experience it is okay. But realistically, if something
But one screen, you use one large screen?
Ilya: I had a setup with two screens, but now I have a 40 inch monitor and I think that gives me enough comfort. In fact I have more monitors in the other room – it’s just that there is no need for them at this stage. Ed: And you can fit everything you need on that one screen? Ilya: Absolutely. You see that the screen is big enough and now it’s just what is convenient for you. Definitely I wouldn’t be able to use one screen if I was editing just from the laptop screen. Sometimes when I go to the client, I have to do some adjustments on that small screen, which is a hassle of course, but with this screen I have no problems whatsoever. Ed: Okay, so it looks as though you’ve got yourself pretty well set up, but 2012, a new year, is there anything that you’ve got on your wish list that you want to add to your box of toys?
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Ilya: In fact I was upgrading my gear last year when I bought the XF305 and 5D and CS5.5, new Mac and even a teleprompter. So, I think that in 2012, I will not be spending much because there is not much need. I usually do some upgrades every 2 or 3 years. These toys have to make the money back first ... I know your magazine is supported by sellers, so I think they will not be happy with my plans for 2012. I will just buy some additional solid state and a new audio system … yes, maybe I will put some money into audio, because I already have one job for July and there will be a need for four microphones recording. I prefer to own than to hire. So that will probably be my main investment, which is not big money.
The engine room at Golem Productions.
Ed: And you say most of your material is actually for the Internet these days … what about Blu-ray? You’re shooting in high definition so it must be a bit unpleasant to see your material on YouTube at a very low resolution – do you do anything that goes out as high definition? Ilya: Yes, I am recording all the time on high definition, so the master is always high definition, but you know there are still some clients who want classical DVDs. That means you have to downgrade it into standard definition. Also, Blu-ray is not very strong on the New Zealand market. Nobody asks me for that, although I can do a layout and all this stuff with Bluray. On the other hand, you can watch HD on Internet, and also you can play video HD files in your computer. I just think that the demand for discs in general is slightly fading away. That means that you are now distributing or giving away or selling your stuff as an MP4-HD file and I think that is also the future of
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movies. You will probably not be buying DVDs in the future, but you will be just downloading movies from the Internet in HD as an MP4 or an MPEG. Ed: And this is obviously a very more cost-effective way of distribution for your client as well, if you can put it on the Internet? Ilya: You know, ages ago, I had a client who requested 10,000 DVD discs! Can you imagine the cost for that at the time for them? It was heavy, but now this is, of course, much cheaper and much more flexible. You have only one disadvantage and that is with the classical DVD, you can have a menu, you can have bonuses and such stuff, but in general, these times are slowly fading away. It’s like the film industry: they switch from film to digital. Ed:
No more chemicals?
Ilya: No more chemicals. Greenpeace and the Green Party should support our business. Find Ilya at <www.golem.co.nz>
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