For our second short film project, we added a bit to our arsenal:
Video, upgraded: Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (PCC4K)
I abandoned our “bridge” camera, the Panasonic FZ-2500. It had a lot going for it, but I have always struggled to create videos using camera built for photography. There are just too many settings for taking still photos that can get in the way of capturing video the way you want it. Having a proper cinema camera was such a welcome change. It is far simpler to operate and its ability to shoot in 12-bit RAW (Blackmagic RAW or “BRAW”) provided a nice boost in quality. Moving from the Panasonic did lose the built-in ND filters and in-body stabilization, but the gains were significant. In addition to the 12-bit capture, add recording to SSD drives, interchangeable lenses, a slightly bigger sensor for easier shallow depth of field…it’s quite a list. And that camera body is only $1295, which is a steal for what it provides.
Lens, new: Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH Power OIS Lumix G X Vario
Lens, existing: Vintage Vivitar 75-205mm Zoom
Long enough lens name? I did have to purchase a lens and I’m pretty happy with this unit. With the crop factor of the PCC4K, this becomes a 24-70mm lens. It would be nice to go a bit wider, but at its widest setting there is a bit of barrel distortion, mostly noticeable indoors with straight lines like door openings. Otherwise it’s pretty fast (and rectilinear, so it’s f/2.8 from end-to-end). The focusing is electronic, which makes laying out follow-focus points impossible, but that’s my only gripe. The only other option was a similar lens from Olympus (12-40mm) but it lacked in-lens stabilization, which the camera lacks, so I thought was more important.
If I were to choose today, I would go with a Metabones Speedbooster and grab one of a few EF lens-mount choices. The Speedbooster is designed for the PCC4K (it wasn’t available when I acquired the Panasonic lens) and will provide a wider field of view while also lowering the f/stop of the lens. It’s a bit more expensive to go this route, but it provides a lot more flexibility. It also gets me into EF lenses, which will fit the new PCC6K camera–also released after I purchased my gear.
The Vivitar lens is one that I purchased in the early 1980’s(!) to go with my (then) state-of-the-art Canon A-1 still camera. I got a Fotasy adapter from Amazon and used this for the “binocular” shots. I haven’t really used it for much else; the optical quality isn’t outstanding, although it is a macro-focusing lens, so it might be useful in the future. The adapter didn’t play well with the 50mm prime lens I have for the Canon (there was a light leak in there). That was disappointing, as I would like to have been able to use that lens, too.
Camera Support, upgraded: Viltrox VX-18M
Camera Support, existing: 3 Legged Thing Punks Corey Tripod & Airhead Neo Ballhead
While I love the 3 Legged Thing tripod because it is so portable, I needed something with better stability and a better fluid drag head. Enter the Viltrox. Fairly inexpensive for what it offers, this was a much more stable base and I used it for most of our shoot.
Audio, existing: Zoom H5 w/SSH-6 and Marantz SG-9P
Audio, upgraded: Boom Poles and C-Stand
Still using the H5 with the mid-side shotgun mic capsule. We added an additional shotgun mic in the form of the Marantz SG-9P to capture dialog from two parts of the scene. We also added two microphone boom poles, one aluminum and one carbon fiber. Both are cheap units from Amazon, costing $70 and $90, respectively. One was hand-held (the carbon fiber one) and the other we put on a C-stand from Neewer.
We have lights. Over the years we have gone from umbrellas with CFL bulbs to softboxes with LED bulbs to color-changing, portable LED panels with barndoors and a diffuser. We also have a nice, bright LED ring light. And we brought our great gear to the shoot…and never got any of it out. This was mostly due to the fact that we didn’t have anyone to “do” lighting. So we used only natural light and interior lighting. We did use some black sharkstooth skrim to attenuate the light comingin through the windows, but that’s about it.
There are defininitely shots in the film where it is clear that better lighting would have improved the product, so that is definitely a must-have for the next production.
Video Editing, new/upgraded: Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 16.1
Video Editing, new: Apple Motion 5
Video Editing, upgraded: MacBook Pro
I was forced to change over to DaVinci Resolve because Final Cut won’t read the Blackmagic RAW files output by the new camera. I had used (“played with” might be more accurate) Resolve before here and there, but the new BlackMagic camera came with a license for the Studio version. That unlocked a lot of features, which helped it to be more useful. But there was a pretty big learning curve, which pushed the time it took to make the film.
Compositing in Resolve is done through the integrated version of Fusion, which I found troublesome. It’s just too big of a change for me, so I invested the $50 in Apple Motion and I used a combination of Motion and Final Cut Pro X (which I am much more familiar with–and faster) to complete the visual effects. a
One total newbie mistake that cost a lot of post-production time was assuming it would be easy “fix it in post”. The Polaroid pictures that appear in the film, with one minor exception, are green scrren “blanks” and the pictures were added in post. It would have been much easier to use real pictures and then just add the effects. Another lesson learned.
I’ve upgraded my MacBook Pro to be a late 2018 model, still with an i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. I did add an eGPU in the form of a Sapphire Pulse RX-580 in a Razer CoreX enclosure. I also added a Thunderbolt 3 external SSD that runs as fast as the internal SSD in the MacBook Pro.
Audio Editing, upgraded: iZotope RX7 Advanced & Post-Production Suite 4
Every audio file was tweaked outside of Resolve using the iZotope RX7 editor. We used noise and echo reduction as well as gain here and there. This tool was also invaluable for removing the little noises that audio cable made bouncing against the boom pole. We didn’t have that problem before because no one was holding the mic in our first film: everyone present was on camera!
There are so many tools in these two products that there is much to learn. But I can’t imagine trying to make the audio work without these tools.