Summary of everything I found worthwhile at BVE. From the good folks over at DVtalent
So, this years BVE has ended. There were tons of new kit launched and demoed so I thought I would take a minute to highlight some of the most interesting bits. As a DOP and self-shooter working primarily in factual I have seen a couple of trends emerging in the last 3 years. Most notably is the emergence of Super 35 cameras: the Canon EOS C300, Sony PXW-FS7 for the self-shooter, also the likes of the Sony PMW-F55 and Arri Amira for the high end. Panasonic has of sorts missed out – finally entering the market with the VariCam LT. It is kind of like a ‘grown up FS7’ with a few killer features: four channels of audio, an interchangeable EF/PL mount and a unique Sensor with Dual native ISO (800 and 5000). The last feature is a sight to behold, as on programmes such as Famous Rich and Homeless – BBC One, we routinely shot under bridges at night using only street lamps to illuminate.
Now a couple of weeks ago I properly geeked out about the pre-production release and announcement . Since then I have gotten hold of the VariCam LT and collared a few of Panasonics engineers at BVE. Firstly, I still love the look and feel of the VariCam, I am in awe of the 5000 ISO, and the four Channel audio input is a godsend. However, at BVE I noticed something curious – the complete lack of switches or dials on the side of the camera. Instead, Panasonic has opted for an outboard control unit. As a DOP with a Sound Recordist, this is fine, heck, it saves the soundie putting gaff over the audio controls to keep me from bumping them. Unfortunately, it is a killer for a self-shooter. To which the engineer told me “you can access [the audio controls] in the menu in the viewfinder”.
Now, let’s think about this for one second. I’m filming and go from an interior to exterior at night. SO I have to change WB and ISO on the fly… through a full screen menu. Which effectively makes me blind. Then, I have to tweak an audio level all while action is happening. I may as well close my eyes for 30-60 seconds while filming. The Panasonic Engineers have assured me they are working on an update that can make this easier, but no Firmware update can add a switch to a camera. Look at what I think is the best made camera out there – the AMIRA. The side of the AMIRA is covered in giant German engineered overbuilt switches, it’s like the AK-47 of cameras – if you ran over it with a truck it would do more damage to the vehicle. I can change the settings in the rain, with gloves, blind folded and keep my attention focused on what matters: the unfolding narrative and content.
This may be the year that LED comes of age. The new LED Kino Flos have a fantastic output and I’m really looking forward to giving them a spin. The new Dedolight DLED4 is a great little unit but for 800 pounds, I may have to wait till the price drops and hire for the meantime.
Here’s for a more positive look at a bit of kit I am very excited about. Anyone who has shot on a C300, FS7, F55 etc. has become very aware of the need to change lenses, because there is no one lens that has the zoom range similar to what you had on a Sony PDW-F800 or PMW-200. Last year Canon released the stellar CN7x17 at a slightly eye watering price of 22,500. I love this lens, but it is slightly out of my price range at present. I also love the Fuji Cabiro line, so seeing an unannounced prototype for a 20-120mm T3.5 for a suggested price of under 10K this looks like a good ‘budget’ option. Supposedly, it is to be announced at NAB Show in April. I was very lucky to get my hands on this one as shortly after I took it for a spin and had a chat with Fuji’s engineer about what I like and what I am interested in seeing in the final model it went away.
So here’s to NAB.