Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NorCal PET/CT commercial

This latest shoot was for the Northern California PET/CT Center, a non-profit high end medical imaging facility. This is a great facility that saves many lives every day through highly accurate imaging. I wanted to give the spot a very hightech glossy look, but also to keep a warm approachable feel to it. We shot it in 720p with the HVX200. I originally wanted to go for a glossy, colorful, C.S.I. Miami look with shallow focus and blurred foreground images. I wanted to use a 35mm lens adapter, but that was unavailable at the time, so a lot of the look had to be done in post.

You can see a copy of it online here:

Here are some before and after shots from the location scout and final screen grabs:
This is the doctor's office. We used the Century .6 wide angle lens adapter and a dolly in. For lighting, we turned off the overhead fluo, and dimmed down the overhead tungsten can lights. We also filled up the light panel with x-rays, strategically placing light and dark sheets to control the light. We also bounced into the upper corner just out of frame on camera left, a 500watt fresnell spot in with half CTO, to help provide a little bit of color contrast against the bluish xray prints. You can see it wrapping around the "doctor " above. Also notice the heavy prismatic bluring off on the sides, meant to emulate a defocused lens. There is also an ND grad placed sideways to darken the wall to the right. In the closeup shot on the spot we used a piece of beveled-edge glass (I picked up from a stained glass shop) to make some nice in front of the lens optical effects.

This next scene is from the waiting area. I wanted it to have a very cold, uncertain feel. We used the exesting overhead Fluo, but draped a duva teaser on the end to keep spill off the wall, in order to make a nice soft overhead source shining down. We also used a 2' 4-bank kino with CTB to light from down the hall. There is also a de-focused region and a dark vignette applied in post.

This is the main scanner room. For this shot we turned off all the lights except for the overhead fluorescents which have a nice "looking at sky and trees" fake stained glass image over them. We used the same 500w fresnell in the same config as in the doctor's office, you can see the golden light coming in from the left. We also place a 2' kino with full CTO on the floor behind the scanner to light up the cabinets behind. Finally we added a 200w fresnel with red gel shooting into the scanner tube from behind and below, to add a little high tech feel.

The last shot was a medium shot of the talent. For this one we used an ND grad at the 8-o'clock position to darken the white picket fence in the foreground, as well as a linear polo to darken the sky. We also used a shiny board for fill to help combat the harsh noon sun and overhead branches.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008



We had opportunity to demo Sony’s new HD camcorder, the HDCAM EX. We had a commercial shoot scheduled that day, so we took that camera out instead of the HVX. Here are my first impressions, starting with the good:

It has a better viewfinder than the HVX, and a better zoom preset. Unlike the HVX, you can preset the zoom speed in increments from 1-100. We made extensive use of this, you can actually tell the difference between a zoom out at “6” versus a “7”. It also has a cool “flip” built in lens cap.

It records on Express SxS cards which are much, much cheaper than P2 cards.

Battery life was great. We shot all day with one battery.

Now the bad:

First of all, it looks like a Proboscis Monkey. Ugly. Why does Sony load on all that equipment to the mic mount? Weird.

There is a feature that sounded good, it’s kind of a feathering that can be applied to the zoom or focus, instead of a hard stop. That’s cool, but the interface was typical Sony: buried in sub menus. We spend 15 minutes messing around with it on set and it never worked like we hoped. From the website, it sounded like it was a feather that you turn on to the zoom. In reality, you have to preset the zoom (or focus) in and out and the amount of feather, you then hit a button and the camera performs the pre-recorded maneuver. It never really worked right for us.

The camera records at 720 and 1080p. It also records at variable speed from 1-30fps and 60fps. It’s important to note that you cannot overcrank in 1080p, just 720p. This may be a bit of a disappointment if you are expecting to shoot in 1080p.

The last important note is that it does not have a standard A/V output jack, it’s some weird proprietary connector. NG.

One concern I had was the recording format. Sony chose to go with a long GOP 4:2:0 format. I only shot with this camera, so I can’t report how the image held up in post, although I heard it pulled a key pretty well. It was a bit of a pain to upload the images to FCP, Sony or Apple needs to do a bit more there. I did check out the images and they looked great. Still images are stunning. Motion images have a bit of a stutter. Sort of like the way the old XL1 rendered motion in “movie mode”

Still all things being equal, I’d pick up this camera over the HVX.

Panny: it’s your move.