Spieleabend - 99 Fire Films Award

Thu, 2012-02-09, 18:18

My sister and here friend saw a television ad for the 99 Fire Films Award and told me about it. So I decided to register and look what’s the topic this year. The basic task is to concept and realize a short film of exactly 99 seconds excluding the title and the credits.

On the 31st January the topic, “Put a smile on your face!”, was published and two friends and I thought about it. After some hours we had the idea of a board game party ending with a happy smile of the winner of a game. So we planed what to shoot and worked on the “production design” – one of the strange terms where that there have to be the number 500 visible in the film – and designed a bottle label containing the number 500. The next day we filmed and then had two days for the post production which was great so there was many time to select some nice shots, search for music etc.

The video on top is the video we created and we’re mostly happy with the result. Of course it could have been done better but for the short time and our low budget hobby crew I think it’s great. I’m still not the perfect color grader so the skin tones are not perfect but I’m improving my skills from time to time ;-)

Thoughts on the A77 (with some test footage)

Fri, 2012-01-27, 11:40

My father recently bought the A77 so of course I had to play with it and test some stuff. After doing some basic tests and got a feeling for the usage of the cam I decided to focus on a low light comparison with the NEX-5n and some AF testing. But after the video with this two topics and some words about it, I’ll write down some general thoughts about the A77.

Low light and AF test


Download the source file on Vimeo for better image quality. Keep in mind that this test is totally unscientific. All footage without color grading. Only post process are the titles and the tests with the Neat Video noise reduction plugin demo I’m currently playing with.

For the low light test I took my NEX-5n and the A77 with two tripods and shot some scenes in my hometown Schwäbisch Hall. I tried to have both cameras as near as possible. Both the NEX-5n with the LA-EA1 lens adapter and the A77 where equipped with the Sony SAL-2875 with 2.8 constant aperture. Then I tried to get the same field of view so the lens on the NEX needed more zoom due to the additional A77 video crop. Both cameras where rolled at the same time with the same settings to have direct comparison.

For me the NEX-5n seems a bit cleaner even if both have “some” noise especially when shooting at ISO1600. But nice on the A77 is, that you can also use ISO1000, ISO1250 and other steps between common ISO steps, while the NEX only allows an ISO value of 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600. Another point for the NEX is the lack of the translucent mirror which leads to a brighter image (visible and shown by exposure control in the cameras, difference about -0.3 EV).

The AF test – I shot more footage than I packed into this edit but this shows enough – showed to me that this part, always advertised by Sony, isn’t made for nice focus tracking while filming. And it’s only available in auto mode. The car scene was shot with the SAL-70200 which has a nice and fast AF with its super sonic motor (for photos). The shampoo bottle was filmed handheld (with steady shot on I think) and focus tracking set to the logo on the bottle. I went back and forth to stress the focus. The lens was the SAL-2875 again.
Sorry for the high noise in the car AF scene, I’m used to the A850 which switches back to ISO auto when changing from manual mode with specified ISO to program automatic. And I was a bit in a hurry while shooting this so I missed the ISO setting.

Picture profile for all fotage in the video above was Portrait with Contrast all down to -3, Saturation -1 and Sharpness down on -3 on both cams. White balance was set to auto.

Some general thoughts about the A77


As expected the video quality of the A77 is in general comparable to the NEX-5n. But the handling isn’t. The NEX is a bit fiddly with only the one control dial for aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. but when you get used to it, it’s no big problem. The A77 has direct dials for shutter speed and aperture + dedicated buttons for ISO and other stuff, but there is one big deal: You have to go to video mode on the program dial to shoot video with manual controlled apterture and shutter speed. And in video mode you can’t shoot pictures even when between some recordings. But the biggest minus of video mode is, that you can’t use the focus magnifier which for me is vital in many situations. So you have to switch to another mode, set an accurate focus with focus magnification and switch back to movie mode.

When hitting the movie record button in other program modes than video on the A77, the recording mode is always auto. The handling of the NEX is much better, because I’m always in manual mode which fits for manual controlled photos or movies(!) and you always have the focus magnifier when the camera isn’t recording. So all in all the NEX is the better Super 35 camcorder – when you’re used to it’s controls.

Expect some more footage from the A77 in the coming days. And here is my one last thing:

Additional crop in Video mode

The crop factor of about 1.86 in video mode is discussed often on the net but many people don’t really know why Sony crops videos. So here is a little explanation:

Sony (or better say Minolta) decided to let the camera do the stabilization when they released their first DSLRs. This was and is done with a piezoelectricity mechanism which compensates the camera movement by moving the sensor. This process works good for photos and was also used when Steady Shot was active while video recording on the A55. On the A55 this speed up the heating of the sensor which even without Steady Shot had only short recording times. So Sony decided to give the A77 a electronic stabilization in video mode. So it needs to have an area which is not regularly used for the video to move the recording area through the sensor to compensate the movement. Therefor it crops. The bad thing is that you can’t record with only the regular 1.5 APS-C crop when not using stabilization.

Comments, SPAM and CAPTCHA

Thu, 2012-01-19, 13:02

After silvester I had a massive SPAM problem in the comments on this blog with more than thousand comments in one week. This forced me to deactivate the comment functionality and to make all comments since silvester invisible. Checking each comments if it was SPAM would have been to time-consuming.

Now I reactivated the comment function, but it’s now required to solve a simple mathematic equation as a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). I really don’t like CAPTCHAs so I didn’t added them from the beginning of this blog. But the huge amount of SPAM now forced me to add them. If you experience any problems or have suggestions for improvements please leave a comment or send me an email.

EDIT: I now switched to the reCAPTCHA service after seeing that my CAPTCHA code was too easy to solve and spaming was continued.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 on sale

Fri, 2011-12-30, 11:54

I have Adobe Premiere PRO CS5.5 for MAC (German) on sale. Language seems to be fixed to German via the serial number. Not registered and of course I’ll deactivate the licence activatet on my machine as soon as it’s sold.

I’m selling because I’m using English as the system language and don’t want a German Version of Premiere. And for what I’m doing Final Cut Pro X fits all my needs so I don’t need Premiere at all. I’m thinking about selling it for about 650 Euros.
EDIT: Price

Please contact me via premiere [at] irieger.net if interested.

Merry Christmas and a happy new Year

Sat, 2011-12-24, 23:40

I wish all my readers a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

My last post got a bit old so I planed to post some “I’m alive” post here for some time now but I worked hard the last weeks and “wasted” too much of my free time with nice stuff like filming ;-) So I used many of my free time to improve handling the NEX and experimenting. The video below is a collection of some very nice clips I shot in the zoo in Stuttgart. There’s no story or something but the footage looked to good to be dumped somewhere on my harddisc without been used. (Also viewable on http://vimeo.com/irieger/ein-tag-in-der-wilhemla-stuttgart)

Ein Tag in der Wilhelma Stuttgart – A day in the zoo in Stuttgart

Some people now me very good so no surprise for them: My collection of gear keeps growing. I’m planing to post something about my gear in the next weeks so stay tuned even if here’s a bit silent sometimes.

NEX-5N - Some more experiences

Sat, 2011-10-01, 06:16

In this article I want to note down some additional insights I gained since I wrote my Review of the NEX-5N.

Overheating

As I wrote before, I experienced some issues with overheating when I was out for my first test shoots. They arose when leaving the camera on for some time, not recording one long clip but keeping it ready to shoot. When the camera is getting too hot, one gets a warning sign on the screen as can be seen in the image on the left, and a few minutes later the camera will power down.

Today I started recording and checked the camera state every few minutes for signs of impending heat issues. I set the camera up outdoors in the shade, it was about 20°C on a sunny day. My first test was at 25p, 24 MBit/s and the overheating warning appeared after some 12 to 16 minutes, while recording continued until a total of 22:54 minutes was reached and the camera switched off. After letting it cool down I started the second test at 50p, 28 MBit/s. It recorded a full 29:50 minutes and I continued immediately. It stopped after 9:23 minutes.

This little Test is absolutely unscientific but shows that there is a problem with overheating and the NEX.

Photographing with the NEX

Every contemporary camera allows one to take great photographs. What matters most for a good result is the photographer, so the photos I got from the NEX are very beautiful with the correct settings and a nice scene.

But something that can be very helpful is a good autofocus. I love my A850’s, which is very good and served me well in many situations. It’s really fast with the sony’s supersonic motor lenses. The 70-200 f2.8 has a wonderful autofocus speed on the A850, so I hoped that with modern contrast measurement techniques the NEX-5N would have a nice autofocus, although knowing it would hardly match a real DSLR’s.

While testing the NEX a bit more in depth I also went out to take some photos with the autofocus enabled. As I wrote before, I want full manual control when shooting video and don’t miss autofocus there. But while playing with photos I realized that the NEX’s autofocus is a mess. It takes seconds – feeling more like minutes – even with a lens as fast as the 70-200. Maybe it works better with the NEX lenses but I really can’t find a reason why it should.

Summary

After seeing the bad start of the A77, which came out these days with some big firmware bugs, I’m even more happy that I took the NEX (which also has its issues like the clicking noise). All in all I’m happy with the NEX but I won’t if I had bought it for photography. So as I predicted the A850 is and will be my photo and the NEX is the video cam.

NEX-5N Review

Sun, 2011-09-18, 13:32

On Friday, 9th I got my Sony NEX-5N (the black one) and on Saturday last week my LA-EA1 (Alpha-Mount to E-Mount adapter) was delivered. I ordered the NEX without lenses because my father and I have a nice selection of high quality Alpha-Mount lenses. So on Saturday I started to play a bit with the NEX.

To make one thing clear: I have an A850 and love it for taking pictures. But I wanted to start to also shoot some video so I bought the NEX-5N. For video handling wasn’t a big issue for me because a camera – especially without stabilization (no stabilized lens yet) – is mostly used on a tripod, a shoulder rig or such stuff. As a foto camera I would only use the NEX if I can’t take the A850 for some reason. So I’m not going to write too much about photographing with the NEX here.

Video quality


I only want to write about some aspects here and let the videos speak for themselves.

The video quality is very nice and I was a bit overwhelmed when I looked at my first footage shot with the NEX-5N:

NEX-5N – First Shots

The Quality in higher ISO modes is as I expected. ISO 1600 seems usable, ISO 3200 and above is very noisy.

A issue brought by all the CMOS sensor cameras – rolling shutter – also can be found on the NEX. But by now I didn’t really had bad aliasing or moire I saw on the footage. But maybe I shot the wrong stuff for this effects.

NEX-5N – Tests and Handling

On Friday “The Digital Visual” published an article about cinematic picture profiles which may be interested for all wanting the NEX for shooting video: The Sony NEX-5N Gets Cinematic!

Sound

The NEX is a photo camera with video as a goody. This can be seen in the sound section. No external mic in via trs connectors. No headphone jack. And then there is the clicking issue which appears when moving fast. In the video you can hear this annoying click sound which comes from the camer, because it’s also hearable without a lens. All in all an external sound recorder is the best way for getting sound for your videos shot on the NEX.

Handling

The handling of the NEX-5N is ok for it’s size. All important controls (important for me) are reachable via direct keys or user configurable keys. With the new generation of cameras Sony learned their lesson and gave us users full manual control also in video mode.

In the video I scroll a bit through the menus to show the options available. The only thing I miss in custom menu configuration is video quality selection.

Some thoughts about electronic viewfinding

While writing this lines it was 5:30am and I was sitting outside to do astro and sunrise timelapses and a bit video. I use my A850 as my main cam and have my NEX-5N and the A55v from my uncle to play a bit.

What annoys me most a both the NEX-5N and the A55v is to not be able to easily setup astro shots. For this the electronic viewfinding technologies are absolutely not prepared. With the clear (non-noisy) A850 viewfinder it’s much nicer to shoot astro photographs.

For daily use the A55 Viewfinder is Ok, as long as you don’t have to wear glases. My father had problems using the A55 Viewfinder. The Monitor of the A55 and the NEX are Ok as long as there isn’t to much sunlight shining in. For this reason I made a cheap and simple sunscreen for the NEX as you can see in the photos. But all in all I like the LCD of the NEX and the A55 for filming.

Conclusion

The NEX-5N is a nice camera which gives Sony users a cheap possibility to start making videos. The overall video quality is very good and issues like aliasing are a general problem of photo cameras used for video. If the NEX-VG20 had a sensor designed for video it may have been the better choice but it has the same sensor like the NEX-5N. The sound of the internal microphones isn’t usable but the best way for HDSLRs filming and sound seems to be an external recorder anyhow.

So in it’s price class the NEX-5N is a good way to go for everyone with Sony lenses. If the price isn’t the problem the NEX-FS100 may be an alternative because of it’s real video sensor.

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