Indie Film Live

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Batteries and Stars

Our shoot at the power station is still going on and the cameras keep performing excellent. Apart from the cameras I also need to thank Anton Bauer for the batteries they are supplying us. We are using Hytronic 140, 140W batteries or Dionic 90, 90W batteries on the heads. We are getting around eight hours of filming from our Hytronic 140 and over four hours on the Dionic 90. These are the best batteries we could hope for so go take a look at their website at for more information on them.

Also for those who have not heard we have an appearance in the film by Rutger Hauer, who plays the lead of Daniel's father. Rutger Hauer has made over 100 television and film appearances since his debut in 1969 in the TV series "Floris". He later appeared in more well-known films and series such "Blade Runner", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Alias", "Smallville", "Sin City", "Batman Begins", and many more. In 2001 he also directed a film by the name of "The Room". So if you are a fan, look out for him in our movie. For more information on Rutger Hauer, visit his official website at

As you can see Simon did a big technical update with his previous post. For you other techies: I have asked our photographer to get some shots of the wired rigs and will be posting them hi-res for you to get a closer look. Ari on your question in my previous post: that is a normal GigE UTP RJ45 connection. Also for those who are wondering about our sound recording. The sound is recorded separately, not together with the footage, but with the video we record a reference clip so that we at least have some sound in playback on set and editing

What do you all think of the footage so far?

Monday, May 29, 2006


Here are 5 more:


Note this is raw ungraded footage converted to windows media 9. Some takes are "outakes" so there may be focus errors or operation errors. I will try post more this week. We have better stuff to see than just these.

Here the clips:

Enjoy. Any questions please adress Francois. He is active on the blog and in touch with me regularily. Watch this space...closely.


Shooting in Progress!

Hello everyone.

I tried putting a bunch of footage on the blog last week on my day off only to run out of time. This time I will go one clip at a time so that you can at least see something if I run out again.

The shoot is going extremely well. Thanks to everyone who has made it so. This format is turning out to be ideal for our comic strip style film. The look is unique falling between film and video. It is soft yet clear - video without the video edging we all hate. The beauty shots are great - the make-up reads better than other hd formats (it's more like film).

We had some issues shooting flashes (camera flashes). The rolling shutter is a bit complicated with rapid change like that- some times you get a great flash other times it's more of a half frame flash.

We've shot varying conditions. The darker areas are holding up but there is nothing to beat this camera in good light. I will try and give two clips today at least - one with school yard bench scene in strong light and a darker industrial shot.

Despite the fact that these camera heads are prototypes they are working really well. We had some static build up issues (at least i think that's what they were) first when I booted up the second camera head after transportation and again when shooting Daniel's soaked apartment. These sort themselves out when ground is properly done and when the head "settles down".

We've shot close on 40 hours of footage (probably too much but to have the coverage is great). Both close personal performance stuff and a fair bit of action. Both are great. The action stuff has a really unique real feeling while remaing very filmic (not videolike).

We've shot a lot with zooms for efficiency but the fast 16mm primes are the way to go if you have time. Much more light and hence data gets through.

Andrew, in response to your qestion we have been using the head on cable mostly. They are light and fast to work with. Also we follow the action on the big monitors at the "film recorder/video take off station". When we need a roaming shot we will go for the full self sufficient camera but it's rarely needed and the extra weight is a detractor. Even though it weighs much the same a s a film cam there are advantages to the head only system. We can more easily mount two cameras to a dolly and cover wide and tight angles on the same action in one go for example. Recording on wire also gives you the choice to go filmscan 2 on the recorder as we are using wafian hadware. the wafian hardware gives us redundancy of our data and faster processors for higher data rates should you need them. Mostly we record filmscan 1 because there is little difference in quality but quite a bit in size. Jeff at wafian can advise on what hardware he supplied us. Otherwise Pavel can tell you. Note that Jason says there are laptops that should habdle the recording too. The coolest thing about working this way is the choice. You can use whater arrangment of gear that suites your shot. I expect a lot of innovation around this flexibility in the comming year because I for one will never give up that choice if I can help it.

Clips will follow now....

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Stills from the set

Almost a week has gone by since the last post and a lot has happened.

We finished o
ur filming at our first location with no major problems. We did have a small grounding issue: All the equipment was runing off the house power, so the computers were trying to find earth through the cameras. This issue was easily resolved by simply running the computers off the generator from outside.

Next we moved our shoot to a power station just outside of town, and even though it was cold and raining the whole time, the weather was getting no-one down.

We were shooting in small offices, so the directors were sitting in one room in front of the VT station, and if you were looking for where the scene was being shot all you had to do was follow the wires down the hall.

We shot a scene in which a cars bonnet had to burst open with smoke, flames, and water spouting out. The shot looks awesome, so great job to the FX team.

Our shoot on the 20'th May was done at the University of Cape Town. The second scene of the day was of our lead character entering a building, and as it's supposed to be raining we had the rain machine set up and working. The irony was that, while we were setting up and some time during a walk-through, it actually started pouring rain. However, as soon as we wanted to start filming the rain had stopped, so we had to use the rain machine. We had no problems using the cameras in the wet weather. Also a special thanks to all the extras in the scene who had to spend their morning getting cold water poured all over them.

We are going back to our location at the power station, this time however we are doing a night shoot. The location is perfect as the whole place has such a great atmosphere on the screens that you would think it was built to be a film set.

Well, hope everyone enjoys the photos from our first few days of shooting, don’t you think the cameras look great in action?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Spoon ready and rolling...

Right, it's been more than a week since the blog was last updated and a lot has been happening. First, let me introduce myself: my name is Francois and I will be updating the site from today. So let me tell you what has been going on.

We started shooting the feature film “Spoon” on the 10'th of May and the first few days were hectic. Initially we had a small problem getting our second camera to link with the system, but soon got that fixed. The shoot was at an outside location while the VT station was set up inside, which initially led to a small delay in work flow because of communication between the on-set crew and the VT guys, but after a while the whole process was streamlined and by the time we got to set and rolling on day two everything was going smoothly.

At the moment we are running both camera's directly into the wafian boxes and PC, thus enabling us to shoot two angles of a scene at a time. It's incredible sitting at the VT station and looking at the feeds from both camera's, especially when with the click of a button you can review the scenes that have been shot a second ago through Widows Media Player. The shots are looking great and it's not uncommon to hear people from the crew saying things like “this is the way of the future” or seeing the directors smiling broadly and talking excitedly about how incredible the footage from the camera is looking.

Both the camera's at the moment are equipped with a Canon wide-angle 16mm zoom lens. The lenses offer us a broad view, fast aperture, and a closer focusing, down to 0.28m. The lens remains compact while still providing superior image quality. It is also highly resistant to dust and moisture, which is great, seeing as on our last day on set (today), we will be shooting in a room with and inch of water on the floor and a smoke-machine (courtesy of MXFX Special Effects) blowing smoke over the entire room.

As far as the technical side from the camera's are going there have been no major problems. The only small glitch is that every now and then one of the cameras disconnects from the system and have to be reset quickly, but this takes less than a minute and everything is up and running again. Little things like this are to be expected since the camera and system are still in the Beta phase, but Silicon Imaging is aware of it and are busy fixing the problem. On the computer we are getting a data rate of about 11Mb/s, less than the 18Mb/s we were expecting.

Yesterday we shot a small semi-action scene, where the main character gets hit in the face, drops to the floor and comes up with blood running out of his nose. For this shot there has to go a big 'well done' to the art department, it looks very real. Altogether during the first week we have shot over 600 gig of raw footage.

As far as todays shoot is going, the set looks amazing, it actually looks like “a real film set”, as someone commented earlier. The images from the scenes have an incredible atmosphere, even without any actors in the space, and something beautiful that I have come to notice of the picture is the texture. Because of the camera we are getting an image that has a unique sort of texture: it's not quite digital, but it's not quite film's something crisp, clear and soft that has an amazing feeling to it.

As a sign-off for todays update I would just like to mention two interesting thoughts. First, on our first day of shooting we also filmed with a film camera and we got about 1 hour 20 minutes of footage, which ran to cost about $8500. Compare this to the SI-1920 camera and system which will cost under $20 000 to buy and can shoot up to four hours on one drive. And then if you want to shoot more all you need is more drive space, which is becoming cheaper by the day. The second thing is that, let's say, hypothetically, you are using a 10:1 shooting ratio. All of the footage would have to be captured, taking quite a while, even a two minute scene would then take up to half an hour, and in the end you are only using 10% of the footage. That's 90% of the time spent capturing, and paying for it, wasted. Just let these last two thoughts sink in and you will see why this system is “the way of the future” for independent film-making.

Be sure to watch the blog as I will be posting photos from the shoot at our first set soon, it looks amazing...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Head on wire camera

Here is the first rugged set ready head on wire si1920. It's a nice size and weight. We will be recording and controling on wire so the operator only shoots for composition the rest is controled at the wafian VT station. All is looking good. Steve, Jason and Ari we had some of those blooms again after we sheared the edge off the block frame plate that fit's over the OPLF. Again we resolved this by rotating the glass as Shown in our previous email diagram. Also we mave have cut a little too much off which did't help but we've made a make shift fill until richard can machine a super acurate plate.Do the filters have to have the pink stripes down the edges. They are what seem to cause the porblem. If we had glass that was totally clear to the edge (as clear as the centre) it would eliminate this issue without having to move thing around and find a happy home for all the parts. I assume there is a reason why those stripes are there. At least we are in control.

All Is going well. Both heads are making excellent inages. Everyone here is crowded around the monitors in disbelief. Very very excited. We shoot tommorow. I will try and post something - maybe even a shot or two. It's not a big shoot day but it will show the image off any way. We should decide how to post the data because WMV won't do it justice. This image is sooooo clear.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Adapter back focus Lock

Just got our new PL mount clamp form richard. Works like a dream. Simply screw the adapter in until the set point you wish and then lock it off with the locking bolt. It clamps around the broader part of the adapter as we discussed in Las Vegas but Richard wanted to try the rest a little differently. I think he did a good job too. It's a very snug fit and the tests we did were great. What do you think Dave?

Friday, May 05, 2006

All Steam Ahead

After a 30 hour flight into Las Vegas Grant Appleton and I decended on NAB to collect the first PROTOTYPE model of the Silicon Imaging Si1920HDVR. A rush around NAB to collect all the accessories, Anton Bauer Batteries and chargers and 60 hours later we were flying back to South Africa. Another 30 hour flight. Was it worth it?

The fact that the camera is a prototype sort of made me nervous but once we looked under the hood and chatted to the guys at silicon imaging about the known issues that are in the prototype I relaxed. Like any prototype their are bound to be issues but nothing big enough to get in our way. The team has such a strong handle on everything that we caouldn't really find anything they hadn't already told us about. The image is great, but we already knew that. The camera boasts the prototyope model of the altisense 3570 with Gige on board. It was all exciting and then it got more exciting. We began playing with the cineform raw footage in premiere. This is the BEST latitute I have ever seen on any video format. The 10Bit file has very wide dynamic range and the files are relatively tiny. Our data rates are around 11MB per second. David newman did you say that was because it's single sensor using Bayer Raw cineform compression?

I think that's what he said.

I was expecting 18MB/sec. Aside form a few practical technical issues we are on track. The production model scheduled for release later this year will be awsome and free from any of the teething we must go through in the beta phase. Teething is the currency you use to pry the camera out of the developers hands before it is in production. "Hey let us Beta test that for you on our movie - we'll take care of the teething".

Our biggest issue is the fact that we shoot on Wednesday (10th May). We have had less than 10 Days to prepare everything. And then without warning the motherboard blew. No big deal except that in South Africa cutting edge MB's are'nt sitting on a shelf ready to go. They need to be shipped. It takes 5 days without issues in SA customs. So that was a bit of freak out but again once we came to grips with it it was a blessing because we acceleraed our "head on wire" GripCams and we made provisions for any furhter hiccups while ACTUALLY SHOOTING. We're getting into the film cam mode. If it breaks you open and fix it. It's not like regular video cameras. It's all solid 1+1 stuff. The case is rugged aluminium and the parts inside all familar. The only thing we can't do anything about is the camera head. That's new. But the computer stuff is really practical and it's liberating to know that we can control and service the unit without opeing up complex circuitry. It feels like a computerised Film Cam without moving parts!

We will shoot the first scenes on cable attached to 2 wafian boxes. These make the head light and small and allow for those impossible shots, rapid setups and easy hand helds.

This is the big thing for us. We strongly believe in a future where flexible head removal, mounting and integration will change much of the way shooting happens. Note: the head on the unit is totally removable. You can leave the recorder behind and run gige to the head and shoot from wherever you can think of to place the head. This combined with the use of computers and their processing power on the film set, and integrated with the camera are revolutionary forces. The Si1920HDVR has all this flexibility. The cineform raw bayer data backing up flexible interchangeable hardware. For the first time a digital film camera feels like a a film camera. It's robust and the components accessable and interchangeable with very basic functionality. Just like with film you expose everything, keep everything and decide in post what direction you want to go in. And there is latitude to do it. At NAB our minds were spinning at the possibilities for modular expansion and development, accesssories and tools. There is so much scope in this area for innovation and it's not only around the sensor. Watch this Space!

We will try and post footage as we shoot. Please be patient we are entering production phase. Ken cyr at Anton Bauer, David Taylor, David Newman at cineform Jeff Yeoul at wafian, Steve Nordhauser, Ari Presler adn not forgetting Jason Rodrigues on the Silicon imaging team - thank you. Hopefully we will soon have some great footage that does all your effort justice.