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Attended a digital cinema workshop and camera shootout, personal view and recap


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#1 KarimNassar

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 11:43 AM

Hello everyone, I was lucky to take part in a two days digital cinema workshop presented by Marquise technologies and Free Studio in Geneva.

I will not try to relay all the information we received in this thread as I am not qualified and it would be a daunting task, but I will rather give you my thoughts on the workshop and give you a little wrap up of the event.

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The workshop covered dailies management and data handling, debayering, the ACES color space, post-production, and DCP.
Special guests were Jean-Piere Beauviala founder of Aaton and DP Caroline Champetier (holy motors).

It also included a shootout between the following cameras that we compared on the second day from the dcp files in a movie theater:

Red epic, Arri Alexa, Sony F65 and Aaton Delta

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The first thing that surprised me was how big the F65 was.
I did not tape measure them but I felt size wise from smallest to biggest was like this:
red epic, arri alexa, AAton Delta, Sony F65

Here another view of the fully equiped Sony beast:
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Each camera was presented to us and when discussing their features the most intriguing one was the Delta.
A couple things separate it from the others:

- An optical viewfinder,
- a very big ventilator to reduce sound emission
- integrated ssd recorder (4 of them stacked up in raid 0) non proprietary you can use the brand of your choice
- a little screen on the other side of the camera with the basic info so you can check them on both sides
- mechanical rotating mirror shutter
- the sensor that physically moves from half a pixel during recording

more info here: http://nofilmschool....e-delta-camera/

The last feature was the most interesting one but we could sadly not see it in action as the prototype camera did not feature it yet.
According to the founder of Aaton, the variation in the image this shift produces forces our brain to stay more focused on the images.

You can see the big ventilator and small side screen here:

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Another interesting feature was on the Sony F65, which has a special pixel array arranged in bee hive structure.
Which adds up to an odd ratio of 8192 by 2160 pixels even though the final aspect ratio is 17:9 close to 2:1.

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explained in detail here: http://camerarentalz...-f65-6k-sensor/

An interesting anecdotal info comes from DP Caroline Champetier who had a very harsh view on the Arri Alexa.

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She tested the camera among others before shooting one of her films and really dislikes it.
The skin tones and color rendition are terrible in her opinion.
She says that that camera is a very good television camera but definitively not a cinema camera.

I was quite surprised at how categorical she was on the Alexa because of how good Skyfall looked to me.
So I was looking forward to seeing that "television" camera compared in the theater on the next day.

But it was no fair fight.
They received a faulty Gemini so they had to record prores instead of raw on the Alexa.
And it showed.

In theater camera comparison:

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The subject is very subjective of course but there are a couple things that showed clearly and are not subjective:

- On one of the shots with half of a wooden box in the shade, the Alexa and Epic showed no information what so ever, pure black.
On the Delta and F65 the wood texture and details were clearly visible, a big difference in visible dynamic range there.
Now of course on the epic you would be able to pull some info from the blacks. But straight out of the cam was pure black.

- ProRes is not good enough for cinema. It looked very bad. The colors on the girl skin tones and hair were very weak and the clouds looked really muddy. You could really tell the difference. Wish they had shot with ArriRaw so that it would have been more fair.

- The Aaton displayed a very smooth gradation between shades of grey. Not a huge difference with the f65, but it was very smooth.

Now the rest is subjective:

In my opinion there was two groups, the bottom group with the alexa (sadly ProRes) and the Epic.
And the top group with the Delta and F65.

The F65 red haired woman shot was simply superb!
The skintones and hair color and detail rendition were amazing.
The Delta delivered a more contrasted image which I liked less.

Interestingly the colorist that was presenting the shots said he would rather grade a more contrasted shot like the Delta instead of having to add contrast and the guess work that comes with it like on the f65.

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Both theses cameras displayed a superior dynamic range and most importantly superior colors imo.
(The sony was shifting towards yellow in the highlights a bit)

The camera that delivered the most complete and appealing image to me was the F65.
But when discussing this with the other attendees as you would expect everybody had a different favorite.

All in all it was a very fascinating workshop.
Big thank you to Marquise Technologies and Free Studios for this.
  • andy lee and avacktult like this

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#2 andy lee

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 11:46 AM

looks like a very interesting day!!
I wish there was one in the UK too!!

Andy Lee
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'If it looks good , it is good!'


#3 KarimNassar

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 11:55 AM

looks like a very interesting day!!
I wish there was one in the UK too!!


yes was absolutely fascinating two days :)
And it was free!
thanks to:
http://www.marquise-tech.com/
and:
http://www.freestudios.ch

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#4 andy lee

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 12:17 PM

Its quite a nice collection of cameras to see close up!
'the best of the best!' as the expression goes.

Interesting to see your picture of the F65 Sensor.......

Andy Lee
LTI Films
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'If it looks good , it is good!'


#5 FilmMan

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 03:30 PM

KarimNasser, thanks for posting.

It'll be interesting how the Epic will compare once it gets the Dragon Chip. For the majority of us, the cameras presented are a dream. And it is fun to dream. Cheers.

#6 galenb

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 06:35 PM

Wow, I'm shocked that there is someone out there that says they didn't like the look of the Alexa! :-) Everything that I've seen from it always amazes me personally. Oh, and a colorist who says they would rather grade a contrasty image? All very strange.

[edit] Oh yeah, Great report Karim!

#7 Germy1979

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 06:50 PM

I love the comment on the Alexa not being cinema worthy, lol... (Cough.... Oscar for Hugo.. Cough..) I hate to sound like a hippy screaming, "conspiracy!" ... But, this looks like a pretty significant event involving how these "Dynasty cams" stack up to each other.. (Which honestly, these are the cream of the crop. They all look amazing.). How on earth they let a faulty Gemini shut the Alexa out with a pro res codec is weird... Even though I don't think seasoned DP's would stop requesting one based off of this event, I agree.. That's bullshit, lol.
That Delta is one of the most innovative designs I've seen. The shutter was the coolest thing ever I thought in that article... For those of us, (and this is "most" of us, lol) - all of these are still ridiculously expensive just to "rent"! The only one of the group that may come down to a reasonable day rate is obviously the Epic with the recent price drops. That's still speculation... It'd be cool to shoot on an Alexa with a set of Master Primes one day. It's just money, lol.

#8 KarimNassar

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 08:13 PM

Wow, I'm shocked that there is someone out there that says they didn't like the look of the Alexa! :-) Everything that I've seen from it always amazes me personally. Oh, and a colorist who says they would rather grade a contrasty image? All very strange.

[edit] Oh yeah, Great report Karim!


Those were my thoughts exactly.
To her defense she tested all of the main cameras herself so her opinion is based on her personal experience so there is nothing to argue about.
I also disagree though.

Regarding the colorist, the delta outputs uncompressed raw. So keep in mind that "contrasted" is in comparison to the f65 raw file.
If I understood his thought process correctly he said the image is closer to what the scene actually was which took the guess work out of overly flat raw files. I guess it's a personal workflow thing.

I love the comment on the Alexa not being cinema worthy, lol... (Cough.... Oscar for Hugo.. Cough..) I hate to sound like a hippy screaming, "conspiracy!" ... But, this looks like a pretty significant event involving how these "Dynasty cams" stack up to each other.. (Which honestly, these are the cream of the crop. They all look amazing.). How on earth they let a faulty Gemini shut the Alexa out with a pro res codec is weird... Even though I don't think seasoned DP's would stop requesting one based off of this event, I agree.. That's bullshit, lol.
That Delta is one of the most innovative designs I've seen. The shutter was the coolest thing ever I thought in that article... For those of us, (and this is "most" of us, lol) - all of these are still ridiculously expensive just to "rent"! The only one of the group that may come down to a reasonable day rate is obviously the Epic with the recent price drops. That's still speculation... It'd be cool to shoot on an Alexa with a set of Master Primes one day. It's just money, lol.


Yeah they ordered another Gemini immediately but it arrived late. Sucks, but since it was free you can't blame them for not renting two to be safe.

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#9 QuickHitRecord

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 08:57 PM

What a great opportunity. And for free! Thanks for sharing, Karim.

#10 Germy1979

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 09:20 PM

What a great opportunity. And for free! Thanks for sharing, Karim.


Yeah no joke man! Seriously cool opportunity! I don't even think we have an Alexa in Indiana.. Lol.

Ditto for taking the time to post up pics and details!

#11 Leang

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 01:07 AM

whats on spec paper really doesn't matter if it's lit well. it's great that pro cameras can differ in image quality, but preference and budget from an indie perspective all these cameras work great in dynamic range. the grading artists are really the ones that make an image shine, and when
Iit by an amazing DP that fantasizes about composition and light you get an even better image to work off of.

#12 hmcindie

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 12:03 PM

I'm gonna have to slightly agree with the assessment of the Alexa. Have you guys noticed how a lot of tv-series look very much alike nowadays? Yup, that's Alexa for you. Also I disagree with a lot of these "hyped up" great looking shows. Game of Thrones. Shot on Alexa. Every damn review site claims it looks great. To me? Very average. You can see exactly how each shot is lit. Half of everything is done on a studio stage. No character, no persona. And every show is starting to look 100% the same.

It's a great cam but people are using it completely alike.

#13 HurtinMinorKey

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 04:31 PM

I'm gonna have to slightly agree with the assessment of the Alexa. Have you guys noticed how a lot of tv-series look very much alike nowadays? Yup, that's Alexa for you. Also I disagree with a lot of these "hyped up" great looking shows. Game of Thrones. Shot on Alexa. Every damn review site claims it looks great. To me? Very average. You can see exactly how each shot is lit. Half of everything is done on a studio stage. No character, no persona. And every show is starting to look 100% the same.

It's a great cam but people are using it completely alike.


I call it the "Downton Abbey" look. Oversaturated. Better in the highlights than it is in the shadows.

#14 galenb

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 08:52 PM

I'm gonna have to slightly agree with the assessment of the Alexa. Have you guys noticed how a lot of tv-series look very much alike nowadays? Yup, that's Alexa for you. Also I disagree with a lot of these "hyped up" great looking shows. Game of Thrones. Shot on Alexa. Every damn review site claims it looks great. To me? Very average. You can see exactly how each shot is lit. Half of everything is done on a studio stage. No character, no persona. And every show is starting to look 100% the same.

It's a great cam but people are using it completely alike.


I totally agree that all these shows look the same and very boring. However I'm certain that this has nothing to do with the Alexa an everything to do with the DP and Colorist. Also, a lot of these shows are shot with an extremely low budget so I wouldn't hold it against them. and don't forget there's also all the extreme color grading that goes on all the time now in Hollywood. I really don't think you can blame the Alexa for this. Not to mention that a lot of these shows are shot on red/F65/film/whatever and still look exactly the same to my eyes as well. I think it's just a "look trend" more then anything.

#15 Julian

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 10:54 PM

Do they look the same? I don't watch much, but I saw a trailer of Games of Thrones recently (didn't know what it was, I thought it looked kinda 'funny'.. then I saw the title), it didn't look anything like Homeland or Dexter which I watch both and are shot on Arri Alexa.

By the way.. I noticed some moire in Dexter a few episodes ago, must have been the D800.. ;-)
It was pretty obvious:

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