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Are people going back? ....to S16 ....to MF ....to limitations ....to older cameras?


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I just watched this video by Of Two Lands, where he talks about why he bought an OG BMPCC / P2K in 2020.  

Some of his reasons were sentimental, as he owned one early in his career and it worked well for him, but he also mentioned that a lot of people are going back to shooting S16, or are getting sick of a super-clear image, or don't want to have the 'crutches' of AF or slow-motion or the challenges and limitations of an older fully-manual camera.

We also had the P4K firmware update that added a S16 crop mode, the Ursa 12K camera has a S16 crop mode, and @JimJones argued that the new Ursa might attract purchasers purely for its S16 mode:

@crevice Argued that the BMMCC still matters, and received much agreement.

 

When the P4K first came out there was a lot of anticipation of getting a 4K BMPCC but then disappointment that the image wasn't the same, and that it looked too modern and too clean and too high resolution.

After all this I wondered what it was about the image from these cameras that attracted so much praise.  I even heard that the BMMCC was a "baby Alexa" due partially to its colour science, but also in other ways too, such as motion cadence, resolution and codec support.

I bought one and tried emulating its image with my GH5 (a project which is still ongoing):

I had a theory that this interest in lower-sharpness (and to some extent low resolution) cinema was a nostalgic thing amongst those who grew up with cinema being celluloid rather than digital acquisition and distribution, but the " cinematic / film / organic / LUT / hipster " crowd is getting younger and more interested rather than less, so I wonder - is this a thing?

Are people feeling a pull to go back?

....to go back to S16?

....to go back to MF?

....to shooting slower and more deliberately?

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A lot of it does come down to expense and time. 1080p Prores is easy to process and has plenty of detail and especially color information for most people. Almost any computer can process it.

I just watched this video by Of Two Lands, where he talks about why he bought an OG BMPCC / P2K in 2020.   Some of his reasons were sentimental, as he owned one early in his career and it worked

I am moving to 8K smartphones 😂

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A lot of it does come down to expense and time.

1080p Prores is easy to process and has plenty of detail and especially color information for most people. Almost any computer can process it.

Manual focus lenses are cheaper than AF lenses. And older ones are plenty sharp for most work. 

Super 16 zoom lenses are cheap and have a very wide range making it easy to get coverage without switching lenses. They are also easier to focus with a deeper depth of field.

Shooting slower and more deliberately means you don't have to shoot as much. 

People gave me some s*** for buying a old Sony F3. I bought it to save me time on set. I don't have to rig it up like a DSLR. I don't have to worry about HDMI's breaking, the tripod plate coming loose, or the battery running out in the middle of a take meaning I have to take my rig apart. I put it on the tripod, put a battery in it, and I'm good to go. 

I think the reason a lot of people are going back to these cameras is because they know them, it's a pleasing image to their eye right out of camera, clients aren't demanding 4K, and it saves them time achieving the look they want which means it saves them money in the end.

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I have an Olympus EM1 mkii that produces nice, stabilised 4K, but for video I've barely picked it up since I got my bargain-basement OG C100. The C100 still produces lovely organic-looking HD and coupled with a Ninja 2 (GBP200 off eBay) it's reasonably gradeable as well. My aim - as a hobbyist/would-be artist - has always been to create work that has that filmic quality we love and that aim is often in opposition to the ultra-sharp, high resolution video more modern systems generate. I have to do far more post work on my Oly video to get the look I want than I do to the Canon stuff.

 

So I think you're correct, in one sense, @kye, although I don't know how much your proposition would hold true to people who are earning their living producing video for clients who, naturally, will generally want the 'best' they can get.

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I think it boils down to a difference in aesthetics. In both cinematography and photography there are people who value sharp, clean, optically pure images from a camera and people who value images with character built-in. The "clean" camp argues that you can add character in post; the goal is to produce a clean image that you can take in any direction you like, whereas if the character is baked in you have fewer options. The "character" camp argues that it's hard if not impossible to duplicate the rendering of images with built-in character, and seeing how the camera rendered your images is half the fun anyway.

The arguments can be seen with both lenses and cameras. I've been following some of the threads on Cosina Voigtländer lenses for E-mount at the fredmiranda.com forums: the Nokton lenses have a lot of optical defects that create character, whereas the APO Lanthar lenses are among the most optically perfect lenses you can buy. People gravitate to one or the other and defend their decisions zealously. I think in the hands of a good photographer, the APO lenses are amazing, but most of what you see in those forums are photos from people who bought the APO lenses because they were optically perfect. Their priorities are more technical than aesthetic, and thus they tend to shoot photos that are technically perfect but boring to look at. The people who choose the "character" lenses tend to have more artistic sensibilities and their photos are usually much more compelling even if the images have soft corners, chromatic aberration, and other optical flaws. That said, good photographers with artistic sensibilities who choose the APO Lanthar (optically perfect) models can produce stunning and gorgeous photos too.

You can get gorgeous character-rich footage from the BMPCC 4K or 6K with the right lenses, lighting, and good color grading skills; have a look at some of these BMPCC 4K examples from the talented cinematographer Fabián Aguirre: https://forum.blackmagicdesign.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=116781&p=644858&hilit=aguirre#p644720

 

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1 hour ago, Tim Sewell said:

So I think you're correct, in one sense, @kye, although I don't know how much your proposition would hold true to people who are earning their living producing video for clients who, naturally, will generally want the 'best' they can get.

In a sense yes, and in a sense no.

Things like the OG Pocket probably don't make sense commercially any more, but @Geoff CB gets value from his F3 because it's more professional in form-factor than most alternatives at that price point, rather than more finicky in form factor.

19 minutes ago, bjohn said:

I think it boils down to a difference in aesthetics. In both cinematography and photography there are people who value sharp, clean, optically pure images from a camera and people who value images with character built-in. The "clean" camp argues that you can add character in post; the goal is to produce a clean image that you can take in any direction you like, whereas if the character is baked in you have fewer options. The "character" camp argues that it's hard if not impossible to duplicate the rendering of images with built-in character, and seeing how the camera rendered your images is half the fun anyway.

Yes, I agree about that.  Although that many would say that the motion cadence of some of the older cameras bests some of the new cameras.  Certainly shooting RAW on the OG Pocket is nicer than most h264 codecs, and would be more gradable, so if we take character to mean 'distortions' then actually compressed codecs lose out and RAW is actually less distorted as it's got higher bit-depth and less/no compression distortion.

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37 minutes ago, kye said:

Certainly shooting RAW on the OG Pocket is nicer than most h264 codecs, and would be more gradable, so if we take character to mean 'distortions' then actually compressed codecs lose out and RAW is actually less distorted as it's got higher bit-depth and less/no compression distortion

The "character" I'm referring to boils down mostly to the lens and the sensor, not the compression type or raw vs. compressed. But even shooting ProRes HQ on the OG Pocket, Micro Cinema, etc. is better than h264 and that's mostly how I work; I hardly ever shoot raw except on my Micro Cinema where it's too much trouble to dive into the menus to adjust white balance. I think of h264 as a delivery codec, not something you'd actually want to work with for editing or color grading. On the very rare occasions when I have to shoot h264 (e.g., on my Sony A7iii) I transcode to ProRes for editing and grading. That doesn't improve dynamic range or anything, since the compression was done in-camera, but it's a lot less work for my computer.

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I think both camps are the same. Either you do pre-work to get the organic image (vintage lens, diffusion filters, etc...) or you do post-work in the NLE. I guess the only difference is one is derived physically and the other is fake digital de-enhancement 🙂.

So what makes an image “organic” and what can you do in the pre-work that you can’t achieve in the post-work?

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1 hour ago, Video Hummus said:

I think both camps are the same. Either you do pre-work to get the organic image (vintage lens, diffusion filters, etc...) or you do post-work in the NLE

I'm not sure everyone actually wants an "organic image," whatever that means. I think there's a camp of people who prefer a modern, clean, sharp, digital look, and a camp of people who prefer something softer with more "artistic" rendering. But within the second camp, there are people who prefer to start with a tabula rasa (a clean, optically perfect image) that they can manipulate however they like, versus those who prefer the look to be baked into the footage. And I don't think the baked-in crowd is necessarily lazier, more pressed for time, or less skilled at post work -- they may simply like a camera/lens combination that asserts its own character and forces you to meet it halfway. It's similar in the audio world: there are people who want completely neutral, uncolored microphones and preamps, and people who want color and warmth out of the box.

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My anecdote is simple. 

I moved from a GH5 to a cheap EM10III.  The GH5 is awesome, but it's more than I need.  I also didn't like that I was resorting to shooting slow-mo a lot.  FWIW, I made a doc film 6 years ago on a GX7 and GM1.  Looked better than anything I've done in the 6 years since. 

It's certainly not the gear making my stuff better or worse.

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4 hours ago, Video Hummus said:

So what makes an image “organic”

In regards to optics, its the depth of field roll-off, the field curvature and aberrations.

 

4 hours ago, Video Hummus said:

and what can you do in the pre-work that you can’t achieve in the post-work?

Many optical qualities cannot be duplicated in post, such as depth of field roll-off, field curvature, aberration.

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1 minute ago, tupp said:

 

Depth of field roll-off, field curvature, aberration.

People composite cgi into all kinds of curvatures and aberrations all the time, matching the look of the shot plate. It's not magic.

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9 minutes ago, hmcindie said:

People composite cgi into all kinds of curvatures and aberrations all the time, matching the look of the shot plate. It's not magic.

Please try to use "CGI" to simultaneously duplicate the field curvature, DOF and DOF roll-off of a vintage lens in a skateboarding video, in which the camera and subject are constantly changing their distance from each other with the camera panning back and forth 360-degrees and with multiple subjects constantly moving all over the frame.

 

Please let me know how well that goes.

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The race to the most ultra clear, pristine image will continue but there will always be a niche that prefer (at least sometimes) an older picture or ergonomics. 

I got a Leica M9 some months ago which lacks live view, autofocus and a decent sensor but even that was not enough to satiate my analogue fever. I ended up getting a Nikon FM3a film camera a month later and have been using it since. Meanwhile I've been using a 4k HDR tv recently and marvelling at the 4k footage I'v captured with past cameras. 

My theory is that it has a lot to do with money tbh. When people are young they don't have much money and so they use whatever they can afford. As they get older, they buy better technology. However I don't agree with your assessment that interest in low-fi is increasing. Most people are shooting with phones and they keep making the cameras on those things better because its the only thing that really drives sales.

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2 hours ago, Inazuma said:

I ended up getting a Nikon FM3a film camera a month later and have been using it since.

I've recently been developing 120 film shot with a 70's Mamiya.  You're right.  Those that like analog will hew to the aesthetic.  I don't mind people doing stuff with what they want to do stuff with; got better things in life to worry about.

I'm fascinated by technology.  It's fun to see advancements even if I'm not benefiting from the latest and greatest.

For instance, I found Ang Lee's last film to be a cool aesthetic choice, but my latest favorite film is "The Lunchbox," and a lot of that film looks as if it's shot on a Hi-8 camcorder... 

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