Category Archives: JSD labs

Yokohama in 8K – A Panasonic GH5 6K Photo Mode Anamorphic Exercise

Becoming impatient waiting for Panasonic to release the firmware update with full resolution Anamorphic mode, I decided to take Friday off and try to get some good shots around Yokohama using the 6K Photo mode. It didn’t end up going as planned, but I decided to upload a few shots anyway.

In order, the shots were filmed at Yamashita Park, Osanbashi Pier, the Landmark Tower Sky Garden Observatory, and Ishikawacho Chinatown.

As luck would have it, it ended up being one of the hottest, or the hottest days of the summer. It made it hard to move around, focus (mind and lens), and it was really hazy overall. Not ideal conditions when trying to get your best shots. I think many of them came out great, but double focusing the Ultra Star got tedious when every shot was so different. I had issues with vignetting that I couldn’t see because it was so bright out. I wanted a good variety of shots, but I also knew I couldn’t do a long video. 8K is a pain in the ass to render and the file sizes are huge.

I kept my gear light, using a video tripod, rails, and external mic. I had originally planned to do 5.1 surround audio, but my mic setup failed for whatever reason. I apologize for the on camera audio. I was filming with the GH5, the Panasonic 45-175mm f/4-5.6 lens, and the Chinatown shots were done with the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2. Most of the early shots were done with a variable ND, and the shots inside the Landmark Tower observatory were with a CPL.  Any landscape shots were done at f/8, closeups at f/4, and all night shots were done at whatever f-stop to keep the shutter speed at 50, about f/2.0-3. I used 1+ and 3+ diopters for close shots.

Yamashita Park had lots of great places to film. I will definitely go back when I have the chance. And yes, All Star by Smash Mouth suddenly started playing while filming. They also played I Try by Macy Gray, making me think that the park’s music CD was from 1999.

Osanbashi Pier apparently shakes just enough to not be compensated by Dual IS. It was constant the entire shoot but I didn’t notice until I got home to check the shots. After Effects Warp Stabilizer did a good job eliminating it, but had I known I would have done the shots handheld.

Landmark Tower’s Sky Garden was great. It cost 1,000 yen just to enter, but they had no issues with me using a tripod. (Many Japanese tourist sites don’t allow them) The glass reflection, however, was really difficult to deal with, even with a CPL. I couldn’t get the lens close enough to the glass to eliminate it, and the glass is so thick/layered that even then there were still reflections. Some of the shots I took with my iPhone right up against the glass had reflections.

The shots in Chinatown came out great. I would have filmed more but I was already super tired by that point. I also had limitations, as if I wasn’t careful I got heavy vignetting with the Isco Ultra Star and the 42.5mm lens. I need a bigger variable ND if I’m going to use that setup. I tried to film a guy making candy, but his lights were so bright that I had to stop down to f/5.0, and it gave ugly dark corners.

 

The next challenge was working with the damn H.265 files. I repackaged them in Handbrake (who decided to change the dimentions on a few videos for no reason), and they worked OK in Adobe Premier. I have a pretty fast computer that can handle 4K stuff with zero issues. But it was like I was in 2008 with HD files on a 2006 computer. Press space bar, wait 5 seconds, it plays. The edit took far longer than it should have. And that was after rendering all the shots at 1/8 resolution. The rest was no-nonsense, I imported it into After Effects for color correction (something I am still not good at) and then it came time to render.

After researching if there was a better way to render 8K video and failing in all attempts, I decided to try just slightly reduced settings from my early experiment that I rendered using GoPro Cineform and just hoped the file would be under 128 GB.

After 3 hours of rendering, I was left with a 3 minute and 19 second,  42 GB large, 9984×3744 sized video. I’m listing it as 8K, as Youtube will only support up to 8K right now.

Overall, I guess I’m happy with it. I think the shots could be cleaner. I think if I brought more gear and my square ND set I could have got better overall compositions. Double focusing is not an ideal process for getting perfect shots on the fly, and some of them are not as clean as I’d like. When Panasonic offers the full resolution 6K Anamorphic mode, hopefully it won’t be in that god-awful H.265 format. Until then, I think I’m done with the 6K Photo mode.

I need to get more hard drive space. This is going to be a data nightmare year.

The GH5 Era Begins and the Start of Lots of Updates

So, after a deal with a very dangerous group of individuals, I have finally acquired a GH5. This wasn’t planned to happen for a few more months, maybe even a year… but hey… GH5.

Not having a GH5 is not the reason for the lack of updates. I was very sick over the past few months. Last year a had a bout with vertigo that came back with a vengeance this year. Makes it hard to focus on anything. This was compounded by a list of other problems I won’t mention here. I am much better now. That’s all that matters.

I will go more in depth into GH5 ownership as I go down the road. For now, let’s talk about the two videos I posted recently.

One of the huge differences between the G7 and the GH5 is the 6K photo mode uses the actual full sensor, where the 4K photo mode on the G7 did not. Another big difference is the use of H.265 for these video files, which are a pain in the ass to deal with. However, once the files are properly re-wrapped in Handbrake, you get a massive 4992×3744 video file. When doing my first batch of tests on the first sunny day in awhile (the weather has been horrible since I got the GH5, pushing back planned videos) I shot a few “6K” videos.  Of course I had to do it with an anamorphic attached. After all was said and done I had 20 seconds of 9984×3744 pixels at 14.1 GB.  The only codec that seemed to be able to handle it in Adobe Media Encoder was the GoPro Cineform RGB 12-bit preset. I was using the Isco Ultra Star and the Panasonic 45-175mm zoom, a combination I use for no-nonsense sharp images. It was a successful test, but I think I can do better. I may clean out my work drive and try a short edit of sorts to see how far I can push it. I may even get out the Zoom H2 and do 5.1 surround audio too. Wow.

On to the next…

I picked up a copy of the Möller Anamorphot 32/2x awhile ago, but didn’t get much of a chance to shoot with it. This is a very special lens. I wanted one after hearing you could just screw a 40.5mm step ring on the front and use it as/is. Well, this was the start of a few issues I had with mine. To keep it short, I ended up having to file down the inside of the step-ring to get it to fit right, and even then it took awhile for me to get the confidence to put anything on the step ring. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work to well with the Aivascope Focuser 8. It’s just a bit too long. It does, however, work perfectly with my set of 52mm Nikon diopters. The filter ring also doesn’t rotate when you are focusing, a rarity among anamorphic projection lenses. If you get the custom Redstan clamp for it, it’s a completely trouble-free lens and is incredibly easy to use.

The above video was shot entirely at f/1.4 and double focus. You can use it at 1.2 as well, but my only 1.2 lens is too wide to use the Möller in Anamorphic mode. It’s such a sharp lens… just unbelievably impressive. I am, however, lucky that I can even use it in this state.

When I was cleaning up the lens and getting ready to black out the edges, I had the filter ring completely removed to get at the edges better with my paint marker. However, the lens was set at infinity. And with the top lock collar also removed, a bit of pressure on the top of the lens pushed down the focusing part and the front element…. popped up. It was a nightmare getting it aligned properly again. But as you can see above, I did eventually get it right.

Lastly… having 60fps at 4K is pretty amazing. I will thoroughly abuse this feature. I will also have fun with the other high frame rates… but I already hit a roadblock with those. More on that later!

JSD Labs: Aivascope and Focuser 8 – First Test

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/214292200

I had a full scale review of the Aivascope planned. And then this happened:

It was the middle of my shoot day. I was taking off the Magfilter when it slipped out of my hand. Only fell 10 cm or so, but flipped on the way down.

Right now it’s on it’s way back to Lithuania to be repaired.  I will continue my tests when it returns.

As for the video above, I wasn’t planning to make a video with those shots. But I had to put together something while I wait. It’s not the best, but I’m happy with what I got.

First, a few quick things about using the Aivascope and Focuser 8:

  • The Focuser 8 is CLEAN. I sold my Elmoscope-II rig mostly because I never grew to love the SLR Magic Rangefinder and it’s random blue at all the wrong moments. I hope to try it out on other lenses when my adapters arrive.
  • The Aivascope is very difficult to use on anything that isn’t wide or small sensor by itself. I have the focus-through version. However, it shines with the set of vintage Nikon 52mm diopters I got for it. Diopters make it very usable, but the Focuser 8 is what makes it awesome.
  • The Aivascope works on the Sony RX100 IV. I need to make a stable rig to utilize this better. I don’t want to have another drop.
  • The Aivascope works on the iPhone 7 Plus with the zoom lens. Even in 4:3 mode using Mavis. Will shoot with this soon.
  • The Aivascope has pretty bad anamorphic mumps when using the wider end of it’s ability. This can be fixed with the AMC plugin from Tito Ferradans and Lucas Pfaff.

As for the video, I shot it on the Panasonic G7 at 1080p 60fps, with the exception of the first and last shots, which were shot on the Sony RX100 IV at 120 fps.

The first half of the video was shot using the Sgma 30mm 2.8 Art on a Beholder DS1. I still didn’t have the kinks of my custom PID settings worked out, so I did use Warp Stabilizer to smooth out a few bumps. Overall it worked. Once I get the combo right (and a camera with IBIS) it should be super smooth. The second half was shot on a monopod and with the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm 1.2. Because of the size, anything below f/2.0 doesn’t register a change. (It gets kinda dreamy below 2.8 anyway)

If I still had the lens I would have shot a grid to get the right AMC settings. Had to eyeball it for this video.

More to come! Let’s hope it returns soon.

JSD Labs: Anamorphic at f/0.95

(Vimeo)

One thing that I learned since getting into anamorphic is that fast apertures and anamorphic adapters do not mix. Most adapters will rarely work faster than f/2.0, with a lot of them going around 2.8-4.0. The fastest full anamorphic lens ever made is the Panavision 50mm f/1.0. Well, I think my 17.5mm f/0.95 has it beat.

My anamorphic is an unbranded 1.33x from the 90’s. While it may look like something from the Century Optics line, it’s more similar to the Sony VCL-W169. I have modded it a bit and it now has a filter ring, and have cleaned the class inside and out. I personally think some of the shots I get from it are better than the Century Optics stuff I have seen online. But as of now I have only tested it against the SLR Magic Anamorphot. Against the anamorphot it has it’s minuses and pluses, one of the big positives is that mine is smaller and doesn’t really vignette at all with the Voightlander. At night you can’t even really tell there is any vignette at all, especially in 4K.

I had been wanting to shoot a real test with this combo for awhile. I had done some test shots comparing it to the SLR Magic (may post those later) and various other things, but I really wanted to wait until I could get it on a GH4 or GH5. Got tired of waiting and my friend Yumiko was free to help with shooting, so I figured I’d go ahead and do one.

I shot at mostly 200 and 400 ISO, with maybe one shot at 600. I had planned to shoot the whole thing at 60p, but I had some issues with flickering at a shutter speed of 100 at random times, but I think it depends on the lights (It was really odd and random) so I may do another one all at 60 fps later. The under-cranked video was done at shutter speed 2 and then sped up in post. I also experimented with interpolating the 30 fps video to 24 fps, which worked nicely.

Used a +0.50 diopter for most of the shots of Yumiko. I think I used a +1.0 one time and then a +3.0 for the flowers at the end. I used a variable ND filter for the under-cranked video.

I told her we’d only be an hour. I didn’t want to spend all night composing a few shots. I wanted to see what I could do run-and-gun and then evolve what I learn for projects later. The +0.5 diopter really is magic… It’s what makes most of these shots possible. But even with it’s razor-thin focus, shots without the diopters can be just as sharp after a few meters or infinity. My only regret is that I didn’t go the extra mile and set up the Beholder for this rig. I didn’t give it much thought at the start because I had orignally planned to shot 60fps and thought it wouldn’t be and issue. Walking with that rig wasn’t too bad either way.

Lastly, I tried Speedgrade for the first time. I am usually horrible at color correcting, but I think I’m finally getting somewhere in Speedgrade. I decided to try it out to help simplify my workflow and it worked very well. I’ll do a few practice videos this week and watch a few tutorials to see if I can improve even more.

I have been shooting a lot lately, but nothing really complete. Just really trying to master what I have, or at least figure out how to get the best out of it. Might have to change a few things to get where I really want to be. Stay tuned…

Focus and Light Test #1

In one of many, I set up a quick lighting and focus test on my anamorphic rig. I have been shooting a lot with it, but there are still some things that I need to work out. The biggest issues are the flares and the focus. For awhile I have been shooting just on my 45-175mm zoom at f/4.0 because I wanted to be ready to shoot at a moments notice with few issues. But I want more bokeh for certain shots and the right kind of flares for others.

The 42.5mm, as I have said before, is the absolute bare minimum you can use on the Elmoscope. Vignetting really bothers me and it is really noticeable when using the OIS on the lens, as the vignette moves with the internals. These were shot with the OIS off as you could still see the movement even with a slider. Really frustrating. I wish I had a camera with IBIS so I could see if it had a better effect.

Overall… I’m not sure I am happy with the flares on these. Occasionally the flares from this rig look perfect. But some of these just look weird to me. I may have to switch it up with the Isco Ultra Star and see if I like that better. I have certain looks and certain feelings I want to convey. That, and the fact that these lenses react so drastically different in certain lights makes me feel I have a lot more to learn. Therefore, more tests.

JSD Labs: Zhiyun Smooth II, iPhone 7 Plus, and Mavis in Yoyogi Park

A few weeks ago I got a deal on a new Zhiyun Smooth II, the updated version. I had read, though I forget where, that it has really strong motors that let you use clip-on lenses on big phones. While the DJI phone gimbal seems to have good features, I had also heard that people had issues adding extras on their phone. I jumped on this one while I had the chance.

That said, the Smooth II does not lack in features at all. In fact, in this video I only used a small fraction of them, the main being the basic stabilization modes. I’ll try to do some more tests on it when I get a chance, but overall I am very impressed with this gimbal. It’s super solid and takes the same batteries as my Beholder, which is a bonus. The only issue I have with it is that it’s almost too light. For added stability (and more shooting options) I had it attached to a monopod for most of this video.

The big test for this video, however, was Mavis. I wanted to see how hard I could push it during touch and go shooting. Some of the shots pulled out of this session are absolutely amazing. However, there is still a learning curve and process that must be followed to use it correctly. Sometimes you forget that you have a fully manual control and that you have to change the settings manually for each shot. I tried to use the auto settings a few times, or had it set on target mode by mistake, leading to fluctuations of shutter speed or whatever. It was also kind of hard to see the screen in bright light sometimes. I think that with a polarizer filter and slowing down a bit I could consistently get clean shots with this rig. The Smooth II is nice and stiff when using the screen, so working with settings on the fly is easy.

Only issues I encountered overall were using the zoom lens with having the gimbal on the monopod and leaving some setting on Mavis in target mode. The vibrations are too much for the zoom OIS and it was hard to get a clean, steady shot while moving and using the zoom. No issues otherwise. I hope to see how far I can push this setup. Editing and color grading was surprisingly easy for most shots. The 100 MB/s files Mavis gives you have plenty of information to work with. Don’t let your shots get too dark, though. But I think that goes without saying for any kind of mobile video.

Big shoutout once again to Jesse of Ice Block, who let me tag along as he shot some b-roll for his upcoming feature, The Library. Here is the video he shot that day:

Finally, once again the music was made in the Novation Launchpad app. It’s a fantastic app for making worry-free music on the fly.  I have built up a cache of clips to use for future videos and even went and bought some of the sound packs. It’s fun and easy until I can get around to making more 100% original music.

 

JSD LABS: IPHONE 7 PLUS NIGHT ANAMORPHIC VIDEO TEST

(vimeo)

It’s been awhile since Mavis updated their app to take use of both of the iPhone 7 Plus’s cameras. I had a bit of time, so I went out to try filming some night shots with the iPhone anamorphic rig.

Some key differences and changes now are better PID settings on the Beholder for this rig, the ability to shut off the OIS, and the ability to lock things like shutter speed and ISO. I wasn’t trying for perfection for this shoot, as I wanted to see what ISOs worked on the iPhone. It’s not really known for clean nighttime video. I tried to remove some of the noise just to see how it looked, but it only worked on some shots. Looked horrible on others.

One of the best things about Mavis is the ability to shoot while in anamorphic mode. No guessing, as what you see on the monitor is what you’ll see on your timeline. And the ability to lock or set pretty much all parts of the camera settings make it one of the best camera apps I have ever used. It switches between the 2 cameras pretty well (it’s not instant, but I don’t mind) and was super easy to use, even with freezing hands in the night.

I decided to lock the white balance at Set 1 (2896k) to try to give a nice cool feel to the footage and to compliment the anamorphic flares. It worked well. Decided again not to color correct the footage so people could see how it looks right out of the app and phone. I am not sure if this affected the amount of grain in some shots, but I can always do another shoot later.

One of the big issues with the first shoot I did with the standard camera app were the distortions caused by the OIS. You can shut off the OIS in Mavis, which is fantastic. But you can tell which shots I turned it off in when I move too much. The Beholder does a great job keeping it steady for the most part, but it’s not perfect. It’s still a tiny rig. I did shoot a few shots with the OIS on, and some are not as obvious as others.

Overall it was a good test. It was my first time using the Mavis app and I really enjoyed it. Shooting at night on the iPhone is not ideal, but you can get some decent shots with the right settings.

I have fun shooting with this rig, but it does have it’s limitations. It’s not really a recommended setup for the average user. I just happen to already have what is needed to do it. I have a bit set aside for the new Moondog Labs anamorphic when it comes out, but I want to find a good stabilizer that will work with it. The smaller and more portable, the better.

But you know what I REALLY want? A basic, small stabilizer for my RX100 IV. Nobody makes one. You could seriously make one the size of the current iPhone and GoPro stabilizers. Somebody get on this.

Lastly, the music was done in the Launchpad iOS app. It’s a nice go-to for somewhat original free music when I have no time to look for something.

JSD labs: 2.0x Anamorphic Rig Tests

(vimeo)

Finally getting around to doing some test shots and setups with my anamorphic stuff. I recently picked up an Elmoscope-II and a SLR Magic Rangefinder to make the filming process a bit easier. I had done some tests with my other lenses (they’re on instagram) so I wasn’t completely lost as to what to do. But I still ran into some challenges.

I originally filmed with a clamp and lens support on rails… but on the first day of shooting I had a few scary moments with the lens just… falling out of the tightened clamp. I NEVER had that happen with my Isco Ultra Star. I discovered my Sigma ST-21 tripod ring fits the Elmoscope PERFECTLY (like it was made for it) so I have been using that since. When on the tripod ring you can only use it with the rangefinder. I ordered a Redstan screw-on clamp made for this lens, because I have projects where I will need to dual focus.

Biggest issue when filming… Centering and vignetting.

Shooting on the Leica 42.5 proved difficult with the tripod ring.
Shooting on the Leica 42.5 proved difficult with the tripod ring.

The widest you can go on the Elmoscope is 85mm on a 35mm frame, which is what the Leica 42.5mm is on MFT. I tried to go with that, seeing that it had OIS and one of the best images you can get to start with. On the clamp it wasn’t so bad. But on the tripod collar the slightest movement will take it off center and give you a black corner. This is fine if you are cropping, but I haven’t decided if I want to crop any projects that I will be using this on. I like the super wide look. I also had issues with distortions that I didn’t have when the lens was on the clamp. No matter how tight I got everything down, I think there was still too much movement between the lens and camera. This could also have been triggered by the OIS, which is a problem I had with the iPhone 7 Plus and the anamorphic I was using. I want to try a camera with IBIS some time in the future to see if this cuts down on the warping. Until then, once I get my Redstan clamp, I will try it again.

Filmed with the Helios-44
Filmed with the Helios-44

I only shot with the Helios-44 at night, which is where I think it shines. You can tell the differences in the shots. The Helios just gives this amazing glow to everything. Unfortunately, that’s not what you always want. They obviously don’t match the other shots in the same area. Also, I’m not sure if this is just my copy, but my Helios-44 goes…beyond infinity? When I originally set it up on the rig I thought that something was wrong with the Rangefinder or Elmoscope. Set everything to infinity, and…. blurry. It was only when I was trying to dual focus it that I realized the focus ring doesn’t stop at infinity and infinity isn’t marked properly. Made it a pain to get right and sharp. I’m going to try and get another Helios-44 and see if it’s the same.

Another issue I had was the golden or white halo. Depending n the sun or light angle, it would fill all or half the corners. I know some people like it, but I don’t.

You can see the light vignetting on the bottom of the frame.
You can see the light vignetting on the bottom of the frame.

This was an issue I had on my Ultra Star too. A little too late, but Tito Ferradans over at Anamorphic on a Budget JUST released a video on how to fix this here: Kowa B&H Edge Blackening. I will definitely be doing this to my lenses.

Lastly, I am not 100% sold on the Rangefinder. I think it has it’s uses and benefits, but I can see why a lot of people don’t like the blue flares or dots this thing makes.

The blue is super strong and can clash with some scenes.
The blue is super strong and can clash with some scenes.

On the plus side, the Rangefinder performed very well as far as focusing. I was able to get very sharp images from 2.0 and up on the Leica and 2.8 and up on the Helios-44. I even put a 1x diopter on the front and it focused closer very well. I plan to try some stronger diopters when I get the chance. The ONLY negative aspect to focusing was how much I had to turn the damn thing on a follow-focus. But, I think with some better gearing (and maybe a better follow focus) that could be solved.

Overall, I think this setup has some potential. My goal is to work on it until I can get 100% cinema-clean images. That will take modifying the setup AND how I shoot. I may be uploading a ton of shorter tests until I am 100% happy with the results.

Can't beat that anamorphic bokeh.
Can’t beat that anamorphic bokeh.

I also want to thank Jesse from Ice Block for helping me out and being in the video. I had a hard time getting people to commit and be in my videos for some reason.

JSD Labs: iPhone 7 Plus Anamorphic Video Test

iphone7plusanamorphictest2

(vimeo)

After a week of waiting, I finally received my iPhone 7 Plus from docomo on Saturday. With little time for tests and setting up, I  ventured out to Hakkeijima in Kanagawa the next day to shoot some video with a rig that I wasn’t even sure was going to work.

Because none of the manual camera control apps worked with the dual lens setup yet, I decided to do this first test with just the Camera app. Keep it basic, no color correction just to see what the rig can do. I had tested the setup with my iPhone 6 Plus last week after receiving the Tarion Cinema Mount, but even though it worked well, I had no idea if the dual camera setup would even be possible on it.

Luckily, it did work. I should have documented this process better, but there wasn’t too much to it. I am using an old 1.33x anamorphic that was made for video cameras in the days of 4:3. It’s unbranded, but it’s about the same size as the Sony VCL-W169. These are very rare, and while I have heard of others like mine on the internet, I haven’t seen another for sale in years. However, SLR Magic quietly released a new Anamorphot that has 52mm rear threads like mine that would most likely work with this setup as well if you want to build something similar. This is the only way to get an anamorphic on the iPhone 7 Plus until Moondog Labs releases their adapter later this year.

The major issues I had were with the OIS and the Beholder. Half of it may be attributed to my custom PID settings being for my Sony RX100IV on the Beholder, the other being the OIS would cause the lens to shift where you could see the edges of the anamorphic. Once the Mavis app is updated for the 7 Plus, I’ll give it another go and play around with shutting the OIS off when on a stabilizer.

Switching between the cameras worked really well. All of the automation in the Camera app seems to do well judging the shots, but I am excited to try it out with manual controls. I am especially curious on how the apps out there will deal with the zoom lens, as it has a few quirks I will go into in another post.

Overall I am pretty happy with the results. I tried to color correct a few of the shots and I was very impressed with what the camera can provide out of box. Once I have updated apps and have fine-tuned the setup better, I will give a a go again and really see how far I can push the iPhone 7 Plus cameras.

JSD labs: Show and not tell.

One of my biggest frustrations on youtube is how people feel they need to talk 10 minutes about what their doing before they show us what we came there to see. On top of that, even if you explain everything in the video, people will still ask the same questions in the comments. I just want to see whatever you have in action, not your inane initial thoughts.

So, I made a channel that will only be for product demonstrations, tests, behind the scenes, and so on. It is my goal to keep it visual and pair it with a blog post for those who care to know more.

For now there is nothing there. I will add content when I have it.

JSD labs on youtube.