Category Archives: Video

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.

Hello Yokohama.

Wasn’t planning for this to be my first upload, but all my main projects are taking more time than I planned for various reasons.

I never get tired of city visuals in Japan.

This was mainly practice using the 1080p  120 fps feature on my Sony RX100IV. I wandered into main areas of Yokohama with the camera on my Beholder DS1 and just filmed whatever. It has no post stabilization and no additional time warping or remapping. Just re-interpolate the 120 fps to 24 fps and this is what you get. Aside some issues with color correcting (something I really need to practice more) I’m about 75% happy with how it came out.

Music was thrown together from something else I was working on rather quickly, so it’s not the best mix. No soundcloud until I make something I’m at LEAST 60% happy with.

Also available on vimeo.