Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer

Cinematic Excellence at 24 Frames a Second

The Top 3 NON-Game Changers Of NAB 2013

If I had to describe NAB in one word, it would be HYPE. Nothing like a bunch of manufacturers gathering together to outdo each other, making big promises and not meeting projected deadlines. If I've learned anything from previous NAB's it's that a product doesn't exist until it is shipping and available for immediate purchase. I'm going to push past the hype and share my thoughts on three pieces of kit that caught my eye amidst the sounds of the hype machine called NAB 2013.

Schneider Xenon FF-Primes
On the friday night before NAB I met up with Ryan Avery of Schneider Optics and he gave me Schneider's prototype Xenon FF-Primes to play with. The biggest advantage that these lenses have going for them is that they comfortably cover a full frame sensor. My prediction is that in the not so distant future the next camera "arms race" will be in sensor size. Buying a set of lenses that will work now, and well into the future is reassuring- especially for people or productions who have to make every penny stretch as far as they can.

If I were to boil these lenses down to their essence, I would say that they are modern lenses with a classic look. When they are wide open, they are slightly and pleasantly soft, with lower contrast. As the lenses close down they sharpen up and regain their contrast. While some people may see this as a defect, I see it as a benefit. With the increase of resolution in our cameras, seeing every pour on an actress is not flattering. So I find myself using diffusion filtration, or older lenses, to round out the digital image. And when these lenses are wide open, they do just that. However, if you need a sharper, more technically precise image, then just close down to a T2.8.

I really can't pass final judgement on the mechanics of these lenses, as they are prototypes, and are still undergoing refinement. But even so they were more than competent. With about a 300 degree barrel rotation, and ample markings for focus, these are true cinema lenses. The 75mm was a bit stiff, and it did breathe a bit- not a huge amount, but if you look for it, it is there. While some may scoff at the maximum aperture of T2.1, and having to stop down to a T2.8 to clean up the image, I find that a T2.8 is a much easier stop to work at for pulling focus, especially when working with a larger sensor camera like the 5D. While these are lightweight lenses when compared to other cinema glass, if you are upgrading from the feather weight SLR glass, you will notice a substantial weight increase. They are not well suited for running and gunning- they are real cinema lenses.

At some point I'd love to put these to the test like I did in the Portland Lens Test ...

I have been interested in LED lights since they first hit the market. The potential to produce large quantities of light at a mere fraction of the cost in a unit that will potentially outlast my work life is a great thing. However, I have continued to be disappointed with all of the offerings on the market. The two things that hold me back are poor color rendition, and the ugly shadow quality. With the Fill-Lite, both of these issues seem to have been addressed.

The Fill-Lite is a 2'x2' soft light LED panel that is only 1" thick and can be completely modular. You can set it up as one light (the 200), have it come as a 4 light unit (Studio), or build it as large as you want (The Wall). With a CRI of 90+ for the 3500k version, and 87+ for the 5500k, I have an LED that will finally allow me to get accurate colors without adding additional filtration as has to be done on other popular name brand LED lights.

Additionally, the fact that this light starts out as a soft light in a form factor that is only 1" thick is HUGE. I love the soft light look. So often I find myself using a kino through 4x4 full grid, a book light, or some other form of bounced light. These techniques produce great results, but they eat up a lot of floor space, as well as add to the time it takes to set up with the added gear. So the opportunity to get rid of gear, and shorten the time it takes to light, excites me. I'm looking forward to testing these lights out and comparing them to the other soft light methods I use.

Letus Touch & Go Plate
Speed and ease of use on set is the name of the game for me. The more cumbersome something is, the more I get frustrated with it. That is why the Letus Touch & Go Plate (T&G) excites me. The T&G is an affordable quick release mounting system that I can use on all of my gear. By mounting a base to every tripod, slider, steadicam, car mount, camera cart, or what have you, I can quickly move my camera with minimal downtime.

What I think sets this plate apart from others is its affordability (~ $250) and its flexibility. The dovetail comes in multiple lengths, allowing me to balance any rig I want. Additionally, it has tapped holes on either end where I can attach a rail mount, battery plate, or other accessories. Then, if I want to be super lightweight, I can bolt the camera directly to the dovetail and rock a complete rig without a cage. And if I wanted the full cage support, all of their current cages will mount to it.

When designing this piece of kit, Letus made sure that current MCS owners would be able to integrate it into their systems as well. Two plates unbolt from the plate, flip over and the current MCS baseplate snaps right in. However, I'd recommend switching over to this new system, as it is lower profile, lighter weight, and significantly more robust than the current v-lock system that the MCS uses.

While none of these products are revolutionary game changers of NAB 2013, they are all pieces of kit that will be helpful to use in the year ahead.

So what do you think? What caught your eye at NAB 2013? Are there any products that you liked that go beyond the marketing hype and will actually be useful on a daily basis?

Until Next Time - Get Out There And Shoot!
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