Friday, November 3, 2023

Did I Enjoy the Great Joy? A look at the budget anamorphic.

Around May of this year I sat in on a short-film project in Taiwan that was a production for a contest in Taipei. I didn't get to do much on set (may write more about that later), but I did get a few shots with the Great Joy anamorphic set. You can take a look at the lenses here:


The only anamorphics I had previously been around were much more cost-prohibitive versions such as Kowas and Cookes. The Great Joy is definitely not one of these, but it does have a great look to it overall. The only issue I had with the Great Joy series was with their color. 

I had seen on YouTube reviews that stacked the Great Joy against other cheaper anamorphics and most agreed that the Great Joy had a warmer color cast. I found this to be slightly problematic in post. Let's take a look at one of the shots:


This is the initial shot, in log, with no grade:


This is the same shot with a base grade, balancing the exposure and bringing in more contrast and saturation:

The camera was a BMPCC6k set to 5600k. There was an Apurture light set outside the window that was set to 5600k. There was a warmer light in the room on the shadow side, but it was very far back. As you can see there is a yellow/green tint to the whole shot. The pocket 6k skews a bit green, so I had the in-camera tint set to +10. After doing the base grade, I went in an worked on the skin tones and the background separately. This was the result:

That's at least a good baseline to start adding secondary grades and looks after the balance. I love the look, but I'm not fond of the color shift. If you are a solo shooter without much of a background in post production or color correction, this lens might get you into trouble. It really reminds me of the days of trying to grade Slog footage before Sony updated their color science with their new line of cameras. 

If you're an EF shooter, Great Joy seems to be your only option in the budget anamorphic range, save for Schneiders which are almost twice as much. I love how the mount is an interchangeable EF to PL. Although, now Blackmagic seems to be moving to the L mount, which I believe causes a lot more problems than solutions for Blackmagic film and video shooters looking to invest in a lens ecosystem. More on this later. 

So, to make a long story long, Great Joy equals a great look, a nice interchangeable mount, an "affordable" price, but a troublesome color shift.

Andrew J. Fann

#VideoProduction #Taipei

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Follow This - Meet the Gaffer

Luke Seerveld has started an invaluable series on his YouTube page for anyone interested in grip and gaffer tips for mostly small to medium sets. At present, there are 80 lessons, and I hope many more to come. Check it out!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Histogram - Things to Consider

This video is the best video that I've seen on advice to consider for using your in-camera histogram.

For more of Mr. Granger's videos, go here.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Auto Focus and the Crazy Temptation to Be Lazy with Film and Video

Focus tracking is becoming more sophisticated every year. Nikon and Canon both have their strengths and weaknesses, and both have good focus tracking, but this is an area where Canon excels. I still prefer Nikon for things like landscapes, but if you are in the sports photography/video racket, or thinking about going into it, I would definitely go with Canon if you need focus tracking for fast movement. The fast auto focus on both of these cameras has made things like rack focusing on a run and gun much easier; especially, when you're a one-man band.

However, you must still be careful. These functions are great, but relying on your camera to make all your focusing decisions can still be tricky. I have had some slightly fuzzy shots from the Canon's auto focus at work. These technologies work amazingly well, but they still aren't perfect. I would still recommend taking the time to do a manual focus on video shoots just to be on the safe side. You don't want to totally rely on your camera for focus out in the field, and then realize that it let you down when you review the footage in post.

For those of you who don't generally do this, or are new to it, select your talents eyes with the focus point in live view, and enlarge that point with the magnification button. Make sure that your talent's eyes are sharp, and then go back to your normal view. If you have a production camera with a built-in zoom lens, or a really expensive T-stop cinema lens, you can generally zoom into the eyes, focus, and then zoom back out without losing the focus. WARNING: Don't try to zoom in and focus and then zoom back out with a cheap zoom lens. You will generally lose the focus whenever you zoom back out. With these lenses use the method that I described for live view.

Feel free to share if you have any horror stories with this.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Don't be a Fanboy (or Girl)

I recently posted a blog about my displeasure with issues that I was having with a certain model of Canon camera and recently, after watching many reviews on YouTube, I decided to remove it.

Canon fans, much like Apple users, basque in the glorious knowledge that their cameras are the best, even in reviews versing other brands, despite the technical specs and performance tests declaring otherwise. I hate when someone gives reviews with a lot of opinion thrown in that doesn't really have anything to do with tech specs or even accurate user experience. Until the time that the D500 came out, I started to refuse to watch any more DigitalRevTV reviews of Canons, because it got to the point that, if he even had to touch a Nikon, he got so whinny and bitchy that it just became unbearable to watch. I don't know, maybe he thought that he was being amusing. A second example is here:

   Canon 5D MK III vs Nikon D800 with Nathan Elson

I generally like the reviews on TheCameraStoreTV, but this time you could tell that it was almost painful to admit that the Nikon D800 was outperforming the heralded, flagship model of Canon, the 5D mk III. Even at some points making comments about how there would be a work around for the Canon in post. Excuses that would never be made for a Nikon if it were coming in at an extremely close second like this.

My point is this: BUY WHAT YOU LIKE!!!

Don't listen to hype or preference. Go by tech specs for what you will be using the camera for, and try to find unbiased user experiences. I use DSLR's mostly for film, and most are great. The Canon 5D mkII-III got a great reputation among indie filmmakers, because it was the first to make high quality video accessible and portable outside of Hollywood. It is a great camera, but so is the D800 (and D810). The D800 has also been used cinematically. It was used to shoot on Dexter and other features:

Nikon D800 Holds Its Own in Hollywood: from Janusz KamiƄski to 'Dexter' and 'Wilfred'

I use a 70D & 80D for filming at work - love them! I own a D5500 (Hopefully, a D500 soon) - love it! I've used many DSLR's - Panasonic, Canon, and Nikon. I've gotten great results with all. Use what you like, and what works best for you. Just make sure you use more than one brand before forming an unwavering opinion, and don't be  a douche about other peoples choices. This goes for editing software too!!! I prefer Adobe, but if you use FCPX or SONY Vegas, it doesn't matter!!! Use what you are comfortable with and what you get the best results with. And again, don't be a douche about it.

For great tech spec comparisons between two cameras that you might be considering, I would recommend They give results based solely on tech specs. Also, try Micheal the Mentor on YouTube. He gives a very thorough and unbiased technical comparison between camera models.

So, to recap, use what you like, have fun, and don't be a douche.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

BeachTek Box - Single System Audio

   Hello again, everyone. Even though I work for a television station now, we still try to keep things low budget. The majority of filming for our local, commercial clients is done with DSLR's, and we generally use single-system audio. So, that's what we are going to talk about today.

    The whole time that I was learning to wield a camera and capture sound in college, I was always told to record sound separately when you shoot with a DSLR. Every bit of research that I did outside of school (generally reading books or watching videos by sound engineers) reinforced this mantra. As a standard practice, I would still recommend having a separate system/device, and possibly even a person, to record sound. However, the reality for most of us is that we are usually a one man show. Let me quickly explain the difference between options. .

    Sound can be either recorded single-system or dual-system, generally. Single-system sound means running the microphone directly into the camera, which can be done with higher end cameras with no problem, usually via a XLR input on the camera.


    DSLR's really aren't built with the processing power for sound that other cameras which are strictly built for video have, and they don't have the balanced inputs. So, generally speaking, you don't want to record sound in-camera with a DSLR. However, there are people who do it; albeit, I was never one of them - until now.

    At my station they use something called a BeachTek Box. It's a small box that acts as a preamp for an audio signal running into your camera. It looks like this:

    You run mics directly into the XLR input on side, the box boosts the signal (and limits it in some cases), and then sends it into the camera. I've heard that lower-end versions of these can be pretty noisy, but I have to say the BeachTek box works amazingly well. I've used it with shotgun mics and with wireless lavs and the sound is amazingly clear. I was pleasantly surprised. Even to the point where I can't decide if I want to purchase one myself, or go with something like the Tascam DR-60D or the Tascam DR-70D. To me, the biggest issue would be price. The BeachTek DXA-SLR Ultra runs right about $300, and the Tascam DR-70D can be found now for about fifty dollars lower and has four inputs as compared to two. The DR-60D only has two inputs like the BeachTek, but is half the cost.

    B & H photo gives a great demo of the BeachTek DXA-SLR Ultra here;

Just for reference I'll include pictures of the Tascam devices that I've mentioned:

Tascam DR-70D
Tascam DR-60D

    The biggest drawback that I've heard about the Tascam recorders compared to the BeachTek is the build quality. The Tascam recorders are definitely a thin plastic, and the DR-60D has an audible step up and down with the sound when you adjust the inputs while recording, but I didn't detect that in the BeachTek. 

    Anyway, to recap, pleasantly surprised, need to purchase new audio equipment, not so pleasantly confused. If anyone has any feedback about these devices or any recommendations that they would like to share, feel free to comment. Thanks!



Friday, June 3, 2016

Practice Safe Commercial Creation - Use a Concept

    Since starting in commercial production, I could easily call this blog Lessons Learned the Hard Way, as problems arise all the time that you never even thought of or could read about. The biggest thing that will save you a headache throughout your entire project is having a strong concept. At it's inception, unless you have a solid concept, your project is doomed to be riddled with problems and quite possibly fail. It acts as a clear map for a direction to go in.

    In commercial work, if you work for a company, clients are brought to you through a person who works in the marketing and sales department. Together, you and the sales rep listen to the client's input and then guide the client through the creation process. Usually, this consists of whittling down what the client wants into one solid idea. Unfortunately, they most likely will want to give a you a laundry list of what their company sells or consists of. You cannot fit this into thirty seconds, and even if you could, every point would go by so fast that nothing would stick in the viewer's memory. You need to find a single point to make. A single point of focus or attack. A unique selling point (UPS) to deliver a strong message, and a message that plays to the client's strengths. For example, a client that is a seller of home building products comes to you to drum up business. There are five other businesses like this in town. The questions to ask are easy. First, why would a client come to you instead of a competitor? Second, what service, product, or unique feature sets you apart from the competition? In this case, other stores offered the same products, so there wasn't much that could be done there. However, as features were concerned, this client had a computer program that allows his clients to design their rooms right there in the store, and to get an immediate idea of what the outcome would look like. That is a strong selling point. You can work with that. Another good point, is that he can work with a contractor if you already have one. Making one to three points isn't terrible as long as there is a main focus, just don't do a laundry list. The viewer won't retain anything.

    Also, most clients will want to push their customer service as a selling feature. This is a bad idea for two reasons. First, everyone tries to do this. Second, customer service should be a given! If you don't have good customer service, you won't have a business for very long! It shouldn't be treated as something special or unique.

    If you're a freelancer, you may have to do all of this on your own, which can be both good and bad. Alone you have to find all of the clients yourself, do all of the negotiating, and then do the filming and editing. This can be cumbersome, but is preferable to working with a bad sales or marketing person. A good sales person will have a good idea of what time constraints that you are under with a thirty or even a fifteen second spot, and will direct your client to a clear singular concept for a commercial. Alternatively, a bad one can end up adding more work if they promise the client the sky and end up letting the client completely run the show, either because they just want the sale that badly or they don't know what they're doing. You get the money, but sometimes it isn't often worth it, because without a concept you usually have to spend a lot of wasted time doing re-edit after re-edit, due to the fact that the client really didn't know what they wanted to start with and they're completely shaping their idea as you create the spot. Also, sometimes you just have to give in to the client wanting a laundry list of ideas in the commercial because the salesperson, or even you, couldn't convince them that the single, unique selling point was the way to go. This will also cause endless hours of editing. This latter part can happen whether your salesperson is good or not. However, in the end, the client is the one paying for it, and you may not be able to convince them of what is successful.

   In later posts, I'll discuss ways to steer a client in the right direction, and even mistakes filmmakers make shifting the focus of a commercial to the wrong thing. Also, I will delve into movie concepts, which are a little more elaborate then commercials. As always, feel free to comment.