Theo van de Sande, ASC on VariCam 35


While I was visiting Panasonic and the VariCam 35 factory a couple of weeks ago, Theo van de Sande, ASC was shooting a TV Pilot with one of the first cameras. Here are his comments. A full report on the design and manufacturing of VariCam 35 will appear in FDTimes soon. 

JON FAUER: You just finished a TV pilot with one of the first Panasonic VariCam 35 cameras. How did this happen?

THEO VAN DE SANDE, ASC: Between features I have done many documentaries with my wife Michele Ohayon and continue to do them. During a documentary about autistic children we realized that 10 minutes maximum (one 400 ft roll of film loaded in the camera mag) was not good enough to capture the things we were after.

So, for our documentaries, we then switched to a digital HD format while I kept shooting my Features on film. That was a long time ago, around 2000.

The Sony 900 was the first HD camera we used, but I hated tape and switched immediately to one of the first Panasonic P2 cameras when they became available. I found that, although Panasonic was typically a TV company, with a TV-based camera, their cameras at that time could produce pretty good film-like images. That’s why a lot of independent filmmakers started to use the Panasonic camera. The later Panasonic cameras had also a Dynamic Range Stretcher (DRS) function and a very clean AVC-Intra100 compression codec.

Now I jump to now. When I got an offer to do an Amazon pilot with the request–not the request, but the condition–that I only could shoot with a camera 4K or higher–I thought, “Well, that’s ridiculous. So I cannot use the ARRI Alexa which I used lately a lot for my features and TV pilots.”

Couldn’t you up-rez the Alexa to 4K?

They only wanted 4K or more. At first I thought that was a little weird. But then I remembered how much the ASC Technology Committee, in the beginning of the digital revolution, had fought against remarks like “HD is good enough!”

We found that 35mm negative was at least comparable with 4K digital. And we were planning not to stop fighting until we would have a digital format that had at least as much resolution as 35mm negative, meaning 4K resolution.

And now I found myself almost complaining about this “4K or higher resolution” request. Of course, I know that resolution is not the only important factor in good quality image, but it is a start. So after some thought, I was happy with it.

Because the future of Digital Cinema and TV is all going to be 4K and UHD.

Soon the cost of a 4K TV will be almost the same as an HD TV.

Best Buy already sells 4K TVs for under $2000. So, I thought I needed to shoot with the Canon C500 or the Sony F55, Sony F65, or RED Epic Dragon, all systems I had used before. I decided to think about it for a day. That same day I happened to attend the Panasonic 4K demo at the ASC clubhouse. Panasonic showed us the completely new VariCam 4K and discussed how post-production on the set could mostly be dealt with from inside the camera. I played with the camera a little bit, looked at the images on a high quality monitor that was available. I tried out their new “native” low light setting of 5000 ISO, and said, “Wow–somehow this 5000 ISO rating has just given us something very special, with great quality, to use in extremely low light situations”.

The Panasonic reps said, “There is very little noise using this 5000ASA setting and is not comparable at all with the noise that you see when you beef up the gain of other cameras to 5000 ASA.”

I said, “I have to believe you.” But in my heart, I didn’t, because I thought surely somewhere you have to give up some quality for that amount of sensitivity.

The results on the 4K monitor that I saw–and later the demo reel–convinced me that the quality of the image was really very good. And then I thought that I could go wrong as long as the camera runs. And even if certain things were not 100 percent ready, I was going to use this camera because I have had good experiences on all the documentaries I did with Panasonic’s cameras.

And the camera?

This was my first experience with the VariCam 35 camera. I worked with it for seven days. I love the idea of shooting simultaneously in 4K and 2K or proxy inside the camera itself. Immediately, I worked with the 5000 ISO setting because one of our locations was a very dark bookstore in downtown LA. With all the setups we had to do there would not have been enough time to light had we gone a traditional route. Shooting at 5000 ISO was “crazy.” It’s a completely different ball game. Your eyes are not used to it and we cinematographers are not used to it. I had to adapt very quickly to this new, low light level. The producers, director, writer, and Amazon people who visited the set were blown away. It was a very dark location, and what they saw on the monitor looked great.

So, I just jumped into the deep water on my first day. I saw things show up on screen that I didn’t think would be possible. In the interior of the bookstore, a practical lamp of 100 watts at 20 yards away, or even the tally light, would “pollute” the set with extraneous illumination.

I also was confronted with a whole new situation that I did not know of, something called “shot noise”. Panasonic made me aware of it and I researched it a little bit. It’s about the very small amount of photons that hit the pixels. It’s like when you flip a coin 10 times; it’s not going to be five times heads and five times tails. It’s going to be 6-4, 2-8, 3-7, or so, which means irregular exposure, a certain “new” type of noise But if you flip the coin a million times, it’s 50 percent.

The last scene of the production was nighttime at Venice Beach. There was very little light. The shops were closed, but the arches of the buildings were still overexposed, lit by some small fixtures. The palm trees were silhouetted against night sky, and I lit a huge area with just one unit from 100 yards away. The bottoms of the palm trees were lit with the headlights of our camera truck.

Lighting by teamster…

I lit the foreground with two battery-powered LED lights, one daylight and one tungsten, and that’s it. A lot of things were mind-boggling. Of course, we have to control the light in the same way as we always did, only with another approach.

For the night shot at Venice Beach, what was your aperture? Were you wide open?

I had a set of Leica Summilux T1.4 prime lenses from Otto Nemenz, who also provided the cameras and accessories. Yes, I used them wide open, T1.4, 5000 ISO. This was a unique opportunity and we were the first ones to try it. Amazon was really very bold. Almost any other broadcast company or studio would not have let me just go with a camera that wasn’t even on the market yet.

The only thing that I found was–and they have to work on that—a minor detail where the ALEXA has an advantage. ALEXA is what I call a “stupid” camera. Why? Because, if you push the button on an ALEXA, if even a baby pushes the button –with the default Rec.709 setting–you still get a good image out of it. The RED is a different story. The Sony is a different story.

The only time that I had a little problem was during the first day exterior. I used the V-Log (VariCam), but the default Rec.709 setting was not really good. The highlights were too overexposed. We knew how much detail there was in V-Log 4K. The Rec.709 default setting didn’t translate that. It should be more adjusted to the original dynamic range of the V-Log. This was the only thing that gave me (for one day) a little bit more difficulty in working outside in daylight. I made my own “default” LUT.

Did you have a DIT?

Yes, we had a DIT.

I make a lot of frame grabs during the day. At the end of the day, I have sometimes 100 to 150 stills. Then I choose around 10 stills and send them by email to the director, the editor, the writer, the producer, and the post house so that everybody is on the same page and knows what kind of mood I am creating. That way I keep control over my image. It is of course not ideal but it gives you a 75% idea of the mood.

Like using Polaroids in the film days.

Completely the same. Although in film, you didn’t see dailies until the next day. I use the stills to show my look to other people. And to keep consistency. In post, one guy at night might do a color timing and create a different look/mood than the director and I worked on during the shoot. And the editor is viewing mostly very compressed images, and then the director gets used to that image. I want to give them, from the get-go, the correct image. That way I am not the bad guy when I arrive for the final color grading and wind up changing the image that they got used to during editing.

I put all the stills that I’ve taken during the film in the order of the story. I work on my color correction in Lightroom on a big cinema display. When I go to the Digital Intermediate session, I take that monitor with me and let the timer look at my corrected images on my monitor. I’m not going to put it on some one else’s never-never matching big monitor. It saves a lot of time during the DI session and gives you the opportunity to work more on manipulating the images. It’s a lot of work. But it is very gratifying.

In addition to 5000, were you shooting at the regular ISO?

Of course, most of the scenes were shot at 800 ISO. The internal ND filters were very helpful, because they are very consistent. I sometimes used Tiffen 1/8 Black Promists to “soften the digital sharpness.”

You mentioned the 3 data card slots.

This is, in my opinion, genius. These slots are very small. You treat the 4K slot as if it were the digital negative.” You don’t touch that data. You have the SUB recorder slots where you can do all your work.

(Editor’s notes: The VariCam35 is almost a Near-Set Cart in the Camera. It features Double Recording—you can record a clone simultaneously and you can also record lower-rez proxy files at the same time.

The two MAIN recorder slots record 4K/UHD/2K/HD with AVC-ULTRA codecs (HD ProRes will be added) onto expressP2 card and legacy P2 cards.

The two SUB Recorder slots record 2K/HD AVC-ULTRA and Proxy files onto microP2 cards.

There is a fifth card slot for an SD card. This is not for video recording; it is for file management, system settings and transferring 3D LUTs.)

2K/HD is plenty of resolution for editors who normally work on highly compressed AVID DNxHD36 images.

The SUB Recorder slot lets you put almost your entire project on one little microP2 card, and that’s in the camera. You can review scenes or get a letterbox proxy version of the image, and you can download it at the end of the day. It’s lower quality, but it is enough to see your shots and more or less to know the mood.

This SD card is like a video assist system living inside the camera and could in the future be another big game-changer for post-production and on-set viewing.

So, you’re recording to a high-res master and you are essentially cloning copies in different resolutions in camera, in real time. You don’t have to touch the 4K. You download it. By the way, downloading AVC-ULTRA goes fantastically fast.

The camera doesn’t have RAW yet. They are working with Codex. I hope it will not be too expensive. For the 30 super-big budget films that are made in America nowadays, it doesn’t matter. But for the smaller films, like the 5, 10, 15, million dollar films, it counts a lot.

Tell me more about the Summilux-C lenses.

We used the Leica Summilux-C primes from Otto Nemenz. And for zooms, we had Fujinons. I used a new Fujinon 25-300 mm and the 19-90 mm zooms. I also worked with the handheld Fujinon 15-45 mm zoom. These are all great lenses.

What about diffusion?

This pilot was about a 36-year-old ex-supermodel who comes out of rehab after 10 years and still thinks she’s a supermodel, but the world has changed. I had to have scenes where she had to look very beautiful. The camera already produces very good skin tones, but for the beauty scenes I sometimes used the Schneider 1/8 Classic Soft filters.

If you use two or more filters in front of the lens on a digital camera you can get double reflections much more often than with a film camera. The ND filter wheel in the VariCam 35 camera is very consistent and I didn’t have to work with a mixture of IRND and normal ND filters, which are rarely the same That’s a big deal to me. Consistency gives me confidence on the set.

How did you get to use these early cameras?

These weren’t prototype cameras. They were the first ones off the production line. The hardware was ready enough and I promised Panasonic that I was able to work with what was ready in the software. The 2K slot and 120 fps weren’t ready yet. I couldn’t use the VariCam 35 feature that lets you can separate the camera head from the body like an ALEXA-M. I had to use it as one piece. I trusted Panasonic. I had always been an early user of their new file-based cameras.

This has been a fascinating discussion. Thank you so much.

No problem. I’m happy to do this, because your work is phenomenal. I follow FDTimes all the time. Nobody else will go so deeply into a piece of equipment. And it helps us tremendously.

I’m very thankful for somebody who does the research so unbelievably detailed that I can make my conclusions beforehand just by reading your articles.

Thanks. Although this time, you’re the one who did the early research on the VariCam 35.



Hawk V-Plus Vintage ’74 45-90 T2.9


Hawk V-Plus Vintage ’74 Front Anamorphic 45-90 mm T2.9 Zoom 

1970s Style: Vintage Vantage Advantage 

Vantage introduced their new Hawk V-Plus Vintage ’74 Front Anamorphic 45-90 mm T 2.9 Zoom Lens at Camerimage.

It is one of the few front anamorphic zooms on the market — providing glorious oval bokehs and the ever-popular look of front anamorphic lenses, along with vintage low contrast, flares, aberrations, vintage coatings — all in a modern mechanical housing that works with the latest accessories, matteboxes, and lens controls.

The new Vintage ’74 zoom provides similar performance and the signature ‘70s look of the Hawk V-Lite Vintage’74 Anamorphic Primes. The set includes: 28, 35, 45, 55, 65, 80, 110, and 140 mm Primes, and the new 45-90 zoom.

The new Vintage ’74  45-90 is based on the V-Plus (black barrel) Front Anamorphic zoom. It has 22 optical elements with 32 glass-to-air surfaces. Every surface has been modified or recoated. For more information, check out Vantage’s new web site:

Here is the current set of V-Lite Vintage ’74 front anamorphic primes and V-Plus Vintage ’74 zoom:





Band Pro Expo Spaghetti Western

Amnon presenting Enzo with Frederick Remington's  "The Broncho Buster"

Amnon Band presenting Enzo Castellari with Frederick Remington’s “The Broncho Buster”

The theme at Band Pro’s 2014 Open House and Expo was “Spaghetti Westerns.” The food was Italian inspired. Yes, there was spaghetti. The models in the hay-strewn camera shooting gallery were garbed in Franco Nero ponchos and Italian Western outfits. The center of attention was wonderful Enzo G. Castellari, Director of Keoma, One Dollar Too Many, Seven Winchesters for a Massacre, Go Kill and Come Back, the original Inglorious Bastards, numerous spaghetti westerns, macaroni combat films, and inspiration and friend of Quentin Tarantino.

Enzo graciously signed autographs for a devoted following of admirers at the Band Pro Open House. Amnon Band presented Enzo with a famous Frederick Remington bronze “The Bronco Buster.” An original is in the White House. When Theodore Roosevelt was presented with the statue in 1898, he said, “There could have been no more appropriate gift…” Enzo Castellari said, “But this is in the White House. I am overwhelmed. It is magnificent.”

There were several product introductions at the Expo. Convergent Design showed their new Odyssey7Q+ monitor/recorder.  What’s new is 4K/UHD video via HDMI and Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) recording.

AJA had a working, pre-release CION 4K/UHD camera that shoots directly to internal ProRes 4444 and should be shipping soon.

Eva Paryzka had the first Angénieux Optimo Anamorphic 30-72 mm T4 2S zoom in the USA.

Thanks to Jacques Lipkau Goyard for introducing Enzo Castellari. Hollywood Reporter reported, “Veteran Italian director Enzo G. Castellari, one of the last of the original Spaghetti Western helmers still working…has a new project planned.” Quentin Tarantino and Franco Nero are expected to star.

An interview with Enzo Castellari at the USC screening of Keoma is coming soon. During the Q&A, Enzo explained how he truly embraced digital filmmaking, allowing him to edit immediately on set and have greater control. He also said he might cast Amnon Band, who he called “a real actor” in his upcoming film project. The nature of the part was not revealed.

Click on first thumbnail below to begin slideshow.


Canon 7D Mk II and 70D on Broadway

Last week Mark Forman was invited to a Canon Press Event hosted by Broadway star Andrew Scott Rannells (“Girls,” “New Normal,” and as Elder Price in the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon.” He won a Grammy for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for the original Broadway Cast Recording. Other credits include “Jersey Boys” and “Hairspray.”)

The “Canon Bring It” crew supplied cameras to 20 members of the media. Mark was loaned two Canon EOS DSLRs: a 70D and the new 7D Mark II, along with a choice of lenses.

The event covered 3 stops: The Marchesa Showroom, a private backstage visit to the Broadway Play “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” and luncheon at the Palace Hotel.

I found the Canon 7D Mark II was better at higher ISO shooting than the original Canon 7D. The video is less noisy at High ISO settings. The 7D Mark II is more like a 5D Mark III except that it uses an APS-C sensor. The dynamic range is essentially unchanged. I liked phase detect focusing which was very accurate in every condition and could also be used in video for less demanding scenes. I still prefer manual focus most of the time when shooting video. JPEGs had a pleasing color. There are two card slots — for CF and SD cards.

I also tried out briefly the Canon 70D which to me is a slightly less-featured 7D and is less environmentally sealed in a less costly body. Maybe a bargain.

Here are some shots from the day. Used with permission from the Canon Bring It Event® New York City.



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Denny and Otto


Denny Clairmont and Otto Nemenz at the ARRI Alexa 65 Hollywood Launch.

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BSC Operators Night


Gibson Hall, the London venue for Operators Night

by Nigel Walters, BSC – President of IMAGO and Vice President of BSC

Operators Night was originally instigated as an opportunity for BSC Cinematographers to celebrate the achievements and companionship of their creative team members. Operators are alive and kicking in the British film industry and this annual occasion is intended as a token of respect and gratitude by the Cinematographers for whom they have worked.

In recent times the event has become a final opportunity for Companies, Cinematographers and Operators to meet before the Christmas celebrations. The venue for 2014 was one of the finest Victorian banking halls in London. Now recognised as a fine banqueting venue, it comfortably seated 240 guests of the Society. However anyone ordering an extra bottle of wine would have needed to be a banker at the cost of £28.

As an indication of the importance of television, the BSC instigated its inaugural Best Cinematography in a Television Award which was duly won by a recently elected member of the Society Tony Miller BSC for his work on the film “Quirke”.

Angenieux Team with Bert Easey Award. Photo: Nigel Walters, BSC

It is interesting to reflect that the first recipient of the prestigious Bert Easey Award was given to the Chief engineer at Denham and Pinewood Studios, George Ashworth, in 1949 for perfecting a beam splitter camera which advanced the technique of the travelling matte process. Much can happen in 65 years.

The Award is still given to an individual or company who has made an outstanding contribution by means of endeavour and equipment. Not for the first time the Bert Easey Award has crossed the Chanel, the BSC Board selection going to Thales Angenieux for the development and production of high resolution lenses. It was received by their President and CEO Pierre Andurand. A previous French winner in 1997 was Jean Pierre Beauviala for his contribution to advancement of camera technology.

The Arri/BSC John Alcott Award was first given in 1986 following the tragic death of the great cinematographer. It is given to an individual who has contributed most towards perpetuating the original aims of the Society. The Award was given to the editor of the British Cinematographer magazine, Ronnie Prince. Under his ten year editorship the journal has grown in international stature, indirectly furthering the aims of the BSC. The Award was presented by Judith Evans (Petty), Head of Corporate Marketing and Russell Allen Director of Operations at Arri.

The Final Award, the ACO, BSC/ GBCT Operators Award for 2014 was voted by membership for Peter Taylor for his outstanding contribution to the success of “Gravity”. It was a fitting end to an evening when the toasts were both to the Operators and the Society.


Sir Sydney Samuelson proudly showing his suspenders belonging to Richard Attenborough, with Sue Gibson BSC and Wolfgang Suschitzky BSC, born 1912. Sydney and Wolfgang have combined age of 191. Photo: Nigel Walters, BSC







Alexa 65 Launch in Hollywood

2014-08-27-ALEXA-65fdtimesThere were gasps of wonder and OMG tweets at the ARRI Alexa 65 screening last night. It was a fitting Hollywood venue for the official worldwide launch of the camera. The 65mm digital camera’s 6K images were projected on a 4K projector in the Linwood Dunn Theater at the Academy. These were the very halls where it had been agreed a while ago that film would not be replaced by digital until it looked as good–or better. This was better.

I was in the second row. The images were gorgeous and rock-steady. The front rows were the place to be. It felt as if you could reach out and touch the immersive images. Behind me, collective jaws dropped. The audience included Hollywood Technorati, Sci-Tech committee members, cinematographers, and Josh Pines with quick-witted quips.

The evening was introduced by ARRI’s Managing Director Franz Kraus and ARRI’s new co-Managing Director, Jörg Pohlman,  and Martin Cayzer, Head of ARRI Rental. ARRI Rental’s Neil Fanthom presented the technical details, and then he and Dana Ross provided commentary on the demo screenings.

For complete details and specs, please download our free November edition. 

Two new Alexa 65 image formats that I had not seen before cropped up in Neil’s presentation: 1.78:1 and 1.5:1. I would guess that 1.78:1 is in response to 4K dramatic TV production.

And 1.5:1  is virtually VistaVision, a whisker away from 36×25 Leica format (full frame still). Alexa 65 1.5 is 35.6 x 23.8 mm (42.8 mm image diagonal, 4320 x 2880 resolution). This is interesting because if an Alexa 65 were fitted with a Leica M, Canon, Nikon or other still format mount, it would have access to more than 2 Million full frame still lenses out there.

You could almost feel the winds of change in the Linwood Dunn Theater. Here was RAW uncompressed 6K, the equivalent of Walden Pond, compressed through a pipeline the diameter of a straw, thanks to antiquated DCI specifications. If the committee doesn’t draw up new specs quickly, these stunning images will find new homes in new venues outside traditional movie theaters, streamed and downloaded at higher resolutions and bit rates.

Nevertheless, even at current standards, the experience of sitting in front of a giant screen and watching images from this exciting new camera was thrilling. The first cameras go out on productions in January. At least 30 cameras will be built for rental only.

Two of the demo shorts were sensational: scenes of Alpine scenery and portraits of people at the ARRI factory. These were real people, mostly without makeup. The beautiful, high resolution scenes were shot with ALEXA 65’s Hasselblad/Fujinon/IB-E Optics prime lenses, clean, no diffusion or filters. These gorgeous shots should dispel anyone’s hesitation to use 4K-6K for faces.

For slideshow, click on first image below:

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AbelCine 25th Anniversary NYC

AbelCine celebrated 25 years in New York. The place was packed. Seminars, raffles, auctions, demos, and discussions.

The major companies presented their equipment and latest developments. Canon’s new 7D Mk II, Panasonic’s latest VariCam 35, Sony F55 and FS7 and the latest E-mount lenses, ZEISS, Convergent Design, Phantom, and many more.

There were some notable first sightings. Jean-Marc Bouchut showed what I think is the first Angenieux 30-72 sS  Anamorphic Zoom in the USA. It was a working prototype, with deliveries anticipated in the coming months. Superb image, no geometric distortion even at the wide end.

Steve Weiss showed Zacuto’s new EVF: Gratical HD Micro-OLED EVF. Image is sharp, bright, and easy to focus. It’s a very well conceived finder that will be welcome on many cameras, including Canon Cinema EOS, Blackmagic URSA, and AJA CION.

There was a nice memory lane in the showroom with an early Aaton LTR and A-minima — along with many of the first users swapping tales and checking who had the lowest serial numbers.

Video by Mark Forman of 25th Anniversary Cake and Speech.

Food was fine and plentiful. How often do you get superb sliders at craft service? Drinks flowed faster than workflow. Colleagues reconnected faster than an HMI re-strike. Congratulations Pete and Rich Abel and all the AbelCine family, friends, and staff.

Photos below by Canon G7X, 3200 ISO, 1.0-inch, 20.2 MP CMOS sensor. Click on first image for slideshow.


FDTimes in 5 Languages

Film and Digital Times now comes in five languages: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese. Click on the International Editions links at the top right of any page. So far, the international edition PDFs are free downloads. Enjoy.


BSC Bert Easey Award to Angénieux


L-R: Davy Terzian( Thales Angénieux Area Sales Manager Cinema/TV lenses), Dominique Rouchon (Thales Angénieux Sales Director Cinema/TV lenses), Pierre Andurand (President of Thales Angénieux) and John de Borman, BSC. Photo: Claire Pie for the BSC.

Thales Angénieux got the British Society of Cinematographers Bert Easey Technical Award at the annual BSC Operators Night on Friday, November 28, 2014.

The award is named in honor of Bert Easey, who was head of the camera department at Denham and Pinewood Studios in 1947, and was a key force in the formation of the BSC. The award is given to “an individual or company who has contributed something outstanding in the way of endeavour or equipment.”

Presenting the award at Gibson Hall in London, John de Borman, BSC, former president of the British Society of Cinematographers, praised the “really spectacular lenses” made by Angenieux “for the ‘new’ motion picture film and digital industry…which are now used on pretty well every movie.” John mentioned that, even now, vintage Angenieux lenses made in the 1960s work incredibly well on new digital cameras. (The vintage look.)

John went on to commend the optical design work of Bill Woodhouse and Joe Dunton, MBE, BSC, who modified Angénieux zooms into a 25-500 (20:1) T9 lenses for 35mm format. They were first used on “10 Rillington Place” (1971) and Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange (1971). Lightweight and small, one could say they were precursors to the current compact Optimo zooms.

By the way, Joe Dunton received the award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema at the British Academy Film Awards ceremony in 2010. A phone call to Joe at his office in Wilmington, NC yesterday promised further details to come on the 25-500 and other Angénieux lenses.

The Angénieux team said they were honored to receive the Bert Easey award – and especially grateful because it comes from the British cinema industry which is recognized for its great number of talented directors and cinematographers. The British market is one of the largest for Angénieux after the US market.

Pierre Andurand, President of Thales Angénieux, who attended the ceremony to receive the award, said it was an “honor and true privilege for the company to have been accepted for a long time by the members of the British Society of Cinematographers, who represent one of the most distinguished cinematography communities in the world”.

He also expressed his “warm thanks to all Governors and Members of the BSC, for giving this high recognition.”


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Get a Grip

E52G6557 RX100

Richard Franiec is a still photographer. He also is an inventor/manufacturer of elegantly machined metal grips for all those stylish but slippery still cameras that fit in your pocket but are not terribly easy to hang on to. I first saw them on Arato Ogura’s Sony RX100 in Japan, and now have them mounted to my RX100 Mk III and Canon G7X. Richard makes grips for all kinds of cameras. Here are views of how they are mounted. You can order them online.

AB2U9929 Canon G7X grip




Jon Dreams of Sushi

I began dreaming of Jiro on a visit to AJA last month.


Nick Rashby, President of AJA, invited me to dinner at Sushi in the Raw–in Grass Valley, CA.


Conversation freely associated RAW files, raw sushi, our upcoming trip to InterBEE in Tokyo, and the wonderful documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” Could we possibly score a seat at the hallowed altar of Jiro?


A few days later, Nick sent word “Game On.” Eric Hamilton, in charge of AJA’s Asian resellers and distributors, managed to snag us a reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi. The original Jiro in Ginza is closed on Saturday evening, but the Roppongi Hills Jiro is open.


It is located in the posh Roppongi Hills development of real-estate tycoon Minoru Mori, called the Trump of Tokyo. Sushi maestro Takashi Ono presides over the 10 seats at the counter and 2 tables. He is the second son of Jiro Ono, the 90-year old dreamer of sushi. If we were naming films, this would be “Son of Jiro” — as good as, perhaps better than, the original.

The expedition was at the invitation of AJA  and consisted of AJA’s Andy Bellamy, Ask Corporation’s Yoshihiro Maeda, Arato Ogura from ZEISS, and FDT’s Jon Fauer.

Lest Film and Digital Times be perceived as devolving into Food and Drink Times (eats, shoots, writes), we need to feign at least a few technical connections. Wildly stretching, do we see a similarity between sushi master Takashi Ono and the lens meisters we met at the Fujinon factory a few days earlier? And what is it with this fascination in Japan of German vocabulary: sushi meisters, baumkuchen, Makuhari Messe? (see: Meiji restoration, 1867-1912, Japanese scholars studying abroad, foreign experts and exports in Japan, German industrialization, Admiral Togo using ZEISS binoculars in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894 – 1895).

Dangling a pre-production demo-loaner Leica D-Lux with Vario-Summilux f/1.7 with MFT-size sensor and 10.9-34 mm zoom, I was ready to report, blissfully ignorant of the admonitions of Jiro the father in his book “Jiro Gastronomy.”

At the end of the evening, Andy Bellamy presented a copy of this book, containing Jiro’s Twelve Commandments of Sushi Etiquette. There it was,”Please refrain from taking photos of the sushi. The only sure way of enjoying Jiro’s sushi is to concentrate on dining.”

This came right after “recommended beverage is green tea.” Too late for that; we had already consumed several bottles of Jiro’s smoothest Junmai Daiginjo (made with very precisely polished rice (to aspherical tolerances perhaps) in a very labor-intensive, lens-like process–the summit of Sake: light, complex, fragrant and expensive. The Jiro look.

Fortunately, we were not summarily expelled from this sushi temple, perhaps because Mr. Takashi Ono was welcoming, generously indulgent, and may have been advised in advance that we were camera Otaku (geeks). It also helped that Bellamy’s choir boy countenance had taken on an expression of absolute rapture beginning with the first bite.

Our Omakase adventure consisted of a symphony of 20 sublime creations, beginning with milder sensations, then building with stronger flavors: Yellowtail, Tuna, Mackerel, Tiger Prawn, Red Clam with a dollop of wasabi, Sardine, Sea Urchin, Salmon Roe…


Mr. Ono was extremely welcoming and kind, guiding us through the subtleties of shrimp consumption (tail first, skip the very end, then the head) and a progression of lean bluefin tuna to medium to fatty tuna. All the senses got exercise. The Uni (sea urchin) was like a cold gelato atop lightly vinegared rice, made crunchy by a delicate wrap of nori (seaweed) that had been gently grilled over charcoal that morning. The Ikura (salmon roe) popped in the mouth.

Cut to Jiro, gracefully balancing Ika (squid) atop a miniature bed of rice. It was another relevant film connection. Just the day before, I had visited the Koto factory, manufacturers of not only high-end motion picture light bulbs (the big 20K bulbs are blown by hand) but also specialized lighting for squid fishing boats. Squid are best caught at night and are attracted to light, hence Koto’s waterproof HMI bulbs.


Tamago (grilled eggs) is like the final scene in a script, the finale of the omakase menu. In addition to eggs, Jiro mixes Japanese yam and shrimp and grills it for an hour .

Woody Omens once bestowed, tongue-in-cheek, an honorary ASC membership on Manet. He probably would do the same for Mr. Takashi Jiro, Association of Sushi Chefs. It was an evening of precision, perfection, performance and attention to detail.

We had achieved Nirvana at the hands of a meister…er master.

Photos: Leica D-Lux with Vario-Summilux f/1.7 10.9-34 mm zoom.

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InterBEE 2014 Slideshow

InterBEE 2014 took place in the massive Makuhari Messe on November 19, 201, 21. The convention center with the German name (Photokina is held in the Koelnmesse) is about an hour’s train ride north of central Tokyo, past the giant ferris wheel and Tokyo Disney World.

A record number of visitors attended: 37,959.

977 companies exhibited in 1,773 booths, including 543 exhibitors from 33 countries.

FDTimes launched its first Japanese language edition. It’s online for free. Apologies for the un-democratic method of editorial selection: it was first come with a translation, first served. So many companies clamored for inclusion next year that we’ll be back with much more comprehensive coverage.

The theme of this show was 8K. Everywhere you looked, signs proclaimed 4K/8K. And there were some pleasant surprises. A big surprise for me was the latest ARRI ALEXA 65 demo video in the NAC booth,. “You shouldn’t shoot unadorned faces in 4K, let alone 6K,” we thought. And yet here were absolutely amazing 6K portraits of people, little or no makeup, no softening. Done right, higher resolution is not the anti-film; we are approaching natural human vision.

And just when we thought it was safe to settle down with 4K, it seems that 8K looms on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic horizon. This is, of course, as inevitable and unstoppable as next year’s new model car or new iPhone arriving as predictably as New Year’s fireworks. The Japanese electronic associations are investing in and supporting this. This isn’t anything new. Haven’t we seen more than 50 consumer video and audio recorders appear in the past 25 years, conspicuously consuming us with their irresistible roadmaps of planned obsolescence?

And yet–there was an amazingly immersive 260 inch 4K display, with 1.5mm pixel pitch. This wouldn’t fit into my Manhattan apartment, but the 96-inch 4K displays from Panasonic and others would nicely cover an entire wall.

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Canon 8K Zoom


Canon showed a prototype 8K 19.7-138 mm T2.8 Zoom at InterBEE Tokyo. It covers Super35 format.



Sony F55 Doc Dock


Updates from InterBEE in Tokyo. Sony showed the latest improvements on their “Doc Dock” (also known as Build Up Kit) that turns the F55 into a comfortable, shoulder-resting Documentary/ENG style cameras system.

Introduced a few months as a prototype, the designers listened to suggestions from camera operators and the Dock will ship in a month or two with a much greater degree of fore-aft balance adjustment and shoulder pad position. Also, the front rosette/control has been lowered and also moves forward — thus avoiding the prototype’s problem of interfering with the lens barrels.

The new Dock will accept the Sony AXS-R5 RAW recorder. And there’s a cradle for wireless receivers. Docking is simple: lower the camera onto cradle, and then secure with 3 levers from the camera right side.



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AJA CION to Ship December


Tokyo. InterBEE. Nov 19. If you are good and the elves in Grass Valley deem the camera to be ready, AJA CION is expected to ship around Christmas time. AJA announced at InterBEE this morning that they are now accepting orders for the camera.

CION is a 4K 35mm cine camera

designed by cameramen (AJA’s Nick Rashby and Jon Thorn both worked as ACs and DPs). It is lightweight and shoulder-resting. CION shoots 4K/UltraHD and 2K/HD resolutions direct to Apple ProRes or AJA Raw. Info on where to place orders, click here.

AJA pioneered professional ProRes support with the Io HD, the first non-Apple device to encode ProRes, introduced in 2007, and then the Ki Pro recorder, introduced in 2009. CION offers in-camera recording directly to standard AJA Pak SSD media in the Apple ProRes family of codecs – including 12-bit ProRes 444 up to 4K/60p. CION also outputs AJA Raw at up to 4K/120p via 4x 3G-SDI outputs. Support has already been announced by Adobe and Colorfront. CION has a simple menu and interface with direct controls as well as live preview video. Settings can be remotely configured and viewed on any web browser via a LAN connection.

CION will be available from resellers worldwide.

Pricing for CION is US MSRP $8,995. AJA Pak SSD media is available at a US MSRP of $695 (256GB) and $1295 (512GB). AJA Pak Dock is available at a US MSRP of $395. Please visit for additional CION information, and a list of global CION dealers.

Third-party camera accessory manufacturers including Alphatron, MTF, Portabrace, Wooden Camera, Vocas, Zacuto and others have already produced several accessories, from viewfinders to lens mounts and protective cases for CION available from their retail sellers.


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Hurricane Wheels


Wheels for GimbalRigs. Matthias Uhlig is releasing the successor to his Brushless Gimbal RC Interface (BGRCI) ( — the new Brushless Gimbal RC Interface MK2.

The BGRCI offers a more professional way of controlling handheld (or airborne, crane mounted, car mounted…) gimbal rigs like the DJI Ronin or the Freefly Systems Mövi family.

While the original BGRCI is a modular system with the option of two or three axis, the MK2 will always have three axes (3 wheels). It also will have a built in transmitter for the common and accepted Futaba FASST system. The great thing about the new system is that you only need a power source (and a gimbal rig, obviously) to operate. It connects to DJI Ronin and Gremsy gimbals right away. Freefly gimbals and others will need an inexpensive alternative receiver.

Matthias says, “Gimbals are taking over and there seems to be hardly any production going without one. With the BGRCI-2, they can now be used as stabilized remote heads by serious DPs who are not keen on operating with toystore joysticks.”

The BGRCI-MKs can be used with Hurricane Wheels gear head simulation software or as a USB input device for previz or virtual camera work.

Price is planed to be about 2800,- € plus tax & shipping, but it might be a little less. Paralinx in Los Angeles is the US distributor.

More information can be found at


More details:

Integrated transmitter – ready for Ronin

The integrated Futaba transmitter module connects to any DJI Ronin or Gremsy gimbal, as well as Freefly Mövi M5/10/15 equipped with an optionally available Futaba S-Bus Receiver. Uses genuine Futaba parts, an experienced RC manufacturer.

Spektrum and other versions can be made upon request.

Smooth handwheels

The handwheels are balanced to 0.5g and run smoothly on the high resolution encoders.  Precision potentiometers allow to adjust the trimming and electronic gearing for each axis individually. In conjunction with the gimbal controller software this offers a very powerful, yet simple control over axis speed and damping.

Built in USB Interface

Users of the interface boxes receive a copy of their gearhead simulation software upon request.  You can also use the handwheels for previz  or virtual camera work.

Tech Specs:

  • Power Supply: 9-36 V
  • Current Draw: 0.3A
  • Weight: ca. 3,5 kg
  • Compatible Gimbal Rigs (tested): all AlexMos based rigs, like DigiMove, Newton etc. , Mövi M10, DJI Ronin
  • Compatible RC-Remote Receivers: Futaba FASST/RASST, DJI Ronin

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FDTJ Board Meeting

The first annual board meeting of Film and Digital Times Japan was conducted last night in a private teppanyaki dining room of Yebisu Restaurant — on the top floor of the Westin Hotel Tokyo. Chef Aya presented a refreshing take on what can usually be an overly-theatrical event with her calm, artistic, and almost zen-like cooking. The dinner was:

  • Appetizer of grilled smelt, crab and cabbage in a vinegar jelly, Japanese pepper mushroom, grilled eggplant with salmon.
  • First course of grilled lobster or giant abalone
  • Second course of grilled beef with vegetables
  • Choice of fried garlic rice, frid rice with shrimp and plum
  • Dessert of fruits and pastries.

The fruits of these labors are now online: FDTJ free downloadable PDF

, and the printed edition is available at the NAC, ZEISS, and Angenieux booths of InterBEE Tokyo.




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FDTimes Japan


November 1614. The two-year Siege of Osaka began. The Tokugawa shogun ended the last opposition to rule from Tokyo.

November 2014. A 400th anniversary celebration in Osaka, with Samurai museums, tours of the castle, concert by Aiko, and the launch of Film and Digital Times Japan.

It began with requests for Japanese translations of various FDTimes articles. Next, Mr. Arato Ogura suggested a Japanese Edition for InterBEE, along the lines of the French edition for Micro Salon. Many volunteers came forward to help with the difficult task of translating and formatting.

This first edition of FDTJ is an experiment. It was not democratic. It was first come – first served. You got in if you could do a translation of recent FDTimes articles in time. Several thousand copies have been printed by NAC to distribute at InterBEE. The PDF is available online for free. A new Japanese language landing page is now online:

If popular, we’ll continue with future editions and will endeavor to be all-inclusive with many more companies and products represented.

My thanks to the following founding members of the FDTJ volunteer team: Team Captain Arato Ogura, Yasuaki Mitsuwa, Yasuhika Mikami, Abe Tomonori, Masako Misaki, Shuji Nagata, Seiji Nakajima, and many more.


François Caron (1600–1673) was Director-General of the Dutch East India Company in Batavia (Jakarta) and one of the early Europeans to visit Japan. This illustration is from his book: “The Burning of Osaka Castle.”

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ALEXA 65 Updated Specs

These latest specs did not make it to print or PDF in time for the Camerimage and InterBEE Japanese editions. I’ll update the PDFs when I can.

For the ARRI Alexa 65,  David Zucker writes — please note:

  • Maximum recordable resolution:
  • 6560 x 3100
    • Page: 30; 47; 51; 65(x2)
  • Sensor size at above resolution:
  • 54.12 x 25.58 (diagonal 59.86)
    • Page: 30; 47(x2); 51; 65(x2)
  • Current max. FPS:  28
    • Page: 31; 65