Saturday, January 01, 2011

Ravelli Tripods

A good fluid head video tripod can be expensive; very expensive. Which is why I was intrigued by the Ravelli Tripods offered on Amazon. There are two "video" models; the Ravelli AVT Video Camera Tripod [$78.39] and the Ravelli AVTP Professional 75mm Video Camera Tripod [$146.89].

Even at that price, I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money without seeing one, but a friend just bought the Professional model, and I got to play with it for a bit.

First impressions were quite positive. It seems to be solidly built; the legs are sturdy, and it's nicely machined and finished. The battleship gray finish is a little 50's in style, but it still looks nice. I guess I'd describe it as basic looking, but not cheap looking. There's some nice touches with dual handles and the quick release mounting plate has a lock and a latch. The bottom of the feet have an interesting rubber cover that adjusts to the surface it's placed on.

The tripod comes in a light canvas bag. It's not padded, and not very heavy construction, but if you aren't too rough with it, it should last a while.

The up-and-down tilt motion of the tripod head was good, and could be firmed up using a large plastic handle on the side. However the left-right pan of the tripod head was the one disappointment; it seemed to drag a little unevenly, and couldn't be entirely loosened. This is a complaint that several people have made about these models; that the movement isn't as smooth you might desire. They also seem to be a bit inconsistent - some people love them, some have problems tilt, while others the pan - though that could be a result of the different expectations of the users.

A range of solutions have been suggested; from moving it back and forth multiple times to loosen it up, to disassembling it:
As stated in prior reviews, the pan is stiff. Take care if you disassemble the head to adjust the slip ring, as there are steel screws into cast aluminum, which makes it easy to strip out the screw holes. The tilt is fine for still photography. The bowl – leveling knob turns easily and tightens fast and tight easily. The tilt adjustment lever was in an odd place as shipped, it takes about 45 seconds to move, so no biggy. The bubble – and – ring level is adequate. For stills, it’s important that errant vibration settle down quickly and this tripod dampens vibration quite nicely. It does weigh 14 pounds.
- The Tech Gadget Blog
I'm not sure I want to start doing that kind of work.

I like the look of this tripod, and I'm seriously thinking of getting one. I think it'll be excellent for use with a larger camera - or a DSLR with a big lens on it - that is locked down. As a tripod I think it works great. As a fluid head I'm not as excited by it; I think it's better than many "regular" inexpensive tripod heads, but it's not a great "fluid" head. I'm not sure I'd count on using it for a lot of actual camera motion shots.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

News from Here & There

Sony PMW-F3 vs Panasonic AG-AF100
Philip Bloom has received his production Panasonic AG-AF100, and has also had on loan for a week a pre-production PMW-F3. He clearly likes the PMW-F3 "This feels like a really meaty professional camera and if feels reassuringly expensive," but as he tweeted, there are other considerations:
image is definitely cleaner with F3, but AF has the 1080p 60fps overcrank and is SO much cheaper.
-Philip Bloom, Twitter
Also, check out his comparison of field-of-view for both cameras with the same lens.
PhilipBloom: Field of view comparison between the Panasonic AF-101 and Sony F3
PhilipBloom: Got a production Panasonic AF-101, hurrah and shooting with Sony F3k for first time today

Camera Sales in Japan
The 43rumors site has a chart showing the sales for DSLR cameras in Japan. The Canon EOS Kiss X4 (that's the T2i here in the states) has 13.6% of unit sales, while the 5D Mark II has just 1.6%. Does this mean anything? Probably not, though it does tell you why the 5D isn't updated as frequently as the Rebel cameras!
43rumors: Japanaese 2010 system camera sales analysis

Nikon D7000 video review
Camcorderinfo have posted a review of the Nikon D7000, focusing on it's video capabilities, and they're pleased that Nikon has finally taken a serious stab at video, but:
Even with all these updates, however, Nikon is still a step or two behind Canon and Sony as the best manufacturers of video-capable DSLR cameras. The D7000 suffered from a sloppy interface, confusing controls, and a lackluster performance in our motion test. While we do love the option for 24p and 30p recording, we wish there was an option for 60p as well.
Camcorderinfo: Nikon D7000

Split Screens in Final Cut Pro
Chris Fenwick provides a video demo of how to do split screens in Final Cut Pro. He shows a simple and a more complex way of doing it.
OneOnOne: Tutorial - FCP Split Screen Low Down

Templates for Apple Motion
If you have Apple Motion, you might want to check out the templates that MotionVFX offers. They're having a 40% off sale, and even if you don't end up buying anything, you might get some graphic ideas for your own projects!
MotionVFX: Happy New Year 40 percent OFF SALEDecember 28, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Movie Year In Review

The figures are in for the year, and Toy Story 3 was not only top at the box office, it is also the highest-grossing animated film of all time (on an adjusted basis).
It's also one of the best-reviewed movies of the year. It receives an almost perfect 99 out of 100 on Rotten Tomatoes. Disney ( DIS - news - people ) is also pushing the film for a Best Picture Oscar instead of just hoping for a Best Animated Feature win. The studio recently unveiled a clever line of "for your consideration" ads comparing Toy Story 3 to past Best Picture winners.
Forbes: The Top-Earning Movies Of 2010

But it's not all good news; while the total box office remains high for the year, total attendance has fallen (the difference made up by increased revenue from 3D movies.)
A full 8% of this year's box-office revenue, or about $850 million, came from the additional $3 to $4 a ticket that moviegoers paid to see films such as "Toy Story 3" and "Clash of the Titans" with images that appear to pop out of the screen, according to research by Lazard Capital.
"Focusing purely on headcount is nice if you don't want to accept money," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures. "But if money goes up while bodies go down, I'm not sure it's necessarily a bad thing."
Los Angeles Times: 3-D movie tickets keep box-office sales high as attendance falls

And if you're interested in box office - and interesting visuals - this graphic shows the relative box office for movies through the year.

CES is coming

The Consumer Electronics Show runs January 6 through 9th, and there should be something interesting announced by someone at the show. Last year Sony announced the HXR-NX5u and the HDR-AX2000 along with several consumer video cameras. It's also the time that Canon announced their updated consumer video cameras, as well as the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Neither company usually announces much pro-video gear at the show; though the HXR-NX5u is in Sony's professional range, and the EF 70-200mm is a pro-lens....which means you never can tell!

The Canon Rumors site has a 5D Mark III rumor and they also separately report that Canon will announce some kind of camera - other than the point-and-shoots and consumer video cameras - at CES, though he's not sure what. He doesn't think it's the 5D Mark III, and I suspect he's right; unless Canon is feeling pressure from the Panasonic AG-AF100, it would be unusual - and early - for them to announce the 5D Mark III at CES.

The 5D Mark III spec list at Canon Rumors is doubtful too; RAW Video support? That seems unlikely. Maybe they'll improve the codec, or maybe even add 4:2:2 support, but RAW capture poses several problems for Canon and users including; is Compact Flash the right medium for recording uncompressed video? If you want to add some sort of "RAW" support, putting the full video out the HDMI port would seem the logical way to go.

CanonRumors: 5D Mark III [CR1]

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Grittier "True Grit"

I saw the Coen Brothers version of True Grit yesterday, and enjoyed it a lot. As I suspected, it was very similar to the John Wayne movie; the same characters, the same plot, and many of the same dialog lines. There were some differences in the story, but the plot was essentially the same.

This movie seemed visually a lot richer and more detailed than the original - the locations looked more authentic and less like movie sets. Jeff Bridges was much harder to understand at points than John Wayne was, while Matt Damon's performance as LaBoeuf gave Bridges less chance to steal the entire movie. If you liked the original movie, or like westerns in general, you'll enjoy this movie.

I do have one complaint though; I found the color grading of the movie somewhat annoying; a lot of it was very washed out. The Coen's seem to like to manipulate their movies - O Brother, Where Art Thou? was the first movie digitally graded and had a very yellow look, while their movie A Serious Man was graded to look like an old 60's movie. I liked those, but found the effect in True Grit more disconcerting. I can't explain why.

I was also a little surprised that - less than four days after release - the print we saw was damaged in at least one place. I suspect the problem was in the production of the print itself, as there was some noticeable color flickering and a dark flash at one point in the movie.