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September 10th, 2015

5 of the Coolest Things We Saw at Canon Expo


Canon gave visitors a unique opportunity to preview some of the technologies it’s currently working to perfect at its Expo, which opened its three-day stint in New York yesterday. Some of the most intriguing prototypes Canon had to show—including a 120-megapixel DSLR, an 8K video camera and 250-megapixel sensor—were announced before the Expo even kicked off. Still, we were able to catch a glimpse at a few other interesting products and technologies under development. Here’s what caught our eye.


600mm f/1.4 L Lens

Canon revealed that it’s working on a 600mm lens that will incorporate the new BR optics first introduced in the recently announced 35mm f/1.4 lens. Thanks to a combination of BR and DO (diffractive optics) elements, the new 600mm should be about 30 percent lighter than its predecessor. No other details were available.


Virtual Reality

Canon also showed off a virtual reality headset and 360-degree camera solution for creating virtual reality presentations. Unlike current VR headsets which strap around a user’s head, Canon’s prototype is held up to the face. The display has a 120-degree viewing angle and features two 5×5-inch screens with a resolution of 2560×2880. The omnidirectional camera system combines 24 Vixia mini X camcorders into an array that can record spherical video.


Smart Home of the Future

Somewhere between a Microsoft PixelSense Table and Minority Report, Canon displayed an interactive table that lets users engage with their photos in novel ways. Using a combination of sensors in the table and IR and other cameras mounted above, any camera placed on the table can have its images instantly displayed across the table’s surface. Users can swipe and pull images to get a better look, flick them across the table toward a TV where they are instantly displayed or drag them to a printer icon where they are made into tangible prints. The table can also bring analog images to life. A Canon rep placed a photo book on the table and the system scanned the images and pulled additional photos with similar tags down from a cloud library to display on the table (more pictures below).

It's hard to tell from this image, but the runner's body is raised about 1-inch or more from the media.

It’s hard to tell from this image, but the runner’s body is raised about 1-inch or more from the media.

Textured Printing

While photo printing on a variety of unique surfaces and substrates is not new, Canon is pushing to give prints a variety of different textures—like glass, wood, leather, snakeskin and more—through a dimensional printing process. The process creates photo prints up to 2-inches thick off the page using a UV curable inkjet press, layered ink and gloss coatings. Canon is already selling a version of textured printing to some of its commercial partners but the process under development will support more textures and greater depths. To our eyes, portraits printed dimensionally didn’t look quite as compelling as abstract patterns or objects like bricks and wood, which also felt startlingly close to the real thing.

Speaking of printers, Canon is also finalizing new photo inkjet printers in 17-, 24- and 44-inch sizes. They’ll use a new 12 pigment ink system, but no other details were available.

In this demo, Canon is recording four 4K streams from its 8K camera, passing it through a debayer box and sending four 4K quadrants into individual external recorders. To construct the 8K footage, the files from each external recorder must be merged in post production.

In this demo, Canon is recording four 4K streams from its 8K camera (which looks like its C300), passing it through a debayer box and sending four 4K quadrants into individual external recorders. To construct the 8K footage, the files from each external recorder must be merged in post production.

8K & HDR

Attendees were treated to a glimpse of 8K video on several displays—from a large movie projection to new 8K reference monitors still in the prototype stage. The footage was recorded with Canon’s new 8K image sensor, which was announced earlier this week. The 8K sensor can produce 35-megapixel still frame grabs from video files and offers 13 stops of dynamic range. As for data rates, 10 minutes of RAW 4K footage off the sensor generates 4TB of data, a Canon spokesperson said.

On prototype 8K reference monitors, the pictures were so sharp that even standing directly in front of the display with our eyes hovering mere inches from the screen and using a magnifying glass, the images looked crystalline and ultra-realistic with no hint of pixelation. The display in question had a pixel density of 300 ppi, which Canon said is about the limit a human eye can even resolve. From a normal viewing distance however, the 8K footage didn’t look noticeably different than 4K.

What was noticeably different from a distance was a high-dynamic range display. Canon showed off a prototype display capable of brightness levels of 2,000 nits. By contrast, the average display delivers roughly 200 nits and the next-generation high dynamic range 4K TVs will achieve between 600-1,000 nits, depending on the model and manufacturer. Using an HDR monitor, users will be able to see more of the image data recorded by today’s high dynamic range cameras.

Here’s a closer look at some of the technology Canon was demoing:

Canon's Smart Home concept. The smart table can use a picture frame to crop digital images.

Canon’s Smart Home concept. The smart table can use a picture frame to crop digital images.

An analog photo book comes to live as similarly tagged images and videos are pulled down from the cloud to the smart table.

An analog photo book comes to life as similarly tagged images and videos are pulled down from the cloud to the smart table.

Mounted above the smart table, a series of cameras and sensors track hand movements and more.

Mounted above the smart table, a series of cameras and sensors track hand movements and more.


Canon’s spherical image capture solution combines 24 Vixia mini X cameras.

Canon looks poised to refresh its professional inkjet printers. Three models, including this 17-inch mockup, were displayed at the Expo.

Canon looks poised to refresh its professional inkjet printers. Three models, including this 17-inch mockup, were displayed at the Expo.

By layering on the ink and gloss, Canon can create dimensional prints with textures that feel like the real thing.

By layering on the ink and gloss, Canon can create dimensional prints with textures that feel like the real thing.

With textured printing, you can feel the wrinkles and scars of a long life. If you're into that kind of thing.

With textured printing, you can feel the wrinkles and scars of a long life. If you’re into that kind of thing.

September 8th, 2015

Canon Pumps the Pixels in Product Prototypes


A 250-megapixel prototype with EF mount.

If you thought Canon’s 50-megapixel 5DS and 5DS R were the company’s last word on pixel-packed sensors, think again. The company announced that it has built a 250-megapixel APS-H-sized sensor that can read the letters off an airplane up to 18Km away. It’s also built a 120-megapixel DSLR with an EF mount. Oh, and an 8K video camera.

The announcements were technology previews–Canon won’t be shipping a 120-megapixel DSLR or 8K video camera just yet. Still, they are a glimpse of where the company is headed. Here’s what we know:

* A 120-megapixel DSLR with EF mount: Canon says that the “high-resolution images that the camera will be capable of producing will recreate the three-dimensional texture, feel and presence of subjects, making them appear as if they are really before one’s eyes.” RAW files will measure in at 232MB. Memory card company stocks will skyrocket.

*An 8K video camera: According to Canon, this Super 35 mm-equivalent CMOS sensor will record 8,192 x 4,320 resolution video, or 35-megapixels. It will deliver frame rates up to 60 fps with 13 stops of dynamic range. The camera body will have an EF mount and Canon says that 78 out of 96 EF lenses in its current lineup will be compatible with the 8K camera.

* A 250-megapixel APS-H-sized sensor: This one is really aimed at commercial applications like surveillance cameras. Despite the plentiful pixels, Canon said it’s still capable of shooting at 5 fps. The video off the sensor would deliver resolution that’s 30x that of a 4K camera. Canon said it aimed this beast of a sensor at a plane in flight 18Km away and was still able to distinguish the lettering.


July 22nd, 2015

PDN Video Pick: Casey Brooks and Acre Creative for Aéropostale

In a new 30-second spot for Aéropostale set to appear on a video billboard in Manhattan’s Times Square, Casey Brooks directs a squad of midriff-baring female dancers to illustrate the extreme elasticity of the brand’s new jeans. Creative director Brad Shaffer at the agency Acre Creative brought in Brooks to make the spot for Aéro, giving her a brief to capture an “appropriately sexy” vibe, evidenced by sweeping steadicam closeups of the stretchy jeans hugging the dancers’ curves.

“It’s not provocative, more positive,” Brooks says. She credits choreographer Mishay Petronelli with bringing an abundance of energy to the screen, choreographing seven different 30- to 45-second routines to seven different songs for Brooks to choose from when assembling the final cut with editor Manuel Barenboim. “It’s better for editing,” Brooks says of the music selection. “It gives you different energies to pull from.” The final spot features the Angel Haze track “New York.”

The dancers rehearsed for three days for the two-day location shoot in New York City. One took place on a rooftop in Brooklyn, and another in a warehouse in the Bronx. Petronelli, who has served as Beyonce’s stand-in on a recent world tour and will tour with Janet Jackson later this year, also appears in the video (you can catch her freestyling in front of a giant window). Brendan Stumpf was director of photography, and Ruy Sánchez Blanco the post producer.

The spot will run online as well as on a video billboard.

June 11th, 2015

Three Reasons to Go 4K

Sponsored by Samsung

Display resolutions don’t change often, but when they do, the change is momentous. When the world switched from standard to high definition, the revolution transformed both the media and electronics industries.

A similar revolution is underway again, as the world starts its trek from high definition to 4K or “ultra-high definition.”

As with any change of this sort, early adopters face a number of challenges before taking the plunge, but those who do strike early can be rewarded. Here are three reasons why now is the best time to invest in 4K.


Photo © Andrew Putschoegl

It’s the future

The consensus among market research firms is that 4K-television adoption is a matter of “when” not “if”—and the “when” starts just about now. The Consumer Electronics Association projects that 4 million 4K TVs will be shipped this year in the United States alone, up 208 percent from 2014. Worldwide, the trend looks similarly bullish. Futuresource Consulting pegs the global market for 4K TVs at 100 million in just three years, representing more than a third of every TV sold.

As those screens find their way into homes, the race is on to fill them with content that fully takes advantage of all that resolution. It’s why streaming services like Amazon and Netflix are rapidly building up their library of 4K videos, from original programs to feature films and documentaries. YouTube and Vimeo have also rolled out support for 4K video as well.

Whether your video is destined to be viewed on desktop monitors or TVs, creating a 4K “master” of your video is an investment in the future of your work, viewable on the highest quality displays ever built for the world’s living rooms.

It makes your HD video better

Many industries, such as wedding videography, don’t necessarily need to produce a 4K deliverable today. Even if you a client only requires an HD file, it can still make sense to shoot in 4K. All those extra pixels give you ample room to crop or reframe your video to improve image stabilization or remove extraneous detail without sacrificing resolution. You can pan across your 4K video using post-production software without rapidly running out of pixels.

Depending on how you’re shooting, a 4K-video file may also capture more than just additional pixels, but more color information as well. Armed with this additional color information, you can down-sample a 4K file to HD with improved color detail.

Screen Grabs Are Awesome


Enhance! Zooming in on a 4K screen grab / Photo © Andrew Putschoegl

Shooting in 4K doesn’t just mean high-quality video; it can enhance your still photography, too. Isolating still images from HD video produces images that are a measly 1920×1080 pixels in size or about 2 megapixels—barely enough for a decent print.

A 4K still frame, on the other hand, is a chunkier file, either at 4096×2160 or 3840×2160 pixels in size, depending on your setting. That’s equivalent to an 8-megapixel image, ample resolution to print by.

This doesn’t just mean that stills from your video production will be higher quality (though they will be), it also means you can use 4K video as a “burst mode on steroids” for moving subjects to capture images that your camera might otherwise miss. It’s not necessarily applicable in every situation of course, but it opens up new creative possibilities that aren’t available to you when shooting in high def.

Samsung and PDN recently launched the 4K Filmmaking Challenge, giving motion shooters the opportunity to shoot a short 4K film. One grand-prize winner will receive $2,500, an NX1 and a profile in a print PDN/Samsung supplement. Check it out at

May 13th, 2015

PDN Video: Gillian Laub on Winning Over Reluctant Subjects to Film “Southern Rites”

Gillian Laub: "Southern Rites" And The Challenges of Access from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

In 2009, Gillian Laub’s story in The New York Times Magazine about segregated high school proms in Mount Vernon, Georgia, stirred national outrage, which finally forced the community to integrate the proms. Afterwards, Laub faced down the hostility and threats of locals to work on a documentary film about race relations in the area. In this PDN video, she describes the challenges of filming where she was unwelcome, and how she managed to win the confidence of her subjects– including a murder suspect who had granted no media interviews before he sat down with Laub. Titled “Southern Rites,” the film debuts May 18 on HBO. Laub’s still photographs are showing at Bonnie Benrubi Gallery in New York City from May 14-June 27, 2015. Damiani will also publish a book of the work in June.

PDN Photo of the Day: Gillian Laub’s “Southern Rites”

Shaul Schwartz’s Reel Peak Films: A Production Company Devoted to Editorial Documentaries

April 17th, 2015

Steady As She Goes: Two Cool Stabilizers at NAB

ronin m

DJI made waves last week for their new Phantom 3 flying cameras, but the company brought another head-turner to NAB, a new Ronin brushless gimbal.

The Ronin M is a slimmed down, less expensive and more approachable model than the original Ronin. It weighs just five pounds but can support cameras up to eight pounds thanks to a new magnesium frame. You mount your DSLR or video camera and the gimbal balances itself, ensuring that your camera stays steady even as you move about.

The M offers three modes–briefcase, upright and underslung–for framing a variety of shots. The battery is good for up to six hours of use. When you’re done, you can twist off the top handles to shrink down the M for transport.

The Ronin ships next month and is expected to cost around $2,000. You can pre-order it now.

Freefly Mimic

Freefly Systems Mimic

Freefly’s Mimic isn’t a stabilizer, but an innovative remote for the company’s MoVI gimbal.

The Mimic controller connects to the MoVI and to a separate gimbal that acts as a master controller for the camera on the MoVI. Rather than move the camera through a joystick or knobs, the Mimic instantly translates your movement into camera movement, positioning the MoVI-mounted camera in whatever direction you desire.

Here’s a video showing how it works.

The Mimic will be released at the end of this month for $495.

April 14th, 2015

Panasonic Will Give GH4 New Tricks, Adds 4K Video Camera, New Action Cam at NAB


AG-DVX200Panasonic hit NAB with an update to its GH4 mirrorless camera plus a new point-of-view camera and preview of a new video camera we can expect to see in the fall.

With a Version 2.2 firmware update at the end of this month, the GH4 will be able to record anamorphic video content to mimic the widescreen, cinemascope aspect ratios used by cinematographers. With the new firmware, GH4 owners will have be able to shoot in 4:3 Anamorphic Mode to capture video at  3328×2496 at a frame rate of either 23.98, 24, 25 or 29.97 fps.

The GH4 will also get a faster electronic shutter speed with the new firmware, maxing out at 1/16,000 sec. after it’s installed.

Panasonic will also launch a new 4K camera in the fall. The AG-DVX200 (pictured above) is a fixed lens camcorder with a new Four Thirds CMOS image sensor capable of 12 stops of dynamic range.

The DV200 will record 4K (4096×2160) at 24 fps as well as UHD (3840×2160) at up to 60 fps and HD up to 120 fps in either MP4 / MOV file formats to a pair of SD cards.

According to Panasonic, the DVX200 will feature the same tonality and colorimetry as the company’s VariCam lineup.

On the optics front, you’ll find a 13X Leica Dicomar f/2.8-4.5 zoom lens with three manual rings for focus, iris and zoom. The lens uses a five-axis hybrid image stabilizer to keep footage blur-free. Additional features include time-code in/out, 3G HD-SDI and HDMI 2.0 (4K) video outputs.

Panasonic plans to ship the DVX200 in the fall for under $5,000.

A1_Slant1_DPanasonic also launched a new point-of-view action camera. The New HX-A1 is an HD camera weighing in at a svelte 1.6 ounces. It’s waterproof to a depth of 5 feet without a housing, shockproof up to 5 feet and freezeproof.

It features built-in Wi-Fi for remote control and image sharing via a mobile device. It can also send a video stream to Panasonic’s W970 and W870 camcorders to merge its video in a sub-window with footage captured by either of the two conventional camcorders.

A loop recording function enables continuous recording by erasing earlier clips after you’ve recorded for more than an hour. You can shoot up to 120 fps at 848×480 or up to 60 fps at 1280×720. Full HD is captured at 30 fps.

When connected to a computer via USB, the A1 can double as a webcam. Pricing and availability were not announced.


April 14th, 2015

Blackmagic Design Intros Ursa Mini, Micro Cinema Cam and 4.6K Sensor at NAB 2015


Blackmagic has put its cinema cameras on a diet, rolling out a Mini version of its Ursa 4K camera and a Micro edition of its Cinema Camera at the NAB show.

The new Mini will weigh approximately 7 pounds, less than half the weight of the original Ursa. It will shed the Ursa’s three monitors, including the 10-inch flip-out display, in favor of a single, 5-inch touch screen HD monitor.

The Mini will record 4K footage to a pair of CFast 2.0 cards in Apple ProRes (up to 444 XQ) or Cinema DNG 12-bit RAW. It will have dual XLR inputs with phantom power, a built-in stereo mic, and a 12G-SDI connection.

The Ursa Mini will be sold with either Blackmagic’s new 4.6K Super 35mm-sized image sensor or a 4K sensor.

The 4.6K (4608 x 2592) sensor versions boasts 15 stops of dynamic range and delivers 60 fps 4K frame rates with rolling shutter or 30 fps with global shutter. It will be sold in EF and PL mounts for $4,995 and $5,495, respectively.

If you opt for the less expensive Ursa Mini with a 4K sensor ($2,995 EF mount), you’ll enjoy frame rates at 120 fps with rolling shutter and up to 60 fps with a global shutter.

Both 4K and 4.6K Ursa Mini editions will ship in July.

As announced late last week, owners of the original Ursa will be able to upgrade their cameras with the new 4.6K sensor for $2,000. Blackmagic will begin shipping the new sensor mount in the summer. The price of the Ursa with the original 4K sensor drops to $4,995 for an EF mount version.


The Micro Cinema Camera is a downsized variant of the Pocket Cinema Camera that Blackmagic is targeting for aerial use and in places where an action camera like a GoPro might otherwise be placed. The Micro has front facing controls, an active Micro Four Thirds lens mount, global shutter for up to 30 fps capture and an HD sensor that captures 13 stops of dynamic range. You can get faster 60 fps frame rates if you switch to a rolling shutter. It records 12-bit log CinemaDNG files and ProRes.

While the camera isn’t weather-resistant, it’s built from a durable magnesium alloy. It features a 3.5mm stereo input, plus an HDMI output for video monitoring. Video is saved internally to SD cards.

The side of the camera will feature an expansion port that will enable 3rd party accessory makers to create camera remote controls via a standardized interface typically used for model airplane remote controls. A composite video output in the expansion port will allow 3rd party accessories access to a live view from the camera as well as information on current settings.

The Micro Cinema Camera ships in July for $995. It will join the Pocket Cinema Camera, which is staying on the market.


Finally, the company launched a touch screen  field monitor/recorder, dubbed the Video Assist, that can be used with any HDMI or SDI camera. It features a 5-inch HD display with a viewing angle of 135 degrees. It records to SD card and supports up to 10-bit 422 ProRes footage. The Video Assist accepts two LP-E6 batteries with an intelligent power management system that draws one battery down completely first before pulling power from the second (it will pull power from the lowest capacity battery if both batteries are below 100 percent). Batteries can be hot-swapped.

The Video Assist will ship in July and retail for $495.

With the advent of the Video Assist, the HDMI Mount option for the Ursa, which the company had mentioned as a future option, is no longer on the roadmap, the company said.

April 6th, 2015

The Essential Tool Box: Richard Patterson Takes Out His Tenba Tools

Sponsored by Tenba Tools

“Long gone are the days when I was a one-bag kind of dude,” says New York City-based shooter Richard Patterson. “If I’ve got just one bag, I’m on vacation.” Patterson started out as a photojournalist before delving into the motion camerawork that fills his schedule with sports, documentary and commercial gigs now.

As any photographer-turned-cinematographer knows, making the leap to digital video means having even more gear to pack, organize and reconfigure for every shoot. “There’s just so much technology to juggle. It’s unbelievable,” he says. “These days when you pack for a job, you have one item and four things to accompany it—the charger, the battery, the wall plug, and the plug for the wall plug to make it into four plugs.”

While he sometimes packs as many as eight to ten cases for a job, the essential kit Patterson carries fits into just a couple bags. “My go-to bags are the Tenba Roadie Large Roller and Roadie II Hybrid that converts into a backpack if needed, which is really comfortable,” he says. “My equipment breaks down to fit between those two very nicely.” To keep everything in them at his fingertips, Patterson uses Tenba Tools pouches and wallets. He gave us a look inside to see how he keeps it all straight.

Patterson Gear Shot Overall
Pictured: Patterson’s Tenba collection includes a Transport Air Case (top left), but most of his essential gear fits into his Roadie II Hybrid and Roadie Large Roller (top middle/right). (more…)

March 12th, 2015

The Best Drone Movies: NYC Drone Film Festival Crowns Winners

We’re still in the infancy of drone cinematography, but there’s more than enough content available now to start passing judgement on it.

The New York City Drone Film Festival wrapped up earlier this month and handed out awards, or “Dronies” in nine categories. To enter, films had to be five minutes or less with at least 50 percent of the footage captured using a drone.

A few of the winners, like “Superman with a GoPro,” may be recognizable from their days on the viral video circuit, but a few were new to us. We’ve included a few of the winning films below. The full list is here. (more…)