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Member Since 10 Sep 2005
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#326548 Considering an Upgrade from Canon HF-S11 to D-SLR Video: Is it Worth the Inve...

Posted by SimonSpear on 22 February 2013 - 02:08 AM

Over the last couple of years I've gone from camcorder (V1) to HDSLR (7D) to S35 camcorder (FS100) and now back to traditional camcorder (PMW200).  One thing for certain is that they all have their own strengths and weakness, some of which have already been covered.


On a personal note I really enjoyed shooting on the 7D and it was such an upgrade over HDV despite all its recording flaws.  Some of the footage I've shot with it is simply gorgeous and I've regularly sold footage shot on a 7D for broadcast and never had my footage turned down because of the camera it was shot on (there are still allowances for sometimes up to 25% of footage shot on cameras like the 7D in most HD broadcast productions).  However HDSLR's are not ideal in all situations as you always need to shoot in full manual which is very difficult to do in any fast moving constanly changing enviroment where sometimes you may just need to turn on auto iris etc.   I did sometimes find that I missed shots while trying to fiddle with the settings.  On a plus side they are a dream to travel with as you can often get them in your hand luggage, where my new PMW-200 in a Peli case without its monitor weights 23kg on its own!  I certainly wont be selling my 7D as there is still a place for it in my filming, but there are probably better HDSLR/M43 options now than when I bought it in 2009!

Cheers, Simon

#324428 Oliver Spear - Homo Aquaticus

Posted by SimonSpear on 14 January 2013 - 08:40 AM

I finally got around to editing this:

Oliver Spear - 7 months old - Learning to Swim.


All filmed on a 7D @ 720p50 and then conformed to 25p. I used Twixtor for the ultra slowmo and from memory I used 1/400 shutter speed to keep the images nice and clean so limiting the motion blur. Twixtor is pretty good, but it does have its limitations and it really, really hates any object moving too fast.

Cheers, Simon

#323284 A Taste of Underwater Ambon

Posted by SimonSpear on 26 December 2012 - 04:10 AM

.....the eyes ain't what they used to be, so it's great to see all the details when I get back and upload it to a big screen.

LOL I think a few of us know that feeling Jo!

Great work and a really lovely portrait of underwater Ambon. It looks very interesting indeed! :)

Cheers, Simon

#322851 Underwater Realm Premier Tickets

Posted by SimonSpear on 17 December 2012 - 03:12 AM

Hi all

I've got a couple of tickets available for the Underwater Realm 'World Premier' on Thursday in central London. Sadly the kids have come down with chickenpox and we don't have a regular sitter that we feel comfortable leaving them with.

I've also got an invite to the after show party for two which is being held in Leicester Square afterwards. Dress code is "Black Tie".

I've posted this in the video section to give the video guys a better chance of seeing it, but please feel free to move to the Gallery or somewhere else if more appropriate. If no one takes up the offer I'll send the tickets back as I believe they have a long waiting list.

Cheers, Simon

edit: If anyone does not know about the Underwater Realm then here is the link: http://theunderwaterrealm.com/

#322594 Sony PMW200 - the new EX1R

Posted by SimonSpear on 13 December 2012 - 04:51 AM

Hi Nick

Since I got it housed I've only been splahing around in muddy puddles (allegedly called lakes) but my first proper diving is in Jan so I'll definitely do a write up/review on it then.

I've had the camera a year now and used it extensively topside and I've never seen any evidence of banding or any other significant issue with image quality. Although I was never a fan of AVCHD this flavour on the FS100 is pretty robust and once transcoded to ProRes I've been able to stretch, poke, push and pull it way more than I ever could HDV or HDSLR footage. I think many of the problems we've seen with underwater screen shots and test footage have been due to incorrect wb and exposure rather than any inherient issue with the camera. The dynamic range on it is pretty good so as long as the WB is sortable I don't see any major issues, but like I said I'll know a whole lot more come end of Jan.

If I was buying from scratch now I'd probably opt for the FS700, but although close the low light is not as good as the FS100 which is the main draw for me as I shoot almost exlcusively in ambient with no lights.

If I had no other requirements with the camera other than shooting underwater that I guess it would be hard to go wrong with the PMW200. I'm sure it is going to become the workhorse replacement for the EX1/R and before that the Z1. For an all round WA underwater system I think it will be hard to beat but for super macro there may be better options.

Cheers, Simon

#322189 Gulp!

Posted by SimonSpear on 07 December 2012 - 03:12 PM

Not on a single dive Nick(!), but yes I have filmed a sponge in the past before realising that it wasn't a Froggy....

#322092 SS VALSAVOIA - a quick tour

Posted by SimonSpear on 06 December 2012 - 08:00 AM

Superb Davide and that lens is REALLY sharp, or at least it certainly looked it to me. Add on the fact that you were down at 80m and a wonderful achievement. I would have loved some narration about the wreck and the dive, but I found the images engrossing to the end nevertheless.

What lights were you using?

Cheers, Simon

#321863 Sony FS100 white balance at depth

Posted by SimonSpear on 02 December 2012 - 12:48 PM

I certainly agree that colour correction is subjective to some degree, but I've never really understood trying to match what your eyes see underwater. After all it is only your brain's perception of colour that is letting you see anything but blue below a few meters.

Regardless of what ultimate effect we go for it certainly helps to get as close to that as possible while filming. Perhaps as RAW (and/or higher bitrates) becomes more mainstream we won't need to worry so much, but I've seen lots of issues even with RAW footage underwater. 4:4:4 and 4:4:2 are certainly a big advantage over 4:2:0, but they don't solve all the problems. The cameras we use are full of very cleaver electronics but they are really not designed to film in these kinds of environments, so we need to trick them into getting what we want. Some cameras are easier to trick than others and it could be that the FS100 is one of the harder ones....

Nick I've generally found that you need exposure to be pretty close to retain detail in highlights. Parts of the sand in the original image were blown out and with the green colour cast that is possibly why the green channel is clipped? You are a lot better at the 'Science bit' than I am so I'll defer to you on that!

Cheers, Simon

#321179 FS100/Amphibico Genesis Gain Control Issues

Posted by SimonSpear on 22 November 2012 - 01:16 PM

Hi all

After receiving a couple of PM's I thought I should explain this issue in a little more detail than I have done in the FS100 MWB thread running at the moment. Here goes:

I received a Amphibico Genesis housing for my FS100 last month and with one exception I have been completely over the moon with it. Upon initial (dry) test I found that I was not able to access the Gain controls through the pistol grips. The housing uses lanc controls to gain access to the inner workings of the camera and all controls should have been accessible. I actually thought I had received a housing with defective electronics and immediately emailed Amphibico regarding the problem. The response I got was surprising to say the least. To paraphrase the FS100 has two versions of firmware. In v1.0 full access to all the controls via lanc is possible, however in v2.0 it is not possible to access the Gain controls as this was removed by Sony in the firmware update. As I had just literally updated the firmware in anticipation of receiving the housing it is fair to say that the air around me turned a very deep shade of blue.

Not to be deterred I contacted Sony Europe about a solution and over the last few weeks we have been going backwards and forwards between Sony Europe and Sony Japan for some answers. Again I will paraphrase the answer I received. The v2.0 firmware contains lots of additional goodies and there apparently just wasn't the space in the system to keep all the old control options with the new controls. Someone, somewhere in Sony Japan decided that the Gain control would have to go and hence it was axed from the v2.0 firmware. No notification of this was given by Sony, but apparently they have a get out of jail free card here because accessing these controls via lanc is not 'officially' supported. Fairly thin ice in my book, but I'm not about to go legal with Sony over it!

Solutions? Well it is unfortunately impossible to roll back the firmware. You can however have some components within the camera replaced and get back to the v1.0 firmware via that route. The cost of the parts are not astronomical (around £30), but as yet I have no firm commitment for labour costs. Sony have refused to foot the bill as it is not a function 'officially' supported so when they removed it they removed something that 'officially' should not have been there anyway.

The turnaround quoted for the 'repair' of my camera is optimistically 6 weeks and as I am using the FS100 constantly I just have not had a window where I can spare the camera for that long. I may have one coming up over the Christmas break so in theory I should be able to get it done then, however that is also when everyone else is off work so no idea how this will affect the 6 week turnaround.

My current work around is to use the housing with auto Gain ON but limited to ISO 3200 and to then adjust the iris to get the best compromise. As the FS100 is incredibly good in low light and will give super clean images at ISO 3200 (and useable beyond ISO 6400) this has worked surprisingly well. However I've been used to shooting in full manual for years and it takes a bit of getting used to going back to auto controls. I'm just waiting for that really big screw up at a critical moment so in my opinion this is not a permanent solution.

Cheers, Simon

P.S. FYI this issue should affect all housings that access the FS100 controls via lanc so it is not just a problem with the Amphibico Genesis housing. It was however a known issue when I bought the housing and I most sincerely wish that someone had let me know before I purchased it.....

#320373 warning points????

Posted by SimonSpear on 12 November 2012 - 04:35 AM

Maybe you could impliment a system so we the collective forum can warn/praise the mods? It could be a great way to keep Wetpixel all "shipshape and Bristol fashion"! :D

Cheers, Simon

#319621 Diving Oceans On Other Worlds

Posted by SimonSpear on 31 October 2012 - 11:53 AM

Wouldn't it be amazing to dive in an another planet's ocean? Wow sets the imagination off for sure!

Cheers, Simon

#317894 What Would You Say?

Posted by SimonSpear on 06 October 2012 - 02:49 AM

Hi all

Here's my latest labour of love. It's a short film with a conservation theme not necessarily directed at divers, but at the wider world out there. Hopefully you'll enjoy watching it! Posted Image

(you will have to click through onto Vimeo to watch in HD).


On a technical note there is a lot of banding on the Vimeo version that is not present in the source ProRes file. I'm trying to upload a higher bitrate version, but I'm on a really slow connection right now so it is proving challenging!!

#316986 Back into the wet stuff....

Posted by SimonSpear on 23 September 2012 - 11:59 AM

Good to have you back Mark! :D

Like many I've been looking at the BMCC and it could be a game changer.

My concerns for diving?

1. How well will it White Balance/Colour Grade underwater footage
2. RAW storage
3. Internal Battery Life
4. Low Light Performance.

All cameras have their faults and two of those issues disappear straight away for surf photography/filming so you could be onto a winner mate (although I would still love to see a diving version!). $3000 is low enough for at least a few experimenters to give it a punt.....

All the best to Terri and Bump! :)

Cheers, Simon

#313410 Mouthbrooding Cardinalfish - Slow motion

Posted by SimonSpear on 23 July 2012 - 08:54 AM

Lovely stuff :)

Not sure what your shutter speed was EJ, but to get the best results out of Twixtor you need to use as fast as possible.

E.g. 720p60. 50%=1/125(no need for Twixtor for this obviously), 25%=1/250, 12.5%=1/500.

I did some shooting a couple of weeks ago for Twixtor slomo and 1/500 for the 12.5% worked really well as long as there was not a lot of movement. When there is a lot of movement it really starts to fall apart very quickly.

Cheers, Simon

#299557 Is 3D in decline before it even takes off on broadcast TV?

Posted by SimonSpear on 14 January 2012 - 03:59 AM

3D has never been much more than a fad and it is certainly in a rather steep decline in Europe. Box office receipts are down and broadcasters are pulling the plug on dedicated 3D channels. I realise that 3D isn't going away and it is great for watching some films and some headline sports events under 2hours, but it is never going to replace 2D in its current incarnation. In a few years time UltraHD/4K will be as popular and as mainstream as HD is today, while 3D will still be a niche market.

Cheers, Simon