Thursday, 30 May 2013

KomputerBay CF card prices rise due to Magic Lantern RAW discovery

1 month and 3 days ago the geniuses (genii?) at Magic Lantern announced that they had discovered that the Canon 5D  MKIII is capable recording RAW video footage to an internal compact flash card. Since then there has been a sense of excitement in the videography world not seen since the announcement of the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera.

Since then the magnitude of this discovery has been superseded by fresh discoveries that surpass it such as full 1920x1080 frame recording for a decent length of time, 14-bit recording and even that the EOS 50D that never even shot video and is 5 years old can actually shoot RAW. Bonkers.

So far I have not seen a comment from Canon saying a) "we knew it was possible" b) "we didn't want to do it to protect our high end products" or c) "私をファックします。" [apparently "f*** me!" in Japanese (if not Bing Translator is the culprit)].

This voyage of daily discovery has led to the revealing of another little diamond - the KomputerBay compact flash card line. Previously every video shooter used to proclaim that they would never use anything other than an established, branded card such as SanDisk or Lexar and suddenly everyone is using this brand I had never heard of a month ago. 

It's not hard to see why they are going ballistic over the KomputerBay cards; here is a comparison of some of the CF cards for sale on and tonight (30th May).

That is an eye watering difference of 360% more for the SanDisk and Lexar 128 Gb cards over the KomputerBay equivalent. But this demand for a brand that few had heard of is being hit by the rules of supply and demand. Here is the graph of the price of the 64Gb card on since January - spot the Magic Lantern effect?

How about in the UK?

That is a 182% price increase in 11 days!

So how is the similar size and speed Lexar card faring? Barely a ripple - seems like demand is unchanged, in fact it has got cheaper from 3rd party suppliers.

So who are KomputerBay? Well they are not as new as I thought as there are mentions of them selling cards on Amazon in June 2010. Their website places them 50 miles outside Atlanta, Georgia but although the site sells computer goods it does not include compact flash cards.

How they can sell them at such a price? I don't know but would like to. Reviews for the 64 Gb card are thin but of the 105 reviews of all sizes of KomputerBay CF cards on 77 give 5 stars. I think we need to get some feedback on these cards so please comment on your experiences here. If they really are as good as some say it could make RAW shooting a much cheaper game.

Credit: The charts here are created by The Camelizer an excellent way of tracking the prices of goods on Amazon. Go to to get the plug-in.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Filming in RAW with the Canon 5D MKIII

James Miller is a film maker and a brave man. Only a brave man would get hold of a brand new $3000 camera and pull it apart without a manual or a safety net just to see if he can make it slightly better. But then this is a man who likes to take the lens off a camera while it is recording. He calls it lens whacking, I call it art and almost everyone else describes it as a certain guarantee violation and the actions of a man who has spent too much time in the sun, pixel peeping. Well he does call his company Miller and Miller which suggests a measure of schizophrenia.

James is a friend and business partner of Philip Bloom and a pioneer in the world of DSLR cameras. We met once but I doubt he will remember because at the time he was salivating over the recently released Canon C300 and cradling it like a child. Inwardly I'm sure he was harbouring thoughts of dismemberment and performing lewd operations using a mini hex key and a soldering iron. I imagine the gaps between the floorboards in his house are forever swallowing up the miniature screws that keep our cameras together - his are in one piece through the arts of origami and gaffer taping.

The results of this camera butchery can be seen on his website mmfilm and some of it is quite beautiful and really shouldn't be possible using the same camera that I own, namely the Canon 5D MKIII. But his latest experiment is one that I might be willing to try since it doesn't involve physical removal of parts and is provided by Magic Lantern, a group of people who produce software that runs inside many Canon cameras to give features that many of us would give our right testicle for. Fortunately there is no need for such drastic surgery because the software is free.

The latest version works on the 5D MKIII and seemingly doesn't turn the camera into a large paperweight but offers lots of useful options like an intervalometer and bulb ramping for time lapsers and zebra levels, waveform monitors and overlays for video shooters. A full list of functionality can be found here.

This week James released a short "film" on Vimeo called Genesis which was shot on a Canon 5D MKIII (previously taken apart in an earlier, seemingly successful experiment) with the Magic Lantern software installed. What I hadn't mentioned was that the ML software allows the camera to record its footage in a RAW format, Canon's own DNG, in a series of still frames, creating in effect a timelapse, albeit one with 25 frames per second - which eats up 4 GB every minute. This allowed the footage to be imported into After Effects using Adobe Camera RAW and its powerful grading functionality, which is the process I use for my timelapses found here

He then exported each clip as a ProRes video and edited in Adobe Premiere. Here is the wonderful video (now a Vimeo Staff Pick no less) entirely shot with a Canon 5D MKIII and a Canon 70-200 L IS II lens, please expand it to full screen or follow the above link to James' Vimeo page:

James appeared only to have shot this as a test, but some of the shots are pieces of art, technically superb and wonderfully framed. He mentions the use of IR contamination which is something most of us would avoid but James uses it on the evening sun to stunning effect. Even viewing the film compressed on Vimeo leaves me impressed and goes to prove that the better the source material the better the final video whether it is H.264 or Blu-ray.

James pushes the boundaries far further than us bi-testicled mortals and hopefully Canon will see that they shouldn't restrict the quality of their brilliant DSLRs to protect their high-end cameras, because Magic Lantern and James will bring the revolution to their door. I expect the 5D MKIII to be spitting out 4K video by the end of the year, it will just take a pioneer like James to make it happen. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

One day my 4K BM Production camera will come - please

There is a bit of a lull in the world of 4K it seems. Sony has established a bit of an unexpected niche in the high end with their F-55; Arri is getting a big boost from its Alexa being used to great affect on Game of Thrones and Canon's much admired C300 has a 4K big brother in the C500. I haven't used any of them, partly because I don't want to spend the price of a convertible Mini on a camera, but mainly because I don't have a crew of 6 six to carry all the peripheral kit that these cameras require.

Of all the specs of all the cameras in all the world this is the one of most interest to me at the moment:

I put my name down for one of these mythical creatures the day after it was announced with CVP in London who don't exactly want to get my hopes up for an early delivery with these words on their website: 

At the moment we're not sure when it is scheduled to ship or will actually ship but based on our experience with the existing 2.5K model we expect long delays.
Our pricing is tentative, so may be adjusted upwards / downwards if the camera price is varied between order placement and shipping date.
Hopefully the price will come down because with exchange rates at the moment the UK price should be £2566 not the £3210 CVP are pricing it at - the difference would pay for quite a few SSD drives I'm going to need.

But the big question has to be the shipping date - what does it mean? The first one, the first 1000, a couple to a shop in downtown Melbourne? Black Magic is one of the most innovative companies in  the camera world but it still relies on component suppliers, one of whom screwed up with the sensors of the first Cinema Camera and rather too many people are still waiting for their cameras who ordered it in the early days.

I have faith though - mainly because I believe Grant Perry would physically drive the white van to deliver the camera because he comes from a post production background, and we post productioners do anything to deliver on time. I mainly shoot stock and I shoot a lot in London and I can't wait to suck the colour out of London and put it onto the screen, even if I will only see a quarter of the picture initially.

I have been promised that within a month I will get my hands on a pre-production model and run a couple of tests. It will probably be raining. This is London after all. At least the lull will be filled.