I Will Now Fly A Drone For Work

It's true. Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the "drone" legality craziness, and the FAA is getting a handle on how to proceed, in response to my previous opinion on this subject, I am now comfortable with owning and operating an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) for work and play.

As I prepare for obtaining an airman certificate and commercial UAS pilot's license, I have already purchased, registered, and flown, my new DJI Mavic Pro. I received it on Friday, got the batteries charged and had it in the air without fuss before the sun went down. Later Saturday I got the camera settings where I wanted them. On Sunday I played with the Mavic Pro around my favorite Baptist camp, Cone Oasis, which was unnoccupied by clients at the time. I had the following test video (which I treated seriously as a short film) finished a few hours later.

I'm looking forward to offering UAS aerial cinematography and photography services to my clients. For more information, please visit my Aerial Cinematography page here: http://www.jasonrjohnston.com/aerial-cinematography-photography/

Also, today is my birthday. What a nice way to celebrate and kick off the new fiscal year.

Panasonic AU-EVA1; my next cinema camera?

The big preview of Panasonic's newest cinema camera, seated comfortably between Varicam LT and GH5, happened at Cine Gear Expo in Los Angeles Friday afternoon. Introducing the Panasonic AU-EVA1. I am astounded at how many of my needs EVA1 checks off my list for a cinema camera upgrade. She also added a few things to the list I couldn't have imagined I'd be able to personally afford in a new cinema camera. EVA1 winds up being a miniature Varicam LT, without the Varicam badge, price, or weight. The specs previewed so far are jaw-dropping.

EVA1 will feature Varicam colorimetry, proper V-Log and V-Gamut. It's DCI 4K will be subsampled from a bran-new 5.7K Super 35 sensor, recording to an internal 10-bit 4:2:2 Intra codec at up to 400Mbps on SDXC cards (I will probably want to invest in the new V-class). It will also, eventually, output 5.7K raw over SDI and/or HDMI. It will work with DVX200 batteries. It will do 4K up to 60fps, as well as 2K up to 240fps. Still being tweaked, EVA1 will have some flavor of dual native ISO, probably close to Varicam LT's settings of 800 and 5000. It has built-in ND, EIS, and a swing-away IR cut filter. The top handle, LCD, and side grip, are removable and repositionable. It also sports an active EF lens mount that most likely will be able to communicate with most fly-by-wire EF lenses and be able to control them with buttons on the camera body for iris and auto focus, if you're into that sort of thing. Also, EVA1 is not bad to look at. The button layout is nice and the black-with-red-trim motif is sexy.

My teeny-tiny complaint is that the EF mount is not a positive-locking one. Would that keep me from favoring EVA1 over, say, Blackmagic's Ursa Mini Pro? Nope. Not at all. In fact, the only thing BMUMP has going for it now is it's interchangeable mount system. That's about it. Every other tick goes in EVA1's favor. With the EF-mount, I will be able to utilize my set of SLR Magic APO Hyperprime Cine T2.1 25/50/85mm PL-mount lenses as I have a lovely EF-PL adapter that works extremely well. As I am also a stills photographer who uses Canon equipment, EVA1 should work beautifully with my little collection of medium-fast EOS "L" zoom lenses.

EVA1's price, which Panasonic says will be 'under $8,000', is enticing. Ursa Mini Pro's price ($5,995), plus Shoulder Mount Kit ($395), 256GB Cfast2 card ($580), V-mount battery plate ($95), and a 14.8V 95Wh battery ($247), comes in at a bit more than $7,311 as a working system. "Under $8,000" could literally mean "$7,999," but everything in the box is what I'd need. All I have to buy at that point is a few V90 SDXC cards which are far less expensive than Cfast2 cards. The batteries I already use with DVX200 will work for EVA1, as will my custom shoulder mount kit I slapped together with components from SmallRig and Zacuto.

Speaking of "competition", Canon recently announced it's new EOS C200. Basically an 8-bit 4:2:0 35Mbps camcorder that primarily shoots 4K in a compressed version of Canon's proprietary raw format, utilizing the EOS C700 sensor, at a measly 150Mbps. The lackluster announcement was, for me, a momentary diversion for a product which I don't find appealing. Later, Sony announced they had a thousand personnel working on a new 135-format ("full frame") sensor CineAlta that'll come out at some point in a few years, be really expensive, and will prove to be a PITA to pull focus on. No thanks.

It's also no small thing that EVA1 is petite: less than 7" long, and less than 6" wide and tall. She also weighs less than 3lbs. She's pretty much perfect for jib and stabilizer work, as well as being outfitted for heavier rig work, but with a total rig weight of "not very much" since EVA1 already is light as a feather. A few extra pounds won't make a lot of difference, I don't think. I'm sure she'll be quite strong as I've always been impressed with Panasonic's build quality. To put it bluntly (and to echo a joke from the movie "Airplane"), I like my cameras the way I like my women: petite, smart, strong, and black...with red trim. Joking aside, I think EVA1 is an absolute winner.

A few niggles: it's unclear at this point what the exact dual native ISO specs will be. We also have no idea what the new sensor's dynamic range will be, or if AU-EVA1's image quality will be anywhere near par to the AU's sister Varicam line. We also don't know what the actual MSRP or street price will be. Some other people are very interested in EVA1's ability to auto focus with EF lenses, as well as what it's OIS compatibility will be. I'm not personally interested in either of these functions, so it's not really a thing, but some people are concerned so, for them, it's worth mentioning. What is of concern to me is how the internal codecs will all play with each other, as well as what sort of sensor cropping are we looking at depending on codec, recording format, frame rates, etc. But, these are all little things that Panasonic is tweaking and will disclose in full before the camera ships this fall. Again, I'd prefer a locking EF mount, but having a bayonet version is not a deal breaker.

Is the Panasonic AU-EVA1 my next cinema camera? I believe EVA1 could be a stellar addition to my small family of motion picture cameras, partially retiring my Blackmagic Cinema Camera, and allowing my Panasonic AG-DVX200 to focus on what it does best: reality/ENG work. It would be my intent for EVA1 to handle the TVCs, music videos, shorts, and feature films that come my way. I can't wait to see what EVA1's official specs will be when they are announced later this year. Panasonic says EVA1 is on track to be released by the end of 2017. I still need to see footage to be sure, but I'm looking forward to holding her in my hands soon and seeing what she's made of. That's when I'll really know.


SLR Magic APO-HyperPrime Cine 50mm T2.1 Early Adoption

April 18, 2016 Update

Being December 31 it is the final day to take advantage of the early adopter special offered by Hong Kong lens manufacturer SLR Magic for the premiere lens in their new APO PL-mount lens set: the SLR Magic APO-HyperPrime Cine 50mm T2.1 with titanium Arri PL-mount. this morning, I sent an email to Andrew Chan asking for more information. After a few hours of casual correspondence with Jane I had sent my deposit via PayPal. I am now on the waiting list for the second batch of lenses due April 2016.


During the correspondence I was informed the next lens on the list shall be the 85mm T2.1 APO. A third lens will be revealed Q2 2016.

It is exciting to be an early adopter of what is certain to be a terrific lens set. The 50mm has already received positive reviews from the likes of EOSHD comparing them with the Cooke S4i Mini, 3D-Kraft! and John Brawley and his comparison against the venerable Zeiss CP.2 50mm T1.5 Superspeed.

Update – April 18, 2016

I received an email this morning from Jane at SLR Magic:

We wish to inform you that your lens will be ready by end of April/beginning of May. The PL to EF mount adapter is probably ready a bit later in May.


Hong Kong, China (April 15, 2016) - SLR Magic will add two new members to the APO-HyperPrime lens family, the SLR Magic APO-HyperPrime CINE 25mm T2.1 and the SLR Magic APO-HyperPrime CINE 85mm T2.1. They achieve outstanding images under challenging lighting conditions. When taking pictures with many image-dominant, open light sources, it is common for correction defects to show up. These apochromatic (APO) lens, longitudinal chromatic aberrations are corrected by its unique optical design and special selection of optical elements. The color defects are therefore significantly lower than the defined limits. Bright/dark transitions in the image, and especially highlights, are rendered with no colourful artefacts.

Thanks to the low level of longitudinal chromatic aberration, there are no visible aberrations. So an illuminated portrait scene by night with many light sources in front of and behind the actual focal plane appears close to reality, without displaying complementary, color contrast edges. The excellent performance delivered by the SLR Magic APO-HyperPrime CINE 25mm T2.1 and SLR Magic APO-HyperPrime CINE 85mm T2.1 is consistent for all shooting distances. Its high performance with an open aperture also makes this lens a good choice for close-ups or portraits. The SLR Magic APO-HyperPrime CINE 50mm T2.1 takes full advantage of modern high-resolution 4K camera sensors as support for 6K sensor size, resulting in impressive resolution in the images, even for the finest detail.

The lens has a completely new optical and mechanical design, which was developed taking into account the special and increasing requirements of high-resolution cameras. The APO-HyperPrime CINE lens series comes standard in PL mount and can be easily adapted to numerous camera systems with the optional PL-mFT adapter, PL-E adapter, EF adapter and NF adapter. The lenses feature standard focus rotation angle of 300 degrees and uniform measurements. This combination makes the lenses ideally suited for every demand on the film set. All APO-HyperPrime CINE lenses have an attachment of any standard follow-focus system.

As a continued dedication to anamorphic lenses, some of the lenses in the APO-HyperPrime CINE lens family would be compatible with the SLR Magic Anamorphot adapter.

SLR Magic will start shipping the APO-HyperPrime CINE 25mm T2.1, SLR Magic APO-HyperPrime CINE 50mm T2.1, and SLR Magic APO-HyperPrime CINE 85mm T2.1 lens set by Q3 2016.

Technical Data

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As you are one of our pre-order customers for the 50mm APO lens, there will be a special offer for you on these 2 APO lenses as well. The details will be available in May after the NAB show.

Someone say hi to Andrew for me if you run into him on the NAB Show floor.

First Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K Footage Released Today

Footage by Roman Alaivi, announced at BMCuser.com earlier today:

Notes by Roman:

1/3rd of the video is ProRes HQ 1080 and the rest is UHD HQ. The couple slow motion shots are 1080 HQ 120fps windowed mode. There is no 4.6K Raw in this video, it's all ProRes. I shot everything with the "Full" sensor read out, only slow motion shots were windowed. None of the footage was shot with Global Shutter, as the mode has yet to be employed. I used inexpensive vintage glass: Zeiss Contax & Canon FDs. Most everything was shot at 800 iso, with a few shots @1600. Hoya NDs were used for most of the daylight shots.

Footage by Tom Majerski:

Notes by Tom:

Shot on the Blackmagic Design Ursa Mini 4.6k - EF. All in ProRes 422 1080p - some shots in 60fps, some in 120fps. The intention was to create a natural and realistic grade - the natural light was very bleak and foggy. This grade was achieved in just 3 nodes. Everything filmed with the Samyang 35mm 1.4 Lens.

Notes by Tom:

Shot on the Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6k EF mount. All shot using the Canon 24-105L. Edited and Graded in Resolve 12. Shot in ProRes 422 , a few shots in UHD, mostly in 1080p. Some Crop sensor mode 120fps, some full sensor 60fps.

Samyang Teases New Xeen Cinema Lens

Korean optical company Samyang has begun officially teasing a new line of cinema lens: Xeen. German director Frank Glencairn, a trusted name 'round these parts, has been given the opportunity to play with the new lenses recently. Though still under NDA until the official announcement date of August 10, Frank has given a few tidbits of information about his Xeen "X-experiences." Read more

Bert Ogden Nissan Commercial

The Bert Ogden family of auto dealerships hired me to shoot footage of all their lots across south Texas for some upcoming television spots. In the finished spot [no longer available] I did the lot shots, building exteriors, the shots of the cars flopping around on the lot and the running footage of the blue truck. It took three days to shoot all eleven dealerships. Thanks to Marsha Green, Cesar Castillo and Pete Salas of the Bert Ogden marketing department.

On location at Bert Ogden Nissan.
On location at Bert Ogden Nissan.
Me and Pete, editor.
Me and Pete, editor.
Marsha directs.
Marsha directs.
Producer Cesar's truck converted into a temporary picture car.
Producer Cesar's truck converted into a temporary picture car.
The flag over Bert Ogden Nissan.
The flag over Bert Ogden Nissan.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera in the bed of the picture car.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera in the bed of the picture car.
During the shoot, Pharr PD pulled over someone who parked behind the picture car and blocked us in, holding up production for a few minutes. But we were waiting for a hero car to be washed so, it worked out.
During the shoot, Pharr PD pulled over someone who parked behind the picture car and blocked us in, holding up production for a few minutes. But we were waiting for a hero car to be washed so, it worked out.
Later that day I was shooting footage at their BMW dealership. This is the view through the SmallHD AC7. Note the reflection of my iPhone 6 in its Otterbox.
Later that day I was shooting footage at their BMW dealership. This is the view through the SmallHD AC7. Note the reflection of my iPhone 6 in its Otterbox.
The next day I was shooting their Chevy dealership when I cut myself on a screw sticking out of my car door from a missing panel as I tried to close it. That's tissue paper and a velcro cable tie holding me together.
The next day I was shooting their Chevy dealership when I cut myself on a screw sticking out of my car door from a missing panel as I tried to close it. That's tissue paper and a velcro cable tie holding me together.
On location at Bert Ogden Chevy.
On location at Bert Ogden Chevy.

Fifty Oars sheds light on Nightmare on Broadway

Fifty Oars designed and implemented the interactive lighting scheme for the Nightmare on Broadway haunted house in McAllen, TX. We were brought in as consultants and laborers by Pyramid EFX chief Abel Flores to help the haunted attraction achieve the cinematic look he and owner Treviño Productions were aspiring for. Nightmare on Broadway opened to rave reviews and is voted the #1 indoor haunted house in the four-county region if the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Fifty Oars provides equipment for "Baseball Massacre"

When independent director Joe Rios needed the right gear to shoot his latest violent dark comedy masterpiece, Baseball Massacre, he turned to Fifty Oars Motion Pictures. Along with an appropriate lens kit, Fifty Oars staff were happy to help operate the camera for scenes that required Joe to be in front of the lens for his short film, as well as provide technical assistance throughout the two-day shoot. Look for Baseball Massacre produced by SLAD Productions, this summer.



"Forget Politics, Vote Change" campaign begins

Fifty Oars has been commissioned to be the multimedia production house for the "Forget Politics, Vote Change" Edcouch-Elsa ISD school board political campaign in Elsa, TX. Fifty Oars is responsible for producing video webisodes, television and radio spots, an interactive donations website and overseeing the campaign's Facebook page. The work includes HD video production, graphic and logo design, photography, web coding and maintenance and providing general guidance and consultation to achieve an overall continuity of the campaign's positive image.

"Forget Politics, Vote Change" video shoot

Fifty Oars was on location today in Elsa, TX to produce a video webisode for Edcouch-Elsa ISD school board political campaign "Forget Politics, Vote Change" to premiere at a fundraising event in May.

Borderfest "Celebrating England" production underway

Fifty Oars is pleased to announce our collaboration with Borderfest to produce the festival's television and radio image campaign for their 36th annual cultural celebration of music, fun and food.

BTS photos by Chad Garcia.





Sand Castle Days 2011

Linda and I visited the 24th Annual Sandcastle Days at South Padre Island, TX on October 21. It was great fun. As the sun set, we ate seafood at Dirty Dave's.