Wide-ranging, non-biased tests of all available digital cinema production cameras enable filmmakers to see differences visually
Radiant Images has created a powerful new tool for filmmakers by conducting comprehensive testing of all available digital cinema production cameras.
The wide-ranging, non-biased tests covering categories such as dynamic range and color rendition enable cinematographers to evaluate and choose cameras and lenses based on visual comparisons rather than technical specifications. By being able to make appropriate gear choices at the beginning of the process, filmmakers can save time and money and reduce frustrations later.
Radiant Images, an LA-based rental house and digital cinema innovator, is the first rental house to perform such comprehensive camera testing. The company performed the tedious, exhaustive tests over a week in late May with the welcome assistance from some of the industry’s most skilled cinematographers - Fred Goodich, ASC, Steve Mason, ASC, Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, and David Stump, ASC.
Digital cameras tested included the Sony F65 and F55, ARRI Alexa RAW and Alexa SxS, Red Epic, Canon C500 and C300, Canon 1DC, Canon 5D Mark III, SI-2K, Novo, Phantom Flex, Phantom Miro and the Blackmagic Design.
Testing categories included dynamic range, color rendition, side-by-side lens test, modern lens vs. vintage lens, bracket test, green screen test and a solution for noise reduction.
“We want to be able to communicate with our filmmakers both technically and visually, artistically,” said Michael Mansouri, VP of Radiant Images. “With the move toward digital, our industry has been so focused on technical data and numbers that we’ve forgotten that when we shot on film, it was all about look and aesthetics.”
Radiant Images debuted its demo reel of the testing in its booth at Cine Gear in June, which caught the eye of filmmakers who visited. Many seemed mesmerized by what they were seeing.
“How do you tell someone that (color saturation) is too red with a particular camera?” Mansouri said. “You can’t, you have to show them. They need to see it. And with these tests, they can. We feel that collaboration starts here in the rental house. We come up with solutions before the start of production. Our camera testing is an important element of that collaboration.”
The color rendition testing, for example, painstakingly examined how many different cameras processed and captured color and how true those shots were to real life. But instead of looking at color charts, which often seem unrelated to what is getting shot, Radiant Images used a range of fabrics in different colors and materials for a more realistic comparison. A range of skin tones were used as well.
Radiant Images also tested and recorded an exclusive noise profile, or fingerprint, for each digital cinema camera. This effort helps in post production as the noise characteristics unique to each camera can be more easily removed without as much, or any, softening of the image.
Mansouri said post-production houses will be able to utilize the camera testing before and during the production process to avoid delays later on. “They can run tests through their post pipeline to make sure everything is working perfectly,” he said.
Radiant Images welcomes visits by cinematographers who stop by the Los Angeles facility for a demonstration, he said. “Our aim is to help filmmakers achieve their vision without roadblocks and limitations. This is another tool to get us there,” Mansouri said.
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