View Full Version : Happy SI Mini owner
10-12-2006, 09:08 AM
Let me start by saying that we have no relationship with SI or Cineform beyond buying their products. This is meant as information sharing about our experiences as they relate to things you don't learn by watching sample footage or reading specs ... customer service.
A few weeks back we bought a SI mini and have been testing various lenses getting to know the workflow, etc. Essentially we plan to use several minis on remote pan/tilt heads to record music performances that we'll assemble in post. We are very happy with the camera and images, but just as importanly we've been getting great customer service and honest communication.
In our increasingly IT based production world, this has become one of the most important considerations for us when selecting products. For instance, we have several AJA products and their customer service is great. We can't afford down time or technical issues to get in our way, so anytime we need a new capture card or converter, AJA is the first place we'll look.
So far our experience with SI and Cineform has been equally impressive - very responsive, honest and helpful. Most importantly, I feel that I'm getting information I can trust to make business decisions. If I'm going to use a SI product instead of time-proven formats like HDCam, I need to know that it will work as advertised and so far that is exactly what we've experienced.
I think we all probably have seen this in their participation in this forum and interest in all our input, in the fact that the Spoon folks took a huge leap of faith and seem very happy and the fact that the Cineform team pulled off a great looking 48-hour film submission using a $50 ebay lens. While the SI camera is still very new, it is delivering what we expect and makes us comfortable with our plan of using it in critical projects with tight deadlines.
While we can make no promises for what any one else will experience, we can comfortably say that if these two companies keep giving us great products, well priced and providing the kind of customer support we've experienced so far they can rely on us being their customers for along time.
Blue Land Media
10-12-2006, 08:33 PM
Good news! And KUDOS!! What will it be your lenses option?
10-13-2006, 05:23 PM
what will be your workflow for those several mini's on music projects ?
you capturing cineform raw ?
are you going to be using Premiere as your NLE ?
if not premiere then will your current NLE handle the cineform RAW or do you have to convert to another file ?
10-14-2006, 10:29 AM
Great news. Keep us posted on your work.
10-14-2006, 07:23 PM
Most of our prior work has been HDCam with a little bit of HDV (which we dislike for many reasons) and some DVCProHD mixed in. So in the past when we've had choices it was pretty much among various focal length zooms from Canon or Fujinon HD lenses for 2/3" chips.
So for us, working with the SI camera has really been a lot of fun when it comes to lenses. Since the mini comes with a native C mount and we also have the PL mount adapter (which screws in with four separate screws and is quite solid), the choices are actually pretty huge. The way we are approaching this is that we'll start our first few shoots with one set of lenses as we polish our shooting (we've never run remote cameras like this before) and make sure everything is going as we had hoped. Then we'll take a hard look at the performances of our first set of lenses and possibly move to upgrade some or all of the lenses a little later in the season.
With the C-mount we can buy still camera lens adapters (Nikon, Canon, Minolta, etc.) very cheaply and we are doing this to test a Canon 300mm f2.8 lens for one of the camera positions. This will just be for real tight shots on the singers or hands on guitars or pianos, etc.
We'll also use a wide lens (we have several c-mount lenses we're testing) for a wide shot that shows a lot of the venue, but still gives us enough of a view of the performers (they won't be tiny in the frame). This will essentially be our cover shot to go to when/if we need it or just to use as an occassional establishing shot.
For three additional positions we'll be using a Canon 15-150mm f2.8 zoom lens, model v10X15, we have tested and been quite happy with. This is an older lens designed for 1" tube cameras, and the model has been recommended and adapted (Pl or other mounts) for others by Les Bosher, a very well respected camera engineer in the UK. So far we've found the lenses to be quite sharp, with nice color rendition and contrast. If we find these lenses seem to be underperforming as we continue our testing, we may decide to start renting modern Canon Super 16 lenses for those camera positions, but since those currently cost about as much as the cameras I doubt we'd be buying them anytime soon.
Another nice thing about using the Canon V10X15 lenses for our start up is that they were frequently motorized and used for high-end CCTV and scientific video applications. In those applications they were housed in hermetically sealed camera enclosures so if you find the right ones they can be really clean and free of dust and other possible problems you would find with many older zooms. We actually found some complete, sealed cameras/lenses that were being resold from a government installation that appeared to be hardly used. A good friend who is very tech savy built us some really nice controllers that give really smooth control of zoom, focus and aperture right over a Cat5 cable. If we need to down the road we can use the same motors with different brackets for other zooms.
So that is our current plan. We would love to hear other suggestions of Super 16 lenses that might fit the bill, but because of the camera positions we're using and the shots we want the really need to at least go to 120mm on the long end.
Finally, I said we're having fun with the lenses and I really mean it. We've picked up a few Kinoptik c-mount lenses and some other small primes pretty cheaply on Ebay. With a small prime and the already small size of the mini you really get a lot of interesting options like placing the camera right inside a open grand piano or in the midst of a drum kit.
Probably more info than you were looking for, but these new cameras are really opening a world of possibilities that we just couldn't consider when we were looking at both the price range and size of 2/3" cameras.
10-14-2006, 08:12 PM
Basically we will run everything for this project from a small projectionist booth at the top of the venue's balcony. All the cameras/lenses/pan-tilt mounts will be run from that one location, with one computer for each mini. From that booth, two (possibly three) people will run the cameras with one person acting as director just so we keep some sense of order. All of the operators will easily be able to see what each camera is capturing.
Everything will be captured as Cineform Raw at 1080P/29.97 and recorded onto external USB drives. At the end of a show we'll bring those back to our shop for editing. The audio will be multi-tracked to a separate computer at the same time, but we'll probably record a stereo mix to each camera at the same time for reference.
We are basically a Mac shop and have been cutting HD on Final Cut since mid-2003 a little after the AJA Kona HD card was released. We really like Final Cut, although there are still many things we find frustrating. If we can use it for this project that will be our prefered NLE. I know Cineform is working on it. We don't have anything against Premiere, we just don't know it well and all of our old projects, plugins, etc. are tied to FCP.
But I also know we can't base our decisions on what may be, since product timelines shift, unexpected technical hurdles come up, etc. So we are moving forward knowing that the first few shows we do, or possibly all of them, may have to use Premiere. The nice thing is that now with the new Mac Pro intel based machines we can use bootcamp and have access to both Premiere in XP and FCP in OSX from the same machine.
Finally, I would say I am really looking forward to and hoping for a day that I can move everything we do to one codec. For instance, right now we have 9 different tape formats in our library and footage digitzed into 5 or 6 different codecs on our hard drives. This is far from efficient and is really annoying when you want to mix assets from various projects. So, based on going with the SI and Cineform Raw solution, our ideal would be having Cineform fully supported in FCP and begin to use Cineform as our capture codec as well. That way everything in our workflow would either be captured during shooting into Cineform or captured off tape to Cineform.
We'll see if we ever get to such a unified workflow based on a single main codec, but its nice to dream about. I know Cineform is working hard to get us there, so I'm just hoping Apple is giving them the information and support they need. In the meantime we are prepared to move forward with today's realities, knowing we have a very workable solution with Premiere.
10-14-2006, 11:08 PM
Hi Walter . . . I really like what you're going for! And we're definitely here to back you up :)
BTW, on lenses, beware of the 2/3" video lenses that were designed for 3-chip cameras . . . these lenses need an apochromatic adapter in order to be used properly on a single-chip system without any chromatic shifting or other chromatic aberations. This is due to 2/3" 3-chip lenses being specificatlly constructed to offset for the different focal points that the red, green, and blue sensors have in a 3-chip camera.
We're also well aware of the Premiere-Pro/FCP conundrum that people are up against, and I know the CineForm folks are doing their best to solve these issues.
10-14-2006, 11:35 PM
great great info here.. thx people