Cine Gear Expo LA 2011 at Paramount Studios: Impressions & Highlights

Cinegear 2011 - Highlights & Impressions Article by Tobias Deml

Cine Gear LA 2011 - Highlights & Impressions Article by Tobias Deml

This year’s 2011 Cine  Gear Expo LA at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles (June 2-5)was a large event with thousands of film professionals and a good amount of hobbyists in which old, state-of-the-art and Beta-status technologies were shown off to the public. I went there on both Friday and Saturday, and four hours total at the Cinegear are – let’s be frank – not enough at all. I was fascinated with the enormous amount and  quality  of equipment shown off there, and for all of those that were not able to attend, here is a short summary with highlights; completely subjective and biased by my own likens. That’s how the  expo describes itself on its website:

Cine Gear Expo, in its 16th year, is the premier Film, Video, and Digital Media Expo for the entertainment industry.

Created by the professional for the professional, Cine Gear Expo remains focused to the needs of the community and attracts the most dedicated specialists from every major department of the entertainment production and post production world. Unique in concept, Cine Gear Expo offers artists and technicians the opportunity to discover the latest technology and techniques, get hands-on training, gain knowledge and skills from industry leaders, obtain the newest equipment, hear breaking industry news and network with peers and industry leaders all within a professional and comfortable studio environment.

Nowhere else can this audience find the volume and quality of information available all in one place.

Cine Gear Expo is the largest and most important event of its kind in the United States and is a world recognized and attended event. This annual four day conference includes: Exhibits, Premiere and Master Class Seminars, Film Series Competition & Finalist screenings, 3D Symposium and Technology Salon, New Product Announcements, Demonstrations, VIP Awards Ceremony, Special Events and more.

I am currently shooting mostly with DSLRs like the 7D or 5D (you can see my 2011 cinematography reel here), so my attention was somewhat slanted towards products connected with these type of cameras – but most of all, I was out for eye candy and stuff that I have never seen before. The Paramount Studio Lot was the chosen venue just like last year, with two main halls and the New York streets backlot outdoors as vendor spaces; tickets were free if ordered online before May 20th, otherwise you had to pay $20 or hustle someone who was leaving for their ticket. Various seminars and presentations were offered in secluded screening rooms across the Paramount lot; if you took one of the detailed programs, you were able to find out when and where these seminars are; on the bottom of the post I will talk shortly about a seminar given by Sony. There were screenings, symposia and film screenings on the day before and after the exhibition, which I didn’t have time to go to -  this post is only about the exhibition part of the Cine Gear Expo.

Since I can’t cover everything in this article, a complete list of vendors can be found here:

In the sections below there will be short descriptions of the products as well as further links to find out more about the equipment or their manufacturers. Here are the highlights – again, totally subjective:

That's what you see when you enter the Cinegear 2011: A busy floor full of vendors, tons of visitors flocking around.

That's what you see when you enter the Cinegear 2011: A busy floor full of vendors, tons of visitors flocking around.

ALEXA and giantic Lenses

ARRI‘s new digital flagship, the ALEXA, was shown off in multiple booths, including ridiculously large lenses. It’s high sensitivity to low light is definitely a good argument, and with a price tag of around 45.000 Euros or $60.000 quite worth carrying these monster optics:

Various companies show off new ALEXAs, including immensely large lenses.

Various companies show off new ALEXAs, including immensely large lenses.

Camblock Portable Motion Control System

The Camblock Motion Control System looks like a great experiment that combines light-weight manufacturing with light-weight DSLR cameras and  heavier cameras like the RED ONE. It has a fully controllable head on which you mount the camera; with a small programming unit you can determine the movement of the camera along the dolly tracks as well as the rotary motions of the head. On the Cine Gear, there was a laser pointer mounted on the camera, pointing at the banner you can see in the picture – and with exact precision, it hit the middle of the “O” and described a smooth curve along the poster.

The inventor/founder of camblock, Stewart Mayer, showed me a very cool  timelapse shot of a growing plant – shooting time: 8 weeks – and pointed out that the Camblock system can do multiple time lapse shots at the same time; when it (for example) creates one frame every 20 minutes, it can create multiple frames behind each other that belong to different movements; over the course of the whole shooting, that way several camera movements are recorded. In the case of the growing plant, he had three plants and made multiple camera moves for each plant – two plants died, so he was able to use the footage of the third plant without redoing the entire 8-week-process.

The camblock motion control system is a very light-weight, programable motion control dolly which lets the camera move and rotate with absolute precision.

The camblock motion control system is a very light-weight, programable motion control dolly which lets the camera move and rotate with absolute precision.

CMOCOS Motion Control Robot Arm with RED EPIC

The CMOCOS (made by Vienna-based Wunderwerk) is a robot arm that can move the camera in all imaginable routes, really fast and precise. It’s an Austrian-German development that has basically no competitors because no one else really came up with a system like it. The arm itself operates very similar to those that we know from airplace or car factories – with multiple 360° rotating  joints, it can carry a payload (that would be the camera) of up to 12kg / 24lbs – perfect for the RED EPIC, which you can see in the photo below.

The manufacturer has a few videos online on which you can see demos of the CMOCOS in motion. Cool: You can open a 3D-editor like software that was made specifically for the robot, create a motion in there or import motion data from a variety of 3D-animation-packages and “drag and drop” the motion to the robot who then does it in real life. One of my favorite features is one where the CMOCOS makes the camera “weightless” (it counterbalances and absorbs the camera weight), so you can steer and move the camera through the air with your pinky finger and choose optional stabilization to that movement; you then can record that movement and make the robot repeat what you just did with it. You can see some of these features in action in this youtube-video.

The CMOCOS Robot Arm at the Cinegear. Mounted on top: A brand new RED EPIC.

The CMOCOS Robot Arm at the Cinegear. Mounted on top: A brand new RED EPIC.

The Software interface controlling the CMOCOS robot arm - a 3D-editor-like program that lets the user create motions on the computer and then upload it to the arm itself. Here, we can see a closeup of the lens body of the "standard" camera, the RED EPIC.

The Software interface controlling the CMOCOS robot arm - a 3D-editor-like program that lets the user create motions on the computer and then upload it to the arm itself. Here, we can see a closeup of the lens body of the "standard" camera, the RED EPIC.

Universal Virtual Stage Motion Capture / Virtual Camera with live Composting

The Universal Virtual Stage lets you play James Cameron: With a screen and two handles you hold a virtual camera that records your position and alignment in space as well as actors in motion capture suits while you are in a green room – on top of that, you can include actors in costumes. The system then tracks the movements of the camera in space, captures the motion of the MoCap-actors, keys out the green screen and replaces it with a virtual pre-viz environment and replaces the MoCap actors with their virtual equivalents. The camera motion and composting is surprisingly convincing and realistic – and while everything around you is green, on the screen in front of you you are filming the environment you had envisioned.

This interactive virtual camera gives you the ability to combine motion capture with camera movements; an automatized, real-time compositing lets you preview your digital scene á la "Avatar".

This interactive virtual camera in the Universal Virtual Stage gives you the ability to combine motion capture with camera movements; an automatized, real-time composting tool lets you preview your digital scene á la "Avatar".

Tessive Time Filter – Temporal Antialiasing

The Tessive Time Filter is a really interesting, never-shown-before (the Cine Gear Expo 2011 was its debut) piece of equipment – it solves a problem of interval theory, the two inventor-founders come from a medical imaging background and somehow realized that when an image gets exposed, the opening and closing of the shutter (or, the exposure beginning and end of a frame) are “hard”, meaning, there is just “exposure” and “no exposure”. Because of that, depending on the frame rate and therefore exposure time, strange effects appear: The prime example is the wagon wheel effect, in which a wheel seems to spin backwards or slower than reality when it reaches a certain spinning frequency or speed. Other keywords are Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem and Nyquist Frequency. Similar to Aliasing on sharp edges in pixel graphics, “sharp edges” in time create an unwanted effect, and the Time Filter effectively eliminates this artifact.

The diagram shown in Tessive's brochure, explaining how their filter influences the exposure of each frame.

The diagram shown in Tessive's brochure, explaining how their filter influences the exposure of each frame.

The Tessive Founders are – unlike other, business-oriented founders – Electronic Engineering nerds, and have a great talent in explaining the full story of how their product works – read it on their website. The only catch? It’s completely new, completely unique – and priced that way.

More information in their brochure.

A sample image of the Tessive Time Filter; when the filter is activated, the motion blur seems to be larger and smoother, while the subject stays sharp.

A sample image of the Tessive Time Filter; when the filter is activated, the motion blur seems to be larger and smoother, while the subject stays sharp.

The Tessive Time filter seen through the external monitor of a RED ONE. On top we see the image without the Tessive Time Filter, on the bottom the Filter is activated.

The Tessive Time filter seen through the external monitor of a RED ONE. On top we see the image without the Tessive Time Filter, on the bottom the Filter is activated - and the wagon wheel effect is eliminated.

LED-powered, animated Car Reflections

This LCD-powered projection/screen imitates anything from a flame to a city night sky flying by; a smart tool to shoot night driving scenes in a studio.

This LCD-powered projection/screen imitates anything from a flame to a city night sky flying by; a smart tool to shoot night driving scenes in a studio.

Ultimate Arm – Mobile Jib

The Ultimate Arm appears on nearly every bigger action film set – a fascinating piece of technology that is mounted on a vehicle and captures amazing driving shots while absorbing nearly all vibration or bumps through gyroscopic stabilization. The jib is completely remote controlled, and can even be used on boats.

The Ultimate Arm is a mobile jib system used in major action movies - you can film a car or boat chase with a surprising steadiness.

The Ultimate Arm is a mobile jib system used in major action movies - you can film a car or boat chase with a surprising steadiness.

Helmet Rig and Cage for the DSLR Generation

Hurlbut Visuals, a cinematographer-founded camera rental company, showed off its DSLR rigs, including a smart helmet rig that positions the camera right next to the head (therefore, the actors will have to look into the lens instead of the other actor’s face during POV shots) – while being “off to the side” is a bit annoying, the camera being at the same  depth level as the eyes helps a lot with POV shots where the subject’s hands or arms are visible.

Another rig which really surprised me was their cage rig – it builds a cage around the 7D or 5D, and creates a jungle of accessorries around that cage. The cage protects the camera, while all other pieces of equipment are sturdily mounted on a rail system.

Hurlbut provides a cool helmet rig, which utilizes DSLRs like the 5D or 7D to achieve POV shots.

Hurlbut Visuals provides a cool helmet rig, which utilizes DSLRs like the 5D or 7D to achieve POV shots.

Hurlbut's DSLR rigs achieve one thing: They hide the cameras really well. For stability and protective reasons, the DSLR is encased in a cage", which is connected to the quite heavy rig that includes all imaginable accessories.

Hurlbut Visual's DSLR rigs achieve one thing: They hide the cameras really well. For stability and protective reasons, the DSLR is encased in a cage", which is connected to the quite heavy rig that includes all imaginable accessories.

Flying Cam – RC Helicopters for the EPIC

The Flying Cam unmanned helicopters offer that what all moving camera fetishists want: Complete control without limitations. I saw the concept of a RC Helicopter shooting amazing footage first when watching Trent Palmer’s Aerial Reel on Vimeo, where he uses a 7D and a powerful, modified RC Helicopter to shoot very dynamic moves that are absolutely impossible to achieve with a crane, jib, airplane or real helicopter. Similar here at Flying Cam  – just that these guys work for the big movies – and offer goodies on their website, like their making of aerial shots in Harry Potter.

The relatively light EPIC fits these remote controlled helicopters perfectly; their small size lets them get close to the subject or lets them explore areas that are not possible for regular helicopters. In my opinion, this is the future of action film chase scenes – just imagine, now you can move your camera in any place you want, make it rise up into the sky or rotate it 360° in any direction.

RC Helicopters capable of carrying the RED EPIC show up on Cinegear, next to real-size Helicopter rigs.

RC Helicopters capable of carrying the RED EPIC show up on Cinegear, next to real-size Helicopter rigs.

Photron Fastcam High Speed Camera

The Photron Fastcam is a 2000 Frames per Second High-Speed camera that captures – as demonstrated at the Cine Gear – crystal clear footage, which, when played back in super slow motion, creates the illusion of frozen time. If you have watched 1000fps-Videos, 2000fps looks even crazier. Or, if you would like so, upgrade to Photron’s 50.000 FPS.

The Photron is a high-speed camera that can shoot up to 2000fps at Full HD, 1920x1080.

The Photron is a high-speed camera that can shoot up to 2000fps at Full HD, 1920x1080.

G-4 Nite Sun – literally, sunlight during the night

The G-4 Nite Sun is a massive truck with four 24 kW-HMI-Lights which together produce the inzy winzy tiny amount of 20 Million Lumens. This truck is used to light the majority of vendors and the New York backdrop of the Paramount Lot during the night hours of the Cine Gear Expo. Each light can pan, tilt and bank, flood and spot individually, and it looks like aliens arrived in a backstreet of New York.

The G-4 Nite Sun truck is used to light the majority of the outdoors New York part of the Cine Gear Expo 2011 on the Paramount Studio Lot.

The G-4 Nite Sun truck is used to light the majority of the outdoors New York part of the Cine Gear Expo 2011 on the Paramount Studio Lot.

A G-4 Nite Sun truck with four remote-controlled 24kW-Lights; each light can rotate independently.

The G-4 Nite Sun truck with four remote-controlled 24kW-Lights; each light can rotate independently.

Seminar: Sony introduces the NEX-FS100U Super 35mm camcorder

Sony’s NEX-FS100U looks like a medium-sized camcorder – with the difference that the sensor has the same size as the classic super 35mm film frames. Not just that, it has the same sensor as the Sony F3 and is ridiculously sensitive in low-light conditions, while maintaining a crisp and noiseless image quality – much better than the low-light capabilities of the Canon EOS 7D. Members of the audience were concerned about the lack of a genlock feature and the ultra-lightweight (magnesium skeleton and plastic shell) design; these points were presented by the Sony representative as appropriate for the camera’s price range and usage intentions.

Sony showed a 10-minute demonstration of the camera shot by David Leitner – with some shots looking very cinematic and atmospheric, a good argument for the $5000 camera. The fact that caught me the most was the explanation of how the EXMOR-CMOS sensor of the FS100U was superior to the sensor of the 7D in terms of motion pictures: While the 7D’s CMOS-sensor is made to record 18MP photos, it has to drop 66% of all pixels for the Full HD video output and therefore creates aliasing-artifacts. The EXMOR-sensor has larger pixels (75% larger than the 7D), which match its resolution (also Full HD) exactly; no frames are dropped and each pixel can absorb more light, which explains its  success in low-light conditions. The FS100U offers an E-mount that can be combined with adapters to accommodate just about any film or photography lens out there – all in all, a quite cool camera if you have the budget for it.

About the Author

Tobias Deml is an Austrian Filmmaker and Visual Artist. 2012 Cinematography Reel: http://vimeo.com/53973421 Tobias Deml ist ein österreichischer Filmstudent und Möchtegernregisseur in Los Angeles. Er arbeitet derzeit als Kameramann in Los Angeles und popelt in seiner Nase.