In 2019, we saw some intriguing developments in the new digital video tools from this season: 6K. Full-frame sensors. Mirrorless cameras and mirrorless disruptors. Internal vs. external RAW. New camera card media formats. Shooting to SSDs. Ultra-bright monitors. In many cases, these technologies and features weren’t available to most just a year or two ago. Now, they’re within reach of almost any working professional. So, as a content creator, you can really maximize your budget for equipment.
But this year also brought some paradigm shifts as well in the tools we use. For some, it feels as if the ground is shifting beneath our feet.
So, you can use this guide to also make sense of the vast, continually changing landscape that’s digital cinema and video production gear. Below, you’ll find this particular guide is divided into five sections:
- Video, Mirrorless & Digital Cinema Cameras
- Cine Lenses
- Audio For Video
Video, Mirrorless And Digital Cinema Cameras
In this section, I’m going to focus on a few new cameras but will avoid two notable models announced this past September—Canon EOS C500 MKII and the Sony PMW-FX9—since they won’t likely be available to purchase in time for the holidays. Instead, I’ll focus on cameras that are actually in stock at dealers today.
Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K: I like to call this camera a “mirrorless disrupter” because it’s not a mirrorless hybrid; it’s definitely a cinema camera but sells for what many mirrorless cameras sell for. In other words, it’s still a 6K S35 digital cinema camera. It also has 4K Prores and is compatible with Canon EF-mount lenses. It’s a very capable, low-end digital cinema camera that’s an amazing value for the money.
Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H: As far as cost goes, it’s middle of the road, but it’s a very fully featured full-frame 6K mirrorless camera, with many advanced video camera features, including vlog recording and RAW via HDMI (which is coming). It’s also compatible with L-mount lenses. It’s really just one of the most video-capable mirrorless cameras on the market.
The RED Ranger Ecosystem: These new top-of-the-line RED Ranger cameras feature a more integrated body style that comes with a lot of features and accessories, which were extra on the DSMC2 standard bodies. I still consider the Monstro 8K VV version a rental-only, but with these other two you can now own a new RED Ranger.
Price: $24,950 (for Gemini 5K S35 sensor) or $29,950 (for Helium 8K S35 sensor).
The line between “still” camera lenses and cine lenses continues to blur. This year, we found affordable, high-performance cine lenses available for almost every removable-lens camera, in every mount.
DZOFilm 20-70mm t/2.9 Cine Lens: The Chinese manufacturer DZO, which produces optics for a variety of scientific and industrial applications, constructed this lens specifically for Micro Four Thirds cinema cameras, like the Blackmagic Design Pocket Camcorder 4K, Panasonic Lumix GH5 and Z Cam E2. Overall, it’s a zoom lens that has very good specs—like a 12-blade iris and a parfocal design—and weighs in at just under 39 ounces yet is very reasonably priced. It’s a true cine-quality lens made for inexpensive M43 cameras.
Rokinon Xeen CF Primes: By constructing the bodies out of carbon fiber, Rokinon was able to make this series more lightweight than the metal versions of this Xeen prime series of lenses. Yet the Xeen CF Primes still retain the same strength. They’re currently available in 24mm, 50mm and 85mm focal lengths and in E, EF and PL mounts. And each lens features an 11-blade iris and 200-degree focus rotation.
Price: $2,495 (each)
Angénieux Optimo Anamorphic 56-152mm t/4.0 Zoom Lens: If you want to shoot your magnum opus in anamorphic, consider this top-of-the-line, mid-range zoom from French lens manufacturer Angénieux. It offers a 2X anamorphic squeeze, with 2.7X zoom range. It also produces minimal breathing and is available in PL, PV and EF mounts, all with the legendary Angénieux look.
We saw a dazzling array of new and interesting lights hitting the market this year. Many, although not all, were LEDs.
Aputure LS 300d II: The company has updated the original 300d light to the 300d II, providing it with more output, more features and a quieter power supply. This medium-sized LED (which has a mid-ranged price tag) has a single-source Spot/Fresnel. Numerous Bowens Mount accessories are available, allowing you to turn this into whatever kind of light source you need: soft source, Fresnel with barn doors, pancake, space light or lantern. Aputure made it extremely versatile, with a high output and performance ratio for the price. It can also be powered with AC power or dual high-watt hour V-Mount or Gold-Mount batteries.
Lowel Ego LED Bi-Color Light: Simple and easy to use, this new LED is a Bi-color LED replacement for the long-discontinued Ego Digital Fluorescent Light. It’s a soft, curved light source, useful for tabletop or as a small key source for interviews and headshots. It’s great for vloggers or others with confined space shooting.
Digital Sputnik DS6 LED Modular Light System: The DS6 is Digital Sputnik’s top-of-the-line lighting system. It has high output, enough to serve where a 4K HMI Fresnel would be used—allowing it to be used as fill in daylight situations or punched through windows as a sun source…without a generator! It also may sound like an expensive light, but if you compare the cost to a new traditional 4K HMI Fresnel kit, the DS6 is actually quite a good value that will consume much less power and run much cooler. And if you’re not familiar with Digital Sputnik fixtures, they’re common on high-end Hollywood feature sets. And for good reason: They’re rugged, reliable and color accurate and can be powered from any AC power outlet with a maximum power draw of 840 watts, no generator needed.
Audio for Video
Sound-for-picture technology has evolved in 2019: There were numerous new recorder/mixers and various new choices for microphones and wireless lavalier systems this year.
Zoom F6 6-Input/14-Track Multitrack Field Recorder: The F6 definitely shifted the paradigm for offering this type of audio hardware for less than $1,000. It features 32-bit floating-point audio recording, which is helpful with recordings made at too high or low of a recording level. You also get 14 tracks of simultaneous recording.
Sanken CMS-50 Stereo Shotgun Microphone: This mic is a small, high-quality stereo shotgun for those who want to capture high-quality music or ambient sound. If you shoot or record live music or ambient where it’s important to capture the sound in stereo, the Sanken CMS-50 is a 5.4-inch compact stereo condenser shotgun that weighs only 4.6 ounces.
Sound Devices Scorpio 32-Channel/36-Track Portable Mixer-Recorder: The Scorpio is Sound Devices’ flagship audio recorder mixer, with 36 tracks for recording and a powerful feature set that includes many innovative new features to improve sound quality. It’s designed for production in the field, with a plethora of connections for almost any scale of production.
Red Giant’s Universe 3.1: This is an inexpensive but full-featured video tool box for creatives, targeted at editors, designers and motion graphics artists. All Universe plugins are GPU-accelerated and run within multiple host applications on both Mac and Windows. The all-purpose suite has 82 different plug-ins for text effects, transitions, generators, motion graphics and utilities. And while Universe is a yearly fee application, it’s relatively affordable.
Price: $199 subscription per year
AVID Media Composer Ultimate: Although this film-and-video-editing software package is pricey, it’s truly a first-class app, which many consider the father of them all! And while there are many great editing software programs on the market, AVID Media Composer is an industry standard for editing Hollywood features and episodic television. That’s because its editing, effects, titling, color and audio tools make the creative process fast, easy and gratifying, and, most importantly, AVID Media Composer is generally considered the most stable and reliable editing program on the market with the most sophisticated multi-user workflow.
Price: $499 subscription per year (pre-paid)
Apple’s New Mac Pro And Pro Display XDR
Apple introduced the new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR to the world at its Worldwide Developers Conference this past June. And ever since, many in video and film production, as well as elsewhere, have considered them two of the most controversial new products to hit the market in 2019.
Why the controversy? Simple. The cost.
The most basic version of the new Mac Pro will sell for $5,999. Hold your breath, though, because a new Mac Pro full spec with every possible option could run between $30,000 to even $50,000.
With these prices, the “Pro” in the Mac Pro is off the charts because it’s obviously not a computer for mere mortals. In many ways, it’s users who like to load up their AE or 3D rendering queues with the most lighting, shading, blurring and layered particles possible. It’s also for editors who are working with dozens of plug-ins for complex music arrangements and recordings and video editors working on insane deadlines with lots of motion graphics, video layers and effects.
The new Mac Pro starts at $5,999 for the 8-core Intel Xeon 3.5GHz model, with 32GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and Radeon Pro 580X graphics card, but there will be multiple build-to-order options and configurations available with up to 1.5TB of RAM, Radeon Pro Vega II Duo graphics and a 28-core Xeon.
In addition, there will be units and expansion modules that can be purchased separately, including the Mac Pro expansion module (MPX Module) and Afterburner and wheels (yes, this computer is heavy enough that many will want to wheel it around rather than carry it).
Additionally, to accompany the new Mac Pro to market, Apple had added a new high-end monitor to the mix with some interesting specs. The monitor, branded the Pro Display XDR, boasts an impressive spec list, including 6K and 32 inches.
But again, the price is in sync with the new Mac Pro: It’s $4,999 for the standard model and $5,999 for a model with “Nano texture glass,” which is said to reduce reflections.
And to top it off: The Apple stand that holds the new monitor itself costs a cool $999 (or $199 for a VESA mount).
If the new monitor is anything like the new Mac Pro itself, it will be an impressive technical achievement, but you’ll pay for it.
Price: Starts at $5,999 (Mac Pro); $4,999 (Pro Display XDR) or $5,999 model (with Pro Display XDR Nano texture glass)