Nikon D800 shooting Dexter

Nikon D800 shooting Dexter

Nikon D800 shooting Dexter (2)

In September 2012 Nikon issued a press release about the D800 camera been used in the shooting of the television series “Wilfred” and “Dexter” by the TV networks FX and Showtime. Yesterday Studiodaily published a article where camera operator Eric Fletcher shares his experiences with the D800:

"We used the Alexa as a baseline and had the D800 recording to an outboard recorder uncompressed and to an internal memory card at H.264 compressed," says Fletcher. "We also tested a Canon C300 with a Cooke lens on it—a $40,000 setup—running alongside the $4,000 Nikon D800 setup. The Canon footage had what you might call an over-smooth look to it. But the D800 uncompressed footage blew us away."

When they looked at D800 footage alongside the ARRI baseline at Technicolor, he says, "we really couldn't see much difference. But our jaws really hit the floor when we brought up the compressed D800 footage. Right then the decision was made with the post supervisor Megan Walsh that if we shoot with this camera, there is no need to shoot uncompressed. That means the file size goes from 4GB to 600 MB. That's just the factory setup, too."

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  • AA

    “file size goes from 4GB to 600 MB”. The Amazing Camera!

  • Paul

    It’s good to hear some positive industry experiences shooting video with Nikon DSLRs. Nikon needs to release a video camera soon if it hopes to stay in the game.

    • Nikon has video on most of the camera’s now, so most of the camera’s are video camera’s too. what do you mean?

      • Probably means, a dedicated video camera that use cine lens?

        • iamlucky13

          At a minimum, the ergonomics of an SLR are not great for video.

      • ahowes83

        I assume he means a proper camcorder, with XLRs and so forth.

        • Steve

          There are some affordable ways (juicedlink among others) to get XLR inputs into a DSLR.

          • Thom Hogan

            Right, and then you discover just how noisy the sound amps in the Nikon DSLRs are (which is to say, a lot).

            Both Canon and Sony figured this out quickly enough: they still make video-enabled DSLRs, but for video professionals they make DSLR-derived video cameras (NEX line for Sony, C line for Canon). Let me tell you, using a camera that’s truly set up for video is a lot different than using a DSLR for video. Audio is just one of the problems these dedicated cameras solve better.

            This gets us right back to the question I posed back when the D90 came out: how much time do you really want to have the DSLR engineers spend solving video problems versus solving still problems? There’s still a lot left undone on the still side.

            • MyrddinWilt


              But what I really want is not XLR input on the camera, its a digital input on the camera and an digital sender at the mic. All those audio cable problems could be solved in one go.

              I think that a dedicated video line built on the CX lens format would be a winner. Maybe not for this particular application but it would beat the standard pro video easily

        • Jacob Abrams

          Nobody in production wants audio cables hanging off their camera. In real production the sound mixer on set has all the mic’s running to a separate box. DP’s, camera op’s and AC’s all hate when sound wants to plug a mic into the camera. There are already enough cables running of the camera as is.

      • Jason Philbrook

        As an amateur, I’d want an eyepiece/viewfinder rather than a 3″ screen to improve focusing and situational awareness. Ergonomics of holding a camera up to your face and zooming/focusing can’t be done with the eye relief required by a screen and holding the weight of whole thing away from your body. Balanced mic input would be beneficial

        • Pete

          For shooting proper video, you shouldn’t hand hold at all. You’ll need a good tripod, with a video head for smooth panning.

        • Jacob Abrams

          You know there are plenty of viewfinder options out there for DSLRs. Everything from simple loupes over the viewfinder to a full evf getting a feed from the hdmi out.

      • T. Aaron

        A real video camera comparable to Canon’s C100,300 & 500

    • Steve

      Nikon makes a video camera (actually several), in this case its the D800. There isn’t a perfect camera. But no camera is “perfect” for every situation. The guy is freakin’ comparing the D800 to the Arri Alexa. For certain needs, he likes the files it produces more than the Canon C300 (which is an awesome camera). All cameras require some kind of rig to make it more functional on a set.

      All this to say: I’d be really surprised if they come out with a dedicated video camera.

      If they did, it would probably be a large sensor in a body like the Black Magic Cinema Camera, and I don’t think that body offers that many more advantages than the current DSLR design.

      • Steve

        But I sure would like a large sensor in a BMCC.

      • tifkat

        One of the real limitations between DSLR and camcorder might be that 29:59 barrier? Having never been on a real ‘movie’ production set, I wouldn’t know if they like to leave the ‘film’ rolling for multiple takes or if they start/stop each time.

        Keeping it rolling might be a problem for DSLRs.

        • Martijn

          i sure hope they don’t need to use a half an hour to create one single take

        • Remedy

          When You record to an external recorder via clean HDMI output there is no limitation, only the storage space You have.

        • Jacob Abrams

          The camera is almost never kept rolling between takes. Even on the occasion a camera is left rolling the longest it might stay rolling is 5-6 minutes. You have to remember that any production shooting on film has to change magazines after about 10 minutes (1000ft mag on 35mm) anyway, or a lot more often than a DSLR.

      • Thom Hogan

        True. No camera is perfect.

        The thing about video is that the bar is set very low right now: 1920 x 1080. The Zacuto tests have been revealing to a lot of videographers: there’s room for output from everything from an iPhone to an Arri, and many of the best directors of photography in the business all have different opinions about different image quality factors they saw in the tests. Some like it soft, some like it hard; some like it wide (in DR), some like it narrow; some like it vivid, some like it subdued. You can pretty much find a DP who likes any given individual camera. And when you use multiple cameras, you try to find cameras that are complementary, not different.

        Things are changing, though. Workflow and Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 and some other variations) are suddenly becoming important, and that’s where the dedicated video cameras are winning back DPs. Being able to shoot RED raw and edit it in FCP and other NLEs changes the game again. I wrote two years ago (and again last year) that Nikon needed a video entry. I still believe that.

    • Mark

      I thought I bought my camera to take photographs.

  • Peter M

    In the original article Fletcher mentions support by Nikon and firmware updates. It seems they were tailored to his needs? It would be more than interesting to know how these actually helped him and what functionality they provided…

    • Jacob Abrams

      I think was taken slightly out of context. As far as I know he is referring to NPS updating the firmware for them and getting feedback on how things were going. I know for a fact they had custom picture styles supplied by technicolor though. I don’t think Nikon made any custom firmware for him, but I can ask him…

  • Pat

    at low ISO, on tripod, even the compressed out-of-camera D800 video can be jaw dropping. I’ve done quite a few landscape/vacation shots and the level of detail captured is as good as the more average travel shows you see broadcast cable TV. use the f/2.8 trinity or the f/1.4G primes and the video is sure to pop.

  • CommonSense

    Nikon for the f*ckin win!

  • I’m a TV director and editor, and have spent many years using and looking at footage from all sorts of cameras and media from all price ranges. Having had to deal several times with footage from the 5DII, I fully expected the D800 to be hampered by the same limitations (they are many, but mainly softness). I have to say that I have been very pleasantly surprised by the D800’s performance (internal compressed). It looks sharp and composed, when used properly. Great tool.

    • always love reading real experience from people who really shoots and use these equipments to do their work.

      as opposed to spec. readers

  • jimbo

    Since when is 4GB a problem? Aren’t we in the era of terabyte drives? 🙂

    • Neopulse

      and you can get a 2 TB one for less than $150 at that.

    • Steve

      Storage is a consideration. However, the computing power to process and edit the files.

    • Elfx

      Even it storage is very cheap, I’d definitely prefer 600 MB to 4 GB.
      Aren’t we also going to the era of efficiency? 😀

    • twoomy

      I love when non-professionals chime in about how size isn’t an issue. Try working at a big studio where you generate a few TB of data each week. Try putting that on a file server or NAS that can’t afford to go down (RAID 5, RAID 6, etc.) and remember to back it all up and have multiple copies for version control in case one of the files gets mistakenly modified or corrupted.

      Now tell me that choosing a format that’s one sixth the uncompressed size wouldn’t excite you?

      Not everybody can solve their problems buy going to BestBuy and buying a $100 PoS USB SATA disk.

      • A. Lurker

        Yet you actually refer to RAID5 as being viable?

        • twoomy

          Yes. In some environments and arrays, RAID5 is a perfectly viable option.

      • `/1nc3nt

        Production environment is using different quality of hardware although we are using the same naming: QuadProcessor, 1TB HD, 24GB RAM we are talking about different animals.

        Mine is not doing audiovisual but more on transactional. I think it’s the same hell we are facing 🙂

      • How the hell they can do color correction without converting H.264 to some intermediate format? If they DO convert the footage for CC, I do not see any reason to shoot in H.264 and convert it to ProRes or DNxHD afterwards. What is the trick?

    • Thom Hogan

      It isn’t just one monolithic file. First, you have backups and backups to backups. Second, you’re putting files onto a server (often not in the same facility) to be served to multiple editing workstations and other related facilities such as the audio side of post production. Third, you may be transcoding into something the editor can use in real time, and the bigger that original uncompressed file is, the more computing power and time it takes to do the transcoding.

      If you think raw workflow for stills is a hassle, video production workflow is a couple of orders of magnitude more complex. Moreover, you’re piping those files between systems a lot, and huge files just jam up your bandwidth and take more time to get them where they need to be.

      Even the ProRes422 compressed output (external recorders from a D4 and D800) I did for a local group here turned out to be something like 4TB of storage by the time FCP X got done with it. For a single project. I have no reasonable way of “sending” that to them other than to physically transport a drive and hooking it up to their system and copying.

      Yes, storage is cheap, but time and complexity is expensive.

  • Jens M

    Don’t you need to remove the CF card to make the D800 record uncompressed to the external recorder? Sounds like a fail.

    • Remedy

      Yes, You do have to take it out.

      • No you don’t , I have a d800 here which outputs 1080 with a card inside. just when you press record on the cam, it goes to 720p, this is not nice for dual recording to card and external, but if external is your only concern it works fine.

    • With or without a memory card inside, you get uncopressed image at HDMI output at resolution you configured, until you start to record in memory card, when HDMI output down to 1280×720 60p, whatever resolution you choose to record. You don’t need to remove the card, just not recording. As some promotional videos on D800’s launching said.
      I checked this twice, but I’ve said truth, I only have a SD card in this moment.
      Where did you find this error? I heard it previously but I can’t find it on google.

    • Yes, it is a total deal breaker that you have to remove the memory card, after connecting an external recorder, attaching this to the harness, etc.

      Get over it it, it takes 2″ to remove the card

  • Mansgame

    They need to come out with the firmware update for the D600 to allow changing the aperture while in video mode soon if they want Nikon to be taken seriously in video. Shooting video and not expecting lighting conditions to change during the shoot is a deal breaker! “Oh no, the sun came out, everybody stop while I change the aperture in photograph mode and switch back to video mode!”

    • Windmark

      Yeah I’m really counting on Nikon to release an update solving this! Really stupid.

      • CH

        I was at the Photographic Societies 2013 trade show today in London and I talked to a camera hire company exhibiting there about the D600. He said he regularly speaks to Nikon directly to give them his feedback on their cameras. He said that Nikon currently had no plans for such a firmware update (re: aperture issue in video mode) and that all the NIkons exhibit dust on the sensor when they return from hire (he said Canon sensors however, vary rarely needed cleaning on return), for which the D600 was particularly bad. I don’t know the hire company persons name, or who he speaks to in Nikon, so as a piece of journalism goes, it is totally worthless with no named sources. I’m just repeating what he said! Take it for it’s worth, if you wish 🙂

        • Aperture is not the biggest problem with D600. It is not able to transmit uncompressed fullHD through HDMI. And it seems that it is not a bug, but a feature to prevent professionals from buying a well priced camera with lower noise level.

    • Thom Hogan

      To my knowledge, this is a function of the parts in the camera. The D7000/D600 bodies have a different and less sophisticated mechanism for controlling the aperture than the D800/D4 bodies do. This is similar to the no-screw drive choice Nikon made for the even lower bodies: give up some features for cost reduction.

      • Arkasai

        I thought Nikon made a statement that they are working on a firmware fix for changing aperture and uncompressed recording similar to the D800/Arkasai

        • KnightPhoto

          No, Nikon Rumors posted that, Nikon never made the statement.
          Back to OP, can’t you just drop the ISO to adjust lighting, or if you are that serious, wouldn’t you consider filming with a variable ND? Personally I tend to be filming at higher ISOs, so I just reduce ISO.

  • Tom Abray

    I wonder which picture profile they’re using.

    • Thom Hogan

      Neutral, -1 contrast, 0 sharpening is a good starting point for someone who wants to do grading later.

      Note that the D4/D800 allow you to output broadcast legal uncompressed HDMI: the real issue I find with the Nikons for video is that we’re in the 8-bit space. So by the time we restrict the black and white levels, we don’t have a lot of tonal range adjustment left. This, if anything, is the limiting factor on Nikon DSLR video right now. We really need 10-bit 4:2:2 uncompressed or better.

      • Jacob Abrams

        Thom, neutral is actually pretty bad in comparison to a real cine picture style. It’s too saturated and doesn’t use the full dynamic range the camera is capable of. I’m curious to hear the exact details from Eric on the picture style he was given, but I find these to be significantly better than anything that can be done in camera:

        I most often use flaat_11. It allows my D4 to match cameras like the Alexa or Sony F3 a bit better. I’ve used it a B-cam a number of times with great results. Unfortunately not on anything as cool as Dexter though.

  • Marcelo Trad

    I use a D800 along with Atomos Ninja 2 for uncompressed footage and it’s great! Just today I had to put together clips from 5DM2 and D800, the diference it’s right there. 5DM2 is too soft and after grading not as sharp and rich as D800. Dinamic range for D800+Ninja is something arround 16EV vs 11-12EV from 5DM2 at ISO400.
    The compressed footage can get to 14-15EV (without the Ninja).
    Also highly recomend the Ninja 2 If you want great uncompressed quality with your D800.
    Just waiting for a 24-70mm from Nikon with VR on it. Would help a lot on hand held.
    I mainly shoot comercials for TV in Brasil.

    • Mansgame

      Yeah I wish they had VR on that lens. I guess a lot of people use the 24-120 F4 VR for video now too, but I can’t justify getting one lens strictly for video.

    • What picture profile and settings you use with the Ninja?

  • R!


  • Hey guys Eric Fletcher here. I’m working today but when I get a chance tomorrow to sit down and thru this thread I can answer questions and expand on a few things said in the article quote. If a home has specific questions post them up and ill do my best to answer

    • Thanks Eric!

    • Can you please share with camera settings were used? picture profile and contrast sharpening settings etc. Adobe RGB or sRGB?

      Does the LCD give accurate enough colors or you use external monitor?

      Do you use a preset white balance or the *pre setting with a gray card?

    • Jacob Abrams

      Eric, I’m most curious to hear about the picture style you used. Did you work with a picture style closer to the Alexa’s log or rec 709 LUT? Assuming you were recording in log and viewing in 709 like most of us do, did it ever bother you or Jeffery to look back and forth between the cameras and see two different looks? Also, what did your assistants do about the backwards focus rotation of the Nikon lenses? Did ARRI supply you guys with a reversing gear follow focus, or did you just live with it?

    • Do you convert H.264 material to some other format for post production? What color correction software do you use?

  • douglas

    uhhh i love Dexter show!! looking forward to see the final product!

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