Producer, Director since 1983. Product Designer at Zacuto
Thank you Robert for posting this, that was very kind. I have to tell you that after 30 years in the business working on this project was my favorite of all. Being able to interview all of these individuals (people who have inspired me for years) was a learning experience that I can't even begin to tell you. How some of the interviews came about is a story unto itself. It's hard to get access to cinematographers like this (not to mention schedules between projects) but good friends like Rodney Charters, Nancy Schreiber, Steven Goldblatt and Bruce Logan and all of their friends in the business helped immensely.
I remember sending Haskell Wexler some of my work and asking him if we can interview him and he said "sure-OK". So he says, "you'll come buy, we can go across the street and shoot in the park". I was just thrilled to have him but I wanted to shoot him on my signiture black background so I told him no, we really have our own vision of how we want to do this. I stood my ground hoping he would understand our vision was worth fighting for. So he said, "you'll come by, we'll take a look, and see". So we go to Haskell's apartment and he's shooting us as we walk in the door. Constantly shooting documentaries, even of us shooting him. He says, go in my den and setup your lighting and we'll take a look. I think Den Lennie, Mick Jones and Lan Bui, Jens and me were there. All we wanted to do is take our pictures with Haskell's Oscar sitting on the coffee table. So we finishing setting up and Haskell walks in, looks at the image on the monitor and sits down for the interview, he didn't say a word. I think that was high praise from him, he's a tough but fair customer. Happy I got what I wanted I, said nothing and started asking questions. Janusz too said come to my house and we'll shoot in the park across the street. I again told him that wasn't my vision. We were setup at his alma mater, the AFI and begged him to come over. He said yes and it was a very emotional interview. The worst situation by far was Vilmos Zigmond. He really wanted to be apart of it but he doesn't live in LA, nor do I. Every month or so for a year he would tell me he's coming to LA and I told him I was in Chicago. So finally he said he is coming to CineGear and I said we were going to be there. Since we were on the backlot at Paramount for the CineGear show we had no choice but to shoot him on the third floor of one of the NY 3rd story walkups on the fake Manhattan streets on the lot. We didn't know we were going to be an interview so we had to scrounge up a battery light and try to copy what we've done in this loud trade show. We didn't have permission and didn't want to plug anything in the wall for obvious union issues. We figured once we got Vilmus up there, no one at Paramount would want to upset him and tell us we couldn't shoot. The footage wasn't very good because we used an LED light and didn't have our cardboard soft box. So in post I opted to make it B&W with some of that 16mm projector sound under him to block out the sounds of crowd noise and drones flying around the trade show. Good times and I learned a ton. The footage on the cutting room floor is so noteworthy but you have to know when to kill your babies to make a good tight film.
The one who had the hardest job was Jens Bogehegn my partner in Zacuto and my cinematographer since 1985. He had to light over 30 of the greatest cinematographers of our day. These interviews were shot at different times over a year and half. Each time he would say, are they going to like my lighting. Can you imagine having Janusz, Haskell or Vilmus judging your lighting. Our whole lighting scheme was a single open face light with frost incapsulated in 3 foot long foam core tube/box. It created a small pool of soft light and allowed us to shoot in small rooms with our portable black background whilst keeping the light off the background. Almost every cinematographer walked onto the set and said, "single light source", excellent.
Someone asked about the music, it was all APM library music. Don't discount library music, I've scored and used library music in my career and library music in most instances is the way to go mainly because you can get very specific kinds of music and full symphony orchestrations, that you can't get from scoring yourself unless you are Steven Spielberg with John Williams.
Whole lots of stuff to address.
1. R&D - A lot of you refer to R&D as it's already been paid for so why charge people for it. Next to the OLED which is a lot more money then you can possibly think. The R&D is your biggest line item. What you do is take this giant R&D number and spread it across what you think will be the total units you will ever sell. You also have to look at the R&D like this. It started a year and a half ago and will continue with updates and new features for the next two years. So we are paying an R&D budget every month for the Gratical’s. Every feature in the Gratical X and HD has a R&D value associated to it. So with the X, you are being charged less R&D then the Gratical HD because it’s mostly hardware R&D, till you start buying features then it becomes the bigger R&D portion which is the software/firmware.
We had always planned on coming out with the Gratical LT, which was going to be $1800 but to be honest, when it was completed we did not love the image as much as the HD (the display was not as large) and it seemed painful to go down in quality after looking at the HD. We always wanted to address both the working professional, TV and film market as well as the indie market. I got lot of emails from people saying they wanted the critical view EVF quality of the of the Gratical HD without all of the bells and whistles but pay less. The thinking behind the X was we tried to figure out how many people might buy features and added that to the purchase price of all X's and we think we can make the numbers work to calculate only it’s portion of the R&D budget. Like someone said this enormous number which is constant for the next two years at least because we will probably have 25 firmware updates with new features and bug fixes planned for the next two years. Already we are on our 4th update since the release and we added a whole new peaking feature that was the idea from a group of professional ENG users in England and we created this intense peaking to their specifications based on the $14,000 Sony EVF and I think we nailed it. Someone talked about our updates on our EVFpro, their were 23 updates in 3 years. BTW, someone said that it should cost $1000, boy if he can make one for that, do it—the hardware is more then that. The display is a sizable portion of that. If you want a critical focus EVF without a lot of bells and whistles (or purchase a few) the Gratical X is for you. If you are a user that needs many of the features in the HD and wants all of the new developed features for free, then the HD unit is for you. Compared to the SONY, EPIC, Panasonic or Alexa dedicated EVF's at around 4-5K each, I think the Gratical's are priced well and universal to all cameras. The BlackMagic unit is really for their camera. I saw it at NAB and it will only ever do a few features because it gets a lot of it's info from their camera, remember you need to add a power system to your rig to use the BM viewfinder. It is not self powered. The Gratical was designed to view the display with no overlay on the image. YOU WILL HAVE OVERLAYED INFO WITH EVERY OTHER EVF ON THE MARKET. Our latest firmware going to be released next week you will be able to have audio meters, Record light, TC, Waveform, Historgram all on the bottom or top of the display with the full 16x9 image in 720p and no overlay. Jens and I wanted a 4:3 display and not 16x9, why would anyone want overlay on the video, it makes it hard to see if something squeaks into the frame and it's just not entertaining not being able to see a clean image. Nobody has done that and we were able to do that because our display is 1024x1280 giving us that workable area on the bottom or top (your choice). One other thing. I made a prototype 1080p unit which was crazy expensive. Not sure how BlackMagic is doing it so cheap (somethings up) because the display would be at least $800 but we opted against it because when viewing it--we saw no difference-- your eye cannot resolve the difference between that increased resolution at a 2" size. But it’s way more then that, the bigger issue is optics and how you are handling the color, gamma curves and it's all in the software of how one unit can look better then the next with the same display specs. It’s also about the pixel diode density, how many sub-pixels make a pixel, it’s not so simple and the numbers don’t mean much unless you know how to decode them. You have to see them side by side. Someone mentioned the Samsung is a super rez AMOLED and $800. Try doing that resolution on a display the size of your pinky nail, it get's a whole lot harder packing 5.4 million pixel diodes that small. Small size costs more to create, make and develop.
2. You will not be able to crack the code and get the features on the internet for free as someone suggested. It's tied to the serial number of your unit. If the code does not read the serial on your unit it will not work. It's constantly checking every time you turn it on and off.
3. We have a running list of new features and are working our way down the list. Unlike other companies, we are listening to your emails and creating the features you want. I've budgeted the R&D to last for another two years so email me email@example.com with your ideas. If it's something that others want and is possible--We will do it. All HD owners will get these new features for free forever and X users can purchase the features.
4. I wish someone would do a comparison between the Gratical and any other EVF on the market. We've done it with Various ASC members as well as customers at some of our dealers and the Gratical is way sharper then the Alexa, Panasonic, EPIC and the BlackMagic. Please someone do a review. The sidefinder is an LCD viewfinder and not in the same resolution category as OLED technology. I love those boys at SmallHD (they've done a wonderful job with their company and are extremely creative--we're good friends with them) but on their website they explain the difference between OLED and LCD technology with regard to their own LCD and OLED monitors. The contrast range on an LCD is in the 700-1 range vs. the Gratical at 10,000-1. the difference being a OLED diode can be turned off and produce true black whereas an LCD is still pushing light to your eye behind a black dot which turns milky gray.
Feel free to email me about anything.
Zacuto, director and product designer