The Arcade Graveyard…
One of the first things we did when we decided to create the Winnitron 1000 was to look for an old arcade cabinet. We had tossed around the idea to make our own from scratch, but in order to finish it faster (since none of us are carpenters), we decided to gut an existing cabinet. So, I called a bunch of places in Winnipeg looking for someone to either sell or donate a cabinet to us for the project. Eventually we ended up visiting three “arcade graveyards” in the city. Two of them were rather small, and the owners weren’t super into what we were doing. But one in particular, Allied Coin, was amazing. Three large rooms, PACKED wall to wall with old arcade machines, CRT’s, Jamma boards, power supplies, you name it, it was there…
The place literally looked like a graveyard. The Jamma boards were all tagged and arranged alphabetically on an huge shelf, all separated by small pieces of cardboard. There was a whole room, with almost nothing but cocktail machines, stacked on top of each other like a crazy kind of puzzle. Irv Halprin, one the owner of Allied Coin, was amazing, and totally into what we were trying to achieve with the Winnitron 1000. In the end, he gave us an old Total Carnage machine for free, after he stripped out the CRT and the Jamma Board. He even delivered it to the house where were were going to work on it. He’s super awesome
I knew that I’d have to come back to this place at some point, just to take pictures, or take some video for something, I just wasn’t sure what… After seeing people struggle somewhat to find similar arcade graveyards in their cities, I mentioned this to Irv, and he said that yeah, there aren’t many places left like this in the world. If it wasn’t for the fact that Irv owns the building that’s storing all of these machines, they would have been tossed a long time ago. It’s a bit of a hidden gem in Winnipeg. There’s not even a sign on the door…
Shooting with the Panasonic GH2 and Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f/0.95
In any case, a few weeks ago, I went back to Allied coin, with my new Panasonic GH2 in hand. All of my previous videos have been shot with my Panasonic GF1. It’s a great little camera, and after hacking the firmware, the quality of the video is pretty unbelievable. But there was a few things that I didn’t like. I was limited to 30fps, and 720p video. I also couldn’t attach an external mic if I wanted to use the on board audio.
The GH2 records to the AVCHD format, so I’d been itching to put it through it’s paces and figure out what kind of work-flow would be necessary for me to deal with the footage. I was also lucky enough to pick up one of the rare Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f/0.95 lenses from photovillage.com before they started jacking up the price. These lenses are incredibly hard to get your hands on, and the demand is WAY outstripping the supply. The first time I received the notice they were in, I waited a day or two to think about it before ordering. After finally calling, I was told they sold out in less than 20 minutes! A few months go by, the same notice appears in my inbox, and I had a bit of a knee jerk response, and bit the bullet. I’ve never bought a super expensive lens like this before, but man, is it worth it.
The Voigtländer takes absolutely unbelievable imagery, with a super smooth bokeh. The lens feels super well made, and really puts every other lens I’ve shot with to shame. That being said, I haven’t played around with any of Canon’s L series lenses before, and I’m kind of glad to be honest. I don’t have the kind of cash to be throwing around on ~$1000 lenses all the time, lol
There’s a few samples of images in this blog post, but if you would like to take a look at the full set, they can be seen here on Flickr. Keep in mind, these images are stills taken from the VIDEO I shot. These are not high resolution stills taken with the stills mode on the camera. Even with that being said, I think the quality is absolutely incredible. The Panasonic GH2 and Voigtländer f/0.95, really are made for each-other.
The idea for the video…
I stayed at Allied Coin for about 3-4 hours, and basically kept shooting until the battery died on me.
We had always planned on doing some sort of “About the Winnitron” video, and the original goal of this shoot was to get some B-Roll for this video. But since I had so much footage and we had a a bunch of new Winnitron’s popping up in the near future, we decided to use some of this footage to announce the new “Winnitron Indie Game Arcade Network”. More details on this can be found at this post at Winnitron.ca
Panasonic GH2 & Adobe After Effects CS5 Workflow:
Fortunately, Premiere CS5 can play the AVCHD encoded .MTS files from the GH2 natively, so I didn’t need to transcode the whole shebang to some other format, just to edit it. After Effects also “supports” the AVCHD format, so I thought this would be a great workflow. I can edit in realtime in premiere, then import the project into After Effects for doing the VFX and final colour grading. Unfortunately, this didn’t really work out as well as I had hoped…
After Effects CS5 does “support” playing back the AVCHD files natively inside of AE. You can import them just like normal movie files, and drop them right into the timeline which is awesome. But once I started to really try and do some heavy work, something wasn’t working just right… Every few minutes, AE would just lock up for a about 3 minutes or so… It’s memory usage would start climbing, then it would just go back to normal. It was weird, but after a few hours of this, it just got intolerable. Copying and pasting layers from one comp to another would trigger this lockup for some unknown reason too.
I thought it might have something to do with the files being on an external USB drive. I copied the whole project over to my C: Drive, and the same thing happened. Constant lockups. Even OPENING the AE file took about 5 minutes. Every time it opened, it seems like AE is scanning every .MTS file in the project for a few seconds. I’m not sure why, but I think AE might have to scan the whole file to find the header info or something before it can use it? I’m not really sure… In any case I had to find a solution to this so I could spend my time working, and not waiting for AE every couple of minutes.
What I ended up doing was rendering out ALL of the MTS files used in the project to 99% quality PhotoJPG quicktimes. The files were definitely more bloated than they needed to be, but after letting the machine crank away on that for a few hours, I had 35GB or so of new 1080p source material to work with. There was a slight quality loss, but nothing that concerned me too much. After replacing every .MTS file in the project with the .MOV files, every issue I was struggling with went away. Yaaay!
This project was pretty simple to put together, technically speaking. I used Magic Bullet Mojo, Colorista, and Magic Bullet looks to grade the footage. All the text was tracked and comped inside of After Effects, except for the ‘super zaxxon’ shot, which had to be tracked in Mocha. I’ll be doing a more in-depth tutorial on how some of these shots were put together at my Visual Effects tutorial site, VFXhaiku.com some time in the next few weeks.
Overall, I think this video turned out pretty good. There’s a handful of shots that I really love, like the “Elevator Action” shot, and the “Last Played — Today” shot. For some reason, that shot really feels like it was shot on 16mm film. Something to do with the noise pattern the GH2 uses, really feels like a more natural film grain than any other video I’ve seen before.
If you have any questions about anything here, or have any feedback, please let me know! Send me an email, or leave a comment!