View Factor Studios and L.A.-based rental house Radiant Images announced the release of the Novo digital cinema camera – a rehoused GoPro Hero 3 that adds key features designed to give cinematographers more artistic freedom and control. The two companies jointly collaborated on the design and functionality of the Novo.
Key features of the Novo include a C-mount lens system plus a PL-mount adapter with back focus adjustment, which allows for extreme macro shooting. The lens mount eliminates the fish-eye look, or bubble effect, noted with the GoPro. In addition, the Novo offers exposure control capabilities that open up a wide range of artistic possibilities for cinematographers and camera operators. The auto exposure function, standard with the GoPro, can be disabled on the Novo, permitting cinematographers to use the lens to manually adjust the aperture.
The lightweight aluminum housing itself is 20 percent thinner than the GoPro Hero3, fits into the palm of a hand, and includes three 1/4-20 and two 10-32 mounting points. Also, four buttons on the front (REC, PWR, WiFi and AUX) are assignable to several functions depending on the application. The AUX button turns the auto exposure on/off, but in the near future will also be utilized for other functions, such as digital zoom – a tool to check critical focus.
The Novo offers these enhanced cinematic features while also retaining the GoPro Hero3: Black Edition’s key functionality and accessories, such as the LCD touch screen, power backpack and WiFi connectivity for wireless camera control. Like the GoPro, the Novo also shoots cinema-quality 2K and 4K resolution.
“The Novo retains what is great about the GoPro Hero3 but goes a step further to create a powerful new tool to help cinematographers get the difficult shots and achieve their artistic vision without compromise,” said Michael Mansouri, co-founder of Radiant Images.
Valencia, Calif.-based View Factor Studios specializes in creating camera support products for the cinema and television industries, specifically concentrating on motion, camera and lens control systems.
“We took on the challenge of building the Novo because we recognized that the GoPro Hero3, given its small form factor and ability to shoot 2K and 4K makes it invaluable for cinematic productions, yet there was room for improvements,” said Curt von Badinski, head of technical operations at View Factor Studios.
View Factor technicians took apart the components of a GoPro Hero3 and engineered a new design to make the camera work for a variety of C-mount lenses, from as wide as 3mm to as long as 200mm. Mansouri and his team at Radiant Images worked closely with View Factor to identify and help implement the other key modifications. For example, the two teams incorporated a custom high-performance optical low pass filter (OLPF) as a solution to the GoPro Hero3’s back-illuminated sensor.
The Novo contains GoPro components, but everything on the outside plus the circuit board was built by View Factor.
“We brought Radiant in to collaborate on this project because they already had made a mark in the small form factor camera arena, plus we had worked with them before and knew we could trust their experience and expertise,” said von Badinski. “It took a strong team effort to pull this off.”
Radiant Images is known for its work with Silicon Imaging’s SI-2K Mini Sensor on such movies as 127 Hours and End of Watch, in which Babak Mansouri, (Michael’s brother), conceived a palm-sized cinema-quality camera – the SI-2K Nano – especially for the POV style of the gritty cop drama.
Due the expensive development cost and ongoing improvements to the camera, the Novo is only being offered for rental, with Radiant Images as the exclusive rental house worldwide. The company has 30 in stock. The Novo rental package includes the new camera, custom-geared C-Mount lenses and the all the required accessories.
The GoPro has been used for years in cinematic productions, with cinematographers accepting the limitations. The small camera is ideal for shooting in tight areas, for example, but the wide-angle lens creates issues in effectively framing a shot.
With the Novo, a cinematographer can get the same close shot and also be able to choose from a variety of focal lengths to create a narrower field of view. The back focus adjustment will enable extreme macro shooting on set. The photographed area can actually touch the lens and still maintain focus, Mansouri explained.
“Cinematographers are going to be able to achieve shots that, until now, were too time consuming or considered too expensive,” he said.
Radiant Images also is working on creating an underwater housing for the Novo as well as crash cams.
The Novo can also be utilized in the custom GoPro array system developed by Sinclair Fleming, an in-house engineer at Radiant Images. The array is designed to perfectly align a series of cameras on a curve and prevent shifting up and down during a shot, meaning very little postproduction alignment is necessary. The array can be stationary or even mounted on a Steadicam due to the light weight of the cameras.
“Our goal with the Novo and our other creations is to remove limits and create possibilities,” Mansouri said. “I’d like to think we’re on the right track.”