SmallHD DP6 on set

A review of the SmallHD DP6

by planetmitch3 Comments

A new guest post from Craig Anderl (IMDB profile) who provides a review of the SmallHD DP6 – and look for more from Craig here in the future (posting as planetCraig). I asked Craig for a short bit on what he's working on now… “I'm working on different projects, chiefly with director Michael Rymer, shooting with DSLR set-ups. I'm interested in testing and using gear made for DSLR production on the projects that we have in the works. Some of them are high-end, some are experimental, or pro-bono. Michael wants to do most of his projects on DSLR cameras now because of his positive experience with Face to Face.”

We're glad to be able to share Craig's efforts with planet5D readers!

Redrock Micro

The SmallHD DP6 review

I was recently offered a D6 monitor (HDMI version) to try out by smallHD. I originally purchased a Marshal 6″ HDMI monitor but was very displeased with the results. Because of the way the Canon 5D Mark II outputs its HDMI signal, the image on the Marshall was in effect, no larger than the image on the back of the camera. The 1 to 1 pixel mapping just jumped the image in and cut off much of the view area. Not very useful. It also used 4 x AA batteries which heated up very quickly… and also burned out very quickly. Another drawback was there was no HDMI pass through so if you wanted to transmit, say with the Teradek Cube, or other similar device, you could not do so. Therefore I returned it.

I've been working on a number of new projects with director Michael Rymer (Battlestar Galactica, 17th Precinct). Michael is an early adopter and something of a pioneer in DSLR feature filmmaking. His Canon shot film ‘Face to Face' is currently doing very well on the festival circuit). On the NBC pilot ‘17th Precinct‘ ( penned by BSG writer/producer Ron Moore, and photographed by John Bartley, ASC (Lost, X-Files) I operatred a 5D and 7D alongside two Arri Alexis and a Red camera. The Canon footage cut in perfectly and I was able to move quickly and pick up scenes and shots that would never have been obtained had the ‘main' unit been charged with obtaining them.

Michael recognizing the speed and efficiency of DSLR shooting used it/me to maximum effect. One draw back was I could not feed him a signal to review what I was shooting and had to walk the camera over to him and play material back. I researched monitors and methods and discovered the Teradek Cube, which allows for wifi transmission to an ipad or Mac Book Pro – its amazing really. But one needs a pass through monitor if you are going to share the signal… cue smallHD!

I did a web search and found the smallHD line of products. They were very helpful and generously offered to send me a demo D6 to try. I've had it for a week or so and used it recently on an indie shoot with a Sony Z3 and on my own 5D rig.

Setting up insert  shots with 17th Precinct DOP John Bartley, ASC

Setting up insert shots with 17th Precinct DOP John Bartley, ASC

Right out of the case you can tell that it is a serious piece of gear. Its made from robust rubberized aluminum and feels solid in your hand giving you that warm fuzzy feeling of the ‘techno high'. It came with a battery attachment to use Canon camera batteries, but you can get an attachment for whatever batteries you have/use. But the best thing is the custom battery that they include with the kit. It ran the monitor for 8 hours on the shoot. You can even plug it in to mains and still use it while it charges. This is enormously useful.

The picture is exceptionally clear and there is a custom setting for the 5D to get the full screen real estate during record and an easy switch to get a full 1080p image during playback (the 5D does an internal conversion and doesn't offer full 1080p during record but the monitor compensates with no quality loss).

It has very easy to use menu functions that allow total customization and calibration. There is a false color setting to show exposure range which is very accurate, and a focus assist that shows white lines on the focal plane (useful for the 1st AC). It's very easy to access with a single button push.

Setting up insert  shots with 17th Precinct DOP John Bartley, ASC

Setting up insert shots with 17th Precinct DOP John Bartley, ASC

The D6 with SDI (which I didn't have but want) allows you to send a signal out to BNC . This is necessary on professional productions with a director camped at video village, and those with a Digital Imaging Technician.

The kit comes with a screen protector, which can be replaced (its like what you put on your new iphone or the back of your camera to protect the LCD). It also has a very easy to attach neoprene sun guard that blocks out any stray light in a bright shooting environment (its 8 inches deep or so). The D6 kit I used had a little add-on splitter for pass through but it was no hassle to use it. Newer versions will not require this. It also comes with a USB drive which allows you to update new firmware — which is always being updated for new cameras and settings. All the cables I need were included as well as two mounting options: a small hot shoe gimbal and an articulating arm hot shoe gimbal.

This a very future proof monitor and it is exceptionally well made. Compared to the Marshal, it was like going from driving an old Hyundai Excel to a new BMW. It just feels good in your hands and it is built to work as you need it to. Its an amazing piece of kit that I will definitely add to my package (in multiples).

smallHD is soon releasing a D4 with an optical viewfinder attachment. I am very interested to test this unit as it is lighter weight and will be great for Steadicam shooting or small space configurations. I will still covet a D6 SDI for my studio production set-up.

I really can't say enough about the quality of this product. The picture and the unit itself are simply beautiful. Its well worth the very reasonable investment.

Way to go smallHD!

And thanks to Reed for the loaner!

Craig Anderl

Shooting DSLR on 17th Precinct

Shooting DSLR on 17th Precinct

(cover photo credit: snap from SmallHD)

Zeiss Cinema Lenses


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