For many filmmakers and cinematographers, it’s a dream to have a digital-cinema camera offer the image quality from a full-sized studio camera and the mobility of a palm-sized spy camera. Manufacturers have attempted to fulfill this ideal over the years, most recently with the lamented 720p Flip camera and the GoPro HERO3. While these compact and inexpensive models proved useful, they also had major limitations. Fortunately, View Factor Studios recently introduced a new palm-sized camera to the market. The Novo formally debuted on February 22 and, unlike many other micro HD cameras, it’s available as a rental-only product.
The Novo’s key features include a C-mount lens system with back-focus adjustment, which allows for extreme macro shooting. The lens mount also eliminates the fisheye look (or bubble effect) noted in the other cameras in its size class, like the GoPro. One feature that View Factor reps like to tout is the way that the Novo gives operators the options of disabling its auto-exposure function and manually adjusting the aperture. Additionally, the camera can capture images in both 2K and 4K resolution.
The camera’s lightweight aluminum housing fits into the palm of a hand and includes three 1/4-20 and two 10-32 mounting points. The four buttons on the front (REC, PWR, WiFi and AUX) can be assigned multiple functions, depending on the application. According to View Factor, the AUX button turns the auto exposure on/off, but in the near future it will also be utilized for other functions, such as digital zooming and checking critical focus. Curt von Badinski, View Factor’s head of technical operations, reports that the company took on the challenge of building the Novo because it recognized that while there were already small-form factor cameras shooting 2K and 4K, there was still room for improvements. View Factor technicians engineered a new design to make the camera work for a variety of C-mount lenses (as wide as 3mm and as long as 200mm).
The Novo was jointly designed by View Factor and Radiant Images, a California-based rental house that provides 2D and 3D digital-cinema solutions, support and leading-edge, high-end cameras and equipment to the film and entertainment industry worldwide. “We brought Radiant in to collaborate on this project because they already had made a mark in the small-form factor-camera arena,” says von Badinski. “Plus we had worked with them before and knew we could trust their experience and expertise. 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 movies like End of Watch, the gritty cop drama for which Babak Mansouri (the brother of Radiant Co-Founder Michael Mansouri) conceived a palm-sized cinema-quality SI-2K Nano camera for POV shots.
Radiant Images presently has 30 Novo cameras in stock. The Novo rental package includes the new camera, custom-geared C-mount lenses, and the all the required accessories. Radiant Images is also creating underwater housing for the Novo as well as crash cams. According to Michael Mansouri, a cinematographer can get the same close shot while choosing from a variety of focal lengths to create a narrower field of view. The back-focus adjustment will also enable extreme macro shooting on the set, where the photographed area can actually touch the lens and still remain in focus. “Cinematographers are going to be able to achieve shots that until now were too time-consuming or considered too expensive,” notes Mansouri.