Hybrid Assignments Equipment List: The Essential 41 Items
In aviation, an MMEL (Master Minimum Equipment List) is a categorized list of on-board systems, instruments and equipment that must be operative in order to flight. Any additional equipment not included in the MMEL may break temporarily but it won’t make the aircraft inoperative. Here’s an attempt to create a hybrid MMEL for three different crew sizes.
Let’s start with the definition of “Hybrid.” What I normally mean by this term are productions or assignments where one or two people are required to be the photographer, filmmaker, sound recordist, producer, and even editor. And, these gigs are becoming increasingly popular. It sounds crazy and these sorts of shoots can be. One of the keys to making them run smoothly relies on great planning and working with less equipment that gives you more control in less time. It also helps to team up with other people who can complement our weaknesses.
Short and one-man crew hybrid projects
One substantial challenge for photographers shooting video is how to travel as light as possible while carrying a full production and post-production setup that is literally on their back. Here’s a picture of my backpack, which contains every single piece of gear that I’d need for from one up to three days, except some clothes and toiletries that will go on a small backpack.
1. Media Credentials which sometimes, but not always, can give you special access, get you discounts and the most important part, allow you to travel with some heavy or oversized gear without paying a fortune. Here’s a link to Delta, American, and United Media Baggage policies.
13. In terms of lighting, for these assignments I try to use mostly available/natural light, but I bring a 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector.
And here’s my typical outfit and setup for some of these solo hybrid gigs.
1. My good ol’ Columbia jacket/vest has been traveling with me to more than 40 countries. It has lots of pockets, a hoodie, and because it has a self-stowing pocket, it sometimes doubles as a pillow on the road. A priceless item, to be sure.
2. Benro S4 Video Monopod. Small, relatively light, and sturdy. Works great.
3. Panasonic GH4 with a Lumix 35-100mm 2.8 lens.
4. Rode VideoMic Shotgun
5. I always bring gloves unless I’m going to the Caribbean in July. Montreal was pretty cold and wet!
6. Obviously, the most important tool if you are crossing any borders: the passport. This website compares the “power” of passports from many different countries, and, as Americans, we are blessed to have the most powerful one.
7. I like to dress in layers and in dark colors when shooting on the road. Black hides dust and stains very easily. A cashmere sweater is worth its weight in gold.
8. Camera for stills: The Fuji X100s is especially handy after a very long day, when I don’t want to carry more gear but still want to capture a few night scenes of nice-looking dishes during my evening meal.
9. A hat—another essential item.
Longer projects and bigger crews
For a longer hybrid assignment where I’ll have one or two more people (gaffer/grip and a second camera/DIT) I’d bring a few more items. In this case we wouldn’t need to carry everything on our backs, but we definitely need to pack as little and light as possible.
We would bring a Tenba Transport Rolling Tripod/Grip case, to pack one or two Benro S8 tripods, a Benro S4 monopod, a very compact and portable slider that would take the same fluid head from the S8 tripod and/or the S4 monopod. Some grip accessories that I consider essential are at least a couple of adjustable Gaffer Clamps, and a couple Collapsible Reflector Holders which also double as boom stand. These two light and inexpensive items effectively function as one, and sometimes two, additional crew member. A no brainer if you ask me.
On the camera package I’d include an external monitor/recorder like the Atomos Shogun with plenty of Solid State Drives (you can also rent them for only $28 per day!), and all the charges and cables you can imagine, and a power strip (get one with a long cord) that becomes essential when downloading all the footage every night AND charging all the batteries for the next day. I use one Tenba Roadie Hybrid bag for the most expensive, essential and fragile items, namely cameras, lenses, Shogun and hard drives. The brilliant design of the Roadie Hybrid allowa me to treat is as a standard rolling carry-on, but I can also use it as a (very heavy) backpack on uneven terrain, subway stations, etc.
Here’s a view of my carry-on bag.
1. Tenba Roadie Hybrid bag
2. Media pouch with ten 64GB SD cards
6. Two external portable hard drives
10. H4n Audio field recorder.
11 and 12. A couple of Panasonic GH4 bodies with Varavon cages, one with a Metabones Speedbooster (for the Sigma and Canon lenses) or a couple of Canon C100 Mark II or C300 Mark II bodies if the job doesn’t require stills.
13. USB 3 reader for Solid State Drives (included with the Atomos Shogun kit)
14. 6TB G-Tech External Hard Drive (compact, super fast and awesome)
15. Atomos Shogun
16. My sharpest and heaviest lens, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 [
17. Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm 2.8 lens and Panasonic GH4 with a Lumix 35-100mm 2.8 lens. These lenses are the equivalent to a 24-70mm 2.8 and a 70-200mm 2.8 but super light and small
18. In terms of lighting I usually bring two or three 1×1 Bi-Color LED Panels with batteries and two Chimera 1×1 Lightbanks with grids. That pretty much covers all me needs. Another option is a Fiilex kit, which I like a lot, but find it way too expensive. I’ll need light stands and cables.
Well, there you have my little setups for hybrid assignments. Obviously, there isn’t a perfect setup of gear list, just like there isn’t a perfect camera, but these items have been working great for us. I hope this article benefits some of you involved or interested in run and gun, single-operator scenarios like weddings, events, corporate shoots, documentaries, red carpet premieres, product launches, sporting events, video podcasts, and even student films.
If you are interested in some packing and traveling tips, especially when shooting overseas, or what to do the day before your video/shoot shoot, we have written about that too. Did I forget anything? Let me know here!
And of course, there are those crazy long, crazy hectic, crazy complex and crazy awesome projects that require everything and the kitchen sink.
In the Mood for Love Redux.
I love Asian cinema and I feel a strong and special attraction and respect for Wong Kar-Wai’s work, especially his earlier collaborations with Chris Doyle. Wong Kar-Wai is known for his “romantic and stylish films that explore—in saturated, cinematic scenes—themes of love, longing, and the burden of memory.” In terms of photographing urban landscapes, especially at night, I can’t think of a better cinematographer than Doyle.
For the past couple of months I’ve been revisiting his movies, his video interviews, and reading as much as possible about his production methods and unconventional approaches to filmmaking.
Check out the following books to learn more about this amazing director:
“The Sensuous Cinema of Wong Kar-Wai” by Gary Bettinson
“Wong Kar-Wai: Auteur of Time” by Stephen Teo
“Wong Kar-Wai” by Peter Brunette
The long-awaited and complete Kar-Wai retrospective with more than 250 photographs and film stills will be released in September but it can be can pre-ordered now.
In order to better understand his compositional and directorial choices I imported “In the Mood for Love” into Premiere Pro and selected my favorite scenes, including those critical to the story, those that are brilliantly original, and scenes that are flawlessly executed or contain a number of technical achievements (like the impeccable use of dolly moves). I then re-cut all my favorite scenes from the original 94 minutes into a single 18-minute clip (below), always trying to keep the integrity of the story. My goal here is to help someone who hasn’t seen the movie grasp its (very convoluted) story in one 18-minute clip.
If you haven’t see the movie, I highly recommend it, and I’d love to hear from you once you see it.
If you have seen the movie, did I leave any key cinematic moments out?
The most popular cameras at Sundance.
Indiewire published recently the list of cameras used by the filmmakers included in the 2015 Sundance Festival.
The article matched each camera with the film, which was awesome. But I was also curious to see a chart that showed more precisely how many cameras where used and how often. So, I dropped the list from Indiewire into Excel and created this chart.
A total of 23 cameras were used in 2014 to shoot 84 movies. In 2015 almost twice the amount of cameras (44) were used to shoot 97 movies. My guess in this discrepancy is that a) Not enough filmmakers in 2014 provided enough or complete information on their cameras or b) the filmmakers in 2015 felt the need to use different cameras on the same movie.
I also wanted to compare the cameras used at the 2014 Festival, so I also created this second chart, again using Indiewire as my sole resource. From the article, it is hard sometimes to tell exactly which camera was used. For example, one of the filmmakers said, “We used Super 35mm with some Red Epic, and a little super 16mm. There is also one Canon 5D shot in the picture.” Which Super 35? And obviously it had to be a Canon 5D Mark II or Mark III as the first version didn’t shoot video. In those cases I only added the Red Epic to the tally.
How can this information become useful? To me it’s simply curiosity, as I believe a great storyteller can be as effective with an iPhone as with any high-end $50K camera. Give ME an Alexa and a million dollars and I still wouldn’t be able to shoot a single frame better than Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki or Roger Deakins.
The camera is just a tool, but these charts could be used as a reference by film programs trying to determine where to spend their camera budgets this year. Or perhaps a film student wanting to work as a DIT or as an AC [insert link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_crew ] can look at these charts and determine, “well, I better get REALLY comfortable with the Arri Alexa and Red Epic in order to get some high-end jobs.” The charts can also be used by filmmakers planning to upgrade their gear.
What I find most interesting about this data is how consistently some of the cameras are used, such as the Arri Alexa, and how one of my go-to cameras, the Canon EOS C100, was used only twice last year and wasn’t used at all on any of the 2015 movies. Another interesting takeaway is how much more diverse the cameras used for Sundance are compared to the cameras used on Oscar nominated movies, where the Arri Alexa also rules, RED and Blackmagic have been absent, and we don’t see a VHS or an iPhone. Or, at least not yet, I should say..
Cinematic Composition for Video Productions on Lynda.com
Composition is one of the least understood yet most important aspects of video. Like good storytelling, in order to achieve good video composition you have to make every detail count and keep the audience engaged in your story. In this course, we break down effective cinematic composition, to show how to create different compositional effects using a variety of techniques. Beginning with basics such as shot size, depth of field, and the rule of thirds, we show how to establish a scene, play with perspective and movement, and incorporate some of the most common shot types, including close-ups and group shots. Once you’ve learned the rules, see how to break them, using warped perspectives and intentionally confusing sequences, before exploring technical considerations such as lenses and lighting.
Topics included on this course:
- The basics of composition
- Exploring the rule of thirds
- Comparing balanced and unbalanced compositions
- Understanding the importance of using establishing shots
- Working with point of view
- Modifying the height of the camera
- Understanding the lines of a scene
- Creating depth
- Incorporating unusual or unexpected angles
- Knowing when to break the rules
- Using viewfinder apps
Here are some of the many examples on this course:
Best of the Bronx.
“Best of the Bronx” is a series of 1-minute video vignettes to help promote New York City’s northernmost borough. The Bronx is well known for landmarks like the Yankee Stadium, the New York Botanical Garden or the Zoo, but the project’s goal was to highlight lesser-known gems.
The first video on the series profiled City Island, a place known for its rich maritime history, museums, and seafood restaurants. The remainder of the series includes the Andrew Friedman House, Bronx Community College’s Hall of Fame, Wave Hill, Little Italy (video below), and the Grand Concourse, among other exciting locations. (more…)
NAB 2013 is here. Ghost Town goes wild with DSLR Shooters.
This coming weekend I’ll be working with Jem Schofield and a very talented crew on a unique DSLR Video Field Workshop in Nelson, Nevada. The event, hosted at an awesome Ghost Town and surrounded by incredible landscapes, focuses on the craft of filmmaking, camera movement and lighting controls.
Attendees will have four production stations to shoot:
• Tripod, Slider & Dolly Station (with actors)
We will learn how to properly balance a tripod system, operate a camera on a slider and how to use a proper dolly system (including being a dolly grip).
• Rigs Station (with actors)
How and when to use handheld and shoulder mounted rigs from a number of manufacturers to get different looks in camera. Students will focus on tracking shot and other set ups while filming live actors.
• Jib Station
Learn how to operate small to medium sized jib systems, to get “money” shots of the town for establishing shots, reveals, etc.
• Filters & Exterior Light Station
Controlling natural light for exterior shots using a selection of filters, reflectors and silks is paramount.
We’ll have great equipment from sponsors such as Genus, Ikan, Indie Dolly, Induro, Kessler, Lastolite, Manfrotto, Marshall, Nice Industries, Redrock Micro, Tiffen and Zacuto.
Check the video below, and I hope to see you there!
Registration includes round-trip transportation from Las Vegas Convention Center to Nelson Nevada Ghost Town, lunch and on-site instruction.
A movie about the most inspiring Brazilian artist you’ve never heard of.
UPDATE 0905: Mission Accomplished!!!!!
My extremely talented friend Andre Constantini has been working on a feature film called “Bel Borba Aqui.” The movie is about the most inspiring Brazilian artist you’ve never heard of.
While chatting with Andre about the film and his current Kickstarter campaign, I was schocked to know that they have well over 600 hours of footage. Andre shares here snippets of our conversation.
I just recently completed my first feature documentary film. With over 600 hours of footage and 3 years in the making, there has been a lot of time invested into the project. I had made short films before but increasing the scope of any project of this magnitude seems to exponentially increase the time it takes to complete it. But I digress, before you start a documentary it helps if you know the story you want to tell or the topic you want to explore.
Put It Out There
One year before I even knew that the subject of my film, a Brazilian artist living in Salvador, Brazil existed, I had a conversation with a colleague of mine expressing my desire to make a feature documentary on a living artist. A year later, I received a phone call from the same colleague stating that he found him and he was in Brazil and that I should come and meet him to see if it would work out.
Always Be Ready to Go
Even though we were just supposed to discuss the possibilities, on the first trip, I brought all of my equipment to shoot and after meeting the first day, we started shooting the second day. When I returned from my week long trip, I had already filmed for three days. This was enough to start cutting a short piece together to excite the subject and support.
The Edit Room
The editing process went along simultaneously with the shooting to some extent, coming up with rough sequences or themes. The key is not the is not where you start, it’s THAT you start. I find that as you have an idea for one scene or footage that you know worked out or you like, start there and find other footage that supports it visually or thematically (maybe even both). This part always takes the longest. But plan to have plenty of time to do this. Personally, I am best when I have large chunks of time where I can focus without distractions.
Here’s the Trailer:
The film is scheduled to release theatrically on October 3rd for a two week run at Film Forum in NYC. Let’s support Andre with his Kickstarter campaign. It could be you needing financing in a few years…
Reliable RAID Systems, an overview.
Professional photographers and filmmakers, are always (and should be) concerned with storage devices, such as hard drives to create reliable backups and efficient workflows. All hard drives will fail eventually, that is why using RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) systems is often our recommended strategy. A RAID is a set of connected hard drives designed to store digital files and information in a much more reliable manner. Most current RAID units can also monitor a Hard Drives’ system health, fan, and power supply and warn users when there’s a potential failure.
There are several different levels at which a RAID system can be configured. In the photo and video industry, we generally use RAID levels 0, 1, 5, and 6. One way to remember them is: Fastest (0), Mirror (1), Safe (5), and Safest (6).
Interested in learning more about RAID systems? Then read this article we recently wrote for Canon’s Digital Learning Center to better understand how they work, their differences on performance, compatibility and size. Don’t wait until it’s too late to establish a good backup strategy! If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Conversations with Friends.
For this week’s “Conversations with Friends,” (Episode 7), we continue our dialogue with Ted Kawalerski, professional photographer and director, about his own transition from still photography to documentary and corporate filmmaking, and the challenges involved.
Ted also shares more light on his upcoming Family Life Academy video project, located in the South Bronx in New York City as well as his views on retirement.
As always, please share with us your feedback and thoughts.
Conversations with Friends.
On the sixth Episode of our “Conversations with Friends” we sat down with Ted Kawalerski, professional photographer and director, to talk about his transition from still photography to documentary and corporate filmmaking after a 35-year career.
Ted talked about finding great partners for his digital cinema projects, and shared with us some of the rewards and joys and technical frustrations he has discovered during his transition.
We discussed Ted’s upcoming Family Life Academy video project, the importance of sound, the video editor’s role, and storytelling. In fact, we covered so many interesting topics that we decided to edit Episode 6 as Part 1, and Episode 7 as Part 2.
To celebrate the Spring’s arrival, Eduardo enjoyed a “sparklingly mild and fruity” Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier natural wheat beer with a “delicate yeast flavour, gleaming orange colour, and uniform cloudiness.” Ted drank about a gallon of tap water.
Canon EOS 5D Mk III, 5D3, 5D Mark III has arrived.
Ok. Let’s start from the beginning: We are looking at a 22.3 Megapixels, Full Frame (36 x 24mm) CMOS sensor system, powered by a DIGIC 5+ processor. Check this article if you want to fully understand the differences between the DIGIC 4 processor on the 5D Mark II, and the new DIGIC 5+ on the 5D Mark III.
Some of the highlighted features include:
• Dual card slots (1 SD/SDHC/SDXC and 1 CF). Sorry, no XQD on this one. What is awesome about the dual cards is that you can a) record the same data to both cards, or b) record different file sizes or types to each card, or c) automatically switch to the second card when the first card is full. That’s great when shooting long interviews, or concerts, for example.
• HDR with +/- 3 stops
• Improvement in noise reduction by 2 stops
• Multiple exposure mode
• 63 zone dual metering system
• +/- 5 stops (the 5D Mark II has only 3 stops)
• iFCL metering system with a 63-zone dual-layer sensor
• File Formats: AVI, RAW, JPEG, H.264, MOV, MPEG-4
• Full HD video recording: 1080/30p, 24p, 25p; 720/60p, 50p; 480/60p, 50p
All the typical features are here: Minimum Shutter Speed (30 sec), Maximum Shutter Speed (1/8000 sec), 100% coverage viewfinder, etc, etc, etc. As expected, durability on the Magnesium Alloy chassis has been improved including a 150,000-cycles shutter, and water and dust additional resistance.
These are the specs that REALLY got my attention:
• It is now possible to check two images side-by-side for sharpness, exposure, etc at different aspect ratios (1:1, 4:3, 16:9) with the new “Comparative Playback” function.
• There’s a Q button that will process RAW to JPG on camera.
• The new camera shares the same exact 61-point High Density Reticular AF system found in the EOS 1D-X (for half the price).
• There’s an iPod-like button to make changes in the movie mode without adding noise to the clips. Smart!
• The 5D Mark III uses the same batteries (LP-E6) as the 7D and 60D.
• The ISO war keeps getting better. The Mark III offers ISO 100-25600 (expandable up to ISO 102,400) for stills, and 100-12800 (up to ISO 25,600) for video. Wow! Now we really could use an iPad as a Key Light!
Here’s an interesting set of high-res JPEGs samples shot at ISO 50 to 102,800. The test was performed under low level halogen lights, which are perhaps the most challenging to digital sensors and noise reduction systems.
There are several serious improvements on this front:
•There are a couple of new video Modes: “Silent and Low Vibration,” but I don’t recall seeing them on the prototype I tested.
• The video resolution is Full HD (1920×1080), and the video format is the same H.264, which I personally love because it runs natively on Adobe Premiere Pro and Lightroom 4, and plays extremely well with online sharing platforms like Vimeo and YouTube.
• The recording buffer has been extended from 12 minutes to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. The 4GB limit is finally over.
• Following Nikon’s D800 improvement, we now have a 3.5mm headphone jack for live audio monitoring and a Wind Filter. Other ports include USB 2, HDMI, Mic Input, and Wireless.
• The LCD screen is virtually the same 3.2″ 1.04 million as the Nikon’s D800. With a screen this size photographers are out of excuses for not using Histograms the way they should.
• There’s a built-in info menu while shooting video, which comes super handy to quickly check important settings like White Balance, Resolution, ISO, Picture Style, etc.
Regarding audio, the changes are pretty exciting:
“The camera includes manual audio level control with 64 levels, adjustable both before and during movie recording. There is also an automatic audio level setting, or sound recording can be turned off entirely. A wind filter is also included. Sound can be recorded either through the internal monaural microphone or via an optional external microphone through the stereo mic input.”
—Click to continue (more…)
Wes Anderson, on top.
Just like “trunk shots” are Quentin Tarantino’s visual trademark, using a high-angle for the camera, and pointing it straight down seems to be Wes Anderson’s fetish. Check this out.
This is yet another of the many differences between the two great directors. If you are aware of other directors’ trademarks, please send them our way.
Tarantino’s Trunk Shot.
Quentin Tarantino’s movies are full of homages and historical references, as well as some personal visual trademarks like his now classic “trunk” shot. Enjoy.
Using an iPad as a Key Light.
Rodney Charters, Drew Gardner and Lan Bui playing with the new Canon EOS C300 camera. To test the camera’s 20,000 ISO capability, they shot a low-light scene using an iPad for the key light and an iPhone for the fill light. This is way too cool.
Test Technical Notes:
Camera: Canon C300
Lens: Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L lens
Shutter: 1/25th (360 degree)
Canon Log Gamma
Exclusive Canon Cinema EOS screening.
On January 26, Canon will be hosting “an exclusive Cinema EOS Event” in Chicago. They will present a series of short movies shot with the brand new, game changing EOS C300 camera, as well as “Behind the Scenes” interviews with the directors and crew members. Canon’s amazing technical staff will be available to answer all your geeky questions.
What makes a good picture?
“Probably the only reason I would advise someone to attend film school today is because it is an opportunity to discover all kinds of films that you will never be able to see in theaters.” Bernardo Bertolucci.
What makes a good picture? Actually, it is not that hard to define what a good photograph is. We start with basic elements of photography like exposure, composition, and texture, then we add interesting subjects, and then we add good lighting, which is essential. That’s it! If we understand the basic elements of photography, find interesting subjects, and have good lighting we can make good pictures.
Now, what makes a good movie? This one is a bit trickier. A good movie has all the elements that define a good picture, but now we need to add good stories, and on top of that we absolutely and definitively need to have good sound.
In essence, the biggest difference between shooting stills and motion is that with stills we are freezing moments, we are going for that perfect instant in time. In motion, we have many sequences of frames, and we need to keep them connected with dialog, composition, camera movement, color, and obviously, a great story.
The DP who wasn’t known.
It is amazing how little we know about directors of photography. When we think about the Godfather series we immediately imagine Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Robert De Niro. Some would even think of Mario Puzo. When we discuss Woody Allen movies like Zelig or Annie Hall we connect them with Mia Farrow and Diane Keaton, but very few people will know that the man responsible for the lighting, movement, and overall “look” of both movies is Gordon Willis, who is also responsible for “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and “Manhattan” among many others.
The Director of Photography, also known as DP, DOP, or Cinematographer, is responsible for the quality of the photography and the cinematic look of every movie by creating the appropriate mood, atmosphere, and visual style of each shot. The DP also determines the camera angles, lighting, shot composition, and camera movements, among many other technical considerations.
Here is the complete list, from 2000 to 2010, of all the directors of photography nominated for the Oscars. In 10 years Roger Deakins (my personal hero when it comes to cinematography) has been nominated 5 times for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn’t There, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Reader, and True Grit.
“The Man Who Wasn’t There” is an absolute masterpiece in Cinema lighting.
- 2000: Peter Pau – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
- 2001: Andrew Lesnie – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Watson MD. New ways to see data.
Data is not useful until it becomes information, and on this fascinating 30-second commercial the flow of information is presented in a unique way by seamlessly combining medical visualizations, scientific literature, live action photography, pathogen analysis, and more. Guillermo Navarro, the same cinematographer who shot Night at the Museum, the Hellboy series, and the fantastic Pan’s Labyrinth, used two RED cameras and one ARRI Alexa camera to capture over a million images for this project.
“We shot insects, livestock, plants and other elements live on greenscreen. We licensed medical procedures for the young actor in the spot to get medical visualizations of the boy’s actual anatomy – CAT scans, X-rays, brain stem eye visualizations, and more; photos of his family members to illustrate medical history, medical literature showing research on actual potential causes and conditions of the scenario, images of pathogens, viruses, allergens and bacteria at the root of the possible causes, and more.”
Motion Theory’s Director Mathew Cullen Visualizes Supercomputer’s Thinking Process for IBM’s “Watson M.D.”
Incredibly, none of the images in the spot are computer generated! According to another source, production on “Watson M.D.” took four weeks and included consulting with medical practitioners, a three-day live-action shoot, developing the animation engine and integrating visual effects, and editing.