Gear, gear and more gear.
Pretty much after every single consulting session, workshop and webinar we offer, a group of people will ask: what do you recommend for _____?
My answer is always the same “it depends.” Are you shooting alone? Only video or stills also? Do you need to move from location to location? For how long? What’s your budget? Do you already have lenses? If so, what kind/brand/mount?
You get the idea. So as a solution I decided to spend several hour compiling all the gear we use very frequently into 3 short lists: a) when shooting alone, b) when changing locations often and c) when spending more time at each location.
I added a few thoughts on each and every item. I truly hope these lists serve as a guide and more importantly, save you time while researching gear, and lots of money wasted on unnecessary toys.
Simply click on the image to access all three gear lists.
Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers. Mini Courses.
Why Filmmaking Essentials?
One of the main challenges photographers face when starting to shoot video is to focus too much on hardware and software, and forget about the most important part: the story. While this informative course includes some technical information, the main goal is to provide an overview of the many aspects of filmmaking, and identify potential business opportunities with motion. Click HERE.
The “Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers” course is based on a popular event we have been presenting for several years, but it has been greatly enhanced with additional visuals and examples. Some of the clients and sponsors for the live event include Adobe, Adorama Pro, B&H Photo, Cinevate, Future Media Concepts, Gulf Photo Plus (Dubai), HOW Design Conference, International Center of Photography, Lynda.com, McCann Erickson, NAB Show, Panasonic, Photo District News, PhotoPlus Expo, Photokina (Germany), Savannah College of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts, Sony, and X-Rite, among others.
Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers. Online Intro Course.
In 2011 I was invited along with National Geographic photographer David McLain to present a series of two-day workshops nationwide. The events were produced by Photo Quest Adventures and sponsored by PDN, Sony, Adobe, and other leading brands. The main goal was to help photographers transition into video by simplifying key concepts and providing shortcuts, resources, and advice on what gear to buy.
I have been honored to teach “Filmmaking Essentials” at all major industry events, from PhotoPlus to Imaging USA to NAB, from South America all the way to Dubai, Hong Kong, and Thailand, and at home in New York.
Few people know that I never use the same presentation twice. Each and every time I add things I’ve learned, plug in valuable feedback from attendees, students, and this website’s readers, and I strive to improve the educational experience with better examples and shorter explanations.
When looking at the advancements in digital technology since those first workshops it seems like decades have gone by. Today, we have access to a variety of brands and models of very compact cameras that can see in the dark, shoot 4K or higher resolutions, offer incredible frame rates, and even offer GPS and WiFi features so they can be easily controlled by smartphones and tablets. The future is definitively here.
But something quite odd has been happening to my personal and professional focus. The more gadgets we have at our disposal, the more I’ve shifted towards the craft of storytelling. Instead of getting more stuff, I’ve been increasingly interested in constructing and enhancing my stories to better engage the viewer. Naturally, this approach has been reflected in the educational content I produce.
Now, and for the first time, I’m proud to offer an awesome version of my one-hour presentation online. Click HERE.
The “Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers” course is based on a popular event we have been presenting for several years, but it has been greatly enhanced with additional visuals and examples. Some of the clients and sponsors for the live event include Adobe, Adorama Pro, B&H Photo, Cinevate, Future Media Concepts, Gulf Photo Plus (Dubai), HOW Design Conference, International Center of Photography, Lynda.com, McCann Erickson, NAB Show, Panasonic, Photo District News, PhotoPlus Expo, Photokina (Germany), Savannah College of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts, Sony, and X-Rite, among others.
Who is this course for?
Well, as the name implies, this version of “Filmmaking Essentials” covers concepts already mastered by advanced filmmakers or by experienced photographers who are very technically savvy. But I’m confident everyone else could learn a thing or two.
As often as possible we’ll be adding new courses, covering topics like pre-production and post, tips for one-man crews (like journalists) working stills and video assignments, advice on getting started with Color Grading, and many other fascinating subjects. As mentioned above, most of these courses are not and probably won’t be hardware or software driven, but would focus predominantly on answering the why’s, not the how’s, of the fascinating craft of filmmaking.
Also as a first, we are offering several mini-courses (averaging three minutes each and many of them for free) for those who need concrete answers to very specific questions.
So, if this is the kind of content and format you desire, vote with you wallet and let your voice be heard.
Thank you for your continued support. Click HERE to start learning.
Video for Photographers: Filmmaking Essentials.
As we have covered in numerous articles before, still photographers can reasonably quickly learn the most essential filmmaking techniques and greatly expand their creative options and the range of professional services.
In our latest Lynda.com course we help bridge the gap between still pictures and moving images, by explaining and showing, what it takes to transition from one craft to the other. We tried our best to include the most essential video productions techniques; from framing and lighting for continuous shots to directing the viewer’s attention and incorporating camera movement and sound, and even offering a brief overview of our post-production workflows.
This course, our fifth on Lynda.com is the “theory course.” Our goal is to explain why certain techniques, steps or tools are important. Other topics include:
• Understanding the 5 Cs of cinematography
• Choosing the right camera
• Framing for continuous shots
• Lighting techniques
• Using camera movement to enhance your story
• Leading the senses with sound
• Working with different microphones
• Editing and post-production considerations
A follow-up “practical” course (available in a few weeks) will cover hands-on composition, camera movement, sound and lighting techniques, among other useful tips like packing and working with very small budgets and crews.
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 eternal quest for “the best” digital camera.
I often receive emails asking for advice about “the best lens” or “the best camera” or even “the best laptop.” I believe it is simply impossible to determine a “best” of anything as there are too many random factors such as experience, budget, expected lifetime of the product, intended use, availability of accessories (like lenses or batteries), and even tech support in certain areas. That’s not even considering more subjective factors like personal preference, sense of loyalty to certain brands (or dislike for others), and even the size or weight of such tools. Interestingly, we are currently experiencing one of those “what’s the best” dilemmas ourselves, and not a minor one by any means; we are reconsidering our standard camera package for 2015–16.
Renting vs. Owning:
For many reasons, I believe renting is one of the best options for most people. When all you have is a hammer, the solution to every problem requires a hammer. That’s a very limiting factor to your creativity and a disservice to clients. Sometimes you can get the job done with a Swiss Army Knife like MacGyver, sometimes you need a nice toolbox, and sometimes the best approach is to have a professional plumber do the job.
Another huge reason to rent is to keep overhead as low as possible. Unless you are shooting several times a week with the same system, having something that is guaranteed to quickly decrease in value simply collecting dust in a drawer isn’t the best financial move. Unfortunately, renting is not an easy or affordable option in many small cities.
In terms of lenses I own a nice selection (from 8mm all the way to 200mm) of mostly Canon L glass, some Sigma ART lenses (with Canon mounts), as well as a couple of Panasonic Lumix lenses. I also have one Metabones Speedbooster adapter (Canon EOS to MFT).
We own a set of LED lights and basic accessories that I use frequently and will last a long time like monopods, tripods and a few camera movement tools. I also own a complete audio kit simply because we use it quite often. Audio tools tend to be fragile, and we have a very specific preference for brands and settings. Ultimately, because sound is such an important element of any video project, completely trusting it gives me an additional peace of mind. But I digress. The point of this article is not audio equipment, but cameras.
We own a Panasonic Lumix GH4 bodies and still have a couple of GH3 bodies. They have served me extremely well on hybrid assignments. I am very happy with the quality of the footage and always having the option to shoot 4K, HD, built-in slow-motion, and time lapses with the same camera and media. For video-only productions we usually rent Canon C100 Mark II or C300 Mark II bodies, which I also like very much.
Several upcoming projects will require a more “complete” camera package, and we seem to have enough projects in the pipeline that it might make sense to own instead of rent, not only financially, but to save time picking up/returning and to be certain that the tool we plan on having in pre-production is the same tool we use on location weeks or months later. So, what’s the best cinema camera (for us) right now?
Technically speaking, we will need a main camera (Cam A) that ideally shoots 4K and has all the standard bells and whistles like XLR ports, HDMI, a good viewfinder, variable frame rates, peaking, ND filters, etc. Great low-light performance is key. For several projects we’ll need to shoot high-quality behind the scenes footage, so we will need a second camera (Cam B) that is either the same or very close to the quality of Cam A.
To make the riddle even more interesting, some of these projects will be “hybrid” projects that require on-location, mostly unplanned, and available light shooting with a very small crew (two or three people max). So the gear package needs to deliver great stills, great footage, and be easily operated by one person, which means light and compact.
I will only discuss the main components of the package, so additional batteries, cables, memory cards won’t be included in the total price.
The first and obvious move would be to buy a couple of Canon C100 Mark II bodies. We already know and like the system, and own the lenses, so there’s no need for adapters. Unfortunately the C100 Mark II does not offer 4K, it is good but not great in low-light performance, it is small but not super light or compact, and it does not shoot stills, so I’ll need to get a Canon EOS 5D Mark III or at the very least a Canon EOS 70D. I’ll get the cinema features I need on only one of the systems.
The second option would be to get a Sony FS7 AND a Sony a7S as a B Cam (and also for stills and BTS). The first one seems to be the new cool kid on the block, with raving fans and over the top reviews. It seems portable enough for a cinema camera and matches most of our technical requirements (I still need to test the low-light performance). Its little sister, the a7S shares the same outstanding reviews, it is clearly number one in low-light performance and it can even capture 4K to an external recorder. The catch, and this is a big one, is the cost. The FS7 goes for $8,000 and the a7S goes for $2,500. In order to use my existing lenses I’ll need two Metabones Speedbooster adapters (Canon EOS to NEX) at $650 each, but I will not have AF capabilities when shooting stills, which is a major issue. Also, in order to fully use the a7S as the B Camera we probably would need an Atomos Shogun adding a lot to the budget.
A third, and more affordable option would be to get a second Panasonic Lumix GH4 body and keep them as A Cam and B Cam (4K, HD, and stills) and something like the Panasonic HC-X1000 as a C Cam for BTS. I am still missing the “standard bells and whistles” I mentioned above, and I still have to test the X1000’s performance under low-light. Getting the YAGH (“brick”) wouldn’t make much sense in terms of money, size, weight, and additional power sources.
We briefly considered Blackmagic systems but found too many cons to even add them here. Another topic for another day.
Honestly, there aren’t any. Not yet, anyway. We are still trying to figure out what to do. The Panasonic Package (#3) is the cheapest and easiest as we would have a very small learning curve (with the HC-X-1000) but low-light performance remains to be seen (and it is good but not great on the GH4). The price is great but we would only have the cinema features we need in one of the three cameras.
The Canon Package (#1) is right in the middle, but we would lack 4K, slow motion, a codec over 50mb/s, and only one of the two cameras offers the bells and whistles we are looking for.
Sony (#2) seems to offer the best solution, but costs twice as much as Option #1 and $8,000 more than Option #3. We would lack autofocus for stills, only one camera will have the cinema features, and the FS7 could require a significant learning curve.
An alternative, suggested by an experienced filmmaker, would be to keep using our GH3 with the Panasonic lenses as our stills camera ($0), use the GH4 with our Metabones and Canon and Sigma glass as Camera B, and simply buy one Sony FS7 ($8,000) and a second Metabones (Canon EOS to NEX) adapter $400 for a total investment of $8,400. Altogether we would get AF for stills, 4K, slow-mo, no need for new lenses, but only OK low-light performance, and only ONE system with XLR ports, ND filters, etc. I am also seriously concerned with the additional time (and expense) in post to make everything look somewhat close.
Money and lenses are obviously very important considerations, but there are many other things that have to be factored into camera choices like post workflows (software and hardware), internal codecs, etc. Color science is something else we tend to overlook, and we shouldn’t, as certain camera choices will multiply the amount of time you need to spend in post to get them to look like what you’re used to.
So, clearly, there isn’t a “perfect” camera that will meet all our requirements. So the best approach is to consider what we have (budget, lenses, software, hardware, accessories, etc.) what we need, and what we are willing to sacrifice. So, what is “the best” camera package for us, giving our existing gear, ideal requirements and upcoming needs? Now I need YOUR help to figure this one out.
UPDATE 01: Since I wrote the first draft for this article I’ve been hearing highly reliable complains about the FS7 working with lens adapters and Canon lenses. That pretty much kills the Sony package option for us.
UPDATE 02: There are strong rumors that Panasonic will be announcing an updated version of the AG-AF100 at NAB, which apparently would include 4K. That could be a great solution for our full blown cinema camera.
UPDATE 03: Another strong rumor is that Canon will replace/update the 3-year old 5D Mark III with a 4K version. Kinda cool, but it still doesn’t solve our “bells and whistles” camera dilemma.
UPDATE 04: For the past 3-4 weeks I’ve been using the Atomos Shogun (Amazon • Adorama) and I must admit I’m VERY impressed. This gadget not only provides an exquisite 1920 x 1080 ultra sharp (and fairly accurate) image, but it’s main purpose is being a 4K (or HD) recorder via Solid State Drives. The best price/quality I’ve found are these 240GB Sandisk for $146 with a 10-YEAR warranty. Not bad at all.
Something I didn’t consider when getting the Shogun is that now I have XLR options, making the GH4 a much more powerful beast. The provided batteries only last about 30 minutes of recording time. I got this off-brand ultra cheap ($36) set of 2 batteries with chargers and so far they have performed perfectly. To keep in perspective, a single Sony battery costs $199….
UPDATE 05: The Varavon cage for the GH4/GH3 works perfectly with a Metabones Speedbooster. This set up and the Atomos Shogun are making me rethink my camera strategy. Now I can have a very comfortable grip, add a shotgun for run and gun or a monitor/recorder with XLR mics on sticks. Hmmmm this is getting REALLY interesting!
More to come.
Lighting Design for Video Productions on Lynda.com
Understanding the importance of lighting and the proper use of a light meter and colorimeter raises an average shot to a more sophisticated visual level. And it doesn’t take a Hollywood budget. In this course, we show you how to use simple tools and techniques to make your lighting and your location work together, how to make the most of natural light and augment it with artificial lighting, and how to reveal or obscure objects and subjects in your scene. Along the way, we’ll show you how to evoke certain moods and feelings with light.
Topics included on this course:
• Understanding the role of lighting
• Lighting interior and exterior scenes
• Directing the viewer’s attention
• Enhancing mood in a scene
• Achieving great light under harsh conditions
• Deciding on the right lighting style for your story
If you aren’t a Lynda.com subscriber, feel free to use my link for TEN days of unlimited access.
Here’s one of MANY examples provided during this course:
The complete course is currently available on Lynda.com. As I mentioned above, if you aren’t a Lynda.com subscriber, feel free to use my link for 10 days of unlimited access.
Many folks have been asking about the equipment used for this course. Here are the answers:
We used a variety of lights, but the main ones were Bowens Limelite Mosaic 30x30cm Daylight LED Panel.
As our A Camera we used a Canon EOS C100 Cinema EOS shooting to an Atomos Ninja-2 recorder. As our B and C Cameras we used a couple of Canon EOS 5D Mark III. We used a variety of lenses, but the main one was the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.
And here’s list with our standard camera package.
Canon EOS-1DC 4K DSLR price drops 34%.
The price for Canon’s EOS-1D C has effectively dropped 34%, from $12,000 as of yesterday to $7,999 right now.
The 1D C is the first Canon hybrid DSLR to offer onboard 4K motion imaging and Full HD motion imaging on CF cards and it is considered part of Canon’s Cinema EOS system, right next to the C100/300/500 models.
The main (and huge) difference between the EOS-1D C is that it features a full frame CMOS sensor that can capture 4K (4096 x 2160) as Motion JPEG and HD (1920 x 1080) as H.264 and can also shoot 18-megapixel (5184 x 3456) still images recorded as RAW or JPEG. An important (and also huge) difference between the EOS-1D C and the other C series bodies is that it lacks important features like built-in ND filters and XLR ports among others.
The camera’s rugged, ultra-compact form factor and huge sensor makes it an interesting option for challenging hybrid assignments when low-light performance is critical. For example, underwater or wildlife photographers capturing 4K and not needing XLR ports or other advanced video videos can find a great solution on the 1DC. Another instance is corporate assignments when the photographer is expected to shoot high-end video as well as stills. Unfortunately I believe the camera’s price have seriously challenged its market penetration. Let’s see what happens with this new price.
Now, while simultaneously shooting stills and video is certainly possible, I prefer to keep separate systems with different settings and features assigned to each task. It is hard enough to THINK about sound and movement and lighting simultaneously. the last thing I need is to be switching settings back and forth.
As of right now I’m happy with our current systems; a couple of Panasonic GH4 4K bodies with Canon and Sigma lenses (using a Metabones Speedbooster adapter), and a couple of Canon C100 Mark II bodies when stills are not necessary.
Here’s our current standard camera package:
• 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art at Adorama | Amazon | B&H
• 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art at Adorama | Amazon | B&H
• 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art at Adorama | Amazon | B&H
• 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art at Adorama | Amazon | B&H
If you are ready to buy any of these items, I’d suggest checking all three stores as the prices constantly change. Happy shooting!
Documenting Istanbul, Paris and Brussels as a one-man crew.
Except for a couple of days where I had the priceless guidance of my friend Levent, I worked alone for three weeks between Istanbul, Paris and Brussels. The assignments required to capture stills, shoot video, record soundscapes, write, and edit everything together as I was moving alone. No problem!
The single operator/producer/editor assignment is becoming increasingly common for several reasons, among them lower production costs, as well as easier access to difficult locations.
I see a lot of opportunities for shooters currently doing weddings, corporate and sporting events, product launches, trade shows, video podcasts, student films or as in this specific project, travel and documentaries.
The main challenge is that on these hybrid productions getting the shot is paramount. There are no second chances, so preparing the shoot and planning for different situations is key. Another big challenge is how to travel as light as possible, but still carry a full production and post-production setup literally on your back.
After Istanbul I went to Brussels with its ancient roots, unique architecture, and bilingual arrangement. From there I went to Paris, the legendary City of Light, which always offers up myriad imaging possibilities. As you can imagine, all these cities were a playground ripe with incredible photo opportunities, and amazing food.
If you enjoy my work, please consider sharing it with others. In today’s world, every click, share, and like counts. =)
Shooting the Black Swan.
How was the film Black Swan shot? How did the filmmakers deal with all the mirrors? How many lights did they use and what kind? Those were my thoughts while watching Natalie Portman’s remarkable performance. Here, I have compiled the most interesting technical aspects of the movie, gathered from several articles and forums, including a great interview by American Cinematographer’s Stephen Pizzello with the Director of Photography Matthew Libatique.
Regarding the mirrors and avoiding camera reflections, which is the real reason why I did some serious research on this movie, Libatique says “we did as much as we could practically, but we knew there would be moments when we wanted to create seemingly unachievable shots, and for those we just removed the reflections digitally with the help of Dan Schrecker, our visual-effects supervisor at Look Effects. A good example of Look’s work is the scene where Nina is rehearsing in front of a mirror, the lights go out, and her reflection starts moving independently; the camera was right where you see the reflection, but Darren wanted to get tight eye lines, so we had to paint ourselves out in post. For other scenes, it was easier to just hide the camera or shoot from angles where you couldn’t see it. We also used one-way mirrors to get a shot where we created an ‘infinity reflection’ of Nina sitting in front of a dressing-room mirror. We positioned Natalie between two one-way mirrors and just shot from behind them. We wanted the film’s horror beats to be a bit more stylistic.”
The main lighting source was “a strip above the dancers’ heads. We had about eight rows of 1K cinema globes running 60 feet across the stage. We just used different gels and put the lights on different channels; we’d go from a green gel to white to magenta, and we also started to mix them, which was nice. It was less complicated than using moving lights. For one sequence, we combined a moon backdrop with a rain effect that we created by filling a pool of water with broken glass and placing it at the base of the background. We just powered Source Fours into the pool and modulated the water movement with fans.”
“The movie was a single-camera shoot except for maybe one day, and our main camera was an Arri 416, which we used with Arri Ultra Prime 16 lenses. We used a Canon 7D or 1D Mark IV for all the subway scenes; I could just carry a 7D and shoot on the subway all day with a very small crew. I did some tests with my wife beforehand to figure out my ASA, my stop, and how I was going to deal with the focus. I didn’t use any rigs with it because I wasn’t trying to shoot in the traditional way. I tested a bunch of different exposures and then brought the footage to Charlie Hertzfeld at Technicolor, who put it in the system so I could look at the highlights, the moiré and the resolution. Then I went back to the drawing board to do more tests. The 7D has more depth of field than the 5D, but I needed that because I didn’t have a follow-focus unit and needed to work really fast. I shot everything documentary-style. I did all the focus pulls by hand, and we’d just look at it on the camera’s monitor. I ended up shooting on a Canon 24mm lens at 1,600 ASA to get as much depth of field as possible at a stop of T81?2.”
Check this short documentary on this movie’s special effects.
Every performance was covered in long master shots, which “we just augmented with other moves as necessary. To Natalie’s credit, we rarely did more takes for her; if we required additional takes, it was usually for us. We knew we’d be shooting her from the chest up most of the time, but we knew we’d be in great shape, performance-wise, as long as we could see her face and arms. For wider shots, we could just use her dance double. We did almost everything handheld.” The only Steadicam shot is at the climax of the final dance number. Unreal.
The movie is now available on Blu-Ray.
How to avoid the slideshow look when shooting video.
As we discussed previously, one piece of equipment you will be able to find in almost most any photographer’s kit is a monopod. This tool provides enough stabilization for us to open up the aperture and work with longer exposures. But, how well does this piece of equipment translate for someone making the transition from stills to video?
When it comes to shooting video, monopods often gets a bad rap. They are not stable enough. It’s impossible to get smooth pans and tilts. What if I need to walk away from the camera to adjust the lighting or sound?
Many people will tell you that the first thing you need to buy to support your camera is a good fluid head tripod, but I actually often recommend a monopod over a tripod for someone who is just starting out as a filmmaker. The monopod’s “limitations” force us to think differently about the borders of our frame. And it is a simple way to introduce camera movement and avoid the locked off “slideshow” look that is prevalent in so many DSLR productions.
Most critics of monopods often come from a narrative filmmaking perspective and do not take into consideration the conditions that are common for run and gun documentary style filmmaking. If you are trying to capture unpredictable, real time action, it is nice to be able to move quickly through a crowd without knocking people down. Adjusting the height of your tripod can be a real pain if you are working with a heavy camera rig and do not have an assistant or grip helping you set up. Another important consideration if you are planning to shoot on a street of a big city like NYC is that tripods often require a permit, but monopods are perfectly acceptable. Go figure.
If you are working with a small crew and under a tight schedule a monopod can provide you just enough stability, while still retaining a small footprint and flexibility.
Of course it is important to remember that a monopod will never be a complete substitute for a tripod. It will never provide the same degree of stabilization for static shots and pans and tilts especially when working with long focal lengths or long shot durations. You certainly don’t want to be caught filming a two hour-long interview on a single leg and in certain situations the inherent sway of a monopod can be incredibly distracting. There are very few cameras that can produce decent handheld footage without some form of rig or stabilization. So here’s a simple rule of thumb: use a monopod on any scene that you might consider shooting handheld.
Another option would be to use a shoulder rig, but how often is the most dynamic angle for a scene going to be shot from shoulder height? Not often.
With a monopod you can get the angles you want and have the floor as opposed to your shoulder supporting the camera’s weight. Even if the tip of the monopod is not touching the floor its weight can do wonders to support your footage. Because of its small footprint it doesn’t add much to bring it along with your kit and it could be just what you need to get out there and start shooting.
To learn more, check out our new Camera movement course on Lynda.com, where we worked extensively with Benro Monopods and Tripods to show off the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Panasonic Lumix DMC GH4 Sample Video • Behind the Scenes Fashion Week New York.
Panasonic Lumix DMC GH4 Sample Video. Behind the Scenes shot during Fashion Week in New York. Another test was shot in Central Park and a third one at the Chelsea Piers.
We learned a lot of interesting things about this new camera. To see the specs and what this system represents to hybrid photographers check tis article.
2013 Roundup and our favorite Top 10 Lists.
If there’s one thing we love, it’s lists! Here’s a short and sweet compilation of our favorite “Top 10” lists from 2013. (more…)
How to shoot a zero budget film in 17 hours without a crew.
Being busy should never be an excuse for not participating in creative challenges. Not having a budget, crew, or even actors, are simple excuses as well.
Let me explain. (more…)
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…)
Canon EOS C300 explained for photographers.
For starters, the C300 is NOT “just bigger than the EOS 5D Mark III.” Well, it IS bigger, but it is also a completely different system. The Canon EOS C300 comes in two flavors, one with EF mount (EOS C300) which takes your good ol’ Canon lenses, and another one (C300 PL) with a PL mount.
The camera is compact box, similar in size to a Mamiya RZ with a viewfinder. It is a bit heavy, but very comfortable to use for extended periods of time. (more…)
DSLR Video Shooter Interview; Panasonic GH3, Post NAB gadgets, backup solutions and more.
Update 20130706: Amazon just posted a crazy deal: $1,049 for the GH3. Not sure how long it will last but if you have been considering this camera, go grab it now!
Recently, we sat down for an interview with our friend Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter, a blog dedicated to videographers and cinematographers that use HDSLR video for quality storytelling. It was great to chat about NAB 2013, upcoming events, gear he have been using or testing like the Panasonic Lumix GH3, and share other useful digital workflow solutions. (more…)
10 (new) Cool Gadgets for Photographers and Filmmakers. Part 2
6• Convergent Design Odyssey 7.
Two super interesting monitor/recorders are the Odyssey7 and Odyssey7Q by Convergent Design. For $1295 and up you get a 7.7” 1280 x 800 OLED external monitor that also doubles as an external recorder capable of receiving 4K RAW data as well as other compressed and uncompressed formats onto two 2.5” SSDs.
Here’s the twist; out-of-the-box, these two products are monitors only, with all the usual settings (waveform, histogram, false color, vectorscope, zebras, and focus assist) but without any recording or playback capabilities. (more…)
10 (new) Cool Gadgets for Photographers and Filmmakers. Part 1
1• Edelkrone SliderPLUS
Edelkrone’s SliderPLUS is a super-compact and very smooth slider that easily fits onto Tenba’s Video Backpack. Unlike other sliders, this one moves with the camera, taking full advantage of rails’ length. With a price tag of $500, this toy is at the top of my shopping list.
2• Redrock Micro’s One Man Crew Parabolic Camera Motion System
This amazing gadget consists of a motorized parabolic track slider that “guides the camera on a precision-curved track at any speed while keeping the subject stationary in frame.” The system includes speed control, automatic in and out stops, and 36” of track for camera systems under 20lbs. All for $1,500. If you are part of a small crew doing a lot of corporate interviews or a single photographer creating educational content or product demos, this is an extremely attractive option.
Post-NAB 2013 wrap-up.
Our Digital Technology Resource is a monthly conversation about news, trends, and events for photographers and filmmakers. On our upcoming issue we highlight the most relevant products and trends we witnessed at NAB, including:
• Edelkrone SliderPLUS
• Redrock Micro One Man Crew
• Blackmagic Pocket and 4K Production Cameras
• Atomos Ninja 2
• Convergent Design Odyssey 7
• Tascam DR-60D and Samson Zoom H6
• G-Tech Evolution Series.
• Adobe Lightroom 5 and Premiere Pro “6.5”
• Imagine Products ShotPut Pro
It is never too late to sign up. Do it now!
Expanding our International Workshops.
We are hoping to expand our Photography and Filmmaking workshops to Hawaii, Thailand, Nigeria, Kuwait and South America. But first, we would love to hear your feedback.
Please click here if you have time to answer a few simple questions that will help us a LOT.
Thank you in advance.
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.
Shooting with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3. Field report and impressions.
The friendly waiter at the Turkish restaurant in Sohar, Oman, saw the camera on the table and asked “Nikon? Canon? Which one is better?” To which I replied, “actually, this is the Panasonic GH3.” He stared at me, his expression turned from excited to perplexed to confused to annoyed within seconds. After an uncomfortable silence he finally asked, “Are you ready to order?”
That was pretty much my reaction when, a few weeks ago, just two days before I started teaching a “Digital Cinema for Photographers” event in Dubai, I found out that Panasonic, a major sponsor of the event, REALLY wanted me and my students to use a couple of GH3s and several lenses in my hands-on workshop.
Panasonic is one of the largest consumer electronics companies, and the GH3 is the third generation of their very successful Micro Fourth Thirds DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) system. For a while I have been aware of the low-budget-filmmaking community’s devotion to the hacked DMC-GH2 and its ALL-I codec. I saw the DMC-GH3 at Photokina last year, but I had never before shot a single frame with a Panasonic camera. The bodies that I was given were running Firmware v0.5. Add to this a nine-hour time zone difference and jet lag, and you can begin to imagine my pain.
While I’ll be using some geeky terms, this is not an in-depth technical review, nor a scientific analysis of the GH3. You can dig into tech specs and MTF charts somewhere else. My goal is simply to share my honest and independent impressions, go over the things I liked and didn’t like, and communicate my wish list for future features. I want to emphasize that all the conclusions in this article are subjective and strictly based on my own personal experience.
“I have to warn you, I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work.”
-Keanu Reeves in “Speed”
I have to respectfully disagree with Keanu on this one. Much to my surprise, the camera was much more intuitive than Sony’s NEX system, and several video features got my full attention right away.
• Full HD 1920×1080 60p/50p (NTSC/PAL) with 30p/25p/24p options.
• Ultra-high bit rate video recorded at 72 Mbps (ALL-I) or 50 Mbps (IPB).
• Capable of recording continuously for an unlimited time for NTSC and 29 min 59 sec for PAL.
• Native support for MOV (h.264), MP4, and AVCHD formats.
• Time Code support in the MOV and AVCHD formats.
• Extremely fast and accurate contrast-detection Autofocus.
• A 3.5mm mic input AND a headphone jack AND the option to manually adjust the sound recording levels via touchscreen controls.
• Full-time AF, AF Tracking, and Face Recognition AF are available for VIDEO. The Touch AF mimics rack focusing.
THE WORKSHOP STORY
Not having enough time to field test the Panasonic systems before the Workshop, I shot dummy clips in my hotel room and made sure that the footage would work in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. The test went surprisingly smoothly. I then set both GH3 cameras to the same video settings: MOV at 1920×1080, 24p, 72 Mbps ALL-I, Standard Photo Style, White Balance at 5500K, got ND filters for all the lenses, extra batteries, and a few Class 10 SD cards. And then I prayed.
Note: It’s extremely important to point out that full HD on this camera requires memory cards with the fastest speed available. My “older” memory cards didn’t work, giving me only four seconds of recording time.
We spent the first day of my three-day Digital Cinema Workshop covering all the technical similarities and differences between stills and video. On the second day, we planned a location shoot with a Capoeira team and spent a couple hours shooting in the afternoon. On the third and last day we covered the different hardware and software requirements for post production and spent three hours editing the footage. I am especially proud of the short clip my students put together in such a limited amount of time and with newly acquired knowledge (and using brand new gear!).
We could obviously use a few more days sweetening the audio, fine tuning transitions, and grading, but for a two-hour shoot and a three-hour edit, I believe this is a good example of what can be accomplished with great teamwork, interesting subjects, and the GH3’s many customizable options.
Below you will see a few additional sample clips, all shot as H.264, 1920 x 1080, 23.976 72Mbps ALL-I, using the GH3’s “Standard” profile (Contrats = 0, Sharpness = 0, Saturation = 0, Noise Reduction = 0). The Exposure and White Balance were set manually. The lens was the Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm F2.8 set on AF Tracking mode, which worked very well most of the time. Despite the lens having “environmental sealing,” as you can see the fine desert’s sand inevitably found its way to the sensor. I put the clips together on Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, and have NOT done any grading nor sharpening. These short clips are intended to show you what the GH3 is capable of, not to tell a specific story.
So, mission accomplished, right? Not so fast. A couple of days later, as I was wrapping up my day, a friend asked “Are you busy? I wanna show you something interesting.” With only the GH3, the 12-35mm 2.8 lens, a 4GB card and a low battery I jumped into his car. The “something interesting” happened to be access to the Royal Suite at the 7-star Hotel Burj Al Arab—a notoriously difficult area to access. With limited amount of storage space and battery life I managed to capture a few keepers.
The very next morning (on my “day off”), I headed out to meet an old friend for brunch at the Atlantis. Should you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, I strongly recommend that you pay the Atlantis a visit. As we enjoyed the seemingly endless food, my friend received a call to drive to Abu Dhabi right away to pick someone up and then drive back to Dubai. Would I like to come? Guess what I had hanging on my shoulder? This time I had a full battery and a 16GB card, but nothing else to shoot the magnificent mosque and the impossibly opulent Emirates Palace. Once again, the GH3 did a fantastic job.
These are some of the GH3’s features that are not obvious to the naked eye, but are interesting once you are aware of them:
• A magnesium alloy camera body that Panasonic describes as “splash proof and dust proof.”
• The Panasonic RAW files (RW2) work fine in Adobe Lightroom [add link to LR workshop] but the most current version (4.3 as of this writing) is needed. Unfortunately there are no Panasonic lens profiles available as of this writing.
• All the video formats worked seamlessly on Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Even the video recorded at 72 Mbps was easy to preview and edit on a two-year old MacBook Pro (with 8GB of RAM and an external 7200 RPM Hard Drive as a Scratch Disk).
• HDMI monitor output can be sent with or without information overlays.
• I had a DMW-MS2 Stereo Shotgun Mic with me, but was happy to learn that the camera’s built-in internal microphones provide stereo audio.
• The GH3’s sensor has a 4:3 aspect ratio.
• Built-in Time Lapse, and HDR but unfortunately it works only for JPGs not RAW.
• Five physical function buttons, and two touch-screen function buttons, all customizable with close to 40 options to choose from.
• Virtually all the key shooting controls are within the right hand’s reach. This frees up the left hand to hold the camera or focus manually.
• Excellent battery life, lasting a full day under normal operation. For extended video sessions I’d consider getting the DMW-BGGH3 Battery Grip.
• Apparently (I have not tested this) the GH3 is also capable of real-time image output to the LVF or the rear monitor AND to an external monitor via HDMI.
I shot extensively (more than 2,000 images in 18 days) with the Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm F2.8. The lens is tiny. And fast. And awesome. It has the equivalent focal length to a 24-70mm F2.8 on a 35mm system but it is a fraction of the size and weight. As you already know, this is a very good start when dealing with packing issues.
In terms of depth of field, the lens behaves like a 16-45mm F3.5 lens on an APS-C sensor, or a 24-70mm F5.6 lens on a Full Frame sensor. It is hard to get used to this, especially when shooting another system simultaneously, but it is not a disadvantage per se.
Click to keep reading (more…)
Canon EOS C300 Cinema Camera Insights.
Over a year ago, when Canon’s EOS C300 was announced, we wrote about the significance of the new EOS CInema system for photographers (you can read some of our previous articles here, and here). Since then, we practiced on the very clever online “Menu Simulator,” attended several Canon events, watched all the outstanding tutorials on Canon’s Digital Learning Center by Jem Schofield, wasted hours day-dreaming with the Accessory Configurator and played with the system on and off.
But not until last week did we have the chance to really go down and dirty with the system, shoot for several days, tweak some hardcore settings, create “custom picture presets” and see what the camera was made of.
The verdict? Absolutely impressive. Instead of writing a long post about it, we decided to use our 10-minute break and shoot a quick video with our impressions. Here it is, and we hope you enjoy it.
Gulf Photo Plus 2013 Workshops in Dubai.
We are truly honored to be a part of the upcoming Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) Workshops in Dubai. From March 1-8 2013, we will be teaming up with industry leading professionals Joe McNally, Gregory Heisler, David Hobby, Zack Arias, Peter Hurley, Bobbi Lane, and other great photo instructors for an unforgettable event. We will have a jam-packed week with workshops and activities aimed to help improve skills, inspire, and educate photographers at every level of expertise. Taking place at the core of the Middle East’s photo community, this is going to be one incredible week!
We are thrilled to present two “Photo Friday” seminars AND two 3-day Workshops introducing the craft of Digital Filmmaking to photographers. As we all know, the emergence of HD Video in current cameras has opened up a new world to photographers and cinematographers, widening the creative palette for visual expression. Our workshop’s emphasis will be on reinforcing the theory behind the technique; understanding the equipment and processes rather than concentrating on a finished product. Here are some of the many topics we will cover, all while working as a small film crew: Digital cinema workflow, new terms and techniques, Adobe Premier Pro, script writing, production considerations, budgeting, and the most essential gear.
Check out below what our workshop is about:
David Hobby, the famous and respected “Strobist” recently said “I happen to think this is the best photo week of its kind on the planet. If you are anywhere near that part of the world, GPP is a no-brainer. But even if you are far away, it’s worth the trip.”
That’s what I call a statement.
Below is an AWESOME shoot-out during last year’s GPP between Hobby, Martin Prihoda and Gregory Heisler. Simply brilliant.
Our 10 hidden gems of 2012.
Earlier this week we shared with you our “Crème de la Crème” of 2012, the 10 most visited articles on this site. Today, we would like to share 10 more articles that we feel should have made our top ten list. As a team of educators, technology consultants, and visual storytellers, we are very proud of these posts as we feel that they are extremely relevant and worth your time. We encourage you to read them, share them with those who might be interested, and respond by starting a conversation below.
Without further ado here they are:
We believe young students should be learning flexibility, teamwork, accounting, time management, project management, and languages (especially Spanish and Chinese), to be prepared for the future job markets.
Check out my personal notes and pre-production techniques for photographers and filmmakers.
We explained the 5 main similarities, and 5 main differences between shooting stills and shooting motion.
Click here to keep reading (more…)
The Crème de la Crème: The best articles of 2012.
Wow! What a year! We completed 200 Consulting projects, over 30 Photography and Video Workshops, 50 videos, 50 tutorials and close to 200 blogs posts….all in one year.
How was this even possible? One, this is a team effort, where everybody does what they love and excel at. Second, great time and project management, which is paramount in an industry that keeps changing (and sometime evolving) every single day.
Today we would like to highlight our 10 most popular articles of the year. Later this week we will publish the 10 articles that for whatever reason didn’t get much attention but we feel are very relevant and worth your time.
Here we go!
No matter what previous version of Adobe Lightroom you use, it is very easy to install and upgrade to the latest Lightroom 4 platform. Find out how easy this is below.
After several tests, we discussed the best and not so great features of Canon’s EOS M. Also, we shot some sample images with this mirrorless gem.
An in-depth technical analysis on the latest, newest, meanest Canon EOS system. Our overview included the most important and newest features.
PhotoPlus 2012 Workshops
The 2012 PDN PhotoPlus Expo is the largest photography and imaging show in North America, attended by over 24,000 professional photographers and enthusiasts. This year we are presenting two awesome seminars: The Power of Lightroom 4 and Digital Cinema Essentials for Photographers.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us!
Interview with ADF at Photokina.
Here’s another interview from last week at Photokina, this time for the Arbeitskreis Digitale Fotografie or ADF, which means the “Working Group on Digital Photography” and is the equivalent to the APA or ASMP in the U.S.
This link has an interesting collection of photography links in Germany, including museums, education, journals, and other relevant online services.
Will Lightroom 4 support all my files? Maybe.
I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking whether Adobe Lightroom 4 (and/or Adobe Camera Raw 7) will support the file format for certain new cameras.
In Lightroom 4.1 or later, you can import and work with TIFF 16-, 24-, and 32-bit floating point images – also known as HDR (high dynamic range) images. You can use the Develop module controls to edit HDR images, and then render the images for export or printing as 8-bit or 16-bit images. Lightroom can now import DNG format HDR images, but you need to make sure the images are processed version 2012.
To keep things simple, here’s the complete list of currently supported file formats:
• TIFF (8 bit, 16 bit, 32 bit)
• PSD (8 bit, 16 bit)
• RAW – Here is the complete list of supported cameras. As you can see, the list keeps growing and growing and now includes Hasselblad, Mamiya/Leaf, and PhaseOne Medium Format Digital Backs.
There are two important exceptions:
PSD files saved without the “Maximize Compatibility” setting enabled
Files with dimensions greater than 65,000 pixels per side
As you already know (if you have been following this blog), Lightroom 4 also supports the most popular HDSLR video formats, including MOV, MPG, AVI, and AVCHD.
Keep in mind that the AVCHD support is limited to MTS and M2TS video files. Video editing applications like Adobe Premiere Pro may need the AVCHD file structure to process the files, which can be a pain. Final Cut Pro 7 won’t even take the MTS files without transcoding them first.
This is how the typical AVCHD file structure looks like:
If you find this information useful please help us share the love. It is good karma!
Photokina TV Interview.
Earlier today we sat down for an interview for Photokina TV in Cologne, Germany. Here’s a segment that is available online:
Photokina 2012 focuses on HDSLR Video.
Every two years there is one focal point in the Photo industry: Photokina, the world’s leading imaging fair. Photokina covers the entire spectrum of imaging, from image capture to image processing and storage to image output. This is where new trends and major innovations are presented to the world, and where the spotlight is on groundbreaking technological developments including mobile imaging, connectivity, and moving images. The show always delivers an impressive program of workshops, symposiums, photography exhibitions and many special events at the exhibition centre and at sites all over Cologne.
As you might know every Photokina show focuses on one single topic. Because filming withHDSLR systems is increasingly becoming a necessity for professionals, this year’s topic is HDSLR Video.
The show has created a “Shoot Movie Park” in Hall 4.1, offering a unique area where suppliers have an optimal location to present themselves to the attendees. The Movie Park will be supplemented by a series of lectures, workshops and exhibitions. Canon will present Richard Walch, sailor, snowboarder and photographer. Zeiss will have Sebastian Wiegärtner, one of the first users in the German-speaking region to understand and make use of the capabilities of the new HDSLR systems. We are very excited to be representing X-Rite, and show our most recent Color Management Video Tutorials (Video 1, Video 2 and Video 3).
Representatives of ADF — Arbeitskreis Digitale Fotografie (digital photography working group) will also be sharing their expertise as they answer visitors’ questions about digital photography and film. More information about the “Shoot Movie” program can be found here.
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…
Notes from the Field.
This is a scan from my journal that I bring with me to every preproduction meeting that I have with clients, directors, producers, and others. In this scan you can see my handy “preproduction notes.”
Here’s how my system works: first, I like to get the conversation going by sharing movies that we like and movies that could be related to the project at hand. This helps tremendously in our effort to understand both technically and aesthetically what the client or director is going after, and if we are a good match for the project.
About a year ago I sat down with a director who began envisioning a project as “film noir meets science fiction/kung fu—but in a funny way,” which saved us both a lot of time, as I was definitively not interested!
Let’s take a look at the other things I consider on every video production:
• Script: Do we have a script? Is it from a book or is it an original script? When can I see it? If there isn’t a script, who is going to write it and when? This is a very important step. Even though I always write the scripts for my own projects, it needs to be clearly defined who will perform this integral part when it comes to someone else’s project. I have been using Celtx, and I am very happy with the results. The script is by far THE most important piece on any video production puzzle.
• Shot list: As soon as I have the script, I start creating a shot list: what kind of gear do we need? Do we own it? Do we need to rent it? How many shots can we accomplish in one day? The answers to these questions can vary greatly depending on location, the scenes’ complexity, permits, and even the weather.
• Location Permits: Since most of us don’t have access to Hollywood’s sets and production budgets, being creative is extremely important. Having access to locations that other people don’t have access to is key. There are several beautiful abandoned buildings on Wall Street that no one knows about. In Harlem there are fantastic mansions that you can shoot if you know the right people. Battery Park is Federal property while Central Park is not. Both require shooting permits, issued by different offices.
• Location Scouting: I am often surprised to see how many people ignore this critical step. In cities like New York things change, and they change fast. The park that you so fondly remember is now a parking lot. And that awesome abandoned building? Well, it’s now a luxury condo.
Canon EOS M Images.
UPDATED 0828 Canon EOS M – Part II. Hands-on Review
Yes, the answer is a most emphatic YES to everyone who has asked if I plan to purchase the brand-new Canon Mirrorless system. I just placed my order here. You have until October to change your mind. I seriously doubt I’ll change mine.
So, in a nutshell, we have a tiny camera body with a powerful DIGIC 5 image processor, and a very nice APS-C 18.0 Megapixel CMOS sensor, which is the same sensor size one finds in the wonderful EOS 7D and EOS 60D. The touch screen and UI are virtually identical to the brand new Rebel T4i. Apparently you can purchase the body only, but I have only seen the kit with the EF-M 22mm ƒ2.0 pancake lens. All the expected features like ISO settings from 100 to 12800, with expansion to ISO 25600, standard aspect ratios (3:2 plus 4:3, 1:1 and 16:9), and 1080p at 24/25/30 fps and 720p 50/60 fps are there, BUT now we have continuous autofocus.
The hybrid (stills and video) AF system uses “phase-difference AF to achieve approximate focus and drive the lens at high speed, then switches to contrast AF for final focusing.” The movie files are recorded in MPEG-4 format, using AVC.H.264 compression and a variable bit rate. Program as well as and manual shooting modes are supported in movie mode.
And the cherry on top? The EOS M will take EF lenses thanks to the adapter shown below. Enjoy the view.
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H.265: A New Standard for Digital Cinema?
A new video codec is expected to replace H.264 as early as next year. H.264 is one of the most common formats for recording, compressing, and distributing high-definition video, not in small part because it is the codec found on several HDSLR systems such as Canon’s EOS 5D Mark III. Another big advantage is that it is currently supported by for most video sharing websites like YouTube and Vimeo. Additionally, runs natively in both Lightroom 4 and Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, which dramatically decreases the time wasted transcoding and rendering files.
But, apparently there is (or technically, will be) a new kid on the block. The Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) are teaming up and plan to release H.264’s successor as early as January 2013. The new kid’s name will likely be H.265 or MPEG-H Part 2.
Just how much more efficient will H.265 be? Well, H.265 is expected to provide a significant improvement in data transmission and streaming efficiency compared to H.264. It will have almost twice the amount of compression ratio from for a similar quality level. This means that I’ll need to buy less memory cards, and less external hard drives. Both will make my accountant really happy. Below is the only video test comparing H.264 and H.265 we were able to find. It was performed on an Android tablet by Qualcomm, a San Diego-based chip-maker that is listed as a member of the international standards group developing H.265.
H.265 will be designed to support all new and current streaming technologies including devices working at 4K and Ultra HDTV (also known as 8K or 4320p) resolutions. Did you know that Ultra HDTV definition contains about 16 times the amount of pixels that are present in a 1080p video stream? That’s kinda insane! Check out the chart below to see things in perspective.
The H.265 codec sounds promising, but (there’s always a but) it will have to fight for widespread implementation with another codec called VP8. This format was purchased by Google two years ago and was released it as a royalty-free alternative under the Creative Commons license. Nvidia (Qualcomm’s main competitor) has built VP8 decoding support into its newer Tegra 3 chips alongside H.264 support, and several companies including Skype have adopted VP8 as their preferred format. Adobe also announced that the Flash Player will support VP8 playback in a future release. Who will win? Let’s wait and see.
And this is why photographers need to learn video right now.
Last week I attended the Silver & Ink event at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I was invited to see the graduate students’ work, teach a video class, speak at a “business of photography” panel discussion, review undergraduate and graduate portfolios, discuss technology trends with faculty, exchange my views about the future of photography with career advisors, and attend a stunning art opening. Among the many questions I received, there were two particular questions that were asked many times over—and I could sense a mix of fear and excitement in those who asked these questions.
Question #1: As a photographer, why should I learn video?
The answer is really simple: access to more future opportunities. According to careerinfonet.org there is a better than average annual growth in job openings for photographers, yet video editors, as well as audio and video technicians make significantly more money—either through an hourly wage (freelance) or yearly salary (part- and full-time employment).
I compared national averages with New York state averages, and the results are pretty clear.
In New York, video editors can make from $35,000 to $102,000 per year. Photographers make from $18,000 up to $81,000. As you can see, salaries for audio and video equipment technicians fall right in between the salaries of photographers and video editors
I personally know very few photographers at the high-end of the spectrum, but I know of several video editors who make a lot more than $100K.
What about employment growth?
NAB 2012 wrap-up.
• Blackmagic announced a hard-to-believe camera featuring a 2.5K image sensor, 13 stops of dynamic range, built-in SSD recorder, popular open standard uncompressed RAW and compressed file formats, compatibility with quality EF and ZF mount lenses, and LCD touchscreen monitoring.
• Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 is out with and enhanced 64-bit playback engine that can handle 5K resolutions, and higher, new trimming options, compatibility with Mac touchpad gestures, a Warp Stabilizer that was previously confined to After Effects, and expanded multicam editing for more than four cameras. Taking a page from its sister app, “the audio oriented Audition, Premiere Pro CS6 offers a redesigned and more functional audio mixer. Adobe also introduced SpeedGrade, a film finishing and color grading app, and Prelude, for ingesting, logging, and transcoding.
• Autodesk announced Smoke 2013 for the Mac, a new version of what the company is now calling video editing software and at users of Apple’s Final Cut Pro or Avid Media Composer who want high-end editing and finishing tools in one app. The new price is “only” $3495, down from $14,995 for the 2012 version.
• Panasonic announced a bittersweet firmware update for the AG-AF100 that provides 1080 50p and 60p modes. That’s the sweet part. The bitter? They want users to pay $300 for the upgrade.
• Canon announced the 1D C ($15,000), which has the same chassis and still shooting features of the EOS-1D X ($6,800), and captures 4096 x 2160 8-bit 4:2:2 video to a CF card at 24 fps. Unlike the X, the C swaps a headphone jack for the X’s PC sync.
• The higher-end Canon EOS C500 ($30,000) offers the same ISO range as the C300 (320-20,000) and requires a dedicated external recorder, but captures in two full-RAW flavors: 4096 x 2960 (for motion picture), and 3840 x 2160 (for 4K TV). Both of these modes offer 10-bit 4:4:4 at 60 frames-per-second. There are two additional RAW option, 4096 x 1080 or 3840 x 1080 resolutions, which are also 10-bit 4:4:4, but at 120 fps. The camera also offers
Video Essentials and Video Editing for photographers at SVA.
PDN Magazine recently published what we consider the “13 Products you need to add HD Video to your business.” (You might need the password “tutorials” to download the file.) The article is also available on PDN’s May print issue. If you are new to the world of Video, this list is a great place to start.
During the summer we will be offering two new workshops at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City: a 2-day “Video Essentials for Photographers” and a 1-day “Video Editing for Photographers” using Adobe Premiere Pro. We hope to see you there!