Video

The Pros and Cons of external recorders: Atomos Shogun.

I’ve been using an Atomos Shogun for a while, and while I had very clear reasons to pick up this device, I’ve found many other very valuable and attractive features. Here I share the most interesting ones in no particular order.

Atomos Shogun 1

The Atomos Shogun with a Panasonic GH4

Atomos-Shogun-web1

The Atomos Shogun

1. Longer recording times

The first and most obvious reason was to record 4K and HD for extended periods of time. The Shogun utilizes 4K HDMI and 12G-SDI inputs to record clean output signals at resolutions up to UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, and 30p, as well as Full HD (1920 x 1080) video up to 120 fps with some cameras.

We’ve been shooting a lot of corporate interviews and live events lately and swapping 32GB or 64GB is cumbersome and very inefficient. The additional steps in post to log each and backup each card are fairly simple but time consuming.  Yes, SD cards are cheap, with a 64GB costing about $30 (AmazonB&H) and a 128GB going for about $60 (Amazon • B&H), I was expecting Solid State drives to cost an arm and leg.  Wrong!

You can now get an “Atomos approved” (the complete list is available here) SanDisk Pro 240GB drive for only $120 (AmazonB&H) and a SanDisk Pro 480GB drive for only $200 or less! (AmazonB&H). Both drives come with an impressive 10-year warranty.  And here’s a special Shogun kit that includes TWO 240GB Solid State Drive for FREE. A no brainer if you ask me.

It is worth mentioning that shooting 1080 in ProRes 422 on a 240GB drive (with the Panasonic Lumix GH4 on AmazonB&H)gives you almost 3.5 hours of recording time. Using the same drive but recording in ProRes LT gives you almost five hours. The Shogun also allows other systems like Sony’s a7S (AmazonB&H)that are not capable of recording 4K internally to send the 4K signal to the external device via HDMI.

2. Adding XLR ports to your cameras. No need to sync audio in post. 

The first “ah-ha!”moment was recording audio directly into the Shogun via the provided XLR breakout cable (with two 3-pin male and two 3-pin female XLR). The Shogun provides Phantom Power which is essential when using our trusted Rode Lavalier mics (Amazon • B&H).

xlr cable for atomos

The Shogun can record 8 channels of digital audio embedded in the HDMI signal and 12 channels of digital audio embedded in the SDI signal. There’s also a 3.5mm output that doubles as a Line Out or Headphone jack. The headphone’s volume can be controlled separately within the menu. Pretty clever!

We have used the Shogun mostly with Panasonic GH4s (here’s a recent job shooting Anamorphic and V-Log) effectively adding XLR ports to our tiny cameras. This is important: we noticed a delay or off-sync between the footage and the audio being recorded into the Shogun. After extensive tests we also noticed that the audio delay was different for Cam A and Cam B even though both were the same brand and model (Panasonic GH4s) and running the same exact firmware version.

Thankfully Atomos includes a very easy fix; simply go to the Audio menu and from there navigate to the “Audio Options”where you will see an “Audio Delay”preset. We finally settled on 4 frames for the Audio delay.

For our one-person interviews and the most recent Lynda.com courses we used one shotgun boom mic on XLR A and a wireless lavalier set on XLR B. This is what the correct settings on the Shogun should look like:

www.eduardoangel.com-Shogun-Image-001-web www.eduardoangel.com-Shogun-Image-002-web www.eduardoangel.com-Shogun-Image-003-web

3. Standardizing editing codec and no need to transcode

On most projects we try to use the same camera model. So if we need three cameras we would use three Panasonic GH4, or three Canon C100 Mark II (AmazonB&H) or three Sony FS7 (AmazonB&H). We try to keep it simple.

www.eduardoangel.com-3-Canon-Cinema-EOS-C100-Mark2_WEB

But on a recent shoot in Portland we were shooting with two C300s, had a “behind the scenes”crew using two GH4s, had one Sony A7s doing time-lapses and used one Sony FS7 for some slow-motion sequences. Normally this would be a post-production nightmare for our editor and/or a huge time waste for us having to transcode all that footage every night on-location. We simply attached a Shogun to each camera, shot ProRes 422 with clean audio and the only post step required on our end was backing up the Solid State Drives into our TWO G-Tech drives (AmazonB&H). Why two? One is set as the Master and at least one as our Backup. When possible, we bring additional Solid State Drives with us so during the shoot we can leave the footage on them as a third backup.  

The only disadvantage I see from this approach is the huge file size of the ProRes compared to the native on-camera files, but when taking into account the time wasted transcoding and syncing audio the investment for bigger and faster hard drives more than pays off.

A handy tip: if you will be renting SSDs often, I suggest getting a battery-operated screwdriver to make the process of getting the drives into the Master Caddy II much faster and easier. The best bargain can be found at Ikea.

www.eduardoangel.com-Shogun-Image-004-web

5. Camera Settings

Here’s something VERY important to consider when using the Shogun with the Panasonic GH4.

1. In the camera’s “Motion Picture”Menu, navigate to the fourth screen (as of this writing).

www.eduardoangel.com Shogun GH4 Menu001

2. Go to “HDMI Rec Output.”If for any reason you are planning to record in 4:2:2 8 bit, make sure to go to “Info Display”and turn it off. Failing to do this will record the camera’s menu into the footage.

www.eduardoangel.com Shogun GH4 Menu002

3. If instead you are planning to record in 4:2:2 10 bit, go to “HDMI Rec Output” then “Bit Mode,”select “4:2:2 10 bit”and then “yes.”

www.eduardoangel.com Shogun GH4 Menu003 www.eduardoangel.com Shogun GH4 Menu004

6. Focus, Exposure and LUTs

We purchased the Shogun thinking that it would be much easier to monitor focus on a 7”screen. It does work wonderfully in that regard, but we got a lot more than we bargained for. The touchscreen is very minimalist and easy to navigate, the color accuracy is extremely good. Actually, the monitor’s color standard is REC 709 and it can be calibrated with an optional Atomos Spyder.

www.eduardoangel.com-Shogun-Image-005-web

The additional benefit of having more reliable and customizable Focus Peaking is very handy. There are three flavors for peaking: Color, Monochrome, and Outline. In terms of monitoring exposure, especially when shooting outdoors, False Color is key. This feature assigns different colors to areas of different exposure in the image: overexposed areas appear as red, and underexposed appear as blue.

The ability to load LUTs and show the client what the footage will look like after grading is priceless. It is important to know that the LUTs loaded into the Shogun simply previews what the footage would look like, but the media being recorded is not affected. Here’s a short film featuring Panasonic’s recently released Anamorphic mode, and the yet to be released V-Log L gamma file color space.

www.eduardoangel.com Shogun Image 006 www.eduardoangel.com Shogun Image 007

7. Batteries

In a nutshell, get plenty of juice. Perhaps the biggest complaint from many users has been regarding battery life.The battery provided with the kit only lasts about 45 minutes, making it mandatory to buy additional ones. We went the “cheapo”route and purchased a too-good-to-be true Kastar kit on Amazon that included two batteries, a charger and a car charger for only $34. Unfortunately this time the “you get what you pay for”maxim held true. The batteries last about the same as an original Sony NP-F970, but the Kastar charger is completely worthless. An original Sony battery costs around $120.

www.eduardoangel.com-Shogun-Image-008-web

We got stuck on location with a ton of dead batteries and a bad charger. Not a pretty day. The lesson: buy at least one good charger and always bring the Shogun’s AC charger with you (it is included in the kit).

8. Conclusions:

Clearly, the Shogun is an outstanding (but not perfect) product. While it is very light (a mere 16 ounces without batteries), which is great when used on a monopod or gimbal, it is also very fragile. Our monitor broke during our second on-location shoot and we always take great care of our gear. We have been using Varavon cages for the GH4s (I’ll share my impression soon) and they have proven outstanding, and just got a new cage for the Shogun.

If you are planning to use the Shogun in broad-daylight I’d also STRONGLY recommend getting a sun hood, which was NOT included with our original kit.

www.eduardoangel.com-Shogun-Image-009-WEB

There are at least a couple of additional features we haven’t tried yet: the optional Wi-Fi Remote Control to start/stop recording from an iOS or Android device, and flagging the footage on the Shogun as favorite/reject. Apparently this gets exported within the footage’s metadata and will work with Final Cut X and Adobe Premiere Pro CC. I can definitely see this as a time-saving feature, especially while working on interviews and marking sections with the best takes or sound bites.

For a couple grand, I believe one gets a LOT of value out of this device, especially if you can get the current deal that includes two FREE Solid State Drives.

Comments? Questions? Let’s chat on Twitter.


Video

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.

Enjoy!

Video

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?


Video

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.

Lenses:

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).

Accessories:

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.

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.

The Challenge:

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.

Possible Solutions:

I will only discuss the main components of the package, so additional batteries, cables, memory cards won’t be included in the total price.

1. Canon
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.

1x Canon C100 Mark II = $5,500 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Canon EOS 70D = $900 (AmazonAdorama)
Total = $6,400

Canon-C100MII_timg

2. Sony
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.

1x Sony FS7 $8,000 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Sony a7S $2,500 (Amazon • Adorama)
2x Metabones adapter (Canon EOS to NEX) $800 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Atomos Shogun $2,000 (Amazon • Adorama)
Total = 13,300

Sony-FS7_timg

3. Panasonic
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.

1x Panasonic Lumix GH4 $1,500 (Amazon • Adorama)
1x Metabones Speedbooster adapter (Canon EOS to MFT) $600 (Adorama)
1x Panasonic HC-X1000 Camcorder $3,200 (Amazon • Adorama)
Total: $5,300

HCX1000_timg

4. Blackmagic
We briefly considered Blackmagic systems but found too many cons to even add them here. Another topic for another day.

Conclusions:

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….

m_Shogun

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!

Varavon

More to come.

Photography

Canon EOS-5DS and EOS-5DS R announced. What’s new?

The new Canon cameras have been officially announced. Here are the specs, side by side.

Canon-EOS-5DS-R-vs-Canon-EOS-5DS_850

• Sadly, there are no new features for video on either EOS-5DS or EOS-5DS R. Actually, they are MISSING some video features from the 5D Mark III, like a headphone jack or an HDMI port.

Canon-EOS-5DS-R-Video-Features_850_EduardoAngel Canon-EOS-5DS-Video-Features_850_EduardoAngel

• The cameras won’t be available for PREORDER until mid-June. Shipping dates are still unknown.

Canon-EOS-5DS-Digital-SLR_850 Canon-EOS-5DS-R-850

 

• The highly expected Canon 11-24mm f/4 L USM Lens was also announced, and it is available for preorder!

Canon-11-24MM-Lens

Video

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

The complete course is currently available on Lynda.com.  If you aren’t a Lynda.com subscriber, feel free to use my link for 10 days of unlimited access.

Here are some of the many examples on this course:

EduardoAngelCinematicComposition_BarnScene_01EduardoAngelCinematicComposition_BarnScene_02EduardoAngelCinematicComposition_ShotTypes_01EduardoAngelCinematicComposition_ShotTypes_02EduardoAngelCinematicComposition_SubjectiveObjective

 

Video

Camera Movement for Video Productions on Lynda.com

Filmmaking is a medium defined by motion: not only the action that occurs within a frame, but also movement of the camera itself. It’s the ability to employ camera movement that separates new videographers from the pros. In this course, we cover the importance of camera movement and the benefits of integrating it into your video productions. The lessons are explained through a series of examples that compare static shots to their dynamic counterparts, showing exactly how camera movement contributes to each scene, whether it’s increasing drama, following action, directing viewers’ attention, revealing key details, or simply transitioning between shots in a sequence.

Topics included on this course:

  • Exploring the different types of camera motion
  • Panning and tilting
  • Zooming
  • Racking
  • Tracking on sliders vs. dollies
  • Stabilizing camera movement
  • Working with cranes, jibs, and mounts
  • Choosing the right camera for motion

The complete course is currently available on Lynda.com.  If you aren’t a Lynda.com subscriber, feel free to use my link for 10 days of unlimited access.

EduardoAngel_CameraMovement_Promo01_850

 

Video

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:

5.4_What_Lighting_Style_Is_Best_For_Your_Story.mov.Still009-950x534

 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.

 

Video

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.

I recently wrote about my experience, lessons learned, and a few tips for Sigma, as I used their lenses for this assignment. The complete articles are available here and here.

If you enjoy my work, please consider sharing it with others. In today’s world, every click, share, and like counts. =)

Video

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.

Mirrors

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.”

Black Swan Hallucination Scene

Lighting

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.”

Natalie Portman Pictures CompilationCameras

“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.”

Director of Photography Matthew Libatique shooting Black Swan with the Canon 7D in New York's subway.

Special Effects

Check this short documentary on this movie’s special effects.

blackswan05

Camera Movement

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.


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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…)

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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…)

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Tips and Tricks 008: Is there an ideal shutter speed to use in video?

 
Is there an ideal shutter speed to use when shooting video? We have previously discussed this topic, but we keep getting the same question so let’s go over this again.

The quick answer is yes, there is, and you really need to pay attention to that. (more…)

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Frame Rates and Shutter Speed. Quick tip.

 
In still photography we have three settings to control exposure: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. When shooting HDSLR video, the shutter speed is pretty much locked. We only have ISO, which is limited, and aperture, which we want to use as a technical AND as a creative tool. For this post, let’s concentrate on shutter speed.

Is there an ideal shutter speed to use?

The answer is yes, there is. Unless you are trying to shoot high-speed, or slow motion, a good rule of thumb is 2x the frame rate. So for example, if you are shooting at 30fps video, set your shutter speed at 1/60th of a second. When it comes to shutter speed, we basically set it, and forget it.

Camera Settings for HDSLR Video

Faster shutter speeds make for better frame grabs, but also make the video more choppy.  This video is one of the best visual explanations I’ve come across for both concepts. Remember that exposure is extremely critical in digital cinema, we don’t have the RAW latitude we enjoy in still photography.

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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!
 

interview with DSLR Video Shooter, Caleb Pike

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…)

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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.


(more…)

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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!

Did you miss a previous issue? Don’t worry, be happy. Here are the links:
January 2013 Issue
February 2013 Issue
March 2013 Issue

NAB Show 2013 Highlights

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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.

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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?”

EduardoAngel_Panasonic_Lumix_DMC_GH3_SampleImages _001

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.

FEATURES
• 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.

GH3_1-1

SD 16GB class10

You must use a Class 10 SDHC card when recording Ultra-high bit rate video at 72 Mbps (ALL-I).

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.

VIDEO
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!).

Capoeira in Dubai. Student Project. from Eduardo Angel on Vimeo.

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.

SAMPLE CLIPS
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.

SOMETHING INTERESTING
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.

EduardoAngel_Panasonic_Lumix_DMC_GH3_SampleImages _008

The 7-star Burj Al Arab hotel resembles a giant sail rising over the Gulf, with changing colors visible for miles at night.

EduardoAngel_Panasonic_Lumix_DMC_GH3_SampleImages _002

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.

EduardoAngel_Panasonic_Lumix_DMC_GH3_SampleImages _003

A nice view from a 25th floor overlooking the magnificent Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

MORE FEATURES
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.

GH3_shotgun

DMW-MS2 Stereo Shotgun Mic

LENSES
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.

12-35mm lens

Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm F2.8

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…)

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Photography Trends, according to Google.

 
The “interest over time” in photography for the past eight years has remained pretty much constant. The interest for “digital photography” went from a 100 to a current 20. The term HDSLR only started by the end of 2009, with a peak in early 2001. Smartphone photography is showing a wild uptrend.

Google Trends - Web Search Interest_ photography - Worldwide, 2004 - present
Google Trends - Web Search Interest_ digital photography - Worldwide, 2004 - present-1
Google Trends - Web Search Interest_ hdslr - Worldwide, 2004 - present
Google Trends - Web Search Interest_ smartphone photography - Worldwide, 2004 - present

This is interesting, but hardly surprising. 700 million smartphones were shipped in 2012, up from 490 million in 2011. Samsung owns a 30 percent share (213 million devices) of the global mobile market, Apple follows with 19 percent (135 million devices) and Nokia is third with 5 percent global market share. The 2012 numbers are even more meaningful when you know that they represent almost TWICE the expect amount of laptop shipments for this year. It gets even more interesting when Intel announces that it will stop producing desktop motherboards in three years.  Apple’s highly expected announcement for a new Mac Pro tower, might be the last one we see from Cupertino.

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Traveling with photography and video equipment. Technical and Practical Tips.

 
These are some travel tips I’ve learned over 20 years of traveling with photo equipment. Most of the recommendations below will be most helpful for photographers shooting video.

• Format all your memory cards on the specific system you are planning to use them with (7D vs. 60D vs. H4N).

• Change and charge all your batteries before leaving.

• Test all your devices.

• Test that the software on your laptop is working. Trying to update the OS, an Adobe application, or plugins from an airport lounge or hotel’s WiFi is NOT fun.

• Match memory cards. The 7D takes CF cards and the 60D takes SD cards. Use the same capacity (32GB cards or 16GB) for each system at the same time. It will make your asset management on location much easier.

• Bring enough additional storage. Photographers tend to underestimate the size of video files. I can easily shoot more than 100GB in a day. And you will need a backup. Twelve minutes of video take approximately 4GB of space. With two cameras we then have 8GB. With a backup we now have 16GB for the same 12 minutes of footage.

• I recommend G-Tech hard drives. The G-Technology G-DRIVE Mini 500GB is an excellent product. Make sure your external hard drive is 7200 RPM (as opposed to 5400). It will make editing video much faster.

• Buy only hard drives with multiple Interfaces (USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800). When (not if) your one and only USB port breaks, you won’t be able to retrieve your information.

• Bring a backup of all the essential items. My list includes: reading glasses, camera, lenses, memory cards, hard drives, chargers, card readers, all cables, and quick release plates.

• Use TSA-approved locks. I preferred padlocks and use the same combination on all of them.

• Simplify. I purchased my specific Android tablet because it matched the power adapter for my phone. And both can be charged via USB using the card reader cable, which is the same as Canon’s camera cable!

• Simplify some more. Bring a multi-card reader. I can simultaneously download the 7D’s CF Card and the 60D’s SD Card using the same reader and the H4N’s SD card using the laptop’s built-in SD card slot.

usb-cable-mini-5m

One tiny cable works for six of my devices: tablet, cell phone, 2 cameras, and 2 card readers.

• Simply even more: One of the reasons why I purchased the 60D as my B camera is because it uses the same batteries/charger as my 7D. I also liked the fact that it uses DIFFERENT memory cards, so it is much easier to keep track what was shot with what.

• Before you leave, check the electrical plug/outlet and voltage information at your destination. Oman and the United Arab Emirates seem to use three kinds.

united-arab-emirates-socketfit

• Test your workflow. It goes without saying, but never bring new equipment to a shoot, especially overseas. Make sure your files work well with your software and that your cards work well with your cameras.

• If you are capturing Full HD video (1080p) you shouldn’t be using older/slower memory cards, otherwise you might experience dropouts and stuttering. Been there, done that. Not a good day.

• Don’t forget your business cards! The more the better.

If you’re nervous about upgrading gear or making the leap to HDSLR cinema we can help. Book a virtual one-on-one consulting session today!

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What to bring and how to pack when shooting overseas.

UPDATED January 20, 2015
For a limited time, Tenba is offering a 10% off ANY item on their website using the Code: EduardoAngel

I have always been fascinated with bags and how photographers pack their gear. I remember reading the equipment lists of National Geographic photographers when I was younger. I used to wonder how they moved around the world with so much stuff.

Those times, as you might have noticed, are over. Nowadays, we need to deal with increasingly tighter airline safety, weight, and size regulations.

We have covered the “essential” video gear on previous posts. However, when it comes to deciding what to bring on a trip as carry on, what to check, and what to leave behind, the theory becomes much more interesting.

I tend to start with the personal stuff. Medicines, pain killers, toiletries, travel documents, etc. Some of these items are not easily replaceable; some are, but it would be inconvenient to forget them (think passport, credit cards, or headphones).

Disclaimer: The images below are taken with my phone, simply to illustrate this article. They are not intended to be fine art masterpieces of any kind. And yes, the “background” is my bed.

PackingforDubai_0001

Personal Stuff.

This is my “rolling studio” when shooting on location in New York. Add a fluid head tripod, monopod, three hot lights, umbrellas, cables and light stands.  It is a lot, but two people can easily carry everything even on public transportation.

Click to keep reading (more…)

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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.

Shoot-Out, GPP 2012 from gulf photo plus on Vimeo.

For a look at what GPP 2013 has to offer, check out their complete list of workshops. This can be the trip of a lifetime.

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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:

1) How to fix a broken education system. My thoughts.

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.

Fixing a broken education system.

How to fix a broken education system

2) Notes from the Field.

Check out my personal notes and pre-production techniques for photographers and filmmakers.

My notes.

My Notes from a pre-production plan

 3) Same, but different:  An Intro to Digital Cinema.

We explained the 5 main similarities, and 5 main differences between shooting stills and shooting motion.

Digital Cinema Intro.

An intro to digital frame rates and shutter speeds

Click here to keep reading  (more…)

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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!

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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.

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Will Lightroom 4 support all my files? Maybe.

 
Updated 9/22

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:

• JPEG
• TIFF (8 bit, 16 bit, 32 bit)
• PSD (8 bit, 16 bit)
• DNG
• 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:

Sony NEX-7 Files

If you find this information useful please help us share the love. It is good karma!

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The Dawn of the Innovated Dead.

 
Photokina started a few hours ago, and Sony is banging its drums. And loud!

Kazuo Hirai, the brand new CEO (since April), seems to finally come to the realization that in order to compete with Canon and Nikon in the HDSLR arena the company needs to provide products that photographers and filmmakers need, and understand.

The most impressive announcement is the Cyber-shot RX1, which is basically a point-and-shoot with a full-frame sensor.

Sony RX1 CameraArial of Sony RX1The Specs:
35mm full-frame 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor, ISO 100-25600, 14-bit RAW image capture, f/2.0 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T lens with 9 aperture blades, P/A/S/M modes, Full HD 24p/60i/60p video with manual control. Check all the features here.

The Good:
1080p video recording at 60fps or 24fps.
Manual exposure controls for both stills and video.
RAW shooting.
Automated modes for HDR photography.

The Bad:
35mm fixed lens, even if it is an F2.0.
For $2,800 it is pretty hard to consider this camera over a full-featured HDSLR. If you are still interested, Amazon is taking pre orders now.

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Video

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.

Stay tuned!  We will be sharing the most exciting news and products live from Photokina via Twitter and Facebook. If you are not yet following us, do so today!

Video

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.

It’s Exponential

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…

Video

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.

Canon EOS M Movie Resolution

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.

Canon EOS M Cross Section

Canon EOS M Lens Mount Adapter

Canon EOS M Lens Mount Adapter

click to keep reading

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Video

Great interview with X-Rite Coloratti on Color Management.

 
Last month, I was invited to join the prestigious X-Rite Col­oratti team, which includes the world’s top pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers. I was interviewed by X-Rite about my work, as well as my thoughts on color management for digital photographers, and specifically for those shooting video. We also chatted a bit about my views on how video has changed the playing field for all professional photographers. Please take a few minutes to listen to this short clip of our conversation.

We recently shot a series of video tutorials, focusing on the importance of color management and monitor calibration for video editing. Here’s the most recent episode.

If anyone is interested, there are a few spaces left at my upcoming workshop: Inkjet Printing: Color Management and Calibration at the International Center of Photography in New York City, Aug 4th, 2012.

Please feel welcome to leave any feedback, questions or comments below.

Video

Canon EOS 7D firmware update.

 
The latest firmware update for the Canon EOS 7D will be released at the end of this month, according to brief press release leak on the Canon Professional Network site. is now available for download here.

Canon addresses a number of issues for professional filmmakers and photographers, including a highly anticipated manual audio controls for video. This is extremely exciting, considering that we have filmed all of our episodes of “Conversations with Friends” with the Canon EOS 7D and have been waiting for quite awhile for these new features.

MANUAL ADJUSTMENT FOR AUDIO RECORDING LEVELS

During EOS Movie shooting users are now able to manually adjust the audio recording to one of 64 levels, whilst the sound volume during playback can be set to one of 11 levels. During movie recording noise from the aperture is reduced, and the camera also has an automatic wind cut filter.

Users can also add the camera’s Full HD (1920x1080p) movie footage with 16-bit digital stereo sound, sampled at broadcast quality 48KHz.

In addition, Canon has included a big update to the EOS 7d firmware with GPS Support:

  • Mounted Receiver – can be attached to the camera’s accessory shoe or clipped to a belt and tethered via a USB cable.
  • Records shooting locations – latitude, longitude and altitude for easy geo-taging and camera direction (fantastic feature for my travels around the world) as an EXIF file of the image.
  • Syncing Camera’s Internal Clock – can now synced through the GPS unit using UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) for accurate time recording or syncing clocks on multiple cameras.
  • GPS Logging and Google Maps Compatibility with Canon’s free Map Utility software can display the photographer’s route on a map.

Some of the other updated features include:

  • Improved RAW Maximum burstMax Burst Rate now from 15 frames to 25 frames.
  • In-Camera RAW Conversion – RAW images can be processed and edited in-camera with dynamic adjustments such as exposure, white balance, picture style, noise reduction and distortion correction. Options can be changed before saving the finished file as a ready-to-print JPEG. Check this article on the benefits of shooting JPGs, even for professionals.
  • Image Rating Capabilities
  • New Auto ISO Maximum Setting – ISO 100-6400
  • JPEG Resizing
  • Quick Control During Playback
  • File Name Setting – First 3 or 4 characters in the file name can be adjusted, depending on the setting
  • Time Zone Setting
  • Quick control screen during playback
  • Faster Scrolling of Magnified Images

You may download the newest firmware updates in early August at no charge from Canon’s Website here.

Does this update fix all the issues you have been experiencing with your 7D, or did Canon left a major one out? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Video

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.

New h.265 HVEC Standard Resolution

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.

Video

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.

Panasonic AF0100

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

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Video

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!

School of Visual Arts - New York - Summer Classes

Video

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.

Video

Catching up with the coolest tech news. Summary.

 

I’ve been on the road for the past 2 weeks, with very limited internet access. Today, I finally had some time to catch up with the latest technology news (1683 articles and 268 emails). These are, in my opinion, the most interesting and relevant announcements:

• Filmmaker Jeff Desom took Alfred Hitchcock’s famous 1954 film “Rear Window” and turned it into a single panoramic time-lapse video.

Two years ago I set up my camera to take a picture every 15 seconds for 36 hour and edited 698 still images into a 29-second video.

• Recently I was interviewed by PDN about the “13 Products you need to add HD Video to your business.” Do you agree or disagree? Did we miss something? We would love to hear your comments below. The article is also available on PDN’s May print issue.

What to buy to shoot video?

• Blurb posted a cool article about how we use the Book Module on Adobe Lightroom 4. If you are interested in exploring this option don’t miss one of our upcoming seminars. Here’s the sample book (about wine!) we created.

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