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[vimeo http://vimeo.com/84244337 w=500]

In celebration of their 20th year in biz, we produced a short film to for KOR’s “KOR Turns 20” micro-site.

Film was shot on location in their studio during one day and cut together with an original score.  The majority of the film was shot on the Sony F3 Super 35

KOR_20

Kor_20_1

Over the past 15 years we have worked in all kinds of areas.  Big pharma, defense, bio-tech, aerospace, manufacturing, transportation, the list is pretty broad.   When I look back and try to tie it all together, reflect on what keeps me still interested, the thing that always jumps up first is cutting edge science.

Since 1999, I have been very fortunate to have an on-going relationship with MIT as well as professional relationships with many of the Institutions Principle Investigators.  It is a relationship that I hold very dear, and one that has allowed me to grow personally as well as artistically.

Last week, an old friend, Prof. Vladamir Bulovic, Dir. of MTL.  reached out with a particularly interesting proposition.  Could we help some of his group members produce, shoot, and edit a short film explaining their new technology… Oh, and can you do it in 5 days???

Of course the answer was yes, and we dove in head first.

Because there was such a short turn-around time, the production had to be very concise.  Pre-production, research, discovery and scripting was not an option… Too much fancy production value (big cameras, dollies, fancy lighting) would cause delays on set and translate into lack of time….  Multiple cameras and too much footage would cause extended logging and editing time… You get the picture.  This had to go quick, but still maintain the high level of quality that our customers have come to rely on.

Fortunately for us, (and as so many today know,) we are living in the golden age of film production.  With the new generation of cameras, the things that are possible today constantly blow my mind.  It has really changed the landscape, and allowed us to move in ways that even five years ago could not be possible.

I wouldn’t normally do so, but in order to meet our mandate, I chose to shoot all the location footage with the Nikon D4.  The interviews were still shot on the Sony F3 Super35, but using the Nikon in the labs allowed us a freedom of movement that translated into a much higher volume of footage.

  • First time saver:  All interviews were shot daylight exterior in one general location.  Yes there would be ambient noise to deal with, but since we could only afford to use a third of the shoot day doing interviews, compromises had to be made.  I also believe that when an interview is outside, the viewer gives much more leeway  as the reality is, life can be noisy!
  • Second time saver:  All footage shot in labs would also be with available light.  We always move pretty quickly, but without having to move lights around on set, you can get way more done in the shoot day.  Yes it might not look as good as if you took the time to light it, but with careful cinematography, you can still shoot pretty damn good images.  The lack of lights also eliminates a case or two along with a heavy stand bag.  This means mush less to carry and much less time setting up/tearing down.  Its amazing how you can still create beautiful imagery just by paying attention to camera placement in relation to an ambient light source.
  • Third time saver: Shoot hand held.  Obviously the interviews were shot on stix (tripod,) but almost this entire film was shot hand held.  I did bring the small Cinevate rails for one shot I wanted to get, but I primarily stayed off the crutch all day.  Again, this allows for a very fast shooting style.
  • Fourth time saver:  Stock music.  Normally we like to write our own music, but at the onset, we made the decision to go for stock.  Not only is this a big time saver, but is about half the cost to the client.
  • Fifth time saver:  No snazzy graphics or Motion work.  Traditionally in our MIT work, we have been know for some pretty cool funk.  This stuff looks great, but it translates into TONS of post production work.  By keeping a simple edit, we could move thru the process much faster.

After an 8hr day of shooting, we had what we needed and it was back to the studio to hit the edit bay.  With the close collaboration of the client, and a couple of wee hours editing sessions, we were able to finish and deliver the 4 min film with a day to spare.  The net net is a great short film that conveys the clients message, but yet was economically produced in record time.  Special thanks to Farnaz Niroui.  Couldn’t have done it without your collaboration!If your interested in viewing the Investigator Profile we did for Prof. Bulovic, you can view here:

 

For our other Investigator Profile series for MIT or any other work, click here:

We just delivered the assets for our shoot up at Kestrel Aircraft in Brunswick, ME and I thought this a good chance to talk about how we shot the interview.

Kestrel CEO Alan Klapmeier

First off, I should say that this was a really cool job for me personally as the principle protagonist of this film is Kestrel CEO  Alan Klapmeier.  For those of you aircraft nuts out there, you will recognize that name immediately as the founder of the Cirrus Aircraft Corporation.   Alan was an amazing guy and a pleasure to meet.

But I digress…

Giant hangar doors provide easy load-in

Anytime I begin to light a scene, there is always a bit of head scratching.  I think for some people, the solution to problems come very easy.  For me, there is a bit of noodling about before I get everything just perfect.

As with everything, the best place to start is at the beginning, and the best beginning is to choose a location.  Things to think about here are control, sound, light, power, acoustics, access, etc… You can pick the most beautiful location in the world, but if there is a construction crew on the other side of a wall driving piles, you ain’t gonna hear a word.

 

Chris sits in for testing

 

With Kestrel, even before I got on site and took a tour of the location, I had a feeling that the best place to shoot the interview was going to be right in the hangar with the aircraft in the background.  The big concern with shooting in such a huge space like the Kestrel hangar was would we in fact be able to stop all the other work that was going on in the background?

After a quick meeting with the Kestrel team and a subsequent tour of the facility, it was made clear that we could have carte blanche and shoot anywhere we wished.  Perfect!  The hangar it was.

Door acts like a big soft box

We definitely didn’t bring enough light to fill a space this big, so we closed all the doors save one just enough to use as a background fill.  This worked perfectly and would make any Dutch painter proud!  We angled the plane to take advantage of its lines and catch the light streaming in from the side.  All that was left was to light the interview.

For this, we ended up using two Kino Flo Diva’s and one LED Light Panel.  The Divas we used for a key, and then winked in just enough Light Panel to fill in the dark side.  Below you can see a photo with and without the notes so you can get a better idea.

 

For the audio, we used two lavaliers(one wireless and one wired,) a boom mic (for safety and redundancy.)   We shot with three cameras, the Sony F3 Super 35 as “A” cam, the Sony FS100 for “B,” and the Nikon D4 for a “C” camera.   Both the “A” and “B” were fairly far away from the subject with a Nikon 180mm and 105mm prime.

In the end, it was a great shoot with a great bunch of folks.  Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to pull the day together, especially to Aaron for the opportunity to work on this film!  FYI… if you are a Kestrel fan, make sure to stop by their booth out at Oshkosh this summer.  This new aircraft is really going to be a game changer!

Chris jumps for joy in front of the original Kestrel prototype

 

One of the things I love about Nikon is their NPS program.  If you are not a member, you really should look into joining.

There are two big aspects of the membership that we take advantage.  First, is their replacement program.  We are pretty harsh on the gear, and usually have one or two pieces out for service.  When this happens, the NPS has program in which they FedEx us any item we need for use while our gear is off-line.  (very handy indeed!)

The second thing we take advantage of is Nikon’s Priority Purchase Program.  In a nutshell, every time Nikon releases a new bit of kit, the members get first dibs on getting the units.  This month, we got an eMail letting us know the new flagship camera, the Nikon D4 was out and immeadiatly put our order in for two.

Hopefully next month, we will be getting a call from Newtonville Camera (our go-to camera shop) in order to pick up the new toys.

If you haven’t joined, take a look at the NPS program.  It is well worth the free membership!

We have been testing the Atlas 30 from Cinevate.  It has turned out to be a very cool bit of kit and has made it onto the set of most of the film work we have been doing as of late.

Here is a short “Behind the Scenes” on the rig, as well as some of the footage shot whilst on the origional job we used it on.

(L-R) Rabbit, Eric (Sametz Blackstone,) Greg

 

Thought I’d share a bit of the gear we are using over here in Madrid.

This job, like almost all jobs we are doing these days covers both still photography as well as moving pictures.

For this shoot, we are shooting all the stills with the Nikon D3s bodies.  For video, we are using both the Sony Z7U (for interviews only) and the Nikon D3s (for “B” roll.)  We are mounting both cameras on the Cinevate Core Rig.

The Cinevate rig allows for much better focus control, the use of at mattebox, and a really solid place to mount the Small HD DP6.

The system works really well, and gives us much more flexibility/usability with the DSLR camera bodies.

Thanks to Eric from Sametz Blackstone for a great couple of days in Madrid!

Since we are on the Holy Cross theme, I thought I’d share one of the films we did during the campaign.

The first film is called the “Virtual Tour” and was shot for the College of the Holy Cross on location at their campus in Worcester MA.  The intent was to present the look/feel of the school using an unconventional approach.  The film takes random student interviews captured over the course of one day and inter-cuts them with “B” roll of the campus and student life.

What’s important to notice with respect to the film work we did for HC is the synergy between the print work, the web, and the cinema.  If you look at the prior post where I show some of the printed material, you will see the cover of one of the mailers.  This photo, the photo of the front gate is the exact image that we see in the beginning of the Virtual Tour (its the default thumbnail on the Vimeo clip.)  This happens again and again in the film.  The aerial footage, shots of the campus, shots of the students, etc…

Before the convergence of shallow depth of field video, we could not pull this off.  Video always had that “video” look… But not anymore.  This is the fundamental reason that I am now so inspired with film making again.  For the first time since I left film school, I can now make a video frame look exactly as I see it in my head… And the best part is, I can make an amazing still image to boot!

Greg and MB from KOR Group

BTW… The interviews were shot using Sony Z7U’s, and the “B” roll was shot on the Nikon D3s, as well as some Z7U’s.

Just wanted to give credit where credit is due and speak quickly about a company that we have been continuously impressed with over the past few months. SmallHD is a small company in North Carolina with some pretty cool innovative products.

We have been testing there amazing DP6, which is a small HD monitor. I actually really shouldnt say “testing,” as we have fallen in love with the thing and are totally sold… Anyway, it has been a staple now on all our film shoots in recent days. It has already logged miles back and forth across the US, and made it as far as London and Madrid. (An unsolicited plug, but if you like really well made, bomb proof equipment, than you should check the stuff out.)

Anyway, on Tuesday, we were on set and one of their batteries started turning on and off the monitor in rapid succession. This was totally weird, especially after the great performance we had been getting from the batteries that ship with the DP6. We have shot with it probably on 5 or 6 jobs now and the batteries have consistently given us about 4.5 hours of running, which was really great.

So back to the studio at the end of the day we went, and set all our batteries to charge. Early the next AM (about 5,) I got in to the studio to find that the battery was still showing “red.” Furthermore, the charger, which had a “green” light that tells you it is working, was not illuminated. We had a bit of a panic as I have gotten used to having the DP6 when shooting. We had been traveling a lot with the charger stuffed in various cases, so I chalked it up to our generally rough abuse of gear and jumped on the web to order another charger and some more batteries form SmHD.
Read the rest of this entry »

Shooting with Cinevate's Core Rig

Not much to report except long ass days, Jamon, Tapas, and more Jamon

So far so good here in Madrid.  It’s day two of five here on location in Spain and we are having a blast. (Wouldn’t want to be anywhere/doing anything else)

I will spend some time speaking about the gear above in a short blog film we are making, but in a nutshell, we are testing some new gear from some new vendors in order to give our input.

With us on this trip, we have one of Cinevate’s Core Package, as well as an Atlas 30 Linear Tracking System.  We are also testing the DP6, a small hi-def monitor from Small HD.  (You can see it above with the hood attached.)

Anyway… Today, we kicked the shit out of the Cinevate Core Package using it solidly on a 13 hour shooting day.  We carted it around Madrid shooting B-roll the first half, and then spent the second running around a hospital shooting some of the top scanning machines in Europe.

Rabbit gives his famous "thumbs up" on the Plaza Mayor

There are a couple of minor bugs on the Core Package that we will have to get Denis Wood to iron out in order for this thing to be totally solid, but all in all, the thing is totally freaking cool.  Shooting DSLR video with this rig is where it’s at.  The build quality and machining are top notch as well as uber rugged.   Again, there are some bugs…but I’m sold.  After Denis makes the slight changes for us, I can’t see ever shooting HD video with out this thing…. (more on the rig later) Read the rest of this entry »

Canon 5D Mark II

I did something that I never thought I’d do…  Purchase another Canon……. As a dyed in the wool Nikonian, I’m definitely eatin crow today yes indeed.

Actually, its not all that surprising.  I got my start on a Canon way back when, and I’m excited to see how it compares to the Nikon.

The main push behind the switch is really experimental.  As we have been shooting more and more film work, I have been increasingly curious as to the quality differences in the HD video between the D3s and the 5D Mark II.

These differences have been yapped about ad nauseam here in the blogosphere, so I won’t attempt to noodle down into it.  I did some quick reading, but decided that I really had to test them for myself.  When it came time to pull the trigger, it was really very easy… I just swallowed my pride, and slammed down the AmEx.  The Canon 5D Mark II came the next day…

Stay tuned for the results…

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