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Yeah technology is great and all that, but the speed at which it is moving can be just too much.  Back when I started assisting, it was common for the photographer to still be shooting with the same Hasselblad he/she started their professional career with.  Try to do that with a piece of equipment these days and it’s just a laugh.  If we get 12-18 months out of a camera we are doing pretty good… But I guess thats just the way it is now-a-days.
Anyway… Saw this the other day (not the Sizzalean ad) and was pretty blown away.  It took a while to fully commit to a 4k back end, but it looks like its going to be time to toss the computers and upgrade yet again.

Behold, 10k.

Chris, Heather and I

Chris, Heather and I

We have been working on a cool job where we are shooting 360 degree photographs for a BioMed client at some of their facilities.   Chris, Heather and I headed down to Baltimore to shoot the lab.

D81_1869

In a nutshell… Travel, shoot all the rooms with the 360 robot, head back to the studio to stitch em together.  After that, my web programmer puts the modules together for a micro-site we are building.

epic

Its kind of cool.  Once its finished, I will try to write a review of the Gigapan Epic Pro.  So far it seems to work pretty cool.

D81_1837

Nikon600_1

There are all sorts of wonderful sounds in this world… But none I think more exciting that the shrill horn and clackity diesel engine of the UPS truck at the loading dock.

Today, our driver “Pouch” dropped of some new goodies.  I love shooting with long glass, and the Nikkor 600mm f4 is right up there with the coolest of Nikon lenses.  A bit nuttier than the 300mm f2.8, this lens is over the top, and with the Silent Wave motor and VRII (vibration resistance) is totally over the top.

All I can say is… “preposterous.”

nikon600_2

 

sonyF5

Just got sent this link from one of our viewers… Say it ain’t so!  Bummer news for Sony.

This really just pisses me off.  Almost three years ago, I few out to CA for a visit at RED.   We were all set and ready to buy a body, but wanted to just ask some questions in person and get the real skinny on things like their post production workflow.  The story’s now old hat and water under the bridge, but the long and the short of it was that I felt they weren’t very pleasant to us and pretty much wasted our time out there treating us like small potatoes.

After that wasted airline ticket, I vowed not to shoot RED and was tickled pink when Sony came out with the F3.  We bought one right away, and have felt the same way when Sony announced the F5.

In my opinion, RED made the choice to forgo consumers like us.  Sony saw the need, and worked hard to fill the space.  Shame on RED for crying to the courts.  For us, the Sony platform has been so easy.  We consider them a partner in our film work and are oh so glad we never bought a RED.

 

I shot some quick photos yesterday.  It wasn’t really a big job, just some quick shots that a client needed.  Resolution wasn’t an issue, so I grabbed whatever camera was close as I ran out of the studio which was the D800.  ISO, white balance, and then I set the cam on high-rez jpg and I blasted away.

This AM I am loading them in Photoshop so I can eMail them out when I realized the computer was taking an exceptionally long time.  Strange I thought.  This computer is very new and its a rocket ship.  Maxed out RAM, 12 core, blah blah blah.

Finally I looked down at the image pane and saw the size of the jpg.  103.4M.  WTF?  I have been shooting with this cam for almost 9 months now (always NEFs) and had no idea.

I guess we are in a new era….  Good on you Nikon!

 

Mark K. from the Sloan School for Management called the other day with a cool request.  Can you bring the doorway dolly and help shoot some “B” roll?  Of course!  The doorway dolly is really fun to work with in the right circumstance, and this job was perfect for it!

Hi Hat and the Doorway Dolly

Graeme gets to drive

Sloan already had some stock footage of other parts of the campus, and Mark had just finished up shooting some interviews.  All that was left was some cool “motion,” and that’s where the dolly came in.

Because the floors inside the buildings were exceptionally smooth, the doorway dolly was a perfect fit.  Graeme and I headed in with the Sony FS100, some wide primes, the doorway, the Magliner cart, some sandbags, and got to it.

Hi Hat

One of my favorite ways to use the doorway is with the Hi -Hat.  If you haven’t seen a Hi-Hat, then you should check it out.  In a nutshell, its just a mini platform for the camera that lets you get really low.  I bought a 100mm base at FilmTools in L.A., and then made my own base in the shop.  Keeping the camera low on the doorway and sandbagging the hell out of it gives a nice, steady platform for shooting.  Of course you are not going to want every shot so low, but it is a great place to start when doing some epic movement shots.

The best kind of art director is one who knows what he/she wants, gives good direction, and then eases back and lets you do your thing.  Mark is just this sort of AD, and what makes him particularly cool to work for is that he worked for a long time as a commercial photographer.  When a client really can speak the language, great stuff happens.  Thanks Mark!

 

 

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

 

Holding Nikon's new D4, Barajas Airport, Madrid

On our way back tonight from Spain and I wanted to get this quick post out before we flew back.

Although there was a small component of strobe work, this job was primarily shot with ambient light.  The big worry was with all the inside shooting, was I going to have enough light?

As luck would have it, we were able to take delivery of our new Nikon D4’s and the D800 just prior to leaving.  Although the Nikon D3s would have performed OK, the D4 was just beyond amazing.

After some testing, I was able to confidently shoot 46+ meg jpgs at 4928×3280 pixels at 4000 ISO.   The camera was solid, the color was great, I used only one battery per Nikon D4 body over three and a half days of shooting, and above all, the lack of noise was mind boggling.

And for what it’s worth… the above image was shot with the D800 at 6400 ISO.

Thanks Nikon for changing the game (again!)

 

Here is a behind the scenes film we shot whilst on location during the Fullbridge Business Communication Workshop talking about the new Sony PMW-F3 Super 35.

Profoto Octabank hanging on a Pelican handle w/ a Superclamp

Here’s a good tip that I’ve been thinking might be useful…

Lots of times as location photographers we struggle with the balance of the gear we can travel with vs/ the gear we really need to shoot the photo.  Today’s travel landscape brings all sorts of new challenges that can really be a pain in the ass.

Years ago (pre 911,) all it took was your good old friend “uncle Andrew Jackson” in the palm of the right sky cap and all your bags made it trouble (and fee) free onto the airplane.  Now days, it’s $100+ for each bag while being even more nutty when traveling internationally.   Several times in the past 6 months I have not only had to pay an additional bag fee, but then have had to pay an overweight fee on top of it.  The client really doesn’t appreciate it when you add on $150 charge for your stand bag each way!

So the question is… What do you do?

All professionals like to appear as if we are fancy and have all the proper gear, but sometimes we have to chuck the style points in favor of real-world, pragmatic innovation.

In this vein, here are two quick examples of doing just this.

In the above photo, the problem was not the gear so much as the space.  The client wanted portraits on seamless so the subject could be silo’d.  Although we had our normal cameras, stands and strobes, we didnt have the space.  There was no other real place to shoot the image, and because the conference room table was just too damn heavy to move, we had no real place to put the light stand.

Since every case of ours carries at least one Superclamp, it was an easy fix.  Up went the handle on Pelican 1514 case, on went the clamp, and the light was hung in the center of the table.

In the photo below, the problem was not that of the lack space in the room, but the limited ability of stuff I could carry.

This was a European shoot with lots of travel.  Although most of the shoot was going to be daylight exterior which required only my camera case, there was a small portrait component which was going to need strobes and a bit of grip gear.

The budget was small on this job, and there was only room for myself (no assistant,)  and in order to keep a handle on the budget, I didnt want to have too many extra bags to check.

Normally on a shoot like this we would bring about 5 bags.  Camera case, computer bag, large stand bag, strobe case, and a personal bag.   But since I was going to be alone, there was no way I was going to hump all 5 bags around the countryside not to mention try to pass all those extra bag fees along to the client.

What I ended up doing was leaving the stand bag at home entirely.  The strobe case was stripped down to just one ProAcute 600b with 2 heads, gaff tape, black velvet, superclamp, pony clamps, soft box, and the tripod was strapped to the outside of my small personal bag.

When it came time for the portraits, I removed the Gitzo head, fitted a stud to the tripod, hung the profoto head on the top of the tripod, slung the profoto 600b to the underside of the tripod for ballast, found something to hang the velvet on for the background, found some sort of white for a fill (in this case there was an easel kicking around) and i was off to the races.

Profoto 600B as ballast

Definitely not pretty, but it saved the client a bunch of added travel expense while making it easier for me to get around with one less bag to carry.

If you wish to read more of the Photo Tip Series, click HERE.

Paul and Andrew of Newtonville Camera

Well, we are off to Europe again for another week of photography.  I’d love to say work sucks and I hate the Man, but I really do love my job.

The very best part of this job I have to say is not the travel though.  The best part of this job is the client.  It’s not  often that a photographer gets to opportunity to work for a client that gives you the freedom to explore as an artist and to really push the boundaries of the relationship.

With that, I say thanks.

Now on to the photo above…  This AM I got a text from Andrew our sales guy at Newtonville Camera (our local and most favorite camera shop.)  He wanted me to know that our new NPS Priority Purchase D800s were in and if we wanted to bring them along to Europe.  Well of course!  The D80o will be replacing the D700 as the “blog camera” as well as being a tertiary back-up body.  Before we headed to Boston Logan, we made a quick detour out to Newton and grabbed the camera.  Like spoiled children we will be testing out the D4 AND the D800 on this trip.

BTW… (shameless plug, but not really)  I like to push Newtonville Camera a lot for no other reason that they have always taken amazing care of me since the beginning of my career.  They are about 35 miles away from my studio and in traffic, a 45 min drive….  I say this cuz I fight the traffic to shop there.   The next time you need any equipment, pick up the phone and try them before you hit the B&H button.  Mention what I said and the posting and I think you will be surprised at what Paul or Andrew can do for you.

Geeze… It took Nikon long enough, but the D4‘s are finally here just in time for our trip to Europe on Friday.  I’ll give an update after I shoot with it for a bit, but right off the bat it seems pretty cool.  I’m especially excited at the low light capability as I know that for this upcoming shoot we will be really pushing the upper limits of the camera.

Special thanks as always to our local Nikon dealer Newtonville Camera and our sales guy Andrew.

 

Andrew from Newtonville Camera

I got a really cool call from SONY the other day. SONY has asked me to help promote some of their cameras, specifically their SONY F3 Super 35 at a Learning Lab event at Rule Boston Camera.   I had done one lecture previously at Rule, and had a great experience, so it was easy to say yes.

I’m very flattered at the invitation, and excited for the day.  If you are around on the 28th, stop by and check it out.  It should be a fun event.

All well in Madrid.  First day of shooting (12hrs straight) went great. Great client, great subject matter, great food… What could be better?

Sitting in the hotel room downloading data… just thought I would take a sec and talk a little about some of our films that we were lucky enough to be recognized for in the AVA awards on Friday.

The first film I want to show again was probably my favorite of 2011.  The film, called “PUSH,” was shot on location in Wampatuck State Park with the sole purpose of experimenting with the slow/quick technology in the new Sony F3 Super 35.  The film includes our very own Rabbit, and our summer intern Scott Wesson.  (thanks guys!)

The itteration I submitted to AVA was sans the “behind the scenes” component, however it probably does a bit more good to have the first part of the film included as it talks about what exactly we were doing.

Hope you enjoy!

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!

Full on madness around here this weekend as we make the move to ID every single thing in the studio.  It’s inventory time, and EVERYTHING must get logged…

It’s a serious question for any artist.  Just what the hell do you own?  So many of us don’t really pay attention because the reality of doing an inventory is just to daunting.  But what if there was a loss?  Fire? Theft?  Just how in hell could you ever recover all the little bits and pieces…?

Daunting or not, we have been putting it off for just too long and are finally ready to tackle the challenge.  We went ahead and picked up a Brother ProXL label machine (that prints barcodes) along with a barecode gun and have kicked it into high gear.  Everything is getting a label and I mean EVERYTHING.  Every camera, every lens, every CF card, every computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speaker, drive, stand, strobe, weight, toolbox, drill, battery, telephone, cable, printer, shop desk, chair, and on and on and on…

 

Once a barcode is generated, it is scanned and logged including make, model, serial number, service date, and value.  With this data, we can hopefully keep better track of what is here, and what is not, as well as gauge a total value of all the hard and softwoare we are sitting on.

If you have not done this, I urge you to at least spend a second and think just what you would do if you suffered a loss…  If not the small stuff, at least get a list going of the large stuff.  The big brush strokes and at the very least, get it on your homeowners or renters policy.

Wish us luck!

 

Shooting "B" roll on the streets of Seoul

For the last two years or so, we have been using Sony Z7u’s for all our location film work.  They have been fantastic cameras, but their time has really come and gone.

When the Sony F3 Super 35 was introduced, it was a no-brainer.  We grabbed one as quickly as we could.  The problem was that the Sony F3 was not a direct replacement for the Z7U.  It was/is in a different class.  Yes it shoots much more amazing images, but it is bigger, heavier, and fully rigged, requires a lot more delicate handling.  It’s really not the perfect location/travel camera.

The F3 is also a more sophisticated camera, which means there is more associated gear, which means we need bigger cases which means we need to check them under the plane, and on and on and on…

New Sony FS100

In contrast to the larger F3 Super 35, what was great about the Sony Z7U’s was their compact nature.  We could get on an airplane with two in a shoulder bag and be problem free.  With the Sony F3, its a bit harder to do that.

Furthermore, because the F3 is so good, we really can’t use any Z7U footage in the same film where F3 footage appears, which meant we needed even more new cameras.. Ugh!

Fundamentally, we needed cameras that were exactly the same (in style) as the Z7U, but produced images that would seamlessly integrate along side F3 footage.

We were off to Korea, and if we were going to bring the F3 body, we needed to find a replacement for the Z7U.

FS100 in "low profile" mode on the city street.  180mm Nikon Prime w/ MTF adapter

I guess first I should answer the question, why two cameras?

When it comes to photography, pretty much every colleague I know will have two, sometimes three bodies in his/her bag.  But when you ask a video shooter to see the inside of the bag, you typically will only find one.  Unlike other video shooters, I have always felt strongly about having two cameras, and believe it is critical to our long term success for several reasons.

Here in South Korea, we are shooting interviews of top level executives for one of the largest companies on the peninsula.  The interviews were very difficult to schedule and could not be repeated.  Any technical issues discovered after the fact would be disastrous.  It would be impossible to reshoot these interviews, so we must shoot with two cameras.  Back up on back up on back up…

The largest reason we use two cameras is redundancy.

FS100 and Sony F3 Super 35

The second major reason we like to travel with two cameras is timelapse.  In order to produce good timelapse footage, you really have to just sit and wait.  We often set up a shot and let it run for 60 minutes or more…  Sometimes even longer.  You have to choose your shot wisely, commit, and wait.

Due to the often considerable expense of world travel, we work hard at being as productive for our clients as possible.  For this reason, we like to set up two cameras in close proximity and run both.  Sometimes it’s a long lens on one, and a wide on the other.  Other times we shoot totally different things.  Regardless, we are able to give our clients twice as much footage for the same time on the ground.  It really works out well.

stripped down Sony F3 w/ Anton Bauer batts, Nikon Prime, Arri follow focus and Zacuto rails

So again… What to buy?

(All this build up… but it was really much less dramatic.)

Shortly after we learned about the F3, we heard about the Sony NEX FS100.  The big thing that caught our ear was that the FS100 was using the EXACT sensor as the F3.

The camera would be more “prosumer” oriented and not be able to do as much as it’s big brother, but would be small, light, could use the same lenses as the F3, and had the same exact chip.  I say again.. the SAME chip.  It was again, a no-brainer.  We ordered two.

The two Z7U’s would have a quiet retirement, and the new FS100’s would be their replacement.   Another interesting thing is that we can use the Convergent Design NanoFlash unit with the FS100, allowing us to capture even higher quality footage.

Five days of shooting, and so far so good.  With roughly 35 hrs of footage in the can,  we are really impressed with the rushes.  The stuff is looking awesome!

If we have some time in the next week or so, we will cut together a proof of concept on the trip and post it.

Stay tuned!

Interviewing top level executives

Just finished up a really good two days of video interviews over here in Korea.  Aside from some minor cultural differences, the two days followed our standard system.

We brought two Diva lights (from KinoFlo) over here with us, and although much bigger to pack than the Lowell Tota’s, the Diva’s are much much better.

The Diva’s give us three main advantages over the Tota’s.  First, there is a rheostat on each light.  This allows us to dial up, or down the intensity of each light.  Impossible with the Tota.  For each interview, we had a key 45 degrees from the subject, and another in the back (dialed down) giving some depth.

Rabbit formats cards on the F3 and FS100

Second, the light is set up from the factory to accept 120-230v AC so there is no need to worry about forgetting to switch bulbs and find yourself boned in a foreign land.

Third (and the most cool) is the color temp.  Our client had asked to incorporate some windows if possible, so we pre-packed the lights with daylight balanced bulbs.  This made matching color temp a breeze.

BTW… if you look closely at the photo above, you will see that the Diva is on a strange stand.  If you read the other posts here from Korea, you would have read about our stand bag being lost.  This was a big bummer because we didn’t have the big light stands that we were planning on using.  That said, we were still able to do the job. This is because one of the biggest key to success as a location photographer/filmmaker is redundancy.

In each Diva case, we pack a small emergency stand which, although less than ideal, will get us by in a pinch.  The stand is made by Manfrotto and is called the “Backlight Stand w/ Extension pole.”  Very good thing to have if you find yourself up shit’s creek withouth a boat!

If you are interested in seeing a test we did to show the difference between the Diva and Tota, you can watch the vid below.

Rabbit takes advantage of 1510's best secret... Wheels

I really have no idea how far we have walked over the past couple of days, but if I had to guess, it has to be over 25 miles.  It’s really the only way we explore, shoot, and come back with really interesting stuff… Walk, walk, and walk.

To shoot in this way, it is very important that a photographer/filmmaker can be mobile, and having the right gear makes this possible.

Once again, the Pelican 1510 case has come thru as one of the best pieces of equipment we own.  It’s weather proof construction has kept the kit dry during unexpected downpours, given us a leg up when we needed to climb up on something, and most importantly, it’s wheels to keep us rolling (or to be fair, keep Rabbit rolling.)

We have a couple of 1510 cases in the studio.  One case (our tan case) is pretty much dedicated to the still rig for photo jobs, but the rest sort of keep in a fluid state and are re-purposed over and over again for specific jobs.

Complete FS100 kit fits inside with room to spare

For Korea, since we are shooting only video, we are using one of the cases to house a complete Sony NEX FS100 kit.  This includes the body, Sony to Nikon MTF adapter, all batteries, wireless audio, ND grads (for shooting sky time lapse,) cards a full 7 lens Duclos prime set, a D3s (for blog posts) associated cables, caps, and connectors, and a whole bunch of sundry bull shit.  Really works perfectly and solves a lot of problems.

We’re also trying out a new Porta-Brace… but I’ll save that for another time.  For now, thanks Pelican!

EliteRAID from Sans Digital

A couple of weekends ago I posted a blurb on the Sans Digital EliteRAID.

I had high hopes that it was going to be a seamless, easy, and trouble free solution to our single node back-ups.

I hate to say it… but I was wrong.  We did a bunch of testing, and really worked hard to make the thing fit into our workflow, but the simple fact of the matter is it is a total pain in the ass.

To be fair, the tech support at SansDigital is very awesome.  (For this, I am not going to rant and rave about how frustrated and how much time I spend on the thing.)  We were able to get a hold of the same tech guy each time we called and he bent over backwards to help us try to work out the bugs.  The data speeds were reasonable (for iSCSI,) but in the end, it didn’t work, and is just another piece of electronic garbage collecting dust in the studio.  Too bad…

Fortunately, Newegg has amazing customer service, and it is now on its way back to their warehouse.

We have a few more ideas for the studio, so stay tuned…  I think (hope) I have finally figured it all out…

EliteRAID from Sans Digital

 

Just wanted to share a cool bit of kit we have been using in the studio.  The Sans Digital EliteRAID ER208I+B.

This is a rack mounted 2U 8-bay dual channel iSCSI RAID.  It’s cheap, easy, and reliable.  We got it as a test for backing up the towers.  In a nutshell, we have it hooked up to one of the edit suits for use as a local drive.  With eight 3TB drives inside, it nets around a 19TB RAID 5 drive that we use to TimeMachine the two other local fiber channel RAID 5’s connected to the machine.

(Huh….?)  What that means is this:  First, if your not using Apple’s TimeMachine, you should.  It basically backs up everything automatically and has saved our ass more than once.

Our system goes like this.  Read the rest of this entry »

We cut this over the weekend. Thought we’d share…

If your viewing this in an RSS feed and want to see the video, click HERE:

Here is another Behind the Scenes film just off the presses… We added the end of last years aerial footage to the end of this film so it flows a bit better.

Enjoy!

If you are reading this link in an RSS feed and want to see the video, click HERE

We picked up a new camera in the beginning of April, and it’s NUTS!

If you are reading this link in an RSS feed and want to see the video, click HERE

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