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I just landed at LAX for a quick job. 6am outbound, 4hr drive to San Luis Obiz, work tomorrow and redeye home.

I know better, but in a moment of weakness I didn’t follow my personal rule and rented a car from Dollar rather than Hertz.

After a six hour spam-can cross country cattle ride with some dude aromatizing the cabin with his G.I. fragrance, we are now stuck in the endless line at the rental counter.

Companies that cater to the business traveler have it all figured out. It’s painless and even semi-enjoyable.

In life, you get what you pay for, and on the road, this is key. Net net is after a long farty flight, it ain’t worth the $30.

Use the Hertz Gold!

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Chris and I headed down to Washington D.C. Today for the day.

Since we just have one film interview, we are traving light and carrying only the bare essentials. This includes the pre-built camera (hand carry,) lens case (also stuffed with batteries and audio gear,) and a tripod bag.

On tap for today: 3am call at the studio, 6am flight to BWI, 4pm interview, 9pm return, and a whole lot of Smithsonian in between…

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Sittin at MKE (Milwaukee) on the way home…

This is always my most favorite week of the year because for the past five years, I have had the opportunity to work with a media badge for a client out at Oshkosh for the EAA AirVenture Air show.

If you love airplanes, you should not miss this event as it is one of the premier events in the aviation community. No matter what catches your fancy, you can find it here!

One of the things that I was looking forward to seeing was the Kestrel Aircraft booth. I was really excited to see our film playing in their booth in its intended environment. The client was super happy with how everything turned out, and had nothing but positive things to say about our experience working together.

Im sad to see the week come to an end, but I’m ready to get home and relax for a few days…

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We have been cranking pretty hard this past quarter, so it was nice to unplug our heads for a bit.

We pointed the “Pipeline Princess” south and headed for Valdez.  If you haven’t been, all I can say is you should go…  Very beautiful.  One night in Valdez, and then back towards Anchorage finding out-of-the way places to try to get the motor coach stuck.  Renting the RV was a brilliant move and was tons of fun.  Besides having a safe place to work out of, it was a riot to camp in… Wherever we went, there we were.  (only exception was fuel was outrageous.  At almost 1000mi of driving for the week, and $5.00/gal gas, we were in deep.)

iPhone pic from the seat of the RV

We got to Anchorage with about 12 hrs to spare, so we decided to head a bit down the Keni and take the train tunnel to Whittier.  Not much there but beer (which was fine.)  In the end, the tunnel drive and the fresh fish were worth it.

View from the bar in Whittier

Back to Anchorage, and onto the flight for home.  It is only May, but there are some long ass days already.  Below is the view from the airplane sitting at the gate at 11:15pm waiting to taxi.  I’m going to miss it!

Near daylight view at 11:15pm

(bit of a delay in posting… but worth it)  Out of the bush and safe and sound!  Thanks to everyone who made the trip successful, especially to Don and our pilot Rick for getting us in and out of the gravel bars w/out getting killed! I must say that I was pretty overwhelmed trying to land on the riverbank.  I will need much more practice before I am comfortable with off-airport landings!  This bush-pilot thing has certainly gotten under my skin… (and I know where this is going to end up)

Anyway,Talkeetna and Denali were a blast, (especially the 3 dollar taco bar and IPA.)  We will have to come back again.  After the Talkeetna, we took some personal time and headed south to Valdez (more later.)

Again, much thanks to Don and Rick.  We had a blast!

Greg, Rick, Don, Chris back at Talkeetna

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Thought I’d take a sec to share a pic of Chris showing off the production van or as we call it, “The Pipeline Princess.”

The best part of this thing, (besides the beer fridge,) is the heat. It was Pretty damn nippy last night!

We are in Talkeetna and a stones throw from Denali. The bar last night was packed with climbers all chomping to get to base camp. Pretty damn cool.

Weather is holding, which means we will be able to do some flying here pretty soon.

Gotta love Alaska!

I said it before, and I’ll say it again… I love this job!

Today, Chris and I are blasting up to Alaska for the best kind of job: High action/adventure. We have a short layover here in Chi-town, so it’s a perfect time for a blog post…

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We will be landing in Anchorage, picking up a large RV, then heading north to Talkeetna for some bush plane work. After finishing there, we head down to Valdez for two days, and then back to Anchorage.

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God willing and the creek don’t rise, we will arrive alive back in Boston early next week with some awesome images!

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Lunch at a street cafe

One of the things that makes the long days, short nights, and a heavy workload palatable when on the road is the company.  When you have a really good client, anything is doable.

Today Eric N. and I got to sneak away for a quick 30 min outdoor lunch.  (just enough time for Eric to discuss his plans for world domination…)

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As if a 4 hour layover at JFK isn’t enough… This is a window seat?

Thanks American Airlines…

Another film we won an AVA award for was the proof of concept we shot and then cut together for Fullbridge after a photo/video trip to Korea.

The crazy thing about this film was that it was shot in only four days of filming.  Out of those four days, two were interview days, and on top of that, it was constantly raining with only about 3 hours of sun.  We really had to hustle in order to get enough “B” roll footage.

This film was awarded a platinum for cinematography.

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Back off to Denver for the day.

At Starbucks this morning (4:45) the barista asked “How can you go just for the day?!?”

I agreed for a brief sec, but then remembered just how easy it is thanks to JetBlue. The priority security line, the priority boarding, the non-stop flight, the extra leg room, and the satellite TV makes it a really enjoyable trip.

Perhaps I may feel a bit differently at 11pm tonight as I board the red-eye home, but we’ll see.

The only thing that might be better is our own plane… I’ll have to work on that!

Once and a while I get surprised in this daily grind and find myself totally stumped.

After day upon day of getting pushed, kicked, disrespected, turned upside down, wallet forcibly removed and evacuated of all contents, I was truly not ready when I saw the quote from Hertz tonight.

I have to fly to Denver on Thursday for a meeting.  It’s going to be a surgical strike… Leaving on the 7am Jetblue outbound, and taking the red-eye home that night.

 

If you’ve ever been to DEN, you know that they put it about fifteen pig-fu#ks away from Denver.  Really a pain to get there if your an independent guy like myself.  Oh well I thought… Just rent a car and I will be fine.

Off to Hertz I went and plugged in the data…

Who woulda thunk….  $14 to rent an almost brand new car for the day.  Surprised….

Thanks Hertz for taking care of your Gold Members.

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The road is a constant theme in our biz… Like a wanna-be band of way-word Kerouacs, we hop this way and that across the planet in search of who knows what.

Intrigue, inspiration, high adventure… After all this time, it’s probably a little bit of everything. The only real certainty is that we are back out on the road, and that the road is good.

I should keep my mouth shut not to tempt fate, but today is the best kind of travel day.

First, Starbucks bestowed a small gift by opening a half hour earlier, which means we to grab a proper cup of Joe.

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Second, we are traveling super light, which means no checked bags.

Third, we snagged the second exit row (which means both extra leg room and a reclining seat.)

And fourth, we are on a non-stop flight.

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At this point, we’ll sit back, relax, an enjoy the flight…

Off to Denver today for a surgical strike. Meetings at 2, work tomorrow, and the. The red-eye home.

Well, we survived and are on our way home.

The AM was especially tough.  No matter how you slice it, 4am always comes just way too early.

Rabbit catches some zzz's on the ride to the lobby

We caught an easy cab from our hotel (probably cuz the majority of the city was still asleep) and made our way to the location.

We lucked out and had a great big conference room to shoot in.  The client had removed all furniture from the  room and we had an nice blank canvas to start with.  The art director had requested a nice environmental backdrop, so we lit a nice chair with the daylight balanced Divas and used the cloudless Manhattan skyline as a backdrop.

 

We checked our sound, and we settled in for 11 hours of interviews.

 

All in all, the day went great and we got some great stuff.  We were able to wrap out with enough seconds on the clock to make a mad dash to Penn Station with just enough time to catch the last Acela train back to Boston.

 

Rabbit re-energized and ready to make the dash to Penn to try to catch the last Acela

 

To top it off, we found ourselves riding next to our old friend Tom Kraft, one of the art directors from Weymouth Design.  Tom and I worked together on many projects over the years, and it was great to catch up with him.

Tom Kraft of Weymouth Design fame

 

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Hey Double Tree… WTF?!?

Up at 4am to get ready for the shoot.

Stumbled over to use the head and found that the toilet is like a mile off the ground!

At six feet, Im certainly not that short of a guy, but sitting on that kamode, I just barley had my tip-toes on the tile.

I’ve enjoyed shitters around the globe on all sorts of shoots, but this one is the weirdest. Felt like a three year old trying for the first time.

Life on the road…

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This has been a logistically complicated weekend, but it seems to be working out just fine. Today is the first day of a 12 day location shoot for our long time client, Corning Inc.

There was a lot of planning involved, but basically in a nutshell, long time assistant CB Kearney headed out of the studio yesterday morning and drove the work truck with the studio gear out to Elmira NY. He spent the night there, and then jumped on a flight from Elmira, through Detroit, to Lexington KY.

I left from Down East ME on the motorbike to Logan where I am sitting now waiting to catch a flight to Lexington.

Although US Air is my least favorite airline, they fly out of Terminal B here in Logan, which means I get to start another adventure bar side at Legal Seafood at the end of the Terminal.

Cesear and chowda is a long time tradition on the cusp of a road trip, and Im pumped to be carrying on the tradition.  It’s just a bummer that CB is in Kentucky ahead of me and not here enjoying a crisp IPA and a bowl of Legal’s famous chowder.

Wish us luck!

We hit the road, and are home safe and sound.  Our last day in Seoul was one of the rainiest days I have seen in a long-ass while. I’m glad that it came when it did, as it really would have put the damper on any city “B” roll…

The flight was long, but worth it.  Rabbit and I were beyond tired from the full on run and gun.   Nothing like 16-18hr days to kick you in the teeth.

The only strange thing really about our trip home was the public art at the Incheon Airport… Not really sure whats up with that?  Something on someones mind I guess…

Anyway, we are glad to be home!

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!

The flight from Chicago to Seoul was uneventful.  Not too long, and not too short.  (I was able to catch the full first season of The Wire on the iPad)

It wasn’t until we cleared customs that we realized that one of our bags (the large body bag) was missing.  “Didn’t make the flight” said the airline rep…  “Perhaps tomorrow.”

Fortunately, the only thing we will need tomorrow is our tripods, (and our cloths.)  So not to worry… After our 1.5 hour slammin ride thru some of the worst traffic I have seen in a while, young Rabbit and I checked into our hotel, then quickly headed out again to begin an elaborate quest for tripods.  This had happened to me a couple of years ago in Puerto Rico, so it’s not that new an experience, but really a pain in the ass.

After about an hour of searching, we stumbled upon some sort of Walmart-esque super store where we were able to procure two ultra high end (tongue and cheek) tripods and heads which cost us some odd 75,000 won.  Not the prettiest, but they will do the job.

We’re back at it. I think it’s easy to be smiling now because we are on the front side of a 21hr flight. Boston to Chicago, then over the Pole. We’ll have to see if we are still smiling when we land in Seoul.

This trip is all about cinema, and we’re really pumped. We have four days on the ground in Korea to get our work done, and it should be a real marathon. A day and a half of interviews, then as much “B” roll of Seoul as we can fit into the waking hours.

We are traveling relatively light with minimal gear. That said, we still have a bunch of gear including the Sony F3-Super 35, our brand new Sony FS100, Anton Bauer batteries, two Euro voltage Diva lights, full Nikkor prime set from Duclos, associated camera support (two Sachtler tripods, rails, arri matte boxes, follow focus, etc…) as well as lap tops, hard drives, iPhones, iPads, and all their associated chargers… Ugh!

Should be a intense, but rewarding. Wish us luck!

After a nutty three weeks working in the new studio, we are finally back out where we are most comfortable… on the road.

It took a while to tie up all the loose ends, but we finally hit the tarmac this afternoon at 7pm for a blast down to New Jersey for a big-pharma job tomorrow.  It’s a nice, no-stress job with a good client, and I’m really looking forward to the day of work.

In general (sorry Snookie) New Jersey is generally suspect, but after an uneventful problem free drive down 95, I thought we were going to escape the sublime and ease into fitful slumber on the sleep number bed.

I think young Rabbit must have had a premonition… the entire walk from the truck, thru the lobby, and up the elevator he was overcome with the strangest smirk.  Fate?  Luck?  Karma?

 

Can someone please explain to me just who seriously looks forward to towel-art after a long drive?  Really?  I believe I will be joining the twins outside in the hall riding the big wheel all night….

Friday we are off to Korea.  If this is how we are starting a road trip, I wonder what else is in store….?

Thank you Raddison.

 

 

 

 

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On our way home…

We have some time to kill, so we are stopping for our every important post-shoot beer.  I think Scott, our resident beer expert (back at the studio) would love this one, a doozy at 9%.  (This one’s for you Jerry…)

Leaving the west (we are in Utah) is always bitter sweet.  Lot’s to do in the new studio, but the view of the mountains was pretty damn cool today.  I’d love to hit the road and get lost for a couple of days exploring, but alas, it’s not in the cards…  Perhaps later this summer.

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At the airport and lo, another delay.

Rabbit and I are out on the road, back at it for Big Pharma. This genre of photography is really quite cool. I love the cutting edge technology, the insanely intelligent docs, scientists and engineers, and the opportunity the industry offers us to travel.

Like any job, there are ups and downs. The real trick is seeing the downs as ups. Makes it all much easier. (Easier said than done right?)

To most, the ever more frequent air travel delays are taxing… But I must say, there is a small part of me that just loves the entire travel experience. And yes, even the delays.

For me, the simple fact is that air travel is one of the few places I can totally relax. Air travel forces one to completely submit. No where to go, and nothing to do… Just sit. It took a while, but these days I have learned to let it all go; to just sit, soak it all in and relax.

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