2.27.2017

For smaller cameras pressed into producing video the Cage is all the Rage. Here's a great, cheap one.


Sony RX10-3 show in a Camvate Cage Rig. Providing vital mounting points for all the crap you need to make small camera video production workable. Photo:  ©2017 Kirk Tuck, courtesy: The Visual Science Lab.

What is a "cage" and why might I need one? Still cameras don't need cages...unless you are laboring under the idea that your still camera is also a potent video production camera which you can use to create video art and also to produce video programs for which you get paid. Then... you might start considering a camera cage. Basically, a cage provides a metal "exo-skeleton" for your camera which protects it from some knocks and scratches but mostly (and most importantly) provides mounting points for all the junk that you are going to want to buy and hang off your camera in order to make nice video. 

The cage I'm looking at in this blog post also provides a basic rail system that, in addition to a bare bones cage, also gives you mounting points for follow focus attachments and a compendium shade or matte box. The distilled down cage is an assemblage of metal parts that fit around your camera and provide 1/4 inch and 3/8ths inch threaded mounting points. You use these to attach: external audio recorders, external microphones (though you are better off getting the microphone off the camera and closer to your subject...). monitors, pre-amplifiers and mixers. Or some combination thereof. 

If you take a Sony RX10iii as an example there are only two mounting points on the camera itself. One is the tripod mount on the bottom of the camera and the second is the hot shoe on top of the camera. But the hot shoe is right above the EVF and anything that sticks out over the EVF is going to get in your way, if you use the EVF to focus and compose. The hot shoe might also put the piece of external equipment that you need to use in just the wrong position to be helpful... The cage provides a better solution. (more below). >

Photo:  ©2017 Kirk Tuck, courtesy: The Visual Science Lab.

I recently bought SmallRig (brand) cages for both the Sony A7Rii and the a6300. Both of those cages were custom designed for those specific cameras and they fit snugly around the cameras giving you a very discreet visual profile. Adding a cage to the a6300 transformed that camera from a pain-in-the-ass (handling) camera, with great image quality and super video, into a much more ergonomic shooting package. The naked a6300 is too small to hold well and, if mounted on a tripod the only place to put stuff is in the hot shoe. Seems dicey to me to add much weight to such a small connection point, especially since there is so little "real estate" on top of that camera to play with. The SmallRig cage allowed me to put a Beachtek audio interface on one side while attaching  a monitor to the top area of the camera. The monitor allows a much better viewing experience than the smaller screen or poorly light shielded EVF while also giving us a headphone jack with which to monitor our audio. Even with both of those devices connected there is still at least one more available mounting point which I could use to attach a stereo microphone for ambiance. 

The A7Rii is a much bigger camera (it's all relative) so the cage for it is more spacious and gives me lots of room to make attachments. In addition to a digital audio recorder and external monitor is seems to me to be a good idea to also attach a big, lithium ion phone charger battery which could power the camera through the USB port for many hours. 

After many good experiences using cages on both of the above cameras I knew I wanted to find a good one for the RX10iii but I couldn't find one made specifically for that model. Bummer. I was going to order a generic model meant for a wide range of medium-sized cameras when I came across this one (see all photos) from a different company. The products looked similar to the ones from SmallRig but offered the rail system, in addition to the basic cage, for a price of around $120. I read the reviews on Amazon.com and ordered one, knowing that if it wasn't up to my standards I could easily return it. 

(more below). >

 Photo:  ©2017 Kirk Tuck, courtesy: The Visual Science Lab.

The product camera yesterday and I couldn't be happier with the flexibility and quality of the system. It came well packaged and the maker provided some extras that were most appreciated. The system is meant to be adapted to many different consumer camera models so it stands to reason that one can do a fair bit of customization. 

For instance, there is a bar that attaches the top plate to the plate on which the camera sits. You can adjust the bar at either end to fine tune the height of the top plate to the top of the camera. Some people might want a snug fit while others might want more space in which to get their fingers on the camera to operate controls. If the bar is too short, fear not! the package comes with a second bar that is about .75 inches taller.  I ended up using the shorter bar with the RX10iii (which is not a very small camera) but I would need to use the longer bar if I were to use the rig with something like a Nikon D5 or a Fuji XT(xx) with a battery grip. Nice to have it included in the package. ..

(more below). >
Photo:  ©2017 Kirk Tuck, courtesy: The Visual Science Lab.

While the "fly-by-wire" focusing system of the RX10iii doesn't lend itself to the use of a follow focus the rail system is great to have anyway. It creates several more attachment points for things like bellows shades and matte boxes which can help with some tricky film making. It can be used to balance the weight distribution on a tripod.  It also looks pretty cool...

(yes, more below). >
Photo:  ©2017 Kirk Tuck, courtesy: The Visual Science Lab.

I am happy with the products from both companies and I'm happy to leave the cages on the cameras. In this way I can outfit the cages with the gear I need for specific  video shoots before I leave the studio and then dump them into a Manfrotto video bag for safe keeping. Once I get to my location I can put my rig up on a tripod, connect the cables, and be ready to shoot. Even the best rigs won't be as fast and carefree to use as a dedicated video camera but even in that arena (ENG) I see many operators festoon FS-7 and FS-5 cameras with so much junk that you'd be hard pressed to use the cameras quickly, or even handheld. 

Photo:  ©2017 Kirk Tuck, courtesy: The Visual Science Lab.

Photo:  ©2017 Kirk Tuck, courtesy: The Visual Science Lab.

On every shoot I've ever done I learn something new. I learn some way to do something better or more efficiently. What I learned on recent assignments, which skewed heavily to video, is that having the audio recorder or other tool in the right place in order to reach the controls easily (and without adding unwanted vibration to the overall rig) is critical, and that a good cage, with lots of attachment points, can make a big difference in your overall effectiveness as a camera operator.  A bit of customization can go a long way. Now to see how the rig works on a shoulder mount for an upcoming documentary. More learning to come. I just hope it's not too painful...



2.22.2017

The purchase of a "bargain priced" video tripod. For no good reason at all.

75mm ball socket for quick leveling of the tripod head. 

Some people love camera bodies, some love lenses and others are hellbent on collecting small flashes and radio triggers. Me? I'm partial to tripods. And tripod heads. I've owned enough tripods to outfit an entire workshop full of handholding camera buffs with their own "sticks." But somehow there always seems to be one that I "need" for some specific photo or video adventure. 

When I headed up to Canada to shoot video I bought a smaller set of Benro "legs" that would pack into one of my duffle cases. I wrapped a big Manfrotto head separately from the tripod, and I was impressed with my ability to pack so efficiently. I was less impressed when I actually got on site, put a camera, the heavy head and a weighty monitor on top of the new legs. When I panned the tripod you could see s little flex at the beginning and end of the move. You could also see that the top-heavy nature of the camera, combined with the seven inch monitor, created some vibrations when touching the camera that a heavier rig might have done a better job cancelling out. Next time, I vowed,

2.16.2017

For photography or videography I really like using the Aputure VS-2 FineHD monitor. It just got 4X better.

Aputure VS-2 FineHD.

I was very happy with my purchase and subsequent uses of the the Aputure VS-2 HD monitor. It did everything I expected a seven inch, 1080P monitor to do, and a lot more. It was a screaming bargain. But, it was only a 2K monitor. It was not designed to accept and display a 4K signal. If I plugged it into the HDMI output of my 4K cameras I could see my composition while in "standby" but the second I hit the red record button the image on the screen would go black and the screen on the back of the camera lit up and became my display screen for UHD video. 

I was okay with that. No one promised me a 4K monitor for the princely sum of around $250. When I came back from my recent assignment I happened to read something on RedShark or Cinema5D (can never remember which) that indicated there had been a firmware update for the monitor. How wild!! A firmware update for a bargain monitor. I was impressed just by that. A few minutes later I went to the Aputure site and was impressed to find that the firmware update would give me monitoring capability for 4K. Very exciting, and just in time. 

I tried to download and expand (unzip) the file on three different machines and three different browsers but something kept tossing the download into a loop and it just kept making more zipped files when I clicked on it to expand. 

That's when I called in an expert. Enter Frank. A few deft keystrokes later and he sent me the .bin file like it was no big deal. I hooked up the download cable supplied originally with the monitor and carefully followed the instructions. Three minutes later I restarted the monitor, hooked it to a Sony A7Rii, and monitored me up some 4K. 

Of course, the screen resolution hasn't changed, it's just that now the monitor can handle the bigger video stream and downsize it on the fly for me to see. 

That's some pretty cool customer service. Some of the big boys could learn from that. I've bought six Aputure products in the last two months and so far not a single one has disappointed. Happy to have discovered this brand of photo stuff. 

Disclaimer: I'm happy with the stuff I've bought and used from Aputure. I paid for all of it with my own money. All bought directly from Precision Camera in Austin, Texas. Nice folks. They also don't pay me squat for saying nice things about them. I go there for the service, the great prices and a mix of products that work well for me. Sometimes I just call them and they deliver. It's so (nicely) last century.  Next product from Aputure for me? Might just be their new "Diety" microphone. Looks interesting and it's getting some great reviews.

2.15.2017

Quick Turnaround Video. Substituting for a colleague waylaid by the flu.


Elephant+Piggy from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

I spent last week up in Canada, working on a video project for a healthcare client. I got back to Austin, Texas around 7pm and I was pretty wiped out from two days of travel and three days of non-stop shooting and interviewing. But the freelancer's credo is to make hay while the sun shines so instead of taking Sunday off I recharged my batteries, unpacked the video stuff and repacked the photography gear so I could do a Sunday afternoon assignment at Zach Theatre. We were booked to do marketing photographs for a children's play called, "Elephant and Piggy go to a Play."

This production was done on one of the theater's smaller stages; in fact, my favorite stage and one I've made photographs on for nearly 30 years. I packed a motley collection of cameras but I used only one for the entire performance. The shoot started at 3pm and I was on my way back home by 5:00 to post process the images I'd taken for the marketing staff.

I used the Sony A7Rii to shoot the entire performance; along with the 18-105mm f4.0 G lens. It's a bit counterintuitive since this is an APS-C lens and the A7Rii is a full frame camera but let me explain. We love the performance of the sensor in the A7Rii but don't always need to use the full, 42 megapixel potential of that sensor. Many times our clients' needs are such that 16 to 18 megapixels is the sweet spot between capture, storage and online transfer. Most of the marketing for the kid's shows is done on the web and via post cards. Neither application demands the highest levels of resolution.

Sadly, the big Sony camera doesn't give you the ability to photograph at a reduced raw size but I am more than happy, in many situations, to shoot with the camera set to the APS-C crop mode and make use of the 18 megapixel files that configuration creates. But rather than shoot raw I end up shooting in the Jpeg extra fine mode. With good attention paid to color balance and exposure I just don't think the photographer is giving up much quality in the final files....if any.

With the camera set to the APS-C mode the 18-105mm f4.0 G lens becomes, effectively, a 27mm to about a 158mm zoom lens. In the smaller theater this is the perfect lens with which to capture both near and far action.

One more thing I do to ready my camera these days is to select a picture profile instead of using the canned looks. I've come to like the look of PP3 which rolls off the highlights more quickly than the still camera profiles. I've changed the "knee" just a bit to roll off highlights even a bit more aggressively which means I rarely end up with burned highlights. My last customizing step is to turn down the "detail" setting in the picture profile's sub-menus from zero to minus 4 (out of a range of +7 to -7). I can always add a bit of sharpening in post but it sure is harder to subtract over sharpening that is already baked into a camera file.

The images got delivered on Monday morning and the marketing staff was happy. So was I. The new PP3 picture profile method is giving me smoother skin tones and nicer highlights. The shadows are slightly more open as well.

With this small assignment done I got to work on Monday logging my video content from the previous week. It's not fun listening to the same interview over and over but it's necessary if you want to put your project together correctly in the edits.

I was about to call it a day on Tuesday and head into the house to grab a snack when I got a phone call from my favorite marketing expert at Zach Theatre. Seems they had booked one of their regular videographers to videotape a performance of the same kid's play on Weds. (the next day) and the videographer had come down with the flu. He thought he might be able to come shoot at the midday performance but the theater was hesitant about not having someone with full blown flu in the middle of a performance for a packed house of first graders.

Was there any way I could make it over and record the show? A client in need is somewhat like a friend in need except the client also pays you. Even though I was busy with my project at hand I decided to help out. After all, a client of 30 years is generally always worth it.

I asked how they usually record the shows. Some people do it with one camera and then ask the actors to come back and run through some of the performance after the audience leaves in order to get usable b-roll for their edit. Some people shoot single camera and call it a day.

I decided we should use one camera in a stationary mode to capture a wide shot of the stage and then use another camera throughout the show as to capture closer action, to get tight shots of the characters and to follow the action around the stage. I set up on the top row of the house, dead center to the stage. My stationary camera was the RX10ii set almost to its widest focal length and stopped down to f5.6. It gave me ample depth of field, given the relative distance from my position to the stage, and the effective f-stop. That camera was matched with the Beachtek XLR interface so I could get a balanced feed from the mixing board of the sound engineer. With the help of the sound engineer we were able to fine tune the levels in camera for great sound. That camera was set up on a big, wooden, Berlebach tripod equipped with a Manfrotto hybrid video/photo fluid head.

The second camera was the RX10iii set up on a big Manfrotto tripod with an enormous Manfrotto video fluid head. The Aputure monitor was attached to the hot shoe of that camera. The bigger monitor and the much more define focus peaking made following actors upstage and downstage, with good focus, much easier. I didn't bring cages for the cameras but I did want a microphone on the roving camera just to catch sound if I needed to sync up any frames with the other camera but I'd run out of hotshoe space by mounting the monitor there. Instead I dropped the microphone onto the hotshoe of the stationary camera and ran a cable back to the roving camera's input. Problem solved.

With both cameras set to ISO 640, and the white balance set to 4100K, I spent the next full hour operating the moving camera; following the actors, trying to decide who to keep in the frame when they split up across the frame, and trying to smoothly change the apertures on both cameras when I sensed changes in the light levels.

I knew the client was in a rush to get something they could use for distribution to media outlets so I had a quick lunch and headed back to the office to edit. At 5:00 pm I sent off a finished 1:30 minute edit to my client. We'll probably have a few little changes to make; that just goes with the territory, but she did e-mail me within minutes of downloading the video to tell me she "LOVED THE VIDEO!!!"

Starting tomorrow morning it's nose to the grindstone on the Canada job. Well, maybe after swim practice...

2.10.2017

My Wonderful Video and Photo Adventure in Canada. Images Courtesy Abraham at ODL-Designs.

VSL Baby Wrangler, Kirk Tuck, calms the talents' two  month old daughter.
Photo Courtesy: ODL-Designs

My time in Canada is coming to an end and it's a crying shame. Everyone I met here, and everyone I worked with here, was kind, happy, helpful and just flat out wonderful. I've spent the last three days just consumed with making video and I'm heading back home tomorrow with well over 100 gigabytes of 2K and 4K video content. I could not have asked for a more fun work project. 

I landed in Toronto on Tues. evening in the middle of a big ice storm, grabbed my rental car, and headed slowly down the QEW to Burlington where I checked into one of the Hilton suites hotels. It was situated about 500 yards from my client's offices. About a thirty second commute every morning. 

All the lights and the audio gear arrived without incident. The only injury was to one of the locking screws on the fluid tripod head but it was still usable. I checked out the gear, repacked and then hit the bed in anticipation of a fun day ahead. 

The next morning I donned on my long underwear, a couple shirt layers, my warmest shoes and biggest gloves and made the 30 second commute. I was warmly greeted, given a tour, given my own "all access" key card and left to my own devices (in a good way). I'd planned for this day to be a combination scouting and B-roll harvesting day. I walked around, from lab to lab with my Sony RX10 iii, a Lastolite white balance target disk and sometimes, a tripod. I shot at least one hundred B-roll clips with one break to go and grab a couple fresh and tasty slices of pizza from Longo's grocery store. In the late afternoon one of my clients took me on a scouting trip of local parks. It was 12 degrees Fahrenheit outside but my haberdashery was more that adequate. 

On Wednesday evening the CEO of the company took me to dinner at an amazing restaurant where we enjoyed a great meal and discussed everything; from the attributes that made (make) the Leica M3 such a desirable camera to the intricacies of his industry. And lots more in between. 

On Thurs. morning we started in earnest, interviewing a user of one of my client's products, documenting the alignment and adjustment of a CPU powered prosthetic, and then going to a nearby park to document the user's incredibly good mobility. I shot the interview with the A7Rii and kept myself efficient and entertained by again shooting buckets and buckets of B-roll with the RX10iii, along with lots of stills on the RX10ii.

It's hard to find quiet spots in busy offices to record interviews but we did our best. The Sennheiser MKE 600 was my microphone of choice and I was again impressed by its detailed reproduction of human voice. I dislike using lavaliere microphones as most non-pro talent moves around, touches their clothing and creates a lot of random noise. That's one thing hyper cardioid and super cardioid microphones are relatively immune to.....clothing rustle.

The 600 was routed through the BeachTek XLR interface on the way to the camera. I monitored the audio with headphones but couldn't use the Aputure video monitor with the "A" camera because it is only a 1080p monitor and our "A" camera was set up to shoot in 4K (UHD).

We had a relatively big group from the client side. Product managers, marketing managers, a make-up person, the talent and the talent's wife and then, of course, there's me. After a nice, catered lunch in our main shooting area we all suited up and headed to one of the local parks. Our talent, who is walking on a high tech prosthetic leg, navigated a long, gravel path,  stepping over lots of tree roots and tackling inclines galore. I shot wide, medium, tight and extra tight shots of everything. I figured out that the "active" setting worked best for image stabilization but we don't have that setting available for 4K (only standard in 4K) so I dropped down and shot in 1080p, but at 60 fps so we can slow down the footage in post and do a "half speed" slo-mo. 

The active I.S. worked well and, after inspecting the footage on my laptop back in the hotel, I am impressed. The I.S. is not as good as the Olympus I.S. but then, what is?

The weather on Weds. was cold but no rain or snow. That came later....

After a long day of shooting and getting my bearings at my client's facility I had the pleasure of meeting a Toronto-based VSL blog reader for a wonderful dinner. We ate and talked for three hours and I'm sure I bored him to tears but he proved to be a wonderful host, and quite resilient since he volunteered to come back this morning and assist me on the busiest day of our three day project.  He also shot these great behind the scenes images. 

Today we interviewed two different people, one product user and one clinician. We also got action shots of the technical experts calibrating and testing a prosthetic for that user. I'm sure I came across as unorganized to my fellow photographer/assist as I tried to juggle an RX10iii on a Leica table top tripod at one shooting angle, the A7Riii as a primary camera and also carry an RX10ii for still photos in between monitoring audio and video. It wasn't too big of a stretch as we had a person from the client side actually conducting the interviews. 

I'm always nervous about video content until I get back to the studio and back up the memory cards to my little laptop. 

I was exhausted by the time we wrapped up, what with baby bouncing duties and keeping track of all the details, but my VSL reader/volunteer, Abraham, helped lighten my load by assisting me in disassembling all the gear and helping to pack it out to the car. I am so thankful that he came along with me instead of me muddling my way through the busiest day solo. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

More below.....

Stepping away from the video camera to take some silent still photographs with the "C" camera.
Photo Courtesy: ODL-Designs.

Do you see the Metro cart in the foreground (above)? Do you see the conduit taped to the 5/8ths inch metal pipe at the top, where it connects with the grip head? Yeah. Well, I only brought along four light stands and in this one particular set up I wanted to use three lights as well as a big diffusion for the main light. That used up all four of my stands and left me bereft of support for the microphone boom. I hijacked the cart and built this "Rube Goldberg" rig the day before; after I tidied up for the day. It actually worked well as it's a wheeled cart and could be easily adjusted. That, and the fact that it was amazingly stable. No sandbag needed there...

Monitoring the audio and the "A" camera for David's interview.
Photo Courtesy: ODL-Designs.

Here's a good view of the main light for this interview. Notice how far it is from the diffuser. The Aputure LightStorm LS-1 LED panels have a pretty narrow angle to their illumination. It's a tight beam. I pulled the light back from the diffuser for a softer, more even spread across the diffuser. Our standard ISO was 640 and I was using a 1/60th of a second shutter speed to get a nice, smooth 30 fps. All cameras were set to the same picture profile and all were color balanced with the Lastolite WB target. Hope it makes the edit that much easier...

Canadian clients head to the car while the video team keeps shooting the Lake Ontario shoreline in a valiant attempt to log enough b-roll. 
Photo Courtesy: ODL-Designs.

Around the time we headed for our exterior location the wind began to blow and the snow began to fall. It was exciting for me. I'm from central Texas, we don't see this kind of weather much. Not so exciting for the natives who seem to have lost their sense of amazement concerning frozen precipitation.

The big gloves are from REI and the thinner "camera control friendly" gloves are also from REI. So is the hat you see and the little Polartec skull cap underneath. I was toasty warm but the best part is that I found the jacket at Costco for about $29 and it seemed as warm as anything my Canadians were wearing. Never a shiver, even after 30 minutes shooting in the wind, and standing adjacent to Lake Ontario.

I guess we Texans aren't that slow on the uptake, when it comes to personal comfort. 

A naysayer suggested that I did not have good cold weather gear; or the world's warmest gloves. Au Contraire. Here's proof. Tossed in the Sherpa hat for good measure. Me cold? Not likely.
Photo Courtesy: ODL-Designs.

Early to bed tonight as I've heard the U.S. Custom in the Toronto airport is notorious for long lines and big delays. I'd rather be five hours early than five minutes late. Besides, the family moved our traditional Thursday pizza night to Saturday evening just so I could share in the fun. I wouldn't want to miss my flight and disappoint them.

Canada Rocks! The people are great. The food was great. I give the whole experience five stars. 

Now comes the hard part, reviewing and editing all that footage.  Good night!

2.09.2017

Useful feature in Sony A7Rii and RX10iii, for videographers.

Belinda, looking at slides. 1980.

I never thought much about file sizes and HD video. My office computer, running Final Cut Pro X seems to handle 4K video without breaking a sweat. This being the case I never looked at one of the options in the Sony camera menu that allows one to record both a big, husky 4K video file and also makes a simultaneous, much smaller MP4 file. I enabled this feature before I shot my first interview yesterday because I had the idea that I would be able to send along a bunch of the smaller files to the client for review. The setting, and the duplicate files didn't have any deleterious effect on the camera performance, and the additional files aren't big enough to take up too much space, so, what the heck?

I came to realize the value of the duplicate files when I downloaded the two days of shooting into my 2011 vintage, MacPro laptop. It's got 8 gigs of memory, and a small Intel HD Graphics 3000 card with 512mb on board. No! It can't run 4K video without a very slow, three to four second per visual frame, screen refresh. It's like watching a slow slide show while listening to a continuous audio track. 

I searched and found the much, much smaller, 1080p MP4 files and clicked on one. It plays just fine. No big hit on systems resources. So, the 4K content is safely backed up but I also have duplicate content I can play, without penalty, for my clients. It's a pretty nice deal. It's like making your own "all purpose" proxy files in camera. In fact, that's exactly what it is.

The more I work with the cameras the more fluid I'm getting with both handheld camera movement and decent, on tripod, panning technique. 

We worked outside for about an hour and a half today. The RX10iii took it all in stride. With my GoreTex lined Ahnu hiking shoes, my Merino wool socks and my long underwear, along with my toasty Sherpa hat and amazing gloves, I stayed perfectly warm and was amazed to see Canadians in down outwear shivering and stamping their feet to stay warm. 

I'm heading out to meet a new friend for dinner but wanted to share this largely overlooked feature for other Sony videographers. I'm happy when I realize that a feature is not worthless...it's just sitting there on the camera waiting for me to get smarter...

A short report from the Toronto area.


I had a good flight from Austin all the way through to Toronto on Delta Airlines. Right on time every step of the way. The baggage handlers seem to have done only minimal damage to the gear. There is one set screw on my fluid tripod head that is bent but the device is still fully usable. The Amazon Basics backpack was perfect for the camera  carry on task and easily held everything I wanted to toss into it. It was even able to fit under the seat in front of me, if necessary.

When I hit the Toronto area the weather service had just announced a "freezing rain" warning. Liquid rain coming down in sub-freezing temperatures. Man, do they do a great job treating the roads! Even as a Texan with little to no experience navigating weather I was able to travel all the way to Burlington, CA. with no issues --- pretty cool.

Yesterday I spent at my client's HQ. I got a good tour of the labs, the warehouse, the training areas, etc. Unlike my more paranoid tech clients these folks were happy to hand me a badge that allowed me all facility access and then the let me do my work unencumbered. (Yes, I have worked in some facilities where non-employees are so supervised that they are escorted to the restrooms when nature calls....

I spent most of the morning and a good part of the afternoon shooting an assortment of video clips that I'll use to flesh out the stories that our interview subjects tell. At Ben's suggestion I've covered ten times more content than I think I'll need in the edits and have tight, medium and wide shots of almost everything.

For this kind of work; a mix of video clips and stills, I used the RX10iii exclusively. Someone asked me to list an important thing I learned from Alexander White's book about the RX10iii and I would immediately say that it was being able to set the focus to toggle between continuous and manual by assigning this the the center button in the four way array on the back of the camera. I set the AF to center focus and place the square over the subject. Once the camera hits focus I push the button and lock focus via manual focus mode. I have a constant indicator as to whether I am in AF or MF mode because in the AF mode the focus peaking indicators appear in the finder. Wonderful.

I am using the RX10 in 1080p for these "b-roll" shots instead of 4K because they will be ancillary to the interviews and will be on screen for seconds at a time. I would go ahead and shoot them in 4K but that limits me to the basic level of image stabilization while staying in 1080p gets me the choice of active stabilization and intelligent active stabilization. These settings make the camera very hand holdable; even at fairly long focal lengths.

The camera is amazing in this kind of work.

The other operational step I'm trying to be very consistent with is the use of a small, Lastolite white balance disk for custom white balancing as I move from area to area. One large room is used for discerning color analysis and it's almost perfect daylight while other areas use various lesser florescent tubes that can range from 3100 to 4300 with various hue shifts. The camera doesn't allow me to set a custom white balance in video mode so I switch to manual mode, do my CWB and move back to movie mode. One extra step but quickly done and well worth it.

I did my first interview yesterday. It was of the CEO. He was great. I had some noisy audio but I tracked down which bad cable was causing it and replaced it. Then I just had to contend with the HVAC cycling on an off for the whole building, as well as the occasional, loud door closure off in the distance. This was definitely a location that begged me to shoot "room tone" for later...

At the end of a long day of work the CEO invited me out for a great dinner at one of his favorite restaurants where we shared stories about photography and business. It was a wonderful way to end the first day of shooting.

I am typing this over breakfast at 6 am and I need to finish up and get back to checking batteries and packing up to go over to Client HQ for our first in a series of "product user" interviews. That, and a lot more of those texture shots  we use for cutaways, etc.  This is a fun project. I only hope the blizzard doesn't slow us down. You can make ice cubes here without even owning a refrigerator....

But I guess all you people who live in the north know this...

P.S. The thermal underwear really works! And my new, thick and furry gloves. And my monster good hat. And my Polartech scarf. And.....  All bundled up for the outdoor shots we'll be doing this afternoon. Projected temp? 12-15 degrees (f). All good. KT

Tim Hortons' Donuts? Discuss!

2.06.2017

Shooting across two disciplines. A few thoughts about using Sony cameras to bridge the gap.

Ben uses a Sony rx10 iii and an Aputure LightStorm 1/2 to harvest "texture" shots.

A commercial photography changes we are doing more and more video projects and also projects that call for a mixture of both video programming and good photographs from the same engagement. On our previous project for one of our healthcare clients Ben and I wore multiple hats. For scenes with our main subject I did the important, direct to the camera, shots with a Sony a6300 while Ben shot different angles and different magnifications with a Sony RX10 iii. We used his shots in the final edit when we wanted to cut away and keep from hanging on one view for too long. 

Throughout the project we also shot still images. The Sony RX10iii allows me to shoot 1080p video and, while rolling video, hit the shutter button to capture full res, Jpeg photographs (at the highest image quality setting) at the same time. There were no glitches or breaks in the video and, as long as my shutter button pushing was gentle there was not discernible camera movement. This is a very powerful tool. There are times between video takes when we talk to the subject and prep them for a different question. This is also a good time to grab still frames.  

There is also an automatic setting that I've been experimenting with after reading Alexander White's wonderful book on the RX10iii. It allows you to set the camera so that it automatically shoots frames when the A.I. in the camera determines that a shot with people is good. So, in the video we just finished I had some longer lens shots that featured a woman in a wheel chair, and her friend, walking and rolling up a long, curved sidewalk, toward camera. Following them with the camera while adjusting focal length and making sure they were in sharp focus took all my attention. With the automatic setting engaged I can relegate the timing and the shooting of the stills to the camera and not have to think about yet another production detail. Since the stills use the same color settings, exposure and white balance as the video everything works well. 

It's still early times for this sort of automation and you may have to intercede to get the shots you want when you want them but it's a much more powerful way to capture concurrent stills than trying to "grab" them from 4K footage. Capturing from 4K with most other camera brands gives one an 8 megapixel file while the capture during video with the Sony gives me a full 17 megapixel image (cropped from the 20 meg image by the 16:9 video crop). 

At the end of the shooting process our clients get a video time line with all the good footage distilled into a H.264 file along with a folder full of high res still images that are ready for immediate use in social marketing, on websites and even for print. 

This week I'm shooting in Canada and I'm planning on making much greater use of the ability to create still frames while shooting video. If the camera can effectively take over the actual shooting task for me then so much the better. 

I need to do a bit of research and see if this feature is also available on the A7Rii as it will be my main "interview" camera. 

The only restriction I've come across when using the automatic still shot feature is that it cannot be used in conjunction with 4K shooting or shooting a 120 fps (for slow motion). I can live with that.

Shooting double is so efficient, both for me and the client. When I work with Ben and we use RX cameras we greatly increase the amount of content we are able to capture for our projects. We both set our cameras to the same profiles, make custom white balances from the same targets and have the same exposure aim points via zebras. This makes editing a lot more effective because everything we shoot cuts together very well. The added bonus, with "auto shot" enabled is that we'll both be generating still images simultaneously. 

It's not a catchall though, we still need to stop from time to time and set up and shoot important still shots. The nice thing is that we already know our settings are nailed because we've just seen the results on an HD monitor. Most times were just shooting vertical and horizontal of the same set up but with the talent holding a pose or pausing their action. It sounds daunting at first but with a little practice it becomes second nature. Double shooting adds value for our clients. They like that. It keeps our wheels of industry turning...

Packed and ready. Flying out in the morning.