Our friends at Varavon have some great deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Check them out in the link below!
The YPSI 24-Hour Shootout is a popular filmmaking competition that asks teams of filmmakers to produce a short film in the span of 24 hours. At the start of the shootout, several “ingredients” are announced. They may include a line of dialog, a prop, a location, or any other requirement for the film being produced. This element forces teams to think on their feet. As a filmmaker who has participated in two YPSI24 events, I’ve put together a few tips to help you survive this intense experience.
A pre-determined style or technique will help inform your script.
TESTING THE WORKFLOW
Before each 24 hour shootout, I think about a style that would be challenging to implement in 24 hours. A pre-determined technique will also force you to create a story that will fit within the parameters that you set. At this year’s YPSI24, I wanted to execute a continuous one take shot across multiple locations. This would be extremely challenging without testing so I experimented with a range of equipment to create the right recipe. Too much equipment would bog us down and too little gear would compromise the production value.
The unsung hero – my cheapo $80 fisheye lens for the GH4.
Our main gear list included my trusty Birdycam Lite gimbal, the Panasonic GH4 and a super cheap $80 CCTV Micro 4/3 8mm f3.8 Fisheye Lens that I bought off eBay. My goal was to shoot 4k with a very wide focal length that I could defish in post if necessary. The lens provided a very interesting image that simulated surveillance footage while also giving off some interesting flaring effects against the sunlight.
Sometimes enthusiasm trumps experience when it comes to 24 hour filmmaking – choose your crew wisely.
CREATE YOUR TEAM
As a team captain, you are involved in every step of production but assembling your cast and crew to delegate roles is an important, if not THE most important part of a successful 24 hour shootout. This does not automatically mean choosing the most experienced filmmakers (obviously it helps), but rather, the most enthusiastic group of people who are willing to put in a lot of highly concentrated time into their roles. People who can think on their feet and discover creative solutions on the fly are some of the best folks to work with in a 24 hour shootout.
For our 24 hour short “The Delivery”, the concept was simple – a heated argument between a couple gets resolved. It’s the sci-fi elements that happen in between which add flavor.
GET TO THE POINT
Telling small stories with a simple conflict helps to streamline your script and give the audience a way to connect with your film without being bogged down by long exposition shots or monologues that don’t move the plot along. Think about classic conflicts in literature – man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, man vs. self and man vs. technology. Having a basic conflict thought out in advance can make it easier to implement your ingredients and create obstacles that your protagonist must overcome. Don’t let your film be the one that makes the audience check their watches during the final screening. Remember, every minute counts. Don’t waste them!
Always keep things social and fun, especially when your team is going above and beyond the call of duty.
STEER THE SHIP
How you organize your shoot depends on your script, the equipment and how much experience you have but there’s a few things that can make a set run more efficiently. Always keep things social and fun. Having the cast and crew together will create a natural camaraderie that’s reflected on screen but with such a tight time crunch, you want people around who are great under pressure and don’t lose their cool by the slightest change in plans. Keep the entire team involved and active during the shoot and they’ll be more inclined to chime in with ideas that can improve the script.
“The Delivery” 2nd Place Winner of the 2016 YPSI24-Hour Shootout
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME
Participate in a 24 hour film shootout because you want to have fun and challenge yourself. Taking it far too seriously can lead to unnecessary frustration. Sure it’s a competition but it’s more about enriching your current artistic relationships and forging new ones. Get rid of the idea of winning awards and know that your 24 hour movie will always be remembered as a bold experience amongst your peers. Check out our 2016 YPSI24 short “The Delivery” above and remember to always stay inspired!
Photo Credit: Jessica Bibbee
Check out my latest music video for Royce 5’9″ titled “Which Is Cool”, shot entirely with the Varavon Birdycam Lite and the Panasonic GH4. The concept is that Royce can hardly contain his honest thoughts which start filtering into the real world through his music. Here’s my treatment for the song:
We open on Royce and his brother walking out of their SUV and into a convenience store in Detroit. Inside the store are various extras – a skinny dude wearing feminine tight clothes, a girl dressed in baggy, masculine clothes, rich businessman, street dude, hooker, etc. Each time he calls out these personality types in his thoughts, we’ll cut to their actions. As this is happening Royce will walk through the store, gathering various items to purchase.
Royce’s performance will be gradual. It will begin as just his thoughts so his lyrics will be translated through his body language and looks which causes him to rap in spurts. The extras will interact with him, offended that they are being called out yet are too afraid to do anything about it.
Suddenly we cut to Royce and his brother purchasing the items at the counter. In the background all of the extras are staring at them in silence, emotionless and offended. We follow Royce and his bro into the SUV. Royce turns the radio on and suddenly we…
Cut to black.
Varavon Birdycam Lite coverage continues with this demonstration video on how to quickly balance your small mirrorless camera like the Panasonic GH4 or Sony A7SII right out of the box. Balancing the original Birdycam was already a quick process and the Birdycam Lite speeds the workflow up by having a more compact, minimalist system. The improved motor encoders are probably the most impressive feature with better stability and smoothness. Hit me up in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to visit the Varavon website for more details on the Birdycam Lite.
Varavon has finally released their highly anticipated Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal, a lighter and more portable gimbal for small mirrorless cameras like the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7SII. With similar weight class gimbals like DJI’s Ronin M, Came TV’s Mini and Defy’s G2x already on the market, Varavon seems to have taken their time with the Birdycam Lite for maximum performance.
While the original Birdycam is an already compact system, the Birdycam Lite is lighter, more modular, has motor encoders for increased stability, a wireless joystick and detachable handles to mount the gimbal to various rigs. Check out the video above to see what’s included in the Birdycam Lite package as well as a quick tutorial on how to assemble the parts. Stay tuned for the next video where I’ll demonstrate how to balance your camera along with some test footage. Hit me up in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to visit the Varavon website for more details on the Birdycam Lite.
After a few years of having a bunch of DLSR parts cobbled together as my main run and gun shoulder rig, I decided to upgrade it with a few new bits that will be compatible for future compact camera systems. One rig that I’m especially fond of is the Shape Canon C100 Shoulder Mount. The quality of Shape products is awesome but at $600 it’s a little out of reach for some filmmakers. I discovered that with a little bit of perusing through eBay, you can put together a rig that’s more than half the price.
While there is a lot of crappy rig parts out there, the parts I list have been battle tested and hit that sweet spot of quality, affordability and performance. One thing to keep in mind is that I prefer to keep my rig as lightweight as possible in order to maximize my endurance on a shoot.
The backbone of any good rig are the rods. Aluminum rods offer maximum durability and grip but I find that carbon fiber rods shave off so much unnecessary weight that it’s tough to go back to aluminum. There’s some debate as to wether or not these are actually carbon fiber or a mixture of fiber glass and carbon fiber but either way, I’ve had these for years and they still hold up in all conditions.
Although I have the OEM Manfrotto 577 baseplate, the P200 Manfrotto Compatible Quick Release Plate + Adapter is a great alternative I found on Cheesycam. It’s more than half the price of the OEM Manfrotto 577 plate and even has a bubble level on the side. This plate attaches to the dual cheese plate mounting baseplate with 15mm rod clamps. With the cheese plate the same size as the Manfrotto baseplate, you save a lot of weight and real estate on the rig for other accessories.
PRICE (Manfrotto Compatible Baseplate): $19
PRICE (Cheese Plate): $48
Nothing beats Shape’s innovative push button design when it comes to their hand grips but I found something close. These 6 degree interval stop handle grips are compatible with the ARRI Rosette system which means you could upgrade the handles to something fancier albeit more expensive. With the included one piece 15mm rail block, these hand grips are an incredible deal and almost 1/4th the price of anything you’ll find at B&H.
For critical focus moments, I like to keep my right hand directly under the lens which is why I chose to include a front handle grip mounted right behind the main handles. Having a third handle is always useful when picking up the rig from the ground as the weight is evenly distributed when placing it over your shoulder.
I use this adjustable shoulder pad with my V-Mount Power Distributor which acts as a counterweight. It has numerous 1/4-20 mounting options and an adjustable structure which makes it great for getting the perfect angle for your shoulder. The velcro cover also makes it very easy to add foam cushioning if you prefer a softer pad.
So there you have it. For a grand total of $294 you get a pretty robust rig that can hold it’s own with the Shape Canon C100 Shoulder Mount for a savings of about $300. Hit me up in the comments and let me know what you are looking for in a camera rig.
Last week Arbor Day Pictures aka Nancy Mitchell, Hannah Mitchell and myself participated in YPSI24, a 24 hour shootout competition where we won second place amongst 40+ entries. It was an awesome experience to witness so many filmmakers of all levels express themselves using a variety of video techniques within experimental and narrative storytelling.
However, with a 24 hour time limit and a 3 person crew including myself (2 of whom were acting on camera), it was vital that I assemble an equipment package that worked for our story. Too much gear and I’d risk a lot of unncessary setup and breakdown time. Too little gear and I’d lose the visual storytelling that was essential for characterization. We were super honored to win an award and it may not have happened without our 24 Hour Shootout Survival Kit. So here’s how we did it.
A few weeks before the shoot, we bounced around some preliminary ideas, some that either proved too difficult or too time consuming. Finally, the night before YPSI24, Nancy assembled all of our initial ideas into a creepy story about supernatural revenge. Next, I fleshed out the summary into a rough, 5 page script which would be our blueprint for the day. We all agreed that the concept would remain loose in order to incorporate the YPSI24 “ingredients” that we would be given. Creating a script as a guide for our shotlist/schedule was definitely a critical part of our planning.
For Camera A support I went with the heavy duty yet light and portable 8.5lb ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs which are typically built for jib cranes but work great with a Manfrotto fluid head and Konova K3 slider as they can hold up to 80 lbs. It even has a super convenient mid level spreader for added stability and adjustable rubber or spiked feet for all kinds of terrain. At $120 shipped, the ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs are an exceptional deal for the quality.
Lighting was very minimal as we were mostly daylight dependent. For the ending interior shots we used a pair of budget friendly ePhoto 600 CN600HS LED Lights with Kayo Maxtar V-Mount Li-Ion Batteries. The Kayo Maxtar is a new addition to my kit and one of the best V-Mount battery options out right now. Fully charged, the Kayo can power these lights for up to 6 hours straight. Very impressive!
To keep our sound kit as light and simple as possible, I went with the Zoom H1, Rode Micro Boompole, Rode VideoMic Pro, Aspen HQ-S Lav Mic, P&C Handgrip and an audio extension cable. Our rule was that whoever wasn’t on camera would be the Sound Recordist. With some easy to remember sound recording basics and having a kit this simple ensured that no one would have to be a pro to capture quality sound.
THE CAMERA A KIT
Having some early success with the latest Panasonic V-Log color profile, I decided to use my workhorse GH4 mounted with a Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster and classic Canon FD glass – 20mm, 28mm, 50mm and 35-105mm. This combination would create a vintage, lived-in look that I thought would be perfect for a horror film.
I kitted out my GH4 shoulder rig with a Varavon Armor Cage, Aputure V-Screen field monitor, Fotga follow focus, Ikan Tilta V-Mount Plate and a Kayo Maxtar BP-GL175 Li-Ion Battery. With the Kayo, I was able to power the Aputure monitor and use it as a counterweight for the GH4. There’s also a convenient USB port located on the side which kept my iPhone charged at every location.
THE CAMERA B KIT
Our story included many scenes of walking through the woods so I wanted to incorporate gimbal tracking shots without having to spend any time balancing or breaking down the Camera A Kit. For this situation I went with the Ikan Fly-X3 Gimbal paired with the Xiaomi Yi Action Camera aka the $80 Chinese GoPro. Since these walking shots would include both Hannah and Nancy in the shot, it would leave me as the Sound Recordist. The Ikan Fly-X3 doesn’t have a 1/4-20 thread so I rigged a Joby GorillaPod to the handle and fitted it with a Rode VideoMic, Zoom H1, an audio extension cable and a pair of lightweight Auvio Headphones. With the shotgun mic I was then able to capture realtime location sound while also performing stable gimbal shots while walking backwards through the woods. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Another interesting rig we built was an Indy Mogul style DIY 3rd person POV action camera backpack. Designed with cheap PVC pipe from Home Depot, we mounted an Oben Mini Ballhead and the Xiaomi Yi on the rig to create the over the shoulder look during the “search” scenes in the woods. With the Xiamoi’s Wi-Fi app, I would be able to monitor the shots while giving direction to Nancy. We wanted to present an unusual sense of vertigo during these scenes since her character would become more desperate as day turned to night.
THE CAMERA C KIT
For a 24 Hour Shootout, it would be tempting to use the DJI Phantom 3 Professional as a shortcut for production value but we didn’t want to go that route. Our initial thought was that an aerial would take up valuable time that we could put towards characterization. Also, because of the hazardous weather conditions on the shoot day, flying a drone would prove too risky. However, nature was on our side when we had a small 10 minute window of clear weather. It was a tricky manuever as I had to fly through a 10 foot clearing in the trees towards a height that revealed just enough of the forest without showing any residential homes or highways. I fitted the Phantom 3 with a Polar Pro Polarizer Filter to prevent glare off the water and was able to get the shot in just two takes. However, flying the drone back to home point was nerve racking as I clipped a few small branches due to the wind and unstable GPS lock. Luckily I had Nancy and Hannah as my spotters on each side of the clearing to prevent the Phantom from going down into the water. The shot was definitely worth it as it created a vast sense of exploration for the Alice character, establishing the forest as a kind of supernatural playground.
THE POST PRODUCTION
We finished our last shot at about 11:30pm and after ingesting all the footage in Adobe Premiere, post production began at 12 midnight. By this time, I was exhausted but not completely tapped out. I knew that once I got past the hump of assembly I would go into creative mode, driven by pure adrenaline. With the help of a large iced coffee I finished assembly by 2:00am and edited straight until 9:00am. The GH4 V-Log setting was especially helpful in color correction for each clip. After dropping in the Panasonic Varicam 35 LUT, I simply adjusted exposure within Lumetri Color and did my best to match the Xiaomi Yi and Phantom 3 footage.
As the sun started to rise and the 10:00am delivery deadline looming, I did a few last touches and exported the file onto a flash drive. Since the YSPI24 rendevouz was a half hour away, I wasn’t able to do a final preview. At this point, I was completely delirious and just grateful that we completed our film.
YPSI24 was an insanely inspiring good time. From the cordial and energizing meetup with our fellow filmmakers to the hack-a-thon like shooting experience to the final screening at the 500 seat venue, YPSI24 reminded me of why I got into video in the first place. It wasn’t to win awards or make commercials. It was to tell a story using a language that didn’t require an army of people pontificating about the laws of Cinema. It’s a relief to know that the DIY spirit that’s shaped both my personal and professional life has never left me. Hashtag #setlife is not enough. Old traditions and new technologies are not enough. It’s the communal experience of being vulnerable with people that I care about which matters most. Check out our 2015 YPSI24 short “Always Alice” below and remember to always stay inspired!
Always Alice (2015 YPSI24)
A few weeks ago I posted my first impressions with the Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder paired with the Panasonic GH4 on a branded content shoot for ICON Q featuring Producer, DJ and Designer Emily Oberg. The ProRes 10-bit 4K image the Shogun records from the GH4 does make a difference when compared to recording on SD cards. I noticed the banding around light sources in lowlight situations disappeared and more detail overall. There’s also a feature on the GH4 that auto triggers the Shogun when pressing the record button on the GH4. There are however, some caveats when shooting with this workflow: simultaneous recording to SD card is not possible in 4K, only in 1080p mode and 96fps slow motion is not possible through the GH4 4K HDMI output, only 24fps and 30fps. The Atomos Shogun is a solid accessory for the GH4 and with the recent firmware announcements at NAB this year, it will only get better. Check out the final ICON Q spot in the video above and be sure to visit their shop to receive a 10% discount using promo code: RUNPLAYBACK
After my first impressions with the Atomos Shogun 6.2 Firmware Update, we decided to do a Steadicam field test with the new features on both the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7S. Using the same Canon FD lenses and Avid DNxHR 4K codec, I was able to get great results that showcase the advanced performance of both cameras when paired with the Atomos Shogun. Click the video above to compare the results.
The Panasonic GH4 was outfitted with a Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster to maximize focal length while using my custom CineLike V color profile would require very minor grading in post. With the Atomos Shogun 6.2 Firmware Update, I was also able to utilize the 4K to HD downconvert to allow passthrough to an HD monitor on the Steadicam sled. This proved to be a valuable feature since my AC could use the Shogun to easily focus and access all the features on the touchscreen.
The Sony A7S was fitted with a Metabones E-Mount to Canon FD adapter which retained the full frame focal length while the S-Log color profile and native 3200 ISO required using a Tiffen ND 1.5 Filter and a custom LUT in post. The 3D LUT feature on the Shogun was helpful to quickly preview the color grade and assist with focusing. I can see this being a great feature for client preview since those unfamiliar with S-Log can sometimes get thrown off by the flatness.
This is also the first time I’ve used the Avid DNxHR 4K codec which uses a 4:4:4 color space for high quality color correction and finishing. I had to download and install the codec from the Avid website to make it compatible with Adobe Premiere Pro CC. While I can’t tell the difference between DNxHR and ProRes just yet, it’s always good to have options for the different flavors of NLE.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the new Shogun firmware and how easily it adapts to the quirks of both the GH4 and A7S. While it’s no surprise that the GH4 performs consistently everytime, I was definitely pleased with the amount of dynamic range the A7S is capable of, especially when paired with the Shogun. Next, I look forward to testing out the Shogun’s new firmware features at night.
PVGear also just announced a full metal cage system that protects the plastic housing of the Atomos Shogun, locks down and protects fragile HDMI Ports, and provides several mounting threads for additional accessories that are often used with the Shogun. To further protect the Shogun Audio Input Cable, PVGear has designed a custom block that surrounds and protects the cable from accidental damage. I’ve always felt the Shogun housing feels very fragile and a bit exposed so this will definitely become an essential part of my rig. Look for the PVGear Shogun Cage to start shipping this April.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to shoot overseas in the Dominican Republic for Project Picture Day, a non-profit organization that creates school pictures for children in under developing countries. The clip above chronicles our journey through Cienfuegos, Santiago.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Campos
The Panasonic GH4 and LG G3 became my tools of choice for the portability. For a more detailed explanation on how I used the LG G3 on this shoot click here. I realized early on that it was best to travel as light as possible and to only bring the essentials to avoid attracting too much attention. According to our local hosts, DSLR-style cameras are common items targeted by opportunists on motorcycles.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Campos
For on camera sound I used the Rode VideoMic and for the interviews, the Aspen HQ-S Stereo Lav Mic and Zoom H1 were a perfect combo. Everything was contained in my Lowepro Pro Runner which fits into most carry on compartments and can handle a lot of abuse.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Campos
Since our goal was to capture candid moments with school children, I wanted to appear as if I was just another photographer shooting stills. The GH4’s built in EVF is surprisingly sharp and detailed and was perfect for shooting in the carribean climate of Santiago. Without the need for a huge rig or a field monitor, I could quickly and easily build out my camera to shoot spontaneous moments.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Campos
I’m really pleased with the work we accomplished in the Dominican Republic. To shoot for a positive cause that can directly influence or inspire children is a feeling that’s very different than any other job and I look forward to doing it again. Please visit the Project Picture Day website for more information and hit me up in the comments if you have any questions!
Four years ago, I wrote and directed an independent feature film titled “Starla”, which I’ve recut into a 35 minute short film called “Water Weight”. Narrative filmmaking can be incredibly demanding but with the right gear and skilled crew, it can also be one of the best experiences of your career. I wanted to revisit the making of the film by having my good friend and Director of Photography, Clayton Combe discuss his experiences working on set with a small crew and the Panasonic AF-100, which at the time was touted as a “DSLR Killer”. Here’s what Clayton had to say about shooting “Water Weight”:
For the first two weeks of April 2011, I had the pleasure of working as DP for “Starla,” a narrative feature by director Rik Cordero. Now, Rik has recut the film into “Water Weight,” a 35-minute version that pares the story down to its bare essentials. From the film’s conception, it was designed to be shot quickly and on a minimal budget; most of the scenes required only two actors at a time, and locations (while visually diverse) centered around only two geographical places. Our speedy eleven-day schedule and small crew meant that we had to use as much available light as possible, and we rarely did more than two takes except for action- or effects-oriented shots. Prior to “Starla,” I’d shot several music videos and commercials on my Panasonic AF100, and it seemed like a good fit for the feature. Little did I know just how perfect it would be.
(A disclaimer: the then-unique features of the AF100 can now be found in many other cameras with better resolution, dynamic range, and low-light performance. But at the time, it was on the cutting edge of small-body-large-sensor-low-price camera technology. Today, we’d probably shoot this film on a Canon C500 or Sony FS7.)
My basic rig was built around the Zacuto universal baseplate, with 15mm rods supporting matte box, follow focus, and a 90-degree-offset Anton Bauer mount on the back (like an ENG camera). I monitored with a 7″ Marshall with SDI pass-through to video village. This rig could be switched between tripod build and shoulder-mount in about twenty seconds, and was light, comfortable, compact, and well-balanced. However, by removing the Bauer plate, switching to the 5″ Marshall (incredibly lightweight), and adding the camera’s removable ergonomic handgrip to the side, I could build the AF100 more like a stripped-down Red Epic, allowing much more flexibility in small spaces. With my Canon 7D rig this would have meant I couldn’t monitor, since my AJA SDI converter needed battery power, but the AF100’s many video outputs mean this small build worked great for jib, steadicam, and car rigging as well.
This small configuration was the element that made possible several shots that move through spaces in unpredictable ways, which was an aesthetic choice Rik made very early on in pre-production. The best thing a camera can do is allow you to make your director’s vision a reality, and the AF100 had my back at every turn.
A large part of the film takes place outside in bright sunlight, and because we didn’t have the time or manpower to fly large diffusion frames or fight sunlight levels with big lights, I frequently had to use the sun as a key light. Paired with a polarizer, the AF100’s built-in ND wheel made exposing for the sun simple. I also used varying strengths of Tiffen Black Pro Mist in front of the lens, to soften the highlights and give the image a little more filmic look. I rated the camera at 200 ISO for most exteriors and 400 ISO (its native speed) for most interiors, pushing one stop to 800 ISO for a few shots. Even at 800, the image was fairly clean, and what noise was there wasn’t too bad-looking.
I shot the film using my Canon FD prime lenses, mounting them on the AF100 with a Micro 4/3rds to FD adapter. With the optical adapter I used for these lenses on the 7D, I’d have to stop down a bit to avoid blooming, so I’d almost forgotten how gorgeous this glass is wide open. I’d recommend Canon FDs to anyone for lower-budget work; the lenses and adapters are cheap and the image quality is fantastic, very similar to a cine lens.
Because of the low budget and short post-production schedule, I chose to achieve the film’s look in-camera, rather than rely on color grading. My beloved Panasonic painting tools made this process quick and painless, and I was able to fine-tune the image as we shot, as well as avoid the problems of grading footage that’s been compressed. If you get the picture close to what you want before it’s encoded onto the cards, you’ll end up with less work trying to hide compression artifacts in the graded image. It leaves less room for post-production changes, but Rik knew what he wanted it to look like beforehand. Nowadays, most cameras can record to an external card to avoid high compression, but that option wasn’t feasible at the time.
“Starla/Water Weight” is a diverse mix of aesthetic styles, but the AF100 handled all conditions beautifully and allowed us to create images that exceeded the director’s expectations. They say out of the trio of money, time, and quality, you can choose two; but the AF100 (along with a few talented, passionate people and a lot of planning) got us as close to achieving all three as I’ve ever been.
On a recent trip overseas, I worked alongside a videographer who was shooting with a Sony A7s on a Revo SR-1000 shoulder rig with counterweight. Although I’ve had passing glances at the Revo while browsing online, I’ve never seen it up close. Because of its minimalist, almost artistic design, affordable cost, and versatility, I got my hands on the SR-1000 and proceeded to add modifications to it. The Revo SR-1000 is currently on sale at B&H for $67.96, a savings of 15%, but only until March 9, 2015.
The SR-1000 is strikingly simple with clean, curved lines thats very attractive for video enthusiasts. There are rigs that make my back hurt just by looking at them but the SR-1000 is sleek and forgoes the chunkiness of universal compatibility for aesthetics. A single handle attached to a sliding baseplate allows for one handed operation with thin, curved rails that bend seamlessly with the adjustable the foam padded shoulder mount. An optional Revo Counterweight can then be added to the rear to complete the design. Although I took it off for my mod, it’s definitely a must have accessory when shooting with only the camera.
My first add on was the Varavon Armor Cage for the Pansonic GH4. The lightweight cage also features red trim that matches the colors of the SR-1000. The top handle can be reversed to attach accessories such as the Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder which hangs slightly behind the GH4 for even weight distribution across the middle of the rig.
For the rear counterweight, I detached the plate from the Revo Counterweight and attached it to the Ikan Tilta HyperDeck V-Mount using a standard 1/4-20 screw which connects to the Revo shoulder mount with the remaining screws.
The Ikan Tilta is then fitted with a Switronix XP-L90S Li-Ion battery and Fiilex D-Tap power cable. Because the Switronix battery is unusually light, I added a Flashpoint 2.5lb Counterweight to the Tilta HyperDeck using two short 15mm rods. This evened out the weight distribution for the rear.
There are countless ways to configure the Revo SR-1000 such as adding additional handles and accessories to the baseplate but I found this setup to be the most efficient for run and gun shooting. Hit me up in the comments if you have any questions.
Recently I had the chance to work with talented actress Taryn Manning (Orange is the New Black, 8 Mile, Hustle & Flow) on a short film/music video for music artist Jared Evan. The concept was a slight narrative mixed with surreal fantasy elements set in a dark, maze-like atmosphere.
Panasonic GH4 + Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster
Other than a few handheld shots for the intro, we stayed primarily on the Varavon Birdycam Gimbal with my Panasonic GH4 + Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster and a Canon FD 20mm 2.8 lens.
Actress Taryn Manning using the Panasonic GH4 + Varavon Birdycam2 Gimbal combo
Without focus control or the luxury of time for lens changes, we went with a wide angle fluid look. The camera was always moving on the Birdycam Gimbal, from side to side, strafing performance shots, low to high panning shots and following shots. It was so intuitive even Taryn got in on the action.
Music Artist Jared Evan lit by the F&V LED Lite Panel
My favorite scene by far was a front gimbal tracking shot as Jared walks backwards down an aisle flanked by 20 foot steel shelves. We also had an F&V LED Light providing fill from another aisle casting strange and mysterious shadows on his face. As Jared backs into the exit, Taryn finds him and together they run towards a massive light source at the end of a tunnel. We then track them from behind as they run into the light.
Panasonic GH4 + Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster + Varavon Birdycam2 Gimbal + Aputure V-Screen VS-3 7″ Monitor
It was a great shoot and actually my first time using the Varavon Birdycam. Here’s a few tips I discovered when shooting entirely with a camera gimbal.
1. A wireless follow focus option.
2. A wireless video option such as the CMR Radian Pro.
3. A tether support such as an Easy Rig Mini to provide hands free camera adjustments and save time having to set it on a stand.
4. At least two Varavon Gimbal Power 16V batteries when running a full 10 hour day.
Check out the final video and hit me up with any questions about the Varavon Birdycam Gimbal in the comments below.
I recently received the long anticipated Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder and paired it up with the Panasonic GH4 on a branded content shoot for ICON Q featuring Producer, DJ and Designer Emily Oberg. After reaching out to a few Shogun owners I came prepared with all the essentials necessary for this beast of a recorder: a few SanDisk Extreme PRO 240GB SSD drives, a Fiilex D-Tap Cable, Switronix V-Mount Batteries and an Ikan Tilta V-Mount Plate.
We used a GH4 mounted on a Varavon Armor cage and RedRock Shoulder Rig. The Atomos Shogun was powered by the Switronix XP-L90S Lithium Battery that doubled as a counterweight while attached to the Ikan Tilta HyperDeck Shuttle V-Mount Plate. This would be our main rig setup throughout the day as we had to run and gun across multiple interiors and exteriors throughout New York City.
The Shogun is a serious accessory for the GH4 which create a ProRes 10-bit 4K image that really does make a difference when compared to recording on SD cards. I noticed less artifacts when shooting in lowlight situations, deeper shadows and more detail overall. There are however, some caveats when shooting with this workflow.
Just when you got used to capturing loads of manageable 4K footage, the Shogun will immediately humble you. Shooting at regular ProRes 422 will give you about an hour and change with a 240gb SSD drive. While SSD drives continue to drop in price, having to copy these files to your edit and backup drives can quickly fill up space.
Another thing to consider is power. The Shogun uses standard Sony NP batteries but you’ll quickly run through them if you’re not constantly powering on and off. I opted for using Switronix V-Mount batteries to double as my main power source as well as a counterweight to the Shogun. One Switronix XP-L90S should get you through an entire day unless you’re powering other devices.
The Shogun’s image quality is top notch with a highly responsive touchscreen. A red outline and flashing front and rear lights let you know when you’re recording and the ability to auto trigger record through the GH4 body is also a nice touch. One major thing to keep in mind is the delay on HDMI output. It’s somewhere around 3 frames of delay which is pretty significant. Hopefully this will be improved with firmware upgrades but for now it’s manageable. The GH4 LCD screen should still be used as a way to double check your settings and also serve as a backup “real time” preview screen.
Overall, the Atomos Shogun is a hefty investment but worth the price tag for those who want to unlock the 10bit capabilities of the Panasonic GH4 and 4K capture on the Sony A7S. Just be prepared to shell out more money for extra accessories and a beefier, data heavy workflow. Be sure to check out the final ICON Q video featuring Emily Oberg coming soon.
We recently got our hands on the Varavon Armor GH4 & GH3 cage, so we decided to test out it’s features on the streets of New York City. The Panasonic GH4 has been my go-to camera since it first launched and with it’s compact frame and lightweight design, a camera cage has always been part of my gear list.
The Varavon Armor GH4 cage has a unique, form-fitting design with plenty of clearance for buttons and accessories. Some other features include a hand strap for extra stability, cable lock for clamping down monitor or mic cables, a universal cold shoe with top handle and a universal dovetail for compability with the Varavon rod system.
The Varavon Armor GH4 & GH3 cage will especially appeal to GH4 shooters looking for a sturdy, compact cage. The Varavon Armor offers great quality and travels easily. For more specs on the Varavon Armor GH4 & GH3 cage, check out the product page (click here).
Rapper Joell Ortiz and I recently collaborated on a promo spot for New Era titled “Home of the Authentic”. Our goal was to shoot a few of Joell’s childhood stomping grounds in addition to capturing soundbites about his love for his hometown of Brooklyn, NY. Our locations were mostly walking exterior scenes so we decided to shoot on the Panasonic GH4 with the Rokinon 7.5mm 3.5 fisheye mounted on the Varavon Birdycam 3-Axis Camera Gimbal. Although I love the fisheye look, it felt a little extreme for a promo video. However, I knew that I would be able to de-fish the footage in post without slowing down my workflow. Here’s how I did it.
For those using the latest version of Adobe Premiere CC, there’s a quick trick to de-fishing your footage when using lenses like the Rokinon 7.5mm or action cameras like the GoPro. Simply create an Adjustment Layer and place it on a layer above the fisheye footage. Next, go to Video Effects > Distort > Lens Distortion and drag that onto your Adjustment Layer. Under Curvature, enter -20 and you will instantly notice that the footage has been de-fished or straightened out. Your mileage may vary when inputing the Curvature settings but somewhere between -20 and -30 should be your sweet spot. If you have more de-fishing tricks hit me on the comments below.
Recently, I had the pleasure of working with actor, artist and musician Eric West on a promotional series for the new LG G Watch R smartwatch. Composed of 3 short episodes, Eric and I made our way through Brooklyn and Manhattan, capturing his day to day activities and how wearable technology seamlessly integrates into his life.
The LG G Watch R has a lot of cool features such as voice recognition – great for hands free texting and emailing, fitness tracking with a built in heart rate monitor and a high resolution circular POLED display where you can customize the watch face with a large variety of colors and designs.
I shot Eric with my go-to Panasonic GH4 and Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster setup along with a Canon FD 20mm f2.8 and a Canon FD 35-105mm 3.5 for macro shots of the G Watch. For exterior shots I used a Tiffen 77mm ND 0.9 filter and also placed Sensei 72-77mm step up rings on both lenses for convenience. It was a fun, easy shoot and capturing Eric as he discovered the benefits of wearable technology in real-time was inspiring.
U.S. based DEFY is gearing up to launch the G2x lightweight camera gimbal next year. As you may recall, we showed a preview of the G2x during the PhotoPlus Expo event in New York City back in October. The G2x was designed with the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7S in addition to the new wave of small mirrorless 4K cameras that are being introduced. According to DEFY:
The G2x is everything you could want from a gimbal with a small footprint. Lightweight and Portable, with multiple modes of operation including an inverted mode to easily get those eye level shots…
Visit the DEFY website for more information.