Category Archives: Mirrorless Cameras

How to Survive a 24 Hour Film Shootout

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.

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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.

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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.

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8mm f/3.8 Fisheye CCTV Lens for Micro 4/3 Cameras

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Photo Credit: Jessica Bibbee

My New Royce 5’9″ Video Was Shot Entirely with the Varavon Birdycam Lite

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.

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

How to Balance the Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Gimbal


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.

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal Unboxing + Assembly

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.

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

Build a Shape Style Shoulder Mount Rig for Under $300

RIG

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.

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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.

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product information button runplayback SHAPE Canon C100 C300 C500 Shoulder Mount

rods

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.

PRICE: $30

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12 inch Carbon Fiber Rails, 15mm Rods, for DSLR RIG – One Pair – Lightweight!

baseplate

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

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P200 Quick Release Clamp QR Plate for Manfrotto 501 500AH 701HDV 503HDV Q5 7M1W

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Tripod Dual Cheese Plate Mounting Baseplate fr 15mm Rod Support DSLR Rig Clamp

handlegrips

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.

PRICE: $127

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ARRI Type Rosette Arm Handle Grip Set fr 15mm Rod Support Rod Clamp Rail System

frontgrip

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.

PRICE: $30

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Front Handle Grip Rod Clamp Rail Block fr 15mm Rod Support DSLR Rig Shoulder HDV

shouldermount

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.

PRICE: $40

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Folding Shoulder Pad Rod Clamp Kit fr 15mm Rail System Follow Focus DSLR Rig

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.

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Kayo Maxtar 177Wh(12000mAh/14.8V) V Mount Battery

Varavon Armor II A7S Cage, Battery Package & Atomos Shogun Cage

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Varavon Armor II – A7S Cage

We recently got our hands on the new Varavon Armor II A7S Cage, A7S Battery Package and the Atomos Shogun Cage. I’ve been anticipating the new A7S Armor II cage for quite some time and it was definitely worth the wait. As with all of Varavon’s cages, it features a unique, form-fitting design with plenty of clearance for accessibility and accessories. Other features include a leather hand strap, built-in Allen wrench, and rod adapter

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Varavon A7S Battery Package

The Varavon A7S Battery Package is a must have accessory since the A7S is notorious for having very weak battery life. The package features an A7S dummy battery coupler, a DC 7.5V external battery, and battery check indicator.

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Varavon Armor – Atomos Shogun Cage

Finally, the Varavon Atomos Shogun Cage is another essential item for providing maximum protection for the Shogun’s plastic body which is often vulnerable to dings and scratches. The Shogun Cage features a variety of 3/8″ and 1/4″ mounting holes, L-Bracket for protecting the SSD drive and battery, cable clamps, and rubber dampers for shock resistance. For more information visit the Varavon website here.

Sony A7S + Switronix PTC-A7S Coiled Powertap Cable Update

A few weeks ago I posted about the Switronix PTC-A7S Coiled Powertap Cable short circuiting inside of the Sony A7S. Switronix reached out immediately to examine the damaged cable and figure out the source of the malfunction. After running a series of tests – voltage, surge, runtime – the PTC-A7S passed all of them.

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Once they shipped the new cable, I had some downtime to test it out at NAB and discovered that the Tilta Hyperdeck Shuttle distributor plate bypassed the on/off switch when both a D-Tap and 12V cable were plugged in simultaneously. This led us to believe that there was a freak, surge of voltage that happened when the Tilta Hyperdeck Shuttle plate sent power to the Switronix PTC-A7S dummy battery even though the switch was off. This was confirmed by Tilta when we visited their booth and demonstrated the glitch.

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So shout out to Switronix for their patience with my freak out and super customer service – from testing the cable to also performing on-site quality control at their NAB booth. For the rest of the convention, the PTC-A7S D-Tap Cable performed flawlesly, providing hours of uninterrupted power with the Atomos Shogun. Look for more NAB 2015 coverage when we speak to Switronix about their new HyperCore Li-ion batteries and VoltBridge app. Stay tuned!

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Switronix PTC-A7S Coiled Powertap Cable

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Switronix XP-L90S V-Type 14.8VDC Lithium Battery

Sony A7S + Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder ISO Test

Recently, we took the Sony A7S and Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder combo for a test shoot in the middle of Times Square to compare and contrast a popular variety of focal lengths, color profiles, and ISO settings. Since the A7S is the most popular low light camera on the market right now, I wanted to see how far we could push the ISO settings in S-Log 2 from it’s native 3,200 ISO all the way up to 51,200 ISO.

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In addition to camera settings, I wanted to see how the A7S captured different skin tones in low light settings. S-Log 2 provides plenty of dynamic range to push the colors to as natural or stylistic as you want while Cine 2 provides a color profile that requires only slight grading. My favorite color profile is Cine V on the Panasonic GH4 and the Sony A7S Cine 2 comes very close to it. According to the manual, Cine 2 softens the contrast in dark parts and emphasizes gradation in bright parts to produce a relaxed color movie.

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While I haven’t spent much time recording internally at 1080p, the Shogun 4K recording in ProRes HQ seems to produce a very clean image even at higher ISO settings, although I’ve read that 12,800 ISO is the maximum range to push the A7S before noticeable noise and loss of detail. At 51,200 ISO, the A7S appears to see in the dark. The Atomos Shogun ultimately unlocks the full potential of the Sony A7S and enhances the intense low light capabilities through 4K recording.

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product information button runplayback Sony Alpha A7S Mirrorless Digital Camera

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product information button runplayback Atomos Shogun 4K HDMI/12G-SDI Recorder and 7″ Monitor

Shooting an ICON Q Spot with the GH4 + Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder

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

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product information button runplayback Atomos Shogun 4K HDMI/12G-SDI Recorder and 7″ Monitor

Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder 6.2 Firmware Test with the Panasonic GH4 & Sony A7S

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.

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product information button runplayback Atomos Shogun 4K HDMI/12G-SDI Recorder and 7″ Monitor

GH4

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.


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster GH4Metabones FD speed booster GH4 4k adapter
Metabones Speedbooster Canon FD Lens to M43 Adapter

A7S

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.

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product information button runplayback Sony Alpha A7S Mirrorless Digital Camera

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product information button runplayback Metabones Canon FD to Sony NEX Camera Lens Adapter

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product information button runplayback Tiffen 77mm Neutral Density 1.5 Filter

GH4_2

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.

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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.

Atomos_Shogun_Cage_PVGear_HDMI_Locks

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.

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Cage for Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder

Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder 6.2 Firmware Update First Impressions

Atomos just released another major firmware update for the Shogun 4K Recorder. I’ve been using the Shogun pretty heavily on my last few shoots with both the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7S so this update has definitely increased it’s potential. The 6.2 firmware updates include custom 3D LUTs that provide an instant color grade preview when shooting with flat picture profiles, Avid DNxHR and DNxHD codecs and 4K to HD downscaling which allows for HD passthrough for external video playback on HD equipment. I definitely look forward to trying these new features out on the field and check out the video above for a closer look.

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product information button runplayback Atomos Shogun 4K HDMI/12G-SDI Recorder and 7″ Monitor

This Dangerous Switronix PTC-A7S D-Tap Cable Could Brick Your Sony A7S

UPDATE: Switronix reached out to me about an hour after this post went live. I sent in the cable to be tested and examined by their technicians and the video below are the results.

It’s no secret that the Sony A7S has very dismal battery life so one solution that I was excited about was the Switronix PTC-A7S Coiled Powertap Cable which would have be a great addition to my rig. However, there was one major issue – the dummy battery block short circuited and blew its fuse inside of the camera body! I own the Switronix GH4 Powertap cable which performs fine, so I know this issue is far from normal. The above video has a further explanation of what happened.

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Having 14.8 volts zap past the dummy battery and into the camera is a serious and dangerous issue. While the A7S continued working after suffering only a hard reset, I have no doubt the short could have bricked it. Besides internal damage, an explosive battery is just not something to take lightly whatsoever. Will I purchase a new D-Tap cable to do another test? Absolute not. That’s just not a risk I’m comfortable with taking.

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I would highly suggest other ways to get extended battery life from the A7S such as Cheesycam’s Canon battery grip mod, Varavon’s A7S 7.2v battery pack, or aftermarket A7S Wasabi batteries which have a solid reputation for compatibility. I do hope the D-Tap cable was only a defective product as my Switronix Li-Ion batteries have performed flawlessly with the Atomos Shogun. But with 2 weeks of radio silence from Switronix about this serious issue I can only assume that the A7S voltage regulator is a manufacturer defect.

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Varavon A7S Battery Package

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Wasabi Power Battery (2-Pack) and Charger for Sony A7S

Shooting with the Panasonic GH4 and LG G3 in the Dominican Republic

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.

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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.


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

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product information button runplayback LG G3 32GB Smartphone (Unlocked, Metallic Black)

SMART_BRACKET
product information button runplayback Dot Line SMARTbracket Smartphone Tripod Adapter

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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.

rode
product information button runplayback Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Shotgun Microphone

aspenmics
AspenMics Lavalier Microphones

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product information button runplayback Zoom H1 Ultra-Portable Digital Audio Recorder

lowepro
product information button runplayback Lowepro Pro Runner x450 Rolling AW Backpack

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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.

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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!

Sony A7S Lowlight and Grading Test Part I

After finally receiving the Sony A7S, we decided to test it out on the streets of New York City for a promotional RunPlayBack spot. The low light capabilities of the Sony A7S has reached an almost mythical status and I wanted to jump right into the party.

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product information button runplayback Sony Alpha A7S Mirrorless Digital Camera

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Since the A7S has the standard Sony E-Mount, I picked up a Metabones E-Mount to Canon FD adapter so I could use the same glass as my GH4. Because the Sony A7S has a full-frame CMOS sensor, my Canon FD’s stayed true to their focal lengths.

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product information button runplayback Metabones Canon FD Mount Lens to Sony NEX Camera Lens Mount Adapter (Black)

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Unfortunately the Sony A7S can’t record 4K internally, but with an external recorder like the Atomos Shogun, you can record 10-bit 4K in ProRes. After rigging the Shogun to the shoulder mount, I powered it up with a Switronix Li-Ion battery. This entire setup was mounted onto my modded SR-1000 shoulder rig which I broke down here.

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product information button runplayback Atomos Shogun 4K HDMI/12G-SDI Recorder and 7″ Monitor

switronix
Switronix XP-L90S V-Type 14.8VDC Lithium Battery

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Now let’s get to the good stuff – sensitivity range and noise control. The Sony A7S has a sensitivity range of ISO 100 all the way up to ISO 409,600. Another cool feature is the ability to customize Picture Profiles with a multitude of values. I decided to shoot with the S-Log picture profile along with these custom settings from Ed David:

Black Level: 0
Gamma S-Log: 2
Black Gamma > Range: Middle, Level: -3
Knee > Mode: Auto, Auto Set > Max Point: 95, Sensitivity: Mid
Color Mode: Pro
Saturation: +8
Color Phase: -2
Color Depth > R +1, G -1, B +2, C -2, M -1, Y -3
Detail > Level, -5 Adjust > Mode: Manual, V/H Balance: -2, B/W Balance Type 3, Limit: 0, Crispening: 0, Hi-Light Detail: 0

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Our shoot was brief since it was unusually cold and rainy but we were able to capture a variety of handheld shots in different lighting conditions within Manhattan. I definitely wouldn’t recommend taking the Sony A7S out during wet conditions as it isn’t completely weather resistant. After a quick grading using RGB Curves in Adobe Premiere CC, I was blown away by the amount of dynamic range in the footage. Highlights, shadows and color detail were preserved even when overexposed by 1 or 2 stops which is recommended. Our next Sony A7S test will be a more controlled setting to push the lowlight and grading settings. Overall I’m really excited about the performance of this camera. While it certainly won’t replace the GH4, it is definitely one of the best low light cameras I’ve ever shot with. Stay tuned!

Shooting a Profoto Spot with the Sony A7S

Good friend and filmmaker Yahya Ismail recently sent me this spot he made for Profoto using the Sony A7S which highlights the new Profoto B2 off-camera flash with super talented photographer Jaleel King. Here’s what Yahya said about the shoot:

This video shoot was a part of Profoto’s “On To Light Shaping” series that they just began where 18 photographers were hand picked to endorse and test their new B2 off camera flash lights. Philadelphia native photographer Jaleel King was one of the photographers and he asked if I could do the spotlight video, which was an easy yes since we are friends and collaborated before. I used the Sony A7S which was very new to me at the time. We went to the Ben Franklin bridge in Philly to do the first scene. I shot this piece in SLOG2 which forces the ISO to 3200, f/2.0 on a Canon 35mm IS lens. I used Impulz Luts to do color correction, even though recently I find myself just using custom color correction with RGB curves on the A7S footage. It was freezing cold that day but we had a great time. Afterwards, Jaleel and I went back to my house and recorded the narration audio in ProTools. This was my first time using the Sony A7S on a professional project and I’ve gotten used to the settings and color correction workflow. Since then and I can officially say that Sony has outdone themselves with the quality, build, and functionality of the A7S.

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product information button runplayback Sony Alpha A7S Mirrorless Digital Camera

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product information button runplayback Profoto B2 Off-Camera Flash Head

$70 REVO SR-1000 Modded Shoulder Rig for the GH4 & Sony A7S

RIG01

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.

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product information button runplayback Revo SR-1000 Shoulder Support Rig

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product information button runplayback Revo Counterweight for SR-1000

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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.

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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.

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Varavon Armor GH4 & GH3 Cage

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product information button runplayback Atomos Shogun 4K HDMI/12G-SDI Recorder and 7″ Monitor

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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.

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ikan Tilta TT-C12 HyperDeck Shuttle Mount with V-Mount Plate

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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.

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Switronix XP-L90S V-Type 14.8VDC Lithium Battery

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Switronix GP-2LSJ 2-Position Simultaneous Charger


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Fiilex Coiled D-Tap Cable (1.9′)

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Flashpoint Counter Weight 2.5 LB for 15MM Rods

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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.

Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder Behind the Scenes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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SanDisk 240GB Extreme Pro Solid State Drive

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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.

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Switronix XP-L90S V-Type 14.8VDC Lithium Battery

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Switronix GP-2LSJ 2-Position Simultaneous Charger

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ikan Tilta TT-C12 HyperDeck Shuttle Mount with V-Mount Plate


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Fiilex Coiled D-Tap Cable (1.9′)

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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.

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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.

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product information button runplayback Atomos Shogun 4K HDMI/12G-SDI Recorder and 7″ Monitor

Varavon Armor GH4 & GH3 Cage

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).

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Varavon Armor GH4 & GH3 Cage