Equipment

The Making Of 'The Great Outdoors' For Manfrotto

Get behind the scenes with our production for Manfrotto's 'The Great Outdoors' campaign, featuring ZEISS Milvus Super Speed prime lenses and the DJI Mavic Air.

Spring is here, and so are Manfrotto's new backpacks in the form of the Pro Light Cinematic Expand, and Pro Light Cinematic Balance. They are larger than the original Pro Light range which makes them ideal for carrying a plethora of filmmaking gear, in this case the ZEISS Milvus Super Speed prime lenses, DJI Mavic Air and Zhiyun Tech Crane 2.

 Checking out the views with the Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand backpack and ZEISS Milvus Super Speed 1.4/25.

Checking out the views with the Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand backpack and ZEISS Milvus Super Speed 1.4/25.

I headed out to the beautiful Surrey Hills to test out the new backpack and absorb the landscapes while out filming. Rich accompanied me to capture some awesome behind the scenes photos and video content too.

We spent a rainy day wandering around Holmbury St Mary and Leith Hill, recce'ing locations for filming that week. Luckily for us, the sun shone through the clouds for our 3 days filming!

Here is the kit list for the shoot:

  • Sony a7S II (with the SmallRig cage)

  • Sony a6500

  • Canon 5D III (BTS stills)

  • ZEISS Milvus Super Speed Primes (1.4/25, 1.4/35, 1.4/50, 1.4/85)

  • Zhiyun Crane 2

  • DJI Mavic Air

  • Canon 25-105mm F/4

  • Canon 17-40mm F/4

  • Samyang 35mm T/1.5

  • Manfrotto NITRO N8 video head and 535 MPRO tripod

All of the main filming kit fitted into the Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand.

 The range of equipment used in The Great Outdoors filming. Inc Manfrotto NITRO N8, 535 MPRO, ZEISS Milvus Super Speed Primes

The range of equipment used in The Great Outdoors filming. Inc Manfrotto NITRO N8, 535 MPRO, ZEISS Milvus Super Speed Primes

Choosing The Surrey Hills Locations

We captured some fantastic shots around the hills, featuring well known beauty spots like Leith Hill. Going on an adventure around familiar and unfamiliar territory, capturing the environment and landscapes that surrounded us was a great way to test the kit.

To add to the narrative of the production, Scott from The Surrey Hills Adventure Company invited us to the lagoon where he instructs SUP (stand up paddleboarding) as well as bushcraft, to shoot some material there. The weather wasn't the best, but Scott headed out on the paddleboard which made for some great aerial shots.

The sharpness of the ZEISS Milvus Super Speed 85mm was ideal for getting shots of the boat house, which was deliberately framed like a Wes Anderson shot!

 Scott from The Surrey Hills Adventure Company taking his SUP for a spin.

Scott from The Surrey Hills Adventure Company taking his SUP for a spin.

The ZEISS Milvus Super Speed Primes have a constant aperture of F/1.4 and can have the gear ring attached for use with a follow focus system. The lenses are of incredible visual quality (rendering 6K plus resolution images), and were ideal for filming on the Sony a7S II with the Sigma MC-11 adapter. I rigged up the camera and lens in the Small Rig cage, and attached the Manfrotto Follow Focus too, for precise focus pulling control at wide apertures.

 The gear ring attached to the ZEISS Milvus 1.4/85 for a Manfrotto follow focus unit

The gear ring attached to the ZEISS Milvus 1.4/85 for a Manfrotto follow focus unit

For the silky smooth motion shots, the a7SII was rigged up with the Zhiyun Tech Crane 2, and even with the heavy ZEISS Milvus lenses, the gimbal performed very well (upon balancing correctly). The stabilised sensor aids greatly to reduce the up and down motion of walking, with the Crane 2 keeping everything else lovely and steady. As a handheld gimbal, I cannot recommend it enough.

Working With The DJI Mavic Air

I had the opportunity to shoot some lovely aerials around the area too on the DJI Mavic Air. This is my first little drone venture and is fantastic fun. The Fly More combo has enough batteries for between 45 minutes and 1 hours and comes with a nice carry bag too. I've managed to fit the drone, 3 batteries, controller and a set of Polar Pro ND filters in there too.

 The DJI Mavic Air is a fantastic addition to the kit bag (Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand), and fits into the bag very well!

The DJI Mavic Air is a fantastic addition to the kit bag (Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand), and fits into the bag very well!

By the way, those Polar Pro ND filters are really needed to keep the shutter at 1/50 or 1/100 for slow mo. I've set the drone to Cinelike-D profile with reduced contrast, and then applying an S-like curve in post to bring back the colour and contrast. Shooting in 4K and 2.5K resolutions is great for post-production flexibility, when delivering a HD sequence.

Another technique to improve the colour richness, especially in the sky is to export the Mavic Air footage from your NLE as a PNG sequence, and then import it into Lightroom to apply the 'Dehaze' tool, which makes the colours more vibrant. It's a bit of a round-trip, but this effect/feature isn't available in Premiere Pro CC, yet.

One downside to the DJI Mavic Air is that the shadows are quite noisy, even when the image is exposed well, so keep an eye out for that. Below are some of the outtake drone shots of the Surrey Hills from the campaign.

The edit was where the story of 'The Great Outdoors' was to be built, and with some voice over recording and subtle soundtrack, the first part of the video began to come together. There was a lot to say about the shoot and the Pro Light Cinematic Expand backpack, in such a short amount of time. The visuals had to tell the story more than just what I was saying.

Rather than making the campaign video just a review, I chose to make the second part of the video different; changing the soundtrack and pace. This part was showing what you can do with the kit, what you can create and what stories you can tell.

I must say a massive thank you to Rich Tarr who accompanied myself on this production, capturing the BTS photos and video content. Without him, this couldn't have been possible! Also to Scott from The SHAC, if you're into outdoors, seriously check them out!

 Rich Tarr, BTS producer

Rich Tarr, BTS producer

 Rich getting back to basics

Rich getting back to basics

My verdict on the Pro Light Cinematic Expand? It's come with me for every shoot since this campaign. It's large and comfortable enough to carry a two camera setup with a set of 4/5 lenses and a telephoto. There is always extra room for mics and clamps, stands and the like by expanding the bag or making use of the quick access pockets. Try the bag out for yourself, it really suited my filming kit choice.

Overall, the campaign had a great reception and myself, Rich and Scott were really pleased with the result. To add to that, ZEISS will also be featuring a blog post and unique video about using the Milvus Super Speed prime lenses on their LENSPIRE website, so keep an eye out for that soon!

If you've got any questions about the Manfrotto Pro Light Cinematic Expand, filming with the ZEISS Milvus Super Speeds, flying with the DJI Mavic Air, then just get in touch!

Zhiyun-Tech Crane 2: The Best Hand Held Gimbal Out There?

Zhiyun-Tech has taken the indie film world by storm over the last year. Their products are affordable and produce results that can be easily compared to much more costly gimbal systems. I've been using the Crane 2 for months now, here is my experience of using it.

Note: I am a Sony shooter so won't be looking in depth at the capabilities of the Crane 2 with other manufacturers, I have done some follow focus tests with the Canon 5D III as an example.

Feature wise, the Zhiyun Tech Crane 2 packs much more into the gimbal than the Crane 1 and Crane v2 combined. It's increased payload means that shooters using Canon 5D's or Sony a7's with Metabones adapters can comfortably operate the gimbal with less stress on the motors. I've even seen Canon cinema cameras, RED cameras and Sony FS5's rigged on them!

 Using the Zhiyun Crane 2 while filming for Manfrotto

Using the Zhiyun Crane 2 while filming for Manfrotto

A brand new feature is the follow focus, in which I've seen some great examples of Crane 2 operators pulling and tracking focus on moving subjects. Zhiyun Tech has since updated the gimbal firmware so that a number of the camera control features are now available when filming on Canon, Sony, Nikon and Panasonic cameras!

The biggest improvement for me has been using a Manfrotto standard quick release plate, that simply slides on and off the gimbal. It means you can go from filming on a tripod or monopod straight onto the Crane 2. No hassle, no screws to undo and then re-balance the gimbal. It's simple, and it works.

Zhiyun Crane 2 Manfrotto Quick Release Plate

On a recent shoot, I swapped between filming with the Sony a7S II and Sony a6500 on the Crane 2, which was ideal!

Dual handles for the Crane 2 allow for more accessories such as a monitor or microphone to be added to the setup. There is also a follow focus unit now available too, that hooks up to the focus wheel on the handle. For more info about the gimbal and accessories, check out the product page here.

I use the Zhiyun Crane 2 on pretty much all of my video shoots, and combining it with 4K or slow motion really adds a level of production value that I hadn't been able to achieve before. Check out the next blog on the making of 'The Great Outdoors' for more gimbal action with the ZEISS Milvus Super Speed Primes!

Movement For Video: Sliders, Gimbals and More!

Movement For Video: Sliders, Gimbals and More!

To move or not to move? There are many reasons to use both motivated and unmotivated movement while filming, but how can you achieve it? A slider? A Gimbal?

From Conferences to Award Ceremonies, Filming Events; My Tips and Tricks

From Conferences to Award Ceremonies, Filming Events; My Tips and Tricks

 The awards ceremony was part of the event video coverage.

The awards ceremony was part of the event video coverage.

Filming and videography for business conferences, presentations or award ceremonies are a staple of the work calendar, but how can you turn a rather simple event into a video people will want to watch?

I take a look at the techniques, tips and tricks I use when capturing events with video, often with a same day turnaround.

Be Minimal With Equipment

You’ve all probably seen the ‘what’s in my kit bag’ photos and videos, and yes it’s fantastic to have a variety of lenses, camera bodies, microphones and other kit for any job that could come around the corner. However, I’ve found that having a minimalist approach to equipment is necessary for event coverage. For this shoot, I used the Sony a7S, in the Movcam cage.

For lenses, a standard zoom lens like a 24-70mm covers wide establishing shots of the location, audience or stage, as well as closer mid shots, possibly of details such as the event branding, or for interviews with attendees. A telephoto lens, or a prime is a great additional lens to have for closer shots of the subjects, or needing a shallow depth of field, or more light in darker scenarios. I also used the Samyang 35mm T/1.5 and 85mm T/1.5.

A sturdy tripod with a fluid video head will give you steady shots, with smooth panning and tilting for some additional movement. Even a small tripod like the Manfrotto Befree Live is a fantastic option that can be easily carried around and used at any time. Having a tripod for interviews is also key, to keep the viewers’ attention on the interviewee. The Manfrotto 755 CX 3 accompanied myself on this shoot.

Manfrotto Pro Light 35 Backpack and 755 CX 3 tripod.

Sound is often at the bottom of the pile, but many options for small and high quality microphones are out there, like the Rode VideoMicro. Whether it’s capturing some dialogue from a presentation, or an interview, what you hear builds up the atmosphere of what you see in the video. I’d also recommend a Sennheiser AVX lavalier (clip on) microphone for interviews too.

An LED light can be a lifesaver if you’re filming in a dark environment, they are small and often have a bi-colour option to adjust the colour temperature. The last thing you would want to do is crank up the cameras ISO, resulting in a noisy image when you could have used a light. The LYKOS LED lights are very portable, but for something smaller the SPECTRA lights are a good choice.

Hand held gimbals and stabilizers are now smaller and more affordable than ever before, and give a unique dynamic to shots with movement. Using a gimbal or a slider is a great choice to up the production value of the videos.

Lastly, a bag to store all that kit! There are plenty of choices or styles to choose from, whether you need quick access, or to store other kit like a drone. My bag of choice is the Pro Light 35, as its small enough to fit all of my video kit in, and very comfortable.

 The Manfrotto Pro Light 35 backpack stored all the necessary equipment for the event filming and editing.

The Manfrotto Pro Light 35 backpack stored all the necessary equipment for the event filming and editing.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Get to know the ins and outs of the event, what is happening throughout the day, any key moments you need to capture, and plan time for editing if you have a same day delivery for the video. At a recent event, I would shoot some video material and interviews for an hour, then import the footage ready to be edited.

Get any details from the event organizers about timings, as well as the names of any interviewees which might be needed for lower 3rd graphics later on.

Know Your Workflow

When you’re filming, a rule of thumb I use is to capture plenty of b-roll, or additional shots that can be used to add to the ‘story’ you’re going to tell through the video. Whether its shots of the audience, location, or little details like logos and branding, they can all save you in the edit when you need a cut point, or to add variety, rather than a fixed camera shot of the stage.

Filming lots of alternative angles using wide and telephoto lenses.

Create a file structure for when you import all your footage; it keeps everything organized when it comes to editing and backing up the project. It might be files for interviews, conference parts, establishing shots, for example.

editing and footage file structure

When you’re editing, using sequence templates will also speed up the editing process too. You could create a sequence with a title graphic at the beginning, a lower 3rd graphic for an interview piece, and the end credit graphic at the end. All you would need to do then is drop in your footage, cut it together and then export it.

This process is particularly handy for same day editing, when time is limited to complete edits.

Over Deliver on Expectations

I shot plenty of location b-roll at the St Regis Bal Harbour Hotel, North Beach, Miami. Taken on the Sony a7S and Samyang 35mm T/1.5

Lastly and most importantly, creating a good video that the client likes is great; you’ve completed your brief. However to really wow your client, give a little extra to the videos you make, whether it’s a timelapse, working a little later than intended or delivering more videos. That little bit extra could make the client choose you for the next event they put on.

Sunrise on North Beach, taken on the Sony a7S and Tamron 24-70 F/2.8

BVE 2016 from the show floor (a very late post)

Why Miss The UK's Leading Video Expo?

I've been going to BVE since 2010 when it was held in Earls Court, and it's still a great place to be to meet up with friends, network with other producers and manufacturers, and to get hands on with new kit.

This years BVE had a different feel to it, maybe it was the new layout, a much improved press area but also some of the big names didn't have a stand. This was certainly beneficial for WTS Broadcast who had the only new Sony PXW-Z150 at the show, and from talking to their team, on the opening day there was a queue around the show bar just to take a look at the video camera. The video and article can be seen here on Cinema5D.

I was glad I arrived as the doors were opening, as after a quick press area pit stop I had a walk around the show floor to gauge where interesting stands would be. It was then, when I walked up to the Intro2020 stand and saw the new Samyang XEEN Cine lenses on show. Luckily enough, the two new models; 14mm T/3.1 and 35mm T/1.5 arrived so I grabbed a scoop with them.

The build quality of the lenses is similar to the Schneider cine optics, and I was very surprised that the weight of the 35mm was lighter than my Tamron 24-70! The lenses are available at around £1600 each, and just over £7000 for a set of 5 in a hard case, so it bridges the gap between their VDSLR lenses and the more expensive cine lenses like the Zeiss CP2's or Schneiders. I had a very quick play with the 35mm T/1.5 and the optical quality surpasses its original cine lens range, and also comes in a PL mount.

There is also another lens in the range due to be released in the Summer, which will most likely be a 135mm lens. when I talked to James from Intro2020 there was no sign of cine-zooms which is a shame. For more info on the Samyang XEEN lenses check out the site here.

I was also giving the Sennheiser AVX system a trial run at the show while filming interviews. It's the new wireless microphone system that's the upgrade from the ENG-100 G3 wireless system, with many great benefits.

You'll notice the audio receiver is much smaller than the transmitter which is very convenient for a compact setup, especially if you use a camera cage like myself. Also, no wired aerials is a bonus as they are often the most fragile part of the unit.

The kit also includes a new ME2 lavalier microphone which has an improved housing and design, it also comes with extra clips and capsule covers for when some light maintenance is needed.

The resulting audio quality is much better than the previous included microphone, while filming interviews at BVE the improved quality was evident with the mic eliminating plenty of 'room noise' while capturing the subjects voice. I'll be doing a further comparison between the originan ME2, the Rode Lavalier and the new ME2 microphone in this set.

An overwhelming bonus to this new system is it's internal battery, which charges via USB. Many new products are incorporating an internal battery which takes away the reliance on AA or AAA batteries which can fluctuate in charge. After fully charging both transmitter and receiver fully, they indicated a whopping 17 hours battery life!

The kit also includes an XLR to TRS adapter cable which allows you to go straight out via XLR from the receiver into the camera's microphone input. Of course, this is optional depending on your setup, but it was ideal for running and gunning around BVE as I didn't need to use an audio recorder like the H1 or H6!

For more info on the AVX systems check out Sennheiser here

Check out the Sony Z150 video here -

Check out the Samyang XEEN Lens video here -

Reviving the 5D mk III for HD Video with Atomos Ninja Blade!

Reviving the 5D mk III for HD Video with Atomos Ninja Blade!

I get out and film with the Atomos Ninja Blade (external HD recorder and monitor) to revive my Canon 5D mk III!

Exciting things to come at APVideo

October Update with lots of 4K

Evening all! It's been a long summer, made even longer by fantastic work with friends and brilliant clients. My last post 'Filming with the JVC GY-LS300..' has actually been in the works for months, but I didn't see fit to release it without a couple of the accompanying videos. As well as completing productions for Screen Systems, I also worked with NewsShooter.com to produce the coverage and blogs over IBC 2015. It was great to work with Dan, Elliot, Matt and the others from the NewsShooter team, more on IBC in another post.

On returning from IBC, I met up with Dan and we played around with some old 'budget' manual lenses with the LS300 and got some interesting results. Many of the lenses were purchased for £5 or at least under £10, giving it the budget aspect. The LS300 is also somewhat of a budget option for a video camera, but with the eagerly anticipated J-LOG gamma curve firmware update, much more visual quality and dynamic range can be captured. Together, that makes the 'budget lens challenge', in which you purchase a cheap lens, and make a short vid with it on a budget setup!

Can you do the 'Budget Lens Challenge'? Send over your results and #budgetlens on twitter to @plowman91 and @theNewsshooter!

Coming up, I am working on part 3 and 4 of the JVC GY-LS300 camera review which will include using J-LOG; filming and grading with it, as well as including the budget lenses I've acquired as part of the budget lens challenge!

Thanks to Manfrotto and WTS Broadcast for your support.

Filming with JVC GY-LS300. Is it the next underestimated camera? (Part 1 and 2)

Filming with the JVC GY-LS300 (PART 1)

I first met the LS300 at BVE 2015 in London where I went to the soft launch of JVC's 4K flagship video camera. There I met with Mike and John from JVC Pro UK who gave me of the walk through of the prototype they had on show.

Since then the camera has intrigued me as a production camera for filming and video. On paper it has similar specifications to the Canon C300 mk II and FS7, but only working with it would determine whether it weighs in as a contender. Time was rather tight for actually filming with the camera itself, so I timed it right for a music gig and extra time away from the desk to get out and shoot some material.

I got the GY-LS300 from WTS Broadcast

The wonderful guys at WTS Broadcast helped me out with the camera as I was looking to test it out and they had one in stock. I've got a great relationship with Alex at WTS and after a long conversation back and forth I was tempted to finally use the camera for filming, so I loaned one out for a gig and test shoot.

JVC LS300 4K video camera

Specs of the LS300

  • Internal 4K (UHD) 3840x2160 at 150Mbit/s in 24/25/30p.
  • HD in 24/25/30/50/60 interlaced and progressive.
  • Wireless video transmission capability.
  • Super 35 size sensor.
  • MFT mount.
  • Variable Scan Mapping (VSM).
  • Dual SD card slots.

Coincidentally, James from LogoLogo (Brighton) was up in London for an appointment, and keen to meet up after getting to know each other at Shadows and Light, this was the perfect opportunity to talk tech and film together at the Fleetmac Wood gig I had lined up for us at Birthdays in Dalston. We met up at WTS Media HQ in Fitzrovia where I introduced James to Duncan, and caught up over a drink overlooking the busyness of Oxford Street. It's awesome to meet up with a new friend, there are always so many stories to share.

We made our way to Dalston on the hot and sticky underground. Luckily I had no backpack as I'd packed all the kit (including the LS300) into the Manfrotto Roller Bag 70. It is a well padded case, and with varying foam dividers I simply constructed the bag sections before leaving home to accommodate the JVC camera, top handle, microphone, for example. It's an awesome bag for (definitely more than) two reasons - transportation and diversity. Transportation in which I can comfortably travel with the bag, and diversity in which I can securely store both photography lenses and pro production cameras.

The Manfrotto Roller Bag 70 also accompanied on my recent trip to Hollywood, and on both occasions it was perfect for the job. When I arrived at WTS Media I simply rearranged the dividers to accommodate the larger LS300 and its accessories. Flexibility is definitely at the heart of this bag.

In the restaurant across the road I got the camera set up and ready to film with, attaching the Metabones EF-MFT lens adapter and the Sigma 35mm T/1.5 lens. On arrival at the venue (Birthdays), I discovered that the settings are not easy to navigate; it takes a silly amount of time to locate the essential settings such as changing the video resolution, codec and format. Not very functional for run and gun or quick shooting work especially when you like switching between real-time and slow-mo, or using the VSM feature.

 I went a bit retro with using a 17-50mm for APS-C on the A7S to give it the vignetting, and I like the outcome!

I went a bit retro with using a 17-50mm for APS-C on the A7S to give it the vignetting, and I like the outcome!

Because of the MFT mount and sensor size, it's possible to use EF-S or APS-C lenses with this camera, and also Micro Four Thirds (when you use VSM). I have the Tamron 17-50mm VC that I use on the 60D which is an ideal wide angle lens, however I chose to use the 24-70 (full frame) instead, which made the camera + lens combo extremely front heavy. However even with a smaller lens, the build of the camera itself seems somewhat plastic-like and unbalanced. I'd expect if the camera was rigged out with a shoulder pad, V-lock battery and recorder it would be much more balanced, but the camera isn't constructed for this, or at least it didn't feel like it.

Note: If you are using native MFT lenses directly to the camera mount, the combo is much smaller and lighter. Of course, you will have to use the VSM to crop in on the sensor to around 80% for the correct sensor coverage.

 From JVC Pro with adapter and EF lens

From JVC Pro with adapter and EF lens

 From HD Warrior with MFT lens

From HD Warrior with MFT lens

Honestly, I was rather disappointed with the quality of the flip out LCD screen and back eyepiece. I guess I've been spoiled with the A7S' viewfinder which is fantastic in quality and contrast. The LS300's didn't stack up, and I often found myself needing to use the eyepiece instead of the screen to judge the focus and exposure. What became difficult was finding the critical focus in contrasty situations. I could have used the digital zoom (expanded focus), but didn't know it existed.

 The LS300 with Samyang 14mm T/3.1, which on this camera equates to around 20mm.

The LS300 with Samyang 14mm T/3.1, which on this camera equates to around 20mm.

Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of time in between eating and the gig to sus the camera out apart from checking the resolution, setting the white balance, setting pre-rec run etc. As we were filming a DJ gig I didn't want to have the camera (I was borrowing) out for long in case it got damaged or covered in booze.

Filming Fleetmac Wood was fantastic, Lisa and Alex are brilliant DJ's and their tambourines definitely lit up the dance floor. The added visuals from old music videos added to the eclectic experience, combined with mixes from many talented producers made the night one to remember.

As you would imagine, the venue was dark, only lit by a couple of LED lights and the projector. Almost immediately I ruled out using the LS300 after capturing a couple of shots of the venue and booth, in what the camera seemed to think was candle light. In these scenarios, I don't believe the camera would hold up unless you had the time, space and equipment for a lighting setup. Sure, you could shoot at T/1.5 but you'll get nothing in focus if you're filming crowds dancing, plus with the gain up to +12dB your picture becomes noisy.

James took some brilliant photos and videos of the night, some of which are below in the gallery and also included in the Fleetmac Wood @ Birthdays film.

While filming the Fleetmac Wood gig I did switch lenses a couple of times, firstly to the Samyang 35mm T/1.5 which although was heavy, had a wonderful bokeh and combined with the super 35 sensor made for great video. I also teamed it up with the Atomos Shogun (in HD) rather than 4K via SDI, which captured the video in ProRes HQ.

By my reckoning, you'll need to spec up this camera with additional extras to make it what you want to be. Out of the box it comes with all you would need to start (minus the SD cards and microphone and some spare batteries), but you'll need a tripod or monopod to keep it steady, especially if you're using primes of lenses without image stabilization/vibration control.

Saying that, if you weren't filming a music gig in low light you would have a lot more options and time to compose the frame... I come on to that in a moment.

I've cut all of the footage together for this edit which includes filming from the A7S, LS300, A7S with the Shogun in 25p and 50p, LS300 with the Shogun in 25p (HD), and footage from James Beer (LogoLogo) on the A7S in 50p and 100p.

Photography by James Beer @ LogoLogo

Filming with the GY-LS300 under normal circumstances (PART 2)

I had the LS300 loaned out for a week to put it through its paces, filming in a number of different scenarios. I shot quite a number of clips out in my garden just to get a feel for the camera and figure out it's settings. Of course, Alfie the cat was a willing subject!

From testing out the VSM feature, I can't see a big degredation in light or quality when you change the sensor scan mode from 100% down to 80% for MFT lenses, however I was using great quality lenses (Tamron and Samyang) rather than MFT lenses which have a smaller in-lens depth of field, so there is more light coming through the lens for the sensor to capture.

The built in ND filters are a god-send, and a very welcome adittion to a camera that would be used with large-aperture lenses. If you wish to shoot at T/1.5 for a very shallow look, using 1/64 ND in the bright daylight is probably your only option. Saying that, unlike using ND filters in front of the lens, there isn't a noticable colour cast of image degredation like with other filters. However, more ND stops please!! Going from 1/4 to 1/16 to 1/64 are big jumps, and in some cases, 1/64 was not enough!

While out and about filming in Ewell, I simply had the LS300 with the JVC50 battery, 1 SD card and the Tamron 24-70 on a Manfrotto 755CX-3 tripod. For run and gunning, despite the build of the camera it works extremely well for this kind of filming.

Unlike the FS7 and Canon Cinema cameras, the LS300 doesn't have any log capabilities for a wider dynamic range, which was expected as JVC marketed this camera for higher-end productions. It would be interesting to see how well the camera performs with a log curve and higher bitrate  recording for filming that needs it. From filming with the 'standard' colour setting and 'detail' knocked all the way down the image is rather pleasing, much better than I expected. I guess the viewfinder/eyepiece gave me lesser expectations of what the captured image would look like, so I was pleasnatly suprised to see the results.

However, like mentioned before, the viewfinder/eyepiece is not the best quality and without using the 'focus extender' function, it was difficult to achieve critical focus. Some of this is evident in one of the demo films I've produced with the camera. I also noticed that the form factor of the camera doesn't allow you to get a nice, steady shot like a shoulder mount camera would where you have numerous contact points on your body. With a top-mounted eyepiece it doesn't feel natural to hold the camera in front of your chest (for hand held or monopod filming), and is not steady, even with IS or vibration control.

Despite other things, the battery life is a winner, on one battery (JVC50) giving you over 200 minutes of filming time. I took the camera out to a local business networking night put on by What's On In My Town and Hobbledown, as I am joining forces with them to promote local business and talent it was a perfect opportunity to capture some of the event and talk to other companies about how films can help them.

It was a wonderful summer evening at Hobbledown children's farm, kindly the hosts for the networking, with attendees getting a full tour of the venue and a go on the new high ropes activity! David the manager and his team were fantastic and played great hosts with the BBQ.

With this beautiful golden hour of filming, the LS300 really shone as a camera. Yes, I probably shot at F/3.2 with ND 1/16 because I wanted a shallow depth of field, but ND 1/4 at F/8 was too bright. I was pulling focus all the time during the piece to camera from Whats On MD, Paul. I also found that as he walked from the shadows into highlights, he would become over exposed, so high contrast filming wouldn't be practical (unless you had some control over lighting) with this camera.

Revisiting this post about a week on from my last entry..

It was really rather easy to work with the footage from the LS300, and knowing there is a focus expander gives me more confidence in it. However, as you will have seen from the footage in the film above I do focus creep due to not being certain using the LCD screen or eyepiece. Premiere handled the 4K footage very well, without having to render until I added some colour correction, scaling and graphics.

You'll also probably notice the shots where I attempted to go handheld, this is where the form factor of the camera somewhat let it down, but hey ho that's what a rig or tripod is for.

In the longer piece to camera with Paul, the image captured was lovely and had a pleasing depth of field to work with (not too shallow like the A7S, but not too deep like the GH4). Of course you can use any wide aperture lens with the camera if you wanted it to be bokelicious!

Capturing my local countryside (the last test)

(Starring my thumb...)

I'm surrounded by greenery where I live, so making the most of the great weather I headed out with the camera to capture some local landmarks (for another archiving/history project I'm working on). This would be a real high-contrast/dynamic range test for the camera.

When thinking about purchasing this camera, it boils down to what I can get for the price, especially in comparison to other internal 4K cameras (Panasonic GH4, Sony A7R II). They are smaller, both will require a lens adapter (as will the LS300) and new batteries, SD cards, rig, and are cheaper than the LS300 (without a microphone).

APVideo JVC LS300 Final Thoughts...

Why I would by the LS300?

  • Long battery life (but need to purchase batteries) with JVC50 batteries.
  • Internal 4K on SD cards, U3 600x capable.
  • ND filters (1/4, 1/16, 1/64).
  • Super 35 sensor with lovely picture (but you would need to shoot at T/1.5 or F/1.4 for a cinematic look to it).
  • Microphone/audio inputs.
  • Compatible with current lenses, but would require EF-MFT adapter.
  • Wireless, 4K via HDMI and HD via HD-SDI outputs.
  • HD-SDI for HD output and HDMI for 4K UHD output.
  • Extended focus, to crop in digitally and acquire critical focus.
  • No obvious quality drop when using the VSM at smaller scan sizes (87% and 80% MFT).

Why I wouldn't buy the LS300?

  • The form factor is not ergonomic, like a large video camera rather than production camera. It would need to be rigged with a shoulder mount for use to be comfortable.
  • Camera build is plastic, doesn't feel sturdy and some parts (ND filter wheel) feel delicate.
  • Not enough ND filter stops, needs at least 2-3 more, with improved digital filter wheel instead of mechanical, which feels very plastic like.
  • No variable 4K bit rates (up to 150Mb/s) or slow mo.
  • Low light is definitely not the cameras forte unless shooting very wide.
  • Terrible LCD screen and EVF quality.
  • Does not include a microphone.
  • The placement of the video output connectors is near the lens, which is odd considering other ports are at the back of the camera.
  • The dynamic range doesn't hold up to that of the GH4 or A7S.
  • The picture/colour settings are extremely limited, with no gamma curve or log option. This means the image is considerably burnt in with limited grading or colour correction options.

NEW Mid-August Update!

I've been away for a little while, so the review was put on hold until my return. On which I found out some interesting news from JVC, who have decided to upgrade the firmware of the LS-300 with new features..

  • JVC-Log - supposedly increased dynamic range, for colour grading.
  • Full DCI 4K and 2K resolutions - currently only UHD 4K is available, and no 2K option.
  • Prime Lens Zoom - ability to use the zoom rocker to extend the focal length of prime lenses using the VSM feature.

READ THE FULL PRESS RELEASE from JVC PRO HERE

Considering these new updates, the camera is now more capable of competing against higher level players, rather than the DSLR/mirrorless market. I'm due to test the camera out again in September, hopefully with the new firmware 2.0 to compare!

Finally, big thanks to WTS Broadcast for lending me the camera for a week to test it out. To Manfrotto for their Roller Bag 70 and 755Cx-3 tripod, and to Fleetmac Wood & Whats On In My Town for letting me film their events.

MORE COMING FROM MY SEPTEMBER TESTS SOON!

Filming in LA 'CineGear 2015' in Hollywood with Sony A7S, Manfrotto + Rode

APVideo: CineGear 2015 @ Paramount Pictures, LA

It's been a rather amazing few weeks for me here at APVideo. So here is the low down on what I did, what kit I used and what is coming up next!

Jump back to the beginning of June and I get a call from NewsShooter.com asking if I'm available to cover CineGear in Hollywood for them. With an empty space in the diary, I jumped on the chance to visit LA and begun the prep to cover the expo with video.

To familiarise myself with the exhibitors, I checked out the interactive map and visited the websites of companies of interests and viewed the latest press releases to get clued up on the news. (Always be prepared).

Manfrotto provided me with the fantastic Roller Bag 70 for my trip overseas, into which I moulded the foam inserts to protect the cameras and kit I'd be taking. Since it was a short trip, I only took the bare neccessities!!

  • Sony A7S in Movcam cage and Metabones Adapter mk IV
  • Tamron 24-70
  • Nikon 50mm F/1.4
  • Zoom H6
  • Rode Lavalier
  • Manfrotto 755CX-3 + MVH500AH

Told you it was bare!

It was a couple of long flights over to LAX.. Some snaps from the journey on the A7S.

It was my first time flying to America, so I was keen to snap up as much as I can, and enjoy the Virgin Atlantic hospitality!

I highly recommend the Mondrian Hotel on West Sunset Blvd, it is bloody amazing. Rooftop restaurant and bar, amazing hotel views, and staff that feel like family!

View from Mondrian LA

The following morning I constructed the Movcam cage rig with the kit I brought, which compacted all of the filming kit into one tiny hand held rig which I could put on the Manfrotto 755Cx-3 tripod.

I got myself one of these handy little hot/cold shoe mounts for anything with a 1/4" screw hole; in this case I was using it with the Zoom H6 but it fits most accessories. If I were using the Atomos Shogun, I'd of used a magic arm (just for flexibility in adjusting the screen angle), but as I was monitoring the audio with headphones and checked the levels beforehand I didn't need to see the monitor per se. An alternate is to simply use a ball mount, but I find these sometimes don't lock down the position strongly enough (especially cheaper ones).

Very lightweight packing for a 3 night trip.

I took of the video head by unscrewing the locking screws at the base.

I got an UBER from the hotel to the studios, and after registering and waiting for the show to open, I made my way to the stages to begin filming! I had about 10 interviews to do on the first day to get a head start and the main content back to NewsShooter (who are a day ahead time wise).

Cool-Lux, Atomos, SLR Magic, Beeworks and a host of other manufacturers were on the list to capture. For the setup, I shot using PB's recommended video settings (cine-4 etc see previous blog post) with the Zoom H6 recording dual audio both on the stereo XY mic and via the Rode Lavalier which I clipped onto the interviewees.

Thats Andrew from SLR Magic talking about their new Rangefinder, Anamorphot and Noktor lenses.

The plan was to shoot the 10 interviews with plenty of B-roll and begin editing that night. It was a late one, staying up until 4am editing the first batch of videos. I got the SLR Magic one out that morning before my head hit the pillow.

4 hours later.

Up I was to complete the last of the edits in Premiere Pro. The videos follow the same format, so after opening the exported XML sequence from Pluraleyes I could simply drop in the titles and credits, the lower 3rd and QC the video before exporting.

The show opened later that day, so I made my way down that afternoon. The Manfrotto tripod I was using was perfect for this kind of filming. Being mobile and having a small footprint is a real issue when covering events, and you should try and stay as small and quick on your feet as possible.

Michael from ARRI at Cinegear

The rig was so convenient I carried around on my shoulder all day!

That evening it was recovery time from the lack of sleep and jet lag carrying over from the previous night, but while I was putting my feet up watching Jurassic Park in the hotel I had Premiere whizzing away with the new footage I had shot that day.

Because of the format, replication of sequences was rather fast. Using Premiere means no rendering time and instant playback, so I spent little to no time waiting around as I queued up the finalized sequences into Media Encoder, and batch exported while I was editing together the next sequence. Keeping check on the white balance and varying exposure of indoor and outdoor shooting meant no colour correction was needed in the edit, which also sped up the production process, I could get the news from the show quicker out to NewsShooter!

The beauty of shooting on the A7S was that I could shoot at F/11 and beyond outside due to the wonderful Hollywood weather, but inside if I needed extra light I could punch up the ISO to 2400-6000 with no real visual difference (unless you want to pixel peep).

The Rode Lavalier is a real workhorse for me. Before leaving I set it up with the small wind jammer and the Micon-5 XLR adapter so it would plug comfortably into the H6. For an inexpensive microphone it does a fantastic job of capturing the subject and cancelling out the background noise, which at an expo is quite loud in some cases.

In case you need advice on SD cards, I use the Transcend Ultimate 600x 64Gb U3 cards (purply pink label) as they are XAVC and S-log compatible.. Not that I have shot using the S-log yet.

Feel like I should say 'Mirror, mirror, on the huge podium in the centre of my hotel room'.

Just as quickly as I arrived, it was time for me to depart. I got an UBER to LAX where I picked up a couple of snacks to munch on while I edited the remaining videos to be exported when I got back home.

 That guy sitting above my laptop was vaping away on an e-cig by the gate. I thought to myself 'surely this wouldn't be legal in England'.. It isn't!

That guy sitting above my laptop was vaping away on an e-cig by the gate. I thought to myself 'surely this wouldn't be legal in England'.. It isn't!

Bye bye wonderful Mondrian and LA

I returned home after a stop over in Las Vegas for probably about 20 minutes. So no gambling or anything like that as it was a quick transfer. So quick in fact that I needed to run to the gate (again, thanks to Delta, grr).

A fun filled 12 hour flight across the states and Canada, across the ocean and back into England was compiled of all 3 Hobbit films (as I was yet to watch them), followed by a hilarious comedy film called 'What We Do In The Shadows' by the same guys that made 'Flight Of The Concords'.

Bye bye LAX!

Damn its dry down there.. No forests or green!

Overall it was a brilliant working trip to Paramount to cover CineGear 2015 for NewsShooter, and a wonderful experience visiting the US too. I look forward to working again with NewsShooter at future events!

Out filming with the Sony A7S and Atomos Shogun in 4K!

I am still testing out the many brilliant features and benefits of the 4K combo I now have, one biggie was being able to grade the footage much more than what you're able to with internal camera recording.

I headed out to a local country park to catch some of the spring bluebells flowering, as well as to try out the dynamic range of the 4K Prores HQ footage and really push it in the grade.

A couple of photos while I was out and about, lovely day!

I took the Manfrotto 755CX-3 tripod with me as it is brilliantly lightweight, and despite the center column it can get pretty low to the ground for shots needing some perspective.

Still no Movcam cage yet, so I'm pretty nervous about having the Shogun on a ball mount, on the hot shoe, I did take care when moving around and took out the HDMI cable just in case.

I had 3 lenses with me, the Tamron 24-70, Sigma 70-200 and Canon 100mm L as I wanted to have a simple setup, one Manfrotto bag, essential kit, batteries etc.

After watching Philip Bloom's talk hosted by B&H a few months back, I set the camera settings to what he advised and went from there. Using PP7 for S-log increases the native ISO to 3200, so is not practical for bright scenes without ND filters, so here are my settings.

PP6 (allows ISO 200, practical for bright shoots) - Black Level 0, Gamma Cine 4, Color mode S-gamut, Saturation 0, Detail -7.

It was a bright sunny day and the Shogun was the perfect tool for the job. It's screen is very clear, unlike cheaper monitors which don't have a high contrast ratio or use LCD screens. Exposing for the highlights, I used the in-built Waveform monitor to gague exposure as well as the 2:1 crop in for getting critical focus - definitely needed for the wide landscape and macro shots.

You will not be surprised to see the HUGE file size of recording 4K in Prores HQ, averaging at about 2GB for 20 seconds.

It's less than 10 minutes worth of footage, in fact!

I did find this out while I was trying out the different outputs and recording formats.. For the PAL region the A7S has THREE HDMI output settings -

 - 1080 50p, 1080 50i, 4K 25p.

The Shogun will not record 25p footage from the camera when the HDMI output is set to 1080 50p, but you can record 1080 50p slow motion on the Shogun. Remember to set the A7S' recording format to 50p/50, instead of 25p for normal speed filming.

The Shogun will only record 1080 25p footage from the camera when the HDMI output is set to 1080 50i, with a 2:2 frame drop set. Remember to set the A7S' recording format to 25p/50.

You must set the '4K HDMI' setting in the A7S to output the 4K signal, and record in 4K 25p on the Shogun.

As part of the new 4K workflow, I am using Davinci Resolve Lite (FREE) for the colour grading process, but as this is a short video I tried out it's NLE which worked great. Similar look and feel to FCPX, but it gives you the ability to change edit points, manipulate scale, track and much more. It even has a keyer!

First Image - Editing interface, Second Image - Adjusting saturation in Color interface, Third Image - High contrast image BEFORE correction/grade, Fourth Image - High contrast image AFTER correction/grade, Fifth Image - Delivery interface.

Here is the ungraded version, with footage captured on the Shogun.

Here is a work-in-progress edit that is down-ressed to 1080 to upload it to Vimeo, the Youtube version in 4K (remember to change the resolution to 2160) is below!

I look forward to hearing your comments on the  videos I've put up!

New photos from the new A7S - A-MAZING

A selection of stills from the Sony A7S of my little vegetables growing in the greenhouse, Sam's new car, some flowers (Orchids and Carnations) in the house and olives from The Queen Adelaide!

Sony A7S, PP6, taken on Canon 100mm F/2.8L and Tamron 24-70 F/2.8 with a range of settings.

APV Now Captures In 4K UHD!

Hello all! Great news comes from APV in the form of the latest revolution in cinematography; capturing and delivering video and media content in 4K (3840x2160p) or Ultra High Definition using the Sony A7S camera and Atomos Shogun recorder.

Seeing the release of both the Sony A7S and Atomos Shogun at industry events, I was so keen to get my hands on this kit. Unlike DSLR's the A7S is mirrorless which means it's body is around 1/3 the size of the Canon 5D mkIII, it has incredible light sensitivity, the features to film in both slow-motion and using the S-Log gamma curve make it an ideal production camera in a tiny body.

I first saw the Shogun outside of an expo at the Shadows and Light workshop, a friend was showing me some footage he shot the evening before on the setup in 4K. He showed me the captured footage, and then applied the LUT in the Shogun to show what the result would be after grading.. I was blown away. Both as a monitor and a recorder, the Shogun excels at capturing HD and 4K video and audio with in-built monitors such as waveform and vectorscope, peaking, zebras, as well as recording in a range of formats at a much higher bit-rate than in camera recording - 220Mbit/s HD and 440Mbit/s 4K (I think) which is perfect for grading and video-focused productions to filmmaking.

I invested into Canon EF equipment a couple of years back as the 5D mkIII was to best option for large sensor filming, so instead of spending out on native Sony E mount lenses I purchased both the Metabones EF-E mount mk IV and the Commlite EF-E mount to use my current lenses.

Also knowing that the batteries for the A7S (FW-50) are much smaller in capacity than the LP-E6 Canon batteries, I ordered another 4 Sony's with the camera and two from Amazon with another charger (EX-Pro). Inevitably, all of the accessories came before the camera did.. So I eagerly charged and labelled up the kit and get it ready for the camera to arrive!

The camera came last week and not having any new toys for a while I was keen to play around and check out the cameras features straight away! Glen came over as the camera arrived, so he became my willing subject. I hooked up the Tamron 24-70 to the Metabones which worked fine and shot some handheld video, as the lenses vibration control was active. I also have an eyecup for the little viewfinder for another point of contact, to reduce the shake if I need to hand-hold for some shots.

As I was waiting for numerous deliveries to arrive (including the Shogun), I was housebound for a while so I made do with the plants in the garden and my cat for things to film. Here's some of the first footage captured -

A7S and Soligor 35-140 with metabones waiting for the Sparrows

A7S and Tamron 24-70 with metabones in the cage. Soon to be replaced by the Movcam rails kit.

A mix of footage shot for the first time on the Sony A7S, probably in No Picture Profile. Really love the image with the lenses that I have, very organic with fantastic light sensitivity. It was also impressive hooking up the Atomos Shogun to the 5D mk III for 1080p in ProRes HQ, which gives much more latitude for colour grading and post work because of the much higher bit rate.

The best friend has bought a swanky new Audi, so he took me for a spin! I was still getting used to the photo mode and controls, it was past 8pm with the sun only just set so the ISO was wacked up reasonably high.

Because the cable for connecting the A7S to the Shogun hadn't arrived yet (from Atomos) I went searching around Epsom with no avail for a micro HDMI to HDMI cable. I ordered one off Amazon for evening delivery, which came while I took the photos of Sams new car!

I was overly happy with the recorded images that I captured in the mean time with the Shogun hooked up to the 5D mk III. I decided to record them in ProRes HQ to see how far I could push the footage in colour correction, post and grading. It worked fantastically, so much in fact that I'm deeply considering teaming the 5D mk III with another Atomos recorder for the same reasons as above.

I finally got my hands on a micro HDMI cable to road test the 4K HDMI output from the A7S to the Shogun, and just as I began to film, Alfie the cat decided he wanted to join in! I don't remember the picture profile, but it was shot with a pretty wide aperture on the Tamron 24-70. I also tried out the down-ressing method that I'll be using for 4K filming but delivering in HD, so I edited the 4K sequence twice, one in native 4K resolution and the other in a 1080p sequence with some clips scaled down or cropped. NOTE - please change the resolution to the highest possible for the best results!

4K still from the Shogun recorder, shot in 4K ProRes HQ

Let me know what you think!

NOTE - Change resolution to 2160!!!

A short first test filming in 3820x2160 UHD-4K resolution in ProRes HQ on the Atomos Shogun, with the Sony A7S camera. No correction/sharpening/grading in camera or post. Exported in H.264 with a target bitrate of 100Mbits, hoping it holds! I tried to shoot some orchids, but my cat Alfie saw what was going on and wanted to join in!

4K version on Vimeo, remember Vimeo does not have 4K playback yet so this has been down-ressed by Vimeo. Please watch the Youtube video above for the 4K version.

As a comparison, this is the down-res version of the 'Creatives and their cats' video originally shot in 3840x2160 4K-UHD using the Atomos Shogun and Sony A7S. View the original here - This version has been scaled down in Premiere by 50%, with some re-framing in a 1080p sequence, with 4K footage. No correction, sharpening, grading in camera or post. Originally shot in ProRes HQ. I tried to shoot some orchids, but my cat Alfie saw what was going on and wanted to join in! The cropping and re-framing of 4K footage for 1080p HD delivery is a brilliant feature to have, meaning high quality footage can be future-proofed and still delivered in great HD resolution.

I also shot some Picture Profile tests to compare the colours, DR, contrast and noise, this is to come later!

Shadows and Light was INCREDIBLE!

I arrived for the brand new 'Shadows and Light' two day filmmaking workshop on Sunday evening, excited to hone in on skills and meet new friends. The drive was smooth, only an hour from Surrey down to Brighton where I was greeted by lovely staff and great room at the Umi (on the seafront).

I dumped my stuff and met my good friend and VFX/Director mastermind HaZ before heading to the pre-drinks to meet everyone. Informal drinks like this are perfect for networking, so remember business cards!!

I met Olly, the 'behind the scenes' filmmaker for the night and the first day and got chatting as he was using a 5D mkIII like me. I also caught up with Nino, and met the wonderful organizer of the event, Fraser, who did a great job of running the event, keeping everything in check.

HaZ and I also chatted to Ollie Kenchington about production for grading and many other things, another great person to meet!!

I also met Yusuf at the pre-drinks when talking about shooting on the A7S, and on returning to the hotel I met Giordano Borghi, an Italian wedding filmmaker who I really enjoyed chatting to over a whisky on the rocks.

Day one was hosted at 'Dukes at Komedia' theatre in Brighton town, great venue with comfortable seats for recovery from the late night.. I was enthralled by Vincent Laforets presentation about motion, in which I got grilled by Vincent in front of the professionals and attendees over my 'Seasons Are Changing' video. He commented it was beautifully shot, but the long takes with unmotivated movement would make the audience somewhat bored. It was fantastic feedback from him, despite the public screening!!

Technical Difficulties?

After a break, HaZ presented his talk about VFX in low budget film making, and also considering and directing it in your films. As always HaZ is just a fantastic chap and screened the whole SYNC film, which I was the 1st AC on (shot in Southend), and features one of my shots on the jib!

It was then I met James, who is incorporating film into his company. He's a fantastic dude, and it was great to meet him and chat more throughout the day. I look forward to collaborating in the future :)

Another talk that got me thinking was 'Colour Grading' by Olly Kenchington, who got in deep with shadows and light, and colour theory, and how to produce such grades in Resolve with ease, as well as enhancing the shots/scenes from OK to GREAT!

Day 1 ended with Philip Bloom's talk, followed by the party! Well done to the raffle winners, great prizes donated from the events sponsors; Miller, Rode, Adobe and more.

Day 2 comprised of intense group workshops covering many areas of filmmaking. We were divided into groups which was great for networking with new people attending, and headed to Philip Bloom's workshop on using gimbals (like the MoVI) for filming motion. We got hands on with a range of equipment to see what it's like to operate/walk around using an M5 with a Sony A7S.

I was impressed by this little Defy G2X gimball.

Next on to James Miller's 'Lens Whacking' workshop, very hands on with old manual lenses out in the street. I met one of the models, Ruby, and had a great time filming her while trying to get the hang of 'whacking' the lens for 'ethereal' looking light leaks and almost 'tilt-shift' esque focusing.

Luckilly for us, the sun was beaming through the clouds which was perfect for trying to get some leaks in the frame. We stopped for lunch, then continued on to Vincent's workshop.. The BEST of the day!

Vincent talked through a number of movies with a moving camera, breaking down the scene to show how the narrative flows and is complemented by moving the camera, and the characters in frame. We then got hands on blocking out a small scene, which was fantastic to see to get to grips with working as a director when moving the camera.

Lastly was my good mate, Nino, who was talking about filming interviews and using motion control to add interest to otherwise uninspiring corporates. Using a bright window, we set up an interview scene with LED lights and the Kessler second shooter device to move the camera on the pocket dolly. This added much needed life to an otherwise 'standard' two camera shoot.

It was how big, Nino?!

I had an awesome time, and was happy to give a piece to camera about my thoughts on the workshop. Over the two days I learned an incredible amount that I can directly apply to my work to make films that are more engaging and that have motivated movement! I made loads of new friends too, both from the UK and internationally. For networking and collaboration, there was no better place to be.

Tomorrows video shoot for the IABM at the Hospital Club!

Tomorrow APV is filming at The Hospital Club for the IABM. We're holding a technical discussion and debate on a number of industry topics. I'll have much more to come tomorrow!

The setup will be similar to the previous IABM panel video, but without the Lastolite Panoramic background. As always I have the Manfrotto Pro Light 35 packed with two camera bodies, essential lenses, batteries, memory and audio gear, as well as 3 1x1 bi-colour LED lights and pro stands.

I'll be trying out the old Soligor Pentax K mount 35-140mm F/3.5 macro on the 60D, as it does not register with the 5D. I may have to remove the chip.. I'll have some detail shots of it tomorrow.

Audio wise, we'll be using the Zoom H6 for recording multi-track audio from the 4 Sony and Rode lavalier microphones, as well as other on camera mics.

APV Filming at Coronation Street, ITV and dock10 Studios for The IABM!

Way back in November, myself and Dick Hobbs began the pre-production of a new training video covering the behind the scenes of a television studio for the IABM. Unfortunately for me, it was difficult to pin down a location that close to Christmas and New Year with access to studios, galleries and other areas. Dick luckily got the go ahead for filming at the Corrie studios mid-way through BVE, so prep quickly began after.

My trusty crew was Glen, who operated the AutoScript for our presenter Georgie, and John Harris on audio (from JHWF). Dick made sure we were all in check with the script while I lugged around the camera and prompter :)

As there were three of us travelling up to Manchester on the Monday night, I chose to drive from Surrey, which was pretty straightforward, just a heck of a long journey to make at the end of the day. We arrived after a couple of toilet and coffee stops at 9:30, dropped the gear and headed to the table Georgie and Dick had. Beer was served and all was well!

As Dick and myself had planned the shoot well, I selected just the right amount of equipment needed. We were on a restricted budget so I opted to stick with my camera and audio setup rather than hire in a camera. We also borrowed an AutoScript from Vitec, to relay the rather technically heavy (at some points) script to our brilliant presenter.

The equipment list (rather sparing for this shoot!):

Canon 5D mk III

Canon 60D

Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 OS

Tamron 24-70mm F/2.8 VC

Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 VC

Canon 50mm F/1.8

Manfrotto 536 Carbon Fibre tripod

Manfrotto 504 Video head

Manfrotto 755CX3 Carbon fibre tripod + MVH500 AH head

Manfrotto Spectra 900FT LED light

Manfrotto Master light stand

Zoom H6 audio recorder

Rode Lavalier microphone

Sennheiser ENG-G3 wireless RxTx for lav mic

AutoScript prompter

All of camera and audio kit fitted into the AWESOME Manfrotto Pro Light 35 Backpack: I use the top compartment for the audio gear and accessories, the main sections for camera storage, and the back compartment for my laptop. It's a very comfortable carry regardless of the weight, and if I was walking/traveling for a longer time I just strapped on the waist support to take the weight off my shoulders. The front pockets are especially handy for grabbing memory card wallets and batteries quickly, as that is the most common thing I go to my bag for! Glen wheeled the prompter station around on it's pelicase, there was no way all of that could have fitted in! I did check the other day for AutoScript on tablets, which would be a much more viable solution for me.

In the MF bag for the big tripod I also brought a set of rails (just in case we needed them for the prompter) and the hydrostatic arm with the super clamp attached. You never know when they will come in handy, and when we were there I spotted one on the set!

Holiday Inn MediaCity

For anyone working at MediaCity needing to spend the night somewhere, the Holiday Inn right in the center is perfect. From above the first floor is the dock10 studios, offices and editing HQ, but you would have no idea it was there when you reach the 8th - 15th floor for your room. Plushly furnished, executive desk/workspace and a wonderful bathroom. One of the best I've been in!!

Day 1

We had a talk about the shoot ahead, as it would be hit and miss on the locations we were aiming to film in due to working around the current productions at Corrie (4 different crews filming that day), we needed to make the most of our available time. After a short walk across the quay, opposite Old Trafford stands the new Coronation Street and ITV Studios.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with coffee, then a guided tour of the facility to get to grips with our new location for the next two days. It was quite nerve-racking for me being a tiny video producer in the shadow of ITV, but I was also in awe of the scale and technology that has been used to make Coronation Street such an iconic television program.

We began the filming in what I now know as the 'Windas' flat, capturing some GV and B-roll of the system cameras, microphone booms, lighting setups and the set itself, clips that would be used throughout the video.

Camera settings: Tungsten white balance to match set lights, sticking to 1/50 shutter, aperture of F/5.6 and ISO ranging from 400-1600.
Mostly shot on Tamron 24-70 F/2.8 and Sigma 70-200 F/2.8.
— Adam

I also shot some more material in the Rovers interior set, which has a new LED lighting rig, in comparison to the other tungsten lit sets. It was impressive being in there, and was much smaller in reality, but we pulled up a chair at one of the booths and started recording the voice overs as the prompter hadn't arrived for the shoot yet!

For lavalier microphones, remember to attach them upwards or downwards depending on your subjects speech to avoid pops and hisses. Try to always record a back up audio track too, just in case your plan fails. Here we have 3 separate tracks recording on the H6: lavalier on presenter, gun mic and the mid side mic attachment on the device.

After recording all of the VO, we headed to the lot of the cobbled streets where a scene was being filmed as we overlooked and walked through! I shot some more cutaways of the street and crew in action on the 5D and 70-200. We had a fantastic guide who gave us many technical secrets into the new production facility, it was fantastic!!

IMG_2027.JPG

The AutoScript had arrived!!! We quickly got set to putting it together, however John, Glen and myself had no experience in putting one together, so to the internet it was! A few minutes later we had the prompter up and running, the camera set, working lights on, microphone levels set and were ready to roll.

As you can see, the normally small 5D and 70-200 filming combo goes out the window when using a prompter. Very front heavy!

Our filming took us all around the studios including Roy's Rolls and the Rovers, showing how a drama program is produced. Our access also allowed us into the production galleries, editing and grading suites for more 'piece to camera' filming as well as capturing plenty of GV showing the equipment in action.

We wrapped up day 1 late that evening which allowed us to capture most of the content for the video: we shot scenes 1 through to 7, great progress and took the pressure off day 2 as we didn't know what access we would have.

When we got back to the hotel, the importing and backing up began. I like to play the 'guess the gigabyte' game, simply guessing the total file size of the captured material. Although we were working loads throughout the day, I think the day 1 total was around 60Gb all in all. I backed up onto 3 drives that night just in case.

Day 2

We started a little later to recover from the long day before, enjoyed a big breakfast, plenty of coffee and headed over to the studios with our suitcases as it was our last day. We had access to the edit and grading suites in the morning, where I shot plenty of B roll just in case, as it turned out we wouldn't get access to the finishing or dubbing suites so this came in handy.

As Corrie filming had finished on the street, we quickly went out to shoot the final 'conclusion' scene of the training video outside the Rovers and on the cobbles. The prompter required a power supply, so we de-rigged it for this scene, I used the 5D and 70-200 only for these shots. Most of the time I shot at around F/11-16 as it was rather bright outside, but it also keeps some of the background visible instead of blowing it out with bokeh.

The machine room was a challenge due to the heavy air conditioning for the racks and racks of networking, storage and server equipment to keep it cool. Not particularly for the vision, but John did a great job of operating the H6 and monitoring the audio with so much background noise. The gun mic was out of the question, so we captured solely using the Rode Lavalier mic, which worked well for this environment.

As a back up I also captured plenty of B roll, and John captures a voice over from Georgie of the machine room scene just in case the native sound was too distracting. Luckilly, the Rode lavalier coped well!!

I had access to the working production galleries as scenes were being recorded under Tony Warren, Coronation Streets award winning director. It was amazing to watch him and his team work! I'm not allowed to talk about what I saw being captured though :)

That was the last filming stop at Corrie before we departed, saying a massive thank you to our guide and staff at the facility who were so welcoming and helpful. It was a breezy walk back to the Holiday Inn, as I thought I had lost my car keys, before the very long drive home!

The team did a fantastic job over the intense two day shoot, it was Glen's first job operating a prompter and although it was a challenge putting it together he quickly picked up the operation. For me, it was awesome seeing the technology behind a drama serial that captures its programs like live television. Being a completely new facility, the studios had brand new vision mixers, racks, lighting and sound control which was fascinating to see and learn more about.

Highlights/reel of the Coronation Street video shoot coming soon!

#MadeWithManfrotto

Manfrotto Ambassadors at BVE 2015!

Manfrotto Ambassadors Jim Marks (Director and Photographer), and Adam Plowden (Videographer and Motion Graphics Artist) chat to Manfrotto about why they use the tripods, bags, grip and lights for their everyday work!

5 Key Trends of BVE 2015

While I was doing interviews and checking out the tech at the UK's premiere broadcasting event, BVE 2015, I picked up 5 key trends..

  1. 4K is being pushed by TV and camera manufacturers, and unlike 3D, it' here to stay. Manufacturers in broadcasting and video are beginning to make way for it in terms of testing and QC, as well as streaming high resolution and frame rate content at very low data rates for delivery on multiple platforms. Check out OmniTek and Ateme.
  2. More production companies are turning to the cloud for storage and delivery services and platforms. I'm testing out ioGates at the moment.
  3. BVE is proof that both global and local companies that visit and exhibit can have success at a trade show, despite the cost. I've noticed after visiting the show for a couple of years as a company that it is a great place to meet up and catch up, network and enjoy the industry. It being the only major show in the UK is great as its visitors come with varying skill and knowledge bases, as well as locations across the UK.
  4. A number of new products were launched and shown at BVE, but ARRI still wows the crowds. Last year it was the Amira, and this year ARRI released the prototype ALEXA mini, the 'star of the show'. Check out ALEXA MINI on C5D
  5. As a resource for learning, BVE does not disappoint with its great range of seminars, presentations and talks from industry leaders. From students to experienced broadcasters, it's still the main event to attend for free seminars full of awesome content.

Next year, BVE 2016 will be the main event of London Entertainment Week 2016! As the event grew into London ExCeL to become a key place to be in the broadcasting and media calendar, event organizers i2i Group comments:

“In recent years we have seen increasing overlap from theatre, film, AV and social media into the traditional ‘broadcast’ space, and have reflected this in our free seminar programme and the composition of the exhibition at BVE. In recognition of this increasing convergence, BVE is poised to become the centre of an all-encompassing celebration of the UK’s global position as an innovator in the creative industries, acknowledging all those involved in delivering world class film, TV, commercials, theatre, live events and gaming, while maintaining the integrity and relevance of the current show.”
— Alison Willis, Portfolio Director, i2i Events

2016 is sure to see our industry boom!

More posts to come: JVC, Movidiam, Rode, Manfrotto and more.

BVE Show 2015!

Wow what a show! I cut my stay short to come home and begin editing, which I am still working on now.. But here are a couple of photos from around the show (from my phone) of the various interviews and people I saw!

Exclusive blogs coming later from: Rode, Movidiam, JVC, Sony, Manfrotto and more.

Camera Conundrums

As you'll know, we've seen a big influx of cameras focused on upping the picture resolution and others battling with dynamic range. This week, AJA announced their 4K CION camera is now shipping, so I checked out some of the specs and test videos that they produced to see how it weighs up against the competition!

To see that these pictures are ungraded is pretty stunning. The colours are very natural, as well as the dynamic range, quite noticable in the first couple of shots of a lady with light skin on a textured background, and a lady with dark skin on a muted background. The detail usually lost in hair keeps its definition without fringing, and the shot of the eye shows how 'clean' the image is.. Watching the video, I get more and more amazed at the quality of the light captured 'straight out of camera', without grading or corrections.

 Copyright AJA.

Copyright AJA.

The release of the CION comes shortly after the delayed release of the Atomos Shogun, a 4K recorder and full HD monitor, which allows images to be captured 'straight from the sensor' in a higher codec and format than recorded in camera. Atomos teamed with Sony to ensure the A7S and FS7 are compatible for 4K recording, which opens the floodgates for video producers to capture high quality video content for a considerably lower price than a high end camera. The recording media is standard 2.5" SSD's, via HDMI or other connections, meaning the Shogun can be teamed with many DSLR's and video cameras to be used as a primary recording device (many RED cinematographers use the Shogun for secondary proxy recording), and enhance the video functions to analyze the quality of both the image and sound.

The other end of the spectrum with internal 4K recording, of course is the Panasonic GH4 which I have worked with before. Ergonomically, for run and gun shooting it has a great form; small camera body and micro four thirds lenses dramatically reduce the kit you need to carry, as well as having a great power consumption rate. The GH4 captures 4K at a crop factor of 2.2x, which inherently means you are double the focal distance closer to your subject, but it does so at a high bit-rate of up to 100Mbps. Although in low light the camera does not stand up to larger sensor cameras, with a £1000 price tag and options to add gamma adjustments, it seems like a no brainer, right?

2015 is going to hold some very exciting developments in the world of cameras, and the way the picture and sound is recorded, I believe. We have yet to see any competition from Canon, apart from the C100 mark II (I don't believe this is a competing camera), so it will be interesting to see how they market their high end Cinema EOS cameras now that there are many 'just-as-good-if-not-better' solutions out there from other manufacturers. By NAB I expect there to be announcements from Canon, which I look forward to seeing because it will determine whether I remain a Canon videographer or move over to another camera system like many have done so before me.

On that note, it's time for me to put the feet up in front of the telly and munch on a mince pie before I head out later on this afternoon for a wintery walk around the countryside!

christmas tree presents

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, and remember, capture moments that matter :)