GoPro car rig

We just finished a project (Anne på väg, SVT) where we shot interviews with multiple GoPro camera inside a car. I was asked to setup the solution for this and one of the things we wanted was to be able to monitor the cameras from a follow car to make sure the cameras were rolling, composition etc.
The rig is pretty simple. (After all the HDMI mess) we hook up each GoPro to continues power to bypass the battery problem. A micro HDMI is also attached to each camera and all the cables are run to the back of the trunk. Here we installed the control plate with the HDMI-SDI converters and our quad split. The signal from the quad so then transmit to the follow car for monitoring.

First we have the control panel.

Contol panel
Contol panel

1 Convergent Design Odyssey 7q which acts as our monitor and quad split.  We could easily switch between full frame (for composition) and the quad. Then we have 3 Aja HMDI-SDI converters which converts the GoPro signal to SDI for the quad.  The 4th camera in the car was wild and unmonitored. Everything in the back is DC powered by V-lock batteries.  We left the OSD (On Screen Display) on in the GoPros so to see that the REC was on. The quad signal from the Odyssey 7Q was sent to a Pix240 which recorded a proxy with timecode for logging purpose and the signal was looped on to the link.

The trick here was to sync the GoPros for the edit.  For budget reasons external recorder with locked TC was opted out which would have been the easy choice. Instead we had our Master Timecode in the Sound Bag, which was a TIMECODY BUDDY, feed an iPad with synced code.  This code visually slated each go pro to easy sync in post.  (Actually every goPro clip was later transcoded into a new clip with correct/soundmatched timecode and DNxHD.) Very easy way to establish correct Timecode to non-timecode cameras.

CarRig4

 

Timecode buddy
Timecode buddy
Timecode Buddy
Timecode Buddy

For the link to the follow car we chose the Bolt2000 from Teradek. We put the antennas externally on the car with helped with range. This is a line of sight system which looses the connection if you drive around the corner of a street. It will reconnect however one yore back in line of sight.  The system has one problem though.  If power is lost the units they don’t reconnect, it seems, without a reboot.   This needs to be addressed in future firmwares!   The system worked ok. It had some drops but recovered once back in range. It was really only a backup system for us to be able check that the cameras were rolling during the 20-30 min takes.  Audio was easily monitored via a wireless boosting a 1w transmitter, with great quality and reliability.

All in all this was a very successful setup. The wireless link had it’s dropout, mostly due to to travelling at speed in a car, but the rest of the system was rock solid! During 18 days, and countless hours of footage, we did NOT  loose 1 clip due to a GoPro shut down. The new firmware in the GoPro with options to the flat picture profile was great.

Bolt2000 receiver in follow car
Bolt2000 receiver in follow car
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Teradek Bolt 2000 transmitter in the hero car
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monitor setup in follow car
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antenna on the back of the hero car.

 

Running everything on DC, including some lights is a bit of a charging mess at night though.   I think we had something like 14 V-lock batteriers in use. 😉

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HDMI mess part 2

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So this finally got a solution. After a looooot of trial and error, ordering new/different HDMI-SDI converters, quad splits etc etc, AJA was the solution.
I am trying to monitor 3 GoPro cameras to make sure they are recording inside the main vehicle as we are riding in the follow car. My thought was simple enough, run the GoPro signal with on-screen display (OSD) into an HDMI-SDI converter, connect to Quad split and transmit signal to follow car. In reality is proved not so easy.
The Atomos Connect didn’t work at all, would not convert 1080/25p to SDI.
The BMD battery converter converted the signal to SDI but somehow corrupted it. It showed up fine on Sony OLED monitor but would NOT monitor on Marshall 5 inch or our Odyssey 7q (our quad solution)
Ordered the Decimator Quad split box. Is converted the signal in 4:3 and only put out a SD/SDI and I needed to have and HD out.
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So it was as easy as AJA. It converted the HDMI to SDI and showed on the Sony and the quad mode in the Odyssey 7q.
The reason I tried Atomos and Black Magic Design first was that they had a built in battery, which the AJA does not.
Also I need to give lots of credit to Scandinavian Photo I Malmo which has has been so helpful in ordering gear and helping out.

Here is first try on a finished rig. Missing some wiring and stuff but I now see the light at the end of the tunnel. 🙂
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HDMI mess

HDMI is really taking hold on the broadcast/film industry and pretty much all the big players now offer it somewhere. Black Magic design, Sony, Canon, Convergent Design and so on now have this as a standard and you see it in monitors, cameras and recorders, transmitters and receivers.

But it seems that an HDMI connector/signal is simply not just an HDMI connector/signal. I’ve been trying to concert a GoPro Hero 3+ black edition camera from HDMI to SDI for a about a week now.
My first try was with the Atomos Connect. It won’t convert the GoPro unless the camera is set to 720/100?!! It will NOT lock in any other picture mode of 720 or 1080. The Atomos receives the signal but won’t lock and it seems to be some sort of “hand shake/protocol” issue.

Then I tried the Black Magic Design HDMI-SDI converter with the built in battery. It worked great on a Sony 17″ OLed but when I tried it on my 5″ Marshall it didn’t work…

I wish HDMI was more like SDI. I think it is a huge problem when something works only sometimes with certain “compatible” equipment. I don’t know if this is an issue related to the GoPro HDMI out but when in doubt I go by the practice: “Don’t assume, test!”

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Offload CF cards

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Today I tried a new thing I ordered online which would allow me to connect a CF card to my thunderbolt SATA interface reader.  I was hoping this would shave a little time when offloading big CD cards like 64GB or 128GB. If you’re one for short and sweet posts, here it is: big FAIL.

Basically the little red thing is a CD card slot which I connected to my Seagate thunderbolt reader.

On a full 32GB card it took the CF card reader 16 min 30 sec while it only took 5 min 20sec on my Kingston USB3 reader.  So it was good in theory but a miserable fail in real life.  I also, for fun, tried moving 35GB from an SSD through the thunderbolt reader to my internal drive on my macbook pro.  1 min!!! 🙂

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Huge fail 16:30 for a full 32GB card
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The clear winner emptying a FULL 32GB card in 5:20min

 

Behind the setup

Yesterday I shot six interviews for a friend and colleague who’s producing a promotional film for FIFH, Association Sport for Disabled.  He’s shot the rest of the film himself but wanted me to shoot the interviews. 

Our location was a small sports hall. First thought was to shoot against a black backdrop, limbo, but we decided to have a little bit of a background of some kind, dim and pretty diffused.   I shut all the lights down in the room and started from scratch.  This is a really nice quick basic setup with some tweaks to get it where I want. I was alone doing this, setup, lighting and sound.  In the morning I actually had my wife, who also does this for a living, helping me out lugging gear.

For a key I setup a 6x6ft white shiny bounce which I covered with a silk to take the harshness off the bounce.  I shot a 2K open face into it and filled the entire 6×6 which created a nice soft bounce.

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Big white soft bounce with a 2K into it.

For a hair/back light I used a frosted 250W on a boom and also added a 15oW Dedo, dimmed down, as an edge light.  That’s it.  This pretty much left  me with a 4-5,6 split to which I added 2 stop of ND a little and shot the interviews at f2+2/3 on a 85mm. Since all the overhead lights were turned off I needed to add lights to the black background.  I didn’t want to just “wash” the background with light but instead wanted some texture to it. a 650W Dedo and a 300w strategically placed gave a nice result I think.  On a couple of the interviews I hung some LED tubing which defocused looked like a light wand sort of… 😉

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Background setup with 2 lights adding texture to dark background
Christmas light LED tubing adding a "light shaft"
Christmas light LED tubing adding a “light shaft”

Everything was shot for a finished look with no grading in mind so I pushed the blacks just a little bit in camera and the frame grabs below have had nothing done to them.

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Ungraded image right out of C300
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Ungraded image right out of C300

 

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Ungraded image right out of C300

 

Funny story about doing things right and not cheating even though your in a rush.  In the first picture up top you see a C-stand with the arm point straight out.  I was rushing and didn’t do it right. It bit me, and drew blood! I walked right into it and almost knocked my teeth out!  Never cheat, do it right and save yourself the hurt. 🙂  Whenever possible try and place the arm with the empty side point up. That way it’s less likely to hit someone in the face…  Another tip is to put a tennis ball , with a whole cut out, on the empty end.

 

Empty side pointing up
Empty side pointing up

 

wireless monitor – on the cheap

Wireless1

About a month and a half ago I really started looking at low cost wireless solution for onset monitoring.  Working in a high stress environment in the field and having a HDSDI cable tethered to you is not ideal. I try to stay as wireless as possible. I’ve been looking at Teredek bolt, Paralinx etc etc and they all look like great units. The BOLT is a really nice with SDI and everything but a bit pricy on shoots where I am unable to invoice for this item.  A lot of producers will rather save the rental on wireless and go with a cable… 🙁   After searching the net for a wireless consumer HDMI system I found the Nyrius and ordered on from Amazon.com, not my usual place to buy gear.  😉

After some soldering and custom battery plate work I had a perfectly great wireless solution for about half of what the competitors charge.  One drawback is the HDMI only connection but since I have the Odyssey 7Q on camera, it will do the SDI-HDMI conversion for me.  The V-lock battery plate drives the monitor and the HDMI reciever.

I know, its not a pretty solution, yet. 😉  And no it’s not silly puddy on the side , it’s plastic padding… I need to finish the build and tighten everything up a bit but it works perfectly and that’s what matters.   I’ve ordered a short, thin HDMI cable and with some tie wraps and glue (just kidding) it will be a nice package soon.

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The custom V-lock plate with 2 different monitor power plugs, and 1x5V (2A) solution to drive the wireless receiver.

Wireless4

CamRanger

Today I decided to try the CamRanger. It is small, relatively inexpensive unit which controls your DSLR from an iPad Android Tablet or phone.  It works both for video and stills and turns your ipad/tablet into a control surface.  Since you have all camera controls as well as a live picture this essentially turns your iPad into a touch sensitive monitor. You can choose a focus point and there is even a setting which turns on a focus assist feature painting red little dots around areas in focus.  Live histogram helps you judge exposure.

camranger4
Live histogram to help with exposure.

The Camranger hooks up via USB to your camera and creates its own WiFi network to which you connect your phone/iPad/tablet. Connection is really easy.

There is a delay of 9 frames since the signal is processed and sent via WiFi.  9 frames is a lot if you’re trying to operate fast moving stuff video, but not really a problem for table tops or locked off pack shots for example.

This would also make a great option for controlling a DSLR camera mounted to a car rig or a crane.  Do all your settings from a comfortable position, like focus, white balance and exposure. Double tap the screen for a close up of focus area.  Being able to change exposure for a camera mounted to the front of the car has never been this easy with a DSLR before…

For still shooters you can use this device as a wireless tether while on location or a studio.  Hand the iPad to a client and turn on “client mode” which removes control of the camera but streams pictures to the tablet as there being shot.  Lightroom can be used to auto import from a folder making this an affordable wireless tether.

There is also features such as focus stacking, intervalometer and HDR built in to the app.   Switching between stills and video is as easy as touching the screen.  Being locked off on a really long lens, sensitive to movement, how nice is it to start/stop or snap pictures by touching a button on your ipad.

The Camranger has a built in (removable) rechargeable battery and can also be powered by an external battery pack with USB connection. According to the manufacturer the battery time is roughly 5-6hrs for normal usage.  The unit is plastic and only time will tell how well it stands up to professional use but it seems pretty solid.

camranger5
Plastic but feels solid

You also have full access to your CF or SD card in the camera. You can browse and import photos right to your iPad library. Leave your computer at home and still be able to send pictures via phone/tablet.

Conslusion: This little device to really impressed me. $300 to get access to all of your camera controls, wirelessly and with a built in battery is pretty sweet.  I remember laying on the ground in the snow trying to see/change camera setting for a DSLR mounted on the outside of a car or a camera placed in a tight hard to reach place.  Being able to control all that from an iPad is worth the price alone.  Only downside I see is the USB connection but that is more of a camera issue…

 

 

camranger3
Focus assist turned ON
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CamRanger connected to my 1Dc

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DISCLAIMER:  No one asked me to write anything in this post and I bought the unit at at market price.

 

 

external SSD Storage for my laptop

I’ve been looking at the thunderbolt drive and been wanting to get a 500GB  SSD solution. The Lacie Little big disk is nice but roughly 6750 SEK (700 USD) and your stuck with the disk you have in there and you need a power supply.

I’ve also been wanting to view and edit footage directly from an SSD connected to our Pix240.  For this you could use the Pix Caddy but your only connection there is USB3 or Firewire 800 and I’d like to use the fast moving thunderbolt, especially when transferring footage.

After some research on the net I found the Seagate GoFlex Adapter. Its made to take the Seagate cartridges but will function with any SATA connection since the connector is in the open.  You can easily switch drives and it powers the SSD directly via thunderbolt.  A small portable, very fast package.

The Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter is available online for $99 and cost 1050 SEK here in Sweden.  Buy any SSD SATA disk plug it in and off you go.  There is a small gap underneath the disk which I filled with a folded paper and a plastic sheet I cut from an old XDCam case… 🙂  Not pretty perhaps but it keeps the drive in there very solidly.

Of course this is not as rugged a solution as the Lacie Little Big disc (or other portable drive solutions), I realize this.  But it will allow me to easily switch out a library of different SSD drives, transfer footage at blazing speeds and all in a portable small package.  Just what I wanted.

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Open drive connector and wedge to keep the disk in place.

I went ahead and bought the Samsung 850 EVO, 500GB.

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Connected to my MacBook Pro via thunderbolt

 

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Here is the speedtest I ran with the external Samsung 840 Evo, 500GB disk. 🙂

SSD_drive1

 

Disclaimer:  Please check compatibility of disk before purchase.  I leave no guarantee it will work as easily as it did for me.  Please don’t blame me if something goes wrong.