Natural light

Today I shot a pilot for a documentary series hopefully coming soon.  We were a small team, sound guy and myself + producer, no budget and short of time.

Here is an example of what natural light can look like in a hurry.  Very simple setup.  I taped some 250 diff (3/4 stop loss) to the windows (RED marked) and put a 1/4 stop silk flag on the top window to take the harsh edge off.  Then a little bounce from the left.  The only light in this shot was a small LED (with 1/8 Minus green) that hits him ever ever so slightly on the right cheek.  That it!!  We shot this on the Sony FS7, in Slog3, XAVC.

Other things I wish I would have done: Add a black flag to the right hand side to give a little more contrast face right. Remove the plant in the way back.  Never ever happy… 😉

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This is the final frame.  Slog3. NO grading


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Same frame but added a Rec709 LUT, NO grading.Nat light30 copy

The compression artifacts in the frame grabs are due to hard JPG compression for the web!

Adobe Speedgrade and LUTs

I recently started getting into Adobe Speedgrade since we’re using Adobe Premiere Pro for editing.  The Adobe suite really has a nice family of programs to allow you to edit, color grade, sound mix, and VFX all within the same suite. The round trip function between for example Premiere Pro and Speedgrade is really sweet and easy to use.

So I wanted to create some custom LUTs to load into our Sony FS7.  I started playing around with this and after a few attempts of not being able to load the LUTs into the camera I realized there is a compatibility problem between Speedgrade and the Sony F5,F55 and FS7 cameras.

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The exported LUTs from Speedgrade are in a  32x32x32 .cube format and the Sony cameras will only accept the 33x33x33 .cube luts, being exported from other apps such as Davinci Resolve.  Of course I could use resolve but i’d like to be able to do it within speed grade since we use the adobe suite for the rest of our stuff.

I pushed an email to my contact at adobe and he was not aware of this but would check and get back to me with some news, hopefully soon… In the meanwhile I’m looking at ways of converting the 32x LUT into a 33x LUT.  I’ll post updates.

Going on a scout…?

How often do you scout a location before a shoot?? For films and commercials it’s almost mandatory but for lots of other situations producers see this a cost, nothing more. I always ask, and often insist, on a Locations scout because I know the value of it. Sometimes it’s not possible due to travel and budget but always try. Even if your going across the globe, travel in a day early and try to hit a few locations before the rest of the crew arrives. The Time saved on shooting day knowing all you noted on the scout is invaluable. Here are some of the things I look for while scouting, in no particular order.

Basically I look for light, power, angles.

* bring a camera along. Pictures will help you remember better and show others.
* bringing a DSLR will give you great metadata such as a focal length, exposure etc to help you in your planning. Most cameras today also have video recording so you can actually shoot a short sequence.
* a great app for your phone is Artemis. It’s basically a viewfinder which allows you to switch between different sensors and lenses to judge composition. Take snapshots and save metadata along with comments.

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* a Lightmeter is always nice.

* an app like “360” which stitches together multiple pictures for a great overview of your location which won’t fit into a single picture.
* if you intend to use “house power” definitely Take a picture of the fuse box and other electrical hook ups.
* In an old factory or house for example bring a “power-pen” which lights up and makes a sound if there is actually power in an outlet.

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*try to get close to ground floor. Carrying/loading equipment to the third floor takes time and trying to light through a window if far trickier that if you’re on the ground floor. 🙂
* sun scout or sun seeker are 2 apps showing where the sun will be at a particular time during the day. These apps have helped me soooo many times and are remarkably accurate.
* if your not snapping pictures everywhere make a small sketch of the layout including windows etc.
* iPad for notes or sending pictures from DSLR.
* Parking. How close, unloading zones close to the door, meters etc.
* Noise. Your sound person will be pleased to know you considered their job, and in turn saved countless dropped takes. Look for potential noise like the garbage truck the has its daily visit to the hotel across the street between noon and 2pm….

Small things that may seem silly will make a huge difference once you and the rest of the crew show up to shoot.

Ahhh one more thing: look at the actual location if it suits the story, natural lighting works and the angles for your shots will make you look good…. 😉

What things do you look for when your location scouting… ?

Tape your bounce

IF you’re like me perhaps you treat bead board like an expendable. It’s great for a quick bounce, lightweight and cost next to nothing. If it breaks or tears throw it away and get a new one. Cause one problems is just that it’s really fragile, especially in the edges. The easy fix is to just wrap the edges with some gaffer tape. It will hold up way better to the abuse it’s put through during a day of production.

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Another favorite is to break one in half and gaffer tape it together like a little book.  Makes for a quick easy, bounce on a table or such and it also keeps the light from spreading everywhere. Easy to fold and bring along.

Tape the backside as well and it will last even longer.

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Sometimes you may also want a little more push in the bounce the the white beads. Simply gaffer tape your favorite bounce material to the front and you’ll still have a lightweight, rigid bounce board costing next to nothing.

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For the low cost version of silver bounce you can use oven aluminum foil.  Sound silly but works like a charm for a hard silver bounce. If you want a little softer but still silver choose the heavy duty textured oven aluminum foil. One downside to the cheap DIY consumer bounce is that it’s noisy, any movement or slight wind will make it russle and mess wih your audio.Bounce2

 

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Smart box

Jokerbox

Sometimes you see things that you just fall in love with. (Loving gear is a problem, I know…)
Seems simple enough. A wooden box with dividers. So smart, so simple, I want them!  Check it out.

 

 http://jokerboxes.com

P.s. I reached out about 5 days ago to see about buying these in Europe but still no response, so I can’t speak for their customer support… :/

 

Disclaimer:  No connection with Jokerbox in any way

MXF support for QuickTime

Searching to install Apple codecs on a new machine I came across this on Apple support. After the death of Final Cut Pro I did NOT see this coming. Apple has added support for .MXF (Media Exchange Format) to QuickTime. No more transcode inside Final Cut. This is also possibly really great news for people still using Final Cut Pro studio (not X) , since it adds native support for MXF import editing etc to QuickTime. How nice to side step transcode if you’re working with anything other than ProRes, such as XAVC for example.
Will try and test this out on a Mac with Final Cut Studio and post back.

The support was released just before Christmas and you can find it here.

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How tape can ease your workflow…

How do you mark all the media you get during a shoot? SD cards from the mixer, SxS cards or XQD cards or P2 cards. I use a really simple method based on different colored neon gaff tape. Neon Pink (or yellow) and Neon Green. When you remove a card from the camera PinkTape it and mark “CamA_1_date”. After offload and confirmation Green tape it! It’s that simple to keep track of what’s what. The green is really just an extra layer to remove any doubt that the card is clear to format.
You can also save all your “Pinks” to log your offloads over days of shooting. This together with the log from ShotPut Pro puts my mind at ease that everything is ok.

To make this easier you can put small “pinks” on the side of the camera so ways accessible right after eject!

Remember to put all media on at least 2 different location BEFORE formatting your card. A Raid is NOT a backup. Happy Copying!

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First shoot with the Sony FS7

So NOW I’ve shot 2 days in real production with the FS7. After going through 4 x128GB XQD cards I have one word that comes to mind, Impressed.
I am one of those very picky DPs always having things I wish was better and more thought out as far as user friendliness goes. With the FS7 this really is minor stuff.
With the same sensor as the Sony F5, with Slog 3 (slog2 is coming) XAVC, 10 bit internal recording in 422 picture quality is what we’d expect. It really is an F5 in a slimmer package. The body is a magnesium chassi with dust and drip sealed buttons add connectors.
The air vent is kept separate for the internal components so not to get dust and liquids inside.
Handholding (which is what I shot 2 days straight) is superb. I can go all day long. We added the XDCA-FS7 extension back which adds TC in/out (switchable connector), Genoock in, RAW out, 12V hirose out, and 4pin XLR DC in. The back also allowed us to use V-lock batteries which balances the unit nicely. In a free firmware upgrade in the beginning of 2015 the hardware inside the unit will also add proRes recordings to the XQD cards. I would say this unit is also Almost a must to get good balance for handholding.
Since the camera only pulls 19W I went all day on one V-lock battery.
Controls are great and the handle out front works like a charm. 3 assign buttons, rec, zooms rocker (for the 28-135 f4) and a button to rotate the handle. It really makes for easy comfortable handholding.
The viewfinder is sharp and with the use of normal peaking at proper levels I had absolutely non problem pulling focus.
The dual XQD cards worked well and made for quick and easy offload. An SD slot makes for easy setup by saving setup files and adding LUTs etc.
We shot using Canon stills glass and Metabones adapter.

Positive positive positive. Are there any negatives. Yes but very few and pretty minor in most cases.
*Only 2 channels of audio input.
*The handle arm only swings one way and when you need to set the camera on the ground, which I did 20-30 times a day it sort of lays sideways on the ground. This unless you swing the arm all the way back and angle the handle EVERY time.
*The loupe is in the large-ish side. Works great though.
* The E mount seemed sturdy enough for the glass we used but will most likely need support for heavier lenses. Nothing new to most of us.

I am so impressed with the FS7. Sony has opened up to a whole new customer base as well with the price point of this camera. Is the f55 still a winner. Yes of course with global shutter, more options and connections but at a whole other price range. The 2000 orders in Europe and 1500 in the States must say something. 🙂

Disclaimer: No one asked me to write this post, nor have I got payed to express any positive opinions about how the FS7. Although I am a Sony ICE I am free to say anything I want and I am not employed by Sony.