Quick setup using what you have…

Yesterday was a really good example of what you can achieve when you PICK YOUR LOCATION and USE YOUR IMAGINATION.  We were doing press with danish Director Susanne Bier and Actor Pierce Brosnan.  All press was to be gathered in the same room, TV and print divided up into 4 areas.  We did not have access to a lot of light and grip and very little time to set up.  This also goes back to the post yesterday with the amount of gear I could carry along. Had we been a crew of 4 things would have looked differently.  Now you are given and location and have to find the best way possible to deal with that.

First thing’s first; GET THERE early.  Even if you’re not allowed to setup you can scout and choose the best setup location.

With the amount of time to setup and only using 2 lights and no grip this was an easy choice for me.  Big window light! I setup the camera 12 inches away from a huge window with white drapes. The big 50inch plasma on the right served as Neg fill giving some contrast to the face.  On the other side I places a big ad board 2,5m x 2m as a big bounce.  On that side I also placed the key, a fluorescent light on top of which I added a Lastolite Trigrip Difflector.  This is a great piece of kit as it serves as both a bounce and a diffusor. The Trigrip is taped with electrical tape to the fluo-light!
I also added the mildest touch of a backlight hanging from the TV, battery operated light.



Easy as pie. A really quick setup, less than 10 min and I think the final result turned out pretty good.  It was funny when the publicist came and saw the setup, with a light on a tv and electrical tape holding a diffusor in place.  However I was glad to show them the shot in the monitor and actually got a smile back.
p.s.   The shot you see of Pierce Brosnan is obviously the opposite of the setup in the pictures above.  That is the other great thing with this setup, is that in less than 3 min I hade reversed the setup to make it work for 2 different interviews. 🙂


Compact kit


We are doing feature stories at the Venice film festival this year. ENG/run’n’gun stuff. Being mobile is a must but you still need gear. Weight adds up so so quickly even when you try to keep a compact run kit.
This is what I managed to stick in here today…


2 lenses (Canon HD22 and 11)
5 XDCam discs
5″ TV-logic on-board monitor
Idiot light (top-camera light)
1 GoproHD2 camera
Vocas Mattebox
7 filters (Pola, .3, .6, .9 ND grad, .6 NDblender, 1/2 SFX, 1/2 blk promist)
2 reflectors with built in diffusers
1 x 4×4 ft frame with diffuser and bounce
4 batteries (2x190Wh and 2x 160Wh)
Cineroid light with 2 L batteries
2 sheets of Black wrap
Cables for patching into audio
2 SDI Video cables (1x1m, 1x5m)
3 wireless packs with Lavs, microcats and concealer
1 wired lav
1 wireless handmic
22 AA batteries
Rain cover
Lens wipes
iPhone charger
Electrical tape
Gaffers tape

Even though there isn’t anything overkill the weight does add up, Quickly especially if you have to be mobile. The ThinkTank roller has backpack straps but being a roller helps on the long walks… 🙂 This all is of course additional weight on top of the Sachtler 20i and the XDCam pdw-700camera…

We also keep a small light kit on-site but try not to add 27 KG (60lbs) to the run around kit… 🙂

Venice film festival

I just signed on to shoot a half hour special on the Venice Film Festival. We’ll meet actors, directors and everyone in between. Should be a lot of fun, I’ve never been to Venice and I hear it’s a special place.
If you happen to have any suggestions of good places to shoot from to get nice views for example, I’ll be glad I hear from you. 🙂
Will try and post as much as I can during next week.

ATEM TV Studio – Blackmagic Design

We’ve been asked to quote a mobile studio setup for a client of ours.  Final delivery will be in SD and delivered via Fiber or Satellite.  It’s a 2 cameras setup and there is the desire to switch these 2 on location.  There is not the budget and/or in some cases space to bring in a triax setup/mini OB-van.  We needed a small portable/ flight pack solution.  Before I start I’ll say this.  There are sooooo many options and ways to do this, this is just one and perhaps not even the best.  It is the first initial test.  To each his own… 🙂

I immediately thought on the ATEM Television studio from Black Magic Design. All 10 bit digital video  It is a hardware switcher capable of being controlled by  a laptop with User Interface (UI) software. It doesn’t look like much but has a lot of horse power  built into this 1 rack unit wide chassis.
The ATEM has 4 HDMI camera inputs as well as 4 HDSDI/SDSDI inputs. There is a USB2 output delivering a H264 PGM stream ready for delivery.  It has multi view output via both HMDI and SDI as well as 2 SDI PGM outputs. There is also an HDMI PGM output.  REF in and AES in is also available.  The RJ45 connector allows for switcher control over a network.  It also has downstream and upstream keyers and great options for expansion as your needs may call for it.

Our setup would look like this.  2 cameras, 1 host and 2 guests, 3 wireless audio, 1 IFB to the host, delivery  of Program (PGM) feed via SDI.  All the audio would go through an analog mixer and would have to be embedded as the final SDI feed would need to have PGM audio on channel 1 and 2.  As this was a first inital test we settled for 2 channels audio and left out the IFB.  We’d use 2 Sony PDW-700 XDCam cameras, easy enough to paint/match with results close enough for that particular situation.

As you can see we opted to use a 24 inch LCD display for our multi viewer.  Something we could pick up at any local electronics store and then leave when the job was done.  Also we have a 7 inch TV-Logic monitor as a final PGM view.  To the right of that we have our Sound Devices PIX240 which serves as our embedder in this case.  You could of course use a dedicated embedder but we own the PIX240 and it also features this nice display for checking settings, audio meter and video inputs which is very handy.  I like to have a visual check of the status.  Also there is the option of recording the PGM directly on the PIX

So both cameras run via SDI into the ATEM and are switched through the software UI.  The ATEM  PGM output SDI is fed into the PIX240.  The Audio from the mixer is also fed into the PIX240 via analog XLR and after an audio delay is set the SDI out of the Pix will be our finished delivery PGM.

Embedding the audio in the Pix240

First I must say this.  It was a very easy setup.  Download and install BMD software and as soon as the ATEM is connected to the network the UI starts up.  It immediately recognizse the cameras and since we only have 2 cameras to worry about, switching is done through the space bar.  Very very easy.

A couple of thoughts. In SD the Pix240 doesn’t add a 16:9 flag and the footage leaves the SDI as 16:9 anamorphic.  This won’t be a problem doing HD and is not really a problem in SD either other than seeing a Squeezed 4:3 image in the PIX.  On the PGM monitor it reads it correctly as 16:9.  I also tested in HD and no problems.

Note the squeezed 4:3 image in the Pix240 and the correctly read 16:9 image in the PGM out MONITOR


I also would have liked to remove and customize the mixer button panel a bit more but all the options were greyed out for some reason. I am not sure if this was user error or something else, I’ll check on this.
In the software package there was a SDK package but since I don’t do code I hope there is an easier way to customize a few different Multi view screen setups for different purposes.

At $1000 this is a lot of bang for your buck.  I’d consider this simply for the realtime H264 encoder, but I see this as a great option for a small 2-4 camera studio (churches, schools etc).  The downside is matching cameras, although using high end ENG cameras this is less of a problem considering the matrix/paint options available.  The ATEM unit is so small that building it into a travel case with a monitor for example would be an easy job.  More testing will show if this is the right way to go but it looks promising.    For more info and complete specs visit: Blackmagic Design.

Disclamer: No connection to BlackMagic Design other that a previous customer.  We did Not test the H264 output, nor did we test all the Key (both upstream and downstream) functions.


5 minute setup

Its not my first choice, but when it pays and its a loyal client you go along. The sit-down interview, and this time we are talking about the quick setup, no softboxes, no flags, dimmers, no fancy. But you still want the interview to look as good as possible. In my opinion background is key. If you only have time to set a couple of lights, pick a background that doesn’t need to be lit.

In this example we entered an apartment, a fairly dark apartment with not a lot of lights. Walls were pretty thin with exciting backgrounds. The living room was big but dark and sterile. So I choose the kitchen, a very small kitchen where we barely fit, but the background is the nicest I can find in the apartment. Out of respect I didn’t run around this person’s apartment taking still pictures so you’ll have to take my word for it. 🙂

Kitchen before setup

This interview setup is nothing I’ll put on my reel but when you need a talking head shot and time and space is a luxury this was the best option. The clipping in the window looks worse on the still than it really was but there is some and I’ll live with it. Why I chose the window as a background? There was no time to light any other background in the apartment and Not lighting the background would have left it dead and dark… Also the curtains in the back worked as a backdrop. My first thought was to take a bead board (or styrofoam board) cut it in half and bounce light into it. But time did not allow the rig.

Final frame from on-board monitor. (XDCam disk left with the client and I didn’t have time to grab an actual frame)

The worst part of these run ‘n gun setups is spending the next 2 days thinking how I could have made it better, look a little cleaner, changed this and tweaked that… 🙂

One more example. A hotel room in a foreign land. Limited light kit and again, space is really tight. Grab a towel from the bathroom, gaffer tape it to the wall. Hit a 300w into it, and set one quick backligt. Choose your background and setup something of color to break the background perhaps. Done. A setup in less than 5 minutes.

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