Category Archives: Equipment

Made in Hackney Fundraising Video

A few weeks ago the guys over at Made in Hackney – Local Food Kitchen asked me to help them make a fundraising campaign film for them to be used on the Crowdfunder website. Made in Hackney is a charity based in Hackney that teaches  vital food growing, cooking and composting skills in their own bespoke basement kitchen. The Charity won a Lottery grant in 2012 which is now reaching its end and are now to replace this funding using both the Crowdfunder website and direct donations.

Sarah Bentley, one of the Co-Founders  fronted the video as well as organised for some of the past and current students to come down and share their experiences about the project and what it meant to them. In between interviews I filmed one of the classes with the most of the interviewees involved and best of all I got to sample some of their results.

Having spend the day there and meeting some of the students those who run it I can see why this project deserves to carry on, their agenda is simple to make health people and have a health planet.

I shot the video on my new Canon EOS C100 and recorded on a Atomos Ninja recording to ProRes 422LT which meant a broadcast quality recording.  Lighting was achieved using my Lishuai LED-1024ASVLK Bi-Colour LED Panel from Proactive. As there was quite a lot of background noise from fridges and walking on the shop floor above sound recording was a little tricky and I used a Rode NTG-2 Mic as close to the interviewee’s as I could get a way with. Music came from Pond5.com as they have some great tracks at really low prices.

For for info on Made in Hackey check out their website www.madeinhackney.org

F&V S80 Slider Review

 

F&F S80 SliderI first came across the F&V SA80 Slider when I say it at BVE 2013 a few months ago and nearly bought it then. I got to have a little play with it and was impressed for the price of £270. I have previously used an Ignus based slider but wasn’t that impressed  as once a bit of weight was added to it it would flex or wouldn’t run that well unless the centre of gravity was perfectly over the track. There are some great things about the Ignus sliders they are super quite and light to carry but the negative for me out weigh the positives

I came late to the whole slider thing and had an a project I though would benefit from some movement so I looked around for something that was good enough to do what I wanted but cheap enough to justify purchasing. As I was to shoot on a farm I needed something that would work both attached to a tripod and work on the ground, which I guessed would be very uneven so legs became a big factor to the decision making process. So looked around and  it came down to a choice of four, the Cinevate  Atlas 10, The Kessler Pocket DollyKonova K3 Slider and the F&V S80. Budget was also a factor so the Kessler was really out at this point in time as was the Cinevate. Kit for me has to pay for itself either longterm such as cameras or lenses or very quickly to be just used on two or three jobs, this was one of those times. This left the really choice between the Konova and the F&V sliders.

IMG_1179 (1)The Konova and the F&V are very similar in design but the F&V has what looked like more sturdy and adjustable feet, ideal for what I needed. Another difference is bow the roller bearings are kept clean, the Konova has little slides which required manually using to clear debris from the rails where as the F&V has bruises built into the slider carriage. The Konova does however have a larger stage for tripod head than the F&V one. A friend of mine recently bought the Konava version and I’ve seen it in action. It’s good, runs smoothly, doesn’t flex too much and is a little bit cheaper than the F&V one. But for me the choice came down to right tool for the right job and the feet and the flexibility they offered made all the difference. The other contributing factor to my choice was F&V themselves. I have two of their Z96 LED lights which I use a lot and got me out of main tricky situations.

Features

The sliders winning features for me were and are its legs and feet which are both incredibly adjustable and strong, ideal for almost any terrain. The spirit level on the slider carriage is also a handy to level out the slider.

So how is it in use?

Well, it seems quite sturdy and  doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart in the next five minutes but its not as smooth as I’d like and doesn’t run freely like I have seen other bearing based sliders. Like all new kit you are need to test it before taking it out on the road, so you know what is, and isn’t possible. As time was short I only got “play” with it for a few hours before taking it out on a shoot. I probably got a little too obsessed in using the slider for a good few hours on the first part of the shoot. Getting a fluid motion is hard. I have pushed a number of professional dollies in my time and they is much harder, probably due to lack on weight and inertia. Initially I am used a Manfrotto photographic ball head  with it which is great for using the slower in “tower mode” but doesn’t allow for pans and tilts. Since then I have purchased a Manfrotto MVH502HA video head which allows extra control as well as allowing me to use my Zacuto Mini Pase Plate and my follow focus. This has made a dramatic improvement in control and the additional weight has taken out some of the bumps.

Conclusion

It’s OK for the money. There is better out there but they cost more. So ultimately you get what you pay for. I’m sure that at some pointI’ll upgrade but right now its doing me fine. But like all kit my you use it the better you get using it, well that’s the theory.

The F&V S80 Slider is available from Cinegearpro

 

Steaming

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A few months York of York Smith Productions asked me to shoot some publicity stills for an up coming production of theatre play Steaming written by Neil Dunn which is to play at The Elgiva Theatre in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. Because the publicity material needed to be created months in advance of the play itself so there was no actual theatre set to shoot on and the plays Director/Producer Liz Mente Bishop arranged for the shoot to take place at Ironmonger Row Baths – Spa in London.

With cast assembled we had just four hours to get in, shoot and get out and a shot list to get. As steam and cameras don’t really mix I bought some cames of Magic Smoke which once sprayed in the room looked like steam without the moisture or heat.  The cast played out some scenes on location allowing me to set up some shots evoking the essence of the play. I shot everything on the Canon 5D using a mixture of available light and my trusty 150w LTM with a large piece of with poly board

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Steaming is on from Wednesday 18th until Sunday 22nd September more info can be found on the Steaming website www.steaming.me

Fuji x10 Review

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This is probably my favourite camera right now and the one that is nearly always in my bag. I still probably use my iPhone to take more photos but this has replaced my Canon 5D on many occasions.

The things I absolutely love about this camera are, its size, it’s image, manual controls, build quality and it looks pretty cool in a retro way.

For the last three years I have hauled my Canon 5D around with me, professionally and personally. I love it and it still produces a better image that the x-10, especially in the low lights but its a lump to carry around and add a couple of lenses and you become your own packhorsealso its a pit conspicuous when you are on holiday and trying to fit in. Continue reading »

Getting Up Close and Saving Cash

Strawberry flowerWe all love seeing the world like no other, seeing things others don’t see. One way to go this is using macro photography, whether it be film or a still image there is something magical about seeing the world from a bugs persecutive. Over the last couple of years I have needed to shoot macro photography and every time I have planned to do so I find myself looking to picking up a macro lens for my Canon 5D. About thirty seconds later I head up stairs, not for my credit card but for my old Olympus OM kit.

I loved my Olympus OM2n, I still do and would never sell it, I’m emotionally attached to it, and to be honest it probably has very little cash value anymore. I bought the OM2n to replace, and as an upgrade from my first camera an Olympus OM10 which I shot my A Level photography with. At university, a time before digital had really hit the main stream, I shot my degree worth with the OM2n. From that point onwards it’s lived most of its life in a flight case along with lenses, filters and extension barrels. Continue reading »

Stills into Motion

As someone that got into photography as a way to get into film I have previously experimented in using still images in sequences, sometimes as story boards and sometimes as actual story devices accompanied by sound tracks. But up until now I have never turned my portfolio into a moving sequence. I may be a little late to the party as applications such as Aperture already have built in tools for creating such things, I have in used them to create event slide shows in the past. But although great I chose to use Final Cut to turn my photographic portfolio into a short sequence, partly due to the being able to fine tune transitions, size and add text. Continue reading »

Dawn Richard and Nokia

A about a month ago I got to film American Artist, Dawn Richard on behalf of Angelic films and 1000 Heads for Nokia. Dawn had a very limited slot in her schedule to to shoot an interview on why she switched to the Nokia Lumia 920. The shoot took place after a photo shoot at a studio on the banks of the Thames in Woolwich, London.

Sound was recored by my good friend and sound guru Haresh Patel as I shot on my Canon 5D mk2 using tree lenses, 24-70 F2.8, 70-200 F4 IS and my 17-40 F4 wor the wide shots. Lighting wise, we lit Dawn using a Kino Diva as a key light and then used a set of four Dedo’s for fill, backlight and to light the wall behind her. Over all we had just over ninety minutes to set up, and shoot. Amy Coop of Angelic films edited the footage at her office at Pinewood Studios using Final Cut.

Showreel 2013

This is a glimpse at some of my work from the last year and a half. There are clips from projects for gastro pub, Martins Pond, Asia House, BTC Bahamas Telecom, Stocks Farm, Bikini Ballet and short film Chasing Dreams which I wrote and directed.

Production company clients include Angelic Films, York Smith Productions and November Films.

All work here was either shot by me or directed by me and was shot using a Canon 5D mk2

Bikini Ballet

I recently worked on this a promo for the Bikini Ballet with Director Harry Amies. Bikini Ballet is a new dance company who specialise in bringing dance to corporate events and shows.

We shot using two cameras, a Canon 6D which Harry shot with and my 5D which I shot with. We shot over two evenings, at two locations, a photographic studio and a rather pink village hall which we plugged into darkness and lit using three lights and a few chairs to disguise the  pink as much as we could. Harry edited it using Adobe Premier

Making It Look Good.

Recently I shot a wedding for a friend and as part of it I found myself doing something that has become fairly rare for me, actually printing the photographs. I love prints, despite most images that I create now only ever seen only electronically there is still something far nicer than a print or set of prints. Try sharing and passing a stack of photos around a room with family or friends with only one computer screen or iPad. It’s not a social experience unlike a set for physically printed photographs. In the past I have got prints produced by dedicated photo printers in London but on this occasion I decided to try myself as I was only needing prints no bigger than A4. Continue reading »

Shooting in an Instant: Vosene #Vosing

A few years ago millions of cameras screamed and then when silent. Polaroid had stopped film production . Millions of camera’s were consigned to cupboards, landfills and memories. As the very last factory was closing something amazing happened two people talked about restarting all those cameras hearts and the Impossible Project was formed. More about which can be found here

So why shoot using instant film today when we have instant sharing through the use of mobile phone cameras and the internet? Well for me it brings a little bit of the magic back to taking pictures, watching the image develop before your eyes. It’s also subject to a little pixie dust as you’re not one hundred percent sure how the image will come out as its subject to so many more factors than electronics and computer logarithms. Continue reading »

Chasing Dreams: Making a Short Film

Chasing Dreams is the title of my forthcoming short film. It was shot late last year with two actors and a skeleton crew over several days. The film is now close to being finished and was largely the result of twitter. I say that because both the actors Tristam Summers and Elisa Armstrong both came via twitter as did Hannah Mizon our make up artist. Also a couple of relationships started on twitter contributed to the film, Robin Schmidt who leant me a radio mic and Sol and Matthew at RewindFX who have done the visual effects on the film. Continue reading »

Pedigree IR Triggering Camera System

Recently I was asked to put together a system to automatically take photos of dogs as they jumped over a small hedge and then could be be easily uploaded to Pedigree’s We’re For Dogs Facebook page.

Safety was my main concern for both the dogs and us humans involved in the affair. Traditionally race line finishes which take photographs use lasers. This is normally fine as the chances of a laser hitting an eye, human or animal is very small due to the positioning height of such devices in relation to the things passing them being relatively constant. Dogs, just like humans come in all shapes and sizes, which leads to uncertainty when positioning possibly eye damaging lasers. To get around this I opted for and Infra Red trigging system. After trawling the internet for a ready made system I came across on made by Cognisys in the US. The Range IR is a clever devise as it is a self contained unit firing out a harmless beam of IR which can be varied in length as desired. When the beam is broken the sensor sends a signal out to the camera and a photograph is taken. Quite frankly I believe its the work of magical Pixies and that’s fine with me. Continue reading »

Nokia Lumia and the Steadicam Smoothee

Last year I worked on a project with Angelic Films for Nokia converting some Steadicam Smoothee’s for the Nokia N8. See here for details. Time has progressed in the mobile word and Nokia have now released the Lumia 800 into the world and again come back to us to see if we could again adapt the Steadicam Smoothie for their new phone. The phone’s camera is head and shouldered above Nokias previous N8 it terms of quality, ease of use and control. If I wasn’t so wedded into the Apple ecosystem this is the phone I would choose right now.

The Lumia 800 has a slightly larger form factor that the N8 but after testing it we found that it still fitsthe Quick Release Stedicam Smoothee Mount for iPhone 3GS, which was also the mount we previously modified for the Nokia N8. There was however on additional modification we had to make, milling down the top clip so it didn’t rest on one of the buttons.

We did this using a Dremel with a barrel sanding attachment. Without this modification the clip presses the button stopping the camera working and potentially turns the phone off as well. The sander actually heats up the plastic whilst it spins sometimes leaving a melted area on the edge which can easily removed by snapping it on once cold. When milling out the recess for the button it is important to have the Smoothie mounting plate does not move. I found the simplest way was to use my tripod as the Smoothie mounting plate actually has a 1/4 inch threaded hole in it’s base precisely to do this.

Next we created the aperture for the camera to look though. The Lunia unlike the N8 is flat which is a great thing for your pocket but also means that the camera lens sits a few mm’s back from front plate of that of the Smoothee mount. This means the hole needs to be slightly bigger that that of the previous N8 Modification. Drilling though the actual mount requires care because it is a sandwich of plastic and metal, the metal being in the middle. We found the best way was to first of all drill a small pilot hole using a 4mm HSS drill bit then using a 13mm HSS drill bit in a drill press. It is important the drill bits are sharp or the friction created with actually cause so much heat it will melt the plastic.  This won’t actuallybe big enough but it is the most efficient way of  doing it cheaply. To keep the metal heating up too much I spayed it with water whilst drilling.

The Steadicam mount is quite tricky to hold securely because of it’s shape and because it, being made mostly of plastic it flexes under presure. To get around these issues I used an old cork sanding block and cut a section out so the mount would grip around it. This solved the shape problem. to solve the flexing problem I added a small bit of MDF on top of the sanding block

This meant The mount could be clamped down securely onto the drill press.

Once the 13mm hole had been been drilled out it was time to move onto enlarging the hole. Initially we used the Dremel with metal cutting bit this is very quick and efficient but doesn’t always leave the prettiest of finishes. So to finish of the camera aperture I used a Rucko HSS step drill bit. As the hole needed to be approximately 18mm in diameter the step drill is ideal. The only minor problem using the step drill I used was that the actual steps were not deep enough as the Steadicam mount is about 5mm thick and the steps on the drill 4mm. Not insurmountable but worth being taking into consideration as it means tuning the mount over briefly to drill out the extra 1mm from the mount. All that was need next was a small bit of filing, a quick wash under the tap to get rid of any metal dust, and a permanent black marker pen to colour in the exposed metal. The reason for this is not just because it makes it look pretty but it also stops the metal reflecting light into the lens, preventing ugly flares which would spoil all the hard work. Job done!

 

 

Testing Times

 

Testing kit is essential, whether it is a new purchase or just something you’ve hired in or borrowed. User manuals are great as are the hundreds of user videos on Vimeo and YouTube but actually testing and playing with a bit of kit gives you the opportunity to try things others have not thought of or in situations unique to you.

Next week we’ve got a time lapse running from Monday to Wednesday for a client using a GoPro HD Hero2. The reason we have opted for this camera is a result of several factors but mainly due to power, the GoPro can be powered from the mains using a mini USB adapter. This means the camera can be set up and left to run for the whole time using a large SD card. This brings the cost down for the client and hassle for us.

On this occasion the client is supplying their own camera but relying on us to capture the sequence. To that end I have bought my own GoPro HD Hero2 and started the testing. It is something I have wanted an excuse to buy any way and am sure it will get used in the future anyway. So today the testing started with a time lapse test on a drive from home to Pinewood Studios. I set the camera to shoot at half second intervals and I turned off the spot meter.

One thing I find out that I hadn’t read about was the fact that the GoPro seems to have a folder max size of 999 images and when it hits that limit it creates and starts a new folder. This of course means that multiple image sequences had to be created in QuickTime Pro. These were then edited together in FCP 7. Music came from audionetwork costing a whole £1 for a non commercial licence . Rather that then ripping something off itunes and not paying for it even if the project is non profit. Musicians are artists too. There are many instances where the internet becomes enraged when a filmmaker or photographer has their work is used without permission and shared with the world so it’s a shame so many don’t seem to have the same respect for other artist’s work.

 

A Very British Cult on Indiegogo

 

This week sees the launch of the Indiegogo campaign for  November Films “A Very British Cult.”   A Very British Cult is going to be a feature length documentary about the 1970’s and early 1980’s self help group Exegesis. A group that was  not short of controversy every resulting in questions in Parliament and a BBC program about it.

Louis Price our director grow up in the program with both his parents members of the organisation and is exploring what really went on and examining how it has effected his and the other members lives.

Most of the documentary will be shot digitally just like the above pitch video which we filmed main on my Canon 5D. However there is the intention is to shoot part of the documentary using dramatic re-enactment the on 16mm film, which will be more in keeping with media production of the time . This will probably be the last time I get to shoot on actual film which is both an exciting and yet sad prospect.

November films have a good track record in the documentary field having already produced Beyond Biba, and distributed several documentaries in the UK.

To learn more about the campaign or the film click here to take you to the Indiegogo campaign page

 

Ratan Tata – Asian Business Leaders Award – Asia House

A couple of months ago whilst working for York Smith Productions I was part of the team that filmed filmed the Asian Business Leaders Award for Asia House and the historic Banqueting House in Whitehall, London. We shot eh even using 2 Sony EX3’s in fixed positions and  Canon 5D which I operated, roaming around the venue and event. The small form factor of the Canon 5D is make sit an ideal for event work specially when space is at a premium.

Cooking test shoot

As the year is coming to an end and the nights are drawing in I am already planning projects for next year. One of which is to be a cooking series injunction with with brother-in-law Iain who as well as being a trained chef is now an organic farmer, with a farm on the Suffolk/Essex border. Currently they visit two farmers markets a week one in Stoke Newington on a Saturday and Queens Park Farmers Market on a Sunday. Here Iain not only sells the produce of the farm but often gives out cooking advice. Next year we intent to take this a little further and create a cooking video blog around the farm and the produce it sells integrated with recipe methods and ingredient lists.  Right now we are in the designing and testing stages before going into production sometime after Christmas, trying to establish a look and style along with the practicalities, which are numerous.

The video above was shot in that vain, to see how the lenses I currently own as well as how the Canon 5d mk2 would fair close up. So as christmas was coming I thought I’d try  shooting the making of a Christmas cake. Admittedly the cake in question was a Delia Smith kit from Waitrose. Lighting wise I did start out with practical available light and my 150w pepper until the bulb exploded and from there on it was just the kitchen and under counter lights. As the location we have in mind doesn’t currently have a mains electricity supply we will be looking low powered and battery powered lighting for the actual shoots. This is only one test we will need to undertake along with a set test and testing what are the best cooking equipment to use both in terms of best for filming, cooking and overall design look.

Weekend Warriors: Canis Belli.

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Many months ago I met up with filmmaker and blogger Robin Schimdt or as he is knows on Twitter  aka_elskid, at the London screening of  Zacutos Camera Shootout 2011. In the pub after the event he talked about an ambitious short film he had written set in the trenches of the first world war, Canis Belli. I told him if he needed a hand to give me a shout. Now when you usually hear about plans for short films of this scale you very rarely hear of them again. The ambition and scale usually halts any prospect of actually shooting them.

Fast forward almost five months and I get a message on Twitter from aka_skid to see if I was available as he was about to shoot the film along with co-director Gez Medinger, aka JerzyBondov. The film was to be shot over two and a half days on a permanent standing set just north of  Ipswich on Trench Farm. The set was been used from many major productions including Downton Abbey Continue reading »

Not Sexy But Essential: CF Card Readers


This is not a sexy subject by any means but memory card readers are essential if you have multiple cards for your camera. Today I received my sixth or seventh in the last fifteen months, I loose count because at least four have broken, and that is why I always like to have at least two, one as a back up. If you like my are reliant on Compact Flash Cards the choice is far more limited that other flavours of card. SD cards are the king of memory cards right now.  Most card readers are so poorly built and designed that when you see them you think when will it break rather will it break. Having said all that the second one I bought the Lexar FW800 still works like the day I bought it. It is well designed, when built has Firewire connections and is now discontinued. Now it is almost impossible to get a CF card reader with FW800 connections unless you want to shell out $250 for one from RED which is just an insane amount. I’m a Mac person so of course I have Firewire and prefer it to USB, mainly because I can daisy chain drives together. Essential if you have like me four hard drives connected to a laptop with only two USB sockets. Continue reading »