Tag Archives: Equipment

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

 

Strawberry Fields

Summer may now be over but a few months ago I was commissioned by London Farmers’ Markets to make a short  promotional film centred around a strawberry farmer who sold at their markets. The aim was to explain how strawberries are grown to extend the British growing season.

I travelled out to Colchester to film on Fiveways Fruit Farm to film strawberry plants in various stages of growth  as well as interview Julian Mead, one of the partners in the farm.

The following day I met up with Julians brother, Alistair at Parliament Hill Farmers Market and filmed him working at the market. There we also got the chance to  grab a few words with food critic Giles Cohen extolling the virtues of Alistair and his strawberries. A few hours later I and Cheryl Cohen of London Farmers’ Markets travelled over to Walthamstow for a strawberry promotion at which we met managed to get  couple of words with Gennaro Contaldo as he tried some strawberries.

Shot on the Canon 5D with interview audio recorded on a Zoom H4N and a Rode NTG2 and edited using FCP7

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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 »

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 »

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

Martins Pond

 

Matins Pond is situated in the idilic village of Potten End, Hertfordshire. This short film was designed to increase the pubs profile online by creating something that could be used on many platforms, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and set it apart from others in the area. The interior part of the soot was shot one day and the exteriors another due to the snow.

Shot using 2 Canon 5D’s and edited using FCP

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 »

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.

 

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 »

Workflow: Backing it up

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This week a good friend of mine had his car broken into and had his laptop, ipad, and back up hard drive stolen loosing everything. This is a a fears for most of us in the digital age with our whole lives centred in one place, diary, photo album, music collection, love notes, emails, and work. Hearing this first hand is the equivalent of a digital mortality check.

Backing up is important but so is separation of back ups especially when traveling. On the off chance your bag gets stolen you wont loose everything. But it’s not just the fear of theft we should be worried about it’s failure of equipment, computers and hard drives do have a tendency of stopping work, no matter what their age. I had a LaCie rugged hard drive I was using as my portable hard drive, it lasted less then a month. Clients have phoned slightly panicked to ask if I have a copy of the footage I shot for them as their drive had failed, strangely enough another LaCie Rugged drive, and yes I did have a copy. Continue reading »

The Ebay Effect

Yesterday I wrote a list of all my photographic and film equipment and put it up on my site for a couple or reasons, one being I kind of looses track sometimes of what I’ve got and where it is. A reminder sharpens my memory and stops the Ebay Effect. The Ebay effect is the looking on Ebay for something you’ve already got and have forgotten about. Im my case it’s my Super 8 camera. A few weeks ago I was looking to buy a Super 8 camera for an upcoming project and completely forgot I already had one which I found in the bottom of a cupboard. Now I wonder if I have forgotten I’ve bought film for it?

This Week The Best Video Camera is the Nokia N8

“The best camera is the camera you’ve got with you” is a quote by  Seattle based photographer Chase Jarvis who developed the Best Camera App for the iPhone. His notion is that you can only take a picture if you’ve got a camera with you and chances are you’re going to have a mobile phone with a camera on it. So that is the best camera, the one you’ve got with you most of the time.  Carrying on that train of thought this week here in sunny Cannes the best video camera is the Nokia N8 and here is why.

It’s the annual advertising festival Cannes Lions this week and with it comes the Young Lions Competition Film Competition. To create an even playing field  Nokia one of the sponsors of Young Lions, gave each team a brand new Nokia N8 along with 32gb of micro sd memory to use for filming a sixty second commercial.  The Nokia N8 has a fantastic camera built into it, probably the best mobile phone camera in the world right now shooting twelve megapixels and video at 720p. It has been used to shoot many a commercial for Nokia.

The brief I can not reveal right now as the competition is still under way but Nokia along with Getty Images and Adobe provided the technology for the teams to create their entry into the competition. Nokia also provided a tool shed and that is where I have been working for the last few days for Angelic Films. The tool shed, is not as the name would suggest full of traditional tools for gardening and fixing that dripping tap but instead equipped with some basic film making tools, lens adapters, tripods and Steadicam Smoothee’s which we modified for the Nokia N8 all of which are available for the teams to use. The teams are all out at the moment battling to win a Cannes Lion and all that it brings with it and I look forward to seeing the results and how they used the equipment we provided them with.

 

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London Launch Learn @ Asia House


A couple of weeks ago I got a phone call from York Smith of York Smith productions. York asked me if I could do some filming for him at an upcoming event at a London Launch Learn event at Asia House, he was going to be away in the Congo working for the UN.

London Launch Learn conduct networking events across London for event planners and suppliers. Junes event was conducted at Asia House a eighteenth century Grade II listed building just north of Oxford Street. Founded in 1996 Asia House is a meeting venue dedicated to the exchange of developing their contacts and understanding of business and of diplomatic and cultural interaction between Asia and Britain.
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When The Sun Gets In Your Eyes

Recently I tried to take a photo of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai using my iPhone but the old issue of screen glare reared it’s ugly head making it almost impossible to see what was on the screen. To get around this I took my Zacuto Z-Finder 2.5x from my Canon and placed it onto the screen. Boom. Problem solved, not only was the sun blocked out from the screen but a saw a magnified image. Now it’s not the perfect solution and you do have a bit of a balancing act to contend with between holding the phone, Z-finder and trying to hit the all important shutter button but with a bit of practice I got the shot I wanted.

The image was processed using the BestCamera App on the iPhone using Jewel and vignette filters along with simple white frame. Job done!

It’s A Numbers Game

“the decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organisation of forms which gives that event its proper expression” – Henri Cartier Bresson

Allusions of grandeur, a coverall for luck or something deeper?

Something deeper I think. Back in Bresson’s day photographers were arguably far more technical than they are today and would probably shot a lot less than we do now, bearing in mind the length of 35mm film rarely exceeded 36 exposures.  So every frame was precious, and expensive and probably more considered before the shutter button was finally pressed.  Essentially Bresson in my opinion was talking about the need to be ready for those decisive moments in life, being technically ready for what the universe brings.

Be prepared is also the motto of the Scouts, in fact there any number of quotes, phrases and anachronisms relating to being prepared. Being prepared is important, but its more an just a technical thing, it’s a mental thing too.
Continue reading »

moments in time

Moments in time from Christopher Hughes on Vimeo.

HDSLR cameras have amongst other things created a great resurgence in time lapse photography. The ease and simplicity can make for quite a addictive experience as you don’t always know what exactly you are going to capture.

Last week I too dipped, for the first time, my toe into these time lapse waters and above is the result. The film is created from seven sessions of between thirty minute and an hour and a half  shooting a frame every three or four seconds. QuickTime’s were created from the stills using Quicktime 7 and the whole thing edited using Final Cut Pro. which took quick some time because of the amount of rendering required because of the native size of each of the time lapse QuickTimes.

The music for the film is by the amazing Moby and was licensed from mobygratis.com a wonderful resource for non profit film makers, something I had heard about sometime ago but never looked into until now.

Kit used:
  • Canon 5d MK2
  • Canon EF 24-70mm 2.8f
  • Manfrotto 561 BDHV monopod
  • Yongnuo Timer Remote Controller
  • Zacuto Z-finder