Michael Andrus, editor and cameraman at DGA recently cut our latest timelapse reel for 2012. We were very fortunate this year to do a ton of traveling to some amazing locations. While time lapses used to be more of an afterthought (meaning we never had allotted time to shoot them), we have seen the tide change a bit. We have been able to parlay some of the kudos we received with our time lapse reel from 2011 into opportunities to shoot more time lapses on location. We have been using both the Kessler Oracle system and Dynamic Perception sliders to achieve the motion controlled look we want. Each shot can take up to 3 hours to prep and shoot, depending on exposure time and other factors. We use After Effects to build and color correct the still images. While these shots can be soul crushing in the time it takes to shoot and build them, the reward of these unique shots are usually worth the energy expended.
We recently shot a piece for ESPN/ABC on Jeff Green of the Boston Celtics. Jeff underwent heart surgery in January of 2012 and has come back in a strong way, getting better as this season wears on. Producer Nancy Devaney and reporter Lindsey Czarniak got great access for us, with both Jeff and his teammates.
Its so nice to work with prime lenses for these kinds of stories. You can really focus your attention on the storyteller, and I love the look of the soft background without needing much depth to make it happen, even on a wider shot. The workflow with our 2 Canon C300′s for interviews and 5dmk2 for stills was seamless using all Canon glass. The L series 50mm 1.2 has been my go to lens for interviews ever since we got it, especially if its the wide in a 2 camera situation. Nancy had me shoot stills as well, and the 50mm delivered some very pretty images. She incorporated these pictures into the opening of the final video.
Though we spent several days with Jeff and the Celtics, the main interview day was to be shot on an off day, in the Celtics locker room at the Garden. Since time is always limited (though Jeff was very generous with his), we had a second set up ready to go immediately following the interview for our specialty shots. Our versatile team of guys can do a lot of different things, so when it comes time to move, we can jump out of interview mode and into the arty stuff quickly. Jeff was a trooper, letting us shoot his scar and allowing us to direct him into other shots we needed to tell his story. A slider, and small jib captured Jeff alone at his locker with a single light source.
A more detailed blog about this shoot can be seen on DGA’s blog here
We recently shot a commercial in conjunction with ISM Travels for the Tourism Board of St. Lucia. We shot mainly on our two Canon C300′s, with some additional scuba diving footage captured on the Black Go Pro Hero3′s. We also submerged the C300 for a few shots using an ewa-marine bag. While the bag kept the water out (the obvious number one priority), we had occasional fogging issues. Manual focusing under water was difficult as well. The solution became go wide and close down. That gave me the best chance to get the shot in focus. The C300 performed admirably at 2500 ISO. We also made the decision to shoot C-log, Canon’s wide dynamic range capturing option. With this profile, the image initially looks very flat and the blacks quite milky. There are LUT’s to plug in for preview mode, but its tough on location if time is a factor. The C300 also has a preview button while shooting in C-log, that tries to reproduce a color corrected image, but I didn’t find it that helpful or accurate. By controlling highlights and allowing for detail in the shadows, C-log becomes the logical choice to shoot in if there is any type of post budget. Otherwise, working in the Canon EOS standard setting looks great right out of the box (and attempts to reproduce the look of the 5d). Please check back after the spot is edited for a comparison between what we saw on location and the final product.
See our St. Lucia Flickr album for the location pics.
DGA just took delivery of our new Canon C300. Usually we have a day or two to play around but demand has been high and the camera has been working everyday since we got it. I’ve had a couple of shoots with it already and wanted to share some early observations.
First, a little background about our specific camera needs at DGA Productions. We currently own 15 cameras for 3 staff shooters, with any one camera just as likely to go on a job that day as any other. While we are primarily a production company, we rent our cameras and gear to our freelance friends and even the local rental houses if they are in need. DGA has always been a company that buys early in the product cycle. Back when I started in ’96, you hoped buying a camera had a shelf life of 10 years or so before obsolescence, these days, you’re happy with 3.
Since our first Varicam purchase in 2003, we have gone through a slew of cheaper, smaller, cinematic (read 24p) cameras at DGA. The 5dmkii,7d, AF100, HVX200, and DVX100 all reside on our shelves. We never purchased a Sony F3, which for both price and look is the most comparable camera to the C300. We added many “small camera” specific items like Zeiss primes, Canon L series glass, a couple of motion control sliders and Zacuto rigs. This has given us the advantage of being able to do smaller budget productions, with a bigger production value. While all this product has made our stuff look more cinematic, each camera or workflow is not without their annoyances. The Canon C300 seems to address some of these annoyances.
Lets start with the positives. It comes with two preset picture profiles. One is a c-log (shoots flat for post color correction), and the EOS look, C9, which matches the 5dmkii. Able Cine has a page devoted to picture profiles that match some already popular looks with other cameras. Out of the box, the EOS profile looks fantastic. The saturated, crushed black look of the DSLR is right there. Adding your 5d or 7d as a second camera matches fairly closely. Ergonomically the camera feels comfortable with the pistol grip for your right hand. Having iris control and a record button makes operating handheld much easier. The camera naturally sits low, meaning it feels best resting on my belly and not at eye level, a potential disadvantage at times.
The HDSDI out, XLR inputs, and TC sync give us the professional video components that the cameras on our shelves lack in some form or another. There are 3 stop/start buttons and 2 iris dials, solid. The LCD screen is sharp, accurate, and bright, plus it swivels in almost any direction to give you or the producer over your shoulder many viewing options.
The sample clip below was shot available light. We had 20 interviews in 2 days with multiple locations so I tried to use the natural light where I could (luckily I had an overcast couple of days.)
Some dislikes – Shooting b-roll is tough. I was trained on larger, shoulder mount cameras. As with all cyclops (thanks Mal) cameras (viewfinder in the back of the camera and not off to the side), you must hold the camera directly in front of you in an uncomfortable, non ergonomic way. That makes it hard to steady the shot, see out your periphery, and taxes your back. Sure you can add the Zacuto mounts, but then it ceases to become a small, easy to maneuver camera and gets wonky awfully quick. If you are not outside, the lcd screen works fine in the flipped down mode, acting as an viewfinder. Focus is not as accurate using an LCD, and I find the peaking function to be inadequate. Also, because you are not using a traditional video lens with a servo, everything is manual and compromises smooth, traditional zooms. Your mm range will always be limited in comparison to a wide ranging video lens.
I also don’t like the function button/toggling that you need to use to cycle through to change the shutter, ISO and white balance. Pushing the function button gets you to the item you want to change, then you roll a secondary wheel to toggle through the options. All which change in a “stepping” motion, limiting any smooth adjustments during filming. You can assign other buttons on the camera to act independently, but it still means you have to locate them, push, and toggle. Try to do that while rolling and you are bound to be disappointed.
Smaller annoyances include no playback speaker for audio, a seemingly easy standard feature in every other camera I’ve ever used. No Dtap to power an external recorder or camera light. The 8 bit vs 10 bit is a future proofing issue, and the output is limited to 1080, while so many were hoping for the ability to shoot 4k or even RAW.
Overall, I like it for a non shoulder mount camera. The images are very slick, and for a medium price tag, you get a lot of value. The C500 announced at NAB this year addresses the 4k and bit output limitations of the C300, though the camera is not due out til next year and may cost twice and much. For now, this camera will be work very well for 95% of our clients. Were just hoping for 3 years…
DGA was recently asked to shoot some corporate vignettes with 2011 PGA Rookie of the year Keegan Bradley. Putnam Investments took great care of us for three days down in Florida. We had the gear shipped down, allowing us to relax while traveling, an enjoyable rarity. My partner John Maliszewski and I arrived only with our suitcases and laptops, 11 cases coming later that night. A Phantom Flex with Super Speed Zeiss Primes for his swing and 2 Af100′s for the interview. We would pick up the grip truck and supplemental crew locally.
We shot the interview first, one camera on a slider, one a tight, and a low angle lock off. We ran the AF100 to Ki-pros, then to video village. The primes made a nice, soft background even closed down a stop and a half to ensure crisp focus on the subject. Keegan was great to work with, humble and accommodating. We tortured him for four hours – interview, driving shots off a tee, and a walk and talk through a par 5. The Phantom footage turned out as we had hoped, compression on the ball, and the ability to break down his swing. At 720p, the camera delivers 5,000fps. Shooting blades of grass getting ripped up by a 7 iron looked spectacular. The crew and people at the Dye Preserve in Jupiter were all first class and made for a memorable shoot. We even got to see a huge gator…
A sample of video below, along with pics. More pictures on our flickr site…
We bought this camera a few months ago as Panasonic billed it as their next big thing. At only $5000 and with DGA being a mostly Panasonic shop, we jumped on board early. It’s their answer to the Canon DSLR popularity that has swept over filmmakers everywhere. After working with this camera for a while, I have some pros and cons to blab about.
HDSDI output and XLR inputs. Two main issues with the DSLR’s are the HDMI out and single mini in for audio. Panasonic has solved both of those problems. Audio tech’s have rejoiced everywhere as the dual record system is no longer an issue here. Now there is a monitor return and no need to dumb down the audio to a single channel. The HDSDI out is a professional output that plugs right into the monitor so no need for adaptors or an inferior monitor that takes HDMI. This camera is a no brainer in multiple camera setups as time code sync helps the editor save time. In addition, the HDSDI allows us output to a Ki-Pro or Nanoflash and record a higher bit rate to combat the consumer codec that is native to the AF100 (AVCHD).
The ability to use cine lenses and existing Canon or Nikon glass with an adaptor. The camera shines when real glass is put on the front element. You can now achieve the DSLR look with minimal effort. We own a set of 60 year old Cooke Primes that work very well with the AF100 to give a warm and soft picture. We also use a 25-250mm 3.2 Anginuex zoom lens when necessary that gives a unique look for a low cost. DGA takes delivery of some new Zeiss primes soon so I’m sure I will like the look even more.
SD cards are cheap and can be bought anywhere. I just wish they added a slot for my P2 cards as well.
Thank you for the zebras, Canon please take note…
The AVCHD codec. I get that Panasonic was trying to lower costs here by going away from P2, but once again they screw their existing customers (like when they hurt Varicam owners by trotting out the HDX900). Not only is the codec weak in the color space (4:2:0) and takes longer to transcode, but with only 25mb/sec speed, it has zero advantage to a Canon DSLR (same recording speed). Plus now I have a bunch of expensive P2 cards sitting around that I can’t use with Panasonics latest and greatest. Bad call.
The 14-140 kit lens is a joke. Maybe the worst lens you can use shooting video. F4 on the wide and F6 tight is brutal. Not a big deal since no one uses a kit lens, but there are no optimal other choices that fit the micro 4/3 mount. Plus, no servo attachment to power a real zoom lens. Very limiting. The micro 4/3 lens mount is puzzling here. Make it a B4 or PL or 1/3 or Canon or Nikon mount so I can use some existing lenses with this thing. Now I’m forced to use adaptors as there aren’t any quality lenses with the micro 4/3 mount.
While the AF100 is better than the HVX200, I still have plenty of reservations. Like any tool in the shed, when used in the right situation, the camera can provide a beautiful image. It does fill a need by being able to record a high quality image (with the help of an external recording device) and create a shallow depth of field (with Prime lenses) at a reasonable price. The AF100 gets a few things right but it is no panacea. Most likely, nothing will ever be the complete solution, that’s why we have to keep buying more tools for our crowded shed.
How’s it? Three and a half days in South Africa to tell 5 stories for Kenny’s Wider World of Sports. A tough challenge, especially with the travel time and cultural barriers. Much like our other trips, this job flew by. While we wish it could have been longer, we made the most of the time we had. Helicopter shots, safari excursions, interviews in the townships, and running through rugby drills made up an impressive shooting schedule. Hitting golf balls off a mountain, stick fighting with locals and touring a lion park filled out the busy itinerary.
Same gear as our last trips – Varicam, Canon DSLR’s, Gopros, Kessler Cineslider. The workflow is starting to get easier. Camera Op/editor/soundman Michael Andrus media manages the video at night and I take care of the stills. Flickr link here for pics. We had a few opportunities to capture some nice time lapse stuff with the DSLR’s and can post the footage after the show airs in the fall.
South Africans pretty much all speak English, and it was very easy to get around (especially with our fancy bullet proof van and armed security guard Grant). The people could not have been friendlier. We of course read reports about how dangerous Johannesburg was and proceeded through our days cautiously. As if on cue, on consecutive mornings at our local breakfast cafe, there were break ins each night previous. The second time, the crooks defecated on the entry stairs to the building. Talk about brazen. It had been over 6 hours since the robbery and the cops still hadn’t showed up, nasty.
Johannesburg is a huge, sprawling city. The opposite feel of Rio. Much more LA than NYC. A few highlights stood out. Spending some time in Soweto was fascinating. The men we encountered were welcoming and hammed it up for the camera. We left the township with some souvenirs and fun images. Watching young rugby players try their hand at American football was hilarious. Kenny may have even converted a few guys into liking our game more than theirs. African stick fighting was a big thrill. Kenny was tasked with sparring against a Zulu warrior trying to stab him with a spear. It made for some great video with all the pageantry and colors of the local African tribes on hand.
Lets talk also about the Extreme 19th. A golf hole at Legend Safari Resort that you must take a helicopter to. A 395 yard par 3 atop Mt. Hanglip, the golfer tees off 1300 feet above the hole. The ball takes almost 25 seconds to land. Epic. A once in a lifetime experience that we all got a huge kick out of.
Another fun gig courtesy of ESPN and producer of the year Matt Doyle. If we can get him to lay off the flavored vodka and wine coolers, he will be a lot more fun to hang out with. Below is a video of broll Andrus cut…
Travel definitely comes in waves at DGA. Since 9/11, we fly less often as corporate budgets have dwindled, the economy has slowed, and airline cost increases have all combined to keep us grounded. The last few months have been the exception as it seems I have been on the road constantly. We hooked up with ESPN to do a traveling sports show with reporter/funnyman Kenny Mayne called Kenny’s Wider World of sports. Kenny has chosen six destinations around the world to learn about their sports, and in turn teach them about American football (Kenny played QB at UNLV). With the premise set, we left for Brazil on the second leg of the tour.
The first trip to London/Ireland last month was a bit more traditional (see pictures here). We shot mostly Varicam and I gave producer Matt Doyle my Canon T2i to pickup any extra shots he wanted. We added up a second Varicam shooter and soundman (Sir Dork-a-lot he was dubbed by Kenny) to round out the crew. After coming back to edit, Doyle liked the look of the T2i and wanted to make the next job more DSLR heavy. I was fortunate to have my colleague Michael Andrus with me for this trip as Michael can shoot, do sound, and edit. We came to Brazil with a single Varicam, a Canon 5d Markii, 60d, T2i and two Go Pro Heros. If we had to do sound without the Varicam (because you can’t take a big camera to certain places), we would roll directly into a Zoom H4 and marry it in post.
Forces immediately seemed to conspire against us. Doyle’s flight was cancelled and wouldn’t be able to come until a day after we arrived. Kenny wasn’t able to come til Friday now (we arrived on Wednesday). Our gear and luggage didn’t make our connecting flight and wouldn’t show up for another 30 hours. We had brought the 60d and T2i with our carry on so we could at least use those til the rest of the equipment showed up. Thankfully our fixer in Rio was able to secure a tripod and we headed out in the late afternoon for scenics.
I had never been to Rio and apparently it can be a dangerous place. We rolled with Rodrigo our driver in an armored van and an armed plain clothed policeman who rotated daily. Only once did Bruno have to flash his gun when a drunk man wouldn’t let go of Kenny. Other than that bizarre incident, things went pretty smoothly. While we had a rough start with the aforementioned problems, the trip was a once in a lifetime experience. We shot with soccer superstar Ronaldinho, stood at the base of the giant Christ the Redeemer statue, rode cable cars to the top of Sugarloaf mountain, and spent a glorious day on Ipanema Beach. We went into the ghettos (called Favelas) to shoot Brazilian dance rituals or Capuerars. The favelas are very dangerous and ruled by drug lords, with no police oversight (forgot to mention that to my wife). We stayed at the Copacabana Palace on Copacabana Beach, one of the most beautiful hotels in the Brazil. The rugged topography, stunningly attractive people, and exotic location made shooting in Rio an excellent choice for Kenny’s show.
A bonus feature gained by using the DSLR’s are time lapse videos. We had very little time on this trip to capture any, and our hotel room views didn’t provide much of a good look. We hope to make these shots a priority on future trips. Andrus cut some of our clips with just the DSLR footage and its posted below. We took some stills as well, though this trip was all business with no sightseeing. The next stop may be China, and if Doyle gives the ok, the whole thing may be shot on the Canon DSLR’s.
The end of March is no joke in Quebec Province. It’s our mid February, but colder. Frigid, raw, biting. But of course there is hockey to keep the good people of French Canada entertained. Semipro matches that draw a thousand or so fans per playoff game. Guys playing because they love the sport, earning on average about $300 for their efforts. They are teachers and farmers and journeymen players who shuffle their lives around to maybe play a game 5 hours from where they live. The Ligue Nord Américaine de Hockey or LNAH, also had a reputation as the toughest league in the world. Where bench clearing brawls happened routinely, often pregame, before the refs were on the ice to break them up. These melees would sometimes last 20 to 25 minutes. The league has cleaned up its act a bit the last few years, even with the addition of former NHL pugilist Donald Brashear. Less fights have drawn better players in, and in turn, the quality of hockey has improved.
Michael and I had 2 Varicams, a 5d and way too much gear. The Suburban was stuffed. 1500 miles over five days through mountains and farmlands in the brutal cold. Our producer Doyle and our interpreter/fixer Sean rode in the lead car. We generally paralleled the St. Lawrence river, starting in Montreal then to Quebec, Trois-Rievieres, Saguenay, Sorel, then back to Montreal. We saw 2 fights in 3 games. Not the ratio we were hoping for. Nonetheless, the playoffs were fun to shoot and the trip was memorable…
A few favorite moments:
The gas station attendant thinking Michael was my son
Doyle choosing flavored vodkas and paying dearly for it
Ice skating with a camera and not wiping out
Hearing the French version of Oh Canada in Saguenay
Sean explaining what a wheelchair beer is
Watching the Bruins mop up the Canadians 7-0 in Quebec City
Walking out of Houston’s Steakhouse
Doyle asking Donald Brashear about playing in an “old man league”
Recently, Brigham and Women’s Hospital successfully completed the first full face transplant in the United States. I was lucky enough to be one of the cameramen documenting the surgery for the Brigham. The procedure lasted just over 15 hours, with exhausted doctors who were all smiles at the end of the night. The recipient, Dallas Wiens, lost his facial features when the cherry picker he was working in collided with a live wire. As a crew, we were honored to be a part of such a important medical breakthrough, and thank the good people of the Brigham for being so accommodating.
Raaay Alleennn for threeeeeeeee!!!! Celtics PA announcer Eddie Palladino’s famous Ray Allen call rained down early against the Lakers. The Celtics may have lost tonight, but toppling Reggie Miller’s three point record while he watched courtside was a beautiful thing. We shot a few clips with our Canon t2i and d60. Those DSLR’s are so much fun to shoot with after wearing the Varicam on your shoulder all day. Below are the clips and some pics from the night.
DGA gets a call Tuesday afternoon – “Can you guys be in Nova Scotia tomorrow for a shoot that evening?” The job was two and a half hours northeast of Halifax in the middle of nowhere. Michael Andrus and I packed our stuff, checked off the carnet, and scurried to the airport 12 hours later. A Nor’easter was gearing up to slam the east coast and our plane made it out just in time. When we landed in Halifax, our producer had left a message that he and the reporter would not be joining us as their flights had been cancelled due to the storm. It was on us to get the shots they needed. We checked into the hotel and headed out. After getting rear ended at a toll booth just inside the city, the long journey was thankfully uneventful.
The story is about Mike Danton, a former NHL hockey player with a past that reads like a Hollywood script. Danton, was convicted in a murder for hire plot when he hired a hitman to kill his former agent. The agent, David Frost has been charged with other crimes including sexual exploitation and assault. Frost has been accused of brainwashing former players and sexually abusing these teens while they were playing for him at the junior level. The players all stick by Frost but authorities seem to think otherwise. In another strange twist, Danton has stated that he had intended to murder his father (whom he is now estranged with) and not Frost. Danton had changed his name from Jefferson as to distance himself from his immediate family. A crazy story indeed and one the will be coming to ESPN’s E:60 in the near future.
We got the shots last night and drove back to Halifax in a blinding snowstorm after Danton’s game. He is currently playing for the St. Mary’s Huskies at the collegiate level after taking correspondence courses in prison. The game last night was at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish. The snow continues to fall outside my hotel window and our last chance to make it out today is a flight that leaves at 4:20 back to Boston. We hope to be home for dinner.