image courtesy of Dave Dugdale at learningvideo.com
Light tests… they’re part of the life of a filmmaker. We wanted to test different types of lights we have on our grip truck, and few that Dave Dugdale at learningvideo.com owns, to observe the nature of each light. There were an incredible number of directions we could take this light test, but I wanted to really try and come away with a practical look at what each light brings to the table unmodified. For the most part. Two of the lights had soft boxes as modifiers, the LED 150 and the HMI 400. The LED 150 is designed to always be used with the softbox, so we kept it, and the HMI 400 PAR featured a small chimera softbox because the talent would be blinded by the output of the bare (and harsh) light output.
Here’s a walkthrough video where I provide some thoughts about the findings we found. You can also scroll down bellow to the images and see for yourself what you prefer, the video adds some additional thoughts looking through the shots.
Special thanks to the many guys that came together to make this happen: Dave Dugdale, Blayne Chastain, Peter Wigand, Allan McLain, Johnathan Nicolas, and Samuel Johnson. Another huge special thanks to an excellent studio space in Denver, skytheory.com
Shot on the Red Epic at 5K HD resolution with a Rokinon 50mm cine DS lens, on a Miller 55 Arrow tripod, if you care about that… at varying apertures, noted below on each frame (this will provide a point of reference for light output, which while not the primary take away, is still a valid piece of information). We kept the color temperature locked at 5600k.
We compared X lights: Kino Diva 400, Kino 4 foot 4 bank, ILED C700S, ILED 150-56 softbox, Tungsten 650w Fresnel, and a Kobold HMI 400w PAR. Each light was placed in two positions – exactly 84 inches from the subject, measured from the light face, and half the distance at 42 inches from the subject.
Figuring out the test
The tricky part of this test was the number of variables we had to clamp down on. Light output, light color temperature, light distance, size of light, position of light, light height to subject, and so on and so on. Even before we rolled the first test, we debated back and forth about how best to come away with something of value from these tests. Indeed, the lights are all different beasts, we’re comparing apples and lions here, a lot of these lights aren’t in the same metaphorical food group. Nonetheless, the lights are on our grip truck, and they were asking to be tested together. And so we pressed on.
Frame grabs from the lights
Scroll down below for a few more thoughts on the tests…
Aside from color temperature and light output, I find if fascinating to evaluate the “nature” of the light, or the way the shadows fall of and how specular the light feels on the subject. There’s some pretty substantial differences in how the lights work their magic. A lot of it has to do with physics, the age old equation of increasing the size of your source directly softening the shadows. So a larger source like the 4 bank is going to offer more wrap and a general push in part because the light is 4 feet wide, versus say the 20.5″ wide C700 LED light. Set at the same angle, both lights offer different characteristics.
A note on hard lights
On the other end of the spectrum, looking at the fresnel, the hard cut of shadows lends itself to a distinct and controllable look (this would be a similar effect small lights like the dedos offer). The beauty of the fresnel is the tremendous level of control you can have on the beam width of your light. In certain situations this is everything. We did a shoot a while back with a 5 piece ensemble that needed to be lit in a room that was only 12-14 feet deep. The director wanted a high contrast look with pools of lights creating the feeling of an Irish-style tavern, but with limited space and a lot of subjects (all of them playing sizable instruments) we had to reign in the light in the room and clamp down on every single fixture. We pulled off a great look with about 10 fresnel lights of various sizes, and it had a really nice feel that any more general light wouldn’t have been able to achieve. I just feel the need to add in my short note on hard lights because so many shoots I’m on these days are looking for bigger softer sources (also related to the decreasing time we have to light, but that’s for another blog post). Which is great, and I’m happy to go with that all day long. But I greatly appreciate the tact and experience it takes to master the hard lights.
Would love to hear your thoughts on how we approached the test, what you’d do different, and what you’d like to see next! If this is well received I imagine we may be back to expand the series into a variety of new directions!
Since 2009, we’ve been privilege to work with Highjump, a company that is very quickly becoming the leader in the international supply chain technology space. Each year they put on their technology conference Elevate and we’re there to record session videos, client case studies, recruiting pieces, and of course the annual event promo. We had fun this year in Orlando and wanted to convey the energy and momentum this conference has. Enough energy, in fact, to bring one of their clients from South Africa to the conference (watch for him early in the video).
Creating New Video Content
This is one in a big collection of videos we made for them this year. In total, we’ll have finished more than 50 videos by the end of 2016 with Highjump, a good amount of content from these was captured at their 5 day conference in Orlando. These videos include themes like recruitment, case studies, feature roll outs, and the promo as seen above.
What Corporate Partnership Looks Like
We’re sold on the idea of partnering with our clients. They’re the experts on what they do, for Highjump that’s dominating the supply chain software space. We’re experts at video, so we take our skills to promote their brilliance. It’s worked out well with Highjump and they continue to bring us on board for many projects every year. We’d love to talk video with you, please contact us today!
As I prep for a hefty shoot starting next weekend, I thought I would share some of the little things that I’ve found help a production run flawlessly a little more smoothly. Obviously every set needs a camera. But there are many little bits and parts that aide the filmmaker with the minor details. I’ve compiled a list below of what I think are useful pieces to have in your grip kit. Best of all, most of the items are relatively inexpensive, so it’s one of several cheap ways to improve your efficiency as a filmmaker.
–Mafer Clamps ~$30 Perfect for clamping to pipes and tubular objects
–Cardellini Clamps (pictured, left) ~$50 for clamping onto objects like a 2×4
–C47s, (wood closepin) Infinite uses, used a lot to keep gels on lights
–Pipe Clamps ~$20 As the name implies, good for clamping to pipes. Not quite as versatile as mafer clamp, but less expensive.
–Grip Clips ~$1 Used for everything from holding sound blankets together to cable management… best value for the money
You can’t show up to a shoot without these essential clamps. On big productions, there will undoubtedly be a grip truck with a long list of equipment. For all other occasions, (and there are many of them), bring your own clamps to set. You never know when the gaffer might come up with a crazy plan to put a light in a corner where nobody thinks it’s possible. It’s your job to prove them wrong!
Thin, string-like objects…
–Motorcylce Straps ~$15 Used to tighten things down. Especially useful in windy locations to keep tarps down, keep the tripod tightly to the dolly, etc
–Bungee Cords ~$5 Like a motorcylce strap, but quicker to setup, relies on flexibility of cord instead of a ratchet.
–Rope ~$10 If you use 12×12 frames for silks, bounce, rope is a necessity to maintain safety on set. Alternatively, you can always use it to hogtie the PA’s.
–Stingers (extension cords) ~$5-$200 This starts to get into the domain of the Gaffers/Electricians, so treat this one carefully. On the small sets, having 200 feet of cord with you will make you everyone’s best friend. Seems like every set always has at least one “I can almost reach that light with this cord” moment. Better to be over-prepared. I try and buy the highest gauge cord I can afford. I don’t carry anything under a 14 gauge in my back and always have a few 12 gauges at the ready. Another note, label all of your stuff! I’ve lost soooo much inexpensive grip equipment on sets that it’s starting to get expensive! Nobody wants to buy a 50 ft stinger over and over again. Label it!
–Sunglasses/eye protection ~$1-$150 Whether you pickup a pair of sunglasses at the dollar store or Oakley, you’ve gotta have eye protection during bright days. Add bright lights, bounce boards, a headache is bound to result if you aren’t careful.
–Lighting Gloves ~$15-$40 I’m rather fond of my Setwear lighting gloves. Not only do they protect my hands from hot lights and pinches, but they give me a pretty fantastic amount of dexterity. Some of their nicer pairs are a bit pricey, but well worth it.
–Blankets ~$5-$50 Useful to keep the camera warm, and if they’re thick enough, can be used as a make-shift sound barrier (sound blanket)
–Tarps ~$10-$100 A must have. You can put your gear on them, they can cover your gear from weather, so many uses, a must have.
–Gaffers Tape~$15 Remember that thing about labeling? I’ve lost more rolls of Gaff tape than I can count on two hands. At $14 a pop, it’s not the type of thing I like to loose. Used for everything requiring adhesive, doesn’t leave residue. Awesome.
–Spike Tape– $5-$10 Thin tape in bright colors usually used for actors marks or on the lens to mark focus points.
–Masking Tape– $3 When you just need to label something quickly
–Duct Tape (in many colors) $2 There are a number of circumstances on set when using gaff tape isn’t worth the cost. When something just needs to stick, duct tape.
Perhaps the most obvious on the list. In my tool chest, I carry:
–Wrenches ~$10 The adjustable kind are great.
–Screw drivers/Flatheads~$5 Need ’em.
–Leatherman (multitool) $20-$80 These tools are so useful. Have one on your belt always. The knife is key. The pliers are key. The scissors, the little screw driver, everything about this tool was made for film sets. Get one!
–Measure Tape ~$5 Measuring rooms for overheads, focus distances, etc.
–Level ~$8 Leveling track!
–Headlamp ~$30 How many sets go late into the night? Having your hands free is a must.
–Flashlight ~$20 The 4D maglite is fantastic. Versatile and bright.
–Markers/Pens ~$2 I always seem to forget pens on set. I keep a box in my car, notes need to be made!
–Energy Bars ~$1 not exactly a “tool”, but an important thing to keep you going on those long stretches between food breaks.
What things would you add to this kit? Take away?
Update: Here are some awesome user additions, thanks for the comments!
–Advil/IBprofen ~A must. Thanks Bill
–Knife, Notepad, Pens, Phone, Radio ~All key. Thanks Brian
–Black Wrap Aluminum foil-like material, but coated in black to quickly shape and block light. Thanks Jamie
–Sunscreen, Allen wrench Good for not getting toasted. Thanks Jim
–Foam ear plugs “Sharpie” assorted color, Grease pencil (China market), Cube tapes (if you are pulling double duty), Binder clamps Thanks JD
–3/16 allen wrench for speed rail. Good call thanks Ben!
The awesome team at Mortage Cadence hired us as their local Denver Video Production company to create a recruiting HR corporate video for them as they expand their business rapidly and need a lot of great new talent! We were privileged at the opportunity, but knowing that collecting interviews from many of their executive team, some of who are based around the US, would be a tricky endeavor with their busy schedules and traveling, we decided to shoot the video during their annual Ascent conference, hosted at the beautiful Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs!
At the end of the event, we had captured over 20 key interviews and 10+ hours of content which allowed us to stitch together a powerful picture of the company and their personality, a competitive and fun work environment to be sure!
This was our second overall project with them, our first was a series of videos they hired us to create to introduce executive members of the team at the conference. We were pleased that they hired us a second time in such a short period and they had a number of nice things to say! Sarah, the lead of their marketing team said,
Here’s a look at one of the intros we shot (of a total of 8)
Here’s one other video from the series:
We’ll show off the other 6 intros in a different post.
A great place to see the video work
The conference itself had a lot of really great technology with a gigantic video wall as sandwiched between two projector screens. Having the videos play across all three with a booming sound system definitely left an impression with the audience. In fact, in the reviews of what people liked about the conference, in an unprompted response one of the top answers was “the video introductions”. We’re proud of that. We put our best foot forward on the video intros and it paid off!
We will continue working with them on a few more video projects and look forward to many new and exciting projects.
A huge special thank you to my friend Dave Dugdale at learningdslrvideo.com for putting together this behind the scenes video while we were shooting a final day on our series for Unlock Freedom.
Unlock Freedom is an organization with a mission to stand against human trafficking. One of their big objectives is educating students in schools, and this video series we were creating is one teaching tool they’re using to do so.
I was set up with a DJI Ronin and Atlas Camera Support system, thanks to my friend Cory Reynolds at Contrast Media. With the Red Epic mounted on board, we had a pretty killer package.
Because this was a smaller budget production, we got creative and preproduction and determined a way to shoot all of the stabilized shots on a 24mm lens, stopped down to around 5.6-8 to keep the depth of field deep enough to keep a subject in focus without too much worry. We went without a wireless follow focus, which although almost invaluable to have when on anything other than a 24mm or wider, we were able to pull it off in focus.
I’ve used a Ronin or similar handheld gimbal system on quite a few productions to date, but I wouldn’t call myself a gimbal master. The shots came out smooth and are editing together well, for which I am thankful, but my lower back definitely can use some rest for a few days. With just the Ronin, it’s probably in the 20-30 pound ballpark. You add the Atlas support system, which clips two tent-pole like rods into the crossbar of the gimbal with a velcro clip, and I personally was able to shoot for much much longer, something like 10-15 minutes at a time versus 3-5 minutes going with just the Ronin alone. With 10-15 minutes we were able to accomplish all the shots we needed, so our small crew was able to pull it off.
Thanks to all the crew for pulling together an awesome last day of filming on a project we’ve been working on for almost a year now!
It’s been a while since Dave Dugdale and I made this Red Epic Tutorial (we shot in January of 2012), but I was reminded by a friend that almost all of the information is still relevant and useful. If you’re looking into how to use the Red Epic or Scarlet on an upcoming shoot, check out the video below as we walk through menus, functions, and features!
At the time of this writing, the video is approaching 90,000 views! Thanks for checking it out and let me know if you have new Red questions!
In recent months, Dave and I also did a comparison of the Red Epic MX camera against the new Panasonic GH4, and have found the results to be pretty impressive. Check out that camera comparison and we hope it will help you make good decisions on your gear!
There are a myriad of filmmaking apps for the iPad that have come out over the years, I look at my top 5 favorites that have proven their usefulness on various shoots and in preproduction.
1 – Shotlister
shotlister.com Shotlister is an app we’ve used countless times to schedule shoots both complex and simple. The flexibility of organizing shortlists by camera setup, name, scene, and others is a tremendous time saver. But the real power of shotlister is the ability to create shotlists… then schedule them. After you’ve created a shotlist, you can go into the “schedule” portion of the app and organize all of your shots by shoot day. This function has really helped our team on countless shoots. While we’ve always been able to schedule shot lists and put them to the day, the “crew sync” feature, which allows you to share and collaborate on shotlists, has helped the process along. You are able to add storyboards or pictures for each shot, which can really help on quick-turn projects, or multi-unit shoots. Shotlister also allows you to export the schedules and shotlists in a beautiful PDF form that many of our clients have liked the design of. Shotlister costs $13.99 per year for a pro account.
2 – Easy Release
Easy release says it all in the name. An easy way to get release forms from models and property. It has a quick way to set up a “shoot”, and add as many talent as you need to that shoot, as well as locations. It has a lot of features, including the ability to input compensation information (with $3.99 upgrade). It’s very easy, and I like the ability to hand off the iPad to someone on set, and have them go through the process with talent when they have a few minutes to sign the release. The program asks to take a picture of talent, for ID purposes, and then they sign digitally. It is then all stored on iCloud (if you choose) and saved. No more lost talent release forms! Easy Release costs $9.99, with an additional $3.99 price tag to get the full customization of releases (I think is a must because it makes signing the forms quicker, requiring less fields).
3 – Pocket Call Sheet
Pocket Call Sheet is a wonderful tool that allows you to create call sheets on the fly for upcoming productions. One valuable tool is the ability to quickly add contacts from your iPad/iphone contact list, so for myself, a lot of the people I put on the call sheet are already in my phone as contacts. Quick and easy. There is a lot of depth to this tool, and in some cases there are so many fields that it is a bit exhaustive for quick low budget shoots, but I like the abilities it offers and the ease of putting a nice call sheet together on the iPad. Pocket Call Sheet costs $6.99.
4 – Pro Prompter
Pro prompter is a very cool teleprompter app that allows you to use a portable teleprompter system like the ultra portable Pad Prompter. It is easy to use and fairly intuitive. The way we’ve used it is to connect two iPads together through the app, and then control the speed of the prompter on the mirror image of the iPad sitting in your lap. Pretty neat tool, and it’s a tool you already have with you. As far as consolidating gear goes, this is awesome. Pro Prompter costs $9.99 on the app store.
5 – CTRL + Console
Control Console is something I just recently discovered through some blogs. It is effectively a control surface for Premiere, FCP, and other applications. It has a useful interface that allows you to edit with ease. It connects with your computer wirelessly. I like it because I can sit back and enjoy editing from the couch if I’m on the road and instead of hovering over a laptop, I can be more comfortable. With practice CTRL + Console can become quite fast. It costs $29.99 for each interface (Premiere, FCP) and also has some more basic editors for $4.99.
Let me know what iPad apps you use for filmmaking that you use!
I had the chance to hang with Chris McKechnie (digitalcinemaguy.com) and review some early Flolight Bladelight LED’s, both the 18″ and the 36″. They are definitely awesome lights. VERY bright, and they allow for a clean cut shadow that most LEDs don’t, so there’s some big advantages to these lights! We put them up against my 1200w Arri Par (in a book light setup) to check color consistency and shifts. Check out this informative video to see a review Chris put together!
Shot on the Red Epic MX sensor, you’ll see that these Bladelights are pretty darn intense! I enjoyed the ability the lights offered to cut the light so cleanly. They have multiple fresnel type lenses that slide over the single line of LEDs that allow for 60 and 120 degree splits.
One additional note is that these lights require a ballast, which makes the thin profile a bit less sleek, but not a deal breaker. The lights feel heavier than they look, they’re built like tanks and look like they will last a long long time.
Definitely recommend checking out these lights. Great price, great features, and a solid company behind it!
The Red Epic and the Panasonic GH4. How do they compare?
A (now) $20,000ish Red body against a $1700 newly released Panasonic mirrorless camera that fits in your hand…
Dave Dugdale over at learningdslrvideo.com posted a comparison he was doing with the GH4 and my thought was, “is this a good B-camera for the Red.” So, with my simple “real world run and gun” methodology, we tested. (In case you’re wondering, Dave and I have done a few other Red camera tests together)
Before we jump into some tests I think it’s worth mentioning that the Mysterium-X sensor is 3 or 4 years old now, which is ANCIENT in technology and computer terms (which sadly cameras basically are wrapped into now).
We’ve been marketed resolution details from every camera company East to West. It was a big factor in helping the newly formed Red Digital Cinema company get established in the industry, so we’ll start here.
The Panasonic is very impressive. At 24 fps, it appears to be the same amount of resolution as the Red 5k downrezed to 4k with a touch of sharpening. It’s almost impossible to see aliasing on the GH4, which is a big plus! It is very sharp with no modifications. In fact, we had the sharpness dialed down to -5 on the camera to appear being “too crispy”. The image below was shot in color but posted in black in white to draw the eye to the actual image detail. Trees are often a nightmare to shoot at small apertures, so naturally this was a good test for us to challenge the cameras.
Gh4 and Red Epic Resolution and Sharpness Test. Desaturated in post, no sharpening added.
You can click on the image above for a full 4096×2160 look. The Epic was down sampled from 4800×2700 to match the 4096 frame. This was intentional, in that I believe this to be Red’s intent in giving “more” resolution with their system in the first place. Providing a “5k” resolution system with the ability to sample down to 4k was the standard method to increase overall resolution, that’s my reasoning behind downsampling the Epic footage to match.
To my eye, the image above, the GH4 looks sharper. For the next look, with the same image, I applied sharpening in Adobe Premiere CC to the Red footage (as we tend to do a lot on Red footage anyway).
GH4 and Red Epic, Sharpness added to Epic
Now, it appears the Epic is sharper. When dealing with such high resolution, the computer has enough information to make some very intelligent decisions on how and what to sharpen.
Out of pixel peeping mode and into the real world for a moment… Resolution-wise, the GH4 definitely meets the spec of running as a B-cam for the Red.
Now, onto a pseudo run and gun interview setup to see how they’d match color and look wise. For these tests, the Red was matched to the GH4 look out of camera. We tried 2 looks out of the GH4, the CineD look and the Natural look.
GH4 cineD interview look straight out of camera
GH4 Natural Look straight out of camera
Between the two, the best looking option is definitely the natural setting. The cineD setting makes skin look plastic, and the color shifts seems unnatural. With limited knowledge on setting up the profiles of this camera, there could be a setting we missed but it seems like Dave really covered his bases when looking into the profiles. His intent all along was to shoot natural, but I wanted to test the cineD profile in tandem to double check.
Below is the two cameras stacked next to each other in “A” and B” setups. The tonality differences of the camera come out mildly, but straight out of camera it isn’t a huge leap between the two. Notice the depth of field difference on the “b-setup” with same aperture and focal length.
Red and Gh4 interview setup
Gh4 and Epic B camera angle. notice the depth of field
Anything 24fps the Panasonic GH4 handles quite well. However when switching to 96fps at 1080p, we found there to be a sudden quality drop. There seems to be too much motion blur in the GH4 96 fps, as you can see below in the video and still.
GH4 96fps 1080p and Red Epic 5k 96fps. Notice the motion blur difference
From our basic tests, I think it’s pretty conclusive… as a general B-camera, the GH4 can really step in as a nice sub-$2000 addition to a Red users kit, under a few conditions. It seemed from our tests very easy to match the Red to the GH4, but there are looks that you can pull in the Redcode that are difficult to match exactly on the GH4. Don’t go out shooting without testing… as always. But it seems the natural profile on the GH4 is a good “HD” look match to the Red Epic. The GH4 wins in that it is a tiny tiny camera. For covert or ultra-light shoots, it wins. For big travel, it wins for sure. On top of that, with the myriad of cheap handheld gimbal systems coming to market, the lightweight GH4 will take great advantage of these. I’d say, if you’re in need of a B-Cam, this is a great system.
However…. it’s probably worth waiting to see the Sony A7S in action. That comparison will be coming very soon. Stay tuned!
Dave Dugdale will be posting his extensive review of the GH4 soon, keep your eyes out for it!
A huge special thank you to Caleb Kohl of chlorofil.biz and Ian Chisolm for helping us with these tests!
Update: Dave and I tested the GH4 with a metabones speedbooster, which essentially transforms the micro 4/3 sensor into the size of a s35 sensor. There’s an EF version of this speedbooster coming out soon, so it looks like we will be able to easily swap EF glass on shoots with Red’s and GH4, yet another factor to consider for those mini 2nd unit pieces!
Early tests with the Nebula 4000 Lite, balanced well with the GH4, 14-42 lens, shot at 14mm with OIS on.
In these tests, I learned a few things. Having used the DJI Ronin and Freefly Movi M10 prior to this Nebula unit, I was accustomed to having very little X-axis movement due to the user. However, with the basic physics of how this Nebula works, I have to be much more conscious to control both the up and down (y axis, or walking movement) as well as the X axis (side to side) movement. This is because the Nebula has a pistol grip setup which is AWESOME for size and weight, but not so great for stability. I’m hearing of people using Fig Rigs and other stabilizer to help with this, I’m sure that is something I will need to try as well.
The Nebula itself is fantastic, and works brilliantly with the very lightweight GH4 and 14-42mm combo.
We are traveling overseas and this will be a fantastic asset to have with us with very little footprint in our gear!
We love to publish short snippets of our work crammed together into short videos. We want to provide a small glimpse at some of the work we do in the video world. This is our 2016 commercial reel captured all over the United States. Take a look and let us know what you think!
Over the course of the year, we’re reminded that we’re privileged to work with a variety of businesses big and small, in Denver and across the United States, and that those businesses trust us with their brands, ideas, and resources to make amazing happen. We’ve had a great history of successes this far including securing some major clients for one of our most active clients, and want to continue that upward trajectory for the rest of this year and certainly into the next.
Ultimately, we believe that video should not only be beautiful, captivating, and convey a clear message, but it should also be strategic, effective
We appreciate your viewership and hope that you enjoy watching this reel as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
Recently we were hired by CNN to film an interview with Lisa Frank, an artist any girl growing up in the 90’s would know of. The piece gathered a huge 3 million views in just the first few days it was released!