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Devante’s Story – Save Our Youth

Save Our Youth Documentary

Save Our Youth is a faith-based organization. It is their mission to transform the lives of at-risk youth through mentor relationships, providing the skills for success in educational, emotional, and spiritual development.

I’ve been blessed to have worked with them over the past few years and have made various commercials, documentaries, and testimonies based on the incredible mentoring work they do. Visit their website at saveouryouth.org

This project was shot on the Red Epic in a rapid fire “run and gun” style intentionally to keep the piece always moving, never grounded. The script and story behind the project were developed over 3 months, including pre-interviews, concept writing, and many meetings. One of the challenges of this piece was visualizing Devante’s past of fighting in school while being restricted to a short block of time at the school after the students had left. I also didn’t want to recreate a “fight scene”, so much as capture the reason why Devante was fighting, which was tied to loneliness and his struggle. When introduced to his mentor, things began to change in Devante’s life. One really cool angle on this story that didn’t make it into the edit was Devante’s success as a basketball player in the past few years. Since his time with Gary, his mentor, Devante has been consistently attending basketball practice and his 8th grade middle school team won the championship game this year in March. Not only did they win the game, but they won the game in typical old-fashioned movie style… with 3 seconds on the clock, down 2 points, and at the buzzer, a boy on his team hit the 3 pointer. Check out the picture below that shows the scoreboard and the young man on Devante’s team about to hit the winning 3! We were there to capture the whole thing. Originally we thought it would put the capstone on Devante’s success story. As it turns out, Gary was unable to make it and in the 3 minute window we had for this piece, we decided that honing in on Gary and Devante’s story was critical, so that was the route that we shaped the edit with. However, we’ll always remember how Devante’s team won in the last seconds of his 8th grade year…. Very symbolic of his success, and the great work Save Our Youth does all the time.

Game winning 3 pointer, the knights win by 1 at the buzzer.

Game winning 3 pointer, the knights win by 1 at the buzzer.

Best of NAB 2014

Blackmagic URSA

Many of the best new product offerings from this year’s 2014 NAB! It seems that the big buzz on the floor was about 4k shooting/delivery/exhibition. There was also a sea of new LED light products.


Image: Sony

Sony A7S – $TBD – Full Frame DSLR with 4k output, 1080/60/30/24 and 720/120 internal. Super High ISO (up to 409,600) and SLOG2 Gamma. Announced on Sunday at NAB, this is a big step forward in an offering from Sony. Blackmagic URSA Blackmagic Design URSA – $5995 – They’ve released a new camera again at NAB and a lot of buzz is surrounding this camera. With a unique 10″ built in screen, QuadHD up to 60fps, Prores and CinemaDNG recording options, an almost-ENG friendly ergonomic body, this camera will make some waves coming in at $6,000. My big question on this system is whether or not the sensor will be improved over the Blackmagic Production Camera, which despite it’s 4K recording and $3000 price tag, has many buyers disappointed in image quality. A friend of mine got his recently and wasn’t able to shoot beyond ISO 400 without noise issues. We’ll see how Blackmagic handles the new sensor in this camera!

AJA CION Camera – $7995 – Another shoulder mount offering has arrived, and it’s the AJA CION camera system. It offers 4k global shutter, 12 stops of dynamic range, frame rates of up to 60 fps even at 4k, and an option of a meaty 12 bit 4444 Prores codec. My only concern with this camera is that it potentially uses a similar or same sensor as the Blackmagic Production camera, which was a bust due to noise issues (rated at only 400 ISO and noisy at 800). That’s just my personal conspiracy though and I hope that AJA has found a better sensor, or at least better implementation of that sensor to make a solid 4k offering.

Lumos LED

Image: Lumos

Lumos Hawk 61 LED Fresnel light- Price TBD – This LED light comes from a company that focuses on one of the greatest challenges for LED lights… CRI. Many lights on the show floor were advertising a 90+/- CRI rating while the Lumos lights tout 98. That’s the highest I’ve seen, and their new light puts out the equivalent of a 1k Tungsten light but draws only 150w. You could safely put 8 on any standard clean US circuit.

Alzo 300W Par LED – ~$700 – Coming this summer, Alzo will put out a 300W LED light that puts out a massive amount of light, something like 18000 LUX at 1m (about 5 times as much as similar lights). They call the light the “HMI Terminator”, and I happen to agree. I’m excited for this product and looking forward to seeing it on set.

Arri L5 LED Fresnel – $TBD – Ranging from 2800k to 10000k, this versatile little brother of the already available L7 by Arri has hit the show floor at NAB. They state it is roughly 45% brighter than a 300W tunsten light, while using only 115 watts of power. This will be the preferred choice of light for many studios and crews, though the price range (historically with Arri lights) sets it above the price range of the new companies producing LED systems.

Image Panasonic

Image Panasonic

Panasonic GH4 – $1700 – Not fresh news, but the Panasonic GH4 advertises internal 4k and a wide set of features for a small but well built camera body. Available for preorder.

Atomos Shogun

Image Atomos

Atomos Shogun – “4k under $2k” Atomost released a new 4k recorder with many features similar to the likeminded Odyssey 7Q but at a cheaper price point. They also revealed a tiny $295 titled the “Ninja Star” that will record Apple Prores “in your pocket”. Angenieux Optimo 28-340 $ by quote ($80k range) – The 28-340 is a great zoom lens offering from Angenieux in their “Optimo” series that touts S35 frame coverage and a “perfect homogeneity of colorimetry, contrast and resolution”

PAGlink Stackable Batteries Starting at $490/battery – These new stackable batteries allow for a series of inline power that will allow your camera to run continuously for longer durations. The batteries can also charge while stacked, great for those long shoot days when you don’t have enough chargers for all of the depleted batteries!

Teradek Cube Pro and Timecode Buddy $TBD – With higher bit rate transmission and timecode embedded, the new Cube Pro from Teradek is another leap forward in wireless video for the industry. More details to come soon.

Andra Motion Focus System -$17k and up – This was a new offering at NAB that really had some amazing buzz behind it. Essentially it’s a focus pulling system that uses two “nodes” around camera, providing a 16×24 foot working area that will focus your lens precisely at the distance the subject is relative to camera. Very cool. Check out their website to see some examples.

DJI Phantom 2 – $1300 – The little GoPro quadracopter that has changed aerial video forever. DJI released a new version with new safety features, refined little pieces here and there, and a new Lightbridge 2.4Ghz downlink system is available to watch footage as it’s happening from the sky.


Ty Lawson in a SI Sketch

ty lawson SI mustard

Sports and comedy, a match made in heaven. It turns out, many popular athletes are quite funny.  This is certainly the case with Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets. The man has got some surprise laughs up his sleeve. This turned out to be a hilarious production.

Check out this sketch shot for Sports Illustrated “Extra Mustard”


The Tech

red epic 9 news studio

red epic 9 news studio, 9 news Sony studio cameras in background

We had a Red Epic and Red Scarlet camera system to shoot this sketch. The post workflow and ability to mold and match the image to previous shoots made the Red a prime choice. Red, along with Adobe, have done a phenomenal job making REDCODE an amazingly easy to work with. It’s easier than the early 5DMark2 workflows, it’s pretty much “drag and drop” editing. Before the shoot started, we shot a brief clip of the kitchen setup in each camera and brought the clips into the DIT computer. We created a quick “look” in Redcine-X Pro and sent it to each camera so that the look would be locked between the two. Another fantastic and easy feature that Red has developed to work flawlessly.

9 news studio newscast

Loading gear in during a live newscast

There was an interesting quirk to this shoot: Our comedy kitchen area was located inside the 9news Studio newsroom. We had to shoot between the midday and afternoon newscasts.  In other words, we only had 4 hours to bring all the gear in, get the actors prepped, run through the sketch a few times, and pack out. In fact, the window was so tight that we brought equipment in (quietly) during the mid-day broadcast, only able to “make noise” during the commercial segments.

red scarlet pad prompterWith the concern of staying on schedule, and attempting to closely recreate a daily news broadcast segment, the kind people at Sports Illustrated asked for a teleprompter system. It used to be easy to find a teleprompter system to rent… but those days are getting scarce. Most shoots we work on don’t have a teleprompter, so it’s not the primary investment in our gear department. Luckily, a relatively new device, the Pad Prompter, was there to save us. It uses two iPads (or an iphone/Ipad) and is super easy to use. Perfect. We stuck the prompter on the Scarlet.

words on pad prompterAnother look at the pad prompter above shows the high contrast lettering, easy to read even at a good distance for talent. Our cameras were positioned around 15-20 feet away from the set, but they were still able to read the prompt easily.

ty lawson studio Above you can see the general setup of the crew. The prompter sat just in front of our wide angle teleprompter system, and A and B camera were positioned closely intentionally to create the aesthetic of a mid-day television segment. The style of this piece was spot on for the comedy the script called for.

ty lawson kitchen sketchTy Lawson was a charm to work with on set. Hilarious, amiable, and a good guy. Leave your comments below and let us know if you think the comedy sketch worked!

5 Reasons to choose James Drake Films


jdf client logos

We listed out 5 reasons to provide you an insight into why we believe James Drake Films is the media company for your next production.

Adaptable Storytellers

Productions are variable. Each project requires different types of shots, planning, angles, lighting, gear, location, crew size… just about everything is up for discussion. And we’re up for that. A story may be about a product, service, individual, event… Whatever it is, we’re going to hunt down the elements that will bring your story to life. We focus on your production down to the nitty-gritty details to make your project a massive success and bring your audience a powerful piece.

Ready to work

We’re not afraid of getting our knees and elbows dirty. If there’s a shot up the side of a mountain, we climb for it. If there’s an interview across the country needed to finish the project, we travel for it. Long days don’t scare us, our creative passions fuel the days we shoot. Laziness is the opposite of what we do. Life is too short to do anything other than our very best.

Cutting-Edge Gear and Technology

In house we have a Red Epic camera and many accessories to really make the camera sing. In house, we have dolly and jib systems, along with many other flexible camera support options. We also have a range of light kits, grip gear, audio gear, and miscellaneous production goods (some secret stuff) to bring to any production we have the opportunity to facilitate. Good gear is not something we hide behind, but it ensures that we are using the latest tools to maximize our talents and the benefits to our clients, and there are no barriers between what we imagine and what we can create.

We can (and do) finish in 4k

While this may or may not be a benefit for your viewers today, having a project planned, shot, and finished in 4k will ensure your video will look fantastic on any screen for many years to come. We can relate to some of our customers that were stuck with DV quality video for “once-in-a-lifetime” moments, and while technology always changes, it’s worth noting that most digital projectors in the United States are still 2k (less than half) resolution. If it looks good on a 40 foot screen, we’re confident our 4k capture will look great on any screen you decide to show your project on.


We are scalable. Many productions need an essential 12 person crew to meet a deadline, pull of perfect makeup, dress a set and light two scenes at the same time. We work with many of most talented crew available in Colorado on a regular basis. On the other hand, some projects only need a 3 man “discovery team” that can travel light and fast, covering a lot of ground. Our scalability allows us to size our productions accordingly to your needs.

We’re based in Denver, but ready to travel worldwide for your production! Contact us today for a free consultation!

Denver Broncos pre-Superbowl


Things didn’t turn out quite the way anyone expected for the Denver Broncos this year. The Superbowl was disappointing for Colorado fans. But that aside, it’s still a neat experience to talk with players before the big game. The pressure of 100 million viewers applies differently on each player, and we had the privilege of sitting down with Brandon Marshall and Irving Green at Mile High Stadium just one week before the Superbowl.

broncos mile high stadium red epic

Working with Cory Reynolds at Contrast Media and Wade Yamaguchi of Yamo Films is always a treat. With our creative heads together, magic happens on set. We were stationed in one of the premium suites. Our setup was three Red cameras: 2 Red Scarlets and a Red Epic for a roaming tight shot, a static two shot, and the reversal of the interviewer. We brought in some Kinos and LEDs to mold what little light was already available from the massive windows facing west in the suite. Due to the time of the shoot (we only had an hour or so with talent), most of the light was artificial. I’d prefer to use more existing light, but the windows in the suite are underneath a fairly exaggerated ledge, blocking much of the potential light. We had a small light package, so it was time to open up the Iris. I believe we set the cameras at f/4.

side view broncos mile high stadium


We didn’t have much time from setup to hitting record, so we quickly put together some minor art direction behind the interviewer, set lights, audio levels, and we were off! Camera technology remained out of the conversation for the most part because our team had worked together enough to almost thoughtlessly dial in the right settings.

broncos stadium red epicThe players were relaxed in the interview and things went smoothly. Brandon Marshall and Irving Green were easy to work with, cool guys. No preventative egos, just approachable down to earth fellas sharing their thoughts before the game. Pretty cool.

broncos suite seatsPS: Watching a game from one of these suites would be awesome. The seats are very comfortable. And the view is ok…

panoramic denver broncos stadium



2014 Cinematography Reel – James Drake Films


Check out the James Drake Films cinematography reel!

A huge list of thanks yous to the long list of people that made this year a reality.

Take a look at our client list

Contact us today for your shoot!

James Drake Films
Video Production Based in Denver Colorado.

Storytelling Matters Most


Grabbing the attention of your audience can be a tremendous challenge in the age of infinite digital distractions.

But here at James Drake Films, we have an advocate against distraction- Storytelling. Creating a production that grips your audience and never lets go is much more than sticking an expensive cameras in the hands of an experienced crew member (though that’s still a necessary– and fun part). Storytelling with us is a journey of discovery and investigation.

It takes on different forms: a 30 second television spot needs a rapid arc that tells a lot about key characters, places, and items in moments. A longer documentary has the time to evoke strong emotions while informing the audience of the factual issues that support the arc. A 3 minute web spot may have a mix of quick development and “a-ha” moments that take vary in speed and delivery throughout.

But the same principle applies for every production: grab the audience and never let them go, and people like stories.


Developing your production into something distinct and amazing is a process, a journey, and a discovery of possibilities and potentials. Here’s where our experience plays in. After involvement in countless productions, we have refined our taste and adapted our model to custom tailor a potent through-line for your production that adheres the whole project together. This guide trains and molds each decision we make creatively and logistically. It sets a pinpoint target for the team to hit, and with the combined experience in various areas we can capture amazing.




Arri Amira Hands On

Arri Amira Front Angle

The new Arri Amira is coming soon to shoots everywhere. With the base model starting at $39,999, it opens up a new audience that its bigger brother, the Alexa MSRP $80k-ish, has previously contained to bigger budgets.

I got a chance to check out a prototype version of the Amira, one of only 3 in the world (and I believe the sales guy said it was the only working prototype currently in the US).

Here’s a couple notes from the hands on experience:

Arri Amira Front AngleClick on any picture for larger versions

First off the form factor. HUGE deal. It comes with the option of getting a shoulder mount built into the CUSTOM dovetail setup of the bottom of the camera (the bottom is NOT standard Arri dovetail size). The balance of the camera is great… though with the Zeiss CZ 70-200 on the front and a clip on mattebox, it did feel a touch heavy. On this particular setup, the Amira had a Dionic AB battery on the back. There will be AB and V mount options for the back of the camera. The camera consumes 55Wh, roughly 5 less than the Red Epic, so you can expect a 90 Wh battery to give you approximately 90 minutes of runtime.

Arri Amira side viewA side view of the Amira reveals a familiar Alexa-esqe simplicity. At the front left, there are 3 dials. The top dial is labeled “5″, and is a custom assignable switch with three settings. The second switch is labelled “EI” for Exposure Index, or more commonly known as ISO or Gain also with three settings. The bottom switch is labeled “WB” for Warner Brothers. HA. White balance, with three settings on the fly and an Auto Tracing (or continuous WB) option. Just to the right of the toggle switches are buttons 1-4 and an extender “2nd” button (so basically like having 8 buttons) that will be user assignable.

At the center of the camera is the very familiar Alexa-like menu interface, more on that in a minute. The buttons below offer basic audio levels (L and R controls) as well as a function button and a menu selector dial, offering different options to work with the on screen menu.

What’s a bit harder to notice in the picture above are the two antennas that live just before the battery connection on the back of the camera. These antennas are for wifi and bluetooth. Bluetooth will offer a wireless audio headset option, but apparently will be limited to that, and the wifi will allow a “third party app” to control the Amira via iphone or ipad. Interesting that Arri is allowing a third party to develop apps for the Amira… may make a ton of sense in the long run!

Arri Amira main menuThe familiar Alexa interface with FPS, shutter, EI, WB, and user settings all displayed and readily accessible with hard buttons above the screen for easy navigation. A brilliant simple design, perfect for the on-the-go shoots. The Amira operator will benefit greatly from this design.

Arri Amira Audio

The audio side of the camera: Elegant and simple audio on the fly. Simple toggle switches with 3 XLR inputs.

Arri Amira Card Slots

The Amira will record to the blazing fast brand new CFAST 2.0 cards. These cards write at an astonish 450MB/s, which is needed for the Amira’s internal high speed Prores recording capabilities. There are USB connections for firmware updates as well as the new licensing options for the Amira. Customers will be able to buy a weekly “upgrade” to increase the frames per second the camera can record. The base model is locked to 100 fps, whereas the top license allows the camera to capture 200 fps.

Arri Amira Back view

The rear view of the camera reveals a usual host of necessary connections, including 4x SDI3G connections and 2x 12v connections.

Arri Amira Shoulder Camera

The camera is built like a tank. Solid to the grip, a very useful top handle built in. Arri did an incredible job packing features and performance into this well designed system. I suspect we will see this camera EVERYWHERE for TV. Just in the brief time we had with the camera, a major studio in town that produces hundreds of TV shows came in, and talk of a variety of NFL and sports applications were brought up. With the ergonomics, Alexa image quality, cheaper Arri pricetag, and lightning fast prores workflow, this thing is going to make some noise.

Samsung The Moment with Scotty James

low angle snowboard

The Winter Olympics this year will bring about a ton of media and advertising surrounding the international event, and I was privileged to work with Milk Money Films out of Australia as a DP for their Colorado segments with snowboarder Scotty James

The segments that show Scotty James snowboarding and in the mountains were part of what we shot near Breckenridge Colorado.

James Drake
Denver Video Production

Movi and Red Epic

movi, red, volkswagen

Colorado is a wonderful place for production and car commercials. The snow, the clear blue skies, the stunning mountains… it all can add up to something incredible.

The story of this shoot began with my good friend Seth Schaeffer at Hoptocopter Films recently purchasing a Movi and has been capturing killer footage with it the last few months. When we had a client come in requesting running footage for a Volkswagen dealer,there was an immediate “yes we’re using the Movi on this shoot” feeling in the air…

The primary challenges for us were a tight budget and small crew, but we knew we were going to rely on our Red Epic package to capture the shots worthy of a captivating commercial.

One tricky part of the setup is that the Red Epic ranges right around the max weight of the Movi package, so we had to choose lenses carefully as well as determine the best battery operating setup. Initially we had thought of using the lighter, smaller Redvolt batteries that fit into the sidehandle on the Epic, but with a running time of only 25 minutes or so, it didn’t seem like the best option. We decided to strip the camera down and use the heavier, but much longer lasting Red brick batteries. With a run time of 90-120 minutes, and 5 extra batteries on hand, we felt confident in that power solutions-especially being out in the wilderness where power is hard to find (and we’ve had a few negative experiences with car inverters).

red epic and movi

For lens choice, we started with the lightweight Canon 50mm F1.4. In times past, in order to get somewhat stabilized shots (that can then be fixed in warp stabilizer or a similar post stablization), I’ve opted to stay wider and punch in on the rich 5k Epic image… but with the Movi, the beauty is that you can use a longer lens (though 50 isn’t terribly long) to get wonderfully smooth shots. It also allows for a compressed background to push the car up against some beautiful scenics.

For monitoring, we used a wireless HDMI video transmitter and sat facing forwards in the van while Seth controlled the Movi’s pan/tilt on camera. I used the Redmote to start/stop recording, adjust focus, and fix exposure as needed. Meanwhile, an operator stood near the back of the van and “man gripped” the camera (as Shane Hurlbut might say) and attempted to absorb a few extra bumps. One tricky part of shooting on snowy roads… the roads tend to be very inconsistent and bumpy. Having a man on camera was another attempt to keep things a little more smooth.

movi, red, volkswagen

Hours later, another good friend, Jesse from Condor Cam showed with his modified production van that has a huge lift coming out of the top. There was a nearby bridge at our shoot location that was perfect for his big lift.

bridge location

The Condor cam van….

Condor Cam, The Movi, Red Epic


We also mounted the Movi and Red Epic to the Condor Cam lift.

movi, red epic, lift

With a solid team, the Movi rig, and Red Epic, we were able to come away with some great shots on a tiny budget.

The Movi was just a touch finicky on the shoot, it turns out that the cold was messing with the Movi Lipo batteries. The tip (from Seth) is to keep the batteries at room temperature until right before use. Don’t let them get too cold or their discharge rate will affect the motors!

Volkswagen Tigaun

Until next time,

James Drake,
Denver Video Production

IronCross Automotive – Commercial


“Be prepared for products that will change the way you and others look at your truck. Drawing from
30 years experience in the aftermarket and Original Equipment industry, we are able to bring you the highest quality parts available using state of the art technology combined with old fashioned hard work.”

A short piece about a company making waves in the aftermarket truck industry.

Director/Editor: Seth Schaeffer, Hoptocopter Films
DP/Producer: James Drake
UPM: Jess Rigg
Music: Danny Odom

Cabela’s Incite Your Passion

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 2.49.17 PM

Commercial shot in Nebraska with Cabelas:

Incite your passion and have your victory be a part of legacy. Get your hands on an Instigator here: http://www.cabelas.com/instigator

Camera: Red Epic
I was the 1st AC, Colorado-based assc. producer, Tech/camera support person on this shoot