Monday, October 31, 2011

Portable, more portable, portablest jib...

I have written about my portable jib which arrived just over a month ago. It's light and well-made and portable. There's another kid on the block that claims to do the same while being even lighter and more portable. The downside is that it costs twice as much and that it will only hold DSLR's.
Well, it just happens to be that today for the first time I took along my jib to a paid gig and mounted my EX1R to it. It took the weight effortlessly. (even though I need some more counterweight) Anyway, check out this ultraportable jib and tell me how you like it if you happen to own one.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cosmicar 25mm 1.4: a rare bugger...

About 6 months ago I bought a silver, metal little lens. I had just discovered c-mount lenses and was lusting after unusual, old lenses(and preferably a combination of the 2). I found a Cosmicar 25mm 1.4 television lens on a Dutch website for secondhand articles and I bought it for around €80,-
Now recently I've been working on a little project and I've been using this Cosmicar lens in combination with the GH2. It's sharp, colors are nicely saturated but there's some heavy vignetting when stopping this lens down so I have been trying to find out what thread size I need for a ND filter. Turns out that's one tough piece of information to come by..! These lenses are very rare.
Cosmicar has been taken over by Pentax and the new Pentax 25mm 1.4 is a different lens altogether and has different measurements. I found one picture of the exact same lens as mine on Flickr but that account has been inactive for 2 years... Otherwise... nothing on the web. So I contacted Pentax Holland, who referred me to Pentax England. I filled in an online contact form and was called up by Pentax Belgium! Who took my question to Pentax Germany. Pentax Germany told me they weren't sure but the lens was probably from '69. They did not have any records of sizes and advised me to measure the lens diameter by hand. My best bet was 34mm. A stepup ring is on the way.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

For all wide-angle freaks

In the ongoing evolution of camera's and cameragear it was just a matter of time before the 360 degree lens would hit the market. Because competition is killing, it's important to have a headstart on your competitors. But in this case, I would have told my engineers to keep working at it just a wee bit more before taking it to the stores. This footage is so soft you could use it for pillow stuffing... (Ok, that's the best I could come up with. Better comparisons may be left in the comment box)It's a fun gadget though. Move your mouse over the image and you can view 360 degrees. (there's also a free iphone app from the same company)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Free footage (and music and more...)

Apparently there's so much free footage out there it makes you wonder why you should go out and shoot anything at all..;-) A few days ago I read about Videoblocks giving away 20 clips a day for 7 days to attract new customers. But I lost the link and while trying to retrieve it, I came across a few other sites where cheapo's like us can find free footage. Such as StockFootageForFree. No catch! There's even a Vimeo group that you can join and have access to some quality HD stuff. Now why didn't I know about that before..?! I admit I haven't tried all of them but I'm sure you can find some great material and definitely worth it if you're looking for some special footage, animations or (sound-)tracks.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mailbox: budget 'Perfect' DSLR viewfinder

DSLR viewfinder comes with strap and sticky frame
Well, I don't know if it's perfect but that's what it says on the box. It's a LCD foldable viewfinder with 3x magnification and +/-3 diopter. At $46,- shipped it doesn't get any cheaper than this.I bought a viewfinder that doesn't have diopter nor is it foldable for €55,- , about than 10 months ago.What particularly bothered me about that design is the sticky metal frames: they kept falling off. And the magnets that were supposed to keep the two elements together weren't strong enough, either...
I've seen some good stuff about this 'perfect' viewfinder and decided to give it a shot. It's all plastic and light; nothing fancy about it. But who needs that, as long as it works? I will write about my experiences with this loupe after I've really used it and tell you how it holds up.

foldaway loupe for easy viewing

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stolen: SmallHD DP4

I sent my practically new SmallHD DP4 monitor in for repair a few weeks ago and yesterday I got word from SmallHD that someone along the way from Amsterdam to the USA opened the box, took out the monitor and closed it again in such a way that no one would notice..! Unfortunately SmallHD signed for it without checking the box... And that is very unfortunate, from a legal standpoint.
The only consolation is that the thief has a unit with sunburn spots on the LCD.(the reason my monitor went back for repair.) And because it's such a specialized piece of gear, only SmallHD can repair it. In case you come across a SmallHD DP4 (for sale) and it has serial# DP4-00473, please contact SmallHD.

The good news is that my new replacement monitor is on the way. Let's just hope it doesn't pass the same thieving hands when it travels to Amsterdam. One thing I know for certain: I will check every box I receive before signing for it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A new&better GoPro HD...

I was so happy with my new GoPro HD camera and now they've released a GoPro HD2 and I feel like I have an outdated camera... The new GoPro is 2x sharper, does 120 fps (albeit lo-res), has all sorts of wireless control and viewing functions (optional) etc. Why do they keep doing this? Can't they just stick with one design for 10 years and make me feel really priviliged...;-)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Panasonic, Pentax, Park

'P' was on the menu today. I should add 'Painter's Palette...'. 'Plant Poetry' perhaps ;-) ? Pardon this presumptuous proposition...

It's just a collection of colors, lightrays and shades I framed in the park today...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fun with the 15,- Pentax 6mm 1.2

Took my GH2 with Pentax 6mm lens to the voetbal/football/soccer tournament at my son's club. 10 year old boys (plus the occasional girl) playing some incredible voetbal. But with this lens it was much more fun shooting the emotion around the game than shooting the action itself... Some of these kids are so concentrated on the game you can literally stick a camera in their face and they won't notice...
Here's my very short impression of the day.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Small HD DP4 and Zacuto EVF compared

Nice Lady does it again: nice review of the DP4 vs the Zacuto EVF! She's turning this review into a series with a cliffhanger: part 3 is still to come! I was planning to do my own review but then my DP4 got fried before I got the chance to. I was going to spend a day shooting with soundman Neal McDiarmid -who owns a Zacuto EVF- and compare the two but Nice Lady beat us to it. That's fine: the more, the better, right? We will do our own anyway, so people can make an even more informed decision. Meanwhile, this is what Nice Lady has to say about both EVF's. Nice work, Nice Lady!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Human Slingshot

This seems to be the week of sickening video's so let me just add one more, to round it all up. This is just the third time this week my stomach turned around!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sick GoPro jump

So you have the day off, you and your two buddies are kinda bored... you decide to go out and buy 6 GoPro HD's and jump off an elevator...

Monday, October 17, 2011

15,- Pentax 6mm 1.2 (succes at last!)

I finally made myself a working Pentax 6mm! It took a lot of time, research, careful scrutiny and frustration and, most recently, the purchase of a Dremel but alas, I have a fast, wide lens that has infinity focus- and beyond! I also finally received my stepup ring so I could use my LCD variable ND-filter and shoot happily outside.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Flycam: they tried this at home...

Once in a while the thought enters my mind that there must be some way to connect to my neighbours balcony via some sort of cable and have a camera hang from it to make some cool overhead shots -or better still- slide that camera like a bird through the sky. Obviously I am not the only one that's thought of this and definitely not the first... (Devices like this are out of reach for the budget-shooter.)
There's many more situations where a setup like that could get you some spectacular shots but to build yourself a reliable, steady device must a real challenge. As is demonstrated by this video...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mandatory viewing: Inside Job

See how we, the people, are being screwed. Shocking, infuriating, humiliating.

Friday, October 14, 2011

External audio recorder? Use your iPhone!

You can now record professional audio on your iPhone. Sounds pretty good. (What it claims to do, I mean...;-) Apparently it is being used professionally. At $30,- Pro Audio to Go is not cheap but any decent audiorecorder starts at $80,- 

'Pro Audio To Go turns your iPhone into a 48 kHz professional quality recording device for use on location by news reporters, journalists, documentarians, musicians, DSLR videographers, filmmakers, producers and editors. With a single tap on your phone, you can record an AIFF audio file in 48 kHz. Upload the file directly to an FTP server or email it, then download and instantly begin using it in your editing system's Timeline. No conversion necessary!'

  • Record at 48 kHz AIFF
  • Customize pre-sets for any microphone 
  • XLR connection plugs into iPhone with purchasable cable 
  • Record 48 kHz easily with built-in iPhone microphone 
  • Customize pre-sets for EQ and Gain controls
  • Email file or upload directly to FTP to your news bureau or editor
  • Drop AIFF audio file directly into your editing Timeline 
  • Timer counts down remaining time (memory) on your iPhone in hours, minutes, and seconds

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Crashtest: Nature fader ND-filter

I was going to shoot some stuff with my brandnew Nature fader ND filter but before I was even able to take it out of my camerabag, it decided to go all by itself. Followed by my lens, a Carl-Zeiss Jena Flektogon 20/4. I was shooting in the center of town today and while I bent over to check composition on a very low shot, my lens with attached Nature fader ND fell out of my bag.
I was paying attention to everything: my dog, the bums, the ferris wheel, the traffic and the cops. Everything except my bag, which I didn't secure. A warning to all: lock your bag after taking stuff out! Or bring a padded lens-pouch. Luckily the filter took the complete hit and my lens remained unharmed.
Bye bye Nature fader ND! That's another $70,- down the drain. I am having very bad karma-month: first my SmallHD monitor fries, then I lose a 4x4 glass filter and now this...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

GH2 hack: testing in the dark

The new Driftwood patch/hack for the Panasonic GH2 achieves an astonishing bitrate of 176 MB. But to be honest, the technical particularities of this accomplishment elude me; you could have told me 2000 MB and what does it say..? Numbers mean nothing.
The only thing I'm interested in is seeing it in applied in the real world. How does this hack translate into picture quality? Better dynamic range? Less noise? More sharpness? I'm looking for a video that does a side by side comparison of the original bitrate and the hacked one. But I mostly get video that is is sterile testing: a rating of noise produced by the camera when shooting at different ISO's with the lenscap on... That's not a real life test?!
Shoot the same scene with this ridiculously high bitrate and shoot the same scene with 'native' settings. That way I can judge whether I really 'need' this patch as long as I'm only publishing my stuff on the internet... and whether or not it's time to 'upgrade'. Can't find such a test. I guess one of these days I'm gonna have to try it myself. Meanwhile, here's the 'test in the dark' and a 250 MB bitrate test.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Shaky camera images? Fix it in post!

A new feature to be expected in the next edition of Photoshop. Unfortunately it doesn't work with video- yet. Hope this feature is released in time before I hand over my images from my photoshoot of a classic car rally last sunday...;-)

Monday, October 10, 2011

What to do with my Canon HV20?

The Canon HV20 camcorder was quite a little number in its heydays, packing features such as great picture quality, a choice of progressive video, HDV and DV shooting and the ability to control aperture/depth of field (albeit with a little workaround), HDMI out, external mic in, all for a very affordable pricetag. To be honest, I never really used it other than on full automatic. As B-roll to my Sony Z1 and later my EX1. Great for concerts and theater registrations; close-ups of keyboards or percussion...I've also taken it on vacation a few times: this camera takes a mean photograph as well! (on a micro-sd card, I used a 1GB)
But I haven't used the camera for over a year. And I only have one mini-DV tape left. Should I buy new tape or convert definitively to tapeless acquisition?
Since then I have bought a few other camera's that can serve as point-of-view cams. I can use my Panasonic GH2 for B-roll to my EX-1R. I guess the time has come to say goodbye to my HV20. (less than 80 hours of operation!) But only if the price is right: bidding may start underneath this article in the Comment Section!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Shooting classic cars

I spent my sunday shooting classic cars. Shooting photographs, mind you. Used my Canon 550D, Tamron 17-50 2.8 VC and 50mm 1.8. This job took so much out of me, I almost forgot to blog... That would have been the first day I'd have missed since I started. I am totally wasted. But the cars and locations were beautiful...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review: Gini DSLR rig

Korean DSLR builder 'Gini' has built quite a name for himself over the last few years in the DSLR-world.  DSLR-rigs were -and still are- outrageously expensive. But Asian companies like Gini have brought these prices down considerably.
I bought my Gini DSLR rig about 8 months ago and only recently have I been using it regularly and with all the accessories I needed to be able to make full use of it. I feel that only now I can say something sensible about my rig. The emphasis is on 'my rig' because there are so many packages out there, so many configurations that you can only talk about the components in your particular set-up. But the basis, the materials, the clamps and the rods are of course all the same.

What is really the use of a rig?
  1. For one, to be able to mount your DSLR like a proper videocamera, on your shoulder and getting that same steadiness you're used to when working with pro camera's. 
  2. To add much desired mass to the camera's light body to keep the camera from registering your every touch or shake.
  3. To be able to add a light, a mic, a mattebox and whatever other accessory you may wish.
  4. It adds blingbling to your gear which to some makes you more professional-looking...
 But there are alternatives to rigs. You can buy yourself a DSLR cage. You won't be able to use your camera like a shouldercam but consider if you really intend to shoot like that. If not, a cage may be the better choice. It is generally more compact, more solid and easier to set up. It will also do a better job of protecting your camera.

I bought my Gini rig in January. A relatively simple package: shouldersupport, baseplate, handles, monitor arm and some rods and clamps. It's easy to assemble and you can make different configurations from even a simple package like mine. But what do I really think about the Gini rig?

I still think, as I did then, that the design is wonderful and the materials top-notch. The finish is solid in every respect. (hardly a scratch after banging it around a bit) This stuff makes you feel like a little boy in a toy store. But there's a few points of criticism I have about the rig:
  • the baseplate has a screw for attaching your camera and that screw is hard to tighten. It's too big and you can't get your fingers inbetween once you have a follow focus or mattebox mounted. Almost always the camera keeps turning on the base and that's a bad thing. An idea to solve this would be a little piece of rubber that's sunk into the baseplate and would accomplish two things: 1) prevent the camera from turning/moving 2)it would allow for tighter screwing.
  • Another weak point of this rig is tightening the handlebars. It is a problem with all the clamps: you have to tighten the clamps so hard it hurts your fingers. Even then, I've had the handlebars loosen/slide when I was carrying a fully loaded rig. That's a very bad thing because it made me feel insecure and worried about damaging my equipment- and that's the last thing you need on a shoot. I have since tightened the clamps with a hex screw and was thus able to screw it tighter. But for obvious reasons I would have liked to just use the little levers that were made for that task and not have to bring extra tools (that can be forgotten or get lost) ...
  • Gini's shoulderpad is not ergonomic. It would be nice if it would adjust/sink onto your shoulder somwhat. And you need some counterweights to balance the rig out.

Its eight months on since I bought my rig and meanwhile, Gini may have changed some of the designs. But I have seen the baseplate currently for sale and it still looks the same. (I am experimenting with removing the screw altogether and permanently attaching a quick-release adapter.) The levers and locking system still looks the same so I am curious if others have problems with securing the clamps.

I have recently bought some extra parts for my rig. I think a top handle is essential for carrying the rig around. And you will at least need a C-shaped support to attach that- or a cage.

My advice to shooters looking into buying a DSLR-rig would be: look carefully at what others have built and see what you need for your style of shooting. Start small and build according to your needs. Gini sometimes offers good deals but so do others. And last but not least: looks are great but not very functional. The importance of keeping it small and simple cannot be over-emphasized!


Friday, October 7, 2011

Ordered: Manfrotto BHDV-1 monopod

I had been thinking about a monopod for a long time but after seeing a few video's on the Manfrotto BHDV-1, I totally fell in love with this model: a true hybrid between a tripod and a monopod. It's got three little legs and a fluidhead, it goes up to 200cm, folds up to 76cm and it's... light! At well under 2 kg it must be the ultimate portable solution. Aside from a carbon fiber version that would be a hefty extra investment... Anyway, it appears that once you've got a taste of this monopod, youre hooked. Here's some tricks on using that monopod.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mailbox: Nature Fader ND filter


A golden box for my new 77mm fader ND filter: I hope the product is as nice as its packaging... I already own a 52mm LCW Fader ND Mark II and needed an extra filter for my larger lenses. The LCW, by the way, is a great filter and I have used it extensively with my 20mm Pancake lens (example video). But the Nature brand is more affordable and from what I've read as good as the LCW. With the bigger Nature ND filter and with an assortment of stepup rings I should have all bases covered. I hope to do a shootout between the Nature and LCW fader ND filters soon.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Is it Chinese porcelain? A crystal bowl? No, it's an adapter plate!


I have received packages in all sizes and shapes but I have never seen a package that was so utterly over-packed as this sliding adapter plate that was delivered to me this morning! A cardboard box nearly 30 cm wide, 24 cm high en 22 cm deep (yes, I measured it, for good measure...) to deliver an adapter plate?! Aside from the fact that you could have easily fitted 100 adapter plates in this box, it was wrapped like antique glass... I'm all for good packaging but this is way beyond any reasoning and a waste at that... (interesting sidenote: this Manfrotto-compatibel adapter plate (Calumet's own brand, half the price of the official Manfrotto version) is shipped in a Manfrotto box...)


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Missing in Action

Waddaya mean DSLR small form factor..??!
Within a week of having my mattebox all set up with my new Formatt glass 4x4 filters, I lost one of my filter holders with a Circular Polarizer still in it. I've been shooting out on the edge of a lake and experimented with different filters. My mattebox has two filter holders and I would shoot with both the polarizer and the ND filter, take out the polarizer, shoot with just one filter, etc. Occasionally I placed a filterholder with glass against my camerabag. I probably looked right through it when I left (it's glass*%##!) and found out 3 days later I was missing a filter and filterholder. So today I biked the 10 miles to the lake to see if it was still lying somewhere in the grass but that was just too much to hope for...
I just spent €25,- to send my damaged SmallHD monitor in for repair, now I need to spend another €80,- to replace my filter and holder. None of this would have happened if I just stuck to shooting with my EX1 and keep things nice and simple... Which goes to prove: the more stuff you have, the more can go wrong... (and it usually does)


Monday, October 3, 2011

Cheap GoPro HD bike mount

CAMERA BIKE MOUNT: $3,- OR $30,-??!
Ever since I busted my GoPro HD mount that was used to attach my camera to racing steering wheel, I started looking for a replacement. I was looking at offers like '$20,- plus $32,- shipping'. Ridiculous. Then I saw something they sell as a GoPro bike mount but is not even an official GoPro accessory. But the price is still over $30,-. Absurd. Then I remembered I bought exactly the same bike mount last year for my Panasonic Lumix TZ7. Cost me $1,- plus $2,- shipping! Now we're talking. (don't forget you'll need a GoPro tripod mount to use any of these bike mounts)
Don't get fooled by so-called 'official accessories', an extra few minutes of searching on eBay can earn you lots of dollars...


Sunday, October 2, 2011

SmallHD DP4 and sunlight

I have been using the SmallHD DP4 for about a month now. It's been sunny and that's the reason I have been shooting outside a lot, experimenting with different lenses, rigs, my new mattebox and glass filters. My DP4 made it a lot more fun and so much easier to shoot with these accessories and judge what I was doing.

But there is a big drawback to shooting in the sun with an Electronic View Finder (EVF): sunlight. And when I disovered a few spots/specks on my monitor and contacted SmallHD what these spots could be, they said they recognized the spots as coming from sunlight going into the EVF burning holes in your screen. The EVF is a magnifier: remember as a child using a magnifying glass to burn stuff? SmallHD says it takes no more than 30 seconds to burn holes in your screen. Considering that, I'm glad the damage was limited to a few spots...

Problem is that most often we're shooting with the sun in our back. So fiddling with equipment, searching your bag, talking to talent, whatever... 30 seconds is gone in a spiffy...

Is it a flaw in the design? I am not an engineer and cannot answer that. I have read that Zacuto's EVF has the same problem and most likely every monitor/EVF combo. Can't they redirect the sunlight so it won't hit the LCD? My uneducated guess is that -if possible at all- that would require very expensive optical engineering that would put the DP4 out of our financial range.
SmallHD has warned for use in the sunlight and consider this 'user damage'. But I have to give the company credit for the way it handles this issue. For now, clients are getting their DP4's fixed under warranty. In the future the sun warning will be more explicit in the manual and a lenscap for the EVF will be shipped with the package. I would add: preferably permanently attached to the EVF and with a big yellow warning sticker on the EVF itself. Because in the rush of the job, 30 seconds can pass before you can change a lens...


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Return of the 15,- Pentax 6mm 1.2 (a succes story!)

grind down more on the side, as shown in picture
Ever since I bought my Pentax 6mm 1.2 cctv lens, I have not been able to focus on infinity. I paid someone €20,- to shave down the rear barrel of my lens but to no avail. I started grinding my c-mount adapter but that was not succesful either.
The problem is -and I know other buyers are struggling with the same thing- is that you don't know exactly how much to grind down of the barrel. People didn't get it and I didn't, either... It's not that the person who 'discovered' this cheap wide and fast lens, Seb Farges, wasn't helpful. He shared pictures of the mod but he was not able to explain exactly why simple 'shaving off a few millimeters' didn't work. But then, upon close examination and with the help of blogger Obakesan I finally noticed what I was supposed to do: shave off the outer side of the barrel a few millimeters more, untill you reach the screw on the side.
I bought a €35,- Dremel (electric tool) to do the job and after a few rounds grinding down the barrel... tadaaaa! Infinity! I am infinitely happy with the results... I will post some footage I shot with the Pentax soon. (Note: this is not a dirtcheap lens anymore: 15,- for the Pentax, 2 c-mount adapters@ 19,- together, 35,- for the Dremel... But the Dremel is a lovely tool: I used it to slice through metal today and it lived up to the task!)