Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dirtcheap steadycam: first impression

If you can offer a metal camera stabilizer including shipping for 50,- you deserve the label 'dirtcheap'. The Turkish company Lensse does exactly that. Today I received my 'steadycam' and I was very curious to see what I would get. Shipping: not in a box but in a bubble envelope. And inside the bubble envelope were two additional bubble envelopes: a big one holding the stabilizer and a small one holding the weights. There is a single piece of printed paper with very basic instructions how to set the unit up.
The stabilizer itself feels far from dirtcheap. It's a simple yet solid design with a nice, comfortable handgrip, an all-metal gimbal and nice little details like anti-slip strips where the camera sits on the stabilizer, a comfortable plastic knob professionally lined with metal threading for attaching (and removing) the weights and a black finish all over. The only part that slipped through quality control is where there is some 'play' between the plastic cap and the screw that holds the weight. But that doesn't affect functionality and is purely cosmetic.
I tried balancing my Canon 550D/T2i with batterygrip and Helios 58mm on it but that didn't work out. Without the batterygrip I'm sure it would have worked. Then I mounted my Panasonic GH2 with Lumix 20mm and that felt right. I was able to balance it fairly quickly.

Monday, May 30, 2011

We read the friggin' manual! (update)

A while ago I wrote about my struggles with a brand new Sennheiser wireless G3 set that would not work. Three experienced videographers and a professional sound engineer could not get a signal out of that particular set. It was a frustrating and humbling experience. My friend spent an entire evening knitpicking the manual, came to me in sheer desperation the morning he was supposed to shoot with it for the first time and finally took my G2 set because I wasn't succesfull, either.
He sent the set back to the store and received a new one a week later. He hooked the set up to his camera, turned it on and... no signal... Not again! But a second later he discovered he had hooked up the transmitter to the camera instead of the receiver... Switched them around and by god, a signal! So yes, very once in a while you have memorized the manual and things still don't work... you just happened to have that one-in-a-thousand-lemon...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

new and improved!

I discovered a new way of viewing the blog which, for us visually oriented readers, is a lot quicker and more interesting way to browse through all the entries in the blog! In the right top corner you can actually select a few different ways of viewing the blog archive in a pictoral overview. (now I just have to find a way to permanently display my blog that way... anyone?) Did I produce all of that content..?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shooting football

A very nice day to shoot a football tournament. No rain! Hamburgers!
Relaxed people! And even time to catch a nap in the grass. Lovely.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mailbox: Manfrotto 438


A few days ago I wrote about my frustrations about not being able to find a practical solution for leveling a portable tripod without a bowl. I have a decent tripod head, the Fancier FT-717, but it's not a bowl head. I also have a cheap Velbon tripod I can only level by extending/retracting legs: tedious and impractical. My Manfrotto 525P kit is too heavy/big for portable use. Reader Neil McDiarmid suggested the Manfrotto 438 ball camera leveller which turns my Fancier tripod head into a bowl-type tripod head. It is certainly not cheap, but very well-built and very practical.
Aside from using it on a tripod, the 438/head combo also comes in very handy in combination with a slider like the Konova. Leveling made easy and lightweight- without a bowl!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

A new job

I started a new career as a hart surgeon! Here I am after a
succesful open heart operation.
(ok, I lied. I'm just filming surgery... 3 operations. Got up at 5.45
and won't be ready before 5 om. Then I'll be picked up for the next
job at 6pm. (my wife needs money...)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Great Adapter Shootout

You have two C mount to Micro 4/3 adapters. One costs 17,67 euro, the other 7,50. Is the expensive model twice as good? Is is superior build quality? Better fit? Filmersblog took these babies to the limit and came with some suprising results...

First off, the adapters were weighed and measured for thickness. Next, they were scrutinized by a panel of experts consisting of my wife and I to see if different designs and metals were used and if they had any imperfections. And finally, they were mounted to a GH2 with a Pentax 6mm and Wollensak Cine-Velostigmat.

  • Weight and thickness: no difference
  • Design: no difference
  • Imperfections: no difference
  • Materials used: no difference
  • Functionality: no difference

Et voila our shocking conclusion of the Great Adapter Shootout, Edition One. For a simple C mount to M43, the model that costs 133% more is not even a fraction better than the budget model. However there seems to be another contender who uses different materials and at a whopping 42 euro's must be in a league of his own. Will this infamous Kipon adapter finally allow me to focus on infinity using my Pentax 6mm f1.2? Follow Filmersblog and find out in our next edition of the Great Adapter Shootout!

                                                   Find the differences

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A boxer who doesn't like to fight

A new trailer for a doc I've been working on for 2 years with co-director Mark Limburg, a classical from rags to riches story about a man who's taken many beatings but refuses to go down.

As a boy growing up in a small village in Nigeria, Innocent Anyanwu realized that the cycle of poverty and illiteracy had to be broken. He took the fate of his village on his shoulders and started on an a journey that forced him to overcome many challenges. Three continents later he is faced by the greatest challenge of them all: to become a world boxing champion and earn enough money to realize his dream.

Shot on two EX1's (one was upgraded to an EX1R). Now in postproduction. (looking for funding & partners)

I am Innocent - 4 minute trailer from Filmersblog on Vimeo.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tripods: why you need 2

Well, actually, YOU don't need two. It's just that I need two. I am riding around town on my bicycle a lot lately, carrying a small (DSLR) camerabag and a tripod and it's not working out. I tried shooting with a light, plasticky Velbon tripod but you really can't shoot video with these. It's a pain trying to level without a proper bowl; extending and retracting legs. Then I took out my Manfrotto with 503 fluid head but that's too bloody heavy when you're setting up and breaking down 25 times a day...
So I have been looking into a nice, multi-purpose tripod: I want to be able to use it for my second camera when shooting events but it has to be portable as well. I want something much lighter than my Manfrotto 525P kit yet it has to go as high as 6 feet. I want a bowl in a portable package.
Well, forget it... It doesn't exist. Either you go high and heavy or short and light. And in the latter case, you can forget the bowl. I'm open to suggestions. Anyone know something close to the Best of Both Worlds?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

GH2 better than GH1? It better be...

I don't have the slightest doubt it is, but here's someone who has too much time on his hands and decided to go nitty gritty on the comparison. (I'm actually thankful someone does this: it keeps manufacturers sharp. Let us consumers decide which camera is better!) This guy takes a look at stills as well as video functions: autofocus, form factor, video quality, rolling shutter and more. This is actually a very nice blog about micro4/3rds photography so there's much more interesting stuff to read.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bike mount

 As you may have noticed, I am an avid bicyclist. I am the proud owner of a 30-speed racing bike. I am not a very technical rider but compensate this with lots of enthusiasm. This morning I biked 60 or so kilometer with a mate and I have explored areas in and around Amsterdam I would have never seen without a bike.
In a few weeks I will ride 100 kilometers in a tour called the Steven Rooks Classic. Steven Rooks was a famous cyclist and this tour will take us to the south of the Netherlands, with lots of slopes. For someone who never rides anything but flat roads, this is going to be one tough cookie to swallow. And when the going gets rough- I want to take out my camera and record it!
I bought this little device to mount my Panasonic TZ7 on my bike. Turns out it doesn't fit my fat tubular steering wheel. So I guess I have to resort to more primitive gear. It doesn't look as good but it does the job. It keeps the camera upright and aimed forward. I hope I can accomplish the same in 2 weeks...

Friday, May 20, 2011

dirtcheap steadycam

Some sort of steadicam-device is part of many filmers' toolbox but somehow rarely used. (And then there's a few that completely overdo it and use the 'fly-cam' all the time.) I guess that's because we are always under pressure to get the shots and the steady-shot is -usually- not essential for the edit. And most of us have never really mastered the technique.
I once bought a Steadicam Merlin and used it maybe 5 times in my paid productions. That's almost 200 bucks per shot! And they never lasted longer than 4-5 seconds because that would be the point where the rig started to bop and sway... I never really got the hang of it and I'm sure that's because I didn't practice enough. I finally sold it because I couldn't balance my EX1 on it. Two months or so later I bought my DSLR and they would have worked together perfectly... It figures.
A week or so ago I saw some nice results that someone achieved with a 100,- Hague steadicam device much like the Merlin design, but in a budget version. He wrote he was able to stabilize it fairly quickly. I paid 9 times that much for my Merlin and the results looked the same. So I became interested and noticed these stabilizers are sold under different names. The (Turkish?) company Lensse seems to be the source manufacturer and sells them even cheaper. I decided that if I could win an eBay auction for around 50 euro's I would buy one. And I did! So if I only use it 5 times for my productions, that would amount to 10,- a shot. I can live with that.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is it a bike- or a steadicam?

If you like bikes and DSLR-gear, you must love this piece of homemade ingenuity. A steadicam made completely out of bike parts. (except for one part, I believe) I love it not only because it shows you how to recycle your old bicycle into a piece of gear, but for the sheer fact that someone came up with this idea. It's the summum of recycling!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New FCP-plugin for Canon DSLR-shooters

There is a new EOS plugin for 5D Mark II, 7D and 60D owners. Where does that leave us 550D and 600D users? Why not a plugin for all DSLR EOS cameras? Or do we 550D/T2i owners have to change scripts in the plugin folder again as we did for the first EOS plugin? The ways of Canon are mysterious sometimes. (and often frustrating- ever tried to find something on their websites?)
Here is an explanation why this plugin should be a great improvement over the first one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

video copyright

A while ago a company embedded a clip of mine on their professional website. It is a timelapse of a tree being pruned. This company used my video to demonstrate the type of work they do: tree pruning in Hawaii. Amsterdam is hardly Hawaii and I guess that's why they exchanged my video with something more tropical a few days ago...
But it makes me wonder: the fact that one allows embedding, does that give people the right to embed it wherever they want, for whatever purpose? Common sense would say no. I guess the line is drawn when someone uses your video to promote their own paid services.
I didn't mind that this company used my video. But I would have appreciated it if they asked.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hang man

A man playing the Hang in the Vondelpark, Amsterdam. I was struck by the pure, bewitching sound of this instrument, which, as it turned out, was developed by Swiss musicians in 2000. I thought it sounded like it was centuries old and came from the far east.
This is the opposite of a snappy edit and I even left in the soft-focus, out-of-focus shots. As a matter of fact, you don't have to watch it, you can just listen. (although I particularly love the shadowsun-shot starting at 3:25') At first I wanted to cut it to around 3 minutes (web-length) but decided against it and used almost all of the 15 minutes I shot. Most of what we show eachother is video&form, this time I opted for audio&content. (Maybe not the most popular choice: I guess that's what they call a 'director's cut'...)

Hang man from Filmersblog on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A rising star


May I introduce -with certain pride- a rising star in the art scene: Frederique Masselink van Rijn, photographer. She lives most of the year on a mountain in Spain, about an hour's inland from Barcelona. Her house is a former factory and together with her husband they ' cultivate'  many acres of land, keep pigs, chicken and goats. He build and rebuilds and works on his dreamhouse. And Frederique photographs. She has a great, romantic eye and a love for the ruins, for the transient nature of matter. She shows us houses, for instance, in varying states of demise, the beauty of it, the inevitabilty, the peace.
She photographs interiors that are timeless, still lives like paintings.
And now her work is part of Art Amsterdam and I was just there. Her work is acquired by large collectors and organizations and she is at the beginning of a great career. She also happens to be my sister's daughter, my niece: Frederique.

El Pairet (2010)
Untitled (2010)
Hostal de la Muga II (2009)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cheap lens adapters

It should be fairly simple: you have a prime lens and you need an adapter to attach it to your digital camera. I don't need autofocus, electronic aperture control. Just a simple piece of metal to connect an old lens to a new camera. Well, nothing is simple...
I bought a few of these cheap adapters and never thought that they weren't 100% functional. Either they fit or they don't, I thought, rather simplistically. It turns out there's more to it than just that. The bad ones do not support infinity focus. I guess I have those.
I thought my Pentax 6mm wouldn't focus on infinity because the rear barrel needed more modification. I shaved it off so far I almost ruined the thing. But now I suspect it's probably the cheap lens adapter.... I ordered one double the price and see if that solves my problem! I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Panasonic introduces G3

Ok, so I thought I could be fast in getting this news out and draw some attention to the blog but... I was so fast I didn't check my sources. The last time I'll ever make this mistake!! It's a bloody G3, NOT GH3!!! I apologize...
Here's a full review.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Just another night at the office...

I spent some weary, non-stop hours last night filming an event (or at least trying to) with 15 speakers and a singing act. The lighting was theatrical (dramatic!) ie loads of light next to complete darkness. I emphasized that all speakers remain in the light during their speech, but many either walked in and out of the dark or chose to remain there 80% of the time...

Can things be worse for a filmer? Yes! Our friendly but inexperienced speakers either didn't use or walked away from the microphone half of the time, leaving me pumping the volume up and down. And to make things a complete disaster: the host of the evening had his own mic and screamed like a chicken, making the contrast with the other speakers even more noticeable.

And another 4,- lens!

I exchanged 2 of my 4,- lenses because they were defect and got two with M42 mounts. One of them is a Pentacon 50mm 1.8. It has a little slack in the focus ring but seems to work fine otherwise. I made a few quick snapshots around the house and I had a hard time to get proper focus closeby. Shot at 1/100 shutter but maybe I should have gone faster to eliminate handshake. A little further away it got better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

11 looks compared

I was so impressed with the look of this footage I shot a few days ago that I thought it a good idea to compare the different 'looks' or 'presets' available in the Panasonic GH2. (also because I accidentally changed a setting and forgot which one I used!)
I shot this in full HD with the Lumix 20mm 1.7 and fader ND wide open. It's all straight out of the camera but I did lower the brightness by two nudges in FCP on the Nostalgic and Nature shots because they seemed too bright.

The settings for 'my film' are:

Contrast 0
Sharpness -1
Saturation 0
NR 0

(spectacular, eh? ;-)

11 looks compared from Filmersblog on Vimeo.

Monday, May 9, 2011

550D/T2i and GH2 Full HD comparison

The second edition of a practical, completely non-scientific test. The first time shot in 720P, now in full HD. Two camera's, mounted with the same lenses: a 20mm, 50mm and 135mm. How do they compare. Both daylight WB, aperture mostly stopped down all the way -or almost so- except for the inside shots. Both camera's set to the highest quality.

Straight out of the camera's.

550D/T2i and GH2 Full HD comparison from Filmersblog on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Summerday: a short film

Took my son out to the 'skate-pleintje' (skate square) in the neighborhood. A bunch of kids, boys around the age of my son, were hanging out and skating. Nice kids, having a good time. I just wanted to take a few shots of the action & some skating but it became more than that.
When I came home and looked at the shots it felt -excusez le mot- 'filmic'. (There is something about this lens, the pancake Lumix 20mm 1.7. I talked about it in a post a few days ago: how can something be sharp and soft at the same time? Well, this lens demonstrates it.) Maybe it was the light on this day and the way I was able to control it with the Fader ND filter that made this footage stand out. The colors and warmth. The photogenic boys. The sound and movement. The special combination of it all somehow makes it more than just a few shots of some kids skating.
A short visual on comraderie, playing from dawn to sunset, about careless summerdays. This could be anywhere and about any boy in the world. (watch it fullscreen)

Summerday: a short film from Filmersblog on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

abused Pentax 6mm 1.2

I found someone who was willing and able to grind down the rear barrel of my Pentax 6mm 1.2 so that I could focus. Somehow the lens didn't sink low enough into the adapter to be able to focus. After some chiseling and machining about 2 mm is shaved off. And yes, it focuses! But not, to my great disappointment, into infinity...
So I paid someone 20,- to abuse my lens and it is effectively useless. Where did I go wrong? Others have done the same thing and have been more succesful. I'm sure I can fix it. I won't give up. This story is not over yet...
I wanted to try it out anyway and took my GH2 to the Sushi restaurant and was able to steal a few shots of the food before my wife got annoyed with my monomanic behaviour, ordered me to put the camera away and be social...

Modified (abused) Pentax 6mm 1.2 from Filmersblog on Vimeo.

Friday, May 6, 2011

To color correct or not to

"We'll fix it in post", is a much heard expression and its meaning is becoming more and more prevalent in video and filmproduction. The ability to correct and manipulate (the look of) footage has become more mainstream since the advent of tools such as Magic Bullet's Look or Colorista.

I wouldn't call myself a knowledgeable color corrector at all and I feel I make too little use of it. I have used presets from 'Looks' on a few clips and the response on Vimeo was so much more enthusiastic compared to 'unmanipulated footage'... it was a great stimulus to explore more of that area.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Philip Bloom compares Sony FS100, Panasonic AF100 and Sony F3

A real world comparison, shooting out on the streets. Just two guys (and a girl, I believe) and their camera's. And they brought their Canon 5D Mark II as well. I like this type of testing so much more than scientific charts. After all you just want to see what your camera produces in certain circumstances, not how it behaves in theory.  This is part 1 of the test.

AF100 vs F3 vs FS100 Part 1: The Real World from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mailbox: rare Wollensak lens

The latest victim of my C-mount frenzy has arrived and it's a beauty: a rare Wollensak 1 inch 1.5 Cine-Velostigmat. It's in great shape, considering its age. This lens must be at last 50 years old, looking at the materials and the history of the company. The Wollensak firm branched off Bausch & Lomb in 1899 and started producing lenses a few years later. It's heydays were in the 50's and it went bankrupt in 1972. I am all for recycling and reusing and find it great that new use is being found for all these great products from the past. If it wasn't for the M43 camera's, these lenses would have rusted away and ground to dirt in dumpsites. A few would have been preserved by collectors or found their way to musea. But now they're back and in demand, taking pictures again of a world quite different from what they saw 50 to 100 years ago.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

But we read the friggin' manual!?

I've owned the Sennheiser EW-100 G2 wireless mic system for many years and it's been a great workhorse. For the budget-minded shooters the general consensus is that you can't get any better for the money. I believe I paid between 600 and 700 euro's for mine many years ago.
A friend of mine rents my set on a regular basis but has finally decided to buy a set of his own: the latest successor of my set, the Sennheiser EW-112P G3. Newer must be better, right?

He was familiar with the settings of my set and assumed the new system would have pretty much the same menu. Not so. The day before the shoot he spent literally hours setting up his system but the mic would not pick up any sound. He practically memorized the manual but to no avail.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Final Cut Pro X: a stable system at last?

So Final Cut Pro X is coming soon to a Mac near you and that looks great, but what does it mean for all the hard- and software that we use for editing?
For example: I own a Matrox MXO which I bought a few years ago for monitoring and color correcting HD video on a Dell 24' monitor. Now I can't say the experience has been entirely positive, to understate it... It worked for the first year or so on my G5 Quad but then the sh*t started to hit the fan. Mac OS upgrades and consequent MXO firmware upgrades have caused more misery than benefits.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The biggest yardsale in the world (timelapse)

April 30 is Koninginnedag (Queensday) in the Netherlands, birthdate of the belated queen Juliana. It has evolved into a massive national party.
People sing, dance, perform, buy and sell. Half of Holland buys the crap that the other half wants to get rid of. Literally millions of people empty out their attics, basements, storages and closets to sit out on the street and make a few bucks.
The Vondelpark in Amsterdam is the place for kids to buy and sell toys, play instruments and do their thing, whatever it is. Like streetperformers they place a hat in which you can throw a few coins.

Shot on a Canon 550D/T2i and a Sony EX1-R

Queens Day: the biggest yardsale in the world from Filmersblog on Vimeo.