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BBC cameraman Christian Parkinson tells all in his new e-book – Camera Confidential

Guest post by Christian Parkinson:

photo-3 copy

I’ve just published a new book about working as a TV news and documentary shooter. Camera Confidential is for image makers who love to tell stories. No matter what you call yourself – cameraman, video journalist, shoot/edit, multimedia journalist, backpack journalist, SoJo, photog, shooter, photojournalist, video producer or visual journalist – this book will have something for you.

It draws on my experiences as a cameraman, editor and video journalist for the BBC, which I joined 12 years ago after starting out as a trainee at ITN News. I’ve covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Libya, the DRC and Gaza. I spent four years with the BBC Africa bureau and have been lucky enough to work with some of the best correspondents and producers in the world.

Filming in Helmund province, Afghanistan.

Filming in Helmund province, Afghanistan.

Camera Confidential is also the product of numerous interviews with media colleagues: people like four times Royal Television Society cameraman of the year Darren “DC” Conway, former Sky News cameraman turned filmmaker Phillip Bloom and others from around the world including experienced reporters and security advisors.

Working as a cameraman or video journalist in news is one of the toughest but also one of the most satisfying jobs in the world. The years you spend shooting news and telling stories will stand you in excellent stead for any other challenge within the industry. I think Philip Bloom said it well when he told me – “I learnt from some amazing cameramen at Sky news. I knew nothing when I started. News cameramen work fast, think fast and react fast. I would always prefer to work with someone from a news background. You can always spot them. I would love to see the cameramen who look down on news shooters try it for a week! To create quality images under immense pressure is testament to the quality of people out there.”

Camera Confidential is not about the technical side of video journalism. It doesn’t explain white balancing, the difference between CCD and CMOS sensors or different camera specs – I’ll leave that to the guys here at Newsshooter. Instead, this is the book I wish somebody had given to me when I started shooting many years ago. It will answer questions such as: How do I find my first job? What paperwork do I need to complete when travelling with kit? What gear should I carry in a war zone? How should I protect my camera when shooting in the desert/snow/jungle? How do I shoot an anonymous interview?

Filming a volcano in Congo

Filming a volcano in Congo

All the proceeds from the book go to charity  I never set out to make any money from it and so I jumped at the chance to publish it in partnership with the Rory Peck Trust. Why the Rory Peck Trust? I am in the fortunate position of being full-time staff with the BBC, but often I see freelancers producing amazing work in risky situations. The Trust helps by offering training bursaries, grants and also support to freelancers who are in a crisis or been injured. With all the major conflicts and disasters ongoing worldwide I think it is more important than ever to support the Rory Peck Trust. Even if you decide that this book isn’t for you, please do have a look at their website and consider supporting their great work.

You can buy Camera Confidential for £4.99 via the Rory Peck Trust website here.

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Posted on July 17th, 2014 by Christian Parkinson | Category: Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blackmagic design drop price of Pocket Cinema Camera to $495

By site editor Dan Chung:

In a surprise move Blackmagic Design have dropped the price on their Pocket Cinema Camera. For a limited period it will have a recommended retail price of only $495 US – which probably makes it the cheapest RAW shooting video cam around. There have been similar price reductions in the UK (CVP have it for £295 + VAT) and presumably other countries too.

The diminutive camera has a Super16 sized sensor, Micro 4/3 lens mount and records to SD cards in either Apple ProRes or losslessly compressed CinemaDNG RAW. Like many users I rushed to buy the Pocket Cinema Camera when it launched. The ability to shoot ProRes in camera was extremely convenient but I found it of limited as a primary camera for news or documentary shooting. Low light performance was not great and focussing was hard to get right without an add-on viewfinder.

With the latest firmware updates, in particular the improved AF performance, the BMPCC has become a more practical shirt pocket camera / b-cam for real world shooters. Low light performance hasn’t really changed though – in good light it is certainly capable of producing some great looking images when paired with the right lenses, but in low light it doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of the Sony a7S or a Canon 5DmkII or mkIII.

One area where the BMPCC has proved useful is as a POV camera. At the new price you can kit it out with a little Lumix 14mm lens it is not that much more expensive than a GoPro Hero3+ Black edition. The BMPCC’s low weight also makes it an obvious candidate for use on brushless gimbals like the Defy G2.

I’d say the BMPCC with it’s unique feature set and new price it is certainly worth a look if you have a spare $500 to play with. B+H Photo are even throwing in a free Wooden Camera hotshoe mount worth $23.75 to make the deal even sweeter.

This from Blackmagic Design:

Fremont, CA – July 16, 2014 – Blackmagic Design today announced an exciting Summer Special discount for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera for the low price of US$495. With a normal recommended retail price of US$995, this Summer Special represents incredible value and is available for a limited time and will end on the 31st of August 2014. This Summer Special price is subject to limited availability, after which the price will return to the usual recommended retail price of US$995.

Since its introduction, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera has been used in thousands of independent films, television commercials, music videos and anywhere cinematographers need a high quality digital film camera in a stealthy super small size.

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera includes powerful features such as Super 16mm sized 1080HD sensor, super wide 13 stops of dynamic range, built in SD card recorder for Apple ProRes, lossless CinemaDNG RAW capture and active Micro Four Thirds lens mount, all in an attractive compact design.

This compact design allows the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera to be used in more situations where a larger camera would not be practical. It’s so small that it can be used in situations in the field where a larger camera could be dangerous. The camera’s film look even allows personal video to be shot with the style and creativity of a motion picture film.

Unlike regular video cameras Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is a true digital cinema camera as it includes a super wide dynamic range image sensor with 13 stops of latitude, allowing feature film quality images. A common mistake in the television industry is the assumption that more resolution means higher quality. Most cameras produce”video” looking images that suffer from highlight and black clipping that limits details. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera’s wide dynamic range eliminates this problem and provides film quality with dramatically more detail retained in black and whites in the image. Once the shoot is complete, DaVinci Resolve Lite 11 color correction and online editing software can be used to adjust images and take advantage of this extra range in the images.

To eliminate the damage that low bit depth and high compression video storage creates, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera includes a easy to use SD card recorder that allows the full sensor dynamic range to be recorded in professional ProRes 422 (HQ) format, as well as 12 bit Log RAW lossless compressed CinemaDNG format. These files can be read by high end video software as they are all open standard.

“We have worked hard to set up this exciting special price to allow more people to afford a super compact digital cinema camera that they can personally own. However stock is limited at this lower price so customers who want to buy at this price will need to move fast,” said Grant Petty, CEO, Blackmagic Design. “We are extremely proud of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and we want to thank all the cinematographers who have send us examples of the work they have completed with this camera. We want to thank everyone for the wise and intelligent feedback they have given us and we hope this special offer is a great way to show our appreciation to the wonderful customers we have. For us, this is a dream come true!”

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Posted on July 17th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Blackmagic design, RAW shooting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Go Creative show tackles drones – Talks legalities with attorneys and features viral fireworks film creator Jos Stiglingh

By site editor Dan Chung:

GCS036 Drone Zone

This week the Go Creative show is focussing on probably the most contentious subject in video journalism right now – drones. Host Ben Consoli has a great lineup of guests to discuss the practicalities of drone filmmaking and also the legal issues surrounding their use in the United States.

Jos Stiglingh the creator of the viral video “Fireworks filmed with a drone” talks about how he created it and how it came to get several million view. Filmmaker Paul Antico talks about he uses the DJI Phantom 2 and H3-3D gimbal to get professional results.

Also on the show are two lawyers, Matt Saunders, a copyright attorney who discusses the legality of drones and the copyright issues that go with it and Jonathan Rupprecht, an attorney, commercial pilot and unmanned aircraft consultant that discusses the current FAA regulations.

Click below to listen in:

Below is Jos Stiglingh’s viral video:

And this is Paul Antico’s very useful look at the DJI Phantom 2 equipped with a Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal and ND filter:

DJI Phantom 2 Zenmuse H3-3D 3 Axis Gimbal: The Anti-Jello Real World Review from Anticipate Media on Vimeo.

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Posted on July 15th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Drones, Go Creative show, Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rode ship new iXY mic for iPhone 5, 5s and 5c

By site editor Dan Chung:

iXY-iPhone5

At work I’ve been using the original 30-pin Rode iXY mic with an iPhone 4S to record quick and easy voiceovers for around a year. I find it really handy to have a high quality recorder right there in your pocket. The added ability to FTP or dropbox tracks directly to our editor from the iPhone is really great. Unfortunately, like many shooters, I also upgraded to an iPhone5 and then 5S which only works on with the old iXY using a cumbersome adapter.

Introducing the new iXY with Lightning connector for iPhone 5, iPhone 5s & iPhone 5c from RØDE Microphones on Vimeo.

Today Rode have unveiled a new version of the iXY specifically for the iPhone 5, 5S and 5C that integrates far better with the Lightning connector equipped phones. The concept remains the same but the design has been updated and makes the combined iXY and iPhone combo feel even more like a single unit.

The iXY can attach to the top of your DSLR using the accessory RodeGrip

The iXY can attach to the top of your DSLR using the accessory RodeGrip

Like the original, the new iXY features a matched pair of 1/2 inch condenser capsules in a X-Y configuration that allow for stereo recording at sample rates up to 24-bit/96kHz. Audio is recorded using the Rode REC app – the full version of which is one of the few to feature a broadcast friendly 48kHz record ability. A mono recording option is also settable in the app.

The new design fits closer over the iPhone body and attaches via interchangeable rubber mounting clamps. There are specific mounts for the different iPhone models and these also function as a shock mount – reducing vibrations to the mic capsules from the phone body.

The new iXY attaches via a clever rubber clamping system

The new iXY attaches via a clever rubber clamping system

A foam windshield is also included and ‘deadcat’ option will be available shortly for even great wind protection. The iXY comes with a handy case and the can be easily handheld or mounted on a camera using the accessory RodeGrip.

The optional deadcat will soon be available

The optional deadcat will soon be available

The iXY should be priced at around $199 US. They began shipping to dealers this week so should hit the stores very soon.

Full disclosure: Rode is a sponsor of this site.

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Posted on July 11th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Audio, IPhone | Permalink | Comments (1)

Flight over Kauai – getting to grips with the DJI Phantom with H3-3D gimbal

Guest post by Scott Hui:

Kauai 2014 from PowerUP Motion on Vimeo.

It seems like I spend a lot of my life running and gunning. It could be for documentaries, music videos or TV shows here in Hong Kong. Along with the shooting I do my fair share of directing and editing too. One thing I would not have put on my CV, though, was drone pilot. That was until a few months ago when I had several requests from clients specifically asking me to shoot aerials (flying a small drone for commercial purposes is seemingly legal in Hong Kong under current legislation).

My first thought was: no way. I’ve watched so many videos where drones crash into things or get lost. The thought of losing a drone I was piloting terrified me. Despite my fears I went ahead and bought two DJI Phantom quadcopters – one as a back-up. A great little shop called Special Camera Services here in Hong Kong helped me with all the gear and extra batteries I would need.

For the first few test flights I didn’t attach cameras and used the prop guards as an added precaution. Honestly, it’s a great way to start when you’re first learning to fly. I lost count of how many blades and guards I broke just by flying into things when practising. I crashed into fences, walls and even trucks. Finally, after getting more comfortable flying, I got enough courage to stick a GoPro Hero 3+ and the Zenmuse 2-axis gimbal onto my Phantom. I followed the instructions and it was a breeze, apart from some tiny screws which were fiddly to install. The results were surprisingly good and I was very happy with the results. The shots were smooth and my clients were satisfied too. A result.

Then, a few days before I left for vacation with my family in Kauai, I discovered DJI’s new Zenmuse 3-axis gimbal could be retrofitted to my Phantom 2 with longer landing skids. I upgraded my quad with the new gimbal and at the same time picked up a new transmitter and a monitor to give me further control over the Phantom. This was going to be fun.

Ready for takeoff

Ready for takeoff

My trip was a total of ten days. The weather was beautiful and I took out the Phantom and flew whenever I had the chance. I travelled with four DJI batteries which gave me enough time to fly in every spot we went to. Set-up was fairly quick – I just needed to power on the quad and the GoPro and I was set. I made sure I always had a home point so the Phantom knew where to return to. I made sure the GPS was set every time – better to be safe than sorry.

The opening beach shot is probably my favourite. It was a hot day with no winds and there was a large mountain on one side. The GoPro was set in 2K mode with narrow field of view. I flew pretty far out over the waters to film my Uncle, who was paddle boarding. I was warned to be careful not to shoot any local people on the beach – they can get a little apprehensive so I took that into consideration. (Ed – make sure you check the local laws in different countries or places you may travel to before flying).

The monitor I used worked perfectly. I could see clearly what I was shooting as I stood under a shaded tent. When I flying my only real fear was incorrectly judging the distance between the Phantom and the object being filmed. Obviously I didn’t want to crash or hurt somebody, so I felt it best to keep my distance.

There is a really huge difference between the H3-3D 3-axis gimbal and the older 2-axis version. Using the old H3-2D gimbal I would have had to have stabilized most shots even more in post. With the new 3-axis version it is much improved – I did no post stabilisation at all at worst all there is is a mild jello effect. I have heard that in a recent firmware release the jello has been reduced further, but haven’t yet had a chance to check this out.

Setting up the Phantom from the bag

Setting up the Phantom from the bag

My flight ceiling for the Phantom was about 1,000 ft. It can likely go higher, but again, just to be safe, I flew at a max of 984 ft. That’s the height you see from the overhead shot of the beach. You can’t stay up there too long for fear you don’t have enough power to return to the ground. I was told when the Phantom battery reaches about 30% it’s best to bring it on home. That said, when I did get it down from that height, it was still about 15% charged.

Other shots I got were pretty straight forward. I just made sure I was set up correctly and flew out over the waters. It was a cloudy day but even so you’ll see the GoPro doing slight exposure adjustments here and there. There were some instances of the shutter going crazy when facing the sun and from my understanding this could be a combination of various things like the shutter combined with direct sun and vibrations. I didn’t use Protune on the GoPro, but that might have improved things.

Another thing that happened at around the 1:20 mark in the video was the appearance of sea turtles on the right hand side of the frame. Sadly while the monitor is great for flying you can’t quiet make out all the details. As a result I had no idea the turtles were even there. Had I known I would’ve gotten much closer. Until a true long range HD system for small quads like the Phantom there’s little else you can do.

I don't recommend you set up your Mac and G-Drive like this but it worked

I don’t recommend you set up your Mac and G-Drive like this but it worked

There is definitely an adrenaline rush from flying a Phantom and trying to frame at the same time. I found going through the goal posts, past trees and the close approach to the waterfall felt exhilarating. However, when I noticed the water spraying all over the Phantom I knew it was time to fly back.

The canyon sequences were also quite something. I had no wind meter, no way of knowing how strong the winds were or if the Phantom could handle it. As it turns out, the Phantom did a pretty good job in these conditions.

I really had a blast just flying it around the island. I hope you guys enjoy the video.

Equipment used:
Phantom 2
Zenmuse H3-3D
IOSD Mini
AVL58 DJI 5.8G receiver for the video transmitter
GoPro Hero 3 +
7 inch LCD monitor

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Posted on July 11th, 2014 by scottiehui | Category: Brushless gimbals, GoPro, quadcopters | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fotodiox announces Excell + 1 - A budget priced Speedbooster competitor

By technical editor Matt Allard:

Nikon G to M4/3 Excell +1

Nikon G to M4/3 Excell +1

Fotodiox have just released the Excell +1. A budget priced focal length reducing adapter that allows you to mount Nikon or Canon FD lenses onto a Micro 4/3 camera (no EOS model as yet). Similar to the popular Metabones Speedbooster it also uses corrective optical glass built into the adapter itself. This increases the field of view and as a byproduct also makes the resulting image about one stop faster.

The adaptor also features aperture control – you can control exposure even with Nikon G lenses which don’t have a manual iris. It will be interesting to see just how good these adaptors are optically given the low price. 

Using the Excell +1 with the BMPCC’s Super16 sized sensor and a 50mm lens will give you a full frame equivalent of 103mm, instead of the usual 144mm.  On a M 4/3 sensor the same 50mm lens using the Excell +1 would be 70mm instead of 98mm.

The Canon FD version of the Excell +1 (not all FD lenses are compatible)

The Canon FD version of the Excell +1 (not all FD lenses are compatible)

Below is a chart describing how the EXcell +1 works with crop factors on certain cameras.  While the company is only offering the M4/3 and BMPCC actors currently it looks like they will have a larger range available shortly given the the cameras listed on the chart. 

excell

As a launch offer Fotodiox is retailing the Excell +1 for $139.99 US instead of the usual $159.99 retail. In addition, if you order before July 22nd Fotodiox will throw in the Light Cannon Creative Adapter which is similar to the Excell +1 but give a soft focus effect.

The Light Cannon

The Light Cannon

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Posted on July 9th, 2014 by Matthew Allard | Category: Blackmagic design, Lenses, Panasonic AF100, Panasonic GH2, Panasonic GH3, Panasonic GH4 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Movcam bracket for Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q recorder

By site editor Dan Chung:

The Movcam Odyssey 7Q bracket mounting the recorder on a FS700

The Movcam Odyssey 7Q bracket mounting the recorder on a FS700

Movcam are now selling their new bracket designed specifically for the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q recorder, which can be used with many different cameras and setups. Movcam are not the first to make a 7Q bracket – that honour likely goes to the Solid Camera for their extremely versatile setup we saw at NAB earlier in the year. The new Movcam doesn’t have quite as many mounting options but is considerably cheaper. I want to look at how it does things a little differently:

Surely the most common combination out there is with the Sony FS700. The Movcam bracket should make the FS700/Odyssey 7Q combination a very tight package. The key to this is the integration of Arri style rosettes which can be used to attach the 7Q securely to a suitable rig, such as Movcam’s own for the FS700. Attached as shown in the picture above it allows the monitor to be articulated at any angle and also moved to a better position for handheld and interview shooting than most setups I’ve seen (most setups I’ve seen just have the 7Q on the rear of their rig).

The same rosettes can also be used to attach handles to the side of the recorder if you want to use it as a handheld monitor instead.

The Movcam Odyssey 7Q bracket can be mounted with handles

The Movcam Odyssey 7Q bracket can be mounted with handles

Another unique feature of the Movcam is the optional battery plate and power distribution box that sits on the rear of the 7Q. Using custom lemo cables you can not only run the 7Q, but also a plethora of other accessories at different voltages all from the same V-lock or Anton Bauer type battery. You can even get a cable to power the FS700 negating the need for an internal battery or second battery power plate. In this case I’m not sure I would mount the 7Q in a forward off centre position though, as the extra weight of the battery will unbalance the rig too much. Instead I would securely mount the 7Q/bracket/battery setup in the more typical position at the rear of the camera.

The bracket has an integrated power distribution system

The bracket has an integrated power distribution system

The FS700/7Q combo is always going to be more unwieldy than a camera like the Sony F55 but with a Movcam bracket it is certainly more ‘together’ than before. If you are in the market for a 7Q mounting solution then it is certainly worth considering as an alternative to the Solid Camera option – especially as the price includes the power distribution option.

CVP in the UK is selling the monitor bracket alone for £99 + tax and complete with the battery plate for £199 + tax.

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Posted on July 9th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: External recorders, Sony FS700 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ready, steady, level! – the new Sachtler Speed clamp put to the test

By technical editor Matt Allard:

Sachtler Speed Level Clamp from Matthew Allard ACS on Vimeo.

I have used Sachtler’s professional tripods for more than 20 years. For news and documentary work you cannot beat them. At NAB earlier this year I stumbled across the company’s new Speed Level Clamp. Replacing the regular twist lock clamp it is designed with squeeze handles that let you accurately and easily level your fluid head, No more twisting and untwisting, simply squeeze the handles, position the head and then release to set it in place. It takes a moment.

It was my favourite product of the show. Given how many products were on show at NAB this might sound a little strange. The reason is this – unlike many of the other toys, I could actually see myself using the Speed Level Clamp on a daily basis. My immediate reaction was “why hasn’t someone done this before?”.

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As a news and documentary shooters know that speed is key. I probably adjust my tripod legs and tripod head at least 50 – 100 times a day on most jobs and this all takes valuable time. If for example adjusted your tripod head 50 times a day and it took you an average of 10 seconds to do it each time, then that is 8 minutes a day your spending adjusting your tripod head.

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In addition being able to adjust your tripod quickly can sometimes mean the difference between getting a shot and missing it. I have certainly missed shots because I was still trying to level off a tripod head. The Speed Level Clamp is Sachtler’s attempt to solve these problems. In fairness there was nothing wrong with their regular clamp system but the SpeedLevel Clamp gives you the ability to level your tripod head even quicker and gives you the added piece of mind that it won’t slip.

The video at the top of this article is a quick and fun (if unscientific) test to show you the difference in the time it takes to adjust a Sachtler tripod head the old fashioned way compared to the new Speed Level Clamp. Going as fast as I can it takes me almost twice as long to adjust the tripod head using the regular clamp. The Speed Level Clamp is a lot faster and also a lot easier to adjust.

The Speed Level Clamp is compatible with all Sachtler 100mm heads and supports a maximum weight of 55 lb. It does not work with 75mm heads like the Sachtler Ace and other manufacturer’s heads may not be compatible because a Sachtler 10mm thread size is required.

The Speed Level Clamp retails for $144.00 at B+H. It will be interesting to see if they make different versions for other tripod heads in their range.

Newsshooter at NAB 2014: Sachtler’s new grip system from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

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Posted on July 8th, 2014 by Matthew Allard | Category: Tripods and monopods | Permalink | Comments (0)

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