I was able to pick up the new Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens Tuesday afternoon. I had seen the MTF charts when the lens was announced, they looked great, and recent reviews back that up. Far sharper than the 16-35mm f/2.8L Mark II, especially in the corners, noticeably less chromatic aberration, and with the addition of image stabilization (IS).

The only downside seems to be slightly greater chance of vignetting but the extent will depend upon the camera used, the focal length selected and the aperture used. Some might say the maximum f/4 aperture is a downside but I don’t see it that way. I rarely used my 16-35mm f/2.8 L Mark II wide open because the corners were too much of a mess and the chromatic aberration could be an issue. The 16-35mm f/2.8 L Mark II was better than the original Mark I lens but there was still lots of room for improvement.

Here’s a quick test done Tuesday evening, looking at how the lens handles sharpness and image stabilization on a Canon C300 video camera.

This was shot at 23.97p, 180 deg. shutter, 16mm (~24mm equivalent), handheld and with IS on. ISO and f-stop for each clip as marked. The footage was shot in C-log and graded in FCP X. No stabilization or sharpening was added in post.

Overall, I am very impressed. The edge to edge sharpness looks great (keep in mind though that the C300 has ~1.5x lens factor, so testing on a full-frame body is still needed) and the IS looks superb. No staccato jumps as the IS tries to do its job, it’s very smooth. Probably about the smoothest I’ve seen from a Canon lens. The IS only makes a tiny bit of noise when it is turned on.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the lens performs on a full-frame body.

Music: Miss Emma – Une Glace au Citron.

Update – 07/06/14: I did another test looking at the 16-35mm f/4L IS USM’s consistency in terms of exposure throughout the zoom range at three different apertures.  16mm – 35mm at f/4, f/8, and f/16. This test was done a Canon 1D X (full-frame body).

The lens looks to be very consistent in terms of exposure.  During the test the meter reading in the camera did not fluctuate more than ⅓ of a stop between 16mm and 35mm. The test was done outside in open shade, so not a studio setting.  Factoring that in, I’d say the exposure change throughout the zoom range is insignificant.

There is some vignetting visible wide open, at f/4. It is not seen at f/8 or f/16.

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Back in February I mentioned Zacuto’s new top plate and handle for the C300. The C300′s slightly wiggly plastic handle has always bothered me and this looked promising. It’s a wrap-over top plate Zacuto calls, the C300/500 Helmet, which connects to the C300 at three points and a quick release handle based on the NATO rail standard.

Zacuto C300/500 helmet and quick release handle.

I just had it here in the studio for about a week but in the end I returned it. The handle is beautifully made and very comfortable. The helmet/top plate is rock solid. The quick release connector for the cold shoe (C300 monitor) is very nice and does away with need to rotate the monitor’s shoe locks.

The issue was what to do when I didn’t want to use the handle but I still wanted to use the monitor or a reference microphone. With this setup, take the handle off and you no longer have a cold shoe mount.

As a work around, I tried Zacuto’s Z-rail kit which would allow me to quickly add a cold shoe to the Z-rail. It uses another NATO standard clamp with a cold shoe mounted on a small cheese plate. It should have worked except that Zacuto’s cold shoe, which will take the thinner plastic shoe of a mic like the Sennheiser MKE-400, will not take the thicker metal shoe of the C300′s monitor. The clamp would also not open when loosened. So, it would get stuck on the Z-rail.

Zacuto Z-rail Kit.

In a second attempt to make this work, I tried one of Wooden Camera’s cold shoes on another of Zacuto’s Z-rail slide mounts. This time the cold shoe did fit the metal foot of the C300′s monitor but the shoe itself would keep coming loose. It only has one mounting point, a ¼-20 thread in the center. So, it would not hold tight for long. Some Loctite might have helped except that this second Z-rail mount would also freeze up when the knob was loosened. I wasn’t going to use Loctite to set the cold shoe when the clamp itself would jam.

Wooden Camera Hot Shoe and Zacuto Z-rail Mount.

Wooden Camera Shoe and Zacuto Z-rail Slide Mount.

One other option I tried was mounting the Wooden Camera cold shoe directly to the Zacuto helmet (it’s a cheese plate after all) but the shoe fits best on the angled right side of the helmet. This would be okay but not optimal for a microphone (it puts it closer to a user’s right hand which is operating the camera’s grip, thus more chance the mic may pick up user noise) and it means you aren’t likely to use C300′s monitor. It would be off to one side, at an odd angle.

Overall the new Zacuto handle is great especially in combination with the helmet. Fit and finish are superb. If you are user who will have it on the C300 most of the time or one who will not be trying to do what I describe above (basically, replicating the functionality of the C30o’s top shoe mount whether its handle is in use or not), then it should work well. But if you are a user who wants to keep the option of mounting the camera’s monitor directly to the top of the camera when no handle is being used or if you want to be able to quickly switch to the C300 in stripped down mode and use a cold-shoe mounted reference mic, you’ll need to think through how to make this setup work for you.

One final note, the Zacuto Helmet plus handle tops out at about one inch taller than the C300′s OEM handle. Zacuto’s is primarily metal with some wood for the grip, so it is a good deal heavier than Canon’s plastic handle. While it adds needed stability, it also raises the center of gravity on what is already a tall camera. Not a deal breaker but something to factor in depending upon how you use the camera.

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An unexpected visitor to the studio yesterday. He even brought his own lunch (that’s a large earthworm on the right.)

Luckily, Caesar was there to assess the situation and take charge – though he wasn’t willing to help with the clean up.

Yep, fun for a second and then kind of like putting a bird on it.

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In June of 2010 I had booked a large hybrid stills/video project for the fall so I spent the summer gearing up, practicing and running test scenarios. I had done filmmaking growing up and during college. I had also kept abreast of the nascent dslrs now do video movement; reading all the websites about camera settings, second-system sound recording, and editing.

For the client’s project I decided I would go with a video capable dslr. It could have been shot on a prosumer camcorder as it had by others in the past but if I was going to take on video I wanted to do it in a way that was different (in 2010 dslr large chip video was different) and that was interesting to me.

What I would come to find, as I practiced, was that capturing moving images would bring a freshness I had felt was long gone. A way to see anew and that couldn’t be more true than in something as simple as the family vacation. While we have traveled a bit, more often than not we would go to Maine to an area my wife and I discovered before we got married. While it’s low on wanderlust it’s high on comfort, ease, and beauty.

This was shot in 2010 but I did not get to editing it until now. I first titled it, Things We Do in Maine, but then took the title, The Only Ones, from a song used in the piece. It fits. The sense of time spent, the sense of family once again recaptured from our hectic day-to-day lives, and the sense of being in a landscape where you can feel like the only ones.

As I edited this it struck me how much our dog, Bix, had inserted himself into many shots.  If you don’t see him, you often hear him breathing, panting or snoring. He passed away last summer so this also serves as a bit of a tribute to him.

Soon after shooting that summer I did produce a short piece from my footage highlighting a local Maine tradition, the Flash in the Pans. It was done to show clients the low light capabilities of the then new video capable dslrs. One Balmy Night in Maine is still online and recently refreshed in terms of the edit and grading.

All footage was shot with a Canon 1D Mark IV, a Zacuto z-finder, a Sennheiser MKE 400 mini shotgun mic, and a mix of handheld, tripod, and slider work.

Music: The Only Ones and Only Atoms, both by Nicole Reynolds.

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A trio of videos shot and edited this spring for Fordham Law School’s magazine:

Professors Martha Rayner and James A. Cohen of Fordham Law School’s Criminal Defense Clinic on their experiences representing prisoners incarcerated at Guatanamo Bay and students’ help with their work.


Professor Kimani Paul-Emile on her studies involving health policy, bioethics, inequality and the law.


Professor Deborah W. Denno on her research involving how neuroscience can impact the law and on how medicine has affected the death penalty.

For the lighting setup check out the One-two Punch In.

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On site this past Tuesday in Philadelphia for the kickoff of Vincent Laforet’s Directing Motion tour.

Something's going down in the meeting room. Directing Motion Tour. Philadelphia, PA. May 6, 2014. Click images to enlarge.

Something’s going down in the meeting room. Directing Motion Tour. Philadelphia, PA. May 6, 2014. Click images to enlarge.

This was a great day which included live action recreations of two scenes from Schindler’s List in the morning and some original setups in the afternoon. Throughout the day Vincent fills you in on how motion is created in films, how to use it to further the story and when best to use it. Directors cited include Welles, Darabont, Scorsese, Spielberg, Cuarón, De Palma, Hitchcock, and Hill. Selected examples are not just shown but broken down and diagramed so that you can fully appreciate what went into making the shots. The live action units then drive those points home.

The workshop’s concentration is truly on the craft and not on the equipment.

Vincent takes over at the end of the day to direct. Directing Motion Tour. Philadelphia, PA. May 6, 2014.

Vincent takes over at the end of the day to direct. Directing Motion Tour. Philadelphia, PA. May 6, 2014.

At the end of the day I was conscripted to be a nervous runner in a cops/perp scenario. All was fine until the 7th or 8th take when my hamstrings tightened up (guess the old elliptical doesn’t stretch them enough!) I toughed it out but it made for what looked like some serious overacting. Hopefully that footage gets buried deep in the Meadowlands when the tour is up near Newark.

Like Alex Buono’s Art of Visual Storytelling tour last year, Directing Motion has an evening lecture component. Vincent divides that between a look behind one of his commercials and a look at One-shot Wonders. I found the behind the scenes fascinating and well worth it to get a sense of the detail and commitment needed to operate at that level.

The tour is coming to thirty-two cities through mid-July and is well worth attending.

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On the eve of being dismantled, in the midst of a snowstorm, a Frank Lloyd Wright house of rare quality is captured in its original location for the last time.

The 1954 Bachman Wilson House, increasingly threatened by an adjacent river and the changing climate, would be trucked piece by piece from Millstone, NJ, to its new home, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Bentonville, AR.

Filmed and Edited by Jon Roemer.
Assistant: Dan Mezick.

Footage courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Music: Indian Piano Theme by Matthew Morgan.

This past January I was contacted by the museum at the recommendation of the house’s owners, architects Sharon and Lawrence Tarantino, to explore filming the dismantling of the Bachman Wilson House. As with most assignments this winter, it began on a very cold and very snowy day…

Filming exteriors before the snow gets too heavy. Bachman Wilson House, Millstone, NJ. January, 2014.

Filming exteriors before the snow gets too heavy. Bachman Wilson House, Millstone, NJ. January, 2014.

Filming exteriors - surprisingly no snow stuck to the lens. Bachman Wilson House, Millstone, NJ. January, 2014.

Filming exteriors – surprisingly no snow stuck to the lens. Bachman Wilson House, Millstone, NJ. January, 2014.

With a forecast of 8″-12″ my assistant Dan and I started outside, getting a jump on the exteriors while it was still somewhat bright and maneuverable out.  Thankfully, I had picked up a Porta Brace Rain/Snow cover for the C300 last spring. It worked perfectly, though given the snow, I had to fly blind relying on the camera’s peaking for focus.

After a cold couple of hours we moved inside to thaw and continue with the interiors. The house had been cleaned out for its impending dismantling.  While this left it on the bare side, little to no sign of it having been inhabited, it gave us a clean slate from which to work.

Outside I was able to use both the tripod and the slider. Inside we added the jib to the mix. I relied on practical lighting for the most part, showing the house as Frank Lloyd Wright had lit it. In a couple of cases, we pulled out an LED 1×1 or two to supplement or to provide a highlight.

I can’t thank the Tarantinos enough for their recommendation and the museum for the opportunity to work on this project. The museum has also been very gracious in allowing me to make my own edit of the footage (which you see above.) The film here is only the beginning, I returned another half-dozen times to document the painstaking dismantling process.

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John Paul, Lawrenceville, NJ. May 3, 2014. Click to enlarge.

John Paul, Lawrenceville, NJ. May 3, 2014. Click to enlarge.

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