Just came across this yesterday as I prepping to shoot another cover story for the same client. Portraits of a KPMG executive with the whole world(s) in his hands.
What was interesting about this is that a conference room was reserved for us to shoot in… It was barely bigger than the inflatable globe on the cover! It was also our only option. All other rooms reserved, hallways and common areas not permitted, and outside a steady rain. I had brought a 7′ backdrop but it was too big to fit in the room.
We used a white wall and made the best of it. A Profoto beauty dish and a soft box for subject lighting. Two lights to wash the wall.
On set today in New York City…
A Canon C300 with its display and a 7″ Marshall via SDI. The C300 display punched in (focus area selected & magnified) and set to B&W to enhance the focus check, the Marshall showing the overall view.
Update – 5/10/14: For the videos from this project go to Gitmo, HealthPo and the Interdisciplinary Approach .
News today of the impending two-year closure of the Pulaski Skyway, an eighty-two year old bridge connecting Newark and Jersey City, NJ. It’s a major artery leading to the Holland Tunnel and the reconstruction project is likely to snarl traffic for a long time. The governor better be on his best behavior.
The Skyway is a pretty unique trip back in time. While it is still used by 40,000 cars a day, driving it you can feel the ghosts of depression-era cars as you navigate the tight lanes, short ramps, concrete bed and black iron. I photographed the Skyway in the late 90′s as part of a personal project documenting areas on the periphery of Manhattan.
4×5, Tri-X, my Toyo VX125, Schneider large format lenses. Can’t say that I miss cleaning and loading the film holders or the darkroom. But… that was a great camera, some perfect lenses, and a nice slow methodical way to work.
A friend recently asked me how I lit the interviews in the 44 North Coffee video and it got me thinking. While a light was used, the look created was as much a product of knowing the camera and the post-production/grading as it was of the on-set lighting.
Here’s the video again:
There are interviews with Megan and Melissa, the 44 North owners. I was working by myself so I was limited in terms of gear. Beyond the camera/lenses/monopod/tripod/slider I had one light and a small reflector. The light was a Litepanels Sola ENG, a 3″ daylight balanced fresnel.
The 44 North main room has loads of natural light bouncing around. Eleven large windows ring the space on three sides and the walls and ceiling are white. It was a clear day so light levels did not fluctuate due to clouds. The Sola ENG served to provide just a bit of pop on the subjects. I don’t remember if I used the reflector or not (?!)
The camera and post-production came into play because of the huge dynamic range from inside to outside. Knowing the camera and fine tuning in post I could create an image which naturally drew the viewer to the interviewee.
The first step was shooting in log, on a Canon C300 that’s c-log. It does not apply a curve to the footage and it gives you almost all of what you would get shooting raw. The dynamic range is in the area of 12-13 stops. The C300 can hold the highlights while not blocking up the shadows.
Here are frame grabs from each of the interviews, showing the progression from log to final. The workflow is to apply multiple passes of color grading (what in the stills world would be called retouching or optimizing.) The first pass is a general grade applied to the whole image to set the white point, the black point and the overall brightness. The additional passes are targeted locally, enhancing select areas which need more work.
Log Version – it is normal for a log image to look flat and under exposed.
1st Pass Color Grade – set overall tone and brightness.
2nd Pass Color Grade – brighten area to the right of the window (also serves to guide the eye toward Megan.)
Mask used within FCP X for the 2nd Pass.
Masks used within FCP X for the second pass. Similar to Megan’s image in intent, I had work around the window shape in the background.
Masking a color grade is very easy in FCP X. Mask shapes range from round/oval to square/rectangle. You control the amount of falloff and multiple masks can be stacked to cover oddly shaped areas. You set the parameters to affect inside the mask, outside of it, or both. It was not needed in this video but masks can also be keyframed should the area being graded move (from subject movement or camera movement.)
Roaster – Bird’s Eye View
This is not an interview shot but it is a chance to look at the enhancement of a b-roll clip from the movie. The roaster shot in post required more steps than the interview clips. It was available light and it was all there in terms of the look and detail but areas within the frame needed grading to bring them out.
2nd Pass – while the first pass helped overall, areas within the frame still needed work to brighten them and add local contrast. The second pass works on the roaster barrel in the upper right.
3rd Pass – similar to the roaster barrel, the coffee tray and the coffee pouring out need their tonal range expanded, highlights brought up and shadows pushed down.
4th Pass – the image is already looking very good but the left edge and bottom left corner fight with the rest of the image a bit so a slight vignette is added to help keep the viewer’s eye on the coffee.
The masks needed to create the 3rd pass color grade.
While all of this looks complicated and time consuming, it is not. It is helpful to have a lifetime of image experience, to look at an image and know instantly what it needs. The work, though, is measured in seconds to minutes not hours.
I have had my Canon C300 for almost two years and it seems that it has taken about that long for certain accessories to sort themselves out. Looking around my studio I realized that I had three types of rails for connecting the body to Arca-Swiss standard quick release clamps and three types of hoods for the camera’s monitor.
None of these are expensive or what one would term major accessories but they are things that you are likely to use daily so it is important that they function efficiently.
When the C300 first came out there were no hoods for its display. The Hoodman HD450 was a close fit so it worked for the time being. The problem was it wasn’t quite big enough and its design (needing a velcro connection on one side plus a pair of thin elastic velcro straps) was wanting. The hood would often end up a slightly squashed parallelogram because it wouldn’t sit correctly.
You can’t really fault Hoodman for the above as the HD450 was not designed to work with the C300.
Next up was the Petrol PA1016. A nice try but still not quite there. Its design is a bit fussy, it requires both a strap to hold it on and strap + clasp to hold it in shape. The strap wrapping around the display is too thin so the hood can rotate off axis. It is also shallow in depth so Petrol includes a hard plastic extender. With the extender mounted you cannot rotate the display into the down position. The plastic extender is too long and you would have to remove the hood regardless to reorient it with the extender on the top.
Stepping in more recently is the Hoodman HD Hood for the Canon C300. It’s simple and well designed. It holds its shape, it’s perfectly sized, and its large strap keeps it in position.
The hoods above are all between $24.99 and $39.99. The hoods for the C300 also fit the C500.
While I use the C300 for its quality and professional features (built-in NDs, xlr’s, waveform, peaking, viewfinder, etc.) I run it as if it’s a dslr, preferring to keep it as stripped down as possible. I don’t use a follow-focus or a matte box. So, I don’t need a base plate or 15mm rods. In the same vein, I don’t need an old school large ENG video quick release system to mount the camera but I do need something… My camera is often bouncing between handheld, a monopod, a tripod, a slider and a jib.
Coming from the stills world I was already a longtime user of Really Right Stuff clamps (RRS) which utilize the Arca-Swiss standard. In the past couple of years some video grip equipment manufacturers have adopted the same standard creating clamps and rails which are interchangeable.
My preference for clamps is currently Kessler’s Kwik Release. While similar to a RRS clamp it has more mounting points and a snap-in design.
Kessler, RRS, and more recently Zacuto make rails which fit the Kwik Release. Similar to the hoods above, they all work, but they all differ slightly.
Seen above are – the Kessler Kwik Short Camera Plate. It comes with two ¼”-20 screws. The Zacuto QR Dovetail. It comes with a ⅜” and a ¼”-20 mounting screw. And the RRS MPR-113 Rail. It comes with two ¼”-20 screws.
All three come with catches, seen on the bottom, which prevent the rail+camera from sliding out of the Kwik Release. The Zacuto is the lowest profile and the lightest. The Kessler is the highest profile and also the shortest. Pricing ranges from $29.95 for the Kessler to $55 for the RRS.
Which one is just right? For me it’s the RRS MPR-113. Its length is a perfect match to the bottom of the C300. It doesn’t extend beyond the body in the front, keeping the body comfortable to handhold. Its shape and size keep the C300 relatively balanced if you set it down on a flat surface.
The Kessler Kwik Short Camera Plate is a bit too tall and a bit too short. It leaves the C300 rocking and rolling too much when you set it down. Kessler does make a longer plate but it’s a bit too long. It would extend beyond the body and it would still be a bit shaky side to side.
The Zacuto plate almost feels too light. It also didn’t not appear to sit 100% flat on my C300. I don’t know if that was because of the rubber pads built into it or its thinner design but when screwing it down it seemed to leave the back end a bit higher than the front.
The Zacuto QR Dovetail comes with both a ⅜” and a ¼”-20 screw, matching the base of the C300. The RRS MPR-113 rail and the Kessler Kwik Short Plate both need a ⅜” to ¼”-20 reducer bushing to mount their rails.
I just finished post on two videos – both part of a project shot this past August. 44 North Coffee is an artisanal roaster in Deer Isle, ME. Founded in 2010 by Melissa Raftery and Megan Wood in the historic Deer Isle schoolhouse.
Melissa and Megan roast 10-12 varieties of beans. Most are origins but they often have a few blends as well. They pride themselves on freshness, ethical sourcing, and custom roasting. All I can say is they must have some kind of magic mojo happening on the second floor of the schoolhouse. Maybe it’s having to carry the 150 lb. bags up the stairs, maybe it’s having to get fresh green coffee beans from the ends of the earth to Deer Isle. Whatever it is… it works. The Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is to die for. I should know, we have torn through 9 pounds of it since the summer.
Trust me, get the Yirgacheffe. If you don’t have a grinder get one, too. We didn’t and now we do. This one is great, Grind Central, and it can grind the perfect amount for a 12-cup machine.
Too good for grinding and brewing en masse? Pooh-poohing using a coffeemaker? Well, here’s 44 North barista, Anne Bryant, to show you how to slow-drip the perfect cup of coffee:
Tech notes: the videos were shot on a Canon C300 using a mix of monopod, tripod, handheld and a 28″ Kessler Stealth Slider (really great – lightweight, tripod mountable, and just enough lateral movement.)
Update – 03/25/14: Cool Beans, Lighting and Grading 44 North.
Canon announced this morning that its innovative dual-pixel auto-focus capability will be coming to the C300 in May. It’s exciting to see this an option – it will be a $500 service-center based upgrade, similar to the C100.
For a sense of how it will work Canon & Joe Simon recently published a video showing its implementation on the Canon C100:
The above is clearly not a real wedding but a shoot set up for the video so keep that in mind. That said, dual pixel AF was first introduced in a dslr, the Canon 70D, and users have been very happy with it.
Also of note in Canon’s press release is the announcement of a new remote control for the C series cameras and pro camcorders, the RC-V100. It is wired via a 15 foot cable and it offers full access to practically all of the functions of the cameras. It’s expensive ($3k list price) but it’ll be interesting to see how responsive it is, e.g. if one can pull-focus with it without the need for anything else (though the dials may be way to small?) I have not used the C300′s wireless controller but this will provide another option for controlling the camera should it be inaccessible, up on a jib, etc.
While speaking C300 – I have been using the new firmware, for a couple of months now and it is a big improvement. The two features I use the most are the focus shift and the lens exchange function. The former allows you to place the focus point in different areas of the frame once you have hit the magnify button. The latter I assigned to button #5 and it provides some peace of mind when switching lenses, putting the camera in a temporary sleep mode.
The focus shift is very helpful when racking focus from one point to another. You can focus on point A, keep the screen or viewfinder in magnify mode, move the focus point to your point B, start filming and then shift your focus as needed.
Rounding out today’s C300 news, Zacuto recently announced a new Z-finder for the C300 and C500. Similar in concept to the Deity Mira, it also turns the camera’s screen into an EVF. Zacuto says its finder will be lighter, easier to mount, and they have built a system around it to adapt it to a shoulder rig.
Zacuto’s new C300/500 helmet and handle look promising. It has always irked me that the C300′s handle never locks down 100%. There is always a bit of play to it. I have looked at other cheese plate type caps for the C300 but none have a quick release handle. Zacuto’s does.
Update – 05/20/14: Dan Chung of Newsshooter.com has a review of the new C300/C500 Recoil system.
Sweat dripping, ice dripping. Is there a big difference? Stuck in the longest winter in memory it is a good opportunity to think back to the summer when it was so hot and humid that just the barest of movement could soak through a shirt.
Almost six months ago to the day I ventured down to Woolwich, NJ, for B, Buick’s owner magazine to photograph Diane Dobson, her Buick Enclave, and her family. Diane had recently made the switch from Mercedes to Buick.
90% humidity, using what shade we could and a Profoto 600B + beauty dish for fill. Here’s a BTS photo of the setup.