Oh Boy. We're having a heat wave. It's just before noon and the temperature is already over 100°. Can't wait to be out shooting video tomorrow, it's supposed to be even hotter....


Somewhere on Sixth.

I was out this morning scouting our upcoming filming locations. Our first video shoot is scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow morning and our second is scheduled for 11. Both are exterior. Both are fully sun exposed. No shade. Our talents are meeting us at each location since we can't carpool. We expect our shoots to last about a half an hour each and on the second location we're about 400 yards down a trail from the closest parking. I only want to haul the minimum amount of kit but I want to be sure and pack some shade for me and my camera. 

Here's what I'm doing for my Japanese maple tree. 
It was getting sunburnt from all day exposure. It's now selectively covered by 
a 50 inch diffuser rigged on a C-Stand. Yes, there is a sandbag at the bottom.

My friends and relatives often ask me why I take long walks in hot weather all Summer long. "Don't you get enough exercise in the pool?" 

My answer is that it's born out of necessity and long habit. For years we stayed busy all year round and assignments happened in all kinds of weather, and many in remote and uncomfortable situations. The more acclimated I became to the heat and physical effort over the years the easier it became to concentrate on the job at hand instead of worrying about becoming nauseated and faint. Or exhausted and distracted. If you work all the time in air conditioning, and then come-and-go in an air conditioned car, the stress of suddenly working on a location with heat indexes hovering over 105° can be downright dangerous. It's like trying to climb a mountain without becoming acclimated to the altitude...

When we walk into our second location tomorrow it will already be closing in on 100°. I'll need to bring a couple of S1 cameras (never travel without a back up) and a couple of lenses. The director will want to see the shots as we build them with our actor so I'll also bring along an Atomos digital recorder and some extra (and heavy) Sony NP900x batteries. I'm thinking of also packing in an LED panel with its batteries. And water. A good amount of water. 

But in situations like the ones we'll be shooting in tomorrow around midday one of the most important sets of gear is portable shade. I want enough good shade to cover myself and my camera. For me it's about comfort and safety. For the camera it's to ensure solid and less noisy operation (excess heat causes visual noise in digital files). Leaving a black camera and lens exposed to the sun for long periods of time is just asking for trouble and since tomorrow's shoots are part of a bigger project with lots of tight deadlines and very limited availability of the actors we really don't want to take a chance that our camera will overheat and shut down our shoot. There are few opportunities to reschedule.

I'll leave the round diffuser and C-Stand at home and opt for a very stout Lowell light stand, a knuckle head, and a 60 inch, white umbrella. Used in a straight up configuration it should be resistant to breezes that angle in from above or are directly horizontal. We'll look for heavy gear to anchor the base. The important thing is being able to carry it in.

We're making short movies of young (18-25) actors dancing in front of iconic Austin spots. Murals, Signs, Statues, Swimming Holes and even a Landmark or two. 

I'm using the Lumix S1 for the video. It's been upgraded to firmware 2.0 and we've also bought and installed the full V-Log upgrade. We'll be shooting 10 bit, 4:2:2, 4K files but our final edited target will probably be 1080p. I've experimented --- and down-rez'd (4K > 1080p) files have more detail and better color than originating the files in the smaller format. Might as well start with the best quality we can.

Other than shade, and of course the cameras and lenses, our most important accessory will be neutral density filters. I'm hedging my bets on that. I usually just go with a variable ND filter for personal work but I've found most V-ND's are susceptible to flare if there is a light source anywhere in front of them. I've had many fewer problems, optically, with discreet, single strength ND filters so I'm bringing both and I'll trudge onward with my V-NDs until I hit a snag. If I hit a snag...

Speaking of V-ND filters I forgot to mention which lens I'll be using them on. I've settled on the 24-105mm f4.0 Panasonic because I can cover all the focal lengths we'll need without having to change lenses. I don't need the higher speed of the faster 24-70mm f2.8 and I think trying to juggle primes in a fast moving and short time-framed shoot like the ones we have in mind just overly complicates matters. The 24-105 is very respectable for 4K video resolution and the extra image stabilization (dual I.S.) will give us a leg up for the handheld shots the director wants. 

One of the reasons it's so nice to use Panasonic cameras for stuff like this is the inclusion of waveforms with which to meter. While waveforms are also available on the Atomos it's nice to have them on the camera too for those times when you might want to go very mobile, and hand the director the monitor at the end of a ten foot cable...

I was out shooting this morning and after reading all the reviews about the Sigma 85mm DN lens I wanted to try a few more set ups with my small, light and brilliant, Leica 90mm f2.8 R Elmarit lens on the Sigma fp camera. It's a revelation. First of all, I can't think of a time when I would be working under f4.0 with that combo in bright light. And when you work around that aperture with the Leica lens you are in a sweet spot that practically guarantees that anything you point the lens at is going to look better. I find it to be a very solid performer and a nice match for the slow-to-work but easy-to-love Sigma fp. It's a nice portrait rig.