Have you ever purchased a lens, the price of which was outside your comfort zone, and hesitated to use it because it might get broken? Lost? Stolen? Or prove itself not worth the purchase price?
"When they go low we go high resolution."
Okay. I'm convinced. I need a gimbal for moving shots. We never have time to lay down dolly track....
We completed our second day of video shooting for our Zach project today. Everything is working out okay but in this situation I am working as camera person instead of the director which means that even if I think lots and lots of moving the camera shots are...over done I need to be a team player and deliver what the director wants. After all, he's doing the editing and he's in charge of the style the Theatre will be presenting. And I volunteered so you kind of understand that you're not in charge... (hard for me).
The combination of the Lumix S1 and the 24-105mm lens gives me about 5-6 stops of image stabilization because the system uses the stabilization in both the lens and the camera body for more effective control. That's really great for hand held shots that are static or have slight (intentional) movement but no matter how much I practice I'm never going to be buttery smooth while moving backward with the camera while shooting video, or trying to do a long tracking shot with the camera as opposed to a simple pan.
The director likes long tracking shots that end with me circling around the talent from a profile perspective to a "straight into the camera" perspective. That's a lot of movement and a thousand opportunities to glitch and wobble and generally screw up. In my early days of moving pictures we'd have a team of "grips" lay down dolly track and put a curve at the end to complete the movement. With a good dolly grip, a costly production team, and a $4,000 dolly we could do a rock solid tracking shot that curves into a straight-on shot at the end. With my size 10 feet and caffeine addled hands in control? Not so much.
We worked hard at it today and after two or three rehearsals and four or five separate takes for each set-up we feel like we got enough solid footage to make the moves work but boy-oh-boy it would have been much easier with a modern gimbal and smaller, lighter camera like the Lumix G9, with a little cine lens on it. I'm borrowing a Ronin S gimbal tomorrow and I've got a day or so to get up to beginner speed with it. I don't want to do anything super fancy I just want a smooth lateral move and a curve or two. Time to speed read those manuals instead of looking for a new movie to watch on Netflix tonight....
The director and I are plunging into the world of V-Log not so much by choice but out of necessity. We've got a big scene on a pedestrian bridge coming up at the end of next week and the head honcho for the theater decided that 8 am in the morning would be a great time to shoot a specific shot because, maybe, it won't be too hot in that last week of August. In Texas. Nice to think about the comfort of the talent but some thought needs to be given to the direction of the light as well.
Our big cast of singers and dancers will be coming across the bridge with the sun a little behind them and over to one side. Hardly the best way to light.....anything. We're testing out some V-Log files this week to see if we can make anything work (more dynamic range?) or if we need to go back and cleverly manipulate the ruling creative cadre into scheduling the giant, spectacular shot of our program at a time when the light is more cooperative. I get the impression that this effort to re-orient schedules based on lighting and time of day will be akin to turning an ocean liner around in the Panama Canal. That's why we're testing our file options well in advance.
I must, once again, sing the praises of the Panasonic S1 with the V-Log update installed. The files we're getting out of that camera (for video) are spectacular. No banding at all. I only get blown highlights when I've made grievous errors in judgement and the flesh tones are....to die for.
The combination of a variable neutral density filter and the safety net of the in-finder waveforms makes setting exposures a breeze and the camera, so far, has been rock solid. Occasionally we'll have a dancer who waves her hands in front of her face and we lose focus for a moment but since we're shooting in strong light and we can be down at f7.1 or f8.0 I'd be a lot smarter to just use the manual focusing on the camera. The ability to punch in before rolling makes for sharp images and the focus peaking during shots means we can make on-the-fly adjustments if we need to. Better than not knowing you went "soft" until you review the take.
We spent about an hour and a half shooting, reviewing and composing during the three different locations with three different talents today and I was still on the first battery as I downloaded video files to my desktop. I brought three batteries along, just in case. Someday we'll need them. I just know it.
I am temporarily becoming a video junkie and deep diving from subject to subject. A lot has changed since the days I when I was hauling around a Bolex Rex 5... We'll be back to "real" photography in no time... Stay tuned.
Good source of techie videos on stuff like V-Log and external recorders: Gerald Undone on YouTube.
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....
More photos from my romp around downtown channeling my mid-1970's black and white documentary persona. Cue the G9 once again. And a saga of the worst plane flight home EVER.
You've got to hand it to vintage lenses. In concert with black and white camera settings they make something as mundane as a mannequin's hand seem mysterious and somehow consequential.
I've walked by the poorly merchandized shop where this mannequin has languished in the window for several seasons. Each time before I had my camera set to record color. I had a lens on the front that was contemporaneously vying for world class status. But I never noticed the photograph lurking there. Then, when I went down the same street again but with the purpose of making black and white images firmly in mind the photo pretty much leapt out at me and said, "Hello."
Even though I was shooting with a micro four thirds camera the longer focal length of the lens (60mm) and the close camera to subject distance allowed for a depth of field shallow enough to effectively separate the hand from the dress in the background.
The Panasonic G9 has a black and white setting called L. Monochrome. I start with this setting and then I tweak it to taste. For me that means adding one step more of contrast, one step more of sharpening and dropping the noise reduction down by two steps. I also set the "filter" to YL (yellow) to darken skies. Finally, the camera lets me add grain to the files. I choose the lowest setting.
Once I get the image into Lightroom I do add a bit more contrast and open up the shadows a bit.
I like what I get in my straight out of camera Jpegs. They just need a tiny bit more camera tweak. I guess I could do it all in camera but I might have to slow down my walking pace and my shooting pace to tweak stuff for each individual frame. I'd rather walk fast and enhance images in post.
But the important thought I was dancing around today is how my setting of the camera (defining it as, at the time, a black and white camera) came to influence what I chose as subject matter. The brain is a tricky collaborator. It takes some stuff literally....
When I take photos in downtown Austin I like to pay attention to signs. Store signs. Sale signs. Informational signs. And signs from the universe...
Anyway, I was trundling along with the G9 and an old, favorite standby, the Olympus Pen FT 60mm f1.5. And for some reason I felt compelled to photograph just about every funny sign I came across. The one just above is of a perennial sign in front of a cute little boutique that sells women's clothes. Some times the content of their sign is straightforward and at other times it just makes me smile. I originally photographed this one head on, looking down the street, but I circled back around and made this shot at an angle because I though the mildly out of focus store was more interesting than an empty street.
We settled on using the S1 cameras with the V-Log upgrades. A lot of our shots will be in full sun and I felt that working in V-Log would help us keep the highlights intact. We're testing now to make sure our editor is comfortable with a basic LUT and his ability to color grade the files. We're still going back and forth on whether to shoot 4K or 1080p. The 4K gives more flexibility and it sounds sexy to the marketing director but we're also looking at "day of" bandwidth requirements for uploading and streaming on Facebook and YouTube. Might just shoot the big, wide opening numbers in 4K and save the heavy lifting on the close ups...