Abraham Joffe | Blog
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25 Dec Micro Expression:: exploring motion image photography

It seems like technology updates and advances are almost an everyday occurrence these days with yet another new camera, tablet and phone model vying for our attention. It’s easy to glaze over whenever another tech announcement is made. Rarely do we see major shifts like we did with the release of the CD, DVD and iPhone. For the independent film makers and videographers of this world, nothing shook up the status quo quite like the release of Canon’s 5Dm2 camera in October of 2008. Suddenly, and seemingly out-of-the-blue, the look-and-feel of cinema was affordable to the masses. The shallow depth of field of its full frame sensor enabled anyone with a vision to shoot their story cinematically. It’s a well-known part of our industry’s history, but i feel its worth reflecting on again here. That is because i feel that the camera we have had the privilege to shoot with over the past couple of months reminds me of the last “tectonic tech shift” we saw four years ago.

 

For a long time we battled with all the limitations that DSLR video brought with it – lack of controllable audio and a way to support and stabilize it to name just a couple. We learned to overcome these obstacles because of the incredible payoff provided in the footage we were now able to capture. I remember shooting one of the first DSLR weddings with a 5Dm2 back in early 2009. The resulting film was short and gained lots of adulation, but the resounding voices thought up all the reasons it was impressive, but by no means a realistic alternative to “professional” video. The costly, and small capacity media, lack of time code, handling problems and lack of full manual controls were all problems people focused on. Now just look where DSLR video production is today.. countless commercials, independent films and even features have been produced on DSLR. Like many of you I have looked up to the work of people such as Vincent Laforet, Shane Hurlbut, Konrad Czystowski and Phillip Bloom just to name a few. I think the thing that is common to all these innovators is where many people just saw problems, they focused on creating solutions and using this new technology in ways people hadn’t thought of.

 

Enter the 1DC.
Ever since my first visit to the annual NAB conference in Las Vegas (where I first laid my hands on the 5Dm2) I’ve taken time each year to revisit. With the mammoth amount of information online during and after this Mecca of Film, TV + Broadcast expo, many colleagues asked why spend the money and effort to travel from Sydney Australia to go? Anything you’ll see at the show will be online and in forums almost instantly wont it? Well, Yes. But apart from being a great chance to let whatever-hair-i-have-left down, there’s nothing quite like getting hands on and meeting the people at the cutting edge of tech in person.

 

The 2012 conference seemed to be the dwindling of the 3D craze replaced by the upsurge in 4K resolution offerings. After hearing Shane Hurlbut discusses his remarkably impressive “the ticket” presentation, I shuffled slowly behind the Canon stage to where the new 4K 30 inch displays were being showcased. Suddenly my foggy pre-midday-Vegas-brain became alert – What a picture! Seeing 4K resolution video projected on a screen is a familiar look, however, seeing crystal-clear vision of a steam train chugging through a ravine only inches from your face is completely different. For those who haven’t seen 4K resolution on a display for themselves, it simply is hard to describe. Its true what they say, it is like looking through a spotlessly clean window to the scene beyond. It’s truly remarkable. What was so impressive with Canon’s new 4K camera is the fact that it is a DSLR. 4K resolution (and higher) has been around for some time now through camera’s like the RED Epic, Scarlett and Sony’s F65. But never have we seen this kind of resolution in a DSLR format. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one.

 

Just a few short months later, I was luckily enough to be present when the first pre-release sample unit was being unwrapped in the Canon Australia offices in North Ryde Sydney. What was even more exciting was being told – “Do you want to take it out for a week and have a go?” Many people celebrate “Christmas in July” in Australia due to our scorching hot summers.. the Christmas spirit was not lost on me at that moment!

 

Along with our commercial and documentary project, untitled film works covers many weddings around Australia and abroad. The nearest shoot we had was a wedding in the beautiful Hunter Valley wine region that weekend. We decided to bring the body along and where possible shoot some test footage. Initially, apart from the extra size being a 1 Series Canon body, the look and feel of the camera was quite familiar. We rattled off several shots during the photo shoot, and apart from being super impressed by the quality of the LCD screen, we couldn’t tell in the field how the image compared to that of our 5Dm3 cameras.

 

A “pause” replaces shutter?!
Portraits taken in the latter half of the 19th Century show people staring expressionless down the lens. A smile was quite simply too hard to hold for minutes at a time due to the long exposure times required at the time to capture an image. When the exposure times reduced we started seeing more natural looking portraits of people. This is a great example of how a technological progression improved photography.

 

Pulling still frames from video is not a new concept. I have lovingly browsed through some of my great photojournalistic compendiums from the likes of Time Magazine, LIFE and the Pulitzer Prize winning images of the 20th Century. It’s amazing to discover that some images are “sequenced photographs”- which means they are still frames that originated from 35mm Motion Picture footage. Early War photography is often seen with such bylines. In fact when we look back at the development in the photographic process, we find the style of photography developing with it.

 

In the last few years we have seen RED’s remarkable innovations in what they call DSMC (Digital Still and Motion Camera) concepts, so the idea has been a slowly evolving one. What I think makes the 1DC such an exciting new prospect is that finally this technology is in a form that is suitable for the photographer. (we should remember that the 5Dm2’s video function was added to enable journalists to produce video clips in the same camera whilst in the field). A RED camera is simply not practical for run-and-gun scenarios that DSLR’s are designed to do so well. So with all this in mind, when we first “paused” the moving 4K footage from the 1DC, we were buzzing with anticipation.

 

The very first image we extracted from the footage via Quicktime’s export to still option was simply amazing. Right off the bat we had an image that was visually striking. The images held together very well in terms of colour reproduction (especially the skin tones) and were incredibly sharp. Right then we realised that a full scale shooting test was what we had to achieve.

 

The 1DC Specs
Physical body: What was refreshing was how familiar this new camera felt in my hands straight out of the box. Having shot with previous Canon DSLRS – the 5Dm2, 5Dm3 and 1Dx – the 1DC was a natural progression. It takes the physical weight and size that comes with being a Series 1 camera from Canon, however it still remains incredibly compact and versatile. The external chassis of the 1DC is the same as the 1DX, however, despite online discussions that it’s simply a firmware update that distinguishes the two cameras, my rep at Canon assures me that the boards, circuitry are different between the two.

 

4K Video:
Canon’s 1DC shoots 24 frames per second 4K video (4096 x 2160) as an 8 bit 4:2:2 Motion Jpeg. One of the biggest concerns raised early on was the absence of shooting in RAW. As an 8 bit Motion Jpeg, a reasonable amount of compression going on. So understandably there is far less information and manipulation possibilities in post than if you were shooting in RAW 4K. Currently, there is no other camera that shoots 4K RAW AND which has a comparable physical attributes as the 1DC. This of course perpetuates the saying “you never get everything you want from one camera”. I have no doubt of the next few years we’ll see advancements in the compression and roll out of RAW across many camera choices. Having said all that, we should remember that the 1DC does have a Canon LOG Gamma that dramatically improves the dynamic range of the motion images – 12.5 stops at 400 ISO. What records as quite a flat-image initially in playback, will enable far more detail to be retained in both the highlight and shadow areas. The rolling shutter effect and moiré, whilst still lingering, is less evident than in the previous Canon DSLRs I’ve shot with. There is a mixture of other recording formats available in-camera, however for the purposes of this blog, I’ll leave there discussion out.

 

ISO Range:
The other Huge advantage that the 1DC has over its rival 4K cameras is the expanded sensitivity of the latest sensor technology from Canon. The new benchmark achieved by 5Dm3 in low light performance has been raised again here with very useable vision captured as high as 12,800 in our testing. This is a big point to note when comparing the low light nature of RED cameras and another reason this camera is the obvious choice for quickly changing environments where you have little or no time to “light”. The ability to “hot swap” our L series lenses and turn the camera on and begin shooting almost instantly shouldn’t be forgotten either.

 

Aspect ratio + Crop factor:
What was one of the biggest differences shooting with the camera was the new aspect ratio and crop factor. The 1DC records 4K video using the APS-H format (which is an effective crop factor of 1.3) We’ve been shooting on full frame sensors for a long time so it does take some getting used to the new crop factor when selecting which lens to go to. I absolutely fell in love with the 2:1 aspect ratio (slightly narrower than 16:9) which does (to me anyway) increase the “cinematic” look of the footage. We shouldn’t ignore several other key features such as Clean HDMI output (in HD), 18.1megapixel RAW still capability with the option of up to 12/14 frames per second depending on your shooting mode. All this is housed in an extremely rugged and compact chassis with the ability to run the camera using plug-in external power.

 

Whilst I was super excited to see and edit the 1DC’s footage playing on a 4K display, what screamed out to me the most to test and analyze was the camera’s ability to capture images using the motion. The prospect proving a new photographic tool was terribly exciting.
I’m a very hand-on shooter. And whilst i review the data sheets, the first thing i want to do is get into a real life shoot and put new gear, especially cameras, to the test. There is nothing like a real shoot also to gain real experience. Whilst controlled testing defiantly has its place, it can’t give you knowledge on the practical strengths and weaknesses a real-life shoot throws at you. So we planned to conduct four different shoots to test both the desired 4K images and the camera in a practical sense. These test-shoots encompassed four genres: Fashion, Wedding, Wildlife + Portrait.

 

Post Production – “the Wissam method”
After the completion of production it was time to take the mammoth amount of data and figure out a viable workflow. As there were no accompanying software with our 1DCs in box, and no set workflow available online to follow, we had some experimenting to do. The files off the CF card were as expected choppy at best during playback in Quicktime. Our early exports via Quicktime didn’t result in the best looking image, and we knew there had to be an easier solution. After some time we narrowed in on Adobe Premiere Pro CS6.

 

This updated NLE from Adobe has been taking some big strides lately and we found it simply ingested the footage via the RED 4K (2×1) project preset. (The final solution of simply using Premiere to export the still frames was suggested by Wissam Abdallah, hence the somewhat inflated recognition here) Once imported, the footage was playing back (albeit a little choppy) right there on the timeline.

 

Once the footage was arranged and culled to the shots we wanted to work with, we found opening each file separately in the source window and then expanding it full screen enabled us to much more clearly see the image in its entirety. Once full screen, the image could be fully appreciated. This then brings us to the most exciting and new aspect of this motion capture experiment: the selection of “the precise moment”

 

Micro Expression
A photograph is all about capturing “the moment”. It is also what distinguishes it from cinematography. Photographers seek out images that best encapsulate the scene, person, place or time being examined. There are scores of different styles, techniques and processes that make up the rich world of which all falls under the one definition of capturing light. What’s always fascinated me is how many forms the art and science of photography takes. As well as the multitude of photographic techniques that are accepted and can be attributed to one person. Steve Winter’s award for “Wildlife Photographer of the year” was achieved by his remarkable image of a wild snow leopard was taken by one of his many camera traps. Even though he was not present at the time his amazing image was captured, he is still greatly recognized for the photograph – and rightly so. So how about an image, a great moment in time, acquired by simply plucking it out of free flowing video footage? Does this in any way not constitute a legitimate photograph? Does it matter?

 

Is this a photograph?
These are fascinating questions to me, and ones I wanted to hear people’s reactions to when looking through the motion-acquired images. What I quickly realised that some photographers held strong opinions on why not to pursue motion image capture, whilst others seemed quite excited by the prospect. The stigma of the idea of just pulling stills from video strangely gave some incredibly pessimistic views of the whole project. I don’t see motion image capture as the doom-and-gloom to traditional way of doing things. I just see it as a new tool for photographers to use (when appropriate) to capture even more precise moments in time. Technology shouldn’t hinder the creative process but further it. When we first started to “scrub” (film jargon meaning to shuttle through shots) the footage started seeing small moments in time, particularly human expressions, which were so slight they were not fully noted at the time of shooting. When the wedded couple spent time laughing and holding each other on the location shoot, the quickest of smirks or glances to each other were suddenly able to be slowed down, identified and selected. Similarly in the portrait shoot we were finding the greatest expression developed over several frames until the “choicest” of them all sat staring out at us. The ability to slow time and have all these usable frames was at the start, quite breathtaking. One reason people hire a professional photographer is that they appreciate their “taste” in recognizing, capturing and delivering the ideal moment. This post-event selection method is simply shifting some of these “recognition” skills to a later time.

 

Suspected limitations and pit-falls.
Our earliest tests highlighted the need for precise accuracy in focus and shutter speeds. When shooting films, we often pull focus (drift the plane of focus) as a storytelling method. You can draw the viewers eye from one part of the screen to the other. If shooting film for stills you would want to keep focus in check at all times. We found shooting with more depth of field preferable to ensure focus was hitting at all the critical times. Shooting video with the 1DC means manual focusing, which takes time to perfect if following subjects.

 

Orientation:
The other major consideration is that film is through-out its history always been filmed in landscape orientation. So what does this mean for the portrait shot? I guess it all comes down to whether you are filming first with the idea to extract stills later, or if you are just using video mode as a means to aid purely your photography. It may be harder to imagine including the vertical footage in a finished edit, however, one only has to look to the work of Alexx Henry and his inspirational “motion art” concept shoots to see the new ways in which motion and stills (both horizontal and vertical) can propel the creative process.

 

Shooting clean:
As discussed above, it is a motion jpeg so the need to correctly set your exposure and white balance manually is imperative. Having shot video with DSLR’s for over 4 years now, i like many others have been forced to shoot extremely cleanly. This is down to the fact that we just haven’t had the latitude later in post to correct terribly under or over exposed clips. This training looks like it may prove invaluable when shooting for motion images with the 1DC. (further testing with Canon Log will determine the true expansion of the dynamic range)

 

Shutter speed:
When it comes to shutter speeds, traditionally cinema has stuck to the 2:1 rule with frame rates. When in Australia we shoot at 25FPS (frames per second) we double our shutter speed to 1/50 of a second. This ratio best retains a slight motion blur within the frames and reproduces a aesthetically appealing “cinema look” to the motion. If you shoot at much high shutter speeds with a 25FPS shutter rate, the resulting playback takes on a very staccato look. (it should be noted that this high-energy strobe look can be desirable on certain occasions. It can be seen to great effect during the open Normandy beach-landing scenes in Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan”). Photographers rely on higher shutterspeeds to freeze the action in pin-sharp form. With the testing we have done during this project, we opted to find a compromise between film and stills. The happy middle ground seemed to be 1/100 and 1/200 shutter speeds. This mostly retained the “cinematic feel” to the motion whilst delivering more useable still frames for export. If no consideration were to be made for the video being captured, then higher shutter speeds may be valid to use. We did find many useable frames from all four of our test shoots (including the most demanding – the Sue Bryce fashion shoot with the free flowing dress) and each provided many useable stills.

 

Media Requirements:
As predicted, even without shooting RAW 4K, the 1DC produced buckets of data. With recording times requiring approx 1GiG of memory per 15 seconds of recording time! So a commonly used 16G card now captures just 4minutes of 4K. (at least that’s easy to remember!) So naturally, larger capacity, and faster performing Compact Flash cards are necessary. We were fortunate enough to have SanDisk provide us with two new 128G 100mbs CF cards for this project. Each of these 128G cards could hold 30minutes of 4K footage. The camera offers dual CF slots, and plenty of reasons to start saving for memory. For those lamenting the cost of high capacity media, remember cost will inevitably come down. I remember when first shooting with the 5Dm2 in 2009, 8 + 16G cards were prohibitively expensive and with time costs became much more bearable. History repeats itself.
Power-hungry processing: Anyone who has worked with 4K video will tell you of the massive grunt needed for playback and working with such file sizes. (We shot a commercial for a prominent Australian designer on the RED Epic earlier in the year and experienced the pain first hand.) Not only will larger hard drives be required, but more powerful PC or Mac’s to drive them. I should note we conducted this project using only a 17inch ACER laptop with an Intel i7 2GHz processer with 16G of Ram. From the impressive performance and playback of the footage on this laptop, I can only assume ever better results on a beefed-up desktop PC or MAC.

 

Retouching and Printing
Once the still had been selected from the video editing program we needed to choose an output file type. The TIFF file (around 33mb) that Adobe Premier Pro produced the best results. As the original captured footage is motion jpeg I suspect that the TIFF file is just an enlarged Jpeg. The first impression of the image out of the video environment was really positive. There were very little indicators that this was a freeze frame from video footage. The two most noticeable were the overexposed highlights and an overall sharpness that resembled an image that had been over sharpened incorrectly in Photoshop. Both of these things could be fine-tuned with internal camera settings and post production. The blown-out highlights was noticeable in only a few outputted frames and as we were using the “out of the box” picture style settings I’m confident a basic reduction in camera contrast would help to improve this. This goes the same for sharpness. Overall the sharpness gives a pleasing result, though some may find the default settings a little too over sharpened. Tweak to your pleasure but remember this isn’t a raw file so getting it right in camera will really help to getting it right on paper.

 

We really didn’t have to do too much to the images to get them print ready. The prints for the wedding album had only had a tiny amount of sharpening added as we wanted the test prints to really pop. Un-sharp mask filter was used but we inverted the default settings to be [Amount 1, Radius 0.2]. This gave a finer pixel contrast ratio and an overall realistic sharpness. From there a simple Auto Colour Balance and the images were almost ready to print. Basic retouching and personal touches were applied to some test prints, just like a photographer would do with regular still images.

 

So, the workflow from Video Still Output to Printing is exactly the same as if it were captured as a still. The key to a better image is to reduce the contrast and sharpness in the camera settings to produce a more usable image with as much data as we can get. The obvious recommendation is to use Canon Log in camera and retain as much detail and information as possible. Due to the files being so sharp, we were able to interpolate them in Photoshop and enlarge sharp prints up to 55 inches. I mean sharp prints! This size is more than acceptable for fine wall prints or exhibition. These image files would be more than usable for commercial signage and a great tool for TV commercials or movie production. Like with original photos, if it’s sharp to start with it will enlarge well too.

 

The Photographers’ critique.
We realized that the best and harshest critics to show these motion-acquired images would be photographers themselves. So on the 19th of December we invited some of Australia’s leading photographers to Sun Studios in Sydney Australia for a look. Reactions from each photographer varied from shock and amazement to almost disbelief. Understandably the discussion of would this negatively affect business was raised, but after some reflection everybody agreed that this is simply and exciting new tool for photographers and should not be feared. The art and skill of a photographer is still required when using a camera like the 1DC. Understanding and harnessing of light, composition and interaction with your subjects are all vital skills of a photographer and are not replaced by the idea of motion image capture. Photographers also use a variety of techniques to obtain unique looking images (like long exposure times and the use of remote flashes) these times of images would not be reproduced in video. I see the biggest step forward using motion image capture the ability to record many individual moments in time, all the while silently as there is no shutter being released. This could have great benefits in situations where you may want to remain more candid. Subjects could also feel more relaxed not knowing “photographs” are being taken.

 

Whatever your stance, I think most would agree there are fascinating times ahead!

 

Abraham Joffe

 

Credits + Thanks:
Firstly a huge thanks to our stellar untitled editor Hayley Yeoh for putting together the film in such a short time frame before Christmas. Also the professional image makers who gave of their time to be interviewed who included: Dean Bentick (inlighten photography) Brett Purmel, David Stowe (Society photography), Ryan Schembri (Xsight) Sue Bryce, Philip Bloom, Wissam Abdallah, Graham Monro (gm photographics) Michael Martin (MM Photos). Thank you to Sun Studios + Peter Osborne for opening their doors to us for shooting and printing. Others to thank for your support and encouragement: Jay Collier and Selena Simpson, Rachael Bentick, Paul Stewart, Charles Montesin, Sam Hannaford, Steven Khalil, Helen Giovas Sotiropoulos, Pippa Walton + Ray Schembri, Erica Salmon, Kelly + James Rutty, Laekin + Chris Rose, Ben Joffe, Untitled film works crew + support: Andrew Prochuk, Turei Cooze, Kylie Lewis, Lorna-Jean Bradley, Matt Teague, Volkan Dogan, John Alten – Sandisk Australia. The biggest thank you of all goes to my darling fiance Jen who has put up with the ridiculous hours of absence leading up to Christmas working on this project.

 

I wish to note that this project was produced independently and no payments or influence was made from any company, including Canon. The opinions expressed in this film and blog are of the individuals. But after saying that, I wish to sincerely thank Canon Australia for trusting us with two 1DC’s for the time it took to produce the film and blog.

 

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21 Dec Approaching a destination DSLR film assignment.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of heading off to a new part of the world for a shoot with nothing but yourself and a scaled down shooting kit. In 2012 I’ve had some wonderful opportunities filming in locations such as Alabama, Florida, Namibia, Botswana and most recently The Maldives. On each of these occasions I’ve had to rely on an ultra light kit. It takes careful prep to decide exactly what will really be needed, and what luxury items can be sacrificed. I am a huge advocate for always having the exact right tool for the job, but for solo travel it’s simply not practical. So like any new project, planning is critical. This article discusses what I have found works for me through much trial and testing.

 

the "wet-edge" effect achieved with a 5Dm3 + 14mm 2.8 Lens in Aquatech housing

What to bring.
Firstly, you need to research your destination as much as possible. What you will be filming will determine what gear you will need. For example, For Namibia, i packed numerous ND +polarisers to deal with harsh light that I anticipated dealing with, as well as a second light tripod so I could run two time-lapse setups per night. With the Maldives, I packed a new Aquatech underwater housing for the marine shots.

 

So before you set out, ask yourself these questions – What am I most likely to encounter? Will their be interviews? How will the environment effect the shoot?

 

At home base, we tend to take it for granted how easily we can replace lost or broken items. Most times you won’t have that ability on location. So pack spares for items most likely to fail. Top fail contenders for me are: radio mics (the lav mic itself, clips, and wind protector), bulbs, extra media and batteries (camera + AA). Also, the simplest thing like a lens cloth can complete throw you if you happen to lose the one you have. Of course you can’t bring backups of everything but if you carefully think before leaving of what’s most likely, you’ll be on the right track.

 

Other very important items that are often forgotten are: universal power adapters (plus a power board so you can multi-charge), Allen keys (don’t fly with them in hand luggage as they’ll take them at security), monopod + tripod tightening tools, spare base plates, and air blower for camera sensor maintenance.

 

When it comes to your biggest weight bearing items – stabilisers (tripods, sliders etc) have to make a choice between weight vs function.

 

Maintaining a clean and organised kit is essential.

Here is my choice for solo travel shoots.

 

1. Tripod > Miller Solo DS10 carbon fibre.
It’s a great versatile tripod that allows for low mode shooting and is carry friendly. I have considered packing lighter options (like the Manfrotto 701HDV) but in the end this is such an important item I think it’s worth it. If your check on luggage is tipping the scales, you can sneakily carry the head of the tripod in a small carry on bag.

 

2. Monopod >

The universally loved Manfrotto 561-BHDV-1. Lightweight and stong. Breakdown for travel. I also bubble wrap my mono along with other items in my check luggage. Remember to pack tape to re-wrap them on the return journey.

 

3. Glidecam >
It’s become synonymous with hand held glide systems. Simply a great tool that when mastered enables you to very quickly pull off powerful shots in the tightest of places. I never leave home without it. The preferred model for DSLR shooting is the HD4000. Although heavier than its sister models, I find it the easiest to balance and fly stable. Lens’s most often found attached with the glidecam are the 24mm 1.4, 35mm 1.4. Occasionally we’ll use the 50mm 1.2 (although takes some practice) and the 14mm 2.8 (for tight shooting environments or epically wide establishing shots. Start your glidccam training on the widest (therefore easiest to achieve) lenses.

 

3. Slider. >
Here’s a tricky one. Out of the set above, in my option it’s the easiest to talk yourself not leaving behind. I brought one to Africa and didn’t end up using it even once. But of course it all depends on your subject matter. I just find many of the slide shots I can replace with a carefully executed glidecam move. There are scores of lightweight sliders on the market, however a good choice for travel would be the Cinevate FLT. It’s strong, fairly light and does what it’s meant to.

 

4. Lenses >
This is always where most of the pain in decision making lies. I love to have full set of Canon primes with me on shoots, with every one finding special one-on-one time with my camera.. So how do you leave any behind? Again, it comes down to what is Most needed, and what is really a luxury. One new serious choice has recently hit the market – the Canon 24-70mm 2.8 LII. I have always been a lover in L series prime lenses (the only exception in my bag being the 70-200mm 2.8 L II) however this lens really impresses. It is a huge improvement on the earlier series one model. The sharpness, clarity and bokeh all closely mimic that of the primes it covers. Although its yet to be a permanent member of untitled film works’ lens arsenal, I can confidently say it will be traveling on some future shoots. It will be fantastic to have this lens as an alternative to packing the 24mm, 35mm and 50mm. Of course these lenses still all produce superior image (as well as much faster performance) but with the increased ISO performance of the current cameras, the choice is becoming less one sided.

 

Having said all that, my “current” line up of travel glass is:

 

24mm 1.4
35mm 1.4
50mm 1.2
70-200mm 2.8 L II
100mm Macro 2.8 L IS

 

For Africa I also packed the 14mm 2.8 (for nightscape timelapses) and the 300mm 2.8 L II + 1.4x and 2x extenders.

 

 

Absolute necessary lens accessories are filters: Tiffen ND filters (I pack 2 and 3 stop), Tiffen Circular Polarizer (72mm + 77mm), as well as at least two lens pouches. The best I have used by fa are the ThinkTank pull string pouches. The Lens Changer 50 V2.0 will hold all your primes (with lens hoods attached!) including the whopping 85mm 1.2. I am yet to use a variable ND that doesn’t give a “muddy” cast to the image, so I strongly recommend a high quality individual ND. Also i should note, I have stopped using UV filters as permanent attachments to my lenses. I just find they form another optical barrier to your lens. Of course without a UV you do add more risk to damage, but I prefer a cleaner image. Let your high quality glass do its job unhindered.

 

5. Audio >
An often much overlooked area. The quality of your field recordings can make-or-break your production. Here are my essential items:
1. Rode Video Pro mic. After much searching for the perfect on camera mic, this one rested best-on-show. A great, compact little mic with lovely tone. The wind protected is a must add-on.
2. Roland R26 field recorder. This device was a real “zoom” killer for me. It records up to six channels at once direct to SD. What sets this apart from other hand-held field recorders is the quality of its pre-amps. There are two types of stereo microphones built into the R-26, plus a pair of XLR inputs for external mics, and an input for a stereo plug-in powered mic. It’s also a wonderful atmos recorder for situations where live music is being played.
3. Radio mics. Sennheiser evolution G3kit. (2 receivers, 2 transmitters) don’t forget fluffy wind protectors and lots of spare batteries 4. Rode NTG condenser mic. There are several models, I like the NTG 3. Great paired up with the Roland for interviews and atmos location recordings. (Note: This item could be sacrificed if an ultra-light kit is required.)
4.Headphones
Recording audio without good quality headphones is like filming without a viewfinder. After many brands tested over the years, my all time favorites are the Sennheiser HD-25s. Rugged, reliable and great sound. They can take a real beating and parts can be replaced like the ear cushions and leads.

 

6. Lighting >
This department often takes up the largest load back at base, so how do you pack for travel work? Again it all depends on what you the project entails. If you are to be shooting a lot of interiors and interviews then more allocation for lighting will need to be made. I’m a huge fan of Dido lights. They are strong, sturdy and have dimming and spotting adjustments. With a couple of Dedos and some bounce and gels you can achieve wonders. Remember if you are traveling internationally remember to check the power comparability with your lights. A simple way to avoid power issues is to run battery operated lights. Today’s LED lighting options are incredible. One of the best new pieces of kit I’ve bought lately is the Dedo Ledzilla LED light. It runs on a Sony 970 battery, runs cold as its LED is dimmable and will give you six hours of use from a single charge. A fantastically light travel light. Another option is a small LED light panel. There are many great models on the market. You’ll also need to pack a couple of lightweight stands. Some small pieces of foam core (for bounce) and some daylight gels are useful inclusions.

 

Dedolight LEDZilla

7. Media and Backup >
It’s critical that you have a data management plan in place before you leave. The safest method is of course multiple backups. Using a laptop, I like to transfer each card onto two separate portable hard drives. These then stay in separate bags and really, one should be with you at all times (not in checked luggage). I also like to keep a detailed shot list whilst on location. It helps down the track in edit as well as let’s you see what coverage you still require while you’re still shooting.

 

8. Kit bag >
And what to hold all this precious cargo? As i said before, I love having the exact right tool for the given job. This applies to bags also. Never skimp on the purchase of a quality bag. I have had my porta-brace lighting bag for over 10 years and its still going strong! For a great travel backpack, Lowepro is my choice. I have both the Vertex 300W and the new Pro Trekker 400. The Trekker is a brilliantly deep bag which can hold 2 cam bodies, a large tele and 3-4 more primes with ease. The Vertex is great for local shoots where less is required. I do love the fact that it can hold my 20″ laptop in a dedicated zip up sleeve and has more small pouches within the lid for small items. Both bags have various external straps for lashing on glidecams or monopods (sometimes both!)

 

9. Miscellaneous >
Other important items that can often be forgotten are:
Canon timer remote for Time lapse set ups. A vertical grip is also a good idea to provide enough power for time lapses with extended periods. (More on time-lapse techniques in upcoming post) Zacuto Z finder (2.5x is my preference), gaffer tape, multi tool, lens cloths, universal power adapters (plus a power board so you can multi-charge), Allen keys (don’t fly with them in hand luggage as they’ll take them at security), monopod + tripod tightening tools, spare base plates, and air blower for camera sensor maintenance.

 

I have purposely left out cameras from this list as obviously this is come the that evolves the fastest. From Namibia in July onwards, all my 2012 trips were filmed using the Canon 5D mark3. However I have the sneaking suspicion an 1DC may make its way to my bag for the next shoot.

 

A great thing to do is keep checklists. Note every item you take on your next travel shoot and have that at hand next time you pack. It will really avoid forgetting a critical item. On your return, note down any items that you did not use. This will help refine your perfect shooting checklist. This article can perhaps act as a starting point.

 

Good luck!

 

Abraham

untitled film works

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17 Oct Iconic Images – Namibia

Namibia is a country of surreal raw beauty, pristine wilderness and abundant wildlife. Namibia’s optimum light, spectacular landscapes and intriguing diversity of animals and people makes it a photographer’s dream.

 

Iconic Images has become one of the most respected photographic safari companies in the world. They are dedicated to bringing people to the most spectacular locations for photography. The combination of technical support, intricate planning and local knowledge makes their iconic images tours a truly unique experience.

 

Behind the Scenes:
The assignment to capture this experience on film proved an amazing journey for untitled cinematographer, Abraham Joffe. With his experience in wildlife and documentary production, he was up to the task to tackle the epic size of the shoot – solo.

 

Abraham: “This project was an hugely rewarding one. Every day was a new adventure full of glorious landscapes and wildlife. What was really brilliant is the fact that I got to really live the iconic images experience and therefore felt very comfortable in helping translate that to screen. Many thanks to Denis Glennon for allowing me the freedom to shoot this journey as I saw fit and to Shem Compion and Jay Collier for their fantastic support. Thank you also to the great clients who where so accepting and enthusiastic of my inclusion on this safari.

 

To book a photographic safari visit: denisglennon.com

 

Film produced by: untitledfilms.com.au
Follow our upcoming Africa films on Facebook! facebook.com/untitledfilmworks

 

Tech details:
Filmed exclusively on Canon 5dm3 cameras
Canon EF lenses: 14mm 2.8 L, 24mm 1.4 L II, 35mm 1.4 L , 50mm 1.2 L, 70-200mm 2.8 L II, 300mm 2.8 L II. 100mm Macro 2.8 L II.
Audio: Roland R26, Rode video Pro, Sennheiser G3 wireless.
Viewfinder: Zacuto Z finder 3.5”
Tripod: Miller Solo DS20 carbon fibre

 

Music licensed by The Audio Network.

 

Thank you to: Iconic Images, Denis Glennon, Shem Compion, Jay Collier, Jen Walker, Lorna-Jean Bradley, Canon Australia, and untitled sponsor: RØDE Microphones

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27 Aug The Mashatu Hide – an elephant bazaar!

Entering a reinforced steel shipping container positioned next to a scarce water supply in the wilderness of Mashatu was an exciting, daunting prospect. We could have never predicted the encounter we were about to have with one of the animal kingdoms most imposing and glorious creatures…

 

Tech details:
Filmed exclusively on Canon 5dm3 cameras
Canon EF lenses: 14mm 2.8, 24mm 1.4, 50mm 1.2, 70-200mm 2.8 II, 300mm 2.8 II.
Audio: Roland R26, Rode video Pro
Viewfinder: Zacuto Z finder 3.5″
Tripod: Miller Solo DS20 carbon fibre

 

Music licensed: “Amadinda” by Evelyn Glennie
Thank you to: Iconic Images, C4 safaris, Denis Glennon, Shem Compion + Mike Dexter

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19 Aug Steven Khalil ~ haute couture

Steven Khalil is recognised as one of Australia’s leading bridal couturiers. His designs are renowned for their elegance and beauty, combining classical elements of bygone eras with a contemporary edge. Steven Khalil’s sophisticated style of glamour, elegance and simplicity is perfectly imbued into every facet of the gown.

 

Translating the spirit of Steven’s brand to film was an exciting challenge for the untitled team.
Camera: RED Epic + RED Scarlet with Master Primes set

 

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15 May Jack Daniels – Master Distiller Dinner

Following the successful Jack Daniel’s Embassy tour, Jeff Arnett, Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller, was invited with his wife Lori to a very special dinner. The evening was hosted by AZB Creative on behalf of Browns forman and took place at the historic Swift House in Darling Point, Sydney. Celebrity Chef Luke Mangan created and prepared the courses on site, accompanied by matching Jack Daniel’s cocktails. untitled film works was asked to capture the essence of the affair and produce a reel to preserve the glamour and atomsphere of this special evening.

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