I have been reading and listening to podcasts, talks and all the buzz around NAB and all the new releases being predicted and one thing is certain among our industry… You will never be ahead of the curve, you can only hope to give your clients more than they expected and they call you back for more work down the line. It has been a crazy year for us here at Setla Films as I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to the suburbs of Detroit. What amazed me was the fact that the work didn’t change as it never seemed to be in the Bay Area or very rarely and now I am working more than ever on corporate shoots. This told me something about what I was willing to invest in. I have been using the Sony F55 for over 2 years now and have felt pretty comfortable in the image I was getting both HD and 4k, but sometimes your gut tells you it is time to diversify your experience.
Most of my clients wouldn’t care if I showed up with a DSLR or ARRI Alexa, all they care about is if I can put together a cohesive story and based on the videos that were done before me I can safely say that it truly doesn’t matter what camera I use as I know I can light better and tell a better story than my clients are used to. So the question here is why did I invest over $50,000 on a new camera system?
Well the big question when you own your own business is why buy vs renting for gigs? About 5 years ago when I was on a shoot with a DP who had over 20+ years experience he was getting ready for the first part of the gig and the client asked him “Can I get timecode on the monitor?” and since the camera the main DP was using was mine he came over to me and asked “Hey, can you figure this out?”. I knew right then that if I was ever in a position with a client and there was a need for me to know the camera enough to get through any troubleshooting I had better own it to get to know it. From there I couldn’t bring myself to rent a camera for a client.
Most DP’s I talk to spend a good deal of time comparing cameras before they buy. While price starts the analysis i.e. $5000 – $10,000 range etc then they have narrowed their search to around 3-4 cameras max. I went into this with the idea if I had all the money in the world what camera matches my shooting style i.e. weight, manual lenses, docustyle, interview, travel a lot, mostly a one man band etc. While I narrowed the search to RED, Panasonic Varicam, ARRI and Sony I wanted to make a decision based on the 2 factors. 1st if the camera can produce an amazing image given an educated user and 2nd what is the customer service aspect of the company. I called ARRI to discuss with them the financing package they had going and I got a really rude answer from the receptionist “I’m sorry I was just told to have you email firstname.lastname@example.org to get more info”. REALLY? I am about to spend $50k and this is the response I get? I was floored and immediately went on twitter to show my disappointment. it wasn’t 1 week before I received some shwag from ARRI apologizing for the experience and calling me directly to give me all the info I needed. I couldn’t have been more surprised by the effort they showed even a small company like mine.
Once I realized that this is what I was going to get when I needed help I was convinced that the ARRI Amira was going to be my camera. The funny thing is when you extend yourself like this to buy equipment it becomes a motivator to make sure you find the clients and projects needed to pay the bills. If you ever have any questions about my experience with ARRI don’t hesitate to contact me and I only wish happy shooting for all you that know how important camera choice is!
I knew that I wanted bigger and more diverse clients since most of my initial clients were in the healthcare space,
There are very few times in my career when things just clicked. Those times when someone you met shares a golden nugget of information or something you find changes your complete philosophy about something, but that just happened to me yesterday. A few weeks ago I get an email from about 5 different manufacturers that I am subscribed to including Kessler Crane, Zacuto, and Canon about a class that was being offered by Vincent Laforet called Directing Motion. After you get a few of these you start to almost think of them as spam, but I decided to take a look. I admit I was skeptical about the class as I have been to a number of these classes where someone with way more experience than me was teaching something I knew I wanted to learn more about, but most times the ego of the person just repels me and I just have no interest in learning from them. Admittedly I have met Vincent on a number of occasions and I have never felt he was a very approachable person. You can’t just buddy up with everyone I suppose, but I digress.
Vincent Laforet ~ “I had 2 months to sit around after fracturing my arm in a dune buggy accident so I decided to watch over 600 of my favorite movies and take copious notes about how the motion of the camera was used…”
Now these weren’t just notes on what he liked, but what he didn’t like and why each director used camera motion to create emotion. This had to be paired down to about 50 real world examples of directors who used camera motion in one of two ways. Motivated and un-Motivated motion. To define this Motivated motion is that someone or something in the scene has motivated the camera to move. Consider the camera a piece of metal and the actors the magnet. If the camera motion is done Unmotivated this means one of two things, the director was taking you through the scene for a purpose, or it was a useless camera motion. Pan Left, Tilt Up, Boom Down, Parallax, Push in, Follow, Lead, Zolly (Zoom and Dolly combined), One Shot Wonders were not just terms, but dedicated camera moves with a purpose. Many of his examples naturally revolved around Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg who in their own rights have done amazing cinematography feats, so why not understand their decisions to use camera motion and why?
There were way more lessons I learned in this 12 hours course than what I can share on this post, but rest assured that camera motion will be applied and used to create the emotional connection I have dedicated my services to my clients for.
What I am excited about with this post is the fact that I am writing about my first corporate gig that I came to the table with all DSLR for a product rollout in the medical device industry. As a Paramedic I have a small niche in the EMS/ Fire field and I have a passion to combine both into amazing content. That being said I boarded the plane with a camera bag and a laptop bag… What amazed me was that I had the following in the camera bag: 1 Sony EX3 (Just in Case) Canon 5D, 2 Lenses (16-35mm 2.8, 24-105mm f4.0), Red Rock Follow Focus, Zacuto Striker Rig, (2) Lowell Blender Light Kit, Sennheiser wireless mics, Zoom H4n, and a partridge in a pair tree.
Why am I telling you this? Because ever since I go into DSLR (Thanks in large part to Josh over at Media-Solutions.us, I have been able to be more mobile and create more visually stunning images than ever before. My job over at the ZOLL Summit was two fold. First create the informational content for the new product release and second make content to share with our social media audience regarding our experience. Now before I get all gear techy on you I wanted to share with you one of the basic videos that were created with the Canon 5D, Sennheisser Mic and the H4n.
Now to get into some of the exciting geeky stuff that I learned from this trip. I absolutely think that the shoulder mounted rig is imperative when working with the DSLR for ny amount of time. I was shooting with the Zacuto Striker Rig, which isn’t quite a shoulder type rig, so it made me realize that it wasn’t the tool for that job. Needless to say I also brought a tripod and began using that after a little bit. I will say then when the Scorpion rig from Zacuto comes out I will add that to the arsenal when I go to conferences from here on out.
The Audio always is an issue, but I learned a lot from Bill Kaplan (Sound Guy by trade) when I worked side by side with him in Chicago the week before. If you are using wireless sennheisser mics it is imperative that you check this website out before you head out (Sennheisser Frequency Check List). It gave me the right frequencies to work with while at the conference and made sure that the sound that was going into the Canon 5D was clean and without modulation. The other sound issue most people face is that the H4n is a great tool to have 2 mic inputs from XLR and mix it with the Zoom H4n. The problem is that the output for the ZoomH4n is line level and you need to bring that level down to mic level if you plug it directly into the Canon 5D. I purchased a cable from Marker Tech called Sescom LN2Mic-Mon 3.5mm Line to Mic 25dB for for ZoomH4n. It automatically brought the line level down to the level of a mic input (-25dB) and I was able to monitor what levels came out of the Zoom, but still there is one major quirk about the Canon 5D, not able to monitor the sound on the 5D.