Documentary filming in the heat of central California

Posted in Audio, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2015 by William Hooks
At Lake Success, CA talking with Donna Johnson from East Portervillie

At Lake Success, CA talking with Donna Johnson from East Portervillie

Setting up to talk with Paul Boyer in west Visalia about the efforts of his company to help residents obtain water

Setting up to talk with Paul Boyer in west Visalia about the efforts of his company to help residents obtain water

I'm monitoring sound before beginning to interview Paul at his office

I’m monitoring sound before beginning to interview Paul at his office

Donna Johnson (16) Melissa Wichnell (8)

James Garrett monitoring video and Melinda Steffen checking audio at Visalia interview

James Garrett monitoring video and Melinda Steffen checking audio at Visalia interview

Melissa Wichnell discussing Visalia, CA emergency planning for water distribution

Melissa Wichnell discussing Visalia, CA emergency planning for water distribution

Melissa Wichnell (13) Melissa Wichnell (15)

Nonpotable water tank near the fire station in East Porterville, CA

Nonpotable water tank near the fire station in East Porterville, CA

We completed a series of interviews with local officials in Visalia, CA and talked with local resident Donna Johnson in East Porterville about what she was personally doing to help neighbors whose wells had gone dry (as was her own).

The level of poverty in East Porterville is intense. Housing prices, already low, are decreasing due to lack of water further burdening residents who might want to leave the area.

We shot with my Panasonic GH4 in 4K 30fps mode, using a Zoom H6 digital audio recorder as well as Audio Technica Pro70 wired lav’s an dRode NTG-4 shotgun in a Rode blimp.Also used a Zoom hypercardioid shotgun mic and when using the Zoom for field notes, the mid-side capsule mic. I was very pleased with the performance of my equipment in very hot conditions, wind and for interior shots with no problems encountered.

There is still much to be done before we begin cutting the documentary’s final look; a tentative title: WATER AND THE LIVES OF THOSE LESS FORTUNATE.

Some ENG setups with the GH4 and 2 digital audio recorders

Posted in Audio, Photojournalism, Reviews, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2015 by William Hooks

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DR-70D DAR below GH4 camera on tripod

DR-70D DAR below GH4 camera on tripod

MS (mid-side) microphone capsule option on Zoom H6 DAR

MS (mid-side) microphone capsule option on Zoom H6 DAR

side view showing connections for digital audio recorder positioned below camera

side view showing connections for digital audio recorder positioned below camera

above-camera setup for DR-70D using 12" rail on hot shoe, and 2 wireless Audio Technica mic receivers

above-camera setup for DR-70D using 12″ rail on hot shoe, and 2 wireless Audio Technica mic receivers

DSCN2364The idea here is to be able to record to one or more cameras and record audio separately =dual system audio, later aligning the sound and video files while editing. I use Red Giant Plural Eyes Express for this job, it’s easy and automated.

I’ve shown two audio options, one with wired lavalier mics into inputs 1-2 on the Tascam DR-70D DAR connected below the camera and the other with the DAR mounted on an adapter above the camera, connected to wireless mic receivers.

The other DAR (Zoom H6) is used here as a hand-held microphone close to the subject, recording backup tracks; one could easily add a shotgun mic track here, for example, or one of the lav tracks if desired. I sometimes use the MS mic capsule in this setup because it’s simple to pick up my interview questions and the corresponding answers with that mic, place close to my side and less than 2 feet from the subject out of frame.

I power the Tascam whenever possible with external sources- either AC or when not available, by use of a brick battery via USB port with 5v delivered to the 15′ extension cable, then to the dedicated recorder USB cable. This is due to the lackluster internal battery life from the DR-70D.

Be sure to download the Tascam ‘s reference manual online if you get this unit- the supplied documentation is pathetic.

Battery options for powering the GH4, lights, Zoom H6, and monitor

Posted in Captain's Personal Log, monitors, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2015 by William Hooks
Switronix P-tap to GH4 power cable

Switronix P-tap to GH4 power cable

Switronix P-tap to 4-pin power cable

Switronix P-tap to 4-pin power cable

LP90S battery as counterweight, connect to GH4 with power cable on shoulder rig

LP90S battery as counterweight, connect to GH4 with power cable on shoulder rig

closeup of battery, P-tap connection and second P-tap port located on mount plate

closeup of battery, P-tap connection and second P-tap port located on mount plate

The Zoom H6 digital audio recorder is powered from the accessory USB port on the battery, shown above.

It’s a good idea to not allow these batteries to be uncharged for long periods because of their self-discharge property; I mark them each time they’re charged, and aim at less than 6 months before recharging.

And double check to ensure that the terminals of the P-tap connector are properly aligned to the corresponding terminals of the battery plate- if not, there’s risk of short-circuiting the cable (I’ve done it – ONCE).

Channel Islands National Park: Santa Cruz Island ultralight backpacking

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video on June 26, 2015 by William Hooks

Trail heading SW from Cavern Point toward the Visitor Center

P1020807 P1020802I spent 2 1/2 days on this excursion with Jim Garrett, a friend and co-editor of DEP. We began preproduction on a documentary about the current California drought crisis while on this trip, and enjoyed great views from trails and at the beach. We visited Potato Harbor Overlook and Cavern Point trails in particular, on the northwest side of the island.

The camping was done using tarps at the lower camp , and alcohol stoves are allowed there but we used canister stoves. The upper camps are mostly for larger groups.P1020821 P1020820 P1020789 P1020770 P1020769 P1020768 P1020784

A note  of caution to those who might use tarp camping methods there: take precautions to avoid hantavirus disease! Take a good ground sheet and avoid contact with soil. Official dogma is to use standard tents with floors.

The abundant animals such as island foxes were all over camp but we had no evening encounters- most likely because of fastidious food and trash storage. The park provides excellent, standard bear lockers.

His Windrider 3400 and my Windrider 2400 pack were great for this kind of trip- we hardly felt them on the hikes, as well as the Sony NEX-6 and my Panasonic GH4 with 15mm f/1.7 lens which were much lighter than DSLR’s. I put mine in ‘point and shoot’ mode much of the time and shot some 4K video during the visit. We plan to submit some shots with our packs to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, the manufacturer in Maine.

We had the opportunity to get to know one of the seasonal rangers, Maya Morales, who is also a Humboldt State student, and plan to do some interviews  for the upcoming film from the perspective of someone who is very involved with resource management and conservation.

Lilliput 665 O/P 7″ monitor

Posted in monitors, Reviews, Video with tags , , , , , , on June 9, 2015 by William Hooks

DSCN2204 DSCN2205 DSCN2207 DSCN2212This monitor runs on Sony batteries, Canon LP6’s, AC with adapter,  and 14.8v Li ion brick batteries such as the Switronix L90S using an onboard V-mount or P-tap cable to 4-pin XLR. These batteries also allow powering of the GH4 camera, LED light panels and the Zoom H6 DAR, great for situations where AC sources are not available.

It loops allowing HDMI or SDI (serial digital interface) in and out. If employing SDI, there’s a required Composite/BNC adapter;  easy to interchange battery mounts.

Resolution is 1080p. There is an onboard speaker with audible audio.[No headphone jack]

At $250, it was a steal— and I only drove about 10 min from my garage to get it.

DLC MB-3 Matte Box added to GH4 system

Posted in Photojournalism, Reviews, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2015 by William Hooks
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One of the 2 included cowls is shown, interposed between lens and matte box to eliminate stray light

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Here 3 of the 4 provided flags are added to further eliminate stray light from the front of the rig

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The series-stacked filter holders are seen at the rear of the matte box; these are spring loaded, making for secure and easy use of glass or resin filters

DSCN2170 DSCN2171 This matte box is very inexpensive for its construction quality and feature set, lightweight, and flexible in use: the flags are optional as well as the light-protective cowls between the lens and box, and the filters can be rotated within their holders just as on my larger all-metal Benro matte box. I got mine for $140 at Samys Pasadena, CA.

I also configured a shoulder rig from additional components including an offset rail system, and can run the GH4 and one other item such as an on -camera LED light from P-taps on large Li ion batteries. I use a Switronix power cable to connect the camera.

This option provides additional power to run the camera where there’s no AC outlet available, and because the Switronix battery has USB out it’s convenient to run my Zoom H6 audio recorder from there.

One version of shoulder rig using JAG35V2 handles

One version of shoulder rig using JAG35V2 handles

Highly recommended - Switronix XP-L90S V mount battery

Highly recommended – Switronix XP-L90S V mount battery

Battery on rear V-plate attached to the rig via 15mm rods

Battery on rear V-plate attached to the rig via 15mm rods

Full cinema rig configuration with HDMI monitor, whip/follow focus, Zoom H6, AudioTechnica wireless lav system and rear brick battery with D -taps to camera, light, DAR or monitor

Full cinema rig configuration with HDMI monitor, whip/follow focus, Zoom H6, AudioTechnica wireless lav system and rear brick battery with D -taps to camera, light, DAR or monitor

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with 35mm T1.5 Rokinon EF cine lens

with 35mm T1.5 Rokinon EF cine lens

First event covered with Panasonic GH4: downtown Los Angeles/ protest at Nestle’ North American HQ

Posted in Captain's Personal Log with tags , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2015 by William Hooks
GH4 w 17mm f/1.7 Lumix-Summicron AF lens, Zoom H6 DAR and hypercardioid shotgun microphone; JAG 35 tripod baseplate, CF rods and top handle

GH4 w 15mm f/1.7 Lumix-Summicron AF lens, Zoom H6 DAR and hypercardioid shotgun microphone; JAG 35 tripod baseplate, CF rods and top handle

full cinema rig setup on tripod

full cinema rig setup on tripod

side view of cinema rig with GH4

side view of cinema rig with GH4

GH4, cage, part of JAG 35 top handle assembly

GH4, cage, part of JAG 35 top handle assembly

50mm f/1.4 EF with Metabones Speed Booster, 77mm VND filter on 58->77 adapter ring

50mm f/1.4 EF with Metabones Speed Booster, 77mm VND filter on 58->77 adapter ring

rear view of GH4 in cage with attachment points and follow focus visible

rear view of GH4 in cage with attachment points and follow focus visible

top view of assembled baseplate -rods- follow focus setup

top view of assembled baseplate -rods- follow focus setup

audio field gear centered around Zoom H6 digital audio recorder

audio field gear centered around Zoom H6 digital audio recorder

Shot using Cine-D profile at 4K UHD/30, Auto white balance,on a monopod with available light.

I find this setup to be fast and easy to use, stable, and highly functional. The H6 was used as the primary preamp for audio and I minimized the internal preamp of the GH4- excellent audio performance in a difficult noisy setting with adjacent traffic and due to crowds, electronic megaphones. Audio Technica headphones were added for monitoring.

The camera is within a custom cage, attached to JAG 35 components on its center cold shoe for secure carrying and linking to a monopod baseplate. This system is much more compact and lighter than a comparable rig using a DSLR, such as a 5D Mark III. It also allows optional use of a 5″ HDMI monitor, with a micro-HDMI port protector built into the cage.

After reintroducing some contrast in post, I was very satisfied with the files. Wish I still had that rental 12-35mm f/2.8 Lumix AF lens, zooms are so useful for events and other fast action.

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