Archive for the Photojournalism Category

First followup review of Panasonic GH4 DSLM camera

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2015 by William Hooks

These are my observations after using the camera for a few weeks.

First, I found that operating the nonprotruding video actuation button was not optimal and ended up adding a $10 Vello 2 ft wired remote. This also allows use of very slow shutter speeds and facilitates macro imaging, and I use it for interviews so that I can stay where I’m interacting with the subject- the same as I already do with my H6 Zoom audio recorder.

With a 64GB U3 rated card I’m getting more than 80 minutes per clip at 4K resolution. No more interruptions to reset the camera for interviews…..

Second, after renting the 18-35mm f/1.8 EF Sigma I think this lens will be excellent for general use especially on a rig with follow focus, but too large and heavy for backpacking and [currently] doesn’t support AF; so I will most likely buy the Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 and 35-100 f/2.8 eventually, and continue to rent this optic.

Third, I’ve settled on Custom settings for the main 3 dial positions= C1 for 4K DCI/24 ‘Cinematic’, C2 for 4K UHD/30 ‘Broadcast’, and C3-1/ C3-2/C3-3 for ‘highest quality ‘ 1080/60 moderate slow motion, ‘smoothest’ 1080/96 slow motion, and 1080/12 undercranked fast motion. NOTE: this camera allows 1080p in slow-motion 96 FPS whether in 30 or 24 cinema modes.

Fourth, as a walkaround lens I ‘m using the Pana/Zeiss Summicron 15mm f/1.7 – a tiny, ultralight lens simulating 30mm perspective in full frame terms. Sharp, easy to maintain relatively great DOF (nice for rapid event action), beautifully integrated with the camera’s capability, easy to carry long distances, and wide without distortion.

Fifth, the Metabones EF to MFT Speedbooster will be a keeper for me as I have 2 Canon FF lenses and it opens the entire Cine and still collection to the camera, as well as lenses from Rokinon /Zeiss/ Olympus/Voigtlander in particular. The ‘free’ additional stop from the adapter has been very welcome in keeping the ISO settings in the optimal range. I find that linking the baseplate/rail system onto the removable Metabones tripod mount provides the clearance I need for attaching the Rokinon 14mm T3.1 and 35mm T1.5 lenses, which have large front elements.

An added bonus is that as long as the adapter is attached, the camera sensor is completely shielded from damage while changing lenses.

Sixth, I’ve evolved a minirig for ENG and light EFP use consisting of an aluminum form-fitting cage, JAG 35 top handle/tripod base plate,carbon fiber 15mm rods, and RedRock Micro spuds/attachment points.

I will be using a $12 basic Nikon F to MFT adapter for AI-S Nikkors for the immediate future, and rent the F/G to MFT Speedbooster when needed.

Entering the 4K universe: Adding the Panasonic GH4 mirrorless camera

Posted in backpacking, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2015 by William Hooks

Today I made the quantum jump to begin creating video content in 4K Ultra HD, using the Panasonic GH4 mirrorless camera.

Porque`?

Aside from allowing capture at 4 times the resolution of 1080p [called QFHD or quad-full HD], these are some of the advantages I hope to enjoy while exploring this approach to filmmaking:

Strikingly affordable for its capability- including very inexpensive SD cards at U3 designation

Adaptability of lens mount- can use PL=positive lock, Nikon, Canon, Leica, Zeiss, Sigma, Panasonic, Tokina, Rokinon optics….with excellent Metabones adapters available for Nikon and Canon (the 2 with which I have most past experience)

Very manageable file sizes with compressed 4K/ optional uncompressed 4K: no significant complication of basic postproduction workflow in Adobe Premiere Pro. In fact, it allows expansion of editing choice because of ‘zooming’ into shots to achieve true 1080p derivative shots when needed, after completing of shooting

Practical video capture for very long periods exceeding 29 min US limit (as multiple files), with appropriate media

2 included Cine picture profiles: Cine Like D (flat somewhat like LOG ) and CineLike V (vivid) for relatively painless color grading

Electronic viewfinder (excellent when it’s too bright to see the touch screen, for example) and tilting touch screen control of many functions, very user- friendly features

Small form factor with very light weight and bulk-great for POV, aerials (or just mix files from GoPro Hero 4 and later!), backcountry applications and covering events where mobility may pay substantial dividends- and less stress on monopod heads.

Native monitor features dedicated to video production such as zebras, focus peaking, Synchro Scan, Variable Framer Rate for fast motion and slow motion; timelapse can be created in-camera; stop-motion animation;STMPE timecode; 10-bit option for 4:2:2 HDMI output,luminance and master pedestal level control, advanced audio control and color bars.

Silent control of settings during capture

Fantastic slow motion at up to 96 FPS in Full HD

WiFi control

Option of adding a very capable interface unit beneath the camera, the YAGH, incorporating 2 XLR inputs and 3G-SDI connectors for output

Extraordinary battery life, capture all afternoon on one charge

Highly customizable function buttons

There’s more.. but I ‘m not even going to start on the ‘stills’ side.

So the next journey begins. I rented a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 and Nikon F mount Metabones Speedbooster for the weekend.

What I’ll be using tomorrow, for multicam interviews in the Palm Springs area

Posted in Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video on August 12, 2014 by William Hooks

Canon 5DIII, 70D cameras with Zoom H6 DAR and backup Tascam DR-60D (need 3 XLR inputs if possible, for 2 wired lav mics and a boomed shotgun).

The Manfrotto 2 camera rail makes it easy to shoot with both cameras from nearly the same vantage point on one tripod. Be sure to crank the mounts so they don’t rotate!!

I could also attach other items to the rig with Mafer clamps, for example, instead of using an articulated arm to mount the digital audio recorder.

2-camera rail interview setup_front (1)

2-camera rail interview setup_front (2)

2-camera rail interview setup_front (3)

2-camera rail interview setup_front (4)

2-camera rail interview setup_front (5)

Better living through audio

Posted in Photojournalism, Video with tags , , , , , , on July 21, 2014 by William Hooks

This is my setup for basic narration, VO and podcasts.

Thanks to Sam Ash music for the free On Stage desktop mic stand! It’s nice that I could ride a bike to your store, if my bike hadn’t been stolen a couple of years ago…..

AT 8004L dynamic mic on stand_3 ft XLR

Audio Technica M 40X headphones

Basic VO setup

REI Ultrapod supporting Tascam DR-60D DAR

VO components

Variations on a theme- a way to do both ENG and basic EFP on a monopod

Posted in Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2014 by William Hooks

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This setup allows use of 4×4″ Tiffen ND filters, I have a 3-stop and a 4-stop which fit into the matte box for preserving wide lens apertures. That way, shallow DOF is covered for EFP and occasional ENG applications.Of course, all the other benefits of the matte box apply such as making lens changes fast and easy, and virtually eliminating flare.

The configuration is compact, secure, and very adjustable along the medium-length carbon fiber rails. Critical focus in bright light is achieved with the Hoodman Custom Finder.

As an option, I can add the Manfrotto DSLR remote controller for rack focus and faster ergonomics in starting and ending clips.

The Benro components are much better suited to this kind of arrangement on a monopod than my RedRock Micro components, especially the baseplate assembly. The RRM lacks screw threads for connection to the QR fo the monopod.

Functionally, it’s a little imbalanced from frontloading and the tilt is not as smooth as the pan, but overall I feel that the versatility of the rig more than compensates for these considerations.

It also travels relatively well, because the matte box can be broken down further for packing.

This is not going to yield the degree of camera movement possible with a shoulder rig, but I find it much better for longer ENG recordings since the monopod, and not my arms, support the system. It’s also easy to combine both, if a multicam shoot is desired.

Additional observations about the Tascam DR-60 D digital audio recorder

Posted in Music, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , , on June 24, 2014 by William Hooks

After a period of use with and without my other DAR (Zoom H4N) employed as a stereo microphone source, I have more comments about the Tascam recorder. The key words I ‘d use to describe my experience with it are EASY and INTUITIVE.

It’s much easier to access the SD media card than with the Zoom model, because of the simple rubber cover which also reveals the AC adapter/USB port.

Ability to easily and rapidly isolate and monitor whichever channel I wish with headphones, or a mix, or CAMERA IN, and to lock the XLR cables to the inputs, are welcome changes from the H4N.

I use the rapid, intuitive ‘delete recording file’ process routinely, and this is much easier to do than with the H4N- yet another example of using dedicated buttons instead of submenus to make the recorder user-friendly. These buttons are very quiet to operate, and I so far don’t see a need for getting its remote control unit.

The DR-60 is very compact, and lighter than the H4N; I can easily carry it all day and it mounts well onto rigs and monopods/tripods with option to mount cameras directly atop it. The bracket for camera attachment is easily removed if the location on a rig suggests it to be necessary.

The real-time Equalizer function is very helpful to preview the treble/bass mix of a track and therefore, evaluate the outputs of various microphones relative to this recorder. It’s a simple matter to avoid proximity effect with shotguns, for example using this method (this is of course not an issue with omnidirectional mics).

I’ve found that the sound quality is very good using the H4N as a stereo mic input into the 3.5mm Ch3/4 input or as an XLR connection. So both recorders can very effectively be used together, even if there are no stand-alone microphones available.

What do I wish the DR-60 could have or do? First and foremost: at least one more dedicated XLR input, even if it were requiring a slightly larger recorder.DSCN0682

Second, I ‘ll use the H4N for most multitrack recording because of its additional capability in this mode compared to the Tascam.

And it will be used as an audio interface to my Cubase LE6 digital audio workstation on my notebook-a feature not offered by this unit.

A functional, compact dual-audio ENG rig

Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2014 by William Hooks

Canon 5D3_dual lav shotgun audio_monopod

This setup works well for daylight-lit ENG; I usually add a Stellar ST-3000 LED light and a 6″ cold shoe rail when artificial light is needed.

This group fits into a Lowe Pro Flipside 400 pack and includes:

Canon5D3 w 24-105 f/4 L
Rode NTG-2 shotgun mic with deadcat and shock mount, headphones
Tascam DR-60D DAR with 2 x 3.5 mm short cables to run to and from the camera
Audio Technica Pro70 wired lav mic w dead’marble’
2 XLR cables, 6′ each
3X 3″ loupe
batteries

The Benro S6 video monopod goes into its own case to the site of the events.

Some audio setups

Posted in Music, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2014 by William Hooks

These are some of the items I use to create audio recordings for AV projects.

2 digital audio recorders: Tascam DR-60D (general production) and Zoom H4N (music, overdubbing; direct recording via XY stereo mics)

2 sets of headphones: Tascam and AudioTechnica (AT)

Rode Stereo Video Mic Pro, mainly for environmental sound and music

2 pair each of several types of dialog/mono microphones: AudioTechnica Pro70 wired, cardioid condenser lavaliers; also AT 88W wireless, omni dynamicTascam DR-60D and Zoom H4N

Tascam DR-60D DAR

2 AT Pro 70 wired lav mics

AT Pro 70 x 2 with XLR cables lavaliers and Rode NTG-2 supercardioid, condenser shotguns (not shown here)

Not shown is the AT 8004L dynamic omnidirectional stick mic, used mainly for ENG in-frame

The Pro70’s are also good for guitar recording via the specialized holders, shown with green felt liners in the corresponding images.

The four heads

Posted in Music, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , on June 8, 2014 by William Hooks

This is an illustration of the 4 fluid heads and associated equipment I use for video stabilization.

The Induro hi-hat yields low-angle and tight interior shots, for example; the monopod can provide sweeping ‘jib’ shots and the tripod specializes for Dutch angles. All contribute to multicam shooting.

 

The heads from Benro are S6 on monopod, and S8 flat base.

This combination travels well and all heads use interchangeable, standard quick release plates.4 fluid heads_ motion options

The 75mm bowls on the Manfrotto video tripod and hi-hat allow seamless transfer between their respective heads.

So what? This combination is FAST and secure to use.That means I have more time to be creative and waste a lot less time and effort switching cameras for obtaining specific shots!

Initial review of the Tascam DR-60D Digital Audio Recorder

Posted in Captain's Personal Log, Music, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , , on May 31, 2014 by William Hooks
Detail of link to recorder from rig
Be careful to secure the electric cables so that no tension is placed on them!

Be careful to secure the electric cables so that no tension is placed on them!

Ledgo 600 LED light panel

Ledgo 600 LED light panel

I like to be able to easily detach the carrying strap using the plastic snap buckles, for rig placement- or leaving it attached for use as a field mixer

I like to be able to easily detach the carrying strap using the plastic snap buckles, for rig placement- or leaving it attached for use as a field mixer

DSCN0681

shows the headphone out cable  (above), and USB AC adapter cable (below)

shows the headphone out cable (above), and USB AC adapter cable (below)

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I’ve been using this unit alone so far, not integrating with the Zoom H4N using the latter as an XY stereo microphone input, and with the Canon 5D Mark III camera which has a headphone jack. This jack has been used as a camera-out jack to connect to the DR-60’s CAMERA IN jack, allowing very intuitive and excellent review of the mixed audio files sent to the 5D3 from each take while reviewing the corresponding video clips. 

This feature, internal adjustable audio slating and the highly sensitive pre-amps have already made the Tascam my primary recorder for documentary and narrative film production (EFP). 

The large number of buttons make diving into menus much less frequent. A very important issue is the ability of this unit to independently assign phantom power to microphones- so that I can revert to a preferred setup of a powered Rode NTG-2 shotgun while mixing with other mics which do not need phantom power or might even be damaged by it.

The XLR inputs are locking type and access to the SD media card is very easy- both upgrades from the Zoom H4N.

Yet another much-appreciated feature is the automatic revert-to-MIX monitoring when switching from listening to the camera’s files to resuming recording- a real timesaver, as you don’t end up having to possibly redo the take because the DR-60 was still on CAMERA IN monitoring!!!

I do wish that the buttons were backlit for low light, but consider that a minor issue.

For conservation of battery power, I obtained an AC adapter easily (driving directly to the warehouse in Carson, CA) and it appears to function very well so far.

I would usually default to the H4N for field location scouting, recording at lecture settings and routine note-taking / EFP simply because of its XY microphones. Either may be used for travel because of their compact, lightweight form factors.

The images included show the DR-60 on a RedRock Micro Cinema rig with Canon 5D3, 135mm f/2 L lens, Rode NTG-2 shotgun and Audio Technica 88W wireless lav microphones; the wireless receiver is on the camera’s hot shoe. My atrium definitely needs to be cleaned up-soon….