Archive for the Reviews Category

Asymmetric tarp setup: The Bat-wing

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, mountaineering, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques on April 25, 2017 by William Hooks

I’ve settled on this setup as an alternative to the ‘storm’ mode of using an 8.5 sq ft Hyperlite Mountain Gear tarp. What I like about this mode is the ease of entering and leaving the tarp from one side of the front end, and the degree of weather protection from the batwing feature- while preserving excellent ventilation from the other side of the front of the tarp .

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Rear view showing asymmetry of the front portion of the tarp, peaking on the right and dropping on the left where the ‘bat-wing’ partly covers the entrance

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Front view with bat-wing dropping lower over the entrance on the right

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To enter or leave the tarp or insert gear, simply slide it from the near front edge ( my HMG Windrider 3400 pack was placed that way)

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To enter or leave the tarp or insert gear, simply slide it from the near front edge ( my HMG Windrider 3400 pack was placed that way)

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Full-coverage mode with 8.5 ft HMG square tarp

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques on April 7, 2017 by William Hooks
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A compact setup for wireless audio using 3 Rode-Link sets

Posted in Audio, Captain's Personal Log, Photojournalism, Reviews, Video on February 22, 2017 by William Hooks

I’m using this system to allow dual-system audio and video recording wirelessly, finding that 2 Rode-Link Filmmaker kits and a Newsshooter Kit work very well. A third lavalier microphone was added for use with the Newsshooter transmitter, in situations where 3 lavs are needed instead of 2 lavs and an XLR microphone- a Sennheiser ME-4N cardioid. The supports consist of a round-base microphone stand, Matthews Clamp and round platform with 1/4″ screw connected to a straight Matthews rod for the audio recorder (an H5 is shown here), OnStage strut with 1/4″ screw mount  for the 3rd receiver below, dual 5/8″ mic mount with adapters to allow attachment of the other 2 receivers above. The add-on dual XLR module works because each receiver is self-powered, so there’s  no phantom power issue.

Add a 3.5 mm cable to connect the Line Out from the recorder to the GH4 camera, a remote control for the recorder, and perhaps a USB power bank/mounting bracket (see prior post) for the recorder and we’re in business. The camera receives excellent-quality audio and there’s a separately recorded copy of each file available for sync, using Plural Eyes 4.x.

The Rode Newsshooter Kit and my project: THE FIGHT AGAINST TRUMPISAN (2017)

Posted in Audio, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Video on February 15, 2017 by William Hooks

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p67601081p67601221p67601242p6760105p67601252p67601253I ‘ve been actively applying the wireless Rode Newsshooter Kit to supplement the 2 Filmmaker Kits I’ve had for some time, allowing excellent ENG sound production directly into my Panasonic GH4 4K mirrorless camera covering major events in California. The latest were 2 protest events in Los Angeles and San Francisco, against the incoming Trump regime. In Los Angeles, I had assistance with handheld mic interviews from one of my still shooters, Carmen Rosales and my old friend Mark Chambers did those honors at San Francisco International Airport, during the anti-Muslim ban event. Jim Garrett was the B-roll GH4 shooter in Los Angeles, and he has collaborated with me on editing and writing.

I was very impressed by the build quality and water resistance of the transmitter unit in driving rain at Los Angeles- I was concerned that the unit would fail at any time due to being soaked for hours, but it never missed a beat and the sound was remarkable when connected to my Sennheiser MD-46 dynamic microphone inside of a plastic bag.

It’s very convenient that the Newsshooter and Filmmaker receivers are identical, so that I can switch between them any time  simply by matching the channels with the corresponding transmitter or lav mic. There ‘s up to 40 v phantom power on the transmitter, more than enough to provide great gain for a Shure SM 58 or the Sennheiser dynamic mics; I can also use my Sennheiser ME-4 N lav mic with the transmitter and actively monitor its output using the headphone jack near the USB power jack. In addition, it can be powered by standard Sony FPS batteries as well as ubiquitous AA batteries.

Because it runs on wi-fi instead of RF, I have found it to be extremely reliable in field use even when surrounded by cell phones and other devices- and no need to manually match any frequencies. I can use up to 8 units at at time on individual channels.

My opinion: if you have $500 to spend on an XLR wireless system, this is by far the best option I have ever seen. Avoiding use of cables in an ENG environment has proven to be a significant advantage from the standpoint of safety, mobility, simplicity and reliability.

We’re going to be using the Newsshooter and Filmmaker Kits extensively, for continuing to document the rise of resistance to the Trump regime over the next several months.

What to use today: tarp or tent?

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, mountaineering, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques on March 17, 2016 by William Hooks

If I want  a full floor, insect protection and very light but not lightest shelter, for me it’s a no-brainer: some sort of tarp-tent or a tent such as this Nemo Hornet 1p, which I obtained from REI using my 2015-6 dividend and -20% coupon for $135.

It uses the same Tyvek footprint that I already have for my tarp; the total weight for its pole, pole bag, canopy, fly and lines is 24 oz.

I feel that its setup is straightforward, comparable to the basic skill level needed for deploying a tarp (simpler than advanced tarping). the tent is very compact when packed, livability is much improved over my Ptarmigan or REI biv sacks. I like the 8 sq ft side vestibule, and much prefer the right side entrance to a front entrance for a 1-person shelter partly because of the relative ease of including a larger vestibule with that design.

This tent is freestanding. Headroom =40 inches, I can easily sit up inside.

Inclusion of the Light Pocket at the apex of the tent body allows a headlamp to double as a lantern- something I find very practical at no weight penalty.

Compared with my HMG Square Tarp: slightly heavier; no need for any additional components such as biv sack for insect protection; less ventilation and cannot cook inside the tent itself; simple to keep gear separate from living space because of vestibule, which is on my right while living in the tent (and I’m right-handed). Not as versatile as a tarp, but can opt to pitch just the canopy for improved ventilation and/or to save additional weight. Can combine the canopy with the tarp depending on the locale. No need for trekking poles but risk breakage of the single pole, as with any tent. Since it’s green, in forests that color simplifies stealth camping style. Needs 8 stakes for full pitch, vs up to 14 for the tarp. The guylines are reflective, another practical advantage.

I wish there was more fly coverage especially at the head end, and/or a guyout at the tip of the front of the fly. The fabric materials are notably delicate, and require more care in handling than the cuben fiber tarp.

Otherwise, I’m very pleased to use this shelter when I don’t mind a few extra ounces and seek complete enclosure at night, with no insects to deal with.

 

 

 

 

 

The Rode Video Micro ultralight/compact, remote-powered shotgun microphone

Posted in Audio, backpacking, Music, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video on December 18, 2015 by William Hooks

I just received this superlight unit from B&H, at $60 regular price.

It’s powered from the camera or other 3 v supply, and has no internal battery requiring periodic checking and replacement. I use another mic of similar size and weight of Chinese origin (see my equipment list page), which uses an internal CR2 battery; both have their advantages re powering. This microphone really is to be used by direct connection to a camera’s 3.5mm jack.

This type of mic is very useful for a number of situations: vehicle interior audio, backpacking, minimalist travel/photojournalism, creating tutorials at the computer screen by reversing the mic on the camera’s hot shoe for voiceovers… the excellent Rycote windscreen allows realistic use in moderate wind conditions.

It also has a 3/8″ base thread for use with a standard boompole.

Be sure that  NO PHANTOM POWER is applied to this unit!! If employed with a  Zoom H6, using plug-in power = 2.5 v for that particular recorder, be sure to set up for plug-in power before connecting the microphone.  Set the Tascam DR-70 D digital audio recorder to EXT POWER to enable plug-in power.

 

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My preliminary assessment of sound quality is that I would happily use it with an NTG-4 or  Audio Technica Pro70 wired lav mic. Gain is more than adequate.

 

The fact that it has no controls whatsoever contributes to a streamlined, simple form factor; when I need to control the width of pickup coverage, I ‘d go to the Shenggu SG-180 shotgun (90-120 degree settings).

Covering the ANSWER Anticorporate protest in Hollywood, CA

Posted in Audio, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2015 by William Hooks

This afternoon, there was a protest march against corporate practices across the world held in Hollywood where I conducted several interviews with activists. These included  Navaho native American Paige Murphy representing Therednation.org, Hamid Assian from Food And Water Watch.org based in Wash, DC, and a Pasadena activist from Citizens Climate Lobby, James Waterhouse.

Doug, media coordinator for ANSWER event

Doug, media coordinator for ANSWER event

ANSWER Protest_2015_9 (5) ANSWER Protest_2015_9 (6) ANSWER Protest_2015_9 (7) ANSWER Protest_2015_9 (8) ANSWER Protest_2015_9 (10)For solo interview technique I like to use a dynamic microphone running to the Tascam DR-60D DAR unless I anticipate a lot of very loud noise, where the -20dB pads are nice on the Zoom H6. The 17-40mm f/4 L Canon zoom was my default lens, also used the 70-200 mm f/4 L. Love the AT Mx40 headphones for crowd work! They really help isolate the interviewee from the background and are very comfortable.

Page Murphy, co-founder of Therednation.org and Navaho I was using the 4K Panasonic GH4 and Benro S6 monopod for the day. Grateful for overcast weather! And thanks to Ed Flowers for some still shots—

Paige Murphy, co-founder of Therednation.org and Navaho