Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Panasonic GH2 hack showreel

Here's a 'showreel' of GH2 hack patches: footage that was shot with all sorts of different experimental hack settings by Nick Driftwood. It will tell you nothing unless you download the original file and compare that to your own, stock GH2 footage. But Driftwood posted a download link on Vimeo to the original, uncompressed footage for us to scrutinize.

These are considered experimental patches and I would not suggest using these on a paid job. You need extremely fast SD cards and they fill up in no time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sell all your gear and buy an iPhone 4S...

...and buy this shooter while you're at it. All you really need is a good eye and a recording device. Allright, and someone who knows how to edit. A good soundtrack. A house to edit in. Computers, software... A girlfriend would be nice... Or boyfriend, depending on your sex and taste... A big wad of money is also very helpful... And a purpose.

And then you're all set and you can make a video like this.

Anyway, well done...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pitfalls of perfection

I did a shoot with a philospher a few months ago and the discussion came upon technical perfection. He mentioned that Americans are often obsessed with technical perfection. He himself was less concerned about technical perfection: getting the message across was more important to him.
His words got me thinking: was I obsessed with technical perfection? Looking at my work, I would not draw that conclusion ;-) I have a lot to learn. I am far from perfect and so is my work. But I do strive for a certain aesthetic ideal. What that is, I cannot define and it is certainly different for every project. But there are certain qualities I like. To name a cliché, I like (as many of us) most of Philip Bloom's aesthetic approach to shooting video. He makes 'everyday things' look extraordinary. His work is visually subtle, warm, never over the top. And most importantly, it is 'real'. In the sense that it is not contrived. It stems from genuine curiosity. But I'm digressing. Good form = content, is perhaps what I'm trying to say.
I saw a film at IDFA (International Documentary Festival Amsterdam) and it won the Public and Special Jury Award. It's called '5 broken camera's'. (great title) and tells the story of a Palestinian filming his life, his family, his village and the suffering they experience. The camera work is not pretty. It is point and shoot footage. But this Palestinian man was not interested in making aesthetically pleasing pictures while filming the bloody history of his village & people.
I was moved to tears by this film.

It is is good to strive for technical perfection. But beware of preoccupation with looks and styles. Pleasing aesthetics can provide a momentary rush but a true story will leave a lasting impression.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Top Docs

Live from the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam(IDFA): I am spending the entire day in a theatre watching one doc after the other. I've seen 7 documentaries (5 today) during this edition of IDFA and these films cut straight into your soul.
Whenever I see a well made doc, I wonder why anyone would ever go out and make fiction..?! Nothing beats a good doc as far as originality and drama is concerned. Fantasy is never more outrageous, scarier or funnier than reality.

Two of the top docs I recommend:  'To be Heard' by Edwin Martinez and 'Bobby Fischer against the World' by Liz Garbus:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pocketsize teleprompter

Usually if you're working with a teleprompter(aka 'autocue', a device that that allows you to read text while looking straight into the camera), you're not going anywhere. I worked with one a few months ago and found it completely impractical. These things are so big and heavy that you need super heavy-duty tripods, leveling is a b*tch and you're basically stuck to one location. But now this company came up with the idea to use iPhones and iPads as a basis for teleprompters! This is absolutely brilliant: a portable package for spitting out long slabs of text wherever you want.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Where the hell is my Manfrotto monopod??!!

Manfrotto: where art thou?
Weifeng: the budget alternative
7 weeks ago I ordered and paid for a Manfrotto BHDV-1 (monopod with fluid head) and I'm still shooting handheld... I could really use it for a project I'm working on -a tripod is not an option- and I hold Manfrotto responsible for all the jittery footage I have shot... Manfrotto could have given me some service by sending me the monopod first and the head later, but it's been 8 days since I asked them to do this and I haven't heard anything since.
 I'm looking at alternatives now and I found a Special Deal on Personal View. At $189,- it's a lot cheaper than the Manfrotto model at $300,- Plus it's carbon (and thus lighter) but lacks the three little feet I'm really attracted to. (I have a feet-fetish, a 'feetish' you might say) But I'm not sure how practical the feet really are and how much I would miss if I didn't have them...
An entirely other option is buying a 'bare' carbon monopod and mount my Weifeng 717 fluid head on top... I'll be all set for $130 then...
 I'm going to give Manfrotto a few more days and then cancel my order if they don't come through, somehow...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eat your heart out, Philip Bloom!

Cameraman/DOP Philip Bloom is arguably one of the best timelapse photographers out there (at least from what I've seen...) but in this case the problem was that he actually wasn't out there... Somebody beat him to this one. This is timelapse photography at a higher level...
I feel humbled in many ways: by the power of these pictures, the fact that I feel like a sub-level atom after viewing this and by the knowledge that I cannot produce anything even close as impressive as this marvelous footage.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hacking the GH2: a friendly tutorial

For all those who -just like me- have held off hacking their GH2's because you were insecure about it and/or didn't feel like spending days on geek-forums trying to get some straight answers from this enormous pool of information, there is now an EZ guide to hacking your GH2. Well done, Sam Mallery! (and why didn't you do this BEFORE I spent 2 days and nights roaming the forums...;-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

GH2 shoot with compact rig

Compact GH2 rig 'on the job'

Did my first official shoot with my GH2 today and built this compact rig to suit today's needs. Was shooting with kids at a school and running about in the woods so I need something small and light. I took along my Pentax 6mm 1.2, my Panasonic Lumix 20mm 1.7 and my Canon FD 50mm 1.4. I wound up using the Panasonic most of the time because it is wide and will easily tell me at what aperture I'm shooting at. The Canon is too tele for handheld work and the Pentax aperture ring was too hard to see...
Audio was recorded on a Zoom H4n in combo with the Sennheiser G2 wireless series. My partner was doing the audio.
I planned to use my SmallHD DP4 but I was moving so fast I skipped mounting it most of the time. Can't wait to look at the (hacked GH2) footage.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gettin' Jibby Wit It

I took my 4 foot jib out for a first real spin and it was a blast! As opposed to the steadicam devices I have tried, this will get you smooth, professional looking shots the very first time you use it. This is so much fun to work with and this jib is a real solid product.
The portable side to it is very relative, if you consider the heavy duty tripod and weights you have to bring along... Moving the whole setup is a pain and you ought to take the camera and jib off the tripod before setting up somewhere else, even 100 meters down the road. I picked up the whole thing and walked 50 meters, risking tripping or crashing in the process. I would strongly suggest not doing that...
Leveling is a bitch, too, you need 4 hands and a heavy duty tripod head to hold all that weight. And you need a heavy tripod: my Manfrotto 503 fluidhead performed great.

I had my Sony EX1R still set to DVCAM from a prior shoot and I forgot to set it to HD. That's too bad but the action is just as smooth in SD as in HD :-)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sweet 'n cheap follow focus?

$99,- for a good follow focus?
Vitaliy Kiselev, the man responsibe for hacking the Panasonic GH1 and GH2, runs a forum called Personal View. He has some nice deal going on once in a while, whereby he appraoches dealers to give a special deal for his members. For the dealers it's nice because they get publicity and sell a bunch of units at once.
Now there's an interesting little FF being offered as a special deal. I think Vitaliy generally knows what he's talking about and he says this unit is better than another respectable budget follow focus, the DFocus. (I own one but it has some annoying play and it doesn not mount as easily as this one) This unit that's being offered could have 'minimal play': I'm curious to find out how that translates into real life... You have to be a member of Personal View to be able to get in on the deal. US $99,- seems to be a pretty sweet price.

Nice feature: on and off without waiting in line!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Neoprene gloves with three removable fingertips

With my newly acquired neoprene shooting gloves, I keep access to all my buttons, rings and controls without freezing fingers. Or without having to take the entire glove off, which can be tedious and timeconsuming. Last year I bought similar gloves but regretted not buying the ones where you can use your thumb as well. (probably the most important finger, along with the index finger)
Tip: look for these in an army/navy store. I bought this set at an army dumpstore in Amsterdam for about €10,- At outdoor/camping stores they can run as high as €35-40 Good deal! 

Velcro for securing fingertip-compartments

Friday, November 18, 2011

Good deal on DSLR Cage

PROAIM: decent cage, decent price

I've spent a few hundred euro on my Gini DSLR rig only to discover that the setup I bought was not ideal and I added a cage and top handle. I think with a DSLR a cage is the way to go. Add arms and grips for handheld work if you wish but start with that basic cage setup that will allow you to expand and build upon. I noticed Indian company ProAim has a good deal on eBay for their 6' DSLR cage: for US $145,- you get:

  • 2x Brackets with 15mm rod  holders, 
  • Top Handle with soft-grip 
  • Quick Release sliding plate with adapter
  • 2pc of 15mm Carbon Fiber Rods 450mm long
  • 4pc of 15mm Carbon Fiber  Rods 225mm long

That's not a bad deal and it's a great starting point if you're building a new rig. ProAim is obviously not high-end gear but that's mostly noticeable in the finish (rough edges, plastic knobs) for the price it's very decent. I would recommend getting the 9' cage if you have a battery grip. I would also recommend getting a tripod mounting plate if you don't have one yet. The kit including this plate goes for $195,- 

6' cage kit with tripod mounting plate

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Best Documentaries in the World

The International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) has opened its doors to the general public today. This is the ultimate documentary festival in the world and it runs until november 27. For the last couple of years I have immersed myself in great films during IDFA, watching one film after the other, eating fast food inbetween, drinking a few beers and on to the next movie... This year I bought a ticket for Best of IDFA, which shows on the last day of the festival from 10 am till 6 pm: six of the most highly rated films by the public. If you can't make it to the festival, some of the best films from the last years (called 'IDFA Delicatessen') can be seen online. My aim is to have my own documentary, I am Innocent, ready for IDFA 2012! Here's the first trailer we made:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Filming a chair... in space

Why bother faking this in Photoshop when you can go through the trouble of launching a real chair into space, along with a camera? Well, maybe because you'll never recover the footage after the whole damn thing crashes back into earth...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beautifully shot, nice cut

These guys (and girls) must have had a ton of beautiful footage. This is one photogenic environment. What I like about this short is that it is so well proportioned and stylishly edited. Music is kept nice 'n low. Often you see directors and/or editors go over the top with these type of spectacular subjects. This is sensational yet subtle.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: budget DSLR viewfinder

Solid attachment via click-system

About 3 weeks ago I received the 'Perfect' DSLR viewfinder for $46 shipped. I've had the pleasure to shoot some video with it and my conclusion is that 'cheap' in this case does not mean rubbish. Obviously they had to save somewhere and that's on the construction. This little viewfinder is not the most sturdy device and it's an all-plastic design (including the VF). I also have a clone LCDVF and that plastic is quite harder/thicker than what is used here. But it does not feel flimsy. (the weak part in this construction is the hinge)

plastic hinge: doomed to break..?
The way the viewfinder clicks to the (glued) metal frame is a delight and it feels very sturdy. I like this much better than the magnet alternative that you can more easily push off. Then there is the +- diopter which is nice for people who wear glasses. In the last year I have had to start using reading glasses so this adds a little confidence to focussing. The rubber eyecup is soft and comfortable to the eye. For review or settings it is really nice to have the flip-up design where you can switch between magnification and viewing the entire LCD without having to take off the entire device.

This viewfinder has made it possible for me to shoot video with my Canon 550D/T2i without using some kind of stabilization. I also own a SmallHD DP4 but sometimes you just want to shoot fast & simple: with the 'Perfect' viewfinder and your camera you can do just that.

practical flip-up design

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Video in an envelope

I'm very curious to see what this looks like in real life: a small flat lcd screen that starts playing a videofile when you open the sleeve/booklet or whatever package you choose to deliver your movie in. It's a fun idea and starting at €15,- it is not just for big budget-productions. Good for getting your showreel under the attention or as an alternative to dvd's for a (corporate) customer!

Here are some specs for the basic version:

Video format
All video formats
Resolution 320 x 240 pixels
Speaker 2W built-in mini-speaker
Built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery, 4,7V, 600mAh
Flash memory128 MB
Accessories USB cable for charging battery

Extra options are: 512MB or 1 GB flash memory, 2.4, 3.5 or 4.3 inch screensize and 1,2 or 4 controlbutton options. Video length: up to 8 minutes.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Magic Bullet Looks coming to FCP X

It's taking a while longer than planned but Magic Bullet Looks is coming to FCP X. This is important news for us but for Apple as well because many shooters/editors have held out switching to FCP X because they would have to miss third party plugins like Magic Bullet Looks.
I've had FCP X for quite a while but find myself still using FCP 7. I can't get myself to start learning the new FCP. Maybe I'll just have to ask Santa for a crashcourse FCP X and immerse myself into this new software for a week. Anyway, with Magic Bullet Looks, FCP X is becoming a lot more attractive.

For real easy filterwork Magic Bullet has Mojo 1.2 on offer for only $49,- for a limited time only. That's a good offer (50% off) and naturally this new edition is compatible with FCP X.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mailbox: $4 of Chinese stuff

It's nothing mindboggling (to understate it...) but very nice to finally have: an ultra-minijack (2.5mm) to (3.5mm) female jack cable so I can use a decent microphone on my Panasonic GH2. 99 cents shipped- and it even works! ;-)

2.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable for GH2

And for $2,99 I received 2 rear lens caps for micro 4/3 lenses. I didn't need the body caps (Unfortunately I only have one body ;-) and asked the eBay-seller I could get 2 rear caps instead of 1 rear and one body cap. No problem- and now they just sent me 2 sets and charged for one... Now I can leave all my lens adapters on my c-mount lenses (like my Pentax 6mm 1.2) and store them safely. 

M43 lens caps for C-mount lenses

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What the hack? Panasonic GH2 at ISO 12,800?!

I just succesfully installed the Panasonic GH2 hack and applied a Driftwood patch and before I even got a chance to test it out, master-hacker Vitaliy Kiselev has done it again. Now he has quadrupled the native maximum ISO of 3200 to 12800. How this translates into real life can be seen in this video.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

103 year old lens video

I have a Wollensak Cine-Velostigmat 1.5 lens from the 1930-1940's. Wollensak was a US manufacturer of lenses for still and film camera's. I still have to do a proper video with my antique lens and really got inspired by this well-done clip shot with a Canon 5D Mark II and a 1908(!) Wollensak Cine-Velostigmat f5 lens.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mailbox: plastic from China


I just received an envelope with plastic from China. Three lenscaps, to be exact. I've bought 52mm stepup rings for all my small (mostly c-mount) lenses so I can use all these lenses with a single LCW variable ND filter. Now I have a bunch of 52mm stepup rings and a bunch of lenscaps to go with them.

I paid US $0,99 cents a piece incl shipping. There was also an auction(!) but how much cheaper do you want it..? There are people actually bidding 0,11 cents?! For @## sake, the profit margin is what...? give these people their 99 cents so they can (try to) feed their families... (shipping from this seller was superfast, by the way: 5 days from China!)


Monday, November 7, 2011

Free video

I did a post last week on free stock footage and I was really surprised to discover how much nice, free stuff is out there. Not long after I posted that entry, I was approached by a man offering free stock footage, if I ever needed it. Now certain shots most of us won't make, like shots from a plane for instance. But they can really add some production value to your film: like an aerial shot of a big city, for instance. So I tried downloading a few of these aerial shots.
I had some issues downloading clips with Firefox on a PC and contacted the website. The response was very fast and personal and that made me curious about the person behind the website. David Schmerin, owner of the website, has been in the business for a long time. I asked him a number of questions, among which: "Did you shoot the footage yourself?" and "How can giving away free footage be a viable business enterprise?" This is David's candid response:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I finally hacked my GH2- did I?

I don't know why, but there was a huge mental barrier to hack my GH2... which I overcame today. There were a few reasons: I wondered whether or not I needed the hack, if I was jeopardizing the stability of my camera and last but not least: I really didn't feel like having to figure out how to do it...
The question whether or not "I really needed" the hack can be answered by a simple "no". Who needs the hack, really? On the other hand, who really needs a new camera? As far as the stability of my camera is concerned, you can always revert to the original firmware. And as far as my resentment for figuring out how to do the hack: it was quite simple. (even though I felt very insecure while doing it)
So now I am presumably shooting 24P with this patch: Driftwood_176M_GOP1_NOAQ_(QuantMeBaby v3) Presumably, because I have no idea whether or not anything has changed in-camera?! The firmware version stays the same and the little footage I've shot looks great. But so did the footage before... I cannot honestly say I see any difference... And I just noticed I used a Sandisk Ultra II, 15mb/s Class 2 card. I thought these are way too slow for these outrageous hack-datarate-numbers..? I guess this story isn't over yet...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

(No) Canon 5D Mark III

So Canon came out with this fantastic new line of camcorders called the Cinema EOS system. The first one announced, the C300 was announced today and will cost around $16.000,- Here's a clip that cinematographer Vincent LaForet made with the prototype. But you know, I really don't care how great the new Canon C300 is, unless they will use the exact same hardware and put it in a camcorder under $6000,- or a DSLR package for $2500,-...
Looks like Canon hasn't alienated from its large base of budget/filmers and/or DSLR-users and will continue to serve us. Here's a little excerpt from Canon's pressrelease that promises a new DSLR for filmers:

"Canon Inc. today announced that the company is developing a new-concept EOS-series digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. Incorporating an enhanced version of the video-capture capability offered in the current EOS-series lineup, the new camera will be ideally suited for cinematographic and other digital high-resolution production applications. The model will be equipped with a 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor and, enabling the recording of 4K video."

Wonder how this camera will compare to the C300. It's hard to be succesful these days: not only do you have to compete with the competition, but increasingly with your own cameras as well... So... bring out the 5D Mark III, Canon and try and make me sell my Canon 550D and Panasonic GH2!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Crazy Colors Clip

This is a sequel to my earlier autumn clip shot with the Pentax 6mm. I've been walking around with the Cosmicar 25mm stuck on my GH2, shooting people but I could not resist grabbing some colors of autumn. Am I getting old and sentimental shooting vegetation these days? I don't know, but definitely more sensitive to the changes of seasons, the colors on colors, textures, dense and open spaces.
I promise this is my last plant/flower type clip. (At least this season...)

Turn up the volume!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mailbox: Transcend Class 10 SDHC Cards

Between my Sony EX1 R, Panasonic GH2, Canon 550D, GoPro HD and my Panasonic Lumix TZ7, I am using a whole bunch of SDHC cards. It was time to get some new ones after I kept switching the cards between camera's and sometimes forgetting to put the card in the camera and not having a spare one in the bag.
I opted for 2 16GB Transcend SDHC cards, Class 10 (up to 20MB/s) at €18 a piece, incl shipping. I have the Transcend Class 6 cards and they have served me well in all cameras and they are by far the cheapest. I was tempted to get 32 GB cards but don't want to run the risk of losing 2 hours of shooting if the card goes foul. My advice: buy 16 GB cards and spread your risk...


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mailbox: return of the SmallHD DP4

UPS stopped by today to deliver my SmallHD DP4 monitor after I sent mine back because of a slight sunburn... Too bad it didn't arrive one day earlier- I could have used it for my shoot yesterday! But SmallHD shipped it from NC, USA to Amsterdam in exactly one week from the point they (should have) received my damaged monitor. That's fast!
Last week it passed Germany on the way over here and I got a little suspicious when a UPS-worker from Poland(why Poland?) asked me for my BTW-number (my business tax-number). I get a lot of 'fishing' emails and after my monitor got stolen by some postal worker, I don't trust anyone. I called UPS Holland and they said to ignore the mail. The next day I received another email from a guy from UPS Holland who asked me for my BTW number as well and who signed his email with a very unprofessional 'Mike'. I ignored that as well.
Which is apparently the thing to do because today my monitor arrived anyway. The UPS guy came, asked me to sign for the package but when I was about to take the pencil from his hand hesitated and said "sorry, I want to check if my item is actually in there." I opened the box and there it was. I showed the DP4 to the UPS guy. Then I looked at him intensely and asked him if his name was 'Mike' and if he had friends in Poland. He said "no" and I told him that if he ever saw a colleague of his filming with something that looked like my monitor, he should contact me... 'Sure, buddy' he answered, a little unsettled, excused himself and quickly drove off in his brown UPS truck.