Available Light Interviews

Eight interviews. Two locations. Three hours. This was a challenge because it limited my time to set up any kind of lighting. There was only a short period of time between each interview, in two locations. In situations like these, you have to use what’s there, so here are a few screen grabs and a quick synopsis of the footage from that day.

This particular setup was on a busy sidewalk/street corner beside a library. This was actually very difficult, because the original plan was to shoot inside the library. When we arrived, the library was set up as a voting location, so no cameras were allowed inside. I now had to shoot 4 interviews outside. I wanted them to look relatively different from each other, so I had to get creative. I was able to position the person being interviewed under a large tree that had a good amount of shade. Controlling highlights behind him on the busy street was another challenge, but I think I kept a good balance overall. I lifted the mids a bit in this shot, but you have to shoot this way with the FS100′s highlight issues.

This setup was in a nice, modern building with very bright office space. The office we were in was a great location in the building, as it was on the corner with huge windows in front and to the left of the woman on camera. There was a large glass wall behind her next to the bookshelf, so it allowed for some interesting background movement while still maintaining a quiet environment in the office.

I would have liked to have the key light on the right side of her face, as that’s usually a more pleasing way to light a person, but I had to work with the massive amount of light coming through the large windows. I actually shot with a 0.9 ND because it was so bright. If I had more time I may have added some backlight, but again there were 4 interviews to be shot in this single location, all within an hour’s time.

Looking at this on another monitor, I think I would subtract a little more green from the image. These are just draft CC’s on everything, though. I did not edit this piece.

As you can probably tell, this was shot on the other side of the fence from the first interview. It still has a similar look, but is different enough to be able to cut into the same piece without it being awkward. Again, I placed them under a tree to avoid any hard light from the mid-day sun, but still had to maintain the highlights in the background by under-exposing his face by a small amount. This was the last interview of the day, so I had a bit of extra time and added a reflector to their right side, as it was very dark and shadowy without it.

“Repose” Music Video Scene

Here’s a project I helped shoot last year as part of a three camera setup using my FS100. It was great working with such a creative group of people. Check out the description from Benjamin Eckstein‘s Vimeo below for more information.

“Repose” – Scene from “Seethrough” from Benjamin Eckstein on Vimeo.

My buddy Keith asked me to shoot a video of a recording session for his new album “Seethrough”. Keith is a charismatic, “interesting” fellow, and one of my favorite people to put a camera in front of so I couldn’t say no.

We shot the entire recording in about 12 hours on this mostly “studio live” album at Sonivox in Cambridge, MA.

For camera geeks, we shot this on the Panasonic AF100, Sony FS-100, and Canon 7D.

Directed by Micah Levin
Camera Ops: Benjamin Eckstein, Brandon Vincent, Ben Pender-Cudlip
Sound Engineer/Mixer: Jason Jordan

Notre Dame High School – Open House Video

An interesting perspective from past Notre Dame High School students and what they’re doing today.

Schedule was tight overall for this; we had to be in three locations, shoot three interviews and b-roll for all three interviews in one day before sunset. Driving to Boston, Worcester, then down to Providence.

Sony FS100
Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8

Produced by Pagano Media
Camera: Brandon Vincent
Editing: Brandon Vincent

Tiffen Indie ND Kit: First Impressions

Photo Credit: Joyce Michaud

After shooting with my FS100 for a while, I finally decided to buckle down and pick up some neutral density. It’s clear this camera needs it in one form or another; I think anyone that’s done any research on it realizes this, but the problem is deciding which direction to go.

I ended up getting screw-on filters because I didn’t have the budget to pick up a matte box (which would have been my first choice). Variable ND’s were appealing, but in order to avoid more problems you had to invest in the more expensive ones. These can be close to and above $400. That was beyond what I wanted to spend, and I didn’t want to cheap out and run into color/sharpness problems.

The kit I ended up getting was the Tiffen 77mm Indie ND Kit. For about $260 you get 4 different ND filters: .3, .6, .9 and 1.2. The most interesting thing about these filters is that they claim to be “water white” glass. I’ll be honest with you; I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you if I saw the difference between water white and regular glass, but apparently water white is what you need to look for when buying filters.

The first project I used these on was some student interviews outside their respective campuses. I’m still working on this so I’m only going to post a screenshot from my Premiere window, but you’ll get the picture.

I shot all of the interviews on a 17-35mm to start with, and switched to a 70-200mm for tight shots. The two shots in the picture below are around 75mm. These are straight out of camera shots.

I was able to shoot almost wide open in both situations, one at mid-day around 12:30pm, and one just before sunset around 5:00pm. Achieving f/2.8 was easy – I would start with the highest ND I had (1.2) and add on from there to get where I needed to be. If I needed something less than 1.2, I could just use a single .9 or .6 but it was too bright for that.

Using screw on filters has its pros and cons. They are indeed the most cost-effective solution, but you’re stuck having to screw and unscrew them onto your lenses whenever there’s a change. You’ll also need step rings for any lenses smaller than 77mm. Those are very cheap, though. Not much of a problem in my eyes.

I was shooting in the shade for all of the interviews, but I didn’t notice any bad reflections from the filters themselves. I’ve had to take off cheap Hoya UV filters because of strange square reflections from the sensor. This wasn’t the case with these.

Finally, there’s one thing I would like to complain about about this kit in particular. Tiffen gives you a small case for the four filters, but the filters come wrapped in tissue paper and inserted into the case. Honestly, I wouldn’t trust putting the filters inside this case without some kind of protection on them as it would probably scratch them up badly. I’d leave the tissue paper on but I know I would lose it – I already lost one on the first shoot. So now I’m stuck here looking for some kind of solution to carry the filters around in the case they gave me.

Overall I’m extremely satisfied with the purchase. It was only one project but I can already tell these are going to come in handy whenever I shoot outside. Some day I’ll eventually grab a matte box and some square filters, but until then these will certainly suffice.

Sony FS100: Shooting Outside

A friend of mine (Marcus) has started an annual event in Worcester called Open Road Music & Arts Festival, which hosts a number of local musicians, artists and businesses at Institute Park. This is from their website:

“The goal of Open Road is to raise the awareness of alternative and sustainable lifestyles while bringing the Worcester community (and beyond) together to enjoy local art and extraordinary music.”

Marcus and I met up last year when he was doing the event for the first time and decided I shoot some video. A short kickstarter video was made from the footage for this event, and I went ahead and shot this year’s festival as well. It was my first time truly shooting outdoors with the FS100 and I’ve discovered a few things about the camera…some good…and some bad.

The Setup

To start, I used the AbelCine picture profile they released a few weeks ago called “AB_HILIT” which included a number of different settings combined to get the most from high-contrast situations (like shooting outside under mid-day sun). Here’s the settings they suggest:

  • Black Level:  -2
  • Gamma: CinemaTone2
  • Black Gamma: Range = High / Level = 0
  • Knee:  Point = 102.5% / Slope = -1
  • Color Mode: Type = Standard / Level =8
  • Color Level: +1
  • Color Phase: +1
  • Color Depth: R=-2, G=-6, B=-7, C=0, M=+2, Y=+5
  • WB Shift = All 0
  • Detail = Level = -3 / Manual Set = Off
One of the frustrating things about the FS100 is not being able to name your picture profiles. Since I put these profiles into my camera long before this particular shoot, I just picked the profile that looked best outside. Turns out I picked the right one. I’d imagine this kind of issue could be fixed in the future with a firmware upgrade, so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

 

As far as equipment goes, here’s what I ran with for the day:

 

  • Sony FS100
  • Fotodiox Nikon F mount adapter
  • Nikon 28-80 f/3.3-5.6 kit lens
  • Lexar Professional 16GB SDHC card
Let me get this out of the way: the lens I used was a piece of garbage. My girlfriend was also at the festival taking pictures with her DSLRs so she had priority over our better glass. I had this left over from a film camera we bought back in college. It’s soft, made of plastic, very slow (didn’t matter today) and just all-around bad.

 

Shooting

 

I used the on-camera mic, side handle, and “loupe” that attaches to the LCD screen. I’ve avoided the side handle that attaches to the camera because of how horribly cheap it feels. I wouldn’t trust it with anything heavier than what normally attaches to the camera but since I knew I’d be running light I thought I’d throw it on and give it a chance. I really had no other choice anyway.

I was immediately surprised by how well it worked. I mean, this thing looks like it would collapse if I put any weight on it, but I was impressed by how well it stood up to me holding it all day. With the addition of the eye-piece, the extra point of contact was fairly stable. My shots were (for the most part) steady. In some instances I may not have been able to get what I did if not for the handle.

 

The good thing about the handle is it rotates around and can lock into place where you need it to. There’s these predefined “clicky” areas that it locks into. The only downside to this is how you lock it down: you have to pull open a cap on the side of the handle and screw/unscrew a piece of metal, put the cap back on, and then click it into place. It’s not something you can adjust easily without having the camera on a tripod or monopod.

 

I’m used to shooting with larger cameras. You know, the kind that were actually designed to sit on your shoulder? I’ve been one of those people since the dawn of the HDSLR revolution that was totally dissing the ergonomics of these new cameras. I hate that you have to buy rigs to make them manageable, I hate how the buttons are placed, and I hate how light they are.

 

Unfortunately this is still the case with the FS100.

 

The camera being light was actually a plus in this case because of how I had to hold the camera, but is still a negative in my eyes. Thankfully it helped me go hand-held for the better part of the day. I was able to carry the camera by the side handle and top handle without being too worried about them snapping. They’re cheap, but not cheap enough where the 2lb camera would break off. I wouldn’t do this with a more expensive lens however, the kit lens I was using weighs maybe 6 oz.

 

The Image

The image from the FS100 is pretty damn good. A lot of people complain about the issues it has with highlights. I agree that there are some problems getting more out of things like the sky when shooting outside, but this has always been the case when shooting video. Even the DSLRs have this issue to some extent. I will give them the upper hand in that department though.

 

The biggest problem with this camera, and I can say this without any doubt, is that it needs ND. There’s just no getting around it. I’m in the process of deciding which solution is best for my situation (matte box, fader, or regular screw-ons) so I was without any neutral density while shooting. I had two options; either up my shutter speed to something crazy like 1/2400th of a second, or shoot at 1/60th at f/16 to f/22. Since I despise the way high shutter speeds look in video, I decided to go with the latter. The image was good, but the depth of field was very, very deep.

 

This limited some of things I could have shot, but I’m used to shooting like this. I’ve never owned a DSLR that shot video, so I can deal with that. It at least made focusing much more forgiving while shooting handheld. If there’s one thing I hate about the trend of videos today, it would be consistently loosing focus while subjects that are moving. If you’re shooting an interview, there’s no need to shoot at f/1.4. 

 

Anyway, while putting together some stuff for this blog I actually stumbled across a pretty big problem, and I’m assuming it’s because of the lens adapter I’m using. Up until this point I’ve only been shooting things inside because of my ND issue. Well, after reviewing all of my footage, one of the last clips in my bin was playing back and I noticed something strange on the right side of the frame. It almost looked like a shadow was cast upon a building that was in the shot, but it was moving with the camera as I adjusted positions. I immediately knew it was happening somewhere on the camera. I uploaded a video to my YouTube account so you can see what I’m talking about. Make sure you watch it in fullscreen and HD:

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2GGc9ISuvQ']

(Please excuse the dust spot :( )

So as you can see, there’s some weird stuff going on with that clip. I’ve never noticed this until tonight. Even reviewing most of the other footage I didn’t see it until I made it to this clip. We’re talking almost an hour of footage here, not just a few clips. I immediately went back to the others and could find it in a couple of other instances. It’s definitely not as apparent as this one, but it’s there. I’m really bummed though, because the other adapters are very expensive. This one was only $40, but I guess you get what you pay for.

Here’s a couple of screenshots I grabbed from previous clips shot that day. These are ungraded, straight out of camera, scaled down to 720p.