A romantic video experience with Manfrotto gear (How to choose the right tripod and head).

When you start working with a piece of equipment time and time again, you build up a relationship with it; understanding its ins and outs, the fastest or best way to set it up. For me, I have this affinity with Manfrotto products.

Since starting out in video during university, I had invested in a sturdy Manfrotto 055Pro-B tripod and a fluid video head. 3 years on and to this day it proves to be a great piece of kit to have around; I use it for my custom built camera jib now so it lives in my boot with that!

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Through various university and freelance projects I used my trusty MF 055Pro-B legs, strapped tightly to a Lowepro backpack.. Not the most comfortable or lightweight solutions. The aluminium legs begun to take their toll when more equipment was required too, and as a videographer I had a bag full of lenses, audio kit and a monopod too. I occasionally used a Glidetrack slider too, which worked very well on the legs, and did not have to be spread really far apart or use any weights.

Check out a couple of my video’s featuring Manfrotto gear –

Manfrotto Backpack50 – http://vimeo.com/84398932

Manfrotto ML240 LED – http://vimeo.com/41688532

But, how do you choose the right Manfrotto tripod and video head for what you do?

Key points to consider – Budget is always something to keep in mind, it can get expensive!

– What cameras, lenses and accessories you will be using with it.

– Where/shooting situations; are you going to be traveling so need a lightweight option, or more corporate indoor, weddings, adventure.

– Are you working with video or photo, or both!

Budget – everyone should have a decent set of tripod legs and head that can be their go-to choice no matter what the client, production or location. This could be a heavy duty two-leg tripod with video fluid head for news/docu/TV footage acquisition – go for Manfrotto twin leg kit! But for photography you may consider a lighter option that can be grabbed and carried quickly – go for Manfrotto BeFree! Remember that a tripod/head kit should last you a lifetime so keep your budget in mind, and look for products and kits around £100-£150 for your first investment (no, I’m not suggesting you save up to spend £150, your budget is what ever you can work within so have a rough max figure that you would aim to spend – dependent of the following..).

Cameras, lenses and accessories – If you are a keen amateur, you may be working with small DSLR bodies and lenses; like the Canon 600D with an 18-135mm for example. This setup not weighing much tends to lean you towards a light, single leg tripod with a two way or ball head mount – 180X Pro B with 804RC2 head. However, for more professional setups; Canon 5D mark III and a 70-200 telephoto lens your looking at +3Kg of weight, so a more stable solution needs to be found – Lightweight Fluid System.

Shooting situation – If you are out and about all the time, a tripod with locking legs and extendable center column is a great feature to have; its great for getting very low angle shots while keeping the tripod steady, not to mention the ball leveling mount feature which levels the head without adjusting the legs. If you are the opposite, and work in studios and generally terrain free environment, a standard set of legs will be appropriate. Remember you can mount the tripod onto dolly wheels for easy motion and movement in a studio or indoors.

Video or photo? Generally video requires the use of moving or ‘tracking’ shots, where the camera focuses and follows a subject through a scene. Remember talking about ball and fluid heads? This is where they become important! A fluid video head uses liquid to smooth the panning and tilting movement when adjusting the head, creating smooth camera movements. This is not entirely possible using two-way or ball heads due to the lack of fluid in the head and a pan handle. It can be done, but be prepared to video a number of times to achieve steady movement! If you look further into video and movement, many equipment manufacturers have also created stabilizers that counter balance the camera’s weight, creating flying and smooth flowing movement!

For photo, as you are taking still images, the focus on being able to move the camera while the shutter is open diminishes, and the need to find and focus on a subject quickly, from many angles becomes key. This is where a ball head or two way head works best, allowing quick movement between camera angles.

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If you mix between both, producing work like timelapse, hyperlapses, long exposures and night time shooting, you should consider the weight of the tripod and camera gear together; will you need to weigh down the tripod to keep it steady, will the camera be subject to movement when using a lighter tripod and head? These factors will affect your image or video if not considered!

A great example; myself and Ashleigh were filming a wedding at Horsley Towers for John Harris Wedding Films and we got the message to setup and run a timelapse for the evening. It was windy out, not great conditions for a TL, and with only a Canon 60D and 15mm fish eye lens the setup was not at all weighty. After about 15 minutes I went to check on the TL camera and it was nowhere to be seen.. The tripod and camera got blown over (not damaged) in the wind. No more timelapse that day!

Hope that helps in your choice of Manfrotto kit to use! It’s always good to examine the details of your needs and what the product can do, to find the best solution. Remember if you start out with a single-leg, ball head setup and are looking to move into video in the future, you may need to invest again. Its not always possible, but try to future-proof your investment in case you have a change of heart in what you do.

The reason why choosing the Manfrotto 055ProB tripod and 701HDV worked so well for me is that I could use it on everything I worked on; from being my A camera support to supporting a camera jib and slider – an all round solution to my needs.

Back to the story.. After 3 years, it was time to move on. I had been researching equipment I would invest in, and sticking with the DSLR camera type my requirements for tripod legs and video head did not stray too far away from my original purchase. However, after experiencing carrying around all of the video equipment, and an extra bag for grip, it was about time I got a carbon fiber tripod to ease the weight issue. As I am a one man band videographer, I carry all the gear. So with a full camera bag, tripod, monopod, even a slider maybe, my options need to be lightweight but just as functional.

Manfrotto have gone above and beyond on the engineering of the 755CX3 and MVH500AH. Carbon fiber legs provide an ultra portable solution, able to hold loads up to 8Kg which is perfect for my Canon 5DmkIII, cine lenses, field monitor etc.

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still from quiet sunshine by Adam Plowden Videography winter nature landscape stream water lake canon samyang

still from quiet sunshine by Adam Plowden Videography winter nature landscape stream water lake canon samyang

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The new plate mount on the video head is incredible too, and saves so much faffing around with the previously notorious screw to lock the plate in place. Now, the plate simply slides in from above, and a spring pings the clamp into place. A great innovation especially for use with camera rigs so you don’t have to bend down, find the screw to start unlocking the plate and camera to the rig. So, for fast shooting situations, the new head is a must!

The sad thing about all of this is that after searching through my old photos and videos I don’t have any; specifically featuring the Manfrotto gear! What I can say though, is for every single videoshoot I’ve worked on, my Manfrotto gear has been there, supporting me no matter of the situation. So I went out a shot some stills that I’ve included in the blog, and did indeed find pictures of the gear in action!

Camsmart MODA rig with canon 5Dmk iii

Lilliput monitor with the Canon 60D

Lilliput monitor with the Canon 60D

If you want to see more of my work featuring Manfrotto equipment, check out my vimeo page – https://vimeo.com/apvideography

They say you should only by a set of legs once, make the right choice, make it Manfrotto! Like this post? Share it!

Awesome day at Warner Bro’s Studios for BSC Expo!

It’s been a great day at the BSC Expo; based at Warner Bro’s Studios Leavesden the expo features the worlds newest and best cinematography technology and workflow solutions.

The journey was easy, I flew by Wycombe to pick up Glen and we made our way to the studios, then walked to C stage. We could see the Harry Potter studio tours in J and K on the other side of the lot, but it was huge!

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We took a slow stroll around the stands, it was great to see Rotolight who produce LED lights for photo and video. Their ‘Rotolight’ product is incredible for a pocket beauty light; due to its circular design the light gives soft overall coverage of the subject, and for models its perfect for achieving a ring of light in their eyes. As well as that, they have developed their own on camera microphone too, giving photographers and videographers alike an entry package, I’m very happy to see this!

The RED stand had the RED DRAGON on display, demoing the 6K, wireless focus and zoom, touch-control monitor.. I can’t wait til shoot with a RED package, think it will be be some time though!

BSC expo warner brothers studios cinematography expo RED camera dragon 6K BSC expo warner brothers studios cinematography expo RED camera dragon 6K

The Panavision motorized camera axis was a jaw dropper too, I was so interested due to planning on constructing my own as a DSLR gimbal solution. There is no way I could achieve the precision and accuracy of this device, but with some smooth stepper motors it is completely possible! (If you can’t buy it, then try making your own; it worked for me with a camera jib and camera rig!).

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And no, we weren’t at the Harry Potter Studio tour…

BSC expo warner brothers studios cinematography expo harry potter studio tour

As Bucks New Uni is on the way back to Surrey for me, we stopped by Wycombe for a drink in the SU, the last time I was there we were completely smashed.. “F****ng absinthe death” aye Glen!!

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Awesome day, so happy I got to see Glen too, thought I was going to have to wait until March!

For those interested in visiting BSC: GO, it is a great expo completely for cinematography so think cameras, lenses, grip (steadicam, jibs, cars etc), lighting (and plenty of great LED innovations from Digital Sputnik and Chroma Q) so definitely check it out!

Interview/Epsom Downs/Nutfield Priory Filming Sunday!

Sunday is always a hectic day for me, and yesterday encompassed helping Glen with his dissertation; he interviewed me about getting jobs in the broadcasting industry after university. He filmed it on the 5DmkIII, Samyang 85mm T1.5 Cine, Lilliput field monitor, Zoom H6 & Sennheiser ENG-100, Manfrotto 055CX and my new MODA RIG – in studio production mode.

Canon 5DmkIII with Samyang 85mm cine lens

It was a great opportunity for me to test out all of the new equipment on a video shoot together, and being on the other side of the camera was definitely interesting form me!

glen symes dissertation behind the scenes interview

We then took a trip up to Epsom Downs, it was a really clear day so from the viewpoint I could see London on the horizon, with the Shard gleaming in the winter sunlight. This was taken on the 5D with the Sigma 70-200.

I got some pictures of the MODA rig in action, we were using it in two setups for the various shoots that day; the production mode for a large DSLR body and lens with cage and shoulder mount, as well as micro rig mode for a Canon 60D and cage. This shows how flexible the MODA rig really is in different shooting scenarios!

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We then jetted off to Nutfield Priory near Redhill for the last video shoot of the day, for Steve from Partytime entertainment. He has an awesome new setup with white speakers, moving heads, star cloth, light up dance floor and now a dry ice machine!

Using the MODA rig with the Canon 5DmkIII, and a combination of lenses from Samyang 14mm T3.1 to Tamron 24-70 to a GoPro, myself and Glen captured the night. The dry ice was used for the couples first dance which looked great!

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The footage from this shoot will go to John Harris Media, as part of a bigger project with Partytime, so I am looking forward to seeing the results!

I have also been working on the behind the scenes videos for the SWPP conference, showing how you can use Canon, Manfrotto and Elinchrom products to produce fantastic video on DSLR. I’ve been experimenting with beauty looks for one of the models…

Grading test for Canon/MF/Elinchrom BTS

There will be lots more coming over the next few days, I am currently buried under lots of post production work as well as developing Camsmarts new products too. Tonight I am out filming and taking photos for a new florist at Epsom RAC, so look forward to some new beauty snaps!

Happy New Year to you!

Samyang cine lenses getting my head in a tizz

Urgh.. I hate not being able to make up my mind about what equipment to get, as it is so hard to tell without good experience and field testing, getting to know the kit before you buy it. I’m having this problem with the Samyang Cine Lenses.

They look fantastic, well constructed lenses, fully manual in a range of focal lengths and de-clicked apertures from T1.5. This however is the question; would it be better to buy the Samyang Cine Lens kit, or a 24-70, 70-200 f2.8 IS (with the samyang 14mm and 85mm)???

I’m predominantly a videographer, but I enjoy having the flexibility of zoom lenses, especially for ENG style work, live event filming etc, and the fixed aperture and stabilization is key for video. So, a couple of fast zooms seems sensible to keep in the kit bag for everyday use.

However, what about for those sharp, cinematic, shallow depth of field shots that can only be achieved with a cine lens..

 

Any advice, please share! Ooh and check out the link below for a similar situation if you are stuck like me!

http://bit.ly/19kUk8I

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A quick still from the wedding I shot with John Harris Wedding Films yesterday at Wotton House in Surrey. Awesome day, and Harry and Sammi are a lovely couple!

It’s always a blast working with John and Ashleigh, especially when I get to shoot on a 5D with a Glidetrack slider! John shot some awesome footage from his areal camera too!

 

New Lilliput 7″ HD Field Monitor

I got a surprise through the post today, it was the new Lilliput 7″ HD Field Monitor, this one has great features including HDMI, YPbPr, composite and audio inputs, as well as audio monitoring which is handy. Here are some snaps from my play around today.

The colour reproduction, contrast and screen resolution is much better than the Camax model, yielding a more realistic picture. Still some functionality and operation issues to iron out but over all a great product out of the box!

I will be putting up a video soon, including filming in studio and on-location situations, as well as testing out the screen quality too, so keep updated, and if you have any questions just send them in!

I thought it was about time to sort out all of my equipment too, as I have them in bags and boxes all over the place, organization is rather important to avoid losing things! I got this great suitcase from The Olympic Broadcasting Service when I worked at the London 2012 Olympics, so I put my big camera bag, as well as my rig, batteries, and a BlackmagicDesign bag full of cables in it. Can’t believe I lug this amount of kit around though! (Minus the Nikon in the little bag as that rarely sees the light of day 😦 ).

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Give us a share and a shout!

 

What do YOU want to know about Video, Editing, Graphics, Audio, Live?

I’ve had my fair share of experience over the last couple of years, working in many different situations from audio engineering at the London 2012 Olympic Games, to single filming the Prime Minister of Kuwait, to weddings, to motion graphics and more.

I can write about pretty much any of the above situations, the camera skills and techniques used as well as anything else really, but I want to hear from YOU so you can learn from this blog!

What do you want me to write about? Do you have any questions about the video and media industry or its practices?

Contact me so I can help!!

Tokina’s NEW Cine Lenses!

At IBC 2013, Tokina announced a new range of cine lenses for Super35 and Full Frame sensors which include a full line up from 11-16mm, 16-26mm and 50-135mm, all at T3, and all manual.

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I had a chat with Chris, the General Manager of Tokina about the lenses at their booth. He was just as excited as I was about the release of the new range, the 11-16mm especially. This is due to the small sensor size of the Black Magic Cinema Camera, which has a 2x (+-) magnification factor. This causes a standard 16mm lens to be multiplied to around 40mm, so achieving wide angle shots becomes rather difficult.

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However (and I had no idea people had been converting the already famous Tokina 11-16mm ATX for Super35 mounts) Tokina saw the potential and grabbed the chance to deliver a sharp, accurate and very bright lens. The build quality is fantastic, and the resulting image is a wonderful wide angle!

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Chris also talked about the range including the 16-28mm and 50-135mm which is to be released in November this year, I cannot wait to get my hands on one! They did not have the 50-135mm on display, but as you can see from the size of the 16-28mm it will probably be a beast of a piece of glass! I am expecting a separate lens barrel stand or some kind of rig-rail to keep it on the camera!

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I’m in contact with the guys over at Tokina so I will keep updating on the progress of the lenses and new models!

Answers falling out the sky!

Very strange, in my last post I described the troubles I’ve been having with starting up the business, then this just popped up on my timeline – http://www.creativebloq.com/career/tools-freelance-designers-7133493

Creative Bloq is so cool for creative procrastination, and generally awesome inspirations, so do check out this post about ‘The top 10 tools for freelance designers’.

 

Back to normal for freelance videography

A week since IBC, things are pretty much back to normal for here in Epsom. I have been furiously emailing the companies and people I met to get my foot in the door for some videography or digital media content production.. We shall see!

Oh yeah, immersive experience, here is what I am listening to – http://8tracks.com/monkcoco/amsterdams-jams

I have been working on an edit for a video of a day trip around Amsterdam city, just a few shots of what I though was worthy of being included! (“You only get one” quote from Glen Symes). It is currently taking a looonngggg time exporting in Adobe Media Encoder due to down-res’ing from 1080p to 720p for the web, as well as some heavy grading done in Magic Bullet, which always takes time anyway.

Here is a couple of photos from the edit, and the grade to show you how 🙂

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What can I say, do your clients pay for render time? 😄

I’m going to upload the video of Amsterdam later today, so keep updated as I shall post it on here! I used Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 to edit the video, and Red Giant Magic Bullet to grade. I did a couple of timelapses so just sped them up and used ‘Frame Blending’ to create the smooth motion blur. I shot most of it on my Canon 60D and Tamron 17-50 F/2.8, also using Sams GoPro Hero3 for the other shots. I chose Zero 7 “Destiny” for the backing music as it is chilled and ambient, just like the culture over there!

In the meantime I am developing my marketing strategy for the videography business I am trying to get funding for, through The Start Up Loans company (James Caan), but that hasn’t been at the top my list, although it really should be.. If you’ve got any tips for start ups and writing business plans then please forward them this way!

I am also working on videos in the edit suite which include interviews with F&V, NHK, Tokina, Ikegami, and NanGuang, so keep updated for those too!

Ciao for now 😀