Behind the scenes of yesterdays Wellbeing videoshoot!

06:30

Kit bag, check.

Audio kit, check.

Lighting, check.

Brain, just about.

bts early morning sky

Yesterday I was out filming talking heads and some b-roll for a Wellbeing project on behalf of EEBC. Wellbeing is our general mental and physical health, but there are many factors in the way that we live that can affect our chances of developing serious health problems in the future. These include some sensitive subjects, that I was capturing to provide an information base for those in the community that may be suffering, or have friends and relatives of those diagnosed with; Cancer, Coronary Heart Disease, Dementia and Diabetes.

I was featuring nutritional expert Yvonne McMeel throughout the videos, so I began by planning my main piece to camera with her in the Wellbeing Centre.

This was a standard video shoot, so I packed my kit bag to be prepared with whatever the day would bring! This included;

VideoCanon 5D mkIII, Tamron 24-70 F/2.8 VC, Sigma 70-200 F/2.8 OS, Canon 60D.

AudioZoom H6, Roto-Mic, Sennheiser ENG-G3 100 wireless.

Grip Manfrotto 755CX3 tripod + MVH500AH, Manfrotto 190Pro-B (old version) tripod, Super clamp and magic arm.

Lighting – Daylight balanced 85W studio light with soft umbrella.

Extras – Lilliput 1018 (I am currently testing out and reviewing this product).

behind the scenes videography equipment

I took along the Lilliput 1018; the new flagship 10 inch touch screen field monitor, which produced crisp pictures and well represented colours. I ran this on a F-970 battery with HDMI through from the 5D, so I could monitor both. This did however cause the camera to heat up quite quickly. However, the monitor has awesome features usually found on high end products which include; exposure and focus peaking, on screen waveform monitors, levels and much more, which came in very handy for assessing the quality of the picture. (More coming later regarding this product).

behind the scenes make up artist Char1 behind the scenes make up artist Char2 Char doing her make up thang!

I began setup at 9am, shortly followed by Char the make up artist who set up her bits. The location for filming was the Wellbeing Centre, which as a wonderfully bright open facade with big doors and windows. Luckily enough, blaring heat and sunshine poured through the windows, so that was my key light at slightly cooler than daylight colour balance at 5200k. This also matched the daylight light fixture I was using to add a fill and kick to the subject.

 

Why did I use a 2-point light setup?

I could have rocked up with the intention of using just the daylight and the incandescent lights in the centre with the mentality that it will illuminate my subject well, but there are risks you have to be willing to take if you approach lighting in a casual way. Some points to remember when thinking about lighting your subjects;

  • Are they defined from the background?
  • Do they have harsh shadows on their face?
  • Moving sunlight will change throughout the day, in brightness, direction and colour.
  • bts wellbeing light setup

Now, when you haven’t been to the location before it is difficult to judge the lighting conditions, so firstly if you can have a RECCE of the location. It is very beneficial as you can begin to compose the scene, judging the internal and external lighting, now noisy the environment is, whether you will need a backdrop instead of a plain background.. All points to consider before you turn up with the camera kit and begin filming.

Defining the subject from the background is what makes them look 3-dimensional and not flat, this is the same for the shadows too as it shows that features are visible on the face. With DSLR’s it is possible to use depth of field to define your subject from the background, but lighting can also be used to ‘pop’ the subject out of the BG.

Harsh shadows are caused by strong direct light, and are unwanted as they mask features and don’t represent the subject properly, unless this is the effect you are looking for. For piece to cameras and interviews having soft shadows around the nose show the features of the subject, again making them look real.

The sunlight is your best friend and worst enemy at the same time… As the Earth rotates, we move further away or closer to the sun which changes the lights direction; if you start filming in the morning with your subject lit from the front, by 12 noon the sun is over head and by the late afternoon the light will be behind you. To combat this, keep continuity by filming at the same times each day, or even simpler be aware of the suns direction and gradually rotate the subject and other lights to keep a constant illumination. For me, I was filming from 11am through to 15:00 with the sunlight to my left for the whole day which was very beneficial, but not every time will I be that lucky!

Watch out for clouds that can block the sunlight, and be aware of how the colour temperature of daylight changes throughout the day; cool in the morning and warm in the evening. For me, shooting in midday sun meant a constant temperature of 5200K for both cameras, matching the other light.

The use of a kicker or fill light, pushes out the shadows caused by the key light (the sun), and gives a halo effect to the hair of the subject making them stand out. The difference is subtle but effective.

 

Camera Setup and Composition

Once I had my lighting up and running, it was time to set up the cameras and audio equipment. I was going to shoot using the Samyang 35mm T/1.5 cine lens, but this would result in being intimately close to Yvonne, the subject, which would be quite off putting and may add shadows/interference such as me rustling papers to the recording. Instead, I used a telephoto lens as I can be a good distance away from the subject, and create a narrow field of view that frames up as an MCU (medium close up).

My main A camera was the 5D mkIII, and although the Sigma lens can open up its aperture to F/2.8 for shallow depth of field, this was not required for today. Instead, the camera was set to F/4.5 for a still shallow depth of field, but deep enough for the subject to move forward and backwards in the frame a little, and to de-focus the background. The ISO was set to 200, although when the Sun disappeared behind clouds I would ride the ISO to 250 or 320 depending. To stick to the 180 degree shutter rule, the electronic shutter remained locked at 1/50th.

The B camera was the Canon 60D, I paired this with the sharp Tamron 24-70 F/2.8 and shot wide open, again riding the ISO when required. I did this because this camera was capturing a wide shot of the subject, so depth of field was not noticeable. To keep continuity, both cameras were set to a white balance/colour temperature of 5200K, but it appears that the 60D picture is slightly yellow/green than the 5D picture.

behind the scenes camera dslr audio setup light

Audio

The often forgotten partner to the pretty pictures you see, having top quality audio is just as important as having your subject in focus and exposed. I used the Zoom H6 as my recorder, with the XY mic attached to capture one stereo recording. I also used the Sennheiser ENG-G3 wireless mic kit, attaching a lav/lapel mic to the subject which would be my main audio source. As a back up I also used the Rotolight Roto-Mic plugged into the 5D just in case. Remember to take headphones so you can monitor the sound recording, just like you would use the cameras screen to compose the picture.

Behind the scenes wellbeing video shoot adam plowden videography canon 5D lilliput

The filming went brilliantly. As a precaution I decided to use the ‘record to multiple card’ function in the 5D so I had a back up of the footage in case the cards got corrupted from such long recording times. As mentioned earlier with the lighting, as the light slowly changed, I also adjusted the position of the kick/fill to push back the shadows.

I was very impressed with the Lilliput 1018 field monitor too, and although it is larger than monitors I would usually use the touch screen control and diverse functions suited the shoot well, so I could keep a close eye on the changing light levels.

After the principal piece to camera filming was complete, I ventured out into Epsom and Ewell with Yvonne to film some b-roll pieces that would add to the information and dialogue about wellbeing and health. So, we visited Shadbolt Park outdoor gym, Ewell Court Library, Epsom’s Derby Square, we were going to hit the market but by that time it was 17:30 and no chance of finding fresh fruit and veg to film.. We returned to the car to go to the last location, Epsom Downs, when this happened…

adams broken down car

My car broke down. The filming day abruptly ended with a call to my insurers for recovery, while I also arranged a taxi for Yvonne to take her to the train station. That didn’t put a dampener on the day though, I had captured great video and dialogue that I hope will help many people in the borough and wider community who may be suffering with cancer, heart disease, diabetes or dementia.

I then ingested the footage, and backed up a whopping 80Gb of footage and audio.. Lots to edit through, but thankfully those wonderful geniuses at Red Giant have a tool called Pluraleyes which can sync video with externally recorded video, so suddenly the issue to matching up the audio to the video disappeared, saving me potentially hours of work!

pluraleyes un-synced A bunch of un-synced video and audio clips gets transformed into this –  behind the scenes pluraleyes sync video

Pluraleyes then allows you to export the sequence as an XML that I then imported into Adobe Premiere Pro to edit! It’s ready to go!

 

Overall, very happy with the footage and the outcome of the first day! I need to get out and shoot some more cutaways/b-roll of healthy food, socializing and some more bits and bobs to add.

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.

manfrotto tripod video photo carbon fiber fliud head ball head mount manfrotto tripod video photo carbon fiber fliud head ball head mount manfrotto tripod video photo carbon fiber fliud head ball head mount canon dslr manfrotto tripod video photo carbon fiber fliud head ball head mount canon dslr

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.

manfrotto tripod video photo carbon fiber manfrotto tripod video photo carbon fiber fliud head manfrotto tripod video photo carbon fiber fliud head

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!).

BSC expo warner brothers studios cinematography expo panavision BSC expo warner brothers studios cinematography expo panavision

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!!

BSC expo warner brothers studios cinematography expo bucks new uni wycombe SU BSC expo warner brothers studios cinematography expo bucks new uni wycombe SU

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!

FALCONEYES videography equipment at IBC

Products include, sliders, steadicams and camera rigs that are innovative and cost effective solutions. I’m really impressed with their products, especially the build quality of the parts. I will be testing these out tomorrow as well as many others, so keep watching for the videos!

I have been doing a bit of touristing around the city of Amsterdam today, doing some filming here and there, will do more tomorrow morning, which is also when the camera rig I designed is going to arrive at the hotel!! Over 1 and a half years of work and patience! Will of course post photos when I can!