Five things I wish I knew when I started as a videographer….

Five things I wish I knew when I first jumped into the creative videograpy adventure that is my life:

1. It does not matter what camera you use, invest wisely in reliable glass.

Entitled ‘F**k with nature and nature f**ks with you’, after previewing it appears it loads as a playlist, so please skip down to the bottom! Shot on my first DSLR; Nikon D5000 and 17-50mm F/3.5 -5.6, a uni project.

2. Work for free (yes, it’s the only way you’ll generate enough video content, but you’ll make friends, have a good laugh, experience terrible mistakes and awesome times).

Produced by Adam Plowden Videography, edited by Joe Bannister. Shot on Canon 60D, Tamron 17-50, Canon 50mm F/1.8, Canon 18-135mm

3. Fix it in post doesn’t exist, in fact, trying to fix it in post can do more harm than good (at least with low budget DSLR productions like mine still are.. For now..).

I had to return to Sian Williams’ house because I had over exposed a shot, and didn’t get good enough sound during her interview.. Produced by Adam Plowden Videography, ‘Behind The Scenes’ uni project and mini web series.

4. Think of the sound and the light, our primary senses for absorbing content.

A quick example video shot for my Manfrotto Takeover seminar showing the use of sound and light in short video drama to add emotion. 5DmkIII, Samyang 35mm, Tamron 24-70

5. Be yourself and create things that inspire you.. IE: Put you in your work. Copying other artists doesn’t make you stand out, you can learn from them and implement your flair and style into whatever you do. That way, when you begin to get clients you know they are interested in not just what you make, but the person behind it.

A personal favorite is filming plants and nature, a good excuse to get away from the computer! ‘Waterhouse’ produced by Adam Plowden Videography.

Bonus tip. It is kind of included as part of No.2: Collaborate and work with others from different mediums; actors, musicians, vfx artists etc. It is how new ideas are generated!

SYNC is HaZ Dulull’s new short film, I worked with him as well as DP Adam Batchelor on the production! It is backed by Blackmagic Design, Adobe, HP and more so give some support!!!

 

Adam and Glen 1st day in Amsterdam for IBC 2014! Taken on a disposable camera by Glen Symes.
Adam and Glen 1st day in Amsterdam for IBC 2014! Taken on a disposable camera by Glen Symes.

I hope these little tips will serve you well, a shout out to Dave Beck at Avenger and John Harris at John Harris Media too I couldn’t have done it without you! And Glen and Sam. Much love.

 

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What a few months it has been!

Blimey, my last post was a while ago.. Honestly, since then work has got heavy and much of my time is either spent behind the camera or the screen. One exception was the Manfrotto Pro Backpack50 review, shot by Glen Symes for me where I actually appear in a video!

Manfrotto pro backpack50 review video adam plowden and glen symes videography

Some of the things I’ve been up to range from filming quite a few weddings 

to filming and editing for a series of videos on health and wellbeing.

eebc health and wellbeing video edit adam plowden videography

On the side, I’ve talked at EEHS about going through uni and starting a business, am preparing for my Manfrotto Tour videography seminar and other bits and bobs.. I’m sure if you follow me on twitter or facebook you’ll have an idea of the things!

Going back a few weeks, my main projects have been the EEBC Health and Wellbeing video series, and an animation on Telecare. This is a predominantly piece to camera series, with additional b-roll shots to add to the videos messages which range from stopping smoking, to eating a healthy and balanced diet. The standard production of information videos ensued, editing down from around 45-50 minutes to a concise 2 minutes providing the relevant facts and summaries on prevention. Editing in Premiere Pro, I used the very good Luma Corrector tool for exposure changes and a simple RGB curves adjustment for the colour temperature.

I find the Luma Corrector better to work with, as by adjusting the Gamma control slightly, it removes the washed grey look to push out the prominent shadows and highlights meaning that it is very simple to correct/match shots; especially as I filmed using daylight as my key.

adobe premiere pro screenshot luma corrector effect adjust exposure

As per the clients request I have also added subtitles, which I created using the dynamic link into After Effects (noting at this point that if you’re doing several stages of an edit, to duplicate the sequence you are working on before you start the next stage as Premiere and AE require you to save your work for updates to take place, meaning no Ctrl-Z/Command-Z to get back to a timeline with the clips rather than your ‘replace in AE linked composition’).

premiere pro dynamic link sequence editing

I was also out photographing flowers for a wedding, for the florist Madeleine Pink a few weeks ago too! Taken on a range of lenses with the Canon 5D mkIII (Tamron 24-70mm, Sigma 70-200mm, Samyang 14, 35, 85mm cine, and Nikkor 50mm).

Madeleine pink floral wedding flower photography adam plowden videography Madeleine pink floral wedding flower photography adam plowden videography button hole Madeleine pink floral wedding flower photography adam plowden videography button hole 2 Madeleine pink floral wedding flower photography adam plowden videography brides bouquet Madeleine pink floral wedding flower photography adam plowden videography table bouquet Madeleine pink floral wedding flower photography adam plowden videography table bouquet silhouette Madeleine pink floral wedding flower photography adam plowden videography table bouquet 2 Madeleine pink floral wedding flower photography adam plowden videography table bouquet 3 Madeleine pink floral wedding flower photography adam plowden videography table bouquet 4

Since then, I ventured into using Lightroom to edit the photos as well, still learning bits and bobs but found a range of fantastic presets here that create some great looks. I’d appreciate your thoughts on the photos and the looks as well, as it’s mostly stab in the dark/emotive based 😛

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of filming Dan and Kelly’s wedding in Ashford + Foxhills where I met the awesome Ash; a unique wedding photographer! Check out the wedding film here

, and definitely check out Ash’s work over at Ash Darling Photography! Highly recommended by me 😀 and I believe I’ll be working with Ash soon on an up coming wedding, really looking forward to it!

 

Believe it or not, I have been doing some videography too! In between editing the health and wellbeing videos, and on the pre-production sketches of the telecare animation I spent a couple of afternoons in The Woodland Garden in Bushy Park; one of my favorite places to go to switch off work mode, relax and shoot some video for personal projects. I’ve named this one ‘Waterhouse’, it’s the name of the part of the garden where a balcony looks over a pond with a waterhouse to the left. It poses interesting thoughts to its original function, the bricks and foundations holding strong throughout years of use and bad weather. Virginia Creepers pursue to edge up its sides, gripping on to reach the sunlight through the tree canopy.

beautiful blooming purple Allium flower photography adam plowden video waterhouse

The edit is complete, but I am now working on a quirky hipster logo/title animation for the beginning of the video so as soon as it has been animated and comped into the footage I will upload!

The kit I used for the ‘Waterhouse’ video include; Manfrotto 755Cx-3 tripod, Edelkrone Slider+ v2, Canon 5D mkIII, Canon 100mm F/2.8 macro (hence why the shake on the slider is slightly more visible than without IS/OS, but I have used Warp Stabilizer where I can). Tamron 24-70mm, Sigma 70-200mm, Samyang 14, 35, 85mm cine, Nikkor 50mm. After using the Canon macro lens, I have totally decided to purchase the Sigma 105mm F/2.8 OS macro lens; firstly because of future video productions where a small minimum focus distance is necessary (product, people, detail shots), also it has optical stabilization which I found was needed when moving the camera and lens on the slider, and lastly its around £400.. Bargain!

 

Things I’ve learned so far from doing this kind of work;

  • Shoot with a widespread histogram (unless I wish to isolate the subject from shadows behind).
  • Lightroom is awesome, try playing with the presets I linked to work on the developer tools.
  • Regardless if it has been a long day filming, if you want to talk to someone, always, always, always do it!
  • I want a macro lens for intricate detailed shots, as my current range does not let me get close enough to the subject.
  • Take some hand held lights for kicks and fills; the venue room where the table decorations were photographed was very dark. With a tripod and a couple of lights I would have had much more control over the lighting composition.
  • Dabble in a variety of work types, to keep it interesting and different!
  • I need a slider for cinematic moving shots; I have made my choice; not the Edelkrone! There will be a whole blog post on this coming soon.

Fantastic Rotolight Video News – Coming To A Screen Near You!!!

The Rotolight Sound and Light kit video I produced for Rotolight featuring Josh McDonough is being taken on tour to America, where it will be shown to a live audience of 30,000 film students!

If you haven’t already, you can check out the video here!

Check out Josh’s new studio too, and get recording there – Just Jam Studios!

Got a meeting about the recycling project today, then will be getting my new iPhone (about time I know)!

rotolight rotomic ring light tiele motion graphic video

Happy creating you awesome bunch of people, and thanks for all your support so far!

Adams video week roundup!

Blimey lots has been going on over the last week, I hope it has been as hectic for you as it has been for me!

Monday started with continuing the design of the graphics for a recycling animation, a daunting task which put my drawing skills to the test. Bearing in mind I’ve spent the majority of the last year behind a camera, I took my time to learn the techniques I would need to use Illustrator properly. I would usually use Photoshop over Illustrator, but until I recently found out PS is not truly vector, and as I would be using a combination of the Pen tool and others to design the images this was very important, as I would need to transform the graphics later in After Effects.

My best mate Glen came down from Wycombe for a  surprise week to, so I spent plenty of time catching up with him and chatting about work. He gave me so very important advice; “Everything is too complicated these days, you should keep it simple and your audience won’t know the difference, especially if it is moving and animated anyway.” True words, and I took Glens advice which not only sped up the process, but made me more confident with the work I was producing.

Here’s a screenshot to show all of them! (I think I am working on a 10K canvas).

screenshot graphics design drawing art 2d vector create illustrator

The graphics design has been on-going, I practiced when I was first commissioned, but it just shows how familiarizing yourself with the tools and applications can ease your work! A very very important part of this process was to intensively storyboard and plan each scene, so I know what graphics can be generated beforehand, so I spent a good couple of days story boarding and sketching the graphics I would need, followed by a long list of assets I would go on to to create.

Pre-vis sketches:

design plan planning graphics creation motion animation

For the rest of the week I started importing the graphics into After Effects, and setting up the 15 scenes. I am finally starting to see progress! I am still working on this section, and it will take another week or so to complete all the animations. Again, I storyboarded this in the planning, so I know exactly what to produce for which scene which saves so much time. Also, the best thing about this planning part is that it does not have to be a work of art to depict your ideas, just a simple sketch to represent what you will need to create.

graphic storyboard plan pre-production animation motion graphics

On Thursday I joined a crew of fashion designers, hair stylists and models to film a magazine photoshoot for Sherman Hawthorne (the hair stylist and creative director of the shoot) at The Lemonade Factory studios on Queenstown road. With eccentric styles and art direction, I set about to capture high contrast, dramatic footage which will compliment the photos. It was an early start, here I am waiting for my train at Clapham Junction;

video shoot equipment kit list manfrotto camera dslr fashion hair photoshoot lemonade factory

I was a single shooter, I had the pleasure of transporting the equipment to the shoot which included a steadicam vest that I ended up not using. I’ve learned my lesson here not to take extra kit!

My kit list was as follows:

Canon 5DmkIII (A camera), Canon 60D (B camera)

Tamron 24-70 F/2.8 VC, Samyang 14mm T/3.1 cine, Samyang 35mm T/1.5 cine, Nikkor 50mm F/1.4 manual, Samyang 85mm T/1.5 cine, Sigma 70-200 F/2.8 OS

Manfrotto 755CX3, Manfrotto MVH700AH, Manfrotto Hydra arm and super clamp,

CamSmart camera rig + Lilliput field monitor, CamSmart Stabilizer vest, Flycam Nano

Zoom H6, Rotolight Roto-mic.

As with all of these shoots, time runs short so I was restricted to short burst of filming time with the models to capture the specific ethereal and industrial motif, but I also shot around the photographer to maximize my usable footage. I made use of the 50fps slow motion for the moving shots, so that the models movements are exaggerated, as well as stabilizing the shot.

As the props included wire fencing and chicken wire, aliasing was a problem when shooting shallow depth of field, or at an angle to the object. To remedy this I used a lower aperture (F/4-5.6) for some shots, but also I can add a Gaussian blur in Premiere Pro when editing to soften the lines, gently smoothing out unwanted aliasing.

A couple of frame grabs from the shoot!

fashion photo video shoot at the lemonade factory cinematic videography steadicam Here I’m using a moving shot to create a distorted perspective from outside of the set.

fashion photo video shoot the lemonade factory cinematic videography trapped cage bw Here I use a low angle shot, removing the identity of the model to create a ‘trapped’ and ‘mysterious’ feel to the model, and why she is in the box.

Weekends are always working weekend for creatives and freelancers. I spent yesterday working on the animation of the recycling project again, continuing to compose the scenes using simple 2D shapes and animation styles that have become very popular recently.

I also came across this post from Chase Jarvis about how to manage your time properly, its a great post with a detailed outline of 90-minute working slots that should improve your productivity, I urge you to read it if you’re someone like me who can’t stop working, then apply the plan to your working life. I know I will be!

Do Less = Do More by Chase Jarvis

I haven’t had many #videoquestions come in recently, so please keep them coming so I can help with tips for the community of videographers and creatives! Send them over to me @Plowman91 on Twitter.

Finally, ending with a must watch video, check out Philip Bloom’s video shot with the Blackmagic Production Camera, the 4K one at Miami Beach, what do you think of it? Is it worth investing now the Panasonic GH4 is on pre-order and it looks like Sony will have a 4K DSLR announcement coming at NAB2014 too..!!

Philip Blooms Four Corners Miami Beach (Blackmagic 4K camera)

That’s all for now folks! Keep the creative juices flowing!

Update from Adam!

It has been a very busy couple of weeks since BVE, which by the way was great this year. I was over the moon to see the new finalized range of Manfrotto LED Spectra light panels which I got to test out a couple of years ago. Seeing products develop over a long period of time is interesting, even more so when your opinion is considered in how the final product should perform.

Manfrotto also had their re-designed SIMPLA rig to demo, a much lighter and more ergonomic model I must say which is compatible with 15mm rig accessories like their matte box and electronic remote control.

schneider kreuznach optics lens for cinematography bve 1

As well as that, Manfrotto have also joined forces with Schneider Kreuznach optics (page in German), who have a new range of cinema lenses, specifically designed with ease of use in mind. All of the lenses from 24mm to 135mm have the same filter size, length and focus rotation to make filming with a range of the lenses effortless, simply change the lens and your peripherals stay in position. The optics of the lenses blew me away. Even in the well lit Excel, the background bokeh was stunning, soft yet so crisp. I cannot wait to get my hands on them. I think the combination of the new Manfrotto 055 tripod, the SIMPLA rig and Schneider glass will be a killer cine kit, delivering incredible visuals, making your shoot run smoothly, and at a low cost. Give it a year and this will be the go to package for production rentals, and part of every kit bag.

schneider kreuznach optics lens for cinematography bve 2

In other news, I’ve been working with EEBC on a couple of projects; a short video on recycling and another about a Wellbeing centre for those suffering with dementia and their carers. Both projects have messages that are close to me, so I’ve been working hard to blow my clients expectations out of the water. For the recycling video, I’m combining video with animation to show why recycling food and material waste is ever more important today; generating renewable electricity and resources. The Wellbeing centre video will be live action video, featuring the range of activities available to those in the community as well as the vast benefits to carers and visitors to the centre.

So, busy busy at the moment. I’m also meeting some designers from the fashion label ACF (Art Comes First) next week about another video featuring the design process here in London. Very exciting, I’ve been patiently waiting for an art-collaboration project to come along, it’s what I started the business for!

I’ve had no #videoquestions for a while, so remember to keep them coming to @Plowman91!

Remember, inspiration is everywhere so take your camera with you!

excel centre bve london photo camera dslr inspiration

EDIT!!!! Just remembered to include this, I spoke to an un-named informant about the new Samyang/Rokinon VDSLR cine lenses and whether any new models are going to be released. Our brief chat resulted in confirming rumours of a 50mm and 135mm cine lenses coming very soon! I think it’s exactly what the lens range needs, and I will certainly be investing in the 135mm if it is at T/2.2, or pushing it at T/1.8 would be a dream come true. So hear my thoughts Samyang/Rokinon!

Todays VideoQuestions – Image Stabilization

Image stabilization, vibration control, optical stabilization or whatever you wish to call it is an -in lens- operation that reduces pan and tilt vibrations and shake that would blur the captured image. It works by using electromagnets to align a floating lens element, which corrects the shake and vibration over the two axis; left and right, up and down.

Image stabilization is included in a range of lenses from manufacturers, but you will notice the heftier price tag in comparison to a non-IS version due to the extra element in the lens. I will try to clarify the importance of using IS when you’re out filming, and why I use IS lenses for my work.

ef_70-200mmf4_lusm[1] The Canon 70-200mm F/4 without IS = £519

ef-70-200mm-f-4l-is-usm-fsl---1258b005aa[1]This Canon 70-200mm F/4 with IS = £894

When choosing your camera body, tripod, mic and all of the other accessories that seem to be required for DSLR videography, one of the hardest will be choosing the right lenses for what work you would like to do, to cover a wide range of focal lengths and apertures, and how much money you want to spend. All three of those points will affect each other in your final purchase choice, but I hope to help narrow down your choices.

What will you be filming?

One key point to consider, as if you are filming live action sports you will require a different set of tools compared to model and fashion videos. Both however will benefit from at least one IS lens in your kit bag. I work in many different areas and styles of videography, so the kit I carry is an all round solution to whether I’ll be at the back of a conference hall, or only centimeters away from my subject so being prepared before you know what you are shooting on the day is key – also where IS lenses come in handy!

It isn’t recommended to use Image Stabilization when you are filming on a tripod as this can cause frame-by-frame jitter, where the lens attempts to correct smooth movement. But for all the times the camera is not on a steady support like a tripod, having IS will correct any major shake and blurring that occurs in the lens.

So, imagine holding the camera on a monopod with a lens and then tilting or panning. Inherently some shaking will occur from you moving the camera. Depending on your focal length or how far you have zoomed in, this will also multiply the visible blur, also remember DSLR’s rolling shutter which will also be added too if you’re not careful! Is that too much to think about when shooting video? Yeah it sure is. But having an IS lens will correct a good portion of the errors.

Another great example is sports, and running and gunning with the camera (wedding videography for example) where you are moving around a lot.

What focal lengths are you working with?

IS lenses come in a range of focal lengths; the standards are the 24-70 range and 70-200 range. If you are working with subjects closer to you, in the wide and portrait range, then having a 24-70mm with IS can be operated pretty well hand-held or on a monopod (I’d always recommend using at least one support method to achieve steady shots, either a tripod, monopod, rig etc). However if you are going to be further away from your subject then the longer focal length of 70-200 will work better for your needs.

The focal ranges in between the wide and telephoto can be achieved either by zooming, or by using prime lenses which traditionally do not have IS so will have more shake regardless of your mounting or grip method.

Price

You will have to pay more for an IS lens, it is an additional function that works to correct the image before it is recorded, but it is worth the cost. You may only end up purchasing one lens with IS, but I recommend choosing the lens you will use the most to future-proof your purchase.

Models of Lenses and Manufacturers

Presumably, if you are filming on a DSLR you’ll have a Canon body with an EF-mount for the lenses. Canon manufacture very high quality L series lenses with IS, but if you are starting out in this game they will blow your budget immediately. 3rd party manufacturers like Sigma, Tamron, Tokina and Samyang produce incredible quality lenses too, and just because they aren’t Canon doesn’t mean you can’t use them with the camera you have; many 3rd parties allow you to choose the correct lens mount for the camera.

I went down this route when choosing my new equipment, and after plenty of testing and research I chose the Tamron 24-70 F/2.8 VC and the Sigma 70-200 F/2.8 OS, and for me they perform outstandingly.

In many cases you will be using an APS-C size sensor camera like the 60D, 600D, 70D which also have their own range of lenses that are considerably cheaper than their full-frame brothers, some that I have worked with in the past that I can recommend are –

Budget solution – Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 VCNext best thing if you have the money – Canon 17-55 F/2.8 IS

For a longer focal length, above 100mm you’ll have to dig a little deeper in your pocket to get a good quality lens with IS. I did purchase this lens when I started, but because I purchased the NON-OS version it has pretty much been gathering dust in my bag, as at 200mm the image was too shaky and had quite a bit of chromatic aberration. Sigma 18-200 F3.5 to 6.3.. a semi pointless purchase for me, so follow this lesson!

How does using a steadicam affect the stabilization?

Good question. A steadicam is a device that counter balances the weight of the camera and lens to achieve a smooth flowing motion to movement, and takes lots of practice. Using a stabilizer won’t imitate image stabilization, or make the image less shaky – so to speak. This depends on the lenses you are using, how fast you are moving and the experience of the steadicam operator. Using an IS lens on a steadicam will certainly correct shake over the two axis, but a steadicam works on 3 axis so shake and blur is inherent unless you shoot at a higher frame rate or apply stabilization correction in post production.

I tend to shoot most of my steadicam footage at 50fps, capturing double the frames which when played back in slow motion smooths out any jitter or quick movement. Shooting in slow motion is a really cool and creative tool, so it is worth playing around with, but remember you will be recording at a lower resolution of 720p, not 1080p (darn you Canon hurry up and give me this!!).

I shot the example material today, so will top and tail the clips and get them up tomorrow, so watch this space!

Conclusion

Get a lens with IS, or VC or OS as your standard, go-to lens. If you’re going to use a steadicam too, having stabilization on a wide angle lens will be doubly effective and means less stabilization in post!