I’ve been quiet on the old WP blog recently, this is only due to a migration from my old website to a new system with Squarespace, which has allowed me to import my entire blog from here, into my new website!
I won’t be closing this blog/account, so I am still reachable with your messages and comments, but I will be posting from my new website at www.adamplowden.com so please go and check it out!
I had a great day at the Manfrotto Takeover on Wednesday at Park Cameras London, I hope all the visitors enjoyed their day too! I’m very busy at the moment, heading out to film a wedding today and tomorrow and have a growing collection of editing that needs to be completed too.. Better to be busy than to be sitting around doing nothing though!
I got to test the new Schneider Xenon cinematography lenses on Wednesday too; built for 4K cine productions, the T/2.1 prime lenses have focal lengths of 35, 50 and 75mm with other models soon to be available, and I’ll be using them on my productions later on down the line. I was blown away by their performance, it’s like looking through a new pair of eyes.
More to come later! Keep creative!
For those that couldn’t make the day, or my seminar on videography a podcast will be uploaded later when I get back from the wedding and I am putting together a highlights video of the day (shot on Panasonic GH4 in Cinema 4K and on 5D mark III with the Schneider cine optics).
We had another toying test day yesterday, with new glass too; the Panasonic/Leica 25mm F/1.4 (equivalent to 50mm F/1.4) and the Panasonic 100-300mm F/2.8 (equivalent to 200-600mm F/2.8). We keep finding great features and little things that make this camera wow us!
We were out filming and testing out the capabilities of the camera at Epsom’s Thai festival taster, we used the 14-140mm F/3.5-5.6 OIS lens recording in 4K. The video will be uploaded and shared soon!
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.
The Canon 70-200mm F/4 without IS = £519
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.
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.
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 –
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!
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!
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!
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 –
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.
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.
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!