Rotolight Sound and Light Kit Review!

I have had the Rotolight Sound and Light kit for a little while now, and I like it. I like it even more so because Rotolight has been the only manufacturer to really think about what consumers moving into the industry, and already established creatives would need from the outset. Without light you have no picture, and without sound you only have 50% of that video.Videos with bad or unprepared sound are noticeable, just if the subject of the video was not lit correctly. Unfortunately we are now used to watching and seeing very high quality, glossy pictures with filmic motifs, and excellent sound including orchestral scores. We aspire to work on these ‘big budget’ productions, or to make videos that look like them, but without thinking about your lighting and sound, you are very far off.

I produced this review and the music video using the Canon 5D mark III, and a range of Samyang Cine lenses. To keep the light source and sound as pure as possible, I only used the Rotolight RL-48 B ring light and Roto-Mic. I also used my custom camera rig, which is manufactured by CamSmart, as well as a 5″ Lilliput field monitor. I used Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects and Speedgrade to edit and post-produce the videos.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review led ring light

RL-48 B LED Ring Light

Out of the box, you get everything you need (apart from batteries) to start shooting straight away. The inclusion of a Rotolight belt-bag is fantastic for getting the light out quickly if you are shooting on the run, and for storage while traveling and keeping the batteries, light and accessories safe. One pain I always have, as I am a single shooter is that to change parts of my equipment setup; which means opening my big bag, routing through to find the bit I need and then carrying on. With Rotolights ingenious solutions they have removed that need entirely!

Inside the LED light is a set of ND, skin, colour and minus green filters that can be applied directly inside the housing of the unit itself; no need to carry around filters, gels and pegs to achieve your desired brightness and tone. This is great as no longer do you rely on a bag of old gels to adjust the temperature and brightness of the light source, and all filters are supplied by LEE, so you know you can trust them. The LED’s being naturally daylight at 5600K, you are set to use the light in most conditions! For photography and video with people and models, Rod from Rotolight recommended using a softening ND and the skin filter which gently soft lights the subject, with a peachy, wrapping beam. There are no shadows, and the result is a beautiful glimmer of light in the subjects eyes giving them emotion and life.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography model light

During my time with the Sound and Light kit, I tested out its practicality when out filming indoors and out on location. Above is a still grab from the indoor shots of Josh performing his lines to the camera; you can see a hint of light in his eyes, and a soft-neutral coverage of his face. This was the look I wanted to achieve; an intimate piece-to-camera. I used the ring light and mic mounted on the hot shoe of my camera setup, this gave a direct beam onto the subject, and would work for any subjects in front of the camera. Indoors the RL-48 ring light gives out a beautiful 140 degree beam of light that wraps around your subject, without any hot spots (usually on the forehead). I was filming a music video, but would work exceptionally well in model and fashion work, where beauty is exaggerated through the images.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography

It took some innovative thinking to get the lighting right for this continuous tracking shot. Although I was shooting in the afternoon sun, I still needed a key light to keep Josh’s face illuminated throughout. The night before we were at the location shooting the same scene, but had the ring light mounted on the camera. This time I needed the source to be much closer, so I whipped out the Manfrotto Magic Arm and Superclamp and clamped the light to the boot of my car. In the still grab above, the light is only a foot away from the left of Josh!

What I found here was the need for a brighter light. The 48-LED ring light provided great overall coverage of my subject, but I required a brighter beam to achieve the desired soft-skin and glimmer in the eye look. Although Rotolight produce large LED lights (Anova) for videography and cinematography, I didn’t need that much more power. I think for video it would be great to see this model brighter, or have different brightness levels, as usually you require more light than less – especially when adhering to the 180 degree shutter rule. Once your shutter and aperture are set, the only exposure controlling parameters you have is the ISO/ASA or your light sources brightness, and where you’re unable to move the light closer or further away from the subject; having a brighter light from the outset is more beneficial.  This is a small niggle from myself, but can be shown with examples in these still grabs –

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography night videoshoot filming car tracking model dark (Here the light from a street lamp came in very handy.)

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography night videoshoot test greet tint

This shot was taken on a 14mm T/3.1 lens at ISO 1250. Although I have remedied the low light in Adobe Speedgrade, a green tint is visible across the frame. A minus green filter is included in the kit which can be used where the green spike (due to LED technology) is prominent, but as I was filming in near darkness I chose not to use the filter to get maximum light output, which by the way is 100w! During the shoot I also used the light hand-held to get intimate with my subject, but not blasting them in the face with an offensive flash gun or LED panel light.

Roto-Mic

Like I mentioned earlier, video is (in most cases) useless without good quality sound. Imagine watching a film or TV program and the sound is noisy and fades in and out as the presenter moves around the frame. It is distracting and essentially draws the audience away from the video, it is suddenly and mostly subconsciously hard to watch and enjoy. With current trends in pro-sumers moving to DSLR to make films and video, there is more pressure on achieving good quality sound when acquiring your footage; the built-in mic does not do your pictures justice.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review on camera dslr microphone

Here, Rotolight have entered the sound game by producing an on camera directional shotgun mic, with excellent pickup response and sound to noise ratio. When I first started out in freelance videography 3 years ago, I got myself the original Rode VideoMic; it was the best I could afford at the time, and it did the job I needed – to capture good quality audio that will enhance my video. Since then, Sennheizer, Audio-Technica, Hama and many more brands have seen the need for on camera mics for DSLR videographers, and a competitive market has emerged. One that the Roto-Mic will compete very well in due to its superb signal processing and price – an attractive offer to anyone seeking to invest in a cost-effective solution. You will need a 9V battery to power the Roto-mic, but it will last you a good 100 hours.

One very annoying problem with on camera microphones is noise added by the mic’s shock mount. The Rode VideoMic I have is notorious for that, creating a squeaking noise as you move or walk with the camera that was audible and therefore recorded into the sound of the video – very unwanted! The Roto-Mic shock mount has been specially designed to minimize any movement the mic may be affected by, holding the capsule stiff, without wobbling on the mount; keeping unwanted noise out.

Rotolight considered many filming scenarios when designing the new mic; it includes a gain adjustment of -10dB to +10dB which is very handy when you are far away from the subject or action, or are filming in a loud and noisy environment. A two step high pass filter is also built into the body of the mic which removes any wind noise and rumbles from the captured sound; perfect when filming outdoors. These small but important features show that Rotolight have done their research into where DSLR videographers are working, and how they need to use their kit.

I was really pleased with the results of the sound recorded with the Roto-Mic, I was expecting another Rode VideoMic moment but it never came. The mic surprised me with its quality recording, and with a little noise reduction in post production the final sound recording is clean and crisp.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography night led light mic kit

Rotolight has also been innovative in their mounting options, considering many different setups with the light and mic together. This makes a lovely change from complex accessories hanging off the camera to use two hot shoe mounts. The option to use the light mount, or to mount the light on the microphone gives you many different setup options that doesn’t restrict your shooting, and is not fiddly or complicated to change! I was using the mic and light together; here the mic mounts onto the camera hot shoe, and then the light can be pushed onto the barrel of the microphone. Although I was dubious of this at first, as it would add extra weight to the shock mount and possibly interfere with the sound recording; it has proved me wrong with being fully functional no matter how the light and mic is set up.

rotolight sound and light videography video kit review music video filmmaking shoot videography night videoshoot filming car tracking

My verdict

  • Fantastic kit if you are starting out in DSLR videography – a must have kit to get you started.
  • Ring light provides excellent soft light for work with models, people, macro and prominent subjects.
  • Filters included is really handy, although as I am heavy handed they are sometimes difficult to apply.
  • Battery life is second to none – 4 hours with recommended lithium AA batteries (x3) or regular lithium AA (x3) for 3 hours.
  • Various mounting options means shooting is not restricted.
  • Mic is broadcast quality – remember sound is just as important as video.
  • Gain adjustment is handy in quiet and noisy locations.
  • The Rotolight bag keeps your hands free!

Of course with every review there are some constructive criticism comments, but not many for me as my experience working with the Rotolight Sound and Light kit has been very pleasant. Firstly, a higher power portable light would be ideal for video, with intensity control. Secondly, now Rotolight has entered the sound game it would be great to see other microphones like hand held bi-directional or even lav mics, and a boost in the recording quality (maybe a Zoom competitor??!). Thirdly, and this isn’t criticism, more a request for a flexible light stand or arm so the light can be positioned in extreme and unusual angles.

I am recommending you to go out and get this kit if you’re into your DSLR video and photography and need a light source and microphone that you can take to every shoot you go to! It will definitely be coming with me in the future, and I can imagine the RL-48 LED light working fantastically for wedding films and interviews, teamed up with the Roto-Mic and you have a perfect, all in one, on camera ‘run and gun’ solution to your filmmaking and photography.

You can check out the video I produced for Rotolight demo’ing the new Sound and Light Kit here, and the music video will be released very soon!

Meet the Panasonic GH4

We’ve been waiting a few months for more info on the Panasonic GH4. It briefly appeared at BVE, and only 8 were shown at The Photography Show. Due to Panasonic UK announcing the launch of the GH4 early from the trade show and professional demand, more people are asking the whats and hows of the GH4’s video capabilities; in regards to 4K.

It is the first consumer DSLR to offer 4K, which is a fantastic leap forward into the future of video production that will inevitably get bigger (Moore’s law). We have seen recent demonstrations of Super Hi-Vision (8K) at the London Olympic games from collaboration between NHK and The BBC, but for the first time have we seen 4K possibilities coming home with us. It is now in reach.

Today, John from JHWF, his son Sam and myself headed down to Park Cameras in Burgess Hill for the Panasonic GH4 demo. Eager to try out the camera, and by that I mean actually get your hands on it and play with it, checking out the range of functions and lenses that can be used (something not so easy at trade shows), it was the perfect opportunity to get a glimpse into the reachable future for us as producers. Even more so for John, as he as already invested!

panasonic gh4 demo day dslr 4k camera dslm video

Adam from Panasonic was on hand to answer our many questions, and to demonstrate the innovative features the camera has to offer, which include continuous auto-focus in video mode, as well as how the 4K is achieved from an MFT sensor, and many more..

First of all, the body is tiny. If you compare the body to that of my Canon 5DmkIII it could easily be half the size; which for run and gun videographers, and to keep discreet is a perfect solution. Not only that, but like the Sony A7, you have a large pixel count/density sensor so regardless of the body size the image result will be incredible.

panasonic gh4 demo day dslr 4k camera dslm video recording format screen

The sensor offers the two 4K resolution standards; cinema 4K at 4096 x 2160 and UHD 4K at 3840 x 2160 up to 30fps at either 200Mbps (All-intra compression) or at 100Mbps (IPB compression), which is much better in terms of .mov image quality in comparison to the 5D mkIII max 90Mbits at All-Intra compression. Essentially this means that your image is being recorded in a better quality format, giving richer colours, wider dynamic range and more latitude for grading in post. The HD video format is top notch, offering up to 200Mbps in MP4 format, much better than nearly all DSLR’s on the market today.

Due to the MFT sensor, the focal length of the lenses you mount are doubled for the equivalent. For example a 12-35mm F/2.8 is equivalent to  24-70MM f/2.8 ON A Micro Four Thirds sensor. This means that suddenly the size of the lenses you use get greatly reduced, meaning a smaller kit bag and less back ache at the end of the day.

panasonic gh4 demo day dslr 4k camera dslm video recording format screen mft lens 100 300mm

A run and gun kit using the GH4 could include the 12-35mm as mentioned above, and the 14-140mm F/3.5-5.6 is enough to cover your indoor and outdoor shots, and can fit in a small shoulder bag. What more could you ask for?

The dual OLED screens replicate the live sensor beautifully, with such clarity too. Now a live view finder has been implemented into the view finder, you get an incredible 10,000:1 contrast ratio which is extremely high speed, unlike LCD which refresh rate is much slower. No need for a Z-finder anymore! Oh by the way it is touch screen too, and you can focus and take a photo by tapping the area of the screen you would like to focus on!

IMpanasonic gh4 demo day dslr 4k camera dslm video recording format screen mft lens OLED dual live view finder touch screen

Another incredible feature was the built in Wi-Fi which can be used to control most of the cameras functions INCLUDING touch sensitive focusing and recording (in 4K) via your Apple of Android device! So, leave your camera set up with the Wi-Fi connected to your device and set up your shot from elsewhere! In the right situation, this feature could be killer, much like the GoPro’s wi-fi function for those awkward and obscure shots!

panasonic gh4 demo day dslr 4k camera wi fi

More professional video features include; zebra bars for setting exposure, center marker for image composition, colour bars and 1KHz tone, synchro scan which is useful for suppressing TV and fluorescent light flicker and a Cinelike gamma curves which can be applied. This would come in handy for productions where heavy grading and LUT’s can be applied.

There is also the YAGH interface, which was not at the demo, but its functionality is to provide a DC-12V power input to the camera and interface, which allows 4:2:2/10 bit recording with XLR inputs, timecode, VU meters, which turns the camera from a pro-videography/cine camera to a full system camera for broadcasting. Adam showed us some setups on his phone from recent Hollywood productions using the GH3.

As you may know, I purchased my 5D mkIII in December, for videography/cinematography. To me, I don’t know if I should feel pissed off that I should have waited for the GH4 to be released so I can future-proof my productions, or whether I should jump in and get another A camera right there and then. But then I thought, I have an incredible camera system right here already, and just because this (yes rather amazing) new resolution has become available, doesn’t mean my potential clients will want it. At the moment the current structure and system for broadcasting 4K in the mainstream media of television is non-existent, until the big change happens which means either updating current HD systems to cope with the greater requirements of 4K, or a completely new 4K network is created, the only channel for viewing will be the internet, or cinema. So, if your deliverables are all for YouTube, then go for it, you have a way to get your work out there in its native resolution already. Otherwise, be prepared to down-scale to 1080 HD for normal playback. This may have fantastic results for you, and keeps the incredible clarity, colour richness and the ‘wow’ factor that 4K is now being renown for.

If you are a current Canon/Nikon or other brand shooter, then the answer to your question is not “You will need to buy new lenses for this camera”. A few manufacturers haave designed and produced many workarounds to lens to mount converters; famously Metabones, but also LensAdaptor are worth checking out if you currently shoot with non-MFT lenses. These adapters fit onto the body and lens and effectively allow the lens to be used with a different lens mount.

To conclude, if I had the money I would happily invest in the Panasonic GH4 and not only for the 4K. The high data rates even for 1080p HD are high enough to be broadcasted which opens up what I can deliver for my clients, the kit is smaller so I get less back ache, the Depth From Defocus system allows continuous auto-focus during video, up to 96fps slow motion recording in 1080p HD, Wi-Fi control. I’d be really interested in testing this camera out in a ‘Great Camera Shootout’ review, so clear up the rest of the questions I have about not only capturing video in 4K, but also to see how the MFT 16Mp sensor holds up against the Canon 5D mk III which with Magic Lantern can record RAW.. We shall see, only the future will tell!

panasonic gh4 4k dslr camera demo test day park cameras 1

Please bear in mind that I have never captured footage in 4K, or worked with a 4K camera, footage or system. So what knowledge I am basing this on is my university dissertation in implementing 4K programming into the current UK broadcasting industry, copious research into 4K cameras, technology and productions, attending IBC and many other trade shows to understand the up-to-date technology available.

 

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!

How do you make a timelapse? Video Questions

Finally got round to this!!

A time lapse is a method of photography and videography that captures sequential images from a static camera over a certain period of time, and then sped up in post production to create the illusion of time moving fast.

There are so many reasons why you’d want to use time lapses in your work; from establishing locations to capturing a long event like the northern lights or sunrises and sunsets. Time lapses create a visual spectacle in which time speeds up, you see nature at work and things you would normally miss or take for granted.

If you want to check out some awesome time lapse films, please watch Ron Fricke’s Samsara which includes awe inspiring cinematography captured in 70mm film.

There are a couple of ways you can create a time lapse, dependent on the length of time you wish to capture, the changing exposure settings of the location, and the kit you have.

Cameras and Kit

I assume that most people interested in this post own a DSLR or video camera of some kind, as it is difficult to capture a time lapse otherwise. In all honesty, what model of camera you use won’t make a big difference on the overall video. Whether it is a Canon 110D, 550D or 1D-C, Nikon D3200 or D90, Sony A-7 or Olympus OM-D EM1 your photos and video will look great. Just make sure you have your exposure and focus point set correctly. In regards to what lens you use, in general wide angle lenses give a better perspective of the environment; we’ve all seen GoPro videos, that is ultra wide, but you don’t need a fish eye or specific lenses to do this. Usually the standard kit lens that comes with your camera has a wide angle, whether it be 11mm on MFT cameras or 16mm on full frame, keeping a wide field of view is key to achieving the perspective of a time lapse.

Lets start with time. The longer you wish to capture, the more memory and battery you will need so ensure you’ve got a fresh card and charged batteries, or even better a battery grip. Depending on what camera you are using you may also need an intervalometer; a device that plugs into the camera and releases the shutter for a pre-set duration at a pre-set interval.

Here’s one made by Canon – Canon-Intervalometer1[1]

So, if you wanted to capture a sunset, you will be shooting for a couple of hours. This little device will release the shutter and take a picture for you, however you need to set the interval duration. The longer the interval, the greater the difference between each image as the objects in the frame move and change. For a sunrise or sunset, an interval of 10 seconds should suffice, as the sun and clouds move slowly.

If you were in a city shooting a TL of a busy public place, a shorter interval should be used so the objects or people move smoothly through the frame and don’t jump around.

What are you capturing?

Where will you be shooting the time lapse? Bright daylight at the beach, or in arctic winter? Or star trails and fireworks at night? Your DSLR’s shutter speed will allow you to control the amount of time the shutter is exposed to light, so a longer shutter speed (anything under 1/30 can be used when the sun or bright light is not available) should be used at night when light levels are low. You can also use the BULB setting I believe to capture exposures longer than 30 seconds if you are capturing star trails.In the opposite situation, you can set your shutter to a reasonable speed depending on the light available; but remember changing light is inevitable and uncontrollable in nature so using shutter priority mode (T) or aperture priority mode (A).

REMEMBER YOUR TRIPOD! Shooting for long periods of time need a steady support, to keep the camera locked off and weighed down if needs be! My Manfrotto tripods work a treat.

Experiment and test at the time to judge your exposure settings. Keep your aperture or F stop small so that all objects in the frame are in focus; something like F/11 down to F/22 if in bright light or you can increase the aperture to F/4 up to F/2.8 if you’re working at night. Increasing your ISO to 1000 or 1250 is perfectly fine if your doing a night-lapse, so no worries about that.

Also use the digital zooming capabilities on the camera to get critical focus on a key static point.

If you have less time for a time lapse, then you can always hit record on your camera and film continuously for as long as it can. This is an easy option for those out and about shooting as you can simply wait for 10 minutes or so. Obviously here you have the time restriction to only 10 minutes, so this works best for short burst time lapses of clouds, people & crowds and quick changing landscapes.

For any other setting it would be better to use an invervalometer, mainly as keeping your camera recording will suck the juice out of your battery like anything.

For savvy videographers and photographers alike who may have Magic Lantern already, there is an intervalometer built into the ML firmware which acts just like an internal one. If you don’t want to pay for an external device then Magic Lantern which is open source and free is your best option. Plus having ML on your camera expands its video capabilities greatly.

Post Production – If you have taken a series of photos

You’ve captured an amazing sunset, it has taken you hours and all you want to do is see the finished product. Some methods of editing time lapses are long, boring and not neccessary; taking the photos into After Effects for example, its not needed!

Adobe Premiere Pro is a much simpler and quicker method of getting your TL into a video. Firstly, create your project as you would normally, setting scratch disks to your project folder where the photos are stored. Next, create a sequence dependent on what resolution you would like the video to be. Nearly all photos taken on a DSLR are larger in size than 1080p high definition, so this is a good place to start.

Depending on where you are in the world, your frame rate should be 25fps for UK/EU/Rest of world, or 30fps for USA. This will play your video back at the same frame rate as television and internet, so the time lapse will be smooth.

Now you have your sequence open in the timeline, go to Edit>Preferences>General. Here you can set the default ‘still frame’ (picture) duration to ONE frame; in timecode this will appear like: 00:00:00:01. This sets the sequence of images to play one after the other with 25 pictures in each second.

Now you are ready to import your photos! Simply Ctrl-I or Cmd-I to open the import window, select the folder with your time lapse images and click ‘Import Folder’. Premiere will now import all the photos in the folder and set the duration. You can now simply drag the folder with the photos into the sequence, and your time lapse is now a video. Make sure you render (hit Enter) and watch it back in case you need to correct any frames.

If it looks like the photos are going too quickly, you can change the duration of all the photos very simply; select all the photos in the sequence, right click > Speed/Duration. Here you can increase the frame duration from 00:00:00:01 to 02 frames instead. Here you will need to see what suits your time lapse best. One last tip is to highlight/select all the photos in the sequence, right click, and click ‘Frame Blend’. This calculates the interpolation (movement) of subjects between two images, so it fills in the gaps so to speak.

Post Production – Long Video Files

So you’ve taken the easy road! This method is just as simple as above, and is a quick way of processing a short time lapse. Once you have followed the steps to create your sequence, you can import the video file like you would the photos, instead you simply click the video file needed and click ‘Import’. Then drag the video file into the sequence; here if you have been videoing in a different video format Premiere will let you know that the video and the sequence do not match. It is easier to stick with the format of your original video, so if this happens click ‘Change Sequence Settings’.

video time lapse adobe premiere tutorial

With the video now in the timeline, right click and click ‘Speed/Duration’. Here you can increase the speed % to make it faster, and again will need some experimenting to see which looks the best. Remember the higher the speed increase percentage, the faster the time lapse happens.

Colour Correcting

You can add any colour correction to the time lapse by creating an ‘Adjustment Layer’ and adding brightness and contrast, curves, levels, tint, whatever you like to make the time lapse look great.

timelapse videography adobe premiere pro colour correction

For a ’tilt-shift effect – like the incredible New York Sandbox video you will need to use additional plug ins like Magic Bullet, or add the effect in Photoshop before importing to premiere.

Exporting – finally creating the time lapse video!

timelapse premiere pro export settings tutorial video

Once you are all done, with the sequence selected go to File>Export. If you are uploading to the web, then the H.264 format will work the best for quality and compression. From the drop down menu select H.264 and the Vimeo, Youtube or any other format you wish. There are loads, and plenty of confusing settings so don’t get bogged down in the different types for now. When you think you are ready, and have chosen your file destination and name, you can hit ‘Export’, or if you wish to carry on working in Premiere on another project you can ‘Queue’ to export to Adobe Media Encoder which will export it in the background!

A little example of a video time lapse I shot at Epsom Downs!

I hope this covers your time lapse photography and videography questions? If there is anything I’ve missed or if you have other questions please send them in!

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.

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!