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.

 

New VLOG coming tomorrow!

I’m doing a new VLOG tomorrow, hosted by myself and Glen Symes as we cover the IBC Show for The IABM. We’ll be giving the low down on our kit choices and capturing the events, news and products from the expo and conference floor.

We depart on Wednesday for Amsterdam where I’ll be catching up with Steve Warner (IABM Training), Nino Leitner (Cinematographer and Cinema5D), HaZ Dullul (SYNC) and many companies including DJI Phantom, Schneider Kreuznach, Sony and many more.

You can keep up to date here on the blog or –

Facebook – Adam Plowden Video

Twitter – @plowman91

Vimeo – Adam Plowden Video

Ooh, I got the Canon 100mm F/2.8L Macro lens, and the Peak Design Leash too 😉

Also been trekking on with the graphics for all of The IABM video content, a little teaser for you;

IBC IABM video teaser still

 

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.

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.

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!

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!

Silence is golden, Planning is key!

A new #videoquestions is out today on how to plan your video production so it runs smoothly, and is within your time and money budgets!

I’m out for a pre-vis meeting this morning for a video that combines animation, where planning has been a very important role in creating a narrative and generating an estimate price for the production. I’ll share my work with you in this#videoquestions later today!

saul bass alfred hitchcock psycho shower storyboard

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!

Creating ambience in motion graphics

I’ve been working on the title graphic for the Rotolight BVE video, sometimes I can get going straight away with designing and animating however (and I presume this is due to getting up early to start working) I was stuck for ideas..

VideoHive is a great resource for re-made graphics sequences for After Effects, but they are also great for getting inspiration on how to create the atmosphere and effects for your own work. I spend a good half hour looking through the pre-made effects and gathered some ideas.

One key point I’ve found to make the graphics seem realistic, and to give it an ambience there are a couple of things you can do to make it more life like. Number one is to use a particle generator to create dust to naturally drift around the environment. The particles can be given physical attributes like gravity and wind, which makes the animation more realistic.

after effects particles atmosphere ambience rotolight

Number two, using light and lens flares; this leak of light appears to give the environment in which your text, graphics etc seem to be in a 3D space shot through a camera – these are naturally occurring when out filming and in our eyes, so it can be used too.

Number three; textures and patterns; for a graphic based (not so much vfx based) title, tiling textures and patterns to create a wallpaper background is visually appealing, as is only using a number of tones from a simple colour pallet.

Number four; interpolation and motion blur. Again just like in real life, our brains process the images we see at around 16 frames per second, and fills in the spaces in between. In graphics this motion blur needs to be added, to correctly interpolate the animation and blur of a subject or object. The local and global motion blur (bouncing ball) icons are easily found on the timeline so be sure to click!

Number five; depth of field. In cinematography the director uses the depth of field to move the audiences attention through the frame to reveal new parts, to uncover secrets and ideas. This can be done in motion graphics too, by using a Camera. When you have a camera in your composition, be sure to check ‘enable depth of field’ and to set your aperture to a low F stop (F/1.8 for example) and increase the blur amount. After Effects then generates depth of field using the camera settings; making objects close and far away from the camera blurred.

rotolight title graphic after effects camera blur

Here’s a snap of the working-graphic for the title, for a cinematic look to the video I have also applied an anamorphic aspect ratio overlay. I might make some changes later, but for now it is off for comments and feedback. If you have any questions about the graphics or videography then give me a shout!

rotolight rotomic ring light tiele motion graphic video