With the growing demand for still and motion capture from clients, interest in continuous lighting options grow as do the number of products available to meet this need.  I have wanted to explore the use of continuous lighting in a studio setting for a while, and thanks to K5600 Lighting and Calumet Photographic NYC I recently got the chance to work with a Joker-Bug 800 watt HMI.  The experience is best summed up as “illuminating!”

The concept for the “HMI” shoot was to capture stills and motion clips of a martial art competitor.  I had tentatively entitled the project “Shadow Dance.” I knew that I wanted a very distinct shadow to be an integral part of the visual experience.  Since I wanted to work with only one light source, I needed the light to be broad. I considered several Profoto modifiers with which the Joker is compatible, but ultimately felt that the K5600 Big Eye Fresnel would allow me to achieve my objectives.  The session would be shot with a 5D MarkII with a 24-105mm lens, mounted on a freestanding monopod with a fluid head.  A custom white balance would be set. 

The Joker-Bug 800 and Big Eye did not disappoint.  The light was crisp, clean and with the lamp positioned in the flood position, broad.  The light was placed camera right and effectively lit our “set” area which was an isolated 15 x 15 foot area in the Gallery space on the second floor of Calumet Photographic NYC.  I decided to work in Manual mode and settled on a working aperture of F5.6.  In making the decision to shoot at F5.6, I knew that I would not be shooting stills during this session at ISO 100.  The light meter readings in the model’s “working” area confirmed my belief with a shutter speed range of 1/20-1/30.  Further metering indicated that in order to achieve a minimum shutter speed of 1/100 to ensure sharp stills that I would need to be at ISO 320 or higher.  I set the camera to Auto ISO, and took a few stills.  The stills’ information display confirmed that the camera would be operating at ISO 320 or higher.  The camera was placed on a monopod with a base support and a fluid head for stabilization during video recording.

Shadow Dance: A Still and Motion Capture Session using HMI Lighting .

I shot using one camera and decided to shoot Full resolution RAW stills during the video recording process.  The shutter sounds that you hear during the video clip were actually recorded during the session.  The pause and still display in the video is longer than the actual video recording interruption and was an editing decision.  The actual interuption experienced capturing still while shooting video with the 5D MarkII is approximately one second. Because of the pause action when shooting stills while recording video, one might consider using multiple cameras.  At some point in the not too distant future, simultaneous still and video capture will become available on HDSLRs.  Had I been shooting with multiple cameras, I would have set the camera recording video to a shutter speed of 1/60 (using the 2x FPS guideline), but my priority to capture stills drove my shutter speed considerations.

I walked away from my experience feeling that HMI lighting is a compelling option for the studio photographer interested in capturing stills and video during the same session.  The 800 watt lamp allowed me to light the set, and place the light at a comfortable working distance from the model.  It was actually kind of mindboggling that this six-pound lamp was capable of putting out the equivalent of nearly 4000 watts of tungsten.  Although I elected not to use other light shapers, I knew that I could use a variety of tools from beauty dishes to soft boxes to giant reflectors to alter the character of the light if I had wanted to. 

At $4,500 for the Joker Crossover 800 (includes the Adapter for mounting Profoto light shapers), there is no question that these are expensive lights. If your business demands power and versatility, they may be a smart investment.  If you can’t justify the expense of an outright purchase, rental on an as-needed basis is a viable option.

If you are interested in learning more about the K5600 product line, visit: http://www.k5600.com/crossover.  

For Corporate and Studio sales in the New York Metro area contact Jamie McDougall at:   Jamie.mcdougall@calumetphoto.com.

I have elected not to cover some material in this entry because there are some wonderful resources available on line:

To view videos on the many parts of the Joker-Bug system, click on the K5600 youtube Gallery.

To see a video of the Big Eye setup, click here.

To read S1 Group, Toronto’s “K5600 HMI Light Output Test with Mola, Profoto and K5600 Lighting Modifiers” click here.

Again thanks to K5600 Lighting and Peter Bradshaw and Calumet Photographic New York.

Disclosure: No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration

 All images -still and video- in this entry and in this blog are copyrighted and used with permission.

copyright 2010

 There is a great deal of mystery surrounding HMI lighting for many a still photographer and HDSLR motion shooter.  Ask about them and you are likely to hear:  “They are expensive;”  “They are daylight balanced;” “I’ve seen them used on movie sets;” “Did I say that they are expensive;” “They get hot;” and “My stylist pulls clothes from there.” (Tell the person who gives you the last answer that you said “HMI” not “H&M!”)  You may also hear some claiming to have found budget-priced “HMI” lighting, leaving you to wonder. 

HMI stands for Hydrargyrum (Mercury) medium-arc iodide and is one of several types of metal halide, High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights. HIDs are “arc” lamps; and as such, they rely on the combination of gas and metal salts and an electric arc between two electrodes to produce light when ignited by current.  Incandescent lamps, on the other hand, rely on a tungsten filament to produce light.  HMIs require a ballast (today’s are electronic rather than magnetic) to ignite and regulate the arc.  The upshot is that the arc lamps, and HMIs in particular, produce greater light output and are more energy efficient than incandescent lamps.  By way of example, the output of a 200 watt HMI lamp (depending on the type of reflector used) is similar to that of a tungsten bulb in the 650-800 watt range.  With cameras capable of producing stunning results at higher ISOs, Peter Bradshaw who represents HMI lighting manufacturer  K5600® Lighting points out that  “At ISO 800, an 800 watt HMI puts as much light on the subject as a 6,000 watt Fresnel does at ISO 100 — in a smaller, less expensive package, and can be run on standard 15 amp lines instead of tying in to the main (220V) breakers.” 

Image Courtesy of K5600® Lighting

HMI is actually a product name which is a trademark of Osram-Sylvania, but is used generically to describe metal halide lamps much in the same way that Xerox is used as a catchall for photocopying.  In addition to being more efficient than incandescent lamps, HMIs are daylight balanced which means that no filters are required for outdoor use and there is no resulting reduction in light transmission.   HMI lighting is a hard light source which is available in sufficiently large enough wattages to be able to control lighting in outdoor environments including overpowering the sun. HMIs can also, however, be very versatile lights. Bradshaw points out that   “The K5600 Jokers offer a point-source daylight source — the lamp — in a head which can shape light from narrow-beam hard (our Focal Spot) to big source soft (our Multi-Bug Chimera Adapter & Soft Tube), pausing in the middle with the Beamer par reflector and a set of Fresnel lenses.  Additionally, K5600 has introduced the Crossover Adapter, allowing still photo light modifiers to be fitted onto our 200, 400 & 800 watt heads.

 Between energy efficiency, power/projection, and color temperature, HMI lighting has enjoyed popularity in film and broadcast circles. Bradshaw is quick to add that as far digital imaging goes, whether talking about stills or motion, “We all know that digital loves daylight.”

The response to the issue of whether HMIs are truly expensive is not as cut and dry as it might seem. A single 200 Watt HMI kit averages in the neighborhood of $2600.  The lamps can set you back a couple of hundred dollars as well.  For the amateur or enthusiast photographer/videographer for whom ownership is important, they may be viewed as expensive, especially when compared to flash lighting for which the price of admission can run as low as a couple of hundred dollars, or when compared to the initial outlay for tungsten, some florescent and even some LED units. But for photographers/videographers whose work demands a combination of continuous light with reach and flexibility, daylight balance and efficiency or for production and broadcast companies, the expense is justified by the “tool.”  If ownership of HMIs is not an option, whether you are an enthusiast or a working “imageer,” they can be rented when needed.

Now we need to go back to being technical again.  You may hear the term “hot re-strike” or “hot restart” used when HMIs are being discussed.  What this means is that the lights can be restarted immediately after being turned off.    I bring this up now because there are HID metal halide lamps available which are marketed by some as “low cost HMIs” for video and still applications, which are actually CDMs or Ceramic Discharge Metal Halide lamps.  The major differences between CDMs and HMIs are:  CDMs are “cold re-strike” or “cold restart” which means that you have to wait five minutes for warm-up and five to ten minutes once they are extinguished before relighting them; cold re-strike technology results in CDM bulbs being less expensive than HMI bulbs and a having longer life; and CDM power options are not as robust as the HMI options.  CMDs have been around for sometime; they are commonly used for architectural applications where powerful but low heat-generating and efficient lighting that can be run for long periods are required. CDM ellipsoidal and Fresnel fixtures are used overhead in theatrical productions as well.

 Richard Andrewski of Cool Lights which offers HMI and CDM Fresnel fixtures makes the distinction between the two types of metal halide options and is very candid about the differences on his Web site and in the various Internet forums he monitors. “You have to keep in mind that HMI lights were originally intended for film and broadcasting whereas CDMs were intended for a host of commercial applications from architecture to grow lights which simulate sunlight.” While HMI lights used for film and broadcast are generally in the 6000 Kelvin range in terms of color temperature and have a high CRI (color rendering index,) Andrewski points out that there are a broad range of CDM bulbs available from 3000 Kelvin to about 8000 Kelvin. We [at Cool Lights] have gone with the 5400K for our CDM products because it is in the standard range that video and film professionals are looking for.  5400K isn’t a standard color temp they manufacture in so we had to get them custom made.  We have been experimenting with the 6000K ones to match HMIs but they are often lower in CRI than the other color temps.”

Image Courtesy of CoolLights™

Andrewski cautions those who are considering CDM products to not only look at the color temperature of the bulb but the CRI as well.  Why is the CRI important?  The CRI is a rating (0-100 scale) of the lights ability to reproduce color accurately, without distortion:  The higher the CRI rating, the greater the color fidelity. Andrewski also points out that some of the CDM products being marketed for film and video usage use frosted bulbs and are intended for use in modifiers such as soft boxes.   “We chose the smaller single ended bulbs [for our CDM products] because they are very good point light sources, can easily change from tungsten color to daylight color with just change of bulb with no loss from gelling in other words, and they would readily go in today’s compact Fresnel and par fixtures which are the form factor and point source that many video people prefer to work with.”

This is our first installment in a series of articles on HID lighting. I hope that you have found the discussion informative and of value.  Over the summer we will be exploring HMI and CDM lighting further along with other topics of interest. I’d like to thank Peter Bradshaw who represents the Crossover program for K5600 here in the North America and Richard Andrewski of Cool Lights for their willingness to share their insights. 

I would be remiss if I did not stress the need for care and safety in operating HID lights.  Whether you rent or buy, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation, and transport of the fixtures, ballasts and lamps.  Many HID lamps emit ultraviolet radiation while lit so do not look directly into an unshielded lamp and take necessary precautions if the fixture you are using them in does not have UV protection. Do not handle the bulbs as the oils from your fingers can shorten lamp life. (Peter suggests that you add a pair of leather gloves to your kit.) Do not touch the lamps when they are hot, and remember that if you need to dispose of them, they do contain mercury and /or other materials that may require special disposal procedures.  If you have any doubts, consult the lamp manufacturer’s Website, and/or contact your local sanitation department or environmental oversight agency.

Disclosure: No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration

 All images in this entry and in this blog are copyrighted and used with permission.

While the average camera enthusiast may not be familiar with the name Frezzi, those in the world of electronic news gathering (ENG) and broadcasting most certainly are.  Frezzi lighting products are often spotted atop professional video cameras and their daylight balance HMI products are among the more popular sun gun fixtures available in the market.

image courtesy of  Byron Atkinson

  With the growth in HDSLRs among broadcasters, Frezzi has taken an integrated approach and offers platforms to its customers that address the need for lighting, power and stabilization.  This integrated approach is not new for Frezzi:  It is consistent with their product offerings for traditional video cameras.  But they are one of the few companies offering this kind of integration solution for HDSLR users, and in doing so, may undoubtedly find their product have appeal to a far broader market.

Kevin Crawford of the New Jersey-based company provides us with an interesting look at the company and its latest products.

Q:  Frezzi is probably best known for its lighting products.  What sets Frezzi apart from the other lighting companies?

KC:  Frezzi has been innovating and designing portable lighting and power packs for television news since the beginnings of terrestrial broadcasting.  My grandfather, James Frezzolini, founded the company while working as the Chief News Reel Cameraman at WPIX Channel 11 here in New York City.  As a skilled machinist and inventor, he developed the world’s first portable lights for use with 16mm Bell and Howell Film cameras used for news at that time.   It all started there and continued for the TV news industry with a broad range industry firsts, including lighting, power packs and Frezzolini 16mm film cameras.

We offer photographers and videographers their choice of lighting products; tungsten, HMIs, and LED replacement lamps.   Frezzi is the only company offering a line of highly portable and lightweight HMIs, from our 15W Micro Sun Gun to the 400W HMI Super Sun Gun.  They all can be DC battery-powered, making them great field lights.  Additionally, Frezzi lighting products are made and serviced here in the USA. 

Q:  What made Frezzi decide to enter the market with HDSLR compatible products?

KC:  It was an easy decision for us.  We have been providing Frezzi Mini-Fill lights as continuous light sources to the still photography market for years.  We actually saw a growing number of still photographers using tungsten fill lighting rather than flash units for some of their glamour and wedding work.  This eliminated harsh flash shock while utilizing continuous lighting for highlighting and accenting. Also, you cannot replicate the warmth and full color spectrum of a good tungsten lamp source. 

Given the fact that our products are designed to be portable, support and improve the handheld camcorder shooting experience, expanding the Frezzi product line to include HDSLRs was a natural.  Since some of the products we offer for HDSLRs are adaptations of products originally used for and proven to work with professional broadcast cameras.

Q;  How important is the lighting component of the HDSLR rig or system?  What advantage does the Frezzi approach offer?

KC:  The lighting is extremely important even though the HDSLR can shoot at low light.  We’ve seen some good available light video, but when a subject properly lit [with a Frezzi,] you’ll see a dramatic improvement in image quality.  The image will be more vivid and the colors will really “pop” as the light will help to separate the subject from the background.  You’ll see that “sparkle in the eyes” and bring your subject to life.  Being low light sensitive is good with the HDSLR because you can gently wash your subject with accent lighting by adjusting the dimmer control just enough to bring up the warm, golden skin tones and fully saturated colors while having the camera’s sensor working in the “sweet spot” for an ideal image.  Our rig has the advantage of the light being powered by a Frezzi battery on the back of the shoulder support which also serves as a counterbalance as well as a power source for those using a monitor and/or other accessories.

Q:  You have two types of rigs available: one which is hand held and the other which is shoulder mounted. Can you tell us about them?

KC:  Customers soon find out HDSLRs are heavy and cumbersome to shoot video, creating painful wrist and arm fatigue over time.  This makes it difficult to acquire smooth, professional-looking video when shooting for extended periods of time.  

The Frezzi Hand Held Rig is a multi-purpose stabilizer and camera support arm.  It mounts the HDSLR to the support arm, on the opposite side; it has a handle with battery mount.  This configuration is well-balanced and easy to handle because the weight of the camera, lens and other accessories is distributed along the support arm.  The Power Block battery on the handle

Image courtesy of Frezzi 

Image courtesy of Frezzi

acts as a counter-balance and power source for the Frezzi light or any other 12V accessory.  As you know, having a balanced rig helps keep the camera steady when doing handheld and roving shots. 

The Stable-Cam Shoulder Rig is a full HDSLR platform for camera, battery, and light with multiple cold shoe mounts for additional accessories like monitors, wireless mics and audio recorders.  One big design concern for us was to create the Stable-Cam as a “tool-less” assembly and also have the ability to fold up small enough to fit in a carry-on.  When deployed, the Stable-Cam is fully adjustable to different body types and every joint articulates.  One of the


Image courtesy of Frezzi

advantages the Stable-Cam offers is a lower waist boom which provides an additional point of contact for stabilization and relieves the weight from handholding.  You can easily adjust focus and camera settings using the Stable-Cam as 100% of the weight is balanced on your shoulder and waist.  Many users refer to it as a “Human Tripod” since it offers the ability to shoot for hours without any wrist or arm fatigue while holding the shot smooth and steady.  Again, our high capacity batteries which can power the Frezzi light, monitor or any other 12V accessory are integral to the system. 

Using one of the Frezzi HDSLR Stabilizer rigs results in the camera and accessories being both  balanced and more manageable which makes for smooth and professional looking images and video clips. 

We offer both stabilizers in “kit” configurations which include the Stabilizer, a MINI-Fill and a battery. There are different kit configurations available with MSRPs between $1150 and $1950.

Q:  Your mini “sun gun” can utilize a tungsten or LED bulb.  What factored into your decision to offer both? 

KC:  The Frezzi Mini-Fill Dimmer is an industry standard video light used by tens of thousands of professional broadcasters around the world.  It accepts any standard MR-16 lamp, with a GX5.3 socket base, up to a 100 Watts.  With the wide proliferation and availability of LED MR-16 type replacement lamps, LEDs are a logical choice when lower power consumption and long run time are considerations.  LED MR-16 lamps are “direct” lamp plug-in replacements, suitable for any MR-16 fixture. So it’s a simple evolution of technology that has made this possible.  Being able to switch back and forth between Tungsten and LED has its advantages based on shooting and lighting conditions as well as the photographer’s intent. 

Q:  What kind of run times are you estimating with the batteries that come with the systems?

KC:  Run times depend on the wattage of lamp and accessories being powered, but in general when using our Hand Held Rig and Power Block battery, the Frezzi Mini-Fill Dimmer with 35W Tungsten lamp will run for almost two hours continuously; with an 8W LED replacement lamp, the run time jumps to over eight hours of continuous light at 5500 degrees daylight color temperature.

On our Stable-Cam powered rig which uses a more robust battery, the 35W Tungsten Mini-Fill Dimmer will run almost 2.8 hours With an 8W LED replacement lamp will run for over 12 hours.

But keep in mind, with the addition of a LCD monitor and other accessories that require power, the battery run time will decrease.  

Q:  Can your HMI units be fitted on the HDSLR rigs, and if so are there any advantages to using them over tungsten and LEDs?

Frezzi HMIs can be fitted to the HDSLR rigs with ease.  Frezzi lighting has standardized shoe mounting and power connectors making substitution simple.  The advantage of HMI is their high output at daylight color temperature 5600K.  When shooting outdoors in direct sunlight or when the subject is back lit, HMIs are unequaled among continuous lighting products in their ability to light a subject effectively to eliminate shadows.  Tungsten lamps need to be color-corrected from 3200K to 5600K which will reduce their light by approximately one f-stop.  Most LED sources at this time do not have enough throw and fall off very rapidly to be effective outdoors in direct daylight.

Some of our customers are using our 15W HMIs on HDSLR rigs as a fill-in light, and our 24W HMI stand mounted, as key and back lighting.  Being all battery-powered, small and extremely portable makes them great as HDSLR portable light kits.  While these customers are using the lights as portable lightings kits with “HDSLR for News” crews, documentary work and ENG crews, we believe they will be attractive alternatives for other segments of the HDSLR market.

Frezzi HDSLR support and light products are available now.  For more information on these and other Frezzi products visit: http://www.frezzi.com or call (800) 345-1030.

Thanks to Kevin and James Crawford of Frezzi.

Disclosure: No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration

 All images in this entry and in this blog are copyrighted and used with permission.

What’s in our Sister blogs:

HDSLRS-n-motion:  HDSLR Cameras: Products to Watch For

Byron Says:  Story Telling

On LEDs and LEDZ

On May 11, 2010, in lighting, photography, by admin

Not surprisingly, as more and more people embrace shooting stills and motion with HDSLRs, the interest in lighting products grows at a record pace. And many are discovering—and singing the praises of—LED lighting. While many HDSLR users’ initial exposure to LED lighting is often with the small units which can be seated in the camera hot shoe, those lighting applications are merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of applications for still and motion work. LED lighting, which is short for Light Emitting Diode, has become a staple in the film and broadcasting industry.  I approached A.J.  Wedding of ESS, the worldwide distributor of LEDZ products, to talk about the LED market and their unique product range.

Q: What’s fueling the growth of LED usage for stills and motion?

AW:  There are several factors influencing the growth we are seeing:  As companies increase their online advertising, there is a demand for more multi-media collateral.  Advertisers now have an increasing need for motion.  Right now, many shoots are being done as hybrids…half still photos, half video footage.  And you can’t shoot both at the same time with flash.  The only continuous lights that have been powerful enough to match flash have been HMIs.  As more powerful LED products have become available, they have become viable competitive lighting alternatives for many imaging professionals. While LEDZ lights can currently only take the place of low-end HMIs, this is still an amazing feat.  And the technology continues to develop.

There is also the Green factor:  With the whole world going green, everyone wants to find smarter and more efficient energy solutions, and this trend has tremendous appeal in “Hollywood”. Any time you can create lights that are more energy efficient, create less heat, and still give off the true color spectrum needed for serious cinematography, it’s a no brainer.

Then there are the cost considerations: The upfront cost of the more powerful LED units like our Brute 30 unit tends to cause sticker-shock, but you really have to compare it to all of the costs associated with an equivalent HMI.  Our LEDZ lighting units and their diodes are guaranteed for 40,000 hours of usage; for the same life that our lights are guaranteed for, you will pay $55,000 for new globes for an equivalent HMI product. The savings to a rental house which on average spends $250,000 on globes per year…well, you can do the math. This translates into immediate and long term cost savings. 

Q:  What distinguishes the LEDZ line from some of the other LED options in the market?

 AW: LEDZ is definitely a very different type of light from other LED lights.  That is why we compare our products with HMIs, rather than other LED brands.  Most LED brands are very good at offering a nice, soft fill that is great at a distance of three to four feet.  That is not our world.  Our engineers have created a unique product that has the kind of throw and punch equal to the more powerful tungsten alternatives and HMI lighting in the 100 to 400 watt range.  LEDs offer inherently soft light, and getting them to fire long distances is quite a challenge, but we have created that punch and in doing so have distinguished ourselves from other LED product on the market.

Q: Tell us about the LEDZ line.

 AW: The LEDZ Line consists of:  The  Mini Par (a compact light with three interchangeable lenses for spot and flood settings);  the Brute 3 (an amazingly powerful light that can fit in small spaces, be used as a reporter light, or any 1/4″ 20 mount); the Brute 9 (a “sun-gun” alternative which can be fitted with a handle, or used as a soft fill on a stand); the Brute 16 (our workhorse, equivalent to a 200 watt HMI or 1k tungsten source); and the Brute 30 (equivalent to a 400 watt HMI or nearly a 2k tungsten source.)  All of our products are fully dimmable.

Q:  What power options are available?

 AW:  Currently, all of our lighting units come with AC/DC power.  With the exception of the Brute 16, all of our units are 12V compatible, so they can be plugged into many commercially available battery units.  We are, however, in the process of manufacturing a universal battery system that should be available later this year.

Q:  Are LEDZ products only for the “professional” market?

AW: LEDZ lights are distributed by Hollywood Rentals, and in order to cater to our main customers, we had to make sure that the lights we created were durable, powerful, and could withstand the scrutiny of Hollywood’s top cinematographers and gaffers.   Does this mean that non-professionals can’t use them?  No.  Anyone who wants a high quality light for any reason, be it a Web series, home video, or whatever you shoot should consider LEDZ lights. In terms of our product price range, The Brute 3 retails for $450, while the top of the line Brute 30 retails for $4900. 

 Q:  Where can people who are interested in LEDZ products buy them?

 AW:  The best place to go is www.led-z.com, and you can find your nearest dealer.  If you can’t find someone near you, you can contact Manny Barreras at ESS.  His info is on the Website.

Thanks to A.J. Wedding and Manny Barreras of ESS.

I do want to make final point and this is a general observation about the use of smaller LED lighting units. While LEDZ does not offer lights with a hot shoe mount, their smaller lighting units can be used on-camera with third party adapters. While many people are inclined to mount smaller LED lights on their cameras, unless you are using your camera for “ENG” (electronic news gathering) type applications which have very specific lighting objectives, I recommend that you move those units off-camera, and mount them to a stand or on a handle.  “On-camera” continuous lighting, like “on-camera” flash, although usually less powerful, is still direct light and is more often than not, less flattering than other alternatives.

Disclosure: No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration.

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On Thursday May 13 and Friday May 14, I am running a two-day workshop is intended for the “non-filmmaker,” and is set up to provide an intensive introduction to shooting motion with a Canon HDSLR. This first workshop is being put on in concert with Calumet Photographic’s New York City Store, at 22 West 22nd Street (212-989-8500.)
The program is divided into two parts:
Part 1 will cover all the shooting fundamentals with a focus on understanding the camera set-up and equipment/accessories which can enhance the motion capture experience. Areas that will be explored include the following:
– Camera controls and settings
– Batteries and memory cards Stabilization and stabilization options
– Sound
– On-camera Lighting
– Essential equipment for motion capture
– Software alternatives and basic editing considerations
– Common shooting courtesy
Part 2 is intended to put you, the camera, the stabilizer and the other essentials together with a story or theme and provide an opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in the workshop. Areas that will be covered include:
– The importance of a story or theme
– Framing, composition, and movement
– Interior and exterior lighting (made easy)
– What you need to know about shooting stills and motion on the streets of NYC
– Editing considerations
Additionally, workshop participants will have an opportunity to develop a story and shoot their story with actor/models included in the workshop’s $299 cost.
(The Canon 5D MarkII and 7D cameras will be used for demonstration purposes and attendees are encouraged to bring their cameras and memory cards and other accessories if they so choose. We will supply the models and lighting, as well as some stabilization alternatives for use.)
Handouts covering both days will be provided for you to keep.
For More information about the course and to sign up, click here.
For information about the June and July dates additional workshops contact info@theimagician.com.

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White Balance Tools Plus….

On March 25, 2010, in photography, by admin

Never underestimate the value of custom white balancing, whether you are shooting stills or motion. Custom white balance is all about your making decision about color, rather than allowing your camera to make the decision for you. Custom White balance is also all about consistency: As long as you are shooting under the same light, regardless of what is in the picture, your white balance will be consistent. There are two ways to create a custom white balance: the reflective method or incident method. The Incident method of white balancing, which was recently covered in our companion blog, www.hdslrs-n-motion, generally involves placing a neutral filter over the lens and shooting a frame from the position of your subject, to measure the light and color of light hitting the subject. The reflective method, which is covered here, involves shooting a neutral gray or white card, which captures and measures the color of the light reflected off the card, from the subject position to the camera sensor. That frame becomes the benchmark reference, under those lighting conditions, that renders white “pure” whether you use it to set the in-camera white balance or use it to set white balance during post processing. You should refer to your camera manual for step-by-step instructions on how to set the custom white balance using the reference frame.
Let’s get one thing clear, white balance is not absolute, as in if you have ever used or compared the results from more than one white balancing aid, you may see some subtle differentials in the rendering of “neutral.” Sometimes one may produce a slightly warmer or cooler tone than another. Custom white balance is a tool, and for those who intend to get creative, whether it’s a simple black and white conversion or an edgy fashion image, accurate color is a great place to start from. There are people who are perfectly happy with their camera presets, and depending on the conditions they are shooting under, the presets may indeed be acceptable.
In addition to solid color white balancing tools, there are multi-color balancing aids available which allow for color checking, balancing and correction during post processing as well as exposure evaluation during a shoot. One of my new favorite color balancing tools is the X-Rite Color Passport Checker. This pocket-sized package has everything you need to manage white balance and a color-corrected workflow and comes with camera calibration software which allows users of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom products to develop DNG camera profiles.
There are a number of choices available for managing white/color balance from the very basic and inexpensive 18 Percent Gray Card, to more sophisticated, durable and expensive products like those from WhiBal, X-Rite and others. Many of the manufactures have tutorials on their sites to show you how the products are best utilized.
A final word on choosing products to use for setting color balance: Although people often assume that white paper of fabric are acceptable alternatives to use for setting white balance, you should exercise caution when using these materials as some papers and fabrics contain brighteners and/or bluing agents which may adversely impact their neutrality.
Feel free to click on the embedded page below to check out some “Nice Bytes” picks for white balance and color corrected workflow.
[issuu viewmode=presentation layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Flight%2Flayout.xml showflipbtn=true documentid=100325164530-9d7fba67d5b248f79e8fda370de9a0d6 docname=hdhd_nice-bytes username=bkatkinson loadinginfotext=HDHD%20Nice%20Bytes%20for%20White%20Balance width=420 height=355 unit=px]

Disclosure: No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration.

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For the past four years I have been a fan and user of Moab Paper’s Chinle Portfolios and several of their papers including the Entrada 190 natural.  The Chinle Portfolios which come in two sizes 8”x9”  (with an 8”x8” printable page area) and 12”x13” (with a 12”x12” printable area) are beautifully crafted leather-back books (with a slip case for storage) which use a screw-and-post configuration and accommodate pre-scored and drilled pages of several varieties of Moab paper. The wonderful thing about the Chinle Portfolios is that you can add and remove pages at will.  The Chinle Portfolios can handle between 35 and 40 pages of the Entrada paper.  These books have never failed to impress.  There is a lot to be said for the look of images on paper as compared to images being viewed in a plastic sleeve as well as the very different in the sensory experience.  I started with the larger size Chinle Portfolio and added the smaller one because I wanted a portfolio that could be easily carried around.  You see, in New York City, you never know when the opportunity to show your work may arise and sometimes you want something a little more substantial than having a client look at an iPhone screen. 

It was with great excitement that I ordered an 8” x 9” Ice Nine Portfolio which was shipped with 10 sheets of Entrada 190 paper. Both the front and back covers of the Ice Nine Portfolio, which is available in the same two sizes as the original Chinle Portfolio, are a grey, translucent vinyl-like material.  I have to admit that I was a bit of a skeptic, having gotten used to the look and quality of the leather-bound books.  I jokingly referred to the Ice Nine as “Chinle light”; but that was before the book arrived.  Make no mistake about it, although it is more compact than the original Chinle 9” book, the Ice Nine is a not just a contender, but the real deal.  The collaboration between Moab Papers and Case Envy by Lost Luggage has resulted in a nicely sized, lighter weight, elegantly simple, and cost effective solution for photographers who need to physically show their portfolios.  Heck, some clients may even find the Ice Nine, as they have with the leather bound Chinle, a great solution to hold and display their images. 

The Ice Nine is actually easier to put together than the original Chinle Portfolio, because the front and back covers have no internal lip/flap that has to be folded inward and the hardware (consisting of two screws) is on the outside.  It took me less than two minutes to unscrew and disassemble the book, insert 22 printed pages and re-fasten it. The translucent grey cover in combination with my printed title page looked amazing (see the top image.) When everything was finished all I could say was wow! 

In addition to the double sided Entrada Rag Natural and Bright papers, The Ice Nine Portfolios kits are also available with the Lasal Photo Matte paper.   Moab’s wonderful Colorado Fiber papers, both Gloss and Satine, are also available sized to fit into the Ice Nine Portfolios. Whatever paper you choose, don’t forget to visit the Moab Paper site for more information and to download the appropriate icc profiles for your printer.

Yes, nice ice baby says it all!

( The Ice Nine, top; The Chinle leather bound 8″x9″ Portfolio, bottom)

Disclosure:  No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has  any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration. 

The product names mentioned in this entry are registered trademarks.  Please note that Moab Paper is part of Legion Paper.

H(d)SLR Stabilizers: A Modular Approach

On February 18, 2010, in photography, by getbyron

I recently made a presentation on H(d)SLRs  to a group of photographers in New York, and two of the concerns the audience had included the amount of money needed to get your H(d)SLR video ready and the size of the equipment.  It got me thinking about a reasonably-priced, handheld stabilizing solution that would allow for growth and expansion as needed.  If your curiosity is peaked, click here to read on….

The Thought of the Week:

Photography and the Olympics

The 2010 Winter Olympics are well on their way:  Hopefully, the photographic community will celebrate the accomplishment of the athletes as captured, as opposed to getting caught up with which brand of camera was used to take the picture.  

Last week my sister, who is a Yale alum sent me a link to a YouTube video, that was a forward of a forward with a very cryptic note “Watch this, you will enjoy it.”  I was not sure she was sending me the video to watch because I too am a Yale grad or because of my total fascination, make that obsession, with all things visual and this multi-media world we live in.  It turns out that she sent it for both reasons. The first thing I noticed when I clicked on the link was that the video which was posted on January 14, had logged in over 180,000 viewers. 

Within a few minutes of watching the video, the “still-mo-tographer” in me realized the hallmarks of motion captured with a CMOS sensor, and I knew this film was shot with the Red One.  My interest in technology and HD motion capture is not what kept me glued to the small screen for the next 17 minutes. It was the innovative college admissions video that unfolded before my eyes that had me transfixed.  Admissions video, marketing collateral, musical or musical admissions video- I’m not sure what to call it, but it is different, and surely will speak to the target demographic with glee, high school students considering college. 

“That’s Why I Chose Yale” is the result of a forward-thinking Admissions Dean and a collaboration of Yale undergrads, recent alums, and recent alums working in the admissions office.  According to Andrew Johnson, who produced the movie, the project developed out of conversations in the admissions office concerning the need for a new marketing piece to give prospective applicants a snapshot of life at Yale.  Johnson’s survey of the admissions video efforts among colleges found that they were so similar that it was difficult to identify which school’s collateral you were looking at.  “I went back to my boss and told him if we are going to do something, we should do something unique.  I felt that the best compliment anyone could ever give our video, would be for a prospect to want to watch it twice or for someone who has no interest or intention of applying to Yale to find it interesting and engaging.  I told him that I thought we could do this with a musical.”  Johnson indicated that after a moment, the Dean agreed that if they could get and keep the tone right, it could be a good idea.  So with a very small budget, which would be used for camera and lighting rental, and an army of student and alumni volunteers, the project got its green light.

“When we showed the video to the Yale administration, they thought it was certainly a big departure, but they thought it was funny, and engaging and entertaining,” says Johnson.

Is the movie technically perfect? No, and if you wear a cinematographer’s hat, there are a few small things you may note.  But I have long said that sometimes the spirit captured is more important than technical perfection, and this movie captures the spirit, energy and imagination that will be important for and to the target audience. 

I decided to write about this project for a couple of reasons.  As a writer who covers photography gear, I try to strike a balance between talking about gear, its actual use, and trends.  This video was shot under conditions which lots of us are familiar with, small budgets/constraints, short timeframes, with volunteers, and yet it is an amazingly big and ambitious undertaking.  This movie was not shot for the purpose of promoting or marketing a particular brand of camera, or demonstrating what a camera is capable of, or for a contest.  It was shot for a real world application.  This project is significant as it speaks to the growing importance of motion capture in reaching Internet-savvy audiences, and audiences that expect not only to be informed but to also be entertained.  It is a stunning example of what digital motion capture technology can enable, and it should be a reminder to all of us that the cameras we use are just the tools to achieve an end.  The fact that as of this writing more than 289,000 viewers have clocked in according to the YouTube counter cannot be dismissed.

I asked cinematographer Streeter Philips why he chose the Red One for use on the project.  “I had used the Red One for a short film that I shot last summer, in part because I wanted to know what they hype was about.  After seeing the dailies [for my short] I was convinced that given what Andrew (Johnson) and director Ethan Kuperberg (Yale ’11) wanted to achieve visually—they wanted a high-gloss, bright, saturated image—and we definitely didn’t have the budget for film, that the Red One was the right choice.”  Phillips who is no stranger to motion capture and has been using the Panasonic HVX  for much of his motion work as well as the Canon 5D MarkII, says he has become a real fan of the Red One.  He indicates that once you learn how to operate it, that it is pretty easy to use.  The learning curve was steep however, and his learning curve was helped along by a five-hour workshop and a lot of on the job experience.

While the outdoor shooting relied heavily on natural light, the supplemental lighting of choice for indoor and outdoor applications was HMI.  “Our indoor lighting consisted primarily of 1.2k HMIs, Pars and Fresnel’s which were heavily gelled.”  One of the advantages of shooting at Yale was unlimited power:  the constraint, placement of outlets, was easily overcome with extension cords.

“That’s Why I Chose Yale” was filmed over 10 days and in 30 locations last September (Philips says that sometimes they were in five or six locations in a day.)  The movie is a testament to what happens when you have the right team of people working towards a common goal, great direction and oversight, and a killer idea to begin with. 

The movie is not without controversy as there are those who have expressed concern that the musical genre cheapens or damages the Yale reputation and the admissions message.  Then there are those like myself who applaud the willingness of a venerable institution to understand the dynamics of their market and adapt accordingly to reach it.  The enormously talented pool of people associated with its creation, student and alums, both in front and behind the camera should also not be overlooked or get lost in the discussion of the videos merit as an admissions tool.  What an incredible student body!

As I was writing my concluding remarks, I realized that I was humming a catchy little tune…yep, you guessed it:  “That’s Why I Chose Yale.”

To view the movie, click on the link below:


To view what’s new in our companion blog, www.hdslrs-n-motion.com, click on the article title below:

A Light and Portable Handheld Stabilizer For HDSLRs From Cavision

Beauty Dish: The Mola Mystique

On January 13, 2010, in lighting, photography, by getbyron

Mention beauty dishes choices around a group of photographers– working or enthusiast– and invariably Mola Softlights will play a prominent role in the discussion.  One of the reasons that the Mola brand may be synonymous with beauty dishes is that they are the sole product the company manufactures.  Unlike most manufacturers who offer the “familiar” 16-22 inch product, Mola offers four sizes, from the 22” Demi to the 43.5” Mantti.  The unique stepped or undulated interior that is a signature of the Mola line makes their products easily identifiable.  Mola has expanded the current interior finish options beyond “white” to include silver finishes.  While there are lots of things to like about Mola products, one of the most attractive features is that Mola products can be adapted, via speed rings, to accommodate many different brands of strobes, and continuous lighting products.  If you change your lighting brand, and own a Mola product, all you have to do is change the mount. 

Mola founder Walter Melrose notes that each of the Mola offerings shapes the light in a unique way before it hits the subject, because they were each developed with a different use in mind.  “The 33.5 inch Euro was actually the first product we developed.  I designed it with versatility in mind:  It is a well-rounded, no pun intended reflector that can be used for beauty, fashion and product work; the Mantti on the other hand was designed to simulate window light.  The Demi is a smaller version of the Euro.”

Based on size and price and a well-established beauty dish market, I suspect that the 22” Demi is among, if not the most popular Mola product.  As a user of the Demi and the larger Setti, the Mola dishes have never disappointed.  While the interior of many beauty dishes including the Molas is characterized as being “white”, the interior finish of the Mola is a “softer white” than my Profoto beauty dish and the texture gives it a “pearl-like” appearance.  While the light wraps the subject in typical beauty dish style, I have always felt that the Mola stepped surface resulted in a larger surface area and increased the efficiency of the light.  The resulting light is slightly warmer, and in my opinion, it subtly enhances most skin tones.  I say “in my opinion,” because with lighting as with so many things there is always an element of subjectivity.  Some one is bound to be wondering how the Demi compares to the Profoto dish.  I really can’t tell you because other than both being classified as beauty dishes, a comparison would be apples to oranges.  The differences in size (22” verses  20”  or so in diameter) interior finish, and surface area are all going to impact optimal placement, amount of light and fall-off.

The 28” Setti is deeper than the Demi and more parabolic.  It produces a more focused light with greater contrast and more rapid fall-off.  While the Setti can be used close-in, in a similar manner as a traditional beauty dish, it is large enough to be used for full body applications.  If there is a downside to the larger Mola products, it is the fact that they do not collapse for transport.  You just have to be sure you factor that into your considerations when going on location.

Melrose also points out that while the silver finished dishes appear to be new, that Mola offered dishes with silver interior finishes 20 years ago. “The harder light was not as popular as the softer light, and we stopped offering the silver interior for a while.  We brought silver interiors back simply because the market asked for it.”  What sets the silver dishes apart from their white counterparts is a cooler light (color temperature wise) and a light with both greater directionality and contrast. 

So what’s new from Mola as we move into 2010?  Melrose says that they are now offering polycarbonate flex grids for the Demi and the Setti, which will give users another option for light control.  For the location photographer who uses, small flash heads from Lumedyne or Quantum, speedlights, and/or heads that do not generate a lot of heat as a result of modeling lights, an ABS version of the Demi is on the way.

As far as the Mola mystique is concerned, the products are analogous to the perfect storm:  that combination of shape, color, size, and interior finish that result in some amazing lighting.

For more information on the Mola line visit them on line by clicking here.

To see Mola products in use, visit their blog at: http://blog.mola-light.com/

Disclosure:  No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has  any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration.