Friday, August 13, 2010

Once Upon a Time in the Gym.

Inspired by a number of Western themed viewings in the past month (namely Once Upon a Time in the West, and David Fincher's awesome Nike commercial "Fate"), i set the other week to shoot a short film/promo at The Powerhouse Gym and to give it a Western type feel. I started out with vague idea to shoot the gym as an expansive and desolate space with a sole figure working out, and to then have it evolve into an up tempo workout piece. While this idea remains at the core of the video, i found it hard to get wide enough lenses to create the expansive type feel i wanted. So instead the video is more about mid shots and close ups, this in retrospect probably helps more in conveying the uptempo and intensity of the workout.

Once again, my friend Adam Anderson was kind enough to volunteer himself and let me film his workouts at The Powerhouse, it was shot over two evenings after hours when the gym was empty. I'm very happy with the video and the overall look i've been able to achieve. Given more time i would like to tinker with the slow motion beginning more and smooth that out, maybe when i learn to use Shake better.

Hope you enjoy it:


- Canon 7D, Nikkor 20-35 f2.8, Canon 70-200 IS L f2.8.
- Glidecam 2000
- Shot using Marvels Cine Gamma, and graded using Magic Bullet Looks.



Grayson Gilmour Video Shoot

A few months back i had the oppourtunity to work as camera operator on the video for Grayson Gilmour's new song 'Oh, Stasis'. The shoot consisted of a number of passes on a miniature city with a motion controlled rig, along with some live action filming with an actor in a water tank. The shoot was a mammoth undertaking with a very small budget and was aided by some very talented people who work in the film industry here in Wellington. I hope to write more about the shoot and the video once it is released. We shot using two Canon 7D camera's which were perfect for many aspects of the shoot, but following focus with them for the motion control shots was near on impossible which made for some compromises focus wise. The footage looks excellent though, and below are some still photos from the shoot.

The video is currently in post production and is expected to be released within the next 1-2 months.


Friday, May 21, 2010

short piece/test shots from the showreel

Here's a short video from my ongoing showreel. These are more test shots than anything, but i guess this gives an idea on the type of 'feel' that i'm trying to create with my piece on Wellington at night. Can't wait to have a few less projects on my plate so that i can go out and devote more time to this piece. It's fun watching all the pieces (shots) fall into place while i'm editing though.



Monday, May 10, 2010

Dreams of Cheese: a concept short film.

What began as a simple dare for my friend Adam to consume an entire 56 slice box of processed cheese, turned into a must-be-filmed event, only to then evolve into a fully fledged concept short film. So last Wednesday, with the box of cheese in tow, and Adam horribly hungover, we set out to a place with some of the best views in Wellington; Brooklyn Hill, to set up for our shoot. Treated to a dead calm day and some stunning views of the city we got to work filming the piece. I wont spoil the viewing, but i will say that a lot of cheese was consumed, and plenty of silliness was captured on film ( er... CF card). 95% of the film was shot overcranked at 50fps and then slowed down in post. In fact, the only shots filmed in 1080/25p are the first and last shots of the film. Most of the shots were improvised and while i did have a general idea of what i wanted for the film, the final narrative was 'constructed' in the edit suite.

Ultimately though it was alot of fun to shoot, and it gave me a good chance to use a bunch of new film gear which i have picked up in the fast few months.

Tech Specs (for those interested):

- Canon 7D (lenses: Nikon 50mm 1.8, Nikon 20-35mm 2.8, Canon 70-200 IS 2.8L)
- Matte Box (with two 0.9 ND's in at most times)
- Zacuto Z-Finder for most handheld shots
- Canon TC80N3 remote (used for the timelapse section which was shot in stills mode)
- Glidecam 2000 (for the steadycam shots, using the 50mm)
- and finally, shot flat using Marvels Cine Gamma, and colour graded using Magic Bullet Looks.



Monday, April 12, 2010

the ongoing showreel project

One thing that i have been working on for what seems like forever (so much so that i have shot it on two different camera's that i've owned) is a showreel type film shot around Wellington at night. It's just one of those things that i like to chip away at every now and then, going out and shooting for a night, lugging around my camera gear and seeing if something strikes me. I hope to put it together eventually, it is finally taking shape though. It started as a piece about isolation and the inner city at night, and it has kind of evolved into a piece more about movement and i want the tempo to build throughout the video. Now, how to do that.....

Another thing that i enjoy experimenting with is the contrast of different lighting sources, especially areas with white fluorescent light mixed with orange tungsten or sodium vapour street lamps, and an occurrence that is rather common in the central city at night. It's a look i've really been drawn to recently and i want to go further with it next time i go out shooting. In the meantime though, here are a few still shots from the footage i have already, the first two stills are actually from timelapse shots where the stars move across the sky, a very cool effect.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Live gig video

Here we go, from the footage i shot last saturday night, i've put together a rough edit of one of the songs (Ruby) from The Codebreaker's set. I didn't quite have enough cutaway footage to edit the whole song, so i've cut it up a little bit, just to give a feel of the night. Am still experimenting a bit with focus pulling and what works well, and considering all the footage was handheld, i am very satisfied with the quality. As i mentioned earlier though, the depth of field at f2.8 is very thin and i think to be safe i may try for f4 or 5.6 next time, just to give me that extra leeway for moving subjects. Still, it can be a very striking look, and the last shot of the video in particular is my favourite.



Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Filming a live gig

On the weekend i had the opportunity to help a friend film a gig at Bodega for the band The Codebreakers. The footage will eventually be used for the bands debut music video, which my friend is making. I went along mainly to help collect cutaway footage, but also to put my new 70-200mm L 2.8 IS lens through its paces. It was an absolute joy to shoot with, shooting at f2.8 meant that the depth of field was razor thin though so continually focusing as i filmed was a must. So there were often times when the musicians would drift in and out of focus, in a harmonic/rhythmic sort of way. It's funny because it is a technique i have been seeing more and more recently, especially in mainstream music videos... is it intentional? or just poor focus pulling? haha

Still though, am very happy with the results and hope to post the footage in some sort of clip very shortly. in the meantime though here are a few screen shots from the footage.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Making your own lens gears... on the cheap.

A few months back i decided it was time to invest in a filmmaking rig for my Canon 7D, i bought (among other things) a RedRock Micro Follow Focus (which i love btw! professional build and top performance!) i intially used the RedRock lens gears that came with the unit, i was not a fan of them however due to their clunky appearance and the amount of room that my lenses now took up in their cases with the lens gears attached. Zacuto has a very nice system but at $62US per zip gear that system was was just far too overpriced for me. I must add at this stage that i am a big Zacuto fan, i own both the mini baseplate and a Z-Finder V2 and they are invaluable to my kit. But when you're on a budget and you need make your money stretch, sometimes you need to get creative...

Zacuto's Lens gears (on the left) and RedRock Micro's Lens gears (right).

So at this stage i took it upon myself to construct my own zip gears in an effort to emulate the Zacuto ones but to do so at a fraction of the cost. (which i figure to be about $12-18 per zip gear, depending on what materials you have lying around).

Firstly i bought some zip gear replacement gears from Zacuto , these are $12 a piece, 0.8 pitch and will work with most follow focus units. You will probably need one of these for each of your lenses, but if you use smaller manual primes with hard stops (i.e. Nikon, Zeiss lenses) you can probably cut them in half and make two gears from it. You will also need a cable zip tie (you know the ones that have the click stops, you fasten things with), you can get them from any hardware store in packs of 50-500, just make sure they're a similar width to the zip gear.

From here, take some double sided tape and apply it to the length of the cable tie, cutting the sides off it it overhangs.

Next, take your Zacuto zip gear replacement, work out how long your zip gear needs to be and cut it at the appropriate mark. Dont worry about the length of your cable tie as this will be cut at the very end. Secure the gear on the top side of the cable zip tie, the double sided tape should hold it firmly. Then, take a long and thin strip of electrical tape and wrap that tightly around the end of the gear and cable tie at both ends to secure it. This, combined with the double sided tape and the tie being wrapped tightly around the lens, will very securely hold the unit together. (I must mention that i did try using glue for this stage but i couldn't find a suitable glue that would bond well, plastic on plastic gluing is not recommended).

Next, wrap your new Zip gear around your lens' focus ring, pull it tight until the unit get any tighter (i.e. no more 'clicking'), then cut off the excess cable tie that is poking through, and viola! now you have a sturdy, small and inexpensive zip gear for your lens! and if you need to take it off your lens (for whatever reason) you can easily cut the cable tie, not ideal, but at least it's only 10c to grab another cable tie and make another lens gear from it.

The 70-200 2.8 L IS, one big lens! one cable tie was not quite enough so i took another
one to give it a little extension.

Nikon 50mm 1.8, as this lens has hard stops on its focus range you only need a smaller
amount of zip gear. Whereas with my Canon lenses i prefer to put as much as possible on
to prevent over running the gear accidentally.

The lens gear in action, very small and discreet, functions perfectly too, doesn't budge one
bit. as i mentioned earlier, while you may not think that double sided tape and electrical
tape on the ends will keep the unit together, that and the force of it being pulled tightly
around the lens keeps the gear movement free, its a very sturdy system.

Anyways, i hope this is of some use to filmmakers out there, thanks for reading.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Playing around with Magic Bullet Looks

I have just picked up Magic Bullet Looks so i figured i'd give it a little whirl and check out some of its features, playing around with some footage i shot over summer while on the Desert Road in the North Island. I was going for a Assassination of Jesse James type look, very glowing and almost dream like. Am very thrilled with the software so far though, and this is only after a brief test. See my before and after shots below.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

a bit of silliness

I recently had the oppourtunity to go along to my friend Adam's competitive weightlifting debut at The Powerhouse Gym here in Wellington, i took my 7D along with me to take some photos for him as well. Halfway through though, a number of ideas started rolling in my head and i decided to video his lifts instead and make a short video of it all, using the slow motion (50fps) function of the camera. I chucked together a quick edit of the footage that night, all very tongue and cheek of course.


wait! you can use a DSLR to take photos?

Having owned both a Canon 5D mk II and a 7D in the past 6 months soley for their video acquisition features, it's easy to forget that they are both premium DSLR photography cameras in their own rights. While i am definitely a novice at photography i have really enjoyed getting out there playing around with the stills side of these cameras recently. Below are a few of my favourite photographs that i have taken during the past 6 months. Nothing too special, but i thought i'd share.

I took this shot outside my old flat at about 1am one night, it was pitch black and took me an age to get it right. Definitely worth it though, love the result. (Canon 5D mk II, 50mm 1.8, 30sec exposure)

I took this on a recent trip to Taupo with some friends, we visited the local carnival that was in town one night, and we were treated to a gorgeous summer night sky. I was really fighting the fading light here but i still love the shot. (Canon 7D, 28-135mm, 1/20th exposure)

Every trip to my folks place generally involves me taking many photos of Scooter, a very photogenic ball of fluff. This is my favourite. (Canon 5D, 50mm 1.8, 1/20th)

Taken on the last night of a recent road trip, we stopped in Palmy, and just as i was unloading the car, i turned to see the whole road illuminated by this brilliant glow, i ran inside to grab the camera to try and capture it. (Canon 7D, 28-135, 1/30th)