Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Behind the Scenes on my 2012 Showreel.

 A Short Film/Showreel from my South Island Road Trip.

Two weeks ago, i was sitting at home looking at a blank schedule for the next week or so on the work/project front.... spare time was aplenty! I had long wanted to undertake a road trip of the South Island, just loading up the car with camera gear and driving, town to town, and stopping whenever something caught my eye. As it was coming into Spring and the last big snow dump of the year having just occurred it seemed like it was now or never... (or maybe next year i guess). Regardless, eager to push myself, my skills, my gear, and my finances, i loaded the car with gear, clothes and snacks and jumped on the ferry.

My main goal of the trip was to not only visit all the big scenic spots that the South Island is well renowned for but also to try go 'off the beaten track' a little bit as well and see what i could find. Another goal was movement, whilst i'm a big fan of tidy composition and static video shots, with this showreel i wanted to be a bit more proactive in finding movement in the objects and landscapes i filmed. If that was not possible, then i wanted to move the camera either via tilt or pan on the tripod, or using my Glidetrack Slider. I also found that when shooting at 200fps slow motion even the most shaky hands generates footage that is still very 'floating' like. So for a number of shots i was able to film moving subjects handheld yet still pull off a controlled type look which suited the piece.

While i was mostly quite fortunate on the weather front i did often find myself dodging the storm fronts that were coming in, on one day this worked to my advantage however as i was able to race ahead of the front that was coming from the South and set up to film it approaching the Southern Alps which generated a very cool looking lenticular cloud at the center of the two opposing fronts. I set up the 5DmkII on a 20mm lens to get a wide shot timelapse of the sky and the fence and tree in the forground. I then set up my Sony FS700 on the long end of a 24-105mm lens to get a close up of the lenticular cloud doing it's thing. Shooting at 1fps (and speeding up x2 in post) i got a really great looking shot which intercut well with the wide shot.

In the South Otago, i set up down a local farm road to film two seperate 
timelapses of an approaching storm front over the alps. A still from the 
5D mkII timelaspe is below, and the close up from the FS700 is below that.

Next, i found myself zipping through the Catlins on the South-Eastern Coast. While the weather was pretty shocking and had thwarted a lot of my attempts to get some 'beauty shots' of the region, i knew i wanted to visit Purakaunui Falls. I knew they would provide an epic looking shot, but I was also extra keen to check it out because with the large rainfalls that had just fallen over the region the waterfall would be absolutely raging, and it was. It was lightly raining when i arrived, so i chucked a plastic sheet over the camera, trekked down to the falls and clambered out onto some rocks off to the side and set up. I did a few tilts and static shots at 200fps (framing out the hippies who were meditating and juggling over to the right side), packed up and headed back to the car.

Purakaunui Falls, in The Catlins.

Next up i stopped by the Otago highlands in an oddly calm and clear day, i took a drive down a few farm roads and pulled over near one of thousands of interesting rock formations that litter the area. I jumped a few fences and set up the 5DmkII to do a timelapse, meanwhile i roamed around out of frame doing some shots with the FS700 and the Glidetrack (only one of which i ended up using i believe).

The 5DmkII timelapsing (above) and the final shot (below)

Another key motivation on this trip was to get some time up in the mountains via a helicopter. Fortunately, knowing a friend who worked for a local Heliski company meant that if i made a short promo video for them i would be able to spend a day up with a group of Heli skiiers free of charge. Perfect. While i hadn't skiied in years, i geared up, stripped the camera down to it's barest form, wrapped it in a plastic cover and jumped in the chopper. What followed was day of breathtaking vistas over the Southern Alps mixed with terror at navigating some of the slopes (especially with a camera looped around my neck). Nothing can quite describe the feeling of being dropped off my a chopper at the top of a mountain, watching it take off and then having it majestically come pick you up at a nother peak. Just incredible. While only a few shots from made it into my final reel, the footage will now go into the promo video for Southern Lakes Heliski which i am editing now. 

Eight days, seven nights and nearly 4,000km later i made the final journey from Christchurch to Picton and jumped on the ferry back to Wellington. It was an amazing trip, the freedom of moving from place to place and filming whenever and wherever i wanted was invigorating, and an experience i won't soon forget! Below are a few more stills and photos from the shoot, as well as the finished video at the bottom:

SOUTHWARD - Short Film/Showreel from Luke Frater on Vimeo.


- Luke

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Sony FS700; a new era begins....

My new camera, the Sony FS700. But first let's take a journey
looking back at the previous cameras i've owned and shot on 
over the years,,,

Oh how things have changed in 6 years. When i begun my Film studies degree at Victoria University in the mid-2000's any project that i wanted to undertake would have me relying on my parents trusty old Sony Hi-8 Video Camera. It shot to Digi8 DV tapes at a not so great SD and interlaced resolution.

 The Sony HRV320 Camcorder in all it's glory, suction cup
mounted on my car of the day, an '89 Toyota Corolla....

 Which helped myself and my friends, Derek and Adam, create 
memorable car shots for our short project 'Urban Blackout' (above). 
Although i believe we did not have  asuction cup at this point, so 
ample amounts of masking tape had to suffice.

After shooting a few successful short projects and Uni shorts on the Sony Handycam, and wanting to further explore filmmaking and camera operating i invested in a 'Prosumer' level Video Camera. I picked up a Canon XM2. 

 The Canon XM2, recorded to MiniDV tape, 20x zoom, shot Progressive and in 16x9. 
A nice step up from the Handycam.

The XM2 was the 'little brother' to the hugely popular Canon XL2. I was familiar with the XL2 as i used it throughout my Film degree at Vic and would later shoot my Honours degree short film 'Vanished' on it. The camera still shot to DV tapes but it did so using a (comparatively) larger quality sensor than simple 'Handycams' while also recording a progressive image file and in a wide screen 'anamorphic' mode. This camera was another great tool to learn with and while it didn't shoot a huge amount of work with the camera, it had a second life....

Urban Blackout 2, a short film/trailer project was shot using the XM2, we also got 
arrested at gun point whilst filming this particular scene. But that's another story...

Times were-a-changing, and the indie filmmakers search for the elusive 'Film like image' on a low budget led to the creation and adoption of the 35mm Film Adaptor. A device that basically took an image from a 35mm still camera lens, projected it onto a piece of ground glass, in which a video camera was then used top record that image. Voila! 35mm depth of field characteristics in a video camera. A hunt on TradeMe led me to a Letus 35mm adapter kit selling cheaply, i picked it up and gave my XM2 its second life.

The Canon XM2 with a Letus 35mm Film adaptor on the front. My camera rig 
had just doubled in size and weight. 

Another tool, another concept: 35mm depth of field. From a music video 
'Babe i'm just Scared' by Tommy and the Fallen Horses that i was DP on

Mission Impossible with V cans? yes please.

Once again though, the camera game was changing. With the Video shooting DSLR's taking the market by force, my Canon XM2 and Letus 35mm were on the market within a few months. It was time to embrace the Canon 5D mk II/Canon 7D...

 The Canon 7D mini rig, Full 1080p HD images with shallow depth of field 
and up to 2x slow motion in 720p. Another step up in technology and filmmaking tools.

After a brief fling with the Canon 5D mkII i settled on the Canon 7D as my camera (due to to its higher frame rates and slow motion capabilities). I owned my Canon 7D for nearly 2 1/2 years and shot some of my favourite projects on it, everything from music videos, showreels and 48 Hour Film festival entries. It's compact size, HD image, shallow depth of field and superb capabilities in low light made it my ideal camera for a long time.

Music video 'Cushions' by Tommy and the Fallen Horses that i was Director and DP on.

   My showreel video 'At the End of it All', shot at Castlepoint in mid-2011

 48 Hour Film fest entry 'It's Always Night in Space', shot mid-2012.

and the obligatory 'car shot'. Things have definitely changed since the Handycam days.

So after nearly 3 years with my faithful DSLR, the Canon 7D. what changed? Well, the camera manufacturers finally caught up with the idea that people wanted the incredible filmmaking aesthetic which they could get with a DSLR but in a video camera body. One that came with built in ND filters, like a Video Camera. One that was able to record quality sound, like a Video Camera. One that had things like a histogram, sound metering levels, quality video recording codec, like a Video Camera.

 Sony NEX FS700

So when the announcement of the Sony NEX FS700 came earlier this year, a camera that had all of the features above, while also being able to record at an unprecedented 240fps+ level of slow motion, and all at an 'affordable' price tag. I knew it was time to invest again.

Of course, at this stage i probably come off as quite the camera whore, but the decision to upgrade was not taken lightly by myself. Every time i have upgraded cameras, i have tried to justify it by the amount of work i have done with the camera i have owned beforehand, and whether it matches the skills and techniques i've learned in the process. Now of course justifying purchases this was is not a precise art, but i'd like to think i dont make completely blind purchases. If you don't believe me then, well.... i just blame the accelerating pace in the improvement of technology haha.

So over the past few months what began as a methodical penny pinching campaign ended with the addition of a cannibalistic 'sell-off' of a good chunk of my camera gear. Spare lenses, rig parts, glidecams, they all had to go! 

Three words of happiness. 

 Super35 Sensor goodness.

With the last of my sold camera gear shipped off to various TradeMe buyers last wek, i got the call shortly afterwards that my camera had arrived into the country. Fantastic timing! So, a new era in my filmmaking life begins, my first project saw me set up a makeshift studio in my garage and do a number of slow motion shots with all the fun things in life like water, fire, aerosol cans and M&M's...

Shooting at 200/400/800fps required a ton of light! 2x 650 watt Fresnels,
 1x800w and 1x 300w

M&M's and macro lens action.

A good looking city indeed.

With that said, here is my first short film piece shot on my new camera. hope you enjoy :)

'Threshold' - A Sony FS700 Short Film from Luke Frater on Vimeo.

So when will the next camera come out and 'invalidate' this one? Hopefully not anytime in the next few years, i dont think my savings can take it! In the meantime, i'm just going to do my best by learning new skills, new techniques, creating interesting projects, having fun and somehow justifying my mad purchases haha :D

- Luke