Category Archives: Everything Else

Duran Duran’s A Diamond In The Mind – A look back at a great project.

Tonight the BBC are running a series of programmes about legendary 80’s pop band Duran Duran. At the same time Sky television in the UK have made one of my the projects I am most proud to have been involved in available for free, in HD,  and on demand – A Diamond In The Mind. In 2011 I was involved in the planning and filming of  this Duran Duran concert. Originally conceived a s a lowish cost production to be shot in at a small venue in Berlin, the shoot was full of challenges, not least of which was the cancellation of the Berlin concert just hours before it’s start when the lead singer Simon LeBon suffered damaged vocal chords.

We were right in the middle of building up the cameras at the Berlin concert hall when the news came through.

IMG_0606-e1530304118804-765x1024 Duran Duran's A Diamond In The Mind - A look back at a great project.
PMW-F3’s being prepped in Berlin for the concert that never happened

With the cancellation of the Berlin gig the whole scope of the project changed as the next opportunity to shoot would be at one of the huge arena events in the UK. In 1984 Duran Duran produced a film called “Arena”. This was a truly epic concert video that covered several legs of their sold out arena and stadium tour of 1983. While we were never going to replicate this on our much more modest budget, it certainly gave us something to aim for.

The idea was to film the concert with what was at the time ground breaking large sensor video cameras to achieve a film like look. Duran Duran are famous for their videos so we were following in some pretty big footsteps. The majority of the cameras were Sony PMW-F3’s with a custom picture profile that I developed specifically for the shoot. Other cameras included (if I remember right) a couple of FS100’s, some GoPro’s on stage and right at the very back of the Venue there was a Red One shooting a big 4K wide shot.

I got the opportunity to test the camera settings the week before the shoot at a concert at the O2 arena. After that there was just a single concert to film, so we had to get everything just right.

IMG_1020-1024x765 Duran Duran's A Diamond In The Mind - A look back at a great project.The day of the gig was a typical dark and gloomy winters day in Manchester. Inside the vast Manchester arena we were busy fitting lenses to camera. Sorting out cue sheets, organising talkback links and all those other things needed for a multi camera concert shoot.

IMG_1025-1024x765 Duran Duran's A Diamond In The Mind - A look back at a great project.
Angenieux 24-290 T2.8 lenses on Sony PMW-F3’s at the MEN Manchester.

We had some very exotic lenses, several Angenieux 24-290 T2.8’s. At my camera position I was using a 40x ENG lens with one of the 2/3″ to super35mm adapters I had designed. The focal length of this lens was the equivalent of 1000mm at f4. The depth of field was paper thin!

IMG_1042-1024x765 Duran Duran's A Diamond In The Mind - A look back at a great project.
Getting ready to shoot Duran Duran with a 1000mm zoom lens!

The concert started and the filming went ahead. It seem to all be over very quickly, all that preparation, all those tests for just 2 hours of filming. And then the shoot was over.

Post production took quite a while as band member Nick Rhodes chose to add a lot of his own elements to the edit. Each track in the film has a slightly different look, but it was all worth it. The end result was the feature length film “A Diamond In The Mind”.  It’s a project that was amazing to work on, with an amazing crew put together by Hangman Films. Today, 7 years later I still think it looks pretty damn good. I’d love to go back to the rushes and produce an HDR version!

As well as being on Sky TV in the UK you can also find the film on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0iN4xn6afI

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Sony Cash-Back Offer Ends Soon (Europe).

Camcorder-Accessory-Promotion_home-medium-EN Sony Cash-Back Offer Ends Soon (Europe).Sony are offering up to £220/€250 cash back on accessories purchased with an FS5 and up to £400/€450 cash back on accessories purchased with  FS7 or FS7M2 if you purchase one before the end of March 2018. So there’s only 2 weeks left to take advantage of this offer!

So if your looking at investing in a nice camera kit with perhaps one of the excellent UWP-D radio mic kits that connect directly to the cameras MI shoe or some extra batteries this might be a great way to get some money back from Sony. There are various terms and conditions so please take a look at the promotion page for the full details. Here’s a link to the promotion page.

 

Sony naming system

Here’s a little insight into what some of the Sony product prefixes might mean. These may not be 100% correct but this is what I understand them to mean. There are also many exceptions to the standard naming convention, so use this as a guide only.

First letter: P = Professional, B = Broadcast, U = Utility,  D = Digital, H = Studio/OB,  L = LCD, O = Optical

Second letter: V = Video (means video tape if camera), M = SxS Memory, D = Optical Disc, X = XQD/SD/SxS(solid state media or digital workflow), S = System, D = Multi format, P = Projector or Printer, R = Remote Control, W = wireless

Third letter: (or 3 + 4th): W = Writer( deck or camera that can also record/camcorder), M = Monitor, C = Camera(no recording capability) CU = Camera Control Unit, CP = Compact camera(no recording), X = HD, Z = 4K, D = Digital (HDSDI?),  A = Archive

Then after the 3/4 letter prefix: F = Film (digital cinema, 16 bit raw when raw included), FS = Film Style (large sensor, 12 bit raw when raw included), X = HD from factory (often but not always upgradable to 4K) , Z is 4K from factory.  NX = AVCHD

The number of digits after the letters used to be significant. 2 digits was a product without an imager (PMW-50, PMW-EX30) 3 digits was a camera (PMW-200, PMW-500) and 4 digits was a deck (PMW-HD1500, F1600). However recently cameras have any number of digits.

 

For example PXW-X200:

P = Professional   X = Solid state media   W = Writer –  X = HD camcorder.

Example BVW-400 (Betacam SP camcorder – remember those!)

B = Broadcast  V = Video Tape  W = Writer

Example PXW-FS7

P = Professional X = Solid State Media  W = Writer – FS = Film Style.

Example PMW-F55 (Slight odd-ball this one as it was the very first XAVC camera, perhaps should really have been a PXW-F55 although as it’s SxS and has the XDCAM codec PMW works too).

P = Professional  M = SxS Memory  W = Writer – F = Film (Digital Cinema).

Example PDW-700 (Optical disc camcorder)

P = Professional  D = Disk  W = Writer.

Example PMW-300

P = Professional  M = SxS Memory W = Writer.

Some oddballs:

F65 = F65 Ultimate digital cinema camera, no prefix and a 35mm sensor, not 65mm as the name suggests. Other “F” only cameras used the sensor size for the name. The F35 had a super 35mm sensor and F23 which had a 2/3″ sensor.

CBKZ = Software upgrade option.

CBK = Camera build kit

HDW = HDCAM Writer.

SRW = HDCAM SR Writer.

DSR = Digital DVCAM camera/camcorder/deck.

I don’t know what the HXR prefix stands for, this line of normally AVCHD solid state camcorders used to come from a different group within Sony to the broadcast group. These two groups now work together so the product numbering is now more consistent, but there are still many product names that don’t follow the convention.

It’s interesting to note that there are very few “Broadcast” B** products these days except for BVM (Broadcast Video Monitor) monitors. Most camcorders are now P** even if they are most definitely broadcast cameras, for example the PXW-X500.

If anyone would like to add to this list or correct any errors please let me know by adding a comment. Any input/additions are most welcome!

Northern Colour – new Northern Lights video.

It’s that time of year again. After another simply amazing trip to northern Norway I am pleased to be able to share with you my latest Aurora video. It was shot with a Sony A7s and a Sony A6300. The lenses used were a Sigma 20mm f1.4 art lens. An older Sigma 20mm f1.8, a samyang 14mm f2.8 and a Sony 16mm f2.8 pancake lens. A Metabones Speedbooster Ultra was used on the A6300. For the slider shots I used a home built track (made so it fits my suitcase perfectly) and a Cinetics Cinemoco controller. Hope you enjoy it.

Norway and the Northern Lights Video Blogs.

I produced 3 video blogs during my trip to Norway to shoot the northern lights. These blogs are now on youtube for you to watch. In the first video I take a look at some of the equipment that I took to Norway for the trip. I also look at how I like to lay everything out before I pack it and give some insight into some of the accessories that I like to take.

The second video looks back at the first week of the trip. You will see examples of the weather we had to deal with as well as some information on how some of the time lapse sequences of the aurora were shot.

The third video is about shooting a sunrise with 3 different cameras. The Sony a6300, FDR-AX3000 Action Cam and the PXW-FS5.
Packing for the shoot.

At the bottom of the page you’ll find a quick cut of a small selection of some of the Aurora footage shot on this trip.

Review of the first week in Norway.

Shooting a sunrise with 3 different cameras.

Quick sample of some of the Aurora footage:

Try Before You Buy.

In the last few days I have received a lot of questions along the lines of “which camera is going to be best for me” or “which monitor should I buy”? These are very common questions.

Before the internet, when you wanted a new camera you would either try one belonging to someone else or go to a camera store and try out the camera you were interested in for yourself. That way you could hold it in your hand (or on your shoulder), look through the viewfinder, take some clips and look at the picture quality. Today however it appears that a lot of very important purchasing decisions are being entirely based on online reviews and opinions. I can write a review and say “look how wonderful this camera is” because I think it is great. But just because I think it’s great doesn’t mean it’s going to be great for everyone else (I do try to consider other peoples needs and wishes, but I’m only human). Likewise someone else might say “this camera is rubbish” and of course they are completely entitled to express that view and if they think it’s rubbish, well….  then they think it’s rubbish. But those views and opinions are just that, opinions…. and yours may differ.

Once upon a time equipment dealers used to make quite respectable profit margins on the sale of an expensive video camera. Today however margins are very slim (often less than 5%) as online price cutting forces dealers into ever deeper discounts. As a result dealers are now often not able to lend you a camera to test. Many will still have demo units in their showrooms for you to play with, so support your local dealer, go to them and take a look at the camera (or whatever it is you are buying). Then buy from the dealer, that way you can build up a relationship with your dealer that can help when you need spares or accessories in a hurry. But what if the dealer doesn’t have a demo unit, what’s the solution in that case?

Hire a camera before you buy it. If you purchase a camera and then decide you don’t like it, sure you can sell it, but you’ll loose a lot more money than a days hire charge.  Renting a camera for even just one day will allow you to put it’s through it’s paces. To hold it, shoot with it, test the workflow and look at the image quality. A days rental isn’t going to break the bank.

The cost of being a freelancer.

You spend weeks juggling dates, turn down other significant jobs to work with an important client to keep them happy. Book flights, pay out lots on advanced expenses for a 10 day job and all is set. Then at the last minute the 10 day job becomes a 4 day job, new flights have to be booked etc and all your planning goes out the window. I don’t think some clients realise how much it can cost a freelancer to have work cut or cancelled. It’s not just the loss of earnings from the cut job but also the loss of business with other clients and other additional costs. It takes time to re-book flights and hotels etc.

Earlier in the year the plan had been: Fly long haul from London to Singapore (client A), fly from Singapore to LA for a job for client B, then while in the US go storm chasing, fly home. One round trip ticket, 6 days for client A, 4 days for client B no dead time. Cost of ticket split between clients. Everyone happy.

But client A decides they can get better value for money by extending my trip, so I work with client A to make that happen, but this means I have to cancel client B. So now I’m all set to fly to Singapore for 9 days for client A. Then fly home. Then fly to USA for storm chasing a few days later. This involves the expense of two round trip long haul tickets. Client A happy, client B not so happy (but understands the situation). Everything is confirmed, set in stone. Flights are booked, hotels booked. Dates blocked out in my diary so when people try to book me on those dates I have to turn them away. June is always very busy for me.

But now last minute, client A has decided they no longer want to extend the trip, so I will fly home 5 days earlier than booked (IF I can get flights). There is now dead time in between Singapore and Storm chasing that I cannot fill, time when I could have been working for client B or client C, D and E who were turned away because I thought I was going to be busy.

What’s really annoying is that Client A KNEW that I was going to have to cancel another important job to help them with the extra days in Singapore.

So all in all I’ve gone from 10 days of work to 4, I’m having to pay out for long haul flights that I could have got covered by Client B, all because I decided to work with client A to help them out. When I quoted client A for the 10 day job I gave them a 10 day discounted rate. Now they have asked me to send in a new quote for the job and have indicated they are expecting the same 10 day rate when now the job is only 4 days!

Not only all that but I used an upgrade voucher that took a year to earn on the original Singapore flight bookings, but as it’s so late in the day now I will loose that voucher when I re-book, and there is still the big question as to whether I can actually get seats and how much extra they will cost booking just two weeks ahead instead of two months ahead.

Pissed off. Glad I got that off my chest.

Don’t Confuse a DIT with a Data Wrangler or Runner.

Bit of a rant here as one of the roles I perform on some shoots is that of DIT or Digital Imaging Technician.

What does a good DIT do? Well lots of things. One of the key roles of the DIT is to work with both the camera department and post production to ensure that the shoots proposed workflow will work. Some DIT’s may even oversee some parts of the post process, ensuring the footage is correctly handled all the way through the production chain. On set the DIT may be responsible for camera setup including any paint settings, gamma curve and gamut choices. The DIT will work with the DP to create LUT’s for use in the camera, on set as well as in post production. Then the DIT may (but often not) be responsible for gathering the media and rushes from the camera and copying it or backing it up. Next the DIT will look at the footage checking for issues, not just file corruption but any other technical aspects that may trip up post production, possibly apply a first pass grade on set so that the production team can get an idea of how the footage will end up looking.

A good DIT will have a sound technical knowledge of the way a video camera works, how to set it up, how to best handle the footage plus how to ensure the footage passes through the post production chain. It is not an easy role as a good DIT can make or break a production.

But often the term DIT is used to refer to a person tasked with copying footage from the camera. This role is more normally referred to as “Data Wrangler”. A good Data Wrangler will manage the backup of the rushes from the camera. All backups will have their data integrity checked and log sheets with checksums and details of the contents of the files will be produced. As footage is passed from the shoot to post the data wrangler should keep a log of who has received what and track all copies of the footage. Sometimes a Data Wrangler will also perform some roles similar to a DIT such as producing footage with a first pass grade applied or viewing copies of footage. The role of the Data Wrangler is extremely important. But a Data Wrangler will not normally be asked to produce LUT’s, setup a camera or oversea any part of the post production process.

Finally the term DIT gets most abused when it is used to refer to a runner or other production assistant who is simply tasked with copying the footage from the camera to a hard drive or other backup. Sadly this incredibly important job is often given to the least skilled or cheapest person on the set. It’s often perceived as an easy job that anyone can do. But it really needs to be done with great care, lots of checks followed by lots more checks because a mistake at this stage could put the entire production at risk. Checksums should be used, log sheets made and you want to use a reliable person that won’t be distracted and will treat this highly responsible role with the respect it deserves. Not use some spotty faced kid that spends his time on facebook waiting for the copies to finish when he could be playing back and checking clips for problems.

Sensor sizes, where do the imperial sizes like 2/3″ or 4/3″ come from?

Video sensor size measurement originates from the first tube cameras where the size designation would have related to the outside diameter of the glass tube. The area of the face of the tube used to create the actual image would have been much smaller, typically about 2/3rds of the tubes outside diameter. So a 1″ tube would give a 2/3″ diameter active area, within which you would have a 4:3 frame with a 16mm diagonal.

An old 2/3″ Tube camera would have had a 4:3 active area of about 8.8mm x 6.6mm giving an 11mm diagonal. This 4:3 11mm diagonal is the size now used to denote a modern 2/3″ sensor. A 1/2″ sensor has a 8mm diagonal and a 1″ sensor a 16mm diagonal.

Yes, it’s confusing, but the same 2/3″ lenses as designed for tube cameras in the 1950’s can still be used today on a modern 2/3″ video camera and will give the same field of view today as they did back then. So the sizes have stuck, even though they have little relationship with the physical size of a modern sensor. A modern 2/3″ sensor is nowhere near 2/3 of an inch across the diagonal.

This is why some manufacturers are now using the term “1 inch type”, as this is the active area that would be the equivalent to the active area of an old 1″ diameter Vidicon/Saticon/Plumbicon Tube from the 1950’s.

For comparison:

1/3″ = 6mm diag.
1/2″ = 8mm
2/3″ = 11mm
1″ = 16mm
4/3″ = 22mm

A camera with a Super35mm sensor would be the equivalent of approx 35-40mm
APS-C would be approx 30mm