Graham Sheldon, holding a Geiger counter, outside Reactor 4 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. There is something about working in film that makes people take risks. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that there is always someone else standing in the sidelines ready and willing to take your job, or the idea that you can really stand out on the project if you go that extra mile. Whatever the reason, people get hurt while filming all the time. It is the job of the individual and the production to remember this and do everything possible to keep the team safe. During my career as a Producer/DoP, I’ve filmed in radioactive environments (Chernobyl), harsh weather (Alaska in winter) and countries where the politics are not supportive of the production (Cuba). Working in these environments comes with risks, sometimes anticipated and sometimes as complete surprises. So here are 7 tips, gathered from my own shooting experience to stay safe while still getting the shot: 1. Harsh Weather Several years back, I was working in sub zero temperatures in Alaska to film one of the world’s most grueling races: the Iditarod. This dog sled race covers over a thousand miles, and while the race itself is unbelievably challenging, the process of filming is no walk in the park either. Listen to local experts when it comes to clothing, take note of weather reports, and try to solicit advice from other crews that have worked in the area before. I find most people in this profession, myself included, don’t mind answering a few questions over social media about a past shoot. 2. Politics While filming in Cuba with a US based crew, I encountered multiple instances where local politics were interfering with our production. Memory cards would “disappear” from our hotel room and local security forces would constantly hassle our documentary shoot. Before arriving in any country, try to understand the various ideologies at play in local and national governments. Doing your best to navigate local customs and treading lightly will always make your experience a safer one. 3. Work Together Every member of the crew has a duty to keep the shoot a safe one. In a foreign country with a hundred thousand dollars of equipment in the back of your Jeep, you will be a target for someone. Keep a good eye on everyone and everything, and always listen to your local fixer or driver – they know the area better than you. 4. Instinct If the situation feels wrong, chances are it is. Give yourself time to plan escape routes out of potentially dangerous neighborhoods and never move too far away from your vehicle when filming. If you are operating, tell your assistant to face the opposite direction and watch any approaches. Never spend too long in dangerous areas, as it is giving potentially unsavory characters time to spot you and formulate a plan to relieve you of your equipment. Paying for a local security guard to accompany your crew for the day is always recommended. 5. Know Your Surroundings Keeping a good eye on everything around you while still keeping good exposure and focus is an essential skill. Spend ten minutes on YouTube and you’ll find countless videos of camera op’s losing track of their surroundings and face planting the turf. Operating a tricky backwards move with no way to look behind you? Use anyone present, such as an Assistant Cameraperson, to spot you. 6. Animals Having recently been bitten by a wild dog in Ecuador and dealing with the subsequent rabies shots, I find it necessary to include this tip. Take the advice of local fixers and guides when filming in areas with a large wild animal presence. As a last resort, tripods work well to keep the animal back while getting out of the area, and always, always keep a first aid kit in your vehicle. 7. Leave the Camera People always come before equipment. While filming NBC’s “The Island” I had the choice at high tide between drowning/getting beaten up by rocks or leaving the camera. I took the memory card and left the camera. This is a lesson that sometimes is lost on the camera team, but no show or film is worth injury or loss of a life to save equipment. At the end of the day, we are participating in an art form, not trying to save the planet. Weigh your risks according to that principle.Read more
With their new SmallHDR range of production monitors, SmallHD departs from its usual line of portable on-camera solutions. These rugged, full-sized displays come with a whole lot of professional features… and a price tag to match. We caught up with SmallHD founder and CEO Wes Phillips at NAB 2016 to find out more about them. The company name had, until now, been a fairly clear indicator of the niche that SmallHD had carved out for itself in the market: small external monitors in the 5 and 7-inch range, offering shooters an additional display with excellent image quality and professional features. Introducing their new SmallHDR range shows that their ambitions are anything but small. These new full-sized, c-stand mountable production monitors aim to bring the SmallHD viewing experience from the operator to the whole set, offering three different sizes at 17, 24 and 32 inches. You can read Tom’s full article from earlier this month here! SmallHDR – an overview A body construction from milled aluminium makes them rugged and solid, ideal for withstanding the rigours of everyday professional use. The material also allows for the introduction of the RapidRail system: cold shoe-sized slots into which you can insert all sorts of accessories, such as handles, receivers, and cable management solutions. The monitors also include a V-lock battery mount, as well as XLR power input and a 12v Lemo power output, providing ample powering solutions. The company takes great pride in the brightness of their SmallHDR screens, a feature found also in the original SmallHD range. Intended to be viewable in daylight without the need for a sun hood, the smaller two models claim a brightness level of 1000 nits while the 32-incher brings it all the way up to 1500. The design of the SmallHDR range also borrows from its smaller lineage in the design of its back button and joystick controls, but adds extra buttons for the new multi-page view. This, in addition to the added functionality under the hood, makes them highly customisable in terms of how they display various inputs (2 x SDI and 1 x HDMI), scopes, LUT support and assist tools. These high-contrast displays are great monitoring tools for everyone on set, but the 10-bit capabilities of the larger two models really make these the ideal choice for displaying HDR material, a technology that is emerging fast. But bear in mind, these are truly professional tools, and are priced accordingly: the 17, 24 and 32-inch models are $4,000, $5,500 and $8,000 respectively. The displays will be released in May, and are already available for pre-order.Read more
Last week we took a close look at the AMIRA, the newest camera by Arri that is aimed at serious “documentary style” shooters, with a focus on ergonomics and incorporating the famous sensor from the more expensive and more heavy ALEXA camera. This week I’d like to share my experience shooting the live music video for Sophie Abraham we recently created with the Arri AMIRA. This production was executed very spontaneously, without pre-production and a crew consisting of myself and 1-2 assistants, all quite literally in the “documentary style” spirit which the AMIRA is promoted for. A little more time and planning would have helped to make the shots more consistent, but we couldn’t afford that as there was no budget for this test video. A great chance to put the camera into a stressful shooting situation. Note that not only video, but also audio was recorded directly in camera. We used minimal lighting (1x Arri 1200W HMI, 2 Dedolights with 1 gobo projection lens (background stripes)). The video was shot in 2 (half) shooting days. Weight vs. Ergonomics As mentioned in our video review (part 1) weight can be an issue as the AMIRA with its 5kg weighs a lot more than other super35mm sensor cameras like the FS700 or the C300. This also forces you to use heavier accessories. For the music video I used 4 V-mount batteries and a charger which got me through the (half) day, 4 Zeiss CP2 lenses 21mm, 35mm, 50mm macro and 135mm, a dolly (Camdolly) and the Sachtler Cine 7+7 tripod. These were all great accessories, but they are all a class more expensive and more heavy than the basic stuff you can use with the alternative cameras mentioned. For example I could not use a basic slider or a small tripod as they would both collapse underneath the camera. Working with more advanced and more heavy tools however also adds steadiness and smoothness to the shots as you may know. The Camdolly we used is a very modular and comparably lightweight and affordable (about $4000) dollying tool that you can even setup to sit on with your camera as it carries up to 200kg. For our purpose sliding the camera was enough and setup time was very quick. It took about 3 minutes to move from one shot to the next. Still, the Camdolly box and all the other boxes cannot be carried by one person. You should keep in mind you need a crew of at least 2 or 3 people to shoot with the AMIRA plus accessories. On the shoulder Of course, when you only plan on using the camera on your shoulder then all you need is the single box the camera comes in, sufficient V-mount batteries and your lens(es). This can ideally all go into two normal flight cases and can be carried by a single person. Also handheld is where the Arri AMIRA really shines. I complemented the ergonomic design in the video review and I must say again, that having the Arri AMIRA on the shoulder is wonderful. The sliding adjustments, no setup time, the nice OLED EVF and the convenient user buttons and switches on the side make for an experience a cameraman like myself won’t forget. I could have carried it on my shoulder all day and I’m looking forward to working with the camera again on a shoulder-only project. I hear Arri is already working on additional accessories and upgrades to make the camera even more perfect for shoulder work. As a handheld setup I used the Vocas handgrips on a pair of fibre rods and an MFF-1 follow focus. Lenses for Handheld I only used CP2 primes and I especially felt the Zeiss CP2 50mm macro lens added a lot to this shoot as the look, sharpness and macro possibilities are really convincing. I worked on a second project with the Amira and took the chance to try working with bigger lenses (PL zooms) on the shoulder and I must note that for me they made the camera too heavy and out of balance. This is why I’m very much looking forward to the interchangeable EF-mount option Arri is working on (no release date yet). I imagine having the option to use EF zoom lenses will make the camera even more easy to use for my purposes and provide sufficient quality. The assistant’s LCD I was very happy to have a smallHD field monitor at hand, because for me the flip-out LCD was not a good option for controlling my shots. It just felt I “didn’t see everything”. The LCD as mentioned in the video review is prone to ghosting and thus contrast is lost during motion. This is why I call this LCD the “assistant’s LCD” as I think its main purpose is not for shooting, but rather to observe your framing and control the menu. The smallHD DP6 was sitting on a solid camera EVF support that works very well also with bigger field monitors. The only thing missing was a longer SDI cable that I didn’t have at hand. Sound We recorded sound directly from the two high quality Schoeps CMC 5 we had, into the phantom powered XLR’s of the camera. The AMIRA has a normal headphone jack and the controls for sound are on the other side. Each of the 4 channels can be adjusted individually and there are audio level indications on the side and inside the EVF so I could always keep an eye on them. Workflow Basically the workflow was as simple as the rest of the camera, similar to the Alexa workflow as it is described here. When a card is full the camera switches to the second slot. There’s no finalizing footage, ejecting or any of the hassle. You just take out the card and offload the ProRes to your computer and backup. I could easily get through the day with two 120GB cards without ever offloading. I shot everything in Apple ProRes 4444 with the Log C curve. Editing Back on my editing machine (Still using good old Final Cut 7) editing ProRes 4444 natively is a breeze on most current computers and very straight forward to work with. After locking my editing I went into DaVinci Resolve 10 for color correction, which I can only recommend to anyone who hasn’t yet started to use this great app. Exporting from Final Cut via XML gives me my whole timeline and even zoom adjustments right within DaVinci. I love using filmconvert as a starting point for my grades, and DaVinci is the perfect host application for that. The filmconvert OpenFX plugin (10% off with code “cinema5D”) unlike the standalone is very stable and in connection with the crisp and organic AMIRA footage produces stunning results that I only need to tweak lightly. This is how grading is fun. ISO and noise For this project I mostly (about 95%) shot ISO 3200 on the AMIRA as I used a lot of natural light in the location and also wanted to see how far the sensor can be pushed. There were a few shots where the noise, even though it looks very filmic, was too much for my tastes. Luckily I could easily remove that noise within Davinci, but of course it did water down the quality of my shots a little. Concluding I must say the AMIRA seems like it does quite ok under low lighting conditions. There are other cameras though where sensor technology is already more advanced in terms of lowlight though. What I really liked about the AMIRA was that the sensor produces a very very even level of noise. Many other cameras have extremely bad noise in the blacks, so once you underexpose you can forget your shots. The AMIRA really records your shots reliably and you’re able to push them a little without worrying. Final words Working with the Arri AMIRA was quite a good experience. There have been numerous cameras I was not so fond of, but this one had a lot for me. Maybe it’s my personal shooting style and maybe it’s not the right tool for you, but if the price is not an obstacle then it seems this camera does attract the attention of shooters from quite a diverse range of fields. The camera isn’t flawless, especially the weight is the biggest point to consider on every shoot as it can define your whole production size. For me the (still) lacking EF mount option is something that would hold me off on working with the camera again right away and the flip-out LCD could be improved, which Arri will surely do on the next iteration of the Arri AMIRA camera. In terms of an overall shooting experience the ergonomics of the Arri AMIRA had me totally convinced and it was just a pleasure to work with from start to finish. Now I’ve said enough good things and if you have the chance it’s up to you to go out and try this camera yourself. Note that the video compression of vimeo really doesn’t do justice to this camera. See the above still frame (graded) in full to observe the nice quality of the sensor. The difference between the original file and the compressed video online unfortunately is like night and day… You might want to download the compressed source file for a better experience here: vimeo.com/96921772 Thanks again to the very talented young cello artist Sophie Abraham who participated in this camera test and contributed her musical genius. You can find more of her music on her website: www.sophie-abraham.com Where to buy? In the US area you can get the Arri AMIRA at Abel Cine Tech: Basic version: $35,468 US BUY LINK ProRes 422, rec709, 100fps, HD Advanced Version: $39,499 US BUY LINK ProRes 422 (HQ), Log C, 200fps Premium Version: $45,025 US BUY LINK ProRes 4444 and 2K In Europe you can get the Arri AMIRA at AF Marcotec: Basic version: 25,980€ EU BUY LINK ProRes 422, rec709, 100fps, HD Advanced Version: 28,980€ EU BUY LINK ProRes 422 (HQ), Log C, 200fps Premium Version: 32,980€ EU BUY LINK ProRes 4444 and 2K Availablity? The Arri AMIRA is shipping now. More about the Arri AMIRA on the official website. CREDITS Musical performance – SOPHIE ABRAHAM filmmaking – SEBASTIAN WÖBER special thanks to MAX HOFSTÄTTER CAMILLO CIBULKA GERHARD WEINER ROBI FAUSTMANN CAROLINA STEINBRECHER JOHNNIE BEHIRI NINO LEITNER JULIA WESELY JULIA LÖSCHLRead more
Atomos just announced a firmware update for their harddisk recorders that brings the long awaited Avid DNxHD codec support. People who have been using the Atomos Ninja 2 and Atomos Samurai field recorders were limited to the use of the Apple ProRes codec the devices support. Last year Atomos announced the addition of Avid DNxHD, but up until this point people have been waiting for the upgrade to happen. The new firmware is already available for download here: LINKRead more
We thank our sponsor B&H who has made cinema5D’s news coverage of IBC 2012 possible. Get your gear through B&H to support this platform: www.bhphotovideo.com Here are two very nice products by a company that makes great stuff for the low budget. F&V manufacturers some great led lights and they are among the few companies that I know actually manufacture their stuff themselves and they have their own US and EU store.Read more
We thank our sponsor B&H who has made cinema5D’s news coverage of IBC 2012 possible. Get your gear through B&H to support this platform: www.bhphotovideo.com Jeromy Young and his disk recorders have been featured on cinema5D many times. That is not only because his products are targeted at people who want to get the best out of their cameras for the least amount of dinero, but also because Atomos has a vision and follows it obsessively. They keep close relations with all camera manufacturers and make sure their gear integrates with it in a simple yet effective way. In this interview Jeromy explains in detail why it’s nice to work with a disk recorder like the Ninja 2. It is confirmed that the C100 outputs a 4:2:2 signal through the hdmi port which the Ninja can record via a start-stop trigger signal and save to your editing ready ProRes 422 codec. If you go that route you basically end up with a file that has better compression than a Canon C300, if that is what’s important for you. The Ninja 2 is available for $995: The Canon EOS C100 has just been made available for pre-order. The pricetag says $6499:Read more
We only send updates about our most relevant articles. No spam, guaranteed! And if you don't like our newsletter, you can unsubscribe with a single click. Read our full opt-out policy here.