by Richard Lackey | 20th June 2016
While capturing and crafting moving images may be our primary focus, there’s a lot to be gained by taking your photography just as seriously. I’d like to quickly highlight six reasons why you should spend as much time capturing stills as you do motion. Actually… I’ll take it one step further. As much as I love even shooting with my iPhone, and much of what I’m about to say applies no matter what medium or camera you use… preferably you should put away your digital cameras altogether and get yourself an all-manual SLR. Shoot film, and everything I’m about to say will double or triple in value. It’s not simply about composition and framing. It’s about light itself and developing a tuned and calibrated internal compass for exposure, color and light… Let’s start with a famous quote that I often remind myself of. – “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson We seem to forget this all too easily, or not acknowledge at all that it applies to cinematography also. If you really want to become a cinematographer who is recognised and known for producing works of compelling, emotive visual art, then you need to start thinking and operating on a totally different level to what you may be used to. You need to get your head out of video and surround yourself with art. I have found that seeking out other related visual input, such as architecture, design and photography has led to a greater discovery of my own interests, preferences, style and creative voice. 1. Inspiration I find far more inspiration following some photographers’ Instagram feeds than I do in most Hollywood movies. It’s amazing what a single still frame is capable of communicating. If you’re not an Instagram junkie yet, get on board even if you have no intention of sharing your own work. Follow photographers that consistently create imagery that inspires you and makes you feel something. It’s fun to share your own work too, and although I started years ago just with iPhone shots using the apps “ProCamera” and the fantastic monochrome iPhone camera app “Lenka”, lately my work has all been 35mm film scans, which kind of takes the “insta” out of it altogether, but whatever… It’s a snapshot of my own journey in imaging and you can use it the same way. Let others discover your work and be inspired, we’ve all got a different story to tell. Pinterest is another fantastic platform for searching out and tracking ideas and inspiration you want to draw from in your own work. The great thing about Pinterest is you can pin other people’s work, and images that others share onto your own organised boards. For instance, I keep separate boards titled “Creative Shot Ideas”, “Lighting and Composition”, “Lighting and Color Mood References” and “Color Grading References”. The great thing about it, is it’s a constantly growing and evolving library curated by you. It is always online and accessible from anywhere on your phone or tablet. You can be on a location recce and swipe through a library of images that immediately gets ideas flowing. 2. Intent The ability to reduce a scene that you intend to shoot in motion down to a single frame, one simple moment, a fraction of a second captured in time will give you a strong and focused purpose for what you are trying to achieve. One of the biggest weaknesses I see with videographers that like to call themselves cinematographers is they have no sense of purpose. They simply don’t know what they want to achieve, they have no intent. Without intent, you are just someone with a camera. You may know how, but you don’t know why. Believe me, knowing why is far more important, and it’s the more difficult question to answer. “How” is simply the question of a technician. “Why” is the question of an artist. A technician can know how to operate a camera and be a perfectly capable videographer, but that is not cinematography. Cinematography is an art form, it is about knowing why, not just how. It’s about intent, and every decision creative or technical is intentional. A love for photography instills purpose and intent. 3. Technical Competence Ever heard of the Sunny Sixteen Rule? Neither had I, really. Or at least I never bothered to entrench the very simple mathematics of exposure into my head until I started shooting film on a vintage Russian SLR with less than trustworthy metering. Sure, I have a Sekonic L358 which is always in my bag but, more importantly, I learned it is possible to calibrate your eyes and brain to be a great (and often accurate enough) light meter. Illustrated is a simple vintage Rolleiflex TLR exposure guide based on 10 deg DIN film speed, which is equivalent to about ISO/ASA 50. The sunny sixteen rule states: “On a sunny day set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to the [reciprocal of the] ISO film speed [or ISO setting] for a subject in direct sunlight.” This means: f/16 at ISO 100 for 1/100th sec (or 1/125th sec if that’s the closest shutter speed) f/16 at ISO 200 for 1/200th sec (or 1/250th sec… it’s close enough) f/16 at ISO 400 for 1/400th sec (or 1/500th sec) From that point on, it’s easy to calculate in your head. If it’s sunny, and you’d rather be at f/5.6 in terms of desired depth of field, and you’re shooting ISO 200 speed film, then you simply calculate that f/5.6 is +3 full stops from f/16 (count them… f/16, f/11, f/8, f/5.6), so you either need to increase your shutter speed by 3 (1/500th sec will probably be OK) or reduce the exposure by 3 stops by using an ND8 filter. That’s for stills, but the math works the same for video… you’re just calculating for slower shutter speeds. If it’s slightly overcast, the rule still works but at f/11 for the shutter speed at the reciprocal of the film ISO speed. Overcast conditions you’ll base the same calculations on f/8 and if it’s heavily overcast, you’ll base it on f/5.6. Shooting at sunrise or sunset? You’ll base it around f/4. The more you shoot stills in varied conditions and practise your metering, calculating in your head, using a meter, comparing and building on that experience, the more you will know about the technical requirements of a video shoot just from seeing and visiting locations no matter how brief the recce. Learn from shooting stills, practise the math, and you’ll know it all for video too… when and how to add a stop, reduce a stop, whether it is due to adjustments in frame rate, lighting conditions, filtration or shutter angle. 4. Confidence Imagine you walk onto a location or set, look around and know immediately how you’ll light it, or how you’ll work with the natural light. The image you see in your minds eye… it should immediately come to mind, you can see the focus, the DOF, foreground elements, background elements and where and how action will take place. You’ll know how much light you need, or if you have to make technical compromises due to creative limitation and how those compromises should be made. That’s confidence… knowing the how, why, what and where. It takes practise and one of the best and most effective means to practise is honing your all-manual photographic skills. 5. Practice If your first 10,000 photographs are your worst then you’d better get shooting. It’s far easier to take 1000 still photographs, mistakes and all, and learn something from every exposure than it is to set up and shoot 1000 scenes in motion. Photography is a fantastic place for experimentation. It really doesn’t matter whether something works or not as long as you learn something from it. Over-exposed, under-exposed… one stop, maybe two stops, it doesn’t matter if you end up understanding what caused the result. The beautiful thing about shooting film is you’ll soon realise you’ve got a margin of error for exposure that you typically won’t find shooting digital. You can still scan the negative and most of the image is retrievable, your exposure is just sitting on a different part of the response curve, and there may be consequences in contrast and grain. You will start connecting parallels between your film exposures and what is happening digitally with a digital image sensor, and you’ll realise that even though the response of film and results are a bit different, the principles are the same. 6. Diversity We all get stuck in a rut at times, and typically find ourselves shooting within a certain genre or style. Often times this is determined by the type of work we do, be it weddings, corporates, promotional work or commercials. Photography gives you an easy opportunity to snap out of your normal routine. Sure, your best images will probably come from your travels, holidays, or trips to exotic or interesting locations, but that’s easy. It’s much harder to look for and find beauty in day to day normality wherever you are, and make an effort to turn the normal and routine around you into art. Cause and Effect There’s no result without hard work, but if you want to really push yourself, and see your work stand out among the ever increasing crowd of mediocre image makers, one sure way to make it happen is to get serious about photography. Do yourself a favor, get an uncomplicated all-manual SLR and shoot film. You will take a lot of terrible photos, but you’ll also capture some magic. The more you shoot, the better the ratio of good to bad shots will get. You’ll learn tons, and what you learn technically will influence how you shoot digitally. It will strengthen that internal compass, the voice inside you which instills confidence through experience. You’ll discover your voice, your style, your aesthetic, and it will become internal to everything else you do. Best of all, it’s a lot of fun.Read more
by Matti Haapoja | 19th February 2015
This is a guest post by Matti Haapoja on his work submitted to the Videolog. In this article Matti shares behind the scenes insights and tips on how to make a cinematic wedding video and his experience working with the Panasonic GH4. In 2009 Matti Haapoja and his brother made their hobby a profession when they started shooting cinematic wedding video and founded Heart Visuals. The internet was and is their film school, with guidance from a few people along the way. Matti is a freelance videographer based in Toronto, Canada and is mostly shooting commercials, church videos and weddings. Introduction My friend Samuel contacted me to shoot his wedding video in France which was going to be a week of hanging out at a chateau in Normandy with people from all over the world. I couldn’t pass it up so my wife and I headed to France. For this cinematic wedding video I wanted to showcase a bit of the chateau and how cool it was but I often think wedding videographers (and sometimes even couples getting married) forget that the film isn’t about the venue, dress, decor etc., but about the people. Samuel and Hildegunn are a super fun and laid back couple so I wanted to highlight how fun they are and how they are surrounded by all these amazing people they love. Gear Used I had just switched over from my Canon 5D mark III to the Panasonic GH4 so this was my first real project on the GH4. Here’s what my gear bag consisted of: the GH4 Metabones Speedbooster (Nikon mount cause Canon wasn’t out yet) Sigma 18-35mm 1.8 Nikon 85mm 1.8 Tiffen 77mm Variable ND Manfrotto Fluid Monopod with 500 Series Head and a Glidecam XR-4000. I had my Canon 5D III plus Zeiss 50mm 1.4 as a backup just in case something went wrong with the GH4. 10 Tips to Shoot a Cinematic Wedding Video 1. Don’t shoot too much footage I shot this wedding film just by myself which is challenging but also cuts down a lot of the work time for me in post. When I first started shooting weddings I shot way too much footage. Because we specialise in these 3-5 minute wedding “trailer” videos at Heart Visuals I really didn’t need a ton of footage. 2. Will you use this shot in the video? But what you do need are the right shots. After some practice now I shoot with much more intention, I’m constantly trying to edit in my head and ask myself the question “would I use this shot or angle in the video?” and if it’s a no then I don’t waste my time shooting it and save time looking through bad clips in post. 3. Be light and fast My strategy for weddings is usually to be light with gear and make it as easy as possible to switch lenses and stabilisation gear. I never shoot with a tripod at weddings but the monopod is perfect for getting a static shot and being able to quickly move from shot to shot, angle to angle. I keep the same base plate on the glidecam so I can easily switch back and forth when I need to. The majority of the film is shot on the Sigma 18-35mm with a handful of shots on the 85mm. 4. Keep it natural For weddings I try to shoot a cinematic documentary style film avoiding shots that look overly forced or staged. I try to keep it natural and get those candid shots. A cinematic camera like the Panasonic GH4 with a cinematic picture profile and lenses that give me a shallow depth of field will help to get lots of natural, great looking shots. More on that later. 5. Take care of the “must have” shots There are certain shots that are must have’s for example the kiss. With these shots I try to do a safe angle that I know I’ll get because its just me shooting and there’s no redo’s on moments like those. Other cinematic wedding video articles talk about attending rehearsals and practicing the shots. I never do rehearsals. I get to the spaces and check out what it’s like, where the light is coming from and then I just go with the flow. Usually while getting shots of the bride or groom getting ready I will ask what the flow of the ceremony is, cause yea that’s really the only hard parts. Really I just need to know when the kiss comes because I don’t want to be caught off guard. 6. Get creative & beautiful shots Other than those “must have’s” I’m always trying to experiment with new angles and camera moves to make the film as beautiful as I can. I do this in the “free time” between the must have shots. 7. Getting emotions I think the biggest secret though is to get the emotions of the people into the film. Weddings are such an emotional time that if you don’t capture the smiles, tears and laughs of both the couple and the guests then I think you’re missing the essence of the day. People often get camera shy and won’t show their emotions so it’s really important they don’t see you filming them. A little trick I use sometimes is to have the settings and focus set, but point the camera in another direction and then, when I know they are about to react to the speech or situation I quickly get the shot. That way I get real reactions and not the toned down “there’s a camera in my face” reaction. 8. Practice Of course all of this takes practice and the more you shoot weddings the more you know exactly where you should be and which shots will be your best shots that you don’t want to miss out on. 9. Pretend you’re a Ninja For me the most challenging part of the day is the ceremony. Usually you can’t really influence or change the lighting (full sun light in this case) and the challenge is to get all the shots you need without being a huge distraction to the actual ceremony. Sometimes I see wedding videographers with a huge rig, big matte box and all standing right beside the couple while the ceremony is going on and I think that’s just a bit disrespectful and not smart. Pretend you’re a Ninja or something if that helps. 10. Gear that works in any light condition Weddings can be very challenging shooting environments, not only in terms of the event itself, but also in terms of lighting. So it’s a good idea to be prepared and have a camera and lenses that work well in low light conditions. I thought the GH4 was going to be really tough in the evening with low light but actually I think it was just fine. Using the Speedbooster certainly helped to get better lowlight performance and less depth of field. Other cameras like the 5D or Sony A7s also work in your favour in that regard. Good gear helps, but in the end it’s about your approach: When you’re shooting documentary style there’s always light, you just have to find it! Do you need a long version? Our videos are pretty short, sometimes wedding videos go into lots of detail and are much longer. We have done a few of those in the past, but honestly I dont think the couple really needs it unless they are super keen on showing the wedding to some close family in another country who cant make it or something. I think you should be able to tell the story of the day in a 3-5 minute video pretty easily. I don’t like doing the typical wedding video with the speeches in the background and all that. So usually we advise the couple to just go with the highlight film. Most couples don’t request it and if they do I try to challenge if they really want it. Working with the Panasonic GH4 I was actually amazed at how easy it was to get used to the GH4. I loved the flip out LCD screen, battery life and just how light and small it is. It was perfect for my candid style of shooting. I think the only thing I really miss about the 5D is getting shallow depth of field a bit easier but more so the colour science. I think that’s where Canon really shines and it becomes really apparent in skin tones. But I would definitely recommend the GH4 as a whole and especially for weddings. Camera Settings As a picture profile I tried to use James Miller’s settings which I found here. I’ve been trying just “cinelike D” variations. I shot the whole film in 4k. Audio Other wedding videographers deal with audio a lot. For my cinematic approach I like to work with visuals and music. So I don’t do audio other than a Rode Videomic Pro just in case there’s something that would really work with the audio. But I rarely use the audio. Backup For backup I just had a computer along and put the data on the computer and a hard drive. Post Production I edited the film in Premiere Pro. For the colour grade I brought it into After Effects starting out with a Vision Color Impulz LUT and then I dialled it down to my liking. Final Words My brother and I always find it a bit funny that at the end of the day the wedding videographers and photographers pretty much spend the most time with the couple out of anyone on their wedding day. So it’s absolutely important that the couple feels comfortable and relaxed with you. If you’re causing the couple any unnecessary stress then you’re failing and that will show in the video and photos. So be cool and talk to your couple especially in the morning to get them relaxed in front of a bunch of cameras but don’t be too big of a distraction especially later on in the day. This way the couple won’t focus on the cameras and that means you’ll get the best documentary style film. Good luck and enjoy shooting! You can see some more of Matti Hapooja’s work at: www.heartvisuals.com vimeo.com/mattih.Read more
by Tim Fok | 16th August 2014
Coming from a DSLR background, many shooters have a similar procedure for exposing their image: Shutter 1/50th, ISO low as possible, ND and aperture to suit. However implementing this method on other cameras can be detrimental to your image. The Canon C100/C300 has a base ISO of 850, use this for best results. It may be a simple and obvious procedure for some, but having met quite a few shooters over last few months that weren’t aware of this, I felt it worth writing a quick article on. The native ISO on both the Canon C100 and C300 cameras is 850; anything below or above this is compensation. Unlike shooting raw, raising the ISO in-camera is still a critical point of exposing the 8-bit internal codec of the Canon cameras, however it is the reduction of ISO speeds that I want to talk about. It is best to present this in the form of screen shots, here below is an image taken from my C100 (out of my window quickly so nothing award winning or scientific), as you can see by the overlays I am using an ISO of 850 and an aperture of f/5.0 with 6 stops of ND. My shutter is 1/50th and my picture profile Cinema EX (I choose not to display these overlays to keep the screen display clean). It’s a dramatic shot in terms of dynamic range, but you can see cloud detail, and highlight peaks are limited. I’ve added a waveform overlay from Premiere Pro on the right hand side so you can see what’s happening with the information. Here’s the same shot, but using a lower ISO of 320; this is typically how you would approach exposure with a 5D mark iii for example. I’ve compensated for exposure by reducing the ND to 4 stops, and opening the aperture to f/4.0. In terms of exposure these settings should be fine, but look at the waveform, it’s flat lining before the top of the graph. So what’s different? With the latter setup, you are letting more light hit the sensor by reducing physical attributes which affect exposure – ND and aperture. As the ISO level of 320 is over a stop lower than the base level of the sensor (which is 850), the sensor can’t handle it and is losing information in the highlights, despite on paper the settings being within the range of correct exposure. Just look at the cloud detail for proof, all information is gone and what’s left is a grey mess. By shooting with the native ISO of 850, you are using the base level of sensor, any exposure adjustments are physical ones (aperture and ND) which stop/allow light from hitting the sensor. Canon has kindly set a reminder in the overlays by adding brackets around ISO 850 so you don’t forget. Stick to ISO 850 as much as you can; I never dip below it. In lowlight situations I’ll raise to dependant on situation, this does not have the same detrimental effects; you can raise the ISO above 850 should you require (just be aware that the higher your ISO rises, so does the amount of noise present within the image). This is not a procedure restrained to the Canon C100 and C300 cameras, the Sony F55 works on a base ISO of 1250, and the A7S 3200. The difference in these cameras are that when operating in S-Log modes, you physically can’t reduce the ISO levels below its native setting; quite a handy feature when you consider what your image can end up like if you were to simply exposure without consideration for the base ISO of your camera.Read more
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