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ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Production • Tech

Shooting Miracles: How to Deal with Medical Locations

It’s still dark out as we pull up to the hospital on a frosty Chicago morning at six. One of the nurses greets us quietly, and we roll our cameras, monitors, lighting, and audio equipment through the bowels of the hospital to the corridor with the operating rooms.

In two hours we’ll be filming heart surgery.

We spend the time gowning up and cleaning our gear, chatting with the staff, and going over, for the umpteenth time, where to position ourselves, when to put on our x-ray protection, how often the lights will go off and on during the procedure, how long we’ll be shooting continuously. Once the nurses and techs have prepped the room and the patient, the doctors arrive and things get going quickly and calmly. . . . CONTINUE READING: Shooting Miracles: How to Deal with Medical Locations

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Teaching • Tech

Why They Call It Far-go

At 9 am Monday, I left my home near San Francisco for what proved to be one of my longest trips ever. Twenty-nine hours later, I reached my destination, after a grueling air journey.

But I hadn’t been hurled halfway around the world. I had finally touched down in Fargo, North Dakota, just halfway across the U.S., a mere 1450 miles from home.

At that rate—about 50 miles per hour—I could have driven there.

By comparison, some years before, in 24 hours, I flew from Singapore to Johannesburg to Nairobi to Kampala, Uganda—over 7500 miles. Another time I traveled 8800 miles from San Francisco to Singapore in 23 hours, including a very short overnight in Bangkok. Twice I had flown nearly 10,000 miles to India through Frankfurt in a mere 21 hours.

But the day before my departure for Fargo, a “Check in Now” email from United hinted that I might have a problem. Though my calendar insisted it was March 30, and that spring had sprung ten days before, Fargo hadn’t gotten the memo. The weather forecast for my destination was “Blizzard” (a word I had hoped never to see on a boarding pass), accompanied by an ominous . . . CONTINUE READING: Why They Call It Far-go

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Tech

Sony F5 & F55 Workshop at AbelCine in Burbank

Earlier this month, I attended a workshop at AbelCine in Burbank called Sony F5 & F55: Practical Shooting with Alister Chapman for the DIT and DP.

The new Sony PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 both offer Super 35mm, CMOS image sensors, wide dynamic range, high sensitivity, and an extensive variety of internal recording options. Except for the black lens mount on the F5 and the silver lens mount on the F55, the form factors of the two cameras appear identical. . . . CONTINUE READING: Sony F5 & F55 Workshop at AbelCine in Burbank

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Tech

On Predicting the Future: Roku’s Reward and Augmented Reality

Predicting the future is a tricky business. It’s difficult to know what’s going to happen, and you never know whom you might inspire.

Jim Samalis, who joined Kenwood as Executive Creative Director on April 1, was reminded recently of a visionary film he made years ago, and was rewarded by seeing the fruit of some seeds he helped to sow.

The story starts seven years ago. . . . CONTINUE READING: On Predicting the Future: Roku’s Reward and Augmented Reality

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Production • Tech

NAB Roundup 2013: LED Fresnels, Camera Accessories

I first wrote about the development of LED Fresnel lights two years ago, tracking earlier reactions by the industry to high energy consumption and high heat output: “Greening the Film Business: LED Fresnels.” This year I followed up with some of the same manufacturers.

Fresnel lenses, originally invented for lighthouses, have long been used on movie lights for careful light control and sharp shadows. Their typical concentric ring style enables them to have great diameter without clumsy thickness. . . . CONTINUE READING: NAB Roundup 2013: LED Fresnels, Camera Accessories

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Production • Tech

NAB Roundup 2013: Cameras

Las Vegas is known for its buffets, and the NAB Show at the Vegas Convention Center is a grand smorgasbord of technology.

The floor exhibits fill over 800,000 square feet. 92,000 attendees crowd around 1500 exhibitors showing the latest products and services in TV and radio broadcasting, film and video production and postproduction, cloud computing, entertainment technology, file-based workflows, 3D visuals, and pro audio. . . . CONTINUE READING: NAB Roundup 2013: Cameras

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Photos • Tech

Camera Gallery 2012

It’s been quite a year for digital cinema cameras. We’ve seen new models of all sizes and form factors, from the hugest to the smallest, from still cameras that take amazing-looking video to video cameras that also shoot high-resolution stills. Here are some of the new and improved cameras of 2012. . . . CONTINUE READING: Camera Gallery 2012

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Production • Tech

Apple’s Knowledge Navigator (in 1987) Foreshadowed Our Current Tech Toys

The professor enters his wood-paneled office to the sound of a harpsichord concerto.

He walks to his desk and opens a strange-looking, hinged device, which bongs like a Macintosh. It’s about the size of a laptop, but it opens like a book, revealing two screens.

“You have three messages,” says a face on the device. “Your graduate team in Guatemala, a second-semester junior, and your mother reminding you about your father’s …”

“… Surprise birthday party tomorrow,” says the professor, cutting off his digital butler with the touch of a finger on the screen. Clearly he’s been reminded before. . . . CONTINUE READING: Apple’s Knowledge Navigator (in 1987) Foreshadowed Our Current Tech Toys

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Production • Tech

The Cloud: Thousands of Overheated, Polluting, Power-Hungry Data Centers

Go ahead, buy it.

Add to Cart. Proceed to Checkout. Enter Payment Info. Place Order.

A nice, clean transaction in cyberspace, right? No need to consume fossil fuels driving to an actual store, which in turn must be electrified, heated, and stocked with not-quite-right products and pesky salespeople trying to sell warranties. Besides the costs and byproducts of the delivery process, the online transaction seems pretty innocent, environmentally speaking. Right?

But the data from your purchase, the store’s inventory control, the product shipping, and each confirming email, are all stored somewhere in “the cloud.” Despite the ethereal name, the ever-growing cloud consists of massive numbers of computer servers in tens of thousands of data centers around the country and around the world, all sucking massive amounts of power, absorbing numerous citations for air pollution, and searching for more efficient cooling. . . . CONTINUE READING: The Cloud: Thousands of Overheated, Polluting, Power-Hungry Data Centers

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Tech

Lost Wages: Everything Looks Great at NAB

In my mind, I’m Danny McCoy, deftly easing my washboard abs into my 69 Camaro ragtop, trolling confidently up and down the Strip, the wind ruffling my hair as I head for a liaison with my all-grown-up childhood pal Mary Connell, or a dalliance with Delinda Deline, the boss’s daughter.

In RL (gamer parlance for Real Life), I’m a middle-aged guy with grey hair, a little too full of sushi and sake, ambling and people-watching from Luxor to New York, New York, trying to take a few interesting photos on the Strip before collapsing into bed after a long day walking the floor at NAB.

Obviously I’ve watched too many episodes of “Las Vegas!” Like the Josh Duhamel character in the Camaro in that now-defunct series, I use a lot of cameras. Unlike him, I’m a freelance DP, not a casino surveillance and security expert.

I’m often asked about how some camera or other looked at the annual NAB Show in Lost Wages. My answer is usually the same: “It looked great.”

The truth is, nearly everything looks great at NAB. The manufacturers show off their cameras in shooting galleries in their booths. Every camera they make . . . CONTINUE READING: Lost Wages: Everything Looks Great at NAB

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Tech

NAB 2012 Preview

I’m winging to Las Vegas for a couple of days to attend the NAB Show, the annual technical meeting and equipment show of the National Association of Broadcasters. In particular, I’m interested to see the latest digital cinema cameras, some recently released, some newly announced this week. I’m especially intrigued by an excellent summary in nofilmschool.com, which compares the newest digital cameras by resolution and price. And as always, I’ll also be looking at new camera accessories and lighting gear at the show. Watch for more reports coming up soon! . . . CONTINUE READING: NAB 2012 Preview

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • VIdeos • Production • Tech

Traffic Study—Timelapse with GoPro & 5D

The amazing little GoPro HDHero cameras can record full 1080p HD video, as well as timelapse and single shots. They’re tiny and easy to rig anywhere, as in the setup below where we used them on a corporate shoot, mounting six on laptops for a video chat, instead of the built-in iSight cameras.

But camera movement is where the GoPros shine. The HDHero comes with helmet mount, auto mount, body mount, or wrist mount, with both waterproof and non-waterproof housings. I recently bought the HDHero camera, helmet rigging, suction cup for autos, tiny clip-on LCD monitor, extra batteries and clip-on battery pack. In Timelapse mode on the GoPros, you can only control the interval between shots (2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds). Everything else is automatic—shutter, aperture, video gains, etc. . . . CONTINUE READING: Traffic Study—Timelapse with GoPro & 5D

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Tech

Seagull Right-Angle Viewfinder’s Unique Usage Manual

This Seagull right-angle viewfinder offers great flexibility of camera angles for my Canon 5D Mark II, but only when shooting stills. It’s solidly made, sharp, lightweight, inexpensive (about one-third the cost of the equivalent Canon product), and includes the unique Usage Manual below. . . . CONTINUE READING: Seagull Right-Angle Viewfinder’s Unique Usage Manual

Tech

NAB 2011: Greening the Film Business—LED Fresnel Lights

It’s a vicious cycle in the film business. We use scads of energy to light our sets, usually trying to make them look as natural as possible, then we use scads of energy to cool them. If we can reduce the power required for lighting, we can save money two ways. In the olden days of production, when I was starting out in the business, most movie lights (except for big arc lights) had tungsten or quartz lamps. These lamps employed a simple technology, like Edison’s light bulb, pushing so much electric current though a thin wire filament that it glowed and gave off light—and heat. Tungsten is still the most mature, least expensive, hottest, and least efficient lighting technology available. . . . CONTINUE READING: NAB 2011: Greening the Film Business—LED Fresnel Lights

Production • Tech

NAB 2011: Mr. Brown’s Marvelous Machine—Garrett Brown & Steadicam

A young boy rides his Big Wheels tricycle around the empty lobby of an old resort hotel as the camera follows close behind, low to the ground, the sound grating and tense as the trike runs noisily onto the hardwood floor, then over a rug, then onto the floor, then over a rug, around and around.

The boy’s father, haunted and demented by months of isolation, chases his wife with a knife, up and down a circular staircase. Later he chases an apparition through an eerily lit hedge maze in the snow. . . . CONTINUE READING: NAB 2011: Mr. Brown’s Marvelous Machine—Garrett Brown & Steadicam

Tech

NAB 2011: Innovision

At a climactic moment in a rock video, the camera moves in on the guitar strings, bringing us closer and closer to the fingers of the player, then impossibly close, then we slip past the strings and enter the hole in the guitar.

In a movie about Las Vegas, the camera looks up from deep in the well of the craps table as the dice come tumbling by us, very close, and very large. In a gangster movie, the camera sits on the velvet surface of a pool table and looks up at the rack of balls, just as the cue ball comes crashing in. In a road chase, the camera speeds along, crazily close to the ground, then passes unscathed under three vehicles. In another scene in a bowling alley, the camera hurtles down the lane toward an inevitable collision with the pins. . . . CONTINUE READING: NAB 2011: Innovision

Tech

NAB 2011: Digital Cinema Camera Shootout

During the recent NAB Show in Las Vegas, I attended a panel discussion and screening of a series of tests called the Single Chip Camera Evaluation. The SCCE shootout, produced by an independent, ad hoc group named Image Quality Geeks, compared 11 single-chip digital cinema cameras, along with two 35mm film emulsions. These extensive tests, designed for “apples-to-apples” comparisons, provided a comprehensive look at the following cameras.

. . . CONTINUE READING: NAB 2011: Digital Cinema Camera Shootout

Tech

NAB 2011: More Cameras

This report on new professional digital video cameras (introduced at or just before this month’s NAB Show) is continued from the previous post.

. . . CONTINUE READING: NAB 2011: More Cameras

Tech

NAB 2011: Cameras

Manufacturers showed tons of new gear of all kinds at this month’s NAB Show in Las Vegas. Because my time at the show was limited, I focused primarily on new professional digital video cameras.

Some of these cameras were also involved in a 12-camera shootout – the Single Chip Camera Evaluation, a screening presented by Image Quality Geeks. More on this soon. Over the next two posts, I’ll preview a number of impressive new cameras introduced at or just before this NAB.

. . . CONTINUE READING: NAB 2011: Cameras

Tech

NAB 2011: Back to Vegas

The first time I went to the NAB Show, I wore camouflage fatigues and marched through hippies.

I was working the show for Ampex, the television equipment company that had invented videotape. During the 80s, they were buying Sony professional video camera parts, assembling them in Ampex factories, and branding and marketing them as their own. One of their promotions at that time showed a photo of their new, integrated camcorders with a camouflage paint job and the caption “Guerrillacam.”

These Ampex products, based on the Sony 200 and 300 Betacam camcorders, represented a huge improvement in portability. Before this time, most professional video shooting was done either in a two-piece configuration (with camera connected to a separate recorder) or with a “dockable” record deck mounted on the back of a camera. This older dockable rig was pretty heavy, because it mated two units that each could function independently, each with its own rugged case and power supply.

The new Ampex (and Sony) camcorders provided the basic form factor for most professional camcorders for years to come, a sleeker and lighter alternative to the dockable systems. The marketing push was directed at news shooters, especially those navigating the urban . . . CONTINUE READING: NAB 2011: Back to Vegas

Tech

NAB 2011: Show Preview

The National Association of Broadcasters annual trade show takes place next week at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I’ll be there for a couple of days to check out the new cameras, among other things, and I’ll post several reports from there.

Here are some announced/rumored items I’ll be taking a close look at:

A prototype for the next (and most advanced) addition to Sony’s Cine Alta line, a new camera for digital cinematography with a sensor greater than 4K. Jon Fauer, in an article in Film and Digital Times, says the new camera will shoot from 1-72 fps in normal mode, and 1-120 fps in High Frame Rate mode.

. . . CONTINUE READING: NAB 2011: Show Preview

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Tech

Sony F3 Camcorder Preview

Yesterday afternoon I attended a preview of the new Sony Super 35 PMW-F3 camera, presented by Snader & Associates and hosted by Videofax at their new rental facility in San Francisco. Reps from Sony and from Snader, who sells the camera, were on hand to present the camera’s features and specs, and three F3s with an array of accessories provided ample opportunity for hands-on time.

The F3 is an impressive little box, a little larger (6 x 7-1/2 x 8-3/8 inches) and heavier than Sony’s popular PMW-EX3 camera (5 lb. 4 oz. for the F3, compared to 4 lb. 2 oz. for the EX3). But the F3 contains a new Exmor Super 35 CMOS sensor, much larger than the ½-inch chip in the EX3.

And size matters. The Super 35 sensor is one of the largest chips in any HD camera, except for the Canon DSLRs and Vision Research’s high speed Phantom 65. Large sensors mean shallow depth of field, the prevalent style of our times – fuzzy backgrounds for our shots and focusing headaches for our camera assistants, the polar opposite of Gregg Toland’s deep focus photography a . . . CONTINUE READING: Sony F3 Camcorder Preview

Production • Tech • APPs

Production APPtitude: Sun Seeker

This is the first in a series of posts about useful iPhone apps for film and video production.

In the past few months, during my shoots overseas, I have been confronted by producers, crew members, drivers, waiters, and ordinary folks on the street, using iPhones for texting, tweeting, gaming, emailing, translating, navigating, Facebooking, computing currencies, listening to music, showing photos, shooting video, sometimes even talking on the phone … and exploring new apps created to help people like us, who work in film and video production.

Apple products have long been popular with folks in the visual media. In the US, I am used to seeing Macs and iPhones on production crews; sometimes nearly everyone has one! But recently, while traveling in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Brazil, and, to some extent, China, it’s been hard to miss the remarkable proliferation of the iPhone.

This surge in iPhone sales abroad was not unexpected. Early last year, Apple projected an enormous increase in its iPhone exports. Yet in September, when I found three Swiss cabbies in a row with their personal iPhones mounted on their taxis’ dashboards, I was still taken by surprise.

I have long admired (and sometimes . . . CONTINUE READING: Production APPtitude: Sun Seeker

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Production • Tech

Around the World in 11 Days: Epilogue

On our way back to the hotel after the shoot at the Karaoke club, Richard spontaneously has our driver pull the gigantic van over, right in the middle of Shibuya Square, the famed, neon-crazy crossing in the heart of Tokyo, through which nearly a million people pass every day.

We hop out into the mob scene on the sidewalk, shooting pictures and video and gaping at thecrowds. Randy climbs the built-in ladder on the gigantic van to a flat platform on the roof and shoots the huge video billboards, ads for pop stars, flashing lights, car traffic, and human flow with his Sony EX3.

We remain parked there for at least half an hour, with no permission, no permits, no pesky police presence threatening us, issuing citations, or even politely asking us to move. . . . CONTINUE READING: Around the World in 11 Days: Epilogue

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Production • Tech

Around the World in 11 Days: Part 3

Our flight to Japan on Virgin Atlantic is half-empty and quite comfortable. Virgin’s Premium Economy seats, which our travel agent says were not much more expensive than standard Economy, provide better food, better seats, better video, and more legroom.

Our flight leaves London at 1 pm Sunday. Twelve hours later, after flying nearly 6000 miles east across nine time zones, we arrive at Narita Airport outside Tokyo, where, somehow, it’s 10 am Monday. In San Francisco it’s still 5 pm Sunday, 17 hours earlier than Tokyo. None of us sleep much on the plane. The time change has us oddly discombobulated. Our midday departure and the availability of hundreds of movies (we’re all film buffs) both mitigate against sleep, as does, oddly, our enjoyment of the extra comfort on this flight.

. . . CONTINUE READING: Around the World in 11 Days: Part 3