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Chris Mann

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    Guildford, Surrey

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  1. Before we all get too excited, I think there are technical reasons why optical reducers aren't commonplace.   They are used on astronomical telescopes, but that's a different situation from using them on video or stills cameras.   If I recall correctly from the dim distant days when I was into amateur astronomy, optical reducers can suffer from vignetting and also limit the range of distances at which the setup can be focussed. With an astronomical telescope that's no problem as you are almost always focusing near infinity - but with a camera for terrestrial use not being able to focus closer than (say) 100 feet would be a big limitation!   So I think it remains to be seen what the practical issues are - it may be that these things will only be workable with certain camera/lens combinations.   If it was a panacea for getting the FF look on small sensor cameras I'm sure the big manufacturers would have been on to it by now...
  2. I haven't seen the Hobbit movie yet, but when I heard that Peter Jackson was planning to stretch it to two films (let alone three) I was dismayed - so I totally agree with you that it's too little material spread out too far.   Also The Hobbit as a book is a much lighter (some may say slighter) work than Lord of The Rings - it's a kid's book whereas LOTR does have a grander feel and a much more serious tone, which lends itself better to the epic stye of filmmaking.   3D I'm not keen on either, but it may be the way of the future in which case we're stuck with it.   Whether 48fps will catch on is an open question - from what has been said in various reviews it does seem as though in conjunction with HD digital filming it is possibly too revealing and too much like "reality TV" to work for the movies.   I know my clients appreciate the soft look I get with 25fps and shallow DOF - this may just be what we are all used to seeing over the last 90 years of watching films shot that way, but although 48fps may make action sequences look clearer I feel the trade-off of losing the slightly dreamlike quality of 24fps may not be worth it.   Perhaps the answer is for action movies to be shot in 48p and everything else in 24?
  3. I haven't used that specific stabilizer (which looks very much like a cheaper knock-off of Steadicam's Merlin) but whether it's good or bad, if you buy it expect to spend some time getting it balanced and learning how to use it before shooting with it on a real project. All these stabilizers operate on the same principle - moving the centre of gravity of the rig outside the camera so that you can control it. Where they differ is in how easily and accurately they can be balanced, how well they work with your particular camera, and the quality of the components (especially the all-important gimbal). As with most things in life you get what you pay for; a cheap stabilizer may be a bargain, but something like the Steadicam Merlin (designed by Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown) is likely to be a better long-term bet if you plan to use it a lot. As for using fast primes outdoors, yes you will want to use neutral density filters if you plan to shoot at the typical shutter speed of 1/50th second (for a film-like motion blur) and use wider apertures. A fixed neutral density filter (e.g. a 0.9) is the cheapest option, but a variable ND (such as the Fader ND) is more flexible if lighting conditions will vary.
  4. If you want to be a professional Steadicam operator then I think you need to own the real thing, not a knock-off, and also get some training in how to operate it properly. It's definitely not a device that you can just pick up and get instant results with - the setup has to be correct (and is different for each camera), and the operating technique is not just a matter of getting smooth shots but also about heath and safety - you can injure yourself and possibly others if you don't learn the correct technique and also safe operating procedures around other people, negotaiting obstacles such as cables, steps and stairs, etc. I attended a three-day Steadicam course with Robert Starling (who shoots for TV shows such as MTV Cribs), and I was amazed at how much there was to learn and what a difference correct technique made. The first day I ached all over and was quite dispirited, thinking I would never be able to fly the thing successfully. But with time (and lots of practice) it's a skill that like any other can be masteerd. Getting the rig balanced and using the correct posture is not only aimed at getting a good shot but also about not hurting your back in the process. Then there are some very important general safety procedures to be observed (such as always having someone guide you when walking backwards while wearing the rig). As for the hardware itself, yes there are cheaper alternatives to Tiffen-made Steadicams, and some of them (e.g. Glidecams) are pretty good I believe, but I think it's worth having the real thing that was designed by Garrett Brown who invented the device in the first place. The different Steadicam models are designed for different camera loads - so you need to be fairly specific about what kind of camera you are going to put on the top before buying a Steadicam. The Merlin for example is rated for cameras weighing from 0.5 to 5lbs, the Pilot for cameras from 2 to 10lbs, and the top of the range Phantom and Ultra models for cameras in the 20-48 lb range. Bigger isn't necessarily better; using a lighter camera on a Steadicam that's designed for something heavier will require you to either operate with the stage raised up too high relative to the gimbal, or add weight to the platform to balance out the rig correctly and achieve the desired "drop time". Although I trained on a Steadicam Flyer and operated that for a number of years, these days I use a Merlin with a Panasonic GH1 camera - a very small and light rig that I can operate on my own safely at weddings and other events, where I'm making shots in a situation that is not a controlled environment. I think if your goal is really to become a professional operator, I would start with a rig that can fly the kind of camera that's likely to be used on independent, low-budget productions - a Pilot or Scout perhaps - and graduate to bigger rigs when the need arises. But if you possibly can, sign up for a proper Steadicam training course - it will save you a huge amount of trial and error and save you from getting into bad and possibly dangerous habits.
  5. If you are using the Rode Videomic (or any mic) outdoors you will find it a really good idea to add a furry windshield cover of the sort made by Rycote or Rode themselves. In very windy conditions you may need a blimp as well. Otherwise you will be very likely to pick up wind noise. Under $200 there probably isn't much to compete with the VideoMic Pro - the regular VideoMic has similar sound quality and is cheaper but is bulkier. Or you could step up to the Rode NTG2 if you want a proper "pro" shotgun mic, but will need to add in the cost of an XLR to mono minijack cable and a shockmount. Another way to go would be to use dual system sound with an inexpensive separate recorder such as the Zoom H1 or H4N, or Tascam DR-07 which you can place much closer to the people speaking. (This is a good idea especially for events so that you don't have a break in the audio when the dSLR clip breaks occur).
  6. I'm a moderator over on DWF (Digital Wedding Forum) and we've found by experience there that you should keep sub-forums to the absolute minimum necessary. Right now there isn't enough traffic here to make it worth splitting things up by camera make IMHO. Rating posts? - maybe - or keep it simple and just have a "thanks" button, or a "thumbs up / thumbs down" option. My overall feeling is it's working fine right now, no pressing need to make drastic changes.
  7. The "crop factor" is really just a way of helping us figure out the angle of view of a lens of a given focal length when it's used on cameras with different sensor sizes. 35mm film is taken as the reference, partly because it's something familiar to most people (we can visualize what a photo taken with a 50mm lens on a film or full-frame digital camera will look like), and also because commonly people fit 35mm lenses to other cameras, and knowing the crop factor makes it easy to work out what the angle of view will be on that different camera. So, if you take a Canon 50mm lens, it gives the same angle of view on a 7D (1.6 crop factor) as an 80mm lens would on the 5D. And on a GH2 (2x crop factor) it behaves like a 100mm would on the 5D. Using full-frame as the"standard", and knowing the crop factor for any given camera, means we can translate the marked focal length of any lens and figure out what the shots from that lens and camera combo will look like. One more example: the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens, mounted on a 2x GH2, gives approximately the same angle of view as a 40mm lens would on a Canon 5D or other 35mm full-frame camera.
  8. I would guess you are using a mono microphone - the GH2 has a stereo mini-jack input, so the mono plug on the mic cable is making contact with only one channel. You need to either use a stereo mic, or a mono mic that has a stereo output jack (e.g. a Rode VideoMic) or a mono to stereo adapter. Or just double-up the left channel to the right channel in post and don't worry about it. :)
  9. Surprised to hear you had problems with Transcend Class 10s - I use them all the time with hacked GH1 and GH2 cameras - in fact I shot a wedding on Saturday with them, no problems. My GH2 uses the 44MB patch. I wonder if you have a bad batch of cards?
  10. If you plan to do heavy-duty grading in post you generally want to start with as "flat" a picture as possible - in other words turn down the contrast saturation and sharpness to the lowest levels. So set the camera to "My Film 1" and then adjust all the settings to -2 except noise reduction. Do some tests before you shoot something important!
  11. You click the button that corresponds to the preset that you want to have loaded into the firmware. So if you want to use the settings that are defined in the Unified preset, click button E; to use the Vanilla preset, click button F. Those two buttons are used in case you have downloaded other presets that assign themselves to buttons A-D.
  12. As Sara said, it depends on which editing app you are using and whether you are on Mac or PC. On Mac I use Final Cut Pro 7 - in that I transcode all my footage to ProRes 422LT using FCP's own "Log and Transfer" dialog. In Final Cut Pro X or Premiere it will transcode for you in the background. If you are using something basic like iMovie then it will transcode to AIC (Apple Intermediate Codec).
  13. I have a Panasonic SD-900 and an SD-800 which I use as B-cams in conjunction with my GH2 and GH1 cameras. Being Panasonic they have a similar "look", which saves time in post - I also use a Canon 7D and the colour from that is totally different. As is the footage from a Sony camcorder - much cooler usually. So I would go with the GH1, or if you want camcorder convenience/automation the Panny SD-900. Don't pay extra for the models with built in flash memory or hard drive - SD cards are so cheap the memory-card only model is by far the best value. The SD-900 is preferable to the SD-800 as it has a cold shoe and mic socket, and headphone socket.
  14. For video, you need a proper video head - unless you don't plan to ever pan or tilt the camera while shooting. And with tripods you definitely get what you pay for - cheap ones are not very stable, are harder to adjust, and don't last very long. Leaving aside full-size professional video tripods, the best on the market is the Sachtler Ace, but that costs £500 (?€600). If you can't afford a Sachtler, then check out Libec models, they are quite usable. if you must have a dual-purpose stills/video tripod, then I would buy a Manfrotto or Giottos base, and add a Manfrotto 701 fluid head for video, and your choice of ball head for stills - e.g. the Giottos MH 1301. I have used a GH1 on a stills ball head, and it's OK for locked-down shots, but you can't move the camera smoothly at all while shooting. Don't buy any video head cheaper than the Manfrotto 710, it will be a waste of money.
  15. A Zoom H4N is still going to be more versatile as it has XLR inputs and phantom power allowing you to use proper professional microphones. The Rode VMHD only has a mini jack socket which limits you to consumer mics. If you want to place a self-contained recorder close to the action, check out the Zoom H1, which costs about £80.
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