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October 27, 2015

Tech Tuesday: NASA Broadcasts 4K Video Stream!

On Oct. 11, 2015, NASA made history by being the first public entity to broadcast 4k video from the International Space Station!

 

This is huge! When government entities adopt broadcast technology’s, typically that means that new standards will follow and there is soon be industry wide adoption.

 

The Wild West of Video

4k video has been the Wild West of video for years with no set standards or distribution i.e. multiple formats like UHD and Sony True 4k.  Also, with manufacturers like RED and Blackmagic pushing resolutions beyond 4k, most production houses, news agencies and private organization have been hesitant to adopt 4k in fear that it will quickly be obsolete. However, the 4k market has received a bit of a boost with Youtube offering 4k streaming video and most camera manufacturers offering affordable options.

 

Now, with NASA offering 4k streaming, I believe that viewer can expect to see a wave of new 4k content coming to their screen.

October 20, 2015

Tech Tuesday: Sony Shakes Up The Photo World With A New Camera Update!

Sony RX1R II

Sony RX1R II

It is not often that a camera maker releases a new camera that surprises everyone, however, last week when Sony announced their new RX1R II, they stunned us all. Sony has always been on the cutting edge of technology, and they show it off with this update of the RX1. Though it has a fixed lens, it is far from your average “point and shoot” type of camera. Boasting the same 42.4MP full frame sensor as the a7R II, photographers will be able to crop photos without losing detail, and with the panoramic mode, they can still take breath-taking, wide angle landscapes.

RX1RII sample - Geisha

RX1RII sample - forest

 

Professional Quality In A Smaller Body

We have all seen cameras boasting more and more megapixels over the years, but without increasing sensor size, it really created larger files with the same amount of detail. With the same full-frame sensor as the Sony a7R II, the RX1R II gets the increased resolution with all the detail.

RX1RII sample - candies

 

Speaking of detail…

 

Control Over Sharpness

In the past, camera makers have offered their popular camera models with a option to have the anti-aliasing (AA) filter removed i.e the Nikon D800 & 800E. The reason is removing the AA filter allows for the sharpest image possible. However, this does introduce unsightly moire especially on objects with very fine detail such as clothing.

Sony RX1RII Variable AntiAliasing Filter

 

Utilizing a liquid crystal coating vs. a fixed screen, Sony has created a Variable Anti-Aliasing filter, by providing an electrical charge to the coating to activate the filter on demand.  While Pentax had a similar feature on their K-3, this is the world’s first variable anti-aliasing filter allowing user to select whether they want maximum sharpness, no moire or a balance between the two.

RX1RII variable antialiasing filter

 

Get Your VF And Use It To

Compact cameras have always had a difficulty with viewfinders. They were either completely useless or made the camera more bulky such as the Nikon V1. On the flipside, not having a viewfinder made it difficult to compose an image off the LCD in bright sun and also forced you to hold the camera away from your body where it was unstable. The new Sony RX1R II addresses this issue with a retractable XGA OLED Tru-Finder.

Sony RX1R II viewfinder

 

Constantly Innovating

In the end, the RX1R II is great example of why I like Sony. They continually innovate and push the limits of technology, and though they are on the higher price range, they deliver products that are meticulously thought out and brilliantly crafted. I believe that the Sony RX1X II will be a great camera for commercial and enthusiasts alike.

 

 

October 13, 2015

Tech Tuesday: DJI Osmo – Reimagine Movement

DJI Osmo

Courtesy of DJI

Bringing Steady Shots To Home Movies

Recently, I highlighted DJI in an article about their new Inspire 1 lineup, and, when a company keeps upping the game in affordable video stabilizers, I am impressed. As a videographer, I love it when companies release new tools for me to get more inventive shots, and with the new DJI Osmo, I believe that any creative filmmaker can get a nice, steady shot for their production.

 

 

Re-imagining The Wheel

The idea of a small camera on a handheld 3-axis gimbal is not new. In fact, Feiyu came out with one well over a year ago. But what DJI has done is added their own camera, Zenmuse x3, and allowed for users to pan and tilt independently. This allows the operator to have greater control over the camera and create a more refined shot.

 

 

Now, I’m not going to lie. After looking at the Omso’s video samples, I feel that the X3 camera doesn’t really produce that great of an image. Much like a cell phone, it does a good job, but not as great as they tout. The compression creates noticeable macro-blocking, especially with movement. With DJI’s X5R, you could have a professional level product, but straight out of the box, it is more for the amateur filmmaker.

 

Three DJI Zenmuse cameras

Zenmuse X3, X5 and X5R camera lineup | Courtesy of DJI

 

An Exciting Addition

Overall, with its ability to take panoramic and time-lapse shots along with its fully integrated controls, I think that the Osmo is a nice piece of equipment right out of the box. In addition, DJI has announced a lineup of supports and mounts to expand its capabilities. I am excited that DJI has thought this one through and released a solid product.

 

DJI Osmo

October 8, 2015

7 things I learned by shooting video on a mountain

Camera Jib on top of ski slope

Epiphany On A Mountain

There are many challenges during a video production that you must over come (conflicting schedules, equipment failures, difficult talent, conflicting creatives…), but as professionals, we are able to overcome these and still produce great results with relative ease. Last winter while shooting safety PSA (Public Service Announcement) commercials for the U.S. Army in West Virginia, we experienced all the typical problems that plague production only this time 4,280′ up on top of a mountain! That is when I realized just how important and rewarding it is to work with so many creative professionals. That being said, here are seven important lessons I learned by shooting on top of a mountain:

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Shooting a PSA video on the edge of a ski slope comes with many challenges

 

1. Planning is everything!
We didn’t decide to shoot on a mountain on a whim. It took about two months of planning, coordinating and prep. We had to get permission from a lot of people including the resort coordinators, public affairs, our own safety people, ski patrol and even the trail groomers for help transporting equipment. Overall, everyone was incredibly helpful and eager to see the production succeed.

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, winter

Shooting on top of a mountain presented a lot of logistical problems like how do you get equipment up to the peak? Answer: CAT tractor! Photo by Marshall Amey

 

2. Wear the proper clothing
West Virginia is freezing in the winter (duh!). Before I left, I ensured that I had all the proper cold weather gear: gloves, goggles, beanie, coat, sweater, long johns, etc. I dressed in layers and brought hand/foot warmer for myself and a few extras for anyone else who needed it.

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Bundle up! It’s going to be cold.

 

3. Think safe, work safe
Working on a production set, it is easy to get hyper-focused on the task at hand and forget about your environment. When we were shooting on the edge of an icy, black diamond slope, I had to make sure I was always working safely and conscious of my footing and the equipment so we all wouldn’t end up broken at the bottom of the hill.

Camera shoots downed skier

Don’t worry, he’s just acting. 🙂

4. Look out for each other
Fortunately, we were working with experienced, union grips who encouraged safety, but it is always good to watch out for one another. One of our guys slipped on the ice, but was caught by another crew member before he injured himself. Nothing worse than get injured on a safety PSA!

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Here our associate producer and audio technician demonstrate the buddy system. Photo by Marshall Amey

 

5. Check the weather
This is very important because nothing can ruin a shoot like inclement weather. Our associate producer was glued to weather bug, national weather service and the weather channel. I recommend always having a weather app on your phone and also the weather station tuned on your radio in case you are out of cell range like we were. We lucked out and had beautiful weather the day of our shoot!

Sunrise over wintery landscape

This was our view at breakfast!

6. Get in good with ski patrol

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Our ski patrol guys pulled double duty as safety experts and talent. Here they are pretending to mend on our “hurt” skier’s leg. Photo courtesy of Marshall Amey

Our ski patrol guys were terrific! Sam was retired Army and Randy had been working ski patrol since he was young. They were great and really looked out for us.

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, ski patrol, winter

Now this is how I like to get to the set! 😀 | Photo by Marshall Amey

Plus, they were nice enough to run me down the hill on their sleigh and up the hill on the snowmobile. So much fun!

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, ski patrol, winter

Ski patrol giving me a ride back down the mountain to capture GoPro footage. Best ride ever! XD | Photo by Marshall Amey

 

7. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the moment
On set, we are always running to get ready for the next shot or focusing on capturing the shot at hand, but taking a minute to realize you are on top of the world looking out over a beautiful landscape is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is what reinvigorates my passion for video production and love for travel.

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, ski lift

Sometime you just have to stop…breathe…and enjoy the view | Photo by Marshall Amey

 

Not every video production is going to take you to extreme, exotic or even interesting places, but every now and then, you get to stand on top of a mountain and remember why you love your job. 🙂
To check out the finished commercial, visit the US Army Safety Center here!