Tuesday, 4 December 2012

"Kia ora, Molweni" NZTV Awards 2012

"Kia ora, Molweni" was nominated in the category of Te Mangai Paho Best Maori Language Programme for the 2012 New Zealand Television Awards. Unfortunately we didn't take out the award which went to "Whare Taonga" produced by Scottie productions but it was fun night and a least some recognition of our efforts. He mihi nui ki nga tangata katoa i whakapou kaha kia tutuki pai ai nga mahi o te whakaaturanga nei, ka mau te wehi!


The irony of blogging is that the busier I get and the more things I have to blog about the less blogging actually gets done. Since acquiring an iphone in September I have taken a liking to intagram - an app that allows you to take photos, give them a one-step grade and share it with your friends and family via facebook and the like. some of my favorite photos include:
The instantaneous nature of these photos does give something extra to the viewer. it's not hard to see why this technology is catching on - its faster more convenient than an email, less intrusive than a phone call, and more descriptive than a text message. I wonder how long it will be before DSLR's will be able to run such apps.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Poetry in motion

I recently shot a bunch of poetry readings to be exhibited at the Auckland Museum as part of the Urban Life program. The exhibition opens on the 3rd of November. See the Auckland Museum website for details. Here are a few screen grabs from my Premiere project.

for this shoot I got to try out a couple of new additions to my kit. - LED 600 Variable Colour Balance Light. I used this for my key light. I like that it is light-wieght and it doesn't get hot... ever. It has a dimmer and variable colour temperature. I picked mine up from Photoshack for NZD $599 but they are currently on sale for $475. - Light Stand / Boom Arm. This vital tool allows you to position you mic perfectly and keep it there. I picked mine up from photoshack for NZD $70 and well worth every penny. Blacks were used for the backdrop. In addition to the LED 600, two Dedo were used as back and fill lights. I shot with my 5D mk3 with canon 50mm 1.4 lens mounted on an offset shoulder rig and follow focus. I added a light grade in premiere by doubling the video layer, desaturating and sharpening the bottom layer while blurring and changing the opacity mode to overlay on the top layer. The third new addition was a SanDisk Ultra 32gb SD card I bought at PB Technologies for NZD $68. That is mcuh cheaper than the CF cards without any loss in image quality. Although the ingest did seem a bit slow.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Davinci Resolve

Hats off to pioneering company Black Magic Design for coming out with a couple of produts that are set to drasticaly change the landscape of the indie film industry. Firstly the release of Davinci Resolve - a powerful colour grading software. Resolve 9 Lite can be downloaded for free from the BMD website.
After a few days of playing around with it I am already seeing some pleasing results. Thes following grabs were taken from footage shot on my 5D Mk3.

Resolve uses nodes much like layers to add effects to your images. In the images above I used five nodes to add colour correction, reduced lumanance of the window, reduce lumanance in the face, add a blur and desaturate the background, and add a vignette.

This is an amazing tool that cost me nothing! thanks BMD you are awesome. Whats the catch? There really isn't one. You will need a reasonably fast computer to run the software and the free versions excludes a few features that professional colour grading suites will miss, i.e. the inability to utilize more than one GPU, but all the main functionality is there.

Keep in mind that this is a Beta version and there are a number of bugs still to be ironed out.

The second product from BMD is the Cinema Camera currently selling at B&H for USD$2,995.00. More test footage should be appearing very soon as these cameras roll out later this month. This camera doesn't have a large sensor and thus dosen't produce extreme shallow depth of field but it does produce 13 stops of dynamic range and... (wait for it) ships with a full version of Davinci Resolve! (save USD$995). The cameras latitude is up there with much more expensive cameras like the Arri Alexa and the Red Epic. And although we are still comparing apples with pears, this must surely be considered a minor victory for the little guy. =)

Monday, 6 August 2012

Sons of the Soil Book Launch

Congratulations to Lily Lee and Ruth Lam for completing their epic book, Sons of the Soil. Over the past 6 years mum and Ruth have dedicated much time and effort to compiling this comprehensive historical account of Chinese growers and communities around New Zealand.  Their book was officially launch at the Mangere Chinese Community Sports Centre on Saturday the 21st of July 2012. The event was a huge success with over 500 in attendance and more than 600 books sold. I put together a couple of videos of the occassion.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Travelling with the 5D Mk3

So my girlfriend and I made a trip to the stunning south island a couple weeks back. It was a good chance to spend some time with my new baby (and my girlfriend of course). Check out the pix and draw your own conclusions.

Road trip to South Island, NZ. from stills&motion on Vimeo.

Personally I am so relieved to be able to shoot landscapes at high apertures without worrying about moire and aliasing issues (as in the mk2). With the mk2 moire was particulary apparent when filming ocean scenes while aliasing occurred on anything straight. Canon have remedied these issues if at the expense of a little sharpness which may be rectified in post.

I shot a lot in 720 at 50 fps. This was a feature that made me very jealous of 7D owners - oh how the tables have turned (add evil laugh here). If only it was at full HD resolution, alas, 720 will have to do for now.

The camera handled really nicely. I really enjoyed the addition of the movie/stills switch. I took two lenses with me, my trusty Canon 24-105mm f/4 L and a Nikon zoom lens. All tilting and panning were done hand-held with the image stabilizer on and warp stabilizer was also applied to some shots.

I shot in a Neutral picture profile and added sharpening and slight colour correction in Premiere.

So overall I was pretty happy with the 5D mk3. The body is a small, rugged and weather proof.  The operation is easy. The images are of a high standard.

Friday, 25 May 2012

DIY LCD Sunshade for Canon 5D MkIII

I was excited to receive my Canon 5D MkIII a few weeks back. The first thing I did was set it up on my off-set shoulder rig. This rig worked well for me with the MkII as it was the perfect combination of stability and weight. The first thing I noticed was that the digi finder I was using on my 5D was no longer usable on the enlarged lcd screen of the mkIII. This is a good thing and the resolution is really nice. Having just forked out 5K for the mkIII I didn't want to spend much more money so I went about making a sunshade instead.

I wanted to make the sunshade strong enough to make full contact with my face giving me that fourth point of contact with the rig. I forgot to mention in the video that I added a couple of strips of sponge seal to the back edges of the sunshade for added comfort.

Overall I am pretty pleased with the result. hope this is of use to all you DIYers out there.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Working with 5D's and Premiere Pro in practical terms

I have just completed the first 6 episodes of a documentary series to be broadcast on Maori Television later this year. This series was shot entirely on 5D's. It was also my first time editing with Premiere Pro. Here are a few observations.

Though my primary role on the series was that of editor I was also called upon to camera operate on the odd occasion. Our shoots were fairly basic - mainly talking heads plus various GVs. We were required to travel to various locations around the north island. Our relatively compact kit included: 2 Canon 5D's, 3 Zeiss Prime Lenses, tripod dolly, lighting kit, Zoom H2N, shotgun & radio mics.

Over two months of shooting this kit was put through its paces. The kit was light and compact. During the 20+ interviews the 5D's performed without a hitch. The only annoyance being the 11 min record time limit and having to change batteries regularly. 16G CF cards gave us 40+ minutes so 32G cards were plenty for the average I/V. At times changing lenses got a bit laborious but the images produced by the Zeiss 100mm in particular were very pleasing. We did miss the slo-mo capabilities of the 7D and also the HD signal to our 6" HDMI monitor. Recording audio on the Zoom was pretty painless, however, we did come across a fault when the battery of the Zoom died mid-interview and the data was lost. we only discovered the data-less file a number of weeks later by which time it was too late to recover. A known issue and costly technical error as the interview had to be re-done.

Post Production
After Final Cut went bonkers with FCPX I decided to give Premiere (CS5.5) a shot. I also decided to go with a PC running Windows 7 64bit. Having spent most of my time using Apple Macs I hit a steep learning curb switching to a PC. Lacking  in knowledge and experience I decided to get a ready-made desktop Dell XPS 8300 opting for the highest specs available - i7 chip, nvidea GTX 570, 8GB ram (upgraded to 12GB), USB 3.0 ready, Blue-ray Burner, Dual 23" UltraSharp Monitors. For storage I purchased two WD Mybook 3TB USB 3.0 drives (one for back up). This was soon insufficient space for the new and archival material so I acquired another 3 TB of storage.

Premiere CS5 introduces a sequence preset for DSLR material which allows native editing of 5D and other DSLR footage. The smoothness of playback depends on the speed of your computer. On my PC the footage played back pretty well but wasn't completely smooth at full res (you can reduce the playback resolution in settings). The nvidea GTX 570 isn't listed as supported by the GPU acceleration but a quick google search lead me to a link that showed me how to make the simple modifications to allow it to work.

One fatal flaw I encountered with the GPU acceleration is that it doesn't like working with still images. While manipulating still images in a sequence premiere would inevitably crash after a number of minutes. After googling the problem it seems it is a known issue that has been around since CS4 and has not been resolved to date. The best way around it is to turn off GPU acceleration while working on stills and turn it back on when rendering or exporting.

Other than that, Premiere ran pretty well considering the size of my project ballooned as I created five 26 minute episodes in the one project (the project takes a minute to re-link the 6000+ files upon opening). I particularly enjoyed the dynamic link between Premiere and After Effects. I was less sure about dynamic linking from Premiere to Encore and opted rather to export using the DVD or Blue Ray presets.

The only other programs purchased were Plural Eyes and Mc Drive.  The former was an absolute essential and massive time-saver in syncing up the 5D footage. The latter was also very important in moving between platforms without issue.

A second major issue arose when exporting an OMF for sound mix. Where  I had a stereo signal split into two single mono tracks the OMF only exported one of them. This occurs when those tracks are also located in another sequence as a stereo track. I'm not sure of the exact details but after many failed attempts to work around the issue I resorted to rendering and replacing the affected tracks and then exporting them separately. The problem with this is that you don't get the usual option of adding handles to each clips. This is also a known issue that Adobe will have to address pretty quickly if they want their product to complete with the other NLE's.

Once sound-mix was complete I exported the shows as Quicktime movies using H.264 compression. Each episode took about 45 minutes to export and were about 10-12GB in size.

Overall we were pretty pleased with the results. For this kind of filming we were able to work around the limitations of the 5D and managed to get some stunning imagery from this inexpensive little kit. Though far from perfect, in a professional setting both the 5D and Premiere Production Suite 5.5 get a steady tick and a bang for buck rating of 8/10.