Education

Shoot, Edit, Deliver 4K. Now.

I have been hooked on 4K the moment I first saw it in April 2012 at NAB. 18 months later we are finally shooting, editing and delivering 4K productions to the screen. This blog post is a “as-of-now” report on what we do to make it happen.

We first experimented with pulling 8.8megapixel still frames from the footage and this resulted in shooting a short piece about our foray in this area. Micro Expressions got some good traffic (100,000 views in the first week) even though it was released on Christmas day. That project didn’t come without its critics – most vocally being from people who were aghast that we called it a revolution or that we didn’t credit RED for being first to offer printable frames from a motion camera.

1DC underwater

Hopefully the people who did take time to read the accompanying blog post would have understood that the project expressed our honest opinions a possible use for this new DSLR. The film never had any input or influence from Canon either, they were simply kind enough to lend us two cameras and let us produce what we wanted. I still stand by the fact that we are seeing the early days of a shift towards mixed media from a single source.

I think there will always be dedicated still cameras but in the next few years more images will come from both formats. And why not? Having said all that, I am a cinematographer first, not a photographer, so my main intention was always to start shooting 4K motion and deliver it. It has been painfully slow this 4K workflow roll-out and this blog is to give you a current report on our experiences so far.

Firstly I’ll discuss our experiences shooting 4K with the 1DC having coming from a DSLR (5D) background.

1DC 5Dm3 comparison

1DC Stabilization
The first thing about migrating to the 1DC for your productions is probably the increase in body size. Ok, its not like moving to a RED or Alexia, but DSLR shooters will find the size and weight increase a little to get used to. Its a 1 series body from Canon, meaning it feels like a 5Dm3 on steroids. The weight (1.5kg/3.5lb) is 76% greater than a 5Dm3 (850g/ 1.89lb) and notably the height (16cm/6.4”) is 36% greater than the 5Dm3 (11.7cm/4.6”).

Atlas10 slider

The stabilisation tools you are used to working with can become inadequate unless you are already using heavy duty models. For example, light sliders like CINEVATE’s FLT wont handle the weight of the 1DC, especially if working with sizeable lenses. I am a fan of the CINEVATE ATLAS10 for my sliding- its solid but has been the most reliable and performing slider I have owned.

I am a glidecam addict and although I manage to shoot with the HD4000 with the 1DC, it takes some more grunt and work on your shoulder to manage it. You will also need to increase the weights on the bottom of the glidecam to accommodate the additional load on top.

1DC glidecam

If you use an eyepiece like the ZACUTO Z-Finder, you will need a “Tall DSLR” frame upgrade to fit the new height of your camera. Finally, if you have gotten away with super light tripods in the past, once shooting with a 1DC and assumed 70-200mm lens, you’ll find yourself pushing the limits of your sticks. Manfrotto’s HDV561 monopod just handles the 1DC, however the new 500 series monopod from Manfrotto with its heavier head, will be welcomed.

Upgrading one’s stabilisation kit is probably often overlooked by people’s excitement for moving up to the 1DC. To get the most out any camera system, you must invest in adequate supporting gear.

TIPS WHEN SHOOTING IN 4K with the 1DC

1. Your attention to detail has to enhance. In the past, clutter in the background of your shots, imperfections in your talent’s appearance, wouldn’t be noticed. But with 4K, everything is suddenly there for everyone to see. A hair dangling out of place, or even some fine dust on your lens can be picked up with incredible clarity. Whilst this is the reason some are of the view 4K isn’t the way to go, for me its just a reason to be more disciplined in my productions. There are ways to shoot to reduce the digital sharpness that 4K can bring, and most of that comes down to your lens and depth of field choices. I think now, more than ever, its time to shoot with the best quality glass you can afford and if you want to reduce the “too sharp it hurts” affect, then trend towards lenses that can give deeper compression of the image (like telephotos) and reduce your DOF by opening up your aperture. This I do by using high quality filters (both ND and Polarizers) – my choice being the Tiffen range. They are superbly manufactured and don’t affect the white balance of your image (unless you start to use extremely dense NDs)

Santorini wedding film
2. Focus become more critical than ever
In the past, getting a subject just slightly out of focus could be included in a scene and go by unnoticed. Not in 4K. Even the slightest degree of being out of focus will strike the eye very quickly. So practising your focus pulling has never been more needed.

3. 4K doesn’t mean your productions automatically increase in production value. Sloppy shooting, as always will remain that way. And I believe this is even more pronounced when the images are so crisp. A bump on a tracking shot will scream out to you in 4K, as will a wobble from a tripod bump. It may not in camera, but once you playback your material on a 65inch screen you will be harshly reminded. Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

4. 1DC contrast quirk – like shooting with all Canon DSLR’s I like to reduce the contrast of the image in the picture profile settings. This flattens out the contrast a little producing a greater dynamic range. The much hyped Canon-log feature I have found to be incredibly flat, so much so that I cant bring the image contrast back in post to an acceptable level. The camera isn’t shooting raw, and I just believe you should let the camera’s internal processors do the job they were designed for. (if only with a slight nudge in the lower contrast direction via picture profile).

MEDIA
We have all heard about the greedy data requirements of the 1DC, and its true: it hogs media. Its a pretty simple formula – you need to spend on new cards.
I have not recorded to anything but the SANDISK 128G 100MBS cards with the 1DC (for shooting 4k that is, if shooting 1080P, then your standard “small” cards will work just fine). With 30 minutes of footage only per 128G card, the math is quite simple. If you are shooting commercial work, then around 4 cards will probably manage your requirements, especially if running a download station on set. But if you are shooting events and weddings, then the idea of managing with only 4 cards becomes a fairy tail.

Sandisk 128G

Our first real 4K wedding shoot took place in Santorini Greece in August this year. I say real, because the test shoots were controlled and we had more crew and assistants on board. The wedding in Santorini was shot with two shooters, Wissam Abdallah and myself, and we had to manage our data and shoot simultaneously.
We had six 128G cards on this shoot, which in hindsight was really stretching it. We had two 1DC’s for the trip and 2 x Download laptops. Over a USB3 connection, you will experience at best 100MBS download, but usually more like 70MBS-90MBS to your hard drive. So a typical download takes appox 30minutes. That is equal to the time it takes to fill up a card when recording. We took two laptops so we could obviously capture two cards at one time.

On this 4K wedding shoot we just had enough cards to get us through shooting the morning preps, ceremony and location shoot. Once at the reception we began downloading the data and recycling the cards through the night. Its not something I enjoy doing, so in time I will invest in several more cards, enough to cover an entire wedding shoot without having to reuse a card on the shoot. Currently these CF’s are still prohibitively expensive, but we all know they will certainly become cheaper.

underwater housing

With the Darren Jew Whale shoot in Tonga for Canon Australia, we found that six cards was more than enough for a day’s filming. The dual CF slot is brilliant for extending the time between having to reload, especially when shooting with an underwater housing.

Understandably, the total volume of data you will accrue when shooting with the 1DC will be substantial. For a typical three camera wedding shooting 1080P, we would normally shoot around 100G or so of data. With only two 1DC’s we shot around 1.2TB. And we didn’t overshoot, if anything we were tighter with our coverage as to not unnecessarily fill up cards. So the other cost that needs to be factored in is the increased storage dedicated to backup each 4K production.

EDITING
We have successfully edited 4K content on Adobe Premiere CS6 and Edius7. For RED footage, the clear choice is Premiere as it has been well designed to handle the REDCineX codec and even allow direct manipulation of the Metadata source settings from within Premiere. But seeing as this is a 1DC focused blog, we’ll stick with Edius. Edius7 is not a hugely used NL software, but for the people who do work with it, love it. We have been editing with Edius for the past five years, having come from Premiere, and its been certainly the most stable and reliable editing program I’ve used. IT also has great power in mixing formats on the same timeline. Having said that, Premiere has come forward leaps and bounds in the past couple of years. (ever since FinalCut self-destructed) so I’d probably rate them equally now. If you want to read more about the awesomeness of Edius, you should check out the great blog of cinematographer Matt Scott who is an Edius wizard.

Edius 7 4K

But as of the time of writing this blog, Edius7 is the only NL software I’m aware of that can handle the native 4K (4096x 2160) files from the 1DC. You will need a fairly beefy machine to handle the files without lag, with the recommended specs found on the Edius website.

Edius 4K export settings

When setting up your project in Edius7 to your 1DC footage, its fairly straight forward. Choose 4096×2160 as the resolution. One big piece of advice I can give PC users is to ensure your system drive for your computer is a SSD with at least 500MBS of read/write speeds and also install a second equally rated SSD as a dedicated drive for your windows page file. This will see a big increase in the performance of your programs. I would also recommend raiding your media drives together (ensure HD speeds of 7200RM) for increased speed. I have mentioned these suggestions as they don’t appear on the Edius7 recommended specs page and I have found through experience that it makes a huge difference.

Of course there are people who have found that editing in proxy mode is speedier and more efficient, however I prefer to have a workflow that sees us editing with the native files, in their full 4K glory.

export settings 4k

EXPORTING:
This is the area of production that I enjoy the least. We all know exporting correctly is super important, but at the same time its just plain dull. But through much trial and error, here are the settings that we have found work best with the 1DC.

EXPORTING 4K
Our best results so far has been to export a H264 MP4 with a data rate of around 50MBS. The most important thing to remember when exporting for playback on an Ultra-def display is that you will need to slightly downsample the size from 4096 x 2160 (aspect 1.896) to 3840 x 2160 (16:9). This is because the majority of 4K TVS are standardised not to the Digital Cinema Initiatives agreed 4K, but to 16:9 4K which is called UHD (Ultra high definition) which kind of makes sense to keep the frame size the same as most current TV’s on the market.

If you are in love with the Super35 aspect ration of the 1DC, then export at 3840 x 2025 and you will have small black bars top and bottom but will remain true to the aspect. I personally would just resize to 16:9 for a more pleasing look.

Please note: The black bars top and bottom on the embedded vimeo links in this blog are just a word-press blog quirk (if anyone know’s how to avoid these please let me know!) When watching these films on our vimeo channel you will notice they don’t have this letterbox effect.

EXPORTING TO HD FROM 4K:

ASPECT RATIO:
Firstly, you must remember that 4K footage that is produced by the 1DC is shot in the Super35 Aspect ratio (1.896) so export settings that you may have saved for your usual applications like Vimeo and PlayStation need to be adjusted.

The main one being frame size. When down-sampling to HD remember to adjust the height of the clip by the same ratio as the width. So your 1920 file will remain that width but the height needs to be adjusted to 1012 (not 1080) It will result in a narrower or skinnier export which is the Super35 one. Thankfully Vimeo automatically recognises the aspect of files uploaded to it so there is nothing different about sending it online. (when exporting to the narrower aspect of 2:1 – which has been recently popularised by RED – you need to make this number 960. If you prefer the narrower look of 2:1, then there is no problem exporting your wider 1DC footage to this aspect, just ensure you tick the option to “crop” to fit this new aspect ratio, not resize to fit. And of course you’ll want to check that head-room and framing isn’t negatively affected buy this stripping of image top and bottom.

This film above was down-sampled to S35-HD (1920×1012) from the original 1DC 4K (4096×2160)

MEGABYTES PER SECOND:
There is a heck of a lot of information that is being lost when stripping away resolution so you want to keep a high bitrate (at least 50MBS) to retain as much clarity through less compression as possible. it goes without saying that 2 PASS VBR encoding with maximum depth is recommended.

If you cheat by encoding with less quality can result in horrible banding through your shots, especially where graduated exposure occurs like skies and in water.

DISPLAY
One of the most frustrating thing about the release of all these fantastic 4K displays (actually most are Ultra-Def and “only” display 3840×2160) is that they haven’t offered any kind of 4K playback device for actually watching content! We are finally seeing a slow roll-out of 4K media players from the likes of RED (REDRAY) and SONY’S PlayStation4, but that “coming soon” tag hasn’t helped all of those content creators who impatiently want to revel in our 4k footage now.

4K TV

The day I saw the release of genuine 4K media players from Nuvola I ordered one. It arrived a couple of weeks ago and we immediately went to work hooking it up to our 4K Samsung 65inch F9000. After some a few hours of messing about with settings, we finally got our content playing back on the screen to an acceptable a quality. What through me for a while was as simple as the refresh rate. Being in Australia, we run on 50Hz power system (the US is 60Hz) and of course that is the main reason the US television standard is 30FPS (or 29.97 to be exact) and here in Aus we have 25FPS.

Nuvola NP-H1

The Nuvola NP-H1 is a great little mini-computer, which I suggest you get pre-installed with Windows7 and their 250G SSD. Its literally setup plug-and-play and for those of you in the US, it will immediately begin playing back 4K clips on your screen when powered up. (in Australia, you’ll find these clips lag due to your TV’s refresh rate – you’ll need to install your own content).

In the coming months many players will become available which is a great thing for all of us in production.

WHY SHOOT 4K NOW?

Here is my top reasons why you should shoot 4K now:

IT JUST LOOKS SO DAMN GOOD
Ok, not the most technical of answers, but you know what – I have listed this first for a reason. I think 4K rocks. I love it and Io love being passionate about my craft.
And of course that passion for what we do can become worn-down. How many of you found your passion for filmmaking re-ignited when DSLR’s first appeared? Remember how that excitement rubbed off on your clients? Passion can be infectious, and I have found the same thing happening again with 4K. I’ve even upgraded people to 4K production before even being able to show then the difference on screen, that’s how powerful genuine passion can be. (it also probably helps that every 2nd tv ad today is hyping-up 4K TVS!)

4K still frame
Click on image to see the original (untouched) 4K still frame

4K (SORRY, ULTRA-DEF) TVS ARE GETTING CHEAP – FAST!
TVS that offer 4K playback are dropping in price so fast that soon I believe all displays will become standard as 4K. Most films and a large number of high end Television shows like Breaking Bad and House of Cards have been shot in 4K. Unlike 3D, I do believe that higher resolutions are here to stay and will become more mainstream. It could be argued that ultra-definitions are more suited to documentary and wildlife films, not dramas. Whilst I can understand that argument – why do we need to see the pore marks on the nose of the actor? – but instead i’d like to think production techniques will adapt to the new format and make steps to ensure they work to its strengths and weaknesses. I remember when HD became more widespread in TV productions. Suddenly makeup and set-design had to lift their game and become more subtle otherwise cracks in both could be picked up easily by the viewer!

FUTURE PROOF
I think it is a wise move to insure your projects will still be technically relevant in years to come. How could I have gone to the Artic or Africa this year and not shot everything in 4K? I would only regret not having useable footage for future projects and increasing the longevity of the projects we complete today. Its for the same reasons that television shows are being produced in 4K today despite the added costs.

4K PRODUCED SUPERB HD
There is a very noticeable look to a production delivered in 4K that was originally shot in 4K. The HD that results from downsampling the high resolution original is a lovely off-shoot benefit. Its called “super sampling” or “oversampling an image and reaping a superior HD master. Its comparable to scanning 35mm film and showing it in HD. People who have watched our HD exports have asked if they are watching 4K. That says it all.

Santorini

MORE OPTIONS IN EDIT
The ability to crop into your picture for either re-framing, horizon correction or stabilisation is impressively advantageous. Finally we have some of the options available to our motion images that photographers have enjoyed with their stills for years.

BUILD 4K STOCK
Stock libraries around the world like Getty and T3Media are crying out for more 4Kcontent for their libraries. Its like the playing field has been levelled again and what were once extensive collections are having to be re-stocked with new material shot in higher resolution. So its a great time to start building your collection and benefit from selling online with limited competition.

In my opinion, if you are already producing in 4K and not taking full advantage of being an early adopter by actually playing back your 4K footage to new clients – you are squandering a big opportunity. Its called a “honeymoon period” for early adopters, where you find yourself being able to command a premium due to relatively little competition. (The same thing happens when people buy expensive new camera systems and rent them out at a high rate before the market becomes flooded.)

I hope this article helps those who are starting out in 4K production with the 1DC and saves you many hours of setting-tweaking. If you would like to learn more about shooting in 4K then you should really consider joining our Cinematography workshop taking place in Africa this year. Watch the promo film below or visit the link above for more info on this exciting in-the-field workshop taking place in June 2014.

We promised to post more regularly next year with a load of new projects from around the world.

Cheers!

Abraham Joffe

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African Wildlife Cinematography Workshop with Abraham Joffe – June 2014

It is for both still and video photographers who want to learn the skills and techniques to capture and create powerful cinematic wildlife footage in the wild.

DATES:: 20th – 28th June 2014
LOCATION:: BOTSWANA

It will be presented by Abraham Joffe, owner of Untitled Film Works, Sydney. Abraham is one of Australia’s foremost cinematographers and he has worked in Africa on a number of assignments for Iconic Images International, producing first rate film clips such as: An Elephant Bazaar, Balm for the Soul and Namibia with Iconic Images, with three more films in production.

CLICK HERE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND HOW TO BOOK or email abraham@untitledfilms.com.au

Abraham initially conceived the idea of the cinematography workshop being a one-day event in Sydney. Following discussion with Denis Glennon AO, owner of Iconic Images International, it transformed into an eight day workshop in Africa!

It is being held in one of the best locations to capture stunning footage of Africa’s largest mammals and superior predators – Mashatu in Botswana.

If you wish, you will also have assistance with your still photography when there; you will photograph alongside Canon Australia CPS wildlife photographer, Jay Collier and Denis Glennon AO.

We will teach you how to capture the expanse of the African landscape to the most minute details in wildlife. While you learn about wildlife filming techniques from Abraham, Jay’s & Denis’ approach to composing nature and wildlife will transform both your still and motion photography, not merely add to it.

You will also have access to Isak Pretorius, an accomplished, knowledgeable South African naturalist and wildlife photographer. All three are experienced and competent professional wildlife photographers having spent years honing their skills in Africa.

A primary focus of the workshop is to give you every assistance to capture iconic footage of leopards, lions, cheetahs (with a little luck) and elephants up-close from our own underground hide. The first arrival of an elephant herd, whilst you are in the hide, will leave you speechless, awestruck and do not be surprised if you find yourself so overwhelmed you forget to use your camera!

Workshop Content

It would be a challenge, anywhere in Africa, to match the photographic opportunities for filming of leopards, lions and elephants available at Mashatu, Botswana.

The workshop presentations and field practice will cover:

DSLR overview – choosing optimum camera settings, profiles and configurations for wilderness filming as well as preferred lens choices.
Stabilisation – maximising the benefits of tripods, sliders and glidecams, including hands-on training on each, particularly when filming from vehicles.
Filming wildlife – how to approach different species, understanding animal and bird behaviour and practical information on anticipating the action. This session will also cover shooting effectively from vehicles.
Working from a Hide – Mashatu is a fantastic workshop location as it has the underground elephant hide from which amazing and truly unique footage can be captured.
High speed cinematography – there will be at least one high-speed camera at the workshop for capturing fast action.

Audio – the optimum audio setups for recording atmospheric sound, interviews and on-camera options.
Undertaking interviews – how to plan, light and shoot an effective interview.
Time-lapse Photography – preparing for this exciting genre of photography plus practical shooting of nightscapes.
Editing – how to construct an effective pictorial story. This will be towards the end of the workshop when participants will have captured their own material to edit.

Our aim is to ensure you come home with the best possible footage and unforgettable memories of a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience photographing Africa’s magnificent animals with a small group of like-minded people.

Leopards are the most elusive and arguably the most beautiful of the African predators! They seem to choose who photographs or films them! Our experienced drivers/guides will amaze you at how well they can track them and with a little luck you will be astounded when you see how close we can get you to film these supreme predators.

Did you ever think you might film an elephant herd from a perspective similar to that lying on your stomach with the nearest elephant not more than five metres from your lens ?

When not attending presentations by Abraham, or filming in the underground hide, or in one of the bird hides, you will be on game drives each day. You will have very experienced drivers and expert animal trackers to give you the best opportunities of finding and filming a wide range of wildlife.

Whilst at the workshop, you are invited to participate in two special photography sessions run by Jay Collier & Denis Glennon:
(i) “Tried & Tested Techniques for Capturing Outstanding Wildlife Images” and
(ii) “Transforming your Wildlife Images into Photographic Art”.

CLICK HERE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND HOW TO BOOK or email abraham@untitledfilms.com.au

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Approaching a destination DSLR film assignment.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of heading off to a new part of the world for a shoot with nothing but yourself and a scaled down shooting kit. In 2012 I’ve had some wonderful opportunities filming in locations such as Alabama, Florida, Namibia, Botswana and most recently The Maldives. On each of these occasions I’ve had to rely on an ultra light kit. It takes careful prep to decide exactly what will really be needed, and what luxury items can be sacrificed. I am a huge advocate for always having the exact right tool for the job, but for solo travel it’s simply not practical. So like any new project, planning is critical. This article discusses what I have found works for me through much trial and testing.

the "wet-edge" effect achieved with a 5Dm3 + 14mm 2.8 Lens in Aquatech housing

What to bring.
Firstly, you need to research your destination as much as possible. What you will be filming will determine what gear you will need. For example, For Namibia, i packed numerous ND +polarisers to deal with harsh light that I anticipated dealing with, as well as a second light tripod so I could run two time-lapse setups per night. With the Maldives, I packed a new Aquatech underwater housing for the marine shots.

So before you set out, ask yourself these questions – What am I most likely to encounter? Will their be interviews? How will the environment effect the shoot?

At home base, we tend to take it for granted how easily we can replace lost or broken items. Most times you won’t have that ability on location. So pack spares for items most likely to fail. Top fail contenders for me are: radio mics (the lav mic itself, clips, and wind protector), bulbs, extra media and batteries (camera + AA). Also, the simplest thing like a lens cloth can complete throw you if you happen to lose the one you have. Of course you can’t bring backups of everything but if you carefully think before leaving of what’s most likely, you’ll be on the right track.

Other very important items that are often forgotten are: universal power adapters (plus a power board so you can multi-charge), Allen keys (don’t fly with them in hand luggage as they’ll take them at security), monopod + tripod tightening tools, spare base plates, and air blower for camera sensor maintenance.

When it comes to your biggest weight bearing items – stabilisers (tripods, sliders etc) have to make a choice between weight vs function.

Maintaining a clean and organised kit is essential.

Here is my choice for solo travel shoots.

1. Tripod > Miller Solo DS10 carbon fibre.
It’s a great versatile tripod that allows for low mode shooting and is carry friendly. I have considered packing lighter options (like the Manfrotto 701HDV) but in the end this is such an important item I think it’s worth it. If your check on luggage is tipping the scales, you can sneakily carry the head of the tripod in a small carry on bag.

2. Monopod > The universally loved Manfrotto 561-BHDV-1. Lightweight and stong. Breakdown for travel. I also bubble wrap my mono along with other items in my check luggage. Remember to pack tape to re-wrap them on the return journey.

3. Glidecam >
It’s become synonymous with hand held glide systems. Simply a great tool that when mastered enables you to very quickly pull off powerful shots in the tightest of places. I never leave home without it. The preferred model for DSLR shooting is the HD4000. Although heavier than its sister models, I find it the easiest to balance and fly stable. Lens’s most often found attached with the glidecam are the 24mm 1.4, 35mm 1.4. Occasionally we’ll use the 50mm 1.2 (although takes some practice) and the 14mm 2.8 (for tight shooting environments or epically wide establishing shots. Start your glidccam training on the widest (therefore easiest to achieve) lenses.

3. Slider. >
Here’s a tricky one. Out of the set above, in my option it’s the easiest to talk yourself not leaving behind. I brought one to Africa and didn’t end up using it even once. But of course it all depends on your subject matter. I just find many of the slide shots I can replace with a carefully executed glidecam move. There are scores of lightweight sliders on the market, however a good choice for travel would be the Cinevate FLT. It’s strong, fairly light and does what it’s meant to.

4. Lenses >
This is always where most of the pain in decision making lies. I love to have full set of Canon primes with me on shoots, with every one finding special one-on-one time with my camera.. So how do you leave any behind? Again, it comes down to what is Most needed, and what is really a luxury. One new serious choice has recently hit the market – the Canon 24-70mm 2.8 LII. I have always been a lover in L series prime lenses (the only exception in my bag being the 70-200mm 2.8 L II) however this lens really impresses. It is a huge improvement on the earlier series one model. The sharpness, clarity and bokeh all closely mimic that of the primes it covers. Although its yet to be a permanent member of untitled film works’ lens arsenal, I can confidently say it will be traveling on some future shoots. It will be fantastic to have this lens as an alternative to packing the 24mm, 35mm and 50mm. Of course these lenses still all produce superior image (as well as much faster performance) but with the increased ISO performance of the current cameras, the choice is becoming less one sided.

Having said all that, my “current” line up of travel glass is:

24mm 1.4
35mm 1.4
50mm 1.2
70-200mm 2.8 L II
100mm Macro 2.8 L IS

For Africa I also packed the 14mm 2.8 (for nightscape timelapses) and the 300mm 2.8 L II + 1.4x and 2x extenders.

Absolute necessary lens accessories are filters: Tiffen ND filters (I pack 2 and 3 stop), Tiffen Circular Polarizer (72mm + 77mm), as well as at least two lens pouches. The best I have used by fa are the ThinkTank pull string pouches. The Lens Changer 50 V2.0 will hold all your primes (with lens hoods attached!) including the whopping 85mm 1.2. I am yet to use a variable ND that doesn’t give a “muddy” cast to the image, so I strongly recommend a high quality individual ND. Also i should note, I have stopped using UV filters as permanent attachments to my lenses. I just find they form another optical barrier to your lens. Of course without a UV you do add more risk to damage, but I prefer a cleaner image. Let your high quality glass do its job unhindered.

5. Audio >
An often much overlooked area. The quality of your field recordings can make-or-break your production. Here are my essential items:
1. Rode Video Pro mic. After much searching for the perfect on camera mic, this one rested best-on-show. A great, compact little mic with lovely tone. The wind protected is a must add-on.
2. Roland R26 field recorder. This device was a real “zoom” killer for me. It records up to six channels at once direct to SD. What sets this apart from other hand-held field recorders is the quality of its pre-amps. There are two types of stereo microphones built into the R-26, plus a pair of XLR inputs for external mics, and an input for a stereo plug-in powered mic. It’s also a wonderful atmos recorder for situations where live music is being played.
3. Radio mics. Sennheiser evolution G3kit. (2 receivers, 2 transmitters) don’t forget fluffy wind protectors and lots of spare batteries 4. Rode NTG condenser mic. There are several models, I like the NTG 3. Great paired up with the Roland for interviews and atmos location recordings. (Note: This item could be sacrificed if an ultra-light kit is required.)
4.Headphones
Recording audio without good quality headphones is like filming without a viewfinder. After many brands tested over the years, my all time favorites are the Sennheiser HD-25s. Rugged, reliable and great sound. They can take a real beating and parts can be replaced like the ear cushions and leads.

6. Lighting >
This department often takes up the largest load back at base, so how do you pack for travel work? Again it all depends on what you the project entails. If you are to be shooting a lot of interiors and interviews then more allocation for lighting will need to be made. I’m a huge fan of Dido lights. They are strong, sturdy and have dimming and spotting adjustments. With a couple of Dedos and some bounce and gels you can achieve wonders. Remember if you are traveling internationally remember to check the power comparability with your lights. A simple way to avoid power issues is to run battery operated lights. Today’s LED lighting options are incredible. One of the best new pieces of kit I’ve bought lately is the Dedo Ledzilla LED light. It runs on a Sony 970 battery, runs cold as its LED is dimmable and will give you six hours of use from a single charge. A fantastically light travel light. Another option is a small LED light panel. There are many great models on the market. You’ll also need to pack a couple of lightweight stands. Some small pieces of foam core (for bounce) and some daylight gels are useful inclusions.

Dedolight LEDZilla

7. Media and Backup >
It’s critical that you have a data management plan in place before you leave. The safest method is of course multiple backups. Using a laptop, I like to transfer each card onto two separate portable hard drives. These then stay in separate bags and really, one should be with you at all times (not in checked luggage). I also like to keep a detailed shot list whilst on location. It helps down the track in edit as well as let’s you see what coverage you still require while you’re still shooting.

8. Kit bag >
And what to hold all this precious cargo? As i said before, I love having the exact right tool for the given job. This applies to bags also. Never skimp on the purchase of a quality bag. I have had my porta-brace lighting bag for over 10 years and its still going strong! For a great travel backpack, Lowepro is my choice. I have both the Vertex 300W and the new Pro Trekker 400. The Trekker is a brilliantly deep bag which can hold 2 cam bodies, a large tele and 3-4 more primes with ease. The Vertex is great for local shoots where less is required. I do love the fact that it can hold my 20″ laptop in a dedicated zip up sleeve and has more small pouches within the lid for small items. Both bags have various external straps for lashing on glidecams or monopods (sometimes both!)

9. Miscellaneous >
Other important items that can often be forgotten are:
Canon timer remote for Time lapse set ups. A vertical grip is also a good idea to provide enough power for time lapses with extended periods. (More on time-lapse techniques in upcoming post) Zacuto Z finder (2.5x is my preference), gaffer tape, multi tool, lens cloths, universal power adapters (plus a power board so you can multi-charge), Allen keys (don’t fly with them in hand luggage as they’ll take them at security), monopod + tripod tightening tools, spare base plates, and air blower for camera sensor maintenance.

I have purposely left out cameras from this list as obviously this is come the that evolves the fastest. From Namibia in July onwards, all my 2012 trips were filmed using the Canon 5D mark3. However I have the sneaking suspicion an 1DC may make its way to my bag for the next shoot.

A great thing to do is keep checklists. Note every item you take on your next travel shoot and have that at hand next time you pack. It will really avoid forgetting a critical item. On your return, note down any items that you did not use. This will help refine your perfect shooting checklist. This article can perhaps act as a starting point.

Good luck!

Abraham

untitled film works

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Africa wildlife assignment

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Denis Glennon
May 2012

Abraham Joffe – Australia’s Top DSLR Cinematographer

Abraham Joffe

Abraham is an award-winning cinematographer and is regarded as one of Australia’s top DSLR film makers. He has a great passion for pictorial story telling and film making in the real world.

He is also an experienced underwater cameraman with several documentary films to his credit. He has filmed throughout the Solomon Islands, East Timor and around Australia.

A highlight of his work was shooting with the late Malcolm Douglas in the far corners of The Kimberleys.

Along with his commercial production, Abraham is a sought after wedding cinematographer, speaker and educator in Australia and internationally.

He owns and manages the Sydney-based company Untitled Film Works - the “untitled” philosophy comes from his belief that every pictorial story captured is told by the discovery process which is unwritten.

Abraham will be joining the Namibia Self-Drive Photo Safari 2012, to:

  • Teach participants how to get the most from the HD video functions on their cameras. This will be the first tour on which Iconic Images introduces participants to this medium and I could not think of a better place in Africa to be taught film making, using your own camera, by one of the best DSLR cinematographers in the business.
  • Produce for Iconic Images three short BBC-quality promotional films. On location we will discuss how the photography of tour participants might be included in these films.

I would encourage you to read up on the HD video functions of your camera before you arrive in Africa. Learning from a master cinematographer is an opportunity not to be missed.

To see a selection of Abraham’s stunning film work visit his website at: Untitled Film Works.

 

Jay Collier – Tour Co-leader

When teaching and film making in Namibia, Abraham will be assisted by Jay Collier, Canon Professional Services, Sydney. Jay is a master photographer whose passion is wildlife photography and teaching photographers how to get the best from their equipment. His understanding of photographic theory and the features and functions of today’s cameras and lenses is second to none. This expertise has been accumulated from working in the professional division of both Canon and Nikon in Australia and will be made available to participants during the photo safari.

Should you have any queries please drop an email to denis@denisglennon.com or give me a call on 0418 923 103.

Best Regards,

Denis Glennon AO

Enquire Now

 

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Abraham Joffe presenting at AIPP’s the EVENT

Its an honor to have been asked to speak at the AIPP (Aust. Institute of Professional Photographers) largest conference on their calender – their annual “the EVENT” held this year in Adelaide.

Its a sign of the times that photographers are showing so much interest in the power of shooting motion pictures with their DSLRs.

Abraham Joffe will be talking on a variety of aspects in transistioning from shooting still photography to cinematography.

Topics will include – intro to film language, manual focusing, cine-tools – (glidecam, sliders, monopod) intro to audio, shooting sequences, + mastering your settings for cine.

 

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Adventures in 3D Production

This morning we featured in our first Webinar, broadcast around the world courtesy of EVENT DV + GrassValley.

My fellow speaker was John Ellerbrock from Gates housings (builder of underwater systems).

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