iPhone Rigs

Shot on iPhone (Additional Equipment Used)

by Joey Daoud on March 21, 2014

At the beginning of last month Apple came out with another great commercial featuring day in the life activities of people around the world using Apple products seamlessly in their life. The kicker at the end of the video is that the commercial itself was all shot on an iPhone.

Everything in the video was shot on the same day (January 24, their 30th anniversary) and they released this BTS video showing how it was made with this futuristic video control center with FaceTime feeds of camera crews around the globe.

While the filmmaking mission control center of the future was cool, what struck me was the amount of rigs and gear used in the production. I knew there would be some extra behind the scenes magic used, especially with the disclaimer at the end “Additional apps and equipment used.” But I didn’t realize it was this heavy duty.

Swap out the iPhone with an Alexa or RED camera and it would look like the production of any other Apple commercial. While that does say a lot about the iPhone 5s’ image sensor, I think it says even more for the importance of camera rigs and professional crew and operators to get fantastic images.

Here’s a mashup of my favorite rigs:

iPhone_Mashup-01

iPhone on a MoVI?

iPhone_Shot_0016_Marker_16

iPhone on a boom

iPhone_Shot_0017_Marker_17

iPhone on a crane

iPhone_Shot_0008_Marker_8

 

 

Last week Panasonic announced their long rumored 4K successor to the GH3, the aptly named GH4. The high resolution in a body that’s expected to be under $2000 drew lots of attention and comparisons to the only other comparably priced 4K camera, the Blackmagic Production Camera, which has since gone down to just under $3000.

But Panasonic also announced a new accessory specifically for the GH4 that adds pro-level video features you’re not going to find in anything under $10,000, the YAGH Interface Unit (not the sexiest of names). If you’re looking at this camera for video work (and why else would you care about 4K if you weren’t shooting video?) you’ve got to look at it as a whole package.

The YAGH adds 2 XLR inputs with audio level controls and monitoring, uncompressed 4K SDI out, timecode sync, DC power in, and some sort of rail system for lens support and accessories. The XLR inputs are what really sold me. No more relying on fragile 3.5 mm inputs or dealing with sync sound later. Plus if you need to run-and-gun you can take it off and go with the very capable Panasonic MS2 shotgun mic, built specifically to work with these cameras. If we assume the unit will be under $1000, that’s $3000 (probably less) for a 4K camera with pro-level features. That’s crazy.

I’d say that’s comparable to the Canon C500, a $20,000 camera, except unlike that camera the GH4 can actually record 4K without the need of an external recorder. Of course they’re not equal – the C500 has a Super 35 sensor and RAW 4K, but that’s up to you if it’s worth an extra $17,000 (plus an external recorder if you actually want to record 4K). Of course if you’re interested in RAW 4K, there’s the Blackmagic for $3000, but you’re not going to be running-and-gunning with that camera. It’ll be interesting to see the Zacuto 4K shootout once all these camera’s are officially out.

GH4_C500

Here’s some 4K sample footage. You can find more videos of the camera in action at No Film School (nothing on the YAGH).

We finally got most of the gear up and running and kicked it up a notch to start filming the machete fighters in slow motion on a steadicam.

FS700-Setup

To break down the setup, we’ve got the Sony FS700 (left) owned by DP Richard Patterson. This camera was released with a future 4K upgrade in the pipeline which just came out. The 4K requires two additional devices, the HXR-IFR5 interface (center) and the AXS-R5 recorder (right). The IFR5 interface connects to the camera through the SDI port and the recorder holds the SSD media for recording. AbelCine rented the R5 recorder to the production at a discount and the IFR5 was purchased from Sony.

To me, more appealing than the 4K from this setup is the ability to shoot unlimited slow-motion at 2K at 120 fps. Normally when shooting slow-motion on the FS700 you only have an 8 second window to record the action, then you have to wait for the camera to buffer the recording before you can shoot again. It’s a lot of down time and not ideal for recording machete fights with subjects not used to the technicalities of film production. This setup lets us record slow-motion at 2K (or 4K with buffering) for as much memory as we have, which is 20 minutes of action on a 512 GB SSD card.

I’m writing a full hands-on review of the experience when we’re done with production for Filmmaker Magazine, so there will be lots more information about the camera and some of the issues we ran into. There will also be a lot of insight from Richard, who will have worked with the setup firsthand for two weeks.

Follow the project on Facebook and help support it at the GoFundMe page.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll work on answering it.

Been in Haiti for the past few days for the currently untitled Haitian Machete Fencing Project. It’s a short doc on Tiré Machet, a martial art of machete fencing mastered and taught by professor Avril.

It’s going to be very cinematically shot. We’ve got the Sony FS700 with the just released 4k recorder along with a Steadicam. Been having some issues with noise with the Sony, which will hopefully be resolved today. I’m writing up a full report of shooting with the 4k for Filmmaker once the shoot is done.

Over the weekend we went location scouting. Found this amazing 200+ year old fort on top of the mountain named Cap Rouge, explored some sugar cane fields right next to our hotel, and met with the professor for the first time. After sipping some rum he gave us all our first lesson.

You can check out some of the highlights in our first video update.

It’s been a busy past few months with no hint of letting down anytime soon. Here’s a recap of what’s been happening and what’s coming up.

Haiti – I’m returning to Haiti to help out on an exciting short documentary project. It’s about the vanishing art of Haitian Machete Fencing, a fighting style that originated during the Haitian revolution. It will be a very stylish doc with lots of slow motion shots. You can find out more about the project and help support it (more crowdfunding requests!) at the GoFundMe page.

RISC Battlefield Medical Training – In June I was fortunate enough to take the RISC training course. RISC (Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues) is a four day first aid course for treating battlefield wounds. It was created by photojournalist Sebastian Junger, after his friend Tim Hetherington and fellow photojournalist Chris Hondros were killed in Libya (Sebastian and Tim directed the documentary Restrepo). There is very little training available to freelance journalists, and most of it is thousands of dollars as it’s targeted more towards business professionals or reporters for a major news agency. RISC was created to teach journalists how to treat life threatening wounds, and best of all it’s entirely free.

It was an amazing course run but some excellent individuals. I was surprised at how much I learned in only four days. And with this upcoming shoot of machete wielding fighters it’s knowledge I’m glad I have.

Because it’s free, I’m trying to pay it forward for future classes to help support them. Please consider donating a few dollars on my donation page. Donate to RISC.

Foundation Shoot – I’ve been traveling around the US the past six weeks shooting a video for a foundation highlighting their grant recipients. I’ve been traveling as a one man band and have fine tuned my kit to be travel friendly and moveable by one person (though my back might disagree). I’ll write a full post of what I’ve been using and some travel tricks I’ve found.

I’ll go into more detail about everything soon, but that’s it for now. You can always follow me on Instagram at @C47Joe.

iPad Controls

Tools to Edit Faster

by Joey Daoud on July 3, 2013

This is a repost from an article on Filmmaker Magazine. However at the end I added some updated thoughts on PROCUTX.

Anyone who’s joined the FCPX bandwagon will tell you one of the main draws is speed (or at least I will). FCPX let’s you do things quicker. But how we interact with the system (and computers in general) has its limitations.

For years the standard of working with NLEs has been left fingers planted on J, K, L, right hand on mouse. It’s not a terribly bad way to edit. Doing it for years you build up a fast muscle memory, but there are still keyboard tasks that stretch the limit of what you can remember, along with the span of your thumb and pinkie.

Is there a faster way? We’ll look at two options, one an iPad app and the other a program to customize the trackpad.

PROCUTX

PROCUTX is a newly released app for the iPad that creates a control surface for FCPX. It’s from Pixel Film Studios, a company that makes some great FCPX plug-ins.

The app is on sale for $24.99 for launch, with a regular price of $39.99. Setup is easy — you install some free server software on your computer and a set of custom keyboard commands from PROCUTX.

The connection between the app and the computer is excellent. Scrubbing works in real time with no perceived delay.

The controls in the app are grouped based on task and cover a wide variety of areas. Front and center is playback with a dial for frame toggling. Above is a nice selection of options to adjust the speed of a selected clip. The left side of the app covers Compound Clips, Keywords, simple actions, and tool selection. The right is shortcuts for Import/Export, Auto-Correct, and Color Grading.

On the surface it’s a bunch of buttons for one-touch shortcut access, but to get to everything it offers you’d be doing a lot of finger contorting. To the new editor this can be a great time saver.

But I was interested in something that could replace either the mouse or keyboard while increasing my efficiency, and as of now PROCUTX can’t. It’s majorly lacking in control of making edits. The best you can do is use the blade tool, but to select anything you have to go to the mouse. Most notably absent is the ability to mark Ins and Outs as well as trim a clip to the time indicator.

One of the features I was most looking forward to was its color grading ability. It has button shortcuts to jump to either the color, exposure, or saturation control, which is nice. But as far as making adjustments it’s best for fine-tuning changes, not making broad adjustments like a color wheel. (I’ll say that this is a limit of FCPX and not PROCUTX).

For all the shortcomings of the app, keep in mind that this is version 1.0 and Pixel Film has been soliciting input and committed to actively releasing updates. One of the top priorities is adding more edit control, like Ins and Outs.

Also slated for the future are voice control and networking ability between multiple iPads to have a larger control surface. I’m curious what an entire iPad screen dedicated to color grading would look like.

However, PROCUTX really misses the mark in fully taking advantage of the platform it’s built on. Everything in the app could easily be duplicated with buttons on a piece of hardware. There’s nothing that takes advantage that this app runs on a display screen with multi-touch abilities.

Why dish out $1,000 for two more iPads when the interface could change based on the task at hand? Why have a button for every option when gestures could save hand movement and work quicker?

Bottom line — this is a great app for someone just getting started in FCPX but not a timesaver if you’re already good with the keyboard.

BetterTouchTool

BetterTouchTool is an add-on for your computer that lets you set any gesture to trigger any command for any program. For free.

BTT really shines on the trackpad, which can detect all five fingers, but it can also control the Magic Mouse, a regular mouse, the Apple Remote, and some Wacom tablets.

1All you do is pick a preset gesture (or record your own) and assign what key combination or action it should trigger when performed. You can make it global, meaning it works no matter what program is open, or program specific.

Here’s some examples of how I use it for editing — three finger tap triggers Space, so I can play/pause. With the same three fingers, while touching the trackpad, if I tap with the index or ring finger, it triggers the arrow key for the respective direction I’m taping, letting me skim frame by frame. Tap the top left or top right edge trims the clip. Pinch in or out to zoom.

What I love about this is it lets you enhance something you’re already using. It’s not another device to move to, it’s sitting right beneath your fingers.

Sure, it can’t do nearly as much as a full control surface. You have to be careful you don’t go gesture overboard, or else you’ll start triggering all sorts of crazy stuff inadvertently just from basic scrolling and usage. That said, here’s a good preset collection from Jason Chong with FCPX controls.

I started using it on my laptop and loved it so much I bought an Apple trackpad for my Mac Pro. Remember, this is a program for OS X, not FCPX. You can use it for any application.

Slated for release in late April is CTRL+Console, an iPad app that works on a variety of programs. It was successfully funded on Kickstarter towards the end of last year and is incorporating gestures into its UI. Interesting to see if this really will make you a better, faster, stronger editor.

Update

Since writing this PROCUTX has released a few updates. They added the ability to mark Ins and Outs but it still suffers many of the same issues from before in that it’s not organized in a way that’s context based on the task at hand, nor does it change the interface depending on what you’re doing. They need to take a page from Apple: skeuomorphism is dead.

Still waiting for CTRL+Console to go live. They said they’ve submitted it to the app store.

Earlier this year I co-produced two video pieces for the New York Times. The first was on retirement communities in South Florida that are seeing an increase in baby boomers moving in but were still working. They didn’t want to retire, it was just a good real estate deal and when they do end up retiring they’re already set up.

The other video is on an Evangelical church in Central Florida that is in support of immigration reform.

Both were shot with the Panasonic GH3. For the retirement video, some areas were a little sensitive to larger cameras. So I shot some parts with the FiLMiC Pro app on the iPhone. Turned out great. I kept the subject mic’d, had the receiver and sound recorder in my pocket. Footage sync’d up great.

For the driving shots I used a suction cup camera mount stuck on the inside of a partially lowered window, pointing out.

Hands-On Review of Shooting with the GH3 in Juarez

by Joey Daoud on January 12, 2013

I returned from a shoot in Juarez, Mexico, using only the GH3. Bottom line – it’s an amazing DSLR. I also rented some of the new Panasonic lenses. Everything in the video above was shot with the GH3.

You can read my full review at Filmmaker Magazine.

Filmmaker: Shooting Angels with the Panasonic GH3 in Mexico

The Double Barrel Camera Rig

Double Barrel Interview Rig

by Joey Daoud on January 3, 2013

A MacGyver 3-D rig? No.

Double Rig

I adapted this hack from a post on the NY Times Lens blog from photographer Doug Mills. It lets me get a wide and close-up shot simultaneously while doing one man band interviews.

I simply mount my GH2/GH3 directly on top of my Sony EX1. I keep the EX1 wide and put a 50mm on the GH for a tight shot with soft focus. The EX1 has the added advantage of also recording the audio. Two cameras, one set of sticks, one operator.

Of course you could always punch in on an HD clip, but this lets you maintain full resolution.

Obviously you’ll need two camera bodies, and one should be a DSLR or something light. You’ll also need a micro ball head.

In post I sync all the angles as a multicam clip. I originally sync’d them as a compound clip in FCPX, but this was harder to work with.

The Panasonic GH3

Panasonic GH3 Review – Coffee and Quick Thoughts

by Joey Daoud on December 10, 2012

I received the GH3 last week and did some quick shooting with it this weekend. This is the first time I’ve ever pre-ordered a camera, and I’ll just say I’m not at all disappointed. It’s everything from the hacked GH2 and then some.

I’m not going to write about how great the expected features are, because they were obviously expected (audio in and out, timecode, iOS control, QuickTime files). But they are great.

The unexpected: The feel is solid. It feels more like a professional camera. And overall it’s a bigger body. Ergonomics are vastly improved. Now there are two toggle wheels and better placed buttons for quick access to settings. There’s also seven function buttons customizing controls to your preference. Well, actually there’s five real buttons. Two are on the touch screen. There’s actually room for two more on the touch screen but for whatever reason it’s just empty space.

Speaking of the touch screen, I actually want to touch this one. With the GH2 I’d usually forget I could touch menu options because it was hard to be accurate. Part of the problem was a border around the screen. The GH3 did away with that and is completely flat, making it easier to touch the controls that are on the edge. The menu has been redesigned as well to make changing settings much quicker.

For example, before to adjust audio levels you’d have to go deep into the menus. Now there’s a quick setting right from the screen. And before you only had 4 levels to choose from. Now there’s 13.

The video is a quick collection of initial thoughts and some sample footage shot in different conditions. At the end I blow some up to 200% and 400%. I think it really holds together.

Here’s how I sum up DSLRs: Nikon and Canon are still cameras that can shoot video. The GH2 and GH3 are still and video cameras.

Technical specs for footage in the film:

Coffee footage shot at ISO 200, Nikon 50mm 1.8
Axis & Allies footage shot at ISO 6400 3.5 – 5.6
Basel footage ISO varies
All shot at 1080 24p MOV 50mbps

If you have any questions about the camera or would like to see something specific, let me know.