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1-Hour Photo App Brings Analog Patience to iPhone

I’m a big fan of apps that bring back some of the restraints of analog technology that we’ve  completely forgotten with digital. Now I’m not giving up my digital cameras or editing programs any time soon, but the restraints are fun exercises in creativity and patience.

1-Hour Photo is a new app that’s pretty self explanatory from the title. Take a photo, wait 60 minutes, see your photo. Just like the old days, except you don’t have to drive down to the photo lab. Will this be my new go to photo app? No. But when you have to wait an hour to see your photo, you think about that picture a lot more.

Would be interesting to see if they add a 36 exposure cap and a ‘reload’ delay. Good exercise to get some action shots with those constraints.

If you’re into other analog apps, I’ve got a text editor from an old project that mimics a Typewriter (no deleting).

Kolab Canyon 1 - Zion

Experimenting with Natural Looking HDR in Zion

When NAB wrapped in April I wanted to take a few days to explore some of the great national parks in the area. So I rented a car and did a small camping road trip through Zion and Bryce Canyon.

The south of Utah is an insanely beautiful assortment of one national park after another, buffered by state parks and national forests. There’s a state park named Kodachrome, after the film stock used to capture its vibrant colors in National Geographic’s first photo series of the location. Plus there’s Arches and Canyonlands, which I had to save for another trip.

While at NAB I caught a bit of a photography workshop that went into HDR. I had written HDR off a while ago as a very specific, over-processed ‘look.’ But the workshop went in to other uses, including more natural looks to get a wider dynamic range but not look over-processed.

So since I was going on my mini-camping road trip to take pictures (something I hadn’t been doing much of in a while), I figured I’d take a lot of bracketed shots to see if I could use HDR to make more dynamic, natural looking pictures.

Using Photomatix, I definitely was not disappointed. It had a variety of ways to blend the images and finely tune the details. It comes with a solid assortment of presets. Plus there even ways to correct for handheld bracketing and ‘ghosting,’ to correct for leaves or other objects naturally moving around during longer exposures.

It also has a great Lightroom workflow that let’s your roundtrip the images you want to merge and bring the final image back to LR.

In this post is the final image from Kolob Canyon in Zion. I’ve including the original bracketed images. I was doing 5 photos for each shot, but the f-stop maxed out at 2.8 for the over exposure images, so I ended up having two of the same shot.

I’ll be posting more final images and bracketed breakdowns in the future.

Kolab Canyon Mashup Bracket

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GH4 arrived on Friday. I took it out to Big Cypress National Preserve to give it a spin and play with the Panasonic 100-300mm 4-5.6 lens I rented.

This isn’t a camera review post but overall the camera was great. I shot a lot of stills and some 4K video. Below you can see an owl chowing down on a fish. The stabilization is amazing – this was all handheld at 100mm or 300mm (that’d be 200mm to 600mm in 35mm).

Out in the field I connected the SD card to the iPad to see what would happen. The pictures popped up along with the 4K video, which surprised me. I imported a clip and it would play fine if I kept the playback controls up. But if I touched the screen to clear them out of the way the video went black. Instagram didn’t know what to do with the video file, even if I trimmed it and had the iPad export a new clip.

So when I get home I pull up the card, click import in Lightroom, and then…nothing. The only stuff that would import was the 4K video files. Lightroom or Photoshop wouldn’t read the RAW files and neither would Preview. This isn’t unusual with new cameras – they each have their own flavor of RAW and updates catch up the software. So it’s just an annoying waiting game.

But then I remembered the iPad. The images appeared but I never imported them to see if they would load. So I bring them back up, import a few, and they totally showed up and imported fine. Lightroom Mobile wouldn’t read them, but iPhoto had no problem. And I was only shooting RAW, not RAW + JPEG, so these weren’t the JPEGs loading.

White Ibis

I went ahead and processed this image of a White Ibis. No idea why the iPad is totally fine handling these files while nothing on the Mac is (except for Panasonic’s software, where you could convert the RAW files to another format), but good to know.

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Some Things I Saw at NAB

I was fortunate enough to be covering new gear at NAB for Filmmaker Magazine. It was my first time there and overall a great experience.  There was a lot of cool updates and little gear solutions like clever light stands or inflatable softboxes, but no one item that totally blew me away. Here are some of my overall observations of the festival as a whole: 4 Observations from a First Time NAB Experience.

In no particular order, here’s a rundown of what I wrote about.

DJI is releasing their own gyro stabilizing rig like the MoVI called Ronin. It’ll be $5k.

I got to play with the GH4 before it came out and learned a few things. I adjusted my order to drop the YAGH Interface. The upcoming Atomos Shogun looks like a better solution.

Edelkrone has a whole series of pocket rigs, ranging from sliders to handles to rails.

Handy grip gear from Manfrotto and Matthews.

iOpgraher is a handy iPhone / iPad rig.

Airbox softens LED lights.

Tenba has a camera bag just for GoPros.

The two big camera announcements were Blackmagic’s URSA and AJA’s CION (lots of caps). I was more impressed with URSA.

Lowel is coming out with a small LED fresnel light. It’s adapted from a handheld rig they have which really only has a use for event videographers. But now it’ll be stand mountable with a battery accessory. Decent option on the low end of LED glass lights.

 

iPhone_Mashup-01

Shot on iPhone (Additional Equipment Used)

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?

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iPhone on a boom

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iPhone on a crane

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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.

Tools to Edit Faster

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.