Around this time every year, Televisual do a survery to work out what salaries and day rates people get working in the television industry in the UK. Here are the results for this year's survery for camera operators:
Indie TV production, camera operator: £29,250
Broadcaster, camera operator: £31,125
Facilities (OB, studio etc) camera operator: £39,250
Corporate production, camera operator £38,006
This year's survey only had the one job title of "camera operator", whereas last year's survey had camera operator and DOP, however, they didn't split the industry into fields (such as indie/broadcaster/corporate etc). The results for these in 2012 were as follows:
Camera operator: £36,113
Looking at earnings as averages is obviously tricky for a career like that of a camera operator or DOP as there are huge variables, as proof of this, in the Televisual video from 2012 they also mention a DOP from their survey with a salary of £200,000. The main variables are the kind of work you do, and the kit you own. A busy DOP working on commercials is obviously going to earn a lot more than a cameraman just starting out, shooting small corporate jobs.
Working as an owner operator with kit, is more like running a small business, with larger risks and more variable earnings. If you make the right decisions and buy the right kit, you are likely to make far more than the average OB or studio cameraman who's day rate can only go so high. Equally, make the wrong decisions and buy kit that you can't get on jobs and you could even make a loss.
To read the full 2013 earnings report go here.
It seems there are more and more cameras on the market these days. If you are booked in for a job on a camera you haven't used much, using a menu simulator can help you familiarise yourself with the layout of the menu systems before you get to the job. The last thing you want is to be fidling around scroling through menu pages when you should be shooting.
Sony F-65 simulator
Canon C300 Simulator
Below is a list of camera simulators, some can be used as ipad apps, others can only be used online.
Arri Alexa (available as an ipad app)
Sony F65 (this one is from the app store)
On the surface filming packshots is a very simple thing to do, but it is worth putting some effort and creativity into it as this is what sells the product.
Pack shots are shots of a product, usually for commercials, branded web content or as product placement for tv shows. A common approach with this is to film the products in a white studio or infinity wall. An infinity wall has a smooth transition from floor to wall, allowing you to shoot objects on the ground that appear to hang in space with nothing surrounding them - think of any Apple advert and you get the idea.
To get a really clean bright white, you want to over expose your background a touch. Typically white studios aren't perfectly white and can be scuffed up and may be a very light grey colour, over exposing evens this out for a really clean white. It is best not to go nuts here as lighting the background too heavily will mean you bounce a load of light back onto your product. Zebras or a histogram are useful here, but is relatively simple to do and you can see what is going on just using a good monitor and your eye. The next thing to consider is lighting your product. For the most part you want simple three point lighting to give the product its correct look and proportions. I often find there is some scope for creativity here though and like to try adding some accent lights to bring out certain details. Dedo's are great for this as you can pinpoint a small area of interest and give it an extra sparkle or glow. Finally, ignoring all this and breaking the rules. Sometimes you don't just want a product to hang in the air. I was asked to film these pack shots of piano designed by Peugeot and Playal. The bottom part or the piano was white, so over exposing for a really clean white would mean part of the product would actually be a bit lost in the background. Here I decided to light the piano from a few different angels, putting an 850 watt light low down at the base of piano made some interesting shadows on the studio walls. I used a kino as a key light and then a few dedos at a low hights to accent features and cast light and shadow over the inside of the piano. All the shots here were filmed on a Glidetrack Hybrid slider to give the shots a bit of movement.
Every cameraman will have to light for green screen at some point, as keying software improves everyone is using it, even those on a low budget. Lighting for green screen is relatively straight forward, but it worth watching out for a few factors, as getting the lighting wrong on this can obviously cause serious problems in the edit. I'll go through the type of lights that are best for green screen shoots, but first a few basic principals.
There are loads of different ways and different lighting set ups to effectively shoot green screen, but the principals are the same.
1) Set up you green screen so it is as smooth as possible, stretch it out if need be to get rid of wrinkles, or hang it up high so the weight of the cloth pulls out wrinkles. If you are in a green screen studio, look out for any big scuffs or marks on the floor or walls. (most studios will have paint or green tape to patch up little problems)
2) Create a soft even light over the green screen (no hot spots, no shadows).
3) Light the green screen a couple of stops below your subject. Blasting the green screen with loads of light isn't a good idea, as you can bounce green light off the screen onto your subject. Lighting the screen too dark will mean that it is easier to cast shadows on the screen. The best situation is a green screen just slightly darker than the light on your subject.
4) Treat your green screen and your subject separately. Once you are happy that you have an evenly lit green screen, light your subject in the same way you normally would. Here you should be using different lights from those used to light the screen.
5) Avoid all shadows. The easiest way to do this is to create some distance between the green screen and the subject. In some cases this may be difficult, for example if you have a small room or a small green screen and the Director needs a full body shot, you will obviously be forced to have the subject near to the screen. In this case you can cut down on shadows by raising your lights and moving them out to the sides, therefore throwing the shadows down at the ground and away to the edges. Remember, all the editor needs is enough distance around the subject to cut him, her or it, out from the background.
6) Shoot at a wide aperture when possible. Having the screen out of focus helps even out any inconsistencies from wrinkles etc.
7) Use a backlight to sharpen the edges between the subject and the green screen. This should be a relatively soft light. You can use minus green gels (magenta) for this if you have them, which will cut down any green light which may have bounced onto the subject.
8) Lastly, an obvious one, make sure your talent isn't wearing any green. This also applies to reflective material, a watch or piece of jewellery, glasses etc. These could all reflect a small amount of green from the floor or walls, which will give the editor a long and boring job fixing up this issue.
There is another really important consideration with green screen: think about the finished product when lighting your scene. Normally, what you see through the lens is the finished product, but with green screen this obviously isn't the case. There is no point in creating perfect three point lighting, if the green screen setting is outside, or a night scene or a cartoon sequence etc, it will just look odd - in a real life outdoor situation where would that perfect hair light be coming from? The best way to approach this is to get as much information about the finished scene as possible. You may be given a photo or video of the plate, if not, ask questions. Will it be indoor, outdoor, sunset, night time, etc.
Types of lights for a green screen shoot.
For the green screen itself you want a soft even light. I often go with two kino flos at either side for this. It depends on how big your screen is, but 2 x 4ft 4 bank kino flos will be easily enough to cover a 12ft by 10ft screen, giving you a screen big enough for a head to toe shot of you subject. If your screen isn't as big as this, kino flo do a smaller 2ft version.
You can also use something smaller like a kino flo diva light, or you can use LED panels. I have used the Kino Celeb which is an LED panel (similar in size to the kino Diva light), and it worked well. The main thing is for the light to be soft. If you tried to light this screen with Red heads or similar you would have to move the light along way from the screen to give you a soft even light, and therefore you will end up with shadows from you subject.
I have also used space lights in studios. These lights work really well for larger spaces, they create an even light over the screen and floor and can be dimmed to work in with your subject's lighting.
This is a low quality photo from my phone, but you get the idea. This is a rehearsal and the full green screen is still being constructed. Above there are three space lights that given an even light down walls, there are a couple of defused 650s for back lights and a couple of 1ks behind large diffusion screens. The 1ks would normally create very hard shadows but bringing them far back and shining them through a large screen makes a softer light.
When you are working in a more confined space than a studio, you are going to need a smaller soft light for the subject. I find the Diva 400 is a great light for this, it has an egg create over the bulbs that helps direct the light and avoids spill on to the background. I usually use this as a key and then fill with another kino or LED panel. For the back light a 650, or a dedo light will do, I use loads of diffusion on these to soften it up as much as possible. If you are working in a studio kinos will often be mounted on the ceiling allowing you to use them as a back and others that can be used to light the screen from above.
If you are using traditional tungsten lights: fresnals, redheads or whatever, just soften them up as much as possible. Chimeras, softboxes and diffusion will all help cut down shadows. Larger diffused light sources from further away will generally create softer shadows.
Another awful photo from my phone, and the house lights are on to further confuse things, however, it shows the basic set up. The 4ft 4 bank kinos are either side of the screen there is a back light from a red head high up at the corner of the green screen, and a couple of LED panels for the subject.
Finally, if you haven't already seen them, here are two videos showing the use of green screen in multitude of films.
Much as I'd like to shoot with prime lenses all of the time, it just isn't practicle for what I do, for most of the programmes I work on I need a zoom.
Whether you are shooting on a super 35 sensor camera such as the Canon C300, Sony F3, F5 etc or a DSLR, at some point you are likely to need a decent mid range zoom. In an ideal world I would like something that is around 20 - 80 mm, that is rugged and well built, that has a good image quality (decent contrast, little distortion etc) that is as fast as possible (somewhere around 2.8) which is the same aperture throughout the range, that ideally has manual aperture and has a common size barrel, so I can easily screw on a protective uv filter. This sounds like a lot of demands, but having a good mid range zoom means that you will use it alot, maybe as much as 80 percent of your shooting time on a documentary, and therefore it must be as decent quality as possible.
There are several lenses which provide all of requirements above, but they are mostly very expensive. Here is a brief run down of them, with aproximate costs. (These cost are a guide only, as prices tend to vary when you are spending this kind of money on a lens)
|Zoom Lens||Length mm||Max aperture||Manual iris||UK Price||US Price|
|Angenieux optimo dp||30-80||2.8||yes||14k||20,499|
|Ziess compact zoom||28-80||2.8||yes||
At the top end Angeieux, Canon and Fujnon are all making great lenses around the 30k mark, for my budget this is too high, especially to go on my Canon C300, which itself only cost 12k. I have used the Fujinon Cabrio and the Angenieux optimo and thought they were great to work with in terms of ease. At the lower end of the scale here the Alura and Red Zoom could well be worth a look. The Red zoom weighs over 4kg though, so it may be a touch on the heavy side for most small cameras. Most of these lenses are PL mount, but would easily work on an EOS mount with an adapter.
The next option, and a much cheaper one, is too look at stills lenses. Stills lenses are obviously not designed for video and therefore have lots of flaws: iris are often not constant through the range, there is often no manual control for the iris, the focus throw can be very small, the general build quality is no where near as solid as the zooms above. The focus often doesn't have hard stops so spins round indefinitely, making repeat focus marks dificult.
Many of these issues are not there when it comes to older stills lenses. As a general rule, these tend to be built with more solid metal housings, they have larger focus throws as many of them are purely designed for manual focus, they have manual aperture rings (which can be declicked to give you a smooth iris control). The focus ring usually has a hard stop, meaning it doesn't spin around indefinitely and therefore lose any focus marks you may have.
Before going out and buying an old stills lens and modifying it for video use, it is worth noting that some of these lenses have been produced over several decades. An earlier version of a lens might be built in a certain country with certain materials, but both of these things might change over time, which can cause a shift in the quality of the lens. An early version of a lens that might be great for cine modification and a later version of the same model might not be as good, or may not even work at all on modern cameras. Another issue with older lenses is that they tend to be less fast and have less zoom range than their modern equivalents. So using a stills lens is going to be about compromise.
Below is a list comparing a range of modern and old vintage zoom stills lenses.
|Zoom Lens||Length||Max Aperture||Manual Iris||Solid build||Price|
|Leica R||28-70||3.5-4.5||Yes||Yes||450 aprox|
There are obviously plenty of other vintage lenses that could be used here, but I have only listed lenses that come fairly close to reaching my requirements above. Many old lenses are simply too slow to be considered in my opinion. If you are going to the trouble of shooting on a large frame camera, you are obviously looking for a decent shallow depth of field, and if you can only open up your lens to 5.6f, it sort of defeats the point.
The Canon L series 24-70, is an absolute work horse for any jobing photographer so there are huge numbers of these lenses about. They are obviously sharp and have decent optics. The only issue with these is they are not image stabilized as some modern lenses are, and the focus throw is very small (as on most modern lenses). The Canon EFS 17-55 has these same issues, and it feels slightly cheap and plasticy, that said I have been using one for 3 years in all conditions and mine is still working well. If your main requirement is range, then the Canon L series 24-105 has to be looked at. It is image stabilized, which is useful for video, and as with a L series lenses from Canon it is rugged and weather sealed. The only issue I have with this lens is the speed 4f. It just doesn't feel that exciting to me when I use it. The Leica R 35-70 is also only 4f, but there is something a bit more interesting about the look a feel of this older lens. I was using the Canon 24-105 only a few days ago, yes it did a good job, but I just can't bring myself to buy one.
Leica R lenses are well respected by many photographers and even some cinamatographers. These things are built to last and feel solid - all metal housings unlike today's lenses. The focus throw is much larger, making pulling focus easier. These lenses can be de-clicked to give you a smooth iris change. There are also several brands making adapters out there (leitax is usually recommended). the same can be said for Angenieux who produce great lenses for film and digital video. There 28-70 feels pretty solid, but I have heard that it is not a good idea to use it in the rain (unlike Canon's 28-70, which seems capable of taking a battering). One thing to look out for with Angenieux and Tokina is that they made lenses with a variety of cameras in mind. The versions designed for Nikon cameras will obviously focus in the same direction as Nikon lenses. This is a pretty big issue for me, as I am so used to rotating in a certain direction to find focus and I would prefer to always use lenses that focus in the traditional way.
As you can see, whatever you choose (unless you have 30k to spend on an Angenieux optimo) there is always going to be a compromise. You can have fast 2.8 lenses that have a decent range, or you can opt for a slower lens that has iris control and possibly a more interesting look. The slightly softer creamier look of a Leica could be a bit more apealing that the Canon glass that everyone else is using, however, you won't have the small depth of field of the modern lens and you won't have the range. The best thing here is to decide which factors are most important to you and most useful for the work you do. The one factor that makes the decision easier is that lenses hold their value incredibly well. You can always buy somthing, use it on a few jobs, and if you feel it isn't what you want, put it back on ebay and you'll probably get what you paid for it.
I often find new features on the Canon C300 to help me work more efficiently. The magnify button is an essential tool, especially when shooting with a shallow depth of field. In default mode this has a small yellow sign notifying you that you are in magnification mode. I still find that I can forget I am in magnify mode for a second, particularly if I am using a zoom lens. There is a great feature that turns the magnified screen black and white. This is great for focus as the sharp section really pings into vision and it means you'll always know you are in magnification mode.
The feature itself is burried away in the menu, so there is a very brief video below to show where it is located. Essentially it is MENU>SETTINGS>CUSTOM FUNCTION>F.Assist. BandW>MAGNIFY
LED technology has come along way in the past few years and LED lights are becoming increasingly common in the film and TV industry. At the top end of the price scale there are brands like Litepanel that sell 1x1 variable light panels for 2,700 USD or 2,300 UKP. This is for a panel that can be easily dimmed, runs off mains or V lock battery and has a variable colour from tungsten to daylight. Dedolight who are a very reliable brand, make a similar panel: the Tecpro Feloni, but almost three times less expensive (810 UKP) and when you include Chinese manufacturers these prices drop even further...a lot further. So the question is: how low should you go? Can you buy cheap LED panels and still get high quality colour for TV and video work?
I have used panels from both Litepanel and Dedolight - Tecpro. They were both light weight, emit very little heat and they also have a very low power draw, which means you can run them off a V lock battery for hours. When you are out in the field along way from power they make a very useful light source. When looking at the way the light falls over the face, and the skin tones that they give, I felt they were both doing a good job and was pretty happy with them, HOWEVER, and this is a big however, the way a cameras senor interprets that light is different from the way your eye interprets it.
This can better explained with the images below. On the left you can see the colour spectrum produced by various sources. The scale represent the full colour spectrum that we are able to see.
The sun obviously has the most clean source of light, where the full spectrum of colour is visible.
Tungsten is still the most reliable source of artificial light in terms of its colour rendition. As we know, tungstent heavily favours the more reddy orange tones to the right of the spectrum, ending up with a light of around 3200 kelvin.
Other artificial light sources rely on a mixture of a few different seperate colours to create a kind of white. As you can see from these spikes, this light is likely to emit a light that slightly favours blue. Most importantly however, there is lots of detail in between these spikes that is missing.
LEDs are essentially doing what the energy saving bulb is doing, they take a number of different colours and mix them together to something that aproximates white. To the naked eye the colour may look correct, but a certain amount of the colour spectrum will be missing, and the amount that is missing will differ, depeding on the quality of the LED light product.
So how does this effect us when lighting for a film or TV camera? This is something that Ryan Fletcher from ARRI explained brilliantly at BVE in London this week. In a demonstration Ryan showed a white screen lit with various different quaility LED lights. Each light source was aiming to be a neutral white light, as you would expect to use in lighting for video. As he flicked through the various LED lights they all looked pretty similar when lighting a white background, some were slightly cooler or more blue that others, but nothing too dramatic. Next, he used those same LEDs to light a colourful peice of material and the difference was absolutely HUGE - and this is just to the naked eye.
This issue of accurate colour rendition is made more complex when we consider the camera's sensor. Camera sensors are devided up, so one sensor deals with one type of colour. This means that when lighting with a source that doesn't have a wide colour spectrum the camera won't be able to out put what the eye sees. The video below, made by ARRI, shows the same scene, shot by the same camera under different light qualities. The ARRI fresnal differs massively from the LED brands.
As cameramen we all obssess about cameras and lenses. We buy the best camera kit we can afford, to give us the best image, but, in my opinion, this is money wasted if we then go and light with poor quality kit. I am a big fan of the kino flo Diva light, it is my standard bit of kit for a key light and has been for years. What this talk by ARRI convinced me of, is to stick with this light. There are situations where you can't feasibly do this, if you are away from a power source, and for that there is LED, but even then, it is essential to buy a product with a high CRI (colour rendering index). I would only buy LED panels from a high quality provider (lite panel, Dedolight, ARRI) and would check video reviews on line to make sure their colour rendition is acurate, as compared to a tungsten light (which is still the most accurate form of artificial light).
I recently thought it would be a good idea to start writing the odd article about inspiration for cameramen. I often think about what makes the difference between cameramen - from a basic operator, up to a top cinematographer. I was watching Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train the other day and a couple of shots stood out to me as having an amazing emotional effect. In case you haven't seen it, or can't remember the plot fully, here is a basic outline of what happens: Two strangers meet on a train, and one of them brings up the idea of "the perfect murder." This man, Bruno, suggests that they swap problems, so that Bruno would kill Guy's wife (who he is trying to divorce), and Guy would return the favour by killing Bruno's father. As neither would have a motive, it would be impossible for police to solve. Bruno seems friendly enough, and Guy dismisses the conversation, thinking it is just idol chat from an unusual stranger. However, Bruno immediately murders Guy's wife and follows Guy around trying to get him to complete his side of the "bargain" and kill Bruno's father.
Bruno is a total psychopath, but he is always smiling and has a false friendliness to his character, so it is left to the camera work and music to convey a sense of menace. Hitchcock's cinematographer Robert Burks pulls this off brilliantly. The first shot is filmed from Guy's perspective, when he discovers that Bruno is watching him from a far.
In this shot Guy is pulling up in a car, he looks out of the window to see the menacing figure of Bruno looking down at him from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. Bruno is so small is screen you can't even see his face, but you know it is him.
It is hard to say why this shot works so well, it just does. There is the contrast between Bruno's dark suit and the bright pillar behind, the fact that Bruno doesn't move but his gaze is trained on Guy, but most of all it is the imposing nature of the building itself, the giant pillars and the raised aspect that give the feeling that Bruno is a sinister character.
This next shot is even more dramatic than the previous one. This time Guy is playing in a tennis tournament. The camera starts on a wide shot of the audience, all of their heads are moving from side to side, following the ball, except one. In the middle of the screen you can see one head that isn't moving, but staring straight ahead, immobile.
The camera gradually pushes in to reveal Bruno who is sitting with an odd grin on his face, he has come to watch Guy, not the tennis match.
Of course there are plenty of other great shots in this film, notably when Bruno commits his murder we view it from a reflection in the murdered woman's glasses. All of this didn't go unnoticed and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for best black and white cinematography.
Every now and again somebody hits the nail on the head, somehow they manage to explain an idea, that would take me ages to explain, in one pithy little line. This is from Twitter:
vince gaffney ?@gaffneyfilm
Hey, you, bokeh guy. Instead of worrying about how pretty the out of focus crap is, worry about what the in focus parts are saying. Thx.
I thought this was hilarious, but also sums up a lot about current trends in the world of film and TV.
Sometimes we can get a bit obsessed with camera gear and techy stuff, maybe everyone is guilty of this from time to time. Vimeo is clogged full of people obsessing over whether this lens performs better than that lens, but I wonder how many people outside the film and tv world actually notice or care about these things. When DSLRs first arrived on the scene I just couldn't believe how something so small and cheap could create such images. I remember filming my niece playing in the snow with my new camera and a 50mm prime. There were shots filmed in slow motion of the warm air drifting from her mouth, shots where her eyes were pin sharp, but depth of field was so shallow that even her hair had a lovely softness to it. I remember plugging my new camera into a large HD screen to see the results. My family stood around to watch, did they gasp in amazement at this small camera that could shoot crystal clear HD images, were they stunned by the shallow depth of field like I was? Of course not, they saw a little girl playing in the snow.
The internet is awash with people (mainly men I imagine) chatting about the minutiae of cameras, lenses and gear in general, and I am one of them. It is good to know about the gear that you are using, and what is out there that can help you to work better. An almost obsessive attention to detail is something common to most cameramen I think, and this can be very useful at times, especially when you are always pushing to get a better shot, or make a scene more visually interesting. However, what the tweet above is getting at is that this almost fetishisation of camera gear shouldn't come at the expense of the bit that matters, the bit that is "in focus", the bigger picture.
As I look through my blog post, I realise they are all incredibly techy, talking about every detail of camera kit. As an antidote to this, I have decided to write a few pieces about inspiration, odds and ends from films, books, photography anything that inspires the cameraman.
As production budgets come down, people are obviously going to want to cut costs. There are some situations where you may be able to get away without using a sound recordist. A standard sit down interview is not too taxing to film for a cameraman and running a tie mic into the camera isn't going to present too many problems. However, not all shoots are as simple as this. When you choose to shoot without a sound recordist you are loosing a crew member, and this has ramifications to the shoot as a whole.
Several years ago I was asked to fly to Italy to do a few pick-ups for a CGI heavy documentary. As most of the budget had already been spent, the Production Manager asked if I would be happy going without a Sound Recordist. From an audio perspective, it was relatively simple: there was a presenter who was giving several pieces to camera around a town in Italy. The shots would take place on the move, walking around the town and in one case inside a car. All of the gear was rented from a facilities house, so the first time I even looked at the kit was at the airport - this is never a good way to start a shoot. We were midway through shooting the first piece to camera and I heard a glitch in the sound, it was just a small crack, but very audible. We did the piece a second time without a problem. Every now and again the glitch would come back ruining the take, and costing us time. We were right next to a huge port, and my first thought was that we were getting interference from the taxi or boat radios. I changed channels on the radios to see if this would help, and for a short while this seemed to work. I wanted to get to the bottom of the issue, but the director was worried about time and wanted to push on, hoping to get clean takes in between audio glitches. Sometimes a take was unusable due to the presenter fluffing his line, and sometimes the radio mic caused the problem. We were rapidly running out of time. Eventually I decided we had to stop and find the issue. I tested each bit audio kit in turn until I eventually found the problem, the cable running from the receiver to the back of the camera had a fault. Luckily, there was a spare, I replaced it and we went on without any further problems. This was a one day shoot, and we had really lost a lot of time to this audio fault. The rest of the shoot was rushed and chaotic. Enviably this quality of the footage suffered and we were lucky to make our flight back to the UK.
Any lowering in the quality of the footage reflects badly on the cameraman. It is unlikely that people will look at my footage from Italy and think: "the audio sounds good" or "that cameraman was good at repairing audio gear", they will just think the camera work could have been better.
All of this would have been avoided with a Sound Recordist. Sound Recordists check their own gear constantly, and it is much less likely to fail. Even if there was an audio issue, the Sound Recordist would be able to spend time fixing it on their own, while the cameraman is free to continue shooting scenes that don't require audio.
Sound recordist are worth their weight in gold on a shoot. It isn't just that they have good kit, it is that they know how to use it. Sound recordists can hide mics in clothing without picking up rustling noise, they can boom people who aren't on mic, they record atmos that can add something to a programme, often audio that the rest of the crew would talk all over if it wasn't for them. The list goes on and on. A part from anything else, just working with an extra crew member makes life easier. Many times Sound Recordists have helped me carry boxes around, set up light stands, stand in so I can check the lighting, and so much more, none of these things are their jobs, but they helped me out as part of the crew.
So what is the moral to the story? I guess it is: When you are asked if you can work without a Sound Recordist, think about the consequences and the effects it could have on the quality of your work, and on the quality of the production as a whole. There is no point in being pushy and refusing to work without one, but in many cases you can persuade a Production Manager that it is a good idea to hire a reliable Sound Recordist.
I have been sent a few emails recently about getting started in television, and how to become a TV Cameraman. Before starting down this road it is worth asking yourself the question "Do I really want to become a cameraman?" You are about to embark on a career that could last the rest of your working life, so it is worth thinking about this one. If you are wondering how much money cameramen make you may also be interest in this.
Firstly, here are a few pluses to being a cameraman:
1) You get to travel to interesting places.
2) You get to meet interesting people.
3) There is a creative element to the job, which can be very rewarding.
4) It is very varied, one day you could be filming a sunset in the Caribbean, the next you could be in London sewer.
Secondly, here are a few negatives:
1) Travelling can become excessive, and it is often beyond your control. If you are a freelancer it is very difficult to turn down work, as you get older and have a husband/wife/kids, you may not be as keen to spend months of the year abroad.
2) All most all cameramen are freelancers, I personally love this lifestyle, but it isn't for everyone. At the first sign of a recession or slow-down in the economy, the first thing that happens is companies pull back on advertising spend, this in turn means broadcasters choose to spend less and commission less programmes and, therefore, work for a cameraman will drop off. For some people this is fine, they can spend the free time polishing their lenses or something, for others, it can be very stressful.
3) The freelance lifestyle is somewhat erratic. Here is a conversation that frequently goes on between all cameramen or women and their wives or husbands:
Spouse: "Are you around next weekend, I want to have a BBQ"
Cameraman: "Don't know, might be in Cambodia."
Spouse: "When will you know?"
Cameraman "Don't know."
This sounds ridiculous to people outside television, but if you work in TV it is totally normal. Production companies are often waiting for confirmation of talent/flights/budget/people etc etc, it is a nightmare juggling act that the production managers have to deal with. Not every shoot is like this, but it is in no way unusual. For the cameraman, this means planning things in the future can be tricky, and it is something that effects not just you, but your friends and family.
4) Ok, just one last little negative thing, then I'll stop. Working in TV in pretty much any capacity, and becoming a camera operator in particular, is extremely competitive. When I first started looking for work in TV in 1999 I applied for a job as a runner/camera assistant, there was one job available and they received over 200 applications for it. That was a long time ago, and things may have changed, but I bet they haven't got any better.
Ok, that is the negative stuff out of the way, if you are still reading, and still interested here are a few different routes available to becoming a cameraman:
1) Become a camera assistant. There are loads of really good pluses to beginning a career this way. Assisting a Cameraman or DoP means that you get to learn a huge amount on the job. You learn about the kit: how it is packed and unpacked, how it works, what it does and when to use it. You learn how the cameraman treats the clients and talent, how he or she communicates with the director and everyone else on set. You can spend hours reading blogs about camera gear, but working closely with a cameraman is the only way to learn this. Unfortunately, as budgets drop, camera assistants are becoming less and less common. If you want to find work as a camera assistant there is no point in writing to every cameraman in your area, you need to find out who is likely to use one. Look for high budget work that you like and want to work in, this could be commercials or top end documentaries such as wildlife programmes. Do your research and find those who are using camera assistants and see if they would be willing to add you to their list.
2) Work for a rental company/facilities house. Lots of companies out there rent camera gear and some of them supply cameramen or camera assistants with it. The advantage of working in a place like this is pretty obvious, you get to learn about every piece of camera gear under the sun, and if you can prove yourself to the people who run the place, they might start sending you out with the cameras.
3) Work for a production company. If you go down this route you have to make sure you are working for the right kind of production company. There are a huge number of companies out there, but few of them are regularly sending crews out to film. Some production companies may have had success in the past, but slowed down now, also there are companies that make most of their income from editing programmes, or they might specialise in series that use archive footage and won't often have need for a cameraman. Get a PACT directory or search on line and see what companies have been making and when.
4) Work for a broadcaster. Large broadcasters have sports and news crews that are sent out on jobs on a daily basis. They have huge kit rooms with large amounts of camera gear. These people employ cameramen and it is probably the closest thing out there to a full time job.
5) Work for a OB unit or Studio crew. If you are interested in sport or live events you could get a job working for a company who supply this service. Large Outside Broadcast facilities supply cameras, cabling, live mixing trucks as well as the camera operators. The advantage of starting off here is that these companies need lots of people to help rig and de rig for events. Many shoots will have 10 or 20 cameras, some of these cameras will require greater skill than others. Think of a football match, some cameras are following a ball by the pitch, and others are high up showing 2/3rds of the pitch and hardly moving. This means you have an oportunity to start on that easy camera position and work you way up.
The main point to remember here is to do your research. There is no point in getting a job if it isn't going to lead somewhere, or you aren't going to learn something that will help further you career.
Although entry into a career as a cameraman can be difficult, the rewards are huge. It is a job that I really enjoy doing, and feel lucky to do this for a career.
Canon released Firmware Version 126.96.36.199.00 a few days ago for the C300. This can be downloaded from Canon's website.
This is said to resolve the following issues:
- Some of the EF lens products that can be mounted on the camera can be controlled more reliably.
- Corrections to the Spanish and German language texts in the View Assistance function (View Assist).
- Efforts to correct image color fringing when a subject is of high contrast have been made.
To install the firmware:
1) Take an SD or SDHC card and format it. To do this turn on the camera, go to initialize, select the SD card and initialize.
2) Open the downloaded Canon file and take out the firmware update VIA8.FIM. Drag this onto your SD card.
3) Click the menu button and scrole down to the end to firmware. Click this and it will update.
(NB If the firmware button is grey and cannot be selected, check the following: the SD card has been formatted, that the correct file only VIA8.FIM has been loaded onto the SD card)
Using a modern EF stills lens for shooting video has its draw backs, these lenses were designed for photographers and were never meant to be used for video after all. The main issue is that modern stills lenses don't have a manual iris as this function is performed by the camera body. Changing iris mid shot then becomes impossible, unless you are a fan of big half stop aperture jumps. There are other problems with these lenses, owing to the auto focus feature. Auto focus is useless to the cameraman and it usually means that the focus ring will rotate indefinitely, meaning that making focus marks, either on the lens or on a follow focus, is impossible. There is also the issue of throw: the distance the lens has to rotate to focus between its closest range and infinity is very small. Pulling focusing between smaller distances therefore becomes tricky. Lastly, if you are using zoom lenses, there is the problem of back-focus. If you zoom in fully, find focus, then pull out, you will loose focus. Having said all of this, there is a big plus of using stills lenses for video: price. I think you get great optics for a small price, mainly as these are popular mass marketed products.
There are lots of different options when it comes to using manual iris, the first of these is to use a lens that is actually designed for shooting video. However, dedicate film/video lenses are not cheap.
Price: around 4,000 USD or 3,500 UKP per lens
Zeiss Compact Primes have interchangable mounts, so you can use them on your HDSLR, other EF cameras, or a PL mount. Zeiss have a long history of making lenses, their top end Master Prime series are favoured by Cinematographers like Roger Deakins, so it is safe to say they know what they are doing. Their lenses have really good colour rendition and high contrast, optically you know you are getting somthing decent here. The lenses are in metal housing and feel really solid when compared to a stills lens. The focus distances are acurately and clearly marked, this is pretty much essential if you are working with a focus puller, as they would have a nighmare with an EOS stills lens. Even when you are working without an assistant (as I always do) I find the focal marks really useful. Just remembering the distance marks and pulling between them becomes much easier and the larger throw also helps with acurate focusing over small distances. Before you rush out and buy a set, here are a few negatives. Firstly, the price, these lenses are by no means cheap. The throw on these lenses, whilst making life easier for fine focusing or use by focus puller, works to your disadvantage when doing fast pace shooting alone. They have a 300 degree of rotation and they are fairly large lenses, so imagine how much you have to turn the lens when making a large distance pull. CP2s are also a fairly heavy and large compared to a still lens, this may or may not be an issue to you, depending on your set up. Lastly, they are not that fast compared to top end stills lenses. The fastest CP2s are T2.1 and the slowest in the range (18mm) T3.6
Canon Cinema Primes
Price: around 5,000 USD or 3,500 UKP per lens
Obviously the Canon Cinema primes have the same basic advantages as the CP2 above (I am not going to compare the look of the 2 lenses, as I am sure this is covered in detail elsewhere on the web). The big difference here is speed. The Canon Primes are quite a bit faster. The 50mm and 85mm are T1.3 compared to the Zeiss T2.1
The next, and much cheaper option, is to get an old manual stills lens and pay for it to be modified into a cine style lens. There are several lenses which can be modified in this way. The main work that needs to be carried out includes: de-clicking the iris wheel, making it into a smooth iris control, changing the backs, so your old style mount becomes an EF mount. You can also have a solid focus gear added for easy use with a follow focus. In the USA these are done by Dulcose Lenses and in the UK there is The Lens Doctor.
Price: 50mm Planar 619 UKP 725 USD (+modification costs)
Apparently Zeiss ZF and ZE mounts use the same glass as the Zeiss CP2s that are several thousand pounds more expensive. The Canon mount ZE mount don't have iris control, which leaves us with the Nikon mount ZF range. These lense can be sent away to be modified into something more useful to a cameraman. I have used both Zeiss ZE and ZF lenses (modified by the lens DR in the UK) and loved using them. They are small lightweight lenses, and I find the throw is big enough to be good for fine focus pulls, but not so big as to make it a mission for a single operator. The only issue I have with these lens is the focus direction. Nikon lenses focus in the oposite direction to Canon, for me this is a bit of a nightmare, as my instinct will always be to rotate the wrong way. To get the focus direction reversed anywhere in the West is prohibitively expensive (you might as well just go out and buy a Cinema lens). I did read of a company in China called GL Optics on Dan Chung's DSLR New Shooter, but this means sending the lenses to China (not something I'd be keen to do).
Price: 50mm (aprox 500-600 USD, 400 UKP) Rough prices on Ebay.
I have personally never used a Leica, but firsly they have a good name when it comes to making quality glass, and secondly they are well regarded by Matthew Dulcos at Dulcose lenses as good lenses to convert. Although they are not as easy to find as Zeiss ZF lenses, if you manage to pick up an old Leica R in good condition you could have yourself a bargain.
Price: This varies on Ebay, but is very cheap 20-50 UKP 20-60 USD
On paper these lenses make sense, they rotates in the right direction, the speed is pretty fast (the 50mm is 1.8) however, there are several issues with using these lenses. Firstly, the lenses are not pin sharp when wide open (anywhere from 2.8 to 1.8) Secondly, they require a 2nd peice of glass to adapt them for use on EF mount, this means you lose a stop of light, the lens becomes slightly cropped, and putting any extra bit of glass in the lens is also a worry with optical quality. There are also several videos out there that demonstrate a glowing or halo effect on bright object in certain shooting situations. That said, there are also videos that show the lens performing well in other conditions. These issues rule FD lenses out for me, I couldn't afford to fail a quality control test from a broadcast, just because I wanted to save a few hundred pounds on a lens. If I was a student film maker, or using my lenses only for corporate web productions, I would almost definitely buy a set, for the price alone.
Which DSLR / Camera Slider to Buy?
When DSLRs first started to be used for shooting video there were few camera sliders out there on the market, now there seem to be hundreds. It is often hard to tell which are good just by looking at pictures on the internet. I have used most sliders on the market, some of these are great when you first use them, but quickly deteriorate after use, others are better built and can handle frequent use and abuse. Here are some points to consider when choosing the right slider for you, followed by a review on the main camera slider manufacturers.
Points to consider when choosing a slider:
1) Smoothness of the slide. This one may sound really obvious, however, most sliders feel smooth when you run the carriage up and down, it is when you mount a heavier camera and lens, or point the camera up or down creating an uneven pressure on the carriage that things can go wrong.
2) Durability. There is nothing worse than investing a few hundred quid on a product, only to find it doesn't last more than 6 months. Sliders can be fragile things that slide really well, until they have had a few knocks. If the rail they run along suffers a small scratch or dent, how will that effect slide, if it cause a glitch or wobble, you may need a new slider.
3) Transportability (this probably isn't a proper word, but I don't care). This is massively dependent on the types of jobs you usually do. If you often work in a small 2 person crew, can you carry a full size 5ft Kessler Crane Cine Slider around with you together with your tripod and camera. If you fly regularly with you kit, how are you going to pack it. Smaller sliders can be broken down so the rail fits in with the hard case with the tripod, with large slider rails (such as Cinevate or Kessler) you will need a separate case and this will obviously increase you outlay.
4) Length. Again dependant on the type of shoots you go on, for me a meter is perfect. I find a meter long slider means your rail is about the same length as your tripod. This is useful as it is easy to pack it into cars etc. For certain moves you can get away with only using half that length, but I find for really wide shots, or shots where you are moving towards the subject, a meter slide is useful.
Here is a quick round up on the sliders I have used and a few thoughts on them.
Igus (Zaza slider, Glidetrack etc):
The first slider I ever bought was made from IGUS parts. There are several companies making sliders from these parts, and they all work in pretty much the same way with a few add ons. Glidetrack sell 2 versions of these HD and SD - HD, just being a heavier duty version. The one meter version of the HD slider sells for around 350 UK pounds. These sliders work on a "drylin" bearing, put simply this is a piece of material that doesn't use roling ball bearings, but is just a smooth material with no grease that slides along the metal. When I first got this slider, it worked well for a while, but there are a few issues worth noting down here. Firstly each bearing is screwed onto the sliding plate individually, if any of the bearings are knocked even slightly they will not be perfectly aligned, and the carriage will not slide smoothly. I travel alot with my work, so knocks are unavoidable. After every flight I would have to re align these bearings with an allen key.
The next issue I had is with the locking mechanism, as you can see on the photo on the right, the breaking mechanism is a screw that screws directly into the bearing itself, after time this damages and eventually breaks the bearing.
The upgrade to the Glidetrack is the Glidetrack Hybrid, the rails are the same but the carriage is vastly improved. The bearings themselves are a combination of the original drylin bearing, and a plastic roling wheel. This is much smoother than the previous version. With the normal version the carriage generally works well when the camera is pointing horizontally, but as soon as it is aimed up or down, it puts stress on one side of the rail causing the slide to be jerky. With the new version you can point the camera where you like and the slide is much much smoother. The fact that all the bearings are housed in a solid steel box also helps out greatly. You can now pack this slider away, throw it onto an aeroplane, get out the other side and the slider will still work. These are more expensive at 420 UK pounds for the 1 meter version, but well worth the extra in my opinion.
Cinevate make all kinds of interesting gear for DSLRs to full size cameras. Their Atlas 10 camera slider is really sturdy piece of gear. This is their smallest and lightest slider, but it still has some considerable heft to it, and according to them it can carry up to 18kg in weight. With the Glidetrack Hybrid above, the motion is so smooth that it is easy to over push the carriage, so it requires a really delicate touch, whereas the Cinevate Atlas has more drag on it, when you stop pushing the carriage it stops dead. I know some cameramen prefer the Cinevate for this reason, but it is a personal thing, for me I actually like the feel of both. If you travel a lot and are concerned with weight, the Cinevate is definitely heavier than the equivalent model from glidetrack, this probably helps with durability, but could be a pain with regards to excess luggage charges. The Cinevate Atalas 10 sells for 650 in the UK including tax. They are a Canadian company so are generally cheaper in the US and Canada, (680 in Canada and 580 US dollars in the US).
I am not a huge fan of Konova sliders, in some respects that is a bit unfair, as they are certainly cheaper than all of the other siders on my list. The main issue I have with these is they are not hugely durable and are really only designed for very small camera set ups. If you are only ever going to use a DSLR and you are only going to use small light weight lenses, then this could be a good option for you.
Kessler Cine slider
Eric Kessler is someone who has been really visible in the development of slider technology, if there is ever a band of cameramen heading out into the desert to record some crazy timelapse project, you can pretty much guarantee Eric Kessler is behind it. It is probably for this reason that the Kessler slider is pretty well attuned to what cameramen want. The carriages of these slide smoothly, I tend to use them manually like you normally would, just pushing the carriage along the rail, although there is handle that can be turned to move the carriage along. This is a useful feature if you need to do really slow moves. Another good point about these sliders is the tension screw, this allows you to add or take away drag from the carriage. I find this useful when you are changing lenses as heavier lenses require different amounts of drag. Kessler is a US company, so works in feet rather than meters. This slider is 3ft, so just a touch under a meter. Kessler also sell a whole load of options for this, for example you can add a high hat onto the carriage if you need to mount a full size tripod head. Obviously all of this good stuff comes at a price. The 3ft Cine slider sells for 1,200 USD (and this is without the feet, which cost an extra 150 USD), Kessler don't have a distributor in the UK so you would need to order it through their website and pay the additional shipping cost and UK tax. This slider weights 4kg or 9lbs, which isn't too bad considering it size.
I do quite a bit of air travel for work, so this is just a bit too large for me. Kessler do make a hard case (around 400 USD) for this so you can easily fly with it if an extra peice of luggage isn't a problem.
Kessler Stealth Slider
Kessler have lots of options that are smaller and more portable than the Cine Slider. Many are fairly short (around half a meter or 26 inches), but the stealth slider is a good option in my opinion as it is still around 1 meter long, but is lighter and more portable than the Cine Slider. It doesn't have the crank handle, but I find a almost never use it anyway. These go for around 800 USD, which isn't bad considering the quality you are getting.
So which is the best slider to buy? Obviously we'd all like the control and smoothness of Kessler, with the weight of the Konova, and the price of the build-it-yourself-with-Igus-parts, but that isn't real life. For me it comes down to a compromise between control, smoothness and portability. I like the Glidetrack Hybrid because it moves smoothly, it is built to last, but I can still pack it down well and transport it. I can remove the carriage and chuck the rails inside my tripod hard case, which means one less peice of luggage to check in, and it is light enough to carry around an clip onto the top of my tripod.
I also think it is worth buying an additional base plate for the slider, that way you can just fit the slider straight onto the tripod without having to screw a new attachement on every time you want to use it.
When it comes to investing in a tripod for video work the first thing to consider is payload. Generally speaking, the more weight a tripod head can comfortably hold, the more expensive it will be. Of all the things in your kit the tripod is the bit of gear that could be around for the longest: cameras come and go, monitors become obsolete, even light kits get superseeded every few years, but tripods can last. I have used Ronford Baker tripods that were probably older than me that worked beautifully. If you can afford to buy a bigger head with a bigger payload, it will be a good investment.
There are vast amounts of cheaper alternative tripods out there, but the old addage "buy cheap buy twice" applies here. If you are serious about your images, you are going to want a decent tripod that will allow you to make smooth solid moves and will continue to do so after it has been hurled on and off hundreds of planes by burly baggage handlers or "throwers". For my money, I would only really look at Satchler, Miller, O'Connor, Vinten and (at a push if you are using smaller cameras) Manfrotto. As you will see from the reviews below Vinten are absent, but that is because I have only used their triopds a handful of times.
At the lighter end of the tripod range Manfrotto make several heads for video cameras. The manfrotto 501 head is designed to take a payload of around 2.5kg or 5lbs. If you are shooting on a DSLR with a small lens the head on the Manfrotto will probably do an okay job with smooth pans and tilts. This head does have a good locking system for panning, but not for tilting - to lock this off you have to tighten up the resistance to full. If you decide to start adding to your rig in the future, with a monitor or EVF, a long lens, a shoulder rig or a bigger camera, this head just won't cut it.
As you move up the Manfrotto price range you get the 504 (left pic) and 509, these can take a heavier payload (around 7kg or 15lbs). I must admit, I am not a huge fan of these tripods, the locking systems that stop the pan and tilt are never that sturdy, the plate on the top never seems to have enough travel forwards or back to correctly balance the camera. These things I can put up with, but the thing that annoys me most about these tripods is the legs. Several times I have used Manfrotto legs on a job (never my choice) where one of the legs starts to slide down mid shoot. This is usaully solved by tightening the legs with an Allen key (if you happen to have one) not ideal.
Even if you don't need the additional payload at the moment, my advice would be to spend a bit more and go for something like a Miller, Satchler or Oconner. I have heard of people shooting for their entire careers on one Satchler 20, these things are built to last.
Of the three mentioned above the Miller work out the cheapest. Miller are an Australian company, and their tripod designs are very much like that of Satchler, (In fact I have heard Miller have been taken to court over claims that they have infringed Satchler's patents, whether true or not, who knows). The Miller Arrow 40 has a payload of 16kg (So just under that of Satchler V18 at 18kg) and the Arrow 50 is 25kg (Comparable to the Satchler V20 - also with a 25kg payload).
I have used both of these heads a great deal. They work in much the same way, the only obvious difference is the operation of the tilt and pan drag mechanisms, but both work fine. Both heads are decent quality and produce good smooth movement. The only slight issue worth bringing up between these two is that the Miller's head has an unusually large screw handle that secures the head to the tripod legs, this isn't in itself a big deal, but some grip gear is designed with satchler in mind, such as dolly's, or high hats, and the miller screw won't always fit as it is so long. This isn't a massive issue as you can get hold of a smaller satchler screw to hold the tripod head in place, but it is worth noting.
A slight plus point with me for Miller is the feet. Satchler feet often need to be fiddled with to make sure they are flat on the ground, whereas the Miller design seems to work better for me.
As you can see, not much to talk about between the two tripods here, so it may just come down to price and the payload that works best for your gear.
Although the Satchler V18 and V20 are the heads that are most commonly used for TV work, a new head that I recently used was the Satchler Cine 7+7 HD. I was really impressed with this head. One of the best features is the plate that has lots of forwards and backwards travel (around 6 inches). This is really useful when using single chip cameras such as the Sony F3, F5, Canon C300 etc. When using these cameras the weight distribution changes massively depending on whether you have rear external batteries, monitors, different lenses etc. This larger amount of travel really helps balance the camera on the head properly. Under the plate is a great little feature, screw holes where you can store an additional pin, 1/4" and 3/8" screws - simple stuff but very useful. It also has a good solid feel: lots of the tightening leavers are metal rather than plastic.
The next tripod to talk about is Oconnor. Oconnor traditionally make tripods for the film industry although more recently they have made tripods with a slightly lower payload for camera such as the F3, C300, RED Epic etc. In my opinion these tripods are great. There is something incredibly solid about the way these heads operate. A slight problem with the locking mechanisms on the Satchler and Miller tripod is that they are located off centre on the head itself. If you tilt down and then go to lock the camera off at the very end of the move, by pushing the lock leaver, you can easily upset the move by pushing the head down. With Oconnor this just doesn't happen, you come to the end of your move, switch the leaver and it is rock solid. The Oconnor 1030d has a payload of 30 LBS (13.6 kg) and the S version 41 LBS (18.6 kg). Price wise, compared to the payloads of the Satchler the Oconnor is the most expensive of the bunch. For a 1080ds with carbon fiber sticks you are looking at around 7000 pounds in the UK, or just over that figure in dollars in the US.
Although it is expensive, this thing is built like a tank. Everything feels very solid. No matter how many times this thing gets thrown into the back of a van or hurled off an aeroplane by a disgruntled baggage handler, it will surely last. I currenly own a Miller Arrow 50, but everytime I use one these, I must admit I am tempted to buy one immediately.
I have used a few different rigs with the C300 many of which were good. The most important thing for me when buying the rig was getting something modular, I didn't want to invest in a rig for a camera which would be useless when I changed camera, I wanted something that I could add to and adapt to different shooting scenarios with different cameras. Most of the top name rigs work in this way, including Redrock, Zacuto and Vocas.
This picture on the left was the rig I started out with when the C300 first came out. This consists of Redrock parts with a manfrotto quick release plate to mount the camera directly to the Redrock shoulder rig. The advantage of this rig is having a comfortable shoulder pad - great for long shoots with lots of hand held work. This worked ok, but the camera always felt a bit high on the shoulder, the C300 is already a fairly top heavy camera so I decided to change things around to bring the camera lower down.
On the right is my current set up, it is much the same as before, although I here use a Vocas riser to mount the camera. The vocas riser allows the camera to slide onto the bars, bringing
the camera down closer to my eye line. There is no shoulder pad, I decided against it as it is perfectly stable without one, by pushing forward on the bars a little the weighted block at the back sit snugly onto your back and keeps the camera stable. I also removed one of the weighted blocks as it wasn't needed and creates a nice light rig without it.
The vocas riser allows you to slide in 15mm rails, which give you the correct height to add on a matte box and follow focus. It is a pretty solid steel construction and has movable screw holes on both top and bottom, so you can slide the camera or tipod wedge into the correct position. I tend to leave this on the camera all the time and slide the rails in whenever I am doing handheld work.
Another big benefit of the Vocas riser is the screw holes on both sides, these are great for attaching monitors etc. I often add my monitor using a Noga Arm, this is useful as you can set the LCD screen to view assist and feed the Clog picture into the monitor. It is also useful when you don't have a large dedicate client/director monitor, this way they can just look over your shoulder and see what you are shooting.
The Redrock rig packs down very small if needed, I break it down into just 4 parts, so it is quick to assemble. I have used Zacutto rigs that were broken down into so many parts it was like some kind of Maccano set, and took an age to build - not idea at the beginning of every shoot.
The Zacuto Stinger is another popular rig for the C300. The good point about this is that the shoulder pad is low on the bars, so the camera isn't mounted too high up. I am not a huge fan of this rig, simply becuause of the distance the hand grips are from the lens and the camera. They are fairly comfortable to hold like this, especially with the ball sockets in the handles which help with positioning, but when you want to quickly reach up to focus, the camera seems miles away. This could just be a complaint personal to me though.
Another rig that I have used that is worth looking at is from Tilta. Tilta are a Chinese company, but there gear is much better quality than a lot of the Chinese made video gear on the market. The rig has a small plate that fits onto the camera and then slides onto the Tilta plate, which in tern mounts onto a normal V mount quick release plate (those designed for standard Sony ENG style cameras). There are holes at the front and rear for adding bars for rear weights, v lock battery adapters and hand grips. The big plus about these tilta rigs is the price. The item to the left goes for 430 pounds in the UK, add some hand grips and rods, and you will still have something costing less than a similar sized rig from Zacuto or Redrock.
If I had any complaints about this rig it would be that the camera doesn't lock in quite as tightly to the mount as I would like. The camera is held in place by a screw fitting which can come a little lose causing a slight wobble on the camera. This however, is a fairly minor complaint as you just have to ensure you keep tightening the screw when it loosens.
EFS Lens vignette and Canon's Peripheral illumination correction.
In many ways the 17-55mm EFS Canon lens is a great lens for the C300, it is stabilized, it has a good range for the C300 and it is pretty fast at 2.8f. There is however a small issue with vignetting. EFS lenses are designed to be used on Canon's 1.6 crop cameras such as the 7d, the sensor size of the Canon C300 is slightly larger and I imagine this is where the problem comes in. The first issue I found is the flair hood for this lens (Canon EW-83J) which works fine when the lens is used on the Canon 7d, suddenly starts to vignette. This isn't such a huge problem, and I just hacked at the sides of the hood with my leatherman, cutting off a few mil and problem solved - or so I thought.
I was working in an infinite white studio the other day and noticed the vignette with or without the hood. I decided to take a few test shots back at home (this is where this post gets even more geeky).
Here is a test shot from the 17-55mm lens of a white wall. Light fall off can definitely be seen at the edges of the frame.
This frame was taken at 17mm wide open at 2.8.
This shot was taken at 55mm and the vignette was still there although less evident, I defocussed the shot - focusing nearer to the camera, and the light fall of is apparent.
I tried these shots with the stabilizer on the lens on and off. With the stabilizer on the problem is worse, with the stabilizer off, the light fall off is still visible.
Like a lot of things, this can of course be fixed in post, however, it is certainly well worth thinking about this when choosing to use this lens. I imagine the same defect would be present on all EFS lenses on the C300.
So what about Canon's Peripheral Illumination Correction? I have played around with this this and the difference is pretty big. When I flicked the illumination on and off I saw a big difference and not just in the very far corners. I exported a few frame grabs of this, but it is not very clear from them. The only way to see it clearly is by actually watching it.
I wasn't sure how peripheral illumination worked and worried that it might just be a slight digital zoom in, it isn't. This is what Canon say about it.
"Peripheral Illumination Correction automatically corrects for any lens vignetting, accounting for specific lens characteristics such as focal length, working aperture, and distance setting. This produces even illumination across the frame, from center to corner. Canon engineers thoroughly test different Canon EF and EF-S lenses, map-out the specific vignetting characteristics of each lens, and this data is input into the camera. As images are taken, the camera records this information, and lens-specific correction is applied during in-camera processing to minimize the natural darkening that would otherwise occur toward the edges of video images."
I haven't used this on an actual shoot, however, on twitter @anticipatemedia said that it causes issues when trying to grade the footage in C-log. I guess if you are going to grade the footage, peripheral illumination correction isn't a great idea, as you are taking control away from the colourist, however, it may be a useful function for fast turn around shoots.
I have been asked several times "Which is the best DSLR lens to buy", often by people who really only want to buy one lens. The simple answer is that ther is no "best lens" as each lens is very different and designed for different purposes at different price points, however, I wanted to answer the question as best as I can here.
Prime lenses always give the best quality for the money: they tend not to breathe much, they are typically very fast and very reasonably priced (with the 50mm usually being the cheapest). For example, for around £350 or $300 you can pick up a Canon EOS 50mm 1.4f or pay a touch more and get a 1.4 Zeiss, which have a better throw and sharper optics. These are excellent lenses, they give you a really shallow depth of field, they are great in low light, however, they have a fixed focal length and you will constantly have to move the camera backwards and forward to frame up each shot.
If you tend to work on shoots that require a degree of speed, you may not have time to constantly change between your prime lenses, or shift the camera backwards and forwards, and so a more practical option is a zoom lens. Zoom lenses have a lot of glass in them, which means they tend to be slower i.e they are less good in low light and have a bigger depth of field. The more money you pay for these lenses, the faster they become. If you are going to be doing a lot of run and gun work, and you don't have time to constantly change lenses, the best lens has to be the Canon EOS 24-105mm. This lens has a really big range (over 6x) for a DSLR lens, and most importantly it has a constant aperture. Cheaper lenses tend to have variable aperture - this would be an absolute nightmare for video work, it may work fine for photography, but if you are filming something, the last thing you need is to have to adjust the exposure every time you zoom in or out. The other good point about the 24-105mm is that it is an L series lens, meaning the build quality is good, it is weather sealed and you know you are using something with professional quality optics. Another big advantage of this lens is the image stabilization, which is useful when shooting video. The only downside to this lens is it is relatively slow at f4, but that said cameras are so much better in low light these days that this is less of an issue than in the past.
For most of the work I do, there is at least some time to switch lenses. I prefer to use faster zooms with a f2.8 aperture. These give you slightly less range, but then I think it is worth it for the shallow depth of field. You can read more about these lenses here.
Another point to consider when splashing out for a lens is that these lenses hold their value incredibly well. I once bought a long lens for a shoot, I wasn't that happy with it, so traded it in on ebay after a few weeks. I had bought the lens new from a shop at a discounted price and when I sold it on ebay, it actually went for £5 more than I paid for it. It is well worth investing in decent glass, and if you decide you want to trade it in at a later date, you won't have lost much, unlike your camera, which will drop like a stone.
Yesterday I did a shoot with two Canon C300s and two PL zooms. One was the new Fujinon 19-90 T2.9 (named "Cabrio" for some strange reason) and the other was the Angenieux Optimo 28-76 T2.6 (seen in the photo below).
Most of the time I use EOS lenses on my C300, so thought I would write a few quick notes on these two lenses. Obviously a big factor in a PL zoom lens like this is the range. The Fujinon has the most range 19-90 being 4.7x which gives you a better range than most EOS lenses with the 70-200 being under 3x (Only the 24-105 has a bigger range, but that is a fairly slow lens at 4f). It also has a rocker button, like an ENG style lens, this can be powered with a cable running to a D-tap. I run my C300 with on-board batteries, so don't have a D-tap coming from a V-lock mount, so didn't actually try out the rocker. The general feel of this lens is very much like that for a 2/3 inch camera, although this is a smaller, lighter weight lens. The Fujinon lens is around 6lb, or under 3kg, however it still makes the camera very front heavy, so you would need a decent counter balance if you were using it on a handheld shoulder rig.
The build quality of both lenses is excellent. The focus ring, zoom and iris control are all really clearly marked, and the throw on the focus is huge compared to EOS lenses. This is a feature I really liked. Pulling focus from one thing to the next, while remembering the distance mark on the focus ring, makes it really easy to snap the focus from one thing to the next.
I was looking at the image through a large monitor, and both lenses had a good filmic quality to them, unfortuneately I didn't have any other lenses to compare them with. At T2.9 and 2.6 These lenses are both a very reasonable speed, considering how much they can zoom.
The fujinon definitely feels like it is aimed at the documentary style, run and gun shooter, more so than the Angenieux. The hangrip and the rocker button would work well for handheld situations.
So the final thing to say is how much these lenses cost. The Fujinon is around £30k in the UK and $38 in the US so it is not a cheap option. The Angenieux tend to go for slightly more around 35k in the UK.
Are they worth the high price tag? I think that all C300 users are crying out for a mid range zoom. If you go for a photography lens you get the 24-70L Canon 2.8, this is a nice lens, but not quite wide enough, or you have the 17-55s Canon which has a nice wide end, but not quite long enough (there is also slight vignette issues). For me the range and speed of the Fujinon 19-90 makes it an ideal lens for broadcast tv work. The rental prices on this lens is currently around 320 UK pounds a day, for that price you could rent an entire PMW 500 kit with camera lens sticks the lot. For me this isn't cost effective. Great lens, great range, nice optics, fast, but just a bit too expensive.
The National Portrait Gallery commissioned a short film to show the final stages of the painting of the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) by artist Paul Emsley. There was only a short amount of time allotted to film this, just a few hours, and for a piece like this there is always the danger that it can end up looking like a news item. Paul's studio was very small, so I decided to shoot much of the video on prime lenses to keep the depth of field as shallow as possible to give some depth to the room. There are a few slider shots to give the piece a bit of movement, these were done on a small 1 meter slider, which was still fairly hard to work with in such a small space, but I think it was worth the effort.
- Sony PMW F5 vs Canon C300 vs RED
- Upgrading from DSLR 7d or 5d is it worth it?
- Canon C300 Custom profiles and gamma curves
- Lens comparison and crop factors
- Can you use the Canon C300 for reality/entertainment shows
- Should I buy the new Canon C300?
- super slow motion
- Used camera equipment
- How to get perfect skin tones on a DSLR 7d or 5d
- audio recording with 7d and 5d
- Using a 7d for broadcast actuality scenes
- Some thoughts on the new Canon C300 compared to the RED scarlet and the Sony F3
- Screen Protector for TV logic Monitor
- Using a DSLR for Broadcast work
- What to look for when buying a DSLR lens for video
- Which DSLR rig to buy
- Which lens to Buy for a Canon 7d when shooting video
- DSLR toplight LED light panel
- where to buy DSLR video gear in London
- Calibrating a DSLR monitor
- Cheap monitor sun hood for dslr
- DSLR monitor and EVF review
- Which HD Video Camera to buy for professional corporate or broadcast work
- Building a DIY slider UK
- CF card reader speed
- Filming a football promo with a 7d
- Shooting with the new Sony F3
- BBC Horizon Shoot
Page 1 of 3