Archive | February, 2014

Bureaucracy At Work

22 Feb

School: “We’re going to buy a RED! But we’ve only got $30k, so we’ll buy one that’s five years old.”

Students: “Wow! Even though we know it’s older than what other schools have, we’ll still be excited about it.”

School: “Look at our cool RED! We’re going to use it for everything.”

Student 1: “Wow! I have a really awesome project for my thesis film, which I will use to represent myself and the school for a long time. Can I use that RED?”

School: “No, it’s just for our endowment films, actually.”

Student 1: “But your endowment films are not exactly star caliber, and this project isn’t even filming in the same month. And you said all last year that you would let senior projects or portfolio films use it this year.”

School: “Well, now we don’t want anyone else to use it. All we see is how expensive it is.”

Student 2: “Hey, I’ve been given this project, working with the school and an outside client, meant to air on television. The RED would really help us make a project that will represent the school well.”

School: “Yeah, we’re just gonna keep it on endowed projects. It’s expensive.”

Student 2: “But having raw files will really help with our post workflow, and will enable us to shoot easier. Plus, we’re working for the school to represent it in the local filmmaking economy.”

School: “Well, we only want to let endowed students use it.”

Student 3: “Just to be clear, you’re going to let the endowed film class, which is full of freshman who’ve never been on set before and DP’s who have never used that camera, shoot a sub-par film, while students who are creating amazing senior projects and thesis films are deciding to rent RED cameras from other sources?”

School: “We paid a lot of money for this camera. It’s a RED!”

Student 3: “But if you let more people have a chance to use it, won’t you have more of an opportunity to create stunning visuals that you can use to promote the school?”

School: “We have plenty of on-set photos with it! Boy, does it look cool. Just look at it! It’s big and black and metal!”

Camera “Cart”

13 Feb

I love the organization that I see big-time AC’s using–always seem to know where everything is, even in a huge Arri bag–and the carts are a big part of that. It’s great to say “go get X from the A-camera cart” and know exactly what and where it is, not having to rummage through cases or bags that are lumped in a trunk or a table somewhere.

But a Magliner runs $250ish, and the nose pieces, shelves, etc. all start adding up very quickly. You can buy a fully-rigged camera cart from Filmtools for a pretty penny, which I would love to have, but A) don’t have the capital for, B) don’t have a consistent need for, and C) don’t have room in my apartment for. So! Until the day comes when I have more money, more work, and a house, I will continue to find work-arounds.

Whilst flipping through channels the other week, my wife paused on QVC (or HSN? Can’t remember) and we saw the Origami shelf advertised. Of course, they show really stupid things to do with it on those shows–things that are semi-permanent, paired with a shelf being sold because it is temporary–but the wife said “hey, that’d be cool for your camera stuff.”

The next few minutes, I thought more and more about it–folds down pretty small, big enough to support weight…and yeah, it did seem like a cool thing. I started researching, and discovered multiple sizes. I ultimately decided on the R4-01 which seemed like it would be big enough to hold several cases, and wide enough to support my hi-hat (which I usually have setup on a cart with a tripod head, for building/staging the camera.)

After a snafu with shipping (meaning they said they delivered it, but they did not–Amazon very graciously sent me a replacement free of charge and with upgraded one-day shipping) the R4-01 showed up and was exactly what I was expecting. After almost breaking it to open it (the clip for the top shelf had hooked around one of the bars in the middle shelf, and I forced when I shouldn’t have–thankfulky, everything bent back into place pretty easily) I set it up in my living room and found it to be much taller than I thought. I’m a tall guy, and the top shelf sat comfortably at my stomach level. Adding my hi-hat to the top put the camera up near my chest, and let me build at a very comfortable height. The shelves were wide enough to hold my AC bags and camera case, and the bottom shelves were even long enough to mostly cover my Steadicam cases.

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I thought I would be cheap and buy my own wheels. Ultimately, I can’t speak to the quality of the casters from Amazon, and I don’t think I actually saved any money, but I built my own rolling platform to put the shelves on. I went with 2-1/2″ hard plastic casters from Home Depot–I wanted to get bigger wheels, perhaps even inflatables, but I was afraid (and rightfully so) that those would put the camera stage over my comfortable level.

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After a week-long industrial shoot, I am really pleased with the results. It easily fit all the cases, and I added a bag to the side to hold my personal items. I’d love to have some hooks or bottle/can holders, but we’ll see what develops. I will say, though, that we were inside, on-location and in-studio, and it was awesome. My wheels–nay, any wheels less-than-inflatables–would not do very well on any ground that is less than smooth. That being said, if you don’t mind carrying the shelves around (they’re not terribly heavy) then you could definitely get away with moving around on rough terrain, provided you weren’t moving a heck of a lot.

So! A little ingenuity and repurposing can get you a neat camera cart of your own. Until the Magliners are cheaper, that is.

Update: After a pretty big boost from The Black and Blue (thanks, Evan!) I realised that I needed to update the post with some in-the-field pictures.

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Here is that cart actually being multi-purpose for another DIY project…

New Camera Stuff

12 Feb

Recently I made some big changes in my cinema rig–first big changes I’ve made in a long time. Pretty much all new components, actually. Here’s a brief summary of the changes, and some mini-reviews of the two biggest new pieces.

Firstly, I sold my Jag35 stuff. It’s had a very good run, and as I’m starting to get bigger in my scope and style, it’s time for my rig to get bigger, too. The Jag35 baseplate and D|Focus V3 that I bought years ago were cleared out.

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The first step up is the P&C Gearbox GB-2 cage, with the 15mm rail adapter. Neat little system, adding a lot of connectivity to my setup, as well as a pair of handles (old rig was very lacking in ways-to-pick-it-up.) I got mine off eBay for $135, but I believe it’s listing for around $150 on Amazon (when I checked just before posting this, it was at $119.99, so…darn).

I ordered a pair of iKan 12″ rails to go with my particular setup, but the rails that come standard are aluminum 8″ threaded. Seemed very sturdy (they’re now the rails on the bottom of my Steadicam.)

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Holds up very well with two Strongarms (or Israeli arms, whatever you call ’em.) I have my battery system running both monitors and the camera.

The second addition is the Fotga DP3000 follow focus. I am always interested in this super cheap stuff (mine was only $76.99, but does not have the A/B hard stops) because it seems strange that it looks so good, yet must be so crappy, right? I also ordered a speed crank and the “big wheel” seperately, and the speed crank has already come in handy on a huge rack focus that was a 1-1/2 turn.

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I was immediately surprised by the box, and even more surprised by the build. Pretty solid, thick aluminum, and has so far withstood some serious cranking. I’ve been using it as an AC on an industrial shoot this week with the C300, going back and forth between Canon CN-E primes and L-series zooms (24-70mm and 70-200mm, both Mark II’s.)

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The action feels slow, but there’s nothing loose. The slower action has actually helped me a lot with my pulls on the zoom lenses–those lenses have very small focus throws, and very fast at that (of course, being still photography lenses) so the slowness of the focus wheel actually helps me not miss my focus marks as often as I was with my last FF. But the stiffness also helps with pulls on the cinema primes.

So far, I’ve been very impressed with the quality. I will say that the unit is not very adjustable, though–I had to move the gearbox back one screw, in order to get it around the cinema primes width…

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The only hiccup, and it’s not even that big, is changing the focus wheel. It will go on either side of the block, but must be changed with an allen wrench. I started keeping it in my tool belt, and it would take me about 20 seconds to flip the wheel to the other side. This seemed to change with each lens, too–probably because of the size of the mattebox vs. how far back the lens is–but it’s an inconvience that, frankly, is not going to be fixable until you’re spending upwards of $1,000. An Arri or Chrosziel unit will have double wheels, and extend further out from the chassis, but will also cost a lot of money.

So that’s my Fotga review, if you are stumbling around for such things on teh Internetz. Well worth the money, and will hopefully be with me until I can get a professional level unit.