Using What I Have Part 1: Magic Lantern

     As technology advances, we get googly eyed over the newer and enhanced capabilities of cameras, computers etc. And unfortunately, we forget that the gear we already own could produce unbelievable results. So for the next few posts, I'm going to only use gear that I already have to create short films. First up, the Canon T1i w/ Magic Lantern RAW 2.0.

     Lately I have been looking into purchasing a used 60D for my video work. But thanks to modern programming (e.g: Magic Lantern), Cameras like my ancient T1i can shoot extremely high quality DNG (or RAW) video. But to be honest, I didn't know my camera was capable of loading that specific module. I assumed because it was a very old/beginner style camera, it couldn't handle the amount of data DNG files take up. I'm glad I was wrong.

     Shooting of this vignette was extremely simple. I just took my Ti1 & 40mm Pancake w/ me to lunch with my family and shot. The following photos are my settings in Magic Lantern:

I set up MyMenu w/ shortcuts to access these items without hunting for them.

I set up MyMenu w/ shortcuts to access these items without hunting for them.

This is the resolution I was shooting at. To make it 1280 x 720, I had to stretch it vertically 167% in post.

This is the resolution I was shooting at. To make it 1280 x 720, I had to stretch it vertically 167% in post.

This is where I control the FPS of the finished video. I have it set to the standard 23.976ps.

This is where I control the FPS of the finished video. I have it set to the standard 23.976ps.

     After I shot the footage, I needed a way to view it. Fortunately, I came across a post by Cinetic Studios about how to view/edit MLV RAW files. If you have the time, I highly recommend reading it if you use Magic Lantern RAW.

     Once I knew which clips I wanted, I exported as DNG files. One of the reasons I did this instead of ProRes 4444 files is that it's much easier for me to grade DNG files than ProRes 4444. I'm not a colorist, but I am a photographer who deals with RAW files (Canon .CR2), and this is very similar to that.

Screenshot of me grading another sequence soon to come.

Screenshot of me grading another sequence soon to come.

     I finished grading, then I exported the photos as JPEG's and imported them to FCPX. After combining each individual image sequence into a compound clip, I just cut it like I would a normal sequence. And there you have it! A vignette shot on a camera that can't even shoot video.

     Next week I'll be showing how to get cinematic visuals from an iPhone 4S, and my method for editing. Hint: I didn't import any footage into the computer. Until then, take care!

The Intense Music Video for BloodType G

     Last Saturday (1/17/2015) I was given the opportunity to shoot for Breaking Records for Charities in Lake Elsinore, CA. While I plan on discussing the event at length in a later post, I want to focus on one of my favorite parts of the event, the live music! Below is the video I shot/edited for the band BloodType G.

     This was a pretty intense video. Both in the shooting & the actual content of the footage. In this post, I'll go over how I captured and edited the media.

Capture

     Capturing this event was challenging. Not in the sense that I didn't have a good vantage point. Far from it! I had the best view from everyone there. I even jumped backstage to get some of the shots! The thing that made it challenging was simply... how they performed. The Male Singer Milad Hashemi is an AMAZING performer. But so is the Guitarist Charles Cook. And so are Elanna, Ethan, and Gustin (Female Singer, Bass Player, and Drummer respectively). My problem was that I only had one camera to shoot with (a borrowed Canon 70D). Meaning I had to jump between capturing each person. What would I have done different? I would have pulled out my camera (my trusty rusty T1i) and set it up somewhere on a tripod and have it take a picture every few seconds (say next to Charles) so that I could get multiple vantage points. Oh well... next time!

     As for the shooting style, I wanted to make sure I had at least one entire song from beginning to end recorded for mixing in post (more on that later), and plenty of B-Roll (shots that one puts over the main track, hence the name "B-Roll"). All in all, I shot about 10GB (roughly 20-30 minutes) of footage. Now comes the fun part... Editing!

1/200" shutter, ISO 200, F/5

1/200" shutter, ISO 200, F/5

Editing

     As I previously stated, I was shooting with a Canon 70D. My settings were between 1/250-320" shutter, ISO 100-200, and F/5.6 for most of the shots. For stills these are perfect settings. However, for video they're a little off. Why was I shooting at a such high shutter speed? I shot the entire event in 60fps (so I could slow it in post if I wanted to) and I wanted to make sure there was as little motion blur as possible.

1/320" shutter, ISO 200, F/5

1/320" shutter, ISO 200, F/5

     In reference to my capturing one full song, I knew that the audio from the RØDE VideoMic I put on top of the camera, while great, would not give me the sound I was looking for. I knew that, in order to get the cleanest audio possible, I would have to get their studio version and sync it to the audio from the performance. Sometimes you can't do this because the live/studio versions are so different from each other. But in this case, they were nearly identical (BloodType G respect level, 15 out of 10). But even with the audio tracks sounding identical, you could run into the issue of making it look/sound like they were lip syncing. Fortunately, I found a way to get around this problem. If you lower the clean audio track's volume, and delay it by one frame (1/24th of a second), it sounds just like the live music and sync's perfectly.

     Once I had the audio issue sorted out, the rest of the process was a piece of cake. I simply took the other tracks, slowed them down from 60fps to 24fps, saw which shots looked the coolest and timed their cuts with the music. As for the color (or lack there of), I wanted this video to feel powerful and I thought that a high contrast Black and White achieved that feeling for me. And incase you're wondering, this was edited in Final Cut Pro X. Between this and Adobe Premiere Pro CC (which I use regularly), I prefer FCPX simply because it's easier (for me) to use. I then exported the video as a ProRess 422 Proxy file, then uploaded it to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook etc.

     That's it for now! Be sure to come back next week to see the video for/of Breaking Records for Charities and the Behind-the-Scenes look at how I shot it. Take care everyone! :-)

Results of Blood Moon 10.7-8.2014

Welcome back!

     Did you all catch up on your sleep? Even with it being almost two weeks since it's happening, I still haven't caught up. What I'm referring to is the Blood Moon that happened Tuesday Night/Wednesday Morning (October 7-8). I stayed up from 2-4:30 watching the moon. With these results:

     I think these shots were worth staying up for. But I know what most of you are thinking, "How did you get those shots?" Well calm down and I'll tell you.

     The DSLR I used was my trusty T1i. Yes, the T1i. Goes to show that the less expensive DSLR's (from almost 6 years ago) can still produce amazing images. Shutter Speed for the one up top was 1 / 30 at ISO 100 and f/6.3 with the Canon FD 300mm f/4. The bottom one was at 1", ISO 400, at f/5.6 also with the Canon FD 300mm f/4. The adapter I used to link the FD lens to the EF mount was my Fotodiox Canon FD-EF Adapter (Link to my review here), and it's amazingly sharp. Just goes to show that you don't need the best gear to take an amazing shot.

     That's it for now! Hoped you guys (and girls) liked the photos, and I plan on seeing you next week. ¡Adios!

Back to Video & My First Documentary

George here again!

   Lately I've been doing a lot of photo related things. Be it macro photography, wide angles, composites etc. And that's great! I love doing that stuff, but it felt like I was doing the same thing over & over. I thought of a short term sea change, and it hit me. VIDEO! Why not? I used to do a lot of it. Albeit I might not have a camera that shoots very good video, but why would I let that stop me?

This is my most recent piece that I shot, edited, and directed:

   My first documentary! Not only was it nerve wracking, but it was my real taste at making an actual piece of actual professional video content. Let me take you through the process I took to see this from beginning to end.

Pre-Production:

   This was tricky. I had never shot anything of this sort before. I may have done some "demo-reel" style videos for others, but never a story piece with a beginning, middle, and end. I had to plan this out completely different.

   What helped me get the story out was to physically write out the structure for the Hero's Journey. For those of you who don't know, the Hero's Journey is the basic structure for storytelling. For more information on it, watch this highly educational video:

And after that I saw this video:

   After watching these videos, I figured out what & how I was going to ask the questions. Below are the questions I asked:

 1)  What was your first exposure to Spanish?

 2)  Of the many Languages to learn, why Spanish?

 3)  What were some of the challenges you faced in learning Spanish?

 4)  How did you overcome those challenges?

 5)  Why did you want to become a Spanish teacher?

 6)  Any advice for those wanting to learn a foreign language?

And with that done, I rolled into Principal Photography.

Principal Photography:

   The easiest/hardest part of the interview; actually conducting it. We had to figure out when/where to meet. Once we got that settled, it was time to go to the location. What happened after that... funny story. I was driving to the location we were planning on shooting, then out of the corner of my eye I saw him driving past me. In an instant, I parked, got out, and chased him for a good block and a half (and keeping up with the car to boot). Realizing that I wasn't going to catch him, I stopped and gave him a call. His response, "Were you the guy chasing me?" Once we had that fiasco settled out, we met at a new location and proceeded with the interview. For video, I just used the Canon T1i in 720p. The lens was my Canon FD 50mm f/1.4. For audio I used my iPhone with the RØDE Rec app. And for sticks I used the my trusty Manfrotto 294 Aluminum Tripod with 804RC2 3-Way Head. The whole interview didn't take more than 20 minutes.

Post-Production:

   Now comes the real work, Post-Production. As many of you know, I use FCPX and love it. Now with the new update to 10.1, things fly faster than Premiere CC. Editing took only four hours... from start to finish. It was really flying. The sound, color grade, everything! But after that came the hardest part of the entire process... Subtitling. It took me about 12 hours to get a basic subtitle out. THEN I had to go back and refine it. For more information about this process, check out Philip Bloom's post here. Here's a screenshot of the early subtitling phase:

   Once that was done... I was ready to upload it to Vimeo & YouTube. Personally I prefer Vimeo because of the compression, but everyone uses YouTube.

Shoutout:

   I want to give a shoutout to my cousin Ernest Koury. He runs a media company out in El Paso Texas and he helped me with the editing process. Check out his website here:

http://www.eurekamedia.com/

That's it! From start to finish about this film. I hope you guys enjoy it and I hope to see you soon.

   George out!

A Bloody Brilliant Moon and the Aquarid Meteor Shower

Good morning everyone!

   Our cameras are amazing. They help us record rare and beautiful objects. And that is why the night sky is an amazing thing to photograph. If you leave the camera on a long enough exposure, you see the stars trailing. If you wake up early enough, you hit the early morning Golden Hour. And if you're fortunate, you could be photographing a rare celestial event.

   Take for example the Blood Moon that happened a few weeks ago. This type of Lunar Eclipse hasn't happened for over 300 years. So you know people everywhere are going to shoot it. For me, I pulled out my old Canon FD 300mm f/4 and put it on my Crop-Sensored T1i. Giving me the equivalent of a 480mm lens on a Full-Frame. I set the Aperture to f/8, ISO 400, and the Shutter Speed to 1 second. And I got this:

Transient

This is my favorite shot I took. Quoting one of my favorite films, b-e-a-utiful.

   Now, on to more current news. This Monday night/Tuesday (night of May 5-6) morning there will be a meteor shower in the general area of the constellation Aquarius. The meteor shower will last from roughly Moonset up until Sunrise for all those living in the continental USA. You can check out the links below for more information. I will be posting on Instagram @gwphotographe that night. So I hope to see you then!

Links for information about the Meteor Shower:

http://neave.com/planetarium/

http://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/eta-aqaurids.html

http://www.universetoday.com/111650/revisit-halleys-comet-stay-up-late-for-tonights-eta-aquarid-meteor-shower/