Sunday, October 25, 2015

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 VR

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 VR
YES - I have one. I am not just talking about unboxing either.
- Tamron 24-70mm VC has slightly better stabilization for video, but the Nikon more than makes up for it in sharpness, color rendition and light gathering/transmission (low noise).

- The New Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 VR is much better for color  and for light gathering/tranmission (low noise) than than the older 24-70.

I tested the Tamron, the Nikon VR,  and the older Nikon 24-70 on both a D4s for stills and a D810 with an Atomos Shogun for video.

The older Nikon was not as fast or as accurate for focus. Video on the older Nikon was ok, but the colors were flat and it didn't take in as much light as the newer and wider (82mm) on the VR. My video on the D810 with the newer VR had richer and more accurate color and less noise at the same light level.

The Tamron does have slightly better image stabilization. You can quickly check by zooming to 70mm and then zooming into 100% on live view video and try to hand hold the camera. Any camera shake and image stabilization is quite clear when you turn on and off image stabilization. The color rendition on the Tamron was always a bit flat and the sharpness never really got to that of the Nikon. Now you can see the difference in video immediately and on stills the newer Nikon blows the Tamron away.

My advice - dump the Tamron and the older Nikon 24-70 and get the new one. It is that much better. The old one is great in great light (or with flash), but the new one looks much better in any light and in low light there is no comparison for light gathering, light transmission and color rendition.

Have fun and I hope that you find this useful.

I will try to post more later, but I can't post a comparison video since I dumped both of the older lenses.

(And no making fun of the cat pic - it is good for seeing detail. This one was shot in lower light, but not completely dark.)

Working with iPhone video

Working with iPhone video - use iMovie
- Horizontal ONLY
- Use iMovie on Mac for editing
- lead in and out (PLEASE )

OK - So after sweating through a marathon office video which was shot all on iPhone by the average person, I decided to come up with some simple notes.

I usually shoot to an Atomos Shogun or Atomos Ninja straight to ProRes 422HQ these days to simplify editing, etc.

For this project I was handed a ton of random iPhone footage. What a mess. Ok, where to start?
The usual process that I use is to transcode the footage, converting it from MP4 to ProRes for editing in Smoke and Davinci Resolve. Ha Ha Ha. I tried Premiere Pro. That was a no go as well. It seems that the iPhone video just does best in iMovie. It really does. All of the others had transcode problems all the way from fuzzy video to audio and video skipping.

So - iMovie.
Get the latest version that will work on your machine. Then connect it to a big monitor since Apple hasn't released a 17 macbook pro inch since - what 2011? Good grief. A lot of people don't have a desktop anymore since it isn't portable. Sure - I have a workstation at work. It's a PC. I still use my Macbook Pro 17 inch from 2009 for photo's etc. I tried to persuade the powers that be to get me a 5k iMac for work, but I still find that I do a lot on my laptop. In this case, the final video would have to be added by someone else, so I set it up on their laptop and plugged in a larger screen.

The footage was shot about half and half vertical and horizontal on the iPhone. Bad Bad. Always shoot HORIZONTAL! That will give you 1920x1080 and not 608x1080. I'm not sure what format that is. Also, cutting between Horizontal and Vertical shots is just nuts. Think about watching a movie and having to rotate the screen. Photos can be all kinds of crops and resolutions, video can't. Oh - and iMovie is not full of features and it won't crop properly on that so just forget that.

Also, use the same iPhone if possible. (At least the same version.) The video will cut together much better if you do. Colors will match better, etc.

Organization. Ah - gotta love iMovie - nope. In iMovie you can sort by name or date and time. I recommend keeping a log of shots by date, time and duration. (Try not to be too productive in one minute, since the log is by the minute...)When you go to edit, you can turn on the (I) information tab on the clip, under Adjust, and turn on the skimmer info under View. This will allow you to see the filename, the date, time and duration.  Will all of this lined up, you just drag your files in the correct cut order into the timeline. iMovie is quite simple. There are not a whole lot of features like most track editors have which iMovie does not, but hey - you are shooting on an iPhone.  I created an Event named All Video and another called USED. As I used each of my clips from the pile I moved them into the USED. This allowed me to search through fewer clips in the All Video folder and helped me keep my selects separate from the giant pile.  Setting up like this makes things much easier and faster.

Don't forget leads on front and back of the clip. Also - try not to laugh in the background - we might need that audio.

With voice pieces you can boost the volume of the audio and use the voice enhance audio filter. It seems to work well.

You can roughly do in's and outs, but if you need to cut a clip in the middle you will have to drop multiple copies into the timeline since there is no ability to slice the media in the timeline. You'll get the hang of it after a while, but it can make the inserts a bit annoying if you need to pause the primary video, drop in a clip, and then restart the main video.

As this was a corporate internal video,  I can't post it here.

I hope that you find this helpful.

A quick summary of other advice on shooting iPhone video:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Adding USB 3 to a 17 inch Macbook Pro late 2009

Adding USB 3 to a 17 inch Macbook Pro late 2009

This one works really well. Full Speed, no errors.

4 Port USB 3.0 HUB to ExpressCard Express Card 34 34mm Adapter Converter 5.0Gbps FL1100 Chipset

There are patches and workarounds for using it with Yosemite, but with Mavericks it works great for me. I needed the USB 3 port since I got and Atomos Shogun and the reader is USB 3 and not Firewire 800. I am still using the old 17" Macbook Pro- until Apple makes a new version...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Video for Nikon: D810 and D4s ISO limits and lenses

Video for Nikon: D810 and D4s ISO limits and lenses, tripods, monopods, etc.

UPDATE: D810 much better quality video than D4s. The D4s has soft video in my opinion except 2.7crop on Standard which suffers from noise in low light. I  have found that in low light I use the D4s on Standard, otherwise I ALWAYS use the D810 on FLAT.

ISO for video:
D810  64-2500
D4s    200-12800 (try to stick with 10k or less)

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD 
both work great for Image Stabilization, hand held or vehicle.
The video from the 810 on Flat really does look better to me. (using a Atomos Shogun)
UPDATE: 9/25/2015: After a year with D810 and D4s - unless you shoot video in low light, use the D810 and not the D4s.  The D810 on FLAT is just phenomenal. If you have great glass it really is wonderful. The D4s for full frame video is poor.(not sharp)  The D4s is a great still camera  - sharp, fast, simply the best; but for video - put it away. I am going to do more playing with 2.7x crop. I have tried all kinds of profiles, Flaat10-12p, Tassin, Cineflat, VH  Pseudolog. They all are the same. Video from the D4s full frame is just fuzzy and in no way approaches the quality of the video from the D810. That is the honest truth. See the below images.

D4s FX VH Pseudolog

D4s 2.7x crop VH Pseudolog
First - no making fun of the cat pics. It is good to use a furry animal so that you see the fine details. All three are pulls from video (using DaVinci Resolve) at ISO 1000 WB 2500K on a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD at F4 with image stabilization on. The camera was on a tripod. Video is never as sharp as stills, but I am trying to avoid splitting hairs here. The D810 on Flat is just wonderful for video. The D4s on FX is murky. The D4s on 2.7x crop looks good, but it is at 2.7x crop. 2.7x crop also suffers from increased noise and less accurate metering than the FX mode. Look at the fabric texture on the couch and the blanket. On the D810 it looks just like a still. Then look at the focus on the color card. It is at F4 and the card was just as in focus as the animal's eyes which was the primary focus point. To focus I zoomed in 100% and manually adjusted for the best possible focus. Look how fuzzy it is with the D4s in FX (full frame).  I am going to continue to update, but unless you are shooting low light video go with the d810 it really is much cleaner. You do have to watch the noise on the video over 2000 on up if the lighting is dim. If shooting in lower light you can go with the D4s on FX and Standard, which I have found to be the option for the best video on the D4s. It will be a bit soft, but it will work in very low light.

Bottom Line usable ISO for video: (shooting 24p  1/50s: Many shoots in different environments.)
D810  64-2500
D4s    200-12800 (try to stick with 10k or less)
Above those numbers things start to get truly grainy. Remember to shoot with the flat profile on the D810 if you plan on grading later. (You can get close creating a similar setting manually in the D4s. Cineflat, Flaat12p, and VH Pseudolog are profiles people have made that are on the net.)  I would not recommend using anything by Standard on the D4s since it seems to be optimized for the best video on Standard  I have heard that the Sony FS-700 does well to 56k, but I haven't tried it.

If you're in a car and you don't have $3-15k to spend on a gyro stabilizer - No Problem. Get these (especially the Tamron for the zoom range in the vehicle.)
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

Until Nikon comes out with a 24-70mm 2.8 VR II the Tamron is just going to have to do. The Nikon 16-35mm just doesn't do well at 35 and I prefer a 50mm for facing forward. The VR or VC does a great job of taking out the vibration. The vehicle video is unusable without this.

If you are shooting on solid ground on a tripod then I recommend the 24, 35, 58, and 85 f/1.4 or the fantastic 200mm f/2.0 (you'll have to back up... even more so for the 400mm f/2.8  ;) which is also beautiful for video)

Need a 10 stop ND filter? You will need one if you are planning on shooting video at 24p (1/50s) outside in bright sunlight. (Yeah - just try to scrim the cars on the road while you are driving.) Look at this article. 
Yes, you might be able to get by with a 5-6 stop ND filter. Singh-Ray makes a 5 stop Mor-Slo too. I use the Singh-Ray Mor-Slo 5 stop and the Singh-Ray 3 stop filters. I can use one or the other or stack them both.  The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD does just fine with both stacked, with minimal vignetting. The Tamron has slight vignetting at 24mm as it is and two stacked filters does not add much to this.

Need a 6 stop filter for your Nikon 200mm f/2.0 get this Hoya 52mm Pro 1 ND 64x Sorry - I couldn't find a 10 stop that is thin enough to fit. This one works beautifully. It should work for the 400mm too.

Tripod: There are so many. You want a solid one with a real fluid head. I went with what the News guys use. They use the latest Sachtler head with the hotpod. I was fortunate enough to buy a used 18plus head on a hot pod a few years ago. It is smooth. It is made for heavier cameras, so I use it backwards on my lighter setups. When I put the 400mm on it works beautifully. If you have never used the Sachtler hotpod - it is a treat. You just slide the middle cross leg piece to the right spot on the bar it slides on and out drop the legs. Push the cross piece all the way down and they lock. Then press down on the leveling lever and level the head. It takes seconds. That is probably why the News guys use them. They are also solid as a rock, which is key for video. I have a set of Miller Sticks which I use if I am in the woods or need to go low, but it is nowhere near as solid or as easy to setup and move as the hotpod. A demo of the hotpod is here

Monopod: In a pinch I use the Manfrotto video monopod with 500 series head. It works quite well. It is great with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II  for shooting kids sports video.

Steadicam: I use the Steadicam pilot. It does well. Go with the Scout if you are flying something a bit heavier. I recommend that most people stick to the tripod. Steadicams can be frustrating if you don't have time to practice and the extra patience and coordination that they take. Also hand holding the Image Stabilized lenses works quite will in a pinch.

I must apologize for the lack of video or still shots. I will post them when I have the time. I am going to make sure to put iPhone video shots there for comparison as well. People think that the iPhone takes great video. The iPhone has its range. It does well in bright light. When it gets really dark though, it just can't do it. (The iphone screen is black by the time you go to 6400 ISO on the D4s. Remember, this is video so we are using 1/50 sec shutter speed.)

There is a review with some video here on Fstoppers (starting at 13:30) It doesn't cover the D4s, but that (for video) one goes to ISO 10k cleanly and 12800 pretty well.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Nagra SD

Nagra SD recorder
Nagra SD recorder - photo borrowed from BHPhotoVideo

Best handheld recorder that I have ever used. The preamps are up there with Nagra's recorders like the LB, but it is in a handheld package.

Not too long ago I picked up the Nagra SD recorder. I have to say that it has taken my audio recording to a whole new level. There are plenty of good ways to get excellent audio in an external recorder for your high end videos. To capture the ambient sound and stereo movement across the frame this thing is hard to beat. I use the Green band microphone for stereo recordings. Mounted on top of the camera, when  the audio is either cut into the  video in post or plugged directly into the camera from the line out, you would think you were there. I recommend cutting the audio in from the recorder in post if you have the time since it is better quality than the line out feed to the camera.

I recommend picking up the Nagra NM-MICSII stereo Green band microphone and the Nagra NM-MICMC mono White band microphone. The green is great for stereo ambient sound and the white is great for areas where there is an echo. You have to buy the microphones separately. Oh - and the white sounds just like the green except it is mono and is better than the green for high echo areas.

Great reviews are here:
BHphoto review of the Nagra SD (has sample Video with audio)
Wildlife Sound Recording Society (has sample audio)

This is my go to audio recorder. It truly is broadcast quality in your hand. Yes, I have used the Marantz, the H4n, and many others. This thing is just better. If you looking for a broadcast quality recorder for some kind of National Public Radio type recording of an event, then this is the the perfect solution.

It comes with a single XLR input cord. A stereo XLR (two connector) input cord can be purchased separately. Using the cords, one can connect one or two XLR inputs to the Nagra SD.

Keep in mind that I am using this for quick interviews or recording performances when I am primarily shooting stills. (I am frequently asked to "just get a few short videos.") This is not a complete audio solution for recording by any means. It is just and easy way to truly get broadcast quality (background sound primarily for me) into your video for under the usual $3k mark and have such a small handheld that you can just carry with you. There are plenty of other microphones like the Senken CS3e , Sennheiser MKH-416, Schoeps CMIT-5u; Mixers and recorders from Sound Devices (Mixpre-D as a small example used by DSLR run and gun people), Nagra and so many more.

I still use the Rode Video Mic Pro for run and gun interviews in loud areas (again - when asked to "just get a few short videos"), but is nowhere near the audio quality or pickup of this thing. I use the Rode usually to cut out and isolate the sound and then add in the real background from the Nagra SD recorder.

I will be showing my newer audio/video setup sometime soon.

I hope that you find this helpful.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Light Grenades

Light Grenade:
I was asked by a friend to write a quick piece on this.

At a recent wedding I pulled out my go to quick lighting solution, the light grenade. It is merely a small portable light stand with a umbrella holder and bracket on the top. I usually put two SB-900's on the bracket so that I don't overheat or burn them out with the added bonus of getting more light. These things fold up so small I can carry three of them in a small bag folded up.

Just set it up, point the umbrella at the subject, (at a 45 degree angle to the subject usually) and fire. If I am using Nikon flashes I use TTL. If I am using everything on manual, I set the umbrella flashes to 1/16 to start and work my way up.

It is called a light grenade because while it does throw soft light through the umbrella on the subject, it throws light everywhere.

It consists of:
Manfrotto 5001B
Lastolite LL_LA2423 TriFlash Bracket
Impact S3243 White Translucent Umbrella

This is not an original idea of mine. Many travel photographers have been using this for years. You can find it clearly laid out by Bob Krist is the Nikon CLS lighting system video.CLS Lighting Video with Bob Krist and Joe McNally Check the video at 1:15:00 and you can watch Bob unpack and explain his kit.

I put the strap on mine so that I can carry one around in its own as a portable lighting solution.

I hope that you find this helpful.

Workflow for Weddings

Workflow for Weddings

(Excerpted from post on Capture One Pro) - on user request

Bottom line - My workflow:
1) Shoot RAW+JPG. RAW to Card 1 JPG to Card 2.  I can always hand off the JPG card to anyone for them to use immediately if necessary.
2) IMPORT : Photo Mechanic
3) EDIT :  Capture One Pro 8
Use Sessions so that I can edit in original directories and not have a huge catalog. Also, if I really need to use Photoshop or another plugin because I have a solution that I have used in the past I can.
4) SEND Proofs: Smugmug
5) PRINT: Imageprint
to my Epson 3880. To really get good proofs and understand printing you need to use a good printer. To not waste time figuring out print profiles (because you are in the photography and not the printing business) let Imageprint figure out the perfect color, paper, and ink settings for you.

Don't use Catalogs!:
Use Sessions
But - leave the files right where they are when you import. Don't import files into Capture one. Just access them in the file browser.

Lightroom, iPhoto, and Aperature use a Catalog. Capture One Pro 8 can use catalogs as well. But - even better, with Adobe Bridge or Capture One Pro you can just look in a directory at the files. There is absolutely no need to import your photos into some ridiculously huge, slow and unstable catalog. I have always edited files in the directory, avoiding catalogs. I usually import my photos with Photo Mechanic the worlds fastest import and file viewer. I set up a hierarchy of directories for my files starting with date. (2014_09_17 Mary and John Smith Wedding) I can then cull down my photos to only the selects that I can then edit. I used to use Photoshop through Bridge and Adobe Camera RAW. (Now all of that has gone creative cloud and is far too unwieldy, slow and expensive.) A full 8 hour plus wedding set on the D4s and D810 takes only 1 hour to cull, and at most 3 hours to edit in post for the proof prints. (No. I am not kidding. Just ask Emily Karcher of Emily Karcher Photography if you need a real person that can attest to this. (Don't buy into something that you only see or hear online. A lot of what you see is staged (models for "Wedding Shoots") and for advertising.))

How is it so fast. Two things:
1) Cull down your photos into selects first
2) Do not import into a Catalog - Use the files in a directory where they are.

Cull down your photos into selects first. Select the photo's you like, rate them etc in Photo Mechanic.(2014_09_17 Mary and John Smith Wedding) Then move them or copy them into a Selects directory under that main directory. (2014_09_17 Mary and John Smith Wedding/Selects) Open the Selects directory in Capture One Pro and do your editing and corrections. Then export your photos to the Send directory. (2014_09_17 Mary and John Smith Wedding/Send)If I still need to do some crazy edits in Photoshop I can do that on the Selects or Send files.

If you shoot a monster like the Nikon D810, Canon 5D Mark III, or any medium format camera you know how big those files are. If you cull down your files first and then don't use catalogs, you will only have the photos that you need to edit in memory or in your sorted directory. This is so much faster than asking your computer to look at a 40GB directory fill of 40MB files. (Or worse - One giant 200GB Catalog containing not only this shoot, but several of the last ones. Keep in mind that anything over 4GB in size is a royal pain for a computer. Just try to copy a giant video file some time.) I do my editing on a 2008 Macbook Pro with 8GB of RAM. (I needed the RAM for 3D graphics and rendering.)  

Do not import into a Catalog - Use the files in a directory where they are.
Using the files in the directory where they are you can edit your selects with whatever external editor or plugin that you want.Using a Catalog forces you to waste time, importing and exporting with no added benefit. Also archiving is easy. Just grab the entire directory (2014_09_17 Mary and John Smith Wedding), back it up to both of your spare backup drives (BOTH!) and then delete the 40 GB monster (2014_09_17 Mary and John Smith Wedding) from your computer's hard drive. A Catalog keeps growing and growing and becomes overly cumbersome.  (Plugins are quickly becoming stand alone apps now that don't require Photoshop. Awesome! Now you can process files with your favorite settings automatically in batches without the $700 purchase of Photoshop with Bridge.)