More lighting and camera gear 2014: FS7, Sourcemaker blanket, Twintube Dolly, Gruvgear Muver

New lighting and camera equipment from 2014 that bears mention:

Sony’s Fs7 has been one of the most ballyhooed releases this year. I recently got the chance to do some testing Adam Wilt and Art Adams. Adam Wilt wrote some thorough articles about it which are worth reading. I’m looking forward to reading Arts writeup when its done, but here’s my really quick .02 – like the smarty handgrip. All those controls you can operate without taking your eye of the eyepiece! I was also very impressed with the dynamic range. S-log 3, we were actually short of hard pressed to create an indoor situation that exceeded what camera could still resolve. Granted,  our biggest light was an 800 joker, but it was still impressive that the camera could still see detail on the t/45 white curtains where the beam of light was hitting them as well as in the unlit T/1 patch of dark wood in the foreground, about eleven stops apart.  We’ll wait and see the actual test results though once Art has done the edit.
60Sony FS7, test shoot w/Art Adams and Airbox Lights
Sourcemaker inflatable 4×4 soft source with eggcrate:
How cool is this?  It’s like a 4×4 diffusion frame with a light behind it, except there’s no light behind it! Seems ideal for tight spaces.  I do think you need a pump or helium tank to blow it up; I think you’d turn blue and faint, trying to inflate this by mouth. These are the same people who make the large helium filled balloons you see on big night exterior sets.
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Sourcemaker LED Blanket
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The back and the front of their LED blanket stretched on a 4×4 frame with a diffuser balloon and eggcrate on it.Solid grip twin tube dolly:  this is like an improved version of the ever-popular Dana Dolly, with some significant improvements. Most notable feature is the track: The track breaks down and fits in one case, assembles with no seams between pieces so your frame doesn’t bump when dolly goes over it, and the track is extremely stiff- it doesn’t bow(“smile”) under the weight like the speedrail track of a dana dolly does. The dolly carriage grabs onto the track rather than sitting on top, so the carriage and camera won’t fall off and can be underslung easily. Very nice stuff, but pretty pricey- about 3x as much as a dana dolly setup, in the neighborhood of 4k.

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See also Rigwheels; they’re another cpmpetitor in the field of portable dollies.  Also a good system, less expensive than the twintube, but more than a dana dolly.
Bagolite:
Its a giant inflatable tube that mounts to the front of a medium/large HMI par like a 4k or 6k par.  It makes a giant glowing sausage that you only have to support at one end. It definitely was eyecatching.  I could see that being useful in some situations. If you needed to arm out a large bright soft source and weren’t able to support the far end because the stand would be in frame perhaps?  On their website they show it being used to light a car, which makes sense since it’s would make one long continuous reflection on the curved finish of the car. The massive size of the source is probably the most important feature; to get a single soft source that big could take some significant effort using traditional tools. Still, I’m not holding my breath to see this all the time.
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Plastic apple boxes: So simple! A lot f the best new gear is just that, super simple.  These apple boxes won’t start to splinter and come apart on you, probably won’t show the wear as much as traditional wooden ones.  I was told they were priced approximately the same as normal apples. Plus, you can get them appropriately colored for chroma key work in green, blue, or red. at filmtools.com
******* MISSING PHOTO  *******
Who thought that regular old carts had room for improvement! This is an LA company who make these carts that can be configured lots of different ways, as you see in the video. They originally were making stuff for musicians and bands et al., but bands and shoot technicians have a lot in common. Folds up very small for portability, sets up quickly in loads of different ways. We have a customer group in common: video shooters for whom compactness and portability is essential. I got the chance to use one on a job yesterday, and it was awesome!  Really sturdy and adaptable, but importantly, that center wheels lets it turn on a dime. Red Scorpion LED Maxibrutes: Daylight-balanced large LED heads with output that can compete with a 4k par, but on a single 20 amp circuit! To get that kind of output, they’re set up with arrays of emitters, much like the familiar Maxibrutes, 9-lights fays, and Dinos. Each LED emitter is set into an MR-16-style parabolic refractor, directing all of the light forward.  Some of their smaller units are compatible with Airbox inflatable softboxes. They’re a small startup started by a working gaffer, just like Airbox, but watch out for these lights! That kind of output with such minimal power draw could be a really big deal in days to come.
68Red Scorpion LED maxibrute
69Red Scorpion LED
Other tidbits- Recently discovered that more excellent lights have proven to be compatible with Airbox inflatable softboxes- the BBS area 48 and the Cineo LS and Cineo Maverick! See the full list of lights compatible with Airbox Inflatable softboxes here.

Airbox LED softboxes on: Mirrorless better than DSLR for video?

Is mirrorless the new deal for DSLRs and lower-budget smaller-scale video shooting?  Or I guess I should say “DSLM”.  That’s the new term I heard at the WPPI trade show in Las Vegas last week. It was most often mentioned cheek-to-jowl with the term “hybrid” photography, which was also new to me. Mirrorless and hybrid are a trend, which you can see with the field dominating Canon releasing its EOS-M to jump into the fray.

Will Crockett feels strongly this way.  his aurdience is primarily photographers who are transitioning over towards video, since their clients are asking them to.  Some of mine are asking me the reverse:
“did you shoot any stills when you were shooting that part?” And my answer’s always, uh, no, because I was shooting video. I didn’t shoot any stills.  Maybe that’s a lack of planning on my part, that maybe I SHOULD shoot stills along the way when I’m shooting video. So shooting “hybrid” is apparently more and more of the new deal for all of us.

I pressed him on a few of the points in his video.
1.Why’s he think it’s so much easier to shoot video with mirrorless like a gh2 or gh3 than with the old favorite the 5d?
response:  a) autofocus actually works on mirrorless cameras for video, but autofocus in unavailable in video to DSLRs other than the Sony a99.  b)mirrorless is natively 16:9, making post a little easier. c)more video options like 720 or interlaced available in mirrorless and Sony alphas  d)better overall low light performance in mirrorless.  Performance in his words being a combination of being able to autofocus, judge AWB, and produce good image quality above ISO 2000.

2. Autofocus for video:  I said I still find the autofocus on my GH2 not sufficiently reliable for video work. Sometimes it can follow a moving subject, sometimes it just completely blows it and makes the background really sharp.
Response: Agreed, but still better than you can’t ever use it at all.

3.Lots of lenses available:  My impression is yes, you can use lots of lenses on a micro 4/3 mount, technically the most of any format, but in reality, a lot comes down to the quality of the adapters, and a lot of the affordable ones are crap. The lack of iris control on my Canon EF mount lenses when on a m43 mount, not to mention the sloppy wobbly connection between the lens and the camera, makes those lenses basically unusable on m43. There is that cool 550$ smart adapter from redrock micro, but that’s pretty spendy. Not to mention the 2x crop factor of the M43 sensor, where your nice wide 24mm EF mount is all of a sudden basically a normal perspective lens.
Response: agreed.  He tries to avoid using adapters except for his Leica glass. Using native lenses is far preferable in most cases.

One thing that can be handy about mirrorless is they’re much smaller and usually less expensive for both bodies and glass than pro DSLRs.  Now that Lumix has put out a series of top-quality lenses for M43 format, it feels like a real alternative. When I first got my GH2, there was no fast “normal” zoom available, the equivalent of the Canon L 24-70 2.8. It caused me some heartburn.  Thankfully, now there are the Lumix G X series lenses, which are awesome.  And small! And not that pricey! Only about 1200$ each.

Small camera? Small can be very good sometimes.
When you’re just using it as a SLR-style camera, or traveling, that’s cool.  I find once I kit it out with all my crap for video, like my d-focus cage, rods, monitor, full-size tripod, and mini slider, it’s far from small. Sure is nice to rig up on something.

Here’s when little is a big advantage. Check this out:

13I don’t think you could do that with a chunky SLR with a big lens on it.  well, maybe, but it wouldn’t be as fast and it would be harder to do and bounce around more and maybe not work.

Conclusion:
While it’s not the only way to shoot video, and all of our favorite DSLRs are still leading the field, I think the day isn’t that far away when it will just seem like the more logical choice to shoot video with sleek little DSLMs packed with pro video features than with “big” DSLRs. They’re just more video-friendly.  I’m not going to get into the partisan fight about which camera looks better, but there are a lot of just plain practical concerns that make mirrorless attractive. HD live feed to your monitor, for one, so you can keep stuff in focus once you start rolling.

When you’re shooting small like this, you’ll want your lighting kit to be pretty compact too. What better way than totally collapsible almost weightless softboxes for your LED panels? Check us out.
yours
Tom Guiney
Airboxlights.com
Inflatable softboxes for LED Panels

 

Micro Grip and Lighting Kit

Sometimes I get this notion like I’ve got all the answers on something, an of course that means I don’t. I got my eyes opened a bit on how small you can go with gear and still be very effecive. This is particularly relevant when you’re working by yourself or with a very small crew. I gaffed a Chrome spot for a dp named Norman Bonney, and he had a whole kit of totally miniaturized gear, optimized for fitting in one vehicle and for taking on airplanes.
Kit was
1 case: 4 LEDs, 2 1×1 panels and two 6″ x1′ panels
4 skinny little 18/3 “stingers”
A bag of slender aluminum stands, of a degree of sturdiness that I had previously dismissed as Mickey-mouse student film stuff. Some stands were 3/8″ studs at the top, some were standard 5/8″ studs.
Portable fold-up flag kit
Collapsible 4×6 westcott scrimjim frames and a duffel bag full of soft goods.
Instead of heavy duveteen, he carried lightweight ripstop nylon
And the grip kit: instead of heavy steel 2 1/2″ steel gobo heads, these tiny little 1 1/2″ grip heads. So this is what your “C-stand” looks like:

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A tiny stand, a tiny head, and a tiny cardi. Slender, but big enough to handle this lightweight collapsible 4x frame on an interior set:

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And all the bags and cases were 49 lbs or less and less than 62″ long, making it all air-travel ready.
I dig it!  I shoot a bunch of little jobs where it’s basically just me, and if everything fit in bags and cases and didn’t weight all that much, that would be just fine with me.
Handy items in my kit as far as extreme portability are the inflatable softboxes I make to go with my LED lights.  They just squish down on top of the lights in the case and add barely any weight or bulk since they’re inflatable. Also handy are these cheesy “Impact” brand light stands that I got a while ago and then regretted because they seemed so flimsy.  They’ve proved really reliable, even if they are lightweight. They work.  When I’m not bringing “any” lights, I bring my two 1×1 panels in their laptop bags and these two lightweight stands and my little briefcase of small LED units and Airbox softboxes.
Trivium: “Impact” is one of B&H’s house brands of gear, along with Pearstone and probably a few others.