Video DSLR reviews, reports and related explained

Category Archives: "General"

Different types of black and white photographs

Posted on 7 September, 2015  in General, Lightroom

When you hear about black and white photos, of course the first thing that comes to mind is photos that do not have colors. While this is the traditionally accepted definition of black and white photos, with the advent of technology, there have been developed different types of black and white photographs.


1.Traditional black and white photographs – These are produced by removing all colors from photographs. They are the easiest to make as there is often not that may controls to manipulate and adjustments to make. They are very easy to create in both Lightroom and Photoshop. In Lightroom, you can use some of the Lightroom presets that are found online to create them. In photoshop, you just have to choose black and white under the image menu.


2.Monochrome black and white images – These differ from black and white in that their blacks are much deeper than in traditional black and white images and photographs. They often have very few grays on them with dark blacks being the dominating color on them.

3.Grayscale – These black and white helmet cameras images  use more grays than blacks and are often much lighter than their monochrome counterparts. They also show a lot more detail than monochrome black and white images and are therefore usually the preferred type of black and white followed by the traditional black and white photographs and images.


4.High, medium and low contrast black and white images – These are black and white photographs whose contrasts have been adjusted. The contrast can be adjusted up to create high contrast black and white images or adjusted down to create low contrast black and whites. There images are often created with the aim of creating a “shocking” effect and in that way help the pictures and the details they contain therein to stand out.



Creating Black and white images in Lightroom


There are several ways of creating black and white images in Adobe Lightroom. The first one is obviously through the use of Lightroom Presets. There are literally millions of black and white lightroom presets floating around the internet, you just have to know where to look. Websites such as Lightroom presets and infoparrot showcase a huge collection of black and white presets for your own use.


To learn more about creating black and white images and photographs using Adobe Lightroom, please see the video below.



Using Music on YouTube

Posted on 18 June, 2015  in General

I’m going to be talking about using music in your video productions that are headed online – DVDs, Broadcast and Mobile are very different and require different sets of rules/licences. That said, there are quite a few misconceptions about using commercial music in your video productions going online – and no one seems to talk about it.

Coming from an online broadcaster background, when producing clips, my team would have to make a record of what music we used, including artist, record label, duration used and the like.
PRS and Music Licences

When producing the first of my biking videos (yes, DSLRs can be used in sports!), I was unsure as to what the rules were for using background music on YouTube. I phoned up PRS for Music, a UK organisation that “exist to collect and pay royalties to our members when their music is exploited in one of a number of ways – when it is recorded onto any format and distributed to the public, performed or played in public, broadcast or made publicly available online.”

I called up PRS for Music and asked them about using commercial music in my biking videos. From the outset, I was very happy to pay them some money – I saw on their website that they have a limited online music licence that starts at £107 + VAT – very happy to pay that just so I can use the music I want in my productions.

After talking to one of their representatives, once I mentioned I was producing short clips for YouTube and wanted to use music as background music to moving images – they said that they have a blanket licence with YouTube, meaning that you can use what you want when you want.

Now, to me as a music user – that sounds great, but I do wonder if the music industry is missing a trick here. I’d be quite happy to pay for a licence or on a track by track basis. What if YouTube had a reporting/pay function when you upload a video for music rights. Sure, some people may not use it, but broadcasters and video producers like myself would use it simply for accountability.

One thing PRS did mention was that if the music publisher didn’t like how I used the music, they can ask YouTube to remove the audio track (I’ve seen an example of this, so know it to be true). Now, I would happily have paid a licence just to ensure that my video would remain untouched by publishers hands – wouldn’t you?
Some tips/ideas

So here’s a few tips that I’ve recently formulated. Credit music when you use it, usually at the end in form of credits (song title, artist, album/single name, label, copyright date). Also, I would tend to use music that isn’t widely known i.e. something not in the charts. This can serve two purposes. One, the music is less recognisable and less likely to cause anyone problems, and two, for the sake of longevity, using music that is popular will significantly date your video.

And one thing that you should always try and do – contact the artist or label and ask them whether you can use their music. Honesty is the best policy, and if they say yes, you’ve got something in writing regardless. If you’re approaching unsigned artists, they are usually very happy for you to promote their music and get exposure. Smaller independent labels may be similar.

There are two other things you can do. Contact a local music producer (you may even have one in your social circle already, or family) and partner up – they allow you to use their music in exchange for you to make their music videos – its that kind of collaboration that if balanced right, can make for a great creative partnership. And not forgetting, if all else fails, make your own music. There are a few programs out their that let you put a few loops together – such as Apple’s Soundtrack Pro – just be careful, this tool is in the hands of a lot of people, so go buy the extra loops just to be better assured that you’re not using the loops everyone else is using.

What are your thoughts about using music in your video productions online? Is it a fair system? Do you have any tips or advice to share? Say it in the comments.


London Meetup

Posted on 18 June, 2015  in General

We’re running a meetup on Thursday 22nd April 2010 at 7:30pm at St Christopher’s Inn, 121 Borough High Street, London SE1 1NP. It’s for anyone in and around London to come, share knowledge and experiences and enjoy a drink or four.

If you’re interested in attending, please head on over to our meetup page, sign up to the group and find out everything you need to know about the meetup.

As it’s our first meetup, it will take the form of a social with a drink, meeting people and sharing ideas.

If you have cameras/rigs with you, please bring them along (we don’t accept responsibility for any damage, loss or spillage of beer on your very expensive lens!). There might be opportunities to learn how to use them better -share the wealth!

We’re looking for sponsors to support the meetup, which can range from putting some money behind the bar, to covering the meetup room hire. In exchange, you’re welcome to conduct a 10 minute talk promoting your company or service and handout promotional material (that’s fair isn’t it?). Please go to our meetup page and click on the sponsors button on the left for more details.


Vegas, Here I Come!

Posted on 18 June, 2015  in General

I’m so excited for this week. This will be my first time to vegas and I’m really looking forward to WPPI. Many of you may know this, and some may not, but I left stillmotion about a month ago to set off on my own way, so this will be my first show on my own. It’s going to be a big jump for me this year. I’ve already started booking weddings and corporate work, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with people i’ve become good friends with.

For those of you who don’t know what WPPI is, essentially its a huge gathering of photographers from all around the work who shoot portrait and wedding photography. While there, photographers have the chance to take classes, check out new products and services, and meet people from all around the world.

Now you might be asking, why would a cinematographer go to this show? Well, to tell you the truth i don’t even know why I am going. my original plan was to go to NAB in April, but after a couple conversations with friends in the industry, I decided it might be a worth while experience to go to WPPI as well.

So I have my flight to Las Vegas booked, and my room booked as well. I haven’t decided on a return flight. I’m thinking on going on one of my own little adventures again, maybe to California after WPPI (if only i could drive, that would make things 10 times better!).

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some awesome people I’ve met before, as well as new people. I have no idea what to expect from this, but I sure hope it’s a lot of fun.

I can’t stop thinking how lucky I have been to date. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to work with and be mentored by some of the best in the industry (even now on my own, the amount of support from everybody is insane), and now I’m privileged to go my own ways. I’ve learned so much over the past six years I’ve been doing cinematography (which started off more as videography) and I’m just so thankful.

So over the next couple months, a few things will be happening. First off, i’m in the beginning stages of forming my new company. I don’t have a name yet, but i’ll be sure to come up with one eventually (finding a name that I like is so difficult!). Second, i’m working right now with some awesome people to form a brand and create a beautiful and modern portfolio/blog. Lastly, I’m booking dates this year for weddings and other shoots.

I’m really looking forward to what is in store in the future – to think that i’m only 16, and I have already been able to experience so much so far in my life, it’ll be crazy to think what will be coming up down the road. I don’t even know, maybe it’ll be going to the University of my dreams in California. Or maybe something else. Whatever it might be, I’m so excited!


Babies, Weddings, Fridges And The 7D

Posted on 18 June, 2015  in General

I’m on the verge of believing that a Video DSLR could be the best thing to happen to the moving picture since the invention of TV itself.

When we first heard about these new stills cameras that shoot video we were sceptical, but the results seemed tangible. We waited and watched, and really liked what we saw.

So, a few weeks ago we decided that a Video DSLR would be our next camera purchase along with a few choice lenses. We had heard from others that there could be some limitations to these cameras, but our concerns were unwarranted, as we saw just how many other event filmmakers were embracing the bokeh and filmic wonderment that is the hybrid DSLR. The bottom line is this; if like us you are used to shooting in full manual, then the transition to DSLR is a breeze.

We have since fallen in love with the tapeless workflow and soft creamy background that our 7D gives us. We also think it creates a number of new opportunities for our workflow, business value and business development.

The great thing about the 7D is that it’s a stills camera. At the moment, when we are out filming with the 7D, we have the element of surprise. The majority of subjects being filmed, are unaware that they are the focus of our attention, mainly due to the fact that its looks like just a stills camera. This gives us the ability to snipe those natural reportage shots, in the moment, when people appear at their richest.

With this in mind we started a new project. We decided we would use the 7D exclusively to shoot our new web series called “My First Year”. This idea came about after seeing our good friends and their newborn son, and just how much the new baby would grow and change over this coming year. Already he was 5 weeks old and so much had changed. So we decided to make a video series for his first year of life. Showing him and his family, the challenges they face with a newborn and of course a little humour in there as well.

We also thought this was a great chance to play with our new toy, the 7D.

The plan was simple, spend a day with the star of the show and his family and just film them doing their thing. We wanted to keep the shots it as natural as possible, so the 7D was perfect. Its small size meant everyone was instantly at ease. A large video camera, even our small Sony FX1 is too big for some. Most of the family were so comfortable with us filming, that they had no idea they were the focal point. That’s got to be the beauty of using a stills camera for film, hasn’t it?

For the early episodes in the series we will be shooting using the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens. This particular lens is designed for the cropped sensor of the 7D which means your focal length is a true 30mm. It’s also a bargain at about £350. The other reason we selected this lens is because wide open it creates a lovely shallow depth of field without being too tight. This helps draw the viewer into the world of baby Joshua and possibly how he sees the world. The popular canon 50mm f/1.4 with the 7D crop would be far too tight for this particular shoot.

As the series progress’s and baby Joshua becomes more aware of those around him the DOF will increase and our lens choices will change to reflect this. Also camera movement will play a big part.

Who ever said that size wasn’t important? In this case, small is better! Another big plus point for the 7D is its size. The 7D can go places no other camera can. I’m hoping to really put its weatherproofing to the test later in the series but for now the form factor helped achieve one shot I really wanted. The fridge shot! During shooting it was Joshua’s feeding time so I followed Dad to the kitchen where he showed me the milk which is kept in the fridge. So we talked about a point of view shot.

We placed the 7D at the back of the fridge and the baby’s milk bottle in front of it. This made for a great shot as the opening of the fridge door took us from darkness into the shot itself. A fantastic reveal.

With the help of the 7D we have also been able to clear up one of life’s major mysteries. Does the light go out in the fridge when you close the door? I can confirm this is a yes.

As this was a documentary piece the colouring was to be as natural as possible. On our 7D we use a modified custom picture profile based on the ‘Faithful’ look. I’m not sure why people insist on using the ‘Neutral’ base profile as this doesn’t give very true colour representation and needs to be fixed in post. Have a read of the user manual page 65 for a better explanation. I say just get it right in camera as much as you can. The less fiddling you have to do later the better. All we do to the profile is knock the contrast all the way down as this gives you more latitude later and take the saturation down 1 or 2 notches. We leave the sharpness at about 3. The reason for this is it applies sharpening BEFORE compression so just sharpens the good stuff. If you knock this down and put it back in post then your also sharpening ISO noise and compression artefacts.

Highlight Tone Priority wasn’t used in this piece as it was all shot indoors with very few chances for highlights. However there are a few scenes where I wish I had it on. There are some who are concerned that HTP brings noise into the shadows. This is true but by the time you compress it out for the web or Blu-Ray, any noise is lost and even then the only way I noticed it was when taking screenshots and comparing them in Photoshop. When the image is moving the benefits far outweigh any negatives.

At the moment, we do all our editing in Sony Vegas. Its quick, it’s easy and it’s powerful. We add just a touch of saturation and bring back the contrast. We corrected a few scenes using NewBlue FX (their Color Fixer Plus is pure voodoo!).

We always shoot in full manual, 7D or otherwise. In our opinion, full manual is the only way to really achieve the best look. If your still using one of the creative modes then it’s not that hard to make the change and it’s well worth it.


Shooting ‘Run and Gun’

Posted on 18 June, 2015  in General

So we’re heading towards celebrating our one-year anniversary together and I haven’t looked back, not once. We’ve had our up’s and down’s, we have even shared a few heated situations together, but with all that said and done – every minute I’ve spent so far with the 5d mark II has been a pure and utter pleasure.

I run a creative media solutions studio called Clearhead Media by day and on the weekends I am a self-employed photographer. In the spring of last year I found myself taking bookings to shoot weddings. I ended up booking a wedding every weekend for the next four months. I couldn’t have been happier. Who wouldn’t? Yet I had a big concern. My concern was how my gear would hold up. Would it be good enough? Good enough for the level of work I wanted to produce?

Luckily I had been putting some money aside for new gear and with all these weddings now booked in, I decided to go for it and purchase the Canon 5d mark II.

I had purchased the camera along with a 24-105 f4 and 50 f1.8. Both decent kit lenses that would cover all areas I needed to start with. I had bought this camera just to shoot the weddings. I knew of the video function on the camera, but it hadn’t even occurred to me to shoot video with it.

A couple of weeks passed and I had the chance to test the camera out on a few photo shoots. I also had a go at shooting some short video clips with it around the office. The image this camera was producing completely astounded me.

We had been shooting all of our corporate and promotional films with a Sony Z1 and spending out to hire 15K HDCAM’s with all the bells and whistles for larger shoots, such as commercials.

I started to shoot some side by side comparisons of footage with the 5d mark II and the Sony Z1 and from there on in I haven’t looked back. We have been shooting all of our productions on the 5d mark II and now the 7d ever since (you can head across to our website if you’re interested in having a look at some of our productions).

What I wanted to talk about today was a shoot I did in January, ‘run and gun’ style.

In January myself and good buddy @paulleaning were asked by a local artist Niki Edwards (Comic Dot Boy) if we could put together a quick music video for him for the release of his latest EP. He didn’t have a budget and needed it to be turned around in two days. He asked us if we were up for the challenge – we agreed.

The weather at that time had been awful, relentless slushy snow and drizzle. With this in mind we did a few test shots inside, but realised quickly that we wanted to produce something outside, somehow taking advantage of the opportunity to use the snow.

We scouted a few locations, finally coming across an abandoned wood cabin in Ashridge.

With a good mile trek to get to the location, we decided to shoot low profile ‘run and gun’ – if you like. We picked up the 5d, tripod and a tracking dolly and headed off. With the shoot being very short notice and needing a quick turnaround, there wasn’t much time for much planning. Once we reached the location, we took ten minutes to take a look around the location, planning a few shots and bouncing around some ideas between us.

Shooting with such a low profile setup was refreshing. We’d usually kit out the 5d with rails, follow focus, external mic, zacuto z-finder and a field monitor. However not wanting to carry any more gear than we had to actually made the whole process feel very organic and comfortable – both in terms of us shooting the video and the reactions we managed to capture from the artist.


One piece of equipment we used on the shoot was the Hague Tracking Dolly. Being able to create cinematic tracking shots on a ‘run and gun’ shoot can be extremely difficult. However, with tracking systems such as the Hague or glidetrack, creating these shots is so easy and prove invaluable to a production.

For the majority of the shoot we shot with the 24-105 at f4 switching to the 50 f1.4 for close ups. Both extremely versatile kit lenses gave us the ability to shoot in fully manual mode at 1/50th second with an ISO of 400 maximum. We generally shot at at around ISO 200.

Just a couple of tips I’d give from my experience on the day. If you are shooting in cold conditions, fingerless gloves can be great for intricate work on a dslr, however not essential. Also keep a lens cloth handy to make sure you keep a constant check on condensation and water drops on your lens.

After shooting for around an hour we packed up and headed home. I then converted all the raw footage into Pro Res using MPEG Streamclip, dragged all the files into Final Cut Pro and synced all the audio from the Pro Res footage with the master audio track using Plural Eyes. Now that all the audio was synced, I spent the next few hours editing the video together, exporting and uploading the completed music video to Vimeo.


Broadcast Video Expo 2010

Posted on 18 June, 2015  in General

So that was Broadcast Video Expo 2010. I didn’t attend last year, so found it useful to gauge where the industry is at. Predominantly there were two camps – 3D and Video DSLR – the latter obviously something that excites me.

I talked to quite a few guys at the show, some exhibitors and some visitors and the mood felt very upbeat. The newbies to DSLR filmmaking were full of intrepedation, liking what they were seeing and wanting to know more. I was in a queue for the show this morning with the 7D around my neck and instantly it became a conversation started. “Been shooting for long with that?” one attendee asked. Another asked me about what it was like to edit. He was an Avid editor, who was moving more and more over to Final Cut Pro and loved the possibilities available to him to do the occasional shooting with DSLR cameras.

I was also fortunate to bump into some old colleagues, and their sole reason for attending the expo was to find out more information regarding shooting on dslr cameras.

Let’s not forget, there was a big showing of RED cameras, with various companies showing accessories and workflows and the like, but to me, the excitement was focussed very much on the Video DSLRs at the show.

I attended the cinematography on dslr workshop hosted by Den Lennie and Drew Gardener, which served as a great overview of the field. Drew shared his experience from shooting still to moving images and is currently producing a DVD to share with others his experiences and techniques.

I’m cutting some videos I shot with the 7D at the show, including a piece with Den talking about F-Stop Academy and the buzz surrounding DSLRs. I also got the opportunity to ask some of the exhibitors about their products and what we can expect from them in the future. I’ll be putting those videos on the website as soon as humanly possible. Canon and a few others were very interested in letting us know about future product launches and filming other demos, so there should be a steady stream of video content coming up in the future.

If you’d like to contribute to, please contact us – this isn’t a dictatorship – the more people that get involved with the site will benefit the community at large. Anything we decide to include into the site will be fully credited – you can be assured of that.


Planet Video Systems Grand Opening

Posted on 18 June, 2015  in General

We attended the grand opening of Planet Video Systems’ new showroom on Wednesday 3rd March 2010 at Pinewood Studios, UK.

There was a lot on offer and many experts to show customers the latest advances in technology. For us Video DSLR users, there were a couple of items on show, including the Rotolight (a simple, but powerful LED ring light to go around a shotgun mic or on its own hot-shoe mount) and a Holophone (a 5.1 surround sound microphone).

Planet Video Systems are Apple Solution Experts in creative, audio and video and had a range of Apple products, from MacBook Pros to iMacs running the latest Final Cut Studio packages. Experts were on hand to show attendees what they could achieve in post, providing demos on how to use Color to grade footage, to a Final Cut Studio ‘mini masterclass’ with Apple trainer Jonathan Eric Tyrrell.

All in all, a great launch, good food and plenty of expertise being shared at Pinewood Studios.


A Desire Ignited

Posted on 18 June, 2015  in General

When high school student Mark Klassen discovered an opportunity to win a grant to supply the rest of his media arts course with video production equipment, he jumped at the chance. For Klassen, it was an opportunity he just couldn’t turn down.

“I’m always excited to take on projects where I can jump on board and work together to turn words on paper into a vision and take that vision and turn it into reality – this was the perfect chance for me to do exactly that”.

The school video started off as a concept created by Klassen’s teacher Eric Moccio and fellow student, Evan Perusse. Moccio has been teaching students for a couple of years now the essentials of video production. Students learn about lightning and camera techniques, how to edit, and ultimately distribute videos. The course had gained more popularity, the class had expanded and the need for more equipment was becoming an obvious necessity.

After Moccio had found out about the opportunity to win a grant, he got in touch with Klassen and asked if he would like to be involved.

“I’d been busy editing for the past couple weeks and hadn’t shot much so I immediately jumped on the thought of shooting/directing a short video. ”

“I was given three things, the contest rules for the piece, the script they had created, and the date contest submissions were due. From there on creative freedom was left up to me to storyboard and shoot what I had envisioned for the concept. ”

Klassen is no stranger to video production. His first encounter with video was back in 2004, where he would lend his time to local organizations and volunteer his talent to help and learn in any way that he could. One evening he was asked if he could help prepare and monitor audio on a shoot that the video department of the organization was doing and he gladly accepted.

“After that, my initial desire to pursue film/video was ignited.”

“From there I continued to volunteer doing video for the organization, as well as take on small projects of my own. I mainly shot weddings, but I did the odd family event, music video, and corporate gig”. Klassen was shooting standard definition on prosumer and professional cameras, with just a camera, a tape and a tripod.

“It did the job, but the imagery was not flattering at all, and it was pretty much boring. There wasn’t a lot of area for me to invest in equipment because of my age, and lack of finances so I couldn’t go out and purchase things like 35mm adapters and high definition cameras to expand my horizons. ”

His break came when some of Klassen’s friends who did photography, showed him their camera – a Canon 5DMK2. Mark was smitten.

“I picked up a 5D and shot a promotional piece for a local photographer. I had no idea what I was doing with the camera, as it was the first time I had ever touched a 5D, but the video that came out of the camera was stunning, and easily blew away some of the cameras I used previously. ”

The school video was produced differently to some of Klassen’s other projects.

“I usually spend more time in the planning and scripting stages but this time, the only planning I was required to do was story boarding and gathering the equipment. ”

“I find that when I’m involved less in the scripting and other parts of planning like scheduling and budgeting it can take away from your vision and how you want to portray your piece because you start focusing more on the things like locations, talent, and time and you suddenly have less capacity to carry out your vision making it difficult to get that to come to life. ”

Mark was acting as both director and director of photography (DP). This was a perfect mix for Klassen, as it was a small production. The students shot throughout the day, starting in the morning and ending late in the afternoon.

“It was a surprisingly quick shoot, and I think the planning I did do, as well as Eric and Evan’s planning helped make things run extremely smoothly.”

The group used mostly natural light, not only because of the short turnaround time, but also due to the high ISO of the video dslr they were using, there really wasn’t any need to hire expensive lighting.

“We also used tripods, a boom, and a monopod. Some of the unique tools we were privileged to use were created by my friends at Cinevate Inc.. We were able to use the Pegasus Heavy Lifter to add motion and more life to some of the shots as well as a shoulder-mount rig that easily converted into a rig (minus the shoulder pad) that allowed me to use their Durus Follow Focus with a selection of my favourite Canon lenses. I prefer to shoot with primes, but still resort to telephoto lenses at times”

When the team hit post production, they started off with the Canon 5D MK2 workflow that Klassen had known for months. Dropping all the footage into Final Cut Pro, Klassen converted the files into ProRes LT clips, with a frame rate conversion to 29.97fps. After allowing that to convert overnight, he began the process of rough cutting each scene and slowly putting together sequences of shots to create the story.

“I do most of my work in Final Cut Studio, so once the video was done, I threw the audio into Soundtrack and mixed everything together from the voiceovers to the added foley and music.”

“Once that was done, I began to color correct with the basic filters available in Final Cut as well as Tiffen’s DFX software to correct and grade the shots the way I envisioned.”

With a completed final edit uploaded to YouTube, Mark and his class could only sit and wait to find out whether they had won the grant for their class.

When asked whether he had learn anything new producing the high school video, Mark demonstrates that he is always learning.

“Yes! Never use the mic input on cameras with auto gain control. It’s also a good idea to have someone around to do more of a producer role regardless of the size of shoot because they can manage time, something I’m not the best at!”

So what’s next for Mark? Probably owing to his ability and willingness to learn more about the craft of producing exceptional HD video, he was snapped up this past July by video dslr based StillMotion.

“Working with StillMotion I’ve had the opportunity of expanding my knowledge and learning at an award winning international cinematography company. I’ve been traveling around North America shooting weddings I had never dreamed of shooting and meeting awesome couples as well as shooting corporate and commercial work.”

Klassen has been keen on developing his filmmaking skills and in February of next year, he’ll be back at school after a full semester co-op with StillMotion.

“My goal is to complete high school and then attend a film school somewhere in the US, maybe in Florida or California, as long as its warm all year round. As for now, I’m continuing to work hard, do what I love, meet awesome people, and learn as much as I can.”

Mark is currently planning and working on developing a new video production business, doing what we loves. “I’m excited for this year, I’ve met so many awesome people, and I’m excited to do a lot of my own projects, as well as collaborate with a bunch of people in the industry.”