Special Offer from Rode

RØDE announced a deal where purchasers of a VideoMic Pro or Stereo VideoMic Pro will receive a free copy of Red Giant’s excellent PluralEyes 3 audio synchronization software ($199.00). All you have to do is purchase the mic from an authorized dealer (us!) and register it between now and the end of 2012. You will also receive a free ten year extended warranty from RØDE.

While large sensor camcorders with built-in XLR sockets are becoming increasingly popular there are still many DSLR shooters out there using less sophisticated audio setups who will benefit. The combination of a good quality mic and audio syncing software allows users to either shoot simple multi-camera setups or work with a dedicated external audio recorder in a dual system sound setup.

Dual system sound is still one of the best ways to improve your audio and by using PluralEyes syncing is fast and easy.

Come by Camera West to check out the Rode VideoMic Pro.

The Eloquent Eye

Alfred Stieglitz is perhaps best known for his spiritually rich photographs of his surroundings, family, friends, and the many women he loved, including his second wife, painter Georgia O’Keeffe. But few people know that his influence went beyond his own individual artistry. At his gallery “291″ he presented the first American exhibitions of Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Rousseau. His militant advocacy of photography as art won widespread acclaim for the medium.

Check out this in-depth look at the life and work of legendary photographer Alfred Stieglitz. It’s part of the PBS American Masters series, and you can watch it here in it’s entirety.



The Fine Art of Manual Focus

The Zeiss manual focus 50mm f1.4 Planar T* ZE has a long focus throw, helpful when shooting video.

Those of you who were shooters before auto focus or those of you who currently shoot with any of the Leica M series cameras or other older film cameras know what it is like to manually focus. It’s difficult and if you are like me and got spoiled by today’s auto focusing digital cameras, it’s frustrating to manually focus quickly on moving subjects, especially at wide open apertures.

I used to be good with my hand/eye coordination before autofocus technology came along. When shooting sports with long lenses at wide open apertures, you had to be good – or frustrated and out of focus all of the time. All that has changed however because we’ve been spoiled by the lightning fast, extremely accurate auto focus capability of today’s cameras. Who needs to manual focus when autofocus is so much better?  Well, if you like to shoot video like I do with a DSLR, you’ll need to learn the lost art of manual focus.

Although it’s true that some DSLRs will allow you to auto focus while in video mode, it’s never very good and is easily fooled. Pros never use auto focus because you can’t risk the chance that your auto focus will get fooled especially for those scenes where you get only one take. You need to focus manually, which takes a lot of practice. And to make it even worse, you can’t look through the viewfinder but rather, need to focus off the lcd in live view mode which presents a number of additional challenges.

How do you work with these challenges? I’ve already mentioned practice. On top of that, it helps to have some focusing aides. A magnifying loupe to place over your lcd helps, as does a follow focus, an external monitor or an electronic viewfinder. I use all of these and they all help you get sharp. Also using non-auto focusing lenses will make obtaining focus easier. Why? Longer focus throws. Today’s auto focusing lenses have a very short focus throw. Makes sense that the shorter the throw, the quicker the lens can lock focus. That short focus throw however makes manual focusing difficult. A short 1/4 inch turn of the lens barrel can shift focus 30 feet with some lenses. Try manually focusing a fast moving subject with such a short focus throw – you’ll see it’s next to impossible.

With my background in photojournalism and sports photography, I have a great assortment of auto focus zoom lenses. They are the perfect tools for fast moving scenes however for video, not so great. I’m now looking to manual focus primes for video work. Zeiss and Leica R primes have crisp optics and long focus throws. Zeiss lenses will also communicate distance and aperture values with the camera which can be helpful. Some budget minded DSLR video shooters are using old Nikon manual focus glass again for the long focus throws. Even Canon shooters are using the Nikon glass with a converter although I don’t really recommend this since the focus pull is opposite of Canon.

Here is a comparison of the focus throws of various 50mm f1.4 lenses.
3 Feet to Infinity Focus Throw Distance :
Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Planar T* ZE : 2.25 “
Nikon 50mm f1.4 AI : 2.0″
Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM : 5/8 “

Now go out with your gear and practice, practice, practice!

New – Canon EOS C300

Canon has just announced their first truly professional cinema class camera – a super 35mm sized 4K sensor in a small, 3.6 lb body. The EOS C300 is available with either EOS or PL mounts and records to CF cards with an ISO range of 320 to 20,000.
With real timecode, XLR audio, built-in neutral density filters and other pro features, Canon has successfully bridged the gap between their still camera based HDSLR world and true professional video cameras.
Both the EOS C300 and EOS C300 PL are expected to be available at dealers in early 2012, at an estimated selling price of less than $20,000 – actual start of sales and pricing is TBA.

More info from Canon here  :

Film maker Vincent Laforet has had the camera for a few months to review and shot this film using the new EOS C300. Check it out in full 1080p HD here :

Step by Step : Shooting Video with the DSLR

Can You Hear Me Now?

One of a series of posts aimed to help still photographers produce better videos with their DSLRs.

Audio in a film is as important or some will say more important than the visuals. The eye can forgive, but not the ears.

Recording good audio with DSLRs however can be a challenge. All video capable DSLRs have very poor quality mics which also pick up all the camera handling noises. Most also have an automatic gain control (AGC) with no way of turning it off. And without a headphone jack or visible audio meters, you have no idea what the camera is recording.

But we have a solution.

The best way around all of these issues is to record to a separate device with high quality mics. The Zoom H4N and the Tascam DR-100 are two popular compact recorders that take xlr mics, show levels and have headphone jacks. The only disadvantage to recording to a separate device is that it requires extra time in post (editing), syncing the video to the audio.

Another solution, for even better audio is to use a high quality preamp along with an external mic, recording that into your camera or recorder or both. JuicedLink and Beachtek make nice somewhat compact amps which can eliminate the AGC in the DSLRs and provides good clean audio.

My workflow involves using good xlr mics that are fed into my JuicedLink CX231 preamp. I can turn the gain (volume) up all the way on this device and still get good clean audio. I feed this into my H4n recorder with the amps turned down to a line out to my camera. On that line out to the camera is a splitter so that I can hear what is being fed into my camera. This way, I am recording dual sound – in my H4n and in my camera – giving me a back up audio track should I need it. If my camera does not have manual audio control, then I’ll sync the audio in post. If it does have manual audio control then I’ll most likely use the audio attached to the video to save time in post. In either case it’s good to have a backup audio track.

Getting good, clean audio can be somewhat confusing, especially for a photographer – but if you’re serious about your DSLR filming, then you need to go beyond the poor in-camera mics and use the tools that will produce the sound worthy of your film.