It is my intention during this project to produce videos and photographs showing the use of support mechanisms for the acquisition of video media, and the resulting outcomes that are produced from such devices. In the last several years there has been an upsurge in what is known as prosumer items for the photographer and the videographer, With most DSLR’s and all phones offering video and stills capture the manufacturers have been quick to capitalize on this emerging market, Companies such as DJI, Parrot and Zhiyun Tech to name a few are now heading a multi-billion pound worldwide market selling Drones, Glidecams and gimbals.
What were once seen as toys are now being used every day to produce footage for films, documentaries, news and sport, in fact, the list of possible uses is endless.
Most times camera movement in a scene is not needed, as any visible movement can detract from the atmosphere the director is trying to portray, but when moves are required and location dictates the correct tools can enhance that scene. A new filmmaker has to make sure that the move or angle adds to the overall drama or visual aspect of the shot and is not just adding moves and tricks just because they can, in fact, if the move or angle is well executed then the audience should not even notice it as an isolated incidence but just as part of the overall effect that the filmmaker was trying to convey.
Most camera operators want to expand the range of angles they can achieve, and reach areas and positions that were only afforded to the big-budget productions, these devices for very little outlay can help to achieve just that.
Since the first photograph was captured by a camera a means to support and steady the device was needed. For decades the photographer had to make do with a tripod or a monopod and videographers had the same plus the addition of Tracks, dollies and jibs. Back then camera equipment was large, heavy cumbersome equipment that required even larger heavy, cumbersome, equipment to support it.
This was the status quo for many decades until a groundbreaking invention was unveiled by an American born cameraman and inventor called Garrett Brown.
Brown realised that the camera was constrained by the devices available, for example, a tracking shot facing forwards or backwards could only move for a short distance before the tracks on the floor became visible.
The only other alternative was to hand hold the camera, but this produced jerky movement in the final image. The problem is, as identified by Garrett, the centre of gravity in a camera is somewhere in the middle of the device, so causing the device to move and pivot around this point and making it extremely unsteady.
His conclusion was to find a way of lowering the centre of gravity to make it easier to balance, as it turned out the problem was very easy to fix.
The following short video clip shows Brown with Stanly Kubrick on the set of the Shining, it gives an idea of how the Steadicam was used and the final outcome
A short clip from the film The Shining Source: YouTube
A ground breaking invention
The picture to the left is of Scott Jolley a Steadicam operator for Midwest Film & Video Production. In the image, he is holding the very first incarnation of the Steadicam as used by Garrett Brown to record his short film thirty impossible shots (Sjps.tv, 2018).
Using weights under the camera strategically placed on the triangular frame Brown was able to lower the centre of gravity to just below the camera, at this point he placed a gimbal. Gimbals were originally used on ships to keep compasses and even lights in an upright position during rough seas.
This allowed the camera to almost float in a horizontal and vertical plane, allowing the user to walk, and even run up and down stairs, while maintaining a nice steady image.
A short presentation by Garrett Brown about his inventions. Source: Youtube
Another reason I decided to do this as my FMP is that there does not seem to be very much information for the prosumer where camera steadying platforms are concerned, it is my hope that this project will be exhibited via the internet so others can use it as an education tool.
To date I have managed to locate and purchase a couple of books on the subject of drones. The first is a book by Adam Juniper called the complete guide to drones.
This book touches on the invention of drones and looks at the various kinds of drones from toys through to high end, high priced professional drones.
The bulk of this book actually deals with building your own drone from scratch, highlighting the kit needed and how to assemble it. The book ends on a section called “Resources” and informs would be pilots what software is available and some of the restrictions in various countries.
You can fly anything below 44ib (20kg) so long as you remain 500ft (150m) away from a congested area; 165ft (50m) from a person, vehicle, or structure you are not in control of; and maintain VLOS” (Juniper, 2015).
The book is well printed and laid out in an easy to follow format, it has 144 pages in my opinion this book is more suited to the self build drone pilot, that said I did find parts of the book very interesting, and well worth the £14.99 charge.
“Multicopters or drones, were something of a minority interest until a little known car entertainment company, Parrot, grabbed the world’s attention with the AR.Drone at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas”.
“Fully built drones that are intended for commercial use are a relatively new phenomenon. There is a certain amount of confusion over regulation, but there are already several models available, and the selection is getting better all the time”. (Juniper, 2015)
The second is a book by Ivo Marloh called The Drone Camera Handbook. A complete step-by-step guide to aerial photography and film making. The book introduces the reader to the history of drones and works through the types of drones available, flying techniques, photography and video capture then finally ending with a section on how to edit your footage and images to get the best out of them.
“Understanding how multiple rotors on your drone interact, how completely different this is from winged flight and how your RC-transmitter controls actually work is the first step when learning to fly your drone”.
“Taking stills photography from a drone is very different from shooting video. You express everything within a single frame, and the movement of video doesn’t come into play. Therefore it’s all about interesting compositions, unique subject matter and appropriate equipment that you know how to handle”. (Marloh and Sanderson, n.d.)
Both books offer the reader whether a novice or experienced drone pilot a full and complete insight in to drown ownership and operation, from the initial selecting of a drone to suit your needs to mastering the controls through to capturing and editing video and still images.
The book has a semi-hard cover and is an approximate A5 portrait format and contains one hundred and fifty-nine pages. I actually prefer this book over the previous for a couple of reasons, it’s smaller form factor is easier for a drone operator to take in the field with them, and it seems to spend more time on the photography and video aspects of droning.
I have yet to locate any publications on stabilisers specifically for DSLR prosumer productions. This is possibly due to it being quite a new market and publications are yet to be written and published.
Each of the devices below offers the operator different options for image and video capture, though some of the devices do have overlapping options they all offer a distinct use and feel to the final images, some of them can be used in conjunction with each other to provide yet more options to the photographer or videographer. for example, the Zhiyun Crane Two and the Neewer Camera Slider.
Their main use is to give the operator a chance to get angles and into positions that they cannot attain with just a camera and a tripod, they offer the chance to make the image more interesting as subjects can be viewed from alternative angles.
I have listed the devices I own below and I have also written a synopsis of what each of them is designed for and what the desired outcome might be by using each particular device.
“Powered by a built-in rechargeable battery, the Smooth-Q not only supports an ultra-long continuous runtime of up to 12 hours but is further backed up for extended use by allowing a connection with a portable power source through the built-in USB port, and with a super compact construction of 440g, you can really travel light without missing a single moment on the road” (Zhiyun-tech.com, 2018).
The Smooth Q is a handheld gimbal ideal for most smartphones. I use a Note 8 and they work perfectly in tandem to produce beautiful steady high-quality gliding images. The Smooth Q comes with some downloadable software, the ZY app (available for IOS and Android), that you install on your phone. This allows your phone and the gimbal to interact with each other, such as record stop-start and auto follow.
The device is very easy to set up with one knob to extend the gimbal arm and one to adjust the phone holder if you wish to switch from landscape to portrait mode.
This combination is ideal for Vlogging as it is light and portable. The phone can record in 4K video and the gimbal can be set for the front or rear of the phones cameras to face the vlogger.
Below is an example of the gimbal and note 8 in use when being used to steady video footage.
Video clip showing the Zhiyun Smooth Q in operation. Source: YouTube
The smooth Q software enables the device in conjunction with the phone produce some stunning time and hyper-lapse videos, this is where photography and videography might be seen to overlap. Time-lapse is where the device takes a series of images that are shot with a predetermined gap of time between each exposure, for example, one or two seconds. The space between each shot can be whatever the photographer so chooses from one second to many hours. As well as shot count one needs to work out the duration required for the final piece, this is determined by the frame rate used in parallel with the amount of time elapsed between each exposure, as an example if we required four seconds of time-lapse at 25FPS (Frames Per Second) shot at 1 second intervals then you would need one hundred images to achieve the four seconds of footage required, this would take you one minute forty seconds to capture the required amount of images. To create a time lapse is very time consuming, but the results can be truly amazing and like macro photography can reveal things that usually pass us by at normal speed.
Short timelapse using Galexy Note 8 Source: Nik Andrews
A basic time-lapse can be captured using a tripod, or in the above example just resting your camera against a window, or anywhere that the camera can be held steady.
Where the Smooth Q, and indeed the Crane 2, are useful is for capturing hyper-lapse. Hyper-lapse is achieved exactly the same as a time-lapse but it includes movement, usually a pan or a tilt during the capture of the individual images.
With the Zhiyun ZY App you can define an in-point and an out-point and even set a duration so the gimbal moves slowly as the images are being collected
Here is a short example.
Short hyperlapse test Galaxy Note 8 & Smooth Q. Source: Nik Andrews
There are now many companies making these style of smartphone stabilisation gimbals the most famous one being the DJI Osmo, however, when looking at reviews the Zhiyun Smooth Q came out very favourably.
Zhiyun Crane 2
“Integrated with the pioneering 32-bit x 3 high-speed MCU parallel control technology which realizes 100% improvement in respond speed, CRANE 2 gets high above the industry standard with its cutting-edge attitude compensation system and unparalleled anti-shaking stabilizing performance” (Zhiyun-tech.com, 2018).
Like the Smooth Q, the Crane 2 is a three-axis electronic stabiliser but designed for the DSLR market, it can carry a payload of 3.2KG or just over 7 pounds.
The Crane 2 is an all-metal design built to stand the rigours of professional life on the road, as with most of the Zhiyun product line it comes in its own sturdy case offering the gimbal full protection during transport.
Designed to be used with all DSLRs, and at the time of writing, fully integrated with certain Canon and Nikon bodies means that many aspects of the camera such as start/stop record, aperture and even the ISO can be controlled directly from the unit so negating the need to touch the camera at all.
Two other areas where the crane 2 outstrips the Smooth Q are the focus control knob and an OLED display which can cycle through various pages displaying parameters of the attached camera or the gimbals settings.
This stabiliser has quite a few more balancing points than the Smooth Q due to the varied sizes and weights of camera bodies and lenses. I have used it to date with my 17-40 F4 L lens and my little canon nifty fifty. It supported both lenses admirably, I think anything longer or heavier than a 24-105 would overtax the motors and cause them to cut out.
This gimbal can also be inverted to create an instantly stabilised low-level angle for video or stills
Below is a short video clip showing how the low angle can easily be achieved while walking two sets of steps.
Low gimbal experiment with Crane 2 & Canon 5D Mk4 Source: Nik Andrews
As with the Smooth Q you can use the Crane 2 to produce time and hyper-lapse video, here is a shot I made in Wolverhampton Town centre simply holding the gimbal with my DSLR making an exposure every one second, I then simply walked down Dudley Street holding the gimbal as steady as I can.
Once I returned home I used Premiere CC to stitch together the images to produce this video clip.
Hyper-lapse in Wolverhampton Sourse: Nik Andrews
As with the Smooth Q, the Crane 2 can use the ZY App via Bluetooth to control the movement of the gimbal, this adds to the arsenal of tricks that this gimbal can perform as the operator can plant the Crane two somewhere on a tripod or its supplied legs and then perform movements using the joystick controls provided on the app.
Alternatively, you could have a second operator controlling the pan, pitch and tilt of the gimbal while the first operator deals with holding the gimbal and focus pulls etc.
While the ZY app is good it will not allow my phone to record in UHD 4K but only the lower HD 1080p quality. I think this is shortsighted of Zhiyun as many phones on the market are now 4K capable. I would like to use this app, especially when using the Smooth Q as the app integrates with the gimbal allowing you to stop and start recording via the gimbal buttons and you can also set in and out points that the gimbal will then track when you initiate the sequence. I guess a workaround might be to use a second phone with the app on that and connect it via Bluetooth to the gimbal. You could then use Filmic Pro on the phone in the gimbal and the ZY app on a second phone potentially giving you the option of setting in and out points to control the gimbal but recording in Filmic Pro. Obviously, this will not allow you to start and stop the recording via the gimbal and this would still need to be actioned directly on the phone chosen for recording the footage.
Neewer 80cm Carbon Fiber Camera Slider
“Fitted with U-shaped ball bearings under the slider to ensure both smooth motion and minimum abrasion on high-grade carbon fibre tubes.
Able to be fitted vertical or horizontal and at 45 degrees by using the threaded holes in the slider. The height of legs are fully adjustable from 10.5cm to 13.5cm, each leg features a gear-shaped joint interface and locking knobs for better locking positions.
The Neewer 80cm Camera Slider is easy to transport as it comes with a protective carrying bag” (Neewer.com, 2018).
The slider does not come fitted with any kind of attachment for a camera so I also purchased a Neewer 360 degree ball head that attaches to the quarter inch screw on the camera slider.
When used correctly a slider can add some real impact to a video, it can be used to transition across something or to reveal or conceal something during the slide. For a slide to be effective you need something in the foreground and a subject in the background, objects closer to the lens always move faster than objects placed further back in the scene, so when you execute such a slide, you give the two-dimensional image a three-dimensional feel.
Most times people use a ball head to hold and lock the camera in position, and in many instances, this is sufficient though there are times where this can limit the usefulness of the shot.
Some videographers are now combining a motorised stabiliser, such as the Crane 2 to give the slide an added dimension, a skilled operator can set up a slide, pan, tilt focus pull and a zoom all in one smooth action.
Below is a video produced by Momentum Productions showing how he uses such a set up.
Demonstration to show use of Crane 2 with a slider. Source YouTube (Momentum Productions).
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
“An uprated camera is equipped with a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor capable of shooting 4K/60fps video and Burst Mode stills at 14 fps.
The adoption of titanium alloy and magnesium alloy construction increases the rigidity of the airframe and reduces weight, making thePhantom 4 Pro similar in weight to the Phantom 4.
The FlightAutonomy system adds dual rear vision sensors and infrared-sensing systems for a total of 5-direction of obstacle sensing and 4-direction of obstacle avoidance” (DJI Official, 2018).
I am lucky enough to own a Phantom 4 Pro drone made by a company called DJI. The 4 pro is currently their top of the range Phantom model and sports a high-quality twenty-megapixel camera, with a one-inch CMOS sensor, it has an aperture range of F2.8 to F11 and an ISO range of 100 to 6400. The video resolution is up to 4K at 30fps (frames per second) or 1080p at 60fps.
In the past few years, drones have become very popular for hobbyists and professional filmmakers alike. For recreation use they are quite simply just good fun to fly, but, for the filmmaker, they open up a world of possibilities that until recently only big-budget productions could afford.
To get even the simplest of ariel shots you would have had to hire a helicopter costing hundreds of pounds an hour. Now a drone costing around £1500 can achieve all the shots the helicopter could plus a few it could not, due to its small footprint, it’s manoeuvrability and obstacle avoidance systems the drone can comfortably be used in enclosed environments or where obstacles such as branches and wires would preclude the use of a helicopter.
This drone is capable of producing some amazing photography as well as truly cinematic video footage, and it is this that I hope to demonstrate within my HND Final Major Project.
A few months ago I took my drone to White Ladies Priory to educate myself on its operation a little more. Below is the resultant video from that expedition.
Demonstration of a drone. Source: Nik Andrews
As you can see from the footage above, even in my inexperienced hands you can get some very interesting footage from an angle many have never seen before.
When used for capturing stills again this drone produces amazing quality images, this picture was taken on an overcast day in Bridgnorth and although it looks high, due to the terrain around Bridgnorth it was actually only a few feet off the ground.
At this moment in time, you do not need any kind of certification or licence to fly a drone for pleasure so long as it is under 20kg in weight, but you are expected to follow some basic guidelines, known as the drone code which are provided by the CAA (Civil Air Authority).
However, to operate a drone professional for hire or reward you need to obtain a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) from the CAA, this is quite a drawn out process where you need to prove your competency, not only in the air but as a drone business owner. There are many companies now supplying training to achieve the needed skills and paperwork to apply for your PfCO.
“The Neewer 60cm Handheld Stabilizer is a lightweight stabilizing system created for DSLR cameras weighing up to 6.6lbs.
This compact handheld system takes away the need for tripods or dolly’s, giving videographers the ability to create smooth videos while the camera is in motion.
It features a camera platform with both x and y adjustments, and multiple mount holes for various camera positions.
The weight plate contains four weight discs to balance your camera on the stabilizer” (Neewer.com, 2018).
At first glance, one would be forgiven for thinking that a Glidecam is a poor man’s camera stabiliser as it takes a lot more effort to learn how to use it and is a much harder device to master. Indeed it is a member of the gimbal family but this is what I would call an analogue device, there are no motors and now power required save that of muscle power.
So why would you choose this over something like the Crane 2?
The simple answer is, this device is more responsive to the operator’s needs at any moment during a scene. An electronic gimbals parameters are set before the device is used and cannot be changed during the execution of the take, whereas the glide cam can pan, tilt or skew as fast or as slowly as the operator needs at any moment during the recording.
A camera operator might choose this device over the Crane when shooting some fast-moving action where the movements are more erratic and spontaneous, such as a fight scene for example.
I have used the glide cam a handful of times and at the moment takes me an age to get it perfectly balanced, also because it is not powered it relies on you for full control, the above-powered gimbals have electronic stabilisation and have a joystick so you can tilt, pan and even pitch the gimbal electronically.
The other shortcoming is if you change a lens then the rebalance process starts all over again, For an experienced user this can, however, be a couple of minutes whereas for a newbie it could be tens of minutes. It is true that the Crane 2 would also have to be re-balanced but it will tolerate a less exacting procedure for it to work.
As with most handheld gimbals, as the name implies you have to hold them so good upper body strength is needed for anything longer than a minute or two of constant use.
Interesting Comparison of a powered and non powered gimbal. Source: YouTube
Neewer Film and Video System kit
This is something I do not own yet but hope to purchase one within the time frame of completing this project.
This is the Neewer Film & Video System Kit, which is a shoulder support device for DSLRs and small video cameras. I can only assume the word film is used as an analogy of watching a film not mounting a film camera on this device. For the comparatively cheap price, you get quite a bit of usable kit in this bundle, featuring the now industry standard 15mm rod form factor you are able to attach various devices to assist you in your video production such as monitors and microphones etc.
The kit itself comes with a top handle to achieve those low down angle shots, a matte box to help with any lighting flair issues, a follow focus knob to manually adjust your focus before or during a take and two lower steadying handles to grip
During on shoulder use.
To the rear of the rig is a counterweight to help take some strain of the front of the rig when you are using it shoulder mounted.
This device will not produce as steady a shot as the above gimbals but will give the viewer a more documentary style experience, it would also be quicker to set up and be able to react much quicker to changing situations.
I see this item as an improvement to just hand holding your DSLR but nowhere near as smooth as a gimbal. That said this piece of kit should be in every videographers toolbox along with their tripod, Glidecam and gimbal stabilisation device.
The following items may not appear on screen but they will play a significant role and assist me in making my videos sound and look more professional.
RØDE VideoMic GO
“Compact and light weight by design, the VideoMic GO delivers clear, crisp, directional audio with incredible ease of use. Its tight pickup area focuses directly in front of the microphone and reduces other surrounding sounds, ensuring that your subject is isolated from distracting background noise” (RØDE Microphones, 2018).
Good audio is vital for a video, sometimes more so than the quality of the video footage, adding an external mic, even this relatively cheap option will make video content sound much more polished and is well worth the investment.
The Rode Videomic Go is aimed at the amateur and enthusiast markets. That said, it is a massive step up from an inbuilt mic on your DSLR or phone, the mic is phantom powered and draws this from the 3.5mm stereo audio plug, so no other power supply is required.
Sometimes when using a DSLRs built-in mic you can hear the internal workings of the camera such as autofocus etc. This mic comes with a built-in shock mount cradle so helping to remove those rumbles and noises to produce a cleaner sound.
I have also purchased a cable so that this mic can be used with my phone as an external microphone, giving me the opportunity of improving my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 sound too.
I will be using this mic to capture ambient sound during video capture.
Blixxo Lavalier Microphone
“Crisp, clear, high-quality recording: omnidirectional cardioid lapel microphone wipes out background noise to capture your voice” (Blixxo-audio.com, 2018).
I came across this video mic while watching some Youtube videos about video audio and decided to purchase one as they are very cheap (£25.99 as at March 2018). The reviews for it seem to be very good with Amazon giving it a 4.5 out of five from 99 customer reviews. I already have a Rode smartLav (£49.00) and in basic tests, the SmartLav has the edge over the Blixxo, but when used and listened to on its own then the audio quality is very good indeed and well worth the money. Using the two mics Plugged into two different phones gives me quite a few options.
I have recorded some very basic test footage using this microphone to see if the audio was indeed better than the original phone mic recording.
How this was achieved was to record my image on my Note 8 with the Filmic pro software and the phone supported by the Smooth Q. I recorded the audio via the Blixxo lavalier mic into an old phone that I have, with RecForge Pro V2 software. The audio and video were then syncronised in Adobe Premier.
Short test of the Blixxo lavalier microphone Source: Nik Andrews
“The DR-70D from TASCAM is the ultimate audio recording solution for filmmakers. Four balanced XLR mic inputs meet the requirements of production sound, from professional users to indie DSLR shooters. The compact format can be mounted either above or below a camera, and a pair of built-in microphones can capture sound on-set. The interface is designed for quick adjustment, with additional features to keep recording levels under control” (Tascam.com, 2018).
The Tascam DR-70D is a compact four-channel digital audio recorder designed specifically for use in video production, it has a myriad of inputs from fully balanced phantom powered XLR inputs to a 3.5mm stereo jack in for stereo mic or audio source (such as a CD or MP3 player) input.
It can be powered by 4 AA batteries or by an external power supply via a mini USB power pack.
It also has the option of using the two built-in front-facing omnidirectional mics on channels 3 and 4. The recorder can be connected to my DSLR with a send and return lead so audio can be monitored as the camera hears it.
You are able to record the mixed audio directly to the DSLR and at the same time record individual tracks to an SD card (maximum size of 128GB) in 24bit WAV at a maximum sample rate of 96K which is above studio quality.
The mixer has the ability to be mounted above or below your DSLR for easy single crew operation.
Neewer NW74K 7" Ultra HD 4K IPS Camera Field Monitor
“The monitor is suitable for cameras like Sony, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Panasonic. With a bright, wide viewing angle IPS panel, high HD resolution and complex squared segmentation it will provide you with precision viewing” (Neewer.com, 2018).
Although all DSLRs have a rear screen that you can view the image to be recorded on, you can not beat having a field monitor as it will add many features that most DSLRs do not offer plus having a larger screen is a bonus.
The NW74K is a field monitor that can support video resolutions of up to 4K, the monitor is powered by NP-f550 batteries so can be used away from mains power.
Being an IPS screen it has a very wide viewing angle ideal if more than one person wants to see the shot, such as a director. The NW74K also has a built-in speaker so can play back any audio recorded when reviewing footage so you can check the audio quality at the same time as previewing the video recorded.
One of the added features of this device that can prove very useful is focus peaking, this is where the areas of the image that are tack sharp are edged with a red line, as you rack the focus you can see the red line move over the image giving you extra confidence that the area of the image you are focusing on is indeed sharp.
Canon 5D IV
“The difference is in the detail, from the moment light passes through the lens, the EOS 5D Mark IV captures every nuance, every colour, every detail. Once again Canon has brought finer dimensions in detail thanks to a new sensor capable of extraordinary clarity. See your world like never before” (Canon UK, 2018).
I recently upgraded my Canon EOS 6D to the EOS 5d IV, it has a 30.4 Megapixel CMOS sensor with a touchscreen LCD monitor. It is capable of shooting video up to 4K UHD quality at 30 FPS, however, the encoding format chosen for this by Canon is M-JPG which produces very large file sizes and can eat through a 128 Gig SD card in about 8 minutes.
I tend to use 1080 All-I When recording video, as most of my work, goes on YouTube and that format is perfect for that site, another great feature of this camera is the Dual Pixel AF, this combined with the live view touch screen makes focusing and focus pulls a breeze.
This camera will be used in conjunction with the Crane 2 but will also be used to capture footage of me when working with the Smooth Q gimbal and my Note 8.
Canon 17-40 F4 Lens
“The EF17-40mm f/4L USM has 12 lens elements arranged in nine groups. Super Spectra coating ensures excellent colour balance and minimises ghosting and flare. To provide superb image quality over the complete 17-40mm zoom range the lens uses three aspheric elements. Super UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) glass prevents chromatic aberrations”(Canon UK, 2018).
For most video work I go for this lens. The wide angle helps with steadying the image and I generally work around F8 so being an F4 lens this is around what they call the sweet spot giving maximum sharpness through the aperture range.
It is also pretty light for an L series lens weighing in at only 500 Grams or 1.1 pounds, so ideal for mounting on to a gimbal
With a USM motor drive, this lens gives a lovely smooth focus pull especially when coupled to the 5D4 with the dual pixel AF.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
“Get crisp photos even when it’s dark and it’s difficult to keep your phone steady. The Galaxy Note 8’s dual camera comes with great low-light capabilities that you’ve come to expect from Galaxy phones. While the telephoto lens gives you 2x optical zoom for you to capture the near and far. Both have optical image stabilisation so you get steady shots even when zoomed in” (Samsung uk, 2018).
Most people today own a smartphone, and they pretty much all contain a camera capable of photography and capturing video. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is capable of capturing very high-quality images in jpg and raw formats. It has two 12 megapixel rear-facing cameras one at F1.7 and the other at F2.4 this gives the phone a two times optical zoom factor with an additional ten times digital zoom capability (though this does degrade the image somewhat).
On the video front, it supports 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels) at 30 frames per second. The phone comes with 51.2 gigabytes of internal storage and I have added a 128-gigabyte micro SD card to hold my recorded footage.
Installed on this device is Filmic Pro (see below) and it is this phone and software that will be used with the Zhiyun Smooth Q gimbal.
Again as with the Canon 5D4 its duties will be shared between demonstrating what the Smooth Q can do and will be filming me when demonstrating other devices.
Image taken on Note 8 in RAW edited using Snapseed. Source: Nik Andrews
“FiLMiC Pro is the 2x Video Camera App of the Year that beat the $5000 Sony FS100 and tied the $13,000 Canon C300 in blind audience testing at the Zacuto: Revenge of the Great Camera Shoot Out” (Filmic Pro Mobile Video, 2018).
Filmic Pro is a small cheap app that is available for Android and iOS devices, the functionality it brings to your device is amazing and has improved the quality of my phone videos exponentially.
The app is laden with pro features such as thirds guides, audio metering, white balance control, shutter speed and ISO, ability to take audio from an external mic and various aspect ratios to suit everything from an Instagram style 1:1 right the way up to 16 x 9
For a small additional fee, you can purchase a colour grading add-on that will allow you to film your footage in LOG, again allowing the videographer to obtain an even higher quality recording that can be processed in post-production to give the best in colour grading.
I will be using Filmic Pro to acquire footage when using the Smooth Q along with my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 smartphone.
RecForge Pro V2
“RecForge II is a powerful dictaphone (audio recorder & editor) for Android, it allows you to Record, Play, Edit and Share sounds, voices, notes, music or any other audio media” (Play.google.com, 2018).
I have owned this app for quite a few years and used it for video production in the past. It is an amazing little app that converts your smartphone into a miniature recording studio (all be it one stereo track at a time).
You can record to a compressed format such as MP3 or uncrompressed WAV files dependant on what you require the audio for and the space you have on your device, as well as WAV and MP3 there are a myriad of other codecs to choose from such as OGG WMA and FLAC just to name a few. You can also convert one format to another after the recording has finished, so you might record in WAV but transcode to an MP3 file for quick transfer but still have an uncompressed copy should you need it at a later date.
The audio quality is only suppressed by the quality of the mic used, it can be coupled with an external mic or you can opt for the internal mic of the device you are using, the former is better if you have the budget.
The software features an AGC (Auto Gain Control) which can be selected to ramp the recording volume up and down as needed if the device is going to be left unattended or massive fluctuations in the volume level are to be expected. Where ever possible I prefer this to be turned off as the built-in gain stage can open up during quiet parts raising the noise floor and inserting unwanted hiss or extraneous noises into the audio recording.
Lastly one of my favourite features is that you can set the device to record and then lock the phone so the recording cannot accidentally be paused or stopped. This is a must if the recording device is being placed in someone’s pocket as their movement could otherwise end the recording.
Below is a test recording to show the difference that microphones make, First I tried the internal mic on the phone, second, was the Blixxo Lavalier mic, third, the Rode lavalier mic, and finally, the Rode VideoMic go.
Please also note the AGC was left on so you can hear how the audio gain expands between breaths. Other than cutting out some mistakes the audio has not been doctored in any way.
I am sure you will agree that the difference between the different devices is amazing with the worst option being the internal mic.
What I aim to do during my project is produce primarily some videos along with some stills showing how each of the above devices can be used to obtain a particular look or style.
I intend to film myself using the items above then cut together the videos from the camera filming me and the footage from the camera on the device, so giving the viewer a first-person view of what the operator is doing and what the visual outcome is. I then intend to add a voice over track and some suitable music to complete the piece producing some short YouTube-style videos that I will actually post on YouTube as fully edited pieces, these hopefully may prove useful to other budding film-makers and photographers.
The reason I chose to do a video based FMP is that over the decade video has rapidly become another important creative tool available to the photographer, and many professional photographers now offer a video element to their provided services, to not do so would be a folly as there is lucrative work out there for a photo-videographer.
Most photographers now own the basic tools to produce high-quality videos and with a small extra outlay for a decent microphone and maybe some constant lighting apparatus they could achieve a professional quality output that clients will be happy to pay for.
A little history of how video and DSLRs came to be, in 2008 Nikon released the D90 and Canon the 5D Mark two both with HD video capability. Back then both companies only included video as an afterthought to possibly help photojournalists shoot short video clips, for inclusion in a web-based copy of their photo story.
Canon then decided to commission Pulitzer prize winner Vincent Laforet to produce a short film entitled Reverie.
“This short film went viral and showed the rest of the world what beautiful, cinematic, images this camera could take. The camera was still rather limited at the time with only 30 frames per second and 12-minute clips but it was enough to get the film and video community excited. The main reason for the excitement is the price. For $3,000, you could get an image that before needed to be shot on a camera that cost at least $30,000 or shot on 35mm film which cost about $400 per minute” (Orig, 2018).
The above film may have been filmed on a 5D2 but I bet they used camera support for much larger productions to achieve steady shots, back then there were no prosumer level grip for amateur videographers, but with today’s new bread of cheap gimbals and drones, we can now achieve these cinematic effects for a tenth of the price.
Soon after Laforet’s film had been released Hollywood started using the 5D2 in some of its high budget productions, for example, the sixth season finale of House, M.D.
Since then most DSLRs have video capability and the boundaries are forever being pushed forward we now have 4K video on smartphones and in the not too distant future, we will have 8K (7680 x 4320 pixels) quality video on our DSLR cameras.
I believe we will eventually see the death of photography as we know it, instead of shooting individual images we will capture 30 plus actuation’s a second continuously and then choose the exact image we require for a still, sports events such as the Olympics will be the first to use such a technique, some of the fastest firing DSLRs are already capable of 10+ frames per second continuous shooting, in a few years time this will surely expand to 30+ then you will have full motion video and individual stills for print media etc.
Reading back through this page I realise I have made a lot of promises and set myself up for quite a bit of work over the next couple of months, but then I am here to stretch myself and to see where I can go with it, What I like about this project is I do not have to rely on anyone else but my self to get the tasks done, the only uncontrollable factor is the weather as I think most of this work will be exterior based, as I feel that the demonstrations of the various bits ok kit will require some room, time and working out.
If the weather should be against me then I will have to resort to indoor studio based work which is achievable with most of the tools other than the drone.
I have yet to clearly formulate in my own mind how I will present each item and I foresee me performing a few initial test runs before I find a formula that works for me.
I am looking forward to the challenge and I hope that I can produce a body of work that is interesting, entertaining and informative.
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