All posts tagged Monopod

4 Posts

Portrait Film: Eric Hung, Motorcycle Racer

Eric is my friend and one of the most interesting people I know. I love making films about interesting people!

For some time we’ve discussed producing a portrait film for him detailing his racing experience on mini motorcycle.

I wanted to shoot something personal and intimate, focusing in on the person behind the sport. I wanted to take a snapshot of his routine and get a glimpse into his obsession. What drives him to wrestle this tiny motorcycle around this giant racetrack, lap after lap, season after season?

My original intention was to have him speak on camera. Unfortunately, Eric is quite shy and I could not convince him. I hate being on camera almost as much as he does, but in the end I had no choice. I really wanted his portrait film to be driven by dialogue and as he was a man of few words, I had to get behind my own lens. I hated it, but this is how badly I wanted to tell his story!

The interview you see is not perfect, but this was the best I could manage after approximately four takes! Between the camera, separate audio, positioning and the set, there are enough things to worry about in an interview shoot. When you’re both the cinematographer as well as the subject, this challenge doubles. Thankfully Roy assisted me.

The 5D Mark III shone once again. There is no Mark II footage anywhere, I used only one camera and two lenses: 50 1.2L and the 24-70 2.8L. I’ve also started to edit purely in the all-i encoded footage straight off the camera and this has expedited my workflow tremendously. There is no more need to transcode to ProRes prior to editing in FCP! What a change!

The action shots at the end turned out extremely well. I used the jib once again and I find that it is a much better tool for action work over just a tripod and fluid head. There is a lot more weight hence a lot of extra inertia to damp movements and this produces much smoother start/stops as well as transitions. The lifting and lowering action of the crane also contributes to a much more sensational production value. I’ve already had several comments that this looked like MotoGP! The rest of the footage was all stabilized by monopod.

Additionally, the Zacuto Z finder all but saved me. Without it, the LCD was all but invisible under the bright sun. I actually even used it on those fast panning shots on the jib. I stuck my eye in the viewfinder and shuffled around with the crane.

This was also a good test for rolling shutter on the Mark III. If you watch the action pans, you can indeed see some rolling shutter artifacts. They have also not improved tremendously over the Mark II. However, if this footage is any indication, I really don’t consider this an issue. I think rolling shutter complaints tend to be exaggerated and rarely do they affect actual footage. I mean, I was moving the camera pretty fast here to keep up with the bikes!


Roy is a fourth year Finance student at the Sauder School of Business in the University of British Columbia.

This year he participated in the NAIOP commercial real estate competition and his team not only made it into the finals, but also brought home the gold for UBC.

I spoke with him shortly after his competition and we talked at length about the many late nights he spent on campus with his team to meet deadlines and the many sacrifices he had to make in the weeks leading up to the competition. This is the promo length interview. The extended edition with much more content is embedded below.

Roy’s enthusiasm for commercial real estate was apparent in everything he did. This is a young man passionate about his work.

He is also an exceptional speaker. This entire interview was completed in one near perfect take. He is — without exaggeration — one of the best interviewees I’ve ever worked with.

On the tech side I had the 5D Mark III as my main camera mounted to the Canon 50mm 1.2L lens. It gave me a chance to test out the new audio capabilities of the Mark III starting with the headphone jack. It works brilliantly and finally being able to monitor audio as well as adjust it silently during recoding is a such a joy. I had a Rode Video Mic plugged into the camera that provided very usable audio, if a little bit boxy sounding. The main audio was provided separately with my Tascam DR-40 recorder. This is the track you hear in the final film. It is excellent.

B Camera was provided by my Mark II mounted on a jib. Picture profiles were matched as well as white balance. Out of the camera, both footage looked very similar and entirely interchangeable. However, I did run into several problems in post. For starters, the EOS plugin for Final Cut Pro does not recognize mkIII footage so the Log & Transfer feature was unavailable. I tried to transcode to ProRes via Compressor but the transcoded footage turned out with a severe color shift to magenta. This most likely has to do with the mkIII’s switch to Rec 709 and the different color space.

I did get the transcode right when I used 5D to RGB app to transcode instead of Compressor. With the 709 Matrix selected and the full 16-235 range, I got identical output compared to my original files.

However, things did not end there. After my several hour edit, I happily exported to H264 for web using my normal routine (x264 encoder) and the output had shifted colors again. I have yet to find a proper solution. I will do some testing with editing the files directly off the camera. Since the MkIII now uses an All-I codec, those files should be easier for my iMac to handle.

A huge thank you to Faye Tong for operating my B Camera so expertly. I especially love the shot at the end.

Here is the much longer extended edition of the film, with more details for audiences interested in the NAIOP competition:

For Your Amusement

To say that I’ve been excited to get my new Canon 5D Mark III is an understatement.  This is my single most anticipated camera for about the past year and one that I pre-ordered the night it was announced. Despite this mountain of expectation, finally getting to shoot with it has been a complete treat and I’m both happy and relieved to say that this camera is everything I wanted it to be and more.

There has been a lot of talk about its apparent lack of resolution especially compared against the $600 dollar GH2 with various bitrate hacks. I do have a GH2 and it has been hacked. However, I don’t see what the fuss is about. Yes, shooting at a deep depth of field on the Mark III does produce pictures that are a little bit soft, but not nearly to the detriment that is emphasized and what it does well, it does so well that there is very little else that can match its strengths. It is still a completely unique camera in this marketplace.

The build quality is superb which is to say like the 7D, only better. The new 3.2” LCD is bigger and more pleasant. The colors are classic Canon which are well saturated with lovely skin tones. The moiré and aliasing are both gone and this is a huge deal. Even shooting the metal mesh ceiling of the bumper car stall in the film above, I saw no signs of moiré. Shooting the strings and bottle game, there was no sign of aliasing on the strings. This is a huge deal! The inexpensive SDHC cards are now usable thanks to the Mark III’s dual CF and SDHC slots. Class 10 cards seem to be all I need, even in the more bitrate hungry i-frame encoding mode.

And that gorgeous full frame aesthetic. It’s not just about the shallow depth of field; it’s about being able to get shallow depth of field up close and at wide angles. This is something that only the big sensor cameras can do. What a treat!

So here I am two years later having started with the hacked GH1, the 60D, a pair of 7Ds, the hacked GH2, the Mark II and now finally the Mark III. Being able to use all the lovely Canon EF and EF-L lenses the way they were meant is another big upside to both the full frame Canon cams. I think my set up will now be Mark III as my main camera with the Mark II as backup or B camera for my second shooter. This will maintain the aesthetic across both angles and should cut seamlessly across all my footage. The Mark II is still very useful and I’m not ready to give that up yet.

Finally, the film above was shot entirely on the Mark III with the new i-frame encoding and using the faithful picture profile (sharpness at 1, everything else at defaults). There has been absolutely no grading or color correction in post and this is footage straight off the camera. Audio was captured with the on board mic. Stabilization provided by my always present Manfrotto 561 BHDV-1. Len was only one: the Canon 24-70 2.8L, shot mostly wide open at 24mm, 50mm and 70mm. It was a very quick edit.

A big thank you to my walking model Faye for being so patient!

Fair Trade Flash Mob BTS

The UBC fair trade committee is made up of a number of students and staff who advocate fair trade and wish to promote it across campus. UBC Food Services is very much committed to fair trade and this year invited me to cover the committee’s main event: a marching flash mob.

The week before the flash mob, I opted to shoot some behind the scenes footage for them and put together a short promo film that they could share with friends and hype up the event the weekend before. I joined them in the planning meeting as well as the rehearsal.

Two of the lead organizers, Rosalind and Quinn, were happy to provide some interviews on camera and this helped to drive the narrative of the promo. Audio was captured via Zoom H1 mounted to a small tripod directly in front of and below the speaker and synced up in post. On the visual side I turned again to my trusty Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4 for coverage. This is fast becoming my favorite interview lens. The 50mm effective focal length on the GH2 is both natural and flattering and the backgrounds simply melt away at f1.4. Lovely, lovely lens.

My one and only complaint about this Leica is the manual focusing. While the focus ring is exceedingly smooth and friction free, the distance it takes to turn from near to far is exceedingly long and makes rack focusing more tiresome. This is mostly a result of Panasonic’s focus-by-wire design where the focus ring is really a digital controller and not an actual mechanical device. Not really a fault of the Leica, but I wish it wasn’t there.

For stabilization I turned to my beloved Manfrotto 561 BHDV-1 monopod. This is probably my favorite tool for fast set up and all round use in unpredictable situations.

It was a pleasure to shoot with this set of gear and even more fun to watch the committee members learn the lyrics and dance moves. All in the spirit of fair trade.

Flash mob coverage to follow shortly.