All posts by Sam

16 Posts

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!

2011 PCMRC Crash Reel

When your pastime is racing motorcycles at the racetrack — even ‘mini’ ones like these Honda NSR50 two stroke race replicas — you always end up pushing yourself and the bike to the limits. Sometimes, this means you fall off. And by ‘sometimes’, I actually mean ‘all the damn time’.

Here is a collection of my most memorable crashes from 2011. You are riding on board with myself (#11) and my buddy Eric Hung (#2) who is wearing the white Dainese leather suit.

The finale in this film is probably my worst ever crash. This was at the 2011 Nationals event at Greg Moore Raceway where all of this was filmed. After overpowering me with a faster bike on the straight, my competitor Shawn Finn runs out of talent in the middle of turn 3 and lowsides. The ensuing pile up was probably the most epic I’ve seen or experienced at this track, but thankfully I came away uninjured. I was very lucky there and very fortunate to have landed on the grass.

I intended this to be a promo film for the racing club to which I belong (PCMRC), but I wonder if some people would find all the crashing off putting. Although truth be told, anyone who rides a motorcycle — whether on the street or the racetrack — knows about the risks involved, and if they don’t, they really ought to. This is not an armchair sport. People get hurt. Sometimes they die. That is a very scary and sobering thought.

On the tech side, we had two GoPro HDs running (the original HD, not the HD2). They were mounted to the tops of our helmets using the provided 3M VHB mounts which are exceptional. It’s a real testament to the GoPro’s toughness that they withstand this sort of abuse, time and time again. We have broken suction mounts and cases, but have yet to destroy a camera. Also, they have a great way of falling off or detaching during a big impact, which is always helpful.

Frame rate was 720p/60 on the camera. I always prefer this over the 1080p/30 for GoPro, not because of the added smoothness which I don’t care for, but because of the overcranking ability. I slowed the footage down 2.5 times and then conformed it to 24p. This gave the perfect slow motion you see with no added frames.

Edited in Final Cut Pro 7 and while you may not notice it, I had to do quite a bit of motion in post to centre and scale the action. You probably noticed the resolution loss. Did a bit of grading using Magic Bullet Looks and Colorista II to give the image more pop and a more film like aesthetic. The footage took quite a while to collect and sort, but this was a quick edit. About 3.5 hours from start to finish.

For more info on mini racing and for ways to get started crashing with us, visit the PCMRC website.

Fair Trade Flash Mob

This was the big event of the UBC Fair Trade Committee’s fair trade week and what a kick off it was!

I spent the weekend fearing rain but when Monday morning rolled around, we were blessed with glorious sunshine and puffy white clouds. Juliana from the Fair Trade Committee had already planned to follow me around with a big golf umbrella but thankfully it stayed as a backup plan and she was able to participate in the festivities.

Because the flash mob would be moving quickly and to several different locations, I did not know what to expect and prepared for just about everything. I brought the GH2 with the Lumix 7-14mm wide zoom, the 14-140mm kit zoom in case I needed flexiblity, and both the Steadicam and the monopod. I started with the Steadicam indoors but because of the windy conditions outside, I expected to have to switch to the monopod once we ventured out. My awesome assistant Faye followed me around the entire time holding my monopod, ready for me to request an exchange at a moment’s notice. I ended up staying on the steadi the whole time, because it was working out OK and I didn’t want to miss any of the action. I ended up shooting the entire event on the 7-14 and the Steadi.

The wind sure was a challenge though! Because the GH2 is such a feather weight, I usually balance it with a hot shoe LED light on top for the added inertia. Even with the added weight, it was no match for the rapid gusts! You can see me getting blown around in the footage outdoors. Still, it worked out well enough and most of the footage was usable.

Audio wise, I stuck to the reliable on board mic of the GH2. If only all video DSLRs had mics like this one.

It was a suitably grand kick off to a successful fair trade week and I was glad to have been a part of it.


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.


Desert Eagle Point Five Oh

This is an old one but quite fun.

Roy, Marat and myself had never fired a gun before in our lives.

So we wanted to shoot the biggest, baddest meanest weapon the gun range had to offer. From all the movies we’ve seen — and especially ones like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch — the biggest, baddest pistol is none other than the legendary Desert Eagle .50.

We worked our way up the smaller firearms before saving the best for last and what a finale it was! Like shooting fireworks from a metal tube out of your hand, only more powerful.

On the tech side, I had the GH1 with only the 20mm f1.7 pancake lens. This very compact and fast prime gave me an effective 40mm focal length to work with and more importantly, it was fast enough to see reasonably well in the dimly lit conditions of the firing range. I also attached the Panasonic Lumix stereo external microphone, but with no way to monitor the audio levels on the GH1, its usefulness was questionable (the GH2 eventually fixed this with audio meters, but still no audio output jack). I shot entirely at 720p/60 and the film you see above was conformed to 24p in post. While I did not use the 60p footage for any slow motion, the heightened frame rate did offer something very special: the firey frame grabs of the weapon firing at the end of the film.