Thursday 23 June 2011

FCP X thoughts and musings

FCP X if the hype was to be believed was going to be a game changer.

The new way of doing things.

And from my dabblings with FCP 7 an update or radical rethink to this cranky piece of OS 9 inspired software was sorely needed

So like the rest of the Apple community I waited with baited breath.

Within moments of launch there was a blizzard of negative comments

'I'm off to Avid'   'The Pro community has been deserted'  'It should be called iMovie pro' and 'This is the worst software lauch ever'

Now I have not been anywhere near it yet, it does not yet support the files from my Canon XF305.

Maybe I should throw another negative comment on the fire?

Perhaps not.

At the moment FCP X does not have a full feature set.

XML support is missing, it cannot read FCP 7 projects, it does not support tape, RED and multi camera's.

So quite a lot not there.


Oh yes, the 'Y' word

This launch has annoyed some big industry names.

Apple could have done themselves a big favour by not having the main import icon as 'import imovie event' red rag to all the pro bulls out there

But I think in time all of these missing features will be added or fixed.

And in the meantime you CAN still use FCP 7, FCP X does not overwrite it.

Perhaps I should keep my mouth shut as I don't have tons of old FCP 7 projects hanging around?

After all I have never even used it as I say.

All I'm saying is a more measured response might be in order, and perhaps get used to this app little by little to get accustomed to it, while continuing to use FCP 7 as our workhorse.

I will leave you with a couple of thoughts

Perhaps wait until FCP X carries the features you need before you buy it

Check out the blog of Larry Jordan, a fair assessment me thinks.

I have working pro friends in the USA and France who are using FCP X already and have lots of good things to say about it.

The Need for Speed

My Elinchrom Rangers have been a little neglected of late.

Particularly with the advent of the Elinchrom Quadra.

A fine compact unit which packs 400 ws and has Skyport built in, for triggering and adjusting the flash remotely.

But when you need raw power there is no substitute for the Ranger which has 1100 ws output.

It is big and heavy but it does a great job.

Just the small matter of how to trigger it.

I like to use Pocketwizards as they are super reliable.

On this particular shoot I was running up against a limited Flash sync of 1/350th sec.

A bit disappointing, having become accustomed to my Quadra's firing reliably with the Skyport speed transmitter.

I visited the Pocketwizard website and sure enough according to the manual it IS possible to use the Pocketwizard Multimax on its speed setting but alas, mine are early models so its not possible.

I remembered seeing an announcement of a new Pocketwizard receiver ST4 for made specially for
Elinchrom RX flash units.

Reading a little more about them on Tom Bol's blog it seems you can indeed sync to silly speeds, which does open the door to quite a few possibilities.

I have purchased two receivers and will let you know how I fare.

Friday 17 June 2011

My Experience with Cinestyle by Technicolor

A little while ago I wrote about the Canon 5d MkII profile by Technicolor called 'Cinestyle'

Well I have been giving it a go and I thought I would share my experiences so far.

Let's get one thing clear, Cinestyle DOES deliver more detail in the shadow area's than any other profile I sampled.

It is super flat, and therefore gives a great range of detail.

Now if you were to shoot a major production and the images were going off to be graded professionally it would give the grader a whole world of options.

But how many of us fro the vast majority of projects send out footage off to be graded?

On a day to day basis not many I would wager.

I have found that trying to grade it myself on small projects it is very difficult to get a pleasing look.

I was left with top DP and massive 5DMkII fan Sane Hurlbutt's words ringing in my ears.

'If you want to get the best out of the 5d shoot it in the style that you want it to look like, and try not to mess with it too much' (funny how this theme keeps cropping up isn't it? Getting it right in camera.......)

I'm not saying that Cinestyle is bad, far from it.

Its just that its is not suited to the way I work and before you shoot too much with it you should be aware of its impact on your workflow.

Sunday 12 June 2011

Drew Gardner 'Groups Webinar' with the Manfrotto school of Excellence

Henry V on the Night before Agincourt by Drew Gardner

Group photography is one of my trade marks.

I like shooting groups, no I LOVE shooting groups.


They are such a tremendous challenge, there is no doubt about that.

Yes, lighting on a large scale is a whole other world, but once you have lit the group you have to make sure that they are portrayed in a consistent and relevant way.

Directing the group to get them to do what you want is crucial.

And that is when you have all the people in the same place at the same time.

But what about when you don't?

A cornerstone of all high end advertising and commercial photography is shooting a photograph in elements, a person or an element to a photograph one piece at a time.

I shot this during one of my classes at the EXCELLENT Maine Media Workshops

Animals one by one........

The whole thing was as a result shot in sections.

It can all get rather involved.

On 16th June courtesy of the 'Manfrotto school of Excellence' I will be holding a one hour webinar where I will share my experience of group photography, both traditional and composite.

Hopefully it will be a useful and you will be able to apply some of the techniques I use to your photography.

Its free, but places are limited so sign up to avoid disappointment.

I look forward to 'Meeting' you then and doing my best to answer your questions.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Yet another bag! All be it a VERY good one.

I have many,many camera and equipment bags.

In fact so many I do need to have a good clean out of them.

So what did I do? I went out and bought another.


But here is my excuse, sorry sound reason for doing so.

To transport my lightstands and softboxes I use the brilliant and all but indestructible California Sunbounce roller bags. I'm still using one which is around 10 years old.

But there is nowhere to put my Elinchrom Quadra's in there.

So I have been looking for a solution which I could carry around a complete set of lights, stands and modifiers.

I popped into the Flash centre the other day and the Palm 1 bag by Kata caught my eye.

It does look slightly unusual.

It appearance maybe due to the fact it is based on a design for a rocket launcher case.

Think of swords into ploughshares...

It has become my standard 'medium' lighting job pack.

I can fit inside just about all the lighting gear I need.

It fits neatly inside the boot (trunk) of a small hatchback too

This is what is in it today.

4 x Manfrotto stacker stands.

3 x Elinchrom Quadra packs and heads.

1 x Small Chimera soft box (this is the only compromise as my medium sized soft box does not fit)

1 x Umbrella(solid not shoot through)

1 x Gitzo carbon tripod with Manfrotto 468rc2 ball head.

This little lot will do for most things.

The clincher in all this though was the bargain price.

The Kata Palm 1 Normally sells for £350 and the Flash centre have a very limited number at the bargain price of £150.

Wednesday 1 June 2011


A while ago I was commissioned to shoot stills for the BBC TV series 'Hustle'

It had quite a star studded cast including Robert Vaughn, who starred in the man from U.N.C.L.E , Marc Warren(Band of Brothers), Ashley Walters (Dead man Running), Robert Glenister (Many British TV appearances including A touch of Frost and Spooks) and Jaime Murray  who has multiple TV drama appearances under her belt .

Now when you are shooting on a TV set or film set it is important to try and get a good rapport with the crew but especially the floor manager as a stills photographer is often greeted with all the enthusiasm of a rabid lepper.

This time the crew were very accommodating but time is beyond premium so you sometimes have seconds, not miniutes, as with this line up a la usual suspects, they gave me 30 seconds at the the end of the scene before they broke the set down and a new set was put into place, yes it really works like this, so you HAVE to get on with people if you are to have any kind of success on set.

I shot it at a very low shutter speed 1/4 sec at F8 on my Canon 1ds using a 24/70mm lens lit with one Elinchrom Ranger with a Chimera Medium softbox, high and off to camera right.

The brief was to shoot portraits of each of the stars, so i negotiated that we could do this between filming scenes.

But there was a problem. They could not leave their dressing rooms as they were waiting to be called for the next scene.

Think famous actors, some of whom had worked in Hollywood and you think of spacious changing rooms, the very lap of luxury.

The reality tends to be very different.

On this occasion the dressing rooms were some kind of converted offices in an old mill which were tiny.

Barely any space at all, and let's just say the the decor had seen better days.......

How to shoot something creative in a micro space like this?

This in my opion is where you earn your money.

Under pressure and having to come up with a creative solution which will see you hired next time.

I shot Jaime Murray in the tightest of spaces but with a little creative lighting, a simple beauty shot with 2 small Chimera soft boxes on Elinchrom Rangers which literally left space for the actress and I 

They were set up in a butterfly array with the top light on full power with the fill light on the floor on half power, to give this rather glamorous sexy look.

I shot between the soft boxes with my Canon 1ds exposing at 1/80sec F11

We were lucky in that we had a plain background to work against and we managed to get this rather alluring portrait in a minute or so.

One down 4 to go, all of which went pretty well, but the shot I was most pleased with was of Marc Warren


His dressing room was a real challenge, the was actually a little more space in this one but the decor was erm challenging.

Time to create an interesting background from more less nothing.

I had a flash of inspiration though and I saw the frosted glass and I hatched a cunning plan........

I got the assistant to put a flash head on a light stand and put it outside the window, pointing back into the dressing room from outside, all a bit risky and hap hazard as we were 4 stories up.

I used one of my Norman 400b flashes which have now been replaced, following my Internet giveaway, with Elinchrom Quadra's. The job would have been made easier with these as I can adjust the output with the Skyport controller.

It took a couple of frames but the rather dull background was transformed.

The key light on Marc as a Elinchrom Ranger with a medium Chimera softbox to camera left.

When undertaking a high pressure high profile assignment you MUST get the safety shot.


But it is pushing the boundaries and trying something a little bit different which will make you stand out from the crowd.

Making sure you get the next assignment.