Sunday, October 27, 2013

Drink Some Juice - you will See The Results in your Imagery - Part 1

So what does Juicing have to do with Getting "Your Unbelievable and Fantastic Footage?

(Disclaimer: The following story is 100% "my story". The stuff I did worked for me. I can not guarantee that this is a solution for physical ailments that you may have. However, I, for myself realized that any of these things I did would in the worst case simply not work. But at least they wouldn't cause more damage by simply doing them.)

Well. let's start with a little back story first.

About 3 weeks ago I finished painting my roof. That's what we do in Arizona to maintain our perfectly white roofs. Prior to that, I had to re-build a fence at my folk's house which entailed in hauling 150 lb pieces of finished redwood panels, pouring concrete for the posts etc.. all for about 280 ft. of fence. Then I had to do roof repairs on their roof (as well as paint it too). Prior to painting, both roofs needed to be pressure washed. This is a tedious and horrible exercise on the back.

The fence and roof at my folk's house was in desperate need of repair due to a so called "micro-burst". A "micro-burst" can be viewed as being a very small and tight tornado that lasts for only a few seconds. But the damage is usually quite severe. This happened right at the end of the monsoon season.

In any case, I finished my roof on Sunday 3 weeks ago. Monday morning I was in such pain, that I couldn't even stand, not mention couldn't walk one step. Getting out of bed became a 1 hour ordeal. My sciatic nerve was pulsating so strongly that on both legs it felt as if someone was ramming a sword up inside from my feet. I do not wish this on even my worst enemy. Perhaps this was from overdoing the work as well as stress. It was scary to say the least. Additionally, this caused me to suffer from camera withdrawal symptoms. Hell, I couldn't even lift a camera not to mention a tripod. I knew I was in real trouble.

Finally decided to try some Myotherapy and lots of juice, and definitely not a chiropractor!

My folks used to play tennis with a lady (Bonnie Prudden) years ago. She unfortunately passed away several years ago. However, she left quite a legacy and several understudies behind. These people are known as Myotherapists. The concept of Myotherapy is simple. Find certain pressure points on any muscle and work it for not just a cure, but ongoing for always keeping the "pressure" or "pain" in check. I also researched other methods and found that certain juices act as very powerful anti-inflammatory mechanisms.

My first session of Myotherapy was most interesting. I did not know that I could move or relax my muscles to do the things I did within a short session. When we started, I was literally hanging on to anything possible to just take a few steps. Right after, I was able to actually walk and stand in a nice warm shower. I was intrigued. I learned about a few simple, no, very simple exercises that only would take a few minutes every hour or so. I was absolutely amazed.

Think about this. My sciatic nerve was totally inflamed to the point that I was in total pain down to my toes, in fear that I was going to suffer a long time and maybe never heal. A friend of mine had this once, and suffered for over a year! Yeah. I was scared. I also realized that no combination of pain pills worked either. Besides, the last thing I want to do is be on drugs for an unspecified length of time. Forget ibuprofen (supposedly an anti-inflammatory), forget the Tylenol type "pain killers". They simply weren't enough. But something far more powerful and actually pretty good tasting did the trick. Juicing with ginger root (and turmeric root when in season)!

My Juicing formula based on things I discovered on the net.

I know everyone says that things you find on the net must be true. Right? Yeah. I was super skeptical but after finding this (and many other videos too):

I figured the worst that could happen is I spend 80 bucks on a juicer and maybe drink some healthy stuff regardless. Amazingly, about 15 minutes after drinking this concoction, which by the way tasted pretty darn good, I would literally feel the pain subside. It blew all the pain killers mentioned out of the water, and was probably a heck of lot easier on the stomach too. Fast forward to today. Yes. the day I write this. I am almost back to 100% plus, normal. What? Why the "plus" you ask? 

I feel more confident about hauling my equipment than ever!

So finally, here is why this story may be super important to you. 

In our business, we tend to "haul" lots of equipment around to "get those shots". Whether we are shooting for stock or shooting on a job, we take on physical positions that are not necessarily great for our legs, back, neck, arms, feet or our body in general. And this is usually after we haul the equipment to the location. That simple "hauling" can do unbelievable damage simply because is stresses the body in non conventional ways to start with. And then we expect our bodies to immediately relax so that we can contort ourselves to get that crazy slider move, or weird camera position on the ground, or simply having to stand for an hour while shooting an interview on a super hard studio floor. The list goes on. But you get the picture. 

Here is what my personal future holds. 

1. I plan on keeping up the juicing. I actually really like the natural "wake up call" in the morning from this stuff. Better and most likely healthier than coffee! I am living proof that this works. And there is one more side benefit that I didn't even think about - I lost 12 lbs in the last three weeks too! How cool is that?

2. Understanding that I need to do certain exercises to maintain the flexibility of my certain body parts to get "those shots", I feel far more confident and inspired to try new and crazy shots of all types. Whether on a slider, on the ground or sessions on a nasty hard concrete floor, these exercises are probably going to keep me going, and without fear of ending up in pain after a day's work with the camera. I can do a simple 2 to 3 minute stretch for my various limbs to "limber" up. 

3. I will most likely over the next several weeks create some videos showing some of these simple tactics so that you too can easily learn a few simple procedures for yourselves. After all, don't we all want to be comfortable and healthy so that we can do the camera work necessary? 

So stay tuned. Even though this may not have anything to do with lenses, equipment, shooting styles, or ... no, I take that back. It has everything to do with all that. Simply because if you can't move your body, the best lenses, equipment and knowledge won't do you a damn bit of good. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What a Difference a Sensor Makes or how to Capture UFO's More Better

The title of this entry does have some merit!

I found it very interesting that while is running a test to compare sensors of cameras, particularly an APS-C vs a full frame, that I caught some unexpected goodies to my surprise. I was curious about the "crop factor" thing, but even more curious about the real differences. Visually, that is. 

APS-C vs. Full Frame or a Canon T2i vs. a Canon 6D

Using the same lens, a true and classic "nifty fifty" (50mm 1.4) I did a couple of test shots just for the heck of it. I am well aware of the 1.6 crop factor on the APS-C sensor, hence, the "nifty fifty" really became a "latey eighty". Or simply put, multiply 50mm x 1.6 and you get 80mm. The stars seem so close now. Not!

In any case, the test was to evaluate that 600 rule to avoid star trails. And yeah, it works for some odd reason. The planet we reside on is rotating. This in itself would cause star trails if you happen to leave the shutter open too long. So for both scenarios I calculated approximate shutter speed. Hence, the 6D would leave the shutter open longer of course. 12 seconds as opposed to 7.5 seconds on the T2i (APS-C) using the exact same lens.

See those straight lines? Probably UFO's ;)

I think there be some missing stars.
Okay, so no star trails. Good. But looking at the two pics, one can see that a full size sensor picks up so much more. Particularly UFOs. (Those straight lines of light). Click on the images for full size. Who knows, you might even see little green men on the 6D version. 

The Conclusion: Full Frame Sensors pick up What the US Gov't has Denied for Years, Sort of...

Alright, so maybe those are just satellites traveling around the earth. The point is that one camera picked them up (6D) and one didn't (T2i). This is most likely due to the sensor size. A full frame sensor has a bit more capability due to the architecture of the sensor itself. The resolution is only about 2 mpixels larger, T2i=18,700,000 pixels where the 6D=20,200,000 pixels - but as the full frame sensor is approx 4 time the physical size, the pixels are a bit better spaced and perhaps a bit larger. I am sure there are several super duper techie reasons that come together to perform so much better. But I don't think boring you with that stuff will help here. The point is simple: the larger sensor picks up a heck of a lot more than the smaller sensor. Just ask any alien or little green man you encounter. That is if you can hold the camera still during such an encounter. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

There's a rumble in the stock media business and it ain't looking too pretty.

The former stock house known as Thought Equity now is

In this industry, as many others one can expect mergers, buyouts and even failures. But a change of this nature might be somewhat unusual. First thing that comes to mind is why? After all, there is quite a re-branding exercise that needs to be done and that can be very expensive. Assuming that is well organized, one still wonders what and why this change. A buyout might be reasonable. And that is perhaps some of it. Or perhaps a simple reorganization?

How to alienate your artists, or simply; "biting the hand that feeds you".

I personally have never dealt with the former Thought Equity so I am somewhat flying blind here. I was aware of them. But something about them just didn't tickle my fancy. Signing on with any agency yields a ton of work. Regardless of their programs, incentives, sales records or anything else that would be pertinent. It simply is a lot of work. 

The process still requires one to upload, tag (key wording), title, spec, organize and cross the fingers in hopes of sales. This is very time consuming to say the least. And if one is going to "invest" such time, it had better be for good reason. 

I have now read, just in the last two days from several artists that are basically being screwed by this new named organization. From what I see, this new organization simply has, and I am guessing here, as things seem to be pretty hush-hush, allowed another organization ( to re-sell high quality stock media at fire sale pricing. Five bucks! Yup, all clips for $5.00. However, it seems they have done so without notifying any of the artist contributors. They simply did it! And perhaps they thought no one would notice? 

Now we know mistakes can happen. For example; United Airlines sold tickets for $5.00 (yes, a five, a period and two zeros!) dollars just a week ago. By mistake. But that is understandable as flying is no where near as valuable as stock footage! I digress.

The Internet is very small and you can't hide.

One might think that it would take a while to discover such things as the Internet is such a large beast. But if you have people that work in a specific industry and that are always looking for new avenues in their niche market to distribute their goods, then you simply can't hide a darn thing. They will and shall find it, and quickly at that. Then the news travels very fast throughout the specific industry sector. 

It is a bad idea in today's world of business to try to pull off something while at the same time trying to "fly under the radar". It simply can't happen! If that is how you want to do business, you are basically attempting to create an oxymoron. You would be that one salmon that is swimming down stream. You would be trying to defy the whole purpose of the net. You would in essence come across as being totally inept. So the last resort you would have is to simply not answer your emails or phone calls. And that is what is happening as we speak. 

Perhaps this is all just a big misunderstanding? Perhaps their phone lines are no working due to some flooding? Perhaps their email servers are slow or even down? Perhaps, perhaps but unlikely.  

Is it a front or a real partner? Or, is it a sign of desperation?

The secondary site that is selling high quality media is also out of the country. Canada to be exact. So it would be super difficult for any artist to get any recourse. Hence, the artists in question, many of them friends of mine, are up in arms. I can imagine that the thought has crossed their minds in regards to wtf? Is this company that seems to be giving goods away desperate financially? Are they partnering with a company out of the country thinking that no one would notice? Are they following that age old principle of "we'll take a loss and make up for it in volume"? Or is this all just a big mistake following suite to United Airlines? (I am trying really hard to give the situation the benefit of the doubt here.)

Or is it quite simply that this other company is trying to actually execute the idea and live up to it's name by shortly "dissolving", due to lack of revenue? However, in the mean time this company is dissolving the value of any said stock media by doing this ludicrous model. 

These questions are most likely crossing many of the victimized artists's minds.

Caveat Emptor and Carpe Diem

This is the moral of the story when it comes to agency selection for the stock media arts. Beware of who buy into for your distribution and when all is good, seize the day. For even the most solid and functional agencies may realize major changes over time. 

Here are a few tips, anecdotes and notes from the last couple of years regarding several of the better known "stock houses": - Still one the best. Easy to use, 50/50 split - you set the price and they accept a variety of resolutions, formats and media types. From regular footage to 3d models, from vector graphics to After Effects projects, and last but not least, from sound effects to complete musical compositions. They are suffering slightly from version generitus. (I made the word up). Simply put, they have been attempting to implement a new version of their site (know as version 2). My personal opinion is that it was a bit premature to release, but then who am I to say. I still dig them and they always seem to be "bleeding edge" even in their mishaps :) . 

Shutterstock - Went public this year (ticker SSTK) - seem to be a very solid company. They have some pretty cool new things in the works. Their back-end for artists is straightforward and simple and of course very functional.  Great communication too. Never had to wait more than a day for any response! This is pretty darned important. - (Getty Images) - I did very little with them several years ago and quite frankly lost interest. For the amount of grunt work you have to do just to submit a clip (cumbersome as hell) and then wait forever for curation, and then maybe get approved it simply was too much of a waste of time for me personally considering the lousy split they offer. The point about the miserable back-end was not just my opinion, but several other artists I have gotten to know over the years. Not to long ago in the past they even made the terms worse regarding splits. They claimed their bottom line was hurting. That is always a worry for me. - (Euro Company in Norway) - I dabbled with them a little bit. But when they started immediately rejecting goods that I have sold through other agencies I immediately stopped even trying. I don't like to waste my time. It almost seemed that they were sending a message that offshore stuff wasn't good enough for them (my opinion of course). Not long ago they too sent an email to all contributors about having to cut the split as they were in some financial worry. That put the final nail for me in their coffin. - Who knows. Haven';t heard much about them recently. I have noticed that three years ago they had a pretty large booth at NAB (Las Vegas), then two years ago a smaller one, and last year I simply couldn't find them at that show at all. Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough. But having come from the old Comdex days, it meant bad news if a company didn't show anymore. Last I talked with them, they did some specific contractual stuff. The first version was god awful. The rates were horrible. I heard a while after that, that they revised and became a bit friendlier towards artists. But that was a couple of years ago and I haven't heard or pursued much after that with them. They are still around however and as they seem to pop up in many tutorial demos from various companies (Adobe for example), they must be doing just fine. 

If you want to see a full list, that's an assumption on my part, and a bad one at that as they don't even list, see "The Footage List" or "Which Stock Agency" which again is probably someone's opinion and not fact in regards to their so-called "best" list. 

How to select the agency or agencies that fit your needs.

As I write this, I am thinking about how I selected my agencies. What I am about to tell you is nothing more than common business sense. I did the following and still do, simply because for each agency that you work with, your work load increases. So if you invest your time in filming, keywording, tagging, titling, uploading, rendering, cutting, splicing, editing and breathing, oh and spending a king's ransom on equipment... then it is only fair to get some solid answers from anyone you plan on doing business with. If they are pro's, they will understand this and won't be offended. 

I contacted the agency directly either by telephone, email or face to face visit. 

Pond5 - I first visited several years ago at NAB. Actually they were the whole reason I even went to NAB for the first time. I needed to see who I was dealing with as I was already prepared to start my own agency. I met with Tom Bennett (the grand puba (CEO)) - chatted a bit, shared my spread sheets with him and came to the conclusion that it was easier to work with Pond5 than reinvent the wheel. This was a true Face to Face

Istock - This was my first mistake. I didn't call them, email them or face to face them. I simply went by what many at the time were talking about. Basically hearsay. Stupid on my part - but figured it out quickly that it was not for me. And please, don't base your decision on what I write here. It may be right for you. The best is to do some homework, research and maybe a phone call, email or visit to NAB for a face to face. I personally just don't like their cumbersome and slow back-end process, and can't stand their stingy and confusing split (money!). 

Shutterstock - This was an interesting one. I actually knew quiet a bit about this company. But never really took the time to consider them yet. They in turn expedited my thinking by contacting me. They had researched my library and thought it was pretty cool. They politely and friendly approached me and asked if I would deliver goodies to them as well. Shortly after I delivered my library, they went public. All my fault. Okay, that is not the reason they went public. Their whole intent was to grow their selection as that made sense should they end up going public. I must say, they have been a pleasant experience to date. 

ClipCanvas - see above notes in the story.

Many others:  I have spoken with quite a few others. Some are fairly new start-ups, others are more established. I make phone calls. I ask questions as follows;

1. How long have you been in business?
1.5 WHAT IS YOUR SPLIT? (Percentage split that is and don't give me that sliding scale crap either!)
2. How does your financial situation look? (yes, I dare ask that!)
3. What is your target market. Will my stuff fit their needs for marketing? Do they even have a target market or are they playing a horizontal market? Are they "connected" to the "industry" in any way? And by "industry" I mean not just being an agency, but having connection to studios, networks and so on. References may not hurt at this point.
4. What is your current sales volume? (Some will be downright honest, but you will quickly find out who is exaggerating or outright lying. Use common sense here.)
5. Then I ask them, " I have a hard drive with over 8000 clips of SD, HD, 2K and 4K footage that I could ship to you along with the data for each clip in regards to keywords, title, description etc.., can you handle data import of this magnitude?" - the answer to this question pretty much determines my next step. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shooting Flat is the Way to Go!

Shooting Flat - What does this mean?

When talking to professional DP's you will hear the often talking about "shooting flat" or "shoot flat as hell". What does that really mean? In order to not get into a super detailed explanation, I am going to put it in simple terms that hopefully everyone will be able to comprehend and understand.

We like the raw.

We hear terminology about dynamic range of a given camera. Then there is all this talk about shooting raw as well. Even though these terms are many times confused with each other, they both approach the concept. Raw as we know it, basically collects all the data available to the camera's capability. It does not record a picture per-se, but rather simply writes a ton of data about the individual pixels in regards to what each such pixel "sees". The process is pretty straight forward in regards to how it transfers such data to the memory card or recording mechanism you happen to be using. These files on a per image basis can be in the range of 25 times the size of a compressed photo, image or frame. Hence, when shooting raw, one needs high speed and very large recording devices. The assumption is that this raw data shall not be tampered with whatsoever as you record it. Or does it? Ask 20 different experts and you will get 20 different answers. The assumption is that shooting in raw shouldn't tamper with anything. And it doesn't in most cases. Hence, you should have enough data to really work your photo or film/video in many directions and aspects.

Now about that "flat" thing. 

Shooting "flat" means something totally different. As when we say, "shoot flat", it means simply that the "processed" or compressed photo or footage should be as flat as needed or wanted in regards to sharpness, saturation, contrast and color tone. 

Your lens however shall have absolutely no impact on this flat thing unless you decide to put a filter on it.

The lighting shall also have no impact on this either, unless you put filters, scrims or any other light changing device over your light.

The color temperature may have some impact particularly if you use different technologies of lighting. But lets just assume you have your camera set to "tungsten" (hint hint) for your "normal always use" white balance. Okay, that helps a bit to start with. You have a really good chance using that setting for just about everything. And you definitely want to stay consistent with that!

I know, some of you are ready to kick my butt on that statement. But think about it clearly before you do. Particularly if you are shooting a film of some type. When it comes to photos (stills) we can talk about changing white balance constantly.

Now we can start talking about sharpness, saturation, contrast and color tone. These are typically the settings you should have and should be able to manipulate on your camera. If you cannot, then you are quite simply stuck with whatever the manufacturer believes to be a cool setup. If you have a pro-sumer on up brand type camera, these settings should be available. Even on video cameras, not just DSLR's.

What does Shooting "Flat" do?

In a nutshell, setting your settingss to "flat" many times will or can expand the capabilities of the camera. Using default settings of the typical camera will "crush" certain things such as contrast and saturation as well as over-sharpen your imagery as it processes the imagery for that compressed format that it uses.

In stills that format is known as Jpegs (.jpg) and in video, it is known as many format possibilities. If could be some flavor of compressed Quicktime (.mov, mp4 yada yada) to other flavors designed or that may be manufacture specific (AVHC, m2t etc..). These are known as codec or "compression decompression algorithms". The objective simply is to use your preferred "flat" settings to achieve or should I say retrieve as much data as possible knowing that the codec will most likely compress the stuff out of it.

By "turning down" these settings, you could potentially even increase the dynamic range of you camera. And that my friends is what this is really all about.

Think about it this way... If you crank up the contrast for example, you will loose many mid tones or "steps" of gray mixed with color. If you crank up saturation, you are basically eliminating many colors on the visual spectrum due to the fact that you are for example making green so much greener, which in turn takes a lesser green up to the full green which now everything looks like the same green. The same goes for red and blue. I just happened to use green because in typical sensors the layout predominantly has green. But requires a whole different topic. Or if you push the sharpness too much, then you may also be pushing a lot more graininess, chromatic aberrations and possibly cut yourself in the process. Okay, the latter can't happen. But pushing any of these items can literally take dynamics out of your shots. The exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve!

So by cranking down these settings, you are simply heading towards shooting "flat". A bit more dynamic range, more shades of gray and hence, more data to work with.

So Why Isn't Everyone Shooting "Flat"? Or Simply Put; "What's the Downside?"

Well. Wouldn't you like to know. Of course there is a downside. But the upsides make that downside look minimal once you understand the process. The downside is you will need to color grade, or correct your footage. This is however, very advantageous when shooting footage, particularly if you are doing a film of sorts. In the world of still photography, this is done with the Raw Processor found in the Adobe Suites for example. In the film industry this is done with color grading tools or color correcting tools. But if understood, you can very easily match color between two or more cameras provided they are all shooting as "flat" as possible. 

If you ever get a chance to see actual original footage/video from the industry as shot, you will think that it looks literally like crap. It will be flat as hell, almost no color, and even soft in some cases. A professional color grader eats this stuff up! This is what can make or break a scene. Color grading not only makes things look pretty and sharp and and and .. but also can be the actual mood setter for the viewer. 

The bottom line: Shoot flat and learn about color grading, and correction. There are some very powerful tools available for this today. Some are very easy to use and actually come with pre-sets galore, others are totally capable and flexible but may require some stiff learning curves. 

Here are a few such examples:

For quick color effecting and styling (very easy to use too!):

Magic Bullet Looks

A freebie, yet still cool version of the above:
Magic Bullet Quick Looks Free

A very powerful tool (part of Adobe Creative Cloud):

Adobe SpeedGrade CS6 or CC

Some free preset settings for your camera? (Canon DSLRs only):

You can download either or both of these and install them into your Canon DSLR as user presets using the tools that came with the Canon Software for your camera. (on the CD/DVD). You will need a computer, and the USB cable that came with your camera to install these. Also, hop on over the VideoMaker Magazine and check out the video about this topic as well - they tell you step by step how to install these on your camera:

How does all this apply to stock media artists?

If you understand the stock footage world of yesteryear, it was almost mandatory to deliver only unprocessed "flat" footage. Of course, the only buyers back then were film studios and television networks, a.k.a. "professional houses".

They wanted to have as much flexibility with any footage as possible. But they also understood the whole process of shooting, buying, color correcting etc..., they actually needed it that way to make things match to their productions. It was a no-no to deliver any sort of pre-processed footage. It was a requirement to deliver original unprocessed and preferably "flat" footage.

Times have changed. In today's world just about anything goes. Probably due to more powerful software being available that will allow one to just about do anything to any type of footage. But be aware, that the professional world still appreciates unprocessed "flat" footage hands down. So if you are targeting your market to be the professional production world, that usually has significant budgets, then you should at least strive to deliver unprocessed "flat" footage of this nature. It will yield higher dollar sales as well as send a message to the buyers that you are also a professional.

Granted, many buyers today like finished or processed, color corrected goodies as well. But typically those clips are purchased due to time crunch where the buyer doesn't have time to do any post-production color work or quite simply they don't care anymore, or worse yet, don't know how. One sees the result constantly of lousy color work in the typical reality shows of today. But most of all, watch any local indie and you will quickly discover that ones that claim to be DP's, editors etc.. really have no clue and will literally slap together just anything without correction of any kind in sight.

The market now leaves us to question, do correction or not? Shoot normal or "flat". There is no straight answer other than perhaps, "shoot flat, then correct or grade and last but not least, offer up both versions."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Haboob Chasing and Why You Always Need to be Ready for Anything

A Rare Chance - Just be Ready

Last week I headed up to Phoenix from Tucson for several reasons. One reason was of course to shoot some stock. As always, when ever I travel. Camera's were locked and loaded, as always. And as always, the timing was planned. Yeah, right! Actually, I learned a long time ago that one never really knows what can possibly offer up some footage or photo opps. I just think along the lines of, always be ready, as always. I am probably writing "as always" too often here as always. 

The point is simply; be ready to roll, as always!

Along comes a Freak of Nature

So I am driving up the 10 Freeway north of Tucson, clouds puffing, rain clusters happening. This is the monsoon season after all. As I approach Marana, I see out of the corner of my left eye, something. Something I have wanted to shoot for years. The only problem was, I was always too far east to get such lucky shots when it would occur. What I am talking about is a dust storm from hell. Or as we now call them, Haboobs. (That's Arabic for dust storm.) In any case, I start focusing on getting to a place that I always wanted to check out. A little exit way before Picacho Peak known as Red Rock. A nice new development with a nice park. So I exited the freeway and visited this park. There is was in a distance... a dust storm coming right towards me. I set up and started shooting, for all of about 2 minutes. At this point I had to scramble to get the gear back into the truck as the this storm creeped up on me very quickly. Damn. 
Run! Get away! It's coming!

Off to the Next Potential Shooting Grounds

I quickly booked up to the next exit which was Picacho Peak. Pulled off and simply let the GoPro on my front windshield go to work. Crazy lightning, rain and of course, dirt, dust, brown gunk!

Approaching Picacho Peak during the onset of a major Haboob

So I fond a cool location and let it roll for a nice dramatic time lapse.

Off to Phoenix to Greet the Great Haboob

Having lived in this area for a few years, I knew that we in Tucson have a tendency to send these storms to Phoenix. Okay, it's not really "us" per-se, but rather mother nature. I took off to stay ahead or basically play hopscotch with this storm. My goal was to simply somewhat get ahead of it. I knew I could. I knew I could drive at least 75 mph and win the race. I figured if the Haboob was traveling at that speed, it would be somewhat like "end of days". I had a chance.

I Won the Race!

Of course now that I was just south of Phoenix, I needed to find another place to setup. I did. Twice. Once down in Sacaton, and then just south of Chandler. Both locations gave me enough "breathing room" time-wise to get some super cool time lapse of the storm moving in. The rest is history. The footage is uploading as we speak.

But that's not all ...

That evening I decided to go up on a mountain top to shoot Phoenix by night. Got there just before sunset and the colors were amazing. You see, that dust that gets all blown up and out, creates that sky that Arizona is famous for. Those Arizona sunsets are simply priceless. 

Gorgeous Sunset!

All in all, this was a pretty productive day regarding stock footage... storm in the morning featuring a Haboob, sunset in the evening overlooking the city of Phoenix. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The Syrp Genie shooting Phoenix from a mountain top.

Think about this the next time you go on any trip. Even if it is just to the next town or city. Have your gear ready to rock and roll. You just never know what opportunity might come along. This was not luck. This was simply another day in the life of a stock shooter. It just happened to be a really good one!


Friday, July 5, 2013

The Syrp Genie combined with a Curved slider make for Interesting Shots

Combine Unique Equipment to get those Unique Shots

It a took a bit to combine a curved slider with the Syrp Genie. The key is to keep constant tension on the rope that wraps around the lateral travel base of the Genie. So with a little bit of ingenuity and a few bucks for everyday parts at your local hardware store, you too can get this device to perform in an unbelievable fashion.

A Universal Solution

The final solution will allow this method to work with the curved slider in both desktop mode or on your tripod mounted mode of this curved slider. And the nice thing is it will setup in a few minutes without needing to do any "brain surgery".

Where to get this cool Curved Slider

Here is the place to pick up your own curved slider to use with the Genie:


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Time Lapse Motion Device Initial Review - The Syrp Genie

The Syrp Genie - What is it?

The Syrp Genie is very simply a very universal device that lets you move your video or DSLR in a very consistent and steady motion for the purpose of smooth video and very accurate time lapse with a clean movement on yet another plane. Quite simply - a really cool device to extremely help increase production value.

Why Increase Production Value?

In today's competitive world of stock media creation and in general, in all productions, one needs to come up with new ways to get shots. Time lapse is one thing. But time lapse with yet another motion along another axis is another. Tracking shots in real time or time lapse, or even panorama shots in time lapse or real time... that's what I am talking about. The key is keeping a very consistent speed in all regards. New angles. New camera motion. Now we're talking!

And it's Non-Proprietary!

This is what got me hooked. Yes. There are many time lapse devices out there. Pricey too. ANd most of them require their slider, their rig, their whatever. But what got me excited about this particular product was simply that with a little imagination, innovation and experimenting, this unit delivers and does so very nicely with just about anything. I simply love a very well designed product that lets you do so many things with it. The only downside is; it will most likely consume my life for the next several months. And that is not a joke. I have already started making a list of all the possibilities ranging from standard traversing on a micro dolly or slider to raising a jib. But there is lots more. Finally I have a unit that I can use for rotational shots, or vice-versa, make the subject rotate. (Think plates of food.) Very cool!

Watch the first videos of my first impressions... (a review of sorts):

Syrp Genie Review Part 1 - VV Notes from the Field

Syrp Genie Review Part 2 - VV Notes from the Field

Products Discussed in these Videos:
For the Genie itself: Visit, or simply do a search on eBay for "Syrp Genie" for a potential offering within your country or from some of their dealers.

And coming soon, using the Genie with this:

Friday, June 7, 2013

The 2013 Monsoons - Coming to a Neighborhood Near You.

The 2013 Monsoon Season

So the local weather reports here in Arizona are already talking about the 2013 Monsoon Season and how it is expected to start within the next two weeks. Perhaps this might be a bit early compared to last year. Actually, if this occurs, it would be right on time. And it's time to prepare, gear-wise that is.

Capturing the Season

So it's truly time to prep and get all the gear and planning into action. Seems silly to some to be so diligent about this, I am sure. But if you think about it, when was the last time you went out to capture mother nature's fury? There are several things to prep for. There are equipment issues, safety issues and even simple monitoring issues. By monitoring I mean monitoring the weather reports, statistics and specifics that when these things come together, they show when, where and potentially how strong and event will be. This probably goes a bit beyond the standard weather reports that are broadcast by the locals.

The Tools

I gather up my arsenal of tools and equipment and prepare for immediate action. Sounds like a war is about to happen. Perhaps. Perhaps it's a war with mother nature. The reality is that if one is not ready to go on a moments notice, one might miss a gorgeous opportunity. Hence, one would miss the shot of a lifetime. I have prepped my smart phone with one page that is specifically loaded with tools for monitoring weather, calculating depth of field, sunrise/sunset times, a flashlight, and many other little apps that are pertinent to the job.
I have several USB connectors in the vehicle at all times should batteries or devices need to be recharged. I usually do this while the vehicle is in motion to not drain the vehicle's batter too much. Then of course there is the main equipment. The cameras, sliders, tripods and much more. I always take more with me than I will probably ever need. But from experience, I learned that it is always that one little thing that you really need that got left behind.

The Attitude

Attitude may seem silly, but it's so important. I have over the years had so many people ask if they could go with me on a "chase". Of course I always said yes, knowing that they would never come. You see, mother nature doesn't give a damn about time. It does what it does when it does it. So if you are tired, watching TV or doing something that you just can't get away from, then you most likely will never see what mother nature has to offer during such events. As said, mother nature will do what it wants when it wants. If you don't like mother nature's schedule, then mother nature won't give you any opportunity whatsoever to capture its beauty. The attitude must be that you are ready to "roll" at any given moment. I have stopped calling people to see if they want to come. If they call me and ask, then I tell them where I will be and to just show up. Even then, by the time they get there it's over. That is what mother nature's fury is all about.


I particularly love chasing lightning storms. And yes. This is a very dangerous prospect if one is unaware of the reality of such storms. I have had storms literally turn on me, within minutes. One really needs to understand the dangers and be prepared for anything. I write in my eBook about how my wife holds the umbrella so that the cameras don't get wet. Yes. This is purely a joke and meant as humor. Although she has been known to chase with me, and yes, held the umbrella for me, there is one major little fact I left out about that. This was only during a simple drizzle in the winter time where there was absolutely no lightning whatsoever.

Just recently I read a blog comment section where the debate was about tripods and lightning. One person truly believed that an aluminum tripod was safer than a carbon fiber tripod. So which is it? Neither... Lightning will strike and travel where it damn well wants to. It doesn't care what material it is! The truth of the matter is that you most likely will have enough conductive material no matter what you do, equipment you use, wear, or drive in. You are best off getting a great lens that will allow you to keep a distance from the storm. And even then, you may still be in danger.

There are many other dangers as well. Particularly in the dark. Living in the desert we are very familiar with these. They can range from flash floods to poisonous snakes, from cactus thorns to wild Javelinas, from dust devils (yes, they are tornadoes too) to Mountain Lions. We have it all. Common sense will only save you from disaster or even death. So use it!

I personally also recommend always taking a second person with you. A spotter if you will. Even if this person doesn't or isn't a shooter. They may actually be saving your life at some point.

So play it as safe as possible always!

A Preview of What's to Come

For those that dream of seeing what I get to see every year, but simply can not make it nor want to make it out of fear (perhaps the smart ones), here is a gallery of footage for you to look at, enjoy and even purchase if you like:

(Clicking on any one item in the Widget below will take you to that selection in a new window. Or you may simply click here and visit the entire selection. ):

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Canon releases T5i and SL1 Cameras

Perhaps and yet another pair of great cameras for shooting stock in both photo and video: 

As expected, Canon announces and releases fun new stuff always just before the big trade show in Las Vegas, NV - known as NAB (National Assoc. of Broadcasters)

The Canon T5i

I have been using the predecessors (T2i) ever since it came out and have had absolutely great success with them. The sensor in the new T5i is still an 18.0MP APS-C CMOS Sensor - so that has stayed the same. And yes, the T5i also supports the EF-S class lenses as well, just like its predecessor the T4i. Actually both support those class lenses. There are slight differences including price ($100.00) between the two models, where the SL1 is the less expensive version. It seems the slight differences may not be that big of a deal for some depending on your needs. My personal opinion is that they most likely both will be just dandy for shooting stock either way. Remember, it's the not the camera that makes a shot, it's the person behind the camera. In any case, thinking back just a few years, this technology far surpasses what we had back then.   

Here are some specs (available at B&H for pre-order):

  • STM Lens Support for Quiet AF in Movies
  • 18.0MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC 5 Image Processor
  • 3.0" Vari-Angle Touch Screen LCD
  • ISO 100-12800, Expandable to 25600
  • Full HD 1080 Video with Continuous AF
  • 5.0 fps Continuous Shooting
  • 9-Point All Cross-Type AF System
  • Multi Shot Noise Reduction
  • Compatible with Canon EF and EF-S Lenses

  • 18.0MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC 5 Image Processor
  • 3.0" Clear View II Touchscreen LCD
  • ISO 100-12800, Expandable to 25600
  • Full HD 1080 Video with Continuous AF
  • 4.0 fps Continuous Shooting
  • 9-Point All Cross-Type AF System
  • Scene Intelligent Auto Mode
  • Compact and Lightweight; Weighs 0.8lb
  • Compatible with Canon EF and EF-S Lenses

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shutterstock - Here we Go!

Newsflash - Now most of my stock video goodies are available on Shutterstock as well. But only in HD format. That is all. :)