The Mark’s Fashion show at Yonge and Dundas Square

So, today I did some work for an arm of the company that I don’t get to do a lot of work for (but that’s about to change), Mark’s (formerly Mark’s Work Wearhouse).  That’s right folks…Canadian Tire owns Mark’s.  And here’s some more interesting news that you might not all know, but Mark’s is a very fashion forward, men and women’s retail store with really nice clothes.  For real!  In fact, Mark’s just held a fashion show at Yong and Dundas Square in the heart of Downtown Toronto and I was there to capture the event for a Sizzler Video that I’ll be editing mid October.

Call time was 6:00am…I live in Brampton, which meant wake up time was 4:45…yeah…A.M!  So, I got out of bed and grabbed my PRE-packed (from the night before) video essentials and hit the road.  With me today…a single Canon 7D with the customary lens kit, Zacuto support, Tripod with Indislider Mini Delux and my Zoom h4n with Sennheizer audio kit.  I was given a Creative Brief for this shoot and was supposed to shoot video that would visually support some key metrics that are supposed to be used onscreen and as the direction of the messaging.  The fashion show as a whole presentation was being shot by Frishkorn (whom we also worked beside for the staging of this event), so I really could concentrate on getting good planned shots of the people attending, the Mark’s reps interacting with the general crowd as they gave out free socks (I’m wearing mine now), umbrellas, t-shirts and scan to win coupons as well as  behind the scenes stuff and my interviews.

So, let’s talk interviews for a sec…I have been playing with the Beachtek DXA-SLR, the Rode Video Mic Pro and the Zoomh4n for some time now and have finally come to a decision…here it is.

I like the Beachtek because it allows me to line xlr based audio devices into it and then out to my camera, allowing me to record “good” audio directly to the CF card with the video…cool!  It also has Auto Gain Override, which is important when dealing with the 7D, but, the monitoring capabilities suck!  All you have is a little light that blinks green when you are in a good range and receiving a signal, and blinks red when the auio is hot or too loud.  The Rode video mic is cool, the size is great and it is super light, but even when the input level is set to 0db (flat) it is too loud and noisy.  I always find myself shooting at -10db.  I almost had to forfeit an interview because of that.  Also, when u use that directly into the camera there is no monitoring option for you.  My fav now is the Zoomh4n.  Proper monitoring, multiple inputs (xlr, 1/4in and onboard mic). it is mountable like a shotgun mic with very nice mics built onto it and I can record ambient audio as well as directly into the recorder onto an SD card.  The only downfall is that I cannot go directly to the camera with it…ok, I can but I still have the Auto Gain issue with the 7D.  So…my point: Interviews are to be done with the Zoom h4n along some type of wireless mic’ing set up for optimal audio…and that’s just what I did here.

The host of the event was Lisa Rogers from City Line and she walked and talked us through 3 sessions of the runway show where models showed off clothes from Mark’s from underwear right through to jackets and accessories.  We owned the whole square for this event and it really was put together well.  I have attached a few pics of event…ok, me working at the event (lol), and I’ll upload the video as soon as it’s edited.  Make sure you check out Mark’s though, you’ll be surprised!

Shoot Straight

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Shooting Canadian Tire Nascar in Kawartha

It feels like for ever since I last wrote for my blog…actually it has been about a week and a half or so and no, it’s not because I’ve been getting lazy :).  Actually I have been really busy with shooting and editing, so I have quite a bit more stuff to blab about over the next couple of days.  Today’s “blab” is about my exciting shoot on Saturday at the Kawartha Speedway where Scott Steckly took home the cup as this years Canadian Tire Nascar Series Champion driving the Canadian Tire #22 car.  Shooting Nascar is really cool…I should know, I’m on my 2nd one (I know, I’m just a Nascar rookie), but some of my camera carrying cohorts aren’t and I was fortunate enough to meet up with a couple guys that I shot my last Nascar event with out in St. Thomas earlier this year.  These guys know Nascar like I know weddings…inside and out!  So hanging around them got me the drop on when certain things were gonna happen and on which turn the most recent crash was so I could try to boogie over there as quickly as possible.

I brought my new Indislider Mini Delux with me to field test for the 1st time and it was pretty good I must say.  This slider is an inexpensive, small and lightweight slider that comes with a pistol grip mount.  It is a great slider for the price and the size is right for run-n-gun stuff but there were some issues with it and am starting to see where this is and isn’t a the tool for certain gigs, but all-in-all I liked it a lot.  I’ll write up about the slider in a bit after I’ve had a chance to use it a little more.  So, I started off my day with it as my tool of choice, slid in with some nice establishing shots of the track with a reveal from a CT Nascar sign…u know, standard stuff.  My plan was to travel light (1 camera today) and to really prove to Charles (my boss) why we need to invest in a slider for our production team’s ensemble of gear.  I also rolled with my 3 lenses of choice, the 11-16mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm (see my posting on my lenses of choice). and my Zacuto EVF Flip to get that sharp focus and to battle (and win) against bright daylight.

Being the Canadian Tire Corp camera operator, I was granted VIP and Pit access, so decked in my latest CT swag I was able to saunter anywhere I pleased and saunter I did!  Having track access allows such unique videography opportunities like drivers suiting up, getting their helmets on, doing up their racing gloves, the look in their eye before they shut the visor on their helmet to start the race and really nice shots with the slider.  And there is nothing more exciting than a media scrum when your guy (Steckly) wins the season.  What an awesome experience and what a great opportunity to shoot some really great footage.

Another cool thing about this event was that I got to bring my family along and the kids had a ball watching the race from VIP, eating junk til their hearts were content, getting autographs and seeing their dad in action…ok, maybe not the last part, but they still had a blast.  The day ended with a spray of champagne for Steckly, a bottle cork in my lens (see the clip below) and home in time to catch the UFC Pay-per-view.  I love this gig!

Til next time…if you see em, shoot em!

Busy times and a good find, slide on in!

So, I’ve been editing a Christmas in July video for Canadian Tire that features Debbie Travis, another on of Canadian Tires affiliate superstars!  It feels so weird to be listening to Christmas music in September and then seeing Christmas trees with the background being a brightly lit Toronto summer day…talk about throwing a guy off!  This one is a bit more top secret than some of the other CT stuff that I’ve done so I can’t show this one to you, but basically it is her hosting an open house in a penthouse in the SOHO Metropolitan Hotel for the press and magazine people.  Throughout the place, the decor is Christmas and it’s her line and other new innovative products that Canadian Tire will be featuring this year.  Believe me, CT has some pretty style forward and very classy stuff this year!

During my crazy edit week, I came across a Craigslist posting for an Indieslider Mini Delux.  I called the guy up and i was really happy  to hear that he still had it.  I had an old Tota Light that I was only using occasionally and he was willing to do a swap, so I landed a very nice, short, compact slider.  My 1st concern with it was the pistol grip sytle head on it and how it wasn’t going to fit my Manfrotto 394 mounting system that I use with EVERYTHING.  I still haven’t found a perfect way to incorporate the 394 system into the Indie Slider use, but the QR that it comes with isn’t totally bad and the Pistol Grip actual works quite nicely.  I really love the length though, it is so small and short, that if you’re using the right lens you can get what looks like BIG movement out of this ol boy.  And because of the lengthe (24″), it had 0, I said Zero bending when you get to the end of the slider.  The feet are also very small compared to some larger sliders, so again…another big plus.  I will be breaking it in this weekend at Kawartha Speedway for Nascar when Scott Steckley wins the final race putting him in !st place for this tour (fingers crossed), and again on Tuesday I’ll be using it at a Mark’s Work Warehouse Fashion Show at Yonge and Dundas in the Square.  If anyone is interested, Mark’s will be giving away 10-25% off coupons for sales starting at $20…that’s pretty good (the 25% one anyways).

I wanted to leave you with a video to watch that has examples of what a slider does (for those of you that don’t know what a Slider is).  This is a Same Day Edit (SDE) from a wedding that I shot last year with Anthony.  There are quite a few slider shots in this one, watch and see if you can pick them out.  Here is Pam and Dave…enjoy

Oh yeah, before I sign out, I want to wish my good friend Claude good luck with the music video shoot that he’s about to do today.  Break a leg my brother…and shoot straight!

Til the next one

5 camera shoot then Nas and Lauryn Hill. What a day!

I work with a guy named Cam who is one of the biggest advocates of DSLR’ing that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  From time-to-time we get an opportunity to work with each other on some of the series that he produces for Canadian Tire and I had such an opportunity a couple of days ago…I’m gonna tell you all about it!

So, Cam tells me that we are gonna be doing a 5 camera shoot for a show called Talkin Shop and we were going to shoot 8, 10 minute segments, and of course I was game.  It was a forum type of  setup that consisted of 5-6 panel members sitting around a round table.  The table was custom designed with a colour balanced, white finish that acts as a bounce for the 3k of diffused light  coming  down on an angle from over them.  This created a massive Clam Shell lighting setup that encompassed anyone that was at the table.  Clam Shell lighting involves using a top light or a light in front of your talent above their head level and a reflector or a bounce card underneath your talent to reflect the toplight under the chin, nose, eyes etc.  filling in all of the dark spots that the toplight doesn’t reach.  Let me just say, the talent glowed! It is very flattering lighting.

Those lights up top (the ones lighting the talent), were on a grid that Steve Lindsay built.  Steve is another amazingly talent guy that it is always a serious honor to work with.  Steve is a Camera Operator, a lighting guru and a Jib/ Crane master.  He does such amazing work and I learn from him every single time we work together.  It’s really an amazing experience.  Anyways, Steve created this lighting grid that hung from the ceiling of the garage that we were shooting in.  Attached to it were 3x 1k Fresnels, 4x 300w Arri Fresnels and 2x spot lights for the vehicles on set.  There were various other lights used as background and accent lights in addition, he used 2 Diva lights and other strategically placed Arri 300s.  And yes, I DID say the Steve made this lighting grid.   It is a temporary fixture.  Great what you can build out of necessity and with a small budget, huh?

Steve also did some cool accent lighting on the walls with floor LEDs and the entire back wall which was windows was covered with diffusion sheets to make the light coming in more useable.

This setup allowed the background to be quite a bit darker than the people at the table and really gave a polished look.  Amazing job!

Here’s the list of gear other thank lights that we used on set:

4 nikon d7000 (3x 70-200, 1x)
1 7d (70-200)
5 zacuto z-finders
1 zacuto evf
4 zacuto rail setups
1 Small hd monitor
1 cinivate pegasus
6 arri 300
2 divas
6 wireless sennheiser lavs
Zoom H4N
D|Focus Follow Focus System w/ D|Mount
Audio Mixer

I got to borrow a bunch of rigging by Zacuto on this shoot and I loved it.  Although expensive, the Zacuto line is very well thought out in design and functionality, is great quality and looks amazing.  I’ve been a Zacuto supporter for some time now, owning a Z-Finder Pro and EVF Flip myself, but it was great first hand experience using some of the rails and other mounting accessories.  I will definitely be investing in more Zacuto gear in the future.  I also really liked the Small HD monitor on our main safety camera.  So sharp and accurate.  Over lunch I was to comparing it to my EVF and there were some pros and cons for both.  For instance, my EVF has a smaller screen size.  This may be a problem in some studio environments where a larger on camera monitor can be used, however the EVF does have an HDMI loop-through to go out to larger monitors and the EVF is equally as sharp as the Small HD monitor.  In addition, the EVF Flip allows quick flip adaption of my Z-Finder so I can really get in there and focus well.  Another cool thing that I found was that there was no problems at all meshing my D|Focus gear with the Zacuto gear, like they were made for each other.  Good to know if you want to purchase the far less expensive D|Focus sytem to go with you 15mm Zacuto rails.

The view from Cams cam.

So, the shoot starts with an amazing breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, hasbrowns, fruit, toast, juice and coffee…I know!  I couldn’t believe it either!  Needless to say, that’s how you start a day off!  We had 8 segments to do that were each supposed to be 10 minutes each…yeah right.  Do you think any of them went to time?  Cam was calling cut for people sometime after they had gone  on talking for 22 minutes or so.  Now with DSLRs this is a problem because Canon has the 12 minute recording time limit and Nikon has a 20 minute limit.  To remedy this for post-production we just kept all the cameras rolling at the end of the segments and did a “Tail Slate“.  A Tail Slate is an upside down slate with a clap so that you can sync footage using that common shot of video (the tail slate) as the syncing point, just as you would with it at the beginning of the take.  Because cameras had to stop rolling part way through, the tail slate is the common marker for all cameras after the 12 or 20 minute recording limit has been reached and the recording has been resumed. Anyways, this obviously put us a bit behind schedule but the segments were good, so we went with it.  I was getting a bit nervous when I first realized this trend of the panel going over the time alotment because I was really hoping to leave the shoot on time.  That night was the night of the Rock The Bells concert featuring Nas and Lauryn Hill and I was hooking up with Claude (I’ve mentioned him in other postings) to go to the Molsen Amphitheater.  It was no surprise to me that we ended about an hour behind the planned wrap time but I still made it out in time to stick to my plan for the Rock the Bells concert!  Great day! Big thanks to Cam Jenkins, Steve Lindsay and the crew, Nas and Lauryn Hill for making this a great day.

Focus-ing at Ontario Place: The Self Parking Cars

This weekend I did some freelance work for Maritz Canada, one of my favorite accounts from “back in the freelance days” (like I mentioned before…I still work with some of my cooler accounts even though I’ve turned Full Time). Anyways, this shoot was at Ontario Place in Toronto and it happened on one of the 3 days of the Air Show, so in addition to shooting video, I got to check out the low and very fast flying planes!
This shoot was of a couple of different “activations” where the new Ford Focus features were being showcased in an interactive environment. The 1st was the MyFordTouch competition where you race through a series of technology related requirements using the new voice activated system in the 2012 Focus. This focused on the ease of finding food, getting directions, and basically having your own version of K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider. The 2nd was the self parking feature which is really nice. This car will park itself, all you have to do is worry about the accelerator and brakes, all of the steering is done by the car…and it’s extremely accurate. 6 inches from the curb every time. One of my main objectives for the shoot was to capture the expressions and reactions of participants when they were behind the wheel of the self parking car. I figured the best way to do this was to buy a GoPro and mount it in various ways in the car and of course, on the dashboard and just in front of the speedometer were ideal places. Finally, the 3rd was the synchro-park or the “Stunt” as it has been called. This was where they had 3 cars all parallel park themselves, synchronized! All of this to engage the customer and educate them about the new features of this upcoming years model of the Focus, Edge and Explorer.
I shot this whole thing with the Canon 7D, GoPro, 11-16mm f2.8 Tokiina and 24-70 Canon f2.8. Circular Polarizing filters on all my lenses allowed me to shoot through the windshields with no reflections (great for the shot of the guy lying down, seat reclined while parallel parking, and also let me get those really nice deep blue shies while maintaining the saturation of colour in the cars and peoples faces. A great tool for outdoor shooting. I also used my Glidecam HD2000 and Zacuto EVF. The EVF is amazing! Not just the build and design of it, but the ability to see even in direct sunlight is unsurpassed. I have rigged a mount up to my Glidecam that allows me to attach the EVF to it, giving me more flexibility in how I use the Glidecam and makes me look more high-tec as well!
I realized when I got home that one of my favorite shots (the guy lying down while parking taken with the GoPro) had me with my glidecam shooting from the opposite angle (Whoops), so I returned the next day to reshoot that single shot. That’s right! All the way back for one shot…well, ok…maybe not just for that one shot. As coincidence would have it, I was going to the CNE on Sunday, which for those of you who don’t know, is right across the street from Ontario Place…so it wasn’t a big deal at all. And the bonus…I got free parking! Perks of the job.

Shoot em straight!

The 10 non-gear essentials for an event shooter

I was about to take a lunch break while shooting a while ago and in preparation to eat, I pulled out my bottle of hand sanitizer and the guy I was with said, “you really are a shooter, all the shooters I know carry one of those around”. To me it just seemed like a natural thing to have with me, but then I started thinking of all the other non-video, essential things that I have with me on every shoot. So, I am writing this posting as my list of camera operator’s essentials.
• Hand Sanitizer – think of all the hand shakes and gear grabbin’ that happens throughout the day
• A bandana – wipe the sweat away or to be used as a slider on a smooth surface (more on that later) or to protect your good pants’ knees when kneeling to get a shot
• A good multitool
• GPS – get an app, saves the cost of buying dedicated hardware or…get dedicated hardware like a Garmin or TomTom. I personally use TelNav on my Blackberry.
• Phone car charger
• Gum – I like Stride 2.0 myself
• Black electrical tape (fixes and modifies all kinds of stuff!)
• Antihistamine – not only for seasonal allergies, but I’ve used it after having a reaction from some weird bathroom soap on a shoot, as well as bee stings.
• Tide To Go Pen – at weddings, I’m in the public eye as much as the bride and groom are. Gotta eat…gotta stay clean
• Fully stocked refresh kit – work all day, summer sun, carrying a Glidecam with a camera, monitor and mic on it all over the church, park and hall in a suit means…better have travel sized deodorant, toothpaste, tooth brush, chapstick, hand lotion, body spray and hair brush (unless you’ve been blessed with the chrome dome like me). I keep this kit in the car, all the other stuff is always with me.

Well there it is, my list.  What are some of your essentials?