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chasejarvisTECH: How To Build a Pro Cine-Boom on a Shoestring [literally]

In my last chasejarvisTECH piece you got a peek at the gear I packed away for the 19,000 foot climb up Kilimanjaro for the Summit on the Summit. There were more than a few comments on how much “stuff” went with me. It’s all relative I suppose, but when you get down to it that was a fairly bare-bone operation for a job that still yielded high-end results.

As you see in this next installment, we had to make do without some of the other gear that we would have loved to have had along the way but left out for obvious reasons. I’m talking about cranes, jibs, dollies and the like. So sometimes you have to get creative.

My man Chris did just that, by lashing some cordelette climbing rope to a tripod to create a makeshift cinema boom. As the footage at the end proves, you can’t tell the difference.

Here’s what went into this fine piece of jury-rigging:

_Manfrotto Support
_Canon 5D Mark III
_Cordelette [Find it at most outdoor gear stores or online -- often listed under "Accessory cords."]

If you’re swinging that camera out over an edge (like Chris does), make sure you’re on solid footing and keep a tight grip on that cordelette.

And that’s it. Super-cheap, super-effective boom solution done at altitude.

Music: Small Face – Heavy Cloud

Dream Job — Color Cannons, Flying High & Turning Dreams Into Photographs for Samsung

A NO BRAINER.
When someone comes to you and asks you if you’d like to create a photograph of your most vivid dream on their dime — let’s be clear on this one — you say YES.

Such was the case with Samsung and their creative agency Possible several weeks back. I got one of “those cool phone calls” where all your hard work comes into focus just for a second. (Dialogue in my brain = Wait a minute. Any photograph I want? Of my dreams?! And you’ll be my benefactor to make this happen? Yes Chase, creative freedom. We want to enable your imagination. Are there any images you’ve been excited to try to create but haven’t had the means or the opportunity?) Um. Hell yes. They had approached me with a completely blank canvas. Their only requirement? That the image would be a colorful expression of a dream to prove out the color quality on the Samsung Premium Monitor Series 9 for professional photographers. My only requirement? That I could make a video of the process to show you how we pulled it off.

It was a deal.

THE CHALLENGE.
I immediately knew the image I’d make. I’ve had this reoccurring dream where I’m floating in a sea of insanely vividly colored clouds. You know those flying dreams… well, this is similar, except more floating than flying or falling. (there’s water below in my dream, but that’s of no consequence here…) In short order, I pitched them the idea, they loved it, said “yes”…and then I jumped in… only to realize a moment later that I had no idea how I’d possibly make this happen. How does one “make” clouds? How could I pull this off with in-camera capture? How could I accurately translate the stunning colors into real life? And how would I do this with just a couple weeks lead time? Gulp.

If you’re a photography buff or just plain curious, then read on to get details on the process, how we made the set + the “clouds”, the gear, the monitors, the final image, and all the good stuff that went in my mouth and up my nose.

ENTER–> THE PROCESS.
chase jarvis powder compSketch of the idea. My original sketch was so neanderthal in nature I can’t believe my team had any clue what we’d be up to. The first whiteboard scribble led to this superquick, subsequent mock-up, a speedy photoshop file using some of my other photos and some puffy clouds tweaked into rich colors. It was a hackjob at best, but it got us started down the path of what to do next. We had to find those clouds.

The colors from my dream. This was fun… I went into a paint store and, from memory, selected a handful of paint chips that matched the colors from my recurring dream. This was the basis of moving my dream into reality. The goal is that my wardrobe, the clouds, the environment and the final image would be a perfect match based on these paint chips.

Chase and Loren matching the Celebration Powder to the colors from Chase's dream.

Clouds. First we worked through 101 ways to make clouds, from A-Z, smoke machines to mist. And where we ended up — after a good bit of experimenting — was absolutely awesome. Know that stuff called “celebration powder“? If you happen to be tuned Hindu celebration of Holi in India then you know what I mean…it’s a big thing. It has also migrated its way into seemingly endless fun runs here in the USA. In short this powder is made 100% bio degradable and non toxic from cornstarch. You can eat it (and I ended up eating a LOT of it). This powder, we discovered, can be ordered from some select outfits online. We ordered about 40 pounds of this stuff… some pre-made, others made to match the paint chips (above) we sent the manufacturers. Huge thanks to the Art Department on this shoot –> Loren and Darcy made this shoot happen because of the ingenius way in which they sourced the powder and — even more importantly — devised the “air cannon” mechanisms through which to fire it up into the sky and make the perfect clouds. The air cannons are, like the video explains, simply a series of tanks of highly compressed air with quick valves that can be tripped remotely. Upon flipping the switch – BOOM – you’ve got canned air firing that powder into the sky.

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Hindus celebrated Holi and believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colors and saying farewell to winter.

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Testing the powder canons

chasejarvis_bts_samsung_testingpowdercannon

Boom!

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Loren and crew setting up the powder canons

THE SET
The “cloud tent”. Now this stuff is messy. And when I say messy, I mean…like the messiest stuff you’ve ever dealt with. After myriad of outdoor tests we discovered, duh, that it gets EV-ER-Y-where. So we built the set to be a giant visqueen tent in very large sound stage to keep it all contained. Approx 30 feet x 30 feet x 20 feet high. Our own gigantor see-thru cube.

Flight. Anytime I get the chance, I’ll do my own stunts. Since we’d agreed in advance that – if this were my dream – I’d need to be the talent… So into character I went. In order to get the floating sensation, we decided after some practice, that a trampoline was the best way to create the look in the studio. With a couple of pulled neck muscles and some body position tweaking, it’s possible to get this floating / hovering look right at the apex of a big bounce on the trampoline. Took me a few hundred tries to be able to nail the effect on autopilot, but it indeed became automatic. Not gonna lie, it had been a few years since I’d jumped on a trampoline, but this was good fun… And, as I was to soon learn, it’s an entirely different thing to do it in practice vs. wearing the wardrobe, goggles and having canons fired at you… but more of that later.

chasejarvis_trampoline_bts_samsung

Moving the trampoline into position

THE GEAR
Stills. For the still portion of the shoot, we shot with the Nikon D4 tethered to our monitoring station, which consisted of three Samsung Series 9 monitors + Mac Pro.  As for glass, we used the Nikon 24-70mm zoom lens stopped down around f/11 for a nice deep depth of field. The Nikon D4 was secured to a light stand and raised to a hole cut into the visqueen at the height that I would be jumping to so we could get a clean shot without jeopardizing the electronics of the camera. And of course it was tethered to the computer so it could be fired remotely and – most importantly so that the images could be reviewed immediately on the Series 9 to check focus, color + file integrity.

Strobes. We used two Broncolor Scoro A4S Power Packs and four Broncolor Unilite 1600′s to give us the light we needed. And since the strobes were positioned outside the visqueen tent (for safety and cleanliness) – aka- the one huuuuggge softbox — the only modifiers we used were directional dishes soas to aim the light in the general direction of yours truly, the bouncing kook. We used PocketWizards to fire the Broncolors remotely off the camera.

Continuous light. Since we were also making the BTS video above, we knew we’d also need continuous lighting for the motion capture. As such we decided to go with two 9000 watt Maxi Brutes. The Maxi Brutes (9 x 1000 watt bulbs in a single unit) were phenomenal pumped out the continuous light needed for the high speed behind the scenes video cameras to get the exposures and frame rates that we wanted. This also allowed us to have to use less light in the strobes above, which kept the flash duration way quick. The Maxi Brutes are huge, look here:

Here’s a quick sketch of our lighting + setup diagram:

chasejarvis_samsung_diagram

Motion Capture Cameras. For the behind the scenes video capture, we thought it’d be fun to bring out the big guns…and the small guns too. We hired our pal DP extraordinaire Chris Bell to shoot with his fancy Arri Alexa [stay tuned for another video about that camera]. We also brought along a Sony FS700 to shoot high speed…480+ frames per second, a Canon 5D mkiii for quick on-the-fly shots, a Canon 7D for timelapses, and lastly, we grabbed every GoPro we had in our shop – I think it was 9 of ‘em.  These came in handy for rigging up shots that we didn’t want to stick our expensive high-end cameras in. We wrangled some Manfrotto pods + spreader dollies, plus a tasty Kessler crane to keep things moving. And you gotta know we made this sweet quick-and-dirty array for a Matrix-esque shot that you can see in the video if you watch it a couple times…:

chasejarvis_erikHecht2_samsung

Cinematographer Chris Bell with his beloved Arri Alexa

chasejarvis_erikhecht1_samsung

The Sony FS700 shooting into the tent.

chasejarvis_erikHecht2_samsung

chasejarvis_bts_samsung_monitors

Post capture - reviewing the work on Samsung Series 9 - happy with the results.

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Image + color review

The Aftermath

HERE’S A FINAL CAMPAIGN IMAGE (keep eyes peeled in all markets).
ChaseJarvis_Samsung_Series9_1000px.jpg

If you made it this far and wanna see more stuff like this, here’s the coordinates to subscribe: facebook.com/chasejarvis, twitter.com/chasejarvis, G+, or my extra special email list.

IMPORTANT NOTEA ABOUT MUSIC!
Music is a huge part of the fun we have when making these BTS videos. As such, huge shout out to the legendary beat maker Big Chocolate, without whom this vid would not be possible. You can catch him at his fBook here, twitter, or pickup this very track and other radness here (please support him) on iTunes here. Alas, he will also be crushing it all summer long on the Vans Warped Tour too.

OTHER RELEVANT STUFF.
In addition to the final still image which you may see all over the globe, there is a web commercial produced some good friends of mine – that is pretty damn funny. Check it here.

Super duper big shoutout to crew who worked on this…obviously the art dept, production, and cinema crews got shoutout, but also to my stylist on this one Alvin Stillwell.

For monitor specs etc go here and for more Samsung vids here’s the Samsung YouTube channel.

For more badass work from Possible Worldwide, go here.

Thanks yo!

Moving The Camera Pays Big: New Gyro Game-Changer used by Teton Gravity Research [interview + video]

Teton Gravity Research Aerial Reel – The Bay Area in 4K from Teton Gravity Research on Vimeo.

Fancy gimbals are the rage these days and I love ‘em all. Not withstanding some homies of mine from my action sports days, Teton Gravity Research, recently announced a partnership with Gyro Stabilized-Systems and launched the GSS C520, a game-changing 4K camera platform that makes that footy that you and I shoot look like sh*t in comparison. Having worked with these cats a bunch (see here – that’s me hanging out of the heli with Todd…) and having seen a sneak peek of the Bay Area aerial footage video above, I wanted to know more. So I sat down with TGR founder Todd Jones to get the scoop and see the new work behind this aerial gimbal game changer.

I know the details of course, but share with the readers your production company Teton Gravity Research.
The short version is… TGR is an action sports brand founded in 1996. We specialize in media creation and distribution. The core components of our company are films, television, commercials, film tours, and our digital platform, www.tetongravity.com.

From a creative standpoint what does this crazy cool GSSC520 do for you as a filmmaker?
From a creative standpoint the GSS allows us to capture the highest quality footage we possibly can. In the past, when working with 16mm film and DSLR’s, we had amazing tools, but they had their limitations as well. Our push now is to use the same tools and cameras that the most high profile films in the world are shot on. We believe that the ultra hd/4k movement is here and is necessary to provide a certain level of quality delivery to the audience. I never bought into the HD cameras and distribution space. It just was not equivalent to film. I was always impressed with the cineflex footage for its stability, but it also had the HD video edge too it. The C520 allows us to get those super stabilized motion shots at true cinema resolution. We have already been getting calls from some big feature films that are interested in using it on their films. It is pretty cool to think that Hollywood is now calling us to help them create their films with our camera systems. After all, 18 years ago we were just a couple of kids who wanted to make a ski and snowboard film from our point of view.

Break it down for me and the people…what’s the difference between this camera gyro and what you’ve used in the past?
This system is the first 4k resolution system of its kind. It has the most highly sophisticated stabilization technology that has ever been released. There are so many creative ways to use this system. We film highly visual action in stunning locations. To be able to have this camera in those scenarios is a dream.

Yeah, but why is this a game changer?
I think I was touching on it above, but it is the camera system of the future. We also have the ability to put the newest cameras in the world in it. We are currently working on putting the Sony F55 in it and will follow with the new 4k Phantom. The fact that we can rapidly integrate the newest cameras in the world into this system is huge.

Give us a glimpse into the future… Does this technology point to more/new things to come?
I think it does. For one thing it points to the Ultra HD/4k movement. That is coming at us fast. If you’re going to rent helicopters and shoot aerials you might as well shoot them in cinema resolution if you can afford it.

Ok, handwaving and high-fiving is nice, but give me a specific example of where this camera creates an advantage for you…
On the above point, any footage shot with our system will be relevant as the Ultra HD movement takes over. We are already in a situation where the 16mm film we shot for years has very little stock value beyond historical pieces or the TGR brand story. It will need to be presented as archival footage in those scenarios. We can’t even put some of those super epic shots on reels anymore. I am really psyched that the stuff we have been shooting is more future proofed – at least for the next iteration of technology.

I know the answer on this one, but for the benefit of those who might now, what makes you and the TGR team so uniquely qualified to create with this tool? Hollywood here we come?
We have been filming aerials for 18 years. We have worked with limited resources up until now and made them work. Shooting with this system is crazy. The quality of shots is like nothing we have ever captured and it opens doors for us. I just spent the last three weeks working with it in Alaska and it is our best footage to date. We can’t wait to show it to the world.

And we can’t wait to see it. Thanks Todd.



The Results Are In! Photo Contest Winners Announced for the ThinkTank Giveaway

Thanks everyone for the overwhelming response and involvement in our Street Photography contest. We had a blast looking through the thousands of entries and have finally managed to wittle them down to our three favorites….plus five honorable mentions that we felt compelled to shine a spotlight on. Take a look!
[Winners - congrats! We will be in touch with you about your ThinkTank prizes.]

The Winners

Wojtek Lesiak

This photo embodies the spirit of street photography. Out in the world, traveling, fun and spontaneous. What makes it good is that the photographer saw something that no one else did. There are great parallels in the frame. Out of more than 2,000 photos this one caught me off guard and made me laugh aloud. The photo looked back at me.

;

Jeremy Givens


The photographer merged fashion and street for this photo. Breaking down the barriers between two genres in a “candid-posed” moment. Genre-bending. I love the reaction of the lady looking back while everyone else is trying to ignore the model.

Adrian Woźniak

The photographer saw an opportunity for a unique moment – one that would be very easy to overlook. The expression is gritty and raw. I couldn’t figure out where the man is even standing!? I like the shallow depth of field with the tack sharp face – it’s a really impressive technical photo while still achieving some mystery and wonder.

Honorable Mentions:

Steve Stanger

;

Anthony Delao

;

Dave Sundstrom

;

Dave Butterworth

;

Chris Johnston

;

Nikon D7100 — A Definitive Review with Meaty Details [photo comparos + spec highlights]

The Nikon D7100

Although gear isn’t even close to the most important part of photography, it’s still important. And choosing the best camera for your particular needs can be a daunting task – which is why I often get new gear to bang around with and it’s also why I associate with smart gear guys like my pal Sohail. In this review, Sohail puts the new Nikon 7100 through its paces in a way that I haven’t got the patience for…the details, with side by side photo / setting comparo’s and the like. Me? I just shoot the thing and feel it, take a peek at the files. But Sohail goes deep. So sit forward and read the good word below. Feel free to holler with questions – we’ll pick em up as best we can. Take it away Sohail…
__

Introduction

Thanks Chase. Nikon’s D7100 has been an eagerly-awaited-upon update to the enormously popular D7000 (remember back when Chase launched that camera for Nikon with this bts video + campaign + blog post…). Now crowned as the flagship of Nikon’s DX-format lineup, the D7100 brings some pretty cool features to an already solid camera — though what it leaves out may disappoint those users waiting for a D300s replacement.

About the update

Like its little siblings the D5200 and the D3200, the D7100 boasts a 24MP sensor. Unlike pretty much all of Nikon’s cameras (the D800E is an exception), it does away with the Optical Low-Pass Filter (OLPF) that is present on the vast majority of DSLRs. That filter, which is designed to reduce moiré in digital images, softens the image up a bit in the process. Leaving it out means that the camera can now resolve more per-pixel detail, though images can be a bit noisier at higher ISOs.

Autofocus has also been improved in this update. We go from 39 AF points with nine cross-type sensors to 51 points, 15 of which have cross-type sensors. One nice surprise is that the center AF point will autofocus at up to f/8, which means that you can now use a 2x teleconverter with an f/4 lens and still autofocus.

There’s plenty more. Liveview now has two modes for still and video, and the dedicated movie record button has been moved to the top of the camera, near the shutter. The LCD is of a higher resolution, and there’s a stereo microphone built into the camera. Other features include: a new 1.3x crop mode that creates small (about 15MP) files and bumps the max framerate from 6 to 7 frames per second, exposure bracketing is now increased from 3 frames to 5, and the camera is a hair lighter overall.

Initial impressions

While the D7100 is lighter than the D7000, it actually feels more dense. The handgrip feels more rounded and less angular, giving my fingers a more comfortable grip on the body. The shutter button is angled a bit more, letting your index finger lie very comfortably on it.

The new arrangement on the D7100 (right) is more ergonomic than the D7000 (left).

The new arrangement on the D7100 (right) is more ergonomic than the D7000 (left).

On the back, the 8-way rocker switch has been moved higher, which adds to the ergonomics of the camera. It’s much more comfortable to move that focus point around now. The AE-L/AF-L button doesn’t get recessed when you push it — which seems like a small thing, but when you use it for back-button-focus like I do, it’s not such a small deal anymore.

The fine detail tweaking on the D7100 makes it a much more comfortable camera to use, especially for longer periods of time. Nikon seems to have put some more serious thought into this body, and the fit/finish feels more high-end to me than the D7000.

In the Field

Here’s where I was both disappointed and delighted in somewhat equal measures. When Nikon crowned the D7100 the “flagship” of the DX-format line, there was a contingent who hoped that it would be a replacement for Nikon’s previous flagship crop-sensor body, the D300s, a model that’s pretty long in the tooth.

Wildlife shooters, for example, would love to have an APS-C sensor body that will shoot up to 8 frames per second, as the D300s does, but with an updated sensor and processing engine. Canon users have the 7D, which brought them a weather-sealed, fast frame rate body, but Nikonians have been without an update to their equivalent for some time now, even as Canon allegedly prepares an update to the 7D.

Canon's 7D is the main competitor to the new D7100

Canon's 7D is the main competitor to the new D7100

Well, those Nikon fans are going to have to wait just a bit longer. While the D7100 does improve on the D7000 in many ways, it isn’t a replacement for the D300s, at least not in the area of frame rates for fast-action photography. Those eying the 7D on the Canon side still don’t have a fast-action camera with a decent buffer they can get on this side of the aisle, at least not until you hit the D4 range. Nikon really needs a camera that delivers for wildlife and sports shooters that doesn’t cost $6000.

True, 6 fps isn’t something to shake a stick at, but the problem factor here is the buffer. As you can see in Nikon’s specs, shooting at RAW, you get exactly 7 frames in the 12-bit lossless compressed format. That’s about a 1-second burst. Not exactly ideal when you’re trying to capture, say, birds in flight.

The new 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II from Nikon pairs wonderfully with the D7100.

The new 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II from Nikon pairs wonderfully with the D7100.

Dropping down to JPEG improves things a lot, as you get a 33-shot buffer in this mode. Drop it down to JPEG Normal mode and you get 100 shots in that buffer. But compare this to the 7D, the Canon body that the D7100 goes up against, and you have a 25-shot buffer for RAW images at an 8 frame-per-second burst. I’m not sure why the D7100 dropped the ball a bit on the buffer, but there it is.

Still, I wanted to shoot some fast action with the D7100 to give its autofocus a workout. I chose the new 80–400mm f/4.5–5.6 II lens for this test, and fortunately managed to secure one from my buddies at BorrowLenses.com (it’s back-ordered already, and with good reason). I dropped the file quality down to JPEG, and went off to shoot.

Shooting fast action

Let me say this pretty definitively now. Here’s the part of the D7100 that absolutely delighted me: it just plain rocks in the AF department. Shooting with a tight cluster of 9 AF points around the center, I was nailing focus far more than I ever did with the D7000. In fact, short of the D4, I don’t know if there’s a current Nikon out there with a better AF system.

Take the image below; these little blackbirds are ridiculously quick, and getting one in focus is, well, not easy, to say the least. It’s not a great picture, but for me it’s something of a minor miracle, as I’ve rarely gotten a shot of them in flight.

Blackbird in flight. Image © Sohail Mamdani

Blackbird in flight. Image © Sohail Mamdani

The other pleasant surprise was the D7100’s metering system. I usually set my camera to manual mode, then fire away, chimping every few minutes to monitor light changes. This time around, as a test, I set the camera to shutter-priority mode, set it to 1/2000 (or, occasionally, 1/1600 to compensate a bit for shadows), and enabled auto-ISO on the D7100.

To my great delight, the 2016-pixel RGB sensor that the D7100 inherited from its predecessor, combined with whatever else Nikon has baked into this new body, metered the situation very, very well, adjusting aperture and ISO as needed. In fact, in the cases where I did see clipping, it was minimal, and often restricted to highlights, as you can see below.

The built-in metering system does a great job, with minimal clipping. Image © Sohail Mamdani

The built-in metering system does a great job, with minimal clipping. Image © Sohail Mamdani

Detail was another area in which I was very pleased with the D7100. Remember, Nikon has chosen to leave out the OLPF filter, which means that images from this new body are going to be a bit sharper than a camera with the same sensor. In-camera, with the “Landscape” picture style set, the results, as you can see below, were extremely good for a camera in this price range.

The D7100 holds detail really well. Image © Sohail Mamdani

The D7100 holds detail really well. Image © Sohail Mamdani

All in all? While it’s not exactly D4-style sharp, it’s not bad at all. Given a RAW file, I’d have teased out some more detail and sharpened it selectively — another reason I missed having a larger buffer.

Shooting nightscapes at high ISO

Everyone wants to know how the newest camera does at high ISO. Here’s your answer: Not bad, but not great.

Starting at ISO 800, the noise starts to reveal itself. The file is still pretty clear, however, and needs but the slightest of noise removal in Lightroom or Aperture.

At ISO 1600, it’s pretty apparent, though the images are still usable. There’s some smearing in the shadows, but it’s there only if you pixel-peep at 100%. Noise reduction in your software of choice will get rid of it.

At 3200, it’s not that much worse, surprisingly. Compared to the D7000, there’s less color noise, more luminance noise. What’s apparent, as well, is the the D7100 is holding on to a greater dynamic range at that ISO, while the D7000 is showing just a hair more sharpness in some areas (but not in all).

ISO 3200 comparison, with D7000 on the left and D7100 on the right

ISO 3200 comparison, with D7000 on the left and D7100 on the right

By ISO 6400, the noise in the file is obvious and pretty bad, and applying noise reduction tends to blur the image noticeably. Nikon has nonetheless done a great job of controlling color noise, and most of the noise is luminance-based. Compared to the D7000, the dynamic range at ISO 6400 is still better in the D7100, and the RAW file holds up pretty well in post. The images below are DNGs in Lighroom.

ISO 6400 comparison, with D7000 on the left and D7100 on the right

ISO 6400 comparison, with D7000 on the left and D7100 on the right

If you’re wondering why the D7000 controls noise slightly better than the D7100, the culprit can likely be found in that OLPF — or rather, the lack thereof. Without it, images are naturally more noisy.

But if you look past the pixel-peeping, the fact is that the D7100 (and its predecessor) are incredible machines at high ISOs for the price. Is it D4-good? No. But it’s also a fifth of the cost of a D4. For what you’re paying, you’re getting an awfully good machine.

Portraits and Skin Tones

Okay, this is where I admit to making a goofball of a mistake. I shot portraits of my friend Ben right after shooting birds in the wetlands around San Francisco. If you recall, I’d set the camera to shoot JPEG for that… and that’s where I left it. Accidentally.

Yes, you may now proceed to call me a moron. It is well-deserved.

Yet the JPEG files from this shoot actually held up pretty well through Lightroom and Photoshop edits. The image below is the JPEG output from a TIFF file that Photoshop created from the original JPEG file exported to it with edits from Lightroom.

Yeah, my head hurts thinking of that too. But it worked. The original out-of-camera JPEG is on the left.

JPEGs from the D7100 hold up pretty well in post. Image © Sohail Mamdani

JPEGs from the D7100 hold up pretty well in post. Image © Sohail Mamdani

Now, this may be old news to you JPEG shooters out there, but for someone who’s been shooting RAW for the majority of his digital photography career, I didn’t think you could get away with this kind of torture on a JPEG. It’s a bit amazing how much we tend to depend on RAW without giving JPEG a chance.

For those of you interested in seeing an un-tortured file from a RAW image, with no camera/Lightroom/Photoshop interference, the image below, taken of my friend Courtney, is straight-out-of-camera RAW, exported from Lightroom with the 2012 process and Adobe Standard profile.

Processed RAW, no adjustments, exported from Lightroom. Image © Sohail Mamdani

Processed RAW, no adjustments, exported from Lightroom. Image © Sohail Mamdani

I have no complaints about the images — RAW or JPEG — coming out of the D7100 when it comes to portraiture. The white balance was set to Auto for this shot, and the lighting was two Profoto 2X3’ softboxes, with Elinchrom Ranger Quadras shooting through them. The D7100 rendered gorgeous skin tone and color, with just outstanding detail, even at 200% (below).

Courtney's portrait at 200%. Image © Sohail Mamdani.

Courtney's portrait at 200%. Image © Sohail Mamdani.

Conclusion

The D7100 is not the camera all Nikonians were hoping for. I wanted faster frame rates and a bigger buffer. I’m sure there are many who wanted more megapixels, or fewer. We all have our notions of what the next camera from Nikon/Canon/Sony/Olympus/Fuji/Pentax/whatever should have.

I do think Nikon needs a solid competitor to Canon’s 7D, and the D7100 isn’t it. But if you put that notion aside, and look at the D7100 on its own merits, what you have is an absolutely outstanding camera that’s just packed with bang for your buck. At $1299, this isn’t a body that can be called underpowered or anemic in any way. Rather, it’s an extremely capable and well-rounded body that will be a worthy upgrade to anyone using a current Nikon DX-format DSLR — including D7000 owners. The additional resolution, the lack of an OLPF, the great detail and color, autofocus, and metering all combine to make this worth every penny of the $1299 it costs, and then some.

For what it’s worth, I would have no hesitation using the D7100 as a secondary body to my D800E.

Gear provided by BorrowLenses.com - where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

Stop Creating False Barriers Between You & The Photos You Want to Take [aka Going to the End of the Earth to Get the Shot]

Are you pursuing your personal passions to get the pictures you want, or are you letting…ahem…”too many obstacles” stop you?

Here’s a little inspiration. Using a weather balloon, a Gopro 2, a Multiplex Funjet and some other lo-fi equipment, David Windestål decided to get some first person footage of a trip to space. What he ends up with is an awesome video of the camera’s trip into orbit, and a ton of inspiration for the rest of us. Sure he could massaged the footage and edited differently / better. But whatever. In this post its the spirit that counts. Because truth be told, he’s doing cool shit. And you…?

The takeaway is this: you might not be as handy as David with a soldering iron, but it doesn’t matter, that’s not the point. The point is to stop creating false barriers between you and what you want to be taking pictures of…

Take that project that you’ve pushed off… decided is “too difficult” or “too expensive” or “too [whatever]” and hack into it. If you can find step by step instructions on how to send a camera into space with a couple of mouse clicks, what else might you figure out how to do with a little elbow grease and that good, ol’fashioned get-off-your-ass-and-do-it attitude adjustment?

Photo Kickstarter o’ the Week – The Rocket Travel Slider

“Sliders and dollies help you tell your story with beautiful camera moves.” So sayeth filmmaker Zeke Kamm of Nice Industries. Hard to argue with that statement. Well-placed, well-executed dolly shots increase production value, no question there. They can also increase production time and total gear load, as traditional sliders are bulky and a bitch to set up.

That’s where Kamm’s Rocket Travel Slider comes in. Capable of delivering up to 10 foot long, smooth dolly shots, the Rocket Travel Slider sets up in minutes and breaks down into a tight little travel package the size of a shoe box. Schlepers rejoice: the Rocket Base Kit (sled w/ mount, wheels, bar ends) weighs in at a scant 3 1/2 lbs. Not bad for a slider that can support up to 45 lbs.

Kamm + Co. have developed a set of 2 lb., 6-foot-long set of carbon fiber rails to go with the Rocket Base Kit called the Rocket Travel Tracks. They break down into 24 inch lengths and come with their own padded bag. But for those traveling videographers who really want to go light, the Base Kit wheels will work with any EMT pipe that you can grab at most hardware stores. Meaning you can travel to location with just the Base Kit and load up the tracks once you’ve touched down — you’ll probably pay around $10 at most stores (but you’ll be saving on airline oversized baggage costs).

A $425 pledge gets you the Base Kit, which is roughly $100 less than list + shipping. Want to donate and dolly? Pledge here.

If You’ve Ever Asked Me To Review Your Photos, Here’s A Chance — Photo Contest + Camera Bag Giveaway

Photo by Erik Hecht.

[UPDATE: Just returned from a job in Belize and damn...you guys have been busy! 2,000 comments/entries in a week! I've been checking out the work -there is some great stuff. TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO SUBMIT AN ENTRY (April 24). Any entries after today (at midnight) will miss the deadline and not be considered. Standby for the judging - it's going to take me a while to get through all these! Thanks for paying attention!]

Hey photo friends, a few weeks ago my staff video guru Erik and I shared a glimpse into an ideal everyday walk-around camera kit. It’s a kit that Erik uses everyday and one that I beg/borrow/steal when not on assignment. Well the good folks over at ThinkTank took note of the love we showed for their Retrospective line of camera bags and sent the studio three of them to do with them whatever we choose. Just so happens we have plenty of camera bags already (2 of the exact models they sent us…), so we want to give these badass bags away to you. So here’s what we’re gonna do:

We wanna see your street photography. Your best everyday photos from being out in the world, covering the earth and actively pursuing the unexpected. Post links to your photos in the comments section of this blog post and we’ll pick 3 favorites and send the winners one of these slick camera bags. A few basic ground rules:

  • You must own the rights to the photos you’re sharing (this should be obvious).
  • You must be cool with us posting your photo (should you win) on a follow-up post announcing the 3 winning photographs.
  • Submit as many images as you want, but please only post direct links to single images, NOT galleries. Don’t make us sort through your portfolio to figure out what photo you’re submitting.
  • This should force you to use a little of your editing / curatorial skills too. Send us links to what you want us to review.

    We’ll leave the contest open for submissions for a week from today and then announce the winners in a follow-up blog post within 10 days of end of contest. Photos will be selected by composition, style, and overall merit as determined by us.

    Happy shooting. If you want to learn more about the bags you’re competing for, check out Erik’s blog post for his detailed thoughts on them, or take a look at ThinkTank’s website for the full specs. Here’s a peak at what we’re giving away. Rugged, stylish, downright awesome (valued at $157.60 each):

    ______
    Official Contest Rules

    Repurposed Vintage Cameras — Keep the Lights On + Other Unconventional Uses

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_andriux-uk_AmyRollo

    © Andriux-Uk

    An invention doesn’t truly achieve obsolescence until it gets turned into a night light. Or a meat grinder. Such it is for these retro film cameras, repurposed for some good fun, inspiration, and to invoke a sense of nostalgia for the days of dark rooms. Somewhere a hipster just gasped “the horror” and a grandfather went looking for his Dualflex III. Before you freak (or hate on the hacking of old cameras in gags like this)…Maker of these beauties, Jason Hull says…

    “I’m not modifying cameras if they are in pristine condition or if they’re rare, I’d rather they stay usable as cameras in those cases. The ones I’ve chosen are lightweight plastic, produced in huge numbers and easily found for sale at flea markets/ garage sales/ ebay.” [and i'll add that, in my experience, they're often inoperable too...]

    While I don’t think the Spartus neon-blue wall light would necessarily mesh with my pad’s decor, I say better lighting the way to the bathroom at midnight than rotting in a junk heap. Happy friday.

    [have you hacked a camera into something cool? show me with a link]

    (link to Jason in one of my fav art rags, Juxtapoz, here)

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_jasonhull_AmyRollo

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_jasonhull_AmyRollo

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_JasonHull-uk_AmyRollo-03

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_JasonHull-uk_AmyRollo-04

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_jasonhull_AmyRollo

    © Jason Hull

    4 Great Ways to Get the Look of Film in Your Digital Darkroom

    Photo by Rachel A. K.

    A lot of us still shoot film for love and for fun. I’m often dragging around my Polaroid 600, my Hassie 500cm, some Lomo stuff (or these other film cameras)… but it’s next to impossible to have clients get fired up to shoot film in a professionals setting. They wanna see their picture NOW. Well, if you’ve ever been in a pickle over how to get the speed of digital with the look of film, join the crowd. In my studio we use a lot of digital tools to get this look and it seems there ar always new software toys emerging for this very job… But since I’m out on assignment now, I can’t think of a better guy to walk you through a handful of the very best options than my pal Sohail. And no doubt you all will have some other tricks not covered here to add…

    Thanks Chase. As the man said, the “look” of film isn’t something we are willing to part with….(and we’re not talking the vintage filters on your iphone or droid..) Some of this comes from an old-school love of grain; some of it has to do with the fact that we just love the way film renders tonality and color. We can all love digital photography just as much, however, so finding a happy medium is the task of this post. I’ll run you through the faves and you can decide for yourself what might suit you well…

    For the past year or so, I’ve cycled various plugins and applications through my workflow, trying to find the right add-ons that bring the response curves and grain of old film back into digital images. I found four options that do just that.

    The ground rule

    I decided that I wanted the look and feel of “real” emulsions like Ilford HP5 or Kodak Portra. Although I’ve liked the look and feel of “vintage” filters that mimic (but not truly reproduce or emulate) old films, I made the conscious decision to seek apps and add-ons that seek to reproduce the look of black-and-white, color negative, slide, and instant film emulsions produced currently and in the past. There are a number of apps today that can apply that vintage look, but that, to me, is not the same as truly emulating film.

    The apps

    With that simple ground rule in place, I settled on four apps to look over. These aren’t by ANY MEANS all the apps out there that allow you to emulate film, but they are the four that do offer both color and B&W film emulation. They are:

    Nik Collection by Google

    "Somewhere in Utah" Processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. © Sohail Mamdani

    "Somewhere in Utah" Processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. © Sohail Mamdani

    Until recently, the two plugins from Nik Software, Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2, were both available as individual downloads for about $99 each. Following Google’s purchase of the company, the entire suite is now available for $149, which makes this collection one of the best in the “bang for your buck” category. FWIW, this is the one Chase makes primary use of in his studio.

    Color Efex Pro 4 has a number of film effects, ranging from the aforementioned “vintage” effects that don’t appear to be based on any specific film stock, to effects based on a very nice list of modern color films.

    Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Interface

    Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Interface

    From slide films like Velvia to modern negative stock like Portra, Color Efex Pro 4 is a first-rate one-stop-shop for the most popular emulsions out there.

    Silver Efex brings a similar range of choices for B&W images. Some of my favorite films are represented here; Ilford Delta 100 and 400, Fuji Acros 100, and Kodak Tri-X. The interface is somewhat similar to that of Color Efex Pro, and is pretty simple to use.

    Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 Interface

    Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 Interface

    Silver and Color Efex also include Nik’s unique Control Point technology, which lets you make some pretty sophisticated selective adjustments without having to deal with masks and selections in photoshop. Additionally, Silver Efex Pro also gives you a range of color filters you can use to adjust tonality in your B&W images. The Red filter, for example, can darken blue skies, while the Green filter lightens greens, helping to separate a flower from a background of bushes.

    The Nik Collection (which includes Silver and Color Efex) is available now for $149.

    Alien Skin Exposure

    "Colorado Road" Treated with Fuji Velvia 50 in Exposure 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    "Colorado Road" Treated with Fuji Velvia 50 in Exposure 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    Alien Skin’s Exposure plugin for Lightroom isn’t just a film effects plugin; it also places a number of powerful exposure controls at your disposal. It gives you very specific control over elements like film grain, aging, and vignetting, in addition to letting you adjust the tone curve of your images.

    The interface is pretty straightforward and functional. Very little consideration seems to have gone into making it “pretty”; rather, it uses the most simple possible interface elements. Most of the research into this app seems to have gone into the “under the hood” area rather than window chrome.

    The Alien Skin Exposure Interface

    The Alien Skin Exposure Interface

    This is a good thing. The app is reasonably fast, applying effects and saving files very quickly. That last item might seem like a small thing, but when you’re saving 100MB+ .tiff files, the extra few seconds is kinda nice.

    For those who aren’t looking to emulate film, Exposure also offers many other presets and effects out of the box as well. One major ding against them, however: they don’t make an Aperture version of their plugin. Aperture users will have to round-trip their images through Photoshop to take advantage of Exposure.

    Alien Skin Exposure is available now for $199.

    DxO Filmpack

    Image treated with DxO Filmpack, Kodachrome 64 setting. © Sohail Mamdani

    Image treated with DxO Filmpack, Kodachrome 64 setting. © Sohail Mamdani

    DxO’s Filmpack is available as both, a standalone plugin or as part of DxO Optics Pro, which is a collection of various image tools, from perspective correction to sharpening and denoising.

    There’a decent number of films represented here, from slide films like Velvia to black-and-white emulsions like Ilford Pan F 50. They also pack in refinement tools to adjust elements like HSL (Hue, Saturation, Luminance), noise, and film grain.

    The DxO FilmPack Interface

    The DxO FilmPack Interface

    The interface is pretty straightforward and well-designed. You pick your film, make your deeper adjustments, then close it out. DxO installs two versions of the plugin, a 32-bit one and a 64-bit version, so if you’re on an older version of Lightroom, you can still go back and use the 32-bit version.

    Filmpack itself also has two tiers, “Essential” and “Expert.” They’re priced at $49 and $99, respectively, and the “Expert” version, in addition to having certain emulsions that the “Essential” version doesn’t, also has a few features like batch processing and noise reduction.

    DxO Filmpack is available for $49 (“Essential”) and $99 (“Expert”).

    VSCO Film

    "Freighter and Alcatraz." Treated in VSCO with Fuji Superia 1600. © Sohail Mamdani

    "Freighter and Alcatraz." Treated in VSCO with Fuji Superia 1600. © Sohail Mamdani

    VSCO is perhaps the most unique of the plugins I worked with. Available for Lightroom, Camera RAW or Aperture (I tested the Lightroom version), the plugin is implemented in Lightroom as a collection of presets and camera profiles, all of which can be accessed without ever leaving Lightroom.

    VSCO Presets and Camera Profiles in Lightroom

    VSCO Presets and Camera Profiles in Lightroom

    There are currently three collections available; 01, 02, and 03. Each adds a number of specific films to the roster of available emulsions, building on the previous version. Every film is made available in four presets. There is a normal version that is, according to VSCO, the most faithful representation of what that particular film would look like for the image you’re working on, a “-“ version that tones the effect down somewhat, a “+” version that ratchets the effect up, and a “++” version that pushes it even further.

    Each of the three packs is sold separately, and is priced at $119, making VSCO’s collection the most expensive of the lot here. VSCO does offer a loyalty discount, so if you buy one of the packs, the others are available for a discount, bringing the price for all three packs under $300.

    It should be noted that the real strength of VSCO is, in my opinion, their combination of both camera profiles and presets. They currently have Canon and Nikon camera profiles for all three packs, and in something of a first, they also have Fuji presets for 01 and 03. A Fuji preset for 02 is apparently in the works.

    You can certainly apply the generic “Standard” presets to images shot on other cameras, and they still do a neat job, but the effect won’t be as faithful to the original film you’re looking to emulate. In my quick tests, RAW images taken with a Sony A99 still looked pretty darn good though.

    Aperture users, take note that the camera profiles feature in VSCO Film isn’t available to you. Aperture doesn’t support that feature, so that isn’t VSCO’s fault, and the plugin for Aperture is priced at $79 to reflect that loss in functionality.

    VSCO Film is available now for $119 per pack.

    The results

    I worked on several images over the last few months, from portraits to landscapes, and came away with some pretty clear ideas and opinions on the strengths and weakness of each plugin. The thing to remember is that these are just that — ideas and opinions. I’m applying my subjective judgement to these images, and that should be taken into account when you make your own choices.

    That said, let’s have a look at what I found.

    Initially, I thought of judging them based on criteria such as ease of use, speed, features, and final product.

    Ease of use

    After using all four apps over a few weeks, the first criteria almost fell by the wayside, since all four are pretty straightforward to use. A few factors did arise, however, that are worth mentioning.

    The Nik Collection was perhaps the only one that had a bit of a learning curve. That’s directly due to its Control Point technology, which you don’t have to use unless you want to adjust specific parts of your image — and if you do, the learning curve is absolutely worth it.

    VSCO was the other one that has a learning curve, but again, only for a specific reason. If you do things like retouching skin in Photoshop, there is a workaround you’ll need to use to avoid smearing the grain pattern and messing with the other settings for your images.

    Speed

    Hands-down, VSCO was the fastest of the lot. Since you never leave Lightroom, there’s no round-tripping of images through an external program. Even better is the fact that the presets render lightning fast, and you can reset them with just a click.

    Alien Skin’s Exposure was the other app that did a pretty decent job of round-tripping images from and to Lightroom. While it’s not orders of magnitude faster than its competitors, as I mentioned, the few extra seconds you eke out while working with 100MB+ .tiff files is kind of nice.

    Features

    If you’re looking for a plugin that does some pretty advanced film effects and has a good selection of emulsions to chose from, you can’t go wrong with the Nik Collection from Google.

    Control Points in Nik Silver Efex

    Control Points in Nik Silver Efex

    Between the truly awesome Control Point technology and the collection of popular films like Velvia and my personal favorites like Acros, the Nik Collection knocks it out of the park in the “packed with a bunch of features” category. At $149 for the whole dang thing, it’s also the clear winner in the “bang for your buck” section.

    Lest you think it’s the clear overall winner in this criteria, however, let me throw a twist at you. VSCO has what I believe to be two truly killer features: its edits are non-destructive, and it actually takes your specific camera model’s output into consideration when applying its edits (as long as you shoot Canon, Nikon, or Fuji).

    All the other apps output TIFF files. This is just fine; Photoshop does the same when you roundtrip files from Lightroom to it and back. What you lose there is the ability to fine-tune the changes after the plugin is done exporting the finished file back to Lightroom.

    Since you never leave Lightroom, and are working on the original RAW file, VSCO’s edits are easy to roll back the edits – just select the “RESET VSCO FILM” preset in Lightroom and you’re back to your starting point. You can also adjust the preset’s effects at any time simply by moving the sliders in Lightroom or Camera RAW around to get your final look.

    So, to me, this criteria has a two-way tie between Nik and VSCO.

    Final Product

    Here’s the meat of the review. The long story is below, but the short story is this: for my use, it’s a two-way tie for first place between VSCO Film and Nik Collection.

    Let’s dive in a bit more.

    In the images below, I’ve used the film preset in each app/plugin, with no additional adjustments in the plugins themselves. Any adjustments were made beforehand in Lightroom. Global adjustments were restricted to white balance and exposure, and there are some localized adjustments like dodging, burning, and skin smoothing. The original image in each case is shown as well.

    In each of the image comparisons below, the original starting image is shown in the top-left. Clockwise from there, we have the adjusted images from VSCO Film, Nik Collection, Alien Skin Exposure, and DxO Filmpack.

    Let’s start with B&W. I chose a film that all four apps had in common, Ilford HP5. The subject is the wetlands in the Alviso area of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge.

    Comparison Between All Apps for B&w Film

    Comparison Between All Apps for B&w Film

    Clockwise from top-left, we have the original DNG with basic Lightroom edits for exposure and white balance, followed by VSCO Film, Nik Collection, Alien Skin Exposure, and DxO Filmpack.

    What struck me here was how similar Nik and VSCO’s output was. VSCO laid the grain down a bit more evenly, while Nik Silver Efex was more selective about it. Silver Efex, on the other hand, crushed a little of the detail in some midtones and highlights.

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Silver Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Silver Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    Alien Skin’s Exposure, on the other hand, tended to underexpose the sky, and lay down far less grain than either VSCO or Silver Efex for this film emulsion. It did, however, do a great job of holding detail throughout the frame.

    The real surprise here was DxO Filmpack. The output is nothing like that of the other three apps; in fact, I re-ran the original file through Filmpack again just to be sure, and the results were replicated exactly. DxO’s output looks almost washed out in comparison, with far less contrast than I remember seeing in images taken with actual HP5 film. The grain pattern is weak as well, which is odd considering that HP5 usually has some pretty good contrast with decent grain.

    The color images showed a similar disparity in final results as well. I chose a portrait for the this round of images, and picked an image I’d made of my friend Alexandria (an awesome photographer in her own right). The image had gone through a bit of retouching in Lightroom, but Alex has pretty flawless skin, so I didn’t need to round-trip it through Photoshop.

    The film I chose was Kodak Portra NC. Portra was originally available in two flavors, NC and VC, but the two lines were combined into one single Portra emulsion a while back. Portra NC is also one of the films that all four apps had in common, so I went with it over the standard version.

    Once again, clockwise from top left, we have the pre-film-effect Lightroom version, followed by VSCO, Nik Color Efex, Alien Skin Exposure, and DxO Filmpack.

    Here, Nik Color Efex and Alien Skin’s seem to be the two closest, but both look somewhat washed out. I almost like that effect, but VSCO’s render looks more natural to my eye. Color Efex and Exposure really reduced detail in the highlight areas, while VSCO managed to retain them nicely.

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Color Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Color Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    DxO managed to disappoint me here again. Their render is, I think, over-saturated with a strong bias towards red. In fact, if you look towards the base of Alex’s neck, it almost looks like she’s blushing. DxO also reduced contrast in some areas and laid down a heavier grain pattern than any of the other apps.

    So who’s the clear winner for the “Final Product” criteria? I’d say it’s a tie between VSCO and the Nik Collection.

    Conclusion

    As I mentioned earlier, this test ended in a two-way tie for first place between VSCO Film and the Nik Collection by Google. but thing is that there is no real way to quantify a choice when it comes to applications like these.

    The final product and featureset are the two most important things to me, and in both those categories, I came up with a tie between VSCO and the Nik Collection. I do wish VSCO had some slide films in their packs; this is a glaring omission, but then so is the lack of “real” instant film emulsions from Color Efex. The Nik Collection has that awesome Control Point technology, but you can apply VSCO’s effects to video in Lightroom.

    In an ideal world, I’d tell you all to go buy both, but that’d run you upwards of $450. Instead, I’d say this – you can’t truly go wrong with either. Look at the samples here and elsewhere on the interwebs, and decide for yourself.

    MoVI Camera Stabilizer from FreeFly Cinema Looking Good To Revolutionize Camera Stabilization

    Last week we checked out the Supraflux Video Camera Stabilizer, a small stabilizer that has been lighting up kick-starter, already making over double their goal with almost a month left. Today we’ve got the other side of the spectrum with the MoVi from my very good friends Tabb and Hugh at Firefly Systems. I’ve used these guy for several years now as go-to help for aerial RC choppers and other fun toys… but in the past week they’ve dropped a much more hi-tech entry that’s already built a lot of worthy buzz as the next big thing in camera stabilization. I got the early tip, but was swamped so Tabb & co went way down stream (j/k Vincent ;) to work w my dear friend Vincent and take the MōVI for a test drive. Vince gave it his seal of approval, especially praising its short learning curve + ability to quickly make both simple and complex shots. My favorite part is the separation of the camera carrying from the camera pointing function. Don’t know what I mean? Check out their video… one guy handles the camera, the other guy steers the tilt / pan (ie what the camera sees). Genius! The video below will give you a solid idea of just how smooth the MōVI is, and might make you look at handhelds with a new respect.

    Using a 3 axis gyroscope to stabilize the camera, the MōVI system is portable and lightweight (3.5 pounds), making Scorsese-like shots a breeze. You can also manipulate the camera motion remotely by a second operator via joystick. Unfortunately the only real negative so far might be a deal-breaker; it’s currently priced at $15,000. Rumors have a $7,500 option coming soon, which is a little more manageable. The good news is, with technology like this breaking, you can bet a more consumer friendly option is on its way. Even more below for more of the MōVI in action.

    Win $15,000 From Burn Magazine. Emerging Photographers Apply By May 5th.

    chasejarvis_burnmagazine

    Photo: Matt Lutton/ Pristina, Kosovo


    Need a little more change in the pocket (or a lot)? If you’re doing top-notch work, you may be in luck because Burn magazine is giving away $15,000 in grants for three photographers. Called the “Emerging Photographer Fund”, the grants will be awarded in three allotments; one photographer will win $10,000, and two others will get $2,500 a piece.

    Initiated by legendary photographer David Alan Harvey in 2008 and awarded by the Magnum Foundation, the site describes the grants as “Designed to support continuation of a photographer’s personal project…[whose]…body of work may be of either a journalistic mission or purely personal artistic imperative. We just want to support committed authored photography of any ilk.”

    A maximum of 25 photos may be submitted for a non-refundable submission fee of $25.

    Entry deadline is May 5, 2013 at 6pm (EST), and winners will be announced in June 2013. Get on it.

    Check out the exact rules and contest description HERE
    Or to apply directly for the EPF grant for 2013, click HERE.

    Photo Kickstarter o’ the Week — The Supraflux Video Camera Stabilizer with Brake

    I’m loving the photo related projects that are popping up on kickstarter these days. I get 4-5 emails per week from people pimping their projects. Some of them suck. Some are fun. Others are downright dope. So, as we usher in a new era of DIY gadgetry and attempt to discover a future slew of products that might help us photogs + directors, I’m going to try to regularly recommend some kickstarters that have a little swagger. This week, I present, the Supraflux Video Camera Stabilizer with Brake.

    You might have the eye of an auteur, but without smooth and stable footage your film is going to reek of amateurism.

    The folks at Supraflux brought video stabilization to the masses with the geeky-but-effective Picosteady, a hand-held camera stabilizer. Back by customer demand for a heavier-duty stabilizer to accommodate larger cameras, Supraflux’s new Kickstarter campaign, introduces said larger stabilizer with a cool feature that they call the Brake.

    The Brake is an electronic locking device that locks one axis of the stabilizer with the touch of the button, allowing for 2 free-floating axes and eliminating the need to touch the stabilizer with the free hand in order to turn the camera. (a problem we’ve noted on the expensive but pretty good Merlin Steadicam that we’ve owned for years.) So this is Supraflux’s solution. Haven’t tried the prototype myself, but they could be onto something.

    Check it out here on Kickstarter campaign and donate!

    We scored an interview with Nadim Elgarhy (one of the inventors):

    CJ: What inspired the SupraFlux? Did you wake up at 3am out of a dream or was it a more iterated process?

    Nadim: A few years ago I developed an interest for filmmaking. I quickly realized that it wasn’t that easy to get nice, smooth footage. So, I started exploring stabilization options: tripods with fluid heads, sliders, jibs, and of course, handheld stabilizers. The stabilizer got my interest the most because it doesn’t have the same limitations as the other devices do: it’s not limited to only one type of motion, it’s not limited in range, and it’s quite compact. The only problem is that it is much harder to operate and it’s not as easy to get decent footage with it as it is with other devices.

    Last year my brother Karim, and I created a very small stabilizer (The Picosteady) that only works with small cameras, and that is very easy to setup and use. But it has it’s limitations, mainly that it can’t stabilize heavier cameras, like, for example, the very popular Canon 5D2. So, we started working on a bigger stabilizer. One day, while testing one of our prototypes and using our hands to control the direction of the camera, Karim just came up with the idea to have some sort of mechanism to lock the main shaft on-demand. We went through a couple of iterations before settling on the current design.

    CJ: What makes the SupraFlux so innovative?
    Nadim: The first stabilizer was invented in the 70′s and hasn’t seen any innovation since then. In more than 30 years it has always remained the same concept, and has always been operated with the same technique: using your fingers directly on the post to control the camera’s movement. The problem with that is that it requires a lot of experience to get a good results. What makes the Supraflux Stabilizer so innovative is that you no longer need to touch the post to control the direction. This removes the human-factor error, and it tremendously reduce the experience and skills required to get good footage from the Stabilizer.

    CJ: You’ve already eclipsed your goal on Kickstarter – how many units are you hoping to make and when will you ship?
    Nadim: We’re very grateful to all the backers so far! People are awesome! We’re hoping to reach 200 backers by the end of the campaign. We’re going to announce some stretch goals (bonuses and extra options that will be made available if we reach certain goals) very soon. We’re planning on having all Supraflux Stabilizers shipped by the end of August 2013.

    CJ: Any other ideas up your sleeve you can give us a peek at?
    Nadim: We’re working on a few things right now, mainly sliders and jibs. But we don’t want to come up with just another slider, or just another jib. We’re always looking to innovate, making things easier to operate and handle, making things more practical for the end-user, without ever compromising on quality. When we announce our next product, it will be something really cool!

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