Monthly Archives: September 2012

New work: Nordstrom prosthesis program

Our latest commercial piece, which I shot and helped edit, informs women about a little-known program run by Nordstrom. My partner LIsa Cooper directed this piece, and also did a lot of the editing as well as sound recording. Nice work Lisa!

We’re hoping this video gets shared a lot, because few women know about it, and it’s a fantastic program. Who wouldn’t want to wear any bra she chooses, rather than a surgical bra from a medical supply house? And, Nordstrom’s certified prosthesis fitters are specially trained to fit women for all intimate apparel following a mastectomy, lumpectomy or other reconstructive surgery.

For more information, please visit: http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/prosthesis-program.

Seattle Interactive Conference asks "what if"

Seattle Interactive Conference 2012 Teaser from Dan McComb on Vimeo.

Our latest piece, officially launched this morning, is a montage of “what if” questions posed by a few of the game-changing thinkers who will speak at this year’s Seattle Interactive Conference.

Our inspiration for this piece was Jason Silva, whose explosive films have amassed millions of views on the web. He’ll be one of the featured speakers at this year’s conference, and provides the lean-forward moment at the end of our conference teaser. Incidentally, we didn’t have the chance to film Jason ourselves, since he’s in New York and the project had no budget for travel. So we asked him to point a camera at himself and pose three what-if questions, followed by the question about Seattle Interactive Conference. Within 24 hours he replied with the footage we included in the piece. Thanks Jason – we can’t wait to see where your ideas take you!

Warp speed at 2fps in-camera using Magic Lantern 2.3

The 2.3 release of Magic Lantern is full of surprises. My most recent discovery: beautiful 2 frames-per-second time lapses, no post-processing required. This is an otherwise impossible frame rate to obtain with my Canon 60D, because even with a fast card it’s impossible to sustain more than 1 frame of shooting per second for more than a few frames in burst mode. For relatively fast-moving action such as storm clouds, sailboats, or to moving cars, 2 frames per second is a sweet spot.

Yesterday morning I had to drive across town at 5:30am to scout a location for an upcoming shoot. To test out the 2fps feature, I sat the camera on the dash of my car on a coat, and let it run. The results were pretty shaky, but promising.

This morning I took a more polished stab at it. This time, I triangulated the camera to my car hood using MicroGrip heads with 3/8 rods, combined with parts from a MiniGrip mounting kit that I picked up at Glazers over the weekend.

The results are smoothest where the highway was smooth. Unfortunately the road is quite rough on the stretch of 99 going past the city skyline. The new tunnel will no doubt be smoother when it’s completed in a few years, and will an exciting (but claustrophobic) place to shoot this kind of footage.

The documentation for using the FPS Override on Magic Lantern is pretty good (see User Guide, page 2). I used the Optimize for Low Light setting, and I’m looking forward to trying out an even slower frame rate such as 1fps using ND filter during daylight driving.

5 dslr rigging tips for smoother video shooting with a tripod and monitor

When shooting on sticks with a DSLR and a field monitor, a little attention to detail can go a long way to helping you get smoother shots. Here’s a few things that help me get consistently good results.

1. Use rails with a bomb-proof quick-release plate. My first rig was built around camera baseplate that required thumb tightening every time I wanted to get the camera on and off the rig. Not only was the connection less secure, but it was daunting and time-consuming to get the thing on and off. The screw-in mounts also won’t hold your camera tightly enough to consistently hit critical focus if you’re using a follow focus. My problems vanished when I upgraded to a Gorilla Stand combined with Zacuto quick-release Gorilla plate.

Above, the camera side of quick release. This Gorilla plate provides excellent stability as well as being instantly releasable from the rig.

2. Don’t hang your monitor off the hot shoe. It destabilizes everything, so that even lightly touching your monitor (such as to punch up peaking) can introduce jello to your shot. DO find a mount point that keeps the center of gravity low, such as mounting off a rail block (see tip 4 below).

3. Use a good arm. I recently upgraded from the standard Israeli-style arm that I purchased with my DP-6, to a Manfrotto Hydrostatic 7″ arm. And it’s been a revelation the difference it makes. My previous arm needed to be cranked tight, that is, basically over tightening it to hold it in place. Often it would flop over halfway though shoots, and needed frequent re-tightening. My Manfrotto uses hydrostatic technology that makes for an iron grip with minimal tightening. The rubber wheel is a major ergonomic improvement too, making it easy to twist. My feeling now is that a good arm should be so easy to adjust that it practically invites you to fiddle with your monitor angle. Because that’s exactly what you’ll need to do when you’re shooting a variety of shots off sticks.

Above: Old arm, left; new arm, right.

4. Use a quick-relase rail block to connect your arm to your rig. I use a 90 degree accessory mount that I got from Express 35 for $20.29. Combined with the included 15mm to 1/4-20 stud, It does two things: gives you a couple extra inches of reach on your arm, and makes it a snap to get the whole thing on and off your rig. You’ll also noticed in the photo above that I have a brass 1/4″ to 3/8″ adapter that allows the connection between the 1/4″ stud and the 3/8″ arm.

5. In addition to a short 12″ cable, keep a 6-foot length of HDMI cable in your monitor case to give yourself options when shooting for long stretches. One comfortable position, I find, is looking down, rather than out. Yesterday I was shooting on a grassy hillside and simply put the monitor in my lap while sitting cross-legged. I also have rigged the monitor on a light stand beside and below me when I’m seated in a chair behind the camera for long interviews.

Photoflex launches free online lighting school

Have you ever felt like the only way to learn lighting is by trail and error? Have you often wished you could watch a professional in action to learn faster and spark new ideas? Photoflex has created a resource that may interest you. They just launched Photoflex Lighting School, a smashing educational site that provides a treasure trove of lighting ideas.

What’s particularly cool about this site is that it provides dozens of example shoots, and breaks them down step by step, providing an explanation of both the equipment and techniques used.

For example, did you ever wonder how those dreamy underwater wedding photos are made? Here you can see precisely how it’s done. Yes, there’s obligatory mentions of Photoflex gear, but the focus is more on education than on selling, which is part of why I like it so much.

There’s quite a few great tips for video lighting as well, such as how to successfully mix natural and artificial light on your shoots.

From basic lighting basics to lessons with video, the Photoflex Lighting School is packed with gems that can help you up your game.