Category Archives: Filming

LED Fresnel test

I have just bought 2 of the CE-1500WS LED Fresnel lights and put them through some basic tests for colour and flicker performance.

Size and Packaging

Each light comes well protected in shaped polystyrene in a cardboard box. The box measures 37 x 31 x 30cm. It comes with a cable to connect to the mains, a cable to connect two or more lights together (so several can be powered from just one mains socket), a remote control (which only turns the lights on/off, so it is of little real use), a tungsten balanced filter, a diffusing filter, a set of barn doors._MG_3204Interestingly, the filters are held in place with small magnets, which makes them very easy to use.

The light itself measures 36 x 30 x 27cm and weighs 5.3kg._MG_3200

The light can be focussed between 40°- 80° beam angle._MG_3202

Colour Temperature

No filter:

The specs claim the light is 5400K +/-200.

Red Epic footage shows a colour temp of 5000K, needing a tint of 17 (green) (in RedCine-X).

Canon 5D Mark II stills show a colour temp of 4500K, needing a tint of -58 (green) (in Adobe Camera Raw).

This means that there is a significant magenta colour cast with these lights.

_MG_3197-full-power

Dimming the light didn’t affect the colour temp significantly. At lowest power the colour temp was 4300K, measured with the Canon and ACR (as opposed to 4500K at full power)._MG_3198-dimmed

Tungsten filter:

The specs claim the light is 3500K +/-200.

Canon 5D Mark II stills show colour temp of 2850K, needing a tint of -20 (green) (in Adobe Camera Raw)._MG_3199-tungsten

Intensity

With the light 2m from the subject, the following settings were achieved:
ISO 100
1/80
f/3.2

Video Flicker

There was no apparent flicker, even at frame rates of 300fps!

The following video shows Red Epic footage shot at frame rates of 25, 50, 75, 100, 120 and 300 fps.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSeQd10JgbY

Fresnel or not?

The first thing I noticed was that despite the product description claiming it is a “Fresnel” light, the lens is not a fresnel lens. I wrote to the supplier pointing this out and they replied:

“[the manufacturer] admitted their lenses are not the same as photo showed on their official website. But they said this new lens performs better than the one with concentric ripples.”

They also said they would send me the fresnel lens, so when it arrives, I will repeat these tests [09 Oct 2014, fresnel lenses arrived in post, so additional tests are shown below]

_MG_3201

Not a fresnel lens

How even is the light?

The spread of light remains the same regardless of dimming,

The drop off of light (and colour change) is noted in this photo of the light shining on white background paper. Exposures noted are in stops, relative to the brightness at the centre.

Drop-off of light

Drop-off of light

Dimming

The product claims “Power variation: 0-100% stepless adjustment”. However my tests show that the difference between max and min power is only 3 stops. So that would be 15-100% !

Diffuser

The supplied diffuser snaps into place with magnets. It succeeds in diffusing the edges, and the drop-off is shown below:

Light drop-off with diffuser

Light drop-off with diffuser

Focus control

The focus knob physically moves the LED within the unit. When all the way in, this halves the diameter of the light beam.

Light drop-off when focussed tightly

Light drop-off when focussed tightly

[Update 09.Oct.2014] With the Fresnel

Today the replacement fresnel lenses arrived in the post.

Now the orange ring around the edge is gone, and there is a much smoother drop-off:

Light drop-off with fresnel lens fitted

Light drop-off with fresnel lens fitted

[Update 28.Jun.2015] photomart

The web-based company photomart have just started selling this light. They market it as the “Hollywood led hybrid CE-1500WS”.

It is worth noting that the model they show in their brochure and online (http://shop.photomart.co.uk/led-soft-focus-hollywood-1500ws.html) does NOT have the fresnel lens.

 

Their price is currently £396.

If anyone wants one, I can get them sent direct from the makers for £300 (you may need to pay approx £22 import duty), or £520 for 2 of them.

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LED Softbox Test

[Note: This is being published as a “work in progress”, so I will be adding photos, framegrabs and video clips over the next few days, as I have time]

I heard about a new make of LED softboxes which seem to be being used by some photographers and though it would be good to test them and see if they live up to their claims. I contacted the distributors and was sent 2 to test. In addition I asked for dimmable transformers.

I tested them with both a stills camera (the Canon 5D Mark II) and a video camera (Red Epic).

Size and Packaging

Each panel comes well protected in a thick cardboard box with foam corner protection and a foam front panel protector. The size of the packaging is 66cm x 63cm x 5.5cm._MG_3181

The panel itself is very thin (about half the width of a £1 coin) _MG_3185 and measures 595 x 595mm square _MG_3184

The only connector is a socket into which you plug the transformer. You can either use a fixed brightness transformer (supplied with the unit) or buy a dimmable transformer (as shown here) _MG_3182

Colour Temperature

The box and specs claim they are 4500K. However in testing they turned out to be closer to 4100K.

Intensity

I took a series of photos with the light at 2m, 1m and 0.5m from the subject (a black/white/grey card). The ISO was set to 800, the aperture was f/2.8.

Full-at-0,5m,-_MG_3180 At 0.5m, the shutter speed was 1/1250th.

 

Full-at-1m,-_MG_3179  At 1m, the shutter speed was 1/500th.

Full-at-2m,-_MG_3177At 2m, the shutter speed was 1/125th.

Video Flicker

coming next

Lloyds of London, 1985

Going through my folders I found 3 original hand made prints on Ilford paper of this shot. There will never be any more, so this really is a very limited edition!!!

So I am going to make them available for £200 each to raise money for the IndieGogo project to film a video for The Enid’s album “Invicta”.

I will put the link here when the fundraising goes live…

The IndieGoGo fundraising is now live, at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/invicta-the-film/x/13062#share

Blackmagic Hyperdeck Shuttle

Shuttle2

When Blackmagic originally brought out the Shuttle, it seemed like a great product if you wanted high quality uncompressed video. But that came with the downside of massive disk space requirements.

Version 2 was then released which allowed recording in either ProRes or Avid compressed formats. Brilliant. And a great price.

Now it accepts SSDs formatted in ex-FAT format too, so no need for nasty Mac-emulations on the PC.

So I finally bought one, to record 1080p output from my Red Epic and Sony Z1 cameras.

Connecting it to the computer

It comes with a DVD with software and manuals for every Blackmagic product! I read the Hyperdeck Shuttle manual and installed the software.

The Shuttle has a mini-USB socket to connect it to a computer. I did this and then ran the Hyperdeck software.

This is where I had my first major problem:

Hyperdeck-software

The software did not recognise that the Shuttle was connected. Eventually I realised that one of the grey buttons was actually an On/Off button! Turning it on helps. LOL.

I could then set the recording format to “Avid DNxHD QuickTime”.

Connecting it to a camera

The built-in battery only lasts for about an hour. Not much use if you are recording 2 hour concerts as I frequently do. So the first thing I needed to get was a cable to connect the Shuttle to one of my V-lock batteries. I spent ages reading through the Blackmagic website and on forums with no definitive advice. Then eventually I was given a link to the perfect cable on eBay. And only about £12. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/251192565581?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649 (Note: it does come with a mains adapter, but I prefer to move about on battery power when I can).

The next cable needed was an SDI to Blackmagic mini-SDI. Well I already had a Red mini-SDI to SDI cable, so I thought I would be OK. But no, both the output of the Epic and the input for the cable are male plugs. So I’ll need another cable. I’ll update this page when I find the right one.

In the meantime I will use the HDMI connections on both devices. I have loads of HDMI cables!

The next problem is that the indicator LED for the video signal did not light up. But there was definitely a video signal coming through the cable (I tested by plugging into the TV).

After a lengthy phone conversation with Blackmagic support, we established that the LED lights up when you have a 720p signal at any frame rate. But that it only lights up for 1080p if the refresh rate is 25Hz (irrespective of the frame rate). This is just wierd as the UK and Europe run on 50Hz. I shall investigate further with other users.

Post production – crew removal!

I was recently Director of Photography for a short film directed by Sam Roffey, called “Lady Noir”, shot using the Red Epic camera.

Here is a screenshot after post production:

Image

But where (you may be asking) does the nice backlight on the actors come from?

That is from the light on a pole just behind them:

Image

Before every shot we took a “clean” shot with no one in the frame and then merged the 2 shots together:

Image

Then a quick Curves adjustment to correct the colour, and a masked Black & White adjustment and it’s all done.

Test shots of flaming torches

In a month or two, I will be shooting a music video in which a group of people will be running through the woods with burning torches. So to prepare for this we took some test shots this week on the Red Epic camera.

I turned on the camera’s HDR facility (which takes a normally exposed version of the footage and another under-exposed version) and combined them in Photoshop. Here are the results for one frame of the footage:

A001_C006_0226AG_0001334-PS-Blended

This was made up from the following two exposures:

A001_C006_0226_Aframe and A001_C006_0226_Xframe

I combined the 2 exposures in Photoshop with a layer mask and then added a curves correction to the lighter exposure.

Using Red Epic and Canon 5D in Iceland

What an amazing country Iceland is. A paradise for photographers.

Here are a few shots of me at work (taken by Tony Morel on his Canon 60D), and some of my shots taken on both the Red Epic and the Canon 5DII.

This is what I was setting up the shot for (the Eyjafjallajokull volcano):

And here is the down-rezzed shot from the Red Epic, shot at 5k widescreen:

Flying with camera gear

Last week I flew with Icelandair from London Heathrow to Iceland, with the Red Epic, a couple of Canon cameras and lenses, and a notebook PC.

I had this in the fantastic Lowepro 450AW backpack: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0036B67B6/thebookstore019

The only problem being that Icelandair have a very low 6kg limit for hand luggage. Oh dear. After some negotiation with the manager, we came to a deal where they would allow me to take it to the gate, but that it may have to go in the hold once at the gate. Luckily I was travelling with a friend, so I put the most valuable gear in his bag before we got to the gate 🙂

So… how to get around this?

Thanks to Philip Bloom, I have a solution. The airlines don’t weigh people or their clothing. There is a rather ugly looking, but very practical jacket called the Rufus Roo, which has massive pockets which can even hold a laptop computer!!! As well as many other items. At only £30, I will be buying it and using it on my next filming job in Spain in 2 week’s time. http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B005GP1QWU/thebookstore019

Essential accessories for film and photo

There is a lot of gear out there for photographers and film-makers, which is either very expensive or totally useless. In this post I will list the equipment which I have found to be very useful and good value.

1. Variable ND filter

ND filters are pretty much essential for controlling the light levels, if you want to use a specific shutter speed and f-stop (this is especially true for digital video cameras, such as the Red Epic). So the choice is, do you buy several ND filters of different strengths or a single Variable ND filter?

If you know in advance what your requirements will be, then it may work out cheaper to buy 1 or 2 individual ND filters. However after much research, I decided to buy the Heliopan Vario ND filter. It is not exactly cheap (£180 was the cheapest I found it) but having used it a lot recently, I can vouch for how good it is optically, and just how easy it makes filming.

On the Red Epic, I will have a set shutter speed (typically 1/50 second), I will set my f-stop for the depth of field I want, then I just dial in the exact amount of ND for a perfect exposure. Simple.

2. Remote flash trigger

I highly recommend the Yongnuo RF-603c wireless flash trigger for the Canon (they do a similar model for Nikons and other cameras).

The range of these is amazing. On a recent test, they were still triggering the flash, when I was several hundred metres away. They cost me £20 for 2 (you need 1 on the camera, and 1 for each flash you want to trigger).

3. Portable LED video light

Once again, I went for a product by Yongnuo. The YN-160 LED video light. It cost £40 and is one of the brightest units around. Great for fill light or interviews.