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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Hybrid Photographer

Essential gear and tips to capture knockout stills and video

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Hoodman HoodLoupe
LOUPES/MAGNIFIERS/HOODS
At the top of the equipment list is a loupe like those made by Hoodman and Zacuto. These are put over the camera's LCD screen, blocking out extraneous light and allowing the camera operator to finely tune focus. When pressed against the face, it also gives a sturdy point of stabilization.


Redrock Micro
STABILIZING RIGS, FLUID HEADS AND FOLLOW-FOCUS
To further aid in the capture of smooth and tack-sharp shots, companies such as Cotton Carrier, Redrock Micro and Zacuto are producing stabilization and focusing systems. For Steadicam-looking shots, the Jaybilizer HDSLR is an affordable camera stabilizer that's optimized for cameras weighing between two and four pounds. At the high end is the Glidecam X-10, a body-mounted, professional camera-stabilization system. Small dolly systems such as the Kessler Pocket Dolly and the Cinevate Atlas FLT have been designed for the HDSLR market and can add high production values to a project for a relatively low cost.

When I'm not handholding a shot or using a dolly system, I mount my camera on a Manfrotto 128LP Micro Fluid Video Head on a carbon-fiber tripod for ultrasmooth pans (moving horizontally) and tilts (moving vertically). Ballheads can be an effective option, but care must be taken not to strip the head.


Singh-Ray Vari-ND
ND FILTERS
Unlike still photographers, cinematographers don't have the option of going to faster and faster shutter speeds to reduce the exposure, allowing for wide apertures, which yield a more cinematic look because of the resulting shallow depth of field. When shooting at 24 fps, a 1⁄50 sec. shutter is considered normal. Shooting anything faster than 1⁄125 sec. increases the chances of strobing effects. Therefore, it's important to have neutral-density filters. For all-in-one, high-quality ND filters, the Singh-Ray Vari-ND can yield up to eight stops of light blockage, and the Schneider Optics 77mm True-Match Vari-ND offers 11 stops of attenuation.


Schneider Optics 77mm True-Match Vari-ND
LENSES
Because cinema lenses have larger turning radiuses and ultrasmooth focusing mechanisms—which is especially useful for follow-focus and rack-focus situations—some cinematographers are mounting ARRI, Panavision and Zeiss lenses to their HDSLR camera bodies. Of these, Zeiss is the most practical for a photographer like me who works on his own and doesn't have a focus puller.

Regardless of the lens attached, I always use one that has a maximum aperture of at least ƒ/2.8 and is a nonvariable zoom (a lens that can retain its widest aperture regardless of its focal length). This allows me to get a shallow depth of field out of a given lens and therefore a more cinematic look.


Litepanels Croma
LED/CONTINUOUS LIGHTS
The biggest difference between still photography and cinematic lighting is that strobes aren't an option for the latter. As with still photography, the brightest element in a frame attracts the eye. Since we can't overpower the brightness using strobes as we can shooting stills, silks and scrims—or waiting for the right time of day—play a bigger role in the moving-picture world.

A number of companies have produced small LED lights that are perfect for HDSLR shooting. They come with a ball and socket that can screw into the camera's flash hot-shoe, as well as color temperature gels and diffusion. For exact color temperature balance, the Litepanels Croma has a dial to adjust Kelvin color temperatures between daylight (5600K) and tungsten (3200K). Proper color balance is one of the keys to producing professional-looking video. For example, when shooting outdoors in the late afternoon, a light source still at the midday color temperature will make the scene look artificial.

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