Previously, I wrote about the need to understand the final delivery requirements for your project. Getting deliverable specifications early allows you to make sure your workflow and final finishing will produce the best results when your project is finally delivered. As an example, I wrote about doing the finishing on a project that was completed Read more...
When I wrote about “running through the tape” and explained how I make sure to deliver a properly finished project, I briefly mentioned deliverables. I spoke of the deliverables matching the client’s deliverable specifications. If this past year is any indicator, the topic of deliverable specs needs to be more than a quick aside. Although Read more...
The Godox VL300 is a powerful COB LED and comes with a full array of accessories and features. In 2020, my company’s production work was significantly slower than it was in 2019, mostly due to COVID-19. However, luckily, I landed a real, crewed, multi-camera production shot on a stage for Focusrite, a UK-based audio company. Read more...
Recently, Amazon had a major outage with its Amazon Web Services (AWS) system. Thousands of companies were affected for hours. The problem showcased which companies had their own infrastructure and which were simply cloud-based. What surprised me was the lack of a plan when things go wrong. Certainly, that starts with Amazon, but it also Read more...
Choosing the best lavalier microphones for any given situation can be a daunting task, especially if you aren’t a professional sound mixer or audio engineer. One of the most practical microphones to consider is the humble lavalier, which is used in so many scenarios that one could say lavs are for anyone who needs to Read more...
As editing software companies add tools to accommodate the plethora of aspect ratios editors are faced with these days, I can’t help but wonder about the results. Social media platforms have a dizzying array of ratios. And we’ve all probably seen the results when one aspect ratio is crammed into another. I understand why the Read more...
I recently wrote about some of the challenges in the finishing process given how many of us work remotely now. While processes may have changed, I still keep in mind a quote I heard that’s used in track and field: “Run through the tape!” You might have seen videos showing a lead runner slowing down Read more...
2020 was an unprecedented year for video professionals both in terms of the disruption to our industry and the technology available to us. The new production tools introduced this year have been unexpectedly groundbreaking, and we’re excited to highlight what we think are the most interesting and helpful tools for video and filmmakers. We’re going Read more...
I’ve managed to stay afloat in 2020 by shooting and livestreaming a variety of new types of work that I’ve never produced. This is a still from a live stream for WE Spark, A Children’s Cancer Charity hosted by comic Alonzo Bodden. When you hear the phrase “Staying afloat,” what does that mean to you Read more...
Are you on the lookout for interesting texture to build into your backgrounds? For some of you, this will be old news. For others though, the thought of using texture in your backgrounds is a new one. Let’s talk about the challenges introduced by creating interesting backgrounds for your interviews and narrative scenes—really any kind Read more...
In my last post, I talked about my process for exporting trimmed clips to send to color that’s handled elsewhere. I explained the need for trimmed files because of challenges with file sizes. Once I get the footage files trimmed and exported, there are a few more steps I take. Because I like to make Read more...
I recently wrote a post on HDVideoPro’s blog in which I divided professional livestreaming into four tiers. For me, this exercise is an effective way to examine not only what livestreaming is but also who the clients are for this service and what kind of gear, skills and creativity you need to succeed at that Read more...
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Last time I talked about today’s challenges when sending footage for grading. While drives can still be shipped, more and more projects require me to send files electronically. Because files are getting bigger and bigger, sending full-length clips isn’t practical. Sending trimmed files is becoming essential. When you work with trimmed files, it’s important that Read more...
These days, I’ve worked with remote colorists to get projects finished. For various reasons, the workflow has gotten a little more complicated. In the past, it was easy to send a drive with footage to a colorist via messenger or courier. I’d send either the selected original footage clips with an XML or all the Read more...
I recently wrote about using live streaming to edit remotely. I talked all about setting up the process, testing what worked and didn’t work. But there’s one thing that I didn’t mention, and that was the politics of the web call. Since I had been doing low-latency live streaming for clients, I was asked to Read more...
While wrapping up my posts on editing in the current environment, I wanted to talk about what the experience has been on the client-side. I previously mentioned that I stream the output from my suite to the clients with very minimal delay from my room to the client’s screen. The client “attends” in a web Read more...
These days, in-person supervised edit sessions are few and far between. While I do a fair amount of edit and post, edit and post, there are times when clients need to interact live during the edit process. I previously wrote about setting up low latency (minimal delay) streaming to clients’ locations for edit sessions. I Read more...
Is wireless transmission an obstacle or an effective tool for video and sound professionals? Why the Rant On Wireless Transmission? While I’m not going to say that this blog entry is an attack on wireless, though it may seem so from the title of it, I’ll state that in my experience, especially over the past Read more...
Audio Design Desk is a groundbreaking, sophisticated tool that changes the paradigm about how to perform sound design quickly. As many filmmakers and content creators know, sound design is a very significant aspect of how engaging your content is to your audience. But right now, in 2020, the pandemic and its negative effects on the Read more...
Last time, I started to write about live streaming my edit sessions. Over time, I developed a process that achieves a low latency (delay) of about two seconds or less. I send a stream to a content delivery network (CDN) that allows me to embed a low latency, high-resolution stream in a web page. That Read more...
Last time, I wrote that I’m still able to do rare sessions with clients on-site. The keyword is ”rare.” Almost all of the time, I’m on my own. Sometimes work is accomplished by posting; then following up via email, phone calls or web conferences to discuss changes; then rinse and repeat. But as I mentioned Read more...
In my career as an editor, I’ve seen many changes. First, it was tape-based, now it’s all file-based. We went from interlace to progressive (although interlace just doesn’t seem to go away). And then we moved from SD to HD to 4K and soon 8K. While change can certainly be challenging, I’ve really enjoyed those Read more...
This image was captured with Fujifilm’s X-Pro3 mirrorless camera, a camera that emphasizes the process of shooting photographs. 2020 has been a challenging year for the camera industry and the photography world, to say the least, particularly as the effects from the coronavirus pandemic continue to be felt in so many parts of the world Read more...
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I lit actress Lauren Graham using clamshell lighting for this Netflix promo spot. While it wasn’t exactly a beauty spot, I utilized beauty lighting to make Lauren look her best, since this was for a big announcement about her new series. Interviews are one of the most common threads that unite video shooters and cinematographers, Read more...
The new Sony a7C small and compact full-frame mirrorless camera with the new FE 28-60mm F4-5.6 zoom lens Today, Sony introduced three digital imaging products: The Sony a7C full-frame mirrorless camera, which the company says is its smallest and lightest full-frame mirrorless camera body to date, nearly as small as the a6600, which has an Read more...
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Fujifilm’s new Fujinon XF50mm F1.0 R WR prime lens Earlier this month, Fujifilm unveiled a very exciting new lens: Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF50mm F1.0 R WR lens. According to Fujifilm’s Victor Ha, senior director of marketing and product management for the manufacturer, “Not only is it the fastest interchangeable lens Fujifilm has ever produced, but it’s Read more...
The post Fujifilm’s Fastest Interchangeable Lens: The New Fujinon XF50mm F1.0 appeared first on HD Video Pro.
I got a chuckle out of an online discussion about Adobe changing their icons again. While the complaints were well argued, it seemed like a molehill compared to the mountain I see regarding Creative Cloud. Creative Cloud feels like a consortium of different companies rather than a symbiotic ecosystem.
Since the Creative Cloud workflow suggested by Adobe enables you to switch in and out of various applications to get work done, I’d hope that many aspects of the environment would be similar. I don’t expect the interfaces to be identical. It makes sense that they’d be different because you don’t usually use a timeline in Photoshop, and Premiere Pro doesn’t edit photos. But there are things that seem as though they should be consistent across applications.
Take a look at the color picker in Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere Pro.
Notice the differences in the three color pickers? I realize that Photoshop is going to have a few more options since it deals with CMYK, etc., but why is the color sample eye dropper in different positions? Why does Photoshop label “new” and “current” colors and the other two do not? And apparently you only need to worry about web colors in Premiere Pro and Photoshop. Of course, I could accept all those differences if there were color swatches in After Effects and Premiere Pro, as there are in Photoshop.
A similar situation is happening with type.
The After Effects and Photoshop type controls seem to have a pretty similar assortment of tools. The similarity ends there. Even the layout between font and font style are different. The differences become more dramatic when you compare After Effects and Premiere Pro.
I realize the tools are very different. (I’d like them to be the same but that’s a whole other issue.) The Premiere Pro toolset includes paragraph settings that are in a separate panel in After Effects.
However, for those controls that are similar, the layout really feels so different that I almost think I’m working in some other brand’s application. I’m not sure why the type size is a scroll bar in one window and a scrollable value with pull down in another. One is labeled with px and the other isn’t. The various adjustments for kerning, leading, etc., are also quite different from one application to the next.
Now I know some of my layout issues might not be easy to change because of the various controls in each tool. But take a look at something as simple as where you can go to adjust keyboard shortcuts.
When I refer to keyboard shortcuts, I don’t mean the interface for creating and modifying keyboard layouts. I only refer to where you need to go to get to that setting. In After Effects, it’s under the Edit menu; in Premiere Pro, it’s in the Premiere Pro menu. Make sense? (And the keyboard shortcut to get to the keyboard shortcut is slightly different.)
Even within a single application, there’s inconsistency. For example, in Premiere Pro, sometimes I use the Reveal function to find the location of a clip on my workstation.
When I right click on a clip in a timeline and look for “Reveal in Finder…” it’s near the top of the pop-up menu. But when I search for the same function while right clicking on a clip in a bin, it’s almost at the bottom of the pop-up menu. Same application, same function, different location.
I realize that for most people these differences aren’t that important. Maybe my observations seem like some of the rants about the icon changes. And I also realize that the individual applications have a long history with lots of users and that changing the location or arrangement of tools can be a huge deal. But it can be frustrating to switch between the various applications and know that some changes to these little things could make Creative Cloud more of a “collective” than just a collected group of applications.
The new Panasonic Lumix S5 full-frame mirrorless camera with the 20-60mm zoom lens
It’s been an exciting few months for full-frame mirrorless camera news, with introductions from Sony, Canon, Nikon and others. Today, Panasonic joins the pack with an introduction of its own with the introduction of the Panasonic Lumix S5 full-frame hybrid mirrorless camera. The new camera will be available later this month, in two configurations, selling for $1,999 for the body only and $2,299 for a kit that includes a 20-60mm lens. The new model is targeted at aspiring pro photographers and videographers.
Panasonic has had a strong presence in producing powerful hybrid mirrorless cameras, particularly those that used Mirco Four Thirds sensors, like the Lumix GH5, a model that shoots both excellent still photos and videos. That power has been built into the full-frame mirrorless S-series cameras, launched in the spring of 2019. However, some photographers and videographers complained the three models in the Lumix S-series line—the S1, S1R and S1H—were on the heavy side. The lightest, the S1R, is still more than 2 lbs. Panasonic’s answer to this has been the new S5, which is just a little over 1.5 lbs. In fact, The S5 is more compact and lighter than even the Lumix GH5.
The new Panasonic Lumix S5 full-frame hybrid mirrorless camera may be a more compact and lightweight S-series Lumix camera, but it’s packed with features. Here’s some of the most notable features mentioned in the announcement:
Panasonic also pointed out that the new model incorporates the “heat-dissipating structure” they developed for both the GH5 and S1H.
You can learn more on the new camera by checking out the field review video from our partner website, Imaging Resource. For additional information, see the press release below.
[[ press release ]]
Newark, NJ – (September 2, 2020) Panasonic is delighted to announce the new LUMIX S5, a new hybrid full-frame mirrorless camera that achieves both excellent performance in photo/video and stunning mobility for serious photographers and videographers.
At the heart of the camera, the LUMIX S5 contains a 24.2-megapixel 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor that boasts a wide dynamic range and high sensitivity performance. The LUMIX S5 further realizes recording maximum ISO 51,200 crystal-clear high sensitivity video with the adoption of the Dual Native ISO technology.
As a pioneer of photo/video hybrid mirrorless cameras, LUMIX has the largest lineup of cameras that record 4K 10-bit video*1. As the latest member of the family, the LUMIX S5 is capable of 4K 60p/50p4:2:0 10-bit, and 4K 30p/25p 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording. It is also capable of 4K 60p/50p 4:2:2 10-bit HDMI output. For 4K 30p 4:2:0 8-bit internal recording, there is no time limit. Panasonic’s exceptional heat dispersion technology delivers stable, long-time video recording. The LUMIX S5 provides 14+ stops of dynamic range, which is as wide as those of cinema cameras, and V-Log / V-Gamut compatibility with popular colorimetry called “VariCam Look.” A variety of recording formats and modes including 4:3 Anamorphic mode, Slow & Quick Motion, 4K/60p interval shooting and 4K HDR are also provided.
The LUMIX S5 boasts high-speed, high-precision AF (Auto Focus) in both photo shooting and video recording that are made possible with advanced deep-learning technology featuring real-time detection of the subject’s type and features such as human eye, face, head and body.
Combining the Body I.S. (5-axis) in the camera and the O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer, 2-axis) in the LUMIX S Series lens, the 5-axis Dual I.S.2 prevents blurred images with the use of a 6.5-stop*2 slower shutter speed. The splash/dust-resistant rugged design provides professional photographers with high reliability.
To enhance the photographic experience, the 96-megapixel High Resolution Mode (JPEG/RAW), Live View Composite function and HLG Photo mode are available.
Thanks to the high energy efficiency and a new 2,200mAh high-capacity battery, it can capture approximately 470 pictures (using the LVF) / 1,500 pictures (in Power Save LVF mode). Power and charging are possible via the USB-C port. Double SD Card slot (UHS-IIx1 and UHS-I x1), 5GHz/2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity are also supported. The LUMIX S Series full-frame mirrorless camera system adopts the L-Mount system to provide users with a diverse and future-proof range of products from Panasonic, Leica Camera and Sigma. Panasonic now offers four innovative models in the LUMIX S Series of full-frame Digital Single Lens Mirrorless cameras – the S1R, the S1, the S1H, and the new S5. The LUMIX S1R is ideal for taking high-resolution images, the LUMIX S1 is an advanced hybrid camera for high-quality photos and videos, and the LUMIX S1H is designed and developed specifically for film production. The LUMIX S5 packs the essence of these conventional S Series cameras in a compact, lightweight body. With this lineup, Panasonic is committed to meeting the demands of all creators by challenging the constant evolution of the photo/video culture in today’s new digital era.
The LUMIX S5 contains a 24.2-megapixel 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor (35.6 mm x 23.8mm). The LUMIX S5 boasts a wide dynamic range and reproduces sharp images with exceptional clarity. Noise is minimized even when shot at maximum ISO 51,200 high sensitivity. It is an ideal camera to use especially in low-light situations.
The LUMIX S5 features Dual Native ISO sensitivity, the technology that was first introduced in the Panasonic professional cinema camera VariCam line-up. Normally, noise increases as sensitivity rises with a single native ISO image sensor. However, the image sensor with Dual Native ISO in the S5 minimizes noise generation by choosing an optimal circuit to use according to the sensitivity before gain processing. As a result, it allows a maximum ISO 51,200 high sensitivity recording. Dual Native ISO gives film creators a greater variety of artistic choices as well as the ability to use less light on the set, saving time. The LUMIX S5’s Dual Native ISOs are 640 and 4000*1
Taking full advantage of its high-resolution sensor, the LUMIX S5 provides a High Resolution mode that faithfully reproduces precise details to be saved as beautiful, highly realistic images not only RAW but also in JPEG. Eight consecutive images are automatically shot while shifting the sensor using the Body I.S. (Image Stabilizer) mechanism and synthesized into a 96-megapixel equivalent (12,000 x 8,000-pixel) image by the Venus Engine, which boasts high-speed signal processing. This high-resolution photo is ideal for landscape photography of stationary subjects or artwork with delicate details using a tripod. However, it can also be used in situations where moving subjects are included in the scene, by switching the sub mode.
The LUMIX S5 integrates the Body I.S. (Image Stabilizer) for powerful handshake correction. Panasonic developed an algorithm that precisely calculates shaky movements sensed by the gyro sensor, image sensor and accelerometer sensor. This enables more accurate shake detection and compensation, making it possible to use a 5-stop slower shutter speed*2. Combining the Body I.S. (5-axis) in the camera and the O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer, 2-axis) in the LUMIX S Series lens, the 5-axis Dual I.S. 2 the correction power is maximized to allow 6.5-stop slower shutter speed*3. It is highly beneficial in telephoto shots and in adverse situations, such as in low-light or with one-handed shooting. The 5-axis Dual I.S. 2 works for both photo and video recording, including 4K. The Body I.S. compensates for camera movement even when other L-Mount lenses without O.I.S. are used.
With the new Live View Composite function, the camera releases the shutter at designated intervals of exposure time and synthesizes the parts with high luminosity to produce a single picture. While the total brightness of each consecutive image is accumulated in bulb shooting, only the target subject, the bright parts of an image, are detected and the user can synthesize them carefully while seeing it in live view. This is useful for capturing shots of fireworks or stars in the night sky where the background needs no gain-increase.
As a pioneer of photo/video hybrid mirrorless cameras, LUMIX has the largest lineup*1 of cameras that record 4K 10-bit video. As the latest member of the family, the LUMIX S5 is capable of 4K 60p 4:2:0 10-bit, and 4K 30p 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording up to 30 minutes. It is also capable of 4K 60p4:2:2 10-bit HDMI output. For 4K 30p 4:2:0 8-bit internal recording, there is no time limit. It will comply with RAW video output to ATOMOS NINJA V over HDMI as well as C4K video recording with the future firmware update (which will be detailed in Chapter 6).
Dynamic range measures the luminance range that a digital camera can capture. The LUMIX S5 delivers 14+ stops of Dynamic Range, which are virtually the same as those of the Panasonic cinema cameras, to precisely reproduce everything from dark to bright areas. The ability to capture accurate colors and rich skin tones is a must for any filmmaker. The LUMIX S5 imports the renowned colorimetry of the VariCam lineup of cinema cameras. The LUMIX S5 contains V-Log/V-Gamut capture to deliver a high dynamic range and broad colors. V-Log renders a very flat image while maintaining all of the color information within the image. This means that there is a greater level of play when the images are put through post-production processes. The CMOS sensor of the LUMIX S5 achieves a wide color gamut known as V-Gamut, which is the S5’s optimum color space and achieves a color space that is wider than BT.2020. V-Log has log curve characteristics that are somewhat reminiscent of negative film and V-Gamut delivers a color space even larger than film. 35 conversion LUTs for VariCam cinema cameras can be downloaded free of charge for use in the LUMIX S5. It is easy to match the color tone with the footage recorded in V-Log of S1H/S1 and V-Log L of GH5/GH5S. Practical tools like a Waveform Monitor and V-Log View Assist are also available.
With Slow & Quick mode, impressive video slow and quick motion video in 4K(1-60fps, 30x quick to 2.5x slow) or in FHD (1-180fps, 60x quick to 7.5x slow) is available. It is possible to use AF*2 to capture the subject in sharp focus in this mode, too. It can also be accessed directly using the mode dial.
The HDR (High Dynamic Range) video recording in 4K is also available, which reproduces both the bright parts and dark parts of an image, making it appear as if seen in person. The camera records video with a designated gamma curve compatible with ITU-R BT.2100, and the user can now choose Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) in Photo Style. The HLG*3 Photo mode provides a wider dynamic range to reproduce light and shadow with more natural contrast. The HLG Photos can also be produced as an HSP file*4 with compressed high-brightness signals in its full resolution (5,888 x 3,312, in 16:9) in addition to JPEG/RAW files. The user can playback these vibrant images on the latest Panasonic HLG-compliant 4KTV via HDMI cable connection or other HLG-compliant devices.
For more continuous burst shooting, 6K PHOTO*5 makes it possible to capture unmissable moments at 30 fps by extracting the frame with the best timing out of a 6K burst file (in 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio) to save as an approximate 18-megapixel equivalent high-resolution photo.
The LUMIX S5 boasts high-speed, high-precision AF in both photo shooting and video recording. Combining the Contrast AF with DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology, it focuses on the target in approximately 0.08 sec*1. As a camera that excels in low-light shooting, the LUMIX S5 boasts -6EV*2 luminance detection performance with Low Light AF thanks to the higher sensitivity and optimized tuning of the sensor. Allowing maximum 480 fps communication speed between the sensor and the lens, users can take full advantage of this high-speed, high-precision AF when LUMIX S Series lens is used.
The LUMIX S5 also incorporates an advanced deep learning technology that detects specific subjects like humans and fast-moving animals. Notably for humans, the head is separately recognized from the eye, face and body by real-time detection technology to provide even more precise focusing. The camera continually tracks an individual even if they move quickly, turn their back to the camera, tilt their head or move far away from the camera. On the other hand, improvements to the DFD technology has enhanced AFC, which also enables users to keep tracking small or fast-moving subjects to capture them in crisp focus.
The LUMIX S5 boasts outstanding mobility yet excels in basic performance and expandability. To withstand heavy field use, the LUMIX S5 is composed of a magnesium alloy full die-cast body and is splash/dust-resistant*1. With an optimum layout of heat dispersion components, heat is effectively transferred outside which results in stable, continuous video recording for a long time.
The LUMIX S5 has a large LVF (Live View Finder) with a high magnification ratio of approx. 0.74x. High-precision, high-speed OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) display features 2,360K-dot high resolution. Adoption of OLED for the LVF achieves high speed response with minimum time lag of less than 0.005 sec. With an eyepoint of approximately 20 mm, it offers high visibility with comfort for users wearing glasses.
A 3.0-inch free-angle LCD in 3:2 aspect with 1,840K-dot high resolution provides touch control. Composition during recording in various popular aspect ratios such as 16:9, 4:3, 1:1, 4:5, 5:4 and 9:16 can be checked with the Frame Marker function. The REC Frame Indicator identifies whether the camera is recording or not.
The LUMIX S5 has a double SD Memory Card slot. One slot complies with UHS-I and the other with the high-speed, high-capacity UHS-II (Video Class 90). The camera’s battery can be recharged either via AC or USB according to the user’s convenience.
Compatibility with Bluetooth 4.2 (called BLE: Bluetooth Low Energy) enables constant connection with a smartphone/tablet with minimum power consumption. The settings of a LUMIX S5 camera can also be copied and transmitted wirelessly to other S5 cameras when using multiple S5 cameras. Wi-Fi 5-GHz (IEEE802.11ac) *2 also is effective in addition to 2.4-GHz (IEEE802.11b/g/n.) This provides secure and stable connection on location for smooth remote control and high-speed data transfer.
A variety of accessories can be used for the LUMIX S5 to enhance its usability and convenience. Microphone Adaptor (DMW-XLR1) is a plug-in type adaptor for an XLR microphone to record high-quality stereo sound. It is ideal for lip-sync recording. Dedicated switches allow direct, quick control. MIC, LINE and CONDENSER MICROPHONES are switchable. Battery Grip (DMW-BGS5) allows approximately 940 pictures (using the LVF) / 3000 pictures (in Power Save LVF mode) with an extra battery inside the grip. More accessories such as Remote Shutter (DMW-RS2), DC coupler (DMW-DCC17), Tripod Grip (DMW-SHGR1) are available.
Application software LUMIX Tether enables tethered shooting via USB. Users can control the camera by connecting it to a PC via USB. It lets them view the image on a large PC screen while shooting. For live streaming, LUMIX Tether for Streaming (Beta) with LIVE VIEW mode can be used.
The LUMIX Sync application for iOS/Android devices enables photo transmission to a smartphone or a tablet via easy wireless connection. It also allows remote control of the camera using these devices.
To further enhance its performance, a firmware update is scheduled for the LUMIX S5 by the end of 2020. In addition to C4K video recording, it will support RAW video data output to ATOMOS NINJA V over HDMI at a resolution of 5.9K (5888×3312) 29.97p/25p, 4K(4128×2176) 59.94p/50p and Anamorphic 3.5K (3536×2656)/50p. A variety of video recording assist functions such as the Vector Scope Display, Master Pedestal Adjustment and SS/Gain Operation(SEC/ISO, ANGLE/ISO, SEC/dB) will also be available. L.MonochromeS and L.ClassicNeo are the new options to be added for Photo Style.
The Lumix S5 will be available at valued channel partners in mid-September for $1999.99 for the body only and $2299.99 with a 20-60 kit lens.
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When you travel and need to shoot on location, it’s helpful if you’ve assembled a capable yet streamlined travel audio recording toolkit.
For those outside the filmmaking business, video is often regarded as purely a visual medium, for obvious reasons. But those of us who actually create films understand the importance of audio in a project and how it can be as essential as the visual components of a production.
It’s why this Audio Assist column focuses on creating your own audio recording toolkit. And not just any audio toolkit, but one small enough and lightweight enough to take on the road with you.
It’s important to note that building any on-location travel audio recording toolkit will depend on the types of shoots you support. So, for instance, some of you might need to choose additional or different gear. I’ve attempted to make this toolkit compact, lightweight, affordable, capable and, most importantly, flexible, so that it might be used to record sound for a variety of projects, including narrative, documentary, corporate, event or reality television. Additionally, I wanted the kit to be able to work on its own or when it’s combined with other components.
Before we begin, some projects might not need an audio kit at all. In some cases, the audio features of your camera may be good enough. But you need to research which camera you’ll be using, since on-camera audio recording wildly varies when it comes to recording sound. Some are decent and usable, but many record audio with terrible sound quality.
For example, an inexpensive mirrorless hybrid, DSLR or prosumer type of video camcorder won’t generally produce great quality audio. Often, even if the camera has a mic input, it’s going to be a plastic, 3.5mm stereo input.
It’s also typical for these cameras to feature low-cost, low sound quality microphone pre-amps and, in many cases, especially in the sub-$1,000 range, the overall audio chain may be substandard, producing audio with tinny, limited dynamic range and a poor signal-to-noise ratio. The plastic inputs themselves often become loose or break with repeated use. Many low-cost cameras don’t even have a headphone jack to allow you to monitor what the camera is recording.
Interestingly, many higher-end cameras also have substandard audio but for different reasons: In high-end cameras, it’s assumed that every sound shoot will have a sound mixer, recording high-quality sound into an external recorder. Most high-end cameras have audio inputs simply for recording scratch audio, nothing more, so the audio circuitry typically isn’t great, either.
Ironically, I’ve found that mid-level cameras like the Sony PXW-FX7 Mark II, the Canon EOS C300 Mark II, Canon EOS C200 or Panasonic EVA1 often have better sound quality than more expensive, higher-end cameras (models that cost over $50,000).
It’s why even the most inexpensive audio recorders have superior sound to even the best-sounding camera. And the good news is that there are a lot of choices for audio recorders for location sound. Almost all of them have at least good sound, and the majority of them sound great, especially when compared to camera audio.
Since we are assembling a travel audio recording toolkit, we’re going to keep the priority on size and weight. No matter how you travel, the smaller the size and lighter the weight, the better.
We are also going to prioritize for just a small amount of microphone inputs; usually, three or four microphone inputs are adequate for a travel recorder, but not always. There are plenty of recorder/mixers on the market with 10 or more channel/inputs, but most of these units are physically larger and heavier than the smallest units on the market.
I’ve tested both of the recorder/mixers featured below. They’re both excellent choices for assembling a small, lightweight location sound recording toolkit, although each has its advantages and disadvantages. Research which features matter most to you: You get more channels and inputs on the Zoom, but the Sound Devices unit has 32-bit floating point audio recording, which allows you to dramatically recover or change audio levels after recording.
Your primary microphone in your kit will usually be one of two types of boom microphones: A shotgun microphone or a cardioid microphone.
For recording exteriors and outdoors, you’ll obtain the best results with a shotgun microphone, since it rejects more off-axis noise than most other microphone types. For reflective interior environments, a cardioid, hyper-cardioid or super-cardioid microphone will work best, since it will pick up fewer room reflections.
For travel, you’ll have a better experience using a shorter, smaller and lighter travel boompole, unless you specifically need to boom talent in a wider shot, which requires a longer boompole.
I recommend traveling with four to six 25-foot XLR cables, depending on how many microphones you plug into your recorder. Even if you are only using a boom and a lavalier for interviews, it’s smart to bring a couple of spare cables.
I’ve found buying shorter 10-foot to 15-foot cables can save a bit of weight in your travel kit, but the times I have traveled with only shorter cables, I have regretted not bringing longer cables. I also like to have four different colors so that you can assign one color to a boom and one to lavs, and you can easily tell them apart.
It’s always a good idea to have a subject double miked in case one microphone has a technical problem. In such cases, you have a backup. And lavalier mics are great for recording a second channel on talent.
One question you’ll need to ask yourself—do you need to bring wireless lavaliers? One thing to consider for your travel kit is this: If you can avoid wireless lavaliers, you will typically end up with better-quality sound if you can avoid using any wireless microphone systems.
If you are only shooting sit-down interviews or seated stationary talent in other shooting styles, use a hard-wired lavalier, not a wireless system.
But many types of shoots really require a wireless lavalier system. Walk and talks, talent moving through a scene, gimbal work with dialogue, and, of course, there are dozens of other scenarios where wireless lavaliers are necessary.
Wired Lavalier Systems: If you mostly shoot sit-down interviews with your travel kit, skip using a wireless lavalier system. You’ll save money, batteries, weight and bulk, too.
Here are three wireless options for lavalier microphones:
You’ll generally need an audio bag to use with your travel kit. It’s great to keep your mixer/recorder safe and secure while traveling or shooting. You’ll also keep your options for powering your recorder mixer and possibly powering wireless microphone receivers in the bag as well. Here are two bags to consider:
There are many audio accessories to fine-tune your travel audio recording toolkit to your specific needs.
One to consider is power options: If you have a location sound audio bag, either solution provided here gives you enough room to include an optional add-on battery or BDS (Battery Distribution System) to power every accessory and recorder in your bag.
Another accessory you might need is a Bluetooth or WiFi solution for wirelessly distributing your time code if you can’t run a BNC cable from the recorder to camera.
The components and options we’ve assembled here will result in a high-quality, pro-level travel audio toolkit that can be modified in countless ways to support larger shoots with more cameras, more microphones and more accessories. For example, you might introduce IFB systems to send your sound to the director wirelessly if the director isn’t you or you need to have clients or other crew monitor the sound as well.
What’s convenient is that the components I suggest for your kit are small and lightweight enough to fit into a camera bag or backpack, too, and offer you audio capabilities that just a few years ago would not have been available in such a small size and economical price.
I recently wrote about testing an SSD. As I opened the packaging and noticed the cables that came with it, I started thinking about all the different cables I’ve acquired over the years. While I always try to use the cables that come with equipment, for some reason I seem to end up with extras.
In the past, figuring out cables wasn’t much of an issue. USB and the various flavors of Firewire weren’t interchangeable—their connectors were obviously different. You instantly knew which cable you needed to use. Now, with various iterations of USB and Thunderbolt, it starts to get a little messy because the connectors appear identical.
Just to prove the point, I did some tests with a portable SSD drive.
The speed using one cable was even slower than some spinning disks. So, then I tried another cable I had lying around.
The difference is dramatic. With the right cable, I was able to get close to the maximum specification for the SSD’s read and write speeds. Even though I used high-performance storage, there was a significant speed difference.
I tried the same cable test using an SSD array. When the numbers get into four digits, you think you’re doing well.
The only thing I changed was the cable, but speeds increased for both read and write. I could go into a long explanation of what’s going wrong. That explanation would involve comparing various technologies, and it would probably include a rant about how the people naming USB connections keep making things harder.
Unfortunately, since cables aren’t always well marked (the two I used in this test had no markings to differentiate them), it might not provide guidance for all situations.
Instead, I recommend to always test your connections. Software to test drive speed is available, for free, from AJA and Blackmagic Design. Run the test with any new drive and cable combination, and make sure you get the speed you expect. Don’t assume that you’re getting the performance you expect, prove it.