Sunday, 7 February 2016

Latest work, the Sony A6000 and the fantastic looking predecessor.

Good day people of the internet, the last few months have been a bit manic as i've been away a lot working and haven't had time to update this as much as i'd want. However I have a nice quiet Sunday, catching up on accounts, so I thought i'd write a bit of an update on latest work, particularly with my lovely little Sony A6000

I've been away on various shoots the last few months in London and Venice and shot almost exclusively with my Canon C100 so when i'm home and working on smaller shoots or personal projects I like to break out the A6000 and be a little more discreet.

I love the images this camera can produce with video and the stills are unbelievable as well. I've used it lately for 2 small projects. One for a friend of mine Alicia and her little boy and another for another friend and aspiring model, Emi. Video stills and links below, check them out after my mini 4K rant below.



So, a lot of people are now going down the 4K route and as its insanely cheap nowadays to do so why the hell not! I currently don't own a 4K camera and to be perfectly honest I don't absolutely NEED one, however!

Sony have just announced the new A6300 which is the update to my gorgeous A6000 and from the specs, this looks fantastic! Of course, I'm never going to fully judge a camera based on specs but I will be pre-ordering one as soon as I can (UK pricing has yet to be released) The autofocus tracking looks to have been overhauled and will be so useful for me in the kind of work I do. 4K in camera, SLOG3 and 120fps in full HD. And if it also takes the kind of stills the original

So that's the rant for today. I'll be updating again soon with a bit of info on some very close friends of mine who also happen to be a client. How I work in a documentary style situation and hopefully very soon my initial thoughts on the A6300 when I get my hands on one.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Working with the Sony A6000

It's always a little while in between blogs and i'm really trying hard to change that. I've learnt so much from reading blogs from guys like Philip Bloom, Nino Leitner and co in the last few years its such a valuable resource for information, trying things out and critical feedback on your work and meeting like minded film makers can only be a good thing. It's amazing now, we have the technology to put our work on show and share information so freely and I love being involved in back to the original statement. I will blog more!

The point of this post though is to discuss a camera I think I may love more than any i've used before, the Sony A6000. At the time of posting Sony are going a bit mad.....Sony A7S, A7 Mrk2, RX10, RX1000iv. Internal 4k, slow-mo, low light beats, incredibly quality all under £2000, some under £1000 (dollers if your not British) however the A6000 is something of an enigma. I think for stills, its beyond doubt it's amazing, the autofocus is insane and the quality is great at 24mega pixels. It has so much going for it, i'm not going to bother reviewing, thats been done a lot but I do think when it comes to video it gets overlooked slightly. Maybe because it's so small its not taken on professional shoots as frequently as more likely because theres a fair of amount of other small cameras out there competing with it.

I use a Canon C100 as my main camera, I whack a Ninja Star on there (the Atomos recorder, not the deadly throwing weapon) and its basically a C300, minus the EVF. Way round that is to stick a Z-Finder on the front and voila....a near perfect ENG camera. I love it. However I ALWAYS bring my A6000 with me. I use it so much its untrue. I can usually record 20minutes or so before I get a the overheat warning (yes its small and just like many DSLR's it overheats) but generally I don't use it in a multi cam situation where I know i'm going to be recording for a long period of time, thats just not what its for. As a 2nd camera on an interview or a small hideaway camera when shooting stealthily though, its awesome. The image is so....lovely.

Sony recently released new firmware which enabled the camera to record XAVC-S which at 50mbs is double the bit rate of the original AVCHD flavour in the camera. I updated a few weeks ago but haven't had chance to test it out until recently. ]

Luckily we've had a bit of a heat wave in England lately and last weekend their was an american car show on a few miles away from where I live in Manchester. I decided to take the A6000 down, eat burgers and wear a stetson.....

Shot entirely with the A6000 with no rig or tripod. I meant to bring my monopod but somehow I completely forgot to stick in the car DUUUUUHHH! Anyway, because the lens I used was a Sigma 24-105 with Optical Stabilisation it wasn't a massive issue. This is canon mount lens that I fit to the camera using a pretty cheap adaptor from Viltrox. Its an active adaptor and has electronic contacts so I can control the aperture from the camera, even the auto focus works! albeit slower than a native E mount lens which is what the Sony takes.

I shot this using the Neautral picture profile at -3 all the way, sharpness, saturation and contrast to get the image as flat as possible. I also shot using the dynamic range optimisation on the camera at +5.

Graded using the awesome LUTS by James Miller, these work so well even for footage that's already for a baked in look in camera. The A6000 doesn't have s-log like the A7S but the luts pack you can buy include a series of 'make log' luts in various different strengths. These really helped the image a lot when grading and gave me that extra bit of room to work with. Of course the extra bit rate with the XAVC also helped.

'Make log' lut added

Graded with the DE LUTS pack and Lumetri in Premiere Pro CC

As long as you get the exposure right in camera then you can tweak away in post. I found I could push the image quite far before it started falling apart. I can definitely do more now than with the AVCHD compression before.

Go check out the LUTS here they are fantastic and i've used them on both my A6000 and C100 footage. Whether you've shot in s-log/s-log or some other flat picture profile it doesn't matter, you can do amazing things with these, highly recommend!

On a final note, i'm using the 2015 edition of Premiere Pro CC and i'm loving it. The integration of the Lightroom style sliders and really simple colour workflow using Lumetri is working a treat for me. It's really quick and really as simple as you want it to be.

The final video is online at:

Bottom line, the A6000 is such a great little camera and I can literally take it anywhere and even with a hefty lens on I can still look inconspicuous and be stealthy if needs be. I have the RX100IV on order which will be my first 4k camera that also does insane slow motion....I am a bit excited.

Till later.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Driving Blind [UPDATED 18-5-2015!!!]

UPDATE - I've just completed a new film for Speed of Sight. Here we had use of  GoPro Hero 4+ which we've attached to the car and got some nice POV shots. Link to the new video at the bottom.

So, since the start of the year business has picked up dramatically. It's really encouraging for me after a few baron months since leaving full time employment. I'd like to think that this blog would serve as a bit of a helping hand to anybody working freelance in this industry and who's also currently working full time somewhere else. I did both for several years and it's tough.....really tough. The thing is though, I felt for a long time I could comfortably handle 2 jobs and I did. I was working for a major TV post production company and around producers and editors all day which taught me a lot. I got a decent wage from there that I could live happily on while slowly building up my own camera and sound arsenal and doing freelance jobs on the side.

Inevitably though, this couldn't last. I was prepared for it though and when I finally did give it up I was as ready as I could be for the world of freelance, which is a world of insecurity, at least at first. I'd been encouraged for a long time by my family and girlfriend to quit and follow my dream. I'm very grateful to them for pushing me and still supporting me and it looks like their trust is actually paying off.

So, personal stuff out the way that I wanted to talk about this fine fella here Mike Newman.

Mike is a 6 time Guinness World Record holder as the fastest blind man on the planet, on land or water. Mike founded a company called Speed Of Sight. They offer track days to visually impaired and disabled people allowing them to enjoy the excitement and thrill of driving around a race track. A few days ago, I got to shoot with them on a track with one of their sponsors Topcon, a huge manufacturer of optical equipment for ophthalmology and surveying.

The idea of the day is to offer people the chance to of experiencing not only driving a race car at stupid speeds round a track but to do that blindfolded. That way they really get a sense of what its like to have no sight. The instructor George took everybody round the track first sighted, they each did 3 or 4 laps to get a feel for the car and what it could do. Then afterwards they were blindfolded and set off again, this time relying on George to guide them round with just his voice. Crazy...

The car is basically a Caterham with a few adaptations, most notably dual steering and pedals.

My old but still very capably Sony EX1 in action. We shot all the interviews on this and attached a Rode NTG3. They performed amazingly.
My old but still very capably Sony EX1 in action. We shot all the interviews on this and attached a Rode NTG3. They performed amazingly.

In terms of gear, I used the Sony EX1, old but still a quality camera. When I do break it out, it performs brilliantly. It got drenched as well and kept on truckin'

B cameras were a 600D and my awesome little Sony A6000 which again, coped brilliantly in the weather.

On the interviews we used my Rode NTG3 which as most of you probably know is insanely good. Even with the rain and the noise from the car it did so well with the interviews, props go to my sound man and second shooter on the day Liam (he's the one in the picture at the bottom next to me with his name on his shirt, in case anyone wants to hire him)

A lot of people will read this and think, oh, a Sony EX1, thats proper old mate! and a A6000? Good camera but really! YES! Both performed amazingly given it was pouring with rain almost all day however the main reason we went down was to capture the interviews and that meant good sound. This is essential to everything and it annoys me greatly that people forget about it. Instead they but a blackmagic or a GH4 thinking, ohoooo filmic! Its pointless it looking great though if nobody can hear whats going on. Obviously for a narrative film you'll probably be recording sound separately anyway, hopefully you'll have the crew for that but here we had 2 people for the entire day for essentially a doc shoot. I could have used my Roland R26 recorder yes but why? It just means an additional bit of kit to hold or mount somewhere and when I have perfectly good XLR inputs on my EX1 it seems silly. I did bring it with me as backup but I didn't use it.

Because of how the day ran we were only able to get one run in the car ourselves to get footage and unfortunately at that point we were almost out of fuel and the car was struggling. It had been round the track probably 100 times that day though!

End of the day, standard group shot (minus John who was taking the pic, sorry mate).

Me on the left doing my thing with my trusty EX1. Soon to be replaced with a C100. Crap quality pic, its just a still taken from footage. This is from the second shoot at Three Sisters Racetrack in Wigan (Northern England) home of really, their famous for their pies.

Link to the videos: Cobham Three Sisters

You should definetly check these guys out because their a seriously good charity offering something so different and it really is an amazing experience.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Sony A6000. Cheap but very cheerful.

So, alone in the house, surfing ebay for some decent vintage lenses and what do I come across? The new Sony A6000 for a decent price. Well this was after reading several glowing reviews of this camera and honestly, I couldn't really resist it. Like most major purchases online, you almost regret it immediately afterwards, you start debating if that was a good idea and how the hell your going to eat for the next few months. Even more so when it comes to cameras as around 430 million new models have come out since the start of the year. They all do basically the same thing and we all know how bogged down people get in the specs, I do it, you do it, we are all sick and probably need some sort of AA meeting where we all sit down and discuss our feelings. As far as I know there isn't a support group for people who have an addiction to cameras and gear, so deal with it and move on. 

I'm lucky in a way because I do not make millions. I cannot afford that new Arri Amira, Sony F55, F5, and as nice as the Blackmagic Ursa looks, the screen! why! Point is, while I would love to earn millions making films, shooting music videos and docs, I don't and if I did, all i'd do is obsess over which cameras I used on what shoot. I think it would get waring. One day I will have to deal with it i'm sure but for now, I like the majority of people out there am not rich, I am also not Philip Bloom, Bruce Logan, Roger Deakins or Vincent Laforet and I cannot always get the gear I drool over. So! whats a guy to do. Ok, i've learnt many many valuable lessons in my time in this industry but when it comes to cameras.

- Stop obsessing!
- Buy what you can afford
- Buy the best camera for YOU and what YOU shoot

I shoot music and I shoot people. I don't generally sit on a hill shooting a 4 hour timelapse of a sunset. Of course I have but its not generally what I got into this to do. I also do photography. Not much professionally but I love doing it and that it above all the main reason I do everything I do. So it makes sense to shoot with something you enjoy. I realise i'm 3 paragraphs in and I haven't said anything about the A6000 so....I love it.
There's a ton of info online already, (not much footage though). Here's a quick run down:

- Low light is excellent for photo and video.
- Autofocus is epic.
- The video quality is just superb. Its so so nice, lovely. Like really really lovely.
- Its small and easy to use. 

Audio wise there is a problem No adjustable settings at all however for me, I record everything externally anyway and as long as I have half decent reference audio I haven't had a problem. Ok it would be nice to have adjustable meters, shooting a full band for example when its just to loud off the camera it does make it more difficult to sync but i've coped. Low light though makes up for everything. Its just great. I've had it on 1600 and while noisy, its fine filmic like grain and with a bit of noise reduction in Neat Video or Magic Bullet its absolutely fine. With a Metabones Speed Booster on it'l be even better, thats next on my list along with a decent zoom. For now I just have a £20 adaptor that fits all my nice canon mount glass on there.  My already adapted Contax Zeiss 50mm and I also have a Helios 44M (55mm) and Helios 135mm. 

Couple of shots below from the upcoming film i've done with the A6000. All graded.

So far I love the camera, its small and very powerful and while not the strongest codec in the world it does grade pretty well if your aware of its limitations.

My A6000 will be up in the next few weeks, i'm slowly gathering footage whenever I can. Lots of tricky situations, very very bright sunlight (in Manchester as well!) some much darker locations, gigs etc... as well so hopefully it'l be a pretty good representation of how the camera can perform.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Vintage lenses for a vintage look. New Years resolution filming.

Gotta Find Me A Place In The Sun…..

Well its not quite 2014 yet but I reckoned if your actually going to make a new years resolution and stick to it, its best starting early. I have a few….eat healthy, do more exercise, the usual. However both of those are fairly generic and boring and frankly as much as I say il stick to it……will not pan out as well I want. Hey, maybe il start climbing the stairs in my office every day instead…I am a bit nervous in lifts after all.

The one new years resolution I fully intend on sticking to however is to go shoot more. I just don't have the time these days to do as much id like and honestly, its stupid because filming is my life, its what puts a smile on my face (as does a good burrito) and I'm as guilty as most for not making enough time to do the things I love. 

So with that in mind, yesterday I dragged my woman out to town to do a bit of filming. I have a shoot coming up soon with an actress friend of ours and I'm working on some ideas for the film. So Lily and I decided to go out and do a few test shots.

It was…..cold. Manchester in late December, good one Jonny. For the most part tho it was fairly sunny, and there was some quality light around, especially over the river late afternoon.

I wanted to test a few new lenses out as well. Both vintage Helios lenses. A 135mm 2.8 and the awesome 44m. Swirly bokeh-rific! I got them from Ebay for around £25 each! and bough a few cheap adaptors to put them on my 550d. Yes, I'm still on a 550d! I love it and right now I can't justify the money for a 5d, not even a mk2. Both Blackmagic cameras as appealing but honestly right now…..with the huge extra investment id need to make in lenses, rigs, batteries etc….I just can't go that route. Its a cliche but its the quality of the operator and the story thats important, not the camera you shoot with.

Helios 135mm 2.8 and Helios 44m (58mm f2)

I love both of these lenses! The 135mm is so neutral and flat it doesn't look incredible on the camera screen but its really nice to grade. The bokeh is really nice as well. Not the sharpest lens in the world but for £25, you can't really go wrong. I also wanted to test out a vintage (although slightly contrast-ier) look, and vintage lenses seemed like a good start. It was nice being able to stand further away from my subject as well, not having to be in someones face is great. I didn't really direct at all but in the case where I do, being far back and letting an actor go do their thing is going to produce much better results. It allows them to forget about the camera, be in the moment and just act. The only downside is the shake at such a long focal length. This is a long lens on a crop sensor and it really does wobble. I had my small rig with me which helped but without any stability mode on the lens it does need a tripod. That said, I was able to smooth some shots out and get some useable shakier shots. This was only for fun after all!

Enough rambling….I have dinner on. Here's a few screen shots and the finished film at the end. More posts soon! Promise.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Beyond The Beach - Short Film

A few days ago, me and 2 mates decided to go for a day trip to the beach and shoot a short film. It's pretty weird and somewhat 'experimental' but its come together so much better than I thought it might. We have an amazing knack for setting out to do something and ending up, just messing about and having a drink instead haha.

So....we took 3 beers ONLY! and set about shooting whats turned out to be a really impressive little piece in my view. No additional equipment, stabilisation, extra lenses etc... just my friends, a Canon 550D and a 50mm lens. It really is amazing what you can get out of cheap cameras these days. It never fails to astound me....and im not easily astounded. In fact I very rarely use the word 'astounded'

The film follows a man trapped on a beach (possibly inside his own mind) we dont have to work that one out for yourself. I've never been a huge fan of simplistic films, Ok im a sucker for Toy Story but films in general need to ask questions, I made a decision a long time ago that I would never make a film I didn't want people to take something important from. Films are about making you think, making you feel and should leave you with questions....spoon feeding an audience is my opinion is boring.

This all sounds like a sort of get out clause for this film being slightly....odd. Well it is odd and it does require a little thought and a little imagination. But I love it.

Big thanks to Dave and John for a top day out and to the co-writer Shawn for helping me come up with the idea at 2am the night before.

Click the link and enjoy!!

Beyond The Beach

Thursday, 31 May 2012

LIS From the River to Suburbia - Grading

Thought I'd post some screen shots of the grading i've been doing on the film i'm working on at the moment. Its for a very good friend of my girlfriends, her names Alicia (or Lis) and she's an actress. As you can see she's quite pretty and looks awesome on camera. The idea behind the film is fairly simple, 1 girl, a cloak and 2 vastly different locations. One, a peaceful, calm and serene river side and the other, a run down, inner city wasteland.

I've been doing a lot of test grades for this, trying out a few different looks, first shot I went for had some glare from the sun coming through the tree. It washed out some of the colour and contrast of the shot and actually really helped create a vintage look. I decided this was the way to go with this film, for the river section anyway.

Few different looks here, but hey, i'm testing stuff out....I love them all. This may take a while

Let me know what you think....

Thanks guys