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Tag Archives: continuous lighting

With the continued increase in popularity of motion capture, more and more photographic lighting companies are expanding their lines and offering continuous lighting products.  Profoto is one of a handful of respected lighting manufacturers known for their flash units to not only offer a line of tungsten continuous lights, but also HMI lights as well.  Continuous lighting tools are not new for Profoto, as they marketed both a HMI and a tungsten unit, several years ago:  But the new products, the ProDaylight 800 Air and the ProTungsten Air, are not a simple retooling, but represent a major rethinking and development.  For the photographer who is shooting both stills and motion, particularly in a studio location or on a set, these lights expand the possibilities of modifying continuous light with the broad range of Profoto light shapers that they have been using with flash; both units are compatible with Profoto’s zoom reflector system, which gives one the ability customize the light shaping effect. 

To read the entire entry, click here!

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Recently, I came across two interesting products while at Foto Care (41 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10010) that caught my eye:  The 12 inch and the 18 inch Daylight-balanced fluorescent Ring Lights from Stellar Lighting Systems
   To read the entire article click here.

Not surprisingly, as more and more people embrace shooting stills and motion with HDSLRs, the interest in lighting products grows at a record pace. And many are discovering—and singing the praises of—LED lighting. While many HDSLR users’ initial exposure to LED lighting is often with the small units which can be seated in the camera hot shoe, those lighting applications are merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of applications for still and motion work. LED lighting, which is short for Light Emitting Diode, has become a staple in the film and broadcasting industry.  I approached A.J.  Wedding of ESS, the worldwide distributor of LEDZ products, to talk about the LED market and their unique product range.

Q: What’s fueling the growth of LED usage for stills and motion?

AW:  There are several factors influencing the growth we are seeing:  As companies increase their online advertising, there is a demand for more multi-media collateral.  Advertisers now have an increasing need for motion.  Right now, many shoots are being done as hybrids…half still photos, half video footage.  And you can’t shoot both at the same time with flash.  The only continuous lights that have been powerful enough to match flash have been HMIs.  As more powerful LED products have become available, they have become viable competitive lighting alternatives for many imaging professionals. While LEDZ lights can currently only take the place of low-end HMIs, this is still an amazing feat.  And the technology continues to develop.

There is also the Green factor:  With the whole world going green, everyone wants to find smarter and more efficient energy solutions, and this trend has tremendous appeal in “Hollywood”. Any time you can create lights that are more energy efficient, create less heat, and still give off the true color spectrum needed for serious cinematography, it’s a no brainer.

Then there are the cost considerations: The upfront cost of the more powerful LED units like our Brute 30 unit tends to cause sticker-shock, but you really have to compare it to all of the costs associated with an equivalent HMI.  Our LEDZ lighting units and their diodes are guaranteed for 40,000 hours of usage; for the same life that our lights are guaranteed for, you will pay $55,000 for new globes for an equivalent HMI product. The savings to a rental house which on average spends $250,000 on globes per year…well, you can do the math. This translates into immediate and long term cost savings. 

 

Q:  What distinguishes the LEDZ line from some of the other LED options in the market?

 AW: LEDZ is definitely a very different type of light from other LED lights.  That is why we compare our products with HMIs, rather than other LED brands.  Most LED brands are very good at offering a nice, soft fill that is great at a distance of three to four feet.  That is not our world.  Our engineers have created a unique product that has the kind of throw and punch equal to the more powerful tungsten alternatives and HMI lighting in the 100 to 400 watt range.  LEDs offer inherently soft light, and getting them to fire long distances is quite a challenge, but we have created that punch and in doing so have distinguished ourselves from other LED product on the market.

Q: Tell us about the LEDZ line.

 AW: The LEDZ Line consists of:  The  Mini Par (a compact light with three interchangeable lenses for spot and flood settings);  the Brute 3 (an amazingly powerful light that can fit in small spaces, be used as a reporter light, or any 1/4″ 20 mount); the Brute 9 (a “sun-gun” alternative which can be fitted with a handle, or used as a soft fill on a stand); the Brute 16 (our workhorse, equivalent to a 200 watt HMI or 1k tungsten source); and the Brute 30 (equivalent to a 400 watt HMI or nearly a 2k tungsten source.)  All of our products are fully dimmable.

Q:  What power options are available?

 AW:  Currently, all of our lighting units come with AC/DC power.  With the exception of the Brute 16, all of our units are 12V compatible, so they can be plugged into many commercially available battery units.  We are, however, in the process of manufacturing a universal battery system that should be available later this year.

Q:  Are LEDZ products only for the “professional” market?

AW: LEDZ lights are distributed by Hollywood Rentals, and in order to cater to our main customers, we had to make sure that the lights we created were durable, powerful, and could withstand the scrutiny of Hollywood’s top cinematographers and gaffers.   Does this mean that non-professionals can’t use them?  No.  Anyone who wants a high quality light for any reason, be it a Web series, home video, or whatever you shoot should consider LEDZ lights. In terms of our product price range, The Brute 3 retails for $450, while the top of the line Brute 30 retails for $4900. 

 Q:  Where can people who are interested in LEDZ products buy them?

 AW:  The best place to go is www.led-z.com, and you can find your nearest dealer.  If you can’t find someone near you, you can contact Manny Barreras at ESS.  His info is on the Website.

Thanks to A.J. Wedding and Manny Barreras of ESS.

I do want to make final point and this is a general observation about the use of smaller LED lighting units. While LEDZ does not offer lights with a hot shoe mount, their smaller lighting units can be used on-camera with third party adapters. While many people are inclined to mount smaller LED lights on their cameras, unless you are using your camera for “ENG” (electronic news gathering) type applications which have very specific lighting objectives, I recommend that you move those units off-camera, and mount them to a stand or on a handle.  “On-camera” continuous lighting, like “on-camera” flash, although usually less powerful, is still direct light and is more often than not, less flattering than other alternatives.

Disclosure: No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration.

Mention beauty dishes choices around a group of photographers– working or enthusiast– and invariably Mola Softlights will play a prominent role in the discussion.  One of the reasons that the Mola brand may be synonymous with beauty dishes is that they are the sole product the company manufactures.  Unlike most manufacturers who offer the “familiar” 16-22 inch product, Mola offers four sizes, from the 22” Demi to the 43.5” Mantti.  The unique stepped or undulated interior that is a signature of the Mola line makes their products easily identifiable.  Mola has expanded the current interior finish options beyond “white” to include silver finishes.  While there are lots of things to like about Mola products, one of the most attractive features is that Mola products can be adapted, via speed rings, to accommodate many different brands of strobes, and continuous lighting products.  If you change your lighting brand, and own a Mola product, all you have to do is change the mount. 

Mola founder Walter Melrose notes that each of the Mola offerings shapes the light in a unique way before it hits the subject, because they were each developed with a different use in mind.  “The 33.5 inch Euro was actually the first product we developed.  I designed it with versatility in mind:  It is a well-rounded, no pun intended reflector that can be used for beauty, fashion and product work; the Mantti on the other hand was designed to simulate window light.  The Demi is a smaller version of the Euro.”

Based on size and price and a well-established beauty dish market, I suspect that the 22” Demi is among, if not the most popular Mola product.  As a user of the Demi and the larger Setti, the Mola dishes have never disappointed.  While the interior of many beauty dishes including the Molas is characterized as being “white”, the interior finish of the Mola is a “softer white” than my Profoto beauty dish and the texture gives it a “pearl-like” appearance.  While the light wraps the subject in typical beauty dish style, I have always felt that the Mola stepped surface resulted in a larger surface area and increased the efficiency of the light.  The resulting light is slightly warmer, and in my opinion, it subtly enhances most skin tones.  I say “in my opinion,” because with lighting as with so many things there is always an element of subjectivity.  Some one is bound to be wondering how the Demi compares to the Profoto dish.  I really can’t tell you because other than both being classified as beauty dishes, a comparison would be apples to oranges.  The differences in size (22” verses  20”  or so in diameter) interior finish, and surface area are all going to impact optimal placement, amount of light and fall-off.

The 28” Setti is deeper than the Demi and more parabolic.  It produces a more focused light with greater contrast and more rapid fall-off.  While the Setti can be used close-in, in a similar manner as a traditional beauty dish, it is large enough to be used for full body applications.  If there is a downside to the larger Mola products, it is the fact that they do not collapse for transport.  You just have to be sure you factor that into your considerations when going on location.

Melrose also points out that while the silver finished dishes appear to be new, that Mola offered dishes with silver interior finishes 20 years ago. “The harder light was not as popular as the softer light, and we stopped offering the silver interior for a while.  We brought silver interiors back simply because the market asked for it.”  What sets the silver dishes apart from their white counterparts is a cooler light (color temperature wise) and a light with both greater directionality and contrast. 

So what’s new from Mola as we move into 2010?  Melrose says that they are now offering polycarbonate flex grids for the Demi and the Setti, which will give users another option for light control.  For the location photographer who uses, small flash heads from Lumedyne or Quantum, speedlights, and/or heads that do not generate a lot of heat as a result of modeling lights, an ABS version of the Demi is on the way.

As far as the Mola mystique is concerned, the products are analogous to the perfect storm:  that combination of shape, color, size, and interior finish that result in some amazing lighting.

For more information on the Mola line visit them on line by clicking here.

To see Mola products in use, visit their blog at: http://blog.mola-light.com/

Disclosure:  No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has  any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration. 

I nearly started this entry with a few comments about the absence of some companies from the Expo this year and the scaled back presence of others.  I stopped because I realized that this is not the story I wanted to tell.  I will leave that to others:  The real story is about who is there and the products and events that made me pause to find out more.  I call them the “Floor Stoppers!”

 

My first “Floor Stopper” is courtesy of Sony and photographer Matthew Jordan-Smith.  Smith, who shoots with the A900, presented “Finding Your Inspiration.”  It is an informative, visually stunning, and inspiring discussion which addresses an issue that many photographers deal with at some point in the pursuit of our craft.  It is a presentation that should not  be missed!

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 The next floor stopper is courtesy of Hensel USA.  The AC Adapter for the Porty Lithium 6 and 12 packs has arrived.  The availability of the adapter makes the Hensel Lithium a one-stop studio and location tool.  Price TBA.porty-L-ac-1

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Another “Floor Stopper” is a new product from Cameron Products called the SteadePod.  The SteadePod attaches to the camera tripod socket  It is essentially a retractable steel cable that uses a locking mechanism and foot pad in concert with the tension created by holding the camera to stabilize it.  It will undoubtedly remind many of a tape measure.  It fits in a pocket or camera bag, and could be of value in situations where you need support, but cannot use a monopod or tripod.  It’s priced under $30.00steadepod

Massachusetts-based LensPro to go and its sister company, Studioshare.org are my next Floor Stoppers.  Lens pro to go rents Canon and Nikon cameras, lenses, flashes and other camera accessories and will ship them to you anywhere in the United States.  This is a wonderful service for people who are traveling or people who live in areas which are not served by rental houses.Studioshare.org is an on-line collaborative resource which allows members of the photographic community to connect for services, equipment and/or studio space.

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So those are a few of the products, events or services that caught my eye today.  I’ll admit, they are different from what I imagined would catch my eye this morning as I was getting myself organized to leave, but perhaps is a reflection of where we are; or heck, maybe it is an indication that I am less of a “gear-head” than I thought!

My Photo Plus Expo day 2 Floor Stoppers are hdslr related, so they have been posted in a new Blog dedicated to the ever increasing number of motion capable cameras.  Click here to visit H(d)SLRs in Motion!

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This morning I got a chance to sit down with H.W. Briese, the founder of Briese Lichttechnik and Gerd Bayer who oversees their New York operation, Briese-NY.  As part of his stateside trip, Mr. Briese is here showcasing their full line of continuous light and flash products today-10/21, until 10pm and tomorrow-10/22, from 10am-6pm, at Jack Studios (601 West 26 street, NY, NY 10001- between 11th and 12th Aves.)  The studio is perfect for showcasing the line of focusable parabolics,  strip boxes , ballasts and packs that Briese is known for.  I must admit I was overwhelmed as I walked between the two rooms; it is rare that light modifiers themselves are as captivating to look at as their output. 

Among the new products Mr Briese is showcasing here in New York are the Focus 96 and 150 parabolics and the remote controlled, Focus Help which allows for changing and/or fine tuning the lamp position, without having to lower the Focus manually for adjustment and then reposition it.

Mr Briese describes the Briese lights as “efficient.”  He maintains that the special quality of the light is the result of its components; from the u shaped flash tube to the movable lamp to the shape of the modifiers themselves.  He also reinforced my belief that the key to understanding and unleashing the power of the Briese light is learning how to adjust the position of the light within the Focus as well as adjusting the power of the pack. For some photographers this may represent a paradigm shift, as many of us look at adjusting power as the sole means to control the light once in the modifier:  With the Briese system, the movement of the flash head within the modifier is fundamental and as important as adjusting the power.

Mr Briese also made me realize how versatile the Focus range can be:  you have a light source that can go from a spot to a flood and cover a lot of ground in-between.  Usually when people are talking about parabolics and particularly the larger ones, they talk of the brilliance and wrap of the light.  In moving the lamp within the Focus (the amount of movement you have varies according to the size of the Focus product you are using) you can indeed change the light characteristic and falloff.

 

Unlike many companies that specialize in either flash products or continuous lighting products, Briese does both.  According to Mr Briese, they have been manufacturing HMI products since 1985, and added tungsten to their product line a few years ago. With the bases covered from “3250k to 5500k to flash,” Briese feels that his company is well positioned to navigate and serve the converging stills and motion markets.

If you are in New York   and want to get a first hand look at Briese products, the event at Jack Studios is open to the public.

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single-standing-revWhile I have several light stands of different heights, the stands I most commonly use when traveling and on location are eight-foot stands.  The promise of less bulk has tremendous appeal to me and most location photographers, so with that in mind I ordered a pair of Manfrotto 306B Stacker Stands from the Calumet Photographic store in New York.  When I picked the stands up, I  responded positively to the narrow rectangular boxes which affirm  how streamline these stands are.  In fact, my response was so positive that the fact that the three-section Stacker Stands were taller closed than my “generic” brand four-section, eight-foot stands went unnoticed.  In my defense, I had been using a 13-foot stand for testing for several weeks, so that impacted my frame of reference.

The 306Bs are well made; I did not, however, find them substantially better or worse in build to my other stands.    What struck me when I set the stands up was that they were occupying more floor space than I recall my “generic” brand 8 foot stands requiring.  The footprint diameter of the 306Bs is 42.5 inches versus 36 inches for my generic brand eight-foot stands.   Closed, my generic stands were a relatively “compact” 26 inches versus 34.3 inches for the closed 306Bs.  So the Stacker Stands require more floor space, and in terms of packing, a longer bag than my generic eight-foot stands.  This is not surprising given that the 306Bs have 3 sections  versus my “generic” stands which have 4 sections.  Additionally, each 306B weighs nearly a half pound more than each of my generic eight-foot stands.  Now, one might expect me to conclude that there is no real advantage to the Manfrotto 306B stands in terms of closed lenght, weight and footprint when compared to my generic eight-foot stands.  It is not quite that cut and dry.  

For the traveling photographer concerned with bulk and containment and/or the location shooter, the Manfrotto 306Bs offer tremendous advantages.  They can be clipped together and the irregularity in shape and cumbersomeness of transporting conventionally configured light stands is substantially reduced or eliminated.  A shoulder strap can be attached to the collapsed stands offering a great hands free carrying option.  If storage space in the studio, home or even in the car trunk is a premium, you will definitely see an advantage with or benefit from having multiple Manfrotto Stacker Stands.  According to Bogen Imaging, which distributes Manfrotto products here in the USA, seven Stacker Stands requires the same space as four traditional light stands. 

 If you are buying a single stand, you may not see or appreciate the utility of the Stacker system; but if you need or intend to buy multiple stands, the 306Bs or the other Manfrotto Stacker Stands may be worthy of consideration.  The 306Bs can be purchased individually or in three stand “kits.”  All in all, I found the 306Bs an elegant and efficient solution to a concern or problem that many photographers face. Thumbs up to Manfrotto! 

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It’s been nearly a year since the first wave of “motion capture” enabled dslrs which I have been referring to hslrs or hdcds were announced. So after my eight months of using the Nikon D90 and the Canon 5D MarkII, I decided to revisit the concept of stills and motion. 

Needless to say the reaction to the convergence of still and motion capture was mixed and depending on whom you talk to or which Internet forum you read, remains mixed.  Some hardcore photographers expressed the sentiment that motion capture in a still camera is a gimmick.  Some videographers pointed out limitations that make hslrs suboptimal for capturing motion.  Some people adopted a wait and see attitude; yet others have embraced the possibilities with enthusiasm.  There are also those who were or are indifferent, as motion capture may be one more feature among many they will not use.  The discussions on the convergence of stills and motion  reminds me of the discussions several years back when Olympus first “lifted the mirror” facilitating live-view in a dslr or when the monotone capture option which was a feature on point-and-shoots, made its way to dslrs; or even further back to some of the passionate debate on digital capture versus. film.  There appears to be a direct correlation between time and acceptance or in some cases perhaps resignation.

Prior to the inclusion of motion capture in dslrs, photographers depended on the high frame-rate per second capability of their cameras to chronicle action. This eliminated many cameras from consideration for action shooters.  The inclusion of motion capabilities in still cameras opens up new possibilities for action shooters, and may make cameras, that otherwise would have not been considered for action shooting, contenders.

One thing is for certain:  Whether you are talking about the hslrs from Canon and Nikon, hdcds like the Panasonic Lumix GH1 or the Red DMSCs, a convergence of dual capture in a single package is not just coming, it is here.  I don’t really understand why the discussion for some comes down to one or the other.  Point-and-shoot cameras have had this capability for years and I don’t remember this ever being discussed in the same manner.  But then they were not capable of producing the quality of video we are seeing in the current crop of motion capable still cameras. 

My own stills/motion “ah ha” moment, came not because I woke up and realized there were three monitors on my desk, or because I found myself rotflmao courtesy of a YouTube video or watching a product promo on a manufacturer’s web-site, but rather while walking between locations in Central Park last August during a wedding shoot.  I wasn’t thinking about recording a blockbuster, only capturing a few moments of motion that were visually arresting.  I thought my clients would have appreciated such footage, and would have wanted to share it with their friends and family as they had been doing with their still images on Flickr for quite some time. The great irony here is that I usually do not shoot weddings.  That was about a week before the Nikon D90 announcement was made.  My only experience with motion capture up to that point had been relegated to my cell phone camera.

Since the arrival of the  Nikon D90 and the  Canon 5D MarkII, video camera accessory makers from Zacuto and Redrock Micro to independent image makers like Bruce Dorn have developed products to enhance the “still to  motion” capture experience.  There are a growing number of products targeting hslr users with items ranging from focus follow and sliders, to mounting rigs and screen enhancers, some reasonably priced and some extremely expensive.  The effort to produce accessories at every price point suggests that still and video convergence is a growing segment of the imaging industry and that there will be a demand for tools to exploit the combined capability by amateurs, enthusiasts, and working image makers.  The fact that many products have lengthy waiting lists or are back-ordered, suggests that the manufacturers simply cannot keep up with demand.  Perhaps, those embracing motion are not as vocal  on Internet forums as those who do not.  And perhaps the term “silent majority” is being re-defined.

The number of camera model specific sites which provide information on motion capture or celebrate the capability is growing and is both surprising and impressive.  Additionally, there are plenty of people posting samples and instructions on-line of their DYI accessories for motion capture.  You might argue about whether a still camera with motion can be used to record a box office hit, but clearly they are very capable for many of the Web-based multimedia and monitor/television-viewed applications that are growing in popularity and becoming a more important part of the entertainment and knowledge acquisition processes. 

The area that there has been surprisingly slow to respond to the convergence of motion and stills is lighting, and this remains one of the biggest areas of concern and challenge for photographers.  While the camera makers continue to provide either built in and/or supplemental flash solutions, none market a continuous lighting option as part of the available accessories.  Additionally some of the more popular names in flash photography continue to release new studio and location powered flash units, but have been silent with respect to continuous lighting products.  Between small flashes, small video light solutions, studio flashes and larger continuous lighting sources, the prospects of having four different brands and solutions is mind-numbing, and potentially expensive.

Perhaps no individual early on had a greater impact on getting dslr users to consider the potential of motion capabilities than Vincent Laforet.  Laforet’s self-produced and self-financed short “Reverie” which was shot with a Canon 5d MarkII and has become the centerpiece of the camera’s print marketing campaign, generated a tremendous amount of interest and activity.  In less than four weeks after Canon announced the camera and nearly two months before the camera hit the stores, Laforet and his blog became a “real-time experience” resource for many.  Over a 10 day period, between late September and early October 2008, “Reverie” was reported to have been viewed over 1.5 million times.

With recent firmware changes which have given users greater manual control over the 5D MarkII, along with stir caused by “Reverie,” I cannot help but wonder if Canon was even remotely aware of the possibilities that people would see for the motion enabled dslr beyond the “quick grab.”  I am sure this has caught the attention of the other camera manufacturers as well.  It is just a matter of time before HD motion capture becomes as common as auto focus in every dslr. 

One of the arguments that I hear often with respect to still vs. motion capture is that they are such different disciplines.  But in the stills arena, I could make the case that shooting weddings and shooting landscapes are different disciplines; or in the motion arena that shooting shorts and shooting full length features are also different disciplines.  There are some substantial differences in stills and motion work, and I don’t want to minimize them – sound, lighting and processing are three of the more obvious ones.  But in purely visual terms, I think that the response to how different they are, may be “it depends.”  It really does depend on one’s frame of reference.  A photographer who is used to shooting against gray paper or muslin backdrops with posed subjects, may find the transition from stills to motion a different experience from a photographer who works from story boards, on sets or in rooms and locations, where the environment is key and the lighting considerations and needs are different; and/or from the photographer who actively directs his or her subjects; or the photo-journalist.  It should be noted that photographers have been moving between stills and motion for quite some time.  Three photographers who come immediately to mind who made the transition are Stanley Kubrick, Gordon Parks and Herb Ritt. 

I asked New York based photographer Mike Kobal, who has embraced the motion capabilities of the first generation of hslrs/hdcds in a big way, to describe the differences he finds between capturing stills and motion.  Mike says that “Shooting stills is a subtractive process:  I choose the moment to press the button and hopefully capture the essence of what I want to say and what I saw; whereas shooting video is more of an additive process, anticipating the flow of things and editing to complete the story.”  Mike has been shooting with the Nikon d90 and Canon 5DMarkII, and recently began working with the Panasonic Lumix GH1. 

While some photographers may continue to debate still vs. motion or motion vs. still and often with great passion, there are three things that are not debatable: 

  1. We live in a multi-media age
  2. The Web continues to evolve and grow; and
  3. There is a there is a demand for content.

The people who are looking for content don’t care what camera is used:  They just want to see the end product.  You do not need a $50,000 camera or for that matter even a $1,000 camera to shoot content.  But hopefully better tools will lead to better visual quality.

Without getting emotional, let’s look at a few facts related to the U.S.A:

 

  • In April 2009, nearly 79% of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
  • The average online video viewer watched nearly 6.4 hours of video.
  • Over 107 million viewers watched 6.8 billion videos on YouTube.com which equates to almost 64 videos per viewer.
  • 49 million viewers watched 387 million videos on MySpace.com which equates to nearly 8 videos per viewer.
  • The duration of the average online video was 3.5 minutes.

Source: comScore Inc.

 The growth in the video trend is not just an American phenomenon:

  • The total number of videos viewed online in the U.K. in April 2009 grew to 4.7 billion videos, a 47%increase over the same period in 2008.
  • Google sites were the most popular U.K. online video property in April 2009.  2.4 billion Videos were viewed, which represents a 58% increase over the same period in 2008.
  • YouTube accounted for 99% of all videos viewed on the Google sites.

Source:  comScore Inc.

Sites such as Flickr (Yahoo), SmugMug, and Photobucket (Fox Interactive Media) that were built around the business of photo sharing offer video sharing options to their members:  Stills and motion, side by side.  Now at this point at least one reader is thinking that a lot of those 5 billion or so videos that were watched are mediocre; but then so are a lot of television shows and movies, not to mention many of the still images that end up on stock sites or are posted on the Web.  But there are also plenty of gems out there.  It is up to the viewers to choose the wheat or the chaff.

How we image makers define ourselves may have a lot to do with whether and how we embrace the convergence of stills and motion or motion and stills. Even though technology has marched on, we may be saddled with legacy baggage from the film days.  Call yourself a photographer and you may be confining yourself to one camp; call yourself a videographer and you may be confining yourself to a different camp.  Consider yourself something else like an image maker, or a “stil-mo-tographer,”  be open to trying and doing new things, and you may just find that it frees you from the perceived constraints of one discipline versus the other, gives you an advantage and/or opens up new avenues or perhaps keeps you competitive.

I just realized something:  As a child the one thing I never did was go to camp. 

 Glossary:

Hslrs – hybrid single lens reflex cameras

Hdcds – hybrid digital capture devices

DMSC – digital motion and still camera – the Red designation

Rotflmao – you can Google this one!

Note:  The hyperlinks that appear throughout this article and site have been included with the consent of the respective product and site owners.  Their company names and their respective products names are in many cases registered trademarks /service marks and are the property of the company.  I thank them for allowing us to link to their content.  This site has no affiliation with any product manufacturer or retailer and its owner receives no consideration, financial or otherwise, from any company or retailer.  The entries and images on this site are copyrighted and should not be reproduced with out permission.

I often look at equipment with an eye on whether it will allow me to accomplish a task more efficiently:  More efficiently for me usually translates to mean easier to carry and easier to set up, as most of my work is on location.  So it was with great interest, and I’ll admit a healthy dose of skepticism, that I went to the Calumet Photographic Store on West 22nd Street here in New York, to spend some quality time with their Portable On-Site Background System (PBS).  I say skepticism because I have tried collapsible 8′ muslin systems, as well as the more traditional crossbar type background support systems and have yet to find one that has impressed me enough for consistent use. In fact one of my more embarrassing photo shoot  related stories centers around the difficulty I had trying to get a collapsible background back in the bag.

 

When I arrived at Calumet, I was greeted by Ron Herard.  Ron handed me the bag which housed the Calumet system and we headed upstairs to their second floor gallery space.  While Calumet lists the kit as weighing 12 pounds, it did not feel that heavy.  When we got upstairs Ron asked me if I would time how long it takes him to get the system out of the bag and up for use.  One of his colleagues doubted it could be done in less than five minutes.  Well for the doubting Thomas, it took Ron a grand total of 2 minutes and 40 seconds.  I watched in absolute amazement:  An adjustable stand, a central cylinder in which you insert 4 flexible rods with round ends, 4 flexible extension rods, an 8×8 sheet of muslin which fits on the “arrow” tips of the extension rods, and you are good to go!  It is simple and intuitive.  It took me 3 minutes and 12 seconds to take the PBS out of the bag and erect it.  Not bad for a first timer!  I was able to dismantle the frame as quickly as I erected it.

Also surprising to me was the fact that the system does not require any additional clearance beyond 8 feet to erect.  Unlike the traditional cross bar support systems which require additional space on each side to accommodate the footprint of each stand, the Calumet PBS does not.  This is one elegant and efficient solution.  The muslin sheets have pockets on each corner which fit securely on the rod arrow heads.  The pockets are well reinforced.  Additionally the tautness of the fabric and frame interface, acts to stretch the fabric:  This resulted in a substantial number of wrinkles and creases in the folded sheet that was used either being reduced significantly or eliminated.  If you are getting a sense that I like this system, it is because I do. 

 

One of the downsides to this system is that you may not want to use this system against a window or with a light source  directly behind it as the stretched muslin is thin enough that the x frame may be seen.  Others may find the lack of availability of a floor apron as a drawback.  But all in all I found the system superior to the other alternatives I have tried and yet competitively priced.

I thanked Ron and Store Manager John Dessereau as I left, but not before placing an order for my very own.

For more information on the Calumet PBS, click on the blue highlighted text in this entry.

the mighty light!!Ask most people about on-camera lighting options for their dslr, and the default response is usually a dedicated flash unit.  And certainly the ttl capabilities of these units make them a natural.  But over the last six months I have been exploring alternative on camera lighting options and have found myself genuinely excited over the new generation of LED continuous lighting options.  They are small, don’t give off much heat, and what you see, is what you get.  They also don’t give that obvious “flash” look image that can result with speedlights .

 

With the arrival of the Nikon d90 and the Canon 5d Mark II, both of which have hi def video capability, continuous supplemental light sources are going to grow in popularity as they can be used for both still and video capture. While there are several manufacturers who have led lighting available.  I have been using the Litepanels Micro units.  I found my units at the Calumet Photographic Store, here in NYC, but they are available at other major photo retailers as well.

 

What I like about the Litepanels Micro specifically, are the following:

  • They are daylight balanced( about 5600k)
  • They can be mounted in the hot shoe or off camera. They are a little over 3”x3”x1.5” in size and weigh about a quarter of a pound.
  • No power tap compatibility issues.
  • They are fully dimmable and flicker free!  You can dial in your desired fill easily.
  • There is an integrated filter holder and you get a tungsten conversion gel, as well as warming and diffusion gels in the kit.
  • The run time using lithium batteries is about 7 hours.
  • They can be run off ac with an optional adapter.
  • They allow for quick location shooting without drawing the kind of attention that flash use often does.

While Litepanels doesn’t indicate the power rating, I suspect that at full power the micro is equivalent to about 25-30 watts. The 3”x3” panel configuration results in a pretty wide beam coverage area, and can impact scene illumination up to 10 to 12 or so, feet away.

 

If you are interested in continuous lighting options, such as LEDs for your still or hybrid (still and video capable) camera, make sure the unit is fully dimmable.  You definitely want this level of control.  Some products offer it while others do not.  Try to buy a unit that has gels/filters available.  If you do not buy one with gels, you should fashion them on your own.

For still and video work, the latest LED products are definitely worth exploring.  As LEDS go, I have been extremely pleased with the performance of the Litepanels Micros.

Here are a few samples of images taken where one or two Litepanels Micro units:

Outdoors:

jian

Two Litepanels Micros were mounted on a dual light head cross bar and oriented vertically to the right of the camera. A silver reflector was used camera left for additional fill.

Indoors:

Micro placed above camera and angled down towards model

A single Micro was placed above the camera and angled down towards model. The balance of the illumination in the scene is provided by one shaded lamp, camera left.