Tag Archives: af101

On Set: “Champion” starring Lance Henriksen, Dora Madison Burge, and Cody Linley

Setting up a shot on the set of "Champion."
Yours truly setting up a shot on the set of “Champion.”

As some of you may already know, I started working on a new feature film called “Champion,” as Dir. of Photography/Cinematographer. It stars Dora Madison Burge (Friday Night Lights), Cody Linley (Hannah Montana), and… wait for it… Lance Henriksen (every awesome movie, ever). I’ll cut to the chase: I’m approaching 40, and had no idea who Dora or Cody were before they signed up for this film (but it turns out they’re awesome).  But Lance Henriksen?! How effing sweet is it that I get to have one of my all-time favorite actors in front of my lens? I never would have thought I’d get this opportunity. Strap in, because I’m going to gush about this for a while.

Bring me the hat of Lance Henriksen
Let’s start the bad-assery here: Me wearing Lance’s hat. Well… his prop hat. It counts.

Like many people who are about my age, I first saw Lance in James Cameron’s “The Terminator” and again in “Aliens” in 1986, as the android synthetic human called Bishop. We all know how bad-ass the knife scene in that film was, and so far, everyone on set has been able to keep their cool and not ask him to do it. No-one wants to be “that guy.” He really did do it, BTW, and he said that Bill Paxton didn’t know about it beforehand; Paxton’s surprised expression while Lance was stabbing the knife between his fingers was authentic.

Since “Aliens,” Lance has been one of my favorites. His roles are always just so cool. But what I really love about working with him is the fact that Lance Henriksen the man is simply a dream to work with. He’s incredibly nice, laid-back, professional, and his experience really adds to the production. All of us on the crew of “Champion” will be better filmmakers after working with him. During breaks on set, Lance can often be found “holding court” as the crew gathers around him to hear his stories.

AF100 cameras and Samurai recorders get tuned up on the set of "Champion".
AF100 cameras and Samurai recorders get tuned up on the set of “Champion”.

Now, on to the tech: We’re shooting “Champion” on two Panasonic AF100 cameras capturing footage to Atomos Samurai recorders. Day One was a test of our patience, however, when one of our Samurais kept spontaneously turning itself off. After a firmware update failed to fix the problem, it was determined by the Atomos LA office that it was a faulty unit. They overnighted a new one to us the next day. I call that some pretty sweet customer service. Since then, both units have been flawless. Using the Samurai in the field is a dream. I wish they had brighter screens, though.

Both of our Samurais are running AtomOS 3, which adds some awesome and much-needed features to the unit, including peaking, zebras, false color, and the ability to not only mark clip ins and outs during playback, but also export XML so you can then open your rough cut in Final Cut Pro. Talk about a time saver: you can do your rough edit in the car on the way back from the set! I still wish the screen on the Samurai was brighter, but I can live with it, since I’m using my Cineroid most of the time anyway.

Since our MacBook Pros do not have eSATA ports, one piece of new technology that has made life easier on set is the new LaCie Thunderbolt to eSATA hub, which makes things flow much faster and allows us to save a lot of money in the storage budget. Footage can be backed up on multiple eSATA drives by our dailies editor without wasting any time. Before, we had to use USB 2.0 or FireWire docks, which was excruciating, considering we’re shooting about 100GB of ProRes footage per day. Yay for Thunderbolt. I just wish the Thunderbolt architecture would mature faster with third party suppliers. There aren’t many Thunderbolt products out there, which really confuses me, considering how fast it is.

My NAB Haul

I leave for NAB this afternoon, and I’ve just finished packing. Here is the final list of gear that I’m hauling with me in just my two carry-ons (a Pelican 1310 & a ThinkTank backpack):

Panasonic AF100 camera
Nikon 17-35/2.8D
Tokina 11-16/2.8
Nikon 80-200/2.8D
Nikon 50/1.4D
Nikon-MFT adapter
Redrock Micro LiveLens Canon mount
On-Camera LED light
Sennheiser shotgun mic w/dead cat
Sennheiser hand-held mic
Nikon D3 body
Atomos Samurai kit (SSD & HDD)
MacBook Pro 15
Nikon SB910 strobe
ten pounds of batteries chargers and cables

And in my two checked bags:
Tripod
Monopod
Redrock Micro rails with pistol grip, shoulder mount, iKan FF, and Noga arm for the Samurai. Note I have left no room for clothing. I will probably just pack it in my tripod bag. Hey, I know what’s important.

Day Four of Arose The Coward

Last weekend was full of intense shooting for “Arose The Coward” using the Panasonic AF100, of course. Sunday was a particularly long day. Since I started using the AJA Ki Pro Mini, there has been an ongoing problem with it; every so often, it would freak out and delete clips, or spontaneously rename them. I FINALLY figured out why it has been doing this, and corrected the problem.

I thought of the solution while I was driving to set on Sunday. I was thinking about what could possibly cause these issues, and it hit me. When I bought my Fuji X100 stills camera, there was a known issue regarding downloading images from the camera to an iPad. When the SD card was reinserted into the camera, it would cause the X100 to freak out and become unresponsive for about thirty seconds. This was due to the fact that Apple iOS was saving hidden files to the SD card when it was inserted into the iPad’s card reader. This is not a new issue; Mac OS has always saved hidden files to media that is mounted onto the system. However, the Fuji didn’t know what to make of them, and this caused problems.

Habitually, when I’ve used the Ki Pro Mini on set, instead of reformatting the card in the unit, I would simply delete the files and then empty the trash on my Macbook Pro, because it was a lot faster. It dawned on me this weekend that that was probably what was causing the Ki Pro Mini to freak out; hidden files left on the CF cards by Mac OS.

So, I made it a point to always reformat the card in the Ki Pro Mini after dumping clips, and sure enough, the problem hasn’t resurfaced. Yay me.

Here are some shots from last weekend’s shoot:

AF100 on the set of Arose The Coward
Arose The Coward director Buddy Calvo checks playback in the viewfinder of the Panasonic AF100.
Panasonic AF100 on the set of Arose The Coward starring Anthony Guajardo of Walking Dead
The Panasonic AF100 rigged to a hostess tray to capture lead actor Anthony Guajardo (of The Walking Dead) during an outdoor walking scene.
Rigging the Panasonic AF100 onto the hostess tray
First AC Kevin rigs the Panasonic AF100 onto the hostess tray to capture lead actor Anthony Guajardo (of Walking Dead) during an outdoor scene.

Dialing in the AF100

After using the Panasonic AF100 on a few productions now, I’m finally getting mine dialed in to where it is comfortable to use in a cinematic environment.

20120117-202117.jpg

With the addition of the AJA rod mounting plate on my Ki Pro Mini, the rig finally feels stable enough to use in daily work. Before, the recorder was affixed to a Noga arm and simply rested on the rods. Now, it is securely fixed to them, and the Anton Bauer Hytron 140 battery is now secured to the second accessory plate on the Ki Pro Mini, and not zip-tied to the rods like before (hey, you gotta do what you gotta do on set sometimes…).

I’ll get a chance to try the rig out again this weekend when we continue filming for “Arose The Coward.”

More production stills to follow…

New AF100 Production: Arose The Coward with Machina Cinema

Last weekend saw the start of my latest project with Machina Cinema, a short entitled “Arose The Coward,” which is being filmed on my Panasonic AF100. I’ve recently made some upgrades to my system, and I’ve been looking forward to putting them into service. I switched out the Kipon Canon EF to M43 mount for the new Redrock Micro LiveLens mount adapter that allows electronic interface with the Canon lens aperture. It’s pretty cool, although it doesn’t work with all the EF lenses. Not sure why. It works great with the lens I need it for most, though, which is the 16-35/2.8 L. It also works with my 70-200/2.8L IS, and my 300/2.8 L IS. However, it does not work with my 24/1.4L, which is a serious bummer, as that’s my go-to low-light lens.

For the start of production, I outfitted the AF100 with a Ki Pro Mini ProRes422 recorder, which I’ve tacked a Hytron 140 battery onto for field work. A fully charged 140 will power the Ki Pro Mini for at least 5-6 hours… pretty handy on set.

Below are some photos from the first day on set. Friend Kevin Sloan recently acquired a Steadicam Provid and was looking forward to trying it out on set. As luck woud have it, the entire first day called for Steadicam.

Panasonic AF100 and Steadicam on set
Kevin and Scott set up the AF100 on the Steadicam
Balancing the AF100 on the Steadicam
Balancing the AF100 on the Steadicam

 

Panasonic AF100 on Steadicam
Panasonic AF100 equipped with AJA Ki Pro Mini, Canon 16-35/2.8L, Redrock Micro EF-M43 adapter, remote follow focus, and Redrock Micro matte box.

 

Panasonic AF100 on the set of "Arose The Coward"
Panasonic AF100 on the set of "Arose The Coward" starring Anthony Guajardo and Viviana Chavez from the hit TV program "The Walking Dead".

 

Yours truly setting up a shot on set.
Yours truly setting up a shot on set.

 

Setting up a shot with the AF100
Setting up a shot with the AF100

 

Setting up a shot with the AF100
Setting up a shot with the AF100

 

Panasonic AF100 Recording Options (Atomos, AJA and the like)

The more I use my AJA Ki Pro Mini, the more annoyed I get with it. It doesn’t do anything wrong, per se, or even anything poorly, but its workflow requires a little too much effort for my tastes.

For instance, I really wish it recorded to SSD instead of Compact Flash. I would be happy with one SSD port. But, the thing that really bothers me is how it is so easy to lose recorded clips if you lose power to the unit or if the CF card gets pulled before it has been unmounted. Essentially, the cards mount just like a Mac volume, and if they get yanked without first unmounting them by hitting the SLOT button, then you will assuredly lose at least the last two or three clips that were written to the card. This means that you have to unmount and remount the card after every take if you want to make sure you never lose a file. Too much trouble on a busy set. Plus, someone will inevitably pull power to the unit on occasion, which also really hoses it up.

I think I’m going to order an Atomos Samurai when they start shipping this summer. I glanced at it and talked to the dev team at NAB earlier this year, and the little box shows great promise indeed. I can’t wait to get my hands on one. Has anyone used the Atomos Ninja with an AF100 with good results? How do you handle recording 24p thru the HDMI port? Do you have to do a pulldown in post, and if so, do you see motion jutter? Please let me know, and if you can, send a link to some clips. I wonder if the Ninja would be a good substitute until the Samurai comes out.

On Set: AF100 Commercial Shoot

shooting in bright sun sucks.
I love shooting in bright sun </sarcasm>

I had a job last weekend, directing and shooting a commercial for a prominent local plastic surgeon. The client wanted a cinematic look, with models in various scenes shot in a fancy house. Check. With my 1AC, Dave Novak, and Supergrip Greg Ventura, we knocked it out in what ended up being a really fun day of shooting.

Since the client wanted a cine look, I of course used my Panasonic AF100 to shoot the spot, relying on Zeiss primes and a Canon 16-35/2.8 L II to refract the light for me. Footage was recorded via HD-SDI to an AJA Ki Pro Mini.

AJA Ki Pro Mini in action on a Panasonic AF100
AJA Ki Pro Mini, powered by an Anton Bauer Hytron 140 brick.

The client wanted everything to be in slow motion, so in order to get the footage onto the AJA recorder, I had to shoot in 720/60p and convert to 30p in post, as the Ki Pro Mini does not support variable frame rate mode… yet. Hopefully a firmware update will fix that problem soon, and yes, it is a problem. To be fair though, I don’t know of a recorder that does support 1080p/60 yet, although I think the Cinedeck might. At $10k though, I’m not even going to bother to go to their website to check.

Since I knew the client was going to want a significant amount of post processing, I wasn’t about to record to AVCHD; I had to go 4:2:2 out to the Ki Pro Mini.

The shoot went really well, and I’m very happy with the results. The best thing about this shoot is that this job allowed me to pull the trigger and order my copy of DaVinci Resolve, so I can finally update my color grading capabilities into the 21st century. It should arrive Friday. I can’t wait to try it out on this commercial!

BTW, I learned on this shoot that although they are of the finest glass, Schneider filters still won’t survive a fall onto a large rock. Take that wisdom with you into the future.

 

Panasonic AF100 on location in San Antonio
Panasonic AF100 on a Dana Dolly, on location in north San Antonio.
A rough frame grab from the shoot with the AF100. Lens: Zeiss ZE 50/1.4 Planar.
A rough frame grab from the shoot with the AF100. Lens: Zeiss ZE 50/1.4 Planar.

Directing a commercial shoot with the Panasonic AF100.Yours truly directing a commercial shoot with the Panasonic AF100.
Dropped Filter Blues
This is what a guy looks like when he's fuming about having just dropped his Schneider 4x4 Tru-Pol filter on a rock.