Croatia Harley Days 2014

Biograd on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast played host to this years European HOG Rally and once again I had the pleasure of being invited to the event to film it and create a video showing the highlights of the location and the activities that took place.

Approximately 50,000 people descended upon the event site over the four days of the festival, with an estimated 25,000 bikers experiencing Croatia’s fantastic riding roads and coastline.

I had my Canon C300 upgraded to include the Dual Pixel Auto Focus (DPAF) feature just before flying out to Croatia and I have to say that it proved to be a lot more useful than I was expecting. I really wanted the DPAF feature for shooting from the back of a bike as it’s impossible to manually focus well in that situation but as it turned out I used the Auto Focus a lot more than I was expecting.

Used in combination with the Focus Lock feature which I programmed to the magnify button on the handgrip I found myself allowing the AF to gain initial focus much of the time and then locking the focus before composing my shots rather than punching in and focusing manually as I would have done previously.

For any shots that required slower focus pulls I’d just lock the AF and then manually focus as normal.

One situation that I found the DPAF feature really helped with was using the Tokina 11-16 f2.8. In the past I’ve run in to quite a few problems with focussing that lens accurately. Having to work quickly in the midday sun it’s very easy to think the lens is focussed correctly only to find the images are actually a little soft. The DPAF helped a lot when having to work fast shooting wide.

The other lenses used were the Canon 17-55 f2.8 and the 24-105 F4, both of which also performed well with the DPAF feature.

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There’s a few slider and Jib shots thrown in courtesy of my Kessler Stealth Slider and Pocket Jib Traveller. The Drone shots were captured by my buddy Lorenzo De Angeli using a GoPro Hero 3 mounted to a hand built drone.

OK Go do it again

I’m sure most of you must have seen the impressive music video put out by OK Go where they performed their song “Here it goes again” using gym treadmills in a single take. Well they’ve just done it again and this time they have put together a single shot video for their new song “The writings on the wall” that simply has to be watched to be believed. Can you imagine how much work it took to make that happen!

My FCPX Location Workflow

It’s been a while since I’ve shared my location workflow and since the release of FCPX 10.1 it’s now a useful tool for ingesting in the field so I thought I’d take a bit of time to detail exactly how I go about managing data when working overseas.

Firstly i’ll list the equipment that I take with me for handling footage. This setup is designed to be as portable and light as possible mainly due to baggage restrictions at airports where every KG counts, especially when you fly using Europe’s budget airlines.

 

Keeping the kit small

My current kit consists of the following:

11″ Macbook Air
Lacie Rugged Thunderbolt / USB 3 Drive
Toshiba USB Portable drive
Nexto NVS2500
Lexar USB 3 Card Reader

 

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Dual Slot Recording = Dual Benefits

One of the great features on both the Canon C300 and C100 is the ability to record to both card slots simultaneously. I use this feature for all of my shooting, it not only offers protection against loss of footage in case of a card failure but it also allows me to process and backup my data more efficiently.

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Connecting everything up

The centre of my setup is the most basic model 11″ Macbook Air. I purchased this little mac just for handling footage but I’ve actually edited in the field with it a few times and it’s been perfectly capable. I normally connect my Lacie Rugged Thunderbolt / USB 3 Drive to the MacBook Air via thunderbolt just because it leaves both USB ports available. If you don’t have Thunderbolt as an option however USB obviously works just as well for the task.

I plug the Lexar USB 3 Card Reader in to one of the USB slots and the other one is used to power my Nexto NVS2500. The Nexto does have a built in rechargeable battery but I prefer to keep it powered via USB during the backup process rather than worrying about how much charge is remaining. Having it powered via the macBook also means one less power brick to worry about.

 

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Ingest & backup

So here’s where shooting to both cards comes in really useful. For each pair of cards I have one goes in to the Nexto which creates a copy of the exact card structure and then verifies it. At the same time the other card goes in to the card reader and I use Final Cut Pro X to import the data from the card into a Library on the Lacie drive. It’s obviously important to make sure both cards contain the same data but if there’s any kind of error or difference between the two at least this way you have the data from both cards.

 

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The great thing about working this way is that FCPX can be left to create it’s optimised media and do any processing required on the footage. I don’t like to have any rendering done by the macBook so I disable rendering but that’s a personal choice, if you like to work with render files then you could also have that process done for you as well. If required I’ll apply a basic set of keywords to the imported clips while they are fresh in my memory from that days shooting.

One big advantage to working within FCPX on location is if i find I have time I can begin making selects within FCPX and save myself some time during the edit stage.

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The copy of the cards on the Nexto is really just an emergency backup, If for any reason the data within FCPX is incomplete or damaged then I can revert to the Nexto and perform a fresh import in to FCPX.

 

FCPX & Time Machine

As more and more data is imported in to the FCPX Library on the Lacie drive and I spend time adding meta data to it I like to also make a backup of that drive to a second drive using Time Machine. The beauty of Time Machine is that it’s able to look within the FCPX Library and only add items that have been added or changed since the last backup.

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Moving to the Mac Pro

Once I get back to base the real advantage to using FCPX on location becomes apparent. I simply copy the library file from the Lacie over to the RAID on my Mac Pro, open it up in Final Cut and I can continue making selects or start editing straight away. I don’t have to worry about importing cards and waiting for data to be processed, it’s all there ready to go and because I’ve handled the key wording and meta data on location while it was fresh in my memory I can filter my searches and create smart collections easily.

 

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Keeping the Card Data

Whether I keep the original card media as well as the FCPX libraries varies from project to project, if I do want to keep a copy of the original cards I’ll copy the data from the Nexto. I find that I’m much less inclined to do that these days however, I tend to keep the original media on the Nexto until the project has been completed and signed of by the client, at that point I’m happy to just archive the the FCPX Library and not worry about the original card data.

Once the project has been signed off and delivered I export a Master Pro Res file from each project (timeline) that has been signed off by the client and store those along with the Library File and any other external assets that were used in the project.

I hope that proves useful, if you have any questions just leave a comment.

Harley-Davidson Euro Festival 2014

Anyone that’s been visiting my blog for a while will know that I’ve been shooting these events for Harley-Davidson for a few years now, in fact my first shoot for Harley was at this very same event in 2009 so this was my 6th visit to sunny St-Tropez in the south of France.


My kit hasn’t changed much over the last couple of years, here’s what I used to shoot this one…

Cameras
Canon C300
Canon C100

Lenses
Canon 17-55 EFS
Canon 24-105 IS L
Tokina 11-16

Support
Miller DS20 Carbon Tripod
Kessler Pocket Jib traveller

As you can see I’ve learned to keep my kit fairly simple for this type of project now which I find quite liberating. I often see other camera operators at the events tied down with shoulder mount systems and bags of lenses and that’s not a pleasant experience when the suns beating down on you and you have a lot of walking to do. I often feel more akin to a stills photographer at the events now, I’m generally just walking around with the C300 without any other kit at all. With a battery life of over 4 hours I prefer to head out without any baggage and just return to base when either the camera needs something or I need a break, usually the later!

I did have a couple of very minor kit failures at the event. Firstly my 24-105 lens decided that it no longer wanted to be part of the L series of lenses and shed it’s prestigious red ring. Obviously this didn’t make in impact on it’s effectiveness but it’s the first time I’ve seen that happen so I thought it worthy of sharing. Luckily I saw it fall off so I kept hold of it and superglued it back on once I got home.

The other thing that happened which could have potentially caused me more problems was one of the legs on my Miller tripod pulled straight out of the unit when I was shooting at the main stage on the beach. Luckily I didn’t lose any of the various plastic washers and spacers that are part of the system and I was able to clean and reassemble the parts once I returned to my accommodation. To be fair to the tripod it’s been dragged all over Europe during it’s seven years of service, it’s been in the sea  multiple times, buried in sand,  used in rivers and left in the rain more times than I care to remember and this is the first time it’s required any attention. Once I got home I made a point of disassembling every leg adjuster and giving them a good clean, for now it seems as good as new again.

You might notice in the video is there’s a couple of aerial shots, these were the work of Lorenzo De Angeli who unbelievably rode to the event from Italy with the drone strapped to the back of his Harley! Lorenzo is a professional drone pilot / camera operator and fly’s much larger drones for big budget productions so it was a real pleasure to watch the precision with which he flew that thing.

Lorenzo

Next for me is another Harley event at the start of June in Croatia so I’m already getting prepared for that one. I’m hoping to be able to get the C300 DPAF (Dual Pixel Auto Focus) update done on my camera before I go as that will be a huge help when filming from the back of a Harley, I’ll keep you updated on that one.

 

C-Cup: Improving the C100 Viewfinder

Any C100 user is all too aware how frustrating the EVF is to use on the camera, mostly because it feels as though Canon purposefully designed the eye cup surround to be uncomfortable as well as impractical. I’ve posted before that I’ve resorted to various attachments to make using the EVF a better experience but none of the solutions have really been designed to do the job properly, that is until now!

I was recently contacted by Andrew Miller who asked me if I’d like to try out a prototype C100 eye cup he’s been working on. The prototype works very well indeed and transforms using the C100′s EVF in to a much more useful and pleasant experience. As well s being very comfortable the C-cup also fits the face nicely and blocks out surrounding light sources.

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If you’re interested in using a C-Cup on your own C100 then you need to head over to Andrews C-Cup  Kickstarter page and back the project. If a minimum of $8,500 is pledged within the next 29 days then the C-Cup will be available to all. It would be a real shame if this product doesn’t come to market as it really works well.

Visit the C-Cup Kickstarter page

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