Daniel Haggett

London based Lighting Cameraman / DoP

Recent Work

How much do cameramen make?

Around this time every year, Televisual do a survery to work out what salaries and day rates people get working in the television industry in the UK.  Here are the results for this year's survery for camera operators:


Indie TV production, camera operator: £29,250

Broadcaster, camera operator: £31,125

Facilities (OB, studio etc) camera operator: £39,250

Corporate production, camera operator £38,006


These salaries strike me as pretty low, so it is worth considering the same Televisual survey from the previous year.  This year's survey only had the one job title of "camera operator", whereas last year's survey had camera operator and DOP, however, they didn't split the industry into fields (such as indie/broadcaster/corporate etc).   The results for these in 2012 were as follows:


Camera operator: £36,113

DOP: £63,631


Looking at earnings as averages is obviously tricky for a career like that of a camera operator or DOP as there are huge variables, as proof of this, in the Televisual video from 2012 they also mention a DOP from their survey with a salary of £200,000.  The main variables are the kind of work you do, and the kit you own.  A busy DOP working on commercials is obviously going to earn a lot more than a cameraman just starting out, shooting small corporate jobs.  

Working as an owner operator with kit, is more like running a small business, with larger risks and more variable earnings.  If you make the right decisions and buy the right kit, you are likely to make far more than the average OB or studio cameraman whose day rate can only go so high.  Equally, make the wrong decisions and buy kit that you can't get on jobs and you could even make a loss.  

To read the full 2013 earnings report go here.

Camera simulators

It seems there are more and more cameras on the market these days.  If you are booked in for a job on a camera you haven't used much, using a menu simulator can help you familiarise yourself with the layout of the menu systems before you get to the job.  The last thing you want is to be fidling around scroling through menu pages when you should be shooting.

Sony F-65 simulator

 Sony F65 simulator


Canon C300 Simulator

Canon C300 Simulator












Below is a list of camera simulators, some can be used as ipad apps, others can only be used online.


Canon C300

Canon C500

Arri Alexa (available as an ipad app)

Sony F55 / F5 

Sony F65 (this one is from the app store)

filming pack shots

On the surface filming packshots is a very simple thing to do, but it is worth putting some effort and creativity into it as this is what sells the product.


Pack shots are shots of a product, usually for commercials, branded web content or as product placement for tv shows.  A common approach with this is to film the products in a white studio or infinity wall.   An infinity wall has a smooth transition from floor to wall, allowing you to shoot objects on the ground that appear to hang in space with nothing surrounding them - think of any Apple advert and you get the idea.

To get a really clean bright white, you want to over expose your background a touch.  Typically white studios aren't perfectly white and can be scuffed up and may be a very light grey colour, over exposing evens this out for a really clean white.   It is best not to go nuts here as lighting the background too heavily will mean you bounce a load of light back onto your product.  Zebras or a histogram are useful here, but is relatively simple to do and you can see what is going on just using a good monitor and your eye. The next thing to consider is lighting your product.  For the most part you want simple three point lighting to give the product its correct look and proportions.  I often find there is some scope for creativity here though and like to try adding some accent lights to bring out certain details.  Dedo's are great for this as you can pinpoint a small area of interest and give it an extra sparkle or glow. Finally, ignoring all this and breaking the rules.  Sometimes you don't just want a product to hang in the air.  I was asked to film these pack shots of piano designed by Peugeot and Playal.  The bottom part or the piano was white, so over exposing for a really clean white would mean part of the product would actually be a bit lost in the background.  Here I decided to light the piano from a few different angels, putting an 850 watt light low down at the base of piano made some interesting shadows on the studio walls.  I used a kino as a key light and then a few dedos at a low hights to accent features and cast light and shadow over the inside of the piano.  All the shots here were filmed on a Glidetrack Hybrid slider to give the shots a bit of movement.



How to Light For Green Screen

Every cameraman will have to light for green screen at some point, as keying software improves everyone is using it, even those on a low budget.

Lighting for green screen is relatively straight forward, but it worth watching out for a few factors, as getting the lighting wrong on this can obviously cause serious problems in the edit.  Certain situations won't show up lighting mistakes as brutally as others, for example, a basic interview setup with no movement will be easier than someone with long blonde hair with some movement.  The best practice is learn to light properly and stick to this setup.  I'll go through the type of lights that are best for green screen shoots, but first a few basic principals.

greenscreen studio

Basic principals:

There are loads of different ways and different lighting set ups to effectively shoot green screen, but the principals are the same.

 1) Set up you green screen so it is as smooth as possible, stretch it out if need be to get rid of wrinkles, or hang it up high so the weight of the cloth pulls out wrinkles.  If you are in a green screen studio with painted walls, look out for any big  scuffs or marks on the floor or walls.  (most studios will have paint or green tape to patch up little problems)  Remember, in order to key successfully in post, the editor only needs to be able to cut around the subject, a black mark in the top corner of the screen probably won't matter, but a mark that intersects with the subject, will cause an issue. 

2) Create a soft even light over the green screen (no hot spots, no shadows).

3) Light the green screen a couple of stops below your subject.  Blasting the green screen with loads of light isn't a good idea, as you can bounce green light off the screen onto your subject.  Lighting the screen too dark will mean that it is easier to cast shadows on the screen.  The best situation is a green screen just slightly darker than the light on your subject.  

4) Treat your green screen and your subject separately.  Once you are happy that you have an evenly lit green screen, light your subject in the same way you normally would.  Here you should be using different lights from those used to light the screen.

5) Avoid all shadows.  The easiest way to do this is to create some distance between the green screen and the subject.  In some cases this may be difficult, for example if you have a small room or a small green screen and the Director needs a full body shot, you will obviously be forced to have the subject near to the screen.  In this case you can cut down on shadows by raising your lights and moving them out to the sides, therefore throwing the shadows down at the ground and away to the edges.  Remember, all the editor needs is enough distance around the subject to cut him, her or it,  out from the background. You can also do this by softening the light; hard light will create strong shadows.

6) Shoot at a wide aperture when possible.  Having the screen out of focus helps even out any inconsistencies from wrinkles in the cloth, or marks on the wall. 

7) Use a backlight to sharpen the edges between the subject and the green screen.  This should be a relatively soft light.  You can use minus green gels (magenta) for this if you have them, which will cut down any green light which may have bounced onto the subject. (This is no longer essential as chroma key software has improved greatly over the years, however, if you are having trouble separating the subject from the background, this technique could help).

8) Before you shoot, check the shot (with a stand-in if necessary) If it is an action shot, have them perform the action.  Check for light bouncing off the green onto the underside of the subjects arms, legs and face.  Check for hotspots or shadows on the green screen.  Make sure that the lights you are using to light the green screen aren't adversely effecting the subject.

9) Lastly, an obvious one, make sure your talent isn't wearing any green.  This also applies to reflective material, a watch or piece of jewellery, glasses etc.  These could all reflect a small amount of green from the floor or walls, which will give the editor a long and boring job fixing up this issue.

There is one other really important consideration with green screen: think about the finished product when lighting your scene.  Normally, what you see through the lens is the finished product, but with green screen this obviously isn't the case.  There is no point in creating perfect three point lighting, if the green screen setting is outside, or a night scene or a cartoon sequence etc, it will just look odd - in a real life outdoor situation, you have to ask: where would that perfect hair light be coming from?  The best way to approach this is to get as much information about the finished scene as possible.  You may be given a photo or video of the plate, if not, ask questions.  Will it be indoor, outdoor, sunset, night time, etc.

Studio setup.  

greenscreen lighting setup

In this set up, we have a stand in for the subject.  The greenscreen is lit using the in studio Arri panel lights.  The key light is a 5k shot through a screen of diffusion and there is just one backlight oposite the key.


The above shows the 5K key light.  I had a gaffer for this shoot and he has cleverly boxed off the edges and bottom of this light, to prevent light spilling all over the green screen and bouncing up on our subject.  Remember my earlier point about soft light and shadows?  Shooting a 5k at the subject without this screen would cause horrible shaddows (and almost blind the subject).  

If you wanted to further soften this light you could use a poly wedge or book lighting.  To do this, you angel polyboard so that the light hits the poly first, then bounces through the diffusion screen.  This gives a nice natural look and a very diffused light.

greenscreen studio setup 

This shows the key light from the other side.  You can see polyboards are being used to bounce some fill light onto where the subect will stand.  

The picture below is a different studio, with a smaller space and smaller array of lights.  I put this in here to show how a more simple studio set up.  There are just two redheads (800w) with Chimeras for soften and spread the light and then a 600W for a back light.  The walls of the studio are lit with kino flows.  Incidentally, both of the 800w were on dimmers, one was on full and the other pretty low, just to add some fill.  

Below is a shot of a studio I used in London which used space lights for the wall and the floor, theses also did a great job and the spread was just as even and controlable as kino flows.  Space lights are tungsten only and are now more and more being replace by Arri panels that are LED and can have any colour you need dialled in.  The results you get with these lights are still great for green screen (they just make the studio a bit warmer - well a lot warmer).

space lights for green screen

This is a low quality photo from my phone, but you get the idea.  This is a rehearsal and the full green screen is still being constructed.  Above there are three space lights that given an even light down walls, there are a couple of defused 650s for back lights and a couple of 1ks behind large diffusion screens.  Again, the 1ks would normally create very hard shadows but bringing them far back and shining them through a large screen makes a softer light. 

space lights for green screen studio

The above images are all from studios, that had their own lighting set up for the green screen. What if we are not in a studio?  The principals are the same, we just need to choose some lights.  Typically, you'll want to be mobile, so taking a truck full of 5k and 10k fresnals etc might not be practical, instead here are some lights you can chuck in the back of a van or take on a plane.

Types of lights for a green screen shoot.

kino flo 4 bank

For the green screen itself you want a soft even light.  I often choose to go with two kino flos at either side for this.  It depends on how big your screen is, but 2 x 4ft 4 bank kino flos will be easily enough to cover a 12ft by 10ft screen, giving you a screen big enough for a head to toe shot of you subject.  If your screen isn't as big as this, kino flo do a smaller 2ft version.

You can also use something smaller like a kino flo diva light, or you can use LED panels.  I have used the Kino Celeb which is an LED panel (similar in size to the kino Diva light), and it worked well.  The main thing is for the light to be soft.  If you tried to this with more conventional lights (say 800w Arri lights)  you would need plenty of diffusion to soften the light.  

The reason I choose to shoot with Kino flo lights for greenscreen jobs outside of studios, is that you can get them really close to the screen and the still have a soft even light.  If you are on location, often you have nowhere near the same amount of space as you'd get in a studio.  You can get a soft even spread with a 800w, 2k, 5k 10k etc, but you need more space as you have to shoot through something to soften the light.  alt 

When you are working in a really confined space, you are going to need a smaller soft light for the subject.  I find the Diva 400 is a great light for this, it has an egg create over the bulbs that helps direct the light and avoids spill on to the background.  I usually use this as a key and then fill with another kino or LED panel. For the back light a 650, or a dedo light will do, I use loads of diffusion on these to soften it up as much as possible.  

I have also worked in studios where kinos are mounted on the ceiling, allowing you to use them as a backlight, and others that can be used to light the screen from above.  These can be adjusted so they will do most of the work for you, and you just need to add key and fill. 

If you are using traditional tungsten lights: fresnals, redheads or whatever, just soften them up as much as possible. Chimeras, softboxes and diffusion will all help cut down shadows.  Larger diffused light sources from further away will generally create softer shadows.

green screen lighting

Another awful (very old) photo from my phone, and the house lights are on to further confuse things, however, it shows the basic set up.  The 4ft 4 bank kinos are either side of the screen there is a back light from a red head high up at the corner of the green screen, and a couple of LED panels for the subject.

Chroma Key Green Screensalt themselves are pretty inexpensive and you can pick up the background drapes for around 20 pounds, or 50 dollars in the USA alt

For the background support there are lots of options.  You can use a couple of light stands, if you have them spare, attach k clamps, and then clamp on a boom pole between the poles.  Another option is to buy a kit: Background Support Systemalt

The ideal set up for this is really a couple of C stands and an extendable arm for the top.  This set up is heavy enough so it doesn't easily get knocked over (especially if you use sand bags) but is light enough to chuck in a van and travel around with.

Finally, if you haven't already seen them, here are two videos showing the use of green screen in multitude of films.



What is the best zoom lens for Canon and DSLR video

So many of us now shoot on Super 35mm sensor cameras whether that is a DSLR or a Canon C300 C500, Sony F5 or F55 whichever camera you work with you are likely to need a mid range zoom, so which is the best one out there?

Much as I'd like to shoot with prime lenses all of the time, it just isn't practicle for what I do, for most of the programmes I work on I need a zoom.

Whether you are shooting on a super 35 sensor camera such as the Canon C300, Sony F3, F5 etc or a DSLR, at some point you are likely to need a decent mid range zoom.  In an ideal world I would like something that is around 20 - 80 mm, that is rugged and well built, that has a good image quality (decent contrast, little distortion etc) that is as fast as possible (somewhere around 2.8) which is the same aperture throughout the range, that ideally has manual aperture and has a common size barrel, so I can easily screw on a protective uv filter.   This sounds like a lot of demands, but having a good mid range zoom means that you will use it alot, maybe as much as 80 percent of your shooting time on a documentary, and therefore it must be as decent quality as possible.

There are several lenses which provide all of requirements above, but they are mostly very expensive.  Here is a brief run down of them, with aproximate costs.  (These cost are a guide only, as prices tend to vary when you are spending this kind of money on a lens)



Zoom Lens Length mm Max aperture Manual iris UK Price US Price
Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 2.9 yes 30k 38k
Angenieux optimo 28-76 2.6 yes

30k +


Canon  4K 14.5-60 2.6 yes 30k+ 42,750
Angenieux optimo dp 30-80 2.8 yes 14k 20,499
Ziess compact zoom 28-80 2.8 yes



Alura Zoom 30-80 2.8 yes



Red Zoom 18-85 2.9 yes



Canon cine servo  17-120 2.9-3.9




Fujinon cabrio zoomAt the top end Angeieux, Canon and Fujnon are all making great lenses around the 30k mark, for my budget this is too high, especially to go on my Canon C300, which itself only cost 12k.  I have used the Fujinon Cabrio and the Angenieux optimo and thought they were great to work with in terms of ease.  At the lower end of the scale here the Alura and Red Zoom could well be worth a look.  The Red zoom weighs over 4kg though, so it may be a touch on the heavy side for most small cameras.  Most of these lenses are PL mount, but would easily work on an EOS mount with an adapter.






Update:  New to the market, showing at  NAB 2014 is the Canon Cine Servo CN7x17 KAS S 17-120mm.  With this lens Canon seem to have but there years of making ENG style servo zooms to good use and created the Cine Zervo, an ENG lens that works for a Super 35 size sensor.  This means anyone shooting on a C300/500 Arri Amira, Sony F5 F55 can attach this lens for a more tradtional on the shoulder ENG shoot.  The lens can be used for PL or EF mount cameras, and interestingly the lens information (zoom, iris, auto iris etc ) is transmitted to either types of camera.  The EF camera bodies receive lens support through the lens contact point and the PL cameras through the 12 pin cable.  EF cameras would need to use a dtap to 12 pin if power is needed for the servo.  The advantages of this lens are pretty obvious, the range is much bigger than most cine zooms.  For applications when you absolutely must have a zoom, run and gun, observational documentaries etc, this lens would be a real winner.  I could see if working really well on the F5 F 55, but I am not sure about the C300, c500, it looks it would probably need some lens support especially on the EF body.  As yet prices have not been announced, but Abel Cine have a price of 31k.




The next option, and a much cheaper one, is too look at stills lenses.  Stills lenses are obviously not designed for video and therefore have lots of flaws: iris are often not constant through the range, there is often no manual control for the iris, the focus throw can be very small, the general build quality is no where near as solid as the zooms above. The focus often doesn't have hard stops so spins round indefinitely, making repeat focus marks dificult.  

Many of these issues are not there when it comes to older stills lenses.  As a general rule, these tend to be built with more solid metal housings, they have larger focus throws as many of them are purely designed for manual focus, they have manual aperture rings (which can be declicked to give you a smooth iris control).  The focus ring usually has a hard stop, meaning it doesn't spin around indefinitely and therefore lose any focus marks you may have.




Before going out and buying an old stills lens and modifying it for video use, it is worth noting that some of these lenses have been produced over several decades.  An earlier version of a lens might be built in a certain country with certain materials, but both of these things might change over time, which can cause a shift in the quality of the lens. An early version of a lens that might be great for cine modification and a later version of the same model might not be as good, or may not even work at all on modern cameras.   Another issue with older lenses is that they tend to be less fast and have less zoom range than their modern equivalents.  So using a stills lens is going to be about compromise.


Below is a list comparing a range of modern and old vintage zoom stills lenses.


Zoom Lens Length Max Aperture Manual Iris Solid build  Price
 Canon L  24-70  2.8  No No  1.4k
 Canon L  24-105  4  No No  800
 Canon efs  17-55  2.8  No No  600

 Leica R

 35-70  4  Yes Yes  400 aprox
 Leica R  28-70 3.5-4.5  Yes Yes  450 aprox
 Angenieux  35-70 2.5-3.3  Yes No  700 aprox


 28-70 2.6  Yes No  700 aprox


 28-70 2.8  Yes No

 800 aprox

 Nikon  17-35 2.8  Yes No  650 aprox
 Nikon  28-70 2.8 Yes No 1k apox


angieneux 35-70There are obviously plenty of other vintage lenses that could be used here, but I have only listed lenses that come fairly close to reaching my requirements above.  Many old lenses are simply too slow to be considered in my opinion.  If you are going to the trouble of shooting on a large frame camera, you are obviously looking for a decent shallow depth of field, and if you can only open up your lens to 5.6f, it sort of defeats the point.







The Canon L series 24-70, is an absolute work horse for any jobing photographer so there are huge numbers of these lenses about.  They are obviously sharp and have decent optics.  The only issue with these is they are not image stabilized as some modern lenses are, and the focus throw is very small (as on most modern lenses).   The Canon EFS 17-55 has these same issues, and it feels slightly cheap and plasticy, that said I have been using one for 3 years in all conditions and mine is still working well.   If your main requirement is range, then the Canon L series 24-105 has to be looked at.  It is image stabilized, which is useful for video, and as with a L series lenses from Canon it is rugged and weather sealed.  The only issue I have with this lens is the speed 4f.  It just doesn't feel that exciting to me when I use it.  The Leica R 35-70 is also only 4f, but there is something a bit more interesting about the look a feel of this older lens.  I was using the Canon 24-105 only a few days ago, yes it did a good job, but I just can't bring myself to buy one.


leica r zoom lensLeica R lenses are well respected by many photographers and even some cinamatographers.  These things are built to last and feel solid - all metal housings unlike today's lenses.  The focus throw is much larger, making pulling focus easier.  These lenses can be de-clicked to give you a smooth iris change.  There are also several brands making adapters out there (leitax is usually recommended).  the same can be said for Angenieux who produce great lenses for film and digital video.  There 28-70 feels pretty solid, but I have heard that it is not a good idea to use it in the rain (unlike Canon's 28-70, which seems capable of taking a battering).  One thing to look out for with Angenieux and Tokina is that they made lenses with a variety of cameras in mind.  The versions designed for Nikon cameras will obviously focus in the same direction as Nikon lenses.  This is a pretty big issue for me, as I am so used to rotating  in a certain direction to find focus and I would prefer to always use lenses that focus in the traditional way.






As you can see, whatever you choose (unless you have 30k to spend on an Angenieux optimo) there is always going to be a compromise.  You can have fast 2.8 lenses that have a decent range, or you can opt for a slower lens that has iris control and possibly a more interesting look.  The slightly softer creamier look of a Leica could be a bit more apealing that the Canon glass that everyone else is using, however, you won't have the small depth of field of the modern lens and you won't have the range.  The best thing here is to decide which factors are most important to you and most useful for the work you do.  The one factor that makes the decision easier is that lenses hold their value incredibly well.  You can always buy somthing, use it on a few jobs, and if you feel it isn't what you want, put it back on ebay and you'll probably get what you paid for it.


For more lens information, check out my equipment page.



Canon C300 magnify focus assist

I often find new features on the Canon C300 to help me work more efficiently.  The magnify button is an essential tool, especially when shooting with a shallow depth of field.  In default mode this has a small yellow sign notifying you that you are in magnification mode.  I still find that I can forget I am in magnify mode for a second, particularly if I am using a zoom lens.  There is a great feature that turns the magnified screen black and white.  This is great for focus as the sharp section really pings into vision and it means you'll always know you are in magnification mode.  


The feature itself is burried away in the menu, so there is a very brief video below to show where it is located.  Essentially it is  MENU>SETTINGS>CUSTOM FUNCTION>F.Assist. BandW>MAGNIFY



Cheap LED light panels, are they worth it?

LED light panelLED technology has come along way in the past few years and LED lights are becoming increasingly common in the film and TV industry.  At the top end of the price scale there are brands like Litepanel that sell 1x1 variable light panels for 2,700 USD  or 2,300 UKP.  This is for a panel that can be easily dimmed, runs off mains or V lock battery and has a variable colour from tungsten to daylight.  Dedolight who are a very reliable brand, make a similar panel: the Tecpro Feloni, but almost three times less expensive (810 UKP) and when you include Chinese manufacturers these prices drop even further...a lot further.  So the question is: how low should you go?  Can you buy cheap LED panels and still get high quality colour for TV and video work?

I have used panels from both Litepanel and Dedolight - Tecpro.  They were both light weight, emit very little heat and they also have a very low power draw, which means you can run them off a V lock battery for hours.  When you are out in the field along way from power they make a very useful light source.  When looking at the way the light falls over the face, and the skin tones that they give, I felt they were both doing a good job and was pretty happy with them, HOWEVER, and this is a big however, the way a cameras senor interprets that light is different from the way your eye interprets it. 


This can better explained with the images below.  On the left you can see the colour spectrum produced by various sources.  The scale represent the full colour spectrum that we are able to see.

colour rendition from bulbs


The sun obviously has the most clean source of light, where the full spectrum of colour is visible.




Tungsten is still the most reliable source of artificial light in terms of its colour rendition.  As we know, tungstent heavily favours the more reddy orange tones to the right of the spectrum, ending up with a light of around 3200 kelvin.



Other artificial light sources rely on a mixture of a few different seperate colours to create a kind of white.  As you can see from these spikes, this light is likely to emit a light that slightly favours blue.  Most importantly however, there is lots of detail in between these spikes that is missing.




LEDs are essentially doing what the energy saving bulb is doing, they take a number of different colours and mix them together to something that aproximates white.   To the naked eye the colour may look correct, but a certain amount of the colour spectrum will be missing, and the amount that is missing will differ, depeding on the quality of the LED light product. 

So how does this effect us when lighting for a film or TV camera?  This is something that Ryan Fletcher from ARRI explained brilliantly at BVE in London this week.  In a demonstration Ryan showed a white screen lit with various different quaility LED lights.  Each light source was aiming to be a neutral white light, as you would expect to use in lighting for video.   As he flicked through the various LED lights they all looked pretty similar when lighting a white background, some were slightly cooler or more blue that others, but nothing too dramatic.  Next, he used those same LEDs to light a colourful peice of material and the difference was absolutely HUGE - and this is just to the naked eye. 


This issue of accurate colour rendition is made more complex when we consider the camera's sensor.  Camera sensors are devided up, so one sensor deals with one type of colour.  This means that when lighting with a source that doesn't have a wide colour spectrum the camera won't be able to out put what the eye sees.  The video below, made by ARRI, shows the same scene, shot by the same camera under different light qualities.  The ARRI fresnal differs massively from the LED brands.





As cameramen we all obssess about cameras and lenses.  We buy the best camera kit we can afford, to give us the best image, but, in my opinion, this is money wasted if we then go and light with poor quality kit.   I am a big fan of the kino flo Diva light, it is my standard bit of kit for a key light and has been for years.  What this talk by ARRI  convinced me of, is to stick with this light.  There are situations where you can't feasibly do this, if you are away from a power source, and for that there is LED, but even then, it is essential to buy a product with a high CRI (colour rendering index).  I would only buy LED panels from a high quality provider (lite panel, Dedolight, ARRI) and would check video reviews on line to make sure their colour rendition is acurate, as compared to a tungsten light (which is still the most accurate form of artificial light).





Hitchcock's filming techniques

I recently thought it would be a good idea to start writing the odd article about inspiration for cameramen.  I often think about what makes the difference between cameramen - from a basic operator, up to a top cinematographer.   I was watching Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train the other day and a couple of shots stood out to me as having an amazing emotional effect.  In case you haven't seen it, or can't remember the plot fully, here is a basic outline of what happens:  Two strangers meet on a train, and one of them brings up the idea of  "the perfect murder."  This man, Bruno, suggests that they swap problems, so that Bruno would kill Guy's wife (who he is trying to divorce), and Guy would return the favour by killing Bruno's father.  As neither would have a motive, it would be impossible for police to solve.  Bruno seems friendly enough, and Guy dismisses the conversation, thinking it is just idol chat from an unusual stranger.   However, Bruno immediately murders Guy's wife and follows Guy around trying to get him to complete his side of the "bargain" and kill Bruno's father.


Bruno is a total psychopath, but he is always smiling and has a false friendliness to his character, so it is left to the camera work and music to convey a sense of menace. Hitchcock's cinematographer Robert Burks pulls this off brilliantly.  The first shot is filmed from Guy's perspective, when he discovers that Bruno is watching him from a far.

cameraman techniques HitchcockIn this shot Guy is pulling up in a car, he looks out of the window to see the menacing figure of Bruno looking down at him from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial.    Bruno is so small is screen you can't even see his face, but you know it is him.


It is hard to say why this shot works so well, it just does.  There is the contrast between Bruno's dark suit and the bright pillar behind, the fact that Bruno doesn't move but his gaze is trained on Guy, but most of all it is the imposing nature of the building itself, the giant pillars and the raised aspect that give the feeling that Bruno is a sinister character.











This next shot is even more dramatic than the previous one.  This time Guy is playing in a tennis tournament.  The camera starts on a wide shot of the audience, all of their heads are moving from side to side, following the ball, except one.  In the middle of the screen you can see one head that isn't moving, but  staring straight ahead, immobile.













Cameraman techniques - Robert Burks





The camera gradually pushes in to reveal Bruno who is sitting with an odd grin on his face, he has come to watch Guy, not the tennis match.

















Cameraman techniques strangers on train


Of course there are plenty of other great shots in this film, notably when Bruno commits his murder we view it from a reflection in the murdered woman's glasses.  All of this didn't go unnoticed and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for best black and white cinematography.








Cameraman inspiration

Every now and again somebody hits the nail on the head, somehow they manage to explain an idea, that would take me ages to explain, in one pithy little line.  This is from Twitter:


vince gaffney ?@gaffneyfilm
Hey, you, bokeh guy. Instead of worrying about how pretty the out of focus crap is, worry about what the in focus parts are saying. Thx.


I thought this was hilarious, but also sums up a lot about current trends in the world of film and TV.


Sometimes we can get a bit obsessed with camera gear and techy stuff, maybe everyone is guilty of this from time to time.  Vimeo is clogged full of people obsessing over whether this lens performs better than that lens, but I wonder how many people outside the film and tv world actually notice or care about these things.  When DSLRs first arrived on the scene I just couldn't believe how something so small and cheap could create such images.  I remember filming my niece playing in the snow with my new camera and a 50mm prime.  There were shots filmed in slow motion of the warm air drifting from her mouth, shots where her eyes were pin sharp, but depth of field was so shallow that even her hair had a lovely softness to it.  I remember plugging my new camera into a large HD screen to see the results.   My family stood around to watch, did they gasp in amazement at this small camera that could shoot crystal clear HD images, were they stunned by the shallow depth of field like I was?  Of course not, they saw a little girl playing in the snow.  


The internet is awash with people (mainly men I imagine) chatting about the minutiae of cameras, lenses and gear in general, and I am one of them.  It is good to know about the gear that you are using, and what is out there that can help you to work better.  An almost obsessive attention to detail is something common to most cameramen I think, and this can be very useful at times, especially when you are always pushing to get a better shot, or make a scene more visually interesting.  However, what the tweet above is getting at is that this almost fetishisation of camera gear shouldn't come at the expense of the bit that matters, the bit that is "in focus", the bigger picture.


As I look through my blog post, I realise they are all incredibly techy, talking about every detail of camera kit.  As an antidote to this, I have decided to write a few pieces about inspiration, odds and ends from films, books, photography anything that inspires the cameraman.

why you need a sound recordist

As production budgets come down, people are obviously going to want to cut costs.  There are some situations where you may be able to get away without using a sound recordist.  A standard sit down interview is not too taxing to film for a cameraman and running a tie mic into the camera isn't going to present too many problems.  However, not all shoots are as simple as this.  When you choose to shoot without a sound recordist you are loosing a crew member, and this has ramifications to the shoot as a whole.


Several years ago I was asked to fly to Italy to do a few pick-ups for a CGI heavy documentary.  As most of the budget had already been spent, the Production Manager asked if I would be happy going without a Sound Recordist.  From an audio perspective, it was relatively simple: there was a presenter who was giving several pieces to camera around a town in Italy.  The shots would take place on the move, walking around the town and in one case inside a car.   All of the  gear was rented from a facilities house, so the first time I even looked at the kit was at the airport - this is never a good way to start a shoot.   We were midway through shooting the first piece to camera and I heard a glitch in the sound, it was just a small crack, but very audible.  We did the piece a second time without a problem.  Every now and again the glitch would come back ruining the take, and costing us time.  We were right next to a huge port, and my first thought was that we were getting interference from the taxi or boat radios.  I changed channels on the radios to see if this would help, and for a short while this seemed to work.  I wanted to get to the bottom of the issue, but the director was worried about time and wanted to push on, hoping to get clean takes in between audio glitches.  Sometimes a take was unusable due to the presenter fluffing his line, and sometimes the radio mic caused the problem.  We were rapidly running out of time.  Eventually I decided we had to stop and find the issue.  I tested each bit audio kit in turn until I eventually found the problem, the cable running from the receiver to the back of the camera had a fault.  Luckily, there was a spare, I replaced it and we went on without any further problems.  This was a one day shoot, and we had really lost a lot of time to this audio fault.   The rest of the shoot was rushed and chaotic.  Enviably this quality of the footage suffered and we were lucky to make our flight back to the UK. 


Any lowering in the quality of the footage reflects badly on the cameraman.  It is unlikely that people will look at my footage from Italy and think: "the audio sounds good" or "that cameraman was good at repairing audio gear", they will just think the camera work could have been better.

All of this would have been avoided with a Sound Recordist.  Sound Recordists check their own gear constantly, and it is much less likely to fail.  Even if there was an audio issue, the Sound Recordist would be able to spend time fixing it on their own, while the cameraman is free to continue shooting scenes that don't require audio. 


Sound recordist are worth their weight in gold on a shoot.  It isn't just that they have good kit, it is that they know how to use it.  Sound recordists can hide mics in clothing without picking up rustling noise, they can boom people who aren't on mic, they record atmos that can add something to a programme, often audio that the rest of the crew would talk all over if it wasn't for them.  The list goes on and on.  A part from anything else, just working with an extra crew member makes life easier.  Many times Sound Recordists have helped me carry boxes around, set up light stands, stand in so I can check the lighting, and so much more, none of these things are their jobs, but they helped me out as part of the crew.


So what is the moral to the story?  I guess it is:  When you are asked if you can work without a Sound Recordist,  think about the consequences and the effects it could have on the quality of your work, and on the quality of the production as a whole.  There is no point in being pushy and refusing to work without one, but in many cases you can persuade a Production Manager that it is a good idea to hire a reliable Sound Recordist.

How to become a Cameraman

I have been sent a few emails recently about getting started in television, and how to become a TV Cameraman. Before starting down this road it is worth asking yourself the question "Do I really want to become a cameraman?" You are about to embark on a career that could last the rest of your working life, so it is worth thinking about this one.   If you are wondering how much money cameramen make you may also be interest in this.

 working as a cameraman in alaska

Firstly, here are a few pluses to being a cameraman:

1) You get to travel to interesting places.

2) You get to meet interesting people.

3) There is a creative element to the job, which can be very rewarding.

4) It is very varied, one day you could be filming a sunset in the Caribbean, the next you could be a in London sewer. (I am speaking from experience here).


working as a cameraman in africa

Secondly, here are a few negatives:

1) Travelling can become excessive, and it is often beyond your control. If you are a freelancer it is very difficult to turn down work, as you get older and have a husband/wife/kids, you may not be as keen to spend months of the year abroad.

2) All most all cameramen are freelancers, I personally love this lifestyle, but it isn't for everyone. At the first sign of a recession or slow-down in the economy, the first thing that happens is companies pull back on advertising spend, this in turn means broadcasters choose to spend less and commission less programmes and, therefore, work for a cameraman will drop off. For some people this is fine, they can spend the free time polishing their lenses or something, for others, it can be very stressful.

3) The freelance lifestyle is somewhat erratic. Here is a conversation that frequently goes on between all cameramen or women and their wives or husbands:

Spouse: "Are you around next weekend, I want to have a BBQ"

Cameraman: "Don't know, might be in Cambodia."

Spouse: "When will you know?"

Cameraman "Don't know."


This sounds ridiculous to people outside television, but if you work in TV it is totally normal.  Production companies are often waiting for confirmation of talent/flights/budget/people etc etc, it is a nightmare juggling act that the production managers have to deal with. Not every shoot is like this, but it is in no way unusual. For the cameraman, this means planning things in the future can be tricky, and it is something that effects not just you, but your friends and family.

4) Ok, just one last little negative thing, then I'll stop. Working in TV in pretty much any capacity, and becoming a camera operator in particular, is extremely competitive. When I first started looking for work in TV in 1999 I applied for a job as a runner/camera assistant, there was one job available and they received over 200 applications for it. That was a long time ago, and things may have changed, but I bet they haven't got any better.


Ok, that is the negative stuff out of the way, if you are still reading, and still interested here are a few different routes available to becoming a cameraman:

1) Become a camera assistant. There are loads of really good pluses to beginning a career this way. Assisting a Cameraman or DoP means that you get to learn a huge amount on the job. You learn about the kit: how it is packed and unpacked, how it works, what it does and when to use it. You learn how the cameraman treats the clients and talent, how he or she communicates with the director and everyone else on set. You can spend hours reading blogs about camera gear, but working closely with a cameraman is the only way to learn this. Unfortunately, as budgets drop, camera assistants are becoming less and less common. If you want to find work as a camera assistant there is no point in writing to every cameraman in your area, you need to find out who is likely to use one. Look for high budget work that you like and want to work in, this could be commercials or top end documentaries such as wildlife programmes. Do your research and find those who are using camera assistants and see if they would be willing to add you to their list.


2) Work for a rental company/facilities house. Lots of companies out there rent camera gear and some of them supply cameramen or camera assistants with it. The advantage of working in a place like this is pretty obvious, you get to learn about every piece of camera gear under the sun, and if you can prove yourself to the people who run the place, they might start sending you out with the cameras.


3) Work for a production company. If you go down this route you have to make sure you are working for the right kind of production company. There are a huge number of companies out there, but few of them are regularly sending crews out to film. Some production companies may have had success in the past, but slowed down now, also there are companies that make most of their income from editing programmes, or they might specialise in series that use archive footage and won't often have need for a cameraman. Get a PACT directory or search on line and see what companies have been making and when.


4) Work for a broadcaster. Large broadcasters have sports and news crews that are sent out on jobs on a daily basis. They have huge kit rooms with large amounts of camera gear. These people employ cameramen and it is probably the closest thing out there to a full time job.



5) Work for a OB unit or Studio crew.  If you are interested in sport or live events you could get a job working for a company who supply this service.  Large Outside Broadcast facilities supply cameras, cabling, live mixing trucks as well as the camera operators.  The advantage of starting off here is that these companies need lots of people to help rig and de rig for events.  Many shoots will have 10 or 20 cameras, some of these cameras will require greater skill than others.  Think of a football match, some cameras are following a ball by the pitch, and others are high up showing 2/3rds of the pitch and hardly moving.  This means you have an oportunity to start on that easy camera position and work you way up.


6)  Go it alone.  When I started working in TV cameras cost upwards of 30k, by the time you had added on your lights tripod etc etc you would be close to the price of small appartment at that time.  These days things have changed and you can pick up a cheap camera, that shoots decent images very cheaply, however, this doesn't immediately make you a cameraman.  If you buy a camera, and learn to use it you are still going to need to build up a client base, the freelance world is hard one to just dive into.  The jobs you might get as someone who has bought camera, but hasn't worked their way up, are likely to be fairly low level corporate shoots.  If you are happy to shoot this, then fine, but if you want to move up it could be hard without the experience that comes from the other career routes listed above.


The main point to remember here is to do your research.  There is no point in getting a job if it isn't going to lead somewhere, or you aren't going to learn something that will help further you career.  


TV Camera courses and further reading:


There are several courses that are run that will teach you how to use a camera, however, just because you have been on one of these courses this doesn't automatically lead you on to getting work as a cameraman.  That said it will put you ahead of the crowd when it comes to job offers and, in addition, when you do finally get a job, you'll be one step ahead of everyone else when it comes to lighting, composition and camera technique.   Another big plus of going on courses is that with a bit of luck your contemporaries at college will become successful writers, producers, directors etc and you can hit them up for work.  If you are based in the UK, without doubt the top estabilishment is the NFTS - the National Film and Television School.  Roger Deakins is an alumni of this place, as are a whole host of writers and directors who went on to have very successful careers in film and tv.  If you can't afford to study here full time, you can always apply to their short courses.

If you are interested in any type of television or film course it is worth looking at Skill Set (now referred to as Creative Skill Set) to see if they are able to fund part of the course for you. Skill set are an industry body that has been setup to insure the UK remains competitive in the creative industries.  If you are already a freelancer you'll get reduced rates.


Another group of people that are worth checking out is the GTC (Guild of Television Cameramen.)  You can't fully join the guild until you are a cameraman, however, it is possible to join as an "associate" or student at a lower yearly rate.  With membership you get a free subscribtion to their newsletter called "Zerb" which is a good place to learn about what is going on with Cameramen in the TV industry.  The GTC website is also a good place to learn a bit more about being a cameraman.  They also advertise all sorts of short courses, from camera technique to health and safety too looking after you gear in harsh environments.  These courses are usually free to GTC members, so if you only go on one course in a year you have more than covered you annually joing fee.


Although entry into a career as a cameraman can be difficult, the rewards are huge. It is a job that I really enjoy doing, and feel lucky to do this for a career.  


Other articles that might be of interest here are:

1) How much do cameramen make

2) How to find work as a cameraman

3) How to make money as a freelance cameraman

4) How to get your first job in TV

How to update Canon C300 with new firmware

Canon released Firmware Version a few days ago for the C300.  This can be downloaded from Canon's website.

This is said to resolve the following issues:

  • Some of the EF lens products that can be mounted on the camera can be controlled more reliably.
  • Corrections to the Spanish and German language texts in the View Assistance function (View Assist).
  • Efforts to correct image color fringing when a subject is of high contrast have been made.

 To install the firmware:

1) Take an SD or SDHC card and format it.  To do this turn on the camera, go to initialize, select the SD card and initialize.

2) Open the downloaded Canon file and take out the firmware update VIA8.FIM.  Drag this onto your SD card.

3) Click the menu button and scrole down to the end to firmware.  Click this and it will update.


(NB If the firmware button is grey and cannot be selected, check the following: the SD card has been formatted, that the correct file only VIA8.FIM has been loaded onto the SD card)


Manual Iris Lenses

Using a modern EF stills lens for shooting video has its draw backs, these lenses were designed for photographers and were never meant to be used for video after all.  The main issue is that modern stills lenses don't have a manual iris as this function is performed by the camera body.  Changing iris mid shot then becomes impossible,  unless you are a fan of big half stop aperture jumps.  There are other problems with these lenses, owing to the auto focus feature.  Auto focus is useless to the cameraman and it usually means that the focus ring will rotate indefinitely, meaning that making focus marks, either on the lens or on a follow focus, is impossible.  There is also the issue of throw: the distance the lens has to rotate to focus between its closest range and infinity is very small.  Pulling focusing between smaller distances therefore becomes tricky.  Lastly, if you are using zoom lenses, there is the problem of back-focus.  If you zoom in fully, find focus, then pull out, you will loose focus.  Having said all of this, there is a big plus of using stills lenses for video: price.  I think you get great optics for a small price, mainly as these are popular mass marketed products.


There are lots of different options when it comes to using manual iris, the first of these is to use a lens that is actually designed for shooting video.  However, dedicate film/video lenses are not cheap.


Zeiss CP2s

Zeiss CP2 Compact PrimePrice: around 4,000 USD or 3,500 UKP per lens


Zeiss Compact Primes have interchangable mounts, so you can use them on your HDSLR,  other EF cameras, or a PL mount.  Zeiss have a long history of making lenses, their top end Master Prime series are favoured by Cinematographers like Roger Deakins, so it is safe to say they know what they are doing.  Their lenses have really good colour rendition and high contrast, optically you know you are getting somthing decent here.  The lenses are in metal housing and feel really solid when compared to a stills lens.  The focus distances are acurately and clearly marked, this is pretty much essential if you are working with a focus puller, as they would have a nighmare with an EOS stills lens.  Even when you are working without an assistant (as I always do) I find the focal marks really useful.  Just remembering the distance marks and pulling between them becomes much easier and the larger throw also helps with acurate focusing over small distances.  Before you rush out and buy a set, here are a few negatives.  Firstly, the price, these lenses are by no means cheap.  The throw on these lenses, whilst making life easier for fine focusing or use by focus puller, works to your disadvantage when doing fast pace shooting alone.  They have a 300 degree of rotation and they are fairly large lenses, so imagine how much you have to turn the lens when making a large distance pull.  CP2s are also a fairly heavy and large compared to a still lens, this may or may not be an issue to you, depending on your set up.  Lastly, they are not that fast compared to top end stills lenses.  The fastest CP2s are T2.1 and the slowest in the range (18mm) T3.6





Canon Cinema Primes

Canon Cinema prime 14mmPrice: around 5,000 USD or 3,500 UKP per lens


Obviously the Canon Cinema primes have the same basic advantages as the CP2 above (I am not going to compare the look of the 2 lenses, as I am sure this is covered in detail elsewhere on the web).  The big difference here is speed.  The Canon Primes are quite a bit faster.  The 50mm and 85mm are T1.3 compared to the Zeiss T2.1








The next, and much cheaper option, is to get an old manual stills lens and pay for it to be modified into a cine style lens.  There are several lenses which can be modified in this way.  The main work that needs to be carried out includes: de-clicking the iris wheel, making it into a smooth iris control, changing the backs, so your old style mount becomes an EF mount.  You can also have a solid focus gear added for easy use with a follow focus. In the USA these are done by Dulcose Lenses and in the UK there is The Lens Doctor.


 Zeiss ZF

PZeiss ZF Nikon mountrice: 50mm Planar 619 UKP 725 USD  (+modification costs)


Apparently Zeiss ZF and ZE mounts use the same glass as the Zeiss CP2s that are several thousand pounds more expensive.  The Canon mount ZE mount don't have iris control, which leaves us with the Nikon mount ZF range.  These lense can be sent away to be modified into something more useful to a cameraman. I have used both Zeiss ZE and ZF lenses (modified by the lens DR in the UK) and loved using them.  They are small lightweight lenses, and I find the throw is big enough to be good for fine focus pulls, but not so big as to make it a mission for a single operator.   The only issue I have with these lens is the focus direction.  Nikon lenses focus in the oposite direction to Canon, for me this is a bit of a nightmare, as my instinct will always be to rotate the wrong way.  To get the focus direction reversed anywhere in the West is prohibitively expensive (you might as well just go out and buy a Cinema lens).  I did read of a company in China called GL Optics on Dan Chung's DSLR New Shooter, but this means sending the lenses to China (not something I'd be keen to do).




Leica R

leica R lensPrice: 50mm (aprox 500-600 USD, 400 UKP) Rough prices on Ebay.


I have personally never used a Leica, but firsly they have a good name when it comes to making quality glass, and secondly they are well regarded by Matthew Dulcos at Dulcose lenses as good lenses to convert.  Although they are not as easy to find as Zeiss ZF lenses, if you manage to pick up an old Leica R in good condition you could have yourself a bargain.








Canon FD

Canon FD lensPrice:  This varies on Ebay, but is very cheap 20-50 UKP 20-60 USD


On paper these lenses make sense, they rotates in the right direction, the speed is pretty fast (the 50mm is 1.8) however, there are several issues with using these lenses.   Firstly, the lenses are not pin sharp when wide open (anywhere from 2.8 to 1.8)  Secondly, they require a 2nd peice of glass to adapt them for use on EF mount, this means you lose a stop of light, the lens becomes slightly cropped, and putting any extra bit of glass in the lens is also a worry with optical quality.  There are also several videos out there that demonstrate a glowing or halo effect on bright object in certain shooting situations.  That said, there are also videos that show the lens performing well in other conditions.  These issues rule FD lenses out for me, I couldn't afford to fail a quality control test from a broadcast, just because I wanted to save a few hundred pounds on a lens.  If I was a student film maker, or using my lenses only for corporate web productions, I would almost definitely buy a set, for the price alone.

Camera Slider Review

Which DSLR / Camera Slider to Buy?

When DSLRs first started to be used for shooting video there were few camera sliders out there on the market, now there seem to be hundreds.  It is often hard to tell which are good just by looking at pictures on the internet.  I have used most sliders on the market, some of these are great when you first use them, but quickly deteriorate after use, others are better built and can handle frequent use and abuse. Here are some points to consider when choosing the right slider for you, followed by a review on the main camera slider manufacturers.


Points to consider when choosing a slider:

1) Smoothness of the slide.  This one may sound really obvious, however, most sliders feel smooth when you run the carriage up and down, it is when you mount a heavier camera and lens, or point the camera up or down creating an uneven pressure on the carriage that things can go wrong.

2) Durability.  There is nothing worse than investing a few hundred quid on a product, only to find it doesn't last more than 6 months.  Sliders can be fragile things that slide really well, until they have had a few knocks.  If the rail they run along suffers a small scratch or dent, how will that effect slide, if it cause a glitch or wobble, you may need a new slider.

3) Transportability (this probably isn't a proper word, but I don't care).  This is massively dependent on the types of jobs you usually do.  If you often work in a small 2 person crew, can you carry a full size 5ft Kessler Crane Cine Slider around with you together with your tripod and camera.  If you fly regularly with you kit, how are you going to pack it.  Smaller sliders can be broken down so the rail fits in with the hard case with the tripod, with large slider rails (such as Cinevate or Kessler) you will need a separate case and this will obviously increase you outlay.

4) Length. Again dependant on the type of shoots you go on, for me a meter is perfect.  I find a meter long slider means your rail is about the same length as your tripod.  This is useful as it is easy to pack it into cars etc.  For certain moves you can get away with only using half that length, but I find for really wide shots, or shots where you are moving towards the subject, a meter slide is useful.

Here is a quick round up on the sliders I have used and a few thoughts on them.


Igus (Zaza slider, Glidetrack etc):

igus slider with headThe first slider I ever bought was made from IGUS parts.  There are several companies making sliders from these parts, and they all work in pretty much the same way with a few add ons.  Glidetrack sell 2 versions of these HD and SD - HD, just being a heavier duty version.  The one meter version of the HD slider sells for around 350 UK pounds.  These sliders work on a "drylin" bearing, put simply this is a piece of material that doesn't use roling ball bearings, but is just a smooth material with no grease that slides along the metal.  When I first got this slider, it worked well for a while, but there are a few issues worth noting down here.  Firstly each bearing is screwed onto the sliding plate individually, if any of the bearings are knocked even slightly they will not be perfectly aligned, and the carriage will not slide smoothly.  I travel alot with my work, so knocks are unavoidable.  After every flight I would have to re align these bearings with an allen key.igus bearing



The next issue I had is with the locking mechanism, as you can see on the photo on the right, the breaking mechanism is a screw that screws directly into the bearing itself, after time this damages and eventually breaks the bearing.







Glidetrack Hybrid:

The upgrade to the Glidetrack is the Glidetrack Hybrid, the rails are the same but the carriage is vastly improved.  The bearings themselves are a combination of the original drylin bearing, and a plastic roling hybrid bearingwheel.  This is much smoother than the previous version.  With the normal version the carriage generally works well when the camera is pointing horizontally, but as soon as it is aimed up or down, it puts stress on one side of the rail causing the slide to be jerky.  With the new version you can point the camera where you like and the slide is much much smoother.  The fact that all the bearings are housed in a solid steel box also helps out greatly.  You can now pack this slider away, throw it onto an aeroplane, get out the other side and the slider will still work.  These are more expensive at 420 UK pounds for the 1 meter version, but well worth the extra in my opinion.




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 Cinevate Atlas:

Cinevate atlas camera sliderCinevate make all kinds of interesting gear for DSLRs to full size cameras.  Their Atlas 10 camera slider is really sturdy piece of gear.  This is their smallest and lightest slider, but it still has some considerable heft to it, and according to them it can carry up to 18kg in weight.  With the Glidetrack Hybrid above, the motion is so smooth that it is easy to over push the carriage, so it requires a really delicate touch, whereas the Cinevate Atlas has more drag on it, when you stop pushing the carriage it stops dead.  I know some cameramen prefer the Cinevate for this reason, but it is a personal thing, for me I actually like the feel of both.  If you travel a lot and are concerned with weight, the Cinevate is definitely heavier than the equivalent model from glidetrack, this probably helps with durability, but could be a pain with regards to excess luggage charges.  The Cinevate Atalas 10 sells for 650 in the UK including tax.  They are a Canadian company so are generally cheaper in the US and Canada,  (680 in Canada and 580 US dollars in the US).







Konova slider review

I am not a huge fan of Konova sliders, in some respects that is a bit unfair, as they are certainly cheaper than many of the other siders on my list.  The main issue I have with these is they are not hugely durable and are really only designed for fairly small camera set ups.  If you are only ever going to use a DSLR and you are only going to use small light weight lenses, then this could be a good option for you.  














Kessler Cine slider

kessler cine sliderEric Kessler is someone who has been really visible in the development of slider technology, if there is ever a band of cameramen heading out into the desert to record some crazy timelapse project, you can pretty much guarantee Eric Kessler is behind it.  It is probably for this reason that the Kessler slider is pretty well attuned to what cameramen want.  The carriages of these slide smoothly, I tend to use them manually like you normally would, just pushing the carriage along the rail, although there is handle that can be turned to move the carriage along.  This is a useful feature if you need to do really slow moves.  Another good point about these sliders is the tension screw, this allows you to add or take away drag from the carriage.  I find this useful when you are changing lenses as heavier lenses require different amounts of drag.  Kessler is a US company, so works in feet rather than meters.  This slider is 3ft, so just a touch under a meter.  Kessler also sell a whole load of options for this, for example you can add a high hat onto the carriage if you need to mount a full size tripod head.  Obviously all of this good stuff comes at a price.  The 3ft Cine slider sells for 1,200 USD (and this is without the feet, which cost an extra 150 USD), Kessler don't have a distributor in the UK so you would need to order it through their website  and pay the additional shipping cost and UK tax.  This slider weights 4kg or 9lbs, which isn't too bad considering it size.  


I do quite a bit of air travel for work, so this is just a bit too large for me.  Kessler do make a hard case (around 400 USD) for this so you can easily fly with it if an extra peice of luggage isn't a problem.







Kessler Stealth Slider

Kessler stealth sliderKessler have lots of options that are smaller and more portable than the Cine Slider.  Many are fairly short (around half a meter or 26 inches), but the stealth slider is a good option in my opinion as it is still around 1 meter long, but is lighter and more portable than the Cine Slider.  It doesn't have the crank handle, but I find a almost never use it anyway.  These go for around 800 USD, which isn't bad considering the quality you are getting.






New to the market are a company called Slideshot.  When I first took this thing out of the box, I though it would be too small, something aimed purely at the DSLR market.  I was wrong about that.  Although slide carriage and the bar it sits on are both small, they are incredibly

robust.  Most sliders do a good job of sliding smoothly when the camera is not panning or tilting and the camera is just pointing straight ahead.  Once you start pointing the camera up or down or begin to move it the unequal weight you are putting on the slide carriage often makes the slide mechanism stick.  This is a really common problem with sliders.  With the Slideshot this just doesn't seem to happen.  I kept moving the camera around, but at no point was there any difference in its ability to slide.  As you can see here, the camera is locked off at 90 degrees pointing at the ground, and the slide is just as smooth as if it was level.  This is a massive plus.   


The carriage itself is a sturdy construction, with all of the parts made out of metal, so I reckon it could stand up to a hard life on the road.


Price wise, these things are very reasonable and go for around the 300 UKP mark depending on the model.



The only gripe I have with this slider is that there was nothing to prevent the carriage sliding off the rails.  However, I noticed on the slideshot website that the sliders do have this feature, so I guess this is something that has no been updated.



So which is the best slider to buy?  Obviously we'd all like the control and smoothness of Kessler, with the weight of the Konova, and the price of the build-it-yourself-with-Igus-parts

but that isn't real life.  For me it comes down to a compromise between control, smoothness and portability.  I like the Glidetrack Hybrid because it moves smoothly, it is built to last, but I can still pack it down well and transport it.  I can remove the carriage and chuck the rails inside my tripod hard case, which means one less peice of luggage to check in, and it is light enough to carry around an clip onto the top of my tripod.

 I also think it is worth buying an additional base plate for the slider, that way you can just fit the slider straight onto the tripod without having to screw a new attachement on every time you want to use it.

Which Tripod to buy for video

When it comes to investing in a tripod for video work the first thing to consider is payload.  Generally speaking, the more weight a tripod head can comfortably hold, the more expensive it will be.  Of all the things in your kit the tripod is the bit of gear that could be around for the longest: cameras come and go, monitors become obsolete, even light kits get superseeded every few years, but tripods can last.  I have used Ronford Baker tripods that were probably older than me that worked beautifully. If you can afford to buy a bigger head with a bigger payload, it will be a good investment.


There are vast amounts of cheaper alternative tripods out there, but the old addage "buy cheap buy twice" applies here.  If you are serious about your images, you are going to want a decent tripod that will allow you to make smooth solid moves and will continue to do so after it has been hurled on and off hundreds of planes by burly baggage handlers or "throwers".  For my money, I would only really look at Satchler, Miller, O'Connor, Vinten and (at a push if you are using smaller cameras) Manfrotto.   As you will see from the reviews below Vinten are absent, but that is because I have only used their triopds a handful of times, so not enough to review them.  It is also worth considering that most grip equipment such as, jibs, dollys etc are designed to work with tripods with 100mm bowls.  Larger tripods from the big manufacturers will have this, and be able to  take the extra weight of a jib, the same can not be said all tripods.

manfrotto 504 headAt the lighter end of the tripod range Manfrotto make several heads for video cameras.  The manfrotto 501 head is designed to take a payload of around 2.5kg or 5lbs.  If you are shooting on a DSLR with a small lens the head on the Manfrotto will probably do an okay job with smooth pans and tilts.  This head does have a good locking system for panning, but not for tilting - to lock this off you have to tighten up the resistance to full.  If you decide to start adding to your rig in the future, with a monitor or EVF, a long lens, a shoulder rig or a bigger camera, this head just won't cut it.   


As you move up the Manfrotto price range you get the 504 (in the picture) and 509, these can take a heavier payload (around 7kg or 15lbs).  I must admit, I am not a huge fan of these tripods, the locking systems that stop the pan and tilt are never that sturdy, the plate on the top never seems to have enough travel forwards or back to correctly balance the camera.  These things I can put up with, but the thing that annoys me most about these tripods is the legs.  Several times I have used Manfrotto legs on a job (never my choice) where one of the legs starts to slide down mid shoot.  This is usaully solved by tightening the legs with an Allen key (if you happen to have one) not ideal.



Even if you don't need the additional payload at the moment, my advice would be to spend a bit more and go for something like a Miller, Satchler or Oconner.  I have heard of people shooting for their entire careers on one Satchler 20, these things are built to last.


Miller Arrow 40 Tripod Head

Of the three mentioned above the Miller work out the cheapest.  Miller are an Australian company, and their tripod designs are very much like that of Satchler.  The Miller Arrow 40 has a payload of 16kg (So just under that of Satchler V18 at 18kg) and the Arrow 50 is 25kg (Comparable to the Satchler V20 - also with a 25kg payload).

I have used both of these heads a great deal.  They work in much the same way, the only obvious difference is the operation of the tilt and pan drag mechanisms, but both work fine.  Both heads are decent quality and produce good smooth movement.  The only slight issue worth bringing up between these two is that the Miller's head has an unusually large screw handle that secures the head to the tripod legs, this isn't in itself a big deal, but some grip gear is designed with satchler in mind, such as dolly's, or high hats, and the miller screw won't always fit as it is so long.  This isn't a massive issue as you can get hold of a smaller satchler screw to hold the tripod head in place, but it is worth noting.Satchler 20 tripod head

A slight plus point with me for Miller is the feet. Satchler feet often need to be fiddled with to make sure they are flat on the ground, whereas the Miller design seems to work better for me.

As you can see, not much to talk about between the two tripods here, so it may just come down to price and the payload that works best for your gear.










Cine 7 7 Satchler head

Although the Satchler V18 and V20 are the heads that are most commonly used for TV work, a new head that I recently used was the Satchler Cine 7+7 HD.  I was really impressed with this head.  One of the best features is the plate that has lots of forwards and backwards travel (around 6 inches).  This is really useful when using single chip cameras such as the Sony F3, F5, Canon C300 etc.  When using these cameras the weight distribution changes massively depending on whether you have rear external batteries, monitors, different lenses etc.  This larger amount of travel really helps balance the camera on the head properly. Under the plate is a great little feature, screw holes where you can store an additional pin, 1/4" and 3/8" screws - simple stuff but very useful. It also has a good solid feel: lots of the tightening leavers are metal rather than plastic.  




Oconnor 1030d tripod headThe next tripod to talk about is Oconnor.  Oconnor traditionally make tripods for the film industry although more recently they have made tripods with a slightly lower payload for camera such as the F3, C300, RED Epic etc.  In my opinion these tripods are great.  There is something incredibly solid about the way these heads operate.   A slight problem with the locking mechanisms on the Satchler and Miller tripod is that they are located off centre on the head itself.  If you tilt down and then go to lock the camera off at the very end of the move, by pushing the lock leaver, you can easily upset the move by pushing the head down.  With Oconnor this just doesn't happen, you come to the end of your move, switch the leaver and it is rock solid.  The Oconnor 1030d has a payload of 30 LBS (13.6 kg) and the S version 41 LBS (18.6 kg).  Price wise, compared to the payloads of the Satchler the Oconnor is the most expensive of the bunch.  For a 1080ds with carbon fiber sticks you are looking at around 7000 pounds in the UK, or just over that figure in dollars in the US.

Although it is expensive, this thing is built like a tank.  Everything feels very solid.  No matter how many times this thing gets thrown into the back of a van or hurled off an aeroplane by a disgruntled baggage handler, it will surely last. 


Another tripod I am a big fan of is the Miller DS20.  I use this with my C300 for run and gun work when I need a lightweight tripod.  The DS20 packs down really small and is super light.  It also spreads wide and sits very low to the ground, so no need for a high hat or baby legs with this thing.

Further reading:

Miller tripods


Miller DS20 review.












Canon C300 Rigs

C300 redrock rig

I have used a few different rigs with the C300 many of which were good.  The most important thing for me when buying the rig was getting something modular, I didn't want to invest in a rig for a camera which would be useless when I changed camera, I wanted something that I could add to and adapt to different shooting scenarios with different cameras.  Most of the top name rigs work in this way, including Redrock, Zacuto and Vocas.


This picture on the left was the rig I started out with when the C300 first came out.  This consists of Redrock parts with a manfrotto quick release plate to mount the camera directly to the Redrock shoulder rig.  The advantage of this rig is having a comfortable shoulder pad - great for long shoots with lots of hand held work. This worked ok, but the camera always felt a bit high on the shoulder, the C300 is already a fairly top heavy camera so I decided to change things around to bring the camera lower down.

C300 redrock rig


On the right is my current set up, it is much the same as before, although I here use a Vocas riser to mount the camera.  The vocas riser allows the camera to slide onto the bars, bringing 
the camera down closer to my eye line.  There is no shoulder pad, I decided against it as it is perfectly stable without one, by pushing forward on the bars a little the weighted block at the back sit snugly onto your back and keeps the camera stable.  I also removed one of the weighted blocks as it wasn't needed and creates a nice light rig without it.








Vocas riser on C300


The vocas riser allows you to slide in 15mm rails, which give you the correct height to add on a matte box and follow focus.  It is a pretty solid steel construction and has movable screw holes on both top and bottom, so you can slide the camera or tipod wedge into the correct position.  I tend to leave this on the camera all the time and slide the rails in whenever I am doing handheld work.









 C300 rig with Noga arm

Another big benefit of the Vocas riser is the screw holes on both sides, these are great for attaching monitors etc.  I often add my monitor using a Noga Arm, this is useful as you can set the LCD screen to view assist and feed the Clog picture into the monitor.  It is also useful when you don't have a large dedicate client/director monitor, this way they can just look over your shoulder and see what you are shooting.












The Redrock rig packs down very small if needed, I break it down into just 4 parts, so it is quick to assemble.  I have used Zacutto rigs that were broken down into so many parts it was like some kind of Maccano set, and took an age to build - not idea at the beginning of every shoot.














 Zacuto C300 Stinger rig

The Zacuto Stinger is another popular rig for the C300.  The good point about this is that the shoulder pad is low on the bars, so the camera isn't mounted too high up.   I am not a huge fan of this rig, simply becuause of the distance the hand grips are from the lens and the camera.  They are fairly comfortable to hold like this, especially with the ball sockets in the handles which help with positioning, but when you want to quickly reach up to focus, the camera seems miles away.  This could just be a complaint personal to me though.
















Another rig that I have used that is worth looking at is from Tilta.  Tilta are a Chinese company, but there gear is much better quality than a lot of the Chinese made video gear on the market.  The rig has a small plate that fits onto the camera and then slides onto the Tilta plate, which in tern mounts onto a normal V mount quick release plate (those designed for standard Sony ENG style cameras).  There are holes at the front and rear for adding bars for rear weights, v lock battery adapters and hand grips.  The big plus about these tilta rigs is the price.  The item to the left goes for 430 pounds in the UK, add some hand grips and rods, and you will still have something costing less than a similar sized rig from Zacuto or Redrock.


If I had any complaints about this rig it would be that the camera doesn't lock in quite as tightly to the mount as I would like.  The camera is held in place by a screw fitting which can come a little lose causing a slight wobble on the camera.  This however, is a fairly minor complaint as you just have to ensure you keep tightening the screw when it loosens.

vignette on EFS 17-55mm lens on Canon C300

EFS Lens vignette and Canon's Peripheral illumination correction.

In many ways the 17-55mm EFS Canon lens is a great lens for the C300, it is stabilized, it has a good range for the C300 and it is pretty fast at 2.8f.  There is however a small issue with vignetting.  EFS lenses are designed to be used on Canon's 1.6 crop cameras such as the 7d, the sensor size of the Canon C300 is slightly larger and I imagine this is where the problem comes in.  The first issue I found is the flair hood for this lens (Canon EW-83J) which works fine when the lens is used on the Canon 7d, suddenly starts to vignette.  This isn't such a huge problem, and I just hacked at the sides of the hood with my leatherman, cutting off a few mil and problem solved - or so I thought.

I was working in an infinite white studio the other day and noticed the vignette with or without the hood.  I decided to take a few test shots back at home (this is where this post gets even more geeky).

vignette on 17-55mm on canon c300


Here is a test shot from the 17-55mm lens of a white wall.  Light fall off can definitely be seen at the edges of the frame.

This frame was taken at 17mm wide open at 2.8.









17-55mm efs lens vignette on C300 

This shot was taken at 55mm and the vignette was still there although less evident, I defocussed the shot - focusing nearer to the camera, and the light fall of is apparent.









I tried these shots with the stabilizer on the lens on and off.  With the stabilizer on the problem is worse, with the stabilizer off, the light fall off is still visible.

Like a lot of things, this can of course be fixed in post, however, it is certainly well worth thinking about this when choosing to use this lens.  I imagine the same defect would be present on all EFS lenses on the C300. 

So what about Canon's Peripheral Illumination Correction?  I have played around with this this and the difference is pretty big.  When I flicked the illumination on and off I saw a big difference and not just in the very far corners.  I exported a few frame grabs of this, but it is not very clear from them.  The only way to see it clearly is by actually watching it.




peripheral illumination correction on C300I wasn't sure how peripheral illumination worked and worried that it might just be a slight digital zoom in, it isn't.  This is what Canon say about it.

"Peripheral Illumination Correction automatically corrects for any lens vignetting, accounting for specific lens characteristics such as focal length, working aperture, and distance setting. This produces even illumination across the frame, from center to corner. Canon engineers thoroughly test different Canon EF and EF-S lenses, map-out the specific vignetting characteristics of each lens, and this data is input into the camera. As images are taken, the camera records this information, and lens-specific correction is applied during in-camera processing to minimize the natural darkening that would otherwise occur toward the edges of video images."

I haven't used this on an actual shoot, however, on twitter @anticipatemedia said that it causes issues when trying to grade the footage in C-log.    I guess if you are going to grade the footage, peripheral illumination correction isn't a great idea, as you are taking control away from the colourist, however, it may be a useful function for fast turn around shoots.

Which DSLR lens to buy if only buying one

I have been asked several times "Which is the best DSLR lens to buy", often by people who really only want to buy one lens.  The simple answer is that ther is no "best lens" as each lens is very different and designed for different purposes at different price points, however, I wanted to answer the question as best as I can here.

Canon 50mm 1.4fPrime lenses always give the best quality for the money: they tend not to breathe much, they are typically very fast and very reasonably priced (with the 50mm usually being the cheapest).  For example, for around £350 or $300 you can pick up a Canon EOS 50mm 1.4f or pay a touch more and get a 1.4 Zeiss, which have a better throw and sharper optics.  These are excellent lenses, they give you a really shallow depth of field, they are great in low light, however, they have a fixed focal length and you will constantly have to move the camera backwards and forward to frame up each shot.








If you tend to work on shoots that require a degree of speed, you may not have time to constantly change between your prime lenses, or shift the camera backwards and Canon 24-105mmforwards, and so a more practical option is a zoom lens.  Zoom lenses have a lot of glass in them, which means they tend to be slower i.e they are less good in low light and have a bigger depth of field.  The more money you pay for these lenses, the faster they become.  If you are going to be doing a lot of run and gun work, and you don't have time to constantly change lenses, the best lens has to be the Canon EOS 24-105mm.  This lens has a really big range (over 6x) for a DSLR lens, and most importantly it has a constant aperture.  Cheaper lenses tend to have variable aperture - this would be an absolute nightmare for video work, it may work fine for photography, but if you are filming something, the last thing you need is to have to adjust the exposure every time you zoom in or out.  The other good point about the 24-105mm is that it is an L series lens, meaning the build quality is good, it is weather sealed and you know you are using something with professional quality optics.   Another big advantage of this lens is the image stabilization, which is useful when shooting video. The only downside to this lens is it is relatively slow at f4, but that said cameras are so much better in low light these days that this is less of an issue than in the past. 


For most of the work I do, there is at least some time to switch lenses.  I prefer to use faster zooms with a f2.8 aperture.  These give you slightly less range, but then I  think it is worth it for the shallow depth of field.  You can read more about these lenses here.

Another point to consider when splashing out for a lens is that these lenses hold their value incredibly well.  I once bought a long lens for a shoot, I wasn't that happy with it, so traded it in on ebay after a few weeks.  I had bought the lens new from a shop at a discounted price and when I sold it on ebay, it actually went for £5 more than I paid for it.  It is well worth investing in decent glass, and if you decide you want to trade it in at a later date, you won't have lost much, unlike your camera, which will drop like a stone.


PL Zoom Lenses Fujinon and angenieux optimo

Yesterday I did a shoot with two Canon C300s and two PL zooms.  One was the new Fujinon 19-90 T2.9 (named "Cabrio" for some strange reason) and the other was the Angenieux Optimo 28-76 T2.6 (seen in the photo below).

angenieux optimo C300Most of the time I use EOS lenses on my C300, so thought I would write a few quick notes on these two lenses.  Obviously a big factor in a PL zoom lens like this is the range.   The Fujinon has the most range 19-90 being 4.7x which gives you a better range than most EOS lenses with the 70-200 being under 3x (Only the 24-105 has a bigger range, but that is a fairly slow lens at 4f).  It also has a rocker button, like an ENG style lens, this can be powered with a cable running to a D-tap.  I run my C300 with on-board batteries, so don't have a D-tap coming from a V-lock mount, so didn't actually try out the rocker.  The general feel of this lens is very much like that for a 2/3 inch camera, although this is a smaller, lighter weight lens.  The Fujinon lens is around 6lb, or under 3kg, however it still makes the camera very front heavy, so you would need a decent counter balance if you were using it on a handheld shoulder rig.


The build quality of both lenses is excellent.  The focus ring, zoom and iris control are all really clearly marked, and the throw on the fujinon 19-90 PL zoomfocus is huge compared to EOS lenses.  This is a feature I really liked.  Pulling focus from one thing to the next, while remembering the distance mark on the focus ring, makes it really easy to snap the focus from one thing to the next.

I was looking at the image through a large monitor, and both lenses had a good filmic quality to them, unfortuneately I didn't have any other lenses to compare them with.  At T2.9 and 2.6 These lenses are both a very reasonable speed, considering how much they can zoom.


The fujinon definitely feels like it is aimed at the documentary style, run and gun shooter, more so than the Angenieux.  The hangrip and the rocker button would work well for handheld situations.

So the final thing to say is how much these lenses cost.  The Fujinon is around £30k in the UK and $38 in the US so it is not a cheap option.  The Angenieux tend to go for slightly more around 35k in the UK.

Are they worth the high price tag?  I think that all C300 users are crying out for a mid range zoom.  If you go for a photography lens you get the 24-70L Canon 2.8, this is a nice lens, but not quite wide enough, or you have the 17-55s Canon which has a nice wide end, but not quite long enough (there is also slight vignette issues).  For me the range and speed of the Fujinon 19-90 makes it an ideal lens for broadcast tv work.  The rental prices on this lens is currently around 320 UK pounds a day, for that price you could rent an entire PMW 500 kit with camera lens sticks the lot.  For me this isn't cost effective.  Great lens, great range, nice optics, fast, but just a bit too expensive.

Kate Middleton Portrait artist Paul Emsley for National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery commissioned a short film to show the final stages of the painting of the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) by artist Paul Emsley.  There was only a short amount of time allotted to film this, just a few hours, and for a piece like this there is always the danger that it can end up looking like a news item.   Paul's studio was very small, so I decided to shoot much of the video on prime lenses to keep the depth of field as shallow as possible to give some depth to the room.  There are a few slider shots to give the piece a bit of movement, these were done on a small 1 meter slider, which was still fairly hard to work with in such a small space, but I think it was worth the effort.

Sony PMW F5 vs Canon C300 vs RED

Some thoughts on the new Sony F5


The Sony F5 has entered the market, competing with cameras like Canon's C300 and RED's Epic


Sony F5
For the past few years Sony seemed to have been relatively quiet, whilst RED and Canon have been busy bringing cameras that have had huge appeal and must be taking a very significant chunk out of Sony's market.  Sony have now brought out a camera that, on paper, looks amazing and has aimed the price right where it will hurt Canon and RED the most.

The Sony F5 is advertised on CVP for £10,295 in the UK + VAT and $16,490 USD from B&H in the US.  The Canon C300 is currently selling for £9,150.    No doubt you would spend a touch more on Sony F5 accessories than with the Canon C300, first off you need a view finder (from CVPs site it isn't clear, but it doesn't look like the viewfinder is included) at around £2000, and the batteries will set you back £300 each.  





Sony PMW F5 side panel The side panel of the camera bares more than a passing resemblance to Arri's Alexa, which is no bad thing.  This is a panel that is well configured and easy to use.

Sony have been making cameras for professional, broadcast use for years, and it shows.  There is a lot about this camera that just makes sense ergonomically: XLR audio inputs are positioned at the base of the camera. (Unlike the C300/500 which attaches them to an LCD monitor, which firstly you may not wish to use, and secondly is higher than the lens, so you have to be careful not to let the cables get in your shot ).

Right next to the timecode is an "in/out" switch, what a great idea!  With the C300 that same function is located inside a menu, which isn't great when you are at the beginning of a shoot trying to hurriedly jam synch two cameras.

Having a proper viewfinder is really a massive selling point for me.  All other cameras in this mid range seem to have some sort of compromise: tiny tail eye pieces that block out the light but don't give you an image big enough to correctly focus and expose with, or flip out LCD screens that work great indoors, but are less good outside in bright sunshine.  Even work arounds for this such as external EVFs still  have issues, either they are not as easy to move around into different positions or the data from the camera, such zebras, digital zooms, peaking etc aren't transferred across.

Sony-F5-modularAnother big selling point is the shape, this thing just looks like a decent block that is meant to sit on your shoulder.  The C300 is definitely too top heavy and can be a little bit awkward for handheld stuff.  

The filter wheel is right where it should be (unlike the C300 that has buttons that feel exactly like all the other buttons on the camera, so not something you would want to use without taking your eye away from the eyepiece).

As far as the technical specs on this camera go they look very interesting.  First off it is able to record in MPEG 422 8-bit or  XAVX 422-10bit.   The frame rate goes up to 120 fps without cropping. However, this is an option, i.e you have to pay for it, as standard the camera shoots half speed (50 or 60 frames at full res).   There is also the external recorder that allows 4k recording .  This will cost an extra £3,599, but if you don't need 4k immediately it is a great way to future proof your camera.  Again this is something that looks ergonomically sensible: rather than an external recorder that has to be attached in some awkward, off-balanced manor, this thing just clicks seamlessly onto the back of the camera.



I bought a 2nd C300 only a 2 months ago, if the F5 was available then would I have bought it ?  To be honest, looking at the specs and the ergonomics, I would have to go with the F5.  That said, whether you have a C300 or a Sony F3 or whatever it, you will still be able to make your money back on it, and that is what matters.  Those cameras still both produce amazing images.

Broadcast calimed that CVP has ordered 100 of the F5 and Toptechs 40, so it is already looking like a popular option.

Update.  Since I wrote this back in November of last year, I have had a chance to use the Sony F5 a number of times.  The first obvious thing about it is the heft and weight of it, if feels more solid than I expected and not at all pastic-y.  There are 4 mount points on the top of the camera, which is great for the top handle and other accessories.  Arri have made plate for the F5 and F55, which has a cheese plate for multiple mounting options of monitors etc and a top handle.  This is a defiinite advantage over the C300 which only has one small screw.  I also like the fact the the F5 can be rested on the floor, this sounds like a simple thing, but it is quite important, I often find myself passing the C300 to someone to hold just because if I put it down anywhere it will tople over, which isn't great.  When I first used the camera I realised the minimum iso was 2000, 2000!!! minimum.  I thought I'd made a mistake at first, as most cameras (C300, RED, Alexa etc ) tend to be rated around 800-850 iso, so you would imagine this thing will work pretty well in low light conditions.


I really like the look of the F5 in S-Log even straight out of the camera.  The image isn't so flat that you need a different looking profile to help you find focus (as you might with the Alexa or C300).  There are plenty of options out there to attach moose bars, shoulder pads etc to allow you to shoot handheld.  With the C300 I tend to add on additional weight behind the camera to help the balance, but this isn't necessary with the F5 as the camera is longer and less tall and makes a bit more sense ergonomically.


Overall the camera is fairly straight forward and simple to use, if you are used to using Sony cameras.  The menu is prety extensive and there are lots of options as you would expect.  If you have a job booked in with one of these cameras and you haven't used it, it is well work having a look at the online simulator.


The camera comes with a Sony mount, which you then need to add an adapter to if you want to mount a PL lens.  This seems slightly odd to me, to buy a camera that comes as standard with a mount that you will never use.


If you are deciding between a C300 or an F3 a big consideration is obviously going to be lenses.  With the C300 you can choose PL or EOS mount with the F3 it is just a Sony mount which you can then adapt to PL mount.  Now to really confuse matters Arri have the Amira, which will be available in B4 PL or EOS.  


Here is an F5 online simulator if you want to look at the menu systems.

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Upgrading from DSLR 7d or 5d is it worth it?

Upgrading from dslr 7d and 5d, is it worth it?

I have been shooting with the Canon C300 since  it first came out, since then I must admit it is very rare that I use my Canon 7d at all.

I did a job last week where the director really wanted 7d so I went back to it.  There is a big difference between using the two cameras and I thought I'd write down my observations, as it might be a good guide for those thinking of upgrading their DSLR, to see if it is worth the extra cash.

The biggest difference is the form factor.  Using a C300 is way easier than a DSLR.  I use a TV logic 5.6 monitor with the 7d, this works well for focusing however, I found myself constantly having to re rig the monitor at different angles often detaching it from the camera all together.  The C300s lcd monitor moves around so much more quickly and easily, saving you time.  The other big issue is exposure.  The 7d has no zebras so can be really tricky to expose correctly, it can be done of course (for a more detailed info on exposing DSLRS correctly see here), but again it just takes time.  With the C300 it is really easy to quickly flick up the zebras and spot check skin exposure.

Once you have the footage back in the edit suite this is where you see the big difference.  The C300 has a massive dynamic range and the colours and contrast can really be pushed and pulled, do this to the 7d footage and you quickly end up in a mess - there just isn't the latitude for it.

The other issue with the 7d footage is moire.  The camera really struggles with fine detail, and this seems somewhat heightened when movement is involved.

In the footage below there are a couple of bits that really jumped out at me (although it is slightly less noticeable with vimeo s compression.)  This first section is at 0:26.  The metal protecting the wooden platform (towards the bottom of the frame).  This looks really dodgy to me is seems to strobe and even the colours look a bit weird.  Would this past a QT test before being aired on the BBC?  I very much doubt it, but in this case the footage is a US broadcaster, so we shall see.

{vimeo width="840" height="480"}52551860{/vimeo}

The next issue I noticed was in the close up shots: the eyebrows seemed to have this same issue, as the fine detail just couldn't be correctly rendered with the 7d, this can be seen at  0:41.  In this case the shot is pretty quick and might slip through quality control.

If you are using DSLR for the web, then fine, but for broadcast work I think these issues could easily trip you up at some point, and so for me a fully functioning video camera is the way to go.

Canon C300 Custom profiles and gamma curves

Canon C300  Custom profiles and gamma curves.

The C300 has 9 scene files that can be used, or turned off all together.  These files are accessed via the "picture profile" button on the side of the camera.  These are labelled  C1 to C9.   Additional custom profiles can be made or uploaded from the internet, put on an SD card and then loaded onto the camera.  These files then appear as S1-S20 and can be loaded onto the camera, or just used directly from the card.

The last 2 of these in camera profiles are locked as standard:
C8: Cinema (This uses the Clog gamma curve for the greatest dynamic range.)
C9: Eos standard (same look as the standard picture profile on Canon DSLR - this tends to give fairly accurate colours, but it is also pretty punchy with regards to contrast and saturation.  I tend not to use it for this reason as it looks too vivid and blows highlights easily.)

The cinema profile using the Canon Clog gamma curve gives you the flattest image, with the greatest dynamic range.  This profile does get the most out of the camera, but requires a fair bit of grading in post.

Canon C300 CP Cinema picture profile CLOGThere are two way to access the Cinema / Clog profile: through the picture profile button on the side of the camera, or through the menu system.  For the menu route, go to the  menu button on the back of the camera, pick the camera icon > CP cinema locked >select ON and SET.  (CP locked will appear on the left of the screen.)

This will then disable the CP button on the side of the camera, (Until you go back into the menu and turn CP lock off).  CP cinema locked means you are using the standard Canon Log Gamma as it comes from the factory, this way you can guarantee you are using a profile that hasn't been adjusted by another user.  There is however a small amount of sharpening added when using this route.


With cameras such as the Arri Alexa, you can assign a REC 709 gamma curve to an evf, to give you a more standard looking picture to work with.  The C300 has a similar function when using Clog called view assist.  I like using this in the view finder so you can get an idea of how the image might look when graded.  I find this really helps with focusing.  For more focusing help check out this.

Inside each of the 9 scene files there are many of the usual elements you would expect that you can edit: gamma curve, black, black gamma, low key saturation, knee, sharpness etc etc.  Alan Roberts, a highly respected technician from the BBC, has written a paper on his recommended settings, I have noted down some of these comments in quotes below - followed by AR.

There are 8 Gamma curves to chose from:

Normal1 (default) NHK 4.0
Normal2 REC709 4.0 ("the 709 curve with lower slope near black"AR)
Normal3 REC709
Normal4 BBC 0.4
Cine1 ("cinema like tones"  "film for video…good for a film look for TV" AR)
Cine2 ("softer contrast"AR)
Canon Log
Eos Std

The final option is to shoot with no picture profile at all.

This test from Kevin Richie on vimeo shows each of the gamma curves.



If there isn't time for a grade and client wants a baked in look, for a quick turn around edit, it probably makes sense to go with Normal3 (REC709).  Here is what Alan Roberts has to say on this: "For broadcast purposes either Gamma 3 (ITU-709) or 4 (BBC 0.4) is perfectly acceptable. The BBC curve always produces more accurate colour rendition, but the 709 curve is normal for HDTV shooting"

Either you can make your own adjustment to create a custom picture profile, or download one from one of the many C300 users out there.  I have used several of these which I prefer to use over the Normal 3 profile.

DP Brian Weed made some alterations to to the Cine, Log, and Eos Std picture settings, that means there should be less grading needed in the edit.  These can be downloaded from the links below, or to read more about each CP log you can read up on them here.


Another CP profile that I like is from Australian DP Roger Price.  He has taken the recommendations of Alan Roberts and produced a CP profile that can be used straight out of the camera with no grading.  Great for fast turn around shoots.
A video of the profile, and a link to download it can be found here.

Abel Cine, who are a great resource for information about camera equipment, have several different picture profiles for the C300 for shooting in different conditions. 


For those who aren't familiar with the C300, here is a quick video I made to explain how to change the different custom picture profiles:





Also, if you don't own a Canon C300 and want to get familiar with these picture profiles before a job, Canon have a C300 simulator on line, so you can see how to load up various profiles for yourself.

Links to several camera simulators including the Canon C300, C500 Arri Alexa, Sony F5 can be found here.


Finally, a point made by Alister Chapman on twitter recently was that shooting flat isn't always best.  It is an interesting point as so much has been made of shooting with the flatest profile possible recently.  The point is that the camera only records a certain amount of data per second and using up all of this data with the widest possible dynamic range doesn't always make sense.  Not every scene requires a massive dynamic range, especially if you are shooting inside a studio.  

UPDATE:  With the latest Canon Update you now have a further profile Canon's Wide Dynamic Range.  This image give you a brief idea of how the profile will perform. 


There is more info on the latest fimware update here

Best picture profile for shooting in low light.

Lens comparison and crop factors

Firstly, before getting into this a word of caution.

Using the idea of a "crop factor" is slightly tricky, as to have a crop factor you need a reference guide, from which perspective all other sensor sizes are cropped.  With the advent of DSLR filming and "full frame" 5d and 1d some people talk of all other smaller sensor sizes as being cropped.  However, the  smaller sensor size of Super 35 has been a standard in the film industry for years.  For example, when working on an Arri Alexa most people from a film and TV background don't think of a 50mm lens as having the field of vision of a 70mm lens that  has been "cropped into", for them a 50mm lens has a field of vision they are used to on an Alexa, and they are not comparing it to the image you would get on a 36 x 24mm full frame sensor such as the 5d or 1d.

Other people may come from a 35mm film background, especially photographers.  These people are used to "full frame" 35mm as a reference point.  For these people super35 is a crop, and so the field of vision a 50mm lens provides on a super35 sensor is narrower than they are accustomed to.

Interestingly, there has been a move back towards full frame cameras recently.  Arri launched the Alexa LF and the LF mini (with a sensor size slightly larger than full frame) and Canon brought out the C700FF and more recently the C500mkii, both of which are full frame (38.1x20.1mm).  Sony have also got in on the act with the FX9.

Firstly the cameras. 

35mm Full Frame: 

sensor size: aprox 36x24mm - 38-21mm

Arri Alexa LF

Alexa Mini LF

Sony Venice

Sony FX9

Canon C500 mkii

Canon C700FF

Canon  5D and 1D

Super 35mm chip: 

Sensor Size 22x12mm - 26x15mm aprox (these have a crop factor of around 1.4 to 1.5 as compared to full frame cameras although sensor size varies slightly in this group)

Red Epic, Scarlet  (25.9 x 14.5)

Canon C300 C100 C500  (24.6 x13.8mm)

Canon C200 (24.4 x 13.5)

Arri Alexa (23.8 x 13.4mm)

Sony F65/F3, FS100, FS700  (23.6 x13.3)

Sony F55 F5 (22.6 x12.7mm)

Sony FS7 (23.6 mm x 13.3 mm)

APS-C chip:

Sensor size 22.2x14.8 crop factor of 1.6

Canon 7d, 60d, 50d (22.2x14.8mm)

4/3 inch chip:

sensor size: 17.8 x 10 crop factor of 2

Panasonic AF101

Blackmagic design camera

sensor size: 15.8 x 8.9 mm


2/3 inch chip:

Sensor size:   9.6 x 5.4mm   cameras have a crop factor of around 4x

Sony XDCAM 700/800 

Panasonic AJ-HPX3000

Most other traditional ENG style broadcast cameras.

In the image below, I have illustrated each sensor size as a comparison tool.  This image is 4 x the sensors actual size, so that the relative differences are easier to see.  As you can see, the difference between the yellow from the 7d to the red Super 35 is small even at 4x.  This is somewhat confusing as the actual sensors don't have the same aspect ratio, as they are also used for 4:3 recording or photos in the case of the stills cameras.  (To see the changes to the field of vision when in movie recording mode, see the next picture.)

video sensor size comparison 

This next image demonstrates the relative field of vision you would get from each sensor.  All of these are now 16:9 as the stills camera would be shooting in video mode at this aspect.


With the advent of 6k and 4k technology, cameras are able to shoot at 2k using a crop of their own sensor.  The great thing about that is it opens up the possibility of using lenses designed for smaller sensors or film, or you can use a full frame lens and gain a greater field of view and more flexibility.


In this next section I'll touch on the idea of mixing lenses, specifically putting lenses designed for a 2/3 inch camera on a super 35 sensor.  There are issues with quality when doing this.  2/3 inch bayonet mount lenses are not going to give you cine syle optics, typically they'll give a look a lot less sharp than you are used to.  However, when it comes to zoom lenght and price, they



Since there is a massive difference in the crop factor of 2/3 inch cameras and single chip cameras, I thought I'd write up a few lens range comparisons.  Many of us are used to working with Canon broadcast lenses such as HJ11, HJ22 etc, and since these are designed for B4 mount, 3 chip cameras the crop factor is pretty large.  Here are a few notes on how different lenses compare.

If you are interested in using a B4 mount lens on a super 35mm camera, you can read about that and the adaptors need here.

Lens size

2/3 inch 4x crop  Effective Focal Length

HJ11: 4.7 - 52mm

With doubler 9.4-104mm

HJ22: 7.6~168mm

with doubler 15~336mm

18.8mm to 208mm

37.6mm - 415mm

30mm - 672mm

doubler 121 - 1,462mm

This next table illustrates the difference between a full frame camera and a APS-C chip camera such as a 7d. 

Full Frame no crop

1.6 crop  effective focal length

(NB super 35 chip cameras will be very slighly wider here)










70-200mm with 1.4 extender 98- 280mm

70-200 with 2x extender 140-400









112- 320mm



Interestingly the HJ 11 full focal range is 19mm to 415mm (including the doubler) so if you wanted to have the same focal range using a single chip camera with eos lenses, you would need pretty much every eos lenses they make.

It is possible to use B4 mount broadcast lenses on single chip cameras with a B4 to EOS or PL adapter from MTF.  Since Super 35 sensor cameras have such a large chip compared to the broadcast cameras, the lenses will only work with the doubler on (otherwise you would have a massive vignette.)   I have done this a few times, although I am not a massive fan of it as you are obviously shooting through a layer of doubler glass and the optics aren't that great, although in terms of practicalities it does work.  MTF make a good variety of adapters, which you can buy from B&H. 

This is the range such lenses would give you on a super 35 chip camera:

HJ11 = 15-166mm

HJ22 = 24- 538mm

For further reading:

Abel Cine have created a useful comparisson showing all of the main camera sensors field of vision as compaired to super 35mm

Also from Abel Cine is an intersting tool that automatically calculates the field of vision on any lens size you choose from most of the major cameras in use.

Can you use the Canon C300 for reality/entertainment shows

I recently did some work for ITV's Dancing on Ice on my Canon C300 and thought I'd note down a few things: pluses and minuses for using the C300 for this kind of work.

dancing on ice shoot For me the C300 really excels when you can control the situation you are filming.   Web commercials, corporate films, traditional style documentaries or low budget films all tend to have a slower pace and the action can be stopped and repeated to ensure you have the shot.  When a director from ITV called me and said he wanted to improve the look of the first episode of a new series of Dancing on Ice and liked the C300, I imagined trying to follow focus as a load of untrained celebrities careered around the ice in an uncontrolled fashion, that said, I am always up for a challenge.

Firstly, some plus points.  The C300 has all of the features you would expect of a normal broadcast camera, which allows it to fit in with the rest of the cameras on a large scale shoot.  For any shoot where several cameras are recording, synching them together with timecode becomes essential to the edit.  A lock it box can be attached to the camera, and it has a TC in, so you can feed the camera timecode that won't drift throughout the day.  The camera can be black balanced, something that the camera assistant or DIT might want to do at the start of each shoot.  It is also really easy to dial in an exact colour temperature, which makes life easy matching shots in the edit.




There are always going to be a few negative points or difficulties when working with any single chip camera and the first of these is lens range.  With a traditional 3 chip camera, such as the Sony XDcam, the lenses focal range is massive.  Take the standard Canon HJ22 lens, it has a 22x zoom, with a flick of switch you have a doubler in, increasing that range to 44 x.  By comparison, a large sensor camera, such as the C300 using the 70-200mm lens give you a range of just under 3x.  You can of course put in a doubler of sorts (with a canon 2x extender) but this takes time to mount, and then you still only have a focal range of under 6x compared to 44x from the HJ22.

70-200 canon lens

You could of course use a lens like the HJ22 on a C300 using an EOS to B4 mount adapter.  This gives you a lot of range (although not without the doubler as it must always be in to help with the crop factor), however, the whole point of using a single chip camera like the C300 is to use nice lenses with a shallow depth of filed, so chucking a HJ22 on it, in some senses, defeats the point.  I only use an HJ22 on a C300 when I really need the range. (For a more in depth look at lens ranges and crop factors see this article)

What lenses with a long range give you is an ability to quickly respond to something that is happening, be it close or far a way, if you happen to have the wrong lens on when something dramatic happens, you could miss it.


The next challenge is focusing.  Shooting with a shallow depth of field, while people move around and the scene is totally unstructured is of course going to be tricky.  The issue with reality style programmes is that directors are usually looking for interesting synch from whoever is on the show.  Often everything that is said is recorded in it's entirety onto an audio hard drive, and APs will be noting down interesting bits of dialogue.  This will inform the directors choice of which shots to use, so it is important to keep shots usable and in focus for the longest stretches of time possible.


I guess to answer to the original question, can you use the Canon C300 for reality and entertainment shows, the answer is yes.  Although standard 3 chip cameras such as the XDCAM 800 are likely to be in focus for more of the time, and can access a greater range or vision, there is a trade off to be made.  The C300 could potentially record less moments, but the footage it does capture is pretty stunning.  I think the filmic look the camera has, the colour quality, the shallow depth of field and the large dynamic range, means the sacrifice is worth while.