Smoke Free

After more than 10 years of living life as a reformed smoker, I wanted to look into what made it such a draw for me. I wanted to explore what made me love it so that in the face of a true health risk I would continue to do it. Smoke Free is a double entendre shot entirely at 240 frames per second, and includes portraits of the people I interviewed.

I just love how relaxing and hypnotic it is…

Continue reading “Smoke Free”

Winter Street Photography – Chicago

I went for a walk around a very chilly Chicago with a couple of young photographers today, my niece Taylor and her friend Casey, to capture some street photography. We started in Chinatown, then went to the Water Tower, Lincoln Park, and ended up at Millennium Park. Here are some of the images I made…

And a shot of the young photographers…

Casey and Taylor
Casey and Taylor

Shooting “No Ordinary Hero” on the Canon 5D MkIII and Atomos Ninja 2

by Jeff Gatesman
I have shot a feature film called No Ordinary Hero with the new Canon 5D Mk III using the clean video output to an Atomos Ninja 2 and recording to ProRes 422 Hq. This was a conscious choice for several reasons, the main one being that we have a dozen or so FX shots, mostly green screen composites and we needed the fattest “negative” our low-budget film could afford.

I will get to the meat of the subject with camera setup and recorder settings in a moment but first let me start by addressing the fat “negative” statement (and unless you are going straight from your camera output to a finished product you need to be thinking of the files as a camera negative, or at least a starting point for your final look) because when Canon came out with the firmware update on April 30 that allowed for clean video out via HDMI on the 5D Mk III, I read a few posts where people visually compared the h.264 video from the camera to the 422 video recorded by the Ninja. The conclusion that there was no discernible difference visually between the files is as expected–the codecs were doing their job, compressing and decompressing the file so that in the end they look like HD video. This is not the point of recording 422 Hq over h.264. The reason for recording the raw video to 422 Hq is to get as much information as possible for the post workflow in order to be able to cut keys easily, and color time the final film without the degradation that begins with a lossy codec like h.264.

If you compare the two codecs you can easily see the difference: h.264 is an 8-bit codec using 4:2:0 chroma subsampling, and the Ninja 2 records Pro Res 422 Hq at 10 bits using 4:2:2 chroma subsampling. A simplified comparison is that the identical files as recorded from the 5D Mk III on cf card vs the Ninja 2 weigh in at 129 MB vs 863 MB respectively. That is almost 7 times as much information in the Pro Res files. In order to make the files so miniscule, the h.264 codec has to throw away valuable information during the compression process and rely on interpolation to recreate it during decompression. You can see the effects of a lossy codec by viewing the frame grabs below, taken from the actual footage from No Ordinary Hero and cropped at 100%.

h.264 frame grab from cf card
Frame from the h.264 file recorded onto cf card Canon 5D Mk III

 

Pro Res 422Hq frame grab from Ninja 2
Frame from the Pro Res 422Hq file recorded onto SSD drive Atomos Ninja 2

Notice how much sharper and higher contrast the image from Pro Res looks. Continue reading “Shooting “No Ordinary Hero” on the Canon 5D MkIII and Atomos Ninja 2″

Drops 2

A continuation of my previous post where I attempted to collide water droplets and freeze them in time by use of a very fast burst of light. This time I added a digital component to help get the timing more accurate and controllable. Click on the images to view them larger, or if you would like a print, or license, hit this button [button url=”http://gatesman.photoshelter.com/gallery/Water-Drop-Art/G0000Gqdm0BnPS48″ style=”black” size=”small”] Get a Print [/button]

One of the things I’ve come to like about these images is that they are kind of like cloud watching, in that I start to see different things in the shapes and patterns they make. But then, I’ve been looking at quite a lot of these recently and it may just be the creeping madness that comes from prolonged solitary work. I guess it’s time to hit the bar…

Monterey Auto Week and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

Monterey Auto Week has got to be one of the finest collections of rolling art on the planet and the pinnacle of the entire week is the Concours d’Elegance where 175 of the finest collector cars in the world roll onto the legendary 18th fairway at Pebble Beach.

I was there this past week to shoot some 3D car footage with the guys from 21st Century 3D, but managed to get a few stills of my own during a frantic week of chasing cars all over the peninsula.

Time lapse of the full moon rising over Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is a surreal landscape in the high desert called Mojave that is scattered with the foreboding, tree-like cacti from which it is named. It’s unique beauty is also reflected in the myriad of other hearty plants that dot the landscape and is oddly interspersed with other-worldly piles of gigantic rocks.

Toward the end of June the full moon came out and I shot some time lapse of it as it rose slowly over one such gathering of rocks appropriately named Jumbo Rocks.

Full Contact Scrabble

Stories of what a film crew can do when left unsupervised, with several days off, on a distant location are legendary. This is not one of those stories. Recently I was working on a film in Shreveport, La., and with 4 days off due to circumstances beyond my control, got together with some of the other crew members and made a short film of our own.

FULL CONTACT SCRABBLE from Jeff Gatesman on Vimeo.

I shot this film entirely with a canon 5D Mark II and grip and lighting equipment purchased from Home Depot. Our one prop was purchased at a swap meet for $7. Of course the film could not have been made without the great talents of our cast and crew, and a ready-made set.

The film was conceived and written by Nancy Breaux and myself, and we borrowed the strengths of our stunt coordinator, Gregory Brazzel, electric best boy, Ken Ballantine, key grip, Scott “Scooter” Hillman, set decorator, Mary Beth O’Connor, and location manager Kendrick Hudson. Our three actors were the stunt crew from the feature: Jennifer H. Cobb, Gregory Brazzel (stunt coordinator) and Tracy Thomas, who also wrote and recorded all the music for Full Contact Scrabble.

Sound for the film was recorded on the 5D using the built-in mic, which is less than desirable. Fortunately during post, 2-time Emmy-award winning sound designer Adam Johnston stepped in and trashed all of the location sound and replaced it with a mighty soundtrack complete with cicada’s, buzzing flies and the snapping gum that helps define Jennifer’s character.

If you liked the film, leave a comment for us. If you didn’t like it: what the heck is wrong with you?

Nancy Breaux: writer/producer
Gregory Brazzel: stunt coordinator
Ken Ballantine: gaffer
Scott, “Scooter” Hillman: Key Grip
Mary Beth O’Connor: set decorator
Kendrick Hudson: location coordinator
Ron King: location re-recording

Tracy Thomas: original music
Adam Johnston: sound design

cast: Jennifer H. Cobb, Gregory Brazzel and Tracy Thomas.
co-written, directed, shot and edited by Jeff Gatesman.
Watch it again in High Def:
Vimeo

5d Mark II – a sound camera

I got my new 5D Mark II a few days ago and I haven’t been as thrilled by new machinery as I have been about this in quite awhile. Without getting into all the really cool things that make this camera great (see any one of a million articles already published on the internet or in magazines), I have my own needs for this device and one of them is the ability to shoot 1080i HD video with my own compliment of Canon glass and get luscious, shallow DOF shots. Mostly I will be using the camera to shoot episodes of the firehouse cooking show Feeding The Fire, and the biggest concern for me has been sound, so I found a solution that works best for me.

The problems with sound on the 5D mark II is the tiny internal mic that picks up everything in a large radius around the camera, which is not good for recording dialogue, or anything else you want to use as a soundtrack for that matter, and the camera’s lack of control over audio recording, leaving the user with the less than desirable auto-gain only. The latter seems to be solved by a firmware update being offered by Magic Lantern. I say that is seems to be solved because the firmware is not quite ready for general release (see their wiki for more info), but it looks very hopeful as the option to give us audio control until Canon comes around to the idea, but if the history of the L1 sound issues are any indication, they will be in no hurry.

5D Mark II with Sound rig
5D Mark II with Sound rig

The solution for me seemed simple enough: I have a short shotgun mic that has been working great for me for years, and so I got a hot-shoe mounted shock mount to hold the mic above the lens, but needed a power supply for it. I wanted to stay away from the manufactured adapter boxes by Beachtek and Juiced because I think they are pretty pricey and relatively noisy. So I went with a clean sounding PSC 48V phantom power supply and a balanced to stereo mini plug adapter made by the good folks at Coffee Sound in Los Angeles. This gave me the ability to record clean audio, but the physical setup was to have the 48V PH on my belt with cables going from mic, to belt and back to the camera. I immediately thought of the high repair bills as I imagined all the ways this setup could cause the little mini plug to be ripped from the camera, not to mention the sheer inconvenience of it all, especially shooting documentary style when speed is all important.

So I opened the 48V PH box to get a look at where the electronics where and where I could punch some holes. A couple of minutes with some drill bits, a 2″ 1/4-20 screw and a locking ring to keep it from falling out, some flat cork, and I had a way to attach it nicely to the bottom of my camera. One more hole and a 1/2″ screw and I had the quickplate for my tripod attached to the bottom of the box and I was ready to go.

I just shot an episode of Feeding The Fire in River Grove, IL and this setup worked great. The images are incredible: the shallow depth of field give it a rich texture and the sound is just perfect.