Following on from Part 2, which focused more on accessories for gimbal use, I want to turn to another accessory or system tool. Now I believe that there are three main support systems for video cameras, a tripod/monopod, a gimbal (whether motorise or static) and a camera rig. All three serve a purpose that is often unique and one support system can’t be replicated, or not as well, by the other two. So I realised that I needed a camera rig to make the BMPCC 4K fully functional and useful when not using a gimbal or tripod/monopod and, while the gimbal is a great tool, it’s not a panacea or even desirable for every situation. To be quite honest, I didn’t want every scene to start reflecting the fact that I was using a gimbal. It’s like that old adage, ‘When all that you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail’. That’s the fear that I had that if I just tried to do all, or most, of my ‘movie making’ using a gimbal, I’d lose perspective on other techniques that are just as pertinent and equally important.
In Part 1 I discussed the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC 4K) and lenses that I intended to use with the camera and in this part I’ll cover some of the accessories that I’ve cobbled together to enhance the usability of the BMPCC 4K. I’ve spoken previously in Part 7 and Part 8 about some of the accessories that I’ve gathered to allow different techniques, but in this part I’ll talk about smaller accessories that complement the camera and indeed are essential to get the best out of the camera. I’m not in a position to buy top shelf accessories, so I’m always looking out for a good balance between price and performance, so I do a lot of research before I decide to buy anything. I also keep an eye out for specials, such as eBay has on a regular basis, to get the best deals possible. Now while many photographers have a number of accessories that can be adapted to video, especially tripods and/or monopods, there are a number of items that are not necessary or as necessary for photography, but are essential for video. As I progressed in my ‘Making Movies’ journey, I kept coming across the need for another accessory and then another one after that.
At the National Association of Broadcasters Show 2018, known generally as the NAB Show, Blackmagic Design from Australia dropped a minor bombshell on the attendees, revealing the newest iteration of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC). The NAB Show is primarily dedicated to the display of all things related to video, those involved in broadcasting, as well as pretty much anything to do with video production including cinematography. If you’re interested in video production, the NAB Show is certainly the place to be which, unfortunately, was not a place that I could attend. However, I have been monitoring what happened there though various video dedicated websites and YouTube videos. In my case, I was very interested in learning more about the BMPCC 4k as it’s called. Continue reading
In Part 7 I covered two types of gimbal that you can use with video cameras, static and motorised. In this part I’m going to focus solely on the FeiyuTech a2000 gimbal, some accessories I have for it, and how it can be used in somewhat innovative ways using accessories that any photographer or videographer most likely owns. I’m assuming that every videographer will own at least a tripod and some will also own a slider and If not, this story may provide an incentive to do so. Some of these techniques obviously can apply to all gimbals, but some techniques may not be as easy to emulate, if the gimbal doesn’t have the features that are available on the FeiyuTech a2000 gimbal’s handle (but more on that later). I haven’t noted any blogger/reviewer comment on what I’m about to discuss, so I’m assuming that no one has given any similar thought to how you can make use of gimbals and accessories in different ways than normally envisaged.
As if this has never been done before! Anyway, in Part 6 of Making Movies I wrote about the slider that I’d bought and noted that I was considering turning it into a motorised slider so that I could get more controlled and smoother motion. What I was achieving wasn’t too bad, but I could never quite get consistent motion across the full length of the slider and that started to become very frustrating. That convinced me even more that I needed to add a motor to the slider. But what really prompted me was when I decided to dismantle one of my old printers, salvaging any useful parts that I could remove, I came across a number of bits and pieces like motors, belts, brackets, as well as hundreds of small screws. That spurred me to start looking at converting my slider to a motorised one, given the parts that started to pile up.
In Part 6 I discussed a range of accessories that can make movie production easier and professional looking. Hand- held gimbals are becoming a major part of this, but the cost of motorised ones had me avoiding getting one. However, after numerous failed attempts at getting the static gimbal to work with my main cameras, I was facing a very frustrating brick wall that I couldn’t penetrate. While the static gimbal is supposed to be able to handle the weight of my cameras (much like a Glidecam), I was beginning to suspect that wasn’t the case. No matter what I did and no matter how many videos I watched on how to balance this gimbal, I could not get it to work. The shoulder rig on the other hand is great but is more a substitute for a tripod in awkward situations but, when moving about, the shoulder rig shows lots of jitter and movement. The more I pondered the subject matter that I would be recording, moving about was going to be a major part of anything that I did and what I had wasn’t going to cut it.
Sadly, my Mobius 2 camera came to a sudden demise just as I was getting things working so well. I started a warranty claim with the supplier, but then began to have some reservations about how effective this would be, given that I’d purchased the camera from an overseas supplier. So in the interim, I decided to get a RunCam 2 and see how that would perform. Given my comments in my Mobius story, I was hoping that this wasn’t going to be a mistake. The main thing was that from all the video reviews that I’d looked at, the video quality between the Mobius 2 and RunCam 2 was on a par and much especially depended on the user and how they set up the camera and processed the video. After seeing further video comparing the two, I was fairly convinced that there wasn’t going to be any loss in quality, maybe even a gain. And video quality after all is the aim.
I mentioned in Part 4 that gear wasn’t the most important thing when producing video and it’s not, but there are things that can make your video production easier and more importantly interesting, as I’ve been slowly finding out. Video production is all about conveying a story through visual impact; movement, light and manipulation of scenes, movement being one important aspect, and not forgetting sound and editing, as I mentioned in Part 5. This is how video provides the story that words provide in a book; you can’t leave it to the reader’s imagination, you have to create the imagination and that’s what I’ve been discovering. To that end, there are tools or accessories available that help you to create that imagination, as opposed to simply pointing a bare camera at things. You could achieve reasonable results with nothing more than a hand held camera, and movies have been done that way, but the results may not be as good unless that’s the effect that you want.
While the story, as discussed in Part 4, is still the most important aspect of video, there are two technical aspects that are pretty much vital to video post-production (compiling the story), software and hardware (a decent computer). As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been using Cyberlink PowerDirector for a while now because it’s not too bad a video editing suite. It’s well priced and, more importantly, it will run on my nearly 10 year old PC. So with PowerDirector and my old PC I’ve been able to produce all of my YouTube videos, but that old PC (Dell Studio XPS) has really been starting to show its age. It’s frequently rather slow, even when running moderate tasks and often running out of memory when doing several things at once. I knew that it was on its last legs as far as any photographic or video editing was concerned and my fears became more immediate when one of my monitors started to play up, which I confirmed was the graphics card starting to flounder. Getting parts for this PC was becoming difficult, so I was now more or less forced into looking at something new and more capable earlier than I anticipated.
As I noted last week, just when I thought things were going quite well with the MJX, the dash cam started playing up big time. While the dash cam was working OK while on direct power after the internal battery ballooned and was removed, for some reason video recording suddenly became sporadic and unreliable. One minute it would record and the next, nothing. I lost a lot of practice footage thinking the camera was recording, but when I went to view the footage, I’d have large files on the SD card but all I’d see is a black screen on playback. Basically, the camera recorded nothing, but still used space on the card. Given that the entire point of buying a drone was so that I could take aerial footage on our Cruises and other places, not just to fly the thing around, I now needed another camera and therein lay the problem. What to get that would be drone compatible, provide good video and that was reasonably priced?