Sonnet introduces its new SF3 Series Pro Card Reader for CFexpress and XQD

Sonnet SF3 Series Pro Card Reader for Cfexpress and XQD

The SF3 Series – CFexpress / XQD Pro Card Reader from Sonnet was designed to meet the time-sensitive demands post professionals and pro photographers face on a daily basis.

A recent addition to Sonnet’s line of card readers, the  new SF3 Series – CFexpress / XQD Pro Card Reader expands the family of  dual-slot professional media readers from the company, which already includes a CFast 2.0 Pro Card Reader, a  RED MINI-MAG Pro Card Reader and a SxS Pro Card Reader. The CFexpress / XQD Pro Card Reader is the fourth dual-slot card reader from the company, which also offers a variety of single slot solutions.

The SF3 Series – CFexpress / XQD Pro Card Reader features dual card slots and a 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 interface. CFexpress 2.0 Type B is a new, ultra-fast recording media developed to support the requirements of shooting 4K and 6K RAW video and continuous capture of high-megapixel photos. XQD cards have been available for several years and share the same form factor and connector as CFexpress 2.0 Type B media.

Sonnet SF3 Series Pro Card Reader for Cfexpress and XQD

Designed for post professionals

Compatible with Mac and Windows computers with Thunderbolt 3 ports, the SF3 Series – CFexpress / XQD Pro Card Reader ingests footage from CFexpress 2.0 Type B and XQD media at up to maximum supported speeds, says Sonnet. Designed for demanding workflows, Sonnet’s SF3 Series card readers are built with rugged aluminum enclosures and dual Thunderbolt 3 ports. These features enable users to stack and connect up to six readers to their computer in a daisy chain through a single cable, and ingest footage from four, six, or more cards simultaneously. The Sonnet reader is also compatible with older Macs with Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt ports when used with the bidirectional Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter and a Thunderbolt cable (both sold separately).

Designed to meet the time-sensitive demands digital imaging technicians (DITs), post professionals, and pro photographers face on a daily basis, who need to offload huge files from memory cards in as little time as possible, the Sonnet reader not only delivers, according to the company, better CFexpress card ingest performance than any USB-based reader, it also “can ingest files simultaneously from two CFexpress cards at up to 2,600 MB/s (or two XQD cards at up to 800 MB/s) — cutting ingest times by up to half compared to any USB- or Thunderbolt-based single-slot reader available.”

Sonnet SF3 Series Pro Card Reader for Cfexpress and XQD

Faster workflow with these card readers

Sonnet’s SF3 Series – CFexpress / XQD Pro Card Reader, notes Sonnet, “is the only dual-slot CFexpress 2.0 Type B card and dual-slot XQD card reader available, and it supports both card types in both slots. For DITs working multicamera shoots or in a small workspace, the ability to stack multiple SF3 Series CFexpress / XQD, RED MINI-MAG, SxS, and CFast 2.0 readers in the same footprint is convenient, while being able to connect them all to a computer through a single cable is game-changing.”

The capability to ingest multiple cards simultaneously means that users can complete the process — without swapping cards — in as little as one-sixth of the time required using single-slot readers. For users who need to mount their gear in equipment racks, Sonnet SF3 Series readers include threaded mounting holes to support installation in a standard rack shelf, enabling side-by-side mounting of two readers in 1U of rack space.

Whether you’re capturing 4K at 60P RAW video footage to CFexpress memory cards, or shooting hundreds of photos in a session and saving them to XQD memory cards, the generated files are huge, and the cards fill up fast. Moving those files to your computer for editing is a must, but if you use the wrong tool, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting around. Get a Sonnet SF3 Series – CFexpress/XQD Pro Card Reader; it’s the ultimate tool for finishing the job fast, says Sonnet.

The SF3 Series – CFexpress / XQD Pro Card Reader is available now at a suggested retail price of $199.99.

Can Visual Content Remain Trustworthy?

The battle is on. The forces of truth against forces of deception. With visual AI making it easier to fake visual content, its credibility is at stake. And with it, the income of thousands upon thousands of people worldwide who depend on the credibility of visuals to thrive: newspapers, magazines, photographers, newswires, webcasters, television news, videographers, journalists, and photo agencies, among many others.

The stakes are very high. If we no longer trust our photos or videos, we lose our primary knowledge of what is truly happening outside of our immediate surroundings. With it, the ability for democracies and societies to function properly.

Trust in Accountability

The best way to beat (as in, uncover its deceptive intent) deepfakes and manipulated images is by revealing their source. If we know who is the creator of a video or photograph, we are more likely to know if it is real or not. If anything, we will be alerted to its potential to deceive.

Introducing accountability via verified authorship will restore trust. Photo by Bernard-Herman.

When we read an article, we seek to find out the author to assess its level of credibility. An author with a long history of proven trust reliability (and a few Pulitzer to her name) will undoubtedly be more trusted than someone just starting out of college.

The publication, often, will increase or decrease someone’s credibility. An article written by a complete unknown published in the New York Times will be trusted. The same article published by the same author on Breitbart, much less likely so.

Revealing authorship also forces accountability. It creates a referential history. Together, they are clear markers for trust. While deception hides in the shadows of anonymity, truth needs no filters. Thus, enforcing authorship creates a higher level of credibility.

The Content authenticity Initiative

This is precisely what the NYT, Adobe, and Twitter have decided to put in place with the Content Authenticity Initiative launched in November of 2018. Create a framework that allows for the creation and preservation of the authorship of visual content, one that can be used by anyone from publishers to tech companies. With it, consumers will be able to identify the source of a photo or video, allowing them to make an informed decision on the credibility of a file.

To establish authenticity, one has to define both authorship and integrity clearly: The file was created by this person/entity ( authorship), and the record has not been tampered with. Authorship, as we have seen above, is fundamental to a file’s credibility. Without it, it is impossible to assess the intent. Integrity is showing if and how the file was edited. It’s a show of hands, publicly declaring any alteration. Any intention to deceive, like an object/person removal or replacement, can be clearly acknowledged.

It seems simple enough. But there are many issues. Claiming authorship should be a choice, not an obligation. Under a totalitarian regime, authors of photos or videos will not want to have files associated with them, as they would risk imprisonment or death. But letting authors/creators decided if and when they declare ownership changes little of today’s situation.

The same goes for integrity. Graphic designers and Photoshop artists are not likely to publish their file editing history as it would be releasing their trade secrets. Thus alteration history should also be an option and not an obligation, leaving today’s situation pretty much unchanged.

Authenticity should respect anonymity. Photo by Kaique Rocha.

Will it Work?

For a project like the CAI to work, strong incentives should be in place. It could come from various sources. Publications, like the NYT or Vice News, could decide not to accept photos/videos that do not have follow the Authenticity Framework. Platforms like Twitter or Facebook could degrade posting who publish non-authenticated content. Anonymous content would need to be vetted by trusted publishers.

Authenticity could also be linked to copyright and license payments, as proposed by Article 17 of the European directive on Copyright. As a framework on authorship, the CAI could be used by tech companies to redistribute revenue to creators. Even designers might change their minds if there is revenue involved.

Out of six senses, vision is, by far, the one we trust the most for critical information. Studies show that if receiving conflicting information from our senses of sound and touch, for example, vision is always the sense we rule correct. It is our primary source of trust. If we see it, it exists. If not, it might not be real. If we can no longer believe what we see, our world will be torn apart.


About the author: Paul Melcher is a photography and technology entrepreneur based in New York, and the founder of Kaptur, a news magazine about the visual tech space. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his writings on his blog, Thoughts of a Bohemian. Melcher offers his services as a consultant as well. This article was also published here.


Image credits: Header photo by Sven Lachmann

to Check Or Not To Check In Your Camera?

Your going on an overseas shoot and trying to decide whether to check in your camera or take it as carry-on on the flight. What should you do, which is best?

24.8 million checked bags went missing in 2018, so it’s not a small problem.

Europe is the worst with 7.29 bags per 1,000 passengers annually, then it’s 2.85 in North America and only 1.77 in Asia.
So if you’re in Europe and travelling with say 3 bags – camera, tripod, lights. Then statistically your going to lose a bag around around once every 45 flights (22.5 return journeys). The statistics actually fit well with my own experience of a checked in bag going missing about once every 2 years. Most of the time they do turn up eventually, but if you need the gear for a shoot this can often be too late, especially if the location is remote or a long way from an airport.
Some years back I had a huge flightcase with a complete edit system in it disappear on a flight. It didn’t show up again until a couple of years later, found by the airline quite literally on the wrong side of the planet. How you lose something that size for years is beyond me. But stuff does go missing. This case eventually found it’s way back because my name and address was inside it.  And that’s an important point. Make sure your contact details are on your luggage and IN your luggage. On the outside I only put my mobile phone number as there are criminal gangs that will look for addresses on luggage knowing that there’s a higher than normal chance that your home or business property may be unattended while you are out of the country.

Another thing to think about is how tags get attached to your luggage. If the bag is a hold-all type bag with two straps, often the check-in agent will put the baggage tag around both carry handles. If a baggage handler then picks the bag up by a single handle this can cause the tag to come off. Also baggage tags also have little additional bar code on the very end of the tag. These are supposed to be stuck onto the luggage so that if the tag comes off the luggage it can still be scanned and tracked. But often the check-in agents don’t bother sticking them on to your luggage.

If you have ever worked airside at an airport, as you move around you’ll often see small piles of luggage stacked in corners from where it’s fallen off luggage belts or worse still are the bags on the outside of bends on the airport service roads, often in the rain or snow, that have fallen from luggage bins or luggage trucks. Many airports employ people just to drive around to pickup up this stuff , throw it into a truck and then dump in a central area for sorting. Most will eventually find their owners but many won’t which is why they are now many specialist auction houses that sell off lost luggage on behalf of the airlines and airports.

Also what happens if you get caught up in an IT failure or baggage handlers industrial action? You valuable kit could end up in limbo for weeks.

So, I recommend where you can you take your camera as carry-on. Also do remember any lithium batteries MUST be taken as carry on. Tripod, lights etc, that can go in the hold. If they go missing it is a complete pain, but you can probably still shoot if you have the camera a lens and couple of batteries.


to Check Or Not To Check In Your Camera? was first posted on February 22, 2020 at 4:27 pm.
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Reaching the Megapixel Limit (for 35mm Camera Scanning)

Since I first started camera scanning, I’ve always advocated using the highest resolution camera you can get ahold of. (My first camera scans were with the 1.3-megapixel Nikon E2n, so it’s been a long road.) That advice is changing.

The new highest-resolution DSLR cameras now have such high pixel density that you may get better scans by backing down to a lower resolution camera, at least for 35mm. Here’s why.

Diffraction-Limited Resolution

The main problem is not camera design or lens design — it’s physics. As light passes by the blades of your aperture, it bends. But it does not bend equally for all wavelengths of light, so you get a scattering of light.

On the left is a simulation of the scattering of light called an Airy disk. You can see the spread of light colors in a prismatic pattern. But even with light a single color of light you get a spread when the aperture is very small. On the right is a photo from a red laser. The single wavelength of light produces a distinct set of rings.

When you shoot at a large aperture, a smaller percentage of light rays are passing closely to the aperture blade, so the scattering is limited and things look sharp. As you close your aperture down, a higher percentage of the light rays scatter on top of each other.

When the individual pixel sensors are large, this may not create a decrease in apparent sharpness. But as the pixel wells get smaller (so you can get higher resolution), the effect becomes very pronounced. Sharpness falls off rapidly at some point. Higher pixel density requires the use of wider apertures in order to take advantage of the full camera resolution.

Here are three photos made with the same camera and lens:

At the widest aperture, (left image) the soft focus is caused by the chromatic aberrations and focus imperfections on the outer edge of the lens elements. As you stop down, you get to the sweet spot of the lens and the sharpest image (center image). And as you continue to close down, you run into the limits of diffraction (right photo), even though the lens itself is likely to have the fewest imperfections in this part of the glass.

Not Just for Copy Work

Of course, the diffraction limits are not just an issue for copy work. This same effect shows up in your regular photography as well. That lens that looked good at f/16 with a 14-megapixel camera will show significant softness with a 45-megapixel camera. (Run a full set of test frames at all apertures, and you’ll see what I mean.)

Camera scanning rigs. Photos by pedrik and Roger Gerbig and licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Here’s the Trade-Off

When you use a very high resolution camera, you are going to be limited to using wider apertures, in order to avoid diffraction problems. Unfortunately, this may lead to a depth of field problem for scanning film that is not perfectly flat or for cameras that are not properly aligned with the film. So the marginal resolution increase you get with more megapixels may be entirely lost to a lack of critical focus across the entire frame.

Your Lens is Probably Not Made for This Task

Diffraction limits are a theoretical problem. But there are some real-world issues at work here too — ones that are more likely to show up with the high megapixel cameras and high magnification.

Modern professional macro lenses are generally very good, but they are typically not optimized for 1:1 reproduction. Usually, manufacturers try to balance performance between general use and macro use. And except for the Coastal Optics ($5,000), DSLR lenses are not apochromatic, so there’s an inherent prismatic effect at all apertures.

Can’t We Fix This Somehow?

Sure, there are a bunch of technical approaches to fix the problem. You could try glass mounting the film, but that comes with a lot of other workflow problems — newton rings, dust, reflections, and slower workflow to name just a few.

You could use very precise hardware to calibrate the alignment of the camera with the film, in order to make sure they are exactly parallel. There are several systems that have this precision built in. Digital Transitions makes some very high-end copy stands with Phase One backs, special apochromatic macro lenses, and lots of really nice film holders. They are also cost as much as a BMW (and not a crappy BMW, a nice new one).

Fortunately…

So here’s the good news. Most 35mm film does not really benefit from scans over 30-40 megapixels. There’s just not that much image information in the film. You might get a better scan of film grain, but that’s unlikely to show up in any normal usage, even on very big prints.

The FADGI guidelines are considered to be the go-to best practices for museum scanning, and they recommend 4000 PPI for 35mm, which translates to less than 20 megapixels. I like higher resolution, but not so high I bump into the focus problems described above.

Again, I strongly suggest making some test prints, ideally at very large sizes. Or throw the images up on an 8K TV if you have access to one. This is a better test of actual viewing experience than zooming in with Lightroom or Photoshop.

In order to evaluate scan resolution on a real-world basis, I like to make big test prints and then examine closely. My go-to size for these is 24×36 inches. If the image holds up at this size (and 30MP does nicely) then it will also hold up as you go larger and viewing distance increases. Camera included here for scale.

The Bottom Line

For 35mm, you can use that 24-45 megapixel camera and make fabulous camera scans which are suitable for any use that most people will ever have. You get more margin of error in your hardware, alignment and setup. The cameras cost less, and they can use widely available lenses.

When scanning medium and large format film, you can put that 50+ megapixel camera to good use. Because you are not focused at such a close range, you’re not pushing your lens so close to the limits. And the greater camera-to-subject distance allows you to use a larger aperture while still avoiding alignment and flatness problems.

In any case, as you put a camera scanning rig together, I strongly suggest doing critical focus evaluations at multiple apertures, and pay lots of attention to the center and all 4 corners of your scan. If it’s too hard to get uniform sharpness with very high megapixels, try using a lower megapixel camera and check the results.


About the author: Peter Krogh is a photographer, writer, and software designer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Krogh is the author of six books, including The DAM Book 3.0 and Digitizing Your Photos with Your Camera and Lightroom. He is the new Chief Product Officer at Tandem Vault. More info at www.theDAMbook.com.

The ‘Why’ of an Advertising Photo

I did my first advertising assignment in the year 2000. I still remember how excited I was when I, a few months later, walked out of a bookstore on Chestnut Street in San Francisco with several magazines with my pictures in them.

20 years into my career as an advertising photographer, the excitement of seeing my work published in magazines and printed oversized on billboards is just as thrilling. The campaign we captured for Qatar Tourism launched globally last year and have since been used in magazines, on billboards in airports and places like New York’s Times Square and London’s Piccadilly Circus, and “everywhere” online.

The thrill of having my work published is absolutely the same 20 years later.

How I approach my commercial work and how I understand the responsibility trusted to me when awarded an assignment, however, has changed completely during this time.

My approach early on, I now realize, was quite naïve. Being hired was fun and exciting; I couldn’t fully believe someone would pay me to take pictures. Eager to please, I dove into each assignment with a massive amount of enthusiasm! I was on a continuing high of creative endorphins and I pushed myself and my image process as hard as I could.

But I was doing so without the larger understanding of WHY. Had someone asked me during these early years what the images we captured represented and symbolized for the client, I would not be able to answer…

I remember vividly the assignment when I became aware of the trust extended to me when hired as a photographer. I had just been awarded what was the largest assignment of my career at the time, and as we wrapped up the kick-off call the Art Director says; “This is the biggest advertising spend this company has ever done; Don’t f*** it up!”

This company is among the 50 largest in the world…

With this, I started to realize the responsibility I have as the photographer chosen to execute the images for an advertising campaign and got a larger understanding around the work the agency and client have done on the campaign prior to approaching possible photographers to create the imagery.

I did some of my signature images during this time, so it was not that the work didn’t hold up. It was more about my creative process not being refined enough to include a full understanding of what I was hired to create. I guess I was so excited about the fact I got hired to do what I love that I didn’t quite see the bigger picture. Or maybe I simply lacked the depth or curiosity at that stage in my life to ask myself the very basic questions:

WHY does the client want to create this kind of image?

WHY this idea?

HOW does it relate to the message of the brand?

WHAT kind of person do we cast and what environment are we in?

WHAT light quality and color palette would help underpin the emotions the Advertising Agency wants the image and brand to be connected to?

These questions are so obvious for me to ask today and the answers serve as the North Star for my approach in every new project I take on.

One might think one gets jaded as one gets older, but for me, it has been the opposite. Having been at my photography journey for 25 years and working with advertising for 20, I now have a very different insight and understanding of the work clients and advertising agencies put into building a brand or launching a product.

An ad agency (or in-house creative) can work on a launch for months and years before getting to the stage where they are ready to execute the visuals. To then be the photographer chosen to turn their ideas and concepts into images and films is a huge privilege and I put more pressure on myself to deliver today than I ever have.

With this privilege also comes the expectations to perform at a high level and to craft images which in an artful way touches on all things WHY of the image and campaign…

The first time I deeply felt the gravity of a campaign and my photographs’ need to be successful was in January 2009. The economy was crashing, and tourism and travel came to a halt.

Spain, where the tourism industry is as much as 16% of GDP, had tasked the Advertising Agency McCannErickson in Madrid to launch a global campaign to boost tourism. They, in turn, hired me to be the photographer shooting the images for it…

I had done larger campaigns for a while but was still fairly new at being hired for media buys at this level.

I vividly remember the first day of the 3-week shoot. Never have I felt more pressure and a sense of relief.

When scouting the location, we had decided to have a fence along the cliff removed for the shoot. We show up in the dark, early in the morning on our first shoot day to get ready for sunrise. As my producer is removing the temporary fencing placed for safety, he trips and falls off the cliff…

He catches himself on some trees growing out of the cliffside with just a few bruises, and we got him safely back up. Shortly afterward, 19 people from the agency and the Spanish Ministry of Tourism show up to watch the first image of the campaign happen…

It is January and the weather had been terrible for days. The forecast for the morning was not great, but we could see breaks in the cloud cover as dawn arrived with its first light. As the sun rose and broke through the clouds and the images came up on the computer, the relief from the group behind the camera was palpable.

It was a strange mixture of emotions that morning. The adrenaline from the fall and rescue of my producer, the pressure surrounding the importance of the campaign, and that relief when it all turned out okay and the sun rose across the peninsula and water.

My producer didn’t say much at all the rest of that day. He sat quietly on a patch of grass until the shoot was over and then headed for the hospital to get his bruises looked at.

I finally came off my adrenaline-fueled state of the accident and focused through the shoot. I then had my reaction; I got dizzy, threw up, and had to find my own patch of grass to catch a break and reflect on the morning.

One could argue that my early ignorance of the gravity of my assignments was bliss and that I was better off just having fun creating, but I have gotten better at managing pressure and gained some life perspective on marketing and pictures. We are not performing life-threatening surgery…

I have found what’s closer to a balance where I have the utmost respect for the process and gratitude to get to be a part of it. I have in the decade since been lucky enough to be hired for many both high and lower profile assignments. All with its own sets of pressures and expectations…

So why am I sharing these stories around the understanding of the creative process and the WHY of a brand’s visual language?

I get asked all the time where I see the future of advertising photography.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I reflect on the traditional use of images in newspapers and magazines largely being gone, and the profound proliferation of photography through the camera phones and social media.

Gone are the times where one image could make the bold brand statement. The memory of a single image is simply washed away among the next few days or weeks of our social media streams. For companies to thrive in today’s environment, they have to use every digital and media avenue available to them. There are tracking, metrics, profiling, AdWords, social media, and influencers…

At the core of these new branding efforts, there has to be a brand message and narrative with a deeper substance in which the consumer can connect to. Otherwise, we will forget about the company as quickly as we forget about the image they used to market themselves.

If you believe this as I do, it is obvious that it will be increasingly important for us as photographers and filmmakers to understand both the need and the WHY of this core branding.

I believe it to be the best way commercial photographers and directors can effectively help shape brands and their story, and a big part in us photographers continuing to thrive.


About the author: Erik Almas is a California-based advertising photographer who travels around the world shooting for clients like Kohler, Toyota, Puma, Nike, Hyatt, USPS, Citibank, and Amtrak. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To see more of his work, visit his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This post was also published here.

Shooting a Creative Album Cover Photo with a Delorean

In late 2018 my buddy RJ (AKA RJD2) approached me about shooting the cover art for an upcoming album he was working on. He didn’t have a concrete idea about what he wanted to do but suggested possibly involving his Delorean.

He was specific about the images not being about the car itself but rather capturing elements of the car’s shape and incorporating them into creative portraits. I was intrigued but really couldn’t visualize what the hell he was talking about.

Eight months later, he hit me up and told me he was ready to shoot. He said that he had a garage that he’d just painted white that had a 14-foot ceiling with trusses. His plan was to suspend himself upside down above the open doors of his Delorean, and he seemed confident that he could rig himself adequately with a climbing harness and some ropes.

When I suggested that it may be easier to just shoot him and the car separately and composite them, he was aghast. Ok, we’ll do it the hard way.

I met my assistant Seth at RJ’s garage on a particularly hot day in August. The windowless space was hovering right around 100 degrees. It was also filled with a bunch of clutter, including a broken two-ton scissor lift.

The space was small enough that there was no way I could get the depth I needed to make the shot work with the lift in the space, so it would need to be moved. With three of us pushing on it, the lift wouldn’t even wiggle. Thinking on his feet, RJ grabbed an industrial-sized car jack and jacked up one side of the lift, sliding a cart underneath. Then he jacked up the other side and did the same. With the lift on castors, the three of us were able to get it out of the space.

Now to figure out the rope situation.

RJ began rigging up a couple of ropes, trying to gauge the right distance and height so that he could hang upside down with his head centered a foot above the car roof. Once he got the ropes right he would climb up and flip upside down only to find that the car needed to move an inch to the left. Then he’d climb down, we’d roll the car forward six feet, adjust the steering wheel, and roll it back into place, hopefully in exactly the right spot. It took three or four attempts.

Once the car position and rope rig was sorted out, we were ready to shoot, although RJ was now red, sweaty, and disheveled (we all were). As RJ got himself correct I started placing lights and dialing in my settings. My plan was to shoot the setup in a couple of different ways. The first version was against a white background and the second against a dark background.

Even with the space emptied, I didn’t have much depth to place lights. Ideally, I would’ve had twenty feet behind the car to blow out the background to keep light from spilling onto RJ, but there just wasn’t enough room. I also would’ve preferred to use a longer focal length lens to compress the car and RJ, but the space dictated that I use my 16-35mm lens.

RJ got into position over the car, sitting upright until my lighting was ready. I used two Godox AD200s to blow out the background, which I placed on the trunk, aiming into the back wall (small flashes FTW). Next, I hooked up a projector to my laptop and created a white line in Photoshop, which I then cast across RJs eyes (in order to get a good exposure on the projector I had to cut the room lights).

Photo by Seth Moses Miller

Once the lighting was set, RJ inverted himself and I snapped about ten frames and then had him flip back up and rest. Any longer and his face would’ve been too red. I quickly reviewed my images, had him flip upside down once more, snapped ten more frames and got the shot.

With the bright shot out of the way, I repositioned once of background lights to aim back toward the camera, leaving RJ silhouetted.

Photo by Seth Moses Miller
Photo by Seth Moses Miller

Such a simple change of the lights angle completely transformed the shot into a dramatic teaser image, which ended up making the cover of the album.

Had we instead decided to composited the image, one thing I wouldn’t have thought to Photoshop was his inverted reflection that you can see at the top of the windshield. It always pays to get the shot in-camera.

With the main shots out of the way, RJ climbed down and I set up to take a simple portrait of him. My plan was to get one good portrait of him with a lot of dark shadows and bright whites against a white background. This type of shot is ideal for making multiple exposures, which my Canon 5D Mark IV can easily do in-camera.

I set the portrait I had just taken as my base image. I turned on the multiple exposure feature and set the overlay mode to “bright”. I turned on the camera’s live view, which displayed the portrait of RJ overlaid over the viewfinder. Then I moved around the car, selectively shooting graphic elements, each merging seamlessly into the shadow areas of the portrait. RJ ended up using these images as album single covers.

Not counting the time it took to clear the space, the whole shoot was over in just over an hour.


Thank you to RJ for including me in your insanity. Thank you, Seth, for helping make it happen. Thank you, readers, for staying with me to the end of this account.


About the author: Nick Fancher is a Columbus, Ohio-based portrait and commerce photographer. You can also find more of his work and writing on his website. His popular books can be purchased on Amazon. This article was also published here.

Litra Studio Light Hands-On Review

With a variety of professional features ranging from RGBWW modes to gels, effects, and waterproof aluminum construction, the Litra Studio is reaching for stardom. Yet, does the fixture hold up to the rigours of a film set? We took the Litra Studio out for a spin in the field. 

Did I mention it’s waterproof? Image Credit: Graham Sheldon

cinema5D reported about the Litra Pro back in 2018, but until now I hadn’t had the opportunity to work with any of the three main Litra fixtures: the Torch 2.0, the Pro, and the Studio. For me, the previous lights were – despite the large output – just a little too small for my usual projects and they seemed directed at on-camera adventure applications (not my background) or for accent or product lighting. However, the newer and larger Litra Studio recently became very interesting to me, for several reasons:

  1. It is RGBWW and includes onboard gels, plus it appeared to pack an amazing size to output ratio.
  2. The light promised the same indestructible design of its predecessors.
  3. An upcoming movie (a thriller) I was operating on required underwater cinematography and Litra claims the Studio could handle depths up to 30′.

Litra Studio armed out over the water with softbox accessory attached. Image Credit: Graham Sheldon

Simply put, the Litra Studio is a $649.95 light that, despite its small size (about the dimensions of a small paperback book), packs a punch in terms of output, at a high CRI (97 per Litra). It’s also built like a tank. In fact, the all-metal exterior light seems sturdier than any other fixture I currently own and I’m confident it would feel right at home in a high-volume rental house.

Who is the Litra Studio meant for? The additions of full RGBWW, CCT, HSI, Gel, and FX modes translate into real value for professional video productions. Whereas some Litra products (Pro & Torch) serve the photo or studio video environment, the Studio is, to my mind, the first fixture from Litra that really excels in a wide variety of professional cinema applications. It appears the Litra Studio is aiming to be the go-to light for every production and what’s impressive is how close it gets to achieving that goal.

Everyone wants a mobile, high CRI/high output, indestructible RGW battery-powered fixture, but actually finding one is another matter. Different lights do different things well and that’s one of the reasons why we have everything from Skypanel S60’s to 2×1 Gemini’s, Astera Titan Tubes, LEDGo AltaTubes, and Digital Sputnik Voyagers playing on this current film under the watchful eye of Gaffer, Heath Gresham and DP Madeline Kate Kann. Each of those lights accomplishes different goals despite being solid “RGB” fixtures in their own right.

Before using the Litra Studio in the film, we did some quick tests at the pool to check how it handled being in the water and how it compared in output to the other RGB underwater option we had on set. From the start, it was clear that the Studio had what it takes to nail our underwater scenes.

Controlling the Light

The Litra Studio has one of the better control interfaces and navigating through the settings on the OLED display on the back of the fixture is quick and painless. While there are a variety of gel options, going forward it would be great to see the addition of Sodium Vapor. RGBWW and HSI mode really allow you to tune color choices by using the rear dials. Adding or removing green gives you the option to closely match available light when necessary. Find a favorite color and you can simply select the “P” button and save those exact color settings into one of the ten preset slots, returning to them later as needed. This can be very useful for maintaining continuity from scene to scene.

Controlling the light through Bluetooth on iOS or Android devices is also possible by downloading the free Litra app. This app is excellent and if the Studio is powered on, it connects instantly, giving you full control of all the normal menu features, including 15 effects that range from “dance club” all the way to “television” and “paparazzi”. In fact, this app is one of the better applications from a lighting company that I’ve encountered.

Best Boy Electric Arthur Garcia and Gaffer Heath Gresham take the Litra Studio for a spin during testing. Image Credit: Graham Sheldon

Output

The fully dimmable 1%-100% output is wonderful, given the size of the Studio, and you can even push the light into “overdrive” mode to get about 20 percentile points more out of the fixture. Just remember, doing this is at the cost of destroying your battery life.

The softbox modifier is pictured upper right and the silicone diffusion is pictured bottom right. Image Credit: Graham Sheldon

The light ships with following accessories:

  1. A handle that connects to the 1/4 20 screw threads at the base
  2. Silicone diffusion
  3. USB C charging cable
  4. Semi-rigid travel case (not pictured)

We also had the opportunity to try the light with a plastic softbox accessory that did soften the light, but didn’t feel quite as indestructible as the light itself. Litra sells a modifier package and a honeycomb grid that would have been useful to refine the 50 degree beam, as needed in certain situations. At minimum, I would suggest picking up the honeycomb and plastic diffusion accessories if you decide to go with a Litra Studio.

Power

Good news! The included USB charging cable allows the light to be powered on during charging (not true for all battery-powered mobile lights in the market). When you crank the output out to 100%, you’re getting about 2 hours of battery life. The light did have a tendency to die while displaying 10% remaining battery life, so keep that in mind. As the internal battery degrades over time (normal with lithium ion), you’re also able to user-swap out the internal battery – which is a nice design touch.

A quick note for underwater use: make sure to close the USB charging port when using the light underwater or you risk water entering the fixture housing.

Back control wheel of the Litra Studio. Image Credit: Graham Sheldon

Litra Studio Feature Recap

  • CCT, HSI, RGBWW, Gel, and Effects modes
  • 50° beam angle
  • The company promises a 97 TLCI/CRI
  • Aluminum body
  • 2000K – 10,000K Adjustable Color Temp

Conclusion

I’ll admit that at the start we may have underestimated the Litra Studio. But with use, its mobile and rugged exterior combined with first-rate output and wide variety of color options turned us into believers. I’m convinced this light will continue to work itself into the professional production scene in new and interesting ways.

What do you think about the Litra Studio Light? If you ever used it during your professional work, please share with us your thoughts in the comment section below

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Shoot Cinematic Apple-like Ads, a Syrp Tutorial

Even if you’re not a fanboy, you’ll have to admit that these Apple video ads are glorious. Shiny devices, lots of backlight, smooth camera moves. And the question is, how can you pull this off on your own, right? Syrp – the company behind the popular Magic Carpet Sliders and the Genie II – have released a video tutorial in which you get to learn it!

Syrp Tutorial

Image credit: Syrp

The video this article is all about is made entirely by the guys at Syrp. So be aware that they will use Syrp equipment to pull off most of the shots. Of course, you can use other gear and get similar results. There’s a lot of knowledge, useful advice and good, creative ideas within this video, so I wouldn’t label it as pure advertising. Using Syrp gear is one way of doing this, yet certainly not the only way.

Syrp Tutorial – Creating Apple-like Ads

A great deal of the magic here is created through the skilful use of lighting. A rather subtle but strong backlighting shapes the device and adds contrast. In combination with the movement of 1) the camera, 2) the device itself and 3) some of the lights, it creates cinematic shots. Watch the full tutorial below and let us know what you think!

The main takeaway from the video is –in my opinion– this: You don’t need uber-expensive gear, a crew of at least 50, and two truckloads of lighting gear in order to create stunning results. The clever combination of movement and lighting – especially contrast and post production – enables filmmaker to shoot really cool stuff nowadays, with only the imagination as the real limit. High quality LED lighting gear is pretty much affordable, and same goes for motion control equipment. Sub-10K cameras are very, very capable these days and some high-level post production tools are free to use.

The video above would have been near to impossible to shoot for a mortal indie filmmaker 5 years back. Now? No problem!

Syrp Tutorial

Image credit: Syrp

The video was published in tandem with a more in-depth article, which you can read here. Again, you may replace any dedicated Syrp gear with other products – there’s plenty of other decent products out there. I think it’s pretty cool for a company to produce tutorial videos like this for fellow filmmakers (even if they contain some product placements). The information delivered is simply valuable. If this is the future of advertising, I’m a happy man.

Links: Blog Post

What do you think? Is this video valuable for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Shoot Cinematic Apple-like Ads, a Syrp Tutorial appeared first on cinema5D.

Roger Deakins and ARRI Relationship on “1917”

Sam Mendes’ latest feature film “1917” shot by DP Roger Deakins recently won 3 Oscars including best sound editing, visual effects, and cinematography. In this in-depth video, Deakins talks about his relationship with ARRI equipment and how they made this film possible. Let’s take a closer look at it!

Roger Deakins – Oscar-Winning DP

In total, all over his career, Deakins has been nominated over 15 times for an Oscar but never got the chance to took one home. It took Roger Deakins decades of hard work, dedication, and patience to win his first Academy Award for “Blade Runner 2049” in 2018.

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Image credit: Oscars

This year, the 70-year-old director of photography won another Oscar for Best Cinematography for his incredible work on “1917”.

Roger Deakins and ARRI

If you have not already seen it yet, you can take a look at the “Inside The Look of 1917″ article I wrote last month. In this article, we talked about most of the technical achievements Deakins and his team achieved on Sam Mendes’ two-hours long masterpiece.

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Roger Deakins and the ARRI Alexa Mini LF they used to shoot “1917”. Image credit: ARRI

If you want to learn a little more about it, ARRI recently released the video interview above. Indeed, the discussion is about Deakin’s use of ARRI products, including shooting with the ARRI Alexa Mini LF, ARRI Signature primes, and the ARRI Trinity stabilization system.

ARRI Signature Primes and ND Filters

We learn that 90% of 1917 was shot with the ARRI Signature Prime 40mm T/1.8. The 47mm was used for the river sequence to lose the background a bit more than usual. The 35mm was used inside the bunker.

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The ARRI Signature Prime 47mm T/1.8 was used to shoot the river sequence. Image credit: ARRI

Also, what’s interesting is that most of the dark scenes inside the bunker are shot at 1600 ISO. Even with a relatively high gain – for a feature film – the image coming out of the ARRI Alexa Mini LF is clean. It’s a fun little detail to hear that Deakins got ARRI to give him some of the only working prototypes of the then-new Alexa Mini LF for the shoot, so they had to take extra care not to damage the cameras as there was no replacement.

Being able to shoot at a higher sensitivity gave Deakins more room to shoot at an aperture of T/2.4 inside the bunker, instead of being wide-open at T/1.8. Most of the day exterior sequences are shot between T/3.5 to T/4, with some scenes even shot at T/5.6.

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Image credit: ARRI

Indeed, the team had to move fast because, on day exterior sequences, no additional lighting was used. Roger Deakins and his team relied only on the weather and clouds. They had to move fast, with two rigs ready to go at all times, and sometimes they didn’t even have the time to put an extra ND filter. Talking about ND filters, we also learn that they used an internal 0.6 ND filter, plus an additional ND filter in front of the lens (in the matte box).

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The ARRI Trinity. Image credit: ARRI

ARRI Trinity

A large part of the interview is about the ARRI Trinity system. Charlie Rizek, Trinity operator on “1917”, talks about the benefits of this one-of-his-kind 5-axis stabilizer. Indeed, the ARRI Trinity is a hybrid system that combines a traditional Steadicam with a gimbal-stabilized tilt and roll axis. You can watch our show hands-on video with the Trinity system from IBC 2015 (!) with inventor Curt Schaller here. (At the time, the Trinity system – and Curt – were still marketed and working under Sachtler, a Vitec Group brand, but ARRI later took over the project and integrated it into its portfolio).

This system gives the operator much more freedom to the operator. You can move the camera without worrying about keeping the horizon straight because the motors will compensate for that. Also, it is much easier to go from high to low mode during the shot.

What do you think about this interview with Roger Deakins? Did you already see “1917”? Do you want us to make more behind-the-scenes articles like that? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Roger Deakins and ARRI Relationship on “1917” appeared first on cinema5D.