Everything I Know About the Canon 7D I Learned from Louis C.K.

*This is a very old blog post but I thought the information was relevant so i wanted to repost this. My apologies for the horrible formatting but it is what it is.*

So I have been getting a lot of emails and messages on Twitter asking me all sorts of questions about shooting with the Canon 7D . I am going to attempt to cover the majority of everything I’ve learned about the 7D since I started shooting with it.



The Canon 7D has limitations that have been well documented all over the web. I recently watched “A Constant Forge”, a documentary on director John Cassavettes and one line, in particular, rang true. He was talking about never wanting to shoot another commercial film because money ruined the creative process for him.
He said something to the effect of, “Limitation is the key to inspiration.”I think in the day and age we live in we have become a society with a short attention span.We want it bigger,better,faster and NOW. It’s like the bit by comedian Louis C.K., Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.

We need to master our craft and get back to the basics. Shot composition and storytelling. I plan on working on those two myself.
Be thankful for the amazing technology we have at our disposal and stop whining like a bunch of spoiled children. Aliasing,WAHHHH. Moire,WAHHHH.
12 minute limit WAHHH, No Audio Control WAHHHHHHH. What do you want Canon to give you for $1700 ? Should it come with your own personal DOP to set all the shots up for you too? Do you remember what it took a few short years ago to get this type of look for a film? It would have been impossible to do what you can now for this type of money.
So, instead of this RED vs. the Canon DSLR civil war that is erupting in the filmmaking community, How about this ?
Take whatever equipment it is that you have the good fortune of owning and go shoot something amazing. Let your limitations be your inspiration.
Force yourselves to think in a way you never have before. Can’t afford a 7D ? Go get a Flip HD, shoot it on your iPhone. Just do it.
Sorry. Now back to the original point of this whole post.
What do I know about the Canon 7D that could be helpful?
Something simple yet one of the most important steps when shooting with the Canon 7D , Canon 5D MKII, and any other camera really, is flattening the color.
It may seem pointless to you. Why would I flatten the color? I want it to come out of the camera with rich vibrant colors. No you don’t. That’s why God invented color grading.
My weapon of choice for color grading is Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks . It is an absolute necessity for me. The things I can do with it in post are absolutely fantastic.
It’s one of those things where you can download the software and begin using it almost immediately. A very intuitive interface, and the ability to save your own custom
looks actually makes color grading fun. Who knew? Here is how you Flatten the Color on Your 5D (also works on 7d ) Thanks to Stu from ProLost for this.

Turn Auto Lighting Optimizer OFF. I haven’t seen this documented anywhere but I hate this feature. It basically sucks to me. Should be called Auto Make picture look crappy
IMHO. So disable this feature. Period.

You need one or all of the following. A tripod, a monopod, Glidetrack , Glidecam , Zacuto Rapid Fire or Tactical Shooter . Get yourself something to stabilize your camera.
There’s nothing that turns me off more then shaky handheld footage. It looks amateur.
With HD video it is very noticeable and rolling shutter is not kind to this type of shooting.
Not saying handheld shooting can’t be done with a Zacuto Z-Finder and sniper like breathing tactics it was actually done quite well as demonstrated in this post by John Moon of Northernlight Filmworks .
However,for the average shooter, myself included, shooting handheld is a good way to end up with a lot of useless shaky footage.

Lenses. Lenses. Lenses.
A very common question is what lens should I get? Well that is a difficult one to answer specifically,it depends on what you are shooting, but I can offer some guidelines. The 7D works with a 1.6
Crop factor so here is your simple math equation to figure out what a non APS-C lens becomes effectively on the 7D. Take the lens (i.e. 50mm ) multiply by 1.6. Here are a few lenses
already figured out for you.
16-35mm = 25.6 -56mm
35mm = 56mm
50 mm = 80mm
24-70mm = 38.4 -116mm
85mm- 136mm
70-200mm= 116 -320mm
Now which lens do you want to buy? I am a bit of a lens snob and also one of the key reasons I shoot with the 7D is for low light capabilities. So I personally would avoid buying a lens higher then a 2.8. Unless,you will be shooting in well lit situations or it is a lens to compliment the prime lenses you already have.
I have heard the 70-200 F/4 is sharper then the 2.8 but it also can’t shoot in low light so, I like the 50mm 1.4  as a very cheap workhorse lens. At a little more then $350 if you’re just starting out it’s a good lens to get you up and running. The 24-70 2.8 has a great range and is one of my favorite lenses.
Let’s say you shoot weddings, or you want to get close ups of people/things but from far away the 70-200mm 2.8 is absolutely wonderful. As far as the rest of the lenses go I haven’t had much experience with them so I can’t say a lot about them.
Here’s an idea though. Either rent the lens first or better yet see if any of your friends who are photographers already shoot with Canon. If you are out shooting something and you ask very nicely they may just let you try one
of their lenses. If they aren’t that nice? Maybe you will have to go out and shoot a little behind the scenes piece for them in exchange for some of their knowledge on lenses and to try out some of theirs.You not only will gain valuable insight but you may also make a great business connection and perhaps even a friend.
So there you have it. Hopefully that helps someone. It’s not everything I know about the Canon 7D but it’s a start.


The (Insert Any Camera Here) Debate

I was going to use the Canon 5D MK III to illustrate this point because it’s the newest and everyone is talking about it. However, this happens every time a new camera is released so instead I’m going to use (insert any camera here). This is not something that will go away. A new camera comes out and we go through the same motions. Now you will have a handy reference guide for whenever they are released 😉 Allow me to walk through the steps.


1) The (insert any camera here) rumor mill.
An unconfirmed report comes out stating the camera will have (insert any spec here) and (insert any spec here). This causes a number of reactions. One faction becomes excited because they have been waiting forever for (insert any spec here). Another group calls shenanigans and says there is no way (insert any camera here) will have (insert any spec here). It’s not going to happen and who told you that anyway?

2) The (insert any camera here) release date announced.
Now we have a date when the (insert any camera here) is supposed to be released. Repeat step one but this time with more (insert any spec here). More noise from both sides. We still haven’t accomplished much.

3) The (insert any camera here) is announced.
Now the fun begins. We now have to take everyone and divide them even more. Let’s break them down into sub-categories, shall we.

The Affiliated
The Unrealistic
The Feather Puffer
The Pixel Peeper
The Envious
The Defensive
The Know-it-All
The Indifferent
The Worker


The Affiliated is all about back-links, SEO and affiliate money. They will use (insert any camera here) strictly as a force to drive traffic to their blog. They most likely don’t actually use (insert any camera here) and are just trying to cash-in on the (insert any camera here) craze. There is nothing wrong with affiliate links or blogs. You are currently reading one that I just finished writing. Just remember to consider the source and take everything with a grain of salt.



The Unrealistic was never going to be happy with (insert any camera here). They will tell you they are shocked it didn’t have (insert any unrealistic spec here). They also can’t believe it isn’t being sold for (insert any unrealistically low price here). This person typically never picked up a camera before a DSLR which has given them Alexa taste on a T2i budget.

The Pixel Peeper is only concerned with the (insert any spec here). No matter what (insert any camera here) can do. They are just here to remind us all of the various (insert any specs here) that the camera is lacking. Think “rain on the parade” or “wet blanket” but way nerdier and more annoying.


The Feather Puffer is here to do just that. Whatever stance the Feather Puffer takes on (insert any camera here) it has nothing to do with the camera or (insert any spec here). This is about them. They are throwing their two cents in as a way to say, “Hey, screw the (insert any camera here) look at ME!!!”


The Envious has no means of ever purchasing the (insert any camera here). You can expect negativity based on little to no fact and/or manipulating the facts and using the (insert any spec here) or lack of a (insert any spec here) to further their agenda. That agenda is: I can’t afford a (insert any camera here) so, therefore, it sucks. This illogical way of thinking is gaining traction.


The Defender just bought a different (insert any camera here). Now, they need to justify that purchase. No matter what the new (insert any camera here) is capable of they will trash it. Not everyone who bought a different (insert any camera here) falls into this category.



The Know-It-All will jump back and forth over the fence so many times you will get dizzy trying to keep up. One week the (insert any camera here) may suck. The next it may be the greatest because of (insert any spec here), (insert any spec here), (insert any spec here), (insert any spec here), and (insert any spec here). You can expect a lot of numbers and mumbo-jumbo. No matter what you say. It’s wrong. The Know-It-All is usually intelligent, to a degree. The problem is they are aware of this and love nothing more then the sound of their own voice.



The Indifferent is going to play this with….well, indifference. They will be neutral. It’s not about the (insert any camera here). It’s about the story. Expect, something along the lines of (insert any spec here) doesn’t make films. I do. By far, the least annoying of the group. The only danger is if the indifference to (insert any camera here) starts to find it’s way into other areas of life.


The Worker was too busy working to throw their two cents in. While (insert any camera here) has occupied every corner of the social media spectrum, the worker was on set, in the editing cave, on the phone, or in a meeting. The worker was too busy actually out there doing it, making it happen. The worker will do their research, form an opinion based on whether or not the (insert any camera here) will get them booked more or make the quality of their work better.



The point here: Don’t be an affiliated, unrealistic, pixel-pepping, feather puffing, envious, defensive or indifferent know-it all.

Be a worker. Go out and do it. Make shit happen.

Now, I have to step down off of my soap box and get back to work. There are films to be edited, scenes to light, scripts to write, and things to shoot. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t go out and do it. If I didn’t make shit happen.



I failed to mention one group. They are only spoken about in murmurs around campfires and whispered about in passing. Their very existence can neither be confirmed nor denied. These are people who just have a genuine interest in the craft and are curious about (insert any camera here). They are up for a balanced, informed discussion void of judgment and irrational knee-jerk cynicism. They are not fueled by ulterior motives. They have no agenda. They merely enjoy where we are at technologically and are inspired about where we could be headed. I almost feel foolish talking about them as if they exist. They are the modern day leprechaun. They should be approached with caution as none have ever been seen before, and as such, no one knows exactly what they are capable of. If you see one just turn around,walk away calmly and never tell anyone. They wouldn’t believe you anyway.

Leave your two-cents in the comment box because indifference is death while you’re still alive.

UPDATE:

As I get feed back I will be adding sub-categories I may have missed.

The Dreamer is similar to the Unrealistic in expectation but not outlook. The major difference is the Dreamer knew their lofty hopes and aspirations would probably never be met. However, it is in the Dreamer’s nature to be positive. You can expect to hear such cliches as “I can dream can’t I?” and “Maybe they’ll release a firmware update.”


The Quest For Perfect Sound

I really don’t think I need to spend much time discussing how important sound is but let me say this: For us, sound is just as important as the image, whether it’s for a narrative, documentary, commercial, or even a wedding piece, they all deserve equal quality in both picture and sound.

Let’s start off in the beginning, for me the ability to utilize sound was really what got me into video to begin with. With a background in photography, I felt limited in how much depth I could go into with my story through one image. Discovering the ability to utilize sound and motion through video was pretty amazing. Yeah, I know, it’s been around since before the invention of “talkies” but for me to have control over the emotion my audience felt by combining picture and sound was, and continues to be, immensely inspiring.

So hello video and hello to all the challenges that come with learning a new medium. My first investment in sound was a shotgun mic and a wireless pack. Now fast forward a bit and here comes the 5d and all of a sudden I have to start recording sound externally because prior to this I always relied on my XL2 and XHA1’s inputs. We purchased two Zoom H4N’s and continued on happily until we started to run into some severe issues – corrupt files. I was absolutely terrified after this and vowed that from there on out, I would find a sound guy/gal that I could call a friend. Well, like all great plans, it didn’t work out that easily. The budget wasn’t always there so we’d find ourselves setting up multiple backups just in case one of the Zooms decided to get moody again. It did and luckily we had backups but we had had enough. We wanted to step up our game with our audio capabilities and start to teach ourselves more. I will gladly admit that if I had the time I would go back to school and study sound engineering. However, for those of you who know me, you know I say that about pretty much any specialty that has anything to do with running a business and creating films. Right around the time I was seriously considering applying to different schools, we attended a workshop hosted by Adam Forgione. He was focusing on post but he really impressed me with his wealth of knowledge and just how energetic and passionate he was for sound. I immediately wanted to learn more so eventually when we finally had our chance to host a multi-day educational workshop, Masters In Motion, we brought Adam out to teach people the art of sound. We learned so much that day. Adam has a way of breaking down extremely complex topics into simple concepts. He really blew my mind.

After Masters In Motion we had a long, almost never ending list of equipment we wanted to buy and we made the decision that we would invest in our work by the end of the year. What a great decision. We’ve had so much fun learning how to use all our new gear and we wanted to share what we got and why so here you go:

Edirol / Roland R-44 Solid-State Four-Channel Portable Field Recorder – $1095.00

This thing is a beast yet it weighs under three pounds. With the R-44 you can record up to four channels of  audio at several different bit rates and sampling frequencies – up to 24-bit/192kHz. Another great feature is the quality of the pre-amp. We’ve used it a few times and haven’t run into any problems at all. It came highly recommended by our good friends Adam Forgione and John Hyland so I’m sure we made the right choice. In case you’re wondering how to use it exactly, check out Adam’s video at the bottom of this post.



Roland R-05 Portable 24-bit Digital Audio Recorder – $199.00

We were fed up with wireless mics so this was the solution. The unit is super small so it’s easy to hide in a pocket. We also have a wired pack that we use occasionally but this is great for mobility and if you don’t have a dedicated boom operator. Honestly, I’m not crazy about not being able to monitor sound during the entire shoot but as I mentioned before I always setup multiple options especially in a one take environment.





Rode NTG-3 Basic Shotgun Microphone Kit – $999.95

One of the coolest things about this mic is that it’s very close in quality to the sennheiser 416 but this one is cheaper. Also, the line-gradient supercardioid polar pattern is much more forgiving. So, if you don’t have the shotgun aimed 100% correctly it’ll still pick it up. Regardless of whether or not you get the kit, make sure you get the boom pole with the XLR running through the actual pole. It makes life a lot easier. We’ve used it a few times so far and the setup is simple: boom pole on a stand with this mic up top. What a difference from our previous lavalier mic setup. To get all the technical specs, check out this great write up on B&H.


Tram TR50 – Omnidirectional Lavalier Condenser Microphone (Black) – $239.99

This lavalier microphone is super small which is great because you can hide it very easily. What’s even better is if you place it right you can eliminate all that nasty fabric sound you used to get. We got this to specifically use with the Roland R-05. If you think this is really expensive for a lav mic, keep in mind that your audio is only going to be as good as the weakest link so we considered this a worthy investment.




Shure SM58-LC – Cardioid Handheld Dynamic Microphone – $99.00

What a great, reasonably priced, microphone. For years, this has been an industry standard, go to work horse, so it was really a no-brainer. It’s a durable and well built mic. You can tell just by picking it up. We got this for live events so that if we can’t plug into a board, then we can mic the actual speaker by putting this mic on our mic stand and running the XLR into the R-44.




We purchased all of the products for our sound setup because they came highly recommended by Adam. He’s a great teacher and is always willing to share a wealth of information, so if you have the opportunity to check him out, definitely do it. To find out about his upcoming workshops, click here.
If you’re thinking of buying the R-44 or even if you have it, Adam put together this great video on how to use it:


60 Minutes with the C300

As most of you probably already know, April 2009 was a very important time for us. At Re:Frame Austin we met a ton of really talented folks that we still consider dear friends today. Joe Simon is on the top of that list. You probably already know that since we’ve featured him on this site several times but it’s not just because we consider him a great friend but because he’s one of the only guys in the film industry who’s pushing forward the commercial and wedding industry with his constantly evolving approach to his films.

Another thing that I really love about Joe is his constant drive for education. He believes in continuing his own education and sharing his knowledge to others. Him and Kevin Shahinian will be doing a workshop on the C300 in Vegas. It’s going to be a hands-on workshop using the camera, leaning the menus and workflow. They will also be teaching about producing commercial work with small crews, directing, cinematography, budgeting etc. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s limited to 15 people so everyone will get a lot of hands on time with both Kevin and Joe and the camera. You can find out more here –http://www.eventcinemaworkshop.com

So, back to the topic at hand: We had the chance to spend some time with Joe this week at In:Focus Event in Charleston. When I heard that our friend Daniel Bérubé of Boston Creative Pro User Group would be there representing Canon with the c300, I immediately wanted to get my hands on it. Luckily we got permission play with the camera for about an one hour around Charleston. Now, let me just say that Joe Simon is a machine… This maniac was flying the c300 on the Glidecam with an 85mm lens. I tried using it a bit but, much to my chagrin, I have to admit that the rig was a bit too heavy for me. I’m sure Joe will laugh when he reads that because I constantly tell him that I am just as strong and would run circles around him if given the chance. I don’t really think that but it’s good to have goals in life. So anyways, we also got to use the brand new Kessler Crane Stealth and it was oh so nice. Since neither Joe or I were planning on shooting anything during the trip to Charleston, we barely had any gear. Joe brought a Manfrotto 755 carbon fiber tripod with the 701 head and we were actually just able to use that with the Stealth and the c300. We were also fortunate enough to have the good folks from Lens Pro To Go provide us with some extra primes, a lite panel, and the glidecam.

Alright so let’s get past what everyone is talking about, the specs. Unfortunately, I’m barely gonna touch on that. There are multiple comparisons, discussions, and technical tests on almost every single filmmaking blog and, honestly, I will not be buying any of the recent camera releases because it’s not right for ME (another post on that topic to come soon).

Here’s the low down ~ It’s $15,999 for the body only and it has a 35mm CMOS sensor capable of up to 4k resolution. It’s beautiful and I’m hoping that some wonderful person buys it for me but I don’t really need it. Regardless, I loved getting to play with the camera and was so impressed by the low light capabilities and how light and easy it was to use. Yes, I want it really, really badly but sadly, it’s not in the cards right now. Of course, I get to live vicariously through Joe Simon since he has made the investment in this bad ass camera so let’s find out why…

Q+A

– prior to our shoot, what has been your experience been with the c300?

Before this shoot I had touched a C300 in Austin at the Canon event, I looked through the menus and played with it for about 10 mins. Not much time but it was nice to have a little experience before this shoot.

– with all the new cameras being released, what made you chose to purchase the c300?

I’ve been wanting a new camera that will solve the current issues that I have with the 5D (alaising, Jello, moire), but that could still use Canon lenses and can be used for broadcast productions. As I’m moving into the commercial production market I want something I can use to create the content as efficiently as I have been doing with the 5D. A camera that I can use with my current support gear and can still fly on the Glidecam. I like to run my crew pretty small and this camera will allow me to do this. I need something that I can use with minimal lighting, by minimal I mean lower wattage battery powered LEDs to light scenes. The dynamic range and highlight rolloff is great with the C300 and it’s such a big difference from the 5D. The 5D has been a great camera but the C300 will allow me to push things to the next level. I thought about getting the scarlet, but what kept me from going that route was the weight, post workflow and poor low light capability. If I do need something better for a shoot I will be renting a Epic or Alexa.

– how does it compare to other’s that you’ve shot with or owned?

Having shot on the 5D/7D for the past few years it was a bit different finding what button did what on the C300. Once I did find my way around it was great. I do love the way the C300 feels in my hands, the grip is nice. It’s a bit heavier then the 5D but feels super solid. It’s amazing to have all those “Video” features back like peaking , XLR, headphone jack etc. Technically the image looks beautiful, the highlight rolloff is great and coming from the 5D where the highlights blowout, this is awesome. I know everyone keeps say the grain looks nice, but it really does. It looks more organic then the digital noise you get from the 5Ds. I’m looking forward to getting more time with the camera so I can push it and see what I can create. I’m really looking forward to grading in DaVinci and pushing the codec.

* There was a question on Vimeo about seeing no difference from the 5d and Joe Simon gave a great answer that I thought I’d share on here:

“Here are a few shots that the 5D would have failed –

– Wide shot of the road would have had Moire on the bricks in both he slider and glidecam shots
– Close up of girl world have had alaising on her eyelashes and hair
– Final shot would not have been possible as the C300 was at f5.6 and iso 12,400, you would not have been able to have stopped the 5D down enough to create this shot.

In reality this was not the best use of the camera, this is when the camera was available and I wanted to test it on the Glidecam. But what I love is that I did not have to worry about the above issues because this camera just works and gives you more options. ”

Here is the c300 piece I had the pleasure of working with Joe on.
* We used Canon L lenses – 14mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm on the Glidecam.
* Special thanks to Canon, Daniel Bérubé, Lens Pro To Go, Kessler Crane, The Music Bed, In:Focus, and our lovely model, Therese Farrow.


Lights Galore

This past Christmas Jon and I decided two very important things: We will set aside more time for personal projects and we will step up our productions. It’s been a while now that we’ve been wanting to do both of these things but the latter is really key. One thing that we consider extremely important is to make sure we’re continuing to grow through education. After Masters In Motion, we got to learn a ton about lighting from the Next Level Pics crew and audio from Adam Forgione but we knew we needed to spend some time actually using the gear to get a full grasp on both. Only problem was we didn’t have the right gear for the quality of productions we wanted to create!
For this post I’m going to focus on lighting and down the road I will touch on our new audio setup.
Now, before I go on and on about my experience with my new lights, let me preface that on every shoot thus far, we always have a gaffer. If it was out of the budget to hire a gaffer, we made do with what we had and moved on. Was this the dest decision? Not always but sometimes we just didn’t have the budget to rent. Regardless, we knew we had to step up our lighting game and promised ourselves that we would invest in a kit before the end of 2011. One other important note, my only experience with lighting, other than what I’ve seen and learned on different sets is what I learned in photography school. I always assumed that the knowledge I learned there would not apply to video but I’m learning that I was wrong. There are some similarities that helped me during my recent first attempt at lighting.
I already knew going into this that we were willing to spend about 4k on lighting. I talked to a lot of people for advice. I started with our good friend Kevin Ritchie about this in great depth and he was extremely helpful… He was practically holding my hand during the whole process. I also spoke with another good friend, Khalid Mohtaseb, about what he would suggest. Later I spoke to John Hyland who threw an interesting idea that’ll I’ll go into detail later on. Karen Abad was also extremely helpful… She is a great friend who’s opinion I greatly trust and honestly, I’m so comfortable telling her what I was intimidated about with lighting. I told everyone our budget and explained what kind of setups I’d like to be able to light, mainly interviews but I also wanted a versatile kit. The conversations I had with all these guys were so helpful and I feel really lucky to have been able to get opinions and suggestions from people I trust and respect. Ok, enough of the sentimental stuff! I decided to buy the following lights:

Arri Compact Fresnel Three-Light Kit $1799.00

Why did I buy them? Well, I had seen these in action a few times when I’ve shot with Kevin Ritchie and I loved how much throw they had. I also wanted one kit that I could pretty much take anywhere and setup for an interview. A lot of people have questioned my decision on getting Arri lights when I could buy something cheaper but I really wanted a name I knew I could trust and hey, this is no cheap investment…. I want these bad boys to last for years!


Lowel Rifa eX 88 Kit $806.00

Why did I buy this? Well to be honest, this was no where on my list before my phone call to Khalid Mohtaseb. I was planning on just getting a 5 light kit from Arri instead but I’m glad I didn’t. The Rifa sets up in not time… One of the selling points is the “60-second set-up time” I’m a bit slower than that but it’s definitely fast. It gives off super soft and very flattering light but what I really like about it is the softbox is already attached so you can just unfold it super quick. So, needless to say, Khalid convinced me to add this to the arsenal.


Fancier 1000 LED Light Panel Dimmable Light Panel $299.99

Why did I buy this random LED? I was getting ready to click buy when I spoke to John Hyland and he started telling me about his experience with hot lights and how he had just gotten these great lights. Since he was so happy with them and was planning to buy more, I figured I’d pick one up and try it. I loved the fact that it had a dimmer on it and figured it would be easy to put a CTB on my Arri and incorporate this LED. I didn read a ton of great reviews on this light but I also heard a lot of people complaining on twitter about how green the light is. I bought a 1/2 minus green just in case but as you’ll see below, I did not have this issue.

So those are all the lights I got. There are way too many accessories to list but here’s a few of my favorites thus far:

Matthews RoadRags Kit $192.80 ~ I love these. Really quick and easy to use.






CineBags CB-06 Gel Roll $28.95 ~ Perfect for storing all my gels.









Rosco CTB Color Conversion Gel Filters (full, 1/2, & 14/) $4.99 – $5.79 per gel








Rosco Diffusion Kit $89.95









Rosco Cinegel Sampler Kit $33.99 – This is a great mix… It has some great gels that I can quickly throw on my Arri lights.









So I had everything I needed and the main test was going to be actually putting all of these to the work. We had been planning on shooting the first episode of our new cooking show for editors for a while now but I wanted to wait till we had all our new gear. What I didn’t think about was just how small our kitchen is and how challenging lighting my first scene ever would me. I wasn’t expecting it to be easy but I didn’t really think how hard it would be to deal with space limitations, glass everywhere, and way too many stainless steel appliances. Part of me wanted to call someone or tweet out messages for help but I really wanted to try to challenge myself so I could learn as I went on and let me tell you, I learned a TON and also realized that I have so much more to learn. Ok, so on to the nitty gritty…

Scene 1:

The first scene we shot was at night so it was perfect because there was barely any natural light coming in through the giant windows in the kitchen. I setup the Rifa in the right corner of the kitchen and if I could have gone back further I would have but hey, space was tight so I did what I could. Next up I setup the Arri 650 in the left corner of the kitchen as far back as I could and put a double scrim on it along with another double scrim from my road rag kit. No, not ideal but I already have a dimmer in my shopping cart for tight situations. I also kicked myself later and said why didn’t I just bounce the light off the ceiling. Oh well! So next up I setup an Arri 150 in the corner for a hair light. That light is perfect for that and the distance was great as well. I was pretty happy with this setup but as with all the setups, I was really frustrated with the shadows and reflections and I tried to block light to get rid of it but I couldn’t. I plan on experimenting with this MUCH more. Below are a few pictures of our setup and a frame grab from the video:

Scene 2:

So for the next scene we wanted to replicate exactly how Jon cooks his pulled pork so we had to shoot this in the morning. As I mentioned before, the kitchen has two large windows so I tried to block all the light coming in but ultimately I decided to use the window light. My main light was the Arri 650 with a full blue CTB on it. I set it up to the right of my camera. The hair light was the Arri 150 again but this time with a full CTB as well and I changed the position of it to the back right instead of the back left because as it was I already had a ton of light coming in from the window. I put the 150 on the actual counter since space was so limited. I really wanted to use the LED light so I set that up on the other side of Jon and dimmed it half way down. Overall I was the happiest with this setup except for the reflections of course.


Scene 3:

Now this was by far my least favorite setup. This was another shot taken at night and I wanted to make sure that you could see the actual counter in the shot this time around. I couldn’t use the Rifa because with the softbox it was way too large to put it anywhere in my tiny kitchen and avoid really nasty reflections. So I went with the Arri 650, 300, and 150. Eliminating the reflections on the 650 was tough but I was able to get rid of the worst ones by simply opening some cabinet doors and blocking the light a bit. I did have to use some diffusion on this light but the 300 was perfect and so was the 150. So why was I so annoyed with this shot? Human error of course… I should have bumped my exposure a bit more and tweaked my color balance but hey, I learned a valuable lesson. I rushed through this setup and paid the price.

It’s been a great experience trying to essentially teach myself about lighting. I’m hoping that I continue to learn more and more about this because it’s definitely challenging but I enjoyed the process. If you read through this whole post and got nothing out of it, I apologize. Most people in the field probably know way more than I do about lighting but I figure I’ll share my experience learning. Hopefully I’ll share more about this soon along with what we decided to get for our new audio setup.

Don’t forget to check out the actual cooking show too: Bringing Home The Bacon


5 Easy Steps to Become a Successful Filmmaker


1) Buy Camera with shallow DOF.
2) Buy Batteries.
3) Buy Media
4) Shoot Something.
5) Upload to the Interwebs.

I kid, I kid. If only it were that easy.

In all seriousness though. This is what we all strive for right? We want to be successful filmmakers. The good news is that while not a comprehensive or exhaustive list these 5 easy steps can be applied to almost any area of your life.

1) Determine what being a “successful filmmaker” means to YOU.
This may be the most important, yet most often overlooked, step of all. If you spend your time chasing someone else’s idea of what a “successful filmmaker” is supposed to be you will find your resources drained, your creativity zapped, and a general unhappiness that will just be a roadblock to your further development. Does your personal measure of success come in the form of financial security? Do you need accolades and awards? Are you just as content to know that you produced a quality film that tells a great story? You need to set a goal first, only then can you take the necessary steps towards achieving it.

2) Find YOUR Voice.
The key is to find your voice and your own style. Figure out what kind of a filmmaker you want to be. If you are not passionate about your subject matter your work will in turn suffer. There is nothing wrong with studying other peoples work and adapting techniques to fit your own style. The key here is to not just copy what someone else is doing. Try to push yourself. The most unique thing about you is that you see things in a way that no one else on the face of the planet does. We all have an inner monologue going on that no one else does. Everything that has happened to you in your life, the good, the bad and the ugly, has shaped you into a unique individual with a distinctive view of the world-at-large. It would be foolish not to tap into your greatest resource. Yourself.

3) Show Up.
The biggest difference between people who are successful and those that fail is simply showing up and trying.
It seems stupid to say but unless you have the best luck in the world no one is going to come knocking down your door throwing piles of money at you. You have to get out there and do it.

4) Accept Criticism.
You don’t have to agree with it. Take it all with a grain of salt but be receptive. Don’t get defensive, just think about it and see if there is any validity to it. If you don’t agree by all means stick to your guns but don’t do it in a stubborn and blind manner.

5) Never Stop Learning.
If you think you know it all you are probably wrong. Devote yourself to being a life-long student. Only a foolish person thinks there is nothing they can improve. If you are constantly learning and trying new things you will be on the right path. In order to evolve we need new information. We need to shake up the status quo. Education is our greatest weapon and information is our best ammunition.

Have your own tips on how to be successful? Leave us some nuggets below.


Lessons from the Road: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Film

Yes, the title of this blog post is a ridiculous take on the great film “Dr. Strangelove,” but I’m feeling a bit saucy today, so sue me. On second thoughts, please don’t sue me. Seriously 😉
Sorry for the hiatus, but spending 42 days straight on the road for the #CFLive Tour with Philip Bloom stretched our resources a bit thin. We are back at it now, and we hope to continue to evolve with all of you this year.

Lesson #1
The best thing about DSLR’s has nothing to do with technology.
For me, the best part of the entire tour was the meet-ups afterwards. Meeting so many like-minded people was inspiring and reinvigorating. The whole “civil war” that goes on, via Twitter and forums, about what camera is best, and why people with DSLR’s are inferior, etc. is a useless self-mastabatory exercise, that I want nothing to do with. Seriously, I wish people stopped wasting their time being negative, and got out more and created something great. There are no more acceptable excuses. The only thing stopping you… is YOU. That being said, there is a contingent of amazing talented people from the nations capitol of D.C. to the dusty streets of Albuquerque. Local DSLR groups were sprouting up behind us like Fight Clubs as we weaved our way across the country. That made the whole trip worthwhile. So seek out fellow filmmakers in your area and get to it. People are our greatest resource not technology.

Lesson 2
Don’t ask what, ask why?
Philip Bloom made this point and it is a great one. If you ask someone what camera they shot something on, follow it up with “Why?” Why someone chose a camera or lens is more important then what camera or lens.

Lesson 3
42 days is a long time to be away from home.
That may seem like an obvious thing but my point is that sometimes until something is taken away from you, you never fully appreciate it. So, if you have a roof over your head, friends, and loved ones at home, don’t take them for granted. I’m really trying to be more thankful for all that I have in life. Also, if you have a bulldog named Bruiser, he may get so excited when you finally do get back that he pees all over the kitchen floor, so have some 409 and paper towels handy.

Lesson 4
Don’t ever let your ego get too big. Always stay humble.
Philip Bloom has a huge following. He was the headliner of the tour, but when the bags had to get loaded up, and equipment had to get schlepped around. He was right there with us. That’s how it should be.
Someone came up to me at one of the events and said, ” I’m really glad you guys are so down to earth. Don’t take this the wrong way but, I kind of thought you might be dicks.” I was taken aback at first, but then he went on to explain how he had been to other events and some people get a following on the internet and then treat other people like they are better then them. He told me I was “famous on Twitter.” I laughed and said, “I do the same things everyone else does. I eat, sleep and put my pants on one leg at a time.” The minute you start to think you are better then everyone else, even if you are super talented, is the minute you start to lose respect from people when they actually meet you. Plus it’s just a dick move, so let’s keep it classy.

Lesson 5
No matter what the show must go on.
The show can be anything. Work. Life. Whatever you happen to be doing. There will always be snafus, snags, and pitfalls. You just have to keep your head down and keep it moving forward. Whether it was technical problems at venues, delayed flights, or getting sick, we just kept going. You can’t just throw your hands in the air, and say, “This problem is too big. I give up!” The biggest difference between people who are successful, and people who fail in life is just showing up. Talent is obviously important, but persistence is imperative.

Lesson 6
No matter how big the idea, if you put your mind to it and work hard, you can do it.
When we finished the workshop at the last stop in L.A. it was bittersweet. However, I have never been as proud in my life. Philip obviously worked extremely hard on the presentations,helping lug around gear, promoting the event, and we never could have done it without him. That being said: the team behind the logistics of the tour: answering emails from potential attendees, designing the website, contacting sponsors, booking hotels and flights, finding venues, finding meet-up venues, buying all the necessary cables/projection equipment, contacting local video associations, promoting, and countless other tasks we didn’t foresee consisted of Cristina and myself. It was a process that spanned 6 months and consumed countless hours of our lives. It had it’s ups and downs. At the end of the tour, though, we did it. We successfully pulled it off. We made up our mind that we were going to do it, and we saw it through. If the two of us were able to do that, it is proof that if set your mind to it, and are determined, you can do anything you want.

Anyway, that’s a few lessons we learned on the road. Hope it didn’t come off as self-important, it is just a few things I needed to remind myself of, as much as anything. If you happened to attend any of the #CFLive workshops, we’d love to hear what you learned. If you didn’t attend the workshops, we’d still love to hear what you think, so leave a comment and let’s keep the conversation going.


Reel Debate: Accessorizing

Ever since we started this site we’ve received a fair share of e-mails asking quite a variety of questions… Everything from questions regarding copyright laws to internship inquiries and, of course, the more popular questions such as which lens to buy, what camera to buy, etc. We are more than glad to answer peoples questions. That’s what we’re here for. We started this site to shoot, edit, and learn. We want to share our knowledge and we want to learn from our peers. So we got to thinking… We usually spend a good chunk of time answering these questions so why not share it with everyone who visits the site? You never know, maybe it could help someone else out which is what it’s all about… learn and share. Now we did call this new series “Reel Debate,” so we want to hear your thoughts as well. Do you agree or disagree and why? Jon and I are not experts, we’ve never claimed to be so your thoughts are important too. Alright, let’s get to today’s question:

Background: Martin (not a real name) has been a photographer for quite a few years and he recently decided he wanted to try his hand at video. Might as well! He’s been shooting with Canon for a while so has a good amount of glass but up until recently he didn’t have a camera with HD video capabilities. So he bought the Canon 60d and a few other essential accessories and is ready to go!

Question: If you had to choose between a nicer external mic or a glidecam/stabilizer, what would you choose? I have about another 200ish to spend and want to focus on video.

Answer: Anyone who has spoken to me in person and asked me about buying sliders, handheld rigs, glidecams, etc. knows that I am adamant about mastering one tool at a time. There is no point in rushing anything. I’ll come back to that point later but back to the question… Before you start thinking about audio, stabilizers, or any other accessory, do you own a tripod? Not a photo tripod, a vide tripod with a fluid head. If not, I would suggest that is your first purchase. Get comfortable with your tripod and learn to create fluid movements with it. Yes, you have a photography background so you have an understanding for light and composition but start to learn to apply that to video. Lighting is very different with video. Start to play around with motion… Not only with your camera but how it can or can’t compliment the natural movement of your subject. Understanding movement and experimenting with it was my favorite thing when I first got into video. I also started as a photographer so I was very limited to how and when I could really show movement in a photograph and video opened up tons of possibilities.

Alright, so now let’s say you already own a tripod and you’re torn between buying a mic or a glidecam, buy a mic hands down. I can’t even begin to explain just how important sound is. To me, bad sound is just as jarring as an unsuccessful jump cut. Bad sound can really pull your audience away from the piece instead of what sound really should do, contribute/accentuate the story.

Glidecams, stedicams, sliders, and all those other lovely accessories are not a requirement. They are simply tools and whichever one of those tools you may or may not choose down the road should be a direct representation of you and your style. Get a feel for what you enjoying shooting and how… Experiment and learn.

Hope this helps.


Canon T3i

“Inch by inch, model by model, Canon is slowly dragging the DSLR toward its destiny: a full-fledged photo-video hybrid camera. We’re not there yet, but the $800 T3i brings shooters a bit closer with a video-centric swivel out screen.

First thing’s first: If you have a T2i, don’t freak out. You’ve still got a killer camera. The T3i has the same blood & guts as its predecessor, just in a spiffier, more video-oriented package that pulls in the swivel screen from the slightly more upper level 60D. It’s got the same 18-megapixel image sensor, same focus points, same video specs (1080p @ 24 or 30fps, 720p at 60fps, etc.).”
Via Gizmodo.com
For more info go here Canon Rebel T3i: The DSLR Revolution Will Still Be Video