Monday, May 1, 2017

Travel gearbag

Like most people who work making promo films and TV spots, I will sometimes need
to travel to shoot something 'on location.'  If you are anything like me, you shudder at
the thought of your expensive camera gear being tossed into the belly of a jet by some
uncaring airline worker.  So normally, I try to carry on my camera body and lenses in
a camera bag.  Now the ideal camera bag would have lots of room inside.  You need
to pack a camera body or two, several lenses, filters, batteries, chargers, memory cards,
and a laptop.  And that's before even starting to think about audio, lighting, tripod, or slider.
Making sure you have enough gear when you are 'on location' but you are not turning
yourself into a pack mule, has been the subject of quite a few film and video discussions.
I have read several articles about this, and know I'm not the only one that sometimes
has a hard time balancing bringing everything I need, with making sure I can quickly
move around and not worry about having to make 5 trips just to get all my gear with a matter of fact, other bloggers have written about this conundrum.

Here I have a FS700 body, an A6000 body, 5 lenses, a shotgun mic, a Tram 50 lav mic,
headphones, extra batteries and chargers, 12 memory cards, MacBook Pro, AC adapter,
2TB external hard drive, a couple ND filters, a screw on adapter for each lens, adapting it
to 82mm so I can use the ND filters on any lens I have in the bag, a GoPro 4 Black with
Peau Productions modified lens, and a Jobypod tripod for the GoPro in the bag.  The bag
has slots for a laptop, a iPad, and an iPhone.  Which bag is it?  (Keep reading and I will
get to it....but first I'll tell you about my requirements.)
Loaded up

Ideally the bag would have wheels so you could roll it along when in the airport.

My carry on

But for me, many of my locations end up being in fairly remote Alaska locations.

Sunrise in Unalakleet

Bush plane flying in Alaska

Having wheels is great for airports like Seattle, Anchorage, Portland or the like, but when you are in Unalakleet, it will be more useful to be able to put the camera bag on your back like a backpack, because those wheels won't roll so well in snow or mud.
Backpack with iPhone holder on straps

So after a bunch of research, I found the bag shown in the pictures above.  It is
the Vanguard Heralder 51T rolling backpack.


Holds plenty of gear.

Has 4 wheels so can roll in an airport or on pavement.

Has backpack straps so can be used as a pack.

Has a laptop slot, iPad slot, iPhone holder so you can
bring your edit bay and other devices with you.

Seems to be very well made


Can get heavy quick.  Partly because it holds a good amount, but also having
the heavy plastic base with wheels makes it heavier than it would be otherwise.

It will fit in overhead bin (at least on Alaska Airlines) but just barely.  If you load
it up (like I did) it is a tight fit.  I did find out on the way back, that if you take your
laptop out of the bag to edit while on the plane, it fits in quite a bit easier.

A bit spendy, but often you need to pay for good gear!

In my next post, I will talk about what other gear I packed on my last
'remote' shoot, as well as reviewing a flexible LED panel light.

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions Digital Cinema

Monday, April 17, 2017

Win filmmaking gear for free!

All you have to do is enter your email address (which almost certainly means
you will be hit with 'spam/marketing' emails from them) and you have a chance
to win some pretty cool gear.  Is it worth it?  Only you can decide.....

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions Digital Cinema

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Router Speed Control??

One of the most important things, when crafting an image,
is control of the lighting.  But when you aren't in a studio,
don't have money for a one Ton grip truck, and you have to
shoot on location, by yourself, what can you do?  One of
my best purchases (relative to money spent) has been a few
little items from Harbor Freight called 'router speed controllers.'
They look like this and cost about $20 each.

Now these allow you to plug any light into them, flip the switch to
'variable' (VAR) and then use the dial to vary the intensity of the light....
like a proper dimmer!  It's not perfect, as the color temperature of the light
will change as you use the makeshift 'dimmer'.  However you just dial
in the intensity of the light that you want to use, and only then do you perform
the white balance.  And you can plug any light up to a 1K into
shop lights or whatever.  This really adds a new level of control, to say, an
interview setup.  Throw one of these on the key light, fill light, hair light, and
background light and tweak how they balance against each scrim needed!

However, it gets even better.  I found a new use for this underrated piece of gear a
couple years ago.  I was hired to DP a 'Docudrama'.  The film was about 'first contact'
between Russian fur traders and Alaska Natives.  Some of the scenes were to be shot
in sod houses at the Alaska Native Heritage center, and many of them called for the
scenes to be shot by firelight.  One problem.  The Alaska Native Heritage center would
not allow us to actually light a fire.  So we needed to stage something where it would
be bright enough to see all the great costumes that our actors had.....but looked like
authentic firelight so as to fit the period.  The director was thinking about using a
reflector and having someone 'wiggle' it back and forth near a light.  Then suddenly
an idea came to me.  What I proposed, was taking a couple 1K lights and setting them
down into the fire pit (an area which is goes down into the floor and is about a foot and
a half lower than ground level.) . Then I suggested that we clamp on some orange
gels in front of the give them the correct look of 'firelight.'  Finally, I
pulled out my 'dimmers' and hooked one to each light.  Then we tasked a crewmember
to sit at the controls of the dimmers, and 'flicker' the knob up and down in an erratic
way.....low budget simulated firelight.  It wasn't perfect but for a low budget indie
film, it was acceptable.  I cut together some random scenes so you could see how
it looked.  This is NOT an edited piece, I just grabbed some scenes and slapped them
together so you could see if this technique looked realistic enough to use when your
own films call for a fire lit scene.

Not bad for something known as a 'router speed control'....

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions Digital Cinema