Louisville in the Fall

As the season transforms from summer to fall the days gradually become shorter and cooler.  The changing of the color of the leaves on the trees happens so gradually that at first it’s not really noticeable then all of a sudden the bright warm colors are the trees are everywhere.  To see the video click the picture below

louisville-fall-poster-frame

Most of this video was shot in 2014 with a Blackmagic Pocket Camera, and stabilized with a DJI Ronin.  It was shot in raw then colored in DaVinci Resolve, before being edited in Premiere, yes I know that’s the reverse of how post usually works with the color grading being done last.

If you want to see the Ronin in action and how I shot most of this video click on the picture.

Ronin Slider

In 2015 I added a DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone to my inventory and used that to add a few more shots to the video in both 2015 and 2016.  Even though the Phantom could shoot in UHD, it wasn’t surprising how much further I could push both the color and exposure with the Pocket Camera which only shoots HD but is able to record raw data.  Being able to shoot in raw is awesome when you’ve got the time to really tweak the colors.

old-louisville-fall-trees

I decided to shoot this project in 30p since I wanted to be able to slightly slow the footage down to make it 24p in the end.  This had the benefit of slightly smoothing out some of the gimbals shots and I think warp stabilizer was only applied to 5 shots that made it in the video.   You’ll notice a good portion of the video has sun in the shots, while I don’t remember going out to record with that in mind it just kind of worked out that way since I would get out of work around 5pm then I would have a couple hours to shoot before it was dark, luckily that’s when the sun was closer to the horizon and gave some really interesting light.  I did shot on some cloudy days but after playing around with the edit those shots were just bringing the entire video down.  It’s kind of strange, when I shoot timelapses I’m usually hoping for a lot of clouds or a completely overcast day since clouds show the passage of time so well and also acts as a giant softbox giving a nice soft light.

louisville-shawnee-park-fall

Initially I thought this was going to be a quick video to put out since I could get so many shots so quickly with recording regular video instead of timelapses.  The problem and benefit to that is that it’s super easy to acquire a mountain of footage.  I had so much footage that I just kept putting off the color grading, and I also didn’t want to have to sort through all the shots to pick out the best scenes.  After all the shooting I ended up with around an hour and a half of footage and of that, 1 minute and 48 seconds made it in the video…. a roughly 50 to 1 ratio.  I realize an hour and a half doesn’t seem like a lot of footage to go through but it’s about the equivalent to color correcting the length of a feature film….obviously a feature film should be more difficult to color correct since there are people in it, but a feature length movie was probably lit pretty well to begin with.  Another reason for the long delay in putting out this video out was trying to find some music for it, I just couldn’t find anything that I thought fit with it.  Usually I try and use local music for these projects but I’m not really well connected to the music scene in Louisville.  I ended up going with some music I found on Premium Beat.  I felt it was still missing something so I ended up writing a little narration to go with the video and have a voice over artist read it.  This was my first time writing a “script” for any of my work, I’m not sure how it will be received but if you don’t try new things you don’t learn, and its always easy enough to mute the audio if anyone doesn’t like it.

louisville-fall-timeline-edit

Anyway, I hope these details were of some interest to anyone who may have read them.  That’s three seasons down showing off Louisville throughout the year.  Winter will hopefully be up this year or super early next year but who knows what if any difficulties I’ll run into with that.  If I remember correctly winter should bring a return to focusing on downtown since trees are no longer a big focus of that video.

Gimbals

A Few Tools for Moving A Camera

 

Pulling off a smooth shot where the camera is moving has generally involved a fairly slow set up process.

You can use dollies but the set up time can be long if trying to lay track on uneven terrain, plus dollies aren’t generally very compact and the length of shot is limited by how much track you have available.

Stabalizer

Operating a Stabilizer

Steadicam’s or stabilizers allow the freedom to walk and get fairly smooth shots but require a decent amount of time to balance, not to mention skill to operate.  If you are trying to shoot a bunch of scenery around a city, a stabilizer is somewhat cumbersome since after arriving to a location a vest has to be strapped on, then a spring arm has to be attached, next a sled placed on the arm and finally a camera mounted to the sled.  Not a particularly easy task with one person and trying to keep a small footprint.

Jib

Using a small jib

Jibs offer a great deal of movement and can provide some really dynamic shots by booming up and down, but when a remote head is added, a tripod that rolls, plus the addition of counter balance weights the logistics of transporting and set up time make it impractical for certain situations.

Gimbals are a fairly new way to pull off smooth camera movements and once initially balanced are an incredibly quick way to shoot a lot of shots at many locations in a short period of time.

They are a great tool but aren’t perfect.  Dollies are almost always smoother and if the camera operator is riding one they can devote most of their concentration to keeping the camera framed up.  Stabilizers have a spring arm that helps account for vertical bounce.  Jibs can push in on a subject and rise or lower more smoothly than a gimbal.

As has been mentioned many times there is no one perfect tool for every situation.

 

“Run and Gun” Style Shooting with a Gimbal

 

 

The video in this article goes through my set up process used for an upcoming project.  It also gives some operating tips as well as how to let a remote operator monitor the operation of controlling the pan, tilt and roll of the gimbal.

 

 

The purpose of the project was to capture the fall colors around Louisville Kentucky.  I knew that this would be done through video and I would want every shot to have movement for added interest.  Since predicting how long the leaves would remain on the trees is impossible, I  wanted to make the most of my time in the two hours I could shoot each day after work.  Using a gimbal was the solution I used for “run and gun” style shooting.

Ronin on Bike Rack

Gimbal Balanced on Bike Rack

 

After initially balancing the gimbal I would leave as much of the gimbal built up as possible and stow it in the trunk of my car.  When I found a nice looking place to record I would place the gimbal on my cars bike rack which acted as the gimbal stand and then slide the camera onto the gimball’s quick release hitch and connect the rest of the cables.  With this technique I could be up and shooting in two to three minutes after parking my car.

 

Gimbal Operating Tips

Ronin Slider

Treating the Ronin like a Slider with small moves.

 

Current gimbals won’t compensate for horizontal or vertical bounce.  Much like a traditional stabilizer you’ll want to keep your knees bent while walking to take out as much of the vertical bounce as possible.

Practice walking your path beforehand to see if anything on the ground might trip you up.

If possible repeat each shot at least twice so you can pick the smoother shot of the two.

If making use of foreground objects that are really close to the camera walking won’t provide the smoothest results.  Instead keep your feet in one spot and just use your arms to float the camera from side to side.

Obviously if you shoot in slow motion the results will look smoother.

While gimbals do a pretty good job on their own, I still run most every shot through warp stabilizer.

 

Wireless Monitoring

Ronin Reciever

Wireless Monitoring Option

 

There are times when you either want someone to see what you are shooting or have an assistant operate the pan, tilt and roll so you can just concentrate on walking with the gimbal.  For these situations a wireless video feed is necessary.  There are a few options on the market but I’m going to go over the Arrow Paralinx Plus.  This is a plug and play solution which transmits up to 150ft for non line of site(although when going through a cinder block wall I’ve maybe gotten 75ft) and can go a little over twice the distance in optimal conditions.  I decided against using DJI’s light bridge since I read on some forums that the signal delay could be up to as much as a second, although I’ve never used their system first hand so this could be completely untrue.  The Paralinx Plus out of the box works with HDMI so if your camera only has HD-SDI you’ll have to buy Arrow’s Crossbow adapter or a third party SDI to HDMI converter.  The Arrow Paralinx will also need power.  It can operate from a P-Tap power source or usb battery packs.  Pretty much any USB battery pack will work with the transmitter but the receiver needs one that can supply 2.1 amps from a single USB port.  I’ve used a regular 1 amp pack for the receiver to test it out but I have heard of complaints on-line that the receiver drains those batteries really fast.  I assume these users weren’t using a battery that output the 2.1 amps that are recommended.  I picked up a limefuel battery for the receiver and this has been working great.

Ronin Transmitter

Transmitter Attached to the Ronin with 3M Dual Lock Velcro

Once the batteries have been bought I’ve found that some 3M Dual Lock Velcro works pretty well for securing the batteries, and Arrow components to your camera and Monitor.  I do recommend wiping down any surfaces that are going to have velcro stuck to them with some rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol to make the Velcro’s backing adhere better.

 

Ronin in Studio

Gimbal Cover Image for Download