Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

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MY DRONE JUST HELPED THE POLICE FIND A FOREST FIRE

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Tonight my drone just helped the Massachusetts State Police locate a forest fire.

The Middlesex Fells is a large nature preserve near where I live. There are a couple of lakes that are very pretty, so this afternoon I took my DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter (with GoPro Hero 3+ Black video camera mounted to the bottom!) to the Fells to get some pretty sunset footage. As I was setting up the drone just a few minutes before sunset, I saw smoke in the sky. I called the State Police to report a likely forest fire. The operator took my name and number and thanked me for the report, and after I got off the phone I started flying the drone.

A few minutes later, the police called me back. The officer asked if I knew more specifically where the fire was located (the Fells is pretty large and spans four different towns, and parts of it are pretty remote and are only accessible by foot). I told the officer, “I don’t, but I can find out!” I explained that I was flying a drone and could use it to locate the fire more specifically. With the officer on speakerphone I took the drone up to about 100 meters and looked around and could clearly see where the smoke was coming from, right between the southern and middle of the park’s three lakes. I told the officer, and he then gave my information to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, which operates the park and manages the land, who then directed their firefighters to the area I pinpointed.

Framegrab from the video:

Frame grab from GoPro mounted to DJI Phantom 2 showing forest fire in Middlesex Fells reservation, Sept. 22, 2014. ©2014 Chris Conti Photography. All rights reserved.

There you have it. Tonight my drone and I helped the State Police pinpoint a forest fire!
(and some people want to ban them!!)

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Great Behind The Scenes Look At How GoPro Videos Are Made

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

GoPro’s marketing videos are awesome. We all love them. They show incredible people doing incredible things in incredible locations, with incredible camera angles (and incredible editing).

What the official GoPro videos DON’T show you is what goes in to making those videos, and personally I’ve been somewhat disappointed that GoPro seems to actively try to hide the details, tactics, equipment and (most importantly) talent that makes them so incredible. This isn’t surprising: the goal of those videos is to sell cameras to consumers by giving them the illusion that by buying the camera they too can create videos as mind-blowing as GoPro’s official marketing videos. Showing the consumer all of the professional-level (and often big-budget) production that goes into those videos would shatter that illusion of attainability.

For people who use the cameras though, it is incredibly helpful to see how some of those incredible shots are captured. This morning I stumbled on a video on the New Yorker’s website (thanks to Cameron Davidson for the find!) interviewing one of GoPro’s sponsored professional athletes and showing some of the tricks and gadgets that allow some of those incredible shots to be captured (the video doesn’t go into any of the extensive editing and post-production that makes GoPro’s official marketing videos sparkle, but it does pull the curtain back on a bit of the filming process).

If you like (or want) to shoot point-of-view action video, this is a good thing to watch.
(click the preview below to go to the New Yorker website)

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Sony A7s Firmware Requests

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Since the Sony A7s camera was released a few weeks ago, early adopters have been using the camera in the field shooting a variety of material with it, in both stills and motion. I personally pre-ordered it the day it was announced at NAB in April and received my camera as soon as they were released to the general public in the first week of July. I put the camera through a series of tests before using it on actual client work, and I just completed a somewhat major corporate video shot entirely on the A7s.
The camera is truly exceptional; Sony’s sensor technology has, very simply, put Canon and Nikon to shame. Most pros who I’ve spoken to agree though that the A7s’s firmware could use a little bit of polish. There are a number of requests for alterations to the firmware that have become almost universally agreed upon by the pro community.

Therefore, in an effort to make a great camera even better, I’m sharing this list (and I invite other pros familiar with the A7s to chime in with their suggestions) in hopes that Sony may listen to the feedback from the pro community and consider including some of these suggestions in the next version of the A7s firmware. This list is taken both from my own experience using the camera in a variety of settings shooting a variety of material as well as conversations with other users, and it presented in order from most basic (and hopefully most attainable) to most complex. (NOTE: As the A7s is primarily a video camera for me and only secondarily a stills camera, this list is biased towards video, although some of the items are applicable to stills shooting as well).

Sony A7s Firmware Requests

#1: In movie mode, allow shutter release button to be configured to start/stop movie recording (this is the single biggest one: EVERY video shooter I’ve spoken to is begging for this)
#2: Allow video record button to be configured as a custom button
#3: Allow the “APS-C Size Capture” menu item to be assigned to a custom button (at the moment there is no option to assign this function to a custom button)
#4: Allow the “Video Record Setting” menu item (where frame rate and codec are chosen) to be assigned to a custom button (like APS-C mode above, it currently can’t be)
#5: Allow the “FINDER/MONITOR” menu item (where EVF vs. screen use is configured) to be assigned to a custom button
#6:
 Move the “APS-C Size Capture” menu item out from where it is currently buried (in tab 5 of the gear menu) forward into a more prominent and accessible place in the shooting menu in the first couple of tabs
#7: Create display mode with histogram on same screen as all other info (scrolling through the display modes by pressing the “DISP” button only shows the histogram in 3rd screen where much other information is omitted
#8: Create option to reconfigure function of scroll wheels (a number of people, myself included, find the scroll wheels’ function unnatural; it would be nice to be able to configure how each of the three wheels works)
#9: Create iris-open function assignable to a custom button (being able to hold the lens iris to its maximum size by holding down a custom button would make manual focusing much faster & easier)

I would encourage everyone to share this page with Sony (you can tweet it to @SonyProUSA, @SonyProEurope, or any other Sony contacts you may have). And if you’re a pro who uses the A7s and has a suggestion I haven’t included above, please mention it in the comments below!

I already love the A7s… and now I’d love to make it even better. :-)

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Posted in Equipment, Gear | 10 Comments »

In Case You Missed It: Apple’s 30th Anniversary Ad Shot on iPhone Proves Almost Any Camera Can Look Great

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

There was a lot going on last night between the Super Bowl and all of the ads broadcast during it (I am not a fan of Budweiser’s beer, but they sure do make adorable TV ads… I mean really, who can resist puppies and horses?), so it was easy to miss the Apple ad.

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Apple’s introduction of the Macintosh computer and with it Apple’s now-legendary “1984″ Super Bowl ad (if you haven’t seen the ad, do yourself a favor and spend 60 seconds watching it), and many people were hoping Apple would mark the occasion by making another ad of similar caliber. Those people were disappointed when the game ended without anything from Apple, but it turns out that Apple did make a 30th anniversary ad; instead of paying millions of dollars to broadcast it during the game though, Apple chose to distribute the ad online on YouTube and it’s own website.

The footage is stunningly beautiful, and as is revealed at the end, it was all shot on iPhones.

YouTube Preview Image

Apple’s message here is obvious: the iPhone shoots amazing, beautiful video (and therefore you should buy one because then you too could create beautiful videos). While the iPhone’s camera IS actually pretty good (and for a smartphone it’s incredibly good), in my opinion the best takeaway from this ad is very different: with good lighting, composition, execution and editing, almost ANY camera can create great images. One of my favorite testaments to this truth is a 20″ x 24″ photo print I have on the wall in my office: I shot that photo using a $3.99 disposable film camera from CVS.

Camera makers like to make us think that if we just buy the right camera, we’ll be able to make beautiful images… and believing that fiction is a trap that even professionals fall into. Too often even professionals think “Oh, if I only had this camera or that camera my images would be so much better!” But most of the people reading this probably have shot videos on an iPhone that didn’t come out anywhere nearly as beautiful as the shots in Apple’s video above. The truth is that it is the talent, skill and experience of the operator (or in the case of high-quality productions like Apple’s ad above, the team) that matters. Just like buying the same golf clubs Tiger Woods uses won’t make you as good a golfer as Tiger Woods, buying this camera or that camera won’t make your images as beautiful as those made by a professional; only time, effort and experience can do that.

The flip side of that coin though is you don’t need fancy, expensive cameras to make gorgeous images; with practice and experience, you can make beautiful, beautiful images even with something as cheap as an iPhone, or a $3.99 disposable camera from CVS. So go out and shoot!

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Wireless Intervalometer? BEST IDEA EVER

Monday, November 18th, 2013

This wireless intervalometer is amazing.

I use intervalometers for a number of purposes in my photography (if you’re not familiar with them, an intervalometer is a device that allows a photographer to set a camera to take a number of photographs sequentially with a given period, or interval, between shots. They’re  also sometimes known as “timers” or “remotes,” but if you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, call them intervalometers. :-). They’re great devices that enable photographers to do all sorts of interesting things (like making timelapse videos like this!), and for me they are a must-have accessory that I carry with me whenever I carry a camera. One of my trusty intervalometers finally died the other day, so it was time to buy a new one.

Many people, myself included, believe that Canon’s name-brand intervalometer, the TC-80N3 (here on Amazon for $130) is overpriced. Devices with the the same build quality that do the same things (or more) are sold by other companies for a fraction of the price. I personally have been using two Satechi wired intervalometers with my Canon 7D, 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III cameras for years now and have been completely happy with them. So when the time came the other day to buy a new one, I went to Amazon assuming I would just buy another one of the same model. But when I did a quick search what did I see? WIRELESS intervalometers! My heart almost burst with joy. I ordered one immediately.

The Satechi wireless intervalometer I just bought. This thing is awesome.

Why is this such a big deal, you ask? Well, because frequently when I’m using an intervalometer the camera is in a difficult-to-access place. For example, I’m soon going to be starting a project where I’m going to have a camera mounted to a tree trunk about 20 feet off the ground. The wireless intervalometer is going to save me from having to get up on a ladder each time I need to start and stop the camera.

I’ve already played with this wireless intervalometer unit a bit from a range of about 20 feet and it works beautifully. I couldn’t be more happy with it. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Since different Canon DSLRs have different types of remote shutter release connectors, make sure you buy the right model intervalometer for your camera. If you have a Canon DSLR with an “N3″-type connector (such as a 1D, 5D, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, 6D, 7D, etc.) this is the right model of this wireless intervalometer for you:
Satechi WTR-A Wireless Timer Remote Control Shutter for Canon EOS-1V/1VHS, EOS-3, EOS-D2000, D30, D60, 1D, 1Ds, EOS-1D Mark II,III,IV, EOS-1Ds Mark II,III, EOS-10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 5D, 5D Mark II,III, 7D Fully Compatible with RS-80N3

Instead, if you have a Canon DSLR with an “E3″-type connector (such as the Rebel line of cameras: 60D, t2i, t3i, etc.) then this is the model you should buy:
Satechi WTR-C Wireless Timer Remote Shutter for Canon EOS 60D, Digital Rebel XT, XTi, XSi, XS, T1i, T2i, T3i, T4i & Canon Powershot G10, G11 & Pentax K7 & ELAN SLR cameras

In the next couple of days I’m going to do some experimenting to figure out just how much range this transmitter has, and how far away I can be to successfully trigger the camera. Check back for the results!

(On the other hand, if you want an intervalometer but don’t want to spend the extra money for the wireless feature, the regular, wired N3 and E3 versions are HERE and HERE, respectively… but you’d be crazy not to get the wireless one!)

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Posted in Equipment, Gear, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

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