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10 Feb C-Stand Basics by Shane Hurlbut

DP Shane Hurlbut just posted an instructional video on the basics of setting up and operating C-Stands. Whether you’re a beginner or a key grip, (though it’s definitely more for beginners), it’s worth watching just to fill any gaps in your knowledge.

Check out the post on his site where he also includes a lighting schematic diagram for the making of this video.

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18 Dec Studio B Films Holiday Party 2014

Fresh off another awesome year, Studio B threw its annual holiday party last night. With great people, great food, a white elephant gift exchange, and a compilation of our work from the year, the party was a grand success. We threw up a GoPro Hero 4 to capture a timelapse of the festivities.

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24 Oct Warrior Dash

Some of the Studio B Crew at the Warrior Dash Finals.

This past weekend we shot the Warrior Dash competition in Sacramento. With a crew of nine people, eleven cameras, and a 3am call time, it was a long but exciting day. We survived the mud and dust with some amazing footage, and I think it’s safe to say the cameras got the worst of it:

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Our gear list: Sony F5, Sony FS700, Red Epic, Red Scarlet, two Canon C300s, Canon 5D mk.II, two GoPro 3‘s, two GoPro 4’s, the DJI Ronin, Porta-Jib Traveller, and a quadcopter.

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09 Sep New in Rentals: Teradek Bolt Pro

Teradek Bolt Pro Rental

The Teradek Bolt Pro Wireless SDI Video Transmission System just arrived! Send 1080p60 video wirelessly up to 300 feet from your camera. This is the perfect device for when you need to go wireless on set. If you’re using our new DJI Ronin stabilizer, for example, and your director, DP, clients, (or whoever!) want to see what the camera sees, then there’s no other way to send video since tethered cables would ruin the balance and autonomy of the camera. Our kit comes with one transmitter, one receiver, and all the necessary cables and mounting hardware you’ll need.

Check out the Teradek Bolt Pro page here and rent one today!

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28 Aug Sony F5 Hacked, Can Shoot 4k Internally

The Sony PMW-F5 has just been hacked to shoot internal 4k XAVC video. This is big news, of course, because one of the biggest differences between the F5 and the more expensive (almost twice as much!) F55 was the ability to shoot 4k internally, without needing to purchase a separate AXS-R5 4k recorder. There has always been speculation that the F5 was capable of internal 4k, and this new discovery proves both that it’s capable, and that Sony has intentionally disabled the functionality of the F5. See cinematographer Paul Ream’s short Vine video below to see the 4k resolution readout on the F5 screen.

Ream, who discovered the hack, goes on to explain the process of hacking the camera on the ExtraShot podcast here. Start listening around 19 minutes to jump straight to his explanation, which is remarkable in that he does not change the firmware nor tweak the physical hardware of the camera in any way. Instead, he merely edits the camera settings via a text editor on his computer.

Of course, we’ll need to wait and see if others can replicate his results, as well as wait for Sony’s response. The company may choose to not respond at all, much like Canon and the Magic Lantern firmware hacks on their DSLRs, but the debate will continue about the ethics of artificially limiting a camera’s capabilities only to sell more higher-end models and accessories. Futhermore, if there’s enough backlash over this discovery, Sony may choose to update the F5 firmware to allow internal 4k, essentially making the F55 obsolete (at least for the price) and alienating F55 owners who’ve already made the purchase. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out.

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14 Jul Coming Soon to Studio B– the DJI Ronin

The DJI Ronin 3-Axis stabilized handheld gimbal system is coming to Studio B! With tool-free adjustment, lightning quick set-up time, and the ability to fly nearly any camera up to 16 pounds, this brand new gadget makes it easy to get the shots you’ve dreamed of. Check out the video above to see some of the Ronin’s features and capabilities, and watch our blog and Facebook page for an update when it’s ready for rentals this August.

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20 Jun New Item in Rentals: Kessler Philip Bloom Motorized Pocket Dolly

We just picked up the Kessler Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly with motorized add-on here at Studio B Films. Rentals Intern Chris set it up for a test run with a Canon 5D to get some behind the scenes timelapses and dolly moves around the office– starting with our vfx team hard at work and moving into the studio as we set up for a shoot.

Check out the results of that shoot for Castlight Enterprise here.

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22 May Crew Services Gig: Tesla Music Video Shoot

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(above) Studio B grip Enrique Escudero wrangles cables for DP Mike Epple in front of the band Tesla.

Here at Studio B Films, we’re often asked to provide extra crew members to help out on clients’ shoots. Whether it’s just a single videographer or a full crew with jobs ranging from steadicam op to stylist to DP, we hire the best in the bay and coordinate everything on our end.

At the beginning of the month, director Kevin J Custer called in about an upcoming shoot he had with the band Tesla. With Tesla’s new album on the way, he needed to rent a full production package of equipment, five crew members, and find the perfect location for their new music video– all within a week. We locked down the best talent (DP, gaffer, grip, PA, and hair/makeup), prepped all of the gear they would need for the shoot in a production van, and after some searching, were able to secure a corner of the American Steel Studios warehouse in Oakland for a day.

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(above) Director Kevin J Custer observes the scene on one of our Panasonic 17″ monitors.

(below) DP Mike Epple flies one of our Canon C300’s on a Dana Dolly.

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(below) Mike and the C300 on a Porta-Jib Traveller, framed in the background by a 6×6′ silk and frame.

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Check out BAM Magazine’s article here about the band and their music video shoot, including more pictures from the production.

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15 Apr My Trip to NAB 2014

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I had the privilege of attending the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show in Las Vegas last week. It was my first experience at this particular trade show and I was blown away by the sheer size of it. The convention center has over 3,000,000 square feet of space, and you could spend multiple days in just one of the halls and not get to everything. So I moved quickly while doing my best to take in as much as possible within one day– no easy feat.

The central hall held most of the acquisition and production booths, i.e. hundreds of companies and organizations touting thousands of new products aimed at audio/video production, recording, and display. I barely made it through all of the central hall, caught one glimpse of the north hall, and then saved only about an hour for the south hall at the end of the day.

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First Impressions:

Usually, people want to hear about the best new thing at NAB, but I don’t think there’s a single product that I would award as the most exciting or original. To me it seemed that it was a year of expanding and competition. For example, I couldn’t keep track of the number of different 3-axis gimbals I saw, akin to the Movi Freefly, or new quadcopter designs for that matter, a la the DJI Phantom. Both technologies are a year or two established, but now several other companies are seeing the demand and jumping on the bandwagon. Sure there are cheap knockoffs, but the overall quality I saw kept me encouraged that this competition is great for the independent filmmaker. There may not have been as many unique ideas this year at NAB, but the useful ones are continuing to be improved upon and made more affordable.

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Besides the various camera rigs, the other winners in sheer quantity were LED lighting and hard plastic equipment cases. Running a rental business means that I’m far more interested in proper equipment storage and transport than most, so I had to check out every case solution I could. And to be honest, though each company claims that their unique plastic blend is more durable or their latches more user friendly, it’s hard to pick out many differences. The one that caught my eye was a little booth called Jason Cases. Jason makes custom pelican-style cases+inserts for different equipment packages like a Red Epic (seen below), Canon C300, or Movi Freefly. They are extremely functional, sleek, and a rentals manager’s dream.

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Cinema Cameras:

Most of the buzz at NAB this year was directed towards the new cinema cameras. It seems like every other company is jumping in the ring to compete with their own take on 4k (BlackMagic, AJA, JVC, Sony, Panasonic, among others). And although many looked sharp, it’s so hard to say which will succeed and which will fail to find their niche. Many weren’t fully operational at NAB, others sat in glass cases rather than out on the floor for demonstrations, and the rest you still can’t accurately judge without taking the footage home with you to test the workflow and compare on a big screen.

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BlackMagic impressed with a new 4k and new studio camera (seen below) with 10″ iPad-like screens.

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The Arri Amira (below) was one of the more promising new cinema cameras, despite the lack of 4k resolution. I’ve been hearing about this one but finally got a chance to put it on my shoulder and give it a whirl. With the Arri pedigree, Alexa sensor, ProRes recording, and a smaller run-and-gun body, I think the Amira will do pretty well. It was a little heavier than I expected, partly due to the Fujinon lens, but it felt nice on my shoulder and the Arri shoulder mount and top handle are widely customizable. The interface is designed for simplicity with quick toggles and easy to reach programmable buttons, and I was thoroughly impressed with the 1280×1024 viewfinder with separate flip-out screen. The only drawbacks, like I’ve said before, seem to be the high price and perhaps the 2k resolution.

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On the other end of the spectrum, the new AJA Cion (above) left me underwhelmed. Perhaps the jump from creating digital recorders to 4k cinema cameras is nothing to take lightly. This camera seemed to be rushed through production, with an ugly, oversimplified design and half-baked features. The left side of the camera (below) is woefully half-blank, with audio levels stuck randomly in the middle of the empty panel where there would be room for far more controls. It also wasn’t even ready for NAB, as I learned when I went to correct the white balance. Half the menu didn’t even work, and the tech told me that they were still working on that functionality before the release date. Unfortunately they’ll have to make major improvements before then to change my mind on the Cion.

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Products I Liked:

Among the other products that impressed me were the EZ Slider Dolly (below) from EZFX. It’s like a Dana Dolly but extremely customizable and with vertical sliding options (video here).

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PAGlink batteries, for their stackable form factor:

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Newtek (above) put on a pretty good show demonstrating their Tricaster video switchers, and they had to because Livestream’s (below) new switcher, similar to the Tricaster 460, impressed me as well.

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4k LED backdrops (above) and little mini-arc motorized sliders (below).

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Sony all-in-one field reporter bundle (above) and the new Kino Flo Celeb 400q (rear controls seen below).

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More Photos from the Floor:

At the GoPro booth (above). If only they gave away this car with their camera-a-day giveaways…

DP Philip Bloom (below) uses tripods for everything, even laptop stands. I need to work on that 4-buttons-undone look.

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Blackmagic (above) had a popular booth and a ton of buzz going around the show about their new cameras. I didn’t get a chance to try out the new 4k model, though it looks promising.

In a break from the show floor, I attended a session covering Feature Filmmaking in the Age of YouTube (below).

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Giant green cyclorama (above), and the smoothest (and goofiest-looking) steadicam rig out there, built into a segway (below).

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Atomos (above) was definitely one of the more popular booths, partly due to their newest digital recorders (not pictured): the Shogun 4k and Ninja Star.

Most companies selling cameras had little scenes set up to test out their cameras, fully lit with actors and everything. Sony (below) and Canon especially went all out, with the two largest exhibits in the hall and multiple scenes to test with their wide selections of cinema, broadcast, and prosumer cameras.

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Overall, it was a whirlwind of a day. I grabbed more pamphlets and business cards than I know what to do with, only because there was no way I was going to remember all of the great products and people I met. It definitely lived up to the hype as the event for filmmakers around the world, and I’d recommend everyone check out NAB one year if you get a chance. Just try to give yourself more than one day to take in everything, and then hey, if it’s not all that you hoped, there’s far worse places to be stuck than Las Vegas.

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