Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Canon 5DmkII vs Poison...

OK, next victim... But first, let's recap: After testing the Canon's video/audio capabilities straight out of the box, I concluded that the mic just can't handle the extreme decibels from the photo pit. Maybe if there was a way to attenuate the sound coming in, so it wouldn't clip? And we know the video will have the same issues that still pics will have... Reds can easily blow out and block up, since most concerts use a ton of red stage lighting (and camera sensors can have issues with an abundance of that part of the light spectrum - can anyone find me a scientific explanation why CMOS sensors seem to lose details in over-exposed red channels, easier/quicker than in blue and green?)

We also learned that following focus in such a fast-paced, dynamic setting was a big chore, since you have to base focus off the small on-camera screen (which doesn't flip up/down/out). However, there was still enough potential in the Canon 5DmkII that it is worth refining.

Now, to the next match-up... The 5DmkII vs 1980's rock band Poison:

OK, so my main focus on this trial was to improve the sound. The video wasn't too important to me, so I didn't worry about critical framing or focus. I really just wanted to see what I could do to fix the weakest link in the camera's chain. The next logical step? Add an external mic that has the ability to attenuate the input and reduce the chance of clipping.

I used a set-up that I already had for better sound on my camcorder - an XLR-style shotgun mic and a Beachtek input adaptor with phantom power. It is basically like this one here: Beachtek adaptor

I've used this sound system with pretty good success on my camcorder-created videos. The only downfall is the lack of meters. You can ballpark the sound with a set of headphones, but meters would be MUCH better. This unit is more expensive, but is specifically designed for the 5DmkII and I think it has an input VU meter: Beachtek adaptor for the 5DmkII

So, without a meter and no headphones to rough in the settings, I just decided to knock down the input to the halfway mark. The sound is MUCH better, but 90% of it is still way too hot. I can see clipping across all but the quieter sections, when I view the sound levels in FCP. However, this set-up made a BIG improvement over the stock, in-camera mic. I bet with the correct input levels set on my Beachtek, I would have great sound.

But all is not perfect in the audio world. The shotgun mic is facing forward and picking up C.C. Deville's guitar. It was either grabbing his stage monitor, or the sound straight from his guitar amp(s) and not much else. You can tell the difference when I pan away from the stage around 8 sec and pan back around 20 sec. The sound is more uniform during that minor period, then it's back to being overwhelmed by the guitar directly in front.

This issue makes C.C.'s amazing guitar work really stand out and shine from 21 sec to 30 sec, but won't cut it for an overall video recording. Just look at Bret Michaels' vocals around 51 sec to the end. He's talking, but you can't hear him. Not good if you can't pick up any vocals. So is there a solution?

There IS a solution! I am wondering if the cheapest thing to do is to face the mic up or away from the stage, trying to pick up the stage's main speaker system. It will have a mix of ALL the performers. Another choice is to try a different type of microphone. Mine is a shotgun type, which works perfect for my interviews. It focuses in on the sound from the person in front of me, and it pretty much ignores stuff to the left, right and behind. It is a focused mic.

Instead of a mic with a very focused, narrow field, the use of a microphone designed to pick up a wide range/field might be the way to go. This might've seemed obvious to you guys that do video as a main career and stills as a side thing, but I'm the opposite. I'm learning video as a supplement to my stills work.

Another option is to capture sound from the soundboard (the place where the guy sits and adjusts the monitors, speakers, mic input, etc for the show). The soundboard input will be a rough mix, but still much better than the shotgun mic or the in-camera mic. There are other, more complex options, but then it gets to be a big production, and that's missing the spirit of using the 5DmkII for concert video.

Don't get me wrong. I think the 5DmkII would make a great pro concert video. Get three of them running and a pro sound recording rig and you could make a GREAT video! You could have one guy on each side of the stage and one in back getting the long view... Man, that would be wonderful. But, this is really about a one-man photo-j style video.

So, let's tally the votes so far. Canon vs Slayer? A definite win for Slayer. Their massive lighting and powerhouse sound pummeled the stock camera. Canon vs Poison? I think Canon could've held its own visually (you can see I got some nice close-in stuff of C.C. Deville during his intro riff), if I had concentrated on the video better.

The sound, though? I think Poison still beats Canon, or at least with the way I have it set up so far. But, this gave me a few ideas on how to finally beat the next opponent, whoever decides to challenge this superb little camera. I bet I come back with some nice - OK, acceptable - sound from the next match!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Real or Fake?!?

I have a friend who edits over at Life. It is no longer a printed magazine like it used to be, but it still has a strong web presence. While looking through the images, I spotted this page:

It's fun trying to pick out the real images from the fake ones. It can be hard on some of them. I maybe got 60% to 70% correct. There were several that threw me. It just goes to show you how hard it is to tell a "real" photo from a "fake" one.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Round three: Marilyn Manson vs Jason Janik...

Yet another audience-made video of the Mayhem Fest concert in Dallas, TX. This one was made during Marilyn Manson's set. You can clearly see me at 1:40 as I change some settings on my camera. You can't see the point in which I get a little of his spit on me (yes, it was gross), but you can see me here and there throughout the video... looking like a nerdy photographer:

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Round Two: Slayer vs Jason Janik...

While updating some stuff on youtube, I noticed some other Slayer videos online from the same concert I shot. These were shot from the front of the audience, so you can actually see the photo pit. I can be briefly spotted in them, if you look close enough...

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Selling old camera gear...

Do you have some photo gear that you want to sell? Well, I got a call from someone who is looking for gear to buy. They are a reseller, so you might make more selling it on your own, but the convenience of having a buyer come to you sounds kind of nice. This is the info I was given (I'm not affiliated with this company in any way, just passing along info):

I am coming to Dallas from September 1st to 18 to buy photo equipment, If you have anything for sale, do let me know or if you know anyone that that may, please forward my information:

Eric Mehl, buyer
Columbus Camera Group,inc.
55 East Blake Ave.
Columbus,Ohio 43202



Flip it...

When shooting a concert, flip the camera around and capture the crowd. You'll sometimes come back with more interesting, moving pics of the crowd than of the stage performance! This is just a random sampling of crowd shots that I've taken over the years. Hopefully, it will give you an idea of the potential waiting behind you at a concert:

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'm seriously jealous...

I stumbled across Erin Trieb's website today. I haven't seen her in a couple years. I met her when she did an internship at The Dallas Morning News. She lives in Austin now. Her work is very cool:


Your new friend...

A lot of photographers seem to love the Canon Powershot G10 as a good pocket-sized camera to carry with them. It is perfect for location scouting, casual pics, model selections or any other photo that doesn't require the use of pro-level gear.

Well, it looks like Canon is going to release a new and improved version... the G11:


New Business Cards...

My proof is ready for my new cards. I will go approve it tomorrow and then (hopefully) have cards not long after. Why do I bother telling you this? Maybe, because I get "real" cards, not cards printed on the home computer... not the ten dollar cards you can get at Office Depot (the ones that look like you found for free in a dumpster). I pay decent money to get custom cards made.

You are handing this card to someone who may pay you hundreds or thousands of dollars for a photo shoot. You need to hand them a card that looks professional. You need to hand them a card that looks creative. You need to spend a little money here.

OK, you are saying to yourself, "But, custom cards cost $50 to $100 to make, not $15 or $20 like the ones I currently get from Staples. I don't want to pass out expensive cards to everyone and their daughter."

OK, I'm right there with you. I don't want to waste my expensive cards on a homeless guy asking me for change or the woman who was just telling me about her recent alien abduction. Nothing wrong with aliens or the homeless, but if they show absolutely no interest in photography, a fancy business card isn't going to change their mind.

However, when I meet someone working in the marketing department of a local business/corporation, I want to hand them something very professional. I want them to see my confidence in my craft. I want them to see that I didn't just print off a card at home and decide that "today is the day I'm going to be a professional photographer".

Spend some money on good cards and hand them to potential clients. It is worth the extra money. Trust me.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robert Capa...

One of the most striking, moving photos of the last one hundred years has received a new batch of criticism. As a photographer, there is a good chance that you are familiar with Robert Capa's "Falling Soldier" image. As a photojournalist, you pretty much HAVE to know about it. Even if the name isn't instantly recognizable - like say Ansel Adams would be to the average photo fan - you'll probably still know the image.

Well, read this story regarding the debate behind the image:

Was it staged? Is it real? What do you think? How do you think that affects the impact/emotion/importance of the image?


No more Zilker Park dust...

I know many of you following my blog are specifically music photographers. Many of you will be down in Austin, TX for the Austin City Limits Music Festival held at Zilker Park. Many of you also know how dusty and dirty it gets from all the dry ground being kicked up by hundreds of thousands of footsteps. Well, this year might be a little different:

It looks like the parks department and ACL grew a ton of grass. In theory, this grass should still be alive and thriving during the three day music festival, so... no more dust storms?!? Let's keep our fingers crossed.

I'll see you all down there this year (I've been ALMOST every year - just missed the first one). Looking forward to another amazing line-up!


Monday, August 17, 2009

The O's and Alternative Press...

So, I finally got a copy of the April 2009 issue of Alternative Press Magazine (a national alternative music publication) that had my picture of The O's in it. I was expecting the pic to run 1/4 page or bigger, so I was a bit disappointed with the smaller size. However, it's still nice having another major music pub that I can add to my list. And, you've got to start somewhere with every potential client. My first shoot for Spin started out years ago with a small picture of rock band Fuel, eventually working my way up to full page feature photos...

By the way, if you haven't yet heard The O's, you are missing out! They are absolutely amazing and deserved to be part of this "100 Best Bands of 2009" issue.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Canon 5DmkII vs Slayer...

I decided to test out the Canon 5DmkII at a recent heavy metal concert that I was shooting. The show gave permission to shoot video during the first minute of the first two songs. Of course, I was being paid to shoot still photos of the show, so I didn't want to burn up that much time testing video.

So, I decided to shoot the audience cheering as the band took the stage and maybe 30 seconds of the first song, to get a feel of how a stock Canon 5DmkII would handle such a loud and colorful subject. I think it will give you just enough video to see what the Canon can do.

I bet the camera could capture much better images during a show that didn't have such pummeling, extreme lighting. However, the mic probably won't hold up to anything but a stripped, folk, acoustic-style show. Of course, a separate mic setup with adjustable attenuation and meters would be easy to add. Other options are to record sound from the soundboard (if you have access/permission to do so).

Overall, I think it's safe to say that something like this Slayer concert would be the extreme. Most concert video from the Canon 5DmkII should fair much better. Now, the next big challenge is to find a way to easily keep focus held while shooting in a busy photo pit, without having to add a complex follow-focus system to the kit.