Tag Archives: Film

Animating Lego – A Star Wars MicroFilm

Q: What do you do when you dig up a few old Lego Star Wars toys from the attic?

A: Immediately start story boarding a stop motion film, obviously.

For no other reason than to see if I could, I set myself the challenge of making a ‘Microfilm’ – A small but perfectly formed animation that was as filmic as I could manage. After a bit of testing and a few hours of shooting and editing this is the result.

If you’re wondering how this was made, here’s a shot to illustrate just how low tech the setup was. It’s all about cunning placement of cameras, macro lenses and very careful planning and measurements when it comes to tracking shots. IMG_2496

I used a Nikon D750 with a 35-70mm macro lens, a printed background of Liverpool docks and an assortment of paper clips and blu-tack to position the models. Whenever an object is thrown (or forced) in the film it has been shot with a paperclip support that is then painstakingly edited out of each frame. It’s a labour intensive task but I’m super happy with the results.

 

If you enjoyed this and want to see more then say hello! If you have any thoughts or suggestions leave a comment and follow jonhallphoto to see the next installment.

 

Gopro stabilized footage – building a smooth fight scene rig

A while back I was called to film some fight scenes for a promo video. I love films like ‘Kingsman’ for the feeling of camera mobility during fight scenes and I wanted to recreate that feeling. Filming action with a DSLR is difficult because if you want to stabilize your footage it makes focus control very difficult. There are solutions available such as the DJI Ronin M but these add bulk and weight and are too expensive for a lot of amateur filmmakers. Instead I used the Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal attached to my Phantom drone to stabilize a Gopro solving two problems at once. Stable footage and no focus adjustment needed.

Using a drone is a great solution if you already own one but it has it’s disadvantages. It uses the precious battery power of the expensive DJI cells, offers no stabilization in the vertical plane and there’s nowhere to put a monitor if you want one.

Gopro Glidecam-1
Feiyu G4 on Gopro mounts

Instead I looked for a solution that would stabilize a Gopro like a drone gimbal does but mount easily to my Flycam 5000, a handled stabilizer for DSLR’s. After researching various possibilities involving ebay stabilizers and RC battery packs I bit the bullet and ordered the Feiyu G4 handheld electronic stabilizer for Gopro. The G4 does everything the drone did but is still susceptible to hand movement. It keeps the Gopro level but that’s it.

 

Fortunately, mounting it to a Flycam 5000 transforms the Gopro into a silky smooth cinema camera. The addition of the Boscam G20 transmitter allows a live feed for monitoring on the move and the remote control unit lets me control the pitch and follow mode on the G4. This really is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of it’s parts.

See the super stable results from this setup in the new fight video and Bikes and Boards promo:

The extra advantage of the Flycam kit is it’s ability to keep the camera level with minimal ground clearance. Lowering the head of the stabilizer allows you to film right from the floor up to about a foot higher than your reach, which is excellent.

A complete parts list for the kit is below:

  • Gopro Hero4
  • Boscam G20 Transmitter
  • Black Pearl diversity Monitor
  • Feiyu G4 3-axis stabilizer
  • Feiyu G4 remote and cable
  • Gopro flat surface mount
  • Gopro Handlebar mount

If you’re building this kit or maybe have a better one I want to hear about it. Leave a comment or follow JonHallPHoto to stay updated.

Boscam G20 video transmitter for Gopro Hero 3 and 4. What it is and why you need one.

The Boscam G20 is a 5.8GHz 32 channel composite video transmitter for the Gopro Hero 3 and 4 cameras. It uses the accessory port on the rear of the camera to send video to a compatible receiver and is the best thing since sliced bread.

Here’s why.

The Gopro Hero 4 is a pretty serious piece of kit for film makers. It’s sharp, light, relatively cheap and shoots 4k and 2.7k footage with usable frame rates and a flat colour profile. That’s a great start but using it to produce professional looking footage turns out to require much more in terms of hardware than you might think.

For capturing action sports the super wide view of the Gopro is perfect as a ‘fit and forget’ camera but when using the more cinematic narrow or medium fields of view, knowing what you’re shooting becomes more important. If you need live view when filming (and you do) you have a few options:

  • The Gopro App – Streams video to your phone or tablet via WIFI and offers full control over the settings. This is awesome for framing up your shots but rubbish for actual filming. The lag between moving the camera and the display updating is just too much to be useful. You’ll go insane trying to film anything seriously like this.
  • The LCD Bacpac (yes it’s spelled ‘Bacpac’) gives a lag free preview and adds touch control but is tiny and stays on the camera at all times. This means if you want to put your camera on a boom arm or stabilizer you won’t be able to see it. so it’s really no better than the app.
  • HDMI Out, this is the ‘pro’ choice offered by Gopro, assuming that anyone using their Hero4 for serious use will use a large rig and can trail cables to monitors with no problems. This is undoubtedly the best quality available but rather defeats the object of having a tiny mountable camera. Especially when the weight of an HDMI cable will prohibit the use of any handheld stabilizer.

The answer? The Boscam G20 transmitter. A self contained box the same size as a battery or LCD Bacpac that sends live video straight to a wireless receiver. No wires, no uneven weight distribution and perfectly designed for anyone using a handheld stabilizer such as the Feiyu G4 or G4s.

The Thing itself.

The Boscam G20 is a cheap, lightweight transmitter that plugs directly into the Gopro Hero3 and Hero4 cameras using the rear connector. With a 500mAh internal battery it charges via a micro usb socket and is supposed to last for 2 hours per charge. (I’ve not tested this fully yet but I’ll get back to you.) At 28g it’s extremely light and mounts perfectly into any Gopro mount or case designed for use with the Bacpac accessories. Importantly, it does work perfectly with the Feiyu G4 series stabilizers which is the whole reason I bought it. The specified range is 300m  though for film making use that will be more than enough.

To see the video you’ll need a 5.8Ghz 32 channel receiver. I use a Black Pearl diversity monitor that does not require a separate receiver and it works beautifully.

To set up your G20 you’ll need to power it up before fitting it to your Gopro, then select a channel using the mode button on the side of the unit. A long press cycles through the bands A, B, E, F and a short press cycles between channels 1-8.

Before buying the G20 I could find no information, no reviews, nothing. If you’re looking for a wireless live view solution then this is it.

I recommend buying your Boscam G20 from Banggood.com here 

If you’re still not convinced here’s a quick  video to show you it working.

As always, if you have and questions just leave a comment.

Musketeers Fight Trailer – Sword fights and bending time with the Gopro Hero4.

If you’ve seen ‘Kingsman, The Secret Service’ you’ll know just how incredible those Matthew Vaughn fight scenes are. If you haven’t I recommend you stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now.

Done? Fantastic wasn’t it. After watching THAT scene (which I won’t spoil for any of you who didn’t see it) I desperately wanted to make my own. Fortunately Off The Ground Theatre were just gearing up for their summer tour of The Musketeers and had a whole set of elaborate sword and fist fights ready to go. The first show was in 2 days so the challenge was on. How good a fight trailer can I produce in 24 hours?

After watching the fights in rehearsal we worked the camera into the action rather than direct each shot separately. The result is as close as I could get to what I wanted with the 30 or 40 minutes of filming time available. Check out the results below and if you can’t wait to get to the best bits. The scrapping starts at 0:35s.

So how this was put together?..

Producing the Musketeers film ala Vaughn presented several challenges to overcome, not least of which was the total lack of preparation and planning. I knew they were rehearsing and I knew I was going to film something. I had no idea what to expect.

Well that’s not entirely true. I used to choreograph fights for the company myself and have been on twelve of their summer tours as an actor and producer before I was a photographer. Once I’d been shown the amazing fights they had prepared for the stage I could see the style I wanted straight away. The fights are fast and technical with details that shouldn’t be missed so I had to get in there and be part of the action. I didn’t want to make a typical film fight where every hit is a cut and you never see a landed blow. These fights flow and move and are a real spectacle on stage. I wanted to try to capture as much of that feeling as I could.

I shot everything using a Hero4 at 1080p, 120fps. Filming at such a high frame rate allows me to slow down the action to 20% speed and still have it look totally smooth at a nice cinematic 24fps. The ability to speed up and slow the footage is needed to keep the action exciting when shooting the fight in single takes. This was achieved in Premiere Pro then coloured using Adobe Speedgrade.

To smooth out the action the camera is mounted to a DJI Phantom 2 carrying a Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal. The gimbal keeps the Gopro smooth and level giving it that film glide cam look whilst the Phantom drone provides the power, and transmits a live feed to an external monitor so I can see what I’m filming. There is a smooth pan in there that was shot from the drone in flight too.

Some acrobatics were required and I didn’t escape without a good sword thwack to one hand (It was my fault for forgetting the moves) but I’m pleased with the results. Not bad for a days work.

Shooting Triathletes in West Kirby – A 48 hour D800 film

West Kirby is a quiet little beach town on the Wirral peninsula. Considering the vast beaches and epic marine lake it’s amazing that it hasn’t been home to a triathlon before.

On the 31st of August hundreds of competitors, friends, family and spectators descended on the lake to witness some extreme athletes put themselves through a combined course of swimming, and cycling before a run to the finish. Organised by Mersey Tri this looked like a huge turnout for a first event.

I had been invited by a personal trainer friend of mine to from Elite Fitness photograph the event with the intention of providing photos for his athletes. Upon arrival I knew I had a problem, more specifically the monster lens of an events photographer peeking out from behind a high-viz jacket.

Oh.

As good as my photos will be, if they already have it covered for the whole event I’m just overkill. So do I stay to watch strangers get wet, then disappear on bikes before returning to disappear again on foot or do I turn around and go straight back to bed (considering that it’s now 7:15 on a Sunday morning)?

Or…  do I make the best of it, put down the rapid fire D700 and see if I can make a film with zero preparation, zero planning and only the kit I have for stills photography?

Never one to waste an opportunity I grabbed the D800 with the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 for it’s long reach, the 16-35 f4 for it’s super wide angle and a sturdy tripod and set to it.

An event like a triathlon poses certain challenges to a lone cameraman. Unable to film more than one angle at once I had to pick my shots pretty carefully on the fly. Fortunately there were three waves of athletes that provided some opportunity to move and reset the camera during the action and with the kind assistance of a driver from Checkpoint motor stores I was able to follow the cycling action whilst hanging out of the window of a VW Polo. This was a real test for the active VR of the 70-200 and obviously an area which requires practice.

The film is shot in 1080p at 30fps so full screen viewing is recommended. It was cut in Premiere Pro and graded with Adobe Speedgrade before titles were added in After Effects.

If you enjoy the video (or not) leave a comment, I’d love to hear what you think. If you have any questions about how this was made or you have an event coming up and want a film for yourself just get in touch.

Enjoy

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