Chasing Monkeys in Colombia for Nat Geo

Chasing Monkeys in Colombia for Nat Geo

Colorado-based DP and Director Danny Schmidt recently traveled to Colombia on behalf of National Geographic to obtain footage of the albino brown spider monkey. Equipped with a slew of video gear from Borrowlenses and a qualified crew, they had 8 days to gather the footage needed to tell the story of this beautiful and endangered species.  Chasing Monkeys in Colombia for Nat Geo by Danny Schmidt The Mission The world of wildlife filmmaking is full of unknowns. Will I see any animals? Will I capture interesting behavior? Will the weather cooperate? We generally go into the field equipped with the right gear, a lot of research, and a general willingness to suffer to get the shot. But beyond those things, we just hope that we actually see an animal when are cameras are rolling. On a recent trip to Colombia in search of albino brown spider monkeys, the odds were definitely not in our favor. There are only two (yes, two) of these albinos known to exist in the wild and we had a short window to find them and tell their story. Brown spider monkeys are critically endangered and their habitat is severely fragmented. This has caused genetic bottlenecking and, as a result, albinism in one of the family groups. These albinos are incredibly beautiful but they bring a pretty sobering message about the fate of a species when populations become isolated. Our mission was to find the monkeys, tell their story through the voice of the local researcher, and create a portrait of the stunning biodiversity of this threatened area. We had 8 days to do it. Without the help of the...
Atomos Shogun First Impressions

Atomos Shogun First Impressions

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a few tips for folks shooting with the Atomos Shogun external monitor/recorder. I’ve had some time to put my unit through a few shoots and have some first impressions to share. Look and Feel Some folks have commented on the fact that the Shogun feels a bit cheap in terms of build quality, especially compared to the other big 4K recorder, the Odyssey 7Q. While it’s true that the Shogun definitely has a somewhat plasticky feel to it, I actually appreciated the weight savings. This thing is going to live on top of my Sony A7s, attached either with a shoe-mount ballhead or a magic arm. Add to that the fact that I use a pretty heavy Sony battery with my kit and the weight savings from going with a plastic body are even more appreciated. The plastic doesn’t bother me at all; the unit still feels solid enough for daily use, though I’m not about to subject it to a drop test. Moreover, I love the hard Pelican case that Atomos ship with this thing. It’s got cutouts for everything that comes with the Shogun, along with extra cutouts for more batteries. Features I have to say, I’m impressed with the featureset. The fact that it shoots 4K is enough of a party trick, but Atomos have packed it full of a lot of other features. From peaking and zebras to false color and vectorscopes, the Shogun is a full-featured video monitor that I’ve now come to rely on even when I don’t shoot 4K. I love having the ProRes codec (even...
5 Quick Tips for Shooting with the Atomos Shogun

5 Quick Tips for Shooting with the Atomos Shogun

We recently received the Atomos Shogun external monitor/recorder, a bit of gear a lot of customers have been eager to work with for some time now. We’re currently putting it through its paces and will have sample footage for you soon, but for now, we thought we’d put together a few tips and tricks that we’ve found useful when shooting with the Atomos Shogun. 1. Audio If you’ve got something like a Rode Videomic Pro plugged into your camera and intend to have the Shogun record the audio off that, you need to make sure the Shogun is set to do so. On the bottom-left corner of the Shogun’s screen is a small icon representing incoming audio (highlighted in red here). Tap that to bring it up, then make sure that the “Rec” button is a bright red next to the audio channel you want to record. If you’re not seeing any activity in your intended channel, check your camera; audio recording might be turned off. 2. Ensure clean HDMI output Cameras like the A7s can output not just the video signal to the Shogun, but also the on-screen menus – which will get recorded along with your intended footage. Make sure you turn those off!   3. Lock your screen Once you start recording, you can press the power button once on the shogun to lock the screen. This prevents any accidental touches from registering on the touch screen. You can also change a setting in the Shogun to power the screen down when you lock it, and save that use for in-between shots to save battery life. 4. Touch...
The Sony FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS Lens is Ready for Your Next Video Shoot

The Sony FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS Lens is Ready for Your Next Video Shoot

We have a new cine lens for rent – the FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS. It’s ideal for both the Sony FS7 and the Sony a7S but will mount on any E mount camera. It is ideal for run-and-gun style shooting, documentary filmmaking, and any other cinematic use where portability is important. Here are some features that really stand out about this lens and why should you shoot with it. Focal Length: 28 – 135mm. Versatile range that prevents you from having to change lenses. Maximum Aperture: f/4. Fast enough for most low-light and out-of-focus needs. Designed for full frame Sony E mount cameras. Pair this with Sony’s a7 line. Compatible with crop sensor E Mount cameras. Pair this with the FS700, FS7, or any E mount camera. 1.31′ Minimum Focusing Distance. Relatively close range for a lens reaching up to 135mm. Auto Focus with Manual Focus Override. Fine-tune your focusing without using an AF/MF switch. Image Stabilization (Optical SteadyShot, or OSS). Allows you to gain more stops without sacrificing sharpness when shooting at lower shutter speeds. Super Sonic wave Motor. Silent autofocusing – essential for video. The FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS is light weight and partially manufactured with polycarbonate, making this lens more impact resistant and also better protected from the sun. It also helps save on weight. You can select between clicked and de-clicked aperture for ultimate control. Having a de-clicked aperture makes it great for run-and-gun shooting and adjusting exposure mid-take like when there is a major shift in exposure walking from indoor to outdoor lighting. This lens was designed side-by-side with the FS7, which boasts internal firmware to correct for aberrations, making this lens...
Shooting at Night with the Panasonic GH4

Shooting at Night with the Panasonic GH4

The Panasonic GH4 is an amazing little camera. I’ve been putting it through its paces from the moment I got my hands on one, and just like any gearhead, have been reading practically every review and comment about it on the internet. What can I say? It’s an addiction. I confess. One thing that stood out to me in all the signal and noise out there was that this camera isn’t a great performer at high ISO. My initial quick tests bore that out; at ISO 800, the footage is pretty noisy and by 1600, it’s unusable for a lot of work. But what I wanted to know was something a bit more subtle. I wanted to know if I could shoot at night, in a place like San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, and still walk away with usable footage? See, what a lot of people don’t get is that “low light” and “high ISO” aren’t synonymous. Just because you don’t have bright daylight doesn’t mean you have to force your camera into stratospheric ISOs. There’s more than one way to skin this particular cat and so, with my GH4 and some bits and bobs, I set out to find out if I could get the footage I wanted. Here’s the gear list: Panasonic GH4 Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, Nikon-mount Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 Metabones Nikon G to Micro Four Thirds Speedbooster Video tripod and head The video is below, but before you watch it, here are a few notes to keep in mind so you know what to expect… The video is shot at 4K, 24p. ISO was kept between 200 and 400 for...
Working With Magic Lantern RAW Files

Working With Magic Lantern RAW Files

In case you missed it, we started carrying a version of the Canon 5D Mark III modified with the Magic Lantern firmware modification last year. One of the really cool features of this tweaked body is that you can now shoot 1080p video in RAW format. Still shooters know what this means: better control over white balance and a file that stands up to post-processing really well. RAW is still something of a new bag for video shooters working with DSLRs, however, and there are a few things you should know when you start working with RAW files from the 5D Mark III. Making the Magic Lantern RAW File Usable Let’s start with this: The RAW file you get from the 5D isn’t immediately editable. It’s a single file with a .RAW suffix that none of the popular video editors, neither Final Cut nor Premiere, currently recognize without additional plugins like GingerHDR. So you have to modify this file to work with it. The converters for Magic Lantern RAW files essentially do one thing: they take a single RAW file and split it into a sequence of image files in either DNG, TIF, or JPEG files. Your video clip is then available to you as a folder full of hundreds or thousands of single images, each one representing a single frame of footage. That’s not ideal in that you now have a fairly large number of files to manage, but it’s not too difficult to work with them. But first, you have to get to that point where you have those hundreds of files. For this, you have a...
BorrowLenses Year in Review: The Cameras of 2013

BorrowLenses Year in Review: The Cameras of 2013

2013 is a record year for new camera models at BorrowLenses.com, which means having the biggest selection of models we’ve ever had. There is something for every kind of photographer, from mirrorless pocket cameras to huge 60+ megapixel medium format DLSRs. We selected a bunch of our favorites from this bountiful season. Discover what’s available for exploration in our year-in-review. Mirrorless/MFT/Compact Panasonic’s GX7 boasts in-body stabilization and Light Speed AF all inside a super stylish design with a comfortable rubber grip. Other notable features include an impressive action-stopping 1/8000th of a second shutter ability and flash syncing at 1/320th of a second and a DSLR-esque twin-dial control system. The fully 90 degree tilting viewfinder is also a welcome feature. The GX7 has this crazy 40 FPS mode when using the electronic shutter. However, to use it you are limited to reduced-resolution JPEGs but it’s still a fun option to have. Autofocus on the GX7 is blazingly fast. AF locks onto the subject immediately even in low light where manual focus is often the only option. Continuous AF, however, still tends to hunt around as one would expect with no phase-detect sensors. Overall, the GX7 is comfortable, cool looking, and accommodates a vast array of MFT-mount lenses that are very fast. Pairs well with: Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Lumix G Vario Zoom Lens Fuji’s X100 set the gold standard for retro design when it first came out. Since then it has continued that tradition, packing increasingly advanced technology into the classically designed mirrorless cameras that take their cues more from rangefinders of yesterday than anything else. The success to the X100 is the “s” variant of...
Gear Spotlight: Is the 24-70mm f/4 IS Canon’s Best General-Purpose Zoom?

Gear Spotlight: Is the 24-70mm f/4 IS Canon’s Best General-Purpose Zoom?

The 24-70mm zoom range is one of the most popular zoom ranges on any camera, and most manufacturers have at least one lens in that category. Canon’s 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom was getting fairly long in the tooth, and its replacement, the Mark II, has garnered widespread praise and accolades from users and reviewers alike. Lost in all of that was Canon’s 24-70mm f/4L IS zoom, which was released a few months after the f/2.8 version. This odd lens, which is, ostensibly, the replacement for Canon’s similarly long in the tooth 24-105mm f/4L IS lens, came as something of a disappointment. Why, people wondered, did Canon kill the additional 35mm of zoom range from this lens, and why would anyone opt for this lens over the sharper and faster f/2.8 Mark II? Well, I’ve been using this lens for the last few weeks as I work up a series of video articles for you folks, and I’m starting to think that this dark horse of a lens is a hidden gem. Bad figures of speech aside, there’s a lot to like about the Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS lens. Let’s start with the “IS” part. IS stands for Image Stabilization, and the 24-70mm f/4 lens, like many of Canon’s other lenses, has that. What’s unusual is that this is only the second lens in Canon’s lineup to feature the newer “Hybrid IS” system. Most image stabilization systems have the ability to compensate for movement or vibration in an up-down and side-to-side direction. Canon’s Hybrid IS system goes one step further, adding compensation for camera shift in both vertical and horizontal planes....
Quick Video Tip for Beginners: Use a Rubber-band for Smoother Pans

Quick Video Tip for Beginners: Use a Rubber-band for Smoother Pans

If you’re just getting started with shooting video with your DSLRs, there’s a better than even chance that you’re not quite used to making smooth movements with your camera. Here’s a quick tip to help you get started with making one of the most basic moves in cinematography: a side-to-side move with the camera locked down on a tripod with a fluid head (like this Manfrotto kit, available from BorrowLenses.com now) meant specifically for video. Gear used Video tripod and fluid head (I used my own, but you can rent a Manfrotto video head and tripod here). I also used my own 15mm rail system, but you can rent one like the Redrock Micro Eyespy from us. This is completely optional. HD-DSLR. I used the Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-70mm lens. A rubber band First, find yourself a rubber band. You want one that’s a bit sturdy, but not so stiff that it has no give at all. Then, set up your tripod and camera and make sure your focal length, exposure, and focus and are all adjusted to your liking. To execute the pan, slip the rubber band around your video head’s handle and pull in the direction you want. Keep a smooth, even pressure on the rubber band, and stop pulling at the end of your pan, allowing the natural tension of the band to bring the pan to an end (or fade it to black in post, as I did here). Here’s a video that lays the technique out. The footage is ungraded (i.e., no post-production techniques have been applied to it as yet). It’s...