I'm an advertising photographer/videographer based in Los Angeles, California. My mission is to create striking advertising photography, corporate photography and editorial photography of people for major advertising agencies, fortune 500 corporations and major magazines. I shoot photography and video assignments throughout California including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego as well as the rest of the world. As a photo educator I am happy to share my unique vision and methods. I'm currently teaching classes at College of the Canyons in video production for professional photographers and photography students. I give workshops, seminars and lectures on short form video production at colleges, organizations and conferences around the world.
Posted: June 5th, 2013 | Author: Lee White | Filed under: Beachtek, Canon 7d, Education, video production | Tags: Beachtek adapters, California advertising photographer, DSLR audio adapters, Lee White Photography | No Comments »
In my last entry, I mentioned that the Canon 7D has joined the ranks of DSLR that have manual control of audio. Great news but it does not relieve the need to connect professional audio gear via the professional XLR connector. While a simple mini to XLR connector will work it does not handle the issue of the poor preamps in DSLRs.
Beachtek has a wide variety of audio adapters for DSLRs depending on yours needs including their new DXA-SLR Pro. Beachtek also has a large amount of information on how best to use your Beachtek adapter at http://www.beachtek.com/support/. They also have a very informative video on getting the best out of your adapter on their home page.
Here is a sample of the valuable information they have on thier skulpport pages:
“Hiss is a common problem with most of today’s DSLR cameras. The front ends tend to be noisy which can lead to excessive hiss if the levels are not set right. The simple fact is that the higher the gain of the camera preamps, the higher the hiss. The solution obviously is to reduce the noisy gain in the camera and replace it with the very clean gain of our DXA-SLR or DXA-SLR PRO adapters. When no amplification is required as when using wireless mics, our low cost passive DXA-5Da can be used.
When using the DXA-SLR, adjust the level controls on the adapter so that the indicator LED’s flash green. This tells you when you are in the proper recording level window to get the best signal to noise ratio and least amount of hiss. On the DXA-SLR PRO, you can use the built-in VU meters as a guide and set the levels so that the audio is peaking at no more than -12 dB. Use the AGC Disable feature on the adapter to reduce the noise created by the AGC in the camera.
If your camera allows you to disable the AGC from the camera menu, you can use manual mode to get even better audio. On the Canon 5D MK II or MK III set the camera gain to 25% of maximum. On Nikon cameras set it to LEVEL 1 on the older models, or 7 on the newer D4 and D800. In this case, you do not need to use the AGC Disable feature on the adapter – keep the switch to the left so that it is not activated.
It is critical that the levels be set right so that you are not starving the camera for audio as that will increase the internal camera gain which is something you want to avoid. Once the levels are set correctly, you should be able to capture clean, crisp audio.”
Posted: January 4th, 2011 | Author: Lee White | Filed under: Canon, Canon 7d, Final Cut Studio, Hoodman | Tags: Apple's Final Cut Studio, Hoodman card reader, Hoodman CF card, video production | No Comments »
While Final Cut Pro will edit the H.264 files created by the Canon 5D or 7D, it will be slow and probably not frame precise. A much better solution is either bringing the files in through Compressor or using the free Log & Transfer plug-in from Canon. It is important not to strip away the .THM files if you plan on using the the plug-in. In fact, the plug-in requires the DCIM folder to stay intact. I suggest you copy the card on to your drive and backup drive and simply use a naming system to change only the master folder name. The Hoodman RAW firewire card reader will help speed up the process, see side panel for link.
Once you have the original master folders safe, you can proceed to convert the files into the ProRes format of your choosing. Most think any of the ProRes versions above standard ProRes does not gain anything in quality.
Posted: October 19th, 2010 | Author: Lee White | Filed under: Beachtek, Canon 7d, Sennheiser, video production, Zeiss | Tags: Beachtek, California advertising photographer, fuzzy, Los Angeles advertising photographer, Sennheiser microphone, Zeiss lens | No Comments »
Wind is your enemy when recording sound. If you even have a slight breeze or air going over the microphone, you can start getting a low rumble. This is especially true if you are trying to record into the tiny microphone in the body of the HDSLRs, so anything you do to improve it helps tremendously. You will note the pick up area on HDSLRs consists of holes in the camera body without any wind protection.
The best protection against the low rumble caused by air currents is breaking up those currents before they reach the microphone. On HDSLRs you can double stick some fuzzy material over the microphone holes to do the job. But remember, this helps eliminate any low rumble from air hitting the holes in the camera but does not improve the quality of the microphone itself. To get good quality sound recording, you still should use a good microphone like the Sennheiser ME 66, cabled in with a balanced and shielded cable with XLR connectors into a preamp box like the Beachtek that controls the levels and AGC. I will be writing about the Sennheiser MKE400 in an upcoming entry.
Below is a tiny fuzzy over the tiny microphone holes in a 7D. Note: attached to the 7D is one of my favorite lenses, the Zeiss 50mm 1.4 Planar. One of the Zeiss HDSLR series of lenses attributes is the “quiet” silky smooth focusing.
Fuzzy Over Microphone Holes
Posted: October 8th, 2010 | Author: Lee White | Filed under: Canon, Canon 7d, Education, Final Cut Studio, video production, Workflow | Tags: California advertising photographer, Canon 5d, Canon 7d, video production | No Comments »
When I first heard Codec I thought the person was saying Kodak and I thought how quaint, they were making some reference to the old cameras. Well, there is a lot of emphasis placed on different codecs in video and you should know why. First, the idea of a codec is nothing new to digital photographers, we just don’t usually refer to them as codec but rather formats. Codec is really short for code/decode or compression/decompression scheme. We have them in still photography as Tiff, Jpg and so on. In video common ones that photographers run into is H264 coming out of the Canon cameras like the 5D, 7D and T2 which are commonly transcoded into one of the many variations of Apple ProRes.
As photographers, we are all aware that some types of coding will change and adjust the amount of data the represents an image. If we code a Tiff into a Jpg we are throwing away some data to make the file smaller and quicker to open, in video, it kind of goes both ways. You still code from a more data filled format like ProRes into a more compressed format like H264 to make a smaller and easier to open video file for web browsers. But and this is a big but it doesn’t work the same for editing in video. With the present speed of computers it is hard to edit accurately in the highly compressed H264 at 30:1 because it takes so much processing power to decode (decompress) each of the 24, 30 maybe even 60 frames a second in video that the computer falls behind and skips frames in an attempt to keep up. If your computer is skipping frames you cannot edit precisely very easily.
While it might be counter intuitive, it is easier to edit if you transcode the video file into at larger data format like ProRes than using a highly compressed H264 30:1 format. With the ProRes codec the video plays smoother than h264 and allows easier frame by frame edit decisions. There are endless discussions as to the different codecs to transcode into and which version of each codec to use. In ProRes, transcoding into anything more than the ProRes LT or regular for H.264 30:1 from the Canon cameras is generally thought of as a waste. Those codecs seem to catch all the information that can be used from the more compressed H.264 without creating excessive made up data.
There is more to this including color space of different codec and transcoding applications, which I will get to in later blog entries.
Until then, did you hear the one about the editor who walks up to a woman in a bar and says, “What is your Codec?” She turns to him and says …
Posted: May 29th, 2010 | Author: Lee White | Filed under: Beachtek, Canon 7d, Sennheiser | Tags: Beachtek adapters, California advertising photographer, Canon 5d, Canon 7d, Lee White Photography, Los Angeles photographer, Sennheiser, sennheiser g3 | No Comments »
Sound recording remains the Achilles’ heel of Canon’s HDSLRs. Although the recent 5D Mark II firmware update lets you manually control audio levels, there still are issues. The 5d connector is a mini stereo plug, so you have use an adapter to use most professional quality microphones, which use XLR connectors. Beachtek has a handy solution in the DXA adapters which give you 2 balanced XLR inputs, 1 auxiliary mini-jack input and dual MIC/Line level switches, all packaged in a metal case. An exception to the XLR connector issue is a wireless system like Sennheiser’s very nice EW G3 100 wireless system that gives you a choice of connecting to the camera via mini plug or XLR adapter.
Sennheiser also has the on-camera mounting MKE400 small shotgun mic which is great for reportage and much better than the onboard mic but not very good for most productions. On camera is usually not the best position for a microphone as placement is for best picture not best sound. Of course, there are pigtail adapters from mini plug to XLR but that puts a lot of strain on the mini connector, so try and figure out some method of strain relief.
The 7d is still completely automatic gain controlled, or should I say out of control, audio with no explanation why Canon is able to do a firmware update for the 5D but not the 7D. Of course, the 7d has the nice selection of video formats, which the 5D does not. The 7D chip size is close to feature 35mm film size which gives both a similar DOF look, which is another plus. Beachtek comes to the rescue with two DXA adapters that both have agc disablers. By disabling the agc and manually controlling the audio levels, you will not have the wild swing in your audio recording that often causes distortions and problems in editing your sound.
I will give each of the Beachtek adapters their due in up-coming entries. Until then, remember sound is often considered 50% of the production until it’s bad sound and then it’s 80%.
Posted: January 20th, 2010 | Author: Lee White | Filed under: Apple, Canon, Canon 7d, video, Workflow | Tags: California advertising photographer, Canon 5d, Canon 7d, Los Angeles advertising photographer, sound conversion, video, video production | No Comments »
First, what is being referred to is the sample rate or how many times a second sound is being measured. Without getting too deep into the science behind sound, to have good sound it should be sampled at least at 40 kHz to capture the higher frequencies. So the 5d with its 44.1 kHz is sampling at a rate that is high enough to capture the higher frequencies and is considered CD quality often used for music. Digital video cameras generally use 48 kHz to capture sound, as does the 7d, which is considered one of the professional sample rates.
A warning here is that some DV cameras that offer four tracks of 32 kHz which can lead to compromised sound quality.
To convert 5d’s 44.1 kHz sound to the DV standard of 48 kHz is easy to do. You will actually do it when converting the 5d H264 files to a more friendly format for FCP editing like one of the Apple ProRes422 formats. If you are using Compressor from the Final Cut Studio suite, simply make sure to go to the inspector panel and select sound settings. The settings should be the following: Format: Linear PCM, Channels Stereo (L,R), Rate: 48,000 kHz, Render Settings: Quality Best, Linear PCM Sample size 16 bit. This will bring the audio up to the correct sample rate without distorting the sound.
Posted: October 14th, 2009 | Author: Lee White | Filed under: Canon 7d, Lighting, photo lighting, video | Tags: California advertising photographer, dramatic lighting, editorial photographer, Lee White, Litepanels Micro, Los Angeles advertising photographer, Los Angeles photographer, video, Zeiss 28mm lens | No Comments »
Now that the Canon 7d is out, can new video from Nikon and Panasonic be far behind? Some more interesting new products are out to help photographers move into doing short form video. One of the problems that photographers got away from long ago was the need to use constant lights with the advent of strobes. The constant lights were hot both to handle and on the subject, it took a lot of wattage to get a decent exposure, and were 3200 K so had to be gelled to balance with daylight which brought down the power even more. Well, as wonderful as strobes are and I’m a big advocate of using them whenever possible except for a very few highly specialized stop motion systems, they are useless for video.
If you want to shoot video, now there are a number of choices beyond the old tungsten lights. One type that is finding favor with cinematographers is the new LED light. As a light source, they are powerful (for their size), small, sturdy, draw little power and a are daylight-balanced source that run very cool. As of now, to light large areas you still might need a number of 1 x1 panels that can cost quite a bit but that will surely change in the near future. For now you can start by trying one of the smaller battery powered on camera LED lights like the Litepanels Mirco or MicroPro. Powerful enough to light small scenes or use as a fill in some cases, it can be dimmed with little color change. I have found them useful off camera for interviews or as a kicker and on camera for an eye-light and run and gun situations. I wish I had had some when filming in the catacombs of Paris a few years ago. The quarters were cramped with no place for stands and these LED lights could have been hand held right where I needed them. Image by © Lee White
Litepanels Micro LED
Zeiss continues to grow their line of Canon mount manual focus lenses that are especially suited for the DSLRs with video capabilities. The latest is the ZEISS Distagon T* 2/28 ZE which is a moderate wide-angle lens designed for full-frame (D)SLR cameras, delivering a 74-degree field of view. Like the other Zeiss ZE lenses, it incorporates a CPU and data contacts for communication with the camera body and long focus pull. This lens is meant to be used on the Canon cameras such as the 5d Mark II and the new 7d. As I have mentioned before, Zeiss already has a line of Nikon lenses for video capable DSLRs.
Zeiss Distagon F2 28mm lens for Canon
Posted: October 7th, 2009 | Author: Lee White | Filed under: Canon 7d, video | Tags: advertising photographer, California advertising photographer, California coast, california photographers, Canon 7d, first production Canon 7d model in US, hybrid video, Lee White, Los Angeles photographer, photography educator, video | No Comments »
Canon 7d the new DSLR with expanded video capabilities; I just received one of the first production Canon 7d cameras in the US. It probably comes as no surprise to most of my clients and professional friends, since I have been shooting tandem stills and video in my projects for a decade now, that I would be one of the first to get this camera. In fact if you look back a few blog entries, you will find I announce the 7d just a few hours after Canon officially announced it in Sweden in the middle of our night. Why Sweden? I have no idea. I like Sweden; I have shot in Sweden and found it a beautiful and welcoming country.
Since many of my projects include video as well as stills, a DSLR with good video capabilities was something I am very interested in. Yes, I shot with the Canon 5d MarkII and found it somewhat lacking in a few critical areas. Mainly it was restricted to the one HD format of 1080p (progressive) at a true 30FPS, which is a non-standard frame rate for anything. Plus the sound is not only automatic gain controlled but also recorded in 44,100 kHz, which is CD quality instead of 48,000 kHz, which is digital video quality.
The canon 7d has taken care of the format issues by giving us five HD formats – Full HD in1080p at 23.976, 1080p at 25 and 1080p at 29.97, HD in 720p at 59.94 and 50, all of which are standards for NTSC and PAL, see one of the images below. The audio is still automatic gain control but has been bumped up to a DV standard of 48,000 kHz in linear PCM. At this point, I should probably bring up the chip size which is the smaller 22.3 x 14.9 AFS-C which some might think is not the direction to be going in but I find it a positive move. This is near the same size as 35mm movie film and so the look is very similar. One of the problems I found shooting with the Mark II was the depth of field at times was so shallow that even trained actors would shift slightly and end up out of focus on close-ups. Remember the auto focus is virtually non-existent shooting video with these cameras; you need to manually pull focus if you are tracking focus.
The controls on the camera body have changed as well. The on and off switch has moved to just below the mode dial and there is just a lock switch where the on, off and lock used to be. I guess this prevents one from turning the camera off when trying to unlock the settings. There is now a dedicated liveview shooting button that also turns on and off the video recording. The print button has the added feature of being a one touch Raw-Jpeg button. Another completely new button is the Quick Menu button that gives you quick menu in the LCD to change shooting functions.
Canon 7d back showing video formats
Enough tech stuff; what about shooting with the 7d and the images? I was looking forward to trying one of the new Zeiss prime lenses out with the first outing with the 7d but no joy there. I ended up using my trusted Canon EF 24-105 mm f/4 lens but remember the smaller sensor creates a 1.6 magnification. A side note: you can do a decent job of zooming and short follow focus with this lens if you give yourself a bit room to start as the lens seems to jerk a little at the beginning. I wanted to test the contrast range with the 7d considering the 5d has been noted for crushing the blacks so I picked a friend’s gloss black and chrome classic Harley-Davidson (see the video test below) for a dramatic subject. The 7d does show a real time histogram with livepicture in the still mode, but there is no realtime histogram in the video mode. After shooting a bit of footage, I took a look at its histogram and there still appears to be some crushing of the blacks although the highlights seem to have very full gradations and there is good rendition through to the lower values. This is a very unsophiscated real world test but I’m not sure how valuable shooting color charts are either.
Classic Harley_Davidson on Canon 7d
The weekend brought almost 30MPH winds to the California coast preventing my doing the girl at the beach test I did with the 5d. However, it did bring some angry seas with interesting waves, so I tried the different formats to get an idea of the motion representations. I also braved the wind out on the break water to get some clips of the seagulls floating on the winds to get another motion test of the three NTSC HD formats (see sample clips below of coastline, wave and seagulls.)
The clips were converted for the web and so don’t fully represent the original footage which would be impossible to stream. Videos by www.leewhitephoto.com
New Canon 7d camera used by Los Angeles photographer Lee White to shoot video along California coast.
1080p @ 30FPS
1080p @ 24 FPS
720p @ 60FPS
1080p @ 30 FPS
1080p @ 30 FPS
1080p @ 24 FPS
720p @ 60 FPS
Posted: September 29th, 2009 | Author: Lee White | Filed under: Canon, Canon 7d, video | Tags: advertising photographer, advertising photography, California advertising photographer, Canon 7d, leewhitephoto.com, Los Angeles photographer, people photographer, Zeiss lens | No Comments »
Having one of the first production Canon 7d DSLRs in the US I have to think of what glass I want to put on it. Photographers love their glass, they love the rainbow colors reflecting off the multicoating, the image snapping into focus and the silky smooth feel of a fine rotating focus barrel. Up until now, photographers have had to live with the manufacturers line of lenses which are often very good especially the high end models or after market brands of varying quality with an occasional standout. Now there is a growing line of very high quality lenses that are especially well-suited to the latest DSLRs with video capabilities.
Still photographers now have access to a line of extraordinary Zeiss prime lenses much like feature filmmakers have been able to use for years. (Lenses that are still compatible with many of the electric functions of the camera but that have been set up to have an exquisitely long manual focus pull that make manual follow focus and track focus much easier.) The very wide prime aperture, along with its nine blades, ensure that the effects of the out-of-focus areas of the picture have an attractively balanced “bokeh” so highly prized by cinematographers.
Zeiss has already created a line of Nikon mount lenses and is starting to fill out the Canon mount lens line of a Planar T 1.4/50mm and Planar T 1.4/85mm with the just announced Distagon T 2.8/21mm and more to come. For more information on Carl Zeiss SLR Lenses go to www.zeiss.com/photo.
I have already decided on my first tandem still/video production with a friend’s classic bright red convertible Corvette and a romantic couple along the beautiful California coast.
Zeiss Distagon f2.8 21mm lens for Canon cameras