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.

What’s Your Codec?

Posted: October 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Canon, Canon 7d, Education, Final Cut Studio, video production, Workflow | Tags: , , , | 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 …

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Peaking For Better Focus

Posted: June 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: video production, Workflow | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Cinematographer Gale Tattersall, DP of the TV show House mentioned the value of Marshall Monitor’s Peaking filter. Focusing with any present HDSLR is an issue. Canon DSLR lenses with their very short focus pulls are problematic which is exaggerated by the very shallow depth of field. Gale used a series of Canon lenses with the assistance of Marshall’s HDMI 7 inch monitor in Peaking Filter mode to keep critical focus. I might have suggested considering the use of either Zeiss’s HDSLR or Cine Lenses with long focus pulls and color matched glass.

Either way, Marshall’s Peaking Filter would have come in handy. A peaking filter is used to help in getting a sharp focus which is especially hard with the tiny LCD on the back of HDSLRs that is normally used. How it works is the picture is turned into Black and White on the Marshall V-LCD70XP HDMI monitor with a red color appearing in the edges of areas where the picture is in focus. Peaking Filters work best after setting the picture to the best exposure and there is good contrast in the areas that need to be focused on.

There is the added benefit of being able to place the camera in positions, such a high or low angles, where focusing with the camera’s LCD would be difficult, by using the appropriate length HDMI cable and being able to continue to pull focus.

Peaking Filter

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House Finale From the Inside

Posted: June 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized, video production, Workflow | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Cine Gear Expo

Any photographer learning video production would have been very interested in the Cine Gear Expo 2010 at  Paramount Studios in Hollywood.   One of the highlights was cinematographer Gale Tattersall,  DP  of the TV show House, part of Canon’s EOS presentation on using the Canon 5D  for the final episode.  I had a chance to chat with Gale for awhile privately before and after the presentation as well, so I was able to get a bit more information on his digital workflow.

Anyone who wants to see top work with a 5D Mark ll should watch the House finale episode.  To keep everything I’m going to write about this  in the right perspective,  we must keep in mind that Gale is the DP for what I hear is the most watched TV show in the world.  He has a team of experienced professionals working with him and the resources of a major network behind him.  These are not unlimited resources, but they will do.  Plus, he was concerned that he and his team only had three weeks of testing to refine the workflow before he started actually using the camera to shoot the episode.

Right off there was some concern about projecting the clips on a full size movie screen at the Expo.  Banding is a problem when you start off with a highly compressed format like the H264 coming out of the 5D Mark ll.  Everyone in the theater was impressed including Gale and moderator Tim Smith of Canon with how well the picture held up.  Remember, they made sure they started with the picture style set at neutral, the exposure was right on (I’ll write about this more later) and the color balance was right where they wanted it.  Plus, (and here is a big tip) a little film grain was added to smooth everything out.

More on this and what else I saw …

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Good HDSLR Sound

Posted: May 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beachtek, Canon 7d, Sennheiser | Tags: , , , , , , , | 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.

Beachtek-DXASLR

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%.

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5d with 44.1 kHz vs. 7d with 48 kHz sound? What’s the problem?

Posted: January 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, Canon, Canon 7d, video, Workflow | Tags: , , , , , , | 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.

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7d, Canon's Latest Entry in the DSLR Video Race

Posted: September 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Canon, Education, video, Workflow | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Canon 7D DSLR camera with HD video of interest to advertising photographers.  I’m looking forward to testing the 7d to see how it might work for the videos I do for my clients.   Sept. 1, 2009 2:30 A.M. PST breaking news for those thinking about adding video to their photography and just using one camera for both.  Just announced in Sweden a few hours ago was Canon’s 7D with expanded video capablities. In light of the Collision Conference that just happened in Los Angeles this last weekend and the stir created by the video REVERIE created on the 5D Mark II, a new addition to Canon’s DSLR line with video is welcome.  The 7D is a less expensive camera than the 5D Mark II using a smaller CMOS chip of 22.3mm x 14.9mm rather than the full frame chip of 36mm x 24mm which give the 7D a magnification factor of 1.6x.  It is set to be a 18 megapixel still camera using dual Digic 4 image proscessors that also shoots the two HD formats of 1920 x 1080p and 1280 x 720p.  The ISO range is 100 to 6400 like the 5D but tops out at 12,800 expanded unlike the 5D’s expanded reaching 25,600. It has continous raw shooting speed is fast at  8 FPS for 15 frames compared to the 5D at just under 4 FPS.  The autofocus has 19 points instead of 9 points for the 5D.

For video, the long hoped for 24FPS (23.976) is here along with 25FPS and 30FPS (29.97) in 1080p with 720p being restricted to 50 or 60FPS.   The smaller chip means a depth of field much like that of the 35mm motion picture cameras as they both have about the same size image area.  The Canon 7D has an interesting choice of 60FPS for the 720p which helps with fast action, crisper freeze frames and smoother slow motion.  It will be interesting to follow the testing of this camera to see how it might best fit into a photographer’s workflow.  Canon reportly plans on shipping late September.  For more details on this camera visit Canon’s website.

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Professional Photography and Video Merge into Hybrid

Posted: August 31st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Canon, Education, video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

As a professional advertising photographer in Los Angeles, video production was a craft that has been around me daily. I photographed the print side of commercials and shot specials on set working closely with the crew. Then almost a decade ago, I saw the desirability of shooting video to extend my creative range and supply clients with more creative services along with my photography. I first shot in standard definition and now shoot in high definition with incredible tools such as the very cinematic Canon 5d Mark II. As the internet was starting to become fast enough to play clips and cable had a growing need for material, my clients have increasingly asked for video shot with my “photographer’s eye”.

I have taken my skills in lighting, composition and mise-en-scene and applied them to the continuous narrative that is video. I first sought out video editors to learn what was needed to join clips together to tell a flowing story. If you know where you want to end up, it is much easier to get there. As I learned editing, it allowed me to understand what needs to be shot and how it needs to edit together. From there it has been practice, shooting for clients and watching the trends in films, commercials and on the web. It has come to a point where I teach a college course for professional photographers who want to learn video.

I’m using a Canon 5d Mark II on a rig by Redrock Mirco. Photo by the well known retoucher Dennis Dunbar.

Lee White using Canon 5d in video mode with Redrock Micro gear.

Lee White using Canon 5d in video mode with Redrock Micro gear.

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Photography of healthy lifestyles

Posted: May 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Canon, Green, photo lighting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

As a California photographer, I have great weather for healthy lifestyle images all year round.  I especially love the summer months for surf and turf images when I get either rich blue skies or dramatic cloud filled backgrounds.

California surfer showing healthy lifestyle

California surfer showing healthy lifestyle

Combining great locations with my lighting style allows for some stunning advertising or editorial photography.  Casting of models and/or locations is easy for California photographers and clients in the place where the healthy lifestyle trend was started.  Being on the west coast means wide sandy beaches, vast deserts and majestic mountains for striking images.

Corporate imaging here is great too!  New facilities in open green areas are ideal for portraying the new face of greener corporations.

Photo hint:  Even when shooting at golden hour be ready to use supplemental lighting techniques like strobes or reflectors.  You might find the perfect shot is towards the sun which can add real life to an image as well as extra depth.  Photography is a craft.  Photographed with Canon camera and strobe.

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NAB inspires with new ideas, techniques and equipment.

Posted: May 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Canon, Education, photo lighting, Workflow | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Los Angeles photographers have the NAB convention to help keep them up-to-date. Commercial photographers like me often do advertising photography with the flavor of photojournalism to make location photography seem more real including my video work. The new video equipment I saw at NAB will help with that. When I do editorial photography, I often get to do video interviews and some of the new equipment will help with that was well.

Los Angeles photographer dramatic night portraiture

Los Angeles photographer dramatic night portraiture with Canon 5D

I had some very productive chats with the following representatives and want to thank them for all their information. In chronological order Peter of Lectronics, Fred at Audio Technica, Red of Photoflex, Joey of Mathhews Studio Equipment, Greg at JVC, Douglas at Shure, Ulrich Goetze of California Sunbounce, Mike of Marshall Electronics, Bernie of Panasonic, and Jennifer of dedoweightfilm.de.

California photographers are lucky to have so many resources locally. I have been shooting video for over seven years and there is more demand for it than ever.

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Video class for photographers starting very soon.

Posted: April 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Canon, Education, Lighting, video, Workflow | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Ready to expand from still photography to HD video? Before you take the plunge, sign up for a highly informative class at Santa Monica College designed to take the photographer through all the steps of preproduction, production and postproduction while building on the skills he already has given by Los Angeles advertising photographer Lee White. By the end of the class, an experienced photographer should be able to start producing short form videos.

The class will cover DSLRs with HD video capabilities as well as traditional video cameras , workflow, treatments, estimating, planning, digital formats, camera techniques, lighting equipment and techniques, sound equipment and techniques, narrative techniques, editing with Final Cut Pro and output. At the first class, equipment from Canon, Panasonic, Redrockmicro, Marshall monitors, and Bogen are scheduled for discussion and viewing.

Photographers are particularly well place to learn the video skills that will add value to their services and a new creative outlet.

You need to act fast as there is limited enrollment contact lee@leewhitephoto.com

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