06 December 2011

Book recommendations for the aspiring DSLR filmmaker

Books to self educated about film, cinematography and DSLR's.

5 Books to check out if you are looking to learn cinematography techniques to build your creative eye or want to learn how to maximize you DSLR and the equipment you need to create great digital films.
I have been on a fast track trying to learn and grow my digital film abilities. I don't even want to say video, as this is looking forward to a cinematic look in what I want to create. A video is a straight shot with no adjustment to create a feel.  These books can help that feel by showing how to work through the process and how to use your equipment to get what you want.

Filmmakers Eye: learning (and breaking) the rules of cinematic composition / Gustavo Mercado

This book details composition used in cinema based on shots from close up, medium, long, to canted emblematic, and abstract to name only a few. They then cover how to break the rules of all those shots. It also covers when to use things such as a steady cam, dolly, or crane to emphasis a scene.

Cinematography : theory and practice : image making for cinematographers and directors / Blain Brown
This book covers what you need to know as a cinematographer. Things like what lenses to use, exposure composition, lighting, color, to the elements of story structure. A great book to learn about visual language and visual storytelling. This book also covers many technical aspects of the camera and lighting.

DSLR Cinema : Crafting the Film Look with Video / Kurt Lancaster
This is a great book for the person just beginning to dive into Video/Film with a DSLR. This book was my starting point. It drops you into the pool covering composition, lighting, picture styles, audio, and even building you gear based on a budget. This book covers a lot of gear, but on the downside, in a year or so, with all that is changing, this could be outdated as it can be gear specific down to brands.
The Digital Filmmaking Handbook / Sonja Schenk and Ben Long
This book cover everything from writing and scheduling to planning a shoot, to editing gear and software into editing sound, creating titles and effects. This book is not software specific in regards to editing, but rather about techniques you can use to achieve a great look in your filmmaking. This book is also not camera driven in regards to just a DSLR. It covers a variety of video camera solutions.

From Still to Motion: A photographer's guide to creating video with your DLSR / James Ball
This book is great for those moving from a Photographer to a video roll. It is geared toward the photographer and the DSLR. The book is simple broken up into 5 parts: A new way to tell a story, Cinematic lighting, gearing up for motion and sound, post production, and creative explorations. The book seeks to show you how you to look differently at the situation from photography to achieve the goal of film. Since you are not lighting for a single moment in time, but rather a extended amount of time while things in your composition change.

I recommend checking these books out at your local library or bookstore to see what will fill your needs for moving to a better understanding of digital film. If you have other books you would recommend for film, video and cinematography, for those striving to expand their scope, please leave them on our comments.

DSLR Shoulder rig in action and Friction Follow Focus build

Build a Friction Follow Focus

Had some request to see my rig in action, and what it looks like up on a shoulder.  I have since added a follow focus and have a couple of additions coming up. I just ordered some carbon fiber rods to replace the fiberglass for a stiffer feel. Also adding a couple more sickspeed clamps to strengthen the connection from the camera mount to the shoulder mount. It holds up fine but I want to make it a bit more rigid.

DIY Shoulder Rig

Rig components include Canon 7D, Matte Box, LED light, Tascam DR-40, and Lilliput 668GL monitor.  Shoulder rig build videos.

The build for the Friction follow focus was designed  around the IKAN friction follow focus which runs about $199. Mine was about $50 at most. 

Friction Follow Focus Build Video 

Materials for the build:
4.5" piece of 1"x1/8" alum.
2" piece of 1" x1" alum bar.
(1) 1/4 - 20 thumb screw
SickSpeed Clamp (or some 15mm clamp if you have a real DSLR Rig)

Tools needed -
Drill and bits
small hacksaw
1/4 - 20 Thread Tap

Please leave comments or questions below. If you build your own rig, please share your link here! Thanks!

04 December 2011

Tascam DR-40 a Zoom H4N alternative for less

Tascam DR-40 Linear PCM Recorder

I am always looking for more affordable alternatives, if they can be found. I found one to the Zoom H4N, that suits me fine. The Tascam DR-40 is a great little Linear PCM recorder.  Like the H4N the DR-40 has 24 bit quantization and 96kHz sampling frequency.
Tascam DR-40 Linear PCM Recorder

 The DR-40 can be recorder to better than CD quality with WAV files down to MP3 file for longer recording times. Also like the H4N you can upgrade your card to 32GB for extended recording time. The DR-40 has a Lowcut filter to reduce any background noise from 80-120Hz. 
Inputs for 1/4"phone and XLR cables
With inputs like the H4N you can plug in standard 1/4" phone connectors or XLR cables. I like this feature for weddings as I can just ask the DJ to plug into his mixing board to record anything happening from music to the speeches given by the best man. The DR-40 also offers phantom power if you need a little power running to an external mic you might plug in. I also like the X-Y and A-B stereo condenser mics which are similar to the H4N. They allow for recording of a single subject to a stereo sound.

Also like the H4N the Tascam has an auto record feature to allow you to record when signals are above a set levels, with auto pause feature and time marks.

I also like that you can record at two different levels at the same time to reduce for sound peaks. You can record a second channel at up to -12 db in Dual channel mode. If you are a musician and you have a choice between the H4N and the Tascam, I would say there are some more features for the Musician with the H4N. However I have found that using the recorder for Video and film work this unit fills all my needs in a digital linear PCM recorder. I am very happy with the quality of sound and the price tag of about $199 compared to that of the Zoom H4N at $299.

For a super in depth review of the DR-40 vs the H4N and the DR-100MkII Check out this blog from E.M. Taboada at No Film School: http://nofilmschool.com/2012/04/audio-recorder-roundup-h4n-zoom-vs-tascam/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nofilmschool+%28NoFilmSchool%29