camera assist

Creating Change in 2016

Two years ago, you guys made the trip of a lifetime happen for me a small team. We had the opportunity to document a war torn environment and capture a one of a kind story. Lost Generation of Sudan was the first multi camera documentary filmed in that region in the last decade, that happened because of you. Now, we’re doing it again.

Here’s how this time will be different, and even better than the last.

We aren’t just doing another short film, this one will be bigger than any film Operation Broken Silence has every released. It will be a timeless feature length documentary to last through the ages and shed light on a very dark spot in the world. This film has the opportunity to reach thousands of people just like yourself and give you the knowledge and power to do something about the tragic situation in Sudan.

We have talented team assembled that I truly believe will give us the advantage of not only bringing you a beautiful looking finished product, but a compelling story that will grip hearts all across the world and put the power in your hands to make something happen.

Like I mentioned before, you are the very reason we are able to document these stories that change lives. Since the last documentary released and we unveiled Project Endure, you have put teachers back to work, gave classrooms school supplies and helped grow our movement 100% just last year. You are more powerful than you think.

December 1st is #GivingTuesday, one of the best days to donate, there are no transaction fees so literally every penny you donate goes 100% to the cause. It’s the perfect opportunity to give us the push we need to get the ball rolling on the documentary. Please visit my fundraising page at stayclassy to give a donation, any amount helps no matter how big or small. If you don’t have the funds at the moment to donate but still feel compelled to help us with our cause, you can become a fundraiser on my team and raise funds yourself! GET STARTED HERE! While you're here check out Lost Generation of Sudan below:

Review: Aluras, Primes, and Super Speeds


On the last few shoots I've gotten my hands on a few different types of glass: Zeiss Mark I Super Speeds, Arri Ultra Primes, and a couple of Arri Aluras. I'm not going to waste anybody's time going into technical detail, but as a Camera Assistant, here are some things I noticed and preferred about some over the others.

Zeiss Mark I Super Speeds T/1.4

First off, no doubt that Carl Zeiss is a highly respectable name in the field. Hands down some of the best sets of glass out there. The last feature I AC'd was shot on a set of Zeiss Mk I Super Speeds, great lenses with an aperture that clocks in at T/1.4. Originally released close to 30 years ago, these might as well be one of the founding fathers of super speeds. Them being so old though you run into a few things, some good and some bad.

With age, comes wear. Unless "babied" there is going to be some natural wear and tear from being used for so many years. PL mounts being loose and needing to be reset and having some give in the focus ring were some things we ran into. This may not be for everybody though, I can only speak for the set we had in particular.

Beautiful filmic image. What I loved the most about these bad boys was the film-like appearance it gave our image. Of course we had to be careful with the aperture, opening wider than a T/2 would give sort of a "bloom" effect. This would cause issues with pulling focus, but other than that great image. 

Hold your breath. Those who are familiar with pulling focus or dealing with a variety of lenses, you've heard of a lens "breathing." Well these guys full on inhale, deep sigh, practically snore. What I mean by the lens breathing is this: when you rack focus either direction, if it's a drastic enough pull you can see a change in your frame. Almost looks like a minuscule zoom, but it's noticeable. The actual physical lens breathes with your focus change as well. This can cause some creativity with your matte box, because at the start of your focus it may be right up against the lens, but by the end of your pull you could have gap in between the lens and matte box. This can cause light leaks depending if you have ND filters in or not. Just something to keep in mind.

Arri Ultra Primes T/1.9

Also accompanied with the Carl Zeiss name stamped on the top, great quality lens and a great quality image. Here's how they broke down for me:

Nice and Crispy. No doubt a good look to these primes. Compared to the Mark I Super Speeds it had a little less of a film look for me, but I felt like I could really nail some of my focus points, even as they got closer to infinity. Whereas on the Mk I's I felt like they would almost skip over where I wanted to focus as the talent got further away. Good crisp focus.

Nice and Cozy. In regards to the image, I can't say I noticed any breathing while focusing on these. Physically, there was NO breathing when you focus, which was great. The front of the lens was nice and cozy with the matte box the whole time, right up against the ND's. Kept us from even thinking twice about the possibility of light leaks.

Arri Alura T/2.8

Specifically the two Aluras we had on set were the 15-45mm and the 45-250mm, both with an aperture of T/2.8.

I've worked with these two particular lenses many times and love the image, plus being zooms it's easy to just dial in what lens your DP wants. However when you do have to change lenses, it's a bit of an ordeal. 

Working with primes it's easy to get spoiled to just pop off the matte box, or swing it away depending on the brand you have, change lenses and you're good to go. Going from a 15-45mm to a 45-250mm is a bit more to do. Shown in the images above.

The front of the lenses are differently sized so that'll change the donut/hard matte you have in your matte box. It requires a rod change/extension depending which lens you're switching to. Changing rods causes for pulling the Follow Focus and reattaching it, and if going to the 45-250mm a lens support is needed. Not exactly as quick of a change as the primes.

If that's kept in mind when changing lenses though and you have things organized in a fashion that you can get to what you need quickly it shouldn't take too long.

My Favorite?

Our of these three, I'd choose the Arri Ultra Primes. Quick to change, crisp to focus, and unless you're in super low light the T/1.9 is more than enough speed to get that nice depth of field you want in your shots. #DatBokeh

50 Shades of False Color

It's been awhile since I've done a blog post, and being completely honest, looking back at my other posts this may very well be my first real one. I've been very blessed to be busy the past few months with various projects, the latest of which is a feature film entitled Remember the Goal.

We are still in production on this feature so I won't be able to dive into any and all details and spoilers, but I want to walk through some of my experiences on this with you as a Camera Assist/DIT Swing.

If someone is being budget aware when planning a project one of the first merges that happens is DIT/Data Wrangling falling onto the Camera Department. Along with nixing VTR and a Video Village. Taking on both of these responsibilities is certainly doable even if it isn't ideal, and it blows me away how often it happens.

Right off the bat, do not discount what a true DIT (Digital Image Technician) does. Sometimes it's automatically assumed they are a "copy and paster." Not true, they are doing exposure checks constantly while shooting to make sure there is no loss of data in your whites and blacks, as well as looking through your previous footage to make sure there doesn't need to be any reshoots for whatever reason. Frame Rates, Project Timebases, RedCode, resolution to shoot at and why (which we had to decide) and ensuring that everything you've shot looks tip top once it leaves the camera, falls on the DIT's plate. In a nutshell they are invaluable. I believe that every position is invaluable on set, production is a team that comes together to make things run smoothly. 

Another invaluable position is a DP that understands false color and can check it himself if he/she needs to, if DIT falls onto the AC and they aren't looking at every single shot, it's good to have a second set of eyes.  Our Director of Photography Mark Mitchell does extremely well with this, taking it a step further, he checks false color on REC 709 and then will switch to RAW and check it again. For those who don't know, REC 709 is a basic contrast thrown onto a RAW image, RAW is a very flat image to ensure you have a greater range in post production when you want to establish a look.

When looking at the RAW image and you do a false color check, it is best to see 50 Shades of False Grey. 

False color obviously isn't the only way to check your exposure, Histograms are very popular as well. I personally prefer the Histogram and Waveforms, however depending on the monitor it may not be the clearest form of checking. If you have a 720p monitor that throws the waveform real small in the corner, it isn't as easy to see your whole image for "peaks and valleys" (pure whites and blacks).

As much as it seems, this post isn't all about Exposure and the importance of a DIT, Remember the Goal has been a blast to work on and I look forward to continuing the production. We have a great crew with great attitudes which brings me to my next point. 

This is a mostly exterior feature, shot in the middle of the summer, in the south. It is the hottest time of the year and the sun beats down hard. ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. It is so easy to let these things get to you when you aren't in the most ideal settings and locations, but having a great attitude on set will allow everyone else to have one too. It takes one Debbie Downer to put a downer on the whole crew, don't be that person! 

Also if you're on a low budget feature, FILL IN THE BLANK. The worst thing you can do is have a "that's not my department" mentality. If the Key Grip is needing to move a 12x12 Silk and his other grips are tied up, give them a hand. Just ask first to make sure you help in a safe way. If it looks like someone is dying of thirst and PA Nation is busy, get that person a water.

Lastly, be safe. Like I said this is mostly exterior in the hottest time of the year, the most important thing on every single set regardless of what anyone says is SAFETY. No matter your conditions, stay hydrated and be as prepared as you can for unsafe conditions. If you see something that doesn't seem safe, speak up.

No shot is worth the safety of an individual, no production is worth a life. We all have a passion for what we do, it's why we put up with the long hours and physical labor with a smile on our face. But at the end of the day, be smart and be safe, don't let a shot/scene/movie/show take priority over the safety of the crew and talent.

All this safety talk does come back around to Remember the Goal and the awesome crew we have on it. Everyone is very safety conscious and that is highly respectable and worth the mention. I've been on set where I've seen people pass out due to heat, and it's just not worth it, we are lucky to have the crew we do and I'm glad to be a part of it.