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How Important are Neutral Density Filters?

Posted by | Tutorials | No Comments

Short answer: Go buy them immediately.

If you are a videographer you are going to for sure want a set of Neutral Density or ND Filters. They are pretty much the secret to getting cinematic footage when shooting outside in daylight.

Neutral Density Filters do one simple thing, they restrict the amount of light that goes through the lens and onto the sensor. In short it makes things darker.

Now why do we want to make things darker before the lens? Well as we know exposure is comprised of 3 things: Aperture, Shutter speed/angle and ISO/Gain. As video shooters there are a few things we want to have that in very bright situations we can’t

If it is extremely sunny out and we have our ISO as low as possible that leaves two things, we either have to close our aperture a ton or significantly raise our shutter speed. If we close the aperture we are losing out on the shallow depth of field that makes some shots look super cinematic, and if we raise our shutter we run into getting less and unnatural motion. (there will be less blur). This is where the ND Filters come in.

Simply screw one or more onto the front to lower the light incoming by a number of stops. There are usually three in a set. I would recommend a 2, 4, and 6 stop ND set to cover a wide range of light. With the incoming light reduced we can keep our shutter speed at the standard 180 degree rule and have our aperture more open to gain back our shallow depth of field even on the brightest days.

Now for better run and gun operation I would recommend a variable ND filter. This is a filter that crews on like the others but to control the amount of light you simply turn the filter (which is essentially two polarizing filters stacked) to control how dark it gets. This are really nice to avoid having to screw on a different filter for each stop of light. There are a couple negatives to these filters. Firstly it creates an additional element for light to go through and some people like to limit that to preserve the quality to its maximum.  Second there can be some strange sots that start to appear when stopped down the darkest the filter will go usually 10 stops. This really only occurs when doing long exposure stills.

The filter sets can range anywhere from fifty to a couple hundred dollars with the variable ones costing the same or often a tad more. Another worry is that you have to buy a set for each lens as the threading might be different sizes. There are things called step down rings that allow the maximum thread size to be lowered. You can go, for instance, from an 82mm to 77mm and if you keep stacking even lower. So I would recommend getting them for either the lens you use most that is also the largest thread this way you can step it down to your smaller ones.

 

As I said before these are essential for videographers and film makers that are shooting outdoors. They give us control over the light when we can’t control the source. It enables you to get the look that you are aiming for without compromise.  No longer are you going to have footage outdoors that looks “videoy” and take back the cinematic look we all want!

 

 

Quick Guide to the 3 Top Lenses for Wedding Video

Posted by | Wedding Videography | No Comments

In the world of wedding videography, shooters are responsible for capturing all sorts of situations and styles. From product and beauty shots, to documentary style shooting, you have to be ready for everything.

Versatility is key.

One of the best ways to keep your system tidy and light is to prepare with the right lenses. There won’t be time to change a lens on a rig for every different shot.


These are the 3 Lenses we make sure to have ready when shooting weddings.

24-70MM

In many people’s opinion it is the go to versatile lens. It covers very useful lens lengths and usually available at decent apertures. Each of the major brands have a version of this lens so there are plenty of selections out there for your camera and mount type.

This lens is so good that some days it doesn’t actually leave my camera. It can be used at every step of a wedding day from the morning to the ceremony and even into the reception if your camera handles the lack of light well. This is definitely the first lens I recommend for people to pick up if you do any sort of wedding or commercial work.

The only draw back to this or any telephoto lens is the tendency to get a little lazy with moving around a scene. Instead of moving forward a little you can simply just zoom. While this is extremely handy in getting a shot lined up quick if you can’t get into position, don’t lose sight of the creativity that actually moving yourself can create.

All that aside definite must have lens.

70-200mm

The big brother to the 24-70mm. This lens covers the next round of longer focal lengths that provides a number of advantages during a wedding ceremony and reception.

This lens allows you to stay a little far back in situations were you need to be inconspicuous or there is less room to be in front.(which is always what we want).

For ceremonies you can be perched up somewhere while still getting all the details you need out of a shot. In the same sense for the enterances of the reception you can get all the facial expressions and plenty of detail while staying out of the way.

Some choose to use this lens during bridal prep but I find in more situations than not, it is too long. The only real downside is that you are really locked down to a tripod with this lens. It is heavy and even using it on a monopod at these focal lengths, you will still find that stability is an issue. So I do recommend only keeping this lens on a tripod for when you need to pull it out quick.

The other downside can be cost of this lens. Generally this lens can get pretty pricey especially if you look at Canon’s “L” version, but there are cheaper options out there and almost all of my gear is used, so that is a viable option as well.

50mm

The nifty fifty. The golden standard of prime lenses. If you are going to have a prime lens in your arsenal this is the one to choose. It is the best between of focal lengths that can be used in almost any situation. The major benefit, speed.

Most 50mm primes are going to have an aperture of f,1.8 or lower which means come reception time you can throw this lens on and finish the night in any low light situation.

Definitely still good for the daytime though. With the wide aperture you can get some AMAZING depth of field for detail shots or the general documentative shots throughout the day.


I hope this list gives you an idea of the 3 quintessential lenses you should consider for wedding video. I personally recommend the 24-70mm and the 50mm as the first starting points but once you add the 70-200mm in the mix you won’t go back

These lenses will allow you to capture every moment no matter what comes your way. Having to only carry 3 means you have less to keep track of and more time to get those shots.

What if any other lenses are essential to you? What are your favorite brands or models for each length? Let us know!

 

Case Study: Okeanos Explorer Watch

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Okeanos Explorer from Black Horse Videography on Vimeo.

 

Task:

We were contacted by the Heitis Watch Company to make a new ad video for their newest and best watch yet. The ad is to be featured on their Kick Starter page in order to raise funds to put the watch into production. We were given the themes and qualities of the watch and what sort of tone was expected of the video. It’s GOAL is to be quick modern and exciting to drive a lot of sensory information in a 30 second spot.

 

Thematics:

The watch itself, called Okeanos Explorer, is filled with very clear and strong themes. Okeanos is the Greek  god of fresh water. Explorer gave it the feel as being adventurous and certainly something that is rough and tumble yet elegant. These two qualities is where we started and kept most of our focus. The other theme that the creator wanted to keep is the feeling of truly being made and born in Buffalo. Locally made products are something that the people of this community hold very dear to them. Luckily Buffalo sits on Lake Erie, so this meant tying all of these elements together would not only be possible but fairly easy to achieve, which means we had no limits to what we could create.

 

Pre-Production:

With the themes in mind we started to brain storm ideas for the final video. Obviously working with water was a must on the list. The choice was then to decide how. Do we go out on location to Lake Erie or do we mock something up in the studio? As much as I love shooting on location for product shoots. The weather hadn’t quite agreed and dropped a foot of snow the week we wanted to shoot. Rendering the site we wanted to use buried under snow with no access to the beautiful rock walls underneath. So to the studio we went. I was able to gather some rocks together, ones that would be designed for a large fish tank. With a mock up of a “lake setting” in my head the next task of indoor water was ahead of us. So I bought a big tarp. It actually came together quite nicely. A 9′ x 12′ tarp with the table in the middle and out mini set on top gave us plenty of room to splash away. And this is what we did. Song choice was also important to maintain the right feel for the production. I went with a slow tempo electronic song with powerful bass to represent crashing waves and contrast with moving water.

 

Production:

I set up the tarp around the studio, designed the set and placed my watches. I decided to shoot the wettest parts first. We used Panasonic’s GH5 for the shoot because of it’s really good slow motion ability and cinematic look. This allowed us to capture the large water splashes as slow as possible. We took turns throwing buckets of water at the watch and were very pleased with the results. After the special shots we shot the “usual” product shots focusing on the close ups of all the features of the watch and building the supporting footage all while still incorporating water into each of the shots.

In the editing room I decided to support the themes even more with found footage of Lake Erie to really hammer home what the watch represents and where it is from. Everything cam together quite easily and all parties were very satisfied with the results.

 

Results:

The Kick Starter campaign has surpassed its original goal and the watch will be going into production as planned and delivered on time to the backers.

Okeanos Explorer from Black Horse Videography on Vimeo.

Traveling with Gear

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Have a gig 2,000 miles away? Wondering the best way to get equipment there?

Well we may have some tips for you!

Recently we had the opportunity to film a wedding in Puerto Rico. Besides being an amazing and beautiful place, the question always becomes how are we getting equipment down there as efficiently as possible. There are certainly a number of ways to do it and obviously each gig will need different methods of doing so.

Probably the most important thing is planning. It starts at the top with a solid structure and knowing what you need and where. We were doing a wedding so we pack at the core: 3 Camera’s, Tripods and monopods for them, a glide cam, audio equipment, lenses, plenty of batteries, cables, chargers. Realistically this is a light load. When we shoot weddings we generally only use available light, with an exception here or there, so lighting equipment did not need to make the list.

We decided the best way to go was to bring our own stuff instead of renting what we needed. This certainly depends on what it is you need and whats available where u are going. We made a checklist of what we needed to bring and how we were going to pack it. This is important to do so you make sure you have everything by the end of the trip. Checking it before you leave, when you get setup for the shoot, when you do a final pack up and finally when you return home.

Next we had to figure out the air travel. Depending on what airline you choose the rules will be different but for most of the big name ones a checked bag is about $25 dollars up to 50 lbs (anything after 50 its usually $100 more even if it is 51 lbs).

There were two of us going down to shoot so we divided the equipment up between us. Each packing our carry on with cameras, lenses and batteries (which are not allowed in checked bags). In our checked bags we put the tripod and monopod we will be using along with our clothes and travel extras. While the tripods and monopods aren’t that big, they are long so I would recommend a good size duffel bag as opposed to a suitcase.

As for the cameras and lenses, these we were putting in our carry-on. We each took 2 camera’s and 3 lenses, a set of lavalieres and on-camera shotguns mics. These fit nicely into a camera bag which was acceptable carry on size. (you can confirm the size of the carry on requirements per airline on their websites)

Now most of the larger name airliners will let you do a carry on and a personal item so i was still able to bring a back pack for my usual travel gear and my laptop so I could back up footage right away.

The next step was airport security with all the stuff. The last thing you want to happen is getting to security and something in your bag is not allowed. The best way to prevent this is research. Get online, read the items not allowed or if you are unsure call the airport and get in touch with the TSA. Preparation is everything.

Nothing we had was a problem. This is with all our cameras batteries and audio equipment in our carry-ons. Some airports will make you take more out of your bag and into the bins but besides that there were no actual problems.

Traveling with equipment is actually easier than it seems. The rules are very easy to follow and our trip went fine without a single travel problem. All the gear made it there and back in one piece. This all comes down to the preparation so put a little extra time and you’ll save plenty on broken or missing equipment!

 

 

Black Horse Originals on Youtube

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This week marks the release of our channel on Youtube!

We are expanding where you can see our content! Earlier this year we launched “Black Horse Originals” which is our original in house content purely for your entertainment.

What do we do in our original content?

I’m glad you ask.

We have a few different different shows rolling out now and more on the way. Everything like comedy shorts, Behind the Scenes shenanigans, Holiday fun, Vlogs, and our new show called “Meet the Pros”. This is a platform where local professionals in different industries to a sit down interview and talk about what it is they do and gives these local business a little exposure and have some fun with us. We end every interview with a fun challenge and a game. Most recently we smashed eggs on out faces.

Remember, it’s all for your enjoyment.

You can think of “Meet the Pros” as Buffalo, NY focused late night talk show. Being from Buffalo, we have a strong sense of community and love let people into our culture and encourage people and business to collaborate and work to build eachother.

The goal of our channel and content is number one to provide entertainment, but also as a video production business we want to show who we are as people and give people some transparency to our personalities to help put faces behind our company.

The link to our channel is here

We would love it if you subscribed or even just checked out a few of our videos. We are working hard to bring as much quality content as we can to your screens. We also love feedback from our audience and community members.

Have an idea for a video, or even someone who would enjoy being on “Meet the Pros”? Let us know!