thoughts and decisions for a creative edge

Photography

Super Sennheiser September

It’s been a great month of getting new toys in this September. After a quick projection on the work in progress, we’ve acquired a list of mics needed in the studio to get the field job done. And you’ve read it – all of them happen to be from Sennheiser.

Sennheiser EW122p G3

We started our month with the Sennheiser wireless lavaliere EW122p G3 series. The frustration from not being able to mic up an interview clearly due to the fact that that last project was in a crowded space helped us make this decision to pick up a wireless lav. The main difference with the EW122p is that it comes packaged with a cardioid ME4 mic. Some folks reckon it might be a hassle to use a directional mic on a lavalier system, but I want to be able to direct the capsule to the talent in a controlled space. If I know that I will be capturing audio from the talent in the open but not in a sit-down-interview situation, then the ME2 mic (an omni) would do best. We got in the T+R packs along with spare BA 2015 batteries and the optional L2015 Dock Charger that should enable us to transmit continuously.

Sennheiser MKH 416 p48

This one is the industry standard. The go to mic that Hollywood or ADR studios would use to make overdubs. It’s a phantom powered hyper cardioid shotgun mic thats been used for over 2 decades and trusted by many ENG works.

I’ve heard so much about it and in fact never planned to buy this mic. Never thought I’d be able to afford one really.. But I got really lucky and found somebody here in Holland that was selling it at a pretty affordable price after giving up an old hobby of sound collecting.. Pretty strange I thought that he used the MKH416 which is mostly best suited for collecting dialogue for TV. No rules in audio they say..

I tested the mic thoroughly when I was there to collect it. I had my Roland R-26 close to be sure that it is able to power the 416.. This way I’d also be sure that my R-26’s circuitry works fine with the mic. It’s the only way that this mic can be powered. Interestingly the guy selling it had a Fostex FR-2LE CF Field Recorder, so we’re happily comparing gears over microphones and tea.. yes microphones.

One conversation led to another, so I asked I asked since he was into ENG and EFP, what else does he have in his collection. At this point he was reluctant, but he finally said he has this vintage shotgun that he is actually didn’t intend to sell. Didn’t intend to sell?? What does that mean.. What was it he had? A pristine 20+ year old combo still-in-box Sennheiser ME80+ME40 with a working K3U preamp.

The ME80 have been a workhorse for some documentary producers. The newer version of this mic is the ME66 which uses the K6 preamp instead of the K3. Click on picture to see what folks of Gearslutz think about it.

Sennheiser K3U pre with ME80 + ME40 Capsule

Wait. Isn’t that the original electret that’s replaced with the new ME66+K6 module?? Yep. That’s the holy grail… I’ve actually read about these. I didn’t know I’d stumble into one.. while purchasing the MKH 416.. what luck. But was he planning to sell it or not was the better question.

Since it was there, I asked his permission to test both mics (or 3 mics considering that there’s the ME40 cardioid capsule there too). And I loved them both!! Instantly with the ME80 you could tell that its got a long throw of pick up. Not as warm as the MKH416 but its clear, crispier in its higher end peaking at 8KHz thus giving it that brighter response. But if you’ve seen the difference in this mic to the newer ME66, that’s where it gets interesting.

With the ME66 you need to use it in close proximity or the mic is not going to pick up frequencies from 2Khz and above. But that’s not the case with this ME80 which has an even response throughout the 10dB difference. SO which one is better you think? Well depends.. If you need sound rejection from the rest in the crowd, keeping this mic close to the voice will keep it isolated while rejecting the background noise further away from the mic. But for Field Recording, the ME80 will give you a gorgeous response in all registers.

The accompanying data sheet (published in 1987) reports the following specifications:

K3U:
Electrical impedance: approx. 130 ohms

ME80:
Frequency response: 50 – 15 000 Hz
Sensitivity at 1 kHz: 5 mV / Pa +-2.5 dB
S/N ratio according to DIN 45 405 and CCIR 468-2: >67 dB

The most important difference between the K3/ME80 and the K6/ME66 is the much higher sensitivity of the ME66 (50 mV/Pa vs. 5 mV/Pa). Thus, the ME80 would require a quieter preamplifier. The equivalent self-noise level of the K3/ME80 is about 6 dB higher than the K6/ME66. The specified S/N ratio of 67 dB corresponds to an equivalent (CCIR
468-3 weighted) noise level of 27 dB (which would be about 16 dBA)

Why yes, you guessed it. I ended up coming home with a bunch of mics. I have to thank Han for trusting me to take over his precious collections. I’m sure he had more in there but I wouldn’t be ready for Schoeps CMIT 5 U. This is bad enough for now.

I’m looking to see if we should enable customers to rent out this mics.. But if you really do need them while in Holland for your shoots, do drop us a note about it.

Next blog will be about our new upgrade for a friendly mixer for both Audio and Video – Avids MC Control v2, the Artist Series

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Have you met Cinemagram yet?

If you been reading my blog, you’d know I love creating cinemagraphs. It’s basically a still picture laid in front of a short frame of video looped behind an area of exposed mask. Not too sure if you can make any sense out of that. But if you Google on the subject on creating Cinemagraphs you’d probably understand the lil painstaking process of creating this modern-day gif animations. But not until recently..

New life from an old bike..

Pink Project shot with 550D in HD then frame selected in PS CS5 Ext

Now there’s an app to feed myself further into this subtle art of emphasizing motion within a momentary period. Cinemagram allows you to create gifs right out of your iPhone. Yep. No computer needed. The app has yet to be polished but its basic function works a charm. It’s so awesome that by the time you read this there’s almost 400,000 cinemagrams created within a week from it’s date of release with version 1.

Below are examples of cinemagrams I was able to create in matter of minutes. Compare that to possibly an hour spent for one like above using a DSLR camera and selected frames processed in Photoshop. Oh btw, they call it Cinemagram to compliment the ever famous and successful Instagram iPhone App. The developers are not related in any way. I think.

Basic fundamental of cinemagraphs uses a sequence of moving images kept at a minimum 15 frames for ideal playback when inserted to the web. Keeping the file small is key. Thanks to today’s fast processors and lightning fast internet speed, this modern-day GIF revelation is making a come back with a BANG!

Cinemagram seems to select up to 44 frames of the video that you shoot within the app. But the primary frame that you want to choose as the masking source is not selectable. I hope this would be updated soon in future updates. On default it uses the first frame of the selected video selection. Creating these cinemagrams is pretty simple:

  • Shoot the video of the subject you want to animate as steady as you can. I have my iPhone 4 in a KUNGL thus it’s always easy to set it up on a tripod of any sort. You can also use snapmountforiphone adapter or equivalent. From this video capture, only 2-3 seconds of the video would be used. Select the the In and Out point of your animated frames that’s to be used in the loop. Tap and Hold to zoom in. Press Play to preview the loop. When happy click SAVE and the video loop will be compressed for editing. I think Cinemagram compress the video into approximately 15 frames per second. But I’m not gonna do the maths..
  • You now can pinch zoom and finger paint (draw a mask) on the area that you want exposed, this selected space will reveal the looped video in background.
  • Once happy with your mask, you’re given the option to COLORIZE. The options currently available are : Raw, Xpro, Toaster, Redscale and B&W.
  • Let it render couple of seconds and you’re presented with the animated gif which is defaulted to play in Auto Reverse mode. This aids to create a smoother animation. If your video crop is smooth enough to be played in a continuous cycle like the bicycle wheel above, then you can turn off the Reverse function.

It’s tricky to make a seamless continuous cycle in cinemagram, the option to choose the specific 1st and last frame is still not made possible. Most I made have default Reverse mode turned on. I do have a looped example below with the Towards Europoort cinemagraph. But it’s a shame that this does not even show who created it, when, or how many people have liked or viewed it. These are key features on how to raise users (and developers) awareness and satisfactions I think. Below I’ve made the animation bigger as the ones used in Cinemagram browser link are pretty small at it’s original resolution. Bigger = Better 🙂 Right?

towards europoort Can you spot the 1st and last frame? Compare this with the seamless GIF of the bicycle wheel above.
Try viewing it in the Original Link. Bigger is better right? 🙂

coca colaWith REVERSE mode ON: You barely see that the drink is pouring OUT.. and then pouring IN. Original Link.

Do Not Disturb My sleeping tiger. Original Link

Pros

  • Easy to create short cinemagraphs.
  • With 3G network or WiFi, you can share links to Twitter, Facebook & Tumblr.
  • Great way to discipline and focus on details you want emphasized while shooting video / picture.
  • HTML EMBED code to help share your Cinemagram in a blog.
  • Cinemagraph tool in your pocket. Hard to beat that.
  • Costs $1.99 with compatible iPhone. No need for external frame editor / computer.
  • Induce creative fun. Totally addictive.

Cons

  • Cannot import from video from Camera Roll Library
  • Cannot add Hashtags or add Comments
  • Limited to sharing on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr
  • You don’t get notified if anyone Liked or Shared your Cinemagram 😦
  • There is no FOLLOW or SUBSCRIBE option
  • No search option via Title or Tag for cinemagrams already created

Cinemagram App costs $1.99 on iTunes and brings further addiction and anti-socializing when you have your iPhone with you in public. But yea, they’ll understand why when they see your masterpiece. Mail me your’s when you’re done!

For an interesting PBS short about GIFs and its modern uses in Cinemagraph check this video.


RED cam in Indonesian Music Video “Behind The Scars”


Fandi Ahmad’s return in Groningen

I can’t take any credits for this. The idea came about when friends in Singapore asked what the commentator was saying.. Real fans, especially those in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia might have watched it but not understand the commentators report. The whole coverage was in Dutch. Thus all it really needed was English subtitles.

I hope I didn’t make many errors with the translation. I tried the best I could to make better sense of this much viewed report from 2010 from both RTV Noord and FC Groningen’s TV.

After a couple of week’s upload and getting 900+ viewings to date, I think I might have helped hundreds to understand what a real hero our football legend is when it comes to goal scoring in his career’s peak.

This one is for you Fandi. And all your fans. Enjoy!


Learning process of shooting 3 point music video..

I have never tried making promo video from a LIVE band performance. And I never thought it would be this tricky, but I am glad I took up that challenge. It introduces new challenges, a steep learning curve that requires me to apply all that I have learnt from audio recording and video editing into one project that I am keen to finish.

Preparation before the shoot is vital. Reliable working equipments that would deliver good audio and video is key. A general direction on how the finished video should look like also plays an in important factor. This would determine the gears to bring and the angle of shots you’d need to capture which means possibly less editing in post.

What I think is most important is the ability to communicate with the band on and off stage. To be able to communicate with the band on set, upon your 1st minute of introduction is crucial to let them open up to you later on while they’re on stage, while you’re behind the lens. They are after all the talents that the whole project will showcase. You want them natural in camera, not feel intimidated, or even worse, agitated with your presence around their performance area.

Thank goodness I have a real friendly team of people to work with for this shoot. I have known 2 of the band members for a very long time. Both are very deeply involved in sculpting Dutch pop music, one which I got to know whilst living in NYC, the other at recording studios here in Amsterdam for my graduation project in SAE. Both this gentlemen are well-honored for their work and I have that standard to uphold for this project. I want to make the band look at their best. Nothing more nothing less.

It is no doubt the first LIVE band that I will record and I certainly need extra hands for a 2nd or 3rd angle of view. I remembered instantly a previous edit I did with camera shots collaborated from Dajimstar. He’s fresh into DSLR video, and he shows that same passion with photography and has that creative edge to learn. We shot Gwaan back in spring of 2010. That was a wild party from local party connoisseurs Sized. I simply asked Dajimstar if he wanted to make a copy of his shots to be used as 2nd camera angle in the edit. And there it began.

Unlike Gwaan, this project consists of a 3 set performance for the evening from the band Company Live. Each in a 45 minutes session thus it’s a long evening of trying to catch good moments.

We have over 90 mins of HD footage captured between the three cameras altogether. Now it’s time to narrow it down to highlight the best ones we got and also based on the bands preference. This one is a full length feature on one of the songs they performed that night. Excuse the cheesy floating logo on the screen. It was a quick try out using motion after I made a quick update of the band’s logo. Certainly could use some creative advise on that one. 🙂

So this was put together in a short period. It will be updated once the festive season is off our way. 🙂

Ladies and gentlemen, highlight to the band, Company LIVE.

3 Camera edit in FCP
Nikon D300S with 50mm F1.8 / 17-85mm F4.0
Canon 550D with 24mm F1.4 / 50mm F1.4 / Samyang 8mm F3.5
JVC GZ-HD7 shooting 1080i at 30fps
Røde Stereo Video Mic
Glidetrack HD


StikMotion at its best with Vincent Tetreault – Toys of War

Couple of months ago, we were excited to learn about Vince’s stop motion project. His goal was to remake the Gears of war’s TV commercial directed, by Joseph Kosinski, using stop motion. Today in a silent announcement, it’s finally done and boy is it good!! So good! I think the replacement soundtrack by Brett McCoy brought the whole scene together – uncanny. Here’s the original version with Bad World, or just skip it to Vince’s version further below..

Of course for us, the making-of is just as interesting, if not more.. Through Vince’s blog you ‘hear’ how the director works himself through obstacles faced on set to various sequences. The set and props for each one was amazing. You almost forget that these sequences are shot out of photographic frames.. one picture at a time. I don’t know the fps speed used but it looks really smooth for stop motion. Eventually you learn how committed and dedicated Vincent is with his workt. The last few sequences in sight, where he starts moulding and customizing the set up for Corpser, showed in his blog post, that was insanely good.

We all know Stikfas figures are an amazing addition for an expressive subject to macro photography. But it certainly pose new challenges when used for stop motion. In the right hands however, strong silhoutte from this faceless figures are more than enough to replicate humanoids expression through sequenced movements. Vince made it look so easy in his set.

We want to thank Vincent for bringing us along in his journey. I think stop motion film makers have patience of steel! You have to see it for yourself.. And read the complete making-of at Vincent’s Stop Motion Project if you’re interested about the production scoops.

CONTEST!! CONTEST!! CONTEST!! CONTEST!! CONTEST!! CONTEST!!

Before you leave. Why not try your luck and compete in a Contest which Vincent’s organized online. You could win a signed DVD by the man himself!! All you need to do is show a thumbs-up or capture whacky facial expression of yourself with the wallpapers that you like from his blog. I might take a crack at that I think. 😉

Standing ovation and applause. Toys of War is amazing!!


I want it Pink!

After having ridden her inherited bike for almost a year, my little one suddenly voiced her thought that she didn’t want that bike anymore.

“Why?” I asked.

“Coz my friends say its a boy’s bicycle..” she slurred. Well I don’t blame her. Her sister liked it as she was into dirt bikes back then. Plus the bike seems a bit too rugged for our feminine little character.

“And what kind of bike would you rather have?” I wondered..

“A pink one. One with my favorite color on it.”

She made it pretty clear nodding her head along with her words. I know she was not too excited with the bike since day 1 she got it from her sister. It’s never too exciting to get hand-me-downs.. I know coz I was the youngest in the family of 9 kids. Similarly, she was just content to have a bike as it was a pretty cool one no doubt. I paused a while, thought about our options, and proposed to her an idea that might be fun for both of us.

“How if we go to Praxis, get your choice of color in spray paint and then paint the bicycle ourselves. Like how TheKillerGerbil did your games room?” I see her suddenly computing the options in her little head and then she jumped up with a smile.

“Cool!!! I get to choose the paint myself and you help me spray it Pink and Purple!”

Rose and Paarse it is love. (Pink and Purple in Dutch)

New life from an old bike..

Down in the hardware store, she’s already made up her mind on which colors she’d bring home for her ‘new bike’. I tried to swerve her into some pastel colors but nah.. she’s got a mind like her mom. No chance about throwing me a curve ball daddy. Unsurprisingly we came home with the two colors that she chose. Not the Barbie pink, not too expensive, but nice choices I gotta say.

Back home work on dismantling the bike parts went on the way pretty fast. I’ve done some bicycle sprayings looooong time ago, but never onto a bike this small. It wasn’t that much of a task to do, but the cold winds blowing in the turn of season makes me not wanna stay out too long in the breeze. The necessary parts are set apart and we made final decisions on where the colors are going. Correction. It was her who told me what colors, where.

It came down to 3 main things. The frame, fork and handle bar. And possibly new bicycle seat and handle grip when its done. So here goes..

“And what about flowers dad? It’s a girls bike right? I want flowers on it.” She grinned.

“But its almost 10 pm… Alright, I think you need to be in bed already and by the time you get up, you’ll have some flowers on each side of the frame. Grab that iPad and show me what kind of flowers you want on your bike.” We googled for something that caught her eyes and finalized with something that was simple and in monotone black.. She seemed content and trusted me with her smile.. Thank goodness. Now get to bed.

“Ok I’m going. You paint this. And I want to see it in the morning.” She stood up gave me a kiss and climbed her way up to her bedroom. Happy. Excited. Looking forward to be surprised.

Right. Now where’s that Posca pen set I had from a while back….

After a whole long day and night of sanding, degreasing, spray painting, and flower customizing.. We finally came to the re-assembly. I think she would be proud to see it in the morning.. The Hawaiian flower turned out not too shabby.

She woke up early Sunday morning and was off to the pool. While they were away, I did last minute fine tunings. The seat and handle grip still needs to be changed but that’s not too much of my concern as there’s tonnes of kids bicycle accessories in Holland. As for now, the old bike is made new. And what’s more important is that she finally made this bike hers. Heck. It’s even got her signature with a little heart under the bottom bracket. Nobody else have one like it. And guess what. It’s in pink. Just the way she likes it. 🙂

As soon as she got home I hear her running towards the bicycle shed. Swung the door open and yelled out.

“Cool!! Can I ride it out pap?!” Smiling from ear to ear..

“Go right ahead kiddo. It’s yours!”

Seeing that smile on your face made it all worth it..

Alright. So what’s next.

How rude of me.. I almost forgot to add the links to the fine folks who’s kindly donated us their awesome stickers.. Some of you might have already heard of em as they are no strangers to the fixie cycling world in Asia and the globe.. Do visit their sites as they certainly have more goodies there.

Extended thanks to:

TheKillerGerbil who was here couple of years back redecorating our playroom and Paris in a whole. You can see the interview I did while we were in Paris and Amsterdam here.

PeonFX for some great tees to make me feel home.. I’m still looking forward to have a ride with the old clan. They make up of old friends from early East Coast Park cycling days.. While they’re up on Fixies, I’m still the old fart hunting down steel frames here in Europe. 🙂

And of course the one and only Crank Arm Steady who’s slowly changing the cycling community in Singapore and Asia with a strong growing Fix Gear community there.