Timelapses and Thomson: Shooting for Reuters

26th January 2015

Last November I was thrilled to be asked to produce a set of five talking heads videos of previous winners of Thomson Reuters’ prestigious Compliance Awards. Now, because of the relatively dry subject matter I thought it would be fun to jazz up the videos with some 4K timelapses of the recognisable sights of London. As the awards commend those in the law and finance sectors I predominantly focused on the main business areas of London (Canary Wharf and ‘the city’ itself). I also popped down to see the poppies exhibition at the Tower of London early one morning and got some nice results of the hustle and bustle and the display.

The videos are now online to view here.

As I was so pleased with some of the results of the timelapses, and being a keen stock footage contributor over at Shutterstock and Pond5, I decided to make them available there to buy in all resolutions from 4K down to SD. Here they are in a handy montage – watermarked of course! 😉


Sheringham 1940’s Weekend – Experimenting with 5D Mark III Raw

1st October 2014

Having owned the Canon 5D Mark III since it was released in March 2012, I’ve been using it on an almost daily basis for my work, and so I’ve gotten to know it’s strengths and weaknesses well. Whilst I love how it can effortlessly separate the subject from the background, give a beautiful softness to skin and perform unbelievably well in low-light, there is a certain mushy quality to the image that bugs me. When Magic Lantern announced they had hacked the 5D to write raw video internally to CF card I was both excited and dubious. I didn’t want to mess up my main workhorse but at the same time it’s mushy-ness and lack of detail in wide shots led me to eventually try it out myself.

I had a friend pick up a Lexar 128GB 1066x card from the US (thanks Rob Holding!) and once I received it I went about installing Magic Lantern’s raw firmware onto my camera. Later that week I took it to the Sheringham 1940’s weekend expecting to take just a few stills and maybe a few video clips. In fact I ended up mostly shooting raw video for the whole weekend, managing to fill the entire card with about 20 minutes of footage (it really did eat through the memory card quicker than I’d imagined!)

In post I used Rarevision’s RawMagic to convert the files to CinemaDNGs and then got those into Da Vinci Resolve to output the video clips in ProRes4444 for editing in FCPX. All of this was straightforward with the help of half a dozen tutorials online and a whole afternoon spent tweaking different settings in the various programs!

The resulting video is now finished and I’m keen to shoot more raw footage in the future. The amount of info’ I had to play with was astonishing and the sheer detail of the images were amazing.

Velvet Magazine A/W Fashion Show 2014

30th September 2014

Each year Velvet Magazine holds a fashion show in aid of charity showcasing a range of clothes from shops and designers in the Newmarket, Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds area. This year’s autumn/winter catwalk event was in aid of The Niamh Henry Fairy Wish Fund and was sponsored by Toni & Guy Cambridge and Robinsons Mercedes Benz.

This year’s show was held at the Granary Barns in Wooditton, Suffolk. I went along on the first night to film a short promotional video.

Our Bury St Edmunds: My first use of 4K

8th September 2014

I have been working with Our Bury St. Edmunds pretty much since I started out freelance and since then I’ve produced a number of videos for them of their excellent events in my home town. The first video I put together for them was a simple tourism-style promo of the town, showing off the mix of history, culture and shopping that Bury has to offer. That video is one of my most watched to date with over 50,000 views.

In 2014 I was asked to update the video to show more of what the town has to offer as well as some of the new additions to the high street. It was my first project using my new Mac Pro editing system and it gave me the opportunity (due to it’s power) to experiment with some 4K time lapses. The first shot of the video is my absolute favourite, of the iconic Abbey Gardens and Cathedral. It’s one of Bury’s most beautiful spots and with the right weather I was able to shoot a great time-lapse to open the video.

Sachtler’s Ace Accessories

7th September 2014

Over the past 6 months I’ve been testing Sachtler’s latest offering for the DSLR market ahead of the official launch at NAB in Las Vegas. The Ace Accessories comprise a follow focus, mattebox and baseplate to complement the fantastic Ace tripod by Sachtler and offer a complete Ace system. I’ve been using the Ace Accessories on everything from corporate and commercial shoots both in my day-to-day business and on my own short film projects. Overall, I have found them to make all of my shoots run faster, smoother and more productively.

I built a kit around my Sachtler Ace L CF tripod and various Litepanels LEDs, including Bi-Focus 1x1s and the Sola 6, which I used across a range of recent projects. I have since used the Ace Accessories on everything from corporate and commercial shoots both in my day-to-day business and on my own short film projects. Overall, I found the Accessories made all of my shoots run faster, smoother and more productively.

The three products that make up the Ace Accessories bundle are manufactured from high quality, highly durable plastic and tough, sleek machined metal. The combination of metal and plastic means it’s one of the lightest DSLR rig set-ups out there, but doesn’t compromise on strength – I’ll admit, I’ve dropped the unit a few times from waist height and it shows no damage whatsoever! When twinned with my Sachtler Ace tripod, it makes for a very versatile and lightweight rig for my Canon 5D Mark III.

Sachtler Ace Accessories rig

In my opinion, the jewel in the crown of the Ace Accessories is the follow focus, it is simply the best I’ve used bar none. There’s absolutely no play in the focus wheel, no whip or kick back, and it boasts a brilliant hard stop system to boot. There’s also a very handy marking wheel, which is detachable and replaceable, and I understand the set will be shipped with two spare wheels. It also has just one simple tightening wheel at the bottom which makes adjusting the follow focus and swapping between lenses very quick indeed. The friction wheel (a wheel with a rubber outer edge) means you don’t have to use lens gears at all. Instead, all you need to do to quickly change lenses is to push the follow focus up against the lens’ focus rings, tighten and continue shooting.

To date I’ve used the follow focus on high pressure corporate shoots and more tightly choreographed short film projects. It has excelled in both situations and has allowed me to shoot some great footage, often with complicated focus marks and movements. On a shoot last week I had five focus marks to hit whilst pulling off a slide movement at the same time. The follow focus enabled me to grab the shot every take.

Canon 5D Mark III with Ace Accessories

If I’m perfectly honest before I got the Ace matte box in my hands I would have said that I probably couldn’t get too excited about this type of product. As a DSLR user, I haven’t previously found much use for one having never owned any 4 x 4 or 4 x 5.65 filters. However, on a recent pilot shoot for a crowd-funded feature film I knew I had some challenging exterior locations and I also had the need to remove reflections when shooting into and through windows.

I purchased a Tiffen 4×4 polariser from eBay safe in the knowledge I not only had a rig with the appropriate frames for this, but also includes an ingenious feature which had the potential to save me a lot of time on set. This is a 180° rotating frame which eliminates the need to remove the frame and turn the filter 90° to achieve the right filtration. In this way I was able to quickly and simply adjust the effect my polariser had on my shots.

Sachtler Ace Matte Box

The polariser positioned at a 45 degree angle using the Sachtler mattebox’s rotating frame.

The baseplate was another part of the Ace Accessories range that I couldn’t initially drum up much enthusiasm for. After all, you slide your camera plate into it, right… so what’s new? Having tried it, there are two things I love about it. First, it fastens to your rails with just one adjustment lever, allowing for faster rig changes and tweaks. Secondly, as a user of the 5D Mark III, Canon 1DC and Canon C300, the easy height adjustment proved invaluable. This feature allows me to use the rig with a variety of cameras of differing designs, sizes, shapes and weights. On a multi-camera shoot I would be able to use the rig with a Mark III and quickly swap over to the C300 if I needed to, without any complication.

My feedback on the Ace Accessories isn’t all praise as, at times, I have had to wrestle with some of the finer details of using the rig. The main hurdle to overcome is that if you have some relatively small lenses (I have the Canon EF 50mm /f1.4 for example) then it can be slightly fiddly to get all of the elements on the rails to line up, also bringing the camera close enough to the mattebox can be quite a challenge. The main mechanism of the follow focus is quite wide, this means sometimes it is the follow focus that determines the distance from the mattebox to the camera, not the lens. This isn’t a huge issue, and after a minute or two tweaking the different accessories I got the set up I wanted. I’m told that the width of follow focus is due to the advanced mechanism inside (it is silky smooth and without a single flaw in operation) so I can quite easily forgive this minor issue 😉

For more information on Sachtler’s Ace Accessories range head to Sachtler.com

Watch this space for the upcoming feature film pilot I’m working on – we’ll be looking for crowdfunding and hoping to raise a budget to put the feature into production in 2015.

The Big Chill

4th September 2014
    In 2011 I was asked to photograph The Big Chill festival at Eastnor Castle for Lucozade’s ‘YES’ campaign. One of the bands performing was an intriguing mix of big names from both music and cinema. “The Bullitts” comprise Jeymes Samuel, Lucy Liu, Idris Elba and Jay Electronica. Bar a handful of others I think these are some of the only photos of the band together.
    Note: Please do not use these photographs without my permission. All rights reserved. Copyright: Paul Cook