… for Random Weirdness

Tip #790: Why Use Fluid Tripod Heads

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Fluid heads support smooth pans, tilts and tracking.

A Manfrotto fluid tripod head

Topic $TipTopic

This article first appeared in Better Digital Photo Tips.com. This is a summary.

What is a fluid tripod head exactly, do you really need a fluid tripod head and how does this kind of tripod head work? Here are some answers.

A fluid head is designed to create smooth pans, tilts and tracking. If you shoot stills, it isn’t truly necessary, but for video, it’s essential. These heads, made for tripods and monopods, contain a fluid chamber within its design, to dampen the sudden movements and vibrations of the camera, in order to get smooth video pans and smooth tracking.

A friction head is not the same as, though cheaper than, a fluid head. Friction heads use a series of plastic washers to smooth the movement.

Here are a few features of fluid head tripods that you need to be aware of.

  • COUNTERBALANCE. A system in a fluid head that allows your camera to remain at the angle you leave it set.
  • FLUID DRAG. Grease or oil material, that is trapped between plates within a sealed pack, that acts as torque dampers instead of using friction to create drag.
  • HANDLE LENGTH. The longer the handle, the easier it is to make subtle, smooth movements. One trick to make a cheaper head work better is to slide a small PVC or other light-weight pipe over the handle to extend its length.
  • TENSION CONTROL. The ability to adjust both panning tension and tilting tension
  • WEIGHT. Heavier heads can handle heavier cameras. It’s that simple.

The article, linked above, includes multiple videos illustrating the difference fluid heads make, along with details on what to look for when buying one.


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… for Random Weirdness

Tip #774: The Best A-cam and B-cam Combos

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Three high-quality, lower-cost camera combos.

The Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro camera.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Jourdan Aldredge, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

Speaking from experience, when I worked in-house with a video production company, there were often times when I needed at least a couple of cameras for a shoot. In many cases, these are A-camera and B-camera setups, where your A-cam is your high-end option for the majority of your filming, while your B-cam is usually your slightly lower-end camera, used for off-angle coverage and pickup shots.

Here are three combos to consider.

  • Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro and the BMPCC 4K. While the URSA Mini Pro has been a solid A-camera (4.6K, ProRes 444 + 422 recording) cinema workhorse since 2017, the real variable in this equation is Blackmagic’s new Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, which is a popular B-camera companion that boasts many of the same specs but at a fraction of the price.
  • Canon C300 and the Canon 5D. I spent years shooting on the Canon C300 — and both the Canon 7D and Canon 5D. Most of my career has been run-and-gun videography (and sometimes photography, to boot), so a reliable camera like the 5D or 7D has been invaluable. Meanwhile, Canon’s C300 has been a very solid cinema A-camera offering — a favorite of documentary filmmakers and corporate video producers (also for its reliability and favorable color science).
  • Sony FS7 and Sony A7 III. Going full Sony for your A-camera/B-camera setup may be your best image capture option. The Sony FS7, with its Super 35mm-sized CMOS sensor, is one of the most diverse and multi-functional A-cams on the market. Combined with the full-frame Sony A7 III (or perhaps the Sony A7S II), you should get the best of Sony’s sharp and crisp color science, and superior low-light performance, for more uncontrolled and vérité-style shoots.

EXTRA CREDIT

This article also includes more specs, pricing and links for more information.


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #740: 5 Affordable Fisheye Lenses

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Here are five affordable options for fisheye lenses.

The Pentax 10-17mm F/3.5-4.5 (Image courtesy of Pentax.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Jourdan Aldredge, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

The fisheye look has been a go-to staple of cinema for ages. And while fisheye lenses can stylistically express both openness and containment, as well as distort perceptions of height, size, and importance, wide-angle lenses also have a very practical purpose. They’re great for filming in small, tight places.

Here are five affordable options.

  • Altura Photo 8mm F/3.0. The first option on our list is the Altura Photo 8mm F/3.0, which is one of the least-expensive fisheye lenses on the market. While wide-angle lenses are perhaps more popular in the photography world than in videography, lenses like the Altura Photo 8mm work great for both.
  • PENTAX 10-17mm F/3.5-4.5. A surprisingly affordable wide-angle zoom (and a great option for DSLR or mirrorless cameras), the PENTAX DA 10-17mm is actually an offshoot of the first fisheye zoom ever created. As a zoom, this PENTAX gives you solid coverage when navigating in tight spaces where you might need to tweak your framing and composition a bit.
  • Rokinon 8mm T3.8. Unlike the fisheye lenses above, the Rokinon RK8MV-C 8mm T3.8 Cine Fisheye Lens is tailor-made for film and video. This means better design quality for a videographer’s needs, with a focus on ease of use for aspects like focus pulling and smooth motion.
  • Samyang 12mm F/2.8. One of the best options for full-frame videographers, the Samyang Optics 12mm F/2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye is a great manual focus lens, with flexibility for filming from both short and long distances. The Samyang 12mm is also one of the best low-light options for those really looking to cut the edge with some beautiful shallow-depth-of-field shots.
  • Tokina 10-17mm F/3.5-4.5. Another solid hybrid offering that’s on the higher end of our affordability chart, the Tokina AT-X 107 F/3.5-4.5 DX Fisheye (10-17mm) is a strong APS-C format wide-zoom for those looking to utilize the fisheye look with more options and control.

EXTRA CREDIT

The link at the top provides more tech specs and links for each of these lenses.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #735: Select Your Fastest GPU

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Use Preferences to select your fastest GPU.

The Preferences > Playback GPU option.

Topic $TipTopic

Starting with the FCP X 10.4.7 release, Final Cut now supports multiple GPUs and up to 28 CPU cores.

As part of the 10.4.7 release, FCP X received a new Metal engine for faster performance, along with internal/external GPU selection. Using preferences, you can now pick which GPU it uses for render and export.

To select a specific GPU, go to Preferences > Playback > Render/Share GPU.

NOTE: If you are running a MacBook Pro with an eGPU, be sure to select the eGPU in this menu to maximize the performance your system gets from that external device.


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #729: 4 Top-Quality Prime Lenses Less than $1K

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Prime lenses are faster, crisper and less expensive than zooms.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens (Image courtesy of Sigma.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Logan Baker, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

Capture beautiful images with these high-quality, low-cost prime lenses. Let’s look at some prime lenses that land in the high-quality/low-price sweet spot, all of them available right now for under $1,000.

  • Rokinon Cine 35mm T1.5 Cine DS Lens. Rokinon Cine series lenses might be the best deal in the industry right now. Each lens is fast, sharp, and priced to move, and pulling focus is about as smooth as it can be for glass this size.
  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens. These lenses have skyrocketed in popularity over the past three years or so — and for good reason. First of all, they’re built like tanks and have a brag-worthy super-sharp 1.4 aperture. Plus, decent auto-focus capabilities make them a solid choice for filmmaking and photography.
  • SLR Magic MicroPrime CINE 25mm T1.5. If I was allowed only one word to describe this lens and, really, the entire line of SLR Magic lenses, that word would be underrated. For the price, the lenses are superb. Even if you take the price out of the equation, these lenses are superb.
  • Rokinon 14mm f2.8 ED AS IF UMC Series. This lens is the cheapest option on this list. Frankly, it’s also the simplest. And it’s 100% worthy of a spot in your filmmaking bag. It’s super wide and super sharp.

EXTRA CREDIT

In the link at the top are more details and videos illustrating each lens.


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #688: Using a Split-Field Diopter

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

A split-field diopter is a filter that directly alters the focus within your shot.

A split-field diopter lens. (Image courtesy of Hoya.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Anthony Najera, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt. The split-field diopter is a practical lens attachment that can add an unusual and visually exciting effect to your movie. Here’s what you need to know.

A split-field diopter is a partial lens that you attach to the front of your camera’s lens. It’s a partial lens because it only has glass covering half of the lens space. Essentially, it’s a filter that will directly alter the focus within your shot.

The split-field diopter lets you to focus on a subject (or object) positioned close to the camera on one side of the frame while also focusing on a more distant subject positioned on the other side of the frame. It allows a shot to have two planes of focus rather than one, making the foreground (captured through the diopter) and background (captured through the uncovered half of your camera’s lens) both appear equally clear.

For instance, instead of having to rely on a rack focus between a nearby subject and a distant subject, the split-field diopter keeps both near and distant focal planes sharply in focus at the same time. This can create a split-screen effect, but it happens in camera instead of in post.

Additionally, the split-field diopter can be a great alternative when you’re looking for deep depth of field. Ordinarily, to achieve a deep focus range, you’d need to stop-down the aperture quite a bit (f/16+), but this requires a ton of light and can be very difficult to do indoors. With a split-field diopter, you can create the illusion of deep focus, even with a wide aperture.

EXTRA CREDIT

The PremiumBeat article has more details and several examples of the diopter in use. The link is at the top of this tip.


… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #684: System Compatibility Report

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Having performance problems? Check the System Compatibility Report.

The System Compatibility Report in Premiere Pro.

Topic $TipTopic

Have you ever wondered if your hardware is fighting Premier Pro? The System Compatibility Report holds the answers.

To display the report, choose Help > System Compatibility Report. This displays any hardware compatibility issues between your system and Adobe’s software.


… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #686: Optimize Your Premiere Pro System

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The four keys are: memory, storage, graphics and CPU.

Topic $TipTopic

This tip originally appeared as an Adobe Support article. This is an excerpt.

The four key variables for a great video production system are memory, storage, graphics, and your processor. Here are tips from Adobe on how to optimize your system.

  • Memory. Professional video workflows rely on system memory. A good video editing workstation should have at least 32GB of memory— and as much as 128GB.
  • Storage/hard drives. Fast storage is critical for video production. Use solid-state NVMe or SSD storage. Unless you have a fast RAID array, spinning disks generally do not offer sufficient speed for HD and 4K video production.
  • Graphics. The GPU is used for onscreen rendering and export, priority areas for video production. Premiere Pro is engineered to take advantage of the GPU. After Effects is also GPU-optimized. Graphics card with at least 4GB of memory (VRAM). (Optional) Multiple GPUs, including eGPUs, can be used to speed up rendering and export.
  • Processor/GPU. For CPUs, clock speed matters more for After Effects. Multiple cores have more impact for Premiere Pro. The sweet spot for running both applications is a fast CPU with 8 cores. Core i7 or Core i9 Intel processors or AMD equivalents are strongly recommended. Fast clock speed at least 3.2 GHz, or higher.

EXTRA CREDIT

Thinking of upgrades? Here’s where Adobe suggests you spend your money, in priority, for Premiere Pro:

  1. More RAM — up to 128GB if your motherboard supports it.
  2. A faster GPU (or additional GPUs) for faster rendering and export
  3. Faster (or more) NVMe or SSD drives
  4. Faster CPU

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #659: Build Your Own Raspberry (Pi) Computer

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

A fully-functional computer that costs less than $50

The Raspberry Pi Foundation’s official case is a classic. Image via Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Alejandro Medellin, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

The Raspberry Pi is a fully-functional computer that costs less than $50. In fact, you can get one for $10. Designed over a decade ago, in England, by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, this tiny computer has been at the heart of many enthusiast projects. In fact, there are a couple of RasPis on the International Space Station, which are used from Earth by children learning to code.

While the device is used by many schools and educators to teach children to code, it’s much more than an educational tool — it’s a tiny workhorse. For instance, the RasPi Zero, which is the smallest and least powerful version, is now being used in new ventilators to combat the shortage of the life-saving device during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are three models:

  • The Powerhouse: Raspberry Pi 4 Model B. The Raspberry Pi Foundation’s latest release, the RasPi 4 Model B, is the most powerful iteration of the Raspberry Pi to date. It comes in either one, two, or four gigabytes of memory (RAM). The RasPi 4 starts at $35, but the 4GB version sells for around $55.
  • An Oldie, But Goodie: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. Despite its age, the RasPi 3 Model B+ is still powerful in its own right, and more affordable. For more straightforward projects, or ones on a tight budget that don’t require many computing resources.
  • Tiny, But Fierce: Raspberry Pi Zero W. If the RasPi 4 Model B is the size of a credit card, then the RasPi Zero W is roughly the size of a stick of gum, and yet, it packs quite the punch. Starting at only $10, this smaller computer is ideal for experimentation.

Before you can use the RasPi, you’ll have to download an operating system onto a MicroSD card; you can access it on Windows or Mac. Alternatively, you can buy a MicroSD card that comes pre-loaded with NOOBS — i.e., new out of the box software — which includes several operating systems to choose from. You can also download NOOBS onto a MicroSD card and then choose your OS.

Raspberry Pis can be used to create network-attached storage, media players, even simple desktop editing. Plus, for long days with nothing to do, these are amazing tools for hobbyist.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #646: When Does Video Compression Use the GPU?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Most editing codecs use the GPU, most web codecs do not.

Topic $TipTopic

One of the never-ending debates is how to configure the “best” computer. While this question is unanswerable in general, when it comes to video compression, here’s what you need to know.

CPUs, in general, provide linear calculations – one calculation after the other.

GPUs, in contrast, provide parallel calculations – multiple calculations occurring at the same time.

  • GOP-based codecs benefit most from linear – CPU – calculations due to the structure of the GOP. If you need to create H.264 materials, the faster the CPU, the faster compression will complete.
  • I-frame codecs, on the other hand, benefit from the GPU because different frames can be calculated at the same time, then stitched together for the final movie.

This ability of I-frame codecs to use the GPU to accelerate render and export speeds is one of the reasons they are recommended for editing.