PhotoCineNews Expo 2010 – Day 1

Sep 29, 2010 2 Comments by

With the success of last year’s Collision Conference, we were all excited to attend Michael Britt’s event this year.

PhotoCineNews Expo was this year’s re-incarnation, with a luxurious cast of speakers that would once again set the bar for this ever evolving HD capable, Single Lens Reflex world.

The morning starts early for these guys, and just like last year, free coffee, donuts and bagels seems to be the perfect lure to force folks out of bed, when they would otherwise be doing a Saturday sleep in…

Planet5D, the most prominent HDSLR Blog, headed by @planetmitch was this year’s sponsor of the introductory breakfast.

Mitch Aunger aka @planetmitch – Mr. Planet5D himself!

So much happening at the same time… Hard to pick what to attend. Something for everyone or any goal. I decided to skip a more technical discussion panel with some of the highest authorities in the HDSLR lenses world. Illya Friedman, the creator of the PL mounts for HDSLR, Richard Schleuning from Zeiss lenses and Brian Valente from Redrock Micro were heading the session panel.

Yeah, I wanted to be there, but I made a choice to hear a real story teller speaking, which also gave me a chance to take a peek at the Glidecam workshop being held in the theatre next to the expo floor, at the same time.

For a while now, Glidecam has been the affordable solution for indie filmmakers, to have access to flying a camera smoothly through their scenes. In this demo, following the moto of this event, the rig had an HDSLR mounted to it.

The GlideCam looks very capable but it takes time to master its intricate balancing, which is the backbone for flying your camera smoothly. Meaning it’s not something you can just pick out of the box and start “rock staring” it.

It was time to head to the the main theater to hear and see the wonderful story of Gail’s adventure shooting her new documentary.

Just like last year, Tom Stratton was hosting the main theatre and after the due introductions to Gail’s body of work, we were in for a treat.

Gail set out on a trip with her daughter to document and film the stories of individuals – ordinary people who are following their own dreams, passions, ambitions and doing extraordinary things.

As a veteran photo journalist, mostly shooting with a 5D MKII, her images are captivating and her subjects’ words touching… It’s always amazing to see passionate people persuing their endeavors!

99 days trip! 33 flights! 6 continents! Sleeping on the floor of bamboo huts, sometimes… at 59 years of age! So, next time you go bitch about not having the means to make your project, think again…

Gail proved to be a master in keeping costs down. She also knows the need for a filmmaker to be shameless and selfless when it comes do beg, bargain, barter and still (shots, of course), in order to bring his project to fruition. Gail even shot 2 days to make a video for a Hotel, in exchange for 2 week stay.

99 days, 33 flights and a crew of 2, for only $19.000 (pre-production and production)! Now that’s pretty God damn impressive!

Gearing up to move to HDSLRs wasn’t cheap, Mooney recalls, but she had to bite the bullet in a ball park investment of $15.000, which included cameras, laptops, hard drives, cards. ect…

The small form factor allowed her to travel light and swiftly, which with only having herself and her daughter as crew, was an absolute must! It also allowed her to be more casual and capture very intimate interviews, that otherwise, wouldn’t have been as genuine… 3 out of of her 7 subjects have already perished, making her material even more precious…

Hearing her words and passion makes you wonder about how many times have you’ve asked yourself about what can you do to make the world a better place… This is the kind of work more of us should aspire to do.

Gail’s experience as a veteran photo journalist makes her very resourceful and creative, using equipment most of us wouldn’t think of. Like using a Scotty vest to “wear” your gear into an airlplain (like a laptop in the back compartment?!), avoiding extra costs and making it possible to take equipment in flights where your allowed carry on luggage was extremely limited. “They don’t weight what you’re wearing!”

“The travel Gods were on our side!” Gail rejoices. “Never lost a bag, no delayed flights, everything went smoothly.”

She used social media to keep growing her audience and not only help fund her project but also the people/institutions she was shooting.

Ironically but not surprising, Gail found support in smaller manufactures, but a closed door in larger ones… You figure out who…

You can check out Gail Mooney’s work for yourself at:

So inspiring! So relevant! So… What are you waiting for?! When are you going to bring your next project to life???

The theatre emptied fast as people rushed to the famous raffle drawings in the Expo Hall…

As it’s becoming tradition, Tom Stratton also hosts the raffles drawing and gets the crowd going with all the amazing prizes the sponsors kindly put out to be given away.

The next choice was though… Adobe was doing a demo of the CS5 HDSLR workflow with Jacob Rosenberg, while Gene Martin was doing his presentation on HDSLR Audio in the Field and Jon Reiss, a quick sum up of his must have book for any indie filmmaker; “Think Outside the Box Office”…

As an indie filmmaker about to finish my first film, I could not miss Jon Reiss’ presentation.

The world of film distribution has never been as challenged as today. The models are outdated and the people in charge aren’t the best crowd readers out there… Dying markets like DVD and emerging ones like the web or apps for iPhones and iPads, open new opportunities for the indie world, but jumping in head first, without having a good idea of what’s out there, or what’s the best path for your film, can easily become suicide.

After marketing his own film for the last 3 years, Jon Reiss shares the knowledge he’s gathere in his book titled “Think Outside of the Box Office”.

A lot of it can sound like common sense, at first, but I definitely recommend this book, after attending Jon’s presentation, for anyone who’s seriously thinking of taking their movies through a less traditional distribution method.

Hungry! This waking up early and eating donuts for breakfast can get to you quick… so I was more then ready to get my energy replenished.

First thing in the after lunch menu was Final Cut Pro Green Screen Post with Frank Rohmer, but I was still in a food coma and eager to wait for Snehal’s presentation…

Practical Filmmaking with Snehal Patel was a breath of fresh hair!
We see so many people doing workshops and writing “how tos” and what not, but without wanting to hurt anyone’s susceptibilities, it’s so easy to tell who has real filmmaking experience…

HDSLR has matured so much in the last year. The time to be mesmerized on out of focus shots, and on what Stu Masovich so cleverly named as bokake porn, is coming to an end. You still find many people focusing on the shallow depth of field, but few, talking on how impractical it is to use a 5D MKII with a fast lens, wide open (meaning  at it’s shallowest depth of field), and that’s where Snehal started, just to get things into perspective.

In my own empirical opinion, this is where the phrase “filmmakers you’re now photographers, photographers you’re not filmmakers, now!” comes to mind (still trying to find where I read this. I’ve quoted it before and would love to give credit to its author!

Photographers and filmmakers have skills that can easily be carried into each other’s medium, but they’re completely different games, that now happen to have a common tool. They are both gigantic fields, filled with an immeasurable amount of knoledge to master, and transitioning to the opposite medium, without any previous background, can be pretty tricky.

As a filmmaker turned photographer (no I didn’t only start taking stills when the MKII came out), I agree with this sentence because although I’m a relatively experienced filmmaker, I still find a film shoot way more challenging then any photoshoot… So take what you want from this, agree or agree to disagree, but do not take any of these mediums for granted, just because you have a machine that is capable of doing both…

Only after 25 mins of hearing Snehal, I would go out on a limb to say, that his workshops must be definitely worth while!

Time was crunching and I was forced to return to the main theatre so I wouldn’t miss Alex Buono’s presentation.

This is how good this year’s event was! There was no way to attend all the good stuff…

Alex Buono’s turn out was the largest of the Expo, so far. And after the hype generated with the Saturday Night Life intro being shot by Alex on 5Ds and 7Ds, nothing else was to expect.

Alex started by introducing himself. A student at USC, got his first gig as a PA in the movie “Twister” and never looked back. His reportoir spans from film to Tv, from “DPind” to producing, but it was shooting SNL’s intro with HDSLRs, that put him in the spotlight of OUR world!

The big sensor sizes and their inherent low light capabilities is what attracted Alex to the HDSLRs. What else is new… Form factor was also a big decision point, but we’ve heard all that before… Guess it might do the job for the more skeptical types to see an established TV DP raving about the capabilities and advantages of HDSLRs…

Alex showed great admiration for @timescapes and mylapse, time-lapse work. He also showed some examples of taking advantage of shooting Raw for time-lapse, with post panning and zooming, a technique that is still not over explored. Hmmm… I should do some… But then again, my producer would probably kill me if he found out I was time-lapsing instead of editing… ;(

Buono also pointed out how accecible things are today. He showed mylapse‘s interesting and affordable solution for time-lapse panning, like a MILapse. Something that would have costed tens of thousands of $$$, not so long ago… or something like the Little Bramper.  A circuit board that let’s you ramp exposure to compensate light during time-lapses, supposedly costing under $100… although I couldn’t find it anywhere on-line…

The whole point is to show how filmmaking is more accessible then ever, to the masses. Doesn’t mean it replaces craft, as I hear so many DPs freaking out, about…

Then Alex Focused on the importance of using cine style lenses referencing the importance of Illya Friedman’s work at HotRod Camera.

Still lenses do a great job and keep your budget low, but depending on what you’re doing, they might just not cope with your needs.

Critical focus inherent to the shallow depth of field created by the big sensors, demand cine style focusing rings, with long courses, so you can smoothly and precisely achieve perfect focus. Still lenses are traditionally build with fast autofocusing in mind and for that their focus ring courses are reduced, so it takes less time for the machine’s autofocus to reach the desrired focus point. That only means you can get there fast… if you’re moving them manually, you’ll have problems to park it precisely at the desired focus mark. So although you can find amazing optics at a reduced price, if your camera and or subjects are moving, you’re in for a challenge.

Alex then ended with his preferred shooting settings. As a defender of the shooting clean style, he was also kind enough to show us his picture style settings.

Whooosh… None stop action at PhotoCineNews Expo! But very cleverly, Michael Britt was saving the best for the end of the day!

Last year I described Shane Hurlbut as the most passionate DP I had ever heard… So expectations were pretty high… Unfortunately this year we were all forbidden from using our camera’s during his presentation. And if it was difficult to give you an idea of how his presentations are with pics, without, it’s nearly impossible…

Shane embraced the HDSLR technology very early on. He was putting it to good use while others were focusing on showing jellow cams or moiree parterns. He has probably pushed handheld camera work with 5D, with non stabilized lenses, further then anyone else. He has even had an actor through a camera into the air to simulate a baby’s POV… and his reaction to jellow cam tests; “what are you talking about?!”

Shane has proved that when used the right way, for the right purpose, jellow cam becomes nothing but a past time for someone that has nothing better to do… yeah, it creates tracking problems… but how much of your own footage do you usually track?! And if you do need to track “a” shot, then watch out for that one, but cut the crap about that stuff and go shoot! (not exactly his words, but you get the idea…)

The body of work Shane has produced since the Collision Conference, last year, is nothing short of amazing and some shots are definitely worth a breathtaking sigh.

He understands the freedom this technology has given him and he’s exploiting it to the limit!

All I can say is that next time he’s doing a presentation, do yourself a favor and go watch him! If you don’t get motivated to shoot, then you’re probably in the wrong field…

Check out Shane’s work here!

So, after ending the day on a high, all you could do is feel dizzy with all the information flying around in your head, go home, have a martini (or whatever rocks your boat) and get some rest, cause the party was restarting at 9am, Sunday morning…

T ; )~

Event, HDSLR

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2 Responses to “PhotoCineNews Expo 2010 – Day 1”

  1. Michael Britt says:

    Nice job Tito. It’s almost like I was there 😉
    Your coverage of events is so thorough but also really readable. It’s great having you participate in events like this one to make them a success.

  2. PhotoCine News - The definitive destination for HDSLR filmmaking. says:

    […] shortly. Tito has so many great insights about the individual speakers so be sure to read the whole article. Here are some brief highlights: So much happening at the same time… Hard to pick what to […]

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