Camera, Light, Projector and Sound Rental in Milwaukee & Chicago

            Renting cameras, audio, lighting & grip for Milwaukee, Chicago, and the surrounding area.




Archive: May 2013

  1. Stops, F-stops, and Lens Speed – Exposure for Video

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    This is part one in our “Exposure for Video” series

    When shooters talk about speed, they’re really talking about light.  Light is measured in stops.  If lens A lets in twice as much light as lens B, lens A is one stop faster than lens B.  If it lets in four times as much light, it’s two stops faster.  So, if we “stop up” or “open up” we are adding more light and if we “stop down” or “close down”  we are taking light away (relative to where we started).  All lenses have a maximum aperture (also called iris size or f-stop), but can be stopped down to reduce the amount of light coming in.

    Photo: flickr/sodaniechea

    Photo: flickr/sodaniechea
    In some images, you can actually see the iris in the photograph. Here, you can tell the iris has six sides, making hexagon-shaped lens flares.

    Lens speeds are measured in f-stops.  Don’t confuse a stop with an f-stop.  A stop is half or double a certain amount of light.  An f-stop is the measurement of the diameter of the iris in the lens.  They are related, but not the same.  I’m going to explain this with some math, please bear with me.  If you can commit it to memory, you’ll be halfway to being a professional shooter.  If it bends your brain too much, just skip to the chart and try to memorize the pattern.

    The F-stop is a ratio that measures the iris diameter relative to the focal length f.  That’s why it’s represented as a fraction, f/x.

    The cool thing about exposure is that as long as f is a constant, it doesn’t matter what it is. We can ignore it for this example, just remember that the number we’re focusing on is the denominator in a fraction, so a bigger denominator is actually a smaller number.

    If I double the diameter of a circle, the area of a circle will become four times as large (remember that πr² equation from geometry class?).  So if I double the diameter of the iris by going from f/8 to f/4, the iris gets four times bigger, and will let in four times as much light.  Four times the light… that’s two stops (because 4=2×2).  Eight times the light?  That would be three stops brighter.  One sixteenth the light?  Four stops darker.

    Now, as promised, the chart of f-stops:

     

    <--Opening up            Stopping down -->
     .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    f/1           f/2           f/4           f/8
          f/1.4         f/2.8         f/5.6
    
    

    What does it mean?  It means that there is a one-stop difference between f/1 and f/1.4.  There is a three-stop difference between f/1.4 and f/4.  And you can extend the imaginary chart out as far as your mind wants to go by just doubling or halving the f-stop ratios.  If you want numbers in-between…. you’d better bust out your geometry textbook (or use an f-stop calculator).  To be practical, we’ve never seen an f-stop beyond f/0.7 on the open side or f/32 on the closed side, and optics tend to get a little crazy as you approach extremes, anyway.

    Remember, the iris (aperture/f-stop/whatever you might call it), is just one of the four parts of exposure.  You will need to combine f-stop, shutter speed, sensitivity, and the amount of light in the scene to get the full equation.  The good news?  F-stops are the tricky part!  The rest gets much simpler.  And now you have one of the tools to compare two lenses side-by-side.  We’ll have more information on exposure in our next installment in the Exposure for Video series.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  2. LED Stage Lights – 4Bar Mini 2.0

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    stage-led-lights
    Suggested accessories:

    Extension cords
    Moonflower
    small fog machine

    Chauvet’s 4Bar Mini 2.0 is a simple, lightweight way to add color or energy to a DJ booth, small stage, or dance floor.  Gives a broad wash of light from four adjustable fixtures.  Customizable with DMX controls or by using the included foot pedal.  Get a continuous color, automatic changing color patterns, or change with the beat of the music.  Sync multiple units together with master/slave controls.  We suggest you rent at least two,  they look even better in pairs!

    The kit includes a 7′ stand and a floor mount, so you can also use them as uplighting or foot lights.

    The light is incredibly lightweight, cool, and energy efficient.  Sets up in minutes, even if you’re not familiar with stage lighting.

    Rental Prices

    $24 for 1 day
    $48 for up to 3 days
    $72 for up to 7 days
    Call or email for availability.
     

    Video demo of sound active mode


    LED Stage Lights

    A floor stand is included

    wedding DJ lighting

  3. AlienBees B400 with Large Softbox

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    alienbees-softbox

    The AlienBees B400 studio flash with 32″x48″ softbox is one of our favorite ways to light portraits and still life.   The stepless slider adjusts power from 160 ws all the way down to 5 ws and the softbox makes for flattering soft flash with gentle shadows.

    We include a PC sync cable and 8-foot light stand.

    If you prefer a “naked” AlienBees flash unit, we rent those, too.

    Rental Prices

    $49 for 1 day
    $98 for up to 3 days
    $147 for up to 7 days
    Call or email for availability.

     

    Suggested accessories:

  4. Flash for Canon/Nikon

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    canon-nikon-flash

    This flash works with both Canon and Nikon cameras.  Mount one to the camera shoe or use our flash mount/umbrella holder on a lightweight stand.  Each flash requires 4 AA batteries.  Power can be controlled manually in eight steps.  It also has an optical slave mode for simple cordless multi-light setup.  Tilts 90 degrees, rotates 270 degrees, guide number 38.

    The flash has a PC sync port for connecting other wired flashes.  It does not support E-TTL or high speed sync.

    Single Flash

    $14 for 1 day
    $28 for up to 5 days
    Call or email for availability.

     

    Our two flash kit includes:
    2 Flashes with batteries
    1 9′ stand
    1 photo umbrella
    1 umbrella adapter

    Flash Kit

    $28 for 1 day
    $56 for up to 5 days
    Call or email for availability.
  5. All-Weather Pop Up Tent – 10’x10′

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    10x10-tent

    This all-weather pop up tent goes up in seconds, and has detachable sides for protection from wind and rain. It’s a bit taller than a lightweight 10’x10′ pop up, and has weight plates for securing even on difficult surfaces like asphalt.

    This pop up is perfect for craft shows, events, or use on a film or video set.  When collapsed, it’s about 5 feet long. It weighs a bit over 60 pounds, so we suggest setting it up with someone to help you.

    Please secure it with ropes, sandbags, or stakes if you’re using it outside.

    Rental Prices

    $34 for 1 day
    $68 for up to 3 days
    $102 for up to 7 days
    Call or email for availability.

    Suggested accessories:

    Rope, Sandbags

     

     

    10x10-shelterfair-shelter

  6. Tips for Shooting Video on the Canon 6D

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    Jon wrote a follow-up to this post in November 2013.

    I first started shooting DSLR video in 2010.  Having such incredible cameras at a low price point has changed the way we work.  The democratization of filmmaking is underway, and the Canon 6D is a milestone on that path.   The key to standing out isn’t spending $40,000 on a camera, it’s taking the time to know your camera and equipment and get the best results.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far while shooting with the Canon 6D.

    Use a monitor.  The 6D supports higher resolution output while recording than the 5DmkII, so you can actually focus while shooting.  You also don’t have the glitch in HDMI signal between standby and recording.  If you’ve been using a 480p monitor, it’s time to upgrade.

    Without Magic Lantern, the 6D is really just a still photography camera.  ML is still in development for the 6D, but you can use the dev kit to install an early alpha version and at least get basic exposure and focus assist features.  This is a huge help when shooting video.

    6D-rig

    We prefer our 6D all dressed up in a cage and mattebox

    You have a new, extended clip-length limit of 29:29.  This makes using the camera for sit-down interviews and events a bit easier.  It’s also quite likely that Magic Lantern will be able to eliminate the clip length entirely, now that Canon firmware has removed all the other obstacles to longer shot lengths.

    Moire is not as bad as everybody says it is.  I spent half a day running around the office trying to create it and I can’t.  I’ve seen some sample shots online, but nothing that 30 seconds in After Effects couldn’t improve.  It’s no reason to ignore a great camera.  Just like rolling shutter and compression artifacts, it’s something that your audience should never be paying attention to, as long as you’re telling a good story.  If you’re really worried about it, try one of the optical low-pass filters, which seem to do the trick as long as you’re not on a wide lens.  And remember that a few years ago, professionals were still shooting 480i to tape.  Trust me, if your picture sucks, it’s not the camera’s fault.

    Don’t be afraid of the dark.  Compared with a crop-factor camera, the 6D has 2-3 stops more room to work with.  The T2i/T3i/T4i tends to get “fuzzy,” especially in the blacks, at 800ISO and beyond. I would say the 6D at 3200ISO looks cleaner than the T2i at 800ISO.  The difference is so big, I usually don’t take crop factor cameras out of my bag indoors anymore.  If you’re also shooting photos, the 6D is a great indoors camera.  While the action-focusing doesn’t keep up with the Canon 5DmkII or III or the 7D, the low-light focusing performance on the center point is unmatched in any DSLR I’ve ever shot with.

    Use All-I compression modes.  The camera supports IPB compression, but why would you intentionally reduce the quality of your video?  The real bottleneck for DSLR filmmakers has always been the data rate.  Canon gave us an incremental improvement with the All-I option.  Just make sure you have a fast enough memory card to handle the extra data.  We recommend the Sandisk Extreme Pro series.  Since Magic Lantern unlocks even more data rate options, you’ll be glad you spent a little extra for the higher-speed card.

    Give it some glass!  If you wanted performance like this ten years ago, you would have spent, literally, $250,000 or more on the camera body.  Why would you shoot through a $99 lens?  The 24-105mm is the logical walking-around lens, since the IS will help on the shoulder mount.  But you can get 2+ more stops of light out of a prime kit.  Take a prime lens kit out for a shoot at night and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  The limiting factor on almost every shoot in 2013 isn’t the camera, it’s the lenses.

    Accessorize.  If you want results that look like film, you need to shoot like film.  Having a nice matte box on rails, follow-focus, filters, and monitor can be a huge boost to image quality and productivity on set.

    If you’re on the fence about buying your own 6D, consider renting the 6D from us and letting us know how you liked it!

    Posted by Jon Kline

  7. Rode VideoMic Pro Microphone

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    The Rode VideoMic Pro provides quality shotgun sound with a small size. It’s designed to work with most smaller cameras that use 1/8″ (3.5mm) inputs, including most mirrorless and DSLR cameras.  The integrated shockmount reduces handling noise, and the adjustable gain takes the pressure off your camera’s microphone preamps.

    The Rode VideoMic Pro uses a supercardioid pattern to avoid unwanted noises from the side, and a low rolloff switch for outdoor use. The microphone mounts in a standard hot or cold camera shoe or on a 3/8″ thread.  Runs all weekend on one 9v battery, included. We use a VideoMic Pro on everything we shoot on DSLR and mirrorless cameras, even when we’re running double-system sound.  This makes for a cleaner, faster sync in post, plus we have an excellent backup source in case there are problems with the external audio recorder.

    For DSLR shooting, we suggest turning your camera’s gain setting down as low as is reasonable, and turning up the level on the Rode VideoMic pro to max (+20 dB).

    Rental Prices

    $24 for 1 day
    $48 for up to 3 days
    $72 for up to 7 days
    Call or email for availability.

    Suggested accessories:
    Headphones

  8. Dry Erase Camera Slate

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    sync-slate-film-slate-clapperboard

    Production slate, clapboard, camera slate, clapperboard, sticks, or whatever you call it, it’s two pieces of wood and a place to put notes that can make postproduction a whole lot easier.  It’s also great to convince your mom you’re finally a “real filmmaker.”  This one is 9″x11″, so you can easily carry it around with your clipboard, director’s viewfinder, and tall skinny mocha Frappuccino.

    If you’re renting a camera and sound recorder, just ask and we’ll include one for free!

    Rental Prices

    $9 for 1 day
    $18 for up to 3 days
    $27 for up to 7 days
    Call or email for availability.

    Suggested accessories:

    Dry erase markers

     

  9. Magic Lantern and Canon Cameras

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    It seems like once a month or so, I run into someone who still hasn’t installed Magic Lantern on their Canon DSLR. Whether you’re shooting on a T4i, 7D, 5DmkII or III, 6D, or one of the other growing number of Canon DSLR cameras that support Magic Lantern, you’re missing out on some great free features!  But, since the Magic Lantern project is run by programmers, not marketers, it can be a little confusing at times.

    Canon 6D

    The Canon 6D Magic Lantern is still in Alpha

    We’ve been using Magic Lantern on every Canon DSLR we rent, and we think you should, too.

    Here’s a few reasons why you should be using it, and how to get started.

    What is Magic Lantern?

    Magic Lantern is free software, developed by a volunteer third party (the Magic Lantern team), that runs on your Canon camera.  It runs “on top of” your current Canon firmware and adds some features that Canon chose not to include.  A slightly different version of the program runs on each camera, but all of them work pretty similarly, and add features for video and still shooting.

    Exposure aids – zebras, histogram, waveform, vectorscope, and false color displays, plus HDR features in still and video modes.

    ml1

    One of the Magic Lantern menus, from the Canon 5DmkIII ML beta

    Focus aids – focus assist (even during recording), peaking, more control of external monitoring options, programmable focus racking, and trap focus features for still photography.

    Sound control – earlier cameras like the T2i (550D) lacked any manual audio control, and newer cameras have only basic configuration options.  Magic lantern allows you to control the gain manually and record two mono channels at different levels, as well as have on-screen metering of audio levels.

    Improved bitrate – if your memory card is fast enough, the camera can write more video data to the card, allowing for an image with clearer fine details and slightly better results in color grading.  Multiple Canon cameras now support raw video recording, at least in limited file lengths and resolutions.  This may help keep the Canon DSLR family competitive with newer offerings from Blackmagic Design.

    Tons of other stuff – including things that were so helpful, Canon integrated them in to official firmware updates. Features like alternate frame rates and manual sound controls were available through Magic Lantern before they were released by Canon.

    What’s the Downside?

    We’ve used it on hundreds of shoots on dozens of cameras and we’re confident in recommending it.  We have heard multiple users have installed Magic Lantern, needed unrelated warranty work, and still had their cameras covered under warranty.  But, because there is a third party involved, there’s no guarantee that Canon will honor it if you do something crazy like melt your CMOS sensor. Basically… don’t be a moron and use it to circumvent safety features, and you’ll be happy.

    To have a trouble-free install, you need to make sure your camera’s firmware matches the version Magic Lantern is expecting.  If you try to use the wrong version, you may get lockups or other weirdness.  If things get crazy, just take out the battery, remove the memory card, and restart the camera.

    How do I Install it?

    The process has become simple since the Magic Lantern project unified all the different cameras together in one download.  This information is current as of version 2.3

    1. Confirm your camera is running the proper firmware version for the version of Magic Lantern you’ll be using.

    2. Copy the Magic Lantern files to your memory card.  If your camera uses SD cards, it’s a bit easier to use 32GB or smaller (SDHC) cards instead of the 64GB and larger (SDXC) cards, which require an extra step

    3. Turn your camera mode dial to M, power on the camera, and perform a firmware update.

    Magic Lantern will take care of the rest, including making the card bootable and setting the right flags.

    Of course, take it out for a spin and shoot some tests before you bring it along for paid work.  If you ever have problems, you can always use a blank memory card, or format the card without reinstalling Magic Lantern, and you can revert back to standard functionality.  But we bet after a few weeks of shooting with it, you can’t imagine ever shooting without it again!

    Posted by Jon Kline

Can’t Find It?

If you haven't found what you're looking for, try the search box above, or call (414) 939-3653. We have way too many clamps, cables, and widgets to list everything. And we have new stuff coming all the time, too!