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

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




Archive: Jun 2013

  1. Wisconsin, Film, and Film Tax Incentives

    Comments Off on Wisconsin, Film, and Film Tax Incentives
    mke-production-rental

    We’re considering opening a MKE Production Rental office in Thailand.  Kyle is not pleased.

    This is a call to all the Wisconsin lawmakers out there who want to take credit for creating jobs.  You’re doing it wrong.  At the end of the day Friday, the Wisconsin legislature put the nails in the coffin of the film tax incentives, and shut the door on dozens, if not hundreds, of entrepreneurs who took a chance on Wisconsin becoming a state that is friendly toward film.

    Over the last seven years, businesses like RDI Stages and  Tilt Media rode the wave of enthusiasm and made huge capital investments to build studio space.  Smaller companies like us could count on a few extra customers from out-of-state, who would rather rent equipment locally than pay an airline all the extra baggage fees. The idea was so simple, it was approved quickly, with bi-partisan support.

    The slide into ambivalence has been a slow process.  The film office closed in 2005.  The tax incentives began in 2008.  They were capped (or perhaps we should say “crippled”) in 2009, with an annual state limit of $500,000.  Then they added a $500 fee just to apply for the incentives.  Film Wisconsin added a per-project cap of just $100,000.  Medium-sized projects (under $500,000 or so total budget) had the hurdle set too high.  And large-scale multimillion dollar productions saw too little return after the cap.  Film Wisconsin drifted from its original aim of being an advocate for local production, to being a sales funnel for the few projects that still wandered in the front door.  Now, we’re left with an industry full of employees, offices filled with equipment, and  we’re forcing the exodus of talented film and video makers to other states.

    Film tax incentives made sense, and they still do.  The kerfuffle over accounting in 2009 muddied the waters, and shows that Wisconsinites want a clear picture of what they’re buying for their money.  I think that’s only fair, but it’s something that’s only going to happen when lawmakers do what they obviously should have done in the first place:  build a plan that makes sense, with simple administration, transparent accounting, and feedback from people in the film and video industry inside and outside Wisconsin.

    Bringing back the film office sounds like a radical idea in this political climate, but can anyone argue that the experiment in public-private partnership that is Film Wisconsin has worked?  Stamping one organization “Wisconsin-approved” isn’t the same as having an office that can answer questions, connect you with resources, and advocate for local workers, all without being motivated by private interests.  Film Wisconsin was a well-intentioned idea run by some of the most-vocal advocates for Wisconsin’s film industry, but it wasn’t the solution we needed.   We need to admit it, fix it, and move on.

    Wisconsin doesn’t need to be a copycat, we need to think Forward.  Creating a system that rewards local hiring, local buying, and local renting isn’t complicated.  Writing it in a way that doesn’t leave taxpayers on the hook to pay Hollywood salaries only makes sense.  And yes, a decade from now, if Wisconsin’s film and video industries are booming, let’s talk about scaling the program down or phasing it out.  But don’t invite all the filmmakers to a party just to take the rug out from under us.  We’re entrepreneurs who are fighting to create a new industry in Wisconsin, just like the technology-driven and green industry sectors.  Our new businesses will fail 50% of the time even under the best circumstances.  We don’t need any help to make things harder.

    As a filmmaker who learned almost everything I know while in the state of Wisconsin, I’m left stunned.  Of course, I fully expect to be in Wisconsin next year, and MKE Production Rental will be there to help our customers and fellow filmmakers.  We hope that Wisconsin’s recovery eventually catches up with the rest of the country.  But in a fragile economy, in a bruised industry, with the tax laws tilting our customers into neighboring states, it’s time for lawmakers to stop talking about jobs and start making it easier for the skilled people that are already here to get back to work.

    Posted by Jon Kline

     

  2. Kessler Pocket Dolly v2.0

    Comments Off on Kessler Pocket Dolly v2.0
    100159-2T
    The Kessler Pocket Dolly v2.0 is an easy way to get smooth dolly moves without heavy equipment.  It supports up to 15 pounds (perfect for DSLRs) and includes a crank handle for ultra-precise motion.  It’s just under 40″, giving you 31″ of travel and near zero noise.You can set this slider dolly up in minutes.
    We usually use a heavy-duty tripod or two c-stands, but you can also use a lighter duty tripod and a light stand, or use it as a tabletop dolly.  A medium-duty fluid head is also available for $19/day.

    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:

    • Heavy-duty tripod
    • C-Stands
  3. Shutter Speeds and Frame Rates – Exposure for Video

    Comments Off on Shutter Speeds and Frame Rates – Exposure for Video

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

    Shutter speed is one of the variables that helps control exposure and the overall look of your video.  If you’re an amateur photographer, you might be familiar with shutter speed, but there are some key differences between photo and video.  Frame rate also factors in for moving images.  Let’s start with frame rates first.

    The video frame rate is the number of images (frames) shown per second.  We abbreviate this FPS.  This can be anything from around 12 (the minimum to “fool” the eye into seeing motion) to more than 1000.  But film and video have converged around a few standards.  Here are the ones you should try to remember:

    Frame Rate    Most Common Use
    15 Old web videos
    23.976 Digital cinema
    24 Classic cinema
    25 PAL (foreign) TV
    29.97 Almost all SD TV in the US, lots of HD TV
    30 SD TV in the US before color
    48 Peter Jackson’s movies
    50 Some HD TV outside the US
    59.94 Some HD TV in the US

     

    I’m sure whole books could be written about why some of those frame rates seem so ridiculous, but the difference between 30 fps and 29.97 fps is actually really important, I promise.

    If you’re making movies or web videos in 2013, I strongly suggest shooting in 23.976 fps.  If what you do ends up on television, you’re probably better off with 29.97 or 59.94.  But let’s get back to shutter speed, which is the whole reason we started talking frame rates in the first place!

    motion-blur-shutter-speed

    Photo: Flickr/wwworks
    Longer shutter speeds make moving things streakier.

    The shutter speed is the amount of time the frame of video is exposed to light.  The longer the exposure, the more light is recorded.  Of course, under normal circumstances, the shutter speed can’t be any longer than the time between one frame and the next.  So if you’re shooting 24 fps, the most light you could let into each frame would be 1/24th of a second.  Makes sense, right? Your shutter speed can be a lot faster, however.  most cameras will let you adjust your shutter to 1/8000 or so.  This would let in a lot less light.

    Photographers have used fast shutters in millions of photos to freeze motion.  Since even fast-moving things appear relatively stationary over 1/8000th of a second, they can be “locked in place” without any visible motion blur.  Other times, photographers can use very long exposures to intentionally blur backgrounds or leave trails to indicate motion in a still shot.  But cinematographers have a different challenge.  Since video and moving pictures are all about capturing motion, each of the still images has to work together with the ones around it to create the illusion of motion.  The motion blur that photographers are often trying to avoid is the same blur that we can use to make motion seem fluid and natural.  The illusion of motion in moving pictures depends in part on the smooth transition from one frame to the next.  In modern video, we usually set a shutter speed at about half the frame rate.  In an homage to the film cameras of the 20th century, this is called a 180-degree shutter.

    There are times when the 180-degree shutter might not be the right choice.  Sometimes you may be shooting something that flickers, such as a televison or LED clock, and don’t want to emphasize the flicker. Other times you may be shooting in such darkness that you’d rather have the extra motion blur and get all the light in every frame possible.  There is no shutter speed that is right 100% of the time, but I usually start at 1/50th (when I’m shooting at 23.976fps) and make adjustments as necessary from there.

    There are artful ways to use faster shutter speeds, too.  In Saving Private Ryan, for example, the action scenes are shot with a 1/200th shutter, even though they are 24fps.  This tends to make the motion look “strobey” or stuttery, and reminiscent of old 16mm newsreels.

    Remember that shutter speed is just one of the four variables that affect exposure.  We’ll talk about the rest as we get further into our “Exposure for Video” series.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  4. Choosing a Lens 101

    Comments Off on Choosing a Lens 101

    If you’ve never used a detachable-lens camera like a DSLR or mirrorless camera before, the prospect of choosing lenses can be a bit intimidating.  There are some alright guides online for still shooters, but we felt we needed to write something specifically for people shooting video.  Here’s the quick-and-dirty overview of what you need to know before you pick a lens or set of lenses, whether it’s to rent, borrow, or buy.

    Lens Mounts

    The camera and the lens need to make a physical connection and an optical one.  If you use a lens and a camera that share the same mount, this is usually pretty easy.  The three most common categories of lens mounts in the video world are EF (Canon), F (Nikon) and PL (cinema cameras), but you’ll see others like Sony’s Alpha/NEX/E-mount, micro 4/3 (MFT) mounts, and more, too.  Frequently, you can use an adapter to connect one type of mount to another, but it can be kludgy and often you’ll lose any electronic features built into the lens, like autofocus or vignette correction.  And often, adapters will only work in one direction.  This is because of the imaging area of the lens.

    Each lens creates a circle of the image it is capturing inside the camera.  Some lenses have a very large image circle.  These are usually more expensive and heavier.  They can be adapted more easily to almost any mount.  Some lenses have a smaller imaging area.  These are usually more affordable and lightweight, but can’t be used on a larger image sensor.  This is the reason EF lenses (approx. 43mm imaging area diameter) can be used on crop-factor cameras like the T5i (approx. 30mm sensor diagonal), but EF-S lenses can’t be used on fullframe cameras like the Canon 5D mark III.  This holds true for Nikon lenses (called DX) and some other third-party lens manufacturers, too.

    If all your cameras have the same imaging area, it’s a non-issue.  If you have different sensor sizes, it may make sense to buy for the biggest sensor, since you may be able to adapt your lenses to fit the smaller sensor.  Or buy a separate set of lenses for each of your different camera mounts, if you don’t mind carrying around all that extra glass.  For beginners, definitely start with a mount that matches your camera.  You’ll have plenty of time to experiment with odd mountings later in your career!

    vintage-lens-ad

    Not all vintage lenses are great lenses. This Tamron would be pretty slow by today’s standards.

    Lens Length

    Wide lens.  Long lens.  Normal lens.  Telephoto lens.  These all have meanings, and they all depend not just on the lens itself, but on the camera and imaging sensor they are designed to be paired with.  A “normal” lens is one that gives a field-of-view similar to what we see with our eyes.  We measure lens focal length in millimeters.  What tends to look normal is a focal length approximately the same as the diameter of the imaging area (the diagonal measurement of the camera sensor).  Fullframe cameras like the Canon 5D and 6D are often paired with a 50mm lens when the shooter wants a natural sense of depth and dimension.  Crop factor cameras have a smaller sensor, so the measurement of “normal” will be smaller, too.  On a APS-C sized sensor as found in lots of DSLRs (T2i, T3i, T4i, T5i, T6s, 7D, just to name a few) a 35mm lens will look about normal in most cases.

    Normal lenses, because they are doing “normal” things with light, tend to be the easiest to engineer.  This is why the $300 50mm Canon f/1.4 lens can look amazing, but nobody makes a 300mm f/1.4 at any price.

    Usually a photographer’s first lens is a zoom lens, this means it has variable focal length.  A lens that does not zoom is called a prime lens.  Prime lenses are easier to engineer than zoom lenses, so they tend to be less expensive, smaller, lighter, and of significantly higher image quality.  If you have time to switch lenses, or a team of people to help you, you’ll almost always want primes.  If you need to compose your shots on-the-fly, and don’t have time to dig through a set of 5 different lenses for the right one, a zoom might be the best choice.  Historically, zooms have been favored for 35mm photo and television, while primes have been used more for motion pictures and large-format photography.

    A wide lens is a lens that has a smaller focal length than whatever “normal” is, depending on the camera.  So on my Canon 6D, a 35mm lens is a wide lens, but on my Canon T5i, it’s a normal lens.  A wide lens tends to exaggerate space and perspective.

    A long lens (also called telephoto lens) has a focal length greater than normal.  Some lenses go much beyond normal, and are called super-telephoto lenses.  A long lens tends to compress space and minimize distance.

    A perfect bag of lenses would have all your focal lengths covered.  When I shoot with the Canon 5DmkII, I usually have a 20mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 105mm in my bag.  That way I know I can get just about any shot I want.  I usually only shoot with a zoom lens if I know I need to cover a lot of different kinds of action at the same time.

    Lens Speed

    If you don’t know the difference between stops and f-stops, take a moment to read our guide.  Once you have an understanding of how f-stops work, you can start to compare lenses.

    As far as we’re concerned, any lens with a maximum aperture of about f/2.0 or faster is a fast lens.  f/2.8 is right in the middle.  Anything slower is a pretty slow lens.  All other things being equal, faster is better.  But there are plenty of times when we’re shooting with an f/4 lens, too.  It’s just a question of what lens is right for the job.

    If you’re shooting outside during the day, you won’t need a fast lens.  Fast lenses really pay off at night, or in interiors.  They are also great for interviews, and any time we want that “background-out-of-focus” look we call shallow depth of field.  I find I can usually shoot people by streetlight with a f/1.4 lens on a fullframe camera.  Even campfire shots are a possibility.

    Lens speed is one of the places where prime and zoom lenses really start to diverge.  As an example, Canon’s 24-105mm f/4L zoom lens is top-of-the-line, and costs about $1000.  But Canon’s 50mm f/1.4 prime lens is less than half the price, and three stops faster!  If you’re shooting indoors, that extra light can be a huge help.

    Image Stabilization

    Image stabilization is an option on some lenses made for DSLRs.  It tends to be used by people shooting in the style of television as opposed to the style of film, since video cameras have supported some kind of image stabilization for more than a decade.  Canon’s lenses that support it are marked IS, Nikon’s are marked VR (for Vibration Reduction), and others are marked VC (for Vibration Compensation).  As a video shooter, you’ll only want to turn it on if you’re shooting handheld or shoulder-mounted.  Almost all image-stabilizing lenses are zoom lenses, with notable exception.  There are different kinds of image stabilization, and some very high-end lenses will support two or more different IS modes.

    If you do a lot of run-and-gun shooting, a zoom lens with image stabilization might be a good choice for you.  But if you tend to do most of your work on a tripod, you’re better off taking something with extra speed or other features you might need.

    These are the four easy-to-compare differences between lenses.  Of course, we haven’t even touched on image quality, build quality, close-focus ability, or other important factors.   We also didn’t mention autofocus at all, but that’s because for video shooters on DSLRs, manual focus is pretty much the only way to shoot, for now.  How do you choose a lens?  Let us know in the comments below.

    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!