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

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  1. Seven Things to Do Before You Graduate with a Film Degree

    graduateIf you’re a student studying film, chances are you have a lot on your plate.  Classes, productions, exams, and maybe a job and a social life, too.  But there are some key things you can do to give yourself a head start in the field, whether you’re interested in production. post-production, broadcast, or other media.  Complete this list to get a head start on a successful career.

    Get an Internship

    You are going to need something on your resume besides McDonald’s and a BA in film.  Find an internship in a field you think might be interesting.  Make sure you’ll have a direct supervisor who can help you learn something, not just have you do menial work all day.  Expect to spend 80-160 hours of college in an internship.  If you can’t find a paid internship, it’s okay to take an unpaid one.  I suggest limiting your work time to 120 unpaid hours, though.  After that, you’ve made your connections, left your impressions, and hopefully learned a few lessons.  Now you can put the internship on your resume and find an entry-level job.

    Need some ideas on an internship?  A lot of smaller businesses don’t post anything formally, but if you leave your resume on their desk enough times, you might get a call back anyway.  If you’re in Milwaukee, we sometimes hire interns, too!

    Create Something Impractical

    You will have your whole career to make other people’s projects.  When you’re doing work for clients or a specific television program or film, you probably won’t get a lot of creative input.  You’ll be subject to brand guidelines, messaging guidelines, tone, and budget in ways you can’t even imagine.  College might be your last chance to do something “crazy.”  You can work on projects without deadlines, spend hours on them without counting and budgeting, and finish when you decide it’s done.  And when you’re done, having something really unique to show as part of the interview process is a great way to be remembered.

    Submit Things for Awards

    If you’re doing it right, you’re creating things for class and campus groups non-stop in college.  Be sure to let your best work collect some awards.  Film festivals, advertising and media groups festivals, and student groups all have awards.  Winning is usually about a combination of talent, luck, and submitting to lots of opportunities.  Taking home a few awards will boost your confidence and add a line item to your resume, both of which are important when you’re trying to get in the door at your first “real” job.

    Start a LinkedIn Profile

    This advice applies to almost every college student.  You need to create your own personal brand, and waiting until after graduation is too late.  Almost every internship or job opportunity that considers you will probably look up your profile, see what you’ve done, and how you may be connected to their existing employees.  Create your profile, add some work experience, and start to find your voice.  Be sure to build your network, especially with faculty and students a year or two ahead of you.  You’ll be looking to work and get internships in the same places your friends are.  This can also be a great way to keep in touch and ask for career advice from people who have been where you are.

    Join Some Organizations

    Be sure to get involved with at least one organization on campus and one professional organization.  These are great ways to build your network and give you some introductions into the world of film and video production.  Personal connections are important in any industry, but for you, they will be extra important.  You could be moving from project to project as a contractor every few months, so the more people you already know, the easier it will be to find your next project.  Lots of professional organizations have reduced rates for students, too!  Not sure where to start?  If you’re in Wisconsin, I suggest Milwaukee Adworkers, Madison Media Professionals, and Milwaukee Film,  Different cities have different groups, but try to find one in an area you’re interested in, with regular events and a lot of members you’d like to get to know.

    Work as a Production Assistant

    There are two ways to make a living in the world of moving pictures: jobs and gigs.  Chances are, you’re pretty familiar with how a job works.  Gigs are different.  Usually lasting between a day and six weeks, gigs are project-based work and you’ll usually be paid a day rate, as opposed to hourly.  Production Assistants (called PAs) are almost always paid a day rate and usually get to be on set.  You’ll probably need to provide an invoice and get some experience in invoicing and taxes.  People who work as contractors on different gigs are called freelancers.  Even if you’re not planning on spending your career as a freelancer, you’ll still benefit from seeing how that world works.

    Make Some Cold Calls

    Even the most accomplished people in the worlds of cinema and television are just people like you and me.  Find an excuse to get in touch with your idol.  Maybe you’re writing a paper for a class and would like a quote, or you’re interested in touring their facility or finding out about their process.  These days, it’s pretty easy to send an email, and if you appeal to their ego, you’ll probably get a response.  Just be professional, concise, and end with a specific action you’d like them to take.  You might be surprised who emails you back.

    Now go create some projects, make some connections, and win some awards!

    Posted by Jon Kline

  2. The Rokinon 85mm T/1.5 EF-mount Cinema Lens Review

    rokinon-85mm-t15-5D3

    I’ve been using the Rokinon as the 85mm in my prime lens kit since it came out earlier this year, and it’s been getting noticed a lot lately.  Here’s where I like it, where I don’t, and when it gets used the most.

    The Best

    The 85mm is about as fast as you could reasonably need in any lens.  There are 85mm f/1.2 lenses made by Canon and others, but the 1/3-stop difference isn’t as important as other lens features.  The lens is sharp enough for 1080p even wide open, and starts approaching near-perfect sharpness for stills around T/2.8.  It’s actually a pretty nice photo lens for portraits if you don’t mind the manual focus.  Bokeh is very pleasing, and a bit more circular than the Canon f/1.8, but not as perfectly round as the Canon f/1.2L.  It also flares a bit less than the 85mm Canon f/1.8.  The flares are also much more cinematic.  If your goal is JJ-Abrams-style intentional flares, this lens really does well.

    The standard lens gear is much nicer than aftermarket gears or traditional cine-mods.  There is nothing to slip or drift, and pulling focus is always smooth and natural.  It also has hard focus stops at near focus and infinity, so you don’t have to re-mark your follow focus like you would for photo lenses.

    As most video shooters know, precision control over exposure is welcome addition.  The de-clicked aperture allows you to easily fine-tune your iris without even thinking about how many stops you’re going in either direction.  I found that taking the numbers and clicks out of the equation completely allowed me to focus on making the image look better, not what F-stop I thought should look best.

    The Worst

    If you’re looking to shoot more stills than video, the 85mm f/1.8 from Canon is probably a better choice.  The autofocus and superior sharpness wide open make it a better lens for portraits at f/2.  If you’ve got budget, the Rokinon can’t come close to the 85mm cinema primes from Canon and Zeiss.    It’s an unfair comparison, of course, since you can buy a complete set of Rokinon lenses for less than the cheapest cinema lens from Canon.

    The lens does breathe a bit on focus pulls.  We didn’t mind it much in our testing, but it’s much more noticeable than a Zeiss 85mm CP2, for example.

    If you’re the type who wants all of your prime lenses to match, Rokinon can’t help you yet.  With a big gap at the 50mm spot, there’s no way you can make a complete Rokinon prime kit.  The reality is, at this price point the Rokinon lenses probably won’t be a perfect match for color, anyway, so switching to a 50mm cine-modded Zeiss Planar T* isn’t a big deal.

    When I Use It

    For budget DSLR video shoots, a full set of cinema primes can be out of reach, and zoom lenses often don’t have the speed for indoor shoots.  I have been loving the 85mm T/1.5 on a Canon 5D mark III for interviews, where the focal length is perfect and the limitations of the lens hardly matter.  The T/1.5 really lets backrounds fall off a lot faster than f/1.8 lenses.  It’s also a great lens for getting more candid moments at parties and events indoors, where you need some reach from your focal length and still need to be able to expose in near-darkness with only available light.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  3. Five Predictions for Video Production in 2014

    The Future - Mimi and Eunice

    At the end of every year, Mason Resnick at Adorama does his photography predictions for the next year.  It inspired me to start our own annual tradition, and make this list of video predictions for 2014.  This is where I predict the industry will be headed in the next 365 days.

    4K Heyday

    This will be the year that 4K hits critical mass.  The hurdles (media, processing power, and sensor sensitivity) have all been cleared, and it’s only a matter of time before all broadcasters start accepting 4K content.  If you’re on the fence about selling your EX1 or HMC-150, now’s probably a great time to sell.  With the PXw-Z100 available already, we’ll likely see a 4K offering from either Panasonic or Canon in the $5,000-$8,000 range before the end of 2014.

    The Prosumer Video DSLR

    At first blush, making a DSLR specifically for video seems a little silly.  But being able to pack a large sensor in a tiny package has made a huge difference for film-style shoots.  The Canon 1Dc is the only DSLR camera with professional-level video functions right now, but I predict we’ll see another one under $3,500.  I think the most likely is a Canon 7D-series camera with the “C” designation, shooting 4K video on a 1.6x crop sensor.  We may even see an 8.3MP or 8.8MP DSLR, whose sensor and pixels are engineered for perfect QHD or 4K, with far better low-light performance over “traditional” DSLRs.  Canon spent most of the last few years trying to keep their DSLR market from eating their video market, but 2014 will be the year they start to compete head-to-head.

    Lytro in Motion

    Shoot now, focus later.  The Lytro light-field camera is basically a cool novelty, taking still pictures using complex techniques in a miniaturized system.  2014 will include the first announcement of a light-field video camera system. It will be well-hyped, unstable, impractical, and expensive, and probably not actually available to a consumer for many years.

    LED over HMI

    The engineering challenges that faced LED lighting are starting to be overcome.  2013 saw LEDs take over in the studio and stage markets.  2014 will be the year for Arri to offer an alternative to a 575w HMI, in a format that’s durable enough for everyday location use, passively cooled, and color-accurate enough (90+ CRI) to use on high-profile projects.

    Magic Lantern will Change or Become Irrelevant

    The developers on the Magic Lantern team have completely changed the way Canon DSLRs are used for video.  Their features have been basically required for pro-level shooters using the 5D mark 3 or 7D.  Lately, they’ve been focused much more on building out esoteric features, not creating stable releases.  2014 will be the year the group either splinters off into two groups with significantly different objectives, or pro shooters move en masse to a newer, more stable platform (see the Prosumer Video DSLR above).  Amateurs will likely continue using ML for the next decade, but they’re not the ones who make generous PayPal donations.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  4. Lighting Your Event for High Impact

    If you want your event to be more than just people in a hotel conference room, the easiest way to add some impact is with event lighting. Advances in lighting technology have made it easy for non-technical people to set up and configure lighting that looks great, runs cool, and makes an event look better in person, in photos, and in video.  Those same easy-to-use lights are also popular with DJs, churches, and parties.

    rgb-leds


    LED lighting can mix red, green, and blue light to make custom colors.

    For corporate events, we can use LED lighting and dial in colors to match branding and logos. This helps make event spaces seem more welcoming and draws the eye, as well. Using colors as accent lights helps tie the room together, and can make the branding materials feel much larger than they actually are.  The light fixtures blend red, green and blue light to make custom colors easy, and the lights are cool to the touch, so they’re safe to use on the floor or in tight spaces.  Our most popular lights for this are the Chauvet 4-Bar Minis and the American DJ Mega Go Bar lights.

    For larger events in and around Milwaukee, we suggest you hire one of our lighting professionals to help with the design and setup of the lighting system.  For smaller events, you may be able to rent the lights and set them up yourself.  This is a great option for office holiday parties, kids’ parties, and small sales events.  We can go over the equipment with you when you pick it up, so you can set it up quickly and get great lighting effects.

    For parties, a changing lighting effect can add energy to the room.  If you want to keep it simple, our Dance Club Light Kit is just $80/day and is really popular for first-time renters. Using the sound-active mode built into many of our rental lights is a great way to simply and easily make the lighting respond to the music.  For more advanced lighting control, we suggest adding a DMX controller for DJs to your lighting.  This will allow you to set “scenes” and “chases,” letting you customize your light show.  You’ll need to run special DMX cables, or you can make setup a little easier with our wireless DMX transmitter/receivers.

    If you’re lighting a small staged event, like a play or church performance, you may want to use lights in a different way, letting you light different scenes and control levels and blackouts.  We offer a basic DMX controller that allows you to set your lighting in advance and run the show easily, without much training.

    If you’re looking for new ways to make your event look great, give us a call at (414) 939-3653 and we can help you make your event lighting plan.  We’re more than happy to go over your options, whether your event is for 12 people or 12,000.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  5. Five Holiday Gift Ideas for Shutterbugs

    Having a hard time finding stocking stuffers for the photographer on your holiday shopping list?

    Stop sneaking on their Amazon wishlist and give them some FUN gifts they didn’t even know they wanted! Perfect for pros and hobbyists, you can’t go wrong with these gift ideas.

    1. Lens adapters for their iPhone or Android

    Lens adapters for phone cameras have improved a great deal in the last few years. We like this wide angle/macro lens from Xenvo because it’s useful and works with most devices.

    Starting price: $39

    Info: https://amzn.to/2CZV3TI

    2. Handmade camera straps

    Create a custom camera strap from a company that’s been making amazing guitar straps for years.  Get the vitage look with a product made locally in Chicago. They are fully adjustable, made with upcycled seatbelts (as the backing) and stable to boot. Pick your pattern and let creative sparks fly!

    Price: $35 and up

    Info: http://www.souldier.us/

    3. Subscription to PDN

    “Keeping up with industry news” may or may not sound completely riveting. But this magazine is RIDDLED with the latest photographic work AKA inspiring visuals. A monthly magazine to keep your Shutterbug in the know of the latest technology and workshops coming to your area. Available in both digital and print forms, it’s great for the iPad or to cutout images and keep around the studio to fuel creativity.

    Price: 12 issues (one year) of Photo District News Digital $45/Print $65

    Info: http://www.pdnonline.com/

    4. A Fashionable Camera Bag

    Photographers are often too practical for their own good, repurposing bags to carry their camera gear. Pick out something stylish that they’re sure to keep their camera equipment safe for years to come.

    Price: $39 and up

    Our Favorite: Canvas MOACC Bag

    4 ½. Pelican Urban Elite U160

    Okay, so your favorite Shutterbug isn’t into the whole “looking fashionable with a camera” thing (see #4), but wants a new, reliable camera bag. The Pelican Urban Elite U160 is a waterproof, aluminum-spined, crushproof case with plenty of room for all accessories. Note: does not come in sexy Italian leather.

    Price: $219

    Buy: www.amazon.com

    There ya have it! Leave your shutterbug with a smile on their face and have a very Merry Christmas from all of us at MKE Production Rental. Let us know how your giving goes by tagging us on social!

  6. MARNmovies VI

    web-series

    Friday, January 3rd

    6 to 9 p.m.

    The Bucketworks Space in the Grand Avenue Mall (Above T.J. Maxx)

    $5 at the door/Free for students and MARN members

     Google Map  | Facebook Event Page | MARN Event Page

    We’re proud to be a sponsor of the bimonthly filmmaker meetup and lecture series MARNmovies in Milwaukee.  MARNmovies VI will be all about developing, producing, and selling your web series.

    TV networks are constantly looking online for new talent and ideas. Join us to learn how to develop and produce content that will get you noticed without ever leaving Wisconsin.  Our presenter, Justine Stokes, is the Director of Television Services at UW Oshkosh.  She has over 15 years of experience in directing and producing television, short films and documentaries.

    We follow her presentation with screenings of local short films. Bring your short film on Blu-ray or DVD and share with our audience!

    We hope to see you there!

     

  7. The Top 5 Still Photo Lenses for Video

    lenses

    I get asked all the time, “what’s the best lens to shoot video on my camera?” Once you’ve shot for awhile, you’ll realize this is a silly question. Most projects are much better with a collection of a few lenses, whether they are zooms or primes.

    Every time I choose a lens, it’s based on what’s appropriate for the project, the shot, the camera, and the budget. But since there are thousands of reviews for photo lenses, and almost none of them talk about shooting video, I thought I’d make my personal top five list of still photo lenses for Canon video shooters. For those projects where cinema lenses just aren’t affordable, finding the right photo lens can still get you amazing results.  This list isn’t scientific, and it’s not comprehensive, but these lenses should definitely be on your radar, especially if you’re shooting on a Canon 5D mark III or Canon 6D.

    5. Canon 50mm f/1.4

    Canon EF 50mm 1-4

    Canon makes four 50mm prime still photo lenses, and this one strives to strike a balance between good and affordable.

    Why it’s great for video

    The shallow-depth-of-field look is why DSLRs really exploded for video around 2010.  While f/2.8 usually looks just fine, shooting at f/1.4 could make an interview in front of a trash pile look beautiful.  Perhaps more importantly, the two extra stops of light mean you can realistically expose in places you otherwise wouldn’t dream of shooting.  Wide open around 1600-3200 ISO, you can expose for faces watching a projection screen or people lit only by candles.  It’s tiny and lightweight, and not intimidating for the shooter or the subject.  The 50mm focal length is natural, elegant, and cuts with anything.  It also beats the sharpness of any of Canon’s zoom lenses.  It’s a useful length on a crop factor camera, too, especially as an interview/portrait lens.  At a little over $300 new, it’s the most affordable lens on this list.

    What’s not so great

    It’s not a do-everything lens, so you’ll need at least one lens on either side of the 50mm focal length for just about every shoot.

    4. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro

    Canon-100mmf-2-8-macroThis prime lens is found most often in wedding photographer’s bags, but  I’ve seen it on more than one video set, as well.

    Why it’s great for video

    Shoot without a macro lens for long enough, and you’ll get to the point where you realize you absolutely, positively, must have one in your kit for certain situations.  While Canon’s 50mm f/2.5 macro can work in a pinch, the 100mm focal length of this lens lets you put a little more distance between the camera and the subject, making lighting much easier.  The 50mm also doesn’t look great beyond a few feet, but the 100mm f/2.8L IS makes a great lens for portrait-style work, interviews, and events.  The stabilization means you can even shoulder-mount the camera in a pinch, although I suggest a monopod or tripod for extended shooting.  This lens, like almost all Canon prime lenses, has simply fantastic optics and sharpness.

    What’s not so great

    I find 100mm a less desirable focal length than 85mm and 135mm, usually.  The price seems a bit steep when compared to non-L-series primes.  It’s probably Canon’s slowest prime lens over $1000.  If you decide to go with a prime kit instead of zooms, you’ll have more lenses in your bag, although the rest of them will probably be smaller and much more affordable.

    3. Canon 24-105mm f/4L

    canon-24-105mmThis lens is basically the kit lens of Canon’s fullframe lineup. While many shooters will trade the zoom range for the extra stop of light in the 24-70 f/2.8 IS, the 24-105 is the most popular Canon fullframe lens currently in production.

    Why it’s great for video

    DSLR video is strongest in scripted narrative and music videos.  Documentary work really pushes the DSLR farther than it might want to go.  This lens makes it possible to actually follow around a subject, get in the car, get out of the car, and keep rolling the whole time.   Image stabilization and a perfect zoom range for “walking around” make it incredibly popular, and bundle prices have pushed the white box version of a new lens under $700.   The L on the barrel might even make you feel a little better when you’re trying to justify shooting your whole movie on a single $700 lens.

    What’s not so great

    Jack of all trades, master of none.  The range is practical, but doesn’t go as far on either end as you might want.  The f/4 aperture is too slow for dark interiors.  Sharpness is acceptable, but color fringes and softness creep into the image corners on the longer end of the zoom range.  It also doesn’t maintain a continuous exposure level through zooming.  Even though the readout stays at f/4, I find that zooming from 24mm to 105mm effects my exposure by a stop or more.

    2. Tokina 11-16 f/2.8

    Tokina-11-16If you’re a still photographer who wants to dabble in video, this will be a frustrating lens.  Not as sharp as most wides, and relatively slow focusing compared to other lenses.  But for video shooters, it’s one of my top recommendations.

    Why it’s great for video

    The focal length range is fantastic.  It looks almost identical at 11mm on a crop factor camera as at 16mm on a full-frame camera.  The perspective is exaggerated, but distortion is kept to a minimum (this is no fisheye).  This lens loves to be moved around, and I often put it on a jib or slider for really engaging camera moves.  The f/2.8 speed means you can use it indoors, even in low light if you don’t mind pushing the ISO a bit.  This is a hugely popular lens for indie music videos.  There is no image stabilization, but that’s forgivable on a lens this wide.  The sharpness issues that bother me at 22 megapixels don’t even factor in to 1080p video.  It’s also the first “affordable” lens you should buy for a micro 4/3rds-size sensor with an EF mount, like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera.  I nearly put the Sigma 20mm f/1.8 on this list instead, but I think the added usability of the Tokina on crop-factor cameras earns it a spot on my top five list.

    What’s not so great

    On fullframe cameras, the imaging area of the lens doesn’t reach the edge of the sensor past 16mm.  The focal flange distance varies from copy to copy, and some of them don’t properly focus to infinity on all camera bodies (see the Blackmagic Cinema Camera).

    1. Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS

    Canon-70-200-2-8-isCanon has always excelled at making long zoom lenses.  It’s what helped Canon win market share back from Nikon as the world shifted to digital.  The current version of the 70-200 f/2.8 IS is basically the pinnacle of human engineering, and a likely contender for eighth wonder of the world.

    Why it’s great for video

    Still photographers have the luxury of shooting at faster shutter speeds to control shake and blur.  Video shooters don’t.  The image stabilization is critical for handheld, but I’ve even seen it help on tripod shots.  Combine that with amazing lens speed, a very convienient zoom range, and industry-leading sharpness for a near-perfect lens.  If you’re shooting DSLRs in a studio setup, you’ll want two!

    What’s not so great

    The price.  The newest version is upwards of $2,300, and you’ll still need a lens or two in the middle of the zoom range.  It’s also not particularly portable.  At least it will keep almost all of its retail value, if you take good care of it.  The 70-200 f/2.8L IS original can be found for a very good price, and for video shooters, the upgrade to the II model is probably not necessary.

    What lens is on your must-have list for video shooting?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  8. Upgrading to the Red Epic Camera

    rent-red-epic

    We added the Red Epic camera to our rental lineup to meet the growing needs of our customers in Milwaukee.  It’s our most expensive rental body, and one of the most popular, but it’s not the perfect camera for every job.  Since many of our renters are more experienced with DSLRs like the Canon 5D mark III, we wanted to mention some of the big differences between DSLRs and shooting on the Epic.

    1) You’ll really, really want an Assistant Camera Operator.  Changing lenses is more difficult on a cinema camera than a DSLR, and you’ll probably have multiple accessories attached to the body.  Plus, you’ll have an extra set of eyes on equipment and someone to help you with the new menu.  If you’re shooting full days, we suggest at least two assistants, or one assistant and a DIT.  If you’re renting a Red Epic and need an operator, assistant camera, or tech, we’re more than happy to recommend someone.

    2) Budget more time (and money) for post production.  Redcode Raw is great, but any raw workflow is slower than a traditional video workflow.  You’ll also need lots more storage than you’re used to.

    3) It’s bigger and kludgier.  Of course, compared to a Betacam, it’s actually pretty small, but if you’re used to DSLRs, it’s not nearly as easy to move around.  One of the great advantages of a DSLR is how easy it is to “shoot from the hip.”  It’s hard to get that spontaneous feeling from a larger camera like the Epic.

    4) It can be a bit loud sometimes.  On long takes, the fan may kick in depending on the camera’s temperature reading.  The computer will do what it can to avoid running the fan on high speed during takes, but be prepared for glares from the sound department if you’re only a few feet from the talent and running takes longer than a few minutes.  The second generation of fans has addressed this problem somewhat, but you’ll need to check with the rental house to find out which fans your Red Epic is using.

    5) Almost all DSLR accessories and support are either too small, too consumer, or simply outclassed.  At a minimum, you’ll want the Red touchscreen monitor and some respectable camera support.  If you’re on a tight budget, you might find some cost savings with photo primes that have been cine-modded.  Our Nikon lens set won’t compete with a set of Cooke S4s, but will still be able to get crisp images, even shooting 5K.  You won’t need to triple your insurance coverage, either.

    6) You’ll attract more attention.  Set up a 5D mark III in the middle of downtown Milwaukee and no one will even notice.  Bring a Red Epic and suddenly people stare.  If you’re shooting doc style and trying to be unintimidating, I suggest you tape over the logo and keep your rig as small as possible.  If you’re working on something narrative, this probably isn’t an issue.

    If you’re used to a DSLR, the Red Epic will seem like a huge leap forward.  Just make sure you’re ready for it!

    Posted by Jon Kline

     

  9. Bad Batches of Lamps – FVL, FTK

    bad-ftk-fvlWe’d been having a lot of issues with our Lowel DV44 kits lately, especially with the Lowel Omni and the Lowel Pro lights.  It took a lot of troubleshooting, and in one case we had a failing socket on our Omni fixture. But the real surprise was when we tested all of our lamps on the shelf.  More than half of our FTK and FVL lamps were non-functioning, even though they are new in the box.

    Our most recent batch of FTK lamps was “Divine Lighting” brand, made in China.  We think about 75% of them were DOA and the remaining 25% had shortened life (some of them just a few minutes).  And no, this isn’t thumbprint-on-the-glass issues, but some kind of internal wiring problem.  The filaments appear fine, the bulb looks perfect, but the lamp fails a basic continuity test.

    All of our bad FVL lamps are made by Osram in Mexico.  The three we still had on the shelf were all dead in the box.  They also look brand new, but fail the continuity test.

    In the interest of being scientific, we also tested our lamps for our Arri lights and other stage fixtures, and they all passed the test just fine.

    Our theory is that it’s just a bad batch, or maybe someone has been returning used lamps in new boxes.  We’ve sent a message to our vendors and we’ll update you here if we hear more.

    The upshot is, starting today, all our customers will get lamps that are fully tested in-house with their Lowel kits, even when they’re new.  And if you own a Lowel Omni or Lowel Pro and you’re wondering why you’re having problems, double-check the lamp before you blame the fixture!  We suggest that any grip or set electrician have one in their bag all the time.

    Have you experienced multiple bad lamps in a single order?  Sound off in the comments!

    Posted by Jon Kline

  10. Tripod Basics

    If you’re new to photography or video, chances are you have some questions about tripods.  Maybe you have an old tripod that came with your camera, or a hand-me-down from family.  Here’s what you need to know about tripods before you trade in those old sticks for a fancy Sachtler.

    First, let’s figure out if you’re looking at a photo tripod or a video tripod.  If your tripod allows you to roll your camera 90 degrees, it’s almost certainly a photo tripod.  Some photo tripods have ball heads.  Others have a simple 90 degree flip up plate to allow you to shoot in the portrait orientation.

    Most photography tripods have a center column, but some budget video tripods have one also.  This adds extra height at the expense of stability.

    If your tripod has a fluid head, which lets you make smooth moves side-to-side and up-and-down, it’s probably a video tripod.  Photographers don’t care as much about smooth moves, they just want a steady shot.  Video shooters need to be able to adjust without jerking the camera around, and this means paying extra for a fluid drag system inside the tripod head.

    Ball head

    Ball heads let you get creative with angles, but aren’t for video.

    A small number of tripods are hybrids, designed to work with both photo and video.  These are usually the $40 bargain-bin tripods, which are unstable and all around a bad idea.  Don’t trust an expensive piece of equipment to a few plastic tubes that wobble when you touch them.  If you’re looking for a good starter video tripod and head, expect to spend at least $300.

    Nearly all tripods offer a quick release plate system.  This lets you easily remove and reattach the camera, without having to screw everything back on.  If you buy all matching equipment, you can use the same plates interchangeably.  Most plates are different, depending on the manufacturer and the size of the tripod head.  If you’re going for one matching standard for small to medium video equipment, we like the Manfrotto 501/701 size plate system.

    Most consumer cameras have a 1/4″ hole on the bottom for mounting.  Some professional cameras have a 3/8″ hole, or even a series of 3/8″ holes.  If your camera and your tripod aren’t connecting, chances are you need an adapter, or a different mounting screw.  It’s okay to put a little camera on a big tripod, but avoid going the other way around.  Most broadcast and ENG style cameras are too heavy for consumer tripods.

    Some video tripod legs offer a bowl at the top.  This allows the camera to be leveled even when the legs are at different lengths, and it’s much easier to fine-tune than tweaking leg lengths while your camera is on top of your tripod. Almost all legs have a smooth bottom for indoor use, but some also offer spikes for more reliable traction outdoors.  Just be careful not to leave them out when you’re done!

    Most of the weight of the tripod is in the legs.  Modern materials like carbon fiber offer a lightweight sturdy option, but steel or aluminum legs work very well if you don’t mind carrying the extra weight.

    The center column on this tripod is underslung, allowing the camera to get very close to ground level.

    The center column on this tripod is underslung, allowing the camera to get very close to ground level.

    Most tripod legs have two or more stages.  This lets you adjust the height as needed.  The important measurements are minimum and maximum height.  We suggest that for most applications, you don’t even consider a tripod shorter than 6′ (70″) maximum height.  You want to be able to look a standing person in the eye (or sometimes, shoot over a standing person’s head).

    When video professionals need a shot lower than the minimum height, they use a hi hat or low hat, which are much shorter tripod legs that accept the same tripod head.  Some prosumer video and professional film tripods will let you “undersling” or reverse-mount the center column, so you can lower the camera all the way to the ground.  Of course, your image will be inverted, but this is usually not a problem.

    A tripod and head is a very personal choice for each shooter and each project.  I have at least five tripods I use regularly, depending on the project and the camera.  I recommend trying a few leg and head combinations out, before you make the choice on which one suits you best.

    Posted by Jon Kline