What camera/projector/microphone should I use for my project?
That depends on a lot of factors. We suggest calling us at 414.939.3653 so one of our specialists can help.
Can I come see your place and check something out?
For now, probably not. Other than for cinema camera prep, we are not accepting visitors. We’re COVID-conscious and doing our best to keep our employees and customers safe. When we do accept guests again, visitors are received by appointment only. We want to be sure we have someone available to help you, and the right equipment available.
Do you have camera X?
We have most of our regular stock listed in the catalog. If you need something that’s not listed, we can usually bring it in from a rental partner, if you can wait a few days. It’s always a good idea to ask.
The fastest way to get in touch is with SMS to 414.939.3653. Sometimes we can help you immediately, and sometimes we’re sleeping. If you’re in a rush, read this information on emergency rentals and delivery, including terms and fees.
What if I break/drop/damage/lose the equipment?
Let us know right away if the equipment becomes lost or damaged. Your rental contract makes you 100% liable for the cost to replace any equipment that you don’t return in good condition, except for reasonable wear and tear. Any deposit you left with us will be applied to the cost to repair or replace the damaged equipment, and we may charge the credit card you have on file with us for any additional amount due. You may also be responsible for lost rental income. That means if we would have rented the equipment to someone else in the time it takes to repair or replace it, you will need to pay for that as well. If you have insurance, some or all of those costs may be paid by your insurer.
Why is the MKE price so high/so low?
We try to stay competitive with other equipment rental companies in the Milwaukee area, and online. We love to be a one-stop-shop for large and small productions, and keeping our prices low is part of that. Sometimes, rental companies will list a really low price for an item, but when you look closer, you’ll see that they charge extra for “optional” parts like batteries and memory cards. If you notice our price is higher than the competition, let us know, and we’ll try to match it.
Sometimes, we have to charge a bit more for our products. In that case, we hope that supporting your local rental house is worth the couple extra bucks!
Do you sell new or used cameras or other equipment?
We sell expendables, including gaff tape, markers, blackwrap, spray fog, and gels. We don’t sell new equipment. When we sell our used equipment, it’s usually at our annual used equipment tent sale, or on eBay.
I want to use something, but I’ve never used it before. Can you help?
Yes! Let us know before you pick up and we can schedule time for an introduction. Some of this stuff can be intimidating, but once you get your hands on it, we’re sure you’ll figure it out (just like we did). If you decide you’d rather hire an operator to run it, or an AV tech to set it up, we can help with that, too.
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:
Most Common Use
Old web videos
PAL (foreign) TV
Almost all SD TV in the US, lots of HD TV
SD TV in the US before color
Peter Jackson’s movies
Some HD TV outside the US
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!
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.
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.
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!
Not all vintage lenses are great lenses. This Tamron would be pretty slow by today’s standards.
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.
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 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.
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 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.