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Tag Archive: tips and tricks

  1. Crash Course: GoPro Omni Tips & Tricks

    GoPro Omni 360 Camera

    The GoPro Omni uses six genlocked GoPro Hero 4 black cameras in a cube-like array.

    This post was updated in October, 2018, to reflect the closing of GoPro’s Kolor software division.

    The GoPro Omni 360 camera is an incredibly popular tool for recording immersive 360-degree video and photos.  Since the technology is just getting started, we wanted to review some of the most common questions and answers about the Omni, and 360-degree shooting in general.

    How long is the record time?

    Our GoPro Omni 360 camera kit includes six 32GB cards, which allow 40+ minutes of recording in the highest quality setting (recommended). The cameras will accept 64GB microSD cards, taking record time to 90+ minutes. Record times are about twice as long when using the 1440p setting. We have not yet tested the array with 128GB microSD cards.

    How long is the battery life?

    Typical life with just the GoPro batteries inside the Omni (the lightweight configuration) is around 50 minutes.  The kit includes a V-mount battery and power adapter, extending the run time to 3+ hours. An AC adapter is also included.

    What accessories do I need?

    The Omni kit we rent includes the Omni Sync Rig with six cameras, six GoPro batteries, one V-mount battery, a battery plate with clamp, a V-mount battery charger, a powertap cable, a GoPro Smart Remote with charge cable, six 32GB microSD cards, six microSD USB readers, and a USB hub. The items you are most likely to need in addition are:

    a way to mount the camera
    additional media
    additional batteries

    How should I mount the GoPro Omni?

    GoPro Omni mount

    The Omni mounts with a 1/4-inch tripod screw

    The Omni has a standard 1/4″-20 receiver, designed to be used with virtually all video production equipment. Since the camera is capable of seeing directly above and below itself, we suggest using something without a protrusion near the camera (for example, tripod legs or a tripod head).

    We have found that a light stand, or “chickenfoot” monopod work well. For a more invisible look, fishing line can be run through the Omni frame and fastened to the ceiling. Just be sure to mount it safely, as the rig weighs about 2 1/2 pounds. Since the camera is 360×360, mounting it “underslung” is simple and requires no adjustments. Regardless of how the camera is mounted, the editor will need to properly set the horizon level in post production.

    Does it matter where I point it, or where camera #1 is?

    Short answer: not really. The long answer is, if you can’t get the Omni away from an object, it’s much better to not have that object on a stitch (the seam between two cameras). Since each camera is in a slightly different position, the perspective of each starts to become significant once objects are within about six feet (two meters) of the array. You can tweak the stitching between cameras in post production, but it’s best to keep the camera away from any close objects if you want a clean stitch without much work in post.

    Is it really better than using six GoPros in an aftermarket frame like the Freedom 360?

    There are a few key advantages to the Omni rig over using six independent cameras. First, the operation of each camera is handled by the array, so you only need to use one camera or remote. The settings propagate across all cameras, so there’s no risk of mismatched settings. The six video files will all be the exact same length and begin at the same time, removing the need for a complicated sync procedure in post. In fact, the Omni is sub-frame accurate, with each frame from each camera starting at the exact same moment in time. This makes motion across the stitch lines much more natural-looking.

    Is it 3D?

    The GoPro Omni is an immersive 360×360 video camera, but it is not stereoscopic. If your project requires stereoscopic 3D, you’ll need to consider a camera like the GoPro Odyssey or the Nokia Ozo. Kits with 360-degree stereoscopic cameras are currently an order of magnitude more expensive, and have more challenges in post-production.

    Is it HD/4K/8K?

    The old ways of measuring video resolution don’t exactly translate to 360 video. If you are distributing to YouTube, you will likely upload an equirectangular projection in a 4K video file.  The Omni captures a total of either 16.5 or 24.8 megapixels, allowing for plenty of oversampling and some overlap at the seams. 360 video playback beyond 8K  resolutions is currently limited to custom installations and very expensive hardware.

    If your final deliverable is a traditional 2D video, you can get a reasonable 1080p cut from the source files, with a medium-wide field of view. If you won’t be adding digital pans or tilts in post production, it currently makes more sense to use a traditional single camera for 2D video.

    How do I go from recording in-camera to a finished video?

    The camera records to each of the six microSD cards simultaneously. After recording, remove the six cards and copy each of them to a drive, using a separate folder for each card. The video files will have matching names, lengths, and settings. You’ll need a program to combine the files together, this is called “stitching.” GoPro has closed Kolor, the company that provided video stiching tools, so for now we suggest using the Premiere/After Effects plugins included with Fusion Studio. We don’t include software with any camera rental.

    Our suggestion is to stitch the video, and then edit it, and then apply color and exposure adjustments. The Omni records in ProTune and native white balance, so without correction, the footage will look gray and colors may appear inaccurate.

    Will it work as a live camera?

    The GoPro Omni is not designed to be used live. Currently, there are a limited number of live 360 camera options, most of them requiring a very expensive computer system and trained technicians. We do not currently provide live camera 360 rentals.

    How do I monitor the video?

    Monitoring 360 video live is not possible with the GoPro Omni. Since the camera points in all directions at once, and settings are handled automatically, monitoring doesn’t have much use anyway.

    Unlike the GoPro Hero 4 black outside of the Omni array, WiFi control and monitoring is not supported. The wireless remote can be used to adjust Omni settings and trigger recording.

    What about audio?

    Each GoPro Hero 4 black records audio, and any one of those files can be selected in post production. If audio is critical, we suggest recording to a separate device and syncing them in post production.

    Can we call you and ask a bunch of questions from our set?

    Please, if you’re new to 360 video, book an extra day with your camera rental to do some tests and figure out the details. We can try to walk you through things on the phone, but working with any new camera is never something you should do in a rush.

    Can you provide a list of qualified GoPro Omni 360 camera operators?

    Yes, just email us with your project dates and location and someone will be in touch with you shortly.

  2. Shooting Food – Top 6 Tips

    Plenty of us snap a pic of what we’re about to eat with our smartphones, but taking a well-composed shot that’s worth printing is a very different undertaking. Food photography can be as challenging and rewarding as human subjects.  Here are my top six tips to get great-looking food in photos and video.

    Food-Photography

    Color is key. Shoot raw or triple-check your white balance.

    1. Start with good, fresh food.  This may seem obvious, but you’re not going to get a great shot of a dried-out pizza.  Use fresh ingredients, a good chef, and have the tools you need to cook nearby.  You want to be able to go from the grill/oven/fryer to the lights in as few steps as possible.

    2. Bring at least five times the ingredients you need for a single entree.  I suggest starting by making the entree once just as a sample, before you even take out the camera.  Get an idea for the color, the shape, the texture.  This is your chance to play with light and plating.

    3. The background is the context for your work.  Is the product fast-casual?  Upscale?  Infinite white may work great for fast food photography, but it’s usually too dry for fine-dining work.  Build a set for your food after you see how the first  sample comes out.  If the emphasis of the food is on the origins, consider including the ingredients in the background, like wheat behind a fresh-baked loaf of bread, or an orange behind your delicious glass of orange juice.  If the emphasis is on the mood and ambiance of the restaurant, try shooting in a table setting.  If the emphasis is on the culture of the food, try to connect it to the people or the place it comes from.

    4. This is macro, be prepared.  You’ll want a close-focusing lens that can be stopped down if necessary.  If you’re shooting video, try adding very slight motion.  A tabletop dolly and a high framerate will give you extra-smooth motion, especially if someone in your shot is pouring, cutting, or moving the food.

    Photograph of food by Jon Kline

    The best part is that you get to eat it when you’re done.

    5. Lights matter, and you may need more than you think for high framerates, fast shutters, and control of focus in macro.  Three-point lighting usually works for opaque foods, but remember that the heat from tungsten lights can dry out or melt the product.  For stills, flash is definitely the way to go.  For video, I like to use natural light when possible, but Kino Flo banks and other fluorescent fixtures are a good option, too.  Avoid LED lights, they tend to shift colors in odd and unpredictable ways.  Big softboxes may have a tendency to flatten out textures, since they are many times bigger than the subject they are lighting.  Often, semi-soft or hard key light is the best option for food shots. Pay special attention to reflections and highlights on polished and wet surfaces.

    6. Every great photograph tells a story, and food is no exeption.   Think of one brief thought you’d like your audience to have when they see this shot.  Is the picture making your mouth water?  Does it invoke the emotion you’re trying to convey?  That’s how you know you’ve got the shot you want.

    Thanks to Bleu for the delicious tuna! Now, go find some food, take some shots, and dig in!

    Posted by Jon Kline


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