Monthly Archives: September 2011

Epic Zacuto viewfinder fail

So I’ve been mounting my Zacuto viewfinder onto my T2i screen using the tape and mounting bracket they provided. Its been on for a good few months now, and nowhere did they really mention, hey by the way, don’t leave this sucker mounted for prolong periods of time. It will tear out your LCD on the back of your camera. Yes, you read it right, tear out the bloody LCD. I noticed some light leaking through, then when I looked closer, I realized the weight of the viewfinder literally has ripped the LCD nearly out of it’s mounts. I think I caught it in time, I can press it back in and pray it stays, but I’m not too thrilled at spending nearly 400 dollars for a piece of equipment, that literally destroys my other piece of equipment. And the prospect of me spending another 160 dollars or so to get a plate to mount the view finder onto my camera sickens me.

I did some research and this has happened to a few other people out there. Some guy came home and saw his viewfinder on the floor, with the LCD attached to it. So I figured I’d write this as a warning to everyone who’s using a viewfinder, from any manufacturer. DO NOT keep it on for extended periods of time. Gravity is a beoych.

UPDATE: i contacted Zacuto customer support about the issue and they pretty much no questuons asked are send me some support bands that would of run me 15 bucks or so for free. Now that is customer support. I guess if you spend money on a good product, it is what one would expect from the company. But you would be surprised these days. So im glad they are helping out.

Also in other news, more research yields that canon uses a 2 millimeter plastic cover to protec the lcd, which uses an adhesive backing. It is this piece that is falling out, not the lcd panel, so i could in theory get anew cover and adhesive strip for around 30 dollars or so from Canon

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lilliput 7inch field monitor has arrived

My Lilliput 7inch field monitor arrived today. That was some blazing fast shipping, since I ordered it from Amazon and they ship from California.

My first impression when I opened the box, was wow, this is a pretty impressive unit. Then I picked it up, and my second impression was, wow, this thing with the battery is a tad heavy. Mounting this sucker will require something sturdy. The main reason I wanted to get a field monitor in addition to my Zacuto viewfinder, is I want to be able to pull focus. The viewfinder is great, but if I’m at a strange angle, then it does me absolutely no good. Plus lately, I like to slid my shots, and keeping yourself at eye level to the viewfinder isn’t very practical. The T2i does not output HDMI in full HD while recording, so some of the resolution is lost in the monitor, but I think for pulling focus and framing shots, it will be perfect.

Ordering from Amazon, the VIVITEQ 3rd party seller there ships the unit with a menacing looking mini HDMI to HDMI cable. The thing looks like it could withstand a nuclear blast. So that was pretty cool, plus it comes with all the mounting brackets to mount to a stand or to your camera. Though the mount it comes with is designed to fit above in a flash slot. It looks like this. you’ll require a friction arm to mount. This guy at cheesy cam reviewed the friction arms which I have on order.

I think in the added weight to the shoulder mount is actually a plus, since it will allow for some more stability. The main problem I have with the entire rig, is the fact that I want it to do output both from the back of the camera and from the HDMI output. Which is impossible on the T2i (At least as far as I can tell). The problem is people either use these exclusively through a field monitor, or a view finder, but never both. would love the flexibility to handle both, or at the very least the capability of switching back and forth in a quick fashion. However, the moment the HDMI cable is plugged into the Canon T2i, the back screen goes blank, and the 350 dollar Zacuto viewinder I purchased has effectively become a paper weight.

One annoying thing about the monitor is there is a 4 sec lag time between hitting the record button, and actually displaying on the screen. I’ve read about this, but experiencing it first hand, I’m hoping it will be just a minor annoyance vs a showstopper in the field. Though the really off putting thing about the monitor is you can’t adjust any settings unless it receives a signal. If there are no inputs, you can’t even access the menus, which I find a bit irksome.

So far I’m happy with the monitor. The Ypbpr inputs are really quite useless to me, and the weight of the unit will require a more heavy duty mount.

UPDATE:
I picked up a 11 inch Friction arm from amazon.com to mount the lilliput monitor to my rig. Unfortunately, it only comes with 1/4inch screws, or a flash mount. The diameter of the base doesn’t fit within the 15mm specifications of the rig. So I made a trip to Home Depot, and to my dismay, there’s pretty much nothing that will adapt. So I had to suck it up and order some mini clamps and a 15mm rails to 1/4 screw adapter. Something similar to this. After shipping and all that jazz, my 23 dollar friction arm ended up costing an additional 50 dollars to mount the sucker.

Frakenstein

I’ve started my rig setup, and it’s nearly complete. I ordered a Lilliput 7 inch LCD monitor to pull focus, to use in conjunction with my Zacuto viewfinder. And I’ve also picked up one of these bad boys from Korea. The Gini Rig I did a lot of research before headed out to fleabay. Basically, from all the reviews, this is one solid piece of equipment for the price. Something comparable from Red Rock Micro, or Zacuto would run me triple, even quadruple the price. A 15mm rod based plate alone runs about $150 or more, and since I’m just starting out, I think this will hold me over fine. It also comes with a nice follow focus.

For some history, all movies are done with manual focus lenses. Typically it is the job of the 1AC, of the first assistant cameraman to pull focus. That is, his job is to maintain focus on the subject, and really good ones, do action scenes while the subject is moving. It’s an art, and I consider it a very skilled profession. Trust me, I can barely get a single stationary object to remain in focus while the camera is moving, let alone doing it with live action people.

Most movie sets use markers, for instance, an actor would step to a certain area of the scene, and the floor would be marked with color coded tape. The focus puller would have already pre-measured the distance and the lens used and mark on a disc so they know when the actor is there, this is where they would need to focus. It’s fascinating stuff. So the 7inch lilliput screen is designed to help me see and frame my shots, and try to pull focus when I can’t position myself using the Zacuto viewfinder.

Anyways, can’t wait for the items to arrive so I can test out the ‘rig’.
Until then here’s an awesome 3 part series on being a 1st AC”
1st AC job description
Pretty much for n00bs like me, I’ll be basically doing the role of director, the DP, 1stAC, and every other role, lol. I don’t have a crew! =)

My New Slider has arrived!

Say hello to my little slider.

gbfx-8836

I’m still pretty busy with work, but I’m looking into a new little video project to shoot. My initial impressions was wow, this thing is solid and heavy. The reason I wanted to upgrade from my existing 24 inches (.6 meters) slider was the fact that my old one was friction based, vs the roller bearing sliders. Friction based ones slide and are contacted to metal. As such, when going at an angle or vertical, it caught sometimes so it’s a bit jerky. The Konova slider is on ball bearings so it’s supposed to be smoother, plus I bought the 1 meter version so it’s a bit longer than my last one. It’s also about 4x the price, but I think I knew going into my first slider that I’ll eventually need to upgrade. I just didn’t want to spend a lot of cash on something I didn’t think would end up being useful, but I find the slider adds a tremendous amount of versatility to your shots.

The slider comes with stands that will allow me to place it on the ground. This is a very nice feature as sometimes I don’t really feel like carrying 2 tripods plus a slider. This will mount to a single tripod, but for heavier lenses I think the dual tripod system (one on each end) will be beter for it.

I’ve done a lot of slider research, and basically the next step up lives in the thousand dollar range and up. Those comes with cranks and motors, etc. But for amateurs like me, I think this is a great mid entry slider at an excellent price point. I did go to home depot and try to make one, at one point. But the price for the materials plus time etc I figured wasn’t worth it. Plus I’ve never made one before, so I’m sure to mess it up, adding to the over all costs.

Looking forward to seeing what I come up with! Next step in my camera setup would be to go with a 15mm rail system so I can mount a follow focus to try to achieve better focus. That and mount an external monitor to help with framing my shots. Over all, I’m very pleased with the unit. I think it will prove itself in the field, and I need to play around with it some more to determine the best configurations, but It’s a 400 dollars well spent.

gbfx-8838

I’ve shot these two with the existing slider. I think I may end up selling it, or keeping it. The fact is that the small form factor of the indislider, coupled with it’s light weight nature makes it highly portable. Vs the konova slider, which is a bit more bulkier and will require more setup to use properly. The indislider allowed for more spontaneous shots, whereas the newer slider may require some planning and experimenting. Which is fine, I think that’s the direction I want to go anyways, as you want to generally try to be in control the situation, vs the other way around with the random shots etc. I find larger bulkier tools require a bit more thought, setup, and preparation. Which will hopefully allow for better execution. All in theory of course.

What I want to be when I grow up

I’ve always dreaded that scary question they ask when you were a kid, and you really don’t quite know yet, so you spout of careers that seemed interesting to you at the time. For instance I wanted to be a cop, then I watched paramedics shows back then so I wanted to be a doctor, or a paramedic. Somewhere along the way school came along, and as a first generation Vietnamese kid, I struggled more to try to somewhat fit in the world, and just holding on every day. But there was never that one defining moment, where you just just get this epiphany. “This is what I want do do with my life”, and then pursue it.

I guess I fit somewhere in between, where I’m luck I never really had a goal or path. I thought I did, but the roads forked many times along the journey. Some people are so myopic in their journey, when life throws curveballs, they don’t quite know how to deal with the reality of the situation. But it is the people that just knew, that this is what they want to do, and have a passion for doing it, so they pursued it with a fervor and succeed in attaining their goals.

That’s not to say the people that don’t end up doing what they want are failures, it’s just sometimes it isn’t in the cards. Whether it be external factors, or finances that prevent us from attaining what it is that we want to do.

So far I’ve been in my current career for about 10 years now. There’s still a lot for me to learn, but lately I’ve been meandering and fantasizing about other options. More towards the creative outlets. More specifically, Photography or film. But I want to dabble in cars and driving as well. Sooo much to do, so little time!

My latest little projects is to try to do short vids for parents as keepsakes for their kids/children. My proof of concepts seemed feasible. About 1-2hrs of editing, and 1hr of shooting. Three hours in total for roughly a 2 minute short film. I had a blast, and when I had a good shot, I had this giant grin on my face. There was no other joy at the time, and I just felt giddy. So in a sense, maybe I’ve started to move towards my calling, of “what I want to be when I grow up”.

Or maybe I’m second guessing myself and it’s just a fad, but I’m going to start gearing this blog more towards filming, and my explorations into the art form. Doing reviews, or video reviews, etc. But there are some short film concepts I have in my head that I want to work on. I just need to figure out how to get it from the brain onto film!

It has occurred to me, I’ve been filming in reverse. Typically my process is a) have a general idea of what I want to shoot. Then go to the environment and do everything on the fly, then piece it together to make a story at the end, relying on a good 40% of luck or basically sometimes have my shots dictate the story or flow. Then I find music to match and then render the final piece.

I think I’m going to try the real approach, which is to include more structure into the process. Making a vision/plan, a treatment, shot lists, things that will take me to the next level from 2 minute shorts to 5minutes and beyond.