There once was a separation between news photographers and others who shot video in the field. News photographers were the run-and-gunners, getting their images quickly and moving on. Field production crews, on the other hand, could take more time with their craft.
by Craig Johnston
Those days, as anyone who’s shot field production video lately knows, are largely gone. Everyone is expected to get it done and get going to the next shot, the next project. This has not only affected field production photographers themselves, but the equipment makers who have had to tailor their support equipment for fastpaced photography. These are the creators of Gear-on-the-Go.
When combat photographers hit the beaches of North Africa and Northern France in World War II, their film cameras could be wound up to provide 40 seconds or so of operation. Video cameras provide no such wind-up capability, so the field photographer needs batteries with long life AND lots of power, and oh-by-the-way, that don’t weigh very much.
“With Anton/Bauer’s DIONIC HCX battery packs, having the lightweight benefit of Lithiumion and high-current capability in one battery are no longer mutually exclusive goals,” said Kyle Dann, product specialist at Anton/Bauer. “At approximately 120 watt hours, the DIONIC HCX can deliver up to 50 percent more load than most existing professional video Lithium-ion battery packs, allowing for high in-rush current applications such as on-camera lighting above 50 Watts with no detriment to battery life cycle or run-time performance. An added feature, ‘sleep mode,’ allows for extended storage period with minimal self-discharge for prolonged battery life.”
“Frezzi batteries are used to achieve reliability performance with economy and follow on full support after sales in powering ENG-style equipment,” said Frezzi President Jim Crawford. “Our Power Block and Frezzi On-Board battery capacities range from 65 to 200 Watt-hours to cover the power requirements of shoulder-mounted and handheld camcorders right on to the HD-DSLR gear now in full play.”
“Look to IDX for V-Mount versatility, adaptability and precise engineering in our battery line-up,” said Vickii Chaffee, general manager for sales and marketing at IDX System Technology Inc. “We were the first in the broadcast industry to offer the advantages of Lithium-ion, and we continue to set the standard, with features such as IDX’s exclusive PowerLink, which links two E-7 batteries together for double the capacity, and Digi-View, for viewing power use in the camera viewfinder.”
Where a Hollywood movie crew might have the time and budget to bring in their own mega-size generators and lighting equipment by the truckload, the field photographer generally has to live with the light that’s available in an office, auditorium or outdoor space, adding enough battery-powered fill light to bring out the best in faces of interviewees. Where they can access wall sockets for bigger lights, the 15 or 20 amp circuits mandate their lights be the most efficient possible.
“The Ultralight on-camera lighting system is the most popular oncamera lighting system which can be powered from a single Anton/Bauer Logic Series battery via the PowerTap connector,” said Kyle Dann, product specialist at Anton/Bauer. “The convenience and flexibility of the UL-2 Base allows you to seamlessly change the head module from tungsten, HMI or LED in seconds without the use of any tools.”
“Frezzi has meant portable power and lighting for ‘Gear on the Go’ photgraphers since day one in television ENG,” said Frezzi’s Crawford. “Frezzi lighting has about a dozen light heads that cover every aspect of on-and-off camera lighting requirements for fast moving videography. Our technology in light head design covers the full range of lighting from HMI and Quartz to LEDs, with dual technology capability.”
“X5-Lite is one more way IDX provides solutions for ENG production,” said IDX’s Chaffee. “It’s a great value at 50W, with excellent color temperature, and it operates with minimal heat dispensation–literally, one very cool accessory. The X5-Lite is flicker and noise free, with a built-in dimmer to adjust lighting output from 0-100%. And a one-touch hot shoe allows the X5-Lite to be easily and quickly connected to a wide range of cameras via slide-shoe or thread mount.”
“Fast moving video crews have always wanted the performance of a Fresnel fixture for mounting on-camera or on a small light stand, but prior to Litepanels’ LED-based SolaENG Fresnel fixture, their choices would have been too heavy and too power hungry,” said Pat Grosswendt, co-founder of Litepanels. “The SolaENG weighs just 1/3 as much as its predecessors, uses a small fraction of the power, and delivers an amazing amount of HD-friendly LED light.”
TRIPODS AND PAN/TILT HEADS
Camera support equipment makers used to brag about the behemoth cameras they could handle, but with camera size and weight shrinking, they now are challenged to build large tripod and head features into a small form-factor.
“When traveling light, there is a temptation to leave the tripod behind or use lightweight, underperforming tripods,” said Grant Clementson, president of Miller Camera Support. “However, in terms of image quality and costs in post to fix poor images this can be shortsighted. Miller’s new generation of camera support is designed to be compact, lightweight with less setup time. The new range of Compass heads, which now includes the Compass 25 with 100-millimeter ball base, retain the same fluid head drag systems as their larger payload heads but in a lightweight, compact head. That head is coupled with the Solo carbon fiber tripod range, which have an operating height range from 15 inches to 80 inches. The complete system, with case, weighs only 15 pounds.”
“The trend in the industry is toward buying smaller cameras, and therefore buying smaller camera support,” said Jim Davis, Western U.S. Manager for Camera Dynamics Inc., which markets Sachtler in the United States. “The challenge then is to make a smaller tripod and fluid head with the same quality people expect from Sachtler, and at a reasonable price. The payload range of our FSB heads extends down to the FSB 2, designed for cameras weighing from 0 to 4.4 pounds, yet providing the same friction-free operation and finely-tuned counterbalance as heavier-duty heads in the FSB line.
“At Vinten we recognize that all professional camera operators want the same things: smooth, perfectly balanced movement, fast set-up and security against unwanted movement, and a reliable product that will provide long service,” said Peter Harman, Vinten product manager. “That is true for all our customers, but up until now there has been a gap in the market for a broadcast quality tripod system that can genuinely balance the smaller, lightly accessorized camcorders that are so common today, without any compromise on creativity. Vinten heads are designed to deliver all the quality and performance users have come to expect, incorporating infinitely adjustable, genuine Perfect Balance and infinite adjustment drag technology to allow the shooter to set up his camera for his needs.”
The responsibility for working fast on a field shoot doesn’t lie entirely on the shoulders of the photographer; on-camera talent needs to deliver their stand-ups in as few takes as possible, without the time to memorize the script. Enter the field teleprompter.
“Teleprompting in the field is notoriously difficult, cumbersome and resource intensive,” said Richard Satchell, business development director at Autocue. “However, using our IP-based QBox system, you can prepare, load and operate scripts locally or remotely from the comfort of the studio. The QBox, our external hardware scroll engine, can be clipped to a battery belt and connected to the prompter PC for live edits via wireless or over a 3G network, or alternatively used standalone by loading scripts directly on to the box via USB or bluetooth. Hand and foot controls can also be connected to the remote PC or directly to the QBox itself. All this allows your camera man to be completely untethered for moving shots, for scripts to be prepared and sent to the prompter from any location, saving cost and allowing last minute changes from the central studio.”
“Considering the diversity of cameras used for ENG applications, Autoscript provides a range of portable teleprompting systems from its TFT8-P to our LED15TFT-P,” said Greg Prentiss, director of sales at Autoscript. “These systems are designed for the rigors of ENG, have brightness levels suitable for daylight shooting, and have compact, foldable hoods. And in the coming weeks, Autoscript will be releasing new prompting software called iPlus for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, which will provide even greater flexibility for the needs of ENG.”
Equipment bags may seem an afterthought, but field photographers appreciate rugged carrying cases that protect delicate cameras and production equipment, and that provide specialized nooks and crannies for the myriad of gadgets that travel with them.
“Kata has addressed the challenges of flying with a camcorder by developing the new Kata ABS-HD inflatable camera bag,” said Bellina Israel, product marketing manager at KATA. “The camera can be presented for inspection at security and carried onboard the plane, where the ABS-HD bag can be inflated and the camera zipped in. The fully protected camera can then be placed in the overhead.”
“Petrol was founded 10 years ago to fill a need by run-andgun videographers for durable and flexible carrying cases.” said Bob Carr, president of Camera Dynamics, which distributes Petrol products in the United States. “This year the company launched the DECA line of camera and gear cases, with many features for the fast moving videographers including integrated internal LED light bar for working in dark environments, a removable shock absorbent pad, and black 900 D and ballistic nylon fabric construction.”
“Ballistic nylon has a tough sounding name, and a lot of our competitors use it, but it was designed for flak jackets, and it wears out too quickly when used for bags and carrying cases,” said Larry Nolan, president of Versa-Flex. “We use only 1000 denier Cordura nylon, which costs us more, but lasts a lot longer. The tighter weave keeps the material from snagging and unraveling. We also use self-healing coil zippers.”