JSD Labs: Rapido Technology FVD-16A, all the jackets, Moller 32/2x, and Helios 44-2 at the Youtube Hanami in Yoyogi

(vimeo)

I was lucky enough to get in on the first batch of the Rapido Tehcnology FVD-16A variable diopter. When this came out I was already in the market for a single focus solution, and Rapido just happened to have something that was exactly what I wanted and a few extras I didn’t know I wanted. I ended up getting the full set to make my anamorphic combo look like a monobloc lens. It’s not flawless but it’s very, very good.

Before and after.

I have the parts to use my Isco Ultra Star with this setup as well. I will shoot a bit with that after I finish practicing and tweaking with the Moller setup. Right now the only thing I’m missing is something in between the Moller and the Ultra Star, and then I’d have the anamorphic trifecta.

My Helios 44-2 isn’t in the best of shape. I like the atmosphere it gives, but it was a bit of a pain to set up in the Rapido Rear Metal Jacket. My Moller 32/2x isn’t so perfect either. But I absolutely love the look the combo gives. The best part with this new setup is that my shots look exactly the same with FVD-16a as without. I will push it a bit when I do some tests with my Ultra Star and my Leica Nocticron soon. But I hear that it also performs well with fast apertures.

I did have some slight issues with vignetting at first. But that was mostly caused by the original Rapido Moller clamp than the FVD. I ordered a new one from Jim and it works a charm. Before that I hacked together another clamp that let me set the Moller in the Helios a bit more and it worked well.

I had been filming on and off with the rig tweaking things and testing settings. Some plans fell through last Saturday and I was in the area anyway, so I decided to check out the Youtube Japan Hanami in Yoyogi park. I have been to a few of the early ones, and it’s not really my thing. (not really a Youtuber or drinker) I had some friends there and it was a good opportunity to film people without anybody freaking out. (Didn’t really work, my setup attracted all kinds of attention.) I didn’t stay long, but I got enough video to get a good run-and-gun feel for the bare rig. Everything was shot handheld with a monopod. I also had a Tiffen VND and a Marumi +1 diopter for a few shots. The only thing I wish I had was a matte box… I went ahead and bought a cheap basic one for this rig. I’ll get another really good one later.

I am so happy with the Rapido FVD… it’s exactly what I wanted. It destroys the SLR Magic Rangefinder in almost every way. It’s so much cleaner, sharper, and works better with fast lenses. The only thing I wish it was better at is that the focusing was smoother. Also, my current setup goes a tiny bit beyond infinity. Not sure if it’s my weird lens combo or the FVD itself.

I have a lot more practice to do with this setup, so I’ll most likely be uploading things shot with it and the Isco very soon. I also have some other projects coming down the line as well. Look forward to it!

Tech specs:
Panasonic GH5
Anamorphic Mode 60fps 4K, VLOG
Converted to 24fps
Helios 44-2 58mm lens with Rapido Rear Metal Jacket
Möller 32/2x Anamorphot with Rapido Full Metal Jacket
Rapido Technologies FVD-16A
Tiffen VND
Marumi +1 diopter

JSD Labs: DJI Mavic Air, iPhone 7 Plus, and Cherry Blossoms in Japan

A few weeks ago I finally got my own drone. The Mavic Air came out at the right time and had the right specs for my needs, so I picked one up. I have flown drones plenty of times in Japan, either rentals or client’s drones, but this is the first one I have owned.  It’s a different experience flying something that you personally have something invested in. One wrong move and it could be gone. So I haven’t done anything crazy with it.

Drones are banned in Tokyo, which is a shame. I have been working in Tokyo a lot recently and I haven’t been able to take it with me. Luckily, I live in Yokohama. With the exception of military bases, airports, events, and densely populated areas, it’s OK to fly here. I have been practicing in local parks, which were fine for gaining my bearings with it, but I can’t do too much crazy or intense flying. In sport mode the drone can cross a baseball field in seconds. With so many tall buildings and hills it’s easy for the Mavic to get out of sight really quickly. I plan to take it out to the beach when it warms up a bit more, but then I have the other fun issue of it being over water. I didn’t get it as a toy, it’s for filming only. Losing it would hurt my production values and wallet.

Overall it is a VERY solid drone. It packs up so tiny. My only issue is that it’s size doesn’t inspire confidence sometimes and can make it hard to see at a distance. I haven’t had any issues with connection or flying badly. But then again, I haven’t tried to push it at all. I only have two batteries right now, as my budget for film making is currently done. I had to sell a bunch of stuff to get this and something else, which I will be writing about very soon. I do want to fly it more often and try it out on some big projects, so I will invest in it a bit more when I can.

As for the video, I didn’t do much as far as settings other than changing some of the settings to be more film-like. Everything else was auto. I will try some manual camera settings on my next shoot. I also got a CPL to try. I hope to get some NDs for it in the future too. I brought my Zhiyun Smooth II iPhone gimbal to see what I could get with a super portable setup. I tried to go full manual in the Mavis app, so some of the shots didn’t match very well. If I went full manual on the Mavic too I think I could get them to match better. I also wanted to try a video with zero slow-motion. As much as I like the look it can be a crutch sometimes. I also had a hard time getting the colors the way I wanted, so I kinda give up and am posting it as the best I could. I really, really need to practice that more. Overall it’s just a test video of sorts. I have been flying since I got it, but just simple stuff that I post on Instagram.

The location for the shoot was fantastic. I had never been to this park before. I came upon it by chance when I went out to practice flying early one morning. The park I wanted to use had a baseball game (at 7:30 AM!) and I just wandered around looking for places to fly for like an hour. The only issue with the park is that it’s kinda far from everything. But it was so perfect for practice… very few people, good scenery, open spaces, perfect cherry blossoms.

I’ll have some more Mavic videos soon, but they’ll most likely be part of other projects. If I can, I’ll do a good beach video at the same place I did the iPhone 7 Plus anamorphic video.

Hopefully content will start flowing more regularly from now on too.