Category Archives: Japan

Anamorphic Promo Vid for strangerskateboards.us – TOO YOUNG TO DIE

Was asked to film with Sean of strangerskateboards.us while he was in Tokyo for his new drop. We did everything on the fly pretty quickly, but it was a lot of fun to do. We filmed in Shibuya for a few hours and I came back another day to do some pick-up shots. I used the same setup as this video with a few changes. It was super easy to just go out and shoot with such a compact setup, but I want to improve it more.

It’s always fun to have actual content to make. Sometimes just having the gear isn’t enough. Hope to get my rigs into a studio situation soon for some more commercial and promo work!

Tech specs:
Panasonic GH5
4K UHD 60fps 4K, CINE-D
Converted to 24fps
Voightlander 40mm f/1.4 Leica M mount
Pentax 85mm f/1.8 M42 mount
Blue Kowa 16-H 2X Anamorphic Lens
Rapido FVD-16A

Filmed in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Music is: While I’m Away by Equalibrum

GH5 Anamorphic on the iPad Pro in LumaFusion

Vimeo

I had been wanting an iPad Pro since the first generation, but I couldn’t really justify it. I have been using a Surface 3 for my daily basic computing and simple creative work. It played back stuff from my GH5 no problem. But when I saw the new basic iPad was editing GH5 video, I was very interested.

The new iPad Pros were announced and I waited until I sold a few things to order one. So far, I am VERY impressed. Other capabilities aside, the fact that it handles my GH5 footage so flawlessly and QUICKLY made it an instant winner for me. (It also handles 6K and 400Mbit Anamorphic like it’s no big deal. More tests with those later.) It takes a bit of time getting use to the limitations of LumaFusion if you are use to endless option editors from Adobe and Blackmagic. The first issue I saw is that I couldn’t desqueeze in preview. I think I’ll try to do a comparison of video quality from the raw video and a set pre-compressed in the DeSqueeze app (another app I highly recommend).

Once you copy your videos to the iPad or import them from wherever, you can view and trim them instantly. Scrubbing is instant and in full quality. You can do this in the window or full screen on the iPad. Then you can color tag the clips and start dragging them on your timeline. Once on the timeline, you can then edit the video in any way you want. My timeline was already set for 2.76:1 Ultra Panavision. Set your clip to Stretch in Fit Mode and you’re good to go. You can then copy this attribute and paste it to the other clips as you work on them. I do wish there was a way to select all the clips, though. The only issue I have found is that you can’t copy speed settings. You have to do that to each clip individually. But it handled 59.97 fps to 24 fps perfectly.

After that, you edit your clips on the timeline to your liking. Then comes one of the amazing parts… One you’re ready, select a clip again and then go to the Color &  Effects tab… you can then instantly see a preview of any LUTs you have imported. Like, you can just touch any one, see it and play the clip back in real time. if you have 50 LUTs you can see how they on your clip instantly. After you have your LUT selected you can then tweak the clip’s color to your liking.

I went out to Ginza last weekend just to film a few clips to test this with. It’s the first video I shot with my new Blue Kowa 16-H, which will be my main lens from now on most likely. It worked very well with the Voightlander 40mm 1.4 (Leica M mount) that I have been using a lot lately. It’s so crazy to be editing video from a DSLR anamorphic rig on an iPad, but I don’t think this will be my last.

The limitations are something you have to work around. To get the film effect on the intro and end, I rendered out the video clips and then put them through an 8mm camera app. You only get 3 layers to work with, so you have to do as much as you can with one layer. The only thing I didn’t do on the iPad were my logo and the end card. I imported those to Affinity Photo and edited them to fit the video and end credits. I still want to see how far I can push what can be done on the iPad. I think next I need to find some good animation apps and really try to take it to another level.

I think the more I get use to workflow workarounds the more I can use the iPad to speed up projects and work on the go. That’s the plan. Most of that video was edited on the train from Yokohama to Tokyo. I am also finally getting my illustrations cleaned up and finished on the iPad. I need to move forward with those co I can start more. Music too? Yeah, hopefully. I’m excited. The iPad won’t be my only portable machine, though. I have something else, kinda. But that’s for another day.

Tech specs:
Panasonic GH5
4K UHD 60fps 4K, CINE-D
Converted to 24fps
Voightlander 40mm f/1.4 Leica M mount
Blue Kowa 16-H 2X Anamorphic Lens
Rapido FVD-16A

Filmed in Ginza, Tokyo.
Music is: Luster (Interlude) by Equalibrum

JSD LABS: Aivascope V2 Test, New Lenses, Custom Variable Diopter

(vimeo)

Finally getting around to filming some new videos.  Hit a few snags with life but more content should be rolling in relatively quickly from here on out.

I emailed Valdas of Aivascope to see if he’d let me try out his new and improved Aivascope. The video I did of the first one did well (a lot of people seemed to use it or stills from it to sell them…) and I’m still a fan. I only sold mine because I needed something I could use for anything and more often at night.

Well, that’s where this new version comes in. It was purported be be much sharper and better at fast apertures than the old one. And as you can see in the video above, that is VERY true. It gave me a chance to try one of my new favorite lenses, the Voightlander 40mm f/1.4 Leica M mount lens.

This lens seems to work with just about any setup I throw at it. I have more videos coming with this lens and another baby I picked up, the Canon 50mm f/18 L39.

The whole video was shot at f/1.4 and around ISO 800 pretty much. There might be a few shots at ISO 400 or f/2.0. The area of Tokyo we were in was very bright and had lots of lights. The Aivascope handled everything, especially the closeups, very well. The only issues I had were some flare ghosting by the custom variable diopter I thew together and a few shots where I forgot to turn off digital stabilization. It’s not bad overall and I’m still happy with the video. It really shows what the Aivascope can do. It doesn’t flare like the old one, but you still get some nice ones in the right light. The only thing I’m not sure sure about is the “D” bokeh, but it could grow on me.

As for the variable diopter used in this video, I made it from the focusing diopter glass on a Bell & Howel 2X anamorphic. The anamorphic part is cracked, so I picked up the lens super cheap. I designed my first ever 3D parts, and with some sanding they fit in a Pixco helicoid perfectly. Bam, a super sharp variable diopter for small anamorphics. It works on anything and REALLY surprised me with it’s quality, especially compared to the Focuser 8. Any aperture, any focal length. It’s only kryptonite is bright lights, they ghost in the elements and I can’t find out if I can fix that. It works, sometimes. Others… it looks really cheap. But for the 85% of shots where it’s super good, it’s still worth it.

I have to return the Aivascope in a few weeks, but I’ll try to get a few more videos done with it. I was planning to do an iPhone video with it, but iOS 12 bricked my phone. I’ll get a replacement soon and give it a shot.

Lastly, thanks again to Jennifer Liza for helping me out with another video! You can find her Instagram here.

Tech specs:
Panasonic GH5
4K UHD 60fps 4K, CINE-D
Converted to 24fps
Voightlander 40mm f/1.4 Leica M mount
Aivascope V2 1.75x Anamorphic
Custom Bell & Howell Variable Diopter
Marumi 72mm +3 Diopter

Filmed in Tabata, Tokyo.
Music by me, made in the iOS Launchpad app.

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.

JSD LABS: Cosmicar 75mm f/1.4 C-Mount lens with Isco Ultra Star Anamorphic Test

I have been gushing about the Cosmicar since I got it. I saw one image that caught my eye a year ago and it never left me, so I found it again, and discovered it was caught on the Cosmicar 75mm c-mount. I searched for other pictures and videos about the lens, and at the time there wasn’t much. In fact, I think there were only 2-3 videos shot using the lens on Youtube at the time and they weren’t great. I saw the potential, though. I showed a few samples to a photography friend of mine and asked if there were any lenses he knew of that could achieve the look. Things like the Zeiss Pancolar, the Helios, and Jupiter came up, but I already knew about those. I’m not sure, but something seemed off and magical about the Cosmicar, so I decided to get one.

Lucky me, I found a seller on ebay with a few early copies with perfect glass but had body blemishes/fading. $60 shipped to Japan. Best purchase of the year. (outside of my GH5)

I started taking photos with it and was ecstatic that it was everything I hoped it would be. Very little to no vignetting on the GH5 sensor. Shockingly sharp at f/1.4. FANTASTIC BOKEH. Makes the highlights bloom just the right neon color. Perfect. There’s some photos on my Instagram accounts shot with it and I used it a bit in my 180fps slow motion video too. It’s a permanent part of my lens collection.

But what about Anamorphic? It’s too long to use on my 1.33x lenses. The actual body is too long to use on the Möller 32/2x. You can use it in ETC mode, but you lose some of the good parts of the edges when you do. The Isco Ultra Star fit the picture nicely. Almost no vignetting, super clean, easier to use than the Möller. Small enough to go portable. Not crazy on flare but has that perfect oval bokeh.

I shot a test of myself just to see how it would look, and we have a winner.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdkZun6Hr8m/

The only issue with the Cosmicar is it doesn’t have round aperture blades. As soon as I have the resources, I’m going to look into the possibility of doing a swap. It’s fine, as most of the good DOF shots are benefited by the full aperture.

I already had a shoot day booked with my friend Jennifer Liza, a model in the Tokyo area. She was down to try some weird lenses and I took the Cosmicar/Ultra Star combo into the city. We went to Shinjuku and Akihabara to find some good places and lights.

The only problem I had was doing any kind of scenery. A few shots in the video, especially in the beginning, have more vignetting than most and for some reason the video files fall completely apart when trying to color correct. No tripods were allowed in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Tower, so I had to hand hold with a mini rig in a surprisingly crowded area.

Everything else came out great. With a little bit of work, I think this is a viable rig for a big project. I almost want to shave the front off my Ultra Star just to try to get rid of that little vignette completely, but it may just be the fact that the rear of the c-mount lens just barely works vignette free as is. Either way, this is a real-deal setup that I will keep even as I start focusing my collection down. These types of videos are helping figure out what I want to work with in the future. I have definitely found something special. Here’s to the future!

Once again, thanks to Jennifer Liza for helping me out with this vid!
https://www.instagram.com/jenem_/

JSD LABS: Panasonic GH5 VFR 180fps ver. 2.2 Test – Maihama Skate Park

When the newest GH5 Firmware update came out, it claimed to improve the stability of the VFR. To me, in hope, that was fixing some of the issues that I had earlier with the high speed modes beyond 120fps. We did do a few 120fps shots in Tokyo Dreams and I really didn’t see what everybody was complaining about. I had a few editors not even know it was shot in HD next to the 4K footage. So, with firmware version 2.2 in hand, I set out to Maihama Skate Park in Tokyo to practice skate filming and see if I could break the 180fps mode on the GH5.

I think using the VFR mode well is to know it’s limitations and strengths. Some of the best and cleanest shots were done with a good DoF. I used the 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron when I could, and even tried a few shots on my beloved 75mm Cosmicar f/1.4 c-mount lens. I always had the shutter at 180 and used a variable ND until it got too dark. I saw next to no issues with the footage frame wise, but I did not try to push any of the colors in editing. All in all I think I will be doing more slow motion at 180fps and not worry about any problems that seem to keep people from using it. The next step for me is to try and rack focus while filming fast motion. It’s kinda scary, as you could easily end up with nothing in focus, instead of most things in focus.

I am still slowly learning how to film skating properly. I don’t skate, so what I can do filming-wise is limited. I’d love to learn how to be a skate filmer and get to chase on a board, but I can’t risk getting injured or breaking gear right now. Maybe soon?

I was very lucky to get some great skaters for this video. Special thanks to everybody who helped out! And I’m sorry if I filmed you and it’s not in the video. I most likely screwed up the shot somehow.

Skaters in order of appearance:
https://www.instagram.com/charlie_fxtrader/
https://www.instagram.com/uhnair/
https://www.instagram.com/manasasaki_/
https://www.instagram.com/harutosk8/
https://www.instagram.com/shinn_nosuke_/
https://www.instagram.com/kaedesk8/
https://www.instagram.com/shimon_mdaskater/
https://www.instagram.com/luismoravids/
Toa Hoshino
https://www.instagram.com/yutohorigome/
https://www.instagram.com/austinnodie/
https://www.instagram.com/ericskateloveg/
https://www.instagram.com/maxkiks/

Video specs:
Panasonic GH5, firmware ver. 2.2
180fps 1080p VFR
42.5mm f/1.2 Leica Nocticron
12-35mm f/2.8 Panasonic
75mm f/1.4 Cosmicar c-mount
Various variable ND filters

JERHELL – KINGDOM HEARTS Music Video, Directed by JSD

My first real music video in awhile, and my first music video as JSD. Pretty excited to get it out there and the reception has been great!

Jerell wanted something quick and gritty, and he was thrilled with the result. After he told me what he wanted, I knew the perfect setting: Minato Mirai in Yokohama. We filmed half the video in Shinjuku and half at Minato Mirai. I had planned to try and film more in the Cosmo World amusement park, but they closed on days we needed to film and closed early the day we were there. It’s all good, as we got plenty of good footage regardless.

I filmed the video with a special setup using special settings on the GH5. I wanted ALL-I 60p 10-bit video, and my camera can only do that in 1080. Didn’t bother me, as I was going to use an anamorphic lens anyway. I used my Aivascope 1.75x anamorphic lens with the Focuser 8 diopter. Normally it’d be really difficult to use this setup at night, but I discovered that if I use my Voightlander 17.5mm f/0.95 lens in ETC Mode on the GH5, I can get much better images at even f/1.2 with the Aivascope. That lens loves small sensors.

I’m glad I got to help him out with his first real music video. I’ll be working with him and his crew more in the future. Next time we’ll take the quality up a notch. Looking forward to it!

JSD LABS: GOLDEN AFTERNOON – GH5, SLR Magic Anamorphot-50, Iron Glass Modified Helios 44M, and Kenko Orange Filter

I had been thinking of ways to make use of the SLR Magic Anamorphot-50 outside of it’s basic look. I had already done some tests in DCI Cinema 4K with it, which with the Anamorphot gives you the same aspect ratio as a 2x lens in the GH5’s Anamorphic Mode. I was already trying to think of tests using 1.33x lenses for landscape and wide shots to mix with 2x shots for focused areas or people. I really wish I had access to another GH5 to do some real testing of this kinda stuff. But done right, the Anamorphot performs well.

Rig used for this shoot. GH5, M42 Lens Turbo II,
Iron Glass Modified Helios 44-M 58mm. Kenko YA 3 orange filter

I have a small collection of orange filters that I had been getting cheap on Yahoo auction for a year now. I had a few ideas on how to use them , and this is my first one. A lot of people complain about the strong blue flares on the Anamorphot-50 and how contrasty and out of place they can be. Well, I think I fixed that. Now they’re a nice golden color… but so is everything else. Not that I mind, I think for some projects this would work well.

The area I was filming in is one that I came across during my previous photo walk wanderings. It’s a great area and the trails remind me of the ones I grew up around in America. Nice and clean, beautiful views, quiet, and well maintained. The only issue I had was that the higher I climbed, the windier it got. Had I any other camera without excellent IBIS it may have been difficult to shoot with such a light setup.


The only disappointment from this shoot was that the Iron Glass Helios 44M is useless wide open on the Anamorphot. Even though the Anamorphic disc inside the lens brings the minimum to a f/3.5,  the Lens Turbo II brought it to a f/2.5. I shot some tests in Shinjuku wide open a few days ago and they were all unusable. I think I shot most of the Golden Afternoon video at f/4 on the lens. With the Animorphic bokeh filter and the Lens Turbo, I don’t even want to think about the math to figure out what I was actually shooting at.

I didn’t have my regular M42 adapter with me, so I just shot as-is. I want to try more to see if I can get a decent image wide open. I was really hoping for that orange/blue/violet hinted image. You can still see a bit of blue/purple in a few shots. The aperture changed the colors slightly depending on how far I was stopped down. I’d love to try an amber Helios with a blue filter someday.

Shooting 400mb/s gave me a lot of information to work with. I did play around with a few shots to see how many colors I could bring back, but that’s for another test. When shooting raw photos, I could get about 80% of the original colors back.

More fun projects coming soon!

Specs:
Panasonic GH5, C4K 24fps 400mb/s ALL-I
M42 Lens Turbo II
Iron Glass Modified Helios 44-M 58mm
Kenko YA 3 orange filter

Filmed at Konandaisaezurinooka Park in Yokohama, Japan.

Music by me, made in the iOS Launchpad app.

Tokyo Dreams – Luis Mora Short Film

Since October, I have been working on and off with Luis Mora on a film he’s wanted to make since he came to Japan for the first time earlier this year. We had planned to try and shoot it in a few weekends, but that drastically changed into all weekends and many weekdays/weeknights. Even with a lot of planning, this was a challenge to get done by his deadline. We only got to see a small part of Tokyo but it still came out huge.

Luis’s goal was to tell his story with Japan as a backdrop. I have done plenty of “Tokyo” videos in the past, so I already knew how to deal with that part. The first real challenge for me was filming skating for the first time. I had watched plenty of skating videos over the years, but never had a chance to film any skating. Luis was very specific as to how he wanted the skating filmed, so I had a lot to learn. I’m still filming with him while he is here, so I want to get even more practice.

I have a lot of experience with “new media consulting” but I have never worked with a “new generation vlogger” before. I learned a lot about how youtube works now for people who do it for a living, and I helped him with old school outreach planning and culture gaps. It was a very fulfilling experience overall.

As for the film itself, the GH5 performed wonderfully. We shot most of the film on the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm Nocticron at f/1.2 with a variable ND. We did a few during the day in tight spaces with the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8, and a few of the last shots were done with the Voightlander 17.5mm f/0.95. The 4K 60fps along with V-Log did a great job capturing the city colors. I’m super happy with the regular 4K 60fps. Another thing… the GH5 Dual IS and IS Video Lock are INCREDIBLE. I’m willing to bet you can’t tell which shots were on a gimbal and which were not. I mean, the gimbal was amazing in it’s own right, but I had no idea hw good the IS is until I was using it constantly. I used my Beholder DS2A with the DS2 arms when I could, though. Because of the GH5’s IS, even at 42.5mm, I could walk with it and get super smooth video with the Beholder. The only time I had small shakes was in high wind, but Warp Stabilizer smoothed them out to a point where I’m pretty sure you’ll have no idea where I used it. (Except for two shots, which absolutely had to be in the film)

Lastly, I’m a firm believer in the message of the film. I may not be where I want to be in life overall, but I have never given up doing what I want to do. As long as you don’t stop trying, no matter how little or how long it takes, you never know what you’ll accomplish.

I look forward to working with Luis more and have a lot of my own projects coming as well! Stay tuned!