Category Archives: Japan

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!

Working with skater/Youtuber Luis Mora, ERASED

I use to watch a lot of Youtube. Use to, as in I have been so busy lately that I am really far behind and had to unsub form a few channels just to keep the backlog down. I found Luis from one of the many skate channels I watch and noticed he was coming to Japan. Checked out his videos, really liked them, and hit him up on instagram to see if he needed any help filming here.

He responded and we hit it off well. We started planning some shoots and I met him at his first big event in Japan at Mortar Skate Shop.

This shoot had some issues. I am still getting use to the camera/gimbal combo and it’s limitations. I won’t get into the details, but I wish I had filmed it differently. It was a lesson learned and he was still happy with the overall result. It’s still a great little edit.

We continued working together, and eventually planned a music video shoot for his friend Jerell (coming soon). We have already shot it, but I have been too busy to edit it. I can’t wait to get that project out there.

The big project that we’ve been doing is a short film called “Tokyo Dreams”. I won’t give too much info on it now, but we have already filmed HOURS of footage and still have a bit to go. It’s one of the biggest projects I have done in years and the video is looking to be some of the best stuff I have ever shot. There’s a little preview in his most recent vlog.

There is also an edit I did when we went to the Tokyo Motor Show. This is usually a dead time of the year for me and I never get to go, so it was a blast, even if it was only for a few hours. I’m a car nut, so it was a visual fun fest. The only issue I had was the crazy and drastic changes in lighting EVERYWHERE. Every booth and stage had a completely different lighting setup, making it hard to transition quickly. I used the Beholder DS2A gimbal with the D2S arms and I got just as many stares as the cars. It did a fantastic job getting shots over the crowd and nice, steady moves. I’d like to try a wider lens at the next car show I film. I need that Olympus 8mm f/1.8… I absolutely love some of the shots I got and they are totally going in my reel. 4k 60fps on a gimbal with the GH5 truly is a force to be reckoned with.

Then last, for now, is a short skit we did called “INTERVENTION”.

4K version:

VLOG with the short as the intro:

This is how you should do it. Get together with a bunch of friends and make something stupid for fun. We filmed this thing in about 3 hours, as I had to make last train and Jerell had to fly out in the morning. Because I was juggling camera, direction, lighting, and audio, it’s not perfect. But it was crazy fun to try to make something like this so quickly. Everybody did a great job, given the circumstances. Poor Jerell was tackled down like 6 times and was covered with orange juice by the end. We got lucky with the location working as well as it did, as the first one we tried had way too much traffic.

We filmed on the GH5 with a Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lens and my Möller 32/2x Anamorphic. (The same setup as this post.) For the chase stuff I was riding a bicycle and with the rig on my Beholder DS2A. This was also my first time trying the anamorphic mode 400MB/s ALL-I mode. It destroyed my 64 GB card capacity halfway into filming and I had to dump it onto my computer. But at least I know that spending big bucks on a superfast SD card was worth it. We only shot like 30 minutes of video, but the project was over 70 GB. Crazy stuff.

To all the new people coming from Luis’s channel, Hi! I am JSD. I make things. Right now I am focusing on video, but I have a lot more to share with the world. Look forward to it!

Filming the Eupholks Live at the Basement Bar in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo

I have know the singer of the band Eupholks, Koike, for a few years now. He asked me to film some of his live shows, so I decided to give it a shot. The first time I tried to do a 2 camera shoot by myself… and it didn’t go well. More people showed up than expected and my b-camera was blocked partially or fully for most of the show. So, I acquired some help for the next one and figured… why not do it in anamorphic?

At first I was going to try some kind of 2x/1.33 hybrid, with the wide shots being 1.33 and the close up being 2x. I don’t have a good single-focus setup for 2x yet, so I decided just to borrow an SLR Magic Anamorpot and do the full thing in 1.33.

SLR Magic Anamorphot on the Left, my unbranded 1.33x classic adapter on the right.

I couldn’t get anybody with a GH4 or GH5 to help me, so I decided to try using my Panasonic G7 along with my GH5. I set them to the same settings for video, color, and white balance. The G7 was on the Beholder DS2A with the Panasonic 12-35mm 2.8 and the little 1.33x, and on the GH5 I had the Leica Nocticron 42.5mm 1.2 in ETC mode with the Anamorphot. I also got to try out the  Video IS lock on the GH5 for the first time, which works very well once you learn how to use it.

Unfortunately, filming didn’t go off without a hitch. Jesse, who was helping me film, had the G7 on the gimbal in the back. I didn’t show him how to check if it was recording properly and he missed the first 5 minutes of the show. The G7 didn’t like the combo of low light and the anamorphic, and would hunt occasionally when the lighting was low.

Yeah, I decided to do the whole show in auto focus on both cameras. If I’m gonna experiment with weird setups, why not see how far you can push them? If I could have changed anything, I would have put the Near/Far ring of the Anamorphot on a follow focus. When the camera is barely close enough to get focus with the combo, the auto focus can give up sometimes.

Overall I think they came out good. I kinda like the slow creep into focus the Nocticron did for a few shots, and I think it fits the overall show anyway.

I am looking forward to doing more stuff with Eupholks and other bands. I would love to somehow do a 3-camera anamorphic shoot if I can find the right people and gear.

Anyway, check the videos above for the show!

Eupholks
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWvE_UroEu9Q7vzR0oMfI6A
tumblr: https://eupholks.tumblr.com/
bandcamp: https://eupholks.bandcamp.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eupholks/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hiroyuki_koike_

Special thanks to Jesse for helping me shoot!
http://iceblock.tv/

https://www.instagram.com/iceblocktv/

JSD Labs: Panasonic GH5, Möller 32/2x Anamorphic, and the Beholder DS2A testing

Full stats:
Camera: Panasonic GH5, 60fps 4K, ISO 1600 mostly, SS 100 always. V-LOG, Firmware 2.0 with Anamorphic IS and IS lock.
Lens: Pentax Super Takumar 50mm 1.4, used at f/1.4 and f/2.0
Anamorphic: Möller 32/2x
0.5+ and 3.0+ diopters.
Filmed near Yokohama Station, Japan.

This ended up being a pretty epic combination. I’ve had the Beholder DS2A for a few weeks now, but I’ve been dealing with weather, flaky people, and health issues that have kept me from making this video. I hope to have a full review of the DS2A soon, but I have to focus on what I can for now.

First off, while the Möller and the Beholder make this video what it is, the D2S 5th axis arms and the new GH5 firmware make it epic. As for the D2S arms, I am still learning how to tweak them for various situations. It might not be down to calibration as much as it is preference and walking situation. I’ll try to have more on this when I do a full review. Overall, they DO make a big enough difference that makes them worth the money in my mind.

The new firmware brings us video IS lock. This is HUGE for gimbal and steadycam work. The difference is obvious, especially when using Dual IS lenses. I can actually use the Nocticron with this rig, but only with ETC turned on. I stuck with the 50mm so I could get a wider image. Also, it seems the 2.0 anamorphic IBIS makes a difference as well. I should do a comparison.

That said, this was shot using a 50mm lens (33mm HFOV with the anamorphic) and the walking shots are so damn smooth. I have never really even tried any gimbal work on something that tight or a lens setup this big. Now, to balance and support it properly I had to make a simple support rig. It’s made from that simple aluminum flash bar that is for sale everywhere and part of a telescope lens clamp to support the end. Using a washer, I got it nice and flat along the rig.

The only unfortunate result of this is that it makes the camera and lens sit a bit high. While I can get it perfectly balanced, occasionally sharp movements will cause some vertical wobble. I’m pretty sure I could get rid of this with some PID and settings tweaks, but I’m very happy with the base gimbal settings. As you can see in the photo, the angled motor arm makes this rig possible. I don’t think I could do the same setup on the non-angled DS2. It does make it a bit weird to balance, though. I’m still getting use to it. Balancing overall was super easy. When I added diopters to the front I could re-balance the rig in less than a minute. I did use Warp Stabilizer on a few wide shots, but I doubt you’ll be able to tell which ones.

Because of the difficulty of the rig, I decided to find a sweet spot and just stick with it. Really pushing that 1600 ISO on some of these, but It doesn’t bother me too much for night video. It’s mostly shot at f/1.4, but I think some of the super bright crowd shots are at f/2.0. The lens and the anamorphic were kept at infinity and diopters were added, except for two shots where I double focused to get beyond what the 0.5+ Tamron could reach. It wasn’t too bad. The bokeh in this video is superb, the flares hit just right, colors are mostly good. I am still learning how to deal with V-LOG, but you gotta take what you can get with this setup. Shooting at night left me locked at a shutter speed of 100 to prevent flicker. I think I want to invest in some light ND filters for night video eventually.

I need to super thank Matthew (rhyminggaijin) and Kahesi for helping me with this shoot. They did a great job and I’ll most likely work with them again in the future. (Their links are below)  I’m not sure why, but I’ve had a REALLY hard time getting people for my videos. Either people are too shy, flake out, or just never get back to me. It’s really hindering my production schedule. I’m getting tired of working around it.

Lastly, I ask for your patience as I have been dealing with some health issues this year that are the real reason for the lack of regular updates. I have so much on the shelf and so many projects that I’ve had to outright cancel. After this shoot I have been really struggling to get through the day. I’m hoping that my most recent hospital visit will be the start of getting this cleared up. I have so much I want to do…

ANYWAY! I was pretty happy with this video overall. I want to do more and eventually clean it up to a more professional look, or at least as close as this rig can get. Look forward to more!

Once again, thank you to:

Matthew:
https://www.instagram.com/rhyminggaijin/
https://www.youtube.com/user/Rhyminggaijin

Khaleesi:
https://www.instagram.com/sexy_beau_diamond_/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3luSyBYkUcdVhExrpO6m4g

Yokohama in 8K – A Panasonic GH5 6K Photo Mode Anamorphic Exercise

Becoming impatient waiting for Panasonic to release the firmware update with full resolution Anamorphic mode, I decided to take Friday off and try to get some good shots around Yokohama using the 6K Photo mode. It didn’t end up going as planned, but I decided to upload a few shots anyway.

In order, the shots were filmed at Yamashita Park, Osanbashi Pier, the Landmark Tower Sky Garden Observatory, and Ishikawacho Chinatown.

As luck would have it, it ended up being one of the hottest, or the hottest days of the summer. It made it hard to move around, focus (mind and lens), and it was really hazy overall. Not ideal conditions when trying to get your best shots. I think many of them came out great, but double focusing the Ultra Star got tedious when every shot was so different. I had issues with vignetting that I couldn’t see because it was so bright out. I wanted a good variety of shots, but I also knew I couldn’t do a long video. 8K is a pain in the ass to render and the file sizes are huge.

I kept my gear light, using a video tripod, rails, and external mic. I had originally planned to do 5.1 surround audio, but my mic setup failed for whatever reason. I apologize for the on camera audio. I was filming with the GH5, the Panasonic 45-175mm f/4-5.6 lens, and the Chinatown shots were done with the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2. Most of the early shots were done with a variable ND, and the shots inside the Landmark Tower observatory were with a CPL.  Any landscape shots were done at f/8, closeups at f/4, and all night shots were done at whatever f-stop to keep the shutter speed at 50, about f/2.0-3. I used 1+ and 3+ diopters for close shots.

Yamashita Park had lots of great places to film. I will definitely go back when I have the chance. And yes, All Star by Smash Mouth suddenly started playing while filming. They also played I Try by Macy Gray, making me think that the park’s music CD was from 1999.

Osanbashi Pier apparently shakes just enough to not be compensated by Dual IS. It was constant the entire shoot but I didn’t notice until I got home to check the shots. After Effects Warp Stabilizer did a good job eliminating it, but had I known I would have done the shots handheld.

Landmark Tower’s Sky Garden was great. It cost 1,000 yen just to enter, but they had no issues with me using a tripod. (Many Japanese tourist sites don’t allow them) The glass reflection, however, was really difficult to deal with, even with a CPL. I couldn’t get the lens close enough to the glass to eliminate it, and the glass is so thick/layered that even then there were still reflections. Some of the shots I took with my iPhone right up against the glass had reflections.

The shots in Chinatown came out great. I would have filmed more but I was already super tired by that point. I also had limitations, as if I wasn’t careful I got heavy vignetting with the Isco Ultra Star and the 42.5mm lens. I need a bigger variable ND if I’m going to use that setup. I tried to film a guy making candy, but his lights were so bright that I had to stop down to f/5.0, and it gave ugly dark corners.

 

The next challenge was working with the damn H.265 files. I repackaged them in Handbrake (who decided to change the dimentions on a few videos for no reason), and they worked OK in Adobe Premier. I have a pretty fast computer that can handle 4K stuff with zero issues. But it was like I was in 2008 with HD files on a 2006 computer. Press space bar, wait 5 seconds, it plays. The edit took far longer than it should have. And that was after rendering all the shots at 1/8 resolution. The rest was no-nonsense, I imported it into After Effects for color correction (something I am still not good at) and then it came time to render.

After researching if there was a better way to render 8K video and failing in all attempts, I decided to try just slightly reduced settings from my early experiment that I rendered using GoPro Cineform and just hoped the file would be under 128 GB.

After 3 hours of rendering, I was left with a 3 minute and 19 second,  42 GB large, 9984×3744 sized video. I’m listing it as 8K, as Youtube will only support up to 8K right now.

Overall, I guess I’m happy with it. I think the shots could be cleaner. I think if I brought more gear and my square ND set I could have got better overall compositions. Double focusing is not an ideal process for getting perfect shots on the fly, and some of them are not as clean as I’d like. When Panasonic offers the full resolution 6K Anamorphic mode, hopefully it won’t be in that god-awful H.265 format. Until then, I think I’m done with the 6K Photo mode.

I need to get more hard drive space. This is going to be a data nightmare year.

May Showers, iPhone 7 Plus, Mavis

(Vimeo)

Still working on a lot of things at the moment, but I had to go out and film/upload something in the meantime. It was pouring rain today. I have a high-quality camera that is water resistant that does slow motion. Let’s put it to use!

The whole video was shot on the iPhone 7 Plus using both cameras. It’s attached to a selfie-stick (I get these things for free from distributors all the time. I have 4 of them) and filmed at 1080p 120 fps using the Mavis app. Edited in Adobe Premier and lightly color corrected. Music is something I threw together in Garageband ages ago.

JSD Labs: Anamorphic at f/0.95

(Vimeo)

One thing that I learned since getting into anamorphic is that fast apertures and anamorphic adapters do not mix. Most adapters will rarely work faster than f/2.0, with a lot of them going around 2.8-4.0. The fastest full anamorphic lens ever made is the Panavision 50mm f/1.0. Well, I think my 17.5mm f/0.95 has it beat.

My anamorphic is an unbranded 1.33x from the 90’s. While it may look like something from the Century Optics line, it’s more similar to the Sony VCL-W169. I have modded it a bit and it now has a filter ring, and have cleaned the class inside and out. I personally think some of the shots I get from it are better than the Century Optics stuff I have seen online. But as of now I have only tested it against the SLR Magic Anamorphot. Against the anamorphot it has it’s minuses and pluses, one of the big positives is that mine is smaller and doesn’t really vignette at all with the Voightlander. At night you can’t even really tell there is any vignette at all, especially in 4K.

I had been wanting to shoot a real test with this combo for awhile. I had done some test shots comparing it to the SLR Magic (may post those later) and various other things, but I really wanted to wait until I could get it on a GH4 or GH5. Got tired of waiting and my friend Yumiko was free to help with shooting, so I figured I’d go ahead and do one.

I shot at mostly 200 and 400 ISO, with maybe one shot at 600. I had planned to shoot the whole thing at 60p, but I had some issues with flickering at a shutter speed of 100 at random times, but I think it depends on the lights (It was really odd and random) so I may do another one all at 60 fps later. The under-cranked video was done at shutter speed 2 and then sped up in post. I also experimented with interpolating the 30 fps video to 24 fps, which worked nicely.

Used a +0.50 diopter for most of the shots of Yumiko. I think I used a +1.0 one time and then a +3.0 for the flowers at the end. I used a variable ND filter for the under-cranked video.

I told her we’d only be an hour. I didn’t want to spend all night composing a few shots. I wanted to see what I could do run-and-gun and then evolve what I learn for projects later. The +0.5 diopter really is magic… It’s what makes most of these shots possible. But even with it’s razor-thin focus, shots without the diopters can be just as sharp after a few meters or infinity. My only regret is that I didn’t go the extra mile and set up the Beholder for this rig. I didn’t give it much thought at the start because I had orignally planned to shot 60fps and thought it wouldn’t be and issue. Walking with that rig wasn’t too bad either way.

Lastly, I tried Speedgrade for the first time. I am usually horrible at color correcting, but I think I’m finally getting somewhere in Speedgrade. I decided to try it out to help simplify my workflow and it worked very well. I’ll do a few practice videos this week and watch a few tutorials to see if I can improve even more.

I have been shooting a lot lately, but nothing really complete. Just really trying to master what I have, or at least figure out how to get the best out of it. Might have to change a few things to get where I really want to be. Stay tuned…

JSD Labs: Zhiyun Smooth II, iPhone 7 Plus, and Mavis in Yoyogi Park

A few weeks ago I got a deal on a new Zhiyun Smooth II, the updated version. I had read, though I forget where, that it has really strong motors that let you use clip-on lenses on big phones. While the DJI phone gimbal seems to have good features, I had also heard that people had issues adding extras on their phone. I jumped on this one while I had the chance.

That said, the Smooth II does not lack in features at all. In fact, in this video I only used a small fraction of them, the main being the basic stabilization modes. I’ll try to do some more tests on it when I get a chance, but overall I am very impressed with this gimbal. It’s super solid and takes the same batteries as my Beholder, which is a bonus. The only issue I have with it is that it’s almost too light. For added stability (and more shooting options) I had it attached to a monopod for most of this video.

The big test for this video, however, was Mavis. I wanted to see how hard I could push it during touch and go shooting. Some of the shots pulled out of this session are absolutely amazing. However, there is still a learning curve and process that must be followed to use it correctly. Sometimes you forget that you have a fully manual control and that you have to change the settings manually for each shot. I tried to use the auto settings a few times, or had it set on target mode by mistake, leading to fluctuations of shutter speed or whatever. It was also kind of hard to see the screen in bright light sometimes. I think that with a polarizer filter and slowing down a bit I could consistently get clean shots with this rig. The Smooth II is nice and stiff when using the screen, so working with settings on the fly is easy.

Only issues I encountered overall were using the zoom lens with having the gimbal on the monopod and leaving some setting on Mavis in target mode. The vibrations are too much for the zoom OIS and it was hard to get a clean, steady shot while moving and using the zoom. No issues otherwise. I hope to see how far I can push this setup. Editing and color grading was surprisingly easy for most shots. The 100 MB/s files Mavis gives you have plenty of information to work with. Don’t let your shots get too dark, though. But I think that goes without saying for any kind of mobile video.

Big shoutout once again to Jesse of Ice Block, who let me tag along as he shot some b-roll for his upcoming feature, The Library. Here is the video he shot that day:

Finally, once again the music was made in the Novation Launchpad app. It’s a fantastic app for making worry-free music on the fly.  I have built up a cache of clips to use for future videos and even went and bought some of the sound packs. It’s fun and easy until I can get around to making more 100% original music.

 

JSD Labs: iPhone 7 Plus Anamorphic Video Test

iphone7plusanamorphictest2

(vimeo)

After a week of waiting, I finally received my iPhone 7 Plus from docomo on Saturday. With little time for tests and setting up, I  ventured out to Hakkeijima in Kanagawa the next day to shoot some video with a rig that I wasn’t even sure was going to work.

Because none of the manual camera control apps worked with the dual lens setup yet, I decided to do this first test with just the Camera app. Keep it basic, no color correction just to see what the rig can do. I had tested the setup with my iPhone 6 Plus last week after receiving the Tarion Cinema Mount, but even though it worked well, I had no idea if the dual camera setup would even be possible on it.

Luckily, it did work. I should have documented this process better, but there wasn’t too much to it. I am using an old 1.33x anamorphic that was made for video cameras in the days of 4:3. It’s unbranded, but it’s about the same size as the Sony VCL-W169. These are very rare, and while I have heard of others like mine on the internet, I haven’t seen another for sale in years. However, SLR Magic quietly released a new Anamorphot that has 52mm rear threads like mine that would most likely work with this setup as well if you want to build something similar. This is the only way to get an anamorphic on the iPhone 7 Plus until Moondog Labs releases their adapter later this year.

The major issues I had were with the OIS and the Beholder. Half of it may be attributed to my custom PID settings being for my Sony RX100IV on the Beholder, the other being the OIS would cause the lens to shift where you could see the edges of the anamorphic. Once the Mavis app is updated for the 7 Plus, I’ll give it another go and play around with shutting the OIS off when on a stabilizer.

Switching between the cameras worked really well. All of the automation in the Camera app seems to do well judging the shots, but I am excited to try it out with manual controls. I am especially curious on how the apps out there will deal with the zoom lens, as it has a few quirks I will go into in another post.

Overall I am pretty happy with the results. I tried to color correct a few of the shots and I was very impressed with what the camera can provide out of box. Once I have updated apps and have fine-tuned the setup better, I will give a a go again and really see how far I can push the iPhone 7 Plus cameras.

Hello Yokohama.

Wasn’t planning for this to be my first upload, but all my main projects are taking more time than I planned for various reasons.

I never get tired of city visuals in Japan.

This was mainly practice using the 1080p  120 fps feature on my Sony RX100IV. I wandered into main areas of Yokohama with the camera on my Beholder DS1 and just filmed whatever. It has no post stabilization and no additional time warping or remapping. Just re-interpolate the 120 fps to 24 fps and this is what you get. Aside some issues with color correcting (something I really need to practice more) I’m about 75% happy with how it came out.

Music was thrown together from something else I was working on rather quickly, so it’s not the best mix. No soundcloud until I make something I’m at LEAST 60% happy with.

Also available on vimeo.