Tag Archives: tokyo

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: 2.0x Anamorphic Rig Tests

(vimeo)

Finally getting around to doing some test shots and setups with my anamorphic stuff. I recently picked up an Elmoscope-II and a SLR Magic Rangefinder to make the filming process a bit easier. I had done some tests with my other lenses (they’re on instagram) so I wasn’t completely lost as to what to do. But I still ran into some challenges.

I originally filmed with a clamp and lens support on rails… but on the first day of shooting I had a few scary moments with the lens just… falling out of the tightened clamp. I NEVER had that happen with my Isco Ultra Star. I discovered my Sigma ST-21 tripod ring fits the Elmoscope PERFECTLY (like it was made for it) so I have been using that since. When on the tripod ring you can only use it with the rangefinder. I ordered a Redstan screw-on clamp made for this lens, because I have projects where I will need to dual focus.

Biggest issue when filming… Centering and vignetting.

Shooting on the Leica 42.5 proved difficult with the tripod ring.
Shooting on the Leica 42.5 proved difficult with the tripod ring.

The widest you can go on the Elmoscope is 85mm on a 35mm frame, which is what the Leica 42.5mm is on MFT. I tried to go with that, seeing that it had OIS and one of the best images you can get to start with. On the clamp it wasn’t so bad. But on the tripod collar the slightest movement will take it off center and give you a black corner. This is fine if you are cropping, but I haven’t decided if I want to crop any projects that I will be using this on. I like the super wide look. I also had issues with distortions that I didn’t have when the lens was on the clamp. No matter how tight I got everything down, I think there was still too much movement between the lens and camera. This could also have been triggered by the OIS, which is a problem I had with the iPhone 7 Plus and the anamorphic I was using. I want to try a camera with IBIS some time in the future to see if this cuts down on the warping. Until then, once I get my Redstan clamp, I will try it again.

Filmed with the Helios-44
Filmed with the Helios-44

I only shot with the Helios-44 at night, which is where I think it shines. You can tell the differences in the shots. The Helios just gives this amazing glow to everything. Unfortunately, that’s not what you always want. They obviously don’t match the other shots in the same area. Also, I’m not sure if this is just my copy, but my Helios-44 goes…beyond infinity? When I originally set it up on the rig I thought that something was wrong with the Rangefinder or Elmoscope. Set everything to infinity, and…. blurry. It was only when I was trying to dual focus it that I realized the focus ring doesn’t stop at infinity and infinity isn’t marked properly. Made it a pain to get right and sharp. I’m going to try and get another Helios-44 and see if it’s the same.

Another issue I had was the golden or white halo. Depending n the sun or light angle, it would fill all or half the corners. I know some people like it, but I don’t.

You can see the light vignetting on the bottom of the frame.
You can see the light vignetting on the bottom of the frame.

This was an issue I had on my Ultra Star too. A little too late, but Tito Ferradans over at Anamorphic on a Budget JUST released a video on how to fix this here: Kowa B&H Edge Blackening. I will definitely be doing this to my lenses.

Lastly, I am not 100% sold on the Rangefinder. I think it has it’s uses and benefits, but I can see why a lot of people don’t like the blue flares or dots this thing makes.

The blue is super strong and can clash with some scenes.
The blue is super strong and can clash with some scenes.

On the plus side, the Rangefinder performed very well as far as focusing. I was able to get very sharp images from 2.0 and up on the Leica and 2.8 and up on the Helios-44. I even put a 1x diopter on the front and it focused closer very well. I plan to try some stronger diopters when I get the chance. The ONLY negative aspect to focusing was how much I had to turn the damn thing on a follow-focus. But, I think with some better gearing (and maybe a better follow focus) that could be solved.

Overall, I think this setup has some potential. My goal is to work on it until I can get 100% cinema-clean images. That will take modifying the setup AND how I shoot. I may be uploading a ton of shorter tests until I am 100% happy with the results.

Can't beat that anamorphic bokeh.
Can’t beat that anamorphic bokeh.

I also want to thank Jesse from Ice Block for helping me out and being in the video. I had a hard time getting people to commit and be in my videos for some reason.