Tag Archives: Kevin Johnson

b-roll.net Makes it into Print

run-bag It was like going back to school and working on a term paper, but I recently finished an article that appears in the most recent issue of Broadcast Engineering. The March 2009 issue of the industry magazine just started shipping, and you can find my article, “What’s in your bag?” on page 26.

It all started with a question posted on the b-roll.net FORUM titled,  “What is your favorite “indispensable” tool in your run bag?” You gave me some great ideas that made it into the column.

For the time being, you can only read the article through Broadcast Engineering, so pick up a copy today. Don’t expect the magazine to be at the grocery store checkout – it’s kind of a specialty magazine.

If you don’t subscribe to Broadcast Engineering or see a copy at your shop, you can read the article online at: http://broadcastengineering.com/products/whats-your-bag/. You may have to register before you can read it, but it’s free.

Thanks to Broadcast Engineering Editor, Brad Dick for giving me a shot at writing for print. It’s was a fun experience, and I hope to have a chance to do it again. Thanks also to my fiancée, Clare for editing me, and making sure I dotted my “i’s” and crossed my “t’s.”

How to Setup, Light, & Shoot Great Looking Interviews

From: Kevin Johnson

Training DVD 60 minutes Retail: $40.00 vortexmedia.com

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks… or so they say.

Even though career wise, I’m not an “old dog” (more like a mid-life crisis dog), I’ve been doing this enough that I feel like I have my bag of tricks filled just fine.

So when Doug Jensen of Vortex Media sent me a copy of his DVD, “How to Setup, Light, & Shoot Great Looking Interviews (using a light kit that costs under $1500),” I’ll admit I was a little skeptical. My interview lighting is adequate, gets the job done, and looks OK… why should I sit at home after a long day at work and watch someone tell me how to do my job.

The DVD sat next to the TV for a week or so until, I needed to kill time waiting for a plumber to arrive. I popped the disc in, and much to my surprise, I LEARNED NEW TRICKS!

“How to Setup” takes you through the process of lighting an interview from start to finish. Broken down in smart chapters, the video follows a typical production crew setting up an interview. Everything from picking the proper location in a subjects house – to the placement of the camera – to positioning the interviewer and subject – and then finally what lights to pull out and where to place them.

A full day long lighting seminar crammed in a 60 minute DVD, this is the perfect video for a photographer just starting out in the business of television. Even if you don’t have the $1500 light kit described in the title, you can still learn a lot about placement, composition and depth of field.

But don’t think this leaves the experienced photog out of the loop. Even after 14 years in the business, I found a lot of nuggets that I can use in my daily shoots.

Check out a preview of the video here.

For a limited time, b-roll readers save 30% of the purchase of How to Setup, Light, & Shoot Great Looking Interviews (using a light kit that costs under $1500).”

More info at: http://vortexmedia.com

I-Cuff

Even though the Labor Day weekend has passed by, that doesn’t mean summer is over yet. The noonday sun still sits high in the sky. The late burning orb keeps us from having to pull out a light kit for 6pm live shots, but it can also be a shot in the eye.

One of the most important aspects of a video camera is the viewfinder. If you can’t see what your shooting, how are you going to create award winning images? Sun-created glare in your viewfinder can be one of the biggest challenges of summer. Most cameras are equipped with a rubber eye cup that shields the viewfinder from stray sunrays. The problem is, those like myself who shoot with glasses cannot take advantage of the rubber eyecup.

Ira Raider, a freelance shooter in Philadelphia, PA has come up with an answer. The i-cuff is a nylon sleeve that fits most professional camera viewfinders creating a light-blocking hood. The cuff is large enough that glasses fit nicely within, and the felt lined edges prevent the famous “sweat circles” that appear on glasses after a long day of shooting.

The i-cuff invention has been around for a number of years, but Raider recently expanded his product line to serve the growing DV market. With some slight modifications, the i-cuff DV was born and fits most “smaller” camcorders like the Sony PD-150 and PC-110.
Having just bought a new PC-110, I was anxious to try out the new eyepiece hood. Raider sent me both a full size i-cuff PRO and an i-cuff DV. The PRO model fit perfectly on my Betacam SX viewfinder. I enjoyed the sun block, and my glasses stayed cleaner. Those off the shoulder stories out on the beach were much easier to handle (as if a day at the beach isn’t always a… day at the beach).

While shooting long interviews or press conferences on a tripod, I often pull out the front element of my viewfinder so I can see the screen from further away. Without the added magnification, I’m able to monitor the composition for the comfort of a chair instead of standing and hunching over the camera.

The snug fitting i-cuff doesn’t allow easy removal of the front element. The cuff must first be removed, which creates a multi-step process. In addition, the cuff covers up the diopter adjustment, which allows focusing of the viewfinder. If the diopter is off, the cuff must again be removed before adjustments can be made. Granted all of these inconveniences are minor, but in the “heat of battle” they can be frustrating.

I was very excited about the i-cuff DV. My new little PC-110 has a tiny little viewfinder with no real eyepiece. The 2″ fold out LCD screen makes up for this indoors, but glare makes the screen useless in the sun. The day the i-cuff package arrived in the mail, I had just returned from a shoot at the beach where I simply guessed what the shot looked like.

The i-cuff DV is huge. It probably adds a third or more to the length of the camera. Like its big brother, it allows glasses to be worn while using it. The design of the PC-110 viewfinder is for the shooters eye to be right on the viewfinder. If the eye is simply a quarter to half inch away, the viewfinder image is vignetted. Unfortunately the design of the i-cuff DV doesn’t allow you to be close enough to the viewfinder to see a good image. The benefit of the sun block is counteracted by lack of visibility. Due to these difficulties, I never used the i-cuff DV in the field on my PC-110. A colleague tried the i-cuff DV on a PD-150, and ran into the same problems.

I like the concept of the i-cuff, as a comfortable sun block hood. The design is well thought out, and the fit is clean. If glasses and glare are issues for you, this just may be your solution.

The i-cuff PRO (which fits most professional cameras) sells for $65, while the i-cuff DV goes for $39.95. For more information, check out their website at http://www.i-cuff.com.

EasyRig

From: Kevin Johnson

I am a young man… with an old man’s back. If he wants it back, he is more than welcome to it!

Even though television cameras have become lighter over the years, heaving that 25-pound beast onto my shoulder on a daily basis gets old. My back doesn’t like long shoots off the sticks… but sometimes duty calls.

When the ship and crews of the USS Theodore Roosevelt battle group returned home as heroes from the War on Terrorism, our station did wall-to-wall LIVE coverage. We were running up and down the pier interviewing families who were happily awaiting their loved ones arrival. It was great emotional television, but after 1-1/2 hours of running with the camera on my shoulder, I could barely walk.

I decided I needed to try an EasyRig! This unique invention was shown to me by Lars Ohman at the 16×9 Inc. booth, during NAB in Vegas. I called them up and they gladly sent a demo version for me to try.

As I opened the package, I found what looked like a frame-pack used in mountain climbing. It was separated in the middle to allow it to pack compactly in the included bag. Snapping it together was… well, a snap. High-quality nylon straps and light aluminum rails made it very sturdy and light at only about 7 pounds. In no time I had the straps tweaked and pulled to have all the weight resting on my hips. The set up was amazingly quick. I clamped the camera to the tension cable and it was up on my shoulder… 10 seconds flat.

“Hey Kev… you look like Boba Fett… you trying out for the new Star Wars?”

“What’s with the bumper-car hook on your back?”

“Are you going to blow the leaves off the front sidewalk?”

I started hearing the jokes immediately. The EasyRig does look strange and it didn’t take long for a room of cynical photogs to start mocking it.

Their tune changed once they tried on the EasyRig. It was funny to watch their faces change when instantly, they could no longer feel the weight of their camera.

“Hey… this is pretty cool!”

“I could get used to this.”

The EasyRig system uses a spring-loaded tension cable to pull the weight of the camera up to the support arm and then down to the hips and legs. You don’t feel any weight on your right shoulder; the camera just seems to levitate there. Just like the pictures in the magazine ads, you can completely let go of the camera and it will sit patiently on your shoulder.

The “neutral balance” of the camera allows you to put it in almost any position, down to your waist. Hip-level shots are a breeze, and your arms don’t tire holding the camera out. Even though the EasyRig is not a “steadi-cam” tool, the weight displacement lets you maintain steadier stationary shots. Off-the-shoulder interviews are a breeze and surprisingly steady.

A few of our shooters have small waists that prevented the hip strap from pulling tight, but it did fit all of us with a little more around the mid-section. Probably someone with a 30″ waist or smaller would have to make some adjustments.

I did discover a unique problem with walking shot steadiness. Because the EasyRig rests on your hips, all of the up and down movement of walking is transferred up the rig and causes the camera to move. Compensating for that may be a skill that needs to be learned, but I found I can do steadier walking shots with my unassisted shoulder.

Even with its quick set-up time, the EasyRig2 wouldn’t be practical for “run and gun” spot news shooting. But on the other hand, this product is perfect for use in sideline sports coverage, long duration shoulder shooting, and studio set work. It will save your back from the pain of long shoots.

Until cameras hover above the ground by themselves, nothing beats the EasyRig in taking the weight of shooting off your back. If I were to do the “Theodore Roosevelt” shoot again, I would only do it with an EasyRig!

For more information on EasyRig2, check out their web page:
easyrig.com or their U.S. distributor: 16x9inc.com