A Film-Maker's Review of Shot Put Pro 6

A Film-Maker's Review of Shot Put Pro 6

Why aren't all camera operators doing this?

For some time now secure offloading software has been available. Whilst it's widely used by DITs and Data Wranglers, there is a slow but gradual uptake of use by camera operators, editors and videographers. I've personally been using ShotPut Pro 5 for the last year and whilst it does double the offload times at the end of a shoot, to have the knowledge that all the data is securely transferred to two separate locations and checksum verified, I can go home without worrying that I'm going to get a call in the morning from a client who's data corrupted on transfer.

So how often is that likely to happen? Well not very often that's for sure otherwise everyone would be using it by now. A prominent person within post-production recently tweeted (sorry I can't find the source now!)... "It's like wearing a condom. Why take the risk?"

For me personally, it comes into it's own when using Sony's dreaded XQD reader. A slight knock when it's plugged directly into the USB and the transfer fails. You might not always pick up on it so having a piece of software that tells you it didn't transfer successfully and displaying a warning message, is important in my mind.

The other point to using this, is that I like to have a minimum of two copies of all my footage during a project. This just means in the extremely rare event a mechanical failure or simply misplacing the drive, I've still got a backup of the important stuff elsewhere. Offloading software will automate that process for you.

ShotPut Pro 6

So this is where ShotPut Pro 6 comes in. As the latest version of Imagine Product's DIT suite, it brings a couple of new feature's to the table. Namely improved licensing, faster speed, better ability for individual files and a rather cool PDF summary of each transfer.

An introduction to ShotPro 6

Speed was one of the important factors for me. Currently, a 121GB XQD file offload going to two locations (one G-Technology Studio RAID and one single LaCie Rugged [non-SSD]) using ShotPut Pro 5 took 1hr 38mins to transfer. Using ShotPut Pro 6 it took just 50mins. That's obviously a great improvement after a long shoot day when you just want to pack the kit down and get home!

My next favourite feature is PDF summaries. As a real world application, I'm not really sure when this will be of use to me, but it is pretty cool... As well as including all the numbers, locations and file details it features thumbnails of all the files. I guess this could be useful if you wanted to quickly scan through the cards without booting up Sony Catalyst or your NLE.

Individual file and folder transfers have been greatly improved in version 6. Now there's the ability to just drag and drop different folders from one location to another. This is a great way of securely moving files around numerous hard drives in the edit suite.

Notifications also have some interesting new updates. On this version, you can program ShotPut Pro 6 to email or text you once the transfer has finished. Again, I'm not entirely certain when I'd personally need this, but I'm sure there is some real world situation that this would be really handy for someone.

ShotPut Pro Notting Hill Carnival

Using ShotPutPro 6 at Notting Hill Carnival this year

The final feature that I was excited for (weirdly) was the licensing. ShotPut Pro 5's licensing was pretty dire. Like pretty much everybody, I run a couple of machines. My main edit suite and a location laptop. ShotPut Pro 5's licensing meant that only one activation was included in a purchase and if I wanted to run the software on the other, I'd first have to deactivate it on the other one. This isn't easy when your out on location and realise the edit suite is still activated. When contacting Imagine via Twitter about this, their response was simply "Buy another license then...".

ShotPut Pro 6's licensing system is actually still rather confusing and over complicated. In a world of Adobe Creative Cloud, if you're going to implement a licensing system that pings a server, why not aim for something that's as intuitive as that? Instead they've developed an overly complicated, clunky system where by you individually generate keys and then revoke them via their website for each activation of the product. Whilst I can revoke a license when I'm out on location, it's still extremely complicated for a piece of software that's supposed to simplify my production process.

The overly confusing new licensing system

In Summary

All things considered though, if like me speed is of the essence when out on shoots and DITing footage, it's worth the upgrade if purely for that. As for the other features, they are interesting but I don't think they would swing me from ShotPut Pro 5 alone. I think the software will continue to develop and I'd like to see ShotPut Pro 7 come out next year, with even faster verification, a simpler interface and a licensing system that doesn't drive me nuts.

For now though, I'm safe in the knowledge that my footage is corruption free and not likely to get misplaced. Unless I'm really careless...

For more information on ShotPut Pro 6, checkout their website at http://www.imagineproducts.com/.

Do away with your script - how to capture a decent interview

Do away with your script - how to capture a decent interview

How often do you watch an online video and feel disconnected and un-interested by the video you’re watching? Actually, hardly ever. As regularly mentioned to anyone in online communications, engagement time is becoming shorter and shorter. If content isn’t engaging, there’s a high chance viewers simply won’t watch, read or look at it.

With this in mind, how we create more engaging content. For me it’s about capitalising on people’s genuine passions and knowledge and engaging them in conversation. Shane Meadows, one of my hero directors in the real world of film, uses this by allowing his actors to improvise the scenes on set. This allows the actors to play out the most emotive and heart wrenching scenes known in cinema.

So how can we use a little bit of Shane in the world of branded content, corporate and charity communications? For me it’s about allowing our interviewees to talk. A few well thought out questions will capture far more useful content than a script that’s taken days to write, approve and hours of filming on set.

So what questions should I ask in an interview?

This obviously depends on the subject and the content being produced. Obviously, only ask open-ended questions. Only ask questions you’re genuinely interested in hearing the answer from and never stop asking questions if there’s still more of their story you want to hear. I always treat questions pre-written before an interview as a guide.

As part of my pre-filming brief, I remind the people I’m working with them to produce the best interview we can capture. I ask them to try and respond with my question in their answer but I don’t get too hung up on this. I avoid stopping an interview too often to remind people to do this as you need to let them get a flow. I also like to have a clear idea of the purpose of the piece and what the key messages are going to be. It’s very hard to add this in once an interview has finished.                                     

Here are a few example questions I tend to ask.

1. Who, where, what? - Who are you, where are we and what’s going on?

2. What’s your full name and title, and please spell your full name

3. Why did you come up with this? (What problem are you trying to solve)

4. What is this and what’s the purpose of this?

5. In a sentence, sum up what it is?

6. And if people want to find out more, where can they go?

7. Have you got anything else you’d like to add about… ?

These questions form a basis of extracting the content required. It will tell a story, provide soundbites and allow the interviewee a time to freeform which is where you’ll get your best content from. Of course this won’t tell the whole story. For that, you need to pay attention. Ask relevant questions when required. Get the interviewee talking to you in a relaxed manor and do your best to help them forget about the camera.

Things I try to avoid to get the best performance

I always like to avoid using a script. Bullet points can work but as soon as an interviewee has to start thinking about what they have to say next, they can lose their train of thought. The only way a script can work, is if your talent is willing to learn it. And by learn it, I mean spend days ingraining it into their mind.

Autocue - I have hatred of autocue but sometimes it has to be done. I always recommend that someone who’s never used one before, shouldn’t try using one on a shoot. It’s so time consuming, frustrating for everyone on set and you’ll never get a convincing performance unless the talent has been trained well.

This is the hardest one to avoid, but I always try to keep pressure in front of the camera to a minimum. I try to make my interviewees feel relaxed by chatting to them beforehand and will give them gentle encouragement to assure them that they’re doing well.


So this is just my two pennies worth from a decade of doing this. I’m always open to change though so if you’ve got any tips that I’ve missed, hit me up!

Jon Collins
@ukjoncollins

Run and gun videography with the Sony FS7

Run and gun videography with the Sony FS7

I thought I'd do a quick blog post on the kit I use for a lot of my work. As a self-shooting producer/director, a large amount of my work is run-and-gun, documentary style film making. Often, I will be shooting solo and responsible for ensuring that the lights, sound, camera and direction is of top-notch quality. I have to be ready to shoot in next to no time. Because of that, I tend to use my compact kit a lot. This fits into one or two bags that I can carry on my own, throw in my Mini Cooper, take on the train and fly around the world with.

Camera

Sony FS7 Camera

Core to my setup is my Sony FS7 camera. 4K out of the box, 14 stops of exposure latitude and up to 180fps. This camera allows me to shoot in a cinematic style, I can deliver my rushes as broadcast quality B-Roll and I can quickly flick between frame rates when I'm filming content that could benefit from a bit of slow-motion.

 

Zacuto EVF 

A handy addition for the FS7. It also frees up the standard Sony EVF to be used as a camera mounted preview screen.


Smallrig Baseplate

To improve the functionality of this camera, I like to use a rod system. This allows me to mount a left handle as well as rig ring lights, matte boxes and follow focuses if required. One of the best finds for the FS7 is Smallrig's rigging. Their low profile base plate is so small you hardly notice it's there. They've a great selection of additions for the FS7 all at bargain prices compared to the Zacuto, Vocas and Wooden Camera alternatives.

 

Cards


XQD cards can be expensive. I do run one of Sony's 128GB 400MB/s cards but they are quite dear. In comparison, I own a couple of Lexar's 64GB 210MB/s cards. Officially, they're not supported by the FS7 (according to Lexar) but in reality, they're pretty damn fine. I've spent days shooting 150fps and 4K XAVC-I and I've not run into any problems so far.

The Lexar XQD card reader is a must when working with XQD cards. Sony's one comes free with their cards and is pretty damn unreliable. On countless occasions I've accidentally knocked it during a DIT and had to start again.

 

Lenses

Whilst I love buying glass, in reality I don't have a huge amount of time to use much of it when I'm shooting run-and-gun style. Because of that, I'm only listing the lenses I tend to use when going compact.

Sony 28-135mm f4

Key to my run-and-gun work is Sony's 28-135 F4 lens. Whilst not hugely fast or wide, this is a great lens to keep on the camera for those grab and shoot moments.


Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 G

Next up is the Metabones Speedbooster with Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 (via Nikon G to EF adapter). Superb Nikon optics, with a completely manual iris control, this does take a little getting use to but in my opinion, is easier to use on the Metabones adapter on the FS7 than Canon's 24-70mm lens with electronic iris.


Olympus 70-150mm f4 OM

My final run-and-gun lens, is a cine-modded vintage Olympus OM 70-150mm F4 (via OM to EF adapter) lens from Shoot Vintage. This is a fantastic bang-for-buck lens which produces awesome results with excellent character. I've some excellent Zeiss lenses that's had the cine-mod treatment from Shoot Vintage and they are incredible value for money.

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Sound

Sony UWP-D16

Sony's UWP microphone setup has until now been fairly overlooked I think. Whilst Sennheiser's G3's are great, in my opinion, Sony's UWP is much more feature rich and possibly better sounding (well against the G3 microphone I tested it against - although other people online will say differently). The Sony UWP receiver has a wireless hotshoe interface with the FS7 so additional XLR's and minijacks are a thing of the past. The other great thing about that, is that the receiver is self-powering from the camera which is another battery I can forget about. I also use Pinknoise Systems universal vampire clip so that I can hide the lavalier mic under clothing with as little fuss as possible. The fit is a little tight but it works.

Sennheiser MK416

I also always have a trusty Sennheiser MK416 shot-gun mic on hand with XLR cable. Should I hit any issues, or end up having to interview 2 rather 1 subjects, I've always something to fall back on. Also makes a cracking camera top ambient mic. To complete this setup, when working with other directors or camera operator, I can chuck an XLR transmitter onto it and use it as a wireless reporters mic for voxpop style interviews.

 

Tripod

Miller DS10

My main tripod for this style of one-man band style work is a Miller DS10 with Solo DV legs. Extremely lightweight, I can easily sling this over my shoulder and walk for miles with it. Not the stability of a Sachtler, and you certainly notice the vibrations when using an unstablised 200mm lens, but for the everyday stuff it works just fine.

 

Lighting

F&V R300

Obviously lighting is hugely important and often quite bulky. That was until the F&V R300 ring lights came along. I love these lamps because they're so lightweight, relatively small and so easy to carry around. The quality of the light is great for what they are. The ring shape spreads the LEDs across a great surface for a softer light. Runs off cheap NP batteries. These combined with some Manfrotto Nano stands make up the perfect lightweight 3-point lighting system.

 

Bags

I've a massive selection of bags, boxes and cases for the relatively small amount of kit I use on a daily basis. Whilst I love my Peli cases (1510 and iM2975) they're massively heavy and not suitable for this run-and-gun style work. My daily bags are:

Calumet RC2065 Rolling Camera Case Plus

Amazing bang-for-buck case. I can fit the FS7, a load of lenses, 3 Manfrotto Nano stands, a shed load of batteries and sound kit inside. I've never been a massive fan of Calumet's own brand stuff, but for the price, this really is a killer rolling bag. 

Lowepro 250

Pretty useful general purpose rucksack. I tend to chuck my lightweight LED lamps in here with my laptop, cables and hard drives.

 

Utilities

Finally, a couple of general bits of kit that I like to have on me for all my jobs.

MacBook Pro with ShotPutPro 5

I've had this laptop for 2 years now and every time I pick this up, I still can't believe how bloody light it is! Always an essential bit of kit to have on a job. I also religiously use ShotPutPro5 to DIT my cards. This is the ONLY way you know that what's on your hard drives, is what was on the cards.

LaCie Rugged

I've a load of these and they are absolutely brilliant for working on the go. I love the speed of the SSDs and I've had 100% reliability on all of my models which I never used to find with LaCie drives.

Leatherman Charge

After a decade of putting off buying one, I can't believe I made do without. I tend to use this on every single shoot these days for one reason or another.

Kleenex Shine Absorbing Sheets

When there isn't a makeup artist on hand, these are a handy standby to lessen shine coming off of talents' faces. A couple of these tend to do the trick. Not as good as powder but much less of a faff!

 

In summary, it's unlikely that I'll match what can be achieved with a truck load of lighting, director of photography, sound recordists and grip. For me, it's much easier and convenient when I have these resources available. In reality, I'm often working to tight budgets where we don't have that luxury. I need to have a kit nailed down that I can carry around and operate solo and because of that, that's when this setup really comes in use.

Are there any essential bits of kit I'm missing off of this list? If so hit me up in the comments section and let me know!

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