Tuesday, June 15, 2010

For a peaceful change of pace, try riding with these clouds

Rico Bergholdt Hansen lives in Odense, Denmark, where he works in IT when he's not doing photography and video production. "The first camera I ever owned," he says, "was a Canon EOS 1000F that I got to document the year I spent in the USA as an au pair back in 1994. The camera was lost just before I returned home, and I didn't get another until fourteen years later when HDR and photoblogs captured my attention. I decided to try photography again and purchased a Canon EOS 30D that I still use for my still photography. In 2008 I got interested in video after watching the first 35mm-lens-adapter videos produced by mounting SLR lenses in front of a prosumer camcorder in order to get video footage with shallow depth of field -- thus simulating the so-called 'film look.' In late 2009, after learning to use my collection of SLR lenses on a Letus35 adapter, I wanted to move on again. The choice now stood between the new video-capable DSLRs -- which removed the need of a 35mm adapter -- or a professional camcorder with less shallow depth of field (compared to, say, the Canon 5D Mark II) but far better video controls and general image quality. I went with a professional camcorder: The Sony PMW-EX1R.

"The EX1R has a standard 77mm front thread that lets you use circular filters or 4x6 filters with (in my case) an added Cokin Z-Pro filter holder. In this particular video, which is one of my first with the new camcorder, I used a Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo filter which is very handy for the landscapes and architectural footage that I normally do.

"The Duo's built-in warming polarizer helped me get good separation between the white clouds and the blue sky, while the variable-density filter allowed me to control the amount of light entering the lens. The EX1R does have two built-in ND filters that one can use, but using them still requires me to close down the aperture to get the right exposure. With the Vari-N-Duo this problem is solved. I just choose the aperture I want to use (often it's fully open at f/1.9 for the best shallow depth of field) and 'dial in' the amount of density I need with the Vari-N-Duo. In this video, the shallow depth of field wasn't critical, so I could have just used my Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo but I wanted to try out the capabilities of the Vari-N-Duo.

"This simple timelapse of a cloudscape was filmed from my apartment balcony. It's a typical scene on a late afternoon in my hometown of Odense, Denmark.

"With the EX1R camcorder, timelapse video is easy. The camcorder can take from one frame per second to one frame per day. This video was exposed at one frame per second. Each clip can be viewed 'in-camera' right after the recording stops. The camcorder plays back the recording at 25 frames per second (the European PAL standard), so all I had to do in post-production was edit it all together using Sony Vegas Pro9 editing software and then colorgrade it with a software plug-in called Magic Bullet Looks. The colorgrading added more separation between clouds and sky and gave the footage a more dramatic and filmic look. The EX1R records in full HD (1920x1080) but I chose to crop to 1920x828 for a more cinematic look. This also allowed me to use the extra horizontal lines to pan up and down in post production (the original recording was stationary).

"When I started out as a photoblogger, I called myself [ PIXEL VIKING ] and I've kept that name for many years. The same name is also used for my current video and photo blog. That is where I post my photos, videos and general ramblings about the things that interest me."

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