Monday, December 13, 2010

Canon 5D mkII wireless transmission to iPad

When Apple introduced the iPad at the beginning of this year, I knew immediately what I would want to use it for - viewing images from my camera during a photoshoot.  While there is a camera connector kit available that allows one to plug in a memory card and transfer images to the iPad, I wanted to be able to do it wirelessly during the shoot.  It just feels more productive to have the crew and myself to be able the view the image on a large screen seconds after it is taken, instead of viewing it on the LCD on the back of the camera.

Canon WFT-E1 Wireless File Transmitter for Canon 20D, 30D, 40D, 5D, 1D Mark II and 1Ds Mark II Digital SLRI previously did this with a Canon 1D mkII, a WFT-E1 transmitter and my Macbook Pro.  While it did accomplish what I wanted it to do, the setup did have some drawbacks.   The WFT-E1 was Canon's first attempt at doing wireless transmission, a big bulky unit that screwed onto the bottom of the camera and plugged in via firewire or USB.

It also had an external antenna that got in the way sometimes (and eventually broke). Setting it up for networking was also a major pain in the tuckus and sometimes it would just refuse to behave. At one point I went back to using a long USB cable and shot physically tethered to the computer, but long cables and my clumsy feet are a disaster just waiting to happen.

I also tried a similar setup last year with the Eye-Fi card and a Dell Mini 9 hackintosh.  However, I had heard on the Eye-Fi forums that other people were experiencing corruption problems when using the Eye-Fi SDHC cards in CompactFlash adapter cards in their DSLRs.  The newer X2 series that are 8GB seemingly do not work at all with the CF adapters in cameras like the 5D mkII, which really sucks.  I personally never came across the corrupted image problem with the hackintosh setup, but since I also shoot weddings, that was something I was not willing to take a chance on.

The Eye-Fi/Dell Mini 9 hackintosh setup is still being used for family gatherings and other things, but without the CF adapter. I'm currently using it in a Canon G9 and might upgrade to the current G12 or the EOS 60D which now uses SDHC cards.

I really wish Eye-Fi would make a CompactFlash version of their product.  Apparently I am not alone in this - on the Eye-Fi customer support forums there are a lot of requests by their users to do so.  Why they continue to ignore this request, I have no idea.

Thankfully Canon has incorporated their WFT transmitters into vertical grips for their newer cameras making it MUCH easier to use than the WFT-E1.  They also brought down the price - still expensive at about $700, but remember, they USED to cost around $1500!

One minor gripe about using the WFT-E4 transmitter - while it replaces the vertical grip and takes the same kind of battery as the Canon, the battery only powers the transmitter and not the camera itself.

 So you have to have one battery in the camera, and one in the transmitter.  If your camera battery runs out, you have to unscrew the WFT-E4 to access the battery compartment of the camera body.  Not something you want to mess with when you're pressed for time during a shoot.

I'm hoping in the future  Canon will figure out a way to put 2 batteries in the WFT transmitter and have it power BOTH the transmitter and the camera.  I mean c'mon if Eye-Fi can do wifi transmission from a freaking SDHC card for less than $150, Canon SHOULD be able to figure out how do this at more than 4x the price and with much more space to work with (Hey, I can dream, can't I?).


When the iPad was released, I started looking into ways that I could shoot wirelessly tethered to it.
One of the obstacles is that like the iPhone, the iPad does not allow creating an adhoc network unless you jailbreak it, something I was not brave enough the mess with.   Yet.  ;-)

Fortunately, I came across this article by Rob Galbraith which made it much easier to setup. It incorporates the use of a battery powered router, such as the Aluratek CDM530AM.

Yes, I know - lime green.  Yeek. But hey, it works and it works very well.

So this is now my current Canon to iPad field setup:

Canon 5D mkII
WFT-E4 wireless transmitter
iPad 64GB wifi version with Otterbox Defender iPad Case
Shuttersnitch app for the iPad
Aluratek CDM530AM battery powered router

Thanks to Rob Galbraith's excellent article, I had the setup working in about an hour. I have two configurations for the WFT-E4 - one field setup which sends the images via the Aluratek router to the iPad running Shuttersnitch, and one studio adhoc setup that sends the images directly to my MacBook Pro and importing into Lightroom, like I did previously with the WFT-E1.

The networking setup on the WFT-E4 is a little easier than with the WFT-E1, but it can still trip you up if you're not familiar with networking (and the included manual is basically worthless).  I found this guide by Julian Love Photography very helpful in setting up the ftp connection to my Macbook Pro.

In testing this setup (meaning me chasing our two cats around the house with my camera), the delay between shooting and viewing the images on the iPad is about 5-8 seconds, similar to what I was getting with the Eye-Fi and my hackintosh.  I have the 5D set to shoot RAW + Med JPG. Since I only plan to use the iPad for image review in the field, the WFT transmitter is set to transfer only the JPEGs, which is much faster than trying to send the RAW files (Plus the iPad's storage space is only 64GB and much of that is devoted to games and training videos).

The router's battery is said to last several hours, and the iPad's battery lasts pretty much all day, so I'm thinking this might work well in the field. The iPad fits into this case I picked up in Japan and the router fits into the side pocket. I'm thinking I can have this in a shoulder bag during a wedding and have the iPad collect images as I'm walking around shooting, then pull it out at the end to show the images to the client.

I'll also be taking this setup with me to Japan next week as I have several model photoshoots lined up.  I will try to post the field results in a later blog entry.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Headshot session with April

A few weeks ago I did a short studio headshot session with model April Boone and makeup artist Kahulani.
Because we were working in pretty tight quarters in the studio (there were two other sets that were being built for an upcoming TV production), we kept the lighting setup relatively simple - 2 AB800s, a large softbox above and a small softbox below for fill. A Nikon SB26 was used as the backlight.

 We kept the background mostly dark, but added some color with an AB800 with a 40 degree grid and a blue gel.

Later we added 2 AB800s in gridded strip softboxes behind the model and swapped out the upper large softbox for a beauty dish.  The image really started to come together once we brought in a Vornado fan to add motion to her hair.

This was our last setup of the day and one of my favorite shots.  April had the perfect outfit to go with these guns.

Just to try something different I added a blue gel to one of the edge lights to throw some color into her hair, to sort of give a nighttime feel to the shot.  Kind of like a glow from a nearby neon sign or something. It's very faint, but you can just barely see it on the left.  An idea to play around with more in future shoots maybe.

I also just heard from the makeup artist that with the help of this final image, April was able to get a part on an upcoming episode of Hawaii Five-0 .  Congratulations April!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Test flying the Steadicam Merlin with a Canon 7D

Tiffen Steadicam Merlin

I recently picked up a Steadicam Merlin secondhand from Craiglist and finally got the chance this past weekend to get some real practice in.  I mounted a Canon 7D with a 17-40mm f4L lens which is the widest lens I currently have.  I'd like to eventually get something wider like a 14mm prime since the crop factor on the 7D makes the 17mm about 27mm.

Because of the added weight of the 17-40 zoom lens to the 7D, balancing the camera on a Steadicam Merlin is a bit tricky.  This is the configuration I used:

Canon 7D iso 200 1/50@ f4
17-40mm f4L lens
B&W UV Haze Filter
Zacuto Z finder mounting bracket (w/o the viewfinder)
Manfrotto 577 quick release plate

Steadicam Merlin
Mount Hole: H
Stage Mark: -2
Front: 1 Finish Weight
Lower: 4 mid, 1 finish weight
Arc Size: 1/2 turn back from full extension
"Z"= -2

Canon 7D / Steadicam Merlin Test Flight from Todd Mizomi on Vimeo.

Learned a lot on this practice run:

Need to learn to walk more fluidly to smooth out the bumps in the footage.

The slightest breeze can make it sway.  Might need to adjust the weights, maybe adding a mid or start weight to the front.

I tend to lower my hands as I walk forward - I have to work on keeping the Merlin at eye level so I can see what the heck I'm shooting. I also need to be careful not to bump the lower spar when going down stairs and have the Merlin trimmed nose down.

I seriously need to work out more - The only reason I put music on this video was to hide my huffing and puffing towards the end as I climbed the stairs to the lookout.  I think I will have to limit the use of the Merlin to short clips.  Steadicam does make a vest and arm system for the Merlin, but with that costing over $1000, I'll have to stick with handholding it for now.

I also have an older version of a Glidecam 4000 which I might try out with the 7D next time.  In preliminary tests, I've found that it is not as susceptible to wind.  The trade-off is that it is harder to fine tune and it is a bit heavier than the Merlin.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

12 hours, 800+ frames, 3 cases of Red Bull: The Four Elements Photoshoot

Wow, that was a really long day!  But it was FUN!

Makeup artist Kahulani and model Julie LeBlond wanted to do a "Four Elements" shoot in the studio.  We had a lot of help on this one - Ronald, Jeane & Alex were our assistants.

To make the setups go as quickly as possible, we chose to use the same basic lighting on the model and just change up the background lighting and hair light between each look.

To light the model, we setup 4 AB800s with these modifiers: a large softbox above, medium softbox below, and two strip softboxes on either side.  Each light was controlled with the Alien Bees Wired Remote Control.
Since the lights were in so close to the model's face, the sliders on all four of the lights were set at minimum power.  Shot through the middle of this setup with a 5D mkII and 70-200mm f2.8L lens on a tripod.  Settings were iso 200, 1/160@f5.6.

Because we set up the main lights about 10-15 feet in front of the white wall, the light falloff allowed the white wall to go dark grey. For the background light we used another AB800 aimed at the white wall behind Julie.  We covered the light with a different colored gel to change the color of the wall for each look.

For Julie's hair light, we used a Nikon SB26 set at about 1/8th power.  This we also gelled differently for each look.

While Kat was working on Julie's first look "Fire", we put red gels on both background and hair lights.  We also added a 20 degree grid to reduce the light on the wall to just a small spot of color.

The look really started to come together once we put the hair light directly behind Julie and set up a fan to add motion to her hair.

For the next look "Wind",  we went with a high-key look.  We took off the gels and put a shoot thru umbrella on the background light.  To help add a subtle suggestion of wind/clouds to the background, we setup a couple of C-stands and strung some white tulle between them.

Because of the shallow depth of field, the tulle blurred out and left just a hint of movement in the background.

Each look also incorporated a neck tattoo to represent each element - Earth, Water, Fire, Air.  The graphic used was similar to the ones from the movie "The Fifth Element".

For the "Earth" look, we took off the umbrella and put on a green gel for the background light.

To help break up the light, we tried various things- shooting the light through water bottles, stacks of plastic cups, etc.  We finally just put an imitation silk tree in front of the background light.

This was one of the more elaborate looks of the day and Kat worked extra hard to make each look amazing.  The eyelashes were Kat's own invention.

For this "Earth" look, Kat also incorporated some greenery taken out of her own backyard.

We added a CTO gel to Julie's hair light and dialed down the power a bit to give a more subdued look.  You can just barely see the hair light on her neck and shoulders.

For the last look, "Water" we brought out the C-stands again and draped a blue satin bedsheet over them.  Alex positioned the fan underneath the sheet to add some random movement.  We lit it with a blue-gelled AB800.  After shooting a couple of test frames, we added another SB26 with a blue gel to help fill in the background from the other side.

To go along with Julie's wet hair for this look, we added some water droplets.  Alex was able to macgyver together a spray bottle with a bottle of water and the sprayer from a Windex bottle.

We then had Alex spray the water behind Julie as we shot. With a blue gel on the Nikon SB26 hair light, the water spray lit up pretty well.

We took over 800 frames to get to these final four images, and it was a very long day of work.  The results however, were really worth it.  I've always wanted to try shooting a concept like this and I'm glad I got to be a part of it. Mahalo to everyone for all their hard work!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trash the Dress session

Canon 7D 24-70mm f2.8L iso 200 1/800@f5.6

A few weeks ago my assistant Quddus and I did our first official Trash-The-Dress session with Christina and Kervin.  The weather was a bit uncooperative, but luckily we got some really great images.

This couple was amazing to work with because they were literally up for anything we could throw at them.  We had them rolling in the sand, sitting on the edge of lava rocks while waves came crashing down on them, all kinds of things.  The above shot, which was towards the end of the session is one of my favorites from the shoot.  Natural overcast light with minor tinkering in Photoshop.