Smooth Moves: How to Shoot with a Gimbal Stabilizer

How to Shoot with a Gimbal Stabilizer

Gimbals are amazing. They’re exciting to use, relatively easy to figure out, and they expand your filmmaking style and the types of shots you can acquire to a countless degrees. You can add tons of production value at relatively little cost to your gear kit, all by just adding a gimbal.

Immediately, your shots will reveal more life, more exploration, and more creativity.

There are definitely many nuances and subtleties that need to be taken into account before and as you’re shooting with a gimbal, though, along with the overall concepts you’ll need to get the best footage possible. And even though it’s a fun tool, it’s certainly not a toy, and doesn’t work for every application — so read on to become a gimbal ninja (gimja? ninbal?). Actually, there’s already a Gimbal Ninja.

*Note: these are mostly for larger handheld gimbals (Mövi, Ronin, etc), but many principles work for smaller gimbals as well — just not smaller drone gimbals.


Balance It Out

The most important first step to shooting with a gimbal is to get it balanced correctly. Smaller gimbals, like the DJI Osmo or the GoPro Karma Grip don’t require you to balance them beforehand, but for larger gimbals like the Mövi or the Ronin, you’ll need to get them dialed in perfectly for optimal results. Typically, this is the order of how you should balance your gimbal:

  1. Front/Back Camera Balance (rough)
  2. Tilt Axis Balance
  3. Roll Axis Balance
  4. Front/Back Camera Balance (fine)
  5. Pan Axis Balance

Tweak each clamp or bracket mechanism and check the balance. Make any adjustments so that everything is perfectly level and doesn’t move after you put the camera in the position you want.


Carrying Styles

There are a few ways to carry most gimbals. While holding handles at chest height, the camera can either be upright and below the handles, or inverted and above the handles. You can also grab the center handle and go lower to the ground, and in the case of the Ronin, you can grab one of the side handles and turn it upright into “briefcase mode.”

Most of the time, your shots will be in the standard setup. It offers a ton of versatility and can accomplish almost every shot this way. When you flip it over and invert the camera (thus inverting your image), you can raise it higher above your head, so it’s good for overhead shots or higher perspectives, and can actually give the camera operator a bit of a break from the strain of standard usage. You just need to invert the footage in post.

You’ll want to use the center handle for anything where you want the gimbal to be on just one side of your body, and usually near the ground, or at least below your waist, such as following someone’s feet or rising up from the ground. “Briefcase mode” (handles pointing up and down) is also for low-angle shots but has the added benefit of being more narrow since the handle is now up and down. New handles and rings and all sorts of ways to carry these gimbals are also being built constantly (see Mövi Pro).


Controlling the Camera with the Gimbal

This is the most fundamental part of using the gimbal. You need to be aware of how you want it to act with your movements. Normally, when you pan or tilt, the gimbal pans or tilts the camera. Some gimbals have connecting thumb controls, giving you the ability to control the camera independently of where you’re facing, and most gimbals will actually let you adjust and refine the smoothness within the controls or an app, but more on that later.

Video: Young Businessman Arriving At Work Pushing Bicycle Carrying Helmet by AilaImages.

It takes a decent amount of time working with gimbals to understand how much you prefer to have to “force” the camera into moving, and how easy it is for you to move it around comfortably, so I recommend practicing not just in general, but specifically on shots that you’re envisioning for your project.


Camera Movement Options

Since you now have all the creative benefits of your new tool, you can really experiment with all kinds of different shots and movements. Here are some of the various shots you can get:

Dolly/Tracking Shot

Instead of the traditional way that usually calls for rails or a metal track and a wheeled cart (a “dolly”), you simply walk, run, bike, or ride in an office chair for your motion while holding your camera.

Crane/Jib Shot

Usually, you would have to construct the jib, then move the thing around. It can be quite cumbersome, especially if you don’t have a lot of room. The beauty of the gimbal is that you can get these rising/lowering shots much more easily by either just bending over or squatting. You’re limited to your body’s reach, however. Here’s a clip using the Ronin in a jib/crane style:

Video: Sunrise France Reborn Statue Eiffel Tower Bir-Hakeim Passy Paris 4K Stock Video by fuzzfocus.

Pass-Through Shot

This is when the camera moves through a very tight space, like a window or a hole, and keeps recording, all in one move. The gimbal eliminates many of the roadblocks that would come with traditional Steadycams or shoulder rigs and allows you to fit into spaces that are smaller. (Although, if you’re the aforementioned Gimbal Ninja, you can pretty much do anything.)

Lockdown Takeoff Tradeoff Shot

We don’t know exactly what the official name of this shot is (or if it’s actually an official shot), so we made up that name. Since gimbals are so versatile, relatively compact, and (relatively) lightweight, they can be transferred between people, between stands, or even between moving objects. You are able to do a move to follow the action, rest the camera on a stand while the action pauses, then start the next move as the action picks back up, all without having to stop recording. Similarly, you could hand off the camera rig to another operator mid-shot and keep things fresh.


Using a Rig

You can take away most of the strain on your body by using a rig. Most of them run between $2,000 and $8,000, depending on the options, so they’re not cheap, but they are well worth it. After using a rig just one time ourselves, we realized we should never shoot without it. In addition to saving your body, you can shoot longer, and depending on the rig, you can do more moves with a greater range of motion because of the lack of body strain.

Video: Taking Video Of Runners by coolstock.

The main thing to take away about using a gimbal rig is that you need to have it sized and adjusted as best as possible so that it performs ideally. Once you learn your limitations, your balance, and your range of motion, you’ll start getting the best shots.


Avoiding the “Swimming” Motion

One of the things to be on the lookout for while you’re operating the gimbal is a vertical “bobbing” or “swimming” motion that occurs in the footage when the camera operator is walking. This is most common when walking at a normal pace, but not as much when moving very quickly or very slowly. This happens because the gimbal doesn’t control the vertical movement of the camera, so when your arms move up and down too much, it’s visible.

The low-cost/higher-strain solution to this problem is to bend your knees, walk with very even, deliberate footsteps (“rolling” from heel to toe), and hold the camera out further away from your body. You may not be able to eliminate it, but you can definitely tone it way down.

Video: Camera Operator. The Man Will Film With The Video Camera. Front View. The Young by AstudioFilm.

The high-cost/low-strain solution is to buy a rig, and then possibly even buy an arm or adapter that adjusts for these movements and eliminates them completely. The Easyrig’s Serene Arm is the arm of choice for many operators, but it’s an additional $3,000 on top of the cost of the rig. (Shooting in high speed/slow motion also reduces the visible shakiness, so keep that in mind, as well.)


Working with Apps and Accessories

A lot of the different gimbals’ accompanying apps can help out in many ways, too. You can calibrate the gimbal, set how sensitive the gimbal is to your movements and how much padding you want when you stop moving, and you can turn on or off the movement feature altogether.

There are also tons of accessories, and since there are ports located on most gimbals, you can plug them in directly. Things like basic thumb controls for movement, control boxes that change all your camera settings, follow-focus rings, and wireless monitor transmitters are all common accessories to add to make your shots easier to obtain and duplicate/replicate.
(Also, more money, of course).

And don’t forget about the simple things, like tools and wrenches you may need to set up the gimbal (usually included), or extra batteries, or even a C-stand to use for holding the gimbal between shots.

Video: Operator Shoots Video With Ronin in the Spotlight by studio343.


Adding an Extra Person

Another way to make it easier for yourself is to have someone else controlling the camera while you just focus on the movements of the gimbal through space. This “dual operator” mode is quite common for most gimbals and a wireless remote or controller is simply an add-on, or may even come with the gimbal itself. You can actually use the remote yourself if you have the gimbal on a stand to perform nice pans and tilts, eliminating the need to bring along a tripod.

This brings me to my final few points: Some people, when talking about gimbals, may say or write something like, “Even though it’s versatile, it can’t replace your dolly track, slider, tripod, etc,” but I think that’s not exactly 100% true. You can make dolly-esque moves with the gimbal and something as simple as a skateboard or office chair, instead of bringing along a bunch of metal tracks to your shoot. You can do subtle front-to-back or side-to-side moves like a camera slider track would do, and, as I said in the previous paragraph, you can put the gimbal on a stand and do pans, tilts, and rotations with a remote. This has the potential to save you not only money but also the time and energy it takes to carry all that extra stuff around.

Video: Young Attractive Woman Walking Urban City 4K Stock Video Footage by fuzzfocus_exclusive.

Of course, you don’t really want to use a gimbal when going handheld for something like a timelapse (although we’re sure someone has done it successfully), nor would you want to use a gimbal on a stand for an action scene — but for the most part, pretty much every type of shot is possible. You just have to be good and work at it, and that’s where practice makes perfect.

Top image: Young Man Using Steadycam For Shooting On Beach by danr13.

7 Elements of A Great Social Media Video

Working With Green Screen

Using videos on your social media channels to promote your brand is vital to getting them to grow and be seen. And although it may seem simple to just fire off a tweet or post an Instagram story without much thought, the most successful social media users are doing a lot more than improvising or uploading raw files to the web. They’re actually working hard behind the scenes to create and edit quality video content that enhances their brand, using any and all tools at their disposal.

Basically what we’re trying to say is that there’s a lot more that goes into a successful social media video than it seems, and it’s important to be aware of things from how often you post, to the video’s message, to the aspect ratio that makes a big difference.
Here are the 7 elements of a great social media video.

1. Interesting and Stunning Visuals

Since you’re making content for a visual medium, the visuals need to entice people! Use your most captivating shot, text, or graphic to hook people upfront, and keep them around by using the best content you have throughout the rest of the video. Remember that the thumbnail is just as, if not more important for your audience. Either select the best frame from your video when uploading or do some basic editing in photoshop or by using a photo editing app on your thumbnail file that you can then upload. Also, don‘t forget to check out our download section for additional material, such as badges or overlays for your thumbnails – let everyone know that you‘re a Pond5 artist!

2. A Great Story

Users are going to connect with your content more if there’s an intriguing story. A collection of interesting and stunning shots is great but can be limiting if that’s all the video is. They should have some sort of relationship with each other or to you as a creator. Be clear, simple, and concise with your messaging, because people have limited time and are easily swayed to move on to other content.

A good test to see if you have a good story is to watch the video without sound or text, (or without footage or sound if your video is text-heavy). You should actually plan for people to watch without sound, in fact. If you can convey exactly what you want to without them, then your story is good to go.
The last way to make your story more engaging is to give it authenticity. People can spot a fake pretty easily, so use genuine imagery and audio to convey your message.

3. Efficient Use Of Text

It’s hard to understand and engage with a video if the text is way too long, has spelling or grammar errors, or isn’t on screen long enough. The general rule of thumb is to let the words on the screen be long enough to be read through twice, so build your presentation around that duration. Don’t hesitate to add funny, unexpected, or provocative copy that makes the viewer want to see more.
The other thing you can do is subtitle the video yourself. A lot of platforms will do it for you, but they’re not perfect, and therefore typos may occur. You can instead create the subtitles yourself and get full control over what the viewer needs to read.

4. Technical Proficiency

Most great social posts follow the basic rules for making a great video, including legible, coherent audio, stable footage, and interesting/unique angles. They have the proper aspect ratio, compression settings, duration, and fit within the specs of the social media outlet that’s being used.
Familiarize yourself with each platform’s upload requirements and create shortcut workflows either in your editing software or in the app that allow you to replicate the best settings for each one, saving you time and headaches later.

RELATED POST:  Quick guide to Social Media

5. Quality Over Quantity

Only you can determine your posting schedule and what works best with your workflow. You should post as frequently as you feel comfortable posting, as long as your video quality doesn’t suffer. Create deadlines for work, but be careful not to burn yourself out by trying to constantly “feed the beast.” Always keep in mind that consistency is key.
Less is more in many cases, so if you’ve got a project that’s taking a long time, think about breaking it up into a few shorter sections. You can then devote more time to the project as a whole, and spread out the videos over more time.

6. Cool Visual Effects

One of the easiest ways to set your video apart from others is to add some basic visual effects. Whether it’s adding a simple lower third, logo reveal, or using motion tracking for a text layer, putting in a little something extra makes a big difference.

Slide shows, credit sequences, infographics, animations, and 2D flash elements are all dynamic and increase the production quality of your videos, and are relatively easy to work with.

7. A Call To Action/Branding

Branding is a huge part of the process, and it should be. Rarely do you see a great social media video without some way to follow up with the company or artist who posted it. Let the viewers know exactly where to go to see more of your work, or where they can go to view the subject of the video.

Include your other social media handles and a custom referral link to your Pond5 storefront – anyone accessing Pond5 with your custom link will get 20% off and you’ll get 20% of their purchase plus you’ll keep earning anytime they buy something for a full year.

Also, this is a good opportunity for you to add a watermark to your footage and photos posted on social networks as well. It serves two functions: to protect your work from piracy and to use it as an opportunity to have your logo visible throughout the video.

When adding watermarks, branding, and tagging your content, make sure that you don’t make it an overwhelming viewing experience. Having a giant watermark can be distracting; a full 15-second credit intro stinger can drive people away, and having multiple calls-to-action pop up on the screen can just be too much. Keep it simple, and make sure people know how to get in touch with you.

Chances are you’re already posting video content to social media, but having a more focused and professional approach to it can really make a world of difference. Be sure to always keep an eye on your statistics and see what’s working and what’s not. Use visual and storytelling trends to your advantage by either creating with them in mind or by finding your own niche outside of them and doing something differently intentionally. Remember to also have fun, because when you’re having fun as a creator, it shows in your work!

Top Image: Pleasant Happy European Female With Red Hair Ask To Follow Blog In Internet by ufabizphoto .

7 Ways To Leave Your Filmmaking Comfort Zone And Create Something Different

Filmmaking Out Of Comfort Zone

When you hit a rut in your content creation, as you most likely will do, there’s only one thing you can do: quit. You’re done. Tapped out. Creatively bankrupt. Give it up, because you’re throwing in the towel.

We‘re kidding, of course! The best thing to do is to try something new and get out of your routine. Switching up your editing style, your gear, or even your workspace can be great for hitting the reset button and getting you moving in a new, exciting direction. Here are some tips for getting out of your filmmaking comfort zone.

Create/Implement Restrictions

Right out of the gate, one of the best things you can do is to force yourself to work within parameters that you’re not used to having. This means if you’re used to open-ended videos, give yourself a 3 or 5-minute time limit. Bring along just a single memory/storage card on your shoot. Allow yourself to only shoot with natural lighting. Set an earlier publishing deadline than you’re used to. Only use b-roll shots that are 5 seconds or longer.

And you don’t actually have to see them as restrictions. You can just see them as another puzzle in which you need to fit all of your pieces. Whatever the restriction/limitation is, use it to your advantage during your project. You may end up feeling inspired and empowered as opposed to inconvenienced and embattled.

Improvise More

“I love you…I know,” “I’m walking here,” and “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” were all famously improvised. Even the iconic match cut from Lawrence of Arabia was called an accident by the editor, Anne V. Coates. Now, you may not be making “The Empire Strikes Back,” but the lesson is just that for all the planning you can do, some things can just happen that you can’t plan for.

This means that you can allow your actors time to improvise takes. You can write bullet points for your voiceover instead of reading a script to make it feel more loose. The camera can be attached to a gimbal to give a more fluid look to the footage; the same goes for going completely handheld.

In post-production, improvisation can be as simple as experimenting with jump cuts, match cuts, or other atypical transitions instead of standard cuts. Music can also be added or removed to see which makes a better impact. You may never know what will work until you try it, so be open-minded to going with the flow.

Improvise Less

If you’re already making videos without much planning, then it could work to really hash out as many details as you can before you start. Writing a script, storyboarding, scheduling, creating a shot list, using motion graphics templates, and picking out the music and sound effects tracks can all be done before a single frame of footage gets shot.

Much in the way that adding restrictions can spark some new creative fire, planning for certain compositions, shooting locations, and VFX can help you to set up some really creative shots. Techniques like deep focus, match/invisible cuts, and forced perspective can all turn out better if they’re thought out ahead of time. The same goes for location scouting–with a basic walkthrough of your shooting location you can pick out unique places to mount your camera, see which angles look best, and even look for objects or openings through which you can shoot.

Experiment With Different Gear

We are not advocating for buying a new camera, because the best camera is usually the one you have with you. Also, you may end up spending way too much time trying to learn a new interface or menu that could instead be spent shooting or editing. That said, renting is always a cheaper option than buying, and there are sites like kitsplit, sharegrid, and lensprotogo that make it pretty painless to get everything from cameras and lenses to stabilizers and accessories.

What we mean really is to try something you haven’t used before. If you’re always on a gimbal, try staying locked down on a tripod. If you typically shoot with telephoto lenses, try a prime lens and move closer and/or further away from your subject. You may actually prefer the sound of a lavalier microphone over a shotgun or on-camera mic. Instead of shooting and editing in high speed (50/60 FPS or above, typically) for every shot, try mixing up the frame rates to get different clips that complement each other.

Switching up your gear can help you produce shots or videos you never could before, and it can even literally change the look of your footage, which is a great way to break your habits and routines.

Change Your Scene

Altering the location of your shoot is a sure-fire way to make something new. Taking your camera outside and going on a hike or to a park can add some color and scenery to your videos. If you’re always outside, try setting up a very basic studio setup with an on-camera light or 3-point lighting kit inside a garage or empty room.

When it comes to post-production, you’re pretty much limited to where your editing machine is, but you can always try doing some aspects of the edit at a new location. If you’re a shreditor, coffee shops are the obvious choice here, but public libraries can be surprisingly great, not to mention quiet spaces to get some work done. And who knows, a new editing space could free up your brain from all the distractions you may have at your usual editing space.

Change What You Can Control

Some of the earlier points may work for you, but if you’re creating videos where it makes sense to have the same tone, look, and style throughout, (like, say, a tutorial series) then you may not be able to change much.

In these cases, you can try your best to experiment with your subjects. If you make nature videos primarily, try exploring an urban setting. If you make cooking tutorials, try another subject that utilizes relatively small spaces and hands, like sewing, weaving, blacksmithing, or building. Nothing about your workflow or video style has to change, yet you can open up whole new topics to cover and keep your videos fresh.

Get a Fresh Set Of Eyes On Your Video

If all else fails, you can get some outside perspective from a friend or coworker, or just take a 30-minute break and come back to your project. The outsider could catch a plot hole or they could pick up on any habits that seem repetitive. Taking a short break from your edit can actually work wonders to reset your thought process and see your footage in a new way.

Change can be scary, and doing something new or different can be intimidating. However, shaking things up can not only get you out of a creative rut, it can challenge you to find new ways to tell stories and even establish your storytelling and brand as versatile as you are as a filmmaker.

Top Image: Photographer On Cliff. Nature Takes Photos With Mirror Camera Peak Of Rock. by Standret .

New to Shooting? 5 Basic Camera Functions You Need to Know

5 Basic Camera Functions

Understanding your camera and being able to adjust it to get the look you want is the first step in capturing great visuals. The number of presets, automatic settings, and extra features vary from camera to camera, but these fundamentals hold the key to having supreme executive power over your recording device. (All of these principles also apply to still photography, but this post is more video-focused in some sections.)

1. Understanding the ISO

ISO is your camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. The more your ISO increases, the more your camera’s sensor will boost the brightness of the image. At a certain point, visible “noise” or “grain” will be added to compensate for the lack of light, so try to keep your ISO as low as possible to reduce the amount of distortion, while going high enough to actually see your subject.

2. Shutter Speed

This is the amount of time that your camera’s shutter is open (or “on,” depending on your camera model), exposing light on each frame. For instance, a shutter set to 1/60 is letting in light at 1/60th of a second during each frame. The higher the shutter speed, the more crisp and “jittery” your footage will look, and the sharper your photos will be. In video, your shutter speed is typically set to double your frame rate (30 fps = 1/60 shutter), but you can experiment with slower and faster shutter speeds to produce different looks. One common mistake is confusing shutter speed with frame rate — they have vastly different effects on the image.

3. Aperture

The aperture is the size of your lens’ opening, and is usually a set of blades or a diaphragm that allows light to pass through to your sensor. This is similar to the iris of a human eye, constricting and opening to control the amount of light that goes through the lens. The smaller the number, called “f-stop” or “t-stop,” the larger the opening of the aperture, and vice versa.

With a larger aperture (but smaller f number — yes, it’s confusing), your depth of field is more shallow, which means less of your frame will be in focus when shooting. Keep more of your image in focus by closing your aperture, especially if you’re shooting landscapes.


4. White Balance

The white balance is how your camera registers light and gives your image/video a color temperature. It’s measured in Kelvin, with each light source’s hue having its own corresponding temperature. Mid-day light is usually around 5600 Kelvin (K), with a candle down on the “warm” end at 2000K, and dark shade on the “cool” end at 9000K. Most cameras are pretty good at automatically setting your white balance, so don’t be afraid to use the auto setting — but if you want more control, you can use the in-camera presets or manually set the white balance yourself.


5. Frame Rate

Your frame rate is how many frames are recorded during each second of video, commonly abbreviated FPS. Technically, unless you’re using a film camera, it’s FIELDS per second, since you’re not actually capturing frames of images.

As far as frame rates go in media today, most feature films are shot at 24 fps, web video is commonly shot at 29.97 or 30 fps, and things like broadcast news, live sports, and multi-camera sitcoms are typically shot at 59.94 or 60 fps (unless you’re in a country that uses PAL instead of NTSC, which is shot at 25 and 50 fps). However, many consumer cameras today are capable of recording 60, 90, 120, 240, or even up to 1,000 or more frames per second!

You can choose any frame rate you want for your footage, but you are going to get vastly different results with each setting. A lower frame rate like 24 fps will give you a more cinematic or “film” look, adding much more blurred motion to your video. Shooting at 29.97 or 30 fps will give you a more digital or “video” look, and 59.94 or 60 fps will give you a more “soap-opera” or “live/broadcast” look with less motion blur.

Video: Fire Performer, Slow Motion by soraphotography

If you want to shoot slow-motion or high-speed footage, you need to shoot at least 60 fps and slow it down in post-production. Any less, and the image will stutter and look a little off. The higher the frame rate is, the slower your footage will be when played back at regular speed.

Once you’ve mastered these five basic camera functions, you’ll be able to work in any environment with any camera.

Top Image: Detail Picture Of Camera Lens Aperture And Anti Reflective Coating by petrsvoboda91 .

5 Tips for Shooting Beautiful Magic Hour Footage

5 Tips for Shooting Beautiful Magic Hour Footage

Golden hour is the time around sunrise and sunset when the sun is closest to the horizon, creating soft, even light. Coupled with blue hour — the time just before sunrise and just after sunset — you’ve got what’s known as “magic hour.” And as beautiful as magic hour is, it’s just as temporary. That’s why these tips offer insight on the camera settings and techniques you need to capitalize on the most captivating time(s) of the day.

1. Know When Golden Hour Occurs

The easy thing to understand about golden hour is when it happens. With this information, you can just head out on your shoot around sunrise or sunset and probably get some great footage or photos. However, the difficult thing to understand is that golden hour isn’t always a true “hour” — and there are many factors you need to be aware of to harness as much golden light as you can.

Video: Car Ferry Beautiful Cinematic Sunset Lake Boat 5K Stock Video Footage by fuzzfocus.

Depending on the time of year, your altitude, and your latitude, your golden hour’s duration can vary wildly. In Alaska, it can be up to an hour and a half in the summer, but it can also be nonexistent in the winter. There are several resources available, like, photopills, and

Most of these apps give you the exact duration for any location, elevation, and date, and can even send you reminders when it’s the perfect time to shoot. Since these moments are fleeting, knowing precisely when you need to roll can be the difference between success and failure.

2. Scout Your Location Beforehand

The only way to know what your location looks like during golden hour is to actually witness it beforehand. Go out and scout both sunrise and sunset light to see what looks best. Keep an eye on the sun’s path in the sky and look for any shadows it creates as it rises and sets. Take your camera and look at your settings. That way, you won’t waste any time having to figure out your exposure when you should be shooting.

Video: Ws Pan Silhouette Of Photographer Walking, Carrying Tripod In Desert At Sunset by rubberball.

If you’re not able to reach your destination before your shoot, you can check Google Earth or other 3D tools that actually show you the sun’s trajectory and lighting during a given time of day or year. The more prepared you are ahead of time with knowledge of the sun’s path and strength, the better results you’re likely to come away with.

3. Stick Around for Blue Hour

Blue hour is the time just before the sun rises or just after the sun sets, when there is still enough even, soft light to give you footage that looks great. During blue hour, the sky has a deeper blue and more saturated colors, which can lead to a more dramatic and melancholy feel. This can be great if you’re going for that look, but it can be tough to match the color of other shots in post.

The lack of sun means that you won’t have as much of that direct golden hue, which can also result in a cooler image. Blue hour is also going to be much darker, since there isn’t any sun, so boost your exposure as much as you can before adding noise and/or grain to your camera.

It can be difficult to match golden hour and blue hour shots, so work separately within each time period as much as possible. And, as it is with golden hour, blue hour is fleeting (possibly even more so), so you need to work fast.

4. Keep an Eye on Your Settings

As the sun rises and sets, the color temperature is going to change dramatically. In order to keep it consistent, you’re going to have to constantly monitor your settings. Pull up your camera’s histogram (if you’ve got one) and read the data to see exactly what’s going on with your image, then tweak as necessary.

Video: Close On Lcd Back Of Camera Adjustments by hhuntington2.

When you’re adjusting the color temperature of your image in-camera, auto white balance will usually do just fine. However, since there is so much warm light coming from the sun, you may lose some of the skin tones on your subjects (if you have them), because the camera will be adding cooler blue color to compensate.

Daylight, shade, or cloudy presets can also give you positive results, depending on your light, so experiment with those. The key is to not lose your blues. Manual white balance works as well, but you’ll need to keep a watchful eye and make adjustments with the light. As far as your ISO, know what your camera’s native ISO is, because once you go above that, your image can lose quality and add camera noise or grain.

Lastly, opening or closing your aperture to keep adequate exposure can drastically change your depth of field, so if you have a specific look you want to keep, don’t adjust it too much. Work with other exposure settings instead.

Video: Gorgeous Sunrise Over Tropical Sea. Timelapse Of Moving Clouds On Dramatic Sky by BananaRepublic.


5. Get Creative With the Sun

The majority of your shots are going to be one of two things: pointing the camera toward the sun, or pointing the camera away from the sun and toward your subject, using the golden light as your light source. Experiment with other angles by using the sun in more creative ways, like as a rim light right behind your subject, creating a halo effect.

You can use the sun to create a lens flare by simply tilting or pivoting your camera at the right angle to the sun (it also helps immensely to remove the lens hood). You can direct the sun’s light with reflectors or bounce cards, or the sun can even be bounced off a body of water and you can highlight reflections of the sun without actually looking at it. It’s like hot ice: the best of both worlds.

Video: Crowd Of People Backlit By Sun by RedBlue.

No matter what you do, shooting during magic hour is incredibly beautiful and rewarding when you do it right, and you’ll learn loads about using natural light in your productions. You’ll also learn how to shoot quickly within a tight window, which never hurts.

Top Image: Photographer by magann .

Working With Green Screens: Tips For Your Production

Working With Green Screen

Green screens are everywhere in filmmaking. They’re arguably the most-used visual effect in storytelling outside of credits or title sequences, and they can open up infinite options for your project. But you’ve got to be able to use them correctly to get the best results and minimize the amount of time and money spent adding VFX to your film.

Video: Nab 2016: Camera Filming Model Green Screen Background Chroma Key 4K Uhd by logoboom

We won’t get into the history* of the green/blue-screen technique or what’s going on within the camera and why it works, but this blue/green technique is called “chroma keying” (using black/white is “luminance keying” or “luma keying”). Essentially, you’re choosing a color for your background (or foreground, screen, or body part) that is completely different from anything and everything else in your frame (usually green), isolating it, then making it transparent.

*Note: If you’re interested in learning the history of green/blue-screen techniques, check out this incredibly fascinating video by FilmmakerIQ.

Screen Time

There are many options for green screens, so research to see what’s best for you and your budget. You may not need a huge screen if you’re shooting a stationary subject, nor should you get a small screen if you’re shooting an action scene with a lot of movement.

If you’re planning on shooting in the same place for every project, it may be best to just buy green-screen paint and paint your background wall, which is what many production houses and movie studios do. If you’ve already got a couple of light stands or c-stands, it may be easiest to buy a piece of green fabric and clamp it between them.

The bottom line is, think about your projects and buy a screen accordingly. (On a personal note, make sure you buy a quality screen, because many times you get what you pay for).

Lighting Is Everything

If the screen is No. 1 on your equipment list, lighting is No. 1a. You MUST have even light (or as close to even as you can get) on your green screen to make the whole thing work. This lighting could either be from natural light or studio lights, but the first rule of chroma keying is making sure the key is the same color throughout, to make your post-production much more streamlined. Here’s a basic breakdown for getting dialed in on lighting the screen:

Check for Imperfections

Make sure there are no wrinkles, scuffs, tears, or stains on your screen, to avoid any shadows that can throw off your keying. Remove them by ironing, steaming, or letting the screen hang vertically for a few hours. (If you’re using paint, just make sure you clean or re-paint any scuffed or chipped areas.)

Position the Lights

Two lights of equal wattage should be positioned 15 degrees from the green screen on each side, pointing toward the screen. This is very important. Each light should be far enough away to light the entire screen to create an even color.

Check for Evenness

As I mentioned earlier, even lighting is crucial. Move your lights around to the best position to get the most even lighting on the screen; it will make your life much easier in post.

Light It Up

Be consistent and stick with one type of light, whether it’s LEDs, fluorescents, or tungstens. LEDs use less power and don’t get nearly as hot, but they are also much more expensive. Fluorescents are cooler in color temperature and actual temperature. Tungstens are cheaper, but use more power and get hotter to the touch.

Check for Zebras

If your camera has zebra bars, use them and slowly adjust the iris to identify hot spots on the screen. When you start to see the zebras, you know you’re overexposed.

Video: Music Video Shoot by observe

Now that you’ve got your screen lit, you need to light your subject. The most important thing to know here is that you have to light your screen and your subject separately. The more separation you can have between them, the better your end result will be. With proper separation, you won’t have to worry about shadows as much, and you’ll minimize the amount of green reflecting or spilling from the screen onto your subject. If you don’t have a ton of space, however, you need to get more creative with your lighting and move the subject’s lights outward, so that the shadows are cast out of frame. Here’s a basic breakdown for lighting your subject:

Video: Guy Calling on Green Screen by cinemates.

  • Turn Down the Lights: Turn off your screen lights so they won’t interfere with your subject’s lighting.
  • Position the Subject: Keeping your subjects in the frame, position them as far away from the screen as possible, to give them some separation. This will also ensure the two green-screen lights aren’t hitting the subject. Have your subjects practice to make sure their whole body stays within the green screen.
  • Use Basic Three-Point Lighting: A key light should be positioned about 15 degrees to one side of center and raised 3-4 feet taller than the subject, mimicking sunlight. A weaker “fill” light should be placed on the opposite side of the subject, and backlight will be your third light (positioned behind and to the side of your subject), providing a “rim” light around your subject. This will help further separate your subject from the background.
  • Light It Up, Part 2: This works the same as with the screen. Choose a consistent type of lighting you want on your subject and use it only for your subject.
  • Minimize Spillage: If your actors are standing on part of the green screen, have them stand on a different colored mat to prevent green light from reflecting onto them from below. If you’re still getting green spilling, reposition your lights or move the subject further away from the screen.

Image: DSLR Camera in Photo Studio by Maxxyustas.

Those are the basics for a standard lighting setup, but there are times when you may need to match a certain scene, mood, or lighting arrangement based on your background. Think of how much different sunrise looks from mid-day, or the variance between an office building’s light and a candle-lit church. These are the best ways to light for a mood:

  • Mimic the Natural Light: If the background for the green screen is an outdoor scene, keep in mind the direction of the natural light. For example, if your scene takes place at sunset, make sure the direction of the lights on your subject are positioned at the same angle as the sun. Also keep in mind the color temperature, as it will vary along with the time of day. Indoor scenes are very different from outdoor scenes as well.
  • Use Gels: Match the color tone and temperature of your backplate by covering your lights with gels. If it’s a sunset, use warm gels on your lights to mimic the actual light in the scene. If you’re set in a winter environment or a doctor’s office, use cool gels on your lights, and so on.
  • Refer to the Background: Whatever your background image/video is going to be, make sure you use images of it for reference. Having a visual aid will make it that much easier to light for the background scene at the time of shooting, instead of having to re-shoot for consistency.

Okay, your lighting is set! There are a few more things to consider, specifically for your subject, and then you can start shooting:

  • No Green Clothes: Make sure your talent isn’t wearing anything green, teal, aqua, seafoam green, forest, or any color close to the color of your backdrop. The same goes for anything blue on a blue screen.
  • Put on Some Makeup: Makeup is necessary for green-screen shooting, unless you’re filming a Dawn of the Dead sequel.
  • But No Shimmery Makeup: Avoid using shiny lip gloss, eyeshadow, or blush on your talent. The lights will reflect off of this makeup and mess up your key.
  • Look for Flyaways: Use a shine spray to get rid of fine hairs that are sticking up. This will make it easier for keying.

What to do next?

Basically, if you‘re happy with the result even without further edits, you can go ahead and upload your green screen footage or photo straight to Pond5. You can also process the image with chroma keying tools in your editing software and export your media as alpha channel or alpha matte. Alpha channel is very easy to recognize – it contains its well-known checked background which indicates that it‘s a transparent background. Alpha matte on the other hand contains the original footage and the black and white mask. You can upload both types of alphas. Here are the examples of alpha channel and alpha matte footage:

Alpha Channel Video: Smoke Transition 2 by louderick.

Alpha Matte Video: Time-Lapse Of Opening Blushing Akito Rose In Rgb + Alpha Matte Format by zygistudio.

Top Image: Recording Interview With Politician Using Professional Tv Green Screen Studio by CausPlanet .

Scout It Out: A Guide to Location Scouting for Film and Video

Working With Green Screen

The craft and logistics of location scouting change depending on the kind of project you’re working on, the size of your budget and crew, and the area of the world you’re looking to film. There are, however, some basic, universal steps that every location scout has to go through to find and deliver that diamond in the rough.

Before you get started, an important thing to keep in mind is that you’re not just looking for a place where you can take a cool photo. You’re scouting for a place to film a specific scene or series of. A beautiful mountain peak that requires a 30-minute hike to reach is likely not a logistically sound choice to bring 50-100 people and thousands of pounds of grip and electric gear.

By the same token, a high-class law firm is probably not the best place to stage a scene where a car drives through a wall. You have to have permission to film on the property — which means that finding and building a relationship with the owner/ management of the location is just as important as spotting a cool-looking place.

John Michael McDonagh’s film War on Everyone had us scouting for weeks to find a location that would allow a car to crash through the front door. We eventually settled on a recently-closed bar with a glass facade that could be taken out and replaced with set walls for the stunt.

Step 1: Research

Your first step in every scout starts with research. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may use different websites, programs, and methods. If you’re familiar with the city or area in which you’re searching, use whatever contacts and personal knowledge you already have.

Many states have a film-office website with listings of film-friendly locations. This isn’t a bad place to start, and the local state, county, and city film commissioners can be great assets for leads to film-friendly properties, especially government-owned properties. These film offices can also walk you through the film-permitting process of the municipality.

Aerial satellite map programs such as Google Earth and Google Maps can be very helpful in finding everything from sand dunes to cornfields to mansions with a pool. Back in the early days of film, this process sometimes involved expensive and time-consuming helicopter rides. Now it’s pretty much free and takes a few minutes.

Once you’ve found your location, Satellite imaging is also great for finding a nearby place to park trucks, trailers, and crew vehicles.

The gypsum mine on Zia Pueblo in New Mexico has been used for various productions over the years, including John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.

Houses can be notoriously hard to scout because simply driving by them never tells you exactly what they look like on the inside. Also, people aren’t always home when you stop by, and it may take multiple trips to a house before you actually see the inside and realize it isn’t what you’re looking for.

Local real-estate companies and vacation rental websites such as Airbnb are good places to start before simply knocking on doors. These websites provide pictures to give you a sense of the space (you’ll still want to take your own scout photos), and there’s always contact information to get you started talking to someone about renting the property.

Most businesses and organizations have their contact information online, which is easy enough to find, but when looking for an abandoned warehouse or a patch of desert in the middle of nowhere, it’s not always obvious who you need to talk to. County Assessors Office websites and Cities with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Maps can help you track down who owns various properties.

Sometimes the only way you can find the phone number of a property is to be there and read it off of the “For Sale” sign in the front yard. Other times, you’ll need to knock on the doors of neighbors who might know them. If you’re still stuck, you might just have to leave a business card with a note at the front door and hope for the best.

The cliffs overlooking the old Jemez Canyon Reservoir are owned and operated by the Pueblo of Santa Ana. In wide-angle shots that showcase vistas, placing someone in the scout photo can help with a sense of scale.

Step 2: Making Contact and Building a Relationship

Depending on what part of the world you’re scouting in, the people will be different, and you may need to find different ways to approach them with the idea of filming in their house or business — but there are a few things that are essentially going to be the same wherever you go.

First, you need to be confident about the fact that your production will be able to restore the location to its original state after filming is finished, or at the very least pay the owner for any unforeseen damages. If the production you’re scouting for can’t guarantee to buy insurance for the property while you’re filming there, then it’s unfortunately not a production that you want to be representing.

When first approaching a property owner, they can sometimes be uneasy about letting a stranger into their home or the back rooms of their business. Some may wonder if you are a scam artist or thief. Don’t take this personally. If you have already connected with the local film commission, you can refer the owner to that commission to help back up the fact that you really are just interested in filming something on their property. Also, a business card really goes a long way in this situation.

Property owners will have a lot of questions, so it’s good that you try to know the answers before asking to rent their property. They will want to know what the story is about and if it fits with their morals. They will want to know why you picked their property. They will want to know about dates and times. They will want to know about pay. Almost always, they will want to know if there are any big movie stars that will be coming. Sometimes you can only give them a ballpark of possible dates and rental rates (more on that later).

A recent production starts construction of a set at New Mexico’s Spaceport, which is jointly managed by the State of New Mexico and Virgin Galactic.

Step 3: Taking Reference Photos

This is the part of the job most people are familiar with. We‘re not going to go into the craft of photography too much, but always make sure your photos are in focus and have the proper exposure.

When taking scout photos, you can save yourself some time later by shooting them in the order that you’d like to present them. If you’re scouting a house, try to take photos of every room, whether it happens to be in the script or not. Sometimes in a script revision, a kitchen scene is switched to a living room or a back patio. These extra photos will also add to your ever-growing database of scout photos, and while this production might not be interested in the basement, the next one might.

In general, try to take as many photos as you can. You want to take a variety of angles and points of view for both a reference of the size and shape of the space and an idea of how the scene might be filmed. Re-read the script before you go in to take photos and think about how you would shoot it if you were the director. Knowing how to stitch together a panorama photo is also a good skill to have.

The Santa Ana Stone House has been used on many New Mexico productions, including Breaking Bad, and requires hiring a snake wrangler during the warmer months due to an incident where one crew member was bitten by a rattlesnake.

Step 4: Sealing the Deal

Depending on the production you’re working on and the position you have, you might not be involved in this step. Typically, in feature films, television shows, and other commercial productions, the Location Manager negotiates rental rates, and a production lawyer provides a standard Location Agreement that will need to be signed. On short films and student projects, this job usually falls on the producer. But if you find yourself in a situation where you are sealing the deal, then the following information may be helpful.

To be honest, every production has different needs and means — as does each location. So as much as people would like to hear what the standard rental rate for a location is, there, unfortunately, isn’t one. A California beach mansion is going to cost more than a one-bedroom cabin in New Mexico. Filming in a restaurant or bar on their busiest day of the week is going to cost more than on a day that they’re closed.

Usually, the more inconvenience you cause, the higher the price will be. Filming on someone’s front lawn doesn’t put them out as much as filming in their bedroom. When working out a deal with someone, listen closely to what their needs are, and communicate precisely what you’re going to need from them. Negotiating a low price doesn’t help the production if it ties your hands from doing the things you need to do to film the scene, and deceiving the property owner about your true intentions only leaves you open to professional and legal liabilities.

In some instances, sealing the deal doesn’t involve a property owner. For instance, closing down a road to do a driving scene will involve proper permitting from the governing body in charge of the road. Sometimes this is the city, sometimes the county, and sometimes it’s the Department of Transportation. Permitting road closures can be a complex process that involves traffic-control plans, barricading, police escorts, and public consent. Every permitting situation is different and each governing body involved has a different process that you must follow. The best general advice is to allow yourself as much time as possible to dig through whatever red tape you might encounter.

This photo was taken during a tech scout at a scrap yard in Albuquerque, NM. The scrap yard has been utilized by a number of productions including Breaking Bad.

As you continue to scout, you’ll find what works best for you and your area. You’ll pick up your own tips and tricks along the way, but making friends with other location scouts will end up teaching you a lot. In the meantime, good luck and happy hunting!

All photos courtesy of Matt Toplikar. Matt started location scouting in New Mexico in 2012. Before that, he was a location assistant for three years. He has worked on movies and television shows including Breaking Bad, In Plain Sight, and Captain Fantastic, and graduated with a B.G.S in Film Studies from the University of Kansas.

Top image: Remnants of Star Wars movie set standing in the Tunisian Desert by Perszing1982