GEAR THAT MATTERS

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Let's get it out there. We have an addiction. We are all gear-heads. Out for that next fix on gear news and to read the specs of the latest camera. However, as with all addictions, our personal economic situations play a major role in what we get and in many aspects what we can even rent. 

Before Scene Alive was scene alive, haha pun totally intended, we had our own passions and shot with the gear that we owned. Comfortable gear. I personally enjoyed the dslr range and shot on the canon 5DMKII, and still do. Eddie shot on the Panasonic GH2, but his love for gear spans the spectrum. When we became alive, we realized that it's more than the camera. It's everything else. 

 THE NUTS AND BOLTS

In film school, we were sheltered in that we had whatever gear we needed when we needed it. Then we got done and had to acquire and use our own gear. It is when you have to purchase gear that you realize that you need to look at the whole picture. There are times when the camera will have to take a knock so that people can get paid, locations can be acquired, talent can be fed and grip can have the tools for a smooth shoot, but more on that later. 

The main important tools in my opinion would be your lights, sound, camera and tripod, probably in this order. Invest in equipment that will get the job done in an effective manner.

Eddie holding up the diffusion on set

Eddie holding up the diffusion on set

LIGHTS - Your talent needs to see what you want them to see. I have also realized that in lighting something right, even a camera that we all have in our pockets (iPhone ;), yes I'm biased) will have a very appealing image. Light it incorrectly and it becomes unflattering and even ungradable. You could achieve good lighting with popular lights such as Kinos or Arri lights or you could always use the one light that we all have access to--the sun. I suggest investing in a bounce and diffusion kit. This will solve your issues on set by a huge margin. 

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SOUND - What good is great picture with horrible sound. Unless you want to make a silent film. And don't resort to subtitles due to bad audio. We've noticed that there are tons of videos we shall see watch with not the best image but stellar sound. The message needs to be delivered without interference. 

 

CAMERA - We touched on this earlier, but no harm in a recap. Know what image you want and what camera will work for your preferred shooting situations and the pounce. Try out different ones and see what fits your studio best. There is also another factor that we have to look at...lenses. VERY important. 

This would have been a bad day without tripod

This would have been a bad day without tripod

TRIPOD - Cloverfield was one of the shakiest films I have ever seen and this takes the cake over drunk uncle Joe's brunch footage. But did you know that this was an effect that they wanted in the film and one that actually helped in the story? If you watched it, chances are you were sick...physically. Chances are you are not making a Cloverfield 2 (if Matt Reeves is reading, we await part 2). Get a tripod that you are happy carrying around and one that will hold your camera, especially if you are looking at broadcast cameras.  You want a good fluid head ensuring smooth and silky pans and tilts. No one wants to watch shaky footage that is clearly not planned. There are many kinds, from carbon to aluminum and the heads differ vastly as well. 

Don't worry about the details, use this time to work on putting together a set of gear that you like. We'll get back to the different tools in more depth. In the words of a wise professor I used to have, "Shoot dirt, edit dirt!"  Make sure you have the right gear for the project. It's something we constantly have to remind ourselves as well. 

Let us know what you think in the comments and look into the scene alive favorite tools to see what treasure we have found. 

By: Calvin Runji  

WHAT'S IN A NAME

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When you transition from working solo for many years, into a team, you start to wonder what your band, group, or team name should be.  In general, the names "media, productions, or studios" tend to come to mind. But we didn't want that in our name. We wanted something different. We didn't want the name to sound clinical without any soul to it.  Previously my company name was Vidrios Imaging & Sound. Vidrios because it's all about the glass. Well that's what lenses or the plural form of glass means. In Spanish at least.  We shortened the "Imaging & Sound" portion to "I.S." So this is what it looked like, "Vidrios I.S." My wife, once said about the name, "Vidriosis sounds like a disease." I responded, "the disease is the addiction to glass." She didn't find it amusing. I knew there was no depth to the name. Then one day Calvin and I came together and rebranded the company. 

Our name came about one night when I had the privilege of attending a screening of the documentary, #standwithme, in a Georgetown theater in Washington, DC. This powerful story was produced by Patrick Moreau along with his storytelling powerhouse, Stillmotion. I saw a 9-year-old have a goal of freeing 500 children from slavery in different parts of the world which left me with a smile. It all started with a lemonade stand and an idea that became a reality for her. 

Most stories like this end with a screen that goes to black and give you a chilling statistic and then you feel horrible going home with no sense of hope. While this film surely gave the statistics, it left you feeling empowered and optimistic for the future. If one girl and her family can do this, what can we do? 

I looked at my wife and said, "These are the types of stories I want to tell, every scene is alive!"  While the credits were rolling I looked up the name "Scene Alive" and saw it was available as a domain name. I bought it immediately. 

I called Calvin that night and told him about the name and from that moment on "Scene Alive" was born. 

We want to tell powerful stories that move, that teach, that inspire and have a soul.  The scenes of this world are filled with wonder and life all around us. It may be the entrepreneur realizing her dreams, the mailman doing what he does best or the homeless person on the street. We just have to open our eyes. The scenes in front of us are alive. More importantly God is very much alive and He's given us the amazing opportunity to tell incredible stories. 

 By Eduardo Gonzalez

 

So You're Just Getting Started

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This is a question we at Scene Alive often are asked and it can be a tough one, no lies. There are a few factors that one needs to consider when picking out their first camera or even a second camera, cause, yes you shall need one. 

USE - What is your main use for this? This is a factor that is usually overlooked but it is quite important. We are always mentioning that the gear you use is just a tool. So what shall you be using this tool to do? There are different types of hammers. If you were roofing, you would not use a rubber hammer for the nails as this would not get the job done. This is the same for film. What camera would get the job done most efficiently and while not breaking the bank. It would also help to mention that no camera is perfect. Each camera has its use and knowing the restrictions of the camera as it relates to what you are doing will help a ton. 

BUDGET - This is an important one but we have seen it often overlooked. Expensive cameras are not always the best and more often than not siphon all the funds and nothing is left for grip, post as well as paying the crew. We will touch on this at a later stage.  

WHAT IS THE LOOK YOU ARE GOING FOR - Is there a certain look that you need for the project? Cameras nowadays have unique looks as far as color and sharpness. Are you looking for something that is close to the Arri or the Canon color profile? This should all be taken into account when making the ultimate decision. 

WILL IT PAY ITSELF OFF? - This is one I ask myself often. Not sure if it is a personal preference but I always like to see if the investment I make will bring in dividends and then some. 3 years down the line, am I still paying it off? If so, something is wrong. Do some research on the market and see what people who are doing the same thing you are would be charging for the gigs then use this info to make the choice. 

DOES YOUR NLE PLAY ?  - Not to rag on Canon, but their AVCHD is not a very well sought after codec. It is great for capturing all day and leaving some room on the card for BTS, but on the Avid does not play too well with all codecs either. So you might have to use Premiere. This is not a problem if you are accustomed to using Premiere. 

TEMPERAMENTAL - I love traveling and I'm sure people in this industry do as well. If your work usually takes you to the Alps or the Sahara, your camera could be subjected to some amazing temperatures and humidities. Make sure it will cope under the pressure and you will not be needing to refund the client. If this is not you, move along. Nothing to see here.  

When all the options have been looked at and you have a camera in mind, I would suggest renting it out for a weekend just so you and the camera can become buds. Get to know the camera in and out. See how it looks in specific light setups. How it operates under different temperatures and scenarios. And for rental, I would recommend lensrentals.com. They are fantastic on the customer service and the gear is always taken care of. What's more, for a small fee of $79, you will get free shipping for a year, like a baws. It would also help to realise that some of these cameras have been around for a few years and are now cheaper. Use this to your advantage and check out the used section of camera rental stores.  

This being said, let's look at the options that are in front of us.

 

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Black Magic Pocket Cinema- $995

 

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Panasonic GH4 - $1299

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Sony A7R - $1898

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Black Magic Cinema Camera - $1995

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Canon XC10 - $1999

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Canon C100 (Second hand) - $1500-$2000