“Gotham”-Style Photo Tutorial

Gotham-Wallpaper

I’m a big fan of the new “Gotham” TV show. I also like the promo images that were done for each of the main characters. I couldn’t find any information online about who took the images,or how they were done, so I decided to figure out how to do something similar myself.

alex-gotham-web

Let me be clear: my intention here was not to “rip off” somebody else’s work, but to use it as a stylistic reference, and a teaching tool. I believe that there’s a lot of value in trying to emulate work you admire, as long as you’re up front about the fact that whatever you come up with was heavily inspired by something else.

To see how I created my own “Gotham”-style character portrait, watch the tutorial video below.

Click here to download the Stormy Sky background I used.
Click here to download the Vignette I used.

These are the monolights I used.
These are the video lights I used.
This is the lens I used.

Waveform 101

Back in the early days of video, tehcnicians relied on two main instruments: the waveform and the vectorscope. Even though we now have fancy flat-panel monitors, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these venerable tools – especially the Waveform.

In Premiere Pro, you can switch to the Waveform view by clicking on the little wrench icon under the program window.

Ideally, you want a full range of video signal all the way from bright white (100 IRE) to dark black (0 IRE). If your signal is all smushed up in the middle like this, it’s going to look muddy and unattractive.

Goodwill Christmas TV

I was recently hired by the good folks as The Brandon Agency to shoot, direct & edit a series of spots they’d written for Goodwill Industries. In time for the season, here’s the Christmas spot.

Basic Audio Processing in Adobe Audition

A friend of mine recently edited his first TV commercial, and got this note from the TV station:

I wanted to let you know about the latest spots I just put in the system. The quality, especially of the audio, is quite bad.
The audio levels swing wildly from quiet to loud throughout, making the quieter parts hard to hear because I have to set the levels for the louder sections. Some of the audio also sounds like it was recorded a bit hot and distorts a bit. Also, some of the voiceover and stand ups audio only comes out of the left audio channel rather than both.

Ouch! Fortunately, aside from the audio that was recorded “a bit hot” and distorted, all of this can easily be fixed. Audio purists may be horrified by my approach, but it’s quick and effective.

Is Tamron’s 17-50mm f/2.8 The Perfect Blackmagic Lens?

Ever since the original Canon 5D MkII opened up the world of accessible large-sensor video, it’s been hard to stomach the reduction in field of view that a cropped sensor demands. I absolutely love the image quality that my Blackmagic Production Camera captures, but the 1.7x crop factor made it a challenge to keep working with the same lenses that I used with my 5D2.

For example, my go-to lens for wide-angle handheld work with the 5D2 has always been the Canon 20mm f/2.8, and my favorite general-purpose lens is the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. But neither of those lovely pieces of glass work the same way on the BMPC, because of the crop factor.

After investing in a couple of new lenses (plus digging an old 8mm Peleng out of my closet), I set out to do a side-by-side comparison to determine what lenses I can count on, and which I should leave in the bag.

First up was the Peleng 8mm. I bought this Soviet-era marvel years ago to use with a Krasnogorsk 16mm film camera. I had used it for a couple of fisheye shots on my Canon 5D, but I’ve really never had much use for it.

Here’s what it looked like. For each lens, I’m showing a scaled-to-fit image and a 100% crop from the ProRes HQ 4K video file.

8mm 01

8mm 02

While the ultra-wide angle is impressive, and the vignetting could be dealt with, the lack of clarity in the image would be hard to justify for any serious production.

Getting Decent Audio Out Of The Blackmagic 4K Production Camera

bmpc audio meters

Last week, Blackmagic announced that their v1.9 firmware update for the 4K Production Camera would include audio meters. This was met with great rejoicing by camera purchasers who have been struggling with the amazingly bad audio functionality of this otherwise exemplary device.

Let me preface what follows by mentioning that I have used a lot of cameras and audio equipment over the last 20 years, and the Blackmagic Production Camera is by far the absolute worst. Not only are the onboard preamps noisier than the worst DSLR – meaning that using anything more than 10% gain will result in audio so full of hiss that is almost totally unusable – but the input tolerance seems to have been calibrated for some kind of alien technology. Every type of signal I fed into it was either clipped or inaudible – and often both!

Armed with the new audio meters, I resolved to test the BMPC’s finicky sound circuits more systematically.

“Media-Proof Kids”

As digital content creators, sometimes we come face to face with Pogo the Possum’s famous observation, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” In a cultural landscape drowning in endless advertisements, hypnotic entertainment, and overwhelming information, are we making the world better or worse?

As a parent, I felt forced to ask myself, “How can I use what I know to help my children defend themselves against manipulative media?”

About a year ago, I started researching this topic. Today, I am very proud to introduce my new eBook, “Media-Proof Kids: A Guide For Parents.”

Quick Tip: Title-Safe/Action-Safe Guides in Premiere Pro

I can never remember how to turn these guides on, so I’m posting this as much for my own benefit as for yours. In the upper-right of the program monitor in Premiere, there’s a fly-out menu that allows you to turn on title-safe/action-safe guides, as well as all the other monitoring options.

title safe premiere

Recent Work: Doctor’s Promo Video

Here’s a simple promo video that I recently finished for a local doctor. All I shot was the on-camera presentation by the doctor. Photos are either provided or from stock.

While I was as pleased as ever by the cinematic quality of the Blackmagic footage, I was disappointed to see quite a bit of moiré in the fabric of the doctor’s shirt. I was able to disguise most of it by masking off the shirt in Colorista II and setting the sharpness filter set to a negative value, but you can still see it if you’re looking for it.

Blackmagic 4K Production Camera – Second Impressions

Here’s a regional commercial for a local bank that I just directed & shot with the Blackmagic 4K Production Camera. The client was looking for the slightly desaturated, shallow depth of field look that is popular in high-end national spots. It was a perfect opportunity to use the BMPC.

A couple of quick notes, now that I’ve been using the BMPC for a few weeks.