Saturday, December 6, 2014

What camera to buy!

The most common question I get asked is, "How do I film with the Glidecam? "  Today I will address the second most common question I get asked, "What camera should I buy?"

I am going to answer this question for everyone! PLEASE keep in mind that this is only MY OPINION. It isn't fact, but it is based on everything I learned from film school.  From actually filming with LOTS of cameras and doing everything I can to be educated on all the options out there.

Camera technology is ALWAYS evolving, so what is hot this year, might be outdated by next year. Most cameras in our generation have a functional duration of around 3 years.

The first and most important thing to keep in mind when filming (even more important than the camera itself) is the story that you are trying to share. Content is KING! Just because you have a really expensive camera, doesn't mean you will be successful. Some of the most watched films on the internet are from people filming on $100 cameras, with no training or experience. It goes to show that the story you tell with the camera is far more important than the camera itself. Once you can learn how to tell stories that connect people, then you can use a camera to capture the story the best way that you can.

So now that we have all that out of the way, let's get started :)

Look at cameras like different tools. You use different tools for different jobs. The same thing happens with cameras. Team Supertramp doesn't use the same camera all the time.  Sometimes we will use a GoPro over the 5D because we can't tell the story any other way. When people ask what camera they should buy, it's always difficult to address that question because I don't know what story they are trying to tell, and I may suggest different cameras and lenses for different stories.  For example, an action movie will be totally different from a drama. So my recommendation is for the most all-encompassing basic setup.

Every camera/lens we have ever bought, has been purchased on You can buy everything we own there, EXCEPT for the high end cameras (Canon 1D-C, and Red cameras (those you'll need to buy off their websites)). I will discuss my recommendations for the "basic" cameras below.  You can click on the camera link and it will take you straight to the camera that I would suggest buying.  It comes directly from amazon, it is the cheapest place to buy them that I personally trust.  Clicking on these links, rather than directing your browser straight to Amazon will help support Team Supertramp.  If you follow the link Amazon will throw a few bucks our way off the sale!  You don't get charged ANYTHING extra for that, it's just a way to help us out. I just wanted to make sure I was transparent on that. :)

Price Range:

$0 Budget:
Borrow a camera from a friend, just be careful :)
I'm sure someone you know owns a smart phone. Now days, phones have amazing capabilities.  They work great as a beginner's camera to start/learn from.  I personally would suggest using the latest iPhone.
Here's a video Freddiew (a very successful Youtube filmmaker) made, using a cell phone. Here's the behind the scenes and main video:

Behind The Scenes:

Main Video:

$500 Budget:
GoPro 4

- They can film in 4K.
- Film in slow motion.

-You can't put lenses on them.
-Most don't have a screen on them to view, but you can use a smart phone to view the image.

$500 - $1000 Budget:
Canon 60D or Canon T5i
I haven't actually used the Canon 60D personally, but from what I've read, it seems like an awesome camera for this budget. When we started out, we were using the Canon T2i as our secondary camera.  It is now the Canon T5i, so it's much nicer than the one we used.

$1000 - $2000 Budget:
Canon 7D Mark II
We used the Canon 7D Mark I in our early days on Youtube.  It worked awesome!  It's great for photography as well.  However, it doesn't have a "full-frame".

Panasonic GH4
This camera is not Canon, so we haven't used it very much.  It is 4K capable, and can produce amazing images. Keep in mind however, it is not amazing in low light. My friends filmed a video with it.  Here is a reference of what it can do. This video was shot mostly in slow motion (another capability of this camera) and in 1080P.

$3000 - $4000 Budget:
Canon 5D Mark III
Love this camera! Our entire careers have been built utilizing this camera, and it's older brother, the Canon 5D Mark II. It is a full frame camera. Amazing in low light!

$30,000 - $70,000 Budget:

Red Dragon
I would definitely not suggest starting out with this one! :)  It's something to work towards. This is currently our main camera.  It has become a Hollywood standard for many of the movies you see on the big screen. The camera is much bigger, the small batteries only last 30 minutes.  It ideally takes two people to run it.  Examples of Hollywood movies that were mostly shot on this camera are:
The Hobbit
Jurassic World
Transformers 4
The Amazing Spiderman

The list goes on...

Click here to see a list of a lot of films shot on the Red.

Here's our first Assassin's Creed video we filmed with the Red. The biggest downfall, in my opinion to this camera, is it's much heavier, the batteries last half an hour, compared to DSLR cameras that will last most the day, and the camera stands out a lot more.

Here's another example as well, shot with the Dragon. This one is much more "cinematic".

Even though these movies were shot on the Red. The lenses they used were just as crucial as the camera.  The Hollywood films produced today are shot with lenses that cost around $20K-$100K per lens. We use Canon lenses which are much cheaper and may not look as clean as these super expensive lenses, but keep in mind that it's not just the camera that plays a role.

Our last main camera that we own, and use a lot is the Phantom Miro.

This camera is a very specialty camera. You would never use it to film an entire movie, etc. It can film 1540 frames per second at 1200P, which is a little higher resolution then 1080P.

This camera package runs around 70K. Which is by far the most expensive camera we own. The reason WHY we bought it was for several reasons.

1. It would allow us to get shots no one has seen before. We are all about "getting the shot no one else can get", so it fit in line with that.
2. We wanted to evolve as film makers and this camera would push us.
3. We film a ton of action sports, and this camera is perfect for that.

We actually just launched a brand new Youtube Channel called Chrono. We put up super slow motion videos shot exclusively on the Phantom Miro Monday through Friday. Here' are a couple videos from that channel, so make sure to subscribe :) We haven't launched the channel publicly yet, so you'll be one of the first subscribers :)

Here's a couple videos from the channel:

We also incorporate super slow motion shots into our main videos. Here's an example of that, with Red Dragon footage mixed with Phantom Miro footage.

Buying the Phantom Miro was a big risk on our end. I wouldn't suggest anyone doing it, haha. Unless you wanted to get in a very niche market.

I think something that I would love to communicate to everyone. We do a lot of "brand deals" on Youtube. The reason we do that is because it allows us to grow as filmmakers, as storytellers. With anything that we make, we have it go right back into our Youtube channel so that evolution can happen. So THANK YOU for supporting us. I remember going to film school, thinking how amazing it would be to film with a Red camera, now we own two reds. I started out just borrowing my friends small cameras though. So don't get discouraged about what you don't have. As you work for it, you'll be amazing at the opportunities that will come your way.

So to condense it all down. If your just starting out, and budget isn't an issue. These are the cameras I personally would suggest, in order:

1. Canon 5D Mark III
2. Panasonic GH4
3. GoPro 4


Now that I've shared my personal recommendations for cameras, I want to let you know our story.  I will share with you how we have evolved as filmmakers with our equipment and the reasons why we changed cameras.  Hopefully this will help you understand why I made the above camera suggestions.

When we began our Youtube channel in 2010 we had ZERO dollars to make movies.  The first five videos we shot were all filmed with cameras I borrowed from friends. I did not own a camera when I started my Youtube channel. So what does that mean for you? I hope the same thing :) You don't need to own a camera to succeed as a film maker.  It does help, but it is not a requirement.

Currently our our main channel has 143 videos. Below is a rough breakdown of the number of videos we shot on each camera, starting with the first cameras we used, the Canon 5D Mark II and Canon T2i.

143 Total Videos Filmed:

First 50 Videos:
Filmed on the Canon 5D Mark II (films in 1080P, no slow motion)
(3 of them we used the Canon T2i and the original GoPro1)
(6 used the Canon 7D as a 2nd camera)

37 Videos:
Canon 5D Mark III (films in 1080P and can film slow motion at 60FPS in 1080P)

30 Videos:
Canon 1D-C (films in 4K)

26 Videos:
RED Dragon camera (films in 6K)

So that's a break down on all the cameras we have used. We have always used a GoPro or a Contour as our action camera. We have used the best action camera possible (small camera). Currently right now, the GoPro 4, is our go to small action camera, as it is the only one we know of that can shoot 4K.

When I started my channel, I was filming with the Canon 5D Mark II. It was one of the first DSLR cameras that could film 1080P, and it was the cheapest camera that could produce the results that it did.  You could put lenses on it, which was a huge deal to make things look visually "cinematic". I borrowed the camera from the company I worked with. I was the one who suggested they buy it originally.

I had found out about the 5D Mark II while in film school. I was learning how to film on the Hollywood standard movie cameras. While at film school, an amazing cinematographer came out with the first video to show off the Canon 5D Mark II. When I saw the video he captured I was blown away. It was the FIRST video to be so cinematic, while on a very cheap budget. The 5D when first released could only film in 30 frames per second, or 30FPS.  When I finally got the camera, it could do 24FPS, which is what most hollywood movies film at. Here's the film by Vincent Laforet that inspired me, and showed me what the DSLR camera was capable of.  This film is what influenced me in the direction I took.

On the first couple of shoots for videos on my Youtube channel, I used the Canon 5D Mark II, and my other friend, Jace LeRoy,brought along his Canon T2i, which the image wasn't as clean as the 5D, but it could still edit together really well.

Here's an example of one of our first videos we filmed that has a mix of Canon 5D Mark II footage, Canon T2i footage, and the original GoPro being used. When you cut different cameras together, even though the quality isn't the same, it usually isn't a distraction at all.  Going back to what I mentioned earlier, the story, or content is always most important.

The biggest limitation with the Canon 5D Mark II is that it couldn't film slow motion, or 60FPS, so we would use the Canon T2i, and GoPro to do our slow motion.

Once the Canon 7D came out, it allowed us to do slow motion at 720P at 60FPS.

Here was the second video I ever uploaded to our channel. Filmed with the 5D Mark II, with all the slow motion being done at 720P, at 60FPS.

Once the Canon 5D Mark III came out a couple years later, it had several big improvements that have helped us. Here were the biggest selling points for me.
1. It could film slow motion, at 720P at 60FPS.
2. It had amazing low light abilities. I could film in 6400 ISO and still use it. The Canon 5D Mark II I could only use it best at 1600 ISO.
3. The camera could record longer than 12 minutes (which was only what the 5D Mark II could do.)

Our Assassin's Creed Parkour video, our first one, was actually one of the first cameras I used the Canon 5D Mark III on.  I actually waited for it to come out to film this, because I knew we were going to be filming with natural lighting, in very low light. I ended up filming a lot of it at ISO 6400, without any "grain" noticed.

To this day we still use the camera. We record almost every behind the scenes video with the Canon 5 5D Mark III.

As a filmmaker, we always have to evolve, and grow.  As we have had the opprotunity to work with brands/companies, we began to save some money, and that's when we bought the Canon 1D-C.

This camera was a huge step for us financially. The main reason we went with this was because it was the only DSLR camera that could film 4K. We thought about getting bigger more "Hollywood style" cameras, but decided to go with the 1D-C because it fit better with the style of how we film.  It allows us to keep a low profile and try to not grab too many people's attention. Here were the main reasons we went with this camera.

1. It filmed in 4K
2. It could film slow motion at 720P at 60FPS
3. It had amazing low light, could film around 12800 ISO, and still be able to use it
4. It's menus were almost identical to the Canon DSLR cameras that we were used to
5. Used the same lenses as Canon

Here's our first video we filmed with the Canon 1D-C, and in 4K as well, and it just happened to be another Assassin's Creed video.

Even though this isn't our primary 4K camera anymore, we still use it as a secondary 4K camera.  We use it when bigger cameras are not allowed. For example:
When we were in Jerusalem, and a lot of places in the Middle East, bigger cameras were not allowed (such as a Red camera), but we could bring in the 1D-C because it looked like just another still camera. So to this day, we factor that into what we film. If it's super "undercover", this is our best option for 4K.

The biggest downside though is the codec the camera records in. It does film 4K, but it isn't "raw". A big part of how we make a living and how we buy equipment is based on us selling "stock video footage". Companies would want to buy 4K footage, we would send them the footage from our 1D-C in 4K, and they said the image codec wasn't good enough. It was good enough sometimes, but not enough to keep on using the camera as our main 4K camera. So once that started to become a regular thing, we decided we would have to start saving our money for the Red Dragon, which could shoot 6K.

The Red Dragon is now our main camera that we film with. We film with it on almost everything we do, in 6K. We then use the Canon 1D-C, or Canon 5D Mark III to film the behind the scene videos. We use the GoPro 4 as our action camera, when we can't get the shot with the Red.

Now that we have gone over cameras, let's talk about lenses :)
Once again, this is based off of my opinion. These are the lenses that fit best for my style. Generally speaking though, here are the two lenses I ALWAYS bring everywhere I go, in order of preference.

1. Canon 16-35mm F/2.8 L
2. Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L

If you have a small budget for lenses, the go to lens I recommend to EVERYONE is the Canon 50mm F/1.4, which I'll talk about more in detail below.

Canon 50mm F/1.4

I'll go into more details of some of the lenses we use and why. I will post a couple still pictures that I took with that lens to give you an idea of what the image looks like.

Also, just a little tip about Canon lenses, if the lenses are white (only telephoto lenses), or if the lens has a red ring near the front, they are a L series lens. That means they are the best "glass" that Canon makes in that series/line up of lens. So if you are looking to compete with the top dogs, having a L series lens always helps.

However, on the opposite side of that, what's most important in getting the best picture/image is not on the lens, but on the person taking the picture, their artistic ability, and how they know how to push that lens to it's maximum potential.

Canon 16-35mm F/2.8 L series Lens

This is by far my favorite lens. I use it 90 percent of the time. A big part of film making/photography for me is about the location you use. So for me, a wide angle lens captures that better than anything else. Any other lens smaller than 16mm distorts the image and makes it become a "Fish Eye" lens. I like things to feel "real", so that's why I generally don't shoot with anything smaller than that.

I am constantly shooting on a glidecam/steadycam.  Wide angle lenses like this lens are the only really options with a glidecam, otherwise the image will get too shaky.

Another reason is that with wide angle lenses, the wider the lens, the more that is in focus. So with a lens like this, it makes it very easy to have everything in focus.

Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L series Lens

I love this lens for capturing people. You will need a tripod for sure if you are shooting video, or it will get way too shaky. Before I shot video with Canon DSLR's I used this lens for every picture I took of people. I love the shallow depth of field and its "professional" look. This lens is always my first choice for photographing people :)

Canon 2X III Extender

This isn't a lens.  All it does is double the lens focal lengths. It only works on my Canon 70-200mm.  So when I attach it to that lens, it makes it a 140-400mm lens.  This is perfect for taking pictures of wild life and surfers from a far distance. Adding an attachment to a lens makes pictures not as sharp, but I haven't noticed a difference with video.

Canon 50mm 1.4mm

This lens is awesome for low light.  Generally that is the only time I pull it out.

The Canon 50mm 1.8mm is the BEST lens out there that ANYONE can buy for the money/payoff. It's awesome for taking pictures and filming people! It was the first lens I ever bought, besides the kit lens, when I first got into photography.

Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

A macro lens allows you to get super close shots where you normally wouldn't be able to go with any other lens. In all reality though, I haven't used this lens for any of my Youtube videos.  I've only used it for a couple product shots where I had to take pictures for commercial companies where they wanted super close shots to show details in their product. It's a good option to have for showing super close detail, but generally one I very rarely use.

So that's it! Those are the lenses I use and why :)

On my wish list, I have these on it.
Canon 85mm F/1.2
Canon 15mm F/2.8

The last thing I will cover is filters, since I get asked a lot what I use. I do not use any ND filters at all.  I do however use a Circular Polarizer.

This makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE on the outcome of your pictures. It brings out the blues and greens SIGNIFICANTLY! Especially the sky and water! Not all circular polarizers are created equally though... I did a TON of research on my own to find out the best brand.  After my own personal research I found the best brand was B+W.  It had the highest quality and brought out the colors the most.  It also happens to be the most expensive as well, imagine that, haha. But really it is worth it. There is no reason to go cheap on your filters if you're gonna be shooting with a nice camera and lenses. Here is a link to the one I own. I own two, one that fits my 70-200 mm lens, and one that fits my 16-35mm lens.

Circular Polarizer

Excuse my typos and grammatical errors.  Keep in mind that I am a videographer and not a writer.   :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Guatemala - Land of Eternal Spring!

Every so often TeamSupertramp takes on a project knowing very little about the destination or the people involved.  The WEAVESLEEVE project in Guatemala was one of those projects...  We (Parker and Carter) met up with Andy Thunel (Founder of Weavsleeve) in the airport terminal and it was there that he shared with us the story of his friends in Guatemala and his desire to help them out.  That 5 minute conversation as we boarded the plane changed EVERYTHING.  What started out as just another film trip turned into a passion-driven project that we all had our hearts invested into.  We realized that the idea of WeaveSleeve was SO much bigger than just helping Andy start a wallet business, and that we were going to provide a lifetime of opportunities for the Guatemalan families involved.  

As we mentioned earlier neither of us had any idea what to expect from "The Land of Eternal Spring" before we arrived.  The people, culture, and sights that Guatemala has to offer left us completely amazed every day that we were there.  The trip started off with a bang as we loaded up in a doorless helicopter to film the Mayan ruins in Northern Guatemala.  We decided to film with Defy's G2 Gimbal from the helicopter as we thought it would give us more stable shots in that situation.  Andy and Carter would hold the two sides of the DEFY while Parker would adjust the RED camera settings and control focus and zoom.  The only problem that we ran into was that the occasional G-Forces of the helicopter would cause the DEFY to wig out a little as we'd make sharp turns, but for the most part the shots turned out amazing. 

The camera attached to the gimbal was our trusty RED Dragon and Canon 14mm 2.8/f and Canon 16-35mm 2.8/f as are two main lenses.  We shot everything at 6k resolution, frame rates ranging from 24fps, 60fps, and 82fps, and shutter speeds relatively high to allow us to pull clearer stills from the video afterwards.

After an intense day of filming from the ground and the air, we started the flight back to our hotel only to run into the daily rainstorm. (It poured every day around 4 in the afternoon into the night...)   After unsuccessfully trying to cross the lake our pilot, Carlos, was forced to land in the closest place that he could find; a soccer field in a small village of San Carlos.  As you can imagine the whole village came out to see the spectacle of a helicopter landing in the center of their town.  

We wasted no time in making friends and joining in on the local soccer game.  The two hours we spent playing soccer in the rain with "Los Chapines" were by far the highlight of the trip and a moment that neither of us will ever forget.   There is something special about immersing yourself, unplanned and unscripted into a culture and and capturing real moments of enjoyment.  It is moments like this that we live for as film makers.  All of the shots from the rainy soccer game scene was shot using a Canon 70-200mm 2.8/f and the ground as the tripod :)

The next part of the trip was dedicated to the families and artisans that are a part of the WeaveSleave project.  We spent the next two days with them filming the WeaveSleave process from start to finish.  Everything from buying fabric from a local vendor in the next village over, to seeing some of their final projects for sale in their personal tienda (store).  

Andy had been planning a way to "give back" to all of the artisans and families for helping him and decided that he wanted them to experience something that they could not do on their own.  He came up with the idea to take his friends to Xetulul, a theme park near the southern coast of Guatemala.  The bus fare to the park is too expensive for these families, let alone the entrance fee to the theme park.  Andy rented a micro bus and we fit as many people as we could in it.  Every seat had multiple people in it not to mention lots of kids sitting on their parents laps, and one gentleman standing on the back bumper...  To be a part of and capture the excitement, fear, and pure joy of these people as they experienced a theme park for the first time was really humbling.  It was an experience that they thought only existed in television.  After a couple of hours with them at the theme park we decided to leave and let them be together as family and friends without the distraction of us and our cameras.  

After our time spent with the amazing people of Guatemala, We walked away with a new appreciation for the purity in the simplicity and happiness in the lives that these people live.  They have next to no earthly possessions, yet they are content, because they are grateful for what they do have.  They inspired us to have more positive attitudes and to love and life life to the fullest.  Their examples of humility have given us a new perspective on life and we left that country as better people.
Our goal with this video was to portray that valuable lessons that we learned and to deliver a positive uplifting video that would inspire our viewers the way we were inspired, to be happy, positive, grateful, and seek out the good and beauty in life.

If you would like to support to the cause of this film and WeaveSleeve who made it possible, pleases support them in their kickstarter campaign to help give these wonderful Guatemalan families full time jobs :)