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Set-up - basics and work habits

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Craig Alan
Set-up - basics and work habits
on Mar 31, 2012 at 7:12:58 am

Any tips on the order you use to achieve the look you are after? Do you, for example, start with x number of lights and then play with or turn off one at a time, or do you add lights after setting up the key? I know there are no hard and fast rules but just trying to develop some basic practices. I often find less is more.

After finding the look you want are there any tricks to not having a boom pole kill your design? It’s not always easy to get the mike within 3 feet of the subject’s mouth and not have it throw an unwanted shadow, even with the talent as far as possible from the b.g. It’s sometimes easier to just go with a lav even if a hypercardoid has better sound. When you start adding flags do you find it changes your design dramatically or does hiding flaws get easier with experience?

When you are setting up, do you have more than one monitor in use so that the camera operator and crew member adjusting a light can see the results as they change its height, angle, distance?

It can be quite a challenge to experiment with a look and not get connections and interconnects tangled or strained. After settling on a set up, I often need to turn the house lights back on and clean up our interconnects before shooting. Add some talent/camera movement and you have another whole set of variables to work out.

Since all this takes time, do you find it easier to use stand-ins for your talent so they don’t get anxious? I think it would be better for the talent to come into a set that has been fixed and then only have to sit through slight adjustments and a mike check than all the experimenting it takes to get the lighting and camera angles correct. Also I don't always want the talent seeing themselves on the monitors and if the monitor is facing the lighting crew then talent can see them selves.

I know experience and experience in a certain setting is key, but I’m sure the pros here must develop a work flow ... Care to share?

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Rick Wise
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Mar 31, 2012 at 7:01:25 pm

Any tips on the order you use to achieve the look you are after? Do you, for example, start with x number of lights and then play with or turn off one at a time, or do you add lights after setting up the key? I know there are no hard and fast rules but just trying to develop some basic practices. I often find less is more.


The number of lights we have depends on: the budget, the space(s) we are lighting, the look we are after. In general, I tell the gaffer the look I want, where the key should be, what kind of key (hard/soft/other) and then leave it to him/her to make it work. A good gaffer will set his crew to setting up multiple lights. Once the gaffer is mostly pleased I'll take a careful look and may make changes.

After finding the look you want are there any tricks to not having a boom pole kill your design? It’s not always easy to get the mike within 3 feet of the subject’s mouth and not have it throw an unwanted shadow, even with the talent as far as possible from the b.g. It’s sometimes easier to just go with a lav even if a hypercardoid has better sound. When you start adding flags do you find it changes your design dramatically or does hiding flaws get easier with experience?


I work closely with sound, and try to not trap them. A hard key from one side may work just fine if the boom person can come in from the other and miss that light, probably helped by a judicious flag or two set by the grips. Soft keys are easier to handle for boom shadow, though harder to flag correctly. Sometimes sound will have to work with radio lavs instead of a boom because the shot is so wide and high. Yes, placing flags effectively gets easier with experience, like everything else about lighting. Having a great, experienced crew is a joy for the DP.

When you are setting up, do you have more than one monitor in use so that the camera operator and crew member adjusting a light can see the results as they change its height, angle, distance?


How many monitors depends a lot on the budget and also the circumstances of the shoot. I try to get a color-critical monitor by the camera, another for the director, and then a separate video village for the DIT. Sometimes we have to make do with just one monitor shared by all. I also work at seeing by eye what the results are without looking at the monitor. Part of the fun.

Since all this takes time, do you find it easier to use stand-ins for your talent so they don’t get anxious? I think it would be better for the talent to come into a set that has been fixed and then only have to sit through slight adjustments and a mike check than all the experimenting it takes to get the lighting and camera angles correct. Also I don't always want the talent seeing themselves on the monitors and if the monitor is facing the lighting crew then talent can see them selves.


Another budget question. The more expensive the shoot, the more expensive the talent, the more likely production will provide stand ins. Of course it's easier to work with the real actors, but totally boring for them, so whenever possible I try to work with stand ins. As for the talent seeing themselves, I always place my monitor facing the camera, not the talent. The director's monitor will likely be also set where talent does not see itself.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Todd Terry
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Mar 31, 2012 at 10:37:14 pm

It's interesting to compare the way that Rick works to the way that I usually work (chiefly because I have to), which in some ways are radically different than each other... and some ways much the same.

My projects (which are mostly broadcast commercials) are usually quite small compared to the real world... our budgets are small and our crews are tiny. Our average commercial project usually only has a total budget in the $10-15K neighborhood (rarely much more, and sometimes a lot less), so that dictates how we have to do things. I almost always work with the same crew that's usually three (sometimes four) people, including me, so there's a lot of job sharing which also dictates how lighting is effected.

I haven't been on a big shoot like Rick described complete with a sharp gaffer and full crew in a loooong time... and even then it was in my previous life as an actor, not since I moved behind the camera. On our shoots, I always direct, and DP, and camera op. The closest thing we have to a gaffer is our editor who usually comes on our shoots, and he does sound duty as well. The upside to that is that we all know how each other work, and my guys (the same exact crew for almost 10 years) usually know exactly what I want even before I ask for it.

We usually have a talk right off the bat about what my rough idea of a lighting design is, and the guys (and I) jump to making it happen. We almost always travel with the same exact inventory of lighting instruments and grip gear, so by this point they know my brain pretty well. It does evolve over time though... for example I'm in my "daylight phase" right now which means a lot of flo and HMI lighting, in instances where I might have purely used tungsten a couple of years ago. Things change, but the guys keep up well.

I've never really had to worry about boom shadows, although now that you have mentioned it I will probably be fighting them on my next shoot. It's probably because, as Rick also mentioned, I tend to use very soft keys... either a large softbox or more often these days a white 4x4 bounce... and those rarely cause problematic boom shadows. I will on occasion put a lav on talent, but we almost always boom. Lavs just sound so clinical and sterile, whereas a good boom (we use Sennheiser MKH416 shotguns for booms, a great mic) just sounds so warm and open and natural. I'll only put a lav on an actor when a shot is too wide or otherwise physically wont allow for booming. In those cases, yes, we will put a radio mic on them... but I find that often in editing we'll use an audio lift from a boomed take because they sound so much better.

I only use one monitor, ever. That's usually all we ever unpack, and sometimes all we even travel with. I can count on one hand the times we've used two or three. It stays near the camera, usually positioned in a way that talent can't see it. That's especially important if you're dealing with anyone other than professional actors.

As for stand-ins... we never hire "real" stand-ins... our budgets don't allow that. But I will often snag a crew member or even one of the client's hangers-on to do some impromptu stand-in work, then do final tweaking with the real talent.

And yeah...it gets easier through time.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Rick Wise
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Mar 31, 2012 at 10:55:18 pm

Great description, Todd. And you are lucky to have the same crew for ten years. That speaks volumes about your choices and also how you lead the pack.

I'm afraid I haven't had a full-up shoot such as I described for at least three years. On the most recent shoot (just this week, three commercials in two days,) I had one gaffer/grip with one large LED light on a pole and another small one for car interiors that went right on the camera. Mostly hand held or else on sticks. No monitor at all. Oh but we did have a "dolly": a wheel chair. Shot with the Canon EOS c300, which I like and in some ways don't like for this quick style shooting. And I had an AC to wrangle data and lug stuff around, and a sound guy to both boom and run radio mics. Each one terrific. I miss the great full-ups but you make what you can get as great as possible!

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Todd Terry
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Mar 31, 2012 at 11:31:27 pm

Not to highjack the thread, Rick, but how do you like the C300?

I've been thinking it's probably my next camera. We might have grabbed one by now already, but we want the PL mount version and I think it wasn't released until this weekend (at least you could only pre-order it from B&H until now, although I just looked and it is now listed as orderable). I know the EF version has been out for a little while, but only have spoken with a couple of people who have used them.

I like everything I've seen/heard/read about them... except I wish it had an interchangeable mount and I didn't have to pick between EF and PL. We have great PL glass though that I'm not going to give up, so I've been waiting for the C300PL.

Again, sorry for the hijack! Other DPs feel free to keep chiming in to Craig's original post... will be interested to hear that too.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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john sharaf
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Mar 31, 2012 at 11:54:39 pm

Todd,

I'd rather chime in on your reply!

I'd recommend the Sony F3, especially now that they're essentially including the S-Log and 444RGB features for free (thanks in large part to the competition of the C300). I've been using F3's for almost a year now and am very happy with their flexibility, sensitivity and great rendition of skin tone (watch the Katie Couric interview with Eva Longoria this week on GMA - all three shots with F3's), and on the horizon is the new NEX FS700 which is a 4K version of the FS100 and kitted out with the Solid Camera add-ons becomes a very robust, compact 35mm sensor PL-Mount camera for about $12K. The imager must be related to that in the new F65 camera.

The recording format weakness with the FS100 (and lack of full quality output spigot, which also hampers the C300) will be accommodated with a full 444-10 bit or more output in the FS700. You'll probably also see this camera kitted out with Solid Camera accessories at the Sony booth at NAB. You still need this type of 3rd party kit to convert the NEX's to PL mount, but with adapters (unlike the C300) you can use any mount (E,PL, Nikon, Canon, etc.).

While 4K exhibition in the near term will be limited to high end cinema use, the ability to "down-sample" from 4K to HD will defiantly enhance the image and minimize moire and artifacts, and find additional use in VFX's. There will be lots of 4K stuff at NAB this year.

JS



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Rick Wise
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 1, 2012 at 12:36:04 am

John, I love your "will defiantly enhance the image". Yes to that!

As to Todd's question about the c300: Here's what I found with two days of running around the streets of San Francisco shooting our local police:

Good: relatively light and hand-holdable without any rig. I had considered the F3 but it's bigger and harder to hold.
good: Peakng with red to indicate what's in focus is pretty slick.
good: excellent eyepiece and flip-out monitor, though the flip-out is useless outdoors without some sort of hood.
good: Fairly good range of exposure, and can be set up to sort of emulate the Alexas, though when you do that an ISO of 1250 becomes a working ISO of 160.

Not so good: impossible to use external follow focus with marks on Canon lenses; not so with PL glass.
Not so good: no auto anything -- for doco work I like having the ability to punch up auto focus, then go back to manual; ditto for iris
Not so good: no histogram or waveform (The F3 has a histogram -- I'd much prefer the waveform.
Not so good: no way to toggle through Zebras; I like to be able to see 100%, then 70%; on the c300 you have to go into the menu and select one or the other, unless you want to put up with both at the same time. I screwed up one set of shots by protecting highlights thinking the zebras were on 100 when in fact they were on 70 -- a couple of stops under exposed.

I'm no gear head and leave it to others to do so. In sum, I enjoyed the camera a lot for the purpose I had. For more controlled shooting with sticks/dolly I'd pick the Alexa first and the F3 second. But the c300 with PL mount and good glass could also be a very viable camera. As with all video you do have to protect for highlights -- anything above 100% is gone, gone, gone. Blown out windows or elements of the shot, no problem But if the highlight on a forehead goes to clip, ugly....

I think John's reasons for the F3 are solid, but I don't think hand-holding works so well. Here are a couple of shots of the c300 with me behind the lens. The lens is a Canon 17-55 T/2.8, fairly sweet for hand-held work, though I wish it went to 85 or so on the long end:



Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Craig Alan
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 1, 2012 at 12:51:52 am

How's the audio?

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Craig Alan
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 1, 2012 at 12:00:19 am

Can't you just use a PL adapter? Or does that compromise the image in some way?

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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john sharaf
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 1, 2012 at 12:10:41 am

Craig,

PL mount lenses can be very large and heavy, so serious "support" is required to keep the alignment correct and the lens mount from being damaged. This has required after market suppliers like Solid Camera, Hot Rod Camera, Element Technica, Zacuto, Chroszeil, Vocus, Arri and others to design complete systems for this purpose, not to mention balancing the load on the tripod head.

A prime lens can weight 4-6 pounds and a large zoom like a 12X Optimo is 24 lbs and almost 18" long, which creates a lot of leverage. Even full sized movie and digital movie cameras require a support system for these lenses, the lens mount adapter you mention is just one part of the necessary kit.

JS



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Craig Alan
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 1, 2012 at 12:27:30 am

Understood, but it is possible to use both kinds of lenses with this cam? I mean you need support for large lenses anyway. Complete focus control is critical at this resolution. So yes the whole kit.

Our next cam will be the Pana P2 HPX250. Not quite in this league but very versatile.

I had the experience of watching a 4k projection at RED studios recently. The detail was incredible. At times almost too much so. Plus you know 4K requires a lot of storage. I'm hoping Apple will release the next Mac Pro soon. Whatever form it may take. Maybe modular like these cameras.

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Craig Alan
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Mar 31, 2012 at 11:43:55 pm

Thanks so much for your responses. It's very interesting to hear how different pros approach their craft. Obviously, every shoot is different, but I do think pros have a workflow that they return to again and again. I also think that if you can do it all, it makes you better at your job when you do have a full crew and you are responsible for one element.

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Todd Terry
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 1, 2012 at 1:55:27 am

Thanks for the input, John and Rick...

We had really been considering the Sony, and for quite a while I figured it would be next in line here... all the while hoping that Canon put finally get off the dime and put their big sensor in a proper video camera. We're still weighing both, but I haven't found many downsides to the C300.

I can see where the lack of automation would really be a hurdle for some people, and will likely be a dealbreaker for many. Personally for me though it doesn't matter. It's probably been several years since I've had any camera in any sort of auto mode at all... I just always shoot full manual everything and am used to doing that. Maybe every now and then I'll think "This is one of those cases where autofocus would be nice," but it's not often. I remember shooting just some backyard stuff with a friend's camcorder a while back... I kept reaching out for the follow-focus wheel (which wasn't there, of course) just out of habit.

As my bones and body seem to be inexplicably getting older, smaller and lighter is our goal this year... my current "A" camera rig is built around the XLH1 body which isn't huge, but all rigged out it weighs in at 23lbs. The C300 body weighs less than the battery hanging on the back of my present camera.


As for adapters, Craig... yes they work, but aren't always the easiest or most elegant solution, and some things work better than others. Putting a PL mount lens on an EF mount camera takes a pretty special adapter... it's not just a metal ring with the right connections on each end. Because many/most PL mount lenses have a "flange depth" (basically the ass-end of the lens) that's too deep for tolerance, the PL-lens-to-EF-camera adapter is a pretty cumbersome gadget, and it has optical elements in it as well to account for that flange depth. It's also about $2500, just for the adapter.

Well, now we've really sidetracked the thread. Sorry, Craig... probably just should have started my own thread when Rick mentioned the camera.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Craig Alan
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 1, 2012 at 6:11:00 pm

No problem, Todd. Being a teacher, I'm a generalist so all this stuff is relevant. It's interesting that all the lighting designers here are now videographers. This also plays a part when we are setting up lights. How far are you zooming in, camera angle and placement, F stop, focus.

Our flags are on order so they have not really been part of the solution yet. I often just change the camera position or angle or zoom to cut out the boom shadow. Still if the boom pole operator had a small monitor they could keep an eye on it to watch if it was creeping into the shot.

Speaking of which, the c300, doesn't even have a push focus? I'm starting to learn this is true of a lot of the high end modular systems. I think this just might be the nature of very high resolution, large sensors, and narrow depth of field. Where in the image would the autofocus focus? Right in the center would not conform to rule of thirds for example. Still cams will auto focus dead center then you hold position and adjust from there. Maybe not so effective with video cams? Movie cameras did not have auto focus. To me it means there is still a place for the more run and gun friendly camcorders. Considering we are delivering in no more than 1080p they still have their place. Granted, even in 1080 p the higher end cams produce better images.

Do the large sensor cams like the c300 have focus assist features like a graph or bar or magnifying a portion of the image?

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Rick Wise
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 1, 2012 at 6:41:05 pm

As noted above, the c300 has a peaking function which outlines areas that are in focus in red. It also has a magnification button that allows the operator to push in on the image to set/adjust focus. Neither is recorded so both can be activated during a shot, though the magnification button screws up your framing quickly. I avoided it except when my finger hit it by mistake.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Craig Alan
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 1, 2012 at 10:37:44 pm

Sorry Rick. You did mention this. On the Panasonic AG-HPX170 which has been our main camera (the 250 on order) they have a focus assist button which brings up either a graph or a bar or both and a magnified image "Magnifies the center portion of the image and displays the frequency distribution graph.." All of these are very helpful. The Sony Z7U has a focus helper function (expanded focus). Works great. But these are both in the traditional camcorder form factor and by the time you are done maybe a third the price or less depending on your choice of lens.

I wish the manufacturers would agree to call similiar functions by the same name.

On the Panasonic, for example, what they are calling AWB (auto white balance) is manual white balance on Sony and Canon and every other cam I have used.

How does the framing get screwed up? I really hope next year's budget will let me buy one of these large sensor cam's. Whenever I apply for funding I have to make sure i order a complete package and everything works together. It's not like i am sitting on a budget I can draw from. So I start my research early, keeping an eye on end user experiences.

One more question: how long can you hand-hold the Canon steady enough when recording. I find the tighter the shot and the higher the resolution the more noticeable any unwanted camera movement becomes. Same with focus. Focus is much more critical. When I got to play with the red camera, I was thinking man this baby is a brick. I was also thinking how much i wanted one.

MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Panasonic AG-HPX170, Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Rick Wise
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 1, 2012 at 11:03:47 pm

One more question: how long can you hand-hold the Canon steady enough when recording. I find the tighter the shot and the higher the resolution the more noticeable any unwanted camera movement becomes.


The Canon lens we had, a 17-55, has a built-in steady-shot, which helps. Further, shooting that wide also helps reduce shake. And the ultimate post weapon is Mercali DeShake. Length of time I can hold steady? Not sure, but a while. Holding that camera does require one to have some decent upper-body strength. I work out with 8# dumbells, sitting upright and holding them vertical and lifting them up and down, then side ways and up and down, then flip the wrists over and up and down; then work on the wrists by holding the weights with my arms resting on my knees and repeat motion in every possible way, then start over with the arms, etc. The camera is not truly light, just lighter than many others....

I did try a shoulder brace, but I've never liked them. On the other hand, for long hand-held work I'd recommend something like the Turtle X or XS from Easy Rig. Here's a delightful demo:



)

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Mike Gluckman
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 9, 2012 at 2:58:05 pm

In regards to the Canon C300.

"Not so good: no histogram or waveform"

The C300 does have a waveform. It is only viewable on the LCD flip up and not the evf. The focus enhance feature uses the waveform, so you can't see them both at the same time.

mike gluckman
dp - orlando



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Rick Wise
Re: Set-up - basics and work habits
on Apr 9, 2012 at 5:35:43 pm

You are so correct! My error. See p. 88 of the manual.... However, since using the waveform seems to turn off the peaking function, there's still a bit of a problem unless there's time to set up properly -- which while shooting doco style there seldom is.... Back to zebras.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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