BVE (Broadcast Video Expo) London

BVE London

 

(Updated 26 Feb)

There are a few take-aways from the BVE Expo in London for the run and gunner.

LED lights

1. My primary area of interest in attending was LED light technology because I figured that’s where the industry is heading. And I was right. Boy, they sure have made fantastic advances. Prices are still high but they will come down.

The first thing I noticed is that they’ve been making the equivalent of 1K and 2K fresnel lamps (focusable point source lights). The run and gunner doesn’t really need anything that powerful, BUT–that means we’re no longer restricted to soft box lighting as the only practical means of lighting location shots. Fresnels are lenses on lamps that allow you to ‘spot’ and ‘flood’ a light. And, being a point source, you can also easily control (with barn doors or external flags and gobos) where the light hits. This is what Hollywood uses to light sets.

Anyway, they also had smaller point source LED lamps, but from what I saw, they dropped down to the 100 watt range. There were a lot of these tiny focusable LED lights complete with barn doors, but oddly I didn’t see anything in a mid-range equal to, say, a 500 watt tungsten lamp.

But…

While that was good news generally, that’s not what I was looking for. I was looking for a quality replacement for what I currently use which is flouro soft boxes which, with the biggest bulb, barely equate to a 300 watt tungsten halogen. And these are the things that most run and gunners are using. You really have to get them close to achieve any sort of modelling in a typical corporate shoot in a daylight lit room.

There have been LED panels available for a few years that weren’t much better in term of luminance. And most came from China.

This is the area that has seen fantastic improvement. There was a plethora of LED light panels of various sizes. And the main thing I noticed was that they were all amazingly BRIGHT.  Furthermore, most companies provided a model that will give you both daylight and tungsten (interior) colour balance.

But they’re still rather pricey. At least now, if you can afford them, they’ve got enough ‘umph’ to way outdo anything you can do with the current flourescent soft boxes. And they come with various filters that can either focus that output to a 30% area, or diffuse it further. And they’re dimmable, controllable from smartphones, and all sorts of fancy usable stuff like that.

However, it wasn’t until I found one small booth that I got really excited.

Let me explain:

There were half a dozen or more companies offering some very attractive and high quality LED panels ranging from about £400 to almost £1000. I’m talking small panels such as a run and gunner would use for interviews. The high-end expensive ones were worth it for what they could do. But still, that’s a lot of money.

The one thing common to ALL of them was that they came in metal housings with barn doors and slots for filters, jacks for batteries, and control panels on the back. I wasn’t expecting anything else….

Until I found this small booth.

What caught my attention was an LED panel wrapped around a 1 liter water bottle sitting on a desk. I noticed it while talking to an American that was responsible for a very high quality German design which I quite liked (but which was a tad expensive).

Turns out that panel wrapped around the water bottle was the product sold by an outfit called Pro Light Direct (who also distributes the German design I mentioned).

It was brilliant.

Flexible LED panel

Flexible LED panels, 56K and 32K. Bi-colour coming later

 

That little LED panel is probably what is behind most of the other LED panel designs. I mean, if you looked inside of their fancy aluminum panels, essentially what you’d find is what this guy was selling without the fancy box. And it was flexible.

So here was this amazingly bright LED panel on a flexible backing that could be velcroed to a wall or put in the very simple frame provided so that it could be put on any light stand or clamp. I asked if it was durable. To answer that he threw it down on the ground, still lit and said, “I’ve been doing this all day”. Yeah, it’s durable.

I should note that (and I learned this at the show), the real trick with LED lights for film and video is the colour spectrum they put out. They work similar to flourescent  bulb in that the LED is lighting a chemical cocktail that then glows. The cheaper ones will have all kinds of faults in the light spectrum, typically in the reds (key colour for skin tones) and will have spikes in the greens and other anomalies. The good ones will be true throughout the spectrum. Most of the ones that this show were true to specs in that regard. Also, the cheaper ones won’t maintain colour temperature when you dim them. Again, most at the show would hold colour temp down to about 10% power. To hold it from 1% to 100% has only been attained by one brand, and you don’t want to know how much that costs. I’ll take true color temp down to 10% power. And this panel holds that spec. So it truly is a fantastic and innovative product at the lower cost range of quality, professional LED light panels.

At the show he had a softbox (which was a prototype, not yet available) that could be affixed to the supporting frame .

With prototype softbox

With prototype softbox

But the whole thing was feather weight and would take up practically no room in your light case.

It’s currently only available in 56K and 32K colour temp panels, but he says they’ll soon have a bi-colour version of the same.

THIS is the one you want!  It’s still about £500 (including VAT) or so with its controller, but of everything I saw, this is the one that got me excited.

And, it’s really BRIGHT! It’s certainly brighter than my flouro soft box which has the largest flouro bulb made right now.

That said, there was another really clever one that caught my attention. It’s expensive, but very clever. It’s an LED block system whereby you can plug 2 or more together to whatever size or configuration you want. I’ll just give the link so you can check it out. They’re made in France: Exalux

Stabilizing Gear

The other thing that was prominent was stabilizing equipment for DSLRs.

It was sad.

I saw guys suited up in some stuff that looked more gruesome than a Steadicam wobbling around like Frankenstein with a DSLR attached, not to mention other DSLR set-ups that looked like they might cost as much as an Apollo mission.

Guys–don’t go there.

I can do better than what they can do with all that with my Sony PXW X70.

Sony PXW X70 Upgrade News

Speaking of the X70,  Sony announced a couple days ago that the 4K upgrade will be available for the X70 in around June 2015. I think there’s an upgrade you can get right now that deals with a few things like improve facial recognition.

Also heard from Sony that Apple may have an XAVC plug-in in a couple of months. At any rate, they say it’s in Apple’s hands now, as Sony has given them all they need to be able to do it.

Orca Gear Bags

In my ebook Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, I discussed the merits of soft bags versus hard bags and specifically my case of choice from Lightware in the U.S.

In short, hard cases (such as Pelikan and Anvil) with hard foam cut-outs for your equipment still transfer all the shock directly to your equipment if you were to drop the case. They’re also heavier.

Lightware cases are built around tough Lexan (the perspex that aircraft windows are made of) boxes padded with foam and encased in a very tough fabric with moveable velcro dividers inside. You could throw it off a moving truck and your gear would be safe because the case gives slightly and absorbs the shock without collapsing while your equipment just jostles around within the padded partitions.

Now meet Orca.

Orca bag

Orca Gear Bag with LED interior light, made in Israel

 

Made in Israel, this bag was an instant hit for me. It probably isn’t as tough as a Lightware case, but is built on the same principle. For those who don’t make a habit of throwing their stuff out of moving vehicles (it would probably survive that too though it might get scuffed up more) it’s a fantastic line of cases. Plus, as you can see in the photo, they have a cool LED strip that lights up the inside of the case. If you’ve ever been backstage during show-time looking for a spare battery or something, you’ll know how brilliant that is.

Instead of a lexan box, the structural strength comes from an internal honeycomb frame with an exterior strengthening aluminum frame.  They’re even lighter than a Lightware case, but importantly, they’re also cheaper. In fact I was surprised at the price. The one shown here was £225. They come in various configurations (bag, back pack, LED kit, sound rig) but nothing on the large side yet. Here’s their site: Orca

 

 

8 responses

  1. Thank you a lot, Joe! I love that you took the time and had a look at the Berlebach website. Since I found no Sachtler dealer around with tripods on show and try, I visited a Manfrotto shop here, and I found the Manfrotto MVH500 Fluid Video Head, for example, very/no-lurch smooth to start, to keep panning/tilting effortlessly, and to stop without drifting/abruptly: exactly as you advised. I guess a (much) more expensive Sachtler Ace head would be even more fluid; nonetheless, I have no clue how smoother a Sachtler head could be than the Manfrotto MVH500 I tried. Anyhow, I’ll go on and seek for oportunity to get chance of a hands-on try on a Sachtler Ace.
    As for 4K, I am shooting with mirrorless cameras (Nikon V1 and Sony A5100) today. The AX33 is going to be my first real video camera, and immediately my first 4K camera. I am very enthusiastic. With the XLR-K2/K1 I’ll have a very similar camera than your NX30.

    Like

    • If you’re happy with the Manfrotto, don’t worry about the Satchler. The important thing is that you got to feel to action of the head. You can judge from that if it’s good enough. And to feel better about the price, you can try some other fluid heads to compare. Manfrotto should be professional standards and will last a lifetime.

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  2. Hi Joe,
    I love you reportage from the BVE tremendously.
    I’ve just bought a couple of Amaran LED lights (H198, HR672S). The flexible LED panels look terrific.

    I hate stabilization gear/gizmos; your description is perfect, no way I’d buy any of those gizmos. After I’ve seen your review of the NX30, this is what I’m after. I am thinking of buying the just recently announced Sony AXP33 ( http://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/handycam-camcorders/fdr-axp33 ) along with either a XLR-K1/K2 adapter or a Zoom H5 (two XLR inputs) with a shot gun mic (Audio Technica 875R, for example). Am I righth that this AXP33 is internally and basically the same as the NX30 with 4K?
    Anyhow, I’d need some advice, Joe.
    In your ebook your wrote that you use:
    1 lightweight camera tripod for the video camera,
    1 feather-weight tripod for the DSLR
    1 mono pod

    I’d like to buy tripods for my cameras, too. Which models do you use and recommend for a run ‘n gun shooter?

    Thank You and all the best, Miklos

    Like

    • Hi MIklos, Thanks for the vote of confidence.
      At a glance it looks exactly like the NX30 minus the XLR block. Doesn’t look like it has any audio inputs so you’d have to go with a Zoom recorder.
      As to tripods, your needs may be different than mine. You’re obviously planning on shooting 4K and despite the BOSS system, for certain scenics or whatever you’re going to want a good fluid head on your tripod for slow pan/tilt shots. But now your tripod is going to cost close to the price of the camera. So get a used one. Research Bogen and Satchler (they’re the best–don’t bother with others, or TEST THEM FIRST). You’ll want one for the weight of your camera which is nothing. But still, a fluid head has to have good drag controls so you can set the tension for a beautiful fluid move that starts when you start and stops when you stop with absolutely no jerkiness. Once you’ve found the spec, find it used on eBay.
      A monopod won’t be of much use to you. The camera is featherweight and you can just as easily hold it steady in your hand. Probably easier.

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      • Thank you Joe for the reply and hints.
        The Sony AX33/AXP33 has Multi Interface shoe ( see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrgmobAOA5E&t=1m46s ) and any of the Sony XLR blocks could be used. I think, it would be a reasonable decision from me to buy a 4K capable camera now in 2015. I have no clue at the moment, if I’m going to shoot in 4K resolution eventually. It will be interesting to see how BOSS works in 4K on the tele end of the zoom.
        The AX33 is anyway (much) less expensive and smaller than the NX30. I hope the AX33 will not have severe overheating issues for longer 4K recording.
        Thank you for the hints for the Sachtler video tripods. I didn’t expect to spend that much on a tripod; but, if you say it is necessary, no hestiation, I’ll buy a decent enough tripod. While searching for Sachtler and Boden tripods this genuine tripod maker caught my eye: http://www.berlebach.de/
        Thank You, Miklos

        Like

      • Hi Miklos, I didn’t see anything on that German tripod site you want. Doesn’t look like they really specialise in pro camera tripods. You don’t want those friction/spring heads or ball leveling heads. The only way you get those silky smooth pans and tilts at slow speeds is with a fluid head. It’s been years, but I doubt anyone has topped Sachtler’s design. The real test would be to go to a camera shop with yours and test out what they have with your camera. You’ll see what I mean about ‘friction’ heads or ‘spring counter-balanced’ ones. It’s a cheap solution for a big heavy camera that has the advantage of it’s own inertia to overcome, but with small cameras you want an excellent fluid head design so that when you start panning from a stop it doesn’t ‘lurch’ into action, and likewise when you stop, it stops without drifting or stopping too suddenly. I assumed you’d be shooting 4K which is why I made this distinction. 4K begs for beautiful wide angle scenics. But if you’re going to be shooting regular HD, maybe hold off on getting a good fluid head until you determine you really need it. You already know how good that BOSS system can be hand-held. There are limitations to what you can do hand=held, but they may well be within anything you want to do with the camera for now. So–if you don’t forsee the need for silky smooth pans and tilts of relatively long duration (which you really can’t do hand-held), then get any old POS tripod. (piece of shit). That’s what I have. It actually does have a fluid head that I can press into service if I have to, but it’s a cheap one and so requires a lot of attention and effort which is not something you want to deal with as a run and gunner. I mainly use it to prop up the camera for an interview and that’s about it.

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