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.


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



Chapter 16, Notes on Music–Another Sample

I think this is a perfect example of a compilation edit done to a choice piece of music.

I got the word on a Wednesday that a video was need unexpectedly for a primary school assembly on Friday featuring the ‘Belvoir Bees’, one of the projects run by the Belvoir Castle Cricket Trust. They were very apologetic about the short notice and I told them ‘no worries’.

The first thing I did was pull every shot of the Belvoir Bees from three different venues I had shot and strung them together on the timeline. As the Belvoir Bees start with the basics of throwing and catching balls and end up playing junior cricket, I put the shots in rough order.

It then took me about an hour to find an appropriate piece of music.

As they were young children, I first starting searching on Audio Jungle for children’s music of a certain tempo and mood and for a length of about 2 minutes. That was a bust.

So I searched for ‘sports music’. That was a lot more promising. The piece I liked the most was called Anthem for Sports Heros or some such. It’s main piece was over 3 minutes, but it came with two edited sections. One was 90 seconds and that was just fine. That piece started with the fanfare, had a bit of theme in the middle and ended with the fanfare again. That took care of my 3 basic sections of footage: 1) learning catching and throwing, 2) miscellaneous fun shots, 3) shots of cricket action.

The whole thing took me a few hours.

I laid down the music track and started picking the best bits for each section of the music cutting to the beat of the music.

For those interested, all this was shot on the Sony HXR NX30 (before I got my PXW X70) in full intelligent auto mode.

The version for the school assembly had no end titles save the last animation of the Belvoir Bees Logo. (Kids don’t care about the websites)

Here’s the result:

Chapter 7, The Filmic Look–Supplement

Since uploading the review of the Sony PXW X70 (which, incidentally, moved from page 26 to the number two slot on page 1 Google search in two months) I have gotten a lot of comments on the YouTube video as well as a number of comments on the blog and personal emails. They’ve all been truly great.

Confession: I’ve never been a geek. I admire those who are and those who understand all the ins and outs of codecs and all things electronically technical. I really do.

Some of those folks have commented now and then that I should look into some of the available pre-sets on the X70. More than a few have commented that with a proper setting my videos wouldn’t look so ‘video-like’.

Well, I really do want to look into those settings when I get a moment. In fact, I look forward to it.

And while I may eat my words after I’ve done so, I do want to mention something on the subject of the ‘filmic look’ that I didn’t mention in the book ‘Run ’n Gun Videography published recently.

I started off in cinematography. Film. First 16mm with a $50,000 camera/lens kit (in the early 80s), then 35mm with cameras costing between $50,000 and $250,000.

Funny thing. Even then I didn’t like the ‘filmic look’.

That, to me, meant GRAIN. And we were forever testing films and ASA (ISO) going for the least amount of grain as possible.

Anyway, in the early 90s I was assigned to a video documentary team. And at once, I loved the immediacy of video. You didn’t have to send it to the lab. You could play it back right then and there. And, of course, there was no grain. We had pretty good broadcast quality Sony cameras, so the picture quality was excellent. Crisp. Clear. Great color reproduction. I was in heaven.

Guess I was never really a film snob.

So my point is this: “What’s wrong with the ‘video look’? What’s this urge for people using video cameras to make them seem to be film cameras?

The chapter in the book that covers this subject was meant to clarify what is really meant by the ‘filmic look’. It’s a bit ironic actually how the filmic look came about—including how shallow depth of field came about. But as I said in the book, there hasn’t been a director or cinematographer in history that attributed any part of the success of a film at some awards ceremony to ‘depth of field’ or a particular film stock. It just never crossed their minds. Sure, they’d talk about their choice and manipulation of film stock for some particular look or mood they achieved, but that was in technical magazine articles. There’s something else far more intrinsic and important to the filmic look than all that stuff and that was the point of that chapter in ‘Run ‘n Gun Videography’.

But I also pointed out that I’m not ‘down on the filmic look’ either. I know what they’re talking about.

It’s just that I’m not down on the ‘video look’ either.

Maybe I’ll have to eat my words after I check into the X70s alternative pre-sets, but I can’t imagine that they won’t just be another version of the ‘video look’.

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