Category Archives: How-to

Blackmagic 4K tests: battery life, data and record time

Updated July 20, 2014 to reflect the addition of more ProRes codecs in firmware update 1.8.2

I wanted to share my recent little study with other 4K Blackmagic Production Camera users (and potential Blackmagic users), so that we can better understand the battery drain of this camera. Here are some of the questions I have asked:

  • How long will the Blackmagic 4K camera record on the internal battery?
  • How big of an impact does screen brightness have on battery life?
  • Does 4K resolution drain the Blackmagic camera’s battery more quickly than 1080p resolution?

I performed a series of tests where I charged the camera to 100% battery, unplugged it, hit record, and let the camera record until the battery died. I then removed the SSD and mounted it on my computer to see the clip’s duration and file size. Here are the results:

Blackmagic 4K Production Camera Battery life

All tests at 400 ASA, 180 degree shutter angle, 23.976 fps
Codec
Resolution
Brightness
Record Duration
ProRes HQ1080p065 minutes
ProRes HQ1080p10055 minutes
ProRes HQ2160p067 minutes
ProRes HQ2160p10059 minutes
It’s fascinating to me to see the following:
  • 4K resolution drains the battery more slowly than 1080p resolution
  • 100% screen brightness only drains the battery 12-15% more quickly than 0% screen brightness

My guess is that the sensor is natively 4K, so the in-camera processor needs to work less than when scaling/debayering the image down to 1080p, therefore drawing less from the battery due to the decreased processor activity.

Also, here are the stats that my tests demonstrated regarding how large a 4K or 1080p clip can be expected to be, as well as how much time I can expect to fit on a 480 GB SSD drive:

Blackmagic 4K Production Camera file sizes and data rates

Note: All codecs with variable bit rate (VBR) will yield slightly different results depending on picture content and how it is compressed. Footage with more detail or movement will take up slightly more disk space.
 
Codec
Resolution
File size (GB/min)
Data rate (mbits/sec)
Minutes on 480 GB
1ProRes Proxy1080p0.2738.601778
2ProRes Proxy2160p1.03148.63466
3ProRes LT1080p0.5984.11813
4ProRes LT2160p2.31331.39208
5ProRes 4221080p0.83120.22578
6ProRes 4222160p3.31474.85145
7ProRes 422 HQ1080p1.25178.29384
8ProRes 422 HQ2160p4.95709.1197
9CInemaDNG2160p12.19167039

I hope this is helpful to someone out there! Please leave a comment if you have any questions or anything to add to the discussion!


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Garrett Gibbons Demo Reel 2013

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my demo reel. Maybe I was just waiting for the right musical inspiration? This one is long – just over four minutes – but I also made a 90-second sizzle reel for those with less interest or shorter attention spans. Thanks for watching! It’s been an amazing last few years.

Here’s the full-length version, set to “On Saturnalia Eve” by RA Scion (feat. Blake Lewis):

Also, the 90-second version, set to “Woodwalker” by RA Scion (feat. Mark Shirtz):

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You don’t know what the word “Storyboard” means, do you?

You just said “storyboard” to refer to something that isn’t a storyboard. I’m not sure if you said that because you heard someone else say it incorrectly at some point, but let’s clear the confusion up right away. I’m telling you because I care about you, and I want to save you future embarrassment.

Storyboards are a series of pictures used to pre-visualize a story. They’re commonly used in Hollywood movies, but also are used heavily in advertising, interactive media, and video games. They help by providing a common visual understanding between the director, director of photography, visual effect supervisor, producer and other key creative figures in a production.

Here is a storyboarded sequence from The Amazing Spider-Man:

Here’s what some Dreamworks storyboard artists look like when posing for a photo at work: (usually they look much more tired, and are drawing on lightboards, drafting tables, or something similar.

If you want to learn more about the visual art of storyboarding, you can read one of a large number of excellent books on the topic.

So just now, when you used “storyboard” incorrectly, here are some things that you may have meant:
  • brainstorm
  • script
  • mind map
  • treatment
  • notes
The fact that it has to do with a story does not make it a storyboard! Storyboards have pictures. They take time. They’re often drawn by professionals. They are used for specific purposes.
Would you use the word Gaffer to refer to the person who refills your water while you’re eating at a restaurant? No, because that wouldn’t make any sense. It also doesn’t make any sense when you call your written notes a storyboard.
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How to film and edit dance

How to film and edit dance to convey spatial continuity

Why do dance-centric films and television vary so widely in their ability to engage viewers? What principles can we follow to better convey the energy, beauty and athleticism of live dance, even though audiences will view the film in conditions that are highly detached from the live experience?

This topic merits a long book, rather than a blog post, and I’m purposefully ignoring many aspects of dance on screen, including the arts of choreographing for the screen, creating or choosing a set that works well for filming dance, staging dancers within that set, costuming dance for film, and varying techniques of lighting dance for film. For today, my emphasis will stay on two aspects: the camera and editing.

I will add to this post over time, so if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below.

Filming Dance

1. Lens Choice

I have read a lot of discussion in the academic community about the supposed difficulty of translating a three-dimensional art form (dance) into a two-dimensional space (the screen). While those challenges would in theory apply to any performance art displayed on the screen, I suspect that this discussion stems from a generally-perceived flattening of 3D space and loss of location reckoning when audiences see dance on screen.

“Matched” (presented by The LXD, directed by Charles Oliver, DP Alice Brooks), was originally filmed and presented in 3D. Is its impact lessened in 2D?

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Theoretics – “Lights On” (Official Music Video)

The latest from Theoretics: “Lights On”!

This is Casey Sjogren‘s music video debut as a director, though he’s been making quality content for a few years now. He directed, edited and co-produced this video. Domenic Barbero was our DP and RED Epic camera operator for the indoor footage. I co-produced with Casey, was I the gaffer for the indoor footage, and was the 2nd unit DP for the car footage (both Mark rapping in the car as well as the drivelapse footage of the city at night), which we shot on a 5D mark iii.

This track comes from their second release, “Plenty of Anything,” the same EP that gave us “Go.” Theoretics is a blast to work with, and I hope to continue collaborating with them in years to come.

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Commercial Time-Lapse Photography in Gibraltar

During November and December of 2012, I had the pleasure to film several weeks of construction time-lapse in Gibraltar for SoEnergy International (formerly Energy International). The time-lapse footage was included in the following piece, produced by Roar Media in Miami, FL.

Here’s a version with an added voiceover and project overview:

When a casual viewer sees something like this, they may assume that there was a large crew involved with the production, and that they were able to operate in sterile, controlled environments. In reality, the story behind the time-lapse is far more interesting.
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Garrett Gibbons – Director, Editor, Photographer – Demo Reel 2013

I’ve updated my demo reel! It has a bunch of projects I’ve done since my last reel (plus a few old clips that never made it into any previous reel). Enjoy it and let me know what you think!

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The Moral Responsibility of a Media Creator

Media is an unavoidable juggernaut of influence that both grows from our society and feeds back into it. When media professionals create, they are essentially either nurturing or poisoning society through every creative decision.

Through the history of storytelling, enormously talented people have helped to shape public opinions and sensibilities. Ancient kings and queens used to hire bards and pay them handsomely to entertain the masses with songs about their great empire. These rulers hoped to sway public opinion and create a narrative that would endure beyond their reign, and storytellers were one of their most powerful weapons. That tradition still endures in most of the world, though it’s draped in layers of subtlety and complexity.

I write this from the perspective of a budding bard who has been hired by all sorts of figurative kings to help tell the tales of their conquests. I primarily direct music videos and commercials, but I’ve spent years working in Television, documentary film, and the performing arts. I’m frequently asked to use my skills and talents to promote ideas, music, and brands. I work a lot and most of my experiences have been amazingly positive. I’ve worked with hundreds of talented, motivated, hard-working, gifted people, and I’ve studied them closely along the way.

Occasionally, however, I decline a project. Let me explain why.

Garrett Gibbons film director

My Morals

As a matter of policy, for a number of reasons, I generally don’t mix my professional work with religion or politics. There’s a critical point where my beliefs and my professional life intersect, however, and that’s what this blog post is all about.

First, let’s talk about where I’m coming from, and what all of this is based on. I know that it’s increasingly uncommon and increasingly unpopular, but I believe in God. I believe God is our creator and someday will be our judge. I believe that this life is both a test and a lesson. It’s a time to grow in our ability to become more like God is, to learn to love others, and to grow in the face of adversity and overcome challenges. I believe that families are sacred and that our relationships with other people are one of the most critical aspects of life.

I believe that everybody is accountable to God for their time and talents – God gave us life, gave us each unique propensities, interests and strengths, and I believe that he will hold each of us accountable for how we use those gifts during our time on earth.

Statistically, a large portion of you are shaking your head right now, convinced that I’m an idiot. Or maybe I’m only mislead? Maybe you’re concerned that I’m dangerous and am going to try to force you to live your life like I do. Maybe you’re angry with me for being so narrow-minded. Maybe you’re ordering a copy of Marx on Religion right now (Die Religion … ist das Opium des Volkes; “religion is the opiate of the masses”), planning to have Amazon ship it directly to my office, which you somehow got the address for by using some stalker-fu. Maybe you think you’re the one who’s going to change my worldview with the same argument that convinced you to whatever your belief system is.

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RA Scion – Guttersnipe Bridge (Official Music Video)

Ryan Abeo, AKA RA Scion (of Common Market), and his wife Mariangela are two of my favorite people to work with. My first real music video was for “Soothsayer,” part of RA Scion’s Victor Shade project. I’m still not sure how or why they trusted me to make that video since I was new to the Seattle hip-hop scene. It’s still one of my favorite projects, mostly because of the people I was able to work with, and it was a pleasure to get together again and make something totally different.
RA Scion photo by Garrett Gibbons
“Soothsayer” was very cinematic at times, very theatrical at others, very dramatic, very austere, and filled with insanely specific symbolism. “Guttersnipe Bridge” lies somewhere on the opposite side of that spectrum: it’s stripped-down, candid, friendly, and simple. We see Ryan driving his car through traffic in Seattle, picking up his daughter from ballet practice, and heading to a show at The Crocodile. (Madison gave us a few great casual and beautiful dance moments, fulfilling my secret goal to work dancing into every music video I possibly can.)

In an age of rap videos filled with strippers and cocaine, we really wanted to make something honest, with integrity about the life that the artist leads. I hope you enjoy  it!

“Guttersnipe Bridge” by RA Scion, produced by Todd Sykes. From RA Scion’s new LP, “Adding to the Extra.”

Directed by Garrett Gibbons.
Camera: Canon 5D Mark 3.
Lenses: Canon 24-70 2.8L, Canon 85 1.8, Tokina 11-16 2.8
Camera support: JAG35 Field Runner, RigWheels RigMount X car mount, Glidecam HD-2000
RA Scion photo by Garrett Gibbons

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The 500 LED workhorse location light

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite lights: The 500 LED non-dimmable video light, sold in various places by ePhotoInc, CowboyStudio, and Fancier Photography.

I have been using a number of these lights alongside the 1000 LED dimmable lights, some tungsten DP lights, tota lamps, and others. These 500 LED lights (with four banks of switches) are some of my favorite workhorse lights. They’re built like tanks, they work every time, they don’t flicker, they don’t short out, they don’t have bulbs burn out, they don’t have weird proprietary power adapters that get lost and break easily (it’s powered by the same type of cable as a computer monitor), and they don’t have knobs that wear out and break off. Everything is controlled through on-off switches that feel like they will last longer than civilization itself.

There’s a handy handle on the top that’s overbuilt and gives room to carry them easily when wearing gloves. They can swap between portrait and landscape orientation by unscrewing the little mount and moving it to another part of the frame. The light mounts using a standard light stand mount.

Compared to the square-arranged 1000 LED light, this gives off about as much light (unexpectedly), and the quality of light is softer and more flattering for portraits (also unexpectedly). The color fidelity is higher in this light than the dimmable 1000 LED, and I’ve had to use fewer gels (if any) to get this light to look great for people.

The 5600K color fidelity isn’t 100% pefect daylight, so if you mix them with daylight and you need fidelity, throw a 1/4 magenta (minus green) gel on the front, tape it well, and just leave it on there.

These 500 LED lights draw relatively little power, so I plug them into a Black & Decker VEC026BD Electromate 400 (about $100) and I can power one of these lights on that battery pack for about 90 minutes to two hours, depending on outdoor temperature (which affects the Elecromate 400′s battery output, as with all batteries). Throw on a grounded plug and you can power a two or three of these on location, out in the middle of nowhere, for 30-60 minutes without using gas, emitting fumes, bothering neighbors, or warranting city permits. That utility is worth more than gold to me.

I used one of these 500 LED lights (powered by a Black & Decker Electromate 400) to light the Moverz web trailer a few months ago:

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