I've been honing my photography skills, getting ready to start shooting soon on the bar flick. A lot has happened lately around here that all contributes to why my images are looking better... I'll summarize in this post what the main factors are.
First, I've installed some boom arms, one type of which I detailed in my last post. I got pretty frustrated with the flimsy mic stands though, so I went looking for something better that wouldn't cost as much as a professional C stand and grip equipment.
Man - I'll tell ya what... I love all the posters surrounding me here in the Darkstudio, but it sure does make it hard to take pictures of the studio itself or anything in it! All that busy, colorful imagery tends to overwhelm the pics. I hope you can see the forest of rods and extensions coming down from the ceiling. Click on the image to see it at Flickr, then click Actions > View All Sizes to see it larger. Or actually, once you get there, just click on the pic itself to see it enlarged against a grey background... looks much better to me.
Hope you can make it out against Kong's flank here, but I found these awesome little extension rods made for mic stands that clamp onto any rod up to maybe 2" diameter. They're pretty short, only 7 inches long, but they're sturdy and have a big toothed clamp wheel, very much like an actual grip clamp. It seems quite strong... a heck of a lot more secure than any joint on those mic stands I put up the other day! And as you can see in the pic, you can link them together if you want to get lights exactly where you need them. These are clamped onto one of the simple wood dowel extensions I made some time go (I painted all the wooden parts black... makes everything look all shiny and professional). These are called OnStage Stands Mini Boom Arms and will only set you back $12.99 each. Mmmm... you know what... they were $11.99 when I bought mine about a week ago...
Next, the really BIG addition to the studio, which just came in today...
The Cowboy Studio Pro Light Stand and Boom. Looking at the pics on Amazon, I thought it was about the same size as the little lightweight camera tripods I'm used to, but NO!!!! This thing is HUGE!! As you can see, I've got it practically up against the ceiling, and it could go a bit higher. The tubing is thick and sturdy... the fittings are plastic, but solid and made very much like the fittings on real pro grip gear. It's basically a lightweight budget version of a professional C stand. The extending boom arm is so long, it can reach all the way across my set table, and can be height adjusted to anywhere from table height to ceiling. This thing is so beefy and sturdy compared to any other lightbearing arm here in the studio, I think I might just get another one and retire the frustrating mic stands. It cost about $60... just about twice what one of the mic stand rigs costs if you include the price of the 3 clamps needed to make them work.
Ok, but enough about grip equipment or cheap knockoffs thereof.
The other main factor in improving my shots is three books I bought. I'll give my thoughts on each below...
The Filmmaker's Eye: learning (and breaking) the rules of cinematic composition Gustavo Mercado
THE best book I've encountered about cinematic composition.
No, really... what are you waiting for? BUY IT!!!
DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Video Kurt Lancaster
I can't rate this one nearly as high as the last - large parts of it feel more like infommercials for specific products and glowing praise for a small group of people associated with the early advent of DSLR Cinema that hatched with the release of the Canon 5D Mk2 (1st DSLR with full HD video).
However, that said, I was immensely inspired by it, and by the videos I sought out on youtube such as Vincent LaForet's seminal DSLR video tour-de-force Reverie:
... And the Making-of for it:
Also, loads of good info about how to get the best image quality from a DSLR camera that I was unaware of (and most of which also works with a DSLR-like camera such as my Lumix DMC-FZ50).
and finally, there's
Motion Picture and Video Lighting, Second Edition Blaine Brown
I bought this one hoping to find another good book about general lighting techniques that I can recommend, because my former choice, Matters of Light and Depth by Ross Lowell is now a textbook and has increased significantly in price. I was rather disappointed though... this book isn't nearly as good as far as I'm concerned. The main emphasis seems to be on lighting equipment and on the breakdown of jobs on a professional lighting crew, with very little useful information about how to actually create good lighting. There is some such info, but not as much as I'd like. I'd say pass on this one and just shell out for Matters of Light and Depth. Or pick another highly recommended lighting book on Amazon... it'll probably be just as good if not better.
Whew! This has turned into a massive post! I'll close out with another of my recent pics inspired by these books and made thanks to the newfound ability to place lights wherever I want: