BVE (Broadcast Video Expo) London

BVE London

(from the Run and Gun Videography Blog, published here as well for your info).

(2 March update: I now own two of th0se amazing flexible LED light panels mentioned in this post and will do a complete video review them next week, including B roll of them in use during a corporate shoot I’m doing tomorrow)

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.

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 casings, essentially what you’d find is what this guy was selling without the fancy box. And it was flexible.

Flexible LED Panel

Currently available in either 56K or 32K dimmable units. Bi-coloured versions coming soon.

So here was this amazingly bright LED panel on a flexible backing that could be velcroed to a wall, a ceiling, a car windshield…, or put in the very simple aluminum 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. Yeah, it’s durable.

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

LED panel in it's supporting aluminum frame attached to its softbox with velcro.

LED panel in it’s supporting aluminum frame attached to its softbox with velcro.

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 panel or a 32K panel, but he says they’ll soon have a bi-colour version of the same.

THIS is the one you want!  It’s still about £400 or so with its controller  (I forget the exact price), but of everything I saw, this is the one that got me excited.

Furthermore, unlike the cheap Chinese ones you can get on eBay, this one is close too 100% accurate on colour temperature (as most of these products that I saw at the show were). And, it’s really BRIGHT!

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

Stabilising Gear

The other thing that was prominent was stabilising 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.

Oh, and 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

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

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19 responses

  1. OK about the Frankenstein monsters with those little cameras walking around like zombies do you remember that little lovely thing JVC 2000? see? no need to get all Frenkenstein anymore. stability with a smile (as it used to be: SHOULDER MOUNT!!!! and compact! for pete’s sake.. has been invented before alreadyyyyy)

    I can’t imagine the X70 dressed like that… I mean… I do, I wish.. (not the girl, I mean the camera)

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    • (Hit the wrong button) Put the orange JVC and the switcher in a 6 foot rack with a monitor then sold it to a wedding guy. Best money ever for JVC junk.

      Was the fall-off on the LED lamps still on the short side?

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      • They’re measured mostly in lumens (which I still can’t think with as I always used f stops when using light meters), but some smartly define themselves by comparison with tungsten halogen lamps (= to 300 watt lamp, etc.). Anyway, there were so many of them. I can tell you this: Some of those pricier ones were damn bright! He could light up a whole wall 40′ away with a small 12″ panel. Some came with special filters comprised of miniature lenses which gathered and focused the light for more throw. This isn’t just run and gun corporate interview lighting stuff. This stuff could be used to light sets–from soft panels, 30% directional soft panels (with a focusing filter added), and some point source lamps from 100 watt to 500 watt, 1Ks and 2Ks. My interest was panels that were significantly brighter than the flouro softbox, and most of them met that criteria. I’d hold the lamp at a typical lighting distance from a face (for an interview shot), and it was plenty bright–even that little flexible panel was better than a flouro softbox. So basically, that technology is coming of age and it looks like tungsten halogens up to 2K have met their match.

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      • corporate interviews used to be like this : you meter the background first, then you put some light on the talent and another one from the back to the hair. Now if you use a DSLR then the background will be all blurred so who cares. and there goes the problem of lighting anything.

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      • Blur is one thing. Contrast ratio is quite another. Anyone who thinks that DSLRs automatically give them a ‘filmic look’, well, I wish them luck. Lighting is the lifeblood of cinematography. There isn’t a director or cinematographer on earth who ever said a thing about depth of field in their acceptance speech for an Oscar or BAFTA or in any interview for technical magazines thereafter.

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      • no. lighting has changed in these 2-3 years. I don’t care what the classics say: the times of the “casablanca” perfect lights are gone. Now is all about the impact of the foreground, faces for example. Why? I’ll tell you why: because now there are lenses and sensors capable of light transmission never seen before, and all gets more “natural”. Add to that a better isolation and blurred background for a static interview and you get the idea: less lights and more light transmission of the gear. About time. for a “casablanca” setup it takes forever and the setup is limited to one spot: as soon as the spot pans the scene becomes too dark. Even movies, even tele-films, series and so on: take a look now how they do it: there are no more “static” setups, but the camera and the story pans and moves with less restrictions. And this is the first time I find myself in disagreement with you, who I consider one of the most experienced in the field.

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      • Mark, you’re not wrong about camera and lens sensitivity and image capture with modern digital cameras. That came home to me walking around Paris with a little NX30 at midnight. But ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it’s always suitable to what you really want. Those in the gaffer department won’t be looking for a new job yet. For the record (you must have read my book…or my mind) I don’t happen to think Casablanca was the e plus ultra of lighting. It was stylistic and contrived. But they sure did master the subject of black and white contrast. I think lighting is far, far better these days (The Killing, The Bridge, Breaking Bad…), and no matter the cameras they used, those productions were lit or they would have looked like crap. The lighting set-ups for moving cameras are quite a bit different than they used to be with flown nets and soft lights as opposed to tedious light paths with a row of fresnels, but they’re still lit on the better productions. Not to say there aren’t times on location when they go naturel. With that clarification, I don’t think we really disagree.

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    • 3 must have gadgets for the X70:
      important : a macro focusing rail (20 US bucks)
      important : a grip handle attached to the rail (5 US bucks)
      vital : extra large eye cushion (blue star) (8 US bucks)

      now you can put the thing to the eye without going crazy with that idiotic rubber eyecup (same as EX1r) but hold it a LOT better by the grip and keep the camera by it’s own grip with the joystick right there.
      not a shoulder mount , but way better than holding the thing in mid-air (still trying to figure that out! who came out with that idiotic idea of mid-air video cameras??? whooo????
      well.. at least the X70 doesn’t weight a ton like the Ex1

      now about the other idiotic idea of the auto switch (on-off) connected to the sensor of the viewfinder and the LCD panel closed/open (hard to believe that there was somebody actually studying that one) : there is nothing to do. we have to keep that thing which is one of the most annoying things right after the spam emails.

      in my case I wanted to attach the handle-grip to a bar (attached t the rail), this way I can unscrew the handle and screw it back on the opposite side facing down or vice-versa. The rail has a hole where you can screw things on it, but it stays in the center. which is fine actually.

      The mount for the G3 receiver is another story… in short once I put it on the second mount of the handle then I can’t handle anything anymore (so an handle unhandleable). plus the antenna stays up (as it should be). The front shoe is used for the light and I can’t stand those bars with multiple shoes sticking up from the sides.

      The other use of the focusing rail is on a tripod to move the camera to balance the tilt. it works also for that without going crazy with the counter-balance.

      just few ideas , cheap … to make our life less miserable (thanks to the designers of the mid-air video cameras). THANKS FORT THAT!

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  2. Sony gave to Apple what they need to solve the mystery of the XAVC-L fiasco? Really? Why Sony didn’t give to Sony what they need to solve the mystery for Vegas too?

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    • so the alleged 50mbps 10 bit 4:2:2 of the X70 is getting funny now. Vegas 13 444 reads all the cameras EXCEPT the X70 in xavc-L . which means that the guys saying that there wasn’t a REAL XAVC-L in the X70 appear now closer and closer to reality. What’s sad is the fact that many of us are still trying to keep hopes alive, even trying desperately to contact them to let’em know.. LOL like they DON’T KNOW??? OF COURSE they know.. it’s their stuff. but looking at us makes me deeply deeply sad, how can they be so insensitive! There is no 10bit 50mbps 4:2:2 in the X70 .. THERE, SEE? HOW EASY IT WAS. playing with the feelings of their Customers like that.. come on…

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  3. Thanks for the write-up.
    And just as i followed your lead in getting the NX30, I’ll be getting the X70 as well. But, I just sold my NX30. As good as it was, I was just using it for its excellent audio capture. The shotgun mike was almost as good as a Sennheiser lav mike. Unfortunately, the footage from the NX30 just didn’t go well with footage from my CX900 (using XAVC-S at 50Mbits/sec.

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