Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Enter the Pixelstick


I have been into light-painting for several years and experimented with everything from camping spotlights to led video lights on a monopod. Some of my best examples of this rig were a series of Ferrari 458 shots I took last year including this one:


However I had always wanted there to be more control over color and patterns with light. I even contemplated rigging an intellabeam to a laptop and create some type of joystick control.

Last December I built a light frame full of color changing LED's that I put together from parts at an electronic store. I powered the device off an Alien Bees Vagabond to start experimenting in the field with color. One of my favorite shots with that tool was this one:

Paint the town red

However the system was constrained by the power supply, not easy to transport.

This year however a friend of mine turned me on to the Pixelstick Kickstarter and for a lack of of a lengthy explanation here is the promotional video for that kickstarter:

I received the item in early November and honestly it's the light-painting tool I have dreamed of. Not only does the Pixelstick let you load up any color or pattern it lets you load images as well, the creative potential is amazing.

Here are some of my first experiments with the Pixelstick:


Nine Eleven

Atlas & Peabody

NYC Angel

In the above shot I ran both a strobe and the Pixelstick to capture the model. This was done by setting a manual 10 seconds photo. When I opened the shutter I manually set off the flash to light the model from the front and then had an assistant trigger the pixelstick and walk behind the model to paint the wings. It took a couple of tries to line up the center of the wings but what you see is in fact a single shot not a composite, how cool is that?

Recently I photographed several high end exotic automobiles at the Festivals of Speed using the device; not only was the device super light and easy to work with, it took very little power from it's self-sustained power supply, I shot for hours. The Pixelstick also allowed me to store several hundred image files on an SD card for quick accesses to logos, colors and patterns. Here is the promotional photo I shot for the event featuring two extremely rare McLaren P1 Supercars:

Festivals Of Speed Orlando 2014

The Pixel stick is roughly 6ft long and it was ideal for painting vehicle body panels with a single swipe with light. In general I found that I could really light up a car well in only 15 seconds with a setting of about F8 at ISO 100. The shots come out a lot like this one:

The Star of Stuttgart

If you like light-painting or are just a creative minded photographer looking for practical special effects in your shots I highly recommend this relatively inexpensive, yet amazing tool.

Check out:

(and no I am not paid to advertise or get any kickback...it's just really cool)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The GoPro 3D Camera

I know, I know, I have been been on a bit of a hiatus. This past few months aside from my work on my 49th video game project, I have been learning a bunch about GoPro's 3D Dual Hero camera system.

The Dual Hero system consists of two Black Hero 3+'s and the 3D housing that includes the dual camera sync cable. The system is extremely easy to use as the operator simply sets all functions on the right GoPro and the left GoPro will automatically configure to whatever setting was assigned.  The whole system operates in what looks like a oversized waterproof GoPro Case. 

Stabilization can be achieved with a small Steadicam like device. The Stabilizer pictured is from Cowboy Studios and works pretty well after balanced but as I discovered it takes some time to get it set up right the first time. I found a good video on the balancing process for a stabilizer like this here. A couple of notes specific to the 3D GoPro users...turn the weight stack sideways as pictured above and avoid dropping the weight stack all the way down as it will cause what I call the "walking wobble" effect. The weight stack should only have one weight per side and should be raised up actually a bit higher than what is pictured; the goal is to be able to hold the blue handle, tilt the camera on it's side and when you release it have it rotate back to center in about 1.5 to 2 seconds. If the camera swings fast or radically overshoots the center it's "bottom heavy" and thus you will get the "walking wobble".

My first few projects actually suffered from the "Walking Wobble" as I was touring historic forts in the Panhandle area but I was able to stabilize the footage better in post production, I'll get into that in just a moment but your welcome to check out the videos.

In these videos I learned a bunch about the 3D process. One of the big first hurdles is the need to understand convergence, GoPro provides free 3d software for this and it really performs well. 
Go Pro has published a great video about the process here:

Other notes about the GoPro editing software. It will convert the files from the left/right camera into a dual stream AVI file. This is super cool because if you should mess up the convergence file you can go back and reset it in the GoPro software even if you only have the merged AVI file! This can also be tweaked in video editors such as Vegas or even live while open in such software.   

For me I have been editing in Sony Vegas for years and have been very pleased with some of the features for 3d. However if you are just getting started there are some easy pit falls to fall into.
The first major issue I had was a ghosting type effect or jittery image during rendering. This issue at first seemed as if it was some sort of interlacing or FPS issue but it actually was the result of a motion re-sample setting. If you right click on a clip in Vegas under clip properties you will see this box:

If you select "Disable Re-sample" your jitter/shadow issues will be resolved at render (and in preview as well), it will do this for both 3D streams in the AVI file at the same time. 

The next issue I had was addressing the "walking wobble" issues I had on my first day out with the gear. Sony Vegas actually does this pretty well with a "Media Effect" called "Sony Stabilize

To get this to work you need to add this plug-in under "Media FX" per video clip. You then need to adjust the sliders as desired and then hit "Apply". I found that the "Pan Smoothing" works well for the wobbles but to be conservative with the Stabilization amount slider as the sharpness of the image will take a hit or you will get blurry spots here and there.  Also another common complaint about this plug-in is that occasionally it will crash Vegas after it's done with the analysis pass. I found this issue would go away if I simply created a subclip and ran the process again. 

Creating 3D text effects can easily be done in Vegas as well using the stereoscopic 3D adjust plug in:
The settings you see here will give you a nice 3D separation for text. 

The final step of course is rendering and for that I used the following custom settings:

The two pass option will really optimize your render, it comes out looking like the original GoPro capture footage.

Sadly, after I had shot the Forts I figured out the physical cure for the "Walking wobble" but was unable to return to reshoot...ah well, live and learn. I did shoot some other locations including footage of the SR-71 blackbird with the camera stabilizer balanced and working significantly better. 

Well I hope this information helps a fellow 3D movie makers out there as it's a great format that offers a completely different experience than traditional 2D viewing formats. 

On a completely different subject the soundtracks for the videos were original compositions. I have posted them here with some detail about the scores:. 

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

GTR & Exotic Car Event at Orlando Speedworld

Orlando Speed World Dragway held it's 1st ever GTR & Exotic car event this past weekend. It was a grand sight pulling into the lot and seeing GTR's racing Ferrari's and a significant number of attendees.

I stopped by in the afternoon as thunderclouds were sounding off in the distance, typical for Florida this time of year. Despite the heat, humidity and harsh shadows from the sun, the turnout as commendable, especially with high numbers Nissan GTR's (AKA Godzilla)


The Nissan GTR is no joke; it's fast, it's state-of-the-art, it's has 4 wheel drive and 600HP! In terms of Supercars it's a bargain for the performance and loved by Japanese car fans worldwide. They sound amazing ripping down the track and have a great aggressive look.

This black and gold GTR really caught my eye, great color combo and seriously sweet ADV.1 Rims

Speaking of affordable Supercars there was a good number of Corvettes there. I saw a couple of C7's and some really nice Z06 C5's.

This C5 below had a massive turbo kit and a bit of an "Iron Man" theme going on.

Unfortunately as I was getting warmed up with the photography a typical late afternoon "Wrath of God" Florida rainstorm hit. Literally as I hit the shutter on the above shot the sky opened up and buckets of water fell sending me scrambling with my gear back to my car. Most of the exotics sadly departed but that was understandable.

I sat the storm through as most storms this time of year are less than an hour long. Sure enough as the sun came back and the car event carried on. Racing however, never resumed due to a very wet track.

A tastefully modified hardtop Honda S2000  by "All Version Motoring" had also waited out the storm. I am always a fan of a nice JDM and this one made me smile.

I always felt the S2000 never really got as much recognition as I felt it deserved, mostly because soon after it hit the streets the Nissan 350Z came along and took the lime-lite.

After the storm passed many of the racers were just being social. I had a chance to shoot some very nice cars out on the open blacktop including this black Z06 C5 Corvette.

A little rain on the car but nothing major.

I closed out my afternoon with some more shots of the attending GTR's; I really liked this Regal Red color:

That pretty much sums it up, it was a good day despite the rain; great cars and cool owners.

Thanks for reading,

- The Savage

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Asia in my own backyard

Many photographers travel the globe in search of exotic places and cultures different from our own; I love to travel but sometimes such exotic adventures happen right in your own backyard. Cultural festivals are a great way to experience another country when it's unfeasible to do so otherwise.  

Here in Orlando Florida I am so blessed to be in a culturally rich city that such festivals happen locally (or in nearby cities) several times a year. Being part of a multi-cultural household the whole family loves to attend these experiences such as the recent Asian Culture Festival held at the Orlando Fashion Square Mall.

The "Asian Culture Festival" was produced by the Asian American Heritage Council of Central Florida and offered a full day of entertainment featuring talented dancers, musicians, martial artists, artists, vendors and of course amazing food.

This was a show not to be missed.

The thunder of Japanese drums echoed down the halls as the crowd waved a sea of smartphones up to capture the sounds and energy of the room

The dragon dance left the stage and circled the halls of Fashion Square Mall, it was very cool to see dragons flying past all the name brand stores a sort of contrast between old a new worlds, it made the atmosphere something very special.

These ladies from Okinawa were wonderful to watch as they did traditional dances, they had a wonderful stage persona.

The ribbon dancers were a crowd favorite, the bright yellow and pink ribbons created a beautiful illusion of complex patterns and and shapes, The children in the audience were in awe.

Dancers from Indonesia and Thailand really brought a unique style to the event; each had a wonderful elegance to their performance.

The Bollywood style Indian performance electrified the crowd with color and high energy music; The choreography was so much fun to watch and the ending with the ribbons and the flag was fantastic.  

An Indonesian performer brought many smiles with his Vibraphone type instrument and some skillful playing.

Of course the food was excellent, flavors from all over the east (my favorite being Indian) but there was also a candy maker there who not only made tasty treats, she made them quite beautiful as well.

I was a bit sad to leave such a great event, it felt like return home too quick after a wonderful trip but at least there wasn't a 15 hour flight to catch.  With a tummy full of great food and exotic melodies still echoing in my head it was a day very well spent.

So if your looking to get away from the norm don't overlook the potential of the communities in your own backyard.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Corvette Rig Shot


My Corvette rig shot was featured on Flickr Explore two days ago at #356 in the top 500.
I was very happy about that being it was the first time I had attempted a full rig shot in the traditional sense with the whole cross bar and suction cup bracket mounting. Here is a behind the scenes picture of the setup:


I had two assistants: Ryan See and Jacques Rossouw who helped with the setup. In the photo above we had the bar mounted and I was simply framing up the shot before entering the car to drive it.  I was using a 14mm zoom on a Sigma 8-16.

To actually take the photo my assistant Ryan sat in the passenger seat while I drove the Corvette at around 5 MPH. Jacques ran along side of the car in case something went astray with the setup.

 The Canon 6D has a remote shooting ability via Wi-fi Canon app so Ryan could see what the camera was viewing on my smartphone and activate the shutter. I would then stop the car and tweak the settings via the cell phone and do another run.  The final settings were about 1/10th of a second at around F25 due to the bright sun, but this still gave a nice effect of speed. The Sigma is a dome shaped lens so a ND filter was not possible to attach.

Supplies needed for such a shot:

Crossbar $50
(If you have a heavier camera like a Nikon D800 you might consider a more heavy duty cross bar, I would suggest aluminum piping at Home Depot or the like) or perhaps a speaker mounting pole like:

2 x Fat Geko's $50ea

Oben Ball Head $75

2x Monfrotto Superclamps with stud: $30ea

2 x Female adapter for Manfrotto Stud (hooks the bracket to the clamp) $4.50ea

1 x Double sided stud (to mount ball head to pole) $7

And of course the camera and lens of your choice.

In post the rig was removed via cloning and the color was adjusted to be dramatic.

Tip: To make the rig removal easier in post, on location before you take the camera off the rig set up a tripod and match the cameras height and perspective. Remove the rig from the car. Place the camera on the preset tripod position and take a shot of the car. You can now easily mask out the rig items that were attached to the car instead of endless cloning.

A super cool project that resulted in a very cool shot.

Thanks for reading

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Full Circle

Papa's got a brand new bag

Well say hello to my new set of wheels. I have been between sports cars for a couple years now and as much as I appreciate Honda’s family cars I was very anxious to get back behind the wheel of a great handling and visually striking car.   My search was originally for a Lotus Elise but I started weighing in all that I needed out of a sports car (including space for camera gear) the long road brought me to the car I adored as a child, the American sweetheart known as the Corvette.

As I dug deeper into the reviews and owner feedback I found of all automobiles I had considered the Corvette had an overwhelmingly strong response.  It was winner of one of Motor Trends “Car of the year” and a car with a 9.5 out of 10 overall rating by over 500 owners on Kelly Blue book, the case for the biggest bang for the buck was strongly in favor of the Corvette.

Considering I have for over two decades been the biggest import car fan I hadn’t even considered searching for an American car but this beautiful red head won me over in Daytona and after a day with her I knew this was the driver seat I was meant to be in.
The first day I drove her with the roof off on a winding road, I was a kid again….this car left me speechless and smiling. The thunderous purr, the wind in my hair, the bright red paint shining in the Florida sun…it was heaven on earth.

Another runner in the night

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Gamemaker by Savage Land Pictures
Gamemaker, a photo by Savage Land Pictures on Flickr.

It wouldn't make more than a Google search to discover my connection with the video game industry by the end of this year I'll have done some combination of sound, music and or direction on over 50 title from EA and EA Sports. So when asked to give a presentation on my past experiences for the studio and provide a recent self-portrait I opted to try out the famous "Joel Grimes" three light array and do a sports cover shot.

As for the Football, a little story about that. If you work at Studio Tiburon for around five years or more John Madden will personally sign a football for you (you can see the signature right under the front crease). The ball represents a sort of right of passage to veteran game development.

This year I'll have been in game development 12 years and have made games on nearly every gaming platform since the PS2 era.