Posts in Behind The Scenes
Green Initiatives

Introduction

We were recently hired to work with Borrego Solar and the Town of Easton, MA to create a video showcasing the outstanding efforts of their Green Initiatives program. Being the first town in their County to go green, it was a complete privilege to meet first hand the people and projects that keep pushing forward the renewable energy efforts, creating jobs, saving money, and counteracting climate change for future generations.

As we couldn't be more excited to have been awarded this video project, we've decided to create a production/post-production diary showcasing how we approach the project, sharing some of the challenges we face, and eventually the final video product.

Thank you for your interest in reading this, and please don't hesitate to ask us any questions. Storytelling is always at the center of every project we do, no matter what the scope of the work is.

Keep creating.

- Afonso


Monday 5/19

We've submitted our first rough cut of the video, at 2m:30s duration, and we couldn't be more excited about it. This is part of our editing process, where we get notes from our clients at Borrego Solar about what we can improve in certain elements.

Being a rough cut, things like sound and grading are still not final, amongst other things, but the main structure and flow of the story is there, and that's the most important thing.

The video feels good, looks great, and we can't wait to be able to share more details about this soon. Stay tuned...

 

Wednesday 4/30

Our main shoot day. This was to be a long day. With guests starting to arrive around 10:30am for the ribbon cutting ceremony in Easton, we had to film the live event non-stop, and film three interviews with main Town of Easton representatives in the afternoon.

We were really lucky. At this point, it hadn't stopped raining in the Boston area, so we were afraid the shoot wouldn't go as well. Fortunately, and weirdly enough, the rain stopped for the two hour window we needed to cover the event, including setup time for all the cameras and gear.

We had three cameras filming the event, one FS700 with a 70-200mm lens, a 5Dm2 and a 5Dm3. That way we had at all times three cameras shooting the event, and we could seamlessly cut between different perspectives in post.

We also set up a boom mic above the podium with a wind filter, to make sure we'd capture the best sound possible without interference from audience sounds, generators, or environment noises. It worked out perfectly.

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Tuesday, 4/29

As we keep charging batteries and making sure everything is set up properly, it is time to pick up our assistant videographer and regular collaborator from Logan Airport. Levi Pike is a great and talented videographer, with a keen eye for detail and composition, and we couldn't be more excited to work with him on this.

Make sure you check out his website at RedBone Media.

With Levi in the car, it's time to head out to Easton for the first time, meet some of the people in the Town Offices, and start shooting some b-roll. We have our drone with us, the incredible Phantom 2 Vision+ that just came out a month ago at NAB.

 

Our first stop is at one of the solar arrays that Borrego installed for Easton. We use the drone to capture some fly overs, and we were fortunate the stormy weather held off a while longer.

Straight of the drone footage for one of the solar arrays

Straight of the drone footage for one of the solar arrays

Since we were shooting a live event the next day, we headed onto the main site to get a feel of the land layout, pre-plan where to put our gear, cameras, and see how the event would be organized.

And of course we used the quadcopter to take some more aerial footage of the main installation. We were amazed by the scope of the solar array, and to learn more about the project. This new solar array by Borrego Solar will generate enough electricity to power more than 230 homes.

Working with the Phantom quadcopter is nothing short of amazing. We can get really outstanding HD quality footage, and even 14 MP of raw photographs. Despite of heavy wind, we could still control the drone in a really stable way. For more information about the Vision+ check out DJI's website.

Straight from our drone footage in the main solar array.

Straight from our drone footage in the main solar array.

 

Monday, 4/28

 

We just arrived in Boston, MA. Due to simple work logistics between the offices of Borrego Solar in the East Coast, and the Town of Easton, we are actually staying in Lowell, MA to make it easy to pick up gear, have our pre-production meetings, and travel back and forth to the location of the actual shoot in Easton, MA.

We arrive early in the morning after the usually uncomfortable red-eye flight. Virgin America never ceases to amaze us though, with their ongoing efforts to make the standard economy class feel a bit more fun at least than every other airline we've flown.

Cramped seats of modern flying

Cramped seats of modern flying

As we arrive in Lowell, MA we start immediately planning our shoot for the remained of the week. The main schedule will involve three days of work. First day, mostly B-roll shooting, second day, covering the main event and filming interviews, and finally third day dealing mostly with logistics from backing up footage, transferring everything accordingly, and returning rented gear.

Speaking of rentals, we typically use BorrowLenses.com for a lot of our shoots. They provide an outstanding service at all times, and for bigger rentals they even put you directly in their VIP support system, with priority everything. Make sure you check them out next time you need to rent lenses, cameras, lights, or whatever else  you can imagine. The prices are fair and the quality of the equipment is just perfect.

And on a side note, if you use them through this link, you are actually helping us without even having to pay extra for it!

As soon as we pick up the rented gear, we're happy that we got a big car. We typically choose our lights based on each project needs, scope, and budget. For this case, we got a couple of LitePanels and ARRI lights, some of our current favorites for indoor interview usage.

BorrowLenses.com  always ready to help us out when needed

BorrowLenses.com always ready to help us out when needed

Everything starts getting ready for the shoot

Everything starts getting ready for the shoot

It's a long day, but a very necessary one. Better to prep all the gear as early as possible, test the lights, test the batteries, microphones, set up the cameras with the right color profiles, and plan the shoot as much as possible.

 

Product Design Shoot. With Beep.

We recently completed a photo shoot with the new San Francisco based startup Beep. Beep a new, exciting product for every music fan, bringing music to every room of your house.

Beep with the incredible Marshall Bluetooth speaker in the background

It’s great to work with clients like Beep on their exciting new product ideas. And we love seeing our photos being shown all over the Internet, in sites like Engadget.
— Afonso Salcedo

We were so curious about meeting up with the team behind Beep, and play with the product ourselves. And now that they are officially launched, we are excited to share some of the photos that we took that day.

Some of our photos are being shown all over the Internet, on sites like Engadget, and more.

Everything was shot on location in San Francisco, at the Inner Circle Labs office building. Great lighting conditions, beautiful windows, and we were set. Every photograph was taken with our Sony A7R. Even though most of the photos were to be used exclusively online, we always like to give enough flexibility so that our clients can take as much advantage as possible of the images they get.

The Sony A7R has an outstanding resolution of 36MP, rivaling some medium format cameras. Paired with our Contax lens, and a Macro adaptor, we were able to photograph every detail of this little gadget that you will fall in love with.

We used an amazing Zeiss/Contax 85mm/f1.2 lens, which you can see to the right. It's a very rare lens, but matches the resolution of the A7R sensor with outstanding quality. We went ahead taking photos of the product, their new black edition, and playing with it in different settings. The idea was to mimic how you would typically connect it at home, with different speakers, tabletops, and more.

Some cleanup was used in post to remove some glass markings, or scratches on the tables, but everything else is exactly what you get with this product. The LED lights are a complete delight to watch, as you play a track, change the volume, skip a track, or pause the music. It's a gadget meant to be played with, touched, and loved.

We are incredibly proud of this collaboration, and we wish all the success to our friends at Beep. And we're sure to have several of those here at the office.

Find out more about Beep: http://thisisbeep.com

For any questions, or inquiries, about hiring us to work with you on photography or video/film, send us a message here.

Twitter
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We are extremely excited to share with you we were lucky enough to work again with our friends at Oct28 Productions and Torres Studios, to film an internal video for Twitter. 

We spent the whole day yesterday filming a great story at Twitter HQ in San Francisco, CA. Although we can't talk about the specifics of the project, we can definitely say how amazing the people at Twitter were and how beautiful their campus is.

Truly outstanding experience, and an honor to meet some of their teams. 

Scott Mason (left) from Oct28 Productions with Afonso Salcedo from Sutro Studios (right).

Scott Mason (left) from Oct28 Productions with Afonso Salcedo from Sutro Studios (right).

NAB

We're getting really excited about some of the gear we've been seeing come out of NAB this year. We haven't had a chance to try it yet, but we'd like to share some of our favorites right now and the ones that we're most excited about, some bigger than others.  

Sony F5/F55.

These have been a favorite of ours for a while now. The cameras offer a perfect blend of form factor modularity and high quality codecs. The image they produce is pretty outstanding to be honest and the highlight rolloff coming from the F55 seems very close to the Alexa, based on some of the tests. These are becoming pretty common to rent now, so if you're interested in us using one of them for your projects consider it done. They offer some of the best quality image out there at the moment, in some ways better than the RED, but as usual different cameras different brushes. It all depends on the look of the piece and what you want to make of it.

Sony PMW-F55 CineAlta 4K Digital Cinema CameraSony PMW-F5 CineAlta Digital Cinema Camera

Redrock  Micro One-Man-Crew slider

Another awesome rig from Redrock Micro. This one just seems like a great easy add-on for putting your second camera and not even thing about it while shooting interviews. Immediately set this up in a couple of minutes, touch a couple of buttons and the slider will pan smooth parabolic motions for you. This is perfect for shooting a second perspective during interviews and for $1500 we definitely intend to have this on board in the next few months. We're all for making shoots easier and less complex. Check out the video below. The slider is available to pre-order on their website now and will ship in a couple of months.


Movi Rig

Definitely one of the most talked about products so far has been this crazy awesome stabilizer based on a digital 3-axis gyroscopic gimbal. Vince Laforet posted an amazing video he shot using the Movi rig and called it the "game-changer" of the year. Since he hasn't used that word for any other product since the 5Dm2 first came out, it's a pretty big deal. The Movi rig permits you to do shots that you could never *easily* have done before. It's pretty incredible stuff and since the video says it all, here's the film that Laforet shot:

That alone is already pretty cool, but you really should watch the behind the scenes to get a feel for what this baby can do.


Now, the rigs are still pretty expensive. The MT-10 is capable of holding cameras up to 10lbs and costs around $15,000, but it definitely offers a lot of versatility for a much more portable thing. Imagine you go on a shoot somewhere remote, you could easily budget this in instead of having to carry a steadicam, a jib, a slider and other things like that. Does it replace all those? Never, but it adds a lot to a production budget for an equivalent price of all those items together. Now... what this also means is that in a year or two there will be much more affordable stabilizers based on similar designs and tech, so it's only a good thing for the film industry, especially the indie filmmaker. They are also planning on adding iris/focus control on the handles, so that solo operators can control everything easily.

We personally cannot wait to try one of these. For now, read more info on Laforet's great blog.

BlackMagic Design

BlackMagic took NAB by storm last year when they released the Cinema Camera. Pretty amazing 2.5K camera, for a really affordable price that shot uncompressed RAW and ProRes with 13 stops of dynamic range. Since then, they've gotten a lot of slack for not delivering it on time. The MFT mount version of the camera is only now shipping to a handful of people so they annoyed a lot of people with their supply issues. They say they've learned from their mistakes and that they sorted out the issues, and of course, they released another bombshell announcement at NAB this year. Not one, but TWO new cameras that sound and look really promising: the Pocket Cinema Camera and the Production Cinema Camera 4K.

The Pocket Cinema Camera is for less than $1000 a pretty amazing deal. The size of a very compact photo camera, it's a Super16 digital camera that shoots compressed RAW and ProRes. It has a MFT mount so you can get cheap affordable pretty good quality lenses, and there's a ton of them available. And it's small. Really small. It has the similar touch screen on the back and a lot of the functionality of the Cinema 2.5K camera. It has a removable battery and it only weighs 355g. Crazy stuff. Cannot wait to see what people do with this. It's very small, so obviously hard to hold for filming, but I'm sure this will bring a ton of potential to places you could never bring a camera before. And it shoots RAW. Compressed. Pretty Amazing. You can get the full gist of the camera on this link and of course pre-order it already through B&H:

Blackmagic¤Design Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

The other camera they announced is the 4K bombshell. Based on their design of the 2.5K camera, it now has a Super35mm sensor instead and an EF mount. The camera has 12 stops of Dynamic Range (which is slightly smaller than the 2.5k Camera), but it shoots compressed 4K Raw and ProRes out of the box. With the EF mount you can access all the L lenses, but better yet all the cinema primes from Schneider and Zeiss. Even though I hate the form factor of the camera, there are plenty of cages and rigs built for this already that provide a ton of flexibility. The screen, if it's the same as the 2.5K is pretty unusable in bright light, even with the sunshade, but with any of these you should really invest in a monitor like the SmallHD. It captures 4K ProRes directly onto a SSD card, which is awesome and you can use the interface to tag and add metadata directly onto the footage as you shot.

It comes with DaVinci Resolve Lite, which is weird since the 2.5K camera comes with the full version of Resolve. It's worth investing in Resolve if you want to take full advantage of the RAW footage, so consider that an extra $1000 investment on top of that eventually. Either way, with 4K this camera will last you a while and could definitely quickly become a great Cam-B for a lot of shoots. We have one on pre-order already and can't wait to start shooting with it! Check out the official website for tons more gadget porn and you can pre-order yours as well from B&H:

Blackmagic¤Design BLACKMAGIC CINEMA CAMERA 4K

Rickshaw/Zazzle

We had an amazing film shoot last week with the guys from Rickshaw and Zazzle. We shot several interviews and filmed a ton of b-roll showcasing the details and their process of creating one of the highest-quality bags you can get in San Francisco. All local. All made there. In the store, which is also their factory. Incredible people, with an insane passion for what they do and for making people happy, creating stories with each bag. We're creating their story. We filmed their story. And we'll be showcasing a detailed behind-the-scenes soon, but for now check out these photos from our Instagram feed in case you haven't seen them. Stay tuned for more details soon.

Instagram

Yes, we finally caved in and we joined the latest and greatest social media phenomenon. No, not Pinterest, we're talking about Instagram. As you can imagine we're pretty picky with photo sites, and most of our actual work can be seen at places like 500px.com, but we figured that Instagram could be a great way of quickly sharing behind the scenes moments of our set-ups, trips, adventures and misadventures in filmmaking. So follow us, subscribe to us, like us, read us, click us, share us and recommend us! And hopefully you like what we start sharing :)

Click on the button to the right of this page on the sidebar, or on the link below. Or of course, on your Instagram app.

http://instagram.com/sutrostudios

Drobo 5D

In our first blog post about some of the gear we use to create films and photos, we wanted to touch base on something we just acquired. The new Drobo 5D we just bought from B&H Photo Video is a pretty outstanding piece of hardware. Of course, this will be our first unbiased take on a completely new product, so bear with us and we'll make sure to update this as we go along... with hard drives, and any new tech, everything always typically seem perfect in the first few weeks. Also, this is not a review, we don't care about those. We're creatives, artists, filmmakers and we care about things that will make us work more efficiently without having to worry about technical details of things we don't even have time to understand.

Interestingly enough, one of the brand new hard drives we got as part of this B&H kit came DOA so it won't even work on our Drobo, no matter what drive bay we use. We already reached out to B&H to see if they can exchange it for something else, but in the meantime, we're already using the Drobo for editing in Final Cut (FCP X) and Adobe Lightroom, where it will hold our master catalog of photos.

The take on this solution was not to serve as a secure backup for our files. We are still not convinced the Drobo would be a good solution for that, due to its proprietary nature of the controller. If that doesn't make sense, it basically comes down to this... if the controller craps out for some reason, then you lose access to all files. You'd have to get a new Drobo enclosure to be able to access them. Which could be a potential PITA. If you think we are wrong about this, or if there's another solution that we are not aware of, please don't hesitate to reach out to us in the comments below or through our contact page.

Either way, our idea for the Drobo, since the 5D uses Thunderbolt and is fast enough for multicam edits and multiple HD streams and stuff, was to use it as a main source storage for current works in progress, films we are working on, photos, whatever big stuff we have going on at any moment. We want to use external drives and other solutions for actual archival of data and backing up. We'll write more about that eventually, when things steady down a bit on our workload side of things.

Alright, so the Drobo 5D definitely takes a lot from the Apple school of design. The packaging is incredibly well made and looks beautiful. Trust me, I never thought I'd say this about a hard drive storage solution, but it definitely makes it fun and easy to unpack and set everything up. The Drobo even comes with a Thunderbolt cable, which is huge considering most companies refuse to include these cables for their own products.

Either way, we got the 20 TB kit that B&H sells, which comes with five 4TB drives at 7,200rpm. I'm starting to assume the drives they ship with the 5D might not be the best quality, since one of them crapped out immediately, but who knows, maybe we were just unlucky. With hard drives, it happens.

Once you unpack the Drobo, it's insanely easy to just pop these drives in. You literally just have three things to do:

1. Unpack Drobo

2. Insert Drives

3. Plug it in and switch it on.

We did buy a 60GB mSATA drive for the accelerator  bay underneath the enclosure. This speeds up a lot of the hard drive access times, which is perfect for film editing. You can buy one on their Drobo Store online.

Of course, you have to download the Drobo Dashboard app for your Mac, but that's easy and simple. Once it starts, the Drobo takes a little long to go through its cycle. Since we're used to standard drives, the longer period is always a bit disconcerting, but at least it looks gorgeous with all the blinking lights. We find it kind of soothing, to be honest, which might be a great psychological marketing campaign from the Drobo makers, but we digress.

The Dashboard app makes it super easy to format the drives you just installed. Once that happens, you're set. We're not using Dual Redundancy right now, mostly because one of the drives wasn't working.

So that's it. We immediately transferred our photo catalog to the drive using Lightroom and using FCP X we transferred the projects and events we're working on to the Drobo, thus lifting finally a lot of stuff to use just for archival purposes. Right before we did this though, we noticed one of the lights on our enclosure was absent. As in, not even lit, not red, not green, not yellow, not blinking, nothing. After some research online, we managed to try to take it out, put that drive in other bays, switch all the drives around, everything. Eventually the light appeared again, but blinking red, which is the de facto Drobo standard of telling you that drive is dead and there's nothing it can do for it. So that's the sad news. One of our brand new drives is dead and came dead on arrival. Bizarre. But maybe the transport was a bit violent, or it was just in a bad mood. Who knows. Crossing our fingers B&H will be nice about it, but they have awesome support so we hope it goes well.

Alright. This is the beginning of a new stage for our editing and post-production stage. It feels good to have storage at home that is reliable and works good. I know there's a lot of slack for their proprietary stuff online, but honestly, if it makes it easy for artists to work better, as long as you keep in mind you still need to backup your data somewhere else, then the Drobo 5D looks to be a great solution.

Again, check back in a month or two. We will do another post on how the drives and enclosure are working and if we find out some other conclusion.

To learn more about Drobo, visit their page at http://drobo.com.