Monthly Archives: March 2013

How well do you know the Canon 5D Mark III?

Myths about the Canon 5D Mark III

A lot of myths on the internet go unchallenged and last for years and years.  We’ve taught over 300 students in our Canon Boot Camps and we find that the myths that started three years ago about the 5D Mark II still spill over to the general perception of the Mark III.

There’s a number of myths about the Mark III that continue to float around.  Test your knowledge of the Canon 5D Mark III.  See which statements below you think are true:

1) TRUE of FALSE - You can’t record quality audio shooting video on the Canon 5D Mark III.

2) TRUE of FALSE - You can’t shoot usable green screen shots with the 4:2:0 color space of the Mark III.

3) TRUE of FALSE - ISO 250 has far less “noise” in the blacks than ISO 640 when shooting video.

4) TRUE of FALSE - The fastest way to get focus on a shot is to zoom in the lens, set focus and then zoom back out again.

5) TRUE of FALSE - If you set the Canon 5D Mark III’s ISO to “Auto” there’s no way to control it shooting video.

6) TRUE of FALSE - The histogram isn’t as good as a traditional, incident meter at determining optimum exposure.

7) TRUE of FALSE - The Mark III shoots files that are roughly 12 minutes long.


For the answers to the above, check back to next week’s Blog.

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How to close clients for 7 times what they wanted to spend. – Tip #5

Pitching a Video Budget Successfully

I had two great experiences that I want to share.  They unlocked the door to getting the kind of budgets you need to do a professional project.

I was pitching a video about a top secret helicopter.  There were a number of companies represented around the table because they were each kicking in a part of the budget.

I finished my presentation and told them the budget figure to accomplish the video I had just described.  The video was going to be a “double-wide”, 4 x 3 video projected on a widescreen video wall.  What that meant is that we were going to shoot it in cinemascope (anamorphic) 35mm film and then chop the image in half in telecine so that we’d have a LEFT show and a RIGHT show, each on their own 4 by 3 videotapes.  When the videotapes played back in sync at the convention video wall, it would leave the impression to the viewer that we’d somehow shot cinemascope video.  The video wall would be like watching two huge video screens next to each other.

The point is that it was a complex undertaking and many dollars would go to making it all work seamlessly.

So, the questions started coming from the company reps.  I fielded most of them and finally one came that set off a fight among the company reps.  One man slammed his fist down on the table and said, “Goddammit, we’re gonna fund this project and let this young man get to work on it right now.”

Now that’s a good closing line but one that I wasn’t in the position to use.  Here’s what had happened.  These company reps had been at this for weeks…arguing about the color of the bunting, or the number of chairs to be at the booth, the depth of the carpet and I’d unknowingly walked into the middle of an ongoing fight.  So when I got in trouble on the budget figure one of the reps championed my cause for me.  They voted to go ahead and off I went.

The second time was a similar thing.  I was supposed to meet with the president of the company but he was delayed, so I met with the operations manager.  I hit it off with him.  He was a video guy and had shot many videos himself, although in an amateur class, which he readily admitted.  But here was his chance to work with a professional production team from Hollywood (although our offices are in Burbank, we’re close enough).

So we went through the budget and the big item was the air to air budget. It was almost half as much as the rest of the entire budget.  But the GM knew the intricacies of air to air video shooting and knew that we wanted a gyro-stabilized platform if we were going to do this right.  So, he was closed.   We broke for the day and I went back to the hotel to await the president’s arrival the following day.

I went into the meeting a little on edge because the president was a bean counter and I knew he’d try to slash the air to air budget and basically chop out the vital part of the show.

Anyway, I took a deep breath as I ended my presentation.  To hedge my bets I said we could probably find some places to cut if the air to air budget seemed too steep.  But the president cut me off.  He said he’d already talked to his people about it and he wanted to go first class and get the best air to air shots we could give him.  So everything was approved before I even had to make my pitch.

What had happened in both cases?

I had unknowingly found allies that would fight the budget battles for me.  This made it immeasurably easy to get the kind of money I needed to blow their socks off.  I just hate to do a cheap video.  It impresses no one.  It shortens my career because new clients think all I do is crap so why call me.  I don’t want to show it to anybody. AND, most importantly, it doesn’t DO THE JOB for the client.  So they’ll never hire me again.  I can’t see a single reason to do a cheap video.  It’s like agreeing to take cyanide.  It’s too hard to find a client to let cheap budgets poison the relationship.

So find an ally whose as passionate as you are about doing a great video and sell him and then sit back and let them fight for the budget you need.  Don’t have an ally available? Better read this blog post on how to sell the value of video to your clients.

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Shooting Films like the Masters or Vermeer, Rembrandt and that ‘Girl’

You can’t deny that the Master Painters knew lighting.  Our boot camp filmmakers told us learning better lighting was their #1 concern.

So when we saw Bill Bennett, ASC had traveled to Rembrandt’s studio in Holland and shot his “lighting setup”. article we thought we’d light like the master himself.  (see the complete article in Film & Digital Times – Sept 2012 issue.)

Rembrandt's Studio lighting (old and restored)

We blocked off the north-facing windows where we teach our Boot Camps for Canon DSLRs. And we draped a white cloth overhead to approximate Rembrandt’s sketch.

Graham, Fletch and Tom recreate Rembrandt's studio lighting.

Rather than filming a crusty old Rembrandt Van Wyck look-alike, we decided to film our actress, Rachel, who we would costume to resemble ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’, Vermeer’s famous painting.  Just seeing her in Rembrandt’s north light with the sheet overhead was breathtaking.

Rachel, the actress who will become 'The Girl with the Pearl Earring'

Once in costume, Rachel, brought ‘The Girl’ to life.

girl with the pearl earring - 2013

Notice the light in the eyes.  We hope Rembrandt and Vermeer are smiling on us. Then we wondered if we could duplicate Rembrandt’s north light setup with a couple of Alzo’s PAN-L lite Quads.  Not that other fixtures couldn’t have done it but Drew had asked us to try some of their lights and this was a perfect opportunity.

We pulled the honeycomb grids out of two QUAD Pan-L lites and installed all 5600 K bulbs, and dropped the Alzo’s diffusing material over them.

Rachel, our actress, becomes the 'The Girl with the Pearl Earring' in 21st century lighting

Here’s the two lighting setups side by side.  We haven’t retouched them at all.

"The Girl" - with natural 1665 light, and 2013 Pan-L lite.

We wanted the Pan-L lite to be as wide as Rembrandt’s window so we put up two,  but I think we got a little more “wrap” with two Alzo’s side by side.  Our mistake.

This is just how the Canon 5D Mark III saw Rachel (EF 70-200mm f2.8 IS II USM @ 1250 ISO).

CLICK HERE to see a behind the scenes video of the boot camp’s lighting setup.


As our digital filmmakers indicated, learning how to light is the key to great digital cinematography.  We have two workshops at the Palm Springs Photo Festival at the end of April.  Here’s a link to some of the lighting setups we filmed last year with the Canon 5D Mk II and the Canon 5D Mk III. (below - a scene from ‘Escape’, shot at the Palm Springs Photo Festival workshop.)

Dreams from 'Escape' (shot at the Palm Springs Photo Festival workshop)

Shameless Plug – The PSPF is a delightful confluence of creative filmmakers and photographers in the Spring each year.  We’d highly recommend it if you want to get your creative juices flowing again.

Lighting Workshops for the DSLR are now available from The Association (the company that produces the highly-acclaimed Canon Boot Camp, the longest running Canon DSLR workshop in the world).
These advanced workshops explore new looks and new lighting fixtures as we walk in the footsteps of the Masters.
Workshops will be held at the following two locations:
          (Basic DSLR Workshop April 29 & 30 and Advanced DSLR Workshop May 1 & 2, 2013)
• The Association’s studio next to Warner Brothers in Burbank on May 25th and 26th,.

Please sign up now as attendance is limited so each filmmaker can receive individual attention and enjoy the full benefit of the experience.

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Emulating the Masters with the Canon 5d Mk III….breathless

Too many times filmmakers get in a rut with their lighting.

So we decided to break out.  We did some lighting setups that really showed off the power and versatility of the Canon HDSLRs’ sensors.

In February, we held a Canon Boot Camp and later a HDSLR Lighting Workshop.  In both,  we experimented with more “filmic” lighting set ups.  We basically emulated the “Masters”, both with an artist’s brush and with a camera.

 (The shots below were all done with the Canon 5D MkIII and the magical 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM lens….the glass that captures modern filmmakers’  light paintings.)

We emulated Vermeer’s ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’.

'The Girl With Pearl Earring' (model Rachel Lindley striking the pose)


(below) We changed the background…the rim, the fill…a china ball on camera left.    Alzo’s Pan-L Lite supplying the soft moonlight.

'The Girl' by moonlight

Girl with the Pearl - The Sequel

(above) We changed the color temperature to a warm romantic dinner. We bounced an MR16 desk lamp off a white disk below the actress’ face to give a pool of light to reflect in the eyes.

(below) “Rachel 2013′ (w/o Vermeer’s model’s clothing)

Rachel 2013 - Was it Vermeer or was it the model?

(below) And now for something completely different,  Rachel in a “morning” lighting set up.

Magic =  A Beautiful Model, The Sun and a Bounce Card

So, five lighting set-ups that really showed off the power of the Canon 5D Mark III’s sensor’s ability to capture the magic of light.

Our filmmakers were happy to get out of the rut and try out some new fixtures.

We’ll be posting more of our filmmakers’ lighting setups.

I can’t tell you how utterly magical the Mk III is with that 70-200.  It takes your breath away.  Thank you, Canon!

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Let’s throw money out the window – 10 tips to blow your marketing budget

The Top Ten Tips on How to Squander your Marketing Budget:

(What follows is the wreckage we’ve witnessed from other ad agencies’ failed campaigns over the years.  For example, those wonderful creative spots that you never forget but you can’t remember the product name and never would buy it in a million years. Just because an idea is edgy and creative doesn’t mean it’ll bring in any return on investment to the client. Some ad agencies just want to win awards.   An effective marketing plan starts with market research data collection…REAL market research where we actually talk to the target audience, not just facts gathered off the internet.)

Tips on Gambling your Marketing Budget away

So here we go. Let’s roll the dice.  The Top Ten Tips on how to squander your marketing budget:

Number 10 - Don’t define your target audience at the beginning of the project.

Number 9 - Don’t define metrics to measure the success of your marketing campaign.

Number 8 - Don’t survey your target audience to find out what they want, how they talk, what moves them, what turns them off i.e. what problem they’re interested in solving that you may have the answer to.

Number 7 - Hire a “cool” ad agency who “knows everything” (but doesn’t actually know your target audience.)

Number 6 - Go with their “cool creative” without testing it on focus group of your target audience.

Number 5 - Let the head of marketing pick the actors to be used instead of test marketing a range of actors.

Number 4 - Make only one commercial.  Don’t test a range of commercials coming from different “personnas*” to see which one moves most of the target audience to do what you want.

Number 3 - Don’t test the top commercial with various demographics.

Number 2 - Hire a production company you can blame if the creative concept fails.

Number 1 - Make a commercial that will win awards to advance your career.

* “persona – A “beingness” for the commercial, i.e. businesslike, or “out-of-the-box”.  For example compare how The Good Hands People sell car insurance versus Geiko or Progressive.  Different personas work with different audiences.

There’s a road to marketing success. While that road isn’t paved with the tips above, we hope they’ll at least be the warning signs to watch out for along the way. Read my counterpart article to find out how to take off the marketing blindfold and blow the top off your marketing efforts.


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Lighting Workshop Student Feedback

Light it like Vemeer - Girl with a Pearl Earring Lighting Setup

Some would argue that lighting is half the battle in telling a story with film. Really, we are telling story with light. So a technical knowledge of how to set up a camera is important, but it’s not the end all – it’s what you need to know after the shot has been properly lit.

Accordingly, we had many requests for a lighting class to go along with the Canon DSLR 5D classes we started several years ago. Having set the bar pretty high on the DSLR filmmaker training, the Chief Instructor, Fletch Murray, was determined to create a one-of-a-kind lighting workshop that met or exceeded the level of training we provided at the Canon Boot Camp. Many hours and late nights went into developing the course outline and related materials. In his mind, it’s not enough to just TELL students what to do – they need to actually do it hands-on, one step at a time, during the class. 100% proficiency was the goal.

History was made on 2 March 2013 when our first Lighting Workshop was held at our HQ in Burbank, CA. To get a copy of the Lighting Workshop Agenda, visit and “Like” our Facebook Page and simply download the PDF file. Just warning you – it’s two packed pages of hot lighting action.

Instead of going on and on about how great the workshop is, wouldn’t you like to hear from the students themselves? After each class ends, we ask the students to take a moment and give us feedback on various part of the class. So here’s a couple snapshots of the actual surveys two students filled out, so you can have it right from the horse’s mouth.


Lighting Survey Feedback

Lighting Workshop Feedback

“Exceeded expectations” is the usual result at our Canon Boot Camps and we have successfully carried the same results over to our lighting workshops. The next lighting workshop is May 25 & 26. At the time of this writing, no other Lighting Workshops have been scheduled, so don’t wait, sign up for the May workshop before it fills up. Got questions? Call us at 818-841-9660 and we’ll be happy to talk to you.

Fletch and Michael replicate Vermeer's Pearl Earring Lighting Setup


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FIlmmakers! Are you lighting with a “roller brush”?

Mole Richardson Mini-Mole Classic FresnalEvery filmmaker wants to “paint with light” for beautiful lighting setups. The ability of the Canon 5D, 7D, 60 D and even the “t’ series to “see” at higher ISO make using CFLs and LEDs tempting.  But with the new CFLs (Compact Florescent Lights) and LEDs it’s hard to get precision light and shadow needed for great filmic looks.

Using CFLs and LEDs is more like having a roller brush instead of the fine brushes that allow you to put highlights and shadows where you want them.   If you want to “paint with light” you have to have the right “brushes”.  In our Lighting Workshop last weekend, we let our filmmakers explore looks they could only achieve with fresnel-lensed fixtures, like Mole Richardson’s Mini-Mole Fresnel Tungsten Light.

In the picture on the left below, the mini-mole streaks the background fabric from holes in the black wrap.
In the picture on the right we drop a nice circle of hard light to on a white disc on the desktop in front of her to bring a nice limpid pool of warmth to the bottom of her eyes.
mini-mole streaking background and pool of light
We’re all for progress and the CFLs and LEDs offer a lot but they just can’t give you the fine touch of a fresnel lens.This way you can get more cinema looks for your corporate video production or commercial production. To learn DSLR lighting techniques, come to our DSLR Lighting Workshop. For current schedules, visit, or call us at 818-841-9660.

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How to close clients for 7x what they wanted to spend – Tip #3

Fletch directs a green screen sequence for a Phineas and Pherb 60 Second Spot

We’ve all been through it.  We’re talking to the client and we get to the budget part.

They lean back (acting disinterested) and say, “We don’t have much money for the budget. What can you do it for?” Or worse, “We’re taking other bids. How much to shoot a three minute video?”

And you’re tempted to say, “$1,000. a pound.” But you bite your tongue and say something lame like, “That depends on a number of variables.”

Instead, try one of the great lines I’m going to tell you. First, you’ve got to address his question:

“A video is a lot like a car.  If I ask you ‘How much is a car?’ there’s no real answer, is there?  I don’t have a dartboard budget for you because we’re not going to give you an ‘off-the-shelf,’ cookie cutter video.  We are going to design a custom video production that will move your target audience to buy your product or service. And that’s how video can pay for itself. The majority of our videos pay for themselves. Some of them many times over because they’re designed to accomplish your goal.”

(This usually has magical effect on them.  Up ’til now, they’ve had the perception that the video’s an expense.  We’re changing that perception.  We’ll talk more about “perception changing” in a future blog post.)

Here’s the next “perception-changing” line.

“You know when you really want to impress someone you wear your best suit?  That suit tells the prospect everything about you.  So, this video is ‘your suit’ to the viewer.  What do you want them to think?  Audiences are very sophisticated these days. They see network shows with superb graphics and production values.  We’re not going to impress them with a cheap video.  The audience will think either you can’t afford quality or you don’t know what a quality video is. Neither one is very good.”


“We plan to give you the best value for your money. With us you’ll have the best chance of paying your budget back.  Let us proceed with our creative development process so we can offer you a real budget (not a guess) based on a script custom developed to reach your target audience.  We’re not going to make you a cookie cutter video that doesn’t engage your target audience.  To make a video like that is throwing your money out the window.  Let’s design you a tool that’ll produce results and pay for itself. I hope you’ll let us proceed.”

Listen for the prospect to say, “Okay”.  And get to work on the next steps in the  process.  More on this in upcoming blogs.

Let us know if this was helpful to you.

(Fletch has personally closed clients for $450,000. contracts.  The tips above will be in his upcoming book, “How to Close Clients for 7 Times What They Expected to Pay”)

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