/the.cloud/ A Reel Strange Film

One fine day the phone rang … it was Burl Sheldon, asking me if I could/would help them make a video for their new song and put it on YouTube.  They thought it would be easy.  So did I, actually, but, true to form, I totally overcomplicated the whole thing and Nancy Berland was right alongside, goading me on with her own ideas and complications!  I think (I know) we enjoyed the process, but man oh man, it was a lot of work!  Still reeling from the post-production vacuous feeling “What do I do with myself now?”, despite knowing full well I needs must attend to the pile of projects that have been accumulating as I worked on video instead, I have only to wait for the word that Nancy and Burl, as “Roughage Queen Productions” indicating it’s ready to post, and so … here is our result:  (and please .. do us the honor of watching it at least twice, preferably full-screen!)

And … as of about 21:45, 21-May-2017, it is live!

First Aerial Sailing Clips!

It’s been a dream of mine:  To shoot aerial video of our sailboat .. while sailing.  Now, as you can imagine, this presents some “slight complications” … the boat has lots of lines and stays and mast thingies poking up, as well as no real clear landing zone of any significant size … this necessitates hand launching and retrieval (a “skill” some don’t like to practice even on land!)  even when at anchor in still coves … but we were not at anchor, and it wasn’t still … so everything was in motion, in every direction, all at once.  The launch was fine:  the drone (Mavic Pro in this case) activated and rose from my hand when I released it.  Then it seemed as though it was flying away from my perspective; rather, it was that the boat was sailing away, and the drone was hovering over water.  I pushed record feeling that “I’m committed now!” feeling.

The flying was pretty nice .. got a few shots I liked although I was not really “working it” as I was too worried about the retrieval.  We got a lucky sighting of a small pod of sea lions during the flight, and they showed up fairly well on the video.

Then the retrieval:  My first attempts to maneuver the drone close enough for me to grab but far enough forward so I had time to let go of the controls to grab the drone met with zero success.  This drone is a little trickier than some due to its small size and the proximity of the whirling props to the fingers that grab … so I could not be too careful.  I promised myself to use the Phantom 4 Pro next time .. it comes equipped with much larger and safer “handles” (as in the landing gear) so it can be snatched more easily.

Michele went to turn the boat into the wind, and we knew the big genoa would flap around a lot … but we did not anticipate how much force the wind had on that sail, and a slight oversteer lead to backing the genoa, and now the boat is still in motion, heeling, and the wind is blowing in the wrong direction for a hand retrieval of the drone, so … let the drone hover over the waves while I reefed the sail, and tried again.  After the boat had slowed enough, I was able to get the drone close enough to hover, and I reached out and GOT IT!

I was prepared to land the drone on the nearest beach and go back and get it with the dinghy (or have someone pick it up for me if it was on the mainland) but happily I didn’t need to do that.  I was making sure to start the retrieval process with plenty of battery left so I would have enough to get to land “just in case” …

Anyway, here are a few of the clips (the fast-motion semi-circle shot was from the drone being in Target Follow mode, and it was having to correct a lot … the actual shot is cool, but took way too long) and I look forward to topping these clips with better light, better camera (Phantom 4 Pro) and both sails up!  But that will take more planning … so be patient.



Haines Brewing Company Promo/Fedex Small Business Grant Contest

This project was one of those that required a whole lot of skillset growth, planning, lots and lots of shooting, and editing.  It really pushed my limits but also was kind of a breakthrough for me as it marked the first project of this magnitude that I feel came out fairly close to how it was first envisioned.  Sadly, they did not win the FedEx Small Business grant, which Paul and Jeanne would have used to kickstart their solar power installation project.  Besides being lovely people to hang out with, not to mention the exquisite beers to enjoy,  Haines Brewing Company is a boon to our community, and its location at the heart of town is no coincidence.  Visit their website here Haines Brewing Website or better yet .. make sure you stop in!


Sea Lions! 2017 Montage

Montage of various aerial clips of Steller sea lions in Lutak Inlet, Haines, Alaska during springtime hooligan runs.  Shot with Phantom 4 Pro using care not to disturb the critters.  Clips and music available here: Sea Lions 2017 Media




Past Notes

A few short sequences from last winter … something to keep you interested (hopefully) while I belatedly start working on some more recent footage!



Autumn and Winter 2013 – Chilkat Autumn Ice and Eagles!

Scenes of Summer 2013 – Alaska Yukon Travel Adventure Montage

Not only does the dark, cold, windy Alaskan winter provide the requisite “down time” for creating these videos, but I’ve stopped shooting long enough to scramble together some footage for to allow a glimpse into what I’ve been doing over the course of the past year.

This video is a smattering of clips shot while on the extended footage-gathering exploration trip from Homer to Haines at the height of Alaskan summer, 2013.  Most of the video clips and all of the music can be found here:

Media Bin on Pond5  For others contact me via this site or Pond5 sitemail for inquiries.


SageMax Extended Warranty & Lifetime Service Center (Asurion)

I might sound a little irate about this. I’m not even warmed up. But if you want the skinny, DO NOT buy extended warranty (Sagemax) should you have the chance.   I’ve had two instances where I bought the Sagemax extended warranty for purchases from B&H Photo, and in neither case was I satisfied.  Buy private insurance from a company you can trust. Sorry – I said “trust” and “insurance” in the same sentence….

Now, as you are likely very aware, B&H Photo is an upright, well-established company which, with good reason, deserves the respect and trust of buyers of tech, especially photo/video gear, but they have had some unfortunate  involvement with companies who do NOT hold up their end of the bargain.  They made sure I didn’t say anything bad about B&H, specifically, since they are not technically linked companies, but, I’d like to point out, when I asked for some help with this situation, I got a response equivalent to “Well, bummer, sorry Suckah, our hands are tied, nothing we can do, better luck next time!”

Update:  Currently on hold with Sagemax, over 20 minutes in – is this Customer Service. or … ? (I’d like to get my FS700 lens back before a trip and it looks like I’d have to buy another, costing me more than the price of the Sagemax coverage!)

Buying SageMax or Asurion Insurance is inadvisable and will cause no end of frustration to you – not only is your money wasted, but you will be out the use of your product for a long, long, time.   Yes, long enough so that you will likely have purchased a replacement before they get your case resolved, which, in my case, it never really was …

I find it VERY INTERESTING to note that today,  if you want an extended warranty for your gear purchased from B&H, you will be dealing with the company known as Square Trade, which I have had no dealings with yet.  The obvious question:  WHY?  Was there a rash of complaints like mine?  Hmmm.  Well, for whatever reason, I think it important to say that B&H is NOT linked to the experiences described herein.

But apparently, I’m not alone. I’ll furnish a couple links below. Sure wish I’d read them before I wasted my money. Short version of my story: I could have spent the same amount just to get my gear fixed in the first place.  (Yes, even with the lens replacement, apparently)

I bought Sagemax (3-year) in 2009 to cover my Z5U. When I needed their service (chip in lens and viewfinder lost red channel) they promptly sent me a box. I put the camera in and sent it off. Well that was easy. I waited a long time, patiently. They had to replace the lens assembly, they said. OK, I waited some more. I wish I had documented this, but it was over 2 months. Even considering shipping time  (UPS Ground – a week each way) that was a long time for a “pro Sony-authorized service center”.  So if you were inclined to trust them on the “Fast turnaround/speedy repairs” type of verbiage you might see on their website … don’t.

I got the camera back, and it looked great. Really. It looked new. Until I turned it on. The lens was not sharp. It was fuzzy, especially at telephoto. Nothing I did made it sharp. I complained, and they sent me a box. Back it went. One of these times it had LOOSE SCREWS bobbling around inside!

They sent it back saying it was fine (after a month or so) Well, it wasn’t, and the problem was pretty obvious.

BACK it went, and for even longer. It was late summer before I got the use of my camera again. At least, after all, it was working. In the meantime I had purchased a crappy beat up V1U to tide me over. I really wish I had not had to buy that, but I was desperate.

I bought the FS700 in what, October? So I stopped using the Z5U and the V1U. Wouldn’t you? Yeah, that’s what I thought. But I kept them, because I occasionally need multiple cameras. One such situation came up, and I hired a guy to operate the V1 and Z5 on a shoot. After the shoot I noticed that the Z5U was sounding funny, so I checked it out. The lens was making weird noises. Not only that, but it wasn’t focusing, and then it made an even stranger noise and I could see (through the LCD/viewfinder) the INSIDE of the lens barrel. Huh? So basically whatever crap job they did (that took three tries to get right) wasn’t actually done right, and something got screwed up and it fell apart internally with normal use.

Lifetime Asurion Service Center SUCKS and you should avoid them! You could likely learn how to repair your own camcorder better from YouTube tutorials done by 13 year old geeks. Be nice to these guys, too, for they are your future – just sayin’.

Anyway, for another story, I’ll tell you about CamcorderRepair.com. That’s where the Z5U is now (also for the third time!!!) Why? Because I sent it to them to get it fixed after B&H/Sagemax/Lifetime left me holding a dead camera. Anyway, they cant’ seem to exorcise the gremlins in my camera either!

So back on topic. When I bought the FS700 (from B&H) I stupidly bought the 3-year warranty. Over $600. Thanks. Ka-ching to SageMax!

Stupid POS Sony kit lens I should NOT have purchased (a $600 value, apparently) somehow, inexplicably, got a bit of something INSIDE the unit. I treat this lens the same as I treat all my lenses. I never see scuzz INSIDE! Not on sealed units. This particular little blob landed itself near the center of the lens, and all I need is one of those special tools to access the front glass to reach in with a Lenspen and swab it (or better – simply blow it out with a squeeze thingy). Anyway, after emailing Sagemax several times, I FINALLY got a response, they SLOWLY sent me a label via snail mail, even though I never got it, despite the fact that I repeatedly gave them my new address and they would not email the label due to the cost of the unit (apparently they were not listening—I told them repeatedly that I was not sending the camera, just the lens (I knew it would be an inordinate amount of time before I saw any results) so FINALLY they sent me a label.

AS of today, I just checked….the lens did arrive at Lifetime Service on November 22nd. Not a peep from them by way of acknowledgement. So the lens has been there a month. The repair would probably take all of 5 minutes.

I have yet to get on their case. I should not have to! I’m so sick of thinking about this company ripping me off (time IS money folks!!!) in more ways than one. Thank you SageMax/Lifetime, for screwing me over. I really appreciate it. I’d rather shop on Amazon and Ebay where there is yet some accountability.

Anyway, rant off. Here are those links I promised. I hope this serves to warn you away from anything to do with ANY of the companies mentioned in this article!

Consumer Complaints about Lifetime Service Center

I believe, since the package label they sent refers to Asurion/Lifetime, that they are in cahoots, so this may well be pertinent:

Asurion Lifetime Service Center Uncaring Ineptitude

They’re onto me!

Here’s the video, about which this post is – backstory below!  Pond5 Artist Spotlight:  Mizamook

Ok, sorry – nothing as nefarious as jack-booted thugs wiretapping my emails and watching me with drones from 10,000 feet or anything.  Not that I care if they did (they’d probably shut down the guv’mint for sheer boredom if they really paid attention) but this is a lot more fun, actually.  See there’s this lovely chap in London, I think, by the name of Martin Ellerbeck, who has, by virtue of his creativity, created a YouTube series called “Pondcasts” which is all about creating and selling stock footage on a site called Pond5: Royalty-Free Stock Video at Pond5  

Watch Martin’s work on Youtube if you haven’t already:  
Pondcasts Channel on Youtube

So anyway, Martin is a fellow stock video artist on Pond5, and he also has a website:  Thursday Films  His artist name on Pond5 is the same, and looks like this:  Thursdayfilms stock footage on Pond5  You should check it out!  This guy has a lot of character, and I kinda though he was cool, and I tend to like to tell people I appreciate their character and their work, and to thank them for being awesome.  So I wrote to Martin, and we exchanged some emails over time, during which he put out a couple spotlight videos of other Pond5 artists – both of these gents are known to me, and have helped me extensively with answers to questions, support, and generally being cool, encouraging, and inspirational for my own work:  Andreas Hohl (vadervideo)  (Andy’s site) and Jake Hellbach (kk5hy) (Jake’s site) The videos Martin created were very personable and fun, staged as interviews, and while making the world seem much smaller through technological advancements in video conferencing, really were wonderful because they brought their personalities into view – these responsible for creating great stock footage, and setting some of the standards by which many of us mere mortals measure our worth.

Here are those videos:

Jake Hellbach

Andy Hohl

So!  What the hell has all this got to do with government agents, shutdowns, or all that other BS?


But the long and short of it is that Martin contacted little old me, and asked me if I’d be willing or interested in such an interview, and I said yes!  I was terrified, of course.  Would I be cool enough?  Professional enough?  Have enough character?  Would I be funny, or enthusiastic, or interesting?  Oh well, no need to wallow in stupid insecurities, but find out the answers by going for it!

So literally in the middle of my move from Homer to Haines, I finally got ’round to shooting the answers to Martin’s video questions.  Lucky me – I chose a late Alaska afternoon sitting on a bucket in a grassy wildflower meadow in Homer … right in the midst of a “no-see-um” hatching.  But I was inspired, and also knew that I would not have another chance for a month or so, so this was it!   Some of the enthusiasm you see might have been the result of those sneaky little bugs crawling up my short shirtsleeves intent on making my life miserable for the next week, but I assure you, everything I said, I really meant it!

Somehow, during the time I was moving, and Martin was editing, Pond5 got wind of this, or took an interest in Martin’s work, and they up and shanghaied my interview!  They went and hired Martin on, gave him access to my clips, and made it official.  I’m so happy for Martin.  This is a good thing – showing that if you do what you love, people take notice, and help you keep doing it. Here’s another of his recent videos: Martin at IBC

Long and short – yeah right … (or long and long …. sorry, the ability to be concise has never been one of my strong points), the video that Martin created is now up and running, and yes, that really is me up on the big screen there, no touch-ups or anything … with some help from Martin’s deft editing skills, I say a few things about stock video shooting in Alaska, and get eaten by bugs, and chase a duck, and …  oh bother, here is the first P5 Media Spotlight clip:
 Pond5 Artist Spotlight:  Mizamook

Hope you enjoy, and thanks Martin!

Remember:  Keeeeep Stockin’!  (And do it on Pond5!)
Royalty-Free Stock Video at Pond5

Sony RX100 mk2 Review

This is a “quickie” review.  (hah!) Nothing in-depth, but to say for the most part I’m pretty amazed by this little camera!  I don’t, for the most part, do stills, but having it handy for things here and there is nice, and I was pretty stoked when, during a forest hike with Michele, I took the same shot that she did (it was a dark, gloomy late afternoon) and my shot with the RX100 came out clearer, with lots less noise, than with her Canon 5dmkll.  Now, get this, I am so sure that this was a fluke, but what I’m saying  is that given the fact that this thing really does fit in my jeans pocket, yet can produce an image like this (the weird mushroom), it’s pretty cool. (shot at f1.8, ISO 800, 1/20 sec).  The second shot was taken at f3.5, ISO 160, 1/15 sec on a lighter day/different forest and angle, both RAW (unprocessed except for resizing)  Click for PNG files (resized from 20MP RAW)

Weird Mushroom    Mushroom Colony and Birch Forest

But as cool as stills are (aren’t mushroom stills fun?) I bought this camera to give me video capabilities while hiking – liberating me from the onerous task of carrying the FS700, the Vinten tripod, and a shoulder bag with lenses and batteries.  That’s nearly 40 lbs of crap to lug around, and it certainly slows one down!  Enter the RX100 mk2.  Now, should I come across some lovely scene and want to get a shot of it on video, I can (or at least have a chance!), and my back and shoulders don’t ache from the weight.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it imperfect in ways that make me regret buying it?  Hell no!  While I did consider the Panasonic GH3 and the Black Magic Cinema Pocket Camera, both of these would give me more opportunities to complicate my life, and neither of them would fit into my pocket.

So yes, I love the camera, and yes, in many cases it produces video of a quality that is quite acceptable.  Were I to pixel-peep overmuch, the AVCHD codec does leave much to be desired, and the lack of a decent zoom (especially as it loses light transmission FAST, as in from full wide, at f1.8, zoom in about 10%, and it drops to f2.2, halfway in the optical zoom range take one to f3.5, and full zoom (which is about 3x) sets you back to f4.9, so in other words, if in lower light situation, use your feet to reframe, not the zoom) it’s still quite useful – as in despite the fact that the widest you can get (28mm) is not quite as wide as you would like sometimes, it’s still a very natural focal length, which, for the most part, I use quite happily, and when I see the results on the monitor at home, the framing is certainly not a problem.  The 28mm equivalent seems a lot more natural as a POV than that of the GoPro, which is really too wide, except in immersive POV scenarios, where it excels (more on that in another review).

The wide end of the lens is such that it feels just about perfect for use with a slider or crane.  Seems that little amounts of motion result in large amounts of depth perception  – parallax magnified by subtle distortion?  Not so much distortion that it is really objectionable, like the GoPro effect, but enough so that, combined with a narrower field of view than many “wide” lenses, it makes motion look more interesting.  At least – I like it.

Update: An objectionable side-effect (part of the price one pays for pocketable practicality in real life) is that the lens does produce a significant amount of chromatic aberration (in this case purple fringing) most noticeable in ice highlights and water shimmers. For video I have a pretty effective preset that I use for these occurrences in Sony Vegas, using the Secondary Color Correcter. It’s not so bad that I have lost clips to it, but it is significant.

I have not yet figured out whether to use the Dynamic Range Extender at all – and I am “hoping” that my adjustments in the menu where I turned the saturation, contrast, and sharpness down all the way are having an effect on the video.  It seems so, but I have not perfected or completed my testing of this.  I do feel the dynamic range and gradability would be better were I able to control these settings with more surety.   Noise is very low, unless I’m just being stupid with high ISO.  Fairly high ISO’s are usable depending on the scene.

When in video mode the Autofocus works nice and slow, when tracking a moving subject is accurate, most times, but can also “Gotcha!” and shift focus inappropriately at times, so use with care.  The display includes a horizon and tilt indicator, which is really cool, as is the tracking focus function.  The Auto White Balance actually works well – so far I have not had any reason to try to “color correct”.  The stabilizer works pretty well, although I did purchase a Steadicam Smoothee for walking shots after I saw how close this looked to “natural” when hiking through the forest.  I’ll review the Steadicam later.

The articulating screen is awesome, but doesn’t swivel to either side, though. I have not had problems using this LCD to frame shots, although sometimes critical focus is hard.  Audio recording is fine – I’ve had worse on some cameras, and depending on what you are recording, it’s suitable.  A little light on the bass, if anything, but the levels are fine, and it’s clear.

The camera fires up quite quickly, and gets into record/fires off shots also quickly.  When changing modes it is important to learn to either use or ignore the mode screen that you can’t turn off.  It goes away quickly enough by pushing the “set” button.

A SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM: This camera is not smart enough to reserve enough battery power for terminating the active recording properly and to retract the lens. I was in a situation where I needed that one last shot, and knew the battery was low. No help for it – I shot anyway after warming the battery. This was a “no reshoot possible” shot, so I took the chance. The camera went into record, and looked fine, but for the low battery indicator. Then a note: “Battery Exhausted”. Then the screen went dead. I was able to get the lens to retract by taking the battery out, waiting a moment, then putting it back in, turning the camera “on” then off. Later, I found that the clip I shot was not to be seen! I managed to find the file with “Recuva” a free software for recovering deleted or damaged files. I had tried to record again after doing as the camera insisted (that I let it repair the database file) and had wiped over the first part of the clip. But I ended up getting the middle bit, and just enough of it, before the low battery caused shutdown. Worst case scenario: I would be stuck out in the rain with a camera with its lens poking out and have no file to use. Just know about this, and keep a spare battery in your pocket! (Mine was back at home charging….)

Once I get the waterproof enclosure for this camera, I suspect it will replace the GoPro Hero3 in most cases.  I can’t wait to strap it to the undercarriage of an airplane!  The output looks tons better than the GoPro, and there is a lot more control.  When automatic anything is desired, it works a LOT better than the GoPro, which is one of my main complaints with that camera.

What about aliasing/moire?  Thankfully, nothing I’ve noticed, and I do notice!  Yet there is plenty of detail unless the codec is being overly challenged by motion.

Setting up and using this camera is a wonderfully complex but rewarding task.  Although it is true that in many cases I leave at least some of the functions in automatic (all of which work nicely for the most part), once basic orientations have been accomplished, finding one’s way around the various controls is for the most part intuitive.  Using the focus ring to also change ISO is a little weird, and there are a few times I find myself standing there trying to remember how to change some setting or another, but I don’t feel it is nonsensical or overly complicated.  I think for what it is, this thing is set up pretty well.

I’m using this camera in ways I could not use the FS700, and I don’t think it is fair to compare the two.  However, we are all curious, are we not?  Especially since they both record to the same 28Mb/s 60p AVCHD Codec.  So I did a little test.  With the RX100 mk2 on an adjustable arm affixed to the cold shoe of the FS700 (with kit lens), I framed things as close as I was able, set up the shutter speed and ISO to be about as close as I could tell, and did some scenic pans.  All this showed me was that the color balance was totally different (I shoot with a pretty flat custom profile, see http://mizamook.com/?p=196 ) but that were I so inclined, and actually took the time to set the white balance on each, I could match these cameras very well.  What I used was a wide shot, and to my eye, all the detail was there, although some of the dynamic range was lost.  I wanted to include this in the video I am posting to accompany this article, but it would have taken too much color correction to get the two to match, which pretty much blows the whole point.  Maybe I’ll try that experiment again later.

Yes, I did mention a video to accompany this article.  You heard me right.  The settings vary wildly, the situations even more.  Basically I grabbed a bunch of different shots that I have on disk from the few weeks with this camera, and stuck them together, forgetting even a soundtrack.  Nothing is cropped, color corrected, or stabilized.  This is, to the best I can present for your perusal, what it looks like out of camera, minus the render to MP4 (1080 @ 10Mb/s), and minus the YouTube Re-render.  http://youtu.be/u-w0-blQA4U  Update:  Here are a few handheld interior shots: http://youtu.be/eCOXRb_rlok

In finality, yes, I wish this camera shot in a less-compressed codec, even at the expense of recording time or battery (which, by the way, is fine for general shooting – I have an extra, and switch them out every once in a while), and I wish the diminutive zoom didn’t “auto darken”, but when I get charged by that bear at least I have half a chance of getting a shot of it, whereas the FS700 would serve only as a club to fend off the attack.  Which would you rather have?  Footage or a clumsy, inefficient club?  In the cases when I don’t have the FS700, I’m VERY happy to have this camera in my pocket!

There is a lot I did not mention.  I have already written too much, and my own head is swimming.  If there is something you want to know about, go ahead and ask – http://mizamook.com/?page_id=49 and I’ll do my best to answer then I can use that info to update this page.





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