An Archeological Expedition

Production Memories

Much like a modern-day Indiana Jones, join me as I dig through the relics and remnants of production laying around our office.

I’ve been doing some straightening and organizing around the office lately. Upon excavating several storage boxes that I haven’t looked through for quite a while, some of them it’s been even years since I have gone through them, I’ve discovered that I have quite a collection of miscellaneous bits and pieces that I had forgotten about. It kind of makes me wonder why I bought all of this stuff, what I used it for and why I’m no longer using it. More than just a random collection of junk, going through these crates revealed some memories of not only older gear, but older projects that were fun and interesting.

Production Memories

Once you’ve been in our business for a while, you realize how much of what we do centers on gear. It’s all gear, all of the time for many of us. Much of that gear is used for a short time, then it’s cast aside when your gear or configuration changes, often with the vague thought of, “Oh, I should put that on eBay or Craigslist,” but I find that for me, selling small, low dollar accessories is often an exercise in hassle and frustration. Especially when you factor in shipping and the accompanying trips to buy packaging, packaging it up, driving to UPS/FedEx/Post Office, time is so much more valuable than recouping a few bucks on something you bought a few years ago and no longer use, if it’s a relatively low dollar item. Hence I find myself with lots of these smaller things lying around, too valuable to throw in the recycling bin but not valuable enough to put the hours and efforts into an earnest sales drive.

Without further ado, here are a few candidates:

The Lockport HDMI Port Saver

Production Memories
The Lockport Port Saver was an indispensable part of our production package when we were shooting with the Panasonic Lumix GH-4.

I bought this about four or five years ago when I bought our company’s first 4K capable camera, the Panasonic GH4. The GH4 had a super fragile Micro HDMI output jack. Unfortunately, here we are years later and our current mirrorless camera, the Fujifilm XT-3, is still using this infernal connector. Micro HDMI is so bad, so fragile, it’s like a joke of a connector, even for a consumer, much less for professional use. The Lockport was a plate that attached to the bottom of the GH4 and inserted a micro HDMI connector into the port, made a 45-degree turn and output a full-sized HDMI connection. It was great and worked well. It protected the super fragile micro HDMI connector on the camera and gave you a better, more robust full-sized HDMI “A” connection to hook up to your external recorder or monitor.

I recall I had the Lockport listed on Amazon, eBay and some boards and it wasn’t cheap, I think we paid around $150 for it, but even at half price, nobody was interested in it, so rather than give it away for free, we threw it in storage. Here it is, four years later and it’s still in storage. Anyone want to buy a Lockport for their GH-4?

Nikon DSLR Wireless Remote

Production Memories
Back not so many years ago, DSLR cameras lacked Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and you had to buy one of these to release the shutter remotely.

Wow, I had no idea we still had this in storage! We sold off all of our Nikon cameras and lenses quite a few years ago, but this was small enough that it must have slipped through the cracks. It’s a quaint reminder of when Nikon, Canon and other camera manufacturers used to offer “high tech” infrared remote controls to release the camera shutter and take a picture. Today, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras almost exclusively use Smart Phone apps for camera remote control and monitoring. The amount of control that these apps have, via Bluetooth, is quite amazing in comparison to what was offered versus simple, primitive remote releases like this one. This remote even had this cute little woven fabric bag to carry it in, although it was so small that it was definitely easy to lose.

Canon 5D MKII Remote Shutter Release

Production Memories
The Canon 5D MKII started the DSLR Revolution, but it wasn’t its wired remote that excited users, it was the image.

We were an early adopter of the DSLR that started the “DSLR Revolution,” the Canon EOS 5D MKII. At that time, we were mostly shooting with our Panasonic HVX-200 and HPX-170 P2 cameras. Both were HD capable but fixed lens with tiny 1/3-inch sensors. This meant they were extremely difficult to obtain any kind of shallow depth of field with. At the time, when we wanted shallower DOF and a better picture, we would rent 2/3-inch sensor cameras like the Sony F900 and the Panasonic first-generation Varicam. When the 5D MKII came out, we were kind of blown away, like everyone else, by the shallow depth of field and color science of the sensor. This was a wired shutter release that we also forgot to include when we sold the 5D MKII, just a few years ago. I’m sure we paid a good amount of money for it, but since we hardly used it, we had put it into storage. Imagine, a “WIRED” shutter release. Isn’t everything wireless in 2019?

15mm Rod To Arri Rosette Adapter

Production Memories
This Arri Rosette to 15mm rod adapter for a handgrip is all that’s left of our first attempt at building a “Franken rig” to hold our Canon EOS C100 and EOS C200 on the shoulder.

Why did we not end up using this? Why did it end up in the assorted odds and ends boxes? As I recall, we bought this in an effort to build a usable shoulder-mounted rig a few years ago for our Canon EOS C100 and C300. As you know, neither of these cameras and even our present-day EOS C200 are very good shoulder-mounted cameras. But we seem to run into situations where we need to shoot with these cameras mounted on our shoulder. Mainly scenarios where more mobility and movement is needed than can be gained from just shooting from tripod, which you can get with the Canons by shooting handheld cradled, but shooting with the camera held out in front of your body, especially with bigger, heavier lenses, monitors, external recorders, wireless mic receivers and other “stuff” that must often be hung off of our cameras, shooting “cradled” soon turns into an exercise in cramped and fatigued muscles, so up onto the shoulder the camera must go.

Unfortunately, almost all popular digital cinema cameras these days are NOT designed to work very well shoulder mounted. If you think about, a large percentage of cameras that people shoot with today are really, really terrible on the shoulder. REDs, Arri Alexa Mini and Mini LF, all of the Canons, the Panasonic EVA-1, even the Sony FS7 is no joy to shoot shoulder mounted with, although it can be done. We bought this adapter to attach a handgrip to some 15mm rods that we were using for lens support, extension handles and other operations on the Franken rig we created to support our C100/C300. After using the rig on a couple of long shoulder-mounted shoots, we came to the realization that we needed a better balanced and constructed solution, so we upped our game and moved into the Zacuto VCT Pro Baseplate Shoulder Mount and built out a better shoulder-mounted rig from there. It’s still not perfect, but it’s leagues better than our first attempt, which this fitting was used to help construct.

Cosmos Wrap Gift Keychain

Production Memories

Production Memories
This Sterling Silver keychain was a wrap gift from the nice producers of the Cosmos TV Series that I worked on a few years ago. It was too nice to actually use.

I stumbled across this interesting looking, expensive silver keychain that I received from the producers of the Cosmos TV series. It’s pretty cool, the keychain itself is shaped like the “ship of the future” that Neil DeGrasse Tyson rides around the universe in in the series. I had some great times working on that project, and looking at this souvenir brings back fond memories. The problem with actually using it as a keychain was that it was too nice to use. It’s polished silver in a fancy, black-velvet-lined box, and if I actually used it as a keychain, it would become all scratched up and I’d probably eventually lose it. Usually, I have no problem using gear and it getting worn, but this was different, it was a thoughtful gift in recognition of my contribution to the series.

Thanks for going through this super exciting, one of a kind, adventure through the detritus of my time in production over the past few years. As they say, everything and everyone tells a story, sometimes it’s fun to reminisce and recall what you were doing in production when you look at something from that era.