Movie Filming & Editing Blog

Michael Gee

Yesterday, Michael a therapist and producer of audio self help products visited our West Yorkshire office to have some one on one vocal audio capture training. We first met Michael at an event we were filming a few years back so it's great to see him again and find out about his new business projects. Michael turned up with a range of his own equipment including a Roland solid state audio recorder and the Marantz recorder/CD burner you see in the picture.

What is Audio Training and Vocal Capture?

We were training Michael in how to get the best from his equipment. This can be broken down into 3 parts really.

1. How to practically set up the equipment for the easiest workflow and best results. In his case it was using the right leads to go direct from the Roland device into the Marantz device. We then setup our vocal mic to show him a different setup and also so he could explore a more professional rig. You can see details of this vocal mic setup here.

2. How to position the mic and use project and spit filters to improve the sound quality. We showed him the professional way to do this and also how he could use household objects to drastically improve sound quality.

3. How to adapt his breathing, posture and mental awareness to get the most from his voice. This is often overlooked in audio equipment training. But we understand that the voice is also a really important part of the "vocal equipment setup" if not the most important part!

All the audio training session was done hands on and in a very friendly and relaxed way. It's great when a client gets to use their own equipment but also has access to some top end mics and amps too.

Training for Digital Post Production on Audio

We really crammed a lot into the session and even spent some time looking at how to mix multiple tracks (multitrack) to create a hypnotic track with backing music and stereo variance. We also explored the meaning and causes behind some sound artefacts like peaking, clipping, rumble and explored the field of "signal to noise ratios".

Michael went home with:

  • Some great insights into audio recording.
  • A solid understanding of how to use his equipment to it's best ability.
  • What equipment he needs to invest into (including a shopping list of suggestions).
  • An understanding of how to use the software and what is possible.
  • Motivation!

I'll leave it to Michael to have the last word:

Michaels Facebook Testimonial

Add a comment | Posted by Mark Zaretti at 12:28

Filming Italy

That's not a typo! I litterally was standing in the lake to do some filming for a documentary Spartmedia are making. We're still not giving too much away at this time about the documentary, but I'll say that it follows on from the filming we did in Japan earlier in the year so this is an international project. So why am I standing in a lake with some very expensive camera equipment? Well it's all about getting the shot and in this case that meant getting wet. I was a little nervous walking into the water with the Black Magic 4K camera on a tripod but it worked out great. I also had two other cameras rolling for this action sequence, one mounted up high and the third hand held on a DSLR rig.

action filming Lake Orta

Special thanks to Gianni, Aaron and "The Americans" for today's filming.

Add a comment | Posted by Mark Zaretti at 14:27

Photography lessons Hiroshima, Japan

Teaching Photography in Japan

I took a break from filming in Japan to run a 3 hour photography lesson in Hiroshima, Japan. I regularly teach photography lessons in West Yorkshire so it was a nice change to be invited to teach in Japan. When I was invited to give the photography class I was suprised when they said "the students will be using iPhones, is that OK?". But it makes perfect sense because most people have smart phones with very capable cameras. So as I prepared my materials for this 3 hour Apple iPhone photography class I took things right back to basics.

Taking Great Pictures on a Smart Phone/iPhone

Smart phones, iPhones or my own Samsung Galaxy S5 are all very capable of taking great pictures. To get good results it helps to go right back to basics though. The first box cameras had fixed lenses with little or no control over aperture, ISO, shutter speed etc. A hundred years on and it sounds a bit like using a smart phone camera! But these limitations are actually very liberating and force the focus of getting great pictures onto composition and technique.

During the 3 hour photography lesson I shared techniques and experiences from years of professional photography (and filming) experience. The lessons were very hands on and practical working both inside the Grand Prince Hotel and outdoors in the hotels amazing gardens. With weddings going on around us there was plenty to film!

Hiroshima, Japan, Teaching photography

So without doing anything technical on the cameras, other than switching off the flash I soon helped my Japanese students to take even better pictures. This was done by helping them to understand and notice lighting, reflection, shadows, colour and how all these relate to the photographer and the subject. I taught them the three most important aspects of good composition and the attitudes and approaches to getting into the right position to take a great picture!

Photography training hiroshima

Professional Looking Photos From Your Apple iPhone!

The pictures below were all taken by my photography students during the class using the simple techniques I taught them using nothing more than their smart phones:student-image-2

This picture was taken in the gardens of the Grand Prince Hotel, Hiroshima. I love the simple composition and the way the photography student has framed their subject using the archway. They've also paid attention to the direction of the light.


This photography students picture shows a good appreciation for the rule of thirds and they've cleverly placed the subject in front of darker plants so that their lighter clothes contrast nicely. Good cropping to to create natural framing.


This could be straight out of a clothing catalogue! Nice composition and again attention to detail. And remember this is photo was taken on a humble iPhone


A nice indoor shot which demonstrates that even in lower light conditions an iPhone or smartphone can produce great looking results. The composition and choice of location make for a very professional photo. So even with just an iPhone, given the right photography training you could have a great looking and professional image for your facebook, linkeIn and twitter profiles! Great photos really do make for a great impression and business people could benefit from knowing how to take better pictures with their camera phones.

1 Comment | Posted by Mark Zaretti at 01:22

MiLI Filming TokyoIt's day three of filming in Tokyo, Japan and todays project was to film 5 short online promotional movies for a new startup training company. They're a Mindfulness in Leadership training company with roots in Japan and the USA. For those of you who don't know what that is, the good news is that's one of the things they explain in their videos. You see they're smart people and very switched on to marketing and engaging with their clients and so they appreciate that videos are a great way of helping them grow their brand awareness and increase client conversion.

Videos Help Clients Find Your Business on Search Engines

They also know that videos on YouTube mean that they're more likely to be found by new clients, since YouTube is the second largest search engine. So if you've not got online videos, then you're missing out on a lot of potential traffic!

The Right Audio, Lighting and Film Equipment For Promotional Movie Production

I know how much some of you like to know about the gear we use so the picture above shows some of the kit. That's the new Black Magic 4K camera in action with LED lighting - much needed as it was overcast and the hotel venue was poorly lit. On the right you can see a macbook air connected to the camera providing real time histograms and scopes to ensure correct exposure and white balance.

The next stage is going to be editing up the footage but before that happens I'll be filming for a documentary tomorrow so best get some sleep!

Add a comment | Posted by Mark Zaretti at 16:18

I had a busy day yesterday getting all the equipment ready for the upcoming filming in Japan. As well as two live training events to film, promotional videos for a new company and a recruitment/communication documentary for a hospital, we're also going to starting production (filming) for a new documentary. I'd love to tell you more at this stage about the documentary but it's all very secret! So instead I'm going to share some news and updates and some very exciting equipment. 4K!!! you may have heard the buzz word and if you've not then don't worry. I'll explain all below.

4K filmingWhat's The Big Deal About Filming in 4K and What Does 4K mean?

4K sounds like the name of a rapper, or perhaps the cost of a second hand car. But what it means in the film industry is a LOT of pixels (8,294,400 to be precise). It's the next jump up from HD (high definition). So let's do a quick little bit of maths... no wait! don't run away, it's OK I'm just going to show you how big a step we're talking.

First we had Standard Definition (SD) pictures which were 720x480 (PAL).

Then came High Definition (HD) pictures which were 1920x1080.

And now we have 4K pictures which are 3840x2160.

This means you could fit a wopping 24 SD pictures into a single 4K picture! Comparing that to HD. An HD picture fits 6 SD pictures. If you've got a 4K TV it's like having 4 HD TVs all bolted together, and that's a lot more picture!

So what is the point of 4K?

It's a good question. At present only about 5% of the population have 4K capable TVs. That's not going to change in the near future either as these things cost a lot. But from a film point of view here's some reasons right now why you want your filming done in 4K.

  1. Reframing. You're filming live action, an interview or any other single take scenario. The end footage is going on youtube as HD footage. We shoot in 4k. When we're back in the editing suit doing the post production we have 4 times as much footage as we need so we can zoom in, move the frame around and reposition the shot within this sea of pixels without loosing any quality.
  2. Quality. When we shoot in 4K and then downscale you get a much better picture. Think about it, when you zoom in or upscale a picture you're blowing up the individual pixels so things become blurry and the picture looses crispness. When we do the reverse, taking a 4K image and downscaling it to HD then you get a crisper less blurry image. Better quality!
  3. Image Stabilisation. No matter what you do if you're filming from a moving rig, boat, vehicle, steady cam, shoulder rig etc. there's going to be camera movement. When you image stabilise in post production, the outer edge of the picture gets sacrificed to stabilise the image. Typically the image is also zoomed in. So shooting 4K for an HD film means you can stabilise without any loss of vital image or picture quality!
  4. Future Proof. 4K is coming. If you get your footage shot and archived in 4K then in the future you can always re-use that footage. But old SD and HD footage will never upscale without loss of quality. Of course HD filming is still the standard for online promotional movies, but 4k provides that future investment potential.

But all of this aside the new camera has other really important features including a global shutter so no more rolling shutter effects, which makes it much better for capturing action. 12 stops of dynamic range, which means much better highlight and lowlight contrast so more detail in shadows and the sky. Much higher colour information so even better for green screen and colour grading... there's lots to shout about and the bottom line for our customers is that the videos we produce are going to be even better looking, which makes you look even better!

Spartmedia: Filming in 4K!

At Spartmedia, we are geeks - there's no point in denying it. It's also what helps us stay ahead of the game and helps us make wise decisions when it comes to kit. That way you, as our clients, benefit because firstly we take care of the filming, and secondly we invest in our equipment wisely so that you're not overpaying to fund unecessary kit. We've spent months watching the technology mature and carefully selected the right equipment to deliver cost effective 4K filming. We're also specialists in filming travel, documentary and in interesting places where things like power and light may not be available. So we'd like to share some of our latest kit and you'll see it in action soon in Tokyo, Hiroshima and North Italy!

4K filming Kit

What your looking at is the culmination of a lot of research and collaboration between a number of film production equipment specialists. So straight off the bat a special mention to the guys at Planet PC (see below) and Pink Noise Systems who've been great at supplying equipment that frankly you just can't easily get because it's cutting edge. Some of the kit has had to be custom made and other parts have a long waiting list for them!

So here's the geeky bit for those kit enthusiasts out there:

  • Black Magic Production 4K camera.
  • PAG VLock 15mm DSLR Rig mount plate.
  • 2 x PAG Link batteries (flight approved).
  • PAG mini charger (will charge up to 4 batteries simultaneously, PAGLink is the way to go!).
  • 2 x Kingston 480GB SSDs
  • 2 x Samsung 2TB USB 3 HDDs - which work on Mac or PC without needing formatting!
  • SSD dock, thunderbolt cables, power leads etc all in a nice watertight, tough case.
  • There's also a single 50mm prime lens in there, because there was space! The other lenses are all in another bag.

And of course let's not forget our shoulder rig for run and gun action filming which will be travelling with us too! It's now modified to take a 5D mark III or the Black Magic Design 4K cameras. Extra long shoulder rails throw the weight of the batteries further back to counter the substancial weight of the BM4K. We call it "Frankenstein" as it's a bit of Zacuto, JAG 35, Genus, D Focus and a few other companies all rolled into one. Importantly it does the job and also ensures that my luggage always gets stopped at airport security "what the hell is that!".


The picture below shows Chris from Planet PC and myself in their gear room testing out the PAG Link battery system with the custom power cables for the 4K camera.

4K Planet PCThanks Chris! you've been a star!

Right I'm off to finish packing... next stop Tokyo!

Add a comment | Posted by Mark Zaretti at 23:08

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