Setting up Remote Cameras
I want to make sure we have some time to talk about remotes, because as you can see, or you can hear, when Corey's riding, he's totally silent. Like you could actually be in here, and if you weren't paying attention, I mean, Corey would stop before he hit you, but it's like he's this silent guy cruising on a bike, and I say that only because there's positions you would not want to be in if you are shooting in here. You know, I don't want to be super close to the bike, I don't want to be in a spot where I might get hit by the bike. And a better rationale for using remotes, and that's really what I'm segueing into. There's a couple of reasons that you want to use remotes, and Brad is gonna be helping me with the segment, so I can sort of talk as we're setting them up. But there's kind of a few rationales for using remote cameras. One is, if you're gonna try to put a camera in a position that you just can't be in. Meaning I want Corey to jump over the remote, and there's any chance the bi...
ke's gonna fly out from under him, or he's gonna crash and I don't want to be the guy.
Which is very likely with me. (instructor laughs)
I don't want to be the guy receiving the bike in my face or hitting the camera, number one, so it's just safety perspective. Number two, if this was an event, there's no way I'm gonna be sitting in the middle of the course or sitting in the shot. It's live television, if there's a film crew shooting, they don't want me in the shot, so I might be able to hide a camera someplace where I can remotely trigger that camera and still capture the image, but not be worried about being in the shot.
And then number three is, if you're a one-man band, you can actually capture multiple angles at one time, especially in the competition environment, you'll only have a limited amount of time, a certain run, and you're getting multiple angles, multiple versions of the same image.
And a great example of that would be, I was just shooting this frame on the two to of Corey over the gap where he's going through a shaft of light. I'm shooting that, but I know that the Red Bull content pool wants more than just that picture, because I'm getting hyper focused on that picture to get the right moment. So I set up a remote near this rail, and so every time as Corey's going back, he's doing something on the rail, I trigger a remote with a foot pedal or with my thumb. I'm making that picture, and then Corey comes back this way, I'm shooting on this camera, and theoretically I could set up two or three cameras so that I'm sort of like you're the one man band. You're pressing one pedal shooting that camera, pressing this pedal, shooting that camera, then going to your other camera. And so it's how do you actually create as much volume as you can, given you're a one man band. And of course, with setting up remotes it takes a little bit of time. So let's maybe, Brett and I are gonna roll over with Corey to the rails, and talk about where we can put a camera and what you can do on the rail.
And figure out how to do that.
And Corey, what we were thinking is maybe we go over, maybe the center rail, which is kind of, I guess that would be a classic urban style.
Yeah, yeah totally. I think being located in the middle, like gives you room on both sides to do tricks and you know, generally you wouldn't be in the way, but it's a perfect spot to hide some cameras for remote.
And what I thought might work, is if we focus, you're doing a trick on that center rail, we could either hide a camera under, I don't know if you call it a bench
Bench, yeah, bench, ledge, whatever.
Bench or ledge, maybe we hide 'em under one of those ledges, and then it's kind of out of the shot, camera is safe, and we can be shooting simultaneously from another location. Cool. I can carry that mike if you want me to. And maybe Corey, one thing that might help us is just maybe you can describe to us what can happen here. And you know, to me, I kinda naturally gravitate toward if we put the camera under this side of this ledge, you know sort of looking up, maybe it's kind of another fisheye style perspective.
Yeah, I totally agree, 'cause the setting is kind of a small area, so the rails are low, everything. Fisheye would be great, 'cause it kind makes the area look a lot bigger, and then rider stands out a lot more too.
For this, these are, like this is a skate park, so this isn't your average rail or ledge setup you'd find in the streets, but it's perfect for, I guess, beginners, people getting confident with grind and stuff, if you've been off the bike for a little while, this is perfect to kinda get your confidence back with certain tricks.
Great, that makes sense. And let me, you know my natural inclination would be if you know, if we were doing this for real and it wasn't just a class, I would start by putting my camera here on a remote under this ledge pointed this direction. Maybe I would experiment with shooting into the highlights, but I know that can be pretty blown out. And then I would after watching you a few times, I'd ask like, "Hey, Corey, can I put the camera "like right here?" You know, what's the risk of you nailing the camera? And if I borrowed the cameras from Nikon Professional Services (Corey laughs) I would put it there anyhow.
Yeah, yeah exactly.
If I own it I might hesitate. But Brett, let's see what... So, maybe you can explain what we've got here.
Sure, okay let me move this jumble a little bit out of the highlight so that we don't have
Okay I can help with that
a lot of hard shadows.
So this is kind of a basic kit that we're about to show you for setting up remotes, and I'll let Brett describe what we've got here.
Sure, so the basic idea behind remote cameras are any camera you're operating remotely. And there's a couple of key factors to that. One of course, is the camera itself. This is a Nikon D4S. We have right now a 14-24 2.8. And most of the time, in the remote situation, especially indoors, we're going to be setting all of these settings manually, taping them down, and then leaving them alone. We also have a way to remotely trigger the camera. We can do so with a series of hard wires. If we are in a very controlled environment, we have a thumb trigger here, and it would terminate in a 10-pin release cable, which allows us to control the camera remotely. What we're going to be doing here, is using a series of transceivers, which are a radio remote. This one's made by PocketWizard. Nikon also makes a new smaller remote. This is the WR-R10. It's got a great small profile, it's both for syncing multiple cameras in a remote environment, and it also can be used to control remote lighting, remote speed lights, which we'll be talking about a little bit later. But going back to the transceiver, which we'll be using here, I have on a camera, the receiver, and that's set to receive. We have a 10-pin release cable. You get these for your brand of camera. This one is a 10-pin Nikon release cable, and it terminates in a simple mini jack connection. That goes into the camera port on the top of the PocketWizard, and again that's set to receive. And then on our transceiver side, the transmitter is the exact same device set to transmit, and we'll have this on Corey's camera, so that every time Corey fires a frame, this camera will also fire a frame. Alternatively, you can use a thumb trigger, to fire the PocketWizard. We can connect the thumb trigger, and I might do that sometimes when I don't necessarily want the remote camera to fire every time my camera does. Say I have the remote camera set on the opposite side of the venue, but then I'm shooting with a shorter lens on this side of the venue. I can then have my thumb trigger strapped to my focusing hand, and then I'm shooting with my regular camera. Alternatively, we can use a foot pedal to set off our transmitter. This is a normal music foot pedal, and it just terminates in a mini jack connection. So I could be shooting with my handheld camera, say I've got a fisheye on the near side, and then I have a foot pedal where I can trigger the far camera.
This is true Bob Dylan one man band stuff. Andy plays the harmonica.
So getting back to.. So there's a couple of options for actually firing the camera. Again, in this environment, we're gonna do it the simplest way, which is we're gonna have this transmitter on Corey's D5. Do you want to hold that for a minute? We'll come back to it. And then finally, is actually mounting your camera. Here we're gonna be using a simple mini tripod. This one's made by Manfrotto. And we're gonna be setting it underneath the ledge here. You can see I've also just in the interest of cleanliness, I've kind of rubber banded all the extra cable here, so there isn't a bunch of extra things hanging out. We want to keep it neat, we want to keep it clean, especially when there's multiple people shooting. We don't want too much of a mess.
And it's also worth, and this is just an overarching statement. When you're messing with remotes for the first time, or even the 10th time, allow yourself a ton of time to test them. You know, when you're in an environment where it's just you and the athletes, it's easier. When you start getting around lots of folks using remotes, it just gets more complicated, people are competing for the same locations with cameras, sometimes you have interference on the remotes, where another guy's remotes are triggering your remotes, and so you're always paying attention, you just want to allow yourself ample time to go in and test. And there's a muscle memory component, you know, it sounds great to have foot pedal, a thumb remote triggering your camera. You can put those plungers in your mouth as well and do the tongue trigger, if you have another set of cameras, but when you get into that heat of the moment and the action's happening, from experience I can tell you it's really easy to start kind of screwing up and feeling overwhelmed. So you kind of want to create some muscle memory, you know practice the technique. I can tell you're gonna ask.
A quick question, just obviously we're shooting action sports so we want to capture that moment and we don't know, so we're gonna shoot a burst. Does the foot pedal or that thumb trigger, if you just click, just hold it down just like your camera?
Absolutely. The longer you maintain contact, it's just like holding down the trigger on your actual camera. So yeah, you can set the camera to a single burst, or I say, a single frame, or we're here, we're gonna have it set in continuous high speed, so the longer we sit on it, the longer we press the button, it will keep firing. Getting back to our mounting, again this is a mini tripod, it's great for this environment. Some places don't like you to have a tripod, because it has pointy ends. If it gets knocked over, this could produce a danger to the athletes or anyone else in the vicinity. In that scenario, we use what's called a floor plate, which is the exact same base. It's a flat, round-edged base, and again it's got a mini tripod head on it, you can still angle and move the camera however you'd like. Finally, as you can see, we're kind of surrounded by different rails and different mounting options. This is a Manfrotto variable friction magic arm, and what it is, is it terminates in a super clamp. This can be clamped to a rail, it could be clamped to the edge of some of those metal girders, and at the other end is a camera mount, and once you loosen this bolt all the way, you really can articulate this arm in any position you need to.
And this is a piece of equipment I would add, people I know that are watching online. If you were to ask, what is like the next piece of equipment that I should add to my bag, this is a fantastic addition to your bag. A magic arm really is as it sounds, it's kinda magical what it allows you to do. Right now we have this super clamp on the end. You can put different clamps on the end, you can put Cardellinis, you can sort of if you have larger stuff that you need to mount to, you can do that. But the variable friction we find is the best one, which means you can tighten it, not the lever locking, they just to not be as effective when you're working with actually putting cameras on the end, but you can put cameras on the end, you can put strobes on the end, you can mount your reflector to this, you can put super clamps on both ends. Super valuable piece of equipment. You know, right up there with buying a tripod and a monopod, magic arm might be next in line for valuable tools to have in your bag.
For sure. And this variable friction wheel, as soon as you lock it, it locks this joint and it also locks these joints. So you get it into any angle you want, and then you have one place to lock it off, and the whole thing becomes rigid, you can no longer... So that's the idea behind the variable friction. We're not gonna use that here, because here we're gonna use the floor plate, or I should say the mini tripod. One last thought. Anytime you are mounting a remote above an athlete, or any potential for items to fall off of the remote, and potentially hurt somebody, we want to think definitely in terms of safety. What I would normally do is I would remove any lens hoods that are removable. I don't believe this one is, I believe it's integrated with the lens. So therefore there's no chance this lens hood would fall off. But then we'd use either a steel safety cable or here we just have on some cordage, super strong, and we've attached an extra o-ring to the edge of the camera here. I can feed, should I have say mounted this camera up in the rafters, I've brought in a scissor lift, I have a ladder, I've mounted it somewhere high...
And maybe an example is even this. If we were up in the rafters, sure, we're gonna just put this lanyard
up and onto the rafter, is what's happening.
So I bring it around again. I've attached my magic arm, I have the camera hanging down, and all I would do, is bring this cord through that o-ring, and attach it, so that if something were to fail on the magic arm, on my mounting system, it would only drop a couple of inches, instead of falling all the way to the floor, potentially hurting someone, definitely damaging the gear, and making you not the favorite person at the event. So always think of safety. That also goes the same for when you're actually doing the process of mounting any kind of overhead remote. Make sure that anything that could fall out of your pockets has been removed. You don't want to carry extra things, keys, phones, up into the rafters of an arena or a space like this. You want to take everything off of you that might fall. Because again, safety is the number one concern anytime you're mounting a remote camera. So, now that we've talked about it for a minute, let's actually do it. And if you want to come around this side, hopefully I am enough in the shadows here that I would be able to stay in the shadows full-time.
And let's even do a test, Brett, let's see what this 14-24 looks like, and then we can decide if we want to go 16 mil fisheye. 'Cause it might be just the curvature of the fisheye looks more interesting. So this 14-24 2.8 is a great lens, but even though it's wide, it doesn't give you the curvature, it's a rectilinear lens. And so sometimes the 16 millimeter fisheye, you want that curvature, and you heard Corey say it, it's in the BMX world, it's your go-to lens because it creates this sort of mood and feel and adds curvature. You know, BMX guys are not concerned about the architecture and straight lines. And so let's maybe just fire one on that and then I can compare it to this to see. So let's see.
So again, we're not gonna be tethered here, just because he's going to still be shooting with his remote camera, but we'll give you a chance to show these images when we assemble them in the final class, you'll actually see what we're doing here. But we'll do our best to show you on the live view. So, speaking of live view, it's a great feature for setting up remotes, 'cause you'll see once I get this down on the ground, it's gonna be very awkward for me to get my eye up to the eyepiece. Anytime you're mounting it low, or you're mounting it in a situation where it's awkward to place the camera, one of the nice features of these cameras is that I can actually turn on the live view, and as soon as it comes to life here, we can now see what the camera... what we'd be seeing through the viewfinder. And then another nice feature is that it's often when your head is turned, it's really hard to level a camera unless your head is straight on. So one of the features of the Nikon D4S and the new Nikon D5, and many of these cameras in live view, is that as we cycle through the info button, we have a couple of handy tools, shows us gridlines, but then eventually they show us the what's called the virtual horizon, and as I tilt this camera, I loosen it, you can see the yellow plane on the camera and it goes green when I get it level. So that's always what I'm aiming for, because it's natural perspective. You normally want to start from a level perspective. So I start to tuck it underneath here, and I'm actually getting a live preview. Corey, if you want to come round and tell me what you think of that.
Sure, and we can actually just swap this in live.
So is that enough for us?
I mean it's not, it's pretty wide, let's actually just, I'm gonna do a quick substitute, I'll just throw this in.
And I don't know what the exposure on that is but...
Let's go fisheye.
Okay, so you want to go fisheye?
And then we can just do a quick lens swap. You saw how easy that is, without even having to take a picture, we just went into live view, and we could see both images. And we've just decided we're gonna go wider. Thank you.
So now we're gonna use the fisheye. It does simplify one of the things we have to do, which is once we've set both our zoom and our focus, we actually would tape that down. So here we don't have a zoom, because it's a fixed 16 millimeter fisheye, so we'll probably need a little less tape, 'cause we don't have two rings to set apart. You can hold that. So I'm gonna hold that for a second. And again, in a situation like this, we have two ways to focus the camera. With a fisheye, we have a pretty good depth of field. So I know if he's gonna be on this rail, I can actually focus it right here, and the focus is not gonna change as I go underneath. Another way to focus it, is in a very critical focus, once you have it in position, here's another great handy tip for setting up remotes, is that I can go again into live view, I can now start zooming in, and I can get to a hundred percent, and I know exactly where Corey is, and at a hundred percent, I can actually use live view to make sure I'm focused correctly. Feels pretty sharp right there. And again, you're actually focusing of the sensor at this point. It's real handy. Now that we have our camera focused, let me actually get it into position here, to roughly where I'd have it. We're still in focus again, there's plenty of depth of field on a fisheye lens, even at 5.6.
And a reminder for everyone watching, this isn't about making the best picture. It's about the principle of how to set this up. So we would spend more time refining our shot if we were doing this for real.
So I would set the PocketWizard to receive. I'd make sure that our channels are the same. Do you have the other PocketWizard?
I sure do.
I believe that PocketWizard is set to transmit, and it's set to channel 22.
It sure is.
The idea behind that is that we have multiple channels because especially in the competition environment, multiple people may be using PocketWizard system. Some of the Nikon systems, they have up to 10 channels, the WRR10 has four. PocketWizard system has up to I believe 32 channels, and then you can even get it sent back to PocketWizard for custom channels. Again, some of the events I do, there's hundreds of photographers. Custom channels can be really valuable to make sure that no one else's PocketWizard is firing your cameras and vice versa. You go to big events, there's often a channel signup, and you go in and you say, I'm gonna use channel 17, I'm gonna use channel five. So anyways. Okay, so now that we've critically focused it. We could have framed it or focused it in equal... We could have done either one first. I'm gonna zoom back out. I'm gonna make sure that I have the full feature, and I'm gonna place it relatively low in the frame, because I know that Corey still needs to be on top of that rail. I'm gonna get it level, and lock it off.
And now one of the great things about where we have this camera right now is it's super safe. Like the odds of, now if someone were skateboarding in here, yeah, there's a chance that a skateboard's gonna nail it, but the likelihood of Corey's bike hitting this under the bench, very unlikely. So it's started safe, and as I said to Corey, if that worked, and if we had enough time, eventually we'll start moving that camera closer to the rail. But start safe, same with taking pictures, get something in the can before you risk your equipment.
For sure. So just again to double check. I have now set up the camera, I've set up our transmitter, I've set up our mounting system, I know it's relatively safe. If I was in an outdoor environment, especially when I'm setting it up in advance, and I don't know what the weather would do, something as simple as a ziplock bag, or maybe an AquaTech camera cover. I could poke a hole in the side of this, so the lens goes through. It's just a simple grocery store bag. I can rip a hole for my lens. I drop it over the entire camera, and I have the lens sticking out. And that provides my entire setup. If you're at a motocross course, it could get splashed, even if it's not raining, there's just standing water on the course, you want to protect your gear as much as possible.
One other thing that I guess it's worth mentioning is, in this environment where we're shooting in kind of a controlled environment, you know our sun is these five patches of light or four patches of light that are moving slowly out of our environment, we're in manual exposure, so you have to be paying attention to is the light changing. You know, the good news about this area is it's not gonna vary that much. I think as these patches of light move in an hour or two, it's gonna get a little bit darker in this room, but you're always paying attention to how did the exposure change in the environment that my remote camera is shooting. Nine times out of 10 we're shooting in manual mode, manual focus, manual exposure. If the light is really changing, and I'm gonna use Brett's motocross example. We're at a motocross track, the clouds are moving in and out of the shot, at that point we might go to aperture priority. It's still gonna be in manual focus, but we're gonna let the exposure change depending on what those clouds are doing. And there's a little bit of a roll of the dice in those environments, you're saying I hope the camera nails the shot, I hope it's in the correct exposure mode, it doesn't get fooled by the clouds moving by. But your bottom line, you need to come and check on those cameras occasionally. It's sort of you are monitoring all of those cameras, you want to make sure the batteries are live, you wanna make sure that you have full batteries in your PocketWizards or whatever remote system you're using. How's that looking, Brett?
So again, we've talked about all the ways to trigger it. There's a test button on this transmitter, and we know, I can just fire frames.