Best Film Gear During Coronavirus!

As the production industry attempts to increase business and productions, it's important to be safe. There are always risks on set, but there are solutions for safety.

Similar to taping down cables, using shot bags on stands, and keeping clear pathways, COVID safety is key! Wearing a mask it a no brainer. It will help keep you and the crew safe... and it masks bad breath! Nevada law requires masks in most businesses and situations; sets and studios are no exceptions. Your on-screen talent is generally exempt from wearing a mask when on camera.

Audio:

Lavaliere microphones should be used a little as possible. If a lavaliere is required, the talent should put it on themselves. A much better option is a shotgun microphone and boom pole. Both the Sennheiser MKH 416 and Schoeps CMIT 5 (my favorite) are great options! Another fun trick, if you're doing ENG interviews, is to use a handheld microphone on a boom pole. You can take the excellent Sennheiser MD 46 cardioid mic, put it on a boom pole, and keep your distance!

Makeup, Wardrobe, Hair:

Talent should come to set with their hair, makeup, and wardrobe done. If however you need touchups or small fixes, crew should wear masks, visors, and gloves. All of these items are readily available for purchase, and don't cost much. The typical problem of a little shine on talent is easily remedied with "shine killer". NYX makes a great "shine killer" that talent can easily apply to their own skin.

Lenses and 4K:

Lastly, while the CDC and other medical experts have said that masks are the key to stopping the spread, socially distancing is needed too. You can only stay so distant on set, so here are a couple items to help you along. Use a longer lens like a Canon 70-200mm L-Series; or heck, a 100-400mm lens, and shoot from really far away! Also, consider investing in UHD/4K. Having the ability to crop in will make it possible to stay further apart, and have less people on set. (The idea is you don't need as many cameras...)

So, there are some ideas and suggestions to keep us safe, healthy, and working. Best of luck!


Las Vegas Cyclorama Stage Open for Productions!

Our beloved cyclorama stage is now up and running. We are still finalizing power distribution and our lighting grid, but we're operational. So, what does that mean, and how can it be used? Without the lighting grid, the full breadth of the stage can't be lit, but sections can. We have two 20 amp drops, which is more than enough power for most setups. Finally, with temperatures dropping, the studio space is habitable all day.

Our besties over at FiveSix Productions are filming on the set as we speak! They set up a 12x20' Green screen in the back of the stage to film some awesome marketing video for the next three days. There is also a potential shoot using one of the back corners of the stage, which is easy to light.

Beyond these smaller setups, still photography is also possible. Again, using a backdrop, or one of the walls/corners, we have the space and resources to shoot!

We relentlessly practice caution and safety with regards to COVID-19 and general set wellness. We have a long list of gear and tools available for your production. And to conclude, we are offering great discounts and deals through the end of the year on our rates.

We hope to host your next production/photo shoot soon!


Safely Film During COVID-19

COVID-19 is the worst! We're heartbroken for the sick and departed and their friends and families. We're also heartbroken and empathetic to those financially burdened and broken. The masks are hot and annoying, the gallons of hand sanitizer and bleach spray is not free or convenient, and we miss hugs and handshakes. However! We're doing our absolute best to follow the CDC and Nevada State Guidelines so we can beat this and get closer to how things used to be.

All that said, we need to keep the economy going, and do so safely. Here are some best practices and gear to help you stay safe and healthy:

Personal health and hygiene:

Wear a mask and wash/sanitize your hands. Doctors and scientists say it works, so we believe in it. If you don't, and you're entitled to your own beliefs of course, wearing masks and socially distancing as much as possible keeps things open. If wearing a mask keeps us on set/in the studio, we'll happily suffer through it!

Gear cleaning:

Clean and sanitize gear and work spaces. This has been a big priority for us. In hindsight, we should have been doing a better job of this all along. It's not just Coronavirus out there, so, this will be a "forever practice" for us. As a note, make sure to be careful cleaning, not every solvent works for every piece of gear!

Food safety:

Re-imagine meals/craft services. The whole idea of a bag of mixed nuts, tray of fruit, or single large bag of chips without paper plates/bowls is bad enough. During COVID-19 however, those practices must go away completely. Now, I say this also being very aware and careful about single use plastics, food waste, etc. For the foreseeable future, and probably well beyond, meals and craft services should feature individually wrapped meals/items. Another alternative is to hire a serving staff if that's in the budget. Your craft services PA may be able to act as food server if they have appropriate PPE- check local laws on that first though. One last note on this, a growing trend in the industry is to simply add the food per diem to the crew's check, and have them bring their own food.

Recommended gear and such:

As far as gear goes, there are a few items/best practices recommended to keep socially distant. Shotgun mics on boom poles are way safer than lavalier microphones. The Schoeps CMIT-5 microphone will give you amazing audio! It would also be a good idea to invest in any sort of wipes/papers the talent can use on themselves to eliminate oil/moisture on their face. NYX makes a great "Shine Killer" the talent can use on themselves. The Eye Direct Mark II is a great tool to minimize producers on set; the producer can FaceTime in, and you just put the tablet or laptop where the physical producer would have been.

In conclusion:

So, there you have it; just some tips and suggestions to help keep us on set and safe. Again, masks and social distancing are annoying, but THEY'RE NOT GOING TO GO AWAY UNTIL WE ADHEAR TO THE RULES. The longer you don't wear a mask and be distant, the longer we're going to need to wear masks and be distant. So, let's be smart, be safe, and make that money!


How to use the LiveU Solo

With COVID19 still ravaging the United States, live-streaming video has become the "go-to" way to communicate. Remote productions are an essential part of keeping business going. That said, there are a lot of ways to stream content to your viewers; let's talk about the LiveU Solo.

To get started, you'll need to log into the LiveU Solo portal (f11 Rentals has an account setup so you won't need to create your own account). The portal is where you can select which LiveU device you want to use. You can also select which service you want to stream to in the portal (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).

So, you have your streaming destination chosen, what next? You now need to connect your camera to the HDMI or SDI input, and power up the Solo. The Solo holds its power charge for at minimum, 2 hours, but it's best to plug in when possible. Then, connect to either LAN, Wi-Fi, one or two cellular modems, or, multiple of these; the more you connect, the more reliable your feed will be.

Okay, we chose our streaming destination in the portal, powered on and connected our camera, and we're connected to the internet... next is to confirm that our setting/frame rates, etc. all match in the LiveU itself. Once all that is good, it's time to go live!

There you have it, it's that simple. Even for people who aren't "tech savvy" (my hand is up), it's very straight forward and user friendly. So, now, there's no reason you can't bring Las Vegas to the rest of the world, but keep everyone safe with social distancing. For your next Las Vegas video production that needs to be seen near and far, reach out and we'll get you everything you need!

P.S. LiveU's FAQ page is pretty helpful.


How to build a cyclorama stage...

Las Vegas will soon have a brand new, state-of-the-art sound stage and film production studio! Whether you're creating a commercial, film, music video, or television, we're the ones to call. Our sound stage includes a three-sided cyclorama wall that is roughly 30'x30', and around 18' high! We're planning on a motorized light grid, so no ladders or scissor lifts! What on Earth is a cyclorama you may ask; let me tell you. A cyclorama in film and television is a wall that features a curve that seamlessly blends the wall into the floor or another wall. This gives the effect of having no visible lines and no shadows. Infinite possibilities!

You may wonder how to build something like that. Well, we didn't know either, so we did what you're doing right now, and got on the internet where the entirety of human knowledge (and stupidity) exists. And, keeping in mind low-attention spans, I'll make this quick-ish...

First, hammer drill, and, I cannot emphasize that enough: HAMMER DRILL! The hammer drill will make drilling into concrete much easier (it's still an awful task); it's not enough to just drill into concrete, you must also hammer the eva'livin' out of it (you may skip the gym after completion). Next, steel 2x4's will be the frame of your walls (in our case, two of the three walls we built). We spaced the 2x4's approximately every three feet. Then, drywall... oh drywall. There is no easy way of putting drywall up, except to just get in that scissor lift, and hope you don't cry in front of your colleagues when you're 20' in the air. So now, you have all your big pieces of drywall screwed into the neat frame you just built; next is what tough construction folks call "mudding".

Mud, like wet dirt? No, it's "all purpose, pre-mixed joint compound"; but, it's thick and wet like mud, so I get it. I had never "mudded" before, looked it up, and saw a bunch of people driving their over-sized trucks through fields of mud... no help there, so, I just went for it. For covering in/up the drywall screws, I just went straight out of the bucket. For "paper taping" the seams of the drywall, I found it best to put a thick bit of slightly watered down "mud" over the seam, place the paper tape, and then using two "blades" just flatten it out. Okay, this is boring.

How do you create the curves?! You buy pre-built "ribs" from a company that does archways, and you just screw them into the 2x4's and into the concrete on the ground; and for the vertical curves, you go straight into the walls (make sure you screw into a 2x4 for solid construction). Then, take a thinner sheet of drywall that is suited for bending when wet, and you bend them into shape. We took two spare ribs, put them on saw horses, and then a sheet of drywall and formed it into our mold. After you have your "mold" to shape the rest of the drywall on, you just painstakingly take each piece, start adding water and slowly add weight (sand bags) onto the center of the drywall sheet until is rests nicely into the mold. Once dry, you put it in place on the ribs, and screw in. We found that some of the sheets needed a little extra water while being screwed into place as they way not have been curved perfectly. Once that's done, it's back to the mud.

Here was the truly difficult part: using the joint compound to create a 1 1/4" gradient from the flat walls onto the curved pieces of drywall. Any bump or dip in the compound would create a shadow, which you cannot have. We started with small amounts of mud that we would attempt to build the gradient with by pulling to or from the edge... it didn't work. There was always a bump on the edge of the curved piece, and always a slight dip before the edge... it was confounding. The vertical curves were first, and we eventually were able to sand away our errors, and painstakingly fill in errors until we had no shadows. For the horizontal curve into the wall/floor, we went with a different approach. We took a 12" flat blade, and added a ton of mud to the edge of the curve on the wall, then, we aligned the blade's end to the edge of the curved piece of wall, the opposite end flat against the wall above it, and just drug the blade as far as the mud would go. This gave us a ton of holes and cracks, but it was an almost perfect gradient from the wall onto the curve. Then, for the second pass, we would go in and fix our little holes, gutters, groves, etc., worked much better! This took us from 6-12 passes (and sanding) on the horizontal curves, to just 2-3 passes on the horizontals. Much better!

The curve to the floor was the exact same process as the joint compound on the horizontal bit of curve, except, instead of joint compound, we used concrete. Luckily, the concreted didn't end up being much more difficult to work with. Let me wrap this up, it's getting boring I'm sure. There was a lot of sanding! We had to sand after each application of mud or concrete, and after two passes with paint. For paint, we did a thick, high quality white paint to help fill in little cracks and bumps, but mostly just used a white primer, as it's matte, budget friendly, and looks great. I think we're four or five coats in.

So, with masks on the entire time, for COVID safety and lung safety (from sanding and painting) despite the oven our studio is during the day, we powered through. We still need a couple more passes with paint, and I'm certain we'll find a blemish or two that need some attention, but, we're close. Next, professionals who actually know what they're doing will come in to run our three power drops (60 amps to the grid, and two 100 amp drops to the floor). Someone will add temperature insulation and air conditioning. We'll have someone install sound dampening items to the ceiling and walls, another person will put up our 10x20'-ish motorized light grid...

And, when that's finally done... we'll make cinematic magic!


Filming in the Desert Heat

We are a third of the way through spring, which means that summer is around the corner, including summer heat. Filming in the heat of the summer comes with it's challenges. It's important to note that most pieces of gear have minimum and maximum operating temperatures. Cameras generally top out around 104 degrees; here in Vegas, it's common to surpass that. Best practice is to keep cameras, audio mixers, computers, etc, as shaded as possible.

Filming in shorter spurts when possible can help to regulate gear temperature, and can ultimately lead to more productive shoots. Furthermore, investing in additional 4'x4' solid cutters can help create added shade for crew and gear. It's also good practice to have your crew bring gloves and multi-tools, as metal gear can become burning hot sitting in the sun.

Hopefully, we'll be back up and running sooner than later, and we can enjoy the scorching heat. Stay safe, stay hydrated, and stay filming.


One this day in photographic history.

Fun facts to fill your face with: on this day (April 6th) in 1889, George Eastman began selling his Kodak flexible rolled film, helping bring photography to the mainstream. George Eastman was of course, one of the two founding members of Eastman Kodak Company. Kodak was a pioneer in many aspects of photography and film from the late nineteenth century until the end of the twentieth century.

Prior to Eastman's camera, a glass-plate negative was needed for each exposure. The Kodak camera was preloaded with a flexible film roll of that would take up to 100 exposures. Once the 100 exposures were taken, the camera was sent back to Kodak, who processed the film and mailed back the images. The images were circular, and had a diameter of 2 5/8". The camera sold for $25.00 in 1888. Instead of a viewfinder, there were two V-shaped lines on the top of the camera's leather case to help aim.

The camera sold for $25.00, the developing the images was an additional $10.00. Once the roll was developed, the camera was reloaded, and sent back with the images. Spare rolls of film were sold for $2.00 if you wanted to ball out and process your own images.

The moral of this story is: we have it pretty good today... thank god for the cameras on our iPhones.


Intermission...

In accordance with Governor Steve Sisolak and the fine folks in Carson City, we have stood down as "a non essential business". To be honest, though, we can think of nothing more essential than production! We will stand down for 30 days and do our part to help our community, city, and state. James Moore, General Manager of F11 Rentals, will be available from home to help in any way possible. And we sincerely hope to be back to helping make cinema-magic soon!

On a personal note, we send out our best to all of our friends, clients, and the like. We know that most filmmakers are freelancers, and are feeling the horrible, and terrifying reality of little to no paychecks. We also know that our friends, clients, and/or their families may be affected by illness, anxiety, frustration, etc., and we truly hope the best for all. Believe that you are all in our thoughts, and we will be relentless in our determination to get everyone back on track when society picks back up. We will continue our 19% discount until the effects of this pandemic dissipate.

So, be well, be safe, and be calm. Please do your part so that we can get past this, and get back to awesome. We're here as best as we can be, and send our best. Peace be with you.


Stay Calm and Keep Filming!

We hope that everyone stays safe and healthy in the coming weeks. We also know that times are tough, especially for businesses. While we can't generate business for you, we can definitely help make it a little more viable. We're offering a guaranteed 19% off all rentals moving forward. (Laughter is medicine.) If you have a production that's on the fence because of budget, let us know and we'll be happy to try and help! Visit F11 Rentals for all your Las Vegas video production needs!


Best Microphones in the Wind.

Unless you're making a movie about tornadoes or the sea, wind is not good. Heck, even when you're making a movie about tornadoes or the sea, wind is not good. You don't actually want wind, especially the audio department. What audio wants, is to put the sound of the wind in during post production. However, sometimes, it just can't be helped; so, here are a couple of mics that are great in the wind:

Sennheiser MD 46. This hand-held microphone is phenomenal in loud situations. Whether you're talking wind, loud music, traffic, whatever, this microphone will sound clean and crisp. The microphone was specifically designed for interviews in loud environments, and maximizes it's cardioid audio receiving design.

Schoeps CMIT 5. This shotgun microphone is industry standard for a reason! Light weight, dependable, and squeaky clean audio capture make it a must have! Coupled with our zeppelin and faux-fur wind cover, you'll have no problem battling the elements.

If you have a production coming up that needs guaranteed, clean audio, reach out and we'll get you set up with a great microphone and audio mixer.