The Camera Man

Richard Greatrex - The Camera Man

I had the opportunity to spend two days with a very talented cinematographer called Richard Greatrex, he’s worked on films such as Run Fat Boy Run, A Knights Tale and Shakespeare in Love! Richard has been nominated for an Oscar and won a a Bafta.

He’s now taken up photography after retiring from a very successful career in the film industry! While hanging out with him in Wales I decided to make a short film about him and discuss how he manages to keep so energetic and full of life! Here it is, enjoy:

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Micro Adventures

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I came across the idea of microadventures from Alastair Humphreys an adventurer, author and motivational speaker! He was the creator of the microadventurer which encourages people to go outdoors, get out of their comfort zone and live life to their full potential. It can be close to home, cheap, simple, short, and most importantly fun!

I love London as there’s always something new to discover and things to do! But sometimes it can get too much with all the people and the constant go, go so I decided to escape for a couple of days and go on a microadventure of my own with my good friend Zak, check it out here:

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Photo Credit: Katya Rogers

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My Top 5 Filmmaking Tips

Having made a number of short films some small, some big I thought I’d share my top 5 filmmaking tips for anybody who’s about to embark on their next creative adventure! Here they are:

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1.  Choosing your team is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a filmmaker. Make sure you get it right and work with people who are hardworking and are as passionate about the project as you are.

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2.  The most important part of any film or video is the story and characters, not the fact that you’re using the latest camera equipment or stabilising rig. Make sure the script and story is the best it can be – rewrite, rewrite and rewrite! Show the script to your harshest critics and ask for feedback. You might not agree with all their thoughts and ideas but it will at least prompt you to improve on the story.

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3.  You can never have enough time for pre-production. Prepare for every possibility and visualise the film in your head before you go on set. This will give you the confidence to try new ideas.

Stills shot on the set of the film short, Modern Man.

4.  Filmmaking is a collaborative process; you can’t do it alone. Always show your appreciation. A thank you can go a long way!

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5.  Filmmaking is an amazing profession to be working in but sometimes it really pushes you to your limits when you’re working long hours in extreme conditions! The key to getting through the hard days is to not complain as it will only bring moral down and make the experience even harder! Instead focus on the positive, focus on the fact that you’re making a film with an incredible group of like minded people! And remember to smile – it’s contagious!

Have you made a film or any other creative projects? It would be great to hear your top tips! Post them in the comment section below.

Photo Credits: Victoria Harris, Miles Holden, Richard Greatrex

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My Essential Camera Kit List

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I love all the new technology and camera equipment that’s being developed but sometimes it can be really overwhelming as it feels like there’s a new camera that comes out every week and I don’t know where to start!

To get around this I like to keep my camera kit as simple as possible so I can focus on making films and telling stories rather than spending all my time researching what camera, drone or stabiliser to get next. That gets boring and by no means makes you a better filmmaker!

I thought I’d run through my essential filmmaking kit that I don’t leave the house without:

 

 

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Sony AS7

 

I love this camera, it’s small, it’s discrete and the quality is great! It’s also fantastic in low light situations which means I don’t have to carry around lots of lighting equipment. When I was filming a scene with this camera in the Altai Mountains a few months ago we had no access to electricity so I lit the scene with only three candles and it looked fantastic! This camera blows my mind and fits my philosophy of reducing the technical aspect of filmmaking and focusing on the creative side of telling stories.

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Glidecam 2000

 

The glidecam is an incredibly powerful tool. It’s lightweight, quick to set up and allows you to create beautiful smooth cinematic shots on the fly. It takes a few months to master but once you get the hang of it you won’t look back!

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DJI Phantom 2 + GoPro Hero 4

 

My newest and most exciting addition the family, the Phantom 2! This drone allows me to get epic aerial shots without needing a huge hollywood budget and a helicopter! With the gimbal the shots are extremely smooth and the possibilities are limitless. I usually shoot at 2.7k as this reduces the fish eye of the GoPro and it means I have the option to crop into the shots if needed. A few months ago they came out with the DJI Phantom 3 which comes with a camera and allows you to sync the camera to your phone and use it as a monitor! I’ve started saving up for it already as I’ve only heard good things about it!

Here’s an article that was featured on NoFilmSchool where I give my top 10 drone filming tips:

10 helpful tips for being safe and getting great shots

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Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8 L mkII USM Lens

This is my go to lens when I’m shooting anything.  I use this lens about 80% of the time. It’s a great wide lens and is perfect for capturing vast landscapes, it also works really well with the Glidecam.

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Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

This lens is incredible, it produces a really beautiful cinematic picture and it’s great for filming wildlife and portraits. As it’s a long lens it crushes the image so objects in the background feel closer to the foreground than they actually are in reality. It’s expensive and it took a lot of saving up to get it, but after using it on a number of different shoots around the world I still think it’s totally worth every penny!

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Canon F1.4 50mm

The 50mm 1.8 was one of the first lenses I bought as it wasn’t too expensive and produce an incredible image. I’ve now got the Canon 50mm 1.4 which allows me to have an even more shallow depth of field.  This is also great for portraits and close ups.

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Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Camera Lens Filter

 

An ND filter is essential when shooting with the Sony A7S as when shooting S-Log on the camera it has a minimum ISO of 3200 which is far too bright for a sunny day. Having a variable ND filter allows you to darken the image so it’s not overexposed. You’ll need a ND filter for each lens as lenes vary in size.

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Metabones Canon EF to E-mount Mark IV

As all my lenses are Canon so I needed a converter that allows me to use it on the Sony A7S. The Metabones converter is currently the best one on the market. It’s not cheap but it’s worth paying a bit extra as you know it’ll just work and you won’t have any problems while shooting with it in high pressure situations.

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Manfrotto 577 Quick Release Plate

It was only at the start of the year that I purchased a quick release plate for both my Glidecam and shoulder rig and boy was I missing out before! This saves so much time on set and allows me to move my camera from the Glidecam to the shoulder rig in seconds, there’s no screwing and unscrewing required! The plate is universal so it fits on my tripod, such a great purchase and really well made!

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Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 Tripod MVH500AH Head

Previously I’d bought cheap tripods which were weak and cumbersome but I eventually decided to take the plunge and get myself a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod and it’s been amazing! It’s great when you don’t want the hassel of lugging around huge heavy weight tripods but you want something that’s strong enough to take the hard hits and knocks. It’s really well built, easy to use and has some neat features.

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Koolertron Stabilising Video Shoulder Mount

This rig folds up nicely and takes seconds to set up, maybe even less with the quick release plate. It’s very light and helps keep the shot nice and steady when filming handheld.

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Shooting with Drones

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I’ve been working with drones on and off for a few years now but at the end of last year I decided to take the leap and buy one of my own and I haven’t looked back!

In this weeks Vlog I talk about why I love making films with drones and a few top tips on getting those money shots! Check it out:

Shooting With Drones – VLOG

You can also read my blog about filming with drones here: Filming With Drones

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Big Ambitions

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When I was 15 I made a short film about being lost on an island, I had big ambitions for this movie! I wanted it to win awards and be shown all around the world! I put everything I had into this film, but I lacked the key ingredient. Story! I spent about a week writing the script and 3 or 4 months making the film and as we all know content and story should always, always come first! But I was 15 and all I was thinking about was copying my favourite movies with epic helicopter shots and exciting action sequences! So I was in for a rough ride!

When it came to the premiere and awards night for the film I felt like I was a huge failure as the film didn’t win any awards and it wasn’t very well received! I’d put all this time and effort into making the film and I’d failed in what I’d set out to do.

But life often takes you down a different path. What I got from making this film was a huge set of skills. I learnt how important story was, how to put together a team, how to edit, how to shoot – I learnt so much! All these skills were then essential in me succeeding in making bigger projects that have been shown around the world and have won awards!

If I have any advice for anyone pursuing a creative endeavour it would be to do it as much as you can! The more you do it, the more you’re going to fail (learn) and the better you’re going to get at it! We all have high ambitions but it takes a long time and a lot of hardwork and failure to reach those goals but the key is to not give up and to enjoy every step of this crazy rollercoaster we call life!

Check out my latest Vlog for the full story:

BIG AMBITIONS

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Central Asia

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My second video blog is now live! It’s all about my adventures in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan where I was filming a feature documentary that will be out next year!

Click here to see more photos and read my blog about the trip.

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My Passions & Goals

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I’m starting a weekly video blog where I’ll be sharing my latest stories, adventures and filmmaking tips!

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but I haven’t had the guts to do it as it’s a huge commitment and it really scares me! But I’m finally doing it and I’m so excited to share with you my first weekly vlog:

My Passion and Goals

In the vlog above I talk about my passions, how I got into filmmaking and my plans for future. I thought I’d expand on the vlog and talk in more detail about where my crazy obsession for filmmaking all started!

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I remember the first time I picked up a camera like it was yesterday! I was aged 9 and my step dad had purchased a Sony camcorder for my mum as she wanted to film myself and my brothers growing up! However I managed to get my hands on it before my mum had had a chance to pick it up and I started filming my friends, family, pets – anything that I found interesting or exciting! I don’t think my mum ever had the chance to use the camera as I’d either be filming with it or the battery would be charging. Sorry mum!

Inspired by James Bond, Austin Powers and the Alex Rider books I started recreating my favourite moments from these stories in the back yard with friends! I then started writing scripts for these crazy Spy films and began entering my films into competitions. I won my first award when I was 14, for a film called Losing Sam – it wasn’t very good but maybe the judges thought it had potential. It was so exciting to see the film on the big screen at the festival and have my work seen by an audience who wasn’t just my family or friends. It was the first time I felt like filmmaking was something I could really get good at and maybe even pursue as a career!

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Over the next five years I continued to make around 3 or 4 short films a year. During my lunch break, after school and maybe occasionally (quite often) during class I’d be developing ideas and preparing for my next shoot! These ideas became more and more ambitious and ludicrous; it often involved convincing my friends to do crazy things like filming in the freezing cold sea at night in the dead of winter, spending a night in a goat shed amongst bugs and poo, dressing up in all sorts of weird and wonderful costumes, jumping out of trees and the list goes on! I honestly don’t know why they put up with me but for whatever reason I’m so grateful that they did! And we did have a lot of fun despite all the blood, sweat and tears!

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One of my short films that I’m most proud is a film called The Steadfast Tin Soldier that I made when I was 17.  It’s based on the short story by Hans Christian Anderson about a one legged soldier who falls in love with a ballerina. It was the first time I’d used lighting, sound effects and a period costume and set to tell a story. It was so exciting to put the film together and it was a huge team effort to make it happen! The film went on to win multiple awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Editing! With the prize money and my savings I managed to purchase an apple computer which allowed me to edit on Final Cut – I couldn’t wait to get started on the next project!

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A year after making The Steadfast Tin Soldier I had the opportunity to travel with my best friend and her mum to Nepal to go on an adventure of a lifetime. I was 18 and about to start my last year at school. During this amazing trip I captured the people we met along the way and the daily hardships and triumphs that they were going through. It was the first time I’d been immersed in a completely different culture and it gave me a strong desire to want to explore and learn more about the world and all the interesting, inspiring and passionate people living in it!

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After finishing school I had the privilege of working with an awesome company called NZ Greenroom Productions. We’d spend our days filming some of the best red bull athletes from around the world jumping out of helicopters, kayaking down white water rapids and back flipping motorbikes! It was a non-stop thrill ride and I loved it! I also spent some time filming surfing, snowboarding and other fun outdoor sports!

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However my passion has always been storytelling and I had the opportunity through a family member to travel to England to work on a feature film over there! This is what I’d been dreaming about for a long time so I flew myself over to England and slept in the attic of the movie set and shot the behind the scenes for the film! I got to spend time talking to the director, cinematographer, producers, actors and all the amazing people who were working on the movie. For me it was a film school and a really exciting opportunity to see how a movie was made from start to finish!

I continued working on lots of different feature films making the behind the scenes videos. I’d then ask the people I met from these films if they’d like to work on my short films and amazingly they all said yes unless they were busy or working on another movie!

Stills shot on the set of the film short, Modern Man.

I then made a number of short films while here in England, most recently a short film called Modern Man which has now been shown in over 100 cities around the world and has won a number of awards including ‘Best Comedy Short’ at the Isle of Man Film Festival! Here’s a bit more info about the film and how we made it: Modern Man

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I’ve now been in England for nearly five years, five years in October and I’m directing commercials and developing a number of really exciting projects! I’ve also just come back from Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan where I had the most incredible time shooting part of a feature documentary that will be out next year! Here’s a bit more info about the project: Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

After facing my fears I’ve now decided to make weekly video blogs as a way to share what I’m up to on my filmmaking adventures and hopefully inspire others along the way to realise that anything’s possible if you set your mind on it and you want it badly enough! If you’d like to stay up to date with the latest video blogs you can subscribe here: Sebastian Solberg Vlogs

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I live for creativity and adventure! I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to explore this incredible planet and make films about the amazing, people, animals and places in it and share these stories with the world!

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about how I got into filmmaking and my goals for the future. I’d love to hear more about your passions, how you got into it and what you hope to achieve over the next few years! It would also be great to know what you’d like me to talk about in future video blogs. Post in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading and speak soon! x

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Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

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I spent two weeks traveling around Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan where I filmed and interviewed Eagle Hunters from all around these two beautiful countries for a feature documentary that will be out next year!

Eagle Hunting is an ancient male tradition that goes back thousands of years where nomadic Kazakhs capture a young golden eagle from it’s nest and train the Eagle to hunt for rabbits, foxes and on occasion wolves! How insane is that!

Hunting most commonly takes places in the winter when temperatures drop to -40 degrees celsius and food supplies are at an all time low. The meat from the animals caught are used to feed the Eagle Hunters family and the fur is used for the Eagle Hunters coats to keep them warm!

Tracking down and filming the Eagle Hunters was an incredible adventure and we met so many wonderful people on the road! I was blown away by the kindness and generosity of the locals who would offer us tea and food wherever we went.

The landscape of these two countries, especially Kyrgyzstan was breathtaking and at times felt like I was on another planet!

We were moving around lots so we had to keep the camera equipment to a minimum. I was filming with the Sony AS7 and Canon lenses using a Metabones converter. I also took the drone out there. It was a lot of fun having the opportunity to fly it in remote villages and capture these dramatic landscapes from perspectives that very few people have seen before. A lot of the locals were very excited to see the drone in action and would often come up to us to investigate what it was.

I’ll be posting more about the film closer to it’s release. For now here are a few behind the scenes photos from the trip, enjoy:

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Filming with Drones

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Drones will and are already revolutionising filmmaking, allowing filmmakers to achieve jaw dropping, cinematic results that have previously only been available to Hollywood productions!

I’ve been working with drones on and off for a few years now but at the end of last year I decided to take the leap and buy one of my own and I haven’t looked back! If you’re wanting to get high-production value shots for your next film project and you’re looking at using a drone here are my top ten tips on how to get that money shot safely:

1) If it’s your first time flying make sure you practice in a field far away from people, cars and houses. It’s all about muscle memory, fly on a daily basis for a few months in different locations before using it on set. Practice, practice, practice.

2) Depending on where you’re flying check the rules, do a quick Google. For example you’re not allowed to fly a drone in London unless you have a permit. But you can fly over the parliament buildings in Budapest no problem. As this is a new technology lots of countries are still catching up and don’t have any drone rules. Always use common sense when flying.

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3) The best results are produced when flying the drone slowly with long nice fluid movements. Get close to an object and slowly rise above it to reveal the amazing vistas in front of you.

4) Never fly above crowds, it’s illegal and very dangerous.

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5) Make sure you don’t fly above 400 feet (122 metres) or near airports, the last thing you want to be doing is crashing into a plane.

6) The drone really shines when you can get shots that aren’t possible with a helicopter. For example when I was shooting in Scotland I got a shot of the drone flying through a castle window and it looks amazing. Be creative and try and get shots that nobody has seen before.

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7) Experiment with the settings on your camera that you’ve attached to the drone and see what results it produces. The more you can understand about this technology the better equipped you’ll be as every shoot is different and may require a different look. For example if you film at 30 frames per second and then slow it down and convert it to 25 or 24 frames per second in post and the footage will have an almost dream like feel to it.

8) Plan each shot before you take off. Each battery on a drone lasts about 15 minutes so you want to maximise flight time. Like any shoot the more you plan the better the results will be (keep spare batteries to hand too).

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9) This is an obvious one but always check the weather conditions before flying the drone. Drones are pretty good in wind but if it’s super windy or raining and you don’t feel comfortable flying the drone wait till the wind has calmed down or the rain has stopped. It can be unsafe to fly in high winds and more than likely the footage will be unusable.

10) If you want to produce something amazing it’s got to start with a great idea. Always put the shots and story before the tools. Audiences want to see people, stories and experiences that they connect with on an emotional level. As filmmakers we create content that entertains, moves and inspires people. Drone technology won’t turn you into a great filmmaker but it will enhance your skills as a story teller and if used well will make your work shine.

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If you’re thinking about getting a drone I would highly recommend the DJI Phantom 2 with a H4-3D Gimbal which takes a GoPro Hero 4 Black. For the price and performance it’s currently the best on the market. GoPro have also announced they’re making a drone which I imagine will be very good, so keep an eye out for that!

I originally wrote this article for Chris Jone’s blog, his site is a gold mine for filmmakers. Make sure you check it out: Chris Jones Blog

What are your thoughts on drones and using them to make films?

If there’s any other filmmaking & photography tips and tricks you’d like me to talk about in future blog posts let me know in the comment bar below – speak soon!

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A Winter Wonderland

Over the Christmas break I flew to Norway for a week to spend time with family and celebrate Xmas Norwegian style! This usually involves a lot of wine and spirits – although I don’t drink so I stuck to the water. It also involves a lot of delicious food, tobogganing, snow ball fights and time around the fire contemplating life.

I wanted to share my love of Norway with everyone so when I wasn’t eating good food or enjoying the warm comforts of the fire I was outside in -15ºC (5ºF)  filming and capturing what Norway means to me. It was a lot of fun to make this video and I also had the chance to use my new drone, the DJI Phantom 2 to get some epic aerial shots.

Here are a few photos from my time in Norway, enjoy:

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Richmond Park

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Richmond Park, it’s the place I go to be re-energised, inspired and motivated. It’s where I feel most home when in London and I love exploring all it’s nooks and crannies and capturing it’s beauty so I can share it with others. When I first discovered it I couldn’t quite believe that it was situated in England, let alone London. It’s a slice of paradise and without it, I honestly don’t think I could live in London.

Nature is a hugely important part of my life and at times I really struggle living in a concrete jungle with the constant noise and over stimulus. Nature allows me to take a breathe and reminds me to appreciate the everyday miracles – big and small and to just love life!

Richmond Park was officially born in 1625 when Charles the first brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in central London and turned the area on the hill above Richmond into a park for the hunting of red and fallow deer. The park now contains over 600 deer, 144 bird species, 139 spider species, about 750 butterfly and moth species and over 1350 beetle species and a variety of other animals including rabbits, foxes and mice.

If you’re looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle of London I’d highly recommend taking a trip to this beautiful place, it will momentarily transport you to another world! It’s like going down the rabbit hole in ‘Alice in Wonderland’! It’s awesome!

Here are a few shots that I’ve taken while on my adventures in this amazing park:

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