DSLR Filmmaking


Armin Van Buuren Interview with DJ Beatstreet

DJ Beatstreet and I caught up with Armin Van Buuren recently.  Check it out below.

armin van buuren

Armin Van Buuren Interview

A few weeks ago Armin Van Buuren came into town and smashed Festival Pier in Philadelphia. I luckily had the chance to meet up with him before his set and talk about his new album “Intense” and about some of the new musical trends in EDM. From a musical standpoint Armin tells us the stories behind some of his songs as well as his music making process.

Enjoy and keep on Trancing!

karate test

Lebanon Family Karate 2013 Black Belt Test

A promotional video for Lebanon Family Karate.

Kim Studio Karate is oddly linked to my career as a filmmaker.  The first paid work I ever had was a series of instructional videos produced for them, shot on my little Sony Handicam.  Later, I captured a black belt promotion test way back in 2009.  And here I am again, this time with a 5DM3 and another promotion test.

karate test

This was a Mother’s Day Present.  My mom shows up every now and then.  See if you can spot her.

year of the snake

Year of the Snake

year of the snakeFor the past three years, I’ve been trying to make it to Philadelphia’s Chinatown to see the New Year’s parade.  The last time I was there was 2009, armed with only a Canon Powershot.  Ever since, I’ve been eager to get back with some more substantial equipment.  I finally got my chance this year – The Year of The Snake.

I put this piece together in about thirty hours.  It was partly out of the fear of the content becoming irrelevant and partly because I wanted to see if I could do it.  A project like this, with deadlines that only I subscribe to, could easily stretch out for nine months to a year if I let it.  I review, I tinker, and before I know it, three months have passed.  The piece has lost its relevance and I’m left with something that has no timetable at all.

No Fear in the Year of the Snake

I used to work in retail, where the Christmas/New Year’s holiday break was basically nonexistent.  Because of this, I always made it a point to take off around the Lunar New Year, calling that my “holiday”.  In a way, this is when my 2013 begins.

I have a strong dislike for snakes, which is to say they make me want to climb on a table a curl up into a ball.  As such, the year of the snake is not something that I should look forward to.  In fact, it’s something that I should run away from, or try to violently stab.

But, I’ve got a lot to look forward to.  2012 was simultaneously one of the hardest and most rewarding years of my life, and I don’t intend for 2013 to be anything less.  We’ll see what the Year of the Snake holds.

belize boat

Belize Part One

Reefs, Kayaks and the Best Beer in Belize

belize boat

Last spring, I had the opportunity to travel to Belize on a holiday, with a National Geographic Adventures tour.

The ten day trip was divided into two parts: exploring Belize’s islands and navigating the rainforest.  This video is Part One, our time among the cayes and islands.  Part Two will be forthcoming, and will focus on the trek through Belize’s rainforest and our personal guided investigation of some of the most spectacular ruins in the world.

While on the islands, we had a chance to sit down and talk to the locals, the Garifuna.  They offer a fascinating perspective on the world.  Our chef, Rachade, describes it by simply saying “On the island, you can be who you are.”

I brought two cameras to Belize: my 7D and a brand new GoPro Hero2.  There are some stumbling blocks with the GoPro; poor underwater focusing and oversharpening degrade the images – but not to an unusable degree.  This was long before the Protune firmware that elevated it to a true B camera, but the GoPro still holds its own.  Sometimes we get so caught up in tech specs, we forget that the subject makes the shot.

belize belikin gopro

I thought it would be a welcome change from the cold, windy weather we’ve been having.  So put on your Tilley, grab a Belikin and take a moment away from the dead of winter.

christmas tree

Christmas Timelapse

Merry Christmas, guys!  Have a great holiday and I’ll talk to you soon!

Christmas Timelapse from Magic Rabbit Productions on Vimeo.



Django Django Studio Session for KEXP

Django Django Studio Session

I had the opportunity to help out Electric Tweed shoot Django Django’s studio session for KEXP 90.3 last month.  It was an awesome experience, to travel to NYC for a day; literally a “shoot and run” scenario.django django

Django Django dropped by KEXP’s studio in Manhattan during the US leg of their tour for a quick studio session and interview.  We rolled into the studio, set up as quick as we could and shot three songs and the interview with the UK musicians.  Everything was shot on DSLR’s; a 5DM3, my 7D and a 60D.

I always love the atmosphere of a recording studio.  The creative energy is palpable; everyone there is excited to be there and driven to create a fantastic product.  It’s an easy place to excel creatively no matter what you’re doing, as I think this video showcases.

Lauren Slusher was also on hand to shoot stills of the session.  You can check them out here.

DJANGO MASTER1115-HD 1080p from ELECTRIC TWEED Productions on Vimeo.

For more about Django Django.

For more about Electric Tweed.


Screen shot 2012-10-17 at 10.46.31 AM

Krewella Interview with DJ Beatstreet

Recently I shot an interview with Krewella for DJ Beatstreet.  Here is the video and and the full audio from the interview.

Krewella on the Play Hard Tour

“A few weeks ago I had a chance to catch up with hard hitting trio known as Krewella as they stopped through Philly. We had chance to talk about the group’s future endeavors, love for whiskey, the progression of electronic music and an album in the works. Magic Rabbit Productions was in the building to film the whole event Below is the full video interview for your viewing pleasure and I also attached the full audio link if you want to repost, share, blog or anything else your little heart desires…”

more from Krewella on DJ Beatstreet’s website

chuck taylor music video

Music Video – Chuck Taylor by Lanice London

I was asked to produce a music video for Lanice London for her new track Chuck Taylor.  We decided on an urban walkaround/day in the life style video.

Because the song is about how she wears her Chucks for everything, I decided to use slider shots of her shoes to tie the chorus together.  I recently acquired a slider and was eager to test it out.

Shooting the Music Video

The first day of shooting took place at Milk Boy Studios and was the perfect way to get started.  We hung in the background, capturing Lanice and Rich Quick working on Lanice’s new album, Murphy’s Law.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in a recording studio, and it was great to dive into the environment again.  We really fed off the creative energy that night and had a wonderful time.

The next day was our “story day”, when we filmed the plotted scenes for the music video.  We shot the opening of the video and the barber shop scenes in North Philadelphia.  Once again we kept to the background, our intention was just to capture the moments, rather than create a false environment.  We wanted the reality.

Later that day we travelled to the Delaware riverfront and filmed several passes of the song, along with some slow motion B – roll.  The Ben Franklin Bridge in the background is an awesome landmark; it’s iconically Philadelphia and forms a spectacular backdrop to the epic waterfront shots.

Day three started on the roof of a parking garage just north of City Hall.  From there we travelled around the area, shooting full and half passes of the song.  Lanice was very enthusiastic and seemed to feed off the energy of the people around her.  More than once, we were stopped by pedestrians interested in who we were, what we were doing and when they could see the finished product.

chuck taylor music video

We finished in underground near the Walnut/Locust stop for the Broad Street line.  It’s become one of my favorite places; wide open with pillars and beautiful texture.  Neil Burger probably agrees.

Just outside, we shot a quick interview for the “making of the music video” doc, and wrapped production.

Post Production

Everything was edited in Premiere and graded in After Effects.  Because we used natural light for most of the video, I found myself shooting at high ISO’s, especially the first day in the studio.  Magic Bullet Denoiser helps, as does a small amount of digital film grain added in After Effects.

I tended toward a cooler look for this video, with crunchy contrast.  I found cautiously applying large radius unsharp masks helped to make the urban landscape pop.

Behind the Scenes

Samuel Hall was on set, providing B Camera shots and capturing the action for this exclusive, behind – the – scenes documentary.

Additionally, Elizabeth was capturing stills of the shoot.

For more information about Lanice, head over to lanicelondon.com and follow her on twitter: @lanicelondon.



Turn Your Mobile Devices into Movie Tools

Both my iPhone and iPad have a folder called “Movie Tools”; apps I turn to almost every time I’m on set.  For filmmakers, these things are wonderful.  An iPad and iPhone are the perfect accompaniment to a filmmaker’s camera bag.  Here are the apps that I own, and consider most valuable.

1. DSLR Slate – $9.99

DSLR Slate app

One of the most expensive apps on the list, but the most important.  If you’re shooting with a DSLR in a narrative setting, you’re probably recording audio separately.  This app functions like a professional slate, giving you sync points for your audio and video.  Even if you’re recording audio in camera, it’s a great way to log your camera settings.  We used it recently for a green screen shot, to allow us to exactly duplicate the camera settings  and placement.

2. DOF Calculator – Free

DOF Calc app

A basic, free app that allows you to set camera, lens, aperture and distance to subject and will give you your depth of field and near and far focusing distances.

3. Final Draft Reader – $9.99

Final Draft Reader app

The quickest and easiest way to read, reference and annotate Final Draft scripts on the go.  An invaluable tool for anyone who’s working on a scripted project.

4. Telepromt+ – $14.99

Teleprompt+ app

Pricy, but awesome.  A robust, full featured teleprompter app for your iPad.  Imports from Dropbox and Google Docs, allows for editing within the app and full customization of text speed and color.  Protip – keep it close to the camera lens so your subject doesn’t have to move their eyes away too much.

5. iHandy Level – Free

iHandy Level app

A traditional – looking bubble level.  Perfect for determining the angle of a camera when doing green screen and effects work.

6. Flashlight – Free

Flashlight app

This is more than just a way to find the batteries you dropped behind the couch – aim it at the lens to create off camera flares or throw a little additional fill light on a subject’s face in a dark room.

7. Timecard Pro – $.99

Timecard app

Without question, this is the app I use the most.  Assign different rates to different projects, monitor the money you’re earning and email out a spreadsheet when you’re ready to invoice.  An invaluable tool for anyone doing contract work.

What apps do you find useful during a shoot?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Rooftop Rig

Why I Don’t Hate DSLR’s

I was recently having a conversation with another shooter about the state of cameras. He shoots with a 5DMII and is pretty transparent in his dislike for it.  In fact, he’s waiting on his shipment confirmation for his brand new Black Magic Cinema camera, and is very excited to get the footage into DaVinci Resolve.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ll definitely be out shooting with him as soon as it arrives.  But, I don’t share his hatred of DSLR’s.  In fact, they’ve kind of endeared themselves to me. Because, like a problem dog, they are a challenge.


I’m at my most creative when the odds are against me, and I think most filmmakers are the same way.  At it’s most basic core, filmmaking isn’t about cameras and lights and mics.  It’s about using the tools you have to translate a page of words or a theoretical idea into a moving picture.  Filmmaking, really good filmmaking, comes out of adversity.

In this world of affordable 2.5k, I still kind of enjoy my low bitrate, H.264 compressed, rolling shutter, crappy audio recording DSLR monstrosity.  The thing is, as a community, we’ve addressed all these issues and found ways to work around them.  They are not perfect cameras, not by a long shot.  But we’ve taken them and owned them.  We’ve made them work for us and do their jobs as storytelling machines.

What I love about my DSLR is that it makes me want to create.  I want to run up against it’s faults and overcome them to tell a story.  I’ve never owned a camera that forced me to be this creative before.

And some day, we’ll look back as filmmakers and say “I was part of the generation that changed the game.” How cool is that?

Guns for Justice 2: The Revenging was produced by Samuel Hall and me.  It was also shot on a 7D, cut on FCP7, graded in AE CS5 and scored in Garageband and produced in less than 24 hours.  Which is pretty good for a DSLR.