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Shooting video with the Nikon D4

Feb 13

In Equipment, Videos at 6:41am

Hey guys, Drew here to go over a bit of the tech/production side of the  Little Freddie and D4 BTS videos, the gear we used, and hopefully clear up a few questions.

First and foremost, this was definitely an amazing assignment for all of us at the studio to have been a part of.  Having started working for Joe after the D3 campaign, I was excited at even the thought of being involved with a project like the D4 campaign.

Faces of Ground Zero was our first serious video effort at the studio.  Though the setups were fairly basic, it was a proving ground of sorts for ourselves.  We essentially had no clue what we were getting into, but came out with a final product that was effective, and we were happy with…

When Nikon Japan approached us about shooting a chunk of the D4 campaign, producing a multimedia piece, and shooting BTS video, we definitely had a few drinks. Initially, and right up until the last day on location, we were 50/50 stoked and nervous.  As the “tech guy” in the studio, it often comes down to me to figure out the video side of things, and this was most definitely something we needed to hit out of the park.

A huge thanks goes out to Manfrotto, and specifically to Marco Tortato for introducing us to, and supplying us with a whole new realm of video supports we used on this shoot.

We also turned to Victor Ha and Brian Hynes at Cinevate for insight and inspiration.  After a few hour-long phone calls, and a bunch of tutorial videos later, we more or less knew what gear we needed to pull this off.  Cinevate was cool enough to send us a bunch of amazing gear to play with.

I can’t begin to emphasize the importance of pre-production- finding a location, building a story-line, storyboarding, etc.  Lynn came across a plantation home just outside of New Orleans, which sounded amazing- but being that our timeline was extremely tight, we didn’t actually see the location, or even meet Little Freddie til the day before we started shooting. *Luckily*, things came together as we had hoped- the location was simply beautiful, and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect subject.

To build the general storyline, we did a 30-45 min. interview with Little Freddie, just before the primary video shoot- which we shot with three cameras (see above).  The remaining video was shot entirety within the next 5-7 hours.  We had him play 3 songs on the porch, which Grippi and I shot with two cameras, and then worked on tons of environmental shots and B-roll.

Throughout the whole process, we strived to keep as simple of a gear pack and setup as possible.  Here’s a basic rundown of the essential gear we used for the videos, and timeline examples of how/where we used them in the Little Freddie video:

Tripods/Sliders/Shoulder Rigs

– Manfrotto 504HD Fluid Video Head w/546B Aluminum Tripod (heavy duty tripod with an amazing head…incredibly smooth horizontal and vertical pans.  i.e. 0:27)

– Manfrotto 561BHDV Video Monopod w/ Fluid Head (great for small spaces, quick repositioning of shots, and fairly simple tilts and zoome. i.e. 2:00, 2:14)

Cinevate Simplis Pro Shoulder Rig (ideal for smooth, run & gun shooting, and can easily pop on and off a tripod. i.e. 0:40, 0:51)

Cinevate Atlas 10 35″ Camera Slider (fairly compact slider that was the perfect choice when there wasn’t much room or time to set up. i.e. 0:18)

Cinevate Atlas 30 58″ Camera Slider (much longer, incredibly smooth slider, which we used the majority of the time.  i.e. 0:37, 1:42- raised on stands about 8 feet, 2:04)

Audio Gear

– Sennheiser EW100 G3 Wireless Lavalier Microphone System (for the interview, we double-lavved Freddie, each on a different channel)

– Rode NTG-2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone (for the interviews, the Rode played the roll of a 3rd mic, and for Freddie playing, this was the only mic used)

– Zoom H4n Mobile 4-Track Recorder (we recorded all songs using the Rode mic, plugged into the Zoom, and as backup audio during the interview)

Video Lighting

– Westcott Spiderlite TD6 Continuous Output Halogen/Fluorescent Light (used for sit-down interview footage shot of Joe)

– Westcott 24″x32″ Softbox for Continuous Light

– Westcott 36″x48″ Softbox for Continuous Light

– Litepanels MicroPro LED Dimmable 5600K Video Light (used on, or just off-camera during BTS shooting at the circus and snake shoots)

External Monitors

Manhattan LCD 8.9″ HD Pro Monitor (this played an essential roll in composing shots, especially when doing very high or low slides or pans)

Overall, it was a fairly basic gear pack, and being that this is a new world for us, was perfect for a few reasons.  It allowed us to work quickly and efficiently, and it meant that we could put our energy into shooting, and not lugging out tons of grip for every shot.

We’re pretty happy with the outcome, and are looking forward to playing a lot more with the D4 and D800 in the very near future. And many thanks to Mike Corrado at Nikon for shooting the behind the scenes pix above, and being our tech advisor for this whole new adventure.

Mark Jones says:

on February 13, 2012 at 7:08 am

Drew, you know you and the guys are living the dream, don’t you? Fabulous stuff as ever and thanks for sharing. However, this will cost me a whole bunch of money to buy new toys… cheers Mark

Will G says:

on February 13, 2012 at 7:09 am

Basic!? I would hate to see what your full setup consists of! :p
Looks (and sounds) amazing though!

Moe says:

on February 13, 2012 at 9:06 am

A great blog entry.
2 questions:
Will you guys ever be shoting 24fps again? :)
Which D800 will you use? The D800 or the D800E?

Melanie says:

on February 13, 2012 at 9:14 am

This is awesome! Thanks for sharing your setup and the behind-the-scenes details. I am looking forward to seeing a woman behind-the-scenes as part of your crew someday :)

ron hiner says:

on February 13, 2012 at 9:14 am

Thanks Joe —
So you came back with a whole bunch of video clips, and 4 tracks of audio… how did you get from there to a completed product? It’s the post production that scares me about shooting video.

Rene Dietrich says:

on February 13, 2012 at 9:40 am

It is really a new realm with these advances in video that they are incorporating into still cameras. I saw your videos and its really amazing the quality you can achieve and the possibilities.

But to be honest to my feelings, seeing Joe doing video reminded me when Eddie Van Halen took on the keyboards…

Nakean says:

on February 13, 2012 at 10:30 am

Thanks so much for your info on how you shot these amazing videos! The camera is, obviously, a true beauty when it comes to moving pictures. It’s awesome to see people with your creativity just entering the world of video as a lot of us are just now dipping our toes in the same pond.
For those of us who don’t have much of a budget or the great opportunity to borrow such great gear as you were able to, what would you say the most important first pieces of equipment should be?
For my self, I have just purchased an inexpensive 7″ monitor and tripod dolly(still trying to find the best DIY DSLR slider)I have a fluid head, and a decent lens for my 7D all mounted atop a decent Manfroto tripod. What would you say my next piece of equipment should be?
Thanks again and keep all the great info and shots coming!

Mary Pencheff says:

on February 13, 2012 at 11:12 am

Beautiful job! What software was needed/would you recommend for the editing and how difficult is it for a still photographer to edit a video like this?

Andrew says:

on February 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I’d also be very interested in what software was used.


Jim says:

on February 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Way over my head. Back to my Brownie.

Jensen says:

on February 14, 2012 at 3:03 am

I find the video to be professionally made though I believe the editing can be better. The cut to Freddie King as he stands in the middle of the dirt road is a bit jarring. It is easy to get lost in the adulation of your online fans. But if you are extremely pleased with this video, then I am happy for you.

Casey G - CPG says:

on February 14, 2012 at 6:38 am

Would be interested in seeing what software was used to edit, *final cut pro* or *adobe Premier Pro*?

Also time scale on how long it took to edit the Little Freddie King video?

Great work, Shows/Opens lots of doors in Video and portability.


gary smith says:

on February 14, 2012 at 9:42 am

Whoa, awesome information, very interesting stuff. One problem, Joe really needs to get some sun on those legs, wow. Standing-by for the critique on the D800/D800e.

James says:

on February 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Hey Joe & McNally crew….nice to finally see at least a brief mention of the D800. Care to share your impressions? :)

David G. says:

on February 14, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Wow thanks for sharing the behind the scenes stuff. Those D4’s just look so amazing – wow!

Byron says:

on February 15, 2012 at 11:19 am

Joe and Drew,

It was interesting to see the capabilities of the new D4, on the still and video perspectives. I didn’t consider using the video features of DSLRs until I saw what you guys made but now I would reconsider it. Thanks for providing the list of equipments you guys used in producing the videos…it’s always great information to know what goes on behind the scenes on the production side. You guys did a fantastic job, as always.

Michael Kormos says:

on February 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Great BTS video guys! It’s refreshing to see you branch out like this. But seeing poor Joe sitting on a cardboard box. Someone get him that director’s chair pronto!

Ken Toney says:

on February 17, 2012 at 12:14 am

Awesome Drew and Joe! My D4 should be here soon and we ordered an 800 and 800E to compare the two!

Robby says:

on February 17, 2012 at 4:51 am

It looks realy nice.

Bob says:

on February 17, 2012 at 5:51 am


Mark says:

on February 19, 2012 at 11:38 am

Joe: I ask this for your professional opinion and hoping to see an answer. Know how busy you are that may take a long while. My big question is WHY? Why have a dlsr that also does movies. The rigging, the awkward hand holding, and weight seems to make it an undesirable movie rig. Why not use a digital movie camera? Don’t get me wrong if I had 6800.00 I would get a D4 today however I don’t.
I look at the photos you shot of your digital movie making and say “the is a lot of stuff”
Be safe and thanks for doing what you do.

Joe McNally says:

on February 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Hey Mark…that’s a great question. The why of all of this. I can see the applicability of the D4 to be sure in the arena of the photojournalist. So much pressure now for video and still coverage. It’s going to be a serious workhorse camera for the press shooter, the fashion crowd, and wedding folks. Newspaper shooters in particular, have to seamlessly switch now from style of coverage to style of coverage. Now, with D4 audio, you can really, really do that. I think for the shooter who has to “do it all” (and many of us do now) it’s a lot of machine and it covers a lot of bases. If you’re going to be making big time movies on the Red and machines like that (which I know little about) you might choose to go with different styles of cameras, to be sure. But as a potent force in your bag, as a camera that can literally handle just about anything, there’s a powerful argument for a camera like this. I have two on order, and that’s going to be it for me. No more budget. (Also ordered D800. Going to be selling my D3S cameras to help finance all this updating.) So one of the attractions is the fact that underneath the hood of a great still camera lies another capability. I don’t have the studio range, or the knowledge, really, to go off shooting high end movie style cameras. This camera gets me into the arena. All the potential it’s got is letting me learn a bunch of new stuff. Hope this makes sense…joe

Mark says:

on February 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Thanks Joe your response explained a lot.
Thanks for what you do and be safe.

Larry Kane says:

on March 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Mr. Joe McNally:
First my grandson and my wife just sent a week in NY. The first book he brought back from NY is your book on 911 and all I can say is what a book. Thank you taking the time to put the book out.
My question is about the D4, how do you have your D4 set up for sports? When I copied my D3s settings by flash card they would not NOT copy to the D4?
Just need a good base to start from.

Thank you,
Larry Kane
Joliet, IL

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