Podcast 239 : Manfrotto Video Fluid Heads with Really Right Stuff Plates

Podcast 239 : Manfrotto Video Fluid Heads with Really Right Stuff Plates

I recently figured out how to mount my cameras and lenses fitted with Really Right Stuff plates, to my Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head, and today share my secrets with you. The video below is really all you need to watch, but I also recorded an audio section for those that cannot get to the blog to watch the video.

I’d been waiting for a company to come out with a fluid head that uses a standard Arca-Swiss dovetail plate, like the ones Really Right Stuff make, so that we can just drop our DSLRs straight onto the fluid head. As of April 2010 though, I’m not aware of any companies that make these. There’s also the problem that most video fluid heads have no way to mount with the mounting plate sideways, the orientation of the plate when fitted to the camera body, as opposed to a lens tripod ring, and video heads also don’t usually have a way to flip the camera on its side, for portrait mode either.

Anyway, I gave it some thought, and bought an extra quick release clamp for the Manfrotto head, and with a couple of orders for some new brackets etc. from Really Right Stuff, I’m now pretty happy with how my lenses and cameras can be fitted to my new Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head. If you have been trying to do this yourself, do watch the video.

To begin with, video heads have a quick release plate that is made to mount length-ways, along the bottom of the video camera. This means that the orientation is the same as that of lens plates when fitted to the bottom of a tripod ring, such as those that you see on the 70-200mm and longer lenses. This means that the only thing you have to overcome is the difference in format between the Arca-Swiss style plates, and the manufacturer’s plate on the video head.

When you use shorter lenses though, that don’t have the tripod rings, you will need to mount the camera directly to the tripod, with a plate fitted to the bottom of the camera. Because these run sideways across the width of the camera though, the camera would be facing sideways on the video head, unless you introduce something to rotate the camera 90 degrees, to make it face the front again.

This is where the 80mm LR clamp from Really Right Stuff comes in. The quick release plate on Manfrotto 519 fluid head comes with both a 1/4″ and a 3/8″ screw, and it just so happens that the B2 LLR II, or 80mm quick release clamp from Really Right Stuff also comes with a 1/4″ and a 3/8″ screw thread. So you simply screw both of the screws into the base of the 80mm clamp, and you have a new quick release clamp that slides into the top of the Manfrotto fluid head, and you can mount all of your lens plates from RRS directly into that. Brilliant!

But what about the body plates, when you aren’t using lenses with tripod rings? In preparation for this, when I bought my fluid head, I ordered an extra Manfrotto 501PL Sliding Quick Release Plate, and a second 80mm quick release clamp from Really Right Stuff. This time, I just used the 3/8″ screw, and screwed that tightly into the center screw thread on the RRS 80mm clamp. There is probably a little more chance of the plate turning than when using two screws, but the screws have a groove for a coin, and could be easily retightened in the field, unless you were out and about with any money at all that is. The top of the Manfrotto quick release plate is rubberized too, so I doubt that it will turn easily if you tighten it up enough to begin with.

Now what you have is a second plate that you can use to mount your camera body plates directly too, and the camera will face forwards. How do you flip the camera sideways though, to go to portrait mode? This is where another ingenious invention from Really Right Stuff comes in. The L-Bracket. These are metal L shaped brackets, as you might imagine, and they fit to the bottom of your camera body, screwing into the tripod screw thread, and they extend along the base of the camera, and up the left side, and they have an Arca-Swiss standard plate on the bottom and the side. This means you can just release the quick release clamp with the lever, flip the camera itself up on its side, and you are now in portrait mode.

This means that I can now take out just my video tripod, and I don’t have to take a second tripod with a ball-head, or just the ball head and change the tripod head out in the field. Don’t get me wrong, for still, my Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball-head is still my favourite. This is an engineering work of art, and I have never used a ball-head that locks my camera into place as firmly as the BH-55. But, if I’m going to be walking far from the car, and there’s a chance that I’ll be shooting video, I’ll probably opt for the video tripod, which is a new 5 series Gitzo, and the Manfrotto 519 fluid head, and I’ll still now be able to mount my cameras and lenses directly to the 519 head, without taking my plates off, and mounting the Manfrotto quick release plates, and I can quickly go sideways, or vertical into portrait mode, and shoot my still as well.

In fact, there’s probably even a place for vertical video, as I hear that’s becoming more popular now for use in TV billboards, and the Really Right Stuff L-Brackets will make it very easy to do this too.

In case you missed it, I released my first short movie last week, shot with this new rig, and that was available on my blog and on Vimeo, and I’ll put links to those in the show notes for you to check out. It was really just a practice session, as I tried to get used to panning around with the new 519 head, but I quite liked the results, so have been proud to share that with folks over the last week.

I’ll also put links to some of the key pieces of gear into the show-notes too, but the Really Right Stuff L-Brackets and lens plates are specific to your camera or lenses, so you’ll need to search for the right one in their store at reallyrightstuff.com. If you already use RRS plates like I did, then hopefully this will be a relatively inexpensive way to get the best of both the video and still photography worlds.

UPDATE 2010/06/19:

Today I received notice from listener Wayne Smith, from Manitoba, Canada, letting me know that Kirk have released a clamp with a turning head that does exactly what I am doing with the Really Right Stuff quick release clamp and Manfrotto plate. This is great news, although I wish there was a quick release lever version.I’ll probably wait for that now that I’m set with my current gear, but this certainly is a better option.

Anyway, here’s a link, courtesy of Wayne, so take a look if you are interested.


Thanks for letting us know about this Wayne!

Podcast show-notes:

See the full sized video on Vimeo here: http://vimeo.com/11002725

Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head: http://bit.ly/mbp519fh

Manfrotto 501PL Sliding Quick Release Plate: http://bit.ly/m501pl

Gitzo GT5541LS Systematic 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs: http://bit.ly/bOvmcB

Mounting the 519 head on Gitzo legs requires a Gitzo GS5320V75 75mm Bowl Adapter: http://bit.ly/cVm2UO

Really Right Stuff 80mm Quick Release Clamp. Search for “B2 LLR II” at: http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/

Music: Studies In Ether, by Andrew Aversa – Recording Licensed from the UniqueTracks Production Music Library Inc.


Download the Enhanced Podcast M4A files directly.

Podcast 238 : Meguro River Sakura (My First Short Movie!)

Podcast 238 : Meguro River Sakura (My First Short Movie!)

Here’s my first short movie “Meguro River Sakura” as this week’s Podcast episode, along with just a little bit of background information on the project.

The Podcast stream and iTunes will contain only the iPod/iPhone optimized version. You can view the full sized version below, or on YouTube. It’s High Definition video too, so if you select “Full Screen” or hit the full screen button, the video will expand to fill your screen. Turn up the sound too, then sit back and enjoy.

This first short movie started out as practice using my new Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head. I didn’t want to just point my camera at any old subject and waft it around to get used to the tension etc. of the head, so I decided to give myself a project. As the cherry blossom (sakura) was in full bloom last weekend, I decided to shoot enough footage to make a story out of it.

I started from a distance, where you can see people gathered and looking, photographing something from a bridge. The next shot is a little closer, and we can see the traffic of the busy road between me and the people gathered on the bridge. Then I pan across to reveal the cherry blossom. The music starts, and we get another 7 minutes or so of imagery from the afternoon.

I ensured that I got wider shots, long lens shots. Shots of the various ways in which people enjoy the Sakura. I was very lucky too. People turned up on jet-bikes and in boats. There was a group of “salary men” having a hanami, or cherry blossom viewing party, and a lady in a kimono, among other things.

I imagined that I wanted to try to capture people leaving and going home as the ending, but as the afternoon progressed, I realized that if I held on for another few hours, I’d be able to shoot the red lanterns that would illuminate as it got dark, and a few shots of these from various angles could become my closing scene.

On the actual shooting, the Fluid Head took a bit of getting used to, and I was also pulling focus myself, without the aid of any additional equipment on the lens. I did use a Zacuto Z-Finder DSLR Optical Viewfinder to help me see the focus better on the LCD screen. This works great.

I shot about 22GB of video over six hours, and used up two fully charged 1D Mark IV batteries. I edited the video down to 8:29 minutes in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4.

The resulting short movie may not be Star Wars, but I think it all came together pretty well for what was essentially my first bit of practice with video, other than shooting what I call “moving stills”, which are 15-30 second clips while I’m shooting stills, that I intend to embed in still photography slide-shows at some point. On my Hokkaido workshop this year though, one of the participants showed me how to pan with a large thick elastic band around the lens, and I realized just how much a little bit of movement of the camera helped to improve video footage. It was because of this that I decided I really needed to figure out how to fit my cameras and bodies fitted with Really Right Stuff lens plates to a fluid head, like the Manfrotto 519.

I was hoping that some company would come up with a good solution, like a fluid head with Arca-Swiss standard dove-tail plate compatibility, but these are still not available as of April 10, 2010, and there was no information on how to rig this available on the Web either. At least not that I could find. So, I finally spend the time to figure out what I needed to use the Manfrotto 519 fluid head with my Really Right Stuff lens plates, and it works a treat. I’m very happy with my new set up. I can now use all of my lenses and bodies fitted with RRS plates with the Manfrotto 519 now, with the help of a couple of additional parts. I’ll be following up with what you need to do this yourself in the coming week.

Podcast show-notes:

Music created and produced by UniqueTracks.


Download the Enhanced Podcast M4A files directly.

Podcast 227 : X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Review (Video)

Podcast 227 : X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Review (Video)

Today I’m going to take you through some of the basic operations of the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport.

With the preparation for my Snow Monkeys and Hokkaido Workshops, I really didn’t have time to prepare for a Podcast this week, but I had planned on talking about my new X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, which I have fallen head over heals in love with! Having prepared screen shots and everything, I figured it was probably going to take longer to prepare an audio Podcast and accompanying blog post with the screenshots, than it would take for me to just create a video and show you it all in real-time.

Here is the video. I’ll try to upload an iTunes and maybe also an iPhone version before I leave for the workshops, but for now, this is it. Don’t forget you can click the little full-screen icon to the right in the toolbar to view the video in full-screen mode.

You can also get an iPhone optimized version of this video in iTunes, or download it here.

I’ve also just bought an X-Rite ColorMunki Photo, which I’ll also be reviewing soon.

If you are thinking of buying one yourself, you can pick up an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport from B&H.

You can also buy the X-Rite ColorMunki Photo kit here.

Podcast 215 : Soft Proofing for Best Print Results

Podcast 215 : Soft Proofing for Best Print Results

This week I have created a video Podcast. It is also be available as an here for those that prefer only to listen.

I do suggest trying to watch the video when at a computer though, to actually see what I got up to in Lightroom and when soft-proofing Photoshop CS4.

If you have any problems watching the video here, download the file and watch it directly from your PC.

There is also an iPhone optimized version and an audio only MP3 version that you can download with links at the bottom of this post and from iTunes.

Here are the notes I made when planning, which are kind of a transcript, but I had no time to read this at the same time as operating my PC while recording.

Basically I explain about a project that I’m working on to create the first set of three folios that I will be making available for sale in the coming weeks, and this let me to research and start to use soft-proofing in Photoshop CS4 to get the prints perfect.

The first thing I did before I started soft-proofing was print all 12 images, 4 per sheet on 3 sheets of paper. This is to see how they look without soft proofing, and for the Flowerscapes folio none of them looked good enough to not soft-proof. Many looked good, and some had areas that just didn’t look right.

Following my paper tests that I discussed episodes 192 and 193, I had basically decided to create my folios on Harman GLOSS FB Al paper, and I will be using the Harman Gloss for my The Colours of Japan folio. When I first started to soft-proof the Flowerscapes folio images, I started with Harman Gloss again, but there were a couple of images that I just couldn’t get a to print how I wanted. I also really like the Hahnemühle Museum Etching and Photo Rag papers, and because I have to order the 8.5 x 11″ paper from the states anyway, I decided to try the 310gsm Hahnemühle Photo Rag Bright White paper. Basically I scrapped all of my Harman Gloss soft-proofs and switched to Hahnemühle Photo Rag for the Flowerscapes folio. Because the Photo Rag paper is much heavier though, this means that I had to remove two images, but I’m not too worried about that. I want each folio to be as good as it can be, and if it means using different paper and adjusting accordingly, so be it.

I am far from being an expert at this soft-proofing game, but having done this a lot in recent weeks I figured I’d try to do a video episode this week to share what I’ve learned with you in the hope that it will help you too. Note that I am still relying on just increasing the Exposure by about 0.15 to 0.18 of a stop in Lightroom for general prints. A lot of the time this is fine, as long as you are using the manufacturers profile for your paper and printer combination. As I say though, sometimes it just isn’t quite as good as you’d like, and this is where soft-proofing can help.

Before I jumped in and soft-proofed each print, I printed out my selection for the folio on 8.5 x 11″ paper, with four images on each page, just to get an idea of how close they were. I was hoping that some would be good enough to not have to be soft-proofed, but that wasn’t the case most of the time. From The Colours of Japan folio only one image escaped soft-proofing, and all of the Flowerscapes folio images required soft-proofing.

I normally work directly on the RAW files in Lightroom unless there is a reason to jump into Photoshop or any other application, but as I now knew that I was going to soft-proof, I just went ahead and made a copy of each image in a new directory, and then opened each of these in Photoshop to work on. After opening in Photoshop, I create a duplicate by selecting Duplicate from the Image menu. Right here I add “Soft Proofed#1” to the file name, to save doing that later when I save the image. I add the #1, because most prints take a couple of tweaks to get right, and you don’t want to over-write your original, or you’ll have nothing to go back to if you don’t improve it with your tweaks.

Then from the Arrange Documents pull-down, select to show two documents at once, either horizontally or vertically, depending on the aspect ratio of your image, or the important elements of the image that you want to concentrate on.

Before you start your first soft-proof, select View, Proof Setup and then Custom. Under Device to Simulate, select your printer/paper combination profile. I’m going to be proofing for the Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper printed with my Canon Pixus Pro 9500, so I select that profile from the list. For the rendering intent, select Perceptual, and make sure the Black Point Compensation is turned on. I also select Simulate Paper Color from the Display Options section, and this turns the Simulate Black Ink option on by default. You can save the settings to make it easier to reload or switch profiles later. To load a soft-proofing profile setting, just click the Load button, and locate your settings file.

Once you have the profile selected, to toggle soft-proofing on and off, just hit the CTRL Y, or Command Y on the Mac, probably. You can see the difference between the two images already, and the basic idea is to get the images to look as similar as possible. For this image (Cosmos Rhapsody) I only had to adjust the Levels, so let’s create a Levels Adjustment Layer, by selecting Levels from the Adjustment Layer pull-down.

I find that most prints can be made to work by Adjusting the Levels. Some need some Hue/Saturation adjustments as well. One of the prints that I had the most trouble with was my photo of Mount Fuji, that I called Drama through a Letterbox. This required a lot of Color Balance tweaking too. I end up adjusting the Midtones by moving the Cyan/Red slider to +55, the Magenta/Green slider to +23 and the Yellow/Blue slider to -15. I also moved the Magenta/Green slider to +12 in the shadows, because the dark sky was too magenta when I did my test prints. This helped to balance the dark sky and subtle tones in the foregrounds mountains that are almost but not quite black.

As I say, there is always a need to continue to do test prints. This isn’t an exact science, as even with soft-proofing as a tool, I’ve found that it isn’t always as easy as just getting things to look exactly the same on screen. You really have to do test prints, and tweak the soft-proofs based on the prints you output. I had to do most prints at least twice and some took three times or more. Anyway, once you have made your changes, you need to save your images. I gave the file a name earlier, so it’s just a case of telling Photoshop where to put it. Because I opened the image from my Soft Proofs folder, I can just hit the save button, and Photoshop will put my copy into that directory. Because I work on multiple images at once, I wait until I’ve done a few, and then synchronize the folder in Lightroom to pick up the new files. As Lightroom get’s cleverer with editing copies, it does will automatically pick up the new file for you if you just hit save.

Remember that you have to do this for every printer and paper combination that you print to. If you change your printer, you’ll have to do this again. If you want to change to a different paper, you’ll have to do this again. Because of that, I don’t think that I’ll be giving up my simple Exposure Adjustment for general printing, but now that I’ve figured out Soft-Proofing, I will certainly keep it in mind as I do future prints. Whenever something isn’t as good as I’d like it to be, I’ll be falling back on this technology, and with much less trepidation than I have in the past. If you haven’t used soft-proofing yourself, I suggest you give it a try yourself too. It can really help to get your prints that little bit better when only the best will do.

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NOTE: There were problems with the original iPhone optimized version of this video podcast. If you are currently stuck with a copy of the video in iTunes that will not sync to your phone, please right click and delete the episode, and select to remove it from your hard drive if asked. Then right click the feed and select “Show all available episodes”. This will show the grayed out link to the iPhone optimized video again, which you can download and that should sync to your iPhone without problems.