My tools of the trade – on set and post

The list below are the things I can’t travel without – regardless of where or what I’m filming.

Tools I Always Have With Me In Post Production

1. Final Cut Pro X

FCPX_logo_1It took a long time for me to transition back to final cut pro, but I’m really glad I did. The the speed and overall interface really compliment my editing style. I don’t think I would switch back to adobe any time soon.

2. Harddrive

I always have two hard-drives with me. One that I work off of and one that is used as my backup in case anything should go wrong. I backup at the end of everyday and make sure to never keep both drives in the same place.

3. Plugins

light leaksWhen I’m throwing together a rough edit or a sample cut for my clients I like to make them look at polished as possible. This is where a series of plugins really come in handy. I use plural eyes to really get the sound right. Magic bullet looks to really define my look. I also use light leaks- this helps transition my edit points and really add subtle depth to my work. Look at for examples of this.

Tools I Always Take With Me On Set

When travelling to different sets your camera kit is your most important items. What you decided to bring with you may make the difference between a good day on set and a bad one. My kit varies depending on the kind of shoot. If I’m filming a TVC, I’ll probably bring more practical bulbs, lights of my own and objects to hang in front of my lens (this all depends on the style, if course.) If I’m shooting a wedding I’m more focused on having the right lens, an extra camera and gear that will allow me to work long hours without a break – seriously, this means snacks and water.

1. Tripod/Monopod/Rig

Either one of these items comes with me. Sure, every now and again I’ll do a bit of handheld but it’s very rare. With my DSLR the smallest bumps and tilts are noticeable. A good tripod is so important, smooth looking pans and tilts will make a world of difference in the final product. There’s nothing worse than watching a film and noticing the cameraman’s movements – if we do our job right, we shouldn’t exist.

2. Wide angle lens.

I always, without fail, bring my Canon 16-35mm lens. This sucker has saved my life so many time. It’s a fast lens and it’s really wide. This allows me to shoot in tight, low light places efficiently.

3.  Batteries

I guess this is a given but I can’t tell you the number of time I’ve almost left without checking to make sure I had an extra couple batteries. Not only do I bring batteries, I make sure they’re charged. This involves having a labelled system in place to make sure I know which ones are charged. Oh, I bring the charger too… just in case.

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Tips For Capturing Unique Looking Shots

There are a number of ways to capture some fantastic looking images with your camera. The most basic ways to make sure you get good looking shots is to focus on composition and lighting. However, if you’re looking to add a bit more style into your work you can always try a few of the techniques listed below.

Tips For Unique Shots


You’ve probably be taught in the past about a three-light setup. That is – a key light, a fill light and a rim light. Although this is a great way to light your subjects, it can end up looking a bit dull and formulaic. Backlighting is a great way to showcase the silhouette of a subject. You can also try just using a rim light and a soft fill light if your subject is looking to dark.

Light Leaks and effects.

 Added light leaks and lens flares to your shots is a great way to add depth and colour to your compositions. There are a two main ways to get these effects: doing during film and doing in during post-production. While filming, trying pointing your lights directly into the angle of the camera. If you’re sneaky you can also point a flashlight into your lens from just outside a frame. I’ll discuss a tactic for getting nice light leaks in a future post. You can also do this in post-production by purchasing light leaks and adding them to your footage - is a good place to start. This method gives you a lot of flexibility to change the look of your footage after the fact. light leak

Telephoto Lenses.

 A shallow depth of field is a “go-to” cinematic effect. Being able to single out your subjects and blur your background give your images and photos a distinct look. One of the best ways to achieve this effect is to use a long lens. You may need a lot of space but in the right scenarios you can produce some amazing images.

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Tips For Getting Great Dance Shots

Getting a good dancer shot is not easy. We’ve all seen the iconic photography of a dance, in mid-flight, posing ever so eloquently. The good news is, it’s achievable but not without a little bit of practice. Whether you are talking photographs or making a video all the same rules apply.

How to get great looking videography and photography

Understanding the choreography

If you don’t know what’s coming up next you’ll never know when to press the shutter. Understanding the pace, and timing of a routine will certainly make or break your photo-shoot. Being able to count with the dancer as they move through there routine will allow you to time your shutter with your talent’s movements perfectly. Likewise, when making a video, knowing exactly where and when a dancer is going to move will allow you to adjust you camera positions are the right time, there’s nothing worse than looking through a view-finder and losing your dancer.

Shutter speed

light leaksThis doesn’t apply so much to film as it does to photography. Capturing a dancer clearly in mid-flight is going to require a very fast shutter speed – somewhere in the vicinity of 1/1000 of a second will do the trick. However, this means that you’re going to need more light. If you don’t have the light available, then you should consider boosting your ISO. Remember though, doing it will cause your picture to become noisier with digital “gak”.


As I mentioned above you need lots of light to capture a nice, crisp image of a dancer. If you’re inside, this can mean looking for lamps or even professional lighting equipment. However, if you’re outside on a nice, sunny day you’ll have all the light you need! This give you lots of opportunity to play around with your camera, framing and lens. I’ll cover some more techniques in future posts but one way to get cool looking Effects such as Light leaks, Flares and films burns is to detach your lens from the camera while filming. You can also do this after using products from sites such as I’ll have more on these cool digital effects in the future.


Have a long lens will compress and blur your background, leaving on the subject in focus. It will also flatten your image creating a more classical image of a dancer, almost as if it were drawn on the page.

Stay tuned for more tips and tricks for getting great looking shots.


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The Best Belly Dance Videos

Although it originated in the middle east, belly dancing has become a lot more westernised the last 10 years. Why? Because it’s a form of dance that focuses on hip movements so it’s hell-a sexy and reasonably easy to pick up. Get ready to shake your hips! We’ve put together our 4 favourite belly dancing videos! Enjoy.

1. Teaser Trailer – Ula Sport

In case you were completely confused about what belly dancing is, this short 40 second video will get you up to speed and in the mood! We love contrast between her dark clothing and the simple white studio backdrop.

Belly Dance from Ula Sport on Vimeo.

2. Belly Dance Mini Doc – Malin Dang

This great mini documentary does a great job at explaining the history of belly dancing and explores what that means for us modern belly dancing westerners. It is definitely a plug for ‘Fat Chance Belly Dance’ a small dance studio in San Francisco but we don’t mind! It’s well shot, highly interesting and fun.

ATS Belly Dance – Insight video from Malin Dang on Vimeo.


3. Tribal Fusion Live Performance – Paul Bajcar and Shirley Lam

There’s nothing quite like the buzz of a live performance and this one is definitely buzzing! Tribal Fusion is a new take on belly dancing that is basically a lot more modern but still carries some traditions such as the costumes and those moving hips! Some different camera angles would have been nice but the lighting, music and performance seem to do the trick anyway.

Tribal Fusion Belly Dancing from Paul Bajcar & Shirley Lam on Vimeo.


4. Another Short Documentary – Ben Jacob

Ok, I know we just watched a mini documentary but we promise this one will be worth it! It is narrated by Kathleen Crowley, an extremely talent seamstress who makes beautiful belly dancing costumes. We won’t give away the details but we will say her journey into this career is definitely unique and worth a watch. Beautifully shot and edited.

Vagabond Princess from Ben Jacob on Vimeo.

Thanks for checking out our 4 favorite belly dance videos! Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!


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Our Favourite Dance Movies

As fans of all dancing, we love a good dance film. The genre has gone through many changes from sweeping dance numbers aimed at trying to get the high school sweet-heart, to gritty one on one street-battles with nothing but pride on the line – the genre is ever changing.

Here are a few of our favourite dance films:

Step Up 2 The Streets (2008)
This is the sequel to the 2006 hit “step up”. The film follows a young girl on her quest to live the life of a street dancer. The film has exactly what you should expect from a big budget dance flick – professional dancers, elaborate set pieces and high energy dance numbers. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy and yes the story is a bit one dimensional but the pace, tone and even the speed of the dancing it definitely worth a watch. This film, and its predecessor, were instrumental for putting the dance film back on the map.

Stomp The Yard (2007)

There seems to be a trend in dance films. A troubled inner city teen tries to fit in a new school but can only communicate through dance. We get it, the formula works – Stomp The Yard is no different. A young teen moves cross country and is head-hunted to join a stomping dance crew. The film exceeds both rhythmically through both music and dance – and both complement a cinematic style not unlike ‘step up and step up 2′.

Billy Elliot (2000)

billy-elliotA young boy growing up in a broken home wants to become a dancer to the disdain of his working class father. Ballet over boxing is the question that Billy Elliot must face in the film set in north-eastern England during the 1984 coal miners’ strike. The family dynamic, intertwined with grim locations, and a muted colour pallet make this a fantastic dramatic film. What’s even better is that the dancing is fantastic as well. But really, do yourself a favour and watch this great British film. 


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