June 11th, 2015

Three Reasons to Go 4K

Sponsored by Samsung

Display resolutions don’t change often, but when they do, the change is momentous. When the world switched from standard to high definition, the revolution transformed both the media and electronics industries.

A similar revolution is underway again, as the world starts its trek from high definition to 4K or “ultra-high definition.”

As with any change of this sort, early adopters face a number of challenges before taking the plunge, but those who do strike early can be rewarded. Here are three reasons why now is the best time to invest in 4K.


Photo © Andrew Putschoegl

It’s the future

The consensus among market research firms is that 4K-television adoption is a matter of “when” not “if”—and the “when” starts just about now. The Consumer Electronics Association projects that 4 million 4K TVs will be shipped this year in the United States alone, up 208 percent from 2014. Worldwide, the trend looks similarly bullish. Futuresource Consulting pegs the global market for 4K TVs at 100 million in just three years, representing more than a third of every TV sold.

As those screens find their way into homes, the race is on to fill them with content that fully takes advantage of all that resolution. It’s why streaming services like Amazon and Netflix are rapidly building up their library of 4K videos, from original programs to feature films and documentaries. YouTube and Vimeo have also rolled out support for 4K video as well.

Whether your video is destined to be viewed on desktop monitors or TVs, creating a 4K “master” of your video is an investment in the future of your work, viewable on the highest quality displays ever built for the world’s living rooms.

It makes your HD video better

Many industries, such as wedding videography, don’t necessarily need to produce a 4K deliverable today. Even if you a client only requires an HD file, it can still make sense to shoot in 4K. All those extra pixels give you ample room to crop or reframe your video to improve image stabilization or remove extraneous detail without sacrificing resolution. You can pan across your 4K video using post-production software without rapidly running out of pixels.

Depending on how you’re shooting, a 4K-video file may also capture more than just additional pixels, but more color information as well. Armed with this additional color information, you can down-sample a 4K file to HD with improved color detail.

Screen Grabs Are Awesome


Enhance! Zooming in on a 4K screen grab / Photo © Andrew Putschoegl

Shooting in 4K doesn’t just mean high-quality video; it can enhance your still photography, too. Isolating still images from HD video produces images that are a measly 1920×1080 pixels in size or about 2 megapixels—barely enough for a decent print.

A 4K still frame, on the other hand, is a chunkier file, either at 4096×2160 or 3840×2160 pixels in size, depending on your setting. That’s equivalent to an 8-megapixel image, ample resolution to print by.

This doesn’t just mean that stills from your video production will be higher quality (though they will be), it also means you can use 4K video as a “burst mode on steroids” for moving subjects to capture images that your camera might otherwise miss. It’s not necessarily applicable in every situation of course, but it opens up new creative possibilities that aren’t available to you when shooting in high def.

Samsung and PDN recently launched the 4K Filmmaking Challenge, giving motion shooters the opportunity to shoot a short 4K film. One grand-prize winner will receive $2,500, an NX1 and a profile in a print PDN/Samsung supplement. Check it out at 4kfilmmakingchallenge.com

October 2nd, 2014

“How Come This Stuff Isn’t Animated?” The Story of Mr. GIF

Pop star Miley Cyrus and the rapper 2 Chainz backstage at Jeremy Scott's S/S 2015 show at New York fashion week. © Mr. GIF

Pop star Miley Cyrus and the rapper 2 Chainz backstage at Jeremy Scott’s S/S 2015 show at New York fashion week. © Mr. GIF for Milk Made

Mr. GIF wants to animate the Internet. The creative duo has made photographing and illustrating GIFs—the 27-year-old bitmap image format that supports crude animation—their calling card. They’re the team that Marc Ecko, Evian and Transamerica tap when they need to quickly make strong, easily shareable moving images for whatever they’re selling. In just a few short years, they evolved from a pair of daydreaming MTV plebes to shooting Miley Cyrus and 2Chainz backstage at fashion week. To them, still images that move were obviously taylor-made for the Internet and its thousands of screens. But can you really make a career of making GIFs?

The duo, Jimmy Repeat and Mark Portillo, are college buddies. They studied advertising design together at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Their studies were almost irrelevant—Portillo didn’t even finish—but the renowned art and design school is where the two would meet. Less than seven years later, they would quit their jobs to make GIFs—the full-time for clients like and others. Even an insurance company.

Having gone their separate ways after school, Repeat and Portillo reconnected under the umbrella of Viacom, at MTV’s “Geek” vertical, which covers cartoons, comics and videogames. Doing research for work, they devoured the same comics, but were struck by the format’s limitations.

Maria Sharapova for Evian at the U.S. Open © Mr. GIF

Maria Sharapova for Evian at the U.S. Open © Mr. GIF

“We were like, ‘How come this stuff isn’t animated yet?’” Portillo remembers. “We read Akira and we were like, “If this background was giving me seizures, it would be so much better.’”

So they dreamed up a GIF comic over smoke breaks outside Viacom’s Times Square HQ, and quickly learned why animation was so expensive (it’s a lot of work!). They abandoned the book idea, throwing the frames they’d finished up on Tumblr. But they were having fun. Illustrations gave way to photos, and a thought: “How is the GIF better than the JPEG?”

“We saw the potential,” Repeat says. “Everywhere you look, there’s a screen.”

As relative neophytes—Repeat especially—they were intrigued by the technology of photography. They experimented with odd cameras well-suited to the medium; at first, digital models like the Fujifilm FinePix Real3D W3, but they would later become obsessed with the aesthetics of analog. Toy cameras like Lomography’s Pop 9 (a nine-lens camera that makes nine exposures at once) and ActionSampler (four lenses, four consecutive frames), even 3D film cameras like the Nimslo 3D. The multi-exposure cameras helped streamline their workflow—helpful, as they had to develop and scan each frame to animate their GIFs. They found creative ways to merge digital and analog, using a DSLR to make time-lapse clips of instant film as it developed. They have a lot of cameras.

Marc Ecko, founder of Eckō Enterprises, Mr. GIF’s first big client. © Mr. GIF

They spent their nights and weekends making GIFs and posting them to Tumblr for free. It wasn’t long before Mark Ecko came calling (tweeting, actually) with their first paid gig, animating his upcoming TEDx presentation. They powered through it in three days. “I think we made 200-300 GIFs in one night,” Portillo says. “It was intense.”

“That was the beginning of the end for our day jobs,” Repeat says. “Like, ‘Oh, this is what a good client’s like?” Ecko dug the work, and they started to get more gigs. They GIF’d the U.S. Open for Evian, and fashion week for Tumblr. By 2013, they had quit MTV, and would soon score a huge project: a year-long Tumblr promoting the San Francisco-based insurance company Transamerica’s “Transform Tomorrow” campaign.

The pair convinced Transamerica to send them across the country making GIFs of America’s cities. They flew drones over rooftop gardens in Detroit, Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota and, of course, San Francisco and the iconic Transamerica building. They booked a room at a luxury hotel with the perfect view for a 24-hour time-lapse of the skyline. Transamerica was skeptical of the format—until they saw the popularity of the first clip they posted. Now, when you go to www.transformtomorrow.com, their fancy hotel view of San Francisco graces the background, the current time of day reflected by the time of day in the 24-hour time-lapse they made.

A time-lapse GIF of the San Francisco skyline, that Mr. GIF made for Transamerica, prominently featuring their iconic headquarters. © Mr. GIF

A time-lapse GIF of the San Francisco skyline, that Mr. GIF made for Transamerica, prominently featuring their iconic headquarters. © Mr. GIF

Now certified pros, they’re still almost instinctively inventive with their resources. When a client that was supposed to fly them out and put them up in Austin, TX, to shoot a SXSW panel told them that they had to pay their own way, they got their drive down to Texas sponsored. Their friends at Tumblr would connect them with Transamerica, but it was the GIFs they shot on the trip to Austin that would help them land the gig. When a job for St. Ives took them to Hawaii, they stayed an extra week and shot Honolulu for Transamerica. Since they like to shoot film (which is expensive to buy and process), rather than go to a professional processing house, they trained the local CVS employees how to prep and cut their negatives, adding a healthy tip for their trouble.

One thing they learned early on is that new work leads to new work. They needed to show clients they could make the work, so before they had paid work to show, they just did it for free, and for fun. The fun shows up in the work, and it works.

August 12th, 2013

PDN Video Pick: The Art of Portrait Photography

“The Art of Portrait Photography” is the latest episode for the PBS online video series Off Book, which focuses on people who contribute to different artistic mediums as well as Internet culture. In the eight-minute episode, four photographers talk about different aspects of shooting portrait photography: Matt Hoyle discusses The History of Portraiture; Bex Finch discusses Personal Storytelling; Jamie Diamond discusses Challenging the Language of Portraits; and Ethan Levitas discusses the Relationship of Photographer and Subject.

July 19th, 2013

MōVi Stabilizers To Ship August 15th, Freefly Announces

movi-rig-in-action-videoIn April, when  photographer Vincent Laforet unveiled a new, handheld camera stabilization system at NAB, it created lots of buzz. Called MōVi and produced by Freefly Systems, the device is a “digital 3-axis gyro-stabilized handheld camera gimbal,” which Laforet promised would revolutionize “your way of thinking about camera movement.” We saw what the handheld rig could do for tracking shots through some pretty outstanding videos Laforet filmed with the MōVi.

Now, Freefly has announced that the MōVI M10 will start shipping on August 15th, 2013 on a first-come-first-served basis to customers who have pre-ordered units.  New customers can visit www.freeflysystems.com for more information and place their MōVI M10 pre­orders now at www.movirig.com (and in the near future via select dealers worldwide). The M10 will set you back $15,000 and a $2,500 deposit is required upon pre-ordering. However, in some good news, the smaller DSLR sized MōVi M5 has been priced at $5,000. This is well under the $7,500 estimate that was announced at NAB and will be welcome news to professional photographers, videographers, and small budget filmmakers. The MōVi M5 will ship in Q4 of 2013 and you can pre-order it with a $500 deposit.

In case you haven’t seen it, below is a “behind the scenes” video of Vincent Laforet’s “MōVi” film that made everyone so excited. Take special note of the taxi shot that they show at 2:50 or so and how it is done by a cameraman on rollerblades. You can see more of these videos and read about their creation on Vincent’s blog, blog.vincentlaforet.com. The post where he announces the MōVi and posts the first films can be found right here.

Price: $15,000/$5000


June 20th, 2013

Instagram Demonstrates Powerful Video Stabilization – on a Smartphone

shaky-videoProfessional photographers don’t often turn to a smartphone to shoot video. But in the new video offering announced by Instagram today is technology that could eventually be a great addition to the toolkit.

A new video option for the photo sharing site can literally take jumpy, hand-held video and turn it into something watchable. Technology like that could someday be used to help rescue video footage that might otherwise be given up for loss because of a shaky hand.

Here’s a clip of the announcement about the new technology, taken from today’s live stream of the Instagram press event.

To watch the replay of the live streaming of the whole Facebook/Instagram event, beginning to end, go this Live Stream page.

–Erik Sherman

June 10th, 2013

PDN Video Pick: Miller Mobley’s Tips for Landing Clients

Photographer Miller Mobley: How to Build Relationships with Clients from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

Miller Mobley built a successful business as an editorial and commercial photographer in his native Alabama, then gave it up to start all over again in New York City. In this video produced by PDN, he discusses how he landed jobs in both places, and the importance of showing new work to potential clients every time he approaches them. To learn more about how Mobley launched and then re-launched his career, see our story, “Miller Mobley’s Transition,” at PDNonline.com.

July 6th, 2012

Video Pick: Making a Leica M9-P ‘Edition Hermès’ Camera

This summer, as part of its ongoing collaboration with the French fashion house Hermès, Leica announced a special “Hermès Edition” of the M9-P camera. Above is a video that shows the care and attention to detail that goes into making one of the limited-edition cameras.

The calfskin leather that’s wrapped around the camera’s body was supplied by Hermès and various details of the camera, including the top and base plates, the shutter speed dial, the multifunction wheel and the shutter release, were redesigned by Walter de’Silva. The camera comes in two sets: the first includes a Leica Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH. lens; the second includes Leica Summicron-M 28 mm f/2 ASPH., Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH. and APO-Summicron-M 90 mm f/2 ASPH. lenses as well as an Hermès camera bag and a book of photos by Jean-Louis Dumas.

Dumas, the chairman and artistic director of Hermès from 1978 to 2006, was a well-known photography buff who was rarely without his Leica camera. He invested in the camera maker and decided that the Madison Avenue Hermès store in New York City should have a photo gallery on its top floor. To learn more about the retailer’s unique exhibition space, read our interview with curator Cory Jacobs.

April 6th, 2012

PDN Video Pick: Craig Cutler’s “Words”

This week, commercial photographer Craig Cutler finished his CC52 project. Cutler, who we profiled in our May issue (see “Craig Cutler Just Keeps Shooting“), committed to creating one new personal work a week for an entire year. The resulting CC52 project has a mix of still life, portrait and motion work featuring everything from pickled eggs and crackers to famous people’s shoes and nude models wearing team mascot costume heads. Go to craigcutler.com to see all 52 works and click on the video below to watch “Words,” his final work from the project.

February 16th, 2011

PDN Video Pick: Bugs

Looking through the latest entries to the PDN Photo Annual, we came across this colorful and amusing video. Titled simply, “Bugs!,” it was directed, produced and colored by Ryan Enn Hughes.  Watch that caterpillar go.

This is the first year that the PDN Photo Annual has included a video category; the deadline to enter is midnight, February 17.

You can see more of Hughes’s videos on his Vimeo page.