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Technical

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Canon Explorer Ulla Lohmann is taking her EOS 5D Mark III DSLR around the world with BMW Motorrad to follow in the tyre tracks of five riders, each of whom has won a place on the ultimate adventure with the R 1200 GS motorcycle. Ulla is shooting all five riding adventures – which take place across five continents – and will be blogging on CPN along with Basti Hofmann and filmmaker Romain de l’Ecotais about the experience of men, machines and megapixels.

Showcase


Romain de l’Ecotais films road movies with EOS 5D Mark III

March 2013

Canon Explorer Ulla Lohmann, her husband Basti Hofmann and filmmaker Romain de l’Ecotais are currently working with BMW Motorrad on a series of five worldwide motorcycling adventures designed to highlight the best-selling BMW R 1200 GS dual sport bike. In the second in a series of CPN blogs, Romain de l’Ecotais discusses his adventures in New Zealand filming with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III from the back of a motorbike…

© Basti Hofmann/BMW Motorrad

Ulla Lohmann and Roman de l’Ecotais stand side by side as they film the New Zealand leg of the BMW Motorrad One World Tour. The silent shutter mode on Ulla’s EOS 5D Mark III came in useful when photographing so close to the filming.

My background is an independent filmmaker and before I took this assignment I was working in the corporate and commercial world, making films for organisations and small companies. When I got the call from BMW at first I thought: ‘great, another corporate job’, but little did I know what was about to happen...

I started making movies with the EOS 7D and moved to the EOS 5D Mark III very recently. In fact, the BMW assignment was my first real-life test! I had only bought it [the camera] a week before I left for New Zealand. Straightaway I could see that I was going to have a lot of fun with it. The sensor is amazing and, being full-frame compared to the EOS 7D, the depth-of-field was so much better. Sometimes you have to have a change to raise the level of your work, and the EOS 5D Mark III came at just the right time.

The way a filmmaker works is very different from a stills photographer. Whereas Ulla looks for single images, I am always looking for ‘scenes’. And the equipment, for me, plays a very important part in this. I travel with a Steadicam rig and a portable ‘crane’ which fits in a backpack and folds out into a sort of long arm, like a see-saw – these two items allow me to film steadily with no shaking, and from different heights in a single smooth pan. I couldn’t have done the movie without these two things. Being a ‘road movie’ in the very basic sense, everything I take with me has to either fit on my back or in the panniers of the bike so I had to make sure that what I took I was actually going to use.

© Basti Hofmann/BMW Motorrad

Romain de l’Ecotais moves position in the evening light as he films the BMW Motorrad One World Tour in New Zealand.

The other piece of essential equipment was actually one of Ulla’s lenses. She let me use one of her lenses, the EF28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM, which was really superb because it meant that I could shoot all day almost without the need to change. For an assignment like this, that was a really good move – so thanks, Ulla!

My workflow on a trip like this was pretty stressful. New Zealand is a beautiful country with amazing light and we were shooting from the moment the sun rose to the moment it set, with very little time to relax. Whereas Ulla had to edit hundreds of images from a day’s shooting to then send to the agency in Germany to post-process, for me not only did I shoot the movies in the day but I edited them together late into the night. Sleep is for wimps!

So the way I work is this: I film onto CF and SD cards, import the movies into Final Cut Pro, and then produce a small edit after two hours work. All this for a one minute 30 seconds movie! I do this every day, and I am really pushing myself. If anyone had asked if I could do this I would immediately say ‘no’, but now I know I can do it.

© Roman de l’Ecotais/BMW Motorrad

Please click on the play button above to view Romain de l’Ecotais’ film documenting the BMW R 1200 GS on tour in New Zealand.

Challenges and discoveries

Because New Zealand was the first trip for me, I didn’t really know what was possible. I tried to work as quickly as I could during the day and shot lots of footage. Understanding the camera was easy – it’s really close to the EOS 7D, so there are a lot of similarities and one or two nice surprises. My biggest surprise was how it managed in low light, it was a big change for me and really impressive.

© Ulla Lohmann/BMW Motorrad

Romain de l’Ecotais was quick to praise the EOS 5D Mark III’s sensor for its low-light capability as this still image shot by Ulla Lohmann (of men shoveling coal into a ship in New Zealand during the BMW Motorrad One World Tour) shows.

I also loved to be able to plug my headphones into the camera and control sound. I didn’t even have to adjust levels manually for most of the time – the camera did a beautiful job with the levels and worked really well with the external microphone I had plugged in.

During the day I’d set the camera to ISO 100 because I really like to work in slow shutter speeds. I’d shoot at 1/30sec, which is the minimum filming speed for the camera, and then for special effects (going through water, for example) I would film at a higher shutter speed.

Like Ulla, I was filming on the back of a bike, which is the best way to film as I can get really close to the rider following me. I’d sit back-to-back with Eric [Romain’s rider] and have my monopod wedged into the bike chassis to steady the camera. I’ve known Eric for two years now and I trust him completely.

We’ve become a really close team during this assignment. Before working with BMW I had never met Ulla or Basti before. It is always a challenge to work with a photographer at the same time on a job but for me working with Ulla has been perfect – we all respect each other and we all make efforts to make life easy for one another. I am going to miss them when the final tour has ended. But for the meantime, let’s not think about that – let’s keep riding!

Romain de l’Ecotais’ kitbag for New Zealand

Cameras:
EOS 5D Mark III
EOS 7D

Lenses:
EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM
EF28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM
EF50mm f/1.4 USM

Audio:
Rode Videomic Pro microphone
Zoom H4N digital recorder
Sennheiser wireless system
Sennheiser HD headphones
2x windsocks for microphones

Accessories:
Z finder
Handholder
2x belt lens cases
MacBook Pro laptop
iPhone (used as a monitor for the GoPro using WiFi)
Manfrotto tripod with fluid head
Manfrotto monopod with ball & socket head
Manfrotto magic arm with clamps
Cobracrane backpacker (portable crane)
LCD monitor
Steadicam Merlin camera stabilizer
Reflector

Biography: Basti Hofmann

Basti Hofmann

Ulla Lohmann’s husband Basti Hofmann is shooting behind-the-scenes stills and video with a Canon EOS 7D and will be proving back up support for Ulla as well as a strong pair of arms! Responsible for logistics, he is part of a team of backroom ‘heroes’ who make these trips happen with minimal technical problems.



Biography: Roman de l’Ecotais

Roman de l’Ecotais

Romain de l'Ecotais is an independent filmmaker specialising in corporate and film documentaries. He has created films in a wide variety of situations, from the hot kitchens of Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx to Senegalese wrestlers in Africa. He is shooting the videos for the BMW Motorrad trips with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and will be blogging about his experiences on making movies in extreme conditions.



Biography: Ulla Lohmann

Ulla Lohmann

Ulla Lohmann is a German photojournalist and documentary filmmaker with a BSc degree in Natural Resource Management. She works freelance for clients including BMW, National Geographic, GEO, Stern View, the BBC, The New York Times and many others. She specialises in documenting the changing world of indigenous tribes and in photographing erupting volcanoes, and some of her photo stories have been exhibited at the Visa pour l’Image international festival of photojournalism.