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Budget Cinema – Using Gray Paper as a Backdrop

Ammon and the Blueforest crew show how they use gray paper as a backdrop for their video production set ups.

Versatility is everything

In this installment of Budget Cinema, Ammon is discussing the benefits of using a gray paper as a backdrop when filming. There are a couple of reasons why we use it we would like to share these tips with you. We will be going through the type and color of gray backdrop paper along with a few tips when setting it up. We will discuss why we enjoy using this for our backdrops as well. We will give our reasons why this gray backdrop is versatile. We will also touch on a lighting tip that looks great with the backdrop as well. It is a pretty simple setup and can really boost your production value.

Let’s get right into this!



The gray seamless backdrop paper we use is from the company Savage. We went with the ultra wide which is 107 inches in length. You can pick up this roll at any local photography store or order online at B&H Photo. The price is around $60 and if you do order online you might spend up to $20 more because of shipping. We recommend picking up at your local photography store if you can to make the total cost cheaper in the end. (If you are in Raleigh, North Carolina like us, you could try out Southeastern Camera).

Why gray?

The color of gray we have at the studio is labeled ‘Fashion gray’. The shade of gray is a mid-gray more on the brighter side of the tones of gray. The reason why we use a mid-gray is that we have the ability to control how dark or light the gray appears based on lights. Lights can make all the difference with this gray backdrop or any backdrop. If you have less light pointed at the gray backdrop you can make the mid-gray look darker. If you have more light pointed at the gray backdrop you can turn the light gray into an almost white. This is why Blueforest Studios uses the mid-gray for our backdrops. In the end, you don’t just have one color backdrop which is why we love the versatility with this setup. You have a wide range with only one backdrop which can save you time and money.


Laying out the backdrop

When we use the gray backdrop we do not mount it horizontally (top to bottom) because that does not allow us to use a full head-to-toe shot. This way we can also have more than one person in the frame and allows for more room when filming. What we did was set up a truss system which is something you could pick up at a DJ store. Then we will roll the backdrop vertically left to right instead of top to the floor. We made sure to unroll the backdrop slowly to prevent major wrinkles in the paper. When setting up the gray backdrop we tapped the backdrop to the wall and to the truss with gaffers tape so that it did not leave a sticky residue to the wall, truss, or backdrop.


Here’s where the fun begins

We used sandbags at the bottom to hold the backdrop down and we positioned lights to act as a hair light for our subject. The hair light gives more separation between the subject and the backdrop. The excess light spills onto the backdrop making the gray brighter. The finishing touch on this gray backdrop is the little fresnel style light we have directly behind the subject. We went from two hair lights that had some spill onto the backdrop to one direct hair light with no spill. The little light behind the subject is an Apurture Light Storm Mini. This little guy is extremely versatile and doesn’t take up much space and paired with the gray backdrop you can do a lot with it.


Light the Subject

The hero light is a circular light framing the subject with a hero look to it. With having less light spill onto the backdrop, the gray is now darker than before. We added a little hero light to accent the subject. The great thing about the hero light with the Light Storm Mini is that the light can be brightened and dimmed along with the circle being more direct/spot or more wide/flooded. The more flooded the light makes the effect of the hero light softer and less noticeable. This light is very small and versatile and was easy to hide for filming.



Be a hero

Use these tips to make your next interview stand out. Be a hero and show your versatility and knowledge of lighting a gray backdrop. I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Let us know what you learned and how you used these tips to improve your skills. If you want to learn other ways to be a hero, check out our blog about brand storytelling.

Blueforest Studios is a Raleigh, North Carolina Video Production company.

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Budget Cinema – Using an SSD with BMPCC4K

Ammon and Bryan show how to set up an SSD on the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.

We love using the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, and we found a simple way to mount a Solid State drive to the top of the camera. It stays out of the way and works when mounted to the Zhiyun Crane 2 (check out how to attach the follow focus to the Crane 2). In this installment of our Budget Cinema Series, we’ll show you what we use to set up the SSD and how easy it is to use it.


Houston We Have A Problem!

Have you ever been stuck in a situation where you need more storage on a card? Ammon and Bryan from Blueforest Studios discuss how to set up a Solid State Drive (SSD) to the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. We found this tip to be extremely helpful when filming with a larger hard drive, and we had to make a video about it!


What you will need is an SSD (we used a Samsung), Angelbird Cable (SATA to USB-C), Joby Cell Phone Holder, Camvate Superclamp, and of course the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. You can set this up in under 5 minutes and here is how we did just that.


We found that the ¼” – 20 thread fit with the bottom of the Canvey Superclamp. We then mounted the Joby Cell Phone Holder to the tightening ring and mounted that to the top of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.


Next, we slid the Samsung SSD into the phone holder with the SATA side pointing out to the left of the camera (lens away).


Plug in the Angelbird Cable from SSD to Pocket Cinema camera and there you go!

Ready to roll

We found that this method was the most inexpensive and reliable method for us. The SSD does not take up too much viewing area above the camera. When you turn on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K the SSD will show up just like it would if you had an SD card in the spot instead. Let us know if you have a different setup. Let us know how you connect larger drives to your Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. And check out some of the stuff we film on the BMPCC4K and other fun toys!

Blueforest Studios is a Raleigh, North Carolina Video Production company.

beach cart loading

Budget Cinema – Ammon’s Favorite Piece of Gear

Ammon talks about his favorite piece of gear, and it only costs about 60 bucks!

Gimme Gear!

Ammon is the creative director here at Blueforest Studios, and over his career he’s bought lots of gear. We love our toys here, but we also are always trying to stay in our budget. We work with all kinds of companies, and they all are trying to stay in budget (especially non-profits). So, we are always looking for the best tools for the lowest price. And that brings us to Ammon’s favorite piece of gear, the beach cart!


Wait, What?
You might be thinking, that can’t be his favorite piece of equipment. Blueforest Studios uses drones and sliders and cool cameras! And, you might be right. That stuff is really cool and fun. But, one thing that’s not fun is throwing your back out because you’ve been lugging equipment miles at a time on a 10 hours shoot. We do lots of medical videos, which includes walking all over large hospital campuses (like WakeMed right here in Raleigh, NC). And, we have to lug around all of our cool equipment. So, these carts are super handy.

Easy In, Easy Out

These carts are also super easy to setup and to pack up. Time is of the essence on busy shoot days, and being able to open the cart super quickly and load a bunch of stuff into it right away is a huge time saver. But, it also packs up really quickly. We usually just toss it on top of the equipment right before we leave. Last thing in and first thing out of the van.


Use What’s Around You

So, the lesson is that sometimes the best piece of equipment isn’t actually designed for video production. Sometimes it’s made for going out to the beach and getting away.


Let us know what pieces of equipment you use that are super cheap and useful!

Blueforest Studios is a Raleigh, North Carolina Video Production company.

crane 2 follow focus

Budget Cinema – Setting up the Follow Focus on the Zhiyun Crane 2

Blake and Bryan show you how to set up the follow focus on the Zhiyun Crane 2

Blake and Bryan back again with another installment of the Budget Cinema Series from Blueforest Studios. In this video, they are walking through the installation process of the follow focus for the Zhiyun Crane 2. We’ve had the Crane 2 for a while now, but we recently added the follow focus. And it opens up a lot more options for great shots. We love it! (Despite Blake’s feeling of hatred to Bryan…)


Right out of the box!

When you open up the box for the Zhiyun Crane Follow Focus you will see the motor, a power cable to power the motor from the Zhiyun crane, two follow focus gear rings that will go onto the focus ring of the lens, components for the rod which mounts the motor to the gimbal, and a small Allen wrench.

Step 1

Mounting the rod to the gimbal. There is a threaded hole where the mount for the rod will be placed on the left facing side of the camera will be mounted. This then allowed the rod to be tightened into the gimbal. You will need to use the small Allen wrench to tighten the mount onto the gimbal.

Step 2

Next, you can thread the rod into the mount. Make sure to tighten down the mount and rod as tight as you can so that when tightening the motor onto the rod nothing becomes lose or slips. We used the Allen wrench to tighten the rod as much as we could onto the mount.

Step 3

Add the follow focus cable onto the focus ring of the lens you will be using with the gimbal. Make sure it is nice and snug and grips the focus ring well. There are little teeth on the cable that will fit into the clamp on the one end of the cable. It helps if the camera is already mounted onto the gimbal.


Step 4

Time to mount the motor onto the rod. Loosen the clamp of the motor to enable it to slide easily onto the motor. Heads up if you loosen the clamp too much the whole clamp could come off and you don’t want to lose or break that. Slide the motor on and line the teeth of the motor with the teeth of the follow focus cable. You can test if the teeth are gripping by putting the lens in manual focus mode and twisting the lens by hand and watching the interlocking teeth move simultaneously.


Step 5

Last step. Giving the motor power. You will see a small hole where you will connect the power cable from the Zhiyun Crane 2 to the base of the motor. There is another connection where you can connect the motor to the camera. We find this way the easiest method. Make sure to rebalance the gimbal so that the added weight of the motor does not throw off the calibration of the Zhiyun Crane 2. The follow focus should start working immediately.


Diggity Done!

Congratulations you have successfully installed the follow focus to the Zhiyun Crane 2. You can now pull focus from below the camera on the dial of the Zhiyun Crane 2. If you enjoyed this video give us alike. If you have a Zhiyun Crane comment below what you like to film and if you found this blog post helpful. Check out more of the Budget Cinema Series and see some of the work we film on our fun toys!

Blueforest Studios is a Raleigh, North Carolina Video Production company.

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Budget Cinema – Replacing the Battery Door on BMPCC4K

Blake and Bryan show you how to replace a broken battery door on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. 

Tiny Problem

In this installment of Budget Cinema, Blake and Bryan from Blueforest Studios demonstrate how to fix a broken battery door on the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC4K). When Blueforest Studios first received the camera, the first thing we noticed was that the battery door was open as soon as we pulled it out of the box. Upon further investigation, we found out the latch was broken and would not stay closed. We reached out to Blackmagic Design, and the support was really helpful. They sent us a replacement battery door, and we wanted to make a little video showing you how to properly install the new battery door.


Take Off the Broken Door

To remove the broken battery door, there is a small black lever near the hinge of the battery door that needs to slide to release itself from the camera. You will need to slide the tiny lever away from the lens, so sliding the lever towards the LCD screen on the back of the BMPCC4K.


Put on the New Door

Putting the door on is just the reverse of taking the broken one off. You pull the tab out of the way, and place the new door into place. It should click into place when it is successfully installed. Then you are all set!


Ready to Film!

It is an easy fix, but we wanted to make sure that the instructions are as helpful and user-friendly as possible  If you find yourself in a similar situation, contact Blackmagic Design support. They were helpful, and they will get you a new battery door. Get back out there and continue filming great content.
Check out more of the Budget Cinema Series and see some of the work we film on our fun toys!

Blueforest Studios is a Raleigh, North Carolina Video Production company.

Ammon and Vann intro

Budget Cinema – A New Series

Ammon and Vann introduce the new Budget Cinema series from Blueforest Studios.

What is Budget Cinema?

In order to first talk about Budget Cinema, it’s important to have an understanding of what cinematic footage is. It doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. You can spend a million bucks on equipment and never get a single frame of cinematic footage. And likewise, you can take your iPhone and create a beautiful film (like Steven Soderbergh did in High Flying Bird).


What Will We Cover?

So in this video series, we will cover different ways to create cinematic footage on a budget. We’ll talk about cinematic shots in films and how they achieved the look. We’ll talk about some of our favorite pieces of equipment. Some of the tools we use to get the shots we love.


Tutorials and Reviews

We will also do tutorials and reviews of equipment we have used. We’ve bought lots of budget equipment. Some of it has been great, and some of it has been pretty awful. We’ll help you sort some of that out, and we’d love to hear from you about more equipment you’d like to hear more about.


Who is this for?

These videos are for anyone who is interested in making cinematic looking footage on a budget. Independent filmmakers, marketers, or just video lovers. At Blueforest Studios, we create lots of videos in different areas, medical, technology, non-profit (and we always focus on the brand story), but these tips will apply to more than just that.

Stick around for the rest of the series, and let us know what you’d like us to talk about in future episodes!

Blueforest Studios is a Raleigh, North Carolina Video Production company.