Gotham 7.5K The Scariest & Most Beautiful Flight of My Career

Flight over NYC?   Check

In a Helicopter with door off?  Check

At night?  Check

At 7,500 feet?  Wait… what?  

This was an incredible adventure – and to be honest self-imposed.  I’d always wanted to see NY from all the way up there.  Well we all catch a glimpse of this view when we land at JFK or LGA – but you can never make clean photos from an airplane’s window seat…  at least not looking down.    And when you’re in a helicopter: the vibrations make it very hard to photograph at night.

But with the right preparation, it finally worked this time:



Holiday Goodie Shopping Guide for your MōVI

IMG_3497I’ve been shooting a commercial for 2 weeks this pre-holiday season and I’ve really had a chance to put the MōVI through it’s paces once again.   We’ve been flying the MōVI handheld, on roller blades, running around,  on a jib, on a suction cup mounted to a cab, and on an RC car from Freefly Systems called a Tero.   What I can tell you is that I’ve finally got MY system down… it took me awhile but i’ve found my "perfect" formula if you will and I’m happy to share it with you below in the hopes that you fly your MōVIs with as much glee as I have been!  


Dancing MōVI from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

So here we go:

First, the Small things:


Freefly Lightweight HDMI Cable

HyperThin_HDMI_Cable-1_823d36fd-5526-4710-b7a7-67f45bbc1fd6_1024x1024Get a few of these…in fact you should have a few of this whether or not you own a MōVI and/or  for your C100 or your RED Dragon… I have 3-4 of them at all times… this is THE way to work with your cameras and wireless transmitters. 

FROM FREEFLY:   The Freefly Lighweight HDMI Cable (Type A – Type A) is designed to send an HDMI signal from the camera to a monitor on the MōVI’s top handlebar without the stiffness and weight of a traditional HDMI cable.

 Cable Length: 30 IN / 76.2 CM


The best cameras that I love for the MōVIs btw?   Any Canon C100, C300, C500 or RED Scarlet, Epic, Dragon.  

For RED Owners:  Slackline Film Ultra Flexible Premum RED Touch LCD Cable 

$325.00 LINK HERE 

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 6.23.29 PMIf you’re a RED owner, you’re likely going to want to make that camera as light as possible to shoot as long as possible and that’s going to mean removing the side handle.  That’s where this cable comes through:  you can not only use your LCD on your top hand with this cable and have the touch functionality to both record and playback ability to control your camera and see what you are shooting… but you now need to power one less monitor.…win.   I have two of these and swear by them.    The Slackline Film guys are shooters too and they’ve measure the perfect 36" lengths – these cables are perfectly made not to coil around the MōVI – I’ll never go back to shooting any other way.  

Freefly Battery to D-tap Connector

jst-dTAP_1024x1024Get a few of these if you’re planning on powering any accessories off of your Freefly batteries – such as follow focus units, wireless transmitters, receivers etc…  These are ultra lightweight and flexible silicone cable to adapt a Freefly Aux battery pack to a female d-tap connector and they are useful for powering any accessories that utilize a D-tap connector. But always be careful when using the Freefly Aux battery pack to power accessories as you don’t want to run them down too low or you’ll kill the batteries (as w/ any LIPO battery) ,

FROM FREEFLY: Freefly strongly advises users to use a cell alarm to ensure the battery is not discharged below 3V/cell, which can damage or destroy the battery.  


USB Mini B (male) to Mini B (male) cable

Micro_USB_Cable-2_1024x1024If powering off of LIPOs scares you (you may not want the risk of running your LIPOs too low) then use your USB power off of your monitors for example.   Use this Ultra lightweight and flexible USB mini B male to USB mini B male cable.  

FROM FREEFLY: This custom cable allows you to power your Paralinx or Teradek transmitter straight off the Mini USB port found on the smallHD DP4 field monitor.  Using this cable allows you to use 2 Canon LP-E6 Batteries to power both the smallHD DP4 and wireless transmitter.


MōVI ‘Ninja Star’ Adapter Plate

ninjaStar1_1024x1024I own 4 of these... I hand them out to grips on a shoot.   It allows me to mount my MōVI in overslung or underslung modes on JIBS, Cheesplates, sliders, car mounts… you name it… with the Toad in the Hole Quick Release mount (below).   This adapter plate allows for mounting the MōVI to a variety of accessories.  It is designed to replace the top handle of the MōVI and allow users to mount to Steadicam, Tripods, Jibs, Car Mounts, etc.

FROM FREEFLY:  The plate is lightweight 6061-T6 hard anodized aluminum with laser engraving that calls out mounting patterns and hole sizes.  The Ninja Star is optimized to provide the most mounting options possible while minimizing size and weight.  


Toad In The Hole Quick Release

$299.95 LINK

toadInTheHole-2a_1024x1024The Toad In The Hole Quick Release is a sleek, lightweight, low-profile quick release unit, which provides an easy mount and release solution for your MōVI. If there is one MUST HAVE accessory this is it…   

FROM FREEFLY: It allows the operator to remove the MōVI from the handle assembly and attach to any other method of filming carrier, such as a crane, jib, or car mount (with a Toad installed) in a matter of seconds.  Fiddling around with alignment is not required when engaging the Quick Release – just attach and rotate to the desired angle (from 0-360°) for shooting.  The Quick Release uses a clamp to secure the MōVI. This clamp, along with the secondary release button, are used to release the MōVI.

MōVI Rod Mount Adapter

Want to connect a follow focus unit or some other accessory onto your lens?   This adapter attaches to the end of the adjustable camera plate and allows for an ultra lightweight and low profile 15mm rod mount.

FROM FREEFLY: This will allow you to easily mount focus motors without adding unnecessary weight / complexity.  I "don’t leave home without it" as they say…

Freefly MōVI M5 Holiday Bundle w/ case

moviM5-transmitter_c2088bd9-2f8c-41ad-84f5-2e080551770d_1024x1024MōVI M5 – Digital 3-Axis Gyro-Stabilized Handheld Camera Stabilizer

So I may have skipped a few steps for those of you that don’t YET have a MōVI … here is the best way to start.   I’d get this over anything else out there.   It will last.  The accessories are best of breed.  It works.  It works.  It works.  Any questions?    This is PERFECT for the DLSR crowd and for the Canon C series cameras and most lightweight cine cameras out there…   Just be mindful of your total weight … as you go up in weight  – the MAX is 4.75 lb or 2.15kg of what you can have this guy "fly" or carry … and as you start to use heavier lenses and accessories, jump straight to the M15 in my opinion (below.)


Freefly MōVI M15

$11,995.00 LINK


MōVI M15 – Digital 3-Axis Gyro-Stabilized Handheld Camera Stabilizer


This is the MoVI that I use and trust my productions to.  Long term I think The MōVI M15 is the better investment if you know you will be using heavier lenses and follow focus and other accessories, it will grow with you as your needs grow.

FROM FREEFLY: It was designed for the most demanding cinema packages out there with no compromises made. Working with industry professionals, we created a system ready to work with large pro cameras like the Sony F55 and ARRI Alexa M.


freeflyMoVI-controller_1200x800_1024x1024MōVI Controller


The MōVI Controller is a professional grade remote system that allows the operator full control over Pan, Tilt, and Roll.  

Listent to most of you, it will appear to be nothing more than a "fancy looking" remote w / carbon fiber right?   I agree I thought so at first… but no:  it’s a FANTASTIC solution for a pro user.   It has power options for the monitor, wireless, follow focus, Iris control, zoom.   You can adjust almost every single feature you would with a tablet or laptop WITH this controller.   I love this so much that (it’s embarrassing to admit) I’ve used it WITHOUT A MOVI!  yes…  Because it the single most elegant way to walk around and see what someone else is shooting and either (optionally) pull focus and/or move the iris if you want to get fancy… I love this thing.  And it runs off the same batteries that I use on my Dragon.  So on Elantra set of batteries and I’m good to go w/ wireless, controller, focus, monitor etc.   Do you see why I’ve gotten SPOILED ROTTEN with this unit? 

FROM FREEFLY: Compatible with the MōVI M5 and M10, this controller provides telemetry from the MōVI and allows the user to access MōVI configuration menus to enable on the fly adjustment of key MōVI parameters. The MōVI Controller also simplifies the remote control station by providing power for an LCD monitor and wireless video system. One single battery on the MōVI Controller will power your controller, Monitor, wireless video system, and additional 5 or 12v accessories. Additionally the MōVI Controller will offer control of Focus, Iris, and Zoom motors in the future with the release of Freefly’s 3 channel FIZ system. 


Battery system: IDX E-7S LINK  $259/Bat approx $1800 w/ Slim Quad Charger

image_1024x1024This is by far THE SINGLE best battery system for the MōVI and now my go to system for the RED Dragon.  Why?   These are the most compact, lightweight and high performance batteries I’ve ever used on my Dragon.  Bar none.  I have 4.  I’m going to buy 4 more soon.  Any questions?   This is the PERFECT solution for the MōVI where size and weight are of primary importance.  2 of these are lighter than most of the competition’s single batteries.   

From IDX: The compact and lightweight ENDURA-7S has a capacity of 68Wh and features an integrated 3 step LED Power Indicator to display the battery capacity status. Economical and distinctive in design, the E-7S is built to the highest standards of quality, safety and reliability proven in all ENDURA batteries. The Power Indicator is for quick reference of the charge status on the E-7S. A simple 3 LED indicator shows if the battery is full or requires charging.


Capacity: 68Wh (14.8V/4.6Ah)
Typical Camera run-time: 2.25 hours (@30W)
Dimensions: 3.35 (W) x 5.59 (H) x 1.32 (D) inches
Weight: 1.15 lbs approx.

Wireless Follow Focus:  Axis 1

LINK Approx $4,500 (depending on conversion rate)


The Axis1 from Hocus Products is the best wireless follow focus system you will get in this price range in my opinion.    I have yet to have a SINGLE problem with the Axis1.  Ever.   And it intergrates perfectly w/ the Freefly remote so you can focus or zoom or iris control FROM the controller with the proper kit from Freefly.  This  is a no brainer for me.   It’s compact, great motor, and works wonderfully.   A very close second is the RedRock Micro FF kit which is also quite excellent btw, you can also connect it to the front handle of your MōVI handle to solo operate in Majestic mode + focus for the ultimate solo operator kit (if you can check gum at the same time too… without tripping ;)  

Carbon V-lock Adapter Kit for RED EPIC



This is THE way to mount a battery on the DRAGON.  End of story.   There are two P/D tap ports on the battery plate to power your accessories including your follow focus motors and wireless transmitters.  

FROM FREEFLY:  This V-Lock adapter kit for for the RED EPIC allows MōVI customers to use small V-Lock batteries to extend the run time on their RED EPIC, as well as provide D-tap power for 12V and 14.8V accessories (follow focus, wireless, etc.)  Made from ultra lightweight carbon fiber, the kit allows for the lightest and lowest profile method of attaching a V-Lock battery to an EPIC.  The kit includes either a genuine IDX PV2 battery plate or IDX PV212 battery plate with one or two D-tap outputs, respectively.  The plate comes with the appropriate lemo plug for the EPIC DC input and uses high strand count silicon wire for maximum durability and flexibility.   


Paralinx Arrow Plus – 1:2 Package

paralinx_1-3_1024x1024One Paralinx Arrow Plus Transmitter and 2 receivers.  Or 3 transmitters if you can make that happen.   I’ve chosen this system because it’s reliable and this is the smallest transmitter.  It stays permanently mounted on any of my cameras and is powered by the IDX battery above or a USB cable.  Love it.

From Paralinx: Uncompressed 4:2:2 1920×1080 10-bit video.  Less than 2ms latency. Supports multiple framerates and resolutions. Operates on 5v power. Range of over 300ft (91m) line-of-sight. 256-bit encryption of transmitted signals. FCC, CE, and ROHS certified. HDMI video input/output. Transmitter weighs less than 40 grams. P

Supported framerates: 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 30p, 50i, 50p, 59.94i, 60i, 60p


IMG_3942Best Monitor:

SmallHD AC7

ac7_1024x1024The AC7 is one of the best monitors out there.  It’s a great way to start.  Personally I used the DP7 but I’m fancy like that I guess…


From SmallHD:  It  is equipped with pro software featuring Focus Assist Plus, Frame Guides, and DSLR Scale Mode. Housed in a strong yet lightweight frame, the 7” monitor adds production value without adding the bulk.



  • 7-inch monitor
  • 1280×800 resolution
  • 8-bit color depth
  • HDMI, Component, Composite

 Dream monitor (and the one that I use…)

SmallHD DP7 

$1499 LINK

1078803The SmallHD DP7-Pro LCD is one of the best monitors out there period…  I use it on all of my productions as an operator and/or director’s monitor.   It’s got too many functions to list (see below) and the LUT support and ability to set looks in the monitor is second to none.   It’s basically a monitor + iPad combined… 

From Small HD:  It offers highly flexible 3D LUT support and an extensive set of monitoring tools, including scopes, and is designed with a multi hot key interface that allows for an efficient workflow. It features a 7" IPS LCD display with a 1280 x 800 HD resolution, 8-bit color depth, and 800:1 contrast ratio. Connections include HD-SDI and HDMI input and output, as well as a Hirose input that supports an optional SmallHD Component/Composite breakout cable. The monitor is super-tough, made with a reinforced milled aluminum housing capable of withstanding the pressure of a 4×4 truck running over it, yet it weighs only 1.2 lb. 

The DP7-Pro LCD comes loaded with many preset LUTs and is capable of detecting and displaying nearly every type of LUT you upload. The LUTs upload via simple SD card transfer and can be organized into custom folders. The ability to monitor an image with a LUT applied lets you see what the image will look like when the LUT is permanently applied in post production, lets you analyze whether you’re satisfied with the look and whether any lighting adjustments need to be made on set, and also allows you to show the look to a client or director on set for review. 

Dream wireless:  

Teradek Bolt Pro 2000 Transmitter + Receiver


This is what the big boys play with…  The Teradek Bolt Pro 2000 is a zero delay wireless video systems designed for cinema and broadcast use. With 3G-SDI connections, support for 1080p60 and a range of 2000 ft., Bolt Pro 2000 is the new standard in professional wireless video transmission.   I haven’t had a chance to play with the Paralinx version of this to be honest and these units all tend to play with the same chipset.   But I don’t think you can go wrong with either unit.   I compared this to the Boxx unit on my Nike commercial last year and it performed as well if not better… so game on!    If you pocket can afford it… this is THE wireless kit for ANY cinema / video need. 


Just because you can…:

MōVI M5 Mobile Kit

moviMobileKit-01_1024x1024Did you see the Bentley commercial shot with an iPhone?  Want to do the same?  Here’s how… I have one… 

ˆ Mount a phone to your MōVI and create dynamic ‘MōVI’ shots that can be shared instantly. The MōVI M5 Mobile Kit includes a phone adapter with 1/4-20 tapped holes on top and bottom for easy tripod mounting and counterweights for accurate balancing on the MōVI. The kit supports most phones up to 3 inches (76mm) wide.



MōVI Cinema Oxide Cases:



And last but far from least – none of this is worth it if you can’t get it there in one place – here are the best cases for the MōVIs that I’ve used for over a year – go check out a variety of accessories and custom cases from CinemaOxide.    Can’t say enough good stuff about them… and boy… are they pretty (and darn functional too!) 


OK that’s it!   Maybe I’ll do a few more non MoVI specific things soon… 




If you want to stand out in the filmmaking crowd, focus on the evolution of your CRAFT – not the TOOLS.


Many of you may have noticed how somewhat “quiet” this blog has been this year.   I thought I would share some of the reasons why, because I think that they have far reaching implications far beyond this little blog…

The simple excuse is that I broke my arm this January, and that I couldn’t write for several months.    I also changed my media consumption habits (both as a result of the injury, as well as to general social media trends) to newer, more immediate and often shorter form ways of communicating, such as Twitter, Instagram or Storehouse.   I read fewer blogs today and spend more time on my iPhone – as statistically many of us are doing.  

But the real reason is in fact more tied to my evolution as a director since the Canon 5D MKII came out in 2008, as well as to the general changes in the filmmaking landscape overall.   

Side note:  Can you believe it’s been 6 years since that terrible little cologne commercial Reverie came out – shot with the first 1080p DSLR?!?

On a base level, this blog was born out of talking about TECHNOLOGY.   Gadgets, new cameras, lenses, software and MoVIs!   

I, like many others, was pulled into the DSLR movement by a magical force called ACCESS.  

The DSLRs were affordable, lightweight, and produced amazing quality imagery.  These tools for better and for worse (depending on where you stood and now stand) leveled the playing field, at least in terms of access to the high TECHNICAL IMAGE QUALITY creation TOOLS.  (Notice that I’m not talking about the quality of the CONTENT or STORY the technology produces.)

Directing any and all MOTION content has always come down to one’s ability to tell a STORY adeptly.   That hasn’t changed since the first cave drawings and never will.    You need to know what makes a good story, how to tell it best, and what tools to use.  They don’t (yet) sell you that in a box, that can be delivered by drone to your doorstep.

Over the past decade or so, we’ve witnessed a revolution in terms of the technical quality of the imagery the average camera produces.     Just as importantly, the tools the average person has access to today, are exponentially better than those that a high end professional had access to less than a decade ago: and at a fraction of the price.

On a technical level at least, I can take a significantly better looking image with my iPhone today, than I could with a $22K digital camera in 1999.     A teenager can share an image so much more easily with millions of people, for free, and do so so much more quickly, then I could as a photojournalist at The New York Times less than a decade ago… and that’s amazing, and at times of course: scary.

Both the QUALITY and COST have been evened out within our business:  and historically that’s relatively rare.

The question we now must all ask ourselves as creative professionals is:  how do we survive within this new landscape? (especially in one that is moving so fast!)

One of the main reasons I’ve been less vocal on this blog in fact, is that I’ve been trying to figure this all out for myself.   How do I stay ahead of the ball that is crushing so many established agencies, productions companies, and directors/artists?   How do we stay ahead of the curve?   What is the "secret" to success going forward when everything changes so quickly?     

We have become a culture of instant gratification:  we know what we want, and we want it NOW…  The average attention span has waned significantly as well.   Simply put:  we want fast solutions to big problems and are willing to pay to get it.   So what is the best thing we can BUY to become great filmmakers?  What is the best CAMERA and LENS I can buy NOW so many of us ask?   

Well then answer has been around for awhile.  It’s nothing new:   it’s  call SKILL and KNOWLEDGE OF (and respect of) CRAFT.    

Am I an idealist?  SURE – but I also think I’m quite grounded in reality.   And I think that as the cameras become ubiquitous, as everyone gravitates towards the same tools, the playing field will truly become leveled, and ironically we’ll discover that only our true differentiator in time will become the author’s understanding of how they can best put those tools into use.  That is what will ultimately set us apart from one another.    The exponentially increasing camera technology will indeed its own worst enemy.

 Therefore, the more I think of the changes that happen within this crazy field, the more I see that CRAFT will natural find its way back in the driver’s seat sooner rather than later.       And that should be comforting to some.  

The business and distribution models, and how those will evolve,  is still a bit more up in the air for now.  That’s for another blog post… 

If EVERYONE has ACCESS to the same technology, and can produce high quality imagery affordably, the only thing we can’t “buy” off a shelf, is the knowledge of how to use this incredible technology to better tell stories.  We can purchase educational material, but it still takes time as well as a healthy dose of trial and error to master anything worth mastering.  

Many of us have witnessed this explosion of high tech tools we can apply to storytelling: from time lapse, HDR, Hyperlapse, high resolutions and dynamic ranges, stabilization platforms and software.   Just as quickly: many of us have come to realize how DIFFICULT THE ART OF TELLING STORIES can be.

Personally I am working on making my first film.  I am not stressing about any technical aspect of the film, the funding of it, nor the distribution of the final film.  I am however keenly focused on finding the best story to tell, and making sure that I very carefully focus on HOW I will eventually tell it, once I do find it.

The irony in all of this, is that digital can be said to have diminished the perceived value of CRAFT or of a CRAFTSPERSON since we began this decade.

For example:  why hire a Director of Photography to expertly judge how the light and lens will expose a scene on celluloid film, when you can use a digital camera and see for yourself immediately and interactively on a monitor?   Keep in mind that when we were shooting film, the Director of Photography on set was likely one of the few people who knew how what you were seeing with your naked eye would actually look once processed on the film and projected…  and that meant that we were more willing to let her/him to their job without interference…

In fact, why hire anyone to do anything when you can do it yourself?    That’s a valid question:  unless you realize that maybe you can’t…  Maybe it was much more than that in the first place.   Perhaps you realize that you were also hiring that Director of Photography for his or her expert knowledge of how to lens a frame, or how to move the camera let alone light the scene… for the valuable experience they brought to bear to your project.


As many of us have witnessed over the past decade, we’ve enter the age of the “one person band” or the “PREDITOR” (Producer – Director – Editor all in one.)  

The only thing that keeps me up at night these days, is that we seem to have entered the age of “Good Enough.”  

These days it seems that there are far too many clients who are willing to settle for good enough, especially if it’s significantly less expensive than “excellence” or “groundbreaking…”  This is in part due to the reality that we’re all bombarded by SO MUCH CONTENT, for a much shorter period of time now.    Clients now need to create a dozen shorter pieces that will run for a few weeks or month each (perhaps concurrently,) as opposed to one that will run for a year or more.   That changes things of course… and you DO wonder:  is "Good Enough,"  good enough?

We are in a decade where shortcuts are all too popular… ironically these ‘shortcuts’ got us here in the first place if you look back at what caused the banking / stock market crash that thrust us into the past few years of smaller budgets and a more conservative approach to risk taking… but I digress. 

The point is that I think, or more accurately I hope, that we’re going to turn the corner over the next few years – and ironically come full circle.

The biggest change we will see, in my opinion, is that people will start to focus less on HOW we move the camera for example, and more on the WHY we move the camera in the first place.    Just because you can do a one shot wonder on a MoVI on a shot that last 40+ minutes, doesn’t mean you should, nor that it is necessarily to effectively tell a story for example. 

Personally, I’ve undergone a big transformation myself as I evolved into directing bigger and more complex projects myself:  I realized that I could rely on other people to figure out the technical solutions to my creative ideas…  but that as a director no one could help me if I myself did not have a clear creative idea or vision to communicate to them in the first place…  

I’ve also been busier as a result and naturally have had less time to write as often on this blog.  But I think that’s expected.   Once I move forward with a film, this blog will come back to life – at least that’s been my plan all along.

I also realized that a director’s role was to master the art of WHY certain techniques or tools could elevate the way a story was told, and not to worry as much about HOW to put these techniques into effect practically (although that never hurts to know of course.)

There are of course many different types of filmmakers out there: some that work alone, others that work with large teams, and everyone in between.  As we move forward we will continue to see a natural erosion of the range of tools and gadgets that both the small and big budget filmmakers have access to.  

Technology is the ultimate equalizer.

Yet, at least until they can teach a camera or piece of software what type of move is best, the cadence of a scene, or type of direction that is given to an actor… that knowledge will become more and more important as the technical barriers continue to disappear.

And that’s why any artist / filmmaker going forward should focus less and less on technical specs, and more and more on craft.

1The HOW will become more ubiquitous, and many will have access to almost the exact same tools ultimately – but the understanding of WHY we need those same tools to augment our storytelling is something we can’t yet buy.

Of course this new millennium is young…  We might yet see an algorithm built into a GoPro some day that suggests to the user whether to take two stops forward or backwards when they frame up  a shot… but I have to say that I’m optimistic that while business models, distribution models, and camera models continue to evolve:   There will always be an appetite out there for a skilled storyteller.  And won’t EVERYBODY be using the same algorithm anyway? Well at least at first… then do we "ugrade" to the better AI? 

That is of course as long as we all have the discipline to exit this age of “good enough.”   As the economy hopefully continues to improve,  I trust that by definition we will gravitate back towards greater risk taking, and better products.   Brands and companies need to go back to leading and taking more risk on every level, and in this case creatively.  

 In fact I think it’s already started.   Have you noticed the increase in television quality over the past 2+ years and the quality of films this year and next?

Oh, and expect this blog to remain more active!   Just expect me to write more about the CRAFT going forward, and less about the TOOLS I use going forward.   

(Shameless plug, if you want to learn more about the CRAFT of directing, check out this material that I put together this year available to purchase & download, based on my favorite directors of all time and my favorite 100 films and how they use motion to better tell their stories.)

(Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Storehouse as well going forward as it’s easier for me to find the time there than it is to write on the blog of course.)