In China | Dutch Architects In China

In China | 5 Part series about Dutch Architects In China

Series of 5 short Architecture Videos about Dutch architects working in China, made for ArchiNed, supported bij stimuleringsfonds.

In China | Tianjin | MVRDV

This episode features Martine Vledder from MVRDV in Tianjin. MVRDV Designed part of this urban project, the other 2/3 seems to be a copy… And how do Chinese adapt the style of their facade to local taste?

In China | Guangzhou | Mark Hemel

Information Based Architecture is a small Dutch architecture office that built one of the biggest towers in the world, the 600m Canton Tower in Guangzhou. How was the building influenced by the Chinese client? Mark Hemel explains in the tower how the design was so complicated that it could not be changed, and how important the story was for winning the competition.

In China | Beijing | NEXT architects (John van de Water)

John van de Water visits a sales point of one of his projects on a building site. The model of the new built area is quite spectacular. The sales are going quite well. Being close to IKEA is a big selling point.

In China | Kunming | BEAR-iD

BEAR-iD in Kunming. The assignment was to make an eco-friendly building, but did it work out? What about eco-friendly building in China in general? And how does Feng Shui influence the design.

In China | Shanghai | After World Expo 2010

A report with Harry Den Hartog ( of Urban Language)about the World Expo area, two years after the event. The Italians are taking over the area, and even had a bit of the Dutch Pavilion cut off. (subtitled)

Filming in Cold Weather

Filming in Cold Weather

In earlier Tips I discussed the ins and outs of shooting in blistering heat. To balance this, now some tips about working in cold circumstances.

A good example is filming snow drifting, like Porsche SnowForce in Yakeshi, way up north in Inner Mongolia, China. People there don’t consider -30 as a temperature to stay inside.

On the frozen lakes a fleet of Porsche 911 is happily spinning and drifting around, which is very cool to film, but you need to take a few precautions.

Many people and on-line groups warn about batteries running low quickly, but it’s not that bad in my experience. In cold, they will surely last less long. So keep them warm, near your body (inner pocket of your coat) or with a heat pack (if packed in a bag), until you really need to use them. And bring as many as you can, both batteries and heat packs! The latter ones are also very nice to put in your shoes and pockets.

A thing you will quickly notice when it’s freezing is that you can’t use any touch screens with gloves on, and pushing any camera button becomes difficult. But not wearing gloves makes your fingers go stiff so that isn’t an option. So bring thin but good gloves to keep sensitivity for when you shoot, and thicker ones for the time between. Forget about the touch screen. As you keep it close to your face while shooting your breath will freeze up on the screen leaving it very hard to use for touching or even watching. Rotating the lens ring to focus or zoom can become much harder, take good care of this and don’t force anything. Even auto-focus can “hunt” much longer to find focus, especially if everything around you is snowy white!

If you want to make cool spinning and sliding wheel shots with a small action cam attached to the car, don’t use the sucking cup fixtures that have just one cup. The plastic will become inflexible and the surface of the car is full of ice particles, the camera will easily fall off. The attachments with three cups are much more safe when you take good care attaching. For any action cam, check and clean the lens as often as possible, as snow will freeze to it.

If you are working with a host or other people who need to say some text for your video, prepare it all inside, where it’s warm. Once outside you want to have it done as quickly as possible as people run out of patience quickly at minus thirty! Often you need to shoot that standing still which makes the cold creep up your coat!

 

Be extra keen on organizing what you bring, go back inside regularly to check your equipment, charge batteries and get it back to normal temperature again.

I’ve been warned about using a drone, as there could be a build up of frosty bits on the propeller blades. But even at -25 degrees I found no real problem with it, just don’t fly far because of shorter battery life. As long as it flies it will keep its own battery warm. Also here, the remote and screen are much more difficult to operate, and there is no way to put your hands in your pockets to warm up a bit as the drone needs constant control.

Finally, it’s good to bring some ND filter, which is a lens attachment to turn down the light input of the camera. You may otherwise get ‘stuttering’ footage in bright snow light because the camera has to use a very quick exposure.

Drink hot tea and happy shooting!

Filming at High Temperatures

Filming at high temperatures

Get it when it’s Hot

When I write this, birds drop dead from the rooftops, people in the streets get stuck to melting tarmac and the only thing i can think of is ice cream, fast! it’s a typical shanghai summer.

Normally you would not think of going out to shoot in these conditions, but sometimes things happen that won’t wait for a more cooler day.
Especially on asian racing circuits hot circumstances are very common. I’m happy when it’s less than 30 degrees. On the tarmac of the grid the temperature can easily reach over 50 degrees, and that’s where much of the job is done.

It’s good to prepare for hot shooting days. The good news is: modern equipment, even the 4K camera’s that generate quite some heat themselves, usually keep working just fine. The real problem here is you, and especially your sweat. When it drips on your nice camera it will get very slippery. This is why I always have a strap connected to the camera around my wrist. If i let the camera slip by accident, the chances of it really dropping are small.

If you applied sun cream lotion, the risk of damaging a lens becomes big. Sun cream is designed to stick on you, but it doesn’t know the difference between you and your lens: it will stick on that too if you touch it. There’s a big chance it leaves an stain on the glass that’s difficult or even impossible to remove. So before a hot shoot, make sure at least your hands are clean from any creams, or better; don’t use it at all. I prefer to keep covered from the burning sun rays by using removable sleeves and neck protection. These will make you drip much less and lotion isn’t needed.

Getting sweat into your eyes can also be a bother with focussing, a solution is to always have an “old men’s towel” in your bag to dry your forehead. (Ignore the comments of people around you!).

One more thing that can influence a hot shoot is temperature and humidity change. your nice air-conditioned heaven inside, where you prepared the equipment, is cool and dry. When you go outside a quite thick damp can block the lens for up to several minutes. wiping often doesn’t help much, the condense comes back or just changes into small drips that make a clear shoot impossible. Even the sensor inside the camera can be affected by damp. so don’t think of jumping out and take your shot right away, plan time for letting your equipment adjust to the temperature and humidity. Wipe it just once or twice to speed it up a bit. it can be a good idea to leave the camera and lenses in the same space (outside, where you shoot), so the temperature and humidity won’t change.

There are other times when you’re happy with a temperature over minus twenty. sweat isn’t a problem then, but other matters are. this i will discuss next time.

happy shooting!

Flying a Drone

Flying a Drone

(Chinese version published in Chinese edition of Auto, Motor und Sport, China)

When I am doing camera work I always want to be as free as possible. In an earlier writing I already explained how to keep the camera stable, so you don’t need a tripod. No tripod means you can go quickly to any place that gives the best shots!

“Going any place” got a new dimension for me when “Planet Earth” came out on DVD. I was amazed and captivated by how they filmed the biggest trees in the world, from the bottom straight up to the top. I was puzzled how that camera movement was done. “The Making Of” revealed the mystery: a camera was attached to a hot air balloon! A very complicated and jaw-dropping shot. But shots like this are not complicated anymore!

Only recently a very attractive addition to the filming tool kit became available and affordable for almost everyone, from the professional shooter to the enthusiast amateurs: the drone. It makes such shots easy and seems to give the ultimate freedom in camera placement.

Personally, I am not very interested in flying high over a landscape. Every now and then it can be good as “location shot”, but everything becomes tiny and distant too, details are too small and get lost. I much rather fly low and put the camera on places where things can still be seen close, but from an angle that is unexpected. The favorite move would be to start low, as if the camera is on a tripod, and then, following a moving subject, move the drone up a few metres, revealing the environment, and giving the viewer the feeling to be lifted up.

A drone shot is more interesting if it reveals something; start with something normal, and after a few seconds reveal the unexpected element making your audience go “wow!”.

Although I had just a few minutes to film it, I tried making a shot like that in the next video for Mercedes. Check around 35 seconds, with Chinese rally driver Joe Zhou talking to the camera. But there are more drone shots in the video that turned out nicely. :)

Of course, ultimate freedom we still don’t have with the drone. You can’t fly everywhere. They are noisy. You need to be really careful not to damage it, and especially not to damage people around you. I learned the hard way by cutting myself twice when I tried to fly the drone indoors. The blades are small but very sharp I can tell you! A drone doesn’t always obey your commands, there can be a delay, satellite interruption, a wind gush… so always keep safe distance. If you set the drone camera to the highest resolution (4K), you can still get closer by zooming in when you edit, without losing sharpness. Be smart, practice a lot. it’s big fun too!

Happy droning, happy shooting!

Better Stability

Stability

This happens a lot: you’ve been running around with your iPhone or other phone camera, or perhaps even a bigger DSLR or film camera on a circuit or other event. You watch your stuff back on the tiny phone or LCD screen and it looks great!
But then you want to show your friends on your TV and you’re embarrassed by the wild shaking that you didn’t notice before… The reason is simple: A tiny shake on your small screen becomes a really big one on the laptop or TV screen. You really want to avoid shaking as much as possible, and even when you think you’re doing o.k. while filming and checking the small screen, keep in mind it needs to be more stable for good playback on bigger screens.

Nowadays many camera’s have quite good stabilisation built-in. Even some phones have it. It’s often just a digital trick, moving pixels around, but if it’s an option on your camera, be sure it’s swichted on. If you’re lucky enough to have a camera with so called “optical stabilisation” that’s even better. It can be built into the camera, the lens, or even both (working together). In this case it won’t degrade your image quality and you will get far better results. If you purchase a new camera, check for it, knowing “optical” is superior.

If you have the stabilisation or not, there’s always tricks you can use get more stable shots, even without a tripod. The first is to properly get ready. Don’t just rush around and flash your camera, but stand firm, know where you’re going to shoot. Keep your legs about 50 cm apart, so your lower body becomes like a triangle stable base. Keep the camera as close to your body as possible. The further you hold it, the more ‘enlarged’ your body movements (that can even be as small as breathing) will become. Also, when holding your camera far, there’s a bigger chance someone bumps into you if it’s a crowded place. So basically: feet: wide, upper body: small.
Then, if possible, find something to support you. Some lamp post can be useful to lean against and give stability. A wall is another obvious support. Lean against it and be stable!
Then finally, if you want to do some movement (for instance panning; moving the camera from one side to another) do it from your waist. Keep your arms in fixed position, elbows curved down, close to your chest. Move to the starting side using your lower spine as pivot point. Then move slowly to the other side keeping your upper body and arms the same position, only turnig your lower back.
I often take and hold a good breath before i do such a move to eliminate breating movements. As a side effect your lungs will be a stablilizing ‘cushion’ to keep you straight and move smooth more easily. it sounds crazy but it really works!

Happy stable shooting!

Recording Sound

Recording Sound

When video crews want to record someone talking with clear sound they often use a dead cat. It’s nothing to worry about as “dead cat is the term for a furry shield around a microphone to keep the wind out. Usually they put it around the microphone, which is put on a stick which is hovered above the filming scene.

But likely you don’t want to use any sound guys, and you want to keep your cat alive. So how to get good sound?

The dead cat is to combat one of the three enemies of recording sound: wind. The other two are distance and your own ears.

Even a slight wind breeze that blows into a microphone (hand-held, or the one built into your camera) will always lead to much more noise than you think. it will become hard to understand what people are saying. Therefore it’s always good to try keep out of the wind. Sometimes just turning your back to the wind direction can already help. that’s not always easy, because the light situation also changes when turning, so you need to balance that. When using a real microphone, any cloth (or indeed a “dead cat”) around it will muffle the sound a bit, but that is preferable to having the wind rumble.

Second enemy of sound is distance. especially on noisy race tracks it’s essential to be as close to your talking person as possible. Every centimeter counts! The sound level decreases exponential when going further away. At the same time environment noise gets worse. If you can attach an external microphone to your camera, always use that option. That way you can put the microphone nearby your ‘talker’ and still film from further away,. it gives you much greater control and, even with a cheap microphone, a much clearer sound. My trick is actually to use a not-sensitive microphone (so it doesn’t record much from the environment) but keep it just a few cm from the speaker (so the voice is still clear). Close enough for good voice, “non-sensitive” enough to not let through much environment noise.

The third challenge: your ears. You can never believe what you hear. Your ears and brain work together as a great noise filter, masking sounds you don’t ‘need’. But they only do this well ‘live’. Once you listen to something that’s recorded, it’s much more difficult for your ears and brain to filter out that aircon hum, some music playing from far away speakers, or a roar from a passing car. Try to stay away from any noise sources, even if they sound not so loud to you. If possible with your camera, use headphones during recording, then  you already get a much better idea of what you really record.

There is a lot more to say about sound, but for now, stay close to your talker, away from noise. Use a microphone if possible! Happy filming!

Formula 1 and… Badminton?

Formula 1 and…. Badminton?

Sometimes things come together unexpectedly. Formula One and Badminton don’t seem to match, but today they will.

First, a simple link; both are sports of speed. Did you know that a badminton shuttle can reach over 330 km/h and accelerates much quicker than a F1 car?
The real match between the two sports however is about to happen now, on the badminton court. Red Bull organized an event before the Chinese Formula One with their Formula one heroes Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. They are not driving this time, but will take up the ‘birds’ and rackets. When the two star drivers enter the sports hall they have badminton champion and Olympic Medalist Wang Yihan on their side. She will teach the drivers the tricks of her game.

A few years ago Verstappen started my fire for Formula One again. Although it can still be a frustrating sports to watch, especially when there is little overtaking, F1 has become much more exciting now I have my favourite driver. I want Max to win, because he’s daring, fast, not afraid of what people think… and also simply because he is from Holland, like me.

Last year I already had a little chat with Max, but that was in a more natural surrounding: a karting ground. He was fast as a rocket there.
But on the badminton court speed doesn’t come from a throttle.
Wang Yihan starts the warm-up with the two drivers. Daniel wears funny socks and his trademark grin, he clearly enjoys the badminton and is doing very well. He is either experienced or a natural talent. Max wears ordinary socks, looks more serious and and needs more guidance by Yihan to get things right. How to hold the racket, how to smash.

It’s a big contrast with his race track performance, where he is brave and pushing forward. Good qualities if you also have patience and a good strategy. But the youngest F1 winner in racing history doesn’t seem to realize he has time. In milliseconds lap time, he’s there with the best drivers already. But count in minutes, in total race duration, there is still space for improvement.
A few days after this event he proves that again during the Chinese Grand Prix by doing too much too quickly. After a very impressive start Max makes a few mistakes in his rush, which cost him a good position in the race. Ricciardo keeps his calm and brilliantly walks, or better: drives, to a victory.

As the playful badminton event comes to an end I know that Max will certainly be world champion some day, but it won’t be at badminton.

When I have my own badminton racket bag signed by all three stars i think about how many great badminton talents China must have. And Holland now has the Formula 1 star. It’s now time we also find the Chinese Formula One hero, don’t you think?

 

Driving a Supercar at the Green Hell

Driving a Supercar at the Green Hell

Now that Audi invited me to drive a lap in a true Audi R8 on the Nürburgring, (that’s right, the “Grüne Hölle”!) I have a confession to make. I might be editor at sportauto but I do video, not the driving. Looking at my history of car ownership I might not be the right person to handle this R8 “challenge”. The fastest car I owned was a Peugeot 405 from 1994. If you look up “slow” In a dictionary, there is a picture of that car with it. I’m not sure of the top speed it had but i wasn’t brave enough to go near it anyway.

It’s a beautiful day at the Nürburgring and I’m thrilled to see the line up of brightly colored Audi R8 ready to hit the track. Excited I get into a yellow one. When it’s time to go, I get seriously confused. My old 405 had about 5 buttons in total but at least 4 didn’t do anything noticeable. The working button was on the radio, which is essential when driving slow. But this R8 had a scary amount of buttons, and most of them located on the steering wheel.

Pushing “start” seems to make sense and when I push it I get the expected result. Behind me I hear a gentle V10 grumble sound. The super nice electronic dashboard tells me to go into driving mode, which is a good suggestion. But it doesn’t say how. After shifting several handles and pushing more buttons the car starts moving. Backwards. Brake! I study and push more buttons and frown. A little throttle and suddenly I go forward, smooth as butter. A little dial on the steering wheel turns up volume of a 1920’s jazz band, so the radio works. It seems a perfect sound track for the Grüne Hölle… If you don’t speak German, it means green hell.

That hell doesn’t look scary at first. It’s a beautiful day and I enjoy the ride in this car that has at least 6 times the horsepower and over double the cylinders of my now demolished 405. With reasonable but safe speed I take a few corners. Then I see a long stretch down, continuing uphill. Behind it I suspect there is a corner but it’s invisible. It’s clear view, not too curvy, the right moment to push the throttle! And so I push it way down.

The engine roars, my passenger shouts. The R8 shoots ahead like a bullet, a sensation I never had before. Track stewerds wave flags, in the corner of my eye I see the camping people getting their BBQ’s ready for the upcoming 24 hours race. No time to watch as the end of the stretch is approaching fast. The faster we go, the narrower the track seems to be. I’m too scared to check the speedometer but don’t want to be a chicken and keep pushing the pedal down. The blind corner is now approaching alarmingly fast. This car doesn’t slow down at all uphill, it simply goes faster and faster. Race fans have written things on the tarmac but with this speed it’s all a blur. I’m now running out of road that I can actually see. I know the invisible corner is somewhere behind there and I very quickly need to brake. Brake hard. My passenger shouts again.

A happy grin on my face. A more wry grin on my passenger’s face.
It feels good that I didn’t lose control with my perfect driving capabilities! Or was it the million of electronic driver aids and the four-wheel drive this car has. Or the alarm bell in my head that told me not to overdo it..

The Audi R8 is a really wonderful car to drive. I never thought I’d enjoy it so much. And it’s super easy too (once you found the ‘drive’ setting on the gear lever.). Today the green hell was a wonderful green play garden for me. Perfect weather, and a perfect car. The Audi is born in Germany and clearly feels much at home here. And it certainly made me feel welcome too.

 

Shooting an Aston Martin, and a dog!

Shooting an Aston Martin, and a dog!

Filming cars, I’m used to that. But this morning I’m a bit nervous as we’re dealing with two “Legends” at one day. A legendary brand and a legendary challenge.

The legendary brand is known for their long heritage. When you think England, a drive through the fresh green fields, a gentle but pleasing, non-aggressive noise from the engine, swinging sixties, a tweed hat and, well, James Bond, you think of Aston Martin.

This morning no Bond car however. I would have loved to shoot the classic DB5 used in Goldfinger, but the DB11 V12 is extremely pleasing to the eye as well. When it arrives at the filming location, appearing from around the corner, I’m certainly not the only one turning my head. At this hour the street is quiet but the few passers-by all admire our light-blue Aston Martin.
In any other setting you would probably call its color baby-blue, but it looks stunning on the Aston and certainly doesn’t give it a kiddy look. On the contrary. I get the feeling the body lines are nicely enhanced by the color, it is different but doesn’t get ‘ordinary’. Eye-catching in a subtle way. The interior is stunning as well. Every stitch between the cream-colored and darker blue leather parts is impeccable.

And the car matches extremely well with Charles, our second very British legend of today.

Charles, our Beagle.

Charles, our Beagle.

Charles is a full-blooded Beagle, who arrives by taxi accompanied by his Boss, who needs to leave for work straight away. That leaves us with a crew of just five people and a dog to tame.
The legend of shooting with animals is that they are very difficult to film. Prepare for endless re-takes, triple the planned shooting time, have plenty pet food available, and DON’T excite the dog. But of course it’s exciting. To us, but even more to a dog, this is all very exciting. Please… Charles…, be nice to us.

We’ve prepared everything. A quiet and nice location with a crossing. A completely metal-free leash for Charles so it can’t scratch our precious Aston Martin. The weather is also splendid.

Charles loves to jump. He’s the relaxed kind of dog in ordinary life but it’s early in the day and there are so many new smells to sniff! Let’s jump and sniff the car, let’s check the drivers smell! I hold my breath for the most important and fun shot of the video, where Charles is being “walked” by the Aston Martin. Audience is kept at distance, we can only block the traffic for a minute or two. The Aston Martin gently roars, I press “Record” and shout “Go!”.
With natural British grace Charles performs perfectly. We do three takes just to be on the safe side. The pace of the second is best and ends up in the fun New Year video.

The only regret about this British dog-car Legend Shoot is that the Aston Martin doesn’t go faster than a staggering 4 km/h. For this video, it’s all that we need. Although it performs well, this is obviously not what the Aston Martin is built for. We’re only pushing limits in dog control, while it should have been the Aston Martin.

In just over an hour the shoot is finished. After the ‘wrap’ we return Charles home and finally let him sprint at his own top speed. But not aside our pretty Aston Martin, but next to a Mobike.

The storyboard