Menuez on Manhattan – Adventures in Filming with an 85mm Lens

In the summer of 2009, I traveled to the Big Apple to create a short film about renown editorial, commercial and stock photographer Doug Menuez. I first “met” Doug as a guest on my podcast F-Stop Beyond. Till this day it remains as one of my favorite interviews. Once you watch this video, you’ll understand why. Doug has a vast array of experience and knowledge, and is pretty funny to boot.

This was actually one of the first videos I ever shot on a DSLR (the 5D MarkII). For various reasons, I didn’t get around to actually editing it until this past Christmas. I’ve now finished two of the three episodes of “Menuez on Manhattan.” Most of this was shot with Canon’s 85mm F1.2L (many thanks to my friend Jason Groupp for loaning it to me). WARNING: this is not usually the best lens to use on a stabilizing flying rig like a Steady tracker, Glidecam, or Steadicam (read my post from yesterday on prime lenses). However, I wanted a frenetic look to match Doug’s frenetic, New York life. It also gave me the shallow depth of field I wanted when interviewing in the tight confines of his Manhattan condo. (Frankly, I wouldn’t advise using it for interview either, as the depth of field can be so shallow, any kind of movement from the subject can put him out of focus, unless you use a LOT of light and stop down. I didn’t have as many lights as I’d like, so I had to shoot pretty open, giving me a narrow DoF.)

This was a fun piece to shoot and a nice addition to my F-Stop Beyond Vimeo channel of photography-related films. I hope you enjoy it. Part 2 will come in a couple of weeks.

Except for the shot where he’s playing the harmonica, the opening shots of the dead tree, and one stock footage shot of NY, all the video shots are with the 85mm.

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Production note: one of the downsides of shooting wit DSLRs is the “jello” effect caused by the CMOS sensor. You’ll notice it in one of the outdoor shots where Doug is walking by a gate.

15 thoughts on “Menuez on Manhattan – Adventures in Filming with an 85mm Lens

  1. The video turned out really well. I was very impressed with the audio when you were following Doug around the city. How did you mic him for that?

    1. Hey Andrew. Thanks for the comment. I miked him with a small Samson airline mic that has a 1/8″ extension I plugged directly into the camera. I don’t usually recommend capturing audio like this because you can’t monitor the sound and audio from the camera directly is compressed. (I normally use a Zoom H4N now). However, for purposes of this video, I was fine with the camera audio. (And frankly, at the time I shot this, I was still relatively new at using audio with DSLRs). I just had to pray and hope it was all coming in okay since I wasn’t monitoring. You could also use a Rode shot gun mic (like the one in the photo on this post) if you’re close enough to the subject.

  2. That was great Ron. I am so inspired I am going to petition my city to open a Young Filmmakers Lane in downtown Minneapolis! That was HILARIOUS! I loved Doug’s reaction to that how he busted out laughing.. that was great.

    Very good film, and audio was very good. Ron, have you found that any mic plugged directly into the Canon has the background noise? I tried the Rhode Video mic with my 7D the other day shooting a music video and then listened back and it had a lot of noise, my buddy had his Nikon D7000 and we plugged into his for some video and it was crystal clear. I am thinking that is just how it is? I too always use the H4n so I have never planned on using in camera mic outside of getting organic atmosphere sounds.

    Anyway, great work Ron.. as usual! – D

    1. Hey Dan. Thanks for the comments on the film. Yes, I have found that audio from the Canon has a sort of background hiss or noise. For something like this where the audio is from the outside, it’s not as noticeable. As I mentioned in my comment above, I always use the Zoom H4N now for any critical audio.

      And I’ll sign your petition! 🙂

  3. Whens the next 2 parts going to arrive?

    This absolutely fantastic.. I’m a great fan of Doug.. and seeing this.. makes you respect a great man so much more!.. Respect to you and Doug, Praises!

    1. Hey Liam, So glad you like it. Part 2 will go up next week. Not sure about part 3 yet. Most likely late March early April. Best bet is to subscribe to blog to be notified.

  4. In your opinion, how much does that .2 of stop matter? I know the real reason to step up to the 85mm L is the sharpness and color gradation, but heck, most people just seem to want it for the low-light.

    1. It really depends on what you’ll be using it for. I don’t think it’s important for video production as there are few times I’d use it for video (especially opened up all the way to 1.2), and in cases where I would, I would most likely have a more controlled setting with lights. I haven’t tested it again a slower 85, so I can’t comment on the difference. Sorry.

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