A while ago I started a blog series to deconstruct my blogroll of the sites and people that I follow. These are the places I go to for information, tips, and tricks about filmmaking.

This week is a bit of a mixed bag: gear reviews, tips, and general film news. I chose these three sites mainly for their video content. Wide Open Camera (wideopencamera.com), theC47 (thec47.com), and Film Riot (revision3.com) all regularly post video content for the masses to absorb.

Wide Open Camera

WOC-logoWide Open Camera (@wideopencamera) is a coalition of filmmakers and bloggers. This was one of the first sites I started to regularly visit, and that hasn’t changed. What I really like about WOC is the fact that each of them has a sort of “specialty” that they post about.

The team is made up of Jared Abrams (@goforjared), Chris Collins (@c2camera), Chris Marino (@chrisMmarino), and newer additions include Mike Sutton (@MNS1974) and Alex Walker (@awalker47). Between the 5 of them, every topic in film is covered. They mainly focus on production and post-production, but I’ve seen posts about insurance, rates, pre-production, everything under the sun. Whenever I know there’s a new camera about to be announced, this is one site I make sure to hit because they’re going to have coverage on it. Last year they also had some great coverage of the show floor at NAB. And it was a big help for me to see some of the stuff I missed.


Occasionally WOC throws out a contest, or has a gear promo, that can’t be missed. The universal lens gears I use on all my glass came straight from this site, so there’s that too. These guys put a ton of info out and are truly a great resource for everyone in the industry.


jem_bio_pic_wideHere’s the about taken straight from Jem’s mouth “theC47 is an online and offline resource for production based training and information. More specifically, theC47 produces and provides educational content that focuses on the craft of both video production and filmmaking.”

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theC47 is basically an avenue for Jem Schofield’s (@theC47) daily video blog. Every day he makes a quick video, accessorized with plenty of links, that talks about equipment, new tips or tricks, and just general industry news. But beyond being a talking head, Jem is an educator. He travels the world hosting workshops for filmmakers and is really knowledgeable. theC47 was another one of the sites that I visited a lot when I was starting out, but it continues to be a valuable resource.

Film Riot

Ryan_thumbFilm Riot (@filmriot) is a video based channel that features how-to videos. It’s produced by Triune Films (@triunefilms) hosted by Ryan Connolly (@ryan_connolly) whose hyper-active ramblings offer up some great content. There are a lot of good places to go for how-to videos, but Film Riot’s videos are easy to follow and offer a better value than many others.

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I’ve only been following Ryan and Film Riot for the last year or so, but I’ve been finding myself on their YouTube channel (youtube.com) more and more often. What I especially like about Film Riot is the fact that they don’t just focus on how-to DIY camera support; they offer a ton of tutorials on creating visual effects and editing. And there’s a bonus! They do it all with humor; which makes watching more enjoyable.

Ryan is also the host of Film State (@FilmState), a show that focuses on movie trailers and releases. But, I’ll leave that for another post.

If you’ve got some time go ahead and check out the sites, Wide Open Camera (wideopencamera.com), theC47 (thec47.com), and Film Riot (revision3.com). They’ve all got a lot of information compiled for the masses, and the best part is their willingness to share their knowledge with everyone. And just like me, I’m sure they’d love to read your comments and connect with you on the social interwebs.


photo-fullBack in the middle of 2012 Zeke Kamm (@Zeke_Kamm) and Nice Industries (nice-industries.com) put out a Kickstarter campaign (kickstarter.com) for the Aviator Travel Jib (aviatorcameragear.com). The jib promised to be a light-weight, portable piece of gear that would be a great add to any kit. I backed the project and it successfully funded in July; at the end of November I finally got my unit and I was ecstatic.

A-bDKLoCEAAa28C.jpg_largeThe jib comes in two options: a magnetic alloy or a carbon fiber. The units vary in weight (the mag comes in under 4 lbs, the carbon under 3 lbs), load capacity (mag at 6.5 lbs, carbon at 7.5 lbs), and price (mag at $497, carbon at $847). I opted for the mag alloy kit because the extra pound in carry weight and capacity didn’t equate to an extra $350. But at under $500, the mag alloy Aviator Travel Jib is a great find. It folds down really small and fits into an included carry case (not much bigger than a camera bag).

IMG_0579When the unit came in I decided to take it with me on my trip to Milwaukee with Loretta. I didn’t have anything fancy planned, but wanted to do some quick tests with it. Even with frozen hands I got the rig assembled and balanced in about 15 minutes (it only took me 10 for the indoor shots where my hands could bend). It levels really easily with one level at the base, and one at the head. The shots I chose were to test both vertical and horizontal movements, as well as shakiness at faster speeds.

IMG_0592I tested it both indoors and outdoors with similar movements to see how the shots would vary. The day I took it up to Milwaukee was a little windy, but it didn’t make a big difference for the Aviator. I mounted the jib right on top of my 504HD head; but, Zeke has recommended using a half bowl mount. I picked one up on amazon for $40, and the whole rig is a lot sturdier now.

Here’s my test footage, be kind to Loretta, she’s not a model, but lets me shoot her anyway.

Aviator Travel Jib Test Footage from Jeremy Widen on Vimeo.

The jib held up pretty well. Overall I liked the movement I got out of it, but the one axis I wish it had was a tilt. Being able to tilt the camera up or down during a movement would be amazing, but as is, the Aviator is awesome. Nice Industries makes some killer products, but for the price, the Aviator is the best I’ve seen. It’s weight and compact form make it perfect for shooters who trek to the middle of nowhere, and its sturdiness adds a great deal of production value to the shots you’re looking to pull off.


This is the first year that Loretta and I spent the holidays away from both our families, so we had to come up with ways to stay entertained. The weekend leading up to Christmas, we decided to see one new movie every night.

THE-HOBBIT-AN-UNEXPECTED-JOURNEY-PosterAfter we got home from Milwaukee on Sunday we had nothing to do and decided to check out The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (imdb.com). This time we didn’t mess up the screening times and actually saw the right movie. We saw it in a regular screen because I hate 3D and didn’t see the point in seeing it in HFR.

The Hobbit is the first book in J.R.R. Tolkien’s saga, but was the last film to be made. When I was in high school Peter Jackson (imdb.com) made the Lord of the Rings trilogy that has been a huge influence on me since; so when I heard he was making The Hobbit I was excited, but worried at the same time.

Ian McKellen (imdb.com) returns as Gandalf, the wizard who thrusts Bilbo into action. Martin Freeman (imdb.com), who I know as Dr. Watson from the British series Sherlock (imdb.com), makes the perfect Bilbo. And Peter Jackson (despite all my negativity) really rocked the whole film.

The Cast

In a rare moment, I have nothing negative to say about the cast. Ian McKellen was his usual brilliant self; and having some familiar faces come back (Elijah Wood as Frodo, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel) was a marvelous way to make the movie connect to the LOTR trilogy. But it was the new actors and characters that really sold the cast.


I already said that Martin Freeman makes the perfect Bilbo. He’s got this natural tendency that reads as reluctant, but brave; which makes Bilbo’s change from Shireling to adventurer really fun to watch.


Among the numerous faces of the dwarves was Richard Armitage (imdb.com) whose gruff nature made for a solid Thorin Oakenshield. He led the amazing cast of dwarves that were amusing to watch because they really made the characters pop off the screen (and I didn’t even see it in 3D).


Peter Jackson

16a79e6e5907863bf9dd563998295a61_XLI’ve generally been a big fan of Peter Jackson films; even his cheesy zombie flick, Dead Alive (imdb.com). And I obviously loved the Lord of the Rings films. So, The Hobbit should have been a no-brainer that it would be amazing. But, the more I heard about the production, the more I became concerned that his love of technology would take over his direction of the film. I heard that at one point he had 36 RED cameras on set (18 setups because of shooting for 3D), and that just sounds ridiculous to me. We (I) chose not to see it in 3D because it hurts my eyes and I hate those glasses.

epicThen there’s the issue of the HFR. What is HFR, Jeremy? HFR stands for “high frame rate” and basically means that instead of shooting The Hobbit at 24 frames per second (standard for film) he shot it at 48 fps. This higher frame rate is supposed to create a sharper image with less frame blending, which means you can get a higher resolution out of it. Clips of HFR that I’ve seen don’t look great to me; and from what I’ve heard, those who did see it said it wasn’t really worth the extra money.

With all these technology boundaries being pushed, I was afraid that Jackson had lost sight of the story and emotion. But he didn’t and The Hobbit was one of the best films I saw all year. He knocked this one out of the park, and I can’t wait for the next two films to come out.

Just take a look at the first trailer and you can see how beautiful this film was:

The acting in The Hobbit was amazing, the costume and makeup design was flawless, and the production design was absolutely gorgeous. Mix all that in with and amazing story, great directing, and a lot of nostalgia, and you’ve got yourself a damn fine movie. One that is definitely worth seeing in theaters.

A while ago I started a blog series to deconstruct my blogroll of the sites and people that I follow. These are the places I go to for information, tips, and tricks about filmmaking.

I couldn’t think of any better way to start off the new year than talking about three guys who I really look up to and garner a ton of information from. Shane Hurlbut (hurlbutvisuals.com), Philip Bloom (philipbloom.net), and Vincent Laforet (vincentlaforet.com) are some of the best filmmakers I’ve met. But I go to their sites for more than just fanboyism; they are also some of the best speakers, educators, and thinkers in the industry. I really value their thoughts and want to share their sites with you.

Shane Hurlbut

457592_300Shane Hurlbut (@hurlbutvisuals) is a director of photography and a member of the American Society of Cinematographers. He’s worked on big budget films, shorts, and everything under the sun. His most recent feature, Act of Valor (imdb.com), was one of the first feature-length projects to be shot completely with DSLR cameras.

I’ve seen Shane talk a couple of times, and every time he’s energetic, charismatic, and I learn a lot from him. He’s very approachable and easy to talk to. And that’s a big reason why I follow him.

Screen Shot 2013-01-07 at 12.41.26 PMThe other reason I follow him is because of his blog. Shane covers everything cinematography related: cameras, lighting, movement, the works. He shares his experiences in a way that can be applied to every day practical situations and discusses issues that come up frequently.

Philip Bloom

3767868_300When it comes to tutorials, reviews, and advice, it’s hard to beat Philip Bloom (@PhilipBloom). After I relaunched the blog, my first post came after seeing Philip speak at the Canon Filmmakers Live event in San Francisco (see the post here: jdwiden.wordpress.com). What I really like about Philip Bloom’s site is that it goes wider than just camera and technology. He also makes fantastic posts about the business of filmmaking, how to drive your career, and how to monetize your skills as a filmmaker.

Screen Shot 2013-01-07 at 12.48.38 PMMuch like Shane, he’s an amazing speaker and I get a lot of inspiration from him. As a young filmmaker I like seeing the more experienced sharing their knowledge with the masses. Philip is one of the biggest names in DSLR filmmaking and he’s been a big part of how I (and many others) have been able to break into the industry. His posts are truly helpful and I find myself perusing the archives quite often.

Vincent Laforet

Photo of Vincent Laforet - 2006When I was in film school, I wasn’t quite learning the things I wanted to be so I had to turn to outside sources to get informed. Along with Shane and Philip, one of the first sources I found was Vincent Laforet (@vincentlaforet). Vincent is one of the most talented filmmakers I can think of. In 2011 he shot a short film, Mobius (imdb.com) (video below), on the C300, and it’s absolutely brilliant. If you want to learn about new camera systems Vincent is a great person to learn from.

Screen Shot 2013-01-07 at 12.51.09 PMAlso like Shane and Philip, Vincent is a terrific speaker that is willing to answer questions and dole out healthy doses of knowledge. His blog covers cameras, editing, technology, everything you need to learn about to make movies. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of information from his site and highly recommend it to everyone.

Mobius – 1080p HQ from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

If you’ve got some time go ahead and check out Shane (hurlbutvisuals.com), Philip (philipbloom.net), and Vincent’s (vincentlaforet.com) sites. They’ve all got a lot of information compiled for the masses. The best part about all three is their willingness to share their knowledge with everyone. And just like me, I’m sure they’d love to read your comments and connect with you on the social interwebs.

Since it’s the time of year when companies summarize the year they’ve had, and it’s been a while since I’ve done a check in, here’s my post-mortem on 2012. Last year I kept it under 600 words; there’s no way I’m going to be able to that this year.

2012 was a busy year. Had a lot of work, got some awesome new gear, went to my first NAB Show, relaunched Widen Media (widenmedia.com) with new branding; and biggest of all, got accepted to and started grad school in Chicago.

Site Relaunch

Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 2.20.04 PMAt the beginning of the year Loretta Robinson (lorettamaydesign.com) and I relaunched my portfolio site with a new layout and branding. We revamped my logo and color schemes. We moved the site from a Dreamweaver build to a Muse build. But, we’ve been having some difficulties with Muse. So, we’re working on moving everything over to a WordPress build that will also support my blog. So, coming up in 2013, look for a move to the new build.Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 2.20.27 PM

Loretta and I are also launching a few new blogs in the coming year. One will be food related (The Weekly Nom) and will highlight the really good and really bad food we experience. The other is going to be based around our soon to be had corgi puppy, Zero. Once those launch I’ll let everyone know.

New Clients

beyond_pixI started the year out working full time at Beyond Pix Studios (beyondpix.com) in San Francisco. BP was my home for just over a year, and I was sad to say goodbye to them when I left for Chicago. They’re a great company that I hope to be able to work with again in the future.

bacon 1
2012 also brought some new clients for me. I did a lot of the standard corporate interview setup stuff that were nice paydays, but not super noteworthy. But, I got hooked up with Sharp Entertainment (sharpentertainment.com) to work on a couple episodes of United States of Bacon, a new show on Destination America. Before I left SF I worked on the pilot episode as a PA and got to experience some amazing bacon based restaurants in the city. When I moved to Chicago, they contacted me to shoot some b-roll for a few other episodes based in the area. And I once again was able to have some AMAZING bacon.

logosmallWhen I got to Chicago, almost immediately I got hooked up on a couple of reality show pilots; but, being new to the city I wanted to find a way to network and learn who the players are in Chicago’s film scene. I ended up getting an internship at Magnanimous Media (magnanimous.biz). Perfect placement for me. I got to learn the city and network, all while playing with gear.

With all the work I was able to get in 2012, I have really high hopes that 2013 will be even better.


2012 was another year full of getting more gear. I added to my lens selection, added a matte box to my rig, and picked up a monitor. Before the move to Chicago I picked up a car mount and intervalometer so I could shoot a timelapse of our drive across the country (see video below)(blog post). And, more recently, I got to play with some new stuff from Ikan (see the review here: widen media blog), and got a jib from a Nice Industries’ Kickstarter campaign (kickstarter.com).

Cross Country Timelapse: Our Move to Chicago from Jeremy Widen on Vimeo.

For Christmas, Loretta got me a GoPro Hero3 Black (gopro.com); not to mention the new computer I got that kicks ass as an editing station. My gear list is getting pretty stacked and I’m only going to keep growing it in 2013.

NAB Show

imagesFor the last few years I’ve been following NAB (nabshow.com) coverage via the internet. And the things I was seeing astounded me. So, when I got an opportunity to get free floor passes for the NAB Show in 2012, I couldn’t refuse. I actually made my plans to go to NAB long before I knew I was going to move out to Chicago. But, by the time the show came up in April, I did know, and NAB became the ultimate networking event for me. I mixed and mingled with as many Chicago filmmakers as I could. I ended up spending a lot of time at the Zacuto/Kessler (zacuto.com, kesslercrane.com) booth. widenmedia_selfpromo2Loretta made up these awesome promos for me that highlighted my skills and showed a little personality, they were basically my business card, resume, portfolio, cover letter, references all rolled into one. They worked out great and I came out of the show with an amazing new contact list; and a ton of new filmmaking friends (much of which I owe to Kira MacAlpine (@kmacalpine, ravnproductions.com), who became like my NAB Big Sister).

The show itself had me awestruck. I was only there for three days so I didn’t get a chance to see absolutely everything, but it was a good introduction. And now I know how to plan for future shows. I plan on spending the entire week at the show in 2013, assuming I can spare the time from class that is. BTW: I’m looking to split hotel costs with someone for the show if anyone is thinking about going.

Grad School

Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 9.04.12 PMHands down the biggest thing for me in 2012 was being accepted to the Creative Producing MFA program at Columbia College Chicago (colum.edu). I applied at the beginning of the year, not expecting to get in; so when I got my acceptance I was a little lost. This was the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make. If I went, it meant moving away from my friends and family, away from my work network, to a city I loved but had never lived in before. I literally could not make a decision; so I left it up to Loretta. If she was willing to go with me, then we would go… and here we are. We’re now 6 months in and we’re loving it. A little homesick and we miss our friends, but Chicago is amazing.

panddI started school in August, and have been non-stop since. I’ve got a great bunch of classmates, and the staff if phenomenal. I’m learning a lot more than I expected to, and I couldn’t be happier. The next big step before graduating is our “Semester in LA” where we spend two months in LA taking classes and learning, so I’m really looking forward to that.

I’ve been trying to do a weekly play-by-play of my experience at Columbia, but the semester got really crazy. 2013 will see me staying a lot more on top of those posts.

A Look Ahead

So, I’m expecting some big things in 2013. More time at NAB, hopefully even get to SIGGRAPH (siggraph.org). A full year ahead of me at Columbia. And what will hopefully be a busy year full of work, gear, and projects. I’ve got about 10 projects in various stages of production and I hope that I can get even more on the docket.

012 (1)2013 will also see the migration of my portfolio and blog to a new wordpress build. And, I’m going to be a lot more strict with myself on making sure I stick to my blog schedule. We’ll also have the two new blogs launching soon.

Loretta and I should be getting our puppy soon and we’re really looking forward to it!

I hope everyone has a prosperous year; and if you need any video production keep me in mind.