What’s New in Modern War Gear Solid Part 3?

Posted on December 17th, by admin in behind the scenes, filmmaking tips, Modern War Gear Solid.

You may have noticed that we’ve stepped up our production value. That’s because we’ve added some new gear and software to our arsenal. Hit the jump below to find out how we made Modern War Gear Solid – Part 3.

We continued shooting on the Canon 7d, but we had some new toys for part 3.

We heard good things about Kessler Cranes, and they liked our series enough to hook us up! Micah, our director, runs a fast-moving set and always worries that new gear will take too long to set up. But the Kessler Crane only takes about 15 minutes to set up, mostly by just one person. It also packed up into a small bag (with the tripod stored separately). It definitely helped us create some epic shots. We also used it for our overhead shots.

The crane was also easy to move. It’s recommended that you disengage the arm from the tripod and move those two sections separately. But on days when we were low on sunlight but lucky in crew numbers, we just picked up the entire thing (making sure we supported the tripod) and moved it around.

We used a SmallHD monitor with the crane. We already liked SmallHD monitors, and attached one to a monopod for high and low shots in parts 1 and 2. But this time we got to test out a new smaller model.

CMR was awesome enough to send us a couple Blackbird Stabilizers. One of the biggest problems with the SLR video cameras is the rolling shutter – the wobbly jello effect that happens when the camera shakes or moves quickly. This is a big problem for action scenes. But we’ve really been impressed with the Blackbird’s ability to negate this effect. It can be used to get a smooth flowing shot. Or it can be used to minimize rolling shutter during faster camera movements.

The design is clean and fun to use. Now that we’ve used the Blackbirds, we don’t want to shoot without them!

Rick added a couple more fast lenses to his collection. Fast lenses have a very low f-stop, and allow for a really shallow depth of field. Our main lens has been the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. For Part 3, Sigma let us try out their new 50mm f/1.4. And Rick also brought along a Bower 85mm f/1.8. The new lenses were really great to use.

We weren’t happy with the audio quality we were getting from our cameras, so halfway through Part 3 we switched to a ZOOM H4N to record audio on location. The ZOOM is a really neat and simple hand-held recorder with XLR inputs. It records to .wav files that can be dropped right onto your computer via a USB cable.


David Hall creates and operates crazy robot rigs, so we were stoked to get his help on the final 3 MWGS episodes. He started building robot costumes over a decade ago, in order to enter a Halloween costume contest. He’s won every year since.

Friends that follow the blog might know we got a gift from ehobbyasia, a company that we’ve shopped with many times. They liked our series and sent us several sweet airsoft rifles to use in our new episodes!

Our martial-arts film friends at www.thestuntpeople.com sold some old films we worked on at Comic-Con. We were able to buy a Master Chief Costume with some of the proceeds. It’s made by Rubie’s and personally we think it’s a ripoff/over-priced. The plastic is very brittle and cheap. We used Sculpt-or-Coat (kind of like a liquid plastic) to reinforce the armor enough to fight in. There’s two reasons we couldn’t build our own custom armor – 1. We just didn’t have time. 2. After seeing a lot of those nice hand-made suits up close, they were too heavy/bulky for our fight scene.


As usual we used Final Cut Pro to edit. Be we also used a few other programs this time.
For Part 3, Micah learned After Effects! All the dirt hits, dust, smoke, muzzle flashes, and motion tracking were done in After Effects. It was very easy to learn. Micah watched the 10 free After Effects Basics tutorials on VideoCopilot.net and he was ready to go.

For the Helicopter shots in Part 3, Rick used Maya and After Effects. In earlier episodes he used Blender to create the 3d models.
For the chunks of cement flying from the walls, Rick used a plugin called Blast Code. It’s pretty cool. You can pick a wall texture, and change the velocity, size, and height of a blast.

And I think that’s about it.
HUGE THANKS to Kessler Cranes, CMR Blackbird Stabilizers, Sigma, and Small HD for showing support for such a fun project!