About 3 weeks ago, I headed up to LA for the second annual Comikaze Expo. This year Stan Lee came onboard as the executive producer or whatever and seemed to kick the expo into a larger realm of possibility. Despite the notoriety he added to the production, Comikaze retained a sense of fan-centric fun. I.e. those gawkers who show up at San Diego Comic Con for all the Hollywood stuff weren’t around. There was tons of cosplay, some great features (Kevin Smith interviewing Adam West!) and plenty of awesome exhibitors.
My experience was unique at this con because I took a RED EPIC and shot both days. The EPIC is a 5K digital cinema camera that shoots motion so well that I can pluck pristine stills from the footage. So every shot I took was a little snippet of motion that I then went through to choose stills. I did some lighting and color correction in REDCINE-X PRO and then exported TIFFs which I then edited in Photoshop.
I am not a photographer nor an editor. So this whole experience was an intense immersion into every aspect of shooting on a camera that is frankly way out of my league. One of the big lessons I learned though is that with such an amazing piece of technology, I really focused on the task of shooting and that focus made the whole experience and the results better.
I shot mostly in 5K resolution, 24 fps, ISO 800 (which I adjusted in post; the RED shoots in raw), with an outrigger handle, side handle, 5″ touch, 17-50mm Zoom lens, and a clip-on RED Brick battery pack. I attached the battery pack to my shoulder bag which made it easier to carry. I used a pretty heavy duty tripod. Lugging all that around for two days was exhausting. I know of several things I’d do differently next time to ease the shooting. My original plan was to shoot on Saturday and return on Sunday to experience the expo. But once I previewed the footage from Saturday, I decided to bring the camera again the next day and I’m so happy I did. I shot better, I talked to more people, and I really got into the whole experience.
So here are my photos and my recollections of the shoot…
The first thing I did when we arrived was shoot a couple of stormtroopers as they got ready. We were in the parking garage and the light was horrible but I made it work in post.
When we arrived, there was a terrible ticket snafu and everyone was wrapped around the LA Convention Center outside in the 105 degree sun. I walked to the back of the line with my friends and realized I should just start shooting while everyone was stuck in place.
This was the first group of cosplayers I came across and I thought they looked great as an ensemble:
When I came around the corner of the convention center, I really liked the background that the wall provided. This is VegasPG and friend:
All three of these shots were cool little vignettes of cosplayers. When you point a camera at cosplayers, they snap into the pose that they’ll do throughout the day for any camera. Since I was shooting motion, I got to pick the moment for the still photo. In these three shots, I got a little bit of the moment before they struck the pose. In the shot on the right, for example, they’re perfectly still except that the girl on the right smiled for a second before striking her pose. So I pulled an alternate still of her with that smile.
The two in this first photo were reluctant to get snapped before their whole group arrived until he saw that I was shooting with a RED. Then he just flipped out and agreed to the duo shoot. Their buddies arrived just as I finished the shot of them so we got to get them all suited up. I also shot some slow motion of them walking across the convention floor but the focus was horrible. Still it might work for something.
I ran across this group right as one was painting on Robin’s mask. I shot a bunch of clips of her applying the make-up. It was more interesting than them being in pose. I hope they don’t mind.
Then I went inside.
I love those stormtroopers looking on as the little Jawa and stormtrooper blast each other. And the girl with the sword was such a cool shot. She was right in the brightest light and just totally washed out but since the EPIC shoots in raw, I just changed the ISO in REDCINE-X and adjusted the color temperature and was shocked at the clarity I got.
Here’s another awesome moment of a cosplayer in motion: this beautiful young woman dressed as a Tardis. She was laughing with her friends while I set up. So I caught the moments of her turning towards the camera and turning her laugh to a smile. I love the expressions in her eyes as well.
The foyer of the convention center is all vaulted with skylights so the lighting was fantastic. I shot a bunch in that entrance over the two days.
Those last three photos in that group are some of my favorites. I love the perspective of the Dr. Who and Steampunk friend pointing their weapons at the camera. The Tinkerbell with Dr. Who is adorable. And the Zatanna and Man with Too Long Red Tie just seems very cool to me. (I should mention I just assume anyone in a tweed jacket and bow tie is Dr. Who. I’ve never seen it.)
But I think this shot of Wonder Woman is just the pièce de résistance as far as it goes. The focus was good, the light was awesome and she just owns her character. (That’s Kit of Kit ‘n’ Silver.)
Upstairs, in the main expo hall, the light was not so generous. I adjusted as well as I could for each shot but it was tricky. This shot of Ivy Doomkitty for example was in a very dark hallway. I can’t say I completely salvaged it since it looks pretty grainy but I did bring it out from the shadows quite a bit. Mostly, Ivy’s such a pro that she makes it look incredible.
There are always some great spins on the Batman family.
In that last shot when I asked if I could take a picture, Batgirl (who is an awesome Cassandra Cain, amirite?) said “Oh, I don’t have my cape on” and Alfred said, “Give it to me. I know what to do.” and draped it over his arm.
I caught two more awesome photo opportunities. The first was this gathering of most of the players from DC Steampunk Cosplay. I had a really difficult time focusing from the distance where I was. It was there that my inexperience with the camera and general difficulty in judging my focus really failed me. But here’s the best of the group shots and a couple of candids of the players as they waited around.
Power Girl, call me.
At the beginning of the first day, before the line really started moving inside, I was shooting Xena when a Deadpool asked if he could shoot a little video of a fight scene between him and Xena. I flipped into 4K resolution and 120 frames per second and shot their fight. Here are a few of the stills I pulled from that slo-mo footage.
If you’re a cosplayer in one of these photos and would like a link, just drop me a line. Thanks to everyone who posed and chatted and generally indulged me. I had a really great time.
PS — Like my songs, all my photos are under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike License — meaning you can download and remix as long as you attribute the original to me and you don’t make money off them. (Basically, just link back to this post and you’re cool.)