Inside Lanternsmith Tarsus Promo Part 01: Thoughts on the shoot.

Recently I have been working on a promo video for an excellent company that makes professional quality spinning props. The film is in post production, but should be done and up on the Lanternsmith website in December-January. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting with my progress and thoughts on the video in an ongoing series to this blog. I will be honestly looking at what I have done, what I like and what I would have done better at each step in the process to give you insight into the process.

The Idea:

For the video, lanternsmith wanted to showcase the portability, quality and design of their new collapsible contact staff called the Tarsus Staff.
The lanternsmith folks decided that they wanted to do an outdoor themed promo, with an adventure focus to show that their new staff could go places that no other contact staff could go.

Wondo, the showcased talent on this video, and the Lanternsmith folks came up with an idea for an overnight backpacking hike to shoot the video at a pretty bad-ass scenic overlook on the mt. Kingman Trail in New Hampshire. I had to throw the shoot together with a pretty quick turnaround (about 2 days notice) to hit the peak of the fall foliage for our target shooting area.

I did some quick semi storyboards and came up with an idea that broke down into a few main parts.

  1. car at the trailhead, actor quickly breaking down staff and putting it into his bag (staff is collapsable and Portable)
  2. time-lapse hiking to the overlook (staff is light and capable of going anywhere you can)
  3. reaching the summit, looking at the view. (you can go better places with this staff than others)
  4. shots of people having fun in the woods (adventures are fun)
  5. Close up of re-assembling the staff (staff looks good, goes together quickly)
  6. wondo practicing spinning until nightfall (contact staff is fully functional and capable of technical moves.)
  7. Time-lapse to night. (continuity)
  8. wondo spinning fire at night (tarsus staff produces high quality fireballs, eye candy)
  9. tossing staff into sky (ending and promo resolution)

I checked the weather, and the forecast said that it was probably going to rain. This was worrysome to me, but I checked with everyone, and it was decided that this was still the weekend to do it.

here’s a list of what I decided to bring:

production equipment:


  • Canon T3i
    1. 32GB SDCard (Class10) (X3)
    2. quick release ginirigs plate
  • 52mm, macro. canon compact macro lens EF 50mm 1:2.5
    1. 77mm, wide angle. Promaster spectrum 7 19-35mm 1:3.5-4.5
    2. 50mm Prime Canon EF 1.8
  • Adjustable neutral density filters (nd level 1-9)for each lens size above.
  • Gopro HD hero 3 with head mount, tripod mount.
    1. 32gb microSD card.
    2. specialized 55mm filter mount for gopro.
  • Tripods
    1. mephoto roadtripper.(17lbs)
      1. small quick release plate.
  • Ginirigs Shoulder mount rig for digital SLR
    1. follow focus
    2. quick release head
    3. 1/4″ male-male adapter (x2)
    4. Hot shoe to 1/4″ adapter
  • Camera mounted dimmable LED array light.
  • Rode Camera mounted shotgun mic.
    • Mic Boom Pole
    • XLR adapter for rode video mic
  • Tascam DR-100mkII Linear PCM recorder
    1. 32GB SDCard (Class10) (X1)
  • 5 in 1 sun reflector disk.

Show the List

Unfortunately, due to the short prep time  I couldn’t find my normal internal frame backpack, and was instead forced to use an old 1920s swiss army backpack made of canvas, steel and shoulder pain.


This 50 pound beast was clearly made before terms like “ergonomics” and “weight distribution” meant anything. It hung entirely off of my shoulders without so much as a belt strap to take the weight of my clothes, tent, food and the 50+lbs of cameras, lenses and film rigs that I strapped to myself. By the time we hiked to the overlook shooting location, I could barely lift my camera rig, much less trek the extra mile or two up to the cabin where we had originally planned on sleeping.
Fortunately, Thanks to the government shutdown, there was almost nobody on the trail and we were able to camp right off of the path at the overlook without getting molested by park rangers.
Despite the pain, I did manage to shoot the shakiest gopro time-lapse footage ever on the way up (more about that later.)
After setting up camp, we pretty much spent the rest of the day relaxing, spinning and practicing until it got dark, when we set up for some fire spinning.

I filmed my friends Wondo and charlie spinning some of lanternsmith’s excellent fire props on the stone slabs of the overlook for use in night portions of the commercial. I would have done some spinning myself, but the aforementioned backpack of pain had made me pretty useless for anything more strenuous than filming. I shot most of the footage using my 50mm 1.8 aperture prime lens, which I find to work pretty well for shooting fire footage do to its wide aperture. The only problem with it is that with my non full-frame camera, the lens tends to get pretty close to the subject, which is what I wanted in this case, but can be troublesome if I were trying for a wider shot.

I used the sholder mount only for a small section of the shoot because my arms were pretty tired, relying more on the tripod/monopod to steady the shots.

After I was pretty satisfied with the footage we had gotten, and after people were no longer interested in spinning, I retired to my hammock tent, nestled between two trees over a 45 degree slope,

It was the first time that I had used a hammock tent, and although it was super comfortable, it was a bit more complicated to set up and find two trees sufficiently far apart. The hammock that I used even featured “Easy bottom-of-hammock entry” which I thought was an incredibly convenient and clever Idea. That is, until the next morning, when I discovered that the hammock had an “Easy bottom-of-hammock exit” as well, which I would argue worked even better than the entrance, as  I woke up dangling half way out of the hammock tent like a strange butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

In the morning, we hiked down and got back to the car just in time to avoid the rain.

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