Author Archive

Stock photos of cars, with or without "esthetic value"

We have car stock photography here, rights-managed photos of interest mainly to ad agencies, art directors, graphic designers, etc. They come to us because they are looking for specific photos, usually of specific cars, or with some other detailed requirement in mind.

Do those photos have “esthetic value”? Sure. They look great.

2015 Audi A7 S Line 5 Door

Rear Three Quarter View of 2015 Audi A7 S Line 5 Door Hatchback Stock Photo

Not everyone might like those photos. Someone who only likes bicycles might think the photos are even ugly.

Why is this an issue? Seems that in Long Beach, California, the police think that they can detain anyone taking photos that have “no esthetic value.”


It’s true. According to this story, police can detain anyone taking photos in which the police think there is nothing esthetically pleasing about the subject.

We think most police officers are terrific, and we imagine that most of them have a discerning eye for under age drivers, parole violators, dangerous road hazards, and a million other things. But we do not think that police officers are in any kind of position to be judging the esthetic value of a photograph.

2009 Ford Flex Stock Photo

Low aggressive front three quarter view of a 2009 Ford Flex

Maybe that’s a part of why the ACLU is reportedly suing the nearby LA Sheriff’s Department.

“Photography is not a crime. It’s protected 1st Amendment expression,” Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California told the LA Times. “It violates the Constitution’s core protections for sheriff’s deputies to detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”

Even more wrong would be if someone stopped us from selling photos, but we think for now we are safe.

For more information about our (constitutionally protected) images, please contact us.

VW Golf Now & Then

In this post I am back to shameless plugs and studio project updates. In August izmostudio worked on a campaign for DDB, from our studio in Brussels. The reinvention of the VW Golf is the brand vision behind this campaign. Our goal was to show the Volkswagen Golf then and now.

photo of ads produced for VW Golf campaign

The reinvention of the VW Golf

We received a 1979 Golf from the amazing car museum of Belgian VW importer, D’Ieteren, and a flawless new VW Golf off the showroom floor. Our challenge was to have the 1979 Golf look like new next to the new 2011 Golf, so that the viewer is only comparing lines of design.

After a serious car prep session, Blondie, Village People, and The Knack got the team in the mood. Those are bands from the late 1970’s. Our modular lighting style and in house retouching team came together, so the ’79 Golf looks like new again.

In September, for about a week or so, we had that funny photographer feeling, while seeing this ad plastered at just about every transit station in Brussels. Fun.

photo of 1979 Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf then and now photos

Is this a Stock Photography Game Changer?

There is no argument against the fact that the stock photography industry is in a state of radical flux. Congruently there is not one voice that has a clear vision of how to move this industry forward for creators, sellers, and buyers alike. The purveyors of the old school preach industry melt down doom and gloom, and the new mini micro evangelists tout salvation in high volume sales of tokens.

The basic business principles of over saturation in product supply and the parallel opportunities presented by the vast new customer segments afforded by extremely low barriers to entry are an interesting problem to solve. The various licensing business models are all stretched to meet this new media demand in a global market place of free flowing information. No mater which soap box you stand on all three stock licensing business models of rights managed, royalty free and micro stock end in short comings towards meeting the win-win digital delivery divide between consumer an provider. Especially with agency and portal gatekeepers promoting a race to the bottom by competing on price alone.

This is an exciting problem to solve. We know that value add solutions come from thinking different. Thanks Apple. And given the transformational times we are in, a complete game changer is what is needed in the stock photo industry.

Along comes Stipple and their image market place. In the simplest terms what Stipple is offering is technology that flips the stock photography licensing business model upside down. Publishers of stock photography want free images, done. Brands want images that add value to their massive investments in brand identity and laser targeted trackable results, done. Talented creators of beautiful photographs, which make the psych emotional bond, and motivates consumer action before they read a single line of marketing pitch, want a fare share of the revenue their images deliver to the brands, almost done.

“[Stipple] solution is the only solution that protects the rights of all parties in the ecosystem and ensures that everyone is paid and their rights are respected.” Rey Flemings, Chief Executive of Stipple

Stipple technology removes the pain point for publishers spending up front for images and recuperating licensing investment through on page advertising and real sales. With Stipple, publishers use images with trackable ingenious metadata tags (annotations) that give the publisher and creator a revenue share based on the brands campaign. Removing the pain from transaction is something I think we will much more of. Notice how iTunes sends the invoice four days after you buy or rent a movie? The benefit and enjoyment are distanced from the financial experience, which often comes with negative association.

There are two forms of revenue generating tags within Stipple images:
1. Pay per Engagement: Shop
2. Pay per Click: Info, Want, People

Here is an example of how this might work. Let’s say Fiat signs up a campaign around the launch of the 500 in the USA. izmostock places photographs of the Fiat 500 in the Stipple Cloud (market place). Publishers up and down the automotive vertical use the Fiat 500 pictures in blogs, dealer websites, accessories, insurance, and service, ect. The public then interacts with these images and eventually 10,000 people click on the want tag, which stores this information by user similar to a wish list. The brand (Fiat) sees this threshold of 10,000 wants and sends out a promotion. Publishers and us (izmostock) get a revenue share of this promotion plus the pay per click action.

Here is another good example of how a photographer can benefit from this game changer.

In this stock photography business model all parties are in partnership. Whether it will be a successful outcome for all three remains to be seen. I think it has digital age solution potential even though from my biased perspective it favors publishers and brands more than image creators. As with any disruptive business model, the challenge is shifting an industry that has been doing business the same way for decades or more.


Popular Photography | How to Light Black

The 2011 August issue of Popular Photography magazine features one of our custom studio creations in a How To Lighting section. Our very own izmostudio automotive photographer, Andreas Lunde’s night time steering wheel of an Audi S3 caught the eye of Senior Editor, Peter Kolonia, for this informative article. Click on the photo below to read the interview and see how this challenging photograph was made.

How to lighting article by Popular Photography magazine.

Izmostudio on Location

First of all, please pardon me for the lack of attending to this blog. Summer has been busy with R&D, a new demo reel, and keeping our high paced volume of automotive media production rolling. The good news is now there is a stack of blog entries all lined up, with some great new updates on the time lapse and motion control equipment reviews, a new stock photography licensing business model, and more of our BTS updates.

Summer was rather nice in Belgium this year. Despite some historical rain fall and flooding there were some spectacular windows of sunshine. Yes, it is true. I just used sunshine and Belgium in the same sentence. To honor this confluence of geography and mother natures golden rays we decided to flex our outdoor location photography prowess with some off-roading rig shots.

Thanks to our studio producer extraordinaire, Alice Wouters, we were all setup with a manly combo. A rock quarry location in Quenast, Belgium, and a 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser, provided the setting for a perfect branding fit, and fun filled production day in a hot, sunny, dusty quarry pit.

All in all our location project was a success, with all the bits and pieces of our rig, cameras, and planning coming together to produce three photos in one day.  Mr. Slate would be proud.

Sunshine in a Studio

At izmostudio we have been working with image composites, as a low cost alternative offering compared to location photography and CGI. Those fine production days of full catered fun in the sun south of the boarder, with large crews and weather delays, are rare now. Quick, lean, and super efficient is how we work today.

Our snazzy Renault Megan convertible needed to be outside with the top down, so we set up a nice mix of Arri hard lights, our thirty foot overhead flying flat, and went about sculpting the car with light as if it were sitting next to a beach. We decided on a sunset/rise scene, so adding some warm gels to the studio setup and direct spot light into the lens is key to bringing the two photos together.

See the full size photo of the 2011 Renault Megan Convertible here.

Motion Control & Time Lapse Equipment Review II

This is a follow up to my previous post from March 11th this year. Since then izmostudio has been using some of the motion control equipment that was featured in that equipment round up, and I have one exciting new piece of gear to talk about too. The eMotimoPT is new to us, and we tested it for this follow up review.

Our moco equipment testing is being done while we are working with cars in the studio, which is a mix of full motion video, time-lapse, and stop frame animations. The system we used for this is a five foot Kessler Cine Slider, Kessler Revolution Head, one Oracle Controller, and elektraDRIVE motors all around. We used this rig in just about every configuration possible.

productioon photo of motion control setup

Using a video slider upside down for fly over

The Cine Slider is really a solid piece of equipment with excellent build quality. During the production of the the izmostudio demo reel all the Kessler gear traveled very well among eight international airport connections, customs inspections, and as you can see in the production stills – some funky rigging.

The Cine Slider is much more than just a horizontal slider. With this one slider rig we can achieve push, pull, rise and pan shots. And while technically it’s a pan shot, we also make “aerial” views with the Cine Slider slung upside down and mounted high above the subject

The Cine Slider can be used manually to get clean moves in video, but this wouldn’t be a motion control review without motors driving the base plate. For our rig we are using the elektraDRIVE 200 Series Motor Pod with a 264:1 ratio. On the Kessler website there are five different motors to choose from. We use this 200 series for a best of both worlds scenario, with time lapse and video production.

motion control setup in studio

Kessler Crane motion control setup for interior of car

The Kessler Revolution head provides the pan and tilt axis of motion. The Revolution head is precession machined and feels super solid and high quality. As a nice bonus, the Revolution head is also quite modular. We are working inside cars and tight spaces. Being able to remove pieces of the Revolution head to fit our needs is super advantageous. Taking the “L  shape” vertical extension off removes the tilt function and then you have an excellent on axis rotating head. Add a Magic Arm or ball head and the possibilities expand. Using just the top tilt portion of the Revolution Head is also possible. Depending on the mounting orientation it becomes either a tilt, pan, or off axis rotating head.

The Oracle controller is needed to drive the motors and record your moves for both the elektraDRIVE on the Cine Slider and the Revolution head. The Oracle firmware upgrade (April 2011 – v2.06.8SL) allows for two axis movement. We worked with one Oracle, and found that having two controllers would be much better for multi axis moves. A single controller for video is okay with some practice finding the sweet spot on the joystick between the desired axis of movement. This system is quick and intuitive for full motion video. In Live Motion mode on the Oracle controller simply assign control to the joystick in the direction you want to move. For example, left/right for the slider and twist for the pan head movement. Record your move and your done. Unless you are like me and it takes a dozen passes to get it right.

Using this Kessler system for multi axis time lapse is more challenging. Although there are three program modes to record time lapse moves on the Oracle (Advanced, SmartLapse, and Simple) it takes time and experimentation to get a super clean dual axis move recorded.

On our setup the motor speed on the Cine Slider is not matched to the motor speed on the Revolution Head. The result in time lapse moves is that the head moves faster than the slider. There are three solutions to this issue.

One. Use the Oracle advanced mode to program cycles and intervals for each axis of movement and compensate for this speed difference. The orientation of the slider and the weight load also has to be factored into motor speed. I gave this method my best car photographer effort several times, and never got it right.

Two. In the SmartLapse mode hold the Oracle controller (very) steady at a consistent speed for both axis of movement. If you are able to hold your hand in the same exact place for several minutes this will work. It’s about ten minutes on a full 5ft. slide move at 209. The best way to get this accurate is to watch the per axis speed readout on the Oracle controller. Watching the head itself will get you inaccurate speeds on the pan/tilt. The slider is easy as its full throttle left or right, with actual speed limited by the “max Speed” knob. The head takes a few practice runs to find the right speed for a precise end frame. Any fluctuation will show in the final movie.

Note: Do this before you shoot, while not under time pressure, and record the program. Eric Kessler has a quick tutorial on multi axis setup here.

Three. Buy another Oracle controller. For multi axis time lapse moves, having a second controller is the sure fire way of getting accuracy and efficient results. Tobias Straka from Swiss Film Makers presents a great tutorial on the double Oracle setup.

Overall the Kessler system is a great rig. My wish list for a motion control system priced at $5000 is pixel perfect repeatable start/stop programing, recording time lapse moves in real time and then setting the desired playback time and interval. This wish could be coming true very soon. At NAB 2011 Kessler demonstrated a new software keyframe driven motion control system with five axis of movement, which is due out in July this year.


Motion Control Pan/Tilt Head for time lapse and video







eMotimoPT is a new two axis pan/tilt motion control head. I tested the Emotimo a few weeks ago outside the studio. There are two features that make the eMotimoPT a stellar piece of motion control equipment.

One is the quick easy setup. Record a multi axis move in real time. Then tell eMotimo how long to play back this move, and your done. Then go do something else. Seriously it is that easy. The first day I took this head out for a spin – see kite time lapse – I was setup and exposing frames in seven minutes, after a quick read of the instructions the night before. Even if I forgot something the LCD readout on the side of eMotimo features an easy step by step setup for time lapse:

  • Move to start position
  • Go to end position
  • Set ramp up frames (header)
  • Total number of frames
  • Exposure time, which is actually resting time for SMS (shoot-move-shoot)
  • Number of post frames (footer)

The second stellar feature about the eMotimo pan/tilt moco head is that it will repeat a move with pixel perfect accuracy. The test I did is the San Francisco Bay time lapse sample with storm clouds. Both of these are twenty minute sequences, with ten minutes in between.

At the end of the sample video is both videos on two separate layers in After Effects, with the layers set to subtract. Notice how stationary objects like buildings and the Golden Gate Bridge are perfectly aligned. Why does this matter? Green screen keying, compositing multiple lighting passes, and multiple exposure values for sky/foreground are all achievable with this level of repeatable motion control accuracy.

Maybe this should be the first advantage of the eMotimoPT. It only costs $500 dollars. The price point and build quality of the eMotimoPT is aimed at the middle market, but it acts and works like a top level professional piece of equipment.

Coming soon on the third edition of our motion control and time lapse equipment review is the very popular dolly rig made by Dynamic Perception. The back order on these is about eight weeks and our tester just arrived. We are also keen on giving the CamBlock a test drive real soon, hint. Stay tuned and let us know how your moco setup is working.

Steven Poe

Ford Focus Production – Studio Rental

Our studio rental in Belgium has some great clients and we enjoy sharing the very unique space with film producers and photographers. Six months ago we had Czar and Rokkit in the house for over a week shooting a commercial for Ford International and Ogilvy London.

The production consisted of a international team of 55 people, with the Director Raf Wathion and the Director of Photography Patrick Otten from Belgium, Director of Photography Stephen Blackman from England, and special effects professionals coming from France and the Netherlands.

Our 18,000 square foot capacity of purpose built studio space allowed for the teams to work on four sets simultaneously, as well as setup a machine and fabrication shop for special effects and prop teams.

It’s a very nice studio, we can work on 4 stages in the same time and the advantage is that we could be in the center of 4 stages for preparing our special effects material. The studio is really nice, specifically the 2 turntables. Benoit Talenton: Special Effects Team/France

In additional to the studio space we also rented our offices, kitchen, and client lounge areas.

Filming is passed without problem, everybody enjoyed working here. The atmosphere of working was very relaxed and pleasant. Simon Van Laar: Belgian Art Director

During the studio rental the izmoEurope team provided studio support and no doubt had some fun, as one of the sets had a Milo motion control arm working full time.


Mini Cooper D – Production Time Lapse Video

Over at our izmoEurope studio in Belgium the team had some fun with this Mini Cooper D production. It must be those long winters in Belgium that had Andreas and Stephan driving the Mini on the cyclorama walls and all. Have a look at this behind the scenes time lapse video too. The video is captured over about eight hours of production time, and playing back just for you in one minute.

2010 Mini Cooper D – Behind the scenes time lapse from izmostock on Vimeo.

How to build a cyclorama

Imagine being inside an empty egg. There you are, surrounded by white, with no horizon in sight. You’re depth perception is gone, but it’s not stressing you out, because you are calm, zen like, suspended in the illusion of endless space of silky white and smooth.

This is what a car sees inside a cyclorama, also known as a cove. And this is why we build cyclo’s to photograph cars. At izmostudio we have purpose built cycloramas, for photographing very high volumes of automotive media, and custom photography.

Many other parts of the media industry use cycloramas for all kinds of media production like fashion, large product sets (think furniture), movies, green screen, and television sets. Common to all are the smooth walls sans horizon, and the creative capacity to play with light, and shadow, on curvy cyclorama walls.

As common as cycloramas are, there are many times I see a blank look of confusion, when discussing cycloramas with different people. Maybe I’ve mistaken the calm, suspended, zen look, for a blank stare of confusion. In case it is confusion, I thought it would be cool to write a quick review of the three basic forms of constructing a cyclorama.

Building a cyclorama is basically building walls, with smooth curves instead of right angles. The difficult part is the corners, where two or more curves meet. The three different structural materials I’ve used successfully are wood, steel, and fiberglass. Each one has advantages, which I will review. All three different approaches, require some form of drywall and plaster. For our European friends, this material is known as Gypsum plaster.

finished cyclorama stage

Finished cyclorama stage

Building a cyclorama is like any construction project. The space you have available and the budget for time, materials and labor drive the process. Make sure that these elements will meet your production goals.

Producing video or photography of large shinny objects requires much more cyclorama than beautiful models with wind blowing through their hair, or a small green screen set for composite and EFX work.

Now that you know the size of the cyclorama that you need to cover the subject, and provide enough background from your field of view (FOV), lets look at the all important radius.

What is a Radius?
A full radius is half the diameter of a circle. A radius on a cyclorama then is ¼ of a circle to cover the horizontal distance from floor to wall, or vertical distance, from wall to wall in the corners.

The goal is to hide the right angle intersections from wall to floor, wall to wall, and possibly wall to ceiling, with a top radius. All radius joints need to be as smooth as possible, with no visible seams, just like the inside of our egg.

How much radius will you need? The size of the subject will determine some of this decision. The radius key is – the larger the curve of the radius – the greater the achievable distance from the subject, and the more cyclorama background you can have in the FOV without seeing the radius. Larger = smoother transition.

If someone says you can light a radius enough to hide it. Forget about it. Unless you plan to shoot on 100% white all the time ignore this distracting idea, and take the time to build it right, so you can focus on lighting the subject, and not fight with the background, or add extra post-production costs.

01 Pre-fabricated Fiberglass
Naturally this seems like the easiest solution – Pre-fabricated fiberglass pieces. You can buy radius pieces, corners, or as a complete cyclorama system. With the radius delivered to your door, it is relatively easy to install, and all you have to build is the structural (studs) and flat wall parts.

Pre-fab pieces of a cyclorama

The real joy of the pre-fab fiberglass solution is the corners, which I spoke about earlier as being – not so fun to build.
Some providers of pre-fab cycloramas offer a modular freestanding system – “cyc on wheels”. Ready made and modular sounds really cool for some applications.

Taking fiberglass one step further is a custom built solution, where a model maker can make the mold for you and then just push out the radius pieces.

The biggest advantage of pre-fab cyclorama systems, and fiberglass radius pieces, is that they can be used, disassembled, and re-installed, when your studio business moves. It’s worth considering the lease terms on your studio space, when making this decision.

In the USA Pro-Cyc is the leader and offers several pre-fab, modular, and permanent cyclorama systems.

In Europe talk to Hassan at Servix, or have a look at Colorama Photo in the UK. And for a superb custom mold and install check with Christian Bogaert in Belgium.

Wood and plaster are excellent materials for building more permanent cyclorama installations because these materials are more flexible to form, and a bit less forgiving to errors. In my case I always worked with a good contractor or carpenter to make the parts. Working with a contractor is a good way to approach this option because there are four professions required, framing, carpentry, drywall, and painting.

Framing the walls of your new cyclorama is basic wall construction. Make the frame to code for your local area!

Wood radius pieces

Wood radius pieces

Make the radius from 4X8 sheets of plywood. Use a table saw to cutout the radius. Place one radius at each frame stud. It is possible to get two 5ft.(1.5m) radius from one 4×8 sheet of plywood.

Make support blocks from 2×4”s. For the bottom radius, I would make one support block for every foot of radius distance. If you plan a top radius you could use fewer support blocks, since it’s unlikely anyone will walk or skateboard up the top.

Place two sheets of ¼” plywood on the bottom radius to cover. You might be able to use just one sheet depending on the amount of traffic and support needed. If making a top radius the plywood is not needed for support, and it adds too much overhang weight.

Wood cyclorama corner

For the corners use wood slats and chicken wire. These two materials will provide a good base to add plaster. Plaster and sand to make the corner shape. Start the corners at this at this step, or in parallel with drywall, since the amount of plaster required will have long dry times.

Now drywall, tape, and mud the entire cyclorama. Place the drywall horizontally on the radius. Although it seems a bit counter intuitive, the horizontal orientation will bend enough. A light misting of water will help bend just enough to get it in place. The reason for the horizontal bend is that it is less tension, and therefore less likely to crack over time with temperature and humidity changes.

The last step is to finish the surface by sanding, a coat of primer, and painting. Generally cycloramas are painted white. I would suggest not using a pure super white paint, for light exposure value reasons. And if your budget and sport the cost go with Silicate Dispersion Paints.


Steel radius support

The benefits of steel are its structural load capacity and lower labor cost compared to wood. Depending on where you are located the material choice can vary widely between steel and wood. Not to mention responsibly harvested sustainable wood. Commonly steel is a higher material cost, with a lower labor cost. Steel studs come pre-cut from the vendor, and are much faster to work with.

The process for the walls is the same with steel. The difference is in the radius. The actual curved supports for the radius are still made from wood. Although for this steel structural method, use ½ inch pressed particleboard, or chipboard in Europe.

Instead of layering plywood for the surface of the radius use steel studs placed horizontally the length of the wall. For a five foot radius, I used four horizontal steel studs evenly placed, from the top down through the arch of the radius. This method is super fast. Just screw the studs into braces on wood radius pieces.

The horizontal steel studs also provide the support for the drywall surface. Place the drywall horizontally at the top first, and down toward the bottom to the radius where it meets the floor.

A excellent Portuguese gypsum professional pointed out the that two thinner pieces of drywall are better than one thick piece, for resistance to cracking due to temperature changes. Who would argue with Portuguese gypsum professionals? Not me, so I took this advice and used two layers of ¼ inch drywall, for the radius surface, instead of one 1/2” inch sheet.

If you are installing a top radius one horizontal steel stud, with layer of drywall, is enough for the top return, without adding too much weight. A five foot overhang needs to be supported securely from the top and sides, so adding any extra weight to the top radius just means added expense for its structural support.

Painting a cylorama stage

The last step is to finish the surface by sanding, and making sure the transition joints are super smooth. I recommend good lighting for this finishing phase. Add a coat of primer, and then paint. I would suggest not using a pure super white paint, for light exposure value reasons.

These are three basic options for cyclorama construction. Albeit a little on the large scale for cars, but the methods will pan out at any size. Do you have some experience to share? Send us comments and pictures of your new cyclorama or one that you are building.

Steven Poe