The camera crane for travel

This has been a useful peace of gear for when I’m on the road.

DJI Phantom 3 in 4K


So I have been flying the DJI Phantoms for a couple years now and have had a few versions. DJI is now releasing two versions of the new Phantom 3. They are 100% the same unit but one has a 1080p camera and the other has a 4K camera. The cameras now have a F2.8 lens with 94 degree field of view and that means no more of the fish bowl gopro look. THANK GOD! Only crap part for some of us that have 10 batteries for the Phantom 2, they will not work in Phantom 3. Soooo I have to buy all new batteries. Sucks.

In the past we needed a light bridge set up for a better and longer connection of line of sight control and video feed but not any more. DJI has now built it all in the phantom 3 just like they did with the Inspire 1. light bridge was a $1,400 ad on in the past as was a bit of a pain as it was more gear to bring with you to a shoot and hook up.

The technology has been advancing with these drones and not only will you get this light bridge included But you can now fly indoors with the new sensors located on the bottom just like the Inspire one.

For any of you that had the Phantom vision 2 plus and remember how much we hated the video quality on that thing, traded it in and went with a go pro version. Well that problem seems to be gone. DJI is using the same camera tech from the Inspire 1. I have seen some footage and it looks real real good.

You will have a new app to download to you phone and tablet that will hook right in to your controller that you can control all the camera settings, start/stop video, take photos unlike the gopro that you can’t do it with in flight.

The new Phantom 3 start at $999 and $1,259 and I’m sure the batteries will be around the same as the last ones at $129 each.

I’m really looking forward to playing with this version of DJI’s Phantom as it seems to have made a big step forward.

Jon Santos

Here are a few good videos I found online to take a peak at. I pre-ordered my new Phantom 3 4k version so as soon as its in Ill do some testing and post up some footage.

Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

So from this leaked trailer of Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice thing thats happening, I can’t say Im going to like or hate this movie yet. I want to see a real trailer. all I get from this trailer is that the movie is going to be so dark that you can’t even see the film and that batman sounds like a transformer and has a metal suit. So basically they made a superhero Terminator movie. it don’t matter how bad ass “terminator ish” they make batman, unless he has a bat belt with a unlimited supply of Kryptonite what is he really gonna do? toss his little batarangs at him? shoot him? hit him with his bat wing and run him over with his little bat sports car? For god sake did no one see the last 30 minutes of the Man of Steel movie with Superman and Zod? the most Epic battle of 2 super humans the ripped in to each other from the city to satellites in space.

View Trailer:

Music Rights for your videos

music licensing

music licensing

I wanted to put this blog together about the rights of music as this is something that comes up. It’s a very grey area sometimes about fair use but I’m going to touch base on a small portion of this. Wedding trailers. As some of you (editors, film makers and past clients of mine) may have come across this issue of having your video blocked or pulled off the internet due to copyright music. What does that mean? It means YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE MONEY OFF OF THIS ARTISTS MUSIC without buying a license to use it as part of your work. That is illegal and you can get fined a hefty $. Here is one case of a 32 year old lady from Minnesota, just downloading free music “Music piracy” as many know it. She was slapped with a fine of $80,000 per song for a grand total of $1.9 million dollars! In the end after the trial she had to pay out just $220,000 to the record labels. Keep in mind that a song on iTunes ranges from $.69 – $1.29. is downloading maybe a few hundred dollars in music for your self worth $220,000 in fines? I think not! Here is another $675,000 fine for just 31 songs shared over P2P. That’s a whopping $21,774 fine per song! Don’t argue the point, it’s stealing no matter how you want to look at it.

Now moving to the next level that many of us are at. Explaining to your client that you can not use a song they want in their wedding trailer because you can not get the licensing for it. We are running a business. We have to license our music or we can get slapped with a nice $110,000 fine per song. That will put us all out of business in one shot. As an editor I know that music a client is going to pick 99.9% of the time would never work for the kind of emotion and feel I want in my films. So I do not let my clients pick music for the trailers or even the full films. I want to deliver a piece of art work with emotion. A Lady gaga or Katy Perry song is not the answer! As a musician / music producer in the past / cinematographer and editor I have a respect for music and instruments separately. I know that a simple soft piano or string section for parts is going to make you feel the emotion of a couple reading there vows to each other. Dark Horse from Katy Perry will not.

With so much amazing music to license today from The mUsic Bed or Song Freedom that will help you tell a story in such a great way is how we should all be going. We want to stay in business and continue to create great films for years to come.

Youtube and vimeo, and other video sites soon to come, are running music matching software and will block your work unless you have the rights to the songs. it’s not 100% all the time but I have already had many videos blocked due to music played by the DJ at events. Unlike the photographers at your wedding, us video guys do run in to a lot of grey areas and legal use issue because of the simple thing called audio. Where does fair use come in to play? Well its hard to say but I personally feel that if I’m filming a wedding and the DJ plays a song for the couples first dance, I should be able to use it as that is what happened live. But some consider that as boot legging and reselling music for personal income. Well what about the DJ? he’s downloading all the music and using it over and over for personal income. Hmmmm… that grey area again. I don’t even want to get in to Live performance rights at events, it will hurt your head.

How do you feel about this?

I would love to hear the thoughts of all wedding film guys as this seems to be the bigger problem we have producing a video.

The Wedding Film Maker

The wedding business. Boy oh boy… As a musician / photographer / film maker I have such a passion for creating stuff. From doing a low-budget music video to mid to high budget weddings and even now and again writing a song and recording it. They all have good and bad parts about them but as long as you love what you do and create the best content you can, you will love working. 95% of my work are wedding films.  I love to be a part of someones big life changing day and design them this beautiful Hollywood style feature film. Feature film? well they average from 20-30 minutes in this world. What? yep. Well now think about it. You hangout with people for 10 hours, shoot clips through out the day, travel, set, up, break down, set up and break down again, you really only have maybe 3 hours of footage depending on how many cameras you have running.

I have been in this business in a few different ways such as a DJ, photographer and film maker over the past 18 years. I think the hardest and most rewarding is making a film. You need to really educate your clients about your product before they book you. Times are different today and some people still think that you’re gonna make them some 2 hour video. Cinematic videos are nothing like the old days. Out of the 2-3 hours of footage things end on the old cutting room floor as they say. Just like a tv show may film for five 15 -18 hour days and you get a 44 min tv show. Same with movies. Hollywood features can be filmed from 2 months to 3 years depending what the film involves. For wedding films to have a nice flow and be interesting to sit back and watch with out boring yourself and the people around you only needs to be 20-30 minutes. All the great keep moments, key parts  of what the guest say. You have the length of a TV sitcom to tell a great story. Hey Seinfeld did it every week about nothing! you can do it about a day at a wedding.

As much as every wedding is the same, they are different. Each couple has their own personality. You can’t just make someone comfortable in front of a camera and spit out a detailed monologue about their life together. Some people want to do it and others want nothing to do with talking on camera. Is what it is.  Your job is to make a beautiful film any way you can. You ever hear that a picture can tell 1000 words? well you have 24 pictures a second helping you tell this story! Sometimes when a couple doesn’t want to say anything you can maybe luck out and get a great officiant and use their words. Many times they have met up with the couple and learn about them and put together a whole back story you can use as voice over.

Well now you have all this great footage. what do you do now? Get cutting! I have this love hate relationship with editing and it has nothing to do with editing. I fight my computer most mornings till it feels like working  or I’m yelling at it because It some how deleted half my edit. BUT, that put aside I put a lot of work in to post production as that’s where the art and magic is. I film in C-log, canon log, that’s a very flat image with a lot of range from the shadows to highlights. This gives you around 12 stops of control when you film like this. Yes, its more work in the end but its worth it when your work looks amazing. This is how its done in Hollywood. Film flat, color correct, color grade and some effects like light flair. Then Music selection. This is always crucial. A song selection can kill you! Use correct relevant music. These days I tend to stay more on the cinematic side, instrumental mostly (piano, strings, drums) sometimes a good song with vocals if I can also find the instrumental version. I like to no I can cut in and out of the vocals when needed. But a song needs to move you. Like every song and movie they need low points and high points. I try hard to find one song that has it all, and I do at times, other times I need to get 2 or 3 songs. It all comes down to the mood. Many times I have to edit songs to loop something or get to the climax faster. You do what needs to be done to get your video where is needs to be. Below is a little look in to post production. don’t forget about Foley! whats that? Foley is the reproduction of ambient sound such as foot steps, doors, clapping, wind any of that stuff. It is recorded with high-end equipment and edited back in to your film so that you can control all the sound and mix everything proper like you would a true movie. This will keep all your sound clean and fully mixable. When you filming a live event like a wedding audio can be a nightmare so we do everything we can to keep it clean and perfect.

As for editing, I mostly keep my story line normal. Im not a big fan of this time jumping for the most part. I like my stories to be like I’m watching a real movie. Start, middle and end. I find it a bit hard to follow when you are at a rehearsal dinner, then bride walking down the isle, then the grooms getting ready then to first dance back to the vows at ceremony. Some people love it but its just not really for me.  Just creative what you love and what feels good for you. Good Luck!

Premiere of Kathy Troccoli’s new music video “I wait”

Kathy Troccoli – “I wait”
(Filmed and Edited by Jon Santos / Rock Life Studios)

Jon Santos / Rock Life

Jon Santos / Rock Life Studios
Filming with Canon c100, Canon 70-200 F2.8

What a fun few days it was in Long Island N.Y. working with  Kathy Troccoli on her new music videos. All of us have worked together on other projects in the recording studio or for photo shoots over the years and it’s nothing but fun and amazing each time.  Matt Margiotta sat in for a guest appearance on drums for “I Wait”. It was great seeing him. I produced his album back in 2010 and to this day is one of my favorite projects that had walked in to my recording studio. Look them up on iTunes “Ninth Hour”

Guitarist / Vocalist, Michelle Margiotta and I always have so much fun hanging out when we get the chance. She is so talented and funny and has such a big heart. I filmed a music video for her song Created to Worship back in 2009. WOW how cameras and gear have changed since then! Look her up on iTunes. It runs in that family. Michelle and Matt have amazing albums download them!

Patrick is also a good friend of everyone and has to be one of the most amazing bassist I have come across in my years. He plays this amazing 6 string bass with such fanes. he is a true master of his craft.

Kathy, You can’t say enough about her. She is the warmest human being I have ever met in my life. Over 30 amazing years in the music business, with many ups and down that the biz can toss you, she has walked through with them and such grace. She’s worked with some of the greats like The Beach boys and Jim Brickman to name a few. Kathy is so easy to work with and has so much  talent and experience that she is a well oiled machine ready to go at a moments notice. Even when the hours got long and all where getting tired she sat on the floor and performed “If I only had his heart” with so much emotion and simplicity that you just couldn’t do anything but watch how cute her performance was.

Some of the most fun I have is on music videos not only because I get to bring out all the gear but I’m a musician and love music. Music really is the one thing we all speak. I can’t read or write music myself but I have had a great, but short music career in the past as a singer, song writer and touring artist on major record label Wind Up Records. Projects like this have a big place in my heart.

(Seven wiser, Fallzone & Jon Santos are projects of Jon that you can find on iTunes)

Jon Santos / Rock Life Studios

a simple basic light set up. three 500 watt lights and 6 foot diffusion panel

Jon Santos / Rock Life Studios

some nice set props

Jon Santos / Rock Life Studios

Canon c100, Canon 24-70 f2.8, ProAm Orion DVC200 12ft Camera Crane

Jon Santos / Rock Life Studios

Canon c100, Canon 24-70 f2.8, F&V R-300 ring light

Post production was time consuming but fun. 14 camera takes. Not 14 camera but 14 takes with one camera. We filmed this one video in about 5 hours with set up time and working out a few things with lighting. A lot of things where set up from filming another video the night before.  I wanted to keep this video very soft so I used 1,000 watts of lights and a 6 foot diffuser with blue gels in front of the diffuser to cool down the light to match a bit more to the outside color temp. I love to bring out the crane now and then and this was a nice room and a light fixture that added a bit of depth to the crane movement.

Jon Santos / Rock Life StudiosJon Santos / Rock Life Studios

I edited this video on my Mac book pro in Full HD (not proxy) streaming all 14 takes plus the song track and it was amazing. for some reason my lap top works better with large multi camera edits like this. Can’t figure that out but the result of this simple video was so pleasing. Hope you all enjoy the song and video. You can down load it on iTunes very soon!

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 11.01.39 AM



Featured in Digital FilmMaker Magazine



It’s great to start up a business, work hard, invest everything you have to get something off the ground. There is nothing better then working for your self doing what you love to do. When something like this comes along it makes every minute and dollar invested worth it. A great magazine that I read all the time did this amazing 6 page spread on me and my business Rock Life Studios. You can download it on iTunes today or even try to pick up a copy of issue 21 in your local Barns & Noble soon. It’s an honor to be published is a world wide distributed magazine and recognized for the work you do.