Archive for the ‘Tech & Gadgets’ Category

The Best Video Camera…Ever

Monday, April 30th, 2012
Video camera in action.

Video camera in action. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone wants to know what THE best video camera is on the market. Friends (who don’t work in video production) will ask me this question before making a purchase, “What video camera would you recommend?” I’m flattered that they respect my opinion, but the answer is a little more complex than it used to be. Today there are an incredible amount of cameras out there – each with their own capabilities. I’m hesitant to say that one camera is BETTER than another camera, because I’m not quite sure that’s the case. Every camera is DIFFERENT. Each brings to the table something that makes it unique. Think of these different cameras simply as tools in a toolbox. Each one performs a specific function and each one is suited for a particular job. I feel the same way about cameras. They are simply tools that help you to tell a visual story. You should select a camera based on the type of story you want to tell and the style/look you want to achieve. For example:

  • If a client wants the project to look a little raw and feel low-budget and home-made, I will select a camera and shooting format based on those parameters.
  • If it suits the project, I might shoot standard-definition video in a MiniDV format.
  • If I know that I will be going into a shooting situation with very low light levels, I will choose a camera that performs especially well in low light.
  • If I know that I need to achieve a rich, cinematic look with shallow depth-of-field, I might select a large-sensor camera with the flexibility to change lenses.



You get the idea.

Editing systems are now fully capable of importing video footage from different cameras (with differing frame rates, formats, and frame sizes) into the same project. So now, producers can mix and match their source footage into one video if need be.

The goal has always been to tell the best story. All you need is the right tool for the job.

Video Production Lighting Adopts LED Technology

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Camera technology is constantly changing in the video production industry. It can be difficult to keep up with new image sensors, codecs, image sizes, frame rates, etc. and you can easily break the bank trying to acquire all of this new gear. Small to medium-sized production companies, as well as independent producers, need to pick their battles when it comes to the purchasing of new gear. However, it IS exciting to witness the continued evolution of this industry and how the tools of motion picture storytelling continue to improve.

One bit of technology that’s impressive is new LED production lighting. Everyone is familiar with LED (Light Emitting Diode) in one way or another. For years it was used for small indicator lights on all kinds of electronics and appliances. Only within the last 5-8 years, however, has LED become a serious alternative to traditional incandescent and tungsten lighting. LED fixtures are now being used in architectural spaces (offices, commercial, etc.), residences, and theatrical applications. And now LED is being used in video and film production lighting.

There are several advantages to LED that should cause any production company to take a serious look at using it for their next project.

Fewer Watts Used – Video and film production crews are accustomed to using fixtures that use high wattages in order to get the proper picture exposure. 650w, 300w, 1000w are common for interior locations. For exteriors one might see 1200w, 2000w, and even 5000w. However, LED production fixtures use much less wattage, but will emit an equal amount of light. So, instead of using 650w, an LED equivalent might use 80w.

Fewer Circuits Needed – One of the considerations that must be made while shooting on location is knowing how to patch in all of your lights to avoid overloading one circuit. This can be especially dicey when working in older buildings. LED production lighting features DMX control, which allows the gaffer to daisy chain several fixtures together, then load all of those fixtures into one outlet.

Daylight and Indoor Color Temperatures – If the video production crew is set up for an exterior location with a light kit consisting mainly of indoor-balanced lamps, the gaffer must compensate for this difference in color temperature by placing gel over all of the indoor-balanced lights. This is quick and easy to do, but you also lose light output in the process. For exterior shoots, this loss of light could be unacceptable for the Director of Photography. You could use a fluorescent light bank with interchangeable daylight and indoor bulbs, but this might not give you the punch you need for exterior applications. LED production lights can come with interchangeable arrays, so you can quickly change from interior to exterior color temperatures without sacrificing light output.

No Heat – Every production light we have ever worked with, even a small 300w fresnel, produces an enormous amount of heat. That’s due to the infrared wave lengths that are emitted when the light is working. Up to ninety percent of a 2000w fresnel output may be heat. Once a shoot wraps, grips must either wear gloves when handling the lights, or wait until they cool down. This is why television studios are kept at a very cool temperature. LEDs, by contrast, produce almost no heat, because they operate with far less wattage than traditional tungsten sources. Think of the energy savings for production and TV studios. Less wattage means a reduction in energy consumption. Less heat from the light fixtures means that a studio doesn’t have to cool the studio as much, resulting in a significant reduction in utility costs.

Retrofit options are also available for studios who have a large inventory of fixtures.

There are several good reasons for using LED in video production. In the coming months and years this technology will continue to have an impact on the lighting industry.

Video Sharing Services

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

When I first started out in video production, I was still making approval copies for clients on 3/4″ tape or VHS and mailing them to clients. Then I would have to wait for the package to arrive, wait for the client to review the tape, then wait for the client to call with his/her comments and suggestions.

Things have changed dramatically in 10 years. Now, I can instantly share an HD-quality digital file with a client by uploading it to the cloud. Delivery is almost instantaneous. There’s no need to spend the money on physical media, packaging, and postage. Just encode the edit and upload it to an online service. Then, email a link to the client and he/she can preview it in the browser window, or download it to a local hard drive.

If you are looking for online solutions to share and collaborate on video production projects, allow me to suggest the following:

  1. YouTube – You can easily upload videos and then share them with your clients. However, if you don’t want your rough cuts to be available in the public domain, be sure to make them private, so that only the intended recipients can watch it.
  2. Dropbox – This is a free online storage solution that allows you to sort your content into folders, then share those folders with your clients and others on your team. You can upload various edits of a project into a designated folder so that everything stays organized. A free account provides 2GB of storage, but if you sign up for a free account by clicking the link provided, you can get extra space free.
  3. YouSendIt – This service is simple. Upload your file (50MB per file max for a free account) and then YouSendIt will provide you with a link that you can send to your clients. This isn’t a streaming service. The client will have to download the file on their end before watching it. They now also offer cloud storage (2GB for a free account).
  4. SendUIt – This is a stripped-down version of YouSendIt. You don’t have to sign up for anything. You don’t have to create an account and password. You don’t have to pay for anything. Just upload your file (100 MB max), get a link, and send that link to your client.
  5. Portal Video – This online solution generates transcripts from footage uploaded to its server. From there, video editors can quickly start to piece together a rough cut by simply selecting and moving pieces of text from the transcript. Portal Video changes the corresponding video accordingly. Once a rough cut is complete, it can be shared with the client through a designated Portal Video player.



There are a number of services available for sharing videos back and forth. Some will be free and others will have some kind of pricing structure. Dropbox is the service I use most often, but if you have any suggestions for cloud storage/sharing services that you have found useful, please let me know in the comments section.

Making Time Lapse Videos

Friday, January 28th, 2011
Texas Tech alumnus Rick Husband was the final ...

Image via Wikipedia

Time lapse videos are visually engaging because they compress hours (or even days) into only a few seconds or a few minutes of video. There’s something fascinating about watching things evolve and change in super fast motion, like this time lapse of a space shuttle being prepped for launch. I’ve used time lapse shots in my own video projects for various clients and they really punch up the production value. Recently, I came across this question about time lapse videography:

I have a camera right now, but it’s difficult to make time lapse videos with it. I may know the answer but i’m not quite sure, it’s something about you have to be able to have automatically shooting every xy second. At least that’s what one person told me. I just know what to look for when purchasing a camera, if that’s what I need, because I want a camera with this function so it is easier. There is a way you can do it with my camera, but it’s confusing.

If you are interested in creating time lapse shots that span several hours, even days, then your camera needs to be equipped with an intervalometer. Prosumer and professional video cameras have this function built in. Essentially, the intervalometer allows you to specify how long the camera needs to record and how often it needs to record. For example, you might want to shoot 2 seconds of video every 5 minutes, or 1 second of video every 10 minutes, etc.┬áIf you don’t have an intervalometer, you can easily set up your camera, hit record, and leave it alone. However, your time lapse shots will only be able to span a few hours with this method and you will end up with quite a bit of footage that you won’t really need.

Ease Your Cross-Platform Workflow with MacDrive

Monday, January 17th, 2011

If you are a video editor, whether amateur or professional, no doubt you have encountered projects containing a wide variety of video assets. Sometimes these assets can come to you on PC-formatted hard drives or Mac-formatted hard drives. It’s your job, as the editor, to pull all of this material together into a cohesive whole. If you work on a PC and find yourself having to work with files stored on a Mac-formatted hard drive, might I suggest MacDrive from Media Four. After purchasing and installing the software, you will be able to view files on your PC from any Mac disc and/or drive. You can also partition and format for the Mac directly on your PC. And if you run Windows on your Mac, this software allows you to access the Windows files from within the Mac OS. It certainly makes workflow much easier if you have to work between platforms on a consistent basis.