Posts Tagged ‘tech’

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.

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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.

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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.

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Shooting Video With a DSLR

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

When I purchased the Canon T2i over the summer, I immediately went out, shot some test footage, and posted the results (along with my initial impressions) here on the blog. Now that I have had an opportunity to work with the camera on client projects, I wanted to come back and post a follow-up article on what it’s like working with a DSLR when shooting video.

  • One of the first things I noticed is that if you want to shoot hand-held, it’s a good idea to invest in a lens with image stabilization. Or, you can invest in a DSLR rig that offers camera support. I did some hand-held work with a standard 50mm prime and it was almost impossible to eliminate camera shake.  If you have a lens that does not feature image stabilization, then I recommend using a tripod as much as possible.
  • If you need to shoot hand-held and don’t have image stabilization on your lens, I advise moving closer to your subject. Any time you zoom in on your subject from a distance, you increase the level of visible camera shake in your image. However, by physically moving closer to the subject you can keep your lens set at its widest angle and get some very steady hand-held shots.
  • A major drawback to the T2i is that there is no “time remaining” indicator as you are shooting. It’s very possible to run out of space on your memory card without any kind of warning. This is bad for anyone shooting events or documentaries.
  • There is no way to monitor audio while recording. There are no VU meters and there is no headphone jack. If all you need is some great looking b-roll, then you’ll be fine. However, if audio is crucial, then you will need to record to an external audio device where you can properly monitor the levels.

DSLR’s allow cinematographers to capture incredible HD images and the affordability of the cameras mean that these tools are here to stay. However, like any tool, they do have their limitations. So, adaptation is the name of the game. However, accessories like camera support systems, external monitors, and lens packages provide some excellent work-arounds.

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Wear Your Video on Your Shirt

Monday, October 25th, 2010

I continue to be amazed at the ways in which brands can use video to get their message out to their audience. As mobile video continues to rise and the demand for video content increases, video producers are creating content at a rapid pace. And they are finding ways to exhibit it in new and creative ways. Take, for example, the iPad t-shirt. The shirt, which retails for around $50, has a clear pouch in the front which allows an individual to insert his/her iPad. This essentially turns the wearer of the shirt into a walking billboard. Artists can use it to show off their work or advertise an upcoming show. Brands can use it to display mobile advertisements. Bands can use it to advertise their latest single, or upcoming shows. Animators, graphic artists, illustrators, etc. can use it to show off a portfolio. Video producers can show off their demo reel. I don’t know how popular this shirt will become, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see brands paying individuals to walk around with these iPad t-shirts. Say good bye to the sandwich board.

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