Saturday, March 06, 2010

Design a Title Using Artbeats HD Clips and After Effects

Studio/monthly readers get access to a tutorial on creating Titles using After Effects. They also get access to HD clips from Artbeats used in the tutorial for free:
This tutorial, created to showcase a number of new clips from Artbeats, will show you some of the techniques we used here in the Energi Design studio on a recent title design for a foreign documentary called L’automne à Paris.

Studio/monthly: Design a Title Using Artbeats HD Clips and After Effects [free registration required]

Editing a multicamera concert shot on Canon 5Ds

ProVideoCoalition has an indepth article by Scott Simmons about editing a rock concert shot with 7 Canon 5Ds. This article goes through the whole thing, from ingesting assemble editing and color grading, to dealing with issues caused by the cameras:
Rolling shutter wasn’t much of an issue with motion. I can think of only a few shots that I wanted to use but chose not to due to the skewing in the image. The place where rolling shutter did show its face was in the still camera flashes coming from the audience. They are everywhere and instead of capturing a full frame bright white flash like the viewer is used to it captures an odd half frame of white or occasional light streak:

Here’s hoping that some over zealous quality control engineer doesn’t decide this is unacceptable for broadcast at the last minute. We did have a dub house send a master back on another 5D job claiming hits throughout the program on a live music video. Sorry, until someone creates the rolling shutter camera flash-fixer plug-in it’s either live with it or spend a lot of time in After Effects fixing it frame by frame.

ProVideoCoalition: Editing a multicamera concert shot on Canon 5Ds

Reminder: Philip Bloom Meetup, tomorrow @ Venice Beach

Philip Bloom is having a Meetup on March 7th at 12pm on Venice Beach. Location details are included in his post.

Canon Rebates

Canon is offering rebates on cameras ($100 on the Canon 7D) some lenses ($100 off the EF 50mm f1.2L) and some camera/lens combinations (Canon 5D and 7D.) The promotion runs from March 7 through April 3rd.

Canon site: Canon 7D rebates poster [PDF] above PDF plus 5D and lens rebate poster [JPG]

Thoughts on the AG-HMC70U

I’ve had the Panasonic HG-AM170 for over a year now, and I have to say that it’s been an interesting relationship. Perhaps the most surprising thing about it is that I neither love it or hate; yet I’ve grown increasingly fond of it.

I should mention that my other primary camera is a Sony HDR-FX1, though I also have a Sony HDR-XR500V, and a Canon 7D. The problem, perhaps, is that the HG-AM170 is not as exciting a camera as any of those. There's no "wow." It doesn't offer the most features, best image quality, smallest size or anything else that really distinguishes itself. In fact in many ways, it's missing lots of - manual - features. But it does offer two functions/features that those other cameras don’t do well;
  1. It works great on the shoulder
  2. It has two XLR inputs
This is a real ENG camera. For shooting standup interviews, it’s the best camera I have. It’s much easier to hold this camera steady for a long period of time on the shoulder then it is to hold any of the other cameras by hand. Of course, a tripod solves that problem, but in a lot of cases a tripod makes things more awkward; interviewing someone while they walk around for example.

XLR inputs are more secure and less fiddly when using external microphones. I have a wireless mic that I use a lot and though it has a mini-plug connector, I much prefer using the XLR connection. I’ve also got a second wired lavalier that only has an XLR connector. Now I could use an adapter, but that adds another element in the chain that can cause problems, and plugging two XLR mics into a single stereo-mini plug poses additional issues. All the other cameras that I own have stereo mini jacks, and while I have a Beachtek adapter (an earlier model with similar features to the Beachtek DXA-4P) that lets me plug in two XLR mics into a stereo input, it’s one more piece of equipment to deal with, and one more link in the chain that can fail.

Now it’s not all peaches and cream. The camera sometime feels like a cheap piece of plastic compared to the others, and it’s manual controls are limited. It does have a really nice rocker zoom switch, but manual focus is problematic at best; most of the time I leave it in automatic.

Because of it's large shape, and placement of the zoom control, while it's great on the shoulder, it's not so great for other situations. On a tripod, or on your shoulder, is where it works best.

The video it produces isn’t particularly spectacular either. It doesn’t do quite as well in low light and tends to wash out in bright light. Compared to the other cameras it seems to lack visual punch. On the other hand, when I recently shot a project with the XR500V and the HG-AM170, I found the footage from the HG-AM170 was much easier to color correct to something I liked than the footage from the XR500V. Initially the XR500V footage "looked" great, but the HG-AM170’s - after a bit of fiddling - actually looked better.

Interestingly, when I was buying the HG-AM170, I was almost tempted to buy the Sony  HVR-HD1000U. Already having the Sony FX1, I figured that matching the video between two Sony cameras might be easier, and I was tempted to stick with HDV. I hadn't yet dipped my toe in the AVCHD workflow, and was hesitant to make the jump.

In retrospect, I think I made the right choice. The HVR-HD1000U lacks the XLR inputs, and I really, really like having those. And though adapting to the AVCHD format has caused more problems for me than HDV had in the past (more data, more processing, finicky Log & Transfer in Final Cut) the three camera's I've bought since all use AVCHD or H.264. It's the future; for the next few months. And who knows, now that Sony has moved to AVCHD with the HXR-NX5, maybe the HVR-HD1000U will be replaced with an AVCHD version.

But even if they do, I'll hang on to the HG-AM170. As silly as it sounds, I just like those XLR jacks.

B&H: Panasonic HG-AM170

Friday, March 05, 2010

For young activists, video is their voice

When Elisa Kreisinger wanted to protest the newly diminished visibility of gay characters and story lines on television, she didn’t launch a petition drive or write an angry op-ed piece. Instead, like many other members of the YouTube generation for whom the visual language is a native tongue, she found a way to have her say with video rather than words.

Kreisinger remixed scenes from “Sex and the City’’ into a pair of pro-gay narratives, and uploaded the resulting videos to her blog, drawing 21,000 hits.

Source: Boston Globe

From Still to Motion - author interview at 16x9 Cinema

The 16x9 Cinema podcast has an interview with From Still to Motion authors Richard Harrington and Robbie Carman.
16x9 Cinema: Episode 6

OK Go video

The band OK Go had great Internet success with their treadmill dance video, and now they are back with a simply amazing one-shot video with a huge Rube Goldberg-like machine. The machine/video is pretty amazing. Not surprisingly, it took them two days and 60 takes to get it right:
The video was shot by a single Steadicam, but it took more than 60 takes, over the course of two days, to get it right.

Many of those takes lasted about 30 seconds, Sadowsky said, getting no further than the spot in the video where the car tire rolls down a ramp.

"The most fiddly stuff, you always want to put that at the front, because you don't want to be resetting the whole thing."
You can read about the making of the video here: Wired/CNN: The making of OK Go's new viral video

There's four short "making-of" videos: episode 1, episode 2, episode 3, episode 4, which primarily talks about the inspiration for the project and shows a little of the building (but none of the practicing!)

And you can watch the actual video.

Here's part 1 of the Making-of-series.

MPEG Steamclip demo

The writers of the book From Still to Motion have put up a demo video clip on their Facebook page: Transcoding with MPEG Streamclip [HQ]
7:39 Richard Harrington and Robbie Carman. Learn how to convert your DSLR footage for use in a video editing program. From the new book and DVD – From Still to Motion (Peachpit Press).

You can Pre-order from for $31.49: From Still to Motion: A photographer's guide to creating video with your DSLR (Voices That Matter)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

YouTube account termination policies

Apple has got into some trouble for it's policies about apps in the iTunes store, and now it seems that YouTube is going to get raked over the coals. Turns out that if you fall foul of the community (i.e. get flagged by several people) you can get bounced without notice or explanation.

CNet: Can you appeal a YouTube ban?

YouTube moves toward Captioning

YouTube held a press conference yesterday and announced efforts to improve captioning for video. They have a system that will automatically create English captions using speech-to-text, that was launched back in November with a limited number of partners, but now everyone can do it!

From reading the blog it appears that producers can now use the system to add captions to their videos, and users can use it on non-captioned video too.

You can read a blog of the press conference at CNET.

UPDATE: I just went to look at my videos on YouTube, and there's a Machine Translation button (which is labelled "Request Processing (English only)" )and has the following disclaimer:
Machine Transcription is available for the videos in this Channel. To enable Machine Transcription for this video, please 'Request Processing'. We will try our best to get some results in a few days.

Canon 5D Mark II ships with new firmware? reports on a Canon 5D Mark II spotted in the wild with the new firmware update.

Funnily enough, the update was originally rumored to be out in February; certainly they were talking about it coming, though not confirming all the details. I can't help wondering if the delay was so stores would have a chance to move through existing inventory, and they could get production models out to dealers with the new firmware.

It probably turns off a few sales - or at least causes awkward moments - when new customers ask about the new features and the store has to tell the person that the camera doesn't have it; they'll have to install it themselves.

Removing Video Noise

As a one-person, no-budget production house, I often end up in situations where there's poor light; and lots of noise in the video footage. There are, of course, solutions to this problem. I have a light kit, but often don't have the time (or energy) to set them up for a quick shot. And some locations don't really allow you to set up lights. The newer cameras are performing much better in low light than the cameras from just a few years ago; the Sony HDR-XR500V bought last year is a huge jump up from the Sony HDR-HC1 bought four years earlier. Still, noise is a problem, and when a friend mentioned the Neat Video Plug-In as a possible solution, I had to check it out.

Neat offers a free download evaluation version that you can try out, though it only works with Standard Definition video. A few weeks back I did create an SD resolution test clip to try it out. The test went  well, and I was pretty impressed, though I was still on the fence about spending the $99 for the "Pro" version which will do HD footage.


Canon testing new video DSLR? has a tip on the testing of a new video DSLR. Details are a bit vague, though they focus on problems with moire.

The 7D (and 5D) all suffer from moire to a greater or lesser extent because they are scaling the image from the chip to 1920x1080 on the fly. They "get away" with these problems partly because of the other advantages of these cameras (including price.) But if Canon actually came out with a "video" DSLR - and charged five or six thousand for it - then they'd have to solve that, and a few other problems.

Of course, in the mean time, we're still waiting for the new video camera Canon has already alluded to.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

President's Reunion video shot with DSLRs

A bunch of SNL alumni and - and a few others! - got together with director Ron Howard to make a video for financial reform that's now playing on the website.

They have also put up a behind-the-scenes featurette which seems to show that they used DSLR cameras to shoot much - if not all - of the production. It can be seen on a jib rig, and also being used hand-held.

Star Trek: How It Should Have Ended

I really liked this; it's funny and the voices and the animation are really good;

Kirk: Okay, I've got an idea. Computer, I want you to shut down all the lens flare generators
Computer: Lens flare generators deactivated
Spock: Fascinating
Kirk: Ah, that's better
Spock: I was...unaware that we had that
Kirk: It's nice, right? I mean who designs a star ship where lights shine right in your eyes from virtually every angle

Nice ending(s) too!


There's a QA with the authors of the upcoming From Still to Motion over at Peachpit's website:
Authors: The book is targeted first and foremost at photographers. Every decision we made was with the professional or advanced amateur in mind. We didn't rehash anything they should already know about photography, rather we used that as a building block to explore what's unique about the video process. We used analogies that made sense for photographers and we also profiled 5 great photography pros who share how DSLR video is impacting their professional lives.

In Apple trying to store your video in the cloud, Greg Sandoval at CNet writes about Apple's efforts to play video from the cloud. The title is a bit miss-leading; I think they're talking about customers buying videos, but keeping them "on the cloud" to play them back (useful for iPad owners with only 16GB of memory. ) The article concerns itself with dealing with studios, and getting them to agree to this kind of arrangement; I'm not sure they are concerned about storing your own videos in the cloud.

BBC camera choices

Philip Johnston has his own unique take on the restructuring of BBC services. While he seems to have a problem with the programming on BBC Scotland, he's particularly disappointed that they seem to be stuck in DV land, and even worse, that the BBC has just gone out and bought a bunch of "wrong" cameras:
Sony have just brought out the NX-5 which films HD and SD and is streets ahead of the Sony z5…the BBC in their wisdom have recently purchased 50 Sony z5 HDV camcorders !
You see my point HDV is not a good format and suffers from frequent timecode breaks which makes it a pain trying to ingest footage into a non-linear edit suite. Sony must have offered the BBC a great deal to offload 50 Z5’s.
He also thinks they should have gotten EX-1Rs or EX-3s.

While I agree; an EX-1 is better than a HVR-Z5U, I'm not sure it's a spectacularly bad choice, or even that the NX-5 is necessarily much better. While I agree that timecode might be an issue for some, there are some advantages to going with the Z5U; particularly if your editing systems are currently set up for DV.

Still, fifty is a lot of cameras. Maybe they should have mixed it up a little....but maybe it was a really good deal.

Source: BBC trim services to add £600m for programme making

Final Cut Users: ProKit 5.1 (Leopard & SnowLeopard)

Released March 2: This ProKit Update fixes issues with user interface software resources that are shared by Apple's professional applications.

  • The issues addressed include:
  • Corrected an issue with improper scrolling behavior.
  • Resolved memory leaks for improved performance.
  • Addressed layout of interface elements in certain application alert windows.

The update is recommended for all users of Final Cut Studio, Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Aperture, Final Cut Express, Soundtrack, Logic Pro and Logic Express.

Apple Support: ProKit 5.1 (Leopard & SnowLeopard)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

7D Firmware campaign

Every campaign needs logo....

Email Canon from their Contact Canon page, or phone Canon at 1-800-OK-CANON and ask about getting a firmware update for the 7D to match the features in the 5D Mark II firmware 2.0.3

Another comparison of the T2i and 7D

Just a couple of days ago I was talking to a friend about the 7D and T2i, and I said that though I didn't regret getting the 7D (because of the better weather sealing, better construction, better focus system and viewfinder (and a few other things) if I was doing it today, I'd probably save the bucks and get the T2i.

Ron Risman at Cameratown has done some testing with the two, and when it comes to video, finds very little (practically no) difference between the them.
If the main reason you were considering the EOS 7D was for the great video capabilities of the camera and not for the photographic features, then I would definitely recommend that you to consider the Rebel T2i as an alternative. The extra $900 spent on the 7D will not give you any real noticeable benefit with regard to video quality, at least at the ISO settings you're likely to use (up to ISO 1600). Virtually all of the advanced capabilities of the 7D center around its photographic capabilities (AF performance and frame rates) and not its video differences.

Blogging City Island, part III

I'm really enjoying the installments of Blogging "City Island" that are being published on Salon. Writer/Director Raymond De Felitta, walks through the experience of making the upcoming moive City Island. In the latest episode, the movie project loses momentum when the attached actor walks, he goes off to direct another movie, but comes back determined to turn the project around:
And that's just what happened. Of course, "turnaround" in Hollywood-speak means: We no longer want to continue with your project. My producers had passed up renewing the option on the script. I had to start all over again.

Canon 7D Users unite!!!

Stu Maschwitz at ProLost has an interesting post on his blog blaming his readers (well, maybe anyone with a Canon 5D Mark II) for the Firmware update:
In the 18 months since Canon announced the Canon 5D Mark II, you’ve written, you’ve called, you’ve left comments here and on Vincent Laforet’s blog. You politely but firmly harrassed Canon personel at trade shows. Perhaps most significantly, you put your money where your mouth is and bought 7Ds, showing Canon that 24p is even better than Bokake.
Only problem is, now there's features in the 5D, that aren't in the 7D (or the T2i, but we'll worry about that some other time.)

So now it's time to start a campaign to write, call, and otherwise harass Canon until they bring these features to the 7D!:
  • histogram display for shooting movies in manual exposure, shutter-priority (Tv) and aperture-priority (Av)
  • audio levels set manually using a sound-level meter displayed on the LCD screen

You can Email from their Contact Canon page, or phone Canon at 1-800-OK-CANON

Music video being shot with DSLR rigs

Philip Bloom has a post (with pictures!) about a music video being shot with two Canon EOS 7D rigs by Robert Rodriguez. One of them is a pretty pimped out rig!

Robert Rodriguez shooting music video on 2 Canon 7ds

HDMI in Mac Mini, but no Blu-ray?

AppleInsider reports that Apple is looking at adding an HDMI connector to the Mac Mini, though the details are sort of vague and clouded by issues between Intel and Nvidia.

Perhaps more interesting is a piece at the end of the report which repeats the claim that Apple made a last-minute decision to scrap Blu-ray from the last iMac revision, and seems to suggest that the chances of Apple supporting Blu-ray are now less than zero:
One issue, according to people familiar with the matter, was that Apple management -- including Jobs -- felt Blu-ray licensing fees were too steep for the length of time they believed the technology would remain relevant in the market place.

H.264 licensing

Stephen Shankland @CNet writes about H.264 licensing in: Is H.264 a legal minefield for video pros? If you're doing anything with H.264 (and who isn't?!) it's worth giving a read.

His piece was actually prompted by a more panicked article at Ben Schwartz's Digital Diary:: No, you can’t do that with H.264, which talks about the licensing issues, and points out that Apple's Final Cut Pro license (and for that matter, Windows 7 Ultimate, and Adobe Premiere's) says you can't use H.264 for commercial purposes:
Stephen's article is a little more reasoned, and he also contacted several of the parties involved (though it was interesting that Apple and Adobe didn't want to comment.)
For somebody supplying footage to a movie studio, for example, H.264 licensing requirements don't enter into the calculation until the last step in the production chain--broadcast of the movie or replication of its disc, Harkness said. An H.264 license would be needed, though, for a band making and selling its own concert video disc, he said. 
If you're using YouTube as your distribution medium, then you don't have to worry. It's only if you're hosting the video on your own server, or you're distributing it on DVDs or Blu-ray discs that you actually might have to worry, though the cost is supposedly only 2 cents per disc in the latter case:
"Per Section 3.1.2 of the AVC License (Title-by-Title AVC Video), the royalty for each title greater than 12 minutes in length is 2.0 percent of the remuneration paid to the Licensee or $0.02 per title, whichever is lower. In other words, the royalty would not exceed $0.02 per disc for the videographer," said MPEG LA spokesman Tom O'Reilly.
And if you are hosting the video on your own server, at least through 2015, as long as no one is paying to see the video, then there's no royalty.

So, you know, maybe we don't have to worry.

Monday, March 01, 2010

5D Mark II firmware due March 16th?

The date keeps changing, but now Canon has officially pre-announced the 5D Mark II firmware update. Firmware 2.0.3:

  • adds 24 (actual 23.976fps) and 25 frames per second (fps) recording to the camera’s EOS MOVIE video function
  • change the 30fps option to the NTSC video standard of 29.97fps.
  • histogram display for shooting movies in manual exposure, shutter-priority (Tv) and aperture-priority (Av)
  • exposure modes will be available in movie mode
  • audio levels set manually using a sound-level meter displayed on the LCD screen
  • audio sampling frequency has also been increased from 44.1KHz to 48KHz

It will be available for free download on March 16th.

No word on whether the other features will be coming to the 7D.


All You Need to Know about Sony's NXCAM

If you're in New York on March 23, 12:00PM to 2:00PM, you might want to stop by the B&H Event Space for the seminar: "All You Need to Know about Sony's NXCAM"

During this seminar Sony cover the features and benefits of their latest camcorder including the AVCHD format. Jim Streeter will be assisted by camera guru Thomas Cubby, sales support engineer. Tom will support the workflow of AVCHD as well as the advantages to the optional Flash Drive.


Stu Maschwitz on his ProLost blog posted recently wrote about color correcting a shot of a cup of coffee beans! It makes for interesting reading because it talks about how Memory Color; how the brain assumes something is a certain color, and "auto-corrects" for us, causing our brain to sometimes do very unexpected things with an image:
The human brain is so tied in to our eyesight that we internally auto-correct for certain colors. This is the very definition of a memory color. For example, if you grew up in the United States, you know that a stop sign is red—so you tend to see an image of one as being red even if the color is way out of whack
He then goes on to explain:
When looking at the footage on my computer, I noticed a funny thing. The beans, which in life have a vivid, sumptuous brown tone, appeared gray-black on my screen. I almost didn’t notice, because I know they are brown, but on close inspection it was clear that I had been fooled by my brain into seeing what I knew rather than what was actually there.
It's an interesting read for the beginning colorist: Memory Color.

And if, like me, you're still just dipping your toe into the Apple Color waters, here's some interesting tutorials:

I read an interesting post from someone complaining about how dark Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was, and they didn't mean subtext. Ever since then, every time I watch it, I go "Oh my, that's dark!" Take a look at this frame from one scene:

Bruce Nazarian: DVD and Blu-ray

MacVideo interviews DVD and Blu-ray expert and author of DVD Studio Pro 4: The Complete Guide to DVD Authoring with Macintosh, and Fast Path to Blu-rayBruce Nazarian.

There are also two videos from the January 2009 San Francisco FCPUG Supermeet, one on how to affordably produce Blue-ray content using Toast and the other on Blu-ray duplication.

Bruce also has a lot of material on his website, including a blog, podcast, and some tutorials showing how to create Blu-ray discs using Toast 10 and other topics.

MacVideo: Bruce Nazarian: DVD, Blu-ray and distribution expert (part 1)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

BBC to make cutbacks

From The Independent:
The BBC is planning to cut the scale of its website in half, axe parts of its radio portfolio and sell off its magazine publishing arm in an acknowledgement of widespread criticisms that the size of the Corporation is threatening the future of British commercial media.
Hmm, well just as long as it doesn't impact my favorite TV show.