Oprah Winfrey Network using DSLR Video for Network Series

Oprah Winfrey Network using DSLR Video for Network Series

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has released a teaser for their new series “Master Class” on their website and it shows that full production of the series appears to be done completely on Canon DSLR’s with Redrock Micro support rails, matte boxes, Follow Focus and their new EVF – The full teaser in MP4 format can be downloaded and viewed from the OWN website at http://goo.gl/2sUIm

In QT player, you can clearly see the setups at TC 1:30 and 2:29.

The camera at timecode 2:39 also appears to be using the Redrock Micro EVF for the primary camera.

The image quality is outstanding as I originally saw this teaser on cable with a HDTV and went searching for the web version of the teaser.  The image quality more than held up to “broadcast” standards.  I’m curious as to their post production workflow as well.

With all the money she has at her disposal, this is a major announcement to prove DSLR video is really ready for broadcast.

Video Is No Longer The Future Of The Internet It ‘s The Present

Video Is No Longer The Future Of The Internet It ‘s The Present

Over at dvcreators, a blog posting has confirmed what I have been saying for the past two years – that the Internet will be the primary venue by which content will be viewed.

As author Josh Mellicker points out in the article:

internet traffic is skyrocketing, propelled by video.

I’ve been chastised by those who say broadcast TV will always rule the viewership window – these statistics are showing a trend that contradicts this assertion by various detractors.  IN addition, specialized content that will create niche audiences will be an additional reason for this trend to continue.  Now the race is on for developing technologies to allow for full streaming of HD content via broadband internet.

Read the rest of the posting over at DV Creators to get the full story on viewing trends and more.

Video Cameras – A Personal Perspective

Video Cameras – A Personal Perspective

I’m calling it as I see it.  DSLR video is a fad – at least in solo video journalism it is.  Plain and simple.  There are many who have become enamoured with the so called uber cool extreme shallow depth of field flavor of the moment, equating it to creative license and thus making it their top priority, and in the process, losing sight of the first rule of solo video journalism:  It’s the story, not the gear.

I have a real issue with this whole mind set of DSLR’s/Shallow DOF perspective that has been flooding this profession for the past several months.

Time and time again, I read forum posting after forum posting from so called pro’s wondering if they are going to get more work by switching to a DSLR that shoots video.

In a word – No.

From my professional experience, I believe it only makes a mediocre shooter look desperate (and I’ve seen plenty of that lately) if you have to use technical gimmicks to make up for your lack of compelling story telling shooting skills.

 

As someone who has seen alot of still and video content in my career as a visual content creator, I’d rather view a compelling piece shot on a single chip SONY A1U or HC7 that has clean audio, proper exposure, proper compositional framing, utilizing compelling story telling technique, etc than a boring story shot with the latest fad video DSLR with shallow DOF as the gimmick to save a mediocre story. That’s not to say a solid story can’t be shot on a DSLR that shoots video – but it’s my belief that it’s 98% operator and 2% equipment and the vast majority of shooters have lost sight of that.

My mentor from afar, David Dunkley-Gyimah, has posted his experiences and insights around the notion of tradionally laid out video cameras versus what it takes to shoot with one of the Hybrid DSLR’s .  Having read about, seen and even handled these flavors of the moment has provided some insights on my end that I’m going to take liberties with.

Here’s some things most don’t seem to be addressing.  The purchase of additional gear just to get the DSLR to work the way a traditional video camera works out of the box.  Now tell me why a self contained backpack journalist who is having to carry all their gear why would you want to have to carry viewfinder magnifiers, matte boxes, rails, shoulder stocks, etc to get your story shot?  More gear to carry, more to assemble, and in the end, will probably get in the way of producing the story.

 

Yet that’s exactly what all the spin doctoring proponents would have you believe is needed to create compelling content.  They couldn’t be more wrong.  In fact, the form factor of video cameras remains virtually the same for a good reason.  It’s already known.  There’s no relearning where/how to focus, where to place mics, how to manage audio in post due to poor audio quality of Hybrid DSLR’s thus having to manage a separate audio recorder that has to be synch’d in post, etc…

The next generation of video cameras recently announced at NAB prove an important point.  SONY, Panasonic, JVC, and Canon stay the course with the tranditional form factor of video cameras for those who make their livings shooting a variety of content.  Sure, Canon’s DSLR’s were the darling s of 2010 NAB, but many don’t seem to have taken much notice that the mainstay video cameras for those who shoot video content for a living still hold to traditional form factor and their known acquisition codecs as they are time tested and proven in both acquisition and in post production.

Yes the cameras are bigger, but you retain all the features needed to produce professional content – without having to Rube Goldberg your gear together.  And there’s no hoop jumping in post – another bane of the DSLR Video equation.

The funny thing is, I came from a stills background – having shot stills for over 25 years, and yet I find the idea of shooting video with a DSLR as not being quite right.  I personally would rather produce video content on a camera that was designed from the ground up to do so, not as an add on to a tool that requires firmware updates, limitations of recording time a heavy investment in accessories to get it to shoot video.

 

Too many mediocre shooters have become worked up (and plain lazy) over the shallow DOF film look. For all practical purposes, they lose all the features that standard video cameras provide – ie, they are stuck in manual focus, audio control is still a kludge, they have to buy more accessories just to compensate for the lack of proper features needed to shoot properly – but hey, it looks really cool when they shoot with it.

If you’re more concerned about the equipment instead of the story – it’s time to get back to basics and learn to produce compelling content with the gear you currently have before moving to the latest.

If given the choice between the hybrid DSLR and a traditional form factor video camera – I’d still go for the latter.  I know what I’m getting through the whole production process.  Time is money – why waste it on inefficient processes to be “cool”?

In closing, Hybrid DSLR video is a kludge – having to duct tape together all the parts necessary just to get the tool to do what it mostly should.  Mainstream video cameras  present a known quantity – they do what they do because they were designed to.

Why trust your livlihood on anything else?

Hiring A Moving Company And I’m Stressed

Hiring A Moving Company And I’m Stressed

Why I think know hiring a moving company for your next move will save you a lot of stress and headaches…

So you’re looking to move from (or into) the Modesto area, but you’re not sure where to start? First, you need to find the best movers in Modesto CA. Now that you’ve found a reliable and reputable moving company, it’s time for 3 reasons you need to hire them over choosing to do the move yourself. Let me break them down for you:

#1. Let’s be honest – moving is hard!

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Moving is not easy and the fact that most people work 40 to 60 hours a week makes it even more difficult. If you’re moving a house, at best, you are looking at a 2 or 3 week moving ordeal. Factor in your job and this is going to take even longer when you consider the prep work needed to move even a small house with two to three bedrooms.

#2. Professionals can speed up the process

Pro moving companies know exactly what to do and how to do it. This will quickly shortcut the time spent having to figure this stuff out on your own. They bring the right equipment and strength to knock out your moving job in a flash. If the moving company is associated with CMSA , you can rest assured they know exactly how to handle your job in the most efficient way possible.

#3. Truck rentals are going to eat into your savings

So many people think that moving on their own is more cost effective, but when you really sit down and add everything up it doesn’t make sense. Factor in your time, materials, costs for renting trucks and food for any family and friends and you may find that you’re paying more to move yourself.

Hopefully you can see why it is beneficial to consider hiring an experienced and known moving company in the Modesto area. Save yourself the headache and call one right away. Don’t be like me and stress yourself out.

Using Intermediates In Post Production

Using Intermediates In Post Production

Reading comment after comment on various forums of shooters using clips from highly compressed footage such as AVCHD and from DSLR’s is like a broken record.

Yet the mention of using intermediates for editing brings the response of “Why should I do that?  I should be able to just edit the native clips“.

And my response is “your wants versus the realities do not line up“.

The use of intermediates is a well known practice for major Hollywood motion pictures so the question is not if you should be using them, but why aren’t you using them?

I’ve tested the two options known on the PC side of things – Cineform and AVID DNxHD intermediates and I can tell you, using intermediates is a far better and more efficient way in the long run to edit if you want increased performance, real time playback and more accurate color grading capabilities.

I initially started out using Cineform NeoScene, but after extensive testing I just can’t recommend it until they resolve a glaring bug in their capture utility.  Currently HDLink removes the beginning and end of clips thereby removing frames if comparing to original clips. For long form post production work that is a serious issue.  Instead, I’ve gone to using AVID’s DNxHD codec and transcoding my highly compressed native GOP h.264 DSLR clips with MPEG Streamclip to the frame based DNxHD intermediate.   For those unfamiliar with MPEG Streamclip, it’s a free utility that utilizes Quicktime to do what it does.  And it does a fantastic job in the process of encoding to AVID DNxHD (or any other codec Quicktime can access).

According to AVID:  “Native HD camera compression formats are efficient, but simply aren’t engineered to maintain quality during complex post production effects processing. Uncompressed HD delivers superior image quality, but data rates and file sizes can stop a workflow dead in its tracks.  Avid DNxHD (intermediates) delivers both efficiency and quality without compromises.”

There are compelling reasons to use the AVID codec over Cineform – ie; it’s truly cross platform.  Any NLE that can read quicktime .MOV files along with installing the free codec can access and play them back.  Which means ANY Windows or MAC based NLE can be used to edit the clips if it can read Quicktime MOV files.  With Cineform, you pay for their codec and utility and have to jump through their activation hoops – which are known to not work as well as advertised.

Presently, I work in Premiere Pro CS5, and previously in Vegas Pro 10 32 & 64 bit and along with the latest version of Quicktime player – the clips work wonderfully.  I can play back 7 streams of DNxHD 720p 110mbps 10 bit clips on the timeline stacked in Best Full preview playback in real time.  That speaks volumes to me at the quality of the codec.  Bumping up to 1080p strains my Q9400 Quad core with 8GB RAM with a Raid 0, but it does playback well enough to get things done.  I encode to 720p 110mbps 10bit  to give me as much room as possible to grade my clips without degradation to the clips.  It’s the same principle that Cineform uses when transcoding to their AVI based intermediate.

There are those who like Cineform, and I’m sure it’s a good product.  I even had a license for NeoScene for over a year, but after I found the glaring bug that was first denied publically by those involved at Cineform, yet privately, was told by tech support that the bug was reproducable, I felt it was time to find another option.  And the slap in the face?  Cineform Tech Support’s response as a workaround was to edit the native highly compressed files. That sealed their fate in my work.

Hence my using AVID DNxHD intermediates as the foundation for all my post production.

Here’s my procedure to encode to AVID DNxHD from original clips.

You need to have the following installed in this order: Quicktime Player (The latest version), AVID DNxHD codec (Latest) and MPEG Streamclip.

Just as with Cineforms HDLink utility, you can batch encode your clips with MPEG Stream Clip and save them to another folder.

  • Once my original native footage are copied over, I open MPEG Stream Clip, select List and then batch list from the menu at the top.
  • Select Add Files at the bottom, and navigate to the folder with the native DSLR clips.  Add all the files to encode.
  • Then choose “Export To Quicktime” – do not check any of the boxes presented.  Uncheck them if any are checked.
  • At that point you will be asked to select the folder where you want the rendered intermediates to go.  Once you select that folder, a window will open that shows your encode options.  It will probably default to “Apple Motion JPEG A”. Drop that box down and select “AVID DNxHD Codec”.  If it doesn’t show as an option, you need to make sure you have installed the DNxHD codec.  If it shows, slide the Quality Slider all the way to the right (100%).  Select the options button.  You should leave the RGB radio button as the default, Alpha is None, and then comes the place you select the bitrate and color space (8 or 10 bit).
  • My workflow has been to select the 720p 110mb 10 bit 29.97 option when delivering my clips to the web.  I choose that to still give me HD quality footage and to give me a slighly smaller clip in pixel aspect ratio (PAR).  Whatever option you choose, click ok.
  • Next, I select the Frame size (in my case, 1280×720 radio button) in the Frame Size area.  Since my footage is being resized, I select Better Downscaling under Frame Rate.
  • For audio, I select Uncompressed Stereo and 48khz (DSLR cameras usually shoot in 44khz, but I select manually just to match to the project settings I use – I will then sync in post with my Zoom H1 audio recorder as needed which is also recorded at 48khz 16 bit).    With regards to Stereo, some shooters who only use one chnnel when recording audio with their video may want to change that to mono.  It does make things easier once in post not having to try and combine audio channels after the fact (a simple procedure in Vegas Pro btw).
  • Once all that is done, Select the “To Batch” button.  You will then see all your clips added to the batch window to be processed according to your settings.  If you’re sure of your settings, click on the “Go” button and this will start your batch render.

Depending on the number of CPU cores you have, you can actually have more than one clip encode at a time.  It does speed up the process somewhat.

Once the original clips are encoded to DNxHD, I choose to archive the original DSLR files to blu-ray discs once the project is finished along with the project files and all other associated files – this allows for pulling the project to edit again if needed since originals are also in a .MOV file wrapper – just like the DNxHD intermediates.  This will free up hard drive space needed while in the actual editing environment. When transcoding clips from Canon’s 5D, 7D, and T2i, it works wonderfully and renders a little faster due to the clips already being MOV wrapped h264 files.

So you may be asking why go through all this in the first place? – Read AVID’s explanation here for the details:

I have personally endured editing compressed footage and it doesn’t hold up well for the most part in color grading.  It also taxes the CPU extensively – even the latest i7 CPU’s.  Those who have slightly older hardware will benefit greatly from going through this process of getting your footage encoded to a more friendly, less CPU taxing intermediate file format.  In addition, if there’s any collaboration to be done in post, the AVID DNxHD clips can be brought into ANY NLE.  Along with an exported AAF or EDL, you can hand off your project to another editor using a different NLE.

This is how Hollywood edit’s multimillion dollar blockbusters.  You too can use the same techniques to edit your projects with alot less frustration .

I highly recommend using intermediates when in post production.  It just makes sense.

Taking A Different Path

Taking A Different Path

There are elements of what video journalism is/has become that has never settled well with me.

The infighting that exists within the old school shooters versus the solovj paradigm has gotten to the point of being childish – and I’m the first to admit I contributed to it in the beginning.

Now I’ve come to a fork on the path I’ve been traveling.  One path is the continuance with the solovj paradigm.  The other takes me down what I feel is my true calling – that of a documentary filmmaker.

This new path feels right.  The slowing down of all the deadlines for short stories, the constant hoop jumping that occurs with trying to keep up with the Jones’ with all the crazy constant gear upgrades many in the profession seem to feel they need to do in order to stay competitive.  And at the same time, all the gear in the world doesn’t make you a great story teller – and most fall short in that regard.

Documentary shooters are more conservative with their gear – it suits my disposition perfectly.

In this process, I had to think about this path.  What was it I wanted to do as a visual documenter? It felt like the content I had created as a solovj left me lacking.

Realizing this, I had been taking inventory of what it was I really wanted to do. I realized I wanted to TELL stories, not report them.

My post production mentor recently explained it to me this way:  video journalists find and report a story.  Documentary filmmakers find and tell a story. Video Journalists win Emmy’s, Documentary Filmmakers win Academy Awards.

It wasn’t so much about the awards aspect that struck me.  It was the description of reporting versus telling a story that turned the light on in a moment of epiphany for me.

I realized the path of documentary filmmaking has been my calling all along.  I was a documentary still photographer in my past work, and it’s that telling of stories in depth that is the core of what I am and do as a visual content creator.

All along, I’ve heard more selling on both expensive and not so expensive courses for shooters – most marketed towards the shooters desperation to become video savvy – and yet the crucial elements of solid story telling seem to get cast aside for the sake of quick turnaround on these boot camps – some costing upwards of $2500. The constant upgrade cycle on gear to have the latest and greatest as a crutch has only added fuel to the flames.

The true essence of real change in society has come from in depth story telling – the documentary genre’ as a tool for real change.  It has been said that it can be used as a platform for propaganda – the same can be said for todays news reporting – look at how Fox News reports “Their” conservative version of the news, while at the same time, MSNBC, CNN, etc reports the same topic, but with a more liberal bias.

The bottom line is news media is now corporate news media – profit margins and viewer eyeballs are what’s important – even if it means selling sensationalist news for the sake of the sheeple masses never ending hunger for the pablum they’re willing to be fed by the corporate news media.

So, I’ve chosen to take the road less traveled – that of a documentary filmmaker.  I’ll apply the construct of the solo video journalist paradigm, working as a self contained production entity to meld the two into a new paradigm – that of the microdocumentary filmmaker.  The “Micro” is the less is more production process of compact equipment while at the same time, bring a more thought out process for the creation/production of thought provoking documentary content across multiple distribution channels.

Taking the road less traveled as a documentary film maker will not be easy, but in the end, the rewards will be both financial and personal for me.

The Point and Shoot Camera Revolution

The Point and Shoot Camera Revolution

Guys, what is going on?

It seems like in today’s age more and more point and shoot cameras are entering the market. I mean, for God’s sake, we have cell phones that are shooting at almost as high of quality as a full blown DSLR…in both camera and video. Apple has been making giga-steps forward in their video capability with cell phones cameras and compact camera manufacturers are doing the exact same thing.

I was hanging out with one of my buddies the other day and he just bought a brand new Sony (forgot exactly what model) compact camera and the thing was absolutely nuts. It almost makes me wonder why I bust my ass (and arms) carrying around a camera all day that feels like I have a 50lb rucksack around my shoulder. But alas, I don’t think I could ever leave my trusty DSLR for something so tiny and not “normal”.

I won’t lie to you guys, though: I’ve been looking around at something to carry with me that was just a tiny bit lighter, but still allow me to get some great images. They’re so many options out there and when I was doing my research I came across this some reviews at digitlist.com/best-point-and-shoot-cameras/ and they were showing the best point and shoot cameras out right now. I’m going to say it again, but damn there are a lot. I’m not even sure exactly what type of model I would be getting or need, but I am going to have to do a little more research before I make a decision.

Sorry this was a short post today, but do you guys have any recommended compact camera’s for me? Leave them in the comments that way I can take a look at them!