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March 30 2013

09:47

b-roll hack

Cameragod down under came up with a novel concept to booster the rep of one of my favorite sites – b-roll. (b-roll is the go-to site for broadcast news cameramen to discuss gear, gossip and more.)

Here is his tip – and a great one it is. I would never have thought of this.

And here is my tip – and oldie but goodie. Especially if you’re fairly new to the biz.

I look forward to more of these and hope to learn from an amazing group of peers.


July 27 2012

15:35

Phone-ography…

A paradigm (para-dime) is typical pattern or model of something.

One of the paradigms of visual storytelling has been a certain type of camera. For years these cameras were the domain of professionals…large, extremely expensive, totally amazing pieces of technology. It took big bucks to get one and you made big bucks if you had not only the technical knowledge but the aesthetic sense and storytelling ability to use one.

Then…the paradigm shifted in the early 2000s. The big boys still made big bucks with big gear…but suddenly there was a new class of camera…halfway between the little consumer cams and the big professional guns. The pro-sumer camcorder. It had many of the nifty features of the pro cams, such as good glass and three chips and professional audio inputs. Manual controls. Good stuff all around, although noticeably not really up to pro standards.

And these little baby-cams began to gain in popularity as more and more people began to use them for an audience who demanded more and more video. The digital explosion send shock waves across the planet with the better quality cameras and affordable non-linear editing programs brought a new technology into the hands of the citizenry.

Another paradigm shift is going on right now and we see it every day and don’t even think about it. Cell phones began sprouting up in the 1990s…then morphed into phones that could take pretty lousy still shots…then not-so-bad stills. Then by leaps and bounds these little wonders turned into do-it-all mobile devices. Talk. Text. Surf the ‘Net. Shoot stills – and video. Not just plain ole video and stills, but high def stuff.

And they are taking over. Some years back when I began this blog I did a posting on Dinosaurs Fighting or Survival. Times had changed and if the pros who shot news (both still and video) didn’t change with them, they were out a job.

But back then the pros were either flocking over to the new technology or resisting mightily. It was a treat to their way of life – what they knew and could do.

Then technology ramped up its game and the gear got so good that the definition of “professional” took on a whole new meaning as more and more folks acquired the new smaller cameras. It quickly became apparent that the size of the lens and the heft of the camera had little to do with the ability to communicate. What mattered (and still very much matters) is a sense of aesthetics and storytelling. AND knowing how to make the gear you are working with work with you to tell the most powerful story possible.

But even the pro-sumer cameras (and many consumer cams too) had the familiar look to them. Lens in front, kinda boxy and rectangular. LCD on the side. It still looked like a real camcorder.

Enter the new mobile devices…thin, flat and less than the size of the palm of your hand. No optical zoom and minimal digital zoom. A new style of shooting and storytelling came with these new devices.

No longer able to pull in a far-away shot, you now had to zoom with your feet (or arms) to get in closer. The camera is no longer part of your body (hold it close to keep it steady…tripod it, cradle it). The camera is now an extension of your arm…your hand. In order to get a variety of shots you really need to get intimate with your subject. As in, arms-length close. Or closer.

And the storytelling end has had to change too. Rather than full-blown packages (including interviews, variety of shots, lotsa b-roll) stories are simpler. One long shot of an event such as a parade or riot. An interview covered with b-roll of an event or meeting. Impressions rather than full explanation. These “impressions” are often paired on the Internet with text and more information, which together tell a full story. The audience can choose to view the video and get the background from the other resources available or just read the information or just view the video to get a sense of what happened.

I doubt very much that mobile devices are going to take over the visual storytelling world any more than consumer or prosumer camcorders took over from professional gear. What they do is open up an entirely new way and new possibilities in visual storytelling to even more storytellers.

Yeah – it’s nice to belong to an exclusive club. Been there. Done that. But the new wave of stories coming at us will open our eyes and the world even more. And can that be a bad thing?

Transparency: Co-author Larry Nance and I have been discussing how to include all levels of gear in our pending textbook,The Basics of Videojournalism. He is a big proponent of technology and not only keeping up with the latest, but staying on the cresting wave as it thunders across the ocean. So expect full inclusion of not only prosumer and consumer and DSLR…but also mobile devices in the book.


May 05 2012

16:45

Game changer…

Every now and then something comes along and the reaction is, “COOL!  Why didn’t I think of that?”  (or…”I thought of that years ago and it’s FINALLY come out.)

Back in the early 2000s JVC had something called the GY-DV300u aka the Streamcorder. That little gem was way ahead of its time. I grabbed one because after some pretty heavy duty research I found it had all the gizmos I wanted and needed to have a life after a multi-decade career as a broadcast news cameraman. But it had that little extra “umph” in the background that intrigued me – the ability to stream live to the web. And for some reason it never really took off. And the camera and it’s revolutionary potential kind of faded away…

Until this year when the 300u’s great granddaughter returned. And with a vengeance.

Meet the ! To me it’s an old friend gussied up and modernized. But it is a game changer and this time the time is ripe for it to reach the heights it missed last time around.

What’s new? Okay, so I admit I’m addicted to glass. A 23x zoom. Something that can reach out and pull you (and your audience) in close to situations you don’t even WANT to get close to. Most prosumer cameras in this price range only have a 10x or 14x zoom, leaving you miles short of the shot you really want.

Dual slot recording…the less expensive version of this camera, the has two slots for continuous recording too, but lacks the ability to record in HD in one slot and SD in the other. That ability allows you to shoot HD for the main event but SD to stream back quickly to the station for on-air. Wow.

I don’t even need to get into real manual controls, XLR inputs, three chips (1/3 CMOS)…the usual suspects in a pro’s array of necessary tools.

What happened in the past ten years that makes this new again?

Well, this time news is READY for a camera like this. In 2002 (when I got my JVC 300u) going live on the web was something entertaining…fun. But nobody in real news considered it seriously. After all, it wasn’t really professional – was it? Tiny little camera, poor quality…and there were live trucks and microwave trucks to handle important stories.

Times change…and now cell phones and Skype can put out decent enough (okay, so even I debate that one) images for news. Plus, reality has set in – financial reality. With the competition out there, lean and fast may make the difference between survival and death to cost conscious news organizations.

And while I absolutely love those good ole days, I’m a realist. What I see is a camera that may mean survival.


April 12 2012

07:19

Do. It. Yourself.

We all have those little tricks up our sleeves…the tricks we use to fix it, shortcut it, or make it easy for ourselves.

Some years back I posted a quick little emergency “fixit” for those days when your last miniscule lav windscreen disappears. At the time I was experimenting with using my computer with a camcorder plugged in to see if I could record “live” into iMovie.

It worked. The way I shot the video I mean. And the trick works pretty well too. All you’re doing is creating a dead zone above the mike head that keeps wind from hitting the head.

Fast forward six years to today…or rather earlier this year. I needed a way to fix my Lectrosonics wireless receiver to my Panasonic HMC150. The body is so compact and nearly every surface has dials or gizmos that I couldn’t figure out where to put it. Out of desperation I would use the hand grip…or pocket it tethered to a long enough XLR cable. Awkward.

Looked around on the Internet, but most of the fixes either didn’t look like they’d work with my camera or were way too expensive. So I did what any sane person with too much time on their hands would do…I diddled and daddled and did some thinking to boot and came up with my own gizmo.

The solution was both effective and affordable. One two by four inch piece of plastic, about 3/5 inch thick. One cold shoe attachment. Industrial strength Velcro.

I’ll make a video later on…but here’s the drill. Countersink a threaded hold into the plastic. Fill said hole with super glue and screw in the cold shoe. Wait for it to dry. Attach Velcro to fit. Put mated piece of Velcro onto your receiver (or whatever else you want to attach to the camera).

Cost: assuming I could have bought just enough for this one holder, probably less than $10. As it was, I bought enough plastic for four holders (around $14), five of the cold shoes at around three and a half bucks each, and the Velcro roll ran nearly $15. The super glue I had lying around the workshop.

What would I do differently? I got the cold shoes cheap on Amazon.comAmazon. If I do it again, I’d probably go for more heavy duty shoes…I can tell the ones I got are not sturdy enough for long term use.

Oh – and once I went to all of this trouble, I found exactly what I needed (same basic design, but metal) over at B&H.

So – two of my tricks are out of the bag…and my partner in crime, Larry Nance, is working on more fixits, make-its, and shortcuts for our book, The Basics Of Videojournalism. The OMB, VJ – the current day Jack (and Jill) of all trades.


July 09 2011

19:11

I stand corrected…

…by buddy Larry Nance. He looked at my last posting and then pointed out that perhaps I could be wrong. There’s a new technology that will forever change how photographers/videographers look at the relationship of the Exposure Triangle – the relationship between camera sensitivity to light, shutter speed, and aperture.

I’d read about it a while back, but Larry graciously provided this link.

Vastly over simplified, the incoming light is recorded as more than just a single image…all points that are in focus are recorded so you can decide AFTER the fact what you want in focus.

Is this good or bad? How does this affect the ethics of visual journalism? Personally I don’t think it means you are altering the image any more than before…it seems to allow the visual journalist a new tool to present images to the audience, letting them focus on the part of the image they feel communicates the idea best.

Of course…there is opportunity for abuse also. I shudder to think.


July 03 2011

21:02

Updated gear, tool & book guide, bonus mobile tools included too

Photo courtesy Stéfan Le Dû on Flickr

So as the school year has come to an end I’ve had several requests form graduating seniors for advice on what gear they should purchase to add to their arsenal  to get them ready for the next step of their career. A long time ago I set up a gear guide to help people with this, but it’d been a while since I’d updated it, until this weekend. So take a gander if you’re curious, looking for some interesting summer reading or in the market for new multimedia, mobile gear or books, check it out.

I also added a couple more categories to better split out the topics into more clear buckets: Design, development, mobile/tablet tools, management & leadership, social media & community, video/audio/photo gear and video/audio/photo training. … Oh, and “Nerdtastic stuff”… my favorite category of quirky nerd tools and gifts.

Full Disclosure: That is an affiliate link, so if you make a purchase I’ll get a 4% kick back, which I’ll use towards hosting costs for the site. It doesn’t cost you any more, just sends a little cash my way for helping create the resource.

Flickr photo courtesy Stéfan Le Dû

April 18 2011

01:17

Press Grip…

New toys are always fun…even more so when someone you know invented them AND you get to be one of the first to play with them.

So what is this new toy?

It is the Press Grip – the brainchild of KGO cameraman Dean Smith. He’s a regular guy…and in and out of the many press conferences that are part of every news photographers stock in trade. One of the problems encountered at PCs are overcrowded podiums, tables, mike stands…so Dean came up with a handy do-it-all clamp on solution.

I got my cash in fast when he announced they were for up for grabs…and got one of the first off his (very personal) assembly line. So let’s take a look, break it down, and see what it can do.

Essentially the Press Grip is a vise grip with ball and socket to allow rotation of the microphone or camera to level it and/or aim it in the right direction.

The beauty of it is in the construction and quality of materials. It has the vise to grip the table/podium/fence post/window…and then two ball socket connectors that allow you to position your camera or mike in almost any position.

I immediately put my Panasonic HMC150 on it and ran around scaring the livestock (see photo top of posting as Shim barely manages to conceal his excitement). The 150 weights in at just over five pounds…I added on weight and am confident (don’t quote me on this though) that it will probably hold up to six pounds and still have some give and take room.

What works? The ability to fix your gear where you want and aim it where you want. While it is not a quick snap-on solution (does take a minute to screw in place), it is most definitely a solid solution. I’ve been in situation where mikes were piled high and deep and duct-taped into unbelievable masses of chaos, so entangled that it was nigh impossible to extricate your mike from the mob. Assuming no one attempts to mount/duct-tape their mike to yours, this will allow you to stand free of the crowd, ready to rip and roll.

While I think up unusual and creative ways to use the Press Grip, you can be sure it works in a media frenzy environment…since Dean has field tested this at work in San Francisco before putting it up for grabs.

Details: The Press Grip, created by Dean Smith can be found at this site for $55.00 plus shipping.

(Transparency: yes, I know Dean Smith, the creator of the PressGrip and yes, I have given him permission to use my photos and endorsement in promoting his invention. And no – I did NOT receive a free PressGrip. Had to pay for it along with everyone else…although Dean does keep sending me improvements as he finds ways to make his product even better.)


April 17 2011

16:19

Goodbye Anaheim 2011…

I’m back in my digs after a two day hiatus to the southlands. Getting a bit old and creaky for this semi-annual run, but the few hours of dancing around in front of an audience and seeing students play with toys was worth it.

What made it different this year? Well, when I’ve gone to conferences and workshops, I’ve always loved to get my grubbies on gear. Listening is all very well and good and educational, but I’m a hands-on type of person. So this year I took a bunch of new and old equipment so the workshop participants could do the same.

“Establishing a Broadcasting Program” had a mini-studio setup, with my (older) Sima video switcher, two cameras, and monitor. Nothing fancy, but enough so that folks could see how a very basic two-camera setup works. We even did a trial talk-through of a show (Camera one on two-shot, camera two one-shot of anchor two, take camera one, switch to camera two…camera one QUICK! get in on one-shot of anchor one, take camera one…). Also went over EVERYTHING I could think of that you might need for a basic broadcasting program and what each piece of gear does. Hung onto the mike topic a mite long…but pushing for good audio is important.

The workshop that really got going was “Painting with Light.” Took the attendees from using natural light to reflectors to a one-light setup with umbrella and on to three-point lighting. Kinda hard in a room where I had no control over the ambient lighting AND had to demo using an LCD projector (washing out the image a bit with the lights). But when the workshop was over the KIDS came up front and stayed for half an hour to play with lights and the effects of moving lights up/down/around. Backlighting was their favorite from what I could see. Oh…that and down-under-up-in-your-face Halloween lighting. Played with silhouettes and back-lighting.

They left happy and I was left exhausted. But happy too. Thanks all for dropping by and hoped you took something away with you.

COUPLE OF CLOSING NOTES.
1. Yes the camera (HMC150) was in manual mode. I told ya I don’t like auto mode, so the zoom was NOT in servo.
2. Yes the lights ARE hot. Use the C-47 aka clothespin.
3. What I use works for me…what I brought is what works for me. What you need may be something totally different…which means research (and yes, I’d be glad to show you how I research for gear).
4. Safety first and safety always. The lights are hot. Folks are gonna trip over cables and can get hurt. And please please be very very careful about posting student images online without all of the necessary paperwork. I may moan and groan about how restrictive administrators/districts are about allowing easy access for posting videos online…but I do NOT want to be the one responsible for any repercussions resulting from thoughtlessly putting a student in harm’s way.
5. About that printout of the Powerpoint I handed out? Teachers – the basic lessons are in the “Lessons” category on this blog if you are interested. Try looking at earlier postings, say from spring of 2007 on.


March 25 2011

20:52

It’s coming…

…and it is unbelievable. Just got a FB posting from a comrade at an O&O in SF that he is no longer shooting with a pro camera, but a Panasonic HMX370. Jeez. Under $10k and 1/3 inch chips. I kinda expected this revolution to move in insidiously…in the night, beginning with smaller markets. Well, yeah, it has…but seriously. San Francisco? Babycams?

I was just kinda joshing when I posted back in February about what the future might hold for broadcast camerafolk:

While there will always be room for big bucks, high end, expensive cameras, I am convinced that the news broadcast standard is the 1/3 inch three chip pro-sumer camera…with of course, the requisite bells and whistles. XLR, manual controls, shoulder mount, good glass.

Shudder…kinda glad I’m not in the mix. Forward movement is always accompanied by some degree of jerkiness and readjustment. The leap from 16mm film to 3/4 (ick) tape was nasty. We went from shooting crisp clear film to ugly smeared blotches of color. Cheap little plastic cameras with cheap little plastic lenses.

Hmmmm…that sounds familiar.

Then from there we moved up to decent cameras (TK76) to better cameras and a better format (Betacam). The switch to digital and DVCPro cams was sweet music…better quality, more solid, everything the old cams had plus more!

And now back to the past again…cheap little camera, cheap little lens.

All I can predict now is…the quality WILL get better…the cameras will become more professional.

Until that next best idea for advanced technology leaps out in front of us…


March 15 2011

22:51

Love at first sight…

My “last” camera arrived a week ago and I’ve been doing something I’ve never done before. Sat down, figured out a testing schedule, read the manual (now THAT was a first) and have been methodically going through the controls. Every other camera I’ve bought I just hit the ground running with.

But this little girl (gonna hafta think up a nice nickname for her) is special. My first non-tape camera in decades (of course that last one was 16mm). Panasonic HCM150.

When I pulled her out of her box and unwrapped her, I shivered. Sleek lines, sturdily built. All of the requisite controls on the OUTSIDE, not in some damn menu.

So here’s the agenda for checkout…something you might consider with your next camera. Keep in mind I’ve built up a good supply of accessories and need to check them out to make sure all is compatible.

First day – Pull from box, scan the manual. Shoot and play back some tape, just to see how it looks. Review the manual again re the basics of setup and shooting.

Several days later…sat down with camera and manual and went through everything page by page to get a basic handle on what I need to know to shoot. Dumped a few files into my (five year old) MacBook, iMovie 9 just to see if I could. Imported fine, rough playback. Note to self: next time use a firewire external drive, not the USB drive. But it is nice to know I can get by for a little while longer with my current computer…will get the new one when a paying client appears.

A week later…met up with cohort Larry Nance and we reviewed and did a comparison to cameras we’ve used in the past. This one rocks. Not quite up to broadcast standards (smaller, lighter, different media), but masterfully planned. Made arrangements to meet in a week and do side-by-side shoots with older cameras.

Today…ran audio tests. First, the on-camera mike. Next a wired stick mike (Electovoice 635) and then wired shotgun (Sennheiser ME66) and then each mike run on the wireless (Lectrosonics) system. All worked wonderfully…the shotgun definitely peaks higher than the stick mike and was able to run off phantom power when on the wireless transmitter. That and I walked to the back of my property and the audio was crystal clear at 200 feet on the wireless. Rock on!!!

Next week Larry and I will shoot and post side-by-side comparisons with our older JVC GY-DV300s and my Canon HV20.

Now I want a new carbon fiber tripod!

A word to why the above process is important for teacher/students/newbies: Unless you research thoroughly and even then, problems will develop with equipment. I knew in my heart that all of my older gear would hook up to the new camera. But the worst time to test new systems is when you are under the gun. Plug in everything you’ve got. Take notes. Check out every variation with every item. Be prepared to order adapters or make adaptions. Know your gear.

Oh…and Larry…I finally found the composite outs/RCAs. Hidden over the XLR outs in a well-concealed compartment. (Sneaky, that.)


February 23 2011

20:39

Quandary or quagmire?

Which is it?

I’m torn between two worlds right now, with a deadline approaching.

Which camera to purchase? At first it was a simple problem. The Panasonic AG-HMC150 or the JVC GY-HM700? The deciding factor was the price and my budget. The 150 fit the budget, but the 700 has the little bit of extra “oomph” … a better/longer lens and the ability to change the lens out. All that for about three grand more. Ouch.

Then I decided to include the alien world of DSLRs. First just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything…then, as I dove deeper and deeper into research, I found myself actually seriously putting them on my list. Ouch. For an old die-hard videot like myself, this was sacrilege. I should be burned at the alter of analog…done in by digital demi-gods. Shudder.

So for now I’m looking at the Canon 5D MarkII and possibly the Canon 7D as well.

The latter fits the budget and the former has the goodies. Similar to my problems with the video cameras. One I can afford and one I want…but I also know that no matter what I can afford or want, there will always be another camera just out of my range. Time to get realistic.

Both of the video cameras are familiar territory. I know how they shoot…where the controls are…how far and hard I can push them. The DSLRs are an unknown…but I’ve been wowed by their quality. I do see that they have minimal audio input and controls…a biggie for me. Audio is right up there with video quality – the two are inseparable.

So now I sit on a pretty damn uncomfortable fence…researching, thinking, asking question. With about three weeks to go until I make the final final.

(for those of you who are confused by two seemingly similar “Q” words: a quandary is a state of uncertainty or perplexity and a quagmire is NOT a character on Family Guy, but a situation from which extrication is very difficult. Meaning I may be stuck in a state of indecisiveness for a long long time.)


February 14 2011

03:23

Pondering predictions…


…in this case, one I made more than a decade ago. The Internet was young and fanciful thoughts about what might happen to news were being bandied about when I came up with my wild concept.

Imagine a news organization that only employed a few anchors and reporters, but a ton of writers and producers. Imagine a breaking story…a plane crash. Rather than sending a team out, a producer does an Internet search (not even sure if Google was around at this point) and manages to locate a home across the street from the crash. Makes a phone call and tells the person who answers to hook up their video camera to their computer, point it out the window, and describe what they see. Almost unimaginable.

So what do we have today? Skype. Live streaming sites. Uh…it has happened, just not yet completely the way I guessed it might.

All this brought about by a discussion on b-roll.

What began as a discussion of the National Press Photographers Association contest and magazine has evolved into a discussion of the place of broadcast (read TV) members in the organization, how they are being served by NPPA (or not), and how the quality of broadcast has gone downhill – in terms of production values and equipment.

Sigh. There are a lot of anguished folks out there…who remember the “good ole days,” when a camera(wo)man could feel good about what they produced at the end of the day.

But financial hard times are a reality and we don’t always get what we want.

One of the lessons to be learned is from a very old, very tiny camera – the 35mm camera. For more details, check out the information on photo.net.

1914: Oscar Barnack, employed by German microscope manufacturer Leitz, develops camera using the modern 24x36mm frame and sprocketed 35mm movie film.

THAT was just the beginning. The camera became commercially available in 1924 (Leica) and took off in the years just before WWII. By the 1960s it had pushed the standard high quality cameras into the background and for forty plus years became the standard in print news photography – and there it reigned until the advent of digital.

We seem to be poised on the cusp of another change in standards…whether broadcast shooters like it or not. While there will always be room for big bucks, high end, expensive cameras, I am convinced that the news broadcast standard is the 1/3 inch three chip pro-sumer camera…with of course, the requisite bells and whistles. XLR, manual controls, shoulder mount, good glass.

The audience may love high-end high-quality in their movies. But I suspect they will settle for excellent quality video in news and general programs. I just hope they also demand the highest production standards to go with it.


January 17 2011

04:53

A “little” knowledge is a dangerous thing.

“A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.”
~ Alexander Pope
~ Essay on Criticism/1709

The process of choosing cameras is simple if you don’t know anything. Just grab something bright and shiny in your price range. Oooooo…I’ll take that red camera!

Problems arise when you have a little knowledge. That’s when it can get confusing.

As part of the process of choosing a new camera, I’m checking the technology down to the last component. Right now taking a look at the technical aspects of CMOS v. CCD. And – unfortunately – reading some very raw arguments about which creates a superior image.

First let’s define what I’m talking about. Bot CMOS and CCDs are the light sensitive chips inside today’s video cameras. They are to the camera what your retina is to your eyeball. They translate the patterns of light and dark into digits.

CCDs were initially the more common of the two – invented in the 1969. CCD stands for “charge-coupled device.” Basically it is a chip that reacts to, or is charged by, light.

CMOS is a complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor – preceding the CCD by six years.

For a more information on the two, check out this VideoMaker article. There’s also a more technical article at the Dalsa website. Plus, check out this, written more from a camera user’s view.

My interest is primarily image quality and low light ability in a camera costing in the $2,700-$3,000 range. A non-tape camera shooting to SD cards, must have good manual controls and XLR mike inputs.
Why SD cards? I want a camera whose media is readily available…that can be handed off to the client or ingested into a computer by plugging in a card reader.
I want to control my images…not deal with a camera that flickers with changing lights and scenery or grabs sound when I want quiet. So manual iris, audio, and focus please.
And since I already have the pro XLR mikes, why change and step back to mini-jack?

So, here’s what I’ve learned:
Energy use – CMOS uses less power/CCD uses more power (something to consider is battery life when out on a job)
Low light – seems like a toss-up. Initially CCD was better, but CMOS is catching up.
Image quality – this is the one I’m stuck on. What we really need is a Consumer Reports website that does direct comparisons scientifically on cameras and other gear. Right now it is a jungle out there, with everyone having an opinion, generally supporting THEIR camera. Why? Because it’s the one they paid the big bucks for.

As co-author Larry Nance pointed out, though – all of the Professional (big P) cameras use CCDs because they are better. Well, they’re also, in the case of pro cameras, bigger too.

Thank goodness I can’t afford a camera for a few more months…plenty of time to conclude the research.


December 10 2010

18:22

Teleprompters…

Courtesy Creative Commons

Somehow I’ve always taken teleprompters for granted. Never had to deal with them myself ’cause I always worked wild and free in the field and rarely inside the confines of the station. But they are there and used daily, by anchors on news sets and by glassy eyed wanna-bes elsewhere. Heck, even the President uses it daily. And with today’s complex stories and the need to get facts straight, they are becoming part of the VJ’s toolkit.

What exactly IS a teleprompter? Well, first let’s break the word down into its roots. Tele means distant or far. Prompter refers to a person who is offstage reading a play from a book, providing the actors (talent) with their lines. Thus a teleprompter is something that provides lines or information from a distance.

However in these highly technological times we really don’t want someone offstage passing along forgotten lines in a harsh stage whisper. So we resort to a printed script projected where the speaker can see and read it at his or her own pace.

There are usually two parts to this distance prompter. Hardware and software. Below I’ll review some inexpensive or free options for both, as well as link to some pro gear sites.

Now the easiest way to prompt from a distance is with plain old paper and markers. Get a big sheet of paper (or a white board) and write down your script. Then, when ready, hold up the paper out of sight of the audience so the speaker can read along. Problem with that is the speaker must look over towards the script…and if the “teleprompter” is hidden from the audience, then he will be looking away from them. Makes it kinda obvious. And if you’re taping, from the camera’s perspective, she will be looking off screen – and THAT will make the speaker look shifty-eyed.

Next best is a desktop or laptop with software loaded…either sitting near the camera or even on the desk in front of the talent. A bit better, but there is still the problem of talent not looking directly at the camera lens. Actually the laptop on the desk is workable because an audience watching would realize and accept that the talent is checking either a script or facts.

So the next level is a combination of hardware and software that allows the image to be projected onto a surface that only the speaker can see. I’m going to skip how it is done for public speakers (think Presidential), but the concept is pretty much the same, although without a camera.

So – hardware first. We’ll assume you already have the necessary gear – a camera, mike, lights and talent. Your hardware will cost you anything from a few dollars to as much as you care to spend.

My choice is always to check out low end first.

Here’s an example: PromptDog’s do it yourself teleprompter plan. For this you’ll need a cardboard box, flatscreen monitor (your laptop lcd should do fine), glass or acrylic, black fabric, and a few other items. PromptDog suggests you feed from your computer to a flatscreen in the box so you can control the pacing of the words…but you could also position your laptop in there and use a remote. No estimated cost give, but since the main cost is the glass, maybe under $25.00. For some reason the diagram on the main page shows half-silvered glass but that is specified in the actual plan. You want one-way glass so the camera can see through it while the talent reads from the other side. Oh – and you also get a discount coupon for PromptDog’s software with the plans.

And <a href="

“>here’s a video for another plan. It’s kind of bulky and only good for in-house use.

For other plans just Google “teleprompter plans.” One of the results that came up was Top Twenty site that gave even more options, one of which is Teleprompter Mirrors. On this site you can get prompters, plans, and even free software.

You can also buy the prompters, again costing from around one hundred dollars and up. One of the low end prompters I’m tempted to try is the QuickPrompt from telepromptermirrors.com. The price is right and it seems simple to set up and use.

And here’s just a list of sites I found that look interesting enough to research:

Bodelin
prompterpeople
teleprompters.com

Once you get past the hardware, you’ll need software. Many of the hardware site have links to free or for-pay software. Below are some that I’ve used.

VideoCue Pro, Prompt 7 Lite, MirrorScript Pro

There are dozens more out there…from freeware to shareware to full scale full cost applications. Here’s one suggested by 10,000words.

How to choose? You want a few basics, which include

1. Ability to type lengthy scripts (some of the shareware or freeware may have limited abilities here)
2. Choice of white on black or black on white. Color does NOT matter here. Oh – and with BIG clear font choices. You want your talent to be able to see the type from a distance of anywhere from four or five feet to maybe up to ten or fifteen feet.
3. Ability to control speed of your content. Either you or (preferably) your talent needs to be able to control the speed of the type as it scrolls up the page so that they can read at a natural pace.

And finally…once you have it all together…PRACTICE. That glassy-eyed look you see with some inexperienced on-air folks doesn’t mean they are stoned or their minds are wandering. It means that, despite the hardware and software that are meant to make them look like pros, they HAVE NOT PRACTICED. And they are reading word for word directly off the prompter and not looking beyond the prompter into the lens and at their audience. The teleprompter is exactly that – a distance aid to help on-air, on-camera folks who have already familiarized themselves with the script, present their lines accurately.

BTW: if you have favorites or suggestions, add them to the comments below. I know I’ve just barely skimmed the surface here.


November 22 2010

09:13

My dream kit…

…is on a B&H Photo wish list. Not that I’m expecting it for the upcoming holiday season – no way. But it is definitely in the future as part of a retirement gift to myself.

Camera
Panasonic AG-HMC150. I’ve been eyeballing this little girl for a while. She’s compact, sturdy and shoots to memory cards. At the high end of my affordability scale, but with nearly everything I want. The lens isn’t as long as i want (I hear your pain, Lenslinger), but with a tele converter, maybe, just maybe I can ease that pain a bit. Having used the 200A (at about $700 more), I like the heft…and the controls are pretty much in the same positions of the many pro cameras I’ve used. This is where it gets personal. There are other styles of cameras out there – shoulder mounted, bigger, heavier and pretty much in the same price range. So my final defense in getting this one is – I like it.

Accessories
The usual. At least two/preferably three extended life batteries. Two 8GB and one 16GB cards. Not cheap – but they amaze me. I can get up to an hour twenty of hi-def on the 16GB card. Wow. That and the ability to choose which scenes to download? I’m in the choir!

(Rant warming)

Allow me to digress for a moment. I will ALWAYS go with removable media. I was never a fan of the the current crop of hard drive cameras. Why? If the recording media goes down, what cha gonna do? That is reason #1. Reason #2 is convenience. I can shoot on one card and hand off a full card to someone else for editing. I can store different stories on different cards. If a card goes bad, I can replace it.

Card reader. Yeah…ties in with the rant above. If I hand off a card to download, there must be a way to get it into the computer. Plus, less hours on the camera.
LED dimmable light. May as well update the on-camera light while I’m shopping. Longer run time, brighter light than what I’m using now.

Still checking prices, but most likely Kangeroo or other foul weather gear and maybe (further down the line) tele and wide angle adapters. Whoowhee!

Tripod
The old Bogan-Manfrotto is getting heavy as I get older, so in the market for something lighter with a half or full-ball head.

Computer
A Mac of course…what model/processor, etc depends on what’s on the market when I get my stuff together.

The final tally won’t be cheap…which is one of the reasons I’m back in school, doing the long term sub gig. Life’s little pleasures must be earned. And during the next six months, who knows? The next bright shiny object of my desires may change…


October 24 2010

14:25

Interesting thread…

…on b-roll. Changing technology and how it affects day to day field production. Here’s the url. For technies and freelancers primarily.


July 20 2010

20:59

MediaStorm releases updated Multimedia Gear Guide

One of the most frequent questions we’re asked is “what gear do I need to do multimedia?” While there’s no quick and easy answer, we’ve put together a revised MediaStorm Gear Guide, detailing the equipment we use and recommend for gathering multimedia. With technology changing so frequently, it’s often hard to keep up with the latest and greatest gear, so I’ve also tried to give insight into why each type of equipment is ideal, and to provide different options when there are multiple versions available. If you have any questions, or suggestions of combinations that have worked well for you, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

See our Gear Guide.

June 29 2010

20:27

iPhone: A storytellers most valuable tool. Plus apps and gear you gotta have.

I’m a Mac.

There are five Mac laptops of various makes and models in our home, along with three iPods, two iPhones and one iPad, which makes it highly unlikely that you’ll believe my next statement.

I am not an Apple fanboy.
Also,
I’m pro-choice.

Let me explain.

I’ve always believed in the storyteller’s right to choose his or her own ‘paint brush’ to tell their story. Who wants a tube of titanium white shoved down their throat when what they really want to paint with is cadmium green.

Early in my photojournalism career I used Nikon gear, because it worked best for me. It fit my shooting style, despite everyone around me clamoring for a Leica M6. Years later when Canon made a better product I switched.

I mention all of the above because I am going to extol the virtues of the iPhone and I want you to know while I’m ‘on the bus’ I’d hop-off the second someone, anyone, offered me a better ride. I’m not trying to convince you to buy an iPhone. I expect you’ll find the tool that fits your lifestyle.

Remember it’s not about the tools or the technology, it’s about the story. I try to focus equally on both here at mms. My last post, was all about story.

As a profession we are in need of some serious attention to technology, especially in the mobile realm. Speaking for myself, I’m getting a strong feeling that to be truly successful as a journalist of the future everything I do must be viewed through the mobile lens. That said, let’s talk technology.

Internal conversation:

OMG isn’t the iPhone just the greatest device in the whole wide world?
Duh, yeah!

I’m as excited by the story consumption aspects of the iPhone as with its story creation ability. Today I’ll focus my attention on the story creation apps and gear I find most useful for story tellers and in a future post talk about the story consumption aspects.

Let’s get going. I’ve used all of the following apps and gear to create various stories for both personal use and professional outlets. I hope you find some of these as useful as I have. They get the mms seal of approval. Not that that means much! :)

POWER

Using the iPhone as a mobile journalism tool comes at the expense of battery life. These two products have saved me frustration in the the field.

juice pack air™   BUY

As the world’s thinnest rechargeable battery case, the mophie juice pack air™ is designed to
virtually double the time you have to Rock, Talk, Surf and Send with your iPhone 3G or 3GS.

The juice pack air™ is a rechargeable external battery concealed inside of a protective form-fitting case
for the iPhone 3G & iPhone 3GS. It offers you the full protection of a hard-shell case while providing
virtually twice the battery life of the iPhone alone; all in an ultra-thin, light-weight, low-profile design.

Whistler PI-400W 400 Watt Power Inverter BUY

This power inverter allows you to run AC appliances like  laptop or a phone charger  right from your car. It’s also great for emergencies and bringing the electric coffee maker on camping trips.

STABILITY

Nothing says amateur story teller  more than blurry images or shaky video. These are the tools I’ve found most useful for recording smooth video or creating panoramas with my iPhone.

Joby GM2 Gorillamobile Flexible Tripod BUY

Zacuto Z-ZG-IPJ Z-Grip iPhone Jr. Handgrip System BUY

Not only is this great for hand holding, but it has a tripod mount at the bottom of the grip and a mount on top to mount a mic adapter or external light.


What’s an OWLE? BUY

The OWLE Bubo is a camera mount that brings the best features of a camcorder to the iPhone 3GS: stability, optics, microphones and tripods! The OWLE Bubo is made of a solid piece of aluminum, making it virtually indestructible. The OWLE Bubo comes standard with 37mm lens threading, as well as a 0.45x wide angle/ macro lens combination. This is a real piece of optics, delivering stunning images with better color saturation, contrast and sharpness than is possible with the iPhone’s camera alone. The wide angle lens accepts 49mm screw in filters which are sold separately. The OWLE Bubo provides 4 x 1/4″-20 female threaded mounting holes (1 on top and bottom of each of the 2 hand grips), as well as having a cold shoe mount and recesses allowing access to important areas such as the 3.5mm jack and bottom port of your iPhone while the iPhone is docked within the Bubo. Unseating the iPhone from the OWLE Bubo is easy even for those the thickest fingers thanks to the ergonomic access port. Watch the videos below to learn more!

iPhone Adapter 3.5mm 4 conductor TRRS Male to 3.5mm Microphone Input Jack BUY

So you can do this!

Read More about the above set-up here.

This short Adapter cable provides a 3.5mm (Microphone Input) jack to your iPhone or other compatible cell phone. It is the perfect solution for interfacing your new iPhone with your premium microphone for quality recording.
APPS

Description

Easy Release by ApplicationGap replaces inconvenient paper release forms with a slick, streamlined application designed by professional photographers for professional photographers. Fully supports iPad, iPhone and iPod-Touch.

- Lets you collect all the data and signatures you need right on your iPhone, then mails a PDF and JPEG of the release right to you. For convenience and ease of use: Lets you retrieve model and witness information from your contacts. Get location data from a list of previously used.

AutoStitch Panorama

Description

AutoStitch brings high-resolution, wide-angle photography to the iPhone. Have you ever wanted to capture a wider view in a photo? Do you wish the iPhone had a better camera? Using AutoStitch, you can:

- Combine multiple images to produce wide-angle panoramas with no visible seams
- Create spectacular high-resolution images of up to 20 megapixels using your iPhone camera

ReelDirector

Description

BEST APP on APPLE’s Rewind 2009 List and also featured in Creative Editing Kit by Apple.

Full-blown video editing for iPhone and iPad.
Compatible with HD video on iPhone 4!

Note: iPhone 3G & iPod Touch can import video by copy paste.

Monle

Description

Monle works with all external microphones, both those that plug into the headphone/microphone jack and those that plug into the 30-pin data connector. iPhone users can also record with the iPhone’s internal microphone. Monle records WAVE files with sample rates from 8kHz to 44.1kHz, stereo or mono, in 16-bit. All file formats can be simultaneously mixed and edited together.

With Monle, you can manage recordings, rename and delete audio files, create, save, and open editing sessions, zip and backup sessions, upload and download WAVE files by FTP and local WiFi, and share audio via AudioCopy/AudioPaste.
Monle allows users to easily submit audio to American Public Media™, the second largest producer and distributor of public radio programming and the largest owner and operator of public radio stations in the nation.
Create a slideshow production in the palm of your hand.

Great for creating multimedia lessons for instructors; multimedia postcards or YouTube videos; or creating multimedia podcasts.

Unite imagery and sound with ShowCase; our premier podcasting tool that combines still photography or powerpoint slides with audio.


Description
Specifically created to facilitate the work of radio and television journalists, TCoder enables you to take notes during press conferences, presentations, speeches, etc. perfectly synchronized with the time code of your recorder, miniDisc or TV camera.

Forget about paying constant attention to the counter of your recorder, or constantly asking to the camera operator: as long as you have TCoder with you, your notes will automatically include the right time code.

Featuring a stylish and intuitive interface, TCoder is not a recording device: it is the perfect complement to your recorder, camcorder or MiniDis

Pano

Description

Pano for iPhone is an award-winning app that lets you take beautiful, seamless panoramic photos straight from your phone, no other software necessary. Selected by Apple as one of the “Best Apps of 2009″, Pano has gotten rave reviews from tens of thousands of users around the world! Pano is exclusively for iPhone.

Features:
- Deliciously simple interface
- Take 360-degree panoramas with up to *sixteen* photos
- Handy semi-transparent guide helps you line up each shot perfectly
- Advanced alignment, blending, and colour-correction algorithms provide seamless images in just seconds
- Finished panoramas save directly to your camera roll
- Final resolution of up to 6800×800
- Panos can be resumed if interrupted


Description

CiL Writers can use the iPhone App to instantly:

  • Create, launch and run live events
  • Publish live commentary
  • Approve and moderate Reader comments
  • Publish Photos, Audio and Video in real-time
  • Integrate Twitter – search for and post tweets
  • Email event link and embed code
  • Place events into Standby Mode
  • End live events
  • View live event listings

Description

Audioboo is an application for recording and sharing your voice with the world. This free version allows you to create audio up to 5 minutes in length and post that to your own account on the web. You can add titles, tags, geolocation info and a photo to the recording before you upload it and we’ll save all that with the file. The audio can then be shared with your followers or via Facebook, Twitter & more social networks by managing your account at http://audioboo.fm.
Description
about

overview

Have an iPhone? Have an Eye-Fi card? If not you should, these things rock!

Get the FREE Eye-Fi app for your iPhone to extend the Eye-Fi card’s benefit to your iPhone. Enjoy unlimited photo uploads straight from your iPhone to your computer or to the web. Stay organized as photos automatically land in preset folders in your computer. No syncing. No tethering. No hassles.

I’ve used an Eye-Fi Card and this app to shoot images from my Canon 5DMKII, wireless to my iphone then automatic to my Flickr account. Photo editor was able to download the images right from my Flickr and I didn’t have to stop shooting. NICE.

Photogene

Description

  • Enhance photos with multiple color adjustment: adjust color levels, exposure, contrast, saturation or manipulate the RGB.
  • Apply filters such as the sharpen or the pencil filter.
  • Crop, straighten and rotate your image.

Qik

Simple LIVE recording and streaming to the web.
Stream live from your iPhone with Ustream Live Broadcaster. I like this better than Qik, but both are solid.

Gorillacam

Features I love about this app: ANTI-SHAKE, SELF-TIMER, TIME-LAPSE, CONTINUOUS RAPID-FIRE, PRESS ANYWHERE, 3-SHOT BURST and GRID OVERLAY. Plus it’s free!

iTimeLapse Pro

Description

iTimeLapse – Create stunning time lapse and stop motion videos straight from your phone!

Finally, you can make and share Time Lapse videos like the pro’s without having to sync to your computer.

It’s so easy, anyone can do it… be an artist!

iTimeLapse allows you to capture a series of images rapidly and then compile them into a video.

iTimeLapse lets you create as many sessions as you want, adding images to them at any time… No need to finish in one sitting.
Then as soon as youre ready, you can compile the images into a video and share it in many ways: YouTube direct upload, Facebook, Vimeo, Email it, Export it to your Camera Roll so it syncs with iPhoto.

OTHER RESOURCES:

iPod and iPhone Recording- GREAT hands-on review with audio examples of some high end recording devices

http://www.iphoneography.com – The best resource for reviews of new apps for both video and photos

5 Essential Tools for the Mobile Journalist Also Mashable has a great mobile/iPhone blog:  http://mashable.com/mobile/iphone/

Poynter.org – News about mobile & its applications & implications for media by Damon Kiesow who also has some very good resource links on his delicious feed: http://delicious.com/dkiesow like: 12 Tips for Improving Camera Phone Photos – Very basic tips for non-photographers

Tags: Gear

June 05 2010

16:13

The right camera…

…is a very personal choice. A few weeks back I had a posting where I discussed possibilities for my next camera.

And now I’m torn between three. Fortunately there is no reason to rush, so I’ll continue to study and may even change from the two front runners.

The HMC40 leads the pack right now for pricing and features. Only thing I don’t like are the mini-jack audio inputs. It does have three quarter-inch sensors.

Next up the HMC150 with three 1/3″ chips AND XLR audio ins. Sweet but more than $1300 more than the 40.

And my last choice is the granddaughter of my old JVC GY-DV300u – the GY-HM100u. It is priced halfway between the above two with a shorter 10x lens, XLR inputs, and three 1/4 inch sensors.

The problem is I’m familiar with the bodies of each of these cameras and love them equally. Since I’m on a budget I suspect the 40 may be my choice. It’s all about compromise. What I can afford – what I need – what I’m really comfortable with. Oh – and what I want. And I do want to move on to the next new thing – and get out of tape.

Alert to all of you out there on tighter budgets: sometime in the next three or four months I will be putting my old gear up on eBay. Not the mikes, but probably cameras, the Bogen tripod, and lots of other random stuff.

It’s time to live light and clean.


May 09 2010

16:08

My next camera will be a…

…memory card camera. Got a bit of a shock shooting a choir competition yesterday. The LCD screen in my little HV20 is showing green and blue streaks. Camera still works like a dream, but I know I’ll have to make the choice between a repair bill or get a new camera. Plus my original personal camera – a JVC GY-DV300 has been sitting unused for a while. I love that camera, but prefer the portability of the Canon. Is it time to unload them and settle on a new camera? Thus the mulling begins…

…so it’s off to B & H to do some research. Warning…this posting may take a couple of days to find closure (9:03am on Sunday, May 9, 2010).

Fist thing to do is go to camcorders…then (ego booster)…professional and then sort by price, beginning with the lowest price. Hey I’m a teacher. I scroll through doing my initial scan and stop at the page for the Panasonic AG-HMC40. Wowsers. We have the mini-dv predecessor of this baby at school and I love its heft and performance. $2015.

Back to scanning.

Next up is the current version of my old JVC 300 – the GY-HM100u.
The body I grew to love but now shooting to memory card. Definitely on the list and surprisingly at about the same price I paid for its grandmother – $2795.

Pushing my upper budget is the Panasonic AG-HMC150 at $3430.

As I go higher up the food chain I begin to salivate and get giddy when I spot the JVC 700.

But reality hits hard and now to check out the high end prosumer gear.

At $3500 the Sony HDRAX200 will go on the list.

And now for the bottom of the food chain. Consumer cameras. Finding one of these with a mike will be fun.

Just as suspected – the grand daughter of my HV20 turns up with mike input – the VIXIA HF-S21 at $1400.

The Sony HDR-CX550V for $1200.

The Samsung HMX-S16 at $1200 and the JVC GZ-HM1 Everio
for about $1100. That’s it for first impressions. Need to check the specs next. (May 9, 2020 at 9:50am)

Note – when I go into the next stage of research I’ll be checking specifically for the following:

Cost of memory cards required by each camera
Mike inputs/are they mini-jack or xlr
Lens length
Size and number of chips
Manual controls
Ease of use of menu
And one minor item…does it shoot stills (not a necessity, but my HV20 has spoiled me)


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