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March 18 2010



Emu-cam (def) An Australian native; similar to the pinhole camera

With the exception of the pinhole camera, every camera I’ve seen has had glass of some sort to direct light to the recording media.

Glass in cameras serves a number of purposes. Keeping dust out of the camera. Focus – focusing the light onto the recording media (be it film or CCDs). And also allowing the photographer or VJ to get closer or further away from the subject without having to move.

As mentioned in the post below (My Bag Over-runneth), I have two converter lenses. A wide angle adapter and a tele adapter. The former allows me to get an extremely wide view…maybe shoot in a small area and capture it all. The latter allows me to get a bit closer to the action without having to physically move closer.

Shot with Sony 2x tele adapter

Shot w/o adapters - regular HV20 lens

Shot with Phoenix .24 fisheye lens

That’s the simple explanation, which you can see in the photos above. Shot at about 15 feet away/from left to right:

Photo #1 – Canon HV20 with 2x Sony tele adapter/zoomed all of the way out
Photo #2 – Canon HV20 camera lens/no adapter/zoomed all of the way out
Photo #3 – Canon HV20 with Century .25 fisheye/zoomed all of the way out

Did I mention zoom above? Well, yes. Zoomed all of the way out is using the camera zoom to back off as far away from the subject as possible. Zoomed all of the way in is using the zoom to bring the subject as close as possible. Got it?

Then DON’T ZOOM! Check out this post to understand why (not).

Moving on…the other use of the lens to get the exact framing and focus and perspective you want.

Framing…why move the tripod if you can nudge the zoom a mite in or out? Saves time.

Focus (will have to follow up with photos and another post to explain this better) – if you understand depth of field, you can select your lens and distance and have certain elements of your shot in focus while others are out of focus. YOU choose – this isn’t luck.

Perspective – the look of the elements in the shot as related to each other. Look below. Two shots using the tele and wide angle adapters.

Shot with .25 fisheye adapter

Shot with Sony 2x telephoto adapter

Notice in the first shot (using fisheye or wide angle) the elements seem far apart…there appears to be more space between the front element Lego anchorman at desk) and the rear element (TV truck). Then look at the third shot…the TV truck and anchorman appear closer together…there appears to be less space between the elements.

This is all relative. The first shot was taken inches away from the anchorman…the third shot was taken probably five feet away. So if you compare the distance from the camera to the closer element and the farther away one, it is LESS in the first shot and MORE in the second shot. To get a clearer idea, see the illustration below.

The top illustration shows the photographer close to the tree and the tree about an equal distance to the mountain.
The lower illustration shows the mountain the tree the same distance apart, but the photographer has moved back.
So the distance between the photographer relative to the distance between the tree and mountain has been altered.
From the photographer’s point of view, the objects in the upper illustration are far apart…in the lower illustration they are closer together.

Questions anyone?


My bag over-runneth…

For the past few years I’ve been re-working my gear bag – what I carry around with me every day.

First there’s my “purse.” What I think it actually is, is a hunter’s ammo bag. Roomy with compartments for my goodies (in addition to what normal folks carry)…the bullet loops hold pens. The pockets hold HV20 batteries and tape. The front pocket holds my lav mike nicely.

Today I put it all together in a camera bag and realized I had my dream bag. A good camera, several mikes, room for tapes, lenses. Here’s what it looks like and here’s what’s in it. Add a tripod, and computer in bag and you have a mobile VJ kit.

Canon HV20 camcorder (with 3mp still capacity)
Three batteries
Sony VCL-2052 2x tele converter
Phoenix Super Fish Eye .25 converter
Azden ECZ-660 short shotgun mike
Stick mike (OK – this I swiped from my daughter’s Karioke remnants)
Radio Shack 33-3103 laveliere mike
Canon remote
Blank tapes & head cleaning tape
GREEN gaffer’s tape (what a friend gives a friend on a birthday – thanks Newell)

Tags: Gear VJ kit
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March 03 2010



The saga continues…

My senior with a new Sony hard drive camcorder reported back (as mentioned in the update below) that he could not import and edit with his new camera on his older computer with Windows Vista.

After trying to open and convert with QuickTime Pro (four year old version) we opened up iMovie9 and had success. Seems his camera shoots to Blue Ray ACHVD…DVD files of all things it seems (yeah, more research).

Then after school one of my senior’s wandered in with a similar sad story. She had a Panasonic still camera that shot to Quicktime, but could not open the video files she shot with it in Windows MovieMaker. Since QT is native to Macs, any of my programs could handle them…so overnight I’ve converting her files to .wmv files to work with her computer, although she may choose to use a friend’s Mac and iMovie and import the QT as is – she really loves the quality.

And yeah…MovieMaker does take .avi files, but we did a quick conversion comparison, and QT is best, followed by .wmv and at the bottom the very pixelated .avi.

1 – know the vintage, processor speed, RAM of your computer.
2 – know the vintage of your operating system
3 – know the capabilities of your editing program(s)
4 – do the research BEFORE you buy anything new

What will tomorrow bring? Hmmmm….

February 28 2010


Prepping for Portland…

The two lighting workshops I don’t need to prep much for…and Kathy Newell will carry me through. We pretty much agree on light – it should be natural. But there are times you need to add light and times (we may disagree here) where you want a professional look. That takes care of the basic (use what you’ve got) and advanced (how to use stand light kits) workshops.

My research is focused on the compatibilty issues between computers (PC/Mac), editing software, and the file formats that flash and hard drive camcorders shoot to. Generally there are few, if any, problems importing tape to non-linear editing programs. Maybe a few adjustments for the camera or to set for standard or hi def.

The issues arise when you want to buy a new camera and are taken by surprise when you can no longer edit or even download. Surprise! And welcome to the world of trying to fix it (if you already bought the camera) or predict it (if you’re planning to buy one). This becomes even more complicated when you are starting from scratch and plan to buy the camera, editing program AND a new computer.

One of my students bought a brand new hard drive Sony camcorder that shoots to AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) and looked aghast when I asked if he had checked for compatibility with his older computer and software. He’ll let me know Monday…but he hadn’t even thought about whether a camera would or would not work with a computer.

Before we dig much deeper…a few things to understand. Older computers generally have older operating systems, slower processors, maybe not enough RAM. Older editing programs were created for the cameras of their era. And (another generalization) both hardware and software are backwards compatible, but not forward compatible.

What that means is (I’m going to quit saying “generally” – you can just assume everything in this post includes that word) is that your new computer and software can use your older digital camera. However, your new camera may not work with the older computer/software. And worse yet – you may spend hours of frustration trying to make your new camera, computer, and software work together unless you read the find print and do some research.

Many (print) photographers who use Final Cut (Express/Pro) found this out the hard way…in purchasing newer cameras they were facing horrendous rendering times or converting time getting their new AVCHD video to work.

To start, you need to understand there are MANY file formats. Found a good reference site at fileinfo.com. They list the files from rare to very common…but there were a few of the very commons I wasn’t familiar with. Turns out the .3G2 is opened by Quicktime, so I’ve probably run into it but not noticed.

First…do your research and find out what file format your dream hard drive or memory card camera shoots to. Then continue your research – check the manufacturer sites to see what they have to say about compatibility with your computer/software. Then see what you can find from Googling “file type (whatever it is), problems, troubleshoot.”

Over the next few weeks I’ll be continuing to research this topic and will post my results here. If you’ve had problems, I’d like to hear about them, how you solved them, or if you need help. (Maybe I can…maybe not. But worth trying.)

December 30 2009


The new decade approaches…

…and it’s time to look at cameras. Again. Sometimes looking for the right equipment is like trying to ride an avalanche. There is so much to look at and technology is changing so rapidly, it’s hard to stay on top.

Due to my ever shrinking budget, I bought two Flip cameras to fill in the holes created by old cameras going down. The students aren’t breaking them. They are wearing out. Three years of constant use can take down any consumer camcorder. Two worst offenders are the tape carriage and the tripod holes…the latter is a quick fix by cementing in new bushings and the former means I have still cameras.

Stand by for a quick overview of what’s out there today, December 29, 2009. As usual, my idea classroom camcorder would have:

Microphone input
Headset out
Manual iris, focus, white balance
Decent zoom (10x or more)
Metal tripod hole (Yeah – learned that one the hard way)
Removable media

As mentioned in other postings, my preferred method of research is on the B & H Photo site. Quick tip – go there and then click on Camcorders, then Camcorders a second time. Now you can choose your options.

I’m not brand loyal when searching, although I prefer to stick with Canon (since that is what I have now) if the accessories carry over to new models. Price and features are what drive me.

I do have six year old eMacs, so need to stick with standard def if possible…not too sure if the new high def will play smoothly on old slow computers.

For media – as mentioned above I prefer removable media so each student can keep their work separate from others – I’ll check both mini-dv and flash memory.

Leaving the Camcorder Type alone…I want to see what pops up. Optical zoom 10x or more. LCD display – not a biggie, so will leave that up to the search engine.

Price…hmmmmmm. As much as I would like the cheapest, I also need to check the possible range…so will choose $50 to $1000. Final click is to arrange choices from lowest price to highest…now let’s see what’s out there.

First shock – only five items to look at. Three Samsungs (2 models, one with two color options) and two Panasonics (same model, different colors). I may need to change the zoom option to widen the search….later on.

Here’s where you have to do the homework. Click on the Specs tab – this is where you look under the hood to see what you are actually getting for your money.

Samsung SMX C-10 prices in at $199.99/to be real – $200. 10x optical zoom (NEVER include digital zoom in your specs) and shoots to H.264/AVC (720 x 480/60i) format. Has the usual built-in mike and speaker, no inputs and no manual controls. Outputs through USB cord. A basic dumb camera for the masses…my students need more.

Next up the food chain is another Samsung – the SMX C-14 for $280. Main difference between this camera and the C-10 seems to be 16GB internal memory.

Now on to the Panasonic(s). The SDR SW-21 comes in at $306 and is waterproof to about six feet. Records to standard def with built-in speaker and mike. No manual controls/no mike jack. So back to searching.

By unclicking the zoom selection, I’ve widened my choices to sixty-three items. Will report back once I’ve checked them out.

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