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20 Steps Video Exercise

Check out this vimeo video challenge. It all starts with twenty steps… Limitations are a great way of stimulating creativity and this is a great example of that.

Here are the instructions. Follow the link at the very end to enter:

To begin, take a short video of the area you start your video adventure. Then, take 20 steps in one direction and stop and take another short video. Repeat this process after taking another 20 steps. After you’ve captured 20 little videos, every 20 steps, you’ll edit them together to create a film.

Here, the in-between moments were kept in (albeit, sped up), but feel free to use other transitions between clips! I’m a fan of the simple jump cut, myself, but things could get really interesting with whip pans or body wipes.

There is no limit to how long you capture a video after each set of 20 steps, but the whole video shouldn’t go over 3 minutes. You could divide that equally, or give weight to some pauses and only a few seconds to others.

Once you’ve walked all 400 steps, edit the videos together chronologically and see what you come up with! You won’t be going far, so the Challenge is to show an area in several different ways. Maybe you’d like to focus on perspective, or the angle of your shot. Maybe it’s all about people, or varying shot type between macro and extra-wide.


+ Shoot 20 clips every 20 steps.
+ If you add music, make sure you use a song you or a buddy created, or something from theVimeo Music Store! If you do choose to use a Music Store song, please throw a link in the description.
+ Add this at the end of your video’s description: “Created for the Weekend Challenge:vimeo.com/groups/weekendchallenge
+ Upload and post your video to the Weekend Challenge Group by ***Tuesday, January 14th, 2014*** at 11:59 PM (EST).

Only videos made specifically for this Challenge will be considered.


+ The winner will receive a free Vimeo Plus account for one year! If you’re already a Plus member, you’ll get another year.
+ The runner-up will receive an extra 3GB of upload space!

Check out the sample below.

Read the whole exercise here:

https://vimeo.com/videoschool/lesson/483/weekend-challenge-20-steps

Multi-tasking, Mindfulness and Video Twitter

This morning I read a blurb on a study about mindfulness that intrigued me. Meanwhile, I found out that the new Twitter allows video to be embedded directly in the interface. This is a nice addition that will help people get their videos out to more people and allow videoblogs and other video content to become viral with greater ease.

How are these two issues related? Here’s a blurb from the article on the study:

Youth today are bombarded by information due to the technical advancements of our time…Research on multi-tasking has shown that the more we multi-task, the worse we are at it (Schmid, 2009), and that learning while multi-tasking is not as effective as learning one thing at a time (eSchool News staff and wire service reports, 2006).

One-mindfully attending to the moment helps us get the most out of that moment…While we can feel good about doing many things in a day, or striving to multi-task every moment of every day, it is truly those of us who can appreciate one thing fully that benefit the most.

Adding video to twitter is another opportunity to multi-task but it is also another opportunity to be mindful. Sometimes the reaction people have to twitter, social networking and rapid tech advance is to close it out of their lives, get back to nature, turn off the computer. I love nature and turning off technology and taking dedicated ‘tech breaks’ is a great way to decompress BUT it’s not always realistic. Taken to an extreme it disconnects us from the world. And the world is a good place to be. Until we colonize another planet it’s all we got.

As you go about your day, as you venture out into the social media landscape or the everyday world, stop, take a breath and become present every so often. It’s all we’ve got. Yes, there are distractions, but mindfulness can be an anchor in a sea of competing interests. Then, it no longer matters whether we are tweeting a videoblog or eating a pear because we are fully present, we are truly there. (note: I had a pear for breakfast-the fact that it rhymes and sounds like Dr. Seuss is coincidental).:)

Mindfulness buddha

Mindfulness can be an anchor

Dear Future Self – Video Time Capsule

One of the activities in my book Naked Lens show you how to make a time capsule (on video) for a family member to view in the future. Filmmaker and video blogger Jeremiah McDonald takes this a step further in the video blog below when he “interviews” his twelve year old self.

Clever edits and cutbacks make this video a shining example of great video blogging. It is also a reminder of the value of the material we gather over the years. What is everyday and perhaps mundane now, will look very different twenty years later. The next time you are too busy to turn on your video camera and shoot something, remember Jeremiah’s video and take a few minutes to share something. Your future self will thank you.

Best camera for vlogging

The best camera for vlogging may be the one that you already own. Before you run out and purchase a new piece of equipment, look in your own pocket. Do you own an iPhone 4? This phone has two cameras, one that is custom made for video blogging and conferencing, built right in. Ditto with the new iPad (ignore the controversy about the new iPad camera quality – it is just fine for posting your vlog online). Or maybe you have a still camera that has a video feature? A laptop with a camera? (an especially good option for a sit-down vlog).

The important thing with vlogging, is to begin shooting. The best vlogs are created through practice. Most of the best vloggers didn’t just wake up one day and upchuck greatness onto YouTube. So if you do already have a vlog camera, dive right in.

Just shoot. The very  act of shooting itself will help you define the features that are most important to you in a camera.

Still want a brand new camera? Okay, I hear you. Once you are ready to purchase a camera, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Buy a camera that allows you to view yourself while you shoot. Popular cameras such as the Kodak zi8, Playtouch, Playfull and most of the Sony Bloggie line – while being good cameras otherwise – do not allow you to see yourself while shooting. Depending on the style of vlog you are planning this can be a huge issue. But there are notable exceptions. The best cameras for vlogging are below:

  • RCA EZ-1000 & RCA Small Wonder EZ205. These budget models were recently discontinued and the upgraded models no longer have flip-out screens! Not good for video blogging. When I find a worthwhile, low-budget replacement this section will be updated.
  • Toshiba Camileo S30. Better made than the (discontinued) RCA EZ-1000 above, this camera is reportedly not easy to use for the left-handed and doesn’t have the best image quality but nor does it have the worst. A decent camera all-around, and nice and thin. Perhaps a tad over priced because of the Toshiba brand name. Lefties beware.
  • Sony Bloggie MHS-PM5. This is an interesting, well made and compact camera. Rather than offering a flip screen, the lens itself swivels. The bloggie is easy to use and delivers top notch HD video. Picture Motion Browser software is PC only. Otherwise works on the Mac.
  • Sony Bloggie MHS-CM5. The newest addition to the Bloggie line is now available for purchase. Sony is listening to their audience! Most everyone who vlogs frequently NEEDS a flip screen. With this camera Sony is finally delivering. Windows and Mac friendly.
  • Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2. The Xacti line has long been the model of choice for vloggers. They have recently come down in price –  they can now be found for around $300. This is probably due to the fact that they are slowly being rebranded/discontinued by Panasonic (who bought Sanyo). The Xacti is included because it offers one interesting option that the other models don’t. This is one of the best digital video cameras from an audio standpoint because you can plug-in an external mic. This is huge if you want the highest quality sound possible. It depends on where you are at in your blog video production process. If you are just beginning you may not want to spend the extra cash just yet. Many people find that their external mic works just fine. The included Motion Director software is Windows only. Luckily the Xacti works well with iMovie.
  • Panasonic HX-WA2 Waterproof Full HD Camcorder. Want to video blog in the pool or underwater? Well you can with this model (don’t go any deeper than 3 metres though). Panasonic has been quietly discontinuing/rebranding the Xacti since their purchase of Sanyo in 2009. The HX-WA2 is similar to the venerable Xacti but at a slightly lower price point (although the frequent discounts on the Xactis bring them closer together). Unfortunately this camera does not have external microphone ports. Shame on you for ditching this hard-to-find feature Panasonic.
  • Samsung HMX-Q20 HD. This fun new 1080p video camera features a good view screen, excellent low light capabilities, optical image stabilizer and around a $200 price tag. The ultra cool element is its flippable design that lets you operate the camera with either hand. If you are left handed you will definitely want to check it out. But the Q20 isn’t only for lefties. A flippable ‘corder is a totally cool and helpful design from a video blogging standpoint. If you vlog handheld you know that your arm gets tired. With this camcorder you can easily switch to the other hand and take a break.

New camcorders are released nearly every month.  If you don’t find one that fits your needs right now, buy the cheapest one that seems the closest and wait half a year. Something new and better is sure to come along soon. Also note that if you are specifically seeking the best camera for YouTube videos, all of the above will work. YouTube is the most flexible online video service to be found – it can handle anything.

What’s the Big Deal about Stereoscopic 3D Video?

What’s the Big Deal about 3D Video?

Now is the perfect time to dive into the world of 3D-video recording. The technology is still new, but not so new that there is a lack of camcorder models to choose from. Yet 3D camcorders can appear confusing at first. There are already numerous 2D camera shapes, sizes, and shooting formats to consider. Add 3D to the mix and there are even more options. Not only that, but unfamiliar terms such as parallax, convergence, and full 3D also get thrown around.

Luckily, most consumer-level 3D camcorders are simple to use, at least technically speaking. Turn on your new camera, set it to auto, and off you go. But many people are initially dissatisfied with their stereoscopic videos (that’s 3D folks). This is most often because they don’t know the differences between 2D and 3D shooting. Yet 3D recording is quick to grasp once you key in to a few important concepts. What’s more, you’ll find that the payoff is worth the time spent learning.

3D technology opens up a whole new way to record the world around you. The added depth makes your videos a step closer to actually being there. And who doesn’t want greater realism in the moments they capture from their lives and the lives of their loved ones? Just as important, consider this: stereoscopic 3d videos can easily be converted to regular 2D videos, but as you’ll learn, it’s much more difficult to convert 2D to 3D.

Each day that you shoot outdated 2D movies, also known as flatties, is a lost opportunity to capture your memories with the full depth and wow factor that 3D offers. However, there is a vast difference between haphazardly shooting 3D video (which may not look particularly three-dimensional) and shooting full-on, eye-popping, wow-your-friends-and-family 3D video.

Since the birth of visual media, we have demanded increased realism. Consider black-and-white photos, for example. These frozen moments in time stirred and captivated us, but we wanted to see some movement. Movies arrived and amazed us with their motion, but we wanted to hear what was going on. Along came sound, and indeed, talking movies were pretty cool; but hey, what about some color? Color served up a rainbow feast, but life is best lived large. What about wide-screen? Surround sound? High-definition? And so on, as we continuously move toward better and better technologies. Better meaning technology that more closely matches our experiences in everyday life, because the truth is that’s what we seek.

We experience the world around us in full depth and color—in three dimensions. 3D brings us one step closer to content that more closely matches our real-world experience. Recent technical advances have overcome the issues that kept movie theaters from embracing 3D in the past, such as installation cost and viewer fatigue. But arguably the greatest advance occurred when 3D camcorders began to make it into your hands—the hands of the home user. It only took about one hundred years, but 3D is finally affordable and accessible to just about anyone. This is an exciting development because 3D offers an entirely new way of shooting video.

As you likely know, 3D is not a recent discovery. The little camcorder that you currently hold (or will soon hold if you haven’t yet bought one) has a long and interesting story behind it. And in fact, 3D has been labeled a fad at numerous points throughout its tumultuous history. Some still say it’s a fad. More on this shortly. But for now, if you consider the evolution of this fascinating technology, you’ll begin to understand why this time things are different.

The Early Days of 3D

Euclid, a Greek mathematician, is famously (or infamously, for those who struggled with mathematics in school) known as the father of geometry. He also wrote a book called “Optics” that explained the geometry of eyesight. Today, we know that light bounces off objects and enters our eyes. However, at the time, beams of light were thought to emanate from our eyes, revealing the world around us. In other words, Euclid believed that our eyes functioned somewhat like flashlights.

Euclid with Students

Euclid with Students

Unless your eyesight is of the superhero X-ray vision variety, you can see how poor Euclid was a little bit off in this regard. But given the limited scientific knowledge of his era, he was way ahead of his time in understanding the way vision works. Being a specialist in the geometry of eyesight, he realized that having two eyes allowed humans to perceive depth.

Leap ahead over two thousand years into the 1800s. Sir Charles Wheatstone made use of Euclid’s knowledge to invent the stereoscope. Stereoscopes allowed people to view two separate photos through different eyepieces to create an impressive 3D effect. People were equal parts intrigued and astounded, but as you might have guessed, they wanted to see moving pictures. Not long afterward, William Friese-Greene patented a rather unwieldy device called the stereoscope headset. The technology, invented by Frederick Varley, used two side-by-side screens and a cumbersome viewing device to create rudimentary 3D movies.

Ultimately, Hollywood noticed these exciting new advances. In 1922, 3D reached U.S. shores when The Power of Love was released commercially in Los Angeles. However, the film was not destined for greatness despite its bold filmmaker’s lofty aspirations. 3D technology had advanced somewhat, but was still extremely expensive and cumbersome. Although the film caused a brief stir, it quickly faded from view. It was not entirely forgotten, however. Various 3D experiments were made throughout the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. Then, in the 1950s, 3D finally began to make its mark on entertainment history. Technical advances aside, there were several reasons why the 1950s were the perfect time for 3D stereoscopic video to explode in popularity.

This is an excerpt from my new book 3D Video Camera Coolness. Available on Kindle and other ebook formats Paperback to follow soon!

How to Keep a Video Diary

You know how to keep a diary, but do you know how (and why) to keep a video diary? Many find that keeping a diary on video is quicker and more spontaneous than keeping a written journal or diary. There is an immediate outlet for thoughts and feelings with the added bonus that your diary is in living, breathing color. Unless you are an extremely fast typist you can almost surely speak more quickly than you type. This is a huge advantage for emotional journal entries where you crave the cathartic experience of expressing your feelings as rapidly (and intensely) as they are experienced.

Not only do you have your spoken words to make your journal entry but you also have the use of facial expression, images such as photos (that you either can hold up to the camera or add later) snippets of video or other visual tidbits. It’s up to you and the amount of time that you want to spend.

Here are some further tips to keep in mind when keeping a video diary:

  • What will you make an entry about? For some there is no question – they *know* exactly what they want to express. Others are not as certain. Either place is great to start from. If you already know what you want to say – then go for it! If you aren’t certain here’s a chance for self-exploration. Consider the topics you feel the most passion for and then experiment with an entry. You can always delete if if it doesn’t feel right!
  • Don’t forget about image. The more important thing is to relax and express yourself authentically but remember to use enough light so that it’s possible to see your face. Even a desk lamp or open window will help immensely.
  • Don’t forget about sound. Watching your video journal a few years from now will be a bit disappointing if you must resort to reading your own lips! Make sure that you are close enough to the camcorder mic to be understood and that there is no background noise (such as very loud music) to drown you out.
  • Don’t forget about location. Of course quiet and privacy is a must, but consider also how the location fits with your topic. What will be seen in the background? Does it relate to your entry? This isn’t something to obsess about, but it is something to consider.
  • How private is your entry? If your diary is very private take extra special care to make sure that the footage remains secure. One quick way to do this is to ‘zip’ your video files or use video diary software (post on this coming soon). Zip is a freely available means of compressing files into a smaller size. Many people are unaware that you can also add a password to protect the data.

Finally, relax and have fun! There is no one way to journal whether keeping a written journal or its video cousin. Use your imagination. Some of the best video journals I’ve seen more closely resemble experimental films. Below is an entertaining ‘food journal’ video I came across recently that the user chose to make public:

Latest Video Cameras – Updated Monthly

The latest video cameras as of the end of May 2012 are two new camcorders now shipping from Samsung: the QF20 and W300.

The W300 is a durable pocket cam that can handle whatever you dish out from dust to drops to water. The Q20/QF20 is a handy-cam style camcorder with a twist – multiple camera shooting angles – both traditional horizontal format AND vertical. More below.

The Samsung Q20/QF20 retails for a suggested price of $350 and includes:

  • A Schneider Krauznach lens,
  • A generous 20X optical zoom,
  • 1080i60 video
  • Switch Grip 2 that allows for Vertical Recording. No matter which orientation the QF20 is held, the magnetic sensor reorients the display appropriately (like an iPhone).
  • The QF20 sports a built-in wifi that allows for content to be uploaded and backed up automatically to your PC of choice.
Samsung-QF20

The Samsung W300 retails for suggested price of $160 and includes:

  • Full HD 1080p,
  • Waterproof (up to 15 feet deep), dust-proof, and shockproof (6 foot drop)
  • 2.3″ high rez screen
  • BSI  (Back Illuminated Sensor) CMOS and built-in image stabilizer. BSI sensors are better in low-light than regular CMOS sensors.
  • Smart Background Music feature. This function allows you to add a preloaded music beneath your video. When SBM senses someone is speaking the volume is automatically reduced. Neat.

Samsung W300

Best Camcorder for Low Light

Camcorders have become more sensitive in the past five years, but there is still a wide range of low light capability between the various models. Recently Canon released a camcorder series that they should have called the “Canon Owl” due to its stunning low light performance. There are other light sensitive cameras out there, but this is the best one I have seen. With Canon’s Vixia HF G10 (about $1400)  they redesigned their sensor to include fewer pixels. However those pixels are sixty-one percent larger and gather more light. Here are the important facts:

  • The HF G10 gathers light at an incredible 1.5 lux shooting at 1/30th per second as per Canon’s specs. Real world tests I’ve seen come in closer to 5 lux for a full bodied video image, but this is still amazing. Lux (luminous flux) measures visible light in a given area. Direct sunlight ranges from 30,000 to 100,000 lux. The darkest comfortable indoor lighting is about 200 to 300 lux. A sunset is about 10 lux. Typical streetlights output about 5 lux. Twilight is about 1 lux. Are you getting the picture? At 1.5 lux you can practically see in the dark with this camcorder.
  • The camcorder has a better dynamic range than others in its class – which means accurate skin tones and better rendering of dark and light areas, shadows, etc.
  • The camera is designed to capture a 1920 x 1080 image – that is a full HD video frame – no loss of quality there.
  • Furthermore, because there is no resizing, fewer pixels actually improve video clarity. Camcorders that have a greater number of pixels discard the extra pixels to get down to 1920×1080 HD which results in lower image quality. You can learn more about this process by watching this video on the Canon site.
  • One downside is that digital photos are captured at just over 2 megapixels. However many people have separate digital still cameras so that may not be an issue for you. However it you want this to be a “one camera shoots all” and you plan to print a lot of photos you should keep this in mind. If you mainly email digital photos, post to Facebook, etc., this resolution will likely be fine.

Not only is this the best camcorder for low-light but it offers all the other features you need in a high quality, compact video camera with some great manual options. It records up to six hours of HD video onto its built in flash drive or you can pop in your own SD cards for extra storage (it will automatically switch over). The camcorder has Canon’s SuperRange OIS to correct camera shake and a generous 10x optical zoom lens.

The lens also has a great manual focus ring which is very helpful for low-light shooting. The telemacro function can shoot incredible close-up footage from distances of as little as 1.3 feet. If you must have the most light sensitive camcorder out there with the widest range of features, then this is my recommendation by far.

Canon-Vixia-HF-M40

Vixia HF M40 - an excellent low-light camera

Camera Techniques for Low-Light

Shooting video in low-light conditions is now much easier thanks to larger and higher quality sensors, but it still presents several challenges.  Luckily there are several camera techniques that can improve your video even further. These techniques are arranged in order of preference. If camera technique one doesn’t fix your light issue, move to number two and so on.

1. Add more light or move closer to the source.

This may seem obvious, but it gets overlooked. Moving even a few paces closer to a light source can make a huge difference in the amount of light captured. Or have your interview subject hold a reflector board  in their lap (or in a pinch a white piece of cardboard). This can help even out skin tone and reduce shadows. If you shoot in low-light conditions frequently, an on-camera LED panel light is indispensable.

2. Open up wide.

Wider apertures allow more light to enter the lens through the iris. Lower numbers mean a wider aperture. For example shooting at f1.6 will allow lots of light through your lens whereas f22 will allow very little. Remember though that depth-of-field increases with a wider aperture. That means that you will need to take greater care to focus and auto-focus is best left ‘off’ or the focus may be unreliable.

3. Lower the shutter speed.

The standard is to shoot 24p video at 50 frames per second and 30p video at 60 frames per second. However you can go lower as long as you avoid shooting a subject with a tremendous amount of motion. The lowest I go is 25 frames per second although this can cause somewhat of a strobing effect, so care is warranted.

4. Raise the gain/ISO.

Gain and ISO both describe the same function. They electronically increase the sensor’s receptivity to light. If the gain is raised too high you will notice digital noise enter the picture. Follow steps one through three above before raising the gain.

5. White Balance.

Dim indoor lighting conditions often have a dramatic shift toward the red end of the spectrum. If you don’t correct for this, the picture will be muddy and lack definition. White balancing won’t entirely solve a major low-light issue, but it can certainly help. Sometimes it’s difficult for the camera to ‘auto white balance’ in low light conditions. Either use a white card or surface and manually white balance or choose the preset that looks best to your eye under the conditions.

6. Shoot Wide.

With most zoom lenses, the more you zoom in, the less light will enter through the lens. That’s because the lens aperture will automatically get smaller as the lens grows longer. Stay as wide as possible to let in the most light.

7. Lower Your Frame Rate.

Most video is shot either at 24 frames per second or 30 frames per second. If you shoot at 12 frames per second you will let in twice the light you would at 24 frames per second. The trade-off is that the video will look very jerky and strobed. If there is no other way to get the shot however, this is one more way of correcting a serious light deficiency.

7. See Like an Insect

A few camcorders offer an infrared shooting mode. For example my Sony A1u has an infrared light (invisible to the human eye) which is picked up by the sensor in infrared mode. However the image looks like a night vision camera in a bad horror movie. This is good if you need to remain unobtrusive but for most other situations, just add a camera mounted LED panel light.

Best DSLR Lens for Video

Lens choice is subjective and certainly not a science, but below are some important considerations when considering the best DLSR lens for video purposes. One of the big advantages of shooting with a DSLR instead of a standard prosumer camcorder is the ability to swap out lenses. Learn to choose ‘em well and use ‘em even better and you will be well on your way to shooting stunning DSLR video footage.

If you do not yet own any DLSR lenses, I recommend starting with a 50mm prime lens. Here’s why:

  • A prime lens has a fixed focal length. In other words, it is what it is. Want to get closer to that ‘gator? Suck it up and take a few steps forward – there is no zoom to help you here. (Legal disclaimer: I advise against using a 50mm prime lens to shoot any critter with sharp teeth or horns that isn’t a family pet).
  • Why 50mm? 50mm lenses most closely mimic the way our eyes perceive our surroundings so they are an excellent focal length to start with.
  • Prime lenses are higher quality for the money and tend to be faster. Faster, meaning that they let in more light. The speed of the lens is even more important for video than it is for still photography. With still photography you can reduce the shutter speed down as much as you wish (even 1 frame per second or slower). As long as you have a steady tripod you will get a clean shot. With video you need to shoot at about 50 frames per second consistently. Any slower than this and you are likely to get unwanted strobing effects.
  • Lens sharpness is often touted as being highly important  and it is…for still photography. For video, a fast lens (see above) is more important than a sharp lens. In fact when choosing a lens for video, some softness is even desirable, giving more of a filmic look.
  • Fixed focal length lenses are also great to learn with. They will force you to learn your lens and DSLR well and make strong compositional choices while shooting.
  • Note that if you use a micro 4/3rds format camera such as the Panasonic GH2, lenses will have a focal length 2X of what the lens is marked as. For example a 25mm lens becomes a 50mm lens on the GH2. DSLRs such as the Canon 5D have “full frame” sensors so there is no crop factor to take into account – the lens will be as stated. Check your camera manual to be certain of this.

Below is a great Canon 50mm lens to consider that offers excellent value money.

Canon EF 50mm 1.8 - It’s a little bit plasticy, but this lens incorporates some great glass for the dollar spent. Very good for video.

Best-DSLR-Lens-Video-Canon-50mm

Canon EF 50mm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next I would purchase a good zoom lens. Something in the range of 50mm to 150mm. Zoom lenses are a bit pricier because they are more complex. They are also slower (need more light) than primes because the additional lens elements mean that there is more glass for light to travel through. With zoom lenses, unless you will exclusively be using your camera on a tripod, I recommend purchasing models that include built in image stabilization. This will be key when shooting on the go. The closer you zoom into a subject, the greater the lens shake.

Sigma APO 50-150mm Lens - This is an excellent zoom lens with built in stabilization. Fast. Great choice for video.

Best-DSLR-Lens-for-video-Sigma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally I recommend a good wide angle lens. Wide angle lenses are very helpful for shooting in tight spaces and they also tend to be relatively fast lenses so they can be helpful in low light conditions.

Tokina 11-16mm Lens - This wide angle with a zoom is a bit pricier than the lenses above, but wide angle lenses are generally more expensive because of the complexity of the lens shape design (Google “retrofocal construction” if you are interested to learn more. It’s beyond this blog’s focus to cover.)

Best-DSLR-Lens-For-Video-Tokino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, remember to spend some time (preferable a lot of time) with each lens before moving onto the next. There is no need to rush into purchasing new lenses until you know the ones you own well. There are many, many other aesthetic considerations that will take time to learn from  your lenses by experience. Each piece of glass has its own character of color, brightness, graininess and an intangible feel. Great photographers have been made by their wise choice of lenses. Follow your instincts and you too may develop your own unique style that will partly be connected to your particular choice of lenses.

How Many YouTube Videos Are There? Incredible YouTube Facts

Sometimes it’s difficult to believe that the first video uploaded to YouTube occurred not all that long ago in 2005. Since then, YouTube has enjoyed exponential and astounding growth. Every month the number of videos added continues to rise. Here are some amazing YouTube facts:

  • According to YouTube, more than THREE BILLION hours of video are watched every month.
  • More video is created on YouTube in one thirty day period than NBC, CBS and ABC produced in their past 60 years of existence.
  • 60 hours of video are added every sixty seconds – in other words – one hour per second.
  • Approximately ten years worth of content are uploaded each day.
  • There are tens of millions of YouTube channels and hundreds of millions of users around the world.

How-Many-YouTube-Videos

A very steady climb...

But how many YouTube videos are there?

I’ve searched high and low for a precise (and reputable) answer to this question. Either YouTube/Google does not know the exact number of videos on YouTube (they prefer to answer in hours – perhaps because it sounds more impressive?) or they do not want to give out this information. Given their official figures, we can make an educated guess.

  • The majority of users can only upload videos of 15 minutes or less (it is possible to get around this by fulfilling YouTube’s requirements). Most videos on YouTube are around six minutes based on my estimation.
  • By that assumption, ten videos are uploaded every second or 3600 videos per hour.
  • That means that in one twenty-four hour period around 86,400 videos are uploaded to YouTube.
  • In one year that would add up to over 31 MILLION videos uploaded. Keep in mind that this number is quite likely higher!

So how many YouTube videos are there? Lots.

 

Self Disclosure – How Much Should You Share Online?

It may seem obvious, but let’s start with a simple definition of self disclosure so that we’re on the same page. Self disclosure is more than just sharing information about yourself with others. To self disclose is to share information that people would not normally know.

This last statement is key. Especially when you share information online (whether through your video blog, Twitter, Facebook, or your website). There are two broad groups of people when it comes to self disclosure. Which one applies most closely to you?

1. I share whatever comes to mind online without giving it much thought.

2. I share very little online. I’m afraid I will share the wrong thing.

In the first instance, sharing too much can lead to embarrassment, conflicts with friends and colleagues or even the loss of a job. In the second instance, sharing very little prevents connecting with others online and developing an online presence - something that is becoming increasingly important.  It is much better to come up with a strategy for managing your self disclosure so that you know exactly what you want to share and why.

One way of developing such a strategy is a modification of a technique called the “Johari Window” (named after Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham who originally created it). The Johari Online Window divides aspects of yourself into four different categories: “Open”, “Blind”, “Hidden” and “Unknown”. Each pane refers to an aspect of yourself seen from an online perspective.

Johari Window

Known to SelfUnknown to Self
Others KnowOPEN PANE

I know these things about myself as do others.

(Examples: Your physical appearance in your online photo, your occupation, hobbies, the city you live in.) Note: if you share very little online some people may not even know these things.
BLIND PANE

I don’t know these things about myself, but others do.
(Examples: I come across as intelligent/silly/whimsical/arrogant, etc. in many of my vlogs/blogs but do not realize it.)
Others Do Not KnowHIDDEN PANE

I know these things about myself, other people do not.(Examples: Things you specifically choose to keep private. Secret wishes and dreams, sexual fantasies, failures, thoughts and judgments about others.)
UNKNOWN PANE

I don’t know these things about myself, nor do others. (Examples: Unexplored talents and aspects of yourself that you are not aware of.)

Make four squares on a pad of paper that roughly match the diagram above. Now, thinking of your online presence, review the list of adjectives below and place them in one of the first two panes (Open Pane or Hidden Pane). Also include words or aspects of yourself that are not in this list as they occur to you. Move quickly, go with your first instincts.

AbleExtrovertedMatureSelf-Assertive
AcceptingFriendlyModestSelf-Conscious
BoldHappyObservantSensible
BraveHelpfulOrganizedSentimental
CalmIdealisticPatientShy
CaringIndependentPowerfulSilly
CheerfulIngeniousProudSmart
CleverIntelligentQuietSpontaneous
ComplexIntrovertedReflectiveSympathetic
ConfidentKindRelaxedTense
DependableKnowledgeableReligiousWarm
DignifiedLogicalResponsiveWise
EnergeticLovingSearchingWitty

Any of the adjectives which you are uncertain about, place in the Unknown Pane. These may be attributes you possess that you are unaware of.

  • Review the attributes in your hidden pane. Are there any aspects that you wish more people knew about you online? Circle them.
  • Review your open quadrant. Are there any aspects of yourself that you wish less people knew about you online? Put squares around these.

Brainstorm ways that you can move the circled items to your open quadrant and the squared items to the hidden quadrant. For example you may consider yourself witty but not allow others the chance to see that side online. What could you share that would exemplify this?

For any word that you put a square around, recall what was going through your mind when you shared that unwanted item. Many people get into trouble when they combine drinking with online activities. If this applies to you, consider making it more difficult to access your social media accounts under those circumstances. Otherwise, just being mindful of what you write and reviewing your list for a few days will go a long way to helping you choose your online self disclosure rather than it being an accident.

If you would like to fill out the other two quadrants to a greater degree, I highly recommend visiting this free website which will allow you to save a link to your word selections and receive feedback from friends and family as to how they see you. You can then further hone your self disclosure by either enhancing or diminishing qualities that you were not aware of. Humbling, but worth it!

Best Viral Videos of All Time

I was recently asked which videos I considered to be the best viral videos of all time. Six months later I had an answer. Below is a list, selected by number of views, number of days to reach 100 million views, and complete arbitrariness (Either because I love them, or because I despise them so much I’ve somehow watched them multiple times. Why do I do that?)

Best Change-making Video

The controversial Kony 2012 beat out Susan Boyle as the most rapidly spreading video ever. It reached 100 million views in just six days versus Boyle’s paltry eight. It is a thirty minute video which might as well be years when it comes to the length of the average viral video. But this video was an exception. Another exception is that this video deals with a serious social issue. A great example of the potential of viral videos to create change (and for fame to wreak havoc on their creators).

The Viral Video We Love to Hate

One of the few viral videos that consistently has more dislikes than likes. Why does it have hundreds of millions of views? If you haven’t seen it, check-it out. If you love to hate it, then watch it again. If you just hate it then…move on. It is kind of catchy though… Gotta make my mind up…

Seriously Catchy Autotune

Best Candid Moment

I love the kid’s accent. I don’t think it would have made it viral without that.

I Want What He’s Having

Combine Dad’s Flipcam with a seven-year-old kid high on novocaine and you have all the makings of this viral classic. Is it just me or is there something slightly sadistic about the way the father eggs the kid on? I wonder what David will think of this video when he grows up.

Best Video Blog

I will always love Chris Crocker for showing us his authentic self online before it was cool. In fact he was one of the original video bloggers who laid the ground for others to follow. Some people believe that Chris is just playing a character. Maybe. But that is the beautiful irony of YouTube.

Best Viral Ads

One of the best viral campaigns ever. When Blendtec came up with this idea they cannot possibly have realized how wildly successful their little video would turn out to be. Reportedly they knew they were onto something when kids began asking for Blendtec blenders for Christmas. Yeah and just throw in a spatula as a stocking stuffer…

Best Inspirational Video

The way this is edited is expertly edited to manipulate you into feeling inspired and it works. Boyle went on to sell millions.

Best Book Reading

Cover your ears for the scream.

Cutest (Wild) Animal

They are ridiculously sweet.

Best Cat

I have not found a top contender. Suggestions?

Best Dog

This doggie ended up receiving a commercial deal after this video made the viral rounds.

The Classic That Started Them All

How to Lose Friends and Piss Off People

Enough said.

 

Arcade Fire Google Maps Video and the Future of HTML5

In 2010 the Arcade Fire Google Maps Video went viral. The official title of the video is “The Wilderness Downtown“. If you haven’t seen it, this is one video you must check-out. Google matched director Chris Milk with the band to develop an interactive video experience to demonstrate the capabilities of HTML 5 in Chrome. And what an experience! The video raised a lump in my throat and tears to my eyes.

The video begins by typing in the address of your childhood home. You are warned to shut-down other programs and close all browser windows. The video is very processor intensive and will stutter if you don’t follow these instructions (maybe if you have an extremely fast machine you can ignore this).

Different windows begin to pop up as you view feet running on wet pavement and then a guy in a hoodie running through various streets. Some of the windows include map and street views of your childhood home which make the Arcade fire music video very personal and special.  Maybe it was just me, but it almost felt a little *too* personal at times. I mean, how did Chris Milk get a picture of *my* house, of the block that I grew up on? Oh yeah, Google…:)

The graphics (particularly the flocks of birds and exploding trees) are gorgeous and at the end you have the chance to write a letter to your childhood self or draw a picture. All of this uses HTML5 and it certainly gives an impressive show of what can be done in video using this technology. The use of HTML5 continues to grow (34 of the world’s top 100 websites use HTML5) but it is far from being used to its full potential. In particular there is room for other video artists to use HTML5 to create amazing online video experiences. If you are interested to view some other HTML5 experiments, check-out these Chrome Experiments. Below is the “making of” the Arcade Fire Video.

Wiggle Stereoscopy

Wiggle stereoscopy has become my new obsession since viewing some of the amazing samples below. Wiggle is a DIY glasses-free 3D format that is simple (at least in concept) to create. If you want to create your own wiggle photo or video, keep reading. If you just want to enjoy some great wiggle art, scroll down to the bottom!

To create a wiggle stereoscopic still photo, two separate images are taken from slightly different perspectives. These are then combined into an animated GIF that is set to rapidly flip back and forth between two slightly different perspectives. Okay, so let’s wiggle it! (Just a little bit)

Shooting Wiggle Stereoscopy

  • Choose a subject that has depth – there must be separation between foreground and background elements (if you’re interested in learning more about 3D composition, see my book Shoot 3D Like a Pro).
  • Gather two images for each shot. The difference in perspectives should be the approximate width between the pupils of each eye (i.e. you should move the camera about four inches between each shot).
  • Keep the same exposure settings for each photo. They must be as near to identical as possible or you won’t get your wiggle on later!
  • Use a tripod if possible. It will be very difficult to match the level between the photos otherwise.
  • When you move the camera envision your main subject as being the center of a 360 degree circle. Moving your camera in a parallel line will work, but not as well as if you incorporated a small arc.

Get Ready to Wiggle

Transfer your photos and open them up in a your image editing program of choice (note you will need to be able to create and animate layers). I use Photoshop so my instructions will be a bit biased toward that software.

  • Create a two layer file composed of the two photos.
  • Change the opacity of the top layer to 60%.
  • Use the move tool to align the top image so that the main subject on the top matches as precisely as possible with the one on the bottom. Rotate the image if you need to.
  • Once the images are aligned set the opacity of both images to 100%.
  • Crop the image as needed. If the subject was quite distant consider cropping to get closer as this will enhance your wiggle effect.
  • Open the animation palette and choose “Make Frames from Layers”
  • Change the animation delay time to .2 seconds (experiment with this).
  • Choose “File, Save As” and you are done!

But I don’t have Photoshop!

All is not lost. There are also shareware and freeware options. There is a a free program available specifically made for creating stereoscopic content. Check out Stereo Photo Maker. It is available for both Mac and Windows.

Windows users, check out UnFREEz. Use your favorite image editing software as above (for example the freely available GIMP), export as GIFS, import the two files into UnFREEz, choose the “Loop Animation” option and experiment with the centiseconds setting – 12-25 is the general range to try. Click “Make Animated GIF” and you will have your wiggle video ready-to-go!

You now know how to make a 3D wiggle photo, but how about a video? Videos are made frame-by-frame basically following the method outlined above. Then each frame is laid out in a time-line in editing software such as Final Cut Pro or Avid to create the video itself. When I have time to experiment further with wiggle videos I will post further on this technique. Until then, keep wiggling and check out the great samples below.

This is an excellent wiggle music video. Inspirational!

wiggle-stereoscopy-josh-heineman

Wiggle Stereoscopy really helps bring these photographs to life.

Joshua Heineman has taken vintage stereoscopic public domain photographs and turned them into wiggle art. These photos were originally created to be viewed with a stereoscope.

wiggle-stereoscopy-martinez

Gorgeous work by Jamie Martinez

 

wiggle-stereoscopy-jim-gasperini

Stunning splash by Jim Gasperini

wiggle-video-psychedelic

Beautiful psychedelic work - artist unknown

wiggle-photo-burning-man

Yay Burning Man!

wiggle-stereoscopy-martinez

Concert by Martinez - the entire crowd appears to be in motion... Notice that the slightly slower frame rate still gives great depth.

 

Jurassic-Park-Wiggle-Video

Jurassic Park Will go 3D in 2013

 

Best DSLR for Video

Ask most people which is the best DSLR for video and they are likely to respond “the Canon 5D”. I was one of those people until I dug a bit deeper and talked to folks who actually shoot video with DSLRs. Then I got my hands dirty. I tried the 5D, the 7D, the Sony SLT-55 and a few others as well. When you look at the feature set, the quality of the video and the ease of shooting it becomes clear that the Panasonic Lumix GH2 is the best all around DSLR for video if not the best DSLR camera in general. Here are several reasons why (with a few caveats).

  • Easy to Focus. The GH2 uses the “micro four-thirds” format. Micro four-thirds is a mirrorless format with a sensor size that is slightly smaller than a full-frame DSLR. The slightly smaller sensor helps prevent focus issues (the 5D in particular is notorious for being very tricky to focus) and the sensor is still much larger than what you will find on any camcorder anywhere near this price range. But what about the gorgeous depth-of-field DSLRs are known for? I have been extremely impressed with the depth of field. It is truly outstanding. Below is a shot from my doc Open Sesame.

  • Quick to focus. Micro four thirds uses the contrast method of focusing. The GH1 was relatively fast but the GH2 is even faster (and quieter). (Comparing the GH1 vs GH2 there is no reason to purchase the GH1 – there are just too many improvements you would miss out on). Focus is a critical area where the GH2 shines above the 5D and the SLT-55. It is much quicker to find a focus with the GH2 and you are less likely to discover that your focus is poor later. The continuous auto focus mode does a decent job of following focus with minimal hunting (provided there is adequate light – but this is the same for all auto-focus systems).
  • Focus pulling. The GH2 features touch screen focus-pulling. Touch the area that you want in focus and the GH2 pulls it into focus. Most of the time this works pretty well for a quick way to achieve a professional looking technique. Below is an example. Notice that there is a slight over correction at the end. What I’m finding is that this tends to occur most often at wide apertures. I’m still experimenting.

  • Lenses. Pick a lens, any lens. The best DSLR cameras offer the widest selection of lenses. Thanks to the micro four-thirds format, nearly any lens can be mounted on this camera with the correct adapter. Pay about $30 for the average adapter and you can throw on your favorite Nikon or Canon lens. There are many gorgeous used lenses on Ebay, each with their own character. The best DSLR lens is a subjective choice, but you will not lack from a range to choose from. (Note though that many, if not most of these lenses will be manual focus only.)
  • Image quality. The GH2 records 1080p video at 24 frames per second (as well as 1080 60i and 720 60p). The new firmware update (December 2011) bumps up the bit rate to 24Mbps allowing for even greater definition and contrast. (the higher the bit rate, the less compression). The GH2 has a wonderful filmic look that I am completely in love with. My prior camera was the Sony EX-1 and the GH2 has it beat in my opinion. Below is footage I shot in India. It may not read in the YouTube video, but I was very impressed with the fine level of detail present in the mist rising from the river.

  • Audio input. The GH2 has an external audio jack and it is possible to visually meter the audio (turn “mic level display” on in the video camera menu). This isn’t ideal in every situation (since you won’t actually be able to hear what is being recorded), but it is great in a pinch and delivers decent audio with the right mic. If you want to be able to monitor audio you’ll need to purchase an external digital recorder. I purchased the Tascam GR2 and so far, so good. Below is a clip of audio I recorded with a Sennheiser M66 plugged into the GH2 audio input. (with apologies for the shaky monopod:)) I’ve had the best results with the GH2 Mic Level Adjust at level 1.

  • Incredible zoom. The micro four-thirds mount effectively doubles the focal length of the lens you use. For example if you use a 20mm lens it will have the equivalent of a 40mm on a regular DSLR. This is neither good nor bad. Where it becomes a real bonus is when combined with the extra teleconversion function. This nifty feature doubles the focal length yet again. Envision this real life scenario as told by a colleague of mine. He purchased a used 300mm Nikon lens for his GH2. The focal length was effectively doubled so he had the equivalent of a 600mm lens. But with the extra teleconversion function eh had a 1200mm lens! With no loss of resolution (the extra teleconversion function uses the center of the sensor at its full resolution to achieve its enhancement). Don’t forget a tripod!! This is serious. I have yet to need such a lens but I can tell you that the 140mm lens kit lens is pretty amazing when you consider that it is the equivalent of a 560mm lens using the above technique.
  • HDMI output. If you are shooting serious video with your DSLR there will come a point where the small built-in monitor may be insufficient. The GH2 features a full 1080i HDMI output that can be delivered concurrently with your on-board viewfinder.
  • Weight. The GH2 is lighter and more compact than other DSLRs.
  • The GH2 Hack (if you dare). The GH2 firmware hack is widely available in several forms. Of course they will all void your warranty. Some of them take the bit rate up to a reported 84Mbps! I have not had the courage to try the GH2 hack. Rumor has it that Panasonic based the most recent gh2 firmware update on some of the elements that were included in recent hacks.
As you can tell I am in love with my GH2 and the more that I shoot with it the more that I appreciate its video capabilities. Why would anyone purchase the 5D? The 5D is also an excellent camera. If you shoot feature films or commercials and you have plenty of time for set-up and perhaps even a focus puller and excellent monitor I can’t imagine you would be disappointed with the 5D. It has a larger sensor, plus it’s what many clients expect you to walk in the room with. (That said, many are beginning to jump on-board the GH2 train as well – they just need to be educated:)). But as an all-around, affordable DSLR video camera, the GH2 vs. 5d is an easy decision to make – the GH2 beats the 5D as the best video dslr rig.
If you have yet to purchase the GH2, Amazon currently has an excellent price, I recommend buying the model with the 14-140mm zoom rather than the GH2 body only. It is considerably cheaper than buying the lens separately and you are bound to find situations where you will appreciate having the extra focal length. Add on the 20mm pancake lens (excellent in low light and gorgeous depth of field!) and you have a very strong and capable DSLR video camera.

 

 

Best DSLR Stabilizer for the GH2 Under 200

Recently I’ve tested various DSLR stabilizers for the GH2. and at this price point you might find yourself pleasantly surprised at the functionality per dollar spent.  In fact I ended up with two, very different stabilizers for way under $200! Here is what worked (and didn’t work) for me.

I started out with a trip to B&H where I looked at *every* stabilizer they offered. I narrowed it down to three in this price range and brought them home for trial runs.

First Contender: The Opteka CXS-1

My expectations were perhaps unreasonably high for the “Opteka CXS-1 Video Shoulder Stabilizer Support System”. I guess I’m a sucker for the word “system” it sounds so comprehensive.;) All that aside, it receives excellent reviews on Amazon and it looked like it would be perfect. As I assembled the unit (err I mean “system”) I remained impressed. The metal is solid  and has a cool burnished, metallic red color. All was groovy – until I actually tried it. At first I thought it was me.  I’m 6’2″ and not a small guy. However I’m no line-backer and I wish my shoulders were just a little bit broader.  Anyway, the unit slowly slid off my shoulder to the right and felt neither stable nor comfortable. At first I thought that perhaps my somewhat narrow shoulder was to blame. Should I hit the gym or return to B&H? I was feeling lazy so I got on the train and headed back to B&H. Dave at B&H wasn’t surprised I had had this issue. There is no weight at the back of this otherwise well designed product so it often doesn’t feel right to people. I considered somehow attaching a weight to the back, but there is no easy way to do it, so I moved on to the next contender.

Opteka-CXS-1-DSLR-Stabilizer

Notice that the back shoulder support doesn't extend down very far.

Next up: the Tiffen Steady Stick

Being disappointed with my shoulder mount experience, the next unit I tried was in a different category. The Tiffen/Davis & Standard Steady Stick. The steady stick is meant for situations where you’ll be moving around frequently. You can get down low or move your camera up high. However if you are going to be holding the camera on a subject for a long, extended period, a shoulder mount is a better option. With the Steady Stick you get your support from the belt that wraps around your hips.

The assembly instructions are poor, but it wasn’t too long before I had my GH2 mounted. I immediately liked this unit except for one issue. The Steady Stick is meant to be a video camera stabilizer so it has the video-mount screw on the mounting plate (see photo below). For now I’ve worked around this by mounting my camera directly on the front of the plate, but ultimately I’ll get a wrench and screw it out. Another issue is that without the stabilizer screw, the camcorder slides around a bit. I might have returned it just based on that, but for around $54 this unit is pretty cool. What I did is take a little bit of gripping tape (I made this word up by the way – if you know the proper name please post it!) and mounted it to the top of the plate. You can see it in the photos below. Now my GH2 fits nice and snugly. The gripping tape quite handily came with the Ikan Recoil to be described below (but wasn’t necessary to use with the GH2. I’m not 100% sure about this unit and will continue to test it. But if it works out it will be a great alternate to a shoulder mount.

Tiffen Steady Stick

This screw gets in the way. It appears it can be removed.

Tiffen Steady Stick Work-around

This keeps the GH2 from slipping. But what is it called?

Davis & Standard Steady Stick

The Steady Stick

Ikan Hold My Breath – the Recoil is Here

My replacement for the Opteka CXS-1 was the Ikan Recoil which looks kind of like an over-sized clamp. It doesn’t have the same build quality as the Opteka – it’s 90% plastic. But what is especially cool about this unit is that the weight falls less on your shoulder and more on your chest so it has really solid, steady feel. However Dave, my friendly B&H employee warned me that he’s seen a Canon 5D meet it’s untimely end on one of these. To some extent you do get what you paid for. The unit is made of both plastic and metal (a plastic unit with metal screws). The 5D user had been shooting with the Recoil frequently over an extended period of time and was using long, heavy lenses. Eventually the metal of the screw began to degrade the plastic housing and one day – “pop!” camera met floor. I cringed when Dave told me this and I have to admit this story made me a little nervous, even with my feather-light GH2. However, I really don’t see it being a problem unless you are using very heavy lenses. Further, the Recoil comes with two mounts. A “riser” mount and a large, flat mount for heavier cameras. I’m sticking with the larger mount for now which seems to work better.

The one issue I have with the Recoil is that in a very tight shot the mere act of breathing causes the camera to rise and fall just slightly. The bottom support rests right on your chest after all! This definitely isn’t a deal breaker as I can hold my breath for quite awhile, but it is something to keep in mind.

Ikan Recoil

Overall a good unit with some caveats

So there you have it. Not one, but two  DSLR stabilizers for under $2o0! They may not be perfect in this price range and each involves its own quirky work-around but considering the price they are solid camera stabilizer options.

 

Best HD Video Camera – Top Buys for 2012

Camera buying is never easy. Choosing the best HD video camera from the wide array of options available can be tricky. You want the best camera but don’t want to pay for unnecessary features (or worse) end up with a lemon of a model. You also don’t want to waste time considering video cameras that aren’t worth your time. The electronics industry is extremely competitive and products are often rushed to market. This leaves it up to the consumer to do their due diligence and make smart choices.

In this posting you’ll learn four reasons why each of these four models are the best HD camcorders in their category for 2012 (this list will be updated as new models are released throughout the year). There are no mini-DV based video cameras on this list – there is far better value to be had with the newer HD video recorder flash and hard drive memory formats. All camcorders on this list shoot 1080p video – none of the lesser quality models that shoot 720p or 1080i were included.

1. Great Starter Camcorder at a Great Price: Sony HDR-CX160 HD Flash Memory Camcorder (approx $400)

The CX160 includes plenty of value for its price-point. Here are the four top reasons this camcorder shines above the rest:

  1. Unlike many other camcorders in the same class, the CX160 includes full 1920×1080 progressive recording (1080p). Other models in this price range record 1080 interlaced (1080i) or 720p (a lower resolution image). 1080 progressive recordings are smoother, higher resolution and more film like.
  2. The CX160 has a generous 30x optical zoom with up to 42X using the digitally enhanced “Extended Zoom”. This is an excellent zoom for any camcorder.
  3. The CX160 has a built in LED light to provide illumination in low-light situations.
  4. This camcorder is the best small video camera in its category and has an ergonomic feel to its body.

    Sony CX 160

    Sony HDR-CX160 HD Camcorder

2. Flexible All-Around Camcorder with Advanced Options: Panasonic HDC-HS900K 3D Ready Digital Camcorder (approx $750)

With a crisp Leica lens, the ability to shoot in 60P or 24P, Dolby surround sound, 3.5 inch advanced touch screen and a wide angle lens this feature packed camcorder offers professional level features in a reasonably priced package. Here are the four stand-out attributes that make this camcorder shine:

  1. The camcorder includes a large 220GB hard drive allowing you to record up to thirty-eight hours of gorgeous footage without stopping to change a card.
  2. The HDC-HS900 has a 3MOS system. This means there are three sensors instead of one which means better color rendering and higher image quality.
  3. Shooting on the move? Shaky hands? Fear not. This camcorder has excellent image stabilization with its hybrid electronic/optical stabilization. Most camcorders use either one or the other. This model offers the best of both.
  4. Shoot and simultaneously record high resolution 13.3 megapixel stills while you shoot video. Again, the best of both worlds.

    HDC-HS900K Camcorder

    Panasonic HDC-HS900K Camcorder

3. Jump Into the World of 3D : HDR-TD10 Full HD 3D Camcorder (approx $900)

If you aren’t sure whether 3D is worth your time, this may be a video camera that changes your mind. Here are the top four reasons why:

  1. The best 3D in its class. The HDR-TD10 features Sony’s proprietary Bionz processor, two Exmor R CMOS Sensors and two wide angle Sony “G” lenses. This dynamic trio delivers stunning 3D.
  2. The features a 10X optical zoom that functions in 3D. Most other 3D camcorders are unable to do this. Some 3D camcorders lack a zoom function all together because of the technical challenges.
  3. No need to choose between 2D and 3D shooting. Shoot in 3D and choose to either watch full HD 2D or 3D later on. It’s up to you.
  4. The glasses-free 3.5 inch LCD touch panel viewfinder will wow you with 3D without the need for those goofy glasses.

    HDR-TD10 3D

    The HDR-TD10 3D Camcorder

4. Go Pro: Panasonic Professional AG-HMC40 AVCHD Camcorder with 10.6 MP Still and 12x Optical Zoom (approx $1700)

This Panasonic model isn’t the newest kid on the block, but the advantage to that is that all the kinks have been worked out and you get a truly professional piece of equipment for well under $2000. Frequently used by TV producers and indie movie directors, this camcorder has the ability to take on your high-end dream project.

  1. The AG-HMC40 is highly customizable. For example it includes selectable gammas (adjusts video contrast, luminance and brightness), and Dynamic Range Stretch (allows for greater detail in very dark or very bright areas of a shot).
  2. The camcorder is much smaller and lighter (2.16 pounds) than many other models with similar features.
  3. The Leica Dicomar lens, high bit rate recording (a higher bit rate means more visual information is recorded per second) and three 1/4.1″ 3MOS sensors combine to produce a gorgeous professional level image.
  4. The XLR adapter jack allows you to add professional quality microphones. This is pro feature helps to further separate it from the consumer pack.

    AG-HMC40

    Panasonic Pro AG-HMC40 Camcorder

Panasonic GH2

I’ve been shooting with the GH2 for just over 3 months now. It is a solid DSLR camera that is suitable for projects ranging from video blogs to documentary films to features. In this post, which I will update regularly, I share my discoveries, techniques and mistakes with the goal to help current and potential GH2 owners as much as I can.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Which GH2 to Purchase?

There are three main configurations:

  • Body only ($900)
  • Body plus the 14-42mm lens (about $900 – yes the same price as the body only – bizarre)
  • Body plus the 14-140mm lens. (about $1200)

I recommend door #3. The 14-140mm was the only lens I took on my trip to India. I prefer to become familiar with one lens before I move on to others. I was trying to keep my budget down, so I considered buying the 14-40mm package. Glad I didn’t! I guarantee that you will appreciate the extra focal length and the weight difference is negligible. When you use the Extra Tele Video Mode you will be even happier – more on this later.

For a zoom the 140mm is quite a fast lens. It is also nice and quiet. If you are shooting audio, you won’t hear this lens. At least I didn’t. Also, when you consider the cost of the lens and the body separately this is also the best deal by far cost wise. The 14-140 lens is $650 all by itself. Perhaps Panasonic is realizing this, because I noticed that B&H hasn’t had the 14-140mm package in stock for weeks. It is currently available on Amazon though, but if you are considering buying the camera with the long zoom you might want to move quickly.

If You Only Buy One Accessory – Buy This

The GH2 is known for its stellar video, but you need to use the correct settings. Ideally you want to keep the shutter speed at twice the frame rate. So if you are shooting at 1080 24P you would shoot at a shutter rate of 50 (the closest to 48 available). Because of this you will depend on the aperture to control the lighting – there is no built in neutral density filter.

Without an ND filter, in bright settings you end up with small apertures and lose the rich depth of field that the GH2 can achieve. That is, unless you have a fader filter. A neutral density fader filter is a variable filter mounted on a ring. You can manually rotate the ring to achieve the desired ND. It’s very quick and easy to do on the fly. Much better than fooling around with individual filters – what a nightmare. I bought Light Craft’s 62mm filter for $120 but found it here for only $86.00. It’s well worth the cost.

Focusing with the GH2

There are three focus modes:

  • Manual Focus – just like it sounds
  • Auto-Focus Continuous – the camera continually focuses – good for moving subjects. Can display some ‘hunting’ when there is inadequate lighting. This mode uses the battery up a little more quickly.
  • Auto-Focus Single – Press the shutter release button to focus

Because the GH2 uses a smaller micro 4/3rds sensor it focuses more quickly and with greater ease than a camera like the Canon 5D. But it still needs more care and attention paid to it than a handicam. Remember, that a DLSR is capable of a beautiful depth-of-field but that can also be a double edged sword.

For example I recorded a close-up of an interview subject in bright sunlight. There was a beautiful separation between him and the background. But when I looked at the footage later his neck was in perfect focus, but his nose was slightly out of focus. That’s how sensitive this camera can be. The reason this happened is because MF assist was turned off. Use this feature. It zooms into the image and allows you to check the focus with precision.

It’s also possible to use the Auto-Focus Single mode to good effect. This is best in a wider shot though. I found that it’s not always reliable with a very shallow depth of field.

More to follow on Friday.

 

 

Stereopsis

Stereopsis refers to our binocular vision. It has a slightly unusual history to its discovery. Around 300 BC, the Greek philosopher Euclid proposed several very foreword thinking notions about how we perceived 3D. However there wasn’t a clear recognition of stereopsis until Charles Wheatstone developed his stereoscope in 1838. Usually inventions take advantages of new findings, but in this case, it was the invention that helped make the discovery! To be fair though, Chuck had a pretty good understanding as to what he was doing – but the word ‘stereopsis’ did not come into general usage until after he released his stereoscope.

The Stereoscope

The Stereoscope

The stereoscope was a funny looking box-like contraption. It displayed two images each with slight differences in their horizontal positions. Because the images were different from one another, the viewer’s brain unified and processed them as a single image, giving the illusion of three dimensions. A 1970 MIT study proposed that stereopsis is an inherited ability and that some of us are “stereo blind”.  Perhaps this is why some people hate 3D movies and others get headaches from them.

On the other there are also indications that stereopsis is a learned trait. I use the example in my book Shoot 3D Movies Like a Pro of early movie goers who ducked beneath their seat to avoid the oncoming train they saw while viewing a movie theater. In that case, you might say their stereopis was overactive. They hadn’t learned to relax their eyesight and enjoy a two dimensional movie. In the same way, the first movies could not cut from one shot to another too rapidly or people would become confused, disoriented and even dizzy. Does this sound familiar?

Today, 3D editors are careful to lower the rate at which 3D movies are edited so that viewers do not become disoriented. But as 3D continues to evolve we will also evolve along with it. Of course, it takes many many years for us to evolve physically, but we can learn new traits and skills quickly due to our neuroplasticity. This is a fascinating topic in itself and also a complex subject that I’m not qualified to speak about. However, with the help of neuroplasticity and some hard work, I hope to learn and write a posting on the relationship between neuroplasticity and our video-oriented culture in a forthcoming blog post. :)

Wheatstone Discovers Stereopsis

Wheatstone Discovers Stereopsis

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