Consumer Video Tips

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Archive for November 2008

Nikon D90 as a Video Camera

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The Nikon D90 is a DSLR that also shoots video. This review deals strictly with the D90 as a video camera.

The movie mode is an incredible idea. This is the first DSLR that also shoots real 720p HD video. (There’s even an on-board HDMI port – a rarity in this price range.) The process of recording video isn’t very intuitive. It’s obvious that this camera was designed for still photography NOT video. The ergonomics are not terrible for shooting video, but could be better. And the results? If you’re patient, good at manual focus (the D90 autofocus is switched off in movie mode) and you shoot from a tripod, you can make good video with this device. But it will take some practice. After numerous tries, I haven’t been able to focus the camera for video so I gave up on it. 

While I appreciate the bonus of the movie mode, it’s important to note that I wouldn’t buy this camera just because of that. You can get a much better quality dedicated digital camcorder for $1000. The lack of an audio input other than the built-in mic, and no control whatsoever over aperture and shutter speed eliminate many cool tricks that could be done with this camera.

That said, I can see a whole bunch of cool videos being made with it anyway…much the way people take advantage of a Holga camera’s flaws to make a creative statement, people will be able to do the same thing with video on the D90. I just won’t be one of those people.

I do believe this camera is ground-breaking in that it shows a huge interest in the convergence between still and video. And I expect the next Nikon DSLR will have an even more advanced, refined and valuable approach to shooting video. But the execution leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion.

NOTE: I had trouble working with the movie files (they appear to be AVI’s) in Final Cut Pro. So I imported them into Streamclip, a free utility that converts them into .mov files that worked well in both Final Cut Pro and iMovie. You should also note that Nikon doesn’t supply any movie conversion or editing software with the D90.

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Written by scottbourne

November 28, 2008 at 8:56 pm

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Online Resources For Planning A Photo/Video Trip

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If you are planning a photo or video trip, there are numerous online resources you can use to make sure you improve your chances of success.

Right off the bat I want to tell you about Google Maps. Just go to http://maps.google.com/ and you can learn all the fine details.

But here’s the big picture. If you want driving directions and you’ve used Mapquest, you probably got where you wanted to go, but not as fast. And Google’s maps let you get closer using dynamic real time technology that lets you click and drag rather than wait for new downloads. Heck you can even get a satellite image of your destination.

I planned a recent trip and was able to see into each nook and cranny of each location with amazing detail. In addition to getting directions, you can map to a specific point and you can find destinations like hotels, free wi-fi, pizza joints or any other business such as a camera store.

Using online maps is fun, free and fast and a better way to plan your photo trip than an old static fold up map.

There are other online resources you might want to consider.

PlanetEye helps travelers organize their trips by letting them “clip” interesting photographs, attractions, hotels and restaurants.

TripAdvisor is the place I usually trust the most when it comes to hotel reviews. They rank hotels in most destinations in order of user preference and I’ve found the reviews to be mostly accurate and helpful.

Photo Traveler at www.phototravel.com and www.phototraveler.com or phone 323-660-8600 or 800- 417-4680 are very specific guides for traveling photographers, focusing more on the shooting than the hotel/transit issues.

Photograph America Newsletter by nature photographer, writer, and traveler Robert Hitchman tells you where, when, and how to discover the best nature photography in America. E-mail him at hitchman@photographamerica.com or phone 415-898-3736.

Although these are photo resources, they work equally well for those planning to take their video camera out on expedition.

NOTE: This was cross-posted from TWIPPHOTO.

Written by scottbourne

November 26, 2008 at 2:20 pm

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Free Loops for Your Video Production

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One way to really capture the attention of your audience is to add cool sound effects and/or music to your video production. Unfortunately, this can be expensive or require you to have additional musical or sound engineering skills.

A site called “Free-Loops.com” helps solve that problem by providing a variety of free, downloadable sound loops for use in your video production.

They have several to choose from. Check it out.

Written by scottbourne

November 25, 2008 at 10:53 am

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Just Say No – To Digital Zoom

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Photo by Scott Bourne

Photo by Scott Bourne

I know your fancy camcorder comes with a one to 12 kabillion mm zoom, but don’t be fooled.

As impressive as that monster digital zoom sounds, it comes with a price – very poor image quality. Now I know what you’re thinking…”But Scott, MY camera’s digital zoom is better than all the others. Heck I paid a grand for this thing.”

(Insert buzzer sound here.)

Sorry, there is no such thing as a good digital zoom – not on $1000 video cameras, $2000 video cameras or even $10,000 video cameras.

A digital zoom crops your image and magnifies the remaining pixels the same way you would blow up something in a photo or video editing program. The result simply always, always, always looks horrible.

Instead, concentrate on using your optical zoom. This zoom does not lose image quality. If you have a 10x optical zoom, you can shoot most typical scenes just fine. If you need more zoom than your camera’s optical zoom can provide, use that high-tech pair of legs you got and walk closer to the subject. Whatever you do, turn off the digital zoom feature in your camcorder.

Written by scottbourne

November 24, 2008 at 7:54 am

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Using Legal Music in Your Video Production

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How would you feel if you worked for a few weeks on your next video, only to have someone else profit by it?

Chances are, you wouldn’t like it. Which is why I am writing this post encouraging you to only use legal music in your next video project.

Contrary to popular belief, unless you are making videos just for yourself, distributing or sharing them with others makes it illegal to add the latest Alicia Keys or Rolling Stones track to your video.

Most movie editing software makes it possible to record music from audio CDs or other sources into your video. But remember that you can’t sell or otherwise distribute movies containing copyrighted tunes.*

If you want to use music in your next video, you can always rely on your own musical stylings if you’re gifted with musical ability. Otherwise, you may want to invest in a buyout music library.

These are similar royalty-free stock photography, but instead offer music. You can use Google to search for “royalty free music” or just try http://www.royaltyfreemusic.com.

Remember, Copyrighted music is protected under the law. It’s possible that using Copyrighted music in your video could land you in court.

*There are exceptions to using Copyrighted music such as the “fair use” exception, but these exceptions are a gray area that might require you to seek the services of a licensed attorney specializing in intellectual property before you decide to take a chance on claiming “fair use.”

Written by scottbourne

November 21, 2008 at 12:44 pm

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Making Proper Camera Moves

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headssmall

If you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cool studio gear, you can still make smooth, cool-looking camera moves if you know what you’re doing.

Start Slow

The first tip is slow down. You don’t want to give your audience motion sickness. Move the camera somewhat slower than you would turn your head if you were in a brace.

Avoid jerky movements. Think smooooooth.

Panning & Titlting

Make sure you have positioned your external LCD screen in such a way that you can easily see it, even if you’re a foot or two behind your camera.

Practice the move before you can make it. Twist your body in a pan and when tilting, try to make sure you move in a straight line.

Home Made Dolly

Does your kid have a wagon? All you need is a piece of plywood, the wagon and a small tripod and you can set up your own dolly moves. Just be sure to start and end carefully and slowly to make sure your camera doesn’t fall over.

Stabilization

Speaking of tripods, buy the most expensive tripod you can afford. A good fluid head will greatly aid your ability to make good camera moves.

Written by scottbourne

November 20, 2008 at 2:09 pm

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Write Scripts Like a Pro

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If you’re serious about your video making, you might want to take time to script out the action for your next shoot. This can be done using nothing but the word processor you already have. But if you really want to write scripts like a pro, take a look at MovieWriter Pro 2.0.

While there are more powerful script-writing software packages available, MovieWriter Pro has several things going for it.

First, it’s cross-platform. It works on either Macs or Windows machines. Second, it costs less than $25. Several of the packages I am evaluating cost 10 times more than that.

MovieWriter Pro automatically formats your script. All you have to do is write. If you plan dialog in your next video shoot, I think a script is mandatory. The good news is, you can try MovieWriter Pro yourself for free. They offer a free trial version.

Written by scottbourne

November 19, 2008 at 2:22 pm

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