Consumer Video Tips

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Archive for December 2008

Which Camcorder Audio Recording Mode Should You Use?

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Generally, DV camcorders use pulse code modulation (PCM) as their primary sampling method. Depending on your camera, you should have several quality choices.

The higher the PCM sampling rates (expressed in thousands of cycles per second (kHz)) and the number of data bits per sample (bits,) the better the quality.

Ideally, you should be able to choose between mono or stereo (that’s one or two channels) and selecting a 16-bit audio source, sampled at 48 kHz, will provide the best quality.

You can record at CD-quality (which, believe it or not is inferior to the highest quality) and sample at 44.1 kHz.

The lower-quality 16-bit samples at 32 kHz are generally so poor in quality that I cannot recommend using this setting for anyone

The lowest quality is four channels at 12-bits sampled at 32 kHz. This is only useful when you plan to do additional voice over or sound effects (SFX) at a later date for commentary or similar purposes.

In short, you should always use the highest quality for your camcorder audio setting unless you have a good reason not to.


Written by scottbourne

December 28, 2008 at 10:03 pm

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Show Off Your Video Wherever You Go

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A mini review of the Optoma Pico PK101 $399.00

If you want to show off your video while on the road, at a party, or anywhere you don’t have access to projection equipment you’re in luck.

I just tested a pocket projector. You heard right. I said a pocket projector. The Pico PK101 weighs just four ounces and is the size of the average iPhone.

The Pico projector uses a TI engine that offers a 480-by-320 resolution DLP chip connected to an LED light source.

The unit is so portable that I forgot I had it in my pocket. I was worried I might damage it, but the protective case (supplied) made me feel better about keeping the little Pico safe.

Operation of this projector couldn’t be simpler. You connect it to an iPod or computer using supplied cables. It runs on a supplied rechargeable battery. Once connected, point the Pico at any large white surface, turn off the lights, and away you go.

I got about 55 minutes out of the battery the full brightness mode, the only mode I found acceptable. It takes between two and four hours to recharge the battery, depending on whether or not you recharge while using the battery in the projector. The company does supply a second battery, so if the first one discharges, you can have the backup battery charged and ready to replace it.

Now you are probably waiting for the bad news. I mean after all, how is it something that weighs four ounces and fits in a typical cellphone case going to project a decent image. Surprise, there’s no real bad news. Only one small gripe – which I’ll add below.

The projector works well. Video I put onto my iPod and then played using the Pico looked good projected on a super clean white wall in a totally dark room at a size of 30 inches. The bigger you go, the dimmer the picture. The smaller you go, the brighter the picture. At about a 36″ diagonal image, I found the image watchable for long periods. Anything larger didn’t work for me. At around 25″ the image looked comparable to the average television.

What really surprised me was how well the Pico rendered colors. What disappointed me was the volume on the built-in speaker. It’s simply not loud enough to be heard well. I added a $20 pair of accessory speakers found at any computer store and enjoyed the results.

One negative is the lack of keystone correction. I am assuming that the company was going for the smallest, cheapest unit they could build and that keystone correction would add to much to size or price. But I do miss having it.

The PK 101 is the only projector of its kind I’ve ever seen. It works well, is affordable given it’s size and performance, and will no doubt lead the way for a long line of competitors who will presumably make the idea of a pocket projector

Written by scottbourne

December 21, 2008 at 10:59 am

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Want to Know Why DSLR Makers Are Adding Video?

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film and seascape
Money. That’s the reason. Still cameras have outsold camcorders five to one during the greater part of this decade. That’s because average camcorders typically cost twice as much as average DSLRs.

But the DSLR market is getting long in the tooth. With the exception of professionals and hard-core enthusiasts (which make up for about 20% of the market) most experts agree that people are going to slow down their camera purchases.

With the market maturing, the DSLR makers know that they need to freshen up their offering to maintain interest. Video is the easy way to do that. The camera manufacturers already know this will work because it worked when they wanted to prop up compact/point and shoot sales.

Most compact digicams come with video today. In fact, all the high-end digicams sport a video option. This has been widely accepted by consumers. So that’s why Nikon introduced the D90 with video. That’s why Canon introduced the 5D MK II with video. And that’s why other manufacturers will follow suit.

Most agree that DSLR quality has peaked. At the low end, cell phones are starting to replace intro-level point and shoots as pocket cameras. That leaves little doubt that convergence is all the camera makers have left.

What does it all mean? I am not sure. Certainly some companies will be hurt by this move. The more things go digital, the more they go video, and the less they go to print. So companies like Shutterfly will have to find models that incorporate video. We’ve already seen video added to Flickr and iStock. Who’s next?

The trend will no doubt continue for the rest of this decade and beyond. The real question is this. What will the DSLR makers do once they’ve saturated this market?

Written by scottbourne

December 18, 2008 at 7:34 pm

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Probably the Simplest Tip I’ll Ever Share Here

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But SOMEBODY doesn’t know this.

With programs like Final Cut and iMovie (As well as most other mainstream video editing programs) you can start and stop clip capture by pressing the spacebar during videotape playback.

This makes it easy to grab portions of scenes: click on Final Cut or iMovie’s Play button to play the tape, and when something rolls by that you want to capture, hit the spacebar to grab it.

You can also use the spacebar to start and stop general video playback to preview your movie.

Written by scottbourne

December 16, 2008 at 1:22 pm

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Shooting Smooth Video

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If you’re someone who loves the jerky look of MTV video, skip this post. But if you want to be able to eat dinner and then sit down and watch one of your own videos without throwing up due to motion sickness, keep reading.

When you shoot with a still camera on a tripod, chances are you use a ball head, a gimbal head or a panning head. For video, you’ll need a panning head, and most experts prefer what’s called a fluid head.

A fluid head uses viscous oil between the mechanical components that allow the smoothest movement. This makes panning, starts and stops all record more smoothly.

Unfortunately, fluid heads can be very expensive, running into the thousands of dollars for those that need to support very large video cameras.

For the average consumer video camera, there is one inexpensive fluid head that I’ve tried and can recommend. It’s the Bogen/Manfrotto 501HDV Fluid Video Head. Most stores sell it for well under $200. It supports more than 13 pounds (much more than any consumer camcorder would weigh) and offers a stable way to pan your camera.

Some of my favorite features of this head are that it offers variable friction on both the pan and the tilt axis. You can vary the friction. It offers a sliding camera plate and it is set up to work for either right or left-handed shooters.

One negative for the 501 is its weight. It weighs 3.5 pounds. If carry a one pound camcorder and need a 3.5 pound head, chances are it might keep you from bringing the head along at all. But fight that temptation. All video gear of this nature suffers this problem. You can get carbon fiber heads that weigh less, but they will cost much more.

It’s well built and Bogen offers a five year warranty to support the product.

Written by scottbourne

December 14, 2008 at 3:23 pm

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Consumer Video Tips Q&A

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Every week or so, we’re going to pick at least one question from our audience to answer on the blog. Hopefully, these answers will help everyone. If you have a question, send it to bournemediagroup at

Here’s today’s question from Robert Sorbo…

When importing a movie from Final Cut Express 4.0 into iDVD that was shot 16:9, iDVD stretches it even further on output.

I shot the footage on a Panasonic DV953 camera with its 16:9 mode. FCE recognizes it correctly, but iDVD does not.

I Googled it and found others that have had this problem and had success by changing the movie’ size in the Quicktime conversion.

That didn’t work for me. I did get the movie to burn correctly in Toast, but then it doesn’t keep my chapter markers.

Just wondering if you’ve heard of this and know a solution.

It’s always hard to know the precise answer to something as complex as this Robert but in consultation with my buddy Alex Lindsay at the Pixelcorps, I believe this could be a problem related to iDVD misinterpreting the non-square pixels for square pixels and stretching them.

Our good friend QuickTime Pro
can help here. Just use QTP to convert to “pro-res” before sending the file to iDVD and all should be well.

This is probably a good time to point out that Apple’s QuickTime Pro (which is cross-platform) is a swiss army knife that should be in everybody’s video toolbox. It’s great for solving problems like this one.

Written by scottbourne

December 12, 2008 at 1:07 am

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Affordable & Improved Audio For Video – RODE Videomic

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I’ve already talked about the importance of improving the audio you record along with your video. Here’s an inexpensive way to do that, and still get great results.

While you may eventually need several different types and styles of microphones, you’ll almost certainly always have need of a shotgun mic. Shotgun mics are very directional. They record audio in tight patterns and at greater distances than your video camera’s built-in mic.

While these mics can cost thousands of dollars, Australian microphone maker Rode makes the “Videomic,” which sells for about $150.00.

The Rode Videomic plugs into your video camera using a standard Mini jack and mounts to your video camera’s accessory shoe. The mic features a built in shock mount that reduces handling noise. Best of all, since it offers a tight pickup pattern, you can reliably record sounds as far away as 20 feet.

The audio quality exceeds what you’d expect to get for this price point. It offers very low noise with very rich and full sound especially compared to most built in video camera mics

If you hope to do professional work, you’ll need to step up to the more expensive shotgun makers. But if you’re just starting out, Rode offers you a great way to improve your sound without busting your budget.

Written by scottbourne

December 9, 2008 at 10:07 pm

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