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iMovie ’09 First Test

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The director

I put iMovie 09 through its paces playing around with some cinema-like footage from the Canon HV30. You can see the results on f64.com.

But this is more about my experience than the result.

I never could get my arms around iMovie 08 and abandoned it for the original iMovie HD. I thought then as I do now that a real timeline makes sense for editing. But in iLife 09 things have been changed enough that I can actually use the program. There is no timeline, but there is a precise editor that gives you a hint of a timeline when you need it. You also have more professional-style control over the finished product since iMovie 09 allows you to more substantively work with audio.

The right side of the UI contains different bins for transitions and effects, similar to the bins in Apple’s Logic Pro 8 audio app. Once you realize what these are – they are a joy to work with and make adding effects and transitions

Dynamic Themes (such as Bulletin Board and Comic Book) help add “polish,” but they were a bit limiting and there are only a few of them.

Stabilization works at about a 3-1 time ratio and doesn’t look good on longer clips. For short clips, it works very well.

I am trying to commit to using iMovie 09 on all of my projects. I am tempted to go back to iMovie HD because I miss the timeline and heck, there’s no learning curve involved. But I want to give iMovie 09 a chance. So I’ll report on my progress here from time-to-time as I become more experienced with the program.

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Written by scottbourne

February 2, 2009 at 4:52 pm

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Which Video Accessories Do You Need?

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If you’re one of the millions who received a new video-capable camera or camcorder this past holiday season, you might be wondering which accessories you really need.

Let’s start with the basics. You’ll need video tape (unless you’re tapeless – then you might need memory cards – unless you’re recording to hard disk or CD – in which case you need nothing.

Be sure to pick up an extension cable (or two) and a power strip.

You’ll also probably need an extra battery. Most camcorder batteries are good for about one hour’s worth of recording time.

Next up, make sure you have a good mic if you can record audio from an external source. Likewise, you’ll need a pair of headphones or earbuds if you want to monitor audio in the field.

In my opinion, you also need a sturdy tripod and fluid head. This is essential if you want to get “locked down” steady shots. And the fluid head makes panning and tilting flow smoothly.

Now that we’ve covered basics, the next group is desired accessories. Here you’ll want to think about things like extra optics – wide angle and telephoto add-on lenses give your camcorder additional focal length, meaning you can get more creative with your shooting and framing.

You want to also make sure you have plenty of cables. Not all camcorders come with a firewire cable, yet that’s the most popular way to connect your camcorder to programs like iMovie.

Be sure to pick up a small video light. This will be valuable when you’re in dark light.

Finally – you’ll want a case to carry all this stuff around in. Try out several in person to make sure you get one large enough to hold all of your accessories.

What else should be on this list?

Written by scottbourne

January 26, 2009 at 1:55 am

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Which Camcorder Audio Recording Mode Should You Use?

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istock-9070

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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Want to Know Why DSLR Makers Are Adding Video?

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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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How to Choose a Consumer Video Camera

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It’s always the same question…”Which camcorder should I buy?”

I don’t know. That’s the simple answer. But I can help you with a list of things to consider when selecting a video camera.

The first and foremost factor is deciding how you want to use it. If you hope to make low-budget motion pictures for major market distribution, you’ll want a different camera than you’d want if all you need to do is document the birth of your dog’s new puppies.

Video cameras (not surprisingly) offer greater capability, depending on cost. So what’s you budget? There are three primary budget ranges to consider. $1000 and under. $1000-$4000 and $4000 and up. Most consumers are looking for something that costs less than $1000. Fortunately, there are many cameras that fall into that category.

Next on the list is format. Do you want to record to tape, DVD or hard drive. For consumer-level cameras, I usually recommend against DVD formatted cameras. Tape is the easiest to deal with, but does require that you budget for an ongoing expense.

Another consideration is what features do you need? Some that I suggest you look for include an optical rather than a digital zoom, a miminum of 720p HD quality, HDMI outputs, replacable-rechargable batteries, an easy way to mount the camera to a tripod, manual control over things like aperture and exposure and lastly, the ability to add an external microphone and to monitor the audio as it comes into the camera. The audio features are perhaps the most important to me personally, since I know that without good audio, it doesn’t matter what the video looks like.

Lastly, make sure your camcorder will work with the editing software you prefer. For instance, if you prefer iMovie 08, Apple has provided a complete list of compatible cameras here. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1014

Written by scottbourne

December 3, 2008 at 4:56 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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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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