Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Life of a MacBook Pro Battery

I do most of my computing on my trusty MacBook Pro. It's a power house fast enough to replace my old G5 powerPC, and it gives me the flexibility to take my work with me when I travel to a production location. It also acts as an external monitor when I have Adobe's On Location running. However, I've kept it plugged in most of the time. I'm not good at, and don't want to worry about checking the battery levels throughout the day. A year has gone by, and now my laptop just shuts down after a few minutes of use when it's not plugged in. It turns out it's a good idea to routinely "exercise" your battery, draining & charging it, so that this doesn't happen to you. Hopefully I can get my battery back into shape.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Need An Animated Bar Graph?

I recently produced some graphics for an annual report video. I needed to produce 3 bar graphs. I found keynote from Apple's iWork suite very helpful. I was able to quickly produce a 3-D bar graph, that grew and rotated. I then imported a quicktime of the animation into After Effects and used expressions to add a running numbers effect to complement the graph. A great solution to add interest to any chart or bar graph.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Recording in LP mode - Stay away.

SP and LP refer to the speed with which the tape moves over the tape heads when recording your digital video. LP can give you a longer recording time, but increases the chances for dropouts. A dropout is when your camera fails to record an image for a short period. When capturing in LP, the recordings are a slower speed and often have unstable data streams. You may also have trouble playing back a tape that was recorded in LP mode in a different camera or deck. LP should be avoided if at all possible.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Better Wireless Range For Your MacBook Pro

Downloads were taking forever. I though it was because my router was about 150 feet away from my computer. But on further investigation, I came to the conclusion that was only part of the reason my internet connection was lagging. The answer came in the form of a MacBook that I recently purchased as an additional workstation. My MacBook Pro was not getting a good signal, but the MacBook was? If distance was an issue, why could one computer get a strong signal and the other get such a weak one? Well the other part of the problem was in the material. It turns out that the aluminum body of the MacBook Pro was interfering with the already diluted wireless signal. That's why the plastic MacBook didn't have any connection problems. Great. I figured it out, but now what? The solution: I purchased an external usb antenna from newertechnology, called MaxPower. Only $40 from MacSales. It basically replaces the internal airport card, far from any interference from the aluminum casing. You can position the antenna for the best reception, which visually changes in a display with the included wireless utility. I did some internet speed tests and the results were amazing. Over 5x better reception! If you have an aluminum MacBook Pro, and are getting a poor signal, you really can't beat this device.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Use For Those Old VHS Cases

When's the last time you shipped out or shot on VHS? Those heavy duty plastic VHS cases that are probably just sitting around your studio don't have to be useless. They make excellent shipping containers for small portable drives. These cases are sturdy and actually double walled, providing good protection to the contents inside. Most likely there will even be room for extra packing material, since portable drives are so small.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mixing DV Tape Brands

In DV's early days, Sony and Panasonic tapes used different lubricants, and if you used one brand and then switched to the other, incompatibilities between the lubricants (which get deposited on heads and tape guides) could cause your camera's tape deck to jam up or the heads to clog, sometimes permanently. Supposedly the lubricants were made compatible starting in 1997, but, I would still be hesitant in using different brands, as stories about these problems still arise. Pick one brand of tape, and “stick” with it. You simply won't see the problem. If you do have to use a different brand tape for some reason, use a head cleaning tape before and after the change.

Monday, May 18, 2009

SmugMug Review

If you're trying to find a streaming service for your video content, don't waste your time with SmugMug. Primarily a photo sharing web solution, they've added video to their repertoire. The demo video on their site is beautiful. It streams high quality video in a slick looking Flash Player, but what they don't tell you is that users uploading video from a Mac get a far less slick looking Quicktime Player that is progressive download. Too bad I wasted my time with the trial, uploading content and then being disappointed by the results. Their user interface is also very confusing. If you're trying to use one of their many uploaders (which don't include detailed descriptions - just small useless ones) for video, the buttons are still labeled "photo". Very odd. Nothing on the SmugMug website is really geared toward someone who is primarily a video professional. It seems their video service is a quick add-on that wasn't thought out. I don't know why EventDV gave them such a good review. I will continue my search for a quality video streaming service.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Add Interest to your Videos

For a more dynamic video, try getting out of the habit of putting the camera at eye level. Today's lightweight video cameras can be easily placed up high (like on a ladder), way down low and a variety of other places that much larger cameras of yesteryear just wouldn't fit.

Also, there's no rule that says your horizon has to be level. Try tilting your camera, and moving angles quickly. Or try a slow tilt from one side to the other. These simple things can add drama, and a sense of forboding in tense scenes and can add interest in shots with lots of action.

By considering an innovative and unusual camera angle to shoot your scene, you'll engage and entertain your audience while telling your story.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Video Camera Battery Life Tips

Video camera battery life tip: Check the battery’s mAh (milliamp hour) rating. It's usually printed on a label on the battery itself, the battery company's website, or in the product manual. The higher the rating, the more charge the battery can hold. A rating of 7 mAH will give you about 7 hours of camera use.

To extend the life of your battery while shooting, use the viewfinder instead of the LCD screen, or, if you prefer not to use the viewfinder, remember to close the LCD screen when not in use. If you’ll be shooting for a long time, consider buying an extended-life battery. These larger,batteries cost more but can double a video camera’s battery life. Also, consider buying extra batteries to have as back-ups.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Film-style editing

When I edit a video, I limit the use of cross-dissolves and other transitional effects. Instead, I use hard cuts. Since I mostly edit what I shoot, I can plan better for this type of editing, but sometimes you may not be able to use just hard cuts, when the footage you need just isn't available. Most of what I edit ends up on the internet, so using hard cuts is the best way to go in this situation. Dissolves tend to really break-up when compressed for the web. To get a fluid transition when making a cut, I find the start, or part of an action to lead me to the next clip, rather than just cutting together two clips that have no action. It can be someone walking, opening a door, picking up an object, or any other action. It gives the video a natural sort of transition. Watch movies with action sequences to see what I mean. Of course, to get different moods, this is not always the best technique.

Friday, May 1, 2009

DELL UltraSharp LCD Monitor Review

If you're looking for a great LCD monitor on a budget, then check out Dell's line of UltraSharp LCD's. These monitors are as good as the Apple Cinema Displays in my opinion, and they're half the price. I also prefer Dell's black front beveled edge to Apple's aluminum casing. Much easier on the eyes.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Major Leopard OS Bug

I have recently discovered what I consider to be a major bug in the Leopard OS. If you're working on a Mac running Leopard don't do what I did. By changing the permissions on your hard drive to "No Access" under "everyone", it will cause your hard drive to crash. Once you shutdown after doing this, you're Mac will no longer boot! Why would Apple allow a place in their OS to break your computer? Anyway, I didn't realize that this was the problem until after Apple replaced everything in my MacBook, including the logic board, RAM, hard drive and connections. I verified this permissions issue with AppleCare over the phone.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Buying Video Equipment

When looking for new equipment such as high priced video cameras or editing work stations, be careful who you buy from online, if you choose not to go to a traditional brick and mortar store. There are many online retailers that offer equipment such as new cameras at half the price of other reputable retailers. If the price is too good to be true, it should be a warning sign. You may get a camera missing a bunch of accessories that would normally be included such as the LCD screen, or you may not even get your order at all. A quick Google search of an online store can yield some customer reviews if you're weary. In my opinion, stick with the reputable guys, like B&H.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Equipment Bag part 2

If you are recording audio for your video shoot by yourself because your video budget can't afford you a professional sound guy, then a really good pair of headphones is essential. I always keep a set in my audio bag. I prefer the type that surrounds your ears completely. This gives me good isolation from the ambient noises. Check out the Sony MDR-7506, also great in the studio.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Capture HDV with Apple's ProRes 422 in FCP

If you're working with HDV footage in Final Cut Pro, you know it can be time consuming to render effects and export final video projects. In the the latest updated version of FCP, you can capture right to Apple's ProRes 422 codec with firewire. This is a much easier codec to work in, with virtually no noticeable quality loss. However, there are a few drawbacks. First on the list is storage. ProRes takes up a lot of room, so you'll want to plan for that. Second, There is no way to set up a batch capture using in and out points. Using this ProRes capture method simply captures everything on the tape, making new clips for each start/stop during the shoot. This is great if you like to work with many individual clips. I prefer scrubbing through fewer long clips to find my shots, but, if you have the time, you can quickly delete clips you know you're not going to use, and consolidate your media. Storage pending, this may be a great for you to work with HDV footage without taxing your NLE.