Three way light face-off…

I’ve been wondering what the difference in color temperature is between a good tungsten light head, a good LED head, and a cheap LED head. The video is below.

Judge for yourself, but from what I see the tungsten is spot-on for good vibrant color. I used my little Lowell Prolight/cost around $120 but the lamps are fairly short-lived. Second up is the Flolight with 128 LEDs at a cost of around $260/runs cool with extremely long life. The Neewer, which comes in last, has 160 LEDs and cost only $30.

In the first test the Neewer is obviously green. This test was shot with my Panasonic AG-HMC150 on auto white. The Flolight looks pretty good, but is cool in comparison with the Prolight. Take a look at the upper right color square, which is an intense pink to see the difference.

In test #2 the Flolight comes even closer to the Prolight. In this test I white balanced each light on a white card. You’ll have to excuse the exposure here on the Prolight…it’s a bit dark. But you can see the obvious difference in the pink again in the Neewer.

In test #3 I white balance the Prolight on the white card. Then balanced the two LEDs on a warm card, which is intended to shift the color balance away from blue and towards a warmer hue. In both LEDs the reds are off and you can see the warmth in the grey scale at the top, compared to the tungsten card.

In the fourth and final test I used the Prolight white balance on white card and then shot using each of the LEDs with that same set white balance. This is where you see blatant differences between the full spectrum tungsten light and the LEDs, which shift to blue and totally lack warmth. And if you look closely you can see the greenish tint is more apparent with the Neewer head.

What does this mean to you? Well, this test was shot in a dark room with no other light invading…so you need to keep in mind if you decide to shoot with your LEDs in the dark there will be issues with accurate color. However the good news is if you shoot and use the LEDs for fill only AND if you white balance, the full spectrum lights will overcome the deficiencies of the LEDs. And I will say that being able to operate off batteries for extended periods with LED lights has given me a freedom I never had with the hotter tungsten lights, which are battery vampires.

Update from b-roll buddy Bobby Alcaraz. If you’re gonna use LEDs, make sure they’re all by the same manufacturer so they match. If you start mixing different (especially bad and off color) lights you are asking for trouble. At least with them all being the same you stand a better chance of getting somewhat usable color.

VJ workflow…

VJworkflow

Ah workflow…what you do and when you do it and in what order you do it.

Now in the wonderful world of production, there is a pretty set plan.
One. Pre-production. This is conception of the idea, be it a TV commercial or program, to the research and scripting and choosing talent and much much more. Choosing crew, cameras and other gear. Venues, costume. The list is endless.
Two. Production. Shooting.
Three Post-production. Editing, FX, trailers.

And then. There is news.

A wild and furry beast that defies description.

Now all of the elements are there – but kind of jumbled up and thrown together to make a monster of a mishmash that somehow seems to work.

Generally you do get to either get an assignment or come up with an idea for a story…and then, depending…you may start shooting before you have time to do any research or even get a grasp of what you just got into. You might see smoke and be in the middle of a fire scene, trying to figure it out as it happens. Pre-production and production run into each other and duke it out with you caught up in the chaos.

Or you might be given a few minutes or an hour to track down interviews and set up b-roll. But during the day you will most likely still be doing research and gathering information while grabbing interviews and b-roll.

The only part that is guaranteed is that editing will come last. Unless of course you go live, then forget about that.

Paying it forward…and back…

…to the next generation. Truth is I’m nearing the end of my career. Went from shooting production stills to news film and video to teaching broadcasting to retired and working part time with high school students and freelancing as a camera/shooter/videojournalist. Within the next year all of this will slow down…but never really stop. (I view doing nothing as the beginning of death.)

A friend and I did a presentation some months ago for the the local community college video production class. Now this is the place I graduated from decades ago when it had one of the best photography departments in the state. Sometime (I’m guessing in the 80s) it developed an RTV (radio TV) department that never quite got off the ground. Classes were offered and yes students learned but it always seemed to lag somehow. I know it wasn’t for lack of instructors trying…could have been lack of support from the admin or a plethora of other issues. But it seemed more like a holding cell than a jumping off point.

In the last year things started clicking though.

There’s been a move to regain the license for the radio station…adjuncts were brought in with a wide variety of skills and experience. And the student showcase “TV” program went from zero to a kazillion in the past semester.

All of this piqued my interest.

So I went back a second and then a third time to check things out. And may have found a new retirement gig. Mentoring the up and coming video-gen. Specifically those interested in news shooting and editing.

What is making this extra-enticing is that not all of the youngsters fit the suit and tie Ken and Barbie mold of the past. They remind me of the Viet-Nam era gang on campus back in the late sixties. Everything from quiet and middle class to bright and bold to right off the street and gangbusters going forward.

I’m heading out in a week with the latter…a musician with a personality too big to fit in a suit with a flair for what is important in his world and his city and his people and a vision to open people’s eyes up. We shall see where this takes us…whether he can tame his inner beast and funnel it through into a viable version of storytelling that has the potential to explode and open up news to an entirely new style. Or not. I’m hoping for the former.

Audio for ‘dem DLSR shooters…

Ah history. It has a way of repeating itself. Back in 2003 or so I coordinated some video workshops for a local pro shooter’s group and the first year a couple of still shooters turned up. The next year the workshop was stuffed full of them.

Fast forward a decade and it’s happening again – but this time I’m getting queries from DSLR shooters who need to know more about audio for video. They know those not-quite-video-cameras come with an internal mike. And most of them know they need to add on an external (shotgun) mike for better audio. But they also notice that somehow their audio is not as pristine as that of, well…real video shooters. Folks with dedicated video cams.

Now I can’t fault them…there is a kind of look to DSLRs and they can be a whole lot less expensive. But as with any camera, there is a learning curve…and to make a DSLR (or Micro-4/3) camera work as well as a dedicated video cam you need to do some add-ons. And you really really should test your gear to see what is and each separate component are capable of.

So to save time and trouble (for me) I’m just gonna cut and paste a recent facebook conversation. Follow along and learn.

Me:
I’d be glad to advise you regarding video cameras and accessories. Specifically what will you use them for – in-studio shooting, video production, news? What kind of budget are you working with? Will you shoot interviews or just b-roll (cover shots)?
Here’s a link to a blog posting I did (and there are additional links to older related postings within the article): http://cyndygreen.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/choosing-a-camera-4-0/
Cyndy Green
Choosing a camera 4.0…
cyndygreen.wordpress.com

From the DSLR owner:
I run a budget news website that doesn’t generated revenue yet and I got a Canon Rebel T3i camera to use for interviews and other footage. What I is accessories to enhance the picture and sound quality.

Me:
Ouch (I’m more of a straight video format camera person myself). There are a couple of options.First – just get a small size shotgun or directional microphone. This will enhance your audio and allow you to more cleanly pick up sound that is happening where-ever you point the camera.Unfortunately unless it is detachable with a longer cable it may not work well for interviews.Here’s an example: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/744768-REG/Rode_VIDEOMIC_PRO_VideoMic_Pro_Compact_Shotgun.html

Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Shotgun Microphone VIDEOMIC PRO B&H
http://www.bhphotovideo.com

Him:
This is useful. Thanks

Me:
Next option would be a wireless system like this: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/553684-REG/Sony_UWP_V1_4244_UWP_V1_Wireless_Lavalier_Microphone.htmlI do not specifically recommend either of these mikes – they are just examples.For much less you can also just add on a single lavelier/clip-on mike: http://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-ATR-3350-Omnidirectional-Condenser-Microphone/dp/B002HJ9PTO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389276891&sr=8-1&keywords=audio+technica+lavalier+micThe most important thing is to know what kind of mike jack is built in to your camera (with the T3i it is a 3.5mm or mini-jack) so when you purchase audio gear it will work with the camera.You can also (I know, way way too many choices) go with an add-on adapter that allows you to plug in more than one microphone: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/962864-REG/beachtek_mcc_2_2_channel_audio_adapter.html

Beachtek MCC-2 2-Channel Audio Adapter and Bracket MCC-2 B&H
http://www.bhphotovideo.com
With the latter you can plug in two of the lavelier mikes.Disclaimer – I’m only using the B&H website because it is convenient. I don’t work for them and you may find better deals elsewhere.Hope this helps. There are other accessories you should also consider. Tripod is at the top of the list. A simple reflector (you can use a sheet of white cardboard for soft light and glue crumbled aluminum foil to the back for a more intense reflection.

One final note: proximity. The closer the mike to the desired sound source, the cleaner the audio. Two feet or less is preferable.

And now’s a good time to throw in a plug for Larry’s and my book, The Basics of Videojournalism, which will have more detail on everything you newbies (and intermediates) out there want to know.

Addendum: One good way to get to know your gear is to test it. Each time you add something to your kit, test it thoroughly. For example – with mikes. Begin with your on-board mike and start the ole camera rolling. First setup should be in a quiet room or area. Stand three feet away and talk…then (still rolling) back up another three feet and talk in the same tone. Keep that up til you’re twelve feet away. Do this with each mike – those that fix to the camera (shotguns) and those that plug in you can carry or pin on to someone. Do this both in a quiet venue as well as an extremely noisy one. And then listen to the results. And learn.

Rant. (period)

OK folks…I get that you like to read these posting and even learn from them. But do me a favor.

DO NOT BUY THE GEAR I HAVE.

No. Really.

Cameras, mikes, tripods. All are very personal choices. I research and buy what I know will work for ME. When I make the purchase I may have spent months checking out the offerings…and then winnowing it down based on my personal choices, experiences and my budget.

You are you.

I am me.

So get out there and first: figure out your budget. Know what you are comfortable with and how far you can push the budget without flinching.

And then know yourself. What do you already know and what are you willing to learn. A master tool in the hands of a master crafts(wo)man can create magic. That same tool in the hands of an aspiring storyteller can create visual chaos.

Begin simple. Don’t try to impress others (or even yourself) with the latest flash gear. Do what I did…after nearly thirty years working with multi-big-buck cameras I went out and bought a bottom-of-the-line Canon ZR10. And taught myself digital on it. And yes, it did hurt…both my self esteem and image. But I got over it because it ain’t what others think of you – it is what you think of yourself.

Once you’ve mastered the simple things then consider a move up.

But even then – don’t buy my gear. Buy your own. (Besides my gear is already wayyyy outa date.)

Oh my aching head!

There are few things that make my head ache. Computer woes top that list though.

Among the many (many, many) bits of far flung knowledge a VJ needs is a basic understanding of how their computer works. What are the parts and how does each piece of the internal puzzle that makes a computer hummmmm happily tie in with other pieces.

In case you haven’t guessed already…it seems to be time for my annual battle to keep my laptop in top working status.

Last year it was a mishap with some spilled liquid that took down the motherboard, leading to some very confusing communications with Dell (manufacturer of choice) that eventually lead to a renewed and working computer.

Crucial-CT51264BC1339-DDR3-RAM-SO-DIMM-PC1333-4GB-20032012This year it appears that a RAM card has gone south (Yank lingo for “died”).

It all began a month or so ago when I began to notice the occasional hick-up when editing. Developed slowly…then faster…to a point where last week the old gal just began randomly shutting down. For. No. Known. Reason.

So it was time to go online to the Dell diagnostics center and begin the task of winnowing down the possibilities. A complete system check lead to a litany of failures, none of which made sense until I ran a Google search on the terms “walking right test”, “walking left test”, and some other nifty file names. All pointed in one direction: to memory.

So time for the hardware/memory test – which shone the spotlight on the RAM (random access memory cards).

Then it was time to shut the computer down, pull all but one card, and reboot and test each card individually. Third card in was the culprit. Of course I tested all four (my gal holds four 4gb cards) to be sure there weren’t two miscreants.

Crucial, the company I got the cards from several years ago, has a whiz-bang replacement program. I just had to register to get an ID number and then send it in. Expecting the replacement sometime this week.

So…above is a good reason to know your way around your computer. Sure, I could have paid someone to do all that and just gone out and bought another card. And I might have if there’s been a big-bucks client breathing down my neck. But in real life not all of us have that kind of money. So knowing (see below) the parts of my computer and what each does plus having good support (thank you Dell) to help diagnose the problem made my life a bit simpler.

Here, in brief, is the Videot’s Guide to Computers.
Monitor – The big screen you see things on
Keyboard – Where you type and input data.
Mouse – A sleek plastic maneuverable control device which you use to move your cursor around the screen to pick and choose your tasks
Processor – The brain of your computer…the processor literally processes all of the activity you direct the computer to do. How new/old/slow/fast your processor is determines how efficiently you can get work done. A solo processor is slower than a dual is slower than a quad and so on.
RAM – Kind of the task manager…RAM or random access memory is what allows you to multi-task, to have multiple and complex programs running simultaneously. So when my RAM went south, my computer’s ability to allow me to run my editing program, be online, run Dragon and Word together to transcribe…all of that shrank down to a slow drag. Hint: whenever you can, max out the RAM in your computer.
Graphics card – Just what it sounds like/handles graphics or images. An editing computer needs a good graphics card to handle the video files. If the Processor is the frontal lobe of your computer (brain), then the graphics card is the occipital lobe (responsible for visual processing).
Hard drive – Your storage space…for programs and files. More is better. Video files can be enormous. And if you’re like me and many others, editing in the field on the fly, then removable portable drives are the way to go…where to put your media from your projects.

In. A. Nutshell.
(Stay tuned to The Basics of Videojournalism, which will cover this information more thoroughly when it comes out.)

The intricate choreography of the scrum…

Ah dancing. The ability to move with your partner through a series of delightfully light-footed and pleasing movements…knowing all the while eyes are on your every move.

Not quite what I had in mind though.

Dances with cameras is more like it.

Running with the pack and packing it in with the scrum is something battle-worn shooters are intimately familiar with. Sure – it looks easy. Just grab a camera and move in and get your shots. But beware…playing with the big boys and girls can be downright dangerous.

At some point in every newbie’s life they encounter a gang-bang. A hoard of newsies all wanting the same thing – the same interview and the same b-roll and the balance of those wanting and those offering (or alternately running away) is way off. In a regular news situation you’ve got your videojournalist or crew of reporter and cameraman and the interview subject. Grab the interview and then shoot the b-roll.

But at a major story you may have a ratio of 10 or 20 or more shooters and reporters from all reaches of news pursuing one or two potential interviews. And pursuit is the name of the game. Mike-holders create the inner circle, vying for good sound. In the outer circle are the camerafolk, circling and angling for the best light and shot. And somewhere in the dust or SOL are those who came late or don’t understand the dance.

I’ve danced this dance many times…and the trick is to work with your competition. Try to take as little room as you can to ensure you get your shot while giving just enough to allow three or four or more of your best buddies to do the same. Moving in time, down the steps of the capitol, across the PD parking lot…moving to the front and fading back as the pack passes and running ahead to rejoin the mobile mass. But generally it is a tightly packed pack moving in synchronized time to the beat of flying Q & As. I’ve been in situations where the body count is so high and dense that I’ve been able to take both hands off the camera – both it and I were wedged in so tightly.

A newbie who enters the fray gives himself away every time by trying to hog the shot – staying in front and blocking others. The end result of such boar-ishness is a downtrodden shooter lying on the ground wondering where the herd of elephants came from. Now it’s not that the stampede was aimed at taking said newbie out – the instinct in seasoned shooters is strongly tuned to combining cooperation with ruthlessness. And the sure knowledge that if anyone steps out of line, it may be the last time they can even enter the scrum. Oh, sure, I may cut your throat in a back alley to beat you to a story…but in public and knowing I’m gonna have to work alongside you again in the future, I’ll play nice. For now.