Prepping for Portland…

The two lighting workshops I don’t need to prep much for…and Kathy Newell will carry me through. We pretty much agree on light – it should be natural. But there are times you need to add light and times (we may disagree here) where you want a professional look. That takes care of the basic (use what you’ve got) and advanced (how to use stand light kits) workshops.

My research is focused on the compatibilty issues between computers (PC/Mac), editing software, and the file formats that flash and hard drive camcorders shoot to. Generally there are few, if any, problems importing tape to non-linear editing programs. Maybe a few adjustments for the camera or to set for standard or hi def.

The issues arise when you want to buy a new camera and are taken by surprise when you can no longer edit or even download. Surprise! And welcome to the world of trying to fix it (if you already bought the camera) or predict it (if you’re planning to buy one). This becomes even more complicated when you are starting from scratch and plan to buy the camera, editing program AND a new computer.

One of my students bought a brand new hard drive Sony camcorder that shoots to AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) and looked aghast when I asked if he had checked for compatibility with his older computer and software. He’ll let me know Monday…but he hadn’t even thought about whether a camera would or would not work with a computer.

Before we dig much deeper…a few things to understand. Older computers generally have older operating systems, slower processors, maybe not enough RAM. Older editing programs were created for the cameras of their era. And (another generalization) both hardware and software are backwards compatible, but not forward compatible.

What that means is (I’m going to quit saying “generally” – you can just assume everything in this post includes that word) is that your new computer and software can use your older digital camera. However, your new camera may not work with the older computer/software. And worse yet – you may spend hours of frustration trying to make your new camera, computer, and software work together unless you read the find print and do some research.

Many (print) photographers who use Final Cut (Express/Pro) found this out the hard way…in purchasing newer cameras they were facing horrendous rendering times or converting time getting their new AVCHD video to work.

To start, you need to understand there are MANY file formats. Found a good reference site at They list the files from rare to very common…but there were a few of the very commons I wasn’t familiar with. Turns out the .3G2 is opened by Quicktime, so I’ve probably run into it but not noticed.

First…do your research and find out what file format your dream hard drive or memory card camera shoots to. Then continue your research – check the manufacturer sites to see what they have to say about compatibility with your computer/software. Then see what you can find from Googling “file type (whatever it is), problems, troubleshoot.”

Over the next few weeks I’ll be continuing to research this topic and will post my results here. If you’ve had problems, I’d like to hear about them, how you solved them, or if you need help. (Maybe I can…maybe not. But worth trying.)

UPDATE (3/2/10)
My student called me last night – he couldn’t import from his new camera and the included software only let him view the clips.
Tried opening w/QuickTime Pro (I have an older version) and no success.
Went to iMovie9 (the scourge of editing) and it went right in – so I left the student w/my laptop and he taught himself how to use iM9 and got the project done.
Problem is – he has a 7 or 8 year old Mac and we don’t think he can run iMovie9…but we will try.


Heading for JEA/NSPA…

Come April 15 I won’t be worrying about what I owe (or get back) from Uncle Sam…I’ll be white-lining it north to Portland for a conference. Kind of a good feeling – my very first conference as a teacher was the same JEA/NSPA gathering in the same city. Difference is – this time I AM a teacher…not just a wanna-be.

Buddy Kathy Newell is coming along for the fun. We considered flying up for about a millisecond…but since all flights seem to go somewhere else first, a straight drive is the solution. Oh, and we’ll be loaded for bear with light kits and toys too…so FTR is simplest.

We’re putting on three workshops. Basic Light (aka using what is there or natlight), Advanced Light (bring in the light stands!) and another we haven’t titled, but we hope will cover the compatibility issues between PCs/Macs, nonlinear software, and the different format that hard drive/memory card cameras shoot to.

If you’re heading that way too and have questions or issues you’d like answered (or at least tossed out for discussion) give me a shout.

And see you there…

We’ve been pranked…

There’s a lesson in everything.

Today some of the seniors at my high school decided to “prank” the campus. Roll out the TP and chickens – whoa! Chickens? Yeah. Chickens.

It’s that humdrum time of year before spring break but after the glory of winter break….kind of dull days with clouds and rain and everyone just slogging along.

So this elite group pulls a late night decorating gig – and they used the soft double-sided stuff.

Then before dawn they returned to hammer out their tag on the lawn with paper plates and plastic knives. The big old “2010.” Or class thereof.

And the final touch…six hens and a rooster penned in the middle of the quad. Needless to say, the administration was – tickled and laughing. Why? Well every student entering campus was smiling and laughing, thinking something had been pulled over the “Man’s” eyes. No one (or no critter) had been hurt and there was no real vandalism. Oh – and the perps volunteered to clean up their mess once the fun was over. Doesn’t get any better.

Yeah…I love my school and my kids.

Oh yeah – and the lesson. Always have a camera handy and don’t be afraid to get the shots. My video kids managed to get a brief story on the air using some stuff I grabbed on the way to class…the TPing, the front lawn logo and the chickens…

What does a VJ do when they don’t have a camera?

They resort to words – the written language. VJ Kathleen Newell has an eye for the awesome and dreams that she, as most of us have, has only thought about…

Until this week. I was surprised when I got an email from her explaining she was fulfilling one of her dreams – to see a night liftoff of a space shuttle.

She left on Friday and sat it out last night (this morning) in the Florida winter, waiting for the countdown. It didn’t happen…but her description of the night is better than her ability to capture with a camera…she has the knack of creating visuals with words as well as her lens.

Check out her posting on the thinknews site.

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