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.

4 thoughts on “Prepping for Portland…

  1. Pingback: Cool Links #79: The One About Saturday Work Days « TEACH J: For Teachers of Journalism And Media

  2. Great post Cyndy.

    Lighting especially for news is always a balance between the time you do not have and still wanting a professional look. Less is more but know what less works is paramount.

    A teacher from my college days, oh so long ago, and I were talking over the holiday and he was lamenting on issues when students hand in assignments cut at home export in a odd format using PAL.

    I suggested he set up a convention that assignments must be on format X.
    X = the format the college decides it will support.

    All this new technology and work flow presents challenges and unexpected consequences.

    Let us know what nuggets of lighting gold you can pan from the work shop.

    Safe Travels to you and Kathy.

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