Living the good life (continued)…

This is a continuation of an earlier posting on P2 camera workflow.

So once you’re done in the field shooting with P2 it’s all good – back to same ole same old routine. Right?

Not quite. This is where my limited math skills do me some good. Let’s take a look at how much hard drive video takes up when you move from camera to computer. I’m using the five minute threshold, but ran some tests once and we’re really talking about 4:35.

VHS & SD digital video – 5 minutes equals one GB
High def from HV20 camcorder – 5 minutes equals three GB
P2 – 5 minutes equals six GB

With my old SD and HV20 HD I use 350 and 500 GB hard drives. Lynn works with terabyte drives. She needs storage big time since she can’t archive on any other media easily.

That was my P2 adventure. Shooting must be carefully planned – each shot must count. Be EXTREMELY careful when deleting files – you could wipe your entire card or day’s work if you push the wrong menu button. Plan ahead – make sure you have sufficient storage space – then double that. And finally, enjoy the amazing quality of your final product.

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Living the good life…

…in Pismo Beach, California. I’m down here for a few days to check out the workflow of a friend’s P2 camera. Former KOVR reporter Lynn Diehl has a sweet deal working along the Central Coast Wine Region of California. A semi-weekly wine show called Wine Region News, which appears online and the old-fashioned way, on television.

Lynn Diehl
Lynn’s 30+ years as a television reporter and anchor prepared her for hard work, but I was still amazed at the multi-tasking this one woman hurricane did on a minute-by-minute basis as well as throughout the 12 hour day. Like any good reporter, she was on the phone setting up the next appointment and preparing the groundwork for future shows…but she also writes a column and has a radio show and website to stay on top of. For my sanity, we’ll just follow the flow of the wine show.

First off, Lynn began with the right gear – she went with Panasonic P2 cameras that shoot both hi-def tape and to P2 cards. She rarely uses tape…that’s more of a backup system. So when I asked her about workflow, she had a few things to say.

First, the workflow is more film that tape based. Huh? As she explained, with tape you can keep rolling, keep rolling – but with P2 cards you get a limited amount of time per card (about 17-18 minutes) and the cards are expensive (just checked on B&H Photo and a 16GB card runs around $400. Re-usable, but they don’t have unlimited lives.

I began in film and recall the unofficial limits we had for shooting. 100′ for a VO, 150-200 for a VOSOT and 400′ for a package. Respectively 2-1/2 minutes, 4-5 minutes, and 11 minutes. It took careful planning – you didn’t just shoot, you had to think it through to make sure you got all of the required shots. We won’t even get into exposure (NOT automatic).

So shooting was different…and the Panasonics are different too -very compact and well-thought out with more goodies than I would have thought possible. XLR input, choice of auto or manual focus, iris, audio. Choices of on-cam mike, inputs can be mike or line. 13X zoom (yeah, we all miss the real glass of newscams). Even the white balance button is in the familiar location just in front of the camera below the lens on the right. And more. Wow.

Kathy Newell
On the first shoot at around 7am I was assigned a camera, tripod and instructions to make beautiful memories in the vineyards as the sun rose while Kathy Newell worked the interviews with Lynn.

It took fifteen, maybe twenty minutes to get used to handling the camera. I scoped the vineyard…on a steep hill with a series of dips down to a pond below. Had to drive through several access gates – the first one to get into the vineyard and the second to access the cattle grazing area with pond.

The drill was drive, set up, shoot, walk, shoot some more, and then pack and drive again. I was constantly adjusting iris and focus – didn’t rely on the auto system at all. The light was too tricky. I wanted dark shadows and glowing highlights…both in the detail shots of the grapes as well as the wide views of the sun rays hitting the slopes.

The camera performed beautifully…kept track of time with a countdown in the viewfinder.

Only worry was the herd of juvenile cattle. They LOVED me…started stalking me and getting as close as they could. Of course while I loved them back, I had to remind them I was the boss and shooed them away whenever they got too close. A couple of hormone-silly boys started butting heads too close to the car (is two feet too close?) so I packed it in and went down the hill, only to be followed by the entire herd at a rapid trot. Oh well…enough shots here. Back to the rest of the crew.

(to be continued…)

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 fileinfo.com. 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.

On being…a reporter…

Cohort Kathy Newell and I spent New Year Day morning covering a local version of the polar bear club story – the Frozen Bun Run in Bethel Island out on the Delta.

She was the photog and I took a try at being a reporter – something new for me. While I’ve lugged cameras around and done the job of two (as photog AND reporter)…I’ve never worked alongside the camera as a reporter.

Of course I couldn’t leave it alone…had to have my HV20 w/fisheye attached so I wouldn’t feel like a total freeloader. And that’s what I was. Newell hauled ass, shot, kept on top of it all. I did too, but from my perspective, being a reporter is a job for…well, not the highly energized.

While she shot from the levee and in the crowds, I managed to find the event organizer. Then she shot crowd scenes while I got the names of the first three skiers. I held the mike…asked questions…she got the shots. She anticipated…knew my every move.

Face it – she could have done it all without me. I was a mike holder. I got in her shots. She re-worked my script into something viewable. She handed out cards like they were confetti while I held on to all but one of mine.

The truth is revealed. A good photog does not need a reporter on many stories. Something I would say a certain East Coaster already knows. I just hope in my day I shone as brightly as she did these past few days.

Here’s the final version…enjoy. I know I did.

Joy of living and seeing

Videojournalist Kathy Newell has two blogs that both inspire me and force me to think/rethink my values. klncreations urges us to remember what it was like to be a kid – and see the world afresh. Ever try to do that? Just wake up and say to yourself – wow, what is this bright light coming in the window – look at how it catches the leaves on the tree…everything is brighter and more wonderful than you can remember. I’ve caught myself driving down streets i know by heart and suddenly seeing them for the first time, as a stranger might. Unsettling, but in a way it re-energizes me.
Kathy’s other blog, futurematters is a work in progress, as it should be…her brainchild is exploring our future and our past. Her posts are as spontaneous as she is, and just as eclectic. There is no “same old, same old” but a path that twists and turns.
Kathy, by the way is another pioneer TV photojournalist learning how to navigate the digital world. She can figure anything out and has been a great resource for me.
There’s a lesson here: support your friends, learn from them. When all else changes or goes away, they will be there. They keep you young (and accountable).

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