Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Our Secret Garden" (Video, Still Images)

Another project of monumental proportions (post-production time-wise), since I'm still learning how to create multimedia short subjects. Proper training would have been a good thing to help save time, instead of working through trial and error.

Somehow, the thought of capturing my father's floral garden dropped in my head, as my older brother and I helped Dad with work on our homestead. As we trimmed back the branches the orchard trees, I was attacked by a band of yellow jackets. Thinking about keeping my Lumix TZ1 close by, in case I was stung, thoughts wound up focusing on the flowers, which Dad grew to appreciate by grandfather's love of gardening.

Between chores, I paused to shoot some footage, trying to capture the butterflies that visited. Somewhere between chasing a butterfly with my camera rolling, and not wanting to help with discarding the large prickly holly branches, I started grabbing some images along with the video. I worked into the dark, using a digital Olympus DS-2 voice recorder and a Sennheiser K6 shotgun microphone, recording audio of the birds and insects around the home. Audio recording can be a struggle if one needs to capture sound near an interstate and along the flight path of an international airport.

Last night became this morning, with very little sleep as I worked using iMovie HD to help with the "Ken Burns Effect" of adding motion to still images, since I haven't yet mastered it in Final Cut Pro. Since the TZ1 can be set to capture images at the same resolution as high definition video, working with the footage in iMovie was a no-brainer. After finding some unobtrusive and excellent piano clips by Herbert Boland in the Freesound Project website, through, the costruction of the short was finally complete.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Stormy Flight" (Video, Timelapse)

"Stormy Flight" (Timelapse And Video) - More amazing videos are a click away

I guess I never should have expected that I'd take any time off without shooting and editing some kind of footage. This one was borne out of pure boredom, along with a volunteered bump.

With a freeze of flights into the east coast, I didn't get on the return trip home until past sunset. That's when I decided to try shooting time lapse pictures of the jet's take-off. At first I felt a bit steamed since we got airborn several minutes past sunset. And I sat on the left side of the jet to try capturing some footage. A storm, which had caused delays in the northeast corridor, still had some energy, with flashes of lightning ripping through the cloud deck below the plane. I set the camera on long exposure of one second, holding the trigger so the camera could capture images as quickly as it could.

Adding a mix of video footage whenever I could, I sat on the shutter button as the plane landed. Just now, I finished adding audio from iMovie HD, the software I used for editing, and a tune was added from the Internet Archive, which had a nice track by Pablo Reche that fit well at the end. The clip became a very foreboding piece with the lightning all over the area, and some of the ambient sound effects helped add that ominous dimension.

This was all captured using the Panasonic Lumix TZ3 hybrid camera, shooting with continuous mode (takeoff, landing, taxi scenes) and video mode (some of the airplane wings in flight; it simply looks like straight-shot footage). All scene editing and sound processing was done in iMovie, except for a little post-process tweaking of the titles in Final Cut Pro (I could have kept the titles in iMovie, but liked Final Cut a little more).

Below is the upload in Brightcove.

Monday, June 18, 2007

"Welcome to Baltimore" Video - Music by Igneous Flame

Welcome To Baltimore - The most popular videos are a click away

Take a setting in which you can't move, and try capturing it from as many different perspectives as you can. Given some time and a little creativity, you can start discovering some more creative ways to watch the world go by. I played with my own vision as I started recording the sights as the jet returned to BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport from Manchester. Having grown tired of reading the in-flight magazine (which is usually the very same one that I had read on the way out), I started capturing some footage of the sun and clouds on an overcast day, while the plane began its descent.

Taking advantage of my Lumix TZ3 camera's 10X optical zoom lens, I tried finding some nice shots, and what I captured was because of the mood I was in at the time. By the time I got home, I wanted to piece it together. Some of the footage might be redundant, but I didn't want to trim too much. As I finished the clip, some music that I purchased, by Igneous Flame, kept going through my head. So I placed the track, "Lustral Sheen," from the album "SATU" into Final Cut, and the timing fit really well! The "darkly luminous" music couldn't have been more fitting. Igneous Flame (Pete Kelly) is right here, on MySpace as well. You should swing by and check the music out. If you like the track in the video, you must get the album.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Follow-up on Cheap Lens Filters

After reading some comments about those looking at alternatives to the pricey filters, such as the circular polarizing filter I had just reviewed in a video, I decided to make a follow-up post about my own feelings on using inexpensive filters. I tend to disagree with such a broad statement, that one might consider cheap filters as "acceptable." I'd rather want "desirable" results instead, when it comes to image quality. If a manufacturer has made a nice filter and yet isn't consistent with a good majority of the samples, I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. Case in point, my OEC filter I got through eBay. I had read that there were plenty of good feedbacks, so since the thing cost $40, we tried it. But if you look at the results of the video review I just posted at would you ~really~ trust putting such glass on top of a sharp lens and gamble with the possibility of distorting your image? I've heard arguments all over about cheap polarizers (other filters and lenses as well). People simply shouldn't gamble too much over what they put on a sharp lens.

The problem is that what lies on top is what will be the best you can get from an image. If the filter sucks, you could have the most quality glass on the planet, but your results will suck raw eggs. And once you shoot images using inferior equipment, you're ultimately capturing history that cannot be revisited, but for the images you've frozen in time. I was shocked to see the results that the video showed as I turned the polarizing filter. Watch how the filter I got distorts everything. We feel passionate about our images. Don't compromise too much by using bad filters on good gear.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Your Lens is Only as Good as Your Filter!

Field Report:
OEC Circular Polarizing Filter

The OEC Circular Polarizing Filter, which can be purchased for between $20 and $40 (for a set, with a UV and ND filter). But are these inexpensive filters worth the price, are they cheap, or should you save your money? Let the video be a guide to whether you choose to purchase an OEC brand polarizing filter:

Motiono by daterace

I really don't have much more to write about it, except that the OEC polarizer in 82mm size isn't fit for being placed on any good lens. And it'll make an average or fair lens that much worse. Here's the second part of the video, below:

Motiono by daterace

The problem that I encountered was first recognized when I had to shoot a horrific fire, one of the deadliest in the history of Baltimore City. Trying to focus on the victims, I simply couldn't lock focus, even with the focus-assist box on the HVX200. It made things difficult to get a decently-sharp image from the high-resolution footage for print. At one instance, I noticed that the edges of some things in my viewfinder rotated as I tried using the CPL filter, and it turns out that the OEC filter was the sole source of the lack of sharpness in the footage. To have equipment issues that cause your image quality to suffer on something so historic is terrible; you can't take the footage and return the image quality when that happens.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Keep 'Em Charged!

Monday mornings sometimes bring surprises at work. So was the case, when I arrived to learn that I had a job, one hour later. It was called "Build Playground Day," at Collington Square School in northeast Baltimore, in a neighborhood that's been forgotten and neglected. The Baltimore Ravens, along with Kaboom! and volunteers through the community and a host of organizations banded together, building a playground in one day.

Reaching for the Firestore FS-100 external recordable drive to mount to the HVX200 camcorder, I noticed that it faced the other way. Plugging the unit into the charger, I knew the battery hadn't been charged. With the prospect of having to shoot a great amount of footage over 5 hours of construction time, I decided to use the Lumix DMC-TZ1 and it's slightly bigger sibling, the Lumix DMC-TZ3 cameras as my visual arsenal.

Gaining access to the roof of the school, I clamped down a Nikon D2Xs camera outfitted with a Sigma 10-20mm zoom, to get as wide an aspect as possible. Calculating the frame rate of a movie against the time I had to shoot, I figured on setting the camera's interval timer to fire an image every 30 seconds, which yielded about 20 seconds of footage. At several stages, I clamped the small cameras onto different objects, gathering some interesting POV shots! You can't do that with an HVX200.

Starting the camera around 7:30 A.M., I returned to ground level, grabbing 5- to 10- video clips and switching on-the-fly to shoot still images for the web updates and for print publication. By 10 A.M., I started sending still images, then returned to the field to gather more footage. Gathering more still images for a picture package for the web by noon, I finished most of the ground-level recording just in time to return to the roof and take what was shot with the Nikon camera.

The nurse's office became a multimedia center, as I created a Quicktime movie, sent more images and the 20-second time lapse clip, and edited the main package for today's web update. Oh, working on the Macintosh platform is great in my eyes. While I write, Groove Salad cranks out tunes in my headset, while Magic iDVD creates a cool DVD disk of the whole project, for the school, complete with animated menus and a hip audio track.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Brightcove Posting, B-Roll Cameras

This is a Brightcove Post

I've found a website that can better display the video that people share. I found, while searching for some video of a singer throwing a boy off a stage and loved the quality and options of being able to view the video in full screen. While you can see some pixelation, it isn't nearly as bad as the popular video sites such as Youtube and other video sites. So I'm returning to resize the prepared videos and upload them to Brightcove.

I've also purchased two Lumix cameras. The TZ1 and big sister, the TZ3, are great little cameras to shoot B-roll. I've used it to capture alternate angle shots of Cal Ripken and also placed them on the ground at a dangerous crosswalk in east Baltimore, giving me the luxury of focusing my attention on shooting with the HVX200. Both TZ cameras shoot in widescreen at 848 x480 pixels, which is the same format as high definition video. The TZ1 shoots at 5 megapixels, while the TZ3 captures at around 7 MP, and also has a larger LCD view screen.

The videos they shoot now can be seamlessly integrated with Final Cut Pro 6, which we're upgrading to, at work. There's a setting that allows the user to import footage from various cameras without that rendering red line, which kills any chance to output a finished product with efficiency. At least, that's what I'm told.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Finally, I Can Post Again!

Blogger and I had some miscommunications, and they've finally been resolved. So I'll be back up and posting soon!