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August 18, 2008

Table of Contents

Vantage Point: Creating a Mood that Lingers
Red Giant Software Offers Camera Shake, Jitter, and Noise Removal Tool
The New LevelcamQ Video Camera Stabilizer with Quick Release System
Hitachi Debuts Three Format Hybrid Blu-ray Disc Camcorder
NewTek Releases LightWave 3D v9.5 for Windows at SIGGRAPH 2008
LightScribe Direct Disc Labeling Expands Online Retail Channel in the US and Europe
Sound Ideas Delivers Sound Effects Libraries To Post-Production Industry Worldwide

Vantage Point: Creating a Mood that Lingers

Do you know the feeling you have after an especially vivid dream—the kind of dream you want to hold on to and relive again and again? It’s more than a waking memory of love or adventure; it’s a sensation. It’s an emotional reaction that has tapped into all of your senses. Truly great films don’t just tell a story, they create a mood—not unlike a dream—that draws audience members into an experience they are able to feel with their entire being. It’s a mood that lingers long after they’ve left the theater; a mood that lies dormant only to return whenever the film is brought back to mind.
A master of creating mood is David Lynch. His films don’t contain the level of graphic violence employed by many other directors, yet his films are far more disturbing. He achieves this partially by creating an ambiance that gets under a viewer’s skin.

Mulholland Drive contains one of Lynch’s masterpiece scenes in the form of a late night performance at a once-opulent French Renaissance-style theater that has become a seedy, rundown, decaying skeleton of its former self. In this theater, the Club Silencio, "there is no band … it is an illusion." More accurately, it is tape-recorded music that is lip-synced. Lynch uses the color blue symbolically in the film. In the Club Silencio scene, it is in the form of smoke and the hair of a lone woman in the balcony. In the hands of a less talented director, this haunting scene could be ludicrous, if not downright comical. In Mulholland Drive, it’s dark. It’s creepy. It’s mesmerizing.

In American Beauty, director Sam Mendes takes us into the fantasy world of Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) whenever he fantasizes about the object of his obsession, his daughter’s best friend, Angela (Mena Suvari). Sitting in the bleachers of the high school gym, Lester watches Angela perform with her dance team as the school band plays "On Broadway." As Lester’s fantasy begins, the lighting changes—the bright lights of the gym become dark, and one lone spotlight caresses Angela—the music shifts dramatically from the upbeat tempo of the amateur band to an unsettling, echo-loaded score that is more reminiscent of sound effects than music; and a series of jump cuts underscore Angela’s movements. The gym now contains no one but Lester and Angela, and she dances for him alone. The climax of the scene is the famous shot where she slowly unzips her sweater, and pulling it open releases hundreds of floating blood-red rose petals.

On a lighter note, the film Sideways contains a sequence where the four main characters, Miles, Jack, Maya, and Stephanie meet for a day of wine country touring. Director Alexander Payne wanted the cinematography in his film to have a warm softness like films produced in the 1970s. He achieved this beautifully, and nowhere more effectively than in this sequence. Golden, tangerine, and green hues permeate the screen as the two couples drive past the vineyards. Long dissolves of orange-glow lens flares lead from one shot to the next. The characters meander inside a winemaking room; they are talking, connecting, but the dialogue is inaudible.

Meanwhile, the score is no longer in the background—it becomes predominant. The sequence closes with the friends indulging in a vineyard picnic silhouetted by the warm, nepenthean glow of a setting sun.

Each of these films succeeds at creating a mood that lingers. They reach beyond the intellectual to a much deeper, primal, emotional level. The three scenes discussed, though very different, have common elements that help them achieve an unforgettable ambiance: colors, lighting, music, and sound. These are elements that communicate to and directly stimulate the senses.

Event filmmakers, though working within restricted parameters that don’t allow directorial control, can nevertheless draw upon these elements of filmmaking to touch the soul of a viewer. We can create a color palette by adjusting camera settings and manipulating our images in postproduction. Available light can be modified through filter and aperture settings; off-camera lighting can be used to create shadows and depth; on-camera lighting can be reduced or eliminated, for example, at a candlelit reception to capture the room’s romantic atmosphere.

Sound is paramount to creating a mood. While dialogue and visual images are processed logically, music and sound make a beeline directly to the part of the brain that controls emotion. To create a definitive mood, all these components must work together and "click" to become a whole of greater value than the sum of its parts.

In postproduction, build upon the foundation of your footage. Use sound effects to help tell the story of the environment. Use color to help define a setting or emotional climate. Choose music that works in tandem with the images and predominant emotions; or carefully juxtapose contrapuntal elements for impact. Effective blending of the familiar with the unexpected can result in a film moment being seared into the minds of an audience.

The cantina scene in Star Wars was unforgettable, due in part to the contrast between the appearance of the band and the sound of the band. George Lucas gave the audience decidedly bizarre-looking aliens, yet he had them playing a silly little jazz number, rather than some esoteric, cosmic-sounding composition.

Mood equals magic. By finding the mood of your film, elevating it, and giving it meaning, you will be on track to leaving an indelible mark on your audience.

Laura Moses (info at vppvideo.com) is half of Vantage Point Productions of San Dimas, Calif. She and her husband, Steve, are winners of multiple international awards--including a 2008 Gold WEVA Creative Excellence Award in the Wedding Demo Category--and were selected to the 2006 and 2007 EventDV 25.

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Red Giant Software Offers Camera Shake, Jitter, and Noise Removal Tool

Red Giant Software, with popular products Magic Bullet, Knoll Light Factory and Trapcode, today launched Magic Bullet Steady, a new tool to remove camera shake, jitter, and noise. Magic Bullet Steady is a plug-in for users of Final Cut Pro 6 and After Effects CS3 (Mac and Windows). The stabilizer function removes unwanted camera movement which can be distracting and disturbing to viewers. Magic Bullet Steady is also included in the newly updated Magic Bullet Suite 2008.

Magic Bullet Steady offers powerful algorithms which analyze the video, detect motion, and apply one of four filtering modes. The result is a smooth, stabilized motion that preserves camera pans and other desired movements while eliminating jarring shake. A second filter removes noise and other low-light artifacts. Priced at $199, Magic Bullet Steady is available for purchase from www.redgiantsoftware.com.

Highlights:

  • Stabilization: Camera movement and tough shooting conditions can cause distracting, jerky motion; and film sprocket damage on old footage can cause gate jitter and weave. The Stabilizer feature uses a software-based 2D translation to repair this type of footage in near real-time.
  • Noise Reduction: Too often, noise reduction means everything gets very blurry. Not so with Magic Bullet Steady. It uses spatial and temporal data to work out true image values, and customizable settings give you control over block size. Adjust the optional detail protection feature to find the right results for your desired output.
  • Blistering Speed: Compared to the built-in stabilization features in After Effects or Final Cut Pro, Magic Bullet Steady yields great results in record time.
Why to Buy:
  • Use instead of a Steadicam on small projects
  • Add sophistication to amateur or archival footage
  • Faster than built-in solutions available in the host applications
Pricing and Availability
Magic Bullet Steady is available now for $199 USD and supports After Effects CS3 on Windows XP/Vista and Mac OS X. The software also runs in Final Cut Pro on Mac OS X. This software is included as part of the updated Magic Bullet Suite 2008.

www.redgiantsoftware.com

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The New LevelcamQ Video Camera Stabilizer with Quick Release System

Professional Levelcam Videographers requested a quick release system, and Baughan Productions has responded with the new LevelcamQ. The LevelcamQ uses a sturdy, all aluminum quick release system that works with hand held style video cameras, tripods and its big brother, Levelpod.

"Incorporating a quick release system with Levelcam required that we find a stronger and lighter platform for the new LevelcamQ. We choose an incredible material called "plyboo" that met all of our criterea and more. The resulting LevelcamQ has a rich and natural look with a triple layered bamboo laminate that is stronger than oak hardwood. LevelcamQ weighs in at only 13-1/2 ounces." said Tim Nixon, owner of Baughan Productions, Inc. and inventor of Levelcam and Levelpod.

"The new LevelcamQ is more rigid than the original Levelcam with minimal flex for use with heavy video cameras like the Sony Z7U, EX1, EX3 and Z1U; the Panasonic HVX-200A, HPX-170, and HMC-150; and the Canon XH-G1, and XH-A1. It's also ideal for any hand held style HD or SD video camera with a standard tripod mount."

LevelcamQ is designed to stabilize handheld shots through leverage, attaches to a tripod and connects directly to Levelpod for perfect balance, completing a total support system.

The new LevelcamQ is available now at only $79.95. It is included in the LevelpodQ package for the same price as the original Levelpod at $399.95 complete. The original Levelcam is $49.95 and the original Levelpod package price has been lowered to $369.95. Existing Levelcam and LevelcamQ owners can upgrade anytime to Levelpod for a new lower price of $320.00 USD. Quick release adapters are available for existing tripods for only $29.95.

Available now exclusively at www.levelcam.com.

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Hitachi Debuts Three Format Hybrid Blu-ray Disc Camcorder

Hitachi Home Electronics (America), Inc. continues to introduce state-of-the-art consumer electronics with its next-generation Blu-ray Disc Hybrid Camcorder with the ability to record onto the next generation HD format, Blu-ray.

A step above from its predecessor announced last year, the DZ-BD10HA from Hitachi’s Consumer Group contains several new features and improvements. A newly developed 7 mega pixel CMOS image sensor, which captures rich and vibrant videos and stills in FullHD (1920 x 1080) High Definition. The new DZ-BD10HA can also record up to 4 hours 20 minutes of 1920x1080 video or 8 hours 40 minutes of 1440x1080 video onto the built-in 30 GB HDD. Additionally, the built-in SDHC card slot provides added flexibility by allowing for Full HD video and still recordings.

The new DZ-BD10HA also offers a dubbing function that allows Full HD video to be transferred with the single push of a button from either the HDD or SDHC card to the BD drive, all within the camcorder, without having to connect to a PC. Editing functions such as split, splice, delete, merge, and transitions can also be performed within the camcorder before dubbing for additional functionality. The Transcoding feature allows for the camcorder to transfer full HD videos off the HDD or SDHC card to standard definition DVD discs for the sharing of videos with friends and family who may not own a Blu-ray player yet.

Another new feature added to this year’s camcorder is face detection, which automatically detects and focuses on faces to provide the most true to life color accuracy and clarity. Additionally, Hitachi has developed a compact, low power consumption, quiet and highly reliable 8cm BD/DVD drive, which results in a 20% reduction in overall volume compared with last year’s DZ-BD7HA Blu-ray hybrid camcorder.

"Hitachi is well known for having introduced the world’s first DVD camcorder, the world’s first Hybrid camcorder with a DVD drive and a Hard Disk Drive and the world’s first Blu-ray camcorder," said Daniel Lee, Vice President of Marketing at Hitachi Home Electronics, America. "Hitachi continues to improve upon and deliver cutting-edge and innovative products, and is pleased to offer the latest upgrades in camcorder technology to its customers and consumers. The new DZ-BD10HA underscores Hitachi’s commitment to developing original technologies that consumers can easily embrace."

While keeping the same core design as the previous Blu-ray camcorder, the DZ-BD10HA has several added features and an ameliorated design.

These features include:

  • Three Format Hybrid Compatibility: This camcorder has the versatility of being able to record HD video onto three separate formats (Blu-ray Disc, Hard Drive, SDHC) and provides the flexibility and ease of playback and long recording time all in one camcorder.
  • 7 Mega Pixel CMOS Image Sensor: The CMOS image sensor in this camcorder is designed to record the highest resolution video with effective 4.67 mega pixels while minimizing distortion and artifacts to ensure the most clear and vibrant high definition picture. The camcorder is also capable of capturing 6.22 mega pixel stills onto an optional SD or SDHC card.
  • One-Touch Dubbing: With the push of one button the user can transfer HD video from the SDHC card or hard drive to a Blu-ray disc all within the camcorder; this eliminates the need to turn on a computer.
  • Face Detection: This feature automatically detects and focuses on the face to provide true-to-life color accuracy and sharp picture quality to the user.
  • O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilization): O.I.S. automatically detects and cancels camera shake by accurately stabilizing the lens to produce the most sharp and vibrant picture possible.
Pricing and Availability
The Hitachi model DZ-BD10HA model Blu-ray Hybrid with built-in 30GB hard disk drive (HDD) is priced at a Manufacturers Advertised Price (MAP) of $999. The camcorder will be available in Japan on August 9th and will be available in North America in September 2008.

www.hitachi.com

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NewTek Releases LightWave 3D v9.5 for Windows at SIGGRAPH 2008

NewTek Inc., manufacturer of industry-leading 3D animation and video products, today announced the release of LightWave® v9.5 for Windows®, a major update to its award-winning 3D application, LightWave 3D®. LightWave v9.5’s new capabilities include FiberFX, a complete hair and fur solution, a new lighting system and many improvements to animation, rendering and workflow. The update is available to registered owners of LightWave v9 series at no charge. SIGGRAPH attendees can see LightWave v9.5 demonstrations at NewTek booth #159.
"With so many features and enhancements in LightWave v9.5, users suggested that we could release it as v10. Customer feedback has been positive," said Jay Roth, president of 3D division, NewTek. "LightWave is the application choice of Emmy® winners, and is seeing increasing use in feature film projects. With this new version, the LightWave community is experiencing a renaissance."

A highlight of LightWave v9.5 is FiberFX, a proprietary polygonal fiber modeler for creating realistic hair, fur and feathers. It provides artists with a full suite of tools to model and style each fiber, create volumetric shadows, render-in reflection and refraction and more.

LightWave v9.5 also offers improved rendering quality and speed, with major upgrades to the radiosity sampling system and interpolated modes. Also, there are new disk-based caches for radiosity: the Static Cache, for animations where only the camera moves; and the Animated Cache, where any element of the scene can move. Both types allow the user to pre-render the cache and apply the solution when doing the full scene render – either locally or across a render farm. LightWave radiosity can now be rendered at reduced resolution and applied to the full size final render, providing a higher quality output with even faster render times, a huge benefit for today's time-pressured production environment.

LightWave v9.5’s IK and animation system includes numerous improved character animation controls. Adding to LightWave’s z-axis bones, artists now have joint-type bones, which is more familiar for users of other programs with joint-based metaphors. It also adds a "stretchy bones" capability to LightWave.

The lighting system is now a plug-in API, allowing third parties to create custom lights and lighting plug-ins. IES lights have been added with a thumbnail preview of the luminaire with other information and controls. Also available are new size-selectable spherical lights and dome lights.

LightWave v9.5 allows the import and export of FBX and Collada scenes and objects. This greatly improves compatibility with other 3D applications, as you can now seamlessly transfer meshes, rigs, materials and animation information. The LightWave OBJ I/O plug-in now provides extended import capability for this file type.

LightWave v9.5 Update Includes the following:

Character Animation Enhancements

  • Hair and Fur System
  • Collada, FBX and OBJ I/O support
  • Enhanced IK and Animation Systems
Lighting, Rendering and Surfacing Enhancements
  • Lighting System is now an API
  • IES, Spherical and Dome Light types
  • Enhanced Area and Linear Lights
  • Faster and higher quality GI Rendering
  • Disk-Based GI Caching
  • Static Cache (only the Camera moves)
  • Animated Cache (anything moves)
  • Interpolated Soft Reflections/Refractions for Node-base surfacing
  • Oren-Nayar Shading Option for Many Materials
  • Optimized Materials and Shaders
SDK and LScript Improvements
  • Light Plug-in Class for Third Party Lights and Light Plug-ins
  • SDK Support for New GI Functions and Disk Cache
  • SDK Support for New IK and Animation Capabilities
  • UI and Workflow Enhancements
  • Composition Tool Overlays in Camera View
  • OpenGL GLSL Enhanced View for New Lighting System
  • Audio Waveform in the Graph Editor
  • NewTek will be providing a free trial edition of LightWave v9.5 on disc and by download. Artists should note that there are now more than 24 hours of free LightWave training at www.lightwave3d.com, in addition to an extensive library of printable tutorials.
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    LightScribe Direct Disc Labeling Expands Online Retail Channel in the US and Europe

    LightScribe today announced an expanded online retail channel in the US and Europe through its CD and DVD media licensees Microboards and PRIMEON. Microboards is initially featuring eight new online resellers including CD Dimensions, Full Compass, Media Mega Mall, Media Supply, Meritline, National Recording Supplies, Polyline, and Super Media Store. In Europe, eRetailer Nierle is featuring PRIMEON media.
    "LightScribe is proud of its strong presence in the brick and mortar retail channel and existing online retail outlets," said Kent Henscheid, marketing manager for LightScribe. "This expanded online presence will build on current channels and bring an even more attractive LightScribe-enabled DVD/CD price point to existing and new customers."

    LightScribe Direct Disc Labeling technology DVD/CD media brand licensees include: Ativa, BenQ, Digitex, Esperanza, HP, Imation, Infiniti, Intenso, KODAK Media Products, Maxell, Memorex, Microboards, Mitsubishi, Omega, Philips, Platinet, PRIMEON, Ricoh, River Pro Audio, TDK, Vakoss, and Verbatim.

    LightScribe-enabled CDs, DVDs, software, desktops, notebooks, optical disc drives and duplicator systems are available at major retailers, as well as online. Pricing and availability information for LightScribe-enabled CD and DVD discs is available at www.lightscribe.com.

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    Sound Ideas Delivers Sound Effects Libraries To Post-Production Industry Worldwide

    Sound Ideas, the world's largest publisher of professional sound effects for the broadcast and post-production markets, is making its new Ultimate SFX Collection available on Avastor HDX800 Triple Interface Hard Drives.

    Sound Ideas currently offers more than 200 distinct collections to broadcast, post-production and multimedia facilities around the world. In recent years, Sound Ideas has produced multi-platform sound effects libraries, including products that contain the standard red book CD audio format as well as mp3 and .wav files for easier use in multimedia editing studios.

    The Ultimate SFX Collection offers the complete Sound Ideas sound effects library, along with its high-quality production value, to users which includes more than 600 CDs of audio (120,000 royalty free sound effects), fully digitized in broadcast .wav file format and embedded with all relevant metadata. Customers are able to choose from either a Mac or PC platform and between three different sample formats: 16 bit/44.1 kHz, 16 bit/48 kHz, or 24 bit/48 kHz. With this large amount of content available in one compilation, Sound Ideas required a storage medium that would be able to easily handle the collection while at the same time make it easy to transport.

    "It’s nice to find a professionally designed external FireWire drive that delivers in performance and that is also efficiently packaged," comments Brian Nimens, President and CEO of Sound Ideas. "We are happy to entrust the value of our flagship Ultimate SFX sound effects library to Avastor HDX800 drives, which are being sold worldwide."

    The Avastor HDX hard drive line has an internal auto sensing AC power supply that can operate between 90 and 240 volts, thereby having worldwide compatibility. Every drive also has a cooling fan, robust lockable foam lined packaging and is individually speed tested before shipping.

    The libraries retail for $12,995 USD and are available on either HDX800-500GB or HDX800-750GB Avastor hard drives.

    Sound Ideas is supplied by Premier Magnetics — Avastor’s major Canadian distributor.

    For more information, please visit, www.avastor.com, www.sound-ideas.com, and www.premiermagnetics.com.

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