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February 23, 2009

Table of Contents

Sound Decisions: How to Get Good and Consistent Audio for Your Events
Grass Valley Announces NAB 2009 Preview
Class On Demand Makes Available Telestream Episode 5.1 Self-Paced Training
Canon U.S.A. Dives Deep With A New WP-V1 Waterproof Case For The New VIXIA HF20 and VIXIA HF200 Flash Memory Camcorders
Toolfarm Acquires Pluginz.com
Panasonic Ships New 17" BT-LH1710 HD LCD Production Monitor
AntonBauer Unveiling QR-RH RED One Handle at NAB 2009

Sound Decisions: How to Get Good and Consistent Audio for Your Events

Getting good wedding and reception audio is relatively easy to accomplish. However, getting good and consistent audio can be problematic if incorrect equipment and recording processes are used. Many videographers will agree that audio is the weakest link in their production capability. In this column, we'll examine some general practices that will help you capture not only good audio but, more importantly, consistent audio.

Why is consistent audio so important? Remember this basic premise: Video conveys information; audio conveys emotion. Let that sink in. As wedding videographers, we are in the emotion business, so one would assume we would strive to get the best results using the best equipment available-and using it correctly. Sadly, this is not always the case. Many videographers use substandard equipment with incorrect methods and wonder why they struggle so often with their sound.

Conversely, others may use the best equipment money can buy but still get inconsistent results.

We'll examine the wedding ceremony process first. What is the most important audio in a wedding ceremony? The vows. I would speculate that about 99% of professional videographers who don't rely on an on-camera or a camera-mounted mic use a wireless system to capture the vows. A quality UHF wireless system is essential for getting good sound. However, even the best system may be prone to dropouts and other interference. If something like this happens just as the bride says "I do" and you miss that moments because of it, you're sunk. Most interference sources are beyond our control, but preventing dropouts that result from a poor signal can be a fairly easy thing to do. Without getting into the specifics of radio propagation, remember this simple but very important rule: Always keeps the transmitter antenna and the receiver antenna pointed in the same direction. Mismatched antenna polarization can significantly drop the efficiency of your system. Simply put, if the receiver antenna at the camera is pointed straight up, the antenna of the transmitter you place on the groom or officiate must be pointed in the same direction.

To overcome issues of interference or dropouts with your wireless system, you may want to try an alternative recording process as a backup. For the weddings I shoot, in addition to the wireless mic placed on the groom (which I use only for sync purposes), I also use a flash-based digital audio recorder. In the past I've used IFP Series iRiver recorders. The IFP Series iRivers, which are no longer manufactured, were good low-cost recorders. However, they had some drawbacks. One, they recorded in the highly compressed MP3 format. Two, there wasn't a usable signal monitoring of the recording process. I currently use the Marantz PMD620 recorder. It's a very small form-factor recorder and, coupled with a good lavaliere microphone, is capable of superb 24-bit PCM audio recording.

What is the consistency trick with any of these devices? Once you have successfully set up the recorder and microphone combination and have captured good audio, never change the settings or use it for anything else. Granted, it may be a bit expensive to have multiple devices set up for one type of use, but if you desire consistent audio, this is the way to ensure it.

Some videographers opt to use a camera-mounted shotgun to capture audio. Unless you can get the microphone very close-within a few feet of the sound source-a shotgun is probably the least-effective microphone (besides the one factory-installed on your camera) for getting good and consistent audio. The distance between the microphone and the sound source will have the largest influence on your recording capability. Regardless of the cost or quality of your shotgun microphone, if it's placed too far away or aimed improperly, your sound quality will be diminished.

A common misconception is that a shotgun microphone acts like a parabolic microphone, which is capable of reaching out and recording sound at a considerable distance from the microphone. Shotguns don't have any reach; in fact, they have a narrower angle of acceptance than other microphones. When used improperly, this narrow acceptance angle allows extraneous, ambient sound that is bouncing all around the room to eventually get into the front of the microphone. Unfortunately, this sound will be severely out of phase, producing very thin or weak-sounding audio. In addition, shotguns are very prone to picking up noises, unless they are placed in a good shock mount.

Here's a good rule of thumb to remember: A $50 microphone placed 5' away will sound immensely better than a $500 microphone placed 50' away. If you want good, consistent audio from the microphone on your camera, try to get as close as possible to the sound source.

What if you shoot an event in which you have to record a small group of musicians? The Zoom H2 with its configurable internal microphone is a very good choice. It's capable of recording at 24-bit PCM quality and can be easily attached to a microphone stand and strategically placed among the performers. Again, for consistency, once you have captured a successful recording, lock down the record settings.

Never turn down a source of audio. If you can get a feed from the venue's soundboard, do so. Although opportunities such as this come often, getting good and consistent audio continues to be an ongoing problem with many videographers. I've read many comments in online forums blaming the venue's sound guy when, in fact, I would guess, it was probably the videographer's own fault for using the wrong recorder. There's a simple rule for getting consistent soundboard audio: If you are taking a feed, your recorder must have at least a 1/4" line input. If it has only a 1/8" line input, forget it. Typically, the preamp circuits of these smaller input recorders will not be capable of successfully and consistently handling the signal voltage coming from the board.

Remember, if you record poor-quality sound, it will always be poor quality, no matter how you try to enhance it in post. Don't leave yourself with any excuses; since recording media is cheap, always record at the highest uncompressed setting possible.

Capturing good and consistent audio is not hard to do. If you follow the general processes explained here, chances are you will capture not only good audio but consistent audio as well.

Mark Foley (mark at foleyproductions.net) runs Foley Productions, Inc. of Warner Robins, Ga. Before becoming an event videographer, he spent 26 years in the United States Air Force and has worked as a part-time sound engineer since 1980.

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Grass Valley Announces NAB 2009 Preview

At NAB 2009, Grass Valley will celebrate its 50th anniversary serving the industry with another strong showing of technology and systems for the wide variety of professional applications that it supports. The celebration (in booth #SL106) will include the introduction of several new products and enhancements that will help broadcasters and production professionals get the most performance, value, and fastest return on investment.

HD Live Production
New! The Grass Valley K2 DynoTM replay controller, coupled with the new K2 SummitTM production server, are both designed to help sports producers and other professionals capture live events in crystal-clear HD resolutions and instantly play them out at variable speeds for critical analysis during fast-paced events.

Also on display: The Grass Valley LDK8300 3X HD super slo-mo camera, LDK8000 SportElite multiformat 2X HD slo-mo camera, LDK4000 Elite single format HD cameras, and the Infinity Digital Media Camcorder (with new integration of the Telecast Fiber Systems Copperhead transmission system and utilizing the full range of 2/3" cinema lenses). More than 20 Grass Valley HD cameras will also be on display throughout the show floor at partner booths.

Integrated Production Systems
New! A new version of Grass Valley Ignite software (v5.3) will be demonstrated with new features and functionality for single-operator, multi-camera productions. Ignite HD system will be shown in tandem with the Grass Valley MediaFUSE® Content Re-purposing and Multi-distribution System.

HD News/Production Editing
New! NAB 2009 will see new version of Grass Valley's Aurora (6.5) and EDIUS (5.1) HD editing software packages. There's new integration with the Grass Valley K2 media servers and improved workflow for Final Cut Pro users. This includes unique integration with the K2 server at the file level with QoS.

Also on display: The new series of Grass Valley I/O capture cards, which include the cost-effective HDSTORM, HDTHUNDER, HDSPARK, FireCoder Blu & FireCoder Intra products.

HD Infrastructure
New! Grass Valley will continue its support of 3 Gb/s infrastructures across its TrinixTM routing platform and GeckoFlex modular products. At NAB the Grass Valley Trinix NXT router will be introduced, complete with a 512x1024 asymmetrical frame and Grass Valley's new CleanFlowTM architecture that provides superior signal performance at demanding 3Gb/s rates and other improvements providing increased reliability. Trinix NXT boards are compatible with existing Trinix frames, making for a seamless 3Gb/s upgrade path for the hundreds of existing Trinix users. The company will show a new GeckoFlex 1080p 3G-SDI D/A conversion card for the GeckoFlex platform.

New! There's also a new Encore remote control panel, and new features for the Jupiter software, which facilitate full redundancy and "zero down time" capability.

HD and SD Compression
New! For all types of content distributors and multichannel digital TV operators, Thomson's expanding line of ViBE encoders, decoders and multiplexers. New at NAB is the ViBE EM3100 HD MPEG-4 4:2:2 contribution encoder and the combined MPEG-2 / MPEG-4 encoding for the existing ViBE EM1000 and EM2000 encoders.

Mobile Video
New! With the emergence of a proposed Mobile/Handheld (M/H) standard for U.S. stations to send broadcast television signals to portable devices, Thomson will show a complete ATSC-M/H solution, including a new ATSC-M/H exciter for its existing line of Elite solid-state transmitters, and a full range of ATSC-M/H -ready head-end equipment (encoder, multiplexer, electronic service guide generator.


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Class On Demand Makes Available Telestream Episode 5.1 Self-Paced Training

Class on Demand, a provider of professional educational products for creative markets, announced the availability of Complete Training for Episode and Episode Pro 5.1. Class on Demand instructor Nate Caplin spearheads the 4.5 hour self-paced training offering an in-depth tour of the industry leading Episode and Episode Pro compression solutions from Telestream. The modular design of the self-paced training video is ideal for both beginners needing to step into the software and the seasoned pro needing to quickly learn the very latest Episode features.

"Class on Demand is our go to training partner for the Episode products," comments Barbara DeHart, VP of Marketing at Telestream. "Instructor Nate Caplin does a great job demystifying multi-format, multi-distribution workflows while giving expert and engaging instruction on using Episode products to produce the very best content regardless of its production platform or distribution channel."

"Every editor today really needs to understand how to effectively use industry leading compression technology like Episode - it is part of their job. This is not an easy task given the number of formats and distribution channels that are continually being thrown into the mix," said Paul Holtz, CEO and founder, Class on Demand. "Our instructor Nate Caplin really does a fantastic job at simplifying these complexities while providing a very clear path for learning and mastering the powerful Episode technology."

"Complete Training for Episode and Episode Pro" covers every aspect of the Telestream encoding workflow. Class on Demand self-paced chapters are broken down into logical segments; user interface and features, understanding and using filters, compression settings for web, compression settings for mobile and portable media devices, compression settings for disc authoring and compression settings for editing and standards conversion. The modular approach enables students to focus on specific compression scenarios or step through the training in a non-linear approach best suited for their learning needs.

About the Episode Products
Episode is a powerful cross-platform desktop media encoding application for Mac and Windows. It offers the encoding for content repurposing for distribution to Web, DVD, mobile phones and portable media devices. Includes: extensive format support in/out including superior quality Flash 8/9 encoding, presets and filters, watch folders, batch processing of 25 jobs and Compressor plug-in.

Episode Pro is a powerful cross-platform desktop media encoding application that includes all the features and functionality of Episode plus support for advanced professional formats: MXF, GXF, H.264 High Profile, DVCPRO HD (with Final Cut Pro), mobile multi-bit rate and more with unlimited batch processing.

About Instructor Nate Caplin
A practitioner and seasoned conference speaker, Nate has presented compression technology sessions at both MacWorld Expo and Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference. He has been called upon by industry magazines such as DV Magazine to review new compression products and technologies. Nate has been a member of the Class on Demand team since 2006. His
real-world experience and fantastic presentation skills garner rave reviews for every Class on Demand training title.

Pricing and Availability
Complete Training for Episode and Episode Pro 5.1 is available today through www.classondemand.net for an MSRP of $99.95. For additional training information, please contact Class on Demand directly at (847) 843-9939

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Canon U.S.A. Dives Deep With A New WP-V1 Waterproof Case For The New VIXIA HF20 and VIXIA HF200 Flash Memory Camcorders

Canon U.S.A., Inc, a leader in digital imaging technology, announces an exciting first with its new WP-V1 Waterproof Case for the VIXIA HF20 and VIXIA HF200 Flash Memory Camcorders. Consumers can now dive up to depths of 130 feet and still be able to capture exciting underwater adventures. The ultimate accessory for divers who want to shoot video and photos while underwater, this compact and light-weight housing hugs the camcorder like a wet suit, enabling easy on-camera operation and control.

Whether filming sharks off the Great Barrier Reef, snorkeling in the warm waters of the Caribbean or simply wading in the water at your local beach, the Canon WP-VI Waterproof Case and corresponding VIXIA camcorders are ideal devices for capturing both video and photos. As an added plus, once enabled in the Special Scene mode, the white balance is controlled in a way which is ideally suited to an underwater environment.

"Canon is excited to offer consumers a go-anywhere option in the camcorder market," said Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A. "By broadening our accessory offerings, Canon can now service an expanded audience of those who need water-resistant products for their work or recreational use."

About the Canon VIXIA HF20 and VIXIA HF200 Flash Memory Camcorders
Canon's most compact high-definition Flash Memory camcorders, the VIXIA HF20 and VIXIA HF200 are powerhouse options for anyone looking to take their HD camcorder with them wherever they go. The VIXIA HF20 offers the option of recording to a 32GB internal Flash drive or SDHC card slot and the VIXIA HF200 records to a SDHC memory card only. Additional features include a 3.89 Megapixel Full HD CMOS Image Sensor, newly designed Genuine Canon 15x HD Video Lens, Genuine Canon Face Detection, Video Snapshot and Dual Shot Modes, and an Advanced Auto Exposure system.

The WP-V1 Waterproof Case for the VIXIA HF20 and VIXIA HF200 Flash Memory Camcorders is scheduled to be available in May for an estimated retail price of $599.


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Toolfarm Acquires Pluginz.com

Toolfarm.com, Inc., the leading source of content, community and commerce for professional visual effects and motion graphics plug-ins, today announced the acquisition of assets from online plug-in retailer Pluginz.com. Pluginz.com is a full sales and service shop for digital media professionals. A complementary offering to the Toolfarm.com product sales, service and information network, the acquisition of Pluginz.com is a natural step in growing the popular Toofarm.com one-stop shop service.

"Our unique value-add among resellers within the content creation market is our exceptional customer service. We offer more than just a list of plug-ins to buy, we provide outstanding sales support. Online help forums, detailed technology briefs and reviews, and a constant stream of industry news help our customers make informed decisions on investing in technology, and the tools to do their job," says President of Toolfarm.com, Jason Sharp. "The acquisition of the Pluginz.com gives us an opportunity to expand the overall offering for the Toolfarm community and better service our customers with a more diverse range of plug-ins to choose from along with the technical team to help them during their decision making process and beyond."

About Pluginz.com
Pluginz.com is a source for plug-ins and other tools for digital artists and an online resource for information about digital content creation. Pluginz.com is a part of the larger network which includes bedagi.com, editingutopia.com, post601.com, 3dplugins.com, and vfxplugins.com. The site serves as an online community uniting software users and developers, and is an indispensable resource for digital artists seeking the information, service and feedback they need to evaluate and select digital tools and to build their presence in the marketplace.

About Toolfarm.com Inc.
Founded in 1999, Toolfarm.com is the world's leading source of content, community and commerce for professional visual effects and motion graphics plug-ins. In the past ten years, Toolfarm.com has served hundreds of thousands of professionals from all around the world who make a living working with digital video. Toolfarm.com continues to provide objective, timely information for users of Adobe, Apple, Avid, Autodesk and Sony applications including the related third-party plug-ins. In addition to competitive pricing, Toolfarm.com's free resources include the Plug-in Finder, free tutorials, blogs, newsletters, podcasts, industry news articles and press releases, user forms, compatibility charts and a recent new launch of "MyToolfarm", a professional video networking resource.

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Panasonic Ships New 17" BT-LH1710 HD LCD Production Monitor

Panasonic announced the immediate availability of its new BT-LH1710 LCD HD/SD production monitor. Building on its predecessor, the BT-LH1700W, the next-generation LH1710 offers enhanced image performance, excellent motion response and adds a wider range of production tools for advanced HD monitoring at an affordable cost.

With a new 1280 x 768 In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel, the LH1710 incorporates the latest panel and image processing technology to deliver higher contrast, improved black level performance and more functionality. The monitor utilizes a newly-designed 10-bit image processing circuit that reproduces color with increased accuracy and detail and has a 3D look-up table (LUT) that calibrates the panel to reproduce accurate images according to the specific color standard selected.

In addition to its superior image processing performance, the LH1710 offers a host of invaluable monitoring tools, including a built-in waveform monitor and vectorscope that display all lines. Other display functions include pixel-to-pixel display, standard markers, blue-only and cross hatch overlay. Enhanced audio functions include built-in embedded audio support and display of up to eight channels of audio level meters (can be shown as 2-channel, 4-channel, 8-channel, or shut off completely). The monitor displays a variety of time code information including Time Code (HD-SDI), LTC (Linear Time Code), VITC (Vertical Interval Time Code), LUB (User Bits among Linear Time Code) and VUB (User Bits among Vertical Time Code). It has a wide 176° horizontal and vertical viewing angle.

The LH1710 also has a Cine-gamma Film-Rec compensation function for compatible use with cameras such as the new AJ-HPX3700 and AJ-HPX2700 P2 HD VariCam camcorders and the tape-based AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema Camera.

The versatile monitor comes with a wide range of professional inputs and outputs, including two auto-switching SDI (HD/SD) inputs (with switched output), DVI-D input, component, composite, RGB, audio connections and a headphone jack. Additional standard features include RS-232C and GPI remote control terminals, tally indicators (Red/ Green/ Amber) on the front panel, on-board stereo speakers, closed caption and five assignable function buttons for quick and easy access to features.

The production-tough LH1710 has a durable, die-cast aluminum frame and operates without a cooling fan for noise-free performance. The low-power-consuming monitor runs on AC or DC power (12V) for added flexibility, comes standard with a desk stand and is VESA-mount compatible.

The LH1710 is available now at a suggested list price of $3,750.


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AntonBauer Unveiling QR-RH RED One Handle at NAB 2009

Anton/Bauer, a brand of The Vitec Group, and the world’s premier provider of professional camera batteries, chargers, lighting and other mobile power systems, is debuting its QR-RH RED One Handle for the RED camera at NAB 2009 (Booth C6021).

Designed by Anton/Bauer, in conjunction with leading camera rental company Fletcher Camera & Lenses, the new QR-RH RED One Handle features Anton/Bauer’s signature Gold Mount, which gives the ability for multiple mounting and the ability to mount the red drive in various locations. It also allows the opportunity to attach various accessories, including Israeli arms, video monitors and Steadicam plates, to the camera’s handle via 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 tapped holes. The QR-RH RED One Handle’s tape hook provides tape measure attachment for camera focus. Its tape clip extender allows the matte box on the lens to conveniently remain on the camera throughout set up, therefore saving valuable set up time. Providing ease of use and flexibility, its integrated Anton/Bauer Gold Mount allows for various battery positions and optimum weight distribution.

“The Anton/Bauer QR-RH RED One Handle is strategically outfitted with the Anton/Bauer Gold Mount bracket to provide users with the ultimate versatility in battery positioning, rotating at either 90, 180 0r 360 degrees, which subsequently offers customized camera balance options,” says Paul Dudeck, director of Anton/Bauer product specialist group-the Americas. “In addition, by designing the handle with 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 sized tapped holes, users have the ability to connect a wide range of equipment to their cameras.”

“The film industry needs rugged products but also needs them to be lightweight and streamlined,” says Al Collins, manager of technical services, Fletcher Camera & Lenses. “The QR-RH RED One Handle was designed with this need in mind. Anton/Bauer’s QR-RH RED One Handle marries Anton/Bauer’s bullet proof battery system to the RED camera seamlessly. In addition, it offers an ergonomic benefit by allowing room for two batteries using Anton/Bauer’s signature Hot Swap battery system, which alleviates unnecessary boot-up time.”

Collins adds, “Fletcher Camera & Lenses has had a fruitful 20-year relationship with Anton/Bauer. We partnered with Anton/Bauer on the development of the QR-RH RED One Handle because of Anton/Bauer’s superb battery design, as well as its battery re-servicing and warranty programs. It was a natural fit.”


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