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August 03, 2009

Table of Contents

Wedding Filmmakers in the Wilds of Webisodic TV: Zacuto Films' FilmFellas
Media 100 Suite Now Available
Zacuto Releases Consumer Version Handgrip Rig for iPhone 3Gs Video
Pegasys Adds SpursEngine Functionality to Its TMPGEnc MovieStyle Software
Music 2 Hues Announces New Flagship Series CD Release

Wedding Filmmakers in the Wilds of Webisodic TV: Zacuto Films' FilmFellas

In 2008 I edited a book about how to become a DIY web video entrepreneur. The book had its strengths, and the author obviously knew a great deal about video production and the broadcast side of the video business. And, from what I understand, it sold pretty well. Still, the main premise of the book never sat well with me: namely, that you could replicate the runaway success of web video overnight sensations by studying and imitating them. Maybe this is possible, but most of the examples in the book just seemed too random--e.g., those German "eepybird" guys who became YouTube sweethearts with their Mentos & Diet Coke geysers. For one thing, too many of the success stories were too isolated; how were readers supposed to repeat these triumphs if their originators couldn't?

Plus, there seemed to be a basic disconnect, in most places, between popularity and profitability. Were any of these one-hit wonders actually making money off the clips that made them famous?

I found the Blip.tv chapter most interesting because the idea of webisodic internet TV capturing some of the audience that was drifting away from its more old-school, rigidly structured broadcast counterpart is awfully intriguing, and Blip.tv certainly seems set up to make the most of it. But again, I just couldn't see how the way we were documenting the successes of the present would in any way doom our readers to repeat them.

Zacuto's Steve Weiss has clearly been struggling with these same questions about making web video profitable and sustainable, and how to use the web as a filmmaking medium that will serve the evolving 21st-century audience in ways that cinematic film and broadcast TV no longer entirely satisfy. And with his increasingly popular webisodic show, FilmFellas, he's doing much to unravel the mysteries of compelling and commercially viable web TV in the form, content, and marketing of the show.

Debuting January with new webisodes appearing every two weeks, FilmFellas has a deceptively simple premise and structure: Set up and shot much like the kitchen table scene in GoodFellas, FilmFellas brings together 3 filmmakers with Weiss in each installment to discuss filmmaking and the web over dinner, with each discussion playing to the strengths of the current "cast." The conversation is documented in multiple webisodes for each cast. The first cast, featuring DoP extraordinaire and Re:Frame phenom Philip Bloom, along with director and Flashpoint Academy chairman Peter Hawley and DP and RED shooter Steven Dadouche, aired in January and February. Subsequent casts have included web-oriented independent filmmakers discussing directing styles and producers discussing social networking.

In what may, on the surface, seem to be a bit of a departure for the series, the next 2 casts will consist entirely of producers from the wedding video world. For Cast 4 ("The Artistic Wedding"), Weiss invited John Goolsby of Cannon Video, Kristen* of Bliss Productions and Re:Frame, and Joe Simon of Joe Simon Productions. Cast 5 ("The Epic Wedding") brought Patrick Moreau of StillMotion, Kevin Shahinian of Pacific Pictures, and Ron Dawson of Dare Dreamer Media into the mix.

Granted, none of these cast members would call what they produce wedding video, and none shoot weddings exclusively, but that's part of the point. "The cast members in 4 & 5 are filmmakers, period," says Weiss. "The entire film business is a business of snobs. In Hollywood they may snub their nose at wedding filmmaking. But every guy on set in Hollywood would rather be doing commercials because the pay is better. Every agency guy in Chicago would rather be working on features for lower pay because the work is cooler. The grass is always greener. What I learned about wedding filmmaking from my cast members," he continues, "is that they love what they are doing and it's what they want to be doing. A wedding is an exciting one-take environment. It's emotional and passionate. It can move people and bring them to tears in seconds. That's a bit tougher to do on feature and commercials. Especially, considering you are just a team member on those types of projects, where in weddings you run the project and make all of the decisions. So as any industry it's not for everyone, but if you love creating a lot of emotion and dig the excitement of a one-take environment, weddings may be for you."

As for the specific cast members, Weiss says, "Joe's work I have been admiring for a while now, and I've talked about it in many videos I've done." (Significantly, Joe Simon's name comes up repeatedly with FilmFellas Cast 2.) So I started looking around and saw Kristen* work and loved it. At NAB I met and had a little bromance with Kevin and Patrick, and we were talking video at various points during NAB. At that time I only had the one cast and was only going to do the one cast. But after talking to Kevin and Patrick, I realized they had a ton to offer, so I set up cast 5. John was added to Cast 4 to add some counterpoint to the creative with some business acumen. Ron was added to Cast 5 to add some counterpoint to the creative and talk about the industry as a whole."

Discussing wedding filmmaking on the show, Weiss says, has allowed him to highlight the diversity of not just his cast, but the industry as a whole, and point out to the larger filmmaking world that it's more textured than they may think. "I think that there are now many segments of the wedding crowd. You have videographers, wedding filmmakers, same-day edit guys, concept movie guys, etc. This makes the market much more interesting because everyone wants to learn from everyone. FilmFellas, tries to uncover trends, styles, how to make money in your industry, presentation of product and more. We did that with Cast 4 and 5 and I really don't see this much different from any other aspect of the film industry as a whole."

Not drawing lines or creating imaginary and unnecessary barriers between different parts of the filmmaking industry is a big part of what FilmFellas is about, and it's an absolutely essential approach to take for a generation of filmmakers that is working to translate cinematic and broadcast styles to the web, and adapt their methods and their business models to the unstructured and seemingly ungovernable "Wild West" climate of web video (as one FilmFellas cast member described it) and the growing web video audience, with its new set of expectations. And inseparable from all of that for anyone in this business, and anyone who intends to thrive in this business, is making it profitable. "I don't make the distinction between pro and amateur," Weiss says. "I make the distinction between profitable and non-profitable. If you can make a show that is profitable so as it can continue, then you are obviously giving your audience what they want and it's working. If you're not you will eventually falter. I am a businessman and a creative, or a creative businessman. Frankly, I think the two can go hand in hand, but many filmmakers don't look at the business side as creative or they don't see how a super creative business plan is essential to the success of your film venture. Hollywood does. The video can look like crap but if it's drawing people and making money, somehow, then I would admire that venture."

One thing that's been cool so far with FilmFellas is that even though Weiss acknowledges that it's evolved with each cast, the producers established a consistent style at the outset that's given it a definitive and recognizable look. Weiss describes the production style as follows: "For a long time, I thought, wouldn't it be cool to create a really up-close, intimate discussion about filmmaking. I said to Jens Bogehegn, my business partner in Zacuto and DP since 1989, that I kind of imagined a round dolly shot like in GoodFellas where they were at the kitchen table. Jens decided on the top lighting to make it feel like it was a secret meeting and it also worked well to hide the 6 cameras we use while shooting this live discussion.

"The show is shot with 6 Panasonic HVX200s (sometimes we'll have an HPX170 in there as well). One is on a circular dolly. One is on a Jib, and 4 other cameras are each getting someone's closeup. Everyone is individually mic'd for really close sound. The cameramen do not have contact with each other. Jens, our DP, talks to them about the kind of shots we are looking for and they shoot to have a good shot all of the time. But they have the freedom to move to a two shot or tight ECU [extreme closeup] if wanted. The dolly is usually run by Jens and he just goes back and forth constantly the whole shoot. He has a Letus Elite and Zeiss 35mm lens on the dolly cam so he has very shallow DOF. While dollying, he decides what he wants in focus. The dolly is surprising close to the talent, about 3 feet from the backs of their heads. The lighting design is Jens', a 3' softbox with 1' black siders to keep the light from spilling. The tablecloth is white and is really part of the lighting scheme and bounces in fill. The edit is cut for sound first. Then the cameras can be live switched in post in multicam mode."

Because FilmFellas is a show about web filmmaking that is also exploring the form, function, and commercial possibilities of web filmmaking, the content and presentation and marketing of the show often go hand in hand. Appropriately enough for a show that included 5 webisodes under the title "Social Networking," exploiting the social networking possibilities of the web and exploring other techniques to increase the show's viral appeal has been crucial to its pursuit of a wider audience. "We're using Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and others to grow our audience. People join our groups, plus we actively join groups and fan pages and grow the presence. Plus we do email blasts and press releases to also get the word out. These include bloggers and forums. From this point forward we're posting our video content on Zacuto.com first for about 2 weeks, then we're making it available to Vimeo, YouTube, and Exposure room." (Initially, the show was co-presented by Vimeo.) "This will make Zacuto.com the first place to look for Zacuto content, but many start at Vimeo/Exposure room, and this way they will still be able to receive our content."

Two behind-the-scenes clips from Casts 4 and 5 appeared last week on www.filmfellas.tv, and Cast 4 debuts on FilmFellas.tv on August 5, with multiple webisodes to follow over the next several weeks, running concurrently, and switching back and forth between the casts. Don't touch that dial.

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Media 100 Suite Now Available

Media 100, a leading provider of advanced editing systems for the corporate, broadcast, postproduction, and new media industries, today announced that Media 100 Suite, next-generation Media 100 software with MultiClip Editing and Boris RED, is now available. Media 100 Suite adds new support for Matrox MXO2 for portable, broadcast-quality input/output, monitoring, and up/down/cross conversion. Media 100 Suite also includes a new VoiceOver Tool for audio recording direct to the Media 100 timeline.

Media 100 Suite New Feature Highlights

• MultiClip Editing. Media 100 Suite's new MultiClip Editing feature facilitates real-time editing of multiple video and audio sources in a familiar, easy-to-use interface. A camera can be added to an existing MultiClip as its source media becomes available, allowing editors to begin cutting a multicam shoot faster than ever before. Cameras can be synced via timecode, sync marks, or in-points. When syncing via timecode, additional footage can even be assigned to an existing camera - extremely helpful in situations where a camera has been stopped to change tapes or batteries.

• VoiceOver Tool. Media 100 Suite's new VoiceOver Tool allows direct-to-timeline audio recording while playing back timeline audio and video. Primarily designed for recording narration, the VoiceOver Tool leverages Media 100 Suite's new MultiClip architecture to allow for multiple takes nested inside a single audio clip in the timeline. VoiceOvers can be recorded as stereo pairs or separate channels allowing different narrators to record in a single take. Other possibilities include simultaneously recording dialogue to separate channels or laying down a live music track.

• Matrox MXO2 Support. Media 100 Suite adds new support for Matrox MXO2, a portable I/O device that delivers broadcast-quality input/output, monitoring, and up/down/cross conversion. Compatible with MacBook Pros and Mac Pros, MXO2 weighs under 3½ pounds and lets editors work seamlessly in any Media 100-supported format. For those looking for a traditional rack-mounted installation, Media 100 Suite also supports the MXO2 Rack. The Matrox MAX option for accelerated encoding to H.264 direct from Media 100 is also supported.

• Other Media 100 Suite Improvements include the ability to export Media 100 timelines to Adobe After Effects CS4, support for Apple's new Final Cut Studio 3 release, improved Apple Color integration, full support of QuickTime timecode tracks, export of timecode "burn-in", support for 24-bit audio import, and the ability to output RP188 timecode with supported AJA video I/O cards.

I/O Support
Media 100 Suite supports AJA's KONA 3X/3, KONA LH/LHe, KONA LHi, and KONA LS/LSe video I/O cards, Matrox MXO2 and MXO2 Rack, and the Media 100 HDx. FireWire I/O and Panasonic P2 import are also supported.

Media 100 Suite supports PowerPC and Intel-based Macs.

Pricing and Availability
Media 100 Suite is immediately available through the Media 100 worldwide reseller channel and direct from the Media 100 web site for an MSRP of $1,295 USD. Customers can upgrade to Media 100 Suite from Media 100 Version 10 and higher, including Media 100 Producer, for an MSRP of $595 USD. Alternatively, Media 100 Platinum Software Updates is available for an MSRP of $895 USD and provides one year of Media 100 Suite software upgrades. Media 100 Suite replaces the Media 100 and Media 100 Producer software applications.

About Media 100
Media 100, a division of Boris FX, is a leading provider of advanced editing systems for the corporate, broadcast, post production, and new media industries. The company's flagship product, Media 100 Suite, features the industry's most intuitive and easy-to-learn video editing interface. For more information, visit www.media100.com.  

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Zacuto Releases Consumer Version Handgrip Rig for iPhone 3Gs Video

Following the popularity of the recently released Zgrip iPhone Pro by Zacuto USA, a leading maker of camera gear and accessories for professionals, the custom house has launched their consumer version: the Zgrip iPhone Jr. Specifically designed for Apple iPhone 3Gs shooters, this mini-rig comes with multiple fingers to quickly lock the iPhone in place and offers a stable solution for shooting video.

With the desire to design a more affordable version of their Zgrip iPhone Pro ($295), but still offer the independent filmmaker the key feature of stability, Steve Weiss and Jens Bogehegn, product designers for Zacuto USA, created the Zgrip iPhone Jr. ($69) which utilizes many of the same featuers as its big brother , only minus the adjustability. "I'll tell you what I'm most proud about," explains Steve Weiss, "We are manufacturing this Zgrip iPhone version in the USA and still keeping the price point down." 

Perfect for the "iPhone Centric" filmmaking crowd, the Zgrip iPhone Jr mini-rig not only safely cradles the iPhone, the lightweight handgrip system allows you to mount additional accessories at the top of the cradle, such as a light or mic. Additional features include a smartly designed 1/4 20" on the base of the handle-grip giving you the quick option to attach the rig to a tripod.

For video demonstrations and to learn about the additional features of the Zacuto Zgrip iPhone Product Line, go to: http://zgripiphone.com. If you want to take advantage of their Pre-Launch Event (product arrives August 15), you can pre-order the Zgrip iPhone Jr. before August 15th , and you will receive a $10 instant rebate which brings the cost of the Zgrip iPhone Jr. down to $59.

About Zacuto USA
Located in Chicago's River North neighborhood, Zacuto, originally a production equipment rental house formed in 2000 by a former Director and DP Steve Weiss and Jens Bogehegn, whose combined film/video experience of over 50 years, quickly expanded into a producer of high end production equipment with the creation of their revolutionary line of Zacuto USA products. Designed for independent filmmakers, the Zacuto, made in the USA, brand of products, offer customized camera packages whichcome with a Life Time Guarantee and are shipped anywhere in the world. For more information visit www.zacuto.com.

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Pegasys Adds SpursEngine Functionality to Its TMPGEnc MovieStyle Software

Pegasys, Inc. (http://tmpgenc.pegasys-inc.com) the company that makes digital video easy, has updated its TMPGEnc MovieStyle software to include SpursEngine functionality via the TMPGEnc Movie Plug-in SpursEngine (sold separately) and AVCHD file input support. The Movie Plug-in enables high-speed, hardware H.264 and MPEG-2 encoding and standard video upscaling when used with devices embedded with the SpursEngine Media Streaming Processor from Toshiba®. AVCHD file input support lets users import footage from an AVCHD camcorder and convert it for their favorite digital device.

"We've already added SpursEngine functionality to our flagship video converter, TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress, but that is a very technical product," commented Tak Ebine, Pegasys CEO. "By adding SpursEngine functionality to TMPGEnc MovieStyle, we can now allow all users to enjoy the benefits of fast hardware MPEG-2 and H.264 encoding without having to be knowledgeable in digital video."

"We are pleased to hear that Pegasys has expanded their SpursEngine support to TMPGEnc MovieStyle," commented Hon Sit, President of Leadtek USA.

 "When used with our WinFast PxVC1100 HD Transcoding Card, benchmarks have shown an increase in encoding speed of up to 700% versus CPU-only encoding. This incredible performance makes this an unbeatable combination."

TMPGEnc MovieStyle with added SpursEngine Plug-in functionality allows users to encode MPEG-2 and H.264 video via the SpursEngine hardware at blazing fast speeds for the iPod/iPhone, PSP and PlayStation 3 output profiles. The Super Resolution feature allows users to upscale their standard definition video into brilliant HD video using the PlayStation 3 output profile. The TMPGEnc Movie Plug-in SpursEngine and a SpursEngine hardware device are required for these features.

The full retail TMPGEnc Movie Plug-in SpursEngine is available at $49.95 per license. TMPGEnc MovieStyle software is available for $39.95, or users that already own TMPGEnc software can take advantage of the special user discount price of $34.95. A free trial download of TMPGEnc MovieStyle including the TMPGEnc Movie Plug-in SpursEngine functions is available and more information can be found at http://tmpgenc.pegasys-inc.com/en/product/tms.html. Users can also find information on the SpursEngine plug-in and where to buy SpursEngine devices such as the Leadtek Winfast PxVC1100 HD Transcoding Card at http://tmpgenc.pegasys-inc.com/en/product/te4xp_spurs.html.

MovieStyle will also convert video to a variety of popular device formats for: iPod®, iPhone®, Apple® TV, Sony® myloTM COM-2, Sony Walkman, PSPTM, Playstation® 3, ZuneTM, Xbox 360TM, Nintendo DSTM with PLAY-YAN, Nintendo® WiiTM, PDA's with Windows Media Player, and DivX®. Accepted input formats include AVI, MPEG, MPEG4, Windows Media Video (wmv), QuickTime, H.264, DivX®, DVD-Video/DVD-VR, Media Center PC (DVR-MS) and MOD (used by JVC Everio HDD camcorders). HDV and AVCHD camcorder files are also supported.

MovieStyle's user-friendly interface makes converting video clips fast and easy. Select a device, then drag and drop video clips to begin converting. The converting templates eliminate guesswork and saves time. The TMPGEnc TransManagerTM helps organize converted video clips and assists in transferring the clips to a desired device.

Many timesaving features are also included. Quick Encode allows users to convert video clips without opening MovieStyle. Simply click on the video clip and select the desired digital device and start converting. A Drop Folder lets users specify a folder for MovieStyle to automatically convert video for the user-specified digital device. Cinema Mode converts video to 24 fps.

For PSP enthusiasts, the PSP Overdrive option takes advantage of the PSP LCD driver characteristics to improve video display quality. Karaoke Mode cancels out vocals from the audio track, and uses Pitch Changer settings to alter the audio pitch. The Audio Only option (not available for all devices) converts video into an audio file.

The Time Stretch feature converts video to play at up to 1.5 times normal speed, allowing users to view a one-hour video in about 40 minutes. Time Stretch will also convert a video to play up to 50% slower, making a one-hour video into a two-hour video.

About PEGASYS Inc.
PEGASYS Inc. makes digital video easy. Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, PEGASYS was established in November 2001 with the release of TMPGEnc Plus -- probably the world's most popular MPEG-1/2 video encoding software and at the time, was the only freeware video encoder. The company's two flagship products, the TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress video encoder and the new TMPGEnc Authoring Works 4, anchor a strong line of retail and OEM digital video editing and encoding products for home and professional users. 

The recognized leaders in developing quality video encoding tools for MPEG applications, PEGASYS Inc.'s encoding technology is also incorporated into numerous commercial and professional video editing and DVD-creation software products. PEGASYS technologies have been bundled with quality products from top worldwide manufacturers, including Sony Japan and Pioneer. For information about PEGASYS Inc. and its products, visit the company's website at www.pegasys-inc.com.

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Music 2 Hues Announces New Flagship Series CD Release

Music 2 Hues, a leading supplier of Production Music & Sound Effects to the, Film, Video, Animation, & Multimedia Industries has just added a new Flagship Series CD release, and adding over 2000 music WAV file tracks for instant online download. 

Andy Wells, president of Music 2 Hues adds, "Our new Download Center offers our clients the ability to purchase individual tracks from all of our current Flagship Series Audio CD's, or entire Audio CD categories with just one click, and have the option to download all tracks instantly in either Mp3 or Wav file formats. For just one price, clients will get all the edited versions of any one music track, including the full length theme, and any 30 and 60 seconds versions when available". New production music will be added monthly.

ALSO JUST RELEASED:  Our newest Flagship CD title: "Classic Rock" is now shipping worldwide. 

"This release satisfies the needs of our clients that have been asking for a CD of pop rock and classic rock sounding music beds, for visual and multimedia support".

Visit our website for more information on these products: http://www.music2hues.com

Music 2 Hues is a leading supplier of Production Music & Sound Effects to the Pro Sound, Film, Video & Multimedia Industries.


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