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November 23, 2009

Table of Contents

Interviewing the Interviewers
Remembering Julian St Pierre
Sony Sound Series Downloadable Loops & Samples Collections Now Available At Retailers Nationwide
Buell Announces New Errors & Omissions Insurance for WEVA Members Covering Both Video & Photo Business
Get the Look of Sci-Fi Holograms with Holomatrix from Red Giant Software
Matrox Announces Windows 7 Support for the Matrox MXO2 Family of Professional I/O Devices
nanoFlash Enhanced with 280Mbps CODEC, 64GB Cards
Pegasys Introduces TMPGEnc KARMA..Plus
Switronix Releases NEW 3200K 75w Dimmable LED Light
Holophone PortaMic 5.1 and PortaMic PRO Models Now Shipping

Interviewing the Interviewers

One of the elements of traditional wedding and event videography that made it an easy target for its detractors, at least in the early days, was the infamous wedding reception interview. It played into the worst stereotypes of the old school videographer: the sweaty guy with the bulky equipment shoving microphones and blinding lights in the faces of unsuspecting guests who wanted nothing more than to finish their dinners in peace. Part of the problem was the equipment: You couldn’t do the job without the bulk or the light in those days, and you couldn’t put in a hard day’s work with that kind of gear without working up a major sweat. But the bigger problem was strategic: The reception was always a less-than-opportune time to do interviews, partly because being asked to improvise a few wise words for the bride and groom was annoying to all but the most attention-starved, and partly because the joyful frenzy of a typical wedding reception didn’t provide the most conducive circumstances for getting reflective, compelling responses—the sort of thing poet William Wordsworth described as “emotion recollected in tranquility.”

Of course, the first and most common solution videographers found for the bad rep associated with interviews was to stop doing them. The decline of the guest interview went hand in hand with the unobtrusiveness movement in wedding video, the retreat into the shadows that inspired the closest thing to a Hippocratic oath videographers have ever taken: “You won’t even know I’m there.”

But the problem with the unobtrusive, fly-on-the-wall approach is that in the absence of any more substantial connection to the event or the people involved, the objective, fly-on-the-wall stance leaves very little room for storytelling. After a while, most weddings start to look and play out the same from that remote spot on the wall.

In novels and feature films, there are two types of stories that can work equally well, depending on the particular strengths of the teller and the tale: plot-driven and character-driven. In the world of wedding videography—and its more story-oriented offspring, wedding filmmaking—we don’t have that kind of flexibility. The plot doesn’t change substantially from event to event, so the real story flows from the characters. It’s these characters’ personalities and their individual and shared experiences that give the event its real meaning, dimension, and uniqueness and will drive the film you make of it—that is, if you find a way to bring those characters to the forefront of your film through their own words and unique gestures.

Enter the modern-day wedding and event filmmaker’s interview. In the contemporary approach, interviews are done the day of the wedding, the day of the rehearsal, or in-studio or on-location before or after the event. The time or locale may vary, but it happens anywhere but the reception dinner table and always in an environment where the filmmaker has some control over the circumstances of the interview and can apply his or her own expertise in these scenarios to get results that serve as more than sound bites or filler—something more personal, revealing, and unique than the tired “You’ll always be my little girl” clichés. I spoke with four leading wedding and event filmmakers who have established their personal styles and reputations in the industry largely based on the compelling, revealing, funny, and moving stories they collect in their interviews with the key players in their events and the seamless and powerful ways they incorporate these interviews into the films they produce. The panel assembled for this article includes 2008 EventDV 25 honoree and Wedding Bee blogger William Gaff of Virginia-based HumanStory (www.humanstoryfilms.com); WedFACTION award-winning producer Kristen Turick of New York-based Artifact Documentaries (www.artifactdocumentaries.com); and two Boston-area standouts, 2009 WEVA Expo speaker Whit Wales of Whit Wales Wedding Films (www.walesfilms.com) and WEVA Hall of Famer, 2006 EventDV 25 honoree, and venerable video historian Hal Slifer of Hal Slifer Video (www.biographystories.com). Those are our interviewees; here come the questions.

How Did You Get Into Interviewing?
As with any other element of developing a unique style in this field, becoming an interviewing event filmmaker is part vision, part practice, part figuring out what you’re good at, and part carving out a distinctive niche in your market with the films you produce. As a videomaking pioneer in the Greater Boston market, Hal Slifer has been producing interview-driven “video histories” for a quarter-century, incorporating multiple generations of voices and characters into the concept, love story, and “legacy biography” films he screens at bar mitzvahs, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and other later-in- life events through interviews he conducts in his Newton, Mass., studio or other off-site (that is, non-event venue) locations. “It seems that everyone has a ‘history script’ playing inside their heads,” Slifer says, “and everyone loves to talk about their life.”

For Whit Wales (below), adding interviews was a matter of looking at his ever-evolving working style a few years back and discovering that he now had room for the interviewing element that he’d adopted and abandoned in his first wedding season when he “didn’t know any better.” Specifically, his return to interviewing happened when he realized that the time he spent with the family on the rehearsal day could easily lend itself to interviews. “As I did more destination weddings I found myself film- ing and then photographing more rehearsals as part of a wedding weekend. If I’m going to be present a day before the wedding, I thought, why not put me to work filming/ documenting the thoughts and emotions surrounding the event and the moments that had led up to it? I simply expanded this idea to set up time before the rehearsal to engage with the couple and their families, and it has evolved from there.”

Whit Wales, speaking at WEVA Expo 2009

For Kristen Turick, incorporating interviews was something she and her husband (and primary shooter) pursued as a way of making their films feel more like documentaries. “For our second wedding, we pitched the idea of doing a formal interview after the wedding. This interview would capture thoughts about the wedding day and the history of the couple’s lives together before they wed. It would then be woven into the film to tell a more complete story about one of the most momentous moments in their lives.” Several years on, she says, “the interviews have helped mold our documentary style. They add a genuine, honest, and real feel to our documentaries that would never be there if we didn’t include them.” Shooting these types of interviews and incorporating them into their documentary films, Turick says, enables her to work in the style of her primary influences and inspirations: documentarians Ira Glass, Morgan Spurlock, and … William Gaff.

Debbie and Bill's Opening Sequence from Artifact Documentaries on Vimeo.

Gaff says he simply brought his love for “interview-driven documentaries for both radio and film” with him when he started doing wedding films. “There is something about the honest and intimate quality of interviews that draw me into a story. I have been pulled into stories on subjects that I would have otherwise had no interest in because of the rhythms and nuances of a firsthand account told by someone with a deep emotional connection to the subject matter. While I had edited them for years,” he continues, “my first attempt at preparing for and conducting interviews was when I started working on a biography for my parents. When someone suggested I try shooting a wedding, I immediately wanted to incorporate some biographical storytelling element as an added layer to the films. While initial attempts were far from perfect, I really felt I was on to something special.”

Leaning in- an excerpt from Kristen's interview from William Gaff on Vimeo.

Who Do You Interview, When, Where, and For How Long?
Hal Slifer (below) may just have the most comprehensive interview program of anyone in the business. He uses interviews in all the types of personal event productions he does—love stories, concepts, biographies—and varies the number, type, and length, as well as how he goes about mixing them with event footage and humorous feature film clips, based on the type of film he’s creating. (For a more extensive explanation of Hal Slifer’s interview process and technique, see the sidebar, “A Few Minutes With Hal Slifer.”)

Video historian Hal Slifer

When producing a 40- to 60-minute “legacy biography” video that will be delivered after the event rather than presented during it, Slifer interviews not only the bride and groom (or the honoree in a bar or bat mitzvah or elder birthday celebration) but an assortment of family members. For a wedding- or event-day presentation, he sticks to the bride and groom only for a wedding, the bar or bat mitzvah child and parents for a mitzvah, and the honoree plus spouse and children for a birthday or retirement production. He conducts all interviews away from the event venue, prior to the event, either in front of a green screen in his studio (which allows his editors to add photographs to the backdrop), or—as in most love-story productions—some scenic location that has special meaning to the bride and groom.

“Many of our larger projects will have us interview 15–25 people beyond the immediate family,” Slifer says. “When this happens, not everyone will be able to make a major statement on the video. I learned quickly, in my career, that everyone must make the final cut or they get upset with our company. The people we interview have taken a half day off from work, bought a new suit, had their hair done, and expect lots of ‘air time.’ Many people get lost on the editing floor, so we have come up with a great formula. We tell people that we will produce an ‘A’ video and a ‘B’ video. The ‘A’ production is a short, entertaining sound-bite version and the ‘B’ version is a video of everything that everyone said. This way if someone watches the ‘A’ video and only sees two sentences of his 30-minute interview, he’ll know that the rest of his interview will still be seen by the honoree” in the “B” version.

Gaff usually does his interviews the day of the wedding, but he carefully manages his time to make sure the entire story can be covered in the array of interviews done that day. “We usually do about 6–10 interviews,” Gaff says. “The choice is made by the client and me, and is based upon their wishes and the needs of the story. We do a loose schedule depending on when we anticipate the subjects’ availabilities are throughout the day. If the interviews are done on the wedding day, we spend 10–15 minutes with each person. If they’re done in advance, they run from 20–60 minutes in length. Any more than that seems to tire people out.”

“We try not to disrupt the events of the day, so most of our ‘on-the-fly’ interviews happen before the ceremony takes place,” Turick says. “If we can, we’ll try to get an interview with the bride and groom and close friends and relatives, asking our couples in advance who wouldn’t mind being interviewed. Depending on how events unfold, we’ll try to grab as many interviews as we can throughout the day, setting them up as time and locations permit. Most times, these happen while we’re shooting the couple getting ready for the day. However, the nature of a live event, timing issues, logistics, and an overall flurry of activity make it difficult to grab great interviews. Sometimes they get interrupted and there’s often a lot of background noise, so it’s also hard to get clear audio at times. For this reason, we’ve started bringing along an audio engineer to ensure the best quality sound. We like to do formal interviews a couple weeks after the wedding in the couple’s home, as it is comfortable for them and it also adds a sense of nostalgia as they watch their film again and again throughout their lives.” These formal interviews, she says, may run 2 hours or longer.

How Do You Get Them Talking?
As Slifer has explained in his seminars and articles over the years, one of the great advantages of presenting interview-driven love stories at events is that it helps guests who may come from the bride’s side of the aisle get to know the groom (and vice versa), so they feel a more genuine connection to the couple they’ve come to celebrate. Helping the audience feel a real connection to a real person is one great advantage of incorporating interviews into a wedding film, but it’s not something you get simply by rolling the camera and saying “Talk to me.” As the interviewer and producer, you need to establish that connection first and engender the sort of trust that will bring out revealing and compelling stories. The stories and emotions come next; the sound bites simply follow.

The first step with any interviewee is creating a comfortable environment where your subjects feel like they can open up. Prescreening on both sides should help with that; if your work involves a lot of interviews and your prospective clients don’t want to talk on-screen (or in voice over), maybe they shouldn’t be booking you. But even a client who’s fully onboard with the process may need a certain amount of warm-up to feel at ease. “Each client has their comfort zone,” says Wales. “Some want nothing to do with speaking before the camera and sometimes you are a prisoner of your own success because clients see the work and say, ‘Oh, I could never be that articulate. I could never do that.’ I think it’s important to set the bar low. No expectations. I always say, ‘If this is not compelling, I’m happy to simply put the full interviews in a separate menu.’ Ultimately, I tell them, ‘These words will be important to you,’ and I believe that to be the case.”

“I tell my interviewees not to worry about the session, as I will only be asking them brief questions,” Slifer says. “Once they come to the studio we have a conversation outside the actual interview area. We casually talk about how they know the person being honored for the video. This way I get to hear what they might want to talk about. Once it’s time for the interview, I excuse myself by saying I have to go upstairs to change a tape. I tell them where the bathroom is and offer them something to drink. This way they can compose themselves before the big interview. Once the interview starts, on camera, I let them talk about anything and everything. They’ve been obsessing about this for a week or two and they have all sorts of information and long stories they want to tell. I let them go on nonstop for three to six minutes. None of this ever makes the final video, yet it allows them to get it out, and also gives me more information to home in on with my questions.”

Gaff (below) eschews the off-camera pre-interview in favor of a gradual on-camera easing in. “It’s all about easing them into storytelling mode as quickly as possible,” he says. “I start rolling right away while already engaged in conversation. They’re often not even aware we are recording. I let them know that we edit their interview and that they will not be on camera in the final production for long periods of time, making them look and sound awkward. Once people are allowed to get into their natural storytelling mode, the stories and emotions tend to flow a little better.”

2008 EventDV 25 honoree and Wedding Bee blogger William Gaff

There are a number of things that shooter/interviewers can do to make their subjects more comfortable, Gaff says. “During the interview we go through great efforts to ensure they are put at ease. An important part of this is giving them a sense of how the interview is being used. Another important part is de-emphasizing the presence of the tools we are using by not constantly fiddling with the camera, mics, or lights.”

Turick follows a similar approach. “We don’t do a pre-interview or send them questions as we prefer to get something that’s not rehearsed and more about the emotion,” she says. “The only thing we ask is that they try to be themselves and not worry about making their comments perfect. These interviews are conducted more like a conversation so that we can get the most genuine responses.”

While generally one to downplay the role of trendy gear in capturing meaningful stories in wedding films, Wales acknowledges that the Canon 5D Mark II comes in especially handy when he’s warming up an interview subject. “To wake them up, I’ll use my 5D not only to film but also to take some still shots. I think photography helps to grab people’s attention. Very often, it focuses them and gets them past that first hurdle of concern about you and the lens. When we take photos, we engage in a more direct dialogue with the subject, whereas when the film camera sits there flat—as it does so often in an interview situation—the immediacy can be drained out of the situation.”

Do You Go In With a List of Questions?
As with any other type of interviewing, it’s important to arrive at an interview well-prepared, whether you’re the interviewer or interviewee. But by and large, event filmmakers aren’t doing hard-hitting investigative reporting or coming in with a set agenda of must-cover topics. You’re simply trying to get your subjects to talk about themselves and their families in ways that will preserve the stories that are most worth preserving. But you’re also trying to create films worth watching, and at least to some degree that means applying your own expertise to draw out the stories you need to make that happen. Wales says he goes into an interview with a list of general questions, but he is always ready to let an interview take its own course. “The generalized nature of the questions allows for character to be revealed and contrasted” when integrating material from multiple interviews that may cover similar topics. “I discourage preparation; it simply raises the stakes and expectations for the person being filmed. I want the couple to feel as relaxed as possible and see this time as a confirming of our relationship on the wedding day.” (For a full list of Wales’ sample questions that he brings to an interview, see the sidebar, “16 Questions: The Whit Wales Interview Outline.”)

“Doing your homework ahead of time always makes for a much better interview,” Gaff says. “Our interviewees know of the topics ahead of time but are not given a list of questions. Such lists do not actually exist. It’s never about the questions, only the answers,” he explains. “This is an important point. You can almost always attribute a shallow, clichéd film to the fact that the interviewer came in with a list of questions. You want honest stories, not answers to questions. There’s a big difference.”

For Turick and Artifact Documentaries, the approach differs somewhat between on-the-fly interviews conducted on the wedding day and the more formal interviews she and her husband do after the fact. “We do always ask certain questions. How did they meet? What was the proposal like? When did they fall in love? We ask all these questions to gather insight into their personalities and get sound bites for the story that will form the backbone of their film. We like to do our formal interviews after the wedding, so that we can ask questions directly related to the day that can help put the puzzle together.”

Slifer says that for him, the prepared questions come in after the initial, open-ended 3- to 6-minute opening segment where he rolls the camera and the interviewees just talk. “Once they finish their rap, I know I’m ready to ask the questions I will need to make the production work. I am editing the info inside my mind as I talk to different people and I know what I need to let each interview segue into the next sound bite from another person.”

Turick adds that prepared questions should never get in the way of an interview that’s digging deep and bringing out strong emotions on its own. “I say let the emotion flow! You never know what you’re going to get, and it may be much better than any question we could ask. It can also lead you to discover new things about the couple and lead to asking further questions that may play into your story.”

Do You Ever Script Your Interviews or Interview for the Edit?
Like any element that takes you incrementally away from the straight-cuts, old-school wedding document, adding interviews means you have to look at your productions more subjectively, divine or construct a storyline from the events and the characters in your film, and assemble the building blocks of those stories in a way that will work on-screen. The challenge is that you’re not working with scripted or staged material, which means those pieces might not fall into place as neatly as you might like. I’ve encountered one very successful and accomplished wedding filmmaker in an online forum who says she “scripts” all her interviews from the rudiments of the story the bride and groom give her to make them work effectively and as part of a cohesive whole when she produces her film. How tempting is it to lead or direct your interviewees to certain talking points or turns of phrase that you know will add punch, drama, continuity, or seamlessness to your work?

“My bridal couples trust me,” Slifer says. “Usually, they’ve seen my work at another wedding or on the internet and want to have an experience like the wedding they were at. When the bridal couple comes to my office for their interview I show them footage of a ‘Wedding at the Wedding’ [same-day edit] where the audience is applauding and watching a production at a reception. I tell them I’m going to produce a video for them that will give their guests the same experience.

The bridal couple begins to feel comfortable with my direction and is ready for me to help guide them through the process, even if it means having them say a line again in a little different version because I asked them to. They want the production to be great and they trust my judgment.”

Gaff is opposed to any degree of scripting. “You may as well write it for them. This never works. You can say (and truly mean) something like, ‘I don’t fully understand that. Can you explain that to me again in another way?’ In my experience, [telling them what to say or how to say it] only results in flat, clichéd answers.”

Turick (below) agrees. “We’re slightly purists in that, shooting documentary style, we don’t interrupt an on-the-fly interview to get just the right phrasing. Our intent is to document the day as it happens, not to direct it. My job as an editor is to work those sound bites in the right way, to make them feel true and real. Our style relies heavily on capturing the events as they unfold and scripting interviews would lose some of the genuine, honest quality that we are able to portray in our films.”

Documentarian Kristen Turick

My Couples Don’t Finish Each Other’s Sentences; How Do You Get Yours to Finish Each Other’s Stories?
One of the coolest techniques used in interview-driven wedding films is the presentation of a single story in multiple voices, where the bride and groom or other enlisted storytellers are essentially building the same narrative in seamless succession. It’s easier said than done, of course, and if you try too hard to shoehorn your edit into this sort of approach, you risk producing the sort of formulaic, clichéd, or inauthentic filmmaking that Gaff warns against. The most obvious and common way to get the bride and groom to tell the same story separately is, of course, to interview them separately. And this approach has other advantages from a storytelling perspective, beyond the obvious he said/she said synergy. “With the bride and groom, it’s critical to separate them,” Wales says. “That’s part of the fun, adds a little bit of tension, uncertainty, and an opportunity to test one’s affirmation of the upcoming marital relationship. What is he/she saying about me? What am I saying about him or her? Very often the questions serve to ground couples and they comment to me that having engaged in this type of chat on the rehearsal day allows them to be much more prepared mentally for the wedding day.” But the idea that they’re contributing to a single storyline, Wales says, should be clear from the first time the couple sees his work. “The portfolio/samples clue them in. I’m basically trying to create a single narrative thread from multiple points of view.”

“Our ‘day-of’ interviews with the bride and groom are done separately primarily for logistical reasons,” Turick says. “But we also love the raw emotion that happens early on in the day, and find that interviewing the couple separately gives us insight into their individual personalities that we can then use in the documentary to help the viewer get to know them better. The exception to this is our formal interviews (conducted a couple of weeks after the wedding) in which we interview the bride and groom together. Where they can feed off each other recalling events of the day, how they met, and so on—this is also where a lot of the humor starts to come into play.”

Wales says it’s important to listen for the threads of the stories coming together as the interviews progress; by doing so you can help build connections in the storylines without necessarily forcing them. “It’s important to listen carefully, and if the bride raises an issue, a moment, make sure and follow up with the groom. If other family members are involved, build that moment into the thread.”

How Do You Pick the Stories and Sound Bites You Use and Weave Your Raw Interview Elements into Your Films?
In the just-published Last Night at Twisted River, in one of the defining lines of his long and storied career, novelist John Irving writes, “A writer’s job [is] imagining, truly, a whole story ... because real-life stories [are] never whole, never complete in the way that novels [can] be.”

Likewise, it’s a documentary filmmaker’s job, arguably, to give a story, however fragmented or diffuse, a sense of “wholeness” by matching up its essential elements in a way that’s true to the life stories being told but more cohesively assembled than the way they initially unfolded or came out in the interviews. The matching and connecting are ultimately the editor’s job; a key point in the interview-to-story-to-film process is when you start listening to your interviews to see how they’ll ultimately fit together. For Hal Slifer, this process often starts during the interviews themselves, when he begins to hear how the film will come together. “Luckily I have a good memory, and as I get involved with the different people I interview I start a theme, in my mind, of the finished story,” he says. “I let people tell me anything and everything, yet at the end of the interview I will go back and get the five or six essential sound bites that I know will flow with the other sound bites that are running in the script, in my mind.”

“I listen for themes and stories that can be used in the final edit,” Gaff says. “More often, though, I’m listening for the unique and real comments and observations of each person. I’m never sure how they will fit together until the edit, but because the interview is a discovery process, I am shaping a picture in my mind and refining it as we go along.

“There are ‘A-ha!’ moments during the interview where I think, ‘I know that will work/connect,’ but I don’t worry about trying to create or shape a result,” Gaff continues. “I simply have faith that if I can allow people to be comfortable and honestly address intimate and emotional issues openly, good things will come from that.”

Bill Gaff interviewing

But not everyone is going to see clear storylines emerging—particularly storylines that can be intermingled effectively with all the other elements of a wedding video—in their first forays into interviewing. Trusting too much in the process isn’t necessarily a good idea when you’re new to it. “If you haven’t done a great deal of interviewing couples before,” Wales cautions, “I would suggest lowering expectations for yourself as well. Better to keep things simple and then let growth evolve rather than overreaching with the first effort that may stymie further inquiry in the form. What I love about the medium is that it can be forgiving: You can solve a lot with shrewd editing and more importantly, you have close to immediate feedback on what you’ve just filmed to be able to learn from each shoot.” 

And on the editing end, there is a lot to learn. After all, you’re not just piecing together interviews. With productions created to capture not just the interviews but the wedding or event itself, you’re potentially mixing interview clips, voice overs, live footage and audio from the day, a soundtrack, and more—a potentially overwhelming challenge. The key, to Gaff, is to deal with the audio elements first. “Once I have the interview stringout done, I will do what is called a ‘radio edit,’ where I only worry about interviews, significant natural sound, and music. Not the visuals. This gives you a better idea of content, flow, and feel. It’s too easy for the music to overpower the story, but when you have a good balance, it’s truly amazing.”

Another important element of balance is found in varying the length and rhythm of the sound bites you use. “I like to think that I’m building a series of sound bites that create a longer sentence,” Wales says. “But I do try to vary the length of the phrases. And when a moment of breath or extended phrasing is called for, I like to push what I consider the limit of comfort with how long a thought might go on. It makes me a little nervous when I do it; I, as the viewer, don’t know how and if this is going to end tightly or nicely.

Vantage Point Custom Films' Laura Moses, being interviewed by Whit Wales

But I like that suspense. And from an aesthetic point of view,” he continues, “I don’t bind myself to the soundtrack. By separating the words and the story, I’m not held to the music.” For Turick, the length or cadence of an interview bite is all about context. “It really depends on how the interview is being used at a particular moment. Sometimes the story needs to breathe and we need to see the couple, so we might hang on the interview for a bit in order to see facial expressions and mannerisms that contribute to us getting to know the couple. If I’m putting footage over an interview segment that doesn’t have underlying music, we’ll generally let the shots hang longer as it feels more comfortable for the viewer. But in any case,” she continues, “the interviews and the music never dictate our decisions. We go through an extraordinarily long music selection process, and will often replace songs two or three times as the edit comes together until everything feels just right and we feel that the entire story is a cohesive whole. The interviews fit in the same way. Sometimes, what might, at first, sound like a great moment in an interview, ultimately doesn’t fit with anything else we’re cutting. If it distracts from the flow of the story, as good as it may be, we think it’s best to leave it out of the documentary. But the couple always has all the interview on another DVD we provide them.”

A still from a formal interview by Kristen Turick

What Are the Most Challenging Interview Situations You Face, and How Do You Deal With Them?
At times, all the preparation, warm-up, and experience in the world aren’t going to make an interview run smoothly or play out well in the final edit. You’ll have interviewees who, for all your best efforts, won’t open up or aren’t inclined to catchy or compelling turns of phrase. Others will simply stop after a particular remark or anecdote and say, “Don’t use that.” All manner of other challenging interview situations may arise. What situations are out there looming, in terms of the foreseeable unforeseen, and how should they be handled?

“Bridal couples are fine to work with and there are never any issues with them, as they both are into my productions,” Slifer says. “I have had times when the Bar Mitzvah boy has a melt- down because his mom is sitting in the room telling him to say the line again—so now I don’t have moms in the room with the Bar Mitzvah boy anymore. To get around a Bar or Bat Mitzvah meltdown, I tell the parents to allow their child to have the school day off or at least half of the day off and to take them out to lunch so the child is feeling special and in a good mood by the time they come to my studio,” Slifer continues. “On a side note, I always have a parent in the room when I interview a Bat Mitzvah girl, and I never place a wireless mic on a bride or a Bat Mitzvah girl, as someone could say I touched them inappropriately. I always have the groom or parent put the mic on a bride or a Bat Mitzvah girl, as someone could say I touched them inappropriately. I always have the groom or parent put the mic on a bride or young girl. I charge my interviews by the hour, so if a child is having a meltdown, it’s on the clock, and the parents are aware of my investment fees. When I have three or more different Bar Mitzvah interviews lined up, I set aside time so that I can have my own, off-camera meltdown at the end of the day.” 

Often, the problem is camera-shyness, a more general reticence with the interview process, or the simple reality that eloquent storytelling isn’t a particular subject’s forte. “Most of our couples come to us because they like the interviews and would like them incorporated into their film,” Turick says. “So at least with our formal interviews, we never have issues with the bride and groom not giving us anything good to work with. However, if an impromptu interview doesn’t seem to be revealing much or the subject just felt uncomfortable, then we might cut the interview short and see what we can do with it in post. More often than not, though, it’s not their discomfort that’s the issue, it’s the natural tendency of people wanting to respond with one- or two-word answers that makes it challenging. We do try to coach them to repeat the question in their answers, but they often get so swept up in the excitement that they forget. Regardless, we still almost always get something that we can work with in post.”

“The few times in which interviews have not been in the primary edit,” Wales says, “it’s been due to linguistic issues that would have placed the struggle of language over content. Ultimately, this would have overshadowed the wedding video itself. Ironically, I think that in 30 years, to look back at one’s grandparents—whom one may or may not have known and now have access to only through a wedding video—what a mind-blower it will be to see that two generations earlier, they were struggling with the English language and were so direct in their assessments about success and goodness.”

The important thing, Wales maintains, is to find the “good” interview in the “bad” one, because every interviewee, however ineloquent, is a character in your character-driven story. “Even a ‘non-character’ is a character,” Wales says. “Sometimes all the more so. The medium of film or video is extremely delicate and unforgiving to anything disingenuous. It amplifies it a thousand times. But it also rewards generously that which is real. We can watch it for days. It’s not what’s being said, but how it’s being said, and if that isn’t your point of view in this process, I think you’re missing out.”

Sidebar: How Do You Shoot and Light Your Interviews?
As you’ve probably guessed, this isn’t an article about the technical aspects of shooting interviews. There are plenty of good resources on this topic; a great place to start is an instructional DVD I reviewed in 2007, Doug Jensen’s How to Setup, Light, & Shoot Great-Looking Interviews. It sells for only $40; provides great tips on key topics such as interviewee positioning and three-point lighting, as well as insight on why these things are important; and is available from www.vortexmedia.com.

Of course, what Jensen’s DVD doesn’t tell you is how William Gaff, Hal Slifer, Kristen Turick, and Whit Wales set up, light, and shoot their interviews (or how they get clear, strong audio, which is crucial), and how they attune the tech side of their interviewing to their respective filmmaking styles.

Hal Slifer interviewing

Here’s a quick rundown from each of them:

William Gaff: I just do straight, film-style, single-camera shooting. I use natural available light or simple off-camera light that looks as natural as possible. I don’t use multi-camera, overstylized looks, or editing gimmicks. All of those things remove the honest connection between the viewer and the subject.

Hal Slifer: I use one camera and separate soft light box. I have a monitor that I’m looking at during the interview, and I show the interviewees what they look like, on the monitor, before we start shooting. I don’t get that involved with two cameras, as most of my productions are headshots edited with many photos of the story that the person is voicing over. As for what I use in the final edit, the ratio is roughly one-third talking head shot and two-thirds images over their voice.

Kristen Turick: Jeff, my husband and partner, is our main shooter. As a director of photography and cameraman for nearly 20 years, he has shot and lit many interviews, so he shoots our formal interviews, which might be lit with anywhere from three to five lights in order to strike a nice balance between the lighting of the subjects and creating a mood. For these formal interviews, which we like to do in the couple’s home, the bride and groom are always mic’d with wireless lavalieres and shot with two cameras—one wide, one tight. For on-the-fly (day-of) interviews, we scope out a good place where we can get nice light and often have some activity going on in the background. For example, in one of our films we interviewed the maid of honor while the bride was having photos taken in the background. This was a great play, in that we were able to get sound bites talking about how gorgeous the bride looked, while in the background the bride was having the photo shoot of her life. We usually just use a shotgun mic on these.

Whit Wales: I shoot most of my interviews single-cam. I frame left and right but not talking to each other. I look for window light. I focus on foreground close-up primacy, long end of the lens, distance, and depth of field. I pop out the subject in the foreground with a lovely bokeh background. I shoot for a natural, tasteful, balanced, non-studio look.

Sidebar: A Few Minutes With Hal Slifer
For productions that we produce that are shown at an event such as a Wedding at a Wedding, A Bar Mitzvah History or a birthday or retirement party, we realize we have a limited time element to showing the video. Usually these videos are shown towards the end of dinner and need to be no shorter than 8 minutes yet no longer than 15 minutes. These types of videos are produced to entertain the guests different than a Biography Video that can be 40–60 minutes long that is produced for the private enjoyment of family members. Knowing that we have a time constraint, we usually only interview the bride and groom, The Bar Mitzvah boy and his parents or just the honoree of a birthday or retirement and their mate and children.

Our interviews are based on time, money, and the location of the interview. For our bridal interviews we want to get a history of how they met. At first we used to take them on location to a beautiful park or where they first met yet this was time consuming. We realized that the audience enjoys hearing their story yet they do not have to see them on location. Instead of a four-hour shoot, we brought it down to a one-hour shoot. The location, at my office with a backdrop, is not creative, but we edit in many photographs as the bride and groom voiceover their history to make the production enjoyable. At first, when we decided to interview the bridal couple at the studio and not on location, we thought this would hurt the quality of the production, yet the audience did not care as long as the story was enjoyable and the photographs, and funny Hollywood movie clips, showcased the love between the bride and groom.

Before the interview session, I have the bride and groom tell me how they met. Once I hear the story I then tell them what I heard and what was the highlight of the story. This way we can take away all of the extraneous parts and go after what the audience wants to hear. I give the bridal couple a few minutes to discuss their stories as I want them to have some time to themselves. I usually tell them I have to set up some equipment as an excuse to give then time to relax and digest what they are going to say.

Once they come to my greenscreen room, I interview them privately and ask each of them the same questions that I have gathered from their conversations.

Most of the videos I show at events include funny movie scenes and television clips that correspond to the story of the wedding, Bar Mitzvah, or retirement party. I will help the interviewee stage their lines so the funny clip will fit the story.

When we produce a Biography Story that will become a longer family heirloom, we do not script the interviewee as much as we do when we are preparing an event video.

For those types of videos, we interview anyone and everyone that is part of the family and friends of the person whose life we are producing. We have a prescripting session with the person who is paying the bill to find out what type of budget they have for us to create their family masterpiece. If they are on a tight budget we do less interviews with people at our office; if they have a large budget we will interview everyone on their list at whatever location they like, usually at a home or a rented hotel room.

Many times the production is a surprise for the birthday or anniversary couple and we try and interview the honoree by telling them it’s for someone else’s family history that a family member won at a church auction or company outing. We once did a large production for an accountant who was retiring and we told him his interview was part of a larger product where we were interviewing many accountants as a mentoring program for new accountants. We sprinkled in many questions about accounting and just enough questions about his life and history so that he was not aware we were really producing a surprise video of his life for his family.

For the Biography Story, we ask the paying client what questions should we ask and also what questions should we stay away from. Our basic questions deal with the following chapters of one's life:

  • Parents of the honoree and their history
  • Where the honoree was born and his childhood
  • High school and college
  • Meeting and getting married
  • Raising a family
  • Business and community
  • Travel and friends
  • Looking back on one’s life
  • We are given a list of people to interview and which chapters that person can talk to.

    —Hal Slifer

    16 Questions: The Whit Wales Interview Outline
    Here are the questions I provide to couple and parents, Not much to them, really.

    For the couple:

    1. How are you feeling now—the day before the wedding?
    2. When did you first meet? What did you first think of each other?
    3. What was the moment when you thought your relationship was something special?
    4. When did you know that it was for a lifetime?
    5. What do you most value about...? What special qualities, characteristics?
    6. What should the world know about...?
    7. How are you different? How are you alike?
    8. What do you hope for in this marriage?
    9. What do you want to say to the future?
    10. What do you want to say to your parents?

    For the parents:

    1. How are you feeling at this moment?
    2. What was … like as a small child?
    3. What qualities do you most appreciate in …?
    4. When did you perceive that their relationship was different?
    5. What do you like most about your future child in-law?
    6. What advice—based on your experiences—would you offer to …?
    7. What are your hopes for … as a couple?
    8. Finish the sentence, "On the day _______ was born..."

    —Whit Wales

    Stephen Nathans-Kelly (stephen.nathans at infotoday.com) is editor-in-chief of EventDV and programming director of EventDV-TV.

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    Remembering Julian St Pierre

    This article is a remembrance of In[Focus] co-founder and longtime industry leader Julian St Pierre, who passed away in his sleep in the early morning hours of November 9, 2010. The tribute is written by Julian's fellow EventDV 25 honoree and longtime colleague and close family friend Trisha Von Lanken of Von Wedding Films. For more on Julian, click here.

    We knew Terry T as she was known on Video University back in our early days of our business. While at WEVA in 2001, we got wind that Terry T had married this shady character named Julian St Pierre while in Vegas and he was just riding on her coattails. We didn't know Julian, and hoped the best for Terry.

    But time passed and we discovered that Julian was far from shady. He was the best thing that could have happened to our dear Terry T from VU. He took their business to several new levels, from the Wedding Planning Experience TV show to the web marketing, Julian took over the business to free Terry and Joe to be the creative artists.

    I will never forget the day that Julian us called after Katrina hit; we were in Dallas on business. He called and said, "Can you get us a hotel in Texas?" Because they didn't have power, they were having to limit the use of their cell phones to conserve their batteries.

    I did make a few calls, but couldn't come up with a room, as hotel rooms were very scarce due to Katrina. So I said to him, "Come to Tulsa, you can stay with us." I did so without consulting Mark, but I knew it would be okay, and it was. So in came Terry, Julian, and Storm their cat. Joe joined us a few days later.

    During the time they spent with us, Julian paced like a caged lion when he talked on the phone. Even with his Bluetooth, I swore he wore a path in my carpet when they stayed in Tulsa. And talk on the phone was something he did a lot.

    Julian was so happy to get his computer up and going at our home. Without his computer, he felt like he was cut off from his world of communication. Once it was up and running, he was almost giddy.

    They stopped by an office supply store to pick something up a day or so after arriving in Tulsa. When checking out, the cashier asked them their zip code, which caught them a little off guard, having just arrived. Julian was a little slow to respond, saying, "Well, we don't have one right now. We're homeless because of Katrina." The cashier quickly apologized and then asked for their address, and again they responded, "Our address isn't getting mail right now," to which the cashier quickly apologized again. They got a good laugh out of it. And at that time they need to laugh. It was a very stressful time.

    Just after the initial onset of Hurricane Katrina had passed and Julian thought all was well, he had walked from their home to their studio to see how it had weathered the storm. On the walk back, people were running by him. He stopped someone and asked what was going on. The person said, "The levies were breaking and water is coming into the city. You need to get out of the city now before it's too late and there is no way out."

    Julian realized he was going to have to go and get his car, which was parked about 18 blocks away in a parking garage during the storm. Well, you have to know a little bit about Julian to understand what this meant to him-he wasn't a fan of long walks. So the thought of making the trek was something he very much dreaded, however necessary. But he made it a brisk walk that morning, which was agony for Julian. I can hear him huffing and puffing now. But once he got to the garage the gate was locked. There was a woman attendant with a small child, and he pleaded and begged her to let him get in to retrieve his car. She refused to let him get his car, saying she was told not to let anyone in or out. He told her the city was about to be flooded and she and her child needed to get out before there was no way out of the city. She still refused, so Julian picked up a metal bar off the ground and threatened the woman, saying that he was going to break the window separating him and her. Now you have to know that this was not Julian's way of doing things at all. He had no intention of hurting the woman, but he knew that if he didn't get out of town quick, the only way out was by helicopter, and this, of course, was just as true for this woman staying put with her child and protecting her employer's parking garage as it was for him. Needless to say, she decided to let him get his car. He again encouraged her to leave. Later on, reminiscing with Mark and me, he said she hoped she took his advice.

    We were so impressed with Terry and Julian's resilience and resolve throughout their stretch of homelessness. In all that time, they never looked for handouts, and they always wanted to work. From the minute Julian set his computer up in our home, he went to work, drumming up jobs for himself, Terry, and Joe.

    After a short time when they considered relocating to Dallas where good opportunities awaited them, Julian and Terry and Joe decided to go home and rebuild their business and the wedding industry in their hometown. After they found a new apartment/studio in the French Quarter and took up residence in New Orleans following Katrina, gifts would show up on our doorstep with notes thanking us for taking them in during their time of need. We will never forget the New Orleans Kings Cake that showed up one day. Julian was a gift-giver; it was his love language.

    Julian had a gift for communicating. He could talk, but he also was a good listener. I always admired his writing skills. He could write so well and so efficiently, he would nail it so many times. I used to tease him that I would just have him write all my marketing info. In the early days of mass emailing, we used to spell-check each other's mass emails to brides. He always found my mistakes. He rarely made any mistakes for me to catch, but I gleaned a lot from his writing.

    Since Julian and I both handled more of the business and marketing sides of our respective businesses, Terry and Mark would compare notes on straying off their editing to check in on what was happening on the web forums, only to have Julian or me catch them reading or posting and insist they get back to editing. This became especially obvious when those messages started hitting the inbox saying someone had replied to their post.

    Julian and Terry loved what most would consider hole-in-the-wall restaurants. They would be the first to admit it too. Julian loved to eat breakfast and said that going out for breakfast was his and Terry's quality time together each day. We always looked forward to Please U (Julian and Terry's Monday-Saturday breakfast spot) and "the pancake place" (their Sunday Breakfast spot) when visiting them in New Orleans.

    From hanging out with them at conventions, to having Terry and Julian in our home and visiting them on several occasions in the city they love, New Orleans, this friendship has been a journey we wouldn't think of trading. We will miss all those long phone conversations, and Julian's driving ambition, but what we'll miss most of all seeing the way he loved Terry.

    Trisha Von Lanken, a four-time EventDV 25 honoree, runs Von Wedding Films with her husband, Mark.

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    Sony Sound Series Downloadable Loops & Samples Collections Now Available At Retailers Nationwide

    Sony Creative Software, a leading provider of professional video and audio production applications, today announced that nationwide retailers are offering download codes for Sony Sound Series Loops & Samples in-store.

    Sound Series Downloadable Loops & Samples collections offer customers seeking audio content for music and movies easy access to over 100 exclusive royalty-free Sony titles available in three tiers: Premium, Standard, and Classic. The Premium Collection tier features 24-bit sound and exclusive special extras, while the Standard Collection harbors the largest number of titles as well as the newest releases. The Classic Collection offers legacy titles and recent, download-only reissues.

    Each Downloadable Loops & Samples box product contains a card bearing a unique code used to download one Sound Series title from http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/loopdownload. A streamlined download process requires no registration, login, or password; customers simply enter their code and are taken directly to the specific tier (Premium, Standard or Classic) where all available titles can be explored and auditioned. After choosing a title, the content is downloaded directly for immediate use.

    "Similar to a gift card, customers now have a convenient 'access pass' to easily acquire Sony Sound Series libraries. With over a hundred titles to choose from, this delivery option provides an efficient way for consumers to access these popular collections," said Dave Chaimson, Sony Creative Software Vice President of worldwide marketing. "Our Sound Series catalog of audio samples has been building for more than a decade and continues to grow, so we're pleased that the process of browsing and acquiring our content is now easier than ever."

    Price and Availability
    Sony Sound Series Loops & Samples download cards are now available at retailers nationwide, and are priced at $59.95 (Premium Collection), $39.95 (Standard Collection) and $29.95 (Classic Collection).

    About Sony Creative Software
    Sony Creative Software inspires artistic expression with its award-winning line of products for digital video, music, DVD, and audio production. The company develops applications that integrate with and enhance use of Sony cameras and other hardware devices. Sony Creative Software customers span the globe and include seasoned professionals in the film, television, video game, and recording industries, as well as students, educators, hobbyists, and enthusiasts. For more information about professional and consumer products, visit http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com.

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    Buell Announces New Errors & Omissions Insurance for WEVA Members Covering Both Video & Photo Business

    Buell Insurance, the provider of group business insurance for WEVA members for over a decade, today announced the introduction of low-cost Errors & Omissions (E&O) Insurance exclusive for WEVA members and custom-tailored to address the unique, professional liability risks that both videographers and digital imagers face in serving today's wedding and event marketplace.

    E&O insurance, which is different from general liability and difficult for wedding and event video professionals to obtain individually, is now affordable through a new group program specifically designed for WEVA members and includes coverage for both video and photographic work.

    Available now through Buell Insurance, the new Videographers/Photographers Errors & Omissions Insurance is underwritten by CNA, and provides comprehensive professional liability coverage designed to help safeguard businesses, protect reputations, and preserve customer relationships. "All E&O coverages are backed by CNA's risk control resources and claim service, which are among the strongest in the industry," said Brad Buell president of Buell Insurance.

    "Video professionals and digital imagers often ask, what is E&O insurance and why do I need it to protect my business if I already have general liability insurance? General liability covers injuries and accidents. E&O insurance is professional liability coverage, often known as 'peace of mind insurance' since it covers professional matters, not covered under general liability, including a missed event, contract disputes, lost or damaged footage/photos, dispute over the final product, a lawsuit for negligence, equipment failure, and other professional liability matters," said Buell.

    "With the new Errors & Omissions insurance program in place, we are pleased WEVA members can finally obtain a complete, and cost-effective, business insurance package that includes the three key coverages for event video and photographic work -- including E&O insurance, General Liability insurance, and Equipment insurance," said WEVA International chairman Roy Chapman. "E&O insurance is now available as an add-on or in an all-in-one package of insurance coverages that is convenient, comprehensive, and affordable for WEVA members, and underwritten by an AM Best A-rated carrier. The availability of all-in-one packaging by a major insurance underwriter is an industry breakthrough -- and a new money-saving benefit, and exclusive business advantage for WEVA members."

    An industry groundbreaker, the new business coverage has needed to undergo state-by-state approval. "Currently the coverage is approved in 20 states with new states being added every day," Buell relates. "Our goal is to have all 48 states in the Continental U.S by the first part of 2010." Buell notes the new CNA coverage is already approved and being written for WEVA members in the following states:

    Arizona
    Colorado
    Connecticut
    Illinois
    Indiana
    Maryland
    Michigan
    Minnesota
    Missouri
    North Carolina
    New Mexico
    New Jersey
    Nevada
    Pennsylvania
    South Carolina
    Tennessee
    Washington DC
    Kentucky
    Texas
    Utah
    California (state approval coming January, 2010)
    New Hampshire (state approval coming December, 2009)

    For more information, including a quote on CNA's specialized coverages for videographers and digital imagers available only to members of WEVA, contact Brad Buell at Buell Insurance, 800-842-8355 or email brad@buellinsurance.com and visit Buell Insurance online at www.buellinsurance.com/weva.php.

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    Get the Look of Sci-Fi Holograms with Holomatrix from Red Giant Software

    Red Giant Software has released Holomatrix, a new After Effects plug-in that lets you control your reality and offers a new dimension in effect generation.

    Many science fiction feature films and TV shows feature holographic communication and interfaces. Red Giant Holomatrix allows you to easily recreate that effect with just a few clicks. The package includes 30 presets that turn ordinary footage into animated sci-fi holograms, mimics bad TV reception and creates realistic looking digital signage. Designed by After Effects gurus Dan Ebberts and Aharon Rabinowitz, Holomatrix is available now for $99. Holomatrix is also being offered with Digieffects Damage for a total of $149 (save $49). See Pricing and Availability section for more information.

    "My inspiration for Holomatrix began years ago when I was working on a hologram tutorial. It was very simple, and I was never really happy with the end result. The look I wanted required hours of setup work and animation time. But, thanks to Dan Ebberts and his coding skills, we're now able to turn hours of work into seconds. We're excited to share the product with you," said Aharon Rabinowitz, Director at All Bets Are Off Productions and Director of Marketing at Red Giant Software.

    QUICK LINKS

    * For additional product information visit, http://www.redgiantsoftware.com/products/categories/motion-graphics/holomatrix
    * View video examples at http://www.redgiantsoftware.com/products/all/holomatrix/examples/
    * Learn how to use Holomatrix with three introductory tutorials at http://www.redgiantsoftware.com/videos/tutorials/

    HIGHLIGHTS

    * Transmissions from a Galaxy Far, Far Away Recreate the holographic looks you loved in sci-fi productions like Star Wars and Star Trek, or make your keyed actors look like the Hogwarts ghosts from Harry Potter. Great for logo treatments and other motion graphic elements.

    * Digital Signs and Screens Get your futuristic funk on with jerky, dystopic Blade Runner-like digital signage, enhance the look of your virtual heads-up displays with different effects and behaviors, or give your perfectly clean visuals a gritty, hyper-digital feel.

    * Bad Reception Video isn't always pretty - kick it old school by giving your footage a "bad TV" look. With features like color noise, static, TV roll, image ghosting and color separation, you're ready to go from good to bad. Effects can be randomized, or you can keyframe the effect's on/off switches for total control.

    WHY TO BUY

    * Save hours of setup and animation time with sophisticated presets.
    * Make your footage look like holograms, ghosts, digital signs or bad TV.
    * Advanced properties let you control of the look, timing and placement of random effects.

    PRICING AND AVAILABILITY

    * Holomatrix supports After Effects CS3/4. The toolset is available for $99 at http://www.redgiantsoftware.com.
    * New Bundle: Red Giant Holomatrix and Digieffects Damage are available for $149 (Save $49). Digieffects Damage is a collection of four effects designed for post production professionals who want to create an extensive variety of digital and/or analog defects, errors and artifacts in their footage. It supports Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Autodesk Combustion and Boris RED. For more information, visit http://digieffects.com/product/damage

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    Matrox Announces Windows 7 Support for the Matrox MXO2 Family of Professional I/O Devices

    Matrox® Video Products Group today announced Windows 7 support for Matrox MXO2 LE, MXO2 and MXO2 Rack. The Matrox MXO2 family of I/O devices streamlines editing with Adobe CS4 Production Premium. These devices provide all the features of an I/O card in a sturdy breakout box with professional audio and video connectivity. The Matrox MXO2 devices are also available with Matrox MAX technology for accelerated H.264 file creation using Adobe Media Encoder.

    "The entire Matrox MXO2 product line is now cross platform - PC and Mac - as well as laptop and desktop, and can easily be moved among the editing stations in a facility or taken on the road," said Alberto Cieri, Matrox senior sales and marketing director. "Not only do these products meet the needs of content creators for input, output, and monitoring, they also speed up delivery to today's digital formats. Creating Blu-ray discs and video for the web and mobile devices is much faster than ever before with Matrox MAX H.264 encoding technology."

    Key features of Matrox MXO2 LE, MXO2, and MXO2 Rack on the PC

    * Works with Windows 7 (64-bit), Windows Vista (32- and 64-bit), Windows XP (32-bit) laptops and desktops
    * HD/SD SDI, HDMI, HD/SD analog component, Y/C, and composite inputs and outputs
    * Genlock - SD analog black burst (bi-level) or HD tri-level sync
    * Unique Matrox calibration controls for 10-bit HDMI monitoring including blue-only
    * 10-bit realtime hardware downscaling on output
    * Professional audio inputs and outputs
    * Works with all the codecs supported by Adobe Premiere Pro including AVCHD, HDV, DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO50, DVCPRO, and DV
    * Captures to HD and SD codecs - 8- and 10-bit uncompressed and highly efficient Matrox MPEG-2 I-frame
    * Includes Matrox A/V Tools, an easy-to-use application for fast capture/playback of audio, video, and still frames
    * File-based workflow support - XDCAM, XDCAM HD, XDCAM EX, P2, P2HD
    * RED workflow support
    * Works with Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 4.2 and provides WYSIWYG support for popular motion graphics, animation, and compositing applications

    * Also available with Matrox MAX technology for accelerated H.264 encoding with Adobe Media Encoder CS4 4.2
    * Three-year hardware warranty and complimentary telephone support

    Price and availability
    Matrox products are available through a worldwide network of authorized dealers. Windows 7 drivers are available free of charge from the Matrox website for registered owners of Matrox MXO2 Mini, Matrox MXO2 LE, Matrox MXO2, Matrox MXO2 Rack and Matrox CompressHD.

    www.matrox.com/video

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    nanoFlash Enhanced with 280Mbps CODEC, 64GB Cards

    Convergent Design will release this week new firmware adding a 280 Mbps I-Frame-Only CODEC for their popular nanoFlash HD/SD recorder/player. Additionally, the company qualified three new 64GB Compact Flash cards, doubling the record/playback time.

    The nanoFlash is easily the world's smallest, lightest-weight, lowest-power, professional HD/SD recorder / player. nanoFlash utilizes the very high-quality Sony XDCAM 422 (MPEG2) CODEC to record video and uncompressed audio onto cost-effective Compact Flash media.

    This camcorder-mountable unit is arguable one of the most rugged (all aluminum case) and reliable (all solid-state) recorder/player now available. It's also one of the most versatile recorders, offering bit-rates ranging from 18Mbps (proxy) to 280 Mbps (master quality) in HD and 5 Mbps to 50 Mbps (IMX) in SD; recorded in MPG, MXF or MOV file formats. The MPG format can enhance the creation of DVD or Blu-Ray disks by eliminating lengthy video re-encoding; while the MXF format enables compatibility with Adobe CS3/4, Avid, Final Cut Pro, Edius, Matrox Axio, and Sony Vegas. The MOV format is ideal for Final Cut Pro users; but Convergent also offers a free MOV -> MXF converter if you need to create files for PC based editing.

    Besides the new 280 Mbps I-Frame Only mode, Convergent also increased their Long-GOP CODEC to 180 Mbps. For reference, I-Frame compression only considers spatial redundancies (within a given frame), while the more sophisticated MPEG2 Long-GOP considers both spatial and temporal redundancies (frame to frame). Comprehensive testing has shown that Long-GOP is typically 2 to 3 times more efficient than I-Frame-Only. So 180 Mbps Long-GOP is roughly equivalent to 400 Mbps I-Frame, thus providing the highest possible quality from the nanoFlash. However, some users prefer I-Frame only, so the nanoFlash uniquely offers Long-GOP and I-Frame modes; both providing visually lossless recording/playback.

    These high bit-rates were enabled via a new proprietary Compact Flash I/O algorithm, recently developed by Convergent Design. This new approach improved the card read/write speeds by about 25%, opening the window for higher-quality video/audio recording. Furthermore, on the heels of these higher speeds, comes news of three new 64GB Compact Flash cards, recently qualified for use with the nanoFlash: the Sandisk Extreme Pro, the PhotoFast 533X and the Delkin 402X Pro. These new cards double the record capacity of the nanoFlash to previously unimaginable levels. For example, using the high-quality 50 Mbps XDCAM 422 CODEC, the nanoFlash can continuously record 5.5 hours of video/audio on a single load of two Compact Flash cards. In 18 Mbps (proxy mode) the time stretches to almost 15 hours, while at the 280 Mbps level, users can still enjoy one full hour of uninterrupted record time.

    "In just 3 months, Convergent Design has delivered over 550 nanoFlash recorder/players to a wide variety of users and applications, including upgrading the quality of existing cameras, users transitioning to tapeless workflow, and for use with POV and underwater cameras. The nanoFlash has a proven reliability record. Examples include applications in helium balloons shoots at 98,000 feet and -75 degrees F., acrobatic airplanes pulling 12 G's, deep-sea underwater dives, and in the hot-humid rain forests of Papua New Guinea", noted Mike Schell, President of Convergent Design.

    More information is available at http://www.convergent-design.com

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    Pegasys Introduces TMPGEnc KARMA..Plus

    Pegasys, Inc., the company that makes digital video easy, announces the availability of TMPGEnc KARMA..Plus.

    The new software makes it easy to organize any growing digital video collection and supports NVIDIA CUDA technology for decoding MPEG-1/2 and H.264 video, filter processing and encoding video in the H.264/AVC format. It is available now and priced at $39.95 or $29.95 for those who already own a registered TMPGEnc product.

    "Due to the popularity of our free version of TMPG KARMA.. we have added a host of new features to our retail version including support for NVIDIA CUDA technology and many other intuitive features," commented Tak Ebine, Pegasys CEO.

    The intuitive software offers a host of features including several video file management functions. Users can create custom playlists or sort files through custom categories or applying color labels for quick and easy access. Story Thumbnails allow users to mouse-over thumbnails to easily see video content. It is also possible to restore a video library database by loading a previously saved version in case of corruption or accidental deletion.

    NVIDIA CUDA support allows the software to use the GPU (graphic card CPU) for KARMA.. Clear filter processing, decoding MPEG-1/2 and H.264 video, and encoding video in the H.264/AVC format. The program achieves performance gains using a compatible GPU's massive multi-core parallel processing power to quickly resolve complex calculations. Custom encoder settings and presets for the iPod and PSP make it easy to convert video for any device.

    TMPGEnc KARMA..Plus also features its own file reader that is ideal for stable playback of numerous MPEG-1/2, H.264, MPEG-2 TS video files without relying on a third-party codec. It is AVC/AVCHD video compatible (*.m2t, *.m2ts, *.mts files), which supports AAC plus 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio. It also supports video files decodable by DirectShow codecs.

    For video playback, users have numerous options. The quick preview function allows users to play up to 3 videos at once while checking video information such as video format, bit rate, picture size, frame rate and more. Using the advanced player window, videos can be played in full screen mode with support for dual monitor display for viewing videos on a projector or secondary screen.


    The advanced player window also allows the creation of up to 32 chapter points per video to easily find a particular scene. A "multiplay" mode allows the user to compare two videos in split-screen or overlay views. If the playback is interrupted, users can resume playback exactly where they were in the video. The KARMA..Clear Filter will improve overall video sharpness when low-resolution.

    For video editing, a TMPGEnc Application Launcher is included. Just register an application or video file, and the user can launch any registered application from TMPGEnc KARMA..Plus without returning to the desktop. Files can then be dragged and dropped directly from the library to a TMPGEnc application for editing.

    About PEGASYS Inc.
    Pegasys Inc. makes digital video easy. Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Pegasys was established in 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. http://tmpgenc.pegasys-inc.com

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    Switronix Releases NEW 3200K 75w Dimmable LED Light

    Switronix has just released a new 3200K version of its Popular TorchLED Dimmable LED Lighting line.

    The TL-88CTO is a 75 watt Dimmable LED lighting fixture. Based on consumer response and demand of the event videography market we have created a 3200K version of our popular TL-88. The On Camera light outputs 75w equivalent of Warm White, Indoor lighting. It is incredibly efficent with a draw of only 10.5watts and cool to the touch operation. This dimmable LED light comes standard with a 1/4-20 thread, Frosted Pop on fillter and Powertap Cable. The TL-88 accepts 11-18v via its DC input

    The TL-88CTO is available now and can be purchased from any Switronix Dealer.

    For more information visit http://www.torchled.com and http://www.switronix.com

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    Holophone PortaMic 5.1 and PortaMic PRO Models Now Shipping

    Holophone®, the leading manufacturer of surround microphones, is now shipping its PortaMic 5.1 and PortaMic Pro camera-mountable surround microphones.

    Holophone's PortaMic 5.1 is an easy-to-use and cost-effective means of recording surround sound directly to a camera or any stereo recording device, while its PortaMic Pro microphone is based on the design of the PortaMic 5.1, but offers a wider feature set designed for professional applications, also in a compact size at an aggressive price point.

    "We are excited to announce that the much anticipated, award-winning Holophone PortaMic 5.1 and PortaMic Pro surround microphones are now shipping and are receiving a very positive response from the industry," says Michael Godfrey, president and founder of Holophone. "We have been overwhelmed with orders for the PortaMic products and are currently sold out from the company's first production run. We expect to have a limited number available in our second release which is scheduled for mid-December."

    Holophone's PortaMic 5.1, designed to be used on a video camera or HD DSLR camera, taps into the power of the company's H4 SuperMINI to offer users a professional-grade, 5.1 audio recording at a price that fits into any production budget - the mic retails for $599. Its compact size and low learning curve make it a perfect addition to any audio or video application including in-studio, field recording, documentary and ENG. The PortaMic's 6cm (2.5 inch) x 3.5 cm (1.5 inch) mic head is powered through six separate mic elements arranged to correspond with the typical 5.1 speaker setup in a studio or home theater. This patented design allows users to simply capture from a single point source, a discrete surround recording, with no additional mixing required.

    Based on the design of the PortaMic 5.1, Holophone's PortaMic Pro offers professional quality audio and options with point-and-shoot usability-all in a compact size at an aggressive price point (the mic retails for $999). Using the company's patented design, the PortaMic Pro allows users to simply capture, from a single point source, a discrete surround recording that provides listeners with a 3D immersive experience. With the PortaMic Pro, users now have additional control of their recordings with an audio zoom button, similar to a camera's zoom feature, that increases the forward bias of the mic's pick-up pattern and decreases the rear channels, giving the user's recording a more forward bias. The PortaMic Pro also includes a locking 6-pin balanced encoded stereo output, which provides a robust connection to professional grade video cameras and stereo input devices.

    Both PortaMic microphones are equipped with Dolby Laboratories' Dolby® Pro Logic II® encoder. This allows the mic's six audio channels to be encoded down to two channels, so it can be recorded to any modern broadcast camera or stereo recording device-right down to a classic analog stereo cassette recorder. With the encoder measuring only 2.5cm (1 inch) high, users have access to Holophone's renowned recording technology, while still being able to enjoy an uninterrupted sightline. Recordings made by the PortaMic models are output line level directly to any stereo device you choose. To ensure a high-quality recording even in loud environments, the mic features unity gain control and a 12-db pad. The mic and encoder may be powered by a 9v battery as well as 12v DC from external power sources.

    About Holophone
    Holophone is committed to developing and commercializing products that use patented 3-D audio technology to bring the physical experience of "really being there" to a new level for all audio and visual productions by professionals and hobbyists. Holophone provides customers and business partners with industry-leading product and service quality. Holophone is firmly dedicated to providing outstanding value, excellence in service, and product performance.

    Holophone® surround-sound microphones are patented audio recording devices designed specifically to address the challenges audio professionals face in capturing, recording and broadcasting multichannel surround sound. Developed by Rising Sun Productions in Toronto, Canada, Holophone systems effortlessly capture discrete signals that are ultra-realistic and provide the most accurate spatiality, audio imaging, and directionality of any recording device. Entirely compatible with all audio mixing, encoding, and playback systems, Holophone also enhances mono and stereo mixes. Holophone systems provide the perfect front end for all professional and consumer audio applications including HDTV broadcasting, standard broadcasting of live sporting and music events, feature film location recording, and studio recording for music, films, and worship applications. Holophone surround sound technology has been used for numerous national and international broadcasts, including the Grammy Awards and NFL Super Bowl. As a scalable system, Holophone technology is also available for license to the consumer electronics industry.

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