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March 22, 2010

Table of Contents

Review: VASST's AVCHD Training feat. Douglas Spotted Eagle
Review: VASST's Making Money Making Videos
PENTA Studiotech to Launch HD2line Pro Series of High-Quality LCD Monitors to North America at NAB Show
iStoragePro Introduces 4GB Fibre Channel and Enterprise iSCSI Raid Subsystem
Sony Creative Software NAB 2010 User Event to Feature Guitarist Dweezil Zappa

Review: VASST's AVCHD Training feat. Douglas Spotted Eagle

I've recently had the opportunity to review two of the latest training DVDs from VASST.com, a company known for creating DVDs, books, and software utilities that cover a wide variety of video-related topics. In this review I'll look at AVCHD Training, a DVD that carries the following tagline: "Learn the ins and outs of AVCHD and how it affects you." This disc is shot in 16:9 with a running time of 78 minutes. It covers the benefits, challenges-both software- and hardware-related-involved in using AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) and provides useful workflows and workarounds with AVCHD. It's an incredibly deep reference on the current state of this popular new format. Your host is the well-known Douglas Spotted Eagle (aka Spot); imagine if you ran into Spot at a coffee shop, pulled up a chair, and asked, "Tell me everything there is to know about AVCHD!" That's pretty close to what you get with this DVD.

AVCHD Training goes into detail on the capabilities of current mainstream AVCHD camcorders, workflows for AVCHD projects-regardless of your editing software-and, finally, delivery mechanisms. The disc is not specific to any one model of camera, nor is it weighted toward any one NLE. While I personally might like to know more about AVCHD and Vegas (and know that Spot would be the man to teach it), that is not the purpose of this DVD. I did learn things related to Vegas; I also learned things with respect to Avid, Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, and EDIUS.

If you're thinking of buying a camera that uses the AVCHD format, this is a great resource to have. You will want to watch this before you buy so that you know how best to build out your HD system of camera, computer hardware, and NLE. If you've already bought an AVCHD camera, knowing more about the AVCHD technology will help you to understand and to get the most out of what you have.

There is a section on the DVD about how AVCHD works; turns out, it works on the weaknesses of the human eye, and Spot equates this to the iPod in the audio world. I'll leave it at that and just say this was a fascinating part of the DVD; it makes clear some of the format's shortcomings, as well as reveals why you need to take some precautions when shooting AVCHD to ensure a great picture. An on-screen comparison of footage of a scene taken using AVCHD and other camera formats looks at the differences between the various formats' color and motion.

Spot readily admits the "Technical Details" section of the AVCHD title is one that you can skip if you just don't want to get this technical. But it's a useful reference to have, whether you're buying or already own equipment that uses this format. In this chapter, you'll find the gory details of Interlaced vs. Progressive, Bit Rates, Main Profile vs. High Profile, and Color Sampling; the details of GOP (Group of Pictures) are also explained in a very clear manner. Spot also gets into the mathematics of HD, if you want to completely geek out. Graphics and lower-thirds are used in this area of the DVD to help deliver the message and to further explain the subjects at hand. I recommend consuming this chapter in small chunks. The graphics used in this section to help explain the sometimes dry, complex concepts are a welcome addition.

As for AVCHD editing workflows, some NLEs such as Vegas and EDIUS support native AVCHD and can be edited directly by dragging files to the timeline. Many of us using these applications have discovered that just because you can do this doesn't mean you should. In today's environment, many users are converting these files to a more edit-friendly codec such as CineForm Neo. Intermediates and workarounds are discussed, and Spot also details how to work with AVCHD on the Apple and Avid platforms by using third-party tools and built-in transcoders. Ingesting with hardware transcoders is also discussed. Screen shots of Final Cut's Log and Transfer function are shown, and the pros and cons are discussed.

He takes a moment and discusses in detail the differences between 4:2:0 and 4:2:2 color sampling and, regardless of the tools you're using, this is valuable information to know.
In the "Output, Delivery, and Archiving" section, you'll find lots of useful information; Spot talks about the possibility of seeing a "soft" image in the NLE during down convert and how to do some detailed testing before adding any type of sharpening. Other things to look for on output include contrast and saturation during the edit and down convert. Outputting to Blu-ray supports either AVCHD or MPEG-2, and Spot discusses both. Information on internet and mobile delivery devices is also included, with specific information for cell phones, Vimeo, YouTube, and Google.

Archiving is critical in file-based workflows, in that you need to be able to reconstruct the cards once they've been shot, backed up, and wiped clean. This is covered in detail, and special tips are given for users of the Apple platform.

If there's one shortcoming to this DVD, it's wordiness. There is a ton of information presented that is related in the soup-to-nuts video production with AVCHD, from shooting with your camera and editing in your NLE to the final delivery of video. Spot presents the DVD in a "talking head" format. Some viewers might benefit with more on-screen graphics, but I think that's a minor complaint compared to the amount of information presented. The main things I really appreciated about the DVD were the depth of material and the way this material was logically laid out. Once you've skimmed the DVD, it's very easy to go back and find what you want to dig into. About the only thing I would have liked to see is exactly how the AVCHD files behaved in all of the popular NLEs. As with so many topics, Spot really knows his stuff, and it shows. If you're using this format, or you think you will in the future, I recommend you go to VASST.com and order this DVD now.

David McKnight (david at mcknightvideo.com) is half of McKnight Video of Houston. He is vice president of the Houston Professional Videographers Association (HPVA), has Sony Vegas and HDV certification, is the technical editor of the forthcoming Vegas Pro 9 Editing Workshop (Focal Press), and is a contributor to TheFullHD Book (VASST). He and his wife, Christie, are winners of multiple HPVA awards.

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Review: VASST's Making Money Making Videos

Does your video business make a profit? How do you really track if you're making a profit, and how can you bring home more on every project? VASST's Making Money Making Videos instructional DVD purports to teach us how to do it. This disc is hosted by Kevin Hicks and Brian Balog of Hark Productions. It's presented in 16:9 widescreen and runs 65 minutes. The first few minutes of this DVD (on getting your business established) feel a tad unprepared. I wasn't sure what I was in for, but I'm glad I kept watching. The DVD quickly moved into details of building your reel, bartering for services, negotiating, bidding and quoting jobs, and the all-important "getting the client's budget." Speaking of budgeting, the accuracy of your budget is key. Kevin and Brian do a great job of breaking down all the possible line items you need to take into consideration.

There are lots of lower-thirds and full-screen graphics to help illustrate the business and accounting principles involved. Kevin and Brian often have a very engaging, informal style. They talk about production budgets and contracts like other guys talk about SportsCenter. Am I that much of a geek to get into this stuff? I guess so. I think what I appreciated most about this DVD is that it rarely discussed the software or the cameras; it's mostly about the business aspects of running your business. It's an area addressed by very few vendors (EventDV columnist Steve Yankee being one of them).

If you're looking for instruction on video gear or production, you've come to the wrong place; this training title is not about equipment and techniques. It does touch on when to buy versus when to rent and how to get the most for your money. But it is all about running your business to make a profit, not how to setup and shoot interviews with three-point lighting.

The DVD just skims the "establishing your business" topics, but the information presented is effective. If we would all exploit the contacts we make every weekend while shooting wedding, we'd be well on our way to building a corporate client reel. While the video does spend a small amount of time on networking and finding potential clients, the lion's share of the instruction assumes you already have clients asking for your services.

The DVD continues on with payment structures, discussions of intellectual property and who owns it, and dealing with small and large companies. It also addresses preproduction issues: You may have planned ahead and printed out a shot list, but did you ever think about bathroom availability for your talent? I can guarantee you, your talent will thank you for it. Additionally, contracts, releases, locations, call sheets, and schedules are covered in detail.

Making Money also discusses aspects of the production phase-specifically, equipment, logistics, and people. The DVD provides resources for finding free and cheap production and crew help. If you're a one- or two-person shop, Kevin and Brian go to great lengths to explain when and why you would add a crew member-or why you might not. They're all about maximizing the profit of the job, and a big part of that is controlling the expenses. The "Post Production" section discusses using stock media to save time (which equals money) and by using interns or having crew members wear many hats.

The disc also includes a section on audio, and this is a very welcome chapter. Consistency and Foley are easier to deal with in post if you plan for it during the original production, as they detail very effectively. A section of advanced tips discuss marketing on your website, late payments and collections, as well as other business aspects.

As an added bonus, you can pop this disc into your PC or Mac and access many production and release documents, as well as royalty-free music from VASST and Hark Productions for use in your own productions. Nice! A gag reel featuring numerous flubbed shots by Kevin and Brian and an explanation of production staff titles rounds out the package.

If you're a wedding or event videographer looking to branch out into corporate work, or if you want to produce a documentary/narrative-type video, this DVD covers a lot of ground relating to topics that are necessary in those fields. But even if you're a "weekend warrior," don't be lulled into a sense of "this doesn't apply to me." Most of us know there are more real costs involved in even the smallest wedding video business than are immediately apparent, but do we really know what they are, and how they stack up against what we're paid? In the tag at the end of this video, Kevin states: "If you're as detailed about your business as you are about your video, you'll do great." I'd have to agree. I'm watching it again this week to take more notes.

David McKnight (david at mcknightvideo.com) is half of McKnight Video of Houston. He is vice president of the Houston Professional Videographers Association (HPVA), has Sony Vegas and HDV certification, is the technical editor of the forthcoming Vegas Pro 9 Editing Workshop (Focal Press), and is a contributor to TheFullHD Book (VASST). He and his wife, Christie, are winners of multiple HPVA awards.


Kevin HicksWhy We Made Making Money Making Videos

by Kevin Hicks

 Back in April, my business partner–Brian Balog–and I were at NAB as part of the VASST speaker team. We participated in a handful of presentations, including lighting basics, guerilla filmmaking, and getting the shot.

Two of the sessions we participated in centered around the finances and legalities surrounding the business of video production. As NAB was winding down, I had a meeting with Douglas Spotted Eagle and Mannie Frances to discuss us taking what we had presented to a new level and going into production on a training DVD that would delve in to this subject matter. So we compiled the VASST presentations with our own notes and past work experience and went into active production almost immediately.

The result was Making Money Making Videos: Increase Your Profits in all Stages of Production, and it is an information-dense resource that will prove to be invaluable to both videographers and indie filmmakers at any production size or budget level. Drawn from the experiences of different individuals in different business stations, the DVD is filled with practical information that will help you avoid the trappings that can put any production into an expensive, time-consuming tailspin.

 The DVD covers intellectual rights, contracts and releases, budgetary issues, compensation timelines and protocols, and offers up plenty of tips and suggestions that will save you money pre-production, production, and post-production.

 A colleague of mine watched it and said that it would pay for itself on a single job.

We also included a lot of bonus materials, including a segment on large crew positions and duties, legal documents and royalty free music samples that you are free to use in your productions.

Making Money Making Videos was, literally, years in the making. It draws from a lot of business bumps and bruises and gives you the information you need to be an educated, prepared, and cautious videographer or filmmaker.

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PENTA Studiotech to Launch HD2line Pro Series of High-Quality LCD Monitors to North America at NAB Show

The 2010 NAB Show will mark the North American debut of PENTA Studiotech's HD2line Pro Series broadcast LCD monitors, and the launch of a reseller network to represent the product line in Canada and the U.S.

In widespread use by major broadcasters and production companies throughout Europe, the German-manufactured monitors offer superior color accuracy, HD picture quality, and centralized control for a wide range of broadcasting, production, and post-production applications.

"The HD2line Pro Series represents German engineering at its finest, with the reliability to stand up to the most demanding 24/7 production environments and the spot-on color reproduction and superior HD picture quality that broadcasters and production professionals require," said Glen Green, corporate vice president of sales and marketing for PENTA Studiotech. "At NAB, we're looking forward to demonstrating the 'PENTA difference' to broadcasting professionals as well as resellers and systems integrators."

Building on PENTA's advanced display technology and state-of-the-art processor engine, the HD2line Pro Series is designed to meet the high-resolution display and monitoring requirements of broadcast studio production, outside broadcasting vehicles, and master control rooms as well as post-production, telecine, and high-end editing applications. Monitors in the series range from 17 inches to 47 inches, and all conform to SMPTE and EBU specifications for brightness and contrast ratio. Each HD2line Pro monitor comes with PENTA's HD2match color calibration and remote control software for automatic color space adjustment, which guarantees repeatable and precise color reproduction compliant to EBU, SMPTE, and ITU.709 standards.

The HD2line Pro Series features PENTA's Display Control Suite (DCS), which provides centralized real-time or offline monitor wall configuration and control via an Ethernet network. The DCS software provides access to all parameters on each monitor as well as predefined groups of monitors in a larger system or OB van. Creation of a complex monitor wall is accomplished easily by dragging and dropping monitors and monitor groups into the layout via the intuitive and user-friendly software.

All HD2line Pro Series displays come standard with DVI-I, VGA, and CVBS inputs, and an optional multiformat HD/SD-SDI input supports data rates up to 3 Gbps. Each monitor can support up to three hot-swappable input/output modules, which can be added or changed without taking the monitor off the wall and out of service. Exclusive to the HD2line Pro Series is an optional fiber optic I/O module that enables transmission of multiple video signals over a single fiber line that can span longer distances with no loss of video quality.

In addition, the HD2line Pro Series supports all closed captions in 608 and 708 formats, with on-screen waveform vectorscopes, timecode readout, calibration software, and audio monitoring. All monitors integrate easily with existing tally systems and controllers, and provide dynamic and static IMD/tally support via an Ethernet network or via up to six GPI contact closures.

The HD2line Pro Series of broadcast monitors will be featured in PENTA Studiotech's booth, N1023, at the 2010 NAB Show. In addition, HD2line Pro monitors will be on display in the Harris Corporation and Ross Video booths.

About PENTA Studiotech
PENTA Studiotech produces a wide range of high-end HD2line LCD monitors specifically designed for all applications in the area of professional broadcasting and production. PENTA monitors are suitable for a variety of reference and mastering applications such as studio production, OB vans, master control, post-production, high-end editing, telecine, and quality control. For more information, visit http://www.penta-web.com.

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iStoragePro Introduces 4GB Fibre Channel and Enterprise iSCSI Raid Subsystem

iStoragePro proudly presents the new rack-mount subsystem product line. The first model is the iR16FC4ER, the 4GB Fibre channel storage subsystem, followed by the iR16IS4ER and iR16IS2ER, the 4 port/2port iSCSI RAID solutions.

They are both designed as enterprise level storage solutions with a starting capacity of 16TB and expandable up to total of 160TB of disk capacity, with hot-swappable and easily configurable RAID levels from 0,1,5,6,10,30,50, and 60. The subsystem models have snapshot/rollback support and N-way mirroring for high data protection. Because of SAS expansion, the subsystem can be easily cascaded with up to a total of 80 hard disk drives, making it one of the most practical and affordable data storage solutions for content creators and professionals of all kind. The subsystems are ideal for enterprise level business, production studios, and any thriving company that continues to grow.

For things such as video editing, which may require high capacity storage, the iStoragePro subsystem is your best alternative. These systems have up to 32 terabytes in storage capacity, and because of the SAS expansion feature you can further increase your required disk space. And, all iStoragePro products are compatibility with both MAC OS X and Windows operating systems, providing versatility with practically any program such as Apple's Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 video editing software and etcetera. It is also compatible with video capture cards such as AJA & Blackmagic Design.

The iStoragePro iR16FC4ER is a 3U 16 bay RAID model with Fibre ports. It is equipped with dual 4GB Fibre connections multi-path (MPIO), which provides speeds up to 700MB per second with excellent thermal performance. With this model you are able to use the SAS Expansion Port for daisy chaining multiple SAS JBODs for up to a total of 160TB of storage capacity. The iStoragePro Fibre subsystem clearly provides superior performance and maximum flexibility for your network sharing storage needs.

The iStoragePro iR16IS4ER and iR16IS2ER is equipped with iSCSI RAID protection. The iSCSI RAID subsystem is designed with multiple iSCSI network connections to host computers directly or via gigabit switch for more stations. It is capable of reaching speeds of up to 4Gbps for 4 ports trunking with sequential RAID 5 link aggregation. It also supports load balancing and failover via built-in Ethernet iSCSI ports.

The four ports iSCSI subsystem iR16IS4ER is also equipped with SAS expansion slots which allow you to daisy chain multiple SAS JBODs for up to total 160TB of storage capacity. The iStoragePro iSCSI subsystem is an ideal solution for data storage such as data centers, media storage management and shared SAN networks.

The iStoragePro 4GB Fibre Channel RAID subsystem (iR16FC4ER) and the iSCSI 4 Port/2 Port RAID Subsystem (iR16IS4ER/iR16IS2ER) are available now starting at a $4,395.00 MSRP. Please visit iStoragePro at http://www.istoragepro.com for further information, and find retailers at http://www.istoragepro.com/where_to_buy.php.

About iStoragePro
iStoragePro, a division of Ci Design, is a professional storage solution provider that meets high-end performance and all audio/video storage requirements. We manufacture and custom design storage systems for the OEM, VAR, and reseller markets. The new iStoragePro series includes all new SATA, SAS, FireWire, SSD, Fibre chipsets, and backplane technology. It is now available in a variety of models and interfaces such as eSATA, MiniSAS, SCSI, iSCSI, USB, FireWire, SSD, Fibre, and SAS Expander connections.

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Sony Creative Software NAB 2010 User Event to Feature Guitarist Dweezil Zappa

Sony Creative Software today announced that award-winning guitarist Dweezil Zappa - son of the legendary Frank Zappa - will share how he uses Sony Creative Software products at the company's 10th annual NAB User Group event.

Hosted in partnership with VASST, and sponsored by AMD, the event will be held Monday, April 12 at 6:30 pm in the Las Vegas Convention Center North Hall, rooms N249-251.

After a self-imposed seven-year meditation on music, Dweezil Zappa emerged as an exceptionally talented guitarist, earning a Grammy in 2009 for his LP "Zappa Plays Zappa." After years of "over the shoulder" participation in creating his own video and DVD projects, Zappa turned to Sony Vegas Pro to help introduce his father's celebrated works to an entirely new generation of music fans.

"Sony Vegas Pro and my AMD-powered workstation have helped me to maintain strict attention to detail and achieve continuity and creativity throughout my entire video project," said Zappa. "All of the effort I've put into learning the music and rehearsing with the band has uniquely qualified me as a video editor for my music. I know the entrances of every instrument, where it breathes and how it's phrased, and now I have all the right tools and the skills to transform that intimate knowledge of my music into video that makes the songs come alive in a whole new medium."

In addition to sharing product developments at the User Group event, Sony Creative Software will also be giving away an ATI FireProTM V5700 Professional Graphics Card. Additional confirmed speakers include filmmaker Justin Fornal - aka. Baron Ambrosia - host of the wildly popular TV show "Bronx Flavor," VASST Managing Producer and Vegas Pro expert Douglas Spotted Eagle, AMD director of digital media and entertainment Charlie Boswell, Sony Creative Software vice president of global marketing Dave Chaimson and other Sony executives.

Pre-registration is required to attend the Sony Creative Software NAB 2010 User Group event.

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. As a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, the company also develops applications that enhance the experience for users of Sony 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, visit http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com.

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