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June 29, 2010

Table of Contents

InFusion: Using Telephoto and Super Tele Lenses
Artbeats Hits 100 Brand Milestone with Addition of Three New Stock Footage Brands
Pocket UltraScope Now Shipping
Digital Rapids Releases Powerful Flux HD Hardware and New Encoding Software Upgrade
UltraStudio Pro Now Shipping

InFusion: Using Telephoto and Super Tele Lenses

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!

Gloria Swanson's famous line to director Cecil B. DeMille provided the inspiration for my discussion of telephoto lenses. Close-up (CU) shooting is definitely where it's at if you want impact in your films.

In fact, close-up shooting is a big challenge for everybody-videographer, director, scriptwriter, editor, actor, and, of course, makeup and hair design. Think of it this way: Every possible flaw or error is blatantly obvious at close range, and this fact is magnified in the HD/DSLR era. It's easy to see how the actor and his or her makeup and wardrobe attendants have a major stake in how the close-up looks. For the young and beautiful, the tiniest wrinkle is a grand disaster. A mature actor generally wants to appear in the best light. And if playing a very old character, both actor and audience want the magic of brush and pencil to be seamless and believably real, even at a distance of just a few inches.

Close-ups can be compared to golf. The long drive, or beautiful wide shot, is all for show. Putting the ball a few inches from the hole is akin to shooting a meaningful close-up: It's where you make your money or come up short.

A great example of the importance of close-ups is James Cameron's Avatar. Just like DeMille's sweeping epic views that made similarly huge box office success, Avatar's panoramic scenes put on quite a show. But when it comes to the close-ups, or extreme close-ups (ECUs), the "eyes have it." All my still photo colleagues say that the "eyes are the window of the soul." I don't think I've ever seen a super-close portrait of a child with big, liquid, innocent eyes fail in competition. Cameron's insistence on real eyes with depth and reflection is a technological marvel, and an insane budget buster. The eyes alone are worth double the price of admission. But for me, the top adorability factor from the film has to be the twitchy little ears, followed closely by the synapse-y (and equally twitchy) tail feathers.

Using Telephotos and Super Telephotos
There's telephoto and then there's super telephoto. In the first category, you find the ubiquitous 70mm-200mm zooms, which are available in ƒ/2.8 and the much lighter ƒ/4, preferably the more expensive stabilized models. There are also the fixed-focus 135mm and 200mm, and several other zoom lengths. You'll most likely be interested in the 70mm-200mm due to its relative ease of use and reasonable price. You'll see photographers most frequently with the ƒ/2.8, and it's definitely the workhorse. But at 3.24 lbs., it's a pretty big boy. I certainly use it when working on a tripod to get the benefit of the extra ƒ/stop, but you'll usually find me with the ƒ/4 model, which is half the weight and two-thirds of the cost.

Super telephotos are another breed of cat at 400mm, 500mm, 600mm, and 800mm. If you look at the higher end of super telephoto lenses, you'll see that you can spend less money on a new car. A usual job tends to demand that I be physically close, mixing right into the action. If you have the funds, buy a super telephoto, but be aware that you may not use it all that often (unless you're a wildlife shooter), and you'll have to learn an entirely different method of support for your camera and tracking of your subjects. Think lions and tigers and bears!

Back to how and why we use tight shots for the best visual payoff. Getting right in the face of the character and action creates the strongest emotional reaction from the audience. As a child I was so terrified by the warty witch filling the screen of Snow White that I hid under the seat. The scene had an undeniably effective impact! But close-ups have to be used sparingly and at just the right moments. If you use too many tight shots, viewers can easily be put off-not just with the sensation that their personal space is being invaded but, worse, that the overall meaning of the action is unclear because the wider picture is not shown. Dialogue and action must be supported by the blocking of the shot, precise movement and positioning, as well as such technical matters as the angle, lens choice, and distance of the camera. This is a problem for the screenwriter, director, DP, and editor alike.

Extreme closeup
Extreme close-ups that pick a pretty face out of a crowd are the reward of a telephoto lens, bokeh focus, and the happenstance of beautiful existing lighting combined with bounced flash using the Ultimate Light Box.

Unfortunately, the technical side is not so easy. Using telephoto lenses can be just plain difficult. They're heavy, unwieldy, and harder to use when tracking the action. They have a higher ƒ/number than shorter, prime lenses. Especially at close range, a given ƒ/stop effectively covers a smaller slice of sharpness. We have all had the experience of zooming in only to find the action has moved and there was absolutely nothing in the viewfinder! Here's where practicing technique with some fast-moving sports photography will stand you in good stead-and make you feel very humble. Check out popular speaker Joe McNally's tutorials (www.joemcnally.com) for some creative ways to handhold these lenses by using your arm and elbow for greater stabilization when there's no tripod or guerrilla support in sight.

Here's what longer telephoto lenses are good for:
• Capturing ultra close-ups for best impact
• Compressing distance for special effect
• Creating bokeh with selective focus and superior distance layering
• Bridging distance in specialty situations such as in a large hall, across a street, or over a pond or a playing field to move in on action
• Shooting theater, political, or platform presentations where you have to operate far back in the audience
• Photographing wildlife, doing surveillance, or shooting in other dangerous situations
• Working in restricted venues

And the cons:
• Difficult to handhold in lower lighting, even with image stabilization: tripod preferred; monopod possible
• Higher ƒ/numbers only, more limited light-gathering ability
• Atmospheric effects such as heat waves rising affect focus, just as much as camera shake
• Action can quickly move outside the frame
• Pinpoint accuracy of focus required
• Heavy and bulky: difficult to carry comfortably on your person by yourself
• Costly

Except when locked down on a tripod, I'll admit to having trouble handling telephotos. Unless I'm shooting in very bright light where I can take a fast shutter speed, I can't hold still enough. The old rule is never use a shutter speed slower than the millimeter length of the lens. Even with stabilization, I find that most people overestimate their ability to hold steady. Video is, of course, much more challenging than still capture in this respect-an instant recipe for unusable shaky cam. You can't afford this kind of failure.

Tip to Fool the Camera Into ECU
I often find that rather than fight the potential for image failure with longer lenses, I'll choose the 100mm. Remember, I mentioned that's my favorite, and with good reason. Sometimes I have to work so quickly that I don't know how I will use a shot later, and I want to preserve my options for subject size and angle. With still capture, the chip of the Canon 5D Mark II is so big that I can plan to crop a close shot to an attractive ECU without much harm to the photo.

In video it's a different story. My husband and partner, Karl, feels comfortable cropping about 10% in post with his Sony EX3. He notes that cropping flexibility without damage is a great reason to move up to a 3,000, 4,000, or 5,000 capture in a much more expensive camera. Of course, my advice is to use guerrilla tactics to save or improve shots after the fact. It's always better to get the right blocking and framing in the can to start with. If it sounds like I'm telling you that telephoto lenses can create more problems for you than they solve, you're right! Chasing the action will instantly make your capture look amateurish and jumpy; brides definitely prefer smooth and steady. You've probably heard the prebroadcast controversy over the upcoming, entirely 5D Mark II-shot episode of House and the negative comments about jumpy and out-of-focus capture. Zooming and moving the center of the frame is very difficult to execute; even with lots of practice this is still a challenge every time. And it's even less forgiving if your lens is at the longest telephoto extension. It's safer to leave off the zoom and pan and/or reframe.

Telephoto
Before (left) and after (right): close-up with a 100mm lens on a company executive allows the hands to add expression to the words spoken. Cropping in post brings a different meaning with facial intensity and still shows the colorful but soft-focus corporate logo as subtle identity recognition in the background.

Lighting and sound will take on challenges of their own with telephoto capture. Unless you have a crew to take care of these aspects while you direct, distance from the subject is not your friend. Stuff tends to get in the line of the camera view, and it is so far away you fail to notice it. Plan on wireless mics and lighting that can be hidden. Double-check for shadows, scene, and prop continuity. Otherwise voiceovers, story narration, or a wild music soundtrack will be your only options. The end advice is that CU and ECU are specialty setups in themselves, and they require a very different approach than wide or normal-angle scenes.
That said, the power of CU and ECU shots is undeniable. This is one of the best ways to create impact and lasting storytelling-not to mention billable effects.

Tip for Moneymaking at Weddings and Events
In some communities, it's common to invite hundreds of wedding guests-500, 700, even 1,000-and those guests like to have pictures of their own. Photographers often hire a second crew to create a quick portrait studio set just to photograph guests and their families on spec. Our Western brides generally plan much smaller numbers, but they are equally interested in guest portraits.

Wedding closeups
Reaching with a telephoto lens across a 10-person round table at a wedding reception produces a party atmosphere, bokeh, and charming expressions of the bride’s favorite aunt and uncle. In my personal dictionary, I’ve expanded the meaning of bokeh to include levels of light and dark that make a subject stand out from the background, just like levels of sharpness.

Here's where your telephoto lens will do wonders. At least for the VIPs, I like to make casual close-ups, often at the table. These are not general overall table pictures or wedding wishes, which can be terribly awkward. Move in tight; eliminate most of the table clutter; be careful that the background blurs out with bokeh but still shows that there's a party going on. Take just a moment to get guests comfortable so they can smile and look their best for the camera.

The bride will buy these images as live video or as a still-image slideshow chapter with music/video overlay. As one bride told me, "I was so glad to see all my friends and family, close-up and attractive."

Sara FrancesSara Frances (studio at photomirage.com) and husband/partner Karl Arndt collaborate in their own unique brand of Fusion as “Foto-Griots” whose work has evolved past photojournalism into what they call “Storytelling from the Heart.”

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Artbeats Hits 100 Brand Milestone with Addition of Three New Stock Footage Brands

Continuing their commitment to offer a wide variety of royalty-free stock footage in one simple, customized search, Artbeats today announces the addition of three new footage brands to their library. Expanding the selection of high-quality options to over one hundred different brands allows Artbeats customers access to new footage from Martin Lisius, Johner Motion and GlamourKey. These brands, and many others, are available for viewing and purchase through the Artbeats FootageHub.

* Martin Lisius: Award-winning veteran storm chaser Martin Lisius presents a notable collection of tornadoes, hurricanes and other extreme weather.
* Johner Motion: Sweden-based Johner Motion provides thousands of Scandinavian inspired lifestyle and establishment clips.
* GlamourKey: Offers the industry's first green screen footage shot with the RED One camera.

"For over two decades, Artbeats has been dedicated to providing the most relevant, high-quality and affordable royalty-free stock footage available," said Artbeats President and Founder Phil Bates. "As we see the phenomenal growth of the Artbeats FootageHub in just nine short months, we can't help but celebrate the fact that this objective is within reach. We look forward to integrating the next 100 brands."

About Artbeats
Artbeats, founded in 1989, is an award-winning provider of royalty-free stock footage for broadcast, feature films, commercial, multimedia, game development and independent producers. The Artbeats library encompasses an extensive array of royalty-free NTSC, PAL, HD and RED high-resolution clips in a variety of subjects including aerials, cities, nature scenics, special effects, medical animations, international locations and much more. Introduced in 2009, Artbeats FootageHub is a diverse, ever-growing online conglomeration of 100 unique brands of stock footage that expands creative possibilities for any project or budget.

Artbeats is headquartered in Myrtle Creek, Ore. with a staff of artists, producers, technicians and marketers. Some of Artbeats' clients include Dreamworks, Comedy Central, BBC, DirecTV, American Idol, Pixar, CNN, Activision and many more.

For more information, visit www.artbeats.com.

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Pocket UltraScope Now Shipping

Blackmagic Design today announced Pocket UltraScope, the world's first portable USB 3.0 notebook PC based waveform monitor, is now shipping from all worldwide Blackmagic Design authorized resellers.

Pocket UltraScope features 6 independent powerful real time scopes such as parade, waveform, vector, histogram, audio and picture all in an easy to use plug in USB 3 PC based design for only US$595.

Pocket UltraScope is a small pod with a 3 Gb/s SDI input that connects to any USB 3.0 computer for professional waveform monitoring. When running on a notebook or desktop PC with a 1920 x 1080 display, Pocket UltraScope allows simultaneous display of 6 waveform views including: RGB/YUV parade display, composite waveform, vector, histogram, 8 channel audio meters, stereo audio scope and picture view. When used with smaller screens, Pocket UltraScope allows a smaller 2 view window to be selected.

Pocket UltraScope automatically detects the input video format, and switches between SD, HD and 3 Gb/s 1080p SDI formats. Blackmagic UltraScope is technically accurate, which is perfect for master monitoring and quality control tasks.

When running on-set, behind racks, or in other difficult locations, Pocket UltraScope is the ideal solution for portable waveform monitoring, because it easily plugs into notebook computers and powers from the notebook computer battery via the USB 3.0 connection. Pocket UltraScope is small and accurate, and makes a perfect portable solution for post production and broadcast facilities.

"Ever since we introduced UltraScope I have wanted to do a portable version. Now with USB 3.0 the technology has caught up to allow us to be able to do it! ", said Grant Petty, CEO, Blackmagic Design, "I think this is a revolutionary product, as now broadcasters and post production facilities have a truly portable waveform monitoring solution that's accurate and affordable!"

Pocket UltraScope Key Features

* 3G SDI (3 Gb/s) input, supports automatic switching between SD and HD.
* 8 channels of SDI audio.
* USB 3.0 connection to desktop and notebook computers.
* Powers via USB 3.0 connection, allows powering via notebook battery.
* Full 10 bit quality, with display of detected video standard.
* Includes parade, waveform, vector, histogram, audio and video scopes
* Supports Windows computers.


Availability and Price

Pocket UltraScope is available now for US$595 from all Blackmagic Design resellers.

About Blackmagic Design
Blackmagic Design creates the world's highest quality video editing products, color correctors, video converters, routers, waveform monitors and film restoration software for the feature film, post-production and television broadcast industries. Blackmagic Design's DeckLink capture cards launched a revolution in the television industry, while the company's DaVinci EmmyTM award winning color correction products have dominated the television and film industry since 1984 and continue ground breaking innovations including stereoscopic 3D and 4K workflows. Founded by world leading post production editors and engineers, Blackmagic Design has offices in the USA, UK, Japan, Singapore, and Australia. For more information, please check http://www.blackmagic-design.com.

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Digital Rapids Releases Powerful Flux HD Hardware and New Encoding Software Upgrade

Digital Rapids today announced that the company is now shipping the powerful new Flux HD video capture and pre-processing hardware, plus a previously unannounced new version of the Stream software for the company's encoding and live streaming systems.

New features in version 3.3 include enhanced Apple iPad and iPhone encoding, script command insertion, open caption overlay, Vobile VideoDNA fingerprinting support and more.

The new hardware and software further extend the comprehensive and flexible capabilities of Digital Rapids' encoding, transcoding and streaming product families, which helped earn the company a Frost & Sullivan 2009 Market Share Leadership Award in the World Broadband Transcoders Market.

The Flux HD hardware builds on the advanced video processing technology that earned Digital Rapids' solutions their reputation for the industry's highest encoding quality. Hardware-based, real-time video pre-processing features 'groom' the input signal to be more 'compression-friendly'. The result is superior visual quality and the most efficient use of bandwidth in the compressed output, while leaving the host system's CPU free to encode more simultaneous multi-format outputs. Additional hardware features including video adjustments, advanced scaling, format conversion with cadence detection (including Inverse Telecine), color space conversion and graphic overlay enable high-quality transformation of incoming sources and the addition of branding such as logos.

Available in two models, Flux HD PCIe® boards are the industry's first capture cards optimized for encoding and streaming to feature dual-link and 3Gb/s SDI support. The all-digital Flux-6510 includes SD, HD, dual-link HD-SDI and 3G-SDI video input support. The Flux-6550 card offers the same capabilities plus analog inputs including component (HD or SD), S-Video and composite video. SDI embedded audio is supported on both cards, while the Flux-6550 also includes AES and analog audio inputs. Upcoming capabilities for real-time down-conversion of dual-link and 3G-SDI inputs leverage new facility infrastructures and allow easy repurposing of dual-link and 3G-SDI sources without the workflow inconvenience and expense of external format converters. Flux HD boards also provide a future-proof path to emerging applications empowered by 3G-SDI, such as 1080p/60 and 1080p/50 distribution, advanced JPEG2000 mastering and 3D production.

Flux HD cards are bundled with the tightly integrated Stream LE software. The most versatile encoding software on the market, the Stream software family provides capture, encoding, transcoding and streaming for both live and file-based applications, with simultaneous output in multiple formats, resolutions and bit rates for a broad range of viewing devices and applications.

In addition to support for the Flux HD hardware, version 3.3 of the Stream software offers a host of new features and enhancements for Digital Rapids' StreamZ, StreamZHD and DRC-Stream encoding solutions. Version 3.3 expands the functionality and flexibility of the optional iPhone encoding and segmenting module with enhanced support for the iPad; increased control of encoding and output parameters; support for audio-only streams with associated image files; and parallel output to multiple servers or Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) for redundancy.

Version 3.3 adds the ability to insert script commands into ASF outputs. Script commands can be inserted from a file for applications with pre-determined timing, or on-the-fly through Stream's Web Services API during live encoding. Scripts commands can be used to communicate actions to be performed by the receiving application or player, and trigger events such as advertising insertion or replacement.

A new open captioning plug-in overlays visible captions onto the video during encoding and streaming. The open captions can be created from SCC or STL caption files, or from closed captioning data in the input video source. Support for Vobile VideoDNA content identification technology enables VideoDNA fingerprint files to be generated from media content automatically within encoding or transcoding workflows. The resulting fingerprint files are used with the Vobile Content Identification Platform to enable content owners and publishers to more effectively monitor, protect, manage and monetize their media online.

A new standby mode enables faster start of encoding upon subsequent triggering, plus faster failover with the Digital Rapids Broadcast Manager multi-encoder management software. Other new features in version 3.3 include Windows 7 support; expanded GPI trigger functions including pause and resume; and a variety of minor enhancements. The Stream 3.3 software is available in two software configurations -- the core Stream LE and the advanced Stream FE with expanded workflow automation, integration capabilities and format support. A comparison of feature availability between the two levels is available on our website.

"Demand for the Flux HD hardware has been exceptional since its introduction earlier this year, and we're pleased to be delivering it. With the outstanding quality enabled by Flux HD's hardware-based image processing and a future-proof path to 3G-SDI production and distribution workflows, Flux HD cards are ideal for the encoding and streaming applications of both today and tomorrow," said Darren Gallipeau, Product Manager at Digital Rapids. "Meanwhile, the new features and enhancements in version 3.3 of the Stream software further reinforce its robust, industry-leading feature set."

Flux HD cards are available through Digital Rapids and our extensive worldwide network of authorized resellers and systems integrators. The version 3.3 update is immediately available as a free download for registered owners of Stream version 3.0 or higher, and as chargeable upgrades for users of versions 2.6 or earlier.

For more information about Digital Rapids, please visit http://www.digital-rapids.com.

About Digital Rapids Corporation
Digital Rapids provides the leading hardware and software solutions for transforming and delivering media, enabling the multi-platform experiences that are changing how audiences view content. Scaling from standalone appliances to global workflows, Digital Rapids solutions enable media professionals to maximize their productivity, quality, and the value of their content. Recipient of a coveted IBC Innovation Award and four prestigious Frost & Sullivan honors for encoding and transcoding leadership, Digital Rapids combines innovative technology with proven expertise to help our customers to expand their audiences, increase their media revenues and reduce their costs. Digital Rapids Corporation ( http://www.digital-rapids.com ) is headquartered in Ontario, Canada with offices in the United States, the UK, Australia, Argentina and Hong Kong.

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UltraStudio Pro Now Shipping

Blackmagic Design today announced UltraStudio Pro, the world's first broadcast quality SD/HD capture and playback solution for USB 3.0 computers is now shipping!

UltraStudio Pro combines the latest broadcast technology into an attractive ultra-thin design that fits into modern client friendly post production environments.

UltraStudio Pro includes the mind blowing speed of the new USB 3.0 interface, which is ten times the speed of regular USB, and runs at a massive 4.8 Gb/s speed. USB 3.0 easily has enough speed for the highest quality uncompressed 10 bit HD video with the maximum real time effects possible!

UltraStudio Pro's innovative design looks great on the desktop while hiding the cables behind the unit. With dozens of audio and video connections built in, the new style of design is critical to keeping cables hidden and editors can keep their studio neat and clean! UltraStudio Pro's chassis is machined from solid metal with high grip silicon feet, so it's strong enough to withstand harsh broadcast environments and won't move around when heavy cables are connected. UltraStudio Pro also includes audio level meters for accurate audio level calibration.

UltraStudio Pro provides a massive number of video and audio connections including 3 Gb/s SDI, HDMI, analog component, composite, s-video, 4 channel analog audio, 2 channel AES/ EBU audio, genlock/tri-sync and RS422 deck control connections. UltraStudio Pro even includes a broadcast quality 7 foot/2 meter breakout cable, so users will save hundreds of dollars because they don't need to purchase expensive professional video and audio cables!

An independent SDI output is included that is down converted for simultaneous HD and SD monitoring. A new built in hardware up, down and cross converter lets you edit in one format, and then output to any HD or SD format! Now its easy to edit in one format and then deploy in either SD, 720HD or 1080HD while leaving all CPU time dedicated to real time effects. Selection is possible between letterbox, anamorphic 16:9 and pillar- box 4:3 video formats!

"With USB 3.0 becoming more common on computers, we are excited to be able to completely rethink how broadcast products are designed! This new upright design really shows that high technology broadcast products don't need to be ugly! I am so excited by how much leading edge technology we have been able to build into such a thin design", said Grant Petty, CEO, Blackmagic Design, "I think UltraStudio Pro will help make high quality editing more exciting because with USB 3.0, we have more freedom to be creative in how we design products, and the result is a wonderful solution that looks great, hides the cables, works as an audio level meter and is incredibly compact and portable. I have dreamed of being able to make products like UltraStudio Pro for many years, and it's one of the most exciting products we have ever built!"

UltraStudio Pro Key Features

* 10 bit 3 Gb/s SDI for capture and playback, supports both SD and HD.
* 10 bit HDMI 1.3 for capture and playback, supports both SD and HD.
* 10 bit analog component capture and playback, supports both SD and HD.
* S-Video capture and playback, down converted when working in HD.
* Composite capture and playback, down converted when working in HD.
* Dedicated SD-SDI output for down converted SD output when in HD, or SD key channel out.
* Hardware up, down cross converter selectable Letterbox, Anamorphic 16:9, center-cut SD and more.
* Built in internal SD keying, or select to output both fill and key via SD/HD-SDI and SD-SDI outputs.
* 8 channels of SDI audio capture and playback in HD and SD.
* 2 channels of AES/EBU audio capture and playback with sample rate converter on input.
* 4 channels of XLR professional analog audio capture and playback.
* Genlock/Tri-Sync reference input for locking to large systems.
* RS-422 remote control for broadcast decks.
* Includes 2 meter or 7 foot breakout cable.
* Includes developer SDK for custom development.
* USB 3.0 computer connection at 4.8 Gb/s speeds for maximum real time effects.
* Includes Media Express software for real time capture and playback of media.
* Real time effects in Adobe PremiereTM Pro, supports After Effects, Fusion, Photoshop and more.


Availability and Price

UltraStudio Pro is available now for US$895 from Blackmagic Design resellers worldwide.


About Blackmagic Design
Blackmagic Design creates the world's highest quality video editing products, color correctors, video converters, routers, waveform monitors and film restoration software for the feature film, post-production and television broadcast industries. Blackmagic Design's DeckLink capture cards launched a revolution in the television industry, while the company's DaVinci EmmyTM award winning color correction products have dominated the television and film industry since 1984 and continue ground breaking innovations including stereoscopic 3D and 4K workflows. Founded by world leading post production editors and engineers, Blackmagic Design has offices in the USA, UK, Japan, Singapore, and Australia. For more information, please check http://www.blackmagic-design.com.

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