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March 15, 2011

Table of Contents

The Art and Business of Corporate Film Production, Part II: The Art
Inside Ray Roman Seminars
B&H Photo And Singular Software To Deliver Audio And Video Synchronization Tools To The Media Community
New Camera Test Target From DSC Labs Sheds New Light On Traditional Test Charts
Panasonic Announces New High-Performance 9-inch BT-LH910 LCD Production Monitor

The Art and Business of Corporate Film Production, Part II: The Art

Ron DawsonLast month I wrote about the short holiday film For the Man Who Hated Christmas that I produced for our client, Giving101. The whole process, from booking the client through production, is an ideal case study on corporate film production. In Part 1, I wrote about the business side of the deal. This month, we’re covering the “fun” stuff: making the film.

It All Starts with a Story
In 1982, Woman’s Day held a contest in which readers were invited to submit short essays on their favorite holiday traditions. Out of thousands of entries, a touching true story from Nancy Gavin won and was published in the Dec. 14 issue that year.

As her essay states, “it all began” because Nancy’s husband, Mike, hated Christmas—specifically, the commercialization of the holiday. So one year, she anonymously made a generous donation of wrestling gear to an inner city school, wrote about it in a letter, sealed the letter in a blank white envelope, then placed it on their tree as Mike’s gift. He was thrilled, and so began a family tradition.

The emotional climax of the story comes when we learn that Mike died of cancer a number of years later. During the next Christmas, not only did Nancy still put a white envelope on the tree in his memory, but each of their three kids did too—each unbeknownst to the other.

My client discovered the story about 5 or 6 years ago and was so moved by it it started The White Envelope Project, a nonprofit that encourages others to emulate the Gavin family tradition during the holiday season. The company has since changed its name to Giving101 and has expanded its scope to provide a way for anyone to easily give to any charity anywhere. (Check out here).

One of the ideas I pitched that helped me land the gig was that the story “world” would be very simple. Nancy, the narrator, would be speaking to the camera in a high-key set (i.e., similar to the background in the famous “I’m a Mac; I’m a PC” commercials). We’d then cut to b-roll scenes she describes while telling the story. The scenes would also be on a high-key set, with a very spartan set design. The only thing you would see in each scene would be significant items that stood out in the narrator’s mind (the tree, the envelope, the chair she sat in, etc.). The simple set also happened to serve a great logistical purpose since there was neither budget nor time to build the kind of sets the script would traditionally require.

Due to lack of time, the greatest challenge I had on this project was preproduction. The final version had to be completed by Dec. 6, which meant the client needed my first cut by Nov. 30. The contract wasn’t signed and the retainer paid until after Nov. 1. That left fewer than 30 days to recruit cast and crew, find a location, shoot, and edit. To make matters worse, for a week of that time I was booked for another client gig out of town and 2 weeks after that I was traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday (with principal photography literally in between). It was going to take all of my social media and technological savvy to pull this production off. I want to share with you how we made it happen in the hopes that it will give you ideas and inspiration for your own time-sensitive, challenging productions. Note that except for the lead role, all the cast and crew members were volunteers who wanted to participate in a special project for a nonprofit organization doing such special work.

Assembling a Crew
Many of the smaller shoots we do require just one crew member—me. I knew that would not be the case for this project, so I reached out primarily to the closest resource available: the media team at my church. I sent an email to all the “usual suspects” on the team describing the shoot and the planned shoot days.

I also reached out to local Atlanta filmmaker Brandon McCormick of Whitestone Motion Pictures. Brandon’s shoots are as close to Hollywood as one can get without actually being in Tinsel Town. He shoots on the Sony F900 CineAlta HD film camera (same kind of camera George Lucas used to shoot the Star Wars prequels), he works with a composer/co-producer who writes original music, and he has department heads and teams for every major area of film production. I knew he could hook me up. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, a big part of success in this business is “who you know.”)

However, the person who became one of the most important players on the team was a woman I brought in as an associate producer. Cherie had reached out to me months before via a referral from a mutual friend at my church. She expressed an interest in the filmmaking process, so this was a perfect opportunity for her. While I was out of town, she was crucial in handling much of the legwork and phone calls to secure props, actors, and locations.

Props, Location, and Set Design
As I mentioned earlier, the use of the high-key set and simple set design served both a creative as well as a logistical purpose. Nevertheless, it was still a challenge finding all the props we needed in such a short time period. For the location, we used a local studio with a large CYC (pronounced “sike”) wall. A CYC wall is an all-white wall with a floor that curves where the wall meets the floor, thereby giving you an infinite-looking background. Frankly, there were parts of the script I could not shoot because we were unable to find the right set or props. But in other areas we scored big. For instance, we needed a department store Santa and we ended up finding a professional Santa who just happened to have an ornate Santa chair. Also, the person we cast to be the wrestling ref was a real referee with regulation gear and full referee attire.

Where necessary, I did without and got creative. For instance, one set we needed was bleachers. It was a crucial scene in the film, so we had to shoot it, yet nowhere could I find mini-bleachers to transport to the studio. It finally occurred to me: The whole set is more symbolic than literal anyway. We don’t need real bleachers. I just need to arrange the “fans” in the audience in such a way to represent onlookers at a wrestling match. So, I sat the first row on a small bench and had the back row stand.

I knew that for this film to work, I had to have an actress who could really act. I let the client know ahead of time to budget some amount of money to pay a “real” actor. (None of my fee was allocated to props or cast, so this would be extra money for them to kick in.) In addition to the people mentioned above, I also sent emails to local filmmakers and production companies who do high-profile corporate work where professional actors are required. Everyone who replied with casting agencies mentioned the same one or two companies. I had never worked with an agency before, so this was new. I spoke with a couple of agents about the project, and they sent out the script and production description to their list of qualified clients.

The other sources I tapped to recruit cast included my blog, the client’s website, my church, Cherie’s church, Facebook, and, of course, Twitter. In addition to the main role, there were about 20 other roles I needed to fill, mostly extras. I use Gmail to manage my email accounts, so I created a special filter to easily see and track emails that came in response to our recruiting efforts. That leads me to technology’s role in this process.

I can’t believe how much the process of filmmaking has changed in the 19 years since I first took film and video courses. Naturally, there are the advancements in shooting and editing technology. But equally groundbreaking has been the role social media and the web has played. Both were significant in my preproduction process for this film.

I wrote the film version of the script on Scripped, a free online screenwriting program. That way, no matter where I was, as long as I had an internet connection, I could work on it. Naturally, I blogged about the film, sending out an open call for cast and crew. The client also put a link on their site to a Google Docs form, then sent an email to their large database (which includes funders, by the way, so it was a tangential marketing benefit to get that exposure). I used Google Docs to create a spreadsheet to track names and contact info. I then shared the Google Doc with my associate producer Cherie, so she could add names and make necessary changes as well.

Google Docs spreadsheet

I used my Dropbox account to save head shots, other media, and PDF script versions I emailed to the client. Dropbox is a service that allows you to sync folders on your computer to your account online and with other computers. So in essence, you have a copy of that folder in multiple physical locations, as well as online (and with 2GB of space for free, that’s a lot of files you can store).

But perhaps the most interesting use of technology in this process was the auditions. Back in the day, you’d have to come in person to audition or send in an audition tape. Now you can just upload your audition “tape.” I sent all the actresses auditioning for the lead role a set of sides, which are excerpts from the script you want candidates to perform for their audition. You typically want to select a part of the script that will best showcase their acting range. I included the opening to the script as well as the part of the script where the actress would have to get emotional talking about the loss of her husband (in a perfect world, I wanted an actress talented enough to cry on cue).

Each candidate sent me her audition either via FlipShare or Vimeo or by uploading a video to our YouSendIt account. If you’re not already using YouSendIt (www.yousendit.com) to send or receive large files to clients, you should sign up today. There is a free version, but we use the pro subscription, which allows us to send files up to 2GB. It’s only $49 per year as of this writing.

I gave the actresses audition deadlines. However, one candidate wasn’t able to figure out how to work her video camera, so I had to do a “live” audition with her via Skype video chat. (If you’re keeping track, that makes nine different forms of online technology used in this preproduction process.) During the reading of the emotional scene she started crying. I thought she was crying because the script was so touching. But no, she was in character crying, believably, and on queue. By the time the client saw her performance (she ultimately got her teenage son to help her with the video stuff and sent me a recording), we all knew we had found our actress.

White Envelope Project

With the lead actress cast, it was on to production. Our first task was to create our high-key background.

High-Key Lighting
When shooting on a high-key background, you have to blow out the background enough to get that bright white look, while at the same time exposing the subject enough so as not to make her a silhouette. The studio where we shot had all the lighting equipment we needed. Normally you’d have to rent from one place, then transport your equipment to the shooting location. It was extremely convenient having everything we needed right there.

The Man Who Hates Christmas

As I said, the “key” for lighting this kind of set is blowing out the background. For this shoot we used four 4k softbox throw lights. To light the main actress we used a Diva 400 KinoFlo as a key light and a Westcott softbox as a fill. (Kino Flos are very popular lighting sources in the corporate video world. Check out www.kinoflo.com.)

It’s very important to get your key right in camera the first time; otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time in post trying to fix parts of the background that aren’t perfectly white or bright enough. The more light you can throw on the background, the better. You can aid that by moving the light source closer to the white background. The challenge there is making sure the lights don’t get in your shot.

You want the depth of field deep enough so that if the subject moves a little, she doesn’t go out of focus. But you want to keep it shallow enough to aid in blowing out your background. I shot at an aperture of between ƒ/4.5 and ƒ/5.6 with the main actress. For scenes with larger groups of people, I stopped down to ƒ/8.

For audio I used my Sennheiser ME 66 shotgun on a rented boom pole and mic holder. As a backup, I also used my Sennheiser G2 wireless lav system, wiring the lav underneath the actress’s black turtleneck.

I was shooting with a DSLR, so I recorded sound into my Zoom H4N and used a slate to sync. Every now and then we had to stop for a plane flying over or a train going by (such is the lot if your set is in an industrial area). Other than that, capturing great audio was a snap.

There are a few directorial things I had to keep in mind on this set. First was eyeline. Every scene was shot in the same location on the set. When there were shots that had to be cut together with other shots and the eyeline had to be maintained so as not to break the 180-degree line rule, I made a note on my shot list about where to have the actors looking.

Directing child actors was part of this piece as well. There’s a running joke in the movie business that the two worst things to direct are kids and animals. With kids, the secrets are 1) getting down to their level (literally); 2) encouraging them by showing your excitement at their participation; 3) making it seem like each of their takes was great (even if it wasn’t exactly what you wanted); and 4) giving them freedom to interpret a character however comes naturally to them.

Directing children on the Man Who Hated Christmas set

There’s one last subtlety in the direction I wanted to share. It was how we did what I call the “verklempt” scene. When Kenley (our actress) first does the scene where she talks about her husband dying, I had her start to cry at the beginning of that section. Then I had her try it a little differently. I told her to stay strong up to where she talks about losing her husband, but when she gets to the part about her kids each putting a white envelope on the tree for their dad, then lose it. It’s amazing what a little change like that does for the performance. Being a mother herself, she got so emotional that after we cut, it took her a while to collect herself. The scene in the final film is the first take of that version.

The Man Who Hated Christmas

There isn’t much to add about the postproduction process except to say that I had a great collaboration with the client. Their creative director was very open about what he did and didn’t like about the first cut.

Actually, his only critiques were about font usage, a couple of the transitions, and music. We tried a few different songs. At one point, they wanted all non-Christmas songs, but I felt strongly we needed at least two of the songs to be recognizable holiday tunes.

Ultimately, they trusted my direction and felt I made the right choice in the end. The music came from Triple Scoop Music as well as Incompetech.com. (The latter site is by musician Kevin MacLeod, who has a large selection of instrumental music for which he grants full rights in exchange for a modest $5 donation and credit. It’s a great resource if you ever need inexpensive royalty-free tunes. He has a great selection of silent film-style music.)

Commercial film production is ready and available to the enterprising small event video producer. Shooting and editing commercial work isn’t the mundane or dull work of the past, with stuffy talking-head videos, cheesy late-night cable spots, or promo videos for products or services you’d never use. It is possible to find meaningful commercial work on a small scale that allows your creativity to flow, while providing that true film production and script-to-screen experience. Start by learning what’s involved, then proactively pursue it, and in everything you do now, instill the crucial sensibilities of storytelling and excellence.

Ron Dawson (ron at daredreamer.net) is president of Dare Dreamer Media, a new media marketing and video production agency. He and his wife, Tasra, are co-authors of the Peachpit Press book ReFocus: Cutting-Edge Strategies to Evolve Your Video Business. Ron is a two-tome EventDV 25 all-star and writes about filmmaking and business on his blog, Bladeronner.com.

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Inside Ray Roman Seminars

Ray Roman WorkshopsFew studios in our industry have risen faster or higher than Ray Roman Films. With that kind of success comes responsibility, and while Ray is the first to acknowledge that, as much as he enjoys his work and as dedicated as he is to his art, his own business is “all about the Benjamins.” But his leadership in this industry is focused on helping other filmmakers become the best they can be at their craft. In addition to speaking at national events such as WEVA and IN[FOCUS], Ray has initiated a series of 3-day workshops designed to provide intensive training for other event filmmakers. Joining Ray at his first event, held Jan. 18–20 in a number of southern Florida venues, was Konrad Czystowski, fellow EventDV 25 All-Star, frequent Ray Roman Films collaborator/second shooter, and founder of the newly minted FreshSox (www.freshsox.com) studio. Ray and Konrad have teamed up to create a top-notch training team. I don’t want to divulge too much about the shooting techniques, angles, and editing techniques shared by Ray and Konrad in this article; it would be difficult to do justice to that information in print. To learn those items, you just need to attend a workshop on your own. What I would like to share are some concepts and thoughts about the day they shared to give you a little insight into the thought processes of the videographers at Ray Roman Films and how they approach the art and business of wedding filmmaking.

Shooting the Preps
Day 1 of the workshop began with hands-on shooting of the preps. Ray set up the workshop to create a realistic experience for the attendees. The preps were done on location at a very high-end home in Lighthouse Point, Fla., an incredible venue with incredible surroundings. During the bride preps, Ray repeatedly discussed the importance of getting solid footage with basic techniques. “Make sure to get your good content for the film before worrying about getting the eye-candy shots,” he said. This point was stressed many times over the course of the 3 days. Ray and Konrad both stressed that the story is your first priority, and the creative stuff is a bonus to enhance the story. Without the story content, they said, your film will fall apart.

Another key thought Ray mentioned concerning bride preps was to be aware of your surroundings. If you walk into a bridal prep area before shooting has started and notice people are set up under bad lighting or in an area where the background is cluttered and not complimentary to your film, then take charge and move the prep to a well-lit or uncluttered area. Many shooters may feel intimidated about changing a room around a little for their advantage. There is an easy way to handle a take-charge situation with a bride or wedding planner, and Ray stressed this many times as well. Ray said, “I tell the bride that if she will make these few small changes to the surroundings, or [to the lighting], then it will make her look better, and her film [will] look better.” And what bride doesn’t want to look better in her film? This is one of those nuggets of information that can make the whole workshop worth the cost. This one-liner gets used in many situations throughout the wedding day to improve the film.

Ray and Konrad also stressed multiple times the importance of getting a variety of shots to build your films. These various angles give you lots of content to build your films with multiple options of angles. This is the basis of a good-quality film.

During his groom prep demonstration, Konrad also threw in some valuable insights in setting up the DSLR picture profiles and the white balance shift functions of the camera. Konrad again stressed a variety of angles and a variety of content.

Ray Roman Workshops

First Looks
After the preps were done, it was off to the first-look setting at a local boardwalk along the beach. The first look before the ceremony is not popular in many cultures or parts of the country. But with all his customers, Ray attempts to get the bride and groom to have this moment before the ceremony. The first look is a special moment for many brides and grooms, and they want it to happen as the bride walks down the aisle. Ray tells his couples that if they have a first look before the ceremony, they get to share the moment in a more intimate setting. They will still have a wonderful reaction at the ceremony, but by shooting a first look before the ceremony, you get multiple special moments to work with in your film, each of them special in their own way.

Ray and Konrad demonstrated how to set the camera angles at the first look to get the safe shot, the close-up shot, and the creative shots. Of course, get your safe shots first before setting up the creative ones. Ray and Konrad showed us how to do the first look with three different cameras and only one person. Once you know the angles and techniques, a single shooter can set up the whole scenario in a matter of minutes and have money shots for the film.

The Ray Roman Rules
Ray and Konrad also taught attendees a number of rules for the day of the shoot that will improve anyone’s work. Days 2 and 3 were filled with additional great information, but the following rules were reiterated several times:

• Communicate, communicate, communicate. Ray and Konrad stressed repeatedly the benefit of communicating with the bride, the officiant/celebrant, and all the vendors involved in the day. By communicating with the photographer, planner, and minister, you establish your credibility as a professional. Otherwise, you may be viewed as just a videographer who is there to cover the event with no desire to create a professional documentation of the day.

• Study your frame and control it. Don’t accept what’s there in the frame and background just because it’s there. Clean it up and make your visuals look right. Photographers control the scenery, so why shouldn’t we? We’re both creating visuals. Let’s create visually stimulating films instead of the typical fly-on-the-wall stuff we are used to seeing in this industry. Konrad mentioned that he tells a bride and groom that he wants to become like a groomsman on their wedding day. He wants to become comfortable with them to the point that they don’t feel intimidated by his camera and the few requests he may have. Both Ray and Konrad may control a few situations, but at the same time, they do it in a very unobtrusive and low-key way. They stressed that we can be part of the day, controlling it visually without ruining what is happening. Ray and Konrad never change what will happen naturally, but they just make sure what does happen looks great and visually stimulating.

• Don’t put something in the film just because it looks good. It can be a great shot, but if it doesn’t further the story, leave it on the cutting-room floor.

• The core of what you do should be capturing solid shots for the story. Most of the shooting Ray and Konrad demonstrated was done from a tripod or monopod. They were locked down properly with well-framed and well-planned shots. Gadgets work great, they said, but the core of their amazing work is very clean, basic shooting that we should all know how to do.

• Anticipate. This bit of frequently repeated advice came up first during the preps demonstration. If you know the groom is about to put on his belt, for example, position yourself ahead of time and get prefocused and ready so that when he does it, you haven’t slowed him down in his prep time.

Ray Roman Workshops

Ceremony and Reception Coverage
Day 2 was all about the ceremony and reception coverage. Here, Ray did something I have not seen in a seminar or workshop before. He had a local minister on hand who discussed the minister/videographer relationship with us for a few minutes. He had some valuable insight on how to approach the minister as a professional and create a good working relationship with him or her. This often allows us to have more freedom in our shots for the ceremony. The pastor can provide a mother lode of information we often don’t mine because we don’t take the time to build videographer/officiant relationships.

A new concept for the workshop was introduced on Day 2: prepositioning equipment for the ceremony and reception. This allows Ray and Konrad to move between camera positions without hauling a big tripod around. By doing this you are less obtrusive since you’re just a person walking around instead of a person walking around with a big tripod. Ray will set up a tripod, a monopod, a slider, and lenses around the ceremony site where they will be used. He then just moves a camera to where he needs it and sets it up for a shot. It’s quick, easy, and very discreet.

For reception coverage, Ray and Konrad demonstrated some very unobtrusive lighting techniques for the best footage possible. Many shooters are afraid to light a reception for fear that they will overlight it, ruining the mood and becoming “that obtrusive videographer.”

The reception setting created for the workshop was lit lower than the receptions most of us ever work in. Simple lighting was implemented, offering great exposure for the different parts of the reception, but it never ruined the mood of the reception. It was ample yet very subtle.

Konrad Czystowksi at Ray Roman Workshops

Audio Acquisition
Ray and Konrad both discussed at length how they handle audio acquisition throughout the wedding day. They use similar techniques for both the ceremony and reception. Wireless and solid-state recorders were discussed. Microphone placement and even miking a bride, if needed, were covered.

Attendees got a few moments to actually practice miking the groom and minister. Konrad stressed that when it comes to audio, redundancy is crucial. If one source fails, your backup covers you, and the backup of that backup covers you as well.

On Day 3, Ray began going through the process of how he rough-cuts his footage with Final Cut Pro. In the process of gathering the rough cuts from our first 2 days of shooting, Ray covered how to find the key moments for a scene and how they come together to make a compelling section of a film or a same-day edit (SDE). He covered how timing is critical to make a scene compelling.

Konrad continued the day covering SDEs. He gave us some insights on his equipment list and how to pack the correct equipment for the day and the edit. Konrad covered the good and bad sides of having a dedicated editor or editing your own footage, and he emphasized focusing on your edit and not getting lazy. It’s the stressful part of the SDE, but it’s critical. After going through many of the details explaining techniques and tips for the SDE, Konrad pulled up a SDE in the editor and walked us through the process of building the edit and how it all came together between multiple shooters.

An unexpected treat, at least for me, was a session in the afternoon on Day 3: Konrad demonstrated colorization to make your footage pop. I have long been a fan of using my scopes and monitors to enhance my footage, but very few people understand how to use them and what they mean. Konrad explained how the vectorscopes, waveform monitors, and histograms work in our NLEs. These are valuable tools for color correcting and grading that many editors don’t understand. Konrad used multiple shots from his timeline to show how different filters affect the scopes and monitors in positive and negative ways.

A filter favored by both Ray and Konrad in their colorization is the Color Picker from NewBlueFX (one of the workshop’s sponsors). NewBlueFX has done a good job of simplifying many of the complicated colorization techniques using an easy-to-use filter interface. Konrad explained the use of the Color Picker and its simplicity.

Ray dove into the building of a main feature, showing the workflow and some of the thought processes he and his wife, Jessica, implement to create an epic film that will stir emotions for many years. Ray showed us how his rules for creating solid shots using basic techniques are used to build a classic feature film with an engaging story. Ray, Jessica, and Konrad all have a natural talent for storytelling, and it was fascinating to have the opportunity to look inside their minds for 3 eye-opening and enlightening days.

Philip Hinkle (philip at frogmanproductions.com) runs Madison, Wis-area video production company Frogman Productions. A 2008 EventDV 25 honoree and Grass Valley software trainer, he won a 2008 WEVA CEA Gold in the Sociel Event category and a 2006 4EVER Group AAA Diamond. He was a 2009 WEVA CEA judge and a featured speaker at WEVA Expo 2009. He is co-founder and vice president of the Wisconsin Digital Media Group.

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B&H Photo And Singular Software To Deliver Audio And Video Synchronization Tools To The Media Community

Singular Software™, developer of workflow automation applications for digital media, is pleased to announce it has established distribution through the world's leading digital media reseller, B&H Photo.

PluralEyes, DualEyes and Singular Software Presto are available to purchase today at all B&H locations, as well as in its online store. B&H prides itself on its commitment to sales quality and customer satisfaction, providing its patrons with expert photo and video equipment knowledge of the latest, red-hot digital imaging products and software on the market. "B&H Photo is recognized for their amazing customer support and ability to provide some of the industry's best gear to digital community," says Bruce Sharpe, CEO, Singular Software. "We are looking forward to B&H customers adding our line of multi-camera, dual-system automation applications to their editing toolboxes."

"We are incredibly happy to be carrying Singular Software's award-winning product line," comments Henry Posner, Director of Corporate Communications, B&H Photo Video. "Their software has a remarkable reputation within the digital imaging community, and we look forward to its increasing popularity among our customers."

PluralEyes, DualEyes and Singular Software Presto are now available for purchase at the B&H online shopping destination. To purchase, please visit: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=PluralEyes&N=0&InitialSearch=yes.

About PluralEyes
The PluralEyes application dramatically accelerates the workflow for multi-camera, multi-take, and dual-system audio productions. By analyzing audio information, PluralEyes synchronizes audio and video clips automatically, without the need for timecode, clappers or other special preparation.

About DualEyes
The DualEyes standalone application for dual-system audio utilizes the same advanced technology as its sister product, PluralEyes, to automatically sync video clips to an audio recording. Users simply record audio on a separate recorder while recording video. DualEyes synchronizes and cuts up the audio to automatically match each video clip in both start time and duration. With DualEyes' technology, all original media files are kept intact and new media files are created for maximum flexibility.

About Singular Software Presto
The newest release from Singular Software, Singular Software Presto has won the hearts of those who prepare presentation videos. Ideal for conferences, training sessions, and workshops, Singular Software Presto leverages sophisticated computer vision and audio synchronization techniques to automate the assembly of presenter footage, slideshows, and audio elements, creating a professional-looking video package in just minutes instead of hours.

Users can test drive PluralEyes, DualEyes and Singular Software Presto by downloading fully functional 30-day free trial versions from: http://www.singularsoftware.com/downloads.html


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New Camera Test Target From DSC Labs Sheds New Light On Traditional Test Charts

DSC Labs, an eco-friendly developer of innovative products for image quality improvement, is pleased to announce NorthernLights, a unique new test target designed to help optimize image quality in digital cinema and HD television.

Named after the stunning Aurora Borealis light display, NorthernLights shatters the typical test chart handicap of "narrow color gamut." NorthernLights provides test elements that function well outside the Rec. 709 color space, which is particularly useful for those working with digital cinema and other high-end camera systems.

"Camera and sensor technology have evolved way beyond the level of color saturation capable of being reproduced in typical test charts," comments DSC Labs President, David Corley. "Through ongoing research, our engineering group developed the answer to this age-old dilemma. NorthernLights effectively combines DSC's trusted front-lit technology with innovative self-illuminated high gamut colors, giving camera users a meaningful new way to calibrate and test their cameras in color space well-beyond typical front and rear-lit test systems."

NorthernLights Features:

  • Front-lit 24 DSC-calibrated color chips for accurate reference and setup to the Rec. 709 standard
  • 11-step spectrophotometrically neutral crossed grayscale for efficient gamma adjustment
  • Horizontal/vertical hyperbolic wedges (DSC trumpets) to test camera resolution
  • Upper and lower 18% gray strips to check evenness of lighting, both horizontally and vertically
  • Adjustable brightness and color controls to balance white levels

NorthernLights will be on display at NAB (April 11–14). Attendees will be able to see its unique capabilities demonstrated at the DSC booth, C10215.

DSC Labs produces a wide range of precision tools for image control in broadcasting, digital cinema, corporate production, medicine, security, and more. Many of these tools have been designed with suggestions and input from experts for particular applications — NorthernLights is no exception.

About DSC Labs

DSC Labs has been dedicated to image integrity in visual communications for more than 48 years. The company's pioneering engineering achievements include patented image processes and the development of standardized industry-wide test patterns, earning DSC the Fuji Gold Medal for outstanding contributions to television. Using ground source heat/cool technology at the lab, DSC is known for its environmentally friendly production processes and materials, and whenever possible, for designing recyclable products. "Better Images through Research" articulates the company's continuing commitment to making innovative products for image quality improvement. For more information, please visit: http://www.dsclabs.com.

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Panasonic Announces New High-Performance 9-inch BT-LH910 LCD Production Monitor

Panasonic Solutions Company has introduced the BT-LH910, a powerful new 9-inch LCD monitor for field and studio applications. Breakthrough features include a new high brightness, high contrast IPS panel that affords the best picture quality in its class; newly-developed 3D assist functions; and professional interfaces including HDMI and 3G-SDI. Equally suitable for production, broadcast and institutional applications, the cost-effective BT-LH910 can be utilized on-camera as an electronic viewfinder, on location, and in mobile or live settings.

The BT-LH910 offers production-level critical viewing with 1280 x 768 WXGA pixel resolution, the highest in the 9-inch and under professional LCD monitor category. The monitor’s high brightness (350cd /m²), high contrast (1000:1), horizontally-aligned IPS panel has 176 degree vertical and horizontal viewing angles, the widest offered by any LCD display. It delivers exceptional imagery with superb color accuracy and exhibits minimal changes in brightness and color due to the viewing angle.

The BT-LH910 incorporates a 2X SDI IN overlay and side-by-side display that provides a 2D view of various 3D checks, including composition, convergence, color and luminance, focus and zoom position, and parallax. This “3D assist” function is ideal for production crews that require 3D review in the field, such as when using a 3D rig system. Boosting its versatility, the BT-LH910 delivers a full range of professional interfaces, including for the first time in a Panasonic pro monitor, HDMI and 3G-SDI inputs. The LH910 also offers two times SDI loop-through to allow it to be used with existing 3D rigs while still feeding video to any downstream equipment. Additional functionality encompasses a BLACK mode for confirming dark scenes; an RGB waveform monitor; a vectorscope; an RGB direct white balance adjustment; a color audio level meter; new front/rear design; SDI closed caption support; a headphone jack; and tilt stand.

The new 15:9 aspect ratio monitor is compatible with multiple HD/SD formats and features the industry’s lowest image processing delay, a Diagonal Line compensation function and such advanced focus assist functions as Focus-in-Red and Pixel-to-Pixel matching. Slim at 3.1-inches deep and light at 3.7 pounds (excluding tilt stand), the space-saving BT-LH910 is eco-friendly with a W-LED backlight.

When used as an electronic viewfinder, the BT-LH910 can be configured with Panasonic’s full range of HD shoulder-mount cameras, using the optional BT-CS910 viewfinder cable. The 12V DC-powered monitor is equipped with both a 4-pin XLR DC input and an Anton Bauer battery gold mount, making it ideal for outdoor use.

The BT-LH910 will be available in April at a suggested list price of $3,500. The monitor will join Panasonic’s BT family of production LCD monitors, which includes the 25” BT-3DL2550, 25” BT-LH2550, 17” BT-LH1760 and 17” BT-LH1710.



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