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July 12, 2011

Table of Contents

In the Field: DSLR Rigs and Viewfinders From Cinevate and Zacuto
Renaming and Rebranding Your Company
The Nonlinear Editor: John Sayles' Return of the Secaucus 7 and the Disruptive Moment
Keeping Up With Jones: 'Templatize' Your Editing Process
New 'Crossgrade" 50% Rebate on PluralEyes for NLE Switchers
FFV Ships sideKick HD Straight-to-Edit DDR
NEC Intros PX750U Installation Model Projector

In the Field: DSLR Rigs and Viewfinders From Cinevate and Zacuto

Focusing in bright sunlight has always been a challenge. When you're shooting a ceremony or event where you only have one shot to nail your focus and exposure, it's very important to be able to see your LCD clearly. With the introduction of HD-DSLRs, this problem has become even more apparent as the glossy screen is highly reflective and does not do well when sunlight is directly shining on it.

There are many ways to solve this issue, from using your hand to block the sun to even employing a towel as a shroud. But let's face it, putting a towel over your head during a high-end event isn't very chic. Enter the loupe/LCD hood market. In this article, I'm going to talk about two manufacturers, one that got out of the gate first with a product that's become the standard for LCD viewfinders, and another key provider of DSLR accessories and support products that introduced its entry to the LCD hood market a few short months ago. I'll also be talking about the lightweight rigs from these manufacturers that give you more versatility when you're shooting with these LCD viewfinders. The hoods/viewfinders in question are the Zacuto Z-Finder, the current leader in the DSLR hood market, and Cinevate, Inc.'s new contender, the Cyclops. The rigs are the Zacuto Striker and the Cinevate Proteus Simplis Pro.

When comparing these products, this review is going to consider a few key factors:
• Comfort
• Sharpness
• Add-ons
• Portability

Let's get started.

The Viewfinders
First and foremost, if a tool doesn't feel comfortable in my hands or is too much of a hassle to deploy, I tend not to use it as often. The Zacuto Z-Finder (below) is one of those products that is both very comfortable to use and easy to mount and dismount. Mounting and dismounting it is as simple as popping the Z-Finder on and off the frame attached to the camera. It has a rubber eyepiece that surrounds the LCD hood and doesn't cause any discomfort while in use for short periods of time. However, over time on lengthy shoots, I've found that putting my eye up to the Z-Finder does give me a bit of neck strain. When I used to shoot with normal camcorders, I rarely used the viewfinder and always used the LCD. So if you're a viewfinder-oriented shooter, feel free to take this as a personal preference rather than a knock on the design.

Zacuto Z-Finder

The Cinevate Cyclops (below) is a marvel of an LCD hood, but the downside is that it is quite large. Compared to the Z-Finder, the Cyclops takes a few more seconds to get on and off of the camera as you have to loosen the kip screws and then tighten them back up, while adjusting the angle at which the Cyclops sits on the LCD. While this isn't a total deal breaker, shooters who are space-conscious in their gear bags may find this to be a cause for concern. The Cyclops has two great saving graces: One is that you do not have to put your eye directly to the Cyclops to shoot with it as you do with the Z-Finder.

Cinevate Cyclops

The Cyclops' other saving grace is a large plastic shroud that allows you to use both eyes to see the LCD screen. I've found that when I do have to push my eyes up against the plastic portion, it wasn't overly uncomfortable. But since it's made of hard plastic that has been smoothed out, it will cause discomfort over time. This isn't too much of a big deal as you don't have to be right up against the Cyclops in order to accurately judge focus. You can actually stand a few feet away from the LCD hood. This is due to the amazing clarity provided by the Cinevate achromat, which was used in the company's Brevis 35mm adapters and adapted for use in the Cyclops.

The sharpness achieved with the achromat puts the Cyclops at the top of the LCD hood market in terms of image quality. It's a noticeable difference between the Cyclops and the Z-Finder. The Z-Finder's glass is also high-quality, which means you can still judge the focus well, but if you look through the Z-Finder and then through the Cyclops, you can tell the difference immediately. I find that the Z-Finder almost looks as though you are looking at the pixels of the screen rather than the overall image. With the Cyclops, I've found that I'm able to discern the details more as they appear sharper. This is a significant enough advantage for the Cyclops that it's a worthwhile trade-off for the size disadvantage.

When I was on location during a corporate shoot, my producer was able to review the footage quite easily using the Cyclops in bright sunlight without my having to hand him the camera. This makes it attractive to use on set and productions as more people can view the image during review. It's more of a hassle to shoot with the Cyclops attached at all times, so I limit its use to lockdown tripods or corporate shoots where I don't have to run around as much. I still prefer the bare LCD during run-and-gun shooting; it leaves me free to stand away from the camera without having to press my eye against it as I have to do with the Z-Finder attached. Likewise, I'm more agile when I only work with the LCD than when I have the large Cyclops attached. I've shot events using both, and I've found that the size of the Cyclops and the IQ from the Z-Finder cause me to just run a bare LCD when I'm on-the-move.

The Rigs
On to the rigs. The Zacuto Striker is made up of a series of grip rods, dog-bone collars, a handgrip, and a shoulder stock. From my testing and overall use, I can say that the Zacuto components are very well made, and the locking mechanism can withstand a high amount of torque at the same time. My only dislike is the color scheme. But that is just my opinion; I've read that others have been fond of it.

Zacuto Striker

The Cinevate Proteus Simplis Pro rig, which I will shorten to just Simplis Pro for the remainder of the review, consists of the Proteus Simplis base plate, four ball-joint adjusters, two grip handles, and a shoulder stock. Its base component is the Proteus Simplis plate, which has a quick release built in for the Manfrotto 501-style plates. It has a number of holes in which Cinevate incorporated its unique system of urethane balls, which then attach to its various accessories. This does allow for more angles and greater adjustability, but, at the same time, it does add to the overall busyness of the product.

Cinevat Proteus Simplis Pro

If you don't have the kip handles tightened well, you will experience some slippage if your rig is heavy. I've found myself frustrated sometimes trying to adjust the different handgrips and shoulder stock while the ball joints rotated independently, which causes me to have to set the rig down to properly adjust. It uses kip handles as opposed to the Zacuto Striker's knobs, which are more convenient because you can rotate them out of the way without affecting the grip of the dog bone. They are a bit long, which causes them to hit or rub up against other parts of the rig as opposed to Zacuto's shorter knobs.

All of the parts are anodized or coated black, which gives the product a very professional look and feel. Touching back on the comfort level of using both the products, I find the Zacuto Striker rig easier to handle as it has fewer components. The Simplis Pro is much more robust in its design, and, as a result, it is slightly heavier. The gorilla plate, the base of the Zacuto rig, is much thinner and simpler than the Proteus Simplis plate. Therefore it is lighter, but it doesn't offer as many different mounting options.

The Proteus Simplis has one hazard that is important to remember: It does not have the locking mechanism that is a standard component of the Manfrotto tripod heads. If you don't make sure that the quick-release plate is properly tightened down, you risk the camera sliding off the plate and causing damage. This is the trade-off for being able to quickly remove and mount the camera to the Proteus Simplis. The gorilla plate from Zacuto is attached to the camera via a screw, so no such risk exists with the Striker.

The Zacuto setup is lighter and more conducive to travel. The Cinevate setup has quite a few more pieces to it, coupled with the large size of the Cyclops. This surely doesn't make it the most portable rig, but I usually only pack the Proteus Simplis plate and Cyclops to use during the ceremony for outdoor weddings. I usually shoot monopod for the majority of the day and leave the handheld rig components behind. I prefer the look of footage shot with a monopod to the handheld look of the shoulder- or gunstock-style rigs. But when circumstances call for the handheld-rig look, these setups are more compact and better suited for documentary-style filming situations.

As with any product comparison, there are a few trade-offs that make it difficult to recommend one unequivocally over the other. The Zacuto Z-Finder + Striker is a very light, simple system and a great value. But when overall image quality and exact focus are primary concerns, my choice for an LCD hood/viewfinder is the Cinevate Cyclops, which provides a much sharper reference image.

Randy Panado (randy at colourcraftmedia .com), in his short career in wedding filmmaking, has worked with and shot alongside the greatest studios in the world. Not only running his own company, Hawaii-based Colour Craft Media, but also being a highly sought second shooter, he has traveled the world filming for some of the coolest couples at breathtaking locations.

Back to Contents...

Renaming and Rebranding Your Company

There may come a time in your business when you will find it necessary to change things up a little (or maybe change things up a lot). For some of you, that might mean changing your business so that its evolution mirrors changes in technology or the economy. Or maybe you just realized that ACME Video is not the best name for a studio that supposedly prides itself on creating videos that are different than the rest. In other words, your brand is not compatible with your product or service.

Over the past 5 or 10 years, I've had the opportunity to be on both sides of the brand change process: changing my own and helping others change theirs. I want to share with you some of the things I learned in that process. I'm not claiming that these are hard and fast rules. This is just how we've done it and how we've helped others do it. If you're considering a change, I hope you'll find this article useful.

A Rose by Any Other Name
You would be surprised at the number of business lessons there are buried deep within the literary genius of Shakespeare. Ultimately, the name of your business will not affect the kind of product and/or service you provide. You could very well be called ACME Photo and Video and still be considered a top-notch provider of unique services. That said, I still believe a name is important. It plays a huge role in making that first impression with a prospective client. It helps prospects remember you and brag about you. It helps them find you on the internet. And it plays a role in setting you apart.

For a significant part of the 9 years I've been in business, the name of my company was Cinematic Studios. That was a name that evolved from Cinematic Video, which in turn had evolved from Don Ron Entertainment. We had invested a great deal of time, money, and brand equity in that name. But 2 years ago, I realized it was time for another change: from Cinematic Studios to Dare Dreamer Media.

There were three reasons I decided to make the switch:

Too many "cinematics." More and more companies were putting "cinematic" in their name. In fact, at the height of my use of that name, I was doing a lot of work for the pro photography world, and so was my good friend and fellow EventDV 25 All-Star Joshua Smith. The name of his company? Cinematic Bride. I'd frequently get comments from people saying they loved a video I had done, but it was one of Josh's. Or I'd read a comment on a photography board about this cool video by Cinematic Bride and I knew, based on the description and client, that it was referring to one of mine. The market was getting flooded with Cinematic this and Cinematic that. It was hard to stand out.

A new direction.
I was also taking my company in a new direction. I no longer wanted to have the term "studios" associated with my company. Studio suggested a specific media (either video and/or photography). I knew that even though filmmaking would be the primary medium in which I worked, what I was selling, or rather, what I am selling my clients are ideas. First and foremost, we are a company of ideas. And we can and do use any medium at our disposal to execute those ideas. My strength happens to be filmmaking. But I found that if you're known as just a video production company, people will often think of you as just a "camera jockey." That's not what we're about. I wanted a name that would express that.

A fresh start. Lastly, I wanted a fresh start. This name change occurred right after we had made the cross-country move from Silicon Valley to Atlanta. There were a lot of things I was looking to leave behind. There were also pain, hurt, and frustration tied up in the old name that I wanted to put behind me. There's nothing like a new name to give a person a sense of a new lease on life.

Over the past few years, I've seen a number of event filmmakers change their company names either to get rid of the term "video" or to create a brand that they believe will appeal to a higher-end clientele. This is typically done by adding the word "Films" to your name (e.g., david robin | films, Loyd Calomay Films, or Dawson Signature Films). This is actually an example of those of us in the event motion picture world taking a cue from event photographers who for years have traditionally named their studios after themselves.

The logic behind this strategy is that the thing that separates your business from everyone else is, in fact, you. It's also akin to fashion designers naming their
businesses after themselves (Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, etc.). It works for restaurants too (Ruth's Chris, Wolfgang Puck, etc.). Simply put: The public is used to associating higher-end brands with the name of the auteur behind them.

I strongly considered changing my company name to something along these lines (e.g., Ron Dawson Films). For various reasons I went with Dare Dreamer Media. Given the kind of work and clientele I was going after (corporate clients), it seemed to fit. (FYI, Dawson Signature Films is the brand name we use for our wedding and event filmmaking services, but it's not the name or brand in which we've invested the majority of our rebranding and reinvention efforts.)

Making the Change
Once you're ready to actually make the change, here are some things to do and/or keep in mind. Again, this is just based on my experience.

Get the .com. Make sure you can get the .com URL of the name you want. While you're at it, get the .net and .org versions too. If you can't get the .com but you can get the .net, that's probably OK, so long as the .com is not used and/or owned by someone in a similar business. At the time we changed our company name to Dare Dreamer Media, http:// daredreamer.com was not available, so we went with http://daredreamer.net (yes, I do also have www.daredreamermedia.com and .net). I was actually fine with this since .net usually is used by companies with a strong online or web-centric strategy (which we have). Eventually, the .com became available, and I grabbed it right away. If you can't get either the .com or .net, strongly reconsider the importance of the name. I'm not a fan of makeshift URLs (e.g., dare-dreamer.com or thedaredreamer .com). I want the obvious choice to lead directly to my site.

Notify everyone.
Send a mass email to everyone (clients, friends, family, etc.) about the name change. Blog about it. Celebrate the change and provide a clear reason or explanation for it.

Keep your old site for a year. Assuming the name change comes with a new site as well, keep the old site up for 6 months to a year. Make it one page with an explanation of the change and a link to your new site. After a year, that's a good time to have the old site automatically forward to the new site.
If you go to www.cinematicstudios.com, you will end up at http://dare dreamer.net. Speaking of forwarding, make sure your old email address forwards to the new one.

Train your clients. Once you start using the name, train your clients to use it too. If they send emails to your old email address, remind them to update their contact info with your new name and email address. Use your new name in your email signatures.

Update everywhere. Update all the relevant social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. To aid in communicating the change, if there's room, write the former name as a "formerly." For instance, for almost 2 years, my LinkedIn entry for Dare Dreamer Media said "Dare Dreamer Media (formerly Cinematic Studios)." I did the same thing in my email signature. It was only about a month ago that I removed the "formerly Cinematic Studios." Don't forget any old advertising sites or directories.

Loco for Logos
The next part of your brand change will most likely involve your logo. I hope you know by now that a logo does not a brand make. I read or hear a lot of comments by videographers that equate the two. Your logo is just one aspect of your overall brand. And here's another point that you may find shocking: As far as your business is concerned, I would argue that a logo is not necessary. I'm not saying it's not helpful, just that if push came to shove and you got rid of your logo altogether, I don't think it would hurt your business. When going through the process of creating a new logo, keep these four things in mind.

Dare Dreamed Media

We originally invested $5,000 in our Cinematic Studios branding and design (bottom). We invested less than one-fifth of that for Dare Dreamer Media (top).

It's the process, not the payment. There's a lot of controversy in the design world over sites such as LogoSauce and LogoTournament. These are places where you get low-priced designers to bid on your logo job, and you choose the best one. You can end up spending as little as $200-$300 to get a logo that you'll use for years. Naturally, if you're a branding company that charges $10,000, you'll see sites like this as the dregs of your industry. But when it comes to consumer event work, I believe that how much money you're investing in a logo is less important than the process in which you develop it. Do the designers you've hired have a good understanding of your business, your brand, and your clientele and their interests? Are you developing this logo in a vacuum, or are you doing it in conjunction with an entire campaign (website, collateral, copy, etc.)?

In this business, the mark doesn't matter. I'm sure this may ruffle some people's feathers. But I contend that for businesses that cater primarily to brides and families, the actual visual mark they create for their logos is probably one of the least important aspects of their brands. I believe a memorable logo is best suited for products or services where there is frequent and repeat business from the same client, or if that logo helps the product/service stand out in a sea of competitors. When you're driving down the I-5 from San Francisco to Los Angeles, your stomach grumbling from hunger, you want to quickly notice those "golden arches" in that oasis of fast food restaurants. When you're on the fifth hour of your drive to Las Vegas for some convention and you need your caffeine fix, your eyes start darting back and forth for the familiar green circle of Starbucks. In both of these cases, the associated marks drum up feelings and thoughts about the product instantly that help in making a decision.

Edify the experience. I think the entire experience in dealing with your company is way more valuable than a cool logo. From the first encounter with your brand on your website, to his or her meeting with you or telephone calls, to the experience on "the set"-all of these are facets of your business that will have the greatest impact on whether a prospect hires you (maybe even more so than your actual work.

Follow your own advice. How many times do you tell prospective clients the importance of hiring a pro over having Uncle Charlie shoot a wedding? Follow your own advice. Do not attempt to make your own logo if you don't have design experience. Whereas not having a logo won't necessarily hurt you, I do think having a bad logo can hurt you. If you come off cheap and uncreative with an ugly, cartoonish mess you threw together with Microsoft Clip Art-especially if you're aiming for a high clientele-you can expect some prospects to pass you by.

For the Dare Dreamer Media logo, I got a referral from a photographer friend. If I had had the budget, I would have used the designer who originally created our Cinematic Studios branding. We invested $5,000 back in 2006 for her work, and it was great. That kind of money was just not in the budget this time around. The referral I got was a freelance designer who had done a lot of T-shirt design work for this photographer. I liked his style. We invested about $900 and got what I think is a unique design that is simple, yet does a great job of communicating two key aspects about our business: our ability to be daring (i.e., the upside-down A) and our emphasis on filmmaking (the slashes along the top reminiscent of a film slate). When we showed this design to fellow colleagues during the 2009 EventDV 25 cruise that February, there was a lot of discussion about that upside-down A. That, alone, made me want to go with it (despite the fact that out of the five or so design candidates, it was only the second most voted-on among the informal survey my wife and I took among our colleagues).

Redesigning Your Website
Your name change is a perfect opportunity to get rid of that old, tired website you've been meaning to update for years. There are no more excuses. When we changed our website to the current Dare Dreamer Media site (http://daredreamer.net), we made the following key decisions:

Hire a pro. In the past I had always used the DIY web program Dreamweaver to create and update our Cinematic Studios site. This time around I hired a pro web designer. We have a Showit website, and I used Spilled Milk Designs to create it the summer of '09. Its artists were fast and demonstrated a great design sense.

Remember that simple sells. I'm a huge fan of simplicity. It's the aesthetic I go for in my films, my blog, and my site. I wanted something that would be easy to navigate and really highlight the work. Our homepage has a huge featured video and short description. We have five main navigation buttons along the top: home, about, portfolio, buzz, and contact. That's it.

Go self-empowered. Showit is also a DIY solution, so once Spilled Milk Designs finished the main site, I was able to easily update it thereafter.
Be consistent. Your new site should be consistent with the rest of your branding. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can't tell you how many times I've been to videographer conferences and have gotten business cards that look nothing like their websites. I loved how our web designer worked in the "movie slate slashes" from our logo into the web design. He also created a very cool page-loading graphic based on our logo where the upside-down A spins.

Include your contact info.
Make it easy for people to contact you. I'm always surprised when I come to a site that has no phone number, or only a contact form instead of an email address (use both). We designed our site to have our phone number and email address accessible on every page. We also have all of our social media links on our contact page (e.g., blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn).

Dare Dreamer Media
 Our old website was designed and maintained by me using Dreamweaver.

As I mentioned earlier, once the new site is up and running, keep the old site for 6-12 months (I actually kept my old site up for about 18 months). I deleted all the old Cinematic Studios pages and just left up the homepage. It said, "Cinematic Studios is now Dare Dreamer Media" with a link to the new site. The purpose of this (as opposed to just having it forward automatically) is to avoid confusion. You want old clients and referrals from old clients to know for sure they found the right company. If your old site redirects immediately, they may think your old company went out of business and this new business just bought your domain.

Dare Dreamer Media
Our current homepage displays a large featured video. Navigation is simple. Contact info is at the bottom of every page.

Theoretically, you could have the old site redirect immediately and put a message on your new site saying "Formerly [OLD NAME]." I chose not to do that for two reasons: First, I didn't want to take up more space, and second, I didn't want new clients thinking Dare Dreamer was a new company, or an old company with new management. As far as new clients were concerned, I've always been Dare Dreamer Media.

Lost Brand Equity
I know what you're thinking. "Ron, what about all the brand equity I've built up in my old name and logo?" I can understand that concern, but to be frank, your name and logo equity are not that valuable. (I mean that in the nicest possible way.) That is not the same thing as saying your brand is not important. It is. It will have a significant impact on your prospective clients and will help you stand apart from the pack. But, the actual value in your specific name or logo is not so high that changing it will hurt sales. Even among Fortune 500 companies, name and logo changes happen without companies going under or losing customers.

I remember when there was a lot of brouhaha over the Sci Fi Channel changing the spelling of its name to Syfy. Oh my goodness. You'd think it was taking up cat-juggling the way some people reacted. Guess what: All those people still watch their favorite geeky TV shows. Just recently, Starbucks changed its logo to get rid of the "Starbucks Coffee" wording around the circle. It's just the inner circle and siren now. As you may have already guessed, the number of trips we take to get our frappaccino and caramel macchiato fix has not subsided. As long as you continue to offer a great product and customer service to match, you'll be fine. And the tips I mentioned previously will help you through the transition.

Dare Dreamer Media
 The homepage for our wedding division retains the old Cinematic Studios mark (the “infinity” film reel).

Change Is Good
Change is a good thing. It keeps life fresh and interesting. You don't have to change, but if you do, and if you do it right, I'm confident you'll find it rewarding and worth the trouble and investment.

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 also a two-time EventDV 25 honoree.

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The Nonlinear Editor: John Sayles' Return of the Secaucus 7 and the Disruptive Moment

Return of the Secaucus 7Thirty years after its release, the remarkable thing about John Sayles' Return of the Secaucus 7 (1979) is not how shamelessly Lawrence Kasdan ripped it off when he wrote the much better-known The Big Chill (1983), but rather how Return of the Secaucus 7 has provided the template for so many thinly plotted, dialogue-driven, indie-produced ensemble dramedies that followed over the intervening decades. Shot in 25 days for $45,000 with summer-stock actors as the cast and produced not so much for theatrical release as to serve as an audition reel for Sayles as a director, Return of the Secaucus 7 captures the midsummer reunion of seven former '60s student radicals in the summer of 1978. They gather for an off-season weekend in a Jackson, N.H., ski lodge to talk, swim, talk, play Clue, talk, drink, talk, play charades, talk, smoke pot, talk, play volleyball and basketball, and talk. The title (a play on the Chicago Seven, the seven protesters charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968) refers to an incident in which the seven main characters in the film were all arrested in Secaucus, N.J., en route to a protest in Washington, D.C.

Even as The Big Chill tidied up Sayles' film for mass consumption with splashier cinematography, tighter editing, better and bigger-name actors, upwardly mobile characters, more punchlines, contrived epiphanies, broad-stroke themes, and a soundtrack that spawned a still-profitable radio format, Secaucus 7 remains the more relatable film today, if only because its characters seem more like real people. The pushing-30 seven are two schoolteachers, a mechanic, a struggling musician, a legislative aide, a medical student, and a methadone clinic counselor. The Big Chill characters sport a bit more Hollywood flash. How often do casual reunions of your old friends bring together action TV stars, interstate drug dealers, wealthy real estate developers, and reporters for People magazine?

The rather overwrought and simplistic issue with which the characters in The Big Chill wrestle, albeit briefly, boils down to, "We were great then; we're sh*t now." And as a pivot point for the movie that theme works—and, more importantly, sells—partly because the characters have all abandoned their revolutionary roots so spectacularly, and partly because, in the way the film absolves them, it also absolves every former activist who sold out, bought in, moved on, moved up, and traded in '60s radicalism for '80s solipsism-while reclaiming the biggest radio hits of the '60s for the generation that left everything else behind.

For the record, Lawrence Kasdan has insisted for years that he never saw Return of the Secaucus 7-or at least that he never saw it before he wrote The Big Chill. And why should the Hollywood demigod who wrote the screenplays for The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark ever have to admit to something as inconsequential as co-opting a penny-ante independent film whose own writer/director never intended it for the big screen? For what it's worth, John Sayles has dismissed the connection too, though he's probably just rising above the controversy, which he might as well do at this point. Post-1981 (after Kasdan's two Lucasfilm blockbusters), Sayles has arguably had the far more substantial and impactful film career anyway.

Oddly enough, Return of the Secaucus 7 might not be nearly as appealing today if it were possible to watch it without thinking of The Big Chill and musing on how refreshing it is to see a film that isn't so eager to assuage its audience's worst fears about themselves and doesn't try so hard to assert its cultural significance. The cultural significance of Return of the Secaucus 7, in fact, is not so much what it says about '60s radicals trying to find their place in the world when the upheaval of that era was over-or coming to terms, to paraphrase Tom Hayden (one of the real Chicago Seven), with a world that they helped change so much that left them with so little. Rather, the triumph of Return of the Secaucus 7 resides in what a quiet and offhand film it is: A film that can't afford camera moves, crane or dolly shots, or multiple angles and so keeps its visuals moving with frequent cuts between scenes. A film that dares to squander screen time showing its characters playing charades and Clue, quizzing each other on the Boston police strike of 1919, and quoting Herbert Biberman's 1954 miners' strike movie Salt of the Earth. A film with the audacity to open with grainy mug shots of its seven main characters, followed by a guy in a T-shirt plunging a toilet. A film that evokes the mundaneness of its characters' lives' second acts by daring to chronicle the mundane. A film that dares to not have a plot, to not take its characters on a journey, and to not depict transformations in their lives-at least not transformations that occur within the period of their lives captured on screen.

So how does a movie like this, that doesn't start much of anywhere and pretty much takes us nowhere-a quiet film with virtually no dramatic arpeggios along the way-not only hold an audience's interest but inspire a big-budget Hollywood rip-off and an entire subgenre of indie films with the same low-drama, discursive, anti-Hollywood approach? And as viewers who ultimately sit through the whole thing, where do we end up at the end of a movie like this?
It seems to me that the problem that Sayles not only faced but created for himself in Return of the Secaucus 7 is the same one faced by the wedding videographer who wants to shoot and edit a wedding as a film: There's no journey from Point A to Point B built into the story. There's no huge, dramatic conflict or any appreciable suspense about how things are going to turn out for the characters in the end because there's little, if any, turning in the beginning or the middle. We all know the bride and groom are going to end up together at the end of a wedding film. Likewise, one fractured relationship notwithstanding, in Return of the Secaucus 7, we have no real reason to believe that the lives of the characters or the connections between them will have changed substantially or shifted course at the end of the movie.

So how does Sayles bring resolution to his film? He uses what I'll call a "disruptive moment." Jeff, the one character in the movie whose past radicalism seems to have been driven by a pervasive anger that hasn't abated 10 years later with much less context in which to vent itself now, and the one character whose long-term romantic relationship with another of the seven has just ended, doesn't come out to say goodbye to his friends as they head home at the end of the movie. Rather, Jeff sequesters himself in a field behind the lodge, chopping wood.

In this short, wordless scene—which is intermittently interrupted with cuts to other scenes showing his friends saying goodbye to one another—Jeff splits logs with increasing violence, intense concentration, frustration, and all-too-apparent rage on his face, while a quietly wrenching bent-string guitar motif plays in the background. This scene is shot differently and cut faster and much more dramatically than the rest of the film. Whereas the rest of the film is quiet, languidly paced, and drifting, this scene can only be described as staccato in the way it's shot and cut and presented.

In this way the wood-chopping scene briefly (but memorably) disrupts the entire mood of the film. If Return of the Secaucus 7 has anything profound to say about what it means to be cast adrift in a world you helped make but barely recognize—or simply to wonder what in the world your life is supposed to be about after you discover that the world was never yours to remake—it says it in this scene, the only scene in this dialogue-driven film in which no one says a word.
It struck me that maybe what wedding films that lack feature films' traditional narrative journey, suspense, and resolution need-and especially wedding films that otherwise take the "indie film" approach that Chris P. Jones identified in his first presentation on the national conference scene in 2008—is a disruptive moment that signifies the culmination of the drama in the film without attempting to impose resolution where there was nothing to resolve.

Return of the Secaucus 7

Obviously, showing an angry, self-loathing man chopping wood isn't the way to go in a wedding film. But it isn't really the rage of Return of the Secaucus 7's disruptive moment that makes it so powerful; rather it is the editing and the stylistic contrast that sets it off so jarringly from the rest of the film and suggests all sorts of analogous possibilities in our own work for bringing dramatic resolution to films that are inherently short on conflict.

What's more, it epitomizes what John Sayles told us in that first near false start of his filmmaking career about the director that he was going to be, and the kind of filmmaker that we can all aspire to be but only a dedicated few of us will ever become: one whose message is not so much "I make films" as "I will dare."

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

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Keeping Up With Jones: 'Templatize' Your Editing Process

Thomas Alva Edison is the most iconic inventor in U.S. history. Most of us can list at least three of his contributions to modern scientific engineering. Furthermore, since he invented batteries, phonographs, incandescent light bulbs, and the motion picture camera, we are indebted to him for being able to do what we love to do for a living.

Beyond his electrical and chemical ingenuity, Edison was also known for his organizational and managerial skills. He was an astute leader of people, directing a team of inventors whose contributions would ultimately be patented under the Edison name. In particular, Nikola Tesla was one of his masterminds who eventually went out on his own and developed the superior AC power system in competition to Edison's DC version.

Since he was reluctant to share credit, Edison received most of the praise for his hundreds of patents. Does it take away from his legacy as a genius to know that he was not handcrafting every apparatus that would eventually bear his brand name? Not in the least! Edison was keenly aware of what it takes to maintain a personal brand when he noted that genius is "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

As artists, we should rely on Edison's thought/sweat ratio in building our reputations as artistic geniuses. It seems, though, that as creatives, we have some misconceptions regarding what it will take to maintain our artistic image, relying more on inspiration than perspiration. We expect originality from ourselves at every turn, but in living up to that expectation, we run the risk of building our backlog more than our artistic credit. How, then, do we keep our artistic rep while kicking projects out the door in a reasonable amount of time?

For many creatives, "template" is a four-letter word. We imagine that relying upon templates is not in the method of an artistic genius; rather, it is the process of a poseur. For us, it feels like the difference between channeling Renoir versus surrendering to Kinkade, from being imaginative to becoming repetitive.

Using templates can mean the difference between spending Sunday in the office and spending it with family and friends. Considering how we could all stand to distribute our hours beyond editing, it is certainly worth the risk of client umbrage to eliminate backlog through the use of templates. At worst, it will only slightly affect our clients' perception of their pièce de résistance should they notice similarities between it and their friend's magnum opus. Since each DVD contains unique content from completely separate events, their videos will always be original to them. There really is nothing about which we should worry.

Consider "templatizing" the following steps in the production process. These are procedures that I have used myself, and I have not felt one single repercussion for daring to systemize. My clients never deny me the title of "artistic genius," nor do they refer me to others any less.

Begin with developing a template project file with your NLE that you can replicate and rename when beginning each new film. Create your standard bins and sequences, and compose graphic files for titles (names, date, location). Set up your preferences for waveforms, track size, codec settings, and anything else that can keep you from having to reinvent the wheel with every project.

Instead of spending an excessive number of hours searching for just the right song to fit every project (and then never using that song again), "residualize" your music searches by reusing tunes and their respective cuts/fades from one project to another. When you finish your highlight or your short-form edit, duplicate that sequence, remove everything except the recorded music, and add that sequence back to your collection of "soundtracks" in the template file.

"Templatize" your DVD authoring as well. Create three to five simple menus and use those throughout the year. Create templates that only require you to change the text and switch out the video files. Chances are, your clients are not paying you to do anything more.

Make your DVD printing and packaging as simple as possible. Use as little text as necessary or eliminate it altogether, as you always run the risk of misspellings, incorrect dates, or unappealing fonts. Overlaying text on top of images can be a time waster too. Many times, you will need to make adjustments to the color/shadowing because the text clashes with or disappears into the image behind it.

Rather than using text to spell out names and dates, create a few screen grabs from close-ups of the texture of the wedding dress, the flowers, and the cake. Use those images without text on your DVD faces and cases. The bride and groom know who they are and should know when and where they were married. I, for one, have never met a couple that needed me to remind them.

Avoid using images of the couple on the case/face as it can be difficult to fit them neatly into the media's measurements. Not to mention, any printed image of the couple will be compared to those produced by the photographer. While you could request images from the photographer, this puts the completion and delivery of your work in the hands of someone else, and it is always better to maintain control.

By implementing these suggestions, you will reduce your backlog and your delivery time, and this will make your clients happier than if you were to commission Danny Elfman to compose an original score. With more time to spend in your hammock on a Sunday afternoon, you will come to realize that you are, in fact, a genius!

Chris P. Jones (jones ar masonjarfilms.com), an Austin, Texas-based EventDV 25 All-Star, has been shooting weddings for nearly a decade and is a co-founder of the wedding filmmaking educational gathering IN[FOCUS]. Follow Jones on Twitter @chrispjones.

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New 'Crossgrade" 50% Rebate on PluralEyes for NLE Switchers

Singular Software, developer of workflow automation applications for digital media, is pleased to announce an exclusive offer for current PluralEyes users. From now through July 17, 2011, current PluralEyes customers switching non-linear editing applications (NLE) can purchase a new PluralEyes license at 50% off.

The crossgrade promotion is available to anyone that purchased PluralEyes prior to July 4, 2011. Each valid PluralEyes license key is good for one crossgrade discount code.

Customers who purchased a PluralEyes crossgrade license after June 19, 2011 should send an email to sales@singularsoftware.com with their original PluralEyes license code and the new NLE PluralEyes license code. Singular Software will send a 50% rebate.

For more information on the exclusive crossgrade promotion, please click here.

About Singular Software

Established in 2008, Singular Software pioneers the development of workflow automation applications for audio and video professionals. Its breakthrough solution, PluralEyes, offers innovative technology to automate and simplify multi-camera, multi-take and dual-system audio workflows. Singular Software products support industry leading non-linear editing products. For more information about Singular Software, please visit: http://www.singularsoftware.com

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FFV Ships sideKick HD Straight-to-Edit DDR

Fast Forward Video (FFV) is pleased to announce that sideKick HD a straight-to-edit, camera-mountable digital video recorder is now shipping. The sideKick HD is designed to ease the production workflow by providing a versatile recording solution that meets the needs of both producers and post-production editors.

"SideKick HD mounts on our HD camera, maximizes the quality of our sensor and lenses, and captures video in the codecs that we need. With SideKick HD, we can finally bypass the internal compression of our HD camcorder and capture up to 220 Mbit/s with 4:2:2 color sampling and 10-bit quantization, via HD-SDI or HDMI. Plus, the built-in color LCD makes it easy to check our clips during shoots-playback is quick and intuitive."
Daniel Berube, Boston Final Cut Pro User Group
Donald Berube, noisybrain. Productions, Boston, MA


"The sideKick HD fills a definite need in our operation for a camera-mountable DVR. It lets me choose the final editing codec without additional transcoding," said Paul Tetreault, Possibilities AV. "FFV has really got it right - from easy-to-use menus and automatic recording to autosensing the frame rate and resolution. This is a must-have recording device for today's media producers."

The sideKick HD captures video directly from any HD/SDI or HDMI output at bit rates up to 220 Mbit/s, with 4:2:2 sampling and 10-bit resolution in industry-standard codecs such as ProRes. By recording directly to these high-quality NLE formats, the DVR eliminates the time-consuming transcoding step, which degrades image quality. In addition, the sideKick HD records video onto standard 2.5-inch hot-swappable solid-state SATA drives for greater flexibility and increased record times, and provides a 4.3-inch on-board confidence monitor, which offers playback options including scrub and jog capabilities. The sideKick HD mounts directly to any HD camcorder or HDSLR utilizing the 1/4 -20 insert and battery power optional accessories.

More information about FFV's sideKick HD solution can be found at www.ffv.com/products/high-definition/sidekick-hd/

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NEC Intros PX750U Installation Model Projector

NEC Display Solutions of America, a leading provider of commercial LCD display and projector solutions, announced today its new PX Series projector line with the introduction of the PX750U. This installation model is designed for those large venues requiring exceptional brightness, such as houses of worship, higher education, corporate and retail environments where there is high ambient light or the need for a larger screen size.

The PX750U WUXGA (1900 x 1200) 7500-lumen projector is the first model in NEC's projector line to offer Open Pluggable Specification (OPS), which is the first industry-wide standardization in option slots to simplify installation, use and maintenance while offering input flexibility. It supports multiple input cards, including an HD/SD-SDI and single board computer (SBC). The PX750U's advanced input panel, along with its powered lens controls, provides the flexibility required for most installations, while its Crestron Roomview technology allows users to directly connect their projectors to the managed network for monitoring and control.

The projector's stacking correction capability allows up to four projectors to be stacked vertically or horizontally to boost the image brightness up to 30,000 lumens. This feature is an asset for those applications where downtime cannot be tolerated and redundancy is of the utmost importance. With Integrated Device Technology HQVT, a high-performance video processing and scaling system, users can present with superior image quality using the technology's pixel-based, motion-adaptive de-interlacing to remove undesirable motion artifacts.

"The PX750U is the ultimate projector for customers requiring high brightness for large rooms, remote networking capabilities for ease in maintenance, and advanced connectivity for option cards and high-definition sources," said Rich McPherson, Sr. Product Manager of projectors for NEC Display Solutions. "We are very proud to offer an option slot in this product to increase our customers' flexibility during installation. The amount of features integrated with the PX750U makes it an ideal solution for higher education lecture halls, training rooms and venues with a large amount of ambient lighting."

The PX Series offers an abundance of integrated networking functions, such as RJ45 for quick connection to the LAN and optional high-speed wireless (LAN IEEE 802.11b/g). Windows Network Projector, Windows Remote Desktop, Windows Network Drive Function and Windows Media Connection Function are just a few of the networking tools that allow users to connect to the shared network, control a networked computer through the projector's USB input and display multimedia files.

The PX750U includes the following features:
. 7500-lumen brightness (achieved using a 6-segment color wheel)
. 1-Chip DLP - 1920 x 1200 WUXGA native resolution
. 2100:1 contrast ratio
. Dual lamps
. Lamp life up to 2500 hours with ECO ModeT
. Open Pluggable Specification option slot including an HD/SD SDI input card and SBC
. Connectivity includes HDMI, DisplayPort, three computer inputs, composite and S-Video
. Center lens design for ease in retrofitting existing installations
. Electronic lens shutter
. Stacking capability (up to four projectors)
. Complete line of six bayonet-style lenses with powered zoom, focus and lens shift (projector/lens bundles available)
. Lens memory controls the lens attributes (zoom, focus, lens shift) based on input resolution and input selection
. Windows Network Projector Function directly connects to networked projectors without the need for additional proprietary software
. Windows Remote Desktop Function allows the control of the projector with a keyboard and mouse through the USB input
. Windows Network Drive and Media Connection functions display multimedia files (.jpeg, .bmp, .png, .mpeg2 or .wmv9)
. USB Viewer allows users to present without the use of a computer by displaying images stored as .jpgs from an optional USB memory
. Cornerstone correction helps display the image properly when the projector is set up at an angle to the screen
. Geometric correction allows the projector to display square-looking images on cylindrical, spherical or cornered screens
. Edge blending technology creates panoramic images with multiple projectors
. DICOM simulation
. PIP/side-by-side allows two sources to be displayed on the screen at one time
. Automated features such as auto power-on via RGB (15-pin) input, quick start (3 to 4 seconds) and direct power-off
. Carbon savings meter calculates the positive effects of operating the projector in ECO Mode, which is encouraged by an optional message at startup
. Cabinet control lock
. Logo lock
. Password protection
. Email notifications to inform the system administrator when the projector's lamp is approaching the end of its useful life

The PX750U projector ships with a 3-year limited parts and labor warranty and will be available in early September 2011 at an estimated street price of $14,999 (without lens). Education customers receive an additional year on their warranty, and Star Student customers receive an additional 2 years. To register for Star Student, visit www.necstarstudent.com for more information.

www.necdisplay.com

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