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February 07, 2005

Table of Contents

Review: Pioneer DVR-A08XL ($149)
The Main Event: Crossing the Line
Century Optics Introduces New Wide Angle Converter for Sony FX1
Canon USA To Distribute Firestore FS-4 DV Disk Recorder
Boris FX to Debut New Products at NAB 2005
Artbeats Releases Cloud Chamber HD Volumes 1 and 2
ERG-Ventures Debuts Portable HD Monitor
FOR-A Unwraps New HD Version Of digiStorm Virtual Studio And Graphics Solution At NAB 2005
EventDV Spotlight Survey #2 RESULTS: How do you price your services and packages?

Review: Pioneer DVR-A08XL ($149)

In less than a year DVD recorder speeds have shot through the roof. Meanwhile prices have dropped through the floor. Pioneer, fortunately, has met the challenge with its powerful yet affordable DVR-A08XL.

Physically, one recorder looks pretty well like the next but still the DVR-A08 stands out with its attractively sculpted beige, black or silver front bezel. And more than just a pretty face, the unit boasts solid writing credentials including 16x DVD±R, 4x DVD±RW, 32x CD-R, and 24x CD-RW operation. Most noteworthy, the DVR-A08 is the first recorder to write DVD+R Double Layer (DL) discs at 4x speed thus leaving its competitors in the dust. During testing 4x cut the time it took to write a full 8.5GB disc from a mind-numbing 44 minutes (typical of 2.4x units) to a more reasonable 27 minutes. And it's worth noting that to improve the playback compatibility of DL discs the unit writes using the prerecorded media code. On the downside, 4x is currently supported only by Verbatim media.

Some competing units write "plus" faster than "dash" discs but the DVR-A08 handles both expertly at 16x. During testing this translated to 6:32 to write a full DVD-R and 6:48 for a DVD+R. These results are roughly a minute slower than those from the fastest 16x recorders I've tested but the difference doesn't amount to much unless dozens of discs are being written at a sitting. The same can be said for CD-R and CD-RW taking 4:00, DVD+RW 14:10 and DVD-RW 15:05 each.

Delightfully, the DVR-A08 writes many popular brands of 8x-rated discs at 12x and 16x speeds. Out of seven DVD-R and DVD+R disc manufacturers tested, three of each type wrote at 12x speed and two at 16x. Surprisingly, using proper 16x-rated media proved to be a waste of time with but one disc out of six testing at 12x and the remaining five brands at 4x speed. Also setting the DVR-A08 apart is its ability to read DVD-RAM discs (bare), a handy feature for importing material captured with DVD-RAM camcorders or set-top units. Convenience aside, the unit disappointed during testing by reading all DVD-RAM discs (including the latest high speed varieties) at only 2x speed. In concrete terms it took 28 minutes to read a 5x-rated disc so DVD-RAM users will be better off looking at a full blown DVD Multi Recorder such as LG's latest GSA-4160B which can do the same in 12 minutes flat.

Rounding out Pioneer's bundle are the rudimentary, yet functional, DVD MovieFactory 3.5 SE, VideoStudio 8 SE DVD, Photo Explorer 8.5 SE, Burn.Now 1.5 and DVD Player from Ulead System and NovaBACKUP 7.1 from NovaStor.

Quibbles aside, Pioneer's DVR-A08 is a superior unit packing practical features with winning double layer writing performance to make it an excellent choice for use in any video authoring or production environment.
www.pioneerelectronics.com

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The Main Event: Crossing the Line

There are many ways to shoot a wedding—perhaps not as many ways as there are to perform a wedding, but enough, certainly, that opinions vary widely on the best way to shoot the big day. Some take the journalistic, fly-on-the-wall approach, where anything beyond invisibility is intrusive. Others cross that line occasionally, suggesting scenarios they believe will work in the final production. Still others try to run the whole show.

My goal, and the goal of every wedding videographer, is to produce a wedding video that tells the story of the wedding day. I don't know if there's a right way, but I do know what I like, and I know that what I like tends to work. My clients have given me their seal of approval on the way that I envision the finished product.

My take is that the videographer should give little or no direction during the wedding. Let's look at photography. There are typically two types of wedding photographers: one that poses every shot, and one that lets events unfold naturally while photojournalistically snapping away.

Aesthetically, I have always preferred the latter's work. It is more pleasing to my eye. The images flow and create a feeling of truly being there.

Posed photos are boring and unimaginative. They all look the same from wedding to wedding. Granted, it's nice to have a crisp group shot of the whole family to put in a frame, but it doesn't come close to a shot that catches the look in the father's eyes as he gives his little girl away.

And that's the way I like to conduct my shoot of the wedding day: videojournalistically. I recently had a conversation with a top photographer who told me of an experience while working with a videographer during the pre-ceremony, when this photographer likes to pose his formals and romantics. After each pose was set up and shot, the videographer butted in and requested his shot, whereby he proceeded to re-enact the same shot the photographer had just posed but with the bride and groom looking directly at the videographers lens and (on cue) smiling, waving, or kissing.

The photographer commented to me that aside from the time it took to do this, the results on video would look extremely cheesy and staged. I agree. Every time I see a wedding video that has the subjects mugging for the camera or being posed for a particular shot, I can't believe how awful it looks.

Do the clients actually appreciate this type of footage? They certainly don't in my market, where the client is somehow associated with film, TV, or music, and has a more discerning and discriminating taste—or at least knows what good video looks like.

The videographer needs to create his/her own shots that will complement the story of the day. Look around. What are the flower girls doing? Who is the mother of the bride greeting with a big hug? Is that grandma getting out of her wheelchair and walking for the fist time in ten years? The line-crossing videographer is oblivious to these moments because he's too busy positioning the bride and groom at the fountain so we can see the water between them as they are instructed to look at the camera, then turn toward each other, smile lovingly, and kiss until the videographer says "cut."

There is a huge stigma attached to the video industry, in that we are viewed as obtrusive and as an added distraction in an already hectic day. This may have been true years ago, but methods have changed, as clientele has demanded a documentary style. We are not there to change the wedding day in any way; our only job is to capture it. In the quest for word-of-mouth referrals it serves all of us to be neither seen nor heard.

For us, guest interviews are definitely a thing of the past. I have always heard from my clients that when they attend a function as guests themselves, they typically loathe the moment when the videographer approaches them with the "could I have you say some well wishes to the bride and groom" face. Who needs that, not to mention 60 messages from guests that all say "We love you and this is the best wedding we have ever been to," or some slight variation of that theme.

There will always be clients who love to be manipulated and directed by the videographer. There will always be clients who want every table approached and interviewed. However, it is up to each and every one of us to help educate them during the consultation that this simply does not make great video.

From my experience, most clients really do not have a clue as to what a great wedding video should look like. Let's steer them in the right direction and shoot the wedding day from the shadows. Always be in the right place at the right time, always be constantly aware of your surroundings, and at the end of the day, you just may be surprised at what you capture.

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Century Optics Introduces New Wide Angle Converter for Sony FX1

Century Optics has announced the Century .7X HD Wide Angle Converter, a new add-on lens designed to complement the Sony HDR-FX1 HDV camcorder's higher-resolution, wider-angle lens system. This professional add-on lens produces crisp, high-resolution images with low distortion, and superior contrast edge to edge, Century says.

Well-suited for shots calling for a wider angle of view while retaining full zoom capability, according to Century, the .7X HD Wide Angle Converter attaches to the front of the 12X lens to offer 30% more coverage at any setting, from wide angle to telephoto. Equipped with a bayonet mount, installation and removal is quick and easy.

The .7X HD Wide Angle Converter permits a variety of filtering solutions. As an introductory special, Century is including at no charge a rectangular 105mm clamp-on wide angle sunshade (valued at $275) with a provision for (1) 4x4 glass filter in a holder. (Holder not included.) Screw-on round filters such as the Schneider Clear-UV and Polarizer are also available for direct front lens mounting. Plus, the Converter is fully compatible with most professional matte boxes, including the Century MKII System.

In addition to the .7X HD Wide Angle Converter, Century Optics offers a series of lens add-ons for the Sony HDR-FX1 HDV and HVR-Z1U camcorders, including: the .6X Wide Angle Adapter, 1.6X Tele-Converter, Fisheye Adapters, and Achromatic Diopters. Suggested U.S. list price for the .7X HD Wide Angle Converter is $995.

www.centuryoptics.com

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Canon USA To Distribute Firestore FS-4 DV Disk Recorder

Canon U.S.A., Inc. has become a distributor of the FireStore FS-4 DTE digital video disk recorder from FOCUS Enhancements. The FireStore FS-4 and accessories will be sold through Canon U.S.A. authorized video dealers beginning in February.

A companion for Canon prosumer camcorders, the FS-4 recorder enables DV streams to be recorded to the unit with or without a MiniDV tape inserted. Footage is recorded as edit ready files that can be imported and used immediately by most DV based non-linear editing systems. The FS-4 recorder will be available in a 40GB (approximately 3 hours) model.

The FS-4 Pro recorder, which offers more advanced features, will be available in 40GB and 80GB (approximately 6 hours) configurations. The FS-4 Pro recorder adds support for the Avid OMF and Pinnacle AVI formats, and retro record modes for backup. Other features include a user-definable time lapse, loop playback, scene marking, and multiple file capabilities.

The new FireStore FS-4 recorder will be available in February for an MSRP of $799 for the standard 40GB model, while the FS-4 Pro model will carry a list price of of $1,195 for the 40GB model, and $1,695 for the 80GB model.

www.usa.canon.com
www.focusinfo.com

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Boris FX to Debut New Products at NAB 2005

Boris FX, a leading developer of integrated effects technology for video and film, will demonstrate new solutions including Boris Blue and Volume II of Boris Continuum Complete for Discreet Sparks at NAB 2005. Boris Blue is a real-time 3D compositing and motion graphics solution based on the award-winning Boris Red plug-in. This standalone application allows you to preview on a client monitor without previewing to RAM, regardless of the complexity of the 3D scene or materials, according to the company. Users can adjust on-screen controls and parameter sliders in real time. (Some previously released filters may still require software-based rendering.) The initial release will support Windows only. Macintosh support will be added in a future release.

Volume II of Boris Continuum Complete for Discreet Sparks will premiere at NAB. This suite of native filters is designed to extend the capabilities of Discreet Inferno, Flame, Flint, Fire, and Smoke systems. This IRIX-based addition to the Continuum product line is based on Discreet's Sparks architecture, an advanced Application Programming Interface (API) for developing custom plug-ins. A version for the Linux operating system will be introduced. This version will also add support for Burn, Discreet's Linux-based network processing solution that can render images in the background using low-cost PC workstations.

Also shown at NAB 2005 will be Boris Continuum Complete AVX (BCC AVX) running on AVX 2.0, the latest version of Avid's effects plug-in architecture. BCC AVX is a suite of native plug-in filters and transitions designed to streamline workflow for users of Avid nonlinear editing systems. BCC AVX is bundled with all Avid Media Composer Adrenaline systems and is available as an optional plug-in for other Avid systems. The BCC AVX filter set includes more than 160 sophisticated filters such as Lens Flare, DeGrain, Match Grain, DeInterlace, Optical Flow, Motion Blur, Wire Remover, and Witness Protection. With the release of AVX 2.0, users will have access to Avid's advanced keyframing model. Instead of being limited to 8-bit, the filters will offer 16-bit color depth. The PixelChooser option that lets users create an animatable vector-based mask will include bézier handles for more precise control.

www.borisfx.com

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Artbeats Releases Cloud Chamber HD Volumes 1 and 2

Artbeats has announced that Cloud Chamber HD Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, the company's newest collections of cloud formation footage, are now available in full 1080i High Definition (HD). With imagery that simulates billowing clouds, developing thunderheads, and eerie volcanic eruptions, the new Cloud Chamber HD collections feature high-quality, royalty-free footage that can be used for broadcast, film features, commercial, desktop video, game development and multimedia applications.

To create the effects seen in the Cloud Chamber collections, Artbeats constructed a four-foot, 30-gallon clear glass tank and created various nozzles that were used to shoot different paint colors and mixtures into the tank. In addition to implementing a process to empty and fill the tank, and prep the paint delivery system, Artbeats had to properly light the tank and environment so there were no reflections on the glass.

Cloud Chambers HD Vol. 1 includes 10 clips and is priced at USD $799. Cloud Chambers HD Vol. 2 includes nine clips and is priced at $799. Both volumes are available in HD 1920x1080 resolution.

www.artbeats.com

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ERG-Ventures Debuts Portable HD Monitor

ERG-Ventures has announced a new HD location monitor, designed specifically for use with HDV camcorders, that will ship in March. Measuring 8.3" (W) x 2.55" (D) x 6.96" (H) and weighing 3.7 lbs., the HDM-EV85 has an HD analog input that can connect directly to Sony 's HDV-capable HDR-FX1 camcorder to be directly connected. In addition, the monitor's power unit is compatible with the Sony camcorder's 7.2V battery.

ERG says that each LCD is shipped only after color adjustment optimization to reduce the incompatibility between CRT and LCD monitors; some additional users image controls are available. The new portable HD monitor will ship in March with an MSRP of $2,980. A sun carrying case and angle support stand will be available later in the year.

www.erg-ventures.com

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FOR-A Unwraps New HD Version Of digiStorm Virtual Studio And Graphics Solution At NAB 2005

FOR-A Corporation of America, a manufacturer of video and audio systems for the broadcast and professional video industries, has announced that it will introduce the HD version of digiStorm, a turnkey 3D on-air graphics solution developed by FOR-A in collaboration with Brainstorm Multimedia. With digiStorm HD, broadcasters can use the technological resources of FOR-A and Brainstorm Multimedia's eStudio virtual studio software program in a full HD environment.

Like the original digiStorm, digiStorm HD is centered on Brainstorm Multimedia's eStudio virtual studio software program. eStudio allows users to create an entire virtual studio within a user-friendly interface. It features an array of plug-ins, including VS Virtual Studio, used to construct simplified virtual studios; VS/RCG Virtual Studio, for construction of both a simplified virtual studio and real-time computer graphics; Maya 3ds XSI, which enables 3D files and data to be imported from Maya, 3ds max, and Softimage XSI; ifCalib camera calibration software; PPEX Presentation, allowing the importation of data from Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint; and a library of virtual studio sets.

Included within digiStorm HD is FOR-A's VRP-70HS HD/SD virtual processor/chromakeyer, which accepts the input of images from high-definition and standard-definition cameras and combines 3D computer graphics linked to the camera parameters. It is ideal as an HD chromakeyer, with up to 16 inputs and 12 outputs. digiStorm HD also comes with FOR-A's VRP-RU remote control unit for centralized control over the VRP series. Other devices included with the HD version of digiStorm include: FOR-A's DWC-100 digiWarp controller, a centralized data processing device for camera parameters; Brainstorm Controller, which enables integrated control over multiple numbers of digiStorm and studio equipment; and a choice of the HANABI HVS-1000HS or HVS-3000 series switchers.

www.for-a.com

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EventDV Spotlight Survey #2 RESULTS: How do you price your services and packages?

Results:

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