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Copyright © 2004 -
Information Today, Inc.

September 26, 2005

Table of Contents

Studio Time: A Cinematic Success
HD Today: How H is Your HD?
Sony Media Software Launches Update of Vegas 6 Video and Audio Production Software
Ontario Professional Videographers Association to Host Expo
Ulead Ships Updated MediaStudio Pro 8 Video Editing Software
TEAC Launches New Line of 10-Disc DVD Duplicators
Toshiba Develops Dual-Layer HD DVD-R Discs
Total Training Tutorials to Be Produced in High Definition
Litepanels Work With DV Camera Batteries

Studio Time: A Cinematic Success

When entering the ocean you can inch your way in and try to adjust slowly, but sometimes it is best to just jump in. Jeff and Andee Wright took the latter approach when they started their wedding videography business, Blue Skies Cinema, in Newport Beach, California, and it has paid off. In just five years the "cinematic approach" they have developed has brought them seven WEVA Creative Excellence Awards. Using their artistic talent and eye for photography, the couple has developed a style that has enabled them to focus on high-end clients and transform their home into a dynamic studio environment.

Jumping In
It helps to start with a knack for things visual. Jeff used to own a screen-printing and graphic arts studio. "We did mostly all silk screening T-shirt design," Jeff says. "I've done artistic stuff all my life."

That "artistic stuff" turned to videography when he began blue water free diving and spear fishing. He started recording the dives with a Sony TRV900 in an underwater housing and editing the video for his own personal use. Besides honing his shooting and editing, that underwater video experience has come in handy for some of the romantic Love Stories that Blue Skies features.

But the artistic background doesn't come only from Jeff. "Andee is a phenomenal photographer," Jeff says. Andee did some video work for her own pleasure, but never saw herself in the professional arena before she and Jeff began to shoot weddings. "I just really liked it and jumped into it with him. It's kind of a similar outlet to the way I set up shots with photography. It's fun to do that with video."

A Little Help from Their Friends
Jeff and Andee's artistic inclinations became a career and a business thanks to another husband-and-wife videographer team: Steve and Laura Moses of Vantage Point Productions. Vantage Point was hired to film Jeff and Andee's wedding. The Moseses provided encouragement, and when Jeff and Andee "jumped in with both feet" five years ago, they allowed them to study their style. "Steve and Laura were really instrumental in helping us get going," says Jeff. "They mentored us, and they're good friends of ours now. We drive up to WEVA Expo every year together."

The Wrights hired a couple of employees to help them shoot weddings and went to work. In the beginning they didn't plan on doing the high-end work that they are known for now. "We wanted to do good work, but not spend as much time on it," Jeff says. "That really changed once the artistic side of us took hold."

Blue Skies Cinema was being hired for more and more weddings, but Jeff found himself spending more and more time on each video. "I was spending so much time on the editing in order to have the type of finished product that we wanted." It became apparent that doing fewer weddings and charging more for each would be the only way Jeff and Andee could do the kind of high-end work that they enjoy.

Two years ago the opportunity to make that change appeared. "Both the employees had to leave at just about the same time, so it worked out perfectly. Andee and I both decided that we were going to be the ones that would be doing everything from the shooting to the editing." They would do fewer weddings but they would be able to charge much more for each video because of the cinematic approach that was quickly becoming a hallmark of their work.

Thinking While You Shoot
The cinematic approach means more production time, but the results attract a more exclusive clientele, the Wrights say. "The basic premise behind everything is telling the story of the day," says Jeff. "We do that in the most cinematic way we can through artistic shooting techniques and shot composition." The Wrights use reveals, simulated crane shots, floating camera techniques, push-ins, pull-outs, high angles, low angles, 45s, rollovers, movement with angles, blurs, rack focusing, shooting through objects, and a lot of slow motion.

Jeff says the trick is to be constantly "thinking ahead of time to the editing process." He used to use a shot list, but weddings are unpredictable, so now he and Andee just try to keep composition in mind as they shoot. (With Love Stories, by contrast, they always work from a storyboard.) That means taking an active approach to get special shots, but one that doesn't intrude on the celebration. "We try to be unobtrusive but still get involved at points when we need to."

Jeff admits that the amount of freedom they have depends on the bride and groom's wishes, but he makes the most of whatever freedom he is given. "I will move around a little and get some different shots because the more free-dom you have, the more you can tell the story. You can show the mom looking at the bride, or the flower girl's expression; get a different angle; get more artistic shots such as rack focuses, blurs, and floating camera techniques."

Jeff and Andee take advantage of the time between the ceremony and the reception too. "We'll usually tell the bride and groom, if they like certain shots they've seen in demos or a certain kind of feeling, to let the photographer know that we need ten minutes with them ourselves to get the kind of shot we need." That gives Jeff and Andee the chance to capture scenes that enhance the romantic mood of the wedding video.

Making a Movie Masterpiece
After the shooting is over, it takes editing skill to turn a wedding video into a cinematic movie. "In the editing room I really play with the lighting and contrast levels. We use a lot of slow motion. Sometimes I'll use a hair of a soft focus or a bit of a blur, and then really bump up the contrast to make it pop a little more," Jeff explains.

Sound is a key part of the cinematic effect. Jeff and Andee say they look "all over the place" for different kinds of music. "We offer clients the opportunity to pick their own music, but I would say 90% of the time we end up picking the music for them."

Jeff emphasizes the importance of both production and post in the movie-making process. "One of the main things is learning how to move with the camera and how to compose your shots, both in the shot process and in the editing process." He says some effects that can be simulated with editing tend to look better when created during the shoot. "Rack focus is very difficult to do in the editing process. Once in a while I still blur something out in the editing process, but I'd rather have done that with the camera itself." The end result of all of this work is cinematically stylish, 35 to 50-minute, short-format wedding movie, instead of a two-hour wedding video. The short-format movie is followed by a highlight reel and sometimes a Love Story.

Opening Night
Of course the cinematic experience wouldn't be complete without a theatrical premiere. The Wrights recently completed construction of a nine-person theater in their home studio. One of their wedding package options invites couples to have their family and friends come to the theater for the premiere of their wedding movie.

The Wrights' theater has reclining La-Z-Boy seats arranged on two tiers. There is even a concession stand in the next room, complete with a popcorn machine and a small refrigerator that they fill with "everything from Perrier to Diet Coke." The counter has a candy display built into it "just like in the theaters," and Andee says it holds lots of candy. "It's been good for our customers, but not good for our bellies," Jeff admits. "We get into that a little too often.

Doing it with Style
The Wrights have come a long way in five years. Now they are advertising nationally in Grace Ormonde Wedding Style magazine, and the upcoming wedding of a couple from Texas will be Blue Skies Cinema's first out-of-state ceremony. The couple also spoke at WEVA Expo in August. Their topic: "Cinematic Wedding Video."

The cinematic approach has been very successful for Jeff and Andee, but they don't discount other videographers' methods. "We don't think that the way that we shoot and the way that we edit and put together our products is necessarily the right way. There are lots of great companies out there that shoot in a different way, and there's a lot of different customers out there that like different things." But for the Wrights, the cinematic approach has allowed them to turn their business and their home into something unique and personal. "This is our style," says Andee, "and our customers seem to love it.


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HD Today: How H is Your HD?

Back in the day, we watched broadcast TV that was shot on smeary tube cameras and recorded our favorite shows at home on VHS tapes that delivered some 360 lines of resolution. That was fine for many years. But as broadcasters raised their standards across the board, and better TVs filled our homes, we saw a difference between prime-time broadcast TV and VHS recordings. VHS clearly wasn't as good.

Then DVD arrived and opened our eyes to the incredible clarity and resolution of so-called "standard definition": NTSC's 30 interlaced frames of 720x480 video. Actually, because it is interlaced, we only get that full resolution when nothing moves. If you look at each field, you have to cut the vertical resolution in half. Each field offers us about 720x240 pixels. (I won't get into phosphors, LCD refresh rate, or the argued persistence of vision here.)

Standard definition (SD) may look good, but when I talk to my clients about the advantages of high definition (HD), they don't really understand until I make it clear how low resolution SD really is. The best way to do this, I've found, is to talk about digital photography.

Most people have at least become aware of digital photography in the past few years. People who don't even own a digital camera know the key term: megapixels (MP). Not too long ago, 3MP was a big number for a point-and-shoot, and 5MP demarcated "pro" photography. Nowadays, even some 7 and 8MP cameras have entered the consumer realm. By the time you read this, we may even be talking double-digits.

If you do the math, our 720x480 standard definition video is 0.3MP. That's very, very small. With interlaced video, it's 0.17MP per field. Most people are surprised it is so low--especially when they want to print out a frame of video.

You'd think that a DVD with this low-resolution (and heavily compressed) image would look bad. But flicker those images smoothly on a screen, and make us care about what's in the frame, and you'll satisfy vast majority of people.

Now comes the push for HD. The two different flavors, 1080i and 720p, have their supporters. Before you buy into them, do the math again. 1080i is still only 2MP (1MP per interlaced field), and 720p is only 0.9MP. The HDV spec records only 1440x1080, which is 1.5MP.

But the main difference between the HD formats may lie in our perception of the images. For instance, feature films are still far higher resolution than HD video. They are shot at 24fps progressive. Each frame is a complete still image. NTSC, on the other hand, is interlaced. There are 60 half-frames (fields) shown to us every second. But many display systems cannot eradicate the previous half frame so we see continuous smooth motion. This helps to explain why film looks like film, and video does not.

The key difference between the two current HDV formats, 1080i and 720p, is the frame rate. As of this writing, prosumer 720p is limited to 30fps. The 1080i version is also 30fps, but remember, it is interlaced, so the field rate is 60. It offers twice as much temporal resolution—2X more resolution over time. Couple that with the higher spatial (pixel) resolution, and I'll place my chips on the 1080i side of the table.

In the professional world, the Panasonic Varicam shoots DVCPRO HD at up to 60p (it always records 60p on tape). The Sony CineAlta shoots 1080i at fixed settings including 24p, 30p, and 60i. If you are shooting with either of these, you are making some very pretty pictures. The rest of us are looking at HDV.

Both 1080i/60 and 720p/60 offer the same temporal resolution. But if you dig into Sony's specs, you'll realize that the Z1U is limited by its 1440x1080 chip resolution. Without counting the effects of pixel offset technology, the actual 960x1080 resolution creates spatial resolution figures that are a lot closer to 720p; 0.92 versus 1.0MP, respectively. Then you have to assess the value of the 720p's chips offering actual resolution without any interpolation. Lastly, the JVC allows you to put some high-quality glass on the front. So when you look at everything, it becomes pretty evident that a good 720p60 camcorder easily wins this comparison.

But don't think that these cameras are the be-all and end-all of HD. ARRI has entered the digital fray with the D-20, a digital film camera sporting a 6MP single CMOS sensor. It's designed to handle frame rates up to 150fps. At 5Mb/frame (based on still camera RAW image file sizes), that is potentially 700Mbps! Thomson offers the Viper Filmstream camera, which touts three 9.2-million pixel Frame Transfer CCDs enabling 4:4:4 color space during acquisition. Not to be outdone, Panavision offers their Genesis Digital camera with a 12.4MP, true RGB sensor and dual link 4:4:4 HD-SDI outputs.

So we are at the dawn of a new era in video production. Sony's FX1 will likely become as "venerable" a camcorder as the VX1000 has, and help to usher in HDV in as the new recording format of choice, just as the VX1000 established DV. But when talking HD to your clients, remember to keep the big picture in mind--from NTSC to Digital Cinema--and where you fit in the mix.

Anthony Burokas (eventdv@ieba.com) of IEBA Communications, a self-confessed "gadget guy," has been an event videographer for more than 15 years. Has has shot award-winning video internationally and is technical director for the PBS series Flavors of America.

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Sony Media Software Launches Update of Vegas 6 Video and Audio Production Software

Sony Media Software has announced the immediate availability of a new, free update to its Vegas 6 professional nonlinear video and audio editing platform for registered users. New features include file import support for Sony DVD Handycam camcorders, full-resolution MXF reader capabilities for Sony XDCAM Professional Disc system camcorders, and file exporting and publishing to the PSP(TM) system. The Vegas 6 update is available for download at http://www.sony.com/mediasoftware.

The Vegas 6 update includes a new, high-quality H.264 AVC MPEG-4 encoder that allows Vegas users to deliver their projects on Memory Stick for playback on the PSP (PlayStation Portable) system, Sony Computer Entertainment America's popular PlayStation Portable entertainment device. Content creators can now encode PSP system-compliant video at multiple bitrates, multiple frame rates, and 4:3 or 16:9 frame aspects, all using the Vegas software's precision scaling and conversion capabilities. Using the built-in Export to PSP wizard, editors can choose from a variety of PSP system-compliant encoding templates and place the rendered file on a PSP system-formatted memory stick in a single walk-away operation, according to Sony. Playback of H.264 AVC MPEG-4 from Memory Stick is supported by the latest generation PSP firmware (version 2.0 or higher, required) and provides enhanced sound and picture quality at very low bitrates.

The new Vegas 6 update expands the software's format handling options with file import capability for Sony's DVD Handycam camcorders. This new feature allows users to import files directly from a Sony DVD Handycam camcorder's disc onto the editing computer's hard drive. Once imported, the files can be loaded onto the Vegas timeline for editing, without requiring any further transcoding.

The Vegas 6 update also includes a full resolution MXF reader for Sony XDCAM professional cameras and decks, allowing the editor to load full resolution MXF source files onto the Vegas timeline without a transcoding step. Any combination of 4:3, 16:9, 60i, 50i, 24p, DVCAM or IMX files from XDCAM cameras and decks can be used in the same Vegas timeline, and a wide variety of XDCAM essence mark types are supported. Additional information on the updated Vegas 6 and other Sony software products can be found at http://www.sony.com/mediasoftware.

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Ontario Professional Videographers Association to Host Expo

The Ontario Professional Videographers Association (OPVA) has announced that it is hosting the Toronto Professional Videography Expo. The one-day event will take place Sunday, November 13 at the Days Inn Toronto Airport, 6257 Airport Road, Toronto, Ontario. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.

This is the first of what the OPVA hopes will become an annual tradition. Steve Yankee of the Video Business Advisor, Tim Ryan of the 4EVER Group, Lance Gray of PixelPops Design LLC (making his first Canadian appearance), John Challinor of Sony Canada will be among the presenters at the event.

Advance tickets ($25) can be purchased online (www.opva.com) or at the door ($30).

For more information, visit www.opva.com.

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Ulead Ships Updated MediaStudio Pro 8 Video Editing Software

Ulead Systems, Inc. has announced it has started shipping Ulead MediaStudio Pro 8, the latest version of Ulead's professional video editing software. The new release offers a professional, yet easy-to-use, approach to video editing designed for video enthusiasts, newly-professional video editors, documentary filmmakers, wedding/event videographers ,and media producers in corporate and education.

The new release incorporates a wide range of enhancements. Smart Compositor is a unique, all-new tool for quickly creating professional composited opening sequences or segues. Other new features include a new single-track editing interface, Smart Proxy mode for efficient HDV editing, advanced color correction, and 5.1 Surround audio editing.

Many of the new features in MediaStudio Pro 8 have their roots in user feedback and "wish lists" from user forum participants, according to Ulead. A preview beta version of MediaStudio Pro 8 was released to the public three weeks before shipping. Pricing, Availabili

ty The box and electronic download versions of MediaStudio Pro 8 are available at $399.99 through retail channels and Ulead Web sites. Current MediaStudio Pro users can upgrade for $249.99, and users of VideoStudio and DVD Workshop can upgrade for $299.99, also from Ulead Web sites.


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TEAC Launches New Line of 10-Disc DVD Duplicators

TEAC has announced a new line of 10-disc DVD duplicators. The new 1:10 units are stand-alone disc-to-disc DVD duplication systems requiring no PC connection. TEAC's 1x10 DVDR Tower Duplicators support DVD recording at 16X speeds. They combine feature-rich controller technology with easy to use controls and stable design and quality and reliability, according to TEAC.

TEAC offers a complete line of duplicators, from 1x1 to 1x3, 1x7 and 1x10 duplicators. TEAC also offers high-quality dye-sublimation printers including the TEAC P55 Printer, and the P11 One-color Dye-Sublimation Personal Printer for home and office use.

TEAC also offers a complete line of Auto-Loaders and Auto-Publishers. TEAC's line of Duplicators, 1x1 CDR Duplicator (CDW/D11A/KIT), 1x3 CDR Duplicator without HDD (CDW/D13A/KIT), 1x3 CDR Duplicator with 80GB HDD (CDW/D13A/KIT/H), 1x7 CDR Duplicator without HDD (CDW/D17A/KIT), 1x7 CDR Duplicator with 80GB HDD (CDW/D17A/KIT/H), 1x1 DVDR Duplicator without HDD (DVW/D11A/KIT), 1x1 DVDR Duplicator with 80GB HDD (DVW/D11A/KIT/H), 1x3 DVDR Duplicator with 160GB HDD (DVW/D13A/KIT/H), 1x7 DVDR Duplicator with 160GB HDD (DVW/D17A/KIT/H) and 1x10 DVDR Duplicator with 160GB HDD (DVW/D110A/KIT/H) are all available through TEAC's Distribution Partners.

For more information about these products, see TEAC's Web site at http://www.TEAC.com/DSPD.

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Toshiba Develops Dual-Layer HD DVD-R Discs

Toshiba Corporation today reconfirmed the flexibility and expandability of the HD DVD format with the announcement of a 30GB dual-layer HD-R (recordable) disc that extends the capacity for a write-once next generation DVD disc. The new disc was approved as Version 1.9 at the September 14 meeting of the DVD Forum's Steering Committee, and its technical information will be made available as the Version 1.9 specifications.

Toshiba targets completion of Version 2.0 of the specifications book by the DVD Forum within this year, and aims to bring to market next spring an HD DVD recorder that supports the new disc. The DVD Forum approved a 15GB single-layer HD DVD-R discs as Version 1.0 of a write-once HD DVD disc in February 2005. Toshiba continued development toward the newly announced 30GB dual-layer HD DVD-R disc, which uses a new organic dye jointly developed with a dye manufacturer. The dual-layer HD DVD-R disc is based on the same disc structure as current DVD discs, HD DVD-ROM discs (read-only), and HD DVD-RW discs (rewritable): back-to-back bonding of two 0.6 millimeter-thick substrates. The new disc also shares key manufacturing processes with DVD-R: use of an organic dye as the data storage medium; and a spin-coating process for depositing the dye. As a result, disc manufacturers can minimize their investment in disc production equipment for dual-layer HD DVD-R by using already installed DVD-R manufacturing lines for mass production.

Toshiba and disc manufacturers will verify compatibility of dual-layer HD DVD-R discs in round robin testing at the DVD Forum, starting on October 17. Toshiba targets finalization of the specification book by the DVD Forum within the year. 


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Total Training Tutorials to Be Produced in High Definition

Total Training, Inc. has announced three new DVD-ROM series for mastering Macromedia Dreamweaver 8, Apple Final Cut Pro 5, and Macromedia Flash 8 Professional. This announcement extends Total Training's portfolio of video tutorials to include all leading web, print, and video software applications. Each of the three new video series, as well as all future products, will be produced in state of the art high definition (HD).

Total Training is the first training provider to offer training in HD and demonstrates the company's dedication and innovation to offering superior lessons on leading software applications. Viewers will benefit from a 165% larger screen size for viewing on a computer monitor, crystal-clear image capture to easily read text and fine details, and higher frame rate support for smoother playback when viewing the DVD-ROM Tutorials.

The ten-hour video series led by Dreamweaver expert Janine Warner showcases how to efficiently design, develop, and maintain standards-based websites with the industry-leading tool. The tutorials are peppered with tips and tricks that will help viewers create better overall designs and streamline their workflow. 

The Final Cut Pro 5 series will get viewers up to speed on the leading Mac-based video editing application with visual effects guru, Brian Maffitt. With over 20 hours of comprehensive videos, users have access to the same video clips used by the instructor to help sharpen their skills as they experiment with new techniques.

With more than 20 hours of indexed tutorials on the industry's most advanced authoring environment for creating interactive websites, viewers will expand their knowledge of Flash and its digital experiences and mobile content with tips from the Flash guru, John Ulliman. They'll also learn how to design and author interactive content rich with video, graphics, and animation for truly unique web sites, presentations, or mobile content.


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Litepanels Work With DV Camera Batteries

Now operators can use their spare DV camera batteries to get the bright, projected soft output of a Litepanels LED lighting system. The new DV Battery Adapter Plate attaches easily to the Litepanels Mini head, making it a self-contained lighting source capable of running off of 2 standard Panasonic, Canon, or Sony DV camera batteries. The Litepanels DV Adapter Plate simply snaps on to the back of the Mini Flood or Spot head. Once the plate is secure, 2 batteries fit easily in place to power the fixture for up to 8 hours.

Litepanels' self-contained DV battery option allows users to use lightweight Lithium-ion DV batteries (along with their existing DV battery chargers), instead of carrying heavy battery belts or bulky shoulder-worn battery packs. Litepanels portable daylight balanced lighting systems--winner of the 2005 Emmy Award Plaque for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development--employ light-emitting diode technology to produce a soft and projected light ideal for interviews, car interiors, or ultra-portable location lighting. The lightweight DV Battery Adapter Plate is available in three versions: the DV-CP-P (Panasonic), DV-CP-S (Sony), and DV-CP-C (Canon). Litepanels DV Battery Adapter is also compatible with their Infrared lighting system.


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