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Information Today, Inc.

April 30, 2007

Table of Contents

Stage to Screen: Goldilocks and the Three Exposure Techniques
4EVER Group Announces Dates and Location for Video 08
Sony Creative Software Launches Free Update For Vegas 7 Professional NLE
Advanced Media Introduces Double Sided RIDATA 8X DVD+R
FFV to Develop Embedded REV PRO-Based Solution for Tape-Based "SX" Camcorders
Artbeats Debuts Dozens of New Titles and Solo Clips at NAB 2007
PowerProduction Software Announces its Universal Binary version of StoryBoard Artist

Stage to Screen: Goldilocks and the Three Exposure Techniques

If exposure is like the three bears' porridge, then Goldilocks was on to something—"just right" is the only way to go. Digital video cameras are very unforgiving when it comes to proper exposure, and this month we'll examine the technically challenging issue of stage lighting and learn three techniques to ensure proper exposure.
 Lighting directors design stage lighting for the live audience experience. They use light and shadows equally to set the mood and tone of a scene. Follow spots and primary lighting are used to draw attention to the foreground and action, while depth is exaggerated by less lighting in the mid-ground and the lack of lighting in the background. This is a practice that lighting directors have been honing in theaters since incandescent lighting replaced open-glass flames in 1885.
 Unfortunately for video producers in the digital era, our cameras cannot see both the shadows in the background and the highlights in the foreground at any single iris setting. An improper iris setting often results in blown highlights or barely visible shadows. This is due to limited exposure latitude. To understand how lighting for video and a live audience are different, you need to look at how the human eye and video cameras react to light and handle extremes in contrast ratio.
 Contrast ratio is determined by how many times the brightest part of the frame is brighter than the darkest. Most digital video cameras can handle a static contrast ratio of 30:1, while the human eye can handle a ratio of 10,000:1. In a high-contrast ratio environment, a video camera can only properly expose a small range of the total image, and this range is the exposure latitude. Everything else is crushed or blown out. Like the human eye, our cameras have an iris which allows more or less light to pass through to the sensor. This does not increase the exposure latitude; it only moves the range up or down.

A larger exposure-latitude range allows for a separation of highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. This separation is a key factor in giving the perception of depth in a two-dimensional environment. Typically, a larger CCD has a greater exposure latitude, and the sampling rate of the analog-to-digital converter and the efficiency of the digital signal processor determine how much detail is available and the range of contrast the camera can handle.

We've all heard the expression "we'll fix it in post," but when it comes to exposure and our MiniDV camcorders, there just isn't much room for error. In the digital world that converts video into a binary code of ones and zeros, an overexposed area has no detail. It is a white blob, and if you try to darken this in post, your white blob becomes a less-white blob, but a blob nonetheless. The same goes for the other extreme; underexposure results in mid-tones that are indistinguishable from shadows.

Regular 35mm film has an exposure latitude of seven stops, and each stop is an exponent on the base of two. So seven stops equals 2^7 or 128:1. Most video cameras are limited to a 30:1 range—and thus incapable of replicating film stock's exposure latitude—but you can reduce the contrast ratio. This allows more of the image to fall into the exposure latitude range, which is desirable because it gives more film-like detail to your highlights and shadows. It also minimizes the blow-outs and crushed blacks if your exposure is off by a stop or two.

The first step in achieving proper exposure is to reduce the contrast ratio. This does not involve your camera, but rather having the lighting director give you flatter lighting. By lowering the light levels in the brightest areas and adding some light to the dark areas, you bring more of the image into the range your camera can handle.

The second step is to use the zebra settings on your camera to find the exposure sweet spot. My PD 170 has two settings: 70 and 100 IRE. I find that 70 is too dark and 100 is too hot, so I like to keep my exposure target one stop above 70 or below 100. My exposure target for stage productions is the talent's faces, not their costumes or the background. I also make sure my setup is set to 0% and not 7.5%. Although 7.5 IRE is the NTSC standard for analog black, when I shoot at 0% and transfer my digital footage into Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0, black is assigned a value of 16 luma. This is the correct digital value the International Telecommunications Union outlined as the eight-bit luminance standard. If I shoot at 7.5%, the camera incorrectly adds the 7.5 setup to the digital signal, which results in blacks that have a value of 32 luma.

Luma is brightness, so the result is that the entire image has a washed-out look. A 7.5 setup is required for analog output to make sure black is compliant; the Sony PD 150/170 and DSR 250, and the Panasonic DVX100 all have a percentage setup that approximates the correct analog output at the expense of the digital signal.

The third strategy is to use the knee and black-stretch settings on your camera. These settings are not available on most prosumer SD cameras and are features reserved for larger cameras and most newer HDV camcorders. You can use the black stretch to brighten the shadows and the knee to compress the highlights. This reduces your contrast ratio without affecting your mid-tones, and gives up to an additional stop of exposure latitude at both ends.

Great video starts with exposure that is just right, and once you've had a taste for proper exposure, you'll never eat cold porridge again.

Shawn Lam is an MPV-accredited videographer and business owner based in Vancouver, BC. He specializes in stage event and corporate video production and presented a seminar on the business of producing dance recital videos at the 4EVER Group's Video 07.

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4EVER Group Announces Dates and Location for Video 08

It's official! VIDEO 08, The 4EVER Group's third annual videographers conference and trade show will be held January 21-24, 2008, at the beautiful Wyndham Orlando Resort. Room rates during Florida?s peak convention season will be only $129.00 per night, which is the same guest room rate as VIDEO 07.

Also returning for VIDEO 08 is the special Pre-Registration offer. From May 11 to June 15, 2007, conference alumni (any registered attendee from VIDEO 06 or VIDEO 07) and Affiliates of The 4EVER Group Videographers Network can Pre-Register for only $199.00 per person!

Many educators have already agreed to participate in VIDEO 08. That list includes Jason Magbanua, Joshua Smith, Randy Stubbs, Glen Elliott, Josh Fozzard, Mark and Trisha Von Lanken, Lance Gray, David Lai, and Nigel Redman. Like VIDEO 07, the presenter list will include talented industry veterans and outstanding newcomers alike.

"Attending a four-day conference requires a strong commitment," said Steve Wernick, Director of Development. "Repeating the Pre-Registration offer is but one way that The 4EVER Group can thank every attendee for that commitment." The discounted regular registration price will be $249.00.

"VIDEO 07 featured dozens of incredible programs, including a Sunday Pre-Conference workshop with Randy Stubbs," said Tim Ryan, Director of Education. "We set incredibly high standards with VIDEO 07, and they will be exceeded at VIDEO 08."

The Wyndham Orlando Resort is a tropical paradise in the heart of the world's most popular vacation destination.

Lush gardens and romantic lagoons make it easy to forget that this elegant Orlando resort is located on bustling International Drive. Florida's most thrilling theme parks - Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Studios, and Sea World Adventure Park - are only minutes away.

Relax in a secluded, old Floridian-style villa. The guest rooms at the Wyndham Orlando Resort are full of delightful touches like coffee makers and safes large enough for a laptop. Suites with bunk beds and play areas just for kids are perfect for families.

VIDEO 08 promises to be the absolute best conference for videographers of every experience level. Make plans now to be with The 4EVER Group from January 21-24, 2008.


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Sony Creative Software Launches Free Update For Vegas 7 Professional NLE

Sony Creative Software, a leading provider of professional video and audio editing applications, today announced the May 1, 2007 availability of a Vegas® software update, version 7.0e.

Free for all registered Vegas 7 users, this significant update further promotes Sony Creative Software's support for HD tapeless workflows by allowing users to edit files recorded on Sony's AVCHD™ high-definition camcorders, including three new models announced separately today: the HDR-SR5, HDR-CX7 and HDR-SR7. These cameras continue to position Sony as the leader in high-definition (HD) camcorders by offering consumers the ability to record in full 1080 HD video and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound on tapeless formats such as flash media cards and hard disk drives.

"With the surge in popularity for generating and editing high-definition content, Sony Creative Software continues to provide enhancements to our applications to meet the needs of our customer base by providing new technology solutions for editing HD faster and more efficiently than ever before," said Dave Chaimson, vice president of marketing, Sony Creative Software. "The new Vegas 7.0e update arms users with the specific creation and production tools for Sony's AVCHD cameras and provides new levels of support for those working with these optical and file-based models."

Vegas 7.0e allows users of Sony AVCHD video cameras to create high-definition or standard-definition content using files recorded to their AVCHD camera's hard disk, flash memory, or DVD. Skipping the real-time capturing stage common for tape-based projects eliminates a time-consuming step prior to editing. In addition to the models listed above, the Vegas 7.0e update also currently supports Sony's other AVCHD camera models such as HDR-UX1, HDR-UX5, HDR-UX7 and HDR-SR1.

"Nonlinear editing software like Sony Creative Software's Vegas has helped transform the process of crafting a moving story," said Linda Vuolo, director of camcorders at Sony Electronics. "Now, with Sony extending this same ease of use and flexibility to both its latest update of Vegas and three new AVCHD camcorders, customers have access to a suite of Sony products aligned to deliver quality content from video capture to editing in HD that is unlike any other."

In July of 2007, Sony will also issue an update to its consumer editing software, Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Edition 8, with support for the AVCHD format, which will allow users to edit files in the new AVCHD camcorder recording format based on the MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 codec for video compression and Dolby® Digital audio.

The Vegas 7.0e professional video and audio editing software update is free to all registered Vegas 7 users starting on May 1, 2007. For more information on Vegas+DVD software or any of Sony Creative Software's leading audio or video editing solutions, please visit http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com. For more information and pricing on Sony's new camcorders, visit Sony Style® retail stores or visit http://www.sonystyle.com/.


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Advanced Media Introduces Double Sided RIDATA 8X DVD+R

Advanced Media, Inc., manufacturer and marketer of the popular RIDATA brand of recordable CD and DVD media, electronic storage products, and digital media accessories, is introducing a Double-Sided 8x DVD+R disc to its comprehensive DVD product line. With an amazing 9.4GB of storage capacity, the advanced, double-sided disc is a cost effective solution for virtually any business or household application. Shipments will begin immediately.

The double-sided disc is more cost effective for retailers to carry because it reduces shipping costs over traditional single sided DVD+/-R's. It is highly compatible with legacy DVD drives and many newer drives can close the disc as a DVD-ROM solving even more compatibility issues.

Ritek is the only optical disc manufacturer that uses a Flexible Manufacturing System in its facility that can quickly adapt to new technologies as they arise. Most optical disc manufacturers use an inline system that is much more difficult to adapt to new disc technologies.

"Not everyone owns a dual layer DVD recorder, but they would like a larger storage capacity per disc. Our new double-sided discs solved this need. They are ideal for the ongoing recording of a TV series or for DVD quality movies Users of the RIDATA 8x DVD+R Double-Sided medium, featuring a dramatically increased storage capacity, will enjoy fast, reliable storage with a wide range of playback options." stated Harvey Liu, Advanced Media president. "We are pleased to first offer this cost effective product to the retail industry and consumers as well."

The 8x speed quickly records virtually any audio, video, or data file on all popular DVD recorders. The convenient double-sided configuration allows users to read, write, or view nearly twice the amount of data than with single-layer 4.7GB DVD discs without having to change discs. The RIDATA dual-sided product stores up to four hours of DVD-quality video, 16 hours of VHS-quality video, or over 120 hours of MP3 audio.

The new RIDATA 8X dual-sided disc features excellent compatibility with popular DVD-based video players, game consoles, and DVD-ROM drives. The RIDATA 8X DVD+R DS optical medium is competitively priced with a suggested MSRP of $70 per disc.


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FFV to Develop Embedded REV PRO-Based Solution for Tape-Based "SX" Camcorders

Fast Forward Video Inc. (FFV), a recognized innovator of digital video recorder (DVR) technology for broadcast, industrial video, presentation, and military applications, today announced the company will collaborate with Grass Valley™, a business within Thomson, to develop a cost-saving retrofit kit for Sony Betacam SX® camcorders.

The kit is designed to replace the existing tape elements of the standard-definition camcorder with the digital tapeless recording capabilities of the Grass Valley REV PRO™ digital media drive. Additionally, the REV PRO-SX drive can record in HD or SD, transforming these tape-based SD camcorders into current day HD file-based camcorders with the added benefit of removable digital media.

For tape-based users making the conversion to a file-based infrastructure, REV PRO-SX provides a cost-effective solution and extends the operational life of their camcorders. With the REV PRO-SX retrofit kit, current tape-based SX users will gain all benefits of tapeless digital media acquisition, such as excellent picture and sound recording, file-based storage, tight non-linear editing integration, media cloning, and digital archiving, all provided by the low-cost, removable, and durable REV PRO media.

The retrofit kit's built-in REV PRO drive replaces the existing Sony proprietary MPEG-based tape elements of the camcorder while converting the signal to digital directly from the CCD image sensor to deliver extraordinary image quality. The REV PRO-SX essentially converts the tape-based camcorder into an almost all-digital, file-based camcorder, supporting tapeless news and production workflows. The device will also scale images to HD, allowing users to continue using their SD camcorders with the added benefit of built-in HD upscaling and recording.

The REV PRO-SX, with HD, will list for $8,995 plus installation and will begin shipping to authorized service centers in Q3.

"We are very pleased to work with Grass Valley in bringing this innovative and cost-effective tapeless, file-based solution to our customers," said Scott Keating, vice president of sales and marketing for FFV. "The retrofit will allow customers with older SX tape-based camcorders to upgrade to what is basically full digital operation with HD capabilities, all without the cost of replacing their current camcorders."

This collaborative development effort between FFV and Grass Valley is part of the Grass Valley Open Alliance Partner (OAP) Program and the Grass Valley REV PRO Certification Program. The REV PRO Certification Program includes companies like FFV, which have announced support for the IT-centric removable media and more open and flexible approaches to newsgathering and field production using the Grass Valley Infinity™ Series of products. The retrofit kit is the first of several planned DVRs by FFV supporting Grass Valley REV PRO media.

Learn more about the REV PRO-SX retrofit kit and the company's complete range of digital video recording systems at http://www.ffv.com.

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Artbeats Debuts Dozens of New Titles and Solo Clips at NAB 2007

Artbeats, the industry's leading provider of high-quality royalty-free stock footage, announced the immediate availability of dozens of new collections and solo clips at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention (NAB), booth SL8012.

Shown for the first time at NAB, some of Artbeats' newest titles include: Burning House; Grow!; Lightning Storms; Storm Clouds 2; Mayhem HD; Code Rage; Timelapse Flowers 3; Protestants; Catholics and many more. Artbeats will also debut dozens of new royalty-free solo clips, which are sold individually and are not part of a specific collection.

Featuring a wide range of practical and compelling subject matter, these new releases offer an endless number of options for creative professionals seeking high-quality imagery for a variety of applications, including broadcast, feature film, commercial, concerts, live events, game development, independent production, multimedia and more.

Some of the new royalty-free footage Artbeats highlighted at NAB included:

  • Burning House is spectacular new pyrotechnic footage from Artbeats. As the fire ignites in the garage and starts to spread, you know there's no stopping the inferno as fire envelopes furniture, crawls up the ceiling and out the windows. Soon the whole structure is consumed in a dramatic display of incendiary destruction.
  • Grow! features fascinating footage showing the amazing effects of time on plants and flowers as they exist in nature. Watch as the ground rises and shifts as tiny sprouts find their way to the surface. See flowers dance and sway in the wind, and blades of grass grow in rapid timelapse.
  • Lightning Storms is the result of Artbeats' recent storm chasing expedition and includes some of the most magnificent lightning footage ever produced. Watch as light streaks across the sky, multiple strikes dance along the earth and giant bolts light up the night. This is truly breathtaking footage that is sure to captivate any audience.
  • Storm Clouds 2 will fascinate viewers as they watch footage of huge blankets of clouds churn and build while sheets of rain streak across the land in the distance. Massive thunderheads darken the sky and lightning strikes the ground as summer monsoons sweep the desert.
  • Mayhem HD features some of Artbeats' most popular Mayhem clips in HD. Featuring footage of breaking glass, splattering paint, blowing leaves, floating debris and much more, this collection makes it easy for users to create havoc in their next HD project.
  • Code Rage is a cyber-grunge collection of frenetic movement, garish colors and wildly spinning vortexes. Step outside the box and make a statement with these fabulous images of digital chaos.
  • Tmelapse Flowers 3 is the third edition of this popular theme, which illustrates roses, lilies, hibiscus, gladioli and other flora as they come to life. Watch as tender buds open and blossom then burst into full bloom. Many of the flowers begin to wilt and fade as their life cycle comes to an end.
  • Protestants features many scenarios found in Protestant churches including worship, singing, Bible reading, sermons, congregational scenes, home Bible study, offering, laying on of hands and much more.
  • Catholics contains footage that is incredibly beautiful and reverent. Light streams through stained glass windows as the robed priest administers the sacraments, as well as other scenarios familiar to the Catholic tradition including a nun, communion, holy water, procession, kneeling, rosary beads and more.
  • Solo Clips encompass a wide variety of subject matter designed to complement any user's footage palette. Be sure to check out the entire line up, which includes rodeo footage, timelapse Chicago, fireworks, Hoover Dam aerials, wild horses, Milwaukee aerials, scenic aerials, timelapse Las Vegas, small aircraft, timelapse Washington, DC, Las Vegas aerials, helicopter take-offs, landings and more.

Artbeats showcased these and dozens of other new titles and solo clips on the company's 45-foot video wall containing 42 HD plasma monitors at NAB 2007, booth SL8012. For more information on the titles listed above and other new collections released at NAB, please visit http://www.artbeats.com/prod/new_releases.php.

Artbeats' footage is available in HD-1920x1080, D1 NTSC-720 x 486 or D1 PAL-720 x 576 resolutions. Pricing for Artbeats' HD collections range from USD $799-$899; SD collections range from USD $399-$699. Individual HD clips start at $300 and NTSC/PAL clips start at $199. Artbeats' Solo Clips, which are sold separately and are not part of an existing collection, start at $300 for HD and $199 for NTSC/PAL.


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PowerProduction Software Announces its Universal Binary version of StoryBoard Artist

StoryBoard Artist's 4.2 Universal Binary version is all about speed: quick to start, fast to learn, results in rapid previz. Starting the digital workflow quickly and breezing into production is the goal of most media creators. StoryBoard Artist 4.2 advances and enhances the ability of rapid previsualization which is an essential part of the creative work flow in video, film, games and all digital storytelling.

"Storyboarding has become a critical part of the digital workflow now that computer graphics have become such a large part of today's filmmaking. Whether its enhancing live action sequences, creating animations or developing games, composited images and rendered sequences require that you 'see it before you CG it.' " said Paul Clatworthy, CTO PowerProduction Software.

PowerProduction Software has supported the Macintosh filmmaking community for over 10 years. The new version for Intel-based Macs includes enhancements that continue to work well within laptop environments making it easy for first and second unit directors to visualize and pitch shots while on the set. The new speed of Intel-Macs allows the product roadmap of StoryBoard Artist to branch out even further. New Export formats include Export to Avid NLE, Apple Final Cut Pro's XML and Adobe Flash. The Final Cut Pro export supports an open, standards-based XML format. The use of this open data format allows StoryBoard Artist data to be opened directly in Final Cut Pro as unique elements (frame images and sound files) saving time and money in the editing process.

Another new feature includes colorizable vector art. The new characters add another level of customization for rapid storyboarding. Changes can be made to the color of hair, skin, clothing and then saved for use throughout projects.

StoryBoard Artist 4.2 upgrade is available for download from the PowerProduction website.


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