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December 03, 2007

Table of Contents

Studio Time: Bliss* Video Productions
SmartSound Celebrates Release of 50th Disc from the Strata Series of Customizable Multi-Layer Music at DV Expo 2007
M-Audio Announces MicroTrack II Handheld Digital Recorder
TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 with DivX Authoring is Now Optimized For Intel's New Quad Core Processor
Facilis Technology Builds Stronger Storage Networks with One-Terabyte (TB) Drives, iSCSI and the Expandable 24EX Model
Apricorn Launches Aegis Vault, Secure, Hardware Encrypted Hard Drive
Artbeats Captures Footage of Pollutants from Bay Area Oil Spill

Studio Time: Bliss* Video Productions

In the 5 years since Kristen Souders began Bliss* Video Productions in West Hollywood with the bluntly stated goal of creating wedding video "that actually doesn’t suck," her self-described "couture" approach—heavy on film—has earned her top dollar and attracted an elite clientele. Couples arrive at Bliss* exclusively on referral from event planners with an average budget of $12,000 for a classic "art film" of their wedding day.

With formal training in photography and filmmaking from the Academy of Art in San Francisco (where she later opened a second boutique), Kristen* (her nom d’art) shoots the majority of her weddings on sync-sound Super 8 and 16mm film, hand-selecting film stocks and tailoring each piece to her couples’ distinct "vibes."

Her clients’ musical tastes play a vital role in their resulting wedding film. That’s fitting, as it was music—music videos, in particular—that inspired Kristen* to pursue filmmaking. After watching her first music video, a-ha's "Take On Me," Kristen* says her fate was sealed. "I said, ‘That’s what I want to do,’" she remembers.

As a senior, Kristen* shot for a Bay Area wedding video company part time, a job that fit her like a hand in a white satin glove and­­—she would realize later—seeded the idea for Bliss*. She explains, "I had been maid of honor in three of my girlfriends’ weddings and a bridesmaid in four. I knew weddings."

After graduation, her planned migration to Los Angeles stalled, so she thought, "I’m really good at shooting weddings, and I feel like I really get the clients." So she took a job at another wedding video company for about a year and a half. "They were still editing on Casablancas," she recalls. "I was an Avid editor, and Final Cut had just been released," so she updated the company’s postproduction system. But the directing bug bit harder, and she finally packed her bags for L.A. to begin work on feature films and shooting music videos for MTV.

Bliss* Is Born
In 2002 Kristen* started Bliss* as a side business to supplement her income, a common practice among artists. Her experience shooting for two Bay Area wedding video companies lent her a firm grasp on the task at hand. As for the name of her company, she explains, "I knew I wanted the asterisk, and I kind of had this visual look … and the word just popped in my head." Bliss* perfectly reflected her goal for her productions: "ultra hip, yet still timeless and real." In that first year she booked five weddings. She recalls thinking, "Oh, this is cool." What happened next was even cooler. "My name got passed through the industry like wildfire. Here was this girl who had a film background and who came at it a different way. My phone has been ringing off the hook ever since." The very next year she booked an impressive 53 weddings.

That overwhelming response is a testament to Kristen*’s "different way," which combines her particularly feminine approach, the artistic flair she and her editor bring from their tenure at MTV, and her cinematic expertise. Whether her clients want a fast-cut video documentary with a "unique edge" or a romantic, slow-motion, "decadent wedding film," Bliss* brides can expect "visual excellence, discreet professionalism, and modern sophistication."

figure 1No Cupid’s Arrows
While Bliss* offers video packages starting at $7,000, nearly three-quarters of her productions are film-only and more pricey. These pieces are less literal than the video productions and more "atmospheric, nostalgic, and surreal." The majority of Kristen*’s film work is 8mm. Although a handful of clients have expressed interest in 35mm, the cost is quite prohibitive, not to mention the logistics of securing completely different equipment. As an alternative, Kristen* suggests Super 16, which she says is "a much better option because it can be blown up to look like 35mm."

She begins by selecting film stocks based on the location of the wedding, usually a mix of slow grain stocks and 500-speed film for greater latitude. Kristen* works closely with lighting and event designers to ensure that natural light is used whenever possible so that she can capture events as they are seen by the naked eye without having to wash them out. As for the camera noise you get with film, she says her brides (most of whom probably have a few family memories captured on Super 8 gathering dust in an attic somewhere) find the purring of the old cameras calming. "Couples love the sound of film," she says, "because it reminds them of their childhood."

This retro quality is part of what makes her pieces timeless. But authenticity is paramount to Kristen*, and she believes that imposters such as fake film effects stand out like a Kodachrome sailboat in a sepia-toned sea. Kristen* is adamantly opposed to shortcuts that strive to emulate the look of film. NLE filters or effects packages and plug-ins that mimic film’s frame rate or add "damage" are too obvious, she says, and a sure way to date your video (and not in a good way). Most of these filters go too far to prove the point, she argues: "Film isn’t that scratchy; it isn’t that messed up." For a comprehensive comparison of film and film effects, see the June 2006 article Reeling in the Years.

"I equate these fake film effects to the exploding cube of the ’80s," she says. "I want to create a video that’s timeless, regardless of the medium. Film effects are going to be looked at like Cupids and arrows opening up a video, or the storybook opening. They’re a bad gimmick."

She demands the same caliber of film expertise from her freelance shooters and editors, hiring only those with film backgrounds. She says with a laugh, "This is a double-edged sword though, because you deal with a lot of attitude toward the wedding video industry."

But when she tells them, "No, that’s not acceptable. Don’t make it look like a wedding video," they can take it to another level. "I can say, ‘I want you to shoot this and I want it to be very Virgin Suicides’, and they immediately know what I’m talking about."

figure 1In postproduction, Kristen* often sits in on the telecine, which she does through Spectra Film & Video. "It’s here that I do a lot of creative transferring. I can really work with the film." Kristen* believes the quality of the telecine can make or break the look of the film.

Depending on the mood she’s going for, she might create a super-saturated or blown-out look, or play with the frame rates. "Many times I will be forced to shoot at 18fps in low-light situations and will specify to Doug (my transfer guy at Spectra) that that part needs to be transferred back at 18fps. Otherwise, it’s going to look like a Charlie Chaplin movie!" Sometimes, though, she intentionally speeds or slows the motion. Since she can switch to B & W during transfer or apply selective coloring to the flowers or the bride’s lips, for example, Kristen* shoots primarily in color. "I prefer to switch to B & W in transfer rather than in FCP. For me, film color correction is more of a polishing tool than a style tool."

Raising the Bar
"Hey look, we’re not lame and cheesy!" has become a mantra of sorts for Kristen*. She combats that common perception of the wedding videography industry by networking with photographers and other talented event filmmakers such as same-day editor extraordinaire Jason Magbanua from the Philippines, Bruce Patterson of Cloud Nine Creative, Inc., Walter Chelliah of DeFiNiTiVe ProjX, and Darrell Aubert of Aubert Films, through WedFACT, the Wedding Filmmakers Alliance of Creative Talent. WedFACT is a collaborative of "people who want to learn how to grow and do really sophisticated work, as opposed to being a video factory."

These are Kristen*’s words of wisdom for videographers who want to raise the bar in their own work: "Wedding videographers are too crafty. They want to create their own DVDs, make their own effects. To go after high-end you have to open yourself up to hiring great artists who can help make a more sophisticated product," she advises. "Doing that costs money. If you want to get into that market, you have to be able to invest."

Still, she laments the fact that there are many creative couples who can’t afford high-end. This winter she is launching a sister company, Get Hitched Films, which offers couples with modest budgets a sophisticated wedding film shot on Super 8. In the coming year, Kristen* also hopes to get back to her roots and open up her schedule to make time for nonwedding film work in Hollywood, while simultaneously following her Bliss*.

Elizabeth Welsh is a freelance writer and editor based in Madison, Wisconsin.

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SmartSound Celebrates Release of 50th Disc from the Strata Series of Customizable Multi-Layer Music at DV Expo 2007

December is a watershed month for SmartSound Software, Inc. During this month, the company will release the 50th library from its Strata Series of Multi-Layer Music since its inception in April 2006. The rapid growth of this collection with music from leading film and TV composers and popular musicians highlights SmartSound's position as the leading provider of customizable music.

At DV Expo 2007 (Dec. 5-6, Los Angeles Convention Center, Booth 114), SmartSound will be celebrating the milestone 50th release with specials on the entire Strata Series collection. These prices are among the best ever on this special series of music, which is designed to be the most flexible music in the industry.

Film and video professionals can trust the quality of Strata Series music because many of the tracks have been created by top composers using the same exacting standards used in major film and TV productions. But they can also trust that their final score will be unique to their production thanks to SmartSound's customization features. The length, arrangement or instrument mix of any Strata Series music track can be controlled through SmartSound's Sonicfire® Pro 4 software and its innovative Mood Mapping feature. No other music library offers this level of customization of fully composed music.

SmartSound has a history of using music from top-flight composers. The background of the company's founders as musicians, composers, producers and engineers in the music and composing fields has given the company access to some of the top names in the industry. SmartSound's roster of composers has won multiple Emmys and worked on major TV shows including "Desperate Housewives", "Oprah", "Seventh Heaven", "Prison Break" and "ER" and film productions such as "Stomp the Yard", "Friends with Money" and "Larry the Health Inspector".

To facilitate the growth of its library, SmartSound hired Andy Muson to serve as Music Director and add new composers to SmartSound's roster. Muson has worked on hundreds of films and recordings as a studio musician, composer, producer and music supervisor. His credits include time as musical director for Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin, session and touring work with James Taylor, the Manhattan Transfer, Patti LaBelle and Yoko Ono, and work on film and television productions such as "Grease II", "Heaven Can Wait", "The Blues Brothers", "48 Hrs." and "Weird Science".

"The most exciting part of my job is that I get to connect film and video professionals with the music from composers at the highest level in the industry," Muson said. "SmartSound makes the work of dozens of leading composers accessible to anyone - it's truly amazing. Working with these leading composers to create music that fits the diverse needs of our customers is a challenging but rewarding process."

Richard Band is just one well-known composer whose music is part of SmartSound's library. He is one of the most versatile composers working in the industry today, but he is perhaps best known for his scores for some of the all-time classic cult horror and sci-fi films and television series. Band has more than 25 years of experience, scoring such films as "Re-Animator", "Troll" and the "Puppet Master" franchise, as well as the TV shows "Walker, Texas Ranger" and "Stargate SG-1". Band also received an Emmy nomination last year for his score for the "Masters of Horror" series episode "Dreams in the Witch House". SmartSound has released six libraries of music from Band, and has just announced that a collection of new music from Band will be released in early 2008.

"As a composer, I've chosen to work with SmartSound because they're the only music company that can bring even more value to my music with their technology," said Band. "It's amazing to see hours of music instantly available to editors and film and video producers in a customizable format using SmartSound's software and technology. SmartSound's leadership in this area has opened my music up to a much larger market that would be too difficult to reach on my own."

Strata Series music from SmartSound starts at $99.95 per library, or $19.95 for a single-track download through the Sonicfire Pro 4 software. To listen to previews from the entire SmartSound library or to purchase music, visit http://www.smartsound.com/music/.

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M-Audio Announces MicroTrack II Handheld Digital Recorder

M-Audio®, a leading provider of creative tools for musicians, is proud to announce the MicroTrack™ II handheld digital recorder. Building on the legacy of the popular MicroTrack 24/96 recorder, the MicroTrack II features an extended input gain range, analog input limiter, 48V phantom power, headphone monitoring of S/PDIF, and other enhancements to deliver the highest quality mobile recording experience available today.

The extensive list of new features starts with an extended input gain range and built-in analog input limiter for capturing high-SPL sources without clipping. The high-speed USB 2.0 connection yields a faster file transfer rate. The ability to place markers in BWF files during recording makes it easy to find a specific event while editing the content. A user-created folder structure makes it possible to organize and locate files in the field. The MicroTrack II overcomes the limitations of FAT32 by enabling users to create seamless multi-part WAV recordings beyond 2GB in size. Users can also dim the backlight to save battery life and be discreet in a dark room, as well as let the recorder hibernate, then wake it up to record on a moment’s notice. A CompactFlash test ensures that the card can record at the desired settings. Additional refinements complete the package.

M-Audio’s MicroTrack handheld recording technology has been embraced across the digital media production spectrum. From cutting-edge music producers and Hollywood sound designers to top-shelf video game developers and photojournalism agencies, working professionals depend on the MicroTrack for reliability and pristine sound quality. The rugged design stands up to the most rigorous uses.

Like its predecessor, the compact MicroTrack II recorder lets users record WAV and MP3 files to CompactFlash cards or Microdrives* through balanced line inputs or built-in microphone preamps—then drag and drop recordings to a computer for immediate editing or Web posting. The recorder features a variety of connections to facilitate diverse applications. Professional-quality preamps with full 48V phantom power work with condenser microphones to record up to 24-bit/96kHz, making the unit ideal for songwriting, recording practice sessions and gigs, and capturing film-quality sound effects in the field. Balanced ¼" TRS line inputs also make it easy to take a feed directly from a studio or club mixer. S/PDIF input means that users can record the output of digital mixers and perform transfers from other digital recording/storage devices with pristine quality. Regardless of how users choose to record, they can monitor via the 1/8" stereo headphone jack or RCA line outs.

Since MicroTrack II lets users record directly to MP3 files and transfer them instantly to the computer via high-speed USB 2.0, users can e-mail or post high-quality recordings to the Web immediately. Musicians can e-mail demos to writing/production partners and record companies when the inspiration strikes. Business users can easily upload meetings and presentations for review and wider dissemination. Educators can post classes, lectures and seminars without delay. Faith-based organizations can quickly broadcast worship services and speakers. Professional presenters can create and sell back-end collateral content almost instantly. The included software allows users to easily edit their files and convert between file formats.

The MicroTrack II includes a T-shaped stereo electret microphone, earbuds, 1/8" stereo extender cable, protective carrying case with mic pouch, power supply unit with USB connector, and cables. The unit is powered via a long-life lithium-ion battery that facilitates recording for approximately four to five hours on a single charge (or about three hours with phantom power engaged). Users can also employ third-party USB battery packs for additional hours of top-quality recording. Recharging the internal battery is as simple as connecting the MicroTrack II to a PC or Mac via USB, or using the included power supply.

"Sound quality is the top priority in a handheld digital recorder," says Adam Castillo, M-Audio marketing director. "That’s why the MicroTrack recorder is the only choice for top film and audio professionals—the recordings made with the MicroTrack rival those made on high-end audio interfaces. With the MicroTrack II we’ve taken all the input we’ve gotten from the field and engineered a unit that’s virtually indispensable to many musicians and audio pros."

The MicroTrack II is currently expected to ship in the fourth quarter of 2007 and carries an MSRP of US$499.95.


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TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 with DivX Authoring is Now Optimized For Intel's New Quad Core Processor

TMPG, Inc.), the company that makes digital video easy, is introducing an updated version of its popular TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 with DivX® Authoring software. The update provides optimization of the DVD authoring program for the Intel® CoreT 2 Extreme quad-core processor QX9650 and the Intel Xeon® 5400 Family of quad core Intel CPU's (code name Penryn). SSE4 optimization provides a speed increase for all MPEG-1/2 processes. The software upgrade is now available at www.tmpg-inc.com and is free for current TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 users. New users may purchase the updated software for $89.95 per license.

"We are pleased to announce another one of our software products is now optimized for Intel's new, fast, energy efficient CoreT 2 Extreme quad-core processor QX9650/Intel Xeon5400 Series processors and their new SSE4 instruction set. TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 with DivX Authoring now provides the power to easily author common DVD's and DivX projects in a very short amount of time," stated Kimi Matsuki, TMPG CEO. "We are celebrating this event with a free special edition menu template pack."

TMPGEnc will be giving away a "free gift" to all new and existing TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 users. The gift is a special edition menu template pack containing eight newly designed menu templates. Each template features a different theme/setting such as Science Fiction, Family, Independence Day, Snowboarding, Movie Theater, Autumn, and Presents.

The new template pack will not be available for download directly from www.tmpg-inc.com. During the promotional period, purchasers of TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 will be emailed a download link, and existing users will be able to download the themes from within the TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 application. This promotion ends December 27th. For more information on how to obtain the template pack, click here.

DVD Author3 Features
Due to the included DivX authoring capability, DivX projects can now feature DVD-like menus and navigation. DivX projects made with TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 with DivX Authoring enjoy the ultimate combination of DVD-like presentation with DivX technology. Finished products may be played with DivX Player software on a PC, or on any DivX Certified DVD player and a television or compatible home theater system.

Capturing video directly from a DV or HDV camcorder is easy with DVD Author 3 software. Plug a camcorder into a PC via an IEEE 1394 (i.LINK) interface. The software then views the contents, adding it as a source file. TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 improves format input, allowing inclusion of other types of source files. These include: DVD-VIDEO, DVD-VR, MPEG1/2, MPEG-4, AVI, Windows Media, DivX, and QuickTime (mov, mp4, 3gp, 3g2) file formats. Since the software can utilize up to two subtitle streams simultaneously, it's possible to create a DivX or DVD file with subtitles appearing in more than one language.

TMPGEnc DVD Author 3, allows users to utilize built-in menu templates or create quick and easy custom menus with the robust menu creation process. It is now easy to freely position and resize titles, thumbnail images, and text; creating dynamic motion menus that liven up any production; as well as change highlight colors and screen ratios. Special Smart Rendering technology makes encoding with TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 with DivX Authoring faster, allowing users to edit and output DivX and DVD projects much quicker than other authoring software.


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Facilis Technology Builds Stronger Storage Networks with One-Terabyte (TB) Drives, iSCSI and the Expandable 24EX Model

Facilis Technology, Inc., a leader in shared media storage technology for post-production and content creation, today announced the availability of TerraBlockÒ shared storage networks with one-terabyte drives. The 1TB drives mark the largest capacity available today within a post-production storage environment. The 1TB drives are available in each TerraBlock model – 8XS, the new 24EX, 12-drive expandable model and the 24D.

The new drive capacity comes on the heels of other TerraBlock system advancements, including iSCSI Ethernet connectivity and the new 24EX model that eases expansion of server capacity. TerraBlock is able to support simultaneous access to the same uncompressed HD video data, making it ideal for high-end post production and finishing environments.

"With support for 1TB drives, a new 24EX model line and iSCSI Module for Ethernet connectivity, we’re again demonstrating our commitment to providing advanced workflow features for our customers," explained James McKenna, vice president, Facilis Technology. "Storage plays a key role in the workflow of a modern facility, and only TerraBlock is powerful enough to provide scalability for the next generation of deliverables, yet maintain its easy-to-use management and system maintenance."

TerraBlock combines intelligent drive management software with lower-cost SATA drive technology and dedicated optical fibre channel client connectivity. TerraBlock supports all Avid, Apple, Adobe and other non-linear editorial, graphics and effects applications, content creation, DI and encoding systems on various Windows, Macintosh and Linux platforms. Facilis Technology’s capacity and scalability options provide post-production environments the greatest flexibility by supporting all creative tools, without limitations.

To learn more about TerraBlock shared storage or to locate an authorized reseller, visit www.facilis.com.

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Apricorn Launches Aegis Vault, Secure, Hardware Encrypted Hard Drive

Apricorn the leader in personal storage, today released an addition to the Aegis product suite, the Aegis Vault. The Vault is an ideal secure portable storage system featuring AES-128 bit hardware encryption with password protection, keeping all data safe even if the hard drive is removed from its enclosure.

The bus-powered, 2.5 inch drive is an easy-to-use solution designed for the mobile user. The Aegis Vault’s encrypted partition is accessed by entering an authenticated password and can be configured to support multiple public partitions for data sharing. The portable drive also features an administrator password for corporate applications and does not require software installation on the host computer to access the encrypted partition. This unique feature enables users to access data on any Windows® based computer system, no matter where they are and is ideal for professionals in government, healthcare, insurance, finance, human resources and executives who need to protect their data.

"We’re pleased to extend the Aegis family with this extremely portable, secure, cost effective storage solution," explains Mike McCandless, Apricorn's Vice President of Sales and Marketing. "Compatible with Windows PCs, the Aegis Vault’s sleek, slim, self-powered design makes it the perfect traveling companion while providing the ultimate in flexibility and security. The Aegis Vault gives our users the option of storing sensitive files in the encrypted partition of the drive and creating public partitions for sharing personal flies like photos, music or video documents."

As an extension of the innovative Aegis product design, the Vault also includes a robust 16-point omni-directional shock mounting, and Apricorn’s signature integrated USB cable, eliminating bulky, messy problems with loose cables. Available in 80GB, 120GB, 160GB and 250GB capacities, this product is an ideal solution to add additional storage to any system.

Apricorn’s Aegis Vault is currently available online at www.apricorn.com.

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Artbeats Captures Footage of Pollutants from Bay Area Oil Spill

Artbeats, the industry’s leading provider of high-quality royalty-free stock footage, today announced it has captured footage of last week’s oil spill off the coast of San Francisco. Using a CineAlta F900R HD camera, the Artbeats team shot a variety of subject matter showing pollution from the spill, including oil in the water, tar on the beach, dead wildlife, clean-up crews and more. Artbeats is the only stock footage company offering downloadable HD and SD royalty-free clips of this recent environmental occurrence. To view or purchase clips visit www.artbeats.com/oilspill.

"As soon as I received news of the spill, I organized our internal film crew and sent them in with the F900," said Phil Bates, president of Artbeats. "We got the content needed, expedited post-production and were able to offer broadcast-quality footage of the spill to our customers in record time."

The oil spill footage is available in HD-1920x1080, D1 NTSC-720 x 486 or D1 PAL-720 x 576 resolutions. HD solo clips are USD $300 and NTSC/PAL clips are $199.


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