Nikon D5100 VS. Canon T3i

Canon T3i VS Nikon D5100In considering adding a DLSR to my kit, I narrowed down to the two budget leaders in the sub $1000 range, the Nikon D5100 and the Canon T3i. I briefly had the Sony A55 in consideration, but I just feel it falls short in too many areas. I thought the Canon was a slam dunk in every area, but it seems the Nikon does pull ahead in several key points. A much brighter viewfinder, faster focusing, are among some of the most significant Nikon strengths. Seems the D5100 also wins in terms of battery performance by around %50.

Unfortunately, these strengths are almost entirely in the still image department.  Canon takes the lead in the video.  Nikon saw no need to offer manual control over exposure.  Audio control lacks over the Canon as well.  Coarse audio control, and metering is left wanting.

A strange wrinkle on the side of the Canon comes from a third party developer.  It’s actually a firmware “hack” that adds quite a few features to not only the T3i, but several other cameras.  Originally aimed at the 5D MKII, Magic Lantern was developed to overcome some rather surprising shortcomings in the early 5D II cameras.  Much to my amazement, the first edition of this camera had no manual control of exposure in “movie” mode.   The ML folks not only overcame this, but added many other features.  Canon did finally add manual exposure control to the 5DII in a later firmware update.

The benefits of Magic Lantern are pretty extensive, and affect not only the “movie” mode, but add features to the still shooting experience, like HDR and an intervalometer for time lapse shooting.  I have installed and have used Magic Lantern myself, and was very impressed.  I would however caution all but the most experienced users before marching ahead.  Firmware modifications can be risky, and may put your warranty at risk.  For more information, visit the Magic Lantern Wiki.   

Numerous features and television programs have been captured with the 5D Mk II.  As far as I know (please feel free to correct me) it’s still the cheapest full frame video camera by far.   For use primarily as a video camera, the Canon T3i is the clear winner.  If still images are your main goal, the Nikon edges the Canon out by a bit in that area.

 

Studiovox

Studiovox is a social networking platform for creative folks.  Each user has their own mini-site, a blog, the ability to share both video and still image media, and quite a bit more.  Sure, there’s plenty of social media sites out there, but this was the first I’ve come across that specializes in creative talent and multimedia.  The video below might give you a better overview.

The Studiovox team has been kind enough to offer free access to a few of our readers for a limited time.  If you are interested, just used the comment field, or use our contact form.  You must provide a valid email.  You can be sure it will not be shared.  Your feedback would be welcome.

 

Fast Video Cataloger previewer

Fast Video Cataloger

Fast Video Cataloger

Try out a preview for free, and win a free copy!

As the name implies, Fast Video Cataloger for Windows is an application for cataloging video files.  Simply point the app at one or more files, and the video is imported.  This works for virtually any file that is supported by Direct Show.  If you can play the video in Windows Media Player, it should work just fine with FVC.  The trial version is fully functional for seven days.

You can update the titles, control several tags, including actors, rating, description, genre and so on.  FVC quickly generates not only a single thumbnail for each video in the catalog, but it also creates thumbnails in the preview window for every minute of your video.  Similar to a DVD menu, clicking one of these thumbnails will take you directly to that point in the video and begin playback.

Win a chance for a free full version of Fast Video Cataloger

Give the trial version a test run, and tell us your impression of Fast Video Cataloger.  Share how it might help your workflow.  Or maybe how it helps with downloaded videos.  Suggestions are also welcome.  Apologies to our Mac friends, as it is Windows only.

  • Winner will be chosen at random
  • Email must be valid (and will be kept private)
  • Inappropriate comments will be disqualified.

How are your interview skills?

I’ve done numerous interviews as a professional videographer.  I wish I’d come across the following article before I went through my first couple of interviews.  It’s really difficult to know what to expect until you go through the process yourself.  The following article is a great primer written by a professional therapist.  Well worth the read.

10 Interviewing Techniques for Engaging and Authentic Videos

WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe

HD Video Converter

HD Video Converter

A frustrating experience came my way a few months ago, when I was presented with footage from a Canon 5DII and a Canon 3Ti.  This was a wedding shoot, and would be combined with footage from my Sony NX5U.  The footage from the Canon looked amazing, but there was a problem.  My editing software (Vegas Pro 9) would import the footage, but it would then promptly hang or crash.  I tried several transcoding and conversion applications, including Cineform.  The results ranged from audio that was out of sync, altered gamma, enormous files, and so on.

Then I ran across WinX HD Video Converter.  The software accepted the footage from the Canons, and offered a wide range of output formats.  The interface is intuitive, and there are a number of preset output options, each with it’s own preset bitrate and resolution settings and so on.  You can of course opt to override the settings as desired.  Several HD specific presets offer AVI, MP4, MOV and even a Youtube friendly HD preset.  Conversions may be done in batch by adding multiple files.

Conversion speed with HD Video Converter was surprisingly quick, depending on the output format.  Even at some of the highest quality presets with the “high quality engine” option ticked on, the conversion rate approached realtime on the Intel quadcore test machine.  At lower resolutions, such as with the preset for “cell phone” it was actually faster than realtime.  Botom line here was it turned a disaster into a successful editing session, and saved the project.

Get a copy of HD Video Converter Free!

We have a limited number of free copies for our visitors for a limited time.  Simply comment on this posting.  Tell us how you would use the software for example.  You must of course provide a valid email address.

Cutting the Cable

cutting the cable

Cutting Cable TV

For a few months now, my wife and I have eliminated cable TV from our home.  In fact, “cutting the cable” has been easier that I’d expected.  We’ve found several solutions, some of which are free, and some quite inexpensive.  We’ve gone from over $100 per month, to about $18 per month.

OTA (Over the Air)

Many folks just don’t realize that if you live near a city of any significant size, you can receive television for free.  At least after the purchase of a $8 pair of “rabbit ears“.  In my experience, the $50 amplified antennas are a complete waste of money, and do not perform as well as this old fashioned antenna.  Unlike TV before the digital revolution, if the TV station tower is close enough to receive at all, the picture is crystal clear.   A dirty little secret the videophiles might find interesting is that A HDTV with an antenna will deliver better (often far better) video quality that with cable or satelite TV.  Why you may ask?  It’s due to the fact that the boxes used with these services compress the video signal, therefore some quality loss is unavoidable.

A DVR

This would be hard to do without, after owning two TiVos, and several cable company DVRs.   Fortunately, I have a notebook PC running Windows 7.  The addition of a Hauupage HDTV adapter turned it into a DVR.  In fact, Windows Media Center (WMC) offers an interface much better than most any cable company DVR.  Yes, it records TV shows right off those cheap rabbit ears I just mentioned.  It also offers lots of other online content, and can play almost any video file format supported by Windows right on your TV.

ROKU

We added a Roku 2 box to the setup.  It’s a dedicated box, not unlike the Apple TV and the Google TV boxes out there.  Roku offers a wide selection of streaming media.  Unfortunately, much of the content is duplicated, and some comes at a premium cost.  A good deal of content is targeted at tech and gamer youth.  We mainly looked to use this device for Netflix Streaming, and Hulu Plus.  Netflix works great on the Roku.  Far better than it did on our Samsung DVD/BD player.  You can actually add and browse content right on the Roku device.  Yes, a very similar feature is available on WMC, but if the DVR is recording, it’s best not to push it, as it uses quite a bit of processing power.

Hulu and Hulu Plus

Hulu is free online, and offers some of the best TV content on the web.  The Roku only supports the premium “plus” service.  At only $8 a month, it seemed hard to beat.  One huge problem.  On the Roku (and most any other dedicated device) only about 1/2 the content is view-able, and may only be viewed on a PC or Mac.  This is neither the fault of Roku, nor is it that of Hulu.  It has more to due with the (ignorance and/or greed?) of content providers.  There is however a Hulu plugin for WMC that overcomes this problem.

The Results

In actual use, it’s all worked out pretty well these past six months.  The WMC DVR records shows from the major broadcast channels from the local broadcasts.  Netflix streaming, initially off to a weak start when it first appeared, now offers quite a selection of movies and TV content.  Sure, there are some rough spots.  The Roku tends to “hang”, and requires a power cycle almost every time.  The PC occasionally hits a bump due to a Windows update issue, or some other windows issue.  Overall, including all the rough spots, we do not intend to go back.

Shaolin Jazz Video Contest

Shaolin Jazz Video Contest

Shaolin Jazz Video Contest

Combine the lyrics of Wu Tang Clan, and some classic jazz beats, and what do you get?  You get Shaolin Jazz.  This combination might seem unlikely, until you listen for yourself.

There’s still time to submit an entry to their video contest, and to contribute to this innovative project.  Some nice prizes are will be offered to the winner, but this also looks like a good way to get your work noticed.

THE USE of NEW MEDIA IN VIDEOGRAPHY

It seems that “new media” has begun to seep into every aspect of life. With an increase in the digitization and socialization of media, new media continues to break

Smartphone

ground and sometimes even change lives.

The term “new media” itself is extremely broad. For example, Lev Manovich, author of multiple books on new media and professor of Visual Arts at University of California, wrote an entire essay on the possible five characteristics of new media (http://ow.ly/7lnaZ), with an additional eight propositions. But because the general public is usually unaware of the technical side of the definition, a lot of people don’t realize that when they reference “new media” they’re actually referring to “social media.”

“Social media” narrows down the definition, and is exactly what it sounds like. Social media is what turns new media into an interactive dialogue.

The main players of social media include Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Where would the world be without these? We can say for certain that Ellie Kemper would never have been cast on The Office, and Justin Bieber would just be another kid with a bad haircut. But aside from individuals showcasing their talent in the entertainment business, social media has recently come into further use in the field of film and videography.

On October 31, 2011 YouTube announced that it’s crowdsourced documentary Life in a Day would be available to view for free on their website. Life in a Day is one of the first social media films, and truly a beautiful piece of art. In 2010, YouTube put out a call to it’s users to submit videos of their day on that upcoming July 24. They received over 80,000 clips from 192 nations totaling 4,500 hours of footage, all of which were submitted to YouTube itself. Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald and his team of editors and researchers sifted through them and created a 94 minute movie which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2011 with the premiere of the film streaming live on YouTube. The film features pieces of people’s day that day, including everything from a man drinking on a park bench in the early morning hours, to a boy and his father starting their day by paying tribute to their deceased mother/wife. This film takes the every day YouTube video and turns it into something beautiful and spectacular. It never loses it’s sense of communal contribution and creation, and moreover reminds you that you are never alone. A documentary about life itself and a great example of social media being turned into a work of art.

Some, however, are choosing to use social media to help fund their art. Eddy Terstall, a filmmaker in Holland recently used Twitter to help raise money for his upcoming film project. His idea was to create a quick films based on tweets by those who donated money to his project. A 10 euro donation got you a 10 second film based on your tweet. 20 euros got a 20 second tweet based film, etc. By the end of the donation period, he was able to raise 120K euros and successfully produce his film. http://ow.ly/7lv9D

New and social media continue to enhance film and videography, pushing it into the 21st century. What lies ahead for the digital age is still unknown, but the symbiotic relationship between new/social media and film seems to only get stronger. Those who embrace it might be able to find creative ways to fund their projects or possibly create a whole new genre of film, an unexplored frontier, giving a voice to the digital mass.

This article is a video production tip from The Michael Group, a company specializing in video production Chicago, written for the Pixelriffic blog.

Netflix can’t stream a 70 year old movie?

Nope.  Not this one anyway.  The 1939 movie, “Another Thin Man” is only available on disc from Netflix.  I’m sure it’s no fault of their’s.  With all the recent upset about the impending split, I really enjoy the “all you can eat” streaming service.   Why isn’t this movie available on Netflix streaming?  I doubt it’s any fault on the part of Netflix.  More than likely this is due to outdated agreements with Cable companies and DVD distribution.  My wife and I no longer have cable.  We use the Netflix streaming service, and still have the one disc at a time service, but are considering cutting down to just the streaming option.  I do think streaming is the future,

What if they deemed to restrict the soundtrack to be limited to distribution on Edison cylinders?  Or maybe 78 RPM shellac records?  Sure, you can rent this from Amazon for $3.  I suspect Apple will offer the same.  Is anyone really paying this?  It’s reasonable enough for recent releases, but too expensive for classic films.  No doubt the owners of the rights these classics have forged this particular agreement.  It’s potentially a death sentence for many classics.   I’ll wager that most under 30 have never seen this movie, much less have even heard of it.

Even if you have to resort to old fashioned DVDs, this is still worth a look.

Monitor your audio

headphones

Closed Headphones

It cannot be overstated just how important monitoring your audio is when shooting video.  Sure, your VU meters show a signal, but what if that signal is just noise?  Listening is the only way to be sure.  Even the most modest film and Television productions have someone monitoring audio.

It’s possible to spend into the hundreds on a pair of headphones.  You can however find a reasonably good set in the $30 to $50 range.  Be sure to choose a closed design, and not an open “super aural” style.  The latter may be more comfortable, but does not inhibit outside sounds.

In-ear Earbuds have come a long way in recent years in improving both sounds quality, and value.  I’ve long favored them for audio monitoring when shooting video.  They do a great job of blocking out external sounds, are generally more comfortable than headphones.  Especially in hot weather.  They take up much less space in your bag.  In fact, I keep two sets in case one is lost or damaged.  I’ve found earbuds for less that $20 on Amazon that perform quite well.

Especially if you’re shooting live events, it’s not worth taking a chance.  Monitor your audio, and rest easy.