Thursday, March 31, 2011

Great Deal on After Effects Templates!

I have mentioned Footage Firm a number of times on this blog in reference to their stock footage and stock audio. They have just added something new--and it is an amazing value.

A huge time-saver for video producers/editors is After Effects templates. Starting with a customizable project rather than starting from scratch can save days or weeks of work. And for someone with limited AE knowledge, it can make the impossible possible. Most of the time, you will find AE templates being sold for somewhere between $50 and $150 each. I have always thought this was a real bargain--especially when I have found something that will fit my needs perfectly. But Footage Firm has just announced 50 great-quality templates for less than $100 (you pay only shipping and handling charges--the product is free). I do not know of a better value anywhere--and certainly not on AE templates. They will be available for a limited time at this "free" rate before going to the normal cost of $2,500 for the set. Check out their products today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Free Stock - Train Passing

This shot has some exciting movement to it and works well in a quick montage. The sky is not very interesting, but no one will notice because the action keeps their attention. A good starting point is where the focal length begins to shorten. The gradual widening of the angle emphasizes the speed of the train as it approaches.

Download now.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Television Tape!

NAB time is the most exciting time of the year for audio-video pros. We get to see all the new stuff the manufacturers are coming out with. Of course, there are always those products that are released early so as to avoid getting "lost in the crowd." This one is sure to be popular. Check out all of the nifty transitions you can do with it...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Downloading Internet Videos

I have known about this program for a while now and used it on a number of occasions, but never thought to mention it on the blog. However, I imagine many of you may have need for something like this to help you pull video off the Internet. It is called DownloadHelper, and if a video will play in Firefox, this program will download it (with transcoding) quickly and simply. There is an article today on that talks more about it's capabilities. It is a donation-based product, so check it out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Great Deal on Westcott Light Kit

If I was just getting started in video production and did not have any lights, this would be the deal I would go for! MarkerTek is selling a three-light kit from Westcott (a big name in video and photography lighting) for under $250 that is a great starter kit. With two 500watt softboxes and a kicker light for the background, you can do the vast majority of interview setups you will need to do, and the softboxes work great to add a little light here and there when shooting other footage. I would certainly recommend checking this deal out and investing in lights like these to bring your production value up to another level--from amateur to professional. If you do purchase this kit, be sure to read my lighting tip about two-point lighting.

Review of WebStarts Design Tools

While I really do not consider myself a web designer, somehow over the years I have created dozens of sites. Sometimes it is for someone I know or for a client that really needs a good website in order to display a video I am producing. Occasionally I have taken jobs on-purpose when I needed the income. I have worked in a number of different programs, from ones that simply facilitated HTML programming to others that were supposedly WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Lately, I have done most designs in Photoshop and then chopped the design up into pieces. This is a horrible idea, by the way, if you want to improve your rating on search engines. Whatever the case, I have never really enjoyed designing for the web because it was always a drudgery.

When it came time to do a site for our film recently, I figured I would look to see what new tools were available--especially for creating something quickly and very cheaply. I was pleasantly surprised to come across, which claimed to be simple drag and drop functionality. After working with it for the last several weeks, I can say that I am sold! This tool is fantastic. Although I have been tweaking a little here and there, the actual design of the site as it looks right now took me less than two days. I based off of a template (but changed the look completely) and without any instruction was able to figure out how to do just about everything in the program. Adding widgets or other HTML or Java code-based gadgets is unbelievably simple, and requires no programming knowledge whatsoever. With the exception of one little glitch that I was able to resolve quickly with the very helpful U.S.-based support team, it has worked flawlessly. I recommend you check out WebStarts and all of the many built-in functions and SEO-friendly features it offers. A basic 5-page site is absolutely free, if you don't mind the added text link to WebStarts at the bottom of the page, and full functionality is super cheap.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Free Stock - Washington Monument

This clip is from below the Washington Monument at night. A nice long shot that works well in normal speed or in slow-motion. Use this in a patriotic montage or in a piece about darkness in America. A very unique angle with a lot of good possibilities. Great movement in the flags, too. I have some other matching shots to go with this. Email me if you have need of them.

Download now.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Judging A Talent Contest

I got a call yesterday from The Actor's Scene in Atlanta about being a judge on their annual talent contest. They are a respected organization that trains and represents actors and singers here in the southeast. Sounded like fun to me until they said I would not be allowed to give verbal comments after each performance. What?! My visions of myself as Simon Cowell bringing some young actress to tears and seeing her run from the stage after a particularly harsh criticism were dashed. Oh, well. I accepted anyway and look forward to the event on May 14th. Find out more about it on their website.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Good News in the Tape Shortage?

The big news in the video world today (literally today) is the tape shortage that is happening. Sony's factories in Japan are down due to the earthquake and as we speak, production houses everywhere are on the phone and internet frantically buying up all of the Sony tape stock. The problem is that certain formats are only made by Sony, including HDCAM SR, which is the mastering format used for any high-end production. It is also the format for delivery to television networks and stations. Expect SR tapes to be either impossible to find or very expensive, and other tape and cartridges (such as XDCAM) to be difficult to get as well. There are a couple of good things that might come out of this. First, we will once again be reminded how great it is to be shooting to cards and drives rather than tape. How quickly we have taken this "new" workflow for granted. Second, my hope is that more stations will be forced to accept programs as computer files (ProRes, for example) on a disk. With super-stable computer systems now available for playing the highest-quality video, it seems silly that anything has to be mastered to tape at this point (many places are ingesting it from the HDCAM SR tapes anyway). Life would be simpler and cheaper if they were to start offering that option--here's hoping.

My Upcoming Workshops

I have schedule several workshops in the Knoxville area that you may be interested in attending. They will be at the Crown College as a part of their Baptist Friends International meeting on April 11-14. The registration fee is minimal and there will be sessions on many other topics helpful to church leaders. This is a conference that will be attended by thousands from all over the country, so it is a great place for meeting others in the ministry as well. You can learn more about the conference at their website, which is

The topics I will be covering include 1) Stepping Into the Sound Booth--An Introduction to Audio, 2) Creating Great Church Videos, 3) Starting a Church Telecast, and at least one other topic. There will be eight classes total in the "media" track that runs over the four day period. Let me know if you are interested in finding out more about what I am teaching or if you have suggestions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Beka Book Curriculum

Working today on mixing songs for the A Beka Book curriculum used in Christian schools everywhere. This is four CD's that will be used in conjunction with preschool materials. So now you know why I have taken a break to blog about it. A man can only hear "Baa Baa Black Sheep" or "Hickory Dickory Dock" so many times in a row without going crazy....Okay, back to work.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Solomon Bunch Website

We have launched the official website for our film, The Solomon Bunch. Today, the site went live and we announced the majority of the cast members who will star in the production. A few characters still have not been nailed down for various reasons.

Be sure to visit the site and our Facebook page as well to follow us as we go through the process of making a movie. Help get the word out by telling others about us as well. You can even get credit in the film if you generate enough buzz. Check the website for information about that.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Free Stock - Sunlit Forest

This clip of those famous "sweet Georgia pines" is a fairly-quick panning shot (to the right) that comes to rest with the sun in the upper left corner. It has good energy and will work in either a slower or faster-paced production. Adding a little diffusion on the highlights such as a bloom filter might look kind of nice.

Download now.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shooting Professionally On HDSLR's

If you are shooting professional video productions on an HDSLR, then I don't know of a better place to learn the right way than from Shane Hurlbut. Shane is an ASC cinematographer who has worked on many well-known movies. For several years now, he has been shooting with HDSLR's and getting great results. This new training series from B&H Photo/Video will be a great help to you in getting the in-camera settings just right and in knowing how to accessorize your camera for best results. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Salvaging Poorly-Lit Shots

A couple of weeks ago I had to shoot a presentation for a speaker and had just enough set-up time for a couple of cameras and an HD Tricaster to switch between them. There was very little light in the room and the projector was directly behind the speaker--. a "worst-case scenario" because of its brightness and color temperature difference, but one in which we seem to find ourselves quite often.  My only option was to underexpose the scene, putting the whites of the screen just into the clipping range and letting the darks, including the speaker, fall where they may. I knew that there would be some graininess in my final product, but I did the best I could.

Fortunately, there are some handy ways of correcting levels in post production, and some are included already in editing software packages. The go-to correction controls are the three-way color correction filters that allow you to adjust the bright, dark, and mid tones separately. This means you can bring the brightness of the screen down without adjusting the blacks at all, and you can bring the dark areas up without pushing the bright areas to where they clip. With these controls, you can even out a contrasty shot like you see on the left (the original shot). There are other plug-ins for this, too. On this shot I actually used one of my favorites--the free Shadow-Highlight plug-in for Final Cut Pro from Lyric. In about five seconds, I was able to correct my blown out highlights and bring the shadow areas up to where the speaker is visible. While I would still not consider it a great-looking shot, it is a far cry from what it was.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Free Stock - Paving Crew

This week's free stock footage is actually a sequence. I have included two matching shots instead of just one. (In the future, I hope to do more of this, by the way). Often this can help to give more depth in editing or allow you to keep the pacing quick by using two shots instead of one to show the same thing. This road paving crew was on a rural road in northern Colorado. As with most of my stock footage, it was intentionally shot a little on the flat side, so as to leave you more flexibility in color grading. If nothing else, applying a filter such as Quick Looks from Magic Bullet should make the image pop.

Tell others about my free stock footage. The more people who are accessing it, the more I will be able to add to the collection.

Download clip #1.

Download clip #2.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Solomon Bunch Final Auditions

Today was the day for call-back auditions for our film, The Solomon Bunch. Casting has turned into quite a difficult thing. For some roles, we have had a hard time finding someone, and for other roles, there are two or three really good actors that we hate to have to choose between.

Whatever the case, we should have a great cast. When casting a comedy, it is always a good thing when you find yourself laughing out loud at the performers in their auditions. That happened numerous times today, and was encouraging. Sara Prisk, my sister in law and a producer on the film, worked with me on the casting process along with co-writer Jack Gregory (not pictured). Our core cast should be announced soon on The Solomon Bunch website. We are still looking for some skilled volunteers in the production department, by the way, so let us know if you are interested in working on the film.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How To Slate Properly

In this article on 25 Tips to Help You Slate Like a Pro, Art Adams covers a skill that seems like it would need no explanation. However, I know from personal experience that it is easy to create frustration in the editing process when the slate is not done right. On many occasions, I have slated in such a way that it is unusable later. So, this article is a good read for anyone who works in the camera department on-set or may find themselves using a slate  for any reason.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Recording Crown College Choir

We just wrapped up the initial recording sessions with the Crown College Choir in Knoxville, TN. The entire 160 voice choir has finished their part of the recording, and tonight we do it all over again with a smaller ensemble of about 14 voices. This ensemble will sing along with the recorded vocals of the full choir in order to add a closer, cleaner sound that will make the final mix sound much fuller and on-pitch (assuming these 14 voices are as good as they are supposed to be). Once completed there will be a total of 348 voices (two passes of the full choir and two passes of the ensemble). It may seem like overkill, but the fact is that a single pass recording of a choir sounds much weaker than it would sound in person. It takes the extra time and effort to get a recording that sounds accurate and has the fullness people expect when they listen to a CD. These picts from the magnificent camera in my Blackberry show you my setup in the middle of the auditorium and the microphones on the stage. We are using 6 mics across the front of the choir--2 Neumann TLM-103's, 2 Neumann U-87's and 2 Rode NT-1's. Don't try to find any rhyme or reason in that, it is what I had access to. You will also notice the two mics on the tall stands in the middle. These two AT-4050's give me a more distant stereo pair that really smooths out the overall sound. Sorry I did not get any pictures while the choir was up there--just too busy to think of it.

Understanding Compression

One of the most powerful tools in your arsenal as a sound tech or video editor is the compressor. This piece of equipment (or software) will not only improve the sound of your mixes, but it will save you a ton of time by bringing your tracks into a manageable dynamic range. I love to see the look on the face of church sound techs when I first plug in a compressor and add it to their vocal mics. It makes a huge difference in quality and in the ability to keep each singer's volume consistent. Disc Makers has an article that describes compression in simple terms and also includes some samples so you can hear exactly what it does. Take a minute and go check out the article.