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Getting steady video pictures with these early models—shoulder-mounted or hand-held—was a problem. A problem aggravated by addition of the zoom lens with its telephoto capability some time later. The next major coup: the appearance of the solid state electronics color camera for broadcast news gathering. This 25pound shoulder-mounted camera could be held reasonably steady at moderate focal lengths of the zoom, but required great stamina on the part of the cameraperson. Not to mention that long focal length shots were a real problem.
Advances in solid state electronics made studio cameras smaller and lighter; the addition of housings and heavy zoom lenses kept them heavy enough to provide smooth operation. Light weight was a priority; the introduction of the CCD camera chip made video cameras smaller than ever. The palmcorder overtook the steadier, larger shoulder-mounted models; its small size—coupled with a zoom lens—made steady pictures a problem.
Fortunately, the same technology also supplied the microcircuit advances needed to provide the solution. It completely isolates the camera from rotational body movements, thanks to a delicate balancing system featuring a low-friction gimbal between the camera and the support handle. It will fold to a shoulder mount configuration, but is best applied to specific shooting problems you can plan in advance. Not too long ago, numerous manufacturers including Panasonic, JVC, Hitachi, Sony and Canon introduced different systems that reduce image jitter problems.
There are two main image stabilization systems: optical stabilization and electronic stabilization. This smaller image then increases in size to fill the whole screen. The exact area scanned then shifts electronically to compensate for unwanted external movement of the camera. Since this system does not actually sense the movement of the camera it must sense camera shake 30 The Videomaker Guide to Video Production Figure Electronic Image Stabilization. The trick is to tell camera movement from movement of the subject.
Some manufacturers use a motion detection method based on fuzzy logic. How much to compensate for movement is a decision based on comparing the two images. An image freezes in computer memory and divides into numerous quadrants. A processor compares the differences between the individual quadrants of the frozen image and the current image.
If all quadrants change in the same direction, the processor deduces that camera movement caused the differences between the current and stored images. The area of the CCD being scanned then shifts in the opposite direction to cancel the movement. Changes in fewer than all quadrants indicate subject rather than camera movement and no compensating action occurs. If quadrant analysis indicates that both the subject and the camera moved, fuzzy logic calculates the image shift needed just to compensate for the camera movement.
One criticism of this system: the loss in image quality brought about by reducing the number of pixels used to create the picture. This loss is noticeable to varying degrees on most camcorders, virtually invisible on others. By the time the video signal goes to the tape and back, especially on standard Image Stabilizers 8 mm and VHS models, image loss is negligible.
Most videographers will find the added stability to be worth the tradeoff. Instead of sliding an undersized image around the CCD camera chip, the optical system corrects for camera movement before the image reaches the chip. This way, the full resolution of the CCD occurs at all times. The result: no image degradation. The key optical component is a variable bend prism. As light passes through a prism, it bends in the direction of travel. Refraction is what you see when you look at an object at the bottom of a pool or stream. If you look straight down on the object, the light reflected from it passes straight through the surface of the water.
No bending or refraction occurs, and you see the object in its actual position. Back to the prism. When you think prism, you probably think about how it breaks up light into the color spectrum. Like how raindrops make a rainbow. You see the rainbow because different colors of light bend by differing amounts as they pass through the prism.
A silicone fluid with controlled refractive properties fills the space between the lenses see Figure When the two plates are parallel, light passes through undisturbed. If, however, the plates contract at any point on the perimeter, the light path bends away from the compressed area. Thus the system can actually steer the optical image by manipulating the prism. The next step: how the system can tell when to perform such steering. The optical system requires two motion sensors, one for pitch tilting up and down and the other for yaw panning side to side.
The sensors amplify and process the motion signals to determine where and how to move the image. The results convert to electric current applied to two drive actuators, one for pitch and one for yaw. These actuators adjust one of the glass plates in the prism relative to the other, directing the image back to its proper position on the CCD sensor.
Field Testing the Two Systems The easiest way to show how effective these two image stabilization systems are 32 The Videomaker Guide to Video Production is to test them under adverse conditions. In this case, the test consisted of video recorded on a road of moderate roughness by one camera equipped with electronic image stabilization and then by a second, fitted with optical stabilization.
I did the videotaping from the passenger side of a car, while my business partner drove. We completed one complete trip over the test course for each camcorder. We used a medium telephoto zoom setting to exaggerate the effects of camera motion. Then we brought the tapes back to the studio and compared results. Both systems provided extraordinary improvement in the stability of the image.
With either type of camera, shots of the cars ahead of us stayed steady in the picture—even as the dashboard of the test vehicle shifted up and down at the lower part of the picture. Certainly video from moving vehicles proves much more usable when you engage the image stabilizers. The optical system makes no use of video information, so it cannot wrongly interpret moving objects as camcorder motion. The same is not true, of course, for the digital system.
The question was, how well would its fuzzy logic compensate for an actual moving subject combined with camera pitch and yaw? The answer: fuzzy logic did an excellent job; road images remained steady—even when the car dashboard bounced up and down in the lower part of the picture. Being almost completely mechanical, the optical system experiences some inevitable delay as its components move and adjust.
This makes it somewhat slower to respond to quick jolts, but this does not adversely affect normal operation. A happy by-product of the mechanical system: its remarkable smoothness. The electronic system is very fast, and tried to compensate for even the most instantaneous bumps in the road. Some image jump occurred, as though the electronics eventually gave up on fixing the jump and instead started fresh with a new image.
This simply tends to demonstrate that two dramatically different approaches provided almost exactly the same satisfactory result. Not so, however, for the two image stabilizers described here. Use it, and your images will be easier to watch; shoot hand-held telephoto shots without it, and—well, just try it. Knowing the hows and whys of CCDs can help make your videography more effective.
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It can help you differentiate one model from another and decide which camcorder to buy. Moreover, CCD sensors benefit from some of the fastest-advancing technology in camcorders; know the future of sensors and you can peek into the very future of camcorders. The Short Explanation Defining the CCD is, uh, simple: a CCD, or interline transfer charge-coupled device, is a tightly packed array of tiny photodiodes consisting of silicon oxide and alternating P and photosensitive N semiconductor regions on an N-type substrate.
Try this: imagine a huge grid made up of rows of solar panels. Each square-foot panel sits atop a small battery. Only a few inches separate each panel from those to its north and south. When light strikes the panels, they charge their individual batteries. Panels exposed to more light charge faster, while those in the dark build up little or no charge. When the trucks reach the end of the row, they dump their information onto a conveyor belt. This belt carries the data from the panels back to a central station.
Their final report looks a whole lot like a video image. To relate this rather loose analogy to an actual CCD, first we need to reduce the size of the solar grid by a factor of about 75, In our little analogy, solar panels serve as the individual pixels. The machine tolerances and cleanliness required for making sensors is truly superhuman; most CCDs come from completely automated factories where humans play minor supporting roles.
A tiny speck of dust, harmless enough to us, can actually shut down the CCD manufacturing process. The batteries represent the buildup of charges in the pixel. Since CCD pixels are photosensitive, they create a charge in proportion to the light striking them. Lots of light makes for a greater charge, while darkness leaves them with little more than the small random charges we call noise. Smaller pixels gather less light and generate weaker charges, a principle manufacturers must address to produce smaller chips and pixels.
More on that later. The trucks mimic the action of the vertical transfer registers, electronic roadways that carry charges out of the active sensing area of the CCD. These registers are necessary because the record electronics do not read charges directly from individual pixels. Instead, charges move en masse down the vertical transfer registers until they reach the edge of the chip. The conveyor belt is like the horizontal transfer register, which unloads the charges from its vertical counterpart.
The horizontal transfer register carries charges off the CCD along the edge of the sensor. Their destination: the amplifiers and specialized circuits that process the signal before recording see Figure Specialized chips combine color and brightness information into one signal, boost its level and then send it on to the record heads. Generating a final report on the status of the solar grid could take hours—depending on the speed of the trucks and whether or not those high-paid managers get stuck in an important meeting. If only our government worked that fast.
Sensor Overload When a solar panel receives too much light, it overcharges its battery. These in turn feed the horizontal transfer register. From there, signals move through an amplifier to the record electronics. When the truck gets to the bottom of the row, it picks up a new charge meter, but until then severe damage can occur. All the readings it currently holds, as well as all subsequent measurements, are wrong. They all read maximum on the charge meter. Something similar occurs when a given area of a CCD receives too much light.
The vertical transfer register overloads, muddling all the charges for that row. This creates a bright, vertical smear in the image, extending out above and below the offending spot. This type of image smear is unique to CCD sensors. Complimentary Metal oxide semiconductor CMOS sensors read each pixel directly, doing away with the need for vertical transfer registers and their associated image smearing.
CMOS sensors had fallen out of favor with manufacturers, but have recently experienced a renaissance with the advent of HD camcorders. New CCD designs address the bleed problem, resulting in chips less prone to streaking. Thus a film camera can freeze even the fastest motion. In just minutes, it will be time to measure the grid. But instead of letting the panels finish gathering a complete charge, the trucks sweep through the grid to discharge all the batteries.
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When the trucks return to collect measurements, the panels have been charging for just a few minutes. No mechanical blade assembly snaps open and shut; instead, the camcorder gives the pixels less time to charge before whisking their signals off to the recorder. Two matters to keep in mind when shooting with a high-speed shutter: 1.
Since pixels have so little time to charge, the intensity of the light must be greater to produce a usable image. The higher the shutter speed, the brighter the light required. Depth of field. This in turn reduces depth of field, a boon to creative videographers whose camcorders lack manual iris control.
If you want to soften the background behind your subject, reduce your depth of field by increasing shutter speed. Some camcorders offer a slow-speed shutter, which has the exact opposite properties of high-speed. Slow-speed shutter delivers an image in less light, though much more image smear results. At the very least, you can use it as a unique special effect. This allows the panels to build up a greater charge, boosting the resulting values. Since the batteries retain some residual charge, each reading includes some values from the previous cycles. To pack the same number of panels on our now-shrunken plot of land, we must cut them down to just over 7 inches per side.
We buy new, smaller trucks and a shorter conveyor belt and fire up the new array. The managers are not happy. Seems the scaled-down array now puts out about 40 percent less energy. There you have it: the plight of the shrinking CCD. Shrink the pixel, and its sensitivity suffers. Smaller lenses in turn make for smaller camcorders, and smaller camcorders seem to sell better. The solution: the microlens. CCD makers form microlenses into the CCD itself, increasing the effective area of the pixel without actually making it any larger. Another way to offset the effect of smaller pixels is through better amplification.
Noise is an enemy to any kind of electrical signal, and smaller signals are the most prone to it.
Amplifying a signal just as it leaves the pixel reduces noise and strengthens output. Smaller or Better The same technology that allows sensors to shrink allows advances in the other direction as well. If pixels offer improved sensitivity at a smaller size, then CCD makers can pack more pixels on the same size chip. Once manufacturers increase the pixel count of a given sensor, they face a tough decision.
They can use the additional pixels for a higher resolution video image, or they can employ them for special image effects at the standard resolution. An increase in pixel count from , to , allows the camcorder to use just the central 90 percent of the chip for imaging without resolution loss. Whereas previous EIS schemes resulted in an inevitable loss of resolution, this system shows no noticeable softness of the image.
In the same way, CCD pixels are colorblind. So how does a camcorder record a color image? Camcorders with a single CCD sensor use a mosaic color filter placed over the pixels. Imagine a huge stained-glass window lying over our solar panel array. This window alternates panes of color—either red, green and blue or their complements, yellow, magenta and cyan. Each solar panel sits directly under a colored pane, and responds only to that color of light. By tracking which pixels see which color, a camcorder extracts both a luminance brightness and detail and chrominance color signal from a monochrome sensor.
Color filters are relatively easy to add to a CCD, though they compromise both color and brightness portions of the video signal. Placing a colored filter over the pixels also reduces their sensitivity and low-light performance. There are better, albeit more expensive, ways to coax color information out of monochrome sensors. The best system is the one professional cameras have used for years—three sensors, or chips, with one sensor devoted to each of the three primary colors. Just behind the lens, a precisionmade prism splits the incoming light into its red, green and blue components.
Some manufacturers use an array of dichroic mirrors to sift the light; these coated mirrors reflect only a certain color, letting the rest pass. The result: a better picture than a single CCD can deliver. Sensors of this size will work with incredibly small lenses, making the transport and tape medium itself the biggest obstacles to further camcorder downsizing. Manufacturers will undoubtedly continue in the other direction, toward larger sensors with increased resolution. Chips with pixel counts measured in the millions allow for special effects and electronic stabilization without resolution loss.
Advances in sensors drive other areas of the video market as well. Camera resolutions are already much greater than those of camcorder transports. As sensors evolve far beyond the recording ability of camcorders, consumers will push for new video signal formats. Sensor evolution shows no sign of slowing. The future of sensors is bright indeed. If lens filters can do wonders for black-and-white photography, just imagine what they can do for your videos.
Lens filters offer a simple way to get better images. These wafers of glass can soften the face of a bride, fake a sunset at high noon or add sparkle to the chrome on a vintage car. With 30 years of image-gathering experience— in both photography and video—Buzz was the perfect man for the job.
Buzz is a firm believer in the power of lens filters. On a bright Northern California morning, Buzz visited my office with a big bag of filters. We pointed my camcorder out the window and experimented with each one. The round variety is available in many different sizes. Generally speaking, palm-sized camcorders have smaller lens thread sizes, and full-sized camcorders have larger sizes.
Common camcorder lens thread sizes include 34, 37, 43, 46, 49, 52, 55 and 72 mm. The thread size is often marked on the front of the lens. This aspect is handy if you have two different camcorders, or even a camcorder and a 35 mm still camera. You simply buy a matte box for each camera, then use the filters with either unit. Both the matte box and round filter systems allow a videographer to use multiple filters.
With the threaded type, you simply screw one filter onto another. With the matte box variety, just slide another square filter into the housing. This filter does its magic by reducing the ill effects of both ultraviolet light and atmospheric haze on an image. Equally as important, this filter will protect your expensive camcorder lens from fingerprints, dust, grime and damage. When you buy a new camcorder, get a skylight filter, attach it and leave it attached—permanently. They prevent exposure problems in very bright scenes—like a white polar bear on a snow bank on a sunny day, for example.
Available in various densities, these filters work like a pair of sunglasses. To do this, simply focus on your subject with a neutral density filter attached to your camcorder, and—just like magic—the background obscures into a pleasant fuzzy smudge. The filter forces the camcorder to open its iris wider, which reduces the depth of field, leaving the background out of focus.
Naturally, this works best when the background is some distance away from the subject. A polarizing filter eliminates reflections from shiny surfaces like water or glass. These filters rotate in a specially designed housing; the videographer simply looks in the viewfinder and twists the filter until the reflections diminish. They really work. Polarizing filters are also great for darkening the sky while making it appear slightly bluer. Creative uses for colored filters abound. For example, a blue filter helps simulate a moonlit night; a sepia filter adds an old-time, historical look to an image.
Have fun, and experiment with plenty of different colors. Exotic Varieties The center spot filter is great for portrait shots because it creates a sharp center image surrounded by a soft, fuzzy border. These filters will also enhance the appearance of existing fog. A soft-focus filter gives a soft look to an entire image. Figure Star Effect Filter. A warm color is sometimes added to soft focus filters to enhance skin tones. This combination can actually make people look better than they do in real life.
Graduated filters are transparent on the bottom and very gradually change to an opaque color on top. A classic application for a graduated filter is enhancing, or outright faking, a sunset. With the camcorder mounted on a tripod and a graduated amber filter attached, carefully frame the image so that the colored portion of the filter overlaps the sky.
Since the bottom portion of the filter is clear, the lower portion of the scene is unaffected, while the sunset glows beautifully. A star filter transforms points of light within an image into brilliant star shapes. These filters add glamour and excitement to any scene. According to our expert, the chemicals in a typical glass cleaning solution can actually dissolve the coating on a lens or filter. To remove dust from a lens, either use a special brush designed for that purpose, or 42 The Videomaker Guide to Video Production a blast of air from an aerosol lens cleaner.
What to do? Hopefully, you have a skylight filter protecting your lens. If so, simply remove it and continue shooting—this time, out of reach of your niece. Use a soft cotton-fiber cloth to dry. Another option is the time-tested technique of breathing on the glass, then wiping with a soft cloth. But limit these emergency procedures to lens filters—not expensive camcorder lenses. You can always buy another lens filter, but replacing the lens on most camcorders is an expensive and complicated proposition. This service is available through good video or photography retail outlets and repair facilities.
Filter Care Most filters come packaged in round plastic cases. Buzz offers a space-saving alternative for lens filter storage: screw all filters together and put a lens cap on both ends. This protects each filter, and reduces the amount of space they would occupy if each filter was in its own case. Use a lens filter wrench. These devices are similar to a jaw-type jar opener, and they have the same purpose—to help loosen stuck threads. Is there a better solution? Buzz recalls a harrowing experience he had while on a back-country shoot.
A couple of filter cases fell out if his shirt pocket, rolled down the hill and vanished into a fast-moving stream. He never saw the cases—or their contents—again. The moral of this story? Always stow your gear safely and securely. He instructs videographers to look for filters that use a threaded metal retaining ring to hold the glass inside the metal housing.
The retaining ring holds the glass against a small flange on the other side of the housing. Avoid filters with housings made entirely of plastic; these housings may not retain their shape. Also, be careful to check the quality of filters pitched as an add-on sale to a camcorder purchase. Shop for filter housings painted matte black; these help to reduce unwanted reflections. And look for filters that come with storage containers. Shop around—the price can vary widely on the exact same filter. A wide range of manufacturers offer a countless variety of lens filters.
There are literally too many different brands and types to mention here. Sifting the Light Generally, the larger the filter, the higher the price. Some filter companies have selected a few of their most popular filters and assembled them in pre-packaged kits; these are worth checking out. One filter manufacturer makes it easy to sample the world of lens filters before you buy. The comprehensive kit has 30 different filters including center spot, polarizing, color-graduated and star filters.
The kit comes with adapter rings to fit popular camcorders: 49, 52, 55, 58, 62, 67 and 72 mm. Call to see if your dealer is participating in this program. Four different configurations are available to fit your videography needs. All kits include a skylight filter and two other assorted filters which may include neutral density, polarizing, warm color or soft focus filters. Is there a downside? Each additional lens distorts the image and reduces the intensity of the light that enters your camcorder. Better filters offer less chance of these ills, but even the best glass distorts the light passing through it a little bit.
This is more likely to happen with older camcorders without inner focus lenses. You may have to resort to manual focusing. If you must adapt, start with filters that are bigger than your lens. This effect is most noticeable when you zoom to a wide-angle setting. Ever want to know what separates the ordinary, gameplaying, document-creating PC from the kind that can easily pump out hour-long, professional-looking home videos?
No matter if you already own a video editing computer or plan to buy one—it still pays to know exactly what makes this special breed of machine tick. To help you troubleshoot problems, increase performance, and make more informed purchasing decisions. Software used in video editing covers a wide range of different types and capabilities, including nonlinear editing, photo and graphics manipulation, audio editing and special effects creation, to name just a few.
A computer can really do only two things: 1 perform calculations and 2 move or copy information. The CPU does these things; in essence, it is the computer itself on a single chip. A video editing computer needs the fastest CPU available for rendering. The part of the motherboard that ships info back and forth between the components is called the bus. Video editing machines require motherboards with fast bus speeds in order to handle the immense flow of information that takes place while editing.
Faster bus speeds result in faster rendering times. Also located on the motherboard are places to connect peripheral devices— hard drives, video capture cards, FireWire cards and memory. In video editing machines, the motherboard should have a number of open PCI slots for peripheral devices, lots of room to expand RAM, connections for high-speed hard drives and a bus speed of at least MHz.
A video editing computer typically has lots of high-speed RAM available—at least 1 GB for starters, but often several times that. Both speed and quantity of RAM will have an effect on the rendering speed of your computer: the more, and the faster, the better. A digitizer card can take an ordinary analog video signal and digitize it change it to a series of ones and zeroes. Video capture cards vary widely in price and performance, but the only real concern with a FireWire card is whether or not it works and continues working—the resulting video will look exactly the same as it did when you shot it, regardless of the quality of the FireWire card.
Some capture cards have special hardware that improves rendering speed and performance during editing. Hard Drives The hard drive of a computer is the place where information gets stored in the long term. Contrast this with RAM, which stores information only until you turn off the computer. When you capture a clip, it writes onto the hard drive.
Note that editing computers should have two hard drives—one for the operating system and software, and another solely for video and audio capture and storage. And always remember: the amount of storage space on the video capture drive directly relates to the length of video clips you can work on at any one time. A dead battery on your camera and no charged spare in your bag means … no shot.
Knowing more about the type of batteries on the market and how they work will allow you to find the right one for your needs and hopefully keep you from missing that golden moment. What Is This Little Thing? Everyone knows what a battery is … right? Okay, before reading on, see if you can come up with a definition for the word. You have 10 seconds. Coming up with the correct definition was probably more difficult than you thought, right?
Put simply, a battery can be any kind of tool that stores energy for later use. However, in this context, the word battery refers to any electrochemical mechanism that uses two electrodes—an anode and 46 a cathode—connected via an electrolyte, that converts chemical energy into electricity. Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe There are a number of durable and dependable batteries on the market. Knowing which type of battery best suits your needs will allow you to make the right choice, at the right price. When thinking about your next battery purchase, there are three different battery types you will want to consider, NiCd, NiMH, and Li-Ion.
However, it has a good weight to energy ratio and a good service lifetime, which makes it a good choice for portable devices. A drawback to the NiCD battery type is it is well known for suffering memory effect. Therefore, it is best to let Nickel Cadmium batteries completely discharge before recharging. Voltage depression does not mean your battery has low storage capacity nor will it permanently damage your battery. Fully discharging and then recharging the battery will often correct the problem. While other cell types are more popular because of their ability to hold a charge, NiMH cells are relatively inexpensive to produce and that low production cost transfers to you, the consumer.
While NiMH cell types do experience memory effect, it is not nearly as prevalent in this type as it is in the NiCD batteries. Advances with Li-Ion cell types make these batteries lighter than their counterparts, saving users the physical wear-and-tear of transporting and using heavier battery types. Additionally, the Li-Ion cell type provides more power and suffers no real problems with memory effect. As for price, advanced engineering costs associated with the Li-Ion technology mean a much higher cost for you, the consumer. When used under normal conditions i. In the old days you might swapout batteries on your camera or other portable device, to reveal which one is up to the task.
Batteries that utilize fuel-gauging microprocessor technology are more expensive than those without, but some consider the increased user friendliness worth the extra cost. While they are efficient mechanisms, no battery can hold a charge indefinitely. Just like single use batteries, rechargeable batteries, when left unused for long periods, will de-charge on their own.
You can leave it unused for a long period of time and achieve the same results. Just be sure when you store your batteries that they have attained a full charge and keep them in a cool, dry place. Someday very soon you will be able to walk into your local retailer and purchase a handy little fuel cell for your home video camera. In fact, if current research is any indication, fuel cells that use methanol as 48 The Videomaker Guide to Video Production their primary renewable source of energy could be available for portable consumer devices in a few years.
Nevertheless, the possibilities are very exciting. Just remember, no matter what type you buy, following the rules of good care will ensure you get the best performance out of your battery. Sidebar Compact Chargers If you want to charge your batteries but hate packing and unpacking the standard charging plate and AC adapter cord, a number of manufacturers are making compact wall chargers. Simply snap your batteries into place, flip up the AC plug and let the action happen. While very affordable to stock, the standard alkaline batteries are no match for the video world.
You need room on a hard drive to capture footage. You need a scratch drive for rendering effects. You need an optical drive for outputting your projects. You might need an archive system too. With all the need for storage, where do you start? On the Inside Your editing computer has at least one hard drive. This drive is used to boot your computer and also to store your applications. You could capture video to this drive, but the better way is to capture to a different hard drive.
A lot goes on behind the scenes on your computer, all requiring a lot of hard drive writes. These writes accumulate and degrade the performance of the drive for anything else you need to do with it. You can add another drive fairly easily if you know what interface your machine uses.
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I Need More Space—Quick! FireWire and USB 2. There are also some benefits to using a network-attached storage NAS device. If you have a gigabit Ethernet switch between this device and the computers you edit with, you can get some remarkably high data transfer rates. The added benefit is that you can access the same files from any computer on your network.
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What should you look for on a hard drive? Capacity is the first thing that usually comes to mind, naturally. The sweet spot for price vs. Big caches give you a speed advantage for dealing with a lot of small files, not a handful of really big files. But if you need to render something really fast, this is one potential place where you could get a speed advantage.
Out with It Once you get your project just the way you want it, you need to output your project. DVD burners have become nearly a commodity item, but there are some differentiating factors. First, check out the software bundle. If the drive includes LightScribe, the ability to burn a label directly to the reverse side of special discs, labelmaking software is generally included as well. Speaking of Blu-ray, this is the most common HD disc format for burning at the moment. As magazine editors and as fellow consumers, we just hope the war draws to a conclusion—the sooner, the better.
Another option for really big projects or recurring clients would be simply copying all of your project files, including video clips and audio clips, onto to a new hard drive, then removing the hard drive and putting it into a padded box and onto a shelf with a label. Avoid wild fluctuations or extremes of temperature and humidity, and keep the 51 dust down if at all possible. Nulph Has the selection of microphones offered by your favorite electronics store ever overwhelmed you?
Have you stared in awe at the vast array of silver or black, big or small, expensive or cheap microphones available to you? Have you wondered about HiZ versus LowZ, dynamic versus condenser, cardioid versus omnidirectional or shotguns and lavaliers versus handheld and boundary mics? Throughout this chapter, we will take a look at impedance, the two major ways microphones work, microphone pickup patterns and microphone styles.
So sit back, relax and proceed through this quick look into the sometimes confusing world of microphone choice. Your system might require a HiZ microphone input. We measure impedance in ohms, a unit of resistance to current flow. The lower the impedance, the better the microphone or recording device. Most older consumer camcorders have a high impedance HiZ microphone jack meant to be used with high impedance microphones.
These microphones range in impedance from — ohms. HiZ microphones are very sensitive and require very little amplification, which is why less sophisticated consumer equipment is designed for them. They are, however, susceptible to hum and electronic noise and can be used only with a very short microphone cable. Low impedance microphones, with an impedance level of — ohms, have become the norm in video production. Using these professional microphones with low impedance gives you two advantages: 1 They Sound Track are not as affected by electronic hums and noises that can be caused by fluorescent lighting or electric motors and 2 you can use long cables without worrying about outside interference.
If you buy a microphone and plug its cable into your camcorder and nothing happens, it may be due to an impedance mismatch. You can purchase an inexpensive LowZ to HiZ transformer. Plug your microphone cable into the transformer and the transformer into your camcorder. You should now be able to use any professional microphone with your system.
Inner Workings Most microphones fall within one of the two major families: dynamic or capacitor condenser microphones. The dynamic microphone has a fixed magnet, a diaphragm that moves when sound hits it, and a coil attached to the diaphragm. When the diaphragm moves, the coil moves, making changes in the magnetic field. These changes generate voltage through the microphone cable to the recorder, amplifier or speakers see Figure Diaphragm Coil Magnet Figure Dynamic Mic—In a dynamic mic, a vibrating diaphram moves a magnet and coil past one another to create an electrical signal.
This type of microphone is extremely durable. Dynamic mics can tolerate wide temperature ranges and humidity as well as take a great deal of abuse. Dynamic mics are also fairly inexpensive. Another attribute of the dynamic mic is its ability to provide a warm, rounded sound for vocals and yet take the abuse of recording high impact sounds such as drums and screaming voices.
Many lead singers in rock bands use the handheld dynamic because of its ruggedness and its ability to pick up a wide range of sounds from screams to whispers. However, the dynamic microphone has a less accurate sound reproduction than the condenser. A final advantage of the dynamic is that it requires no outside power. Plug it into your recorder or sound system and go. No batteries or power supplies needed. In video work, the dynamic microphone is ideal for on-camera interviews, recording very loud sound sources and crawling around the toughest terrain.
The capacitor or condenser microphone uses variations in voltage within a capacitor. The capacitor, which is capable of holding an electrical charge, is made up of two parallel plates, one fixed and one moving, separated by a small space. When sound waves hit the movable plate, it vibrates and causes a change in the amount of voltage held by the capacitor. This change in voltage is sent down the wires to be recorded or amplified through speakers see Figure The condenser microphone has a number of attributes that are important for the 54 The Videomaker Guide to Video Production videographer to consider.
The condenser mic is not so rugged as the dynamic, and the more expensive models are downright delicate. Although the condenser is usually more expensive, its frequency response and true sound rendering make it ideal for the videographer seeking the best fidelity. You will have to consider one other attribute when purchasing a condenser microphone: its need for an additional power source. If you have a mixing board with phantom power built into the inputs, it will supply power to any mic you plug in.
You can purchase a condenser microphone and begin using it right away. Fortunately, most microphones that you would use for field production have a battery space built in. You just have to remember the batteries. Pickup Patterns decide the best pickup pattern for your production. There are four primary pickup patterns to choose from: omnidirectional, cardioid or unidirectional , hypercardioid or shotgun and bidirectional see Figure The omnidirectional microphone picks up sound in every direction—front, back and sides see Figure a.
This microphone is good if the sound source comes from a wide variety of directions and is moving from one side to another in front of the mic. The cardioid or unidirectional microphone picks up sound primarily in a heart shape from the front of the microphone, including a little from the sides, but does not pick up from the back see Figure b. This pickup pattern is excellent for voice mics and miking musical instruments. The hypercardioid microphone picks up only sound from the front and is very directional see Figure c. You must point it at the sound source to get a good pickup. This type of pick-up pattern is excellent for isolating sound sources like bird calls, individual actors talking in a drama, or isolating one voice in a sea of voices.
The bidirectional microphone picks up sound from two distinct sides of the mic Figure d. You would use a mic Whether you choose either a dynamic or condenser microphone, you must also a b Diaphragm Omnidirectional Backplate c d Hypercardioid Figure Condenser Mic—A condenser mic uses changes in capacitance in the element to turn sound waves into an electrical signal.
You need to know how to use the one you have. Sound Track with this pickup pattern primarily to record two voices talking into the same microphone. You can find all of these pickup patterns in a variety of microphone styles. Some of the more expensive microphones even have switches that enable you to choose multiple patterns from a single mic. Styles of Microphones After you make the choice between dynamic and condenser, and select an appropriate pickup pattern, you have to choose what style of microphone to use.
This choice is entirely dependent on the type of production you are doing and whether or not you want to see the mic on screen. The major types of microphone styles are: handheld, shotgun, lavalier or lapel mic, boundary or PZM Pressure Zone Microphone mic and parabolic mic Figure The handheld microphone is just that, a microphone that you hold in your hand.
This mic is usually flat black or metallic and generally has either an omnidirectional or cardioid pickup pattern. It is ideal for direct addresses to the camera by your talent. It looks good and the talent can handle it quite easily. It is the mic of choice for TV news reporters, singers, politicians and talk-show hosts.
The shotgun microphone is a long slender mic that usually has a hypercardioid or even a supercardioid extremely focused pickup pattern. You would primarily use this microphone in field production, mounted on a suspension mount at the end of a long fishpole. You can use this mic to record sound effects and other sound sources because it picks up sound only from the direction it is pointing, cutting most of the sound from its sides and back. The lavalier or lapel microphone is a very small microphone that the talent can wear on his or her lapel or someplace 55 near his or her mouth.
If you ever get bored during a live play or musical, try to find the mics on the main actors. Costume designers and makeup artists are very ingenious in finding places to hide the mics and power packs. Lavaliere microphones usually have an omnidirectional or cardioid pickup pattern and closely mic a single talent.
You can also use the omnidirectional lavalier to mic various acting areas by hiding them in plants, furniture and other set pieces. You will definitely hear it. The boundary microphone is a fairly new style of mic that has really made a name for itself lately. This mic is mounted on a flat surface and usually has an omni-directional pickup pattern. These are great for miking conferences where you have a flat table with people sitting all around. You can use them extensively as stage mics not placed directly on the stage where footfalls would create heavy interference to enhance theatre sound levels; or use them to record a group of people in a closed environment like a class or seminar.
The parabolic microphone is for longdistance audio pickup. This extremely directional microphone looks like a small handheld satellite dish which reflects all of the sound to a center-mounted microphone. This mic is primarily used to record the sound at sporting events or to pick up the sounds of wild animals. Both this microphone and the shotgun microphone are ideal for picking up middle to high frequency ranges but are not suitable for high quality, total range sound recording.
Microphone Accessories As with all equipment, once you find the microphone you want to use, you have to accessorize. A friend of mine who runs a recording studio is constantly explaining the need for the strange looking ring with what looks like panty hose stretched over it. Windscreens come in a variety of shapes and surfaces. If you ever see a microphone with a gray or other colored foam ball covering its end, you are seeing one type of windscreen.
Another popular windscreen used with shotgun microphones is a zeppelin or blimp these names coming from their resemblance to the early s aircraft. These windscreens completely enclose the microphone and are attached directly to the fishpole or mic stand. If you see someone using a big hairy microphone outdoors, he is using a blimp with a windjammer cover. This cover is extremely effective when you are shooting in windy conditions. Shock mounts or suspension mounts are another extremely valuable microphone accessory.
Suspension mounts prevent sounds traveling through the mic stand or fishpole from being picked up by the Sound Track microphone. Soft elastic materials like rubber or nylon suspend the mic so that the sounds created by your hands rubbing the fishpole or something hitting the mic stand are not heard. It is extremely important that you use a suspension mount when using a shotgun on a fishpole. Mic Check When buying microphones and accessories, the kind of equipment you buy will 57 depend on the type of production you do. Look at your needs and compare them with the instruments described above.
There is a microphone designed for every type of production. It is up to you to decide what your production requirements are and the microphone that will best fit your audio needs. They all require three separate parts to make them all work as one: a microphone, a radio transmitter and a radio receiver see Figure Some wireless systems have hand-held microphones with built-in transmitters. These are very popular and provide a discrete method of miking a subject.
The receiver demodulates this signal back into a form your camcorder can record. The mic attaches to a tiny transmitter, which has a tiny antenna and a tiny power supply in the form of a battery. Instead of calculating your range in miles, the range of the tiny radio station within your wireless mic is measured in feet. On the other end of this cozy little microphone system is the receiver. It works much like a car radio, except it only tunes into the channels that your transmitter uses. For most videographers, wireless systems that use small battery-powered receivers are often favored over larger table-top systems that cannot attach to a camcorder.
Re fle ct al ign ts rec Di to receiver. This signal loss may not be noticed when miking a person speaking, however, because the human voice falls in the middle of the frequency range. Wireless microphone systems operate in two different radio frequency ranges. These acronyms, also used in TV, will probably seem familiar. Much lower frequency, and usually much cheaper, mics, operate between 41 and 49 MHz where they are subject to interference from all kinds of other devices.
When a signal and its delayed reflection enter the receiver, they may be recorded at a reduced quality—or may result in no signal getting recorded at all. The next type of interference, multipath interference, is an inherent flaw of using radio frequencies especially indoors , and often requires wireless microphone manufacturers to double-up on the electronics in a system see Figure Multipath interference occurs after a transmitter sends out a radio signal.
Some of the signal goes directly to the receiver, but other parts of it bounce around and sometimes hit the receiving antenna with just enough delay to cancel out the signal or cause interference. Multipath interference is the reason developers had to come up with diversity and true-diversity wireless systems.
Figure A true diversity receiver contains two antennas, two receivers and a switcher. A true diversity system has two antennas, each leading to a separate receiver. A kind of switcher monitors these two for signal strength and makes sure the strongest of the two is sent out to the recorder on a moment-by-moment basis see Figure A good diversity system does this quickly and seamlessly, introducing no static or switching noise into the signal.
From the outside these look like the true variety, as their receivers also have two antennas. The difference, however, lies within. The single receiver receives the signals from both antennas all the time. This type of system is not as effective as the true diversity type at eliminating the effects of multipath interference. There are three types of outputs: mic level, consumer line level and professional line level.
Small, portable systems that attach onto your camcorder and plug into its microphone jack use mic-level outputs. Consider a wireless system that has mic-level inputs that you can strap onto your camcorder and go to town. You may consider a more expensive wireless microphone system, designed with musicians in mind.
But you may also need a soundboard to use one of these to get best results.
No matter what type of video you make, understanding how wireless mics work will help you be a better shopper and a better video producer. Keep the distance between transmitter and receiver as short as possible. Every wireless system has its limits. The shorter the transmission, the stronger the signal. The goal of a wireless microphone is usually to unhook your talent from cables. You may be able to accomplish this with an extremely short distance between microphone and receiver. RF signals bounce around in strange ways, and a movement of just three or four feet could make a huge difference.
Wireless systems eat batteries quickly, and can get rather flaky as the battery voltage drops. If all else fails, try new batteries. If all else fails, you may need to try a completely different shooting location. Some locations are not friendly to wireless systems, while the room down the hall may pose no problems.
As a rule, wireless microphones fare better outdoors than in. Driscoll, Jr. As recently as ten years ago, choosing a video monitor essentially meant picking some flavor of cathode ray tube technology. The burdens these newer technologies place on monitor design have caused new successors to emerge to challenge the time-tested CRT format, and those successors are making quite a splash. They could be hung on a wall, like a painting. And like early TVs they are expensive—a real luxury item. In recent years though, plasma has had stiff competition in the flatlands battle from LCD monitors.
But because of the popularity of LCDs in the computer monitor industry, an impressive LCD manufacturing infrastructure has been built up, particularly in Asia. Since the start of the 21st century, to maximize investments in that technology, LCD manufacturers have also turned to producing televisions, dramatically lowering their costs in recent years. Matt Foust, regional sales manager of Princeton Graphics www.
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