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Friday 14 April 2006

In search of cheap video lighting

I’m delighted with my Sony DCR-HC22E camcorder. But one thing that has been disappointing is its performance in low-light. It isn’t a patch on my old Canon Hi8, which can pretty much shoot anything the eye can make out and also corrects the colour well — even in street lighting at night.

For indoor shooting, I had equipped myself with several 60 watt spotlights from IKEA, which produced good results with the Canon — even for bluescreen special effects. But these aren’t enough for the Sony. The images are noisy.

So, what’s the solution for my ‘no budget’ film making?

I have a couple of Photax photographic stands and lamp holders that have provided faithful service for 25 years now. They take ordinary screwfitting domestic bulbs or photoflood bulbs (which come in 275 watt or 500 watt versions).

Trouble is, photofloods are expensive (£7 for a 500 watt bulb) and they have a short life.

An alternative is to use 200 watt domestic bulbs. Purists will point out that these change colour with age but, in practice, it isn’t a problem.

What IS a problem is that I can’t find any 200 watt bulbs in central Manchester (the third largest city in England). So I’ll probably have to order the bulbs online.

Work lights from Screwfix

An alternative is work lighting. Screwfix do two 500W tungsten halogen lamps, on a 1.8m telescopic tripod stand, with a 4.5m cable — for just £16.99 and replacement bulbs cost just 76p. You can imagine how much a ‘special video lighting’ version of this set-up would cost from a photo shop!

The lights will work great if bounced from a white wall or ceiling, or shone through some kind of diffuser. So I may order this too.


Filed under: Manchester,Net & technology,Video-making — GS @ 7:56 am
Wednesday 12 April 2006

Democracy Player — internet video player

democracy player - browser for watching online videos

Democracy Player is a new kind of browser for watching videos– grab webpages with video and video RSS feeds (including podcasts, video blogs, and BitTorrent feeds), and watch them full screen, one after the other. It’s free and open source.’

I’ve tried this kind of software before. But yesterday, when I installed Democracy Player, for the first time I really saw where this is all going. I think due to the neat way it presents the channels.

More importantly, I’ve actually been using it to find and watch videos. The full screen video quality is smooth. There is a bit of a slow down on the PC when you are downloading several videos (hope they can tweak that).

My favourite channel so far is Media Rights. It makes me want to get out and make videos about the things I care about.

I recommend ‘Fast and Reliable’ about a cycle courier (with a difference). I was touched by this film. Meanwhile ‘Battleground Minnesota’ also made me sit up, as the star Chris (also known as ‘Hip-hop activist Shakademic’) looks very like another (but different) Chris from Minnesota whom I know.


Filed under: Net & technology,The media — GS @ 9:46 am
Monday 3 April 2006

A special video for the start of Videoblogging Week

Our contribution pokes fun at the fact that no one seems to be making any money from videoblogging, despite some having hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Story links:
Rocketboom

Last Thursday evening we were standing in an underpass next to the motorway, during a thunderstorm, filming for this. That was just the start… We had a load of fun and there are some very amusing out-takes.

EDITING
The editing took a l-o-n-g time. Even though I’m quite organised, it’s still not enough. I ended up rendering the same effects several times as I made a couple of different versions (and needlessly so, as the effects were unchanged). It can take hours to produce a minute of special effects. So, I need to rethink my workflow: work on the effects separately and then include those prerendered versions on the main timeline in Vegas Video.

HUFFYUV CODEC
I use the free HuffyUV video codec to render archive versions of finished productions to store on disc. The video is uncompressed but HuffyUV gives a smaller file size.

That way I avoid DV compression artifacts on graphics and effects. So, I could also use HuffyUV to render the effects and then drop them into the timeline. Finally, I make DV, MPG2 and online versions from the HuffyUV master.There’s more information about the various tools I use on my favourite software page.

Though overall I’m really delighted with the Sony camcorder, its performance in low-light isn’t too hot. We used my old Canon Hi8 for the shots walking towards the subway and the colour balance and brightness are much better than from the Sony under the same conditions.

We shot a lot of different stuff last week. I have three other things ‘in the can’ to edit, not including the out-takes.

UPDATE (September 2012): a slightly re-edited version of this video was put back online.


Filed under: Fun — GS @ 12:31 pm
Saturday 25 March 2006

Singin’ In A Puddle

In this video Peter tries to cheer me up as I wait for an engineer to come and fix my central heating, which is dribbling hot water onto the walkway…

After we had the genuine spur-of-the-moment shots of him dancing, we wondered what else could we add…

My heating's broken and Peter tries to cheer me up as I wait for an engineer

I like it when we brainstorm and videos develop in this way. There’s a funny behind-the-scenes out-take too, which I’ll put up in the next few days.

TRIVIA

‘Jollywood’ was the nickname of Mancunian Films, which had its studios on Dickinson Road in Rusholme in the 1940’s.


Filed under: Fun,With video — GS @ 10:53 pm
Thursday 16 February 2006

Carry On Screaming with The Sun

In terms of sheer hypocrisy no other British newspaper can match The Sun. Take Tuesday’s issue…

On the bottom half of the front page: relatives of the victims of the ‘Moors Murderers’ condemn Granada Television for merely filming an episode of Coronation Street on Saddleworth Moor.

On the top half of The Sun’s front page: ‘Free today! Carry On Screaming DVD’. Which is especially appalling when you consider that Brady and Hindley recorded one of their victims as they abused her.

Carry On Screaming with The Sun

Presumably it is OK for Rupert Murdoch to use the murders along with a comedy DVD to sell his rag of a ‘newspaper’?

As far as the Coronation Street issue is concerned… I have sympathy with the relatives, but I don’t think you can ban all filming at a certain location because of something that happened forty years ago. Any drama that is based in Manchester, and which needs a desolate location, is going to turn to the moors.

Actually I’ve always wondered if the 1959 film Hell Is A City gave Brady ideas in the first place. There is a scene in that where a woman who works in a bookmakers is abducted by the robbers, murdered in the car and her body thrown out on the moors.

Very few films were made in Manchester, so Hell Is A City would have been a big event. It had its premiere at the Apollo Theatre, Ardwick, in April 1960. Brady and Hindley began killing and burying the bodies on Saddleworth Moor just over three years later…


Filed under: Manchester,The media — GS @ 2:26 pm
 
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