Intel Core Duo and Core 2 Duo Chips
What was probably the most surprising shift in computer technology this year came when Apple announced that it was building its new systems (left) around Intel chips, made their entire consumer and professional iLife and Production Studio suites Intel-native, and announced that the new machines would also support Windows and run Windows applications. But the bigger and more significant change across the board was that the vast majority of the PC world (both Windows and Mac-based) moved to new dual-core chips. It's hard to imagine a world where nearly every production application and nearly any manufacturer's box all run on one chip, but here it is.
This is not to downplay the importance of Apple's Windows support through a new feature called Boot Camp. Now, if you want to compare real-time capabilities from one software to another, you can really do it. With Boot Camp, you can even do those head-to-head comparisons on the same exact machine. This should end the Apple vs. oranges argument about the impossibility of direct comparisons once and for all.
As www.anandtech.com reported in September, in their lab tests Intel's new quad-processor Kenstfield (Core 2) and Clovertown chips proved themselves drop-in replacements for Intel's Core 2 Duo and will help enable users to migrate to HD editing without leaving them to stare endlessly at the rendering progress bar like we did at the dawn of digital video.
My first choice for the best product of 2006 is the Sony HVR-A1U HDV camcorder (left). This little camcorder does have some design flaws that are annoying for the event videographer—principally the endless list of menu choices you have to scroll through to set up the camera, and the lack of a Push Auto focus assist button.
But even so, it's an outstanding value for the money. The A1U allows the videographer on a tight budget to dip his toes into the HDV waters. Its images are remarkable. Not only that, but the A1U was the first video camera to employ a CMOS imaging sensor, which seems to be the wave of the future—at least according to Sony. In early October, Sony announced the 3-chip HVR-V1U, which also uses CMOS imagers. Largely because of my experiences with the A1U, I'll be one of the first in line to purchase this new camcorder.
Picture This Productions Training DVDs
Another product that I purchased this year that deserves to be recognized isn't a piece of hardware or software. It's a set of the instructional DVDs produced by Tulsa, Oklahoma videographers Mark and Trisha Von Lanken. The Von Lankens put out a terrific product; each disc is full of great tips, clearly presented and demonstrated. Favorite titles include Moving Camera Techniques (left) and The Art of the Edit. They really made me realize how much I'd fallen into a rut with my videos and how much I still have to learn.
However, I don't want to imply that theirs are the only worthwhile instructional DVDs available. There are many wonderful products from other great videographers, editors, photographers, and other experts. Everyone should earmark a few of their purchasing dollars for some form of continuing education. Knowledge and skills don't depreciate or break down; investing in them is one of the best things you can do for your business.
SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 4
As one who started in the radio business and then moved into broadcast television, I've always been aware of the fact that, very often, the audio track is treated as a junior partner of visual content. In fact, the best videos rely on a dynamic soundtrack to help define the producer's vision. So I am delighted with Sonicfire Pro (SFP) 4 (left), the latest version of SmartSound's music scoring software.
SFP 4 uses a new feature called Mood Mapping to allow a high degree of what I'll call "creative manipulation." Not only can you now control the instrumentation from your customized music beds by removing or muting independent instrument tracks, but the Mood Mapping function literally remixes your music to fit the mood of your production. Apply the "Dialog" mood, for instance, and the software cuts the lead instrument levels down so they won't fight with your narration tracks. You can edit your music tracks from scene to scene, choosing from options including "acoustic trio," "drums and bass," "sparse," and "full"—just like working with a live orchestra. All in all, it's an innovative new feature you can use to build uncommonly tasty musical beds for your productions.
Shure E-3/4, Kata MC-61 Bag
A pair of products that have greatly impressed me this year are the Shure E-3 and E-4 sound-isolating earphones (left). Thanks to these discreet earbuds that fit snugly in your ear, I no longer have bulky headphones to carry around and I don't have to worry about "headphone hair." They come in various sizes for a more custom fit. You can easily hear what is being recorded as the E-3 and E-4 block out all background noises.
I found this especially helpful during noisy receptions. Speaking of bulky equipment, I went from three bags down to one this year when I bought the Kata MC-61 Bag with insert trolley. This carrying case is able to hold two Sony PD 150 cameras, a palm-size camcorder, a laptop, and lots of other equipment thanks to dividers, pouches, separate compartments, and two pull-out zippered bags. I pull the Kata like a small suitcase instead of carrying three bags on my shoulder like I used to.
Nightsong Wedding & Event Series Vol. 3
Are you in a music rut? Do you want an instant lift to your wedding videos? Try the new third volume of the Wedding & Event Series (above) by Nightsong Productions composer Michael Aiken. Aiken's royalty-free instrumental songs vary from Latin to southwestern to Middle Eastern and more.
Don't just save this CD for your editing—it's good enough to add to your iPod so you can enjoy it when in the mood to kick-back and relax. For more information on how to purchase all three volumes, visit Aiken's website at www.nightsongproductions.com.
JVC GY-HD200U Camcorder
I haven't actually held one yet (at press time, delivery was expected any day), but the new ProHD camcorder from JVC Professional, the GY-HD200U (left), looks like my product of the year—as much for what it has as for what it can accommodate.
The GY-HD200U has an optional lens adapter that enables you to use it with 16mm film prime lenses; this really opens up the creative opportunities for independent filmmakers and sophisticated wedding and event videographers. Of course, the new 1/3" mount HD lenses JVC introduced. There's a patented focus assist function using the viewfinder (for both HD and film-bound projects, focus is critical).
The HD 200 records both SD (480/24p) and HD (720/24p, 720/30p, and 720/60p), opening up both motion analysis and super slow motion uses for the camera. It's got two XLR connectors for each audio channel, so shooters can easily connect pro audio gear. Level indicators are positioned on the viewfinder and on the flip-out LCD display. They say the list price for the GY-HD200U will be $7,995 (no word on the price of the lens adapter); delivery for both products was slated for October 2006.
Newtek TriCaster Pro
Newtek's TriCaster Pro video switcher (left) seeks to solve new problems that plague the event videography market as streaming emerges as another potential revenue source, while at the same time maintaining the quality that event videographers have come to expect from Newtek.
TriCaster Pro allows switching among as many as three cameras while at the same time recording standard-definition DV format video to an internal hard drive and streaming Windows Media audio and video files. TriCaster also captures RGBHV content and allows digital pre-roll of previously recorded material.
While a few tweaks are needed on the RGBHV, the TriCaster Pro adds professional connectors and recording to the previously introduced TriCaster, which has won numerous awards, including 2005 EventDV and Streaming Media Editors' Picks.
Adobe Dynamic Link
My pick is the Dynamic Link feature of the Adobe Production Studio (left). Having a Dynamic Link between applications has made a true difference in how I incorporate After Effects in both Premiere Pro 2.0 projects and Encore DVD 2.0 projects.
When I create an animation in After Effects, this animation can be incorporated in a Premiere Pro or Encore DVD project without rendering. If the need arises to make changes in the original animation, I can choose Edit Original, and this will automatically open After Effects for me, at the appropriate project and composition. At this point, I will be able to make changes to the animation and those will be reflected in my Premiere Pro or Encore DVD project immediately, without the need to render or re-render anything!
Adobe Production Studio Premium, Optoma HD70, YouTube
Adobe's Production Studio Premium is the future of how different creative applications ought to work together. Sure, on the surface it's just a bundle of the latest versions of Premiere Pro, Audition, After Effects Pro, and EncoreDVD, as well as Photoshop and Illustrator. But much more than that it's a way of using all these programs' capabilities within a single project without the applications getting in the way. As all these tools become increasingly deep and complex, it makes much more sense not to throw more audio features into a video editing application (for example), but rather make two separate tools work together so seamlessly that you never have to think about it.
My next pick is Optoma's HD70 (left), which has now broken the $1,000 mark for a native 16:9, 720p HD video projector. Of course, there have been many other projectors for $1,000, although most are 4:3 SD models. The difference is that really good quality video projection is now affordable enough for event videographers to carry them with the rest of their gear for showing a wedding video on the same day as the reception, projecting a demo on the spot for a potential client, or just keeping the young kids entertained while their parents enjoy the party (you'll be a big hero).
My final pick is YouTube. YouTube launched in 2005, but 2006 is the year that it and other sites like it proved that the era of self-publishing and sharing videos is at hand. This is the "power to the people" turning point that marketers in the digital video industry have been talking about for more than fifteen years—since the first version of Adobe Premiere, the first Hi8 camcorders, and the advent of the VideoToaster. If you're not aware of your ability to help clients share their moments with the world via YouTube and its video-sharing ilk, you're missing an opportunity to help them show off their special day and expand your services as well. YouTube was acquired by Google in October. It will probably be well into 2007 before we know exactly how the acquisition will affect the site going forward, but you can bet that free, online, streaming-based video sharing isn't going away.
Primera Bravo SE
A number of products were introduced this year (NAB was loaded with them), but a latecomer caught my eye. The Primera Bravo SE (left) is the newest sibling to the Bravo family of robotic DVD production systems. What makes this product stand out is that it provides an entry into the realm of automated CD/DVD production without breaking the bank (with an MSRP of $1,495) and still has a full complement of features of a higher-end unit.
Packed with the latest Pioneer DVR-111 dual-layer DVD±R/CD-R burner, it also includes PTPublisher software, an inkjet printer with Lexmark print head technology, and SureThing labeling software. Two additional variations are also available: a printer-only model ($995) and one with a Blu-ray burner ($2,995).
The Bravo SE is perfect for the wedding producer or any other videographer looking for a quality automated DVD production system designed for short production runs. High quality, low price—what a concept!