Sometime back in the early ’80s, at the end of what must have been either the first or last 60 Minutes broadcast of the year, Andy Rooney opened his segment by saying he felt foolish wishing viewers a "Happy New Year" because, as everyone knows, Dec. 31st isn’t really the end of the year, but sometime in the middle. As the son of academics and, more recently, the spouse of one, university calendars have always had more impact on my life than the Roman calendar, and the publishers I’ve worked for have always had their own fiscals.
In the CD and DVD industry where EventDV predecessor EMedia plied its trade, we all set our clocks by the Japanese fiscal, which runs (roughly) April to March, and, of course, Japanese companies like Sony, Panasonic, and Canon play fairly dominant roles in the video world as well. The international dateline of the video industry has traditionally been NAB, which falls sometime in April, although in recent years quite a bit of the action has shifted to IBC (even though very few videographers I know attend IBC, for the last two years major announcements like the latest versions of Sony Vegas have come out of that show rather than NAB). And how will we ever ring in the new year at NAB next April without Avid?
Of course, the announcements that happen at either of those shows rarely have an immediate impact—odds are that if NAB was the first you heard about it, your first opportunity to purchase and use a new product or technology won’t come for several months. As for our corner of the event video world, the old maxim "See it at NAB [in April], try it and buy it at WEVA Expo [in August]" was never entirely accurate, but it’s still a decent reflection of the time delay associated with many major releases in our industry over the years. To wit, my favorite product of 2007 was actually released in 2006, but product-availability tectonics being what they are, this product was neither widely available nor inexpensive enough to have a real impact on the market in the year in which the first scant units shipped. I’m referring to the WaterShield water-resistant, hub-printable inkjet media produced by Taiyo Yuden and branded and TuffCoated by Primera in the U.S. (left). I’ve been duping and printing discs for nearly a decade and have never seen anything that compares. These discs aren’t just printed—they’re laminated, and though the colors won’t run (no matter how hard you try), the discs ooze professionalism.
Rumor has it that there’s going to be a session at the 4EVER Group’s Video 08 next month on how an arresting soundtrack can make up for just about any deficiency in a movie (as evidenced on the big screen in the work of directors like Zach Braff and Cameron Crowe). Deliver your productions on WaterShield media, and [cue Bruce Springsteen’s "Secret Garden"] you’ll have them before hello.
But enough from me. As has become a tradition of sorts at EventDV, this "Best of 2007" brings together selections from a number of sources—the industry leaders and experts who make up our distinguished roster of columnists and contributing editors. But there’s one key difference in this edition. Because EventDV is a magazine that’s as much (or more) about the business and practice of event videography as the tools event videographers use, we’ve expanded the purview of this article to include not only "Best of" product selections, but also what our writers perceive as the best or most significant trend in the event video industry in 2007.
—Stephen Nathans-Kelly, Editor-in-Chief
Samson Zoom H2 Handy Recorder
My immediate need for a small and inexpensive digital audio recorder led me to the Samson Zoom H2 (left) and from the time I took it out of the box, it was love at first sight. First off, everything needed to use the unit is included (except 2 AA batteries). The 512MB SD memory card provides storage for about 47 minutes of standard WAV stereo audio, but that jumps to more than 11 hours when set to 96Kbps MP3 recording. Maximum SD card size is advertised as 4GB. The H2 package includes ear-bud headphones, table stand, microphone stand adapter, foam windsock, USB cable, AC adapter, and cloth carry sack.
Operation is pretty straightforward thanks to a full-featured backlit LCD display, which shows elapsed time, folder/program number, transport status, battery level, time remaining on SD card, and VU (level) meters (also selectable menu when in menu mode). External connections include AC power adapter jack, headphone/line out jack, USB port, line in, and external mic in jacks.
The coolest feature of this handheld device is the built-in mic system. You can choose from four different patterns: 90-degree front pickup, 120-degree rear pickup, and both 2-channel and 4-channel surround sound. It also has AGC, compressor, and limiter functions with multiple settings. Having recorded more than 8 hours of material with it so far, I am impressed. Using line in, external and internal mics, quality is very good with no dropouts and no clipping (using the voice setting on the built-in compressor).
Price is about $199, available anywhere A/V equipment is sold.
Adobe Flash Video
My two honorable mentions for best product of 2007 would have to be the Canon XH A1 and Adobe’s Production Premium for improving both the process of acquiring video footage and delivering a finished product. The Canon XH A1 delivers a great picture at an attractive price point, and I enjoyed the switch to a native 16:9 sensor and the added knee point adjustment and black stretch controls as compared to my previous camera of choice, the SD Sony PD 170. That said, I was frustrated by the two XLR inputs that had to both be on either a line or mic level and the camera’s reduced low-light sensitivity compared to recent SD models (this is an issue many videographers have had with HDV cameras across the board). Fix those and you have a winner.
Adobe, on the other hand, spent much of its efforts porting Premiere Pro to the Mac platform, so the most notable improvements to the Production Premium suite (left) came via the corporate acquisition of Serious Magic and the introduction of the rebranded Adobe Ultra and OnLocation (née DV Rack).
I can’t say that the XH A1 or Premiere Pro changed my business in 2007 (even though I use both of them regularly), so I’m giving my pick of best product of 2007 to the full integration of Flash Video into the Adobe Production Premium package. I found that the triple threat of the On2 VP6 Flash codec, the rise of user-generated video content sites, and nifty export-to-Flash feature in Adobe’s Encore CS3 was more significant than any piece of hardware or software package that came on the market in 2007.
Miraizon Cinematize 2 Pro
Miraizon Cinematize 2 Pro As the best product of 2007, I chose and highly recommend Cinematize 2 Pro (left), Miraizon’s professional DVD extraction and re-authoring tool, which I began using in my workflow this year.
Recently, I did a project for a nonprofit organization. Its members wanted to include video that was on a DVD they produced for a banquet a couple of years ago, and the original footage was no longer available. Using my newly purchased Cinematize 2 Pro, I was not only able to extract the required video, but I was also able to re-edit it and maintain good quality.
Cinematize 2 Pro will also be invaluable as I convert video and audio from DVDs into formats suitable for small, portable devices.
Cinematize Pro 2 is an inexpensive ($139.99), versatile tool that will serve you well when you least expect it.
Hewlett-Packard LP3065 LCD Monitor
When it comes to LCD Panels, bigger is definitely better, and nobody does it bigger or better than HP with its LP3065 (left; $1,349 at Amazon.com). The monitor has a maximum display resolution of 2560x1600 pixels, a response rate of 6ms, a contrast ratio of 1000:1, and color gamut of 92%. This means extraordinarily crisp detail and highly accurate colors.
This is one instance, however, where the specs don’t do the product justice. This monitor is a total joy to work with. For example, with HDV video, you can display both source and preview monitors at 50% of original, easily large enough for trimming, brightness, and color adjustments and other effects. Even better, you’ve still got plenty of room to leave other panels open, so you have all your tools on your desktop, all the time. When editing HDV-sized still images for menus, you can easily display the entire image and see every pixel clearly. If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to become more efficient and to make your editing and other creative work more enjoyable, the LP3065 is a great place to start.
Adobe Encore CS3
By adding Blu-ray and Flash output, Adobe improved an already good thing with Adobe Encore CS3 (left), while Apple stood pat with DVD Studio Pro. Since Blu-ray output is an absolutely essential arrow in any event videographer’s quiver, Encore gets my nod as "best of" in the DVD authoring category.
Lest any random Adobe representative be reading this article, let me be the first to say that the product—and especially the integration with Premiere Pro—is far from perfect. Encoding presets don’t match up between the two programs, and if you output from Premiere Pro using the Export to Adobe Encore option with Blu-ray output, Encore may still create an SD project, and both are unnecessarily confusing.
Throw in the lack of Dynamic Link export from Premiere Pro and Encore, which forces you to render all projects before importing video into Encore, and you’ve got my high-priority wish list for Adobe Encore 4.0/CS4. Until then, however, I’ll be happily using Encore, with occasional grumbles, as the best DVD/BD/Flash authoring program released in 2007.
Heritage Makers Storybooks
In 2007 I discovered a new way to make additional revenue from my video clients by offering them Heritage Makers storybooks, cards, calendars, and canvas posters. Heritage Makers is an online publisher that creates high-quality, professionally bound hardcover books from pictures and stories uploaded to its website. By providing Heritage Makers services to your clients, you can also enable them to do online digital scrapbooking using Scrap Girls materials (more than 26,000 pieces to choose from). As an Independent Heritage Makers Consultant, you get 20% of all purchases. If you desire, you can earn even more income by building a team of Heritage Makers Consultants. This is a direct-selling business, but there is no need to hold "parties" since we can sell to our existing clients. These are perfect for those creating photo montages. Clients can create storybooks for weddings, anniversaries, babies, birthdays, graduations, sports, bar mitzvahs, memorials, retirement, family histories, and more. You can even create the book yourself and upsell it.
Some videographers shooting in HD are creating Heritage Makers storybooks using HD video stills with amazing results. You can create template-based books by simply uploading the photos and text, or you can get creative with the new Studio 2.0 (left) which I think of as "Photoshop for Dummies," with apologies to Peter Bauer). Leather-cover books are available as an upgrade. By becoming a consultant, you get a sample of all the products, brochures, order forms, training DVDs, etc.; you also get your own website which is maintained and updated by Heritage Makers (you can cross-link with your existing video website).
Sony Full-Size HDV Camcorders
Sony’s forthcoming pro HDV camcorders, the HVR-S270U (left) and HVR-Z7U, demonstrated at IBC and officially announced in mid-November, are professional models in the DSR-250 class not to be confused with the entry-level shouldermount HD1000u released in August. These forthcoming models finally elevate HDV to the professional status it deserves.
Back when Sony introduced MiniDV as a consumer format, Sony and Panasonic tried to differentiate "professional" DVCAM and DVCPRO versions, even though they all used the exact same DV codec. JVC’s GY-DV50E was the first professional DV camcorder that looked like, worked with, and integrated with existing pro camera accessories. Then Panasonic’s AG-DVC200 confirmed that there was nothing keeping DV from being a true pro format.
With the new shouldermount HVR-S270 and more compact HVR-Z7U,, Sony has brought HDV fully into the professional production world, with no more prosumer limitations. Moreover, they have integrated into these camcorders new features heretofore unseen, such as 4 channels of audio, 4.5 hours of recording on one full-size cassette, as well as feature-interchangeable lens systems, native progressive recording, increased sensitivity for low-light conditions, and hybrid solid-state recording.
Welcome to the big leagues, HDV.
Apple Final Cut Studio 2
While there have been some great products that have come out this past year, Apple’s release of Final Cut Studio 2 stands head and shoulders above the rest. No other product will have a greater impact on the collective body of editors and videographers than the release of FCS 2. Even if you don’t factor in the new Color app bundled with Final Cut, the improvements made to Final Cut and Motion alone make it a significant upgrade. Multiresolution real-time editing, the ProRes codec, optical flow technology, 3D space for Motion, etc., make this an outstanding release. Adding Color (left) on top of this already significant upgrade makes this release a home run.
Anyone who has worked with Final Touch (which is what Color was called before Apple bought it) knows the great value of this software. Apple bundled a $25,000 product with Final Cut Pro Studio. That’s like getting a new car, bundled with the software! Apple also improved the integration between Motion and Final Cut. As Apple continues to integrate these two products, editors will reap the benefits of this ever-improving technology.
Key Trends in Event Video in 2007
Using User-Generated Content (USG) Sites
Videographers seeking an audience for their videos found a variety of User-Generated Content (UGC) sites that would post clips, and some sites would even pay for the content. USG sites such as YouTube and MySpace have enabled videographers to promote themselves and their clients. Some videographers are receiving millions of views of their clips in which they include advertising and contact info. You can have your own page with demo clips on YouTube, and some videographers are using that free service instead of creating their own websites.
Several other UGC sites were developed in 2007 that offered not only promotional and visibility advantages to videographers, but also direct sources of income. These sites include ExpoTV, which hires videographers to shoot consumer product videos; and TurnHere, which pays for clips at travel destinations. MetaCafe pays based on the popularity of a clip. Revver attaches its own advertising to videographers’ clips and shares the revenue on a 50-50 basis.
While YouTube and others impose a 10-minute or 100MB limit on clips, Veoh, backed by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, has virtually no limits since it uses a peer-to-peer network. GrapeFlix has what they call an Online Virtual Theater that lets users download videos for a fee, and GrapeFlix takes a 15% commission.
Even though blogs have been around for years, for our industry, 2007 has been the Year of The Blog. I know many businesspeople, not just in the video industry, who have started one. My blog is my newest marketing feature. I started it in February 2007 using TypePad (my cost is $4.95 a month). This small fee is nothing compared to the $100 a month I pay for my bridal magazine ad! At first, I didn’t know if it would be worth my time and effort, but within the first month I had clients who found my blog and contacted me for my video services and Heritage Makers products! You can post video clips, client testimonials, marketing tips, your press releases, etc. A blog is a nice accompaniment to a website as it’s less formal, and it’s another way to establish yourself as a video expert in the internet world.
Delivery on Mobile Devices
In my opinion, the most significant trend of 2007 is the idea that smaller is bigger. Even though we have television sets that are larger than ever, we also have handheld devices that make video more mobile than ever before. We need to grasp this new trend, and gear everything we do toward small, mobile video devices. For example, our websites need to work not only on large computers, but also on our Treo, BlackBerry, or iPhone. We need to be creative and follow the lead of Kris Malandruccolo and her video iPod wedding initiative. When it comes to our future productions, smaller definitely will be bigger.
HD x 3
I saw three big trends assisting event videographers in 2007: First, RED started shipping its 4k (12-Megapixel) digital cinema camera. This camera creates a tier far higher than 1080 HD; it actually makes "old" HD for events make more sense than before.
Second, Best Buy and other local big electronics stores redesigned their entire display section to feature widescreen HD sets almost exclusively. When people go to buy a new TV larger than 20", HD is all they’ll find.
Third, local news stations across the country are hopping on the HD bandwagon. More pop up each month in Television Broadcast magazine’s U.S. map. This puts HD top-of-mind for local viewers because they hear HDTV over and over. If the local news gets HD, why not your clients’ weddings?
For years, videographers have been at the bottom of the wedding pecking order because clients perceived us as using bright lights, large tripods, and intrusive camera techniques. Even though that may have been true in the world of video in the early ’80s, in reality, it’s at least a decade out-of-date. But that stigma has stayed with our industry until the ascention of the Same-Day Edit.
Now videographers have leapfrogged up the wedding pecking order to the top of the list—much to the chagrin of photographers, florists, and wedding planners. With our SDE productions, we get to show off our video talents as we magically show the wedding audience footage of the wedding within hours of the ceremony.
Now videographers can promote their style of video creations in front of 200 potential clients at every wedding where their SDE is shown. Thus the SDE is a cost-effective marketing tool as well as a major bottom-line profit add-on to your arsenal of video products. The promotional value of a SDE for your business is priceless!