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July 27, 2010

Table of Contents

In the Field: Tascam DR-100 Portable Pro Digital Audio Recorder
EventDV-TV Presents Kevin Shahinian's The Language of Film, Episode IV: Sound Design
SmartSound Reveals Music Workflow for Adobe After Effects CS5
Red Giant Software Introduces Magic Bullet Colorista II
MAM-A Inc. Expands Made in USA Recordable Product Line
Artbeats Offers Exclusive Stock Footage Discount Program for Houses of Worship
Vinten Launches New Intelligent Vector heads
Exciting Update for Primatte Chromakey Plugin in Adobe Photoshop CS5 and 64-bit Native Operation

In the Field: Tascam DR-100 Portable Pro Digital Audio Recorder

With the increasing use of DSLRs—with their substandard audio capabilities—as video cameras, it has become more important than ever to record good outboard audio. There are now many high-quality digital audio recorders trying to fill the void of DSLR audio and add to a conventional video camera package for external audio. Some work better than others in different jobs. In this article, we’ll take a look at the TASCAM DR-100 (MSRP $429; street price $320).

I happened upon the TASCAM booth at NAB this year when I was wandering the halls on the last day of the show. TASCAM’s DR2D Audio Recorder made our “Winners’ Circle” best-of-show list because of its ability to record two versions of the same stereo audio simultaneously, the second at a lower level in case the main audio clipped. When I asked about doing a full review on the product, TASCAM suggested doing the review on the DR-100 because it’s a more professional model, even though it doesn’t have the dual recording mode.

The DR-100 features two unidirectional mics, two omnidirectional mics, two XLR inputs with 48v phantom power, and a stereo 1/8" line level input. It can record 44.1 KHz to 96 KHz audio as WAV or MP3 files to the supplied 2GB SDHC card. It comes supplied with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack and also can be powered with AA batteries that go in a second compartment.

In the menu you can program the DR-100 to switch automatically from one power source to the other when one goes low. The menu is easy to navigate using the “shuttle knob” on the front of the unit and the 1" x 2" screen, which also has the unit’s VU meters. The DR-100 also comes with a remote that can be used wired or wirelessly. There is a USB 2.0 connection that allows for direct transfer of files without taking the SD card out of the unit. It comes with a soft padded storage case that would be a lot more useful if it had a belt loop. The unit itself is not supercompact. It’s about the size of a portable cassette player/Walkman from the 1990s.

My first opportunity to use the DR-100 in the field arose when I was doing an article on Peter Himmelman’s Furious Worldlive-streamed music show for EventDVLive (look for it in the fall issue on www.eventdvlive.com in late September). There were a number of musical sets where it seemed appropriate to try it out. I was sitting at a table about 20'–25' from the stage and tried just laying it down on the table and hitting record to see what kind of sound quality I’d get.

The DR-100’s USB 2.0 connection allows direct transfer of files to your computer without removing the SD card from the unit. First note to self: As with the Samson Zoom units, you must hit Record twice to start recording. When you hit Record once, it goes into a “record pause” that makes the VU meters kick, but nothing records. This allows you to set your levels before recording. This goofed me up a couple times, but I got the hang of it. The audio recordings were very good.

My next few field-tests occurred at my weekly chamber of commerce networking meeting. Each week, one or two members give a presentation about their business. I tried both types of built-in mics with the unit there. As this was a lunch meeting, I engaged the unidirectional mics to try and avoid the clinking of silverware. It did a fairly decent job of minimizing it.

Using the omnidirectional mics seems to work a bit better for Q&A sessions if you’re unable to move the DR-100 when the speaker changes. But in my tests, I got a bit more background noise. For most of these talks, I was sitting 4'–10' from the presenter. In order to get a decent level, I needed to put the mic gain on high and turn the input levels up to 10. The sound recorded by the DR-100 was very clean on the unidirectional mics but on the soft side without any boost in postproduction. That may not necessarily be a bad thing—better on the low side than clipping. Importing the recorded signals into my audio editor of choice, Adobe Audition 3, I found it easy to bring up the levels to where I like them. Most of us are going to do that in post—even if we’re making only minor adjustments—before distributing the product anyway.

While the recording quality is very good, there are a few areas where the DR-100 can use some improvements. One minor issue: I found the tiny built-in speaker utterly useless; even in a quiet room at full blast I couldn’t hear it well. Camcorder speakers are not known for their quality, but the speaker on the Sony S270 camcorder is 20 times better. You should definitely use headphones.

The second minor issue is the omnidirectional mics. While the unidirectional mic capsules look serious, the omnidirectional mics are two small holes, about the size of a pen point, just above the left and right corners of the LCD. While they do have a wide pickup pattern, there aren’t too many places where you wouldn’t choose the unidirectional mics first.

The third minor issue with the DR-100 is that it’s a wee bit bulky. It’s actually the same footprint as my Sony HC7 HDV camcorder that I use for home movies. Mounting it on a DSLR or onto small to mid-sized camcorders would create balancing issues.

On the other hand, it is rugged. It bounced around in my camera bag and briefcase and was accidentally pushed off a desk a few times with no damage. The only major gripe I have with the DR-100 is input flexibility. On every professional camera I’ve seen, you have the ability to choose the audio inputs for the left and right channels independently. On the DR-100 you need to use both unidirectional, both omnidirectional, both XLRs, or line inputs at once. You can’t select input channels independently. On my camera I generally have the on-camera shotgun in left and the wireless in right. I would have liked to use one of the DR-100’s unidirectional mics at the Furious World taping and then take a feed from the board using an XLR input. The good news is that when I spoke to TASCAM about this issue, a rep said, “That’s a good idea. We’re going to write that down and include that feature on a future model.” Hopefully, they weren’t just humoring me.

If you can get past the bulkiness and the fact that you need to use the same types of input or mics for multiple input sources at one time, you have a really solid-performing audio recorder. The quality of the recordings from my tests was great. If you need something more compact, you can look at TASCAM’s DR2D Audio Recorder that made our Winner’s Circle at NAB.

Marc Franklin (marcfvp at yahoo.com) has been shooting video since 1982 and has run Franklin Video Productions since 1992. He has been featured in the Hollywood Reporter,Forbes, and TV Technology and has written for Studio Monthly, Student Filmmakers, and WEVA.

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EventDV-TV Presents Kevin Shahinian's The Language of Film, Episode IV: Sound Design

Concept filmmaker extraordinaire Kevin Shahinian (City of Lakes, Snow, Dil Jaanta Hai, Tum Hi Ho) explores the classic underpinnings of film-based storytelling and the language of effective filmmaking in this four-part series on EventDV, co-sponsored by Adobe Systems and Pacific Pictures

To see more of Kevin's work (as featured in The Language of Film), play the clips below:

"CITY OF LAKES" The Feature from PACIFIC PICTURES on Vimeo.

"SNOW" - Megan + Narbeh's Sweden Thriller Concept from PACIFIC PICTURES on Vimeo.

"DIL JAANTA HAI (THE HEART KNOWS)" - Anuja + Nirav's Bollywood Concept from PACIFIC PICTURES on Vimeo.

"TUM HI HO (YOU ARE THE ONE)" - Neil + Jigna's Bollywood Concept from PACIFIC PICTURES on Vimeo.

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SmartSound Reveals Music Workflow for Adobe After Effects CS5

SmartSound, the world’s most creative music solution for visual media, has just released a set of three video tutorials showing an impressive new royalty free music workflow for Adobe After Effects CS5 users.

SmartSound’s Sonicfire Pro 5.5 Scoring Edition offers several workflow options that make it easy for an After Effects user to create compelling soundtracks that are synchronized to their visuals. The free video tutorials can be watched at SmartSound’s web site.

In addition to automatically delivering music in custom lengths, SmartSound enables control of the music arrangement and instrument mix for a highly customized and professional end result. All of these features are available in a fast roundtrip workflow that allows unlimited fine-tuning of the music without the need to save any project files in Sonicfire Pro.

These video tutorials were created by Jeff Foster, an award-winning video producer and renowned author/educator on video topics including Adobe After Effects. He is an Adobe Certified Expert and has served as an instructor and featured speaker at many video industry conferences. Jeff has been a long-time SmartSound customer and says, "I always go to Sonicfire Pro first for soundtrack scoring, whether I'm creating a short intro or bumper or a full-length video production. It's not only the easiest to use and most customizable soundtrack creator on the market, but the extensive library provides professional music in any imaginable genre needed for my productions. The best part is that it works intuitively with all my Adobe and Apple products."

A free, permanent license of SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 5.5 Express Track with 5 Royalty Free Music Tracks can be downloaded from SmartSound right now.http://www.smartsound.com/sonicfire/download.html

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Red Giant Software Introduces Magic Bullet Colorista II

Red Giant Software today introduced Magic Bullet Colorista II (Colorista II), new color correction software that brings the professional power of high-end color systems directly to the desktop.

For the first time, users can perform professional color grading right in their favorite editing applications. Colorista II's easy-to-use interface is equally good for making quick adjustments on a deadline or finessing footage without limitations.

Editors can utilize the 3-Way color wheels for easy adjustment of shadows, midtones and highlights; an incredible new keyer for isolating colors; a Pop control for adding or reducing visual clarity; two animatable Power Masks, and the new HSL control-an intuitive, visual method of adjusting individual colors. Whether you are a color expert or an aspiring colorist, Colorista II will redefine how you do color correction.

"When I created Colorista three years ago, there was no such thing as professional color correction on the desktop. Since then, some amazing color tools have become widely available. The problem is that they require you to change your workflow, learn a new application, and draw a firm line between the editorial and finishing phases of your production. With Colorista II, my goal was simple: put every ounce of professional color correction power right in your editing application of choice, so that you don't have to change a thing about your workflow to start using it," said Stu Maschwitz, Creative Director at Red Giant Software.

"What makes Colorista II so different from all the other color correction plug-ins out there is the ultimate control with primary and secondary tools that can't be found anywhere else. The user-friendly interface allows me to grab a color with the new HSL controls and manipulate its tint, saturation or brightness in a very intuitive way, by moving colorized controls that make sense to my eyes and to my senses as an artist," said Jack Tunnicliffe, Java Post Production.

"There has been no plug-in since Magic Bullet Looks that has suited my work so much. The combination of both Magic Bullet Looks and Magic Bullet Colorista II I helps to produce a signature style for my work," said George Schnyder, http://www.Schnydr.com.

Top Features

  • Powerful New Keyer
    A powerful, easy-to-use keyer allows you to adjust individual colors or ranges of colors. Create color keys intuitively with a direct sampling interface. Soften, choke or invert the matte, and use it in conjunction with Power Masks for ultimate control.

  • 8 HSL Channels
    Getting memory colors looking right is crucial. You have three color adjustment controls for changing Hue, Saturation and Luminance across nine color ranges. Make your skies look blue and get your talents' skin just right.

  • Two Kinds of Pop
    The Pop slider has two very cool uses. Give your image more visual 'pop' by increasing the sharpness. Alternately, set Pop to negative values to smooth and clean up skin tones while keeping important detail.

  • Highlight Recovery
    Intelligently rebuilds blown-out highlight detail. Now you can save shots by hiding problems like blown-out areas in a sky or on an actor's face.

Quick Links

* Learn more about Colorista II 

* Read Colorista II FAQs 

* Watch tutorials on using Colorista II 

Pricing and Availability
Colorista II is available now for $299 USD. Current Colorista users can upgrade for $99 USD.

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MAM-A Inc. Expands Made in USA Recordable Product Line

MAM-A Inc. is pleased to announce the expansion of our Made in USA Recordable Optical disc product line.  We now offer the full range of our Silver CD-R & DVD-R/+R products and our 24kt Gold Archival CD-R and DVD-R/+R products with a Made in USA option. Completion of our 2010 capacity expansion at our Colorado Springs manufacturing facility now makes this possible.  MAM-A Inc., is the last recordable optical disc manufacturer with CD-R & DVD-R lines in the United States.

Although all of our discs are made to the same high standards, products made in Colorado give an option to Americans willing to pay a little more to purchase Made in USA goods, and for North American trade partners looking to pay lower tariffs. 

Ram Nomula, Chief Executive Officer for MAM-A. commented “We are proud to be more than just a sales office and still make discs here in America.”



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Artbeats Offers Exclusive Stock Footage Discount Program for Houses of Worship

Providing a cost-effective opportunity to add life to congregational gatherings, events and informational materials, Artbeats, a 21-year veteran in the stock footage industry, today announces its Houses of Worship Discount Program.

Through this program, qualified houses of worship in the United States and Canada are invited to purchase full-resolution HD and SD royalty-free stock footage for use within worship services, podcasts, live events, websites and other non-broadcast productions, at up to an 80% discount.

Applicable to Artbeats-branded full resolution clips and collections, the Houses of Worship Discount Program member pricing is as follows:

  • Standard Definition (NTSC & PAL) clips: $30 USD each (retail $99 - $199 USD)
  • High Definition (HD) clips: $50 USD each (retail $179 - $299 USD)
  • SD & HD Collections: 35% off (retail price $299 - $1599 USD)

Organizations interested in becoming a member of the Artbeats Houses of Worship Program may visit http://www.artbeats.com/worship for more information and to request an application.

For more information, please visit http://www.artbeats.com

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Vinten Launches New Intelligent Vector heads

Vinten, a Vitec Group brand and global leader in camera supports, is launching two new heads at IBC2010 in direct response to user demand. The new Vector 750i delivers unsurpassed precision for virtual and augmented reality in outside broadcast and studio applications. 

Developed in collaboration with leading global customers, including Telegenic in the UK and Sportvision in the US, the Vector 750i is the first encoded pantographic head from Vinten. It incorporates a new Intelligence Module allowing semi automatic set-up, slide plate tracking and kinematic compensation, all of which ensure stable and precise placement of virtual graphics into the live environment. This innovation coupled with the feel of the Vector 750, preferred by operators around the world, has ensured that the Vector 750i is keenly anticipated by production companies working with onscreen graphics, such as those that feature heavily in high-profile sports events like the upcoming Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games.

The new Vector 430 is a compact head with a very wide payload range, meeting the needs of production companies working with multiple camera set-ups.

The new Vector 430 pan and tilt head has a unique compact and lightweight design that makes it simple to rig, convenient to transport and equally well suited to studio and outside broadcast operations. Advanced engineering from Vinten has given the head a payload capacity of 22lb.(10kg) to 95 lb.(43kg), making it capable of precisely balancing any camera from a lightweight EFP system right up to a mini-box lens set-up. This simplifies the task on outside broadcasts, for example when specifying suitable support equipment; providing a single choice when two heads may have previously been required. The Vector 430 offers premium performance with all the features Vinten studio and OB users have come to expect, including infinitely adjustable perfect balance and TF fluid drag, rapid camera positioning and balance adjustment and ergonomically positioned controls that make using the Vector 430 second nature.

“Because of our long standing popularity in the studio and OB market, it is very common to find us working at the ‘sharp end’ talking with the cameramen about the issues they face daily and the level of functionality they really need,” said Peter Harman, Vinten product manager. “These two new Vector heads have been developed to meet real user requirements, to give them the operational flexibility they need in the studio or out on the field, and seamlessly integrate virtual reality graphics into live production.”


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Exciting Update for Primatte Chromakey Plugin in Adobe Photoshop CS5 and 64-bit Native Operation

Digital Anarchy today announced a 64-bit release to their award winning, best-of-breed Primatte Chromakey plugin. Primatte 3.5 adds compatibility for Adobe Photoshop CS5 and 64-bit operation on Mac, Windows and Vista systems.

Primatte Chromakey is the blue/greenscreen solution for photography, bringing the power of high-end Film/TV technology to Photoshop. The version 3.5 update also provides an improved interface for easier workflow, and adds behind-the-scenes improvements like background rendering to make Primatte faster and more responsive. 

"I have been using Primatte since 2005 because the software allows me to be more creative and think differently. I produce stock images that are represented by Getty Images Worldwide, and Primatte allows me the capability to seamlessly composite my various elements (persons and objects) with amazing precision. My concern has always been about preserving fine hair detail as well as transparency of objects. Primatte preserves all that I need to include in my composites, producing a seamless and believable end result. It's a very powerful tool and I feel it belongs in every photographer's arsenal," said photographer, educator and speaker Joe Drivas, of http://www.joedrivas.com.

Primatte Chromakey removes a blue/green background from a still image or footage, leaving the subject against a transparent background with any color cast removed. Primatte 3.5 excels in preserving important, difficult details like wisps of hair, translucent glass and mesh fabrics. This makes it easy to convincingly place the subject on a custom background, then substitute that background as needed. Primatte’s new 64-bit speed takes advantage of Photoshop Action and Batch functionality to process large groups of images, providing photographers who shoot school, sports, or event photography with a powerful addition to their workflow. 

"The 64-bit update to Primatte is the first step in rewriting Primatte to take advantage of new technologies," said Jim Tierney, President of Digital Anarchy. "64-bit and other enhancements coming out in the next few months will prove once again that Primatte is the most powerful green screen software available. We've improved the speed and further enhanced the workflow, but Primatte 3.5 is just the beginning. Look for additional big changes in the coming months."

Pricing and Availability
Primatte Chromakey 3.5 for Photoshop is regularly priced at $299 USD, but will have an introductory sale of $199 until August 31, 2010. Primatte 3.5 runs in Adobe Photoshop 7.0–CS5 and Photoshop Elements 6.0–9.0. The plugin runs on Macintosh 10.4–10.6, Windows XP–7 and Vista systems. Demo filters and samples are available athttp://www.digitalanarchy.com

Current owners of Primatte 3.0 can update for $129 USD, on sale for $99 until August 31, 2010. Customers should contact Digital Anarchy with any update questions. 

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