Monthly Archives: May 2008

HDR – High Dynamic Range Photography

Amsterdam Bookstore in HDR

Amsterdam Bookstore in HDR

llibreria – bookstore – Amsterdam, originally uploaded by Mor (bcnbits).

HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography is gaining in popularity. An HDR photo takes 3 or more exposures of the same scene and blends then together to bring the greatest clarity and tonal range possible.

HDR photos include everything from hyper realistic cityscapes

New York City – HDR
Originally uploaded by Kaldoon to supersaturated seascapes

Sailors’ Memoreis [HDR]
Originally uploaded by Hussain beautiful, painterly landscapes.

Cindy Shebley has recently begun to experiment with HDR. If you’d like to follow her as she learns about the software and techniques employed by this new school of digital photography, join her on PhotoWalksToday

Firefox Screencast Contest

Do you use Firefox? Do you love screencasting? Well, if you said yes to either of those questions – it’s time to get crackin’

Firefox is holding a contest to help create screencasts for the Top 100 Support articles in the Firefox Knowledge Base. The Grand Prize is a Flip Video Ultra. The next 100 winners get a t-shirt.

Check out the Contest Guidleines

  1. Use Firefox 3
  2. Use an English language version of Firefox
  3. Create Flash videos (if you don’t have Camtasia – use Jing)
  4. Video only – don’t add narration or music
  5. Size videos to 640 x 480

That’s it – Submit your screencast and win!

Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum – Rebate Alert

If you enjoy using a video camera, you already know that good editing software is as important as a good camcorder. But which editing software should you choose? Many folks, when starting out, use Windows Movie Maker – and it has some pretty cool features for a free editing package.

But as you gain experience, you’ll want more. Of course, you can spend hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars on professional software. But there is an alternative – Vegas Movie Studio, the stripped down version of Vegas.

Sony Vegas Movie Studio comes in two flavors, Vegas Movie Studio 8 and Vegas Movie Studio 8 Platinum Edition. The price difference between the two can be negligible, so – unless you are on a super-tight budget – it’s usually best to go with Movie Studio Platinum and give yourself room to grow.

What do I mean : “the price difference … can be negligible”? For some reason, Movie Studio is almost never sold at full retail. Vegas Movie Studio’s full retail price is $89.95 – but its street price is closer to $50.00 Movie Studio Platinum’s suggested retail is $129.95, with a street price closer to $99.99. But prices for both products are all over the map, and you can find them for even less if you are willing to invest the time to search.

Right now there is no need to spend hours searching and comparing prices and shipping costs – Amazon is selling either edition of Movie Maker with a $30.00 rebate. After rebate, Vegas Movie Studio 8 will cost $36.99; and Vegas Movie Studio 8 Platinum Edition will end up at $51.99. Those prices are unbeatable.

If you’ve recently bought a Flip and want to start to do more than point, shoot, and upload; if you’ve had a camcorder but are stymied by Windows Movie Maker’s single audio and video track; if you just want to have fun – take advantage of these prices. I use both Vegas Pro and Vegas Movie Studio Platinum, and I can’t imagine editing even simple You Tube videos without them. Your time is valuable – get the right tools for the job!


Is it the equipment that makes the camera operator an artist or the artistry that makes the camera dance?

Wouldn’t you like to be able to create long, gliding tracking shots in your videos? Maybe pan from low to high in a super smooth motion? Never jiggle the camera as you walk alongside your protagonist as she enters a building and runs up the stairs?

Well, you can. You just need between $4,000.00 and $60,000.00 for a Steadicam.

The Steadicam revolutionized Hollywood cinematography in the 70’s. Eventually, smaller, lighter, less expensive Steadicams were developed for the video market as well. Of course, they are still prohibitively expensive for non-professionals. Unfortunately, wanting and needing and paying for equipment are not the same things. Most videographers won’t be buying a Steadicam any time soon. But then, even 5 years ago, who would have predicted that a top-notch Hi Definition camcorder (like the Canon HV20) would be a mainstream consumer camera, with a price point of under $1,000.00?

B&H Photos’ latest newsletter has an interview with Garrett Brown, the man who invented the Steadicam. In an accompanying video, Brown demonstrates the latest line of (relatively) inexpensive Steadicams for lightweight camcorders. It’s a joy to see.

If you can’t live without tracking shots, but you can’t round up the cash for a Steadicam, there’s the Poorman’s Steadicam. Of course, it is in no way a true Steadicam – but it is an inexpensive stabilizer for anyone with a camcorder weighing less than 4-6 lbs. You can build your own for approximately $15.00 or you can order one for $40.00 (currently sold out – more will be available in the fall).

It ain’t sexy – but if you watch the sample videos, you’ll soon find yourself thinking, “Wish I had one.”

The 5 Essential Tool for Video

Perry Lawrence, the man behind, has a blog post listing what he considers the 5 most important tools for new video makers.

I’m glad to see I use almost every one of them! I have a different brand of lights and lavalier mic – and my tripod doesn’t have a fluid head. What’s the lesson? START SHOOTING TODAY with whatever equipment you have and build towards the equipment you want.

It is more important to get something done right now than to wait until everything is perfect.

Here’s Perry’s List

  1. Great Video Camera
  2. Great Video Audio
  3. Great Video Light
  4. Steady Fluid Tripod
  5. Best Editing Software

Visit Perry’s blog for a full description of each item and the reasons he chose it. What do you use?

Finding Royalty Free Photos

If you enjoy photography, you are probably familiar with Flickr. It is one of the largest and best known photo sharing sites. In fact, Flickr was one of the pioneers of Web 2.0.

But, as with all things web, the sheer volume of content can make it hard to find what you need.

Say you are a travel agent. A simple Flickr search for an “ocean sunset” returns over 165,000 hits. Can you use all of those pictures in a You Tube video promoting your vacation package to Hawaii? Some of them? None of them? Who has time to sort through the licenses on 165,000 photographs?

If you add just two simple parameters to your Flickr search, you’ll not only narrow the search down to freely shared photos, you’ll find exactly those photos that are available for commercial use.

The video below shows you how:

Royalty Free Background Music

One of the best ways to give your screencast or You Tube video some polish is to add a background music track. It is also one of the quickest ways to add a big line item to your budget – or to get into trouble down the road – since music is copyrighted and needs to be licensed for public use.

If you are a musician, you can create your own background music with applications like Sony’s Cinescore or Acid Music Studio For those of us without that gift, the alternative is Royalty Free music, which is also sometimes known as Buy Out music.

Buy Out music is all over the web – but much of it is of doubtful legality, so buy from a reputable source. Bootleggers will buy a music collection and then resell it – in violation of the license. Although you bought the collection with the best of intentions, you could find yourself saddled with additional licensing payments that far exceed any savings you got from buying the cheap download.

What’s the solution? Buy from someone you trust.

One of the best sources of royalty free, buy out music is Digital Juice’s Stack Traxx. These innovative background music DVDs come with multiple lengths for each track – usually 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, and full length (around 3 minutes). Each volume has between 20 and 40 tracks. The tracks are all recorded in layers. If you use Digital Juice’s free Juicer software, you can easily separate and split off layers.

For instance, if the strings in “Hero’s Journey” are exactly what you need for the introduction to your video, but the drums are all wrong – you can just turn off the drums with a single mouse click.

Would you like to experiment or learn more? Digital Juice offers about a dozen tracks for free – all you need to do is register.

I’d suggest you give a listen to these tracks and see if they suit your production:

It won’t cost you a penny to give these sounds a try. And your videos will instantly gain a professional edge. If you create and post a video using this tip – please post a link in the comments. We’d love to see it!