How Good is a $250 HD Camera with 24p?

When I was putting together my list of gift ideas for video nerds, I stumbled upon the Canon Vixia HF R100, and was totally amazed at the price of this thing. But my jaw didn’t really hit my toes until I read about its extensive audio capabilities. For $250 you get a full-blown camcorder that shoots 1080i HD video at 24p, has an external mic input and a headphone output. Then I discovered it had manual audio control of both the external or the built-in mics. Now I was envious in addition to being amazed! I decided to go see what this camera felt like in my hands, and to try out its manual audio control functions. I walked away impressed, and I think I grumbled something under my breath as I passed the HDSLRs on my way out. Continue reading How Good is a $250 HD Camera with 24p?

Gifts for Video Nerds (Obsessive DSLR Dork Edition)

Video nerds are a special breed. Photography geeks can inhabit a false sense of glamour. They can imagine that they’ll eventually be shooting supermodels for the cover of a glossy. Audio nerds can cling to a similar shred of unrealistic hope. Right now they may be shoving a beltpack transmitter into a fat, sweaty pastry chef’s underwear, but a year from now they may well be producing the next Sgt Pepper’s. Video nerds don’t really have an unrealistic ideal to keep them going. I guess they can daydream that they’re George Lucas’ cinematographer, sitting atop a large crane with a camera rig, squinting while making an imaginary frame with their thumbs and index fingers. But let’s face it. That person still comes off as a dork. Continue reading Gifts for Video Nerds (Obsessive DSLR Dork Edition)

Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic

DSLR and Zoom H4nThe microphones built into portable digital recorders typically sound pretty good, and if you use a recorder to capture the sound for a DSLR video shoot, you may be tempted to mount the recorder directly on top of your camera and use it as an on-camera mic. But here’s the problem…

Plugging the headphone output of the recorder into the mic input on the camera won’t sound good. The mic input on a DSLR needs a mic-level audio signal, and the headphone output on the portable digital recorder is line-level. Mic-level signals are very low, and line-level signals are very loud. If you just used a normal 1/8″ to 1/8″ mini-plug cable to connect the two, you’re likely going to get a nasty sounding distorted recording. What you need is an 1/8″ to 1/8″ cable with a built-in -25dB attenuator. And wouldn’t you know it… such a thing exists. Continue reading Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic

Gifts for Photonerds (Photo Dork Edition)

Here’s the situation: you or someone you know is a photography geek, it’s the holiday season, and the person in question needs a gift. What do you do? Do you buy them that full-frame DSLR they’ve been dreaming about all year? Hell no! I decided to make this list of five affordable gifts for photographers to help you out. It’s all stuff you can afford and crap that they will love. Continue reading Gifts for Photonerds (Photo Dork Edition)

Gifts for Sound Freaks (Audio Nerd Edition)

Cassette Tape CufflinksIt’s going to happen to you in the next few days and weeks. Your friends and family will unexpectedly corner you and ask you what gifts you want for the holidays. Despite the fact that you spend much of the year dreaming about buying production equipment, you will draw completely blank. Your loved ones will rightfully be annoyed when you answer “I don’t know,” because they know you dream about gear all day. Their problem is that they don’t know the first thing about gear you desire. It’s all a bunch of gobble-dee-gook to them. You’ve got to be prepared for this question, otherwise you’ll end up with a pair of cassette tape cufflinks this year. Continue reading Gifts for Sound Freaks (Audio Nerd Edition)

It Just Doesn’t Work

Yucky Snow LeopardIf you’ve been reading my blog, you may have me pegged as an Apple fanboy. Sure, I own an iPhone, three Mac computers, and I even have the new Apple TV (a review is on the way). But I can assure you, even though I poo-pooed Windows 7 in my HP Envy review, I am not a blind Apple fanatic.

You’ve heard it before from others, but I’ll say it again: I just appreciate well-made products that make me feel like they’re worth the money I paid for them. So far I’ve had pretty good luck with Apple. Well, until recently.

For the past week and a half my six month old MacBook Pro has been malfunctioning. Here are the symptoms: If there are empty fields on a screen (such as Google’s search field) it will suddenly start filling them up with square box characters. Out of nowhere it starts making “bomping” noises. Bomp bomp bomp bomp bomp bomp bomp. It’s annoying. Worst of all, sometimes drop down menus become unusable. Continue reading It Just Doesn’t Work

Thoughts on the Z96 On-Camera (and Off-Camera) LED Light

When I was making the Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2010, I had a lot of trouble properly lighting my on-camera talent. Even though I own three Arri 650plus lights, it was still really difficult to keep light on the presenter’s face, as she stepped forward and backward across the room, testing the range of each microphone. The whole time I was setting up I was thinking… Man, if I only had one more little light to stick somewhere…

I decided to buy an on-camera light. This, of course, meant that I spent several hours, days, even weeks researching the best option (for the least amount of money). Picking an on-camera light wasn’t as simple as I had hoped, but I eventually zeroed in on the Z96. Continue reading Thoughts on the Z96 On-Camera (and Off-Camera) LED Light

My Name is Sam, and I Love Thumbnails

Schoeps CMIT Rocket

I’ve spent much of the past year writing posts for the B&H’s Insights blog, and as much as I love the written word, I’m just as smitten with visual end of the spectrum.

Technical Pro Speakers

Writing for a such a well known company certainly has its challenges. You don’t want to sound boring, but at the same time you need to respect the conservative angle required to run a successful business. So, when I felt something that I couldn’t accurately or appropriately express in words, I often tried to communicate it with the thumbnails of my blog posts. Continue reading My Name is Sam, and I Love Thumbnails

Staying Alive & Choosing an External Drive

When I think about backing up my work, I’m always reminded of a Navy Seals saying:

“One is none and two is one.”

Ain’t that the truth? If you only have one microphone in the field and it breaks, then you have none. If you brought two, then you have one. Deep down inside, I think we all need to think like the Navy Seals, no matter how dainty our work can be.

So the next time you’re shooting a cupcake baking competition, you’ll have to look past all of that fluffy icing and the colorful jimmies, and think like a soldier. Your mission is to bring the proper tools and to get the job done. One is none, two is one. Continue reading Staying Alive & Choosing an External Drive

More thoughts on the Sennheiser MKE 400

Which is more valuable:

  1. The Sennheiser MKE 400 mini-shotgun mic
  2. $200 in your pocket?

This is the question that every gear-obsessed dork must ask themselves. There are a few things that the MKE 400 does really well, but it isn’t the silver bullet to all of your audio-for-video needs. Silver bullets do not exist. Don’t let the marketing behind watered-down domestic beer fool you. Continue reading More thoughts on the Sennheiser MKE 400