My First Week with the Panasonic GH2

Panasonic GH2 with 20mm f/1.7 lensAfter a long and truly painful wait to receive my first “HDSLR” camera, my Panasonic Lumix GH2 finally arrived. I had waited for several months to order it from a specific retailer, and once my pre-order was placed, the GH2 was on backorder for six more weeks. But last Friday, like a waking dream, it arrived at my doorstep.

As you can see in the thumbnail photo above, I also bought the Lumix 20mm pancake lens. The two make a powerful combination. With the pancake, the GH2 is almost as small as a corpulent point & shoot camera, but it does a whole lot more than even the finest point & shoot cameras on the market. The GH2 has a monster micro four thirds sensor, the lens mount can be adapted to pretty much any lens on the planet, and its HD video quality is currently considered the best you can get (that’s right, it’s even better than the¬†mammoth 5D mk II).

Continue reading My First Week with the Panasonic GH2

An Easy Rechargeable Battery Kit for the HDV-Z96 LED Light

Z96 LED lightI recently picked up a Z96 LED light to use in my video productions, and I immediately packed it with five lithium AA batteries (yes, it takes five of them). I shot a few short videos, and one longer project. When the lithiums finally sputtered out, I decided to take advantage of the Sony L series mount on the rear of the Z96 and buy a proper rechargeable battery system for it.

I had never used a “Sony L series DV battery” mount before. I was not familiar with NP-F570 or NP-F770 batteries. It was all an alien language to me. Hardcore video people tend to throw around obscure battery terminology like it’s common knowledge, but I was totally green to all of this talk.

I really hate throwing out spent AA batteries. I especially hate playing money for stuff that I know I’m going to be throwing away. Continue reading An Easy Rechargeable Battery Kit for the HDV-Z96 LED Light

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

The Best $300 Tripod for DSLR Video

I finally did it! I upgraded to a real tripod and head! Last week I accidentally broke my crappy old $14 tripod. In the following video I bust open my new Manfrotto 501HDV head and my new Slik Pro 700DX tripod legs. I go over some tips on how to set this stuff up and use it:

This system was recommended to me by David Flores, a New York based photographer and film maker. This isn’t a blog post by someone who has tried every tripod and head under the sun, and slowly come to the realization that this is the best combo in the world for under $300. I was simply lucky enough to pick the brains of some experienced people who pointed me in the right direction.

Thanks David! I totally love this set up! This gear is really solid. I’ve already done two shoots with it and my quality of life has vastly improved. That’s the thing about buying good equipment. It really does make your life better. Shooting instantly becomes easier and more enjoyable. This is the kind of purchase that gets you these perks.

One of the reasons I needed a quality tripod is that I’ve been putting together a video about using on-camera external microphones with video-enabled DSLR cameras. It’s called The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2010. In the video I use a Nikon DLSR with a big ole’ honking lens on it. The camera was a loner, so there was no way I was going to stick it on a cheap $14 tripod. That’s just asking for trouble. The Manfrotto 501HDV head with the Slik Pro 700DX tripod legs handled the weight of the camera, mic, and big lens wonderfully. I highly recommend this combo. Plus it just looks legit. That’s important too for some reason. :)

Testing Out the New HP Envy Laptop with Beats Sound

I recently tested out the new HP Envy Laptop with a Beats sound system. As a long time Apple user, I was a little worried that my opinion would be skewed. But, as soon as I started messing around with the HP MediaSmart webcam software, I forgot all about the ease of OS X and concentrated on acting like a total idiot:

Aside from goofing off with the webcam, I did play some music through the thing to hear what this Beats sound system sounded like. To my ears it just sounded like a laptop. Continue reading Testing Out the New HP Envy Laptop with Beats Sound

Testing the New MOTU MicroBook with Volta

This week I tested out the new MOTU MicroBook USB audio interface with Volta. Volta is a really cool control voltage plug-in that enables you to trigger analog synths through a computer. Before synthesizers had MIDI connectivity, people would control them externally with control voltage. However, since the computer recording revolution took over, there’s been no way to send commands these old analog synths with audio software. That’s all changed thanks to Volta!

The audio interface that you use with Volta must have “DC Coupled” outputs. Before the MicroBook came out, the cheapest way to use Volta was with the $530 MOTU Ultralite. At $250, the new MicroBook is now the least expensive Volta-compatible interface.

One thing I did notice while setting this demo up was that having just two outputs represents a severe limitation with Volta. Basically, I was forced to create and save a custom “mix” in MOTU’s CueMix software that allowed me to only monitor a single input on the MicroBook.

Continue reading Testing the New MOTU MicroBook with Volta

Experimenting with the IK Multimedia iRig

I was lucky enough to be one of the early testers of the IK Multimedia iRig, and while it’s fun to play electric guitar through, I was curious how it would sound on a bass, and even an old analog synthesizer. Why not, right? I had a go at it today, and I filmed the results. Check it out:

Continue reading Experimenting with the IK Multimedia iRig

Hands On Review of the ARC Room Correction System

Most of the music recording i’ve done in my life has taken place in home studios. That’s why I was really curious to test out IK Multimedia’s ARC system. The basic idea behind this product is that you test the response of the room that you’re monitoring sound in, and the ARC software creates a custom plug-in for you to use that corrects the frequency response of your monitors.

Continue reading Hands On Review of the ARC Room Correction System

Why Buy a $500 iPad When You Can Get a $2000 Lemur?

“Why should I buy a Jazz Mutant¬†Lemur that can only control software, when I can get a $500 iPad that can do everything under the sun and more?”

This was the question I was asked to answer on my last assignment. Just a couple of weeks after the iPad became commercially available, a $2000 Lemur landed on my desk on a Monday morning, and I was asked to deliver a hands-on review and a script for a video podcast by Thursday. I was not asked answer the eternal question (why not buy a $500 iPad?), but it seemed to me that if I did not make a case for why the Lemur was still worth $2000, then I would be ignoring the one million pound gorilla in my cubicle. Continue reading Why Buy a $500 iPad When You Can Get a $2000 Lemur?

My Ribbon Microphone Shoot Out

I recently had the opportunity to test out four different ribbon microphones. It was pretty fun because I’ve been recording for a long time, but I never had a chance to properly use this kind of mic. Continue reading My Ribbon Microphone Shoot Out