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Posts Tagged ‘camera’

Voltaic Software for HD USB Video Cam

January 17th, 2010 No comments

At the end of 2008, I purchased a Blu-Ray Hitachi video camera with a built in mini DVD burner. I thought this was a wonderful technology because, not only did it have the 30 GB hard drive, but if you ran out of space or wanted to create a back-up file, the rewritable DVD was at your service. The image was taken from the Hitachi site and my camera is the shiny silver one on the right.

I immediately ran into problems because the compression system used on the camera creates m2ts files, a file type that could only be opened and edited with the very basic software from Pixela that came with the camera.

This software had few conversion options, no titling and basic edit functions with no transitions. The editing features in the camera were just as as good. Even home movies should look better than this!

When I went to Banff, I used the music dept’s Sony and Pauline and Ione’s Canon HD cameras because they store information in mts format. The mts format is readable by Final Cut Pro and can be converted into useable 1080p HD video with no loss of quality.

Despite the best efforts of the video experts at Banff, my camera was useless because the files could not be converted into an editable format such as AVI or Quicktime mov.

In September of 2009, almost a year later, I decided to try to use my video camera again. I wondered if some kind of conversion software had been developed. There had been some advances in that Windows movie player would now play the uncompressed m2ts files, but it would not convert them to wmv. VLC media player would convert in Ubuntu, but only to SD. There were several other conversion software brands available on the internet, but they all either converted to SD, produced artifacts or other visual problems or had no sound.

Enter Shedworx Voltaic conversion software!

This software works to convert my m2ts files to editable formats with a number of options of output. I just upgraded to version 2 and there are even more conversion options that re-compress for iPhone and other video applications as well as for editing in professional software.  It also includes an editor and will automatically upload edited movies to your You Tube account.

I have not tried all the new features, but the conversion is rock solid and I have been producing Blu-Ray quality films on the Apple Macintosh version. I understand the newest version of Final Cut will convert m2ts files now, but for those of us on a budget, the $39.99 USD price tag for Voltaic is a lot more economical than an upgrade of FCP for $299 USD.

Another problem with upgrading is the new FCP will only run on the intel chip and requires a newer operating system. Voltaic is working great on the Power PC quad core G5 with 10.4.11 Tiger.  It is really expensive to keep up with the latest and greatest Apple offerings, so Shedworx gives the indie film maker a chance to produce in Blu-Ray without having to recycle a wonderful, working computer.

Thank you Shedworx, for providing me with a free upgrade to 2.0 because I bought my copy of the software late in 2009! This is a very generous program for a software company and I am happily using my new update today.

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Photography Made Clearer

March 3rd, 2009 No comments

Using the CanonS2 is very different from the CanonA80 as the greater number of pixels and better zoom lens mean I have a better chance of taking a good photo. The feel of the camera is another factor and the fact that I look through the viewfinder instead of the flip out screen. I know my daughter, who takes really good photos, would argue about the screen, but for me steadiness is an issue and it helps if I have the camera closer to me. I am researching tripods, so the situation will change when I am not holding the camera, then it will help to avoid touching the camera by using a timer or remote. I also learned this from my daughter, who confided in me that she took my favourite photo of herself by putting the camera on a handy rock and using the timer.

I know that most of these ideas will seem obvious to most people who have knowledge of photography, but for a person who has spent their life in music and tapping on computers, this is an interesting new study.

My tripod research revealed the true enemy of clear, sharp photos is camera movement, even small vibrations can blur the capture. This can be compare to a pervasive hum or quick chair creak in the recording studio. Stillness of the motionless camera is the recording studio silence of photography.

Vibration must be controlled in music and audio recording too. From a physics perspective all instruments, including the voice, create sound using resonance caused by controlled vibration. As a recording engineer who works with the modern technique of sitting in the studio room instead of being isolated in a control booth, I have learned to control every sound I make. When recording, I breathe noiselessly and do not move unless absolutely required. Yoga has helped me control involuntary sounds made by digestion and to slow my heartbeat. Studio microphones will pick up a heartbeat if you are excited and allow your heart to pound, so even if you love the music, you must remain calm. Read more…

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Categories: Video and Photography

Camera Research – Two Streams

July 27th, 2008 No comments

Camera research has taken a lot of my time lately as I am finalizing my options. At this point it seems like a good idea to have two recording systems on the bike. This will be an expensive option, but possibly worth it. A lower resolution, “always on” system that will record every time I ride the motorcycle and a removable high resolution camera that I will control while riding. My previous research can be found here, and much of this page will refer back to systems I have already considered, when adding new information.

Low Resolution Camera

The low-resolution camera and recording system can be integrated into the motorcycle electrical grid, so it can operate as any electrical accessory, in the background. The image is highly compressed, so not as much memory is required to store hours of video. The downside of this is that the video will not be high enough quality to fill a large screen, but the benefit is that I won’t miss some great moment because I didn’t have the camera turned on. I do intend to artistically re-purpose this footage, not just present a travel diary; so split screens and vignettes can integrate lower resolution material, particularly if I catch something interesting.

Equipment Sources

The On-Bike TV site is now OnBoard TV and they carry the Bullet DVR recorder and the ubiquitous 560 line Sony camera. The camera has been improved since December and now has interchangeable lenses. HelmetCamera.com has a similar package and a Canadian company, Micro Video Products has equipped other motorcyclists.

The proven advantages of these systems are many, as they can be wired directly into the bike’s electrical system, the equipment is very small and easy to install and the flash memory is inexpensive and commonly available. It can be mounted on the motorcycle, more or less permanently, so that it is a very easy task to record constantly. The disadvantages are in the video quality and the difficulties I have had in editing compressed file formats. I find .avi to be the most widely accepted by editors and MEPG4 to be difficult to edit without converting the file. As soon as the file is converted, there is usually a degradation in quality. I will have to now look at available editing tools to see if editing technology has caught up with MPEG4 as this is an essential factor in choosing a system.

High Resolution Camera

The high-resolution camera is requiring a lot of research. There are a lot of options on the horizon right now and the introduction of High Definition (HD) video as a viable, affordable option has changed the “pro-sumer” marketplace. There are many independent video producers who are driving the demand for broadcast quality recording and with recent advances in technology, some are achieving big screen release with low budget gear.

My research last year pointed me towards cameras that had 3 charge-coupled devices (CCD) in Standard Definition (SD) cameras as having the best quality recording, and three CCD cameras still do capture the best quality colour because they use a different sensor chip for each colour — red, green and blue (RGB). Reds in particular are hard to capture and true black is always elusive, although PAL format is supposed to be better than NTSC. PAL format is mainly used in Europe and NTSC in North America and the formats are not interchangeable, although they can be converted.
Now High Definition (HD) cameras have become more available, the 3 CCD models are very expensive, packed with professional features and quite large in size. It has been argued that HD with a single, larger CCD chip recording more lines of resolution can offer comparable results to an SD with three smaller size chips, even though the colour might be a little more washed out. There are a lot of “D”‘s for definition in this alphabet soup because it is the operative word in video quality. Read more…

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Motorcycle Camera Mount Research

December 2nd, 2007 No comments

There are many people recording video from moving motorcycles, so I decided to post a few links to show some of the mounting technologies that I might use to attach a video camera to the Yamaha FJ motorcycle.

This is a Suzuki motorcycle, but my Yamaha has the same type of gas tank fill cap. I don’t have a grab bar on the back similar to where the second camera is mounted.

Videos made by pashnit.com to promote their group tours in the U.S. are edited well and show the group riding safely. Jones Helmet camera system has made videos of racing motorcycles, sailboats and even hot air balloons. Youtube and other video sites feature countless video clips taken with helmet cams and other video capture devices, but the quality is extremely uneven. I have not yet found anyone who is streaming directly from a motorcycle except for GP and other races that feed to a nearby truck, not directly on to the internet.

European motorcycle riders also have posted video of rides in the Alps, but they are not for the safety oriented. They are definitely in the sport bike category, with tips on penalties for speeding around the world. Don’t speed in Norway or you will loose your license! Fortunately, Canada is listed as one of the most reasonable on this topic, however, my license is completely clean and I intend to keep it that way. I may tour though Montana on my way home to make some “need for speed” video footage as there are no speed limits outside of certain zones there. That is definitely outside the scope of this tour.

These video examples give you an idea of the good quality of video production that can be obtained using consumer grade video equipment. One of the major writers of the pashnit site is a former Yamaha FJ 1200 owner who claims to have ridden over 30,000 miles on the bike before he sold it.

Here is the most economical mount yet …. the $5. camera mount. The sound on his video is mostly wind noise as he has no windshield. Great idea though. Unfortunately, my FJ has a very different system for the handlebars. Another problem is my windshield is so opaque that I don’t think I should take any video through it. That brings me to the idea of mounting a camera on my helmet.  Read more…

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