The Little Camera That Could

go pro

Built for Adventure

While cameras are great at capturing a story for film and showcasing someone’s vision, they are not usually known for their durability and tend to be pretty fragile machines. It’s tough to take them under water, on a bike or car, or just any place where you’d be moving a lot and need something light and compact to get extreme footage. That was until the founding of GoPro and the introduction of their line of small, compact and reasonably-priced cameras that allow movie makers to go places they have never gone before. Over the last decade the GoPro has become the number one selling camera in the world, adored by both athletes as well documentary filmmakers for its versatility.

 GoPro Origins

The company’s founder, Nick Woodman, first got the idea when he was enjoying his passion for surfing 10 years ago. He wanted to capture video of himself and his friends on the waves but couldn’t with any current camera. So he built a limited-use wrist-mount camera and the tech became a hit with the surfing crowd. It wasn’t until he was enjoying his other hobby, racing cars, that he strapped on a GoPro to the roll bar of his car and realized the vast consumer appeal. Since then, the company has been turning out models year after year with the latest being the GoPro HD Hero3: Black Edition,  1080P video and still camera that can be controlled via a wi-fi remote.

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The Value of Fan Feedback

Not surprisingly the product has a loyal following, with users often posting videos and multi-media of their latest exploits on the company’s website and Facebook page. They want to show off what they capture with their cameras, and it is that word-of-mouth that makes these exciting and unique video clips popular. The company pays close attention to see how the average customer is using its  product and uses that as a way to anticipate what people would want. While the GoPros may not have the high resolution that many professional cameras do, they more than make up for it in other ways, such as cost.

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Famous For Their Versatility

GoPros are relatively cheap, with the most expensive model costing a very moderate $400. This helps open up the camera to film hobbyists and weekend movie makers who want to dabble in the video realm but can’t really fully invest themselves in it. This is most definitely a good thing, because fresh ideas, and video that may not have been possible before, are popping up. We can, however, say from personal experience that many people in the professional video production community have made GoPros part of their arsenal. Companies have strapped them to the outside of cars, attached them to balloons and flying drones and put them on surf boards. For more information on GoPros, check out this recent article on Mashable http://mashable.com/2013/03/05/gopro-camera/.

 

 




Silverdocs No More

AFI Docs

A New Partner

Silverdocs, the premiere documentary festival in the Washington DC area, as well as a huge boon to the Silver Spring area, is getting some major changes. Its new iteration, which was announced just last week, will be known as AFI Docs Film Festival and will be backed by car manufacturer Audi instead of Discovery Communications. The new festival, running from June 19–23, will have an expanded presence as well as panels with greater focus on politics and other D.C.-centric issues. The festival will no longer take place solely in its home base of Silver Spring but will be presenting films at DC venues such as the Newseum, The National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History.

Changing Sponsors

The change is a consequence of the festival’s rising prominence on the national documentary circuit, as well as Discovery Communication’s change in corporate focus that has seen it move away from documentary storytelling, according to festival director Sky Sitney. Sitney sees the change in sponsors as positive and thinks it will help the festival to grow and gain an even more vibrant topical focus as it moves further into the heart of DC. She also said that, rather of thinking of it as scattered, instead think of it as incorporating two compact campuses.

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The festival was started in 2003 as a joint venture between Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute. It should be noted that both of these organizations were major catalysts in the rejuvenation of the Silver Spring Area.

The Silver Spring Community Reacts

While it’s being stressed that the festival will still have important events and screenings in Silver Spring with no plans to leave it behind, the reaction locally has been mixed. Many locals as well as those in the production and documentary community feel that something is being lost with the expansion and name change. For years, the fact that the festival took place entirely in this one area has made it an important part of the community. The festival, which has grown to be the pride of Silver Spring, helps shine the spotlight on independent filmmakers and the important stories they have to tell. Smaller companies such as Word Wizards Inc., which thrives on transcription footage and the talking heads footage that are the meat of most documentaries, think it important these festivals go on, even if they’re in new forms.




TIVA’s Tapeless Workflow Panel

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Recently TIVA, the television, internet and video association, held an incredibly informative panel at Henninger Media Services that was all about tapeless workflow and the pros/cons of going into the tapeless world. Henninger moderated the event and supplied the speakers for panelists Sam Crawford and Sue O’Hora. The areas covered included the three main stages of production and some of the best ways to handle footage and data in a tapeless, and most importantly safe manner.

Pre-Production and Production Stages

As Sue pointed out,  one of the most important decisions to make during pre-production is how you are going to do the transfer after you’re done shooting and what type of environment you’ll be in. It’s always a good idea to equip you or your camera people with two drives and have them download the data to both so there is a safety net in case something happens to one of the drives. Some of the options include a next box which is known for its rugged durability, can handle multiple types of cards, shows previews and verification, and you can data dump after the shoot. Another option is a Mac program called ShotPut Pro that costs $99 and is capable of handling multiple codecs as well as downloading and verifying footage.

Post-Production and Media Formats

Sam Crawford then took over the conversation and discussed how he and Henninger handle things in the post-production area. One of the things he stressed was to make sure all your data is on a solid state system, not some thing like DVDs that need to be spinned up. Saving footage in solid state systems means they’re less likely to get destroyed and you’ll be able to archive in case you need that footage for later use. He also stressed that some of the key things to think about in the post production phase are media formats, editing software options, color correction, audio mix, final finishing and then the very last step, which is delivery.

What Editing System Will You be Using?

Obviously you need to be considerate of what media type you’re using, since the people you’re sending it to need to know in advance so they have something set up to handle it and can be prepared to deal with it. The next best thing is to be mindful of what type of NLE  (Non Linear Editing) system on which the footage will be edited. Since the client usually knows this information in advance, you should be able to prep the footage to best work with whatever editing system will be used in post production. Nothing is more frustrating than getting an angry call or email from a client saying what you sent them is completely incompatible with his or her systems.

Making Sure The Product is Delivered

The final, but most important, step is delivery and how you plan on getting the footage or finished product to your client. One of the most secure is to have a FTP or file transfer point that’s housed in a secure database. Word Wizards Inc. has had one for years and we can happily say it works very well and we’ve had very few issues with it. Since we get so many files for transcription, this is the easiest way to have them all in one central place. While we do sometimes get DVDs via delivery, that can be a little more worrisome since important footage is kind of just floating out there. Some other options include the popular Cloud-based dropbox and a more traditional file conveyance site, weTransfer.