December 2005 Archives

Link: A Question of Balance

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Imagine being a photojournalist in Iraq. Would you want to carry a bag full of photography gear on your shoulder and a heavy duty SLR on your neck while covering a war zone? Alex Majoli..a distinguished photojournalist with assignments in war torn Africa and Middle East prefers digital point-and-shoot cameras. For the complete story on this rather wise journalist see:


This is a rather random link, but there's an excellent article on how to make a 50/20 watt bike headlight using parts at your local Home Depot. Certainly something of interest to everyone who commutes as well as to videographers who might be able to steal some ideas from this.

Harvard University’s Program on U.S.-Japan Relations offers postdoctoral fellowships for social scientists in a broad range of fields, including anthropology, economics, education, history, law, political science, public health, public policy, and sociology. Projects that focus on Japan or Japan’s international role from a comparative, historical, or global perspective are welcome. A knowledge of the Japanese language is not required. Awards are for the academic year and provide $40,000 over 10 months. The application deadline is 1 March 2006.

Candidates must hold a doctoral degree by 1 August 2006. Application forms are available at, or by contacting: Program on U.S.-Japan Relations/61 Kirkland Street/Cambridge, MA 02138-2030 (e-mail:

NOTES: International Candidates Will Be Considered. Awards are for the academic year Awards are for the academic year and provide $40,000 over 10 months.

Leica Fotographie International (LFI) has M7 Digital prototype photographs on their website, along with an article. The copyright gives credit as a "montage" so its veracity is unknown. Not much new information is added to what we already know: 1.39x crop factor, replacement of the traditional cloth shutter, etc. (Via the Leica User Group)

Hasselblad film cameras (the 200 and 500 lines) are officially dead as production has ended for both the series. Some dealers may continue to sell out of dead stock. It's a sad day for a wonderful series of cameras. Hassie continues to sell its digital series of cameras, made by Fuji.

Zeiss is running out of film camera lines for its lenses, with Kyocera/Contax and Hasselblad kicking the dust. Perhaps this is why they started the Zeiss Ikon series with Cosina. Mehyar sends a link to a store in Germany (SHPhoto) which has some of the lowest EU prices for the Zeiss Ikon that I've seen.

I am in utter awe of this ethnographic documentary short (8 min) titled Sushi: The Japanese Tradition." It's a must see for all who wish to consider themselves specialists in Japanese culture and an inspiration to me. If anyone knows anything about the producers of this fine piece of work, please let me know.

I was going to pick up the Canon VL-3 tiny 3-watt video light for use as a catch light on my XL-H1. Before I went to Hokkaido, I tried it out at the Bic Camera store in Shinjuku but it wasn't compatible, the light didn't turn on irrespective of the various settings. The VL-3 came recommended by XL-2 users, but it looks like Canon yanked support for the XL-H1?

Pete's ScratchPad has a great geeky review of the Canon XL-H1, testing it against motion artifacting as well as the SD lenses (older 20X and 3X). He kindly provides some MPEGs as well as frame grabs and lens tests.

HDForIndies has a very negative review of a screening of some XL-H1 footage by Canon. Apparently there were some problems with the 24F demo that Canon is providing so it may not be representative.

My own complaint? The Canon XL-H1 uses center-weighted metering for motion video. It has a tendency to overexpose and given the sensor's tendency to bloom, this is a Bad Thing. I found myself having to dial back the aperture during the conference yesterday. Also, the little $1600 Sony has a live histogram, the $9000 Canon doesn't?

John Jackman gives an extensive user-based review of the Sony HVR-Z1U (a HDV camcorder) in action. He shot a short historical drama in the Sony's 1080-50i and then converted to 24 fps for final output to film. The review has extensive notes about the ergonomics and performance of the Z1 and a critique of the final output by professional DPs. Interestingly, he didn't choose to use the Z1's 24F mode due to the image degradation and artifacting that Adam Wilt has written about, instead using the PAL 50i and converting to 24P.

At the AAA meetings, I participated in the mentoring workshop organized by the National Association of Student Anthropologists (NASA). It was a good opportunity to see what younger scholars were doing and answer some of their questions about jobs, careers, graduate school, etc.

A graduate student who was in the process of finishing her dissertation asked me whether it was better to take a 1 or 2 year post-doctoral research position or to accept a position at a (how can we delicately phrase it...) teaching college with a heavy course load.

I'm in Hachinohe, Aomori right now, blogging from my hotel room. Business hotels in Japan have become quite affordable. "Super Hotel Hachinohe" is Y4980 a night, which includes high-speed internet, private bath/toilet, TV, tiny fridge, and all importantly, a little hot water pot for making tea. Breakfast is included as well. If you're travelling in Japan, definitely check for Super Hotels. The only problem is that some (like the one in Hachinohe) aren't located in front of the train station.

I'm off in an hour or so to Urakawa, Hokkaido. I'm visiting the Bethel House community, which is made up of people with psychiatric disabilities. They run their own company which sells local products (seaweed, crafts, etc.) as well as themselves. They have a series of books and videotapes and often go on lectures to talk about Bethel House. I'll be staying there about a week to shoot some video on their community structure.

I'm off to Japan for a three week fieldtrip: one week in Tokyo, one in Hokkaido (the northern island), and one in Osaka. I'm cramming a lot in a very short amount of time. If you were wondering about the flurry of equipment posts, it's because I've been thinking out loud what equipment to get and to bring with me. This is what my fieldkit looks like:

Well, I ran some tests today right before my trip and it turns out that Final Cut Express HD (v3.01) isn't compatible with the 24F mode on the new Canon XL-H1 HDV camcorder. This is a bit of a disappointment since I was looking forward to doing some editing in the field. As one of the commenters below notes, this is a known non-feature - it's clearly stated on Apple's comparison chart between iMovie, FCX, and FCP5.

The good (?) news is that Final Cut Express does work with the 30F mode (and of course the 60i mode). I'm curious to see what would happen if I get the PAL upgrade in Japan, which would give me selectable 50i and whether those would work. If I can get 50i and it works with Final Cut Express HD, I might just tape everything in 50i since it's trivial to telecine to film.

Or, I could assume everyone will be digital soon enough and not worry about ever going to film. Thoughts? has a very extensive review of the JVC GY-H100 camcorder. Looks quite good (true 720p / 24P; interchangeable lenses; XLR inputs) and priced reasonably at $6300. Is this a rival to the Canon XL-H1? Unfortunately, initial reports indicate severe chromatic aberration using the standard lens. I hope that JVC can fix this in production units since this is a deal-killer for many. A lesser rival is the still-vaporware Panasonic AG-HVX200. Not much is known, but HDforIndies has an excellent FAQ tidbits summary.

Link: 39 pounds of love

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HBO/Cinemax has produced a wonderful documentary of Ami Ankilewitz, who was born with the rare disease SMA/2. His mother was told he would only live to the age of 6 - she told the doctor that he was not G-d and that he could not say how long her child would have to live. Now, 34 and weighing only 39 pounds (and living and working in Israel as a CG animator), the film takes us on Ami's journey back to the United States to find his brother and the doctor who originally (mis)diagnosed him. Link added 2005.12.20.

On Friday, UPS had a large box for me - the Canon XL-H1 that I have had on back-order from B&H for the past month finally arrived! It's arriving just on the nick of time, I'm leaving Tuesday for a 3-week field trip to Japan. I was just about to cancel with B&H when they told me that they had shipped. I don't usually like taking untested equipment to the field, so I'm bringing along my Sony HDR-HC1 as a backup and second camera.

Judging from the serial number, I think I have one of the first 100 units in the United States. Here are some of my notes after using the camera for the last 24 hours. Feel free to post questions and I'll try to respond as best that I can (it may be delayed since I'll be in the field starting from Tuesday).

Read for further comments on the camera and its use.

Mark Nelson reviews the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 compact flash field recorder. I've covered this unit previously -- the killer for me is the proprietary, non-replaceable internal lithium-ion battery. If they had it set so that it took AAs, I'd buy it in a second.
Self-proclaimed "video geek" Adam Wilt has an excellent resource that explains everything you wanted to know about DV and HDV formats (including DVCam and DVCPro). Meanwhile, also check out the HDV Cafe.

I forgot how I got to this site, but has very useful cautions about buying used motion film cameras online (ebay, etc.) including things to watch out for. Read this before you plunk down your cash for a used Arri or Bolex!

I also came across this link to essays on film by Richard Leacock, also entirely random.

Careers: Thank you notes

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Many anthropologists on the job market interviewed at the AAA meetings last week. This is a reminder to all that you should write thank you notes to the people you talked to. Tuesday's Wall Street Journal (2005.12.6 page B10) had some tips that you can borrow:

Wikipedia has an interesting entry on the Dogme 95 filmmaking movement which involves a very direct style of shooting. Documentary and ethnographic films approach this style closely although even we break the conventions with dubbed sound and music. Something to mull over.

The first week of being a new faculty member, everyone will invite you out for coffee or lunch. It's quite nice to feel so welcome. Your first year is the honeymoon period when the rest of the faculty wants to see who their new bride is. You'll want to be humble, friendly, and happy to be part of the new family.

Equipment: Sony HDR-HC1

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HDRHC1.jpgIn preparation for my winter field trip to Japan, I bought the Sony HDR-HC1. I wasn't sure if the Canon XL-H1 would arrive in time and the Sony is small and inexpensive enough to serve as a good second unit. From what B&H told me, it actually looks like the XL-H1 is arriving this week, so I'll have two units which will be fantastic. I'll be able to set the Sony up on a tripod to capture wides and some audio channels, and use the XL-H1 as the roving camera. Or vice-versa.

On the DV-L, one person had some questions about the Sony. Here is my response as well as some additional thoughts about it:

I've just come back from a very enjoyable time at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C. I had to attend three national committees (Commission on Minority Issues in Anthropology; Long Range Planning; and, Committtee on Ethics) as well as the SOLGA Board Meeting and a Mentoring Workshop, so I didn't get to as many panels as I would have liked to, but I'd still like to say that I found MuseumFreak's ethnography of blogging panel very interesting.

ArsTechnica has an excellent in-depth review of Apple's new Aperture program for digital photographers. It looks like it's definitely a version 1.0 program, hopefully Apple can resolve all of the issues for the 1.1 release.
DV cameras have tiny sensors with infinite depth of field (or so it seems). This is great for Aunt Harriet's tea party, but not so good for your next indie flick. What to do? has a great index to two articles that talk about how to hack for greater DOF, including using a projecting a virtual image onto the platter of a CD.
Ken Rockwell has a wonderful article about the joys of large-format photography, particularly his 4x5 format field camera. There's no single-sensor digital camera that can yet beat a sheet of 4x5 Provia 100 or T-Max 100 (mmmm... T-Max).

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