March 2007 Archives

What The Duck (by Aaron Johnson) is my favorite online web comic. Today's strip expresses my feeling about equipment perfectly!

WTD174.gif

I recently received an e-mail from Professor Torneby of the University of Oslo asking me to advertise one of their summer courses in visual anthropology:

Dear Karen Nakamura,

I would be very thankful if you provided information about this PhD courses to take place in Norway this coming summer, on your blog:


Course title: Contemporary Art and Anthropology:
Challenges of Theory and Practice
Lecturer: Associate Professor Arnd Schneider,
Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo
Main disciplines: Anthropology, Fine Arts, Media Studies
Secondary disciplines: Art History/Criticism, Cultural Studies
Dates: 30. July - 3. August 2007
Location, University of Oslo, Norway
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants
Detailed information and online application:
http://www.sv.uio.no/oss/index.html

Course objectives:
This course will look at recent border crossings between art and anthropology, and explore the epistemological challenges arising from it. Following the so-called ‘ethnographic turn’, contemporary artists have adopted an ‘anthropological’ gaze, including methodologies, such as fieldwork, in their appropriation of other cultures. Anthropologists, on the other hand, in the wake of the ‘writing culture’ critique of the 1980s, are starting to explore new forms of visual research and representation beyond written texts.

This course will explore the potential for future collaborations between art and anthropology. The curriculum will be based on an examination of key texts, and review of a number of paradigmatic artists and issues (such as, fieldwork/ site-specific ethnography, appropriation, research in and representation of different sensual domains/’synaesthesia’).

In its workshops and assessment options the course encourages presentation and submission of practice-based visual work.

The course format is lectures and workshops, in which students are encouraged to present their work in progress.

The course is interdisciplinary and directed at doctoral students and researchers in the social sciences, humanities, and in the visual arts (including anthropology/visual anthropology, sociology, art criticism, art history, fine arts, film practice and studies, design, media practice and cultural studies).
Best regards,

Tron Harald Torneby
The Faculty of Social Sciences
The University of Oslo
P.O.Box 1084 Blindern
NO-0317 Oslo
Norway
************************************
Oslo Summer School in Comparative
Social Sciences Studies 2007
http://www.sv.uio.no/oss/index.html
************************************

Sounds great!

I was asked the other day by a graduate student about how to get published by a university press. I thought the easiest thing to do was to post the letter that I wrote to Cornell University Press back in 2003 proposing the book that eventually became Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity.


November 14, 2003

Roger Haydon
Senior Editor
Cornell University Press
Sage House
512 East State Street
Ithaca NY 14850

Dear Mr. Haydon:

I enjoyed meeting you earlier this year at the Asian Studies conference. I regret that we did not have the opportunity to talk further in depth about the manuscript that I am currently working on and apologize for the delay in sending you the proposal. Cornell University Press has a reputation for cutting edge work in Asian Studies that blends political science, ethnography and history. I am excited by the opportunity of working with you on this project.

That’s Sign Fascism!: The Conflict Over Deaf Identity and Sign Language in Contemporary Japan is the story of the development of deaf communities, minority identities, and political movements. It is designed to be able to be read in introductory Japanese culture and history, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Political Science, Sociology, Deaf Studies, and Disability Studies, courses as well as focused topic courses in those areas.

In my book, I trace the history and development of deaf identity from the turn of the 19th century, linking deaf identity with early Showa and post-War modernization and industrialization discourses. I embed oral histories (well... in reality they were signed histories) from deaf women in the different generational cohorts to illustrate how larger social and political forces have shaped individual life stories.

The title refers to a comment made by one of the leaders within the somewhat assimilationist (albeit communist-inflected) Japanese Federation of the Deaf. She was incensed by the new generation of deaf activists who were adopting an American-style, radical, separationist deaf identity. The youth activists were claiming that they were the true bearers of a “pure JSL” (Japanese Sign Language) and attempting to control the lexicon and grammar through various means. The book ends by exploring how the language wars around Japanese signing are evidence of changing generational attitudes towards disability, identity, and culture in Japan.

Written for advanced undergraduates and interested laypeople, this ethnography appeals to several readerships. Deafness has characteristics of both ethnic minority as well as disability status. Those interested in minority groups in Japan will be attracted to my explicit analysis and comparison of the deaf against other Japanese minority groups (including the Burakumin and zainichi Koreans). As you may know, several volumes on minorities in Japan have come out in the past several years, indicating that this is increasingly an area of scholarly interest. Sonia Ryang’s recent edited volume on Koreans in Japan, the slate of books on Brazilian Nikkeijin, and the interest in Okinawan studies all point to minority studies as an area of growth in Japan Studies and Asian Studies.

My book also contributes to the growing field of Deafness and Disability Studies. While there are numerous texts on deaf communities in Western contexts, there are not many books that deal with deafness or disability cross-culturally. My co-edited volume Many Ways to be Deaf (Gallaudet University Press) released this summer has already sold 300 units in the first month, according to my most recent royalty statement. This is as a $70 344-page hardcover volume with little advertising. I have no doubt that a paperback monograph on deafness in Japan will have much broader appeal in deaf and disability studies, similar to Nora Groce’s (1988) classic Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language (Harvard U Press), which is ranked 78,000th in Amazon.com and which has gone back to print several times. In terms of CUP publications, I would situate my text between Ellis Krauss’ Broadcasting Politics in Japan and Joshua Roth’s Brokered Homeland.

I’m enclosing a table of contents and the first two chapters for your consideration. Please also find enclosed a reprint of my Social Sciences Japan Journal article, which was awarded the 2003 ISS/Oxford University Press Award for Modern Japanese Studies and is based on a chapter of this book.

I would like to sign a contract at your earliest convenience with the manuscript to be submitted by May 2004. As I will be working on a new project by August 2004 funded through the Abe Fellowship, I have considerable incentive to finish this project by the end of next summer.

Sincerely,
Karen Nakamura
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
Macalester College

Zoom-h2.jpgFollowing on the heels of the Zoom H4 (which apart from not having a time/date stamp would be perfect for me), Samson has announced the Zoom H2 at NAMM 2007. Now this looks perfect except for the lack of XLR inputs! But it does have a time/date stamp. The specs are from the Zoom website:

  • One point stereo microphone design
  • Realize Mid/Side (MS) Stereo technique by using 3 mic capsules configuration and digital signal processing
  • Switchable pickup angle between left and right channel, choose 90° for single voice or instrument, or 120° for many voices and instruments, arranged across the stage
  • Also Switchable cardioid pattern as front, rear and omni direction
  • Finally record 360° sound as 2ch data or 4ch data simultaneously
  • Built-in USB interface with audio interface function, usable as a USB mic
  • WAV 96kHz/48kHz/44.1kHz and MP3 up to 320kbps VBR data format
  • EXT MIC IN can connect general plug-in-power stereo mic (new to the H4)
  • Time stamp function (new to the H4)

You can faintly see the SD logo on the prototype photo listed, so I'm assuming it's a SD-based device.

The best thing was the price: $199!!!!!!! It should come out in several months, not a moment too soon in my opinion.

Hi Karen,

My name is Loren and I'm a media grad student and documentary filmmaker in Buffalo, NY who stumbled across your blog some time ago and have been following it for a while now. I have some technical questions about the film you just finished since I know you're working in the HDV format and am currently working on a full length doc in HDV as well.

What I'm wondering, assuming your shooting ratio for the project was relatively high, is what kind of workflow you used to deal with all the material? Could you maybe do a post describing it for your blog?

Anything from whether you used native HDV or an intermediate codec for editing, software / hardware issues you ran into that were frustrating, and hd delivery format for festivals (if you're using one) to whether you captured / logged your tapes at night during the time you were shooting or left the capturing / logging process entirely until after you had completed filming.

Your blog gives a lot of insight into the tools that you use and I'd love to hear more details about both your experience shooting ethnographic documentary in HDV and your overall production process.

-Loren

My Workflow

In the field, I usually operate as a one-person crew. If I'm lucky, my partner can help me with a second camera and do interviews, but usually I am by myself. Sound is important to me, so I try to use wireless lav mics or use dual-system sound with a digital audio recorder. I shoot everything to HDV and label each cassette with the date, sequence number, and topic, and camera name. For example: 20051221b-BETHEL – Canon is the second tape I shot on December 21st, 2005 at the Bethel Community using my Canon XL-H1.

DVD Jacket.jpg

I write daily fieldnotes and I note the tape numbers in my fieldnotes where possible. Otherwise, I just correlate them later by date and time. I don't otherwise have time to log and review tapes in the field. I also carry a very minimal fieldkit which doesn't include a preview monitor (except the one built-into the camera). This has led to some problems -- noticeably that I have fluorescent flickering in some sequences of Bethel because Hokkaido uses a different power frequency than western Japan. This was not noticed until I went into post.

After the first fieldwork period, I went through the tapes that I knew had core material and I made a rough cut with them in SD mode (standard def using the built-in downconverter on the XL-H1). I sequenced a few shots together in iMovie to get a sense of what the film could be about. This gave me a sense of what I was missing (hospital life, community activities, etc.). When I went back to the field again, I shot those additional sequences.

Back home, I organized and logged all of the tapes. I had about 40 hours of tape for the two shoots in Hokkaido. Since the film is about 60 minutes long, that's a 40:1 shooting ratio. Pretty high, but I'm not very skilled. I captured and logged everything into Final Cut Pro. With each hour of HDV about 8 gigabytes, the 40 hours fit fairly well onto a 500 gibabyte hard drive that I dedicated to this project. Since i was using Final Cut Pro HDV, I stayed with the HDV codec rather than converting to a HD or intermediate codec that would take up much more space on the hard drive. The trade-off was some additional processing time, but the Quad-Core Mac Pro made that less important than it could've been.

Logging all the tape was a major pain and a major project. My partner Hisako helped here too. :-)

From there, we went through the tape logs and highlighted what we thought were key sequences. I storyboarded some of them on the corkboard in my office. And then I made some rough sequences and patched them together.

Right now, I'm outputting and distributing the various rough cuts to standard-def DVDs. I am editing in HDV and only downconverting at the final moment in Compressor. The resolution of the standard def DVDs that I'm burning isn't quite as high as I'd like -- I understand that there is some magic involved in getting Compressor to downconvert HDV into SD properly. In any case, I'm excited that the latest version of Compressor handles burning HD formats to DVD-Rs for playback on HD-DVD drives, so as soon as the prices drop on those, I'll implement that into my output formats.

One of the people on DV-L posted a question about what to do when shooting in the very cold. These are my notes based on my experience in Minnesota and Hokkaido, Japan:


There are two issues involved: cold temperature and condensation. Cameras can handle the cold fairly well as long as they get sufficient battery power, what they can't handle is condensation which will get on the lens, muck up the tape heads, film, or media.

In Minnesota, I found that acclimating the camera to the external temperature was better than trying to keep it warm. If I stuck the camera inside my jacket, it would get condensation from the moisture near my body.

As long as you have the camera on and running, the internal electronics will keep it warm. I'd use an extra large size battery because the capacity will go down when it's cold. Also, keep the spare battery near your body where it's warm -- the high humidity won't bother it as much as the camera lens.

Before you go inside after being outside for while, stick your camera in a ziplock bag or even a plain plastic bag. Tie it shut. And then bring the camera in. That will prevent condensation from building on the camera because of the temperature differential.

If you're really worried, you can get an underwater case for your camera and use that -- it'll protect against bumps, shocks, and humidity changes. But remember to always acclimate the camera to the current temperature before opening the case -- or you'll be back to square one!


Karen


There's a very nice review of the new Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 ballhead on the-digital-picture.com:

For many years, the Arca-Swiss B1 Ballhead was the standard by which all other ballheads were judged. The Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 Ballhead replaces this model and delivers the same performance in a smaller size and at a significantly lower price. There is not much to dislike about this change.

The reviewer compares it against the old standard, the Arca-Swiss B1 (which I have and love and review here on my website) as well as the Really Right Stuff BH-55.

Read more....

The long-awaited 6x wide-angle high-def lens arrived for my XL-H1. The new Canon HD Video Lens 6x XL 3.4-20.4mm L has a 35mm equivalent perspective of 24.5 to 147mm, making it ideal for indoor videography, especially in cramped Japanese houses! There's a manual iris control ring, although the focus and zoom are still servo controlled.

First impressions: HOLY SMOKE THIS IS A BIG SUCKER. It's considerably larger and heavier than the standard 20x lens. The lens hood itself is humongous, almost a matte box in itself. It also makes the XL-H1 even more front-heavy than it currently is, so you'll need some sort of brace unless you have forearms of steel. Also, I didn't notice until it arrived but the 6x zoom does not have Image Stabilization in it. You don't really need it for wide angle work, but it would've been nice on the longer end.

The XL-H1 needs to be flashed up to version 1.0.4.0 in order to support the new iris ring (I was very confused at first since I ignored the enclosed SD card in my haste to play with the lens). The flash card is provided and after you've flashed it, you have a nice 16mb card to store your presets. I haven't learned if there are any other new features in the 1.0.4.0 software except the iris support.

The price for the 6x wide is set at MSRP $3000 and most retailers have it at $2700, but I bought it through the Canon educational program at about $2300.

Once I have some test footage shot, I'll post them.

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