Recently in Video Category

If you have two video cameras running at the same time in the field, syncing the video tracks in FCP can sometimes be a pain. My pal, filmmaker Harjant Gill, turned me onto Plural Eyes - which does this automatically. Cost: $149.

Video: Out of Sight

| | Comments (0)

Yesung Lee sent me this wonderful short animation, titled Out of Sight, made by three students who graduated from the National Taiwan University of Arts.

out of sight from kynight on Vimeo.

Watch it until the end.

My pal Eric sent me this link:

Some links for further cogitation:

I was trying to find a link to the oft-quoted dilemma of TV news crews in disasters -- keep filming the person being swept away by a river, or jump in to save them. But couldn't. Readers?

Reminder – Call for Films – ETHNOCINECA 2012
Deadline: January 15 2012

Dear colleagues and friends,

ETHNOCINECA is a film festival based in Vienna focusing on ethnographic
and documentary films. We would like to invite you to send us your
contribution(s) or to forward our Call for Films to interested filmmakers,
students and scientists.

You can find more information about the submission process in our entry

For further questions please feel free to contact us.

Kind regards,
Nadja Haumberger

I'm pleased to announce that A Japanese Funeral will be awarded the David Plath Media Award at the upcoming American Anthropological Association annual meeting. The prize committee noted:

This short documentary allows viewers to participate in a Japanese funeral following the unexpected death of a 39 year old man in his sleep. While the film shares no information about how the director came to have such open access to the event and family in question, it is an example of an aspect of ethnographic film often left undiscussed - a richness and intimacy that comes from sustained fieldwork preceding the shooting. Not only is the anthropologist there and given access once the death occurs but there is a sense that she has ties to the community that extent far beyond the three day even the film documents. In other words, the film allows one to see rather than stare at a Japanese funeral. The film should also be commended on its brevity because the disciplined editing contributes to the film being an experiential ethnography rather than an expository documentary.

Thank you!

The official website (with downloadable trailers) of my film is here:

The film itself can be purchased on

I updated my desktop a while ago to 10.7 and tried to fire up Final Cut Pro. I was still running a fairly old version of FCP6 since I hadn't found any good reason to upgrade to FCS 3.0 -- and with the new "unimproved" Final Cut Pro X, decided to stay where I was. Final cut pro x But my FCP wouldn't run. Strange. I decided to try to reinstall it, but the installer wouldn't work. A quick search of the internets revealed:
  • FCP6 and 7 will run under Lion but won't install as the installer is based on PowerPC code.
  • Lion doesn't include Rosetta, the PowerPC emulator
  • You can install Rosetta from a 10.6 install disk
So I scrounged around my archives and found a OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard Disk) and in the Extras folder was an installer for Rosetta. Ran that and it installed without complaint. Then went to my FCP Studio 2 disk and ran the installer, and it worked! It's installing away just fine. Step by step means to install FCP 2 on OSX 10.7 Lion:
  • Find OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard disk)
  • Inside the "Optional Installs" folder is an "Optional Installs.mpkg" file. Click on that and select the "Rosetta" installation option
  • Install Rosetta
  • Install FCP 2 (ignoring the warnings)
  • Bask in glory
Phew! I was worried that I would have to shell out more money for the distinctly inferior new Final Cut Pro X -- which wouldn't be able to even read my previous FCP projects!

My students in my Queer Ethnographies course are wild:

EOSHD has a stellar comparison review of the Canon EOS 60D and the Panasonic Lumix GH2:

... Then the surprise hits you just how far ahead in technological and image quality terms the GH2 is. Virtually the only thing better on the 60D for video is the high resolution LCD with fantastic colour reproduction....

Read more... has an interesting post where they suggest that the D7000 licensing agreement says that the AVC codec used in video-recording can only be used for "personal and non-commercial use." Tons of discussion on the post by contributors.

Nikon avc patent licence

I am not a lawyer but it seems that the "personal and non-commercial use" applies only to the second part of the restrictive clause ("decoding") and not to the first part ("encoding"). But if you use the camera to play back part of a clip that you recorded as a professional (i.e., during a for-profit film shoot), then you're in violation of the decoding restriction on playing for-profit material, even if the for-profit encoding was kosher. Right?

Can other people check the fine print / licensing agreements of their digicams or DSLRs to see if there are similar restrictions? What do you think of such end-runs around free use of our equipment?

Darn you Jason Romero.....

Previously, I was content in separating my photography and filmmaking equipment into separate cognitive and physical categories. Still cameras took great photos, but they weren't fit for video work. Video camera took great video, but couldn't take exhibition quality photos. But then Jason had to destabilize that by posing a question about the latest generation of digital cameras.

PanasonicDMC GH2H After much soul searching and time on DPReview and other sites, I've come to the conclusion that there is a 95% solution. It isn't perfect but it's pretty darn close: the Panasonic DMC-GH2H.

It's a micro-four-thirds (MFT) DEVIL (digital electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens) camera that happens to shoot fantastic 1080p video. I already own a MFT camera, the Panasonic DMC-G10 which I'm fairly pleased with -- especially because I can use all of my classic lenses on it with inexpensive adapters.

But what convinced me that the DMC-GH2 was the 95% holy grail was:

  • External microphone in (albeit 2.5mm) with recording level bars and manual audio level controls. No live monitoring via headphones, though.
  • 1080 / 24p recording. AVCHD at 24 Mbps (which is decent, same as HDV) onto SDHC/SDXC cards.
  • No cap on video clip length, unlike the Canon EOS series. While a 10 minute maximum on video clips is fine for documentary / live action work, it doesn't work for ethnographic video where sometimes you want to document an entire ritual without pause, especially if you a filmmaker+anthropologist at the same time and can't operate the camera when taking notes.
  • Flip out LCD monitor with touch screen. This allows touch-to-focus control and obviates much of my concerns about the SLR form-factor for extended video shooting.
  • Seeing the test video clips (below). Wow.

Here are some clips on Youtube shot with the DMC-GH2. Click on the thumbnails to go to the full-size shots, and watch them in HD. Beautiful.


Co-blogger Jason recently queried why I had written off using a DSLR as both my still photo camera and video camcorder in fieldwork. My pat answer up to now has been while there are some strong pros, there are some definite cons:


  1. Beautiful video. The sensors are much larger, much better bokeh, brighter lenses.
  2. Interchangeable lenses.
  3. One less device to carry or forget to bring batteries or memory cards.


  1. Audio: Most DSLRs have really atrocious onboard mics, low digitization rates, and no option for external audio (such as XLR jacks or even plug-in-power). They rarely have adequate mic monitoring (onboard displays or live monitoring via headphones) and usually only offer automatic gain, no manual gain option .
  2. Form factor: The SLR form factor is really designed for one form of eye-level shooting and not for live action.
  3. Autofocus: Some DSLRs cannot autofocus while video recording.
  4. Auto-Aperture: Some DSLRs cannot adjust the aperture while video recording, this makes lighting changes in a single clip difficult. Others cannot adjust the aperture in a stepless fashion, causing visible artifacts during adjustments.
  5. Zooming: OK, power zooming is generally evil, but everyone does a slow zoom once in a while, and not having a power zoom is a (major) pain.
  6. Sensor: Because almost all SLRs are single-sensor, you get color mosaicing from the Bayer filter.
  7. Shutter: Most DSLRs use an electronic rolling shutter when shooting video, unlike the mechanical shutters on dedicated video cameras. This can cause strange "jellyroll" effects on tall objects that move quickly across the screen -- or during fast pans.


Audio was one of the killers for me, since I do my own camera and audio. I usually have an external mic or two in interviews, feeding back into my camera. I've done dual sound using a flash recorder, and it isn't ideal. I prefer having a strong onboard sound option.

Interestingly, some DSLRs are now getting external audio options. The Olympus Pen E-PL2 (micro 4/3) has external audio through the SEMA-1 option, it provides for a 3.5mm plug-in-power jack. The higher end of the Lumix series such as the GH2 have 2.5mm audio mic jacks. And the higher end of the Canon EOS series also have 3.5mm audio jacks. Still, no real-time headphone monitoring (I think).

After the jump, I look at some specific cameras from the Canon EOS and Panasonic Lumix (micro 4/3) series. I'm interested in those two as I own older models in those series and can swap lenses.

I have to say, I'm not 100% convinced -- but like many things he has asked about before, Jason has gotten me thinking seriously about this.

One of my buddies wanted to know how much it cost to make a 35mm exhibition print from his hi-def digital video files. He had just finished an ethnographic film and wanted to submit it to some film festivals that could take 35mm prints.

One of the major transfer houses charges $350/minute for video+sound to 35mm; $250 a minute if you're willing to go with 16mm.

So for his 45 minute film, it would be $15,750 for a 35mm print and $11,250 for 16mm.

My pal Nate sent me this short clip about blackberries and technology from the BBC...

Another doc film recommended to me by Ana Lara:

The Aggressives. Can't find much info about the distributor - looks like it might have gone out of business. Amazon sells used copies of it, though.

Of Men and Gods (des hommes et dieux) is a film about sexuality in Haiti. Sold by DER. A preview is on Youtube.

Video recommendation by Ana Lara.

I'm in the final stages of setting up the Withoutabox entry for the 2011 SVA Media Festival in Montreal. I've populated most of the entries and am just waiting on my steering committee to give the go ahead to make it live.

I'm beginning a new project on Japanese sexuality next year and I've been thinking of how to shoot it. For my mental illness project, I used the Canon XL-H1. This was ideal for the location and topic where I was working -- larger rural spaces, people who wanted a video camera that was obviously a video camera. This is an HDV format camera, which meant it shot on HDV tape, not flash media.

My next project will be largely urban and I'd like to get a camcorder that I can take into smaller spaces.  I've been testing out the various tiny SDHC based high-def camcorders such as the Canon Vixia series, and I've been impressed with most things (except for the pain of dealing with the AVCHD file format and the limited wide-end of the zoom).  So I think my next project will be entirely shot on flash media.

I'd like to use this space here to think about several options with the following requirements:

  • High definition 1080p
  • Interchangeable lens or at least 30mm equivalent on the wide end of the zoom
  • Small / medium size
  • High-quality onboard audio for times when I can't use boom or lav mics
  • Relatively inexpensive flash media
  • Easily usable file format  (aka not AVCHD)

In my initial survey, here are some options:


Canon XF100 HD   @ $3300
- Dual CF card slots, 50MBPS @ MPEG2, 1080P,  dual XLR, 30.4mm - 304mm zoom

JVC GY-HM100U ProHD @ $2795
- SDHC cards,  35MBPS@ MPEG2, dual XLR, 1080P, 39mm - 390mm zoom


Panasonic AG-HVX200a @ $3595
- Dual P2 cards,
40~100MBPS@ DVCPRO HD, 1080P, 30mm - 490mm zoom



If I put AVCHD back into the picture:

Panasonic AG-HMC150 AVCCAM Camcorder @ $2825
- SDHC cards  24MBPS@ AVCHD (H.264), 1080P, 28mm - 368mm zoom

Panasonic AG-HMC150 AVCCAM Camcorder @ $$1689
- SDHC card,  24MBPS@ AVCHD (H.264), 1080P, 40.8mm - 490mm zoom


Sony HDR-AX2000 AVCHD Camcorder @ $3498
- AVCHD....

Sony HXR-MC50U Ultra Compact Pro AVCHD Camcorder @ $1500
- AVCHD....



One of my graduate students told me about this film, Children of the Stars, which is about Chinese children with autism. I'd love to see it, but there's no distribution in the USA yet for their DVD:

One of my friends asked me about my experience publishing a DVD with CreateSpace and Amazon.

createspace-logo-csp.gifCreateSpace is a company that allows you to publish your own DVDs, CDs, and books. They were bought out by Amazon and so Amazon can also handle the distribution of your materials. The royalty rates are quite generous, especially comparison to mainstream publishing and distribution companies.

I have two films distributed through them: Bethel: Community and Schizoprehnia in Northern Japan and A Japanese Funeral

I personally think that CreateSpace is a harbinger of the future for publishing independent documentary and ethnographic films. It used to be that you needed a publishing house for DVDs because of the complexity of the production process. But now with Apple's Final Cut Studio, it is easy to author a DVD entirely by yourself and produce a master disc suitable for reproduction.

After the jump, I'll go into the steps that I took to master A Japanese Funeral.

I'm happy to announce that my second film is now available via Amazon and CreateSpace:

A Japanese Funeral

A young man dies unexpectedly at the age of 39. Over the next three days, we witness Japanese funeral rites with a twist - the man and his family are Christian. This short (14 minute) ethnographic film chronicles the events from the moment his body is brought back from the hospital to after it is cremated.

Amazon link: A Japanese Funeral ($19.95)

Unfortunately it's only available as a DVD and not streaming. For some inexplicable reason, Amazon won't stream films that are less than 20 minutes long and my film is 14 minutes. Strange, as I'd think shorts are a natural for streaming?!

I have a website for the film as well:

My favorite panel at the JAWS-Austin conference was the film / festschrift of Professor Keith Brown, hosted by Prof. William Kelly and featuring the documentary film "Can't Go Native" by David Plath.

The film Can't Go Native celebrates the fifty year relationship that anthropologist Keith Brown has had with the community of Mizusawa, Japan. This is one of the most touching films that I've seen about an anthropologist and the community he works with.

I'm very happy to announce that is now distributing my film, Bethel: Community and Schizophrenia in Northern Japan, as a DVD, streaming rental, or streaming purchase!

I'm hoping that using Amazon as a distribution source rather than the standard educational film distribution companies will mean that more people will be able to get access to the film at a lower cost.

One of my colleagues asked for a recommendation for a digital video camera for the field. I recommended against getting a Mini-DV or HV camcorder and instead going all digital with a flash (SDHC) based camcorder:

These days, instead of using tape, I recommend going all digital. That way, you can simply dump the video files to your PC and don't have to bother digitizing them. You will need a large hard drive, but a 500 gigabyte pocket hard drive is cheap and fits in your laptop bag easily.

I recommend these models:

  • Canon Vixia HF-10 or HF-100 (this is the one I use)
  • Sanyo Xacti (small, handheld, the microphone isn't as good on this, but size is excellent)

Be sure to get a large SD card -- at least 4 gigabytes. Eight or 16 gigabytes is preferable.


Do you think this was good advice? Please post any suggestions or comments (or questions)!

My friend George sent me this amazing link to a youtube video. It's a Pantene commercial from Thailand featuring a deaf violinist.

One of the best ads that I've ever seen. And their signing isn't that bad either!

Hmmm... seems JCR posted the sushi video to this blog, Linda saw it, posted it to her blog, and I saw her blog before reading my own one, and posted the sushi video back here. Now removed just in case it caused a matter:antimatter reaction and destroyed the universe.

Thanks Linda and Jason!

Film: A Japanese Funeral

| | Comments (1)

These days I've been busy editing my new film, titled A Japanese Funeral. A few months into my fieldworkin Japan, one of my informants died. I was given the opportunity to film the entire funeral sequence -- from the moment the body came back from the hospital to the cremation.

Editing it was very difficult emotionally for me. I'm close to the family, which is why I got the permission to film it. But it also means I feel a deep responsibility to make sure my informant's death is remembered properly.

The film is designed to be shown in the classroom. The current rough cut is 10 minutes, but after watching it today I think I cut it a bit too short and might expand it to 15 minutes. I want to screen it to a few more people first, though.

One of the students in my visual anthro class asked about how to capture an iChat video conversation (both sides). She wanted to tape a conversation with one of her informants. A little googling revealed a neat little application called Conference Recorder:

There are also some neat tips in the article, including the use of SnapZ or Garage Band to record iChat (and perhaps Skype) conversations.

As always, let the other person know that you are recording the conversation -- for ethical and legal reasons.

AA sent me this tidbit:


Constructing Bonds
The politics of relation in ethnographic representation

The festival focuses particularly upon the difficulties entailed by anthropological film production and dissemination â?? what is the â??useâ?? of ethnographic film? How and for whom is it being produced? We consider notions of the afterlife of the anthropological product â?? is it wrong for ethnographic data to be used as market research? Can other disciplines and areas of society benefit from this material? We encourage a diverse audience of anthropologists and non-anthropologists from academia and public realms, offering a community of discussion framed around a media source. Film screenings shall be accompanied by a panel discussion.

One of my colleagues has produced a documentary film about life in a wheelchair called Rolling. She recently wrote an article for the New England Journal of Medicine about the experience:

I've uploaded a two minute trailer for Bethel: Community and Schizophrenia in Northern Japan onto a new website I've dedicated for Bethel publicity:

Please enjoy!

Roland has released a minor firmware update for its Edirol R-09 digital audio recorder: (click on "Downloads)

The new features are:

  • Repair Files (fixes corrupted files)
  • Max recording size (allows you to limit the max file size of a recording)
  • Peak hold (peak audio level is held for a short while to make it easier to detect peak audio levels)
  • Rec/Peak LED energy saving (turn off these LEDs to save batteries)

See my other notes on the Edirol.

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.


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.

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 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 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.

I met Kathy Martinez, the executive director of WID, today and she told me about SuperFest which is a film festival for disability culture. Unfortunately, the 2007 deadline was mid-January, so I'll have to apply next year. But it looks fantastic:
SUPERFEST International Disability Film Festival Calls for Submissions: Your Opportunity to Contribute to Disability Culture Superfest, the world's longest-running juried international disability film festival, is seeking your entry for submission to our 27th film competition. Superfest is the primary international showcase for cutting-edge films that portray disability culture and experience in all its diverse, complex, and empowering facets. NEW FINAL ENTRY DEADLINE: January 15, 2007 (post-marked). Early bird discount if mailed by Jan. 3, 2007. Judging takes place in Spring 2007, and winners will be announced on or around April 1st, 2007. Winners will be screened in the SF Bay Area in June 2007, and all entries will be listed in the festival catalogue. Winners will be asked to provide still production photos and tape copies for publicity purposes.

spiderbrace.jpg Jason Romero sent me a link to the BoingBoing blog entry about a review of the SpiderBrace on CoolTools. This is not a bad looking brace and the price is right ($70), but I'd have some concerns using it with my Canon XL-H1:

  • Both forearms getting tired since it doesn't look like it redistributes any more weight to your back rather than to your arms
  • Lack of camcorder controls at your fingertips

From the picture, the Spiderbrace really seems designed for the new HDV mid-size camcorders that are coming out rather than full-size HDV camcorders like the XL-H1.

So I'm starting to get the first round of ding letters from the various film festivals that I applied to last year.* One of the things I hadn't realized going into this was just how competitive the film festival market is. One festival I applied to received 1700 films, and they could screen less than a hundred (including shorts).

*In the next few months, we're also sending ding/acceptance letters for job searches as well as applications to the PhD program.

This means that the chances of getting into a film festival (assuming random probability, which it isn't) is 1:17. That would mean it's harder to get into a competitive film festival than it is to get into Yale College! :-)

Here are some other acceptance to application ratios in my experience: Yale anthropology PhD program 1:20; academic journal ratio 1:5 (?roughly¿); anthro teaching job 1:150. So getting into a film festival isn't as hard as getting a job, but ranks up there!

The students in my Visual Anthropology course are busy in production on their ethnographic films about various aspects of life in New Haven. We talked on Monday about common pitfalls and guidelines when filming and editing an ethnographic film:

Rules when making an ethnographic film

  1. Don’t expect anything to go right. Don’t expect informants to get back to you. Informants will avoid you. Informants will get kidnapped or arrested.
  2. Sound is CRITICAL.
  3. Think about your storytelling. What is primary: the audio or visual channel? Choose a primary channel and then watch your film with the sound off or without any visuals and make sure that your primary channel works w/out backup.
  4. No one cares how difficult it was to get a particular shot/interview. If it sucks, it sucks and you shouldn’t include the vestiges of it in your film for sentimentality’s sake.
  5. Pacing is very important. Understand what beat your film is at and try to maintain it, or use change of pace/beat as a deliberate creative element.
  6. Short is good. Shorter is better.
  7. Storyboard. Storyboard. Storyboard.
  8. Think of your film in terms of shorter sequences that work to establish your story. No sequence/section should be more than 3-5 minutes long.
  9. You will run out of tapes/film/batteries/power cables at a critical moment.
  10. Talking heads suck. Sometimes it’s better to condense a 10 minute interview into three or four points that an overlay, intertitle, or VoG (voice-o-God) can summarize.

Thoughts? Comments? Please post!

Following up on my earlier blog entry on why to avoid photo sharing sites such as Picasa, a post on blog notes that Google's YouTube service also requires you to sign over distribution rights to them for free:

In short, when you upload a video to YouTube, you grant them a license that allows them to do with it as they please. They can sell it, license it, remix it, make t-shirts, put it in a movie or on a cereal box - whatever fits their business model, without even an email message letting you know.

I'm planning on entering my film Bethel: Community and Schizophrenia in Northern Japan to several ethnographic and documentary film festivals next year. I've been searching for information on places to enter, and here's the short list that I came up with. If you have any suggestions or comments, please send them in!

Festival Name
Info / Status
Montreal Ethnographic Film Festival Jan 26-28 Nov 1 (2006) (2006 festival). Submitted. Withdrawn.
Portland Intl Film Festival Feb 5-17 Nov 15 (2006) Submitted. Dinged.
Through Women's Eyes Feb 23-26 Nov 13 (2006) Submitted. Rejected.
Reel Women's Intl Film Festival Mar 8-12 Nov 15 (2006) Submitted. Rejected.
Ann Arbor Film Festival Mar 20-25 Nov 22 (2006) Submitted. Dinged.
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Apr 12-15 Nov 30 (2006) Submitted. Dinged.
Nashville Film Festival Apr 19-26 Oct 26 (2006) Submitted. Dinged.
Brooklyn Arts Council May 5-15 Nov 22 (2006) Submitted.
Hong Kong International Film Festival Mar 3-Nov4 Dec 15 /
Jan 7 Did not enter.

United Nations
Documentary Film Festival

Apr 21 - 22 Submitted. Dinged.

Royal Anthropological Institute
Ethnographic Film Festival

Jun 27 - July 1 Jan 12 Submitted. Dinged.
Women's Independent Cinema Oct 1-31 Nov 22 (2006) Submitted.
Women's Independent Cinema Oct 1-31 Nov 22 (2006) Submitted.
Seattle International Film Festival May 24-June 17 Submitted. Dinged.
Margaret Mead Film Festival Nov ?? May 31
Society for Visual Anthropology Nov ?? March Submitted.
Mental Health Film Festival (UBC) May 2008 ??
Göttingen International Film Festival May 2008 Jan 2008
SuperFest: Disability and Culture Film Festival June 2008 Jan 2008


Visual Anthropology's list of film festivals:

Asian Film Festivals:

DVD Jacket.jpgI mocked up the DVD jacket cover for my forthcoming film, Bethel: Community and Schizophrenia in Northern Japan.

Comments and thoughts more than welcome! Also, let me know if you or your organization would like to arrange for a screening. I'm doing several this semester. The film is still officially still in editing, I'm hoping to open it in January at a film festival.

Canon USA and Canon Japan have announced that there is a new firmware upgrade for the Canon XL-H1 camcorder. Version corrects issues with time-code synchronization as well as reducing the granularity of the manual iris control to 1/8 stop steps.

The firmware is available by either bringing the camcorder to a Canon center or by phoning them and asking them to send you the update on an SD card for free. It is not available by download. I phoned them and they are sending the new firmware by Fedex 2nd day. I'll post again when I've updated my unit.

p.s. My camcorder, which is one of the first 100 made, was at version I haven't been able to find out what the minor fixes between and (the last public version) have been.

For more info:

For more info about the upgrade from Canon Japan:

Canon HD Video Lens 6x Zoom XL 3.4-20.4mm L

Canon has also announced a 6x wide-angle high-def lens for the 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. There's a manual iris control ring, which makes many people happy. Unfortunately, focus and zoom are still servo controlled which makes me unhappy. I had to dig around to find the maximum aperture, but it looks like it'll be f/1.6 to f/2.6.

The price is quite reasonable at a MSRP of $3000. When it comes out in November, I want one. This is the lens that should have come with the camera, in my opinion.

For more info:

This is another short post for my Visual Anthropology class. In the course of making your video/audio ethnographies, you'll may want to use some music in the background. There's some debate about whether this would be appropriate in documentary film (especially unmotivated or non-diagetic music), but there is a bigger problem using commercial music as it is copyrighted and you will find problems legally using it (especially if your work will ever be broadcast publicly).

One solution is to use CreativeCommons licensed music. Here are some sources:

Check the variation of the CreativeCommons licensed attached to the music. By definition, the CC license allows for free re-use in free media (check the strings, though) -- but you will need to negotiate if you ever sell your product commercially.

Darn it if I don't have some flickering from fluorescent lights in indoor footage from Japan -- shot with both my Canon XL-H1 and Sony HDR-HC1. This was both in footage shot in 60i and 30f -- with shutterspeeds of 1/30 and 1/60.

What is going on? While the United States is 60hz and Western Japan (where I normally stay) is also 60hz, eastern Japan including Tokyo and Hokkaido is 50hz. This means that I should have used a frequency multiple of 25/50 instead of 30/60. So the best shutterspeeds for avoiding flicker were 1/25, 1/50, or 1/100.

Let that be a lesson to me.

Equipment: Cheap lav mikes

| | Comments (0)

I mentioned in Visual Anthropology class that a cheap lavalier (clip-on) mike is ideal for doing both audio and video interviews. The cheapest that I found that should be sufficient for the purposes of the class is the Sony ECM-T6 for $12.95:

Sony ECM-T6 - Omni-Directional Lavalier Condenser Microphone - $12.95 (B&H)

The next level up is the Sony ECM-C115 for $39.95

Sony ECM-C115 Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone - $39.95 (B&H)

Both of these have their own on-board power-supply (CR-2025 batteries) so they work with camcorders, audio recorders, and laptops that provide power (aka Plug In Power) as well as ones that don't. If you're going to use your laptop for recording, chances are it doesn't have Plug-in-Power, so you need a mike that is self-powered.

I was preparing a budget to get some student DV camcorders for my department. My requirements were that they had to have a microphone-in as a minimum. The three I came up with were:

El Cheapo: Canon ZR-500 == $250

Middle-range: Panasonic PV-GS150 == $399

High-range: Canon GL-2 = $2200

A few years ago, I would have gotten GL2s because they're more rugged than any consumer camcorder. But I have the feeling that the field is changing quickly and that in two years (the estimated lifetime of a cheap sub-$500 consumer camcorder), we'll either be switched entirely to tapeless or HD format. So the GL2 can't amortize itself within its lifetime.

I hadn't seen this blogged in English...
In May, Sony and Matsushita announced an interim high-definition recordable format for portable consumer camcorders. Called AVCHD the system uses 8cm recordable DVD disks (650nm laser). The compression avoids HDV's long-GOP (with its 0.5 second dropouts) instead preferring the MPEG4 AVC (aka H264) used in BlueRay.

Screen formats 1080/60i /50i and /30p and 720/60p/50p/24p are all supported. 1080 is really 1920x1080 rather than 1440x1080 although that is supported as well. Sampling is 4:2:0. Sound is AC3 (5.1) with bitrates of up to 640kbs or Dolby Diital (1.5Mbs on two channels). The max system bitrate is 18Mbps which gives a min record time of 10 min, although you can downgrade this to get more play time. On the average setting, you get around 20 minutes per disk.

Although the system uses standard DVD recordable disks, they won't playback on standard DVD players unless the firmware is upgraded to support AVCHD (unlikely).

The big question is: Why????

Data from the June 2006 Video Salon magazine in Japan.

After much vacillating, I decided to get the Edirol R-09 digital recorder to record audio in the field. The other choice was the MicroTrack 24/96. The R-09 and the MicroTrack are almost identical in size, weight, and price. See my previous blog entries on this topic (here or here or here). The main factors were:

  • Replaceable AA batteries rather than proprietary
  • Built-in mic (one less thing to lose)
  • Time/date stamping

There are some notes and a more extensive chart comparing the two after the jump.

Monthly Archives

Sponsored Links

Powered by Movable Type 5.11

Sponsored by



Sponsored Links

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Video category.

Rant - Opinion is the previous category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

August 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30