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Camera Audio Simplified: Location Audio for Camera Operators
Camera Audio Simplified: Location Audio for Camera Operators
by Dean Miles
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.95
2 used & new from $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Cutting and Pasting, August 5, 2016
Even though Dean Miles does not believe in camera-mounted microphones, he has had to acknowledge that there are many loan-wolf operators that are both the camera and sound man. This book is tailored for them.

The book includes chapters on location selection, sound elements, video cameras, camera mounted microphones, lavalier microphones, wireless systems, handheld microphones and DSLR cameras. The writing is simple and easy to understand and perfect for the cameraman who also has to work the microphone. The book is quite practical, even giving instructions on how the male cameraman/soundman can route the wire of a lavalier mike down the shirt of female talent.

The book is a cut-and-paste job from Miles’ far more comprehensive book, Location Audio Simplified: Capturing Your Audio... and Your Audience. That book includes chapters on mixers, using a boom, field recorders, and how to mike interviews, among other things. If you’ve read that book, you don’t need this book.

The author says that audio recorded by DSLRs is of poor quality and I agree with him. He suggests that DSLR videographers record sound on a separate recorder and synchronize to the image in post-production. He strongly recommends the Shure VP83 Lens Hopper, which includes its own built in digital recorder. He ignores the option to use other recorders like the Zoom H4n (and its successors), which can record from a microphone, and like the Lens Hopper, provide a line to a camera. I’ve actually found the Zoom to be superior to the Shure since it can also take the XLR inputs that many mikes provide. He also seems to think that only Canon DSLRs have headphone outputs, but my 4 year old Nikon also handles headphones.

Throughout the book he refers the reader to on-line video content which is only available for a fee five times as much as this book. I didn’t invest in this content since I thought there was unlikely to be any more information there than in this book.

If you are seriously interested in audio, you probably are better off reading Location Audio Simplified: Capturing Your Audio... and Your Audience. If all you want is a quick walk-through, this book will do the job.

This review is based on the 2016 edition, although the only edition that shows on the Amazon site is the 2014 edition. I suspect that with all the changes in electronics these days, there may be information in the 2016 edition that did not appear in the 2014 edition.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

360fly 4k 360 Degree Camera, Black
360fly 4k 360 Degree Camera, Black
Offered by Happy Haus
Price: $488.00
7 used & new from $480.00

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gimmick, August 3, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It sounds like a good idea. Take a 240 degree fish-eye lens, point it at the sky, provide a view that lets users see a portion of the circular image, and then allow folks to wander around the image as if they were turning their head; sort of an easy virtual reality. Unfortunately, there are a lot of missteps between promise and performance.

The camera connects by Blue Tooth to your mobile device. You open the software, are presented with other people's images that are supposed to inspire you, and then go to the live view. Although the phone screen only shows about a ninety-degree view, you can move the phone around or slide the image to see in a full circle. (The camera only shows half of the orb so it's not virtual reality.) You can take either a video or a still image. Then the fun begins.

For still pictures, you are supposed to be able to transfer the images from the camera to your mobile, but most of the time when I stabbed at the download button, nothing happened. Maybe that was the fault of my Galaxy 6 or my fat fingers, but it frustrated me.

To take images in rectilinear format, one is supposed take a video, view it, stop it in the middle, clip an image from the video and then make some general adjustments of contrast, exposure, brightness and saturation. Unfortunately, the clip symbol did not come up in the case of many videos. When it did, I was able to transfer a panoramic image to the gallery in my mobile. After several minutes, the image appeared in my gallery.

I connected the mobile to my computer and imported the image into both Photoshop and Lightroom. The image, which measured 2560 pixels by 1440 pixels, opened up with severe distortions of every straight line. I can normally correct distortions in Lightroom by applying a profile to an image, but there was no profile for the 360Fly 4K, and no manual way to easily correct the distortions. (I could have used unusual methods, but it just didn't seem worth the efforts.)

I tried exporting a video to the gallery, but my gallery told me it couldn't play the video because it was made in an unsupported video codec.

The instruction PDF that one can download for the camera looks nice with plenty of images, but didn't lay out clear workflows, and the software often didn't respond as described in the instructions. I wasted many hours trying to figure out how to use this camera.

I'm a relatively sophisticated user. I program in several languages, create websites in code, and don't mind opening up my computer to trouble shoot. I exhibit my images in galleries and have won many prizes. I was absolutely frustrated by this camera. In the future, I'll continue to create panoramas with a regular camera, taking multiple images and stitching them together in software.

I've been wanting to try a 360-degree camera to see if I could incorporate it into my products. For me it's not worth the effort. But perhaps for some cool young person, just the fact that one can take a 360-degree shot, and with lots of work, maybe download it to a cell phone, may make this camera enough. For me, it is a gimmick that wasn't ready for prime time.

Producing Great Sound for Film and Video: Expert Tips from Preproduction to Final Mix
Producing Great Sound for Film and Video: Expert Tips from Preproduction to Final Mix
by Jay Rose
Edition: Paperback
Price: $46.23
62 used & new from $29.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Good Sounds, August 1, 2016
Jay Rose covers all of the technical aspects of sound for film and video. He begins this book with an explanation of the physics of sound, how digital sound differs from analog sound, and how sound is transmitted over wires in the process of creating sound to accompany visual media. In the section on planning and pre-production, the author explains the various types of sound that can be used in film and video (spoken words, music, sound effects and even silence) and how to prepare for recording, including budgeting, with hard dollar numbers suggested. The third section describes microphones and recording techniques. (The chapter on voice over, automated dialog replacement and recording sound effects must be downloaded as a PDF.) Rose next describes the post-production stage with a look at equipment, and editing voices, music and sound effects, including a number of tips on processing the sound and creating the mix. There is a final chapter where Rose presents a list of problems that one might have with audio and where to find solutions in the book. Throughout the book, the author provides links to sound files that will help the reader better understand what is being presented.

The book is aimed at directors and other people who must understand the audio process as well as the technicians who actually record and process the sound. It is mostly technical in nature, so that while the author may tell the reader how to connect dissimilar pieces of equipment or how to edit dialog to cut out words so that the cuts are not noticeable, there is little mention of how to actually design the sound to make the visual presentation more effective. For example, while Rose tells you how to use a music library to retrieve sound, he doesn't tell the reader what music will be most effective in enhancing a story. There are of course many books that explain how to create a story or write dialog, but far fewer that tell what to look for in a piece of music that will tell the story.

At the same time, much of the instruction is generic, given the huge amount of recording equipment and processing software that exists. On the other hand, this book, in conjunction with the manuals that come with equipment and software, should enable one to get more out of that equipment and software than one would otherwise get.

The book is quite comprehensive in what it deals with, but that may overwhelm the single, do-it-all, lone wolf practitioner. However, although I count myself in that class, and felt that even though there was information that I might never use, there was also information dealing with a problem or an opportunity I might encounter that could most easily be dealt with by referring to this book.

If you are serious about upping your audio skills to support your visual presentation beyond using an on-camera microphone and the audio controls in, say, Adobe Premiere Elements, this book will be useful.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

Rio Beach Brands Deluxe Ultra Wonder Wheeler
Rio Beach Brands Deluxe Ultra Wonder Wheeler
Price: $91.45
7 used & new from $64.02

4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly Better and a Little Worse, July 17, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My gang and I usually hold half-a dozen twilight beach barbecues a year. These are major affairs with lots of equipment, including folding chairs and tables, food, coolers, blankets and clothes to don as the temperature drops. It used to take several trips back and forth from the SUV to the beach at the beginning and end of each barbecue. Then I got the original Wonder Wheeler and cut my trips to one each from the car to the beach and then back at the end of the barbecue.

Almost everything about the Wonder Wheel Ultra is better. The rack on the front of the original was shorter and lower then on the Ultra. You couldn’t hang more than three chairs on it, and then you sometimes had to tilt the cart to keep a larger chair from dragging in the sand. The new longer and higher rack carries at least four chairs and holds them high enough that the larger chairs don’t drag in the sand, even when all four wheels of the Wonder Wheeler touch the ground. The basket has a little more volume. The bag next to the push handle is now insulated, and has two water bottle holders. The studs to attach the bag have been relocated, making it easier to remove the bag. The bottom platform can now take a slightly larger cooler. There is now a plastic utility tray with two cup holders, although I’d guess that any open cups in the holders might slosh over while walking.

What is worse, in my opinion, are the new main wheels which are 5 inch radius rubber tires. These replace the old plastic wheels which were twice as wide and rigid. While these wheels make less noise on a paved surface, they sink deeper into sand and are harder to push through sand. In addition, if one of these wheels gets a flat, it is very difficult to replace or patch the tube. (There are specially designed 5 inch radius tires that are easier to repair, with a removable inner rim, but these tires are not of that variety.)

If you have a lot of gear to haul across the beach, this is a great machine to make it easier.

Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision (2nd Edition) (Voices That Matter)
Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision (2nd Edition) (Voices That Matter)
by David duChemin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $30.34
52 used & new from $24.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just as Good the Second Time, July 10, 2016
The most important tool of a photographer is located behind the viewfinder. Photographers need just as much instruction in using their brain and soul for photography as they need to be taught about exposure, focus and composition.

David duChemin’s book is aimed at doing just that. This book speaks of developing photographers’ vision. Although he mentions from time to time such concepts as say, depth of field, the discussion is related to how to use these concepts to express vision. Unfortunately, the shaping of the inner photographer is not as concise as setting an f-stop. Instead the author talks about things like becoming one with the subject being photographed. (That’s not duChemin’s phrase; it belongs to a wildlife photographer’s lecture of years ago. At the time I thought he was crazy; now I try to commune with birds all the time.)

The author tells us that vision is his theme. He compares the conflict between vision and equipment and emphasizes the importance of using images to tell stories. He follows this with several chapters, ostensibly aimed at different genres, like people, places and culture, but all interwoven with finding the photographer within.

DuChemin’s points are illustrated with his excellent pictures that tell you as much about his vision as about the subject. On the other hand, the author doesn’t take himself too seriously, as when, after advising the reader of the diffraction dangers of shooting at f/22, he tells us that this is advice he rarely heeds.

When I read the first edition of this book I was bowled over. DuChemin articulated the undeveloped ideas that had been floating around inside my head. Since reading that book, I regularly think about my vision, and when asked what item of equipment I would like to get next for my photography, I always answer vision. I can’t compare the second edition to the first edition, but I can say that even though I’m familiar with the ideas in this edition, the author has reinforced the use of the most important tool in my photographic arsenal.

I can also suggest to you that paying attention to duChemin’s ideas about vision will not only make you a better photographer. It might make you a better person. (Don’t ask me to explain that statement.)

If you are a photographer and you haven’t read the first edition of this book, you need to read this edition. If you have read the first edition, you still need to read this edition.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

Location Audio Simplified: Capturing Your Audio... and Your Audience
Location Audio Simplified: Capturing Your Audio... and Your Audience
by Dean Miles
Edition: Paperback
Price: $42.19
59 used & new from $25.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Getting the Word, July 4, 2016
Somewhere in the text of this book Dean Miles suggests that if you’ve been hired as the location sound man for a Hollywood movie, you probably don’t need this book, suggesting most of the material is designed for video. A bit less explicitly stated is that this book is aimed at those productions with a large enough crew to have a separate sound man.

The book is technical in nature, although offering suggestions on how to get along with the director and camera man. After suggestions on choosing and preparing the location, the author tells how to use a field mixer, shotgun microphones (including booming) lavalier microphones, wireless systems, and video and DSLR cameras. Miles explains what settings and cabling are best for almost any combination of these items. There is a section on using a field recorder, illustrated with a Zoom H4n (although only as a recorder, and not for its microphones). There are also chapters dealing with the special problems of interviews, and with add-on equipment.

The book is dedicated primarily to recording dialog, without covering either sound design or sound editing. Except for the section on hooking up one or more microphones directly to the camera there is no emphasis on the lone wolf videographer-sound recorder. However, given a careful reading of the book, and the manual that comes with equipment, most of the information is transferable to the solitary shooter.

Throughout the book, there are instructions to watch classes with titles similar to those contained in the book. These are part of a $199 course offered on-line by the author, rather than a free website provided by the publisher. I did not examine these classes, especially since the author’s instruction in the book seemed clear and comprehensive enough for my purposes.

Given the limited goals of the book as to location recording, the book does a good job of explaining such recording.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema
Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema
by David Sonnenschein
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.04
83 used & new from $5.85

5.0 out of 5 stars An Oldie but Goodie, June 30, 2016
As more and more people create slide shows and videos, they begin to discover the importance of using sound to enhance their presentations. Yet sound design (as opposed to recording and sound editing) doesn't seem to have drawn much attention from book publishers.

In fact, this book, published in 2001, is one of the few that examines the structuring of voice, music, ambient sound and sound effects to support the image. While the author concentrates on cinema, his lessons are just as applicable to videos and slide shows. Throughout the author emphasizes that the structure of sound can and should be a partner with the visual in enhancing the narrative, and indeed, carrying it forward when the image cannot do so. Often the book is full of practical tips, like how to map out the sound in a presentation to support the narrative, or how to work with a group to produce not just the best sound, but also the best production. Just as often, the author waxes poetical about the nature of sound and the audience's response to sound. Although he can't replace actually listening to a movie to understand the effectiveness of sound, Sonnenschein refers to many movies and scenes to show how sound supports the presentation. (There is even a separate filmography, indexed to references to particular movies discussed in the book.) Sprinkled throughout are comments from other sound designers about how they approached sonic problems, as well as simple listening exercises. There is little reference to sound recording or editing techniques.

I wish the author could have provided a few more practical tips about the selection of sounds. For example, he presumes that music will be purpose-written for the production and that the sound designer can work with the composer. Today, there is an abundance of music available on-line and in software. One of the biggest sound design problems one faces is finding the piece of music that is just right. Sonnenschein gives plenty of advice about tempo, volume and pitch of music but the ultimate sound design will still require the imagination, skill and searching ability of the sound designer.

Readers interested in videos and slide shows will have to translate to their genres, where they may be part of a small or one-man crew. In addition, the emphasis on movies shows a strong narrative bent, but perhaps the lesson for photographers and videographers is that they should also consider their products as narratives that can be enhanced by effective sound.

Although the author tries very briefly to foresee the future of newer media, in the years since publication, the tools available to individual artists and small groups have increased dramatically. Still, until someone creates a current book on sound design, people looking to enhance their productions would do well to consider this book.

Picture Perfect Lighting: An Innovative Lighting System for Photographing People
Picture Perfect Lighting: An Innovative Lighting System for Photographing People
by Roberto Valenzuela
Edition: Paperback
Price: $32.56
56 used & new from $26.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Reversal, May 15, 2016
All too often technical photography instruction books promise something innovative that they don’t deliver. However Roberto Valenzuela delivers on his promise of an innovative approach to portrait lighting. While most lighting books suggest that we light a subject and then set the exposure, Valenzuela advocates setting the exposure and then adding or subtracting the light.

The author sets forth a lot of rules that might seem to make for a rigid lighting system, but instead they develop a method of thinking about lighting that allows for a great deal of flexibility. He begins by emphasizing that it is light that makes photographs and then analyzing the nature of light. Next he provides and describes the 10 elements of circumstantial light (circumstantial light is the light that already exists on the scene) and how to deal with them. After discussing his ideal exposure settings he explains how to use helper light (reflectors, flash, etc.) and posing to add or reduce the light. There is an exercise in how to quickly adjust one’s flash that some readers might want to skip over, but I advise against that. It might seem unnecessary, but when put in the context of the author’s system, it will allow photographers to better use their flashes. The book finishes with explained examples from Valenzuela’s portfolio that do a good job of consolidating the material that has gone before.

The author notes that his system is for portraiture. Other genres may not be able to control the light to the same extent. The portraits that he provides are stunning examples of the system, and illustrate the beauty possible with lighting and the author’s system. His writing and idea organization are simple and clear.

I did have one objection. Many of the lighting schemes require assistants to deploy helper light. I would have liked to have seen a few more setups applicable to the lone-wolf photographer.

I confess to having been of the light first, adjust exposure later school. Valenzuela convinced me to reverse this procedure.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography
The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography
by Cyrill Harnischmacher
Edition: Paperback
Price: $27.38
69 used & new from $21.19

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete, May 6, 2016
From a quick read of this book, one might almost think that all one needs for close-up and macro photography is a macro lens or a close-up lens or an extension tube or some similar gadget. (The author never fully distinguishes macro from close-up photography, which is a technical distinction without much practical impact, and I’ll refer to all such photography as close-up photography.) From the rest of the book, it would seem that close-up photography was just like any other photography except, well, closer. Actually though, a close reading of the book would reveal that there are other special techniques applicable.

The initial chapters describe the equipment for close-up photography. This is followed by a chapter on shooting technique, which only deals with camera blur and holding the camera. Two chapters follow on studio and nature photography, and then the author deals with special techniques like light painting and HDR photography. (The section on capturing close-up panoramas by moving the camera on a slider, rather than swiveling, was a technique I had never encountered.) Next the author deals with searching for subjects and photographing at the zoo. There is a short chapter on image editing which deals only with levels, adding noise and conversion to black-and-white. The chapter on composition deals with all the usual composition rules and does little to distinguish between general composition rules and anything unique to close-up photography. There is a final chapter on constructing special tools, some of which might be really useful, like an inexpensive panorama slider, and others of which are mildly interesting. Sprinkled throughout the book are portfolios from other close-up artists and I must particularly note the work of Bernd Schloemer whose images of miniature figures in a full-scale world are delightful.

The images used to illustrate close-up photography ranged from excellent to lackluster.

Much of the writing is pedestrian and boring. Occasionally equipment was described which ought to have been further described and explained like infinity coves and light barriers. (The latter appear to be electronic means of detecting when small moving subjects are in focus and which would have been useful and interesting to explore.) I was quite disappointed that the use of flash did not include the forward placing of flash and the use of multiple flashes in the field, both techniques that I learned from other sources and have used with great success in nature photography. There was no mention of the use of live view.

Although I learned a few new tricks about close-up photography, compared to other books on the same subject, this book was lacking.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

Lightroom Transformations: Realizing your vision with Adobe Lightroom plus Photoshop
Lightroom Transformations: Realizing your vision with Adobe Lightroom plus Photoshop
by Martin Evening
Edition: Paperback
Price: $31.43
57 used & new from $23.16

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventures in Lightroom, April 21, 2016
Lightroom instruction books aimed at beginners usually explain how the sliders change an image, but seldom try to explain how moving the sliders can make art, or at least artful works. Perhaps that's appropriate since learning what the sliders do is a task in itself, without having to think of art.

In this book, Martin Evening goes to the next step, which is to take a number of images, and show you how he has used the various Lightroom controls on them to make them more artful. Along the way, he offers additional advice on how to shoot particular types of images. The chapters are organized functionally, rather just following the order presented in Lightroom, and the emphasis is on the use of the develop module. There are chapters on, among others, adjusting tone and color, recomposing existing images, and black and white conversions. There are what might be called tutorials, where the author shows you an image he started with, explains the changes he made in Lightroom, and occasionally Photoshop, with screen captures of various menus and the modified images, and the ultimate final version.

Evening assumes some familiarity with Lightroom and Photoshop and often doesn't provide a lot of detail on the tool or menu he is using so if one is not familiar with the software, one can easily become lost. In fact, if you want to learn Lightroom and Photoshop, this is not the book for you.

The information is pitched on a variety of levels. On the one hand, the instruction on the spot removal tool is rather basic. On the other hand, his solution for removing street hardware by combining two images shot a few feet apart was something I had never encountered before, although it made absolute sense.

Although there are no online images to download and manipulate along with the author, there are videos that repeat and reinforce some of the tutorials in the text.

Occasionally some explanations of technical topics required a second or third reading to understand, but this was more because of complexity. Generally, Evening's writing is clear and accessible.

To create an artful image, one must examine the original capture and decide how one wants it to look in its final form. If the photographer does that, then it may be a matter of simply applying the correct tools to reach that goal. It's not always apparent what those tools are, but I suspect Evening can help the photographer see more of those tools. He doesn't teach one how to analyze the basic image as such, but one can infer his process of analysis from what he does, and that can be quite valuable.

Once a user develops a good familiarity with Lightroom and Photoshop, it hard to say how to develop more advanced skills. Evening presents many good ideas and tools that will probably help someone who understands the basics of Lightroom and Photoshop gain those skills.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

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