In our News & Technology segment with Mark & Derek, we discuss Adobe’s acquisition of “Serious Magic,” makers of such software as “DV Rack” which we demo’d here in Episode 32 on “Videomaker Presents”. We’ also tell you about some Blu-Ray news with a burner from Primera and a disc cam from Hitachi. It’s been a while in the making, but we’ve just launched our new website and Derek and Mark will tell you about the new features we’ve added to make your online Videomaker experience even better.
In our Tips & Techniques segment Mark and Brian show you how we made our Green Screen monsters we featured in the October issue of Videomaker… and with the holiday season approaching, they have some good “Buyer Beware” tips for buying new gear.
In this week’s “Take 20”, keeping with the Halloween theme, Brian and Jennifer have fun with R.I.P. T.V…. a look at the “lighter” side of death in a series produced by Richard Falzone.
And in this episode we begin a new segment, “Hands On”, viewers are asking for more close-up looks at some of the gear we feature, and Videomaker delivers! Each week we’ll take a few minutes to highlight a new product we’re reviewing…This week, Mark and Matt York will take a look at the FX7, a hi-def video camcorder from Sony.
Brian Peterson: Hi, I'm Brian Peterson.
Mark Montgomery: And I'm Mark Montgomery.
Brian Peterson: And this is Tips and techniques.
Mark Montgomery: Welcome.
Brian Peterson: Got a couple, got a couple. You know, this is a time when everybody is thinking about spending money for Halloween, Christmas… I mean, Halloween is it, everything starts on this day, right?
Mark Montgomery: Yeah, I was actually in store somewhere, I can’t remember, and they had their Christmas decorations already out.
Brian Peterson: Seriously?
Mark Montgomery: Yeah, yeah, and this is like a little too early. I can’t remember where it was, but… it was somewhere in Sacramento. I was returning from a trip, so.
Brian Peterson: All right. Well, we’re going to give you some tips on how to purchase high tech stuff at least, and what to watch out for. In fact, this was a recent article in one of our issues, called Buyer Beware (on screen: “Buyer Beware,” February, 2006. Article #12265)
So, let’s talk about where you should buy your, at least in general, three locations. There are three, right?
Mark Montgomery: Yeah, there are at least three locations. There are some people who enjoy buying video equipment at flee markets, but we’re-
Brian Peterson: You’re not going to go there?
Mark Montgomery: We’re not going there.
Brian Peterson: Okay. Well, actually, that kind of covers it. We’re going to talk about shopping online, that will really be majority of what we talk about. Going to old record and more store, if you can find the parking for, and then, a kind of the third is that, hey, I know somebody who’s selling this sort of friend sort of thing. Couple of things to watch out in all three.
But let’s dig right into the online stuff.
Mark Montgomery: Yeah, online. What are the advantages of online?
Brian Peterson: Obviously everybody shops price.
Mark Montgomery: Right.
Brian Peterson: I mean, that really is it. The idea that people don’t have to pay more is a good thing. And low price clearly is the most reason why people shop online. Of course, the convenience, you don’t have to get out of your chair is another big advantage. Often times you can get packaging that is unique for online offers.
Again, it’s not having that big overhead allows online retailers to do more competitive prices, in many cases.
Mark Montgomery: Right. And for me, as a shopper, too, when I shop online, I’m usually going back and forth from finding a product I didn’t expect to see at a price range, and then having to do research about that immediately.
Brian Peterson: Right.
Mark Montgomery: I always find myself when I shop in an actual store, and I go, oh, I wish I had my computer, I could actually look this up really, like, if it’s a good product or not.
Brian Peterson: So we can see the day when we’re going in there with our laptops on isle 13. Excuse me, I’m just doing some research here.
Mark Montgomery: Yeah, exactly. Check out the Videomaker buyer’s guide. That is a great tool for online shopping, that goes hand in hand. So, that’s another thing that’s true for shopping online. You usually have resources available to do the research at the time.
Brian Peterson: And you know, you brought up a good point, a whole idea of selection. I mean, there’s no way you can get in place a selection that you can by skipping around the w, different www location. That’s huge.
Yeah, another one that nobody talks about a lot, but it’s an advantage, often times, and we’re not suggesting you do it, because in many cases, you know, in fact in all cases, it’s not, erm, legal. No sales tax. But that’s something that is attractive, especially for higher value products. You really should, depending on your local state, research and find out how you’re appropriately supposed to pay the man the money.
Mark Montgomery: Right.
Brian Peterson: The other is, often times, it’s a trackable purchase process, so use your credit card, you’re able to kind of track the process all the way through, not that you have to do that in person, but it is certainly an advantage that you can use. Often people use the same credit card for all their online transactions.
Mark Montgomery: Right. And if you’re doing that as well, if you operate your small business, it’s easier to keep your receipts that way, because it’s all in a digital form. I usually have a folder in my inbox that’s just invoices or receipts from suppliers. I just drop the, you know, e-mail confirmation right into that, and I also print a hard copy and put that in a file folder.
Brian Peterson: Perfect. Perfect idea. Now, a couple of things you should watch out for online. Of course, we said that the advantage is that it’s a low price, but that’s also the disadvantage. Because often times the price is just too low to be true, and it is. So, and you know, here at Videomaker, we do get people who say , hey, you know, I’m running into people that are just not living up to what they’re saying, and this is just the reality of shopping online now.
To be searched and indexed, retailers are sometimes putting up prices that are just way, way, way too low. Have you ever run into these yourself?
Mark Montgomery: Yeah, we’ve seen them pop up here and there, prices that are unbelievable, and you do have to watch out for them. And that’s the scary thing online, you don’t know who’s out there raiding the business, who’s behind that page. And a lot of them look, a lot of places you have to be careful of, lot of them will look legit, and will have phone numbers, and you can actually talk to people. So, it seems legit. But, yeah, if there’s an extremely low price, usually it’s too good to be true.
Brian Peterson: Yeah. Let’s just mention a few ways they can be too low. One is a grey market. Now, a grey market is a real generic term for, often times, products that are not technically allowed to be sold in the US, and they don’t come with USA warranty, so you need to really watch out for that.
And that’s the biggest way to identify the grey market or not, if it doesn’t come with a USA warranty.
The other thing is you want to make sure that the person or the retailer you’re buying from is an authorized retailer of that product, whether it’s Canon, Sony, JBC, whomever. They need to be an authorized retailer. That’s a good way to know if you’re dealing with reputable retailers.
Another, there are several online. There are rating systems for retailers. The problem with that is they can be fooled. And there are few of them, I won’t mention any in particular, that are, you can go and just, it’s kind of like a better business bureau, right, online?
Mark Montgomery: Right.
Brian Peterson: But rating systems can be flooded with fake stuff. But for the most part, I find them to be fairly accurate and reasonable.
Mark Montgomery: Right.
Brian Peterson: What else? What are some thing that you’ve found that you need to watch out for?
Mark Montgomery: There’s also the, what do they have, the bait and switch kind of things. That they, and we’ve heard horror stories before. And it really comes down to, falls to, yeah, this price is too good to be true. There’s, you’re also paying for what you get, so sometimes you’ll actually send the money, they’ll send you the camcorder. But it’s just the camcorder. There’s no manual…
Brian Peterson: Right, there’s no manual, no batteries, no strap, I mean, no charger.
Mark Montgomery: And you call them back, and say, wait a minute, I thought I was getting the whole package. Oh, no, those are separate, you know. That’s how we keep our prices so low, or something like that.
So, you want to make sure, you know, that you’re very careful on this when buying online, and you don’t go for that. Because it ends up costing you more to get that battery, and what not.
Brian Peterson: Yeah, ask them what’s included, make sure you find out about the extra shipping and handling charges, those can be extraordinary expensive if, once again, the price is what they call the lost leader or low. The other thing is being, just weary about this up sell process where you get on the phone, they say yes, they can offer the low price, but, and there’s the whole series of things they’re trying to up sell you and trying to get you to purchase in addition. Some of those are necessary, some of those are not, it’s up to you to make that determination.
Right, so, there’s plenty of things to watch out for.
Let’s go on to another place where some people still buy equipment. It’s wonderful, camera store.
Mark Montgomery: Yeah. Right.
Brian Peterson: Just walk in to the store, and of course, the cool thing is, you can touch the stuff.
Mark Montgomery: That’s probably the best thing. Especially as, you know, shooters, if you’re looking for a camera, you’re going to want to know how it feels to actually hold it, what the focus ring feels like if it has one, and the overall, just feel of it.
I think it’s an important thing that buying online, and experience of buying online doesn’t really have.
Brian Peterson: And, you know, we’re not going to recommend that you run into a store, try it out, and then go buy it online. There’s, you know, unfortunately, a kind of a grey area in that itself. In fact, some retailers, in particular, some large urban areas have this high tech charge of handling fee, literally. If you touch it, and you don’t buy it, they’re going to charge you for it. Because it’s becoming endemic. Really, people are starting to do this. We’re not saying whether it’s a good thing or bad thing., but that is something that you might be charged for, so, watch out for that.
So, advantages? You can touch it, you can get a lot more personal interaction, obviously.
Some of the disadvantages? Sometimes that personal interaction can be a really high pressure. They can use the same techniques of bait and switch, and even more importantly, they can use a bit more, they can use the idea of scarcity in person effectively. In other words, this is the last one. So, you’ve got, you touched it, you’ve got your fingerprints on it, and they’re saying it’s the last one at this price. So, there can be that.
Mark Montgomery: Yeah, what you also want to watch out for too, once you committed to making that purchase, you’re going to buy that camera, also look into what accessories you’re going to get with that camera, because once you buy that, that person might say, hey, you know, you’re buying this really nice camera, you’ve got at least get this accessory, and this accessory, and this accessory. And you want to go knowing before that experience what exactly it is you want. Or if you can get it somewhere else for less.
Brian Peterson: And finally, buying from a friend. Well, Hey, you know you’re probably going to get a good deal, you’re probably, you know, going to have a decent experience of transaction, but I tell you, the tech support probably isn’t going to be all that great.
As a matter of fact, that’s a big caution. If you’re going with a friend, and it’s a significant purchase, be aware that sometimes, if something doesn’t work right, that can strain the friendship. So, you know, be aware.
Mark Montgomery: It’s true. And if you want an alternative to that, consider renting from a friend as well.
Brian Peterson: Oh, yeah, that’s an idea.
Mark Montgomery: Yeah.
Brian Peterson: And you break it, you buy it. Is that how it works?
We’re going to go to our second piece, we’re running a little bit long, but this is a fun piece. We highlighted this in one of our recent issues, in fact, October issue, frightening effects. And this was a little bit of green screen.
And actually, not green screen in traditional way, it’s a, we, actually we’ll see it in a moment, put hood, green hood over our subject, I’m not wearing the same shirt. And eliminated the head. So, let’s go and roll that piece. This is called, what is this? This is called Jennifer at couch with, oh, two ghosts, and we’ve got semi transparent ghost, one without the head, one in chains, oh, and they’re not getting any reaction here, so they make her go away. And they’re really stoked about it.
All right, so, how did this come together? All right, three different layers. It’s fairly simple once you know the effects. One is going to be a couch layer that we’ll pull up in just a second. Really is not much to it, but just a bare couch. Actually, that’s a garbage mat. We’re going to come up with a couch. Here we go. So, we’ve got just a bare couch that rolls on the lowest layer.
Then, on top of that, we’re going to go to garbage mat, and when we say garbage mat, it’s just the subject, and it doesn’t have any of the background in it, right here, and what this allows for is for us to create a space here on the semi transparent level to reduce the opacity on the two ghosts.
And now let’s go to the two ghosts. And as you see, we’ve got the full opacity here right now, and we can see, of course, the green hood. So, let’s go ahead and pause that for a second, okay, Charlie?
So the green hood as you can see isn’t perfectly lit, it’s not like a perfect green screen background. It really doesn’t have to be. There are certain ways in your plugins, most of your editing apps have some sort of threshold and blending modes that will get out the wrinkles.
And as you saw, back to the finish piece now, Charlie, it did a fairly good job. And we did this in a Premier Pro, and actually, those was CS2. And just use the basic plugin. And as you can see, there’s a little bit of edging, but it’s not too bad. So the shot is sold. So, real simple, three layers, a garbage mat, chroma key, and you’ve got frightening effects.
Hey, you’ve done this a couple of times, haven’t you?
Mark Montgomery: Oh, yeah, I put a dinosaur in someone’s kitchen window when, and it’s a great effect and it works.
Brian Peterson: Yeah, you know, it’s kind of a shticky thing to do, if you really want to do it on a pro level, sometimes that requires a format other than DVD. This was a DVD and it works, so it is possible to do.
So, Tips and Techniques. We’ll see you next week.