Videomaker community says Goodbye to Birdcat – Friend and Moderator, Bruce Paul


Long-time Videomaker forums poster and moderator Bruce Paul died a few months ago, but, sadly, we found out about his passing just recently. Bruce, whose handle on the Videomaker forums was "Birdcat",  had been a Videomaker forums poster since 2005 and was a well-respected Videomaker moderator. He made his last post just a few weeks before his death. 
Bruce displayed enthusiasm and passion for video production and a devotion to the Videomaker community through his comments, encouragement and tips on the Videomaker forums.
His energy and giving spirit was inspiring to everyone who read his posts, and his attention to detail and no-holds-barred facts made him respected by his peers.
Up to the end, "Birdcat" inspired and encouraged all video enthusiasts, from the newbies trying to get a handle on the technology to the crusty pros groaning about the lack of good business when the new cameras and editing systems became so ubiquitous. A prolific poster, Bruce always had a kind word and a helpful spirit; he will be truly missed in the Videomaker community. 
These links are just a few of Bruce Paul's most popular Videomaker forums postings, we hope you enjoy them.
Below is a feature Bruce wrote for Videomaker a year ago that was the epitome of his generous personality. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, instead of saying "I will never shoot again," he studied and developed methods that would allow him to continue shooting, despite the shakes that Parkinson patients need to deal with.
“Was That An Earthquake?”
by Bruce "Birdcat" Paul
While I chose to make my career in IT for over thirty years, my first true love has always been photography, film and video.  I started taking photos with a Satellite 127 camera at the age of six and added 16mm and Super-8 movies at the ripe, old age of twelve.   It wasn't until the early-eighties, after two of my children were born, that I added video as well.  In 2003 I made the move to digital video and started my own video business in 2005 doing mostly corporate video.
In 2009 my “day job” went away and I decided to focus on growing my small video business.  Over the years since going digital, I had amassed a decent sized arsenal of hardware and software to support my endeavor – things like royalty free music and video assets, software programs to help produce more “interesting” video and better audio, a professional tripod with a fluid head, LED light, mic system, dolly, etc…  Budget (or lack thereof) prevented me from buying a prosumer level camera but I had a high end consumer model that recorded HD so I was ready to take my small business to the next level.
In early 2010 I noticed a slight tic in my right foot.  I showed this to my doctor but  he dismissed it at the time.  Fairly quickly, the “tic” grew into a tremor and I was sent to a neurologist in April who diagnosed me with Parkinson's disease.  “Parkinson's?  Really?” I thought. I had no one else on either side of my entire family who had ever had this.  In fact I didn't even personally know anyone else my age (55) who shared my diagnosis.  Of course I had known of others who also had Parkinson's – like Michael J. Fox who has written several books on the topic (he presents a difficult topic with great humor – I'll not forget the firehose reference) but there was no one at the time I could talk to about it comfortably.
Among the first things that came to my mind was “How are you gonna continue in a business that requires a steady hand”?  I had just started growing my business, how could I make it succeed now?  In professional circles, we would on a regular basis bemoan many videos we were asked to critique that had a shaky camera ruining what would have been an otherwise pleasant video.  Now my video was going to look like I recorded it in L.A. during an eight pointer.  Driven by circumstances way out of my control, I now had a huge decision to make – Was there a way to keep producing watchable video while fighting Parkinson's.  My friends and family have long known me as a technogeek – I can also be quite tenacious about things once my interest is aroused.  If there were solutions to this problem, I would find them.
The first thing I noted is I would need optical image stabilization in all my cameras.  For those who don't know what this is, OIS is a mechanism in the lens that adjusts the optical path of information based on camera movement before it is recorded on the sensor.  You've no doubt seen this technology in action watching the news segment from the traffic helicopter.  While not enough by itself to remedy the problem of hand tremors, it does help, especially in short, hand-held shots.
The second thing I realized was with few exceptions, I would need to use a tripod or monopod for most of my recording.  I already had a selection of tripods – from the professional one to a larger consumer model to a small table-top unit.  I added a lightweight consumer model and a monopod (gift from my wife) and was ready to go under any situation.
From my years of experience as a still photographer I knew of tricks used to stabilize cameras when supports were not available, like leaning on a wall to steady hand-held shots; using a flat, level surface (like a table or shelf) as a support or making my arm steadier by bracing it on my abdomen while holding my breath.  These still work exceptionally well for video (with the exception of holding my breath which cannot be used for longer shots without consequences).
Third, there are tools available as plug-ins for use in most NLE's or as standalone products that help fix shaky footage after the fact.  The two I use are ProDad's Mercalli 2 and New Blue FX's Stabilizer Pro.  Each works a bit differently and sometimes one is better than the other in various situations. They both work by examining each frame and noting the difference based on motion.  Then they rectify the unwanted camera motion in various ways.  Both move the frame around and then either zoom in on the result to get the shakes out or duplicate the video on the edge of the frame using the adjacent data to appear as if it was like that in the first place. Stabilizer Pro is available for under $100 and Mercalli goes for $249 (although Digital Juice has offered it in the past as a partner product for half price – how I acquired it).
Lastly, I have discovered (the hard way) that exercise can often help mitigate some of the symptoms of Parkinson's.  Since being diagnosed, I discovered my family had a friend who also had PD.  In his case the symptoms were so pronounced he was forced to give up driving. After joining an exercise program, his symptoms improved so much that he now drives again. My local YMCA offers a program called “Surf & Turf” that combines rigorous gym exercise with pool exercise – all geared to helping with the myriad of Parkinsonian afflictions.  
Summing up, Parkinson's disease is a tough thing to live with.  It is not my only health issue but certainly the one that has the most effect on my day-to-day living.  It changes your life and affects not only you but your whole family.  The good news is people die with PD, not from it and research is going on now that holds great promise.  The better news is it doesn't need to force you out of a hobby or profession you really love.  With some creativity and commitment, you can get around just about all problems PD can throw at you.
-Bruce Paul
Jennifer O'Rourke
Jennifer O'Rourke
Jennifer O’Rourke is an Emmy award-winning videographer & editor.

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