Thursday, September 6, 2012

Awesomely Ambitious! "1001 Video Tips"

Awesomely Ambitious!
1001 Video Tips

We have a wealth of information at our fingertips, with hundreds of professional, experienced Independent Professional Video Services Providers from around the world sharing and offering tips and suggestions for improving our video production skills or making our jobs easier. Tips and tricks of the trade. Insider knowledge that if we didn’t have to look all over the place for it or spend a few hours searching for the right term on Google to find it, we could be using this information today! Right now!

Well, here it comes!

“1001 Video Tips” will feature secret, not-so-secret, unique, unusual, remarkably simple or somewhat complex ideas and actions that professionals and amateurs in the video industry use EVERY DAY to make their jobs easier or better. This book will organize a treasure trove of information into logical collections, under specific groupings and headings to help facilitate finding just the right bit of information you need to make your current project one degree, or a hundred degrees, easier, smarter, better.

And, you ask, what is so “awesomely ambitious” about this? It’s getting the interest, involvement, enthusiasm and participation of the hundreds of video enthusiasts OUT THERE to make “1001 Video Tips” possible. I’m willing to do the work, organize the content, compile the information, categorize the contributions, create the mechanicals and publish the eBook, PDF and printed versions of the results. As you can see by the working title, we’re aiming for “1001 Video Tips” and this could prove to be a massive undertaking.

Sure, it would be equally awesome if everybody from Steve Moses of Southern California, to Bill Mecca of New Jersey with his Video QuickTips, popular blogger and video producer Jay Michael Long of Mississippi, Luis O. Maymi of Puerto Rico with his ongoing e-mail video marketing campaign strategies and simple blue screen tutorials, all the folks from the popular FB groups such as Wedding Cinema, The Frugal Filmmaker, Final Cut Pro X for Event Cinematographers, the Video Editing Cubicle and the myriad video-based forums on the Internet, got onboard with this, each contributing one or more “tips” for inclusion in “1001 Video Tips” ... we could easily hit that number, easily representing 1,001 or more members of the unique world of independent video production.

With the help of Jay, offering to present this as a guest blog on “In the Viewfinder” and the individuals and groups mentioned above, their friends and associates in professional videographers associations around the world, “1001 Video Tips” could reflect the influence of the many, many video enthusiasts who enjoy making video for personal pleasure or profit ... those just starting out or even many of us who have been “in the trenches since day one.” Not a day passes that I don’t learn something from Rick Smith, Nishi Dias, Steve Doc Yankee, Pamela Sprys Dahlgren, Natalie Forbes Neal, Tony Bondi, Wes Moore, Ed Wardyga (remember Gadget Man?), Artis White,  David Lai, Dan O’Hara, Bruce Paul, Ron Priest, Tom Alan Mitchell ... the list is infinite!

Enough of the name dropping. The “strategy” is to get at least one serious TIP from each of these individuals and as many as a thousand more, compile them into a solid reference and resource publication and offer it at a ridiculously low price to EVERY video enthusiast on the planet.

The popularity and success of this production is guaranteed, insured by the anticipated huge number of contributions, the good will of a WORLD of video professionals and enthusiasts who are more than happy to offer something unique to “1001 Video Tips” and in turn receive a downloadable PDF of the results, plus recognition for their unique contributions, a headshot photo and brief bio so readers know who they are in the industry, and their website if desired. This will be a massive viral experience! How?


I have the personal experience of organizing, writing, designing, publishing and marketing a number of video-related publications in print as well as ePub formats. I have succeeded in having publications listed not only at Lulu Dot Com, but iTunes’ iBookstore and Barnes and Noble’s Nook bookstore on the Internet. I will soon have a presence on Amazon as well. In addition, “1001 Video Tips” will have its own website presence. All of you who contribute and participate will have a photo/bio listing there as well.

In addition to all this, if each and every contributor also uses his/her social sites, blogs and PVN connections to mention “1001 Video Tips” even only once, the exposure will be astronomical and overwhelmingly viral.
A video book trailer will be created as well.

Your participation in the creation of “1001 Video Tips” will gain you recognition, establish branding for your business, products and services, and probably open doors that you didn’t even know existed.

What’s in it for You?
Recognition. A PDF copy of the finished publication. Unique discount pricing on the print publication ONLY for participants/contributors. And, depending on the overall success of the viral marketing strategies, special recognition on the “1001 Video Tips” blog site from voters and participants who give the nod to The Most Unique Tip, The Most Unusual Tip, The Least Expensive Tip and a host of other titles that you all will suggest over time as you participate in the blog content.

The blog will feature expansion on certain tips, offer readers an opportunity to enhance, add to or even share new approaches to the “1001 Video Tips” in the publication. This interactive environment will be beneficial to all of us who participate in the publication of “1001 Video Tips”!
A portion of revenues will be applied to acquiring software, hardware or even the components for implementing various “tips” in the book with random award drawings.


Categories can be expanded, based on what comes in but essentially topics will include: Lighting, Audio, Do-It-Yourself, Gadgets, Safety, Production, Editing Tips, Backup Tricks, Archiving, Creating Your Own Music. I am open to suggestions and input regarding all possible categories.
Keep in mind that the focus of “1001 Video Tips” is primarily on simple, unique or easy-to-implement “tips” that make the everyday production work in a videographer’s life just a wee bit easier, smarter, more efficient or less stressful.

Tips probably should mostly range in the 500-to-900 word range, but there’s nothing that says a good, solid tip needing extra special information couldn’t be longer or more involved. The contribution of self-generated images representing your “tips” contributions and a release to use not only your tip and images, but your image and bio information is suggested. I can and will provide a form if you want/need one, or a simple statement given along with your submission would suffice.

Once the interest is evident and the tips begin coming in, I can begin organizing and categorizing, eventually formatting the layout. When the initial goal of 1,001 tips is reached I will provide all contributors with a working outline of the content and ask for input regarding that. Dropbox could be utilized to facilitate materials and progress reports.

What’s the Timeline?
We’re going to keep this project loose and by that I mean while I would like a deadline of, say, 90 days, taking this to December, with the plan to have a finished publication ready to offer first quarter 2013, for now I’m not implementing a HARD deadline.

The more complete your contributions are, the faster this will come to fruition and result in a publication we all can be proud of. So, have your tip, support graphics or image(s), brief personal/business bio and headshot all ready to submit at the same time. Initially, anyone interested may e-mail me at This may very quickly evolve into a Dropbox file folder where your e-mail query will result in getting access to upload your materials for inclusion in “1001 Video Tips”.

THANKS, JAY, for offering space on your blog for this “guest” blog post.
Earl Chessher, Video StoryTellers!™

Monday, October 10, 2011

Opteka X-Grip Nightmare

With a popular blog like In The Viewfinder I realize I have a voice on the net that many subscribe to and follow my recommendations on video related products. This is one occasion where I will use this voice and tell you about the issues I have had with Opteka.

Recently I wrote a post recommending the Opteka X-Grip. First I'd like to say I love the product. In fact I loved it so much I decided to purchase another so both my Canon HV30 & HV40 would have these useful handles. However, after posting that blog and ordering another X-Grip I found myself in a nightmare of problems with the Opteka company.

I ordered the second Opteka X-Grip from the 47th st. Photo eBay store. When it arrived I was surprised to find that the knob on the bottom of the unit, which has a threaded screw that allows the unit to mount on a tripod, did not have the necessary threads for a tripod screw. The screw was solid. This was one of the major reasons I needed the X-Grip, so it would mount on a tripod. This unit was defective and didn't conform to their advertising that it will mount to a tripod.

I took photos of the unit and its underside so the people at 47street Photo could see the differences and would know that this unit was faulty.

I emailed them the photos and explanation about the unit.

Then I contacted the company and requested a replacement, and I explained the issue using the photos.

The company gave me an RMA number and with it I returned the product and waited. They replaced the unit and in a couple of weeks I had a new X-Grip. When I opened the new X-Grip I discovered that the replacement was also missing the threaded screw!

Again I contacted 47street Photo and complained. I mean, really?? It's as if they just sent back the unit I sent to them! I was given the choice to keep it or get my money back. I was also told that they had received a batch of units that had this issue and no one checked them. So, I'm probably not the only one with a defective unit. Finally after going around with them I got my money
back. After all I had no other options. The X-grip is not available in stores near me.

At this point I decided I'd be smart and order one directly from the Opteka web site, which I did. I spoke to someone at the company that talked so fast he was hard to understand. His attitude was not caring at all and he was rude. However, I ordered the unit anyway. This was probably a big mistake!

After ordering the unit I checked my email and I was surprised again to find out that the unit was being shipped from 47 street Photo, not Opteka! This put me off guard and I was afraid I would get another unit without the threads to attach it to a tripod. The unit arrived in about two weeks and I cautiously opened it...

The unit does have the threaded screw for a tripod. However, the base plate is missing the four little screws that hold it in place!

Yet another set back and this one supposedly came from Opteka themselves. The four little screws are not in the box and apparently were never installed.

It is at this point that I figured 47street Photo and Opteka must be the same place. My contact at Opteka was Ryan, my contact at 47street Photo was also Ryan. Hmmmm....

I cannot in good conscience recommend Opteka

So, after all of the above I cannot in good conscience recommend Opteka to anyone wanting to buy video products. The first X-Grip is a good unit and I use it often. However, the company is not on my list of great vendors. In fact I encourage you to shop elsewhere. I usually recommend products that are inexpensive because I know you, as a videographer need to stretch your video budget, and get the best quality for your dollar. You also want products that are constructed well and will not give you problems. I hope my experience will help you decide where you want to spend your money.

If you do decide to shop at Opteka or 47st. Photo I hope your experience is better than mine. Frankly I no longer trust this company and will not purchase from them again. Ever.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

VO Equipment for Video

You've heard those amazing voices on documentaries and movie trailers, the guys that sound like they carry their lungs around in a wheel barrow? Voice over talent is something not many can teach you, you either have it or you don't.
But you can get inexpensive equipment that will make the voice you have sound even better.

When laying down tracks for a documentary or production you may want your narration to sound rich and bold. Using just any old microphone, especially little mics for computers will not give you a professional sound. For under $100.00 you can create a sound system that will bring you the crisp vocals you're looking for. Without breaking the bank.

Check out the Behringer 802 Microphone Mixer {$49.99} , it has EQ, FX and trim controls that will give your voice a true, resonance sound. Couple the mixer with a Behringer C-1 {$35.00} Microphone and you can have a truly awesome audio setup.

The Behringer 802 features "British EQ", a very warm tone that brings out the sizzle in your voice. 130 dB dynamic range for plenty of headroom and with up to 60 dB of gain and a +48 volt phantom power supply. Its EQ circuitry is made in Britain, which are renowned throughout the world for their warm and musical sound character. Even with extreme gain settings, these equalizers provide outstanding audio.

It's best not to mix brands, Behringer has made these compatible

The Behringer C-1 Condenser mic is an affordable, high-quality, durable transducer type microphone. Thanks to its cardioid (heart-shaped) pattern, the C-1 microphone picks up your source signal while rejecting off-axis sounds that can ruin an otherwise perfect recording. With its pressure-gradient, shock-mounted transducer and gold-plated XLR output, the C-1 is very neutral sounding and truly delivers on the promise of noise-free transmission.

Put the two together, add a cable from the mixer to your computer sound card, a microphone stand and throw in some basic sound proofing and you have a great VO setup.
One idea I had for sound proofing is to place foam on a tri-folding science project board and set it up with the mic and a copy stand to deflect outside sounds. Even some old carpet will help deafen unwanted sounds.

This set up would also be good for pod-casts and any recording needs, even singing or vocal tracks you can add to music in your video production.

Plus if you are broadcasting a netcast or program over the internet, either live or recorded, having a good microphone and mixer setup will add more depth to the sound quality of your show.

The Voice Of God

Get good at voice overs and you may find clients will pay you for your talent and skill. Everyone can talk, but not everyone can talk and sound like a pro. Who knows, you could be the next Don LaFontaine!

But seriously, a good mic and mixer set up can bring extra quality to your productions and for about $100 plus some cables and ingenuity you can build a nice VO booth. If that is still too steep then consider Behringers small mixer, the 502, 5 channel mixer at $37.91. Same sound, just fewer inputs.
Either way with an approach to good sound and a little vocal coaching you can have pro narration for your productions!