My Setup for Video Production

Lately I’ve been working on a lot more video production – everything from simple video tutorials, to apps running on devices, to detailed videos on Adobe products and tools. I’m getting asked more and more about what I’m using to produce my videos, so here goes…

I consider this to be a fairly minimalist rig, and everything is very portable, which is great for travel.

Video Capture

For all of my front-facing videos I am using a Panasonic Lumix LX7, and for some of my on-device and secondary camera angles, I use a GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition. The LX7 is my go-to camera for both photography and video work. It captures great images, and allows for fully automatic or manual control of the image capture settings.

Panasonic Lumix LX7 and GoPro Hero 3 Black
Panasonic Lumix LX7 and GoPro Hero 3 Black

When recording videos, I set the LX7 to manual mode so it won’t auto-focus or automatically adjust light balance, and I record everything in full HD (1080p, 30 FPS). On the GoPro, I normally select 1080p at either 30 or 60 FPS (depending on the situation and lighting). If I am outdoors, I’ll have Protune on, if I’m indoors I usually have Protune off.

Camera settings are only part of the whole process. To have a decent output, you really need proper lighting, and a backdrop that isn’t distracting. I try to keep this setup very simple: I’ll place the camera on a tripod on the opposite side of my desk so that it faces me directly. Behind me, I’ll have a black muslin backdrop – this helps everything else stand out from the background, and it doesn’t reflect any light. Simple tip: Use a clothes steamer on the muslin backdrop, and the wrinkles will fall out pretty quickly.

Office/Studio
Office/Studio Lighting and Backdrop

For lighting, I have darkening blinds that block out nearly all outside light – this way you can control the lighting for your video shoots. Often shooting a video may be done over several days, and I can’t rely on the weather and natural light to be consistent. With the room darkened, I normally use a single light source above and slightly off to the side of the camera. I try to find an angle that lights me up from the front, but does not reflect in my glasses. I also dim the display on my computer, so it’s not reflecting in my glasses, or dramatically altering the the lighting.

Once the lighting has been set, I set up the camera and adjust zoom, focus, and aperture (exposure) where I want it for the current video.

Framing The Shot
Framing The Shot

Audio Capture

Great video is only half of the equation… Without clear audio, the videos aren’t nearly as good, and nobody wants to listen to bad audio. I started off using the built-in mics on my cameras, but quickly learned that the internal microphones weren’t going to cut it. For all of my recent videos I’ver started using a Zoom H4N digital audio recorder. The Zoom enables high quality stereo recording. It’s very easy to use, and the recording quality is fantastic… now if only I could get those birds to stop chirping outside of my window.

Zoom H4N Digital Audio Recorder
Zoom H4N Digital Audio Recorder

Editing & Post-Production

Capturing content is the first part of the process. The second part is editing everything together. In the editing process, I take advantage of all of the creative tools Adobe has to offer. Most of my video editing is done with Premiere Pro. This includes clipping & sequencing, color correction, effects, etc… All of my audio production is done with Adobe Audition – this includes sound cleanup, and mastering. For graphics, I use Photoshop and Illustrator, depending on the format and content. If you want to insert animations, you can even use Flash Pro as an animation platform, export as video, and pull it into your Premiere project.

Video Editing in Adobe Premiere Pro CC
Video Editing in Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Once everything is how I want it, I’ll export to H.264 format (for the web), upload to YouTube, and then start syndicating it however possible/necessary. Normally, it’s just pulling in a YoutTube video into a blog post.

My Notes on the GoPro Hero 3 Black Camera

If you’ve read my blog recently, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been using a GoPro camera quite a lot lately. Everything from aerial photos, to recording presentations, to recording apps on my devices, to time-lapse videos.

I think this camera is awesome! It’s really pretty amazing… While it might seem “bare bones” without a view finder or zoom capabilities, it is very rugged, it takes great still photos (12MP), and even better video (WVGA at 240 FPS all the way to 4K at 15 FPS). It excels in bright light and action shots, and is a very versatile and impressive camera. You can also use the GoPro app on your iOS, Android, or Windows Phone device as a remote viewfinder and controller, which is very cool. Though the GoPro is not without its quirks/annoyances.
h3_inhousing_45_black

Bottom Line:

Awesome camera. I want multiple of them. For video, either 1080p or 720p video is more than adequate for most circumstances. Audio capture is okay, but it’s better if you have an external mic and can sync audio in post-production. While 4K video is seriously awesome, it kills the battery very quickly, has HUGE file sizes, and isn’t my primary need. Still images look great, although there is significant fisheye distortion from the 170 degree lens. While this looks fantastic in a lot of cases, sometimes we don’t want it… Luckily we can get rid of the fisheye distortion with Photoshop!

The camera has some learning curve, but the output is very good, and it is very portable and compact (though, you may end up with more accessories that take up more space).

Notes:

Here are some notes about the camera, mostly focused on using it as a lightweight travel camera:

Images & Videos Produced:

  • Very good quality
  • Images and videos look great in decent light, but the camera doesn’t function well in very low-light situations.
  • Videos Must be edited – output files are broken into multiple .mp4 files that are uncompressed (HUGE)
  • Must be converted to H.264 or other codec before you can upload them to YouTube successfully, otherwise they “fail in processing”.
  • You can do all the editing and conversion in Adobe Premiere and After Effects. GoPro has their own Cineform video editing software, but I prefer Premiere.

Pros:

  • Amazing video & image quality
  • Wide angle lens – great for capturing landscapes or presentation stage/projector (You only need the camera to be about 6-10 feet away for a decent stage coverage area)
  • Great in both indoor and outdoor environments
  • Small, very portable

Cons:

  • No view finder/lcd screen, though you can use a mobile device as a viewfinder
  • No wall charger included, however you can charge it by plugging the USB adapter into an iPad (or other USB) power supply
  • Relatively short battery life when capturing video
  • Video files are huge (though it is because they are such high quality video)

Quirks & Annoyances:

  • If you unplug it from your computer without ejecting, it will lock up the camera. You have to remove the memory card, then remove the battery and reinstall both before the camera will reboot.
  • You can record video while plugged into a power source – However, you MUST start recording before you plug it in, otherwise it won’t let you record while plugged into computer or wall.
  • If you improperly shut down the camera, the most recently recorded video may be corrupt. This can happen if the camera is dropped or jarred from a crash. If this happens, just re-insert the memory card, then reboot the camera. It will go into recover mode, and fix the corrupted file. If auto-recover doesn’t restore your video, you *might* be able to recover the video from the memory card, but there is no guarantee… this has happened to me.
  • The camera does not automatically turn off. You must manually power off the camera when not in use. This can kill your battery unexpectedly if you don’t power off, however you can also change this behavior in the GoPro settings.
  • With the battery pack connected and the “frame” mount connected, you might get a “hum” in the audio – you can reduce this in Adobe Audition, but if you have an external mic, then you don’t have to worry. I’m still not 100% sure if it was the camera/backpack, or something else in the room that caused the audio interference.
  • Let the camera finish whatever it is doing when you are done recording. Don’t force a power-off, otherwise you might lose whatever is in memory buffer on the camera – I know this from experience & recently lost about 20 minutes of video.
  • Opening the waterproof case for the first time is trickier than you might imagine. Once you know how to do it, it’s really easy.
  • Although the camera is supposed to support 64 Gig memory cards, I strongly advise not using anything greater than 32 Gigs. I ran into some issues where the GoPro corrupted a 64 Gig Sandisk memory card to the point that it was unrecognizable by a computer or by the camera. After scouring the web and contacting technical support, I had to replace the card. It turns out the particular camera firmware version was not compatible with the file format for my memory card. Since switching to 32 Gig cards, I haven’t had any problems.

Charge Time:

  • Approximately 2 hours for a full charge from completely dead. This will take longer with battery BacPac – yes, this was very unscientific, as were my battery tests

Battery Tests:

  • 720p, 60FPS, WiFi Disabled: Approx 1 hour (2 iterations)
  • 720p, 60FPS, WiFi Disabled, with battery BacPac: Approx 90 mins (though the BacPac was not fully charged) – it is advertised to double battery life.

These are more than sufficient battery times for my normal circumstances.

Essential Accessories:

  • Micro SD Memory Card – Required, it does not come with one. I reccommend 32 Gig cards, and get multiple cards so you can quickly swap them in and out.
  • Tripod mount – (if you want it on a tripod.) There is only the custom GoPro mount in the package, however you can use part of the package display as an inexpensive stand)
  • “The Frame” mount - The only mounting option that comes with it is the waterproof enclosure. This isn’t great for presentations b/c you get better audio quality by just having the camera exposed. This also comes with a much needed lens cap.
  • Battery BacPac - Extend the life of the GoPro with a secondary battery, although if you use this, you can’t attach the LCD back.
  • Some sort of bag to put everying in. There are a lot of parts and accessories, although not all of them are essential to carry around with you.

Non-essential accessories:

These would be nice to have, but you can get by without them:

  • Wall Charger – I use an iPad power supply… just plug in the USB adapter to the iPad “wall wart”.
  • LCD Back Panel – I did not get one of these, I was fine just pointing it and shooting. However, you cannot use this with the battery BacPac.

Side by Side Comparison:

Here is a sample where I was recording one of Raymond Camden’s presentations. Compared with a Sony Bloggie (at exact same distance). Bloggie feels “closer”, but has worse video quality, worse in poor lighting, and doesn’t capture the full experience of the presentation. This is without any color correction or post processing other than resizing the image:

gopro_comparison

Other Sample Images:

original

DCIM103GOPRO DCIM103GOPRO DCIM103GOPRO

Conclusion:

My wishlist for the GoPro is that I wish it took higher than 12 MP photos.  12 MP is actually great, but *I NEEDZ MOAR P1XELS*. I also wish there was a way to interchange the lens with a non-fisheye lens, but otherwise I love this camera. Yes, I would buy another one in a hearbeat!

Fun With Photoshop

Some days you are just meant to be creative… I think yesterday was that day for me. I saw that Erik Johansson released a new composition, and it sparked a wave of creativity within me. I discovered Erik’s work via Adobe Max this year – his presentation was awesome and very inspiring. Seriously, do yourself a favor and go watch it.

I digress… I’ve been doing a lot of aerial photography lately, and after seeing Erik’s latest composition I thought to myself: why not take some of my aerial photos and start altering reality? My immediate idea was to create a surrealistic composition where you are looking down through a crystal ball. Next thing you know, this happened…

Here are a few iterations from the creative spark. I think v.2 (without the flames is my favorite):

Crystal Ball v.1
Crystal Ball v.1
Crystal Ball v.2
Crystal Ball v.2
Crystal Ball v.2 with Flames
Crystal Ball v.2 with Flames

Attribution:

The aerial image was mine, captured with a DJI Phantom and GoPro camera. Check out the original image on Flickr.

I also used a few assets from wikimedia.org in this composition:

Now, go get Photoshop, and Enjoy!

Two Ways To Remove Fisheye From GoPro Images

goproEarlier this week I did a post on the new lens profiles for GoPro cameras in Camera Raw 8.2 and Lightroom 5.2. I mentioned in that post (and have had several conversations with people since then) that you can also reduce the fisheye effect using Photoshop CC‘s Adaptive Wide Angle filter. So I decided to put together a quick post showing the output of the Lens Correction and Adaptive Wide Angle filters side-by-side on the same image.

Check out the video see how to apply both techniques, and compare the output.

You can check out the final images here (shrunk to 600×450 for the blog):

Original Image - No Corrections
Original Image – No Corrections
Image Modified With Adaptive Wide Angle Filter
Image Modified With Adaptive Wide Angle Filter
Image Modified With Lens Profile Correction
Image Modified With Lens Profile Correction

Thanks to my daughter for posing for the camera while gardening, and yes, the deck has been repainted since this photo was taken. 

Enjoy!

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