In my previous post Bullet Points I pointed out the benefits of PolderbitS Sound Recorder and Editor. But I neglected to mention their equally fine Video Recorder—an app which lets you capture videos running on your PC screen.

Want to nab a movie from YouTube? No problem. Or maybe you’d like to create a compilation of scenes from a film on DVD. Not only does PolderbitS Video Recorder do this, but it provides superb quality.

Other capture utilities I’ve tried degrade the video and/or don’t record the audio. Well this application is the answer.

You can order a copy here.


Rank Items

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The title is a red herring but I couldn’t resist when I found this photo in the archives. It’s the My Menu screen for the Nikon D90. This selection lets one change the order of the items in the camera’s customized list. As you can see I placed Battery info at the top as it’s something I check frequently—especially when shooting movies. This feature is also available on the Nikon D300s.

The video capability on the D300s is an improvement on the D90 which—need I remind readers—was the world’s first DSLR to include video capture. I’ve yet to try the Nikon D7000.


Since we’re talking movie mode here, Nikon’s 24 fps capture rate has a more filmic quality than standard 30 fps. Right off the bat you’ve got the soft quality of film. But that isn’t to say you’ll have the look your after. In this case you can reach for Magic Bullet Looks from Red Giant Software. It’s part of the new Magic Bullet Suite 11 mentioned in a previous post. (Watch for the review in Zoom Street’s August issue.)

Ostensibly a plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, you can access it from within Photoshop, too. I find this enormously helpful since I often shoot stills in advance of a video project and can experiment with various looks. I can tweak the effects and when I’ve got what I’m looking for,  save the “look”  and, later, apply it directly to clips in Premiere Pro.

Here’s an example. While scouting locations I took this still in a nearby park. This was to be the locale for the title sequence.

original photo

The photo was too crisp and realist as I was looking for a more ethereal feeling. Using Magic Bullet’s “Black Diffusion” effect I had exactly the look I was after.

with Magic Bullet Look applied

I was also considering making the sequence black and white with the contrast kicked up a notch..

b/w version

Magic Bullet provides a great collection of tools for either post or preproduction.

In the end I decided to stick with color. Below is a frame from  the movie.

video still

More info here on Magic Bullet Suite.

Sweet Magic Redux

Looks Builder

Magic Bullet Suite 11 has arrived in time to spark up the summer. This stellar collection of DV plug-ins for Adobe Premiere Pro (and other editing applications) is a potpourri of wow. The above screen shot shows a partial view of  the Looks Builder interface as launched from Photoshop CS5—(Yes, it’s cool for still images. too!).

“Looks” are at the core of this special effects  suite, but there’s a whole lot more so watch for our  feature review in the August issue of Zoom Street.

Magic Bullet Suite 11

And while you’re waiting watch this mondo cool video, “Plot Device” via Red Giant Software.

Plot Device from Red Giant on Vimeo.


New SmartSound Plug-In for Premiere Pro Rocks!

SmartSound Plug-In for Premiere Pro

There’s s a great workflow enhancement for Sonicfire Pro 5 users—a plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 and 5.5. Using the Express Track search tool, locate and download a royalty-free music track, customize the music (set length, variation, instrument mix), and when the soundtrack is ready simply push the send button and it opens in Premiere Pro. Just drag it to the timeline—bingo!

You will also save time with the Smart Recall feature. Double-click your SmartSound music file from the project bin or timeline and it takes you right back to your Sonicfire Pro project where you can tweak and edit it. When done, send it back to Premiere.

Sounds sweet, yes?

You can grab the SmartSound plug-in here.

Happy Weekend!


In production…

design by Derek Pell

I’m shooting a video this summer here in northern California. The title is tentative, but I thought you might like to see the design for the title sequence. I created this in Photoshop as a comp,  but  will animate it later using After Effects.

I’ll post some rough cuts on this blog in the future. Stay tuned.


DV Potpourri

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Here’s a mixed bag of gear and guidebooks for DSLR video shooters.

When we think of digital video we think of images

moving across the screen. But the soundtrack is equally important. indeed, poor audio quality can destroy the effect of great cinematography.

DSLR users with HD capability know that their internal mic doesn’t make the cut. It’s OK in a pinch or for shooting a family vacation, but if you want high quality sound you have to

think outside the camera…


You can use an affordable external mic like the nifty new Videomic Pro from RODE. This compact condenser microphone features integrated shock mounting, a foam windscreen, and sits perched on the camera’s hot shoe. Powered by a single 9V battery, you get up to 70 hours of audio recording. The Videomic Pro isn’t simply convenient for run and gun shoots, it provides broadcast quality recording and a two-step High Pass Filter and three position level control.



A pricier alternative is to employ a stand-alone portable audio recorder like the Zoom H4n.


This baby has a list price around $600, but it’s going for $299 on Amazon right now. The specs are impressive:

  • Built-in X/Y stereo mics record at either 90° or 120°
  • Four channel simultaneous recording using built-in and external mics
  • Digitally controlled, high-quality mic preamp for improved audio quality
  • Large 1.9-Inch LCD screen and improved user interface for easy operation
  • 24bit/96kHz Linear PCM recording for pristine recording

If you go this route you’re guaranteed great audio. The only snag is you’ll have to link the audio  in your editing application. It’s a fairly straightforward task, but there’s also software like DualEyes from Singular Software that automates the job.

If you go the portable recorder route you’ll want to add an accessory kit from Rycote—namely their Portable Audio Recorder Kit…


It’s featured on Zoom Street in the June issue. Here’s a quick clip:

The kit includes a suspension bridge and 1/4" to 3/8" Swivel Adaptor; a mini Windjammer; and a soft grip extension handle. You can mount it on a light stand as in the clip, attach it to a boom arm, or hand-hold the recorder without vibration interference or wind noise. The voiceover for the video was recorded outdoors with a stiff breeze blowing yet sounds like it was done in a studio. Thus, Rycote maximizes your investment in a portable recorder and is an essential accessory.

rycote box


For all you do-it-yourselfers out there, check out the Third Edition of Killer Camera Rigs That You Can Build by Dan Selakovich (Focal Press),


It’s got a killer film noir cover that you can bet the author of Shoot To Thrill really digs. The book guides you through the construction of camera cranes, car mounts, dollies, and other high end Hollywood gear that would cost millions to buy. But with a few tools and some elbow grease you have it all on the cheap. It’s crammed with step-by-step photos, too.



101 Top Ten Tips for DSLR Video by Adam Juniper & David Newton (Wiley) managers to cover everything from gear to workflow in an eye-grabbing  format. It’s a crash course in DSLR video production that includes just enough info to get you shooting movies without bogging you down in technicalities. A great guide for beginners.

If you want to dig deeper  into the process, don’t miss Kurt Lancaster’s DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Video (Focal Press).


The new crop of DSLRs can capture first-rate footage, but to get the actual look of film requires not just the right accessories but specific visual techniques which this book  skillfully illuminates. It’s a master class in production, covering composition, lighting, camera movement, lenses picture styles, audio, and a whole lot more. A must for Indy shooters.


RODE Rides Again!

Zoom Street Photo

I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to test the new RODE VideoMic Pro. So that’s what I’m up to this weekend, This model (seen above mounted on a Nikon D300s) is even more compact than the original VideoMic. And you won’t hear any complaints on that score from DSLR shooters—the smaller the better as we like to travel light.

So how’s the audio quality? Well you’ll have to wait for my report in the June issue of Zoom Street. In the meantime, visit

Zoom Street Photo