Steady Cam for your iPhone or GoPro!

I found a new gadget that helps reduce shaky video. The Digipower Action Camera Stabilizer. It is a simple design, includes counter weights, smart phone mount and a GoPro mount. It all packs nicely in a hardshell case. The price was about $60 for the kit.

It is quite simple. You mount your device then use the counter weights and level (built in the arm) to get the desired angle. When you start filming the mount helps to reduce camera shake and movement. I’ve only used it a little but notice a big difference in video quality.

Over all it seems to be well built but be aware it is for light weight cameras. I would not try to mount a DSLR or full size video camera to this unit. The only real issue I ave is the case does not look to be the most durable. For the price this mini steady cam is a great value!

DXG-5F9VK HD 1080p 3D Camcorder

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A 3D camcorder for under $200 US, are you kidding? Yes this is a sub $200 3D camcorder. I first saw this when I was looking for a pro model camcorder to do stock videos with. I dismissed it as I really needed a camera with a high quality lens and sound recording ability. Later I decided to revisit the possibility of 3D video just for fun. The price was right so knowing it was just a fun toy I took a chance on it.

The camera is light weight and I’m sure for most this will be a good thing. I like my cameras to be a bit heavier as the weight helps to steady the camera. The controls are simple as is the menu. It stores video on SD media, I used a class 10 16gig scandisk for my testing. It has an almost instant on. Just flip the lens then open the view screen. The view screen is in 3D, no need for 3D glasses. The only issue is when the lens is open you can’t tilt the screen too much.

The camera has really good image quality. It may be a bit awkward at first because of the stereo lens but that isn’t too bad. Video is sharp and crisp with very nice color and contrast. I was shocked to see what this camera could do. The only real issue I had was a choppy zoom. I really wish the zoom was smooth but for the price and the image quality I can deal with the slightly jerky zoom.

The microphone is stereo and located in the front part of the monitor door. This does well as long as the sound that is right in front of the user. If there was one thing that would really make this camera sell better that would be the addition of an external microphone, but they did not add the plug. Since I did buy this camera to just play around, for me that missing feature was not a big deal.

So here are the pros
· Good image quality
· Light Weight
· Simple Operation
· Live 3D viewer
· Good Color

Here are the Cons
· Choppy Zoom
· No external Microphone jack
· Limited viewer tilt
· Average to poor images in low light

Conclusion – If you want a fun little camera to create 3D video with this is the camera for you. It has a low price and great image quality. I really enjoy using this camera. If you need features like an external microphone and smooth zooming then you may want to look at some other cameras. Again I would recommend this to users who want a fun camera or those who want to dabble in 3D. It would be hard to beat the quality at the price of this camera.

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Wow…Been a While!!

Sometimes we have the very best intentions and then it goes terribly wrong…. I’m not sure what happened I just one day stopped blogging and forget it was even here until I got my renewal notice. That was just sad on my part. I know I don’t have many followers if any but still I should at least try to keep this current. I mean you never know when the Zombie Apocalypse will happen and there should be some history of what life was like. That being said I’m not sure my history will do much beside cure insomnia.

Ok, this being a technology blog lets think about what is next. I am toying with the idea of working on 3D video. After all I just upgraded to a new 3D TV so I should have some video to go with. I am currently looking at the Go Pro 3D and this off brand camera. If I do the Go Pro I have other uses as I currently have ½ of what I need. But this system doesn’t shoot in real 3D it is the red and green. I’m still checking to see if Adobe Premier or Finalcut Pro could use it to do real 3D. Getting mixed answers. The other camera shoots in the real 3D format. The drawback is I could only use it for 3D. Decisions, Decisions… So stay tune for my decision, samples and reviews.

Nikon Coolpix AW100

A while back I wrote about the GoPro camera.  I have used my GoPro for many things and intended to use it for some underwater shots while on vacation.  After reading reviews I found it was limited on quality underwater.  Further research lead me to the Nikon Coolpix AW100.  Water proof up to 33ft and shock proof up to 5 feet.  This camera was made for mild sports action yet still remains stylish.

The camera looks like a simple point and shoot. Many of the features you would find on most with a couple differences. First the button for the shutter and video are separate. Each has a unique texture so you can feel what is what. Next the batter and memory card door had a rubber seal but also uses a double lock to be more secure from accidental opening. Next the camera has a built in GPS allowing you to GEO tag your images or use it as a functional ground GPS. Finally you will find a underwater setting in the presets for diving.

Dolphin Flight – Discovery Cove, Orlando FL

Going through the presets and doing some tests I found the “simple” mode to be annoying.  I switch it over to “auto” for playing.  During vacation I used several presets like “underwater”, “Beach” and “Night Portrait”.  These are easy to change using the scene mode button on the back of the camera.  All in all I found the scenes to be quite adequate for most of my images.  Remember this is a point and shoot.  The zoom range work well for most situations.  The one drawback was the speed between shots.  The manual boasts 2.5 frames per second but even with my extreme 30MB/s SD card I could not get shots that quickly.

The image quality during daylight was above average to outstanding in the point and shoot category.  I think the color and contrast in the daylight images were spot on.  I also could not see any real issues with noise in these images.  I was a little disappointed in the night images.  They seemed to have a lot of noise and took time to fix in photoshop.  I would say a 5X7 would be the largest you could get a usable print from using night settings.   Overall for a point and shoot the camera performance was above average.  ** note I tested the zoom lens but did not use the digital zoom feature.

Video was also handled very well with this little camera.  It takes 1080p HD video with great color and contrast.  I also took several night videos and amazingly the quality of night video was much better than the photos.  I was able to snorkel taking video and stills again with great results.  The camera was easy to manage underwater.  I did notice one difference here that should be noted.  Using the underwater mode the still images look nice, corrected color but to me look a bit dull.  The video looks great, especially compared to the GoPro but the color looks off a bit.  I have included a video shot entirely using the AW100. (stills and video use the Coolpix AW100, Edited in Final Cut X Pro)

My overall opinion of the Nikon AW100:  If you need a camera that can take some light abuse and for all weather situations I would recommend you check this camera out.  The image and video quality are excellent in most situations.  The controls are simple to use and it has safety locks keeping the camera weather tight.  The drawbacks are minimal unless you plan to do lots of low-light images.  For under $300 (USD) this camera is well worth a look.

Thanks for reading!

The Art of Stop Motion – MAC fun with iStopMotion

The Fly Empire - Bug Wars

This is a follow up to a previous blog post on iStopMotion. I thought I would look into what it takes to produce a short video. So let’s start with the basics. First you will need some sort of concept. Just because these are not live actors doesn’t mean you don’t need to create a script and plan out the movie before shooting. The concept for this short is “Bug Wars”. We will be using some plastic bugs and creating a battle. The concept is simple enough. There isn’t a script but we will need to plan this out so we know what to shoot and what to do. This can be done by making a shot list or creating a storyboard so that everything in organized.
Step 2 would be to assemble the characters for the movie. In this case I have picked up several packages of fake bugs. Looking at the storyboard I will need to cut a few of them up so I can have some parts for the splatter scenes. I also need some additional items for props. I got some chunks of paper, plastic, wrappers and an old plastic cup. These will make great objects for my bugs to crawl over and add to the overall look and feel of the film. Now that most of this has been collected I need to build a location. Using dome old cardboard boxes I constructed a crude set for this fun film.

Clone Roaches - Bug Wars

It is time for the fun and hard work to begin. I had to make sure my lighting was even. I chose to use overhead lighting for this. It does make the image a little flat looking abut it is also easier to film. I have also used key lighting (main light to one side) but this will work best for this adventure. Setting up is important as well.

 

Look at the stage and the props through the camera. Get them all in place and make sure everything is how you want it. Once it is set you need to lock the camera down. You need to make sure that the camera and object don’t get moved until filming is complete. If you plan to have different camera angles the I suggest shooting everything you want at each angle then assemble it all in post production.
Don’t expect to be a fast process at 12 frames or more per second you will be taking a bunch of images. I also would stress that your finished size will be 1920X1080 max (in most cases) if not smaller so don’t think you need to set your camera on “full” or “raw” size images. You should get great results on smaller jpegs.

The set of Bug Wars

This is also important so you don’t fill your memory card and risk moving the camera to change it. Another item to point out is to keep in mind your depth of field. You can do some amazing effects like shooting a close-up at f2.8 to put the background out of focus. Just remember when you pull back to change the f-stop to f5.6 – f11 if you want more of the objects in view.

 

As I created this movie I used the onion skin so I could make sure I didn’t move items too much. I think this is a feature that really makes a difference. The only drawback is you have to accept the image and if you forget to do that you loose the frame. I also setup the grid to 16 squares. This is something you don’t really need to do but it helps direct the motion the way you want. In closing just remember this is a long process and the results vary but it is fun creating this type of animation. Next time I’ll talk about how I import iStop Motion into iMove and complete the post production work.
Thanks For Reading!!


Create & Be a Cartoon Character with ToonCamera app for iPhone!

If you have seen those TV commercials that have cartoon like people and wondered how they created those realistic looking toons then this is your lucky day! There’s an app for that! The ToonCamera app for your iPhone does a good job creating cartoon like images or video without the need for expensive editing programs. There are several modes from color to line (pen & ink) style. This app is easy to use then import into your iMovie for editing. This fun little app has many possibilities and turns the everyday into a bit more fun and exciting. This app has simple controls and does have its limits but for less than $1 (USD) you really can’t go wrong. Go ahead you know you want to be a cartoon character!!
Thanks for reading!

The following movie was shot using ToonCamera and iMovie both on the iPhone 4S