Archive for March 1st, 2010

Edward Sharpe, Broken Bells

Here’s a puzzle for you.

I have been following Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes since their album came out in Summer 2009, and continuously was looking at their iTunes charting. Bear in mind that these guys do minimal to zilch PR. And yet, their album refuses to leave the top-25 of the Alternative charts on iTunes! It never went up to the top-10 either! It wasn’t a case of being released, charting in the top-10, getting “well known”, and then being considered a great album and continuing to exist in the top-25. That was more of a case of a release that was under the radar of most people who only check out the top-10, but with enough touring and word of mouth, being able to continue selling pretty well STEADILY. Which means that the charting in the top-25 we see today is a matter of CONTINUOUS discovering by fans. Whereas other bands will see dramatic curves in their album sale charts (if you were to use Excel), Edward Sharpe ONLY has a steady line, that inclines upwards little by little.

I’m very happy about this situation because it shows that a TRULY great band requires MINIMAL PR. As long as the concerts are great (and from what Dustin was telling me today they’re amazing on stage), the music is great, their personal stories are interesting, their videos are mesmerizing, all that creates a word of mouth that produces steady sales. Not super hits, but advancing popularity, little by little. It just shows that bands with a VISION don’t need major labels. And that band does have vision, very obvious from their two latest music videos that are part of a 12-part musical.

I also would like to blog about the Broken Bells, which I streamed their album today four times already! Their album, coming out March 9th, is the perfect blend for me of indie-sounding music but with the polishing of a major label record. Think of it as a brand new Linux distro that has the great usability and looks of Mac OS X. Yeah, something like that.

If that album had come out last year, it would probably sit in the No 1 of the decade for me. That’s how much I love their tunes.

HyperPrime 50mm f/0.95 lens for micro 4/3s cams

You probably remember Solomon Chase. If not, check this video out. You do remember now, right? 🙂

Solomon is now selling the new NOKTOR lenses in the US. These are new, Japanese, ultra-fast lenses designed for the micro four thirds cameras, like the Panasonic GH1 and GF1. My guess is that they are probably not the sharpest lenses around, however by the moment the camera resizes down to 1080p, and if you actually need lots of shallow DoF, or to be able to see better in the dark, they do their job.

New Video Hobby? A Guide from Start to Finish

My 5 year old PC almost died yesterday (apparently it was just the gfx card to blame, which I replaced since), so amidst all that I checked out the PC prices. Having a fresh look at the current prices, I decided to write this blog post: what would I buy if I was starting doing video today. Here’s what I put together for $2500 (plus tax/shipping).

1. PC
I found this DELL model being the best in terms of features and price. I configured it with the basic PC speakers, Intel Pentium dual-core E5400 (2MB L2, 2.7GHz, 800FSB), 64bit Win7 OS, 4GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz, 21.5″ Dell ST2210 Full HD 1080p Monitor with VGA cable, 500GB SATA Hard Drive 7200RPM. Price: $718.

2. PC Extras
A. You need to buy a few extras here: a cheap GeForce PCIe card that has PureVideo HD support (VP2+). The cheapest you can find that can do some good PureVideo will do (Purevideo CUDA is starting to get very good support for h.264 acceleration from many applications, including Flash). You can find such a card for about $60-$70 in other stores, like Geeks.com.
B. An SDHC reader. Must clearly mention SDHC (plain SD won’t do). Price: $10.

3. Camera
If you’re serious doing some video art, then there’s no better buy than the Canon T2i. Smokes any other camera at that price range. Price: $800.

If you don’t have the money for lenses and a dSLR, get a Canon digicam. The cheapest HD Canon digicam (as of this writing the SD780 IS), costs $200, and it has enough manual controls to do a great job. In the case of getting such a digicam, ignore the “lenses” section below. Update: There’s a new cheap camera in town, that does 24p. More here.

4. Lenses
Start off with 3 lenses. While it’s true that the more expensive ultra-sharp lenses do offer better quality, starting off with some basic Canon lenses will also be acceptable (don’t go for non-EOS lenses). I’d suggest a somewhat fast prime, a longer prime or zoom lens, and a wide-angle one. Overall, depending on what you’re buying and where, these can cost between $350 and $500.

5. SDHC card
Buy a 16 GB SDHC card, Class 6 (slower Class SD cards might get you buffering/skipping problems). Don’t buy no-name flash cards, you might regret it. Price is at around $100.

6. Tripod
Something like this is good enough. As long as its head is “fluid”, and of somewhat good quality, you’re good to go.

7. Sony Vegas Platinum 9
The most advanced non-pro video editor, with full 24p support. You can also configure Vegas Platinum for full-screen 1:1 size preview on the HD monitor mention above (1:1 size preview helps with editing). Price: $75

8. Cineform NeoSCENE
Unfortunately, you can’t edit the Canon dSLR h.264 footage without transcoding it to a faster codec. This is the fastest “intermediate” HD codec of all. Price: $100 (at Videoguys.com). If you’re going to use Cineform, do NOT upgrade to Vegas Platinum 10, stay with Platinum 9, that works best with Cineform.

[Optional]
Buy an ND filter at 0.6 (4x). It will help you get more shallow depth of field outdoors on a sunny day (when the aperture tends to shrink — think of ND filters as sunglasses for your lens). These usually cost between $50 and $70 at the size that your lenses would require it at.