The industry doth protest too much, methinks

Caitlin’s new (incomplete) website design seems to have hit a nerve.

It’s a fun read made funnier by the fact that nobody answers the poster’s simple question, which is basically: “Is this stuff true, or false advertising?”

A little too close to home?

A funny part is, to the man, the posters assume Caitlin is a guy or a group of people. Assumed sexism in technical discussion is interesting—I know I am guilty of it.

A true artist, a word they love to toss around a lot, doesn’t need to constantly put down their competition. The work should speak for itself.

I think it does.

As for “putting down their competition”, I guess if you charge extra to film in HD, charge a per hour fee if the wedding runs over time, charge extra for custom menus, use automatic-chaptering, profit off extra DVD copies, encrypt your DVDs, or use transitions over a clean cut to shortcut the editing process, then you can take it as a put down.

Not agreed upon by experts like Adam Wilt, or by great video pro’s here on VU making the best wedding videos in DV.

Appeal to authority. Would Adam Wilt be a better videographer if he filmed on HD and could take advantage of the strengths it has? Caitlin describes the limitations of HD, in particular note the low-light performance weakness of HD.

Yeah – and don’t DVD’s just LOVE the light

What this poster overlooks is that the jewelboxes are just as dark closed as the black DVD cases which cost 20 cents in bulk. There is this new technology called a “printable insert” that is opaque to light…

When I tried to play the first clip i got an intrusion warning from Norton. The intruder is described as, risk level HIGH, etc.

What this poster fails to mention is that he got the same intrusion warning from Norton when he visited

With this guy in question, while the information might be true, if I was a client looking at this information, instead of what really matters, I’d move on. I think it’s too much jargon that is not important in the scheme of what really matters. For comparison, I met a couple the other day…the first question the bride asked was, “what cameras do you use”…my response was…”why is that important and what does it matter?” I totally put her on the spot but then educated her on what is important to look for and what is not. I got a contract from her this afternoon.

Doesn’t address the question, but this is good information. If I were the couple in question though, I’d have said, “It may be true that the brand choice by itself has no meaning. But it is a poor artist who cannot explain why they chose their equipment.”

What this guy fails to mention is just because he films in HD…woohoo, so do I, you still can’t deliver it on a DVD.

It is true that you can’t deliver HDs quality on a DVD, but it begs the question. The question is whether or not the extra quality of HD over DV is noticeable on a DVD (a different question altogether). Caitlin adequately answers that question.

Hrm.. Ok.. So how is broadcasting the wedding samples to the entire world better than sending a DVD to someone? They don’t make DEMO DVD’s but yet host clips? I personally like his Creative Commons license agreement, now I wonder since using commercial music negates that whole thing? Of course, I am only assuming commercial since the sample clips have it..

The samples are a subset of the DVD and clearly different then the entire footage roll. Plus, permission has been obtained from the couple to show the sample, but not the entire DVD.

Name a wedding videographer that doesn’t use the bride’s requested commercial music in a highlights montage? I fail to consider how this videographer should be throwing rocks from his glass house.

All I can say is that this person definitely has a need to talk up HD because his shooting and editing leave much to be desired

Notice how this person makes this statement and cannot back it up by comparing it to these supposed great videos from “VU.” You know why? Because any idiot can apply an iris transition to their video in iMovie, or slow-mo a 30fps or 60fps footage in Final Cut. Heck, in the last case, it means you can take less good footage because your footage lasts twice as long.

Probably has all the pro tools and little or no experience. When you’re new to the business, and happen to have enough money to buy the latest and greatest equipment, that’s what you brag about.

Yeah, doing HD for two years and wedding videography for three years is pretty new. But HD has only been around for two years…

“Art” isn’t about tools. A “true artist” can create a masterpiece by finger painting with feces.

A nice sentiment, but complete bullshit. While an artist is more important than her tools, the tools always create limitations on the art. While the medium is not the message, the medium puts boundaries on the message.

Truth in advertising

I actually haven’t read any of Caitlin’s copy, so I thought in the interest of actually answering the question, let us go over the quotes he singles out.

DV is a 10+ year-old compression standard that produces blurred, blotchy artifacts; dull, desaturated color; and poor picture detail. As an artist, DV quality is completely unacceptable, and I believe any artist who demonstrates pride in her work will say the same…

The first sentence is completely true. DV is exactly a 10 year old standard. The artifacting comes from its need to compress each frame using a DCT in intraframe mode (meaning that every frame needs to be compressed by itself instead of using a keyframe and a set of difference frames to form a group-of-pictures). Note, that all compressions based on DCT will exhibit these artifacts (JPEG, MJPEG, DV), yes, even MPEG-2 used in HDV. The issue is that the artifacts will “bleed into” DV much more noticeably causing the artifacts to be much more noticeable at EDTV (DVD) resolutions. Also, not requiring that every frame be intraframe compressed means that the other frames in a GOP can be devoted to reducing the sharpness and picture detail loss caused by DCT. Color saturation is improved by the higher native resolution coupled with the fact that color resolution is subsampled. The gamut is also slightly different.

The second sentence is opinion. But, ignore all the technical mumbo jumbo of the previous paragraph and just look at the stills captured at the bottom of this article. The lighting conditions and subject are nearly identical and all of the claim “blurred, blotch artifacts; dull, deaturated color; and poor picture detail” are all clearly visible.

Because I film entirely in high-definition, you will not pay $2000 more for something I consider absolutely essential. Videographers who charge an “upgrade fee” for HD are forcing you to subsidize their equipment upgrades.

The implication is that other videographers charge $2000 extra for you to film the same wedding in high-definition. I think any simple search of pricing information for wedding videography in the Bay Area will confirm that you have to add $1000-$2500 extra for high-definition video.

As for if you are subsidizing their “equipment upgrade” in those cases, a simple net search will show you that HDV cameras cost anywhere from $1200 (Sony HDR-HC1 or HDR-HC3) to $10,000 (Canon XL-H1). Nowadays, most non-linear editors support HDV without added cost unlike the days Caitlin first started doing high-definition video (just a scant two years ago) where you had to buy special tools and work with uncompressed HD video (lots of storage costs). This means that there should are some extra costs for the increased processing power to work with and compress the final content, but no extra costs for storage vs. DV. It sounds to me like a $2000 mark up is either paying for a new camera, a more powerful computer, or Final Cut Pro training—all within the realm of an “equipment upgrade” (or at least a “cross grade”).

I don’t think it’s fair to charge you so we will stay an extra hour, or to say “sorry, no cake cutting footage.” We stay until your coverage is complete. Your memories are more important to me than an extra hour or two on my feet.

The question is, do other videographers charge for extra time if the wedding runs behind schedule? Have they ever left early? The answer to the first question is, yes. Go look at the pricing schedule of most videographers in the Bay Area if you don’t believe her. I don’t know about the second question, but I know one wedding where the photographers staged a fake cake cutting because the wedding ran behind schedule, so it wouldn’t surprise me.

As for whether or not it is “fair,” I personally think it certainly is fair to charge extra. According to Caitlin, this goes against one of her core values: “It is YOUR wedding, not hers.” so she doesn’t.

Simply stated, DV compression is a miserable, smudgy, decade-old standard fit for little more than web output—and certainly not for DVD. Sure, technically DV and DVD have the same resolution (again, usually 480×640), but their compression algorithms aren’t even in the same class.

The first sentence has been answered before, though I tend to agree with that opinion. I’ll give you a wonderful example. Caitlin owns a Tiffen FX-3 softening filter. This is a great filter for weddings and interviews because it softens the skin tones in a way that isn’t noticeable for most people in DV. When Caitlin shoots with it in HD the bride notices it every time because it “seems blurry.” She’s going to have to replace this with a (less-softened) FX-1 or FX-2 for HD videography. What was transparent for DV suddenly because not so for HDV. Live and learn.

The second sentence isn’t technically correct. Technically DV, DVD (and HDV) are in the same “class” of compression algorithms (ones based on DCT as mentioned above), though DVD and HDV use an identical compression algorithm (MPEG-2), which DV does not use.

The problem is the transcode (DV to DVD) at the same resolution introduces even more artifacting with no “slack”. Believe your eyes! Anyone who has seen Blair Witch Project, TimeCode, or the Zoe sequences in The Final Cut on their EDTV (or better) wide screen television and progressive-scan DVD player can see the differences between DV made to look like film and film compressed for DVD.

DV is an old standard, written before cameras were powerful enough to handle decent compression. Let me backtrack for a second. All digital video recorded is compressed. That includes DV, HD (in various forms), whatever. So don’t get confused by the term “uncompressed” because unless the footage was recorded on film stock, it just doesn’t exist. The real noticeable difference between DV and HD, in fact, is the compression. DV uses “DV” compression, while HD uses “MPEG” compression.

The first sentence is true. When the DV standard was created, the average desktop computer was a 486. Today, there are Palm Pilots with more processing power and throughput than that computer. If anything, the thing I find most disappointing about HDV is that they didn’t use a more modern compression algorithm than MPEG-2, which is marginally better than DV, which is marginally better than MJPEG. Math has improved greatly since 1994 with wavelets being the most noteable advancement. Luckily the extra processing power means that HDV cameras can handle MPEG-2 style compression at high resolutions (and the high throughputs they require).

The second sentence is also true. Even the more expensive standards such as DVCAM and DVC-PRO just increase the bandwidth, not reduce the compression.

Do other vendors try to sell you on their “uncompressed digital video”? I wouldn’t be surprised. Is it a lie? Yes.

As for the last sentence, the most noticeable difference is probably the resolution, not the compression. Of course, the two go hand-in-hand in that you can’t really compress such a high resolution onto a DV tape’s bandwidth unless you improve the compression algorithm to use MPEG-2’s GOP-style encoding.

Due to its age and the hardware limitations of the time, DV compression is very sloppy. The video produced is characterized by blurred picture, duller colors, and overall loss of picture detail, particularly noticeable in the human face. This is a problem with the DV standard, so this is true whether you use an Elura pocket camera or an XL2. A better DV camera has better optics and sensors, so you will get a better picture from it—but the problems of the DV compression standard cannot be avoided by spending more on your camera.

Most of this has been discussed before. There are two slight errors here in that many cheaper or early DV cameras don’t follow the DV standard and cut corners algorithmically resulting in a poorer compression. The other slight error is that the worse the image to be compressed, the poorer DCT does on the compression—if you have better optics and better sensors to produce a better, less noisy picture, then the compression will be more efficient. (This is true with HDV cameras also, which is why it is important to get good low-light performance in those. When poor lighting creates noise, the compression really breaks down quickly!)

Can purchasing the most expensive DV camera avoid the weaknesses of DV compression? No. No. No.

Neither can they be avoided in HD. The difference is the HD weaknesses aren’t as noticeable, and I would say, simply not noticeable at EDTV (DVD) resolutions.

We will not insult you by offering a “basic menu” with generic stock images and machine-generated 10-minute chapters markers. You want a custom menu…

I don’t know if a basic menu and auto-chaptering is insulting or you whether or not you want a custom menu. But a simple network search of wedding video price lists will show you that many people in the industry seem to charge extra for “custom menus” or hand-generated chapter markers.

We use gorgeous DVD clear cases, not those ugly standard black cases

She uses Super Jewelboxes and is the only videographer in the Bay Area currently that does. The quality of the output, speaks for itself.

Caitlin also uses MAMA-Gold archival DVDs for burning.

This studio creates art; it is not a duplication factory, so it is not in our core values to profit off of your extra wedding DVD copies

The average price for extra DVD copies for a wedding from online price lists is $25-$70. Compare this to the cost of materials (depends on quality of DVD-R, inking, DVD case, and labeling)? Ask yourself if they charge more for a DVD copy than a VHS, even though VHS copy is more expensive to produce. Ask yourself if any of them put region encoding or macrovision to prevent home duplication. Ask yourself if any of them actually encourage their customers to do home duplication of the DVDs—I know Caitlin does.

Flashy factory effects—overuse of slow-motion and black & white, cheezy transition effects—are cheap and easy to do, but they are not cinematic. Movie editing is transparent, with the occasional creative flourish

Look at their samples. Do they use slow-motion? black & white? old-movie effect? dust and scratches? heart-shaped transitions? sepia? What is their transition (fade to white/black, crossfade) to cut ratio? Go look at a movie, what is the ratio you see there? Compare the number of cuts in Star Wars to the number of burn left/right/up/downs you see. The former has been done since the first days of editing; the latter is quite noticeable and gives away the 70’s era technology behind them. Which is “transparent”?

I believe that an artist should always maintain the highest quality standards, and to post a blurry, heavily compressed sample online would not show pride in my work. It is unfortunate that many videographers do not understand the technical (and artistic) importance of proper web compression

I put the compression quality of Caitlin’s samples against any other wedding videography website out there. The compression quality will match or beat.

If other videographers felt compressing was as important, then their samples would look as good as hers. End of story.

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