My World in HD

A  closer look into the ever changing and always evolving world of technology in motion pictures and still photography.

By Benji Aird

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop)-Whether you shoot with the Nikon D90, Canon 7D, 5D,  or anything else, HD-DSLRs are now taking over a large segment of the video-journalism and motion picture markets. All are not really made to shoot video, but with various adapters and add-ons you can make it work and get results not possible in the past.

Recently I shot two projects with the Nikon D90 and was thinking about the differences between using the D90 and a “regular” video camera.


Bokeh describes the rendition of out-of-focus points of light. Bokeh is different from sharpness. Sharpness is what happens at the point of best focus. Bokeh is what happens away from the point of best focus.Bokeh describes the appearance, or “feel,” of out-of-focus areas. Bokeh is not how far something is out-of-focus, bokeh is the character of whatever blur is there.

The most obvious difference is the wonderful limited depth of field (DOF/Bokeh) that is made possible by the large sensors and 35mm still lenses.

This is an example of the Bokeh from a prime lens.

A welcome change from the everything-in-focus, 3-chip smaller sensor video cameras.

At minimum, you’ll need some sort of viewfinder to use the LCD screen in the back of the camera. I tethered to a 17inch monitor for the last project. There’s really no way to use the camera without a viewfinder for professional results. This is a must.

The on-board sound in any HD-DSLR is abysmal at best. You can either record using the BeachTek DXA-5D, or use an external recording device such as the Zoom H4 and sync everything up in Final Cut Pro with Pluraleyes, an incredible program from Singular Software that saves many frustrating hours of trying to sync sound.

One last item is a Vari-ND filter. This variable neutral density enables you to shoot at f2.8 in daylight and maintain that limited DOF look and feel. I use one from Singh-Ray.


The following clip was from the Thanksgiving holiday 2010:

Shooting a low-lit environment may not be the best of conditions to shoot a video, however with 50mm prime lens like the Carl Zeiss I rented from helps a lot. That particular lens had a beautiful bokeh. It was a totally manually operated focus ring which took some getting use to. I know many young photographers are custom to automatic everything!! Using this lens really forced me to take my time when composing the shot.


The other project brought me to up and coming recording music artist Richard Torregano:

Mid:Depth of Field

Shallow: Depth of Field

In the behind the scenes footage from Chad B.’s new club banger “Hit It” you can clearly see the skeleton crew that shoots the video using Digital SLR’s.

After Torregano’s session Blake Hampton of Attention2Detail and I collaborated on a few projects.

Some time in the not too distant future I would like to hit the lottery. I am speaking it into the universe!! I would make the world a better place, visually that is. SO, you come across one of these from a “Street Vendor” get in contact with me.

By: Benji Aird

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP/UTC/TheLoop) — A police officer has testified that a man and a teenager charged in the slaying of a Chattanooga pastor confessed to the killing.

The testimony came Wednesday during a preliminary hearing for 25-year-old Antonio Henry, who is charged with murder in the death of the Rev. David Strong. Judge Bob Moon sent the case to a grand jury and ordered Henry held without bond.

Police found the St. Paul AME Church pastor’s battered and slashed body at his home Oct. 10.

Detective Michael Wenger said the teenager told police they intended to rob and kill Strong.

Wenger also said Henry told investigators that Strong had paid in the past to watch him perform a sex act.

Defense attorney Cris Helton did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

The Digital Shootout: Does size really matter?

by Benji Aird

The ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have Nots’ in the digital single lens reflect camera industry makes a big difference, size matters! Laying the smack-down on full-framed digital slr’s are the medium-format digital slr’s. Don’t let the distinction in the title, medium, fool you. Medium formats’ capture images starting out with 30 mega pixels. We see the tip of the ice berg in a short comparison between the full and medium framed cameras.

Chattanooga, Tenn(UTC/TheLoop) — On set at a photo shoot in between the firing of  strobe lights, hair-stylist crofting hair, make-up artist reapplying foundation, and wardrobe repositioning garments, photographers patiently wait to capture a single image. I think this one of the greatest times in history to be a photographer. The evolution of the camera has taken leaps and bounds in every decade.

In my not so distant past, I began shooting with a Kodax 110. The number ‘110’ refers to the size of film measuring not quite 111 mm. Fast forward a few years to Christmas 1998 when I received a 35mm automatic camera. The simple point-and-shoot helped me see, and develop an artistic eye. Now, I have a Digital SLR that allows me to instantly see what I photographed! Oh how I am easily amused.

Some pro-amateurs and professional photographers alike use full frame digital SLR. To get you up to speed click here to read what a full-frame digital SLR is all about. Just when I thought it could not get any better…IT DOES! The lion has entered the den with a presence that commands respect, the medium format digital SLR. Medium format brands include Mamiya, Hassleblad, Hola, and others. These cameras are  fashion’s equivalence  to Gucci, Fendi, Prada, and Chanel.

In digital, medium format is a very expensive option, with typical brand new all-digital medium format cameras retailing for $10,000 (Mamiya ZD) to $32,000 (Hasselblad H3D) in 2008, though, older and used equipment can be substantially cheaper.

Derek Blanks in a helicopter shooting the New York skyline with the Hassleblad.

Celebrity photographer Derek Blanks recently shot with a Hasselblad medium-format digital SLR in a shoot on-location in New York. Derek said, “Ok guys, I think I am in love with this new camera! The Hasselblad! Check out my beauty shots…”

Digital medium format SLR’s shoot at an astronomical 30 to 60+ mega-pixels. Lets put this into perspective:

  • Camera phone at best is 5MP-8MP.
  • Average point-and-shoot digital camera for adventures in the club is 10MP-12MP.
  • Canon T2i Digital SLR is 18MP.

The Fuji most conservative medium format camera starts at 30MP!!!! If your head is about to explode, this sensation is perfectly normal. As Derek would say “That’s dope.”

Image of Tomiko Fraser Hines taken by Derek Blanks with a medium format digital SLR.

Up close and 'Pore'sonal. The 30MP+ hides no problems defining each pore with crisp definition.

Notice how in the DSLR image (left-side) the image of the bird is not seen. This is a result the the smaller frame size of the DSLR. The Medium format on the right captures more of the image.

I get goose bumps looking at a side-by-side comparison of the full-frame and medium format.

Does size really matter? Well, thats relative to your level of photography. If you have the money to spare and really, really, I do mean really want to go all out you can rent a medium-format from as well as other equipment to keep your shutter-finger happy.

Grand Ole Opry Celebrates 85th Birthday

By Benji Aird

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/TheLoop) — The Grand Ole Opry threw an 85th birthday bash being serenaded by country music legend Dolly Parton’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”

The party on Saturday night continued the celebration of the venerable music venue’s presence. WSMV-TV in Nashville reported that hundreds of people filled the pews for the party, which featured performances by Parton, Taylor Swift and Trace Adkins.

The festivities started Friday, when Crystal Gayle, Jimmy Wayne and Roy Clark performed.

Saturday’s festivities started with tours of the refurbished Opry House. WTFV-TV in Nashville reported that there was a picnic on the plaza of the Opry House with free live music during lunch.

The party came just months after a flood left the venue soaking in water. The Opry’s stage sat under nearly 4 feet of water at the flood’s height in early May. A months long restoration project cleaned the building and replaced the stage, dressing rooms and audience seating.

“They’ve done a wonderful job revamping it, and it’s even better than it was,” Parton said.

Parton sang three songs, including “Jolene,” ”9 to 5″ and “I Will Always Love You.”

Swift performed an acoustic version of her new, chart-topping hit, “Mine.”

The celebration also featured well-known stars from the Opry’s past and concluded with the presentation of a large birthday cake and a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You.”



COPYRIGHT 2010 The Associated Press

Anything You Shoot, I Can Shoot Better…& Cheaper

By: Benji Aird

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (UTC/TheLoop) – Here recently I have noticed the growing trend of small to even large production companies incorporating Digital SLR (Single Lens Reflect) cameras into their arsenal of equipment. Digital SLRs allow the camera operator to shoot tight spaces with a minimal amount of equipment.

DSLR Video Rig

Many ‘Guerrilla’ style productions are shot using this type of system. A camera rig and operater, gone are the days where you need three and four people make up a production crew.

Everyone from music video producers to reality television shows often shoot concepts and pilot shows to pitch to broadcasting networks to get showtime.

About a year to two ago some friends and I started what I call a visual communication team. Wherein we Tweet, Blog, Vlog and anthing else you can think of to visually communicate with the world.

Everything is done one of the two Nikon D90 Digital SLR’s we currently own. Its our staple when I comes to in-the-field footage and studio photoshoots. We are always keeping an eye out on the latest gadjets that help us do what we do better!

Window shopping lead me visit my friends at Wolf Camera to see what hit the shelves.

The featured Nikon D3000 has a very user friendly user interface and in hand it does feel soild. I won’t be trading up/down/or lateral until all the kinks are worked out.

Back view of the Nikon D3000

Heartbroken Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP/UTC/TheLoop) — Tennessee’s Derek Dooley is doing his best to keep the most heartbreaking loss in his time as a coach in perspective for his young Volunteers squad.

The Vols (2-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) thought they’d upset No. 12 LSU when the Tigers botched what appeared to be the last play of the game near the goal line. Moments later, Tennessee was penalized for too many players on the field, and LSU scored on the replayed third down to win 16-14.

“That’s as hard as it gets in football, but in life there’s a lot of things you could make the case it would be a lot tougher to move on if it happened to me,” Dooley said Sunday. “It’s not the end of the world. The sun came out today — it’s a little cloudy, but it’s out there. There’s nothing you can do but grow and get better.”

Tennessee dealt with a crushing loss last year to eventual national champion Alabama at Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide won 12-10 by blocking the Vols’ game-winning field goal attempt as time expired.

“Alabama last year was similar, but this was just a little more heartbreaking,” safety Janzen Jackson said. “Heartbreak, man. Heartbreak.”

As the clock wound down against LSU, Tennessee was faced with the perfect recipe for confusion. With the players at the 1-yard line with 28 seconds left, communication in the sold-out Tiger Stadium was as tough as it could be.

Add to that LSU’s own disorderliness on a third down where Tennessee expected the Tigers to spike the ball to stop the clock. LSU instead mulled around the line of scrimmage for about 15 seconds before making a late substitution that prompted the Vols’ misguided substitution that added an extra two men on the field.

No one saw the yellow flag lying in LSU’s gold end zone, and Tennessee celebrated. Dooley and cornerback Marsalis Teague embraced, Jackson ran across the field to his family and linebacker Nick Reveiz grasped the ball, which he had fallen on after the botched snap by LSU.

“I have never hurt like this before,” Dooley said after the game. “I’ve never had one where we won and then we lost.”

The coach was concerned with how little time his team had to substitute, but after watching video of the final two plays nearly 150 times he said the responsibility for losing the game fell to Tennessee.

“I think the most important thing is we made sure that we did everything right on our end, and we didn’t,” Dooley said. “Do I think it could have been administered differently? Absolutely, but we’re responsible for doing our part.”

Tennessee had at least two other late chances to end the game with the upset. Tauren Poole wasn’t able to convert a fourth-and-1 on the LSU 31 on the Vols’ final drive. They also allowed LSU to convert fourth-and-14 on the Tennessee 38 with 1:22 left when Jarrett Lee hit Terrence Toliver on a 21-yard pass.

Still, Dooley was proud of the way the Vols competed throughout the game, especially considering it was the first road game for about half the roster. The Vols travel to Georgia (1-4, 0-3) on Saturday.

After converting only two third downs in an overtime win against UAB, Tennessee was successful on seven of 15 attempts against LSU. Poole gained 109 yards on the toughest defense in the SEC after struggling for several games. The Vols were penalized only three times for 10 yards, including the final illegal participation penalty, and never turned the ball over.

Those improvements don’t make the players feel any better, though.

“The ball game was won. It was won. We had to beat them twice,” Poole said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Not Your Grandparents “Picture Show”

By Benji Aird

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (UTC/ The Loop)– The Story Beyond the Still is the first ever user-generated HD Video Contest where photographers become filmmakers, and we all see beyond the still. I will highlight last month winner Marc Jonathan de Jesus of Chapter 6 for his film “Fool Circle,” based on his interpretation of a still photograph left at the end of the previous winning chapter. I will also showcase what makes the Canon EOS line so great!

Marc’s film was the sixth chapter of seven, ending with a still photograph of its own for the Vimeo community to once again interpret. After a wave of entries, Tony Leech’s “Exit Interview” was chosen as the winner of Chapter 7, leaving a new still to guide the way for Chapter 8 – the final chapter of The Story Beyond The Still to be interpreted and shot by Vincent Laforet in collaboration with all the chapter winners!

What will he see beyond this still? And how will the award-winning user-generated HD Video contest end?

Blake Whitman, Vimeo staff says, there are “no limitations, Judges will just be looking for entries based off of the criteria spelled out in the rules. But have fun with it, there is no right way to make these.”

Celebrity photographer, Derek Blanks, shoots with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. He has even filmed behind the scenes footage with his Canon. His favorite line is, “This is DOPE!”  as a reference to the video quality.

Watch an entry from Isaac Viel’s group!

On the Technical Side

Bigger is Better!

What makes these Canon Digital SLR’s such a power house are in part due to its sensors. Canon develops and produces its own CMOS sensors. Unlike CCD sensors, CMOS sensors convert and amplify signals before they are transferred to the image processor, enabling them to produce exceptionally clean image data and reduce power consumption.

Experiencing this first hand I can say the Canon’s senors, the brains of the operation, are stunning.

Japanese love affair, dont tell my Nikon.

In holy matrimony with the CMOS sensors are its  image processors.

Developed to enhance performance between capturing and recording stages of digital photography, Canon DIGIC chips use advanced signal processing technologies to dramatically augment image quality and deliver a more intuitive, responsive camera.

What this translates to is the ability to capture stills in photo mode with relentless sharpness quickly. This allows the camera to capture such fine details like pores on the skin and fine hairs.

In addition, the latest DIGIC 4 Image Processor speeds up all operations to make a number of inventive new features possible, such as Live Face Detection AF, HD video recording, Auto Lighting Optimizer and Lens Peripheral Illumination Correction. Top EOS SLRs such as the EOS 7D and EOS-1D Mark IV feature two DIGIC Image Processors for an even greater level of quality and power.

The EOS HD Video Lineup starts at about $900.00.

I found great deals on the enrty-level EOS Rebel T2i at Sam’s Club and Amazon.

Sources: Canon , Vimeo Video Entries

Camera Phone vs. 5 year olds

by Benji Aird

In a crowded market of smartphones, some phones have not lost the simplity that even a 5 yr old can operate it…

Tyler Perry’s New Movie with All-Star Cast of Divas


By: Benji Aird

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/TheLoop)-Tyler Perry takes on the transformative work that is Ntozake Shange’s classic stage-play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. But as time gets closer to Perry’s big screen adaptation, there is a streak of anticipation running through our quarter-life bones.

Variety reports that the film, originally scheduled for January 2011, will be moved up to Nov. 5.

The movie stars a sweeping all-star cast including Whoopi Goldberg, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Macy Gray, and Tessa Thompson.

Some reports are suggesting there is early Oscar buzz, particularly for the performances of AnikaNoni Rose, and on Tyler Perry himself who familiarized himself with the coveted voting community as a producer for last year’s “Precious.” The film’s new early release date will place in it the running for 2011 Oscar consideration.

“For Colored Girls” will be the first project from Perry’s new production company, 34th Street Films, which is housed at Lionsgate.

Building Your Brand in College

by: Benji Aird

(CHATTANOOGA,Tenn/UTC/The Loop) Whether you’re promoting a business or simply establishing your professional identity, branding is an essential step toward carving out your own unique niche in a crowded marketplace. But figuring out how to brand yourself is a different challenge altogether. With the Internet poised to completely overtake print worldwide, conventional wisdom holds that online promotions are the way to go. Yet focusing all of your energies in one place is sure to lead to a dead end, so here’s how to brand yourself both online and off to maximize your results.

  • Step 1: Create a Logo Businesses, blogs – even individuals – can stand to benefit from a compelling and memorable logo. The best logos are almost surprisingly simplistic; for example, think of the lowercase “f” that immediately brings Facebook to mind. The reason why logos are so important in the branding process is that people tend to remember images more vividly than they remember words and names, so if you can create a visual representation of yourself or your business that really stands out, you’ve already accomplished half of the branding battle.
  • Step 2: Focus on Making Genuine Connections All too often, people think of networking as something they “have to” do for their business, and the entire process is suddenly imbued with a sense of dreadful phoniness. The real key to successful networking is to make an effort to forge real connections with people, both online and off. Every blog you contact for linkbacks should be one that you actually read and enjoy; every person you hand a business card to should be someone with whom you have found common ground. It may take a little extra work to network this way, but it will be far more effective in the long run.
  • Step 3: Synergize! Every single piece of correspondence you send out, from emails to mass mailings of postcards, should have a uniform appearance that makes it identifiably yours. If there’s a particular font you favor, use it on your blog and your business card. Place your logo everywhere. Always refer to your business by the same official name. You simply can’t have one kind of identity online and a different one in the real world – it will work against your branding efforts and leave people confused, or worse, disinterested.
  • Step 4: Choose Unconventional Items to Promote Yourself When it comes to integrating print marketing into your branding strategy, don’t limit yourself to the old standards like postcards or flyers. Instead, you can make a real impact by choosing less expected items, like door hangers, magnets or custom stickers. When was the last time you found a door hanger on your front door that was promoting a blog or website rather than a restaurant or carpet cleaning business? Wouldn’t you remember it if you had? Case closed. -ekahn

Remember, branding doesn’t have to be a headache. “With a bit of ingenuity, it can offer many excellent opportunities to publicize yourself and your business” says Eli Kahn.

Eli Kahn is an internet marketer that specializes in increasing the web presence and brand recognition of online printing companies, such as With experience branding large to mid-level companies, Eli lends his insight on personal branding and its importance.

Brand yourself here