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by Bruce A Johnson

A 1981 graduate of the Boston University College of Communication, Bruce A. Johnson got his first job in broadcast television at WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, FL. While there, he rose through the ranks from teleprompter operator to videographer, editor, producer and director of many different types of programming. It was in the early 1980's that he bought his first computer - a Timex/Sinclair 1000 - a device he hated so much, he promptly exchanged it for an Atari 400. But the bug had bitten hard. In 1987, Johnson joined Wisconsin Public Te...

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An EX-3 Review In Process

An EX-3 Review In Process

Is the EX3 For WPT?

By Bruce A Johnson | December 06, 2008

I've already made it clear that I am a Sony EX1/EX3 fan. I think Sony may have hit the sweet spot that makes solid-state recording a usable technology for broadcasters, in conjunction with XDCam disc recording for archive and backups.However, steering an entire broadcast station to a conclusion like that is a much harder process. There are many more variables involved than "Hey, Bruce likes it!" (And truth be told, in many senses an endorsement from me is just noise on management's radar.) Our capital budgets are small and constrained by many competing priorities, not the least of which is and was the conversion to digital TV. But the sea-change that the SxS recording system represents deserves a close examination. To that end, I have secured a loaner EX3 camera from Sony, with the purpose of showing it and it's workflow to all stakeholders in the production process. This includes shooters, audio people, engineers, management, the media librarian and more. Early reviews are quite positive.At the same time, I have been starting to play with the bleeding edge of the SxS system - using adapters and SDHC media to lower the cost of recording. (I previously posted about this rather surprising turn of events here.) The adapter and media of choice for this trick is currently the Kensington 33407 media reader card and the preferred media itself is the Sandisk 16Gb Ultra II card or the Transcend 16Gb class 6 card. (Those last two links lead to Amazon pages.) Check out the prices - the Transcend card is under $30! For an HOUR of recording time! Those are the kind of numbers that will make station management sit up and notice. We currently pay about $25 per tape for half-hour HDCam stock. That means SxS represents real savings in not just cash costs, but personnel as well. I dumped an 8Gb SxS card into a Lenovo micro-laptop in about 4 minutes - SEVEN times realtime. Long waits for digitizing could be a thing of the past. It is not inconceivable that a switch from HDCam to SxS could pay for itself in less than six months.So what am I seeing here? Is this a real revolution, or just a mirage? Am I being blinded by "gear lust?" I sure hope not, because for less than $9000 the EX3 is an extremely impressive camera. The fact that it could pay for itself with cost savings in very short order is icing on the cake - a very thick, creamy, flavorful icing.Or am I nuts? Read More

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The Golden Triangle Of video Production

The One Rule You MUST Live by

By Bruce A Johnson | November 29, 2008

I love short, pithy sayings. I love them even more if they happen to be true. I learned this one early on in my career, and it is iron-clad, inviolate and forever correct. And it goes a little something like this:"Good, Fast Or Cheap - Pick Any Two."There is a ton of truth there. Think about it - if a client wants something fast and cheap, it isn't going to be good. If a client wants something fast and good, it isn't going to be cheap. And if a client wants something good and cheap, it isn't going to be fast.Learn it. Live it. Love it. Because if you ignore it, it'll still be true, and you (and your business) will suffer. Read More

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The Greatest Business Advice I Ever Ignored

or: You Can Lead A Whore To Culture...

By Bruce A Johnson | November 23, 2008

While it is true that I am not a full-time freelancer - that is to say, I have a day job, and I use freelance work to augment my salary - it is still true that the cratering economy affects me, and even more all my friends that ARE full-time freelancers. And while my day-job is at a statewide public television network, I actually got my start in TV at a commercial station, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, FL. Back in the early 1980's, Orlando was still in the early part of the Walt Disney-fueled population explosion, and in the six years I was at WFTV, the market grew from #38 to #26, which is astonishing growth (it is #23 now.) I consider it my great good fortune to have run across a few mentors in my time there, and one lesson I learned comes to the top of my mind on a daily basis.I was lucky to land at WFTV, a place that at the time that still did a lot of local production. I worked on an early-morning live variety/news show, a movie strip/game show called "Dialing for Dollars," many, many newscasts, and I got to work in the field on live remotes and on single-camera shoots of commercials, promos, and all kids of programming. What I was blissfully unaware of, however, was the relationship between the production department and the sales department. I could never seem to grasp why we couldn't produce some of my epic programming ideas, like live coverage of a 100-mile bicycle race, or a nightly all-field-tape documentary series based on WCVB-TV Boston's outstanding "Chronicle" series (that is still running to this day.) Once in a while, I would drop into the office of the local sales manager, a great, friendly guy named Bruce Baker. For whatever reason, he took mercy on this callow kid, patiently explaining - over and over again - the relationship between producing a local extravaganza and being able (or, more often, unable) to sell ads within it. One day, I plopped my butt down on his couch, and waited for him to get off the phone. It was then I noticed something on his desk I had never seen before, a very small sign with a very big message. It read:"In good times, you should advertise.In bad times, you MUST advertise."Wow. That is a really important concept, and is especially true in the brave new world of the Web, where everyone can look to be as big as anyone else, if you build the message right. Of course, it is a lesson I have stubbornly refused to take to heart - if you need proof, just surf over to www.ppmm.com, which has been un-modified in several years at least. I guess the old saw - you can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think - is true in spades for me.While I haven't spoken to him is over 20 years, I have watched Baker's career from afar, thanks to the World Wide Web. As befits a man of his knowledge and affability, Baker has risen through the ranks of WFTV's ownership group, Cox Communications. It seems that he will soon assume the title of President of Television Stations for Cox, after stints as general manager at WSOC, WSAN and WSB-TV and executive VP for stations with Cox. This is one of those times the old saw "it couldn't happen to a nicer guy" fits like a glove. And the message I noticed on his desk over two decades ago is as true today as it was then. Sounds like I have an early New Years resolution to fullfill. Read More

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Confession:  I Don’t Get The RED.

Confession:  I Don’t Get The RED.

What's all the hubbub about?

By Bruce A Johnson | November 16, 2008

OK, so here is where I shoot myself in the head, but I just don't get the clamor around the RED cameras. Yes, I can appreciate their fabulously advanced technology. Yes, I admire their clever naming schema (whoever came up with the "Mysterium" sensor should get a big raise.) And the accountant that invented "$17K to start...$50k to actually shoot frame #1" is a genius as well.But... Read More

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The 5 S’s Of Scinematography

With apologies to Joseph Mascelli

By Bruce A Johnson | November 12, 2008

Anyone that has gone to school for film or video production should be aware of a book entitled "The 5 C's Of Cinematography," by Joseph V. Mascelli . It is a timeless classic, jammed full of essential knowledge for anyone that wants to be a shooter, editor or director. It also has one of the catchiest titles ever bestowed on a textbook, which I am shamelessly ripping off for this post. This post is about video production - live remote production - and the joys of the job. Read More

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Any News on November 4th?

FCC Opens Up "White Spaces"

By Bruce A Johnson | November 05, 2008

Wow, that Kevin Martin never ceases to amaze. First he becomes the first Republican populist. Now he has stood up to the National Association of Broadcasters - along with the other four members of the FCC - to create a plan to allow use of "white space," unused television broadcast channels, as capacity for new unlicensed personal wireless services. Many people have called this new service "WiFi on steroids." Now, the NAB hates any movement towards loosening it's bulldog-like grip on bandwidth. To be sure, there are other groups in this fight as well, not the least of which is users of wireless microphones, but at the base of it I sense this as a power struggle. And as a long-time employee of several broadcast organizations, you'd think I'd side with the NAB, but not this time. I trust that Silicon Valley and their suppliers can design and build compliant, non-interfering devices that could make iPhones and Android devices look silly by comparison. Now they will get their chance.Hang onto your hats. This is going to be an exciting time. And the NAB? I think they'll survive. Read More

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REVIEW: Adventures In Anycasting

REVIEW: Adventures In Anycasting

Remote Multicamera Isn't Just For Trucks Anymore

By Bruce A Johnson | November 02, 2008

It really wasn't all that long ago that multicamera field production required a 50-foot truck, a dozen people, and lots of electricity, patience and aspirin. Read More

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Everybody Got Your HDTVs?  Good.  Now Throw Them Out.

Quad-Def, Here We Come?

By Bruce A Johnson | October 22, 2008

This article from TV Technology mentions (in the lower grafs) research done by Samsung on creating salable quad-definition - that is, 2160p - sets for home users. Sweet Mother Of Mercy, can't we just settle? Apparently not, at least not when there are early-adopters pockets to pick.

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This Makes the Sony EX1 and EX3 No-Brainers

This Makes the Sony EX1 and EX3 No-Brainers

The Cost Of Storage Comes Tumbling Down

By Bruce A Johnson | October 16, 2008

If you have read Adam Wilt's review of the Sony EX-3 camera, you know how impressed he is with it. I have had a similar opportunity to review the EX-1and think they are both exceptional steps forward in low-cost, high-quality high-def cameras. The one problem that bugs me - and, honestly, it applies to all solid-state-based recorders - is the cost of the media, and the concomitant inability to use the recording medium as a cost-effective archiving medium. Seriously, who can afford a hundred SxS cards, or fifty P2 cards? I previously blogged about the best rumor I heard at NAB 2008: That 32Gb flash memory cards would be $5 by the next NAB. We haven't gotten there yet, but it seems more likely with every passing week. And now, news from Down Under that could turn the EX-world on it's head - that with the use of a simple Kensington 7-in-1 ExpressCard Media Reader, inexpensive Sandisk SDHC cards become usable in the EX-1 and EX-3! This Webpage has all the details. Could the dam finally be breaking open? Could solid-state recording finally make workflow sense for the small operator?Stay tuned - I think this one is going to be big.A tip 'o the hat to Ron Shook for the initial info! Read More

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REVIEW:  Vantec NST-D100SU NexStar Hard Drive Dock

REVIEW:  Vantec NST-D100SU NexStar Hard Drive Dock

A Great Way To Have Segregated Storage

By Bruce A Johnson | October 10, 2008

It used to be that segregating project assets was a real pain. Sure, some of us (and you know who you are!) would install removable hard drive cases, but confess: Most of us never went to the trouble. As a result, one hard drive (or several) would become a morass of media, project files, graphics, and all the assorted detritus that goes along with non-linear editing. But help is here. Read More

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LIVE from Iowa!!

LIVE from Iowa!!

Or at least semi-live...

By Bruce A Johnson | October 06, 2008

I'll be spending the week in lovely Des Moines, Iowa, presenting at and participating in the Iowa Digital Television Symposium, put on by my great friends at Iowa Public Television. You can see the schedule of presentations here. I'll post daily updates of highlights, and all presentations are archived in audio form (many with downloadable PowerPoint presentations) for later listening. So stay tuned for great information! Read More

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Have You Got Your Analog Nightlight Yet?

DTV Transition Withouth End, Amen

By Bruce A Johnson | October 05, 2008

Here's an article from Broadcasting & Cable Magazine on the newest accessory in the world of digital television: the "analog nightlight."OK, it's not really a little light you plug into the wall. It is proposed legislation that would allow US television stations to continue analog broadcasting for 30 days past the statutorily-decreed February 17, 2009 cutoff. It's my opinion that the February cutoff is going to be a disaster no matter what happens, so the question becomes:Do you hold OTA antenna-viewers hands for 30 more days, or do you let them sink or swim?Either option is fraught with peril, especially among PBS stations, who have a disproportionately large percentage of OTA viewers. This transition just keeps on getting weirder and weirder. Read More

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The (Considerable) Downside To “Citizen Journalism”

The (Considerable) Downside To “Citizen Journalism”

Would you like a little nudity with your news?

By Bruce A Johnson | October 02, 2008

This article from Advertising Age describes a slight downside to the trend of "citizen journalism." (And if you follow the link, there is a picture that, if you click on it, is pretty NSFW.) It seems that since the release of the CBSEyeMobile app for the iPhone, the standards of what is considered "journalism" seem to have slipped a bit. That is to say, user-generated porn clips are becoming more common among all the other user-generated content. Jeez, who woulda seen that coming? The nice thing about real, paid journalists is that if they engage in shenanigans like that, you can fire them. But "citizens" just need a new IP address, alias and user account to continue to pollute your brand. And since perception is truth, the damage, once done, can be incredibly hard to undo. Read More

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4-Pin Firewire:  What Were They Thinking?

4-Pin Firewire:  What Were They Thinking?

The Most Fragile Connector Of All Time

By Bruce A Johnson | October 02, 2008

I'm a calm man. I really am, ask anybody. I never get worked up about anything. But once in a while, annoyances mount to the point where even Mr. Frosty can get a little miffed.I saw my first Firewire connectors about ten years ago, when I bought a Canon XL1. The tiny size of the 4-pin connector amazed me - how could this little jack, plug & cable throw around enough data to make video? Hey, it's all magic to me; then as now, I'm thrilled when it works. But even back then it looked rather fragile. So, I babied my Firewire jacks, to the extent possible. The six-pin jacks are quite sturdy affairs; while breakable, you really have to screw up bad to hurt them. But the 4-pins? If you sneeze towards them you are at risk. Read More

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It Had To Happen

It Had To Happen

The Comeuppance of a Digital TV Critic

By Bruce A Johnson | September 22, 2008

I've made a bit of a cottage industry out of criticizing the Digital TV transition over the last eight years. I still hold my core beliefs - that the transition was unnecessary, poorly engineered, and largely a welfare program for equipment companies and TV set sellers. But the biggest problem in my eyes is that the ATSC standard is locked into the technology of when it was ratified - 1996. That means that the top-shelf technology of 12 years ago - MPEG2 compression - is supposed to be our TV standard for decades to come. Read More

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Any White Wall - A Movie Palace!

Any White Wall - A Movie Palace!

A Projector You Can Hold In Your Hand?

By Bruce A Johnson | September 16, 2008

Here's a link to a Popular Science blurb on the debut of the 3M Mpro110 Pocket Projector. I saw this demonstrated at CES 2008, and it's undeniably cool, if a little light in the lumens department. It runs at VGA resolution (640x480) and makes a decent picture if you give it a little darkness to work in. The 3M guy at CES said the holy grail of this technology is fitting a projector into a cell phone, and right now I wouldn't bet against the boys from Minneapolis. Read More

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REVIEW:  Roku Netflix Player

REVIEW:  Roku Netflix Player

Who isn't a Netflix subscriber?

By Bruce A Johnson | September 13, 2008

It's a pretty rare mailbox that never sees those iconic red Netflix envelopes. The little mail-order that could reshaped the face of video rentals seemingly overnight. But slick as it is, you still have to do something that is anathema to many people these days - you have to wait. Now there seems to be a bit of an answer to that, and one that could offer an alternative delivery vehicle for small productions. Read More

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A Salute To America’s History Teacher

A Salute To America’s History Teacher

Tom Hanks Embiggens Us All

By Bruce A Johnson | September 01, 2008

I'm using this holiday weekend to do some movie-watching catch-up (even with astoundingly nice weather). Last night it was time to load up "Charlie Wilson's War," produced by and starring the man I've come to call America's History Teacher: Tom Hanks. Read More

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Isn’t Photography A First Amendment Right?

Disturbing Video From Denver

By Bruce A Johnson | August 28, 2008

Fellow PVC'er Jim Feeley sent me this link. Check out this clip from Denver near the Democratic National Convention. Watch a really big cop nail a really small woman with a long rod and knock her to the ground. And for doing basically... nothing. Read More

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Maybe They Should Have Called The Cops First

Adventures in Indie Filmmaking

By Bruce A Johnson | August 25, 2008

It's said that the best lessons are the hardest learned, and this lesson is a doozy. Read More

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