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Bruce's Blog

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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NAB 2012: EZ-Jib

EZ to use, EZ on your wallet

By Bruce A Johnson | April 20, 2012

I've always been intrigued by jib arms, and usually put off by their high prices. EZ-FX might have a solution to that problem. Read More


NAB 2012: Profoto Reflector Umbrellas

The big one in the picture is TEN FEET TALL!

By Bruce A Johnson | April 18, 2012

When I walked past these the first time, I thought they might be antennas left on the Moon to shoot signals back to earth. But a little research proved to me that these are great lighting devices. NOTE: a big "Thanks!" to my colleague Erik Higgs for letting me edit on his laptop while I was in Vegas. Read More


NAB 2012:  Eizo 4K Monitor

You are going to have to look at your 4K footage on *something.*

By Bruce A Johnson | April 18, 2012

At NAB 2012, when you see a crowd of people clotted around a small booth, it's a sign you should pay attention. The Eizo full 4K monitor I found there was easily one of the most beautiful I saw all week, with a price tag to match. Also: A belated "Thanks!" to my colleague Erik Higgs for letting me edit on his laptop while in Vegas. Read More


NAB 2012:  T3 Motion Camera Transporter

Kind of an unholy marriage between Ben-Hur and Blade Runner, and super-cool to boot.

By Bruce A Johnson | April 18, 2012

Steadicams have great uses, and some downsides - like severe back strain. Here's a great product that can help you get fantastic shots and keep you out of traction. Read More


NAB 2012: Epic HD1080 Danger Cam

Another David looking for Goliath?

By Bruce A Johnson | April 17, 2012

Another new-kid-on-the-block aims at the entrenched leader, this time in dangercams. Read More


NAB 2012: Swedish Chameleon DSLR Shoulder Mount

No, it isn't a lizard.

By Bruce A Johnson | April 17, 2012

There are a lot of DSLR mounts out there, but this one lets you say: "Look Mom, no hands." Read More


NAB 2012:  PhotoHigher Hexacopter

...can lift a lot of cameras.

By Bruce A Johnson | April 17, 2012

I'm always looking for the next great aerial platform. This looks like a good candidate. Read More


NAB 2012:  Art Lebedev Optimus Popularus Keyboard

Not only is the Maximus keyboard *not* has spawned a Version 2.

By Bruce A Johnson | April 17, 2012

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NAB 2012: Mini Dolly Slider

For those REALLY low-angle shots.

By Bruce A Johnson | April 17, 2012

Skateboard wheels are in a lot of booths here at NAB 2012, but none go lower than the ones on the Mini Dolly Slider. Read More


NAB 2012:  Plasticase Nanuk

You gotta love competition.

By Bruce A Johnson | April 17, 2012

Here is the first of a series of videos on products in the "back corners" of the NAB 2012 exibition floor. Hope you enjoy them! In this video, Plasticase takes on an un-named giant. Read More


NAB 2012: Maybe this means nothing.

NAB 2012: Maybe this means nothing.

Maybe it does.

By Bruce A Johnson | April 16, 2012

Anyone that has attended NAB in the past decade knows that major booth positions change very rarely, either in position or in size. For example, it was a big deal when Sony moved a few years back from dominating the Upper South Hall entrance area to a space near the rear of the Central Hall. And for as long as I can remember, Panasonic has lorded over the Central Hall floor from an elevated position in the middle of the hall.However...This year, those scrappy kids from GoPro have eaten away at almost *half* of Panasonic's space on that tier. It is a stunning sight to see. And in combination with Sony's underwhelming press conference on Sunday, it's hard for a broadcaster to feel too comfortable at this point. Are tectonic shifts afoot? Read More


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NAB 2012:  Sony Press Conference

Memories of things past.......

By Bruce A Johnson | April 16, 2012

Alec Shapiro hosting the 2012 Sony Press event. Sorry about the poor picture, but that's a cellphone for ya.

The annual Sony NAB press conference was held at Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel, with a setting that seemed to be a bit less grandiose than previous years. Perhaps this is fitting considering that Sony recently announced as many as 10,000 layoffs coming in the near future. But even without that hanging over the festivities, the announcements made by Senior Vice President for Broadcast & Production Systems Alec Shapiro were less than stellar, and at times even seemed pretty out of touch, at least to an old broadcast hand like me. The overarching theme was "Believe Beyond HD," and near the end of the presentation the spectre of 4K acquisition did rear it's head. However, the first three items presented were not 4K productions, but 3D. Clips from the upcoming programs "Stormsurfers" and hip-hop competition "Battle Of The Year" were projected on a mid-sized screen, but oddly, even with the provided RealD glasses neither clip looked very 3D at all. (And seeing one of the "Stormsurfers" surfers very obviously holding a GoPro camera on the end of a stick suggests, at least, that not *all* of the footage was shot on Sony cameras.) Shapiro opined that 3D was growing by leaps and bounds, but at least in the home TV market, the just isn't true, and might well be a big part of Sony's current financial malaise. The third 3D production mentioned was ESPN's coverage of the X Games, but oddly, no clips were played - and I would REALLY have liked to seen those. Read More


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REVIEW:  Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E Video Switcher

Dollars To Donuts: Through The Roof

By Bruce A Johnson | March 17, 2012

I've been working in TV stations for over 30 years now. I can trace one of the primary reasons I made this career choice back to a basic fact of my DNA:I love buttons. Read More


Want To Fly In First Class On Your Next Gig?  Here’s How!

...and it is actually CHEAPER than coach!

By Bruce A Johnson | December 09, 2011

I just got back from a whirlwind cross-country trip for a freelance gig I'm working on. Between me, my field producer and my audio operator, we managed to boil down our equipment complement to six checked bags and three carry-ons. Now prices vary on different airlines, but the way it worked for me was this:We flew USAirways from Cleveland to Phoenix, changing planes in Charlotte. When I got online to check us in the night before, I was resigned to paying $60 in checked bag fees for each of us ($25 for the first bag and $35 for the second, all meticulously packed and weighed to be less than 50 pounds.) However, in the middle of the check-in procedure, a pop-up box asked me if I would like to upgrade my entire party to first class - for $50 each. On USAirways, this upgrade includes TWO FREE CHECKED BAGS. (Bonus: They can then weigh up to 70 pounds.) In the time it took me to click the "yes" box, I had saved $30 overall and managed to get prime seating for the crew, and moved to the head of the boarding queue to guarantee overhead-compartment space for the two cameras and backpack-full-of-computers-and-iPad we were carrying onboard. I call that a bargain at twice the price! Coming home at the end of the shoot from Tucson to Madison, I played the same game on United. Since both of those flights were on regional jets, first class was not offered, but once again the cost of checking two bags and first-call boarding was less than the cost of checking the bags alone. While it is easy to imagine scenarios where this technique may not work (e.g., first class is booked full) it is a trick that I will be trying every time I need to check bags from this day forward.Got any travel tricks of your own you'd like to share? Let's hear them! Read More


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REVIEW:  Fast Forward Video Sidekick HD Recorder/Monitor

Two for the price of one?

By Bruce A Johnson | December 09, 2011

PREFACE: The ProRes DilemmaLet's start this review off by dispelling a long-held rumor. I'm a PC guy, just always have been, and after reviewing just about every PC NLE at least once, I have settled on Adobe Premiere Pro (and the CS 5.5 suite) as my editor of choice. Not too long ago, I had a freelance client that absolutely insisted on Apple ProRes files for the output of a project. Unfortunately, Apple does not allow PCs to write ProRes files, and at the time PC's couldn't read them either.Fast-forward a few months: Imagine my dismay as I walked the aisles of NAB 2011, looking at all kinds of new recording devices from Aja, Atomos, Sound Devices and others that promised long recording times and transfer speeds - yet the catch was: Only records in Apple ProRes.So when I was offered the opportunity to review the Fast Forward Video Sidekick HD combination video recorder and camera-top monitor, I was distressed to think that I could shoot the footage, but couldn't edit it. So I put the question to my colleagues on the Vidpro listserv - can PC Premiere Pro play back ProRes? My pal (and fellow Wisconsinite) Steve Oakley FTP'ed me a few Apple clips that seemed to work, so I went ahead and received the Sidekick HD. And I can now say with 100% certainty - Adobe Premiere Pro 5.5 can play back Apple ProRes files, even happily combining them on the same timeline with just about any other type of clip you want to add - .AVI, .M2T, Photoshop files, Canon 50Mb, Sony 35Mb, After Effects comps, you name it. (The theory is that the ProRes playback capability came along with one of the many Quicktime updates Apple shoots out. Hey, who knew?) Read More


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Is TV Broken?

or: if It Ain't Broke, Does it Need To Be Fixed?

By Bruce A Johnson | December 07, 2011

I don't generally re-post links to articles, but this one from CNN's Business Insider Matt Rosoff caught my eye. Give it a read, but the thumbnail is this:What is so flawed about the television watching experience that Steve Jobs devoted his final months of life to changing it? It's a good, quick read. What do you think? Is TV broken? Read More


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Canon Cinema EOS C300:  A Dissenting View

Disappointed is a weak word...

By Bruce A Johnson | November 07, 2011

I know, there have been a million opinions shot over the Internet over the last three days regarding canon's new Cinema EOS C300 camera. About half point out it's great feature set, and about half seem to point out every flaw it has in comparison to RED Epic. Whatever, all that's fine. Me, I'm dissapointed for an entirely different reason:Where's the killer Canon camera for the tens - to hundreds-of-thousands of us that actually work in television? When I reviewed the Canon XF305 a year ago, I was very impressed with the package, with a few caveats - chief among them the 1/3" chipset. If Canon can jam a 35mm CMOS into the D5 mkII, why not the same hardware in a form-factor that a real TV production crew could easily use? And in a package that can sit on your shoulder?When I got my invitation to the Canon press event, I was really excited. I even planned to fly from the Midwest to LA just to see the announcement. Luckily, I was offered some freelance work before I bought the plane ticket, but I watched for news on my smartphone in every bit of downtime. And when the news came out...what a letdown. The EOS C300 does nothing for me... and in fact, doesn't seem to do much of anything for anybody until you outfit it with tens of thousands of dollars in accessories, including audio and timecode adapters, lenses, rails, grips, you name it.Maybe I'm missing something here, but I have to figure that there are many more video pros actually making a daily living than there are folks that will ever make money off their films. If I'm wrong, say so, but that's the way I see it. I've used - and generally loved - Canon video cameras since the XL1 came out 13 years ago. Please, Canon, I beg you - put a 35mm chip, a good audio section, swappable lenses, the 50Mb codec, 10-bit HD-SDI out and SMPTE timecode in and out into a $10K shoulder-mount package. You'll have a line flowing out the door for miles. But in the meantime, I'm dismayed at the EOS C300. I guess I should be old enough by now not to get my hopes up so easily. Read More


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The One Collaboration I Need Adobe To Make

I don't think I'm really asking I?

By Bruce A Johnson | September 07, 2011

Hey folks, been gone a while, but it's fall and time to get back in the swing of things. One of the interesting side-effects of writing for PVC is that I am on just about every PR person's mail list. Usually these missives are easy to toss to the side, but the other day I got one from Adobe, talking up their presence at IBC 2011 in Amsterdam (for the record, IBC is the international version of NAB, held in early September every year.) As a long-time Premiere Pro and CS-suite convert, I paid a little bit more attention to this one than average. Unfortunately, I neglected to save the URL, but the gist of it was this: Read More


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REVIEW:  Litepanels Sola ENG LED Fresnel Light

Bright, Light And Oh So Cool...

By Bruce A Johnson | July 20, 2011

I've gone on record in the past as not being a big fan of camera-top lights. The last thing an interview subject needs is a glaring "sungun" to impart that "deer-in-the-headlights" look. Of course, sunguns of the past were crude tools, usually a low-to-medium wattage tungsten lightbulb that - if you were lucky - might be hiding behind a piece of bathroom opal glass. (If you are one of the six shooters in all the world that ever had an HMI sungun… good for you.) In almost every setup, the light was mounted directly above the lens, right on axis with the optics - a recipe for flat, unflattering light if ever there was one. And powering this device almost always required external batteries - anyone that has ever had a battery belt pull your pants down on a shoot, raise your hands now, please. Read More


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The Phantom Hum

(and I'm not talking about phantom power)

By Bruce A Johnson | June 20, 2011

I do a certain amount of freelance work, mostly for friends that have businesses. Last weekend I started work on an instructional video for Exerstrider, makers of poles you use while walking that really ramps up the exercise value. We were plowing through the script at a rapid pace when......The Phantom Hum reared it's ugly head. Read More