Thursday, May 14, 2015

Not a Videographer

Years ago, when I made the decision to move from 35mm film to digital photography, I bought my D-SLR, specifically looking for a camera that did not also record video. I had a couple of camcorders—some digital—and I wanted to keep the two media separate.

A still camera for my stills: a movie camera for motion.

My camera model was on the verge of being discontinued, specifically because it did not have video capabilities and everyone seemed to want it. The salesperson, who sold me my Nikon D80, tried to upsell me to the brand-new D90.

No thanks, I said. I'm not interested in spending the extra dollars on a feature I didn't want or need.

These days, it's near impossible to find a decent D-SLR that does not offer video recording. When I looked at upgrading my D80, I considered the Df because it was full-frame and it doesn't have a video feature, but I wasn't about to drop $3300 on a body just because it didn't record movies.

For about the first month that I had my D7200, I didn't even read the chapter in the manual that covers the video feature. I focused strictly on features that would capture still imagery. Even with my dedicated video cameras—I own a Flip camera, a digital camera that writes to mini-DVDs, and a Sony Action Cam—I don't record movement very often, so using the video settings on my D-SLR didn't interest me.

Until I went out with some friends for Karaoke.

Several months earlier, perhaps as long ago as a year, I tried to record my friends singing at Karaoke night, in a run-down, downtown pub. I tried using my smartphone, thinking I could share it easily through social media. But as good as the camera on my smartphone is, it wasn't good enough for the pub. It was too dark, and my friends would appear as shadows around dim lights.

My D7200 has no problem with low light. The ISO goes to a whopping 25,500, but only 6400 was used on the night that I decided to try the video setting. My friend, Ed, was celebrating his birthday, and I captured him getting funky.

The video is clear, considering the low light, and while I had some issues with the focus, it's not a bad first attempt with the camera.

The second time I tried using the camera, I recorded some kayakers on the Ottawa River, at Bate Island. I decided that instead of capturing these folks in stills, as I have in the past, I would get them in motion.

I shared it for a Wordless Wednesday, a couple of weeks ago.

It wasn't until later on that Wednesday, after I published the post, that I played the video for myself, and I noticed something that I hadn't noticed before: I could get no sound. I checked that the computer wasn't set to mute, tried playing the file directly from its folder, through Media Player, and there was still no sound.

Strange, I thought. I must have done something with the camera when I recorded the event. Because I used it for Wordless Wednesday, and because it was only the sound of the rushing water that I couldn't hear, I didn't worry about it.

I would fix it for the next recording event.

The next event was BOLO. I was going to be reading one of my blog posts, and I asked my wife to use my camera to record the event. I checked the sound on the camera: it was set to automatic. I ran a test video, while my wife was talking on the phone. During the playback, her voice came in clearly. We were good to go.

The next day, after my wife recorded my reading, I downloaded the video onto my recorder, and played it. I wanted to see how it was and perhaps share it on The Brown Knowser.

There was no sound.

Something had happened to the sound, yet again, but I couldn't figure it out. The video of my friend, singing, worked. The test worked. Why was no sound coming through?

Another friend was performing a musical number at an open mic, and I wanted to record the event for her. I reset the camera settings. I set the sound recording to manual and adjusted them to a good level. I made a test recording and downloaded the file to my computer, played it back as my laptop sat on the dinner table.

The sound was clear.

My friend and her friend performed three wonderful songs. I captured the entire act in a single recording. At home, I downloaded the file on my computer and uploaded it to YouTube.

On playback, there was silence. I wept silently.

I ran the file through four different programs, and not one of them played the sound. Something was not being transferred in the file, I told myself. But what?

What was the difference between the Karaoke recording, the test recordings, and the kayak, BOLO, and open-mic recordings?

I have a video-studio app, and I can lay down the video images and the sound on different channels, can see the sound levels visually. They were there, yet I couldn't hear them. The volume on the laptop was to maximum.

What was different?

When I played back the test video, the laptop was open, on the kitchen table. I remembered when I uploaded Ed's Karaoke number: I had been watching TV, with my laptop resting on top of me. As I now tried to dig to the root of the problem, the laptop was positioned as it almost always is when I edit photos or write a blog post. It was closed, with an HDMI cable connected to it and my 27-inch monitor. A USB hub led to my keyboard and mouse.

I knew that the internal speakers shut off when the laptop was closed, but the monitor had speakers too: they weren't great, but they worked well enough. I checked them, and the display showed that they were at 100 percent.

And muted.

I closed my eyes, and wept at my own stupidity.

There are several touch-sensitive buttons underneath the monitor. Many times, I have accidentally turned the monitor off while reaching for something. Sometimes, I fumble in the dark as I feel for the off switch, and I brush against other buttons. I must have hit the mute button on such an occasion.


All of my videos have sound. If you missed my reading at BOLO, here it is.

And, I'm happy to say, my friend, Rebecca Fleming, and her two-member band, The Flaming Holes, have a video too. Complete with sound.

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