General

5 Signs You’ve Lost an Argument

Every now and then I find myself arguing a point that is clearly hopeless. It happens to the best of us, right?

Here are 5 signs you’ve lost an argument:

“If he’s so famous, how come I’ve never heard of him?”

Putting your ignorance forward as evidence is just plain stupid. If you don’t know what you’re talking about then leave the conversation to those who do.

You’ve Just Compared Someone to Hitler

This is an example of an ad hominem, whereby the actual topic under discussion is dropped in favor of attacking your opponent. For example: “You like art, huh? You know who else liked art? The Nazis, that’s who!”

Stick to the point.

You Can’t State Your Position in Less Than 1000 Words

You might also call this the filibuster technique. This is a common for refuge for those who misguidedly believe that a point’s length correlated with its correctness.

You know your friend that posts War-&-Peace-length treatise on Facebook? Next time he pull that stunt, just write back, “Please summarize.”

You’re the Loudest Person in the Room

Raising your voice is rarely a good idea and it’s usually a sure-fire sign that you’re getting backed into a corner. Stay calm and, if you feel like your point is wavering, retire in good order. People will respect you more for it.

“Your Mother” is Your Only Comeback

Perhaps this goes without saying, but if you’re only retort is a personal attack then you’re argument is in the tank, humorous though it may be. The best “your mother” comeback ever is found in John Stewart’s faux textbook, America:

“Have you no scruples, sir?”

“I believe I left them on your mother’s nightstand.”

Film

5 Tips for Great DSLR Video

So you have your brand-new Canon 7D, Nikon D7100, or other DLSR camera. You’ve taken some photos, you’re getting the hang of it; now you want to shoot some DSLR video.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the workflow they use for photography will translate into great video, but there are some major differences between the two mediums. Here are 5 tips for DSLR video that will get you off and running quickly.

Use Support

With still photography, you can often get away with handheld shots because the shutter speed is so fast that you don’t notice the shaking of the shooter. Unfortunately, you can’t get away with this in video. No matter how calm you are, no matter how low your heart rate, your involuntary body movements will translate to video. This shaking becomes even more evident as you use longer lenses.

If you want a still shot, use a tripod. If you want to be more mobile, you can use a monopod, a shoulder-mounted rig, or a counterbalanced hand-held rig, also called a stabilizer system.  The hand-held rig is the most fluid of the three, but it gets very heavy because of the counterweights. You can also use a cage if you don’t mind a little more camera shake.

One thing to keep in mind when dealing with any movement on a DSLR camera is a very unpleasant effect called rolling shutter. This is a hangover from using still photography technology to shoot video (many camcorders do not have this problem, or at least not as severely). It is caused by different parts of the image being captured at different times. Because of this, panning too quickly which causes the image to distort diagonally. Often times, it’s subtle enough to not really notice it, but shake the camera left and right and you’ll quickly see your footage turn to a warbling, jello-looking mess. It’s easier to show than explain, so I’ll let the guys over at Lynda.com take over from here:

Exposure, the DSLR Way

With photography, you first set your ISO and then set your shutter speed and your f-stop.  Video adds frame rate to the mix. Frame rate is how many images per second your camera will take.

The first rule is USE 24 FRAMES PER SECOND. Unless you have a compelling technical reason to do otherwise, you should always shoot at 24FPS. It just looks better. Trust me.

Rule number two is the shutter speed should be equal to twice the value of the frame rate (or as close to it as your camera will allow). You’re shooting at 24FPS,  so your shutter speed should be 1/5oth of a second. In practice, most cameras will only let you get as close as 1/48th, which is close enough.

The third rule is that you want to shoot with as wide an f-stop as possible in order to get the shortest possible depth-of-field. The short depth-of-field is one of the main characteristics of DSLR footage that differentiates it from camcorder video. It gives your video that classic “film” look. So, try to shoot around a 2.8 f-stop if at all possible.

All that’s left is the ISO which is now your main setting for controlling your exposure.  You want to shoot with the lowest possible ISO you can and still get a decent exposure. Many photographers find the transition to controlling exposure a little disconcerting, not least of which because it’s harder to access on still cameras than shutter and f-stop. Write it on your hand if you need to, “adjust exposure with ISO.”

Neutral Density Filter One problematic scenario is when you have too much light. You’re shooting outside on a sunny day, you have your ISO set to 100, and your f-stop & shutter speed where they should be, but your exposure is totally blown out. You can go with a higher f-stop, but then you’re loosing the shallow depth-of-field that was part of the whole point of shooting video with a DSLR in the first place. You can up the shutter speed, but then you’re getting that Saving Private Ryan look. What’s girl to do?

The answer is a variable neutral density filter. It’s made by combining tso polarizing filters which, when rotated against each other, will either allow light to pass or will attenuate it. It attaches to the front of your lens and it lets you infinitely dial down the light coming into the lens by rotating one of the polarizing filters. It’s like sunglasses for your lens. This is a very cheap and easy way to give your video the “professional” look.

Audio Matters

One of the key differences between professional and amateur video is the sound quality. We tend to tune out a lot of the ambient noise around us in our daily lives, but when you play it back on video it’s difficult to ignore.

Luckily, several mic manufacturers have developed convenient shotgun microphones that plug directly into the hot shoe of the camera and sound pretty darn good for the price. Shotgun mics use side phase ports to cancel out much of the ambient noise in a shooting environment.

Some have even built these shoe-mount mics with recorders built into them, so you can record both to the camera and have a backup audio recording right on the mic in case one signal clips. Or, you can slate several cameras together and have a continuous recording to sync all the video files into a seamless multi-cam edit.

Shure VP83

Again, this is a very cheap and simple way to boost the quality of your video.

Use Movement

The most obvious difference between still photography and “motion pictures” is, well, motion. There are a few easy camera moves that you can do with the support platforms listed above such as a pan &/or tilt (tripod), faux steady cam (any support that doesn’t touch the ground), but dolly and tracking shots remain elusive.

DollyTracking shots are the smooth shots you seen in movies where the camera follows the action but doesn’t have that tell-tale steady cam shake. These are usually achieved by laying tracks on the ground and building a platform on which to place the camera (and often the camera op, director of cinematography and sometimes even the director).  Needless to say, this can be quite an undertaking and is usually beyond the capability of a lone DSLR shooter.

However, you can achieve similar result by using a slider. A slider is a small rail with a carriage that slides smoothly along it. You attach the camera to the carriage and, voila!, you can now take smooth motion shots. Some sliders have a thread that you can use to attach it to a tripod, which makes for a more-or-less portable dolly shot rig.

My go to rig for location shooting is a slider on a tripod with a fluid head mounted to the carriage and the camera mounted to that. With this configuration, I can do still, pan, tilt, tracking, and dolly shots all from a rig that I can pick up and move fairly quickly. And when I need to do a handheld shot, I simply release the quick release from the fluid head and attach the camera to a handheld solution I have on standby. Easy peasy!

Slider on Tripod

Lenses Abound

Your first lens should be a versatile, utilitarian lens. A 24mm-70mm zoom lens is usually a good place to start. I would also recommend buying a single, solid lens instead of stretching to buy several cheaper/lesser quality lenses. A good lens will last you forever and you’ll be glad you went with quality in the long run.

After that, the sky is the limit.

Don’t be afraid of the after-market for lenses. Most brand-name lenses are very well made, and as long as they’ve been kept relatively clean and the glass is scratch free, then there isn’t too much risk in buying a used lens.

You should also take care of your own lenses; always shoot with at least a UV filter to protect the glass (you should have a dedicated UV filter for each lens), keep your lenses in protective bags when not in use, and make sure to clean them every once and a while. A well-made, well-kept lens will literally last multiple lifetimes. I’m still using lenses my father and step-father used in the late 60′s and they look fantastic.

Lenses

There are also a whole host of adapters for different attachment types. Don’t be afraid to get a few adapters and mix and match different brands of lenses. You don’t need to worry about autofocus (because it doesn’t work in video mode on most DSLRs). Get on eBay and go nuts.

Final Thoughts on DSLR Video

It’s a brave new world. The lines between videography and cinematography are blurring rapidly. You can now make films with a simple DSLR camera that would have required a 16mm behemoth film camera 15 years ago.

Mastering video is the same process as most other things: learn the rules, master them, then break them, repeat steps. There is literally no end to the process, which is what makes it so fun and so rewarding.

Music

Top 5 Second Acts

Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy Second Acts

Fugitive Sounds just published another article of mine about “second acts” by musicians. Here’s a snippet from the artice:

I’ve been thinking lately about artists whose careers span multiple successful—or at least influential—bands. It’s a somewhat tortured conceit, I admit, but my idea here is to list the five best musicians who have been integral members of multiple successful bands, and to list these artists in the order of the quality of the second band to which they contributed their talents. The notion is to chronicle artists whose careers have had a successful “second act,” if you will.

To read the rest of the article, head over to Fugitive Sounds.

General Politics

Top 5 Podcasts

I love listening to podcasts, so I thought I’d share a few that I’ve enjoyed over the past few years. Here are my top 5 podcasts, as of March, 2014:

Top 5 Podcasts

Freakonomics Podcast

Freakonomics

I don’t think I’m exagerating when I say this podcast has changed the way I look at the world. The podcast is a spin-off of the book by the same name, written by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, and covers most of the material in the books plus a host of other interesting topics. Every wonder why drug dealers live with their moms despite being in such a lucrative trade? Ever wonder if businesses that are run by families, i.e. inhereted CEO’s, outperform other businesses? I hadn’t either, but the topics are utterly fascinating, none-the-less.

Stuff You Should Know PodcastStuff You Should Know

Part of the How Stuff Works suite, Stuff You Should Know is a series of explanations of seemingly random topics by Charles (Chuck) Bryant and Josh Clark.  They have a very amusing rapport, and the topics they cover are quite interesting. I wouldn’t call their work authoritative, and I don’t think they would disagree with me on this point, but they do give a very good cursory overview of a lot of things you never thought you wanted to know, but you did. Crystal skulls, for example: totally fascinating. Who knew?

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History PodcastDan Carlin’s Hardcore History

This one is not for the feint of heart. Some of these podcasts stretch into multiple-hour lectures, but Carlin’s story-telling and use of both primary sources and opposing viewpoints from various historians offers a very unique, and at times captivating, approach to history. He is absurdly self-effacing, constantly saying he’s a “fan of history, not a historian,” which is patently obsurd given the amount of research this guy has done into the subject matter he covers. Give yourself some time to sit with one or two of his podcasts; some of you will no-doubt be turned off by his style, the rest of you will burn through his archives faster than you thought possible. I highly recommend his series on the Mongol Empire as a starter.

99 Percent Invisible Podcast

99% Invisible

Produced by Roman Mars of KALW in San Francisco, 99% examines the stories behind the designs of things that we typically take for granted; hence, the name. From the Chrysler Building, to slot machines, to currency, to bridges, to tunnels under the Berlin Wall, you learn how the things around us came to be, how we shape them, and they us.

Frontline PodcastFRONTLINE

I rarely have time to sit and watch PBS for an hour, but I find I can totally handle listening to a Frontline episode while I fold the laundry. Even though this is produced for television, it translates remarkably well to an audio-only format. If you have any interest in being an informed citizen, this podcast is a good place to start. And, if you like Frontline as a podcast, you’ll probably like 60 Minutes as well.

Honorable mention

NPR: Planet Money Podcast – Similar to Freakonomics but not quite as rigorous.

On the Media – Also a good place for you citizens to sharpen you “informedness.”

The New Yorker: Poetry, The New Yorker: Fiction, The New Yorker:Politics – Fox News watchers beware; you will, not, like this.

60 Minutes – As with Frontline, translates surprisingly well to an audio format.

Here’s The Thing With Alec Baldwin – Now canceled, but with quite a few archived episodes worth checking out. I could care less about half the people he interviews, but a few of his interviews are genuinely fascinating and some are gut-busting funny.

DecodeDC – A little preachy at times, but one of the few honest assessments of how our government is functioning these days. Prepare to be depressed; it’s even worse than you thought.

Intelligence Squared U.S. by NPR – Oxford-style debating about the issues of the day. A rare moment of civil discourse. Drink it in.

StarTalk Radio – A little rambling, but it’s worth it to hear a real astro-physicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson, take on science-fiction ideas as genuine possibilities in the not-so-distant future. Really fun stuff and, at times, just a little awe-inspiring.

Music Production Writing

New Fugitive Sounds Article – 5 Ways Musicians Can Improve Recordings

Fugitive Sounds is publishing my article on how musicians can make better recordings on Saturday morning.  You can read the article over at Fugitive Sounds (this link will not be live until Sat, Feb 22 at 5am).

The elevator pitch for the article is that musicians can make much better use of their time and resources in recording sessions by preempting many of the issues that derail sessions; equipment failures, confusion regarding composition or arrangements, who is in charge, etc. In the article, I discuss 5 simple measure musicians can take to ensure that they get the most our of their studio time.

Many thanks to Dave Stillman over at Fugitive Sounds for agreeing to publish me again, especially after the backlash that was wrought on the site after my decidedly grumpy Pro Tools 11 article.

General

KellerGlass re-enters the fray!

After a long absence, and against my better judgement, I have decided to relaunch my blog as kellerglass.com. I know what you’re thinking; the Internet has been a dismal, uninteresting wasteland in my absence.  But, rest assured, dear reader, I am en route with riveting insight and commentary that you just can’t get anywhere else and, once arrived, I fully intend to raise the level of American cultural discourse to soaring new heights with nary a grammatical error or spellign misatke.

In all seriousness, I feel it is important for those of you with little enough time on your hands to actually read this stuff to have access to some semi-reasonable explanation of my motivations:

  • I have my fingers in a lot of pies, as it were, and I’m realizing more and more the value of having a single depository for, say, all the music I release under different groups.
  • I am occasionally struck with an idea that, due to my boyish hyperactivity and vanity, I simply must vent to someone; anyone, really.
  • I am secretly hopeful that one of you, gentle readers, will recognize my obvious genius and offer me a six-figure salaried position as a remote content creator for your innovative and fast-moving company. Tell your friends.

So, what can you expect on this site? A: Every film, piece of music, and lyric I’ve created that I still like enough to share publicly. Also my thoughts on:

  • Music production and technology
  • Bands and music that I think my friends will like and that they probably haven’t heard of
  • Film production, particularly of the DSLR video variety
  • Online and social media marketing

I’m also leaning towards posting some thoughts on politics, though I have some reservations on this subject due to the fact that I’m using my real name, I may need to explain myself at Thanksgiving, and you probably don’t care anyway. We’ll see how brave I’m feeling.

For those of you fortunate enough to be reading this immediately after its launch, you will no doubt notice that the site is not exactly “finished” and that my old site, kellerglass.net, is still live.  Well, I’m working on it, OK! I’ll post updates on this site and my various social media pages regarding improvements and additions as I go.

So, thank you for stopping by, pardon the construction, and stay tuned for more!