Get: Really Useful Digital Video Recording Tools Vol. 1

(It’s just going to be the first volume. We all know it. We have too many tools we like to share and talk about when we love doing something, and work becomes playtime and they become toys.)

This post was inspired by what I thought was a quick post about some HDMI cables I like, but then I started talking about how I was using them and with what, and that’s where this list came from. I happily use all this stuff but may not have bought it from the exact store linked; you can research for yourself:

The Atomos store has a lot of cool things to help you get even higher quality digital video into your workflow. I like to go there and dream of big budgets and bank accounts: Atomos stuff on Amazon

A few months ago, I picked up this model of an Atomos Ninja Blade with an LCD screen.


The screen is larger than any of my camcorder’s (though lower resolution than some) and can be positioned anywhere, but now I can record 4.2.2 colorspace 1920P HD video with less compression straight to disk from my old HV20 camera compared to when it went to tape at 1440×1080 in 4.2.0 using HDV compression. There are other video formats too depending on your needs. Yeah, the camera’s HDMI out gives a straight feed of better quality, and now I don’t have to scrounge for mini-DV tapes or deal with dropouts from dirty heads and old reused tapes! (I do miss that my tapes were a backup; and I will need to buy more hard drives to keep copies, but quality takes a little extra room, right?)

Unfortunately, the price doesn’t include any hard drives but comes with two empty drive sleds. But that means you can finesse the drive budget in the beginning and grow into it.

There are a lot of pricey Solid State Drives and other fast Hard Disk Drives on the Recommended Drive list, but it seemed a little outdated when I pored over it in April so it was tricky. You can use a pricier SSD to make a shockproof system, or get more space on a cheaper HDD. I have another camera for running around with, so I like to shoot static on a tripod with it for now but can always swap out the drive (two hot swappable trays!). I picked this standard spinning 500GB hard disk drive for $50. There are others on the Atomos list and some that could be. like this one. I wasn’t sure it worked when I bought it, but it does! The model is:
Seagate 500GB HDD 7MM ST500LT025
in case you need to search Google or your favorite site for it. But that line turns up nothing in the Amazon search because some of the details are too specific even though there are numerous sellers. So sometimes if you can’t find it in Amazon, start at a search engine instead. Anyway I found one but cutting out some keywords:

Listed as Seagate 500GB Momentus Thin SATA 3Gb/s 16MB Cache 2.5-Inch Internal Notebook Hard Drive (ST500LT025).

So their search was screwed up by HDD and 7mm (the drive height)? Really stupid.

Oh, you don’t have an HV20? Then hook it up to your Canon Rebel whatever model, or any digital camera with an HDMI out! I even connected it to my TiVo DVR and while the cable and pay channels are sadly copy-protected and can’t be recorded, I could make copies of anything from broadcast television right off the DVR and download into my computer (Yeah, there’s a program for that too). Your DVR mileage may vary.

Compatible Cameras? Look Here. Depending on your camera you may need an HDMI adapter to micro or mini, or a cable (I prefer the adapters so you aren’t looking through a pike for the one cable you need; some may be afraid to misplaced the one adapter they need. Keep it in a ziplock in your camera bag’s most obvious pouch.) Here’s a good collection for a nice price
I just added it to my own wishlist while researching this very article.

You also need to research your camera to figure out how to keep from recording the display overlay on the HDMI out unless that’s the look you want, and set your camera to stay on if you aren’t recording to internal media (which can be a great backup, or make the Ninja into the backup). You can do it. Just read the fine manual. Or Google it.

Last, that 15-foot white Monoprice cable (I got it direct from ages ago but they do seem to be on Amazon as Monoprice). Like I said, it still works but now has a short due to pulling it at a bad angle. It’s long which is helpful and white so I know it’s mine at the end of the shoot. I wouldn’t use it in more rugged conditions, and it worked fine at home before I finally damaged it on that shoot.

Anyway, a few helpful toys. Tools!

— David

Note: I set up an Amazon store to share product links for items I am happy to own, to provide readers an honest recommendation and review from a real person. I get a percentage of any sale made through my Amazon affiliate link at no additional cost to customers, which I think is fantastic. I’ve just used my order history to link literally to the exact products I am happy I bought, when possible to the same company my order came through inside the Amazon umbrella.

Get: Really Useful Digital Video Recording Tools Vol. 1 was originally published on Creative Uploads

Get: Cheap Quality HDMI Cables (plus…)

I’ve set up an Amazon store to share product links for items I am happy to own, to provide readers an honest recommendation and review from a real person. 

Twisted Vein HDMI Cables
Twisted Veins Two Pack of 6 ft. High Speed HDMI Cables + Right Angle Adapter and Velcro Cable Ties (Latest Version Supports Ethernet, 3D, and Audio Return).

Decent webbing-wrapped cables to connect both your devices for viewing or your devices for production (I use one now to take the HDMI off an old Canon HV20 digital tape recorder into a Ninja Digital Recorder I picked up from Adorama. Not only do the cables work great, but:

  • They come with a right-angle adapter to get around tight turns or reduce strain on a connection
  • Wish I had both cable and adapter on a shoot where I provided video monitoring to a puppeteer and damaged a long cable by stepping on it while moving the tripod.* This cable likely wouldn’t have bent enough to short out, or in the adapter the cable would have pulled safely out instead.
  • Free shipping available on orders over $35 (if you don’t already have Amazon Prime. What? You don’t? Just do this now and come back, I’ll wait. Try Amazon Prime Free for 30 Days)

I’m not going to write a sonnet for these: they work great, include Velcro ties since we forget that’s a good thing to use with cables, bonus adapter, and they are stylish enough that you know which ones are yours in the pile of boring black plastic ones when it’s time to pack up.


* At least it wasn’t the camera port, which I had feared!.

P.S. I still use my broken 15′ long white cable from Monoprice but not in production environments. If you set it down just right and don’t move it, it works fine. like when I am on a trip and want to plug the iPad into hotel tv to look at the day’s photos. Oh, there’s a bunch of little add-ones that make that easier too. Another time.

P.P.S. This other post has links to other items mentioned in this article so you can research them if interested, without having to go into a lot of detail here. (The items but not necessarily the store I used.)  Call them Really Useful Digital Video Recording Tools Vol. 1.

Note: I get a percentage of any sale made through my Amazon affiliate link at no additional cost to customers, which I think is fantastic. I’ve just used my order history to link literally to the exact products I am happy I bought, when possible to the same company my order came through inside the Amazon umbrella.


Get: Cheap Quality HDMI Cables (plus…) was originally published on Creative Uploads


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Creative-For-Hire was originally published on Creative Uploads

Get: Audio tripod screw adapter to camera mount

I set up an Amazon store to share product links for items I am happy to own, to provide readers an honest recommendation and review from a real person.

On Stage CM01 Video Camera/Digital Recorder Adapter

This is a no-brainer — for under ten bucks you can get a hard to find adapter that screws to a 5/8″ standard microphone tripod and ends in a 1/4″ standard camera mount. It’s even got a screw ball mount to adjust the angle so you can frame your shot.

I wouldn’t put a particularly heavy camera on it though it is definitely good for a GoPro or smaller digital camera or camcorder.  The CM01 adapter is metal, not plastic. It locks in place so it’s not intended for panning and tilting, but depending on your tripod you might be able to work out something like a swing shot if needed.

I bought it after I nabbed a used heavy duty mic stand that set to rise 12 feet or so in the air or can boom overhead. I wanted to attach my Zoom H4N digital recorder to it, but it offered the camera size mount. Now I could screw a mic-shaped plastic handle onto the H4N and slide that into a mic mount then put it twelve feet up — No thanks. This gets screwed down tight and has served me well, plus it lets me easily aim the Zoom microphone array exactly where I want it.

Sometimes I add the GoPro to one of the posts using its much more expensive handlebar type mount which lets me put two things on the tripod. On my next shoot it will be in this mount though since the Zoom will be elsewhere. I will use a $4 GoPro to tripod head adapter for that one.

Anyway, check it out and read the reviews so you can consider any small issues some users have reported (like a loose padding strip) — myself I didn’t have any. I take negative reviews seriously but I also know people have to vent when they have issues more often than happy people report back on their joys.

This was a small joy. Well, a useful tool, but I was happy to find it after scouring hardware stores for a cheaper and less flexible solution.

— David.

P.S. I get a percentage of any sale made through my Amazon affiliate link at no additional cost to customers, which I think is fantastic. I used my order history to link literally to the exact products I am happy I bought, in most cases to the same company my order came through inside the Amazon umbrella.

P.P.S. I decided to link to some of the other items mentioned in this article so you could research them if interested, without having to go into a lot of detail here.  I do love my Zoom recorder. (These are the items but not always the store I used.)

  This Zoom H4n Audio Recorder link includes some great accessories for a portable device with a built in stereo mic and two Hi-Z/XLR inputs that can record four channels simultaneously.:

This is the newer Zoom H6N recorder that I wish I had: you can record six channels simultaneously versus four, plus interchangeable microphones.

Bargain! THREE GoPro tripod mounts for four bucks. You can put them on multiple tripods or lose a few and still be good to go.
GoPro Handlebar mount — there are some variations online from other sellers, this is the company one and it will not drop your camera on a rugged mountain road, but if you aren’t shaking things up and just mounting to a tripod a cheaper one will probably be secure enough.
I have the GoPro Hero 3+ Black but want the newer GoPro Hero 4 Black because it offers 4K recording at a useable frame rate, which you can shoot in and then crop to reframe your shot as you like while maintaining a high quality video image.
If you want a newer model with the quality but fewer bells and whistles, the GoPro Session is a lot cheaper but only shoots up to 1080p.

Get: Audio tripod screw adapter to camera mount was originally published on Creative Uploads

Crosspost back to

Today I played with this WordPress Crosspost plugin in an effort to keep my original blog up to date with this self-hosted one.

Configuration was a little strange since you install the plugin (which didn’t show in the Add Plugin search under it’s name; I had to just enter “crosspost” and then it was on the list), but you configure it in your main WP Settings menu, as it gets added as an item.

It wanted a Client ID and Client Secret which were nowhere to be found at Turns out you have to create an Application for them under the Developer pages. Go there and click App.

I was thinking it needed to start at the page but when I tried to use that address in the link I got a warning that wordpress couldn’t be in the URL. What?! Turns out the redirect URL ends up at my self-hosted site looking down the folder names into wp-admin/options-general.php?page=wp_crosspost_settingsetcetera, and the other URL seems to be selected when you link to it from a pop up menu (since both of these logins are linked through a WordPress account, I can choose which site I am editing, viewing or in this case, cross posting too.)

Once the application was given a somewhat valid url it added the directory info and gave me the Client ID and secret code. That gets input in the Settings>WordPress Crosspost configuration screen, then you save it and it validates.

This took a couple of tries as early attempts returned an invalid redirect error, so I edited the URL in the new app I created to reflect the other site. When I finally had it that menu popped up to let me choose the site to crosspost to.

TIP: Open multiple browser windows so you can easily switch between configuration pages you are adding and copying to, plus one with your support pages for reference.

So then I got cocky and thought it would work even though I still had a RED Warning box telling me to “Click here to connect to”. I hadn’t logged in with the username? The test post failed. Changed the user login and still couldn’t get the red warning to go away.

Thought maybe I had to repeat the Create app process from the CORRECT login. Went to the develop page to sign out and log in as the user, then go back to the develop page (since it takes you to a default WP account page when you log in.)

But the app I had created was there on the list already! So I clicked on manage users and gave permission to the user too. It already had it. After some editing got an error indicating as invalid Client ID. Okay. Created another app and also set type to Native not Web. Tried using the url first.

“Your redirect URL may not contain WordPress in it.” Changed to self-hosted URL”

Arg. Tried again as new site URL and Web not Native. Copied the long url string for the redirect URL from the one the early app attempt created. Might be created automatically but this way it already had the right string.

However this may have been the subtle creation difference:
I went to my self-hosted WordPress site Settings>Wordpress Crosspost page and refreshed the page.

TIP: Hold Control down while hitting the F5 key or clicking refresh. Do this when you think your browser may be holding on to outdated information or pages (like an old key?)

Then I clicked the Connect button. When the site choice page appeared, I first clicked at bottom to log in as different user ( and when it came back — even though it still said I was logged in as the other user — I chose the site and authorized. Eureka!

Once you log in successfully you see the WordPress Crosspost Settings page and can access the rest of the options.

Choose at least one default WordPress site to crosspost to, an option that is highlighted if not already set.

Use the Default blog choice in the top colored box, not the next line (Sync posts from – experimental) That seems to be a way to use the same plugin to send info back to (in my case) your self-hosted blog. One crazy experiment at a time for me!

Set any other preferences and click “Save Changes.”


So if this post shows up in both spots, then I appear to know what I am doing (which is almost as good as actually knowing what you are doing as long as everything works and you still have all your fingers.)

And if you update your post, it appears to update the crosspost too!

— David.

Useful links:

WordPress Developer pages

Plugin details

Help page

Screenshot walkthrough

Obtaining a Client ID

Crosspost back to was originally published on Creative Uploads

Automated Inspiration Meets Editing

Here’s a slideshow I probably wouldn’t have made but for Google Photos Assistant.

On my NYC trip my Android phone automatically backed up photos I took with it as usual, and as I’ve said before every night I copy over my camera photos to a laptop as a backup, then log into Google Photos to upload each day’s folder overnight so even if my camera, cards and computer somehow went away I would at least have the pictures. You can do this with Dropbox, Flickr, Box, an FTP server, iCloud, even Facebook — just do it even if you don’t want these Google features.

This habit also reminds me to check that I still have my camera and also space on my memory cards for the next day, plus a charged battery. One trip to San Diego the camera bag vanished overnight, probably left on the curb or dropped on the way to the room after unloading the car. Still miss those photos….

TIP: I always leave my camera compartment door open when the battery or cards are out, usually resting in the camera bag with the flap open, as a physical reminder that a battery is on the charger or the card is in the computer. CAVEAT: Be careful not to snap off those hatches, but really just put your camera in a safe place. 

Anyway, when you feed it photos, Assistant gets to work. Sometimes it offers a collage, stylized photo or animation, or in this case, a slideshow movie complete with music and a filtered style.

It was terrible. Like a machine had randomly made it.

It picked some bad photos, failed to tell a story, chose the wrong version of shots that I had made multiple takes on and left out ones I would have picked. To be fair it was guessing from 400 photos.

But it inspired me to make a slideshow of our Central Park visit that someone could watch in about minute, instead of me dumping 50 pictures on a social media site. And because there is filter effect you can paste over top and images keep moving, I can post it out faster than carefully editing each photo individually, and even use some shots that technically would be poor candidates but helped tell a story nicely (though yes, in a professional situation that would improve it more. But there’s a balance to be struck – I want to represent my work in good light but I am also not expecting a new client from just this, or any money — I was on vacation!)

TIP: If you are publicizing that you are out of town on social media, be sure you trust your friends (or limit your Facebook privacy to just friends and family). Or do what I do: Have a housesitter and/or security with cameras, and remind people you have a housesitter and cameras whenever you can 🙂  A lot of people don’t post vacation pictures until they are back home. This also works well and makes the good feelings of your vacation last longer as you get to see and share and make your friends jealous for a longer time.

So I’ve written about how to use and be inspired by Photo Assistant before, and I encourage you to read about it through the link below, and I’ll try not to repeat myself as I make some updates and detailed notes on the interface here.

Google Photos Assistant as a starting point

When I first experimented with it, I hoped and expected that you could edit these Assistant movies in Chrome on a computer, with a real big screen and better bandwidth. You can’t.

The support page says

This can’t be done on a computer yet.
To make or edit movies, you’ll need one of these devices:
One of these Android devices:
(LONG list of devices from the last several years)

Since you can only edit on Apple and most Android devices, that’s what we have to work with.

If you have recently fed Google Photos, the Assistant may provide you a notification, or a list of projects when you open the app. If you swipe to delete them they are gone. I haven’t found a recycle bin list. If there aren’t any, or you don’t see one you want to play with, you can tap at the top to create a new new Movie (or Album or Animation or Collage.) (Story no longer appears to be an option.)

TIP: If you are adding video clips in the mix (Assistant only uses a few seconds of these when it adds them alongside photos, which is smart), realize that the editor will download the whole length of the clip (it may be a lower temporary resolution), so try to be on WiFi for this.

Three icons under the video: A sparkling slate (Themes), a music note (Music), and a Film Frame with sprocket holes (Editor). All of these are editing steps but I will generally refer to the Editor as editing. You can move back up to the main pages with the back button in Android or the back arrow in IOS or Android.

When you open the Editor you’ll see an X which closes the editor and cancels your changes, tiny Plus squares for adding images, a Trashcan for deleting the selected (and highlighted) media, and a Checkmark, which saves your changes while closing the Editor (but doesn’t prep it for publishing like the SAVE button on the entry page or lock future edits).

If you make edits, exit the editor and click X to return to the main Assistant page, your app will ask you if you want to SAVE this video. If you say yes, that’s your SAVE button (SAVE TO LIBRARY), it locks the edit and makes it ready to publish. If you say no thanks, it will leave it on the list for future editing decisions.

You CAN add videos and pictures after clicking to Edit, by pressing the tiny Plus squares and digging through your pictures, which are listed in reverse chronological order. They are inserted after whatever photo you have selected. You can press and hold on a photo to drag it through the timeline, but I can only move one picture at a time, so plan your inserts ahead of time if there are multiple photos to add (up to 50 can be used.)

You can also play or pause the clip with the icon in the middle of the video (Side note: I hate having that icon overlay for the few seconds when clips start. Just me I guess.)

Edit video clips by selecting on then choosing the Scissors icon to change the in and out points of the clip. Remember you can the same clip multiple times if you want to use parts, but each clip is only one part; you can’t just chop pieces out of the middle.

I’d forgotten writing in the other post that after you edit and save changes, while your movie disappears from the Assistant list, you can still open it from Categories inside Google Photos and edit it again. This is wrong or has been changed because I couldn’t do this as written. Well, you can import it into a movie project, but only 10 seconds of it appear, and the theme and music are baked in, though you can change the music.

(SO I tested this, and in the Editor it opens the first five slides, which showed as five two-second clips. But I opened a clip and dragged the start and end point out to the entire length of the clip! SO you could using trimming and add to a published video, but: The theme is baked in, and the file will be compressed a second time leading to lower quality.)

TIP: Make a mental note of what theme and music you like before trying different themes and music, in case you want to go back to it. It will save you some time and make experiments less stressful.

You can choose to mix in the original audio from video clips with the music track. You can also skip Google’s music library and use audio files on your phone. The app warns you to respect the copyrights of others, which besides the legality of I will note that many sites (Facebook and YouTube among them) will block or change your audio track if you are using copyrighted material their automatic scanners recognize. So that’s a consideration.

Some themes crop tall portrait style photos and some show them in full with a frame. Since you can’t crop or re-position a picture in the Assistant you can use a theme to help with that. Or if you are a perfectionist, you can crop a few photos before or during your editing process using the Photos interface and then import them. If you click the Checkmark icon, editing changes you make are saved, and the editor is not locked out until you click SAVE in the upper right, so you can leave and return until you are happy with your video.

You can also title your clip by tapping on the gray untitled line at the top and entering one; it will overlay your first image. Changing themes changes the font. You could also create an image with a title and import that if you want more control or don’t want to cover a picture.

TIP TO MYSELF: Create a self-promoting slide image with my website and copyright on it that I can add to the end of all these cool videos. Ooh, make it two-second video clip!

I always save to my device first to publish because sometimes the publishing step crashes the Google Photos app. So I save locally then try the sharing feature. I then have the option of other publishing choices, or I can Chromecast it, drop it to my computer, etcetera.

That’s enough hand-holding. Play!

— David

Automated Inspiration Meets Editing was originally published on Creative Uploads