In case we have any faithful readers out there, we apologize to you for the delay since the last post.  Age fotostock has been seeing the world, specifically travelling to Istanbul to participate in the annual Cepic conference from May 17 till 22.  This conference generates a lot of work for us, both before and after the conference, so we haven´t been able to write in the blog.

We are pleased to report that one of the reasons that Cepic creates a growing workload for age fotostock is because age fotostock director, Alfonso Gutierrez, has been serving on the Cepic Committee and was in fact, re-elected this year to continue serving on the committee.  Alfonso is the chosen representative from the Spanish Association of Stock Agencies to represent them at European level.

Although you might not know of Cepic, it is important for stock photographers and videographers.  CEPIC stands for the Coordination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage, or more commonly, Center of the Picture Industry.  The goal of CEPIC is to be a united voice for the press, stock & heritage organizations of Europe in all matters pertaining to the photographic industry.  As such, CEPIC is involved in attempting to influence the decisions of the European Union in matters such as piracy, Google books, Orphan works, and collective rights management (see more here).  Policy for these matters and others is being decided at the level of the European Union, and those decisions will affect all photographers whose photography is being licensed at some place in the European Union.  That’s why age fotostock feels it is important to be involved and is glad to have a key person close to the events. 

If you are interested in learning more about the photo industry environment in this year’s Cepic conference, take a look at this reflection on the state of the photography industry by conference attendee Liz Pepper.


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Earlier this February, when age fotostock announced the opening of video for contributors in the Photographer’s blog, we were pleased to see a lively exchange of comments and opinions on one of our video requirements, that clips must be compressed in codec H.264.  We would like to follow up that debate with a little more information about video compression in general and specifically about the required codec and format for age fotostock.  We look forward to your continued comments, questions and feedback.

Why is video compressed?

The main challenge in the development of digital video was the amount of data required to represent a moving image. A digital photograph was only a few MB, but a sequence of 25 or 30 images was much more data to represent and process.  Too much, in fact…

The compression of the image in the video was absolutely necessary for the digital video work process. Without effective compression, the volume of information to process would make it impossible to do things like post video on the web.  The compression must reduce the flow of data from a video in the least destructive way possible. The goal is to compress as much as possible with a minimal loss of quality.

So digital video is compressed to economize on space, whether it's bandwidth or media, and a codec (compressor/decompressor) does the job of encoding and decoding. By improving the techniques upon which the codec is based, we're able to transmit higher quality video using the same bandwidth as before, in other words, more bang for your buck.  There are countless codec’s in use today, some of the most common ones are: MPEG4, Photo-JPG, DivX, MPEG-2 and H.264.

What is the advantage of codec H.264?

The H.264 codec reduces the amount of information required to reproduce the input video by recognizing the redundancies in the frames of a clip in a process generically called motion compensation. This process exploits the fact that between frames is the camera or the subject is what is moving therefore in reference to a video file that means that much of the information in one frame is repeated in the next frame, so by removing redundancies the video files reduces the size. A digital video clip compressed with codec H.264 only uses half the space of MPEG-2 to deliver the same quality video. This means you can enjoy HD video without sacrificing speed or performance. 

H.264 has become a new standard for high definition video and is set to supersede some of the formats that are commonplace today such as MPEG-2, the standard for DVD video and some types of cable TV and digital broadcast.  The proof is in the use of this codec by some of the giants within the technological and multimedia world such as Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Canon, etc (and age fotostock, of course!).

Are there any disadvantages to codec H.264?


As we’ve already explained, H.264 is a very efficient codec, able to reduce the bit rate and achieve an excellent quality and compression rates. These characteristics make the codec ideal for HD video which will be distributed on internet.  In addition, nowadays all video-editing programs include the codec, which produces good results during the editing process.

Nonetheless, if you are planning to edit your audiovisual material extensively, such as retouching, subtle color adjustments, or extracting a chroma-key, than you should try to work with the minimal compression possible.   In these cases, consider converting your H.264 compressed file to a codec with almost no compression, such as Apple Pro-Res.  Once you have finished your fine adjustments, you should encode with H.264 in order to send and handle the file. 

What is the difference between a codec and a format?

A video format is the type of file used to store the information of a video clip (AVI, MPEG, MOV, WMV, FLV, etc…)  This is comparable to the file formats in images, such as JPG, TIF, GIF; BMP, etc..  Video formats are considered multimedia “containers,” because the format stores all of the information for images, audio, subtitles, etc. for a clip. 

This information within the clip must be compressed so that the clip can be easily handled.  In video, the algorithm used to generate the compression is known as the codec (ex. Photo-JPEG, H.264, MPEG, DivX, etc).  For example, a Quicktime file (abbreviation .mov) is a container for information which might be compressed with any of the following codec’s (Photo-JPEG, H.264, etc...).  This differs somewhat from the world of digital imagery, where you can choose to use formats (such as TIFF) that have no compression.  A photo format such as JPEG, on the other hand, always has some level of compression included (you can determine the degree) so it more easily comparable to a digital video format. 

So what is Quicktime?

As we already mentioned, Quicktime is a type of “container” file which is capable of storing a high quantity of multimedia information.  Currently, it is the video format most commonly used for multimedia purposes because it is compact and easy to handle and edit.  It is also multi-platform, compatible with Mac, Windows and several version of Unix.  Quicktime allows for an easy synchronization between audio and video and lastly is versatile with a number of additional technologies (3D, Virtual Reality, video-conferencing, etc) that not all video formats can handle.

Since the version 7.0, Quicktime has been implementing the codec H.264, as a standard codec which allows for a good quality of HD file and with lower bit rates, as previously stated.  age fotostock has chosen to work with Quicktime for all of the above reasons, namely because it is a multimedia system which can reproduce and transmit high quality content online.

What should you do if your clips are not in Quicktime (with H.264 codec)?

As we explain in the Road Atlas, you can convert both the codec and the format in the same operation using a software conversion tool. There are numerous convertors; we recommend a free one called Mpeg-Streamclip that you might know of.

Please feel free to write us with any other questions about creating and processing video or about the video submission processes for age fotostock.  If you have a lot of extra time on your hands or you would like to make sure that we didn’t just make this up, check out these additional resources.

Additional Resources on H.264 and Quicktime

H.264/MPEG-4 AVC

H.264 overview

Steve Jobs talking about H.264

H.264 vs MPEG-2 presentation

Quicktime features


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That´s right, age fotostock photographers and videographers can now submit both images and video clips.

We have updated the Road Atlas with a new video info section and also instructions on how to prepare and send video.  In the new video section, you will find a lot of basic information for photographers that are just starting out in video, such as basic video terms and also tips for shooting video with a DLSR camera.  In the link on how to prepare and send video, you will find guidelines on how your material should be prepared and sent to age fotostock.  We look forward to hearing from you with your questions and concerns, and mostly, to receiving your video material!

If you missed the official communication, you can see it here:


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Our next featured age fotostock photographer, Enrique Algarra, is involved in photography at different levels.  As a professor, he is directly involved in the formation of the young, aspiring photographers of tomorrow.  As a photographer, his images show a curious, playful, unconstrained and at times almost obsessive vision of the world.  Algarra comments that he started taking photos at the age of 7. You can still feel the spirit of that 7 year old in his images that spy on strangely human mannequins, the moving legs of blurred passersby’s, and the odd places that can be found just around the corner…if you’re looking.  You can see more of his images here at age fotostock or in either of these personal blogs, www.enriquealgarra.blogspot.com or www.paquetesdefotos.blogspot.com.

 

Q: What 3 words best describe you?

A: I think Enrique, Algarra, and Photographer.

Q: What artistic influences are in your work?

A: I'm interested in film and photography and they give me ideas, according to my mood. Life is full of things and places to find inspiration.

Q: What is your favorite lens? Why?

A: In the seventies, I was a fan of the 20 mm because I really liked Pete Turner. Now I still enjoy the wide angles, but I’m just as likely to grab a fisheye as the 600 mm, it all depends on the day and my mood.

Q: What’s the Image that you are still hoping to make?

A: I’m not a photojournalist and I’m not trying to become a legend, so I have nothing planned. I’d just like to make at least one photo a day that makes me feel good.

Q: Why did you choose age fotostock to represent your photography?

A: I chose age fotostock for the proximity, and by that I don’t just mean that Valencia is close to Barcelona. I like to put faces on the names of the people who are on the other side of my computer screen working with me.  Age fotostock has always treated me very well, and I appreciate that.

Q: Based on your experience as a photography professor, what future changes await us in photography?

A: The changes have already come, and are here to stay. Professionally, the world has been digital for some time now, but even as files and cameras improve, the most important thing is to improve how we think, our ideas.  Photography schools must rethink their focus and develop different educational content.

Q: Are your current students the same as your students from the past or do you see changes?

A: The students are not at all the same.  They grew up in the digital world, and some things that have been very difficult for older photographers to learn are completely natural for them.

Q: In your opinion, what is the best way to learn photography?

A: At this point, I think you can learn digital technology quickly; it’s a much simpler process than classic photography, which is an advantage. However, everything that isn’t technique is as difficult to learn as before.  It’s a matter of bringing your own vision to the world through your images, digital or not, and developing a mature vision is not easy. You must try to understand the things around you in order to photograph them. Photography schools should not only teach color profiles and how to master the needed software, they must also prepare future photographers to be able to express their ideas to the world with their images.

Q: What is the best photographic advice that you have ever received?

A: My first teacher once told me that photography is like a puppy, if you take care of it, it will never abandon you. I took his advice, I don’t have a dog, but I've been taking pictures since I was seven, and the truth is that photography has been a good companion.  That’s in part thanks to you guys.

Q: If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?

A: I would like to be anything that would free me from depending on the latest software, firmware or operating system and all those things that sometimes make you feel like a slave. I think if I became a writer I would happily use just a pencil and paper and I would be a little more free. But that must await for a different incarnation ...

Bonus Question:  I've heard your students talk about the so-called "Algarratype." Can you explain what that is?

A: In the past, when a student took a photo that was too “inspired” in my photos, the other students would tell him that he had made an "Algarratype.” But luckily, that doesn’t happen anymore, now I am copying them (ha ha).


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As some of you have already noticed, things are moving at age fotostock.  Literally.  Our pictures are moving.  Welcome to the next step in age fotostock.  Welcome to video!

age fotostock has now incorporated video into our offering of products.  We have put a tremendous effort into developing a platform where we can meet our clients’ needs at every level.  Now that includes motion.

So if you have been thinking about trying out the full potential of your DLSR camera (with HD capabilities) or if you have been working in video for some time, now is your chance to “get in motion.”  We would like to see the same creativity, depth of material and technical excellence in the age fotostock video collection, as we currently find in our image collections.  

We have opened with RF video only, but we will soon be offering RM and LBRF (Low Budget Royalty Free) video as well.  There is a place for each of you and we will be offering the same fair 50% commission.  

If you are interested, grab a camera with HD capacity and follow the guidelines below.  We will be following up with further instructions on how to submit in a few weeks, once our system has been fully adapted to receive and process your video.

Capture: Produce video clips in High Definition, preferably Full HD (1920 x 1080p). If you have unique clips shot in Standard Definition (SD), you can consult with us.

File format: You will have to send clips in the mov format (QuickTime).

Codec: You will have to send clips in codec H.264.

Clip Conversion: If your video archive is in a different format/codec, don´t despair.  There are many software conversion tools available for converting clips (format and codec).  We recommend MPEG Streamclip (developed by Square 5) which is free and works for both the Mac and PC platforms.  You can download this tool at: http://www.squared5.com.

Frame rate: The frames per second (fps) as you originally filmed it.  We will convert the fps if necessary.

Edited clip duration: Minimum of 5 seconds / maximum of 90 seconds.  If you have clips that are longer than this, you may consult with us.

Releases & Metadata: Keep in mind that we will need the same model and property releases and full metadata information for video as we currently require for photos.  Be sure to get those releases signed!

Knowing the industry, we’re sure that video will be subject to the same low pricing pressures as has happened with stock photography… it is our destiny.  In spite of that, we think that there is money to be made in video, just as in photography, and given the possibilities that modern DSLR cameras offer photographers; one can produce video at the same time and with the same camera that you produce still images. Get on board; we have a new offer for you!


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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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