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Who loves posting photos and first impressions of a new watch purchase on TimeZone? I see a lot of hands going up out there!
Back in my early days on TimeZone in the late 1990s, “scans” of watches were the norm. And in those days, a scan was really a scan. Sure, a few hearty souls would actually shoot real photos of their watches with a film camera and then upload scanned negatives or prints, but those were far and few between. I remember placing many watches on my old HP scanner’s flat platen, and then trying to capture some semblance of the beauty I could see with my own eyes. Sometimes it worked OK, but most times the images were a little lacking in “punch” as one might expect. And I could only dream about fancy props and textured backgrounds for my watch images.
Fortunately, digital cameras really took off around the turn of the new millennium and we were able to put those flatbed scanners back on the shelf. Over the next 10 years, the photos of our watches just kept getting better and better, aided in no small part by the wonderful photography of TZ luminaries like Michael Sandler (former General Manager of TimeZone and now moderator for the German Brands and Glashütte Original fora) and Paul Delury (moderator for the Time Exposure and Vintage fora.) The days of the flat-toned, clinical-looking scanner images were gone and we were suddenly being blown away by lush, well-composed images of the objects of our passion. With the wealth of information shared within the TZ community on lighting setups, camera settings, etc., exceptional digital watch photography soon became the status quo. I know for a fact that some of those images have been responsible for enticing me to purchase watches that I’d never even heard of before seeing someone’s photo on TZ. That is testament to the power of good imagery.
I dare say that watch photography on TimeZone may have reached a zenith and I recently found myself wanting more. Photos and text write-ups are nice, but as a long time fan of video-sharing sites like YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/ ) and Vimeo (http://www.vimeo.com/ ), I thought that video could add a new dimension to our enjoyment of the watch hobby. There’s nothing like seeing a spinning balance wheel or a moving second hand on a high-beat movement to impart a sense of reality that is not easily captured by still images. In addition, hearing the owner describe a watch in his or her own words adds an emotional connection that just can’t be duplicated by the written word.
To test my theory, I’ve recently been dabbling with short video watch reviews, mostly on the TimeZone Dive Watch forum that I moderate. I really like the creative dimensions that are opened up by the video Preparing to shoot a watch with a modern Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera medium and although I am far from proficient, I’ve learned a few things so far that might help someone who is toying with the idea of producing their own timepiece video.
My reviews are fairly straightforward. I start with a title slide that gives some basic information about the watch I’ll be reviewing – brand, model, etc. Then I typically run a few still “glamour shot” images in a slideshow format with some background music (please be sensitive to the use of copyrighted music.) I tend to use panning and motion effects on the still images to impart a “Ken Burns” documentary look. Next, I’ll launch into the true video portion of the review. Here is where I describe the watch, its features, specifications, and my qualitative impressions. I usually shoot this portion as a close-up on the watch while pointing out things as I talk. I sometimes finish up with a few more still images or I just end with the video portion. I’ve found that it’s very important to script a set of talking points for the video portion. There are many facts and figures that are easy to forget or get wrong unless one writes down the information. I use a one or two page outline for my talking points and it really helps with the flow and keeps me on track.
Equipment can be as simple or exotic as one’s budget allows. I’ve been using a couple of low-cost point and shoot cameras that are capable of taking both still images and high-definition video. I sometimes shoot and upload at 1080P but 720P seems to be a good compromise between bandwidth consumption and overall quality, especially since most of these videos will be viewed on a computer monitor of some type. A tripod is very helpful for mounting the camera, allowing both hands to be used for handling the watch. And of course, all the same rules apply to video as they do to still photography – strive for good composition, exposure, and focus. Here is an example of a dive watch review I recently completed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wujR_EXaK2E
There are many software packages out there for editing and producing video. On my PC and Windows 7® platform, I use a couple of products – Cyberlink PowerDirector ® Ultra for general video editing and Photodex ProShow ® Producer for assimilating all of my still images and video into a finished product. Sony Vegas® for PCs and Apple Final Cut Pro® for Macs are other good choices although I don’t have first-hand experience with them.
So I encourage everyone to give video a try. I can almost guarantee that it will get the creative juices flowing, and more importantly, will give all of us on TimeZone an intimate look at your prized watch that is hard to match with still images. Get out there are start shooting!