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The following Q&As were compiled from discussions on the BCAtalk listserv, which is open to anyone interested in participating in discussions about visual media in the life sciences.

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Q: How do you insert an AVI file (originally a cine clip) into PowerPoint without it popping up into a new window?

Donna Ashlock, Donna Ashlock, Graphic Artist/Student Coordinator, Department of Radiology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

A: “Convert the file to a .wmv file using Windows Encoder free from Microsoft. In PowerPoint, make a new slide and choose ‘Insert, Video.’ Go to the .wmv file and click on it. Choose ‘start automatically.’ The image can be sized on the PowerPoint page. Leave a blank edge so you can click out if you want. Clicking on the image will rerun the clip.”

James M. Atkinson, MIMI, FBCA, RMIP, MediMedia Group, Belle River, Ontario, Canada


Q: What do you think about the Nikon R1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System? It would be nice to know how well they hold up in the field and how the batteries perform. I have tried to standardize with AA batteries for everything possible but I understand these units use something else. I'm still using my Lepp bracket but considering one of these units.

Charles Hedgcock RBP, FBCA, Photo/Graphics, School of Mind, Brain and Behavior, Department of Neuroscience, The University of Arizona, Tucson

A: "I have that system but I have rarely used it and am considering selling it. I bought it initially for operating room use (probably not the best environment) but I didn't like the 'fit' of some of the components. They were 'loose' and I had this fear that something would fall off into the patient wound! So after about three tries (nothing ever fell off!) I stopped using it.

That said, I would guess that your type of photography would be a natural fit for this system. It comes with a slew of 'pieces parts' (filters, diffusers, brackets, adapters, tripod mounts, etc.) all bundled in a case. The batteries are 3V lithium and I would guess they last quite a long time."

James Koepfler, FBCA, Medical Photographer, Children's Orthopaedic Surgery Foundation, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA

A: “I've been using the R1C1 in Derm, the autopsy suite, pathology, and the OR for quite some time with excellent results. Although I've shared James's concerns with 'fit,' (especially in the OR), I still recommend it. The 'looseness' has more to do with allowing the lights to rotate around the ring than their actual attachment to the ring. In fact, when properly attached and locked in place, it would take quite a bit of force to knock one off without actually breaking it. As far as batteries are concerned, the system is extremely efficient so that they seem to last 'forever.' Since neither system (R1 vs. R1C1) is cheap, I would suggest getting your hands on one to try out for yourself."

Lawrence S. Marchionda, Medical Photographer, Medical Media Production Services, John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, Detroit, MI

A: "I use this system quite often. The loose-fitting components that James referred to are likely the diffuser attachments, which I agree are finicky and not entirely reliable. I use the diffusers for intra-oral cleft palate shots, and will also use them for external eye work, vascular birthmarks & burns, depending on what needs depicting.

I like the wireless aspect, although the IR signal from the 'brain' to the flash (I think it is IR) will frequently trigger the automatic faucet to turn on in the exam rooms. Being able to set ratios is handy. The fact that the flash/es can be rotated is handy. The kit came with a few step-up rings - I had to buy another 62mm one, as my both my 60 & 105 macro lenses have the same thread. Haven't had much need for the other bits and pieces in the box.

Both the flash and the commander unit use 123 batteries, which are not cheap, but have quite a long life. I've found that use of the diffuser seems to shorten that lifespan.

Something I didn't realize until I had one of the plastic surgeons use the system to photograph my forehead (after a goofy cafeteria incident) is how imposing this rig looks from the subject's point of view. Working with kids, I am now more mindful of how strange and scary it might be for them.

You can also use the little flash heads off camera as slaves in portrait/environmental work. The kit has little colored gels that you can use, maybe to throw a cool blue CSI-type background behind the phlebotomist. Again, not a lot of experience in that application."

Brad Uphill, Medical Photographer, Alberta Children's Hospital


Q: How can I add sound to a PowerPoint and export it as a DVD for repeated viewing?

A: “Export each slide from PPT to a JPG or TIFF. Import into Premiere. Add the sound track. This worked for me.”

James M. Atkinson, MIMI, FBCA, RMIP, MediMedia Group, Belle River, Ontario, Canada


Q: What kind of projects has the d-SLR with HD Video been used for?

Laurie A. Lizotte, Photographer/Graphic Designer, REMS Media Services, Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging

A: "I recently witnessed two different video shoots where the videographers were shooting with Canon dSLRs. One group was shooting interviews for Adobe's Acrobat User Group web pages. The other videographer was shooting for JOVE, the Journal of Visual Experimentation. The Adobe shoot was tethered to the Mac and had multiple cameras recording. The cameras today certainly provide us with more options for documentation!"

Charlene Baron, Cell Biology, UMass Medical School


Q: For reasons other than cost, can anyone out there justify choosing a point & shoot (Coolpix P7000) over a DSLR (D5000) for use in store and forward teledermatology?

Lawrence S. Marchionda, Medical Photographer, Medical Media Production Services, John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, Detroit, MI

A: “Based on past experience, people are NOT familiar with DSLRs and get frustrated with them. They are used to looking at the LCD screen on a P/S to take pictures. This is what they use at home, so get them something they would be familiar with.

Other than cost, how does the quality compare? If the point and shoot cannot deliver the quality needed, then you need to find the best price of a DSLR that will work for you.

What about a video camera? Who is going to be capturing the image? Patient or Provider? I would choice the DSLR with a ring flash because it will provide for versatile lighting. But if that is over the head of the user, than for sure choose a point and shoot. A point and shoot that has the most distance between the flash and lens.
Technique out weighs the choice, which ever way they go.
What is the cost if the images aren't sharp and suffer from insufficient resolution? What is the cost if they are not consistent? What is the cost if they need to repeated? What is the cost if improper illumination is used?"

Joe Kane, Editorial Photographer, Media Support Services, Mayo Clinic

A: "Images made by staff/patient with P/S, $$. Images made by staff/patient with DSLR, $$$$. Images made by biomedical photographer, Priceless!!"

Bob Turner, Former Director, BioMedical Graphics, The Scripps Research Institute

A: "I just spent the day figuring out and justifying why we should not buy P&S for a dental clinic. A doctor thinks that a LED lighting system with a Canon point and shoot is the best way to go (doctorseyes.com). So I compared the Pentax w90 (built in flash), Nikon DSLR and the Doctorseye (LED lights) camera. Here are some random thoughts:

  • The sensor on the DSLR is larger and produced the finest grain and tone as well as the greatest depth of field. No surprise. The Nikon DSLR has a ring flash and set to f38.
  • The Pentax depth of field was far superior then the Canon. My thought on that was that the sensor on the Canon is slightly larger and the smallest f stop is larger (f4 as compared to 5.5} I was surprised at the large difference in depth of field.
  • I found the Doctorseye (Canon) difficult to get the right distance for focus and exposure. Mind you I refuse to use the focus bar that runs from the chin to the camera to standardize distance.
  • The point and shoot macros require you to go closer to the subject and sometimes causes lighting problems. Also most patients don't find it very comfortable to have a camera held 2 to 3 inches from their face. Our grad students use Canon DSLR cameras because they need the quality for Board exams and publications. They become very proficient quickly at using the cameras but complain about the weight. The undergraduates use the Pentax W80 and W90's for case presentations and records which don't need the high resolution. I generally say that I can get a good quality picture with almost any camera, but it is much more difficult with a simple point and shoot.
  • There is also a cost factor. The Canon DSL with the 100mm macro and ring flash was as I recall about $2200. The Doctorseye is about $1500 and the Pentax was $279. *The Pentax can be programmed so that the cameras are ready for flash macro photos when you turn on the camera. There is almost no need to make adjustments."

Bruce McCaughey, Media Specialist, Faculty of Dentistry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver Canada

A: "I was involved in a teledermatology trial for several months, training nurses, HCAs (health care assistants) and other non-photographers to take the images. Obviously, in an ideal world, all the pictures would be taken by experienced and qualified medical photographers, but we all know that isn't the case with telemedicine projects. The reaction to a DSLR with a macro lens and flash was one of sheer horror - they couldn't handle the weight and couldn't get to grips with the concept of using a 'professional' camera at all. (And the project Finance guy couldn't get to grips with the overall cost, either). So I set them up using Canon compacts, zoom fully extended, macro mode on and a three-hour training session in small groups to get them going. No, the results weren't as good as one could have obtained with a pro set-up and a pro photographer but they were actually better than I had been expecting and certainly acceptable for the use they were being put to."

Simon E. Brown, FBIPP FIMI FBCA RMIP, Consultant, Sharpen Your Image and medicalphotography.co.uk, United Kingdom

A: “I can’t think of any reasons a point and shoot would be better than DSLR other than cost. Advantages of DSLR: Auto focus P&S versus manual focus availability on DSLR; Ring flash - even lighting; DSLR lens optimization for specific tasks; Flash in macro mode on P&S cameras are typically terrible; DSLR is larger and less likely to get stolen.”

John Massman, President, Logix Inc.


Q: Can you recommend a good guide to standardization in plastic surgery photography?

A: “I remember a book one of our docs shared with me some time back, written intelligently for doctors by doctors. It is Clinical Photography in Plastic Surgery, edited by Gerald Nelson, MD and John Krause, Jr. MD, published by Little, Brown & Company, 1988. It covers a lot of important information, re: technique, consents, ethics, protocols that will never be outdated. It is still available on Amazon.com for between $60 and $160. Apparently, it remains a highly regarded resource.”

Marilee Caliendo, RBP, FBPA, Emeritus Member, BCA


Q: Our department is trying to move away from getting a photo permissions/consent signed (on paper) and filed in a binder to a system where the permission can be digitally recorded and filed with an image/images. We are using Cumulus and were thinking that it would be great to store the signature as a layered file in the system. If your department requires signed consent forms how do you handle this issue?

Laurie A. Lizotte, Photographer/Graphic Designer, REMS Media

A: “I photograph the consent form with all signatures and file it with the photographs. If I re-photograph the same person I fill out another, new consent form so that the date on the form matches the date of the photos.”

James M. Atkinson, MIMI, FBCA, RMIP, MediMedia Group, Belle River, Ontario, Canada


Q: How many of you have an employee and visitor photo policy in place?

James Fosse, Visual Information Specialist, National Centers for Animal Health USDA

A: “We at the North Shore-LIJ Health System have always had a policy that ALL patients, even if they are not even seen in the photo who are in the room while the photographer is taking pictures, MUST sign a Photo Release Form.

We have been a bit lax about having employees sign the form, but we are trying to have that in place as well, especially when doing photos for brochure work and advertising work.

Yesterday, I was asked to photograph an area in the hospital where you have clinic patients waiting in line to register in an unsafe overcrowded area, as well as the inside clinic area. We tried to get as many release forms as possible. The problem was that some people did not speak English and may not have been 100% legal citizens. We made a general announcement and took the photos, taking a bit of a risk.

We live in a very litigious society and people can sue even if we have the photo consent form signed. We as official photographers on staff must be diligent when asked to compromise the law for the sake of photos. The health system can be sued as well as the photographer personally.”

Adam Cooper, RBP, FBCA, Chief Medical Photographer, North Shore-LIJ Studios, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Great Neck, NY

View North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Patient Authorization Form

A: “At St. Boniface, all photography requests on our campus are coordinated through the Public Relations office, or my office if it is in the Research Centre. We email each other and notify Security, and a staff member must be present with the photographer. The usual releases are required.”

Bill Peters, Manager, Communications & Media Services, St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre

View St. Boniface General Hospital’s Media Relations Policy
View St. Boniface General Hospital’s AV Release Form


Q: I have been given the green light to invest in new video equipment. We will be producing mainly work place training videos. I work on a Mac platform and use Final Cut Pro. I have a Sony Digital Videocassette Recorder DSR-45 player deck and am currently using a Sony mini DV DVCAM semi pro camera that is at least 5 years old. I am looking for advice from the video folks on what you all have used and what you like or dislike. I am not video trained and am learning as I go so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Kathy Apicelli, Visual Information Services- WTSI, Plum Island Animal Disease Center

A: "We are looking at the new Panasonic AG-AF100 series HD camera. It uses lenses that you have from your SLR cameras. Don't know your price range but this runs about $5,000. www.dpreview.com/news/1010/10101505panaaf100.asp"

Don Heenan, Supervisor Medical Media Services, Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region, Pasqua Hospital, Canada


Q: We are evaluating the Fuji S5 and so far have not been impressed. As you can imagine we are looking for lesion detail and sharpness. I see hair follicles with our old 6 MP cameras but the Fuji seems to flatten out that detail. Is there a setting that we are missing?

A: “Don't know the problems – Unsharp? I use 2 S5 for all my clinical and editorial photography. No problem with detail at all. I turn off the sharpening in the camera and use it in software at the end of all other changes.

I find the color from the camera to be much better (truer) than the Nikon or Canon, which is why I went from the S1 to the S2 to the S5. I photograph diabetic lesions and necrotizing fasciitis without a problem. I use the 60mm and 105mm micro Nikon lenses.

You have a choice of film type to emulate. I use the standard or the F1 setting (color neg film) with the sharpening off in standard (orig).”

James M. Atkinson, MIMI, FBCA, RMIP, MediMedia Group, Belle River, Ontario, Canada


Q: We do a lot of event photography as well as quick location photography and need something that's pretty powerful, however that can produce something other than the straight ahead ‘flash on camera’ effect. We shoot with Nikon D300 cameras. What's everyone out there using these days?

A: “I’m a fan of using the Nikon SB-900 and they can be iTTL-controlled by infrared using the SU-800 module. Canon has a similar system that I’ve been using successfully for years. If you don’t like dealing with line-of-sight infrared, there are RadioPoppers, which fire by radio like Pocket Wizards, but you retain iTTL control of your SB-900s. They’re at: www.radiopopper.com If you’re looking for something more studio-like, you can’t go wrong with Alien Bees. Extremely versatile and no power packs to lug around. Wire one flash to the PC outlet (or Pocket Wizard to a flash) and it will remotely fire off the others. Their website is: alienbees.com

Chris Matula, Medical Graphics and Photography, U. T. M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX


Q: We are looking to purchase a new camera (Nikon). Of course we have a limited budget. We are trying to decide between the N90 and the D300. Any suggestions? Pro vs. prosumer? Lighter body vs. heavier body?

Susanne Loomis, M.S., FBCA, Project Coordinator, REMS Media Services, Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging

A: “Have you considered the new D7000, which is sort of the heir to the D90? In some aspects (e.g. viewfinder, performance at high ISO) it is supposed to be closer to the D300 than the D90.

Unlike both the D90 and the D300, it sports 2 SD card slots and a dedicated video recording button.

I have not tried it myself. I use a D90 at home and a D700 (FX sensor) at work. I love the D90, but sometimes miss some of the buttons found on the more expensive models.”

Øystein H. Horgmo, Senior Medical Photographer, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway

A: “The Nikon D300 is not made anymore, has been replaced by the D300s. The S has video, a little cleaner high ISO, two card slots and a few other little upgrades. It is slated to be replaced later this year by a new D-400. No specs on the D-400 have out come yet.

The new D-7000 by all accounts is a great new camera. It is not as robust as the D-300s, so it depends on how you are going to use it. It is a stronger camera than the D-300s at video, but not in the same league as the Panasonic GH2. It has better high ISO than the D-300s, I'm told approaching the D-700. Hope this helps a little.”

Wayne Pearson, President, Don Allen Studios, Inc.


Q: I'm looking for a d-SLR with HD Video capability for business use. Any suggestions?

A: "I have a Canon 5D MKII, which I regularly use only for still images photography. But I do understand it is a very highly regarded video camera from all the reports and review by videographers. I hear that the Canon Rebel T2i is very good as well at a more reasonable price."

Pete Medcalf, Former Director of Biomedical Communications Department at Ottawa Civic Hospital; Photographic Artist, White Pine Studios

A: "I used the Canon 5D MKII for some video test shooting when it came out a couple of years ago. Since then I understand lots of new features have been added (like full manual control and better audio) and other cameras have caught up.

A great source for DSLR video info is DP Philip Bloom's website. Here is a pretty recent article on all current video DSLRs from Nikon, Canon and Panasonic: http://philipbloom.net/2011/03/17/whichdslr/

Øystein Horgmo, photographer and head of medical photography at the University of Oslo's Institute of Clinical Medicine

A: "Best video in an DSLR is the Panasonic GH2. Better than Nikon or Canon by far. Don't even look at the others."

Wayne Pearson, President, Don Allen Studios, Inc.

A: "We have been extremely happy with our Canon 5D MKII, but the competition is closing in and everything seems to leap-frog these days. I looked at a review online and the Panasonic does look pretty good and less expensive. There are plenty of 3rd party rigs and gizmos available for the Canon; is the same true for the Panasonic?"

Bill Peters, Manager, Communications & Media Services, St. Boniface Hospital Research, Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada


Q: I am importing short video clips into iMovie, and then I need to put the clips into Powerpoint on the PC. What's the best format to save it?

Kristen Toohey. Graphic Services, New England Primate Research Center-HMS, Southborough, MA

A: “Our PowerPoint expert suggests any windows media file but he states the file has to be saved in the same folder as the PowerPoint file. You don’t have to do it with PowerPoint 2010 because it puts them all in one file.”

Jerry R. Harvey, Senior Photographer, The Ohio State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Columbus, OH

A: “You're good to go with most media files; wmv, mpeg, avi (in my order of preference), just stay away from mov. Powerpoint does not like QuickTime movies.”

James Koepfler, FBCA, Medical Photographer, Children's Orthopaedic Surgery Foundation, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA


Q: We are looking to replace our Metz 60CT flash units with something more up to date. We do a lot of event photography as well as quick location photography and need something that's pretty powerful, however that can produce something other than the straight ahead ‘flash on camera’ effect. We shoot with Nikon D2X cameras. What's everyone out there using these days?

A: “I also had a Metz 60-CT and have traded it out for a Quantum Qflash T4d with a turbo battery (pack similar to the Metz 60-ct pack) for event and wedding photography. I use it on a Stroboframe that places it 6-8 inches above the lens. I also use a Quantum D-12i Nikon TTl module that works on both the Fuji S-3 and the Nikon D200 bodies for exposure control.”

Keith Bullis, Media Services Manager, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY

A: “We use the SB-800s as well. You can add a number of strobes to fire wirelessly and you can control the output of each of the strobes (even in banks of strobes) with the main camera. If you use the D-200, the pop up flash can be used as the commander and control a number of SB-800s off camera to light a scene. They also come with a series of gells that can add color as well as mix light for proper color balance. There are a number of softboxes on the market for them as well.

For events they are great. You can shoot with one on the camera and a second one on a stick for fill light or back kicker light.”

Adam Cooper, RBP, FBCA, Chief Medical Photographer, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Great Neck, NY