Friday, October 21, 2011

Fastec TS3Cine @ Rule Boston Camera TEXPO

At the recent Rule Boston Camera TEXPO I got to see the prototype of the Fastec TS3Cine high speed camera. The following are notes from a presentation given by Tom Talbot, and a short video I shot that shows the body of the camera. You can see samples of video shot with the camera sensor on the company website, and in the full video of the presentation [link below].

The Fastec TS3Cine is a high-speed, comparatively compact camera that can shot 720p at up to 720 frames per second. The developer of the camera, Fastec, is a San Diego company, but they are partnering with Rule Boston Camera, who is the sole US and Canadian distributor for the camera.

The goal of the project is to create a camera that is small, portable, and easy to use. They see it not so much as a competitor to the Phantom Flex, but rather a camera that fills a niche not filled by the Phantom due to it's large size, complexity, and cost.

Physically, the TS3Cine is a rectangular box covered in grill work, with a large 7-inch LCD on the back and a very large handgrip on the side. The battery is inside the hand grip, while a large door covers the external connections on the opposite end of the camera body. Due to the size of the battery the handgrip is large, making it a challenge for those with petite hands to hold it one-handed. On the plus side, the battery lasts about five hours.

The camera will be available in PL and Nikon F mount versions. It has 8GB of event RAM, and a 128 or 256GB SSD. The SSD is not removable. Clips are captured to the event RAM, and then they can be reviewed and trimmed, before transferring them to the SSD. At the moment, clips can only be previewed while in event RAM. At 720p, the recording time is about 13 seconds. Due to the size of the files, transferring from event RAM to the SSD takes "quite a bit of time"; it's not instantaneous.

Holding the camera, it's certainly got some heft to it; it's heavier than a DSLR by a fair bit; the camera looks like it's made of solid metal, and it about feels like it when you hold it! I think that for most applications this won't be a problem; but if you were holding it for the whole day it might get to feel a bit heavy!

Operation & Connectivity
Tom stressed that the model being demonstrated was still a prototype - white balancing wasn't working correctly - but it has some interesting software features. Using the Gigabyte Ehternet connection or a USB 802.11 USB adapter for Wireless, it can be set up to run as a web server. You can then interact with it and control it from your computer; it will even stream low-res, low frame-rate video to your computer. There's also a USB slot, SD card slot, Ext sync, and a full-size HDMI port on the camera.

Tom Talbot demonstrates the TS3Cine web server software

You can very the frame capture rate, and the chip is actually 4 x 3; it's possible to record in full chip mode: 1280 x 1024 at 500 fps.

A menuing system is used to set most of the parameters for the camera, and though the LCD is touch sensitive, at the moment it seems that you navigate using a toggle/enter switch located to the side of the LCD panel.

File Formats
The camera supports JPEG, AVI, Adobe CinemaDNG RAW, TIF and BMP, and they don't currently plan to implement any compressed/encoded formats. Tom recommended using the CinemaDNG format for capture.

The camera currently has no sound recording capabilities. They believe that sound is not a primary need for a high speed video camera because when you're playing back sound with slow motion clips, you're frequently using some contrived or separately recorded sounds. They may revist that in the future, but at the moment they don't think it needs sound recording.

Development of the camera continues, and they are hoping it will be ready by the end of the year, but there's no firm shipping date yet. Current list price is $29,900 and the day rate to rent the camera is expected to be about $625.

You can watch the half hour presentation that Tom Talbot gave at the recent Rule Boston Camera TEXPO here: TEXPO 2011: TS3Cine High-Speed, High-Resolution Camera - 10.18.11 | Vimeo

TS3Cine website [you can see some video shot with the sensor used in the camera on the website.]

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