Monday, December 22, 2008

Canon 5D Mark II Notes

DVinfo continues to be a good source of information for those playing with their new Canon 5D Mark II’s

Josh Dahlberg notes issues with aliasing and the rolling shutter:
…with the default settings, aliasing and moire patterns can be nasty (you don't need to hunt for artifacts, they pop out when complex geometric patterns or horizontal lines are in focus). However, after turning sharpness down a few notches, I didn't notice any problems at all with today's footage (shot in a variety of contexts) […]

I shot using a monopod and lenses ranging from 24mm to 135mm […] Anything over 50mm IMHO requires a tripod or steadycam as rolling shutter bites hard with even the slightest jerk. Having said that, rolling shutter is not an issue with smooth, controlled movements.

John Fairhurst offers these tips for managing rolling shutter:

  • Pan the camera only one direction per cut. No back and fourths.
  • Use wider lenses for faster moves. The skew will blend with the lens distortion, which people readily accept.
  • Move the actors more than the camera - especially around buildings and straight lines.
  • Pay attention to shutter speed, which isn't easy to control.

Is over-heating a potential problem? One poster noted:
I've spoken with a few rental houses […] They're already seeing dead pixels crop up from all the use and customers have also noted the camera being "hot to the touch" after extended video use.

but the basis of this report is a little murky (the claimed amount of hours on these cameras was clearly incorrect.) Canon claimed when the camera was first announced that heat would not be a problem with this camera (of course, they might not have thought users might be using it just as a video capture device.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

YouTube Hypes HD

I wish they'd up the length of clip you can upload (still limited to 10 minutes) but it's cool that they are YouTube is now supporting HD: YouTube pushes HD video, new landing pages

They have a page with details on optimizing video.

Resolution Recommended: 1290 x 720 (16x9 HD) and 640 x 480 (4:3 SD)
Bit rate: No recommended or minimum value
Frame rate: The frame rate of the original video should be maintained without re-sampling. Pulldown and other frame rate re-sampling techniques are strongly discouraged.
Codec: H.264, MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 preferred.
Audio Codec: MP3 or AAC preferred
Sampling rate: 44.1kHz
Channels 2: Stereo

Canon 5D Mk II Dark Spot Issue

Canon has announced that they are looking into the black spot issue on the new Canon 5D Mark II.
We have learned that some users of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital SLR camera have identified two types of image quality phenomena that appear under certain shooting conditions.

* “Black dot” phenomenon (the right side of point light sources becomes black)
* Vertical banding noise

We are currently investigating and analysing the causes, and examining measures to reduce or eliminate these phenomena by providing correction firmware. An announcement will be made on as soon as measures have been determined.

A solution for the banding problem found on Northlight Images site:
Vertical banding noise If the recording format is set to sRAW1, vertical banding noise may become visible depending on the camera settings, subject, and background. The following camera settings can reduce the phenomenon.
  • Set the recording format to RAW or JPEG.
  • Set C.Fn II-3: Highlight tone priority to 0: Disable if the recording format is set to sRAW1.
  • The vertical banding noise is not noticeable if the recording format is set to sRAW2, but please set C.Fn II-3: Highlight tone priority to 0: Disable if you are concerned about noise.

Links Canon working on 'black dot' fix for new SLR
This article has the best pictures I've seen illustrating the problem.

DPReview: Canon statement

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cameras in free-fall, and more Wireless Mics

...I don't mean their prices are in free fall..

If you’re planning on using a harddrive based camcorder in free fall situations, you might want to reconsider it; seems that the hard drive parks the heads when it thinks it’s falling, and the camcorder won’t work. That’s what Matt Harding found when he tried to use the Sony SR-1 in a zero-g plane. New York Time, Pogue: The Perils of Zero-Gravity Videography
17 million watch a guy doing a gig? Jessh, I'm in the wrong business.

Even more on the wireless microphone/spectrum issue can be found here: Spectrum Talk: Wireless Mics are a Legitimate Use of Spectrum and Wireless Microphone Update: The Twisted Logic of NAB and MSTV - Now Locked in Conflict with APCO and CTIA

I particularly like his use of the term "criminal spectrum squatting."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Is your wireless mic illegal?

I’ve been following the DTV transition with mild disinterest. I thought I sort-of knew what was going on, but one thing I had completely missed is that the shuffle around of spectrum impacts the users of wireless mics.

Previous generations (i.e. the one I bought two years ago) use part of the television spectrum (698-806 MHz: referred to as the 700 MHz band) to transmit. But with the DTV transition, things have gotten moved about, and parts of that spectrum will soon be allocated to emergency services and other parts were sold off to AT&T and friends.

So, in theory, those wireless mic systems are illegal after February 2009. Now, it’s not clear what that really means in the short term. Manufacturers have brought out new systems. Your existing systems will continue to work; though it’s possible you’ll start experiencing more interference.

A friend who works at a broadcast station says they just went through all their gear, identifying equipment that they wouldn’t be able to use after the switch. Television stations have a slightly different relationship to the FCC though; they have licenses from the FCC to use certain spectrum, and have to be careful they don’t break any rules!

I was talking about this with another friend, and we agreed that individuals using the gear were unlikely to run afoul of authorities; most systems don’t transmit very powerful signals, so we’re more likely to be impacted by other users (like Verizon or EMT) than vice versa.

For me, I have to remember to pack the hard-wired lavaliere in the future incase of interference issues, and I guess start saving for a replacement.

Get Ready for FCC changes: Undated. A short piece outlining the issues

Sennheiser Press Release Re: Wireless Mic Frequency Concerns: October 28, 2008. This is almost an FAQ on the issues. Good background

Sennheiser : FCC Rules for NEW TV BAND DEVICES: What This Means For Wireless Microphone Users, November 18, 2008. Much more information about the issues and what Sennheiser says about it.

Shure: What Digital TV Means to Wireless Microphone Users Undated. A rather terse explanation from Shure.

FCC wants wireless mic ban at 700MHz to boost broadband: Ars Technica covered this back in August 2008. Guess I wasn’t paying attention!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Canon 5D Mark II updates

The cameras are slowly arriving in peoples hands, and more reports and sample images and clips are appearing.

Phil Holland has put up a review of the Canon 5D Mark II. He’s generally happy about it, noting that the image quality compares very favorably with his 1Ds Mark III. He finds the low light capabilities impressive and he's included some sample images and video. He notes the problems with adjusting and setting exposure settings in video mode, and suggests getting Nikon AI-s lenses and a lens adapter so that you can at least manually set the aperture!

Or, perhaps Canon will let you set things in a future upgrade. Or maybe we should just wait for the next camera?

There’s whispers of a “Black spot” issue that seems to occur in some cases when shooting bright highlights. Reportedly Canon is looking into it.

DVInfo has created a dedicated forum for the 5D Mk II, suggesting that this camera is really popular with video freaks (and I mean that in a nice way.) And Charles Wu has suggested a trick for selecting ISO, shutter and aperture manually.

1. Setting to M mode. Use your hand to cover the lens, controlling the amount of light coming in. You will see the ISO going up and the aperture and shutter going down.

2. Remove your hand in bright light, you will see the ISO going down and the shutter going up quickly within 1 second. Press the AE lock "*" immediately. Because AE adjustment order is ISO, followed by shutter speed, followed by aperture, if you can press the AE lock within 1 second, you can lock the changing ISO, shutter, and aperture in certain values.

3. If you can set the timing by pressing AE lock, you can lock the exposure values you want. Combine with the control of light, you can get almost every exposure values you want. Just like controlling the exposure manually, although it may be troublesome.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Canon 5D Mark II and RED news

Christopher Witz got hold of a Canon 5D Mark II and seems happy with it [My 5DM2 opinions....]. As a still camera he felt the resolution and noise levels were as good as his Canon 1Ds Mark III. In fact, the only advantage of the 1Ds III he feels is in frames per second and the buffer transfer. He also noted that the LCD of the 5D II is much better than the 1Ds III.

But it’s the video that he’s most excited by:

The video quality is "Oh my god" the 1st time you see it play back on a 1080p screen.... blacks are crushed a bit ( picture style fixable ) but that's ok....

Very little noise.... this thing practically sees in the dark.

On the other hand, he bemoans the inability to lock settings, suggesting that if you’re doing multiple takes and want to keep the settings identical, your best bet will be to leave the camera running between takes!

A little more troubling:

If you're planning on smoothing out your shaky footage with "smoothcam" or any other post stabilization you are not going to be happy. The rolling shutter is not obvious in normal shooting, but it will/does create a wobble with smoothcam.

He also found the Auto Gain Control annoying, cranking way up during quiet passages; so your best bet is probably to use external audio recording.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing
If you want to see a 5D II out of the box, there’s an unboxing here, though it’s not in English, so you have to guess at some of the images!

RED Announcements
They didn’t announce new products, but RED’s “ground breaking” announcement turned out to be lower prices on the recently announced cameras, as well as a trade-in program for RED ONE owners.

That the 3K Scarlet without lens is going to be $2,500 certainly must give those considering a 5D II some pause. The Scarlet will probably be a much better video camera than the 5D II. On the other hand, the 5D II will probably be a better still camera, and it’s available now (if you can actually find one!)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Canon 5D Mark II audio

Dan Carr is expecting his Canon 5D Mark II any day now, and in anticipation he's just posted an informative blog about the options for attaching external audio devices to the camera: Video accessories for the Canon 5D Mark II: Part 1 - Microphones.

Initial tests from various photographers indicate that the video quality is excellent, but the sound quality from the on board microphone is poor, not only that but it also picks up noise from the camera mechanisms such as the IS, aperture and just simply touching the camera body.

He covers some inexpensive external mics - like the Sennheiser MKE 400 - as well as XLR to 3.5mm converter boxes like those from BrachTek. I actually have an earlier model BeachTek, and can attest to their usefulness for using different professional mics with consumer video cameras.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Canon 5D Mark II Test Drive

I know, I'm obsessed. But here's a test drive of the Canon 5D Mark II by Dan Chung for The Guardian.

Even better, he comments on his experiences at the DVInfo site. Some interesting comments about the limitations he encountered, particularly a problem using the HDMI output to drive an external monitor while shooting. (Note that another poster asked about using the standard video out instead, which he hasn't - yet - responded to.)

1. In Movie mode the HDMI outputs 1080i when you are framing up and sorting focus and exposure. […] the moment you hit record it changes the output to 480p, worse the resolution change forces both HDMI displays I've tested to take about a second to adjust in which time you see nothing!

2. The image quality is stunning in low light, even at its maximum 3200asa it is still usable.

8. The rear screen is actually very good and can be zoomed up twice to check focus on specific spot. However when you start to record you can no longer zoom to check focus, your subject had pretty well be standing still, follow focus is going to be impossible. This coupled with the HDMI problem is going to rule this camera out for most run and gun use I think. Odd as one of the primary markets for the 5DmkII is supposed to be news photographers doing video.

In a later post he notes a problem forcing the camera to go to maximum aperture when using automatic lenses.

He seems to think that the camera will be useful for those wanting to use it as a special effects second camera, but that it won't really replace a dedicated video camera in most situations, and it may be difficult for those in news/wedding situations etc., to use effectively.

Canon 5D MkII, RED, YouTube goes wide

Reports are that the Canon 5D Mark II started leaving the Canon distribution centers today, though Amazon and B&H Photo still list it as unavailable or available in December. The big question (after "when will they appear in stores?") is how many do they have and how many back orders are there? If you didn't pre-order, you might not see one until January...

Adobe, meanwhile, has updated their Camera RAW plug-in to support the Canon 5D Mark II.

RED, fresh from their announcement of the DSMC (Digital Stills and Motion Camera) System back on November 13th, now say there's going to be another big announcement on December 3rd. Everything has changed... says the post.

Finally, YouTube now supports widescreen video! You can upload video that are 960 pixels wide. They also now allow you to upload a maximum of 1GB (up from 250MB) but the length of the video is still limited to 10 minutes.

I recently created a Vimeo account precisely because YouTube didn't support widescreen video. Viemo still has one leg up on Vimeo; they don't limit the video to 10 minutes in length.

Monday, November 24, 2008

November 24th

Anything you can do...

It seems that Nikon might have a new full-frame sensor camera up it's sleeve - the Nikon D400 - that might get announced next week (or it might not.) While there's speculation about the resolution, release date, and other features, the biggest question of all is; will it support video like the D90 does, and might it support 1080p like the Canon 5D Mark II does.

It will be interesting to see if Nikon does announce this camera next week, given that it's just about the time that the 5D MkII is expected to start showing up in stores.

YouTube Project: Direct

Anyone see The Onions joke announcement of a competition run by YouTube to produce a video "that is somewhat watachable or provide even a shred of enjoyment for people other than those that made the video" ?

All good fun.

Well I missed the fact that there is a competition on YouTube called Project: Direct, where you could win a trip to the Sundance Film Festival. The film must include a red phone, 2 props from a list of 25, and can't be longer than 5 minutes.

You have until December 14th to enter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November 19th

YouTube is all about making money these days. Umm…well, aren’t we all? They are now selling search terms, and movies are coming too, though one “respected Hollywood researcher” seems to think that iTunes will win out over YouTube and Hulu.
"The issue comes down to ad-supported versus the paid model," Adams said. "For ad supported, the question is how many ads can you run and how much money can you generate per viewing? That has to be compared with the money made from rental or movie purchases. The content companies have all their content on iTunes and have shown complete support for the site despite their worries about Apple dominating the market. The studios aren't making the same content available for ad-supported services."

Meanwhile, MySpace has a searchable video widget.

Canon 5D Mark II

Everyone's waiting for these to ship, so there' not a whole lot of news, though one forum post adds some information about how exposure is handled while shooting video.

Found […] how the Canon 5D Mk. II handles exposure during its video recording mode: exposure is auto when recording HD video, and is adjusted by the camera in a particular order which is based on creating as little audible camera noise as possible so as not to affect the sound that's also being recorded.

The AE adjustment order is ISO (gain), followed by shutter speed, followed by aperture.

And talking about waiting for it to ship, Keith Cooper keeps on top of these things; primarily in the UK, but he also seems to have his finger in the US distribution news too.
We're told of a large US Consumer electronics store that has a new Canon DSLR in their inventory. An 'in stock' date is given as the 7th of December. Quantities are not yet listed but are likely to only go to selected ones of their near 1000 stores.

Hmm…sounds like Best Buy to me; who currently lists the previous version 5D, so it seems more than possible they could be planning to sell it. I might have to hang out at Best Buy just in case. The Canon PowerShot S5 turned up at a local Best Buy before Amazon said it was shipping, so you never know!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

RED DSMC (Digital Stills and Motion Camera) System

I’ve been waiting on the RED announcement, because I was a little concerned that it would confuse my interest in the Canon 5D Mark II. Finally, RED has announced their new plans for the DSMC (Digital Stills and Motion Camera) System. What they have done is designed a new product line that consists of different sensor blocks that work with interchangeable pieces. In theory, you will be able to buy the 5K model now, and upgrade to the 6K model next year. There’s some limitations (for example, the 3K uses a different lens mount to the 5K and 6K models.)

If the marketing materials are to be believed, and from what I can see, the “cheapest” Scarlet - the 3K ($2,500) - features a C-Mount, not a Canon or Nikon mount, and isn’t expected until the Summer/Fall. If you want to use Canon or Nikon lenses, you have to get the 5K, which is $7,000.

And that’s body only. You will need several other bits and pieces to get going. The other thing is that assembled together (see picture) it looks like quite a bit of hardware; more like a Medium format still camera than an SLR. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (though I don’t know that the shape is ideal for video shooting any more than the SLR body shape is.) Of course, the above configuration is one option; it appears you can set it up to be more film-camera-like.

Okay, it may be a great video camera deal – maybe – but it’s a very different calculation from the Canon 5D Mark II. I’m guessing that the 3K Scarlet, with a reasonable lens and the other parts necessary to actually shoot video is going to be close to $5,000. Just to get to the body equivalency of the Canon you’re probably looking at over $3,500.

So for me, it's not something I'm going to be looking at getting in the next year or so. But I'm not looking to spend that kind of money on a primary video camera right now. The RED looks interesting, and the fan boys seem to love RED, but I think I'll wait.

In the mean time, I'm gonna to spend more time reading through the materials and see if anything gets me excited.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November 10

It’s a quiet news day, but the week could shape up to be more interesting. RED is supposed to make a big announcement on Thursday. Of course, they won’t actually be shipping anything; they’ll just be announcing new products that probably won’t turn up until sometime in the middle of next year, if that.
The image – that shows what look like XLR audio inputs – is kind of interesting. But the really interesting thing is the ship date and the price.

Meanwhile, MGM will be posting full-length movies on YouTube. I’m not sure I want to watch a whole movie at current YouTube resolution; maybe they’ll improve it for the movies. The other question; will we want to watch the ads?

The only obstacles to Google and YouTube getting more studios to post full-lengt movies is Google's insistence on a particular ad format, say the sources. They declined to say which ad unit Google prefers. The other hurdle is that some studios are skeptical that users will accept all the ads that need to accompany a feature film in order to make it profitable.

According to a post on, The Wall Street Journal is giving Sony HDR-HC9 camcorders to reporters for capturing video for posting video on the Journals site.

Standardizing on a single camera helps the paper to come up with a uniform look and feel for all their videos and streamlines the workflow required to turn raw footage into polished streaming video.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Adobe Premiere CS4 - Mac issues

I wrote before that I haven’t been using Premiere Pro for some time, despite having a soft spot for it back in the day. The lack of a Mac version for a while really put the kibosh on that, but I was interested to see the CS4 update, and to read the review of it in MacWorld. It’s an academic interest only – I’m in no hurry to switch from Final Cut unless Premiere is totally awesome - so I just read the Pros and Cons list (it’s a long article!)

Something leapt out at me right away: “no preview of HDV during capture.” Say what?

It took a little while, but I found the passage:
On Windows, Premiere Pro’s Scene Detect feature identifies points on the tape where the camera stopped between shots and captures the shots as separate master clips, each linked to a corresponding media file. But on the Mac, Premiere Pro captures a single master clip and creates a subclip for each shot. Both master clips and subclips work fine when it comes to editing. But because the subclips are linked to a single, large master clip and media file, managing media and storage space could be more difficult. And as in the previous version, Premiere Pro for the Mac can’t display HDV footage in the Capture panel; you’ll have to use your camcorder’s built-in screen or an attached monitor instead.

Okay, that sucks! I mean seriously, one of the coolest things in Final Cut is the way it breaks up clips as you capture. And being able to preview to find what you want; I really can’t imagine not having that.

Major bad words for Adobe.

I can’t believe they’d leave it that way. The suggested solution “use the camera’s screen” uhhh…what if you are using a deck?

That Premiere supports many tapeless formats – including P2, AVCHD, XDCAM EX, and XDCAM HD – is cool, but HDV is still an important format, surely? Well, I guess I'm not going to be switching this year!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Another Canon 5D Mark II Video

David Michaud got three days in Tokyo to shoot with the Canon 5D Mark II. Canon has let him post the video that he shot using a beta version of the camera and a variety of lenses:
14mm f2.8 L
17-40mm f4.0 L
50mm f1.4
90mm f2.8 TS-E
135mm f2.0 L

The video is very impressive. The depth-of-field effects are amazing, as are some of the wide-screen lens effects. The low light shots are really good, and there’s hardly any visual problems (there’s one shot where a train is going fast past a non-moving train, and you can see that it appears to be slanted on an angle, but it ‘s hardly noticeable and is the only "jelly" effect visible.)

Check it out !

According to Northlight images Canon 5D Mk II page, Canon says that it is on target to ship the EOS 5D Mark II to US dealers by the end of November

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Canon XH A1S and XH G1S HD

Canon has upgraded the XH A1 and XH G1 HD camcorders with the announcement of the XH A1S and XH G1S HD. These are both tape-based cameras, and while they may be fighting a rear-guard action, Canon continues to believe in tape for some applications:

"HDV tape format continues to be the most cost-effective medium for high-quality high definition video capture and storage," -Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A.


There have been a number of changes to functionality and image processing. Interface changes include a redesign of he manual adjustment rings, (focus, zoom and iris): three sensitivity settings for the manual focus ring; normal, fast, and slow zoom speeds, and acceleration and deceleration have been added when starting and stopping in the zoom key mode to achieve a more natural motion. 

Frame rates include: 60i, 30F and 24F. (That's '24P' to you and me.)

Both cameras have two XLR inputs for audio and there's the option of recording to HDV tape and directly to an external Hard Disk Drive by using the FS-CV DTE Recorder. 

The XH A1S and XH G1S HD are scheduled to be available in late December for an estimated retail price of $3,999 and $6,999, respectively.

Okay, beyond my budget (I'm still hoping to get an HDR-FX7 sometime soon) but impressive cameras. The XH-A1S is particularly tempting with it's XLR inputs; not to dismiss the other features. $4k for a camera is just outside my budget though.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Nikon D90 - another perspective

Last week, Camcorderinfo pretty much panned the video capabilities of the Nikon D90. Now comes an article from B & H Photo by David Speranza that's much more positive. Yeah, they are there to sell hardware - so take it with a grain of salt - but it does offer another perspective.

He gushes about the video quality you can get:

I was able to achieve a razor-thin depth of field that would make a 1970s maverick film director proud. The colors, when properly white-balanced, were rich and full, and the dynamic range [...] went well beyond anything you'll get in a sub-$10K camcorder.

Points out the problems you might encounter:

You can set aperture manually with the Aperture Priority mode, but the camera still automatically adjusts ISO and shutter speed. To remedy this, exposure needs to be locked prior to shooting. [...] this is less a science than an art, and may take some trial and error.

And is upfront about the limitations:

...there's no microphone input; autofocus is disabled; full-quality video can only be shot in 5-minute bursts due to file-size limitations; and, as many people have pointed out, the rolling shutter of the camera's CMOS sensor can produce some queasy-looking vertical lines...

And then he proceeds to put it into perspective:

But none of these are deal-killers. If you want better audio, then shoot dual-system [...] Autofocus? It's far less precise than manual focus—especially on 35mm lenses—which is why manual is still the method of choice on movie sets. Need a shot longer than five minutes? Consider this: the average shot duration in most current Hollywood movies is around five seconds.

He's not even put off by the dreaded Jello-effect:

As for the dreaded "jell-o effect," there's a very simple solution: keep the camera steady (tripods are good) and stay away from whip pans!

There's a sample video clip too, which is definitely worth checking out. While you don't get a good sense for resolution, you do see that the camera can shoot a fairly wide range of subjects, and you can move the camera or have a moving subject and not end up with unusable results! Check the cool pool table shots towards the end of the clip!

So what's a video producer to do?

If you already have some Nikon SLR lenses, I think it might be a no-brainer. Buy the D90 and use it for special effects. If nothing else, it'll be a good SLR camera.

Don't have any Nikon lenses already? Don't need an SLR? I don't think I'd buy this camera purely for it's video capabilities. Even with the Canon 5D Mark II I'm not certain that people will be buying it just for the video capability (though maybe I'll be proved wrong.) But I am willing to adjust my view of the D90. Having gone from initial excitement, to complete disinterest, I now think it could be a fun little video camera.

Monday, November 03, 2008

November 3rd

Redrock DSLR cinema bundles

Remember the accessory rack for the DSLRs announced by Redrock a week or so ago? Prices have now been announced. The DSLR Field Cinema Bundle is $1,995, while the DSLR Cinema Bundle is $2,445. The latter includes:

  • microSupport baseplate with 1 pr 12" 15mm stainless steel rods (lightweight configuration 60mm center to center)
  • microMatteBox (Deluxe Bundle including eyebrow and side wings)
  • microFollowFocus Unit
  • microHandle top handle for carrying, and low mode shooting
  • microSupport Cage

Ahh, if I only had the money...

YouTube auto-translation

If you have video's on YouTube with captions, now people can see the captions in other languages.
Google Translate adds real-time machine translation to any caption tracks you upload. Now you can enjoy this video spoken in Italian, even if you don't understand Italian.

Of course, if you're ever run things through machine translation, you'll probably not be that excited about it.

RED Camera update

On November 13th RED is promising an announcement for a new low-cost digital video camera (cancel those Canon 5D Mark II pre-orders.) It seems though, that they just can't help dropping hints, as Jim Jannard — Red's CEO - has posted a couple of pics of the upcoming announcement.

Western Digital WD TV

Finally, MacWorld has a review of Western Digital's WD TV, a box that will play back on your TV media (video, audio and photos) from any drive or device connected to it via USB. Think of it kind of like an Apple TV, with fewer features, though with support for higher resolution content:
the device supports MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, and WMV9 video at up to 1920 by 1080p at 24 frames per second (fps), 1,920-by-1,080i at 30 fps, and 1,280-by-720p at 60 fps. The Apple TV, by contrast, supports H.264 video up to 1,280-by-720 at 24 fps or 960-by-540 at 30 fps.

As luck would have it, I just got an Apple TV a week ago, so color me jealous. The Western Digital is cheaper, and you can simply plug in any USB hard drive. On top of that, it has a much higher video quality.

On the other hand, it doesn't appear to work over the network, which I find an advantage with the Apple TV. If I was doing the purchase all over again, I might be sorely tempted to get the Western Digital, but I don't regret getting the Apple TV.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 29

Blu-Ray Blues

Well, Apple says no-way Blu-ray, but Psystar, those scrappy little Mac clone makers have announced...a 6x Blu-ray writer that is a $310 upgrade over a dual-layer DVD burn.

Blu-ray writer? Say what?
Blu-ray has already won the format war. Not only is there fully functional and mature support for Blu-ray in other operating systems but you can now rent Blu-ray discs from almost any rental chain. Blu-ray has become pervasive technology that is being widely adopted by consumers everywhere

No word on software support though.

5D Mark II - Zacuto Mini Baseplate

Just a few days ago, the Redrock DSLR Rig was mentioned - a rig for holding/operating a DSLR like a film camera. The price isn't even out for that, and here comes the Zacuto Mini Baseplate which offers many of the same features, though it adds a video screen and promises of better balance when holding the camera.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obligatory Canon 5D Mark II post

This guy talks funny...don't think he's from around here...

But this YouTube video actually does a pretty good job of showing some of the features of the Canon 5D Mark II.

I learned a couple of new things about the camera, and it confirmed some things I had heard.

  • The camera has two auto-focus systems. It has the standard phase-detection AF system that meters off the mirror. There's also a contrast-detection system that's used during movie mode. It's a little slower than the phase-detection system, but does give auto-focus in movie mode. Note:There continues to be discussion about the AF system in the Mark II, and whether it has been improved over the original 5D. It appears that it has not (this video doesn't really confirm one way or the other); and while it was a capable system three years ago, the feeling is that it's not quite cutting edge today.

  • He confirms it's a 4GB file size (just confirming that AGAIN!)

  • 640 x 480 is the SD movie mode

  • Finder is brighter than the original version

  • At the end it shows how in Live View and Movie mode you can zoom in on the center of the image either 5 or 10 times (on the LCD at the back) to check focus.

October 28

Bye Bye VHS

JVC has ceased production of standalone VHS players. They still produce combo units, but this marks the end of stand alone VHS production in Japan. This, I guess, could mean that there's still standalone units being made in China.
6.41 million VCRs were shipped in Japan in 2000, the number had withered to 280,000 units by 2007, according to the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association

I see RED

Less than a month ago - right after the announcement of the Nikon D90 and Canon 5D Mark II - RED, the maker of the low-cost (comparatively) high-resolution Red One digital video camera announced that they were reworking their plans for a much lower cost digital video camera called Scarlet. They'd originally previewed the Scarlet, as well as hinted at plans for a DSLR as well.

And now comes Jim Jannard — Red's CEO — announcing on RedUser forums that their new announcement on November 13th will blow everyone's sox off.
I want to say that no one has any idea how incredible this announcement will be. Call this hype... please. I am quite sure that the announcement will be called a "scam". Should be a lot of fun to hear the reactions. I can't wait.

[...] This makes the RED ONE announcement seem small by comparison.


November is National Novel Writing Month

Monday, October 27, 2008

Camcorderinfo reviews Nikon D90 has reviewed the Nikon D90, with particular emphasis on the video capabilities. Unfortunately, the results aren't very pretty. While I expected the notes about "jelly video" I wasn't expecting the issues with over-heating that they reported.

Manual controls are peculiar or unusable, auto focus is non-existent, and its 1280 x 720 maximum picture quality just doesn't cut it when compared to a dedicated HD camcorder. Recording videos for extended intervals also caused the D90 to run into overheating issues—prompting a swift shutdown of video mode.

They did like the 24p mode for it's cinematic look, and they found that the low-light performance was reasonably good - though they had been expecting better - but in general they weren't impressed by it as a video camera.

The 24 fps shutter speed does create a unique look, and it has a more cinematic feel than the 24P mode some camcorders offer. However, the D90 has way too many problems with video performance—choppy auto exposure, no auto focus, rolling shutter (producing wobble), artifacting, moirĂ© patterns, and lack of sharpness with images of fine detail.

Also troubling was the five minute clip limit (note that the Canon 5D Mark II limit is about 12 minutes.) They also found that after about 30 minutes of continuous use the sensor would overheat and the camera would shut off live-view mode. They then had to wait about 15 minutes before using it again.

Friday, October 24, 2008

2008 Insomnia Film Festival

Now of a kid in school that's into film/video making? You might want to tell them about the 2008 Insomnia Film Festival.
On November 15 at 9:00 a.m. EST, the clock starts ticking.
Apple will post the list of required elements for entries in the 2008 Insomnia Film Festival. Then you and your team will have the next 24 hours to make and upload your 3-minute movie. That's the easy part.
Earn the #1 rating from either the public or the pros, and you'll land one of two grand prizes. Everyone on your team will get a MacBook Pro, Final Cut Studio 2, Logic Studio, Shake, and a year's worth of One to One personal training to help you use them.

Note that: All five registered team members need to be current students in the U.S. attending high school (9th through 12th grade) or an accredited college or university

Another Canon 5D Mark II love site

Seems that Ken Rockwell really likes the Canon 5D Mark II; if you're shooting landscapes. If it's news or sports, stick with Nikon.

It's an interesting page, but I'm not so sure I can agree with his comments about the D90 being preferred for theatrical release.
The Nikon D90's 24 FPS rate is ideal for theatrical release; the Canon's 30-frame rate will look more like video while the D90's 24-frame rate will look more like film.

While the frame rate of the D90 suggests it's better for going to film, the "jelly" issue, and the lower resolution make me think that the Canon 5D would be a much better choice; even if you have to do a translation to 24 fps.

Or course, if you are going to film, maybe a "real" video camera that shoots at 24p would be the better choice.

Apple TV Maximum Frame Size/Rate

Well, it turns out the specs were right. If you do a movie at 1280 x 720, the frame rate must be 24 fps. If you do it at 30 fps (even if the transfer rate is the same) the Apple TV won't even "see" the movie.

So it turns out that 960 x 540 @ 30 fps is probably the best choice for transferring HD video to the Apple TV.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Redrock DSLR Rig

While I'm still waiting to see more in-depth reviews about just how good the Canon 5D Mark II video is, there's no doubt that it seems to promise pretty awesome video capabilities.

Might be good enough to use to shoot "serious" video? Some people think so, but let's face it, using an SLR to shoot video - even on a tripod - is probably going to be a little bit of a challenge. The camera is designed for shooting stills more than for shooting video.

Enter Redrock Micro, who has come up with a rig to hold, and control a DSLR (and to make you look more like a "real" movie maker too!) The Redrock video DSLR Bundle (catchy product name) offers the following features:

  • Follow focus for accurate and repeatable focusing
  • Swing-away mattebox for light management and easy access to changing lenses
  • Shoulder mount and handgrips for steady handheld use
  • Support cage for enhanced stability and low angle shot

It's going to be available starting October 28th (price may not be announced until then) I guess the real question; will it cost more than the camera? Here's one guy that's excited about them: Prolost:It's happening.

October 23

Apple TV

  • I bought an episode of Top Gear last night just to see what it was like. I would have bought the whole season, but that takes up 5GB, and I just don't have that much free space on my iBook right now (ouch!) A one hour episode is 546MB. Quality; well it's certainly acceptable, but not as good as a DVD

  • It turns out that while I can synch (i.e. copy) content from one iTunes library, I can also stream another iTunes library. Which means that maybe I'll buy Top Gear on the other computer...the only problem is that the computer has to be on to stream...

  • Looks like 1280 x 720 @ 30 fps doesn't work. I made a test movie, and Apple TV didn't like it. I have to remake the movie at 24fps just to confirm that's the issue, and I didn"t mess something else up!

Sony HDR-FX7

Sony dropped the price on the HDR-FX7 by a grand; it's now $1,999. Right now B & H lists the new price as $1,999, and the used price is $2,199!

I have - and like - the HDR-FX1. Unfortunately, camcorderinfo didn't like it nearly as much, preferring the Canon XH-A1:
...the XH A1 offers a great deal more control and makes it more accessible. The XH A1 has a ton of great audio features and the Sony FX7… doesn’t, omitting XLR inputs and external audio level controls. We like the HDR-FX7 in itself. It comes from a good family, improving in some points over the HDR-FX1, and harkening back to the DCR-DVX2100 and even XV1000. But in a comparative, competitive market, it simply can’t hold a candle to its mainchallenger. 

But that was back when the FX7 was only $500 cheaper than the XH A1. The XH A1 definitely seems to be the better camera, but now it's $1300 more than the FX7.

OWC Blu-ray

I've given up on Blu-ray, but OWC has come out with an external Blu-ray player. $499.99 for the drive alone, or bundled with Roxio Toast 9 Titanium (OS X) for $579.99

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Apple TV

I often like to play back video I’ve edited on an HD television that’s down the hall from my editing suite (that sounds a bit pretentious; the suite is a Mac in my office.) In the past I’ve been burning HD content onto an anamorphic DVD, which works fine – even if it takes a bit of time – though there is some noticeable resolution loss.

For ages, I’d been thinking that if I had a Blu-ray burner and player then it would provide a higher-resolution solution. But the failure of Apple to deliver on Blu-ray support has caused me to reconsider my options, and perhaps come up with a better solution.

Apple TV

Okay, so the Apple TV is no Blu-ray. In fact, it’s highest resolution is 720p; 1280 x 720 @ 24 fps 5 mpbs, or 960 x 540 @ 30 fps 5 mbps.

That’s not Blu-ray resolution, but it’s a bit better than an anamorphic DVD. And there’s other advantages too; most noticeably the savings in time compressing and burning, and also the savings in not burning as many DVDs. I’ll also include the ease of finding stuff; no more misplaced discs!

I just got the 40GB version yesterday, and so far it looks to have been a good choice. Setup was very easy (I already use iTunes with my iPhone) though it took about three hours to transfer my iTunes library to the Apple TV over Wi-Fi (and that’s mostly music.)

I did a couple of test transfers using the QuickTime Pro player to export short HDV clips. Both were at 960 x 540 with different compression rates. They worked without trouble; though I need to experiment to see the best settings, and whether 1280 x 720 is really limited to 24fps!!

One surprise; there’s no off button on the Apple TV. I have to decide whether to leave it on, or turn it off at the wall...


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Casio EX-FH20

The speed with which new toys come out is truly dizzying. Was it just this January that Casio's EX-F1 was being talked about excitedly because of it's ability to do super-slow motion? And now, heres the EX-FH20 offering similar features in a smaller footprint. It's available for $599 from several online reatilers.

Unfortunately, assuming that the video quality is similar to the EX-F1 (which went way down in resolution and way up in noise as the frame rate went up) it's ability to capture short sequences at high frame rates is not that useful. Fun to post short sequences on the web - maybe - but probably not much use for anything else.

It does claim 720p (1280 x 720 pixels) video though.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Looking at Vimeo

I've been using YouTube for a couple of years to post videos, and I'm generally happy with it; it's easy to use, has a big audience, and you can embed video in other pages easily. And most people seem to have no trouble with it, so if it ain't broke, why fix it?

Except that most stuff I do these days is in HD format, and YouTube doesn't support that yet. I have to letterbox things (or pan-and-scan) before posting them.

So the quest for an alternative begins. Vimeo looks interesting. They support 720P (1280 x 720), and you have the option of a Free Account, or Vimeo Plus, the latter giving you more storage space (500MB vs 2GB), more uploads (1 a week vs unlimited) and other features for $59.95 a year. What? We have to pay?!

While I can't find it on that page, camcorderinfo says that you are limited to 5000 streams. Is that a year? Month? Simultaneously?

Well, I'm going to have to do some experimenting with it to see how it compares to YouTube. There are other options too: CNET: YouTube sucks: 4 sites that do video better

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blur-ray Recorder, End of Firewire

Apple may not be keen on Blu-ray, but Amex Corporation has announced the Portable Blu-ray Super Multi Drive, a very sleek and sexy external Blu-ray player and reader. It supports both OSX and Windows XP, though note that the Mac OS doesn’t support Blu-ray playback, so the usefulness of the player-only version is rather limited.

The BDP-2 Blu-ray Player US$289.00
The BDR-2 Blu-ray Recorder US$389.00

An Intel Core 2 Duo and NVIDIA GF8000 Series or better is required. The text at the top says “New MacBook, Pro and Air.

Get this with Toast, and you’d be able to make Blu-ray discs.

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs has reportedly responded to a query about why the new MacBooks don’t have Firewire:
Actually, all of the new HD camcorders of the past few years use USB 2.

It’s a good point. While HDV tape-based cameras require Firewire to transfer video, all the harddrive and chip-based cameras work with USB (as I’ve found with my new camera.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blu-ray licensing

Yesterday’s comment about Blu-ray licensing at Apple's MacBook announcement had me puzzled. What was this "bag of hurt" that Steve was on about? Is it the money that Apple would have to pay to put in Blu-ray hardware (and software that writes to Blu-ray?) Is it licensing issues for people writing Blu-ray discs? Or is it both?

Or something else?

Well I did discover that Roxio already has a Blu-ray plug-in for Toast that will write Blu-ray content to either a Blu-ray player, or even a DVD disc (I didn’t even know that you could put Blu-ray content onto a DVD!) Interestingly, it’s an additional $20 (ontop of the $80 for Toast.) I can't help thinking that one of the reasons they didn't just include it in the package was because of extra licensing fees they had to pay. At a guess, it sounds like if Apple added Blu-ray support to iDVD (iBlu-ray) would they have to pay $10-20 per machine for licensing too? That’s probably the kicker.

As to licensing issues for users, that’s probably only an issue for mass production (and that’s not Apple’s concern anyway.) But I did find out some interesting stuff about that too. A friend sent me this link to an article about Blu-ray licensing. The Ins and Outs of Blu-ray Disc Replication and Licensing by Hugh Bennett.

The interesting part of that article - and you have to get to the bottom to find it – is the summary of licensing costs for pressing a Blu-ray.

Quantitatively speaking, for 1,000 copies of a simple title, all these demands add at least $7.54 overhead to the price of a single disc (calculated as a one-shot deal). Based on my earlier examples, this works out to roughly $11-12 (SL) to $13-14 (DL) each for a finished product.

Note: for more info on licensing, see also: Blu-ray Disc Licensing for Small Publishers, Duplicators, and Independent Studios

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Apple MacBook's; no Blu-ray

Apple came out with new MacBook Pros, and MacBooks today. Built using a new manufacturing process, they feature a glass trackpad, LED-backlit display, new graphics chip, and a new mini display port. They don't include Blu-ray, but someone asked about that omission in the Q&A at the end:
"Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It's great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we're waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace."
-Steve Jobs

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nikon D90 review at DPReview has their review of the Nikon D90 up. They are a little concerned about the matrix metering and how the highlights tend to slip a bit more than they'd like, but otherwise they seem to like it.

Video get's a mixed review, with them noting it's hard to escape the impression that this is a first-generation implementation. After describing the problems of the rolling shutter, they go on to note:

The automatic exposure can result in rather 'stepped' exposure changes - the aperture is locked so the problem seems to stem from amplifier stepping. Color rendition is not as convincing as in stills recording, with the red channel appearing to clip in our bus sample. Autofocus is also only available prior to recording, using the less-than-spritely contrast-detect mode, so once the 'rec' dot appears, you'll be left having to focus manually.

The sound quality (11kHz Mono) - with no option for an external mic - was also criticized, and in the end they conclude that you shouldn't buy this camera for it's video capabilities (but then no one really ever thought that, did they?)

Really cheap Blu-ray players coming?

With Blu-ray players still hovering around $300 - and Apple still not supporting Blu-ray authoring *grumble* - I've been disinclined to jump on the Blu-ray bandwagon. But now comes rumors that a Samsung player may reach down to $149; at least on sale. That's quite something.

On the other hand, I'm still inclined towards the PS3 as the Blu-ray player of choice because you get a game machine, and it seems to be more future-proof than the stand-alone players.

Reviewers have taken a crack at deciding between the PS3 vs. standalone player before (note that the review is over a year old) and come away with mixed feelings, but at $149 vs $400, I'm suddenly remembering that the PS2 I own has a fairely heavy layer of dust on it.

So do I really care about future prrof players? About Profile 2 with support for secondary decoders, local storage and internet connections, or does all that not really matter if all I'm doing is watching a movie?

I guess I'll wait and see what the sales of Christmas bring...

Friday, October 10, 2008

More Canon 5D Mark II sample video

I just finished the previous post, and discovered that DPReview now has a couple of new Canon 5D Mark III sample videos up on their site: get them while they're fresh!. They are both just over 20 MB, and run at right around 39 mbits/s.

On the computer I watched these on (a lowly 1.83 GHz Mini Mac) playing in QuickTime Player, the bicycle rider plays very smoothly, but there's a strangely colored frame at 3:16 and I have no idea what's caused that. (I tired playing it on a Windows machine and see the same thing, though it's reported at 3:17!) These clips were taken with a pre-production model.
Oddly colored frame (right) in sequence

In the second clip (the street scene) the same thing happens at 4:16. Also, the pan is kinda jumpy, which I have to think is caused by the tripod rather than the camera (as the first clip doesn't seem to have that problem.)

No obvious jelly problem (but then these are fairly slow pans.)

Canon 5D Mark II HD Video samples @

SLR video report (website of The Desert Sun, Palm Springs) has an article from Jefferson Graham of USA Today about the Nikon D90 and Canon 5D Mark II that focuses (pun!) on these cameras video capabilities: New Canon, Nikon SLR cameras shoot video. The article pretty much confirms what I've picked up from other sources, but it's always good to hear that what you think is true, still seems to be so.

His main points:

  • [he doesn't like] Live View. If you try composing your image in bright sunlight, it's nearly impossible to see.
  • [these cameras let you] make use of the mouthwatering, supersharp, add-on accessory lenses that camera makers promote to let us zoom in really close or go wide for wonderful vistas.
  • Auto focusing is very problematic, more so on the D90 than the 5D [on the D90 it's manual focus only once recording]. [...] On the 5D, Canon adds a cool button on the back of the camera to keep the image in autofocus.
  • Advances in low-light sensors have gotten so good, you could shoot a movie practically in the dark with the new 5D
  • ...videos are likely to be less steady than on a video camera, your zooming rocky and the images shakier. [.. His] advice: Use a tripod for your SLR videos.

The Nikon D90 is available now, the Canon 5D MkII sometime in November (though the way the economy is melting, maybe it'll never get here...)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Oct 9 Bits & Pieces

* Josh Lowensohn at CNET wonders if a new theater view in the YouTube Player could be a precursor to HD support for YouTube. Personally, I’d love it if YouTube made some effort to support widescreen format videos. A lot of the content I’m now producing is wide screen and if I want to put it on YouTube I have to either letterbox it or pan-and-scan it. I just wish that YouTube would take the content and letterbox it itself.

* For a whille there, it looked like Apple might not be releasing new MacBooks next week, but never fear! Apple has sent out invites to the media for a special event about new notebooks on the 14th! One interesting note:
Should the price points prove accurate, however, they would imply that Apple is prepared to slash the price of its entry-level MacBook by more than 27 percent.

* RealNetworks has some software called RealDVD that – ostensibly – was designed to let people “back-up” their DVDs. 'Not so fast,' says the movie industry, that violates the DMCA!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Chances of sensors over-heating?

DPReview has a Photokina Interview with Canon Inc's Director and Chief Executive of Image Communication Products Operations, Masaya Maeda. Lot's of variations on "No Comment," but there was one interesting answer to a question about possible issues with the sensor 'heating up' when shooting extended movie clips (an issue I wasn't even aware of until the announcement of the Nikon D90, when that was given as the reason for the limit on movie clip length):

"We don't have that problem with heating because power consumption is very low in our newly developed sensors. There is no impact on stills image quality even after shooting extensively in movie mode."

UPDATE: I realize that it might be a bit confusing that I have a comment from a Canon guy and a reference to a Nikon Camera. The Canon guy is, of course, being asked about the movie mode in the Canon 5D Mark II. The Nikon D90 also has a movie mode, and when it was announced, there was talk that the clip length limit was due to heat build-up concerns (and I don't believe that has even been confirmed be Nikon.)

The 5D Mark II has an estimated clip length of 12 minutes, but reportedly that's an average based on the 4GB file length limit length, and is not due to concerns about heat buildup.

I hope this clears it all up!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Still no Blu-ray for Apple?

Apple is supposed to be rolling out some new hardware on October 14th. Everyone seems to think it’s going to be new MacBooks, but my Magic8Ball iPhone app says “Don’t count on it” (seriously, that’s what the Magic8Ball says, I don’t have any inside track on this folks!)

But I’m not really that worried about MacBook updates…what I want is Blu-ray support. Come on Apple! You’re part of the Blu-ray Consortium thingo, why no Blu-ray support? I could understand back when the whole Blu-ray HD DVD thing was going on, but that’s been over for aaaaaages. Maybe Steve just doesn’t care?

If they don’t announce something October 14th I’m going to have to write Steve Jobs a carefully worded letter!

What does the Magic 8 Ball say?


D90 Hands-on at B&H photo

B&H Photo sends out an electronic newsletter now and again, and the latest issue has a hands-on with the Nikon D90 written by Allan Weitz.

It's worth checking out if only to see the sample video they have there (some nice shots; though watch the curve of the helicopter blades!) I don't think it says anything particularly unexpected about the feature:
[...] the camera's DX-format CMOS sensor is far larger than the sensors found in most consumer camcorders. As a result, the image quality of video captured with the Nikon D90 is noticeably sharper and contains fuller detail and tonality in the mid-tones as well as in highlights and shadow areas.
[...]autofocus and viewing the action through the camera's viewfinder, is replaced with viewing, composing and auto focusing on the 3" display and AF locks at the moment the record button is pressed in D-Movie mode.

There's also a good explanation of the cause of the "jelly" video effect
[...]Unlike traditional camcorders that utilize global shutters and record the video data onto CCD sensors, the D90 relies on a rolling shutter and a CMOS sensor, which because it records a 24p (progressive) f/p/s frame rate in a piecemeal fashion from top to bottom across the sensor, can occasionally display image 'wobble' when recording certain types of movements.

Despite this problem, the reviewer concludes that this is a small price to pay for having the ability to call up such a cool feature at the hit of a switch, and I have to agree. If I appear to have dismissed the video capability of the D90, it's primarily because I don't already have any Nikon lenses. If I did, I'd probably be very excited about it; though maybe disappointed that the D700 doesn't have a similar feature.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

No news is Canon 5D Mk II news...

With nothing else to talk about, here's an interesting article about the Canon 5D Mark II: Canon EOS 5D Mark II: Worth the wait?

It's interesting for two reasons: it has a pretty good comparison of the major features of the Nikon D700, Sony Alpha DSLR-A900, Canon 5D and Canon 5D Mark II, and the writer is kind of ho-hum about the whole thing, especially the video capability:

While there are some obvious applications for it in areas like wedding, law enforcement, insurance and other professional and commercial environments, a lot of its usefulness will rest on the implementation. In a nice touch, the camera has a minijack for an external microphone.

Clearly this guy isn't blown away by the idea of video, and if that's the case, then I guess the camera almost looks like a 21 MP version of the original 12MP camera, and some people aren't pleased about that!

If you aren't sure that the Mark II is that much different from the original, it's worth checking out DPreview's What's New section on the camera.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Some JVC HD camera

Engadget has some pretty awful pictures of a concept camcorder that JVC was showing at CEATEC. They say it’s SDHC, and it does have AVCHD on the side, and they claim it’s for “sophisticated users” (is that shorthand for people that can be suckered into spending more money than the average Joe?)

Apart from looking like an 80’s security cam, it’s hard to figure out what would make this “sophisticated.” Obviously it’s a fixed lens, and the zoom control is a little rocker switch on the top. . .I just don’t see it.

Still, everyone’s going HD…

More Canon 5D Mark II video

Canon's 5D Mark II remains a hot topic.

Michael Reichmann at The Luminous Landscape has a preview of the Canon 5D Mk II, as well as a demo video. The video is mostly him talking about the camera, but there's some clips at the end. Definitely read the article, as it's mostly about the video features. Some interesting notes:

  • He found that a 15 second sample clip was captured at 47 Mbps and was 80MB in size. When translated to Apple Intermediate Codec this expanded to 169 MB
  • Though QuickTime 7 could playback the video, there were dropped frames on his 2.6Ghz dual core Macbook Pro with 2 Meg of RAM,
  • He didn't see any real "Jelly" problem

It's important to note that this was with a pre-production model that he had for only a day.

From the video, the notable thing is that there's no obvious movie record mode on the camera (or even a button!) You go to Live-View and then click the set button to start recording. This is interesting as it almost suggests that the video feature was an add-on. My PowerShot S5 at least has a dedicated start/stop video recording button!

He really raves about the low-light performance, and talks about how this is the start of convergence of DSLRs and video cameras. He's right, though I really think an SLR is not a great body shape for shooting video; it's too unwieldy.

The demo video is great; you get a good idea of depth-of-field control and light performance. You also feel like he needed to use a tripod for several of the scenes!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Premiere Pro CS4

Adobe has announced the new CS4 suite and there's an update to Premiere Pro coming. It's $799 standalone or $1,699 as part of the Production Premium Suite, which adds After Effects and Soundbooth (oh great, more ways to spend money.)

I have a bit of a soft-spot for Premiere as I started using it way back at version 1 (that's the original version 1) and even wrote a review of it way back then. But then came Final Cut - which was another leap forward for desktop computer video editing with it's UI borrowed heavily from Avid - and then Adobe abandoned the Mac platform when they came out with Premiere Pro, so I haven't been using Premiere much lately.

But they came back to the Mac with CS3 in 2007, and here's an update.

MacWorld has a preview article (they call it a first look, but I'd call it a glance) and there's some interesting features:

  • OnLocation for capturing, and logging video in the field.
  • Adobe Media Encoder for batch encoding Premiere Pro sequences and other files to multiple formats.
  • Expanded tapeless media support: P2, AVCHD, XDCAM EX, and XDCAM HD. it supports the metadata (shot information encoded in the files.
  • Speech transcription: analyzes a clip’s audio and creates a text transcript that’s timecode-specific and searchable by keyword.

At the moment I have no plans to go back to Premiere; I'm happy with Final Cut Pro even though I have some workflow problems I need to resolve. But it's good to know Premiere's back on the Mac and (hopefully) giving Apple some competition.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Panasonic AG-HMC70U and the Sony HDR-FX1

I’ve been doing some work with the Panasonic AG-HMC70U and the Sony HDR-FX1, the former being an AVCHD and the latter an HDV camcorder. It’s interesting to compare them as they are really so different; different feature set, different video format, different resolution.

I shot some stuff in a video studio the other day. This was done rather hastily between other work, so it wasn’t as great a test as I was hoping. It did reveal that the color is not too bad a match. I had been worried that there might be a notable difference between the two, but I’m not as worried now.

Sony HDR-FX1 (top) Panasonic AG-HMC70U (bottom)

The stills definitely reveal a difference in video image resolution. The Panasonic AG-HMC70U stills seem to show more resolution; this shouldn’t be a surprise since the AG-HMC70U AVCHD video is at a higher resolution than the HDV format (1920 vs. 1440). Unfortunately, these stills didn’t work well for absolute comparison as the shots weren’t done on a tripod and there’s a lot of feathering in the stills I grabbed.

Since I’m mainly authoring to anamorphic DVD, I’m not sure the difference is going to be a problem. One note from some outside shooting, the lack of a neutral density filter on the AG-HMC70U is a bit annoying…at least I don’t think it has one. I better go back and reread the manual!

Friday, September 26, 2008

D90 video, Canon 5D Mark II preorders

Gizmodo has some video tests shots with the Nikon D90. Interesting to see the depth of focus, as well as focus problems (there's no autofocus in video mode!), and the reviewers note about problems zooming smoothly and that a tripod really makes things easier.

No, an SLR isn't going to replace a video camera perfectly. At least, not this one. And probably not the Canon 5D Mark II either.

Meanwhile Amazon had been accepting pre-orders for the Canon 5D Mark II, but now it says it's not available, and you can be emailed when it's available. B&H doesn't seem to be taking orders either, though it says that arrival is "Approximately November." Of course, if the economy grinds to a halt next week, who's going to care?

Blu-ray Lives

Some people think Blu-ray is on it's deathbed, or at least that it will never reach the success of DVDs. They could be right; broadband is continuing to challenge physical mediums (sales of DVDs are down too.) On the other hand, Blu-ray is a useful format for HD content; the question is will a mass audience adopt it, or will it end up being used more by content developers? Blu-ray may just be a good way to back up large quantities of information.

Not surprisingly, Sony thinks that Blu-ray's future is still bright. This article on Sony's Electronics Blog say's that everything will be fine: "Expect Blu-ray to Live on Despite Reports of its Imminent Demise".

Meanwhile, Apple still has no Blu-ray support, the biggest reason I have held off getting involved in the format. I just get by with anamorphic DVDs instead.

DTV is coming

February 19 is the end of analog transmission television. All those stations are going to turn off. And if you’re still getting TV “off the air” and don’t have a digital TV, or haven’t bought a digital converter, then you won’t be able to watch television.

And you will be better for it.

At least one Senator is concerned They did a test cut-off in Wilmington Carolina early in this month that revealed some problems:
"As the current administration winds down, both agencies must remain vigilant so that the next administration does not inherit a communications crisis."
- Senator Daniel Inouye

But it turns out that the problems were more mental than physical:
According to the Journal, by mid-afternoon roughly 74 calls had been placed to two TV stations, WSFX-TV, a Fox affiliate, and WECT-TV, an NBC affiliate. The newspaper also reported the FCC received about a hundred calls on its toll-free help line in the first few hours after local broadcasters shut off their analog signals. Most of the calls were from people who needed help programming the new digital converter boxes, the newspaper said.

On a personal note, I too thought that because I had (RCN) cable television, I didn’t need to worry. And then a couple of weeks ago my TV went blank, and all I got was a message on Channel 3 about digital conversion. Turned out I had to go down to the cable company and pick up a new converter box! Fortunately, the tragedy was averted, though I was annoyed that the cable company hadn’t been smart enough to let me know about this in advance.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In The Air Tonight

Someone just pointed me to the Cadbury advertisement with the gorilla playing drums to Phil Collins "In The Air Tonight." I like the mood of this; the way the camera glides over the gorilla face at the beginning; just not sure I get the connection to Cadbury chocolate. Particularly as the first thing I do notice in terms of product placement(other than the drums) is the's looks like an iPod ad!

Still, makes a nice change from some of the ads out there.

UPDATE 3:59pm: and I just noticed that this is the second "gorilla" post of the day! Totally unintentional!

Bluray, Kodak HD, Gorillapod

Sony has announced a third generation internal Bluray writer, the BWU-300S, which is priced at $400 writes at 8x and comes bundled with software. Very cool, but PC only. Me, I'm still waiting for Apple to do something about Bluray support.

The Nikon D-90 isn't the only camera offering 720p video. The Kodak EasyShare Z1485IS (point and shoot) does it too!.

Is Michael Moore's "Slacker Uprising" the first full-length movie to be released online for free? Or at least the first one intentionally released for free? Well, who knows, but it's out there.

The Gorillapod is this really heavy-duty bendy tripod that will support a camera up to 11 pounds (the Panasonic AG-HMC70U is only 5.3lbs without battery.) Wow. That's pretty heavy duty, though it does have a heavy duty price: $149.95. You could get a real tripod for that!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Canon 5D MkII and Jelly Video

I said I wasn't going to say anything more about the Canon 5D MkII and less than an hour later I discover that the video shot by Vincent Laforet is available on Canon's site.

It's all pretty amazing and beautifully shot, but right at the end, there's a pan across the New York skyline and there definitely seems to be something going on there (though it could be enhanced by the shake of the helicopter.) Hard to tell. But there's a lot of other shots (several with the camera in motion) where you don't notice anything.

Definitely check it out.

RED, Jelly Video and SanDisk CF cards

Funny that I mentioned RED the other day, because now comes news that they are completely redesigning Scarlet (the $3,000 video camera they had planned.)

the market has changed and we have discovered a lot of things in the process. We have a new vision

The news is on RED’s forum. Just to clarrify, RED has announced both Scarlet - a comparatively low-budget video camera - as well as the DSMC (Digital Still & Motion Camera) an SLR-type camera too.

The thread is an interesting read as the forum members take turns trashing the Nikon D90 and Canon 5D.

While I take what some of the fan boys say with a grain of salt, the references to the “Jelly video” problem of the D90 are worth noting. You can see an example linked from here. This frame capture shows the problem; the top part of the frame seems to lag behind the bottom as the camera is quickly panned left to right. Rather than capturing the whole frame at once, the image is being captured from top to bottom, and in that time the camera has moved (so the bottom part has moved relative to the top.)

Jelly Video from Nikon D-90

Ouch! Clearly a nasty effect, and something I wasn’t aware that the D90 suffered from.

Reading the posts, everyone seems to suspect that the Canon 5D MkII will have the same problem (it’s inferred because all the clips posted so far have no panning in them!!) Flimsy proof, but I must admit, it’s a bit troubling, and if the camera does suffer badly from this, then it does take away a bit of the excitement. On the other hand, I never thought that the 5D MkII would replace a video camera; but rather that it would make an interesting addition for special effects.

I’m going to wait to see what happens when real people get their hands on it, before I fly-off-the-handle...

In the mean time, SanDisk has announced a 16GB Extreme IV CompactFlash card. $399.99. The Extreme IV cards (already available in smaller sizes) are important because they support 45MB/s (the 5D MkII video is 40 MB/s.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More on Canon 5D Mark II video

There's a write up about photographer Vinvent Laforet's experience with the 5D Mark II at Gizmodo "A Taste of the Canon 5D Marl IIs mindblowing Full HD video." It's depth of field control and low light performance look soooo cool.

Someone posted in the comments:
"A top commercial film editor who who regularly edits RED camera footage - and has seen the raw footage from the 5D MKII - says the 5D MKII is "far superior to the RED camera" in terms of low light performance…"

RED is a company that's produced a comparatively low cost very high-res digital video camera, and they are supposed to be releasing some kind of SLR/video camera for around $3,000 either later this year or early next year (note that the comment is not relating to the new camera, but the existing one.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kata CC-195 video bag

The purchase of the Panasonic AG-HMC70U has meant the purchase of one more expensive item: a new camera bag. Turns out that the bag I have which is quite a bit bigger than the Sony HDR-FX1 I usually schlep around, isn’t big enough to hold the Panasonic. And – all things considered – it’s a big bag! So I had to get an even bigger one.

A trip to a local camera store revealed a wealth of bag possibilities; though it turned out most of them were camera bags. I could pull out the dividers on some of the larger ones, but it seemed like you’re paying a lot for that padding. Even for the few straight video camera bags, it was obvious there was no cheap solution.

I ended up focused (pun?) on a range of bags made by Kata. I hadn’t heard of them before; turns out they are owned by Bogen.

They have a website that let’s you find bags based on cameras, and their selector recommended the: CCC-10-A ( about $240 street) for the AG-HMC70U. Interestingly, I managed to try the CC-195 at the store (about $150), and the camera fits in there quite comfortably (if the camera was any wider or taller, it wouldn’t.)

After dithering around, I ended up getting the CC-195 because it was cheaper, and really, it was all I need (The CCC-10-A looks to be a huge bag too!)

Kata CC-195 with top open -
the top hinges on the left edge (not shown)

The CC-195 definitely feels like it will protect the camera, and do it’s job. It’s still BIG, but I can live with it.

Frankly, I don’t love the way the top works; it has two zippers that run across the top, and pulling the zipper is a bit awkward (particularly over the handle of the bag.) This means you have this long piece of material to deal with when the bag is opened, and it also makes putting the camera in a little more awkward as the top isn’t quite as wide as the bag itself. My other bag opens more traditionally, bending on the long back seam, rather than the short end seam.

I’ve also seen some complaints from other users about the plastic fasteners for the strap. I don’t use bag straps all that much; but I do sometimes, and the thought of the clip breaking is rather sobering. I think the fault is not the plastic hook, but the fact that the plastic hook is connected to a rotating plastic ring. Points for avoiding tangles, but I think this plastic ring compromises strength (the strap on my other bag also has plastic hooks, but there’s no rotating ring; the hook has a belt clip that the belt runs through.)

Plastic Clip

More on Canon 5D Mark II video

Norwegian Broadcasting's technology site, NRKBeta, got their hands on some video clips from the Canon 5D Mark II and are very positive about what they see.

  • Look better than HDV (25 mbit/s MPEG2) vs the 5DMkII 40 m/bit H.264
  • Canon says IS-Lense image stabilization is active.
  • You can shoot stills during video, but there will be a break in the video.

Meanwhile, on the Rob Galbraith site, it notes that clip length is actually half an hour, or a 4GB movie, but the amount of footage you can cram into 4GB depends on the subject matter. In testing this translated to 12 minutes.

Other details:

  • You can capture at 1920 x 1280 or 640 x 480.
  • Canon is moving from Motion JPEG to MPEG4 on all it’s PowerShots.
  • The stereo-in is a 3.5mm jack. Levels are adjusted automatically (no manual override) and there is wind noise suppression applied automatically (and cannot be adjusted or turned off.)
  • White Balance can be set before recording, or Auto WB will adjust during recording.
  • Shutter speed is set automatically (1/30 to 1/125).
  • Much shallower focus is possible compared to smaller-sensor HD cameras.