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!