Thursday, December 31, 2009

Overheard in the Control Room

Overheard in the Control Room is a Facebook group where people post things heard in television control rooms. Some of them are quite funny!

"Didn't we tell you that you couldn't wear green because of the chroma key?"
"But this is LIME green!"

It was the night that the producer of the James Bond movies, Albert Broccoli, died. The producer ordered a graphic of Broccoli but guess what, it was the vegetable broccoli. The graphic dissolved into an OTS over the anchor's shoulder and the entire studio and control room dissolved in hysterics

Working an NFL game the director says to a camera op..."Giving me nothing would be a great improvement over the cr$% you are giving me"

Director: " Give me a closeup of the whole group"

Back before the days of non-linear editing, an editor friend of mine told me how he once had a client who spent hours analog editing a TV commercial with him and when they were done, the client said, "OK, now let's put the dissolves in".

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

EU Duty to go up on camcorders

Tonklemoose, the Twitter account for, would like to remind all those of the European persuasion that the EU duty on camcorders will increase by 1.5% (to 14%) on February 1st, 2010.

The interesting thing about the EU tax on camcorders (for those outside the EU) is that it is the reason Canon restricts their 7D and 5D Mark II to 29:59 minutes of recording maximum, in Standard Definition mode. With that limitation, the cameras are not classified as camcorders, and don't get hit with the duty.

VholdR 3300 Waterproof Case

I see that the waterproof case for the ContourHD camera is now available on Amazon....but with an expected ship date of 1 to 2 months! They also list the price at $45.84, though VholdR's own website says the list price is $39.99. (I've seen this happen before with items listed above expected price on Amazon's site prior to them actually becoming available, so hopefully things will get sorted out in the next few days/weeks.)

No sign of the Handle Bar Mount yet.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Orson Welles and Sony Betacam

Over on Gizmodo, Frank Beacham tells a charming story about Orson Welles, the early days of Sony Betacam, and dreams that might have been.

Whenever I see a tiny new camcorder introduced, or see Apple upgrade a revolutionary application like iMovie, I think of Orson. Oh, how excited he'd be. The pure magic of it all! If he were alive today, he'd be making his movies without regard to raising huge amounts of money. That, for both Orson and his audience, would be an achievement that we'll never be able to enjoy.

It’s really worth reading: Orson Welles and His Brief Passionate Betacam Love Affair

...and connects nicely with the story of Fede Alvarez, who made a $300 video and landed himself a $30 million contract with Ghost House Pictures.

NXCAM update

Tonklemoose [really?! -Ed] the Twitter account for UK video equipment retailer reports that the Sony NXCAM model will be called the HXR-NX5, and that it will be available in January (probably after CES?)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Camcorderinfo reviews Canon 7D takes a bash at reviewing the Canon 7D’s video performance. They don’t do a full review, but then you can find that at; the two sites have actually created a combined review with Camorderinfo doing the video aspects, and doing the still camera functionality.

The Camcorderinfo page sums up most aspects of video performance. They found that color accuracy was no better than the competition, they were “fairly impressed” by the motion performance, and it did better than the others in low light, but for sharpness it was found to be weaker than the Panasonic GH1 and Canon 5D Mark II. Make sure you go to the linked pages at that go into more details, as they  also compare the performance relative to some video camcorders as well.
While the Canon 7D's sharpness numbers aren't that bad, they definitely are lower than some consumer HD camcorders are capable—specifically in bright light. The Canon HF S100, HF20, and JVC GZ-HM400 all did better than the 7D in our video sharpness testing.
I wish that in the charts where they compare performance they had included one or two video cameras, rather than just the GH1, 5D Mark II and Nikon D5000. While it's interesting to know how the DSLR cameras compare to each other, it would also be helpful to see how they compare to true video cameras.

One other thing I should note is that they used the 28-135 f3.5-5.56 kit lens for their sharpness tests; at least in the still comparison, so I’m assuming they did so for the video part too. I’m guessing it’s taken as read that with video, the performance of the lens isn’t going to drastically alter the results for video sharpness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

More on 7D Camera overheating

Overheating continues to be an issue for some users of the Canon 7D, with lots of theories about what is causing it, or how to avoid it. There are some things we know for certain, and many things that are the subject of wild speculation. Here’s what’s known:
  • Reports of the 7D overheating seem to be more prevalent than they were/are for the 5D, though there have been reports of the 5D overheating, so it's not entirely unique to the 7D.
  • The camera continues to operate (most of the time) with the thermal warning on, and most people don’t really notice a degradation in the image quality, though one user reported a glowing pixel in the dark areas of later footage.
  • Most people are encountering the problem after an extended period of operation (i.e. into the second hour of non-stop usage.)
  • Some cameras seem to display the warning earlier than others (though it’s unclear whether this is due to differences in operation, or actual differences in the way cameras are calibrated.)

Here’s some current theories:

  1. Shooting 720p generates more heat than 1080
    The Theory: Unlike the 5D Mark II, the 7D has two processors instead of one, and also supports 720p while the 5D Mark II (at the moment) does not.
    The Proof: The first couple of people to report overheating were both using 720p, and one of them subsequently did an experiment switching to 1080p, and reported that the camera didn’t overheat after a similar period of operation.
    Conclusion: Since then, there’s been a number of reports of overheating in 1080p, so it may be a contributing factor, but clearly isn’t the only one.

  2. Don’t hand-hold the camera
    The Theory: your hands cause more heat to build up within the body.
    The Solution: use on a tripod or other kind of rig.
    Conclusion: None. One person claimed he had it happen as soon as he went to hand holding, while another person has had it occur both while on a tripod and holding it in the hand after 1-2 hours of use.

  3. Place an ice-pack on the camera on the right side of the LCD
    The Theory: reduce the internal temperature with external cooling.
    The Proof: not a lot of people have documented doing this.
    My Take: I’d be wary of the possible damage to the device by introducing a really cold object to part of the camera body. Using some kid of cooling around the body may make sense, but getting the right amount in the right place might be both difficult and cumbersome.

  4. Use a large L lens
    The Theory: Canon’s L lenses contain a lot of metal, making for a large heat sink. Cheaper lenses are often all plastic, other than the mount, so won't "absorb" much heat.
    The Proof: one poster (see below) suggested this because after getting the temperature warning he switched to a large L lens and noticed the warning went away.
    My Take: without knowing where the heat is being generated, it’s difficult to know how it would get “transferred” to the lens. Clearly, the heat source isn’t right next to where the lens is connected (since that’s where the mirror box is!) so it’s not obvious to me how efficient the cooling would be; but maybe every little bit helps.

  5. Don't use a cover over the LCD panel
    The Theory: The Z-Finder (an optical device used to help with viewing the screen that covers the LCD) is “trapping” the heat from the LCD display, or not allowing proper cooling.
    The Proof: One person said he’d got the warning with the Z-Finder on, but after removing it, the warning went away, but another person said he had it come on without the Z-Finder, and it's clearly happening to users who aren't using one.
    Conclusion: It's hard to tell if this really makes a difference, though if you’re on the edge, - as has already been said - every little bit may help!
There's ongoing discussion of this problem in this thread at

Meanwhile Ole Jørgen Liodden, at Canon Field Reviews, reports that he took a 7D to Antarctica, and found it performed very well. He probably didn’t have any problems with overheating… 7D #1 Weather Sealing

One interesting note:

Some 5D Mark II users who use the battery grip have reported some problems with water leaking between the camera and battery grip. The battery grip for 7D is new and seems tighter and better sealed. In my case the 7D had absolutely NO problems with snow, rain and water (sea spray).

Also - for what it's worth - he had no problems with a 5D Mark II he had with him, which is a bit of a surprise. Earlier this year there was a report of a photography expedition (which maybe wasn’t quite as hard core as Liodden’s seemed to be, but it was still pretty extreme) and the users of the 5D’s suffered a fair number of failures.

The largest group of failures through were among the Canon 5D MKIIs. Of the 26 samples of this camera onboard, one quarter (six) failed at one time or another, and while three recovered, the other three never did.
- Luminous Landscape: Antarctica 2009

[UPDATE 12/17] One thing that might not be clear to those that have not been closely following this issue: all the reports of over-heating relate to long periods of continuous video shooting, and usually don't appear until the second hour of usage. If you're shooting stills, or shooting short video sequences (say one or two four-five minute sequences) then you should have no problems with over-heating

Friday, December 11, 2009

Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School

Film director Werner Herzog was interviewed on the radio program onpointradio today.

He talks about his new movie The Bad Lieutenant, his book - diary really - about the making of Fitzcarraldo, and mostly just about movie making. The book Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo is currently available in hardcover:

Originally published in the noted director's native Germany in 2004, Herzog's diary, more prose poetry than journal entries, will appeal even to those unfamiliar with the extravagant 1982 film. From June 1979 to November 1981, Herzog recounted not only the particulars of shooting the difficult film about a fictional rubber baron—which included the famous sequence of a steamer ship being maneuvered over a hill from one river to another—but also the dreamlike quality of life in the Amazon.

Perhaps more interestingly, he’s offering Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School:

In January 2010, Herzog is offering a series of weekend seminars to select participants. “The Rogue Film School is not for the faint-hearted,” he says, “it is for those who have travelled on foot, who have worked as bouncers in sex clubs or as wardens in a lunatic asylum, for those who are willing to learn about lockpicking or forging shooting permits in countries not favoring their projects. In short: for those who have a sense for poetry. For those who are pilgrims. For those can tell a story to four year old children and hold their attention. For those who have a fire burning within. For those who have a dream.”

It seems to be a three day seminar/workshop, but beyond that, you're on your own. Also, if you wanted to attend you had to submit a DVD that they say Herzog would review. The about section has a series of bullet points, two of which stand out:
  • Related, but more practical subjects, will be the art of lockpicking. Traveling on foot. The exhilaration of being shot at unsuccessfully. The athletic side of filmmaking. The creation of your own shooting permits. The neutralization of bureaucracy. Guerrilla tactics. Self reliance.
  • Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.
The first seminar will be held Jan 8-10 2010, and the application deadline is closed, but there’s talk of future seminars, so keep an eye out.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Can-Do Film Festival

I'm loath to write about this as I'm not a fan of "competitions" and "festivals" that have high entrance fees; I secretly suspect that they are just ways to make money from the entrants. At $40 per entry, the Can-Do Festival and Competition is enough to get me concerned because:

1) Though there's mention of a BluRay "projected at a major media event" there's little information about what the festival part actually is.

2) You'd be forgiven if you thought the event was sponsored by Canon: the Canon logo is the only graphic logo - in a fairly prominent place - on every page, there's a direct link from one tab to a Canon web page, and there's a reference to Canon Inc where it says "Canon Inc and RAWworks prizes", which can be taken to mean Canon Inc is involved, but could also simply be a reference to the make of the prizes.

3) Other than the judges, there's no information about who actually is organizing this event.

[UPDATE 12/11]: they have replaced most of the Canon icons with their own Can Do icon. Also, it's been pointed out that the website pages all have © LumaForge at the bottom, which is the company behind RAWworks, so it seems that they are the primary competition organizer/sponsor.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Canon 5D's still coming

Tim Smith of Canon is back with more about the upcoming firmware update for the 5D Mark II, which will add 24fps, and now, it seems, support for 720p at 60fps as well. The Planet5D blog has posted the information, along with a short video taken at the Createasphere workshop.

Tim also retells the story of the history of the camera, which he has repeated on more than one occasion.

Great excitement for Canon 5D owners!

Underwater Cameras: annoying addition

VholdR has just announced an underwater case for their Contour camera which costs $39.99 and should be available in December (though not yet, and it's not listed at Amazon!)

It's looks good, with an operating depth up to 10 meters, and power and record switches. The only downer for me is I just spent $160 a month ago for an enclosure for my Sony camera. BUT, it's not all bad news as the Sony does give you - limited - viewing of the LCD screen, and an operational zoom button.

Still if you have a Contour camera, the waterproof case looks like a good investment.

They also have a new Handle Bar Mount for $29.99, and a Lens Kit for $29.99 which provides extra lens covers and a replacement Lens Ring. There's also a Lens Adaptor Ring that lets you add a standard 37mm lens filter to the camera. Check they're accessory page, though note that buying only a few of these can start adding considerably to the original cost of the camera.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Camera Curmudgeon - Why DSLR’s make shockingly awful video cameras

I’ve had a Canon 7D for about a month now, and I have to say, it’s turning into a love/hate relationship. On the love side, it is a really nice DSLR. Of course, I would say that; my previous DSLR is the Canon 10D.

A couple of notes about the 10D vs the 7D; it’s amazing how similar the two cameras are in size, shape and arrangement of controls. If you’re happy with the way Canon puts cameras together, it’s easy to go from one to the other. And the 7D is definitely a big improvement, though the two things I notice most frequently is the difference in focusing (the extra focus points and routines really change the way that works) and the much larger LCD screen, which makes it easier to review pictures on the fly.

There’s lots of other tweaks along the way, and who can forget the difference in resolution, though frankly, I don’t need 18MP…

But back to video. Where to start? Well, firstly, the good:
It is really neat to be able to use your SLR to record video sequences, even if it’s just impromptu moments that occur. Just as any camera is better than no camera, any video camera is better than no video camera at all, so being able to shoot video with your DSLR is a great trick.

It’s also been pointed out that the 7D makes a great undercover video camera, and sure, it’s much less intimidating than a Sony EX3, but then so is a Flip Mino, or even a Sony HDR-XR500V. Finally, a video camera with interchangeable lenses and shallow depth of field can be hard to come by for less than $6,000, so there’s big points there.

The down side:
An SLR is not designed to be held in a steady position while shooting long video sequences. It just doesn’t work. Worse, you have to use the LCD panel to see what you’re shooting, and the LCD is fixed to the back of the camera. That means holding the camera up, away from your body. So right away, if you’re looking to do a lot of long shooting you have to put it on a tripod or you’re going to want a rig to hold it and some kind of viewfinder adapter or monitor.

Keeping the camera steady is almost mandatory, unless you have a lens with stabilization – which on SLR lenses has mainly been built into longer lenses. Primes and wide zooms don’t tend to have any stabilization built-in, and there’s nothing in the camera.

It’s great to be able to switch lenses, but let’s not forget; most of these are still camera lenses. Lenses that are harder to zoom and focus with while you’re shooting. Some are virtually impossible to do a smooth zoom with, many aren’t parfocal (don’t stay in focus as you zoom) and there’s no auto-focus mode during shooting. You have to manually focus, which can be difficult to do in some circumstances.

What does this all mean? If I was shooting in many situations where I need to be quick and flexible (like event shooting) the last thing I’d want to use is a 7D. Give me a “real” video camera. Yes, I know there are people out there using these cameras to shoot in the field, but it seems too much like hard work to me.

And don't forget that while the body is relatively inexpensive, once you start adding lenses, rigs and other contraptions, the actual cost of a DSLR setup can be three or four times the cost of the camera.

But if you’re looking for a sort-of-low-price “film” camera, if you’re looking to shoot something creatively, and can spend the time setting up focus or have complete control over position of the camera and the subject, or can shoot and shoot and throw away lots of stuff because it’s out of focus, then the 7D is a great tool.

Andy Wilkinson recently posted his own thoughts about the Canon 7D in his Mini Review. Unfortunately, he is also comparing the camera to the Sony EX3 (an $8,000 camera), which is a rather unfair comparison. It’s not all bad for the 7D though, and he does a good job of summing up the pros and cons:

  • Small,
  • Relatively easy to get good stuff
  • Depth of field
  • Use in places other cameras may raise attention

  • 12 minute clip length
  • Not as easy to use as a regular video camera
  • Not as good resolution as EX3 (well, of course!)
  • Getting exposure and focusing can be difficult

So I’m not alone in having mixed feelings. Could there actually be a backlash brewing against DSLR’s as video cameras? Over on the Cinema 5D forum a contributor wrote: “I notice DSLR's aren't feeling the love”

With the enthusiasm that was generated over the past year for all things DSLR/video, perhaps it was as inevitable as winter following fall that there would be a bumpy return to reality. After all, no tool is perfect for everyone.

One last note: I still love the camera, but – and this is the key point - I’m glad it’s not the only video camera that I have.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

RED Scarlet

I'm not a RED expert, and if you want to get positively biased information about the RED Scarlet, then you should head straight to the source.

I kind of ignore RED most of the time, because their $17,000 camera is well beyond my budget and needs. But a while back they announced a "budget" camera called Scarlet that the RED fans have been saying for most of the year will blow Canon DSLRs - and pretty much every other video camera under $10,000 - out of the water.

I just bought a Canon 7D.

RED's been dripping out information about the camera for some time now. It's kind of interesting because I have to admit that I've spent a lot of my time over the past year at canonrumors searching for news on new cameras, and appleinsider for news of an Apple Tablet. So I'm a rumors/news junky. But I have to say, hearing about something months and months prior to it's release is a bit frustrating; with that amount of lead time you have no real idea when the camera will arrive, what it will cost, and whether you should wait. There's a line between pre-announcement and vaporware.

Let's not forget, the Scarlet was shown at NAB in April 2008, and back then was to be priced at $3K. A couple of days ago, they announced a price increase, and new features. But the camera still isn't due until May-June of next year.

What is Scarlet? There's two versions; one with a fixed lens for $4750, and a head unit for $2750. Both supports 3K video up to 120fps and 1080p up to 60fps. It has a 2/3" sensor and can record to compact flash, 1.8" SSD or RED-DRIVE.

RED seems to be aiming it as a competitor to DSLRs and video cameras, though I'd be surprised if it makes big inroads in the still photography market. The body shape goes in a different direction and I don't think it has an optical viewfinder. That said, this is wild speculation on my part without seeing and holding the actual camera.

Clearly where it competes is with all those film-maker wannabe's that are buying Canon 5D's (and 7D's!) If this camera arrives on time, works, costs what they say, and delivers on the image quality (which it probably will) then it will take some gravy from Canon's 5D sales. How will it compete with more "traditional" cameras (say someone looking at Sony's NXCAM or EX1) that will be interesting to see.

But the real question is; when will it actually arrive, what will it cost, and how will it perform? We will have to wait for the reviews!

Monday, November 30, 2009

NXCAM Intro videos

I mentioned the online Sony HD Expo and how there's a video introducing the NXCAM featuring Juan Martinez, SXZenior Product Manager for Sony Broadcast & Professional AV Products and Andy Munitz, National Training Manager.

Previously, you had to register to get in to see it, but Sony has now posted that video - along with a teaser promotional video for the NXCAM - on their NXCAM webpage. It's about 10 minutes long, and if you're at all interested in the NXCAM, it's worth watching.

Hitchcock changes name

The iPhone storyboard application Hitchcock, which I reviewed a few weeks back, has changed it's name to Storyboard Composer. The update just appeared - for me - on iTunes, and it said that it added PDF Export, though the function seems to be the same as in the previous release.

[UPDATE] Interestingly, while the application name is changed, and the exported PDF has a new product name/logo on it, the email you receive from their server when the uploaded storyboard is available still says "Cinemek Hitchcock"

[UPDATE 2] Turns out it was Export to PDF fixes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No news, is no news

There's been very little to write about this week. Apple released an update to Final Cut Server, and ahh.....well that's about it.

Other than that, I've been checking the Black Friday deals at Amazon, and already bought a 7" monitor, so it's been good...or bad, if you're trying not to spend money.

Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Another Sony NXCAM article

Nigel Cooper at got to spend some time with the NXCAM prototype, and his article adds some more information about the camera:

  1. NXCAM is a “brand” not a model name. The camera will get a model number when it is announced.
  2. The camera has an overcrank/undercrank feature, limited to 12 seconds
  3. A new “Super Steady Shot” system that sort of works like the stabilization filter in Final Cut (it reduces the image area slightly and figures out how to smooth movement of the frame around that extra "slop"). He says there’s some reduction in image quality, and it’s not perfect, but “I found it to be more effective than the lens damped version that has been around for many years, but nobody is going to be putting Steadicam operators out of a job anytime soon
Oh, he also seems to think that this won't replace the Z5 immediately, and Sony plans to keep selling HDV cameras while demand exists. I'd agree with that - they'll keep selling HDV cameras for a while - but the real question is; will they come out with any new HDV camera designs? My guess is, No.

Worth checking out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sony NXCAM followup


1. How does it compare to the EX1? Does it replace the EX1?
It probably doesn't replace the EX1, since the EX1 has 1/2 inch imagers instead of 1/3 inch. Also, they just updated the EX1 with the EX1R, so clearly it's not going away for a year or two. The EX1R sells for $6,299.

2. Does this replace the Z5U?
Probably. It's essentially the same body, and HDV is dying. Given the pricing/features of the EX1, this gives us a good idea what the NXCAM will sell for (the Z5U sells for $4,095.)

2. AVCHD? Why not XDCAM EX?
Since Sony owns XDCAM, it's probably not a licensing issue. AVCHD takes up less space (24 vs. XDCAM EX's 35 Mbps) and given recording to flash memory, size is probably a big consideration. Both are 8-bit, and 4:2:0.

AVCHD gets a bum wrap because it's mostly been in consumer cameras, often at the lower bit rates (24 appears to be the maximum for the standard at the moment.) But it's also a more efficient compressor than MPEG2 (which can be a negative when editing.)

3. Low bit-rate? Only 24 Mbps?
XDCAM does have a higher bit rate, but the H.264 compressor in AVCHD is more efficient than the MPEG2 compressor. Some people think AVCHD rivals XDCAM EX (not to be confused with XDCAM HD.)

4. What? $4,000? Anything cheaper?
Since this seems to replace the Z5U, if Sony follows it's current practice with the FX1000 semi-pro and the Z5U pro cameras, there will probably be a semi-pro model soon after that lacks the XLR audio input, selling at around $3,000.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sony kills Tape

For the past year it seemed that Sony was the lone tape supporter for pro-sumer, low-end professional cameras. JVC went tapeless and even embraced QuickTime with the GY-HM100U, while Panasonic has the AG-HMC150. And even though Canon is still selling the XH-A1s HDV camera, they’ve been so preoccupied with the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D you can almost overlook the fact that they seem to be overlooking this market segment. Only Sony was still selling tape and telling people that was the way to go.

Until the day before yesterday, when they announced the NXCAM, a camera based on the FX1/FX1000/Z5U body shape that replaces the HDV tape mechanism with AVCHD on Memory Stick recording.

This is big news. November 18, 2009 may go down as the day tape died. At least for video acquisition.

The camera also has an optional solid state recording module that -at least in the prototype- holds 128GB. According to Sony, the camera will automatically switch cards when one is full, and it can record to the memory card and the memory module simultaneously.

While it includes the expected – HDMI output, two XLR inputs, a new HD imager, support for a variety of frame sizes and rates, and AVCHD up to 24 Mbit/sec - it also includes a few unexpected features, including SD/HD-SDI output, timecode in, and “better” audio. It also outputs a true 10-bit signal, according to Sony

Unlike some other cameras, which output a live HD-SDI signal at 10-bit which has been derived from an 8-bit signal, NXCAM (as the EX1 and EX3) output a true 10-bit signal over HD-SDI when live.
-Allan Tépper, TechnoTur

It also reportedly includes a built-in GPS.

The NXCAM is supposed to come out next year; at the moment the word is that details of availability and pricing will be announced in January. Figure that it will cost about the same as the Z5U ($4,000.) it also seems likely they’ll release at some point a “pro-sumer” version to replace the FX1000, lacking the XLR inputs, memory unit (and probably the SD/HD-SDI output) for around $3,000.

As well as the resources listed below, there’s a short Sony video at the online Sony HD tradeshow linked to yesterday. It doesn’t really tell you anything more than you can learn from the other links.

I'm kind of excited about this announcement, if only because my favorite camera is still my old FX1. If they'd brought this out last year I probably would have bought one, but I just bought a Canon 7D, and while I don't consider them competitors, I don't have the camera budget to get this one! Guess I'll have to wait until the FX1 packs up.

Chart of HD formats supported by NXCAM


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sony's "The New Economics of HD" Online Expo

Sony has an online HD Expo, which went live today. It runs live all day - there are Sony people hanging out in the chats, so there's some value to popping in today if you have questions! The demo videos etc., will evidently remain available until March.

There's some interesting prerecorded lectures, including one on the just announced NXCAM:

  • PDW-F800 and PMW-EX1: Battle Proven in Afghanistan (Run Time 16:45)
  • Basics of Professional Blu-ray Encoding and Authoring: Part 1 (Run Time 54:21)
  • Broadcast Fundamentals Part 1: Nomenclature, Basic Color Theory, the new xvYCC Color format, Film & Frame Rate Basics, Progressive vs. Interlaced Display (Run Time 44:02)
  • Broadcast Fundamentals Part 4: Video Compression Basics (Run Time 45:53)
  • Brooke Rudnick, Event Videographer, on Sony's UWP Microphone System (Run Time 10:31)
  • Sneak Peek at Sony's NeXt Affordable Professional HD Camcorder (Run Time 9:13)

Dusty EX1
Thierry Humeau, talks about documenting the war in Afghanistan
with a PDW-F800 and PMW-EX1

John Garrett on Sound

Rule Broadcast Systems has been hosting a series of lectures/workshops relating to video production. The Nov 11 workshop on sound featured sound mixer G. John Garrett.

John started with an introduction to the human auditory physiology; the parts of the brain that receive and process sound, and noted that the bone surrounding the inner ear is the hardest bone in the body.

He then asked, somewhat rhetorically; how do you know when the sound is right? Some one yelled out from the back; “when the producer says there’s no money left.

Getting down to specifics, John didn’t have many positive comments about on-camera audio hardware, noting about one camera “What do you think they spent on the audio hardware? Probably $50?” One audience member said she’s heard that the audio on the RED camera wasn’t that good, and he agreed, noting that the very first version didn’t even have audio, and that Sound Devices had tested the RED and found it to be closer to 12-bit sound than the claimed 16-bit [see link below, I can’t actually understand the article, so I don’t know whether they do say it’s closer to 12-bit or not.] Either way, John advocates dual system recording.

the Red One’s near 16-bit audio performance is similar to many of the digital pro-sumer and pro cameras we have tested. This is perfectly acceptable for dialog, especially when hit with a good, clean line-level signal. Sound Devices recommends dual-system sound for critical applications. – Sound Designs

One of the most important aspects of recording is the acoustical space, and the goal of the film maker is to reproduce an acoustical space that "matches" the visual space. In recording, this often means that you have to adjust the space to produce an “idealized” recording. Most importantly, while you can add reverb later, it’s almost impossible to take out afterwards. With that in mind, parallel walls set up standing waves and have a resonant frequency; you must reduce parallel walls to reduce standing waves

Temporary relief:
  • Carpeting
  • Furniture
  • Draperies
  • Sonex

While the goal is to reproduce sound accurately, as a counter example, he did note that in the helicopter scene from Apocalypse Now, somehow it’s incredibly noisy outside the helicopter, but inside you can hear them talking just fine! Sometimes the sound works, even though it’s obviously wrong.

John also told a story of visiting a local movie theater were they had the channel assignment wrong; the center channel was coming out of the left channel. He immediately went to alert the staff, who dismissed him by saying that the projectionist said it was okay. He was more than annoyed by this when he came back five months later and found the problem still existed. As he said, “I'm not just a cranky old man- I'm a cranky old man with portfolio!

He offered a number of tips, some obvious; Don’t go above 0!, Line level is preferred over mic level in case of any noise, and some not so obvious: It’s very hard to get “realistic” recordings of guns with digital equipment. Analog recording equipment does a better job of recording explosions and guns because the limiter works like your ear.

He concluded by listing some essentials for recording:
  • Mixer
  • Directional microphone hyper-cardoid or shotgun
  • Boom pole
  • Shock mount
  • Wind protection
  • Head phones
  • Lavalier mic
  • Bag to put it in and all connectors

Though this was just a fraction of the equipment he actually had with him both on a cart, and in a large travel case which he thought probably had “over 300” items in it. Doing good sound, it turns out, is a full time job.


* Sound is easy, you only need to know two things: what mic and where to put it!
* Where's does the boom mic go? Right on the edge of the frame.
* British DPs aren’t afraid of the dark
* I'm an old guy who believes in the church of the copper wrote
* Sound can be accurate or good
* Quoting another sound expert: Somedays you can be wonderful and somedays you have to be practical


What do you mean “dynamic range”? I'm playing as loud as I can -Musician

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Odds Thoughts on the JVC Picsio

When I first saw the JVC Picsio I was interested in it because it was low priced, looked pretty and Engadget blasted it for falsely claiming it was HD. I’m not sure whether it’s my natural inclination to doubt Engadget, but I added the camera to my bookmarks, and sat back to wait for reviews.

After a somewhat favorable review on Camcorderinfo, questions started to appear when the first review on Amazon was negative. But that’s one review. MacWorld was a little less flattering, when they touched it. But now it’s been blasted by Gizmondo, and the ratings on Amazon have turned abysmal: it has a rating of 3 ½ stars after 7 reviews. Worse yet, one of those five stars is from someone that doesn’t even own the camera, jumping to the defence of budget cameras. The other ratings one 2-stars, and four 1-Stars.

I had the worst time trying to get good quality video out of this device.

The build quality was cheap and flimsy, the controls were awkward and counterintuitive, the video was unwatchable, and the stills weren't sharp.

- poor of image stabilization: practically absent
- poor HD quality: image "wobbling"
- not posible to use indoors: grainy picture; inaccurate colors; etc.

The image was grainy and shaky (even though stabilization was on). I'm returning it immediately. I previously owned a flip HD and have shot video in the same room and the quality is much better.

I want to make it clear that I don't usually spend a lot of time reading through Amazon reviews for a product I don’t intend buying - and I know there’s more than one wrong person on the Internet - but something about the other “user” 5-star rating did catch my eye. It reads more like a promotional piece:

This model comes in three colors; Black, Blue & Purple. It has 1080p HD video, DIS for the video, internal 128MB memory, SDHC card slot, Rechargeable Li-on battery & 8 MP stills

The piece goes on to mention “128MB of internal memory & a card slot” “a 4x digital zoom” and the “HDMI port”, all from a mom who is “not a techy person” and uses it for “kids in their football games.”

For a mother that has to worry about getting the kids to the game, and wants something she can take “out of my purse and get recording right away in a snap” this 581 word love letter to a product just seems wrong. Some of it reads more like a rewrite of selling points: “Even when they have night games you can still see the video very clear & steady just like in a traditional camcorder,” and “My older boy loves the fact it will share right to his iTunes library.

Then again, it seems that the correspondent has had a lot of trouble with DVD production in the past: “I used to make DVD's which took me forever to figure out the software” and then had trouble with the mail “I can't begin to tell you how many times the DVD disc was broken on delivery,” but now she can “just plug in the camera to the pc & the software loads instantly so I am able to share online to You Tube.

Ah, if only the video files she’d been burning to DVD could have been uploaded to YouTube, she might never have discovered the wonders of the JVC Picsio!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Engadget & Gizmodo Camera Reviews

Engadget's video producer, Chad Mumm, provides his impressions of the Canon 7D for video work. He does a pretty good job of listing all the drawbacks (audio, 12 minute recording limitation, etc.,) and notes a concern about over-heating.

There's nothing new here if you have been following the 7D, but I really like his summary, which is pretty much how I'd describe the camera to someone:

We like to think of the 7D as another very specific tool in our arsenal. [...] there is a time and a place for this camera. If we're running around shooting a mile-a-minute, we're still going to reach for our trusty HD camcorder.

Meanwhile, Gizmodo does a comparison of some low-budget cameras, and crowns the Flip Ultra HD the winner, the Flip Mino HD losing because of price and the "lousy touch controls."

Most interesting of all, the recently released JVC Picsio GC-FM1 really scored low, with a rating of: sucked.

It's spectacularly ugly (think Ed Hardy-inspired) and cheap-feeling, with a confusing button layout (unforgivable in a pocket cam) and a high price ($200, or $178 at Amazon). Besides all that, it scored poorly in every one of our tests. Avoid.

Monday, November 16, 2009

GoPro HD Hero

Engadget does a review of the GoPro HD Hero, and compares it to the ContourHD. There seems to be pros and cons for both, with the GoPro having a slightly better color rendition, while the ContourHD is easier to use.

It's available for pre-order at Amazon, and supposed to be released on November 25th.

Photographers Virtual Trade Show

B&H is co-sponsoring a "virtual trade show." You register (now) and then log-in December 2-3 to "chat / attend virtual events / network."

I'm not really sure what the advantage of this will be (didn't we try this kind of thing 10 years ago?) If you're interested, check out the PDN Photographers' Virtual Trade Show

Friday, November 13, 2009

More on Color – North by Northwest 50th Edition

I just got a Blu-ray player (finally) and was able to watch my first Blu-ray disc; the 50th Anniversary edition of North by Northwest. I have to say, the results were mixed (both for Blu-ray, and for this particular disc.)

I have a 36” Sony tube HDTV which is getting on in years. One problem is that 36”, when you’re sitting across the room from it, isn’t really stretching the limits of DVD resolution. Yes, there was a noticeable difference up close; I could read quite easily body copy on a newspaper that was very blurry on the DVD. The resolution was there, but I really need either a bigger screen, or to sit right on top of the TV to see it.

All those with 50” TV’s, run out and get Blu-ray.

This edition is remastered, and from the get go the differences are very obvious; the hideous green of the MGM logo in the previous DVD release is replaced by a much more pleasing green in this new edition. Through the rest of the picture the colors are more vibrant, and there’s much more contrast. There’s extensive use of rear-projection in the movie, and I think that looks better too (though it’s still obvious.)

There’s a lot to like about the new picture, but there’s also things not to like. I did feel that the picture was a little too black. I usually have the set on its “Movie” picture mode, which is a bit darker than Standard, but I’ve watched hundreds of other DVDs on this set and not felt they were “dark.” This remaster just seems to have a lot more shadows; I don’t know if that’s a result of adjustments made to increase contrast, or whether the picture was supposed to be that way, but it was noticeable.

Worse, the flesh tones seem unnatural for just about everybody. About the only one that looked halfway natural was the actress playing Cary Grant’s mother, and I wonder if that’s because she had on a lot of makeup to make her face look pale. I really found it jarring.

Others have noted that the sound is way down on this disc, and I was surprised how high I had to crank the amp to get an acceptable level. I really think a mistake was made on this.

Ultimately, I like the movie so much I can overlook the problems. Is it the ultimate edition? No. Hopefully by the time the 100th Anniversary edition comes out they can do something to the skin tones and adjust the audio volume.

Who should buy? If you have a very large screen TV, buy the Blu-ray disc. But if you already have the previous release DVD, and are happy with it, I’m not sure I’d rush out and buy this edition.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sony Sportspack First Look

The Sony Sportspack is an underwater enclosure for Sony brand camcorders. This is actually the third model, which works with most Sony camcorders made after 2006. The Sportspack provides protection from rain, snow and sand, and can be used underwater down to 17 feet. This is really a bit of a mashup between an unboxing and a First Look, as I have yet to do any serious testing of the Sportspack.

The Sony Sportspack arrived at the end of a couple of very wet weeks, and immediately the weather improved. I was really hoping for some heavy rain to give it a test, but since then, we’ve had two very fine weeks, with a threat of a third, and I can’t help thinking that the camera gods are having a laugh at my expense.

Anyway, it’s a very cool piece of gear; all clear acrylic and white plastic. It opens at the back, and there’s an O-ring that you are supposed to inspect and grease (and replace after a year.) The camera sits on a large plastic shoe, and several different shoes are included to match different models. It turned out that the one inside the unit matched my camera (there’s a table in the instructions to show which camera goes with each shoe.) You are also supposed to install a "reflex prevention ring" on the front of the camera. It’s unclear what this does; it barely covered the front of the HDV-XR500V I tested with; and I can’t really figure out what’s it does unless it’s just there to stop the flash from firing. The instructions say it "prevents external light from being reflected inside the sports pack and entering the lens." It was a little difficult to attach; at first I wasn’t sure if it screwed on or was pushed on. It turn’s out that it’s screwed on; and you have to be very careful threading it.

Inserting camera into unit

The controller cable is long enough that you can easily connect the camera while it’s outside the unit, and then push it in. The unit is not huge, but there’s a lot of space around the XR500V.

On the side of the unit is a mirror that flips out, and has two ‘shades” that flip up and down to anchor the mirror as well as shade it. Unfortunately, this makes it impossible to see the camera screen from above. It’s a pity they couldn’t have angled the mirror a little, which might have let you look down from the top as well as from the back. Admittedly an angled mirror would be distorted, but it would be better than nothing.

Mirror Unit

The large control buttons let you power on and off the camera, as well as zoom in and out and start and stop recording. You can also take stills if you want. These controls are large and require a real “push” to operate. You aren’t going to be finessing the zooms with this. And though this unit is a Sony unit, and is intended and sold only for their cameras, you could easily put another small camcorder in there; you’d just have to start recording before you put the camera in the unit, and you’d have no control over zooming.

First Tests
After two weeks of no rain, I decided to take the Sportspack down to a local pond and try it out. First I reread the instructions, and discovered that you aren’t supposed to leave it closed when not in use as that can damage the O-ring – oops.

As instructed, I took out the O-ring and greased it, then I dropped some anti-fog on the inside of the glass front of the unit. The instructions suggested using a cotton swab to apply the solution. I tried one of those cotton buds you stick in your ear (unused.) That worked okay for spreading the stuff, but didn’t do a good job of cleaning up the excess. In fact the glass looked awfully wavy after I was done. In the end, I used an old cotton t-shirt to clean the glass.

Unit Controls

I then filled a large plastic bin with water and took the Sportspack for a dunk test. That seemed to work fine, so I put the camera in, and repeated the test (figuring that if the camera was going to get wet, clean water was marginally better than dirty pond water.) That worked fine too, so I put on my rubber boots, grabbed a towel and a container of clean water (to rinse after dunking in the pond water) and drove down to the pond.

That’s when I discovered that my rubber boots leaked!

I did manage a quick dunk test, which failed miserably. Not because the unit failed to keep the water out, but because I didn’t realize how “high” the lens is in the unit. I put it over half way into the water, figuring I wanted to get a shot just under the water, as the water was pretty dark and hazy. It turned out that the lens of the camera wasn’t even under the water! Still the unit was mostly under water, and worked, so even a failed test can add to your knowledge!

The only other thing I noted from this abortive test is how difficult it is to see what’s going on with the view finder. Perhaps that’s underlined by the fact that I didn’t realize that the camera wasn’t “under water,” when it was shooting.

In conclusion, the unit seems nicely put together and you really feel like Jacques Cousteau waving it around. And it seems to protect the camera just fine; if my dunk test is anything to go by. It’s not without limitations, but if you want to take an expensive camera out into the rain to play, it makes for some good protection. I hope to actually rack up some hours using the thing, and then I’ll post more.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Color - A Serious Man

Just saw the Cohen brother's latest movie "A Serious Man." I enjoyed it, though it's a black, black comedy, so I'm not sure I actually want to watch it again(!)

What I found particularly interesting was the color work that had been done on a lot of the scene's; Cyan and Yellow have been removed so that it looks like aged film. This was done throughout the movie in varying degrees and it's particularly noticeable on some of the exterior scenes like the car crash below.

But check the shot below. The flesh tones look as though they have been manipulated like much of the rest of the film, but the blue of the dress (and probably the wood behind) has not been altered. (You may want to click on it to look at the larger file.)

Camera without memory card == nothing

Carefully took my (still) camera to an event this morning and when I went to turn it on discovered there was no memory card in it - oops! Well, at least I had my iPhone.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Signs of the times

In the third quarter:
  1. spending on home entertainment down 3.2%
  2. spending on DVDs down 13.9%
  3. spending on DVD rentals UP 10%

I own quite a few DVDs, but my purchase rate has gone way down over the last few years, and I'm not sure it's the economy. A lot of the movies I bought in those early days were back-catalog items, not new releases. And to be honest, my purchases of new movies may have been goosed a bit by the fact I was buying quite a few movies regularly.

But then I kind of fell out of the habit.

And I'm not downloading them from the net, and my rental rate hasn't gone up that much either. I think it was just a new technology and a new availability which spurred me to buy things, but now that urge has mostly been satisfied.

I'm resisting saying "they don't make good movies anymore."

Cameras at concerts

In Music industry bows to point-and-shoot cameras, Daniel Terdiman takes a look at where we are with cameras at concerts.

At last month's huge U2 show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., how could you tell the difference between the professional photographers and your average amateurs?

Answer: the professionals were the ones whisked away after Bono and friends finished their third song, and the amateurs were still there, happily shooting to their heart's content.

As the article points out, with everyone carrying cell phones with cameras, and the increasing quality and resolution of small cameras, it's both getting harder and harder to stop people from taking pictures, and the line between professional and amateur is getting smaller and smaller.

I remember several years ago going to a concert at Radio City Music Hall where they made people check in their cameras. At the end of the show, we all lined up while they tried to find each persons camera; which took a long time as they had the couple of hundred cameras randomly placed on two tables and they had to basically look at each one to see if it had the right claim number on it. It may have been less annoying if there still hadn't been dozen's of people taking pictures throughout the show. Ahh, happy times.

More on the Panasonic HDC-TM300

Interestingly enough, right after came out with it’s Select Awards 2009, and gave the top award to the Panasonic HDC-TM300 over the Canon HF S11, Macworld came out today with their own review of the HDC-TM300, and though they gave it four and a half mice (out of five) and praise it’s “impressive resolution, smooth motion, accurate color, and low noise” they actually rate it ½ a mouse below the Canon HF S10, saying that it’s image quality “slightly trailed” that of the Canon.
Note: the HF S10 and HF S11 are essentially the same camera, with different storage options.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Camcorderinfo Select Awards 2009 has come out with it’s Select Awards 2009. To be honest, I’m a bit wary of reading too much into these; they don’t list how they decided to select the cameras - if it’s only the cameras that they have reviewed, then the pool isn’t a large one. They also don't describe how they went about making the decision.

Despite those concerns, Camcorder of the year went to the Panasonic HDC-TM300:

Not only is the video performance impressive in all lighting conditions, but it also offers a seamless and enjoyable operating experience—for novices and experienced users alike.

Runner up is the Canon HF S11 with it’s improved optical stabilization and an edge in sharpness and motion. But they dinged it for lack of a viewfinder and poor performance in low light.

JVC scored well in the overall competition, with a runner-up in Best Value, and a win in Mid-Range and Standard Definition.

I was most interested in the video-enabled DSLR win that went to the Panasonic GH1, with the Canon 5D Mark II a runner up. (But didn’t the 5D come out last year?!) That’s the one category where I’d like to know what cameras they included for consideration; had they even looked at the Canon 7D? It’s fine if they did and excluded it, but I’d kind of like to know if they did. Come to think of it, it would be nice to know what some of the other runners-up were in each category!

The article is worth a read, though it’s by no means an in-depth look at any of the cameras, or the competition in each segment.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Apple TV 3.0.1

Seems there's an update to Apple TV 3.0 which fixes prevents "content from temporarily disappearing until it is resynced."

To update to 3.0.1:
  1. Reboot your Apple TV (unplug the power cord and plug it back in)
  2. Select Settings > General from the main menu
  3. Select Update Software
  4. Select Download and Install

Friday, November 06, 2009 <3 the Canon 7D

DPReview has posted it's review of the Canon 7D and they seem to love it. Admittedly, this site is a photography site, but it's still good to know that the camera scores highly as a still camera.

The beginning of the conclusion sums it up:

If you are looking at the pros and cons list above you could be forgiven for getting the impression that we somehow struggled to populate the cons list with a number of bullet points that comes at least close to what you can see in the pros department. You are not mistaken. The EOS 7D is an excellent addition to Canon's range of APS-C DSLRs that is, in terms of build quality, speed of operation, ergonomics and image quality, a cut above Canon's previous APS-C flagship, the EOS 50D.

VoltaicHD v 2.0

Back at the end of October, ShedWorx released version 2.0 of their AVCHD converter, VoltaicHD. New features for this release:
  1. ShedWorx now has an AVCHD Previewer which gives you a live preview of your movies.
  2. Edit your AVCHD movies prior to conversion.
  3. You can now send your movies direct to YouTube, iPhone, iPod and AppleTV.
  4. Improved conversion processing gives you even better quality results.
  5. Improved inverse telecine process for getting the best results from your 24p footage.

You can download a trial version. If you have a non-Intel Mac, or want to be able to reimport AVCHD files that are no longer in an AVCHD file structure (the only way you can import them into Final Cut Express and Pro) then VoltaicHD is worth checking out.

Apple TV Killers

Gizmodo says that the Apple TV sucks, even with the 3.0 update (and I have to agree; if you thought 2.0 sucked, then 3.0 isn't going to change that opinion.)

They've posted a comparison review of the WD TV Live, Seagate FreeAgnet Theater+, Popcorn Hour C-200, Patriot Box Office and Netgear Digital Entertainer Live in: HD Media Player Battlemodo: Apple TV Killers

Specs wise, the Popcorn Hour scores high, with the Patriot a close second, but in testing, the WD and Seagate were given the win (a tie.) The Popcorn does well with a third, but got dinged on price ($300 compared to the WD TV's $150.)

I did find it amusing that though the first paragraph says "When Apple TV 3.0 came out, we were unimpressed" the third paragraph begins:
This isn't about photos and music. Apple TV is better at both of those than any of this stuff

I've said this before, but I've been tempted to get a WD TV or WD TV Live, because of it's ability to play video files without having to go through another conversion step as I have to with the Apple TV. But I do that so infrequently, that it doesn't bother me enough right now...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

News November 5

Canon Tilt/Shit demo

B& H Photo has a write up (and demo video) of the new Canon Tilt/Shift lenses. The 17mm looks like one fun piece of glass, but it’s $2,500!

And as interesting as the article (and examples) are, I really wish that they explained the difference between the new models and the previous model(s) which are more than $1,000 cheaper. Unfortunately, the only reference to the other models is:
The lenses' control wheels and lock mechanisms have also been improved over earlier Canon tilt-shift-series optics to provide smoother, more positive performance in both vertical and horizontal mode. And to help reduce ghosting and flare, the bulbous front lens element is coated with advanced SWC coatings.

And who can afford to spend $1,200 just for smoother performance?

The architecture photo example is rather old hat, but the examples using the lens to take some product shots were really interesting.

Hands on with the Canon 7D

David Flores has an article on the Canon 7D on It’s a good overview, but my curiosity was aroused by the section on the camera’s video capabilities which concludes:
The process is a bit involved, but I walk you through it step-by-step in our companion article, The DSLR Filmmaker’s Editing Workflow: Transcoding to Export.

But the link isn’t active, and I can’t find the article on the site (or on the Web!) Despite this, the Filmmakeriq site has some interesting articles.

Tricking out your DSLR for Video

In another interesting article at Filmmakeriq: David Speranza lists viewfinders, camera mounts/rigs, follow focus add-ons, and sound hardware and options. If you have some money left over after lenses, might be worth a look!

Digital Cinema Society Discusses HDSLRs is another site where I've found some good articles. This article covers a meeting devoted to film making using the Canon 5D and Panasonic GH-1. A lot of the projects talked about were experimental, or started out that way, but it seemed people were generally happy with the results.

Particularly interesting is Tim Smith's (from Canon) comments about the early days of the 5D, and how many people Canon thought would use the video capabilities:
“When we saw the 5D footage, it was tough to hold our tongues and to convince the Canon people what would happen to our business once the camera was released,” continued Smith. “Our marketing team expected 3 to 5 percent of the people who bought it would be interested in the video side of the camera. It’s closer to 40 percent, and there are 15,000 5D cameras on back order.”

Jello effect

Finally, everyone's heard about the nasty jello effect caused by CMOS sensors when you pan quickly. This can happen in almost any CMOS equipped camera, but is particularly noticeable in the video DSLRs. Well here’s a rather shocking example of what can happen when filming a drummer using CMOS: Wet noodles for drumsticks? No! it’s CMOS video!

And if that’s not enough, you’ll find more CMOS bashing in this article: Consumer Digital Still HD video shootout

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Odds & Ends

Nothing much to report today.

Time Lapse

Came across an interesting post about shooting time-lapse sequences with a DSLR: 7D Timelapse Experiment in Dungeness.


I’ve been saying for a couple of years that I wasn’t going to jump into Blu-ray until Apple shipped something for authoring. But that doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.

On a related note; I just bought the new Blu-ray release of North by Northwest, one of my favorite Hitchcock movies. Only problem; I don’t actually have a Blu-ray player, so that problem will have to be solved sooner rather than later. And if I’m going to go down that road, then getting a Blu-ray burner sort of makes sense; particularly as Final Cut Pro’s Compressor utility will output Blu-ray content....and you might even want to investigate Adobe's Encore for it's Blu-ray output options...

And 25GB Blu-ray discs may make sense for video backup and archive; yes, pros talk about tape backup, but those are really expensive!!

Sooo….I was looking at the Blu-ray burners available for the Mac from OWC just a couple of days ago. And today, along comes the announcement of an updated 12x version of their Pioneer based external burner that has Firewire, USB and eSATA connections. Just $350 for the drive, or $450 with a copy of Toast Pro.

Macworld generally liked the 8x version, saying that it had an attractive user-friendly case (high praise indeed!), they did note that they had problems using it connected via USB. I’ll probably just use the Firewire connection.

So now I just have to get up the courage to order something...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Kata Bag Competition

Want to win a Canon 5D? Or maybe even a Canon 7D? The Kata bag company is sponsoring a bag design competition that runs from now until March 1st. Design a camera bag and submit the design to the Dream Bag Challenge website. 1st Price is a Canon 5D plus accessories, 2nd and 3rd prizes are Canon 7D’s plus accessories.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Color Grading Canon 7D

Colorist and Author Robbie Carman, has posted a couple of comments to the Cinema5D forum about grading DSLR footage, specifically the Canon 7D:

… 7D footage does appear to have an initial contrast ratio that is less than the 5D. […] on my scopes the 7D does have an elevated trace of about 10-15%/IRE given the exact same exposure settings between cameras.

[…] The wild thing is that the difference appears to be only in the blacks in and midtones. This observation leads me to believe that the 7D is in fact applying a luma adjustment to midtones/blacks in camera, almost like a reversed S-Curve

Both cameras suck when it comes to overall color latitude especially compared to RED native clips, but I guess that’s to be expected due to the 4:2:0 chroma subsampling. This has been especially frustrating for me getting good HSL keys for secondary corrections like skies, skin tone etc. But is no worse then HDV, XDCAM or HDCAM for that matter.

He also felt that the sharpness of the two cameras was virtually the same-at least visually-once the contract was adjusted, and speculated that people comparing the cameras and judging the 7D as being softer were perhaps being mislead by this contract difference.
After correcting the footage I cannot tell the difference between the two cameras from a contrast/color point of view the 5D of course does produce a shallower dof.

In a second post, he made some interesting comments about Network QC departments and whether they are willing to accept footage shot on DSLRS. His comment that most are still tape based was especially interesting:

I'm grading a show […] the production company has to "lie" to the network to get footage accepted because they have stuff that was shot HDCAM SR, DSLR, Betacam SP (yikes!) and high speed footage from the phantom. But as far as the DSLR footage.

1. H.264 is generally accepted as a deliver codec but not acquisition. So any format that uses it QC departments are scared of, for fear of it having big issues. Also network engineers are pretty strict to jitter and other technical issues they can see on waveforms and other display types. The weird part to me is HDCAM SR although at higher data rates also uses an MPEG 4 variant so why not DSLR variants?

2. I will say that rolling shutter is an issue for many QC departments. In fact some new QC specs I have read in the past couple weeks have basically said whip pans or fast movement with CMOS based sensors are not advised
Your best bet to have acceptance across the widest range of QC standards [is to] download the PBS standards and adhere to those...most networks follow those anyway

Friday, October 30, 2009

iTunes LP – Is that all there is?

Apple rolled out an update to the Apple TV software software. This features a major change in the top menu (which now lists your own content first in each media list, rather than last) and it also now supports Internet Radio. Apart from that, there’s no real new functionality. Unless you also count support for Apple’s LP format.

I’d been curious about the iTunes LP format – kind of an interactive format for albums – since Apple had announced it, but had never gotten around to trying one out. With the Apple TV update, I thought it would be great to update my Apple TV and try out iTunes LP at the same time.

I was wrong.

Last night I updated the Apple TV software, and also downloaded the Dave Matthews Band album Big Whiskey and The Groo Grux King in iTunes LP format. Only problem was that after downloading it and going to the Apple TV, all I could find were the movies and the songs; no sign of the iTunes LP interface. In the end I wondered if I’d misunderstood, and that it just meant you could now see the content of an iTunes LP.

Only on reading MacWorld’s article about the Apple TV 3.0 update today (well worth reading by the way) did I discover that Apple hasn’t updated all of the iTunes LP content yet to work with the Apple TV. So I’m hoping that’s the problem I had. [NOTE: Fortunately, I could still “test” the content on my Mac, and having done that, I don’t think that it’s –eventual- support on the Apple TV will change drastically my opinion of the update.]

So is the Apple TV 3.0 update worth it? If you already have an Apple TV, sure. But I don’t think it makes the Apple TV really any more attractive than it was. It doesn’t add significant functionality, and I don’t think it’s going to lure any more customers.

But what about iTunes LP?
Someones’s already written an indepth article explaining the new Apple iTunes LP format. It’s designed to add extra “value” to the content, adding additional navigation, photos and lyrics, amongst other things.

I did manage to try out Big Whiskey on my Mac, and I have to say that it was a bit of a disappointment. As a fan of the band, it was kind of cool to see the graphics from the album cover expanded to illustrate the lyrics, but I couldn’t help wondering what I was paying for that. And the interface was very basic – truthfully, that’s all it really needs to be anyway, given all you’re doing is looking at images, videos and listening to sounds. Frankly, it reminded me a lot of Interactive CDs from 15 years ago.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but at the same time, I’m not too sure how much real value that adds. You can scroll through the lyrics (which you could find on Google) you can look at pictures (using a scrolling interface that’s a bit slow and the images aren’t very large) you can watch videos (just like in YouTube!) and you can listen to the songs. You can also have a visual presentation playing while the music plays (a sequence of still images fading from one to another.)

The videos were interesting, though probably wouldn’t be watched more than once by anyone other than a serious fans.

All in all, it’s kind of fun, but I can’t help but think it’s a bit like some iPhone apps I’ve downloaded; I play them once, and use them to “demo” to people, but never use them myself after that.

Apple Tablet
Which brings me, in an odd way, to the Apple Tablet. If rumors are to be believed, Apple may roll out a Tablet in the New Year. Apple may already be working with content publishers – maybe even comic publishers – to bring content to the Tablet. They may even use the iTunes LP format to bring content to the Tablet. The problem is that if iTunes LP is the way forward, I don’t think I’ll be buying much of that content. Yeah, I like text, I like video, I like audio, and some things are really cool and useful to interact with but I’m coming to the conclusion that interactive media doesn’t work as a replacement for a lot of “traditional” things (plain text, movies, music.) It just adds an extra layer of complexity with no real added benefit other than clicking things.

It’s weird to say this, because I used to create these kind of things years ago. I was a multimedia developer doing “electronic books”. But it never seemed to take off; not in the forms that many people thought it would.

It turns out, maybe we don’t need an interactive book. We just need a good electronic book that supports video and audio and a web browser...