Saturday, January 16, 2010

Improving Apple TV

MacWorld has a review of aTV Flash, a software enhancement for the Apple TV which - for $50 - adds some really useful features to the Apple TV:
  • Support for more file formats
  • Play DVD files
  • Use external USB Disk Drives
  • Surf the Web
I'd pay money for the first three....wait a minute, I guess I have to..

File formats supported include:
  • .avi, .dvix, flv, .m4v, .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .mpg, .ogg, .ogm, .rm, .rmvb, .wmv, .xvid
  • .mkv format supported up to 480p resolution (hardware limited)
  • DVD files (VIDEO_TS/VOB)
  • Audio support for: AAC, AC3 Audio, H.264, MPEG4, and VBR MP3
  • Subtitle support for SSA and SRT
I really wish that Apple would add these kind of features to the Apple TV; it would make it a much more useful device. But in the mean time, aTV Flash looks like the thing to get.

Note that, as MacWorld says, it's a hack; installing it means you won't be able to get software updates from Apple, but I think the pluses out-weigh that minus. It's not like Apple has been updating the Apple TV software frequently.

HDR-AX2000 does have SDHC memory slots

There was some question whether the HDR-AX2000 had the dual memory slots of the HXR-NX5U because the web page didn't mention it. It seemed really odd that it wouldn't (not so much because the HXR-NX5U does, but because Sony's new consumer models have that feature too!) but without some kind of confirmation it was hard to be sure.

Anyway, the specifications page at has now been updated:

Memory Stick slot : Dual Memory Stick PRO Duo™ Media/ SD/SDHC (Class 4) media slots (2 slots A/B)

Is Canon going to do a Video Camera based on DSLR tech?

As already reported, Canon has recently shown a prototype of a replacement for the XH-G1s that records to flash cards rather than to HDV tape. This camera is expected to be rolled out at NAB in April, but already there's been discussion's on the boards about what else Canon might (or should) do.

I think a lot of people expected Canon to do something with the DSLR technology. There were hopes they'd place one of those large chips in a video camera, providing the shallow DOF performance those large chips provide, with better functionality than we're getting out of the DSLR bodies. Seems like a no brainer.


On the face of it, producing a camera like this makes sense, particularly when you look at the popularity of the Canon 7D and 5D Mark II. But when you start getting into the details, things get trickier.

Canon's current video camera's - in their professional line - use 1/3" imagers. It's a big step up from 1/3" to the APS-C chip in the Canon 7D and the 35mm chip in the Canon 5D Mark II. Canon does also make lenses for 1/2" and 2/3" imagers, but even the 2/3" lens would barely cover the APS-C chip.

That probably means that Canon will have to produce a new range of video lenses. Alternatively, they could expect users to stick with conventional still camera lenses, but most SLR lenses - particularly zooms - don't operate like a good video lens. They'd have to offer at least one or two lenses for such a camera.

Too much resolution
The other problem Canon has with these chips is too much resolution. They have to throw away a lot of that resolution to get down to an HD image, and at the moment, the way they are doing that seems to be resulting in aliasing issues. To make a really good video camera - and a $7,000 camera has to be good - they have to find a way to better scale the image down, OR save all the data and let users deal with scaling later, OR produce a new large chip that has a lower resolution.

The reality is, Canon has to solve these problems, because while they can (mostly) gloss over the problems the current DSLR cameras have - because they are SLR cameras - it's a harder sell in a multiple thousand dollar video camera. None of these issues are insurmountable, and I'm sure Canon can solve them; if they think enough people would buy the solution. It's just that it's maybe not so much of a no brainer as you might think, and maybe that's why we won't see a video camera built on the DSLR imagers for some time.

Do-it-yourself Dollys

Is there anything better than a good dolly shot? Okay, Steadicam’s can be very cool, but even they can’t seem to capture the smooth glide of a good dolly shot.

You can actually buy an inexpensive dolly to use with your tripod for less than $50; but these will only run smooth – and even then it can be difficult - on a really smooth surface (forget using on carpet, or going outside on concrete.)

“Real” dolly systems require a track of some kind; particularly outside. Several “do-it-yourselfers” have built some form of Dolly. These usually consist of the following three important parts:
  • Track
  • Skateboard wheels
  • Base
Put like that, it seems quite, simple! But what to make the track out of?

The latest idea, from "Romain" on Ikea Hacker, is to use the Ivar “wooden ladder” as the track, and build a trolley that runs along that. Quit an interesting idea; the Ivar “track” comes in lengths up to 89”. He has a nice sample video on Vimeo too.

In addition to the Ivar piece, he explains that you need:
  • 12 rollerblade wheels with ABEC1 bearings
  • 12 "L" metal plates
  • A thick and heavy wooden plate (50x80x2,3cm)
  • Some skateboard grip
  • Bolts, nuts, rings
  • AND (I forgot to mention it) a "GRUNDTAL" toilet paper dispenser as a handle!
Derek Beck came up with a different solution with his PVC Dolly. He appears to use metal pipes as the track, and recommends poly-urethane wheels, going on to say: (they are softer and run smoother and quieter), and don't waste your money on designer wheels.

The problem with the pipes, is that you need some way to keep them from bending and a consistent distance apart.

Going in a different direction Ted Ramasola built a plywood skater (NOTE: The actual Skater (TM) is made by P+S Technik; it’s much more refined, but much more expensive!) The Plywood skater also uses the skateboard wheels, but this is in a small device you can slide across flat surfaces. Just take a piece of flat board and set it at the height you want. You wouldn’t want to put a tripod on it (unless it was very small), but it might actually be easier to work with.

He has plans on his website that you can follow to build your own.

Friday, January 15, 2010

HXR-NX5U $3,990 pre-order at B & H

Holy Cow! It was $4,499.95 last time I looked, but right now the HXR-NX5U page at B&H says that it's $3,990.00 to pre-roder!

More than puzzling as the HDR-AX2000 is at $3,4999.99. For $500 more the HXR-NX5U is definitely worth it!

The DSLR Filmmaker's Workflow

David Flores is a New York photographer and filmmaker, and a member of the B&H Creative Content Team. He's put together a piece on the DSLR Filmmaker's workflow.

Though the files from Canon 5D Mk II and 7D work with most editors, he advocates transcoding to another format so "everything plays together well." He's absolutely right; I've put Canon 7D video into Final Cut Pro without transcoding, and though it mostly works, you end up having to constantly re-render things. So while you have to spend more time at the beginning if you transcode, you'll save it during the editing process.

The video below - and much of the article - centers on using Compressor to transcode to ProRes for Final Cut Pro, but he also cover's transcoding with the freeware package MPEG Streamclip (which is both Mac and PC compatible) in the article.

RED Camera upgrades to Mysterium-X

I don't really know a whole lot about RED ONE cameras; other than they exist, and that if I could afford one, the camera I could afford will probably be the Scarlet, which is coming sometime soon...

But existing RED ONE owners can now upgrade to the Mysterium-X sensor, starting next week. The upgrade costs $5,750. Other details can be found at

In thinking about the price of these cameras (the RED ONE is sub-$20k, and the Scarlet looks like it will start at about $5K) reminded me of a book I read years ago called "Feature Film Making at User-car Prices: How to Write, Produce, Direct, Film, Edit, and Promote" by Rick Schmidt. It was a great book because he went through the entire process from writing and pre-production, shooting and editing, to promotion and getting your budget movie shown and into competitions. It was very informative and inspiring; even though I never wanted to make a feature movie.

But being reminded of that got me thinking; I figure that at the rate I acquired cameras over the year, had I saved my money I could have bought quite a nice car by now. :(

But then there's only so many things you can do with a car.

What ever happened to Rick? Turns out he's alive and well and has a website, as well as giving workshops and offering consulting.

I wondered if the book was still in-print, and it kind of is; it turns out he updated it to "Extreme DV at Used-Car prices..."'s a pity that DV is in the title; much of the book would be applicable to shooting using budget HD cameras, but most people will probably walk right past the book because it says "DV."

Oxymoron of the day

Yesterday I was trying to get some information from Tiffen about the Steadicam Smoothee. Unfortunately there was no email address on their site; just a Contact form that you fill out. So I filled out the information as accurately as I could and hit submit, and got the following response back:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Cheap 3D

Fujifilm already has a (relatively) inexpensive 3D camera (the Fujifilm Real 3D, which I haven't heard a peep about since it was announced) but now DXG has a $400 3D camera coming out sometime in June.

It looks weirdly interesting; but if those are the two lenses on the front, they are much closer together than the Fuji's and I wonder how good the 3D effect is.

And I wonder what editing the video is like? Can you do it in a regular video editor, or do you have to use something that recognizes the files these cameras create? Or are you just stuck with what you shot?

Steadicam Smoothie

Tiffen (the owner of Steadicam) has announced the Steadicam Smoothee, a Steadicam for the iPhone.  Wow!

The lightweight, compact, agile, and easy to use Steadicam Smoothee™ features an innovative, patented design built around a durable mono-frame metal structure that requires no complicated instruction to use. With its “go anywhere” compact dimensions, the Steadicam Smoothee™ is approximately 8”W x 14.5” H x 2.5” D (20.3 x 36.8 x 6.4cm) in operating configuration

But the iPhone? Seriously? Of course, in a year or two, the iPhone will probably be capturing 1080p....

[UPDATE] Though the press release doesn't mention it, from the video below it appears that the device will work with the Flip and Motorola Droid, and maybe other cameras later.

No word of price, it's expected in the spring.

Never Change Your Workflow

If there’s one critical piece of advice I can give you, I think that’s it. Once you get a workflow “working,” changing anything – camera, software, computer – can just mess you up no end.

A couple of years ago I had two HDV camcorders, a Mac G5, and Final Cut Pro 5, and everything was right with my world. An hour of video was 13GB - which was sizeable, but quite liveable - and the computer and software seemed to be quite happy to edit the stuff. Everything was evenly balanced.

How things have changed since then; and I'm not too sure I'm in a better position now than I was back then, but I've certainly had my share of adventures. Here’s some things that have messed me up:

  1. I upgraded the G5 from Leopard to Tiger, which broke the Firewire import in Final Cut Pro 5.
  2. I bought an AVCHD camera. Since Final Cut Pro 5 couldn’t import these files, I bought Final Cut Express to import the AVCHD video using a second computer – a Mac Mini – since Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express will only import AVCHD on an Intel processor, not a G5.
  3. Using the Mac Mini to import AVCHD took longer than importing HDV (which is 1 to 1 transfer time), and the old G5 was starting to show it’s age, so I bought a Mac Book Pro and upgraded to Final Cut Studio 3. The import is still slower than HDV
  4. Suddenly everything’s in ProRes or Apple Intermediate Compressor, and taking up a LOT more space.

And it’s funny how the smallest things can completely destroy your workflow:

I’ve been using AVCHD camcorders for a number of months now, and I’ve been pretty meticulous about using Final Cut to copy/convert the files across. Then I copy the AVCHD source files (just to archive) and then delete the files on the camera Flash memory using the camera.

The other day I was doing a project, and for no reason at all, deleted some of the files from the SD card while it was connected to the camera. The camera happily accepted the card and recorded additional files to the card. Come to import those files and Final Cut has a conniption: it doesn’t like the file structure of the SD card, and won’t recognize or import any files.

I had to buy a piece of third-party software that could convert the files for me.

So remember this: change your workflow at your peril!

Canon 7D - what resolution is the video really?

Did you ever get intrigued by a question, spend a good bit of time trying to figure out what the answer is, realize that you can't figure it out, and that the answer is rather meaningless anyway? That's what happened here, but since I already spent an afternoon on it, I thought I'd give you the chance to waste a bit of your time too.

A Swedish company, whose product saves the HDMI output from the Canon 7D with higher Chroma sampling, stirred up a bit of an internet rumpus when someone read their product description and saw trouble.

In noting that the 7D’s HDMI output is 1620 x 910 (rather than 1920 x 1080), they wrote that the HDMI output has the “same crop as the 1080p compressed material on the camera’s memory card.

This was interpreted to mean - by many - that the 7D was taking the image from the sensor, creating a 1620 x 910 image, and then upscaling that to make the final 1920 x 1080 image.

Much discussion ensued here, and here, and it wasn't like there hadn't been questions about the resolution of the 7D.

I must admit, my first reaction was something along the line of “don’t be ridiculous,” but after a bit of thought I had to wonder: “well, how do they go from the 7D’s 18MP sensor down to a 2MP image?” Could they be going to an image that’s 1620 x 910 first, and if so, how?

I should point out before I go further, that I know just enough about how CMOS sensors and digital cameras work to be dangerous (i.e. everything I know I read in Internet forums.) But I thought I’d do a bit of basic figuring to see if I could figure out what might/or might not, be going on.

A little background about how digital cameras work first:

Binning and Line Skipping
When you have a sensor with more pixels than the final image, one way to read those pixels, and get a “scaled”image faster, is to use binning, and or line skipping. Binning is a readout process in the chip that gives you the combined values of several pixels at once (i.e. 2 pixels, 3 pixels, etc). Line skipping is the process of reading every other, or every third (or whatever divisor you want) row of pixels.

As far as I know, you have to use an even divisor i.e. you can’t bin two and a half pixels, or skip two and a half pixel rows. You have to go by whole pixels. So if that’s what Canon is doing, how would they be doing it? Let’s start with the sensor:

What’s the resolution of the 7D’s sensor?
The 7D’s still images are 5184 x 3456 pixels. The sensor may not be exactly that resolution (it’s not uncommon to exclude pixels right at the edges of the chip) but let’s use that as a starting point. If you use a divisor of 2, you end up with a frame that’s 2592 x 1728, which means you have to do more work to get to 1920 (or 1620). But if you use a divisor of 3, you get an image that’s 1728 x 1152. 1728 is less than 1920, but it’s greater than 1620, which made me think that maybe they are binning 3.

But if they are doing that, they’d have to scale the image again to get to 1620. The alternative would be that they were cropping part of the image to get to 1620.

Are they cropping part of the image?
If you multiply 1620 x 910 x 3, you end up with dimensions of 4860 x 2730. That’s a fairly significant difference, and you’d notice the difference between a still image and a frame from video.

4860 x 2730 pixel frame over actual still frame

I took a still image and then a frame of video, and then I compared the two; they were almost identical. There was slightly more visible in the still image on the left and right edges, but this was the equivalent of 5 pixels on each side of the final HD image, about 1/10 of what you’d expect to have been cropped off if they were simply scaling by three and cropping the image to fit 1620. Furthermore, the slight difference between the two images might be due to the fact that the video and still image were taken at different apertures.

Image captured in still (top) and video (bottom)
Note: the top & bottom of the still image has been cropped to 16:9 aspect ratio to help with comparison, but nothing has been removed from the sides

Which leads me to believe that if they are binning or skipping by 3, then they are scaling it to 1728 and then scaling again to get the 1620 and the 1920 images.

What have I learned?
Absolutely nothing. But it was kind of interesting, wasn't it?

But what about image quality?
Well, comparing a scaled still image (from Photoshop) to the HD image, you see  a huge difference.
It’s easily noticeable how much more detail is present in the still image. That's not really a fair test though, because Photoshop can spend a lot more time scaling than the camera can.

Out of curiosity, I also tried scaling the still image to 1728, then back up to 1920 using Photoshop and still ended up with an image with more detail than the “video” frame.

Still (top) and video (bottom)
Notice color and resolution differences

The other big elephant in the room is that when I look at the enlarged HD image I see what looks like the results of heavy compression (particularly around the black text.) So how much of the loss of image quality is due to the compressor, and how much is due to whatever method they are using to down-scale the original image? - I’ll leave that to someone else to figure out.

Other Variables
Since the 7D has a single chip, it uses a Bayer pattern filter to produce a color image. The mixing up of color pixels due to the filter pattern could also have an effect on color accuracy when binning/line skipping.

What about the Canon 5D?
Glad you asked. The Canon 5D seems to produce a slightly better image than the 7D. Interestingly the Canon 5D's chip is slightly larger (5616 x 3744), which corresponds to 1872 wide (if you divide by 3), and just a little closer to 1920, but only 8% larger than 1728.


  1. DSLR Video - how does it work? (techincal) -
  2. Canon 7D Video Analysis - Tree House Art Club

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Movie inspiration...who knew?

Sure, Hollywood has exploited other mediums (Books, TV sitcoms) for movie ideas, but who knew that movies like The Fast and the Furious, Snakes on a Plane, and Cloverfield were originally video console games?!

Who indeed.

But Prashanth Kamalakanthan at Penny Design has gone and imagined (or re-imagined) what the packaging of these games would have looked like way back in 1976.

Canon's next Pro video cam

Thinking of getting a Sony HDR-AX2000 or HXR-NX5U? Chris Hurd at makes things more interesting for you with news of Canon's next pro-camera. Though there's no model number, price or availability, they are working up a solid-state version of the XH G1S, and you can see photos of the prototype at the above link.

Like the Sony model, it appears to rework an existing model (with maybe a few more body tweaks than Sony's models) and add dual-card recording; probably in AVCHD format. The camera will use three-CCDs, and is not based on the chip(s) from Canon's DSLR's (there had been rumors that Canon would bring out a more video-centric camera based on the imaging technology in the DSLRs, but it looks like that won't happen this year.)

According to another poster on dvinfo, Canon told him at CES that the model will be announced at NAB.

I keep getting the wrong book

A while back I set out to learn Apple’s Motion 4 program using the book Apple Pro Training Series: Motion 1. It actually worked out really well. Even though newer features like the 3D camera weren’t covered, I got enough out of it to actually start doing some useful things with the program.

At the time, I was tempted to buy the new book for Motion 4, but the cheapskate in me decided to get the Apple Pro Training Series: Motion 4 Quick-Reference Guideinstead, figuring it might be just as useful to me having a Reference Guide to answer questions as I encountered them, rather than doing a series of new exercises.

Unfortunately, the original publish date of the Quick Reference Guide has been pushed back a couple of times (I think it was originally supposed to be out before the end of 2009) and the current estimated date is sometime in April.

Meanwhile, every day, Amazon tempts me with their Gold Box deals; which usually means a dollar or so off something from my wishlist, or an item similar to something I previously purchased. Yesterday, they were offering $2 off the Apple Pro Training Series: Motion 4book. Having nothing better to do, I went and looked at the chapter list and decided that it was sufficiently different from the original edition, that maybe it would be worth spending the money and spending some more time learning the program.

So I did.

Remember when I said that the Goldbox often offers a deal on an item similar to something I previously purchased? Today they offered a book called How to Cheat in Motiona book I had never even come across before, and – a curse on them - I’m starting to think that I ordered the wrong book.

Now if you don’t know how to do anything in Motion, then definitely get the Apple Pro Training Series book, because it shows you all the basics. Rather than teaching you the principles of the program, How to Cheat in Motion shows you how to do a series of effects. As one example, here’s Chapter 5: Breaking Up

Dissolving People
Exploding People
Shattering Basic
Into Pieces
Sequencing Puzzling
Random Destruction
Sweeping Changes
Iris and Other Transitions
Power Strips
Card Dance Basic
2D Orbital
3D Card Dance Dazzle
How to make Motion faster

Sample Page - How to Cheat in Motion

Now I’ve only seen the chapter list, and a sample page, but this book looks more interesting to me than the book I just ordered. Oh well. I’ll stick it in my wishlist and come back and get it another time.

The Story Beyond The Still: The Cabbie

Vincent Laforet - who made Reverie, the film that created a sensation when the Canon 5D Mark II was introduced - has a short film called "The Cabbie." The premise:

Canon asked me to interpret what story I saw beyond the still, and to tell that story with the new Canon EOS 7D.

and now it appears they are going to have the first user-generated HD Video Contest where photographers become filmmakers, and we all see beyond the still.

My short film will be the first chapter of seven, each ending with a still photograph for the next aspiring filmmaker to interpret. Posing the question to everyone, what do you see beyond the still?
There's no other information about the competition yet: it will be announced on January 15th. Stay tuned.

The Story Beyond The Still: The Cabbie from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

HDR-AX2000 gets price at B & H Photo

The HDR-AX2000 now has a price at B & H Photo: $3,4999. This is the same as listed at Amazon. No word on actual availability; it's listed only as available for pre-order.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Canon 5D Mark II 24p firmware just around the corner

Sleuths have noticed that the page for the upcoming San Francisco SuperMeet (a get together for Final Cut Pro editors) has a raffle prize of a Canon 5D Mark II with 2010 FIRMWARE UPDATE (1080 24p, 25fps/29.97, 720/60P).

Daniel Berube, one of the organizers of the event (and of the Boston Final Cut Pro Group), has a close affiliation with Canon, so I'm betting this information is accurate, and the update will be out in the next few weeks.

The HXR-NX5U & HDR-AX2000 Page

I've been obsessing a bit over the new Sony semi-pro/pro AVCHD camcorders, and thought it would be worth assembling together the different bits into a more coherent whole. So I've put together a HXR-NX5U & HDR-AX2000 Page. Not much new has been added since the camera's were announced, but hopefully it will grow.

I just don't get it....

Gizmodo can be a great source for new gadget info, but sometimes they seem to go off on a tangent. I do that too, but I don't have an editor! What's their excuse?!

Their latest piece to catch my eye: a Sony rep can't explain why they have 17 new cameras and camcorders in 10 obviously they don't know what people want! Now, why the guy didn't just say "People want choice in features and price," or something like that, I don't know. Perhaps he was thrown because he assumed he was going to get a serious question?

But seriously; Given 10 seconds, could a Toyota rep explain why they sell 18 different vehicles in anything less than platitudes? And by my count, Canon announced 12 new camcorders, and four cameras, for a total of 16. I guess more hilarity will be ahead if Gizmodo managed to get to the Canon booth.

Of course, I'm biased. I just did a rough count and I think I own more than 10 cameras and camcorders. I hope someone from Gizmodo doesn't ask me to justify that in 10 seconds; I'd probably do an even worse job than the Sony guy!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Online Learning lab from Rule | Boston Camera

Rule Systems | Boston Camera have been running a series of lectures/demos on various things to do with video production. I've been to a couple of them, and found them worthwhile. If you're in the Boston area, it's worth checking out. This month they have three classes: Jan 13: Tapeless Workflow Tools (including 3D), Jan 20: Intro to Avid Media Access, Jan 27: Collaborative Editing Solutions.

If you couldn't make it to them, they've put video of some of the past lectures up on Vimeo. Topics up already include: Camera Supports (Steadicam's etc.), Tapeless Workflow, Red One/Avid, Lighting 101 and Cult Cameras (Digital SLRs, Canon 7D, etc.)

9/30/09 Camera Support Part 1 from Rule Boston Camera on Vimeo.

More 3D

An article appeared in The Sunday Times yesterday, rather breathlessly reporting Hollywood's enthusiasm for 3D. It notes that a number of older movies are going to be retro-fitted for 3D, and some movies in production are being reworked to include 3D before release:

Retro-fitting a screen classic with 3-D imagery could take as little as four months, using software to manipulate a digital copy of the film.

Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings, said last spring that he wanted to reissue the trilogy in 3-D if Avatar persuaded enough cinemas to put in new 3-D projectors. Last week technicians at Weta, the production company that had worked on the trilogy, said they had experimented with 3-D battle scenes and proclaimed them to be "gob-smacking".

another interesting line:

Last week the University of Southern California (USC) published a report suggesting that after seeing a 3-D film in the cinema in 2009, 40% of people would prefer to watch television in 3-D, too.

3D? or not 3D?

Outside of eBook's, the Google phone, and Sony's adoption of SD cards, the big news of CES seemed to be 3D: Panasonic demoed a $21K 3D video camera, and several vendors demonstrated 3D displays and Blu-ray players. I've resisted writing about it partly due to lack of interest on my part, and partly due to what a NPR reporter described as "skepticism that consumers would want to spend money to replace their displays just after buying into HD."

Independent of the price, do people even want 3D, or is it just a fad? I thought about writing something along those lines, but I've already been curmudgeonly recently, and had decided to just ignore the whole thing when I came across this skathing article from Roger Ebert (written back in October 2009):

The 3-D process is an abomination that has died many deaths. It failed in the 1950s as a novelty, and again in the 1970s as a device to breathe new life into exhausted franchises.
Simply put, has anyone ever attended a 2-D movie and thought, ‘If only it were in 3-D’? I doubt it, because 2-D creates a perfectly effective illusion of depth and dimension.

Good old Roger. He also manages to add a bit of itrigue that had never occured to me; the theory that movie theaters are on the band wagon meerly because charging for the glasses allows them to raise ticket prices!

As much as I want to applaud Roger for writing the piece I was tempted to write, I can't also help but be reminded of objections to the arrival of sound:

"Who in the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
-H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers Studios, 1927

I never approved of talkies. Silent movies were well on their way to developing an entirely new art form. It was not just pantomine, but something wonderfully expressive
-Lillian Gish

And when HD was first appearing, how many people suggested that it was the quality of the programming - not the resolution of the image - that needed improving?

The technology is interesting; particularly the camera, which is more than just two lenses mounted side by side - the two optical blocks have to be rotated to adjust for changes in the convergence point as the object in focus moves closer to the camera. Panasonic's camera is expected to be released at the end of the year, with full details being announced at NAB.

A poster on the dvxuser forum writes that networks and studios seem to think that 3D is the wave of the future, adding:

Producing content in 3D is a big learning curve, much bigger than the transition from SD to HD was just a few years ago for us. If you produce non-broadcast, the demand won't be there for 5-10 years but if you produce entertainment, buckle up and start learning about parralex, convergence, anaglyph, polarization, shutter viewing systems and how to shoot effectively in 3D

Discovery and ESPEN are promising 3D channels either later in the year, or next year. If the networks and studios are pushing it, is there something else going on too?; a leap forward that makes content unplayable on YouTube etc. perhaps? Or is it just the manufacturers looking to save their skins in a tough economy?

One more thing; Even skeptics can be swayed; Roger Ebert liked the 3D Avatar:

Cameron promised he'd unveil the next generation of 3-D in "Avatar." I'm a notorious skeptic about this process, a needless distraction from the perfect realism of movies in 2-D. Cameron's iteration is the best I've seen -- and more importantly, one of the most carefully-employed. The film never uses 3-D simply because it has it, and doesn't promiscuously violate the fourth wall.

I guess we will have to sit back and wait and see what the future brings.

Don't you wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There's one marked 'Brightness,' but it doesn't work. ~ Gallagher

  1. Does anyone like 3D?: Roger Ebert, The Spectator
  2. Avatar: Roger Ebert,
  3. Hands On: Panasonic's Twin-lens Camcorder Gets 3-D for a Cool $21K:
  4. Integrated Twin-Lens FULL HD 3D Camera:
  5. Discovery, ESPN to launch 3D TV channels:

3D Movie Making: Stereoscopic Digital Cinema from Script to Screen

Sunday, January 10, 2010

You will be will return home

I just came across a competition called the "100% Pure New Zealand" contest, where you have to write a three-minute screenplay on how you would ‘Capture the spirit of 100% Pure New Zealand - the youngest country on earth’. Five successful applicants will be flown to New Zealand early in 2010 and will have three weeks to pre-produce, shoot and post-produce their idea to the budget of NZ$100,000, with the help of a small crew and Peter Jackson’s post-production facilities in Wellington.

That's the good news - maybe.

The bad news? You have 4 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes (at the time of posting) to get your screenplay together, get people to vote, etc. So get to work! Here's the Big Break in a Nutshell:

  1. The first thing you need to do is write a three-minute screenplay on how you would ‘Capture the spirit of 100% Pure New Zealand - the youngest country on earth’.
  2. You submit your screenplay. It is highly recommended you also supply supporting material in a 60 second video pitch to camera to bring your idea to life. It could include rough storyboards, stock footage edits, narratives etc.
  3. These will be assessed by a panel of experts including Academy Award®-winning producers, editors and filmmakers.
  4. The entries will be reduced to a shortlist of 5, which includes one people’s choice entry that is based on the number of votes it receives from the general public. It is to your advantage to encourage your friends and family to get involved and vote for you.
  5. Those five successful applicants will be flown to New Zealand early in 2010. They will have three weeks to pre-produce, shoot and post-produce their idea to the budget of NZ$100,000, with the help of a small crew and Peter Jackson’s post-production facilities in Wellington.
  6. Your return airfare, accommodation, production facilities, crew and core casting are covered as part of your prize.
  7. The five completed three-minute films will then be viewed and judged by Peter Jackson.
  8. You will return home.
  9. The winning film will run on US television in 2010 crediting you.
  10. You will be famous.

For some reason, I really like number 8 :)

More on HXR-NX5U does in 10-bit

Aaron Holmes points out that the HXR-NX5U sending 4:2:2 out the HDMI/HDSDI ports isn't that unusual; the HVR-Z5U already does 4:2:2 out it's HDMI port!: did its consumer version, the FX1000 (according to web board posts, anyway). Truly, I don't know of an in-production pro or even semi-pro camcorder with HDMI that *doesn't* output a 4:2:2 signal. So 4:2:2 on HDMI gets a yawn. What's cool about the NX5 is HD-SDI. Unlike HDMI, HD-SDI carries timecode also, which can be used to command external recorders like NanoFlash. Using external recorders with HDMI is a lot more painful, as the recorders must be manually started/stopped, and the non-locking HDMI cables are more prone to disconnecting themselves.

Thanks for the correction, and the detail on the differences between HD-SDI and HDMI is enlightening for those of us that might have lost the plot.

And yet, I could have sworn that when I was first reading about the NXCAM, Sony made some claims about it's capture stage (and the HDSDI output) being better - and a little unusual - in a camera in this price range.

Which leads me to suspect that maybe it's the 10 bit 4:2:2 signal, (as opposed to 8-bit on the HVR-Z5U?) that Sony was talking about? Certainly, only this time last year, Panasonic was saying that their $10,700 HPX-300 was the "world's first affordable 4:2:2 camera."

If you check out the HXR-NX5U brochure on Sony's NXCAM site, you'll find the following:

The camera's E to E output from the HDSDI terminal will be a 10 bit uncompressed 4:2:2 signal.

So big "if" here, but if the HVR-Z5U is 8-bit, then that will explain my confusion nicely. [And if it isn't, then I guess I will just remain confused.]

I'm still wondering what the HDR-AX2000 sends out it's HDMI port though...

For the RED Fans

Engadget has a ten minute clip of Ted Schilowitz from RED showing off a RED Scarlet mockup, Redmote, and the BOMB EVF. The Scarlet is not expected until the late spring/summer. Expected prices: $2750 for the Scarlet brain alone, for a full shooting package with lens and kit, $4750.