Saturday, January 23, 2010

HXR-NX5U Operating Guide

The operating guide for the Sony HXR-NX5U is now posted on Sony's NXCAM site in the Manuals section.

Tim Burton exhibition at MoMA

Better get a move-on, the Tim Burton exhibition at MoMA New York ends April 26, 2010.

Qik Videocamera for older iPhones

I have to admit, I was a bit jealous of the higher resolution camera and video capabilities of the 3GS iPhone; but not enough to spend the money to trade in my existing 3G iPhone.

But Qik's Wideo Camera app works on older iPhones, and for $1, it isn't too bad. Okay, it's rather stuttery and has what looks like a terrible rolling shutter problem when panning, but it's video....on an older iPhone. You can also add filters (Black & White, or colorize, though I'm not sure I'll do that.)

Two video sizes are available: 400 x 304 and 200 x 152. you can record vertically or horizontally, and the video gets flagged and plays back in the correct orientation on you computer.

QIK Video Camera app

Once you take a video, you can review it in the Gallery, and you can email it to yourself - or others - which is probably the quickest and easiest way to transfer the files.

I'm definitely not going to use this for anything "serious" but as an added "note taking" capability, it's definitely worth the $1.

Some "typical" videos below include a recording of a person speaking indoors (in poor light) and video taken outside in our miserable New England weather. QuickTime Player reports the FPS at being 13.23, 13.55 and 13.64 respectively for the three clips.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Apple’s H.264 codec – sucks?

That was the takeaway from yesterday’s meeting of the Boston Final Cut Pro User Group, where the topic was delivering content using H.264.

First up was Francesco Scartozzi of Matrox, demoing their MAX technology (a hardware H.264 compressor.) MAX is available as a plug-in card (CompressHD for $495) or as part of one of their I/O products, and provides one-pass compression in faster than real-time. A 30 second clip was compressed in 3:30 seconds on a MacBook Pro, and in 20 seconds using a MX02 Mini attached to the same computer. It’s faster than an 8-core Mac Pro!

Comparison of performance compressing a video to Blu-ray using Compressor and MAX on an 8-Core Mac Pro

Perhaps more importantly; it actually does a better job of compression than Apple’s H.264 compressor, creating smaller files that look better.


Record U: Recording Vocals and Selecting a Microphone

Gary Bromham, a writer/producer/engineer who has worked with such people as Sheryl Crowe and Graham Coxon has an article at Propellerhead Software's Record U that discuses selecting and using microphones. Of particularly interest are the examples comparing the same vocal recorded with a Shure SM58, Neumann U-87 and a Coles 4038 ribbon mic, as well as Proximity Effect and "Tube effect" samples.

Sound is often the thing videographers think about last, and probably most of the time a wireless mic is the best solution, but while you can't be dragging about a Neumann mic for most projects, it pays to spend a bit of time thinking about improving the quality of your sound.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Could anything be good enough?

The . hype . is . getting . so . big . for . Apple's . tablet . you . have . to . wonder . if . anything . could . live . up . to . it...

Wireless Lavalier Microphone Roundup

The latest B & H Email Newsletter has an article on Wireless Lavalier Microphone's written by Moshe Lehrer. It's a gentle introduction to wireless mics, VHF vs UHF, deadspots, 'diversity' and omni-directional vs. cardoid.

It also covers a selection of mics features from Azden, Samson and Audio-Technica. So if you have an old wireless mic you can't use any more, or have always thought about getting a wireless mic, it's probably worth a read.


YouTube World

OK Go's lead singer Damian Kulash published a letter explaining why they can't allow their YouTube video's to be embedded in fan's pages. It's a long piece that talks about how it's unfortunate fans can't embed - or in some countries even view - their new video.

In the first part he explains that labels are losing money and looking for any way to make it up, and that it used to be that videos on YouTube were regarded as promotional items, but then the labels looked at the revenue YouTube was making from the ads they have and:

[the labels] got all huffy a couple years ago and threatened all sorts of legal terror and eventually all four majors struck deals with YouTube which pay them tiny, tiny sums of money every time one of their videos gets played.
[...] The catch: the software that pays out those tiny sums doesn't pay if a video is embedded.

Curiously, he goes on to write that: the only thing OK Go can do is to upload our videos to sites that allow for embedding, like MySpace and Vimeo.

Umm...okay, I think I lost the plot. The labels won't allow them to embed the video from YouTube, but it's okay to put the same video on Vimeo and link that? I'm confused, I really am!

And what side is Damian on? His letter clearly outlines the issues the labels are having, and implies that they appreciate the money that the label gave them to record the album in the first place, but then he posts the Vimeo code for embedding the video at the end of his post. It seems he's stuck in the middle, or at least trying to play the middle. Here's how it concludes:

So, for now, here's the bottom line: EMI won't let us let you embed our YouTube videos. It's a decision that bums us out. We've argued with them a lot about it, but we also understand why they're doing it. They’re aware that their rules make it harder for people to watch and share our videos, but, while our duty is to our music and our fans, theirs is to their shareholders, and they believe they’re doing the right thing.

Here’s the embed code for the Vimeo posting:
Go forth and put it everywhere, please.

YouTube to Sundance: Independent Filmmakers Wanted
YouTube has announced it has partnered with Sundance Film Festival to make five films from the 2010 and 2009 festivals available for rent for U.S. users starting this Friday and running through Sunday January 31st. A "small collection" of other films will also be made available.

YouTube says that they are putting out the call for more independent filmmakers to join the rental programs as part of their "Filmmakers Wanted" campaign. But there's no information on how they are doing this, or who they are trying to involve.

At the moment, renters must have a Google Checkout account to rent movies.


I've been fascinated by the visual presentation of information since I discovered Edward Tufte's book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, and though it's not really what I do, I'm always intrigued by the subject. It's amazing what can be done when you step away from charts and graphs!

A friend sent me a link to Charting The Beatles, the, exploration of Beatles music through infographics. This site has some cool charts showing Authorship and Collaboration, Self Reference, Song Keys and even their Working Schedule. I'm not sure that you really learn much that's useful from the charts - other than how to turn data into interesting visual pictures!

I passed this link on to another friend that promptly sent back Smashing Magazine and The Smashing Book, Data Visualization: Modern Approaches. If you can wait for the page, there's all kinds of interesting ideas there. I'm not sure that the techniques are any different from those espoused by Tufte in his books, but it's interesting to see how others come up with different graphical interpretations to facts and figures.

What's this got to do with video? Nothing really, but the first friend also recommended John Nack's blog. John is the product manager of Photoshop at Adobe, and my friend considers this the worlds best blog. Of course she would, she's a fan of Photoshop, but interesting video-related things do pop-up now and again in his blog. Check out: Trippy,amazing video projection onto buildings, and New Pixel Bender Technology Center to start with.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

TransferJet Station

Transfer Jet 8GB cards are now listed on (U.S. site) at $99.99 with expected release date of February 8th. The TransferJet Station is also listed (@149.99) with the same availability date.

It appears that the Transfer Jet Station attaches to your computer via USB, then you place the device with a Transfer Jet Memory Stick on top of the base station (in some articles it says that the card has to be within 3cm) and you can then transfer away.

I'm wondering if the top card in the HDR-AX2000 would be 3cm from the base station when the camera is sitting on the table next to it...and is $250 too much to pay for wireless transfer?


I spoke to Juan Martinez, Senior Product Manager, Sony Broadcast & Professional AV Products, and he clarified a few more details of the HXR-NX5 for me.

Is the HDMI signal 10 bit 4:2:2? 1920 x 1080?
Yes. The camera captures at 1920 x 1080 4:4:4, then converts to 4:2:2 before encoding.

He also said that this may be the first camera that presents to the encoder information about camera settings (gain setting, etc.,) so that the encoder can take advantage of this information. He also believes that they are using smaller block patterns for motion estimation than most of their competitors. They can do things like this in the encoder because AVCHD only defines the decoder; the encoder can be written in any way as long as the output is compliant.

How is 24p encoded?
He said that it’s native (not 3:2)

How is the PCM audio stored? Edited?
Dobly Digital and PCM are both defined as part of the AVCHD spec, so they are simply using the PCM option. The files should work with current NLEs.

What are the details on the optional 60i/50i switchable upgrade?
This was done because cameras are sold into certain markets; the 60i/50i is disabled to prevent grey marketing. You send the camera in to a Sony Service center and they will upgrade the camera for a “nominal fee” – it sounded like it would be $300. Turnaround should be a day or two.

Is Europe selling a GPS-less version?
They are selling a version without GPS in “countries that don’t allow it.” There is the GPS enabled NX5E and the GPS-less NX5M. Other versions are variations in power supplies and video formats for different countries. There are NX5P, C & N models, in addition to U (U.S.)

What are the differences to the HVR-Z5U’s chips and lens?
The Exmor chips are the same, and the lens is basically the same, though the lens has had some modifications for the new Active Steadyshot mode.

How is Active Steadyshot different to the regular Steadyshot?
In addition to regular optical steadyshot, they have an “Active Steadyshot” mode. This is ALSO an optical mode, which they claim is 7 times more effective than the regular steady shot, and it can be set at different levels; soft, medium, hard.

The reason for the cropping (and then slight enlargement) of the image is because of possible vignetteing of the image (not because it’s an electronic form of smoothing, which is what I had assumed it was doing.) The movement of the lens is much greater with Active Steadyshot. The Active Steadyshot is adaptive, using acceleration information to try and predict motion.

Since the Active Steadyshot does a slight scale of the image, there is some resolution loss.

If someone’s comparing the EX1 and NX5, what should they consider?
The NX5 has lower cost, smaller/compact form factor for those that like to hand hold. The 24Mbit/s AVCHD is very similar in quality to the XDCAM 35Mbit/s. The EX1 has more sensitivity and direct over/under-cranking. The EX1 XDCAM file format has better native support in NLEs (some NLEs require conversion of AVCHD before they can be edited.)

Other notes
While only the 720p mode supports 60p, the camera is actually capturing at full 1920 x 1080 @ 60fps, then applying filtering to create the scaled image.

The camera is shipping now (though obviously in limited quantities at the moment.)

Other News

Jan Ozer has an article Using Motion Templates in Apple Final Cut Pro up at

Blu-ray player households went up 76 percent to 17 million last year, with $1.5 billion in revenue (it seems that's software only) while digital download was only worth $360 million. Flat-panel TVs registered a decline in dollars of 13%.

This may seem obvious; or then again, not. But Ben Cain at negativespaces went down to B & H and tried a variety of Canon lenses (with and without Image Stabilization) on a Canon 7D and came to the conclusion that yes, IS is useful for shooting video! He found the 24-10mm f4L IS much better than the 24-70 f/2.8L (no IS.)

There's sample video with his post: Just watch out for the whip-pans!

Lecture: Collaborative Editing Solutions - Jan 27th

EditShare's founder Andy Liebman and Product Manager Jeff Herzog provide an overview of EditShare's shared storage, multi-channel ingest, and archiving solutions for collaborative editing.

10am - 12noon, Wednesday January 27th @ Rule Broadcast Systems, 395 Western Ave, Boston MA

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lecture: Intro to Avid Media Access - Jan 20th

Avid's Bob Russo presents AMA (Avid Media Access) a plug-in architecture designed to change your interaction with tapeless video formats such as XDCAM,P2, and the now new GFCAM support.

10am - 12noon, Wednesday January 20th @ Rule Broadcast Systems, 395 Western Ave, Boston MA

Memory News

Sony rolls out "Transfer Jet" - a Memory Stick that provides wireless transfers at up to 560 Mbps by holding the Transfer Jet Memory Stick within 3 cm of a receiver. It was announced in Japan in an 8 GB version, though larger sizes are expected.
[UPDATE 1/20: Transfer Jet 8GB cards are now listed on (U.S. site) at $99.99 with expected release date of February 8th. What's unclear is what the card communicates with...the TransferJet Station]

Silicon Power has announced the worlds first 400x 128GB Compact Flash card. With a right speed of up to 90MB/sec, that's actually well above the minimum requirements of most DSLRs (like the Canon 7D, which is 8 MB/sec.*) They evidently also make 600x cards.

* For video, Canon recommends 8 MB/sec. While it's thought that 133x cards are fast enough, users seem to have mixed results with these cards, sometimes having the buffer over fill. I think 266x cards are a safer minimum.

Storyboarding 101

Following on from the article about Scriptwriting...

I’m not great at doing quick drawings/sketches from nothing. On my best days, I make James Thruber look like da Vinci. So storyboarding is not something I like to do. I nearly used the Storyboard Composer app on the iPhone, but I was going to have to take a lot of photos at locations I didn't have, or find them and upload them to the phone.

With few other options, I decided to draw it myself, mainly using photos found on the internet - and some of my own - as a basis, and then doing quick sketches based on those. Even that took a lot of time – as there were 40 panels – and I was sometimes reduced to using very crude shapes to represent the characters just because I didn’t have the time to draw even a quick sketch.

Quick sketch in Illustrator using photo as template

I used Illustrator to draw the sketches (using a mix of the pen and brush tool.) I prefer sketching in Illustrator to using Photoshop’s brush tool. For a hack like me, the Illustrator brush creates very clean, smooth lines. It actually smoothes the curves you draw quite a bit; this can sometimes be frustrating when it “over” smooths, but most of the time it actually improves the look of the scratchings I make. The other thing is that it’s very easy to remove - and move - lines and shapes.

I put the photo in one layer, lock it, then create a second layer and draw on that layer using the brush tool. You can turn the visibility of the photo layer on and off quickly to see how the drawing is going; it doesn't have to be perfect, just good enough to convey the message.

Once the sketches are made, I usually assemble the storyboards in Illustrator; adding the frames and descriptions in a separate document. This time I used Apple’s Pages, which - in addition to the Script template - has a storyboard template. That storyboard is 6 up, but I changed it to be three up, with more space for dialog/action below the panels.

Apple Pages Storyboard Template - adjusting the Mask of the panel

One of the really nice things about Pages is that the rectangle for the sketch is a mask frame; the drawing dropped into the shape is scaled and matted within the frame, but you can then scale and drag the graphic around within the frame.

Pages is definitely not perfect if you're doing a lot of storyboarding; if later on you have to change the panel order you have to do a fair bit of work; you can’t just drag one panel and have it reorder the rest for you. Basically, you’re limited to inserting additional pages.

Still, I was very happy with how it worked, and at the end it’s easy to export to PDF for the final output.

Final storyboard in PDF format

HXR-NX5 models

It appears that in Europe Sony will be selling a model of the HXR-NX5 with GPS, and without. has a specifications page for the HXR-NX5E (with GPS) and the HXR-NX5M (without GPS.)

Interestingly, as well as the US model HXR-NX5U, there also appears to be an HXR-NX5P (being sold in Australia?), HXR-NX5C and HXR-NX5N!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Apple [something] to be announced January 27th

I'm anxiously curious about this upcoming announcement. That's about all I have to say...  :)

Remake of Yellow Submarine

I'm watching the Golden Globes and Paul McCartney mentioned a remake of Yellow Submarine is coming. How did I miss that?!

Robert Zemeckis is doing a 3D CGI motion capture remake of the film, with the voice talents of: Cary Elwes as George Harrison, Dean Lennox Kelly as John Lennon, Peter Serafinowicz as Paul McCartney and Adam Campbell as Ringo Starr. A tribute band, the Fab Four, has been hired to do the motion capture work. They have the rights to the original music

Release is scheduled for summer 2012.

Lord Mayor: You could pass as the originals!
John: But we are the originals.

BOSFCPUG - Delivering in H.264 - January 21st

The Boston Final Cut Pro User Group's next meeting is entitled: A Night of Compression: Delivering in H.264, and will be held Thursday, January 21 at 6:30pm at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown, MA

Francesco Scartozzi and Wayne Andrews of Matrox give a hands-on workflow demo of H.264 encoding using the Matrox CompressHD accelerator card and the new Matrox MXO2 LE, MXO2, MXO2 Rack and MXO2 Mini.

Brooklyn-based compressionist and Episode Encoder expert Craig Seeman of Third Planet Video will give a hands-on look at using Telestream Episode Encoder in production workflows.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

RED Open House

On Saturday 16th, RED held a series of open houses for various interest groups. Adam Wilt has a write-up, though the highlights include:

  • RED has acquired Ren-Mar Studios
  • Discussion of the M-X sensor with higher speed and less noise
  • Playback format RED RAY is now called RED 4K

Also included are the three most important steps for getting good RED footage! And lots of other interesting things to spend money on.

Make sure you check out the complaints about the fanboys on the REDUser forum! ;)
-[Hey, I'm a fanboy too (though not a RED one) so I see the humor!]

16 CFR Part 255 Disclosure
I have no connection to Adam Wilt or the ProVideoCoalition; I received no special consideration for posting this blog note.
None of the original text of the article has been retained by me.
No material connection exists between myself and ProVideoCoalition; ProVideoCoalition provides no compensation to me for mentioning this article and has not influenced me with payments, discounts, or other blandishments to encourage a favorable mention.

Canon "Story Beyond the Still" Contest details announced

A few details of an upcoming competition from Canon and Vimeo were revealed last week, but now the whole story - if you will - has been announced.

The Story Beyond the Still is a series of six competitions creating a user-generated movie "The Cabbie": for the first round, take the last moment (or still) of the first segment - the Prologue - created by Vincent Laforet, and make the next Chapter in the film. The entrants in that round will be judged, the first Chapter chosen, and then the second challenge starts based on the last frame of that one, and so on. At the end, the six Chapter winners get to join Vincent Laforet on location to collaboratively shoot the final chapter of “The Cabbie.” [wow - six people directing a movie; that sounds like a great idea, doesn't it?!]

Seriously though, this looks like a fun competition, and I'm betting there will be a lot of people taking a stab at it.

The last frame of the Prologue


Scriptwriting 101

For no good reason, I spent about half of the past week writing a script and doing a storyboard to enter a competition. It seemed like a good idea at the time – even though I completely misunderstood what to focus on – but I did brush up my script writing and storyboarding skills along the way; the latter, being almost non-existent!

Microsoft Word script document

Software for scriptwriting
Years ago, I came upon a Word document with text styles in it set up for “standard” movie script format. I don’t remember where I got it, and it is a little broken as I think it was originally produced with Word 5 Mac (or maybe Word 6, I'm not sure!) I hadn’t used it for a while, and when I opened it this time I found that it defaulted to Times instead of Courier, but otherwise it still seems to work.

FCC Adopts Order To Clear 700 MHz - check your wireless Mic

January 15th, the FCC adopted an order prohibiting the further distribution and sale of devices that operate in the 700 MHz frequency. The order will primarily impact the use of wireless microphone systems that currently operate in the 700MHz band. The FCC is providing a sunset period until June 12, 2010, one year from the DTV Transition