Saturday, February 27, 2010

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II

Canon has a new version of it's Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS lens coming (the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II). Ronald Martinsen already has a short post up about his experiences with a pre-release version at the Olympics, describing it as possibly Canon's greatest lens.

Interestingly, Ira Fried at CNET got to play with one briefly at the Olympics too. Unfortunately, there's not much information to be found, other than Canon and Nikon is making available a lot of equipment.

A great looking lens, the only downside is that it's going to cost about $2,200.

Looking for a component video switch

My almost 10 year old HDTV has one minor problem; it only has two component video inputs. Okay, there's other issues; it doesn't have an HDMI input and it's a 36 inch tube set, so it weighs a ton, but that's beside the point.

The two component inputs weren't a problem until I got an HD cable box when I switched to Verizon last month. Prior to that I had a standard cable box, a Blu-ray player and an Apple TV hooked up, but the HD cable box makes three devices, and so I need either a component video switch, or to buy a new TV.

My initial search has turned up three choices, none of which I'm certain about:

StarTech's 4 to 1 Audio/Video Switch
This one is both the cheapest, and also has audio and video inputs for four devices, which is appealing. And it's only $29.99, which is both amazing and troubling at the same time. I have cables that cost that much, so it's got me wondering if it might not be a bit too "cheap?" It's rated at 3 and a half stars on Amazon, and only has 11 comments, many positive;
"With no picture or sound loss, I have been able to hook up 3 input devices (I have 1 port avail. for future) to that 1 component input on the TV"
"I am very happy with my purchase; the switch works perfectly and integrated nicely with our setup"
But then:
"There is however a slight video degradation and the unit seems susceptible to interference when it's close to other devices. Pass on this device if you're very demanding about your video quality."
"I noticed no degradation in the signal from the DVD player (480p) but there was definitely an inferior signal with high-definition TV channels (1080i)."

SVAT HD High Definition Component Video/Digital Audio 3 to 1 Source Selector Switch with Remote Control
At $49.99, 4 1/2 stars and 30 reviews, this one seems like a better choice. Most people seem happy with it; though not with the remote:
"This product provides all the functionality I needed for component switching and it does it well. A small annoyance is that the remote control does not work as well as we all have grown to expect. It seems weak, so one must be relatively close (within 6-7 ft)to the actual switch. In addition the remote must be held at virtually the same level as the switch itself."
"If you are looking for a switch, because your old one does not switch HD fast enough to preserve synch (you know who you, are IF you have this issue),then this unit is not for you. Otherwise, if you are just switching your component video games from one to another, this switch is fine."

Cables to Go: 40324 - 3-Play Component Video Digital Audio Selector
This box looks so similar to the SVAT, I can't help thinking they may not be the same box. This one's $47.14, rated 4 1/2 stars and has 184 reviews, so it looks like it's sold more than the other units. But there is at least one troubling negative review:
"I bought this switcher because of the high review scores but I've had two of them not work for me and ultimately had to send them both back and get a refund. When running the Nintendo Wii through it I would often get sync loss and flickering anytime a bright white screen came on (which happened a lot in Super Mario Galaxy)."

So now I have to make a decision. If anyone has an opinion or experience with any of these, I'd be happy to hear from you!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Philip Bloom on the T2i

Not a huge surprise, but Philip Bloom basically likes the T2i. It doesn't have the build quality, and some of the features of the 7D, but the video quality seems to be practically identical.

And Orange Video Productions has a comparison/perspective on the T2i vs. 7D:

So. Am I going to toss 7D away and get another T2i? NO.
Am I going to return T2i and get another 7D? NO.
I would still feel more comfortable having 7D around, but I see absoutely no reason not to buy T2i as your first HDSLR camera (for the video use, of course).
I personally like 7D because it's slightly bigger, heavier and weather-resistant.

Story Beyond The Still Chapter 2 Winner Chosen

"Job Security" won the first round of the Story Beyond The Still competition (remember that this is Chapter 2, as Chapter 1 kicked off the competition.)

And wow! It's pretty unbelievable. They put a huge amount of effort into producing this video (where'd they get the prop chest?!) This really poses a challenge for the next round contestants; if I was thinking of entering the competition now I think I'd be even more intimidated!

Get to work, you have until March 22nd to enter the next round!

Job Security from Runner Runner on Vimeo.

Here are the credits for Chapter 2:

Credits for "Job Security" from Runner Runner on Vimeo.

BOSFCPUG Workflow Mixer, March 24th

The Wednesday, March 24th BOSFCPUG workflow mixer will be held at the New England Institute of Art at 303 Boylston Street in Brookline, MA.

Topics include: Boston's first public viewing of a new super-secret software tool from Intelligent Assistance Founder Philip Hodgetts that will revolutionize media tracking in Final Cut Pro; and David Bigelow and David Gutter of Gray Matter Entertainment, and special guest Hayes McCarthy of Hasbro's Cakemix Studios discuss RED Commercial Production and Post at Hasbro's Cakemix Studios.

The registration link was supposed to go live yesterday, but at the moment it is still dormant.

Boxee beta on AppleTV

AppleTV support was dropped from Boxee when they introduced the beta in December, but now support is back.

Inside YouTube

At Cnet there is a video - really a slideshow - showing what it's like at YouTube, with various employees talking about the company. I'm not sure if it's an ad or a news report, but if you're curious what their office space is like, take a look (no pictures of the server farm though.)
CNET: So stupendous living in this YouTube

Thursday, February 25, 2010

5D Mark II firmware due March 17th? seems to think so. They also seem to think that in addition to 24p/25p, it will have Live Histogram for Video and Sound Level Control.

I'm sure all those features will be welcome, though I'll be shocked if the latter is true; they didn't put either of these features into the 7D or T2i, so unless they are trying to make the 5D Mark II into a "professional" model versus the other two, it would seem odd to add this feature and not do it for those cameras as well....(wait for the internet groundswell of conspiracy theories!)

They also mention that there's no word on 60fps (which would be 720p) but I'm pretty sure the consensus a few weeks back was that 60fps would not be in this release.

UPDATE: A screenshot from a Canon presentation suggests that those features (Histogram and Sound Level Control) are indeed coming! Interestingly, shutter and aperture priority modes, as well as a change in audio sampling from 44.1 to 48 KHz is also mentioned!

The end of the video store?

Blockbuster just announced a $435 million loss. It seems that people have moved to Netflix and/or online. Certainly, they aren't buying DVDs.

Apple needs to get serious about TV

Greg Sandoval at CNet thinks it's time for Apple to get serious about TV (or more accurately, time to fix the Apple TV .) With Wal-Mart acquiring Vudu, the stakes have been raised.

Of course, this is nothing new. There have been complaints about the Apple TV since it's introduction, and more recently a rumor that Apple is looking at upgrading the Apple TV OS to something more like the iPhone OS.

While this might happen, I don't think it will happen soon. Apple is going to be busy focusing on the iPad (and iPhone) and probably hoping to sell more video to iPad users.I don't see investing in the Apple TV being a priority for them. And believe me, I wish they would, since I own an Apple TV.

CNET: Time for Apple to get serious about video

Canon T2i (550D) user report

Filmmaker, DP and producer Nino Leitner has a blog, and his latest post is about his impressions of the Canon 550D (T2i). A short film he shot called "February" is included. It was shot using a pre-production 550D that shows lots of selective focus fun; note that it was shot using the "flattened" picture preset and there's been no color grading, so the colors are not as punchy as you might see in other clips.

The article is particularly interesting because he had considered getting a 5D Mark II over a year ago, but ended up buying a Sony EX3.

I went with the EX3 and have never regretted that choice.
Nevertheless, I always – of course, like everybody else – was striving for a filmic look on some jobs and projects. At that point already I decided that a DoF adapter like e.g. a Letus wasn’t the way to go for me. I don’t want to loose more light and is an overall too bulky setup to use on a regular basis.
To make a long story short: I decided a while ago that I needed an additional camera for a different purpose to supplement my EX3 setup. And I think I might have waited long enough with the purchase – because I just found my future camera with the new Canon EOS 550D (or Rebel T2i, how it’s called in the US).

He concludes that if you don't have a HD DSLR you should buy this camera. And even if you do have a 5D or 7D you should buy this camera; it's "the perfect back-up camera."

Nino film: UPDATED with short film “FEBRUARY” – Canon EOS 550D / Rebel T2i review (pre-production model)

From Still to Motion: A photographer's guide to creating video with your DSLR is conducting a poll on their Facebook page to choose which sample chapter to post from their book. Find the poll here: We'd like to share a free sample chapter from the book. Which one would you like to see most?

    You can Pre-order from for $31.49: From Still to Motion: A photographer's guide to creating video with your DSLR (Voices That Matter)

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Rob Haggart interviews Vincent Laforet

    At his A PhotoEditor site Rob Haggart interviews Vincent Laforet about his "his transition from newspaper photographer to Hollywood commercial director" and working with HDSLRs.
    Compared to RED camera for example, an HDSLR production can come in at half to a third of the price. Because of the weight of the camera, it’s sensitivity to light, and the support systems– you don’t need as large of a crew and it’s also significantly faster to set up and take down (again related to weight and size). And, it can look better in certain instances. These cameras shoot on a full frame sensor and they are astonishing in low light. Nothing comes close to it in low light. Another key factor is that these cameras can better take advantage of available light like few other cameras can – this means that you don’t necessarily have to bring in cube trucks full of lighting equipment in some instances – and obviously lighting is not only a big line item in any budget – it also contributes to more than a 1/3 of production day in terms of pre-lighting etc. That being said – and this is important: there is no substitute for good lighting! These HDSLRS just allow you to get away with a LOT more.
    Vincent Laforet Goes Beyond The Still

    And check Vincent's own post: So What Does An HDSLR Hybrid Shoot Look Like?

    And the HXR-FMU128 too

    Is also in stock at B&H Photo, ($500 rebate applies until 3/31).

    Upgrading the HXR-NX5U to PAL

    Adam Welz has a blog on NXCAM (and the HXR-NX5U.) He's posted about his experiences getting the camera upgraded to support PAL formats (25p, 50i). He notes two issues;
    1. The camera reboots when you switch modes
    2. You have to reformat the media to record in the different modes
    Not deal breakers, but something you might like to know.

    WorldCam upgrade of HXR-NX5U: Some limitations encountered

    Canon T2i SLR Kit w/ EF-S/18-55 IS is also in stock

    Well, since I posted about the HXR-NX5U, I guess I should add that the Canon T2i SLR Kit w/ EF-S/18-55 IS is also in stock at B&H (but not the body alone.)

    It's not at Amazon yet...if I didn't have the 7D, I'd be all over this camera.

    HXR-NX5U in stock at B&H

    Just got an email notification that the Sony HXR-NX5U is in stock at B&H Photo, and as of right now it is still listed "In Stock".

    Now, if only I could afford one...

    "The Story Beyond The Still" - Chapter 2 voting

    Five finalists have been chosen for the first round (but second chapter) of "The Story Beyond The Still" competition, and you can vote. I must admit, I didn't even realize there was a public voting phase. Vote quickly; on February 26th, the winner will be announced and a new still will guide the way for Chapter 3 entries.

    March workshops at Rule

    Just got an email about upcoming events at Rule | Boston Camera (though they aren't up on their events page.)

    Mar 3 10am-12pm
    Shoot Edit, Deliver with Apple, Matrox and Panasonic

    Mar 10 10am-12pm
    Green is Good: Integrating Environmentally-conscious Lights Into Your TV Studio Design

    Mar 17 10am-12pm
    Updated & New: Sony XDCAM & NXCAM

    Mar 24 10am-12pm
    Camera Assistant Workshop

    Mar 31 10am-12pm
    Acquire, Edit and Convert with AJA's Ki Pro, Io Express and mini-converters

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    ABC News to Cut Hundreds of Staff

    About 25 percent of ABC's news division will be affected by planned buyouts and layoffs.

    Sony HXR-NX5 - "Shockingly Good"

    Philip Johnston at HD Warrior has an HXR-NX5, and though he hasn't been able to do a real review, he has posted his initial thoughts. While he's critical of the rotary shutter button, and the over-cranking isn't up to much, but in general he loves it:
    I did not know what to expect with this camcorder but after Mondays shoot looking at the pictures side by side with the PMW-350 I am still reeling from shock at the fantastic pictures this camcorder produces compared to the 350. In other words and I can’t quite believe I am writing this but there is little to choose between the two cameras.

    Caprica Video Production Podcast

    The From Still to Motion's facebook page had a status update today that was intriguing “Listening to SyFy Caprica podcast... just heard them say that many of the sequences are shot using DSLR with a Lensbaby Composer."

    I’d never even heard of Caprica, but I did a search and found the podcasts. Caprica seems to be something to do with Battlestar Galactica (sequel or prequel or something) I’m really not sure.*

    But at the moment there’s three podcasts up for Episode's 102, 103 and 104, and even if you’re not that interested in the show - I haven't seen it yet! - anyone interested in video production will find them worth listening to. They’re really like DVD director’s commentaries, except that they are a podcast. They feature the executive producer (and others) watching the episode and talking about how it was done and the issues they dealt with.

    I’ve listened to part of Episode 102 and all of Episode 104’s podcast, and I'm intrigued. The first podcast (Episode 102) features executive producer David Eick, and producing director Jonas Pate, and it’s here where they have the discussion about using SLR’s:
    Pate: This opening sequence was not shot in [the] three camera style, it was actually shot with a [SLR]. And we put a funky little lens on the front of it called a Lensbaby and we shot the whole thing incredibly quickly in probably…I dunno, 30 minutes. Increasingly the digital technologies are allowing camera guys to work quicker
    Eick: Well yeah, what it does is it strips any of the mystique of the so-called art of film making, which is to say that anyone listening to this could probably make their own episode of Caprica if you study these podcasts long enough. The technology really has simplified and shrunk.
    In episode 104’s podcast, Eick and Pate are joined by actors Paula Malcomson and Sasha Roiz, and in addition to production details, there’s a lot more talk about acting and production from the actors point of view. At one point they talk about problems in shooting a sequence in a car:
    Roiz: Now this was all re-shoot
    Eick:Yeah, well because Jonas had this bright idea that we could shoot this all on a…like Viewmaster or whatever it was..
    Pate: Yeah, I screwed the pooch on that one…we convinced Watkins to shoot on these tiny little kind of lipstick cameras, but the lenses were so wide that it made it feel too comic….[] so when we had a chance to redo it , and we also shot originally during the day and it just wasn’t ominous enough
    Roiz: Oh yeah, I remember we shot during the day and it was really hot….we had Steve McNutter the DP in the back seat with you, and we had Michael Watkins [the Director] in the front shooting one […] and it was very difficult to create that kind of energy because it was day time and we had these two guys in the car right there, cameras right in the face.
    Eick And then [to Pate] you shot the reshoot? Was that Poor Man’s Process or were you out on the road?
    Pate: No, I despise Poor Man’s Process. For those of you who don’t know, the Poor Man’s Process is when you shoot a scene in a car in a static way and you just have lights and things going on in the background. You see it in a lot of old TV shows. But I like to be actually on the road. I feel like you can feel it. I’ve never seen a Poor Man’s that you can’t tell.
    Not even being familiar with the term “Poor Man’s Process” – at first I wasn’t sure that was what they were saying - I did a search and turned up Devon DeLapp’s description of Poor Man’s Process, with a nice sketch;
    Headlights mounted on rolling stands, with black cloth draped between them, served as cars. Crew members hid behind the draping and slowly moved these lights back and forth. To create the illusion of depth, smaller flashlights were used on the rear carts. Next to them, a separate cart with red lights simulated tail lights.
    Other things you’ll learn in the Episode 104 podcast include: why it’s important to have someone to hate on set, the difficulties of finding “non-American” cars, and why Paula Malcomson wants to kill the person who invented HD.

    They also give a shout out to Bear McCreary - who does the music for the show - and his a blog. In his post Caprica: Gravedancing, McCreary goes through how he scored the episode, with actual music samples (and music) for different audio cues, as well as how he went about getting others to write music for the episode. Definitely worth reading.
    Brendan composing “I am a Man” was essential not only because he’s a better songwriter than I am, but because it allowed me time to focus on the score of the same sequence. Once Brendan’s first sketch was complete, I took his key, tempo and groove and began translating them into the “Caprica” instrumentation. Guitars, bass, drums and keyboards were replaced with shime daikos, nagado daikos, hand percussion, gamelan, harp and piano. The resultant track sounds nothing like doo-wop at all:
    Now I think I have to watch an episode, just to find out what they are all talking about!

    *I lied. I did a Wiki search after I wrote that and established that Caprica is set 58 years before the events in Battlestar Galactica.

    Shoot, Edit, Deliver - 2010 Matrox Road Tour March 3

    Apple and Matrox are conducting a video editing workflow presentation at Rule Broadcast Systems, Boston on March 3rd. An Apple representative will demonstrate Final Cut Pro and Compressor and Matrox will showcase H.264 encoding accelerators and audio/video input/output devices.

    Register: Shoot, Edit, Deliver - 2010 Matrox Road Tour
    March 3, 10:00AM - 12:00PM,
    Rule Broadcast Systems, Boston

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Some un-video news

    Sony pushing for consumer 3D cameras
    Put this under the category of "hardly surprising," but DP Review is reporting that Masashi ‘Tiger’ Imamura, President of Sony’s Personal Imaging and Sound Business group told them Sony is pushing to produce a 3D digital camera.

    A still camera? A video camera? Consumer or professional? Nobody knows...I'm just hoping that if I lie down, this whole 3D thing will blow over...

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV review
    DP Review also has it's full review up for the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV. Interestingly, they aren't too happy about it's video functionality. While they say "the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV offers Canon's most sophisticated implementation to date," the video formats the camera supports seem to be the same as those of the Canon 7D. Worse, the EOS-1D lacks the dedicated video mode button of the 7D and functions more like the 5D Mark III. To shoot video you first go to Settings to set up the Live View mode:
    Once this is done, activating Live View primes the camera to shoot video, and filming commences when the FEL button is pressed (you can set up FEL to both start Live View and movie recording but again, only if you have live view set to movie mode).

    This two-stage system is oddly labor-intensive compared to the EOS 7D, and can inevitably result in lost video opportunities if you happen to have the camera set to the wrong Live View mode at a crucial moment. It seems likely that Canon wanted to maintain as close to ergonomic parity with the EOS 1D Mark III as possible, but we can't help thinking that this is a missed opportunity to make video shooting easier.
    I would note that I don't know why anyone would buy this camera if their primary purpose is to shoot video. They'd be better off buying the 7D (or even the T2i!) The 1D Mark IV might do slightly better in low light than the 7D, but you're really paying for that.

    SanDisk Ships 64GB SDXC card
    Just in time for the CanonRebel T2i, SanDisk has announced a 64GB SDXC card. Yours for $349.99 - Ouch!

    Where The Rubber Meets The Road: 2010 Encoder Comparison

    Jan Ozer at has put together their annual look at the features and output of video encoding tools in four categories: free, standalone, enterprise-grade, and hardware co-processor.

    There's some interesting notes, including another bash at the quality of Apple's H.264 compressor (it seems they really need to do something about that):
    In terms of [H.264] quality, codec vendors MainConcept (Adobe Media Encoder, Sorenson Squeeze, Rhozet Carbon Coder) and Dicas (Telestream Episode) have been doing an interesting dance for the past couple of years. Specifically, first, MainConcept would pull ahead, then Dicas would catch up, then MainConcept would pull ahead again. In June 2009, the codecs were about even; by the end of the year, MainConcept was ahead again.

    That said, while it’s noticeable in side-by-side comparisons, the difference isn’t commercially relevant because viewers rarely see side-by-side comparisons. On the other hand, Apple’s codec is a clear step behind and shouldn’t be used unless you have bandwidth to burn and don’t need the optimum data rate/quality mix. The big surprise this year was the quality of the H.264 encoding offered by Microsoft Expression Encoder, which is almost indistinguishable from MainConcept; it’s a pretty incredible performance for a rookie codec.
    The comparison includes Apple's Compressor, Microsoft Expression Encoder, Rhozet Carbon Coder, Sorenson Squeeze, Telestream Episode and Adobe Media Encoder.

    Streaming Media: Where The Rubber Meets The Road: 2010 Encoder Comparison

    Blogging "City Island" has another installment from Raymond De Felitta, the writer/director of the upcoming City Island, on his experiences in getting the film made. In the latest installment, he writes about casting problems, and how getting the first thing you ask for can sometimes be a problem:
    Ultimately, though, I began to sense that the problem was one of expectations. You see, nobody really expects the first person you offer a movie to take it. Once Michael said yes, I think my producers began to wonder along these lines: "If the first guy who we tried loves it, maybe we can get..." And the names start swirling about: De Niro! Bruce Willis! John Travolta! You name it.
    It's interesting to read through to the - totally expected - conclusion.

    timelapse deflicker

    I've been experimenting with timelapse sequences, taken using a DSLR, and got pretty good results. The only problem is some noticeable flicker.

    After some searching, I found a filter plug-in called GBDeflicker that seems to do a good job of removing - or minimizing - the flicker. And the price is reasonable too: just $79.00

    That's the good news.

    The bad news is that it doesn't work with Final Cut Pro, it only works with Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Premiere Elements. And I don't have a recent (i.e. HD capable) version of any of those.

    Out of curiosity, I downloaded the 30-day trial of Premiere Elements, and the 15-day trial of the software of GBDeflicker and gave it a run through. If you look at the two examples (before and after) you can see that the flicker has been reduced noticeably - and this is only with the standard settings, I didn't try experimenting with the parameters.

    Now I have to figure out if I want to get one of those programs just to be able to use this plug-in.

    Getting rid of the crew

    I just worked on a studio show this past Friday where I'm pretty sure the director would have liked to have replaced some of the cameramen, and now it seems it's possible to replace them.....and maybe the director as well!

    Dubbed the Autonomous Production of Images based on Distributed and Intelligent Sensing (APIDIS), the system combines the video stream from several cameras, says Christophe De Vleeschouwer at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), in Belgium.

    Tracking a ball across various video streams is relatively easy, says De Vleeschouwer, but viewers also want to see what the players are up to. So APIDIS aims for a shot of the action that is a compromise between focusing on the ball and wider views of the pitch by tracking the ball and players simultaneously, calculating which camera captures the most detai

    While this may be appealing for sports, I'm not sure if this will work so well for dramatic production. The idea of having multiple views and then having the viewer choose what they want to focus on sounds appealing, now and again, but I'm not sure most people want to spend their time choosing what they want to watch. It sounds more like a game, than an entertainment.

    New Scientist: Robot film crew knows what sports fans like