Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dual recording with the H4n

If you're shooting with a DSLR or a budget camcorder, you've probably run into the limitations of internal mics. While buying a better mic is half the solution, actually connecting it to the camera can still be a problem, particularly if you want to use professional condenser mics that require phantom power. Adapters like the Beachtek DXA-6A Audio Adapter are one solution (depending on your camera and mic combination) but things can get awfully messy; the adapter box is one more thing to deal with. Sometimes it's easier - and simpler - to use a separate recording device.

In the realm of portable recording devices there's a lot of choices, with no obvious "right" one, though the Zoom H4n is inexpensive and has proved popular with low-budget and independent filmmakers. Philip Bloom says of the H4n:
The Zoom H4n is a remarkable little device. It records everything from .mp3 48khz to 24bit 96khz. It has built in stereo condenser microphones and two XLR inputs which means you can record 4 channels of audio at the same time. It records onto SD cards and runs on 2AA batteries for about ten hours. It costs about $349.
Even better, it's selling for about $299 now.

Sam Mallery, in an article for B & H says of the H4n:
Not only does the H4n offer one of the best bang-for-the-buck ratios out there, ...[it] is a bit of a Swiss Army Knife production tool. Not only can it serve as an external recorder for DSLR video work, it can also act as an audio interface for your computer.
The H4n is light and easy to use. The shell is plastic, but it seems reasonably rugged. You might want to get a case to protect it; especially the microphones at the top of it. It’s not large, but it won’t fit in your pocket. If you want something smaller (the H4n is 2.75 x 6.1 x 1.4) you might want to look at the Edirol R-09HR (2.5 x 4.5 x 1.1) or the Sony PCM-M10 (2.5 x 4.5 x 0.9).

The H4n has phantom powered XLR and balanced ¼” jacks and two external mics. You can record 4 tracks at once, though in that mode two of the tracks are the built-in mics. Sampling can go as high as 96lHz/24-bit.

One nice bonus is that the H4n can be used as a computer interface; useful for recording directly to your computer. It comes with Cubase LE software.

The LCD screen is large and bright, and dims after a few minutes of inactivity to save power. The H4n runs on AA alkaline or NiMH batteries – you’ll get about three hours – and comes with an AC adapter. The RC4 Remote Control is sold separately, and costs $26.95.

There’s a speaker for playback, though you’ll want to use headphones for better - and more accurate - monitoring. Most users seem to be impressed by the quality of the built-in mics; it’s better than most camcorder mics but not as good as a quality mic.

Recording Dual Audio
Dual recording can seem intimidating, but is surprisingly easy when your camcorder has a built-in mic. All you need to do is record a sync sound at the beginning of each take that's recorded by both the camera mic and the external recorder. A clapboard can be useful for this, but is not required; simply clapping your hands can be enough. It's important to have a short, sharp sound that quickly peaks so you can easily identify the same point in time on both tracks. Make sure both recording devices are close enough to the sound source to capture it clearly.

It's a good idea to slate (clap) at the beginning and at the end of the recording. That way, when you sync the two tracks up in your editing environment you can make sure there's no drift. If there is a significant difference between the two tracks at the end, then it's possible you have a problem with your settings not matching when bringing the tracks into your editing environment (for example, see: Audio drift issues in Final Cut Pro.)


Another action camera

The small rugged action camera category seems to be expanding rapidly. First the Contour HD and the GoPro HD, and now comes the Drift Innovation X170.

The really interesting thing about this one is that it comes with a wireless RF remote control. It also has an LCD display and fairly large control buttons on it's side, which should make operation much easier; I find the Coutour HD a little lacking in that department. The Drift is larger than the Contour, but for many situations I'd be willing to sacrifice a bit of size for easier control and operation.

Unfortunately, it only captures 720 x 480 i.e. Standard Def. A 720p camera would have been useful - and useable - but SD is too big of a loss.

Creative COW CS5 Videos

Richard Harrington has posted some videos at Creative COW on various features in the new Adobe Creative Suite 5. They are short overviews (less than five minutes long) that feature really clear video/screen captures and are a good quick introduction.

I've listed the After Effects ones below, though he's also done a couple of Photoshop ones:

  • After Effects CS5: Black & White Adjustment (adjustment layer for creating black & white effects/adjustments)
  • After Effects CS5: Color Finesse (color adjusting and grading plug-in for After Effects that does some of the things found in Apple Color)
  • After Effects CS5: Working with 64-Bit (shows how you can assign and manage RAM within the suite when running in 64-bit, and even assign multi-processor cores to specific applications.)
  • After Effects CS5: Rotobrush

Friday, April 16, 2010

Zeiss Leightweight Zoom

If those Zeiss Compact Lenses are a bit outside your price range, then perhaps the Zeiss Lightweight Zoom LWZ.2 might be an option? Focal range is 15.5 - 45mm, with aperture T2.6-T22. It will be available in PL, EF and F mounts, though note that it will fit APS-C sizes sensors, but not full-frame sensors.

Compared to the Compact Primes, you're gaining a zoom range, but losing the full-frame compatability, so Canon 5D owners need not apply. I'm guessing the net effect will be a price about the same as the Compact Primes ($4,000) and maybe higher. Still, it should be a very nice lens for the DSLR film maker.

No word on availability or price...

Canon XF cameras up for pre-order

It has been pointed out to me that I've been referring to the new Canon's as the FX300/305, rather than the XF300/305. Ouch! I blame it on the fact that I own an FX1...

Anyway, B & H Photo now has the Canon XF300 and XF305 up for pre-order, with a delivery date of "Appox. Arrival June." Price is $6,799 and $7,999.

First Annual Not-the-NAB Awards

It's the end of NAB and it's also our first annual Not-the-NAB Awards [our lawyers felt it was important to be clear that our awards have nothing to do with the NAB organization-Ed] So now it's time to name the most coveted gadgets - and the biggest disappointments - from this years NAB show.

Biggest Surprise
Rather than a company or product, this award goes to the entire industry for the lack of 3D cameras.
I'm not a 3D fan, but I really thought that someone would announce a consumer level 3D camera at the show. Sure, it would be awfully limited, but was it unreasonable to expect one of the big companies (like Sony or Samsung) to do it?
I also thought Sony would roll out - or hint at - a pro-level 3D camera of some sort but if they did, I missed it [they evidently did, but it didn't get much coverage - Ed]. Instead, Sony hinted at a "cinema" kind of digital camera that looks like a RED competitor.

Biggest Tease Award
No price, no specs, and available sometime next year? Sony's Cinema camera was a big tease.

Biggest Disappointment Award
We all knew the Canon XF300/305 was coming, and it actually lived up to expectations in every category except one; price. Of course, since they'd shown a prototype model and mentioned sensor size and the 4:2:2 color space, really the only thing we didn't know was the price.
The sensor size (1/3"), body configuration and fixed lens all made me think it would be sub $5K, and if it had been, then the 4:2:2 color sampling would have really set it apart from the Sony HXR-NX5U. Unfortunately, at $6,799 it's beyond my budget.
I'm not saying it's a bad camera, or even that it's over-priced - that 4:2:2 will surely give Sony EX1 purchasers pause - but it's not what we were hoping for!

Best New Camera Award
The Canon XF300/305. Surprise!
How did the XF300/305 win the Best New Camera Award, and also score the Biggest Disappointment Award? Maybe they are just lucky?
Or maybe there weren't that many interesting cameras announced at the show? Sure Panasonic and JVC upped the specs on their pro-cameras, but those were hardly startling. And the cameras that were serious challengers - the Panasonic 4/3 camera, and the Sony Cinema camera - are still in prototype or so big a tease, that it's impossible to include them.
But let that not detract from the winner. Take away the price disappointment, or even the fact that this is Canon's first solid-state camera, and the 4:2:2 Color Space is enough of a wow to give them the win.
Now we just have to wait for the reviews.

Still Intriguing Award
Sometimes, when there's a lot of pre-hype for something, the expectations get so high that when it finally arrives you can't help but feel disappointed. That doesn't seem to be the case with Adobe CS5, which was officially announced on Tuesday. I'm still intrigued.
But is it a problem when someone asks you about the new version and all you can talk about is one feature: Content Aware fill?

Best Coverage Award
If you couldn't make it to the show, FreshDV did a great job of providing a taste of the trade-floor madness with their video reports.

Has Promise But Award
The Has Promise But award goes to the gadget or product that intrigues us the most, but also has us wondering whether it will meet our expectations. It's still in prototype, but the Red Rock MicroRemote remains a very cool looking device. Yes, the price doubled from what they had first talked about, but the addition of the iPhone/iPod as a controller more than made up for that in the classic calculation of (increased price - increased coolness = unchanged desire.)
But, there are concerns: will it make the new $1,000 price point, or will it be closer to $2,000 once you add in all the bits? Will it work with the first generation iPod Touch I have lying around, or will it only work with an iPhone 3GS? We have to wait and see.

Most Lustworthy Award
Our final award goes to the one device we'd have put under our jacket and walked out with if we'd had the chance. The Red Rock MicroRemote, Canon XF300 and the Zeiss Compact Prime SP.2 lenses were all in the running, but ultimately the Steadicam Tango wins the award for most lust worthy. Putting a small boom on a Steadicam is such an intriguingly fun idea - and would make it possible to capture shots we couldn't do with anything we have - that it has to be the device of the show! It's a real pity it wouldn't fit under our coat.

[UPDATE 12:45PM] Fixed my XF/FX dyslexia.

Nikon to finally go 1080? reports that Nikon has new DSLRs coming [yes, we're shocked-Ed]. The most interesting thing is that Nikon might finally move to 1080p with a camera that does 1080 at 24fps. That's particularly interesting given how well the Nikon D3s did in low light in the recent Great Camera Shootout.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No USB 3.0 on new MacBooks

The first USB 3.0 certified devices only appeared back in January, so I guess we can't really be surprised/upset that the MacBooks just announced don't have USB 3.0. If I'm honest, it hadn't even occurred to me that it was a problem until a friend complained about the lack yesterday. But USB 3.0 devices are starting to appear, and it seems obvious that videocameras will be one market segment that will take advantage of this new spec.

Just this week, Blackmagic announced the $199 Intensity Shuttle - available in May - a 10-bit HDMI and analog video capture and playback box that works with USB 3.0.

 Blackmagic Intensity Shuttle

RED Epic

Some pics of the RED Epic - the 5K camera that is expected sometime in the future - can be found at the website. Actually, the camera is now expected in September.

There's also an update on Scarlet - the cheaper camera that may challenge the Canon 5D and similar cameras. It is expected a couple of months after Epic.

Small HD 4 x 6 HDMI monitor

There's now a web page for the Small HD DP-SLR monitor. It's 1280 x 800 pixels, 4 x 6 x 1 inches, weighs 10 ounces, and will set you back $899 for HDMI version. If you want 3G/HD/SDI it will cost $1199. They are promising delivery within 75 days of the purchase date.

They don't write reviews like they used to...

For some reason, someone thought it was necessary to post the following press release that includes the "analysis" of an LCD TV written for a B2B website in China named Unfortunately, the analysis seems to be a very detailed - yet pointless - description of the product:

BEIJING, April 15 /PRNewswire-Asia/ --, one of China's leading B2B search platforms with more than 30 B2B industry websites to its name, analyzes Haier's LB42R3 LCD TVs

The Haier LB42R3 TV has a predominantly white-coated body, while the left and right sides, and the bottom arc, are adorned with an elegant silver color. Haier uses the world's leading design technology, and the special benzene coating adds a bright and smooth finish.

The Haier LB42R3 TV's corner has lines showing an aesthetic shape, the upper left corner has the "MO-CARD" logo, the lower part of the body has the Haier LOGO icon and has titanium silver metallic color.

The back of the Haier LB42R3 TV also has a white finish, and the upper part, as well as the lower left and right parts, host the ventilation openings. At the lower right corner of the ventilation openings is the TV interface.

The Haier LB42R3 TV interface has S / AV input terminals / HTMI terminal * 2/RF radio terminal and a group of AV output terminals. The interface settings are more comprehensive, which can fully meet the daily needs of the user.

In addition there are HDMI interfaces, USB2.0 interface, streaming media, which is easy access for digital cameras, mobile hard disk, U disk and other digital devices and removable storage devices, and HD TS stream, HD RMVB / RM format, online video, movies, etc. and also has 11 groups of headphone jack, and of course, VGA and other. There is also the option to wall-mount the TV.

About is a promising e-commerce company and a leading vertical search engine company in China. offers a variety of high quality products such as leather executive chairs, freeview recorderhs, curved showers and many more.

3D Health Warnings

I always enjoy those warnings in Japanese electronics manuals against bathing with your electrical device, or putting it in a blender. But now it appears that 3D TVs are dangerous even when used the way they are intended, if the warnings that Samsung has posted are to be believed:

  • Children and teenagers may be more susceptible to health issues associated with viewing in 3D and should be closely supervised when viewing these images.

  • Some viewers may experience an epileptic seizure or stroke when exposed to certain flashing images or lights contained in certain television pictures or video games. If you suffer from, or have a family history of epilepsy or strokes, please consult with a medical specialist before using the 3D function.
  • Even those without a personal or family history of epilepsy or stroke may have an undiagnosed condition that can cause photosensitive epileptic seizures.
  • Pregnant women, the elderly, sufferers of serious medical conditions, those who are sleep deprived or under the influence of alcohol should avoid utilising the unit’s 3D functionality.
  • If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop viewing 3D pictures immediately and consult a medical specialist:
     1. altered vision;
     2. lightheadedness;
     3. dizziness;
     4. involuntary movements such as eye or muscle twitching;
     5. confusion;
     6. nausea;
     7. convulsions;
     8. cramps; and/ or
     9. disorientation.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

via: MacWorld

Zacuto HD DSLR mount with Zeiss lens

Zeiss' Compact Prime lenses won't be available until June, but that doesn't mean you can't see some cool eye candy and get all excited about it....Zacuto has a short video that shows their new DSLR Baseplate System being used with a Zeiss Compact Prime lens.

Notice that the CP lens has a 1/4 20 mounting area on the lens as a secondary support to prevent movement of the camera/lens when focusing the lens. - Man! That's a big piece of glass!

Zacuto: ZEISS Compact Prime CP.2 Lenses hits the HDSLR Market!

[UPDATE 12:45PM] Individual list price for the Compact Prime lenses is $3,900! Or buy them all in a set for about $3,300 each!

Dashwood 3D

Surprisingly (because I am a 3D skeptic), one of the most interesting talks at the SuperMeet meeting was Tim Dashwood's do-it-yourself 3D demo.

After introducing the concept of interocular separation (the distance between the eyes, which is about 2.5 inches) he warned that it's important to avoid too much convergence; things coming "close" and forcing the viewers eyes to cross.  Excessive convergence is okay only for a fraction of a second (i.e. for quick gags) but must be avoided otherwise. Remember the 1/30 rule he advised: interocular x 30 = closest subject.

Note that while interocular is used for the distance between eyes, interaxial is the correct term for the distance between the two lenses; except that a lot of people use interocular for both.

The opposite of convergence is divergence, which he said is really, really bad and must be avoided too.

Tim demoed a basic rig he built for two Canon T2i's using a 4 x 6 inch piece of 50/50 beam splitter glass that cost about $7.

Beam-splitter rig with two Canon T2i's

It's important to have two cameras that are the same model, and he offered these tips for setting them up:

  • Use the same make and model of camera
  • Use manual exposure with the same ISO/Exposure/Shutter Speed/Iris/WB
  • Use manual focus and then lock it in place with some camera tape
  • Turn off image stabilization
  • Reset camera file system so file numbers for L & R correspond
  • Use a remote IR or LANC controller to trigger both cameras simultanously
If gunlock is not available, he recommends using the highest frame rate you have as well as a clapper to help you sync the clips.

Tim has developed a plug-in for Final Cut, Motion and After Effects that helps align two stereo clips, as well as produce output in different formats: Side-by-side, Over/Under, Anaglyph, etc. You can adjust the alignment and horizontal and vertical disparity of the two clips, and crop the frame as needed. You can also adjust convergence, providing a creative tool for adjusting the depth effect after the shot has been recorded.

The Stereo 3D Toolbox plug-in is available as a free demo version (it adds a water-mark to the output) or a license is available for $389.

Finally, if you're looking for a way to distribute your video, YouTube accepts 3D content as a side-by-side upload and then plays it back using different playback options. When you upload the source, you add the following tags so that YouTube knows how to handle it:
yt3d:enable=true yt3d:swap=true yt3d:aspect=16:9
- YouTube Tags

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Canon 7D Firmware Update Version 1.2.1

Firmware Version 1.2.1 incorporates the following improvements and fixes.
  1. Extends the timing at which the high temperature warning indicator is displayed and the timing of automatic shut down of the camera due to a rise in internal temperature during Live View or EOS Movie functions.
  2. Optimizes program shift when the ISO setting of the camera is set to AUTO.
  3. Corrects a misspelling in the French-language menu.
  4. Corrects a phenomenon in which vertical magenta-colored banding appears in still images taken in movie-shooting mode.
    (This only occurs when in Manual exposure mode and when the ISO speed is set to "H". Note that this phenomenon only affects units with Firmware Version 1.2.0)

Canon Digital Learning Center Classes

A couple of educational resources from Canon were high-lighted at yesterdays SuperMeet: the web page Canon Digital Learning Center collects together news, information, tips & techniques for Canon users and owners. Canon Live Learning is Canon's offering of Workshops and Classes that are conducted throughout the country.

A couple of current offerings of HD Video are intriguing; a one-day course that costs $300 and is being offered in ten cities, and a three day advanced course that costs $1,400 and is being offered in four cities.

Exploring HD Video with EOS $300 9:00AM - 5:00PM
Learn from Explorer of Light Bob Davis in this hands-on workshop. Bob Davis is an award-winning photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times who has now mastered the techniques of EOS HD video. You’ll learn core skills ranging from producing, directing, and lighting, to camera operation and scene creation. Bob will discuss lens selection, camera support and audio consideration as you work in small groups to shoot a dramatic scene. You will come away with the techniques and skills to create your own HD video masterpiece.
  • San Diego: 04/15
  • Chicago: 5/16
  • Houston: 5/23
  • Minneapolis: 6/13
  • New York: 6/20
  • San Francisco: 6/27
  • Hartford: 9/26
  • Los Angeles: 10/3
  • Atlanta: 10/24
  • Fort Lauderdale: 11/14

EOS Moving Image Workshop - Beyond the Still $1,399 9:00AM - 5:00PM
This hands-on workshop, lead by industry leaders who are actively using the Canon HD SLR technology, 5D Mark II, 7D and EOS-1D Mark IV in professional film and video productions, will include camera applications, menus, lighting, workflow and post production options. Balancing creative opportunity with technical understanding, this dynamic event is designed to quickly build skills that allow you to craft beautiful moving images that optimize the possibility of the technology.

Participants will learn:
  • Camera set up for stills and video
  • Prepping your Camera Package
  • Monitoring Overview
  • Exposure Lab
  • Motion Lab: focusing and camera rigs
  • Lighting: Color temperature, scene matching, green screen
  • Hands on shooting assignments with instructors screening critique
  • Editing Software Workflow: Software Options, Hands on Demos, and Workflow choices
Hands-on shooting with 5D Mark II, 7D and EOS-1D Mark IV.

Workshops are limited to 40 people. Participants should be prepared to bring their own laptop (laptop loans are available), please see laptop requirements on registration confirmation.
  • Los Angeles: 5/22-5/24
  • Chicago: 6/18-6/20
  • San Francisco: 8/13-8/15
  • New York: 10/25-10/27

Manfrotto 504HD for DSLR users

Manfrotto has a new tripod head, the 504HD, designed for “cross over” (i.e. DSLR) users. This head looks interesting as it's easily balanced (and adjusted) for cameras that are mounted on other rigs and therefore might be forward heavy or otherwise oddly-balanced. It will be available end of June, and with a good set of sticks - and a bag - it will cost about $750.

The following comes from their web site:
The bridge design improves the head's rigidity and its PAN friction control is fast, simple to fine-tune and protected from knocks. The PAN axis rotation unit uses ball bearings for smooth, vibration-free movement that can be adjusted using the head's FDS variable friction system.

The 504HD has a load capacity of up to 7.5kg (16.5lb.) The CBS counterbalance system has 4 presets for a full range of camera weights (0, 2.5kg-5.5lb, 5kg-11lb and 7.5kg-16.5lb). Two 3/8” threads on the top plate allow accessories (such as monitors and arms) to be directly attached to the head.

The 504HD is suitable for Manfrotto PRO series video tripods with mid-level or ground spreaders and for carbon fiber single-leg MPRO tripods.
DSLR News Shooter has a video with Wayne Shulman of Manfrotto at NAB demoing the 504HD

DSLR News Shooter: Manfrotto launches tripod aimed at video DSLR at NAB 2010
Manfrotto: 504HD PRO VIDEO HEAD 75

[UPDATE 11:10PM] The 504 HD head, as well as combinations with different legs, are already listed on Amazon's site:

I see that B & H has it listed as well, (and with different tripods) and they say delivery in 7 - 14 days, but that doesn't match the quoted June date:
B & H: Manfrotto 504HD PRO VIDEO FLUID HEAD $400

Las Vegas SuperMeet at NAB

Last night was the Las Vegas SuperMeet, the semi-regular get together of video editors sponsored by various Final Cut Pro user groups; there are over 60 throughout the world. Here are some highlights from the event:

Paul McAniff from Canon talked up their new solid-state camcorders. Noting that some in the crowd at the SuperMeet were probably hoping for bigger sensors, he pointed out that there was still a large market for cameras like the XF300/305 for electronic news gathering and similar tasks. He also noted that there were many issues with going to larger sensors; as one example, the cost of a lens equivalent to the zoom range on the XF models would be very high. He said that there wasn’t going to be a large sensor camcorder “this year,” then quickly added that he was not insinuating that there would be one next year.

He claimed that the 1/3 inch sensors in the XF camcorders had the sensitivity of some competing 1/2 inch sensors. He also said that the lens had no fluorite and very low chromatic aberration. According to Wikipedia, fluorite “has a very low dispersion, so lenses made from it exhibit less chromatic aberration” but the Wikipedia doesn’t explain what the negatives of fluorite are (i.e. why Canon would be talking up the fact that they weren't using it, and Paul didn't explain why either.)

Canon also brought along Alex Buono, a cinematographer at the NBC Saturday Night Live Film Unit. The Film Unit shoots everything that's not live, and they used to use film – which was, he said, insane - but have now transitioned to digital. They first used P2 cameras, and this season they started using DSLRs.

Their workflow is even more compressed than I had imagined; they get scripts on Wednesday, prep on Thursday, and shoot on Friday. This seasons opening was shot 75% on the Canon 5D and 25% on the 7D. The slow-motion shots were made with the 7D, while the 5D was used for some time-lapse material.

He said that the low-light capability of the DSLRs was really important as it enabled them to shoot in available light in New York City. The opening was cut with Final Cut Pro and color corrected in Flame, though for other projects they often use Color.

Alex noted that for the Prius spot they mixed material shot on a RED with material shot on the 5D; “I don't think you'll be able to tell the difference. We couldn't when we were color correcting it.” He suggested that because of the delays required in ingesting RED footage, and the minimal difference in results, there would probably be resistance to using the RED again now that they have become comfortable with the DSLRs.

After talking about how they had used a wheelchair as a dolly for one spot, he was asked about the rigs they use with the camera. He said that things are constantly evolving as new rigs come out; they’d started with a Zacuto, and they also have a rig from Red Rock Micro. DSLRs are great for shooting gorilla style, he said, though they can also be mounted on real dollys.

Adobe CS5
Adobe Senior World Wide Evangelist Jason Levine attempted to spread the love with CS5, "64-bit, pure Cocoa!," and the ability to round trip; export to XML from Final Cut Pro, edit in Premiere, and then go back to Final Cut – “completing the circle of love.”

He demoed the Roto brush in After Effects, which is almost – but not quite – as amazing as Photoshop’s Content Aware fill. He also demoed the latter and it was just as amazing as the first time I saw it.

Angus MacKay from Avid quickly turned it over to Misha Tenenbaum to talk about Avid MediaComposer 5.0. Misha is an editor, producer and script writer, though as he noted, everyone in Hollywood has a script. Praising the Canon 7D because “it’s small, cheap and can fit anywhere” he demoed Avid’s new improved handling for different media formats stored in different locations. I guess that previously everything had to be ingested and stored where MediaComposer wanted to put it, so now a lot of media management time can be saved.

Steve Bayes from Apple had the unenviable task of presenting to a meeting of Final Cut Users at a big trade show with essentially nothing new. So he talked up what third party developers are doing, as well as how third parties are adopting ProRes for their products. My one favorite quote: “Its all in XML. EDLs are so 1990

He mentioned that a number of recent movies were cut in Final Cut (including the Cohen’s brothers A Serious Man) and that most of the Oscar nominated documentaries were edited in Final Cut.)

ARRI showed the Alexa prototype camera (that's the one with the $50,000+ price tag.) Though they didn’t actually show it working, they did show a video that was shot using the camera – a very long segment that seemed to revolve around young men kicking a round ball; clearly this is not an American company.
It behaves like a film camera but shoots like a digital camera

Demoed their color correcting tool DaVinci, so I finally got to see the interface. As I expected, it looked just as confusing as Color. Maybe even more so. Still, it was an impressive demo; particularly the motion tracking.

Tim Dashwood got up and talked about how to do budget 3D. He has a plug-in for Final Cut that can help producing 3D output. There was a lot of material in his talk, so I’m going to put that into a separate post.

Hand Held Hollywood
Finally, Taz Goldstein from Hand Held Hollywood did a quick tour through iPhone/iPad apps for the filmmaker. He started out by asking who had an iPhone, then after seeing all the hands added “Oh my god, who doesn’t?”

He ran through a number of tools, including Minislate HD, which looks like it might do a reasonable job of acting like a real slate, and Rehearsal, an app that lets an actor load in a script, record the other actors parts, and then; rehearse! Once you have mastered your lines, it even blanks them out! It looks pretty good; and it's free!

Talking about script writing apps for the iPhone, he noted that Final Draft is planning an iPad release, and also talked about the ProPrompter Producer, an iPhone prompter. They have an iPad based version coming too, though at $800+ it’s not going to be cheap.

[UPDATE 4/16 12:47PM] corrected Canon model name to XF

Redrock microRemote page updated

Redrock Micro has posted pictures - but not much else - to the microRemote page on their website.

NOTE: If you're interested in being the first to get your hands on this device, you should send them an email to be put on the reservation list (it's non-binding and no deposit is required.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Other News

New MacBook Pros
got their hands on a 2.66 GHz Core i7 MacBook Pro, and when re-encoding with handbrake 64 it smoked the earlier 2.8GHz Core Due at 19.54 seconds vs. 32.19. I want one!

More on Red Rock Micro
FreshDV has another Red Rock Micro wireless follow-focus video. There's nothing really new here, but I feel compelled to note it as they have nothing on their site yet - notice that when demoing he says that "the control surface drops down into the remote, and you can drop in an iPhone"....except he doesn't show any of that happening, just picks up the second unit.

DaVinci color system drops price
Before there was Apple's Color, there was the DaVinci Resolve system, which cost lots of bucks. In the past year or so, a number of small production houses have started using Color because it's so much cheaper. Now Blackmagic, who bought DaVinci last year, have fired back by dropping the price of the software-only version to $995. If you want it with the control board, that'll cost you $29,995, but $995 is an interesting price.

I've never seen DaVinci in operation, and have found Color confusing enough. Should I be concerned that the only shots on the company website seem to be of the control surface, not of the screen UI?

Sony outs a new pro-sumer camera
Sony has semi-announced (I haven't seen an official press release, but there's a web page and other sites are reporting it) pro-sumer camera, the HXR-MC50. This appears to be part of the NXCAM line. I figured they'd add to the NXCAM line, thought this isn't the camera I was expecting.

Details are a bit unclear, but it's probably a single-chip camera with a shotgun mic, 64GB of internal memory and records in AVCHD format. Some information can be found here, and more here. no word on price, availability probably in the summer. NXCAM > HXR-MC50E (spec page seems to be wrong at the moment at is mentions 1/2" chips and bayonet mount)
[UPDATED 4:26PM] There's speculation that this camera may be little more than the HDR-CX550V (or similar) in drag.

If enough people ask, Canon will do it...
Cinema 5D has an interview with Canon's Tim Smith where he confirms that Canon is aware there's a lot of interest in "big chip" cameras, but he's got nothing to announce. He also basically says that they aren't currently working on adding the upgrades they added to the Canon 5D to the Canon 7D (histograms, manual audio), but they are always listening to customers....

Email Canon from their Contact Canon page, or phone Canon at 1-800-OK-CANON and ask about getting a firmware update for the 7D to match the features in the 5D Mark II firmware 2.0.3

SuperMeet tonight

Don't forget that the SuperMeet is tonight, and if you can't be in Las Vegas, you can watch it streamed live at 9:15pm EDT. It says you can sign up starting at 3pm.

Should be some interesting presentations on Canon's new flash-based camcorders, Adobe Creative Suite 5, and other things.

New Zealand wins first International Digital Emmy

Evidently there is an International Digital Emmy Awards. [Each modifier drops the value of the award 50%. International? Digital? Who was the competition; the piano playing cat? - Ed]

New Zealand made history by winning its first International Emmy - [exactly how long has the International Digital Emmy been going on? Two years?-Ed]. They took the Digital Program: Children & Young People category with Reservoir Hill, an interactive web series that follows 16-year-old Beth Connolly as she is forced to solve a mystery when she moves to a creepy suburb. [When you're 16, aren't all suburbs "creepy" - Ed]

Neat!  [Does that mean they get to put up the Wellywood sign now? Oh wait, that's the Oscars -Ed]

Panasonic 3D HD

If you’re interested in Panasonic’s upcoming 3D HD camera, the 3DA1, then check out the video of their Press Conference at NAB. They loaned the camera to a couple of 3D filmmakers for a day, let them play with it, and then had them up on stage to deliver a few awkward words about it.

Actually, they seemed to like it.

Two of the speakers were Pierre de Lespinois and Mick Pacifici from Evergreen films who recently shot a 3D concert film of the Dave Matthews Band called “Larger than Life” – though not with this camera, and more on that below. Wayne Miller from Action 3D also got to play with the 3DA1.

They really liked the weight of it. At 6lbs, it’s a lot lighter than the rigs they are currently using, and they think it will make it possible to shoot a lot more setups than they can currently.
“I’m excited because it means my back is going to get a little less work in the future having a lighter camera.”
They also said that it usually takes from one to three days to calibrate and register cameras, and having this camera able to do it itself will be a big time saver.

The last speaker was extreme sports shooter Per Peterson. He was also impressed by it’s size and what he was able to capture with it:
“This new tool, the 3DA1, is really a great education tool for 3D if nothing else. You can see how convergence works, you can learn about all the convergence errors that go along with 3D with vertical lines and panning. And I was really impressed at the amount of error that I created that I could get away with this tool. And it’s going to be really incredibly effective as an education piece as well as a straight up 3D capture device.”
You can find the video by clicking on the Video Showcase tab at the NAB 2010 page. Then choose “Bob Harris introduces Guest Speakers” to get straight to the meat of it.

I was intrigued by the mention of Larger than Life, as I hadn't heard of it, and I like to think of myself at a fan of the Dave Matthews Band. I thought it might still be in production, but a quick search revealed that it had already been released! Turns out that it was a special event film; available for one week in late December of last year. The review at the New York Times was mixed, noting that if you were a fan of the band you'd probably enjoy it, but that for others:
…it’s a lot like being dragged along to a concert you’re not interested in, except that there’s no beer. The 3-D cinematography doesn’t add much; if anything, it’s distracting, making the musicians look like animated figures moving against a flat background.

Without the need for never-ending firmware updates....

There's a video at Vimeo that shows a bit from the session where Sony previewed their affordable 35mm cinema camera.

"The next stop on Sony's digital 35mm roadmap will be a smaller, more affordable camcorder. This entry-level 35mm model will be released prior to NAB 2011, it's not quite ready for the show floor, but we wanted to give you an advance peak at this new camera.

This new camera will easily fit into the existing post-production workflows and will have all of the features that you would expect from a professional Sony 35mm camera. Our goal is to establish a 35mm camera lineup for every budget without the need for never ending firmware upgrades or workflow issues."

Hmm...."never ending firmware upgrades" - who could that be - RED - in reference to?

And when they say "affordable" and "entry-level" are they comparing to the cost of RED cameras, or the current entry level of HD DSLRs? Time will tell. Since I'm more of a documentary shooter than a cinema shooter, this camera probably isn't for me, but it's certainly an intriguing development.

Final Episode of "House" shot on Canon 5D

Philip Bloom reports that the season finale of House was filmed entirely with the Canon 5D Mark II.Greg Yaitanes, the director of the show, confirmed it through a tweet and answered some questions. You can see a transcription at Philips site.

Flip SlideHD

Just got an email from Amazon about the Flip SlideHD.  Price is $279.99,  it has a 3 inch screen, 16GB of memory and 720p. The suggestion that wi-fi might be included seems false.

I still think it's an interesting upgrade, but not worth the extra money to get the large screen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

More on that Panasonic camera

There's a video clip showing the Panasonic AG-AF100, the 4/3 professional video camera previously blurbed that looks a whole lot more real than that 3D rendering previously shown. The 3D camera: AG-3DA1 is also shown.

YouTube: Panasonic-Camcorder AG-3DA1 und AG-AF100

Adobe Premiere script-to-screen feature

This morning Adobe rolled out CS5, and they had an online "event" that you could sign up for. I came in on it late, but from what I saw of it, they were pre-recorded clips of different people giving very quick! enthusiastic! highly-caffeinated! demos of four or five of the new features that they loved! Each segment was only about five minutes long, but after two, I was exhausted.

I'm sure I missed the best part - that's just my luck - but while I'm still knocked out by Photoshop's Content-Aware fill, it looks like there's some neat things in the new versions of After Effects and Premiere - and I'm not just talking about the Mercury Playback Engine.

After Effects
The improved Roto Brush seems to let you cut out objects by almost just pointing at them (if the demo is to be believed, a simple - very rough - swipe with the paint brush is all you need to do.) It looks pretty amazing.
mocha for After Effects v2 improves on motion tracking.
Other features include new color controls, and a 3D mesh warp tool

Premiere Script-to-Speach
I've already mentioned several other features in Premiere, but this one is intriguing. They've added Adobe Story (a "cloud" based scripting tool) to the suite, and tightly integrated it with Premiere and OnLocation. It will take the script and add it to clips as meta data. Not only that, but speech analysis will attempt to automatically match clips to the script for you - wow!

Redrock Micro wireless follow-focus

Some information - and videos - of Redrock Micro's new microRemote looks really cool. The microRemote is shown in two videos at photocinenews: Part 1 and Part 2. Over at Cameratown they have a more formal release: Redrock Micro Introduces the New microRemote Remote Follow Focus.

There three separate parts (products?):
  • microTape
    Sonar based rangefinder
  • base station
    Includes a built-in radio and can operate up to three torque motors to control different functions (i.e. zoom, focus and iris.) They have a wired control that can be used with the base station to control the camera from a distance of a few feet (i.e. from a tripod handle.) They say they will be offering their own torque motors later, and it works with torque motors made by others.
  • microRemote
    Communicates with the base station and can start/stop the camera and the focus handle has hard stops. You can also insert your iPhone/iPod Touch to get extra interface controls/options; it will display the depth of field, focus and subject distance, it also gives you auto-focus using the sonar sensor!
microRemote (without the iPhone/iPod installed)

This looks really cool, though no word on price and availability.

[UPDATED 3:31PM]: part 3 has information on pricing and availability. It's supposed to be available in the summer. They are currently taking non-binding, no-deposit reservations. Send an email to It sounds like there are five different options available (motors, base station and remote.) Target price is about $1,000 for the base system (which is up $500 from the original target!)

[UPDATED 7:06PM]: Cinema 5D has a longer video of the system which provides a little more information; the wireless unit can be tethered if you can't use the wireless radio at a location, the iPhone/iPod unit will become a platform "for a lot of things." He said they didn't hit the $500 price because they realized the trade-offs they'd have to make in terms of the motor were too great.
He mentions "other things" but I haven't yet found any information about them...

Zeiss Compact Primes

Carl Zeiss has introduced what it claims to be the world’s first set of cine lenses designed especially for HDSLR cameras: the Compact Prime CP.2 lenses.

The Compact Prime CP.2 lenses introduce interchangeable mounts that allow the lenses to be used with a wide range of cameras, from traditional cine to HDSLR systems. They will be available with three different mounts – PL, EF and F. The lenses can be upgraded to any number of existing or future cine and still cameras while enabling cinematographers to still utilize the same set of lenses. [My understanding is that the mount can be changed on the lens, but it's not really an end-user operation.]

  • full-frame 24 x 36 image format without vignetting
  • common aperture of T2.1 for the standard set
  • standard housing dimensions
  • standard focus and iris gear positions
  • consistent front diameter
  • robust construction
  • longer focus rotation and a manual focus
  • stable exposure due to manual operated aperture
  • 14 blade iris

Zeiss promises low distortion, high resolution and excellent color rendition with these lenses. They will be available in June 2010.

Zeiss: Cinematography

Red Giant updates software for Adobe CS5

Red Giant Software says that all its products will be upgraded to support the Adobe Creative Suite 5. Magic Bullet Looks, Knoll Light Factory, Trapcode Suite, and Pro Keying Suite will be available within two weeks of Adobe CS5 shipping. All other products will be available by this summer. These updaters are only applicable to users that choose to upgrade to Adobe CS5.

These updates offer support for 64-bit computing, which provides:
  • Better use of memory to allow multiple applications to run with increased performance
  • Support of RAW content with the capacity to handle any resolution up to 5K and beyond
  • Smooth playback of multiple streams of video in real-time in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5
  • More flexible workflows with the ability to handle multiple open applications at once
Pricing and Availability
• Adobe CS5 updates for all individual products will be available for $29 USD each.
• Trapcode Suite customers can upgrade the entire Suite for a flat price of $99 USD.
• Magic Bullet Suite customers can upgrade the entire Suite for a flat price of $99 USD – coming this summer.
• Magic Bullet PhotoLooks and Knoll Light Factory for Photoshop users qualify for a free upgrade to Adobe Photoshop CS5

Steadicam Tango & Zephyr

Steadicam (owned by Tiffen) has announced two new products; the Zephyr is a stabilization rig which holds cameras up to 30lbs, but it's the Tango arm that's more interesting/unusual.

The Tango adds a floor to ceiling boom to a stabilized arm/vest for use with miniature HD cameras. A mobile jib, in other words.

I’m sure it will be close to around $10,000 (with the vest/arm) when price is announced, but this is pretty cool/amazing; they only say that price and availability will be announced later this year.

TANGO features:
  • Nine-foot continuous elevation and traverse with back-pan and back-tilt
  • 360˚ pan, ±90˚ tilt available throughout boom range
  • Optimum pan/tilt inertia at all times
  • Camera fits into small openings with full angular control
  • 6 lb. camera payload @ 3:1 extension equals 29 lb. total
  • Rapid conversion from “Tango” mode to conventional Steadicam
  • Stable – when walking, running, climbing stairs
  • Silent – no servo motor noise
  • Fast – ultra-rapid traverse, elevation, pan/tilt

Steadicam Tango

Canon's Explorer of Light Program expanded to include Videographers

Last week Canon announced that their Canon Professional Services Program (CPS) was being expanded to include videographers, so we probably shouldn't be surprised that this week they have announces that five cinematographers (and one photographer) have been added to the Company’s Explorers of Light program, whose members serve as ambassadors for Canon products.

The cinematographer inductees are: Alex Buono, director of photography for Saturday Night Live; Rodney Charters, director of photography for 24; Crescenzo Notarile, director of photography for Ghost Whisperer; Russell Carpenter, director of photography for films such as Titanic, True Lies and Charlie’s Angels; and Shane Hurlbut, director of photography for Terminator: Salvation.

Canon: Digital Learning Center

Sony updates Vegas

Sony has announced Vegas Pro 9.0d, a minor update that adds improved closed captioning support, multi-layer PSD file support and timeline burning to DVD.
  • Closed Captioning Support
    Import, edit, and export CEA-608 captioned data in Sony XDCAM MXF material.
  • Multi-layer Adobe Photoshop Document (PSD) Support
    Provides individual control over the separate file layers.
  • Enhanced Device Explorer Support
    Improvements to the device explorer increases support for additional cameras and devices, including hard disk and memory recording devices.
  • Burn Timeline to DVD
  • PreSonus FaderPort Control Surface Driver Support
    The touch-sensitive device can be used to control volume and pan parameters, as well as play, stop, start transport functionality and managing markers for audio and video editing.
The Vegas Pro 9.0d software update is available now for download and is free for existing Vegas Pro 9 users, or $234.95 for owners of Vegas Pro 8 or prior. Vegas Pro 9 software is available in English, German, Spanish, Japanese, and French. Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for Vegas Pro 9 is U.S. $699.95.

Adobe Premiere CS5

The press releases are dribbling out, though the demos haven't yet begun!

Check this page at Adobe's site for short videos on some of the new features!

New Mercury Playback Engine
The Mercury Playback Engine is 64-bit native, optimized for operating systems, multicore processors, and NVIDIA. It promises improved performance when working on complex times, and mix and match AVCHD, P2, XDCAM, RED, and DSLR camera formats freely in the timeline, without rendering.
“I was among the first Final Cut Pro users ever, but my Final Cut Pro days are over. Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is stellar because it offers the 64-bit Mercury Playback Engine, giving me the ability to work in real time with 4K RED files—I literally couldn’t pay enough money for that.”
- Tim Walton, documentary filmmaker and editor for Sacramento, California PBS affiliate KVIE

Native support for a variety of tapeless formats added
In addition to Canon and Nikon DSLR support, CS5 adds new support for XDCAM HD 50, AVCCAM, DPX, and AVC-Intra, as well as enhanced RED R3D support. Premiere already supports P2, XDCAM EX and HD, and AVCHD. Premiere can also now take advantage of new logging options for tapeless cameras in Adobe OnLocation.

Roundtrip with Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer and Digidesign Pro Tools
Premiere Pro CS5 supports roundtrip editing between Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer or Digidesign Pro Tools software.

The open architecture of Premiere Pro CS5 allows it to be extended to work within custom infrastructures. Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is extensible using panels created in Adobe Flash Professional, enabling broadcast and film companies to use Adobe Premiere Pro in tightly integrated workflows, including integration with asset management and file transfer systems, as well as with newsroom systems such as ENPS. [What does that mean exactly? I don't know! I hate press releases! But it sounds like you can write your own widgets in Flash that will control Premiere. That's what it sounds like to me!]

CS5 is expected to ship in 30 days.

Adobe: Premiere CS5

Wireless Follow-focus?

Is this the wire-less follow-focus from Red Rock Micro? Is that an iPhone/iPod Touch? Not sure, but Vincent Laforet has teased this image, along with hints that cool things will be announced today at NAB by Zeiss, RedRock Micro, Canon and others.

Does Canon really have more (in addition to the new flash-based camcorders?!)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The "Cinema" digital video camera arrives

Things just keep getting more interesting - if more expensive. With the advent of DSLR videomaking, a lot of people have been asking / dreaming / begging for Canon to come out with a more videocamera-oriented camera that would offer the depth-of-field capabilities of the DSLRs, but in a videocamera form factor.

Well Canon hasn't gotten around to that yet, but it seems like others are jumping in. Sony has twittered a prototype digital cinematic camera that's scheduled to be released next year. Unfortunately, no details - yet - as to what we're talking about. Is this in the low-end category (Sony's RED killer?) or is this something super-expen$ive?

Meanwhile, Panasonic has a 3D rendering of a camera described as the "first professional micro 4/3-inch video camcorder optimized for high-definition video recording. Scheduled to ship by the end of 2010." This camera has the chip size of the Panasonic GH1 and it outputs 1080p, but theres no info about what the resolution of the chip is; is it native 1080p, or are they downsampling? That could have a big effect on the image quality.

[UPDATE 4/12 9:16AM] It appears the price will be about $6,000 for the Panasonic.

[UPDATE 4/12 7:03PM] HDWarrior reports that it has a 35mm sensor, records on SxS, and has an Alpha Mount.

Avid News

Avid buys Euphonix
Avid is buying Euphonix, makes of some interesting control surfaces for video editors. They make a really cool (and though it's expensive, comparatively value pried) control surface that works with Apple Color. I hope this move won't spell the end of that.
Avid plans to further develop an open standard protocol that greatly expands the ecosystem of compatibility between the Euphonix control surfaces and a wide range of Avid and third-party audio and video applications, including Media Composer and Pro Tools. For existing Euphonix customers, Avid will continue to support EuCon– the Euphonix high-speed Ethernet protocol that enables its control surfaces to interface with third-party software

Avid expands format support
Avid has announced support for more video formats in their Media Composer (v5), NewsCutter (v9) and Symphony (v5) products. New features include:

  • Native support for industry formats including RED, QuickTime and Canon XF
  • Support for Matrox MX02 Mini monitoring hardware
  • Avid Media Composer Nitris DX now offers Dual Link HD-RGB support, allowing customers to digitize RGB 4:4:4 material.

Avid has also announced improved ingest-to-playback for Panasonic P2HD.

The updates will be available in June.

Katzenberg dumps on bad 3D

In an interview at Variety, Katzenberg dumps on bad 3D (Clash of the Titans)"
We've seen the highest end of (3D) in "Avatar" and you have now witnessed the lowest end of it (in "Titans"). You cannot do anything that is of a lower grade and a lower quality than what has just been done on "Clash of the Titans." It literally is "OK, congratulations! You just snookered the movie audience."

Flip Slide HD

There's been some leaks about a new Flip camera, the Flip Slide HD. The details are a bit sketchy, but it appears to have a bigger screen (that slides out to reveal recording controls), it may have Wi-Fi, and it may be limited to 720p.

I'm hoping I'm wrong about the 720p. On the one hand, with these small cameras, it's debatable that 1080p really improves things much, but on the other it's nice to pretend that you have the option.

One more down-side. The $279 price point has me wondering. I'm not sure I'd pay that to get a bigger screen on a camera like that. Save the bucks and get the regular Flip UltraHD. Maybe.