Friday, July 09, 2010

Canon 60D next week?

Canonrumors continues to believe that the 60D will be coming soon. They also think it will have an articulating screen and will be 18mp (rather than the 14 reported a week or so ago.) I'm pretty certain it will be 18mp; it would be difficult to sell with the T2i and 7D at 18mp, despite the possible advantages of larger pixels (i.e. lower noise).

An articulating screen could be really useful for some video applications... Announcement Dates & 60D Specs [CR2]

YouTube supports 4K files

Most of my equipment struggles playing 1080 video from YouTube, so I don't know what to make of this, but I'm sure some people will be happy. cameras that shoot in 4K aren’t cheap, and projectors that show videos in 4K are typically the size of a small refrigerator... who will be making use of this?!

YouTube: What's bigger than 1080p? 4K video comes to YouTube

Moscow University compares VP8 to H.264

VP8 is the royalty-free [possibly], open-source video codec that's part of Google's new WebM video format. The Graphics and Media Lab at the Moscow State University conducted some tests comparing VP8 with H.264, and the results seem to suggest that VP8 isn't as good as H.264:
“When comparing VP8 and x264, VP8... shows five to 25 [times] lower encoding speed with 20 to 30 percent lower quality at average. For example, x264 high-speed preset is faster and has higher quality than any of VP8 presets at average.”
but the VP8 developers counter that the video clips that were used for the tests were previously compressed using another codec, giving H.264 an unfair advantage.
As pointed out by other developers, H.264 and MPEG-like encoders have slight advantages in reproducing some of their own typical artifacts, which helps their objective measurement numbers but not necessarily visual quality. This is reflected by relatively better results for VP8 on the only uncompressed input sequence, ‘mobile calendar.’
TelevisionBroadcast: Moscow Lab Compares H.264 and Google’s VP8

News from Here & There

iPhone Movie Making Equipment
Want to shot your next motion picture on an iPhone? Zacuto has the rigs for you: the Zgrip iPhone Jr. is $69, while the Zgrip iPhone Pro is $295.
Zacuto: Zgrip iPhone Jr.

Seven well known Fetishists
Stu Maschwitz thinks Vincent Laforet should stop his obsession with gadgets, and Philip Bloom needs to widen his field of focus. In his latest ProLost blog he takes a shot at some of the best known people in the industry and their various "fetishes," and tells them all to lighten up.
Something tells me articles like these will only encourage them.
ProLost: Seven Fetishists And Why They Should Relax

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Sony 3D ad

Sony has posted on YouTube an interesting short on the shooting of a 3D commercial for their new 3D TVs. You can watch the advertisement itself at YouTube: New Sony 3D TV advert featuring Kaka (the ad is presented in 3D/2D i.e. you see the two parts of the image merged together.)

They shot the football sequences using four stereoscopic rigs with eight cameras; resulting in 700 boxes of camera equipment! The video features a great goalpost explosion:

Corporate Video shot with iPhone 4...

...but not edited using iMovie!

This video claims to the be the first corporate film shot using the iPhone 4. I have no idea if that's correct or not, but it's interesting to see anyway.

Note that he has a ContourHD camera on his helmet!

Michael Moore elected to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Board of Governors

Love him or hate him, Michael Moore is probably one of the most successful documentary producers, and he has now been elected to the Board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In addition, director Kathryn Bigelow and film editor Anne Coates were also elected for the first time. Academy Elects Three First-time Governors, Returns Nine Incumbents

The TAO of Color Grading

I previously listed the upcoming Boston Final Cut Pro User Group meeting about color grading with Patrick Inhofer on the evening of July 14th. It turns out there will also be an event with Patrick that morning at Rule as well.

The Tao of Color Grading
Featuring the Euphonix MC Color Control Surface
& Apple's Color

Colorist/Finisher, Patrick Inhofer, shares insights, techniques, workflows and tools acquired during a decade of color correcting with non-linear software. Patrick will provide real-world grading examples, a renewed understanding of key concepts and a discussion on how ProRes and devices like the AJA
Ki Pro can help maintain the quality of your images throughout the finishing process. Using the powerful Euphonix MC Color, Patrick will demonstrate how a control surface results in faster grading sessions while increasing the quality of the finished product.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 10am to 12noon with Breakfast
Rule Boston Camera, 395 Western Avenue, Boston, MA 02135

July 14th Workflow Mixer: "The TAO of Color Grading"
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 from 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM
@ Autodesk, Inc., 1560 Trapelo Rd, Waltham, MA 02451
Patrick Inhofer will present the Boston premiere of "The Tao of Color Grading - Featuring the Euphonix MC Color control surface and Apple's Color"


News from Here & There

JAG35 Shoulder Rig Review
Ron Risman at CameraTown does a full review of the JAG35 Full Shoulder Rig. This rig is being sold primarily into the DSLR market, though it could also be used with traditional video cameras, and at $649, it is one of the best deals around. Ron's been using the rig for a couple of weeks, and has produced a very indepth review:
For me, the biggest advantage of any rod-based shoulder rig is the flexibility they offer, and the JAG35 allowed me the flexibility to conjure up configurations that made my shooting workflow so much easier. Yes, there are plenty of shoulder rigs on the market that use industry standard rods, but JAG35 has brought a quality rig into a price range that is much more palatable for many of us.
Cameratown: JAG35 Full Shoulder Rig For HDSLR's
JAG35: Full Shoulder Rig

Crowdsourced Movies
There seems to be at least a couple of attempts at crowdsourced movies (think of them as web-based video "Day in the Life" projects.)
YouTube is running a "Life in a Day" project on July 24th, while One Day On Earth seems to be doing a similar thing on October 10th (that's 10.10.10)
YouTube: Life in a Day
OneDayOnEarth: Help Document the World's Story on 10.10.10

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Canon XF300 in stock at B&H

While writing up the BBC report on the Canon XF300/XF305 performance, I noticed that the XF300 is listed as being in stock at B & H. Price is $6,799. The XF305 ($7,999) is still listed as Available for pre-order.

B & H: 
Canon XF300
Canon XF305

BBC approves Canon XF300/305

In the world of video cameras the BBC has a reputation for being persnickety about the cameras used for their productions. They list approved cameras on their website, and several other organizations follow these guidelines. The current list is rather short, and includes many expensive cameras, but now the Canon XF300 and XF305 have been added to the approved list.

Canon commissioned Alan Roberts - who has conducted tests for the BBC on other cameras - to evaluate the cameras, and he's produced a report that concludes:
This camera performs well at HD, for such a small image format. Resolution is very well maintained and is refreshingly alias-free. Detail controls work well, and the factory settings are good. Noise levels are typical for 1”/3 sensors, but sensitivity is unusually good. Operating the camera at significantly lower gain will reduce the noise level without sacrificing significant sensitivity.

The integral lens has a maximum aperture of F/1.6, unusually large for a small camera, and there was no perceptible loss of resolution through iris diffraction until the lens was stopped down to F/8, at which point significant resolution was being lost. Again, this is unusual for such a small image size. Thus, the camera has a useful aperture range from F/1.6 to about F/6.8. This, together with the 3-stage neutral density filters (each providing a further 2-stops of control), means that the camera has a much better exposure control range than is normal in a small camera.
The report, in PDF format, can be found at Frank Glencairn's website. Glencairn also includes separate notes from Roberts which specifically talks about the difference between the performance of the 1/3" sensor Canon XF camera's to the Sony 1/2" EX cameras:
...the 305 appears to out-perform the EX in all respects, if only marginally, which is entirely the wrong way round, it shouldn’t be so,. Clearly Canon have been doing some very clever things behind the scenes for a while, some of which I still don’t understand.”

Frank Glencairn: Alan Roberts (BBC) tested the Canon XF300/305 – and behold, he saw that it was good
XDcam-User: Canon XF300 and XF305 get BBC approval
BBC: Commissioning: Producing in High-Definition
B&H: Canon XF300 [Note: it's currently in-stock at B&H]

iMovie iPhone app update

There's an update for the iMovie iPhone app on iTunes. It's a minor update:

iMovie Version 1.0.1
  • Improved reliability when exporting movies containing photos
  • Resolved issue with music playback within a project
  • Additional performance and reliability improvements

Firmware update for Canon 1D Mark V and T2i/550D

The 5D Mark II Team website reports that Canon has released a Firmware update for the Canon 1D Mark V and the T2i/550D that fixes the “iris jitter” issue.

Firmware Version 1.0.8 for the EOS-1D Mark IV DSLR incorporates the following fixes:
  1. Fixes a phenomenon in which the set aperture moves unexpectedly when shooting movies in manual exposure mode using some Canon lenses (such as macro lenses).
  2. Corrects misspellings in the French and Spanish menus for applicable products.

Firmware Version 1.0.8 for the EOS 550D DSLR incorporates the following fixes:
  1. Fixes a phenomenon in which the set aperture moves unexpectedly when shooting movies in manual exposure mode using some Canon lenses (such as macro lenses).

5D Mark II Team: FIRMWARE UPDATE 1.0.8

VideoQ&A: Which camera should I buy?

The question; which camera to buy? often comes up. Unfortunately, there is no one perfect answer to the question.  One prospective buyer had the following specific set of requirements, starting with good low-light performance:
  1. I'm especially interested in being able to record outdoors at night.
  2.  Looking at approximately $1,000 US. Definitely in the consumer range, not the pro range.
  3. Probably HD, but that's not a requirement.
  4. Just for TV viewing, mainly.
  5. I've never edited any video, might be something I do at one point, but not a priority at the moment.
First, an assumption; when shooting "outdoors at night" I'm assuming we're talking about outside in the city where there is a good amount of street lights.

In those conditions, I’d recommend looking at either the Canon HFS 20 (~ $900) or the Sony HDR-CX500V (~ $800 with rebate through 7/31/2010.) Both Sony and Canon introduced new sensor designs a couple of years ago that significantly improved low light performance. These two cameras aren’t the latest iterations of either company’s products, but I don’t think the latest models are significantly better.

Canon HFS 20

Another possible choice would be a digital SLR. For about $1000, you could get a Canon T2i and a couple of inexpensive lenses. This camera does incredibly well in low light, BUT I’d be wary of recommending it for the casual user. Focusing is manual once you’re shooting, and that makes things much more difficult for the user.

While the Canon T2i may do better in low light, I think the HFS 20 and HDR-CX500V are as good as you’ll get in low-light for a consumer camcorder under $1,000. I have a Sony HDR-XR500 (a two-year old camera), and I’ve used it to shoot bands in low light situations in bars, and it’s pretty amazing.

Both of the above cameras record to flash memory cards, though they also include 32GB of built-in memory, which translates to about 3 hours recording at the best quality. Alternatively you could buy a Sony camera with a hard drive, like the HDR-XR350V, which would give you 160GB for $999. BUT, I don’t know if I'd recommend a camcorder with a large hard drive to most people. A camera with that amount of memory just encourages the casual user to adopt a bad habit; recording and leaving the video on the camera. While it’s a great convenience when you start out, one day either a) the hard drive is full or b) the hard drive/camera breaks…and then what do you do?

So if you’re going to record to memory (rather than tape or DVD) then you will one day have to start managing these video files with your computer….if only to find a way to make copies and backup the video. I think it’s a little easier to start doing that with 32GB, than a month or so later with 160GB!!

As an aside, tape and DVD recording have both been pretty much abandoned for HD recording. While they were very convenient for the casual user, it doesn’t seem to be where the future is heading.

Sony HDR-CX500V

Finally, you might need to think about how you’re going to play back the video once you have recorded it. You can, of course, play it from the camera, but that means keeping the video on the camera (or on memory cards) and keeping the camera connected to your TV.

You might look at something like the Western Digital WD TV Live. For $99, you get a a box that connects to the TV and will play back video files. Just place the video on a USB hard drive, and connect the drive to the WD Live box.

All you need to do is copy the video from the camera to a portable USB drive, and then connect the USB drive to the WD Live for playback. AND, don’t forget to make a second backup copy of the files on a second hard drive or DVD!


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Samsung 8000 TV shopping adventures

When I last bought a TV, things were pretty simple; you just bought the largest Sony you could afford (!) Of course, that was last century.

But now you're presented not just with the question of what size TV you want, and what manufacturer produces the best sets. You also have to pick between LCD, LED, Plasma, 720 or 1080, 120/240 Hz, 3D, did I miss something? Definitely. There's also "TV applications" and Internet support, contrast ratios, power consumption, and much, much more. It's getting way too complicated.

And buying a set this year is particularly difficult because you have to make the 3D decision; do you spend the extra for a 3D capable TV, or do you - like me - hope that 3D goes away and you can save your money?

Fortunately, I'm not in the market for a new TV at the moment. My HD tube set from the last century (yes, they had HD back then!) is still working! But over the weekend I was visiting some friends who still have a 27inch 4:3 tube set that's probably a quarter of a century old, and they have been thinking about replacing it for the last...well, all of this century.

We ended up checking out both Best Buy and Sears to look at sets. My friends were leaning towards a Samsung set, partly because of online reviews, and partly from forum comments about reliability and customer service. Unfortunately, they couldn't decide whether to get a high-end 3D set, or something more budget conscious. As reticent as I am to encourage the 3D stuff, if you are buying right now - and you typically keep a set for 10 years or more - then maybe you have to spend a little more for the 3D capabilities, just in case.

After about half an hour staring at dozens of sets, I came to the conclusion that I had no better idea which set to buy than when I came in. Maybe seeing them this way gives you some general impressions, but even those can be misleading. Even more troubling, many of the store installations seem to run counter to what you read about in reviews. Most reviewers seem to think LED sets are better than LCD sets; but in the store several of the LCD sets looked better than the LED ones next to them. Don't even ask about the Plasma sets.

Yeah, I was confused - and glad I wan't making the decision.

With so many LARGE sets on display, you can - perhaps - see a difference between three sets that are next to each other, but it's much harder to see all but major difference when one set is on one wall, and one's on another. And the source material itself - and store lighting conditions - can make it hard to discern how the sets perform; another friend recently bought a Samsung set, and he's convinced it looked even better at home than it did in the store. Unfortunately there's dozens of reasons why that might be so.

Finally, with so many models and combinations, it's much more likely that they won't have the models you are interested in on display.

Despite all the confusion; one thing seemed clear; the Samsung UN55B8000 55-Inch 1080p 240 Hz LED HDTVwas one of the most impressive looking sets in the store; the picture was vibrant, color's looked accurate, and the set with it's polished metal surround looked very high-tech. Unfortunately, you're paying over $3,000 for such wonders. And even then, it wasn't a knock-out win. Another set next to the Samsung was practically as good, but the two rendered colors slightly differently. It wasn't clear though, which one was more "correct." At different times, different colors on each set would feel closer to what you'd expect. It was most disorienting when I was watching one sequence and it seemed the skin tones on both sets would shift in and out at different times.

But while the differences were noticeable when looking at them side-by-side, they wouldn't be noticeable when looking at the set at home on it's own.

After getting confused by the hundreds of choices at Best Buy, we went to Sears to see if things were more understandable there. Unfortunately, they only had the Samsung 7000 series TVs - though they could order an 8000 - and they didn't seem to know what the difference between the 7000 and 8000 sets were; other than the 8000 sets are thinner. Asking if they could find out just wasted ten minutes. [The 8000 has a contrast ratio of 8,000,000:1 vs the 7000's 6,000,000:1, and the 8000 also has "precision dimming" - a form of pixel dimming that improves LED black level performance, though isn't quite as good as full-array local dimming - whatever that is!]

In the end, my friends went home, did some more web searching, and ended up ordering the Samsung UN46C8000 46-Inch 1080p 3D 240 Hz LED HDTV. It was partly a compromise; it was $1,000 less than the 55-inch model!

They ordered it from Amazon, as Amazon has a deal on the Samsung glasses. Right now - and I don't know for how long - Amazon has a special offer where if you order the Samsung UN46C8000, the Samsung BD-C6900 1080p 3D Blu-ray Disc Player, and the Samsung 3D Starter Kit SSG-P2100T- which includes two pairs of glasses - you get $309.88 knocked off the price i.e. the cost of the glasses.

Annoyingly, to see the discount (and the price of the TV) you have to actually go to final checkout because "Some manufacturers place restrictions on how prices on their products may be communicated." I've seen Amazon require that you add an item to the cart to see the price, but this is the first product I've encountered that you actually have to go through the process of setting up the order (specifying payment options, etc.) to see the price. It's a little unnerving.

But right now, the price on the Samsung UN46C8000 46-Inch 1080p 3D 240 Hz LED HDTV at Amazon is just a fraction under $1X99 [where X equals 8], and with the Blu-ray player and glasses it's just under $N,N00 [where N = 2].

Sunday, July 04, 2010

iMovie saves YouTube account

Steve Garfield reports that he went into an Apple store to play with the new iPhone 4, and after uploading a video to his YouTube account discovered that he couldn't clear the account out of the phone!

Eventually he had to ask one of the Apple store employees, who told him they would have to do a hard reset - you hold down the buttons to get the shut down slider, but you don't do that; you keep holding down and the phone will do a hard reset.