Friday, July 16, 2010

Philip Bloom Boston Meetup

Just got back from the Boston Meetup with Philip Bloom. I'm not sure what Philip had thought was going to happen, but it actually turned into quite a Q&A lecture, where he showed some movies and answered a lot of questions. Several attendees also showed their own videos.

It was nothing like this video:

Sony HDR-AX2000 price falling?

When the HDR-AX2000 and HXR-NX5U were announced, Sony quoted the US list prices as being $3,500 and $4,950 respectively. But when they came on sale, retailers were actually offering the HXR-NX5U for $3,999. The comparatively small difference (it's larger in other countries) makes the choice between them difficult because you get a lot of extra features for only $500 more.

Now the price of the HDR-AX2000 seems to be drifting down a little, which isn't a surprise as the HDR-FX1000 - the HDV based pre-cursor to the AX2000 - retails for $3,199.

Over the past couple of weeks I've seen it on Amazon for about $100 off, but right now, Amazon has a couple of sellers offering the HDR-AX2000 for $250 off the list price: Sony HDR-AX2000 Handycam camcorder

Marshall budget 7" HDMI monitor

Marshall is known for producing high-quality field monitors. With rugged construction and features like false color and peaking filters, they are pretty much standard equipment for professionals. But monitors like the V-LCD70XP and the V-LCD651ST cost between and $1,150 and $1,600.

Now Marshall are entering the budget market with the 7" M-LCD7-HDMI monitor. This is sold as a kit including the monitor, a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable, standard HDMI cable, A/V cable, PC cable, battery, AC power supply, stand, hot shoe camera mount adapter, and remote. There's currently three models available that work with either Canon LP-E6 batteries (used in the Canon 7D and 5D Mark II) the Canon BP511 and the Nikon EN-EL3E, and each includes an appropriate after-market battery.

What doesn't it have? This model looks suspiciously like a monitor being sold by some other vendors. It's construction and the quality of the screen may not be on the same professional level as some of other Marshall's monitors. It also does not appear to have features like peaking. 

One other thing to note: it's unclear whether this model is functionally any different from the model available from other sources, so you may be able to pick up the monitor for less, though you should factor in the cost of the accessories when comparing prices. There is also a version without the battery and accessories.

FINALLY: At NAB Marshall announced the V-LCD50-HDMI, a 5" monitor that has the construction and features of Marshall's high-end monitors in a smaller size, and is supposed to sell for under $600. It's supposed to be available in the fall.

B & H: 7" HDMI HDSLR MNTR w/CANON BP511 BATT $394.95

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sony NEX-VG10 up for pre-order at B & H

In addition to, you can also now pre-order the Sony NEX-VG10 at B&H. Price is $1,999.99 with an approximate arrival date of September.
B&H: Sony NEX-VG10 Interchangeable Lens Handycam

BOSFCPUG Meeting Report

The Boston Final Cut Pro Users Group has been on a bit of a roll lately. While they’ve been holding monthly meetings for several years, things hit a high-point this past month with the Boston SuperMeet two weeks ago, a great “regular” meeting last night, and still to come this week are a Meetup with Philip Bloom on Friday, and two day-long workshops with Philip on Saturday and Sunday.

How is BOSFCPUG leader Dan Berube going to top this?

Seriously, if you live in Boston and you’re interested in video production and editing – even if you don’t use Final Cut – you should be going to these meetings. And though this weekend’s workshops are full, you can still come to the Meetup on Friday.

Last nights meeting was another informative session featuring Patrick Inhofer on the "The Tao of Color Grading,” and Dean Schirm demoing Smoke for Mac. The meeting was held at Autodesk’s Waltham office, which is a really nice space, and there was even free food courtesy of AJA Video Systems and Autodesk. What’s not to like?

Patrick Inhofer

The Tao of Color
Patrick’s session was especially interesting, not just because Color Grading is my current preoccupation, but because I actually came away with a few new tricks that I want to try out. And though he did use Final Cut Pro and Apple’s Color application for the demo section of his talk, most of what he covered was platform agnostic.

For me there were two important takeaway’s from Patrick’s talk: i) don’t trust your eyes, and ii) I need to start using the Parade Waveform monitor...

Your lying eyes
Patrick started off by showing some visual puzzles that demonstrate how easily your eyes can be fooled into miss-reading brightness and color information. Edward Adelson’s Checkershadow Illusion is a classic example of how the eye can be fooled. In this example two squares (A and B) appear to be a different brightness, even though they are actually the same.

Edward H. Adelson's Checkershadow Illusion

Not only can your eye/brain be fooled, it also adapts your perception of an image to make the colors appear how it thinks they should be.  In essence, you have 45 to 60 seconds to look at an image. After that, your brain starts to make the image look "right," and it becomes harder to judge color.

Waveform Monitor tricks
His demo using the waveform monitor was particularly informative. I’ve been playing with Final Cut’s Three-Way Color Corrector for color correction for some time now, but this showed me that I still have a long way to go.

Using a white to black gradient, Patrick applied different filters and image adjustments to show the effect on the Waveform Monitor as the gradient is adjusted. Using the Waveform Monitor in this way you can easily see how the Black and White level adjustments in the Three-Way Color Corrector don’t work in exactly the opposite way.

Even better, he demonstrated the RGB-Parade view for the Waveform Monitor. This splits the waveform up into three parts representing the RGB values. Then using the RGB Balance filter he adjusted individual channels without effecting the other two channels; something the Three-Way Color Corrector doesn’t do. Suddenly I’m thinking I should be using the RGB Balance filter more often..

There was a lot more to the talk, and I’d recommend checking out Patrick’s website:, as a resource and forum on color work.

Finally, Patrick demoed the Euphonix MC Color board. If you’re doing color work every day – particularly if you’re using Apple’s Color app – this control surface looks like the thing to have.

Smoke on the Mac
The second half of the evening was a demo of Autodesk’s Smoke for Mac by - Dean Schirm of Autodesk. Dean demonstrated several of Smoke’s capabilities, including it’s compositing/masking tools and support for 3D (stereo) production. Smoke’s interface is non-standard; it reminds me a lot of Apple’s Color in that respect, and it’s pretty hard to get your head around it’s power and feature set.

Dean Schirm (left) assisted by Jacob Benjamin

Perhaps the most interesting comment of the evening was from Jay Ignaszewski of AJA.
One of the things that many people push back on is cost. Why would I spend this kind of money on this tool? What I think you saw right here is how fast it is. And that’s where you make money. If I can do my job in three days instead of seven, I can pull another job in behind it. It’s the horsepower to finish the job quickly.
Note that issue four of the Final Cut Pro User Group Network's SuperMag has two articles about Smoke on Mac: "Smoke 2010 on Mac; First Impressions" by Dmitry Larionov & Zsolt Besden, and "Stereo Workflow Between FCP & Smoke 2011" by Erwan Le Cloirec.


NEX-VG10 more information

More information on Sony's just announced NEX-VG10:

Engadget has a bunch of photos of the camera taken at an event in London: Engadget: Sony NEX-VG10 HD camcorder preview

Sample video from Sony shot with the camera: DVCulture: Sony’s New NEX-VG10 Footage!

Imaging Resource has an overview: Sony NEX-VG10 Overview

And Philip Johnston thinks this camera may spell the end of the HD SLR revolution: Sionara DSLR time is running out…! but I think it's a bit soon to make such a prophecy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thoughts on the NEX-VG10

It’s only been a few hours, but already the Internets are buzzing about the Sony NEX-VG10, which was announced this morning: What does it mean to the HD SLR market? How will it perform? What about 24p?!

When it comes down to it, the NEX-VG10 has two outstanding features; interchangeable lenses and a larger chip, the latter making for shallower depth-of-field when working at large apertures.

But have they messed up a couple of important things?

The camera only supports 1080/60i. There's no 24p, and it’s a bit vague on 30p (it appears the video file is 1920 x 1080/60i, but created from a 30p output sensor, so may technically be 30p) The lack of 24p capture might be their biggest mistake; lots of people buying HD SLRs want 24p – along with shallow depth-of-field – to get the “film look.”

Sony's second mistake may be in pricing and bundling.

Including a good lens makes sense, but means the bundle costs more than twice what the Canon T2i body costs. And people look at the body cost first, even though they forget they’ll have to spend at least a few hundred dollars more on one or two good lenses. This bundling could be a big strike against the NEX-VG10 since and the T2i seems to be one of this cameras biggest competitors. Sure, the T2i shouldn’t be considered competition for the NEX-VG10. Except that it is.

There’s a lot of things we don’t know about the NEX-VG10, and we'll have to wait until people get their hands on the camera and review it to get many answers; how does it perform in low light? how do the manual controls work? how well does the lens work? How bad is rolling shutter? How good is the optical stabilization? What’s the audio mic like?

But despite this, let’s take a look at how this camera seems to compare with other cameras both in Sony’s lineup and the Canon T2i.

Compared to Sony HDR-CX350V
The HDR-CX350V is a traditional consumer camcorder that retails for about $800 and seems to capture in identical AVCHD video format (1080/60i 24Mbps) The HDR-CX350V has a 12x optical zoom, with a f /1.8-3.4 lens compared to the NEX-VG10's 11x f /3.5-6.3. But the CX350 has a smaller, built-in physical lens and the chip is smaller than the NEX-VG10's.

What the NEX-VG10 does better:
  • Interchangeable lenses give more optical choices
  • Bigger chip will provide greater depth of field at large apertures
  • The lens may optically perform better
  • Viewfinder in addition to LCD

What the HDR-CX350V does better:
  • It’s half the price
  • Much smaller and lighter
  • Lens on the CX350 is f 1.8-3-4 vs the VG10’s f 3.5-6.3 though chip differences may mean low-light performance is about the same
Other things we don’t know: How the manual controls compare. How good the VG10's mic is.

Compared to Sony HDR-AX2000
The HDR-AX2000 is a pro-sumer version of the HXR-NX5U, and retails for about $3,500.

What the NEX-VG10 does better:
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • Larger APS HD chip
  • Slightly smaller body: VG10 is 3-7/8 × 5-1/4 × 11-1/2" 2lb 12 oz with lens, vs AX2000's 6.9 x 7.4 x 13.5" 5lbs
What the HDR-AX2000 does better:
  • Three chips instead of one
  • 30p & 24p
  • 20x, 29.5mm-590mm f/ 1.6-3.4 lens (though it is fixed)
  • XLR audio inputs
  • More manual controls*
*The NEX-VG10 has manual controls, though it looks like they mostly get managed through menus and on screen controls rather than physical buttons.

The new VG10 audio capsule is a bit of an unknown quantity, but it’s still on the camera, so a mixed blessing for most serious shooters. I'd rather have XLR inputs.

Compared to Canon T2i
Comparing the VG10 to a SLR seems ridiculous, but large numbers of people are buying these cameras to shoot video.

What the NEX-VG10 does better
  • Autofocus
  • The kit lens may be a good value
  • Viewfinder for bright light situations
  • Flip-out/angled LCD screen
  • Unlimited clip length
  • Better mic
What the T2i does better
  • 30p & 24p. 720 60p
  • Appears to be cheaper
  • Higher Mbps (though have to see if that translates into better images)
Unknown: Image performance, low light performance, rolling shutter and optical stabilization

Compared to the two camcorders, the NEX-VG10 has some notable differences. Picking between them really depends on what you are doing (and how much you have to spend!)

On the face of it, the NEX-VG10 is a much better camcorder than the Canon T2i. Autofocus alone would have me grab for a VG10 in most situations. And if you’re thinking of buying a Canon 7D, the NEX-VG10 (once you add a lens) will cost you less too! Sure, the lack of 24p is a concern, and the higher Mbps of the video file from the T2i may mean it produces a better image (unless the T2i is just lousy at compressing video data.) But will the NEX-VG10 attract the enthusiasm of the people that have created the excitement in the HD SLR world – the Vincent Laforet’s and the Phillip Bloom’s – or will they look at the lack of 24p and go “interesting camera, but I’m going to stick with Canon?"

If Sony had come out with this camera a couple of years ago, it would have been a sensation. But that was then, and I can’t help thinking that Sony may have made some serious miss-steps with this camera, as intriguing as it appears. We’ll only really know when it’s out and in the hands of users.

Sony announces NEX-VG10

Back when they announced the NEX-5 APS camera, Sony talked about an interchangeable lens HD camera using the same chip, but we all thought it would be close to the end of the year before they even announced that. Clearly Sony had other plans, as they have just announced the NEX-VG10, though it won't ship until September.

Coupled with Sony's powerful BIONZ processor, the camcorder's ExmorTM APS HD CMOS sensor realizes high resolution video and 14 megapixel still images. Approximately 19.5 times bigger than the standard sensor found in conventional camcorders, the APS HD CMOS sensor enables an extremely shallow depth of field. This allows videographers to achieve cinematic results with stunning background defocus (bokeh). Users can also enjoy DSLR-quality photo capture with features like Auto HDR, Handheld Twilight, and Anti Motion Blur, as well as catch fast action sequences with a continuous burst rate of up to seven fps.
It will come with an E-mount 18-200mm lens optimized for video shooting (11x optical zoom), a Quad Capsule Spatial Array Stereo Microphone, and full manual control of Iris, Shutter Speed, Gain and White Balance.

The NEX-VG10 will be available in September for about $2,000 and presales on will begin July 14. They will also be available at Sony Style retail stores and at authorized dealers nationwide.

[UPDATE: Sonystyle website has a page for the camcorder with more pictures, advertising copy and a short promo video. You can also pre-order for $1,999. Click the "Shop Now" button to go to a page with specifications and more feature information. NEX-VG10]

Sony: Camcorder Redefined: Sony debuts world's first consumer interchangeable lens HD camcorder

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Life Without Timecode (Audio for HDSLR) webcast

createasphere has been offering some free webinars. The latest is:

Life Without Timecode (Audio for HDSLR)
Aaron Murphy, Audio Supervisor for shows like Top Chef, and Rode Microphones are going to be on hand. Aaron Murphy has been working in television since 1994 and now trains and hires other crew members to work in reality TV. Rode Microphone's VideoMic is a popular solution as an on-camera mic, but their expertise is not limited to on camera solutions and their perspective will be a valuable addition to this program.
Topics to be covered:

* Range of solutions based on style of production
* Life without timecode
* Workflow
* Third party solutions

When: Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
11:00 AM PST

It's free (though limited to 500 people) but they also tend to make the webcasts available the next day.

At the moment I personally do not recommend using their registration system. Firstly, there's no guarantee you will be able to get in; I registered for the RED webcast, but was unable to log in through their system. Secondly, they ask for your address and phone number when you register, but this information does not appear to be protected in any way; simply enter your email address the next time, and it displays the information.
And oddly enough, the "Click here to register now" button on the web page doesn't seem to work at the moment, though it works from an email they sent me!
Better to wait for the reply the next day...

createasphere: Life Without Timecode (Audio for HDSLR)

Alternative funding

A documentary about David Lynch is being financed by online contributors, who will receive a limited edition self-portrait by David Lynch in return for donating $50. In addition to receiving Lynch's artwork donors will also receive newsletter updates and access to exclusive footage once filming has begun.

This form of fund raising on the web seems to be taking off; the website Kickstarter provides a way for artists to make similar offers without having to create their own website and payment systems.

LYNCHthree project
NotesOnVideo: Kickstart your project

Monday, July 12, 2010

YouTube custom embed size

If you often embed YouTube video's in your blog or web page, you'll appreciate the new Custom Tool they have added to their embed code generator. Now, rather than just pick from the preset sizes, you can enter either a height or width and it will calculate the other value and adjust the object code for you.

Great for me, because the width of this blog column is narrower than the current smallest size of 560 x 340. Of course, you could edit the object code yourself, but this tool saves you a minute or two!
QuickOnlineTips: YouTube Video Custom Size Box Makes Video Embeds Easier