Saturday, February 09, 2013

Adventures in A/V: Wireless Mic Systems

It’s not exactly video related, but I’m currently helping a client with some audio issues. They have a contractor coming in and providing wireless mics and projection equipment for a monthly meeting, and they’re thinking it might be cheaper to do the job themselves.

For the audio they have two wireless handheld mics and a lavaliere going into a mixer, which is then connected to house speakers.

The mixer the contractor uses is a Mackie 1402-VLZ3 Fourteen Channel Mixer with 6 XLR Mic Inputs ($399.99) A nice little box with multiple inputs, and it even has sliders!

Given that the client typically only has three sources at their events (the three mics) they could get by with the Mackie 802-VLZ3 8-Channel Compact Audio Mixer ($199.99), even if it has knobs instead of sliders.
Mackie 1402-VLZ3

However, an eight-input mixer doesn’t mean eight individual inputs. The 802-VLZ3 has 2 mono lines and 3 stereo line inputs. So that’s really five channels, and if they decide they want to have a three person panel individually mic’d, plus a host mic and a mic for the audience, and they have a computer connected to the audio system (which they don’t usually do, but it’s perfectly possible that it could happen) then that eight channel mixer won’t be enough. So while it seems like it has ten more channels than are needed, the Mackie 1402-VLZ3 does seem the safe way to go.

Wireless Mics
The contractor is using the Shure SLX series ($599 for a wireless receiver and mic). These are in the pro-end of Shure’s line (though they have some “digital” models which are even more expensive.) Shure has several other systems, including:
Shure PG24 PG Series $299
Shure PGX Series $399
These two, and the SLX line, all include a Shure SM58 mic (or similar lavaliere mic, depending upon the package you buy), so the differences seem to be primarily in the range and number of channels in the base station:

Now the client is using these in a medium sized room (about 100 people tops) in either a hotel room or in an office building. I don’t think that interference from other systems should be a major problem.

I think the PGX series is a good bet; sort of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears; 10 channels is too little, and 960 more than you need. Ninety seems enough to deal with interference 99% of the time.

The problem
Of course, one problem is that this isn’t really my field of expertise. I’ve been using a Sony wireless system for years, and never had a problem with interference. Checking the specs I see that Sony’s system claims to have 188 channels. If it were for my own use, I’d go with the PGX (or buy the Sony system.) But since it’s for someone else, the safest route might be just to tell the client that the contractor is using the SLX system, and that that’s what they should get. That way, if there are problems, I'm covered. But if I go and tell them to get the cheaper system, and then they have a problem one day, it’ll be my problem.

If you've had experience with any of these wireless systems, I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Snowpocalypse Edition

It's Friday, February 8 2013, and everyone in the Northeast is battened down and waiting for the biggest snow storm of the season. And while I still have power - and the internet! - here's the news of the day.

Canon C100 stuff
It's been an interesting week for Canon C100 news. I'd just put up a report on Filmmaker (Canon C100 or C300: Which One to Get?) about the Canon C300 vs the C100 image, speculating whether the Atomos Ninja would really make a big difference in image quality when Paul Antico emails me to say he just got one and tried it with his C100 and felt it was making a big difference in image. Exciting. (Canon C100 Does 4:2:2 with the Ninja Video Recorder)

I must admit that if I had the money, I'd buy a C100. Yes, it doesn't do 4K or overcranking, but for 99.999% of what I'll be doing over the next few years, it will be more than sufficient. The only problem is that it's outside my camera budget.

The Canon C300: Field Tested by MediaStorm DP Rick Gershon | Rick Gershon | MediaStorm
The C300 is a great camera too:
In my opinion, it takes a very special kind of camera to work well in a documentary setting. In the kind of documentary style that we work in everything starts and stops with the photographer. There is no assistant to pull focus, no sound guy, no director or producer. You don’t have four bodies that you can rig up to various degrees and swap out when needed. It is only you and your camera. 

Canon C300 tops list of most popular rental cameras | Jake Bickerton | Televisual
Interesting that the Sony F65 is in at number 10. I would have guessed it might be lower:
The survey analyses an assortment of data from camera hire firms to calculate the cameras that have most been in demand over the last 12 months in the UK. The results of the survey show a continued move to large-sensor models in all areas of production with many of the most popular models being large-sensor cameras that have only been on the market for the last year or so.

First RED Dragon stills – jaw dropping @ 6K, 86fps | Cinema5D
One of the major drawbacks of the current RED MX sensor was its weak lowlight capabilities in comparison to other current cameras like the Alexa, Canon's C-cameras or Sony's new F line. Clearly the Dragon sensor overcomes these problems and produces very powerful and unprecedented images in terms of resolution, framerate, dynamic range as well as the usual very filmic look RED shooters have gotten used to.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera tips – ‘overexpose’ it for best results – and interview with John Brawley | Andrew Reid | EOSHD
The Blackmagic Cinema Camera is shipping again, right?
John recommends setting the zebra function to 100% and not worrying too much about compressed looking skin-tones and banding towards the top of the curve / latitude. Most cameras (even the Alexa) have more tonality in the middle of the curve than at the very top, where the gradation between shades (essential for skin tones and faces) isn’t as smooth.

Digital Cinematography vs Film: Tides are Turning | Shane Hurlut | Hurlblog
First part of a series on camera testing. Shane was testing: Sony F65, Sony F5, Arri Alexa, Red Epic, Canon 1DC, Canon C500, Black Magic, GoPro Hero 3, 35mm Film

{Loop} | Alex Serban
A short that was shot on the Panasonic GH3. Alex offers his thoughts on using the camera in the attached post:
The GH3 handled the cold bravely (-2 to -10 degrees C) - we managed to film the whole day with just one battery (partially charged during he lunch break). It did a great job in the 2 square meters shed, it got nice, clear images at low ISO and good light, but quite noisy in the shadows, in the underexposed images and at ISO over 500.

Procam spends £500K on 4K Sony cameras | TVB Europe
The PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 should be shipping shortly....maybe the week after next?
UK broadcast hire facility Procam TV has invested £500,000 in Sony’s new 4K cameras, the CineAlta 4K Sony PMW-F5 (pictured) and PMW-F55. Procam claims the single transaction is the largest of its kind in the broadcast hire industry.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

PROCTUX - a cool Final Cut Pro X controller app for the iPad

Well, this looks cool. It's ProCutX for Final Cut Pro X, an iPad interface for controlling Final Cut Pro X that actually looks cooler than the interface of Final Cut Pro X.

But $24.99? Hmmm..

I must admit, I purchased another - sort of similar - iPad app that controlled Final Cut Pro 7, and used it exactly twice. It wasn't because it didn't work, it was just that I could work very well with the keyboard and mouse...switching to the iPad didn't really seem like that useful.

So yes, I find it intriguing, but I'm not certain that if I bought it I would actually do anything more than try it out once, go 'that's so cool,' and then never use it again....which is about the story for half the apps I've ever installed on my iPad.

Quick Links

You Don't Have to Go to Film School to Make It: A List of Film Schools 2013 Sundance Directors Attended | BRYCE J. RENNINGER | Indiewire
64 filmmakers responded, and the results may be surprising. 29 said they had no formal training in filmmaking. Some learned skills in design or photography school or as journalists but had no formal film school education.  The most popular film school from the filmmakers we surveyed was NYU, which had seven respondents.

My Review of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera | Daniel Freytag | Blog
It's a nice camera with nice images. But it's not that unicorn what everyone expected. I think there are simply to many disadvantages to use it for my productions. It has some nice things like 10-bit SDI out, 2.5K RAW recording with 13 stops of DR but on the other hand it has a huge crop-factor, it doesn't have 50/60p and the battery solution is not optimal.

Canon EOS 1DC test short “Hyber Nation” & review | Nino Leitner | Blog
Last but not least, the banding in ISOs lower than 400 is something that needs to be addressed via firmware updates by Canon. It’s a serious issue and really hampers your possibilities, forcing you to use strong ND filters (or faders) when shooting out in the sun. The native ISO of the 1DC is unknown to my knowledge, but I assume it will be around 800 or 850 like on the other C cameras, so it would be best to stick around that as much as possible – yet it would still be nice to be able to use the lower ISO’s if need be.

Festival Cinematography Notes – At Sundance, Alexa Rising | David Leitner | Filmmaker Magazine
I was struck by how little any of this has to do with indie filmmaking alone. As a token of digital revolution, RED cameras are so five years ago. It’s hard to storm the ramparts when last year’s #5 and #7 box office hits were shot with RED Epics (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Amazing Spider-Man).

Higher dynamic range will boost quality more than ultra HD | Philip Hunter | Broadcast Engineering
Disney's vice-president of production technology, Howard Lukk, argued that of the three so-called competitive H’s — High Frame Rate, High Dynamic Range and High Resolution — it was the range that would make the biggest difference to the QoE (Quality of Experience) over the next few years.

Send work from Premiere Pro to After Effects | AdobeTV
There are several ways to send your creative work from Premiere Pro to After Effects, and this lesson will walk you through all of them.

After Effects Lately 2013.01.31 | Rich Young | ProVideoCoalition
Here's some of the last few weeks or so of assorted After Effects tutorials, tips, and scripts & plug-ins new and old.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Quick Links

Using a Home Projector for Rear Projection | Michael Murie | Filmmaker Magazine
The projector mentioned in this article, the Vivitek D950 1080p HD (at $899), did an amazing job: 
I was amazed at how bright the projector was; given the size of the image (about 40 feet across) and the fact that the curtain wasn’t a real projection screen. The room was darkened, but it was still quite impressive. 

1. Write the Feature. 2. Make a Short. 3. Get the Feature Made. (Coming Soon: a MANCHILD Short) | Ryan Koo | No Film School
This section isn’t easy to write, because I can hear this hypothetical comment ahead of time: “Wait, you got us all to give you money so you could make your movie and now you say you need MORE money?” Sure, but I’m not asking for more money on Kickstarter; we’re looking to raise more financing to make MANCHILD by augmenting the Kickstarter funds with traditional independent film financing. Most Kickstarter campaigns only cover part of a film’s production, not the entirety of it, and this one is no different.

The Lightworks Linux Beta is Coming! | Lightworks
Before the end of the first quarter of 2013 we will be making the Linux version of Lightworks available as a Public Beta, the same as with the latest Windows Beta. A confirmed date will be announced once we finialise some more improvements. There is still a lot of work to be done primarily in finishing off the new licensing scheme which we will be trialling with the Linux Beta. If it proves successful, this same licensing will be rolled out to the Windows and Mac versions. More information will follow early next year as it becomes available.

Making the Intro: Neil's Puppet Dreams - Behind the Scenes with Digital Twigs
| Nerdist | YouTube
Stop motion BTS:
Visually we wanted to show Neil's insides as the inner workings of a puppet. We knew right away we wanted to do it all practical, and include the Henson Alternative puppet parts. So we proceeded by building the inside of Neil's head/brain out of meat and felt. It got a little smelly but it was worth it."

Canon 1DC / MJPEG Compression Banding | Miller | Philip Bloom
Some users have found shooting Canon Log at lower than the native ISO value of 400 can cause extreme banding. I’ve made some tests below to show that the compression used and it’s quality value is the main cause for banding and compression dithering blocking.

Timelapse Basics – A Few Things to Consider When Shooting a Timelapse
| Preston Kanak | Philip Bloom
One of the challenges you need to overcome when shooting is determining the ideal setting for your camera. In this post, I will walk you through a few of the settings you will need to consider. I will also be asking a few questions that will help guide you towards the perfect settings for your given scenario. I will be covering the following:

Assimilate Updates Scratch for Sony F5/F55, Canon C500, BMCC | Bryant Frazer
| Studio Daily
Assimilate upgraded its Scratch and Scratch Lab DI software to support a raft of new camera formats, including Sony's F5 and F55, the Canon C500, and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Also new is an accelerated debayer method for Arriraw footage that the company says is "dramatically faster." It's set as the default for loading new Arriraw media.

Panasonic’s New Sensor Technology Does Away with Color Filter, Gains One Stop Sensitivity | FELIX ESSER | The Phoblographer
Panasonic’s new technology diverts the different wavelengths of red, blue and green light to the corresponding pixels with the help of a special refractive material. To the effect of gaining a whole stop of light sensitivity that was previously lost due to the color filter swallowing half of the incoming light.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Quick Links

Cinematographer Ben Smithard (My Week With Marilyn) on choosing Sony’s F65 for Belle | Chris Patmore | movieScope
The Sony is better than a lot of other digital cameras and is probably the closest to film that I’ve ever seen. I really hope that the F65 becomes a standard because it’s a great camera and it would be good for the film industry to settle on something, because there’s a lot of money swilling around the pot that could be better used somewhere else.

F55/F5 RAW support (in addition to F65RAW) | Sony
Sony releases support for Sony's F5 and F55 in Premiere Pro:
This plug-in adds support for Sony RAW MXF files in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 products, allowing viewing and editing capabilites.
What's New: F55/F5 RAW support (in addition to F65RAW)

| Andrew Wonder | Blog
Now putting the 1DC in the real world it becomes harder to see the differences that 4K brings to the table. Yes it appears sharper (my assistant Danny says you feel like there are less layers between you and the image) and slightly more detailed but nothing that makes me want to throw away my 5D.

Canon C100 & FilmConvert for C-LOG | Sebastian | Cinema 5D
The C100 is a very underestimated camera. It is very ergonomic to use, fast, and has a powerful and lowlight capable sensor. Despite the AVCHD compression (you can see the compression artefacts in this very demanding source clip on vimeo: LINK) a lot can be achieved (We'll have a more detailed look at it soon). With filmconvert's support this affordable camera ($6499) gets even more competitive. 

Shooting a Super Bowl Feature: There is No Spoon | stillmotion | Blog
Using the Canon C100:
Aren’t they up in arms about the footage since the C100′s AVCHD 4:2:0 codec is not “approved” for broadcast?Nope. We’ve delivered terabytes of footage and not one editor, director or producer has mentioned a single word about codec.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera: Video vs. Film | Daniel Freytag | Vimeo
A quick test between the Video and Film mode with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera.

Using a Hand-Held Bullet-Time GoPro Rig to Shoot a Music Video | DL Cade
| PetaPixel
At the top, you’ll find a behind the scenes look at how it was all put together, and we have to admit, it’s an interesting way to film. He used a total of 15 GoPro Hero 2′s mounted on a custom-built rig to capture all of the footage, and all in all the project took only a few hours to shoot.

From ARRI Alexa to Sony HVR: What the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers Shot On
We've compiled the information in a list of the filmmakers' responses for those that are curious.  Many films have used more than one camera, so to find all cameras listed for a film, we recommend doing a search of this page for the title through your browser [...]
Not surprisingly, the ARRI Alexa, Canon 5D, the RED Cameras and Sony EX3 and F3 were some of the most popular choices.

Product Review: Sony Sound Forge Pro Mac | Larry Jordan | Blog
However, if you don’t currently have any audio editing software, or are looking for something to take the place of Soundtrack Pro, Sound Forge Pro Mac is state-of-the-art audio software, with a clean, easy to understand interface, sophisticated editing functions and basic audio repair technology. It is also very competitively priced.

*UPDATE* EOS 70D is Coming, The Future of Pro APS-C Will Change
| CanonRumors
The other reports that have leaked in, is the xxD line would return to where the 50D was in terms of build quality and size. We’d be going back to a more semi-professional style camera. If this happens, that would definitely change the EOS 7D’s place in the lineup.