Archive for March, 2006

Equipment: The indie snap! matte box

The indie snap! matte box is a great little affordable matte box kit. It’s a very well made matte box with french flag and available side flags, for just $189!

It can hold 84mm filters, and fits the following cameras:
“DVX100, DVX100A, DVX100B, AG-EZ1, Canon XL1, Canon XL1a, Canon XL2, Canon GL1, Canon GL2, Sony VX2000, Sony VX2100, Sony PD150, Sony PD170, Sony FX1, Sony Z1, etc….”

Discussion at this DVXuser thread.

DVD logo font for packaging and print

Discmakers has a neato font download that allows you to insert the “DVD ROM” or “DVD Video” logos at any size into your print and packaging work. There are versions for both Mac and Windows users.

Here’s nice geeky article that talks about ILM’s datacenter facility in San Francisco.

“Industrial Light & Magic uses high-speed NAS servers with a distributed file system, 10gb/sec Ethernet, and a 5000-node renderfarm to store and move 170tb of content”

170 terabytes makes me want to cry. And with a half-dozen films in the pipeline, ILM has used up 90% of that capacity. (!!!)
What is really cool is all that storage (3000+ disks) show up as a single virtual disk drive to users. And they are working on a solution that would make that storage available to a facility located in Singapore. Pretty amazing stuff…

(Via Slashdot)

Samsung laptop with Flash hard drive storage

I realize that “flash hard drive storage” is a direct contradiction of itself, but I’m having issues trying to explain what this article is all about in the title. That’s the best I could come up with on short notice…

Earlier this month at CeBIT, Samsung showed off a laptop equipped with a 32GB 1.8-inch flash-based drive for storage. It’s a little pricey due to the current costs of solid-state storage (can you say “P2 Card”?), but it is certainly exciting to see more solid-state stuff in development.

30″ flat panel LCDs – Apple vs. Dell

CNET recently pitted the 30-inch Apple Cinema Display vs. the Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP. They tested the monitors side by side on identical PC systems equipped with 256MB Nvidia 7800 GTX graphics cards. In the end, they concluded that the Apple LCD won 3 out of 5 rounds of the bout, but gave high praise to the Dell flat panel as well.

It’s worth noting that both monitors were tested out of the box, there was no calibration whatsoever. That seems a little irresponsible of the CNET editors, especially considering did compare some of the more technical specs. Doh.

In related news, Apple has quietly bumped the listed specs of the 30″ Cinema Display, they now match those of the Dell with brightness at 400 cd/2 (from 270 cd/m2) and contrast ratio at 700:1 (from 400:1).

One of the Engadget commenters states:
“Both the Dell 3007WFP and the Apple 30″ Cinema displays use the LG-Philips LM300W01 panel, which is the only commercially available LCD with a 30″ diagonal and a 2560×1600 native resolution. Having said that, the associated electronics and backlighting could have been engineered differently between the Apple and Dell displays. It’s hard to say whether Apple really did change the backlighting to match Dell, or if this is just a restatement of the specifications. I suspect the latter, given the lack of fanfare from Apple.”

Food for thought…

(Thanks for the tip, Dan!)

Video Thing: Video Sampling Paintbrush & Canvas

Not a lot of time for bloggin, but did want to mention an interesting link. Over at Blog Maverick, Mark is advising you to crack the DRM on any media you purchase, as a precautionary measure.

CinemaTech:SunMaid Raisin’s New Spokes-Animation

CinemaTech has a short post on the new iteration of Sun-Maid’s raisin-girl. For the first time ever, she’s an animated character.
And I am disturbed. The new spokes-woman is smack-dab in the middle of the Uncanny Valley, in my opinion.

Taking a little break at Lawai Beach in beautiful Kauai, Hawaii this week. Our timezone here is 4hrs off from my normal CST zone, so any posts by me may show oddball times. Will probably be posting more OT stuff this week, or maybe nothing at all…I’m gonna play it by ear.

(Basically, I just wanted to brag that I’m in Hawaii. So there.)

We posted previously on Showreel Magazine’s ongoing article series covering so-called “small camera” tests on the set of Fox’s hit drama “24″. In Part 1 of the 3-part series, directors of photography Rodney Charters and Taylor Wigton tested the Sony HVR-Z1U and JVC HD100U cameras on set. In the current article, Part 2, they bring the Canon XL-H1 and Panasonic AG-HVX200 cameras into the mix.

One very interesting comment from Rodney, on talent in front of the lens:

“…I told Keifer we were testing more small cameras for drama use and he said again that he doesn’t feel he can perform as intensely in front of a small camera as when he faces a large Panaflex. So I’ll start by reiterating a point I made last time: it’s a good idea to use large matte boxes if you intend to use HDV for drama, so that the actors feel there is something of substance there they can address obviously not for taking an eyeline down the lens, but at least to act as an audience…”

That’s a very important point…what good are cost and workflow savings in the camera when the performance suffers? Before you assume Sutherland is just being snooty and resistant to change, consider that he himself shoots with the Z1 for personal work. This is mentioned later in the article…

Rodney again, on 24p for drama:

“To get 24p out of the Sony you need to do a little bit of fiddling. Use the 50i (25fps), then extract the additional frame in either a software engine or on HDCAM by playing at a variable speed to get it back to 23.98fps. Or use the new up- and down-rez box from Sony. These are fiddly things, to do, so obviously it is somewhat easier to shoot with a camera that does 24p natively.

Ultimately, you do need 24p, and it might be easier to get there on another camera system. Sony is about to launch the 1/2in chip XDCAM HD for around $20,000, and that will represent something to be reckoned with and at price point for people who want to get into HD at a more professional level.”

More people talking about the XDCAM HD, it really seems to be stirring up the industry…

“Each manufacturer has taken a different approach, and the results are all extraordinary; some of them are better than others and some aspects of some of the cameras are also better than others. Some of the limitations differ in importance depending on whether you are shooting documentary, drama or commercials.”

These two DP’s really seem to be impressed by the capabilities of the current crop of “small” 1/3″ chip cameras. But they mention again the over-arching issue of overly-wide depth of field, something that they address with cine-lens adapters. There is also mention made of the concern of sub-standard optics and the issue of the fixed lenses “breathing.” They mention the lens breathing issue affecting the Z1, and the stock lens (interchangeable, remember?) that ships with the HD100 “breathes like crazy.” The XL H1? “The lens is very sharp, but useless for drama because of the degree of breathing.”

Again, there is no magic bullet folks. Camera decisions must meet budget, shooting, and workflow requirements. What works for you might not work for me…but the good news is there are plenty of options on the market at this time. God Bless America. Err, maybe that should be God Bless Japan…but I digress.

Camera Summary (I’m chopping up comments here, quoting what catches my eye):
Sony Z1U- “A great introduction to the HD world, with its negatives being a fixed lens and a lack of proper focus controls. Great for docos, but it’s probably not your first choice if you want to shoot drama with an HDV camera. The camera is also truly menacing for stock footage. The underscan and ultra-bright LCD screen should be copied and implemented on every other camera. With its ability to shoot both PAL and NTSC 1080 50/60i, this is a sweet little unit overall.”

JVC HD100U- “It is designed very well for hand-holding and has a proper broadcast quality viewfinder. However, if you wanted to hide as a documentary maker, it’s the camera that looks the most professional…But again you’re restricted to 1280×720 and that’s barely enough resolution in this age. When you see it up against the Canon XL H1, the Canon has better picture sharpness but does so at the expense 24P…It is the one to watch.”

Canon XL H1- “The Canon camera was somewhat of a surprise: it came in at $10K, but in a way I think it’s probably worth it. First off, you can take an HD-SDI signal out…hopefully someone’s going to come out with a lens that will allow you to shoot relatively breathe-less so you can rack focus dependably back and forward. It could also use a decent focus control with it and matte box…the viewfinder is pretty much useless and, as it doesn’t have a flipout…the lens is a 20:1 zoom, which is an amazing range. But I would love it if they sold the camera body only, which they may do eventually.”

Panasonic HVX200- “…P2 cards is a completely different way of working. Filmwise, it’s fine for us; we have always changed magazines after 4 or 6 minutes in the 400ft loads and 10 and 16 minutes in the 3-perf version in 1000ft loads, so we’re used to that, so the idea of having three flashcards and exchanging them one in the camera, one being downloaded and one on standby is totally acceptable. We have enough people to do that…However, not being able to use tape made Sparkhill reconsider their purchase. Mass storage in the aftermath of that is coming online fast. We did find the HVX200 the noisiest of the cameras…But it does give variable frame rate, and I think the resolution decrease is worth it in this case.” (a reference to the slightly-lower-res, biaxial-pixel-shifted CCDs)

The concensus here is that the faux progressive modes of the Sony and Canon are decent, but don’t equal the look and feel of true progressive. They used Magic Bullet to convert 60i to 24p, and while they agree it’s good, it didn’t quite match the filmic look of true progressive. I wonder how Nattress filters would compare? Has anyone seen a head to head shootout (convert-out?) between Nattress and Magic Bullet 24p filters?

Taylor Wigton on optics:

“Regardless of how great the off-the-chip quality of these cameras is, until the problem of poor optical performance is resolved, and as long as the physical limitations of a tiny chip equate to near infinite depth of field, a lot of pros, particularly those working in drama, are going to steer clear of them.”

Hence, the cine-adapter tests that ensued. They tested the Movietube, Cinemek G35, P+S Technik Mini35 and the Red Rock Micro M2.

My quick and dirty synopsis of, umm, their synopsis:
Movietube-
*upright image (no post-flip required)
*impressive construction (hey, mfr’d by Germans, would you expect less?)
*patented static film screen rather than ground glass
*can only be used with fixed lens cameras at this point (Panny and Sony only)
*upper iris range is limited by visibility of the screen

Mini35-
*upright image
*loses quite a bit of light
*oscillating ground glass swirling visible in HDV

Cinemek/G35-
“unit we had proved to be unusable for HD/HDV shooting. Although we didn’t see the hair and dust on the G35 static ground glass straight away, it was there when we looked at footage on a 17in HD monitor. However, we had an early (probably preproduction) model, and the company is now completely redesigning the adaptor, and in the absence of it providing technical specs, photos or uncompressed frame grabs from its new design, we have to rule it out for the time being.”

M2-
*Lowest priced solution
*nearly lossless resolution/no image degradation
*no visible grains/no artifacting/no soft edges.
*wide iris range with no visual loss of resolution.

Conclusion on the cameras:
“Of course, there are differences between the three HDV offerings, but each of the three MPEG2 compressed HD cameras are crystal clear. From our limited tests so far, the Panasonic HVX200 is the noisiest camera of the four, but it has other saving graces.”

But when it came down to it, they both selected the JVC as top choice for narrative work:
“…the JVC HD100 (in large part because of its true progressive mode) combined with a Redrock M2 and a nice new set of 35mm Nikon SLR primes.”

But the kicker of this whole article are the footnotes concerning film vs video dynamic range:
“Of the 30 to 40 (one hour drama) pilots being prepped for shooting at this moment, and of those considered by the networks to have the most potential, all are being shot on film…in an uncontrolled world I think at the moment that film still gives me an advantage when shooting 24.”

I wonder what advances in dynamic range we can expect from the RED camera? NAB should prove to be an excited show to attend this year. Anyway, a great great article, take the time to read it thoroughly, I’m sure you’ll pick up insights thatI’ve missed. Thanks Taylor and Rodney for sharing all this information.

UPDATED: Alert reader Jim Thompson pointed out we were linking to LAST year’s SXSW music torrents. I’ve been having trouble distinguishing 5 vs 6′s lately…
You can find the current 2006 exhibiting artists MP3 packages at this link. Over 900 MP3s available in two torrents, not sure how many gigs…
Thanks for the correction, Jim!

ORIGINAL POST:
For a taste of this year’s South by Southwest exhibiting music artists, head on over to Fest4Pod. They have over 2.6GB of free music by SXSW artists in MP3 format, all nicely zipped up and available via Bittorrent.
Did I mention that it’s legal too? Bonus.

(Via Attaboy)

MacIntels confirmed as booting WinXP

All the links are slashdotted at this time, but /. is reporting that the unconfirmed solution to booting WinXP on MacIntel hardware by “narf” has been confirmed. Testers have booted XP on the 17″ iMac, the Mac mini, and the MacBook Pro. The solution is supposed to be posted soon, probably about 30-seconds before Apple takes some kind of legal action (if they haven’t already).

Being the first to post a working solution, “narf” earned nearly $14,000 for his trouble. If this works as advertised, the rest of us will reap the benefits as well.

UPDATE: Link to video of XP booting on Mac hardware.

UPDATE: Here’s an overview of the steps needed to install Windows XP on a Mac. Scroll down a few posts…

UPDATE: Here’s a mirror of the files you need to do the install.

WinXP boots and runs on a MacIntel?

Slashdot is reporting that a “WinXP on Mac” forums user MAY have figured out how to boot and run WinXP on Intel Mac hardware.

He offers photo proof at Flickr, but it’s not been independently verified as working…yet. I’m sure we’ll hear soon enough if it’s legit or not.

HD4NDS must read details and comments on Sony XDCAM HD

Mike Curtis at HD For Indies has notes from SXSW on Sony’s new XDCAM HD equipment. TONS of details and insightful commentary too, check it out.

He’s also been convering the overall scene at SXSW this week, it’s good coverage for those of us not able to attend this year.

Registration for the NAB VASST party now open

VASST is hosting a another Sony Vegas Users Party at NAB this year…free food, drink, and entertainment for geeks. Last year they had over 600 attendees.

The bangin’ shindig will be held Apr 25 from 6:45PM – 9:00PM in Room N251 of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Registration is required, and you don’t necessarily have to be a stark-raving Vegas NLE fanatic to attend, though there will be a few of those present. FCP users are encouraged to wear their “Sony Vegas iz teh 5ux0r!” t-shirts…

In all seriousness, it sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks to the guys at VASST for sponsoring the event.