Archive for January, 2008

Sony’s new HDV offerings: The Z7U and S270 camcorders with solid-state compact-flash recordingIn what appears to be one of the first detailed looks at the HVR-Z7U and HVR-S270, Digital Content Producer takes a first look the two hot new cameras. The four-page review thoroughly addresses the abilities and specs of the two cameras (and the new HVR-M35U deck that Sony has announced). It’s a very good read if you are at all interested in the Z7U or it’s shoulder-mounted big brother.

On handling:
“There’s one subtle difference between the Z7 and S270 versions of these lenses: The fixed grip is angled differently to accommodate the shift in wrist position when grasping a shoulder-mount ENG lens vs. a handheld camcorder. (The balance of the standard 12X Zeiss zoom joined to the Z7 is amazing, by the way. The Z7 just melts into your hand.)”

MRC1 CF Card Recording Module:
“There will be much digital ink spilled over this innovation, and I’ll merely sketch its outlines here. The MRC1 piggybacks to the rear of the Z7 and attaches to the side of the S270 opposite the operator. To be precise, it docks to a multi-pin connector and powers up from the camcorder, making cables unnecessary. (When detached, it fits a cradle that accepts an InfoLithium L battery on its backside. Sony says the little F570 will run it for 6.5 hours; the fat F970, 20.5 hours.) A CF status check is available in the viewfinder of both camcorders.”
“…It has a huge cache recording store of 14 seconds, continually buffering new audio/video in memory until the record button is pushed. And it can play back clips in auto repeat, letting you examine them over and over.”

Read on for more details. And for even more news on these two cameras, check out FreshDV’s continuing coverage here. If you are interested in getting first in line, B&H is accepting pre-orders on the Z7U and S270U.

The cast of SmashLabI am an avid viewer of the Discovery Channel. Dirty Jobs is extremely entertaining, anyone interested in hosting should take a few cue from Mike Rowe. Survivorman is very engaging, feels “real” and can be downright harrowing (remember the jaguar in the rainforest episode?). The new series Some Assembly Required tickles the Henry Ford gene in viewers and provides even more family-friendly viewing (my son loves the show). Planet Earth provided some of the most captivating imagery I have ever laid eyes on. I remember sitting there, mouth agape during the show’s US premiere. With that show they truly raised the bar on the nature documentary genre. Everest: Beyond The Limit upped the drama ante with very animated characters on an amazing journey that seems like complete insanity to outsiders. Finally, Mythbusters is arguably one of the best shows on TV, certainly among the reality/doc genre.

So when Discovery’s latest series debuted, you can imagine how surprised I was to discover how shallow and un-engaging Smash Lab really is. On the surface it looks like a great idea. Take some of the best of the Mythbusters formula, mix in a few attractive hosts with a geeky bent, add a liberal dose of gratuitous slow-motion, and blow things up. Sounds great, right? Sadly, it is lacking in execution. The science presented on the show is shoddy at best, the concepts and theories appear only casually tested and largely unresearched, and (unless an hour of 1000fps explosions is enough to entertain you) the viewer is thoroughly disrespected. I’m not alone in my criticism of the show…Discovery has a Smash Labs blog and they’ve been getting absolutely slammed in the comments by viewers.
Continue reading ‘Can Discovery Save Smash Lab?’

Use FCP Media Manager for Offline Proxy Editing

For real-world information from an editor in the trenches, you can’t beat what Shane Ross has been sharing regularly at LFiHD. This week he’s got a post up about the process of offlining large project sources into low-res proxies with Media Manager. He’s using it to take 453GB worth of DVCPRO HD sources on the road in a neat 16GB package. Check it out.

Via Prolost is a link to a web-based DOF Calculator application for both the iPhone and iPod Touch. Unfortunately there is no native app widget option, it has to be run from the web. But it’s a start.

Ryan Reynolds stars in John August’s “The Nines�Screenwriter and filmmaker John August has personally weighed in on his film The Nines showing up on BitTorrent link sites.

“I’m not bouncy with joy over my movie getting torrented, but I think it’s a stretch to equate unlawful downloading with traditional theft. As many commenters have pointed out, The Nines isn’t available in any legal form in many countries around the world, nor will it be in any foreseeable time frame. So I have a hard time arguing that a reader in Germany should pay for the movie when there’s no way he could.”

“…That’s why I have no problem with Sony and the MPAA going after bootleggers and other merchants of ill-gotten films. It’s not just the studios’ right to see that the law is enforced; it’s their job.”

For a slightly different point of view on this issue, read BitTorrent, A Boon To Independent Filmmakers. Thanks to Anthony for the tip. The Nines is available at Amazon beginning Tuesday January 29th.

One of the features added in Final Cut Studio 2 is the ability to capture and transcode HDV sources directly into ProRes 422. For editors that want to avoid the pain of long-GOP MPEG render times, ProRes is an extremely useful codec. The Cow’s Chris Poisson has a short tutorial that will lead you through all the steps. With the exception of a short lag time the process essentially happens “on the fly.”For more discussion on this workflow’s advantages and pitfalls, read this post by Shane Ross.

Via Ken Stone’s Mac-centric tutorial site comes a quick tip on how to view a clip’s embedded timecode in Quicktime Player. This might save someone somewhere the pain of creating a separate timecode-burn version of dailies and media. It only works with clips that actually have timecode embedded, and requires QT version 7.1.6 and higher.

In the wake of actor Heath Ledger’s death, Newsweek has published a few personal anecdotes from The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan. It is a touching and eloquent read. Here is a short excerpt.

“When you get into the edit suite after shooting a movie, you feel a responsibility to an actor who has trusted you, and Heath gave us everything. As we started my cut, I would wonder about each take we chose, each trim we made. I would visualize the screening where we’d have to show him the finished film—sitting three or four rows behind him, watching the movements of his head for clues to what he was thinking about what we’d done with all that he’d given us. Now that screening will never be real. I see him every day in my edit suite. I study his face, his voice. And I miss him terribly.”

Sony’s Removeable lens HDV camcorders pack a ton of unique featuresThe Sony HVR-Z7U and HVR-S270U interchangeable-lens camcorders are two very interesting offerings for 2008. Offering 1080/24p HDV to tape as well as to CompactFlash media via an accessory recorder, they look to be a great way to bridge the gap between the reliability and simplicity of long-format tape production and the convenience of solid state media.

B&H is now accepting pre-orders on the Z7U, listed at $6,299.95. At this time you can also pre-order the S270U, listed at $9,299.95. As with the EX1 release you should note that orders will be filled in the order they are received. And as with the EX1 release, I anticipate an initial shortage of camcorders.

Both record 1080 HDV @ 24p and 30p via three 1/3-inch ClearVid CMOS Exmor imagers with a claimed 1.5 lux rating. Other recording formats include 1080i, DVCAM, and DV. Both downconvert HD to SD via Firewire and can simultaneously record to CF card in either HDV or SD resolutions. Additional output options include HD-SDI/SD-SDI (with embedded audio and TC) on the S270U and uncompressed HDMI output on the Z7U. If you’d like to keep tabs on these two unique camcorders, watch our continuing coverage here.

Cinevate Brevis Flip with Sony FX1 Camcorder, Mounted on Carbon 15mm Rods, with a 50mm Nikon, Cinevate Lens Gears, and Redrock Micro Follow FocusCinevate Brevis Flip 35mm Lens Adapter Review (Part1 of 2)
By Matt Jeppsen

Cinevate
www.cinevate.com
(647) 723-2664
(Canada)

The following is Part 1 of FreshDV’s two-part test and review of the Cinevate Brevis flip adapter. Today we cover an Introduction, Imaging Elements, Design and Construction, and Setup and Configuration. Read on for Part 2 which addresses Image Performance and Workflow, Accessories and Miscellaneous and Summary and Conclusions.

Introduction
The last few years have seen an explosion in the use of small-format HD and HDV cameras for production. So-called “prosumer” and even some consumer-oriented camcorders are in wide use by amateurs and professionals alike. One market that has also been growing in leaps and bounds are 35mm lens adapter systems. This review takes a detailed look at the latest revision of Cinevate’s lens adapter line, the Brevis Flip. In addition, we will examine the latest in their series of swappable imaging elements, the CF1Le diffuser.
Continue reading ‘FreshDV Hands-On Review – Brevis35 Flip Adapter (Part 1)’

After Effects users are encouraged NOT to get the Quicktime 7.4 Software Update for Mac. After users update to QT7.4, renders in AE report the following error: “you do not have permissions to open this file (-54) (44::53).” I have not read if this also affects PC AE users. There is a lot of discussion on this issue at the Apple Support Forums, also some links to external AE forums from there. So this is just a quick reminder to tread carefully with updates if you have a rock-solid system.

UPDATE FROM KENDAL:
I recently had to downgrade QT to 7.3 to get AE CS3 to run correctly. When I downgraded everything ran fine, on 7.4 AE crashed on launch every time. Downgrading is a major pitb. Wish Matt had posted this a few days earlier :(

Update #2:
Mike Curtis is all over this as well, and mentions some issues with DRM or permissions that limits playback of movies you created, spotty reports of Sorensen conflicts, and even an Adobe engineer that mentions issues with Premiere Pro. There’s also the workaround if you’ve already hosed your After Effects install with the 7.4 update (read Mike’s post comments).

Update #3:
Kendal located a very detailed tutorial on how to revert from Quicktime 7.4 if you’ve inadvertently hosed your system with the update. Excellent info.

This article is part of a series of tests FreshDV conducted with the Sony XDCAM PMW-EX1. Thanks to Miami rental house and Sony dealer Midtown Video for providing a XDCAM EX camera. And thanks to DSC Labs for providing test chart patterns. You can read more about ours and others experiences with this camera here.

Sony XDCAM PMW-EX-1 External Controls and Camera Body Walk ThroughWe are still knee deep in footage and image tests of the Sony XDCAM PMW-EX1 camcorder, so stay tuned here at FreshDV for continuing coverage as we make sense of it all. Today we present a 8-minute video demonstration of the EX1 camera body and external controls layout. I walk through each button and feature on the body of the camera and explain what each function is. For a detailed analysis of the regular camera menus and picture profiles, check out our previous coverage of the EX1. You can download the hi-res Quicktime video manually, subscribe to our audio/video podcast feed, or watch the embedded Flash version below.

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Continue reading ‘XDCAM EX1 Hands-On – Camera Body and Controls Layout’

Teaser Image from Cloverfield’s Viral Marketing CampaignIn a shocking exposé amusing post over at Gizmodo the author informs readers that J.J. Abrams new film Cloverfield was NOT in fact shot on a garden-variety consumer camcorder. I for one am completely taken aback! I can’t be the only one that was certain that Paramount Studios backed a film with millions in financing knowing full well it would be shot on a camcorder bought at Best Buy…

Ok, enough messing around…while the Sony F23 WAS in fact used for much of the filming, there may actually be some truth to the camcorder rumors. Officially, Cloverfield was sourced with a mix of the F23, Grass Valley’s Viper and a few “handheld and intermediate cameras.” This article in Variety references a “lightweight Panasonic HD HandyCam” (can you say HVX200?) used for 1/8th of the film, and a “3-lb. Canon” used for about a third of the film. So perhaps Best Buy figured in there somewhere. UPDATE: Videography has a feature article on the production process, apparently the HVX was used quite a bit, and the F23 and Viper mainly for VFX shots (of which there were plenty).

“The HVX 200-shot images could look as genuine as everybody hoped, but if they weren’t robust enough to hold up to the heavy digital effects work required in post, all the realism gained would be lost. Oscar-winning character animation expert Phil Tippett’s company would be creating the CGI monster and Double Negative would create significant set extensions and backgrounds. And Banks wanted to give them the purest, cleanest images possible to start with and let them match the look of their completed shots to the lower-end footage after completing the composites. Footage from the Viper or F23, laid down to HDCam SR tape, would ensure the most flexibility possible in post and yield the most believable composites.”

Here is a Sony press release on the subject of the F23. And you can find out a lot more behind the scenes information in this extensive interview with Director Matt Reeves. Here is an interesting excerpt: Continue reading ‘Cloverfield Shot on a cheap Consumer Camera?’

Mocha-AE InterfaceMocha AE Planar Tracking
by Kendal Miller

Imagineer Systems
Retail: $289
FreshDV Score 5/5

Fresh Points: Finally an affordable planar tracking solution for After Effects! An incredible set of tracking tools that brings a professional solution for solving complex tracking problems to the After Effects compositor.

Stale Points: I would prefer to see more seamless integration directly into the After Effects user interface.

IMAGINEER SYSTEMS:

Mocha-AE is custom designed and priced for the After Effects community, this stand alone 2D tracking tool packed with features that make the effects compositors life easier. Now compositors can avoid the guess work and inaccuracies that result from hand tracking challenging shots, speeding up the process of generating solid 4-point tracks, giving position, scale, rotation, shear and perspective matched tracks and exporting the data to Adobe After Effects. Version 5,6,7 and CS3.

Based on Imagineers unique 2.5D Planar Tracking technology, mocha-AE helps solve problematic shots that traditionally break point based trackers, such as footage with objects moving out of frame, lack of detail, motion blur and heavy grain. mocha-AE’s innovative AdjustTrack tool helps remove drift and enables the compositor to extract offset tracking data for areas that go off screen.

mocha-AE allows tracking to be completed in less time, with higher accuracy, giving you an unfair advantage versus your competitors!

Continue reading ‘FreshDV Review: Imagineer Systems Mocha AE’

In more interesting news for independent filmmakers it seems that IMDB has bought Withoutabox, the thriving community of indies and creative filmmakers. Amazon owns IMBD. Mike Curtis has the scoop.