Archive for September, 2008

Scott Simmons has the scoop on rumors that FCP will soon offer native Red camera .r3d support. To date, editors have had to either edit with the QT proxies, or use RedCine / RedRushes to transcode to ProRes or another editing format. The former option is not recommended by most users, the latter can involve a very time-consuming transcoding process. So native support of R3D’s in FCP would be a big deal indeed, even if Adobe beat Apple to the punch. Firm details are sketchy right now, but Scott outlines the possibilities in his post. Check it out.

Time Code and HD cameras

Time Code and HD cameras is a nice read at the HD Cinema blog, they offer a few excellent tips like eschewing 24 fps for 23.98 to make it easier to integrate with sound sync later. Check it out.

JVC announces HDD and XDCAM EX recorders

In a bit of interesting news from IBC, JVC has announced they’ll be supporting Sony’s XDCAM EX format and SxS cards in a new recording accessory unit. They also announced a wifi enabled hard disk recorder that matches up nicely with Firestore’s FS-5. Details here.

PVC contributor Art Adams has posted comments on the workflow for a recent HD project. His workflow article offers a good introductory guide for those just digging into the Red camera and it’s associated tools, RedCine and RedRushes. The subtitle “I might be just winging it, but darned if it don’t work!” should be a good indicator as to how Art approaches the article. He also offers a great universal tip on slating:

“…it is immensely helpful to have the slate in the frame when the camera first rolls. That first frame becomes the thumbnail for your clip, and it’s handy to have the scene and take number sitting right there in your bin.”

I’d recommend this read for those who are new to Red or considering making the jump soon. You can find it at ProVideoCoalition. And while you are there, check out the new FreshDV PVC channel.

Sony Vegas updates include 64-bit support

Sony has announced two updates to their Vegas Pro NLE software, 8.0c and 8.1. The former includes support for various XDCAM modes and flavors and the HVR-Z7U camcorder that Sony introduced earlier this year. The 8.1 update includes 64-bit support (and presumably the updates in 8.0c?).

Vegas Pro 8.0c Features
** Enhanced trimmer tools, improved source/preview workflow, Fit-to-Fill and paste/overwrite editing and video playback functionality
** XDCAM HD 4:2:2 50 mb/s support
** XDCAM EX rendering support
** HVR-Z7 24p capture and high-performance editing
** HVR-Z7 CF card import module
** Optimized AVC encoding and decoding

Vegas Pro 8.1 has been designed to maximize the capabilities of the 64-bit system, providing:
** Access to large amounts of memory not possible with 32-bit systems
** Scalability for multicore processors
** Faster overall performance and rendering
Vegas Pro 8.1 provides current users with more memory access which enables
** Working with complex memory-hungry 3D projects
** Working more efficiently with nested Vegas Pro projects
** Running more multiple instances of Vegas Pro software
** More open Codecs, Filters and Effects, and Cached Frames for Ram Previews
** Features both improved rendering times and general performance optimizations

Full press release here. The Vegas 8.0c and 8.1 update are free for existing Vegas Pro 8.0 users. For anyone looking to adopt Sony’s NLE, Vegas Pro is available at B&H for $469.95 (and includes a $75 B&H gift card).

Thanks to Randall Bennett for the tip.

Sony HVR-S270 Shouldermount Camera Review

British Columbia shooter Shawn Lam has written a Sony HVR-S270U review for EventDV, you can read it online here. Shawn concentrates on audio, connectors, and the overall shoulder-mount experience (he already talked about the CF recorder, etc in a previous review of the Sony HVR-Z7U). Here’s a short excerpt on audio features this camera offers over the Z7 model:

“The S270 supports 4-channel 48 kHz 16-bit MPEG-2 audio recording in HDV mode. While two channels are sufficient for most shoots, there are situations where the additional audio tracks are a requirement. Starting next year I will be producing video adjudication DVDs for dance competitions. These DVDs feature four audio tracks for each dance routine, with each of the three judges requiring his or her own audio track, and an additional audio track for the soundbooth audio and stage microphone mix. Four channels of audio is a requirement, and because this production will be a single-camera shoot, splitting the audio over two cameras is not a practical option.”

“The S270 features a channel select button that allows the user to solo an audio input to both ears, along with the ability to monitor either the first and second or third and fourth channels in the right and left ears. Unlike features such as the expanded focus that can only be accessed in standby mode, the audio monitoring select control can be operated while recording without changing the audio mix.”

B&H recently reduced the price of the S270U from $8,499.95 down to $7,950.00. Likewise, the Z7U has been reduced from $6,299.95 to $5,399.95.

I posted a short & ranty article over at ProVideoCoalition about the poor attention to detail that so many small, indie-minded companies seem to exhibit. While some of the most innovative and cost-effective solutions seem to come from these companies, they also tend to deliver some of the most shoddily packaged and presented gear. More often than not the new equipment arrives unbranded and requires a Ph.D. in box disassembly to even get at the gear. And don’t get me started on the utter lack of documentation and poorly written manuals (if you even get one). Here’s an excerpt:

“FreshDV sees a lot of gear come through our doors. Products generally arrive in nondescript brown boxes, wrapped in yards and yards of bubblewrap underneath layers upon layers of packing tape. It’s a demoralizing task to disassemble boxes that have been literally taped together around a product. There I am, waist-deep in packing peanuts on the floor as I feebly slash through the last few hundred layers of tape.”

“So when a product arrives that is neatly secured for shipment in packaging that looks like it was actually designed for the purpose of said product…I breathe a sigh of relief and raise my glass in a silent toast to those who took the time to treat their gear like it matters.”

I realize that in everything there is a tradeoff, that affordability sometimes means sacrifices must be made in packaging or design. However, it is my opinion that the companies that make those extra little efforts to properly brand, package, and support their products, those companies will be far more successful in the long run. And their users will be all the more thrilled to support the company. Say what you want about Steve Job’s “reality distortion field”, but there are real reasons why Apple users are so cult-like in their support of the brand. It’s time for indie gear manufacturers to tap into that level of branding. Read the entire article here and then pass the link along to your favorite indie gear company.

I recently posted my First Impressions review of the Zylight Z50 and Z90 lights over at Pro Video Coalition. Zylight’s unique line of LED lights are dimmable, have integrated color and gel modes, and can be wirelessly linked (yes, really) for centralized control. The review focuses on how the LED lights integrate in an event shooting environment, here’s a short excerpt:

“The Z50 was mounted directly on a monopod, which the lighting assistant would hold above and slightly-off to the side camera while shooting. This enabled us to keep a nice, controlled level of light directly in the vicinity of the camera(s) on the dancefloor, with an additional light on a stand providing overall fill and a nice kick to play off at times. The lighting assistant was able to dim and color gel the Z50 on the fly, which in turn reflected those changes wirelessly on the stand-mounted Z90 light. We were particularly impressed with the color gel features of the lights. It is trivial to make very minor adjustments to the color temperature and matching the ambient lighting is a dream. It made our lights appear to be less jarring to the people dancing, and mixed perfectly on camera. Lighting color changes can be saved on the fly as one of the two user presets and recalled later.

Prior to the reception event, we did some testing and determined that both lights would probably benefit from a little additional diffusion. We gaff-taped two small squares of Rosco diffusion film over the Z90, and a single layer over the Z50. This was pretty close to optimal, and helped to soften the output even more. The result is a light that wraps quite nicely around the subject, and doesn’t hurt the eyes when aimed directly at them (when properly dimmed). The output of the Z90 was cut a bit by this double layer of diffusion, but it still enabled us to nicely fill light a 12’ square area.”

Go check out the full article for all the juicy details on these sweet little lights. You can purchase Zylight gear at Amazon and also direct from the manufacturer at www.zylight.com

Intel just announced a new X25-M Solid State Disk drive that utilizes relatively cheap multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash memory to deliver a 80GB drive for $595 at quantity.

“The first of these SSDs to hit the market will be the X25-M, which boasts an impressive 250MB/s sustained read rate, a 70MB/s sustained write rate, 80GB of storage capacity in a 2.5″ form factor, and support for Native Command Queuing.”

“… the Intel drive’s whopping 250MB/s sustained read rate quickly puts things into perspective. That’s more than twice the sustained read throughput of the latest desktop WD VelociRaptor and leagues ahead of the fastest mobile competition. (For comparison, the SLC-based 64GB Samsung FlashSSD we reviewed not long ago is rated for 100MB/s sustained reads and 80MB/s writes.) Finally, we have a drive capable of exploiting its 300MB/s Serial ATA interface.

While we’re embarassing the VelociRaptor, we should note that the X25-M has a read latency of just 85 microseconds. That’s 0.085 milliseconds, if we convert to units more commonly associated with hard drives. For comparison, the random access time of the VelociRaptor is 7.4 milliseconds—a difference of two orders of magnitude.”

Finally, one of the common concerns with flash-based memory is the limited write/erase cycles possible with the media. Based on Intel’s figures, that problem appears to be becoming less and less of an issue.

“Intel estimates that the 80GB X25-M will last for five years with “much greater than” 100GB of write-erase per day.”

I’ll take 4 of these in a RAID 0, please.

Nikon has just dropped a new 12.3 MP Digital SLR still camera, the D90. This little 1.b 6oz camera is considered a “advanced amateur” offering, but it comes with some surprisingly professional features, including a 3″ LCD with Live View, clean ISO up to 3200, and “D-Movie” mode, which can capture HD video at 1280×720 in 24p in a motion JPEG avi. Through a 35mm lens. So, will this camera impact the 35mm adapter industry?

Mike Curtis has written two articles at ProVideoCoalition that deal with the D90, the first is a blogwad of the latest news and buzz on this camera, the second is a spec-off vs the Red Scarlet.

And speaking of Red… Jim just announced their own tasty little tidbit of info on a late-2009 “DSLR Killer.” We certainly live in interesting times. Over at ProLost you’ll find a nice post that discusses Red’s stills + motion (non)announcement, with Stu’s color commentary:

“There is a theory that in order to shake cusomers away from an existing product, your product must be ten times better. In the digital cinema space RED One was seen by almost everyone as being ten times better than anything at its price point. What happens when RED’s SLR-killing autofocus is just a hair slower than Canon’s? Or only a tiny bit better?

Good luck Jim. I’m sure I’ll want whatever you make. But I do hope you’re as busy making things as you are dreaming them up. Remember the 4K projectors and displays you mentioned two NABs ago? It would delight me to no end if you were as enthusiastic about refining your existing products as you are about announcing new ones.”

The new D90 DSLR with stock lens is now available at your favorite camera retailer, with the body-only option coming on October. B&H lists it at $999.95 for the body and $1,299.95 with an 18mm-105mm VR lens. The short sample video below shows the HD movie mode shot with a f/1.8 prime.

UPDATE: There has been some confusion over whether or not the D90′s exposure can be completely manually controlled in D-Movie mode. Based on a few tweets by D90 user davidstripinis, it appears that the camera’s auto-exposure can in fact be locked by toggling on the following setting:

“Menu > Custom Settings > Controls > AE-L/AF-L for MB-D80″

What this setting does is enable Auto Exposure Lock for the D90′s AF-ON button which is located on the vertical grip (or a similar button on the optional MB-D80 battery/grip pack). So now when you are shooting 720p HD video, you can press the AF-ON button to lock the exposure at any given time. While not technically a full manual mode, this is extremely useful and simple to implement/use.

UPDATE: D90 users are starting to work out manual control workarounds, and this DVXuser thread is a great start. Here’s a short excerpt that helps clean up excess auto ISO adjustments:

“…the key ingredient to repeatable results will be a Manual Lens. After you’re done being mad at me, strap on a Nikon Nikkor 50/1.4 (or Similar) and try this:

….1. Without turning on LV mode, set the camera in Manual Mode.
….2. Turn on AE-L (LOCK), you can check by peerin’ into the viewfinder
….3. Close your Iris down to an f5.6 ~ 8
….4. Aim the camera at a wall or surface that’s brightly lit. It should not be blown out, but bright. ….I would say just about sixty-percent (60%) Exposed or a little more.
….5. Activate LV mode.
….6. Open the Iris to a 2.8 or 1.4 and check the cleanliness. Not to mention the 1/30 ~ 1/60th shutter. Mmmmm. Delightful.

If you did this right, you should be able to point the camera at an underexposed area (little shadow, etc) with the lens wide open and see very little to NO noise at all. If I had to guess, this is ISO 200 ~ 320.”

Here’s another users’s handheld D90 work that shows the DOF control possible.

Are you using hard disks to backup your fancy new solid-state camcorder? Are you letting the archives sit on the shelf? FCP guru Larry Jordan says that new info suggests you shouldn’t let the drives sit too long, lest your data evaporate. Scott Simmons has the scoop.

DIY Cool CFL Softbox

The guys over at Indie4K have thrown together a post that shows how they built their own soft light sources using (5) Compact Fluorescent bulbs in a simple enclosure. Looks like it takes a few surface-mount light sockets, wood backing, foamcore, and a little patience. They dressed it up with a nice Avenger Baby Wall Plate to make it compatible with standard stands and grip gear. This is a really nice DIY project, and the resulting daylight-balanced light source looks fantastic.

“We managed to build three of these in about four hours, figuring out the details as we went along. Each one is lamped with five 27 watt nVision daylight balanced CFLs (also form Home Depot), which (our Red tells us) have a color temperature of almost exactly 5000K. One benefit to this design is that you can reduce output, and even aim the light to some extent, simply by removing bulbs.

Each fixture puts out the equivalent of around 450 watts of tungsten lighting, while using only 135 watts. (With the foam core sides, they’d probably catch fire in fairly short order if you actually put 450 watts of tungsten bulbs into one; with the CFLs the foam core gets no more than mildly warm.) One almost comical benefit of this is that you can plug ten of these fixtures (equivalent to over 4000 watts of tungsten light) into a single 15 amp household circuit, and never run out of power on location again.”

One of the challenges for independent filmmakers and content creators is distributing and monetizing your work. Independent digital distribution options are becoming more and more viable, but setting up a store, taking orders, and dealing with bandwidth costs are not trivial matters.

RedAntenna, a company billing itself as “eBay meets iTunes,” has built itself around the idea that content creators need a marketplace to share their work. They are developing marketing and exposure opportunities for users, as well as an affiliate structure with user configurable rates. With a simple business model that takes care of all the distribution details for a modest percentage of sales, RedAntenna looks to be an attractive option for indies.

I spoke with a RedAntenna representative about the finer points of the service and got all the details. You can listen to the interview by subscribing to our podcast feed.

Just noted this sweet little Olympus LS-10 digital audio recorder via a Tweet by Stu Maschwitz.

The sub-$300 LS-10 is a relatively low-cost option for on-set and event production recording at 24 bit/96kHz. And it does it straight into Linear PCM WAV format, which should satisfy those that aren’t happy with MP3 compression on other audio recorders like the Zoom H2. Not to be left behind, the LS10 also offers the option of recording in compressed MP3 and WMA formats, so you have plenty of choices to work with in the field. The PCM WAV recording of the LS-10 should may solve the potential sync drift issues that some low-cost compressed audio recorders seem to be plagued by.

I’d love to check this recorder out personally, having reviewed the Zoom H2 for DV Magazine earlier this year. Finally, both the Zoom H2 and the Olympus LS-10 are also available from Amazon if that’s your preference.

Cinematographer John Leonetti on Shooting with RED

HDFilmTools.com has been creating some great original video content lately, and the latest update is no exception. It’s a profile on Shooting with Red by John Leonetti, ASC. John talks about how he used the Red camera in his latest film, Hybrid. It’s an interesting discussion on the filmic look of the Red camera in relation to Film, HD, and other Digital Cinema Cameras. Check it out, and while you are there you should also take a look at the other excellent filmmaker profiles they’ve been posting.