Formats

SmallHD has written an EXTENSIVE post about how Canon DSLR monitor output works, and the issues and confusion surrounding output from these cameras. It’s a very interesting post, and they’ve also posted a video on the topic that sums everything up (embedded below). Highly recommended reading and watching.

Effective Pixels 101 from SmallHD on Vimeo.

VisualHub lives on as ReduxEncoder

Some time ago, Techspansion shuttered up their doors and discontinued development of VisualHub. Which is a shame, as it was a really handy and useful transcoding utility for Mac video users. I’ve just learned that VH lives on as ReduxEncoder! You can download a beta here and follow the developer’s blog here.

atomos_ninjaSo here’s an interesting announcement…the Atomos Ninja is a self-contained recorder box that offers HDMI input and records to one of three ProRes codec flavors. This looks similar to the $3000-ish Convergent Design nanoFlash (which records XDCAM flavors to Compact Flash media), or the $4000-ish AJA Ki-PRO (which records ProRes to pretty much any media variety). The Ninja has some unique options, and the price is also very attractive, at €795 (currently $1011 USD).

The box is pretty small in size, with a 4.3″ color touchscreen for configuration and settings. Input is HDMI only (with audio) and an additional 2-channel audio line-in. HD input formats include 1080i59.94, 1080i50, 1080p24, 1080p23.98, 720p59.94, and 720p50. SD formats include 480i, and 576i. The unit comes with two batteries, and is hot-swappable on the fly. You can apparently pull one battery and replace it with a fresh one without powering down the unit. Storage is via 2.5″ hard drive in various capacities, or 2.5″ SSD drives.

The Atomos Ninja not shipping at this time, they anticipate a December ship timeframe and are now accepting pre-orders (caveat emptor as always). If HDMI recording works for your camera system, this could be a really interesting and relatively low-cost “lightly-compressed” recording solution. It’s also an interesting option to consider for Red shooters…one of the attractive features of the ARRI Alexa camera is it’s ProRes output options. TV production loves this, as they can quickly drop these ProRes files into the editing workflow without processing. Not to mention that Red has not announced any intention of creating a ProRes output module for Epic. Perhaps a recorder solution like the Ninja is just what Red shooters need to fill that gap and offer a direct-to-edit “baked” format like ProRes in addition to Redcode Raw recording.

Earlier this year there was a big flap about the MPEG LA’s AVC License terms for H.264 video, and how it affects content creators on the web. We did our own post on the complicated topic here. Well it seems that the MPEG LA was listening, and in a recent announcement they’ve extended the free web-distribution terms of the AVC/H.264 License from a 2015 expiration date to “through life of license.”

So it seems that either the concern from users of H.264, or the pressure from Google’s WebM (VP8) announcement has had some effect. Either way, content creators now have continued flexibility to use the H.264 codec without the fear of onerous licensing fees.

UPDATE: I think we understood this news incorrectly. Here’s another analysis that suggests this announcement is little more than a smokescreen. Thanks for the link, Jon.

There’s a really solid thread at DVXuser that delves into dynamic range and quality comparisons between the Canon 5D MKII and the recently-hacked Panasonic GH1. Previously the GH1 was an interesting camera hobbled by a frustratingly low codec bitrate, limiting it’s usefulness in the video world. But now that there’s a respectable codec bitrate option in the hacked GH1 firmware, people are starting to take another look at the camera. In the forum thread linked above, shooter Hunter Richards set up a good comparison test that pretty clearly shows sharpness and dynamic range comparisons between the GH1 and the popular 5DM2.

As a further comparison, the 5D Mark II is currently a $2300 camera body and the GH1 lists for $1,190 (B&H prices, buy links above).

(Via @ninoleitner)

Pro8mm was exhibiting at Cine Gear 2010, and we dropped by to chat about what they are doing in the world of small format film. Cool stuff for Super8 fans, watch below.

cinegear_2010_pro8mm

vise_compressionThis week Google announced they would be open-sourcing the VP8 codec, which was acquired from On2 some time ago. The format is being called WebM, but to be clear WebM is the container name, which will encapsulate VP8. Given the recent hullabaloo about MPEG-LA’s control of H.264, an open codec like VP8 seems like a good thing for the web. In fact, Randall Bennett says that Google needs to get a little evil and push the adoption of this new format. But others are not so willing to back VP8.

Google will assumedly be moving Youtube to VP8 delivery, and they have a host of technology partners who have agreed to implement the tech. But Microsoft has been silent on the subject. And Apple is apparently not impressed either…in a short email exchange, Steve Jobs pointed to a technical critique of VP8 that concludes it is a subpar alternative to H.264. The article also notes that the codec appears to be immature, rushed to release, and may have lingering patent issues. The MPEG-LA has already stated they are looking into creating a patent pool for VP8, which suggests that someone still owns the tech, or thinks they do.

Let’s assume that the patent thing is worked out, and VP8 goes open-source without issues. Google integrates it everywhere, because they have fingers in every pie. My concerns are that right at a point where the web seems to be moving to a somewhat standardized format, using HTML5 and H.264, that VP8 confuses the issue and creates a rift. If Apple and others decide not to add VP8 support, we’ve got Flash video all over again. Two competing formats, and devices that support one but not the other. And while these huge companies duke it out in the format wars, users lose. Content creators who have to build sites for both formats lose.

It used to be that if you wanted people to watch your content you offered multiple format options: Windows Media, Quicktime, Flash, Realplayer (ugh, I just threw up in my mouth a little). In the past few years we’ve somehow managed to narrow things down to just 1-2 of these options, and then WHAM along comes another format. We now know that VP8 is reportedly not technically superior to H.264. But is VP8 cheaper? Yes, if MPEG-LA starts charging for H.264 web distribution in 2015. So the other important question is, is VP8 better for users? It remains to be seen, but right now I think the answer is no.

Why should you care about 24p?

The Canon 5D MKII 24p update was just announced, and people are flipping out. Now, many people have been using the 5D for video at 30fps (and conforming it to 29.97), and others have been using Twixtor (check the comments) and other tools to conform it to 24p. It’s an incredibly powerful tool at either framerate, but this post is about why you might choose the latter.

Stu Maschwitz did an interview with MacVideo recently, and in Part 2 he spends a solid 10min expounding on why he believes 24p is the optimum framerate for filmmaking. It’s an insightful commentary on the topic, and as always Stu’s points are well-considered and convincing. I highly recommend you check this interview series out.

Finally, just wanted to say that I’m glad to see the 24p update for the MKII, but myself and others I know will continue to use the camera at 29.97 for certain projects, for compatibility’s sake with other footage sources and corporate delivery requirements. It’s going to be awesome having options though.

FYI, the 5D Mark II camera body is now priced at $2499 and ships with a roomy Lowepro Nova 170 AW Shoulder Bag and (2) SanDisk 8GB Extreme CompactFlash Memory Cards. The Sandisk cards rock, and that bag is capable of holding up to 3 lenses and the body. That’s a really solid deal, and B&H purchases via that link help support FreshDV.

We mentioned this excellent article on Canon 5D Post-Production when it was first published, and then Oliver had to pull it for a few weeks. Well it’s back online now, and I encourage you to check it out!

Canon has announced a new MPEG-2 4:2:2 codec with a 50 Mbps datarate and standard MXF support. It will be used for their forthcoming line of 1920×1080 tapeless HD camcorders. In conjunction with this announcement, Canon will be showing a new tapeless HD camcorder at the 9th Annual SF SuperMeet.

Dear Canon, please put this codec on my DSLR, kthxbai.

sony-bdp-s770I’ve been holding off on Blu-ray for a while, basically waiting for the market to sort itself out and wondering if I should just get an internet-enabled box like a Roku or the Boxee front-end to something like an AppleTV instead.

Well, wait no more; Sony has announced a new line of Blu-ray players, including the BDP-S770 which supports 3D, has built-in WiFi, streams from Netflix, Amazon, Pandora, NPR, etc, and even includes an iPhone/iPod Touch app for a remote (yes it also has a standard remote). No word on pricing yet, but I want one. Badly.

VideoSpace 3.0 widget and web app released

Digital Heaven’s VideoSpace widget is honestly one of the only reasons I use my OS X Dashboard. It’s a very useful little tool that calculates the space required to store footage from basically any codec. And it’s been updated to support the latest Prores codecs introduced by Final Cut Pro 7. Get your free copy here, or use it online at www.videospaceonline.com

The latest Cineform Prospect and Neo series beta software releases include a new metadata capability, allowing users to render/display passive metadata embedded in the source video. This allows users to turn that info on or off at will. One common use might be to non-destructively add timecode or other “burn-in” info for editing and post, then remove that info for finishing. Here’s a quote from the blog post on this feature:

“As metadata is so often lost and misplaced, you are lucky if you left with just the timecode in many workflows, so we long ago moved metadata from side-car files or within the file wrapper (AVI/MOV/MXF) and placed it within the compressed sample itself. This enables the decoder to read its own metadata (not possible with 99% of video types), all that was missing was the font engine to render the results in the display. The decoder now has that font engine. Offline workflows typical have a range of burn-ins top of the video image, returning to burnin free media for online/finishing. The CineForm burnins are non-destructive allowing the operator to enable to display the overlays, choose which elements to display, switch from offline to online with a single click. Any tools that use the CineForm decoder will gain this feature.”

Sony goes AVCHD with NXCAM?

sony_nxcamOver at PVC, Allan Tépper has a preview review of a forthcoming camera system from Sony with the designation NXCAM. With solid state recording to Sony Memory Stick and “a new NXCAM flash memory unit”, the NXCAM adds pro-level features to a tapeless AVCHD recording system in a package reminiscent of the tape+solid-state hybrid Sony HVR-Z5U (when equipped with HVR-MRC1 CF recorder unit).

This is certainly an interesting development, is this Sony’s low-to-medium production level HDV replacement codec? It sure seems like it, as the Z5U was a replacement for the venerable Z1U, and this model shares the imager and lens from the Z5. My initial reaction is that I wish they would use an existing flash memory option instead of inventing new ones and pushing users to Memory Stick. Yay! More formats!

Here’s a quick video that shows what the Red Rocket card can do for a post facility. Watch below.

Red Rocket from Ted Schilowitz on Vimeo.

Via @silveradosys