October 27, 2010

Minority Report - the editing interface

If you have seen the movie Minority Report you'll remember the scenes with Tom Cruise's character in front of a bank of screens, sifting through information using hand gestures only. 

John Underkoffler led the team that came up with the interface. Now it has been developed further and called the g-speak Spatial Operating Environment

Underkoffler recently spoke at the TED conference and did an interesting demo of the system. Once you've seen it you'll want one.

What is interesting for TV production is that it could be used for video editing, and a USC LA-based student, Emily Duff (and others), has developed a prototype system called Flatbed. On one video (http://vimeo.com/8225409) there is a very neat way of quickly assembling an edit - simply by drawing a line through a selection of clips (in the order you want them to play). Some of these ideas would work well on an iPad editor...

Ninja ProRes workflow + recording

Atomos Ninja - compression, workflow and benefits from UrbanFox.TV

Following our previous, brief introductory video about the new Atomos Ninja HDMI ProRes recorder, we did a much longer interview with Atomos CEO, Jeromy Young at MacVideo Expo. He explains how the compression works (with a good demonstration of how ProRes compares with more highly compressed codecs), the workflow, and the benefits of the Ninja - it would often be better to use it (or another external HDMI recorder) as the only recorder on some DSLRs as they output a lower resolution signal via HDMI while they record in camera.

Related post: Enter the Ninja – ProRes recorderNinja ships – disappoints DSLR users and Atomos Ninja Review

Steadicam Pilot and Scout workshop

Steadicam is running a Pilot and Scout workshop at Prokit in West London on Thursday 4th November.

It will give an introduction to the correct way to use a Steadicam, showing how to set up the systems to the best effect and safely. It will cover all the basics, including: balancing the units, operating techniques, using the telescopic post and low mode.

The award-winning Steadicam system, invented by Garrett Brown, is the classic way to achieve smooth motion without the need for a dolly or crane.

The Steadicam Pilot is designed for cameras weighing up to 4.5kg, while the Scout carries up to 8kg and is Steadicam's latest stabilisation rig (costing $6,995). It features: a newly designed sled that works with 12-volt cameras; a robust carbon fibre extendable post; a proprietary friction-free gimbal assembly; a comfortable, ergonomic vest; and a new 7-inch LCD monitor usable in bright sunlight.

The instructor will be James Elias (pictured above demonstrating the Scout at IBC) from Tiffen International who has many years of experience with the Steadicam systems.

It will start at 10am, and finish by about 4pm. Phone 020 8995 4664 or book online.

October 26, 2010

Cel-Soft limits the scope of bad 3D

The new Cel-Soft Cel-Scope3D is a software based 3D stereoscopic analyser that should help productions avoid bad 3D.

"It is only too easy to make bad 3D, because any misjudgement of the convergence produces dreadful results," said MD, Robin Palmer (pictured).

Left/right focus-difference and colour-balance-difference displays created by the Cel-Scope3D allow camera matching to be checked quickly.

It measures depth and disparity and allows users to set a depth budget (by pixels or percentage), and warns when you go over it. It can also log to a text file a record of what the depth was at any time, for review in post.

The live 3D analysis displays include depth analysis with depth budget markers, vertical disparity, depth histogram and vertical disparities histogram. These can be colour-coded to correspond to the false colour used on the depth map, to quickly pinpoint problem areas.

It can preview 3D as full-resolution luminance or any other anaglyph format (up to six at once), does colour matching in real time and audio analysis for up to 16 channels (with surround sound streams shown in a polar display).

It is designed for use on set, with live inputs, and in post production, to review and play back 3D media files. Quality-control tests can be performed on live stereoscopic video sources in any SD, HD or 2K format from standard capture cards or FireWire inputs, or from file playback.

Displays can be scaled and arranged as six or eight windows on one or two PC monitors and also on a 3D monitor. It also supports touchscreen control. An optional 3D recording facility allows dual stream 3D be captured direct to hard disk in a number of formats.

Costing €3,500, the software runs on powerful Windows PCs (four-core or six-core i7 processors and Nvidia graphics cards are recommended).

"What we're offering is, I believe, better, more flexible and more affordable," than its rivals, added Palmer. It has already been bought by the EBU to do 3D testing.

Besides being a stand-alone product it is also being licensed to other companies for use in an embedded role, and will also be available as a plug-in for one or more popular editing and grading systems over the coming months.

By David Fox

Gateway to file-based ENG workflow

A new system from AP and Vislink simplifies how news crews deliver stories with metadata and integrate with newsroom computer systems.

The Associated Press and Vislink News & Entertainment have completed trials of AP's ENPS newsroom computer system working seamlessly across Vislink's microwave and Advanced Gateway systems. This will enable file-based workflow in the field as if connected directly to the studio LAN.

"The Advanced Gateway system enhances the workflow by reliably extending ENPS and the file-based workflow into ENG" said Mike Palmer, Director ENPS Design & Integration Strategy at Associated Press. "This will add considerable value to our mutual customers' news gathering capabilities".

The Advanced Gateway system uses sophisticated wireless data bonding to maximize available download speeds, providing multiple persistent connections to maintain the highest level of connectivity available that the broadcasters require.

"The MOS protocol allows integrated file-based workflow with ENPS, [while] the Advanced Gateway systems close the circle of efficiency gains made in the studio, from the implementation of file-based workflow," said Laurence Venner, Vislink Product Marketing Manager (pictured with AMG5000).

Broadcasters want to reduce the time spent editing by craft editors, preferring to have journalists do as much of their own editing as possible. While this works well in the studio, it isn't as efficient on location, primarily because stories that are sent back as baseband video over traditional links don't include the metadata, which then has to be added back at base.

To solve this, AP and Vislink have been working "to extend the newsroom computer system into the field and connect the story back to the studio," said Venner.

The new system can connect ENPS with the journalist's computer via a cellular link, then transfer the finished files back to the studio over satellite or microwave links. This allows all files to be transferred at their native resolution, tagged by the newsroom computer system, and with all the metadata.

"One of the hidden advantages of the system is the ability to control the truck remotely," he added. This allows the newsroom to access and control all of the equipment on the truck, and to see the exact status of the story at any time.

The first production systems should be delivered to an AP customer in the US (a large station group) in November, where they will be working mainly with traditional ENG trucks.

In Europe, the two companies are looking to work more with satellite newsgathering or with city-wide cellular diversity systems, but this won't happen until the US customer is up and running.

Broadcasters will need to install one Vislink Advanced Gateway (a type of router that can route IP connections via ASI or cellular links, or both, and which can connect to multiple Gateways) at the studio end and one in each truck.

The system runs at very low data rates, so metadata could be sent within over-the-air links from satellite.

By David Fox

TV Globo has Passione for Optimo

Brazil’s TV Globo has been using Angenieux 35mm Optimo Film Lenses for its latest prime-time telenovela shot in Brazil and Italy.

The production, Passione, is one of TV Globo's first to move to full, high-end digital cinema production

“Angenieux’s Optimo zoom lenses on the 35mm digital cameras really give us a measurable upgrade in the quality of the images,” said Marcos Senna, TV Globo's Engineering Manager. “The optical performance of the lens is incredible and they harmonize perfectly with the camera, both on location when we do hand-held shots and in staged studio productions.”

TV Globo bought 17 Angenieux Optimo 35mm film lenses, including the Academy Award winning 15-40mm and 28-76mm lenses and the 24-290mm model (pictured in use on Passione with camera operator Carlos Rogers), after completing a rigorous series of field tests. TV Globo had previously rented the Angenieux 24-290mm zoom for a shoot. Globo had also used Angenieux large format zooms when it first purchased the digital cinema cameras and were impressed with the quality and performance of the lenses.

“We evaluated various manufacturers’ lenses during the test period, based on our criteria of optical features, performance, weight and handling,” said Senna. “The Optimo lenses met all of our needs and, taking into consideration our previous good experiences in using them, we concluded that the Angenieux lenses were best suited to support our pioneering digital cinema operations.”

Telenovelas have become popular globally, helping to make Brazil one of the world's largest television exporters. TV Globo has a massive studio complex in Rio de Janeiro producing some 2,500 hours of programming each year, including telenovelas, serials, reality shows, comedies and children’s entertainment.

Besides Passione, the Angenieux lenses have been used for TV Globo’s medical drama, A Cura (The Cure), filmed on location in the interior of Brazil. “We do a lot of hand-held shooting when on location and the 15-40 and 28-76 lenses are perfect for this type of production because they weigh less than 2kg. In addition, filming on location and shooting in different countries can be rugged. In all circumstances and under all conditions, the Angenieux lenses performed brilliantly," he added.

Due to the zoom range of the Optimo 24-290mm, when it’s used on a crane, they can do a full day of production with a single lens, which saves time. The 24-290mm can focus as close as 1.22m and weighs 11kg.

By David Fox

OConnor gets a grip on Mattebox

The new OConnor O-Box WM is a two-stage wide-angle mattebox designed for use with 16:9 format full-size sensors.

It is OConnor's first mattebox and is very compact while accommodating lenses up to 18mm (and in some cases wider). It accepts up to three filters: two in top-loading filter frames (two 4x4-inch and two 4x5.65-inch frames are included). The rear frame is rotatable 360º. A third 138mm round filter fits in the bellows.

The O-Box WM is the first commercially produced mattebox to have integrated handgrip interfaces. Traditionally operators have used the sunshade as a handle, but this can easily damage it. The O-Grips can be used in single-jointed or double-jointed (two together) configurations, making it easy to set up a grip system that suits you – even to create a top carry handle. They can be attached directly to the O-Box support cage in three locations: camera left, right or bottom centre. The latter position is particularly useful for small setups such as with HD DSLR cameras, becoming a pistol-style grip for the operator’s right hand while the follow focus hand wheel is in their left.

The O-Box WM can be clamped directly onto lenses with outer diameters of 150mm or less, and can also be supported by the removable 15mm LWS rod bracket. Studio 15mm and 19mm mounting options are possible via adapters.

Constructed using OConnor’s proprietary rugged composite material, the sunshade is lightweight but claimed to be substantially stronger and more impact-resistant than existing units. This translates to fewer sunshade replacements arising from the rigors of professional production environments.

The kit includes: the WM Mattebox including the Wide Mini Sunshade with two stages; front fixed/rear rotatable 360º, filter frames, top flag and mounting bracket. Options include: Side flags, retaining brackets, a bottom bracket and flags, and universal mask set that clips into place within the sunshade. Bellows step-down rings to 80mm are also available.

By David Fox

Low-profile TeleGlide for small spaces

Telemetrics' TG3 TeleGlide Camera Track System uses a new low profile trolley and track for robotic camera systems to minimize space requirements.

The TG3 is designed with a fixed platform trolley for increased stability and is complemented by a track frame of easily assembled lightweight aluminium components and steel rods for bearing contact. The fully servo-controlled system permits location feedback for accurate pre-set positioning and repeatable motion control while soft electronic end stops help ensure professional operator-like moves.

For added operational flexibility, the straight-track system can be floor or ceiling mounted with custom lengths and cable management systems. The TG3 works with all of Telemetrics' pan/tilt heads, extendable camera mounts, telescoping camera mounts and control systems. It can support up to 109kg with a maximum speed of 30cm per second.

“Robotic camera systems are a sound investment in today’s economic environment because of their cost effectiveness and increased production flexibility,” said Anthony Cuomo, Telemetrics' VP and General Manager. He believes that the TG3 will be particularly attractive for facilities that want to supplement their existing production systems or expand capabilities into new venues.

Four of the new systems have already been implemented in studios across Canada. “The TG3 is a great addition to our TeleGlide Camera Track system product line. Its performance has been proven in these tier one national news virtual set studios," he said.

By David Fox

October 25, 2010

Jib is smooth operator for DSLRs

ABC Products' upcoming DSLR Light-Jib is a very lightweight and compact Jib-arm designed for DSLR cameras.

It uses carbon fibre tubes to keep the weight down (3.9kg) and packs small for portability. It is also claimed to offer an "extremely short assembly time of only a few seconds" and uses a QuickPin system to allow a rapid change of location and camera angle.

It offers a boom length of 1.52m and can carry cameras and accessories weighing up to 4.5kg (making it suitable for many compact camcorders too).

In use, it has a parallelogram bar that can be continuously changed allowing for an automatic tilt as well as precise adjustment of the tilt head angle. It also has a "special swivel system that enables the Light-Jib to glide avoiding any disturbing swinging when it is stopped."

It includes a built-in level, quick release and built-in brakes (horizontal and vertical), and will be available in December for about €1,190.

By David Fox

New Cine DSLR head wins award

Sachtler's new Cine DSLR fluid head has won the DV Black Diamond Award 2010 at the Digital Video Expo in Pasadena, California.

The head has been developed specially for HD DSLR cameras, such as the Canon 5D Mark II or EOS 7D, and has a special camera plate with an anti-twist safeguard that prevents the camera from twisting.

With a payload range of 1kg to 5kg, the fluid head uses Sachtler's three-step damping system, which enables precise and smooth horizontal and vertical panning. The head's robust metal housing protects it from exterior influences under challenging working conditions. It is compact, robust and offers precision when performing camera pans.

By David Fox

Cam Caddie carries compact cameras

Schneider Optics has become the exclusive worldwide distributor for the new Cam Caddie stabilizing handle and accessory holder.

It is designed to work with virtually any lightweight HD DSLR camera or camcorder, to provide a comfortable, solid camera platform that dampens movement while shooting.

Optional add ons include an Accessory Shoe for lights, flash units, microphones and monitors. The Accessory Wing and Tripod Adapter works with the Accessory Shoe to mount multiple accessories. There’s also a 1/4-20 Flash Shoe Adapter to attach multiple accessories to any flash shoe, hot or cold mount

The Cam Caddie Scorpion costs from $59.95. A kit including the Cam Caddie and three accessories costs $109.95.

By David Fox

Neutron 3D rig goes Naval gazing

One of the first productions to use Element Technica's new, lightweight Neutron 3D rig has been a US Navy promo showing the technology behind a recent mission launch that brought down a crippled satellite.

“The director wanted to re-create this event with two cameras in 3D mode with a system that was lightweight, flexible and could do both tight and wide shots in real locations like a war room at a restricted Navy base,” explained cinematographer Steven Douglas Smith (pictured). He specified two SI-2K cameras, Fujinon lenses, and view/playback on CineDeck. "The Neutron was simply the best set-up for the job.”

Smith had to get shots moving through corridors and around the electronics in a small missile ship as well as sequences within a naval war room. “We chose the Neutron because of its ability to act as a lightweight support device for these two HD cameras that we could fly on a Steadicam. Because 3D doesn’t like jittery handheld movements, the Neutron allowed us to move the camera in small spaces and still have it be effective in the 3D environment. Also, the Neutron has the ability to do swap over and change configuration from beamsplitter to two cameras side-by-side for long lens work. We wouldn’t have to use two separate devices," he said.

“One of the things that I really like about the Neutron is the high-grade mirror they use. It doesn’t cause abnormalities in the image that you get with many lower grade units. The Neutron configuration is also extremely steady and rock-solid when in the 3D environment, and still extremely lightweight," he added.

“We had to move quickly, had limited time in our restricted environment, and a lot of footage to capture. The Neutron performed extremely well, allowing us to capture the necessary material without reshoots or resets.”

Related post: ET's Neutron star shines for 3D

By David Fox

October 14, 2010

Panasonic HPX3100 WiFi link

Panasonic's new 2/3-inch ENG P2 camera, the AJ-HPX3100, uses WiFi to allow other users to view proxy video and add metadata.

It can use a standard web browser, so up to three people, such as the director, camera assistant, continuity or logger, can access it at once using their laptop, iPad or mobile phone.

The €32,500 mid-range camcorder replaces the HPX-3000 (but is smaller and lighter), and now generates much more usable proxy video files, thanks to improved resolution of up to 960x540 from 320x240 previously.

"We've adopted the .mov format for the proxies, so they are easier to handle than MP4, and we haven't forgotten the audio, which is now AAC or uncompressed 16-bit 48kHz [up from 24kHz on the 3000], so that an editor can do a complete audio edit on the proxies and not have to redo anything for the full resolution video," explained Jerome Berrard, director AV Systems, Panasonic Europe (pictured above).

It weighs 3.9kg, has three 2/3-inch 2.2-megapixel CCD sensors, has Chromatic Aberration Compensation and Dynamic Range Stretch.  It records AVC-Intra (up to 100Mbps 10 bit, 4:2:2) at various HD formats, plus SD, DVCPRO50, DVCPRO and DV, to two P2 card slots.

[[UPDATE: Panasonic has released 18 new, free, downloadable scene styles for the HPX3100]]

By David Fox

Shoulder-mounted AVCHD cameras

The upcoming Sony HXR-MC2000 is claimed to be "the first affordable, shoulder-mounted full HD camcorder". It is aimed at entry-level professional use and will cost less than £1,500.

A lot of users prefer shoulder-mounted camcorders, because they are easier to use if you are doing a lot of hand-held work, where actually hand holding the camera makes it harder to keep stable and tires you out pretty quickly.

The MC2000 will record AVCHD 24Mbps to 64GB of internal memory as well as memory stick Pro Duo or SD/SDHC cards.

Features include: a 12x (29.8mm-357.6mm) G-Lens; single 1/4-inch Exmor CMOS sensor with reasonable low light performance (3lux); Optical SteadyShot; a 2.7-inch 230k touch panel; an external microphone (stereo mini jack); and weighs 2.9kg including battery.

“The release of the HXR-MC2000E is further evidence of Sony’s desire to provide professional equipment suitable for every level of the market. This new camcorder comes complete with a great feature set and as well as being lightweight, is also highly affordable. Ideal for a range of customers from event videography though to corporate communications and educational training use, the MC2000E is bound to offer existing tape-based customers a clear migration path to solid-state acquisition,” said Bill Drummond, European Product Manager, Sony Professional.

Its main competitor will probably be Panasonic's new AG-HMC80/AG-HMC81. It lists at €2,550 excluding VAT (so should cost about £2,000), and records both HD at 24Mbps and SD (in the 25Mbps DV format) to SD cards.

It uses three 3-megapixel MOS sensors, and can also take 10.6-megapixel still images - storing them as standard JPEGs on the SDHC card.

The shoulder-mounted camera includes: user-assignable manual focus ring functions (Focus/Iris/Zoom); time code/UB recording; time/date stamp; and two wired remote control terminals (for zoom, focus, iris, REC start/stop controls). It has a 12x zoom lens with a  40.8mm (35mm lens equivalent) wide-angle setting. It has an Optical Image Stabilizer, Dynamic Range Stretch and a Cine-Like Gamma mode to give recordings a more film-like look – it can record 1080/24p (as well as 25/30p, 50/60i and 720 24p, 25/30p. 50/60p).

Outputs include: HDMI (AVCHD only), USB 2.0, composite (BNC), analogue component (BNC x 3) and FireWire (DV). For audio it has a built-in stereo microphone, a 3.5mm mini jack, and two XLR inputs (something the MC2000 doesn't have).

[UPDATE: There are very few low-cost shoulder-mounted camcorders about, but Sony has introduced the NEX-EA50 NXCAM camcorder, which is designed to sit well on the shoulder without any accessories.]

[March 2013 UPDATE: JVC has now introduced a new shoulder-mounted AVCHD Progressive (28Mbps 50p or 60p) camera, the GY-HM70 (pictured), with dual hot-swappable batteries for longer shooting times and dual SD memory cards, for under $2,000.]

By David Fox

Sony PMW-500 solidifies XDCAM

Sony has extended its XDCAM range with the PMW-500, a 2/3-inch HD 4:2:2 solid-state shoulder-mounted camcorder shipping this month.

The PMW-500 is based on the same architecture as the disc-based PDW-700, but records to SxS cards (two slots). It has three 2/3-inch Power HAD FX CCD image sensors and can record both 1080 and 720 HD pictures at 50Mbps, and four channels of uncompressed 48 kHz digital audio.

“The PMW-500 represents the next step in the evolution of the XDCAM product range. Since 2003, XDCAM has become an industry standard with over 150,000 units sold worldwide." Customers had requested a solid-state HD422 model to sit alongside the PDW-700, said Richard Brooking, XDCAM Product Manager, Sony Professional. The camcorders have already been ordered by RTL TVI in Belgium, WDR Germany and TV New Zealand.

Sony has also introduced a new higher capacity 64GB SxS card which can record two hours of material in HD422 50Mbps MXF mode and has an increased transfer speed of 1.2Gbps. The camera is switchable between MXF and MP4 for recording in XDCAM HD422, XDCAM HD and XDCAM EX modes. There is also an option to record MPEG IMX and DVCAM material for users migrating to HD.

On station

Sony has also announced XDCAM Station, a line of media recorders that handle SxS and Professional Disc. These will be useful for outside broadcast and SNG trucks, playout, archive, live production with slow motion, and ingest to non-linear editors.

There will be three models in the line-up: The XDS-1000 with an SxS card slot and internal HDD storage; the XDS-PD1000 with an SxS, a Professional Disc drive and HDD storage; and the XDS-PD2000 with SxS, Professional Disc and SSD storage.

The material can be accessed for editing or replayed under slow motion control. They have SDI I/O and network connections and can function as an MXF gateway linking XDCAM media, baseband video and networked operation. The Professional Disc models will support the new higher capacity 128GB four-layer disc media.

“We see applications within broadcast centres where customers can use XDCAM Station as an ingest gateway for their SxS memory card and Professional Disc media, and also on location for live applications and material sharing between camera operators and production staff," said Brooking.

The XDS-1000 will be available from March 2011, while the other two will ship summer 2011 along with the 128GB discs.

By David Fox

October 13, 2010

Track and slide + HDSLR stabilisation

Hague Camera Supports' Cam-Slide Traveller is a new, small, lightweight tracking system. It also has a new DSLR stabilisation system.

The Cam-Slide Traveller promises to give "a nice, smooth tracking shot either attached to a tripod or directly onto a flat surface". It is small enough to fit in your suitcase, and joins Hague's existing Cam-Slide, which is slightly larger.

The Cam-Slide Traveller is quick and simple to set up; it can be mounted to the video head of a tripod, placed on a table or on the floor for low shots. The camera fastens directly to the carriage, or an optional Ball Levelling Head can be used between the camera and carriage, this enables the camera angle to be adjusted when used on a table or the floor.

Two track supports are also supplied, one for each end of the track, to support the Cam-Slide track when it is used on a table or floor and also prevent the carriage from coming off the end of the track. The Carriage has a 1/4-inch camera screw to mount the camera. A thumb screw on the side of the carriage locks the carriage to the track when used in a fixed position.

It is 50cm long, 5cm wide, weighs 1.125kg, and can support camcorders or DSLRs weighing up to 3.5kg. It is currently available at an introductory offer price of £189.95 inc VAT. The larger Cam-Slide is also on special offer at the moment at £199.95 inc VAT (down £25) – it is 1m long, weighs 1.5kg, but can only carry cameras weighing up to 2.5kg.

Motion Cam

Hague's new DSLR Motion-Cam is a budget hand-held stabilisation system designed for Canon 5D, 7D or similar DSLRs used for HD video weighing between 0.8kg - 2kg. It can help smooth camera movement and eliminate camera shake. 

It has been designed to cope with different lenses being used, and the fact that on these camera's the tripod mounting hole is never in the centre of balance, which can make them difficult to balance on some stabilizers. Therefore, the DSLR Motion-Cam offers an increased range of movement forwards and backwards, plus extra sideways movement for balance correction.

It is essential that the handle is free moving, so its gimbal has a highly polished ball with a nylon socket, plus a radial ball bearing handle to ensure free movement. It comes with a selection of counterbalance weights. Once balanced, fine trim is achieved by manually moving the camera plate forwards or back, and sideways fine trim achieved by moving the weights on the counterbalance plate from side to side. It costs £149.95 including VAT.

By David Fox

October 12, 2010

GTC Red, Alexa and 3D workshops

The Guild of Television Cameramen is organising day-long workshops on the Red One, the Arri Alexa and 3DTV.

Its Red workshop (A Red Day Out) will be on October 22, at Molinare, London, and will cover the technology and workflows involved, with camera shooting tests (including very low light) and an introduction to the Baselight grading facility with a demonstration of working with Red material. Talks and demos will be done by Molinare and 4K London.

The Alexa Camera workshop (16 November 2010), will take place at Arri Media, Uxbridge, near London, with morning and afternoon sessions (numbers limited to 15 in each), to allow everyone get their hands on the cameras, go through usage and workflow, and ask questions.

On December 7 there will be 3DTV – The Emerging Picture, at Telegenic, High Wycombe. It will cover: an overview of the development, principles and shooting techniques of stereoscopic 3D; and offer hands-on time with a range of 3ality active 3D rigs and, if available, a tour of one of Telegenic's dedicated 3D OB trucks.

The GTC workshops are free to GTC members – non-members are welcome, if there's space, for £80 (more than membership costs), but the 3D day is sold out.

[UPDATE: The 3D day has had to be postponed, because Telegenic has now been booked for a 3D production - however, it should be rescheduled at a later date].

October 10, 2010

Lensbaby Tilt Transformer

Panasonic AF100/AF101 and Sony Handycam NEX-VG10E users who want to create a tilt/shift effect with their cameras will be able to fit a new Lensbaby Composer with Tilt Transformer, which will allow them to mount any Nikon lens and tilt up to twice the amount of standard tilt-shift lenses.

The adaptor will initially fit any Panasonic or Olympus digital camera using a Micro Four Thirds mount (such as the upcoming AF100/AF101) and will also come in a version later in the year for alpha-mount cameras such as Sony's NEX range, priced at $250 and $350 respectively.

The Tilt Transformer allows users to capture pictures that have a slice of focus through the image, bordered by a soft blur. Lensbaby already makes relatively inexpensive, lower-quality Optic Swap lenses allowing interesting tilt/shift type effects, but the ability to fit a higher quality lens make them even more interesting. It gives 12.5º of tilt in any direction.

“We got excited when we realized that the Lensbaby Optic Swap system could be extended to include Nikon mount camera lenses, including primes, fisheyes, zooms and macro lenses," said Craig Strong, Lensbaby Co-Founder and President.

Tilting a Nikon mount lens on the Tilt Transformer will place the slice of focus in different orientations within the image. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal slices are possible depending on the direction the lens is tilted. Objects in both the foreground and background can be in focus within that slice. For example, a user can focus on one person close up in the left portion of the frame while also focusing on someone standing much further away from the camera on the right side of the frame. The ability to focus on several items at once (while blurring out the rest of the image) when each item is placed at a different distance from the camera, is typically possible only with traditional tilt-shift lenses or view cameras. It can also be achieved in post, but that is easier for a single frame than for a video clip.

The size of the slice of focus is dependent upon the aperture used. For example, f/1.4 will produce a very thin slice of focus with abundant blur. F/22 will produce a very wide slice of focus with just at tiny bit of blur. Also, when tilting extremely and shooting at a very wide open aperture like f/1.4 the slice of focus will appear even thinner than when shooting at f/1.4 with minimal tilt.

There is also a built-in mechanism that allows Nikon G lenses to function properly at all apertures. Nikon G lenses do not have an aperture ring on the lens itself. This mechanism allows the aperture to open and close by manually rotating the lens.

The Tilt Transformer is also compatible with the Lensbaby Optic Swap System and ships with a Double Glass Optic installed, while other optics can be swapped in and out, for different effects (such as Pinhole or Soft Focus). The Lensbaby optics typically give a round, gradient blur effect rather than the slice of focus you'd get by adding the Nikon lens.

There's a good review of the Tilt Transformer on DP Review's Micro Four Thirds forum (with photos).

By David Fox

October 08, 2010

MacVideo Expo - 19th October

Dedo Weigert, A Lighting Masterclass from UrbanFox.TV on Vimeo.

Dedo Weigert, the inventor of the Dedolight, will be giving a 45-minute lighting demonstration at MacVideo Expo in London on Tuesday the 19th. Dedo is always interesting, and there will be numerous other talks and demonstrations from manufacturers and users, covering: camera technology, editing, encoding, lighting, sound, motion graphics, and of course, video on the Mac.

There will be a panel discussion on The great DSLR vs Video Camera debate, focussing on what DSLRs are good for, where this technology excels and when to use conventional video technology, plus Final Cut Pro: Tips and Tricks, giving 10 tips in 10 minutes.

Blackmagic will show off its new Da Vinci Resolve colour grading suite; Autodesk is demonstrating Smoke on the Mac; G-Technology will address storage for content creation; and Avid will show how Media Composer 5 works on the Mac. There will also be short talks from Holdan (looking at AVCCAM and iPod teleprompting) and Corbis Motion, the footage library.

These and others, such as JVC, Cirrolite, Matrox, Focal Press, The Foundry, Elgatto and Atomos (with its new Ninja ProRes recorder - see video below), will also be exhibiting.

It will take place at The Royal Society of Medicine (One Wimpole Street, London W1G 0AE), starting at 4:30pm with the trade show exhibit area. The main show runs from 6.30 to 10pm. Tickets are £10.

October 06, 2010

Monopods - a leg + 3 feet to stand on...

Both B Hague and SRS Microsystems are currently selling our favourite monopod for under £100 (about half price). The Manfrotto 561B is a really nice, all round monopod that has three little feet at the bottom, so it is much more stable than ordinary monopods.

We think that everyone shooting video (and most stills photographers) should have a monopod in their arsenal, because they are ideal for fast moving situations, where you might not have time to set up a tripod, put the camera on and level it. You can also use them for getting really high shots (holding them above your head if necessary - perfect for anyone doing news or red carpet events where there are a mass of other cameras between you and the subject), and you can use them as a budget stabiliser: just carrying the camera on the monopod, with the weight of the leg beneath it will give some stability to your shot. Even better, you can hold it upside down (rotating the picture in the edit), and use it for really low, ground-skimming shots.

The 561B supports up to 4kg (almost any compact camcorder or DSLR), extends up to 2m high from a minimum height of 76.5cm, and the aluminium leg telescopes in four sections. It weighs 1.91kg, and comes with a fluid tripod head with a tilt range of -60° to +90°, with counterbalance and fixed drag, plus a quick release camera plate. Having the little feet at the end also allows you to swivel it about and tilt the monopod forwards, back or side to side.

There is also a version for heavier cameras (up to 8kg), the Manfrotto 562B, although it doesn't extend as high (from 69cm to 193cm) - best price for it seems to be about £120, from several places found via  Google shopping.

By David Fox

October 05, 2010

Marvin minimises media management

One way to make sure you capture data safely on set is to use an automated data management system, such as that from Marvin Technologies.

It is currently in use on its first production: An 80-day shoot for the Dutch miniseries Lijn 32, directed by its co-developer, where it automates the creation of backups, LTO tape masters, QuickTime proxies for offline editing and DVD dailies, all in a single step. It is claimed to be "a fraction of the cost of competing data recorders", and to provide data security and all of the production formats required for digital cinematography.

The Amsterdam-based company has just signed a sales agreement with Band Pro Film & Digital, which will be its exclusive distributor in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the US.

"With the growing use of data cameras, like RED and SI-2K, data management is becoming as important as the camera used to capture it. Marvin is a natural result of this transition and is perhaps the simplest, most elegant solution available," said Amnon Band, president of Band Pro.

“New technology demands new tools, and Marvin is the data management solution that many RED owners and data camera-based productions have been waiting for," added Gerhard Baier, Managing Director of Band Pro Munich.

Marvin supports the Red One, Silicon Imaging SI-2K, Arri D21/Alexa, Panasonic P2, Phantom and Weisscam HS-2 cameras. The system is housed in a 4U housing with a padded case and controlled through a simple browser GUI running on a laptop computer connected via Ethernet.

Once users enter the settings for a new project, Marvin automates the rest of the process, saving hours of manual data wrangling and effectively eliminating the risk of human error. When removable media from the camera is attached to the system, Marvin creates verified copies of every shot to its own internal RAID5 storage array. The system then generates multiple verified LTO copies of all of the shots from the day, along with DVD dailies and QuickTime files for offline editing.

Lijn 32 on location
Route 32

Lijn 32 is an eight part thriller being shot on Red MX cameras by ID TV for NCRV Channel 2 and KRO, for transmission in the next few months.

The shoot is generating between 150 and 200GB of data each day, captured on 16GB CF cards. Once full, the CF cards are attached to Marvin, which copies the data to its internal 12TB RAID5 array, as well as separate hard drives. Marvin verifies the data as it copies, flagging any corrupt file it finds. When the data is verified, it generates LTO tape masters, DNxHD 36 MXF files with a mixdown of the audio for offline editing and DVD dailies.

Marvin in use in the back of a van for Lijn 32
“The idea of the Marvin is one thing, but when you put it to use on a real production, you experience the difference it makes in your work,” said Lijn 32's director Maarten Treurniet, who co-developed Marvin because he wanted a simpler, more reliable data workflow. “We made some interesting discoveries on this project and what we have learned is flowing directly back into development on the Marvin.”

During the first few weeks, they found that the standard Core i7 920 CPU could not process data fast enough to keep up with the volume of material being captured every day, so upgraded to an Intel Core 980x processor, which allowed it to copy 16GB cards in under ten minutes, as well as verifying the data. "We had wondered if we would need to upgrade to an LTO4 drive, but we have found that LTO3 is fast enough to keep up. While we continue shooting, Marvin processes the data, creating the masters, offlines and dailies.”

“We’re using a total of five CF cards on Lijn 32,” said the production's DIT, Marcel Vendrig. “When we’ve copied the data, we erase the card and send it back to the cameras. We typically use each of those cards several times each day.”

Marvin saves high-resolution stills for each take (pictured right). “I use them to check image quality, for example to make sure all the camera sensors are registering correctly," he added.

"Before Marvin, I did my data wrangling with a laptop, Data Manager and external hard drives. When I had copied the files, I sent the drives to the post house where they created the dailies and offlines. It was more complicated and much more time-consuming, and there was always the nagging fear that something might go wrong." But using Marvin means he no longer needs to spend time just copying data. "Instead I can focus on my real work – checking image quality and fixing problems when they come up."

"We know right away when there was an issue with a file. We can check right away to see if there is enough material to salvage the shot, or if we need to re-shoot," said Treurniet. “Out of 385 reels, which we have shot so far, we’ve only had four corrupt takes. Marvin flagged all of them and we had no problem dealing with the issues right there on the spot."

By David Fox

3D convergence remote for AG-3DA1

The German accessories maker, Bebob, has developed a new remote controller to control the convergence setting on Panasonic's forthcoming AG-3DA1 integrated 3D camcorder.

The copa-3D is similar to a thumb-operated zoom or focus controller, and can be plugged direct into the camcorder and attached to the tripod panning arm, dolly or crane, up to a distance of 20m. It costs €499.

Related posts: 3Ality check for 3D camcorders and Hands on with the new AG-3DA1

Phantom power + wireless Tally

Brick House Video's new TallyHo! is a wireless on-air indicator that offers camera users reliable remote on-air indication in the field. Its base station has a direct interface to the local vision mixer and a set of camera hot shoe-mounted receiver modules, which give the operator and presenter a visible indication of on-air status.

TallyHo! can be adapted to work with almost any vision mixer, although it has been initially matched to Brick House Video’s Callisto vision mixers and the Sony Anycast system. 

“TallyHo! provides a reasonably-priced alternative to more complex and expensive systems,” explained Brick House MD, Julian Hiorns. “It stands alone in its ability to furnish wireless feedback to cameras; essential information that every operator in the field needs, but couldn’t access economically prior to TallyHo!”

Also new is Video Ghost, a phantom power module for use with both analogue and digital video feeds. It provides a nominal 12-volt auxiliary power for camera accessories using the existing video cable. Under certain conditions it can work up to 200m. For example, the system can be used to power a composite to SDI converter at the camera, thus avoiding the significant signal degradation suffered by composite video over such a length.

“Video Ghost is the video equivalent of phantom power for audio systems,” said Hiorns.  “We developed it to provide a set of affordable phantom power modules for use with both analogue and digital video feeds."

By David Fox

PAG L95e battery gets new mount

PAG has introduced a new version of its lower-cost broadcast battery, the PAG L95e, and a rack-mountable version of its latest high-power, simultaneous Cube charger.

The 95 Watt-hour Li-Ion L95e is a 14.8v 6.5Ah battery with a maximum continuous output current of seven amps. It has been designed as a low-cost replacement for the Anton/Bauer Dionic 90, so can be charged using any Anton/Bauer Li-Ion compatible charger.

PAG claims that the 760g L95e has "a better quality to price ratio than any other battery in this market" and guarantees the battery for 18 months. It features an electronic protection circuit that is itself protected from the results of damage to the cell pack. It has a five-LED capacity indicator display that will also provide an estimate of remaining camera run-time. As its capacity is below 100Whr, there is no restriction on the number of PAG L95e batteries that can be transported by air in hand luggage. The battery is also available in V-Mount and PAGlok formats.

The 1U high, half-width rack version of the Cube will simultaneously fast-charge Li-Ion batteries manufactured by PAG, Sony or IDX, via four V-Mount or PAGlok battery mounts that connect to the charger via its four XLR-4 outputs.

The four-channel charger features PAG’s Intelligent Parallel Charging software, which uses current efficiently for fast, fully automatic charging. The charger can supply approximately 100W (6 amps at 16.8v).

By David Fox

16mm film goes digital - wins award

P+S Technik won the recent Cinec Award for Camera Technology, for its 16Digital SR Mag that converts film cameras to digital.

The magazine is a direct replacement for a film mag, which can transform an Arri 16SR film camera into a new digital cinematography camera. It allows the camera to shoot at up to 60 frames per second in full HD.

It has a 2/3-inch CMOS sensor that outputs 1920x1080 video in 10-bit RAW and 4:2:2 HD, recording the CineForm format, with HD-SDI output. It offers multiple frame rate settings at 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97 and 30fps.

The Mag fits into an Arri SRIII just like a film magazine, making use of any 16mm PL-mount lenses and accessories, including the original optical viewfinder, and records to removable SSD storage.

"The migration from film to digital is an important challenge for our customers”, said Michael Erkelenz, Manager Digital Capture Business Unit, P+S Technik, who was one of those picking up the award. "No other camera model on the market gives you the freedom to shoot and capture Digital Film, High Definition and analogue film."

It effectively combines a traditional film way of working with a fast digital workflow, but because all the changes are non-destructive and completely reversible, users can simply fit a film magazine to switch back to 16mm.

The power supply of the 16Digital SR Magazine comes through the camera, so it doesn't need an external power supply.

It also offers convenient wireless operation via smart phones (such as the iPhone or BlackBerry) or laptops. It comes with PSRushes software that offers a complete workflow for digital dailies processing (quality control, media management and transcoding for RAW and HD workflows), which was jointly developed with Pomfort.

The Cinec Award is presented at the international film technology trade fair in Munich by the Bavarian Society for the Advancement of Film Technology (FGF), and awarded to innovative cine equipment developments.

By David Fox

Grass Valley cameras get connected

Grass Valley is opening up its cameras to external control, simplifying such functions as automating set-up changes and reporting diagnostics.

"The LDK Connect Gateway allows new network-based integration between cameras and switchers," explained Ray Baldock, Grass Valley's CTO (pictured). "It would allow a single control panel to be used with many cameras," which "can be accessed using simple XML scripts."

It works with any existing LDK camera that uses the C2IP control system – which Grass Valley has been using for several years to provide full camera control over Ethernet

The LDK Connect Gateway is powered by GV's new Fusion technology (allowing users to connect their Grass Valley products together, for tighter integration), which provides a portal to external Ethernet networks and the internet. To maintain security of the camera control system, the Gateway is an independent platform that can simultaneously access the C2IP camera control network and a public network.

Because it is XML based, systems integrators or broadcasters can write user-specific camera control applications. Routine interaction is through a remotely accessible GUI, which will make multiple camera set-ups faster and easier. The result is that other Grass Valley products and third-party systems will have secure access to camera control, which it claims will give users more efficient studio automation, increased productivity, and boost return on investment.

It will be available soon for $18,200/€14,000.

By David Fox

October 01, 2010

Ryder Cup biggest live 3D production

Today is the official start of Sky's 3D channel, which is being  marked by the biggest ever live 3D production - the 2010 Ryder Cup golf (rain in 3D interspersed with some occasional shots of wet golfers). Of course, the World Cup was a bigger event, but each live production was limited to a single stadium and no more than a few hours.

The Ryder Cup production is a collaboration between Sky, Telegenic (which has both of its 3D outside broadcast trucks operating in tandem for the first time), and Sony. Telegenic's T18 OB truck is being used for production, camera engineering, sound and slow motion replays, while the T19 OB truck deals with convergence and 3D engineering.

They are using 20 3D camera rigs at the Celtic Manor course, plus Sony’s new MPE-200 3Dbox converting some of the 2D studio feeds into live 3D, so that Sky can deliver more than 10 hours of 3D golf per day (at least during drier periods).

The rigs are fitted with Sony HDC-1500R cameras, and there are twelve 3ality Digital rigs, four Element Technica rigs, and four specially designed wireless 3D camera rigs from Presteigne Charter.

Because the course is the largest venue used for 3D, needing cabling to cover some 32km, with both fixed and moving cameras, Sony has had to develop additional technology. Specifically for this event it has built HDFA-200 optical fibre transmission adapters/combiners, which enable a pair of 3D cameras to send their signals down a single fibre, reducing the amount of fibre required and making rigging a little easier.

“The Ryder Cup production has created a whole set of new challenges for us, unlike football where the cameras are fixed, a lot more rigs are needed in order to cover vast amounts of ground. The HDFA-200 optical fibre adaptor has been revolutionary as it has enabled us to build a solution of this scale that otherwise would not have been possible," explained Mark Grinyer, 3D Sports Solutions Business Head, Sony Professional.

“All of what could be achieved in a 2D environment is now possible in 3D.  Over the last year 3D technology has been put through its paces and evolved to now deliver an end to end extraordinary experience for viewers, whether at home or in a pub,” added Darren Long, Director of Operations, Sky Sports.

Here's a couple of videos we shot with Sky's chief engineer, Chris Johns, who talked about its plans for 3D and the importance of technical standards for 3D production and the issue of 2D to 3D conversion. It has made its technical specification for PlanoStereocopic (3D) programme content available online at introducingsky3d.sky.com/​a/​bskyb-3d-tech-spec.

BSkyB prepares for its 3D launch from UrbanFox.TV on Vimeo.

Sky 3D - setting the standards from UrbanFox.TV on Vimeo.

Related post: Ryder Cup coverage to a tee

By David Fox.