December 16, 2011

Win a Blackmagic HyperDeck Shuttle

UPDATE - December 24: Matt Grant (@MGcam on Twitter) has won our Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Shuttle competition. Congratulations Matt...

Many thanks to all of you who took part.

[[Competition now closed....]]

We recently reviewed Blackmagic Design’s HyperDeck Shuttle. Now we have one of the uncompressed portable recorders to give away.

The very nice people at Blackmagic said we didn't have to give back our review model, so we decided to give one of our reader's the chance to have it for free - they normally retail for around £250/$345.

All you have to do is tweet the following: Win a Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Shuttle uncompressed recorder from @UrbanFoxTV -

We'll give it seven days - so anyone tweeting or retweeting the message before 6pm (GMT) on Friday, December 23rd, will show up on our Twitter account and one will be picked at random. We'll take care of post and packaging, but if there are any customs duties, etc., for deliveries from the UK in your country, that's your responsibility.

Incidentally, if you do win the Shuttle and do anything interesting with it, Blackmagic said they'd like to do a Case Study about it - so you could get some publicity too....

[[Competition now closed....]]

December 13, 2011

Teradek Bond low-cost mobile ENG

Teradek's new Bond is claimed to be the lowest-cost device that enables on-location video transmission over mobile phone networks by combining multiple 3G dongles for fast, reliable upload speeds. 

It should allow higher quality video to be uploaded to the internet or to a receiver from anywhere with access to a 3G network. Bond is based on Teradek's Cube encoder technology, and the camera-mounted device is smaller than rival systems.

Bond is also the lowest power 3G bonding system, is designed to attach to digital camcorders, and can support up to five 3G or 4G cellular modems simultaneously from multiple carriers worldwide.

"Teradek's Bond is a real game-changer," claimed Richard Payne, Business Development Manager at the UK distributor Holdan. "It's small, light and high performing. But, just as importantly, with a power consumption of less than one Watt and an astonishingly low price point, it is neither a drain on battery reserves nor precious production budgets." Its list price is £1,725 ($2,490), a lot less than some competitors.

Bond uses adaptive streaming technology, which continually optimises the bitrate and buffering to adjust for varying network conditions. During transmission, the video data is automatically deconstructed for streaming over multiple cellular modems. The data is received by Sputnik, Teradek's de-bonding software, which recompiles the video stream into a single MPEG-TS stream that is compatible with most H.264 decoders (such as Cube, which is claimed to be the smallest and lowest priced H.264 to HD-SDI decoder available).

Bond weighs 170g and is similar in size to a pack of playing cards, and Holdan believes it is ideal for ENG backhaul, sports broadcasts, and live events coverage. It comes with Teracentral management software, Sputnik MPEG-TS compliant aggregation software, a power-supply, hot-shoe mounting adaptor and a USB cable.

By David Fox

Vimeo Awards open for entries

Submissions opened today for the second Vimeo Festival + Awards, celebrating the most creative and original videos online. Vimeo (which we use to host our videos) will award Grants of $5,000 to all category winners as well as $25,000 for the Grand Prize winner.

The number of online viewers has risen dramatically over the past couple of years, allowing content creators to reach a large audience very quickly – for example, one of YouTube's top channels, Machinima, captured more than a billion views during November, with 116 million unique visitors. Although, Vimeo doesn't have the reach of YouTube, it is the place where filmmakers are most likely to show interesting new content, and its Awards should consolidate that.

“Since our inaugural event, we have watched online video explode into a primary medium for new talent discovery,” said Jeremy Boxer, Director of the Vimeo Festival + Awards.

“More and more creators earn visibility, credibility and, ultimately, work by showcasing their videos online. We created the Vimeo Festival + Awards to celebrate the best of the best of these videos.”

Entries will be open until February 20, 2012, for one of 13 different judged categories, four of which are new this year: Fashion; Action Sports; Advertising, which is has to become more inventive to capture online audiences (such as the notable Nokia Gulp campaign); and Lyrical (one of the judges for which will be London-based director and DoP, Phillip Bloom), which is looking for dramatic creative style, including slow motion and time lapse.

An independent jury will judge the entries, which includes all of the category winners from 2010 plus two industry experts per category.

Submissions cost $20 per video ($5 for Vimeo Plus and Pro members). Entrants can submit any original work that premiered anywhere online between July 31, 2010 and February 20, 2012 or any original work that has never been premiered before.

The winners for 2011 were:

[Between Bears from Eran Hilleli]

Narrative: Thrush by Gabriel Bisset-Smith

Documentary and overall winner: Last Minutes with ODEN by Phos Pictures (pictured top)

Music Video: Liars 'Scissor' by Andy Bruntel

Animation: Between Bears by Eran Hilleli (video above)

Original Series: Break-ups The Series by Ted Tremper

Experimental: oops by Chris Beckman – it was then chosen as an Official Selection at Sundance Film Festival 2011, and Beckman went on to direct for such brands as Motorola.

Motion Graphics: Triangle by Onur Senturk - after winning, Paramount asked Senturk to create the motion graphics credits for Transformers: The Dark Side of the Moon.

Captured: Fluid Sculpture by Charlie Bucket

Remix: Breakdown the video by Kasumi

By David Fox

December 11, 2011

Review: Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Shuttle recorder

[UPDATE: Matt Grant (@MGcam on Twitter) has won our Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Shuttle competition. Congratulations Matt]

[UPDATE 2: Blackmagic has released new HyperDeck Shuttle 2, which adds ability to record Avid's DNxHD compressed format]

There are now quite a few field recorders available to allow you record higher quality video from your video camera or DSLR. I reviewed the Ninja not long after it was launched and really liked it. The one thing missing was HD-SDI but that has been fixed with the introduction of the Samurai (or the addition of Atomos new Connect connvertors, which includes an HD-SDI to HDMI version). Convergent Designs’ NanoFlash has been around the longest, and is often seen attached to a Sony EX1 or EX3 camera, there are also the AJA KiPro miniSound Devices Pix recorders and Fast Forward Video's sideKick, as well as several more expensive systems from the likes of Codex Digital, Cinedeck, and Convergent Designs (the new Gemini 444).

HyperDeck Shuttle with Solid State Drive

But, if you want the ultimate in quality, then being able to record an uncompressed picture should be the way to get it, and some of the high-end recorders allow that, but there is a cheaper way, which is why I was keen to test out Blackmagic Design’s HyperDeck Shuttle, an uncompressed portable recorder retailing around £250/$345.

First Impressions

When you get it out of the box the HyperDeck Shuttle feels a bit, well, minimalist. If it came in white you’d probably think it was an Apple device. In fact it is black and machined out of a solid block of aircraft-grade aluminium with seven buttons and six sockets.

Record - transport control - DISP  - power buttons

First of all, it doesn’t record in a range of selectable formats. So, there are no menus to dive in to as there is nothing to change. What the Hyperdeck Shuttle does is record 10-bit uncompressed video from your camera’s SDI or HDMI socket, plus eight channels of embedded audio in HDMI or 16 channels over SDI, and just bundles it up in a .mov QuickTime wrapper. It recognises whatever SD or HD format you are using

To give you some idea of file sizes, I recorded a minute of video using my Canon XF305 (at 50Mbps). When I checked on the CompactFlash cards the one minute (MXF file) was 391.7MB. 

One minute MXF file = 391.7MB

The same one minute on the HyperDeck Shuttle was 8.46GB.

One minute uncompressed video file = 8.46GB

It brought home just what my camera is capable of and how much compression my video is normally subjected to. If you intend to do a lot of post-production work on your video then recording straight to the HyperDeck Shuttle is a sure way of hanging on to all your data. You could always use the video on the CompactFlash for the offline edit, as proxy files or, at a pinch, backup.

But, with each minute taking up over 8Gb, I would only get about 15 minutes on a 128GB drive. So, you’ll have to plan ahead on how to handle the data. You could buy enough SSDs to get through a day or have a data wrangler on site to backup the SSDs as you go. Either way you will also need a large, fast drive to store all this data once you start editing.

The HyperDeck Shuttle does not come with a drive to record video so you must factor this into the cost. The review model I used came with a 2.5-inch (laptop size) 128GB Kingston Solid State Drive (SSD), which retails at around £120 (about $230 in the US), and format it using HFS+.

Kingston 128GB SSD - holds about 15mins of uncompressed video

Spinning disk drives are not recommended, as they are not capable of writing at the required speeds. In fact, not all SSDs are up to the job. If you go to the Blackmagic FAQ page you’ll find the current list of recommended 3Gbps SATA drives. At the time of writing these were:

1.              OCZ 240GB Vertex 3
2.              OCZ 480GB Vertex 3
3.              Crucial 256GB C300
4.              Kingston 64GB SSDNow V+
5.              Kingston 128GB SSDNow V+

Plugged In

The HyperDeck Shuttle comes with two HDMI sockets and two SDI sockets for video in and out. Whether you feed video in for recording by either HDMI or SDI, you can plug a monitor into either HDMI or SDI out socket. If you are of a nervous disposition you probably will want to plug in a field monitor to check on what is being recorded. However, there will be nothing on screen to confirm it is recording, how much it has recorded and how much disk space is remaining. This would have been useful – although if the SSD LED is lit, that indicates something is happening, and there is another LED to show that you are getting a video signal.

Power, HDMI in and out, SDI in and out and mini USB socket
(click on these images to enlarge)

How are you supposed to know when the SSD needs changing? Well, you need to keep an eye on the stop button. Once it starts flashing you have three minutes recording time left. Once the disk is full it obviously stops recording, the red recording light goes out and the green SSD indicator light stops flashing.

There is also a mini USB socket on the Shuttle. I wrongly assumed I could plug the Shuttle into my Mac and use it as a dock to review the video on the removable drive. In fact you will need to buy a separate dock for the SSD.

The USB is there to allow remote control of the device and to enable software upgrades. What I didn’t realise when I started the review was that this was something I needed to do.

When it first arrived I plugged in the HyperDeck Shuttle using an HDMI cable into my Canon XF305. But, the HyperDeck Shuttle was having none of it. It did not recognise the camera and/or video signal. It just would not record. After a call to Blackmagic they suggested the unit needed a software upgrade.

The first thing to do is go to the Blackmagic Site and you’ll see a link to download the Blackmagic Hyperdeck Utility.

Download for the utility to check for and install driver updates

I couldn’t see a download for a Windows PC, only for a Mac. The utility was only 13.4MB so didn’t take long to download and install.

The Blackmagic utility for software updates

The next thing to do was plug in the HyperDeck Shuttle into my Mac using a USB cable (not supplied) and then open the utility. The first couple of times they wouldn’t talk to each other but on the third attempt the utility suggested I needed to update the drivers. I clicked 'Yes' and the utility did the rest.

I unplugged the USB and tried recording with the HDMI – success. Everything now worked perfectly.

Now my next problem was how to test the SDI feed? My camera has the standard BNC connector and I have BNC to BNC cables in the office. But, the HyperDeck Shuttle has a mini coax SDI connector. I know I don’t have the correct cable – damn it. I realise manufacturers want to keep their prices low. But, I do expect them to include important cables. Anyway, fast forward and a few weeks later I have the correct cable and importantly a dock to plug the SSD into my Mac.

BNC to mini coax SDI connector 
You will also need a dock to transfer video from the SSD to your Mac 

After doing a Google search I see Blackmagic sell a cable pack for around £60/$90.

HyperDeck Shuttle plugged into my Canon XF305's HD-SDI socket

The final socket is for the 12v power. The unit can be run from the mains (adapter supplied) or from a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery, which should last around one hour in record mode and 1.5 in playback.

Blackmagic warns (on the FAQ page) that: “Some drives consume twice as much power as other similar capacity ones from other brands.” So, you would definitely want to check how hungry the SSDs are that you intend to use. There is a four-LED battery indicator on the unit – once it goes out there are only four minutes of battery life remaining.

Button Up

There are seven buttons on the HyperDeck Shuttle. There are the usual media transport buttons: play, stop, rewind and forward, plus a record button and power on/off. The seventh button, DISP (display), doesn’t work at the moment, but it is promised that it will in a future software update.

Record - transport control - DISP  - power button

Get Mounted

In the Blackmagic blurb it says you can: “Take your HyperDeck Shuttle into the field, on set, to live events, or even on your extreme sport shoots.” If it does leave the building you will have to find a way to mount it onto your camera or tripod.

Out of the box it has no fixing plate or screw mounts. However, Blackmagic did announce a €69 mounting plate for the Hyperdeck Shuttle that should be available now. It provides multiple 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch mounting points. You could also use Velcro…

Mounting plate with lots of fixing points

In The Box

As I mentioned at the start, the unit is fairly minimalist. That could also be said for what was in the box – the HyperDeck Shuttle and power supply.

You will need:
  • Solid State Drives – big ones or lots of them.
  • A dock for the drives to transfer the footage to your editing/storage drive
  • An HDMI cable from camera to Shuttle [OR]
  • ... a BNC to mini coax SDI connector
  • A USB cable to connect the Shuttle to your computer for software updates
  • A mounting plate to attach it to your camera or articulating arm.

In Post

Once you've captured your video, it is straightforward to import the files into an editing system, such as Final Cut Pro, which can work with uncompressed material. Lower-power systems may have problems playing back uncompressed in real time, and unless you have the storage and bandwidth to cope with it, you may be limited to one or two streams of uncompressed.

I have a MacBook Pro 2.2Ghz Intel core i7 with 4GB of RAM - which struggled to play the uncompressed video in Final Cut Pro 7. The only thing to run smoothly was the spinning beach ball. However, this may be because my Mac has a spinning disk drive and not a SSD. If you want to work with uncompressed video, it is best to have a high-speed RAID storage array.

In theory, I could have edited direct from the SSD I had recorded onto. But, it was connected to my Mac via USB which caused a trickle of digits rather than the flood I needed. If only I had a dock with a Thunderbolt connection

However, you can transcode the files to any format you want to work with in the edit, such as ProRes 444 (if you want to maintain the highest quality), ProRes 422, or Avid DNxHD. Or do an offline edit at a lower bitrate and then conform the uncompressed in a suitably powerful finishing or grading system at the end. The pictures will be as good as the camera can produce.

Should you buy?

Broadcasters here in the UK have decided that 50Mbs recording is the minimum data to qualify as High Definition. Now this isn’t a problem for some cameras, but there are a few models that need a little extra help (such as the Sony EX1 and EX3). The Hyperdeck Shuttle will certainly keep the broadcasters happy.

However, this is a relatively big unit to strap to your camera (16cmx11cmx3cm) and weighs 660g with the SSD, but without the mounting plate. It is probably a little too large for fast moving situations, but would be great for location drama and studio set ups.

If you expect to do a lot of green screen shooting, compositing and colour correction then working uncompressed should ensure all the data latitude you’ll need with 10-bit colour precision and 4:2:2 video sampling.

It would be particularly well suited to a higher-end camcorder, such as Sony's PMW-F3, which records 35Mbps XDCAM internally, or the new Canon EOS C300, which records 50Mbps MXF files internally (like the XF305) – although the C300 only produces an 8-bit image it does output a 10-bit signal through the HD-SDI port so should work with the Shuttle with no problems. You could use the recorder with a camera that can record 12-bit video, but you'll only get 10-bits (you'd need a Codex, Cinedeck, Sony SRW-R1 or S.two recorder for 12-bit or above) and 4:2:2 (the Gemini 444, as the name suggests can do 10-bit 4:4:4 – as can all the 12-bit recorders).

The main reasons for not using a Shuttle would be its lack of a built-in monitor (if you don't have one or space to fit it), the fact that it doesn't currently tell you battery and memory status through the camera or other display, and, most crucially, if you'll be shooting and editing lots of material. Uncompressed video takes up such a large amount of space that this is almost certainly not the recorder you want if you are shooting an observational documentary, or editing on a low-to-mid-range system. SSDs will get cheaper (typically following Moore's law of half the price/twice the capacity every two years or so), bandwidth more available, and processors more powerful, so compression will become less necessary.

But given its price, even if you have to buy all the extras mentioned above, this is still a good value recorder, and will be really useful for many types of production, particularly commercials, promos and fashion shoots.

Christina Fox 

December 01, 2011

PRG Foton boasts TruColor light

The new PRG TruColor Foton uses remote phosphor technology to provide more accurate colour than LED lights. The small, lightweight variable-beam light is also claimed to be powerful, inexpensive and water resistant.

It is the first portable broadcast lamp to use remote phosphor, where an internal light source strikes a crystal impregnated with rare earth elements that then glows brightly. The large surface of the emitter allows for a precise mix of the phosphorescent material for accurate colours across the visible spectrum.

This results in a colour rendering index of more than 95, and "virtually eliminates the challenges of lighting with the discontinuous spectrum inherent in most LED lighting sources."

The remote phosphor technology should generate natural-looking light, requiring no colour correction (compared to the green spike of inexpensive LEDs), and correlating perfectly with professional light and colour meters. It is dimmable from 0% to 100% with negligible colour shift. It currently matches tungsten sources (3000K). Daylight models will be available in early 2012.

The Foton is a 1.3kg go-anywhere light, able to operate at temperatures from -20 to +50 degrees, while its sealing means it is suitable for use unprotected in wet locations, being able to withstand water saturation.

It has just been added to the range of lighting equipment distributed by Ianiro UK, whose Managing Director, Nick Allen-Miles, said: “The Foton will be welcomed by everyone from ENG camera men shooting outdoors in European drizzle to film makers facing wintry mountain conditions. Its small size, high output and low power consumption means it will also be a welcome addition for specialist crews working underground, in disaster zones or desert environments.”

Cost-saving features include an estimated 50,000-hour life, and, in spite of its more than 1,000-lumen output (roughly equivalent to a 150W tungsten PAR light), the Foton draws less than 30 Watts and requires no cooling fans. This is achieved despite employing a direct-drive array that eliminates flicker at any frame rate. By physically separating the phosphor plate from the light source, heat management keeps the material from baking and changing colour over time.

Options include both AC- and DC-powered versions and a variable beam angle of 10˚ to 120˚ using quick-connect reflectors. List price is £549, including three reflectors (wide, medium and spot), and the Foton is the first of a new series of TruColor lights from PRG.

By David Fox

November 30, 2011

Sony XM Pilot + XDCAM workflow

Sony is adding a "second screen", such as an iPad or smartphone, to its XDCAM workflow, to make it simpler to add metadata and integrate the file format with post. It has also started a Europe-wide tour offering day-long training seminars to users.

The new XM Pilot wireless metadata system "speeds up your workflow and reduces your costs in post by allowing you to flow logging information and metadata all the way to post much quicker and more easily, especially compared to paper logs," said David Young, Product Specialist, XDCAM range (pictured).

It uses automatic ingest tools, so you don't have to waste time organising and viewing clips. Users can also create metadata in planning (using a free planner) and import that into the XM Pilot via WiFi, USB or file-copying onto recording media, before going on location.

Users can access and input data on their iPhone or iPad, or Android device (with apps available as a free download for iOS and for Sony Ericsson phones). For post, there are free ingest tools for Apple's Final Cut Pro 7 (an FCP X version won't be available until Sony finishes work on XDCAM support in X) and for Avid Media Composer v5 upwards.

The system requires an add-on WiFi unit for the camera, which sends timecode, synchs metadata and streams proxy video and audio (with a two to five second delay – there is no delay if not streaming proxy). Panasonic offers something similar via WiFi on its HPX3100.

Talkback Thames used a beta version of the Sony system to shoot property series Escape To The Country for the BBC and found it cut logging time per episode from two days to just two hours.

The XM Pilot package consists of two hardware elements (dongle and firmware upgrade) and three software elements (planning tool, smart-device app and NLE integration).

Customers will have to purchase a £533 WiFi dongle, which plugs into the camera, and a firmware upgrade for their camera: a £670 activation board for the PMW-500; a £922 software activation code for the PDW-700/800; a £383 activation board for the PMW-350/320 or TD300; and a £2,375 SxS Card Key for the PMW-F3.

At least the software is free. It includes: XM Pilot planner (PC application with web access via any platform downloadable from; the XM Pilot smart-device app (free download from Apple App Store, and on Android Marketplace); and the NLE Integration plug-ins for FCP7 and Avid.

XDCAM Station

The recently introduced XDCAM Station is a crossover between a server and a traditional deck, but less expensive. "Customers are getting a lot more functionality for less money," said Young.

It can support multiple actions simultaneously, both input and output, so it can add time delay to a recording feed or record to both the internal hardware and a Professional Disc at once. In January it will also be able to playout from SxS cards. It has three hard drives, for RAID 4 protection – if one goes down it can reconstruct its contents from the other two. Editors can access clips as they are recording, via an Ethernet connection, allowing them to edit live feeds as they come in – on Final Cut Pro now and on Avid when the next release of AMA, due this month, comes out. It can also be linked to a shared storage system. The latest version (2.0) of the XDCAM Browser can remotely control the deck over the network.

Sony recently sold 80 of the high-end XDS-PD2000 models (pictured), which use solid-state drives, to WDR/NDR, in Germany. SSDs are a lot more responsive than spinning disks, so everything is quicker.

An upcoming firmware update will allow the XDCAM Station to pack up a 35Mbps XDCAM signal (from an EX1, say) without changing or upconverting it, to 50Mbps files, for broadcasters who use a 50Mbps infrastructure (especially for archive systems).

PMW-500 camcorder

There has also been new firmware released for the PMW-500 (version 1.12), which improves the response time from the record button. "It's primarily used for newsgathering and people don't want to miss anything." It is possible to use the camera with pre-record (up to 15 seconds), but there is a trade off in terms of battery life (although the increase in power used is small).

The PMW-500 has proved popular. The BBC has bought 250 of them for news use, almost all of which have now been delivered. TRT, Turkey, bought 75 recently, while TVN, Poland, bought 12 after IBC. In total, more than 700 PMW-500 units have been sold across Europe – it is made in the EU, at Sony's plant in Wales.

XDCAM Workflow Tour

Sony's XDCAM Workflow Tour offers different sets of users (and dealers) a week of one-day seminars on how to get the best out of the technology and new ways of working, in a variety of locations across Europe.

It started in London last month, followed by Stockholm, and is in Copenhagen this week (28 November - 2 December). It will be in Amsterdam (5-9 December) and Belgium (12-16 December), and resume in the New Year on 9 January for five days in Köln, followed by Munich (16-20 January), Madrid (23-27 January), Lisbon (30 January - 3 February), Paris (6-10 February), Milan (13-17 February), Rome (20-24 February), Prague (27 February - 2 March), Warsaw (5-9 March), and Istanbul (19-23 March).

By David Fox

November 29, 2011

Hands on with Canon's EOS C300

Anyone in London who wants to get their hands on the new Canon EOS C300 large-sensor XF camcorder has at least two opportunities in the coming week or so.

Creative Video has a hands-on day with the EOS C300 on Thursday (December 1), with three sessions (at 10am, 2pm and 6pm), at CVP in Brentford, TW8 9EX (on the A4 near Sky).

ProKit in Chiswick has its Digital Cinema Open Day from 10am to 4pm on Thursday week (December 8), which will include demos of the C300, with someone from Canon on hand to answer questions, as well as competing cameras from Sony and Panasonic, plus accessories from Genus, Shape, Cinekinetic, Petrol, Miller, Manfrotto, Atomos, Sound Devices, and more.

November 25, 2011

Autocue Motion Pro stabiliser

Autocue has developed a new professional, handheld camera stabiliser, the Motion Pro, for DSLRs and compact camcorders.

"Autocue's Motion Pro is a great little handheld stabiliser. Like all stabilisers it takes a lot of practice, but the lightness of the device, coupled with the excellent build quality, makes this a great way to get those super slick shots without killing your arms," said London-based DoP, director and filmmaker, Philip Bloom (pictured above testing the device).

Motion Pro can cope with DSLRs and camcorders weighing from 450g to 2.7kg. The stabiliser handle has a foam grip for comfort and support that can be securely docked on a tripod mounting plate. For portability, the entire unit folds up flat in a small carry case. It costs £599/$799, plus £75/$125 for the tripod docking station (below).

The introduction of Motion Pro, which Autocue has designed and built, is part of its continuing diversification into new areas of broadcasting. Having become synonymous with tele prompters, it now provides newsroom and scripting systems, video servers, monitors and tripods.

"The reception Motion Pro has received from professionals like Philip Bloom validates our investment in the detailed engineering, design and testing, culminating in yet another class-leading product," said Autocue CEO, Frank Hyman.

By David Fox

November 18, 2011

Edius to get 3D editing support

Grass Valley has unveiled new 3D tools for its Edius multiformat nonlinear editing software and is adding 3D support for editing peripherals to provide a complete stereoscopic 3D post production workflow.

The Storm 3G and Storm 3G Elite editing platforms will both be supported via the Edius timeline with stereoscopic 3D I/O through a single 3G SDI source and/or dual 3G SDI signals.

“We see 3D production and post projects increasing around the world and customers have been asking for easy-to-use tools within Edius to help complete those projects quickly and cost-effectively,” explained Charlie Dunn, Grass Valley's Executive VP of Products.

Edius has always been a flexible, highly affordable platform and the product continues to grow and get better with time. Now anyone working on an Edius system can instantly add 3D post capability to their arsenal of production tools and generate new revenue by expanding their client base.”

The 3D support will include: native support for 3D video clips captured with the most popular 3D cameras; easy clip pairing for synching left eye/right eye clips; 2D-to-3D conversion capability; an array of simple tools on the timeline for 3D adjustments (to compensate for mistakes in shooting) with no transcoding; automatic convergence adjustment; and 3D preview monitoring.

Functions available in 2D are also supported in 3D, such as realtime colour correction, keyer, transitions and multicam editing.

A 30-day preview version of the new 3D software tools will be made available early in December 2011, on the Grass Valley website, and will include tools for importing, organising, and adjusting 3D clips efficiently.

For broadcast use, Grass Valley has also included integration with its K2 media servers, whereby its K2 ChannelFlex technology (a software application within the AppCenter Elite software suite) enables all K2 Summit and K2 Solo servers to be expanded from handling four SD/HD video streams to up to eight streams in specific applications such as super slo-mo, multi-camera recording, and 3D production.

Every K2 Summit production client and K2 Solo HD/SD server can be used as a 3D production server for 3D recording or replay, a 2x or 3x slo-mo recording device, or as a server for recording from 2-6 simultaneous camera angles with at least one channel for playback, via a software upgrade.

Edius is currently on a half-price offer until the end of the year for owners of other NLEs.

By David Fox

Matrox MC-100 SDI-HDMI converter

The new Matrox MC-100 is a dual SDI-to-HDMI mini converter that supports a wide range of display resolutions through 3G, Dual Link-, HD-, and SD-SDI, and lets users monitor, distribute, switch, multiplex, and converge video signals.

It costs £349 ($495, €399) and can be used as an HD-SDI switcher, a distribution amplifier, a multiplexer, and a 3D processing unit.

“Now, rather than purchasing different devices to perform different tasks, broadcast engineers and A/V professionals have a single, affordable, easy-to-use device that meets their diverse needs when it comes to managing SDI signals within their environments — for monitoring, distributing, switching, multiplexing, and converging 3D," said Charles Amyot, product manager at Matrox Video Products Group.

Features include: two SDI inputs and two SDI outputs; HDMI output for monitoring; on-screen display controlled by hardware buttons for straightforward configuration on HDMI and/or SDI monitors; multiformat SDI signal distribution; SDI signal amplification — 300m in SD, 100m in HD, 70m in 3G; glitch-free switching between two HD-SDI feeds; loss-of-signal switching in case of invalid or lost input signal; multiplexing of two HD-SDI video signals into a single 3G-SDI feed; 16 channels of embedded audio on SDI; and eight channels of embedded audio on HDMI, selectable between the first and second set of four pairs.

For stereoscopic 3D use, it also has: real-time 3D processing including horizontal image translation and vertical offset adjustments; anaglyph, difference and 50/50 3D analysis modes; comprehensive 3D output format support (side-by-side, over/under and frame packing via HDMI 1.4a); and a video time-base corrector and frame synchronizer for 3D workflows.

By David Fox

November 07, 2011

Alexa to support Avid DNxHD

Arri's Alexa is to gain full support for in-camera recording of Avid's DNxHD format as MXF files in the new year, giving users the same simple workflow it has offered for Final Cut Pro with Avid's Media Composer.

It is something that Alexa users have been asking for, and Arri has been talking to Avid about, for a long time, and will mean that Alexa will be the first digital cinema camera to have built-in DNxHD support, although it is possible using external recorders.

“The Avid editorial environment is an important cornerstone of the broadcast and motion picture postproduction industry, and Arri is very pleased to be able to provide Avid DNxHD MFX file-based recording within the Alexa camera for Avid-centric productions," said Neil Fanthom, Arri’s head of digital camera strategy. "This further confirms our commitment to add significant ongoing value to the Alexa camera family, in this case by allowing customers to choose which workflow suits their own capture and postproduction requirements. No other camera in this industry fulfils such diverse workflow needs.”

“By providing native Avid DNxHD recording with the Alexa camera, Arri is allowing producers to use high quality Alexa cameras and quickly and easily view dailies, and begin editorial, without the need to transcode or re-wrap footage," added Angus Mackay, Avid's pro video segment marketing manager. "Media Composer version 6 now offers the Avid DNxHD444 codec, which will permit customers to preserve the high colour information in Alexa footage while still having a low bit rate codec suitable for editorial. This is great news for Arri and Avid customers, who will benefit from the advantages in quality, speed and streamlined workflows.”

DNxHD recording for Alexa will be available as a paid-for software download in January and is now entering Beta testing with several broadcast productions. The first roll out will support up to 220Mbps 10-bit recording (plus up to 145Mbps at 8-bit), with support for DNxHD 444, at 440Mbps (10-bit) to be provided as a further upgrade for all adopting customers during the first quarter of 2012.

It will mean that Alexa users will be able to record Arriraw uncompressed 3K images as a digital negative for mastering and feature archival use, and/or DNxHD or ProRes for offline, dailies and general broadcast post production.

By David Fox

November 04, 2011

Red turns Scarlet into low-cost Epic

Red Digital Cinema has finally introduced its long-awaited Scarlet, low-cost digital cinema camera. The Scarlet-X will record 4K video from 1-30 frames per second, and also shoot stills in burst modes of up to 12fps at full 5K resolution, so that photographers and cinematographers can simultaneously capture motion and stills.

Scarlet-X has a compact, modular design, like the high-end Epic, and will cost from $9,750 if ordered before December 31st for Brain (sensor unit), Side SSD and Canon aluminium mount (with auto-focus support). In 2012 the price will be $9,700 for the Brain only. Scarlet-X with a Ti PL mount (add $1,500) will begin shipping November 17th. The Canon mount version begins shipping December 1st.

The two mounts can be swapped easily using Scarlet-X’s interchangeable lens mount system. Panavision, Anamorphic, and Nikon lenses are also compatible with the camera.

When Scarlet had been talked about initially, it was supposed to have a 2/3-inch sensor and be about a third of the price announced now. "A 2/3-inch sensor is not big enough. The world has moved past small sensors and low resolution," said Red's founder, Jim Jannard. "Think of Scarlet-X as Epic's little sister." All Epic Modules will work on Scarlet-X. "Everything in the Epic/Scarlet system is interchangeable."

It uses the Mysterium-X S35 sensor, and has a data rate of up to 55MBps (440Mbps), recording Redcode Raw. Epic costs a lot more ($58,000 for a production kit), but lowering the data rates and processing power (which will also extend battery life), enabled them to keep Scarlet's price low (about half that of Canon's new EOS C300). "ASICs that weren't fast enough for Epic, just became a gold mine for Scarlet. This, and board component reduction, allows us to lower the data rate throughput and significantly reduce our costs over volume," explained Jannard.

However, it does have consequences for recording high dynamic range shots, which it does at lower resolutions/frame rates than Epic, but that could change. "We are working on a future version of HDRx with modified compression to enable this possibility. It will be a firmware upgrade and free," said Jannard. HDRx can give it up to 18 stops of dynamic range.

Scarlet-X can be upgraded to the new Dragon sensor when it is released in the second half of 2012. "However the upgrade will be more expensive than upgrading an Epic due to the necessity to change several primary boards. There will still be data rate limitations to Scarlet after the upgrade as compared with Epic," he said.

"We will continue to add features as time goes on, some of which were never expected. Scarlet-X feature additions and improvements will happen simultaneously with Epic," and be available as free upgrades.

Some things will be in short supply initially, such as Side Handles, Redmote and the electronic viewfinder, but "any delay in Scarlet is most likely to be caused by the Canon aluminium mount," he revealed. It is likely to be February before all of the items are in good supply.

By David Fox.

Canon EOS C300 digital film camera

Canon has entered the digital cinematography market with a $20,000 HD camera, the EOS C300, which is the first part of the new Canon Cinema EOS system, including lenses, and digital SLR cameras.

The C300 will expand Canon's XF range, as it records the 50Mbps, 4:2:2 MPEG-2 MXF format to its dual Compact Flash card slots. It also has an HD-SDI port for uncompressed recording. Christina has the full details on the Canon XF Notebook.

In price and sensor size, it most obviously competes with Sony's PMW-F3, although it has the advantage of internal recording at 50Mbps rather than the F3's 35Mbps – although both help sell a lot of external recorders.

Of course, in resolution and sensor size, it also competes with Arri's Alexa, although the filmic qualities of the Alexa, such as better dynamic range, its easy workflow, and the reputation for quality, will probably help it retain its place for mainstream TV and film work. Where budgets are even more constrained, it already loses out to the F3, so the C300, which will probably find favour first with existing DSLR shooters (especially those with an investment in Canon EF lenses – as the PL-mount C300 will arrive a couple of months after the EF version).

The results Vincent Laforet produced in the short film he shot with the C300 will certainly encourage any low-budget filmmakers as it does seem a very capable camera, and its form factor lends itself to use by a single user (have a look at the Zacuto video in Christina's piece to see just how compact it can be).

However, with Red launching Scarlet-X at about half the price of the C300 (albeit with Red's more convoluted workflow), there is a lot of competition in the large-sensor market.

By David Fox