February 27, 2011

iPad, iPhone + Android prompters

Datavideo's new TP-200 prompter for Apple's iPad is a rail-mounted system that can fit a wide range of cameras. It includes camera and tripod support rails, hood and beam splitter glass, but can also be fitted under the lens for use with retro-reflective light rings.

It comes with software for £330, including a wired controller that lets you control the prompting speed from up to three metres.

It can be fitted in both landscape and portrait modes with mirrored or standard text alignments. The iPrompt Pro software can also drive external displays using standard VGA or Composite video cables available for the iPad. The rig is also designed to accommodate Datavideo's £375 DN-60 solid-state CF card recorder, which can capture AVI, .mov or MXF files, or M2T files for HDV camcorders. It currently connects by FireWire, but there will probably be an HD-SDI version by IBC.

The new TP-100 Smartphone Prompter is similar to its old iPrompter, but can be used with a wider range of on-lens mounts, and includes the wired remote. It currently works with the iPhone, but an Android app will be launched at NAB. It costs £275.

Related posts: iPad puts broadcasters in control + Prompting: There's an app for that…

By David Fox

Speedy Sonnet Qio card reader

The Sonnet Technologies' Qio media reader/writer allows users to transfer files to edit stations or RAID storage many times faster than with USB 2.0 or FireWire devices.

Qio connects to workstations through a PCI Express bus interface allowing high-speed transfers with aggregate bandwidth of up to 210MB per second and supports Sony SxS, Panasonic P2, Compact Flash, SD(HC) and SDXC cards. It has two slots for each card format (SDHC shares with SxS) and can transfer data from two cards simultaneously.

It will improve transfer speeds for camera users who need to back up on location, as one single device can import files from up to six cards at a time.

"Sometimes it takes a practical device such as Qio to make the most out of breakthrough technologies. There's no doubt that tapeless recording and file-based editing are revolutionary, but there's an irritating bottleneck - getting data from the cameras to the editor quickly and safely. Qio is a really elegant solution," claimed Allan Leonardsen, Director of Holdan, its UK distributor.

Card data can also be transferred directly onto a RAID storage unit, using Qio's eSATA controller. Its four eSATA ports enable users to connect two Sonnet Fusion F2 portable RAID units, four Sonnet Fusion D400QR5 4-drive RAID 5 systems, or any other drive with an eSATA interface. This allows backing up to large-scale secure storage instead of laptops.

Qio also functions as a PCI Express bus expansion system, giving an instant upgrade to laptops. Its SxS and P2 slots accept ExpressCard/34 adapters and CardBus cards, respectively, enabling users to expand their system with WiFi, FireWire, USB or Gigabit Ethernet.

It measures 15x15.7x3.1cm and is compatible with external battery packs with an XLR 4-pin power connector. It is Mac only, with a PC version to follow, and lists at £725. No word yet on whether there will also be a Thunderbolt version.

By David Fox

Teranex Mini 3-in-1 converter

The new three-in-one Teranex Mini compact up/down/cross converter and SD standards converter "is an outstandingly high quality and versatile format and standards converter," claimed James Thomas, Director of Engineering at Preco, its UK distributor. 

It is "an ultra-compact integrated version of the three-separate-chassis system we showed last year, the Mini is ideal for applications such as real-time SD/HD ingest to file-based editing and playout systems. It provides full proc-amp controls, handles eight channels of embedded digital audio and can be operated and updated via browser-compatible software. Features include smart 4:3/16:9 aspect-ratio conversion, PixelMotion de-interlaced format conversion, multi-directional diagonal filtering, temporal recursive noise reduction and per-pixel video/film detection to ensure correct output cadence."

The unit is very small (127x29x216mm) with front panel controls, and can perform real-time SD to HD and HD to SD format conversion between a wide variety of video standards ranging from 480i/59.94 and 576i/50 SD to 1080i/50, 1080i/59.94 and 1080sf/23.98.

Rear-panel connections include one BNC 10-bit SD/HD-SDI 1.485Gbps input with embedded audio, one BNC SD/HD-SDI active-loop output and two BNC SD/HD-SDI 10-bit 1.485Gbps outputs with embedded audio.

Precise adjustment of video settings such as gain, black level, hue, saturation, detail enhancement and sharpness, as well as input/output settings, audio settings, and numerous advanced features, can all be performed via supplied IP-based software.

By David Fox

The AF100 (AF101) Book review

Christina reviews The AF100 Book, by Barry Green.

Barry Green, author of The AF100 Book, is an Emmy award-winning producer, who now writes and produces corporate and industrial films, commercials, screenplays and films. Many Panasonic camera owners know him as partner and moderator at www.DVXuser.com a popular and lively forum for content creators. I have seen Barry in action at a press launch for the AF100/AF101 at IBC2010 where he was an energetic advocate for the camera. He has previously written several books on Panasonic cameras and his enthusiasm for the brand starts from page one.

The first chapter is written as a series of articles for the beginner. He explains simply and clearly, focusing, exposure and white balance, which then leads on to depth of field, modes of shooting, lens mounts and adapters, crop factor and synchronising timecode. These first 98 pages are a good introduction to practically any camera – they are the topics the manufacturers always leave out of the manuals because they assume every knows this stuff already.

The more experienced cameraman could probably start from page 109, which starts the next chapter on Scene File settings. There are quite a few parameters that can be changed in the Scene Files from Detail Coring to knee and matrix. Barry takes you through each one. First he explains what it does and then what effect you should see as you change it and, importantly, why you would want to change it from the factory settings. There are before and after images to accompany most of these explanations, but sometimes the printed screen grabs don’t look widely different. Luckily Barry realised that a printed thumbnail is not enough. So, all the images are saved in high quality on the accompanying CD as 5.9MB .bmp files.

Most of the rest of the book is about the buttons and switches you’ll find on the camera, what you’ll see displayed in the LCD and viewfinder, audio functions and timecode options. There are also sections on metadata, dividing it into the data the camera generates automatically and what operators can add themselves.

At the start Barry writes: “This guidebook will occasionally refer back to the camcorder’s Owner’s Manual since subjects adequately covered there will not be repeated here.” The camera's menu structure and options are not covered in the book, so you still need the manual.

The CD that accompanies the book has a readme file and three folders. The first folder contains all the before and after images from the scene chapter, which was very useful. The next directory has frame grabs showing scene file looks explained in the book. Then the final folder has four scene file .TXT docs that you can save to an SD card and import into your own camera. I’m sure it won’t be long before you can download others from the internet.

If I have a criticism of the book it is of the editing and layout. On one page he refers to 3200K, 3200 K, 3200 Kelvin and 3200 degrees Kelvin. A good editor would have ensured some consistency on the page as well as throughout the rest of the book. Plus, (and this is a hobbyhorse of mine) it is not correct to say "degrees Kelvin" - it is an absolute scale.

The chapter numbering is very odd. Chapter one is actually flagged as 18, which counts down to the end of the book so that the last chapter is numbered chapter one. I think this counting down is meant to represent a film leader countdown and once you get to the end you are meant to start filming. Indeed, there is a strong film theme in the design, with film strip images and sprocket holes appearing on the front and back covers and throughout the book. Yes, the camera can do 24p and a shallow DoF but it records to an SD card not film. But I suppose an SD card isn’t as sexy on the cover. My final gripe is the blue dotted background on the main pages (below), which I found distracting to read over.

There are two types of people – those who read manuals and those who don’t. Which is a shame because reading the manual helps to prevent a lot of guesswork and hair pulling. The trouble with manuals is that they are usually very badly written and assume the reader already has a degree of knowledge. Sometimes a potentially good manual gets lost in translation and you wonder if this is some dialect of English you hadn’t previously encountered.

The book does seem very expensive at £65 and that will deter some people from buying it. This would be a shame because this is a good book – which is probably why Panasonic distributor, Holdan has decided to include it with the camera if you buy its AF101 kit, which is great for those who buy one, but anyone who might hire the camera or be brought in to use one would probably find it useful too. Overall, it is well written and full of useful information for the beginner with an easy to read style for those who hate to read the manufacturer's manual.

The Holdan AG-AF101 Kit Promotion includes the camera, a Panasonic SC-200K carry case, IDX high-power battery, and the book, and lists at £4,250 (+VAT), saving almost £200 on unbundled prices, and is mainly being offered by its dealers in the UK, Ireland, the BeNeLux countries and Scandinavia.

By Christina Fox

February 21, 2011

Atomos Ninja demonstration video

Atomos Ninja demonstration from UrbanFox.TV on Vimeo.

In this pretty comprehensive video, Atomos CEO Jeromy Young demonstrates ALL the controls and menu items on the new Atomos Ninja ProRes recorder, and gives a guided tour of everything that comes in the case with it.

The Ninja is an HDMI recorder, but Young also announces the forthcoming release of an HD-SDI version, the Samurai, which should be on show at NAB in April.

[UPDATE: see Atomos Ninja bug slips ship date]

Related posts: Ninja ships – disappoints DSLR usersNinja ProRes workflow + recording, Enter the Ninja – ProRes recorder and Atomos Ninja Review

UKFCUG meeting this Thursday

The UK Final Cut Pro User's Group is having its first meeting for more than three years on Thursday (24 February) in London.

It is billed as "a night of networking, technology demonstrations and nothing but digital video."

It will start at 7pm, with a presentation by organiser, Rick Young (editor of MacVideo), offering FCP Tips and Tricks, such as dealing with a multitude of codecs and outputting to any format you want. 

Sessions include: 
  • AJA's demonstration of the new Ki Pro Mini, Ki Pro and other products, with an opportunity to win an Io Express worth £800
  • Producer/director David Doré will describe his journey into the realms of DSLRs using the Panasonic Lumix GH cameras. "What began as a small time solution has become a crusade." 
  • Adobe presentation by filmmaker/trainer Maxim Jago: New workflows for FCP with Adobe CS5 Production Premium
  • Simon Walker, master trainer, Final Cut Studio - how to speed up your editing in Final Cut Pro, sharing tips not only about how to make your workflow more efficient, but also how to avoid having to use those evil keyframes.
  • Rick Young on USB 3 vs eSATA and Firewire.
  • Technology talk: How big a deal is 4:2:2? 
  • Plus a chance for anyone who has brought along any toys, to show and tell, whether it's a camera, a tripod or something rare and unusual.
It will be at The Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1Q (a few minutes walk from Paddington Station), and entry will cost £5. Doors open 6.30pm, and the main session should finish at 10.30pm (with time for networking afterwards).


February 18, 2011

Avid upgrades, adds Cloud + Studio

Avid has new versions of its flagship editing systems - Media Composer version 5.5, NewsCutter version 9.5 and Symphony version 5.5 - offering increased third-party hardware support, enhanced “in the box” functionality, and more open, collaborative workflows with added control integration and format flexibility - more on this at TVB Europe.

Avid will be unveiling the first fruits of its 2009 acquisition of cloud-based technology Max-T at NAB, and will be touting its Integrated Media Enterprise - an IP-based framework for the creation and distribution of video content. Again more on this in another article, by Adrian Pennington, at TVB Europe.

Avid is also pushing itself into the low-budget market, with Avid Studio, a $170 Windows 7 application, that is essentially an upgraded Pinnacle Studio (Avid owns Pinnacle and also unveiled three Pinnacle HD Studio 15 programs), although it also includes some technology originally created for Media Composer, such as stabilization, and user interface elements. It should be available to download on March 8 and Pinnacle Studio users will be able to upgrade to Avid Studio for $99.

The key features of Avid Studio are listed as:
  • Sophisticated movie editing tools, including markers and keyframes
  • Powerful media management library to organize videos, photos, and audio files
  • Media editor to apply corrections or effects to videos, photos, and audio
  • Unlimited timeline tracks for advanced editing and compositing
  • Professional add-ons and plug-ins (valued at over $2,000): including Red Giant Plug-in package, Complete Avid content package, 100 additional HD video transitions
  • Comprehensive collection of how-to videos from Class on Demand
  • Motion Titler for adding animated graphics and text
  • Audio tools for professional sound quality
  • 5.1 surround sound import/export functionality
  • AVCHD burning; DVD and Blu-ray disc authoring and burning tools
  • 5' x 6' green screen sheet for chroma-key effects
By David Fox

February 16, 2011

Ninja ships – disappoints DSLR users

The Atomos Ninja is finally about to ship. It is currently with distributors prior to loading up the latest firmware, and should be available next week.

It looks good, seems to work well, and is well built. However, Atomos will have to disappoint Canon HD DSLR users who were hoping to be able to record perfect uncompressed video via their HDMI ports. The video should still be uncompressed (so long as you don't also record in camera at the same time on some models), but it won't be perfect, as it seems that Canon has put at white square or a red dot on a corner of the output, which will be noticeable if you try to use it as full HD.

Atomos has asked Canon about this, but it seems that the spoiler may be deliberate to maintain the distinction within Canon between the photographic and video divisions.

Atomos hadn't detected it when they tested a Canon 7D initially as they shot some footage in a studio with a white background. It was only during beta testing that users spotted it, and further testing revealed the white square on the 7D and the red spot on other models.

However, users of the Nikon D7000 will be glad to learn that its HDMI output appears to be pristine (as do the Sony Alpha models and Panasonic's GH2). The Ninja also works perfectly with any video cameras they've tested it with, such as the Panasonic AF101 and Sony's F3. We also plugged it in to our Canon XF305 and it looked good. We hope to get a unit for review in the next week or so (and will try it with our 7D as well as other cameras). We have also posted a new video with Atomos CEO, Jeromy Young, going through the operating system, all the controls, and what you get for your money (everything in the case pictured below, including the case).

In answer to a question steve asked on the Ninja ProRes workflow + recording post, Young promised that 30p (and 25p) recording will come in the next firmware upgrade, scheduled for March 1. The frame rates aren't part of the HDMI spec, so needed a little more work (they are output as double frames at 60 or 50fps, and the Ninja will then record just one of each pair).

[UPDATE: See Atomos Ninja bug slips ship date]
[FURTHER UPDATE: See our comprehensive Atomos Ninja Review]

Related posts: Atomos Ninja demonstration videoNinja ProRes workflow + recordingEnter the Ninja – ProRes recorder and Atomos Ninja Review.

By David Fox

February 14, 2011

Free seminars - Join us at BVE 2011

If you are visiting BVE 2011 or The Production Show in London this week (Earl's Court 2 – 15-17 February), please come and say hello.

We'll be delivering our usual seminar (totally revised), Production on a budget, in the Production Theatre every morning at 10am – handy if you want to know which cameras you should have a look at later in the exhibition. We'll be talking about how to choose a camera for different budgets and for different types of production, and offering some tips on how to get the best from the technology. We will be putting up a pdf of the presentation after the first session on our main UrbanFox.tv website.

Also, on Tuesday, Christina will be telling How to survive as a freelancer (at 3pm in the Producer's Theatre – not the same place as our morning seminars), with advice on how to address such important aspects as getting paid, making a name for yourselves, and coping with taxes.

You won't need to pick up tickets for either session – just come along. Previously we've had lots of people standing at the back, or sitting on the floor, so it's probably worth coming early if you're interested (the picture above shows those who came early enough to get seats last year...).

There are many other worthwhile sessions available, free, in a load of seminar areas, although some will require you to queue up for tickets from the Seminar Registration desk (afternoon tickets can't be collected until after 12.30).

At the Production Theatre there will be sessions on multi-camera 3D, 3D commercials, file-based workflows, production management, shooting with a DSLR, and (at the end of each day) How to avoid becoming one of the 95% struggling Digital Film Makers from Den Lennie of F-Stop Academy.

At the Producer's Theatre there will be more on 3D (but aimed at producers), visual effects, getting programmes commissioned, casting, data workflow, drama production, and women in TV.

Also in the Production Show area is the Arri Production Skills Centre (which requires tickets), with sessions on the Arri Alexa, using filters, and lots on lighting, including Lighting on the Run and Energy Efficient Studio Lighting Techniques from the always enlightening Jonathan Harrison.

There is an even more extensive seminar programme at Broadcast Video Expo itself.

The 3D Revolution Programme (tickets required) includes sessions from such notable names as Phil Streather, CEO, Principal Large Format, Steve Schklair, CEO, 3ality Digital, and Chris Johns, Chief Engineer, BSkyB. There will be case studies, sessions on all aspects of 3D production and presentation, and a look at the future of 3D.

The Total Delivery Theatre (no tickets required) will look at IPTV, HTML5, Flash, mobile and online video. It will include a session on Thursday (13.30) by Rick Young, of Mac Video, on Broadcasting to the iPhone and iPad.

Broadcast Meets IT (tickets required) is aimed mainly at broadcasters, with many interesting and expert speakers on such topics as workflows, standards, cloud services, networking and infrastructure, Super-Hi Vision (Ultra HD), and several case studies.

The Audio Room (tickets required) will host a Radio Day on Tuesday, and over the following two days will look at such issues as sound recording, loudness measurement, workflows, wireless microphones, monitoring, audio over IP, and more.

The Post Production Theatre (tickets required), will have lots on 3D post, workflows, codecs, and where the industry is going (on Tuesday and Wednesday). On Thursday it will be devoted to Avid.

Sony's workshops will deal with: 3D Live Production; 35mm World; OLED Monitoring Technology; XDCAM File Based Acquisition; and Professional Audio.

Blackmagic Design will host DaVinci Resolve (colour grading) workshops, while Adobe's seminars will deal with all aspects of its CS5 suite (Premiere, Photoshop, After Effects, etc.).

February 11, 2011

Canon XF105 shifts axis to 3D

Canon will show its new XF100 and XF105 cameras, plus the recently announced XA10 (making its European debut) at BVE next week.

The XF105 is particularly interesting for its innovative 3D-friendly features, and a pair of them will be shown in the new Genus Hurricane rig designed by cameraman, Alister Chapman.

The XF105 is the same as the larger XF305 in terms of codec (50Mbps) and most controls, but Canon has added a few features that make it suitable for 3D.

It has screen inversion in any direction, to make it easier to use in a mirror rig (like the Hurricane); the zoom lens has a focal length guide, which allows users to set a reference point (the cameras aren't fully synchronised although they have genlock/timecode synch), and, as a numerical scale, allows a lot more precision when setting the two zooms manually so that both cameras are at the same focal length; there is also an Axis Shift Function. "This uses the lens shift from the Optical Image Stabilizer to keep the centre point of the image to a point you have chosen. It takes the cameras out of OIS mode, and uses the lens shift to keep that centre point throughout the zoom," explained Peter Yabsley, Canon's Business Development Manager, Professional Video, EMEA (pictured with two XF105s).

"You can also use it to fine tune the convergence of the cameras when you are shooting 3D. You can move the centre point more easily than actually moving the cameras," which is useful in a manual rig like the Hurricane. Although the adjustments the XF105 allows are all manual, "it is intended to make the process easier" thanks to novel uses for technology already in the camera.

No other camera of this size, or indeed in this price range, has these features. "It is probably the smallest general purpose camcorder with genlock, and SDI, and a high quality codec," he said. The XF100 and XF105 are due to start shipping shortly after the show. The XA10 should arrive in March.

By David Fox

JVC's new GY-HM750 ProHD

JVC Professional will be showing its latest GY-HM750E ProHD compact shoulder-mount camcorder at BVE 2011. It is claimed to offer "the industry’s fastest shoot-to-edit workflow by recording native HD or SD footage in ready-to-edit file formats on low-cost SDHC memory cards."

It uses the same 3-CCD imaging system as the GY-HM790E, JVC’s ProHD flagship camcorder, and records HD in 720p, 1080p, and 1080i, as well as SD (576i) at selectable data rates up to 35 Mbps.

It has a dual card slot design that records to SDHC cards and/or an optional SxS recorder. This had been requested by customers and allows simultaneous recording to both SDHC cards, for instant backup or client copy.

Users can record in ready-to-edit file formats for Apple Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere (.mov), or as Sony XDCAM EX files (.MP4). For standard definition work, it can also record DV files (.avi or .mov).

Building on the modular approach of the GY-HM790E, the GY-HM750E includes a 68-pin chassis connector for a clean, direct interface to various modules. The new KA-AS790 ASI output module, for example, provides a direct feed from the camera to a satellite uplink or microwave transmitter via BNC, ideal for broadcasting live HD from the field. The GY-HM750E automatically switches to low-latency mode (less than 300ms delay) when the module is in use.

JVC has also improved its Pre Rec (cache) feature, which continuously records and stores footage in cache memory and helps prevent missed shots of breaking events, which now stores 20 seconds. Other features include variable frame rate recording, extensive image customisation, a high-resolution (1.22 million pixel) LCOS viewfinder and 4.3-inch flip-out LCD monitor, and JVC’s Focus Assist. It also has two XLR audio inputs with phantom power, plus manual audio level controls with an audio meter.

The GY-HM750E includes a Canon 14:1 zoom lens, but accommodates any lens with a 1/3-inch bayonet lens mount.

Because it uses CCDs instead of CMOS sensors, it doesn't suffer from any rolling shutter effects (such as skew or flashes from photographers covering only part of the frame). Combine this with its 20-second cache, quick workflow, and reasonable price (about £6,000) and it seems to be one of the best choices for news or event coverage - CNN bought 177 of its little brother, the HM100 for news use.

By David Fox

3D stereoscopic workflow at BVE

Holdan, Panasonic's UK distributor, will demonstrate a complete stereoscopic content creation workflow from camera to edited programme at an affordable price, at BVE 2011 in London next week (15-17 February).

Its starting point is the AG-3DA1 3D camcorder, feeding a HP Z400 workstation running Grass Valley's Edius 6 - the full system costing less than £18,000.

The AG-3DA1 HD 3D camcorder has dual lenses and two sets of 1920x1080, 2.07 megapixel 3-MOS imagers. It also has dual 32GB SD cards and interfaces include dual HD-SDI outputs and HDMI (v1.4). It includes automatic correction for horizontal and vertical displacement allowing it to recalibrate without the need for external equipment, so that you can shoot 3D more easily. 

Taking the dual HD-SDI feed from the camcorder will be a Blackmagic Design HDLink Pro Display Port 3D that converts the signals to side-by-side, field by field, top and bottom or frame-packed 3D formats. The editing system, based on an Intel Xeon HP workstation and Edius 6 will demonstrate 3D cutting techniques. Edius works natively with professional formats without the need for rendering or transcoding. This philosophy has been extended to stereoscopic, with support for synchronized left and right field editing built into the latest version (which costs less than £600).

The demonstration will also include a Grass Valley T2 hard disk recorder, playing out 3D signals (manually or from a playlist) so that users can display or project high quality 3D.

Panasonic will also be showing all of its 3D products, in its own workflow demo on its stand, as well as the new AG-AF101 large sensor camcorder, which is in high demand thanks to the ability of its Micro Four Thirds sensor to produce shallow depth of field, as the sensor has about four times the area of a broadcast 2/3-inch sensor, although it can't go as shallow as a Super 35mm-size sensor (as used in Sony's new F3 and any APS-C DSLR) at the same lens settings.

The AF101 (AF100 in the US) can be fitted with a wide range of lenses, including Zeiss Compact Primes and stills lenses via adaptors. Unlike HD DSLR cameras it has no visible aliasing or moiré effects, thanks to an optical filter that reduces the resolution of the sensor (to HD resolutions) and smoothes out any possible defects. It also has lots of video features, such as peaking, waveform display, various gamma modes, internal optical ND filters, uncompressed audio with XLR inputs, and timecode input/output, which are not typically available on DSLRs. 

It records 24Mbps AVCHD onto SD cards, but has HD-SDI and HDMI outputs for 4:2:2 recording. There is also variable frame rate recording.

By David Fox

February 10, 2011

BeachTek HD DSLR audio adapters

BeachTek now has two audio boxes for HD DSLRs that take XLR inputs, allow you to adjust levels, and route the result to the DSLR's mini-jack input.

The BeachTek DXA-5DA (pictured top) is a passive adapter, which doesn't have phantom power – you would use it with self-powered condenser microphones or wireless receivers, or as an interface to an audio mixer.

It has two inputs, a level meter, and a "unique AGC Disable feature controls the wild swings of the Auto Gain Control that plague most cameras," which reduces noise during quiet moments of recording so that you can record cleaner audio. It fits under the camera and can also be mounted to a tripod. It is powered by one 9-volt battery and costs about £290.

There is also the BeachTek DXA-SLR, with phantom power. It is similar, but without the little LCD meter display. It has Good/Peak signal indicators that show the ideal input levels at a glance, plus the AGC Disable feature. You can also monitor the playback audio from the camera. It costs about £350.

Also potentially useful is BeachTek's MultiMount 5D ($89), which provides four horizontal cold shoes and one vertical shoe for mounting microphones, wireless receiver, lights, etc. on your DSLR or camcorder. It is made of polycarbonate with metal shoe inserts and has threaded 1/4-inch/20 holes on all shoes for added flexibility. It also has a rubber mounting foot with locking plate for mechanical shock isolation, but it may not be advisable for use with heavier devices, which is why it also comes with an extra foot that provides a firmer mount.

By David Fox

Electric dolly for fume-free filming

The new Flyka Electric Dolly is the first product from a new company, and was developed by photographer and cameraman Tony Holker, who broke his leg in 2008 and used a disabled buggy for filming.

"The smooth ride from a disabled buggy was a great platform to film from. I researched and researched to see what else was out there, but there seemed to be nothing, so I set about developing a prototype. Five prototypes later, I now have number 4 and 5 developed into working, conceptual vehicles for filming and the reaction from the industry has been superb," explained Holker.

The Flyka should save many hours by making it simpler to set up shots, while no time will be wasted laying track. Users will also be able to record sound during filming, despite using a motorised Dolly. Hire costs are £500 per day (£200 for the first day new clients) or £1800 per week, and future models are now being developed, including lighter vehicles, jib cranes, all terrain capabilities, and remote control.

Other benefits include: being able to do forward or backwards tracking shots without track coming into shot; doing long shots without having to grips getting tired pushing a dolly back and forth; no down time needed while a Steadicam operator recovers; the ability to create very slow moving Steadicam shots without footstep jerks; variable speed and constant speed from 0 to 8mph; easier use of handheld shots for long distance; and step-off capabilities with a Steadicam. 

It is being launched at BVE 2011, next week (15-17 February) in London.

By David Fox

ABC's new DSLR Light-Jib ships

ABC Products' new DSLR Light-Jib is a lightweight and compact jib arm designed for DSLR cameras and small camcorders. Represented by Ianiro UK, the Light-Jib will be available from resellers from mid-February.

It can carry cameras and accessories weighing up to 4.5kg making it equally well suited to compact DSLRs and camcorders, such as the Canon XF105 and XF305, Panasonic HMC-151 and HMC-41 or the Sony NXCAM range.

Its weighs 3.9kg thanks to carbon fibre tubes, and packs small for portability in three parts - assembly time is claimed to be less than a minute. It is also fast and flexible in use thanks to its QuickPin system that allows a rapid change of location and camera angle. Its boom length is 1.52m.

In use, it has a parallelogram bar that can be continuously changed allowing for automatic tilt as well as precise adjustment of the tilt head angle. It also has a special swivel system that enables the jib to move smoothly throughout its range.

"The Light-Jib is a highly adaptable piece of equipment. It's a great multi-purpose tool. It's flexible for use with DSLRs and camcorders, fast enough to be set-up without missing a shot and light enough to transport anywhere," said Nick Allen-Miles, MD of Ianiro UK.

The kit includes a built-in level, quick release and built-in brakes (horizontal and vertical).

By David Fox

Scout, Phantom + Zephyr blow in

Three new Steadicam rigs will be making their public UK debuts at BVE 2011 (on the Tiffen stand). The lightweight Zephyr, the Scout and the Phantom.

The Zephyr (pictured) supports camera loads of up to 11kg and offers "unique control over the feel of the rig with features usually only found on high-end models." These include a new tool-free gimbal, HD ready out of the box, fully adjustable lower sled for inertial and dynamic balance, side loading stage and a tool-free Iso-Elastic arm, requiring only ounces of force to support the unit throughout its huge boom range.

The Scout offers a precise and versatile lightweight system in an affordable package. Supporting up to 8kg, it has the same side loading stage as the Zephyr, a new base design for adjusting dynamic and inertial balance and the same tool-free performance from its Iso-Elastic arm.

The Phantom is a low cost big rig that performs just like the top-of-the-range Ultra2. Working with loads up to 20kg it includes two posts, the Ultra2 tilt stage, an inertially-adjustable sled, G-70 arm and a SD monitor, upgradeable to a high definition monitor, and a motorised stage.

Also showing are the Tango, which delivers long-sought floor to ceiling boom range with lateral reach and Steadicam stabilisation, and the Smoothee that steadies iPhones and other smartphone videos.

By David Fox

Fusion features flexible automation

Vinten Radamec will show how studios can migrate to camera robotics by adding automation to manual pedestals and heads in a demo at BVE 2011. The presentation will also feature compact automated camera systems for parliaments.

It will show a Vinten Osprey Elite studio pedestal, fitted with a Vinten Radamec Fusion Bolt on Height Drive and Fusion FH-100 robotic and manual head. These can be fitted to any Vinten or Sachtler non skirted manual pedestal in the field, giving precise control over pan, tilt and elevation when in automatic mode, with the capability of switching at the touch of a button to fully manual mode, giving the system the feel of a conventional Vinten pedestal.

It will be teamed with a Vinten Radamec HDVRC control system, which can perform complex moves, with on-shot trims can be made using a joystick, or pre-set shots from a touch-screen controller. The networked architecture of the HDVRC allows camera control over multiple sites, so that remote and local studios can be operated simultaneously from the same controller. The system can also drive Autocam and Radamec products, as well as specialist units such as external weather cameras.

The legislative system will feature a specialist Radamec 431 pan and tilt head, designed to provide excellent stability and range of movement in an unobtrusive form factor. It will be shown with a Legislative Control System that provides a simple single point of control for any installation, and can involve a very large number of robotic cameras.

The LCS can be linked into a voting or audio system that provides speaker information, from which its internal logic will choose the most appropriate camera to cover the speaker. Alternatively, it can be manually controlled using a touch screen to select and direct the cameras. In both cases, a joystick is provided to trim and tighten pre-set shots.

“Automation - whether for a public building like a legislature or for a busy studio - is definitely no longer a complex, risky and expensive process,” said Karen Walker of Vinten Radamec. “What we are showing at BVE this year is that it is simple to implement, secure in operation and delivers a real return on investment in a surprisingly short timescale.”

Vinten Radamec has now sold more than 500 of its Fusion heads worldwide. Recent orders include Sky Italia’s 24 hour rolling news channel, which has equipped four of its studios with Vinten Radamec robotic camera supports, including three FH-100 heads with Fusion FP-188 robotic camera pedestals, plus a control system.

Paul Vickerage, head of studios for Sky Italia, said: “We have two robotic studios for Sky Sports 24 and two for TG-24. These systems give us the ability to provide seamless interworking not just with newsroom systems but with other studios, which is very important to us. Our sports team controls a studio in Rome from its main production base in Milan, and the news team has the use of two separate studios but everything is under a single point of control.”

Other recent customers include Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, which bought six robotic pan and tilt heads as part of a sophisticated Vinten Radamec robotics system, working in conjunction with its Orad Proset virtual studio software to provide fully automated control of pan, tilt and elevation, as well as high precision positioning around the studio floor. Another Asian broadcaster, now TV, has also equipped its sports studio with broadcast robotic systems from the Fusion range (pictured). In the US, major broadcasters such as HSN, Fox and NBC have all installed Fusion heads.

By David Fox

February 09, 2011

Sola ENG LED Fresnel lights ship

Litepanels’ Sola ENG LED Fresnel light (pictured) is now shipping. Offering beam control of 10° to 70°, the daylight-balanced Sola rang provide the controllability and single-shadow light you'd expect from a Fresnel light, but use a lot less power than conventional fixtures. It has a proprietary 7.62cm lens, and draws 30 Watts, but produces light output equivalent to a 250W tungsten fixture.

It boasts instant dimming from 100% to 0 with no noticeable colour shift, and provides manual focus and dimming control via a camera lens-style control. Output is flicker-free and remains consistent as the battery voltage goes down. Designed for on-camera and off-camera mounting, the Sola ENG is only 102x102x127mm and weighs 280g. We first wrote about the Sola ENG last July, but hopefully it will be worth the wait.

The larger (off camera) Sola6 provides output equivalent to a 650W Tungsten Fresnel while drawing 75W. Electronic dimming and motorised mechanical focus are completely controllable either by using the manual dials, touchscreen or DMX.

The lights will make their UK show debut at BVE 2011 next week, along with the recent MicroPro Hybrid, which offers continuous output and flash functions (making it ideal for use with HD DSLR cameras), and Litepanels' range of LED 1x1 panels.

By David Fox

Gekko unveils bright soft light

Gekko Technology is showing the latest additions to its lighting range at BVE, including the kezia 200-E colour tunable hard-source, the kezia 200F white-optimised LED hard source, and karesslite 6006-DD high output soft light.

The new karesslite 6006-DD high-brightness soft light (pictured) has twice the number of emitters and hence twice the brightness of the standard karesslite 6006. Available in daylight (5600K) and tungsten (3200K) versions, it incorporates a 6x12 emitter format in a 300x300mm panel with a front-to-back depth of 165mm and a weight of 4.8kg including diffuser.

It delivers the same 2600 Lux at 1m brightness as the 600x300 mm karess 6012 and can be used as a key light (with louvre) or fill, with consistent colour through the dimming range.

Power consumption is 85W, allowing more than 90 minutes of continuous operation from a single rear-mountable V-Lock battery. Power can also be derived from a 12 to 40v DC feed via an XLR 4 connector, or from a mains supply. It has on-board dimming and integrated DMX.

The recently introduced kezia 200-E (pictured) gives dynamic control of colour output without the need for gel. Based on Gekko's award-winning kleer-colour LED multi-chip array, it combines high quality output, long component life, creative versatility, low power consumption and minimal heat generation. Users can generate colour effects that are consistent from lamp to lamp, thanks to the closed-feedback loop that constantly monitors and corrects the light temperature. Controllable via DMX or an optional rear panel, the kezia 200-E can be adjusted manually or remotely to produce millions of colours.

Drawing less than 200 Watts of power, the kezia 200-E has an output roughly equivalent to a 1 kW tungsten fixture.

Also relatively new is the kezia 200F, a white-optimised LED spot lamp, with presets for of 2900, 3200, 4300, 5600 and 6500K via DMX or optional rear panel. Colour temperature remains constant when the light is dimmed, as ambient conditions change or as the unit ages.

Interchangeable optics provide beam angles of 20º, 40º or 60º. Output intensity is 8300 Lux at 1m, 1900 Lux at 2m and 900 Lux and 3m.

By David Fox

Octica sees The Light on LEDs

Octica Professional has been chosen as exclusive distributor for the UK and Ireland for Thelight's new advanced LED lighting systems, which it will be showing at BVE 2011 next week in London.

Thelight's LED lighting is claimed to offer "absolute lighting control over colour temperature, light intensity and beam direction".

It is available in three formats for both studio and location use, with each model being slim, lightweight, compact and rugged, using ultra-high-output, long-life, low power consumption LEDs that are claimed to give "superior lighting and accurate colour temperature control compared to panel type LED lighting systems."

They use a combination of optical, electronic and thermo-mechanical engineering coupled with direct input from the LED manufacturer, to make lighting easier and faster to set up, with no need for correction gels due to the patented digital variable colour temperature control, dimmer and green/magenta bias. An articulated structure enables instant focusing or flooding of the light beam while the LEDs are supported by specially designed Fresnel lenses that focus and blend the LED beams to deliver a "soft but fully directional light".

The control unit allows digital adjustments of colour temperature calibrated in 100K increments from 2800K to 8500K while light intensity remains constant, stable digital dimming is calibrated in half stop increments.

The initial three-model line up can deliver a high light output: with 10,000, 9,000 or 5,500 Lux at one metre.

Related post: Thelight articulates case for LEDs

By David Fox

Rycote boom poles go graphite

Rycote has introduced three new lightweight, telescopic carbon-fibre audio boom poles. The 1.63-metre-long G3, with three sections, and the 2.49-metre-long G5, with five sections. The G5 comes in two versions, a standard pole and one with an internal coiled cable and built-in Neutrik XLR connector in the hilt (pictured).

For several years, following its takeover of US boom pole manufacturer Lightwave Audio, Rycote has been selling telescopic boom poles under the Lightwave name. However, with the launch of the Rycote-branded G-series carbon-fibre poles, the entire range, including the A3 and A5 aluminium poles, will now be rebranded as Rycote products - Rycote is probably best known for its shock-mounts and windshields (we use a Softie on our gun mic).

The G-series poles use the same lightweight, patented, triple-cam grip and twist locking system as the A3 and A5 poles, and with no metal parts to add to their weight combine lightweight construction with tensile strength. As on the A3 and A5, the locking mechanism is designed to be resistant to jamming when the pole is dirty; however, if necessary, the locking collars can be completely stripped down for cleaning in the field if required. The G3 weighs just 360g, the standard G5 is 580g, while the G5 with internal cable weighs 720g - if you are holding a boom mic over your head for a long take, any weight saving is appreciated, and having the built in cable is one less thing to worry about or hear flapping in the wind....

List prices are G3: £150; G5 Standard: £204; and G5 with internal cable: £288, including VAT.

By David Fox

Røde’s VideoMic goes Pro

The original Røde VideoMic is widely used for video production, and is a particular favourite for HD DSLR users. Now there is a VideoMic Pro offering new features specific to professional video.

Noise transference has been significantly reduced using both a revised, more elegant shock mounting system and a lightweight premium cable.

The VMP is smaller (15cm long), weighs 85g, and is also centrally balanced, making it mosre suitable for use in conjunction with low-cost camera stabilisation systems.

It has a super-cardioid condenser microphone, integrated foam windshield, 3.5mm stereo mini-jack output (dual mono), two step High Pass Filter (flat, 80Hz), three-position level control (-10dB, 0, +20dB), uses a 9v battery offering up to 70 hours battery life (alkaline). It has a camera shoe mount with 3/8-inch thread for boompole mounting, and comes with a DeadCat VMP furry windshield.

It will be on show at BVE 2011 on stand C-44 (www.sourcedistribution.co.uk).

By David Fox

Wireless audio without interference

Shure’s upcoming Axient Wireless microphone system is claimed to be the first wireless system to both detect interference and automatically change frequencies to avoid interference.

“Uncertainty and volatility in the RF spectrum are the new reality for professional wireless users,” explained Sandy LaMantia, Shure's President and CEO. "They face increasing pressure to deliver interference-free performance even though conditions are more unpredictable than ever before. The Axient wireless system was designed from the outset to withstand interference from the analogue and digital sources that exist today and may exist in the future.”

The Axient system employs several new innovative technologies that work together to deliver interference-free audio at critical events, such as live broadcasts.

“Axient defines a new standard for control and confidence in applications with zero tolerance for failure,” added Erik Vaveris, Category Director for Wireless Products at Shure. “This is the first wireless microphone system that can detect interference and avoid it automatically. Today, when unexpected RF interference arises, an engineer is either stuck with dropouts or they can run a backup mic out to the performer. Axient makes that a thing of the past.”

Features include: Frequency Diversity, which transmits full-bandwidth audio on two separate frequencies to ensure seamless, uninterrupted audio for mission-critical channels, even in the face of direct RF interference; ShowLink remote control, which enables the user to make real-time remote adjustments from the receiver or a laptop, of transmitter settings like audio gain while the microphone is live; Axient Spectrum Manager, which constantly scans the RF environment, performs frequency compatibility calculations to assign clear frequencies to each wireless transmitter, and deploys backup frequencies automatically; Smart lithium-ion rechargeable battery packs; and Wireless Workbench 6, a new software interface that enables users to monitor and control the entire system.

“The Spectrum Manager functions as an air traffic controller for the system,” said Vaveris. “When the receiver’s Interference Detection & Avoidance feature senses interference, the Spectrum Manager assigns a new frequency that it knows is clean. The frequency is deployed to the transmitter by the ShowLink wireless access point, and the transmitter and receiver execute a synchronized frequency change in a matter of milliseconds, making it virtually undetectable. And with Frequency Diversity enabled, there is no audible trace whatsoever.”

The Axient Wireless microphone system will be available in mid-2011.

By David Fox

OConnor CFF-1 follows focus

OConnor's new CFF-1 Cine Follow Focus features modular construction that eliminates the need to juggle separate bridge plates.

The CFF-1 has the lowest clearance available in a double-sided studio unit, and sports a large diameter lens-friendly design. It integrates with existing accessories such as whips, gears, cranks, and is designed to be both camera versatile and to accommodate future accessories.

Another recent innovation is OConnor's O-Grips Handgrip system. They feature single-handle ball joints with high-load capacity, and a rod bridge that fits all three rod standards. The modular O-Grips are stackable for custom applications and can be configured to create double or even multi-joint handles. Each grip is fully adjustable and is capable of a half sphere of stepless articulation. By combining two grips, the range can be extended to a complete sphere.

The new O-Box WM mattebox (pictured) is designed for 16:9 format full-size sensor camera setups, including HD DSLRs. It is compact and accommodates lenses up to 18mm in focal length; some wider. The mattebox can mount up to three filters: two in top-loading filter frames (two each 4x4-inch and 4x5.65-inch, frames included), with the rear frame rotatable through 360º. A third 138mm round filter fits in the optional bellows ring. O-Box WM is claimed to be the first commercially produced mattebox to have integrated handgrip interfaces.

OConnor is also showing its new 2065 Fluid Head at BVE. It is designed for cameras like the Red One, Sony F35, and Arri Alexa. Features include: stepless, ultra-smooth pan and tilt fluid drag, and sinusoidal counterbalance that provides, accurate balance at any tilt range point.

By David Fox

Compact camera controllers

Camera Corps will introduce new Switchpad and Mini Joystick controllers at BVE 2011 in London next week, as part of programme production system that includes its Q-Ball robotic cameras.

Switchpad is a multi-camera control unit which increases from five to 96 the number of remote camera heads that can be operated via the company's Joystick Control or CCU Panel. It can also be used with Camera Corps' Multi Camera Combiner unit to allow up to four Joystick operators and up to four CCU engineers to control the 96 cameras and pan & tilt heads simultaneously using just a single data line.

It can drive different types of video router, enabling the picture monitor to follow camera selection at any of the eight operator positions. Up to 255 channel numbers and routing-matrix assignment numbers can be selected via the keypad for easy integration of the 96 sources with existing camera channel configurations on video matrices with up to 256 inputs.

Switchpad is compatible with many different types of camera as well as the Q-Ball. Connection is via a robust interface, which encodes control data onto a standard audio line at user-selectable bit-rates.

The Mini Joystick Control has been developed for applications such as commentator-camera control or OB vehicles with restricted space, the compact controller is compatible with Camera Corps and Egripment pan and tilt heads. The joystick and control buttons have the same tactile responsiveness as those on Camera Corps' full-size controller, including fully adjustable pan, tilt and zoom speeds and reverses. Zoom is controlled by rotary twist of the joystick. Up to five separate heads can be operated from a single panel. Reverse settings and control speeds for each of the five channels can be stored in non-volatile internal memory."

Camera Corps' generic audio data communication system is employed to allow unlimited operating distances between Mini Joystick Control and the remote heads. Each of the five channels has its own red and green cue/tally light switch. Individual channels can be locked to prevent inadvertent alteration of presets. Focus can be remote-adjusted manually or switched between manual and automatic when used with cameras that support these features. Mini Joystick Control operates from 9v to 18v DC power adapter or battery. Total panel dimensions are 190x140x110mm. Weight is 400g.

By David Fox