March 28, 2011

Format choice: Going tapeless

Virtually every camera now available uses some form of tapeless recording. The few tape-based camcorders still being produced can record to some form of add-on memory or external recorder. However, with choice comes indecision... Moving to a new format or recording media means additional costs and trying to find a new workflow that's efficient and works for you and your clients.

To help put all of this in context, we've talked to camera users and owners about what tapeless systems they use, to find out the benefits and the disadvantages, and have put up a comprehensive (and rather lengthy) page on going tapeless.

March 23, 2011

Gemini twins record 4:4:4 and 3D

Convergent Design has announced a new uncompressed hard drive recorder/monitor. The Gemini 4:4:4 is a small, low power, lightweight unit that has two drive slots for 1.8-inch solid-state drives, allowing simultaneous backup recording or optional 3D.

The Gemini includes a 5-inch 800x480 24‐bit, 900:1 contrast LCD touch‐screen for monitoring and playback, with zoomable 1:1 pixel viewing, with user positioning via touch control, for fine focusing.

It doesn't replace Convergent Design's existing nanoFlash (which records to CF cards and now has an installed base of over 3,500), but its use of higher-speed drives enables Gemini to record 10‐bit 4:4:4 or 4:2:2 video in the main HD, 2K or 3G formats, including 1080 24p and 1080p 50/60, with up to 16‐channels of embedded audio and timecode (four channel audio initially, which will be expanded in a firmware update).

The 1080p 50/60 data has to be striped across both drives, while 4:4:4 is only supported in 1080p 23.98/24/25/29.97 and 2048x1080p 23.98/24. The DPX file format will be supported in a firmware update.

"Uncompressed is a lot of data, typically in the range of 125 to 150 megabytes per second [1 to 1.2Gbps]. But, technology advancements now make full uncompressed workflow quite manageable and affordable," explained Convergent Design President, Mike Schell. "For example, using the new 10Gbps Thunderbolt technology from Apple/Intel, it is now very reasonable to edit uncompressed using a laptop. New $180, 3-Terabyte hard disk drives enable portable RAID arrays with 9-12TB of storage (sufficient for 18-24 hours of uncompressed 1080p24 4:2:2 10-bit)."

Having two removable solid‐state drives allows it to offer instant backups, to counter the risk of lost footage, or longer record times from recording on one drive after the other. It also opens up new workflow options. Gemini includes S‐Log and C-Log video support, with user programmable viewing look-up tables, which can be enabled selectively for either HD‐SDI output. This means that users could record native S‐Log to one SSD (for on‐line editing) and the same footage with burned‐in LUTs to the second SSD (for faster creation of offline proxies and/or H.264 video for mobile or web viewing).

An extra‐cost 3D stereographic option will also be available, enabling dual‐stream recording and playback in a single Gemini unit; creating what is claimed to be "the world’s smallest, lowest power, 3D recorder."

Gemini will record independent left/right channel files while providing full synchronized playback of two streams as well as side‐by‐side, 50/50 composite, or anaglyph combinations. "Gemini uniquely allows you to simultaneously view 3D video in multiple formats, such as side by side and 50/50 composite, which should be very helpful in 3D camera alignment," he added.

It is housed in a lightweight (450g), milled aluminium case, and is about the same size and weight as the popular SmallHD DP6 monitor, but includes recording, playback, image processing, dual HD/3G SDI I/Os, HDMI output and consumer level audio I/O; while consuming only eight to 15 Watts of power.

Planned future enhancements include reference image overlay (onion skinning), where users can capture still frames or create their own reference images (custom grid overlays, for example) to mix with live video, using an opacity slider. This will enable directors to check the current on‐set environment against a previous day’s production, assisting in camera setup and easily identifying anything out of place. Other features include: user-programmable over/under crank, time lapse, 3:2 and 2:2 pull-down removal, and on-screen tally.

Convergent plans to support all major NLE programs, including Avid, Final Cut Pro, Premiere, Vegas and Edius. Editors have the option to edit full uncompressed video (transfer time off the SSD to a fast hard drive is about 1/3 real time) or use any of the popular codecs (ProRes, DNxHD, Cineform, etc). For example, using a recent eight-core MacPro, the transfer from the SSD and software encode to ProRes, occurs in about half real time (60 minutes of video requires 30 minutes to transfer and encode – a simple transfer of the same footage would only be about 10 minutes faster).

"We found that oftentimes the workflow and editing system is not well defined at the beginning of a production, or the client may want the footage in a different codec or format. Gemini gives you the flexibility to deliver accordingly, at the best possible quality levels. So after two weeks of shooting, when the director brings word that you’re changing from PC to Mac (or vice versa), you’re ready to encode that pristine uncompressed footage into a new codec / format, while maintaining the highest possible quality," said Schell.

The requirement for greater throughput meant Convergent had to switch from Compact Flash to SSD. "Compact Flash is a great choice for most compressed recorders, but it simply lacks the required performance for uncompressed video. Compact Flash tops out at about 90MBps, while uncompressed video ranges from 100 to over 300MBps so, clearly, it’s impossible to record uncompressed video onto a single CF card. Additionally, CF card capacity maxes out at 128GB, while SSDs are now available up to 512GB," he explained.

The Gemini SSDs provide read/write speeds of 415/260MBps respectively. "For most video formats, a single SSD has a sufficient bandwidth; however, 1080p 50/60 formats generate over 300MBps, requiring us to strip the data across both drives. We do, however, combine the data into a single file during the offload of the SSDs to your Mac or PC." The drives have a 6Gbps SATA interface.

3D nano - Convergent Design from UrbanFox.TV on Vimeo.

Gemini won't replace the nanoFlash, which "will continue to find applications needing long record times (10 hours), and/or requiring a strictly compressed workflow. At $1 per minute [at 50Mbps] for the Compact Flash media, nanoFlash still offers the lowest media cost for broadcast quality video."

Most of the nanoFlash features, with the exception of pre-record buffer, should be enabled for Gemini when it ships. "That said, we anticipated many special requests, so Gemini was designed with five times the programmable logic compared to nanoFlash, giving us quite a bit of room to grow (feature-wise, that is)," added Schell.

The Gemini 4:4:4 Kit, which includes the recorder, 1.8-inch SSD to eSATA transfer station, AC power supply and cables, housed in a custom‐fitted hard plastic case, will cost $5,995. The 1.8-inch 256GB and 512GB SSD drive prices will be announced at NAB, where Convergent will demonstrate Gemini 4:4:4 on a Sony F3 and on a 3D mirror rig.

Related post: Convergent Design Odyssey7 + 7Q

By David Fox

Sony NEX-FS100 takes on DSLRs

Sony has unveiled a new lower-priced Super 35mm NXCAM camcorder. The large-sensor NEX-FS100E is an E-mount camcorder (taking interchangeable lenses) and can be seen as Sony's answer to the rise of HD DSLRs.

It complements the recently released PMW-F3, which uses the same CMOS sensor, but with lower-cost recording options. It records AVCHD 4:2:0 at up to 28Mbps internally, either to an optional 128GB solid-state drive (the existing £600 HXR-FMU128 familiar from the HXR-NX5) or to a single SDHC card or Sony's own Memory Stick Pro Duo (which fit in the same slot). It also has a full-size HDMI output, which delivers 8-bit 1920x1080 4:2:2 video, with embedded timecode, for use with an external recorder.

Its Exmor Super 35 CMOS sensor offers shallow depth of field similar to that of a movie camera, and it can record 1080p 50/60 (at 28Mbs) as well as capturing slow and quick motion (enabled via a single button press and thumb wheel). The 28Mbps format is not yet part of the AVCHD standard, so not all non-linear editing systems can cope with it. It also records 50/60i or 24/25p at 24Mbps.

“The NEX-FS100E NXCAM Super 35mm camcorder enables budget content creators and videographers to experience a new level of cinematic expression” claimed Bill Drummond, Strategic Marketing Manager, Sony Professional. “Sony has responded to professional user feedback to create this new camcorder with an ergonomically designed body and accessories offering really flexibility in use.”

Controls and menus should be familiar to anyone used to Sony's EX1 or EX3, and there are six assignable buttons, a top-mounted rotatable 3.5-inch LCD with touch-screen controls for video playback, and two XLR audio sockets built into the camera body rather than in the usual breakout box. It uses the same batteries as the Sony Z1, but is reported to get much longer operating times from them.

The E-mount lens system is used in Sony's NEX-5, -3 and NEX-VG10E cameras and has a very short flange back distance (the distance between lens mount surface and sensor surface – unfortunately this means there is no room for built-in neutral density filters, which would be necessary to make the most of the shallow depth of field in bright light). It allows various A-mount lenses to be mounted via an adaptor. It will also be possible to attach a wide range of other lenses, such as PL-mount, Canon and Nikon lenses, using third-party mounts.

The FS100EK lens kit model comes with an E18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS zoom lens, which gives users optical Steadyshot and auto focus.

The grip, handle and hybrid LCD viewfinder are detachable for use in confined locations. The camera weighs about 2.7kg including kit lens and battery. It includes a built in GPS receiver to geotag footage on location.

Cozi: 'Vertigo' Music Video from Den & James on Vimeo.

"The images coming out of this camera are absolutely stunning," according to Den Lennie, founder, F.Stop Academy, who was the first independent filmmaker to shoot a video with one of the two pre-production FS100 models. "The picture quality is absolutely amazing." He shot a pop promo, mainly at night, and found the sensor worked well in low light (with sensitivity of about 800 ISO). "Where there was noise it was very clean noise, very soft noise," he said. He likened it to a cross between the EX1 and a DSLR.

The first formal review of the camera, by Nigel Cooper, isn't so complimentary. He prefers Panasonic's AF100/AF101, which costs about $1,000 less. Although the FS100's Super 35mm sensor is about 10% larger than the AF101's Micro Four Thirds chip, that will only deliver a marginal difference in depth of field, and the AF101 does have built-in ND filters.

Sony's own promo video shows some nice shots in only candlelight (although it was shot with an f1.2 lens), and some examples of how it handles slow motion.

The €5,500 NEX-FS100E and €6,000 EK model will be available in May.

By David Fox

Sony's weather-proof HXR-NX70

The dust and rain proof Sony HXR-NX70E could be a useful little camcorder for news coverage, particularly in places like Afghanistan where dust and dirt regularly ruin cameras and (especially) tapes.

“Filmmakers and journalists will travel to some of the most remote and dangerous locations in pursuit of a story. We wanted to respond with a camcorder that, like them, can stand up to the rigours of the world’s most challenging conditions," said Bill Drummond, Strategic Marketing Manager, Sony Professional.

The NX70 is "a robust ultra-compact camcorder that allows them to not only capture footage in any conditions, but also store it on a 96GB internal memory. When you are miles from anywhere, you don’t want to be worrying about having to find an extra memory card.” There is also a combined SD/Memory Stick card slot.

Usefully, the camera can also copy direct to an external drive without using a computer or other back-up device, by plugging in an external USB drive.

The main unit of the NX70 has been proven to reach dust-proof and rain-proof performance requirements specified by IEC60529 IP54. Sudden rain or dust will not affect its operation.

The HXR-NX70E appears to be a professional, ruggedised version of the new Sony HDR-CX700 consumer camera, and incorporates a 1/2.88-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor claimed to deliver "superior quality low-light footage." It has manual controls plus such features as CinemaTone for deeper, more film-like colour tones, as well as an infrared light for shooting in low- or no-light conditions.

It has a reasonably wide-angle f1.8 Sony G 10x zoom lens (26.3mm to 263mm as a 35mm equivalent) and optical SteadyShot image stabilisation with Active Mode to compensate for greater camera shake than before. It also has GPS.

The NX70 can record 1080p 50/60 at up to 28Mbps (not yet part of the AVCHD standard, so not always supported by non-linear editing systems), as well as 50/60i or 24/25p at 24Mbps.

It has a demountable handle incorporating an audio pod (two XLR Line/Mic inputs with selectable Phantom power). However, the audio pod is not weather proof.

The HXR-NX70E will be available in June, and should cost about €3,100/$3,200.

By David Fox

March 22, 2011

Camera Corps 3D/2D remote control

The new Camera Corps CC-3D Universal RCP will allow six cameras of different makes and models to be comprehensively remote controlled from a single panel.

"The broadcast industry is experiencing a surge in demand for efficient stereoscopic production equipment to meet the needs of new 3D television channels," said Jim Daniels, Camera Corps' technical director. "The CC-3D Universal RCP is equally suitable for use with 3D and 2D systems. Up to two stereoscopic rigs can be controlled on a paired-camera basis to maintain predetermined adjustment offsets between left and right cameras, or as individual cameras if preferred. The panel is intuitive to operate, allowing fast and easy operation during outside broadcasts as well as for live stage or studio events."

The panel, which is due to launch at NAB, has a top row of six channel-selection buttons, assignable to each camera. Fixed-operation buttons are positioned on the next row, each with a specific function and always active regardless of which menu is selected. Below this are two selector buttons that step through various menu screens. Four function-adjustment buttons below the menu screen perform actions on the displayed parameters.

A full set of engineering presets is accessible and, once set, can be password-protected to prevent unauthorised changes. Cue/tally information for all six channels can be accommodated, the colour of the channel select buttons changing from green to red when a cue/tally is active. Cue/tally information is transmitted to any pan/tilt/zoom/focus joystick controllers being used and can be forwarded to the camera. Remote channel selection and remote monitor switching can also be performed.

The Camera Corps data system uses modems to convert the digital control signals into audio style tone signals before transmission. This has advantages over conventional high bit-rate digital data control, including practically unlimited distance as well as easy transmission over RF links and telephone lines. Standard audio cables or CAT5 data cable can be used for control data transmission. The data is simply paralleled using XLR3 splitters for transmission to multiple cameras/heads.

The CC-3D Universal RCP can be operated standalone or fully integrated with other Camera Corps remote control equipment such as the PTZF pan/tilt/zoom/focus switcher, joystick controllers, Q-Ball and HD Mini Zoom cameras and Multi-Rate Re-Clocker. Available in rack mounting or 138x325x75 millimetre 2.1kg desktop case versions, the panel will operate from 9v to 18v DC power and consumes approximately 1.5W.

By David Fox

March 17, 2011

Video: Canon XF range + XF105 3D

We shot a video with Canon’s Peter Yabsley, looking at its XF cameras, notably the XF105, which has some special features that make it particularly useful for low-budget 3D.

Video: How to synchronise timecode

If you've ever wondered how to synchronise timecode between two cameras, or even whether it is possible to do between cameras from different manufacturers, have a look at our latest instructional video on our Canon XF Notebook site. 

March 16, 2011

Heads up on new Vinten Vector 75

Vinten will have a new introduction at NAB: the Vector 75 head, which boasts the same camera carrying performance (up to 75kg) as the Vector 750 (the i version of which is pictured above), but incorporates the standard LF drag control that helped make its predecessor, the Vector 70, an industry standard for many years.

The design, built upon the skeleton of the original Vector 70 (pictured below), now includes a range of standard features that address the needs of today’s fast paced and cost conscious productions without compromising camera control.

The pantographic balance mechanism, unique to the Vinten Vector range, allows simple adjustment and eliminates time-consuming cam changes when altering the camera configuration. This counterbalance mechanism, combined with the Vinten standard LF drag system, is claimed to offer smooth, precise movement. Prototype trials for the Vector 75 begin this month and the product will be released in June.

“NAB2011 provides the perfect opportunity for us to showcase our broad spectrum of products, from the unveiling of our brand new Vector 75 head, right through to our established, award winning Vision range. Customers can experience the high quality performance of our products for themselves and can see the equipment in action in a variety of different set ups,” said Peter Harman, Vinten product manager.

By David Fox

New Fusion FHR-35 head at NAB

Vinten Radamec will unveil the prototype of a new robotic pan and tilt head suitable for remote applications at NAB 2011.

The Fusion FHR-35 will be a compact, lightweight robotic head capable of supporting camera and lens packages, up to 16kg, in remote locations where the pan and tilt head needs to be as unobtrusive as possible, such as parliaments.

It will incorporate Vinten Radamec’s Ethernet technology, which enables simple and straightforward set up in broadcasters’ existing infrastructures. The FHR-35 will be shown with the Vinten Radamec Legislative Control System to demonstrate a full system setup offering multi-user, multi-facility control of cameras, CCU controls and robotic devices, and rapid, accurate shot acquisition. It will be similar to the FHR-120VR (pictured above on a FP-188VR pedestal).

By David Fox

March 15, 2011

Camtrol primes grand DSLR rigs

Camtrol has introduced two aluminium rigs for DSLRs and smaller cameras, which are particularly useful for low shots, as they have foldout legs to support them on the ground.

The $450 Camtrol Grand is suitable for large DSLRs or compact camcorders, while the $399 Camtrol Prime (below) is for smaller cameras and camcorders, including iPhones. The difference is in the size of the extension for the handle. The picture above shows a Grand with two Camtrol articulating 10cm arms, an LED light, a 7-inch monitor, and Panasonic GH1 camera.

A thumb-controlled remote can be mounted on either rig. The $99 Camtroller is a LANC-based remote control, and coupled with a V-Slope Bracket, puts start, stop, and zoom functions directly under your thumb for single-handed shooting. It works with Sony, Canon, and some Panasonic video cameras and LANC-enabled DSLRs. Its wires can be run through the hollow grip to avoid them snagging in anything.

With three locking ball joints and its vertical stabilizer bar, the Camtrol rigs can be set to numerous customised configurations that allow the user to remain standing while capturing shots at ground level, overhead or around objects.

The long size stabilizer bar on the Grand allows for cameras measuring up to almost 18cm in overall height. The Grand weighs less than 1kg and supports a payload of up to 3.2kg. The standard size stabilizer bar on the Prime allows for cameras measuring up to 9.5cm in overall height. It weighs about 800g and also supports up to 3.2kg.

Camtrol also offers a $31 neoprene-cushioned Mini Clamp for mounting an iPhone or other camera accessories, which can be used with a $60, 10cm, articulating arm.

By David Fox

March 14, 2011

UK FCP User Group meeting in Birmingham on March 31st

The UK Final Cut User's Group is meeting in Birmingham on March 31, at NTI.

Sessions include:
  • The latest 4-core MacBook Pros put to the test,  to see how fast they are for encoding, rendering and output, compared to previous 2-core models.
  • Native ProRes 4:2:2 acquisition with AJA's Ki Pro and Ki Pro Mini solid-state recorders.
  • Final Cut Pro demonstration with Jonathan Tyrrell, editor, consultant and Pro Apps Mentor Trainer.
  • A look at Adobe CS5 on the Mac.
  • Digital Heaven's Martin Baker will show off his latest plug-ins for FCP, including Final Print 2.0 (for browsing and printing FCP projects).
  • Vision mixer demo with the 4-camera HD-SDI-based Datavision SE2000.
  • Editors talk - open discussion. Equipment for the modern editor - what you need to survive in the modern economy and how to make money at the same time.
  • Rick’s Tips: The organiser, Rick Young (editor of MacVideo), will offer FCP Tips and Tricks, such as: Photoshop integration; generating high quality stills output; and adding versatility to your editing.
It will be at the New Technology Institute, 15 Bartholomew Row, Birmingham, B5 5JU (just south of Aston University), and entry will cost £5 - but seating is limited, so best to book early. Doors open 6.30pm, and it should finish at 10.30pm.

March 13, 2011

Rycote suspends HD DSLR recorder

Rycote has launched what is claimed to be the first effective suspension mount for portable recorders, to isolate them from vibrations and handling noise.

Any portable recorder with a 1/4-inch screw thread can be mounted on the suspension, and attached to a microphone stand, boom pole or camera hot shoe – via a 3/8-inch Swivel Adaptor that allows it to be turned through 180°.

It is included as part of Rycote's new Portable Recorder Audio Kit (designed for use with the popular Zoom H4n recorder, which seems to be the number one choice of DSLR users). The kit includes a windshield designed for the H4n and a Soft-Grip extension handle for using the recorder handheld.

The 106g suspension unit is also available by itself and uses Rycote's Lyre design, which is claimed to offer "unequalled isolation and robustness". Unlike rubber or elastic suspensions the Lyre is unaffected by temperature extremes, and so can be used in harsh environments (with an operating temperature range of -20°C to 35°C).

By David Fox

Audio Developments DSLR mixer

Audio Developments' new AD071 Camera Mixer is small (13.5x9.5x4cm) light weight (400gm), and full of features.

It is envisaged that it will be used in a wide range of applications, but the main focus is for use with HD DSLRs – it has a mic level output on a 3.5mm jack socket for simple connection to a DSLR.

It is a 3-into-2 device with either microphone or line inputs, 48v Phantom power, balanced inputs and outputs on XLR connectors, switched routing, comprehensive aural monitoring of both direct and return signals, and two LED ladders for visual level indication.

Limiters are included in both the input and output signal paths to eliminate the need for having to use automatic gain control.

The mixer can be powered from either a 9v PP3 battery or from an external 9v to 15v DC source.

It costs about £750, and as DoP Mark Moreve (@mjmpictures on Twitter) pointed out, you can get something similar from JuicedLink (which he thinks is "fantastic") for less - indeed, you can have a ready-to-shoot JuicedLink DSLR Audio Bundle for about £500 including microphone and Rycote mount....

By David Fox

March 10, 2011

iPhone robotic camera mount

Satarii Star Introduction from Satarii on Vimeo.

Shooting yourself on an iPhone and having the camera follow your every move will be possible with a newly developed camera mount that can automatically point the lens at a remote tracker.

The Satarii Star Camera Base has been designed by a start-up company that raised the $20,000 funding it needed online. It should work with any iPhone-sized camera in landscape or portrait mode, such as a Flip or a small PoV camera, and follows the tracker wherever you hold it.

The two developers are hoping that it will be available for sale late this year, probably at about $200, although this will depend on the final feature set, and production costs. There will also, eventually, be versions for larger cameras. It could be very useful for anyone wanting to shoot their own piece to camera, particularly if they can make a larger version that could be mounted on a tripod and take one of the compact camcorders being used by video journalists.

Related posts: Multi-camera iPhone/iOS production, + Steadicam Smoothee rig for iPhone

By David Fox

Multi-camera iPhone/iOS production

Using a new £5.99 app from Apptopus, directors can now do a multi-camera shoot using iPhones or other iOS devices, with up to four iPhones sharing a WiFi network, and do a live mix on another iPhone or iPad.

The app, CollabraCam, also syncs the video to the director's device, and allows the director to communicate directly with each camera, telling them (visually) to pan a shot or move in for a close up.

The video clips are recorded to each camera and transferred to the director in the background. At the end of the production, when the session is saved, the final clips are uploaded in minutes with automatically generated credits.

Video clips can also be exported for editing in another app or saved via File Sharing in iTunes to edit on a computer.

Related posts: Making iMovies on iPad 2 + iPhone + Steadicam Smoothee rig for iPhone

By David Fox

Making iMovies on iPad 2 + iPhone

One of the highlights of Apple's introduction of the faster, sleeker, iPad 2 last week was the demonstration of the new version of iMovie for iPad 2, iPhone 4 and the 4th generation iPod Touch.

Although the $4.99/£2.99 app only works with 720p H.264 video, it can be used to create good-looking videos, has three audio tracks (plus one for background music), and looks to be about the easiest non-linear editor yet devised, thanks to its touch-driven interface.

Completed iMovie videos can be uploaded directly to CNN iReports (it even comes with an iReports visual theme), YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook or MobileMe, which should extend the usage of iPhone footage on these sites even further – it is already one of the most widely used cameras on these platforms.

If Apple were to bring out a similar touch-screen interface (using the iPad) for the next version of Final Cut Pro (rumoured for release at or around NAB), it would be a great alternative to the mouse – there is already an iPad app that can do this in a basic way (Keypad Pro), as well as apps that allow you to use the iPad to control colour correction (such as Gradiest and vWave-Lite).

Paranmanjang – the 1st iPhone movie 

The first feature shot on an iPhone has already been shown in cinemas (in South Korea).

Director, Park Chan-Wook, who previously shot two movies that won festival prizes at the Cannes Film Festival: Oldboy (2003) and Thirst (2009), used two iPhones as his main cameras on the recently-released Paranmanjang (Night Fishing). There were also contributions from smartphones used by various members of the 80-person crew. It wasn't a tiny budget shoot (costing about $133,000 and shot over ten days), and the iPhones were used with add-on lenses and a variety of other rigs, including on cranes.

If you have shot something on an iOS device, there is an iPhone Film Festival next month (closing date March 31st). Entries must be shot 100% with an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad (although they can be edited on anything), and there will be three main categories: Best Film (Feature Film [over three minutes], Short Film and Series); Best Music Video; and Best Cinematography (Cinematography and Documentary).

Related posts: Multi-camera iPhone/iOS productioniPad puts broadcasters in control + Steadicam Smoothee rig for iPhone

By David Fox

March 09, 2011

Vocas introduces PL to M4/3 adapter

Vocas Systems has released a lens mount adapter that will allow PL-mount lenses to be used on Micro Four Thirds sensor cameras, such as the Panasonic AG-AF101.

The new adapter comes with a 15mm support bracket for using the mount on a 15mm rails system, which is also produced by Vocas.

By David Fox

Angenieux boasts 3D lens success

Since its launch last year, sales of Angenieux’s 3D Ready Optimo DP Lens Package have grown at an increasing pace, which Thales Angenieux claims has helped to position it as the premier manufacturer of digital cinema lenses.

The Optimo 3D Ready Package is available in two versions: the 16-42 Optimo DP lens package or the 30-80 Optimo DP lens package. Both come in a customised compact carrying case.

The package includes specific features for 3D, such as factory matched zoom and focus scales, comparable optical quality and easily adjustable tracking to assure flawless performance.

To help ensure equivalent performance, the Optimo DP 30-80 and Optimo DP 16-42 lenses used for the 3D Ready Package are from the same production run. Then the specific characteristics of both pieces are matched to ensure comparable optical quality in focus, zoom range and tracking. Optimized for large sensor (32mm) digital cameras, the lenses have an aperture of T:2.8 and are claimed to deliver optical performance quality equal to prime lenses. The lenses are lightweight and compact, which is desirable for digital cinema applications, and are claimed to "deliver optimum price to performance value".

Customers that have bought the Optimo 3D Ready Package include: Offhollywood Pictures, 21st Century Pictures, Element Technica, Indierentals, E3D Creative, Evergreen Films, TCS, Vision 3 Pace HD and Axis Film. 

PAG racks up intelligent charger

PAG has introduced a rack-mountable version of its high-power, simultaneous Cube charger.

The PAG RMC4X can be used to simultaneously fast-charge Li-Ion batteries manufactured by PAG, Sony or IDX, via four V-Mount or PAGlok battery mounts that connect to the charger via its four XLR-4 outputs.

The charger is designed for mounting in a half-width racking system. It measures 1U high and two units can be mounted side by side in a full-width 19-inch rack, using connecting plates, making it ideal for use in outside broadcast vehicles, or in a workshop.

There are two models, with either four V-Mount or four PAGlok connectors. The mounts incorporate a cable terminated with an XLR-4 connector. A bespoke mounting-board for the connectors, which enables them to be fitted vertically inside the OB vehicle, can also be supplied.

The four-channel RMC4X features PAG’s Intelligent Parallel Charging software, which uses current efficiently for fast, fully automatic charging. The high-power unit has an output of approximately 100W (6 amps at 16.8 volts). The 1.8kg RMC4X can also be used to sequentially charge the previous generation of PAG Li-Ion batteries and Ni-MH batteries manufactured by PAG and Sony. All stages of the charging process are indicated on the unit’s backlit LCD screen.

PAG has also recently released a version of its L95e battery, specifically for use with Red One cameras.

The L95e is a 14.8v 6.5Ah Li-Ion battery with a maximum continuous output current rated at 7 amps. The high-quality, low-cost, 95 Watt-hour V-mount L95e is suitable for use with a broad range of professional cameras, but the L95eR has been adapted to communicate with the Red One camera’s viewfinder data display, enabling users to monitor battery capacity (in percentage) whilst shooting. It is also possible to see an indication of remaining camera run-time on the battery’s built-in display.

The 750g L95eR will provide 1.25 hours of continuous run-time for the Red One camera alone, but two L95eR batteries can be combined, to provide extended run-time and a higher current-draw capability for the Red One, by using a new version of the PAG Power Plate dual battery mount. This new Power Plate includes the contacts that allow the capacity information to be communicated to the Red One viewfinder.

By David Fox

Marshall monitor makes HDMI loopy

Marshall Electronics' latest 7-inch monitor is claimed to be the "world’s first camera-top field monitor with HDMI loop-through" avoiding the need for HDMI splitters, additional power sources and other requirements necessary to split the signal.

The V-LCD70XP-HDMIPT allows users to pass-through the HDMI video input to another monitor, or electronic viewfinder, for a client, director, focus puller or others to view on-location.

The monitor also includes composite and component inputs, adjustable backlight, HDMI Auto Colour Space and Ratio detect, manual gamma adjustment, Image Flip, pixel-to-pixel display, 1/4-inch mounting on all sides, and a robust power switch.

Other features include a wide variety of screen formats and markers, four user- configurable front panel function buttons, RGB Check Field / Field Detect, and RGB gain and bias control.

It also has False Colour (an exposure aid) and Peaking (for focusing), plus a new DSLR Ratio Adjustment feature for Canon DSLRs. This allows users to scale video that does not completely fill the monitor's screen when connected via HDMI in Record mode on some Canon DSLRs - choosing between Normal, 3:2, 16:9, and Full Screen.

The $1,199 V-LCD70XP-HDMIPT has an 800x480 LCD panel and can be used with nine different battery configurations for mobile operation. This option provides flexibility when using different cameras. All battery configurations can be swapped by the end-user.

By David Fox

March 08, 2011

Panasonic P2 drive, 3D deck + WiFi

Panasonic will show a new P2 drive, archiving software, a 3D-ready deck, and WiFi metadata handling at NAB. It has also reduced P2 card prices. 

The AJ-PCD30 P2 Drive (above) boasts "the industry’s fastest offloads from a solid-state source " thanks to its USB 3.0 interface. It has three card slots, and is claimed to be able to transfer AVC-Intra 100Mbps footage at more than 15x real-time, making it particularly well suited for use in long-form production. It will be available this Summer and could cost about €2,000.

Its new AG-HPD24 half-rack deck (above) will have synchronized 3D recording and playback; native 24p recording with variable frame rates; USB 3.0; HDMI output; and 24-bit, four-channel audio recording in AVC-Intra 100/50. It is claimed to make 10-bit, 4:2:2 master-quality video "affordable and portable". It will be available in the Summer priced about €5,000.

Panasonic talked about the new wireless system for its AJ-HPX3100 1080p P2 HD camera at IBC, and should have it shipping at NAB. It will allow users to playback proxies and add or display metadata wirelessly from an iPad, iPhone, or any web browser.

The system requires the installation of the new AJ-WM30 wireless module (above) and AJ-SFU3100 software, with suggested list prices of €130 and €1,300 respectively.

Panasonic is also introducing new software for archiving: the AJ-SF110 Video Ingest software and AJ-SF100 Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Archive applications, to facilitate the secure storage and easy retrieval of P2 content. The software supports all P2 card sizes, formats and frame rates. The AJ-SF100 software for archiving P2 files to LTO, Blu-ray disc or other storage devices features proxy creation, metadata editing and working with database software (SQL server) functions. The AJ-SF110 for video ingest via FireWire or SDI converts the footage on a connected video recorder to P2 files such as AVC-Intra 100/50, DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO 50, DVCPRO and DV during ingest. The AJ-SF100 LTO Archive software and AJ-SF110 Video Ingest software should be available in May costing about €4,000 and €2,000, respectively.

There will also be new, free AVCCAM Importer software, a QuickTime plug-in that eliminates the need to convert AVCHD .mts files to ProRes 422 files before editing in Final Cut Pro. It will be available this Summer from Panasonic's web site.

P2 prices reduced

Panasonic has announced lower list prices for its P2 cards. The E-Series of 64GB, 32GB and 16GB cards will be available with RRPs of €505, €350 and €276 respectively (ex VAT).

The robust E-Series P2 cards offer fast transfer speeds (up to 1.2Gbps) - faster than most rival solid-state memory cards.

By David Fox

March 05, 2011

Thunderbolt - Lightning speed editing

Thunderbolt, Intel's new high-speed interface technology, should be perfect for editing. It is exceptionally fast and carries both monitor video and data on a single cable. Apple has already adopted it for its latest laptops, and various video equipment manufacturers are backing it too.

It was known as Light Peak during development and is partly based on the existing DisplayPort standard used to link computers to displays (any Mini DisplayPort display plugs directly into the Thunderbolt port). It was "specifically designed with professional audio and video applications in mind, where the inherently low latency and highly accurate time synchronization features play a crucial role."

It has two bi-directional channels, each with transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps (40Gbps in total), and delivers the computer's internal PCI Express connection bus directly to external peripherals such as RAID arrays. It can support FireWire and USB consumer devices, eSATA connections, and Gigabit Ethernet networks via adapters, with no need to rewrite drivers. It should mean that transfers will rarely be limited by the connection speed, but by the speed of the drive it is connected to.

The technology was developed in collaboration with Apple, which claims it "enables expandability never before possible on a notebook computer".

Thunderbolt supports DisplayPort connections (DisplayPort can drive greater than 1080p resolution displays and up to eight channels of audio simultaneously) and works with existing adapters for HDMI, DVI and VGA displays.

It is expected to be widely adopted as a new standard for high performance I/O, although Intel predicted that it might be 2012 before it is used by computer makers other than Apple as it is only now available as a developer kit. It apparently won't be available as an add-in card for existing computers, as it will require a new motherboard. However, disk drive manufacturers will be adding it to their products in the coming months. LaCie and Promise both showed prototype systems (the portable Little Big Disk and Pegasus 4- or 6-bay RAID respectively) using Thunderbolt at the launch, where four simultaneous uncompressed HD video streams were shown playing off the RAID.

Thunderbolt products require a controller chip supplied by Intel and a small connector. The controller chip provides protocol switching capabilities to support both protocols over a single cable. Intel is making the chip available now, and is working with other component manufacturers to deliver Thunderbolt connectors and cables.

“Thunderbolt is a revolutionary new I/O technology that delivers an amazing 10 gigabits per second and can support every important I/O standard which is ideal for the new MacBook Pro," said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing.

Various broadcast manufacturers have also announced support for the interface:

AJA CEO, John Abt, said it would enable "the fastest and simplest I/O for connecting AJA's award-winning professional video capture and playback products" to a laptop.

Blackmagic Design CEO, Grant Petty, predicted it would "revolutionize mobile media creation. It's a game-changer and will accelerate our ability to build the highest quality video creation products that are affordable to everyone."

"We are very excited by the capabilities of Thunderbolt technology. To have two 10Gbps, bi-directional, multi-protocol channels in a single cable is a great step forward for high performance audio and video solutions," commented Max Gutnik, Senior Director, Product Management, Avid Technology.

Apogee CEO, Betty Bennett, called it "connectivity without compromise" and said it "will enable the full promise of Symphony I/O, Apogee's professional digital audio recording platform."

"Technology like this only happens about once a decade. We are thrilled about the performance and simplicity Thunderbolt technology will bring to our award-winning UAD Powered Plug-Ins platform," added Bill Putnam, CEO, Universal Audio.

It will initially use copper wiring, which can also carry 10 Watts of power to peripherals (up to a distance of about 3m), but will also be available eventually for use with fibre-optic cable for higher speeds and longer distance use (fibre was considered too expensive to offer now).

Thunderbolt can be used as a daisy-chain connection, where one device is connected directly to the next (up to seven devices including one or two displays) and all are accessible to the computer, and retain excellent timing synchronization (within 8 nanoseconds across 7 hops downstream from a host).

It can also be used to connect to a breakout box that could have USB 2.0/3.0, FireWire, HDMI, Ethernet or other interfaces. It is about 12 times as fast as FireWire 800 (the interface most widely used for laptop editing), and more than twice as fast as the theoretical maximum speed of USB 3.0 (but has fewer overheads to contend with, so could be considerably faster again when comparing real-world speeds) – it is estimated that the real-world performance of Thunderbolt will be around 8Gbps (on each channel).

According to a rumour received by Nikon Rumors, the upcoming Nikon D4 will be the first DSLR camera with Thunderbolt. It would certainly be useful for Sony's soon-to-be-released SRMemory system, which will have a throughput of 5Gbps and use cards of up to 1TB in size.

MacBook Pro

Thunderbolt is a key component in Apple's latest line up of MacBook Pro computers, which run on Intel's newly released Sandy Bridge dual- and quad-core processors, and add faster graphics cards. Independent testing shows them to be about twice the speed of previous models, and as powerful as last year's high-end desktops.

Even the lightweight 13-inch models will be fast enough for editing, using dual-core processors, and are now, thankfully, available with non-reflective screens. There are also two 15-inch models and one 17-inch.

Apple has also released a developer version of the upcoming Mac OS X Lion operating system, which takes some of the ideas first seen in iOS devices, like the iPad and puts them back on the Mac. These will include workflow and organisational improvements, and greater use of multi-touch gestures, which might prove useful in controlling editing software. It had been rumoured that Apple would drop the $499 server version of its OS, and it has… to the extent that it won't be a separate version any more, but will be included as a standard option available during installation.

Apple has also shown some editors a preview of its upcoming revamp of Final Cut Pro. Although details are under embargo, the new version appears to be near to completion and may be revealed at or around NAB.

By David Fox